b Papa Dog's Blog: November 2005

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Pe-ter Rab-bit

Baby Dog’s unlikely new favourite book is The Tale of Peter Rabbit. If you don’t know why I say it’s unlikely, perhaps you haven’t read it recently. Children’s books from the nineteenth century – well, fin de siècle before last – are a very different thing from children’s books nowadays. They have teeny tiny little pictures with muted colours and lots of charming but extraneous details, and they make use of a much wider swath of the English language than seems available in the children’s literature of today. I certainly would never have predicted that Baby Dog would sit still listening to sentences like “Peter gave himself up for lost, and shed big tears; but his sobs were overheard by some friendly sparrows, who flew to him in great excitement, and implored him to exert himself.” I mean, jesus, never mind the vocabulary, even – how many semi-colons do you see in a SpongeBob book? For whatever reason, though, Baby Dog has fixated on this book like no other the last couple of weeks. She wakes up at morning, chanting “Pe-ter Rab-bit? Pe-ter Rab-bit?” She’s down for her nap right now, with the afternoon still ahead, and I’ve already read her the book five times today. She loves her some Beatrix.

The last couple of nights, I’ve made use of her lapinary fixation to coax her at dinnertime. She’s been a balky eater ever since the bout with croup, but she can still be distracted into taking food. My method is to tell her the story of Peter Rabbit as best I can remember it and as mesmerically as I can manage. She sits gazing wide-eyed at me in the highchair, and when a particularly dramatic moment comes, I slip a spoonful of broccoli rabe past her perimeter defences. She doesn’t even notice she’s being fed until the food’s already swallowed. What I found particularly remarkable about this process is that she remembers the particulars of the book at least as well as I do. When I say “Mrs. Rabbit said to run along and not get into any mischief because she was going out,” Baby Dog observes “Basket!” because that’s what Mrs. Rabbit takes with her to the baker’s. When I say “And then Peter got tangled up in a gooseberry net, whatever that is,” she says, “Blue jacket! Buttons!” because it was indeed the big brass buttons on his quite new blue jacket that got him tangled in the gooseberry net. Whatever that is. Mama Dog was particularly impressed when I told Baby Dog the bit about the imploring sparrows, and Baby Dog said “Sieve!” because that’s what was coming next – Mr. McGregor attempting to plop a sieve on top of Peter. I’m pretty sure Baby Dog has no clue what a sieve is – the picture’s not really explicit enough for her to pick it out of a line-up – but she’s memorised the word, and the moment when it appears in the story.

The little girl continues to astound. I have the uneasy feeling I’m going to be reading her Proust by summer time. (If I can find a pop-up edition of Remembrance of Things Past.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Too Bad Governments Don't Topple that Easily Here

One of the drawbacks of living in a foreign country, surrounded by foreigners, is that news of the default country isn’t always easy to come by. I might not have even known that the the government was in trouble had I not happened across a bit of the debate in the Commons on CSPAN over the weekend. I’m so thoroughly out of touch with the political scene that I totally missed the scandal that brought the government down and barely knew who any of the players were. This Harper guy, he looks like a used car salesman from Medicine Hat. paul, is he as bad as he seems? It’s a good thing they’ve got this Internet nowadays. If I had to rely on American print media for political news, I’d never get any further information. Word of the dissolution of Parliament was trumpeted prominently in the San Francisco Chronicle – page A6, below the fold.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Another Minimal Post

Our good luck: Mr. Fisher took Doggy Dog out for an excursion in the hills tonight and somehow the big rains that started in the flatlands in the late afternoon didn’t touch the area where the pack was gambolling. We expected Doggy Dog to come home tracking mud through the house, but he was only slightly damp around the ruff. Plus, we’ve found that Mr. Fisher is now set up to dogsit at his house, so we don’t have to prevail upon the Kitty and various other friends to walk the dog while we’re in Edmonton.

There were a few other things I was going to mention, but it’s bedtime for me. Let’s see if I have something to say tomorrow.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Baby Dog on the Mend; Dod Vs. Noodness

The girl’s doing better, thanks. The wonder drugs really kicked in today. She was her happy chatty self again and seems to have regained some of her appetite, though she still seemed mostly interested in guzzling apple juice today. Apple juice is the first consumable item she’s been known to ask for by name, a development that’s arisen only in the last few days.

Also this weekend, she’s learned to mildly blaspheme. Specifically, she’s picked up the phrase “Oh my God!” We don’t want to get it trouble with her daycare – though we know it’d be pretty small potatoes compared with Baby Pirate, who got in trouble for teaching her class that “four fluffy feathers on a fiffer-feffer-feff” are not the only words beginning with “f” – so we’ve tried to redirect a little. Today on the changing pad, Baby Dog was trying out various of her new bits of vocabulary. She said “Oh my Dod!” and smiled at me. I said, “Oh my goodness,” in a tone of gentle correction. “Oh my noodness!” she replied. We’ll see if it takes. If it does, I’ll be fully prepped when the time comes to break out the “fudge.”

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Diagnosis: Croup

Our paediatrician takes walk-ins on Saturday, so we took Baby Dog in to be looked at. Her cough seemed worse last night, and her breathing was wheezy. We figured it would run its course soon, but better to have her checked out by a professional. Turns out she has the croup, which I’d thought existed only in nineteenth century novels. It was nice to be able to put a name to what ailed her, and also nice to know that, as we’d guessed, it would run its course within a couple of days. The doctor said there are two ways of treating it; one is to just use steam and patience, and the other is to medicate with Prednisone. My immediate inclination – and Mama Dog’s too, I think – was to go with steam. Neither of us are keen to put steroids in our baby at the first little sign of trouble. We ended up letting ourselves get talked into the medication, though, because it makes for a faster recovery. We wanted to be sure she was well enough by Monday that the daycare wouldn’t have cause to send her home. So steroids it is. I gave her two doses today. She’s still coughing, but now she can bench press three hundred pounds. Ba dump bum.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Working on (one of) My Day(s) Off

Last Friday, I made a promise at work to have a large chunk of data entry finished by the Tuesday after American Thanksgiving. It seemed very feasible at the time, as work was very slow and I had only a fuzzy notion of how far in the future this American Thanksgiving thing was. Then came the blitz on Monday and Tuesday, when all the work in the world descended upon me. Late Tuesday, it occurred to me that I hadn’t even looked at the database since Friday and I wasn’t going to be back at work again until – yes – the Tuesday after American Thanksgiving. Well, a promise made is a debt unpaid (R.W. Service), so I spent most of today, supposedly a holiday, in the office getting the data entry done. Strangely, it still seemed like I was on holiday, mostly because I got to arrive at work when I was good and ready (about 11 a.m., as opposed to my usual theoretical 8:30 starting time). Also, since the place was deserted for most of the time I was there (a couple of junior engineers also saddled with shit work showed up a little later), there was nobody pestering me about stupid shit while I was getting the work done. In five hours, I sailed through a job that could have taken me all week in regular business hours. If only it could always be that way. Also, for convoluted reason’s the Napster’s not working at home, so it was nice to be able to use it at work. I listened to Leon Redbone the entire time. Just the thing to make a mind-numbing repetitious task glide smoothly by.

I tried to get out in time to join Mama Dog and Baby Dog in a shopping excursion to Walnut Crick, but I was just a tad too late. Still, I was home before they were and still had quality time with my poor sick daughter. She seemed to be doing much better this morning, but her cough has returned tonight and her breathing was a little wheezy when she went to bed. I hope she gets over it soon. This is definitely her toughest round of illness thus far. It’s really tough seeing her feeling so unwell and knowing there’s not much we can do but wait it out. She remains in surprisingly good spirits, though. Mama Dog has taught her to sing the opening line of “Nobody Does it Better (theme from The Spy Who Loved Me).” Even with the wheeze, she’s a happy little girl.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Day of Ups and Downs

Today is American Thanksgiving, which is a holiday Americans have to make up for not having had a holiday in October (when it’s properly celebrated). And because in America excess is the thing, they make it a four-day weekend. I’m actually okay with that kind of excess.

We had hoped to start things off right by sleeping in, but Baby Dog chose not to cooperate. She’s been sniffly and coughy, which always interferes with her sleep patterns. Today she woke up at 5:50. We didn’t go get her immediately in hope that she’d fall back asleep. She was quiet for a while, but around 6:30 she started crying out in earnest, and so our holiday began.

Mama Dog spent the morning baking a pie and planning the dinner menu. We hadn’t really intended to do anything for YAT,* but the day off seemed to indicate some more elaborate than usual meal. We half-heartedly called around friends trying to find someone else who hadn’t made any plans, but came up empty.

Baby Dog normally takes her nap around noon or one in the afternoon, but having gotten up so early she was already droopy in her highchair during her 10:30 snack. She kept saying things like “sleepy” and “nap,” so I put her to bed at 11 and took the opportunity to have a nap myself. Mama Dog, who has yet to latch onto the concept of relaxing during business hours, stayed awake revising the family budget.

Around 1:30, Mama Dog finally came in to join me in the nap, and as her head hit the pillow, Baby Dog woke up and started crying. Carpe sleepem, Mama Dog. Poor Baby Dog’s cough had gotten worse and her nose was miserably runny. She didn’t seem much interested in lunch. We had been planning an afternoon trip to the Little Farm, but the girl’s symptoms gave us pause. Finally, we decided that as long as she was well bundled up and not made to exert herself too much, the outing would do her good.

This turned out to be our best Little Farm visit yet. For one thing, we for once got there before all the animals had been tucked away in their sheds. For another thing, because it’s YAT, all the Americans were home basting turkeys or tofurkeys. In fact, now that I think of it, most of the scant other visitors we encountered were speaking some language other than English. There was a German-speaking family and a group speaking some Asian language. Maybe the other English-speaking party was also comprised of Canadians. Maybe.

We saw the big mama sow finally…I think the last two or three times we came, she was behind closed doors. Baby Dog was thrilled to see an actual pig who, like her darling Bud, dwells by a mud puddle. We also saw roosters and ducks and geese. Baby Dog kept repeating the geese’s call of “Honk honk honk,” which was a new one on her. She also pointed at the little stone pond the duck swam in and said, “Bathtub!”

We saw goats and little sheep with curly horns and bunny rabbits, but the highlight was the big cow, who ate celery from Mama Dog’s hand – we were unprecedently on the ball this time and actually brought celery with us – and gave a very loud and convincing “moo!” in response to the curly-horned sheep’s deep-throated “baas.” Baby Dog smiled hugely at this and said “Fun!” She hardly seemed ill at all the whole time.

When we got home, though, she was clearly under the weather. We tried to get a little more food into her, with little success, then I took her to play in the living room. I read her stories on the couch, until she lay down on my chest and went to sleep. She’s never done that before. Mama Dog found the sight so moving she had to dab tears away. I thought it was very sweet too, but was kind of concerned with the girl’s obvious lack of energy. She hasn’t taken two naps in a day in months.

The timing of nap #2 was such that we ended up eating dinner a deux. Haven’t done that at home since before Baby Dog started eating solids. Mama Dog made a tri-tip roast, yams, and peas. There was almost-pumpkin (butternut squash) pie for desert, with homemade whipped cream. It was pretty gol-darn swell.

Pretty much on cue after my postprandial dog walk, Baby Dog woke up again. We knew she must be very hungry, so we coaxed food into her. She’d decided recently that she likes oranges so we gave her some of that to start. Then plain tofu, which she gobbled down by the little meaty fistful. Finally, we got her to eat some yams. With milk and apple juice, it seemed like she’d finally had a substantial meal for the day.

Baby Dog and I read some more in the living room while Mama Dog went out looking for an open drug store to get some baby cold products. Baby Dog continued to seem sluggish, but enjoyed reading both the board book and unexpurgated versions of Are You My Mother. Mama Dog returned with some sort of menthol-vapour bath product, so we gave the little girl her ablutions and let her breathe in the mentholated vapours. After, Mama Dog rubbed another mentholated product on her chest. It was very quickly apparent that these patent medicines were actually helping. She stopped coughing during the bath, and afterwards she was so full of vim that I had to wait until around nine to put her to bed.

In the interim, we dragged up the futon from the basement and laid it out in the living room for a pyjama party. Mama Dog was feeling unwell herself by then and just lay down for a little rest. Baby Dog played between us for a while, then roamed about the room, chattering and grabbing books to read, just like her old self. If I’d just showed up then, I’d never have guessed she was ill. As bedtime neared, I laid Baby Dog on my chest again and we covered her up with the quilt my mother crocheted. We read Dr. Seuss’ ABC and – once again – Are You My Mother (the unexpurgated version). Doggy Dog came and joined us, curling up on the foot of the bed. We usually keep Baby Dog and Doggy Dog pretty strictly in different rooms, but it seemed an appropriate occasion for the whole family to be together. By the time the little bird had made his way back to his nest and been reunited with his mother, Baby Dog was again looking drowsy. I put her to bed and then put Mama Dog to bed. Now I’ll put this faversham to bed and then myself. Then at 5-something tomorrow morning, the holiday fun begins again. Only I’ll probably be spending most of the day at the office.
*Your American “Thanks-Giving.”

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

The Weekend Begins

We finally made it back to Pizzaiolo tonight, on account of Mama Dog left work a little early for the American holiday and I was home anyway because it was Wednesday. We were able to be there before the doors opened at 5:30, which seems to be the only way to get a table without waiting. It’s probably the East Bay’s best schmancy restaurant to go to with a child, and in fact we were seated at a large table with another part that included two children and a baby two months younger than ours. Alas, Baby Dog may be entering the awkward age where it becomes difficult to take her even to a baby-friendly restaurant. She used to be willing to stay in a high chair pretty much indefinitely as long as there was either food or a book in front of her. Not anymore. It didn’t help that it wasn’t really her meal time, so she wasn’t too interested in the food we did bring. But we had a nice meal out and Daddy got a tad buzzed because he chugged his too-fruity wine when it was time to go. And now officially it’s the long weekend for the whole family.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Here's a Tip

If you're walking the dog and talking on a hand-held cell that's too small to be comfortably ear-shouldered while you talk, make sure you end your call before you have to pick up the dog poop. You really need both hands. Trust me on this one.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Assed Busily Again

Late night at work tonight. Made it home just in time to put Baby Dog to bed. Fortunately, this was the first day Mr. Fisher took Doggy Dog out for a walk, so I didn’t have to be stressed on that account as well. Still, after I wolfed my supper, Doggy Dog still expected his evening constitutional. Did that, then the dishes, then took out the garbage, then all of a sudden it was ten o’clock and I still had to get down to some of the work I brought home with me. A six-day weekend starts for me on Wednesday, and I’m paying for it in advance by cramming four days of work into two. I still don’t see how everything’s going to get done. But it means this is about all I’m going to be able to manage by way of posting tonight.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Baby Dog is, Like, Smart

Baby Dog knows she's not supposed to stand up in the tub because when she does, Mama Dog always tells her, "No, Boo-Boo, sit down!" Last night at bath time, she stood up in the tub. Before Mama Dog had a chance to react, Baby Dog turned to her and said, pre-emptively, "No, Boo-Boo, sit down!" Then she sat down.

Also - We were at a neighbourhood parents group brunch this morning. For Baby Dog, the highlight was probably sitting on the kitchen floor looking at a whole new set of refrigerator magnets. She learned to say “Zebra,” which I was surprised to realise had not previously come up much in conversation. I don’t think there’s a zebra in any of Baby Dog’s books. Odd.

Later, at home, I was reading her Dr. Seuss’ ABC. When we got to the page, which says “Big zed, little zed, what begins with zed?” Baby Dog replied, “Zebra!” I know, I know, pretty much every parent is convinced they have a genius on their hands. But we’re the ones who really do.

Saturday, November 19, 2005


The Pirates hosted what was meant to be a brunch but ended up as a sort of brunper for our little circle of new parents. For what I believe was the very first time, we had Baby Dog, Baby Pirate, Baby Whippet, and Baby Kenilu all in the same room at the same time. Of course, Babies Whippet and Kenilu aren’t even sitting up yet, so the drama was somewhat limited, but it was still fun to have them all together.

The timing was tricky, because a midday event cuts a swatch through everyone’s nap times. Baby Dog usually goes down for her nap somewhere between eleven-thirty and one at the latest, so we would have preferred to go earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon. As it happened, we went on the early side, around 11:30, and were the first ones there. The Pirates were trying to get Baby Pirate down for her nap then, but it didn’t take. Both Baby Dog and Baby Pirate looked tired, but refused to be lulled. Too much activity, I suppose, and too many other babies. At one point Baby Dog was so clearly sleepy that I took her into Baby Pirate’s room to rock her to sleep, but she became stubbornly alert and active in the process, sampling each and every one of Baby Pirate’s stuffed animals in turn. An excess of novelty makes sleep unlikely. That, and the light on the iguana’s cage is kind of bright. Baby Dog’s used to going to sleep in a darker room. I took her back out to join the party. She rummaged through Baby Pirate’s book collection (and Papa Pirate’s complete set of Patrick O’Brien novels). Later, we went out in the yard to visit Kitty Pirate. Living as she does in the house of a known cat killer,* Baby Dog so rarely gets to see a cat up close and personal. She’s read quite a lot about them and is very curious. Kitty Pirate, a gentle and affectionate animal, was obliging. She pulled herself up from her bed of leaves and came over to roll in the dirt next to us, showing her white belly. “Tail!” Baby Dog observed, pointing at the correct appendage. We’re so careful about keeping her out of reach of Doggy Dog that I guess she’s a little shy around animals, but I held her hand and showed her how to stroke Kitty Pirate’s belly. I think it was the highlight of her visit. She kept saying “Meow” and “Kittycat” and Kitty Pirate’s name for the rest of the visit and for the first bit of our ride home.

When we left it was 2 p.m. and our little girl was beyond tired. We were scarcely two blocks from the Pirates’ front door when I looked back and saw she was asleep in the car seat. Nothing like the drone of a familiar automobile when you’re up an hour past the outside edge of naptime.

Oh, and P.S. – Charmingly correctly identified the source of my previous post title. Sure wouldn’t have predicted she’d know that one.
*Meaning Doggy Dog, not me.

Friday, November 18, 2005

All For Me Dog*

Mama Dog and I will have a pretty small window tonight between when I get home from work and when the sitter arrives to mind Baby Dog while we go out to the movies. Most of that window’s going to be taken up with supper and getting things ready for the sitter, so I guess I’d better post now even if I don’t have much on my mind at the moment.

Oh, there is one thing I’ve been meaning to mention – an impending improvement in the quality of Doggy Dog’s life. We’ve been feeling guilty about our boy’s dismal lot since Mama Dog went back to work – four days a week, he’s locked up alone in the house from 8 to 5:30. After taking him for his annual veterinary check-up last weekend, we crunched some numbers in the IGI** and decided that maybe it was time to re-enlist the services of Mr. Fisher, our dog walker from back in the days when we had two full-time jobs, no baby overhead, and (consequently) a shitload of disposable income. We can’t afford to have Doggy Dog walked every day when we’re out, but starting next week Mr. Fisher will be seeing Doggy Dog on Mondays and Fridays. Doggy Dog will once again get to run with (and, most likely, be boss dog of) a pack out in the muddy burr- and tick-infested park trails. He will come home filthy but happy and, with any luck, will regain the doggy socialization skills he’s lost in his time as a hermit. The most touching thing about this is that although Mr. Fisher has raised his rates since last we engaged his services, he offered to give us a discount to his old rate on account of our having always been good customers and of his still feeling a great bond of affection for Doggy Dog from the old days. We ended up offering him a couple of dollars per walk over the old price and I think we’re all pretty happy about the arrangement. We’re sure this is going to make Doggy Dog healthier and happier, and are looking forward to seeing him regain a bit of his old sass.
*If anybody can successfully identify what I'm alluding to with this title, I'll be too surprised to even award a fabulous prize.
**Income-to-Guilt Index.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Outside Sabuy Sabuy

We went to Sabuy Sabuy tonight for the first time in a long time, maybe since Baby Dog was only a few months old. I suppose I could find out for sure by looking through the faversham archives, but it doesn’t seem quite worth the trouble. Maybe paul will do it for me. Anyway, the place has somehow changed since last we were there. Some element of atmosphere has gone south. The clientele seems different, too. It’s always been across the street from CCAC (now CCA), but I never noticed it being so full of art students. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but…well…I guess we’ve gotten used to dining at places populated by families.

Anyway, Baby Dog was good through most of the meal, and the waitresses made what we’ve come to think of as the usual Thai fuss over the baby. She only started to get cranky around the time I was almost finished, so I ate up and took her out to stroll up and down the street while Mama Dog settled the bill and packed up. There was a nice view of the no-longer-quite-full moon over Broadway, which Baby Dog exclaimed upon immediately. Then she saw the 76 station down the street and started bellowing “Ball! Ball!” We saw the 51 going by several times in each direction, so she was able to accurately exclaim “Bus!” Also, we were near the intersection, so I was able to point out the light changing from green to red and back again, a phenomenon she’s been learning about in Go, Dog, Go!.

It took a while for Mama Dog to get the bill, so Baby Dog and I walked over to the car and back a few times, Baby Dog crying out “Moon!” or “Ball!” or “Bus!” or “Red!” or “Car!” depending on which way she was looking. At one point a couple of young punk boys approached, walking rapidly. Baby Dog was walking in front of me, hands up to hold mine. The punks were in mid-conversation. As they passed, the front punk boy said, “Shit, man ” and I had time to register only internally my annoyance at the “S” word being spoken in front of the baby, when the second punk boy said, “Shoot.” I can’t be certain, of course, if he was correcting his companion out of consideration for the presence of a baby, or if he was just spontaneously interjecting his own milder expletive. I like to think it was the former, though, because that makes it a happier shinier world.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Daddy at Home Day - Watching a Squirrel/Blowing Kisses to the Moon

Daddy at home day today. We went to the park in the morning. Baby Dog tried out the swings for a while and went down a slide a couple of times. We practiced walking in the shady grassy area. Baby Dog sat on a Fischer-Price contraption modeled after some sort of motor vehicle and said “vroom vroom,” which I’ve told her is the sound that cars make. We spotted a squirrel foraging outside the park gate. Last time Baby Dog got a good look at a squirrel was some months back. She decided it was a cat and meowed at it. She’s older and wiser now, having absorbed a lot of information from books and from her wooden blocks, each of which has a picture of an animal on it. As of a week or two ago, she was able to identify by name all but 3 of the 28 animals depicted on her set of wooden blocks. One of those three was the squirrel. I’d mentioned it to her a couple of times but it didn’t seem to take. Today, as we watched the squirrel rummaging through the vegetation, I said “Look, a squirrel!” and Baby Dog instantly replied “Stirl!” We watched for a good fifteen minutes as the squirrel would dig madly in the dirt, come up with a nut, jump up onto a low tree branch, and eat. It repeated the cycle over and over. Baby Dog kept pointing and saying “Stirl!” Whenever it got close to the bars of the gate, she said “Hi, stirl!” Eventually, it ran off out of sight, Baby Dog calling “Bye-bye stirl” after it. Tonight, at home, she looked at the picture of the squirrel on her blocks and said something that sounded kind of like “Starla,” but I think she’ll have it mastered soon. Seeing the rodent like that—up close, live and in action—really made the necessary impression.

I had a whole list of ambitious plans for nap time (not all of them involving television) and was nonplussed, flummoxed, discombobulated and perhaps even bumfuzzled when Baby Dog woke after less than an hour of her customarily 2+ hour afternoon nap. Sometimes when she makes noises mid-nap she’s still actually asleep, so I waited a minute before going in to her room. She was standing up in the crib, crying “Daaaaddy! Daaaaddy!” She looked not quite awake but very discontented, and the fact that she was standing seemed to indicate that she was not going to go back to sleep. I picked her up and checked her diaper. It was dry, but she continued to cry throughout the operation. I held her and shushed her and bounced her about and sang to her. Crying and screaming continued throughout. She seemed sweaty, so I got her some water, which she batted away, continuing to cry. I let her loose in the living room, but all she did was sit on the floor and scream. This is all very un-Baby Doglike behaviour. Usually if she’s unhappy, it’s easy to spot the cause, and quickly remedied once diagnosed. The only thing I could think was that she needed more sleep, so I tried settling her back in the crib, with predictably disastrous results. Finally I came to the conclusion that, although lunchtime wasn’t due for a while, she must be hungry. I put her in her chair and gave her a Sippy cup of milk. That did the trick. I followed up with the lunch Mama Dog had prepared, leftover chicken and taters. She ate heartily and gradually came to seem content. The magic power of food.

When she got home, I predicted to Mama Dog that Baby Dog would go to sleep easily tonight because of her short nap. After supper I walked Doggy Dog. When I got back, Mama Dog, Baby Dog, and I all went out on the front porch to have family moon gazing time. The moon was full and Baby Dog continues to be enthralled by it. She’s also starting to point out stars. Mama Dog gave Baby her bath and I took care of the kitchen. Mama Dog read stories then did the sort of thing I never think of because it involves opening blinds instead of closing them. She pointed the rocker at Baby Dog’s window, opened the blinds, and they rocked there, looking out at the moon. Mama Dog sang to Baby Dog about the moon. Baby Dog just about fell asleep on Mama Dog’s lap.

I came in for the finale. Baby Dog kissed Mama Dog good night, and I had her blow a good night kiss to the moon as I closed the blinds. Then I got my own good night kiss and we sat down to rock and sing the usual suite of bedtime songs. For the first time in I don’t know how long, she fell asleep on my lap.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Just Another Placeholder

Busy at work today, then solo Daddy duty tonight as Mama Dog went to her Mussolini yoga class. I’m going to re-ward myself with a little televisual vegetation, then go to bed. So tonight, I got nothin’.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Good Night, Moon!

Yet another unanticipated consequence of fatherhood: I’m paying more attention to the night sky than I have since a unit in a junior high science class required me to locate Ursae Major and Minor from the comfort of my own back yard. My current interest in astronomy is no more sophisticated than that, but it’s much more personally motivated. Baby Dog seems to have decided that she loves above all other things the moon. Now when I come home from work in the evening I find myself looking to see whether or not it’s overcast and, if the moon is visible, where exactly it is. When the night is clear and there’s no building interposed between our house and the moon, I take Baby Dog out on the steps and point her in the right direction. She reaches out both arms, grasping with her fingers, keening “Moooooooooon!” The last few nights have been good moon nights. It’s bright, unobstructed, almost full. Tonight, I took Baby Dog out on the steps right after I got home from work. Mama Dog bundled Baby Dog up in something she loves almost as much as the moon, her soft and fluffy “moo coat” (actually a Dalmatian pattern, presumably inspired by those Disney movies, but we’ll wait until she’s older to tell her that). We sat looking up at the moon and the “star” underneath it (probably either Venus or an airplane). “Moooooooooon,” said Baby Dog, and “moo toat!” She complained when we had to go in, so I promised her that we’d look at the moon again before bed time.

Moon viewing was followed by story time with Daddy then nummy nummy supper (potatoes and chicken or, as Baby Dog likes to call it, “turkey”), then bathtime and story time with Mummy, and lastly songs with Daddy. When we were done song time and I was zipping her into her sleep sack, I suddenly remembered my promise to show her the moon again before sleep. It occurred to me that the moon was probably visible from her window. Wanting to impress upon her early on that she can count on me to keep my word, I picked her up in the sleep sack, carried her over to the window, and pulled back the blinds. I settled her down where she could see the moon. “See?” I said. “Moon!” “Moooooooooon!” she replied. “Say ‘Good night, moon!’” I told her, and carried her back to her crib, where she cried and cried, wanting to see the moon some more. Way to overthink, Daddy. Keeping my dumbass word to her ruined all the carefully crafted night time soothing that had preceded it. I should have thought to say, “Say ‘Bye-bye moon,’” but didn’t. Ah well. She had Goodnight Moon in the crib with her, and was settled again soon enough. Still. Note to self: do the final look at the moon thing before song time.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Baby Dog Revises My Viewing Schedule

So, yesterday when Mama Dog and Halmonie were out lunching and shopping and Baby Dog was down for her nap, I took advantage of the interval to get caught up with the unfortunately and unjustly condemned Arrested Development. After that, I was going to give Reunion one last chance to not suck, but got interrupted by a phone call. I switched off the VCR and saw that somehow the TV was not set to the Home Shopping Network or the TV Guide Channel, but to whatever channel broadcasts Celebrity Poker. Bravo, I guess. There was Dave Foley, looking like an upper strip bottom feeder after a three-day bender, introducing third-string TV faces with some time on their hands. I got caught up in my phone call, and talked for quite a while. By the time I was done, Mama Dog and Halmonie had returned, and some time after that Baby Dog was up, so teevee viewing was done for the day.

Halmonie looked after Baby Dog in the living room while Mama Dog and I took Doggy Dog for a walk and did various and sundry other things. I put away the dishes, got the poker stuff ready. We had an earlyish supper. Sometime in the very late afternoon or early evening, I sat down on the couch to get the VCR for the evening taping. I was very surprised to see the counter on the display clicking away seconds. It took a moment for me to focus, then my hair stood on end and my eyes bugged out; the thing was recording.

“Oh,” Mama Dog said, “Baby Dog grabbed the remote and did something with it, but my mom wasn’t sure what, so she just put the remote out of reach.” Ay ay ay. The remotes are among Baby Dog’s most coveted play items. I take the batteries out and let he have her way with them. She has even learned to say “mote troll” for “remote control.” Unfortunately, nobody prepped this particular mote troll for her, and she had gone straight for the big, friendly red button marked “Rec.” Thanks to Baby Dog, I no longer have to decide whether or not to keep giving Reunion another chance. Nor do I ever have to see the episode of Numb3rs following it on the tape. I don’t think I’m going to take the time to watch the three hours of Celebrity Poker that I have instead, but it’s the thought that counts.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Lame Space Filling Streak Saver

No time, nothing on my mind, and a poker game to go to in a couple of hours, so this is going to be it. Mama Dog's dad, by the way, was my ten thousandth caller. Huzzah.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Fifth Horseman

No time to post properly today, and not much to report anyway. That damn Brownstein finally got me to try the Napster. Behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Downloads, and monthly fees followed with him.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Meaningless Numbers and Overcoming a Change in Routine

I passed the $100 billion mark in Blogshares today. In Blogshares terms, that only makes me a rich guy rather than a stock market titan. Titan level begins somewhere in the trillions, I think. I have some catching up to do.

Sometime tomorrow – Remembrance Day – I’ll likely get my ten thousandth hit on the old faversham. It’ll probably be some anonymous European image Googler looking for pictures of young Mark Lester or the Hiroshima bomb. Thanks to the two links I just put in this paragraph, this will continue for some time to be the place bored Eurotrash goes to gaze at pictures of those two particular little boys.

Halmonie’s here. Baby Dog is overjoyed, but it made bedtime a little more of a chore than it has been in a while. While I tried to settle her in the rocker, she cried out for Halmonie. Obligingly, I passed her on to Halmonie and went into the kitchen to put away dishes. Minutes later, she was crying out for me. We switched again, and she started crying again for Halmonie. Clearly, she was having difficulty knowing how to incorporate Halmonie’s presence into her established bedtime routine. I finally figured out that the solution was just to pretend there had been no change. I went on singing to her as I always do and let her cry until she got tired of crying. After a while, she was settled comfortably on my lap, flipping through The Very Busy Spider in the dark. When I kissed her goodnight and zipped her into her sleep sack, Baby Dog rolled over and started making out with Ziggedy Zug, all cares forgotten in her pre-Morphean plush toy bacchanal. The songs had gone on and all was just fine in her world.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Tile, Grout, and Porcelain

In our own ways and for our own reasons, we’ve been inadvertently teaching Baby Dog about bathroom fixtures. Mama Dog’s story is utilitarian. To make it easier to dry Baby Dog off after the bath, Mama Dog has her stand on the bath mat and grip the tub while being towelled off. “Hands against the porcelain,* young lady,” Mama Dog says, and Baby Dog obligingly takes a grip and assumes the position. It’s their little ritual. My story springs from my fascination with Baby Dog’s rapid grasp of language. I’m forever introducing new words to her, pointing things out and telling her what they’re called, just to see what sticks. It all sticks. One bath time some weeks back I got bored with talking about Bud and the ducky and pointed out the tile and the grout to her. She repeated “Drout” quickly, but took a while to get tile. I told her that the grout holds the tile in place, that if it weren’t for the grout the tile would just fall off the wall. That exhausted my technical knowledge of tile and grout, but she seemed interested anyway.

One of our great parenting discoveries has been the magical power of “bye-bye.” Previously if Baby Dog had hold of a favoured toy or book, we had the devil of a time getting her to put it down and go to bed or bath or meal or whatever. If we took it away, she’d scream and cry and generally tantrum. Finally we realised that all we had to do was ease the parting. “Okay, we’re going to have supper now,” we’d say, “say ‘bye-bye’ to Bud.” She’d drop the piggy toy to the floor instantly and say, very sweetly, “Bye-bye, Bud.”

The other night at bath time’s end, I picked her up in the towel, and she left her bath toys behind. I expected her to say bye-bye to Froggie or Bud or Ducky, but instead she said, “Bye-bye, tile! Bye-bye drout!” Then she put her hands on the tub, looked back at me, and said “Porcelain.”
*Mama Dog wants it to be known that the tub is actually enamel. Why she said “porcelain” is a question she’ll have to answer herself.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


When I watch my stories on the teevee, I generally do it on videotape – watching shows live a) takes longer on account of the commercial advertisements and b) is pretty much impossible to do anyway, what with prime time and (baby) bedtime tending to overlap most infelicitously. For a while, I was putting in my time before the box between 10 p.m. and midnight, after chores were done, after Mama Dog had turned in, long after Baby Dog had wrapped herself around her piggy doll and gone to sleep. Whatever I was taping would generally end at ten, so I could rewind and watch an hour show in about 45 minutes, zipping over commercials and credits. Staying up to midnight and getting up at 6 a.m. started to catch up with me, though, and it was hard to justify sleep deprivation for the sake of canned entertainment. I shifted my teevee time to weekends and Wednesdays, during Baby Dog’s nap time.

One habit I developed stuck with me. To avoid the temptation of getting snagged by some live program when I stopped playing the tape, I’d keep the teevee tuned to some channel that couldn’t possibly arrest my attention. Anything infomercial-ly or ridiculously dry was best. The TV Guide Channel worked well. I doubt even the families of people who work for CSPAN 2 watch CSPAN 2. Best, though, was the Home Shopping Channel. I buy things, yes, but I’m not a shopper. I go out looking for a particular thing, I find it, I pay for it, I go home. Better yet, I go to the website and click on it and don’t even have to leave the building. Browsing is contrary to my nature. In all the months I’ve been using the Home Shopping Channel as my video stop test pattern, nothing on it has ever registered enough in my consciousness for me to know what was being flogged…until Sunday afternoon. That’s when I saw the Roomba.

I had seen one of these gizmos before, as a joke on Arrested Development (Lucille fires the maid and replaces her with one), but hadn’t realised it was a new thing. Haven’t there always been robot vacuums? I guess this is just a better one. Anyway, I found myself transfixed by the demo on the Home Shopping Channel. How? How could this be? Well, it could be largely because I’m the one who’s the designated vacuumer these days and there are few jobs more inherently demoralizing than being the designated vacuumer for a house occupied by a large and thick-coated dog. No sooner do I have the living room fit for human habitation than it’s magically re-coated with balls of Doggy Dog dander. If I had a robot to do the work for me, though…hmmm…. I was soon lost in a Homer Simpson fantasy involving little robot vacuum cleaners whirling around, dancing to a calypso tune as they sucked up fur and I sprawled on the couch eating dough-nuts.

“You know what we could use?” I said to Mama Dog. “We could use a Roomba.” She looked blankly at me, so I explained what a Roomba was. At such moments, Mama Dog can turn surprisingly curt. “We don’t need any more gadgets,” she said, with a tone of finality. “More gadgets?” I asked. “That implies we have some gadgets. What gadgets do we have?” As the words left my mouth, I thought, “Uh-oh, she’s going to mention the popcorn popper.” “The popcorn popper,” she said. Well, that’s nobody’s fault. How was I to know we’d both go on diets right after I bought it? “The two coffee makers,” she continued, “the food processor, the microwave.” She rattled off a bunch of food-prep items. Since I didn’t buy any of these and haven’t ever used any of them, I thought she was getting off topic, but I knew better than to say so. “The vacuum cleaner,” she said pointedly, leaving me with no available response other than “But…but….” See, the Roomba replaces the vacuum cleaner, which has done sterling duty these last seven years, but which is clearly pre-millennial and obsolete. It requires effort to operate, for god’s sake. There was no arguing with her, though. She’s decided for some reason to perceive our house as a gadget-cluttered hobby shop liable to collapse under the weight of one more Roomba. I kicked a bit of fur under the bed and hummed a bit of “Underneath the Mango Tree.” One day. One day.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Going to the Sippy Cups, Part II (Getting there Against All Odds)

So, 2 p.m. came around and Baby Dog still wasn’t up. I opened the door to her room so that the sound of her parents talking and bustling about might seep through the veil of sleep. Sure enough, she was awake and calling out to us within ten minutes. We had made 2 p.m. the cut-off time, but we figured we had a little wiggle room. Mama Dog whipped up some victuals and I got them into the girl as speedily as possible. Then off we went to the Town.*

Mama Dog’s cell rang as we were performing the minor miracle of turning left onto Market. It was Papa Pirate. Guess what? That’s right, they couldn’t make it. Their car had pooped out as they neared the bridge and it turned out that Baby Pirate, who’d not had a nap all day, was sound asleep in her car seat anyway. They were headed home. This was genuinely ironic, unlike most of the examples mentioned in that Atlantis Morrissette song.**

The combination of the venue and the act would probably cause Mr. Brownstein’s gorge to rise; the Sippy Cups were playing for a packed house of kids and toddlers in the Rickshaw Stop, a fully-stocked bar. I’ll pause here to contemplate a moment. I keep thinking that parenthood has led me to go places and do things that would have been outside my imagining only a few short years ago. I made, for example, the startling discovery that those previously unnoticed establishments on either side of that bar on College were baby stores. I have engaged in baby talk while a dermatologist was whacking a cyst off my face. I have wiped someone else’s ass on a public thoroughfare. And yesterday I found myself in a bar packed with five-year-olds pogoing along to Blitzkrieg Bop. O brave new world that has such people in it.

We found ourselves a spot in the balcony where Baby Dog could get a view of the stage. After a few minutes of peering out between the bars, she turned to me and said “Out? Out?” I think she was a bit claustrophobic, with all the noise and the crowd. She’s used to more sedate pastimes and this was probably overstimulating. She said “Out? Out?” periodically throughout the experience, leaving me unsure how much she was enjoying it. But she does like music, and seemed to like bouncing up and down and dancing with Mummy and Daddy. She’ll probably like these scene more when she’s more independently ambulatory. The thing about The Rickshaw Stop is, it’s filled with rickshaws. We plonked ourselves down in one and Baby Dog had herself a sippy cup (not a Sippy Cup) full of apple juice. She seemed happier after that.

The band is good and fun and a lot easier on a forty-year-old’s cerebral cortex than, say, Barney. They did a suite of superhero songs, which was kind of funny. They did the theme from Spider-Man, only with the the guitar part from Secret Agent Man, clearly a sop to old geek dads like myself. Damn them for knowing my weakness! They also did REM’s Superman, followed by a very natural segue into David Bowie’s Heroes.

After that, we spent some time in the bar's entryway. The door to the storeroom was flanked on either side by carved wooden doodads. One had the face of a frog, the other a pig. Both were fascinating to Baby Dog, particularly the pig.

We also played with a pole that stands in the middle of the entryway. I stood her up holding onto the pole and positioned myself on the opposite side. She started to work her way counter-clockwise around to me, and I scooted counter-clockwise too, keeping myself directly opposite. She stopped, confused. When she moved again, I made another countermove. Then she smiled, getting it, and we chased this way and that around the pole until I was too winded to move. She was laughing gleefully by then. It occurred to me later that I may made a crucial early failure in my chief job as “father”; I have allowed her to associate “the pole” with “FUN!”

We spent about an hour at the show before figuring Baby Dog had had enough. On the way back to the East Bay, we called the Pirates. Baby Pirate was still asleep, but we met up for dinner shortly after at Picante. And that is the day that was.
*People round here call San Francisco “the City.” Since San Jose surpassed it in population a few years ago, though, I’ve decided it merited a downgrade. I tried “a city” at first, but that was too subtle. Hence, “the Town.”
**Rain on your wedding day? What the hell’s ironic about that? Was there a drought forecast?

Going to The Sippy Cups, Part I (Trying to Make Nap Time Happen)

The Pirates have asked us a few times to accompany them to see The Sippy Cups (more info here). While a couple of hours in a club filled with children bouncing up and down to modified versions of the their parents’ nostalgia tunes would be anybody’s idea of a little slice of heaven, we were always a bit sceptical. Plus, the timing was never right. We always had another engagement or were too pooped or Baby Dog’s nap was happening at the same time as the show, or whatever. It’s hard to plan things when a small child figures into the equation. When they asked us a couple of weeks ago if we wanted to join them for the band’s CD release party, though, we couldn’t refuse; we had a long string of missed plans with the Pirates and were quite curious to hear what a baby-friendly arrangement of a Ramones song sounds like.

The biggest trick, of course, was the nap schedule. The party was at 3:30 in San Francisco, which meant we’d have to leave by about 2:30 to have a fighting chance at finding parking in time to get tickets before they sold out. Since Baby Dog generally takes a two-hour midday nap and generally goes down anywhere from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., the timing could be kind of tight. Things looked promising at morning snacktime. Mama Dog was off to yoga and I was a little late thinking of snack time, putting the girl in her high chair around 10:30 or so. By the time she was done with her yogurt and raisins, she was rubbing her eyes and saying “Sleepy? Nap? Tired?” Ordinarily, I’d say, “No, it’s not even eleven, you can’t be tired yet,” but instead I seized the opportunity. “You want to go night-night?” I asked. “Night-night,” Baby Dog agreed. I put her in her crib, and of course she started to cry and complain. “How about a night-night stroll?” I asked. “Night-night,” she agreed.

We went out for a neighbourhood stroll, Baby Dog wrapped up in quilts under the foreboding clouds. She seemed sleepy enough that she’d be zonked out before I went two blocks. That proved to be an unreliable indicator. Two blocks later, she was kicking her feet up, knocking the blanket down under the stroller wheels, and exclaiming at the presence of a tree. “Tree!” The quick “night-night” stroll ended up lasting close to an hour and ending fruitlessly. She kept growing quiet, apparently zoning out, only to suddenly spring back to complete wakefulness. I remember during one of those quiet periods seeing a man with a poodle at the corner, walking towards us. I thought, “Okay, if we pass this dog and she doesn’t say anything, I’ll know she’s really asleep.” As we neared the dog, all was still and silent. Not a peep. Not a peep. Dog just three concrete squares away, and not a peep. The dog was almost in front of us, and not a peep. That’s it! She must be asleep! She must have nodded off when we – “Doggy!” she squealed, practically bouncing herself out of the stroller, flipping the hood back up for a better look.

Around noon I gave up and resolved to let her cry herself to sleep if necessary. We went home, I sang her a couple of songs, and put her to bed with a book. While she chattered and fussed a little, I went into the kitchen to put dishes away. Often, the sound of my clanging about seems to soothe her to sleep. When I was done, the house was quiet. I tiptoed over to take a peek into her room. I cracked the door silently, and peered in. She was huddled up in the far corner of the crib. I couldn’t see if she was asleep or not…then her head moved and her eyes popped open. She grinned at me. “Daddy!” she said. “Ba-poo!” “Ba-poo” is her word for “diaper,” and when she says it aloud it’s often cause for worry. Sure enough, I could smell what she’d been up to.

I changed her and sang to her a little more and put her back to bed. We were headed towards our third hour of “going to bed” time, which is a gyp of a day for both of us, but what’re you gonna do? I was starting to get really hungry, so I let her chatter to herself some more while I nuked myself some grub. Around that time, Mama Dog got home from yoga, and when we checked in on Baby Dog she was finally asleep. It was about 12:30. Since Baby Dog still had to eat lunch before we left, things looked pretty iffy. We agreed that if she was up by 2, we could do it but if she wasn’t, we couldn’t.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Our Sixth Wedding Anniversary, Part II (the Day of)

We now have a firmly established tradition of giving one another anniversary gifts linked however tenuously to the “traditional” list of gifts. They’re often irreverent, impractical, or jokey gifts. For our second anniversary, the cotton anniversary, we both thought exactly the same way; I got Mama Dog a copy of Shadow of a Doubt and she gave me a copy of The Third Man’s soundtrack – both movies starring Joseph Cotten. Last year, for our fifth anniversary, I got Mama Dog a copy of Beavis and Butt-Head Do America because the fifth is the…huhuhuhuhuhuh…wood anniversary. Not to worry; I got her a real gift, too.

About a month ago I told Mama Dog, “I just ordered your anniversary present.” “Oh,” she said. “Did you get ‘Iron Man’ by Black Sabbath?” “Hah, that’d be a good one,” I said. I hung up and hung my head, having just finished ordering “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath. And here’s how not a headbanger I was in high school…I didn’t even realise it until the thing arrived, but ”Iron Man” by Black Sabbath is a compilation released in the late 90s, available only on import. The album I thought I was buying, the one from 1970 with “Iron Man” on it, was Paranoid. At least Mama Dog likes the collection, which is all early 70s tracks.

When Mama Dog handed me my present, I sank beneath its weight. I hefted the gaily wrapped package. “This feels like it’s made of iron,” I said. I opened it up and burst out laughing. It was a 15 pound anvil. “Great,” quoth I, “all I need now is a coyote.”

I had told Mama Dog that we would be taking a family excursion Saturday morning, but wouldn’t tell her any more than that. When it came time to leave, I said we were going to Diesel Books. This was something of a prevarication, but a plausible one. The way to Diesel more or less passes by Bloomies, where her bouquet was waiting. Being unable to think of an easily obtainable flower with “iron” in the name, I had requested a bouquet with a colour scheme evoking iron. I asked for rusts and, if possible, something close to silver. They did awfully well with the silver part at least, with these weird furry silvery fronds whose name escapes me now.

Mama Dog posed all our anniversary gifts together and took a photo, which I tender for your inspection.

After Bloomies, we went on to Diesel so as not to make a liar of me. Baby Dog browsed through board books to her little heart’s content and for once I managed to leave without buying anything. It’s been an exceptionally pleasant anniversary weekend. The warm glow still pervades.

Our Sixth Wedding Anniversary, Part I (the Night Before)

Our anniversary was yesterday (the 5th of Nov.), but the observations commenced Friday night. For the first time since Baby Dog’s birth, we hired a babysitter so that we could have an evening out.* We dined at Adagia in Berkeley, with its big front doors like an old church (which for all I know the building may used to have been), high ceilings, white tablecloths. We were seated just adjacent to the grand fireplace, where a roaring fire was underway, warding off the arctic chill of this harsh Californian November.** I had butternut squash soup and steak with (to my surprise) pommes frites. It’s one of those restaurants where the menu requires a certain amount of translation, so I wasn’t at all sure I’d care for what I got. It was good, but if I’d probably have foregone the chive crème fraiche if I’d known it looked unsettlingly as though someone had spooged in my soup. Mama Dog had a salad and a lasagne that wasn’t at all what she expected. More often than not when dining out, she says she wishes she’d ordered what I got. Grass on the other side, I suppose. No wonder she always asks what I’m going to order. Surprisingly, it never changes what she gets.

By the time we had finished the entrée, our appointment with the box office was 15 minutes away. I’m always leery of being a problem customer because no matter how fancy the restaurant and how white the tablecloths, if you come of as an asshole you’re always in danger of having your dessert dicked.*** I had a moment or two to reflect before catching the eye of our waiter, Mr. Moustache, and I believe I came up with the precise diplomatic wording to avoid such an unseemly result. “We’d like to order dessert,” I said, giving my voice a little undercurrent of regret for the impossibility of such an eventuality, “but we have to be out of here in fifteen minutes. Can that be done?” Mr. Moustache smiled, all gracious efficiency. “I’m sure we can accommodate you.” Rather than wait until we were done, he brought the bill as I tucked into my chocolate cake and Mama Dog into her molasses confection. Even before we had finished our seemingly undicked afters, I had settled the bill and tipped generously. A mutually beneficial transaction all around.

The movie was The Ballad of Cable Hogue, playing at PFA as part of their Peckinpah series. Let us pause for a moment to reflect upon what a wonderful wife I have; not only is she willing to spend her anniversary evening watching a Peckinpah movie, it was her idea to do so! Greater love hath no woman! Granted, Cable Hogue is one of Peckinpah’s more light-hearted efforts, but she had no way of knowing that.**** And not only that, but after the movie, she effused about how much she’d enjoyed it! My gal! She’s even booked the babysitter again so she can finally see The Wild Bunch properly (i.e., on a big screen)!
*Minor parsing here: it’s the second time we’ve hired a babysitter, but the first time was so that Mama Dog could go to a job interview – the one that got her the job she has now – during the day. And we’ve had several evenings out over the last year and a half, with Halmonie minding Baby Dog. A couplefew times the Pirates have watched her during the day.
**Please detect sarcasm here.
***Between this and the spooge joke, I’m probably looking a bit obsessed, but really – do you want your dessert dicked?
****I should really do a post sometime on my theory that all of Peckinpah’s movies are actually love stories; they’re just usually sublimated homosexual love stories between men who kill for fun and profit.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Happy Sixth

Happy anniversary, Mama Dog. Good night, everyone else.

Friday, November 04, 2005


Have I blogged before about your 37th American President, Richard M. Nixon? Probably. Too much trouble to check the archives to see if I’m repeating myself. It’s difficult to explain my Nixon obsession except to observe that it’s kind of similar to Peter O’Toole’s obsession with Hitler. As a child in wartime Britain, Hitler loomed large in O’Toole’s consciousness; so large that when he wrote his memoirs, O’Toole wasn’t satisfied with simply recounting his autobiography. He also included a parallel biography of what Hitler was up to at any given moment in O’Toole’s childhood. My obsession with Nixon isn’t that extreme, but he was the great Satan of my childhood, the all-pervasive bogeyman of the banality of evil. As I grew older and gained a greater understanding of Nixon as an historical figure, of the forces that shaped his bizarre character and the hubristic tangle of malfeasances that led to his downfall, I became even more obsessed. The fascinating thing about Nixon was that he had no business being a politician, let alone President; not because of his thuggish opportunism and flagrant disregard for the rule of law, but because he was an even greater misanthrope than I. He was a man intensely uncomfortable around other people, and yet he rose to the top of a profession driven almost entirely by building personal relationships.* His success as a politician is the fascinating mystery. From that perspective, the train wreck of his presidency seems so inevitable that it’s hardly worth comment.

The thing about cultivating a fascination is that people find out about it and give you stuff relating to it. Consequently, our house seemed in danger of becoming a Nixon shrine for a while. Happily, Mama Dog shares my fascination with your own home-grown Richard III (though perhaps not to quite the same degree), so it’s not a bone of contention. In fact, most of the Nixon memorabilia we’ve accumulated has come in the form of gifts for Mama Dog. The Pirates for some reason took a trip to The Library of Ultimate Evil and came back with some White House soap and a mug featuring Dick’s smiling mug. The Kitty turned up a Presidential portrait that now hangs on our living room wall. Bernardo came up with a collection of campaign buttons (not this one, but one kind of like it).

Lately, whenever the Nixon mug comes up in my morning mug cycle (don’t ask), I’ve been pointing smiley Dick out to Baby Dog. “Look!” I say, “Nixon!” She has consistently observed without comment. She’s a very attentive audience, but is not always certain what’s expected of her. Tuesday morning she finally responded with a rather tentative “Nixon?” Surprised, I showered her with praise, and she looked very pleased indeed. I took her into the living room and showed her the Presidential portrait, holding the mug up in front of it. “See? Nixon! The same!” Then I showed her the collection of buttons. “Nixon! See?” Yesterday, when I was carrying her through the kitchen, she pointed at the buttons on the shelf and said “Nixon!” In the living room, I asked her where Nixon was, and she pointed at the portrait on the wall.

This morning I decided to take things one step further. “Here’s Nixon,” I said. “He was a crook!” She knows that “uno dos” and “one two” are the same thing. She knows that “ojos” and “eyes” are the same, and “cabeza” and “head.” If I work things right, she just might grow up thinking that “crook” is Spanish for “Nixon.”
*Yes, and money of course, but the relationships are the engine to create access to the money.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

The Whirlwind Visit

Charles just did a whirlwind tour of the East Bay. Though he stayed at our place we saw him comparatively little and Mama Dog less so than I. We dined at Shen Hua Tuesday night and then came home to sample one of the kind gifts he brought with him. Then he went out to do young single man things while we stayed in to do old married with children people things (i.e., collapse into a stuporous sleep at 9:30).

Wednesday was my day off, and Charles, Baby Dog, and I went out for coffee to a place Charles would not normally go. Afterwards, we stopped in at a place Charles probably would normally go, but Baby Dog and I spent the interval in the section he probably wouldn’t normally notice – the baby books. I tell myself it’s because I’m getting bored with the selection at home, but really I think I’m just incapable of visiting a book store with Baby Dog without buying something for her. In this case, we left with four new books for Baby Dog.

Charles had a series of appointments in the afternoon, so around the time I got Baby Dog down for her midday nap, he took off for Berkeley and I was left to my usual Wednesday naptime devices. Normally that means I watch teevee, but I had a bunch of chores that needed doing, so the time was mostly spent doing them. Charles and I had vague plans to meet up again after supper but before Mama Dog headed off to yoga, but the logistics of it just couldn’t be wrassled into control. I hadn’t considered how early it’s getting dark these days; any Berkeley rendezvous with Charles would mean strolling Baby Dog home on Telegraph after dark, and that just wasn’t going to fly with the authorities. At the same time, Mama Dog decided that the logistics of her getting to yoga weren’t quite working out either, mostly because she was too tired. The upshot was, Charles now had a hole in his schedule which he promptly filled with more young single man things and Mama Dog and I had a quiet evening at home spent once again doing old married with children people things. We got to sleep at an indecently decent hour, and I was uncommon well rested in the morning.

We saw our guest off this morning and went back to the workaday. Charles is off to Texas now to do an informal survey of the displaced Louisianan population. Baby Dog’s asleep now, Mama Dog’s finally off at her long-deferred yoga class, it’s twelve minutes to nine, and I’m wondering if this is too ridiculously early a time to go to sleep. Bon voyage, Charles! Come back soon!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Mama Dog's Wish Is My Command

One of the advantages of being a hoarder...when you need to find something, you have a vague idea where it might be. Mama Dog wished she had left her blog up so that I could reprint her old post about Mr. Murphy as a comment. Naturally, I had her entire archive handy, and rather than making it a comment, I figured I'd just repost for her. So here's what Mama Dog had to say about Mr. Murphy on Wednesday, February 09, 2005.

Crazy Boob-Touching Man

Mr. Murphy is this senile, eighty-something, African American man who lives around the corner from us. When we first moved into our house about 3.5 years ago, we noticed that Mr. Murphy would frequently stand in front of our house and talk to it, as though it were a person. During these conversations, he'd use his cane to punctuate certain points, often laughing, as though he were reminiscing with the house about a funny incident that had happened a long time ago. We could never understand more than a few words of monologue (due to a heavy southern accent combined with sloppy, dentured diction), but one sentence fragment that we'd hear repeatedly was, "I been workin' 'round the worl'." Mr. Murphy was sort of like that old blind man on the RR tracks at the beginning and end of O Brother, Where Art Thou: the "oracle" who predicted that Ulysses P. McGill and friends would one day encounter a cow on a barn roof. Only less intelligible.

One morning, shortly after moving in, I ran into Mr. Murphy while leaving the house for my morning dog walk. Like a good neighbor, I held out my hand to introduce myself. My first clue that this guy was a bit tetched: he didn't 'let go! I was stuck holding Mr. Murphy's crusty, old, hand for many seconds beyond my comfort level and started to get twitchy. And, being slightly germ-phobic, I couldn't help but imagine the unsavory things that Mr. Murphy might have touched before grabbing my hand: Maybe he had just whacked off! Maybe he hadn't washed his hands after wiping his ass! Oh, the germs one can imagine!

He said to me: "Well, looky dere, looky dere! Heh heh, goin' t'work again, workin' 'round the 'worl'... Been workin' 'round the worl', yeah, hooo hooo! Yeah, oh boy..." I managed to pull my hand away, but then he did something truly surprising: he poked me in the boob with his finger and said, "Oooh, you one fine lady! Heh heh, you phat!" (Luckily, I was wearing my Osh Kosh B'Gosh overalls, which featured a thick bib that covered my rack, thereby making it impossible for a proper feel to be copped.) Horrified, I said: "Yes, good day, then," grabbed my dog, and trotted along in a huff. After that incident, Papa Dog and I started calling Mr. Murphy the "Crazy Boob Touching Man." (Our friend Ambrose later shortened it to "The Boob Toucher. ")
A few months later, we met our neighbors to the south, whose family has lived on the block since the nineteen-fifties. They knew Mr. Murphy well and explained to us that he used to be sweet on Mrs. Madison, the woman who used to own our house but had since passed away. This explained the odd, cane-pointing monologues outside of our house: he was talking to HER, not to our house! We also learned that Mr. Murphy used to work in construction and had labored on many of the Bay Area's freeways and bridges during his younger days. Hence, "workin' 'round the worl'. It all made sense now.

Fast forward to earlier this week. I was taking Baby Dog out to the car, holding her in my arms, and along came Mr. Murphy. Baby Dog, being the devastatingly attractive baby that she is, immediately drew the attention of the crusty, old codger who was halfway down the block. Upon eyeing me and Baby Dog, he turned on his heel and sauntered over to us. "Dat baby sho is phat!" he said. "Heh heh, lookit dat pretty, phat baby!" (Maybe he meant "fat," but I preferred to think that he'd picked up the urban vernacular of his grandchildren.) I said: "Yes, this is Baby Dog" to him. Then, the wrinkled, old hands started reaching forward, toward Baby Dog, and I was thinking: "Oh please, no, don't touch her!" Too late. He started fondling her Baby Dog's pajama-clad arm (okay), then her bare hand (not okay!). With this, Baby Dog became visibly anxious and began recoiling away from Mr. Murphy, burrowing her head into my arm's crook. I then said, "Okay, we're going now. Have a good day!" and quickly whisked the baby into the car. I made a mental note to sanitize her hands with a baby wipe when we arrived at our destination.

Mr. Murphy is a nice old coot, but man, he's got to learn to keep his filthy mitts of my baby!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

A Little Sketch About Mr. Murphy

I found myself ready to go at an unexpectedly early hour this morning, well before Mama Dog was ready for me to put Baby Dog in her car seat, which has of late been our morning departure ritual. Instead, I said my good-byes in the kitchen, where Mama Dog was making lunches and Baby Dog was in her playpen, absorbed in a book and barely taking notice of my requests for a farewell kiss. When I got to the front door, I heard her say “Daddy!” I turned and there she was, standing up in the playpen, waving good-bye. “Bye-bye!” I said, waving. “Say ‘bye-bye’ to Daddy!” She waved and said “Buh-bye, Daddy,” sounding, as she sometimes does, like David Spade.

I opened the door, still repeating “Bye-bye!” and was startled to see Mr. Murphy* at the foot of the steps, grinning up at me. Mr. Murphy is one of the most recognisable characters in our neighbourhood, a senile and unintelligible old codger who shuffles around the block on his cane every morning, muttering and cackling to himself. Before we knew his name, we called him “Crazy Boob-Touching Man,” on account of his somewhat unorthodox method of greeting Mama Dog one morning. Actually, the name kind of stuck even after we learned he was Mr. Murphy.

We would often see Mr. Murphy out front, talking to our house. At first we couldn’t understand what he was saying, but the neighbours filled us in somewhat. Apparently, he was sweet on Mrs. Nixon, the widow whose passing landed the house in probate court for us to find. When he talked to our house, he was more than likely hashing over old times with Mrs. Nixon. Or maybe trying to talk her into coming out for a walk. It’s hard to believe Mrs. Nixon would ever have fallen for Mr. Murphy’s line of guff. She was a respectable lady, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see the alley cat Mr. Murphy must have been in his youth.

When I came out the door, Mr. Murphy grinned widely up at me from behind his dark glasses, laughed the way he always laughs, “Hihh, hihh, hihh, hihh,” gesturing up at me with his cane. “Heard ya talkin’” he said. Mr. Murphy likes children and dogs and has always made admiring comments about ours. It was an oddly touching reaction; he was laughing at the silly baby-talking white boy, sure, but he seemed kind of sentimental about it too. I have no idea how many children Mr. Murphy had. There’s a rotating passel of grandsons who hang out at his house, not a one of them showing evidence of being any damn good, but all clearly doting on and being doted on by Mr. Murphy.

I came down the stairs and waved and said good morning as I went on my way to work. Mr. Murphy grinned some more and mumbled something about working ‘round the world. That had been gibberish to us when we first moved in. It turns out that Mr. Murphy helped build the freeways in the Bay Area, and maybe did work all around the world. When he’s not talking to Mrs. Nixon, he likes to reminisce kind of boastfully about his working days.

As I passed by, I realised suddenly that Mr. Murphy had grown frail. We’ve lived in the house four years now, and he’s always seemed older than Methuselah and very slow as he hobbles by on his cane, but he’s always seemed robust. It struck me that I hadn’t seen him in a while, and I wondered if he had been ill. He looked shaky, something he never had been before, and the flesh was hanging a little more slackly on his face. I don’t think Mr. Murphy has many years left now, and it makes me sad that Baby Dog probably won’t remember him for the vivid character he is. When he dies, his jumbled memories will go with him, Mrs. Nixon, his work around the world, and the untold miles he’s trod circumnavigating the block. That’s a shame, because he’s the last living link to a long stretch of history in this neighbourhood. It’s his neighbourhood; we just moved in here.
*Fake name devised by Mama Dog in a long-ago post of her own.