Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Thoughts of dogs

Because of a comment by my lovely daughter-in-law Annie, I have been considering the thoughts of dogs.  We know (or we presume) that they don't have cogent thought like us mere humans, but we also know that they can be very smart.  Dogs have been known to discriminate between toys, being able to go to a basket of toys and pick up the toy carrot or squirrel or book, depending on what their owner has asked for. They can make decisions based on some trained or innate knowledge, such as not to cross the street when they hear the noise of a car approaching.  Service dogs can be trained in ways us simple mortals cannot imagine. 

So that leads to the question: in their down time, what goes on in their minds? Do they think in images or sounds or smells? Do dogs ruminate on past experiences (i.e. do they remember stuff) or are their minds purely in the present tense, only harkening back to training when necessary or prompted?

In other words, what is going on in those pea-sized brains when they are not looking at us longingly or anxiously or happily? When they want a cookie, what do they see in their mind's eye or do they see anything other than a picture of a cookie?  Is it any shape of a cookie or just one they are most familiar with?  Do they imagine a chicken leg being handed to them or a fat, juicy steak and are they then disappointed when they get a tiny, dried morsel of pressed stuff called a dog biscuit? Do they long for a real biscuit with butter or chicken gravy?  (Well, hell yes they do, I long for a real biscuit with chicken gravy almost every day!)  When they appear to be staring at the wall are they perhaps rolling film of a past day, a former romp in the sun, and if so, does that make them happy or sad or am I reaching too far here and anthropomorphizing them too much?  Quite possible, of course.

Obviously I need to do some internet research on this and find out what the experts say. I will do so and I will report back. If you are  a dog owner, stay tuned.  If you are a cat owner, I can't help you..... do your own research.  Cats don't think about biscuits, and that is sad for them. 

Pembroke Welsh Corgi Lying on the Sand Under White Cloud Blue Sky


Saturday, April 21, 2018

"Anatomy of a Miracle" by Jonathan Miles

It is difficult to explain this novel which at the outset pretends to be a true story, a reporter's account of Cameron,a paralyzed veteran from the war in Afghanistan who suddenly gets up and walks.  (Since this happens in the first three pages of the book and is the major focus of the story, this is not a spoiler.)  No one can explain this sudden medical anomaly and therefore it begins to be seen as a miracle, a gift from God. Before long, the parking lot of the cheap convenience store where this "miracle" occurred becomes a shrine to Cameron, his primary doctor begins pouring over scans and X-rays and medical data to explain what happened, the Vatican gets involved to turn an adjunct to this miracle into a saint and we get flashbacks to Cameron's days in Afghanistan.  

This is one strange story, at first just a bit amusing, sometimes laugh-out-loud funny. But slowly the story becomes more than a kind of miracle, slowly things begin to unravel for Cameron and we see other sides to his life, we see his faith in everything questioned and a modicum of truth about the "miracle" slides into view. 

Mile's descriptions are clear and vivid:  His black hair was veined with gray and combed assiduously back, and the lines of his face were straight and severe, as though sculpted from some impossibly adamantine material. He wore a midnight-colored suit that even Hat, attuned to the fineries of menswear, recognized as expertly tailored, and in his hand was a briefcase made from a leather more supple and mellow than any leather she'd seen. Approaching the counter he carried himself bluntly but with aristocratic poise, the air and light seeming to part for him out of an ancient deference.  Hat noticed a silver pin, on his suit lapel, consisting of two crossed keys that were banded beneath a bejeweled triple crown."  The writing is simply wonderful.

"Anatomy of a Miracle" is a dialogue about faith vs reality, belief vs imagination, the past and the present at odds with the future and mainly, in the end, about compassion and love.  While this story flies out in many different directions, it always comes back to Cameron and the story of a life.  Check it out, it's a great read.


Thursday, April 12, 2018

April 13: When I look in the mirror, I see my Mom's face.

Ah, this is difficult. Tomorrow, April 13, is the first anniversary of my Mom's death. I know a lot of people out there who have lost their parents, so I know this is not anything unusual. My Mom was old, she was 96 when she died, she had lived a long life and in the last 20 years of her life I think she was happy.  Before that, I believe she had some happy times but not a happy life.

When I look in the mirror, I do see her face. Maybe my brothers see our Dad's face, maybe not, I don't know. None of us have talked about that, maybe no one thinks about it.

As much as I knew it was Mom's time to die, it was so hard being there on that last day. Not to go into details, but I try to erase that span of six hours from my memory card and focus on all the times before that. 

Mom wasn't the best at raising six kids on a very small income. She had a few good moments, like when she made fried chicken or pies, or when she and Dad shared a cocktail before they went out to dinner without all of us kids. She had a lot of bad moments as well and I think both of my parents were unprepared for life, especially with six kids in nine years.

I do not miss anything about my childhood (except that chicken and those pies) but I miss things about the past 20 years relative to my Mom. I called her every Sunday.  Every. Sunday. No matter where I was.  I called her from Paris, Rome, Istanbul, Tunisia, from a small island off the coast of Sicily after Tom and I climbed up an inactive (not dead) volcano and we smelled like sulphur and Mom thought that was amazing. I called her from New York, New Orleans, Montreal, Hanoi, Oregon and Amsterdam.  I loved calling Mom from anywhere not in California because she loved that I was calling her from anywhere not home.  She always asked the same question: "Where are you and what time is it there?"  She delighted in the 5 - 8 - 12 hour time difference wherever I was. 

I miss those calls on Sunday. And I still read something and think "Mom would like this article" and then immediately skip to "Mom would have liked this article."  It's simply so strange that she is gone.  Well, physically gone.  I believe that she's out there somewhere.  Or she's been assigned a new body and is beginning again. Or maybe she's in heaven, like she always wanted to be, seeing her Dad and Mom again. Who knows?

I just know she's gone.  But it's okay. 


Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Update on new job at Autocamp

The good news:  my coworkers are nice, helpful and mostly funny and smart.  The setting is lovely, a nice meadow with grass, the whole property surrounded by redwoods, a creek whispering in the background, those Airstreams gleaming in the sun. The main clubhouse building is open and airy and a fire pit adds warmth and a nice glow.

The bad news: in the end, it is just another high-end hotel with the same high maintenance guests and the same frantic day-of problems.  Sadly, people think it's a fine place to bring their kids and it isn't really set up for kids.  Even sadder is that a lot of parents pay no attention to their offspring, even when those little monsters tykes are tossing paper cups into the lit fire pit. Things break and things fall apart, maintenance is barely one step ahead of the guests' arrival to fix those broken things. The tents get flooded in the rain, slugs and ants crawl into the tents to get out of the rain and guests do not like crawly things in their bedrooms. And on and on.

But it's a decent job, it is certainly one that I can do easily, and it's only part time. The days are busy so the time goes by quickly.  It is beautiful when it rains and water pours off the sides of the clubhouse and the redwood trees smell like heaven. When the rain stops maybe it will still be beautiful.

Nothing else much to say.


Friday, April 6, 2018

For all dog lovers, see "Isle of Dogs"

Even if you don't have a dog, even if you don't totally love dogs, just if you like oddly enticing movies, go see Wes Anderson's "Isle of Dogs."  It's really good. 

To tell why I liked this movie would be like telling why I like dogs. And that's just too complicated.  But this movie is very funny in the Wes Anderson manner, it's very endearing, very realistic in the political way his movies are. To get a little sense of the dogs in this picture, go to  and watch the little clip. It doesn't tell you about the plot, but you will be introduced to a few of the key actors/dogs in the movie.  Plus, you can always simply google the title and see many  other clips.

See it. When you watch it, pay attention to the dogs eyes, and their paws and their ears. Wes Anderson captures not only their "voices" but their physical dynamics as well. The story is charming but not overly sweet, the dogs are as real as they can be and you will walk out of the theater smiling. 

Image result for isle of dogs

Image result for isle of dogs

Image result for isle of dogs


Walking Cooper = Great! Walking Cooper in the Rain = Not Happening!

Cooper is the most happiest when I say the magic words and pick up the leash and off we go for "walkers."  Cold, he doesn't care. Heat, whatever. (Seriously, when it's 95 outside I try to discourage him from walking but he does not buy into my blistering comments about the sidewalk being too hot for his delicate paws, etc. Sigh.)

However, when it's raining, all bets are off. Yes, he has a little raincoat but it does not cover his face and ears. Thus, his head gets wet. And his legs and his belly. Cooper is not a water dog. He is not a retriever, he is not a fetching-of- ducks-in-swamps kind of dog. He has very little fur and therefore he gets cold when wet. It's no wonder he does not like the rain.

This evening I got home from work around 5:45.  Cooper had been home alone since 8:30 and he was very happy to see me. We went for a nice walk, he peed, pooped and sniffed. (It was not raining at that time.) Upon our return he had dinner. He was happy. We sat on the small couch and I read and he snuggled and slept some more, which is probably what he did all day, but hey, whatever.  All was well until about 10:00 when I decided it was time for him to go out and have our last walk around the block for the last pee and poop. We started walking and about 45 seconds into the walk it began to rain buckets.  Cooper stopped, walked over to the nearest tree, peed for about ten seconds and then turned around to come home. No tugging on the leash could turn him around, he was done with his functions for the night. Rain = forgetaboutit.

I know, this is a stupid essay about my dog, and really, who cares?  But there you have it.  

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The slog of looking for a new job pays off! Autocamp!

After pretending I was retired for five months, but most of those with a knee too painful to walk on for very long and thus confined to self-imposed house arrest, it is time to get a job. Being on the dole only lasts so long and that length is about to end. Thus began the depressing and demoralizing slog of looking for work.

Yes, the economy is great! Yes, there are jobs out there! But no, they still don't pay decently and they are all part time.  Part time is fine with me but not at $12.50 an hour.  I did not want to go back into the hospitality world, kissing butts, hauling luggage, working under the thumb of either a corporate master or a privileged hotel owner.  But it's the world I know and it's the job I am good at and it's the one place I knew I could get hired.

In Guerneville exists Autocamp.  (  It's a sort of hotel but the rooms are completely tricked out Airstream trailers.  They are made to order at the factory in Ohio and then driven to the West Coast. Autocamp began in Santa Barbara and their second location is in Guerneville with a third location to follow later this year, location unknown for now.  It is a very cool spot, surrounded by redwood trees, a huge common room with tables, chairs, an indoor firepit, a buffet where they have a continental breakfast and a little market where guests can buy wine, cheese, crackers, S'mores, hot dogs, hotel swag.  And bags of charcoal because each trailer area has its own little firepit.  In April they put up and opened ten tents that sleep two and which use a communal bathroom/shower area.  It is quite the compound. These trailers are not cheap, the rate hovers between $350 to $425 a night for the Airstreams, less for the tents.

Last September I answered an ad for a part time swing shift position.  I didn't want the shift but I wanted to see the property and they invited me over for a chat. The manager and I sat for more than an hour, just talking about the hospitality industry, the strangeness of the guests, the idiosyncrasies of different lodging properties.  I told her I would call her in the early spring.  I did just that.

Autocamp offered me a job which I will take. Probably three days a week, which is just fine for now. Benefits after 90 days if I work enough hours, which is also fine for now.  I swore I wouldn't get back into the hospitality mode but there is something about the setting of this property and the feeling you get when you walk onto the property that I like. And bottom line, I am really good at this and they recognized that and they wanted me.  There you have it.

Training starts next Monday.  Another chapter waiting to be written.

Photo of AutoCamp - Guerneville, CA, United States. Glampsite # 23

Photo of AutoCamp - Guerneville, CA, United States. Space 5