b Papa Dog's Blog: February 2006

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Very Desperate Blogger

We haven’t been buying Baby Dog a lot of new books lately, but I impulse shopped on Amazon the other day and today presented her with The Very Lonely Firefly. This is an addition to her large and much-loved library of Eric Carle books: The Very Hungry Caterpillar, The Very Busy Spider, and, though she hasn’t become familiar with it yet and won’t until she’s a bit older, The Very Grouchy Ladybug.*

Mama Dog and I were moved to consider Rejected Titles for Eric Carle books. Here are some I came up with:

The Very Eager Tapeworm
The Very Ambivalent Hermaphrodite
The Very Unlucky Turkey (a Thanksgiving book)
The Very Smelly Roadkill
The Very Horny Toad
The Very Annoying Telemarketer

Try it yourself! It’s fun!
*She also has Does a Kangaroo Have a Mother, Too?, but it doesn’t fit with this post.

Monday, February 27, 2006

I Know an Old Lady on the Ceiling

Baby Dog’s latest thing is a bit of a conundrum. A few days ago, she started saying, “Look at I know an old lady?” Ordinarily, I would take this to mean her battered Scholastic Books paperback version of the timeless class of crittercide, but she would then add the modified, “On the ceiling?” Moreover, she would say this when wandering into her room, having left the book in the living room. I established pretty quickly that she wasn’t talking about the book. There was some “I know an old lady on the ceiling” that she wanted to see.

Of course, my thoughts turned to the occult. Our predecessor in this house was an old lady who may or may not have died on the premises. Since we moved in here, I’ve made a habit of explaining any unexplained phenomena by reference to the shade of old Mrs. Jefferson. When the Whippet’s whippets barked for no apparent reason at the poster of Gilbert and George, I said, “Oh, that’s just Mrs. Jefferson’s ghost.” When the baby gate closed by itself three times in a row, I exclaimed, “Cut it out, Mrs. Jefferson!” If there was an old lady floating on Baby Dog’s ceiling, the only reasonable explanation seemed to be the late Mrs. Jefferson.

Halmonie came up with another one, though; over the armoire, the tabletop lamp throws a shadow that looks (if you use a little imagination) like the book’s Old Lady in profile. This is not at all without precedent. As I think I’ve mentioned before there are swirly burl shapes on the doors of the armoire that Baby Dog long ago decided were a doggie face. She could certainly see the face of the Old Lady in a shadow. I suppose that’s better than assuming her room is haunted, but Mrs. Jefferson was by all accounts a very nice old lady.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

New Tunes for Baby Dog

This week I added a couple of songs to Baby Dog’s Greatest Hits on the Napster. One was Leon Redbone’s version of Johnny Mercer’s Lazybones. I figured Baby Dog would like that – there’s something about Mr. Redbone that seems inherently child-friendly – but I was surprised how quickly and thoroughly she embraced it. She learned the name of the song on first listen, and now by the time she hears the first few notes of Redbone’s whistled intro, she exclaims “Lazybones!”

The other addition is my countryman Bruce Cockburn’s* Wondering Where the Lions Are. It’s always struck me as sounding something like a children’s song, and Baby Dog likes lions, so it seemed there might be a connection. I don’t think it’s caught on with her quite yet, but I’m giving it time. I look forward to the day when I hear her singing “I’m thinking ‘bout eternity/Some kind of ecstasy got a hold on me.” Or even better, “Huge orange flying boat rises off a lake/Thousand-year-old petroglyphs doing a double-take.” If she repeats that one, you can be sure I’ll post about it.
*For the foreigners: he pronounces it “Coe-burn.” For obvious reasons.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Baby Dog’s Self-Guided Tour of the Little Farm

Baby Dog has made great strides in walking since her visit to the orthopaedic surgeon. She can now walk more or less indefinitely (if unsteadily) without assistance. She still walks holding her arms straight up as though reaching for a steadying parental hand, but her enthusiasm for unaided locomotion grows. This development finally began to pay dividends in this morning’s visit to The Little Farm. For the first time, she was able to make her own little decisions about where she was going and what she was going to see. We had fed celery to the cows and had a thrilling face-to-face encounter with the baby pig, who snorfled up celery through the chicken wire. We had moved on to look at the rooster and chickens and ducks and geese, when Baby Dog announced, “See piggy again!” turned around and toddled off to do just that. The combination of increased mobility and increased familiarity with the farm – she knows where all the animals she wants to see are located – made for her best visit yet to the farm. She had a great time.

Amusingly, one of the biggest attractions for her is that she gets to “see the moon.” That is, the crescent moons on the door of the outhouses.

Friday, February 24, 2006

How I Made Mama Dog Laugh Tonight

We were out at Casa Orinda, a steak ‘n’ taters place that affects an old west ambience. There are guns on the wall, a long wooden bar, and tables emblazoned with cattle brands. It’s the sort of place you have to leave Alameda County to find.

Mama Dog had to go to the bathroom when we were leaving, and she bad me wait in the chair outside the restroom. “Look at the funny painting here,” she told me. It was the sort of painting you might find in a Las Cruces saloon in 1870. It showed a frontier bathing beauty, naked in a washtub, gazing out at the cacti and livestock. I pointed at the washtub. “At our house,” I observed, “that’s known as ‘dead possum storage.’”

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Baby Talk

Baby Dog was singing this morning when I was getting her dressed – “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “I Know an Old Lady,” “Nobody Does It Better (the Theme from The Spy Who Loved Me),” the usual baby stuff. On a whim, I asked her to sing me “Starry Starry Night.” Since it’s been promoted to Chief Bedtime Song, I figured she’d be able to sing the first line of it at least. She startled me with this rendition: “Starry Starry night/Paint palette blueandgrey/Look out at summer’s day/Eyes that know…” here she drifted off, not knowing that the rest of the line was “the darkness in my soul,” but after a pause she continued with, “Shadows onna hills/Sketch trees, daffodils…” Here she drifted off again, so I prompted with “Catch the breeze,” and she responded by making a blowing wind sound. I was so delighted that I had her repeat the performance for Mama Dog. “She knows more words from that song than I do,” she said.

Thinking about it later, it struck me that I really have to get used to the idea that Baby Dog is becoming a fully fledged user of language and the sooner I stop looking at her every utterance as the most darling thing ever, the better. Yes, trotting out the lyrics to a song she hears every night is just a matter of rote memorisation, but it’s clear she’s associating the words with the real world and making the appropriate connections. She knows what the breeze is from having felt it on her face out of doors, and she understands that when the word is used in the song, it’s referring to that selfsame breeze. For that matter, whenever the subject of stars comes up, it’s almost inevitable that she says, “Sing ‘Starry Starry Night?’”

Anyway…I know when I was little kid with a big vocabulary, my elders would think it was cute whenever I used a word or a turn of phrase that seemed too mature for use by children. They would chuckle and patronise and I would burn with resentment. I understand now why they did that. It is so damn cute when Baby Dog says “Oh my goodness!” or “pantaloons.” But I remember what it’s like to be on the receiving end of that condescending chuckle, and I think I’m going to start working now to wipe it out of my repertoire. The key, of course, is to remember that she’s not a talking doll and that when she speaks her goal is communication, same as anyone. The respectful thing is to listen to what she has to say.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

No Coke, 7-Up

Like the late Mr. Vargas (who undoubtedly pined slowly to death from a broken heart after Easy Rider’s big coke customer killed his wife), I’ve recently switched to decaf.* I’m staying the course. Today I accidentally got a Coke from the soda machine. Pure force of habit, I unthinkingly hit the big red button. At first I thought, “Aw, hell, I’ve spent the sixty-five cents, I might as well have the Coke. Just one’s not going to kill me.” Then I thought of my official “last bottle of coke” still sitting on the high shelf in the kitchen, and I just couldn’t do it. I left the Coke on the break room table for whoever might want it and got a 7-Up instead. To tell the truth, I’m not really noticing a difference from the caffeine reduction. But at least today I don’t have to start over counting my clean and sober days.
*If you want me to clarify this morass of film references, just ask.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Last Minute Lameness

First time I’ve done this in a while…I plump forgot to post. It’s been a busy day anyway. Too tired to cobble anything together now, so good night.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Sick and Tired

This is one of those days when I can literally say I’m sick and tired…the former courtesy of Baby Dog’s croup-causing cold, which I now have, and the latter because of the LN’s insane work ethic, which trickles down to me. I’d write more, but I really need the sleep.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Some of the Stuff Baby Dog's Been Saying Lately

“It is Mummy!” or “It is Daddy!” (exclaimed happily when whichever one of us “it is” walks into her room first thing in the morning)

“Start ‘ginning?” (meant as a request to read a particular book from the beginning)

“Beautiful owl!” (carefully enunciated and used to refer either to one of the owl pictures that adorn the refrigerator or to her stuffed owl from the Owl Babies book)

“Bouncy girl!” (exclaimed gleefully after Daddy has bounced her on the couch)

“Ankle nibbles!” (request for the new changing time game, companion to the more traditional “toe nibbles”; both are soon to be supplanted by “heel nibbles”)

“Careful Daddy!” (spoken with confidence at meal time when bib is being donned; Daddy has explained that she need not fear her hair being pinched by the bib snap because she has a very careful Daddy – said reassurance required because of a hair-pinching incident involving another unnamed though not necessarily less careful family member)

“Peace!” (used to refer to the dove pictured on the quilt over her window, which Mummy has explained is a symbol of peace)

“Patience” (spoken pre-emptively when she exhibits a lack thereof and knows she’s about to get called on it)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

(Another) Dead Possum in the Middle of our Yard

We’ve never really done anything to make the back yard habitable, and don’t spend much time there outside of barbecue season. Because he’s a smoker, Charles will spend more time out there in the two or three times a year he visits than we do the rest of the year. He crashed here again the last two nights and this morning he and I were out in the back patio having a chat while he had his last smoke before consigning himself to the BART system. “I’ve been meaning to ask,” he said, “what’s all that fur over there?” “What fur?” I asked. I looked where he pointed, over by the north fence. At first I though maybe it was a bunch of Doggy Dog fluff that had floated free from the garbage or from an informal brushing. It’ll do that…float free and just stay where it lands for days on end. Then I stepped closer and saw that there was a snout in the middle of the fur and had that awful lurch of realisation. It was a possum corpse, or at least part of one. At first, I thought, unreasoningly, that it was some part I’d missed of the dead possum back in January. It didn’t make any sense of course – that possum had been reasonably intact, and unless it had two snouts the one rotting on the grass couldn’t have belonged to it. “What’s that black area with the perforations?” Charles inquired wonderingly. “I think that’s the inside of its hide, eaten through by bugs.” That was my best guess.

Later, after Mama Dog had dropped Charles off at BART, I gave my weary sigh indicating that a paterfamilias must do what a paterfamilias must do and got several garbage bags and a shovel. I put one bag ready in one of our outdoor bins and prodded the erstwhile possum with the shovel blade. It felt welded to the soil, and there was a creeping vine growing into the remains. Gingerly I pried the carcass up out of the soil with the shovel. I couldn’t help exclaiming, “Oh, shit, yuck.” I heard a voice say, “What’s wrong?” It was neighbour Mike on the other side of the north fence, working in his garden. I told him what I’d found. “You know, I noticed a terrible smell out here a couple of weeks ago,” he said. “I couldn’t figure out where it was coming from.” That fit. I knew I hadn’t spent any time in the yard since more than two weeks ago. By now, Doggie Dog was standing by, watching the disposal procedure with detached curiosity. “Pretty proud of yourself, aren’t you, big guy?” Mike asked him, and Doggie Dog wagged. “That’s three notches on the fence post for him,” I sighed. I dumped the possum in the bin, pulled out the bag, and rebagged it twice to make sure any maggots would stay put until garbage day Friday. After our last experience, I know better than to wait for Animal Control to come. Yeesh. You’d think these critters would know to steer clear of our yard by now.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Why I’m a Zombie

So, Baby Dog’s screaming crying croup attack last night lasted until after midnight, when I finally got her settled. We collapsed into exhausted sleep that lasted until around 4:30 when Baby Dog again woke up screaming. This time, we ran the tub to steam up the bathroom, and I sat on the toilet with her on my lap, rocking and singing and reading “What a Pig” while the steam loosened up her bronchial passages. It must have worked, because I was able to get her back in the crib calmed and quieted in less than fifteen minutes.

When I went back to bed, it occurred to me that my cumulative sleep deprivation from the last few days was reaching a breaking point. “I’m going to reset the alarm,” I told Mama Dog. “There’s no way I can get up at 6 a.m. today.” She mumbled okay and went back to sleep as I did the resetting. Sleep didn’t come so easily to me. If Baby Dog was making noise, it kept me awake, and if she wasn’t making noise I was straining to hear if she was still breathing, and that kept me awake too. I’d feel like maybe I could drift off and then the dog would tackety tack tack his claws on the hardwood. I’d shift around, find a good position, start to drift, then hear the girl cough. I tossed and turned until I looked at the clock and saw that it was 6:50. “Fuck it,” I thought. “At least I’ve been sort of resting. I’ll just get up.”

I got up, took a whiz, got the paper, let the dog out, put the kettle on…and saw that the microwave clock said 6:00. I stared, bumfuzzled. Then I looked at the computer. It also said 6:00. “What th—?” How could the microwave and the computer both be wrong? Then I looked a the battery-operated analog clock on the wall and saw that it too said 6:00, and it finally dawned on me – when I’d set the alarm ahead, I’d also set the clock ahead. Thinking I’d lingered in bed for an extra hour, I’d actually gotten up ten minutes earlier than usual.

So that’s why I’m going to bed right now.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Long Day, Late Night, Sick Baby, Headaches All Around

Baby Dog still doesn’t have a fever, but she’s definitely not well. Mama Dog and I had an evening meeting and while we were gone, Baby Dog barfed up her supper on the changing pad. She was still awake and cranky when we got home around 8:30. I got her to sleep…but then about half an hour ago she woke up and has since commenced to scream herself hoarse. We gave her some Tylenol but now are wondering if maybe this is a recurrence of the croup. She’s probably hungry but won’t eat, and won’t sit still to be consoled. She squirms and screams and kicks if we try to hold her. Poor girl. Off to Dr. Chuck-Morris’ tomorrow, I think.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

I Would Have Worked in a Reference to the Kids in the Hall Sketch About the Aliens Doing Anal Probes, but Most of You Probably Haven't Seen That One

In this day and age, you’d think there would be a more pleasant way to take a baby’s temperature than rectally, but until they’re old enough to do it orally it’s still the most accurate gauge. It’s very counter-intuitive. When a baby is cranky from feeling unwell, the impulse on the part of the parent is to soothe. When the basic diagnostic tool gets inserted up the hind chute, don’t expect much soothing to take place.

Tuesday, when we got home after appointments and errands, we were greeted with a frantic phone call from the daycare telling us that Baby Dog had a fever of 102. She’d been listless and off her feed, so they’d checked her temperature. We dropped everything, collected her directly, and brought her home to find…that nothing seemed to be the matter with her. She was her normal happy, playful self. She had a slight runny nose but wasn’t particularly warm to the touch, and was toddling about, prattling and looking at her books just like any other day. We gave her lunch and she gobbled it all down. We had planned to take her to the doctor, but we figured we should check her temperature first. Mama Dog got the thermometer and after much screaming and thrashing we finally had an unhappy baby, but one with a temperature of only 98.8.

Even after that, she recovered a perfectly good mood and went down for a nap normally. Unfortunately, a miscommunication with Halmonie led to her being over-bundled. Baby Dog woke up crying after an hour, and we found she was drenched in sweat. Even more unfortunately, we could not now be certain whether the drenching had been caused by the overbundling or by the phantom fever, which meant…yes, right…in through the out door once again. Baby Dog’s temperature was a tiny bit higher than before, but still nowhere near high enough to justify sending her home from daycare. But now she was cranky beyond reckoning. Interrupted sleep, soggy pyjamas, intrusive device up the bum…did we leave any baby-displeasing gambits unaccounted for? I suppose if we wanted to be thorough, we should have taken away a toy too. Oh well, maybe next time. I sat Baby Dog on my lap and she howled while I did everything I could think of to calm her down. Finally, I just picked up Dr. Seuss’ ABC and started reading it. She kept howling, but she was following what I was saying. If I stopped reading, she’d scream a barely distinguishable “Finish it!” Gradually, the howls got quieter, and by the time I got to “big S little S, what begins with S,” she was able to sort of laugh while still crying at the antics of Silly Sammy Slick. When ABC was done, the cries had subsided to sniffles, and I sang her a song or two. Finally calmed, she went back to sleep for another forty minutes or so. Still less of a nap than she really needs, but better than nothing. She was cranky when she woke up the second time, too. Way to go, rectal thermometer. Better safe than sorry, I know, but it really felt like we gave our girl a crappy day for nothing.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006


Happy Valentine's Day, Papa Dog! Thank you for the beautiful bouquet of flowers from Bloomenthal's; how ever did you know that I am cuckoo for hyacinths?

The gesture was sweet, but you're even sweeter. I am a lucky woman to have you as my life partner for always.

Hugs, kisses, and head-bumps,

Mama Dog

Monday, February 13, 2006

Obvious Observation for the Day (Which Must Nonetheless Be Made)

So, for Dick Cheney, even quail hunting involves collateral damage.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Not Quite a Movie Review, Because We Don't Do Them Here

Last night, we started watching Daddy and Them, which was William Robert Thornton’s directorial follow-up to All the Pretty Horses, which was itself his follow-up to Sling Blade, the only one of the three that was worth a damn. Daddy and Them co-starred William Robert and Laura Dern, his then-girlfriend. When he ditched Laura for another girl whose dad had been a movie star in the 70s (but was a bigger box office draw than Laura’s dad), the movie’s release date got bumped and then bumped again and then it vanished from the radar. It never had a proper theatrical release, and took its time showing up on video. At the time, there were conflicting versions of why Miramax ditched the film. Some said the studio was leery of the negative publicity from the Thornton-Dern-Jolie tabloid fest. Some said Laura Dern was somehow keeping it from being released (not a very likely scenario, really). After sitting through thirty minutes worth of the movie last night, watching Dern screech and Thornton comport himself like a not particularly clever Australopithecus, I became convinced that the third explanation was soundest: that the movie just plain sucked. Granted I’d been up since five in the morning and had had a really long and frustrating day, but still, this almost never happens: I said before Mama Dog could that I was tired and wanted to stop the movie and go to bed.

Today when we were out and about, we talked about the movie a bit and Mama Dog said she didn’t really think she wanted to see the rest of it. It’s not that easy for me, of course. A movie started is a genie from the bottle. I have to see it through the end, no matter how many loving close-ups William Robert gives to his furrowed squinting brow. This afternoon, while Baby Dog was napping and Mama Dog and Halmonie were house-hunting, I watched the rest of the movie, and…goddamn if it doesn’t get better as it goes along. I bet the Weinstein brothers gave up after the first half hour just like I did. Maybe if they’d kept with it they’d have ordered some recutting rather than ditching the thing outright.

Be that as it may, the final word goes to John Prine. He co-stars in the movie (as Thornton’s bookworm brother!), and wrote a song for it that six years ago was the title track of his lovely album of “meetin’ cheatin’ and retreatin’” duets, In Spite of Ourselves. The lesson for all involved is that in three minutes and thirty-three seconds of slyly coarse not-quite-endearments, Prine manages to do what Thornton took an hour and forty-one minutes to shakily achieve in the movie. He finds the beating, loving heart in the relationship of two people whom you probably wouldn’t want to have a meal with, but who are undeniably just right for each other.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Who Exactly Would Have that Information, Then, Melvin?

Actual conversation overheard in a surgical prep area (why I was in a surgical prep area is a long story that won’t be gone into here).

Nurse: “Melvin, have you had anything to eat or drink? Any coffee this morning, or any water?”

Patient: “Uh, not that I’m aware of.”

Friday, February 10, 2006


So, I was just putting Baby Dog to bed. She was sitting on my lap and playing with her bare toes as I rocked her and sang her songs. As is customary, she requested “Starry Starry Night,” so I did that, and she punctuated it with the occasional. “Yessss.” Then, because we have a busy night and an early morning ahead, I tried to skip “Diamonds in the Rough” and move straight to “The Parting Glass,” but she was having none of that. She noticed the omission and complained. In the middle of “Diamonds in the Rough,” she started saying what I took to be “Nun! Nun!” I was confused. Thinking of last night’s musing on the Church of Vincent, I thought perhaps she was declaring her intention to take the vows. Then she said “Piggy,” and I realised she was talking about her toe. The one next to the last little piggy. The one that had “nun.”

Thursday, February 09, 2006

In Colours on the Snowy Linen Land (Yessss!)

Thanks to Charles for filling in last night. Ironically, I actually had enough time last night that I could have done a post, but chose on a whim to let my houseguest do one instead. Today, I’ve been insanely busy and have barely a second to spare, but unfortunately the houseguest is off in A City (the one of San Francisco) and unavailable to cover my shift again.

One quick oddity: Baby Dog has definitely decided that Vincent (Starry Starry Night) is her special song. It’s on her Napster playlist now and she requests it by name every night at bedtime. The last couple nights I’ve noticed her making little whispering noises as I sing the song. I haven’t figured out a definitive pattern to them, but they tend to come at the ends of lines. Because her voice in uncharacteristically whispery when she does this I can’t be certain what she’s saying, but it sounds to me like “Yessss!” Mama Dog has opined that Baby Dog worships this song, and it strikes me that her little interjections of “Yessss!” (if indeed that’s what she’s saying) have an hint of the Pentecostal to them. I don’t know what’s behind Baby Dog’s conversion to the Church of Vincent, but it bears further observation.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Let The Water Hold Me Down

This is not my beautiful house. That is not my beautiful wife, in the adjacent room, speaking with her mother. This is not your regular author. He's in the other room putting his lovely daughter to bed with story and song.

How did I get here?

Here, on the other side of the country from where I normally rest my bones in between days filled with organizing and nights of bar society. Here, where I used to live when the Doctor and his bride were childless, and I was an unsure young man discovering his drink and himself. How we've all changed since then.

It's always melancholic to come out to Oakland to visit this heavily fortified compound. To carefully navigate the laser guided tazer darts that secure the perimeter of this unassuming Bay Area home. And, after doing so, to step out on to Telegraph, where one block away I'd play soccer every Sunday then walk down to the hipster stretch for an enormous salad before returning to my bohemian home to watch the Simpsons with Jfre Robot Coad. I didn't realize then, in that fog of youthful ambition and wastefulness that I'd never live so easily again. Visiting the Duvaliers is at once a pleasing reunion with the life I still love in this place, and a constant reminder that those times are gone.

But with the death of old times is the shocking dawn of the new. I've watched their child in some sort of stop motion progression these last 18 or so months. I've come out once every four or six months and witnessed her brain move from that completely dependent external parasite mind that we all begin with, and move towards asserting her own personality. Maybe it was the first time I saw her or maybe it was the second, but she was a tiny little bugger with a small halo of wispy hair coming in around her still drooly head. She sat in her high chair, grabbing tentatively at Cheerios and with uncertain effort brought them to her mouth. Her eyes, even then, were bright and curious: staring at me, some large hairy creature moving familiarly around her world.

The next time she was bigger, her hair still wispy but filling in, and she'd learned all about rejecting the food she was offered, stubbornly grabbing at her infant utensils determined to do the work herself. And the third time she had started talking a bit; new words coming out with a question mark following each one.

Tonight, four months since I've last seen her, she's taken yet another leap. Taller now, if one can describe a toddler as such. Talkative, speaking in primitive, but clear sentences. She still eyes me uncertainly, which many do in normal circumstances, so I can't hold it against her. The Doctor held her in both arms and began reciting the alphabet and she finished it from memory. Her hair has grown in, a thickening red tinted brunette. Her eyes are still bright, and she's walking with unsteady confidence from one parent to the next. She's good with reading, recognizes pictures and words, and I'm told she even sings.

I disdain children for the most part. But this one is a good citizen in training. As I grow deeper into fatigued adulthood, I expect I'll see her intermittently and that she'll just be smarter every time. The Doctor and his bride are doing well by the world with her. And while I despise the lazy bromide that children are the future, I may grudgingly subscribe to it if more of them displayed the raw potential of this one, and if more parents were the responsible, caring educators that the Duvaliers are proving themselves to be.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

In Which I Type Some Words without Undue Thought to Their Content (Or Indeed Even Their Order)

It’s been a busy day, it’s late, and I’ve nothing much on my mind, so this is going to be another lame post. The only really memorable experience of the last 24 hours was going to pick Baby Dog up at daycare last night. I rarely get to be in on the pick-up, but because I had the day off to get a blood pressure lecture, I was able to join Mama Dog. It was my first time since Baby Dog had moved down to the big kids’ floor. I’d heard about this phenomenon, but really didn’t believe it until I saw it with my own eyes: when we got to the daycare, Baby Dog was one of a row of babies sitting in a neat row against the wall, raptly attending to story time. There were only three or four children left when we got there, but I guess it starts out with the whole lot of them against the wall, sitting quietly. How do they do that? Baby Dog was so raptly intent on the story that she didn’t even notice us standing there until I said her name. They know them some baby tricks at daycare.

Monday, February 06, 2006

My Last Glass of Coke

The other night on the way home from work, I stopped at Wally’s World to get some Coca-Cola. When I got to the cooler, I saw that the bottle in front had a black bottle cap, rather than the customary red one. All the other bottles in the row had the usual red caps. I’m prone to superstitious reactions to little oddities like that, and some nights I might have reached past the black-topped bottle for an orthodox red one. This particular night I was of stout heart and unconcerned by omens. With relatively little internal debate, I took the black-topped bottle. I forgot all about it until later that evening when I pulled the bottle out of the bag to put it away. The sight of the black bottle top startled me; I thought for a second that the bottle was uncapped and that I was about to spill Coke all over the kitchen floor. Almost immediately, I remembered the odd bottle cap. I was relieved on the subject of potential spillage; in a more generalised way I remained uneasy for a while after. I rather wished I’d picked one of the run-of-the-mill bottles. This one seemed bound to mock me.

Today I had my follow-up with Dr. Homer. When I went in for my gouty finger (which turned out to more likely have been pseudogout, but never mind), he noted that my blood pressure was elevated. That could be the result of the pain from the pseudogouty finger, so he had me check my blood pressure a few times between then and now. It was, alas, consistently high. I’m so externally laid back it’s hard to see me as a candidate for high blood pressure, but internally I’m a roiling cauldron of hideous tension. More importantly, both my parents have high blood pressure and it’s a hereditary condition, so there you go.

Anyway, I knew going in that I’d be receiving a “time to change your lifestyle” lecture. Dr. Homer gave it a pretty soft sell all in all, which relieved me. I still have the palate of an eight-year-old. Left to my own devices, I have the diet of an eight-year-old with no adult supervision. While Mama Dog’s here to supervise, I have the diet of an eight-year-old rebelling against adult supervision. I eat my three healthy meals but I supplement with judicious doses of salt and sugar. Dr. Homer was particularly concerned about caffeine. I told him I don’t drink coffee, but generally have three cups of tea in a working day, and a glass of Coke with lunch and supper. As I was telling him this, I made one of the abrupt and definitive turns of the page that I’d be known for if anyone but I knew of them. I decided that my thirty-plus-year addiction to Atlanta’s finest had just come to an end. No half-measures. No caffeine free diet not-quite Coke. What the hell. I like 7-Up, which never had it and never will. Nobody’s telling me to cut sugar out yet, just caffeine.

So I went home and heated up a frozen lunch. My gaze wandered about the room, landing on the Coke bottle standing on the kitchen cabinet. I could tell with my experienced eye that it contained exactly one glass of Coke. The bottle was topped by that ominous black bottle cap. So that’s what the omen meant. The black spot wasn’t for me – it was for Coca-Cola. I popped off that black bottle cap and raised my last glass of Coca-Cola in toast to its self. Arrivederci, old friend. It’s been swell this past as-long-as-I-can-remember, but I’m afraid I’ll be going the rest of the way on my own.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Fun, Fun, Fun

We have an old joke here. Well, we have a bunch of old jokes here, but there’s one in particular I mean. It’s fairly simple. When we tell Baby Dog that something will be fun, I will intone, deadpan, “You’ll have fun, fun, fun, ’til I take the T-Bird away.” I said this often when Baby Dog was too little to understand the words, let alone the Beach Boys reference.

The joke went into hibernation, as jokes will, then it re-emerged once or twice in recent months. I didn’t think it had made any particular impression until the other morning when I was putting Baby Dog in the car. As part of the morning ritual, I tell her to be a good girl for her daycare provider. Then I try to get her to list the names of other kids at the daycare. “Who will you play with?” I ask. “Abigail? Liam?” Sometimes she says other names, sometimes not. The day in question, I improvised, “You’re going to have lots of fun.” Baby Dog replied, solemnly, “T-Bird away.”

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Annual Exhausting Ramp-Up to Oscar Night

It’s that time of year again, the time when I start trying to cram a year’s worth of mainstream filmgoing into thirty days, so as to have seen as many as possible of the movies on the Oscar ballot before Oscar night. All this is to ensure that I can make informed guesses on my ballot for my annual Oscar pool. I’ve actually done pretty well this year, with a number of the movies I saw during the course of the year turning up on the ballot with multiple nominations –
Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Syriana, Crash, Match Point, Cinderella Man, A History of Violence, Batman Begins, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (yes, that’s really a nominee, for Costume Design), Star Bores Ecchisode Three, and War of the Worlds – seen that lot, and that’s a large percentage of the ballot right there. I’ve made even further ground this weekend. Last night, Mama Dog and I saw Walk the Line and this morning I went by myself to see Munich. That’s ten nominations checked off the ballot right there. Not bad for one weekend. Still on the list: Hustle and Flow, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Transamerica, Pride and Prejudice, North Country, Junebug (whatever the hell that was), The Constant Gardener, Howl’s Moving Castle, Corpse Bride, Wallace and Gromit, King Kong, Memoirs of a Geisha, and The New World. I’m leaving out Chronicles of Narnia and the Harvey Potter movie because there are some lengths to which even I won’t go.

I don’t think either of the movies I saw this weekend pose a serious threat in most categories, and I surprised myself by enjoying Walk the Line more of the two. It’s essentially a remake of a movie from last year, with the “Ray Charles” character now named “Johnny Cash.” Seriously, except for the small matters of blindness and what tiny differences might have emerged growing up black vs. white in the pre-civil rights south, they led remarkably similar lives. This describes both guys: born dirt poor; lost a brother in childhood; became a famous musician; got addicted to (and busted for) drugs; screwed around on the wife; overcame demons to die rich, beloved, and happy.

Strangely, I also saw a parallel between Walk the Line and Munich. They’re both movies about young fathers whose jobs take them out on the road where they neglect their families and find themselves morally compromised. (One hero goes out to sing songs while the other goes out to assassinate terrorists; I’ll let you work out which is which.)

Anyway. I’m getting prepared. Those of you who are regular Oscar pool participants should be doing the same. Anyone out there who’s never entered the pool before but would like to give it a try, send me an email. All are welcome.

Friday, February 03, 2006

A Joke that Only Mama Dog and Charles Will Get

Q: What's Michael Jackson's favourite scotch?
A: Houghmagandie 12-year-old.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Return of the Half-Assed Numismatist

Long-time faversham followers will remember my inadvertent coin collection. In the wake of that post, I received assistance from several east coast readers in rounding out the “P” mintings I was missing. Time has passed, more quarters have come out, and I find my lame-ass collection is once again filled with gaps. If anybody in the eastern U.S. would like to cater to my stupid obsession, I’m in need of “P” mintings of the following quarters:

West Virginia
and (if you’ve seen it yet, which I haven’t) Nevada

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Valentine’s Day

Tonight, Mama Dog and I took advantage of Halmonie’s babysitting services to go out for dinner a deux. Mama Dog selected Café Rouge as our destination. On the way there, she commented that she’d thought of going there for Valentine’s Day, but knew how difficult it would be to get a reservation and how many other things we’ll have going on that week anyway. That led to a shared rumination on the pointlessness of such manufactured holidays and why we should be expected to set aside one “love day” per year when we so pointedly love and cherish one another day in and day out. “Why the 14th?” Mama Dog asked. “Why not the day before, or the day after?” “Well, why don’t’ we just have Valentine’s Day dinner at Café Rouge tonight?” I asked. So that’s what we did. It was the most atypical V-Day dinner I’ve ever had – probably because nobody else had noticed that it was Valentine’s Day on February 1st. The place was half-empty when we arrived and there was precious little canoodling to be seen. Mostly, the place seemed to be catering to people who’d just gotten off work. We had a good, leisurely meal, and talked about things other than whether or not we remember the cow (a recurrent inquiry from Baby Dog). I even had a glass of wine. We didn’t linger after dessert because we both missed our girl, but it was a very pleasant Valentine’s dinner, not least because we acknowledged that it takes more than one little day in the shortest month of the year to contain the love we have for each other.