Archive for September, 2021

Old People Joys

I was making a pot roast earlier today and was sitting at the kitchen table reading. I put my book down because I had had an epiphany: I was thoroughly enjoying myself. The kitchen was warm, the windows were steamy. Outside the weather was pretty autumnal – gray, rainy, chilly. The oven growled as it cooked my dinner, but otherwise all was quiet.

There’s no secret behind pot roast making a person happy. It’s pot roast, by definition a huge chunk of pork, and by design roasting with potatoes and carrots in apple-black cherry juice. Heaven.

But that wasn’t all of it. I reckoned that I was enjoying the settled feeling that I had. It was being happy like an old person. If you are happy like an old person and you have the experience to understand that that is what you are, then you might just be old. Alarming? Possibly. But no. For I have had this epiphany before. I am old because I enjoy old people things. Also, I’m feckin old.

Among these old people things are making a pot roast. There’s something about prepping a meal that takes three hours to cook that offers so much quiet pleasure. The only gastronomical better is crock pot cooking. There’s simply nothing better than working or going about your day with the knowledge that your dinner is cooking itself at home while you’re taking care of other things. It’s a joy that deserves its own adjective. Crockulant. Crocktated. Crockiful.

There’s also the joy of doing laundry, the humid comfort of having warm wet laundry hanging around the flat. After, there’s folding and putting it away and the knowledge that should President Barack Obama call me to meet for a drink, I can put on clothes and not be afraid of stinking.

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Thoughts While Waiting for a Dog to Pee

It’s in the middle of a dream that I hear a light whine. Our Shih Tzu seem to have a wheel of fortune made of up whines, squeaks, and trills at different pitches, tones, and volumes. I can now interpret each as a different signal. A really high-pitched feathery wail conveys: “You best be getting back in this room, chunky, or I’m gonna wake up this whole building.” A soft snort followed by a single whine in the nose-throat (throse) means “I’m about to bark the fuck out this room if you don’t share that thing you’re eating with me, I don’t care if I don’t know what it is.” Though I have been marginally wrong before on the meaning, I’m getting better.

So I prop open an eyelid at 3:21 am. Two clear, rough, whiney comments from the foot of the bed chime up at me and I know I’m hearing: “Yo, up and at ‘em my man or else you gonna be cleaning up some urine.”

Like a firefighter, I’m up, and with no less heroism, either. Missing a pee means taking part in activities of frustrating futility. First, you still have to take the dog out. But you’ve both missed the opportunity and now you just walk around the lawn, the dog sort of overjoyed but confused and me sort of confused and depressed.

Tonight, this morning, I groggily put on my sweats, my jacket, my crocs designated for walking around the minefield of our front lawn, I grab my equipment (bags, flashlight, two treats). I tuck the dog under my arm and we walk down the stairs. As we go, she licks my cheek, perhaps showing appreciation, more likely drawing off the night sweat that bedewed my cheek.  

Lots of things come up when you’re aiming a flashlight at a dog’s ass on a lawn at 4 am. Life decisions, the irony of status, the task, deeper implications of.

I never realized how much I was missing encouragement in my own bathroom experiences. I follow the dog and congratulate her each time she poops and pees. I wonder at the possible outcomes were I to be extended the same courtesy. Healthier. Happier.

We had started giving her a treat each time she peed, but she would look up at me with a quietly intense gaze every of the four magnanimous times she’d squat to pee as if saying: Where’s my treat, Bojumbo? I would gladly hand down a treat to her little lips, which she would take with slow reproachment. I’ve since stopped when realizing that every time she’d come up after peeing four times and unload a stream of urine onto our rug. We deduced that she’d figured out the code and would fake pee to get treats only to forget to actually pee. I was mildly annoyed by this, but not only would it be a boldfaced lie to claim that I wouldn’t do the same, I’m not altogether certain I never have.

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September 16 1620, the Mayflower Sets Sail for the New World

They had started out with two ships. The famous Mayflower and the less famous Speedwell. Their trip had been infamously difficult before even hitting the open Atlantic. The separatists had had to turn back three times due to leaking ships. They’d had to spend a week getting repairs and some pilgrims had been forced to sell their belongings to pay for those repairs and dock fees. Also, they had been swindled and conned. On a third attempt, they made it past Land’s End, but the Speedwell was found later to be overmasted and this caused weaknesses in the ship which caused the leaks. In the end, eleven (insane) passengers transferred to the Mayflower and they set sail to the New World.

Contrary to the cheery pictures many of us grew up seeing in school of pilgrims in suspiciously wide buckles beseeching God from the confines of a ship’s cozy quarters, this was not the case. The Mayflower, perhaps in a rare form of foreshadowing, had transported 200 wine barrels up the Atlantic coast of Europe. But not people. Most people, unless you happen to be related to me, are a bit taller than a wine barrel. Most of the men could not stand upright. The crew    

The passage was a difficult one that took just under two months. Seasickness was rampant and everyone – soldiers, adventurers, separatists, and crew – ate salted beef and hardtack made of flour and water. And everyone drank beer. For generations of Americans to come, the pilgrims would represent the first Americans, but they were, for the time being, English. And English people did not drink water, they drank beer. Beer, it is said, is the 17th century’s water. It was full of nutrients, vitamins, taste, alcohol. Oh and it wouldn’t kill you after putting you through a week of debilitating stomach pains and explosive diarrhea.

As they traversed the stormy horrifying Atlantic, their concerns seemed to be twofold. Their primary concern was that their rickety ship would split apart, sending them all into the frigin waters of the Atlantic. The Atlantic that many if not most of them firmly believed held sea monsters, a belief probably not thwarted by the sightings of sharks and whales. Without those beasts, however, it’s important to remember that should their ship go down, they would die. There was no beacon, no SOS, they would simply die in a horrific manner in the middle of a monstrous ocean on the way to a place which held salvation, but also, at best unknown strife, and at worst, more monsters.

Their second concern was running out of beer. In the back of the boat were large tanks of beer and as they began dwindling late in the voyage, Captain Jones became antsy. Once he began rationing the beer, the health of those on board suddenly began to turn for the worse. People came down with scurvy and other stomach ailments. Beer was not only nutrition, but it lightened the mood and steeled the spirit. A beer with its low alcohol content and high caloric content was essential and if it was running low, there was going to be a problem.

So when they spotted land at Cape Cod on November 9, they were elated. Who hasn’t longed for arrival and the beer it promises. But the problem was that Cape Cod wasn’t their destination. It’s perhaps overlooked that though the pilgrims were going to the New World, the New World wasn’t a wide open free place. It belonged to people. So the separatists were allowed to go to the New World, but only to the Virginia Colony, which ran from Virginia to the Hudson Bay Valley, which was significantly to their south. Their tactical error was due to a heavy storm that had thrown them off course early in their voyage and crude sailing tools. And let’s not forget beer. In a time when most men’s drunken aim can’t find a urinal imagine trying to hit a spot on a continent 4,000 miles away when you’re washing down every meal with beer and rum.

Captain Jones made a left and headed south. Unfortunately, the ninety miles through which they had to traverse was called Pollock Rip, a maze of dangerous shoals, hard breakers, and terrible undercurrents that had and has trashed hundreds of boats. An estimated half of all shipwrecks on the east coast lie within this stretch. If they went ahead with the plan, they faced almost certain doom. Captain Jones made the call – they turned back and landed in Cape Cod.

The implications of this are such: instead of landing where they were legally sanctioned, the pilgrims landed in a hostile, unknown area, and all because they needed a beer. In other words: the story of America.

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Cats and Dogs Living Together

Classic Stand Off

When we got a dog in July, we knew that one of the challenges would be its interaction with our cat. I have had my cat, the quasi-infamous B Monster, for thirteen years. She came to me a kitten with the disposition of a 71 year old man who had a bag of meth on him at all times. She was grumpy and very active.

Though the B Monster has chilled out with age, she is still capable of sprinting through the flat with the speed of a locomotive and the unhinged demeanor of Chris Farley in 1991.

Enter puppy. A little white mop of hair who so far has expressed inclinations towards chewing on things, peeing on things, and a separation anxiety I suffered on my first day of kindergarten.

The cat was incredibly awkward at first, but soon got her legs under her and began a campaign of figuring out exactly what had been introduced to her house. Because make no mistake, this house belongs to the cat and I pay the bills.

When the cat is not asleep, she is near the dog, observing her from under the armchair or atop the ottoman or from a bookshelf. Sometimes she sits like the Sphinx a few yards away and stares at the dog as she embarks upon her clumsy antics. Wherever she is watching from, there come a series of small quacks and meows.   

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