Saturday, April 22, 2006

Azalea City

After yesterday's sad post about Chester, Moose thought we should spread some good cheer with this pretty picture of the grand old azalea in our front yard. It hugs the front corner of our house and treats us to a couple of weeks of glorious color every season. Takoma Park is called Azalea City, and some yards are packed full of bushes exploding in day-glo colors. Moose loves that, though some serious gardeners turn up their noses at such showiness. Moose is not a serious gardener. She calls our yard the Darwin garden, because it's pretty much survival of the fittest out there. She will occasionally go out with a rake and a great deal of resolution about cleaning things up, but mother nature definitely has the edge on her. Goose waits patiently until she comes back into the house with muddy shoes and a sore back, and then she says, "Let's hire somebody to take care of this." Moose plops down on the couch with a big glass of water and mutters, "Sure. Call them."

Today is a cool, cloudy day. I would say it's been "raining cats and dogs," but that's another one of those weird human expressions that make no sense to me. It's been raining a lot, but I don't think animals had anything to do with it.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Chester: In Memoriam

Moose says I shouldn't overly identify, but it's especially sad to me that progressive radio talk show goddess Stephanie Miller lost her big dumb Saint Bernard Chester this morning to congestive heart failure. ("Dumb" is Steph's word, not mine. She lovingly ackowledged Chester's mental limitations. Let's just say the big guy was no fox terrier in the brains department.) We feel bad for Steph because we know how she dotes on her dogs. Moose heard her talking just yesterday on the air about how she drives an SUV, despite her concerns for the environment, in order to accommodate her family of large canines. We know there's a gaping hole in her family this morning, and we send her big licks and condolences to help fill it.

I find myself wondering about Chester's disease. Had he been sick for awhile? Had he been taking beta-blockers and diuretics, like me? Had his appetite changed as the meds made his tummy feel funny? Did Chester sleep more and play less? Did he kiss his mom but refuse to take walks? Did he lay down beside her last night and just fail to wake up this morning? Chester, did it hurt, your broken heart? Did it hurt in the end when you slipped away from your mom and your pack? For your sake and theirs and, yes, mine, too, I hope not, Chester. I wish you well on your journey, big guy. Dumb as you might have been, we know you'll find your way home.

Steph fans might want to know that you can make donations in Chester's memory to the Saint Bernard Rescue Foundation.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Born in the USA

Born down in a dead man's town
The first kick I took was when I hit the ground
You end up like a dog that's been beat too much
'Til you spend half your life just coverin' up

Those words were written by Mr. Bruce Springsteen, in a little song he called "Born in the USA." I quote them today because, well, in part because Mr. Springsteen is a major deity in our household, especially for Goose, who has published a scholarly article on the Boss ("Sexual Mobilities in Bruce Springsteen: Performance as Commentary," South Atlantic Quarterly 90 [Fall 1991]: 833-854; rpt. in Present Tense: Rock & Roll and Culture [ed. Anthony DeCurtis, Duke UP, 1992], 197-218). Goose's interest is not just academic. She is a serious fan, able to track down tickets for concerts when few others can manage to find them and willing to drive long distances to catch a show. In the summer of '99, she saw him seven different times when he and the E Street Band re-united for a tour after more than a decade apart. Moose only went along for six shows, but she is a devoted follower, too. She says that the moment in the show when the lights go up and everyone in the arena screams "Born to Run" together is for her an out-of-body experience, a moment comparable to the religious ecstasy that causes some people to speak in tongues. Moose is weird sometimes and given to extreme comparisons.

Speaking of comparisons, I bring up Bruce today because I've been thinking a lot lately about how humans use dogs as a source of figurative language. "You lie like a dog," someone might say of, for example, presidential spokes-liar Puffy McMoonface (aka Scott McClellan). Or, "He's mean as a junkyard dog," one might remark of the snarly vice president of the United States, Darth Vader (aka, oh, you know). I see the point of these comparisons and the targets of them have done much to deserve them, but they are grossly unfair to dogs. Dogs, as anyone who has ever looked into their eyes knows, do not lie, ever, though we might avoid your gaze if we've done something we're ashamed of, like tinkle by the door, even if we couldn't help it. And junkyard dogs are mean through no fault of their own; they are mean because of irresponsible owners who have brought them into the world and abandoned them. Dick Cheney doesn't have that excuse. His meanness is an offshoot of his selfishness, a selfishness of monstrous proportion and implication. To compare him to a junkyard dog is an insult to animals that have already been mistreated.

Mr. Springsteen, on the other hand, in probing the rage and confusion of a man who has known only brutality and disappointment, rightly compares him to a dog "that's been beat too much" as a way of capturing the psychic costs to individuals of blighted dreams and misguided national policies. Lacking meaningful economic opportunities, sent off to fight in an unjust war, haunted by his own and his country's actions, Springsteen's abused dog/man is an apt and powerful metaphor for the bitter aftermath of Vietnam, which mutated into the cold neglect of social needs that characterized the Reagan years and led inexorably to the million nightmares of the Bush years. Bruce gets Five Paws on his chart for an effective use of dog comparison and a Roxie's World Seal of Approval.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Fear the Brenda

Basketball season is over, and soon I'll move on to new topics--such as why dogs would never have gotten bogged down in Iraq or why humans fail to appreciate the enduring pleasure of rolling around in scat. (Or do they? Someone should ask Donald Rumsfeld that.) Before I leave the subject of basketball and the sheer delight of the Terp women's triumph on Tuesday, I should say a word or two about their prodigiously talented alpha-dog of a coach, Brenda Frese.

Frese is the perfect alpha-dog, especially for a bunch of exuberant young pups such as the team she had this year. You can see from across the court that she is a fierce competitor who is totally in command of her players. She barks an order, and they are quick to comply. At the same time, you can see that she combines firm discipline with great respect and deep affection for her players. Her bark is never a scream, and you know that she would never abuse or humiliate a player in some misguided attempt to "teach" her a lesson. She knows when to use a short leash and when to use a long one. Her players have responded beautifully to her blend of discipline and non-punishment. They like their coach and they like one another, and they haven't lost sight of the fact that basketball is a game. For all the hard work, they usually seem to be having a whole lot of fun on the court. They respect Frese's judgment and her knowledge of the game, but they also have extraordinary confidence in their own abilities and decision-making. Thus Kristi Toliver could decide in the heat of the moment to change an orchestrated play and throw up a game-saving shot with less than ten seconds left on the clock because "big time players want the ball in big time situations. So I wanted to take the shot. . . .[A]s soon as it left my hands, I knew it was going in."

Moose says good teachers know how to make their students work hard and have fun as they develop their skills and self-confidence. She says Brenda Frese is one of the greatest teachers she's ever seen. I say I wish I'd had Coach B in obedience school instead of that mean old alpha nazi who put her hand around my throat and said "bite or breathe" when I got a little snappy one night when she was trying to teach me the "down" command.

My moms made a sign that they took to the games this season that says, "Fear the Brenda." It's a good line, but only the Terps' opponents need fear Coach Frese. The rest of us are just smiling and cheering her on.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Terp Women Rule: Told Ya So

Tonight, Moose was the one who had the problem with bladder control, because she got so excited as the Mighty Terp Women of Maryland came back from a 13-point deficit to beat Duke in overtime to win the NCAA Championship!!!! It was a triumph of youth over that sense of entitlement that comes with being a Dukie. It was a triumph of the Taliban over the Imperial Forces, David over Goliath, exuberant grrrls over uptight seniors who needed another line to burnish their resumes. Well, tonight, Maryland says that the Dukies had better cure cancer or figure out how to turn back the next hurricane on the Gulf Coast, 'cos they done got their butts whupped by Fearless Brenda and her Amazing Women.

Moose and I will have more to say on this glorious victory tomorrow. In the meantime, tune in to:

Monday, April 03, 2006

Terp Women RULE!

You bet they played like terriers, the mighty women of Maryland, who beat the #1-ranked women of UNC last night to advance to the finals of the NCAA Championship. My moms and my queer brother Geoffrey were screaming and eating enchiladas and praying that Kristi Toliver's 12 turnovers would not cost our girls a trip to the final. Fortunately, her awesome defense against Drama Queen Ivory Latta more than made up for the turnovers, and the Terps held on for a 81-70 win. They are awesome women--prodigiously talented and too young to be intimidated by rankings and the whole Final Four scene. They all play off Maryland's "Rodney Dangerfield" stance--"We don't get no respect, but we kick everybody's asses anyway."

I have to give credit to Moose for the phrase "prodigiously talented." She loves the word "prodigiously." I also have to credit Peter J. Casey of The Diamondback (U of Maryland's student newspaper) for the awesome photo of a prodigiously happy Crystal Langhorne, caught screaming after teammate Laura Harper was fouled late in the game. Laura made her free throws, and she and Crystal combined forces for 47 points in the paint. They were unstoppable, and they put the Heels on their heels. And now, they get to play for the national frickin' championship. (Moose also taught me the word "frickin'." She says it supplies the same satisfaction as other, less socially acceptable words, and in middle age she's learned that sometime a girl just has to capitulate to the powers of social opprobrium.)

Tune in to ESPN Tuesday night at 8:30 for Maryland versus Duke. The part of the Taliban will be played by the cutest, toughest bunch of kick-ass girls the game has ever seen. Brenda Frese will be there with her orange hair, her incredibly off-kilter clothes from Talbot's--and her prodigious talents as a coach. My moms think you should be there, too. Fear the Turtle. Cheer the Turtle. QUEER the Turtle, baby. ;)