Tuesday, September 30, 2008

We Have Come To Journey's End

This will be my last post. I'm not taking down the blog, in part because it's important to me to have Wiley's memorial out there in cyberspace. But, quite frankly, blogging is just not fun anymore.

I loved writing about the adventures Wiley and I had, but it's not the same now that he's gone. I can't write about the kitchen. When I weigh in on a political matter that's important to me, I attract random know-it-alls who post tedious comments based on the title of a post rather than its content. Where's the fun in that? And I don't want to have one of those whiny, Facebook-esque much a-blog about nothing exercises in navel-gazing.

Plus, hiking season is just about over, so I doubt I'll be taking anymore exciting solo sojourns into the wild. That's why I'm ending with this one: my hike to Lone Eagle Peak.

Ever since I moved here and bought a book detailing local hikes, I've been obsessed with hiking to Crater Lake and Lone Eagle Peak. The photo of the latter in the book had me entranced.

Work and weather made it tough to find the right two-day break to do it, but Jerry my hiking referant at work warned me the window of opportunity was about to close for the season.

So yesterday I set off, starting at the Monarch Lake trailhead at about 8,300 feet above sea level, where the fall colors are at their peak:

The trail itself has the same rating as Byers Peak in my book: difficult. But the first half was a lovely walk in the woods, with consistent but gentle elevation gain and a few exciting "primitive" bridges over rushing streams:

The trail follows Cascade Creek for much of its 7.5 miles (one-way, to Crater Lake. With side trips I'd estimate my total mileage for the two days was about 17 miles). Paralleling the aptly-named creek, I passed many waterfalls:

The second half of the trail, and especially the last third, is much rockier and steeper, but quite frankly not as heart attack-inducing as Byers Peak. My guess is the two trails merit the same rating because Byers is short but steep and relentless while Lone Eagle is longer and still has about a 2,000 foot elevation gain.

In any case, here's a view of Lone Eagle Peak. To the right of the spire-like monster, along the ridge, is the remnants of Peck Glacier. To the left of the peak is Fair Glacier, barely visible through the trees.

I set up camp at the edge of Crater Lake, right at the foot of Lone Eagle Peak, pleased to have the place to myself. At dusk, as I was drifting off to sleep (I tend to rise and to sleep according to the sun when I'm in the wild), I was startled by the sound of Large Animals. There were two, possibly more, Things all around the outside of my tent. I peeked out through a small window and saw a moose walking past about ten feet away.

No, I didn't take any pictures. There were signs at the trailhead warning that moose were in "the rut" and would be aggressive, and that anyone who happened upon them should leave the area immediately.

Since they had happened upon me, I was just staying put and not venturing out of my tent. Eventually, after they drank from the lake and one of them apparently vomited (at least that's what it sounded like) they moved on.

As the full and total darkness of the wild descended around my tent, I realized I'd never camped alone in a place with real predators... Iceland, southern Chile, the Faroe Islands, Norway... these are not places known for hosting many apex predators. I'm not saying a moose is technically an apex predator, but there are black bears and mountain lions in the area I was and, well, an aggressive 1,000-pound moose on the loose might as well be considered capable of kicking my ass.

In the dead of night, probably around 0200 I'm guessing, I awoke with a start (I sleep much lighter in the wild, too). I was immediately aware of something walking outside the tent. It half-circled, then retreated (possibly when it heard me sit up and grab my trekking poles, which I planned to use to defend myself double-saber-style). Then it came back and made a full circle. Eventually the sound of paws in dry grass faded.

I'm sure it wasn't a bear or a moose, since its tread seemed too light and it was utterly silent but for the grass rustling. I'm guessing it was a fox or coyote, though I wouldn't rule out the possibility of it being a mountain lion. In any case, it didn't smell anything appetizing in my tent, so I was spared the drama of having to go all kung fu on an animal who was, after all, just doing what animals do.

I woke at dawn to find a thin, glossy coat of ice on the outside of my tent, even though I'd been toasty warm inside, swathed in layers of flannel and fleece. (The elevation for my campsite was around 10,350 ft.)
After investigating the environs of Crater Lake for a bit, I hid in my tent while the moose passed through again and then packed up and set off the way I'd come.
Here's another shot of Lone Eagle Peak, on the right, with the incredible wall of cliffs to its north, crowned by rock formations that look like cathedrals. My book pointed out that these cliffs inexplicably have never been named... I propose, with a nod to the great Waterboys song, "Church Not Made With Hands."

So there it is: Lone Eagle Peak, crossed off my to-do list. Despite how much I was looking forward to this trek, I have to say I didn't enjoy it. The trail was pleasant enough, and well-maintained, and the weather was near-perfect for hiking (sunny and in the 60s... though personally I prefer hiking in the 50s), and the scenery was gob-smackingly gorgeous, from the yellow stands of aspen to the magnificent cliffs and glaciers, as well as the imposing Lone Eagle Peak itself.

Maybe it was because I was wearing a full-on backpack for the first time in a long time (I'd been using a day pack on the shorter hikes Wiley and I took) and, oddly enough, the difference in weight between my pack ready for an overnight and ready for a two-week international jaunt is only a couple pounds (the difference being food).

Maybe it was because, of a dozen people I met on the trail, nearly all of them were with their dogs, which made me miss my little buddy even more.

Or maybe it's because I've got a lot of stuff going on now, things I haven't been blogging about but find very stressful. In any case, the hike was a trudge, a slog, a put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other-and-get-it-done march. It was on the trail that I decided this blog has run its course. Thanks to all who read along, posted comments or e-mailed me. I've appreciated you sailing along, but now it's time to disembark. Take care.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sarah Palin Wants Polar Bears To Die

I knew that already, but if you are at all concerned about animals, please check out the first-ever endorsement of a presidential candidate by the Humane Society Legislative Fund (hint: they're not backing McCain). In addition to an objective run-down of both the prez and VP candidates' records on animal welfare, the link features a rather awkward photo of Barack Obama holding a poodle. Neither one looks very comfortable, but that's beside the point.

Props to my bro for sending the link.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Thank You

I just wanted to thank everyone who has posted a comment, and so many others who have emailed me, offering support and happy memories of Wiley. I know there will be a day when I can remember all our great adventures together and the unconditional happiness he gave me for so many years, but it is not today.

Probably won't be tomorrow, either.

In any case, I gave Wiley's remaining treats to my favorite line cook Jerry, who has two dogs of his own, and will be giving his bedding and bowls to Bridget and Brian. This morning I also made a donation in his memory to Best Friends Animal Society. I told them to use the money where it's needed most but, all things being equal, it would mean a lot to me if they could use it to support one of their programs helping stray animals overseas. They do a lot of work helping people in poor countries or anti-pet countries establish shelters, and they've also gotten pets and strays alike out of war zones and disaster areas. I like to think that another feral street puppy in some dumpy country somewhere might get the chance at a better life in Wiley's name.

This morning I woke up early, as usual, and not knowing what else to do took myself for a walkies. At work, I had the opportunity (a few times, actually) to yell at my assistant for truly careless mistakes, and I learned that it is not possible to cry and have a Gordon Ramsay moment at the same time.

I opted for the Gordon Ramsay moment.

The retired Swiss chef who comes in on the weekends to do prep work told me about a dog he'd lost, and how for weeks after the dog had died, he would still go to the door every morning with leash in hand, waiting to put on his pet's collar until he remembered. He told me it will take time to get over Wiley, which I know, and to let myself mourn him. Everything else can wait, he said.

Then he told me to go home and have a drink.

Well, I'm drinking... Aveda's "soothing" herbal tea, to be exact, and listening to Sigur Ros, which always fills me with peace.

When I was at the kennel on Thursday morning, Bridget gave me a print-out of The Rainbow Bridge poem. I didn't want to say it, but I thought "oh, no." Most of you know how much I hate poetry, especially the gooey, sentimental sort, and those of you familiar with the poem know it's definitely in that category. I've read it before, but hadn't seen this version, which claimed to be "inspired by a Norse legend."

Suddenly the poem seemed less lame to me, though I had to research the connection. (Okay, I googled it.) Turns out they're stretching the inspiration for Rainbow Bridge to be Bifrost, the bridge separating Midgard (our world) from Asgard (kinda like heaven, only with more drinking), and it's apparently the same bridge the warriors judged worthy of Valhalla cross on their merry way.

That amused me, because one of Wiley's early names, and one he occasionally deserved when sufficiently crazied-up, was Fenrir.

If you love the Rainbow Bridge poem and take comfort in it, hey, God bless. Me, I'm sitting here listening to my elegiac Icelandic "post-rock" and imagining Wiley running amok on Bifrost, barking his "bacon bark" until Heimdall finally relents and throws him a piece of roast beast.

And that thought makes me smile.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Wiley in Pictures, Part Three

December 2007, Mills Mansion grounds, NY: Wiley really loved going walkies here, with all the different trails and the deer and squirrels, which he loved to chase... and which sometimes chased him back. A few of the deer seemed to think his charge was part of a game and answered in kind, startling him more than once.

January 2006, Milwaukee shore of Lake Michigan: Wiley was often camera-shy, so I love any photo that got him looking into the lens.

Autumn 2007, Dutchess County, NY: Did someone say salmon? When it comes to my cooking, Wiley was my greatest fan.

December 2007, Mills Mansion grounds, NY: Dr. Virago actually took this photo when she came to visit me for graduation. I love it because it captures Wiley in his "crazied-up" state, when he would bark for no reason. I'm sure he had a reason, we just couldn't understand him.

Wiley in Pictures, Part Two

December 2007, Mills Mansion grounds, NY: The above is one of my favorite photos of Wiley. I took it as he was recovering from a bad kidney illness and my vet and I weren't sure he was going to make it. I just like the trees, his pawprints in the snow and the calmness of the photo.

October 2005, Milwaukee, WI: Yes, I bought Wiley a Darth Vader costume. He seemed to enjoy wearing it much more than the rather lame pirate outfit I'd bought the year before. He liked the cloak in particular, and sometimes I'd put it on him just to go walkies, as it seemed to make him feel like more of a badass.

April 1995, Moscow, Russia: Still recovering from mange (you can see some raw spots on his paws) but no longer green.

April 2007, Rustbelt: This is another favorite shot of mine, taken in Dr. Virago and Bullock's home, where Wiley lived for a couple months while I worked in Las Vegas. This really is the dog Wiley was: alert and happy.

Summer 2007, Dutchess County, NY: Wiley and Dash play hide and seek.

Wiley In Photos, Part One

April, 2008, Four Corners: Barking in four states at once.

Autumn 1997, Orange County, NY: Bark loudly and carry a big stick.

AAutumn 2007, Rhinebeck, NY: The Buster Block, one of Wiley's favorite toys.

August 2008: the last two photos taken of Wiley. Above, with me at the 14,000-foot-plus summit of Mt. Evans. Below, looking west from the summit, perhaps spying his next adventure.

In Memoriam: Wiley, 1995-2008

Wiley passed away unexpectedly just after 8 a.m. mountain time on Thursday. He was thirteen and a half years old.

Although I was not present at his death, he was cared for and comforted by Brian and Bridget of Four Paws Animal Resort, and for that I am deeply grateful. When I arrived minutes after his passing, they told me how quick and apparently peaceful the event had been. I take heart that he did not die alone while I was at work, and that he did not suffer greatly.

Wiley was born in Moscow, Russia, on a cold winter's day in early 1995. His parentage, like his earliest days, remains a mystery. He was found by a colleague of mine begging outside the American embassy. He was about four to six weeks old, hairless and green. Mange had claimed his fur and someone, either as a prank on a hapless street puppy or as some kind of homegrown anti-mange treatment, had painted him green.

My colleague took him home, intending him to be a friend to her fully grown dog... which was terrified of Wiley, then a feral monster that enjoyed biting anything he could sink his teeth into.

Unwilling to return him to the streets, she asked if I would take him. As it turned out, my Rhodesian Ridgeback Kosmo, then a strapping two-year-old, was the only thing Wiley feared. For a while. Kosmo was exceptionally patient with Wiley using him as a chew toy, and Katya, the young Russian woman I hired as a dog nanny, was able to quickly housetrain and semi-domesticate him.

Wiley's original name was not Wiley. It was Dodger, after the street ruffian in Oliver Twist. He didn't take to the name, however, so it was soon changed to reflect his uncanny resemblance to a certain cartoon coyote. It also began a long tradition of nicknames for him, including Mr. Kittenheads, Smalls, Plush Mammal, Wilbur, AdventureDog and many, many more.

From the first day I knew him, I realized Wiley was an exceptionally intelligent dog, able to understand a number of words in both English and Russian. He was a great communicator all-around, with several variations on his bark to indicate what he wanted, whether it was the percussive, incessant warning he needed to go outside or the seal-like yelpy bark that said "bacon! I smell bacon! Gimme bacon NOW!"

Wiley grew into a healthy Siberian Laika, a Russian breed of dog related to the Finnish Spitz. I had always assumed he was just a mutt, but several Russians pointed out that only purebred Laikas have a black cross shape on their tail. Whether he was a Laika or not, as soon as his mange was cured, Wiley grew an impressive five-layered coat.

He may be gone, breaking my heart, but his fur will be with me forever, as well as in the carpet and car seats of any place he's been.

When we returned to the States, Wiley quickly learned to acclimate to his new country. True to his Russian street puppy roots, however, his favorite food remained fish skin. In Moscow, vendors used to sell whole fish on a stick, like a kebab. People would toss the stick, bones and skin on the street after eating, and I'm assuming their cast-offs formed a large part of his early diet.

Wiley had his first known brush with death while living in Madison, WI, when he mixed it up with a badger who unceremoniously slashed an artery on his muzzle. It would be just one of several meetings with the emergency vet.

After a year in Orange County, NY, we moved back to Wisconsin, this time to Milwaukee, in 1998. A frequent rabble-rouser at the dog park on the northwest side, Wiley loved to start something with a bigger, aggressive dog and then run and hide behind Kosmo, who reluctantly settled the confrontation with a deep-chested woof or two.

We moved to the south side of Milwaukee, known as Bay View, in 2000, and Wiley and Kosmo quickly made themselves at home in a spacious house, a park bordering Lake Michigan and Seminary Woods, an area of forest untouched by development. It was here that Wiley scored his only two recorded kills, both rabbits, though he would probably insist he also got a possum and a squirrel.

While I underwent chemotherapy for cancer, Wiley and Kosmo were my dearest supports, never complaining if I spent hours immobile on the couch instead of taking them walkies, or forgot to feed them because I had lost my own appetite.

It was living in Bay View where Wiley had his second brush with death... an 18-pound tumor growing in his spleen turned out fortunately to be benign, but the sheer size of it required risky surgery. He pulled through like the little scrapper he always was, and even tried to pick a fight, still wobbly from anaesthesia, with a golden retriever in the waiting room.

Wiley was an extremely emotional and sensitive dog. He would show shame when Kosmo had an accident (his own mishaps were rare), for example, or tune into whenever I'd had a bad day at work and follow me around the house, staring in concern with his big dark eyes.

One of my most poignant memories of Wiley is what he did a few days after Kosmo passed away at the ripe age of 12 back in 2005.

For years, Wiley had loved to steal Kosmo's rawhides, amassing a great pile on the rug in the dining room and then laying on them while Kosmo barked pitifully for them to be returned. In the last few days of Kosmo's life, both dogs ignored their rawhides and soon they littered the house. One day, shortly after Kosmo died, Wiley very purposefully gathered all the rawhides in a pile on the rug in the dining room, looked at them for a long time and then looked at me as if to say "it's not fun anymore" and then walked away.

In the years we had together as a duo, rather than a trio, Wiley grew into his own. He could be walked without a leash, loved to go hiking and perfected his "lemme back this thing up" butt rub dance. While he got along with few other canids, discriminating on a dog-by-dog basis, he loved people, and one of his best friends was a neighbor's cat named Dash.

We met Dash when we moved back to New York in 2006. While I missed Lake Michigan, we quickly found hiking paths all over the Hudson Valley, and I would like to think that, though I spent many hours at school away from him, Wiley enjoyed his daily walkies deep into the woods.

In late 2006, when I went off to Vegas to learn fancy cookin' techniques, Wiley moved in with Dr. Virago and Bullock, where he was spoiled rotten. I approved. He and I were reunited in April of 2007 and, while I don't think he recognized me at first, we quickly fell back into our buddy routine.

Even more than Kosmo, who was sweet but dumb, Wiley became my best friend, understanding much of what I said to him (or at least playing along) and always sensitive to my mood.

One of Wiley's favorite things to do was go buh-byes, or ride in the car. For the last year or so of his life, he had to be helped up onto the seat, but once aboard he'd proudly stand with his head and shoulders out the window, ears perked and bright eyes alert for interesting things to bark at. In the past few months, he often sat with his chin on the door frame and just his nose out of the window. Looking in my sideview mirror and not seeing that little black nose is something I will never get over.

A brief but serious kidney illness in late 2007, as well as advancing arthritis, were signs of things to come. But despite his age, Wiley was still active, hiking and making friends with neighborhood dogs more readily than he had earlier in life. He even made it to the top of a fourteener less than a month before his death.

Although briefly ill earlier this month, Wiley appeared to have made a full recovery when I headed out of town for a couple days and left him in the care of Bridget and Brian. There was no indication that he was ill, which made his death on Thursday that much more sorrowful.

When I had to put Kosmo down, my vet at the time said something to me that really resonated. Dr. Rosene said: "If they didn't give us so much in life, it wouldn't hurt so much to lose them." Kosmo's breeder, when I gave her the news, also told me "I'm glad he was in your life, and that you were in his."

Both of those sentiments have given me some comfort. Wiley gave me so much, especially in his later years and especially after we moved here, away from friends and most diversions. I always said he was the best thing to come out of Moscow. I'm glad I was able to save him from the streets. I'm glad he was my friend, my hiking partner, my bed warmer and my li'l buddy for so many years.

I hope wherever he is now that he knows he always was, and always will be, a very good boy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Gallery of Regrettable Food

I know I'm a little late to this, but for those of you who haven't checked out the Gallery of Regrettable Food, here is a good place to start.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Derision 2008: Brilliant

I have been a Tina Fey fan for a long time (Amy Poehler, t00) and if you haven't seen it, their pitch-perfect send-up of Palin and Clinton is flawless. Enjoy.

SleepingBanshee Hath A Blog...

Please join me in welcoming my pal SleepingBanshee to Blogistan via the most excellently titled Chocolate on My Trousers. Check out the wicked cool headboard she made...

I covet.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A Final Un-Neighborly Note

My landlords, who live about three hours away on the other side of the Divide, came to the building today, in part to apologize profusely to me for the unauthorized showing and for the apparent theft of my laundry money, and to tell me that they had fired the listing agent because she was given my lease and contact information way back in June and, in addition, was apparently a royal bee-yotch to them when they called her after getting my angry message.

They also said they're going to pay me back for the missing money. So there's that.

But more than anything, they came to deal with the aftermath of Mr. Absentia and Glub.

And wow. What an aftermath.

Warning: reading one part of this may make you physically sick. That's what happened to me when I found out Mr. Absentia and Glub were not only jackasses, they were evil.

One of my landlords was nearly in tears when she said in only two months they had completely destroyed the place. I surmised as much, but I wasn't expecting her to say "they left everything. Their kitchen stuff. Their furniture. Their checkbooks."

Checkbooks? That's kinda weird.

But it makes sick sense when you hear what she said next (this is the part that made me nauseous):

"They not only left their kitchen appliances, they left them plugged in and turned on."

Yes. Turned on, including a coffeemaker with an empty pot. Turned on and left that way for nearly two weeks.

I guess it's a testament to the quality of their appliances that nothing caught fire, but I am sick to think that for nearly a fortnight, as I slept, left Wiley alone for hours while I was at work and went on with my life, there was a massive fire hazard above my head.

My first thought was that idiot Glub must have been in charge of turning things off, but then I realized something... if you wanted to burn a place down and make it look like you didn't mean to, why not leave things like your checkbook?

That's right. I think those scum-sucking bastards intentionally set a fire trap assuming the place would burn down and somehow cover their thick-legged tracks.

That's when I got really sick to my stomach.

My landlords said they're going to pursue them for the rent, for the damages and so on. Good luck. Who leaves behind a checkbook unless it's a fake or stolen identity? I'm just sayin'. Both of them moved to Colorado about the time I did. They didn't have any friends or family in the area. I wouldn't be surprised if "Chris" and "Danny," as they called themselves, are grifters. At least "Chris," aka Mr. Absentia. I don't think Danny is capable of anything other than figuring out where his next meal/cigarette is coming from.

When I got home tonight, still a little quesy to think those worthless monsters had set a fire trap above my head, I saw all the stuff my landlords had removed. Pretty much an entire apartment of furniture and super-tacky art, crappy appliances and, ooh, look! some cookie cutters!

Yeah, I took the cookie cutters since they were sitting high on other stuff and not actually in the dumpster, though I may not keep them. As I was sanitizing them, I kept thinking over and over how they nearly burned down the apartment and could have killed Wiley (I feel pretty secure about me waking up and being able to get out if the smoke detector went off, and to take Wiley and my laptop with me, but what if he was home alone when the fire broke out??).

Then I fretted about "Chris" being an IT guy for one of the local resorts (not the one I work at, thankfully). I've been using a Verizon WiFi card on my laptop to do all my banking. What if he hacked into it and has stolen my identity and ruined my credit?

I know it's a long shot and I sound kind of paranoid, but I'd rather be a nutball than someone with ruined credit. I'm calling my bank tomorrow morning to see what they suggest I do.

Of course, I'm also worried about their dogs. I know it may sound stupid, but if they had so little regard for possible loss of life setting a fire trap in a fully-occupied apartment building (well, occupied except for their unit), how can they possibly treat their animals humanely?

I'll probably toss the cookie cutters so that I'm not reminded of those two khoi every time I use them. Or maybe I'll wind up keeping them... as a reminder to trust no one.

By the way, all the drama and stress of the past few days, from Wiley being sick to Mr. Absentia and Glub's attempted arson, have led me to the conclusion that Fortuna is waaaaaay too interested in my life right now. So I'm going to lay low and not post for a while and hopefully slip off her radar, because the difference between a pit bull and a hockey mom and Fortuna is that Fortuna devours the other two whole and spits out the bones with a grin, you know?

Since I don't want to end on a down note, check out this awesome Cake Wrecks blog my homey Laura sent me. And no, none of my stuff is on there!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Sheep Wranglers I Have Known...

After spending my day off yesterday at the vet (Wiley is on antibiotics and doing much better though is still a bit fatigued) and getting my tail light bulb replaced and the check engine signal looked at and other less-than-exciting errands, today I decided we'd go on a road trip.

I had in my plans the Flat Tops Trail Scenic Byway, an 82-mile or so mostly dirt and gravel road that winds its way through the Flat Top Mountains, a range to the north and west of the Continental Divide and Rockies proper. Probably the most notable thing about the mountains is that they include Trapper's Lake, an area of allegedly pristine wild beauty that is said to have inspired the National Wilderness Act. It was a 20-mile detour on a road undergoing grading or some other kind of construction, so I skipped it.

The Flat Tops also boast an apparently wicked hike-along-a-knife-edge-ridge called The Devil's Causeway, but with a recuperating Wiley in tow I didn't even attempt it.

On the road to the byway, itself pretty scenic, we passed a rock formation that made me think aha, this is what the Devil's Towelette should have looked like up close!

The Flat Tops themselves aren't that impressive, especially when one lives in the shadow of both the Divide and Byer's Peak.

Here's about the most interesting shot I could manage on a gray and overcast day, with some of the not-so-flat Flat Tops in the background:

By far the highlight of the day was running into (not literally, fortunately) a herd of sheep tended by Actual Cowboy, or at least Actual Sheep Wrangler, Gabriel.

Gabriel spoke no English, but my Spanish clicked on and we chatted for a couple minutes until the Iron Curtain came down. It's like my brain has a meter whenever I try to speak German or Spanish. After two minutes, the synapses reroute themselves and I hear an internal voice say "nu, davai... tolko po-russki." My entire vocabulary and thought process switches to Russian and, like being trapped in a Siberian gulag, I can't get out. It's awful. I think Gabriel thought I was choking as I tried to form words en espanol but could get out only halting Russian.

Damn you, Putin! (totally not his fault, of course, but he's my favorite kozyol otpushcheniya... it's funny what Russian words are ever present in my head, such as how to say "scapegoat," "you are difficult to believe," "go to hell, jerk" and "we won the cold war.")

Anyway, Gabriel was adorable, as you can see in this photo:

He just may be my second favorite Sheep Wrangler ever, after the wry guy Loki whom I met back in May. And, quite frankly, Gabriel had the more impressive entourage, with not three but five sheepdogs. Two wily, wiry little border collie-lookin' dogs and then three... uhm... not sure. They were not the gigantic Anatolian Shepherds that Loki had, but they were dang-all big.

Looking at the photo above now, I think that they were some kind of Anatolian Shepherd-Golden Lab mix. You know, like an Anatoodle or something. (And yes, I know "Anatoodle" implies an Anatolian-Poodle mix, but it's just more fun to say than an Anador Sheptriever.)

Derision 2008

If you haven't read this article on "rednecks" from the BBC, you need to. I can't guarantee you'll enjoy it, but you need to read it for a number of reasons.

- First, a big spanking to the BBC (though those Brits would probably enjoy that) for continuing to search out people and events that make America look like the land of the nutball and/or obnoxious cowboy dolt.

- I found the author's belief that the "liberal media elite" doesn't use the word "redneck" to "protect" rednecks' feelings to be very interesting. For starters, it's my understanding that the term "redneck" is just like the terms "queer" and the "n-word," which I dare not type lest the PC Police shut down my blog. Although the terms can be used within a community as identifiers or even affectionately, when those words are used outside the community to describe individuals inside the community, or the community itself, they are pejoratives (ooh, big word! Sorry, y'all!).

And, speaking from personal experience, there is another reason the "liberal media elite" does not use the word "redneck." When I was a music journalist a few years back, I reviewed a Green Day concert during the heyday of their song "American Idiot," which references "rednecks" in a pejorativ- oops, sorry, in a real mean way, them uppity sumsabitches. If you know anything about print journalism, you know the writer rarely writes the headlines, just the body of the article, and we rarely see the hed until it's in print. Well, when writing the headline, a well-meaning copy editor (the folks who write the headlines, among other things, like fact-checking and trimming) decided to toss in the word "redneck."

For the next week, I got very little work done because of the deluge of calls, e-mails, letters, death threats, local talk radio attacks on me, etc. When I said hey, I didn't write the headline, and I didn't see it till the next morning, when it was in the paper, and what's more I wouldn't have used that word, the attacks only got worse because I was then "a lying coward" and a "pandering liberal elite."

So I believe the "liberal media elite" shies from using the word "redneck" because it wants to get some work done and not spend its time fending off attacks from, well, angry rednecks.

- I find it interesting that, according to the author, rednecks are "suspicious of authority." Really. Perhaps being a little more suspicious of authority's lameass claim that Iraq had weapons of destruction mighta done them a li'l more good 'n' gotten a few less of their boys 'n' gals killed or maimed or messed up in th' head over there in eye-rack.

- Perhaps the most disturbing aspect of the BBC story to me is that it's true... I'm not talking about the tiresome, sweeping generalizations or tedious attacks on the "liberal media elite" (zzzzzzz...). I'm talking about it pointing out Sarah Palin's appeal to a large number of Americans. Because, and this is where my heart breaks, I believe the lasting legacy of the Bush Administration has been to demonize the intelligent and the educated and make intellectual curiosity a crime against patriotism.


What's wrong with being smart, or working to be smarter? With going to the best schools your hard-working family can sacrifice to send you to? With working your ass off to learn and absorb as much knowledge as possible, to embrace Marie Curie's suggestion that "nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood"? Where's the crime in learning from history and developing the ability to reason?

You could hear it in every speech at the RNC, and in the tone of McCain's campaign... as an aside, I was going to vote for McCain back in 2000 and believe, had he actually been elected back then, the country would have been in better shape all the way around. But now that he's sold his soul, he can kiss my highly-educated vote good-bye.

And, for the record, I am not an Obamamaniac. I'm not wooed by his eloquence, though I do like the idea of having a president who can pronounce the word "nuclear" correctly. I don't think he'll get 20% of his agenda accomplished, and since, for me, plagiarism should be punishable by death, I'm not a fan of Biden, either (Obama's lifting of a friend's speech a while back is a lesser crime).

Once again, this November, I will be voting for the lesser of two evils.

But this is all on my mind because yesterday I registered to vote. That was interesting in itself. I went to the county courthouse with my form, printed from Colorado's state website, my passport, my Social Security Card and my Nevada driver's license, which I still have because it's still valid (I hate changing licences every time I move, which gets expensive) and because it is the Best. ID. Photo. Ever. I look like a model.

I give the clerk my application and ask "do you need to see my passport or Social Security Card?" She says no.

She reads over the application and hands it off to someone I can't see behind a cubicle wall. Then, suddenly, words are said and she comes tearing back around the corner.

"You're gettin' your Colorado ID today, right?" she asks, her tone suddenly anxious.

"You mean a Colorado driver's license?"

"Yeah. You're gonna get that done now, right?"

I say no, because there's nothing online that says I need one to vote, and on the application itself, it asks for your Colorado driver's license number or the last four digits of your Social Security number (I provided the latter).

This is, by the way, the same friendly clerk I met in February when I went to get my CO license plates. Now she was suddenly Regan (not the president... the chick in "The Exorcist".)

"You are committing a felony trying to register to vote without a Colorado ID!" she shrieks at me.


I wait for red lights to start flashing and alarms to go off and to be dragged off by armed thugs. Instead, the matronly chick behind the cubicle comes out, arms folded over her chest, and glares at me.

I say there is nothing on the website that says I need a Colorado driver's license to vote, that I have been living in Colorado since February.

"If you attempt to vote without a Colorado ID you will be committing a felony and face imprisonment," interrupts the Chick From Behind the Cubicle. She actually sneered at this point and added "That's right on the website."

Now, I actually read the damn voter registration info and didn't see anything about needing a driver's license. I thought there must be something I'm missing here, so I tried one more time, talking over her when she tried to interrupt me again.

"I just want to clarify that in order to vote, I need to have a Colorado driver's license. Is that correct, yes or no?"

"You need a Colorado ID!" they shriek in freakish unison.

"Ok... is there anything other than a Colorado driver's license that qualifies as a Colorado ID?" I ask, thinking that not everyone in Colorado drives.

Cubicle Harpy thinks it over and then says "Well, if you had something like a passport, you could use that."

Well, shucks, I don't have "something like a passport," I have an actual freakin' passport, which has been sitting on the counter in full view the entire time I'm having this conversation.

I hold it up and ask "so this is okay, even though it's issued merely by the federal government and not the state of Colorado?"

Yes, by then I was irked.

"Is it valid?" Cubicle Harpy snaps.

I told her it was, and could barely contain myself from adding that it was full of entry stamps and visas not only to socialist countries, but even a few Islamist countries and countries with real funny letterin' that just don' look right.

"Fine," she snaps and retreats to her cubicle with my registration form. How much do you want to bet she threw it out? We'll see come November. If I'm denied the right to vote when I go to the polls, the gods help her.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Well, At Least My Rage Now Has a Focus (And I Don't Mean a Spiffy Economy-Sized Car)

There's a new chapter in the Not-Quite-Breaking-and-Entering saga that began yesterday.

No one so far has called me back, except for the realtor who left his card on my kitchen counter. He left a voicemail in what I call TalkRadio tone... you know it... aggressive, patronizing, self-righteous and bulldozery.

Here's the transcript:

"Look, I don't owe you any advance notice to show the place. You gotta sort that out with [the listing agency]. That's not my problem. And we didn't take your quarters. We didn't even go into the place. I opened the door and saw the dog and that you're not keeping it up and it doesn't show well so we didn't even go in. I just left my card on your counter to let you know I opened the door. We didn't take your quarters."


For the record, my voicemail to him was concerned and somewhat terse, but not obnoxious.

Also for the record, my quarters were on a small glass plate immediately next to the door, and he had to walk about twelve feet, past Wiley, to put his card on the counter. So yeah, it would have been easy for his client to swipe the quarters, literally without setting foot in my unit.

I also don't appreciate his accusation that I'm not keeping up the place... It's actually much neater and cleaner than most places I've been shown.

I wasn't expecting a "gosh, sorry my client is a klepto, let me pay you back" but I also was not expecting him to come out swinging.

Then again, this is Colorado, the land where citizens are comfortable in their belief that they are entitled to do as they please and everyone else is wrong. And just look at his picture:

Hmm... he doesn't show well, does he?

(Disclaimer: business card posted above for entertainment purposes only. I know that none of you would be so petty and immature as to take the information displayed and sign him up for annoying e-newletters, magazine subscriptions and telemarketing-driven cruise sweepstakes. Just like you wouldn't call him from a public phone and, when he answers, just happen to trigger the air horn you keep in your pocket ... and why do you keep that thing in your pocket, anyway?)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Won't You Not Be My Neighbor?

First, the reason that steam is actually coming out of my ears (metaphorically, of course, because "literally" would be really odd and probably mean my brain was on fire and I was incapable of basic brain stem function, nevermind typing a rant).

My apartment building is for sale (it was before I even moved in). My apartment unit has a lockbox. My lease states that my landlord must give me 24 hours' advance notice before entering for repairs or just to see how I'm keeping the place, and that any realtor showing the place must make "every reasonable effort to contact me" at least 24 hours in advance orally or in writing.

Well, Wiley has been sick with the poops the past couple days, so I've been keeping him barricaded in the kitchen while I'm at work. I get home tonight and he is cowering in a corner (granted, he may just be feeling lousy, but...). There is some realtor's business card on my kitchen counter and all my laundry money is gone. I keep it on a small glass plate by my door. There was five or six bucks last I looked, when I did laundry a couple days ago. Today? Empty.

Yeah, my unit was shown with no advance notice whatsoever. Nothing in writing. No phone calls. And the jackasses who traipsed through my place stole money from me and stressed out my sick dog. If I were to learn that they physically hurt him (he was not his usual happy self, though again that could be from being sick) I would personally draw and quarter them. With a dull blade, so that it hurt more.

Speaking of quarters, it's not the amount, it's the freaking principle.

After checking to see that nothing else was missing, far as I could tell (and noticing that the jerks left my bathroom light on), I called my landlord's cell and home, the listing agent's cell and office and the number of the guy who showed the place.

Of course, this being Sunday night, no one answered, leaving me to stew in silence.

Have you ever experienced this? I know I may sound like I'm overreacting to not getting advance notice, but the fact that they stole from me and may have treated Wiley badly really presses my buttons. A stranger enters without permission and without notice and steals personal property... that's burglary, no?

Doesn't this incident violate the terms of my lease? Anyone who's had a similar experience or has some knowledge of the legal implications of this, please let me know. If you don't want to comment here, email me.

Now, deep breath, Pirate. Take another deep breath. There will be no running through of anyone with your sabers, however badly you long to hear steel sing through bone and flesh.

Let's take a third nice, big, deep breath and remember that, while you can't do laundry tonight, after a little walkies Wiley did pick up the fuzzy pink Barbie slipper that the Dread Pirate Iron Bluebird gave him and initiate some playtime, so whatever happened earlier he is apparently not too traumatized...


A little better.

In more scintillating, less infuriating neighborhood news, Glub and Mr. Absentia, my upstairs neighbors, are gone.

It's quite a juicy tale, actually. A couple weeks ago, as I was coming back from a walkies with Wiley, Glub, wandering the yard aimlessly like someone institutionalized either for dementia or extreme lack of ambition, approached us.

"We're movin'," Glub announced with typical eloquence.

I asked where to and he claimed Mr. Absentia's mom, in Georgia, had worked out some business deal to sell her homeopathy practice. She could get $200,000 for the thing as-is, or $400,000 if Glub and Mr. Absentia did a couple weeks' worth of organizing and painting, so they were quitting their jobs (well, Mr. Absentia was... I never saw Glub do anything other than be, well, glubbish, at home) and heading south.

(By the way, no, Glub and Mr. Absentia are apparently not a couple... both are divorced and speak frequently of girlfriends... whom I never see... hmm, maybe they are a couple. When the thought crossed my mind, I was interested that the next thought loping across the sun-kissed meadows of my mind was that their relationship would make more sense if there were a couple, because Glub is the passive, do-nothing glub and Mr. Absentia is the glib jackass who treats him like crap, which makes more sense in the context of an unhealthy relationship than of two single guys living together as friends or even just roommates... that was followed by another thought sashaying across the faded vaudevillian theater of my mind, which was wow, how appalling that the second thought should even lope across the sun-kissed meadows of my mind and how even more disturbing that further contemplation should lead me to the conclusion that yes, people in bad relationships put up with a lot more crap than most will take from a mere friend or roommate, and doesn't that bite the wax tadpole?)

And no, no rum is involved in this post.

Anyway... Glub's entire purpose for telling me they were moving, aside from gloating over the prospect of an easy $200,000 in his cargo shorts pocket (though I wonder how much Mr. Absentia really will give him, if anything), was to attempt to sell me Mr. Absentia's king-size waterbed or his own "normal" king-size bed.

Uhm, no.

I asked Glub what the landlord had said and he told me they weren't going to tell him. Nice. I said "you're going to lose your security deposit," and he shrugged, noting "the dogs destroyed the place, anyway."

Gee, thanks. From the bottom of my responsible-dog-owner-who-has-t0-jump-through-hoops-every-time-she-rents-and-pay-exorbitant-nonrefundable-pet-deposits heart, thanks for being a jackass and ruining it for the rest of us pet owners.

The next weekend, they had a little U-Haul trailer in the parking lot, one which couldn't fit much more than a king-size waterbed and which was, by the time I saw it, already full of clothing and Mr. Absentia's endless array of sporting goods (they had his three kayaks strapped to the roof of his Suburban). No waterbed, or "normal" bed, visible.

Then they were gone.

Both of their grills are still on the balcony above me, as well as the igloo-style doghouse. They did apparently take the dogs, but who knows? I hope the dogs are okay, because, despite their idiot owners, they were sweet animals.

Here's where it gets really juicy...

About a day and a half after they left, I went out just before dawn because Wiley heard the call of nature. As I stepped out of my building, I saw a strange car parked in the lot (it's not really a lot, just six spaces) with the motor running and a guy in the passenger seat scowling at me.

As I stood there with one eye on him and one eye on Wiley doing his business, I heard someone come thudding down the stairs from the second floor... a guy came out of the building and stomped past me, ignoring my "hello."

You know how some people just look mean? He was a tall, skinny, grizzled carny-lookin' guy with a rattail mullet, filthy, un-ironic trucker hat and deep smoker's lines on either side of his face.

When he opened the driver's side door of the car, he said to the other guy in a tight-jawed growl "the fuckers are gone!" then got in and drove off.


Whatever that was about, and why Glub and Mr. Absentia left in such a rush, I don't know. I just know, whatever they were up to, I'm glad they didn't burn down the building or in some other way wreck my life, such as break into my apartment and steal my laundry money.

Oh, wait a minute...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

We Live in an Exponential World

Mad props to The Queen for sending me the link to this fascinating compilation of statistics about the world we live in, and the world we are entering.

I think Bill and Ted said it best when they said: "Whoa, dude!"

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Devil's Moist Towelette

Here's a shot of The Devil's Towelette taken on a rainy day recently. This is pretty much how it looks from most places in the valley, a view far more impressive than seeing it up close was.

It's the thumb-like rock sticking up from the left side of the saddle of the ridge, roughly in the center of the photo:

And here, just 'cuz, is yet another shot of Byers Peak as rainy, snowy clouds rolled in this evening: