Spider of My Dreams

For some reason, I used to take a great deal of delight in telling others my dreams. I guess this bad habit lasted until college, when I was informed that describing one’s dreams to another human adult had the same effect as slowly reading a phone book to them in a monotone voice while administering 400 ml of NyQuil. So it made people fall asleep with the added bonus that when they woke up, they absolutely despised you.

So I stopped. Having more than enough points against my personality, I chose to cut my losses on that one and just keep my dreams to myself. Until, of course, now. Now, I have a blog so if you are reading this just remember a. that you chose to, b. you can stop reading anytime you want, and c. you probably like me or are plotting against me. In any case, please don’t hate me.

Last week I dreamed about spiders. You’re going to want to notice that at the end of spider there’s an s. In English, this designates a plural. Not one spider, spiders. In my dream, they were literally flying through the air. Towards me. Big ones. But the kind with sharp legs. Oh it was awful. Then, I noticed another spider – this one that was sort of big and meaty, like a small dog, and was sitting in the middle of a web watching television. So, naturally, a bunch of former NFL players showed up and began poking him in one of his several eyes. I thought this was a bad idea and evidently I voiced that opinion because the big spider agreed with me (verbally) and then decided he should hang out with me. He did not leave my side for the rest of the dream. I think we went to the movies and he was charged the child rate.

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Setting Free the Crabs

Digital StillCamera

I bumped into my neighbor downstairs a little while ago. Literally bumped into him. He gave me a look that you give a guy who talks to his underpants in public. The scowl itself took minutes off my life. Had I had the lexicon at hand, I’d have explained that I was in a daze, had been for some days now. You see, a friend of mine has explained that YouTube is in financial trouble.

Now, a massive faceless organization’s money woes usually bring me a wee chuckle. That is, until I figure out how it might adversely affect me.

In this case, if YouTube dies off, all of my entertainment options will be shut off after drinking alcohol. For when I do put away a few and then wander home and then find that I have another two cold ones in the fridge, there’s nothing better than YouTube as a chaser.

Why? Because you can watch anything you want. Long gone are the days when you had a few drinks or just found yourself at a loose end and then had to be entertained based on the whims of a table full of TV executives. Could the youth of today even survive that world? When your late night choices are Major League and Congo? No. What about a world in which one’s only hope of seeing nudity on a screen was in late night movies where you had to watch a bad movie and were occasionally rewarded with a glimpse of breast or butt? No.

I didn’t explain this to my neighbor because he doesn’t seem to like me very much. Well, he doesn’t like me well enough to sit through my painfully low-level description of the above paragraph. So I let it go.

But the death of YouTube would remove so many little visual joys. Highlights from the 2008 World Series, any Phillies’ no-hitter, the Miracle at the Meadowlands (number 2). And then there are the movie clips: Hoosiers, The Natural, Saving Private Ryan, Annie.

And then there are the videos of people doing niceties for others. It used to be people doing nice things for other people, like giving them shoes or giving them a lot of money and then some shoes. Then people realized how much others suck and they moved onto animals. The most recent trend of self-videoed do-goodery is people removing animals from humanmade accidental entrapments. Men cutting loose a seal from a fishing net, a man freeing a goose from a plastic 6-pack container. A woman cutting loose her idiot husband from his Barcalounger. And I love it, because what goon doesn’t like to see an innocent animal immediately removed from a death trap? Not this one.

Well, usually.

I was down the shore a few weeks ago and noticed a group of young people standing above something on the beach. Everyone was terribly consternated about the proceedings and I wondered if I might be about to witness the shipment of a dolphin back to the ocean. Maybe a shark! Oh, the irony in our minds that we would do a good for this thing most of us fear. I approached the young people and looked into the sand at their feet. Standing beneath everyone, looking back up at them with what was clearly a look of alarm, was a crab. Surely this crab was wondering just what it was these people needed. Perhaps he was a do-good crab and was wondering if they needed some help with something.

He was no doubt alarmed when the young people began grabbing at him and trying to pick him up. The young people developed a pattern: reach down, grab, wince, retract hand in pain, try again, repeat. See, crabs are gifted by little sharp hand pincers and they probably don’t like it when people crowd them and then poke and prod at them. I was going to suggest that perhaps the crab understood how the ocean worked as it had been navigating it for about 500 million years. But I decided instead to stay out of internet videos.

In any event, that would just go on YouTube and, as we know, that might not exist in a while. This too I decided to keep away from my neighbor. A man who, it must be said, would probably help me into the ocean.

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No-No No…No!

It’s a too-warm summer night in Langhorne. Mid-August. Moments ago, my sister carried her shrieking child out of the living room and as her wails and shrieks dopplered away from us and became the problem of those upstairs, my mood enhanced as if someone had removed an iron rod from my colon. It’s time for beer and the Phillies.

The Phillies are a large part of my visit home. My dad and I watch the games pretty religiously and we hang out and chat and make lists (top five war movies not including WWII) or A to Z (on author’s second book titles) or we have in-depth discussions about our favorite sandwiches and why we hate specific people on the TV. Or, my dad’s favorite topic, how and when someone died. Bonus points if it was unexpected and violent.

My friend Collin is visiting. He’s from Wisconsin so we spend a great deal of time explaining things to him like non-dairy creamer and electricity. We have spent the day walking around the city and in between second hand bookstores and houses of founding fathers we found our way to more than one pub and lubricated our happy spots. After dozing on the train back we stopped at a pub placed about 100 feet from the train station and refilled. We are ready for baseball.

Michael Lorenzen is on the mound against the Nationals. It’s his second start. My father has stayed upstairs, as one trip downstairs is enough in a day for him. A second would be something like the hubris which makes rich people frozen twinkies on Everest. My mom sits with Collin and I. we all chat and watch the game.

Collin knows baseball, but football’s his game. He knows the inside out of everything when it comes to the sport. Baseball is his casual sport and he watches it with a passing fancy and it becomes secondary to his beer and our chat.

In the fourth inning, my mother and I make eye contact and actively don’t speak. We know what’s happening, but it is strictly against family rules – and against all of Philadelphia sporting rules – to say it aloud, to acknowledge it, or to call attention to it in any way.

Michael Lorenzen is pitching a no hitter. A no-no.

My mother and I shake it off and go back to the game. My mother asks Collin about his family and his family’s makeup and hand cream allegiances. There’s not a peep from upstairs.

Superstition is very important to any sports fans. Of course, there are those superiorly-posed fans out there who roll their eyes and with nonchalance claim that we mere observers have nothing to do with the outcome of a sporting event, but this is simply insane.

Evidence. August 15, 1991. Terry Mulholland is 6 innings into a perfect game against the Giants. My mother, brother, and I are watching in silence. Nobody has said a word. My mother brought crackers with jam and cream cheese. And then, suddenly, my best friend Eddie popped through the front door and announced:

“Hey! Did you guys know Terry Mulholland’s pitching a perfect game?”

The looks and admonishment from us to him took days off his life (a thing to be verified in 45 or so years). And then we all watched in horror as Charlie Hayes botched the throw on Rick Parker’s grounder. Eddie was ejected from the house and his father was called on the phone before he got home. His punishment was no doubt vicious and accepted by the gods of baseball because Mulholland later achieved the no-hitter via Charlie Hayes’ great play to end the game.   

Fast forward to May 1991. Tommy Greene is pitching a no-hitter against the Expos. Eddie and I had made plans to watch the game together, but he had been detained by a need for Tastycakes – a fully understandable excuse. However, Eddie never arrived and, when it became clear in the third inning that Tommy Greene was throwing a no-hitter, my family understood and silently nodded our assent. The man had learned his lesson and Greene’s no-hitter went on unhindered.   

So you see why nobody can say anything to Collin. He doesn’t seem to understand what’s happening and all I can do is say to him “Do you know what’s happening? Do you have any idea?”

Collin, thinking this is one of our fun drunken word puzzles, says “Sure I do, buddy. Sure I do.”

He gets up to get another beer. A few moments later, he hands me one with a wink and a nod.

When my sister arrives downstairs, we glare at her and the five-alarm fire waiting to happen that she has attached to her hip. If anyone in the family will ruin a sporting event, it’s my sister, a woman for whom sports rules are on her personal Totem of importance around the daily temperature of Mars or the habitat of the Eurasian otter.

“What’s going on?” she asks.

“Nothing. How are you?” I quickly ask, cutting off my mom. My mom will give away too much and this will lead to questioning. We don’t want questions. We want quiet.

My sister brings forth no requests from my dad, who has been in his room watching in absolute quiet. He has not engaged any of us, least of whom my mother, who would by this point in the evening often have received a text message for a bag of peanuts or a ginger ale or other things suggesting he’s mistaken her for a Lufthansa slight attendant.  

In the eighth inning, when Tom McCarthy says “Lorenzen has given up no hits here in the eighth” the quite in the booth is palpable. One imagines John Kruk staring in awe at McCarthy. Seconds later, Kruk says “Now, what did you just say right there?”

McCarthy: “What?”

My mother and I glance at each other. The gall.  

When Lorenzen pitches the final pitch and only after Johan Rojas catches the ball, celebrates, and then runs to the infield, do my mother and I celebrate. Collin jumps up and, no more prompting needed, jogs into the kitchen. He returns with celebratory beers. Amanda comes in, the celebration has upset her daughter and we need to keep it down. We don’t. Amanda heads for upstairs.

“Do you know what just happened?” I ask Collin.

He stares at the screen and realizes that the celebration is more than your normal mid-August slog celebration. “Did he pitch a no-hitter?” he asks.


“Why didn’t you tell me?”

My mother’s phone beeps the answer, though he doesn’t know it.

“Amanda, bring dad some peanuts and a ginger ale.”   

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Oh Not That Guy

Not that Guy, the Other Guy

During my recent visit to my family’s home, I was of course required to align some sort of succor to soothe my nerves at the end of the day. This, lest I would currently be sitting in a cell in an orange jumpsuit awaiting trial, my shoelaces and belt a jumbled mess in a deputy’s drawer some yards away.   

Succor was needed. But what?

Ten years ago that wasn’t even a question. The home away from home away from home was a place called The Langhorne Hotel, a bar that sat as a merciful oasis about 50 yards from my parents’ porch. When they began dangling on my nerves like chunky Tarzans, I’d plod across the street with a book and come back when I was rereading the same paragraph.

But as I get older, drinking isn’t as much an enjoyable escape from reality as much as an escape into a skull throbbing four-day hangover. Thus, I’d need something a little milder. There’s medication for that, you say? True. But in general I have found that pooping every day is a good way to go through life and pills such as those have a way of, oh, collecting the troops and keeping them pinned inside in a vat of concrete. Mix that tendency with the pasta, pizza, sandwich diet I take on during each August visit, and you have a bout of constipation that could last through November. Just in time for the Christmas rush. Or, as it were, not rush.

I elected for TV. Specifically British TV. More specifically British crime TV. Really specifically Endeavor.   

Endeavor is the prequel to Morse. Morse was my first British detective love. He is a cranky old sod who loves his crosswords and who calls beer “brain food.” I watched all of Morse back in the early 2000s. Lewis was Morse’s sergeant and after Morse died, Lewis had his own show (that’s how it is with these British detectives). I watched Lewis with glee and then when they ran out of people to kill for Lewis to investigate, they decided to go back to the source.

Endeavor is a series about the grumpy Morse as a young man in Oxford in the 60s and 70s. It details his climb up the rungs as a misanthrope and a drinker and as one who has the ability to put off even British people. It’s impressive.

And so each night, after a day of family fun at top volumes and after wiping away my tears of rage and unchoking my throat of contempt, I would settle into my air mattress, shut off the lights, and put on the show. Soon, I’d be in Oxford, family far away, and nothing but a series of grisly murders to contend with.

While relaxing to a crime show, I like to choose a character to be. Because I am a nonconfrontational wimp I always choose to be a character that doesn’t have anything to do with the crime. They answer the questions then go off on their day. I choose one of those. Usually, however, the murderer in Endeavor turns out to be one of those very people. The cab driver who found a shirt, the schoolteacher who was roommates with the beslaughtered, the manager of the chocolate store who sold a girl her last lollipop. And if one of those guys aren’t the murderer, then they have so many skeletons in their closet that it’s like a pool in a pool in a Spielberg film.

Once I chose a sideline character, I’d sit back, relax, and bombard my throat with carbohydrates. Then I’d watch in horror as my sideline character, my cabbie, doctor, tax collector, ice cream man, turned out to be psychopathic murderer the whole time. In week two I began dreaming of being grilled by Morse and Fred Thursday, and not in the fun it-wasn’t-me-so-ask-away way that I’d always fantasized about. It was scary. Well, I guess it’s better than drinking.  

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In every head: Gabagoo

My sister and I get into the car. We are ready and excited for our drive. It’s less than two hours. We will aim the car (and her very intelligent GPS system) at our other sister’s house in Ocean City, New Jersey, and then we will listen to music and podcasts. We are giddy.  

Each year during my visits, the shore rests high on the altar of things to do. It’s a time of utter relaxation and sun, sea, and gluttonous delights. To boot, my sister had procured a three-story shore house to put all others to shame (except of course for her four identical siblings that stood next to her and the no doubt hundreds of others that rich people own, but you get the point – the house was nice).  

My family consists of five ultraplanners and my mother. An ultraplanner – and if you have one in your life, you know – plans and then plans again and then plans again. Again. But it’s not schedules and plans. It’s the all-encompassing discussion of ‘what we’re going to do’. We’ll leave at 10ish and then have lunch on the way. Let’s hit a diner. When we get down there, let’s go to the beach first. No, first eat, then beach. Oh, boardwalk, then beach, then eat.

It goes like that for some time. And by ‘some time’ I mean the 11 months preceding the trip. But as ultraplanners, we understand that a great deal of the fun is in the anticipation and the fantasy. The lead up. The problem is, if an ultraplanner isn’t careful, they can let the actual moment pass before they know it.

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Down the Shore

We are heading to the shore today. Not the beach, the shore. I have taken every opportunity to tell anyone with ears that the Jersey Shore is the only place they call it ‘the shore’ and not ‘the beach’. What I expect when I tell a person this, is for them to rub their chin and gaze thoughtfully at the ceiling and an eventual head shake and something like ‘you got me, you’re right’.

But – and this should be mentioned directly – this doesn’t happen. What does happen, is the person looks at me as their memory snaps into gear. Then they say ‘Oh yeah, Jersey Shore. I hated that show’ followed by my soul being crushed.

The shore is a place of utter relaxation – or at least that’s what it claims. To some extent I have to agree as there’s nothing as soothing for the soul and mood than looking out at a wide ocean. Well, nothing legal anyway. However, what the shore doesn’t take into account is that I will looking into that ocean with my family. And, as we all know, your family has the owner’s manual to YOU and, more precisely. YOUR BUTTONS and HOW TO PUSH THEM.

Learning the trade is the newest addition to the family – a 3 year old girl whose name will never leave me because in the 20 days I’ve been here it’s been said aloud by various kids and adults roughly 290,391 times. I will call her Barry. I have learned many lessons in the last weeks. For instance, in no way should you ever say the words chocolate, ice cream, chocolate milk, or water ice near the child unless you have them behind your back and are ready to hand it over immediately. If not, there is hell to pay. To many people.

I have also learned the truth behind the old axiom ‘sometimes you do everything right and you still lose’. What do you say to a 3 year old named Barry when you see her? I figured ‘hi’ would be a safe bet. And I figured wrong.


A level of wailing and shrieking that would suggest that instead of saying hi I had indeed begun sawing her in half with a butter knife.

And then I get in trouble.

This happens a lot. I say hi and get shrieks. I ignore the child and get shrieks. I make eye contact (big mistake) and got something bad, but I can’t remember because I blacked out. She begins playing with me and I play back. Mistake. Wails. Tears. Shrieks.

You get the picture.

Life is not fair.

But here’s the thing – I’m not unconvinced that she’s doing this on purpose. She handed me a toy lobster and then began shrieking leaving me holding the lobster. My mom and sister came in and I am holding a lobster and the 3 year old (Barry) is pointing and shrieking. I tried to explain, but my laments fell upon deaf ears. As she was assisted out of the room she gave me a smile.

‘Well played, Barry.’

Shriek. Shriek.

As payback, I made sure I was in earshot and then enjoyed a chocolate milk more vocally than I had any other activity in the last thirty years. The shrieks were delicious. But the neighbors thought we were watching an internet video of ill repute.

This is the shore that awaits me. Mortal combat between me – a productive member of society – and a 3 year old – a non-tax-payer, who can’t mow the lawn.

I am packing the lobster.

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The New Li Bai


Like many writers in college, I spent a great deal of time looking for a voice. When I was younger writing was a thing I just did. I didn’t worry about voices, I simply used my own. But in college, I was introduced to a bunch of writers through classes and instantly realized that if I wanted to make it as a writer, I had better sound like one of them. And, for about 10 years, everything I wrote read like the last writer I had read.

After a Farewell to Arms, I went through my Hemingway phase. And so for some time everything read like this. I wrote and it was good. I wore earthtones. And I drank. In the rain.

Lord of the Rings brought forth my sage voice. For down a merry round in the area called Oakland on a way called York Avenue, there existed a young man, a boy merely, who lived in the most awful of hovels, and who tried and tried to put pen to paper, where before him a woman had done the same and before her a man had done the same and before him another woman, but when she did it, the place was called Broke Bench Alley after the singular bench left over from the time before when the city’s denizens slept on one bench. And then that boy lost consciousness trying to read one of his sentences aloud and moved on from Tolkien in a hurry.

When he found himself in his Raymond Carver phase. Where he wrote like this. Too many times. Indeed. He only wrote a normal sentence. And then split it. Into about four more. By simply adding periods. And removing adverbs. And it was. Good.

Unfortunately my sophomore self found Donald Barthalme and was too dumb to understand him, but on the bright side, three hundred pancakes and a tomato and a dwarf were found riding the City Elephant out of Minola and saw the third face of the conductor. When he had stripped off his third body and made for the caboose, we all danced taps and some elf set a bonfire and lasered a hole in the roof with his indignation. And then, at the end of this phase, the sophomore’s friend-not-friend poked her face into the window and – images being larger than in real life – mentioned in passing that for a few weeks she hadn’t understand a fucking word the sophomore had put down onto paper and, for good measure, shave that dumb fucking beard.  

But then at some point in my second junior year, I found Charles Bukowski. I’d like to report that I found him in the exact place Charles Bukowski would be, like a torn copy at the bus station, or at the bottom of a used book store’s $2 bin. In reality, someone told me about him and I went out and bought a book of his stories Tales of Ordinary Madness.

Soon my writing was narrated by drunks and filled with other drunks and all the drunks were drinking. There were people reading newspapers in the bathtub and befriending similarly down and out cats and ruining their lives with various decisions all related by their stupidity and apocalyptic consequences.

It was all part of the mystique of being a writer, rather than actually sitting down to work every day and developing voice and language and narrative style. No. instead, many of us emulated those that seemed to be writers and more to the point, what we had to do to get there. Bukowski (or any actual writer) wouldn’t have spent a second on us.

On August 12, 1969 Bukowski wrote a letter to John Martin, the owner of Black Sparrow Press. Martin was one of the very first to realize Bukowski’s genius or potential and famously arrived to publish him. When he did so Bukowski pointed him to a closet overflowing with notebooks overflowing with poems and stories. For years, each night he had just written them and put them in there. He worked each day at a job he hated and then drank alcohol all night and wrote stories and poetry. That’s what he did. He was a machine. A perfect drunken machine.

And so when John Martin wrote him a letter promising him $100 a month for life if he quit his job at the post office and wrote full time, Bukowski took the chance. What followed was decades of alcohol-fueled stories of alcohol-fueled people making alcohol-fueled decisions. And alcohol.

Another alcoholic writer, you say? Oh, how unique, you say.

True. The alcoholic writer is a motif so tired that plopping one into a story is as predictable as a rainy funeral or a toothpick chomping cop who rejects a rookie partner because he ‘works alone’. But Bukowski isn’t an alcoholic writer. He was the alcoholic’s writer. The list of alcoholic writers can be printed in font size 8 in neat lines on twenty feet of paper. Hemingway. Joyce. Highsmith. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda. And no doubt absinthe and gin and whiskey and beer dot Hemingway stories and a dusty road in a Faulkner story represents his childhood innocence gliding away in a mint julep. Bukowski on the other hand pulls no such allegorical punches. He was an outsider who didn’t have time for allegory, he was a cynical and a misanthropic rogue. And he wrote that way.  

For this he arguably took over for writers like Jim Tully, who was another outsider who wrote about the Hollywood that was to be left unwritten about in the early 20th century. Tully wrote about prostitution, gambling, being a vagabond. In other words, what he had experience with. The same as Bukowski. Perhaps this is what separated the wannabe college writers who fancied themselves boozehound writers and people like Bukowski and Tully – if things went sideways for me I could go into accounting. They would die.

We can trace Bukowski writers all the way back to Li Bai, the 8th century Chinese poet whose poems include Drinking Alone under the Moon. Sure, Bukowski was wracked by self-loathing and depression and a host of other problems, but he never shied away from his love or need of alcohol.

It’s hard to say where Bukowski would fit these days. He was always an outlier, and in the current social climate he would be more so. However, he never asked to be part of the group. He tried and failed to achieve mainstream notice in the 50s and then drank for a decade and came out the Bukowski we now know. Surely he was a shy, sad abused kid who turned to booze for solace. He lost the love of his life early on and cocooned himself in alcohol. But now in 2023 if certain swaths of society were to read Bukowski, they would keel over of a heart attack on the spot. His work is undeniably sexist, grotesque, profane to a degree no barometer can measure. The women are often called by their age (a 24 year old and a 25 year old blonde fought in my apartment). He wrote about his large prick and his hemorrhoids and his herpes and always somehow included both vomit and blood into his stories.      

Chances are, if he were still writing he’d smile his shy smile at everything and throw up his arms in a shrug. In a day and age marked by people – mostly celebrities – who have a wild old time and then get sober and then tell everyone about how great sober life is, I do hold hope that Bukowski would not be one of them. He was a drunk to the end. Even Hemingway knew that drinking had had a hand in destroying all he loved and wanted and no doubt other writers did too. But Bukowski took his money and ran. All the way to the bar. And for that I have some admiration for the man. Even if I could never write like him.  

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Happy Place

I wake up on a pullout couch bed. It’s dark, but I can make out the contours of Philadelphia Eagles regalia. There’s also a basketball hoop in the corner, an air conditioner whirring away in the corner and Halloween decorations in the corner. The bed – having been designed by Gestapo scientists – contains two bars that are numbing my toes and fingertips. But it’s my full bladder that gets me out of bed. As I maneuver to the door I step on a trampoline. The dream was real: I am home.

As I unload my bladder other details come to mind. The 20 hour travel day, the 9 hour flight from Frankfurt to Philadelphia, the babies (so many babies), customs, the woman in front of me taking several minutes to master the esoteric technology of a pen and a piece of paper, the ride home, the cheesesteak, the baseball game, the blinky eyes, the pillow hurtling towards my face. And here I am. I go into the kitchen and start working on my sister and mothers’ leftover cheesesteaks. Their stomachs are weak and I am not going to pass up this opportunity. I put on the early edition of Sportscenter.

Yep. That’s it. I am in my Happy Place.

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New Place in Town

hen we got off the metro at Ladvi, the brewpub was right across the lot. Pivovar Cobolis. It was a monster. Burke says the pub here used to be an old dinosaur from the communist era. It’s easy to see old men hunched over red tablecloths sipping ten degrees and smoking at a rapid pace.

Now, it’s filled with the pre-concert droves heading to Depeche Mode. They are dressed in black and many of them sport hairdos popular when Depeche Mode made its appearance in 1980. Everyone is nice. Everyone loves our dog, who lies on her stomach on the floor and awaits cookies.

One of the great parts of moving to a new home is finding new places in the area. For us, this usually means pubs, cafes, restaurants, and grocery stores. This is a good payoff to the extreme stress of moving to a new place. So, after a month and a half of limbo and disruption, we get a new pub.

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Getting Lost

It’s about noon and Burke is teaching in the bedroom. I get the dog’s harness on her and we step out into the hot day. Her tongue instantly curls into the ladle that tells me she doesn’t like the heat. Indeed, the sky is blue and deep, but the air is hot and not as cool as I want it to be in the shade. But as we have just moved to a new part of Prague, it is time to explore. It’s time to get lost.

Since I am the navigator on this journey, getting lost happens fast. Almost too fast. We pass a hotel where my friend works and then a Lidl. And then we’re in unknown territory. There are lots of flat blocks and an occasional sign for a shop. The sun is hot and so we wander into a small park and sit under a tree. I pour the dog a little bowl of water and we look around.

I don’t deal with ‘new’ too well. Never have. On the first day of school each year, I was baffled by this policy of simply changing teachers. Who does that? And just when I’d gotten used to the last one? Now, having bought a flat in an unfamiliar part of town, I am dealing with new every day. New shops, people, parks, grass, buildings. My stress and anxiety levels are at the same level as when I’m in a place I can’t leave and forced to listen to death metal. While my brain knows that this is a very normal, human and temporary reaction to a very normal, human temporary experience, my heart and soul are just pissed off that I put them into this position.

The dog and I look around. She sees none of her friends from Petřiny – the grumpy old dachshund, the two poodles, the blind retriever, the chihuahua whose tongue is always hanging out of the side of her mouth. I see nothing that I recognize. The foxtails that are eating up Petřiny grass isn’t here, and while there is nothing wrong with them, the streets and green lots here have yet to provide the same comfort that they did in Prague 6.

I hand over a cookie to the dog. In a mutual state of glum, the dog and I agree that noon-thirtyish is not too early to visit a pub. So we get up and make it our passive goal. The dog is panting, so I pick her up and carry her as though she is Shihtzuvian royalty. I pass a woman and she smiles and addresses the dog. She comments on the queenliness of (I hope) the dog. But, hey, who cares.

“Ahoj Maisy,” she says.

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