August 2016

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Wendy

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Thing called a cairn terrier. Source file for a bunch of other terriers. Bred down to create other breeds. Scotties. Westies. There’s a list but I can’t remember them all now. Compact. Small actually. Fearless. Kind of invulnerable.

Occasionally clumsy too. Wendy used to climb on top of chairs in her general charging around. Once she was on a chair over where Mattie was sleeping. She fell off, right on top of Mattie. Who went “Oof!” And right back to sleep.

She wouldn’t want me to make a fuss. So I’ll tell you just three things about her, which should be enough.

We had an orange cat named Webster. A big, cool fella who was afraid of nothing but the squirrel that came into my Philly apartment one day. Sorry. Another story for another day. Wendy and Webster lived in the same house for years. Except that Wendy never EVER acknowledged Webster’s existence. She ignored him completely. He would wait around the corner and ambush her. He weighed more than she did. He’d smack her with all his might. And she’d just shrug and carry on. It was her way.

One time she fell down the back stairs. It was a curving set of steps. She lost it right at the top and tumbled dramatically all the way down. For some reason we were all clustered at the bottom and heard the whole loud ass over teacup disaster. We attempted to pick her up at the end, but she wouldn’t let us touch her. She just said “Oof”, shrugged, and carried on. It was her way.

This last one is my fault. I’ve never gotten over feeling guilty about it. I had pretensions of being a baseball pitcher. So I used to throw walnuts at the back of our cement block garage. Green, much bigger than a golf ball, lots of specific gravity. You could throw it fast and hard. My fastball was fast but erratic. Sometimes Wendy kept me company. She thought it was her job to field the rebounds. Which normally she couldn’t do. Until this one day when she leaped out and fielded a rebound square on her nose. It was like, well, have you ever seen a prizefighter take a huge punch right on the nose? She sank to her tiny knees, momentarily knocked out. I raced to pick her up, but she would have none of it. She got to her feet, shrugged, and carried on.

When Mattie died, she knew where we had buried her. She used to sleep on his grave. We couldn’t deter her in that practice either. It was her way.

...with this man.

…with this man.

He was the executive editor of an esteemed New England newspaper. Published a couple of my essays there. Then we crossed swords over Obamacare. He was for it. Big time. We yelled at each other. Then we were done. Had been friends for close to 50 years. No more.

People will say, how can you let politics get in the way of friendship. It has to, when friends become corrupt. He had a duty. And he failed in that duty. Like the whole MSM is failing now. Attack Trump for every foible. Leave Hillary alone. Corrupt, criminal, sick unto death, and never ever asked a hard question.

Lifelong friend. His newspaper never ran a story about Benghazi. Not one. I did a Google search. Not one story about Benghazi.

And he yelled at me as loud as I yelled at him. Healthcare in France is better than ours. Which is utter bullshit. Until now. When ours now sucks as much as theirs does.

Smart. Witty. Dartmouth. Belonged to a club called the Harold Parmington Foundation. Bailed me out of numerous youthful scrapes. He was a few years older, you know. And he was good. You know.

I miss him. One of his daughters has a FB page. She takes photographs of dogs and herself. I try to keep in touch. She’s unbelievably beautiful. I’d take pictures of her too. She hates Trump. I try not to talk about Trump with her. Everything has gotten so tenuous.

He gave me a hard time about not billing him for the essays he printed in his paper. I didn’t care about billing. I cared about the fact that he blew up the lede in an essay that featured my dad’s birthday. But he was long gone as a journalist by then. Nobody gets to edit me.

There was a time when he knew who I was. Why he was always there. Until he wasn’t anywhere anymore. Should have known when I saw him at WSJ in ’74. Sitting at a long carrel of proofreaders, 50 Columbia J-School grads passing copy from one to tother. Humiliating. But they were making $50K a year for the privilege of being MSM slaves.

They learned their lessons well.

How long we knew one another. I should have known better. If I’d only listened.

We called her Mattie.

One of a long line of smart ones. She was completely mine.

One of a long line of smart ones. She was completely mine.

She made it to eleven. Died the night of the day I went away to business school at Cornell. Just like that.

My sister blamed me. Typically. All those year (not a typo) when I had a pickup truck in the outback of Jersey. Mattie rode in the back or chased me into Little Egypt, the wilderness behind our house. Wore out her heart, my sister said. Only thing. Nothing ever wore out Mattie’s heart. It was just fine, the whole way.

We were leery about getting a German Shepherd after our Irish Setters. Setters nice, shepherds mean. We studied up. You have to be able to pet the parents, the books said. So we did. Dad was a princeling, an obedience champ named Hans. Okay. Mattie came and curled up on my lap immediately and, to hell with the book learning, we went home with her.

She busted the screens on the back porch a couple times. Even my dad wasn’t too upset. “We got home too late to let her out,” he said. Then he repaired the screen for four hours. That’s Mattie. We all loved her.

Hans came to visit one time. His parents were so proud. Hans always obeyed. Then the cow at the top of the adjoining field got out into the cut corn and Hans and Mattie both streamed away in pursuit.

Now we weren’t breeders. We were angry parents. “Hans!” yelled his daddy. “Mattie,” yelled me. Guess who turned around and came back.

Hans and his daddy slinked away shortly thereafter.

Once she brought home a severed deer head. Life in the country. Plus the truck and all.

Then she became a town lady. In Salem. For years we knew she was sleeping on the couch when we were away. We didn’t mind, but she always pretended she wasn’t. She was a girl, you know.

Let me illustrate. If you left butter out in the kitchen, it would be gone the next morning. Once, for her birthday, I gave her a whole stick of butter with her dinner. She was offended. Wouldn’t eat it. We weren’t supposed to catch her in her deceptions.

So the couch was a long term game. My mother would go on errands and return to find a German Shepard sized hollow in the couch cushions. Mattie, of course, knew nothing about it.

Then, when Mattie was maybe nine, my mother left the house without her keys and returned before starting the car. There was Mattie, on the couch. They looked at one another. And Mattie didn’t move. Caught. She was okay with that. And so were we.

I knew she was ill when I left for business school. I said goodbye. I think she did too. Didn’t think it would be over so fast. But dogs live life at a different pace. Can’t wait to go waltzing with Mathilda again.

Should be titled "No Chance U."

Should be titled “No Chance U.”

The hardest part with this six part Netflix series is to know where to start. It’s so many things all at once. Don’t even know what’s intended by the producers.

You got preconceptions about the mushmouthed backwardness of Mississippi? Step right up. All of them fulfilled right here.

You got problems with football as a main part of underclass culture? Here you go.

You think government largesse can make hope where there otherwise would be none, take your business elsewhere. This is an awful confrontation with reality.

There’s a junior college called East Mississippi State. You know, the state that nobody who lives there knows how to spell. They’re the best junior college football team in the nation. State of the art locker rooms, and buses, and six different uniforms, and they’re the last chance for football players who can’t qualify for Division I scholarships. A spotless stadium with a capacity of 5000 seats. A record of 25 wins with no defeats and two national championships.

Sound like the American Dream? The American Nightmare is more like it. You watch it hoping that it’s a hope for kids who want good lives for themselves. The reality is that there’s no hope for anyone involved.

It’s a documentary series, which means you hear a lot from the coach, who weighs 400 pounds, has a sweet family and the foulest mouth on the football field you’ve ever heard tell of. There’s also the young woman charged with shepherding the players through the academic path that’s necessary if any of the players will ever get a Division I scholarship. She sounds like Dana Perino. She is earnest. And she fails at every turn. The subplot of two episodes is her attempt to wring an essay out of her charges about the short story “The Most Dangerous Game.” Her students don’t show up for class, don’t meet any deadlines for their essay, and never show the least sign of understanding that their futures depend as much on academics as football, and they don’t care.

Hard to tell if most of them know how to read. That’s how pitiful it is.

The only point. They don’t know how to read. There’s no point in them playing football. They’re just paid gladiators who won’t ever make the grade.

Same with the Division 1 schools. “Students” who can’t study. Not anywhere in Division 1. Except maybe somewhere by exception somehow.

Do away with this crap. Stop pretending that illiterate street kids can pretend to play football. Give them their own minors, like baseball. Class B, A, AA, AAA, do it. They’re 60 IQ illiterates. Let them be gladiators in the NFL. And under. Don’t pretend they ever got an education. They never did. None of them.

It’s like the NBA. 500 jobs up for grabs. A million kids in the streets who have no knowledge of odds think they have a shot. They don’t. Same with football.

Saddest commentary on race in America anybody could have invented if they were the evilest nastiest person in the world. What Democrats call hope.

What did Grace Kelly say? "She was yar."arge wp-image-15627″ /> What did Grace Kelly say? “She was yar.”

Took my parents a long time to learn their lesson. Don’t follow a great example of the breed with another of the same breed. They got another German Shephard after Mattie. Well, that worked out. Give me a minute. It didn’t work out in the Irish Setter category.

Maggie was everything Katie was not. Huge, gorgeous in fact, headstrong, not unintelligent but frankly untrainable. Only had her two years. Thinking somebody hijacked her. She was that perfect a specimen. But we kids loved her.

Before she was two, she weighed eighty pounds. I used to wrestle with her with all my might, and she never even bruised me.

And God how she could run. We lived in the country, as I’ve said, and her passion was to chase cars. Ours, the neighbors’, total strangers, she had it in her blood. We were afraid she’d get killed. My mother consulted the Hines’s handyman Nelson. He said, “Get a rope, a long rope, attach it to her collar, and when she gets to the end of it, it will jerk her up short. She’ll learn.”

So we attached the rope to Maggie’s collar and the other end to a giant Sycamore tree. We waited. A pickup truck went by, rattling but hardly speeding. Maggie took off. The rope parted like — no, it didn’t part, it burst — like a 4th of July firecracker. Pop! And it was done. She always came back. Winning was the thing. She wasn’t trying to hitch a ride to San Francisco.

So my mother consulted Nelson again. He said, “Go to Hitchners Hardware. They got chains.” She got a chain. Attach to Maggie, sycamore.

Not even a pop this time. Parted without a sound.

Second chain, heavier. You know. Serious this time. Maggie through it like butter.

Third chain. Real links this time. Like you’d use on a winch, a tractor, a truck. Buuuuuttttteeeeerrrrr! Done.

So the guy at Hitchners says, “What kinda animal you got, lady? Don’t got a bigger chain.”

We gave up on the car chasing. My last beautiful memory of Maggie. Huge snowstorm. No power at all in Greenwich Township. So we had to make a run for it to Salem, home of impervious grandparents. We load the four of us and supplies in the car, reserving space for Maggie.

No. She’d prefer to chase.

One, two, three, four miles of icy roads she chased us at about 40 mph. We could look back and see her, beautiful and bent on her mission the whole way. Nobody loves greyhounds more than I do, but no grey could have kept up with Maggie that day. My dad was stubborn. But even he knew when to quit. There was a crossroad ahead of us we needed to go through. He turned right and waited. One minute, two. Maggie went galloping through on three legs without ever seeing us.

The intersection was the crest of a shallow hill. When Maggie hit the crest, she could see she had lost us and she stopped. She turned around. When dad restarted the motor and beckoned her in, she came like a lamb.

Only months later that she disappeared without a trace. We looked and looked and looked, but they don’t put Irish Setters on milk cartons. Wish they did. To this day. Loved that girl.

Katie

She was the smartest one.

She was the smartest one.

K-K-K-Katy, beautiful Katy,
You’re the only g-g-g-girl that I adore;
When the m-m-m-moon shines,
Over the cowshed,
I’ll be waiting at the k-k-k-kitchen door.
K-K-K-Katy, beautiful Katy,
You’re the only g-g-g-girl that I adore;
When the m-m-m-moon shines,
Over the cowshed,
I’ll be waiting at the k-k-k-kitchen door.

The first dog. There before I was. I remember her. A creature of legend. My parents found her as a stray, a runty Irish Setter with clusters of ticks so thick on her ears (and elsewhere) that she looked to be wearing a wig. The vet said the ticks had poisoned her blood. He prescribed medication without much hope. It had to be given every two hours. My mother took the tweezers and removed the bloated ticks one by one, dropped them into a peanut butter jar filled with kerosene, and sat up with her for 96 hours straight, all night long, all day long.

Katie pulled through. Having come that close to death, she bonded with both my parents to a degree few people experience. She never got big, but she had a huge personality and intelligence. My dad could be in the bathtub and call down to my mother for a pack of cigarettes, which Katie delivered without fail or slobber. At my grandparents’ house in Salem, they could tell her to get her dinner and she’d come back from the pantry with a can of Ken’l Ration in her mouth. But she also had her own life, which consisted of visiting all the neighbors in Greenwich Township, every day, for three miles around. They could set their watches by her. She visited my godfather “Uncle Herb,” the Hines, Doctor Isabel, the Caldwells (who were for Taft over Ike), and even the Lees, who were artists and registered communists. Katie had no politics.

She was my parents’ first child. They bought a Jeep for $1100, one of the relicts of WWII, no top, no doors, fold down windshield etc. She sat in the back. They could park and go shopping. Katie just waited, motionless, sitting up straight. When they got a little more prosperous, they bought a Jeepster.

Long time ago, dontcha know?

Long time ago, dontcha know?

She went everywhere with my mother in that. Then there was the accident. The street to my grandparents’ house was a through street, except for one cross street that had no stop signs. Some woman T-boned my mother’s Jeepster and threw both her and Katie out of the capsized car.

My mother was lying in the street. Katie took off at a gallop to my grandparents’ house, and Lassie-like, tried to lead my grandmother to my mother. But Grandma didn’t get it. She was no longer young. She gave Katie a bath instead, because she smelled so strongly of gasoline. We never spoke of it afterwards.

When the Jeepster came back from the shop, weeks later, restored and ready to drive, Katie absolutely refused to get into it. Never did. Quivered like an aspen.

As I said, dog of legend. My sister and I were both very young when she vanished, but we (three and four?) asked, “Where’s Katie?” I remember. We were in the kitchen. And twilight had fallen. Where’s Katie?

Sometimes, at the end, they go away. They don’t want your tears. They have a place they will go. That’s how our parents explained it to us. Can’t hear this song ever without seeing her.

Tesla did it.

Tesla did it.

I do
We did
You did
They did
I was
We were
You were
They were
I live
We lost
You lost
They won
What could we have done?
Won.

Every year of late, it seems like we're going 2 to 5 years backward.

Every year of late, it seems like we’re going 2 to 5 years backward.

Not to be indelicate, but a consumer warning that should be shared and passed along however you do it. The venerable Scott Company has apparently outsourced TP manufacturing to North Korea, with the result that the paper is now without perforations, thick enough to clog toilets, impossible to tear without attracting playful cats to the streamers, and irritating as hell to the bum. There may be some residual of the old stock left, but buyer beware. Before you know it, you’ll feel like you’re crapping in an East German prison.

Apologies for the lack of decorum. I’m done with Scott Paper, and I once had a summer job in their tax accounting department when I was in business school. I unprint myself of you morons.

He was the king of greyhounds.

He was the king of greyhounds.

The Memoirs of Patrick.

I was a greyhound. Born at the track. I was more than you could handle. 0 to 100 meters per second in five seconds flat. Was usually first out of the gate. Then lost when my lungs said enough. I was a hundred meter guy. Made me a bum at the track. But spectacular from the start. Enough to keep me alive for a time.

Grew up in a pile of other greys. Lots of them died. They looked up to me. But I had nothing to give. Left them in a pile of the dead.

Then they threw me into the rescue mess. Waiting for people to love a grey who had learned to care for no one.

Woman came. Took me to another grey. A man was there too. He and the other grey were friends. With the woman. Then the other grey died. They stuck a needle in his arm. They had a couch. I went on the couch. Then they took me to an old lady, who was dying. She had Cheezits. She didn’t like greys. Until she liked me. She sat in a chair, all by herself, and I looked in on her because she was so alone. She gave me a Cheezit. Every time. I didn’t need the Cheezit. But she liked it so.

The man took me for a walk. I didn’t give him a chance. I bolted. We go fast, us greys. But he stopped me cold. When I started to like him.

They moved me to a house. He hugged me. I didn’t like it but I did. They took me to a park. We had a baby with us, bigger than me, a deerhound baby. A grey bigger than me growled. I told him what I would do if he hurt the baby. He cringed and shrunk away.

We lived in the house. We were happy there. There was another grey. She was awful. But the man still hugged me, which I never liked, but his arms around my chest felt good at times.

And then I suddenly died.

Only after I died could I suddenly understand what he had been saying. He loved me. He thought I was the Arnold Schwarzenegger of greyhounds, and he was going to die a little when I did. So he did. And so I did. And I miss the old lady too.

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