Monthly Archives: May 2012

On May 31…

1819 – Poet Walt Whitman (Leaves of Grass, When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d, Passage to India) was born in West Hills, NY.

 

1859 – The clock known as “Big Ben” went into operation in London.

 

1889 – After a month of heavy rains, the Conemaugh River Dam in Johnstown, PA, broke, flooding the city and killing more than 2,200 people.

 

1902 – In Pretoria, South Africa, Great Britain and the Boer states sign the Treaty of Vereeniging, officially ending the Boer War.

 

1961 – South Africa became an independent nation, as it withdrew from the British Commonwealth.

1962 – Former Nazi official Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel for his crimes during the Nazi Holocaust.

 

1977 – The Trans-Alaska oil pipeline was completed.

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Cartoon of the Day

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Quote of the Day

Trump

“Donald, you’re beginning to sound a little ridiculous, I have to tell you.”

CNN’s Wolf Blitzer to Donald Trump about the discredited right-wing conspiracy theory that President Obama was not born in this country.

Just a little?

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Josh Still Lives Here

I felt ten feet tall at age 9 that Saturday I walked into my parents’ house, holding the new puppy, a German shepherd named Joshua, or Josh.  I had picked his name out of a book of names my folks had for years.  I had selected him from a litter of German shepherd puppies weeks earlier.  He was the first-born and therefore, the biggest.  My parents had promised me a dog when we moved to suburban Dallas in December 1972.  The house had a huge back yard, and a fence had just been erected when we brought Josh home that day in June 1973.  Today would have been his 39th birthday.  If only dogs could normally live that long.

It’s funny how people become so attached to animals, especially domesticated ones.  It’s surely an affection that goes back millennia.  We give them names and imbue them with human-like qualities.  People who don’t like animals simply can’t relate.  They’re own lack of humanity prevents them.  But, people like me never consider our four-legged creatures as pets – they’re always like adopted children.  That’s why we refer to them as “boys” or “girls” and never men or women.  They’re kids we pick up at an orphanage and bring into our home.  They wrap our hearts around them, make us fall in love with them – and then they go off and die.  Damn animals!  Why do they do that?

My mother was one of those who didn’t like animals, especially dogs.  Around the age of 6, she’d seen a man attacked by a Doberman pinscher in her native México City and developed an overwhelming fear of large canines.  But, she and my father had promised to get me a dog the summer after we moved to the new house with the big yard.  So she swallowed her phobia and, when she saw me strut onto the patio from the garage, she smiled with joy.

His paws were so big they draped over my arms.  It was one sign of just how large he’d grow.  Another was his appetite.  But, his eyes told us something much more important.  They were uniquely tri-colored; alternating between yellow-gold, green and dark blue.  We didn’t fully comprehend his massive size until we brought him into the house.  He seemingly dwarfed the furniture.  Even in the great expanse of the back yard, he looked huge.  Majestic is the word my dad always uses to describe Josh.

Like most dogs, he had a habit for returning our unbridled affection.  But, a kiss from Josh wasn’t an ordinary mammalian peck.  His foot-long tongue would unfurl from his titanic jaws and practically wrap around your face.  When you realize how many times a dog licks its genitals, then have to question the extent of your affection.  Once summer day my mother was home sick from work.  I had brought Josh into the house, as we often did during the scorching Texas summers.  At some point, he wandered in through my parents’ bedroom and given my sleeping mother one of his warm wet kisses.  I heard her scream my name and was perplexed to see Josh ambling back out of the room with a ‘Did I do something wrong?’ expression.  My mother’s face had been close enough to the edge of the bed, and he’d seen a prime opportunity to give her some loving.  She almost hit the ceiling.  Josh was terrified of her.  She’d order him to sit or lay down, and he’d drop.  “Boy, I’m tough,” she’d say.  “If he only knew that all he has to do his growl,” she told us later, “and I’d faint.”

Other kids in the neighborhood were afraid of Josh.  He had a deep vociferous bark and horrendous growl – just what you’d expect from a German shepherd.  But, his voice was powerful and would echo throughout the neighborhood.  A neighbor told us she always knew when someone was in the alley behind our house; she could hear Josh barking from where she lived – three houses up the street, on the other side.  On one occasion, that woman’s husband was speaking with my dad, both standing in the alley behind our home.  He was a tall man and gestured at one point with his left hand, his arm clearing the six-foot fence.  Suddenly Josh’s set of massive jaws flew upwards and came within inches of grabbing that stray hand.  “Goddamn, George!” he cried like a frightened child.  “That dog almost bit my hand off!  I could sue you for that!”

“No, you can’t,” my dad said calmly and matter-of-factly.  “You were invading his territory.”

Josh, of course, was a carnivore, but he developed a taste for other stuff – like iced tea and ice cream.  We’d sit in the back yard on warm lazy evenings with glasses of sun-brewed ice tea.  My mother once stuck her glass in Josh’s face, thinking he’d turn up his big black nose at it.  Instead, that gigantic tongue swept downward into the large tumbler glass and lapped up the contents.  On another occasion, we’d gotten some ice cream after dining at a restaurant.  My mother couldn’t finish hers, so she showed it to Josh.  He sniffed at for a few seconds, then began licking at the confection.  He consumed every bit of it; reaching his tongue into the depths of the cone – and then eating the cone itself.

I could relay a number of stories of the curious and remarkable things that dog would do – as does anyone with their pets.  We supposedly attribute human-like behavior to these animals.  But, I have to wonder if that behavior isn’t already there.  Or, maybe they’re so intelligent they only have to watch us, before mimicking our own actions.  They even understand our language.  How much of their language do we comprehend?

In his later years, Josh developed arthritis.  Winters would still get bitterly cold in Northeast Texas back then, and as Josh aged, we’d often bring his shivering body inside the house.  He’d plop down in front of the fireplace with logs burning and sigh comfortably.  His ears would rotate like radar shields as he took in the noises of our regular activities.  He’d watch us carefully and protectively.

In early 1985, Josh developed hip dysplasia, a common ailment among large canines.  He’d also developed spurs beneath some of his vertebrae.  The veterinarian told us he could give Josh medicine to dissolve the spurs – but could do nothing about his hips.  So on one Saturday morning we made the decision to let him go.  We doped him up with tranquilizers and carried him into the vet’s office – literally.  My dad and I picked up his hulking 100-pound form from the back floorboard of my father’s car and toted him into the building.  I notice a man standing on the other side of the parking lot, holding a pet carrying case with a cat inside; a little girl about 5 or 6 who I assumed was his daughter stood beside him.  They froze when they saw us carrying Josh.  I’ve always wondered if that girl became terrified at the awful sight of it; 2 men hauling a huge dog like that.    Josh had done his job – helping my parents raise me and providing love for everyone.  He just couldn’t come home with us that Saturday.

Shortly afterwards, my father bought a gold-colored statue of St. Francis, the patron saint of animals in Roman Catholicism.  He set it in a corner of the patio beside the chimney where Josh often sat.  About two year after that, my parents had the lattice patio enclosed and converted into a sun room where they keep a variety of potted plants.  That statue of St. Francis remains in that spot by the chimney.

Nine years ago I adopted my miniature schnauzer, Wolfgang, from my ex-roommate.  He couldn’t take care of the puppy, as we uncomfortably parted ways, and told me he’d have to give him up.  I couldn’t stand the thought of that little dog ending up in a shelter or an abusive home.  So, fully unprepared to accept the responsibility that comes with owning a pet, I took him with me.  When I first brought Wolfgang to my parents’ house, we entered the sun room, and he stopped to check out that statue of St. Francis; its gold paint starting to blacken.  He sniffed at it and turned to me, a forlorn look in his eyes.  A human quality, I told myself, that I applied to him.

Damn animals!  If only they didn’t die so soon.  Happy Birthday, Josh.  We know you’re still here.

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May 30 Notable Birthdays

If today is your birthday, “Happy Birthday!”

 

Actor Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey, Oh, What a Night, Blind Date, The Hostage Tower, Paperback Hero) is 76.

 

Actor Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie and Clyde, Dick Tracy, American Gothic, The Arrival) is 73.

 

College & Pro Football Hall of Famer Gayle Sayers is 69.

 

Actor Stephen Tobolowsky (Murder in the First, Radioland Murders, Groundhog Day, Sneakers, Basic Instinct, Thelma and Louise, Bird on a Wire, Mississippi Burning) is 61.

 

Singer Marie Fredriksson (Roxette) is 54.

 

Singer Wynonna Judd (Christina Claire Ciminella; Mama He’s Crazy, Why Not Me, Grandpa [Tell Me ’Bout the Good Old Days], Give a Little Love) is 48.

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On May 30…

1431 – Jeanne d’Arc, or Joan of Arc, was burned at the stake at Rouen in English-controlled Normandy, France.

 

1672 – Piotr Alekseevich Romanov (Peter the Great) was born in Moscow.

 

1868 – At the request of General John A. Logan, the national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, Memorial Day was observed for the first time in the United States.  It was called Decoration Day because the General had seen women decorating graves of Civil War heroes.

 

1879 – William Vanderbilt renamed Gilmore’s Garden to Madison Square Garden.

 

1908 – Mel Blanc, ‘the man of a thousand voices;’ did cartoon voices for Barney Rubble, Dino the Dinosaur, Bugs Bunny, Tweety Bird, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam, was born in San Francisco, CA.

 

1911 – The first race of the Indianapolis 500 was held.

 

1912 – Playwright Joseph Stein (Fiddler on the Roof, Enter Laughing, Mrs. Gibbons’ Boys) was born in New York City.

 

1922 – Former President William Howard Taft dedicated the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C.

 

1971 – The U.S. launched the unmanned space probe Mariner 9 on a mission to gather scientific information on Mars.

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Desert Eyes

I think the genetic faucet in my eyes got turned off a couple of years ago.  They’ve been almost consistently dry since then.  I can’t keep them moist.  Either that, or years of consuming Bacardi and Coke have finally taken their toll.  I guess my liver’s next in that case.  Seriously, though, my eyes feel like buckets of sand.  They’re no longer the sparkling pools of sumptuous chocolate they once were.  Now, they’re dried, aquatically-anemic cesspools of pollution and pollen.  That dry eye syndrome supposedly hits people as they “Age.”  In other words, when you get to be an old fucker, certain parts of your body decide, at long last, they want to lead lives of their own.  On most people, it’s usually the genitalia.  But, mine is still comfortable living with me.  We have an understanding.  I leave Frank and his 2 buddies alone when they’re in a bad mood, and they leave me alone when I need to write.  Thus, my eyes have sought independence – and sandpapering themselves every few minutes is their way of trying to break free.  I don’t think I qualify for an ocular transplant because I’m otherwise healthy and suffer from no real eye ailment.  I might be able to manufacture a glaucoma certificate from a doctor.  But, that would be – what’s the term? – wrong.

In the meantime, I flush my eyes with tap water and soak them often with Visine.  I should buy stock in that company.  I’d get rich and could write full time like I’ve always wanted.  I wonder, though, if I’d qualify for disability.  Hey, that’s an idea!  I could use my schnauzer, Wolfgang, as a seeing eye dog.  He has big beautiful dark brown eyes, and no one can resist him – not even a lesbian.  I could say I’ve had him for a while and trained him myself to be a guide dog, while my vision became encrusted with mold.  It was an emergency situation, I’d tell the tired old Black woman sitting behind the counter, so I couldn’t wait until Lighthouse for the Blind got me a golden retriever.  That’s the good thing about government agencies – they love Black people and dogs.

I drove to the gym last Saturday night and felt like I had taken a wrong turn into rain-swept Seattle.  Seated forward with both hands on the wheel, I surely looked like a schizophrenic on a crime spree – or somebody from South Florida.  I squinted at the weight machine, making certain I injected the pin into the right one.  I didn’t want to try suddenly to lift 210 pounds and render myself a quadriplegic.  Then, I’d be doubly disabled.  I’d qualify for more government aid, but I couldn’t train Wolfgang to pick up stuff for me.  He draws the line at some things.  One guy looked at me funny as I fumbled with the weight pin.  I’m just pissed off, I told him.  My parole officer is on vacation, and I couldn’t go to Galveston without letting him know first.  The guy slowly meandered to the other side of the gym.

The National Weather Service says this year so far has been the worst on record for pollen counts.  Every laboratory across the nation is stunned by the levels of dust and moth wings clogging their measuring cups.  I’ve always been sensitive to the change of seasons, especially from summer to fall.  Occasionally, the winter – spring switch knocks me for a loop.  I’d usually just take some over the counter crap, drink some orange juice, not masturbate for a couple of days and go to bed early.  And, that would do it.  I’d be fine.

This year is different.  Way different.  Ominously and aggravatingly different.  Even my dad is having allergic reactions.  And, he isn’t normally allergic to anything except a losing year for the Dallas Mavericks.  No amount of OTC stuff is helping me.  It just gives me that delirious effect I get when I drink alcohol on an empty stomach, or have 3 Red Bulls in succession.  That can be a good feeling – until you have to do something really important like drive at night, or eat.

I have reading glasses, but I might as well use Coke bottles.  They’re even more outdated than my cell phone.  I’m squinting so much my upper and lower eyelashes are getting to know each other in ways not even they imagined.  Taking a shower provides the only relief, since I can stand beneath the rushing water and let it flood my eye sockets.  It feels almost as good as having my back popped.  Walking around I feel like I’m looking through an original Thomas Edison fish eye lens with the quaint strip of gauze around the outer edges.  I walked carefully while at the store earlier today, afraid I’d bump into some truly disabled person, like a soccer mom.  Those suburban housewives can get vicious if you encroach on their space, or don’t compliment their lazy kids.

Accompanying the frosted vision is sneezing, body aches and lethargy, so I realized it’s nothing catastrophic, like glaucoma or failing to have enough bowel movements.  On top of that, I’m lethargic.  You know you’re sick when you’re not just tired, but lethargic.  The next stage of exhaustion is comatose.  I’ve approached that level several times – mainly after consuming a box of cold meds and some Bacardi in one sitting.  That’s an even better feeling than getting your back popped.  If I was in a coma, though, I’d definitely qualify for disability.  The only thing is I wouldn’t be able to work on my writings and this blog because that would be – what’s that word again? – wrong.  I don’t want that Black chick at the government office to come after me.  But then, if she did, that would count as a hate crime because I’d be on disability.  I always like to think ahead.

None of those scenarios sound pleasant.  Heavy rains fell here in the Dallas / Fort Worth area starting last night and into this afternoon; washing away a good deal of that dust and moth wings.  Then, the sun came out, and dried up everything.  So more dust formed and more moths perished.  And, here I am again – with sandpapered eyes.  Oh, well.  At least I can invest in Visine and make some serious cash.  After all, they owe me.  We’ve bonded.

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