b Papa Dog's Blog: May 2006

Papa Dog's Blog

A Thing Wherein I Infrequently Write Some Stuff

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Papa Dog Holds No Monopoly On Lame Posts

See, it's tough to work and blog and have a life, so I do have a lot of sympathy for poor Dr. Duvalier, for his life includes wife, child, and quasi-professional textual activities. But the thing is, the guy's a good writer, and, well, a twenty-two month streak is a terrible thing to break. So here I am at the office, after midnight, listening to John Zorn and saying it ain't so.

My guess? The poor bastard needs a nap. So sleep, good Doctor. Let your friends pick up the slack. And if you really are putting down the Faversham for a while, know that we have sincerely appreciated the great effort that you've put into it these long months. You're good with the words, and that ought not go unsung. We're glad you've put them down, from the tales of pre-marital waste to the love notes to the wife, the smart-ass analyses of children's narratives, the passionate plea for your adopted country, even the cute bits about making the baby laugh.

Thanks, Doc. Don't stay in that sick room too long.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Reality Check

I guess it’s time to face the fact that something has to give, and that’s it’s going to have to be this faversham. I’ll be back when I have something to say and time to say it.

Monday, May 29, 2006

To Him, Life Is a Great Big Bang-Up

So, Mama Dog did a little thrift store shopping a while back and returned, somewhat mysteriously, with a Spider-Man t-shirt for Baby Dog. Even more mysteriously, this shirt quickly became one of the little girl’s favourites. She had no context for Spider-Man, no familiarity with the character. Possibly she just liked the colours or the sound of the name, I don’t know. In the natural way of things, I eventually succumbed to the temptation to sing what I could remember of the Spider-Man cartoon theme song while putting the shirt on her. Soon, she was requesting the song from me. I scoured the Napster for the original, to no avail. Eventually, I found an appealing lounge arrangement by something called the Gabe Lee 3, and added that to Baby Dog’s Greatest Hits. Now the song is a staple of meal times (on Napster) and bedtime (me singing to her). I never thought I’d have to re-learn the peculiar syntax of “Wealth and fame? He’s ignored.” Nor did I ever think I’d be able to sing “Is he strong? Listen, bud, he’s got radioactive blood” without laughing. But that’s what fatherhood does to you. For those not in the know, here are the words:

Spider-man, Spider-man
Does whatever a spider can
Spins a web, any size
Catches thieves, just like flies
Look out! Here comes the Spider-man!

Is he strong? Listen, Bud!
He's got radioactive blood.
Can he swing from a thread?
Take a look overhead.
Hey there, there goes the Spider-man!

In the chill of night,
At the scene of the crime
Like a streak of light
He arrives just in time

Spider-man, Spider-man
Friendly neighborhood Spider-man
Wealth and fame, he's ignored
Action is his reward

To him, life is a great big bang-up
Wherever there's a hang-up
You'll find the Spider-man!


The sunlight catches the city by surprise. It came so gradually, this slide towards summer. The city feels like someone who was dejected in life and suddenly found himself in the embrace of a new infatuation. Winter was easy, but it doesn't change the flush of pleasure that comes with the first unpleasantly warm day when the gals walk about in flimsy clothes and men dress with more attention paid to comfort than to style. Gone are the layers of gore-tex and wool; sweat beads collect upon our brows and the trash starts to smell just a tiny bit pungent.

I was sitting in the park when the sky began to turn. Twenty Puerto Rican guys were playing futbol and I was reading Knut Hamsun, writing me a letter from the Norwegian wildneress, condemning the lifestyle of the city-dweller and his disconnect from nature. The street noise surrounded the park and would be interrupted by the occasional songbird. The sky was blue and open, the sun gave off a rejuvenating burn. But from the distance the dark clouds marched in like a passing battalion. Great thunderheads that boomed and flickered. The rain came first in occasional fat droplets and quickly increased its tempo, turning the field immediately to mud. The children scurried off the swings and beneath their parents umbrellas. The Puerto Rican dudes continued their game, just like the professionals, and I put my book in the dry safety of my bag.

The rain passed in a quarter hour and I was soaked to the skin. The sun was back out and I walked across Brooklyn, letting its warm embrace dry my soggy clothes. Small steam came off the bricks of apartment houses as the water returned to the sky. The flimsy dresses were back out from under cover of awnings and tap rooms. This city has left behind the slow solitude of winter. It is a great moment, like the start of a relationship, where the lonely cold is gone, but the oppressive heat of routine has not yet set in.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Still no New Leaves

But soon. Really.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

After the Party

We had a big party today. It wasn’t in our house at least, but it still involved a lot of schlepping and toting and much jumping through of logistical hoops. We are knackered. So no new leaves tonight.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Doggy Dog is a Red Stater

The other morning, Baby Dog was indulging in her recently acquired pre-meal ritual of looking inside the fridge (the “refrigelator” as she puts it) and identifying the contents of the Tupperware and other containers therein. “Strawberries! Avocado! Cheese! Yogurt!” As it happened, one of the Tupperware containers housed the leftovers from the previous night’s beef soup. When she reached up at it, Doggy Dog, who’d been unobtrusively monitoring her actions, lunged. It was no big deal, really. I was standing between them and at his first movement I said “No!” sharply, and he stopped on a dime and retreated. Baby Dog never even noticed, she was so absorbed in the contents of the refrigelator. But it was a sobering reminder of the wisdom of our doggy/baby apartheid policy. She’ll never be in the same room with him without close supervision. There’s just no telling when his little doggy brain is going to interpret Baby Dog’s benign curiosity as a threat to his food supply.

I told Mama Dog the story, and she got a little freaked out. Halmonie got very freaked out at third hand when Mama Dog passed it along. It revived the idea of finding a new home for Doggy Dog, though only briefly and not too seriously. “He sees her near the meat and thinks he’s acting in his own best interest to defend his food,” I said. “He has no idea that he’s doing the worst thing he can possibly do for his own well being.” That sounded familiar to me. After a moment’s thought, I realised why. “He’s like a lower income Republican,” I said. Mama Dog laughed. “The meat is patriotism.” Yes. It’s the American flag. It’s a partial birth abortion ban. It’s the God-given freedom to deny basic civil rights to homosexuals. “Yeah,” I said, “it’s what he thinks he has to protect, but acting to protect it just puts him that much closer to losing his place in this house.” Protecting the flag and the unborn and the traditional definition of marriage only gets him a big tax cut for people way richer than himself and a gradual dismantling of the regulations and social services that are there to protect him.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Featuring Guest Blogger Oscar Wilde

Last time I do this, promise. Take it away, Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde.

The artist is the creator of beautiful things. To reveal art and conceal the artist is art's aim. The critic is he who can translate into another manner or a new material his impression of beautiful things.

The highest, as the lowest, form of criticism is a mode of autobiography. Those who find ugly meanings in beautiful things are corrupt without being charming. This is a fault.

Those who find beautiful meanings in beautiful things are the cultivated. For these there is hope. They are the elect to whom beautiful things means only Beauty.

There is no such thing as a moral or an immoral book. Books are well written, or badly written. That is all.

The nineteenth century dislike of Realism is the rage of Caliban seeing his own face in a glass.

The nineteenth century dislike of Romanticism is the rage of Caliban not seeing his own face in a glass. The moral life of man forms part of the subject-matter of the artist, but the morality of art consists in the perfect use of an imperfect medium.

No artist desires to prove anything. Even things that are true can be proved. No artist has ethical sympathies. An ethical sympathy in an artist is an unpardonable mannerism of style. No artist is ever morbid. The artist can express everything.

Thought and language are to the artist instruments of an art. Vice and virtue are to the artist materials for an art. From the point of view of form, the type of all the arts is the art of the musician. From the point of view of feeling, the actor's craft is the type. All art is at once surface and symbol. Those who go beneath the surface do so at their peril.

Those who read the symbol do so at their peril. It is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors. Diversity of opinion about a work of art shows that the work is new, complex, and vital. When critics disagree the artist is in accord with himself. We can forgive a man for making a useful thing as long as he does not admire it. The only excuse for making a useless thing is that one admires it intensely.

All art is quite useless.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Featuring Guest Blogger Joseph Conrad

After yesterday’s post, it would be just to mortifying to come back to you without a solid piece of prose. I don’t have one of my own handy, so I’ll have to turn to an actual GOOD (though dead) writer to fill in for me. Take it away, Mr. Korzeniowski.

“And this also,” said Marlow suddenly, “has been one of the dark places of the earth.”

He was the only man of us who still “followed the sea.” The worst that could be said of him was that he did not represent his class. He was a seaman, but he was a wanderer, too, while most seamen lead, if one may so express it, a sedentary life. Their minds are of the stay-at-home order, and their home is always with them—the ship; and so is their country—the sea. One ship is very much like another, and the sea is always the same. In the immutability of their surroundings the foreign shores, the foreign faces, the changing immensity of life, glide past, veiled not by a sense of mystery but by a slightly disdainful ignorance; for there is nothing mysterious to a seaman unless it be the sea itself, which is the mistress of his existence and as inscrutable as Destiny. For the rest, after his hours of work, a casual stroll or a casual spree on shore suffices to unfold for him the secret of a whole continent, and generally he finds the secret not worth knowing. The yarns of seamen have a direct simplicity, the whole meaning of which lies within the shell of a cracked nut. But Marlow was not typical (if his propensity to spin yarns be excepted), and to him the meaning of an episode was not inside like a kernel but outside, enveloping the tale which brought it out only as a glow brings out a haze, in the likeness of one of these misty halos that sometimes are made visible by the spectral illuminination of moonshine.

His remark did not seem at all surprising. It was just like Marlow. It was accepted in silence. No one took the trouble to grunt even; and presently he said, very slow:

“I was thinking of very old times, when the Romans first came here, nineteen hundred years ago—the other day. . . Light came out of this river since—you say Knights? Yes; but it is like a running blaze on a plain, like a flash of lightning in the clouds. We live in the flicker—may it last as long as the old earth keeps rolling! But darkness was here yesterday. Imagine the feelings of a commander of a fine—what d’ye call ‘em?—trireme in the Mediterranean, ordered suddenly to the north run overland across the Gauls in a hurry; put in charge of one of these craft the legionaries—a wonderful lot of handy men they must have been, too—used to build, apparently by the hundred, in a month or two, if we may believe what we read. Imagine him here—the very end of the world, a sea the colour of lead, a sky the colour of smoke, a kind of ship about as rigid as a concertina—and going up this river with stores, or orders, or what you like. Sand-banks, marshes, forests, savages,—precious little to eat fit for a civilized man, nothing but Thames water to drink. No Falernian wine here, no going ashore. Here and there a military camp lost in a wilderness, like a needle in a bundle of hay—cold, fog, tempests, disease, exile, and death—death skulking in the air, in the water, in the bush. They must have been dying like flies here. Oh, yes—he did it. Did it very well, too, no doubt, and without thinking much about it either, except afterwards to brag of what he had gone through in his time, perhaps. They were men enough to face the darkness. And perhaps he was cheered by keeping his eye on a chance of promotion to the fleet at Ravenna by and by, if he had good friends in Rome and survived the awful climate. Or think of a decent young citizen in a toga—perhaps too much dice, you know—coming out here in the train of some prefect, or tax-gatherer, or trader even, to mend his fortunes. Land in a swamp, march through the woods, and in some inland post feel the savagery, the utter savagery, had closed round him—all that mysterious life of the wilderness that stirs in the forest, in the jungles, in the hearts of wild men. There’s no initiation either into such mysteries. He has to live in the midst of the incomprehensible, which is also detestable. And it has a fascination, too, that goes to work upon him. The fascination of the abomination—you know, imagine the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate.”

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Brownstein, Nixon, Leaves

I saw Brownstein when I was on my secret mission. One of the first things he said to me was “I’ve got a funny present for you.” It turned out to be a vintage inflatable Nixon punching bag, acquired somewhere in NYC, the place where you can find anything. What fun for the whole family! I wish I could find a picture of it on the Internets. It catered to the obsession with Nixon shared by Mama Dog and yrs. sincerely, and is a fine addition to the household objects that Baby Dog can point at and accurately say “Nixon!” Moreover, it’s a small dummy, just the right size for Baby Dog to play with, which she’s been doing since I brought it home. Not, like, continuously, but, you know, regularly. Like.

Anyway, another gift Brownstein passed on was that of judicious disapprobation. He didn’t say it in so many words, but he took me to task for letting the faversham go down the crapper. It’s true I’ve had way too much on my plate for quite some time and have been giving this page especially short shrift. That’s as should be, of course – if this thing was my top priority, there’d be cause for worry. Still, I’ve felt bad for some time for not keeping up my end of the entertainment compact, and while I can’t promise to turn over a new leaf and keep it overturned, let it be known that I’m giving actual thought to how I might make this a more substantial faversham on a regular basis.

Just not tonight.

Monday, May 22, 2006

This Still Won’t Be a Proper Post, But….

I was only gone three nights, but Baby Dog seemed noticeably older to me when I return. More mature. She was standing in the living room, playing with Halmonie when I walked in the front door. She looked at me with jaw-dropped amazement, which turned into a big grin. Had she thought I wasn’t coming back? Who knows. I tried to explain every night for a week before I went away: “Daddy’s going on a trip. He’ll be gone tomorrow, which is Thursday, and he’ll be gone on Friday and Saturday, but he’ll come back Sunday.” By the time I left, she was repeating the whole spiel back to me, but I don’t think she understood much of it. The first thing she said to me on my return was “Kiss,” so I knelt down to give her one. She patted my stubbled face. “Beard,” she said. “A little bit,” I answered. “Do you want Daddy to grow his beard back?” “Beard,” she replied, patting my chin again.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Papa Dog is Back…

…and will get back to posting tomorrow. Thanks to Mama Dog for holding down the fort in my absence.

Saturday, May 20, 2006


You must have seen those magazine ads for American Express, the "My Card" campaign featuring such celebrities as Kate Winslet and Ken Watanabe. If you haven't, the two-page spread shows said celebrity in a soulful pose -- obviously in the midst of deep contemplation -- to convey a sense of tranquilty and fulfillment. Of course those qualities are the polar opposite of what is normally associated with credit cards: greed for material things or despair over insurmountable debt. A questionnaire appears on the verso and features open-ended questions that have been allegedly answered by the featured celebrity in its own handwriting.

Here's a sample:

Proudest moment - When I gain trust from someone.
Biggest challenge - Life.
Perfect day - Searching for something I cannot reach.
Inspiration - I am inspired by so many things every day.
My life - is about taking my own path.
My card - is American Express.

That's all fine and dandy for Mr. Watanabe (who, from the photograph seems to have a bit of an equestrian fetish). But here's what I'd say:

Proudest moment - Holding my brand-new baby girl for the first time and thinking, "I made this!"

Biggest challenge - keeping the house clean

Perfect day - Sleep until 8 a.m., then have Papa Dog tie me down with rope so that I am not tempted to run around all day completing tasks.

Inspiration - Pristine water occuring in a natural setting.

My life - is what I have made it. I blame nobody.

My card - is usually Mastercard, except for when I buy gas, in which case it's American Express because that's all Costco accepts.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Splinter, Snail, & Bedtime

I found a wood splinter on Baby Dog's palm the other day. I was going about my usual business of wiping Baby's hands after supper in what we call minty bubbles (a metal bowl of warm, peppermint soapy water) and spied the puffy, red sore. "Oh no!" I exclaimed to Halmonie; "Baby Dog has her first splinter!" Halmonie said, "Oh no, eek! I can't possible do it! You do it!" and went into the next room. "Of course I'll do it," I thought, and proceeded to sterilize a sewing needle and my Tweezerman in a shotglass of rubbing alcohol. I then lifted Baby Dog onto my lap, took her hand, and began making a small hole in her skin out of which to pull the splinter. All the while, I reassured Baby Dog by telling her that we were going to use "Mr. Tweezer" to pull the splinter out and that she'd be okay. Baby Dog withstood the operation like a champ, until the needle pricking started to hurt. There was a bit of fussing, but no all-out bawling or screaming. After a couple of attempts, I pulled the offending piece of wood out and said, "All better!"

I find it amazing that, when kids have no preconception of something scary (e.g., a needle poking at their skin), they are fearless. Baby Dog regarded the sharp needle that I was about to jab into her flesh and didn't even flinch. Until I started poking and prodding too vigorously. I'll bet that next time she has a splinter, she'll recoil in fear when I get out the needle and tweezers. But maybe not. She's has a high tolerance for pain and discomfort, our girl does.

I've never removed a splinter from anyone's body but my own, but when I saw that Baby Dog had a need, I jumped right to the task with no fear. In a way, it was the opposite experience of what I've just described. While tweezing Baby Dog's wound, I could not shake the mental image of Ian Holm cutting a hole in his daughter's neck (to prevent her from dying of a spider bite) in that heart-breaking film by Atom Egoyan, The Sweet Hereafter. No fear at all. While I am all too aware of the scariness of certain situations, when my daughter is in danger or is hurt, I am all over it without a second thought.

Shellicky Booky

It rained in the East Bay today, which meant that the snails were out in full force. I found several on my evening dog walk and, on a whim, brought one into the house and placed it on the ledge of the bathtub while Baby Dog underwent her nightly ablution. We stared at it for a long time before it gathered the courage to put out its horns and start sliming along the porcelain. When it finally did, I said: "Okay, that's enough of that," and swiftly crushed the pathetic mollusk under my shoe. Well, no I didn't. I took it outside and placed it in a puddle on our front steps. But when I was a kid, I'd think nothing of crushing snails under my feet. What a sadistic little brat I was!

* * *

A Break in the Routine

Tonight bedtime was easy. After Baby Dog's bath, I read her "The Cat in the Hat Comes Back" (less fun than the original), sang her a couple of songs on the rocking chair (Dites Moi, Bicycle Built for Two, and Hush Little Baby), said "night-night," and put her in her crib to sleep. There was no "Start beginning" or any kind of fuss whatsoever. I was not even asked to go around the room so that Baby Dog could touch her owl, the moon, the pinecone, the ampersand, and other decor. We successfully broke from the bedtime routine! Perhaps our daughter is feeling more control over her world, therefore has less of a need to institute rituals for everything.

By Twizzle

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Guest Blogging - Day 1

Didn't get a lick of sleep last night, thanks to the horrors of the Bay Area real estate market! To make a long story short, Halmonie, her Realtor, and I are involved in a bidding war with a seller that, to any sane person, would seem to border on the criminal. I'm talkin' Enron-type scandalous! Don't pay no mind to anyone saying the market's turning soft; it's still a total seller's market out there and a cut-throat one at that. The good thing about all this? Our house has at least tripled in price since we bought it in 2001. Too bad we ain't sellin'.

I've caught Baby Dog's cold and, on top of the insomnia, I'm cranky as all hell. No filters on anything I say when I'm this out of it. In an HR "work values" feedback session today I complained bitterly that my institution's compensation is shit. Then, I told a co-worker that the HR Director (a woman) looks like Bill Gates. You can't insult someone much lower than that. Okay - maybe Donald Trump. On the positive side, Papa Dog is off on a cool secret mission right now. Too bad we can't discuss on this faversham.

Last - Doggy Dog's bubo-like growth is showing no signs of improvement/shrinkage. I've been spraying the affected area twice a day, but it's still sore. He's gonna have to have the thing surgically removed, but not until we've taken him to the vet for bloodwork, first. What a total ass-pain. Well, more for him than for us. Poor doggie. He's 9 years old -- approximately equal to 56 in human years.

By Twizzle

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

On Vacation

Papa Dog’s taking a little vacation. Mama Dog will fill in for the next few days. Maybe she’ll tell you about Baby Dog and the splinter. See you next week.

Shellicky Bookey

Baby Dog’s new favourite song is another one from the Clancy Brothers, a very brief ditty that’s part of the “Children’s Medley” on In Person at Carnegie Hall. It goes:

Shellicky shellicky bookey
Put out all your hor-ns
All the ladies are comin’ to see-ee ya

If for some reason you weren’t already aware of it, a shellicky bookey (spelling approximate) is a snail, and the intent of the song is to coax a snail out of its shell. Baby Dog learned of this song in the aftermath of a snail sighting wherein the snail was relieving itself. I wasn’t there, but Mama Dog swears that’s what happened. Our routine now is that Baby Dog requests “Shellicky Bookey,” I dutifully sing it baritone, and she solemnly observes “Snail take a poo.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

And If She Hadn’t Deleted Her Old Blog, I Could Link to the Post that Proves It

I was on an elevator today with two young ladies, chattersome twentysomethings. Big Blonde Girl was carrying on an apparently continuously streaming monologue for the benefit of Rapt Small Asian Girl. From the time the door closed on the ground floor to the time it opened on my floor maybe thirty seconds elapsed. During that time, I counted seven “likes” and three “y’knows” from BBG. I only started counting after she’d been at it long enough that it started to annoy me, so I estimate the full total for the thirty second trip was somewhere in the neighbourhood of twenty “likes” and ten “y’knows.” It didn’t really irritate me that much, but it would have pissed Mama Dog off.

Monday, May 15, 2006

A Short But Peaceful Night’s Sleep

Hey, Baby Dog slept all night last night! I was still short of sleep because I stayed up late, but still. No screaming fits in the wee hours. That really makes a difference. Unfortunately, with nothing to complain about and a way too busy week looming ahead, faversham inspiration is scant. So let’s just leave off until tomorrow.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Tough Mother's Day Morning

Baby Dog woke up at one-something Saturday a.m., howling like a bean sidhe, responding to all sleep-restoring gambits with the same screeched two-word complaint: “Start begiiiinnnnnniiiiiiinnnnnng!!!!” This went on for an hour, virtually non-stop high-decibel screeches and tears. It was probably necessary for us to be reminded that, as verbal as she is, Baby Dog’s really not yet old enough to be a truly reasonable creature, and that once such a tantrum begins meaningful communication of any kind becomes impossible. Mama Dog was the one who finally figured it out, by recognising the tone of the scream; it was the same as her pre-verbal “hungry” cry. We put her in the high chair, gave her a bran muffin, and we were all back to sleep within fifteen minutes.

This morning, Baby Dog woke up screaming again, though she let us sleep in until almost five. We again took turns trying to get her settled to no avail. It didn’t seem possible she was hungry again – unlike Friday night, she ate a full supper last night – but the sound was the same, so Mama Dog gave her breakfast. Unfortunately, while we were ready to go back to sleep after that, Baby Dog was convinced it was time for the day to start. I piled a bunch of her books in her crib and Mama Dog and I tried to catch the necessary few winks while the girl entertained herself. Around seven it became clear that Baby Dog wasn’t going to go back to sleep and, furthermore, she was tired of her literary selections. I hauled myself out of bed and took Baby Dog into the living room. I set her in front of her Mr. Potato Head set and curled up on the couch under an afghan, bobbing up and down about the meniscus of consciousness. Baby Dog looked up from the potato parts and said “Daddy is lying down on the blanket.” She had the order wrong – the blanket was on me, not the other way around – but I was impressed by the complexity of the sentence. Seven words. I’m pretty sure that’s her longest one yet.

Around nine, I got up to give her a snack, and shortly after that Mama Dog got up, having achieved as much of a Mother’s Day sleep-in as she deemed possible. All four of us – Papa, Mama, Baby, and Doggy – went out on a family walk, our two-year-running Mother’s Day tradition. We went to Bloomies to buy Mummy some flowers. I don’t think we took Doggy Dog last year, and he made things difficult this year, yelping when we had to stand too long in the flower line. Baby Dog fell asleep in the stroller on the way home, something she hasn’t done in ages (mostly because we’ve largely stopped using the stroller since she got the hang of walking). She was in her crib snoozing peacefully at 11 a.m., and a peaceful Mother’s Day midmorning descended.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Baby Dog’s Latest Amazing Feat

When Neighbour Mike went out of town, I agreed to pick up his mail for him. As it happened, I was home from work for a few days so I could be sure to get the mail shortly after it was delivered. I’d pop around the corner a few times every day with Baby Dog in tow. We’d walk around the corner, looking at the sights along the way, and go straight on to Neighbour Mike’s mailbox. If the mail hadn’t yet arrived I’d say, “No mail yet,” and we’d head home.

Today, Baby Dog asked to go out for a little stroll. I didn’t feel like crossing the street to check out the house with the kittycats, so instead we took a left turn at the corner, taking us in the direction of Neighbour Mike’s house. When Baby Dog caught sight of his front door and his empty mailbox, she said, “No mail yet.”

Now here’s the thing: that time Neighbour Mike was out of town? It was last year, end of August, start of September. Baby Dog was barely over a year old and only speaking isolated words…lots of words, but not much in the way of phrases or sentences. She never repeated the phrase “No mail yet” back then. I’ve never had occasion to repeat it in the context of Neighbour Mike’s house. But somehow she has retained it well enough to dredge it up eight months later. I know this won’t come as news, but I hopelessly marvel.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Good Night, Irene

Hey. I’m tired and drawing a blank, but I’ve been doing pretty well with the faversham the last while, so I’m not going to waste any guilt on this. I’ll write something more substantial tomorrow.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

A Sick and Tardy Commute

I ran into Papa Funkadelic on the BART platform this morning. He asked how I was doing and I said “Out on my feet.” I felt completely fine yesterday and was sure I’d be good to go to work in the morning. I was even okay when Baby Dog got us up fifteen minutes before the alarm. For some reason, though, once I ate my Oatmeal Crisp and Raisin, I started feeling queasy again, and by the time I was waiting for the train I felt like I could potentially pass out and pitch forward into the tracks. Fortunately, if it came to that there was someone in front of me to break my fall. I explained all this to Papa Funkadelic. “I think maybe the Oatmeal Crisp and Raisin is tainted,” I said. “Maybe it’s just the thought of going back to work that’s making you sick,” he suggested. “Could be.” “Either you need to change your cereal or get rid of your job.” I pondered that. “It’s probably easier to quit my job,” I decided.*

The talk turned, for convoluted reasons, to Politics and Prose, as Papa Funkadelic said, “One of the last big independent bookstores.” “Cody’s on Telegraph,” I said, not at all a non sequitur. “I almost choked up when I read that,” P. Funk. said. “I worked there for seven years.” Indeed, Telegraph will not be itself without Cody’s, but I don’t want to dwell on that now. I’m sure I’ve quoted Sam Krichinksy hereinbefore: “If I knew things would no longer be, I would have tried to remember better.” Well, I know that things will no longer be, and I still don’t think I’m remembering them well enough. Let’s all remember everything we can about Cody’s on Telegraph.

By and by a train was announced. The BART system had apparently been recovering from delays by the time I made my late arrival, and though they were supposedly back on schedule it had already been a long wait for the train. I was second in line, and there was a horde behind me. The sign announced that it would be an 8 car train. If you don’t commute in the Bay Area this means nothing to you, but a full-length BART train is 10 cars long. In commute hours, the difference between 10 cars and 8 cars is the difference between a pleasant 20-minute ride to work and an eternity with your face in some mouth-breather’s armpit. “If it’s packed, I’m not getting on,” I said. “I’m not feeling well enough to ride in a jammed up car.” “Next one’s not for 15 minutes,” P. Funk. said. I told him about the system delays. “There’s probably an unannounced one two minutes behind,” I said. “That’s what I’m gambling on, anyway.” “Well, I’ve gotta take this one,” he said, and when the train pulled up he did just that, cramming himself into an already crowded car. I don’t think this occurred to him, but he probably pissed off eight or ten people behind us. P. Funk., I’m sad to say, cut line to come talk to me, and his ostensible line buddy didn’t even get on the train with him.

I’m still sure I made the right decision not to get on that train – I would have suffocated before I got to the tube. But the decision, sadly, was based on wishful thinking and faulty intel, like most bad decisions these days. There was no next train two minutes behind. Only another 8-car train fifteen minutes away. So I made my second bad decision. When the Pittsburg Bay Point train showed up, I decided to ride back one stop to Orinda. I calculated that I should make it there with a minute to spare to catch the SF train and maybe have enough of a head start to get a seat. As it happened, either the SF train was early or my train ran slow; as the door on my train opened at Orinda, I watched the doors on the SF train across the platform close. It was pulling away before I was halfway across the platform, and the next train wasn’t for thirteen minutes.

That’s when I called V the GL at work and asked her to put a sign up on my computer saying that with any luck I’d be in by ten.

The silver lining was that when that train finally arrived thirteen minutes later, it was a 10-card train and only sparsely populated. I was able to sit down and even nap all the way to Embarcadero. When I debarked, the queasiness was gone, and I’ve felt better all day. Maybe it’s just the morning commute that’s making me sick. I’ll let you know tomorrow.
*Do not fret, Mama Dog! I was merely making a humorous sally! Gainfully employed I shall remain!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Another Sick Day

I was at my desk yesterday afternoon when it started sinking in to me that I’d been kind of dizzy and out of it all day. Once I noticed that, I realised that I’d also been kind of tired and achy and bordering on nauseous. You’d think I’d notice this sort of thing sooner but, well, there you have it. I thought maybe some fresh air would do the trick so I went out and walked around the block. Did you know that outlet bookstore is gone? All boarded up. Wonder when that happened. Guess it’s been a while since I walked around the block. Or left the building. Anyway, I felt a bit more alert when I got back to the office, but as soon as I sat back down all I could think about was how badly I wanted to lie down and take a nap. I actually considered going back to the hidden hallway by the low-rise elevators and curling up on the floor. That’s when it finally occurred to me that I needed to go home.

Fortunately, there had been hardly any work all day anyway. I put a sign up on my computer and made arrangements for someone to come in in the evening if necessary. Then I went home and went to bed. So far as I can recall, I’ve never had the flu in my adult life, but I think that’s what it was. I was slightly feverish and totally lethargic. I spent most of the night in bed, getting up only to put away the dishes (a task I refuse to delegate – long story) and help put Baby Dog to sleep. I hadn’t really wanted to do the latter because I feared exposing her to my pestilence, but she just wouldn’t put up with this unauthorised change in routine. She does this thing where she calls out “Here comes Daddy! Here comes Daddy!” and it starts out as a hopeful invocation and ends up in a tearful lament. It’s very difficult to resist. “Daddy’s not feeling well” and “Daddy’s sick” and “Daddy has to go to bed” just wouldn’t give me a pass. I took her on The Tour and sang her a song and tried to breathe away from her, and eventually she settled down. I hope she doesn’t carry on like that when I’m out of town later on.

I was asleep by 10 a.m. and got to sleep in to the decadent hour of 6:45 and have since spent the day mostly watching my stories and lazing about. I’m feeling much improved and think I’ll be good to go back to work tomorrow. Seems like one or the other of us has been under the weather continuously for a while. We took turns having colds, then Baby Dog had the weird vomiting thing, then Doggy Dog had his growth, now this. Being sick sucks, if you were wondering.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

First Profanity

[Papa Dog is taking a break from blogging due to illness. Today's post is by Twizzle (Mama Dog).]

On Sunday, Baby Dog uttered a vulgar expletive for the first time. Not out of the blue, of course. She was merely repeating what I had said seconds earlier when a stupid slow driver was taking too long to pull out of the parking lot at the Mexican restaurant where we had just eaten with the Pirates.

Most of the time, I am remarkably restrained when it comes to swearing. Around the house, I'm all like "Shoot!" and "Darn!" and "Oh my goodness!" when a diarrhea-soaked diaper drips poo on the floor or I accidentally fling my strawberry into a pile of dog fluff, rendering it inedible. It's only when I get behind the wheel does my mouth become pottified.

"Fuck!" I exclaimed at the slow-ass driver. "Fuck," Baby Dog echoed. "Bwa ha ha!" I chortled to Papa Dog. "Did you hear that?" "Yes," said Papa Dog. "Ignore it and DON'T LAUGH." I couldn't help but titter for the next five minutes about Baby Dog's outburst. She had uttered the word so clearly and so without context. It was got-damned funny and will most certainly be written up in the Baby Dog Book of Firsts.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Trainspotting with the Yellow Kid

Last night we had dinner with the Pirates at Picante, then the lot of us went to a playground the Pirates knew near Aquatic Park, where we could do a little trainspotting. Trains are Baby Dog’s new thing, but so far she’s only seen them in books or the miniature steam version at Tilden Park. We wanted her to see a great big air-fouling, plains-despoiling, buffalo-eradicating freight train. This particular playground is set right behind a heavily traveled line of track, and Mama Pirate promised trains went by on no more than fifteen minute intervals. As it turned out, I think it was more frequent than that. We couldn’t have been there more than half an hour, but we saw four Amtrak trains and one small freight train. Baby Dog got to see them very clearly as they passed by, and was most excited. It was a shame that there wasn’t a good long freight train with all the cars she’s learned from her books (cattle, tank, gondola, box, hopper, tender, engine, caboose), but one can’t have everything.

As almost a by-product of the trainspotting trip, Baby Dog actually played in the playground. She showed more interest in trying out rides and playing with toys than she ever has before, at least in my presence. She went on both baby swings and (closely monitored) big kid swings. She went down the slide a bunch of times. She played in a sandbox with Baby Pirate.

We also – and I hesitate to post about this because it’s mean of me to say but not so mean I still can’t help finding it funny – met a child who was a dead ringer for The Yellow Kid, right down to the Deliverance hair style and the peculiar nightshirt garment (though the kid we met was in pink or something rather than yellow). As we left the playground I said, “Is it just me or was that The Yellow Kid?” The Pirates, who know their comic strip history, laughed and agreed. Mama Dog, who doesn’t, was nonplussed. When we got home, I Googled this Image and she burst out laughing because no, it wasn’t just me.

Sunday, May 07, 2006


For some reason, whenever the car has to go to the shop so does the dog and vice versa. Mama Dog got stranded on the freeway last week on account of what turned out to be an expensively cracked radiator. Doggy Dog has had a sore on his right rear haunch that he’s been persistently worrying for a month or two, and we’ve been too deficient as doggy parents to have time to take care of it. In our defence – slim as it is – we kept thinking it would surely heal soon.

Anyway, we took Doggy Dog in for a tune-up today and fortunately the vet didn’t seem that shocked by the wound. She wasn’t 100% sure what it was because it was too small to properly biopsy without cutting the whole thing off. It’s most likely a benign cyst, though there is a chance it’s something more serious. She gave us some topical spray which will make it go away in a couple of weeks if it’s just the cyst. If it doesn’t go away in two weeks, Doggy Dog will have surgery in his future, to remove the thing entirely. Is it just me, or was pet ownership a simpler and less costly thing in our parents’ day? Back then, if your dog had cancer it was generally diagnosed post-mortem if at all. Well, it’s our day now. Doggy Dog, neglected though he’s been, is part of a family of four. We’ll give him the spray and hope he has a benign cyst. If it’s something worse, he’ll get the surgery. We’d do as much for the car, after all; and it isn’t even a member of the family.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

A Tiny Bit of Potpourri

Darby day, and my horse didn’t even finish in the money. That’s okay because I was ironically one of the few in my family who didn’t put any money on it. Betting on horses? That’s trusting to chance. Give me poker any day.

On a completely unrelated topic – if “cupboard” is generally pronounced “cubbard,” why isn’t “clipboard” pronounced “clibberd?”

Friday, May 05, 2006

Doctor’s Orders

Okay, that was an error. Baby Dog’s symptoms didn’t match up with what the doctor predicted if she had the dreaded gastro bug, so we got a bit lax in the area of following advice. We gave her some Pedialyte as directed, and she liked that okay, but when supper rolled around, it was very difficult to tell that she’d ever been sick. She bounced to her feet and scurried kitchenward, yelling “Suppertime for Baby Dog!” which is what she’s been doing these days. Actually, sometimes she says “Breakfast time for Baby Dog!” or “Lunch time for Baby Dog!” Matching the rallying cry to the actual meal is pretty hit and miss.

She was clearly eager to eat, and Mama Dog had prepared some bland and cautious dishes for her. A bit of rice, a bit of tofu, water, and Pedialyte. She gobbled that up with such gusto that we got lulled. When she saw what we were having – leftover pesto pasta – she reached out and yelled “Want some!” Pesto pasta is one of her absolute favourites. She eats garlic like she fears a vampire invasion. We let her have some pasta. That kind of understates it. It was all we could do to restrain her from leaping out of her highchair and grabbing the pasta while we waited for it to cool down.

Shortly after I posted last night, Baby Dog woke up crying. I went in and lulled her back to a state of calm which proved temporary. When Baby Dog cried again, Mama Dog took a shift. Baby Dog proved inconsolable. I went in and tried again, rocking her on my lap and singing The Whistling Gypsy. In a heart-rending mixture of enthusiasm and misery, she sang along while sobbing. Somewhere in the third verse, she made an ominous burping noise, and then next thing I knew we both had partially digested pesto pasta all over our laps. She heaved thrice, handily coating the sleep sack with pine nuts, garlic, and bile. I called out to Mama Dog, who hurried in with the little pink tub that was Baby Dog’s first bedroom. Baby Dog obligingly popped a couple more bits of corkscrew pasta into the bucket, and was done.

“I have no idea what to do now,” I observed with full candour. We agreed that whatever happened next would be best handled in the bathtub. I stood up, holding Baby Dog in such a way that the contents of her lap wouldn’t spill, and duckwalked into the bathroom. Miraculously, not a drop of her dinner had landed on the floor, and really only a tiny portion had landed on me. The vast majority of it had been caught by the sleep sack, which I stripped off her in the tub.

We were also fortunate in that it wasn’t a very liquid bit of barfing, all in all. With the sack and her jammies off, we found that Baby Dog really only needed her face and neck cleaned off. She continued to cry through the cleaning process, but afterwards we wrapped her in fresh pyjamas and a clean sleep sack and I rocked her some more, cooing about how much better it feels to have thrown up than to have to throw up. She seemed to agree, and was calm again before too long. Once she seemed relatively content (considering), I put her back in her crib, kissed her good night, and went back to my Thursday night chores, which seemed likely to never end. They did end, though, and eventually I lay in bed, vacillating between the urgent need to get some sleep and the urgent need to hear Baby Dog’s every little sound and movement in the next room. I was of course terrified that she was going to barf again in her sleep, which my imagination painted as at best filthy and at worst a Jimi Hendrix experience. It’s counterintuitive, but there are times – and these are one of them – when the sound of your child making a miserably mewling cry is an incredible relief. Eventually, I dropped off to sleep and we were all still whole and sound in the morning.

Baby Dog stayed home today, minded by Halmonie. We all agreed that strict adherence to doctor’s orders would be the plan for the day.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Tough Day for Baby Dog

Baby Dog had to go home from daycare today because she was vomiting. The daycare people figured it was something she ate, because she wasn’t feverish or otherwise symptomatic. It happened right after lunch. We think some leftover fishcakes that were in an imperfectly sealed Tupperware container are the culprit. Mama Dog called the Dr. Chuck-Morris’ office and was told that it could be a gastrointestinal virus that’s going around too. Based on Baby Dog’s subsequent behaviour, though, that doesn’t seem to be the case; the symptomology they described has not come to pass. In fact, by the time I got home from work Baby Dog was so much her regular self that I wouldn’t have known she’d been sick if I hadn’t been told. The only noticeable difference was that she cried more easily at small frustrations and went to sleep with less fuss at bedtime. She didn’t even ask for the “Bingo” encore after being tucked into the sleep sack. She must have been exhausted. She’s cried out in her sleep and been resettled a couple of times since so we’re braced for a tough night, but I think the daycare was right – bad reaction to food, not a developing illness.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Grumpily Before Bed

Last night, I was all ready to post and go to bed at 10:30 – then Blogger started to drown in molasses. Every action took ten or more minutes to complete. That’s: open my blog, click on the Blogger link, log in, go to the list of posts, click “create new post,” paste the stuff in from Word, and click “Publish.” That’s six separate actions, and literally they each took ten minutes. Goddamn Blogger kept me up an hour later than necessary on a night when I thought for sure I’d get to sleep early.

Tonight, Blogger’s working fine and I have nothing to say. But I’m getting my damn sleep.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Little India

Quite unexpectedly this evening, Baby Dog toddled over with her copy of Little India and thrust it out to be read. She’s had this book since Charles visited in February – he thought the graphics were cute – but she’s never shown too much interest in it and we’ve never pushed it because it seemed perhaps a little beyond her age group. A request is a request, though, so I popped her on my lap and started reading.

“Little India, by Sanjay Patel,” I said. “This book belongs to….” I prompted, and Baby Dog rattled off all four of her names like one long compound word. “Gods of India,” I continued. The first page has a very cute picture of Ganesha and a lot of text describing his significance in the Hindu cosmology, so I said, “Okay, that’s Ganesha. What does he look like?” “Elephant,” Baby Dog observed. I flipped the page. “Okay, here’s Brahma. See his beards? They’re white.” I flipped the page. “And this is Durga…”

“Start ‘ginning?” Baby Dog interrupted.

“Uh…okay. Little India, by Sanjay Patel. This book belongs to….” Her name again. “Gods of India. Okay, here’s Ganesha again.”

“Start ‘ginning?”

“I don’t think I missed anything, sweetie.”

“Start ‘ginning?” Her lip trembled and tears started to brew. It was then I realised my error. She knew – somehow she knew – that I wasn’t really reading the full text. There was no way she was getting off my lap without a summary of the basic fundamentals of Hinduism.

“Okay. Here’s Ganesha. One of the most popular Hindu gods, he is recognized (sic) as the god with an elephants (sic) head. Ganesha is the eldest son of Shiva and wife Parvati. Ganesha brings good luck, and clear obstacles as symbolized (sic) by the axe he carries….”

I was somewhere around the fourth incarnation of Vishnu, Baby Dog listening raptly, when Halmonie wandered in and heard what I was reading. Halmonie doesn’t think much of eastern religion. She refers to the Dalai Lama as “What’s his name, that con man.” She shook her head and laughed, that her granddaughter was so entranced by the story of Narasimha. Well, she’d better get used to it. Ich bin ein Oaklander, but Berkeley’s only three blocks away.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Kiss the Beard

I forgot to shave over a long weekend a while back, and then forgot again for another day or two, so at that point it officially became a beard. I meant to shave the beard off the weekend before last, and then again this past weekend and forgot both times, so now it’s a biggish beard and Mama Dog will no doubt soon be casting forlorn glances at it and making cryptic little hints like “Are you going to be shaving that damn beard off anytime soon?”

The new wrinkle in all this is Baby Dog. I’ve been bearded many times since she joined our lives, but this is the first time she’s been old enough to take an active interest in my facial hair. When the stubble first filled out on my jaw, she scrutinised it and patted it cautiously. She learned to call it “Daddy’s beard.” She learned that the part on my upper lip is “Daddy’s moustache.” And, surprisingly, she seems to have taken a real liking to it. In fact, she likes to kiss my beard. I’ll be rocking her and singing to her at bedtime when suddenly I notice that she seems to be gazing at me in adoration. Historically, she’s spent night-night song time absorbed in playing with Piggie or her own toes or whatever, but more and more she’s been staring up at me. I’ll punctuate my song by kissing the side of her nose at the end of each line, making her giggle uncontrollably. Inevitably at some point she’ll say, “Kiss the beard?” and I’ll lean my big Daddy chin down at her to accept this token of her affection.

So now my personal grooming’s at a crossroads. I rather agree with Mama Dog that my grizzled old face fur is nearing a state of gross unsightliness, but the lure of unsolicited baby kisses is powerful medicine. I’m afraid I’ll have to keep it at least until the moustache hairs start growing into my mouth.