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Double Dog Indignity

Ten decades. Ten thousand miles. Immediate indignity in the WideEyedHousehold. Or is it love?

The old stuff I bring home despite long and windy WideEyedSpouse sighs seems to get along ok with the old stuff already here. Basement-abandoned, mildew-stinking, dusty, grandparent furniture, lamps, rugs, geegaws – they all seem to agree to the neutral zone pact of the WideEyedHousehold: meld or hit the road. Each of them has a history with other families, sometimes these are decades long histories of ill use and hard living. Sometimes they glow as the treasures they have been and are to me now. I like to think when they get here, they are open to new histories, new families. And, dogs.

Two days ago the most recent old-thing arrived, a rug fragment originally from central Asia. It has been tooling around the world since 1920. Turkistan to someplace, [someplace to someplace], someplace to Arizona, Arizona to the WideEyedHousehold in Buffalo, NY. Packed in trunks. Rolled. Folded. Squashed. On trucks and boats and planes and feet. Ten thousand miles over ten decades. When my grandparents were young, it started out fresh, reeking of dye and new wool. Now, when I am not-so-young, it landed here, reeking of nothing at all really. Just, rugness.

Raggedy corners and suspicious ends.

Its ends are missing. Its sides are barely holding on. The weft is thin and the warp peeps out. How many feet tromped it? Carrying the dust and grunge of how many lands? How many fights or words of love in how many languages has it witnessed?

The old things have dignity in their experiences. And dignity attracts dogs. Evidently.

Absorbing experiences through osmosis.

Welcome rug, to the love of dogs.

November Hoses

The WideEyedSpouse is lying under the back porch with a heat gun. Miss-Tibbit-the-Useless-Little-Black-Dog is staring in wonderment. Crooked Hank, entering the third winter of his young life, believes it all to be nonsense.

Tonight it will freeze and freeze hard. The hose stopcock is already frozen open. Probably bad things will happen in the coming arctic blast if it isn’t drained and closed. Boring, expensive things.

Friends, don’t judge us here in the WideEyedHousehold! We started the snow thrower two days before this morning’s snow labor. I packed the Smooth Ride’s trunk go-bag last evening (winter coat, blanket, fruit leather, water vessel, plastic bag, cat litter, little shovel, and a Wawa Truck Pez pack). The Joan of Arctic Sorels are out and were  deployed this morning. The bomber hats undrawered last week.

A person can only do so much to prepare before the wretched realization arrives – all that work is simply to endure winter. W I N T E R. I thought about tropical winters as I forcibly shoved the snow thrower through a densely packed mass of slush (bottom three inches) and snow (top several inches) this morning. Sure, the tropical summers are reaaaally hot what with climate change and all. But that snow thrower. It is a two stroke monster that WAAAAH BAP BAP BAPs in an unholy melody of miserableness and exhaust stink.

I can hear movement downstairs. Perhaps the ClosedShutStopcock has been achieved. Yay.

Crooked Hank has an opinion

Crooked Hank. The Doubter.

Boat anchor tour

We acquired motorcycle licenses, the WideEyedSpouse and I. Our 49cc Keeway scoot now proves insufficiently amusing. Yes, I can feel the wind and catch a thrill while waaaaaaahhing over to the co op for some organic, fair-trade, shade-grown coffee. Yes, cruising the park roads helps me to think long thoughts while dodging joggers, dogs, kids, and beefy rugby teams. But…

We need more now. Expectations are higher. Bigger joy seems attainable.

Some of us are hoarding ducats for a spring purchase of a shiny joy that is reliable AND fun.

Others (hint, the WideEyedSpouse) want instant and corroded joy, with uncertainty, tinkering, troubling oil leaks, electrical problems, snapped choke cables, wonky carbs (heh?). The Spouse will roll a steel horse on up that drive right now, and to that end we are touring the boat anchors of Western New York. Every weekend. The Mighty Pathfinder towing a clattering U-Haul motorcycle trailer. Just in case. Because nobody pretends he’ll ride one of these clunkers home.

anchor 1

It goes like this…

– We’re here to see the motorcycle, we set up the meet with you. Oh, right. [Startled face.] I don’t keep it here.

[Longish drive down a different but equally remote rural side road.]

[Imagining my new motorcycle license picture on the news. WideEyedFunk, last seen…]


– Does it start? Oh, she’ll start. Bulletproof engine on her.

– Can I start it? Well. [Surprised.] You can try.


– Is it rideable? Oh, yeah, sure. ­Daily rider.

– May I take it on a short ride to test the clutch and brakes? Oh. [Toothy inhale.] I wouldn’t.


– Do you have the title? Yes.

– Is the title in your name. Oh. No, but it is in the name of the guy I got it from. [Reassuring smile.]


– Has it passed inspection recently. Yes. (*This is a question of relativity. What is recent, really, considering the duration of humanity’s use of created objects, the age of the planet, the birth of this universe?)


– Ok, it doesn’t run, hasn’t been inspected recently, the title isn’t in your name, is that right? Yes. But you are willing to take one third of your asking price to get it off your hands because you are leaving town tomorrow? Yes.


– You are asking $750. Will you take $600? Oh. [Head shake. Lips pursed.] I could part it out for over two grand. That seat alone, no rips, worth two fifty.  [Long pause.]


– [Phone call.] You should know if I come out to see it and it is as you described, I’m not going to offer more than seven hundred for it. Yeah. That’d be ok. But I was laid off last week [mom is sick, want to make my money back, having a baby, owe a bookie…] and could really use the money. [Expectant pause.]


And then, rising from the muck, one that might not be an anchor, one that isn’t holding back the joy, mired in frustration. One that starts, and stops, and does all of the stuff in between. Mostly.

anchor 2

Breathless potentiality

The sun angled into the car wash entrance this morning, making the falling bubble curtain into a solid wall of thousands thousands thousands of rainbows.

I watched the hood of the smooth ride disappear into to rainbow wall as the car wash rails drew us in and held my breath, hair a-prickle and fingers tingling, to learn what was on the other side.

(Nothing, just the rest of my day, but my heart still pounds with rainbow potential.) 

Aggressive boot issues

Yeah ok, so yesterday I saw my snow boots propitiating to who knows what and this morning there was snow on the ground. I’m not saying cause and effect exactly, but one second your Joan of Arctic Sorels are sacrificing to something and the next morning you are out there with the Evil Snow Shovel? More than a coincidence.

image of snow boots

Creepy pac boots lurking in the front parlor.

The lesson here, at least the lesson here at the WideEyedDomicile, is that you don’t get the boots out before the snow comes. The big furry pac boots live on the boot tray next to the ice grabbers and the Rieker-cold-but-not-bad boots. They’ve been waiting there, not-so-patiently since I extracted them from the back of the hall closet in November. Evidently they felt unappreciated, bored. I don’t know, what do dusty unused snow boots feel like when the weather isn’t snowy? You tell me.

image of three kinds of snow boots

The line up. Note angry pac boots at the end.

Whatever, their plan worked. Today the Joan of Arctics tromped me on dog walks, around campus, to the store, and clumped around on the Smooth Ride’s gas pedal. They insisted that we put the Smooth Ride into sport mode even though it was a little icy. “We can handle it,” they said but kept themselves out of the brake pedal area.

I think my snow boots might be jerks. I’m not saying anything out loud to them though, because they control my warmth and comfort for the next three months. They also get to decide if I fall – unless I layer the ice grabbers on them. I don’t know what would happen then. The snow boots would probably get to thinking Buffalo snow isn’t challenging enough and hike us to something really cold. I’ll light them on fire first. Someone should tell them that.

Sticky missions

A year and a half, more or less, of stress and misery masked by smiling fortitude. Yuck. I’d rather wail and screech. Family deaths, an unjust nation, job hunting, and illness. The horoscope writer in the newspaper hates Sagittarians because every day I’m told to keep my head down, trust no one, stay close to home. I drag on my cheerful stripy socks and live each day like it isn’t preceded by something wretched.

Miss Tibbit the Useless, Crooked Hankie the Corgi, the WideEyedSpouse, and I walk the three block walkies circuit most evenings. Christmas lights are going up all over the neighborhood and legions of bagged leaves line the strip between the sidewalk and the street. Hank pees on as many as possible, his stout corgi body rushing to the next leaf bag each time. I can tell he loves marking up the captive yard parts. After each leg lift, he gives me a sideways look and a grin and then accelerates to the next, ears aflap.

Tibbit ignores the leaf bags and gathers sticks. Our yard is the neighborhood stick repository. She is selective, only sticks with decent heft or length make it worthwhile. A stick pile makes sweet Tibbit smile, tongue lolling. “Ok, get a stick,” I tell her. The big sticks take some thinking, and I mean ALL of her thinking because this dog qualifies as Not Smart, and because they have to be balanced in the mouth. Twiggy ends are long but weigh less than branch ends. A dog can’t just grab hold of the middle and call it done. Her sticks fwap our legs as she rushes past us, leading the walk with head and tail high, stick mission in process.

This is when walkies get really dynamic. Hank can’t leave the stick missions unmonitored and unmanaged. He runs just millimeters in front of the stick, the twiggy ends brushing his fuzzy corgi haunch hair, evidently an annoyance to be endured stoically when one is managing a mission. Passing leaf bag clusters require his attention so of course he falls behind. Then he rushes past us, ducking low and sleek, grabs any part of the stick he can reach to slow the mission, and heaves his body in front again. Tibbit marches on, aloof inside her sticky mission.

So anyway. A long period of stress and misery alleviated every day by an indefatigable corgi and stick obsessed useless little black dog. Maybe not so miserable after all.

Haircuts and love.

The WideEyedSpouse had a haircut this morning. “How’re you getting it cut?” I asked while backing the Smooth Ride out of the WideEyedGarage. (And I should not have been talking while doing this. There is a 1 cm gap on the driver’s side and a 4 inch gap on the passenger side with lawnmowers and doorframes and stuff so…concentrate!).

The Spouse did a little dance step. “You know, like the guy in the movie with the dancing.” I hit the brakes. It was mesmerizing watching this in the dim garage, his just out of bed hair waggling around unpredictably.

“Huh?” I had nothing. I leaned partway out of the car window, trying to see and hear better. Did that just happen?

“The movie with dancing, you know.” He did another little dance step with some jazz hands to the side. The garage keys in his hand jingled. I had the sense he couldn’t really get into it because he was stuck in the small space between the Smooth Ride and the Mighty Pathfinder.

“Wha?” I still had nothing to guess. Partly because the dancing stuttered my thinking bits, partly because I just had no (useful) clue. The movie with the dancing. Dirty Dancing? No, because that would be a ducks-ass/mullet combo and I was pretty sure the Spouse wasn’t aiming for that. Singing in the Rain? That would be weird since I’ve never actually seen it and didn’t the guy have a hat on? Perfect Pitch?  That’s singing and not dancing and girls with girl-hairstyles. Guardians of the Galaxy? I mean, I wouldn’t call that a dancing movie.

The Spouse sighed, frustrated. “You know…” he did a step step kick to the side and back with a little hand toss-head flick to the left, “the movie with the dancing and the guy.” His Egg Shen’s Medicine t shirt flapped around a bit as he danced.

Ah. I had it.

“Ohh, La La Land, Ryan Gosling,” I started backing up again. “Yeah, that should look good.”

I blew the spouse a kiss through the pollen-encrusted windshield and putted off to the big U for the day’s labors, and I was giggling and full of love as a I drove .

raw denim levi's hanging in the sun

Spouse’s pants blowing in the wind. Did the sunshine make them want to dance?

Dogs like cookies.

Crooked Hank the Young Corgi and Miss Tibbit the Useless Little Black Dog arranged themselves nearby while I put on the Superga kicks this morning. (Note: this is the first day suitable for kicks rather than snow boots, rain boots, hiking boots, or warm-knee-high leather boots in living memory. Sing praise and joy to the kicks.) I held each sock for Hank’s inspection, prior to getting my foot inside of it. Tibbit sniffed shoelaces and inspected soles.

I cleared my throat and leaned back, the aging settee creaked and the comfy pillows squashed around me. I smiled to the congregation before me, and opened the liturgy of the Church of the WideEyedDogs.

I chanted, monophonic, “All the dogs should have cookies, all the time.” In my mind I heard the congregation chant the response, “Cookies all the time.

Hank and Tibbit sat up, ears perked in a participatory manner.

And, “The dogs should have the good kind of cookies with liver and bacon, not the cheap wheat flour ones.” Response, “The expensive liver cookies, all the time.

Tibbit’s eyes strayed toward the kitchen.

Then, “The dogs should have free and open access to all of the food, human and canine.” Response, “Free feeding, all of the time.

Hank’s furry bottom wiggled around, his seat less secure and his attention wavering. This service was too long!

I chanted, “The dogs should get dinner, and walkies, and cookies whenever they want, all of the time.” Response, “All about dogs, all of the time.

Tibbit and Hank, filled with the ecstasy of the service, sprang up and pushed closer for head rubs and chin rubs and twisting haunch rubs. “Go to the kitchen,” I ordered with all of my authority as the only ordained priest of the Church of the WideEyedDogs, “and get some cookies.” Their fervor carried them, light-hearted and innocent, into the kitchen for snackies.

InkedTibbit in the pulpit

Miss Tibbit on the pulpit of the Church of the WideEyedDogs.

Get to going!

It has been 352 days since I stepped onto a plane. Outrageous. I’m not saying I’m a jet-setting travel-mad wanderer, but I go here and there. Lately, it has been all here with wheels-on-the-ground there exclusively. Two weeks ago the WideEyedSpouse and I were so desperate to get out of town and move at more than 40 miles an hour that we drove 57 miles to a mall in Rochester to return a mail-order pair of pants that fit so poorly I wonder if they were even engineered for humans.


Surely you feel that pain as keenly as I?

Numbed by the inconceivably boring stretch of the 90, we didn’t speak out loud for the whole return journey. Clinka-clinka-clinka every now and again as I wolfed among the the highway herd (baaaah!), signaling my intentions.

Soon though, soon I fly again! Saturday I stood in the attic examining the luggage options as though I were preparing for an expedition. I’m going somewhere for three days. I could take a toothbrush and a credit card. Still, the proper luggage transforms the airport slog into the carefree adventure. Ah, my eye espied the WideEyedSpouse’s abandoned Crumpler messenger bag. I cackled and rubbed my hands together (alone, in the attic, not at all weird). Mine now. Perfect for the conference dresses, jammies, and spare kicks.

My little travel bottles are lined up on the bathroom counter, tiny travel soldiers, waiting for duty. The wee little toothpaste tube stands proud and unsquashed at the back. The tray table and hand sanitizers wait to save me from the flu, mrsa, and crusty human scurf (Personal rule #1: touch nothing unless absolutely necessary). Library books are downloaded to the ipad, noise canceling headphones juiced up…Which shows will I want to watch? Downton Abbey Season 1 or Westworld Season 1? Bring the knitting project or not?

My heart will ache without the Spouse and the Dog-Pals, but I am so ready to move fast, go far, and fling myself into someplace different. For a little while. Until I fling myself back home.

Blog snip


Aggressive decency.

Most days I tell myself, today feels good. Birds chirp during morning dog walks. Hankie Smalls the Corgi and Miss Tibbit the Useless Little Black Dog – innocent and protected – are untroubled by politics, economics, or impending societal collapse. They are cheerful and hopeful every single morning. Interesting adventures in the confounding universe await. They smile at me and expect love back. So I smile and feel good, breathing deeply in the cold, hydrocarbon scented city air.

Then comes the newspaper. The morning news on the car radio. The news synopsis emails. The Facebook feeds. From them I learn who died and how. Who was assaulted, harassed, or disempowered. Who has had their legal rights, access to medicine, or control over their own bodies stripped from them in the night as our political leaders sneak sly, lobby-fueled, religion-fired legislation into the system. The senators must be tiring of my letters.

Ugh. I grit my teeth and work through it, distracting myself with the minutiae of academic program management and research.

Time is passing and green stuff is sprouting in the garden. I pruned the pear trees and the blackberry canes. When the snow melts, hah, it is blizzarding right now!, when the snow melts I’ll trim the ornamental grasses.

But it bothers me every day, who am I to take joy in the universe, in the fresh cold morning, and the coming spring? Humans keep on revealing their inherent awfulness, and I feel powerless to mediate the impacts.

Is being kind enough? Is growing a garden, petting some dogs, and writing to the powerful enough? Here’s what I think: these things aren’t nothing and every positive action, every tiny commitment to decency contributes to the greater good. The plan: grit my teeth, carry on, and smile while I shove decency down the throats of the asshats. Er. I mean that figuratively, of course I do.

Here, look at the picture of the happy corgi with me and we’ll all feel better…