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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Bizzy Daze


This last weekend I took photos for my buddy's funeral in a small town about 25 miles from here. The weekend before I took photos for a different buddy's wedding in that same small town.

I liked the wedding better -- I didn't cry as much.

Both ceremonies were about bringing people together. Both celebrated life. Both reflected the natural cycle of things. I haven't had a whole lot of time yet to reflect, but the two events really seemed to have a lot in common...

Thursday, July 24, 2008


The three small words are back, true this time. My friend George died this morning.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Whadda Day

Margarita, meet tummy.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Monday Meanderings

Doggie Delight

Well, so far Animal Control has been called at least twice to check out the neighbor's two attack dogs, but they haven't shown up yet. Evidently someone's gotta get gnawed on before the city will pay attention. Vicious Dog #1 got out of the fence again yesterday morning. Of course no one had the remote control for the shock collar that's supposed to keep the dog under control... It took 'em a good fifteen minutes to find the pooch and convince it to go home. Fifteen minutes where it could have easily found a small child to snack on...

Oddly enough, the City Council is today (probably at the very moment I type this) deciding whether to outlaw pit bulls in city limits. I guess what they're thinking of doing is making every pit bull owner register the dog. Any dog found running loose without registration will be put down immediately. No new pit bulls will be allowed -- within 15 years or so, the city will be pit free.

I hope they do it. I don't want the neighborhood kids to grow up fearful of dogs. Respectful, yes. Fearful, no.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Quick Hits...

Dogs, Revisited

Remember a while ago I posted about the pit bulls in our neighborhood? Hey, guess what? The same little dog (Sandy) that was attacked then was attacked again! Only this time by the Rottweiler mix, Pepper-Ann. Sandy was in the doggy hospital with multiple puncture wounds and a broken jaw. Pepper's owner (who also owns one of the pit bulls that attacked little Sandy dog not too long ago) also had to have stitches in her hand and arm due to the attack.

Are they getting rid of the dogs? I mean, two attacks in two weeks, the little dog almost dead, the owner with stitches... But no. "Oh, they're just so lovable, we can't bear to get rid of them. They're like family."

No, they're like attack dogs. Sorry. Get rid of 'em before the kids get attacked (yes there are three kids living with these dogs, and many more neighborhood kids in the area).

Update: I just talked to the neighbor lady. "Oh we're going to get rid of the small dog," she told me. "The two big dogs are staying. They'd never hurt anyone, they just don't like the small dog is all." She then went on to show me the bite wounds on her arm where she'd been bitten. "The vet told me to put Pepper down, but I just can't. We'll just get rid of Dad's dog instead." (The small dog isn't hers, you see. The guy they call "Dad" lives with them. Sandy's his dog. The guy takes the little dog everywhere with him -- the two of them are true companions, inseparable. At least when the little dog isn't busy getting eaten by the big dogs...) I asked the lady what she was going to do when the big dogs attack one of the neighborhood children. "Oh, we're getting a shock collar so we can handle them better."


I've cut back to part time at the print shop. I just can't afford to work there any more. If you want to know why I'm stepping back from my day job, just e-mail me and I'll explain it all to you in excruciating detail.

Garrison Keillor...

...has lost my respect. Go read THIS if you want. In short, Mr. Keillor (of "Prairie Home Companion" fame) went to Washington D.C. on Memorial Day (the day of the annual Rolling Thunder rally when hundreds of thousands of bikers, mostly veterans, go to visit the Wall to pay their respects) to visit an art gallery and got bent out of shape because there were *gasp* VETERANS there.

"Somehow a person associates Memorial Day with long moments of silence when you summon up mental images of men huddled together on LSTs and pilots revving up B-24s and infantrymen crouched behind piles of rubble steeling themselves for the next push. You don't quite see the connection between that and these fat men with ponytails on Harleys."

Well, Mr. Keillor, most of those fat men with ponytails you saw WERE the guys huddled together in a firefight, visiting Washington DC to pay their respects to their friends who died in combat. I'm sorry they got in your way as you were in DC spending Memorial Day looking at a picture.

If anyone cared about the war dead, they could go read David Halberstam's "The Coldest Winter: America and the Korean War" or Stephen Ambrose's "Citizen Soldiers: The U.S. Army from the Normandy Beaches to the Bulge to the Surrender of Germany, June 7, 1944 to May 7, 1945" or any of a hundred other books, and they would get a vision of what it was like to face death for your country, but the bikers riding in formation are more interested in being seen than in learning anything. They are grown men playing soldier, making a great hullaballoo without exposing themselves to danger...

Again, I have to say, Mr. Keillor, that most of the bikers you saw that day are not grown men playing soldier, they ARE soldiers, and they HAVE exposed themselves to danger -- because our country asked them to. I'm sure, too, that reading a couple books about "the war dead" makes you more of an authority on the subject than those who left friends on the battlefield. These men and women held up their right hand and swore an oath -- and fulfilled that oath. Whether the U.S. government used these men and women wisely is a debate for a different essay. The point is that the United States needs a military, and these people had the strength of character to fulfill that need. They deserve our respect, not your snide comments.

I'm sad. I used to listen to "Prairie Home Companion," and I've seen the show live on two different occasions, but it'll be a long time before I can listen to it again without remembering this episode. Grrr.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The rules are there for a REASON

You know, de-regulation sounds all fine and dandy... until people start dying in mines and the banks start closing.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Pistols Goes a-Clubbin'

In honor of Pistols at Dawn:

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Three Small Words

"George died today." That's all the e-mail said. That's all it needed to say. I stared at those three small words for quite a while.

George has been living with brain cancer for more than a year. I remember him telling me so long ago that he was having trouble getting the kick stand on his bike up. "My balance is fine," he said, "but for some reason my leg just won't move right to put the kick stand up or down. I'm afraid someday I'm going to pull into the garage and have to let the bike fall down so I can get off it."

Brain tumor, said the doctor. Take it out. So they did, the first time.

George's wife, Kim, would bring George to our American Legion Rider (ALR) meetings. We'd pass the hat to collect money for those in need. George would invariably put ten dollars in the hat himself, even though we'd sometimes collected the money for him. One of our new members noticed it right away. "When I saw a terminally ill man, dying of cancer, donating money to those less fortunate -- when I saw that I knew I was seeing a rare form of humanity."

The ALR held a fundraiser last year for George. He didn't know he was to be the recipient of the funds; all he knew is that there was a fundraiser being held, and that meant someone needed help. His wife drove him in their car along the route of the poker run. George donated extra money, not knowing he was the guy we were raising money for. We raised a fair sum... turns out, though, that we were only able to pay for three of his pills. It's expensive to be sick today.

A few months later we went to visit George and Kim and sat in their home, surrounded by Army memorabilia and rodeo posters. George had been in the rodeo in Europe for years. He said he wanted to go to Texas to visit his family. A long trip. The ALR helped get some gas money for them to get to Texas. I gave him and his wife a photo album. Our chaplain gave him a special cross.

Four months ago George came with us to stand in the flagline for a young soldier killed in Iraq. He stood tall in the snow, flag in hand, honoring the dead soldier. His wife quietly told us that George had been ill all day and hadn't been able to keep any food down for quite some time. Yet there he stood, tall in the blowing snow, holding the American flag.

A month or two ago we took George on a ride with us. A couple of our members knew a lady with a trike. We all rode to George's house on the appointed day, lined our bikes up and stood at attention in front of our bikes until George came out the door. We came to full salute -- a way for us to respect our buddy. He thought that was neat. We got him on the back of the three-wheeler and roared off to a nearby town for a couple beers, then rode back again. He had trouble walking, and seemed a little confused at times, but he sure had a good sense of humor!

A few days ago I got an e-mail from George's wife. "He's fallen several times," she said. "He's mostly just sleeping now. They're giving him morphine."

Then this morning, "George died today."

I sat quietly staring at the words. I told my wife. We held hands for a while and talked about George and his wife, Kim. I e-mailed the ALR and told them the news, and left a voice message for our group's chaplain. Then I got another e-mail from George's wife...

"GEORGE IS ALIVE," was the subject.

George is alive. Turns out his wife had written and addressed the first message earlier, presumably so when the time comes to send the fateful three words she could do so easily. She had been planning ahead. But this morning she accidentally hit the "Send" button.

"George is alive," the new message said. "He's watching TV..."

Rarely have I been so happy to have emotional whiplash! George is alive. His time will come soon, I'm afraid, but not just yet...

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Something I overheard myself say the other day...

"No, he's not my boss. I just work for him."

Friday, July 11, 2008


As I mowed my yard with an electric lawn mower, a man pulled into my driveway in an electric car.

Too bad we still make most of our electricity out of coal...

Thursday, July 03, 2008

It's the Pits

A Dog-Eat-Dog World

The neighborhood has gone to the dogs. Officially. It all started on a sunny morning just days ago...

"I feel pretty good," my beloved Austrian Snickerdoodle, Dagmar, said. "The doctor told me dat valking would help me heal from my surgery. Let's go for a valk up the street." I nodded affably and pulled my boots on. Being a traditionalist, I opted to go for the "right boot on the right foot, left boot on the left foot" method. It just works out best that way. Happily booted, I held my bride's arm and we meandered slowly out the door.

"Vhat a beautiful day!" she said, pausing on our front stoop to look at the flowers. "Oh! Ve have a bloom! How nice!" She looked up the street. "Oh, the neighbors are out with their baby girl. Vhat a cutie she is!" And indeed, the two-year-old girl really is a cutie, all smiles and pigtails. Her grandpa was playing hide-and-seek with the girl in the yard, ducking behind a bush, then poking his head around, "Boo!" The family was sitting on their back steps, watching and chatting. Our other neighbors were sitting in their big blue swimming pool, watching the world go by. I could hear the neighbors to the west talking to their grandchildren, getting ready for a day trip somewhere. A peaceful day. All is right with the world.

Dagmar and I started west, walking slowly up the street, enjoying the sun. As we passed our neighbor's house we heard a commotion. A ruckus. A kerfuffle. The dogs were barking. They bark a lot. I looked over to see what they were yipping at... A man was walking down the sidewalk next to the neighbor's chain-link fence. The pit bull (Katelyn) was barking her fool head off, charging for the man. As I watched, Katelyn stood, snarling at the man, banging against the fence. The second dog, a little pooch named Sandy, ran up to help bark at the man. Katelyn, obviously upset over something, turned on the little Sandy dog, clamped her jaws on Sandy's neck, and started shaking the small dog like a rag toy.

The man who had been walking past stopped and started yelling at the dogs. The neighbors who owned the dogs ran screaming to separate the dogs. I ran to the fence. "Chris, you grab Katelyn," yelled the neighbor. "Get in here and help!"

"Ain't no way I'm grabbing an angry pit bull! Get her collar, I'll get Sandy!" I stood outside the fence by the gate until the neighbor had her pit bull by the collar. The dog finally let go of the little dog. I opened the gate and tried to grab Sandy, but the little dog ran right past me -- into the waiting jaws of the third dog, a rottweiler mix named Pepper-Ann. Pepper grabbed little Sandy dog by the neck and ran a merry chase through the gathered crowd of screaming grandchildren. Sandy's yelps were heart-wrenching! I realized at that point that I was in the fence with an angry pit bull AND an angry rottweiler. Back out the gate ran the hippie. The neighbor grabbed Pepper and managed to pry her jaws off little Sandy.

This all happened in about five seconds. One second the neighborhood was a calm peaceful place, and within five seconds two dogs had savaged a third right in front of us.

I looked at the chain-link fence and thought about all the times the pit bull and rottweiler had gotten out and run free through the neighborhood. I looked over at the two-year-old neighbor girl just across the street. What is there to stop those dogs from savaging that child, other than a battered fence that the dogs have escaped from numerous times...

Little Sandy has a broken leg and various puncture wounds, but the vet says she'll live. The neighbors put Sandy back into the yard with the other two dogs. "Oh, they won't hurt anyone," the neighbor lady keeps saying. "They're harmless. Look at the way they play with my grandbabies." Yeah, I think to myself, but look what they did to Sandy. Harmless.

Two days later I was rehearsing for a gig I have with one of my old bands. I got a call from Dagmar. "Are you on your vay home?" she asked. "Good! Please hurry. Vhen you get here, DON'T GET OUT OF THE CAR! There are two pit bulls running loose." I threw my bass in the trunk and zipped home fast as I could. When I came around the corner I could see flashing lights from the police car parked across the street from my house. I pulled into my driveway. No dogs in sight, but Dagmar was standing in our yard, safe in our fence. I got out of the car and joined her.

"There are two pit bulls running loose," she said as I walked up. "They attacked Jazzy, the neighbor's little dog, and bit de neighbor lady, Linda, on the hand, und now the police are here."

"Oh no. How's Jazz? Is she gonna be okay?"

"She'll probably need to be put down. De two pit bulls both grabbed poor little Jazz and were yanking and pulling on her. One had Jazz's head, the other had her rear. Linda tried to get her puppy away and one of the pit bulls bit her."

I watched as the policeman came backed his way around the corner, slowly making his way to his car, a piece of beef jerky in his hand. One "teenage" pit bull was following him, eyes on the jerky. The officer tempted the pit into the back of the squad car and shut the door. He looked up to see half the neighborhood gathered, watching him. "Anyone seen the other one?" he asked. Someone pointed up the street. The officer headed that direction, beef jerky in hand.

Eventually the animal control officer appeared and took the two pit bulls, and the policeman started taking statements, and the neighborhood returned to normal. Where did the officer find the pit bulls? Both of them were in the neighbor's yard -- right where Grandpa plays with his two-year-old granddaughter every day...

At a quick count, we have around six pit bulls and a couple rottweilers within a block of our house. I do NOT feel safe any more. No matter how often my neighbor lady tells me her pit and rott are harmless pups I still remember how they savaged Sandy, and no matter how often people tell me "it's not the dog's fault, it's the owner's fault" I still think these dogs are trained to attack -- and one neighbor's pet is dead because of that, and I worry about the other neighbor's little girl.

We don't feel safe. We can't go for a walk in our own neighborhood. It's gone to the dogs. I'm getting close to putting up a sign in my yard. "Yes, you have a right to own an attack dog. And I'm gonna shoot it if it comes in my yard."

Tomorrow's rant: People who honk their horns.

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