Friday, November 20, 2015

Dog Thoughts

Debra gets home after I do on Tuesdays and Fridays now, which means I feed our beagle, Sam, when I get home. He has been in the house, with doggy door out to a small yard for the day, which combined with some pretty swanky sleeping arrangements constitute the criteria typically imagined when invoking the phrase, “a dog’s life.” Still, from the dog’s perspective, it must bear some equivalency to an open-air prison of sorts, a kind of Palestine in the Los Angeles suburbs, weirdly lorded over by an irreligious Jew and a similarly disposed Catholic. By the time I park and get to the door, his toenails are tapping a novel in Morse code across the vertical panes of glass that flank our front entance. He doesn’t stop until I am inside the door, at which point he launches himself at me in a series of corkscrewing trajectories and emitting a river of continuous yelps. I bow to him and extend my arms, and he calms enough to place his front paws on the insides of my forearms and we bury our heads next to one another and we wriggle in calm nonsense for a moment. He breaks our clinch and darts toward the kitchen. He will be fed.

He eats a half of a can in the morning and a half of a can at night, and after dinner (about fifteen seconds later), he begins a second Saint Vitus dance, one that cajoles me to get the leash and climb the local hills to a dirt mound with a view, a journey with incline enough to get us both panting. The trip up those hills, while largely single or double story suburban ranch houses with drought-resistant lawns, stone arrangements and cacti, also features a few sudden small conifer groves with dirt patches, and it was in one of these that Sam found a dead rat tonight, probably having staggered away from a nearby house in his death throes after eating the D-Con, a front paw on an opposite breast, tearfully sparing his family the piteous sight of him dying, “Ma, they got me, they got me good this time ma, take care of the kids, ma, I can’t…let them…see me…like this!”

I had been letting Sam lead the way to that point, rushing when he rushed, having picked up a scent, and stopping when he stopped, having lost it. So he had his snout well into the maggoty rat by the time I figured out what he was onto and drew him away with the leash. He launched a loud, focused hound bleat and I praised him for his excellence as I led him away from the carcass. I had a tissue so I scrubbed his gob of death bugs and we continued on up the hill. The next adventure in the mighty quest for a tired beagle was the dump. And of course I had forgotten the bag. But what this animal did for me, what this magical creature did, was to pull over into the next little miniature pastoral area between houses for his sworn duty. He chose a spot in loose dirt below, with an ample supply of more loose dirt and fallen leaves right nearby. There was a steep embankment that tumbled down a good fifteen feet just another foot away. I covered the Los Angeles Steamer in loose dirt first, then in fallen leaves and gave it a sweet little boot over the lip of the ravine. 100% biodegradable, and with an El Niño predicted, I guarantee that thing will not see the springtime. On we went.

Sam went berserk at the next little forested area, and it was something really special. Another dog’s shit. Here he had just made some, so it was only natural he review the work of his peers, see where he might need to sharpen his game a bit, maybe get some ideas about style or content. Who knows what goes through a dog’s mind? Not me, certainly, as I have never had a dog call me Dad so I’m pretty new to all of this. I have a suspicion though about the opinion dogs have regarding the way things smell. They don’t qualify them per se. They identify them, but even though their sense of smell, especially hounds, is around forty times more sensitive than a human being’s, they don’t establish nearly the spectrum of nauseating to intoxicating that humans ascribe to smell. The difference between suddenly presenting someone with a fly larvae-ridden rat corpse and a cup of freshly brewed coffee is dramatic. The beagle makes no such value judgments. I see the beagle’s sense of smell as being able to differentiate what a thing is and where it is with a stunning accuracy, the way most people see colors or the way Mozart heard music, vividly, in great detail, without question. What does not particularly exist within the beagle purview is much of a qualitative assessment. The gradations boil down to good, better, best.

Better would be what food smells like, best is what people food smells like, and good is everything else. I don’t think anything smells bad to a dog. Shit smells like shit, dead rats smell like dead rats, and both can be filed under “good.” Sam is a not only a good dog, he is a springboard for endless ruminative amusements.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

A lamentation for Paris

Why write if you don’t have answers? It’s like forgiveness I guess, of which I have none right now. It’s like forgiveness in that it’s for the forgiver. Writing is for the writer. A lucky and uniquely skilled few writers have legions attuned to each word, but those must be the writers with answers. After all, who needs more questions, especially from a writer? Readers have plenty of their own. So I’ll write some thoughts on it all just to pass some time with it, to be still with it for a moment. I’ll post it I’m guessing, but for now it’s for now.

Squad terrorism describes this thing I guess. That’s its type, its genus, coordinated and simultaneous, kind of in the Mumbai tradition. Commandos. Death squads. So damn sick. Arranged, but scattered, an assault on bars and restaurants and a young band. So I guess that was it. Youth. Kill a bunch of kids. It seems to be a fierce jab with a spear of so dull a point as to mean nothing. Is this the new version of the new warfare? It’s asymmetrical and now it’s nonsensical as well? Enough of looking for poetry in murder, I suppose.

What is it then? Maybe I’ll try a few answers. Politically it is born of our love affair with the House of Saad and our indirect funding of the tools of oppression against the average Saudi schmuck, who runs for solace to the Saudi mullahs preaching a uniquely Gulf State Wahaabist Islam that extolls violence against the infidel. Historically, it is born of a century of capricious blunders in the Middle East that have not taught us either how to partner with or exploit the region. Economically it is born of reliance on oil. Practically, with Iraq now gone to the dogs, or the Russians anyway, our most potent ally in the Middle East (besides Israel) might be Iran. That’s how inside out the Middle East is right now. East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet. But we keep trying. The urge now is for vengeance, but that’s been tried before. We in the US are experts in blind lashings out in vengeance’s name, and it does not work. The one thing that has not been tried, disengagement, is impossible absent a dramatic social shift in the West and a dramatic intellectual shift in the East.

So those are my answers. And they’re not answers at all. They’re thoughts. I recommend you be suspicious of anyone with definitive answers on this. People better informed than me might have the next level past a thought, which is an idea. Ideas are good. The next level past an idea though, is an answer, and as pertains to the Middle East, anything characterized as an answer should be suspect. But, if you’re bound and determined and you’re looking for answers, you can go on Twitter and find more than 140 characters who have it all figured out in less than 140 characters. Most of what I have here is more questions, and a parting thought that apart from its rich cultural heritage, France has a noble history of the greater good eventually prevailing in politics, so let’s hope she can begin to make sense of this and find a way to mend her greatest city. Mon coeur est brisé.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Load the 12-guage and batten down the bulkhead: there's a war on Christmas.

Just how prepared are you for the war on Christmas? It’s not even Thanksgiving yet, and as evidenced by the new Starbucks holiday cup design, already the first salvos of intercontinental ballistic mistletoe have been fired. Go ahead Starbucks. Take the Christmas trees off the cup. Take the snowflakes off too. We know what CEO Howard Schultz means by that. Starbucks and the other foot soldiers in the war on Christmas are already poisoning poinsettias and putting the “no” in Noel. Will the forces of Islam, Judaism and irreligiousness turn your Christmas sleigh into a Christmas slaying? Will the nice cede to the naughty? Or will you be a proud Christmas nutcracker and meet these Yuletide challengers with cup of hot chocolate to the face? Only by fortifying your manger with gingerbread army men will you be able to fend off the Scrooges and fruitcakes that mean to crash your crèche and wassail you with songs of apostasy. Put a lump of Koch brothers coal in the stockings of those turkeys who encourage the snowballing anti-Christmas sentiment and shove a Yule log where the sun doesn’t shine. If these Rudolph and Jesus naysayers want their next stocking stuffer to be a body bag, that’s a Christmas wish I can be joyful about. And if you want to ring someone’s bell this Christmas, strap on your Santa boots and knock the chestnuts out of some candy cane trying to make mince meat of my merry. To put a bow on it, get a noggin full of eggnog and go caroling in Crown Heights. The blizzard of anti-Jesus, anti-wise men bluster is already pouring down your chimney, so don’t get caught with your decorations in your hand. The only way to fight the war on Christmas is with a preemptive strike. Figure out what myrrh is and get some. Figure out what frankincense is and get some. And yes, buy gold. Knock back a couple snorts of Christmas cheer, stock that fireplace and put on your cap because we’re trading shifts at the lookout and it’s going to be a long winter’s night, especially with no Starbuck’s. Be prepared to share your cider and cookies or tidings of piping hot lead from your Christmas Glock, but remember to have your toboggan ready for a fast getaway. You don’t want your Christmas goose to be delivered from behind.