Because my dog craps I was prepared when my daughter threw up.
Makes me feel blessed and humbled and mortal and happy to have known what I’ve known.
Hmm. Doesn’t necessarily follow, does it. Back up a bit:
“I’m going to be sick,” she said. And we hadn’t had the pizza yet. Quick –
No, let’s rewind.
Sixteen years ago we got a dog. He was -
No, fast-forward from that, but careful when we get to the right spot . . . there.
Late summer. We’re having Subway sandwiches. When we’re done I remember the bags are good for poop-scooping, and I set one aside.
No, let’s go back to Wednesday. Two days before.
Where was my iPod?
Ah! Perfect. That’s the entry point. Let us begin.
Where was my iPod? Haven’t used it in a while. Need it for an upcoming trip. It comes in handy during the day, of course – driving around, you want a tune or a drama – but when I couldn’t find it in the usual places for a week, I dumped some stuff on my phone and used that in the car. But I wondered if I’d lost it. I’d hate to lose it. It’s one of those Classics with a huge hard drive, holds everything. Or would hold everything; I decided not to load the classical collection until I finished renaming all the tracks. All nine billion of them. The art was fine; I use a picture of the composer for the album art, and that works with the big guys, but when you get into your Elgars and Waltons it’s not so clear. So the composer name should go in the song title field. And, for GOD’S SAKE, figure out whether it’s Symphony #1 or Symphony No. 1, or Movement #3 or Movement III. This stuff gnaws at a man.
You say: who cares? Who could possibly care? Except I was on a cruise last November and got into a long deep discussion about the glories of Bruckner, and the next day I was on the beach in Cozumel and wanted to find the movement we were talking about, and the truncated titles in the playlist were no help whatsoever, and if you’ve ever tried to find the proper movement of a Bruckner symphony while sitting with not much clothes on in a plastic chair in Mexico, you know what I mean.
I do. NOT. Want to experience that again.
It’s funny, but I actually believe there will be a time when my music collection is perfectly organized and tagged and has all the right art. I really think that.
Anyway. The iPod could be in the noise-canceling headphones container; I slip it in the pocket when I take a trip. No. Could be in the Bag of Way Too Many Pockets, which I use on vacations; no. Could be in the new bag – well, the bag I got for Christmas and have regretted asking for, since it’s impractical and too thick and doesn’t have enough pockets. Is it in the Goldilocks Bag, which has the right number of pockets, except for the middle pocket which doesn’t exist at all? No. (The nonexistent pocket is actually an expansion joint built into the bag; deploy the zipper and the bag gets thicker. Never used it. The number of times I’ve unzipped it, thinking it’s a pocket: 1 out of 4.) Tried the drawers where things go. Nothing. Ah: the car.
Checked the glove compartment, and found the manual, of course, which reminded me that the radio didn’t work. When the battery was replaced the radio went dead, and needed a code. Of course I do not have the code in the manual. It would be upstairs in a folder marked AUTO. Make a note of that. I’d used an old code I found in a stack of important cards, and after two unsuccessful tries I realized it was the code for the previous vehicle. See, the first time you enter the code and you get an error, you think, well, I entered it wrong. The second time you know it’s wrong. YOU HAVE ONE MORE TRY before you’re locked out of your own radio. So I backed off on that one. Fast. Anyway, the glove compartment had lots of things I didn’t need, including a plastic bag I’d got from Subway and stored away to use for future dog-poop picking-up. While I was cleaning out the glove compartment, might as well attack the utility space over the dashboard. An old notepad. Expired coupons. A pack of gum with one stick. I filled the bag, set it on the seat – because by now I’m in my parking space at work. Forgot to note that I did this after I parked, because when I got to work I realized I usually shut off the engine at the same time the BBC went to a particular program, and I hadn’t heard it because the radio was dead, and that wouldn’t have been so bad if I’d had my iPod, although that really wouldn’t matter because the radio wouldn’t accept any input, including the AUX input from an iPod. But still.
Was the iPod in my work desk? No.
Later that day at home I found another bag I’d used to transport stuff to work, and there it was. The iPod! I plugged it in to charge; it immediately started to sync with the classical playlist. BUT THAT’S A WORK IN PROGRESS! I wanted to say, but really, it didn’t matter. Take the advice of Teri Garr in “After Hours.” Be loosey-goosey about things.
Later that night I got an email alert from Dominos, offering a free Artisanal Pizza. Well, okay. Genoa Salami and roasted peppers? Wife will love that. But it was carryout only. No problem. I ordered pizzas for Friday night a day in advance, and felt like a guy who was on top of things. Seventeen hours later we’re coming back from piano, listening to the radio – yes, code input three was successful – and I’m bashing the music of my daughter’s demographic. “It’s all people singing a melody sampled from something ten years ago and then some guy comes on and talks for a verse so they can say ‘Featuring DJ LC-Bufus’ or whatever.”
She actually agrees, but that doesn’t mean it’s not fun. Good point. When I turn to the 80s channel, they’re playing “Another One Bites the Dust” by Queen, and she groans: this one. I groan.
“I didn’t like it either,” I say, “but they didn’t use synthesizers, and that was rare. Well not that rare, but they made a point of it, to show they were musicians. The guitarist hand-wrapped his own pickups and he’s also a respected astronimist. That’s as good as it gets for jobs: scientist and lead guitarist. But yeah, this song. I worked in a bar and it played all the time.”
“You worked in a bar?”
“I did. Here, you want something else?” I plugged the iPod into the AUX channel, called up the NEW playlist, and clicked a version of “Blue Monday.” One of those 80s remixes.
“When is something going to happen?” she asked. Good point.
I’d put 6:15 for the pick-up time. We were early. I drove south and east and north to chew up some time, got to Domino’s at 6:13. They didn’t have the pizza. In fact they’d never heard of my order. It was a mystery to them. Hmm. Chaos back in the kitchen; the manager was lashing everyone, moaning about the pies sitting under the warmer for 20 minutes, despairing over the tickets pouring out of the automated internet order-generation system. I had a horrible feeling that . . . no. Impossible. I’d put my address into the system, this was the closest store . . .
Ran to the car, got my iPhone, called up the confirmation email – the first time in my life I have ever cared about an automatically-generated Dominos confirmation email – and sure enough, I’d chosen a store three miles to the northeast of my house instead of three miles to the southwest. GAH. GAHHHHH. So. In the car and off we go. It’s now 6:22. I am starving. The pizza is getting cold. Getting? Is.
We get to the store at 6:40. There is no place to park because there’s an enormous old Lincoln in the parking lot blocking all the spots, three people standing outside arguing about something. Great. I pull to the side of the lot, we get out, run inside, get the pizzas. Back in the car; the Lincoln people are still engaged in disputation. I cannot possibly imagine what’s so important that you have to settle the matter in a Domino’s parking lot. On the way back I take the twisty streets leading to the twisty parkways. We have been driving around for 40 minutes.
“I don’t feel well,” she says in the back.
“You’re just hungry,” I say. “We’ll be home soon. Do you want some gum?”
“NO NO I DON’T WANT GUM. I’m going to be sick,” she said. “I need a bag.”
I look to the passenger seat, and there’s a Subway bag, stuffed with alllll the things I got out of the glove compartment and the storage space on the roof, and I pick it up by the end and dump everything out on the floor and pass it back . . .
. . . just in time.
She’s done ruping by the time I pull into the garage. I bring the pizzas up; Jasper Dog is thrilled with the aroma, and yips and dances and barks for a piece. We eat. It’s pretty good. Daughter’s STARVED. I’m thinking: no dog, no bag hoarding instincts, no barf-containment. No iPod location mystery, no sorting through the glove compartment, no instantly-available barf bag. The reason this day didn’t end with a stinky car can be directly traced to the moment I walked past a pet shop in Uptown in April 1996, looked in the window, and saw my dog.
Wife took him for a walk later. He was slow. Very slow. “He’s not going to be with us much longer,” she said. Resigned. Then hopeful: “But I’ve been saying that for three years.”
“You saw him when the food showed up. Annoying as a puppy. Where did he take you tonight?”
“Well, I let him go where he wanted, and we went up the hill to the water tower, and then back down, and when we got home he didn’t want to go up the steps so he went down the street, and I thought he would go up the back steps, but he looked at me, like ‘I’m not done,’ and we walked east and around the neighborhood again. But it was dark and he can’t see anything.”
“But he can smell.”
Nearly deaf and nearly blind, and the world is still a story, every scent a character, every strong odor a twist in the plot. The dog walks outside and the world is his iPod, and it’s always set on shuffle. So it is for us all, really. If you have a dog you know how they come to the door and stand there waiting for you to let them out. Standing at the glass door. The wall that keeps the odors out. They can see, but they can’t smell. Daily life for us is just like that. If you’re lucky someone opens the door and all the glories rush over you.
It’s days like these that you realize how much you miss. For once, you saw all the connections. You suspect there are just as many threads between the now and the then every other day. Probably more. Would you go mad if you considered them? Would you exult to discover how everything braids itself together, fear for the action ten years gone that will explode down the road, anticipate the bloom that grows from a casual act last month? Sure. All of that. All these things. You can’t act if you remember everything. You shouldn’t act if you remember nothing.
And so, to now: a tick past midnight. The dog on the carpet just sighed and snorted. In a few minutes I will carry him upstairs and put him on the soft bed. If he thinks of anything, it might be breakfast that comes when the light grows and the pack stirs. But he goes to sleep quickly at night. He used to spend his days by the window, watching the world, alert, intent. The world was a place of contention. It’s a congenial place these days, soft, indistinct, with quicksilver phantoms in squirrel form that scamper on the edge of his peripheral vision. Not that he’s lost his sense of adventure: the other day I was settling down for a nap, and I heard the squeak of the backyard gate. Daughter hadn’t shut it. Sigh. Went downstairs, went outside, and sure enough the door was open. Jasper was standing in the gap, looking out; I gave the whistle, the only sound to which he responds these days, and he turned around: yes?
I snapped that picture, thinking: that’s him; that’s always been him.
Later he came inside, taking his time up the steps. I can tell it hurts. For him it doesn’t matter that it hurts. What matters is getting up the stairs and getting inside where the good stuff is.
When you’re inside, the good stuff is outside. Vice Versa. That’s why we love dogs. They boil it down to lessons we can’t dismiss. They know us too well.
So, to sum up this Bleat: because my dog craps I was prepared when my daughter threw up.
What I’m supposed to do with this information, I’ve no idea.
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