Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Good Dog



Albert's had a rough day. He had to get all his vaccinations -- 3-year rabies, parvo, measles, mumps, polio. Ok, maybe not the last three, but something that sounds like Italian sandwich meat -- mortadella, portadella? Bortadella? He's whacked; too weak to excavate the trash, bark at the UPS, or chase the bird around the house.

Here's the good thing about Albert, why he is Prince Albert. Aside from food, inexpensive, non-prescriptive food, the guy only costs $100 a year in vet bills.

My other main guys, Bru and Phoebe, they cost the earth, or at least a mortgage payment, monthly.

With Bru and Phoebe, a visit to the vet meant a line of assistants bringing in the tomes, documentation of their doggy medical history -- volumes 1, 2, 3, 4a -- refer to notes in volume 3b -- and lay them "oofda!" next to the examination table. Heartworm, roundworm, skin cancer, ear balloons, bladder infections, fungus, athlete's foot, pancreatitis, kennel cough, allergies. And wounds, stitches from all the fights, and stitches ripped out after the fights.

Albert? The vet walks in with one single slip of paper, no thicker than a Ralph's receipt. His history: an embarrassingly pudgy year in 2010, perfect weight over the past four, and the current efficacy of all his shots.

"Albert looks great," Dr. Dawson says.

A hundred bucks. That's all.

When I found him in 2007, Albert looked at me and seemed to say, take me in and you won't regret it. Eventually. Eventually -- well, that was the key.

If I were to attempt an ROI, a cost-to-benefit analysis, weighing his powers of incredible indoor and outdoor furniture destruction those first three years, our toilet-training arguments, and what seemed an impossibility to ever get the god damned guy to heel, versus his perfect health, manners, and affable nature today, I'd have to admit he turned out to be absolutely right -- I don't regret it now. We had to stick around for the eventually.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Irritating stuff that doesn't matter



Blame it on the US Open. Blame it on the New York thunderstorm.

My plan for the day was to hike early (done), then watch a lot of athletically gifted people run around the tennis court while I drank beer and ate cheeseburgers.

But then, when rain shut down the Open, I left the house to hit the trail again. And that's why and only why I found this huge butt of an SUV blocking my walkway.

Yeah, I have a traffic cone there, during the neighborhood parties, to properly identify my walkway. It's pretty much my one way in and one way out of the house. But apparently, this GMC figured the cone just meant, hey, don't drive, in a perpendicular direction, through the front door or living room window, but as for your giant ass, feel free to park it wherever you like.

Certain remedies, tactics, came to mind. Eggs, soap. Doing that chalk-circle thing around the SUV and writing ASSHOLE PARKING -- but since this is in front of my house, I feared the asshole would be mis-identified. Then I thought about leaving a note, a scathing note, on the windshield. Something that started with "Dear Jerk," or "Stupid stupid head." Oh, I constructed many many versions in my head.

Thank god I'm a coward at heart. The car will be out of my life by tonight; the US Open has resumed play. Of all my best traits, it's the power of the coward that has saved my bacon, and who knows how many regrets, time and time again.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

You can't hurry love



When it comes to sex, fauna has nothing on flora.

Consider the dog. When dogs do it, their upper half appears totally unaware of what the lower half is up to. Judging from the boy dog's face, he's watching cartoons. And she, more contemplative, stares off into the ivy, wondering if that's where she lost her frisbee.

When the deed is done, they slink away in opposite directions, in tacit agreement to forget what just happened ever happened and to mention it to no one.

The plant world, on the other hand, knows no shame. Take the Amorphophallus titanum, for instance. Conveniently owning both male and female parts, the boy part works on his erection proudly, publicly, and for weeks, sometimes years, at a time. Growing two inches one day, four inches another day, and so forth, until reaching an impressive three to five feet tall. The female part doesn't help much to move things along other than handle the suspense with patience and grace.

Finally, the great day arrives. Well, actually, sometimes the great day never arrives, and the whole enterprise just peters out, as it were. But, should the great day arrive and the boy really gets it up, the girl blossom unfolds into a huge, dark burgundy flower. In celebration, the two let out one magnificent, unforgettable stink that can waft for miles. Those in the know say it smells like garbage, an outhouse, rotten eggs, or a piece of fish you left in the fridge while on vacation. Hence the common name: Corpse Flower.

The Corpse Flower bloomed at the Huntington Library this weekend. Thousands of people queued up on Sunday to catch some of the action.

As with both flora and fauna, while wooing and foreplay can take weeks, the climactic event often lasts but a few hours. I arrived 12 hours too late, and by that time found the exhausted Amorphophallus titanum smoking a cigarette, watching Breaking Bad reruns, and ordering take-out.

When I was there a week earlier, as a volunteer, staffing the information table along with a grammar school teacher, hundreds of people dropped by. Sex sells, and so, apparently, does a famously bad odor. In anticipation of the consummation, we had all sorts of drawings explaining the life cycle, including one that helpfully split the name of the plant into an English translation, including, just in case the plant hadn't already made this abundantly clear, the fact that phallus = penis.

When two little boys approached the table, the teacher slipped the English translation in a drawer, then went about her explanation using all the proper scientific terms, exchanging the word "phallus" for the equally correct, "inflorescence."

"Inflorescence, what's that?" they asked

"This, er, thing," she said, tapping the part in question with the eraser end of her pencil.

The two studied the drawings and samples on the table -- the corm, the spathe, the petiole, the inflorescence -- and then moved on.

"You know what I think?" the boy said to his friend, "I think it looks like a giant weiner."

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Midweek Matinee: White Dog



Back in the 80's, everyone who loved movies knew Samuel Fuller, and everyone who knew Sam Fuller knew about White Dog. In theory. The film was so notorious, some studio, Paramount, maybe, ducked the controversy, swallowed the loss, and refused to release it in the US. I saw it in France. Loosely based on a true story, it's a movie about both a white dog and a White Dog -- a german shepherd trained from puppyhood, in a tradition dating back to the 1800s, to be a loving family pet for white people and attack and kill black people.

The film was shot for $7 mil, and often looks like it. So I won't defend some of the bad dialog, wardrobe, sound, and editing choices inherent to a budget production.

In spite of all that, it's a powerful film, and succeeds because of Fuller, the score by Ennio Morricone, and the four lead actors (Burl Ives, most definitely included, but Paul Winfield runs the show, breaks the heart). And yes, the movie is a metaphor, but Fuller dealt in slap-in-the-face metaphors -- think Hawthorne and Melville. Nothing coy; no digging required.

The film doesn't stream, but you can get the DVD at various sources. It's painful to watch, and maybe you won't. In which case, I've got a clip of the ending. To set this up: A young actress rescues a dog and they bond. But it's a white White Dog, and once she finds out, she takes it to an animal training center. Both men who run the center recognize the problem, immediately; Ives says kill him, Winfield, well, it's his Moby Dick.

The movie rarely strays from one note, one powerful note, pretty much the whole time. When you learn to hate at an early age, can such damage be reversed. Can you reprogram a mind?

Can hatred be removed, erased; or, once learned, is it just in transit? Always searching for a target.

White Dog