b Papa Dog's Blog: April 2005

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Saturday, April 30, 2005

What, Is It Saturday Again Already?

And then she woke up at 6 a.m. I’ve been kind of a zombie all day and now I’ve got to go out and enrich my household at a poker game. Hence the shortest excuse for a post I’ve ever done.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Rough Nights in Sleepytown

Baby Dog’s Bedtime has been a screamy affair of late, possibly attributable to a new tooth announcing its début. Last night there was a monumental screamathon, unanswerable by standard protocols. Shushing didn’t work, rocking didn’t work, nothing worked. I think the situation was exacerbated by the fact that she had already been vocally cranky long before bedtime. Even Baby Dog’s constant confidante Hermione Hippo was summarily rejected. Clearly she was tired; she would rub her eyes and loll for a second, but just as I thought maybe she was settling down, she would arch her back, thrash about, and resume red-faced screaming. There’s no shushing a baby who’s screaming louder than you can shush. There’s no rocking a baby who won’t stay still. Finally, Mama Dog prescribed aspirin and boob, which proved to be the magic combination. Baby Dog fell into besotted and narcotised slumber.

Tonight threatened to be more of the same, but this time we headed it off early enough to make a difference. Mama Dog nursed, but screaming resumed when she set Baby Dog down in the crib. I took over, rocking and shushing. Just like last night, she twisted and screamed and seemed insensible to soothing. Fearing a repeat performance and knowing I’d be at wit’s end with a front row seat, I hit on a surprisingly successful tactic. I whistled. Specifically, I whistled the melodic intro to Billy Joel’s The Stranger. It was truly an inspiration. Baby Dog has heard lots of singing but not much in the way of whistling. The sound was a novelty, and it stopped her in her screaming. It didn’t shut the fit down completely, but it broke the momentum. She took longer and longer pauses between screams, to the point where she could hear the shushing, sense the rocking, and feel me stroking her back. Before long, she was lying quietly with her head on my shoulder, toying with the sleeve of my t-shirt. Within five minutes she was sound asleep, and the weekend could finally begin.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Sank Haven for Leetle Girls

I can’t help it – I’ve lately found myself fascinated by little girls, the ones about four or five years old. I see them every day. There’s a daycare in my building, and when I leave work in the evening there’s always at least one or two tearing about the plaza under the weary gaze of their working parent(s).

You’ll be relieved (I’m sure) to hear that when I’m checking out these little darlings it’s not in a creepy Humbert Humbert way but rather as the father of a cranky (as I write) little carpet-roller who will one day turn into just such a frolicsome pre-nymphet. Tonight I exited the BART station just behind a little girl and her father, and watched avidly as she hopped down the stairs from the overpass, then raced to catch up with daddy and grab his hand as they went down the last flight to the parking lot. “Someday Baby Dog will do that,” thought I. I have to be careful, though, because I can imagine a concerned observer mistaking my fanciful little projection into my parental future as a violation of the penal code in the offing. For one thing, I tend to focus on the girl’s legs – but not, at the risk of protesting too much, in a prurient way. I’m keenly interested in the mechanics of small child locomotion, how their gait reveals an innocent confidence unsupported by actual accomplishment.* I suppose I’d see much the same thing watching little boys, but it’s a little girl I have at home, so that’s what catches my attention. The girl at BART tonight raced down a flight of stone steps, and by the time she hit level ground her legs were canted at 45 degrees. It was a miracle she remained upright, but if she felt any concern for her equilibrium, it was invisible. Children at that age manage to attain some strange kind of awkward gracefulness. They lack full control of their bodies and are largely incapable of finesse in their movements, but they are for the most part ignorant of these limitations. There’s magic in that, I think…in the reach routinely exceeding the grasp, in disaster being continuously averted without ever being noticed.

So it’s nice, for now, to watch other fathers’ daughters skipping toward a granite pillar with head turned back, yelling, “Watch me! Watch me!” I can look from across the plaza and think, “How lovely,” secure in the knowledge that my daughter isn’t even on her feet yet. These are the peaceful years before the inevitable time when I’ll find myself more personally involved in that scene, thinking not “How lovely,” but, “Jesus fucking christ, you’re going to break your neck!”
*Mentally insert comparison to George Bush here.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Norbally I Wouldn't Do This

Here, for those who were curious, are scans of the Mad Magazine article ending with the phrase "Everything is back to norbal." Unfortunately, although this comes from an electronic source, I couldn't copy directly; I had to print the pages and then scan. The piece was originally spread across two facing pages, so the page break here runs through the middle of the article. But you get the idea. Click on the thumbnail to enlarge to the point of readability.

Norbal Page 1
Originally uploaded by papadogduvalier.

Norbal Page 2
Originally uploaded by papadogduvalier.

Two Stories About Me Wearing a Suit to Work

In 1987ish, when I first started working at the predecessor company of what is now YBW* Corporation, I unknowingly became a trailblazer in the arena of casual office attire. The Less Marvellous Spouse preceded me at the company and was my in. She made sure to ask, “Does it matter how he dresses?” Someone or other said “No.” I took that as the go-ahead to not fix what wasn’t broken. Jeans and t-shirts were good for me at Tower Records. Jeans and t-shirts would be good in the corporate offices of Gals Plus** too. When the LMS asked “Does it matter how he dresses,” I rather doubt the person who answered “No” was envisioning a guy in Levis and a Paddington t-shirt with a big bushy beard and hair down to his bum, but that’s what they got. I didn’t realise at the time that just wasn’t done. Within the decade, though, it was done, pretty much everywhere except places with corporate HQs in Salt Lake City or Houston, and I like to think you have me to thank for that. So you’re welcome.

One day in the early 90s, the company was courting a major contract from the United States Post Office. A big presentation was scheduled, and Postal brass was to be there. A memo came around from senior management announcing the meeting date and urging all employees to clean up their work spaces and make an effort to look that extra little bit professional that day. I called my boss and asked, “Does this mean I’m supposed to stay home?” “No,” she said, “just keep a low profile.”

I was young and cranky and contrarian and given to bouts of (I must now admit) misdirected rage, principally against the machine. I conceived of a pointless but grandiose act of rebellion. The day before the scheduled meeting, I wore to work, for the first time ever, a suit and tie. The day of the meeting, I came wearing my rattiest torn-up jeans and a t-shirt that was borderline offensive. The day after the meeting, I wore a suit and tie again.

The funny thing: you’d think this sort of thing would get me fired, or at least talked to rather severely. In fact, nobody noticed. I always came to work through a back entrance and stayed behind my desk all day. My cubicle wasn’t part of the post office tour. I was never seen by anybody who would have cared.

I believe I didn’t wear a suit to work again until one day in 1997ish, and that time I did get noticed. During my afternoon break, I was riding down the elevator with an engineer who already had one foot out the door. She looked me up and down and asked, “Got a job interview?” “No,” I said, “it’s the end of the laundry cycle and I didn’t have anything else to wear.” She scrunched up her nose with a “Sure, right” look and said, “don’t worry, I won’t tell.” She was gone from the company very soon after that. I’m still there. I never got around to telling her, “No, really, I just ran out of clean shirts.”
*Stands for “Y’all Be We.” I don’t know why they called it that either.
**Don’t know where that name came from either.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Max Seeley

I wrote some time back about the cottage where we spent summers when I was a kid and how I used to eagerly await the sound of the mailman driving up the long dirt road, hoping always this was the day my padded mailer would arrive from Sherbrooke, PQ. In those days before every good-sized city in North America had a comic shop or three, a number of enterprising fellows made their living by selling back issues through the mail. Robert Bell, Robert Crestohl, a fellow named Phil Seuling who would shortly create something called the “direct market.” I’d explain that further, but it would bore most of you comatose. They bought ads in the back of Marvel and DC comics – little boxes that looked kind of like classifieds, or the cheap display ads in the yellow pages. They would tout the size of their collections (“1000’s!”) and their reach into the unfathomable past (“Golden Age!”). I suppose they bought current issues in wholesale lots and continuously raided all the garage sales in town for the rest, because they never seemed to run out of anything. Of all these entrepreneurs, the one closest to Ottawa was Max Seeley of Sherbrooke, and when I was ten I made like Mac (not Max) and gambled a stamp (and maybe a quarter) to get Seeley’s catalogue. I had never purchased anything through the mail before, and was naively thrilled that I was permitted to make this sort of transaction even though I was just a little kid. In fact, it occurred to me that there was no reason Max Seeley should ever know I was just a little kid. For all he knew, I could be one of those college guys I was always reading about in Stan Lee’s soapbox – the ones who dug the sophisticated take on the issues of the day to be found in your average issue of Marvel Two-in-One. For the first couple of orders, I may actually have passed for a grownup – insofar as Seeley could have given a rat’s ass how old the person sending him money orders from Ottawa was. But then one of my orders arrived with a note from Seeley – probably he had to substitute a FN for a VF or something – and that was that. I had to respond. I mean, here was a guy who made his living selling comic books. How could I, in my lonely suburban world where nobody understood my four-colour obsession but me, not fill out the blank side of my next order form with all my thoughts on why I was ordering these particular items? So Max Seeley of Sherbrooke, PQ, became my first pen pal; one of the best I ever had, too, because his notes always arrived in a padded mailer with a stack of comic books.

I’ve got to say, Seeley was a class act. He never ripped me off, and most of those guys were in business pretty much for the purpose of ripping off ten-year-olds. Even more to his credit, he took the time to read all my stupid little notes and always responded in kind, never condescending, never rude, and – apparently – never without a moment to spare for some geeky kid he’d never met. I remember apologising once for not having ordered in a while – I guess I thought it was mandatory that I return a new order every time I received the old one, and I had gone and spent my allowance on something else that month. I remember very clearly that he replied, “Don’t worry, we can’t be flush all the time.” I learned that sense of the word “flush” from him. I think I also learned the phrase “in lieu of” from one of his notes. Comics were always enriching my word power.

Anyway, I don’t even remember why I started thinking about Max Seeley today, but I did, and thought I’d write down what recollections of him I could dredge up. That’s the lot. Never met the guy. No idea what he’s up to now, or even if he’s still alive. I kind of feel like I should track him down. He was, in a way, a formative influence in my childhood.

Monday, April 25, 2005

And Now Every April I Sit on My Porch and I Watch the Parade Pass Before Me

Baby Dog is 10 months old today. Boy howdy, do the time fly. It occurred to me last night after watching 48 Hrs. that this movie, which I remember seeing at the Capitol Square Theatre in Edmonton when I was not going to college, was made 22 years before Baby Dog. For me, an equivalent movie (in terms of years before my birth) would be Casablanca. Like I needed help feeling any older than I already do.

Today is also ANZAC Day, and much as I note Remembrance Day by drinking a toast for all the poor bastards who died in foreign wars, I mark ANZAC Day with a toast specifically for the poor bastards who got dragged from the other side of the world to die in some other other side of the world. I had to make do with Maker’s Mark for Remembrance Day, but tonight I had some scotch, left over from Charles’ recent visit) While I drink the ANZAC Day toast, I play And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda and solemnly contemplate the folly of Empire. It seems somebody always has to have one.

And that’s it for tonight. I’m stretching myself kind of thin again, I’m afraid. I’ll try to stop short-changing you soon.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Bedtime. Must Blog Hurriedly.

Mama Dog went to the theatre this afternoon, leaving Baby Dog and I to entertain one another. We put our heads together and decided to go for a random stroll through Rockridge. We perambulated up past Wally’s World Market , back via the aptly-named Pedestrian Way, up, down, around. When I sensed snoozing in progress, I headed us back home, but the second the stroller stopped moving, she stirred. “Ehh? Ehh?” she inquired. This seems to be one of her new favourite syllables, always posed as an interrogative. “My mistake,” I said. “I thought you were asleep.” I pointed us back the way we came, then headed up toward Telegraph instead. She was asleep again before we got to the end of the block. I made a “U” and took us back to our front door. Again, the second the wheels stopped moving she asked, “Ehh? Ehh?” This time I looked around the hood of the stroller and saw she wasn’t really awake, just stirring because motion had ceased. I gathered her up and took her inside. By the time I got her red hooded sweatshirt* off, she was wide awake and crying. I guess I’m becoming a true believer in the power of the rocker. I set her on my shoulder, rocked and shushed, and she was lolling somnolently in no time. Daddy was thus able to spend an extra forty minutes watching his stories.

Speaking of which – digression – ABC continues to confound me by suddenly making series I like. Grey’s Anatomy is, against all odds, a solid, entertaining show, and Eyes is a frothy little miracle of fun.

During Doggy Dog’s evening walk I did some thinking about a story I’ve been mulling the last couple of days and decided I was ready to go with it. Mama Dog gave me a couple of hours worth of cone of silence time after supper, and I managed to get a couple of scenes written. Some of you know there’s a story I’ve been stuck on since February, which I’ve been obstinately trying to complete no matter how impossible it seems. This is something else, and I’m hoping that if I can get this other thing done quickly – like, by the end of the month – it’ll give me the momentum I need to finish the longer piece. Tonight’s work went pretty well. As always, we can only guess what the week might bring.

And hey - we finished 48 Hrs. in only two installments!
*Actually, it’s pink.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Messed Up Sleep Schedule Leads to a Cranky Day's Shopping

Baby Dog has been letting us get full nights of sleep of late, but somehow or other the whole schedule got messed up last night. She went to bed a tad late, but not unusually so. Then she woke up for feeding at one in the morning, and again just to be generally cranky at four. I went to her room and sat in the rocker, shushing. She had been up crawling around the crib, screaming, seemingly ready to start the day, but almost as soon as I started shushing she plonked herself back down and went to sleep. Feeling accomplished, I crawled back to bed.

To our surprise, we woke around eight without having heard another peep from her. That’s the longest we’ve slept in in ages. It felt good to get the sleep, but almost immediately I had an uneasy feeling that this boded ill for the rest of the day. Sure enough, she finally woke up around nine, and had her nap times pushed back all day. But worse, she was pretty much continuously cranky in between naps. At (late) morning nap time, she screamed and screamed. I went in and sat down in the rocker again. Mama Dog always asks why I don’t pick her up when I shush her. My reply at 4 a.m. was “Because in my experience, that just wakes her up, and the objective is to get her to sleep.” I suppose that sounds a tad male. It’s true, though. When I pick her up, it just gets her active, wanting to play. I figured there was less to lose trying it at a naptime as opposed to at four a.m., so I picked her up, set her on my shoulder, shushed and rocked. To my surprise, she was lolling unconsciously on my shoulder in minutes. I kept rocking until I was sure she was conked out, then lay her back in the crib. It felt like a real accomplishment.

In the afternoon, we decided a little family outing would be the thing. Baby Dog always loves going places in the car, and sure enough she stopped crying once we were underway. We did a little recon for possible lodgings for Grandpa B when he stays here for Baby Dog’s inaugural birthday. Then down to Jack London square to look for overpriced household goods. At Bedroom, Bathroom, and Beyondroom, we got a new shower curtain and Baby Dog spotted a huge rubber ducky she needed to examine further. She held it with her in the stroller as we scoured the Bath section of B, B, and B, and when time came to go and I had to put the duck back, she squawked and burst into tears. Yes, she has reached the age where particular Things have intense if temporary significance, and you can no longer make her forget about said Things by making a fart noise or pointing at her reflection in a shiny surface. At Cost Plus* we were looking for wicker somethingorothers, seagrass baskets or suchlike, but never really found le panier juste. Baby Dog, on the other hand, demonstrated that she can definitely tell the difference between a toy and any other piece of yuppie crap. After wheeling through the entire store, letting her reach out to solemnly pat baskets and appliances, I did a pass through an aisle featuring shelves full of fuzzy animals, and Baby Dog went bananas. She has never seen advertising, but already she’s primed to take part in our consumerist culture. How does that happen?

When we gave up at Cost and More Cost, Mama Dog decided she wanted to get something to eat, so we headed to Pizzeria Uno. We were very surprised on arriving there to find out that it’s now something called Pizzeria SFO, having apparently lost the franchise last September. Figuring it couldn’t possibly make much difference, we went in. The waitstaff were very nice, flirting with Baby Dog and assuring us we need not worry about the litter of Cheerios on the floor. “We get that all the time,” our server said. They were also helpful when we found that the first highchair we received had a broken strut on the bottom and the second had part of the belt strap missing. What is it about restaurant high chairs? It always seems like the first two are too thrashed to operate. The third worked fine, but I once Baby Dog was in I discovered to my surprise that I’m a more nervous father than I’d thought. She kept thrashing from side to side or reaching behind her to grab at the chair from the other table, and I couldn’t help but have visions of the highchair toppling over. It’s weird. We’ve been out to restaurants bunches of times and I’ve never had such a paranoid reaction. I guess it was something about the angle I was viewing her from that made her seat look more precarious than it really was. When I pulled my chair over to her corner of the table, it looked fine. Unfortunately, it was impractical for me to stay there; when my pizza arrived, Baby Dog immediately reached out and grabbed hold of it. I pulled it away and, yes, she burst into tears. I’m not sure if it’s because I took the pizza away or because it was too hot and hurt her hand. At any rate, I had to pick her up and walk her around the restaurant to calm her down.

After the big outing, she fell asleep in the car. We got her to the crib without waking her, but in my haste I forgot to remove her little Baby Canadian shoes. Let the baby sleep in her shoes or take them off and risk waking her? Of course we left he shoes on. Afternoon nap lasted from 5:30ish to 7 at night. Bedtime is normally between 8 and 9. We finally got her to sleep for the night around 10. Now I’m pooped as all hell and hoping that whatever she does, she doesn’t let us sleep in in the morning.
*And stop me if you’ve heard this one, but isn’t “Cost Plus” the worst name you’ve ever heard for a retail outlet? “We’ll charge you cost…plus!” I mean, “Cheap & Cutrate” wouldn’t exactly be a better name, but why do we want to shop at a place that promises in its very name to overcharge?

Friday, April 22, 2005

My Famous Wife

There’s Celebrity, then there’s celebrity, then there’s minor celebrity, then there’s reality show celebrity, then there’s fleeting appearance on reality show celebrity, then there’s basking in the reflected glow of one’s spouse’s fleeting appearance on reality show celebrity, and that’s where your humble correspondent is at these days. I don’t know how many of the people I spammed about Mama Dog’s appearance on the Opera Winkly show actually watched it, but the ones who did sure have been in touch since. Most of them ask “Did you and Baby Dog get to go to Chicago too?” To which I reply, “Read my damn blog. I don’t have time for individual conversations.” Well, no, I don’t reply that. But if I was a mean person, that’s probably what I’d reply. Situations like this do remind me of a key reason for starting a blog in the first place, though; to avoid repeating the same old news over and over again. Just write it once, click “Publish,” and there it is for posterity for all time, or at least until Blogger crumbles under the weight of Too Much Information.

It seems the neighbourhood caught the show, too. Coming home from work last night, the lady in the house to the north paused in watering her lawn to hail me and say, “Tell the TV celebrity I saw her!” Right after the show on Wednesday, Mama Dog got an email from a member of the neighbourhood parents group saying “I was just flipping through channels” (uh-huh, sure you were) “and happened to see a bit of Oprah. There was a woman on it who looked just like you. Was that you?” The capper came tonight as we returned from another swell dinner at the Pirates’ (Mama Dog brought the leftovers from the homemade lasagne she heroically prepared yesterday). As we pulled up, several of our neighbours to the south passed on the sidewalk. One wee tot on a scooter called out to Mama Dog, “I saw you on Oprah!” My famous wife. I feel like Chad Lowe or something.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

A Return to Norbalcy

At long last we have a winner in Papa Dog’s fabulous Everything is back to norble sweepstakes. The winner is that guy from Microsoft, initials JS, formerly known as Colin, formerly known as (for reasons that escape me now) Roger the Shrubber, formerly known as a bunch of things. Well, at least paul will know who I’m talking about. Microsoft guy correctly identified the source of the quote as Mad Magazine. To be precise, it comes from a piece in the December 1968 issue written by Dick DeBartolo and entitled “A Psychedelic Diary.” The premise is that DeBartolo starts the day by dropping acid at the Mad offices, then writes in his diary while he waits for hallucinations to hit. The writing gets wilder and goofier as he trips without realising it. The last entry, after he has ostensibly come down, reads “Everything is back to norbal.” If you’ll notice, that’s “norbal,” not “norble.” This is why the quote was relatively Google-proof; I wrote it from memory without consulting the original text, and got the spelling wrong.

If I have time at work tomorrow I’ll put up a scan of the original page for your delectation. A fabulous prize will be wending its way to the Microsoft guy soon.

Thinking about the old Mad Magazine got me hella nostalgic. Try explaining to the kids today how Mad seemed back then. I used to feel like I hadn’t really seen a movie until I read the Mad parody. I read those things like they were movie reviews. It’s sure not the same thing today, and it’s not just that I’ve gotten older and crabbier. I mean, they accept paid advertising now. Case facking closed.

Other than that – busy busy busy, so I’ve got to keep it short again, pausing only to note that Mama Dog got tuckered out last night when we were still less than half an hour into 48 Hrs. Eddie Murphy isn’t even out of jail yet, for Peet’s* sake.
*The noted coffee chain.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Clap Hands

Just a brief one because we’re on a roll – we finally finished La Dolce Vita last night and have a really good chance tonight to watch something short and mindless that we’ve seen many times before, but we have to start as soon as Baby Dog clocks out, which should be any time now.

Got a little extra quality time with the wee one today because I came home from work early. Got to feed her supper whilst Mama Dog went out to forage for Thai food for us. Clapping is Baby Dog's new thing. She’s really mastered the motion, though she doesn’t get much volume going on yet. The great thing about baby clapping is that it’s a natural call-and-response thing. She claps, we clap to applaud her successfully clapping, she claps because she sees us clapping. It could go on all night except one of us has the attention span of an almost-ten-month-old.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Biggest Opportunity I Ever Blew

Before Mama Dog took off for Chicago last week, I exchanged emails with an offsite orker curious about the announcement I sent out saying that I was taking a day and a half off for reasons to do with Oprah. When I told this orker the short form version of the story, she thought it was a shame that I wasn’t going along for the ride too. I told her that had been a possibility but that logistically it made more sense for me to stay home with the baby. Figuring out how to deal with the carseat issue alone seemed insurmountable. Then there’s the way the night flight would mess with the sleep schedule, how to deal with her throughout the taping of the show, and so on and so forth. Add to this the fact that I hate flying and haven’t done so since the summer of 2001* and that I can’t stand crowd scenes and it just didn’t seem like a trip I should be on. The orker** made a comment about how she had learned that whenever such brass ring moments present themselves, it’s best to grab them despite the hassle. I agreed that was probably true, but pointed out that it was Mama Dog who was grabbing the ring in this scenario. For me, getting to spend a weekday at home with my daughter was brass ring enough.

I was thinking about that exchange on the way home from work today, and took a moment to ponder those brass ring moments that actually were mine and which I gave a pass to in one way or another. My pre-Mama Dog life was a landscape littered with unfinished projects and (usually wilfully) squandered opportunities. The big one that stands out was when I was a young pup of 22 or 23. This was when I was writing and publishing comic books, and I managed to get a set of my books into the hands of a prominent not-science-fiction writer who was at the time a kind of (for want of a better word) hero of mine. I was very surprised a short time later when this selfsame not-science-fiction writer sent me a letter telling me he really liked my book, and later called me at my own personal home to ask me a question about it.

This would have been 1987 or 1988, I guess, when Star Trek: The Next Generation debuted and went about very loudly sucking for its entire first season. Somewhere during that year I got a notion in my head that I could write a better script than what I was seeing on TV. It seemed a more constructive thing to do than just complain about how much the show blew. So I wrote this thing and realised I had no idea where to go from there. As it happened, the Less Marvellous Spouse (to whom I was then married) and I were going to be in the Los Angeles area for Thanksgiving, and we received an invitation to visit the not-science-fiction writer at his home. When I told him I’d written a Star Trek script with no contact and no prospects he said, “You know what that’s called, don’t you? That’s called jerking off.” He didn’t seem too enthused about looking at it, but I brought it along anyway for its hell.***

Perhaps wisely I didn’t talk about the script at all through lunch, or afterwards when we shot pool on the table in his study/library. I let him win, out of respect for his age and sympathy for his reach.**** When it came time to leave, I paused at the doorway and said, “So, there’s no way I can get you to look at my script?” “Oh, what the hell,” he said, and grabbed the thing from me, flipping rapidly through it and telling me what was wrong with it at first glance. Next thing I knew, he was calling the WGA, telling the secretary to send me all the necessary information for registering my script. I thought that was a big deal, but then next thing he was calling Mel Tormé’s son, who was at that time the Star Trek story editor. “I’ve got this kid here,” he said, “and he’s written a Star Trek script. He’s going to send it to you. He’s a good kid, you should look at it.”

So far so good. Within a week I had my script registered and sitting on the desk of the Star Trek story editor. I was already farther than I ever thought I’d get. Then Velvet Fog Jr. called me up, told me some stuff he didn’t like about the script, but said it had potential. The main thing was, they were killing off the character played by Der Bingle’s granddaughter. I had to rewrite the script without her.

And that’s where I choked. It’s insanely stupid, and I’m sure now it was just an act of perverse self-sabotage, but I couldn’t rewrite the thing. I couldn’t figure out a way to do it without that particular character playing out one particular scene. It seems ludicrous now. There were surely dozens of ways I could have reworked it, but somehow I just couldn’t find any of them. I dithered. I delayed. I procrastinated. Then the revolving door at Paramount took a spin and Velvet Fog Jr. was no longer the story editor. I no longer had an in, and my script was once again a big stack of jerking off.

So that was my big miss on the brass ring. I like to think that if I had that sort of shot again now, I wouldn’t hesitate. On the other hand, it’s in some ways just as well that I blew it; 17 years later with my perspective improved just the tiniest bit I can recognise just how much worse my script was than the crap I was deriding on the lousy first season of that show.
*Nothing to do with the unfortunate events of that September, but they didn’t help any.
**paul, that’s three right there.
***That is, the hell of it.
****Here I kid. He kicked my ass fair and square. I hope that in the unlikely event the not-science-fiction writer somehow happens upon this cheap shot it will not place me forever on his shit list.

Okay, Maybe I Got this Wrong...

…but did I hear that former Cheers star John Ratzenbertger got elected Pope?

Monday, April 18, 2005


Okay, it’s just one word and who knows if it really was a word or just a twist on the pronunciation of her usual “dada” caused by the crying jag she was experiencing at the time, but if you think an hour has gone by today when I didn’t stop and recollect Baby Dog’s first “Daddy,” you haven’t been paying attention. There’s something to that whole concept of the magic of a name, like in Rumpelstiltskin, or stories about demons that I only half remember and learned from comic books anyway. Baby Dog has discovered my secret name – not that big a secret really, since I’ve been trying to teach it to her since before she was born, but still – and by invoking it she has gained great power. I say that lightly, but there’s truth to it.

For one thing, with that one word she has effectively altered my sense of self. I was accustomed to being a daddy, yeah, but on some level our use of the word has still retained vestigial quotation marks. There’s irony in its use. It’s a bit of a goof. It’s what I am, yeah, and you could do a DNA test to prove it, but I’ve spent so much of my life being so not a daddy, it’s hard to remain one hundred percent in earnest on all occasions. There’s always been a little bit of “What, me Daddy?” behind every “Daddy’s home!” and “Come to Daddy” and “Daddy’s going to clean your bum* now, Sweetie.” Once Baby Dog said “Daddy,” that all changed. She was not riffing. There was no self-referential distance. She was just saying my name. You just can’t be “Daddy” anymore when your child tells you that you’re Daddy.

For another thing, she was defining the relationship. She was saying specifically that I am her Daddy. It’s one thing for Mama Dog and me to know that. It’s quite another for Baby Dog to tell us unequivocally that she knows it too. She was staking a claim, announcing expectations. “You must do something about this unhappy state of affairs wherein I languish ever so long in the high chair. You are Daddy, and you must act on my behalf.” She was entering a verbal agreement, Daddyhood carrying as it does obligations in both directions. I am expected to be on call to take care of her in any way necessary forever and ever. She is expected to know that I’m her Daddy. I’m still high on it, I suppose, but it seems a fair trade.
*I confess there are even quotation marks on my use of “bum” after nearly twenty years in these United States. But she doesn’t need to know that for a while.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Little Sleep, Lazy Sunday

The sleep schedule was more than somewhat screwy last night, probably as a result of an impulsive postprandial trip to Fenton’s. Mama Dog and I enjoyed our sundaes and Baby Dog enjoyed playing with a spoon and flirting with porcine dessertoholics, but the end result was that her bed time didn’t happen until after nine, a good hour later than the norm. We spoke hopefully of the idea that maybe later to bed would mean later to rise, but it only amounted to whistling past the graveyard. We had heard from more than one source that a baby who goes to bed late will probably just wake up at the usual time and be cranky as hell for going on short sleep.

The answer turned out to be none of the above. Instead, she woke up at one a.m. and wouldn’t go back to sleep after changing and feeding. She’d settle down, we’d think all was well, and then a minute later she’d start screaming again. In the end I dragged myself out of bed and pulled my shushing techniques out of mothballs. I doubt it was that effective as a soporific, but it calmed her down probably just on the basis of sheer familiarity. Once she stopped screaming, she was able to relax, and then sleep was not far behind. She cranked once or twice after I went back to bed, but not for a prolonged time, and then she mercifully slept until 7:30. Mama Dog was still ruint for lack of sleep, so I got up, let the dog out, changed baby, and set her up for breakfast. I bought Mama Dog a few more minutes that way, anyway.

We couldn’t snooze forever anyway. We were due at the Pirates’ house at nine for brunch…though at nine a.m. on Sunday, I’d more likely call that breakfast. I was taken immediately by the smell of bacon wafting from the kitchen. Mama Pirate is a vegetarian except that she eats chicken. And bacon. Okay, I know what you’re thinking, a vegetarian who eats chicken and bacon is actually what you’d call a carnivore who likes a side salad, but this is the East Bay. We get to choose our own labels here. If she wants to call herself a vegetarian who eats chicken and bacon, that’s her business, as long as I get some of the bacon.

A couple of the complicated array of Pirate grandparents were in town, and there was baby love in progress. Babies Dog and Pirate played together in the living room, actually sharing a toy without grabbing at one point. Baby Pirate continues to astound by providing a preview of the months to come. Not only is she practically walking, but when quizzed on the whereabouts of her nose, she pointed at the correct location. That may not astound the jaded or the childless, but to us it’s like David Copperfield* making South America vanish.

It was a languid and not particularly eventful day other than that. I did some laundry. We continued to not get the babyproofing done. Baby Dog played in the living room. I took her out in the afternoon so that Mama Dog could get a few more much-needed zeds. Mama Dog took Doggy Dog for a long stroll, but not as long as the one she’d intended. I finally gave up on ever finishing my backlog of newspapers and threw the lot into the recycle. I start fresh now. And in the cranky interval between the end of suppertime and the start of bedtime, Baby Dog said for the first time in clear if lachrymose tones, “Daddy.”
*The fromage-ulent magician, not the Dickens character – but you probably worked that out yourself.

Saturday, April 16, 2005

A Ragtag Mishmash of Things Done or Pondered During the Day

So far it’s been another weekend where we had a plenitude of plans and schemes most of which look unlikely to reach fruition by bedtime Sunday. We thought we’d babyproof the house this weekend, but when we sat down to do it we realised we didn’t quite know what that meant. We spent some time compiling a list of things to do. Rather, we meant to spend some time compiling a list of things to do. When we sat down in the living room to commence the compilation, Baby Dog looked so cute on Mama Dog’s lap that I said we should take a picture, and the whole thing devolved into a photo shoot instead. So we’re well along at babyproofing the house if by “babyproofing the house” one means “finally getting a photo of Mama, Baby, and Doggy Dog together to put on my desktop at work.” Basically the same thing. Also, we at least started the list and I removed to the basement one small table that Baby Dog seems always in danger of pulling over on herself.

I did manage to complete one task that’s been on my to-do list for ages. This last visit, Gran brought up a printer that Mama Dog’s dad had acquired for us some months back. It’s an old Laserjet 4 which looks like it’s seen some combat but is still a vast improvement over the piece of shit toploading Laserjet 1100 we had which would jam if there was more than one sheet in the tray. It took all of ten minutes to disconnect the 1100 and connect the 4, and it worked fine when I tested it. It’s technically a slower printer than the 1100, but the fact that you don’t have to hand-feed each sheet makes all the difference in the world. Send a print job and walk away. I’ve been dreaming of that for years. So thanks, Mama Dog’s dad!

I think I’ve noted before how much longer it takes us to watch a movie on video than it used to. Well, it’s gotten just plain ridiculous lately. We received La Dolce Vita from Netflix somewhere around February 25. We returned the last movie we watched before it somewhere around March 7. We probably started watching La Dolce Vita somewhere around March 20 or so. We’ve been trying to finish it for about a month. It’s close to three hours long, but still! We used to go through at least four Netflices in a week. I imagine Mr. Netflix, or whoever in the Netflix clan is responsible for monitoring returns, sitting by the mailbox, fretting. “What’s up with the Duvaliers?” he asks. “They’ve had La Dolce Vita sine February! Damn, I hope they’re okay!” I told Mama Dog this afternoon we simply had to get through the thing soon if only to set Mr. Netflix’s mind at ease. Instead we watched last week’s Survivor. Oh well, maybe tomorrow.

For those of you looking for an answer to the norble challenge - patience. I'm going to leave it out there for a week so that all the malingerers who check in infrequently have a chance. I'll give the answer Friday. Hint: the answer actually can be found by Googling, but you have to know the slight error I (unintentionally) made in the quotation.

And lastly, nothing to do with anything and no offence meant to the faithful, but…can someone explain to me why anybody is surprised that so many priests are pedophiles? I mean, who is more likely to be attracted to a life of regimented celibacy than someone who’s completely fucked up about their own sexuality and looking for an outside force to suppress it? Really, the whole system looks almost like it’s designed specifically to produce this result. Am I missing something?

Friday, April 15, 2005

Little Man Urinal Redux

The good news is I had a flash of insight today which I think explains the mystery of the tall guys standing sideways at the little man urinal. While I was making my regular pit stop before leaving work tonight, I happened to glance over at the little man urinal, and was struck by the obvious thing I had overlooked before: there’s only a single baffle between the two urinals. The regular urinal has a wall on the right and the baffle on the left. Anyone using it has a secure zone of privacy. The little man urinal, though, has only the baffle on the right and open air on the left. Anyone making use of it has nothing to intervene between John Q. Public walking in the door and John Q. Thomas attending to bidness. I believe the two tall guys were standing at an angle intending not to face the other urinal, but to face away from the bathroom door. They probably started off adopting a normal stance but made a little half turn when they heard me entering, thus giving me their backs. None of the various little men I’ve seen use it over the years have done that, but perhaps the curvature of the urinal itself provides psychologically adequate coverage for their lower centre of gravity. Mystery maybe solved.

Of course, why the tall guys were using the little man urinal in the first place remains a puzzle.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

"Everything is Back to Norble"*

Mama Dog was home a bit before midnight last night, and our domestic paradigm has reasserted itself. Just as we were ready to finally go to sleep, Baby Dog belatedly noticed that there had been noise and commotion and woke up. Mama Dog dragged herself back out of bed to nurse and I rolled over and reclaimed the prerogative of going to sleep because I had to work in the morning. Quo the status, evermore.

Thirty-six hours as Mr. Mom may not seem like a lot to you, but it was in many ways a revelatory experience for me. Mama Dog pointed out something that might not have occurred to me; this wasn’t just the first time I’d cared for Baby Dog solo for a whole day – it was the first time either of us had gone it alone. I think I’m justified in considering it an achievement.

A strange thing has happened on the road to nuclear familyhood. When Baby Dog was born, I took the full three months of leave guaranteed by law so that I could take part in the earliest days of our child’s life. We were both tyros at the child-rearing business, though I had a slight advantage in experience, having been around for the infancy of a whole passel of nephews and nieces. Mama Dog and I learned the very basics together. We learned how to change a diaper, how to burp a baby, how to swaddle, how to use a car seat, all that stuff. As much as biologically possible we shared equally in childcare duties during the first weeks of life.

As time went on and Mama Dog grew more confident in her mothering skills, my help became less and less necessary. The three months passed and I went back to work. That got me off the hook for responding to cries in the middle of the night, but it made me feel ever more like an unnecessary appendage in the child rearing department. We were somehow devolving into a Traditional Family where I put on my hat, grabbed my briefcase and smoked my pipe while I rode the commuter train to the office and Mama Dog stayed behind, smiling benevolently at the kinder and vacuuming in pearls. I was still in charge of getting the girl to sleep every night, but the dog could manage most everything else I did as well as I. When even the night-time shushing proved unnecessary, I couldn’t help wondering if I had any paternal utility beyond the twice monthly paycheque.

When this whole Okra thing came up and it suddenly became necessary for me to step up on the home front, I was actually quite daunted. I didn’t know how Baby Dog would react to her mother’s absence. I didn’t know if I could figure out how to make the meals properly. I didn’t know if she’d actually take the formula at bedtime, or what I’d do if she woke up in the middle of the night.

I can’t tell you what a boost it is to my parenting confidence that the whole thing went off without a hitch. I didn’t know it a week ago, but I know it now; if I were ever so lucky as to be a stay at home dad, I know I’d be up to it. For that knowledge alone, these were thirty-six of the most rewarding hours of my life.

Still. Going back to the office today and having to work through lunch seemed like a restful interlude. All hail Mama Dog, the domestic goddess year-round.
*A fabulous prize to the first person who can tell me the source of today's titular quotation. Mama Dog, alas, is disqualified on account of being known to know it. I already gave her a surprise present this week anyway.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Mr. Mom: Day One and One-Half

Four naps, two bedtimes, six meals, one bedtime sippy cup full of formula, three long strolls, two loads of dishes, one bath, and I don’t know how many diaper changes later, and the clock’s winding down for this strange rearrangement of our well-established domestic order. Baby Dog’s in bed and Mama Dog’s plane should arrive in SFO in a couple of hours. All that’s left for me is to blog, watch Lost on tape, and await the homecoming.

Charles is off, his whirlwind stay concluded. We moseyed up to the corner of Telegraph and Haste, the nexus of media consumption in the East Bay. At Cody’s I got Ian McEwan’s latest and impulse bought something else the title of which I’ve already forgotten. At Amoeba I set out to buy a CD by a band I’d first heard of on that compilation of Johnny Cash covers, and realised to my great chagrin that I couldn’t remember their name. I thought it was Silver-something, but couldn’t remember what. Silverback? Silverfish? Silverchair? No, definitely not them. I was pissed at myself because my main reason for heading up Telegraph in the first place was to get this album. I almost gave up, but then decided to just scan the Esses on the theory that once I saw the name I’d recognise it. Against all likelihood, that worked. Sparklehorse. I’ll never forget that now. Unless I do. The cashier looked at it as he rung it up, gave a little grudging nod, and mumbled (without apparent sarcasm), “Good album.” Nice to know that, out of touch as I am, I can still occasionally stumble into a little cred.

After I bought the album, I was sort of stuck following exit traffic, but had lost track of Charles. I stopped by the bag check-in and scanned the store for him. As I did that, the bag bouncer, a yellow-toothed, tattoo-armed punky kid, leaned over his counter, looked down at Baby Dog snoozing in the stroller, and asked, “How old is that there?” “That’s nine and a half months,” I told him. He grinned. I’m no-one to talk, but his teeth were truly horrible. The grin was nonetheless disarmingly unaffected. “I have one coming,” he said, almost shyly. “Oh yeah?” I asked. “Due date’s June 23,” he said. I pointed at Baby Dog. “She was born June 25. So this is what you’re looking at in exactly one year.” He gazed dreamily at her. “Any advice for the new parent?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said. “Go out as much as you can while you still can. Drink heavily. Go to lots of movies. See lots of shows.” He seemed to like that advice. “I’m in a band,” he said, “so I figure this is going to be a big sacrifice.” “It’s worth it,” I assured him, and he nodded. “Yeah, I think so,” he said.

Funny thing. I had spotted this guy on the way in the store. Last thing in the world I’d have imagined then is that I’d be daddy-bonding with him on the way out.

PS – For those who’ve been asking – and those who haven’t but were silently curious - Mama Dog got invited on to that TV show through a strange and circuitous set of circumstances involving a media brouhaha over an article written by a Bay Area writer. The episode involves issues relating to marriage and motherhood. It taped today and will air sometime in the next two weeks, but we don’t yet know the exact date. I spoke to Mama Dog this afternoon. She signed a tight-ass nondisclosure contract that prohibits her from writing anything about her experiences on the show. I signed no such damn thing, though, so I can tell you that they prepped her and settled on questions she would be asked and things she would say, and then at the last minute they totally changed the format of the episode and all of that went out the window. We’re both very curious what the end result will be, and if anything of what she said will make the winnowing process to the final product.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Mr. Mom: Day One-Half

You’ll probably think me a lying gobshite, but I’m Mr. Mom right now because Mama Dog had to jet off to Chicago to tape an appearance on a well-known nationally-aired chat show. I worked a half day this morning, then rushed home to be here before Mama Dog had to take off for the airport at noon. Since then, my already elevated esteem for Mama Dog has risen ever higher. Stay-at-home parenting is delightful and rewarding but hella exhausting. She does this each and every day and makes dinner for me when I get home for work. Thank you, Mama Dog! You’re a wonder, wonder woman!

The family misses its matriarch, but while she was stuck in travel hell (her original flight got cancelled), we had some fun in the neighbourhood. Charles is in town again, and he kindly helped out with the afternoon perambulation. He walked Doggy Dog while I pushed Baby Dog in the stroller, and we ambled over to Diesel, letting passers-by assume that Baby Dog has two daddies. One of the many good things about Diesel is that it allows dogs, so we were all able to go in. Unfortunately, Doggy Dog acted up in the store. I took him out and waited bemusedly as Charles strolled Baby Dog around the fiction aisles. Probably not what he was expecting to be doing anytime soon.

We dropped Doggy Dog off at home then headed on to Royal Coffee for refreshments. Baby Dog got fussy once motion stopped, so I took her out of the stroller and let her play with a spoon, which proved to be hours of fun for the whole family. Or at least tens of minutes of fun for the infant child.

Fussiness accelerated at Safeway, where we stopped for coffee filters and liquor.* As we started up 63rd it got worse and worse until finally I decided the thing to do was pluck Baby Dog out and carry her the rest of the way home. That was most of the way, a good fifteen-minute walk, but she was so taken with the novelty of being out of doors and not contained in the stroller that she didn’t cry again the whole time. “I bet mummy never does this,” I told Baby Dog. Kind of fallacious, that; mummy usually doesn’t have a guy trailing her smoking cigarettes and carrying scotch to push the stroller while she carries the baby. She remains a wonder, wonder woman.
*Charles expressed some undefined misgivings about bringing scotch home in the bottom of a baby carriage. I figure it’s better that than letting the baby carry it.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Tall Guys Standing Sideways at the Little Man Urinal

There are two stand-up urinals in the men’s room at my office. One is a standard-issue wall-mounted urinal. The other is hung a good six to eight inches lower. I call that one the little man urinal. I always use the regular urinal because the little man urinal is just too disconcertingly low. I feel like I might pee on the handle or something.

Over the years when telling work stories to Mama Dog, I had for some reason a tendency to describe orkers in terms of size and ethnicity/nationality. There was, for example, “The Little Greek Guy” and “The Little French Guy.” There was a revolving cast of characters known as “The Big American Guy,” “The Regular-Sized American Guy,” or “The Tall American Guy,” though those labels never really stuck to any one American Guy. Eventually I noticed that whenever I went to the bathroom and saw an orker I had described as “The Little” Whatever, he would always be using the little man urinal. It stands to reason, I suppose, but it hadn’t occurred to me before then. Big guys can overcome the fear of peeing on the handle and choose to use one urinal or the other as availability allows. The little guys are pretty much stuck with the little man urinal unless they want to pee on their tippytoes.

Today I had another one of those bathroom incidents where I didn’t ask the question that maybe I should have. On two separate occasions during the day, I walked into the men’s room and found Tall American Guys (a different one each time) standing at the little man urinal. Generally, if I see a Tall Guy at the little man urinal, I assume it’s because some other Guy was at the regular urinal when he showed up. Both of these Tall American Guys, though, were facing the pisser at a 45-degree angle. That is, they were angled so that they’d be more or less facing the guy in the next urinal. As you know if you’re a guy, that just doesn’t happen. I suppose if I had come across a third Tall American Guy posed that way during the day, it would have been different. If it happens three times, you know it’s a pattern. With only two, I don’t know if these are just two weird guys or if there’s something going on I don’t know about. With a third Tall Guy pissing low and side-saddle, I might have asked if there was some new office policy and I had missed the email. Probably not, though. If I had trouble asking “How come you were filling your hat up in the bathroom?” to the codger that time, “Hey, excuse me, how come you’re pissing sideways at the little man urinal?” seems unlikely to roll trippingly off my tongue.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Another Grandparental Visitation Draws to a Close

It only shows how dense I can be, but I have to confess it’s only in the last week that I figured out a stunningly obvious implication of fatherhood. To wit: the sleep thing. I’ve always been an eight-hour per night man, though it usually only worked out that way on average. I’d get by on short rations through the week, getting up early for work, then I’d binge on the weekend. I’d stay up late on a Friday or Saturday, knowing I could sleep in as long as I wanted to in the morning. The dog put a crimp in that – he has to go out to take a leak in the morning, but he was always willing to let me go back to sleep once that detail was attended to. Having a baby, though, that’s a whole different glob of paraffin. So it’s stupid, but it didn’t sink in until last weekend that the reason I never felt caught up on sleep, even after Baby Dog was reliably sleeping through the night was because I’d fallen back into the old pattern. On Friday and Saturday I’d stay up late, figuring I could sleep in until all hours. Then Baby Dog would wake up at 6 a.m., then Doggy Dog would want out, then Baby Dog would decide that instead of falling back asleep between us she’d slap my back for a while, then Doggy Dog would start whining for his breakfast, then Mama Dog and I would both figure, oh hell, we’re awake, let’s just get up.

Mama Dog is always apologetic when her mother is staying with us, worrying that the welcome will be worn out or my style cramped or whatever, but she needn’t worry. We can use the help taking care of Baby Dog, especially on the weekend. Gran is more than happy to come up here in the morning at the first sound of a wakeful baby. She’s delighted to feed Baby Dog or play with her on the living room floor while we catch up on the sleep missed the night before. For that, I’ll gladly put up with a week’s worth of finding the dishrag wadded up in the sink basin greased up from food waste being poured out over it. Gran goes home tomorrow. Baby Dog will miss her. And I’m ever so grateful for being able to stay in bed past eight this morning.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

The Only Childless Couple at the Birthday Party

Our days of socialising while Gran baby-sits continue. We went to a birthday party in San Francisco today, and the setting turned out to be so baby-friendly that we really regretted leaving Baby Dog at home. It seemed as though we were the only people there without a child in tow. What a difference a year and a bit makes. It seemed like we didn’t know anyone with kids when 2004 started. Now it’s starting to seem we know barely any without them.

Here’s another odd thing. I’m legendarily awkward and reticent at parties – or any other gathering of people I don’t know – but today I found myself able to talk to strangers with unprecedented ease. Part of it is the baby thing. I find I’m capable of discussing at length sleep patterns, food preferences, mobility milestones, vocal development, and so on with anyone who cares to participate in such a conversation, and it so happened this was a roomful of people primed to find such discussions fascinating. There was a further connection, though; Mama Dog knows the birthday girl through an online support network for women trying to conceive through in vitro fertilisation. At the party, everyone at our table was an IVF veteran, and all had children born within a span of six months. The women were all old friends, having gotten to know one another through the online group and having met regularly for luncheons before, during, and after pregnancy. The men never figured in these luncheons, and for the most part we were all meeting for the first time. The birthday girl’s husband gave a charming Powerpoint presentation on his wife’s life and times. When he got to the IVF days, he illustrated it with a photo of himself giving her injections in the ass. She yelled at him to skip ahead, so he did – to another ass-jabbing picture. And then another. The room was in hysterics. I turned to Mama Dog and said, “Oh, that takes me back.” Because I hadn’t stopped to think about it, I was surprised when everyone else at the table said, “Oh, yeah.” Only then did it sink in that they’d all been through the same thing. I mean, I knew that – but in some way I hadn’t known that. No wonder Mama Dog found those luncheons and online discussions such a valuable support mechanism! At the time, it never would have occurred to me to ask some other guy, “Hey, first time you had to jab your wife in the ass with a needle to give her some Follistim, did you balk a couple of times before you could do it?” Seems to me now if might have taken some pressure off me to hear him say “Jesus, yeah, I practiced on oranges, but it’s just not the same.”

In other baby stuff – it looks like the days of shushing are over, though Gran’s Schubert serenades may just be a lateral move. Baby Dog has mostly been going to sleep on her own the last week or two. If she cries at bedtime, it’s usually pretty brief. At the same time, she’s become a lot more active in her sleep. Since birth, she’s slept on her back with her arms up over her head. Just in the last few days, she seems to have decided she likes to sleep on her side. We keep finding her all twisted up in her sleep sack, sometimes with her face pressed down against the mattress. The other morning, I rolled her back on her back, and she immediately rolled over onto her side again, grabbing blindly for the bars of the crib. At least her nose wasn’t against the mattress, so I left her that way. Her horizons are widening. She’s re-examining fundamental assumptions and looking for the arbitrary parts that don’t suit her. I guess we’ll have a lot more of that in the next eighteen years.

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Truth About the Fake Story

I bet you thought I forgot I said I’d put up the answer to the April Fool’s Day puzzle today.

So, this poll has probably been the most widely responded to of any I’ve put up so far. Which gives you an idea of how few people usually vote in my polls. The final results are:

SB Film Festival – 5 votes (17%)
The bellboy and the deer in Jasper – 12 votes (40%)
Police on Parker Street – 9 votes (30%)
Palmetto bug – 3 votes (10%)
Pirates announcing parenthood – 1 vote (3%)

These numbers are slightly bogus. I knew Mama Dog would be the first to vote and that she would vote for the correct answer, having lived through two of the stories and heard the other two from me before. To avoid a telltale early lead, I entered bogus votes for the other four. So that one vote for the Pirates is really me; only two people voted for the Palmetto bug and only four for the film festival. Most of you were split on what seemed more unlikely: a deer taking a crap on a guy’s bicycle seat or a cop (even a Berkeley cop) saying, “Did you see a bunch of guys with guns like us who weren’t cops?” The cop story looked like a runaway winner early on, but gradually the deer and the bellboy took over the lead and held it.

So – 40% of you (actually, I guess it’s 44% once you adjust for the bogus votes) have fully functioning bullshit detectors. The deer and the bellboy story was the made up one. The cops looking for the guys with guns story was on the level. You can ask Bernardo if you don’t believe me. He wasn’t on the stairwell when it happened, but I told him the whole thing as soon as I got into the apartment. That was one weird night. We never did find out what the whole thing was about. If they were busting neighbours in the building, we never found out about it.

Tangentially – Ambrose didn’t vote, but we traded a couple of emails on the subject. He was leaning towards voting for the “Pirates announcing parenthood” story. That Ambrose. Of everyone I know, only his worldview is so skewed that he’d think I’d make up such a story about the day I knew I was going to be a father.

Well, that was fun. I think I’ll do something like this again sometime in the near future, only I’ll try to make it a little harder for you 44%. Do keep checking back.

People I’ve Seen Whilst Commuting in the Last Couple of Days

Dancing Women at MacArthur, Wednesday after work. Just as the train was pulling out of the station, I saw a chunky Germanic-looking young woman doing a strangely grim-faced pirouette by the top of the stairs. As I was pondering that, the train moved along and I saw at the end of the platform a thirtyish African-American woman sitting on the last of the concrete pods, headphones on, Broadway smile on her face, doing some sort of big finish movement with her arms. It looked like maybe she was practicing her audition for A Chorus Line but didn’t feel like standing up. Or maybe it was some sort of horizontal sun salutation.

Teenage Girls with Terrible Taste in Movies: Last night, in the adjacent set of facing-each-other seats, four girls bound for points beyond the Caldecott Tunnel talked for longer than I could stand (in excess of three minutes) about movies they had recently seen or wanted to see. Singled out for praise were National Treasure and Meet the Fockers. Singled out for disapprobation was Ray because “The acting wasn’t really that great” and “Ray Charles may have been a good musician or something but…” (thankfully, train noise obscured the end of the sentence).

Old School Metrosexual: This morning as I exited the train at Embarcadero, I passed a sixtyish man waiting for an eastbound train. He couldn’t quite conceal his age-appropriate paunch, but still cut quite a figure with his blue beret and uncannily neat moustache. He looked kind of like the Skipper, if he’d killed Mr. Howell, married Mrs. Howell, and then let her dress him for the rest of his days.

Umbrella Man in the Low-Rise Elevator: We arrived at the elevator banks at roughly the same time. He was a few strides ahead of me, so he pushed the “up” button. He had a coffee in one hand and the umbrella in the other, so he used the umbrella to push the button. This would have been a utilitarian choice not meriting an eye-roll if it weren’t for the fact that he gave every appearance of having believed that he had just done something with a flourish. Consequently, my eyes were caused to roll. The elevator arrived, we stepped in. I hit the button for my floor, and instead of setting the damn umbrella down, umbrella guy again used it to press his button – and then again to press the “Close Door” button, an entirely unnecessary action, since the door started closing on its own before he even completed the movement. Three times with the umbrella! In the words of Auric Goldfinger, “Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. Three times is Enemy Action.”* I had seen him outside, tapping the umbrella on the pavement. Animals piss on pavement! He was pushing the elevator buttons with animal piss! I watched the floor numbers light up and meditated on ramming the umbrella up his ass and opening it, but he got out on 3, never knowing how close he’d come to an unsavoury encounter with freelance proctology.
*Not really a relevant quote in context. Chalk it up as an eye-roll-worthy flourish.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

A Vin-Tastic Night Out

We went out tonight, a week night. What an unusual state of affairs. Someplace to go and Gran here to baby-sit. Friend Pablo was having a do at his place in the City of San Francisco. The Evite billed the party as “Vin-Tastic”; by that, he meant something about wine tasting but I of course took it to mean he was organising a Vin Diesel film festival, and I was sorely disappointed to not find The Chronicles of Riddick already underway when we arrived. In fact, the movie referenced most frequently in the course of the evening was Sideways. The wine even started off with some very good bottles of pinot noir and a bunch of cunningly arranged plates of hors d’oeuvre. Pablo didn’t do the doovers. He’s a tad metrosexual, but not quite that metrosexual.

It was a small and pleasant crowd, none of whom we knew other than Pablo. There were two single men, two single women, and three couples, of which we were the most elderly. At one point in the conversation, several of the women talked about either dreading the imminent arrival of or regretting the recent arrival of their 30s, a time we now distantly recall as the golden years. I’d say the days of wine and roses, but the night was vin-tastic, and I don’t want to confuse matters. Curiously, all three of the couples featured really white guys married or engaged to Asian or Eurasian women. Does that mean anything? Just that we live in the Bay Area, I guess. We drank wine and ate cheese and talked party talk.

Pablo likes him some memorabilia from a time before any of us could memorabile. He had an 1891 Harper's. The Classics Illustrated of The Red Badge of Courage. He fired up 78s on a hand-cranked Victrola; Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys. He showed off his mantelpiece full of antique commercial packaging. A Lucky Strikes pack from the 50s. A tin of Chesterfields. A Log Cabin syrup tin shaped like a log cabin. A pack of Camel brand tire patches – same Camel as the cigarettes, different product entirely. Mama Dog enthusiastically picked up a tin of some ancestor of cellophane tape. Pablo chided her for messing with his display, put it back…and dropped it on the floor, denting it. Oh no! But isn’t looking thrashed part of the charm? Maybe not.

We left early because we’re old and we have a nine-and-a-half-month-old at home. All the young folk oohed when they heard that. Pictures were requested. Pablo had a copy of the birth announcement on a shelf in his room, so we got that out and showed it around; Baby Dog, five days old, photoshopped onto an oyster, the tiny little Birth of Venus. All the young folk aahed. With that we took our leave, then got lost trying to leave the neighbourhood. We somehow found our way back to Mission Street, and cruised through a neighbourhood familiar to me from weekends with Avenuu many moons ago. It was later than I’d meant to stay out, and it was taking longer to get home than we’d planned, but there’s nothing more pleasant than having Mama Dog to myself for a bit of quiet conversation. Home again home again, jiggedy jig. Gran was waiting up on the couch, having put Baby Dog to bed hours before, singing her to sleep with Schubert lullabies. I had thought ahead and put the garbage out before we left, so al that remained was to crank out a quick and meaningless faversham post before bed. And so goodnight to one and all.

P.S.: Friday night I’ll come clean about the April Fool’s Post. So if you haven’t voted yet, the next 24 hours are your last chance.

P.P.S.: Full disclosure - I wrote this post last night after returning from the party. I had it finished at 10:35, went to publish - and Blogger crapped out. Kids, I stayed up to midnight on a school night trying to get this posted, but Blogger never reconnected for me. It still wasn't working when I got up this morning. It's working now, at work - I'm not sure whether the fault was with Blogger or with my computer at home. In one sense I suppose my streak was broken last night, but in another sense I think it wasn't - I had my post done on time but was stymied by bad technology. After some soul-searching I've decided on a compromise, which is that although I'm noting the technical streak-break here for the record, I'm going to set the time posted on this entry for the time I clicked "Publish" last night.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

My First Funeral

Uncle Kenny was Grandpa Feunoir’s brother. That actually made him my great-uncle, but my brother and sisters and I all called him Uncle Kenny. I did it unquestioningly, the way a child will. That was just his name. When I got old enough to start thinking these things through for myself, it was a puzzler. If all those aunts, I reasoned, were Grandma Feunoir’s daughters, that must mean Uncle Kenny was her son. That caused some indignation when she got wind of it. Uncle Kenny was older than she was.

Uncle Kenny died around 1970 or 71 I guess, when I was five or six or seven. I had never been to a funeral before. I knew I was supposed to be on my best behaviour, but I was a kid. In the hallway outside the room where the relatives were gathered to pay their respects I played with the two of my many cousins nearest in age to me. I had – if I’m counting correctly – twenty-two cousins, plus the three siblings. Of the twenty-six members of my generation (I had no cousins on my father’s side), I was the youngest. Always the baby in any room.* We found a candy machine and begged parents for change. We played with cards someone had thought to bring. We told jokes. After a while, we forgot where we were entirely. We ran around, we yelled, we hid and sought. Either the noise didn’t carry or the grown-ups were too occupied; we weren’t told to sit down and shut the hell up more than once or twice.

In the days before the funeral, my parents tried gingerly to prepare me for the occasion. They weren’t quite sure if I was old enough to go, or even to understand what was going on. I don’t exactly recall the conversation, but I think they asked me if I wanted to attend. I said, as tentatively as they, “Well, I’ve never seen a dead body before….” I didn’t understand yet that things like that get repeated. I got more guarded once I caught on, but that was years later. I was surprised and mortified to discover at the funeral that this comment had been reported to Grandpa Feunoir. He came up to me in the hallway where I was playing and said, “I hear there’s a little boy who’s never seen a dead body before.” He took me into the viewing room and over to the coffin. He picked me up and let me have a peek. I thought Uncle Kenny looked asleep, and I probably said so. I can’t think what else I might have said. I suppose Grandpa Feunoir felt he had adequately introduced me to the mystery of death. He set me down and let me go back to running around in the hallway, and that’s exactly what I did. You might think this interval with mortality had reduced me to a sombre state, but you’d be wrong. Death isn’t as big a deal to a six year old as it is to an adult. Even when it’s looking you in the face, it’s still a big abstraction. It’s something that happens to some people sometimes, usually old ones.

Only a year or two later the funeral was for Grandpa Feunoir. Nobody boosted me up to see in the coffin because there was nobody there who would have thought to do so. I saw him, though, and he looked like he was asleep too.

*Baby Dog, being the first born to the last born is also the youngest of her generation, probably including all her second cousins or cousins once removed or whatever it is that the children of my cousins are to her. There's a sixteen-year gap between her and the youngest of my sisters' kids.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Why My Belly Is Tattooed With a Picture of a Raccoon, Bearing the Legend “Anywhere I Lay My Head I Will Call My Home”*

Another trip down memory lane, inevitably arriving in New Orleans…. I’ll try not to make it too tedious.

When Ambrose and I were kings of the road, we grew used to circumstances so reduced I would have found them unthinkable not long before. We started off couch-surfing with friends, and then acquaintances, and then half-remembered acquaintances, and finally complete strangers who were willing for whatever reason to put us up for the night. Our most reliable home was Ambrose’s car, the Raw-Ass Muh-Fuh’n Cutlass, a menacing road boat from 1960s Detroit. We had our last couch in Albuquerque and didn’t see another bed until I sprung for a hotel in Oklahoma City a week or two later. It depleted the bankroll, but I needed a shower more than I ever had in my life. It got so bad when we were driving through Texas that I found myself licking my lips looking out the window at a stagnant pond, fantasising about jumping into it from the moving car.

I thought I’d learned everything there was to know about sweating by then, but Oklahoma and later Louisiana proved to be the doctoral course. Bobby’s apartment was our thesis. It was a windowless studio in the courtyard behind the Voodoo Museum. Bobby kept the door open partly to get a little breeze but mostly because the only way of locking it was by a padlock on the outside. Door open or door closed, the place was an oven. It sucked heat in and held it, and there’s no shortage of available heat in New Orleans in July. No amount of breeze was going to make a difference even if it could be felt inside the house, which was doubtful. The first morning I was there, I took a cold shower to make myself feel human again, but I had a rude surprise when I was done. The mere act of towelling off left me instantly re-enveloped in a sheen of sweat.

Bobby had an air conditioner but never used it. Like many locals, he considered that to be “bad air.” He also, for reasons I never enquired into, left the television on at high volume around the clock. When Bobby went to work at the museum and Ambrose and I were alone in the apartment, we did an odd thing; we muted the TV, but never turned it off. We never discussed it, but just fell into the routine of blanking out the sound as soon as Bobby was gone. For most of the day we’d be able to hear ourselves think without violating the letter of Bobby’s peculiar law.

The apartment consisted of a combination bedroom/living room, a kitchenette, and a bathroom. Ambrose and I spent the nights camped out in the hall outside the bedroom, which was the most stiflingly hot part of the apartment. We had sleeping bags, but it was too hot to get inside them. We lay on top of them, and it was too hot to do that either. One night Bobby brought home a bar pickup and the guy stumbled over Ambrose on the way to the bathroom for a post-carnal leak. Not long before I would have imagined that if I were lying in sweet repose at three in the morning on a sweltering patch of thickly carpeted floor, with the soothing sound of a high-volume infomercial trumpeting from the next room, and I were woken from this good slumber by a strange naked man off to drain his recently exercised pizzle, I would take that as a cut to go immediately in search of alternative accommodations. As it was, he mumbled, “Oh, hi,” and we both mumbled “How y’ doin’?” I rolled over to the wall so my back was to the bathroom light and was soon lulled back to sleep by the merry splash of our temporary roommate seeing a man about a horse.

In fact, it was Bobby who asked us to leave. We hadn’t done anything wrong – well, Ambrose fucked up one of his pots and I broke a plate while washing dishes, but nothing major. The thing was, when we moved in, Bobby said we could stay for two weeks, and when two weeks came it was time for us to go. He really didn’t seem to mind having us there, but it was important to him to stick to the arrangement he had made. We respected that like we respected the fact that he wanted the TV on all day, so we packed up our shit and headed out into the Quarter, wondering where we might be spending the night.

With no place else to go, we carted our cases over the Molly’s, figuring we could at least sit there and drink while we tried to come up with a plan. Candace was bartending and she let us put our bags behind the bar. Ambrose had been flirting with her off and on over the past few weeks, and that proved to be a fortunate thing. When she heard our sad tale of homelessness, her generous heart went out and she told us we could stay at her place for a couple of weeks. She gave us a spare key, and we carted everything back the way we came to her place a block or two riverward of the Voodoo Museum on Dumaine.

After the two weeks in the sweat lodge, Candace’s place was paradise. It was on the third floor of a building, up where the air’s cool. There were windows that opened. If she needed to, she used the AC, but she generally didn’t need to. Most crucially, the place was huge. It was like two apartments in one. There was a kitchen in the middle and two of everything else, fore and aft; fore bedroom, aft bedroom; fore bathroom, aft bathroom. We even had our own television, which we kept off most of the time. We marvelled at our good fortune.

The second day or so that we were there, Ambrose and I took stock. We had done very well by the kindness of strangers. We were sitting in someone else’s apartment, watching someone else’s TV, eating someone else’s food. I was flipping through channels, looking for something to watch. I skipped past a nature documentary on PBS, but just as I went past it we heard the phrase “…this resourceful creature can live anywhere, eat practically anything….” Ambrose and I glanced at each other, laughing. “That’s us!” I exclaimed. I flipped back to find out what the remarkable creature in question was. It was the raccoon. And I figured, as much as I could possibly believe in such silly bullshit, that I had found my spirit animal.

*Slightly paraphrased from a Tom Waits lyric.

Monday, April 04, 2005

Doggy Dentistry

In today’s Doggy Dog drama, our boy was at least not an aggressor. Rather, he was a victim of oral hygiene. We’ve been bad dog parents in that regard, and his teeth were clearly suffering. We finally decided a couple of weeks back that the only thing for it was to have his teeth cleaned and then resolve ever after to take better care of them. Dentistry for dogs is rather an involved process. It can’t be done if they’re conscious, for one thing. What a wraparound weekend for Doggy Dog; cat-killing Friday night, general anaesthesia on an empty stomach Monday morning.

I got off easy because I was insanely busy at work all day and had no time to dwell on it. Mama Dog was the one who had to drop Doggy Dog off at the vet’s and then field update calls through the day. She was on tenterhooks all day long. Midmorning, the vet called to get her to authorise an extraction. One of his bone-gnawing teeth was fractured and had to come out. She gave the okay. I understood the reasons it had to go, but I was still kind of bummed about it. Pulling a dog’s tooth seems kind of like declawing a cat. Mama Dog fretted and worried while I struggled with a big stupid table so complicated that I couldn’t see straight by the end of the day.

I was telling Dan the Chemist about Doggy Dog’s surgery. I mentioned how, awful as it is, we had to do a kind of cost-benefit analysis when considering what to do about Doggy Dog’s teeth. He’s eight years old, and a big dog’s life expectancy runs around 10-12. If we didn’t do anything to the teeth, would he die before they became a real problem? Like I said, it’s terrible to think of it that way, but the procedure’s not cheap and we don’t have pet insurance. Dan grinned. “I do that for myself,” he said. “With all the dietary advances and fluoridation and stuff in the last generation, dentists have to convince you your teeth need to be perfect if they wanna make money. This dentist gave me an estimate for this program he wanted to do, $30,000. I figure I’m already married, so I don’t need my teeth perfect. I just need to be able to eat, and only for about twenty more years.”

Mama Dog said Doggy Dog was still really out of it when she picked him up at the vet’s. He wasn’t able to jump up into the back seat on his first try. I don’t think that’s ever happened before. When I got home, he barked a little hoarsely and was a bit less animated than he usually is. He still seemed a bit groggy. The quiet and subdued greeting, though a little weird, was actually a nice change of pace. He goes a little over the top most days, and my head’s usually not calibrated to tolerate the full-on barking show most nights. I petted him and told him he was good, but I couldn’t help thinking there was some karma in his situation. When he was settled down like a dogskin rug on the kitchen floor, he looked content but worn out. At dinnertime he just lay there on the floor, not even sniffing up at the table laden with pork. You know Doggy Dog’s out of it when he doesn’t stand up for pork. I know he wasn’t looking for one, but I supplied the moral. “You see?” I said. “This is what happens when you kill cats.”

Sunday, April 03, 2005


Baby Dog has a new stepcousin. Baby Whippet* was born about three weeks ago and today we visited him for the first time. Gran’s in town again, so we made a foursome. It started to pour just as we parked on the Whippets’ street. We hadn’t expected it to rain while we were out, so we had no umbrellas. Baby Dog didn’t even have a hat on. I carried her down the street with my jacket tucked over her head. She seemed to enjoy riding that way. At least, she didn’t complain.

They say always to bring food when visiting new parents, so we brought the Whippets a lime tart from the bakery at Market Hall. I remember the Pirates brought us food when Baby Dog was new, though I can’t recollect what it was. The wheel turns.

At three weeks old, Baby Whippet is about the size Baby Dog was when we came home from the hospital. At nine months and change she looked like a leviathan next to him. It’s hard to remember now what it was like when she was that tiny. Watching Baby Whippet was a reminder, though. He sat on Mama Whippet’s lap through most of the visit (Gran held him for a bit), nursed, and slept. Wow, those were the days, weren’t they? Baby Dog’s all over the place now, or trying to be. She wants to touch everything. She’s no longer content lying or sitting in one place. She’s happiest on the floor, rolling about and exploring. At the Whippets’ house I held her on my lap most of the time because their living room isn’t really baby-ready yet. She put up with it, but it was clear she wanted to be on the floor. She wanted to examine, for example, the animals of the house. She may have heard that we called them dogs, but their similarity to her avatar of doghood was largely theoretical. She wanted to examine the dog toys, which are unfortunately very similar to baby toys. She wanted to examine the sculptured on the mantel and the magnets on the fridge and the lime tart her parents were eating. She showed little curiosity where Baby Whippet was concerned, but he was still and quiet and snoozing. Just wait, though, Whippets. He’ll be grabbing at everything before you know it. It’s a cliché, but it’s true. It all flies by so more quickly than you expect it to; more quickly even than you realise at the time.
*I’ve referred previously herein to Mama Dog’s stepbrother and stepsister-in-law as “the stepinlaws.” Now that their family numbers three, brevity and clarity require a less tangled soubriquet. Also, corny family monikers have become sort of the rule of the faversham. In due consideration of these and other factors, I herewith christen them “The Whippets.”

Saturday, April 02, 2005


Last night, after I put up that lame excuse for a post I did as I’d hoped—plopped my ass down on the couch to start watching the stuff I’ve taped in the last week. It’s kind of a jumble and I no longer had any idea what was on which tape. I just popped in the first one to hand, rewound to the start, and found that it was an episode of Arrested Development, which was just the thing. I settled in with the marriage-saving headphones on and commenced to enjoying the epic failings of the Bluth family.

About twenty minutes in I heard a noise. Thinking it was the baby, I slid the headphones off and listened. Nothing. Then I heard voices outside. I had left the back door open so that Doggy Dog could be free to come and go in response to the calls of nature. I wandered back that way, wondering what was up. As I got closer, I realised that I was hearing the sounds of an animal-involved scuffle. It was the sort of noise I’ve heard before. I hurried out in what I guess was a panic. I didn’t even think to turn the porch light on.

Doggy Dog was at the bottom of the stairs, and he was in a fight with something. I don’t know why, but my first thought was that a raccoon had gotten into our yard. I yelled “No!” and “Drop it!” but he wasn’t listening. I realised that the voices I’d heard were coming from our neighbours. Our back yard is like France; it abuts five adjacent properties. Three sets of neighbours were looking over their fences, trying to figure out what was going on. P, the lady to the west of us, said something about a doggy, and I thought for a moment that the little dog I’d seen sometimes in her yard had somehow crossed the fence and was now being mauled by our big dog.

That was all in a second or two, as I was rushing down the stairs. I reached out to grab Doggy Dog’s collar, but there was only fur. We must have taken his collar off at some point and forgotten it. He started to yelp, and I could finally see that the critter he was fighting with was a cat. He had it in his mouth, and it was fighting back, its claws sunk in his muzzle. He yelped, but he wouldn’t let go. I kept yelling, pointlessly.

I was woefully unprepared. I was in my bathrobe, I had no light, and nothing to grab onto. Doggy Dog barrelled under the stairs and around the corner of the house. By the time I got around to the side alley, the fight was over. The cat had stopped struggling, so her dropped it. It didn’t move. I herded Doggy Dog back up the steps. By this time, Mama Dog had gotten up from bed. I had her take Doggy Dog back into the house.

One of the neighbours to the north was worried that the cat might be his. I got my Maglite® and took a look. It was a grey cat with black stripes and a white belly. I didn’t mention the big gash in its side. It was dead. The description was close enough that the guy came around and took a look. He was relieved to find it wasn’t his cat. I guess I was too. He said they’ve had bad luck with cats since moving to the neighbourhood, having lost another one to a car. He gave me some advice about carcass disposal which turned out to be fairly accurate in the fullness of time. We looked down at the unfortunate animal. “That’s a dead cat all right,” I observed, wondering if maybe he’d disagree.

I went back in the house. Doggy Dog had scratches on his face and paws, but nothing serious. He had tracked blood into the house and was busily licking it up. He panted, eyes shining with lingering bloodlust. I couldn’t be mad at him. This is his nature. Cats are his prey. He was just doing what he was built to do. Still, for the first time since he joined our household I found myself looking at my dog with revulsion.

I went back down with the flashlight, a couple of garbage bags, some rubber gloves, and a cardboard box. Mama dog asked me if I thought I needed a shovel or something. I said no, I’d just pick it up like it was dog poop. Turns out that’s simpler in theory than in practice. A dead cat is a lot bigger and a lot heavier than a mound of dog poo, and getting that first bag around it was a tricky proposition. I had to shift and manoeuvre and actually touch the poor thing’s fur, which I’d been hoping to avoid. Once the cat was in, I knotted the bag. The second bag went around easier, and I knotted that too. It was easy to pick the carcass up then, by the knot of the outer bag. I lowered it carefully into the cardboard box, then put the box in our big lidded recycle bin. I was feeling strangely like Chris Eccleston in Shallow Grave.

While I was cleaning up the remains, Mama Dog had been examining Doggy Dog’s injuries and researching carcass disposal on the Internet. She bleached the gloves I’d used and wiped down the surfaces I’d touched. Doggy Dog helpfully cleaned up his own blood trail. I had to stop him because I couldn’t stand the sound.

I had no naïveté about the fact that our dog is a carnivorous predator. He’s injured animals before. This was the third time I’d seen him with a cat in his mouth; it was just the first time that circumstances had allowed him to complete his job. I couldn’t help feeling he’d crossed a line. “I’m never going to look at him quite the same way again,” I told Mama Dog, who looked heartbroken at the thought. Earlier that evening, when Mama Dog had first gone to bed and I had first sat down to type my faversham post, she had invited Doggy Dog up onto the bed over my objections. “I wish he’d just stayed on the bed with you,” I said.

In some ways, it was hard to fathom. Why would a cat be stupid enough to come into this yard? And if it was stupid enough to come into the yard, why wasn’t it fast enough to get away from our big, slow-moving dog? I would have thought any cat could outrun him. “Any cat who comes into our yard is looking to die,” I said to Mama Dog, trying to make myself feel better.

Things calmed down. Mama Dog went back to bed. I sat down in front of the teevee again, trying to take my mind off it. I finished Arrested Development and watched last week’s episode of The Shield. I didn’t want to go to sleep. When I finally turned in, it was slow in coming. I kept feeling this nagging doubt. What do I know about pronouncing an animal dead? What if I’d bagged up the cat while it was still alive? What if I opened the box up in the morning and found the bar torn open? Sleep was a long time coming.

We spent the morning today trying to find out how to get rid of a dead animal on a weekend. There are official channels to go through, but finding out about them takes persistence. It’s a lot easier just to toss the body in the Bay. We persisted. We finally drove out to the Animal Control facility near Alameda. They took the box with no fanfare. We didn’t even have to fill out any forms, which seems wrong to me. The idea of turning the carcass in to Animal Control is that if there are owners looking for their missing cat, they can find out definitively from Animal Control. They didn’t even ask us where the cat had come from. I really kind of think it was feral. It had no collar, it was very stupid, and it belonged to none of our immediate neighbours. If someone’s missing this cat, I hope we can find out soon and let them know what happened.

We took a quick look in at the dogs in the shelter. They were pathetically hopeful and their cages stank. One little puppy, some short of shepherd mix, gnawed gleefully at my knuckle through the cage. It’s no doubt a kill shelter. Most of the dogs we were looking at will probably follow our unlucky little parcel into the incinerator within the month. All in all, it was one of the most depressing places I’ve even been to in my life. There was a donation box by the counter. I slipped a couple of dollars into it and we went home. Our dog greeted us eagerly upon return. That’s his job, too.