b Papa Dog's Blog: July 2005

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Sunday, July 31, 2005

Dining in a Sea of Character Actors

On second thought, I haven’t thought up anything else to talk about today, so I might as well describe our dining neighbours at Chow! Friday night.

We were seated next to a table for two where an adult male was dining with a little girl. At first glance, the man reminded me obliquely of Michael Rooker in Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer and I thought, “Wow, I sure hope that’s his daughter.” The girl was about 4 years old, blonde, and chatty. She was working industriously on a placemat drawing of an underwater scene, colouring the fish orange and the seahorse purple. It took great restraint for me not to show her the seahorse tattoo on my right arm. I figured she had all the creepy adult interaction she needed with Henry Lee Lucas posing as her father. “That’s really good, Emma*,” the ostensible dad said in whiny tones very much at odds with the “Henry” image I had formed, “you’re staying in the lines and everything.” The voice put a different but equally appealing movie image in Mama Dog’s head: Dylan Baker as the pedophile dad in Happiness. It soon became clear that this really was little “Emma’s” dad, so I started forming another theory: Divorced Dad Night. That theory got exploded when Henry/Happiness started droning on about what they should bring Mommy home for dinner. Later, Mama Dog advanced the theory that Emma’s mom was home pregnant with Dylan or Courtney or Jacob or Ashley and just wanted a break from Henry/Happiness’ whiny voice so she could concentrate on the new Nora Roberts book.**

He may not have been a serial killer or a pedophile, but Henry/Happiness sure wasn’t in the running for any parent of the year awards. For one thing, he was patronising as hell, and not just about the “Wow, you’re staying inside the lines and everything” crap. He never seemed to connect or even honestly converse with his daughter – he just mouthed a series of rote platitudes that he surmised were expected from him. “That’s really good, sweetie,” “Wow, that’s really colourful,” etc., etc. Worse, when he couldn’t resolve the question of what to bring mommy for supper, he decided to call and ask. He told Emma that he didn’t want to disturb the other customers – that’d be us – by calling at the table, so he told her just to go on colouring and took off to the payphone by the bathroom. I looked around uneasily, and found he was nowhere in sight. The payphone was down a hallway. He left his daughter alone in a restaurant out of his sight to make a phone call he could have made from the table. He was gone a good ten minutes, presumably continuing whatever argument it was that got him kicked out of the house for the night. He sure wasn’t taking that long to find out which salad would be a suitable substitute for the one no longer on the menu. For me, though, the capper was the dessert incident. He went through the dessert options with his daughter, carefully providing too many choices and too much information, so that she was effectively paralysed when it came time to make a decision. What’s he do then? He asks the waitress what his daughter would want for dessert. Her recommendation was that the ginger cake with pumpkin ice cream was “really good.” Doubtless it was, but little Emma tried about half a bite of the ginger cake and gave up on it in favour of the ice cream. “I could’ve told him she wouldn’t want the ginger cake,” I said to Mama Dog later. “She’s four years old: chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, end of fuckin’ story.” I tried, but I really can’t imagine Baby Dog being four years old and me not knowing what she wants for dessert.

On our other side was another odd couple, a scowly computer geek boy with a face like a lobster trap and a woman who was presumably his mother but whom he lectured throughout the meal on the subject of his travels in Asia. They’re hardly worth recollecting except that computer guy also put me in mind of yet another pretend person: psycho boy from Desperate Housewives.
*Not the real name, but it might as well be.
**I’m assuming there is one.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

A Quickie Before Poker

We had an afternoon at the mall today. Baby Dog was getting into tantrum mode again by the time we got there, but the mall restaurant ambience and the gentle motion of the stroller was just the thing to knock her out for her afternoon nap. For my part, I ate myself into a stupor. Definitely shouldn’t have finished up with that Great Wall of Chocolate. After, Baby Dog continued her nap in the stroller whilst Mama Dog and Halmonie looked at girl stuff. Clothes or something. I went to Barnes Ignoble and impulse shopped several books and CDs, including two more versions of that song I wrote a whole book about.

Now it’s time for me to get ready to go out for poker, and since I don’t want to take the chance of not getting back before midnight, I’ll post now. This probably means I’m never going to get around to finishing yesterday’s story about our dinner in Lafayette, which is too bad because there were some odd characters to describe. Although it sometimes seems like I can and do, I really can’t write about every damn minute of my life.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Missed Connection

Tonight we ventured through the Caldecott Tunnel to the lands where Whitey lives; specifically, Lafayette*; specifically to Chow, where Mama Dog had a hankering for hamburger. We’d had kind of a stressful and frustrating homecoming, compared to yesterday. Work kept me late again, and there were rumours in the afternoon that there had been some sort of bomb scare at the BART station. I wasn’t even sure if it would be open when I got there. It was. I called Mama Dog from the platform to let her know, but she was in the middle of dealing with a huge and nearly unprecedented Baby Dog tantrum. “I’ll call when I get to Rockridge—” I started. “No, don’t call,” she said. “Just come home!” Through the tunnel I worried idly about the train blowing up and wondering whether the explosion would do me in or if it would be the tons of bay water flooding the tunnel that would do it. Once out of the tunnel, I started to worry instead about the drama at home. It was getting later and later and neither of us had eaten. I resolved to cab home to speed things up. Having resolved that, I got re-absorbed in my book, which I’m almost finished, and failed to notice the train had left MacArthur until it was almost to Rockridge. I got up and hurried back a couple of cars, but was too late to position myself at the door that would let out at the top of the escalator. I had to fight my way down the platform amid the hoi polloi and then contend with slow-moving double-wide non-commuters down both the platform stairs and the station stairs. I despaired of a cab being left by the time I got out, but there were two. I hopped in the lead cab, gave my address – and we promptly got stuck behind someone spaced out in the turn lane, yielding to traffic that would maybe be arriving sometime mid-day tomorrow. It was starting to feel like a bad dream, or at least a bad Seinfeld episode. The cabbie took the long way around. Of course. What else?

When I entered the house, I was surprised that Doggy Dog, like the dog in Silver Blaze, did not bark. I heard the sound of Halmonie singing Baby Dog to sleep. I looked around. No sign of either Mama Dog or Doggy Dog. Of course. I pulled out my mobby and belled her. She and Doggy Dog were waiting for me at the bottom of the pedway steps at the BART station.

All’s swell that ends swell. I walked right back out to meet Mama Dog. On the way, I passed a woman who had been on the same car as me. She probably thought I’d lapped her.

Mmmm…I was going to continue on with the story of our dinner at Chow and the odd characters seated on either side of us, but it’s getting late and I’m getting tired, so I’m going to call it a night. Maybe I’ll finish this tomorrow.
*If you follow that link, note the claim that Lafayette is a 25 minute BART ride from San Francisco. This is a puzzling lie. It takes 31 minutes to make it from Lafayette to Embarcadero under best-case conditions. Perhaps they’re counting it as 25 minutes to some point under the bay where there’s a theoretical border between Alameda and San Francisco Counties?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

My Evening Commute Daydream

Yesterday when we were on our expedition to the toy store, I told Halmonie that I’d long had an idle dream that Mama Dog and Baby Dog would one day meet me at the BART station on my way home from work. That used to happen in olden times, only with Doggy Dog instead of Baby Dog, who had not yet come to be. The first time Mama Dog brought him to the BART station, he was confused, uncertain why his walk had suddenly ended in a waste of noise and concrete. By the second time, he had it figured out. He would get excited when he heard the sound of the train, and as the crowd disgorged down the steps from the pedestrian overpass, he would become alert and scrutinise each one, looking for me. Often he’d start barking when I was still at the top of the steps. It was a very happy greeting and made me feel like a pipe-smoking cardigan-wearing patriarch from a 50s sitcom. If that was pretty damn good, how good would it be with Baby Dog along for the show? I really looked forward to hearing her little shrieking “Daddy!” echo through the BART plaza, but since Mama Dog has started back at work, I figured my idle dream would never come to pass.

Today was a long one. Things are hotting up at work again. I keep having days where three different people show up at 3:00 bearing two hours worth of work that they must have done by five. Do that math, if you dare. I had a big stack of unfinished work by 5:00, and decided to call in the cavalry for night work. My backup operator couldn’t be in until 6:30, and some of the stuff I was leaving him required careful explanation. I figured I might as well put in the hour of OT, make a little more of a dent on the interest, and let him work on the principal.

Trudging listlessly home after the sardine ride, I had just about made it to Wally’s World when I saw a familiar curved tail and a flash of neon windbreaker on the horizon. I raised my hand to wave at Mama Dog, and then noticed that Halmonie was with her, pushing Baby Dog in the stroller. When I got across the intersection, Doggy Dog let out his full-bodied greeting bark and raced towards me, pulling Mama Dog along by the leash. Baby Dog seemed…well, puzzled, honestly. The whole incident was probably very unusual for her, much like Doggy Dog’s first wait at the BART station. I think she’d need a firmer grasp of the context to settle on an appropriate response.

I took hold of the stroller, stowed my coat and case in the bottom, and pushed the rest of the way home. We took the long way home, taking a detour through Pedestrian Way. Mama Dog and Halmonie picked flowers for Baby Dog to smell, which is one of her new hobbies. Doggy Dog took a crap, embarrassingly, in somebody’s garden, but other than that a merry time was had by all.

It wasn’t precisely my daydream come to life; Baby Dog didn’t shriek “Daddy!” and it wasn’t at the stairs in the BART plaza, but I’ll take what I can get. When both parents are working you have to fit together the little bits of the dream where you can find them.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Quick Notes

Took the day off today to get my mouth rearranged. Temporary crown in the lower left back. Permanent crown two weeks from now. In the afternoon, I went toy shopping with Baby Dog and Halmonie. After watching other kids playing at the neighbourhood picnic a couple weekends ago, I had decided that Baby Dog needed a ball. I got one with a picture of a dog on it. I had also decided she needed a new book because I was getting bored with all the old ones. I got The Very Busy Spider, another of Eric Carle’s greatest hits. This one’s good because it has all the animals Baby Dog’s come to know, along with their stereotypical dialogue. She’s very familiar with cows, ducks, dogs, cats, and owls. Starting to become more familiar with pigs and sheep. This one also adds goats, horses, and of course spiders, who don’t really have a particular sound associated with them. Also got a little green stuffed lion because she wouldn’t let go of it after browsing the stuffed animal shelf. I couldn’t even pry it lose at the cash register, and had to read the price to the cashier while Baby Dog waved the toy up and down.

Visited what will soon be Baby Dog’s daycare. Very much favourably impressed.

Mama Dog and I saw Billion Dollar Brain at PFA tonight. I approached it solely as a curiosity and was pleasantly surprised to find it greatly entertaining for about two-thirds of its length. After the hoedown apparently staged by Leni Riefenstahl, it kind of went downhill.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Okay, Enough with the Cute Baby Tales - It's Time for Stories About Hookers!

For a couple of months in 1994 I was surrounded by hookers day and night. I’d go to work, there’d be hookers. I’d go home, there’d be hookers. Hookers, hookers, everywhere. Little Poe and I were kind of thrown together by fate when Tom decided he didn’t want roommates after all, so we went in together on a tiny spot a few blocks away. Our first night in the apartment, we were baffled by the constant comings and goings of the upstairs neighbours. A taxi would pull up outside and honk, then the whole building would shake as something large and heavy barrelled down the outside stairs. This happened repeatedly, and we couldn’t figure out what was going on. Why were so many people leaving the same apartment? Was it one person going away and coming back and then going away again? Was it a party winding down with everybody too drunk to drive themselves? It was a mystery. A cab driver solved the mystery for us the next day. We had gone the Winn Dixie for provisions, got more than we could carry, and took a cab back. When I told the cabbie our address, he said, “Oh, the place with all the hookers?” It turned out our upstairs neighbour was an escort service that advertised in the Yellow Pages. Client calls escort. Escort calls cab. Cab honks. Hooker trundles down stairs in hurry for prepaid romantic assignation. These were not small women. None of the little waiflike hookers you see in the movies. These were big, hardened, apartment-shaking professionals, economy-sized rental units in stiletto heels.

You can get used to anything after while, so we learned to fall asleep and stay asleep despite the taxi honking and the hooker trundling. Little Poe moved on to other climes and I got a job at a motel with hourly rates. One of the establishment’s main revenue streams was business from – you guessed it – hookers. I worked graveyard, so it was usually me checking in the brief encounter crowd. Usually, the john would come up to the night window to rent the room while his temporary ladyfriend hung back out of sight. It was the motel’s policy to require a show of ID when renting a room. Once, an uptight Bernie Goetz-looking guy came to rent a room and balked when I asked to see his driver’s license. “I’m not going to show you my license,” he said huffily. By then I had been at the motel long enough that I had developed a standard response to uptight huffy customers. I said “Okay,” slid his money back out the window, and turned my back on him to resume watching TV. The ones most prone to higher dudgeons were always the least likely to figure out that the minimum wage working stiff couldn’t give two shits whether or not he rented a room. A few minutes later, a working girl came over to rent a room. She gave me her ID without being asked. Behind her, in the shadows of the parking lot, I saw the Bernie Goetz guy watching impatiently, and only then – der – did I figure out why he was so hinky about giving his ID. First time jitters, I suppose. If he’d been a regular, he’d have known by then that all the fleabag motels asked for ID.

Another time, a boisterous pair uncorked from a cab and showed up at my window in the middle of a wee hours rush. The man was red-faced happy and the woman was the sort of big blowsy tart you expect to find in a 1970s German movie about a young boy’s journey to adulthood. When they got to the head of the line, the woman did the talking while the man stood by, grinning with exuberant vacuity. She asked for a room and showed her ID. I quoted her the price, and she nudged the man to give her some money. He blinked at her uncomprehendingly. “Money,” she said. The guy mumbled something in a language that wasn’t English and pulled out an wallet. It yawned emptily and he examined it for some time, perhaps to see if it would get any more empty if only he waited. “You’ve got money,” the woman said impatiently. She grabbed the wallet, saw that it was empty, and handed it back. The man grinned some more and shrugged and rocked back on his heels. He still looked like the happiest man on the Gulf Coast. The woman looked delicately in his jacket pocket and found nothing. Then she started to rummage with abandon through every pocket he had. She turned up maybe three dollars. “Where’s your money?” she demanded. The guy shrugged and grinned. She rolled her eyes in disgust. “That motherfucking cabbie took your money,” she said. She looked back at me. “Forget it, I’m outta here.” A cab had just pulled up out front and she got in it. I went back to dealing with paying customers.

When the crowd had dissipated and I was ready to start watching the MTV again, I suddenly noticed that the drunk man was still standing outside the night window. He looked at me expectantly. I looked blankly back at him. He grinned. I didn’t. “Girl,” he said in a thickly Russian accent. “Uh-huh,” I agreed. “Girl…gone?” he inquired. “Like the wind,” I told him. “Wind,” he repeated. He thought about it. Then he thumped the back of his hand on his chest. “Russian,” he announced. “No kiddin’,” I said, suddenly feeling like I was turning into a desk clerk from something by Mazursky ca. 1974. I thumped a hand on my chest. “Canadian,” I replied. “Cajun?” he asked. I saw no need to correct him. He pondered some more. “Motorman,” he said. That one had me stumped. He made driving motions. “Motorman,” he said again. “Oh – you want a cab?” I asked. He nodded vigorously. “Cab! Yes!” he said. I called him a cab and off he went to an uncertain fate.

Some time later, the cab the Russian had arrived in returned. The cabbie hopped out and walked over to the night window. “Is that Russian guy still around?” he asked. “I was supposed to pick him up.” “No, he’s gone. Didn’t have money for a room.” The cabbie goggled at me. “He’s loaded!” he exclaimed. He looked around the lot to see if I was lying. “Where’s the hooker?” he asked. “She took off first,” I told him. “She ditched him when she saw he didn’t have any money.” I could see the wheels turning in the cabbie’s head. “That fucking hoo-er!” he shouted. “She rolled him!” “I don’t think she rolled him…” I started, but he wasn’t listening. “He had a roll on him, all his pay. The guy’s a Russian sailor. He took some other cab?” “Yeah,” I said, “about an hour ago.” “Aw man,” the cabbie said. “He’s fucked. He’s fucked. He can’t talk English. He’s not gonna be able to tell anybody else how to get to his ship. That fucking whore!” And off he went.

With the motel quiet again, I had time to think it over. It was like one of those stories about a group of blind men feeling different parts of an elephant and each coming to different conclusions about what it was. I knew the hooker hadn’t rolled the Russian; she’d rummaged his pockets right in front of me and come up empty. She need hardly have put on a show for me if she had his money. I knew the cabbie hadn’t ripped him off either, or he would never have come back. The only logical conclusion was that the Russian simply lost his roll. He was more than drunk enough to do that. My bet – and it’s a good one, I think – was that whoever took the cab next after their arrival at the motel had found the roll sitting in the back seat and was now whooping it up all night courtesy of the some Russian shipping concern. And I suppose it’s some sort of life lesson that the person who cared the least (i.e., me) was the only one in a position to clearly see what had happened.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Not What I Was Going to Post Tonight, But Here it Is Anyway

I started writing what promises to be a pretty lengthy post gathering together a few related anecdotes about hookers, but I wasn't able to finish it over my lunch hour and various domestic and professional obligations have kept me from completing it tonight, so oh well. But tomorrow: hookers.

I had a little spike in readership today, so I looked at the hit tracker to investigate, and found that I'd been linked to in some sort of baseball chat board thingy devoted to the team from Oakland. I knew instantly (and correctly) that it must have been the work of ArakSOT, because he's the only person in the world who both reads this faversham and likes baseball. So thanks for the little bump on the hit counter, baseball people. I hope it won't alienate you all if I happen to mention that I despise baseball in general but particularly the Oakland Athletics, because their familiar abbreviation leads to a beastly and unforgivable use of an apostrophe in a plural. "A's" indeed.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Hastily Jotted Stuff

Saw Cinderella Man today in offensively hot downtown Orinda - all by myself, Mama Dog and Baby Dog staying at home with Halmonie. If nothing else, the movie made me feel pretty dang happy about our economic and housing situation. Watching a story about a family of five living in a one-room flop with three kids in a bed and no money to pay the heating bill in wintertime really made me appreciate how much we have. I’ll try to bear that in mind next time I’m moved to complain that we don’t have enough room for all our stuff.

We kept trying to go out and do something with the Pirates all day but the babies’ nap schedules were hopelessly out of synch. Maybe next weekend.

Dinner tonight at La Mediterranée with Les Mageux (or the Dingi, if you prefer). They brought a late birthday present which for some reason caused Baby Do to burst into tears when it was opened. “She just woke up,” I said apologetically, though it occurs to me now that Baby Dog is usually in her best mood right after she wakes up. I think maybe the nap wasn’t long enough. It had been a generally cranky afternoon, too. La Dinga told us about her travails in England, headed for London on 7/7, on a train destined for King’s Cross just an hour behind the bombers.

Tomorrow begins our first full work week as a two-job household. Wish Mama Dog well adjusting. It’s a tough time for her.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

That Was Smart of Us, Setting the Crib Up Right Under a Light Switch.

I'm out of time to do a proper post so here, quickly, is the new cute thing Baby Dog does. She's started standing, and has become particularly good at standing up in the crib. Recently, she's discovered this means she can hold onto the bars with one hand and reach the light switch with the other, and - more importantly - that every time she flicks the switch, the light goes on or off. Tonight, she was standing up in her crib, turning the light off then on. Every time she turned it on, she tilted her head back at the light and exclaimed "Oh!" like it was a big surprise. The experiment is repeatable, but evidently she's not yet ready to base long-term conclusions on her observations.

Friday, July 22, 2005

Couple in Search of Ersatz Cufflinks

Today was Mama Dog’s first official TGIF, so we again took shameless advantage of the halmonie factor and went out for a celebratory dinner at Rick and Ann’s. There was a wait for an inside table but seating was ready immediately on the patio. We were both starving and since we live in California, it was warm out, so we opted for the patio. I should amend that, I suppose. Because she not only lives in California but was born there, Mama Dog was of the opinion that it was cold out. This is something we have an ongoing disagreement about. I come from a place where it gets cold, and I’ve never seen “cold” even approached in twenty years off and on of living in California. It peaks here at what we’d call “starting to get a bit on the cool side,” never even making it to “a little bit nippy.” That aside, it was really a perfectly temperate evening. Not hot, calm breeze, perfect weather for dining al fresco in short sleeves. Mama Dog bundled on her thermal vest and sat down under the outdoor heater, willing it to go on. I hope Baby Dog inherits my thick and hardy blood.

Not having reckoned on eating outside, Mama Dog had brought fewer layers than she’d have liked. She pulled some socks out of her bag and put them on. She still had on her dress shirt from work, but had left the cufflinks at home. She complained that she couldn’t keep her wrists warm enough without them, and needed to think of a way to close the cuffs. “Have you got any binder clips on you?” she asked. “Why would I have any binder clips on me?” I retorted.* A picture formed in my head, of the way some women will use a pencil or a chopstick to hold their hair together. “Stick a fork through it,” I suggested. It seemed a silly idea to me, but she tried it anyway. Of course, the fork handle was too large to fit through the button holes. Up until then I had been playing along idly, but I saw that Mama Dog really was discomfited. She would not be happy until her cuffs were secured, and since it’s my mission in life to make her happy, that made it my job. I started to run through what I had in my pockets, short of binder clips, that might do the trick. “I have my billfold,” I said. It has a magnetic clasp. But it’s too big and the magnet too weak to serve the purpose—and besides I only have the one billfold. What else? Spare change, paper money, keys, BART card, credit cards, ID. Then it hit me. I pulled out my keys and wound the key ring off them. For reasons even I’m not clear on I have two sets of keys in my pockets, secured on three separate rings. I wound one of the wrings through each of Mama Dog’s cuffs, rendering her wrists snug and warm. I felt like McGyver. “You must love me,” Mama Dog sighed. And yes, I can answer without evasion, I do.
*I don’t think Mama Dog noticed, and it really wasn’t intended that way, but that phrasing is in the form of a classic Papa Dog evasion. I answered the question with another question, rather than saying “No, I don’t have any binder clips on me.” If in fact I had binder clips on me but for some reason wanted to keep this fact covert, I would have thus withheld the information without resorting to a lie. Ladies! Remember this if you ever ask your husband “Are you cheating on me?” and he replies “Why would I cheat on you?” (For the record, I really didn’t have any binder clips. I mean, why would I?)

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Mama Dog Gets Sick and Dapa Pog Tells Another Tale from the Office Men's Room

Mama Dog’s been too overloaded to keep up with blogging the last while, so I’ll do a small update for her (if she doesn’t mind). After what she described as a “mellow” first day at work, we had what looked on paper like a pleasant evening at home. Mama Dog made ravioli for supper and since it was still light out when we were done, we went on a family stroll with Baby Dog and Doggy Dog. Baby Dog went to sleep without too much fuss and we managed to watch another twenty minute increment of Oliver!. It was during that twenty minutes that the first hint materialised of things soon to go awry. Mama Dog started to feel a bit queasy. This is not an unusual reaction to the treacly singing voice of erstwhile child star Mark Lester, so we did not immediately take it amiss. Unfortunately, it got worse. Poor Mama Dog’s first workday night’s sleep was punctuated with unscheduled disgorgements. She had been feeling intermittently unwell since the American Fourth of July, and now it seemed to have come home to roost. By morning, it was clear that she was going to have to spend her second day on the job at home in bed. How fortunate that halmonie was here! It would have been a disastrous day for me to call in sick, for several different reasons. As it was, I was unable to leave the office until eight at night, and only made it home for Baby Dog’s bed time because she was reluctant to sleep and I cabbed back from the BART station.

After being sick as a mama dog all day, Mama Dog woke up feeling much better this morning and was able to go back to work with no harm done. Apparently it really was a 24-hour thing.

In other news – I didn’t really expect to let you hear from Dapa Pog twice in a row, but I could hardly ignore this anecdote he sends along:

“Why do so many of my work stories take place in the men’s room? So I was in there this morning, having a quiet ponder on the porcelain, when somebody burst in (to the bathroom in general, not to my stall) and strode rapidly over to the handicapped stall. He rummaged around in the stall for a minute, and evidently he didn’t realise the room wasn’t empty, because I heard loudly and clearly exclaim, “Why does it have to be so fucking hard?!” Naturally, the first question that occurred to me – and the same one Dama Mog asked when I told her this story – was “Is he talking about his job or his dick?” Striving always for discretion, I shifted about in an audible way to alert him to my presence. The handicapped stall went suddenly silent.

“I was finished my business, but curiosity* was keeping me glued to my seat. I hadn’t recognised the voice. It was pitched rather highly, and while there are only a few guys in the office of such elevated timbre, I couldn’t be certain which one it was. My first guess was A the Graphics Guy, but I couldn’t be sure. I tried to invent plausible reasons to remain in the stall after flushing. I blew my nose. I rattled change in my pocket. I inspected the bottom of my shoe. Soon, it became clear that whoever it was wasn’t going to leave the stall until I was out of the room. I washed my hands and left.

“This curiosity’s an ugly thing, though. I couldn’t let the thing drop. I went over to the lunch room and lingered there. As soon as I heard the men’s room door open, I came strolling out of the lunch room as though I’d been there all along. On the way, I passed D the Doughy American Guy, coming out of the men’s room, a jaunty smile on his well-fed puss. He flashed me a big smile and hello as though he hadn’t a care in the world.

“I was really quite surprised. To tell the truth, I didn’t even think D knew such language. I wonder what was up? So much goes on in the office that I don’t know about.”
*"And nothing else, happily. It’s a most hygienic bathroom."

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Dispatch from Dapa Pog

Dapa Pog writes:

“Here’s what a big dummy I am. Two years ago my immediate supervisor got laid off and I was left in a chain-of-command vacuum with nobody between me and the head of the whole office, the Kenny Rogers-looking guy, who generally had better things to do than solve my HR problems for me. In truth, I was happy enough with the situation. I’d always functioned more or less autonomously from my supervisor. As long as I kept the wheels running smoothly – which I always did, she had no reason to look my way. I viewed her pretty much solely as the person to call when I was going to be out sick.

“A year later, it finally dawned on me that she really had filled several important functions in my work universe, the most major one being that she conducted my annual performance review. I loathe performance reviews. Well, that’s not true. The performance review part’s fine, because it usually consists of something along the lines of “Sterling fellow, wot? Pip pip! Hurrah!” It’s the self-assessment part I despise. I hate being forced to tout myself, which is what one must do in order to get a raise. Raises being tied to the performance reviews, you must be on record as being of the opinion that you don’t suck. I can’t quite explain why I find this such an awful assault on my dignity. I find the whole process unseemly and, well, un-Canadian.

“And that, in a nutshell, is how I went two years without doing a performance review. Every time I thought I really should get the ball rolling, I’d find, without too much difficulty, something else to do instead, and then I’d forget about it for another month or two. I got a bit exercised about getting on with it last year, but then Daby Bog was born and I went on leave, and for three months I forgot about anything that had anything to do with the office.

“This week, though, there was a bit of an office shocker. The Kenny Rogers-looking guy announced that he was resigning and moving on to another company. He was gone in two weeks. It suddenly hit me that if I was ever to get my performance review done, this was the time. I knew he’d be in a charitable mood on his way out, and since there was no telling who would replace him, it didn’t make sense to take any chances. I sent him an email saying I hadn’t had a performance review or a raise in two years, and could he maybe do my review before he left.

“Today I went to the performance review meeting, and it was all pretty ducky. He actually gave me the best review I’ve ever had, which makes me feel kind of bad about calling him the Kenny Rogers-looking guy, but hey, that’s the chance you take when you grow a silver beard. When we were done the review part, he said, ‘Okay, let’s talk about salary. I assume you know what you’re making now?’ My brain kind of seized up. I don’t know why this is, but in all the time I’ve worked for YBW (formerly Gals Be We), I’ve never been able to retain the knowledge of my exact salary. Sometimes I think that’s cute, but in this case it was just embarrassing. ‘Uh, no, actually, I don’t,” I admitted. He said no problem, pulled out a file, and rattled off some numbers. Then he looked up and said, ‘This says you got a raise last December.’ He looked through some more and found I also got a raise the December before that. Both times they were pretty good raises, higher than the average for the office. I was dumfounded. ‘Nobody ever notified me,’ I said. He nodded. ‘That’s what happens when you don’t have a direct report.’

“So apparently you don’t need to endure the performance review to get the raise. Who knew? And how silly did I feel, not knowing that my salary had in fact been raised twice without my knowing? I finally figured out how it managed to escape my notice: both raises came right at a time when I switched in one direction or another from a 32-hour schedule to a 40-hour schedule. This January, I noticed my paycheques were bigger, but I assumed it was because I was working an extra day and a lot of overtime. It never occurred to me to look closely at them and notice that the base rate had gone up.

“Well, it was a productive meeting anyway, and I got a really good review for my personnel file. It should get me another decent raise this December. And maybe I won’t have to do another stupid self-evaluation to get it.”

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Once in a Lullaby

Just when I thought Baby Dog’s verbal development could no longer amaze me, she went and made another very unexpected leap. She’s been expanding her conversational skills: “What does the cow say?” “Moo!” “What does the kittycat say?” “Mao!” “What does the owl say?” “Oo!” “What does the doggy say?” “(Barking noise.)” She continues to surprise with evidence of hitherto unsuspected retention of vocabulary. For ages she’s known her squeaky Buddha toy by name, but recently she’s managed to say it herself – sort of. It comes out something like “Bubba,” or maybe “Boobah.” And now when I sing her The Torch Singer, not only does she say “Mum!” when I get to the part about “order my money around,” she also looks up at me with a big grin and says “Ha ha!” when I get to the part about “the Sunday funnies.” “Funny,” see. I didn’t even notice I was teaching her that word, but every time she’s laughed since she first learned how, I’ve said “Is that funny?” And it is funny. She can be thoroughly in the grip of bedtime crankiness, flopping about in my lap and making noises of complaint for injustices suffered, but when I get to the “Sunday funnies” line, she always pauses in her tantrum to give me a smile and a “Ha!” before continuing to fuss. Once or twice, when I’ve done the bit about “bar whiskey and pain,”* she’s said “Ball!” The whole thing has become kind of like a Rocky Horror show, with a whole ritualised set of calls and responses.

All this is really more of the same, though – just elaborations on abilities she already had. What’s been really surprising is the business with the musical stuffed butterfly. This has been Baby Dog’s go-to-sleep toy since we first started her sleeping in her own crib, though its efficacy in the soporific department is a tad questionable. What it chiefly has to recommend itself is the lullaby version of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” that plays when you pull its string. We would set her down in the crib, kiss her goodnight, pull the string to let the song play, say “night night,” and leave the room. Then she’d cry until we finally gave up and tried some other tactic to get her to sleep. A month or two back, we began to notice the music playing in Baby Dog’s room when we weren’t present. Somewhere along the line, she’d figured out how to pull the string herself. Just the other day, Mama Dog discovered the capper: Baby Dog is singing along to “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.” She just manages a few notes: more “Da da da” than “Da da, da, dada, da, da,” and of course she doesn’t know the words—but she’s right on key, which already puts her ahead of Daddy. Definitely this is something she gets from her mother’s side.
*That’s how I’ve always heard the line, though I know the lyrics I link to here say “For whiskey and pain.”.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Ever So Sorry

I really hate to do this to yez all again, but work work ate up the daytime and freelance work is eating up the night time. Got to see Baby Dog briefly in between, and dined out with Mama Dog (our last chance to do so as a single-income family). Mostly, though, I'm just doing stupid work, and I'm stuck with my damn work ethic: "Although it's not worth doing, it's worth doing well." I will try to pry loose some time soon, I promise.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Still a Streak Saver, But Slightly Better than Usual, I Think. You Tell Me.

But no, I’m again starting too late and too tired to say much of anything. So I skip the Neighbourhood Parents’ Group Picnic of yesterday morning and last night’s visit with C&N in North Beach, except to say that if you think going down those big-ass San Francisco hills in an automobile is a nerve-racking experience, try doing it wheeling your one-year-old child in a stroller bereft of power brakes or any gear options between “parental deathgrip” and “runaway carriage.” We had to go downhill on Jones from Green to Union - if you don’t know San Francisco you probably won’t appreciate quite what I’m talking about, but those streets descend at angles of 45° or worse. I tried not to, but couldn’t help thinking of Eisenstein and his damn Odessa Steps. The trip back up the hill after supper was harder physical labour, but at least I didn’t feel the whole way like my child was about to go careening over a precipice. She’d have to roll over me first to manage that.

In other stuff – Mama Dog goes back to work Tuesday. Halmonie arrived today and is going to be our live-in baby helper for the next bunch of weeks while we negotiate the transition to daycare. We are all girded for a paradigm shift. Except Baby Dog, of course, who has no clue what’s coming.

Oh – Baby Dog expanded her repertoire of toy-kissing through the last week, until she was kissing pretty much every inanimate object in sight but not her parents. It seemed like she was kissing things to thank them for having been fun. Anything amusing or diverting got kissed. At C&N’s, she banged on their radiator grille with her hand, laughed, and then kissed it. Kiss kiss, heater. Thank you for getting dust on my hands and lips! This morning, though, in a stuffed-bird-kissing frenzy, Baby Dog kissed me. I suspect it might have been accidental, but I’ll take what I can get and gratefully go down in the record books as the first human recipient of a Baby Dog kiss.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Not So Much a Streak Saver as a Copout, But I'm Tired So Leave Me Alone

I actually have a bunch of stuff to blog about because it's been a long social day, but because it's been a long social day and I've capped it off with a round of freelance work, I'm pretty much knackered and just want to go to sleep. So look in tomorrow and see if I get around to writing about any of the stuff we did today.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Sorry if I Creeped You Out

guess I didn't realise quite how unsettling I made last night's chance encounter with tetchy ol' Jason sound. I mean, I was creeped out myself at the time, but I was also aware I was being irrational for being creeped out. I’m quite sure that Jason was not stalking my family, and had no reason to think such a thing beyond a whim to indulge idle urban paranoia. He was just an addled street bum who happened to cross my path, and I thought it was a striking enough interlude to relate in the faversham. I’m sorry for creeping out Mama Dog and Judy, and if anybody else out there was unsettled by the story, I’m terribly sorry. We’re all fine around here and the only creepy crawlies we see are the occasional silverfish in the back half bath which in practical terms is really quite a bit worse than a muttering weirdo whom I’ll likely never see again.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Rambles on an Evening's Rambles

I forgot to bring my granoly* bars with me today and had to go over to the deli for a Rice Krispies square. I was very surprised when I got there to find Mr. Northfield reading a paper at one of the patio tables. In fact I did a triple-take. I hadn’t seen him in a couple of years, and it had been some years before that since he worked at my office, so he was very much out of context. Like seeing your math teacher at the supermarket. As it turned out, he was headed for my office anyway to see E the BAG, so we walked over together and I told him all the news of the poker group and showed him the stuff I’m working on.

After work, he came over to the East Bay and met Baby Dog for the first time. We went out to dinner at Shen Hua and he insisted on picking up the tab. That’s all wrong, of course, since we’re the hosts – but it was a nice gesture. He told us about life up in Mendocino County and how the rampant marijuana cultivation results in a ghost economy that permeates through the straight life, with a certain segment of the population paying cash for everything, and businesses that would elsewhere deal with commerce electronically – surveyors, for example – ending up with large wads in the office. According to a friend of Mr. Northfield who works for the County, there’s a taxation plan in place, ready to go into effect the minute marijuana is ever legalised. Wishful thinking, but proactive.

Baby Dog was already grumpy by the time I got home at 6:30. She had skipped her afternoon nap and was really not in the best humour for an outing. Mr. Northfield never got to see her in ordinary little bundle of charm mode, but he seemed taken with her nonetheless. She was downright cranky by the time we left, and we took her into the restaurant in the stroller rather than putting her in a highchair, figuring she might fall asleep if left recumbent. Sure enough she did, snoozing through the meal. Unfortunately, she woke up as we were winding down, and it looked as though that might have been her afternoon nap and we might have a couple more hours to put in to get her to sleep for the night.

We parted ways with Mr. Northfield back at the house, and I took Doggy Dog out for a walk, my customary stroll to the mailbox and back. At the northeast corner of a familiar intersection, Doggy Dog stopped for a whiz and I noticed a guy across the street behaving strangely. He was walking back and forth in agitation and seemed to be whispering to himself. We walked quickly to the corner, stood looking across the street, but didn’t cross. Then he turned backtracked a few doors, muttering all the way. Doggy Dog and I moved along in the opposite direction. Every time Doggy Dog stopped for a pee, I’d glance back and see the guy still within the same three or four house lengths from the southwest corner of the intersection.

We made it to the mailbox and, bound compulsively to my accustomed route, I crossed over to the crazy man’s** side of the street and headed back in his direction. I scanned ahead for his bright white shirt, but couldn’t see it. I figured he’d finally retreated to his lair.

When Doggy Dog and I reached the southwest corner of the intersection, I thought I heard somebody saying something, but couldn’t make out what it was or where it was coming from. When Doggy Dog finished his business, we walked on and soon I spotted the crazy white-shirted man seated on the steps of one of the three houses in his proscribed area. He was apparently talking to me, though not looking at me. Something like “Hey brother how ya doin.” He bounced up to his feet and I figured I was going to get panhandled, but all he said was, “How are you doing?” “Good,” I said, “how are you?” He put his hand out to shake, saying, “My name’s Jason.” Reflexively, I shook his hand and told him my name. Stupidly, I didn’t make one up. At least I stopped myself before telling him the dog’s name. No sense giving a crazy stranger that measure of power over an intimidating but easily commanded beast. I waited a beat for the request for money, but it didn’t come. I walked on. As I did, Jason said, “Oh...one more thing. I never disrespect children.” “That’s good,” I told him. But in that moment I went from mildly annoyed at the unwelcome interaction to creepingly paranoid. What did he mean by that? Was he some creepy pedophile stalker? Did he know I have a child at home? The rest of the walk I kept looking back to see if he was following, but I never spotted him again.

Baby Dog was crying when I got home. She had failed to fall asleep after nursing, but was clearly very tired. I put her on my lap in the rocker and sang her to sleep. A lot of noise from the next door neighbours drifted through her window, but it didn’t seem to bother her. It’s been miserably hot the last while, but has finally cooled off a little. It seems kind of like there’s been a little more craziness on the street because of the heat, but maybe it’s just that a greater pool of potential crazies has ventured out. The girl’s asleep now, the dog’s content, and it’s time for Papa to call it a night.
*paul – not a typo.
**Like, at least slightly crazier than the guy who has to walk exactly the same route every night for no good reason.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Back Before I Was a Family Man

For reasons that don’t really bear going into, I spent a little chunk of time today typing up a summary of the contents of a series of letters I wrote during a month on the road with Ambrose in 1992. I kept copies of these letters because I thought they might form the basis for some later piece of writing and maybe they one day will. They sure are a window into a bygone era for me now. Who was it that on the morning of 2 August 1992 woke up in the back seat of a car at a rest stop just over the border from Arizona to New Mexico, paid for gas and groceries in a town called Thoreau, then headed east with a net worth of $10 and no clear idea of a destination? Can it have been yr. humble home-owning responsible parent correspondent? It hardly seems likely, but it was.

Before that, this same fellow got so drunk at a party in L.A. that he allowed a dominatrix to scrawl disparaging graffiti all over his body with expensive make-up. The next morning, he was so hungover that he didn’t notice he was stumbling into an accident scene until he almost bumped into the upside-down car in the middle of the intersection.

We had to be towed into Vegas, having hit a truck tire at 70 mph a short piece outside of town. We stayed in fleabag motels, scamming them by pretending there was only one person staying. For four epic days, Ambrose screwed cocktail waitresses and I lived at the blackjack tables, gambling as compulsively as I ever have before or since. I won enough money to repair the car damage and keep us in food before I lost it all and we left town under a cloud of disgrace – lifted only when I realised that I’d spent more money in town than I’d had with me when I arrived, so I was really in the black as far as the casinos were concerned.

We did all the sight-seeing you could get for free in Arizona, taking a good look at the Lowell Observatory and seeing Walnut Canyon for free, a karmic reward for the one selfless act Ambrose committed along the way.

Entering New Mexico with no clear destination in mind, we ended up in Albuquerque, descending on the home of friends of an acquaintance, and staying with them for four days, having a riotous good time. We had big boisterous meals, drank a lot of Jack Daniels at night and watched Sesame Street with their four-year-old son (who – jesus! – must be 17 now!) in the morning. We visited the Atomic Museum and Ambrose photographed their little boy sitting on Little Boy. We tried to make it to The Crest but had to coast back down the winding hill in the dark when the alternator gave out. The days dragged on as we waited for money to show up, and while we were passing the time, the crackhead stripper neighbour demonstrated for Ambrose a favourite lap dance manoeuvre she’d learned in Fairbanks, Alaska.

We looped through New Mexico, looking at landmarks in the fields of nuclear science and cattle rustling. We saw the site of Pat Garrett’s murder and got chased away from the White Sands Missile Base. We spent a blazing afternoon wandering around White Sands National Monument, looking at mice and lizards bleached white to match the alkali sands, then drove through a driving rainstorm through secondary storms to reach Billy the Kid’s grave bang on the stroke of midnight.

As we lost track of how long we’d been living in the car, our sense of hygiene grew ever more tenuous. In Guthrie, OK, I had a small epiphany and said to Ambrose, “You know, I think I just figured out why we aren’t making any friends in small town America. You’ve been wandering around in your boxer shorts and I’ve been wearing the same ‘Fak Yu!’ t-shirt for the last four days.”

We were laid low in Tulsa when it turned out that the relatives Ambrose had planned on sponging off of had moved without a forwarding address. Evidently, they’d heard we were coming. Laid low, I sprung for a hotel and had my first shower in a week. Ambrose cruised hopelessly looking for a night life.

In Paris, Texas, we walked into a Chinese restaurant and were greeted by an army of waiters staring expectantly at the door as though they’d been waiting for us for days. At the border with Louisiana, we went to an all-you-can-eat Mexican place, intent on having one of everything on the menu. Somewhere past Baton Rouge we realised we were arriving on some other planet, and when I opened the passenger door in New Orleans and set my foot down on Burgundy Street, I knew for reasons I still don’t understand that I’d found a place I was meant to live.

Ambrose is off on another odyssey now. With a cluelessness that’s at once predictable and confounding, he invited me to go along with him for the next couple of months, apparently still not grasping the fact that I have a job and a wife and a daughter and a home. As much as I still feel the allure of being neither here nor there, it would take a hell of a lot more to pull me away from home and hearth than the promise of a night’s sleep in the back of a car parked by a drainage ditch. I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’m glad that I did. Have a good trip, man; I found what I needed to find last time, and I’ve found a lot more since then.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Lame Streak Saver

The night got away from me, and I never did figure out what I wanted to post about other than to mention that the time of year has come around again when Doggy Dog discovers the tiny little apples falling off the neighbours' tree and decides they're fun toys to bring in the house. It's the one thing our big dog manages to be unobtrusive about. We keep finding little partially-chewed apples about, but rarely see him bringing them in.

Other than that...hey, doesn't it look like Baghdad Karl Rove is guilty, guilty, guilty of treason? At least, right now the case against him looks a lot stronger than, say, the one against Ethel Rosenberg. I won't hold my breath waiting for the execution to be scheduled, but it is a breath of fresh air to see the mainstream media suddenly rub the sand out of their eyes and notice that there's been a vicious crew of corrupt shitbags running the show the last five years. Can it be that the free ride has finally concluded?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Kiss Kiss Birdy

Sometime during halmonie’s last visit, Baby Dog learned to kiss. Specifically, she learned to kiss the little toy birds that came with the toy birdhouse she received as a Dol present from the Whippets. She presses the little birdy beaks against her mouth and makes smacking noises. In the course of this latest wrinkle of her ongoing avian fetish, Baby Dog has again expanded her vocabulary. If you say, “Kiss kiss the birdy,” she will obligingly pick up the nearest bird toy and give it a smack on the beak. Moreover, she’s managed to say the words “kiss” and “bird” herself somewhat clearly in the last few days.

Gradually, she expanded her kissing repertoire to other toys. We have found her many a morning full-on making out with her long-term boyfriend, Fernando Llama (another gift from the Whippets, now that I think of it – they seem to have an inside track on Baby Dogs plush toy libido). She has also been seen to kiss Hermione the Hippo and the as-yet-unnamed mallard. This weekend, Baby Dog was playing with Mama Dog’s red water bottle, and I was very surprised to see her give the bottle a kiss. “She loves your water bottle,” I told Mama Dog. Baby Dog kissed it again.

The saddest thing about all this, of course, is that she still has yet to kiss either of us. “Kiss kiss the birdy?” I’ll say, and she’ll scramble all the way across the room to find a birdy to kiss. “Kiss kiss Daddy?” I’ll say, holding her in my arms and angling my cheek toward her for easy bussing access, and she’ll flip her head to the side, suddenly absorbed in the fascinating intricacies of the door moulding. I was okay with this when the competition was plush toys. I can see how much more inviting it is to kiss a bug-eyed anthropomorphised critter made of soft fabric that scruff ol’ scratchy-faced Daddy. But now I’m second fiddle to a water bottle? I tell ya, man. That hurts.

Weird Google Thing

Somebody from Germany Googled me today with this phrase: “another word for raincoats in english is the surname of a scottish chemist who patented them.” Strangely, I was Googled from Germany with that exact same phrase sometime a month or few back. My guess it that it’s a question that appears in some English-language class in Germany, and only a couple of the students have been too lazy to do the reading themselves. Why my page gets the hits, I don’t know. I guess all those words appear in the faversham somewhere or other. Certainly “Scottish” does. Having now included the exact phrase in its entirety, I expect to get more such hits. So, in the interest of encouraging sloth and apathy among German youth, here is the answer: Macintosh. I don’t know the chap’s full name, but the English certainly call raincoats Macintoshes (or macs – rarely, if ever, worn by bankers in the pouring rain), and Macintosh is definitely a Scottish surname.

If it so happens that you’ve come to this page by Googling that phrase – from Germany or wherever – please do me the favour of posting a comment and explaining why.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

The Family that Gets on the Grid Together

Yesterday, Mama Dog and I finally took care of some bidness* that’s been hanging over our heads for a while, namely getting passport photos for Baby Dog and myself. Yes, it’s pretty damn funny that we have to get a passport for a girl who’s barely a year old, but those are the rules. The funniest thing is a U.S. passport lasts for ten years, so Baby Dog’s going to be showing her one-year-old photograph for identification until she’s in double digits. A fellow at work told me that because he was working in Japan when he and his wife had their daughter, they had to get a passport for her at three months of age. That’s one not very utile piece of photo ID, in my opinion.

We went to an ID photo place over by the Claremont Diner. Mama Dog went there to get her own passport photo a little while back, and they really seem to know their ID stuff there. I pulled out a piece of paper with the specs for the ID I needed, and the counter lady very briskly said, “Yes, Canadian citizenship document, very different from American passport.” She knew exactly how it needed to be done. We were getting photos for a total of three documents: U.S. passport for Baby Dog and Canadian citizenship documents for Baby Dog and me. I need the latter as a preliminary step to renewing my Canadian passport – the whole thing’s a rather long, drawn out process. Previously, I would send a wallet-sized birth certificate extract document along with my passport application, but apparently they stopped accepting those after some post-11/9 forgery scandal, and created this “proof of citizenship” document instead. I figured as long as I was getting my own I might as well get Baby Dog’s too. We want her Canadian citizenship established now so that she can easily go there to avoid Jenna Bush’s all-gender draft in 2022.

All this is sort of much ado about nothing, because it’s just preparatory work for going to Edmonton at Christmas time. A passport isn’t, strictly speaking, necessary for any of us – still – to cross the border into Canada. But it’s a good thing to have along and speeds stuff up.

Strangely, I left the photo place almost manic, babbling happily to Mama and Baby Dog as we strolled our way home. This happens to me every now and then. I call it the TCOB high. When I’ve finally checked some long-dangling item off my to-do list, it’s just a relief that I come out of it feeling like I’ve been popping bennies and am ready to conquer the world. Of course, all I did when we got home was put away that load of white laundry that had been wrinkling up in the basket since Tuesday, but hey, you use your high your way and I’ll use my high mine.
*paul – I know it’s properly spelled “business.”

Saturday, July 09, 2005

This Is the Week that Was

Too pooped to do a real post, but:

We went out for dinner with the Pirate family tonight, and in the course of telling them my big news (which I won’t discuss here, but which you’re free to enquire about personally by email if you don’t know it already and are at all curious about it), it occurred to us that the last seven days have been particularly momentous for our poker group:

• I had my big news that I won’t talk about
• Mama Dog got her dream job
• The Mircat got married
• El Dingo and La Dinga bought a house
• Papa Pirate single-handedly settled the BART strike
• La Dinga arrived in London half an hour after the bombs blew up
• The Kitty’s book came out (and he left the house!)
• R-word the fake BART cop passed some class or something (I didn’t get all the details)
• Bernardo…uh, well I guess nothing really happened with Bernardo. His timing was off, having gotten married months ago.

Funny how these things all managed to cluster together in the space of seven days.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Warning: Comic Book History Discussed

A brief interlude wherein I elicit blank stares from those who don’t know or care about comic books and a mocking eye-roll from those who do:

What is it about comics that so inflames journalistic eagerness to get the simplest things wrong? This sentence about the Flapjack Four movie, presumably written by some half-bright studio drone, then slavishly and endlessly repeated throughout print and electronic media, has been plaguing me all day: “Marvel's first family of comic superheroes takes the world by storm as the longest running comic book series in history comes to the big screen.”

Okay, I know I’m out of touch with what’s going on in comics today, but I have a pretty decent recollection of the basics. Like – Fantastic Four #1 was published in November of 1961. Detective Comics* #1 was published in March 1937. I haven’t spent much time in comic shops since 1992 or so, but Detective was still being published back then. Even if it ceased publication the day after I last saw a current copy, can someone explain to me how Fantastic Four managed to overcome a twenty-four-year head start in thirteen years? For that matter, what about Action (first published June 1938)? I assume that DC has at one time or another restarted the numbering on Superman (summer 1939), Batman (spring 1940), Wonder Woman** (summer 1942), et al., but I’d be very surprised to learn they’d decided to re-start or cancel their two original flagship books after 60 years.

What really mystifies me here, though, is given how little I care about this shit, why is it driving me so meshugge to see this misinformation propagated on the back of a stupid action movie?
*A series not really notable until it got to #27, but then, whoa, Nellie.
**That one I know they started over again at #1.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Sickly Morning, Cutesy Bedtime

It was a tough morning Chez Duvalier. I’m pretty much over my cold, or at least to the point where the symptoms are only a minor nuisance, but Mama Dog was feeling it most severely. She was feeling so porely that she wondered if I could stay home. An unfortunate thing about my job is that there’s no one else to do it if I don’t show up. I have two backup operators, but it’s on an on-call basis, and I can’t always count on them being available at the last minute. I have to plan my sick days in advance. My regular backup, La Dinga, happens to be in Europe right now. In fact, I later learned that she arrived in London this morning just half an hour after the bombings. She’s fine, but what a welcome to Blighty! After some vacillating, I decided the thing to do was call the other operator a bit before eight. If he could fill in, I’d stay home. If not, I’d have to go to work. He wasn’t in when I called, so I left a message saying I’d wait until 8:15 for him to call me back; he didn’t, so off I went to work.

I felt bad leaving Mama Dog feeling porely and having to take care of the baby besides, but I felt kind of painted into a corner. As it turned out, it was just as well I went to work. Mama Dog was feeling better by late morning and I never did hear back from the backup dude. Moreover, I had left off in the middle of a complicated assignment the night before. Even if I had been able to get somebody to pick it up for me, it would have been most flummoxing for them to figure out how to deal with the patchwork of almost-dones I had left behind.

When I got home, Baby Dog was finishing off a big meal and already starting to be cranky. She had skipped her afternoon nap, and Mama Dog reckoned she’d go right to sleep after a bath. While Mama Dog went out to grab us some takeout, I rocked the girl to sleep. Cute things ensued, the sorts of things that parents will want to tell you about and you’ll think “I guess you had to be there.” So let me tell you.

Cute thing one: as you all likely recall, her first word was “burp,” and it remains one of her favourites. Her definition is a little elastic; if she hears a burp, she’ll say “buhhhhp.” She’ll say the same thing, though, if she hears a fart. Well, it had been a long time since lunch and Mama Dog wasn’t back yet with the food, so as I rocked Baby Dog my stomach commenced to rumbling. The first growls were fairly quiet and passed unnoticed. Then a 6.1 ripped loose from my stomach, roaring like the MGM lion and rattling the bars of the crib. Baby Dog looked up at me wide-eyed and said, “Buhhhhp!”

Cute thing two: One of the regular items in my Bedtime for Baby Dog repertoire is The Torch Singer, which is maybe not age-appropriate, being yet another song about drinking oneself into a stupor to deaden the pain of lost love, but it’s slow and quiet and I know all the words. I’ve been singing it to her since she was weeks old, and I think it helps cue her to the fact she’s supposed to be sleeping. Anyway, one line in the song goes “..and I ordered my money around…” Tonight, she did what she’s been doing lately when I get to that part: she said, “Mum!” See, she doesn’t know what “money” is yet, but she definitely knows who “Mummy” is, and is always keen to chime in when she thinks that subject has been raised.

Cute thing three: Not a thing the baby did. As we were rocking away, I could hear the dog on the other side of the door, clacking about in the living, fretting about the whereabouts of his peeps. I was worried that his clacking would upset the sleep rhythm mojo I was developing – Baby Dog often gets alert when she hears the dog walking about because she finds him to be of great interest. He was soon quiet, though, and she didn’t stir. A moment later, though, I heard a childish sing-song voice on the other side of the door saying “Chee-eese!” Instead of being freaked out that somebody had broken into our living room, I had to stifle a laugh lest I wake Baby Dog. The voice belonged to Baby Dog’s new toy camera, given to her for her Dol by Grandpa B. The buttons on the front make the camera say “Smile!” or “Chee eese!” Doggy Dog must have lain down upon it and the buttons have a hair trigger. Baby Dog was easing softly to sleep, but now I was suddenly tense; all I could think of was that Doggy Dog was alone in the living room with a floor full of toys. I dreaded coming out and finding what had become of the mallard.

Go Back and Look at the Duckies Again. It Makes More Sense this Way.

In case you’ve been left hanging since I did my post about the duckies – my scanner problems were finally resolved and I was able to dump the images into the old post using Blogger’s new image function. Click on any of the images to see them pretty much actual size.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Pestilence, Employment, and Other Apocalyptic Horsemen

The cycle of disease spins merrily on. I’m actually feeling much better, having Quiled my symptoms into submission, but Baby Dog continues to have a runny nose and Mama Dog this morning seemed to come down with what ailed me Sunday morning – dizziness, nausea, and a general disinclination to participate in the human race. Bad timing, as this was our first morning without Halmonie on board to tend to the small one’s every need. And poor little Baby Dog – in addition to the sniffles, she’s got new-tooth drool going on. She no longer needs finger foods to become messy-faced.

We’re in a mad scramble of arrangements to cope with Mama Dog’s upcoming term of employment. We have two weeks to find a daycare for Baby Dog. Giving our child up to the care of strangers is a not entirely salubrious undertaking to begin with; having to do it on a fast-track schedule is downright nerve-racking. Our hope, when we first discussed Mama Dog going back to work, was that she’d be able to find a part-time job, and that I’d be able to cut back to four or even three days a week, so that between us we could spend several days a week at home with Baby Dog. Unfortunately, those were best laid plans. The job Mama Dog got is unequivocally full-time, and various economic imperatives forbid me going to three days a week. I will go back to four, though; Baby Dog will stay at home with Daddy on Wednesdays.

Many changes afoot. How will we deal with Doggy Dog? That’s still kind of up in the air. Isn’t it hard to believe that families could live on a single income just a generation ago?

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

On the Fourth of July, Twenty Hundred and Five

I vividly recollect 4 July 1986, my first summer residing in the United States. I was up in our room on the top floor of the house on Haste St., typing* away at something or other when I started to hear explosions from the south. Being new to the area and still harbouring the conventional Canadian view of Americans as nation of savages who like to shoot guns at each other all the time,** I naturally assumed that some sort of riot was in progress and that perhaps Oakland was in flames. It took a while to realise that this was simply what Americans do for fun – set off explosives. Something about commemorating the time when England finally decided it was too busy fighting France to be bothered putting down skirmishes in the colonies. Hip hip hurrah, what?

Having been here for nineteen subsequent fourths of July (or, as we always called it back home, “Mike’s birthday”), I’ve grown used to the belligerent spectacle. Unfortunately, not all members of my family are able to make the same adjustment. As it happens, Your American Independence Day is probably the worst day of the year for Doggy Dog. He’s terribly sensitive about sudden loud noises, and no matter how many times that I explain to him that it’s all just another crude manifestation of a culture that rather too strenuously insists upon its manhood, he always ends up tweaking about and trying to hide under my feet.

Last year, with Baby Dog less than a week out of the hospital, I forgot all about the 4 July hoo-raw and took Doggy Dog for a walk at his usual hour, just as dusk was falling. We were barely across the street when the explosions started, and Doggy Dog went madly zigging and zagging, trying to escape from sounds that were coming from all sides. I should have turned around and gone straight back to the house, but I was still trying to stick rigidly to the three-walk-a-day routine, and I knew he needed to move his bowels. I pressed on for about six blocks, choking up the leash and holding tight every time he tried to bolt. His panic reactions were coming closer and closer together (like contractions!), and after a while I had to give up. It was like trying to walk a rodeo bull. It was also clear that there was no real point in the walk; the poor dog was scared shitless.

This year, remembering that unfortunate night, Mama Dog and I took Doggy Dog out before the sun went down. He was skittish already, because there was the odd firecracker going off around the neighbourhood, but we managed to make it through the entire mailbox walk, albeit without a faecal payoff. It was just about to get dark by the time we got home. He bolted to the back door, whining, tongue lolling, darting spastically from side to side. The booms and bangs were beginning in earnest.

Halmonie had bathed Baby Dog while we were out, and Mama Dog sat down for a bedtime nursing. What with all the row and ruction of the American nativity, sleep was not to be easily achieved. While Halmonie and Mama Dog sat up looking at photos from a year before, I sat down with Baby Dog in the rocker and endeavoured to sing her to sleep. I closed the doors in her room, turned out the lights, pulled the blinds. There’s just enough light from the night light to see when she’s asleep. The fireworks noise didn’t seem to be disturbing her, and all was dark and still enough in the room that it seemed possible to lull her without too much difficulty. Then Doggy Dog went berserk. Apparently, he didn’t like being separated from The Man in this time of crisis. He stood outside Baby Dog’s door, whining to be let in. When nobody complied, he pushed the door open with his paws. This is a dog, mind you, who whines to be let in when the back door is a third of the way open. Under normal circumstances, he requires permission to cross a threshold (kind of like a vampire), regardless of how minimal the barrier. So far, we’ve found three ways to get him to push a door open himself: by cooking meat, by placing a cat on the other side of the door, and by turning the calendar page to 4 July.

I had just about gotten Baby Dog to sleep when Doggy Dog burst in a second time. Deciding that nothing could be accomplished without a change in tactics, I passed the baby off to Mama Dog for another round of nursing and dragged Doggy Dog into the kitchen with me. I sat down to check my pretend stocks (I’m a multi-trillionaire, thanks), and Doggy Dog huddled at my feet under the desk. Normally he’s not allowed down there because his big doggy bum is wont to disconnect the keyboard from the CPU, but extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. I made him lie down, and had to keep repeating the command every time a nationalist flare went off. I spoke soothing words and scratched his ears, but eventually I had to grab his collar and physically restrain him. It was, to recycle a recent simile, like trying to type while sitting on a rodeo bull.

After Baby Dog was asleep and Halmonie retired to the basement suite, Mama Dog and I sat down to watch the end of Soylent Green.*** The explosions continued, but Doggy Dog was at least content to lie at our feet, snug against the bottom of the couch. I guess as long as he could be close to both of us at the same time, he felt secure enough to overcome his anxiety.

We turned in around eleven. Normally, Doggy Dog curls up at the foot of the bed or sometimes on one side or the other. Tonight, driven insane by the fireworks, he chose instead to stand on my side of the bed, staring at me, doggy eyes reflecting the shine of my alarm clock, panting relentlessly on my arm. The explosions weren’t even that close or frequent any more, but the dog had been driven plumb loco. I think he wanted to come up on the bed with us. Mama Dog asked if we should let him. I was too hot with the blanket on us. I sure didn’t want to add a hundred pounds of dog.

Finally Doggy Dog cleared a space for himself under the bed and went to sleep there among the accumulated balls of his old fur. The odd explosion snapped off in the dark, but he must have felt safe where he was because he didn’t bother me again all night. It was a fitful night for all of us. I’m still in the grip of an annoying cold, so I woke up every hour on the hour because of my runny nose or the consequences of the plenty of liquids, or from the sounds of the dog’s nails clacking nervously under the bed. And thus the end of Baby Dog’s second 4 July. Next year we must take ourselves away to Sheep Dung Estates.
*With an actual “typewriter!” We really had such things back then!
**After living here for twenty years, I’ve been able to revise that to “a nation that includes some savages who like to shoot gun at each other all the time.
***Not to give it away or anything, but it’s made out of people.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Why, Yes, As a Matter of Fact I Am

Guy walks into a bar with a monkey on his head. The bartender says, "What can I get you?" So the monkey says, "How about a better post from Papa Dog? What is he, feeling like crap from the first cold his daughter ever gave him?"

Sunday, July 03, 2005


In bed all day because I felt sick, then out all night for a wedding. Forgot all about the faversham until just now. So that's all you get today. Sorry.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Dapa Pog's Transit Travails

As told to me by Dapa Pog:

“There’s a possible BART strike a-brewing, and I’m commencing to get antsy, because that’s how I get to work every day. I read somewhere that 280,000 commute between the East Bay and San Francisco by BART every day, and 280,000 commute by driving over the Bay Bridge. BART strike, then = pretty much doubled traffic on the bridge, which is already a hellacious commute option. Madness, madness. The Kenny Rogers-looking guy (looking a little less Kenny Rogers-like since he lost his chin whiskers) sent an email out to the office the other day, forwarding a list of BART strike contingencies that originated in our Oakland office. Among the contingency plans was a carpool option. The Oakland folks had put together a list of potential carpool participants, which was to be posted at the reception desk for anyone to refer to. I wrote back to the KRLG and asked if there were plans afoot for such a list for our office. If not, I volunteered to compile it myself. This was Wednesday. I never did hear back from the KRLG. I got busy and forgot about it.

“On Friday, I bumped into the KRLG in the lunch room and, in that awkward pause while we waited for the machine to fill his cup with lousy coffee, I filled the silence by asking again about the carpool situation again. “Oh,” he said. “Sorry I didn’t get back to you. I don’t take BART.” Well, that’s a good reason to ignore the commuting needs of the other 80 people in the office. He added, “I find these things come together faster if I don’t get involved.” True enough. I felt kind of like I was in a Dilbert strip or something. I said I just wanted to make sure somebody else wasn’t doing it, so I didn’t’ duplicate effort. Nobody else was, so I figured I’d go ahead and send out an email to the office, better late than never.

“It was a slow day, so as soon as I got back to my desk I spent a few minutes drafting an email calling for carpool volunteers. I said I’d compile responses and send it back out by email so all could have access to it from home, if necessary. Then I got busy and forgot about it again. At the end of the day, I realised I’d received exactly zero responses. It being the Friday before a long holiday weekend, though, I got about twenty “Out of Office” auto replies. Maybe some of those people will respond on Tuesday (if we’re able to get to the office). Maybe not. Maybe I really am the only one there who BARTs to work. If so, I’ll be well and truly screwn in the event of a strike.”

Friday, July 01, 2005

My First Conversation with Baby Dog

Baby Dog has been getting to know her animal noises. We start off by discussing theory while reading baby books, then put the theory into practice by viewing critters in the real world. Over the course of several visits to The Little Farm, she’s learned all about cows and how they really do say “moo.” Mama Dog and Halmonie took Baby Dog out there last week, and this time she mooed back at the cows. With the Doggy Dog imitation, that makes two animal noises she can manage on her own.

Last night, I was watching Baby Dog while Mama Dog and Halmonie were busy in the kitchen or somewhere. As inevitably happens, Baby Dog crawled rapidly into her own room, eager to explore all the parts that aren’t quite babyproofed. To distract her form the hazard areas, I crawled along with her and engaged her attention with an animal noise quiz. “What’s the ducky say?” I asked, starting with a long-time favourite, because that’s just good show business. “Ducky says quack quack quack,” I answered myself. She stopped and grinned expectantly at me. “What’s the froggie say? Froggie says rrrrribbit!” She grinned hugely at that. I figured I was on a roll, so I continued with, “You know what the doggie says? Doggie says rrruffff rrruufff.” She recognised that my Doggy Dog imitation was pretty much the same as hers and grinned still wider. It was striking me suddenly, how many of these animal-sound relationships she’s learned over the last couple of months. “What the piggy say?” I asked, then gave her an untranscribable series of snuffly grunts, which made her laugh out loud. “What the kittycat say?” I asked. “Meow, meow,” I told her. It was some very realistic meowing, honed over years of cat stewardship. She’s never heard the real thing, so the realism was lost on her, but it still got a smile. I was racking my brain, trying to remember other animals she knew. Then I remembered hearing about the cow incident at the Little Farm. “What’s the cow say?” I asked.

“Moo,” Baby Dog replied.

I stopped, stunned. Then it was my turn to laugh. “That’s right!” I told her. “The cow says moo! Good girl!” She gave me her biggest grin yet.

I’ve said since the day she was born that I really looked forward to the time when I could have a conversation with her. Well, it seems that day has finally come. It was kind of limited in scope and not really that ambitious in import. But there you have it. That was my first conversation with Baby Dog.