D is for Dogs

When I was growing up, we were not a dog-owning family; we were cat people, mostly because of space. Dogs need to have more legroom than our tiny yard could afford.

We did have one dog, though, an Alaskan husky called Lucky Stubbs. He was a good dog, but prone to nipping people. It was OK when he nipped me, but when he nipped one of the minister’s daughters, that was it. He ended up on a nearby farm.

I like dogs OK, but they don’t seem to like me. I used to ride my bicycle down Avon Road in Binghamton, NY. Not a dog in sight. Next thing I knew I was surrounded by barking canines. The only thing to do was to stop and walk. (Avon, BTW, was a dead-end street that ran to the river; there was no alternate route.)

I’ve had similar experiences around Albany, and once in Jamestown, NY where this Irish setter about the size of a small Shetland pony bounded across a field to harass me. I certainly couldn’t outrun him, so I stopped, started walking with my bike until he felt that his turf was safe, then went back to riding. I know some people use various dog repellents, but I am disinclined.

Unfortunately, my daughter seems to be canine wary. Frankly, this surprises me. Her first daycare, which she went to from age 6 months to 16 months, had an obnoxious daschund who barked all of the time, and she seemed unfazed. Yet, for a couple years, any dog nearby sent her into the arms of a parent. During the worst phase of this, I visited a friend in Rhode Island, who was convinced that a weekend with his very nice old dog would cure her of her fears. Instead, she spent the week at home all jumpy and clingy.

When we used to walk around the block, a pair of dachshunds would come and bark at us. Despite being behind a fence, they were a bit much to listen to. (I heard at a party this weekend that, due to the unmelted snow, they can now bark with their heads OVER fence. Great, just great…)

The daughter’s fear has morphed into merely not wanting to be in a direct line with a dog. When we get on the bus and she doesn’t immediately run to the back of the bus to sit down, I know there must be a guide dog on board. She’s OK as long as I am between her and the animal.

And there is ONE dog she actually likes, an old setter down the street named Lucy. So I hold out hope that one day, she’ll be OK with the Rovers of the world.


Z is for Zebra

Have you noticed that in children’s books, Z is almost ALWAYS for zebra? It might be for something else as well, but zebra is nearly inevitably represented. For instance:

Poor Puppy by Nick Bruel (2007)

A to Z by Sandra Boynton (1984, 1995)

A to Z Animals: A Bedtime Story by Danice Baker. Illustrated by Judith Moffatt (2005)

Robert Crowther’s Most Amazing Hide and Seek abc Alphabet Book (1977, 1999)

The Alphabet Book by P.D. Eastman (1974)

Even in non-alphabetical books, the zebra will get its due, such as in The Zoo Book by Jan Pfloog (1967); even the book is in the shape of a zebra.

Now, in English, an X in the first position usually sounds like an Z, such as xylophone. (An exception is a word like X-ray, where the letter sounds like ks.) Maybe, to lessen the burden on the poor zebra, we should attribute to Z some of those X words. Or not.

One of the first jokes I ever learned: what black and white and red all over? A sunburned zebra.


W is for Waiting

Tom Petty, or as my late friend Tom used to call him, Tommy Pett, was right: The Waiting IS the hardest part.

Whether it is something leading to road rage or throwing something at computer that is downloading files too slowly, we just can’t wait. We’re in a hurry. Gotta multitask or you’ll miss something. Be in touch 24/7 with a variety of gadgetry.

One of my major pet peeves are people who park in crosswalks or incline planes where people with wheelchairs or carts should be able to operate, and all because the driver is “in a hurry” to stop and get a bagel that will take “just a minute”, instead of waiting to park in a spot three car lengths away. One time, in my neighborhood, that very scenario took place, when a blind man walked into a car parked in a crosswalk. The man was confused and disoriented, but I was too far away to assist him. Grrr!

Waiting in line or being on hold on a telephone can be the banes of my existence. Or not. I get to choose whether I use that time to observe/to think/to relax or to let it get me down. My choice. Reading material, though, DOES help.

I get the impression that there a lot of people out there waiting for love and romance.

In fact, there seems to be plenty of reasons to wait. You don’t REALLY want to go swimming right after a big meal, do you? Or hit the SEND TO ALL button when you really wanted to eviscerate only one person? Sometimes counting to 10 (or 100) will keep one from saying just that particularly wrongheaded thing that is hard to take back.

Even the good things one has difficulty waiting. We are in the season of Advent in the Christian calendar, and it’s all about waiting, with those hymns in minor keys. Some just can’t wait for Christmas. (Is that why the local CVS drug store started playing Christmas music BEFORE VETERANS DAY? And doesn’t that just make the wait seem even longer starting music earlier?) We now have the U.S. Air Defense Command offering new high-tech ways to track Santa.

(BTW, for the song above, I was really looking for the Ollabelle version. I guess I’ll have to WAIT for it to pop up on YouTube. But I DO like this version as well.)

Wait. You’d be surprised what you might find.


S is for San Francisco

Long before I ever went there, I loved San Francisco. From the Golden Gate Bridge to the cable cars, I adored the place.

It may have started in 1962, when I was nine. The San Francisco Giants, my favorite team in the National League was playing the New York Yankees, my favorite team in the American League; we’re talking Major League Baseball here, BTW. While my support for the Yankees was regional (I’d been to Yankee Stadium, e.g.), my love for the Giants was more emotional. I loved Orlando Cepeda at 1B – I love the way Danny Kaye sang “Or-lan-do Ce-pe-da” in a baseball song. I loved the Alou brothers, Matty and Felipe, who would one day be joined by brother Jesus; at least once, a few years later, all three patrolled the outfield at the same time. I loved Willie “Stretch” McCovey, who would eventually become the Hall of Fame 1B. P Juan Marchical! But most of all I loved CF Willie Mays, one of the three or four best players EVER, whose statue I had purchased at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY around that time, only to have a foot chomped off by our dog.

Then there was JEOPARDY!, the daytime quiz show hosted by Art Fleming, which I used to watch with my aunt at lunchtime almost every day. One sponsor was Rice-A-Roni, “the San Francisco treat”. I LIKED Rice-A-Roni when I was 11.

I listened to Bill Cosby a lot in those days, and this riff made me want to go there and see Lombard Street:
or here.

A few years later, it was Haight-Asbury. The Summer of Love may have ultimately been a failed social experiment, but to a 14-year old, it was just cool. From it came the music of the Jefferson Airplane, Rolling Stone magazine and other wondrous inventions.

So, I felt as though SF was my second hometown, even though I had never been west of the Mississippi until considerably later.

Therefore, the events of November 1978 felt terrible to me, as though it had happened in my own hometown of Binghamton, NY. First I saw the raw footage of Congressman Leo Ryan and his associates being attacked in Guyana. I remember an ashen Mayor George Moscone announce Rep. Ryan’s death. A couple days later, we learned of the Jonestown Massacre with Jim Jones leading the drinking of the Kool-Aid; most of the folks were from the Bay Area. Not two weeks later, I watched acting mayor Diane Feinstein weep as she announced the murders of Moscone and city council member Harvey Milk, almost certainly the most prominent gay politician of that time. Subsequently, I followed the trial of Dan White and his infamous “Twinkie defense”. Some feel the two events – Jonestown and the Moscone/Milk murders – were connected. In any case, it’s all created ambivalence about whether I want to go see the upcoming movie Milk with Sean Penn.

I finally got to actually go to San Francisco in 1987. I flew to San Diego, and then my sister, who lives there, and I flew to the Bay area. We went to the fish market, rode the cable cars, saw the Bridge, and yes, we found Lombard Street, which is as beautiful and curvy as Cosby described. Unfortunately, the San Francisco Giants were out of town, but we did see the Oakland A’s play.

San Francisco was everything I knew it would be.

ABC Wednesday.


Q is for Quadricentennial

Q turned out to be one of the easier letters for me, for 2009 marks the 400th anniversary of a trip taken by Henry Hudson which directly led to the founding of Albany, NY, where I’ve lived for the past 29 years. In 1609, Hudson was looking for an easterly passage to Asia, commissioned by the Dutch East India Company.

After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, his vessel, the Halve Maen (Half Moon), after first sailing down to the Chesapeake Bay with a sister ship, eventually traveled into New York Harbor and proceeded up what is today called the Hudson River. It made it about 150 miles, as far as what is now Albany before he was forced to turn around by waters that were too shallow. He realized that the river that would come to eventually bear his name was not a westerly passage to Asia.

Eventually, on the western shore, a settlement was established in what became the cqapital of New York State.

But this is not just a celebration of one city but of an entire region. Check out this site, or better still, this one for a list of events during the upcoming quadricentennial year. Also, check out this video, which will explain things somewhat.