Archive for November, 2021

I Have the Sneaking Suspicion that My Dog is Seeing Other People

I walk the dog in the afternoon. She is excited. She understands habits and sequences and knows that when I put on pants and grab a few blueberries from the fridge that she is going outside. She has been at the front door wagging her tail since the sweats came off.

Though I grew up with a dog and I love dogs, I am and have for many years identified myself as a Cat Guy. It’s true. And I don’t really know how it happened, but I woke up one day and I was just a Cat Guy. I talked to the cat. I knew things about cats that other people don’t know, so I became a Cat Guy Aficionado. People called me for advice on cats. It’s then I decided to put my shoulder into it. You know, really be the Cat Guy. Go all in. Some people will find it pathetic, sure. You’ll have some twinges while seeing yourself parodied in movies, but oh well. And so I have cat mugs, a cat shirt, cat implements to remove hair. My students know all about my cat. I understand that they find this sadly charming, like it’s kind of charming, but at the same time I’m not on any “if the zombies come, who do you want in your crew” lists. I get it. It’s fine. I am a Cat Guy.

But now we have a dog. “Dogs are fine,” I always said. “I love dogs,” I always said. But I’m a Cat Guy. But now, of course, I am also a Dog Guy. Oh, I’m not that Dog Guy. I’m not going camping or hunting with my dog. I see other Dog Guys out there running or hiking with their dogs and I am not one of them. I will not be one of them. I understand what kind of a Dog Guy I am. My shih tzu’s legs are three inches long. When my shih tzu is sleeping among her toys and dolls, it is genuinely hard to tell she is a dog. During play my shih tzu has perfected the tactic of hiding behind the coffee table until things cool down. My shih tzu wears a jacket if it’s too cold. Burke is considering getting our shih tzu booties for walking in the snow and I am frantically googling to find out if this is a thing that people who aren’t Kim Kardashian do. I understand what kind of a Dog Guy I am. I’m a Small Dog Guy.

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Oh Shit Moments in History

Saturday was a lazy day. The weather was the stone wall gray of November, the COVID numbers were in the 20,000s, and it was Cheat Day. I had planned to meet my friend for a night of revelry, but COVID got in the way there, too. His daughter was quarantined and waiting on a test results. Plus, sitting in a bar didn’t exactly fill me with calm.

So no bar and no drinking that night and this was fine with me. It was 5:30 pm. I had just worked out and showered and was dozing in my armchair in front of my TV like a good 82 year old when my phone rang. It was my friend.

“Got the test, it’s negative.”

Though I had settled my mind on a quiet evening of movies and milk and cookies, I agreed to a called audible and a night of revelry. He would come to our flat. The plan: drink many beers, a bottle of Becherovka, whatever whiskey I had in the house, and eat wings.

All those things happened.

Which is why Sunday I lie prone on the couch staring at the ceiling and wishing for some heavily-armed people to come in and kill me. I have things to do, but these tasks are going to be difficult when the dual acts of breathing and not dying are taking up all of my mental acuity. My hangover exists on several levels. I have anxiety, I have heartburn, I have an upset stomach, I have a headache, I can’t focus, I can’t read, I can’t speak without punctuating every three words with “What was I talking about?” It’s rough.

As my tolerance to alcohol has diminished drastically in my forties, I am also now just getting glimpses of myself singing along to Postmodern Jukebox, to what I assume is the massive chagrin of my upstairs neighbor. It’s one of those “Oh shit” moments that tend to come after a  night of drinking your weight in liquor.

And it’s perhaps in this time of strife that I consider my history, for there have been far worse consequences and far worse “oh whit” moments to a night of drinking. Simply having a banger of a hangover isn’t that bad, the singing is worse, but I still possess my limbs and, upon last glance, there are no notes taped to my front door. And it’s in search of that succor that my mind drifts to William of Adelin.

In 1120, William had a binge drink-up that ended about as bad as a day of drinking could when he died in a boat wreck. Not only did he die, but so did about 300 of his drinking buddies, many of whom were his half-siblings. Evidently William’s dad, Henry I, was very fond of impregnating people he wasn’t married to and they could put together three sides of a rugby team. The ship’s captain, Thomas FitzStephen, was also shitfaced. Rowdy and drunk before disembarking, they all not only refused to let priests on board to bless the ship, which just seems like bad luck, but they made fun of the priests, which seems like fun, but just not that bright. The only person to bow out of the trip was Henry’s nephew Stephen of Blois, who had (apparently) a bad case of diarrhea and this also explains his bowing.

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Who Knew?

Last night we watched one of my favorite shows – Seinfeld and I was engaging in one of my favorite activities. That is, looking in the background to find someone who would become famous. Or infamous. In the last episodes we watched, there were two faces that stood out – Bob Odenkirk and Bryan Cranston. They would both be involved in not only one of the best TV shows in history, but one that was in part responsible for TV’s drastic replacement of movies. It’s funny to see them in small roles knowing what they went on to.

Every time we put on an old movie or show, I look in the background to see who’s there. It’s simple Hollywood reality that before people get famous, they’re extras and in bit roles and it’s fun to see them toiling in their early years. In the last three weeks I have seen Rainn Wilson as an extra in Galaxy Quest and who knew he’d go on to be in a paradigm shifting show. Sometimes they’ve developed beyond simple actor. I recently saw Patrick Stewart and Alan Rickman in the 70s miniseries Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and both would go on to become not only massive actors, but also cultural icons.

Watching News Radio a few weeks ago I couldn’t help considering the trajectory of Joe Rogan, who was at the time simply a comic actor and a comedian (with hair) and who is now a major player in society and culture and who has honest sway with those who have bumper stickers of Calvin peeing. Who’d have known twenty years ago that he’d be discussed by national politicians and a cited resource for how people deal with a pandemic? Probably nobody. More surprising is a character from the movie Two Weeks’ Notice. We watched this romcom of basic pedigree a few weeks ago. It stars Sandra Bullock and, naturally, Hugh Grant. What stood out to me while watching was that the film takes a lighthearted look at protesting capitalist culture, which was a sign of things to come…minus the lightheartedness. It also cameos a guy named Donald Trump, who until then was a punchline with a bad combover and good hotels.

By the time I understood who Ronald Reagan was, in the mid-1980s, I only knew him as the president. My parents of course knew him to be a B actor in goofy comedies and as the Gipper. My parents also did not like him and I never really got why. He was just the handsome guy with the voice everyone at my grade school tried to impersonate. I guess I understand that now, since I really wish Trump had kept his role as bad combover hotel guy. It seems that purveyor of the end of American democracy and the most hated person on the planet is a bit of a stretch. 

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When in Rome, Eat

Arancini compliments of the Trevi Fountain

It’s about noon on Saturday and I’m eating an arancini (rice ball that you’d sell your liver for) in a back alley in Rome’s center. The Trevi Fountain is causing liquid havoc behind us as are the roughly 23,000 people there. Up ahead are the Piazza Navona and the Pantheon. I have been, as are many people, vastly overwhelmed by the history in Rome. It’s not that every shop is historical, for example I’m pretty sure Cicero didn’t have a fridge magnet in the shape of rigatoni. But history is everywhere and that can be hard to wrap your head around.

We got in at about 9 am yesterday and dropped our bags at the hotel. We then instantly went out for a walk, making the Colosseum and the Forum our aim for the day. We set this because we know that once these aims are met, we can begin our more primary (corporate lingo for “actual”) aim of eating food and drinking wine.

But first, the history. Despite all attempts, the Colosseum has grandeur. It’s hidden behind 19,293 people taking selfies (us included) and the Spanish tongue lashing I get for walking down the steps to the Colosseum in between a man and the woman he’s trying to video in slow motion seven feet away on the other side of the steps. I point to the fact (twenty feet away now) that perhaps his placement for his project and the fact that there are roughly 10,000 people trying to walk down that artery is the culprit rather than rude tourists, but he’s already yelling at a group of Russians for the same infraction.

Amid it all – the heaps of tourists, the men dressed as gladiators, the African gents hocking wares and then saying “Africa” to us (we couldn’t really suss out the strategy there) – we can poke through to the history. If you think about it, the Colosseum was not only famously the site of famous gladiator competitions, brutal fights, and slaves and citizens being forced into the most monstrous and awful situations. It’s also where Cicero and Julius Caesar and Marcus Aurelius went to watch these things happen.

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His Rotundity and a Hard Cider

When John Adams became the White House’s first resident on November 1 1800, he was alone. Staff had rushed to get it ready for him and it was replete with his furniture and a hanging portrait of George Washington. The yard, on the other hand, was filled with cannons and mud. There’s no way to know exactly what John Adams was thinking as he took in the house. He may have been damning his move-in luck, as the last time he moved was into the president’s house after George Washington’s servants had boozed hard the night before and left the place a wreck. He may have been planning the Abigail Adams Cannon Mud Garden (tours twice daily). Or he may have been grumbling at the portrait of Washington.    

John Adams’ life of dedicated public service is matched by few other Americans. He was a framer, member of the Continental Congress, and minister to France and the Dutch Republic. He helped draft the Declaration of Independence and negotiate the Treaty of Paris. He was significant enough to the American revolutionary cause that he’d have been hanged by the British had he been captured. He was by almost all accounts a brilliant and dedicated politician, thinker, and statesman. But for all of his intellect, Adams may have had a bit of a George Washington problem.

The American Revolution and its heroes were fresh in the memory of the country. The wartime exploits of men like Ethan Allen and Henry Knox had become legend. America had fallen in love with the battlefield action and heroics of the glorious cause. John Adams and Ben Franklin had undoubtedly helped sway the cause in the meeting rooms of Europe, but tales of a negotiated loan didn’t hold a pub audience in rapt attention in young America. America admired action. America loved heroes. America adored George Washington.

From his looks to his demeanor, George Washington was every bit a military hero. He was tall, broad, and built like a brick outhouse. He was courageous and carried himself like a man whose underwear saluted him before climbing up his legs in the morning. He was the subject of legends and depicted in famous portraits. He was larger than life, an American hero. And then he was elected president. Unanimously. Twice. In the eyes of America, there was simply no alternative.

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