Sunday, May 31, 2009

Man's Best Friends


The weeks that go by, sometimes in a blur, are almost always taken for granted. Our lives are filled with the seemingly mundane, obligatory events that generally force our hand to be involved. We do so, sometimes grudgingly, sometimes with joy...but usually with chin up and a mixture of "I gotta do what I gotta do" and "Hey, it's Thursday, one more day till the weekend". My now-defunct favorite record store, The Quonset Hut, summed it up best, I think, with their slogan, "Onward Through the Fog".

After weeks like the past two, I certainly long for a series of the aforementioned. I'm sure Donna does, too. I took her to the airport very early on Memorial Day so that she could fly back to Ohio to take care of some things involving her mother's house and belongings. If you look in the dictionary under the word "pack-rat", I'm sure it has Katherine Riley's picture next to it. So, the act of "going through her stuff" was probably akin to sifting through The Warren Report...or getting through a half-inning when Rafael Betancourt is pitching. Combined with her previous journey to Florida, life here on the east banks of the Mississippi River has been, understandably, a bit lonely. Driving back from the airport and thinking about what she planned to go through emotionally left me with a vague, dull ache.

Donna is my best friend. We're not apart all that much. Last year, through, seemed to be interspersed with a series of short jaunts for her to visit her sons and friends, since we can't always afford for both of us to fly. However, to be separated for this long of a time-period is pretty rare. It was impossible for me to break away from the studio to join her, so she was forced to sort through everything with her brother, a few nieces, and her mother's boyfriend of 22 years, Dave Senn.

In addition to the trauma she was going through, I started to develop what I believe is some mid-level laryngitis. This is always a welcome event, especially for someone who speaks into a microphone for a living. More than likely, mine tends to be brought on by reflux. I know I've mentioned in previous posts that I'm a long-time acid reflux sufferer, and have even had corrective (supposedly) surgery using the nissen fundoplication. Mine tends to be more non-acid reflux, technically a condition known as laryngopharyngeal reflux or LPR. I try to control it with medication and strict dietary modification. But for some reason (maybe stress?) it's been acting up. And to cap things off, the Cavs were playing like pond scum against the Magic. What generally helps soothe the sting of a LeBron James-poor-shooting-performance is the comforting glow of a Lagunitas IPA Maximus, one of my other "best mates"; however, our relationship is not on the LPR-list of approved substances. So, needless to say, the week was shaping up to be anything but mundane.

So, in these troubling times of chaos and uncertainty, I usually turn to the wise counsel of a sheephound mutt by the name of Maggie. Yes, we have a cat, too. Ruby Tuesday is a beautiful and extremely talkative Sabu Bengal, and we get along just fine. But I'm a dog-guy. Always have been. To this day, I'm completely mesmerized by the fact that an animal that glides along on four legs can do something that every upright intellectual cannot: show unconditional love. And Maggie is no different.

Yinny was our dog for 17 years. In January of 2008, she passed away. At the time, I couldn't imagine getting another dog; however, Donna was insistent. I felt really uneasy about it as we walked through the shelter, but one of employees there pulled me aside and said, "You think you don't want to do this, but the best thing you can do right now to fill the void is to get another dog". She was right. I saw a beautiful black dog backed in to the corner of one of the cages, frightened and shivering after having been dropped off only 30 minutes earlier. After thinking about it for a couple hours, we brought her home.

We watch Cesar Millan all the time on The Dog Whisperer, trying to gain a little more insight into our new best friend. I can't speak for all dogs, but Maggie seems keenly intuitive to unsettling events around her. When I yell or get upset, Yinny would run for the nearest bunker. Maggie, on the other hand, runs up and nudges against me, almost as if to say, "Dude, chill. It's all good". When I grab the keys to the scooter, she immediately becomes alert. There's something she doesn't like about the 3 "beeping" noises it makes when you turn the ignition switch, and she seems to want to prepare herself for it. And when I take suitacases out of the closet, she instantly becomes edgy, knowing that she's either going to be left alone to be let out by neighbors or taken to that place where all the other dogs bark day and night.

She also has a cushion on one of the sofas that's HER spot. One night this week, after coming close to tossing the remote at the television while watching the Cavs, Donna and I had a somewhat emotional phone call and I was upset. She gently got off the sofa, came over next to me in the chair, banged up against the side of me, and just sat there.

So, this week, amongst the stinging in my throat, the apple juice in my pint glass, and the empty chair on the other side of the living room, I'm thankful for my "best friends", even as I try to get a handle on the meanings behind this flurry of events. I thought of what my friend Ed Schaefer's father used to say when we worked together at KDKA: "Sometimes it's just your turn to have your foot in the bucket". I can't argue with that, even if I wanted to. Onward through the fog.

-30-

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