b Papa Dog's Blog: A Day of Inconspicuous Consumption and Other Weekendy Things

Papa Dog's Blog

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Sunday, January 09, 2005

A Day of Inconspicuous Consumption and Other Weekendy Things

Implements of dining are the obsession of the day, in some quarters at least. Like those quarters occupied by Mama Dog. Owing to a horrid dishwashing mishap, all our silverware is tarnished to the point of grottiness. I know, I know, you’re not supposed to put silver in the dishwasher, but we’d never had any problems before. Tip to all: don’t use that damn Cascade Pure Rinse Formula liquid crap. Mama Dog has been scouring the Internet for suitable replacements, and before I knew it she was looking for new plates and bowls too. Fortunately, she reigned herself in before my intervention was required.

We had no particular plans for the day and it finally stopped raining, so we went on a family (minus poor Doggy Dog, who always gets the short end) jaunt to oh-so-precious Fourth Street in north Berkeley – what I used to call “the unknown lands” before I met Mama Dog and her automobile. I looked in at Cody’s, only browsing, which I’ve decided is my best course for a while. I have about two years worth of reading in my to-read pile, so there’s no hurry for more. I did look wistfully, though, at The Stories of John Cheever. I remember when it came out in 1978 and seemed to be at the top of the best seller list the whole year. I finally feel like I’m old and crusty enough to read that sort of stuff…I really enjoyed The Swimmer when I read it last year. Came to it in a kind of roundabout way. A character in Chang-Rae Lee’s A Gesture Life summarizes the plot, and although he doesn’t mention the title, I recognised what it must be from memories of my mom talking about the movie, which was a favourite of hers (probably largely on account of the dreaminess of Burt Lancaster). Anyway, we rented the movie and liked it so much that I scoured the Internet like Mama Dog looking for flatware until I found the very same link provided earlier in this paragraph.

Oh, yeah, the flatware. Guess I got off message there.

So, while I was at Cody’s mooning over Cheever stories that I don’t have time to read, Mama Dog and Baby were looking fruitlessly at first Box and Keg and then Dank. I met her outside Dansk after she’d finished striking out both places, and we went over to On the Table for one last chance at a long shot. No dice. Bookless, disincutleried, we wound up at Peet’s, where Mama Dog bought a pound of beans and got a free cup of coffee. I suppose we could have boosted all the spoons we needed from their coffee prep area, but we didn’t think of that. Oh well.

Our family outing had lasted barely half an hour, which seemed a bit of a waste, so we resolved to drive on to The Walk Shop to get me some new shoes. Remember how I mentioned once or twice that my Joe Seibels weren’t watertight? This is yet another reason why I needed a wife. I was content to walk around with wet socks and complain about it. Mama Dog, on the other hand, actually looked at the shoes and deduced that the big fucking split all the way across the sole might have something to do with the lack of watertightness.

On the way to the car, we saw a man approaching holding hands with a very young girl – his daughter, I was hoping. He quickly made eye contact, smiled, and waved at us. We both drew a blank, and Mama Dog waved back, rifling through the mental Rolodex – “Someone I used to work with? Checker at the Berkeley Bowl?” Then it clicked, and she exclaimed, “Hi, Dr. (name elided)!” Well, blow me down. It was the chap who extracted Baby Dog from the womb. It’s like seeing your teacher at the grocery store. Incorrect context limits recognition. We stopped and chatted, and I shook his hand, which was nice, because I can’t even recall if I saw him again after the delivery, things being as meshugga as they were. I pulled the hood back from Baby Dog’s carriage and said, “You probably remember her.” Probably not the case, really – the guy has delivered hundreds of babies – but he surely recognised us, having been the one to wave first. At any rate, he grinned and bent down to look at what he’d brought forth upon this continent, and remarked upon her size and the likelihood of a nap in her near future.

We said goodbye and headed off across town to the shoe store. I remarked to a single friend recently that one of the great things about marriage is that I haven’t had to select an article of clothing for myself in five years. The first time Mama Dog and I went out to get me a pair of shoes, I said, “Just tell me what I’m getting, I’ll buy it, and we can go.” She didn’t quite follow. She kept bringing me options. “What do you think of these?” she’d ask. “They’re shoes,” I’d reply. “I don’t have any opinions. Just tell me which ones I’m buying.” We have it down to a very smooth operation now. I just plunked down on a chair and pushed Baby Dog back and forth in her stroller. I had forgotten my regular glasses in the car, so I was wearing my prescription sunglasses in the store. Mama Dog later said maybe the clerk thought I was blind and that’s why my wife was picking out my shoes for me. (Rather blankly brisk customer service, by the way. When I bought the shoes, the clerk said, “Can you give me a phone number, sir? Area code first.” I rattled off my number, then paused, and asked, “You did want mine, right?” Not even a quiver headed towards a smile. Oh well again.)

While getting my feet measured – I really should write that down someday – I was staring out the window across the street at the EBMUD Vine Street Pumping Plant. There were balloons by the door and a sign on a stand that read “Now Open.” “Now that’s curious,” I thought to myself. “Why is a water utility open to the public?” There was nothing for it but to go across the street after buying the shoes and check out the pumping plant. Turns out some young fellow has rented the place to sell wine, but has evidently not yet scraped together enough capital to come up with any signage other than “Now Open.” Since “EBMUD Vine Street Pumping Plant” is engraved on the façade, mistaken impressions are likely to abound. It must be frustrating to be a retail wine merchant and have people coming in all day long disappointed not to find industrial water pumps. Oh well one more time. We have a friend who works at EBMUD. Maybe someday he can get us a tour at a real pumping station.

Early supper followed at the Chaat Café on University. By then Baby Dog was getting tired of being moved from stroller to car seat and back, in and out of costumes, and so forth. She threw such a fit in the restaurant that we had to switch to a booth so that Mama Dog could give her a placatory feeding. I ate while Baby Dog did, then I took her on a stroll up and down University Avenue while Mama Dog enjoyed her lamb boti wrap in peace. We really have the mealtime rhythms down pretty well, but every now and then we still have to eat in shifts.

Home then, a nap for Baby Dog, a stroll for Mama Dog and Doggy Dog, and laundry for me. I like the Dan Chaon book so far and I’ve still got a bit of weekend to go.


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