OK… So It’s Been a Year… But, Hey, I’ve Been Really Busy… Now I’ve Been Ripped Off!

Both of my readers wrote to say that they’ve been wondering where the hell I’ve been. It’s been a year since I returned from Africa and I haven’t written a thing (at least anything I posted). Some were concerned that I’d contracted Ebola and had been held in quarantine in New Jersey by the fat governor. Others thought I was somewhere in the Indian Ocean searching for the missing airliner and my missing socks (I’m convinced there is a link there). But the truth is harsher. I came back from Africa and unfortunately resorted to my old ways, hanging out at the racetrack and perfecting my comb-over (see October 2013).

But after a couple of months of this I realized I needed to change my ways and get back on the Hopi Trail. It was time to pull myself together and do something that others would call “constructive.” I started looking around for the right opportunity… something that would be uplifting. This was a reach for me because I had taken it pretty hard a couple of years ago when I sent in my resumé to the Vatican for that pope job and I never heard back. My self-esteem was pretty low after that. I even applied for a job as a speed bump over at the Safeway parking lot, but they wouldn’t hire me either.

So, after a weeklong purging of some accumulated karmic congestion (thanks Mr. Daniels) I decided to become a screen-writer. I figured I could write a TV show, maybe a movie, or at least a puppet show. It couldn’t be too hard to sell something like that because there were now two thousand TV stations, multi multiplex theaters and quite a few places where they showed plays (apparently these are also called theaters… how confusing is that?). So I spent a couple of weeks writing up this great script. Jumped an Outbound Dog (Greyhound Bus for those of you don’t know the language used down at the racetrack) down to Hollywood and met with all these producers who really liked my idea. In fact, those phony bastards liked it so much they stole my idea and the next thing I know a hit movie gets released that they’re now calling “Straight Outta Compton” and its a total rip-off of my script. Sure they made a few minor changes so I wouldn’t be able to sue them. But basically it’s the same story. In their version a group of African-Americans who call themselves N.W.A. from a tough neighborhood face insurmountable odds, overt and systemic racism, and a variety of really nasty experiences, but in the end they break through and rap their way to stardom.  I want to be clear that this is basically the same damn movie I wrote.

But in the original script “Straight Out of Santa Rosa: Blondes With Aptitude, it was much better and the odds faced by the protagonist were just hellish. My movie features 32 year-old blond mom whose hybrid Volvo breaks down in the Whole Foods parking lot. Yikes! At first she asks a guy standing around to help her and loan her some electrons for the electric motor. But it turns out he’s not there to help. He just wants to use her and keeps waving a pen in her freshly made-up face. Before she knows what’s happened she’s surrounded by 15 angry guys and gals who each insist she sign a different petition that will save the world, America, California and Sonoma, along with a couple of insects. She fights her way through this mob with a Lululemon Vinyasa scarf she’s wearing (because product placement in movies makes a lot of $$$) and tries to get her groceries. But she soon discovers that things inside Whole Foods are not exactly what she thinks.  The Spring Mix Lettuce has actually been sitting there since last Spring (I mean who would actually sell Spring Mix in Winter?), salad

and the Ancient Grains Cereal she buys is in fact stale oatmeal that’s been sitting on the shelf since ancient times and is now just re-labeled old food that gives you gas.

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She starts to lose it, feels like a total failure as a grocery shopper… but it gets worse (see, the common theme here is beating down adversity). She wants to do right by her children and make sure her kids eat right, but she can’t find any superfoods at the store that are loaded with enough phytonutrients. She’s hoping the kids will survive anyway. Then when she gets to the front of the store to check out she discovers that she’s left her shopping bags at home and not only will she have to pay an extra ten cents for each bag they foist off on her, but she also has to live with the shame of knowing that she’s a failed ecologist. She just can’t get herself to look the checker in the eye. In her mind she’s beating herself up for thinking wistfully back to the old days when someone would ask her if she wanted paper or plastic. Things are really bad for the protagonist now. But she decides against suicide or a rampage and just goes to the store next door to the Whole Foods and eats about two dozen donuts. Meanwhile in my script the background music isn’t hip-hop. It’s Celine Dion.

So I’m asking readers to please don’t be confused by the movie “Straight Outta Compton” that was released. It’s just another Hollywood rip-off and you should boycott it and just send me the money you would have spent on a ticket. Because if you want a gritty reality movie experience, I’m your badass huckleberry.

But now I’m feeling like crap again. Another failed job experience. I’ve got to think of something. Yeah, I think I’ll be a yoga teacher, or at least take a yoga class, or look at a picture of someone else doing yoga… or something.

Out of Santa Rosa (2)

We landed in Nairobi at about 7:00 a.m. after two days of flying and went through customs (noticing all the posted Ebola warning signs on the wall).  No big deal.  We were picked up along with our fellow travelers by the guides and taken to our hotel to check in.  We had a chance to meet with our 10 fellow travelers who came from various parts of the US.  It turns out that some of them were very nice (3), one was a very very large 79 year old woman, there were two self-obsessed people, one aggressive bird watcher, two rich crazy people and their interpreter/mediator.  Overall the group didn’t differ that much from the folks ship-wrecked on Gilligan’s island.  This will be a nice way to see Africa I thought.

Anyway, our guides seemed to have no idea that we’d been traveling for two days so after an hour at the hotel we headed off to see the highlights of Nairobi, both of them.  Let me put it this way,  I strongly recommend everyone see Kenya.  You will see wonderful and amazing things.  It will change your life.   I would also recommend that when you go there get the hell out of Nairobi as quickly as possible.  Be that as it may we had a travel transition day there before we headed to where the wild things are.  What was most notable that first day (besides my intense desire to take a nap) was our visit to the home of writer Karen Blixen.  She apparently was a serial name-changer and had about four different names that she wrote under, the most prominent being Isak Dinesan.  She is most famous for her book “Out of Africa.”

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This autobiographical book became a big deal movie many years ago starring Robert Redford and Meryl Streep.  I never have seen that movie.  At the time it looked to me like it was a combination of a National Geographic special, with lots of flying flamingos and then they throw this sappy love story into the middle of it.  I figured I’d just stay home and watch National Geographic.  From what I can recall it didn’t have a single car chase scene, so I skipped it.  I’m sure I’m much more mature now and would love to see a good romantic movie.

But what I didn’t know is that Dinesan had also written the book Babette’s Feast.  Now that actually is one of my favorite all time movies.  Its a story about this woman who is the best chef ever but has to flee France to live in this very stark Danish seaside town.  Her cooking transforms the hearts of some small people and their world opens up to love.  Granted there weren’t any good car chases in this movie either, probably because its set sometime in the 1800s plus the Danish have never built any good cars even though they excel at sweetrolls, but still its a  pretty good movie.  Knowing Dinesan wrote Babette’s Feast made the journey to her home worth it.

The next morning we packed up, jumped in one of the two vans and prepared to head north about six hours to Samburu National Park.  Our first game drive was ahead and I was anticipating seeing all the animals in their natural environment for the first time (except for a few of the ponies I see regularly down at the racetrack).  This would be making a lifelong dream come true.  But there was a problem.  It turned out there were demonstrations in downtown Nairobi and all the roads through town were filled with burning tires.  This forced us, along with the rest of Nairobi to take the alternate route.  What followed was the most amazing traffic jam I’ve ever been in.  We were on a two lane road (one lane in each direction) which suddenly transformed itself into five lanes, four of which were coming at us.  Cars were using the side of the road as a lane, they used ditches as lanes.  This was my first free-range traffic jam. It was so bad drivers were getting out of cars and directing traffic and telling which lanes to merge with each other.  Then in the middle of all this with cars bumper-to-bumper going every which way, in come some Masai herders with all of their cows walking through the whole mess.  I’m not talking about one of two cows.  There must have been 50-75 of them.  It turns out that the one traffic law in all of Kenya that everyone agrees to is that Masai herders and their cows have the right of way.

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Ultimately, we made it through and found the clear highway north.  From this point on the trip became MAGIC.

I’ll continue with the trip in the next post.  However at this point you’re probably thinking, ‘OK, two posts about a safari and not one damn wild animal picture.  OK, I’ll leave you with this:

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Out of Santa Rosa (1)

If you’re wondering (and I know you are) why there haven’t been any posts for way too long, there has been a good reason.  In September the Fabulous Miss K and I decided spin the globe again and when I touched it with Mr. Pointerfinger it stopped on the Kenya/Tanzania border.  This is in Africa.  So we signed up for a safari (hey, the browser I’m writing this in is called Safari too…how cosmic is that?) that would take us to Kenya and Tanzania.  Two and half weeks through six game parks sounded pretty good.  So we got our shots (TB, yellow fever, pellagra, hepatitis, warts, tourettes, etc.), and took off.

Anyway, back to why I haven’t written… well the internet availability was spotty to say the least, the pace of the trip allowed for almost no down time to write and reflect, plus I couldn’t download my photo till I got back since my iPad told me it was full when I first tried (it seems to me that Siri could have told me this before I left but I think she was having a snit and kept her mouth shut).  So it all had to wait until I returned and recovered from the respiratory illness I picked up.  Wait…I know what you’re thinking.  I came back from Africa with an illness?  Rest assured it was not e-bola.  This was a much milder, though related illness referred to as d-bola.  It responds well to war won ton soup and intensive study of the National Enquirer while you lay in bed.  In any case, because I’m playing catch-up, the description of the trip will be split over a few (as yet undetermined) blog entries.

When we told our friends we were about to head to Africa several of them quietly freaked out and mentioned that they feared we would contract ebola or succumb to terrorists and the Boko Haram (not related to Procol Harum.  It turns out Boko Haram was voted the least likely group in the whole world to be caught singing Whiter Shade of Pale.)  First off let me say that ebola was thousands of miles away in east Africa whereas we were in west Africa.  Geography does matter.  As for the terrorism problem, most of the incidents in Kenya happened in the north near Somalia (except for that incident in the Nairobi mall) and we wouldn’t be close to that area at all (except for the mall in Nairobi).  Nor was I particularly worried when our State Department issued a warning against travel in Kenya because of the terrorists. Granted all the tour companies in Great Britain had terminated their trips and shipped the Brits back home.   OK, maybe I was a little worried.  But then I realized that the Foreign Service office of  Great Britain had also issued a travel warning against the United States because of all of the violence and guns here.  It reads:

“Violent crime related to the drugs trade is a major issue in the Mexican states along the border with California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Though some foreign nationals have been among the victims in the border region, there is no evidence to suggest that they have been targeted because of their nationality. Be vigilant in all border areas and follow the advice of local authorities.

Violent crime, including gun crime, is not limited to the border areas. Incidents rarely involve tourists, but you should take care when travelling in unfamiliar areas. Research your destination before travelling and seek local advice about areas with high levels of criminal activity.”

In retaliation our state department has issued a warning against travel in Great Britain because of the danger of eating their food (especially Spotted Dick) and because their weather sucks.

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THE TRIP BEGINS

OK, so I have to admit that at the beginning I was confused.  First off, it only took us about six hours to get there and frankly the place didn’t look all that African.  It wasn’t until I spotted my first lion that I knew we were in Africa.

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Spotting the first lion. An exciting moment!

It turned out we were actually at the NYC public library and the Fabulous Miss K re-oriented me.  I forgot we were going to spend three days there before we left for Africa.

So a lot has been written about New York and I won’t do a travelogue about it.  I only offer these two observations:

  • Since I’ve last been there, about three years ago one noticeable change has been the missing ubiquitous black Lincoln Town Cars used by both the car services and the mafia.  Lincoln discontinued this model which put the car services and the mafia in a quandary.  The car services seemed to have all switched to giant black SUVs w/ blacked out windows.  Its looks like about 15% of the cars on the street are operated by the Secret Service.  It is totally unclear as to how the mafia is currently transporting the dead bodies.
  • Second… I like New York but the main problem is the place is too crowded and there are too many people walking somewhere. I can’t stand crowded sidewalks.  My suggestion is that they change their policy and only allow half the people to be on the street at any given time.  This could be done easily if they used a system much like Disneyland uses.  On each corner they should put a sign with a height marker set for the average height.  On even number days people who are taller would be allowed to go about their business and the shorter people would need to stay inside (and out of my way).  On odd numbered days those who don’t reach the marker get their chance to go outside and mill about, or go to work, or whatever it is that they do.  The taller folks can stay home and watch Judge Judy or pay their bills or whatever it is they need to do.  I think that would work better and make the city a much more enjoyable place to be.  As it happens I just happen to be of average height so I could go out whenever the hell I felt like it.   I have forwarded this suggestion to the new mayor and eagerly await his response.

In any case while in NY we had a chance to see the David Letterman show and take a walk on the new Highline Park.  That’s not to be missed.  Eventually we show up back at JFK for our flight to Nairobi.  Actually its a flight to Paris on American Airlines and then a switch to Kenya Airlines to get to Africa.  Only our flight out of JFK was delayed by 4 hours because the plane was broken.  So they gave us $12 vouchers to eat while they found a plane that could fly and moved our luggage onto it.   Since coffee costs $4.50 a cup at that airport we basically got vouchers that weren’t good for anything.   Thanks a lot American Airlines. We got on the plane and then waited for the 23 planes in front of us to take off.  Another hour delayed.  The Fabulous Miss K almost had another birthday.  Finally we’re airborne and they tell us we’ll miss our connecting flight to Africa.  So we land in Paris and then they tell us the new plan.  Wait all day in the Paris airport and then get on a night plane going to Amsterdam (note:  Amsterdam isn’t Africa, its the opposite way, but hey at least in Amsterdam we can see a few tulips, drink Heineken and smoke reefers).  Then we’ll transfer to a plane going to Nairobi.  To make us feel better American Airlines gave us more vouchers for food to use in the Paris airport.  The good news:  IT’S FRENCH FOOD.  The bad news: NO VENDORS IN THE PARIS AIRPORT ACCEPTED THE VOUCHERS.  Even when I tried to use them for french fries, french toast or a french kiss.  No fucking dice.

OK, this is where the whining stops.  We got on another all night flight (2nd night in a row)  on Kenya Airlines.  I was expecting an old converted Aeroflot jet.  Boy, am I ignorant.  This was a brand new B777.  It was the nicest airplane I’ve ever been on.  The service and the food were also the best I’ve had on a plane.  By the time the flight was over I was encouraging Kenya Airways to buy out crappy American Airlines and become a US domestic carrier. I hate Las Vegas but if Kenya Air flies from the Bay Area to Las Vegas I’ll go.

So after another ten hours of flying  we finally land in Nairobi.  I want you to know that while I’m not too happy about all the inconveniences of this flight I do realize that getting to the other side of the world in two days is still a miracle.

I know there are some who may be skeptical that this trip occurred.  Especially since I’m not giving you any details of the trip at this point.  Only promises that I’ll tell you later.  I understand these reservations on your part.  Personally, I don’t believe Neil Armstrong actually landed on the “moon.”  I have proof that the whole thing happened in a movie studio in a suburb of Houston.  I will publish my proof at a later time.  However at this point I am willing to offer the photographic proof below that I was in Africa.  See if you can spot me in this group photo taken on the Serengheti.

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Proof he was actually in Africa. Can you spot the author in this photo?

The African trip starts in my next entry.

Mid-Summer Catch-Ups:Odd Pairings and The Fabulous Miss K—Santa Rosa’s Amanda Knox!

We’ve hit mid-summer and things have been fairly tame here. That said, it looks like the world is in some seriously deep shit given the way things are in the middle east, the Ukraine, and here in the U.S. Between climate denial and vaccination denial we have the death of science. Wake up Sebastopol (the local one, not the one in the Ukraine): quinoa does not prevent whooping cough, measles, polio or lockjaw. I’m really baffled how seemingly intelligent folks who are passionate about saving the earth and cite mountains of evidence and science on climate change totally deny the science regarding vaccinations. If they haven’t seen enough of these horrible diseases its only because other peoples vaccinations worked. I guess inconvenient truths work both ways.

WEIRD PAIRINGS

Lately I have come across some odd pairings.  No, I’m not talking wine and food (yet). Nor will I delve into couples in relationships (although I could do a full blog on the most mis-matched couple of all time—Sophia Loren and Carlo Ponti— actually Sophia Loren with anybody but me is an inappropriate pairing.  The debate will rage forever whether Carlo Ponti or Ringo Starr is history’s luckiest person) The other day I stumbled across my new all-time favorite magazine for this week. For a taste of divergent southern thinking I urge you to visit Garden & Gun. Believe me, there’s a lot more to this site than pictures of people popping gophers from their front porch. There are tons of articles about southern cooking, great hunting dogs, fabulous gardens, snipers and snipe hunts, and growing gorgeous trees.  I think there are also about five hundred recipes on how to cook parts of a  pig.  I wish I was there when they were drinking that rye whiskey and decided there wasn’t a magazine yet that brought together gardeners and shooters.

When I was growing up if you wanted to make a fool of a younger kid you’d send them on snipe hunt—Because there was no such thing as a snipe. Well it turns out that I’m the not-so-sharp one. A snipe is a southern bird that’s known for diving around, flying in circles, and swooping up and down for no apparent reason. They’re very hard to shoot, so if you bagged a lot of them you became known as a sniper. That’s how we came to call sharpshooters snipers. That’s it for the gun lessons in this blog, pretty much forever. Anyway, check out Garden & Gun.

My other oddball pairing is this amazing duet between James Brown and Luciano Pavarotti.  You may debate whether this is great music but the whole idea of bringing these two music heroes together for a duet is semi-cosmic.  They’re both gone now and can be enshrined. I’m posting this on the eve of the release of the James Brown biopic which I’m looking forward to seeing.

When I was 15 the first concert I ever went to was James Brown at the LA Sports Arena. I had seen him dance in the TAMI show and that was it for me. I had to see him live. It was 1965 and I don’t think there were more than 75 white folks in that arena. He had the JBs led by Maceo Parker, and the Famous Flames backing him up. It was the best show I’ve ever seen. I still have the original vinyl of his show at the Apollo.

Pavarotti and opera came to me later in life. Opera convinced me that any culture can have soul music. It just doesn’t all sound the same. For a few years the Fabulous Miss K and I had seasons tickets at the SF Opera.  We enjoyed going to a few productions each year. This clip is just too improbable.

The Fabulous Miss K becomes a Fugitive and Fights Extradition (but not very hard).

I’m sorry to say but this week brought horrible news that the Fabulous Miss K is being hunted down by the remaining fascists in the Perugia, Italy police department. This makes her Santa Rosa’s Amanda Knox. For those of you who don’t recall Amanda was the American student studying abroad in Perugia who was arrested for the murder of another young lady during a wild sex party. Amanda was convicted. Then her conviction was overturned and  she was found not guilty. Then the Perugians changed their minds again and convicted her. Amanda remains in the Pacific Northwest refusing to go back to Italy.

So what was the Fabulous Miss K’s crime and how come the Perugia police want her so badly? Last week we received in the mail, right here at our home in Santa Rosa, a mysterious but quite official envelope from the Perugia PD. Inside was a parking ticket for our rented Ford Focus (that later broke down). The Perugians are insisting we pay this fine or forever be banned from Italy.

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  1.  The Perugia PD did not put a notice on our car that we had violated the Italian parking rules. This letter we received last week was the first notice that the FMK was a fuggitivo. Since the crime was committed last November it took them nine months to track her down. Already they have violated her right to a speedy trial so I’m hoping the US Embassy will use their “influence” to have the charges overturned. On the other hand several CIA agents were just found guilty in Italy of kidnapping, so our embassy’s influence may be somewhat limited at this time.
  2. If there was a sign stating that we shouldn’t be parking wherever we parked it was not written in English. Therefore the Fabulous Miss K should not be held responsible. This is a common trick used by foreigners while in their own countries. However, we will not bow to this linguistic chicanery.
  3. Unlike her fellow alleged criminal Miss Knox, the Fabulous Miss K is not accused of committing her heinous parking job while having a wild sex party. I can vouch for this. Folks should be assured that when the Fabulous Miss K parallel parks a car it requires all of her attention. On the other hand, now that I think about it perhaps we should get one of those new cars with automatic parallel parking assist. This would free us up for other activities.

Currently we are putting together our legal team and if necessary will appeal to the International Parking Court located in the basement of the International Court in The Hague. While I am urging the Fabulous Miss K to fight extradition she seems to want to return to Italy to fight the charges herself. I will agree to this only if she takes that coat with her. She may need it since the Italian jails are not all heated (from what I hear). Ciao.

Starbucks AND I Join a Women’s Gym

Last week I heard the good news that Starbucks coffee is now going to offer all their employees a free college education along with health care benefits… or as I like to call it the G.I. Bill for Baristas.  Details haven’t been released but basically all employees can enroll at Arizona State University online and get their tuition costs covered.  Let’s acknowledge when a corporation does something right (it doesn’t happen very often).

A lot of folks like to criticize Starbucks but I think they need to do something else for fun.  I really only have one gripe with them.  It has to do with the sizing of their drinks.  Everyone knows that their smallest cup of coffee is called a “tall” which only shows that someone in marketing has a self-esteem problem.  Their middle and large sizes are “venti” and “grande.”  What I can’t figure out is why they switch to a European language as you move up in size.  Is it too much to ask for a little linguistic consistency? And no I’m not shilling for English-only policies.  I just don’t think you should need to be a polyglot to order coffee.

I had a similar problem at the senior living center where my father lived.  The place was called “Varenna” and had a Disney architecture that made it seem faux- Italian.  Except that they called the houses for these chrono-Americans “casitas.”  Suddenly I’m in Honduras.

Joining the Women’s Gym

Those of you concerned about the shape I’m in will be pleased to know I’ve joined a new gym.  In spite of working out regularly at my usual traditional gym and doing yoga about 5 or 6 times a week I was experiencing some lower back pain.  According to the Fabulous Miss K this is because I needed to work on my “core”.  The cure would come by doing Pilates (does not rhyme with Pirates).  The best place to do this would be the gym where she goes.  They specialize in Pilates and various forms of prancing in tights.  So I’m game.

What I didn’t realize was that this place was really a gym designed mostly for and by women.  In most classes I’m the only guy, sometimes there’s another one. First let me say I love this place.  Everyone is friendlier than at the usual gyms I’ve belonged to.  The folks who work there know what they’re talking about, are intelligent and very supportive.

But as I mentioned there are some basic differences guys should be aware if they’re coming from a traditional gym.  Here are some useful tips for Guys at a Women’s Gym:

  • Get used to lots of talk about the pelvic floor.  This is a mysterious area that no guys have ever heard of before.  The first time I heard about it I was in a hotel and went to the elevator but there was no button.  The pelvic floor is NOT located between the lobby and the mezzanine and is nowhere near the penthouse.  After going to this gym for a couple of months I still don’t have a clue where the pelvic floor is or what it does.  When they ask me to “tilt my pelvic floor,” which they do frequently, I smile, fake it and pretend I’m in the semi-famous Santa Cruz Mystery Spot where the laws of physics don’t apply.

 

  • Expect lots of talk about the evils of gluten.  Gluten is approaching “enemy of the state” status.  I know this is a serious issue for folks with celiac disease but for the rest of us, not so much.  But based on the conversations in class (and there are a LOT of them) giving up gluten seems to endow people with superpowers including the power to instantly heal wounds, see through walls, rescue puppies, and be deeply empathetic.  If this were the SAT test you would say that “Gluten is to humans what Kryptonite is to Superman.”

 

  • The antidote for a gluten overdose is Quinoa (which I’ve discussed previously in this blog).  In spite of its central role in the new American diet nobody is really confident about how to pronounce it.  By the way, in case you missed it the United Nations declared 2013 The Year of Quinoa.  No wonder I had such a hangover in January 2014.  Personally, I celebrated the Year of Quinoa by drinking several traditional Quinoa Martinis on the first of every month.  What a great way to get your protein.

 

  • Don’t mention the temperature in the room.  You don’t need to.  This topic will be brought up by others approximately every ten minutes. In virtually every class half the people were too hot and the other half were too cold.  They all take this personally.  Be prepared to spend a significant amount of time achieving consensus.  Consensus, by the way, is a really important concept.  This is when everyone agrees to go along with something that no one believes individually.

 

  • Don’t look for the weight room.  There isn’t one.  I never thought I’d go to a gym without weights but that’s how it rolls now.  To get the same effect you enroll in a “Sculpt and Tone” class.  Its nice to bring in words and images from the worlds of art and music to define sweating.

 

The Fabulous Miss K’s Coat Gets a Roomate

Regular readers may recall (and new ones can find in the November Archives) that while traveling through Italy the Fabulous Miss K purchased a remarkable coat after spending the morning on a Tuscan wine-tasting foray.  The coat, designed by a collective of blind Italians, is both shaggy, patch-worked, and curly, and actually did make it through customs and FMK managed to avoid being put on any TSA watch list.

But through the winter months it has become clear that the coat, locked in a vault in our winter home (which also doubles as our summer home),had become lonely. It needed a companion. So last week we went out and got a dog. Like the coat, it has dubious papers, it is shaggy and curly, and it too seems to be alive. We got this wonderful dog up in Lake County, and upon reflection it may in fact, be more alive than almost anything else in Lake County. I know for a fact that it has less drugs in it than the general population up there.

So the Fabulous Miss K found Hilde (more on this name later) being recycled by a breeder and another owner who were done breeding her. A new home was necessary where she would be loved and have a European companion like the Fabulous Miss K’s coat. The European connection was important because Hilde is a French poodle. She is a standard size (meaning nobody every threw her into a hot washing machine), gray, 5-years old and out of her diapers. Frankly, I’m totally into the fact that she’s French. At first I was not happy about acquiring her since the Fabulous Miss K and I had been talking about moving overseas for a few months next year. But the cool thing is that with a French poodle you can take them and move to France and they will blend right in. In fact under French law (the Canine Repatriation Act) poodles are are allowed to move freely across their borders without papers, proof of vaccination, or quarantine. They have their own line at the immigration station at the airport.

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In preparation for this trip abroad, which may or may not happen we’ve begun to immerse Hilde in French culture right here in Santa Rosa. We only feed her cassoulet and Alpeau. And in order to facilitate her natural functions I’m having a dog door installed so she can easily go outside. Rather than having the usual rectangular flap design I’m having French Dog Doors installed. Very nice. I think she’ll appreciate it.

Name Wars
Unfortunately, like every dog I’ve already owned this one came pre-named. And as usual the name sucks. Hilde is way too Teutonic for me. And it sounds much too prissy for a noble hunter like the one pictured above. What I’ve always wanted (but apparently never will get) is a dog named Larry. The problem is that Hilde is a girl, and secondly she’s been called Hilde all her life. Why do I want to call my dog Larry? Here’s why. My birthday is on Fourth of July, which means from the time I was born until I sent out my first resume I was called Sparky by everyone who knew me. So I just think it would be really cool if people could see me and my dog coming down the street and say, “Hey, here comes Larry and his person Sparky.” The Fabulous Miss K thinks that calling her Larry is incredibly stupid. She has proposed renaming her “Sylvie”. That is less sucky than Hilde, but it doesn’t make my inner fox trot. I’m not sure how this will turn out but I think I won’t prevail.

This reminds of another dog we used to know where we also had a naming problem. This dog was named “Bernie” when we first got him. The dog was a Bouvier de Flanders. They’re a huge breed from Belgium, used as cart dogs so they could haul chocolate, waffles, and beer around Bruges. They’re part Great Dane and part Wooly Mastadon. Anyway, Bernie was always sick with an auto-immune disease and spent most of his life with us at the vets. Eventually they built a new wing on the vets office and named it after him. But getting back to his name, “Bernie” would have been fine. Its as good, if not better, than Larry. The problem was my mother had just divorced a fellow named Bernie and I knew it wouldn’t work to be calling for Bernie and commanding him to sit and lay down and go outside while she visited. (My favorite dog command is “Go to Michigan.”) But the solution was simple for that. I just changed his name from “Bernie” to “Barney.” This was before that TV creature of the same name appeared. Anyway, “Barney” worked perfectly. The dog responded to all my reasonable commands. I’m convinced he just thought I had an accent, possibly a Croatian accent.

What people ALWAYS say
It should be noted that when you tell people you got a new poodle they ALWAYS say two things. The first is, “Is it a Rescue Dog? I have no idea when this craze about rescue dogs started. When I’m asked this question I immediately realize that people are less interested in the dog than they are in my moral character (which was a lost cause many many years ago). So although our dog does have some AKC papers (like I’m going to try to breed a dog that’s already been spayed) I have realized that it is impolitic to say our dog descended from the 1% who control the canine financial industry. So I sheepishly admit we got her from a breeder BUT her papers show that she descended from the only canine that survived the Titanic when it sunk. So she’s kind of a rescue dog, genetically anyway.

The second thing people always say is “A poodle… they’re so smart.” Now, admittedly this is better than them saying “A poodle… they’re so well coiffed.” But let’s be real. If you think any dog is smart you have relatively low standards. Dogs have a lot of great qualities and they deserve our love and care… but as a species they can’t do math, electronics, and they have no interest in the humanities. They’re just fine.

Good News! A New Career!

I wanted to share some good news.  After floundering around for a few months as a “retiree” and a failed Olympian I’ve got a new purpose in my life.  I’m going to be a consultant in a new ground-breaking field.  The New York Times, apparently after reading my March 15 entry in Irons in the Freezer has decided I will be there expert “go to” guy on ice cubes.  It turns out they already have an expert on toast and now they want to add a consultant who can help their readers keep things “cool.”  Besides my irregular column in their fishwrap you should also look for an upcoming coffee table book on ice cubes and toast.  James Taylor has already agreed to do the forward.