My dog Duffy and I were walking the three blocks this morning to pay rent to the rent people. It’s a normal walk: Duffy stopping every eighteen inches to stop to smell a particularly interesting molecule, a halting style of walking which I don’t mind most days.
So we’re just moving very very slowly up the sidewalk and this big fellow comes up. He looks to be about forty and he’s very very large and he’s holding a package of what looks to be some kind of food (turned out to be prosciutto). He was being friendly and he generously offered Duffy a piece of ham. I told him that Duffy really wasn’t a treat kind of dog, but that rarely stops people from trying. He went on and on describing how special is the bond between man and dog, and I agreed heartily.
So this guy ceremoniously peels off a slice of ham and dangles it in front of Duffy’s face, and sure enough, Duffy was completely, meh. So this guy turns his attention to me.
“Dogs follow their masters. You did this to him.” I wanted to explain that Duffy has had approximately less than one minute of serious training; that it was a conscious decision that grew from a desire to let his personality blossom without influence from an influencer, when in reality that was secondary. He never received training because I’m lazy.
I offer Duffy every treat in the world. Every morning I peel a Laughing Cow cheese out its wax covering and tear off little chunks for Duffy. (I do this because I like Laughing Cow cheeses, ergo he must also like them.) He partakes, but not after a certain bit of ritual – theater of indifference is what it looks like. After watching the cheese ritual, my ex opined that Duffy must be blind, because he seemed not to see the cheese. I knew this wasn’t so. In fact its opposite was true. Duffy condescended to take a bit of cheese as long as he discerned that the morsel initially offered had been trimmed a bit. Then he would take it and begin to chew. This makes me wonder if all dogs like ritual. Duffy will ignore his actual dog food unless it’s accompanied by certain ritual: We must play ball first out in the long hallway outside my apartment. The ball must be kicked; not thrown. Duffy no longer fetches the ball. I fetch the ball and he just sits there like a fulcrum around which I perform this fetching ritual. When he finally picks up the ball in his mouth, he goes inside the apartment, seemingly ready to begin the dining experience. But he won’t eat unless he sees that I’m intensely interested in his food bowl, so I watch him. Sometimes he eats and sometimes not.
I know Duffy seems like kind of an asshole dog sometimes, but that’s fine with me. I’m an asshole too sometimes, and I share my little cheeses.
Summer break is two-thirds over. I have learned to love these long breaks. I spend an inordinate amount of time with my dog, who, like me is getting on a bit. He gets tired, especially in the heat. We go a long ways…down to the Rainbow Lagoon where in winter there are many ducks. Duffy loves to chase the ducks. Not because he’s vicious and wants to eat them, he just enjoys seeing them scramble when he runs up on them. At least this is what I think he’s thinking. It’s impossible for dog owners not to anthropomorphize their dogs so I won’t even try. I have a friend who hasn’t owned a dog for many years. He laughs at me when I describe something Duffy wants: Duffy wants to just keep walking south, possibly to San Diego. Dogs have a rudimentary sense of time and rarely any real appointments. According to my friend, dogs don’t want anything but food and sex and the smell of urine, and that anything that might resemble a human want is only wishful thinking and my anthropomorphizing. We disagree on this.
I recently read The Friend by somebody — I can’t remember her name. It was good, but I realized that you only write about dogs if they’re going to die. Apollo died. And he was a good boy.
So happy Tuesday everybody. And happy Tuesday, Duffy. You’re a good boy and all that.
if my life depended on my regular faithful contributions to this site, I would be long dead.
I’m told that self promotion is part of the literary firmament, so get used to it.
I’m not used to it, but I’m also writing a new book. it’s taken a long time for an acceptable tack to present itself. So many fits and false starts.
On the other hand, it’s raining today in L.A. and the local newscasters are splashing in it.
On the other hand someone I know and love has been drunk continuously for two years because of Trump. That’s what she says anyway. I think it may be a combination of Trump and an unwillingness to accept the fact that life is more interesting when you’re fucked up…some of the time. I know. My arms know. For an old dope fiend I sure like a nice piece of cake now and then.
OK. My duty is done. I want to thank BC Dreyer for his generous heart and brilliant mind. He probably doesn’t know I admire him so much, but I do. Just the fact that I now render okay as OK because of his book, Dreyer’s English, is enough for me.
Oh, yeah. My new book has some b.s. working title Cyclops.2. It’s about time and harpsichords and lesbians and crime…and maybe a Nazi.
And Bach. OK. I’m done.
Yesterday early afternoon, after perching myself into a cramped seat on one of those extra long buses, I found myself surrounded by – for lack of a better word – scary guys: young and belligerent sounding, yelling and high-fiving each other each time the bus passed a familiar street corner, “Hell yeah,” which sounded more like ‘heeyal yeeaya,’ after which they would settle for about one second before launching into luridly cruel descriptions of how many people they’d beaten or stabbed or shot on that particular corner. More Heeyal Yeeayas as a prelude to more descriptions of how exactly each of them had ravaged certain women and what they’d threatened to do to their infant children: “I’d take that kid and dump ‘im in the oven, how’s that for child abuse? More Heeyal Yeeayas.
I was trying to concentrate on Dickens’ Bleak House during all this, but was cognizant enough to notice a slight erosion of these guys’ crowing (they really were like a bunch of roosters crowing to each other and anybody who was nearby). As the trip entered into the final quarter hour, the subject and meanness of their banter changed from descriptions of how bad-assed they were to one of parenting. “Goddamn, you really gotta check out those daycares. You don’t know what the heeyal’s goin’ on there – lotta freaks sometimes.” “Heeyal yeeaya!”
Each of them finally exited and I was left to learn about Mr. Jarndyce, et al, while I laughed and snorted to myself.
If I’d have driven, I would have been deprived of all that.
There’s this quite beautiful young man walking toward me this morning while on the way to work in DTLA. I’m able to restrain my urge to stare in such circumstances, and I believe I did so with this guy (I was wearing sunglasses, which I believe are able to hide my roving eyes completely). But either he saw or sensed that I was watching, and accepted my attention as if it were some kind of tedious existential burden that he’s just so tired of bearing, and why oh why can’t he just live his life like a normal boy.
I really really really wanted to stop him and just tell him one thing: fuck you and don’t take yourself so damned seriously, girlfriend.
I said none of that though.
Every morning my inbox is full of important messages, most of which get discarded. Those that promise relevant information or at least a bit of outrage I keep. Then there are the professional ones from some of the many educationally-slanted software companies. One such email this morning touted: “Get ready for PD resources.” Hmmm, PD resources. Could PD mean police department? And I imagine original source material full of twisted and intimate and hilarious and interesting details about the human condition – and I am hopeful for one second that this database may actually embody more than just current events and stretch back through the decades, and the allure factor just gets that much stronger. But alas. PD in this case meant “Professional Development,” and I am crestfallen. Professional development screams incompetence and mediocrity. And I reflect for a minute and am glad I’m old. I don’t care about educational software. I grade with a pen and I prefer to develop imagination rather than professionalism.
People who ride the train every day as part of their routine learn to accept public displays of mental illness as just the price of admission. It’s often annoying but so what.
This morning was no different. As the train became crowded, a shrill voice of protest rose amid all the other sounds. Proclamations regarding past grievances or current protests are common on the train. But this one was different because it was fresh – four months old to be exact.
This person – as are most other riders – was a young woman of color, who apparently couldn’t, for one more second, contain her outrage and fear and sadness and frustration at the death of another loved one. While in police custody her brother had been shot and killed. Four months ago.
She continued at top volume. It was difficult to hear. There was a kind of sad revival meeting quality on that train car as everyone inside quietly affirmed their support for this woman’s loss. It was their loss too. Police killings are just part of the tapestry of life.
What’s amazing to me is that this kind of display isn’t more common.