Friday, October 31, 2014

My Two Recovering Girls

Miss Lucy made it through her spaying and Pam made it through her procedure relatively unscathed. Lucy was still under the influence of the anesthesia for most of the evening, and Pam was also numbed up, so last night passed without incident.  This morning was another matter.

Aside from the overwhelming humiliation that comes with wearing such a monstrous device strapped around her head, this morning, with a clear head, has brought irritation and annoyance. She paws at the thing, growls and whines her frustration, then stalks off in a huff careening off of furniture and walls, trying to make a dramatic exit, which only makes us laugh at her, the ultimate humiliation!

Pam, of course, is much more circumspect. There has been no whining, very little growling, and so far she hasn’t knocked anything over.

I have been greatly aided in my caretaking duties by one of my sainted sisters, Paula, who brought over the following homemade meal last night:

·        Pork tenderloin

·        Green beans with baby tomatoes

·        Macaroni and cheese

·        Some sort of steamed apple concoction that tasted like heaven

·        A pan of homemade rolls which looked like muffins and tasted like heaven’s twin sister

·        Pumpkin spice pudding

Somehow, I managed to make it through the night! Tonight will be the big test. Halloween, with its hordes of prepubescent urchins rustling around outside and Pam and I inside a dark house trying to calm Lucy down. Her famous skittishness combined with the satellite dish around her head should combine to produce some highlight reel-quality moments.
I’ll have the camera ready.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Poor Lucy

Poor Lucy. Poor innocent, unsuspecting, anxiety-free Lucy, chasing her tail on the family room floor, nary a discouraging thought in her little puppy head. In less that two hours some Vet will be robbing her of her womanly parts, altering her life forever. Then they will strap the cone of shame on her adorable head, making it impossible to do the one thing that brings her endless delight…licking herself. And who exactly is responsible for this outrage? Us, her trusted and adored owners, that’s who.

But the great thing about dogs is that she will forgive us. Actually, she won’t even blame us. She will never make the connection that it was our fault. She won’t hold a grudge like a cat would. Heck, for all I know, Lucy will think that we were the ones who saved her from the horrible Vet and forget that we were the ones who took her there in the first place.

Dogs are never shocked when we do nice things for them, because everything we do for them is the most spectacularly fantabulous thing ever! Especially when I take her to Petsmart at 7 am, apparently. She was overjoyed upon first entering this doggy Xanadu. What’s not to love about a gigantic warehouse full of aisle upon aisle of dog toys, the smell of dog food hanging heavily in the air and lots of other dogs!! Lucy’s head was on a swivel, taking it all in with delight. Wait, are those BIRDS???!!”

Upon arrival at the pet waiting room, she was thrilled to find two older, exceedingly more forlorn dogs, who both seemed totally disgusted with Lucy’s gleeful personality. These two dogs looked like grizzled veterans of the Veterinarian game and could barely conceal their unanimous disgust with this obnoxious puppy. “Idiot” they both seemed to conclude.

Unfazed, Lucy wiggled excitedly on, oblivious to the social cues practically raining down upon her to rein it in a bit. When the nurse came to take her back to the “pre-op” area, she bounded through the door as if a ten pound ham hock awaited her, not even glancing back at me. She seemed to be having the time of her life.
We’ll see how delighted she is this afternoon at 5:30. Pictures to follow.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Why We Love Sports.

Game seven. It’s what every baseball fan dreams about. After a 162 game marathon season, and a nearly month long postseason, it all comes down to this one all-hands-on-deck game. We’ve watched the ebb and flow of this series play out before us, two evenly matched teams neither of which has managed to win consecutive games. Game seven will take care of that.

In my opinion, the Royals have played better baseball, but the Giants have had Madison Bumgarner. The 6’5” 235 pound left handed pitcher from the sticks of North Carolina has been a magician on the mound in his two starts, and the Royals have looked outclassed against him. Luckily, he won’t be starting tonight’s game, but if Tim Hudson falters early, I expect to see that big, goofy kid lope in from the bullpen. So, if the Royals plan on winning the game, they better score early before that happens!

Although I would love to see the Royals win, at this point even that doesn’t matter. Either team would be a deserving champion. I just love the immediacy of it, the all or nothing, now or never strategy that will be forced on the naturally risk averse managers. At the end of this night the matter will be decided.

Don’t you wish this was how all of life worked? While it is true that we confer far too much glory and adulation, not to mention money, on sports in this country, one of the reasons we do is game seven of the World Series. In this increasingly complex, interconnected world where one thing always leads to another, where no great issues are ever decided once and for all, where ultimate victory is so seldom achieved, sports provides moments of clarity. Just try to imagine what a ticker-tape victory parade would look like the day that we win the War on Terror, a V-T Day, if you will. You can’t, because it will never happen. That conflict will crawl along for generations. Or, how about the interminable cat fight between Democrats and Republicans, the left vs. right? When will someone finally prevail in that 200 year tug of war? Not going to happen. And what about this epic good vs. evil thing that human beings have been a part of since Eden? This side of eternity, that battle is an endless stream of inconclusive skirmishes.

But tonight, there will be an answer. The matter will be resolved. There will be a winner and a loser and it will be recorded in the record books. One team will be vindicated and the other vanquished. Unlike in the sterilized world we have tried to create, the real world produces winners and losers. Not everyone gets a trophy, only one team takes the champagne bath, and they do so with callous disregard for the potential hurt feelings of the guys in the other clubhouse. Instead of endlessly frustrating gridlock, the great contest will explode in a fireball of spectacle.
And this is why Americans love sports.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Cone of Shame

Lucy is about to go under the knife, just in time for Halloween. Yes, our girl is scheduled to be spayed on Thursday. She has no idea what is about to happen. Actually, neither do I, since Pam and I have very little recollection of this procedure with Molly. Although, we are both reasonably sure that it did NOT involve having to wear the cone of shame for two weeks! That’s what the folks at Petsmart have advised. Two weeks? I get the fact that you must protect the stiches and whatnot, but two weeks of this?

The worst part is that the very next day is Halloween. Our Lucy remains the most skittish thing ever so we can’t imagine how she will react to 100 kids traipsing through the yard ringing the doorbell demanding candy, all the while wearing such a bizarre and terrifying contraption. Leave it to my wife (with an assist from my son-in-law) to convert lemons into lemonade with this idea...

Lucy the martini!

Monday, October 27, 2014

I Hate it When My Wife is Right.

This blog is for all you husbands out there with annoyingly smart wives. You know who you are. We are the men who must endure an endless procession of that dreaded four word incantation that is sometimes spoken but more often merely smugly implied…I told you so.

Take this weekend for example. Twelve days ago I got a rare cold. I struggled with the runny nose, sneezing and congestion the entire time I was in Pigeon Forge with my kids. Then I fought against coughing and sluggishness all of last week when I returned. Saturday night was a long sleep deprived night of coughing. Sunday morning, Pam looks at me with a combination of compassion and irritation and calmly says, “If you still have cold symptoms after ten days, it has obviously turned into bronchitis. You need an antibiotic and some cough medicine to take at night. Common sense should tell you that if you are not getting better after so long, you need to go see a doctor…now.”

Patient First is right down the road, so there I was walking through the door reading the huge poster in the lobby warning me of Ebola symptoms. Nice! After signing in, I sat with all of the other sick people in the aptly named “waiting room” for twenty minutes. Finally a perky nurse-ette bounded into the room. “Mr. Doonivant?” Close enough.

Blood pressure slightly elevated, temperature normal, weight unchanged since last visit. “Doctor so-and-so will be in to see you in a few minutes,” she explained as she walked me to my cubicle. I glanced at my cell phone. It was 12:17.

I was actually looking forward to seeing my usual crazy Patient First Indian doctor with the horrible bedside manner, brutal accent and charming sense of humor…

Doctor: Why are you here?

Me: It hurts when I do this.

Doctor: Well, how about you stop doing that??”

It would be 1:05 by the time my disappointingly boring American doctor drew back the curtain to my prison cell and spent all of 5 minutes examining me. I challenge you to spend 45 minutes in an 8x8 room with no pictures and no magazines and spotty cell phone coverage, on a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon. I had been reduced to reading up on the early signs of carpal tunnel and am now pretty much an expert on the differences between the common cold and fall allergies, not to mention fully up to speed on the dangers of smoking and childhood obesity.

Dr. Whitebread finally reappears to tell me his diagnosis:

Generally speaking, any cold that doesn’t go away after ten days or so will most likely turn into bronchitis. Your lungs are sort of a mess so I’m placing you on an antibiotic, some prednisone and also some cough medicine to take an hour before you go to bed.”

Are you kidding me? I just paid this guy God knows how much to quote my wife back to me??

So, I return home to essentially admit that my wife is smarter than me. Her plan to go to the doctor was better than my plan to do nothing and wait until it went away on its own.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Fall Classic

Both Pam and I have been fighting a cold, so when I suggested that we go out to see The Fury tonight she pointed out that we would be that annoying sick couple that coughs through the movie…the ones who I always shoot the killer eyes of death to when they happen to be sitting behind me. I hate it when Pam always suggests that we do the right thing!

 It’s just as well since I have been thoroughly enjoying this World Series and game four is tonight. Yes, I’m aware that the ratings have been horrible. Yes, I know that Kansas City and San Francisco are among the smallest markets in baseball which has contributed to the low numbers, and yes, I’m aware that America likes runs and scoring and this series has been light on both. But, these teams are playing terrific baseball. They are playing great defense, the pitching has been amazing and as far as the Royal bullpen goes, historic.

I can practically hear my sister Paula now, “It’s just pitching!! I want some home runs! If I wanted to watch defense I’d switch over to the Military channel!” She has a point. Guys don’t get paid 20 million a year because they can lay down a sacrifice bunt. But after the steroid era turned baseball into a home run derby, I think it’s refreshing to see two teams who know how to play fundamentally sound baseball.

In what has become something of a tradition, the World Series means texting back and forth with my son. We haven’t been in the same city during the Fall classic in probably 7 years now, but we both watch and share our instant analysis. In 2013, Patrick came up with a couple of hilarious puns at the expense of Red Sox closer Koji Uehara. So far this year, nothing particularly uproarious has been exchanged but…it’s early.
Even my new puppy gets into the games, particularly when that Budweiser commercial comes on where the twenty-something kid goes off to drink with his friends and leaves his poor dog at home alone all night. As soon as the dog starts to whine Lucy stops dead in her tracks and stares forlornly at the TV, cocking her head to the side. I personally think that the spot should be 10 seconds longer and show the pile of poop laying in the middle of the living room rug and the pool of pee that the guy slips on while walking down the hall to his bedroom. Then the camera could cut back to the dog, smiling smugly with the caption, “Gothca!”

Friday, October 24, 2014

Not Black Enough??

Let me begin by stating the obvious. As a white male I must be careful commenting on race relations. When doing so I feel the need to preface my opinions with the caveat that I know very little of the interworking’s of black culture beyond what I see from Hollywood and what I observe in the world from the vantage point of white privilege. It feels silly but I also feel compelled to point out the fact that I have had many black friends in my life and no shortage of black role models, including the single best teacher I ever had, Mrs. Winston at Elmont Elementary School.

But an article I read yesterday has disturbed me greatly because it concerns someone I respect and feel a certain kinship with because of his local connection. Russell Wilson, Super Bowl hero, has apparently upset a segment of his team by not being “black enough.” According to a story written by a local reporter, a rift has erupted in the Seahawk locker room between players who supported recently traded Percy Harvin, and those who supported Wilson. Some insisted that the only reason that Harvin was traded was because he couldn’t get along with Wilson. Not being “black enough” is apparently a real thing in black culture. Sometimes it involves skin tone, but other times it concerns behavior. Blacks who happen to be “well spoken” are suspect, their authenticity called into question by other blacks who prefer a more tortured English.

I must here confess that I’m pretty sure that I haven’t spent even thirty seconds of my life pondering whether I am “white enough.” My whiteness seems self-evident. When I look at Russell Wilson his blackness seems equally self-evident. As far as I know both of his parents were black, although I never met his Mom since she died a when he was quite young. So, there must be something in his deportment that has caused his racial authenticity to come into question.

Here’s what I see. Everything this kid has ever done has demonstrated that he is an exceptional person. As a quarterback, there are few who have his dynamic skill set. As a student, first at Collegiate here in Richmond, then at N.C. State and Wisconsin, he excelled academically. Everywhere his life has taken him, he has overachieved, and demonstrated that rarest of qualities…leadership.

So, in what way precisely is he not black enough?  Did the fact that he married a white girl, his high school sweetheart, damage his black brand? Maybe. Is the fact that he has become the face of the Seattle franchise made some teammates jealous? Probably. It can’t be money since he has not signed his first big contract yet and actually is one of the most underpaid athletes in America. Why exactly does his erudition make him a target of some of his black teammates? Would they prefer him to act dumber than he is? Would his teammates prefer him to rough up a few women, get caught driving drunk, or get caught up in a few fights at strip clubs? Would this authenticate his blackness to their satisfaction?

Russell Wilson is one of the few professional athletes in any sport who I would want my children to emulate. He works hard, is courteous and polite in conversation and behavior, and through his low key work at local hospitals in Seattle, seems to give a damn about the world around him, unlike most athletes (black and white) who care only about themselves.
I don’t get it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014


Going to bed with the beginnings of a headache is bad. Even worse is waking up at 4:30 in the morning with a fully formed one. In this particular variety, there’s a spot behind my left eye that pulses with dull pain in perfect rhythm with my heart beat. The remedy for this condition is three Advil, a cup of strong coffee, and hope.

Reading the news from overnight in such a condition is almost always unpleasant. Bearing witness to the daily absurdities of 21st century life with a blinding headache takes away your ability to laugh, for one thing, which has always been my best defense against despair. So this morning I must face news about the President’s post-election plans to grant amnesty to 12 million illegal immigrants without a laugh track…no easy task. In this effort he has the full support of the Chamber of Commerce, an unlikely ally, along with many pro-business Republicans. It is an issue that perplexes me. Part of me thinks that since we have neither the ability nor the desire to round up 12 million illegals, we might as well grant them amnesty so we can start taxing them. But there’s another side of me that thinks that when a Democratic President and the Chamber of Commerce agree on something, it smells like an unholy alliance up to no good.

The Chamber likes amnesty because it likes business, and what’s better for business than a never ending supply of cheap labor? A Democratic President likes amnesty because with a stroke of a pen he can create 12 million new democrats. I suppose we should all be grateful that he has shown enough restraint to wait until after the midterms. No need to get greedy I suppose.

Lest any of you think that I am anti-immigrant, I would like to point out that no American can be anti-immigrant with anything approaching a clear conscience. All of us were immigrants at some point. My ancestors came over from Germany and Ireland or wherever a couple hundred years ago. As an American, I am proud to belong to such a country, a place where people have been plotting and scheming to get to for generations. I am especially proud at dinner time on the weekends when I am presented with restaurant choices from every corner of the globe.  

But something has changed in our country over the years. I don’t get the sense anymore that those who come to America have any desire to become Americans. We are hyphenating ourselves into enclaves where ethnicity trumps citizenship. America has become a nation that has lost its knack for assimilation. Instead of demanding more and more civic virtue from us, instead of expecting more and more responsibility from us, our government seems hell-bent on making it easier and easier to become one of us.  
With or without a headache, this isn’t good news.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The 2014 Midterm Election

I understand that there’s an election coming up. For me the races are to find a replacement for Eric Cantor, and a U.S. Senate race between the incumbent Mark Warner and his challenger, Ed Gillespie. Decisions, decisions…

The Congressional race is between two Randolph Macon professors, which sounds like the punch line of a joke. Actually it’s kind of nice in a way since neither of them are career politicians…yet. I don’t know enough about either of the two gentlemen to have formed an opinion, although generally speaking, it doesn’t look like a good year for the party of government. So unless the Democratic professor is running with the slogan, “I’m not like the rest of my incompetent Party,” I think I’ll probably pass.

The Senate contest is more difficult for me. On the one hand there’s Mr. Warner, the Democrat, who has largely kept his nose clean so far, seldom making the news which is a good thing. I like the fact that he followed the Founders vision of going into government only after making something of himself, in his case starting and running a very successful business. I can’t think of anything the Senate needs more than someone with some actually real world experience in the business world, the kind of business that has to make a product and sell it at a profit, not the other kind of business which brings me to Mr. Gillespie.

Ed Gillespie probably is closer to me on the large issues of the day, but represents everything that I loathe about our political system. In his campaign ads he is fond of pointing out the fact that he has “started two successful businesses.” What he doesn’t tell you is that one was a lobbying firm that traded on his own lifelong connections in DC to sell influence. The fact that he formed that business with a Democrat only means that he was a bipartisan influence peddler. The other business was something called “Ed Gillespie Strategies,” a consulting firm also devoted to politics. In fact, it would seem that Mr. Gillespie has never held any meaningful employment outside the bubble of Washington in his entire life. Now, there are two ways to look at this. One, you could view this as a plus, demonstrating as it does a keen understanding of how Washington works, a nice skill to have in the toolbox of a freshman Senator. On the other hand you could see this insular political resume as an indictment, proof that Mr. Gillespie is about as far removed from real world problems as Harry Reid, and conclude that the last thing we need in DC is another careerist.
So, it looks like once again I will enter the ballot box with my brain tied in knots.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Highway education

The Great Smoky Mountain Adventure is over and as a souvenir I brought home a lovely cold complete with scratchy throat, irritating cough and runny nose. It was a small price to pay for such a fun four days. I’m afraid to step on the scales this morning since I’m sure that I brought back more than merely the sniffles. But, that’s why God created American Family Fitness. When I am 80, infirm and broke, I hope that my children will remember all of these fun trips when pondering the question, “Where did all of Dad’s money go??”

Previous blogs have detailed the great fun we had so I won’t repeat them here. However, there was one major downer to the whole Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg experience. Highway 66. This is the major artery that leads you to the area off of Interstate 40. Whether by accident or design, it seems to be the only way to enter, sort of like the Pearly Gates. Actually it’s more like the way that department stores set up their floor plans, forcing you to meander through rows of high profit margin junk before you can find the package of underwear you’re looking for. Well, highway 66 is a 20 mile stretch of high profit margin junk that you must endure before you are rewarded with your cabin. This 20 miles takes roughly one hour and fifteen minutes to traverse. That’s right, in the time it takes for you to drive from Richmond to DC, the visitor is treated to 38 pancake joints, a dozen go-cart tracks, 16 tattoo parlors, enough doughnut shops to give all of China a sugar high, the “largest Christmas shop in the south,” three water parks, five helicopter ride pads, two Elvis museums, three psychic readers, and a giant remake of Mount Rushmore replacing the Presidents with the four icons of Dixie…John Wayne, Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and Conway Twitty.
Highway 66 is an education. You want to learn about America? Forget the Smithsonian, forget National Parks. Just take Highway 66 from Interstate 40 to Wears Valley Road and soak it all in. No tolls, lots of waiting!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Zip Lining with Snoop and Opie

Having a wonderful time here in the Smoky Mountains doing all the stuff that I could never do back home. That’s always my goal on any vacation. I mean, why would anyone go to Hawaii and eat dinner at Shoneys? So, when I am in Pigeon Forge I want to do Pigeon Forge stuff like go zip-lining.

I saw a sign on one of the winding roads leading up here that advertised something called “Zip-Line Adventures” with the provocative invitation to “zip-line through history.” Turns out that the zip-lining through history part was bogus since the original owner with the big plans to build giant replicas of iconic images of American history in the valleys below the lines had moved on from the enterprise and the current owners had never bothered to change the road signs. It’s this type of bracing honesty that I find so refreshing down here. Imagine how differently we would all feel about government if they would just admit that they are incompetent every now and then instead of blaming every screw up on a lack of proper funding. But, I digress…

The best part of our zip-lining adventure was the ride in the back of the pickup truck to the top of the mountain. This brought back a flood of memories from my childhood when grownups were fond of throwing gaggles of middle schoolers in the backs of pickup trucks with nary a seat belt in sight. Only this particular ride was even more harrowing since the “road” was nothing more than an oversized foot path and the driver of our vehicle was named “Snoop” and drove like someone who had made this drive so many times he could do it in his sleep, which is to say…way too fast!

Once at the top we found the company headquarters which used to belong to a 90 year old woman who lived alone until her children insisted that maybe she might be too old to make the trip into town every day. Now the place looked like a perfectly beautiful home that had been transformed into a crack house/hostel that doubled as a meth lab. All previous customers had been allowed to inscribe their names to every flat surface of the place for posterity with permanent markers which gave the place a certain post-apocalyptic look.

Jon was having none of it. He opted out of participation despite the presence of a six year old child in full harness. It would be just Patrick and me. If Jon lives to be 100, I will probably never let him forget it.

The aforementioned Snoop and his assistant…wait for it…Opie, started with a safety demonstration which included the wonderfully reassuring phrase, “We have an 82% survival rate!” It was unclear whether this statistic included the truck ride up and down the mountain, but that’s a quibble I suppose.

I had paid for a four line trip, since the seven line super package would have taken too long and I had plans to do other dangerous stuff on this day and couldn’t spend all afternoon with Snoop and Opie. Here are some pictures and a video of our adventure.
It was all great fun!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Birkenstock and Elvis

When Pam and I became empty nesters permanently back in July, I immediately began to plot and scheme for ways to stay close to our children. Yes, I did say children, because although both of them are fully grown adults, they will always be our children. The fact that I am no longer able to use them to help lower my tax burden does not diminish their value. The fact that I no longer am responsible for their care and feeding, does not mean that I no longer wish to ever feed them again. I have invested too much time and money in the two of them to simply let them waltz away to Columbia, South Carolina and Nashville, Tennessee without so much as a whimper of protest.

So, I pulled out a map of the United States and drew a circle around our three cities, then tried to find a spot on the map that was equidistant for all of us. The closest point of reasonable interest happened to be the Pigeon Forge area of Tennessee, in the midst of the Great Smoky Mountains, aka…Hillbilly Vegas. So, I got online and began the search for a cabin to rent and an agreeable long weekend. When I extended the invitation, both of them jumped at the chance to get away and spend some of Dad’s money.

Pam and I arrived around 4 or so in the afternoon and instantly fell head over heels for this place. For one thing, it was clean as a pin and decorated beautifully. But the view off of the three decks from each floor is a stunning panorama that stretches out for miles. The leaves are near their peak. We are at a high elevation so we can see the tops of shining yellow and bright fiery orange trees far below us. Once the sun set the vast valley lit up in a sea of lights stretching to the end of the horizon. Now, we just have to wait for the kids to arrive and hope that A. they can find this place at night, and B. they don’t drive off a cliff in the process.

Earlier this evening Pam and I came down off this mountain to get something to eat in Pigeon Forge and then pick up some groceries for the weekend. We chose a place called “No Way Jose’s” Mexican Cantina, only because the place next door that claimed to serve the “best ribs in America” had a thirty minute wait.  When we were preparing to leave No Way Jose’s, a family of 15 waddled past us on their way to a table in the back, all 15 of whom tipped the scales at a minimum of 250 pounds. None of them were much taller than Pam. This is when I knew that I wasn’t in Short Pump anymore.
This being my third trip to the area, I have been looking forward to some major league people watching in perhaps the best spot in America for such a purpose. You see it all here. For example, when Pam and I were pulling out of the No Way Jose’s parking lot we noticed a juxtaposition of two businesses that I feel certain one would never find anywhere else on the planet. There was a Birkenstock store right next to an Elvis Museum. ‘Murika.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ready By Christmas

With the invaluable assistance of the devoted Denise Roy, I am putting the finishing touches on a book about death and dying, specifically my Mother’s death and the last two years of my Father’s life. It sounds positively dreadful when stated this way, but it really isn’t. It’s just the story of a family trying desperately to honor their parents amidst great loss and the often humiliating experience of caring for a dying Father. Most of the “story” is simply my unfiltered response to it all as it was happening…on this blog.

Compiling it all has meant living it over again in slow motion. As I have read and reread each post I have felt it all again, the frustration, the sadness, the anger and even the pride that comes with the realization of just how noble and dignified it all was, despite many missteps.

I’m hoping to have it all done and ready by Christmas. I will self-publish. There will be a physical paperback version in limited quantities, but mostly it will be a digital book available in e-book form.

Mostly, this project is intended as a tribute to my parents and my brother, sisters, nieces and nephews and a wide assortment of friends who were instrumental in insuring that my Dad’s final year was filled with dignity instead of despair. Also, the thought occurred to me that the record of our experiences might be of value to someone out there who might be going through the same journey.
There is still much to do. For one thing, I need to come up with a title, cover art…those sorts of things. Writing is the easy part, everything else is a mine field.

Monday, October 13, 2014

The Great Ant Debacle

I love my Sunday afternoon naps. I go to church, then go out to lunch somewhere with some friends, then climb into my lazy boy with the game on in the background, and I’m out for two hours. It’s called the day of rest for a reason, after all.

Well, there I was yesterday, enjoying my siesta when I was suddenly and quite rudely disturbed by my beautiful but frantic wife. There she was standing over me with a very forced smile on her face, the kind that people get when they are trying to remain calm. Her eyes were another matter. They were practically screaming, “Oh my God, what the heck??!!”

Since she had just roused me from a deep and satisfying sleep, I didn’t hear much of what she said at first, but I did manage to pick up three words…Lucy, digging…ants.

The next thing I remember was running down stairs to find my puppy outside on the deck looking positively thrilled with herself. Apparently, Pam had let her out into the backyard where she was having a grand time digging a massive crater on the back side of the oak tree in the middle of our yard. Unfortunately, she had disturbed a rather large ant colony with her excavations several battalions of which had swarmed up her legs and tail and were now racing helter skelter all over her perfect pink puppy belly. It was my job to fix it. The unspoken accusation was thick in the air…You wanted a puppy, you got your puppy!

In a flash I grabbed Lucy and raced upstairs and threw her in the shower. She was positively giddy and seemed unfazed by the presence of several hundred ants crawling all over her. It was all such great fun! And to top it all off, now Daddy and her were going to rough house, and water was involved!!

Ants began to drop off of her in bunches. There must have been a thousand of them imbedded in her thick tail. It reminded me of what our southern border must look like when the border patrol takes a coffee break. It took me nearly thirty minutes of sustained scrubbing and rinsing, scrubbing and rinsing until she was finally free of them. But this task was only the beginning. What was I going to do to keep her from going right back out there and doing it again?

I had been waiting for the weather to clear all weekend so I could cut the grass and prepare the yard for the aeration and seeding guy to come this week. Although it was still misting rain, I could wait no longer. While I was raking up the pine needles, it came to me. I would use Lucy’s skittishness against her. I would take the seven black garbage bags full of yard debris over by the fence and place them around the base of the two big trees. Lucy is mortally afraid of large black things and has shown a particular aversion to going anywhere near those bags. Two hours later the yard work was done and both trees were surrounded by menacing black plastic monsters.

The first time I let her out into her back yard she came to a screeching halt at the top of the deck steps. The fur on her back immediately rose up in alarm. It took her five minutes to summon the courage to venture down the steps. Then she walked gingerly towards the tree. Then I heard her let out a low growl, then a couple of furtive barks. Finally, she pranced away over to her pooping grounds at the far end of the yard where she discovered yet another black bag patrol surrounding a second tree. At this point the barking became full throated. She was not a happy dog.

This morning, I’m watching her walk around carefully out there, sniffing mightily, looking totally baffled by what has turned out to be my superior strategy.
Yes, I am feeling quite cocky. At least until the next catastrophe befalls us. Being a puppy parent isn’t for wimps, people.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Battle Scars

Last night I watched the Kansas City Royals whip the Baltimore Orioles to go up 2-0 in their best of seven series. At roughly the same time that this was happening, the two SEC teams from the state of Mississippi were busy beating the snot out of their opponents, causing me to wonder what could possibly be next. Are the Cleveland Browns about to embark on a ten game winning streak?

While all of this was happening, Lucy and I were furiously engaged in a game we like to call, “Find Daddy’s Face,” whereby I lay on the floor face down trying to cover my entire head with my arms while Lucy searches for a weakness in my defenses with her probing wet nose and powerful paws. Molly was especially gifted at this game, and Lucy is equally enthusiastic, and never fails to burst through and end the game in a flurry of wild puppy kisses to the face. Only, somehow along the way one of her ginormous paws happened to slice across one of my ears. Caught up in the game, I ignored the brief but searing pain. It was only ten minutes later that I sensed something warm on that ear and asked Pam to inspect the damage. Only then did I notice the blood stains on the shoulder of my shirt. Lucy’s razor-sharp claws had inadvertently sliced a thin line down from the top of the ear down close to the lobe and it was bleeding like crazy.

This wound is just the latest in a series of gashes, cuts and bruises administered to me by my wildly enthusiastic puppy. The back of my hands are littered with teeth and claw marks, my right forearm looks like a drug-addicts worst nightmare. In other words, it’s awesome!
What’s the point of having a dog if you can’t get down on the floor and wrestle? Of course, Pam thinks it’s ridiculous and that we “play too hard!” What do women know about such things? Nothing, that’s what.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Lucy the Digger

Ok, so Lucy is a rain lover. She sees no difference between bright sunshine and drizzling rain. She stands at the back door giving us her best “I really got to go,” whine until we get up and let her out. Once she gets out onto the deck, she picks up a soggy ball in her mouth, turns around and stares back at us as if to say, “Well? Can’t you see that I want to play fetch?”

Once she realizes that we are wimps, she goes out into the yard to do her business, and she takes her sweet time doing it, wandering around in full sniff mode. She eventually comes back onto the deck, where she perches herself at the top of the steps, sits down and surveys her kingdom, with not a care in the world and oblivious to the rain.

After a week of puppy life we couldn’t be happier. This adorable dog seems to grow noticeably overnight, every night. We are both starting to worry about just how large she may become. Of course, she still plops herself down directly on our laps as though she were still 2 months old, a comical sight.
We also have in Lucy… a digger. Nothing gives her more joy than to furiously gouge great holes in my backyard next to tree roots and such. This will be item number one in her next Puppy I dog training class at Petco. But the good news is that she adores the back yard. Unlike Molly who loved being outside as long as we were outside with her, Lucy is fascinated with every breeze, every smell and every sound. She is particularly fond of pine cones. As I write this she is in the middle of the yard laying on her belly going to town on a rather large one all in the midst of a fine mist. Whenever she gets tired of the pine cone, she grabs a mouthful of grass. By next Spring I’ll have no grass and a yard full of ankle-breaking holes!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Selling the Heavens

One of the great things about having a blog is that you are able to get things off your chest in a public forum. Sometimes it involves grand political issues, but other times, it’s just the little irritants of life. When a life irritant happens to collide with human vanity, well, then that’s just a bonus.

The other day I heard a radio advertisement that I have heard a thousand times before. It has always bothered me, but especially so this time. You all have heard it too. Maybe some of you have actually fallen for it. If so, try not to take this personally…but you’re an idiot.

The International Star Registry is a monument to the unbridled hubris of man, exhibit A in the case against man as an intelligent being. Human beings have been laying on their backs in fields at night staring up at the great canopy of heavenly lights for millennia, but it took 20th century hucksters to come up with the idea of selling them to us. “Name a star after someone,” the announcer shrieks. “Give the gift that will last a lifetime!!”

A visit to their website is even more repulsive than this 30 second pitch. There we discover that there are three levels of stupidity associated with this scam, Custom, Deluxe, and Ultimate. I mean, if you’re going to name a star after someone, screw Custom and Deluxe, right? Go big or go home. What does this Ultimate package get you? A personalized star chart, for one thing, along with a handy wallet sized card with your stars’ coordinates. Yeah, you wouldn’t want to be caught away from home without proof of your intergalactic property rights. The big prize, of course, is your 20X16 framed certificate of authenticity done up in only the finest calligraphy in the Galaxy.

Here’s the money paragraph:

    Flowers, cards, and candy are nice; when you name a star after someone, it will stand the test of time. When you buy a star from us, you will be buying a gift that you can share forever.”

…..when you buy a star from us????

When did the scumbags at the International Star Registry come into possession of the cosmos? Better yet, who were the previous owners? How much did they pay for the heavenly hosts?

Can you imagine what it would be like to hear the CEO of this abomination of a company trying to explain to his kids what he does for a living?   “Well, Daddy pretends that he actually owns the stars so he can presume to have the authority to sell their naming rights to all the idiots in the world.”

When George Bailey promised Mary that he would lasso the moon and give it to her in It’s a Wonderful Life, I’m pretty sure it was a figure of speech. When the ancient Greeks came up with the names of the Zodiac, they did so out of a desire to extract meaning from the heavens, born from the awe that the stars of the universe stirred within them. 5,000 years later, a bunch of slimy hucksters gaze into the firmament and see nothing but an opportunity to make a buck trading on the pride of mankind.
…twinkle, twinkle little star, how I wonder what you are?

Maybe that's it...we've lost the wonder.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Has My Country Lost Its Mind?

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has claimed the lives of thousands of Africans and several westerners there trying to treat the sick. Somehow this disaster has become a political issue in the United States. Every day it seems we hear new hysterical news reports of faulty screenings at airports, accusations of political correctness preventing a properly frank appraisal of the issue to the American people, and our porous borders being a potential portal for the spread of the disease. The noted infectious disease expert, Rush Limbaugh, has even suggested that President Obama has intentionally allowed infected West Africans into the country as payback for slavery.

Good Lord!

This story is proof positive that everything, and I do mean everything in this country is political. But it’s also disturbing proof that there is no end to the list of jobs that the United States military is asked to do that have nothing whatsoever to do with killing people and breaking things. 3000 military personnel have been sent into the midst of an Ebola outbreak in a foreign country with a fuzzy mission of unknown duration. Am I the only one who finds this to be a ridiculous use of military assets? What’s next? Will the first armored division soon be deployed to Shanghai to assist the local police with rush hour traffic?

In my opinion, an outbreak of an infectious disease in Country A. is a regrettable tragedy for Country A. Country B has an obligation to see to it that the disease stays in Country A. since its primary constitutional obligation is to the citizens of Country B. not Country A. This does not mean that Country B. cannot send doctors and nurses to assist Country A., but it must be at their invitation. It would seem self-evidently clear that Country B. would severely restrict, if not prohibit altogether, travel from Country A. to Country B. until the disease has been checked. This policy would not have roots in racism, or colonialism or imperialism, but rather would be a natural response born of common sense.  

But, this is not the world where we live. Instead, with the active aid of a sensational media, whipping up hysteria to feed the 24/7 news cycle, Ebola in Liberia has become a political and even a racial issue with possibly implications for the November elections.
Only in America.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

My New Routine

I have a new routine. It has been unavoidable. You cannot introduce a 5 month old puppy into your life without a few life alterations. The first has been to my bank account, significantly lighter since Lucy’s arrival. Pam cannot leave the house without “picking up a few things” for the puppy. She has already amassed quite an impressive stash of sparkling new chew toys, not to mention her shiny new dog bone shaped ID collar with Lucy Dunnevant etched into the silver plate. Her new bright red food bowls look smart sitting on her giant food tray in the corner of the breakfast nook. At this pace, Pam will be on Petco’s permanent Christmas card list before the end of the month.

My old routine was much less exciting. I would wake up somewhere between 5:30 and 6:30, walk downstairs and make coffee. Nothing else could happen until that coffee was brewed. Then I would check the news on the internet, spend 15 minutes or so inspecting any overnight damage that may have befallen foreign markets, and then write a blog entry if I was so inspired.

My new Lucy-inspired routine still involves the brewing of coffee, but it has to wait until I have released her from her crate and endured a wildly enthusiastic greeting of puppy kisses to the face. After sitting on the floor with her so she can sit on me while giving me more kisses, she races to her toy basket and picks out a favorite for a vigorous game of tug-o-war. Only then does she realize that she really, really needs to pee. So, she marches over to the back door and lets out a discreet whine. I take advantage of this break to brew my coffee and at least make an attempt to check out the news. When she comes back in, she is ready to rumble, so a bout of puppy wrestling takes place in the family room. Only after all of this does she assume her favorite position on the sofa for a very brief break, which I use to continue what used to be my regular routine. Then, after about ten minutes, it dawns on Lucy that she is hungry. Break time is over!
This new routine is extraordinarily inefficient. By the time she gets settled down, it’s time for me to get a shower. I will have to come up with a different schedule for keeping myself informed of world events and writing blog posts. Mornings are now officially Lucy Time!

Monday, October 6, 2014

What Does Money Actually Buy?

Everybody knows that money doesn’t buy happiness, although for short periods of time, it can rent it, but that’s a story for another day. It is generally understood by all but the most superficial among us that the best things in life, the most enduring things don’t require money... friendship, loyalty, courage, etc..etc. However, in sports the opposite seems to be true. If your team wants to compete they better be willing to spend some serious money, right?

We are a week into the baseball postseason, and I am thrilled. I attended my very first playoff game the other night and along with 44,044 others saw my Nationals lose 3-2 to the San Francisco Giants. Despite the loss, it was a glorious thing to behold. I had a sore throat for two days! Last night I watched the Kansas City Royals finish off a sweep of the heavily favored Anaheim Angels, possessors of the best record in baseball, and it got me to thinking. Does money equal success in Major League baseball?

There are 30 teams in the Major Leagues. The two worst teams in baseball this year were the Texas Rangers and the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Rangers payroll was the 8th richest in baseball, the Diamondbacks, the 11th richest. In fairness, the lowest payroll in baseball belongs to the Houston Astros, the third worst team in the league. But, what about teams that have made the playoffs?

Those Kansas City Royals who just swept the mighty Angels out of the playoffs did so with only the 19th highest payroll in the league. The Angels, by contrast checked in with a whopping $155,700,000 payroll, good for 6th highest. Of the ten teams that made the postseason, five of them are among the top ten payrolls in the game, while the other five are ranked anywhere from 13th to 27th. So, I suppose that the results are inconclusive. But wouldn’t it be great if the World Series ended up pitting the highest payroll in the game against the 19th highest payroll? For those of you keeping score at home, that would be the Los Angeles Dodgers with their $235,000,000 worth of talent against the Kansas City Royals who have managed to get by spending only $92,000,000.
Of course, everything is relative. It’s hard to consider any franchise rich enough to lavish 92 million dollars on a bunch of guys to play baseball as a “little guy.” Player salaries long ago entered the realm of things for which there can be no rational explanation. But having said that, unless my Nationals can storm back from a 0-2 deficit to beat the Giants, I’ll be pulling for the Royals the rest of the way.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Now For the Hard Part

Lucy has taken over the Dunnevant house and all those who live therein. She has managed in five short days to thoroughly steal our hearts. She has accomplished this great feat despite several missteps:

1.     She is scared to death of practically everything. Raising the shades, running the garbage disposal, picking up anything larger than a breadbox causes her great tumult. The sound of wind, small black lanterns, the unexpected shutting of a door are things that produce in her a deep sense of foreboding and gloom. Most terrifying of all seems to be the dreaded food-processor!

2.     Although she is house broken to a certain extent, she is not 100% so. One poop, thoughtfully deposited on the hard wood floors of the dining room, and a pee on our already stained beyond remedy master bedroom carpeting have brought out Molly-era wooded gates at key strategic points throughout the downstairs.

3.     Taking her for a walk in the neighborhood is something close to shock therapy. So many smells, so many barking dogs and scary noises! Just about the time she seems to not be terrified, an acorn will fall to the ground, or a flock of geese will appear overhead causing unhinged panic to ensue.

On the other hand, she has had her first bath and behaved marvelously. She was a model passenger in her first car ride, and she is the best snuggler ever. At some point yesterday, I laid down on the sofa for a nap and before long, Lucy had climbed up and laid down across my chest and was soon snoring like a lumberjack. I hope I have not set a bad precedent by allowing this, since at some point she will be a 90 pound snuggler! But, it is exceedingly difficult to disturb a sleeping puppy. It just may be the most comforting thing in the world to have a puppy fall asleep on your chest.

Much must be done to plan for her care in the coming weeks. Pam has informed me that since I have been the one lobbying for this dog, I need to be responsible for the legwork associated with her care. She will be returning to work next week and we will be away on a vacation the week after that, so I will be in charge of working out the details. It’s only fair.

Friday, October 3, 2014


Her name is Lucy, we think. I wanted Maggie, but my two grown children shot it down because it sounded too much like her sainted predecessor, Molly. We had introduced them to her via a group skype date on something called Google chat, all very 21st century. They were thrilled that we finally had gotten a new puppy, and immediately wanted to come home to play with her, our diabolical plan working perfectly!

48 hours in, Lucy is a delight. She is sweet, playful yet under control, and nothing short of adorable. She is also nothing at all like Molly, which actually is a good thing. It was surprising just how much we missed Molly once a new puppy arrived. Each Golden we have had established themselves uniquely within our hearts, making the new one no mere “replacement.” Lucy has already made her mark.

Here are the ways that she has distinguished herself from all those who came before her:

1.     She is skittish, afraid of practically everything except people.

2.     She totally ignores us at mealtime, having never been given “people food” by her first owners.

3.     Before settling down in her bed she scratches it furiously, like a cat does to a litter box.

4.     She loves to sit, gazing out of windows, and whenever she spots other dogs, barks…a practice we will break her of, since we have never owned a “barker” and don’t intend to start now.

5.     She loves to eat grass.

6.     She is an ice cube eating fiend.

7.     She is remarkably well behaved for a puppy, even knows how to sit, lay down, stay and even “wait”, skills that even I have never mastered.

8.     A true retriever, she recently brought us a pine cone in from the back yard and pranced around the family room several times with her prize.

So far, she has been the most unobtrusive dog ever, maybe owing to the fact that she is our first obedience school graduate, proving that even in the animal kingdom, education matters!
Lucy it is.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Our New Puppy!!!

It is 6:15 am and I’ve been awake for over an hour. I’m as excited and nervous as a six year old on Christmas morning. Why? Because this morning I’m getting a puppy! She is due to arrive at 8 am. She is a beautiful 5 month old Golden Retriever who we only met last night. Here’s how it happened…

Yesterday around noon Pam got an email from my niece Christina informing us that she had just had a conversation with a friend who was in the midst of several life changes that had forced her to give up her puppy. When Christina discovered that the dog was a Golden Retriever, she immediately thought of us. Several e-mails and phone calls later, there we were in our family room last night being introduced to this adorable bundle of energy with the highly problematic name of Siera.

It has been 16 months since last we had a dog in our home, but a full 13 years since we have had a puppy in our home, which is no mere distinction without a difference. Although she is a dynamo of energy and curiosity, and in the midst of the “everything goes in the mouth” stage, she is already house-trained, already knows the “sit” command, already has been introduced to car travel, and already uses and apparently loves her crate. In other words, her resigning parents are better than her new ones will be!

Pam and I are nervous. As regular readers of this space know, I have been engaged in a month’s long lobbying campaign to convince Pam to get another dog. Persistence has paid off. But now that she’s about to be delivered, we are both a bit overwhelmed at the prospect. Last night we sat on the end of the bed trying to make the decision. Yes, it will be a huge adjustment, a 24/7 responsibility which will limit our mobility, at least for a while. Yes, it will be a lot of work. Yes, it will be a not inconsequential expense. In this way, the decision to buy a dog is not unlike the decision to bring a child into the world. The plus side of the ledger contained more mystical, transcendent entries. Having a dog brings things like “joy” and “life” to us. In our newly empty house, she will inject much needed noise and activity. She will love us and be loved by us, a condition that makes any home a happier place to come home to.
“-------------,” (enter name here, suggestions would be appreciated) will change the dynamics around here. She will give both of us something new to care for, something new to nurture, something new to love. We will be made better as a result.