Thursday, October 27, 2011

Life in the slow lane

Sorting through the boxes containing two recently-uprooted households takes a lot of time. Learning a new job also takes a lot of time. So, for the time being, I'm not going to have a lot of time to blog.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dog walk: 10/13/11

A street map of McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania doesn't do the place justice. You have to look at a topographic map to see just how steeply the land rises from the Ohio River floodplain. The new house is perched on a hillside, facing west down the Ohio Valley.

It rained almost nonstop on the evening of the 12th, and as basenjis aren't noted for their enjoyment of getting wet, there was no chance to walk them then. At 5 AM on the morning of the 13th, the rain had stopped, and I decided that it was time for a walk.

We went south up a street rising at a 20 degree angle, the night sky overcast and the pavement still wet from the night's rain. There was an occasional car or truck passing by along Island Avenue at the bottom of the street, but no traffic up on the hillside.

Today was garbage day, and the dogs were inevitably attracted to the trash cans sitting in front of the houses. As we made our way up the street, they made frequent stops to sniff at plastic trash cans that all leaned slightly out of true, sharing the sidewalk's gradient. Most of the houses were decorated for Halloween with skeletons and jack o' lanterns.

The dogs were still uneasy about the unfamiliar streets, and within twenty minutes they were ready to return home. Ten minutes after we returned to the house, it began to rain again.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Dog walk: 10/10/11

After we realized that we couldn't avoid forclosure, my wife arranged for us to move in with some friends of hers in a remote house in the Lehigh Valley. It was while she was there, making preparations for the move, that she (and they) were informed that the house was scheduled for demolition, and that both households would have to find new quarters.

A frantic search eventually resulted in the purchase of an astonishingly low-cost house in McKees Rocks, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. And so it was that around 11:30 AM on the morning on October 10, we packed up the last of our belongings and left Newport for the last time, mere minutes before our street was closed off by the Columbus Day Parade.

Due to the odd circumstances surrounding the move, our first day's journey ended at the remote house in the Lehigh Valley late in the afternoon. By the time we had ordered a dinner of take-out pizza, night had fallen. I was ready for bed then, but the basenjis needed one last walk for the night, and so I took them.

It was overcast that night, and there were absolutely no street lights along the thousand-foot driveway leading from the house to the nearest road. Dark woods lined both sides of the driveway, and what sounded like a million birds filled them with noise. The basenjis were two dark shapes moving back and forth across the driveway, most of their motion filled in by my mind's eye from memories of a thousand such walks in the bright Newport sunshine. On each side were strange new scents to be sampled, and sample them they did. The only distinct features I could make out were the white fur of Louis' collar and legs; everything else was shadows against the deeper dark of the night.

We went slowly down the driveway to the road, and then just as slowly back up again. The dogs had all the opportunity they needed to relieve themselves for the night, though the darkness kept me from learning whether they had taken advantage of it. Then we were back in the house, and it was time for me to sleep, momentarily suspended between past and future.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Digital Day 101111


Monday, October 10, 2011

Digital Day 101011


Sunday, October 9, 2011

A Convenience Store Chistmas

I spent Christmas Eve 1999 working the graveyard shift at a 7-Eleven. It was dead quiet, so I whiled away the hours composing the (until now untitled) poem below on a piece of scrap paper. That scrap paper hung from our refrigerator door for twelve years, until this afternoon, when my wife's cousin came and carted our refrigerator away in preparation for our departure from Newport tomorrow. I noticed the tattered, filthy piece of scrap paper sitting on the kitchen counter just now, and I decided that my work deserved, at long last, a wider audience than could be found in my kitchen. So I now present to my vast global blogging audience, just as I wrote it so long ago:

A Convenience Store Christmas
by Johnny Pez

Twas the night before Christmas
And all through the store
Not a customer bothered
To walk in the door

The newspapers lay
In their well-ordered stacks
And the drink fountains nestled
By beef-jerky snacks

While cigarettes stood
Upon multi-tiered shelves
In red and white boxes
Like cancerous elves.

When out of the frigid
Millenial night
My eyes were repulsed
By a hideous sight

A huge tractor-trailer
Had pulled up outside
MCLANE boldly stood out
Upon its vast side.

And out of the monster
Came two seedy men
In filthy gray jumpsuits.
They came in and then . . .

The bigger one walked up
And said with a sneer,
"Your order for ten tons
Of sunscreen is here!"

I spoke up in outrage,
"The devil you say!
We sent in that order
For sunscreen in May!"

"Take it or leave it,"
The evil man said
I wanted to take it
And bash in his head.

Instead I accepted
And signed his receipt.
He said "Merry Christmas"
And made his retreat.

Then as they departed
And drove off their truck
I called "Merry Christmas!
I hate you! You suck!"

Dog walk: 10/8/11

Sunny skies, temps in the mid-70s. If you live in a northern climate like New England, global warming has its positive side. And as if to match the summerlike weather, Newport has summerlike crowds of tourists thanks to Oktoberfest at the Newport Yachting Center.

Today's first "Are those basenjis?" encounter took place in front of Newport City Hall, when a tourist stopped me to tell me about the pet basenji he had in his youth, and to remark on how good-looking my own were, which is certainly true enough. The second took place on Lower Thames Street, in front of Ben & Jerry's, when a couple stopped me so they could point out to their daughter what the basenji half of their basenji mix looked like.

The basenjis and I were crossing Aquidneck Park when I got a call from my wife telling me that she had just made reservations at Sardella's restaurant in half an hour. As I've noted before, I received a Sardella's gift card for Christmas, and since we're leaving town for good in two days, this would be our last chance to use it. It was a near-run thing, but the dogs and I managed to make it back home in time for me to dress for dinner, and we turned up at the restaurant at the exact time we had reserved. I had the pasta marinara with a side of garlic bread, and it was delicious.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A going-away present

I had a particularly unpleasant experience last night with some Skeptical Drunks. There were four of them, and they wanted to go outside for a smoke, but none of them was able to come up with a light. Since we're a smoke-free establishment, we don't keep matches or cigarette lighters around, and when they came up to the front desk for a light, I had to tell them that I had none.

Being Skeptical Drunks, they continued to stagger into the lobby and ask me again for a light, and I continued to tell them no, and they continued to go back out. A couple of them got tired of taking no for an answer; one of them began swearing at me, while the other began rifling through the desk of the hotel's concierge. Both refused to stop, so I ordered them out of the hotel. Instead of leaving, the one who was swearing began to add threats and homophobic slurs, and I decided to call the police and have them throw the two out. While I was on the phone, the one at the desk came over and spit at me. Hotel security arrived then, and after spending a couple more minutes spewing abuse at me, the drunks left for their room.

The police arrived and escorted three of them out of the hotel, telling them that if they returned, they'd be arrested; the fourth was apparently passed out in the room and couldn't be roused. An hour later, the three returned to the hotel, and the one from the room, apparently no longer unconscious, let them in through the fire door. I called the police again, but they did not arrest them. Instead, the two abusive ones were driven to a donut shop and dropped off there, while the other two were allowed to stay in their rooms. It turned out that the drunks were all off-duty cops from out of town, and the local cops wouldn't arrest them.

Eventually, the two abusive cops came back from the donut shop with two of their friends, and the four of them marched back up to their room. I called the local cops again, and was told that they had no grounds for arresting the drunks, and advised me to let them sleep it off before telling them to leave later on. One of the hotel managers showed up then in the normal course of events, heard the whole story, and also advised me to let the abusive drunk cops sleep it off. I gave in and did so.

I'm suddenly a lot less sorry to leave Newport than I was.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Dog walk: 10/7/11

Sunny, with temps in the low 60s. Still good dog walking weather.

The basenjis and I were walking up Thames Street, across from the Brick Alley Pub, when I heard the words, "Are those basenjis?" A women was smiling at the dogs, and I assured her that they were, indeed, basenjis. She told me that she had had a tricolor basenji as a pet years before; unfortunately, he bit the paperboy and had to be put down. She adored Klea and Louis, though, as well she might.

We stopped in at the Black Dog store on Bannister's Wharf, where the basenjis are often given treats by the staff. They're having their "Black Dog lookalike contest", and though the basenjis are red dogs, I entered them anyway, since every contestant receives a free bag of dog treats, and it's against the Guild Rules for basenji owners to turn down free dog treats.

In Perrotti Park, a long line of cruise ship passengers was waiting to embark on MSC Poesia. Twice, a passenger stopped me with the words "Are those basenjis?"and of course I had to let the dogs enjoy some well-earned praise. Such is the hard life of a basenji owner.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dog walk: 10/4/11

Partly sunny, temps in the 60s. Still good dog walking weather.

We were coming down Tilden Avenue when we ran across a woman who was also walking her dogs, a pair of Jack Russell terriers. She was just entering Governors Graveyard with her dogs, who were off leash, and the basenjis and I followed her. We had crossed paths with her before, but never had a chance to stop and talk. It turned out that her dogs were recent acquisitions, one from the Potter League for Animals, the other from a shelter in Arkansas. Her previous dog, another Jack Russell, had been attacked and killed by a pair of German shepherds while she was walking him. She was still horrified by the memory, as you might imagine.

I mentioned to her that I would be leaving Newport in six days due to foreclosure, and she said that her home was facing foreclosure too. She had been trying to get a mortgage modification for five years, and had never managed it. After losing her job, she had been forced to stop making mortgage payments, and was only a couple months away from losing her house.

I wished her luck, and she wished me luck, and the basenjis and I went on our way.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Two founding Time Lords are better than one

WARNING: Blog post contains hardcore Doctor Who geekery! Read at your own peril!

I was reading Charlie Jane Anders' review of the Doctor Who season six finale at io9, and was intrigued by her mention of something call the Cartmel Masterplan, which I had never heard of. Basically, late-1980s script editor Andrew Cartmel wanted to retcon the Doctor's backstory in order to restore some of the mystery that had been a feature of the series' early years. To this end, he decided to make two of the founders of Time Lord society, Omega and Rassilon, into contemporaries.

Omega was first introduced in "The Three Doctors", a 1973 serial which celebrated the series' 10th anniversary by bringing back Third Doctor Jon Pertwee's two precedessors, Richard Hartnell and Patrick Troughton. As revealed in the story, Omega was a legendary figure among the Time Lords -- so legendary, in fact, that he was widely regarded as a myth until the Doctors learned that he A) was real; and B) had been trapped in an antimatter universe for untold ages. Omega died at the end of "The Three Doctors".

Rassilon was first mentioned in "The Deadly Assassin", a 1976 serial where Fourth Doctor Tom Baker returns to Gallifrey to prevent an assasination. Rassilon himself was revered as the ancient founder of Time Lord society, and two relics associated with him, the Sash and the Rod of Rassilon, play a part in the story's finale.

Note the different ways the Time Lords viewed them. Omega was a mythical figure whom nobody believed had been a real person. Basically, he was the Time Lord King Arthur. Rassilon, OTOH, was a thoroughly historical person. In the 1980 serial "State of Decay", the Doctor is able to read a document written by Rassilon himself, and in the 1983 20th anniversary special "The Five Doctors" much of the action takes place in Rassilon's tomb. In other words, Rassilon was the Time Lord Alfred the Great.

So, you had a mythical Time Lord founder from a time of legends, and a historical Time Lord founder from ancient history. And that was a good thing. It gave Time Lord society a sense of depth. And then Andrew Cartmel had to go and spoil it by trying to make the two men contemporaries for no good reason. Fortunately, the original series ended before Cartmel could make his stupid idea canon, and the new series has killed off all the Time Lords except the Doctor himself, so the question is moot.

But the idea is out there. There's always the chance that executive producer Steven Moffat, or one of his successors, will run out of ideas for the show, and decide, in desperation, to bring this one back from the grave. I live in fear of that day.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Digital Day 100111