|APRIL 1999 Part 1|
|I am, it seems, a sexist swine. Got an ANGRY letter today from someone who took massive red throbbing UMBRAGE to my description of tropical fish: so thin dumb & lovely they could be the trophy wives of rich old men. I was accused of Machismo, and a retraction or apology was DEMANDED. My answer was, in essence: No. I was unable to glean the exact nature of the complaint, but I guess my sin was suggesting that it is possible - theoretically, of course - for women to be dumb. Its interesting how this works nowadays. It is permissible, even laudable, to write a column lamenting how rich older men dump their dutiful wives and families for thin fluffy Chanel-soaked arm candy. But it is not permissible for a male columnist to point out that some gorgeous tropical fish have the same attributes that make a woman attractive to a shallow, gonad-driven man.
The only satisfaction these episodes give me is the knowledge that every little lingo-tyro is inevitably purged by someone with an even purer definition of the truth. Petty orthodoxies spin inward, not outward. I always smile when I see the T-shirt that reads If I cant dance, I dont want to be part of your revolution. Rosa Luxembourg, I think. Well, Ms. L, you wont have a choice in the matter. Even if you get exactly the revolution you want, it will soon give way to the Anti-Dance Brigade, who themselves will harbor a secret delight in humming. And they will be purged by those who insist that Humming wastes time that could be spent building the future. And so on, and so on, until all the interesting people are in the gulag and the brutes & morons are running the show.
So no, Im not going to apologize, because it would encourage the end of Western Civilization. Not that it needs any help.
Another warm day, but a bleary one. Slept poorly. Had dreams where I was slated for execution - some sort of involuntary euthenasia. The nurse came in and said it was time to fill out the paperwork - wills, disposition of estate, etc. - and I protested that I wasnt allowed a drink. I really, really wanted a big frosty Bourbon at that moment. But apparently I was able to opt out of whatever situation Id gotten myself into, for I soon found myself packing frantically for a trip to Cozumel. I was late for the plane, late for the cab, late for everything, stowing shorts and flipflops in my Star-Tribune bag.
Woke with a mood of sullen gloom. Walked the dog, went to work, thentook the dog to the vet for his annual shots. Was horrified to learn that hes hit 60 pounds. Thats a six-pound gain in two months. How? Has he been ordering pizza while Im out? Its possible; the phone has the number for Davannis programmed into the speed dial. He knows the word pizza, and should I say it around dinner time he goes to the window and watches for cars. No, that doesnt explain it. Even if he had an Astro voice, the Microsoft Phones Voice-Command System (all hail Microsoft!) would not recognize Rizza. It cant be the lack of exercize; he gets over an hour of walks per day. Its not the treats, because weve been out of dog biscuits for a while. Its not the Jell-O. (I let him lick the cup when Im done with my mid-Hawaii 5-0 Jell-O Ration.) Perhaps its all the leftovers my wife feeds him. She cant resist that beseeching look. If I gave her that pathetic expression, shed laugh, but when the dog puts on that woeful look he gets a pound of scraps.
No, cant be that, either. Wonder what the problem is.
Heard a fascinating bit on NPR this afternoon: speech recognition for dogs. Several developers are working on devices that translate BARK BARK into speech. Im suspicious, and wary; as much as I want to know what my Jasper is saying, I get the basic idea already, and would be saddened to know that the bulk of his conversation consists of FEED ME and WE GO OUT PEE SMELL NOW. A few software designers have created devices that translate particular timbres into common basic phrases, but it seems a subjective matter - i.e., some human has to decide what particular barks mean, and in the absence of a qualified Doolittle its all guesswork. But the radio interview had a moment that nearly made me gasp - the dog was barking, and his collar-CPU said GO OUT NOT A BAD DOG GO OUT GO OUT in a robotic voice. The developer explained that the dog had been a tough one to housetrain, and had been told that he was a bad dog when he relieved himself inside.
Greetings from the plague house. My wife has a cold - one of her typical bugs that never really turns into a cold, just makes her sleepy and achy for four days - and I think I have it too. Of course, I always think I have everything. This morning I noticed a crust of dried milk around the new container of 0% homogenized, and for the rest of the morning I was convinced I had ingested Old Milk, which would lead to food poisoning. I've thrown away bottles of salsa if the pop-up lid didn't pop-up with an audible sound.
Anyway, I feel sleepy and achy. Took a nap this evening, and get whapping the snooze bar; it felt so good to slumber with the wind and rain roaring outside the window. Then I realized that since my wife was out of sorts, I'd have to walk the dog tonight. So out into the wind and rain. It's a Rule: your desire to end the walk as quickly as possible is directly proportional to the dog's inability to squat & deliver. We were walking through the woods, alone, along the swollen creek, and the rain had washed away all the wondrous and helpful poop-triggers dogs seek. He was like a blind man on hands and knees feeling for the cold moist belly of a toilet, and finding only bricks, sandpaper, concrete blocks. Jasper headed up a hill, nose running up some odorous seam; I followed, slipping on the muddy bank, poked in the eyes and nose by tree branches. I was listening to the Mische Broadcast on KSTP, thinking of the days when I used to follow Tommy's program; I could see him in the studio, I could see myself in the old studio, doing the show. Seems like a million years ago. Ah hah: the dog has found the spot. He stops - squats - and a car roars around the corner, destroying his concentration. Jasper walks on. The wind increases. It's 9:20; at the time, I'd be making the turn where 35W intersects with Interstate 94. Clyde the Producer does the weather. Sounds like Clyde has a cold. There's one going around.
We cross the street. Jasper finds a lawn fully illuminated by someone's front window, and in full view of the people within, he delivers. Scoop. Back home.
Paw drying time. Some dogs are shy about their paws; touching them is an unexpected and unwanted intimacy. Jasper always reacts like a minister who's had a parishioner put a hand down his pants. But I just did the floors, and I'm not going to have four-toed tracks all over. (Previous versions of canids had five toes. I learned that from the X-Files we watched last night. That's about all I learned, other than what Garak from Deep Space Nine looks like without makeup.) Inside. No rope games tonight; plague has hit and we are weary.
My wife is in bed and the dog is on the sofa. If I feel like this tomorrow I will probably go into the office and write a column, hoping for that late-afternoon surge of inspiration. I'm supposed to go to the Midwest Petroleum Jobber's Convention tomorrow night - the first real sign of spring - but I may just have lunch with Dad & brother-in-law on Wednesday. Experience teaches me that they want to make a straight line from the supper to the blackjack tables, and I don't want to intrude. Last year I stayed for all of half an hour. (It was rainy.) The year before, I now recall, I went for lunch, for the Massive Buffet, and sat with Dad and some well-weathered old oilmen from the Dakotas; it was a raw day. The year before that we all went to the dinner, but Mom was around then. Good dinner, but the testimonials and awards (for such things as the cleanest restroom in the territory. Really!) are less than compelling. The year before that I met Mom in the cocktail lounge for coffee. The year before that . . .
It goes back 20 years. Ever since I came to Minneapolis the family has showed up at the Bloomington Radisson for the Midwest Petroleum Jobbers Convention. Every year I forget about it; every year it rolls around again, I think: of course. And lately I think: again? A year gone, already?
As I've said before, dogs know not the accumulation of time. It is their greatest failing, and their greatest blessing. They know the now.
And now I am finished with this for the day. +