Tag Archives: arizona

View from Nowhere

The news makes you feel terrible and guilty and ashamed. But you jones for more, popping outrage or fear or morbid curiosity like a junkie on the good shit. These dealers don’t disappoint—they even give it to you free. Brought to you by advertising. Advertising makes you feel terrible and guilty and ashamed. What a loser I am, I’ll never have this thing or travel to this place or wear this style.

Consumerism appears to be a misery-based system, a distortion of reality as unnatural as big fake boobs, yet we desperately need the what’s left of the jobs that make it happen. This polarization of principles is so ingrained we think it’s normal. Exactly how much is the politically correct amount to enjoy life? Is the key to happiness acceptance or aspiration? Gratitude or greed? Or is it just being true to our own delusions?

In an endless cycle of madness, the news stories that sicken us when exposing sweat shops, diamond mines, factory farming  and all forms of human and ecological exploitation are bankrolled by the same companies that produce and advertise these products from hell. Many of us in our hearts feel manipulated. Some of us become freegans by necessity, some really try to break free, and many are just owned by the system—the cult of the follower. In some futuristic world it will be politically correct to effect a global campaign against overpopulation but until then, the planet convulses in desperate imbalance.

I took maybe a thousand pictures this year, making up blog post titles as I went, but in the end none seem worthy of more than a caption. It’s not that I don’t have anything to say, I have too much. And with the holiday season coming up, I may well augur my head firmly into the hard red Arizona sand, as I don’t wish to get caught off guard hyperventilating through some evil diamond ad or cringing at Black Friday anarchy videos. Consumerism is like a chain of mob bosses, each rung generating new predators in the midst of hard-sell hysteria.

So what is real? For me it’s a brief moment of relief from routine gloomwatch. A blink of anti-bleak. A lizard-brained lapse in my neuro-guerilla-theater-of-the-damned. Here are a few of those moments.

Alligator lizard in my driveway—looks like a snake with legs.

One of my customers throws apples out into his yard at night and they're always gone in the morning. He got a birdcam and we are thrilled to discover who's eating them!

One of my customers throws apples out into his yard at night and they’re always gone in the morning. He got a birdcam and we are thrilled to discover who’s eating them!

What's better than an elegant little gray fox? Two of them.

What’s better than an elegant little gray fox? Two of them.

This has got to be the offspring of an adult regal horned lizard I've seen in my yard in previous years. I am so honored. I keep my water stations clean and they love it.

This has got to be the offspring of an adult regal horned lizard I’ve seen in my yard in previous years. I am so honored. It means I’m doing something right.

Saw this old cowboy traveling down Hereford Rd. with his packhorses.

Saw this old cowboy traveling down Hereford Rd. with his packhorses.

He was a seriously cool guy. Just rides around the country. He gave me a paper about a Christian organization whose purpose is feeding people. I gave him $10 and some directions.

He was a very cool guy. Just rides around the country. He gave me a paper about a Christian organization that feeds people. I gave him $10 and some directions.

Best monsoon ever this year. So many frogs and toads and critters of all kinds. Our driveway is a popular spot because the porch light attracts lots of yummy insects.

Best monsoon ever this year. So many frogs and toads and critters of all kinds. Our driveway is a popular spot because the porch light attracts lots of yummy insects.

A curious leaf bug

A curious leaf bug

The swallows came as they always do and had two broods on the porch light. The juveniles like to snuggle as long as they can, until they're almost full grown.

The swallows came as they always do and had two broods on the porch lamp. The juveniles like to snuggle as long as they can, until they’re almost full grown.

Right before the swallows leave for the winter they are very active and busy. They must be planning. The parents and their two broods of three (one died) gathered on the street cable beginning of October, and then they were gone.

In the days right before the swallows leave for the winter they are more active and vocal and close-knit than usual. Then the parents and their two broods of three (one died) gathered on the street cable beginning of October, and then they were gone.

I borrowed my customer's birdcam and got the best pictures of the Mexican longnosed bats since I've been here.

I borrowed my customer’s birdcam and got the best pictures of the Mexican longnosed bats since I’ve been here.

I wasn't able to record their acrobatics as well with my camera as well as the birdcam does.

I haven’t been able to record their acrobatics with my camera as well as the birdcam does. Look at the barren mulberry trees—we had a Tussock’s caterpillar plague that stripped every mulberry in town. That’s another story.

The birdcam picked up these javelinas too. Nobody really wants them in their yards though because they can be aggressive.

The birdcam picked up these javelinas too. Nobody really wants them in their yards though because they can be aggressive.

I've been going over the border more for a couple of reasons. There are so many strays, it's so depressing. I could not walk by this emaciated, sick little guy I saw on the street. I picked him up and took him home. I thought they might give me some trouble at the border crossing but they didn't.

I’ve been going over the border more often for a couple reasons. There are so many strays, it’s so depressing. I could not walk by this emaciated, sick little guy I saw on the street. I picked him up and took him home. I thought they’d give me trouble at the border crossing but they didn’t.

Here he is a week later, healing physically and mentally. I can't keep him so when he is fully healthy he will make a loving person and wonderful pet. Border Animal Rescue (praise them) are helping me with his vet bills. He weighs four lbs. and how he ever survived on the street is a mystery.

Here he is a week later, healing physically and mentally. I named him Dante. I can’t keep him so when he is fully healthy he will be adopted into a loving home. Border Animal Rescue (praise them) is helping me with his vet bills. He weighs four lbs. He probably wouldn’t have survived much longer because it’s so cold at night now.

Jada, Blitz, Rabbit, Mops. I don't know why people are always saying cats and dogs don't get along, or that you have to be a dog person or cat person. It's a stupid myth that needs to be let go.

Some members of my family, Jada, Blitz, Rabbit, Mops. I don’t know why people are always saying cats and dogs don’t get along, or that you have to be a dog person or cat person. It’s a stupid myth that needs to go.

I was walking out in the scrub with Jada and met an earthy woman who showed me her home. It's an honest to god mud hut complete with outhouse. I had no idea it was there.

I was walking out in the scrub with Jada and met a woman who showed me her home. It’s an honest-to-god mud hut complete with outhouse. I had no idea it was there.

Artifacts of Madness

I come with a lot of baggage but it ain’t Louis Vuitton. It’s not even the kind with the little wheels. I schlep it around kicking and screaming.

COVERS OF WOMEN’S magazines at the checkout counter:  Drop 2 dress sizes in one week!  Next line:  Chocolate cupcakes to die for! Look inside and see the Ask the Doctor section. I have a large mass growing on the side of my neck. What should I do? Here’s a suggestion—why don’t you go get a big pair of shears and cut it off?

THE NEIGHBORS I have the restraining order against had their water shut off the other day. You can always tell a shut-off compared to a meter reading. Readings are done methodically by street. Shut-offs require the serviceman to wrestle with wrenches and rusted knobs. Next thing I see cop cars racing down the street. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what happened—the serviceman called the cops because the homeowners came out and harassed him. Maybe threatened him, who knows. It isn’t the first time I’ve seen this happen to some poor schmuck trying to do his job. They need to start hiring tough guys, like repo-men, to shut off deadbeats’ water.

SERIAL LIKERS: I will never click on your blog. I have disabled ‘likes’ from my posts but there is no way to disable them from the reader feeds. But your robo-likes will no longer show up on my blog. Here’s an idea: why don’t you try writing something? I’ve clicked on a few serial likers’ blogs and found hundreds of comments on their About pages. I thought, wow, they must be good. But this is what you see:

Thank you for liking my post!
Thank you for liking my post! I’ll be back!
Thank you for liking my post! You rock!
Thank you for liking my post! I’m following you now!
etc., etc., blah blah blah

Please go do your part to keep Facebook shallow.

RECENTLY AN ACQUAINTANCE told me I need to kiss more ass if I want to be successful. He said it was part of the job. Sorry but I can’t do that. He said, fine, but are you happy? Uh, like kissing ass is going to make me happy?

Every now and then I put an ad in the paper advertising my housecleaning service. And every time, I dread answering calls because the cheapest people in the U.S. live in Arizona. They’re used to cut-rate labor and have no clue what a really clean house is, performed by an ethical person. I think of each cleaning job as a work of art that I sign my name to. Last week I placed a completely different kind of ad entitled Not Like Other Housecleaners. This time I wrote what my requirements are, and included a minimum price. I can only do one house per day. It was a little snippy but I’m sick to death of retired people following me around like I’m going to steal something,  interrupting me, asking me are you almost done? and forcing me to listen to CNN. It’s oppressive and I can’t do it anymore. Well damned if I haven’t been getting calls all week from really nice working people. I don’t have to fear returning calls, they already read the ad. I don’t know what the moral of this story is—maybe don’t kiss ass, it’s not worth your self-respect.

A bathroom I was asked to clean. I passed. I have cleaned for people who treated me like scum—lucky for them, I don’t name names. I did laundry for a local couple who were very nasty to me. If I showed the pictures of their laundry (which I had to pick up with rubber gloves and a stick), you would get sick. But not as sick as I.

A keyboard at a jobsite.

What I find on my front lawn in the morning. Gosh, I’m so glad they switched to Bud Light. Even f*cking a**holes need to watch their waistlines!

A neighbor’s yard.

A friend’s garage.

You don’t have to have doors or hoods on your cars here.

Only in B*sb**. 

This newspaper, from a very liberal city we visited in the Pacific Northwest, tossed around the word ‘anarchy’ like it’s The Big Solution. A tidy, anti-gun city  with mowed lawns, no litter, no smoking, and thousands of conformist students all with the same unkempt look, all on their phones. How do they know what anarchy is? They should come down here to the border to see it in actual use. First thing they’d do if someone threatened them is call the cops. Then they’d run back home to their mamas.

Look at the bottom line on the bus. Religion OR reality? I don’t get it. Are they saying people need to make a choice, pick one or the other? What kind of message is that?

My Desert Urchins

The kids in my rough-and-tumble neighborhood range from horrid little beasts to precious souls who just need a chance. Some of them remind me of myself and so many of us from our generation when we were young. They experience life head-on instead of through smart phones or computers. They know every shortcut, dirt road, and chained dog in the neighborhood. There’s not an ounce of fat on them. There are a couple of tough little girls I’ve befriended as they make their daily rounds looking for work. Now they love to come over and play with my dogs and cats as well as performing easy odd jobs, such as sweeping the carport or raking up storm debris. They show their gratitude with hugs and affection and hundreds of thank yous.

These kids are wise and aware and full of curiosity about their world. These are not the kids who take sticks and bash swallow nests full of babies, these are kids who know every dog in the neighborhood and how its being treated—and care deeply when they see abuse. The downside of this is they report these facts to me as if I can fix it all, and that’s just not possible, so I often end up distressed from an overload of depressing information.

What I love most about my girls is their complete lack of the expected sense of entitlement that Americans have become notorious for. They don’t even consider using the small amount of cash I pay them to buy things for themselves, they give the money to their caregivers. They ask for rides to the Dollar Store to buy toilet paper and laundry detergent and other necessary household items, not personal gifts for themselves. I see the stress in the older girl as she worries about shut-off notices and unemployment and things kids shouldn’t have to agonize over. I know of spoiled young adults who’ve wanted for nothing financially whose bad behavior is excused because their parents are divorced—are you kidding? Get over it.

Lately my girls have been on foot patrol and I learned their bikes are in such disrepair they’ve given up trying to ride them. I got excited about providing them with safe transportation that will give them the freedom to roam without stressing over broken seats and shot inner tubes. I asked around town but couldn’t find anyone who had used bikes to donate, so I went on Craigslist and found two nice girls’ bikes for $10 each…but had to drive to Tucson to get them. The bikes were well cared for by a bike-loving family whose girls had outgrown them. The urchins love them but I think I love seeing them flying around the ’hood even more, and always with a tailwhip stop at my house. They’re so damn cute.

But, like other kids living a lifestyle of lack, they have a streak of con artist in them. The other day I came home from work to find they had cleaned the little shed that serves as my laundry room, and they were waiting for me in my driveway. I thanked them but told them they shouldn’t have done that without a mutual agreement first. When they asked to be paid I had to say no. They did this through a combination of innocence and desperation, and I felt bad, but they need to learn they can’t play their customers for suckers.

In the past few weeks the urchins have multiplied. What started off as two became three, and now four.

The girls love to pose and clown for the camera. I debated whether to post some pictures and finally decided why not.

Not enough bikes!

They love to play with my dogs

Sparkle at the wheel

They love the camera

Don’t mess with Arizona girls! I love guns and archery—it’s all about marksmanship, not killing.

 

The Week in the Wastebasket

Freedom. It’s constantly held up as the ultimate human ideal, the be-all and end-all to the world’s problems.  We pay dearly in money and lives so we can help people all over the world be ‘free.’ Sometimes this means the freedom to abuse the group on the next rung down. So just how much freedom do you want?

You could move here, we have enough freedom to make you puke. Many folks here proudly stand by their freedom to be as annoying as possible because there’s no law against it. In seven years I’ve seen a distinct pattern emerge in my neighborhood—as old people who worked for the mining company die off, their relatives come in and dump the houses for whatever they can get. Still, many houses fester behind faded for-sale signs, and sometimes they are rented. Roll the dice. Sometimes groups of people buy them and turn them into their own exclusive heaps of shit and there’s nothing you can do about it. The houses collect more dwellers, junk cars, motorcycles, ATVs, and outside dogs. They degrade property values and quality of life for the few people left here who still care about the neighborhood.

The cars fly by on my street going 50 or 60, the speed limit is 25. A popular vehicle here is the ‘quad’ (satan.motors.com), a machine that is designed to be out destroying desert life, not raced up and down the street over, and over, and over. Ask nicely? Been there, done that.  So now I’m the girl, in an adrenaline-fueled fit, who firmly planted herself in front of a speeding quad. (I too have the freedom to act like an idiot.) The quad stopped, even though he would have been within his rights to run me over. It was a kid and I yelled at him to slow down. I didn’t know it was a kid, they’re all suited up and wearing helmets. Ten minutes later the patriarch of the clan walked onto my property and threatened me. Of course I called the cops, and a sheriff came. The next day the guy stood in front of my house taking pictures. More posturing, obscenities, cops. I was advised to seek a restraining order, which I was granted the next day. Now, members of the clan drive past my house leaning on their horns and sticking their heads out the window while adopting their best menacing glares.

Why? Because they can. There’s no law against childish intimidation tactics.

A couple days ago I received a summons back to court to respond to the neighbor’s legal appeal that the restraining order be dismissed (we all have the right to this). I hate living like this so I was prepared to drop it, under the condition that I be allowed to have an amicable, or at least neutral, conversation with the guy, with a mediator. I was feeling relief. All I want is for them to have some respect for their neighbors. When you move into a neighborhood, trash your house and yard and use the street as your personal racecourse, you have to expect that some neighbors will find this unpleasant. No, it’s not life-endangering—except for our collective blood pressure. I’m not the only one who has called the sheriff. They’ve pretty much alienated what’s left of our little swath of people who give a shit.

I sat in court waiting and thinking. This isn’t a power struggle, this isn’t about control. Trying to maintain your home as a haven instead of a snake pit by seeking just a tiny bit of respect is a basic human desire—but not to some freedom-lovers. I waited, the judge waited, the stenographer waited for half an hour after the appointed time. The neighbor never showed up. He went through some trouble to get this appointment, had the chance to resolve this, and he can’t even man up enough to show.  The judge had no alternative but to let the order stand.

Maybe it’s been bred out of them by the twisted survival instincts of overpopulation, but freedom requires a certain responsibility that many humans simply don’t have. Think twice about asking for it.

OK enough of the dark side. Here’s why I carry on:

Dove in nest tending to her babies.

A customer advised taking a couple of the little plastic tubes off a hummingbird feeder so bigger birds could also enjoy the feast. It worked! Male Bullock’s oriole drinking sugar water. Strength to go forth and multiply!

It isn’t much, but it’s what we’ve got: Wading down the middle of the ancient San Pedro. Local archeological sites date back to Clovis people 12,000 years ago. When we get a really good monsoon, the river floods. It’s a vital riparian gem with enough water to host a huge array of wildlife. Saw lots of raccoon, deer, coyote, javelina prints and scat.

Some parts were deep enough for Jasmine to paddle. Many once-mighty cottonwoods lay across the river, fallen in previous floods, creating pools and dams and little waterfalls.

Tracks of water snakes that swim along the bottom, but I don’t know what kind.

Most of the tadpoles (pic from last May) will be eaten before they reach adulthood, but many also survive…see next pic!

There were thousands of these! One can never tire of witnessing this! Never!

The San Pedro can flood out during a good monsoon. Pic taken a few years ago, recent monsoons have not brought this kind of rise in water.

We had bought this box of Hornady ‘zombie loads’ a while back and kept the box as a novelty to keep on a shelf. But if that bad acid going around Florida spreads out here…

The Last of the Huachucas

I cannot begin to describe the dread in which I witnessed the smoke pouring from the valley west of Coronado National Park this afternoon. I first noticed it at a cleaning job, refused to believe my eyes, but watched in horror as it rose thicker and faster as the day wore on. Cochise County Sheriff’s Dept. reports it started on the Mexican side and quickly jumped the border. The US Forest Service based at Ft. Huachuca has already dispatched air tankers with fire retardant. You can still see great white accumulations of the last year’s slurry all over the mountains—it looks like snow but doesn’t go away.

Last year’s Monument Fire burned 30,000 acres along with homes, businesses, and historical buildings  before masses of firefighters were able to contain it. It took a month.

On top of this, the Great Reconciliation I recently enjoyed with a family member has fallen flat on its face. I came home today to a true-colors email I should have expected. When oh when will I learn to trust my instincts, as I have been doing all my life. If something sounds too good to be true, you can be sure it isn’t.

Guess I picked the wrong day to quit smoking.

New forest fire started this morning around 11 am, taken from customer’s house.

New fire started today, May 8th, as seen from Rt. 92 in Sierra Vista.

School Canyon fire, near Parker Lake west of the Huachucas May 8, 2012. Note the devastation and dead trees in the foreground that will remain for many years from last year’s Monument fire.

The Artwork of Grief

Evergreen Cemetery in Old Bisbee was established in 1892 and is on the National Register of Historic Places. It replaced the original site which was built on a higher slope and eventually drew concerns about contamination of water. The remains of those buried in the old cemetery were moved to the new site around 1914. Bisbee was a vibrant mining town from the late 1800s to the 1950s. Phelps Dodge, the mining company who owned the Copper Queen Mine, took care of the cemetery for many years. The final stages of closing the mine occurred in the 1970s, and the once-green oasis of peace began to crumble. There are no longer plots available for purchase.

Recently there has been a torrent of vandalism. The vandals break wings and heads off angels, knock down crosses, and smash the old-fashioned photograph insets on the headstones and destroy the irreplaceable old photos. The cemetery is the resting place for many immigrants who came to Bisbee for work. Russian, Swedish, Irish, Mexican names abound. When the mines closed many people moved away and the headstones were no longer cared for. There aren’t many residents left here of Russian or Swedish ancestry—why would they stay?

The articles in the local papers state that descendents of the deceased no longer live here or “just don’t care.” There are very few residents left here who worked the mines, if there are they are very old. I can’t think of anyone here who has a Russian surname. Most of the residents who actually live in Old Bisbee moved here later, when the town was sort of resurrected as an artists’ colony and LGBT haven in the ’70s. I live on the outskirts of town in a mostly Spanish neighborhood, closer to the Port of Entry of Naco, AZ/Mexico.

A group of people volunteer to maintain the cemetery, but they are older folks and can’t do the heavy work. The century-old Italian cypress trees are being attacked by a blight of bark beetles and are no longer watered. Recently there have been some repair attempts by the city, but years of neglect have taken their toll. I grew up in New England and spent many happy hours in ancient burial grounds scattered all over what’s left of the countryside, but never saw gravemarkers like these back home. Evergreen Cemetery is unique with its simple handmade iron or wood crosses, symbolizing hard lives and unspeakable grief.

Shame on all us who complain. Shame on the politicians, the Occupiers, the Black Friday frenzy, the Air Jordan mobs. Everybody says they don’t have any money but they’re willing to trample people and break down doors to get some stupid gadget or clothing. We wouldn’t last a day living a hundred years ago. No government handouts, no welfare, no foodstamps—no nothing but each other.

A good number of pictures follow, out of a hundred photos I took the other day, choosing ones to publish was hard.

Entrance to Evergreen Cemetery

Many infants and children are buried here.

Baby Ivers

Baby Prince

Tilia Kukuljan, 4 years old

My darling Lloyd, 1902-1905. "Just a tiny grave, But oh so dear, For all my joy and hope, Lies buried here."

Crumbling statue, the head is broken off and is placed on top of the body

This style of metalwork cross is seen all over the cemetery. This one is surrounded by broken posts.

Another cross made from pipes and embellished with metalwork, very common here.

A completely destroyed monument

Broken statue

Someone tried to repair this cross with cement

Simple wooden cross of infant

Simple cross made of pipe, there are many, many here similar to this

This simple handmade metal marker sums up the hard lives of the miners

Fraternal orders were popular. This is a plaque dedicated to a member of the "Loyal Order of Moose" (L.O.O.M) There is also a Masons' section, and they are still active here today.

Many of the men served in either WWI or WWII.

Many headstones consist of metal pipes, and there are beautiful iron gates everywhere, all in disrepair.

Madaline Gaid, 3 years old

Allen Gonzales, one year old

There are more recent gravesites, but no more plots are available

Another modern site

Of the the very modern headstones. A wife will join her husband here.

I'm not sure what language this is. Croatian maybe? Does ovdje pociva mean "here lies"?

Mamie McNelis, born in Ireland in 1880

A parents' beautiful sentiment to their 20-year-old son.

The dying cypress trees. Pretty depressing.

Life, Death, and the Week in My World 10-24-11

On September 15th we had to put down one of our beloved dogs, Jessa. She came from the worst possible beginnings and health problems followed her periodically throughout her eight years. This time there was no cure. Despite her history, she was a happy and playful dog, and the only one who could keep up with Blitz, a dog we rescued four years ago from different but also gruesome conditions. (Pictures of Jessa can be found under My Pack and Philosophy.)

I didn’t write about Jessa because losing a pet is such a personal and painful experience that words are difficult. I didn’t want people to feel obligated to express their sympathy. As much as we grieved, I think it was worse for Blitz. He lost his best friend. He was clingy and confused—he kept looking for her and it broke my heart.

There is no need to seek out a dog in Arizona. There are so many desperate animals here I knew one would find us. On October 13th an animal-rescue colleague called in distress, asking if I would foster a beautiful six-month-old pup headed for the pound the next day. The volunteer already had a pack of foster dogs, and there aren’t many people who will foster. It’s shocking how many people are outraged by euthanasia but will not open their hearts and homes to foster animals. I was her last chance. The pup’s owner had thought it was such a cute little puppy she had to have it. I’m sure it was. But it grew. It needed time and attention and training. The owner lost interest. The pup is not housebroken, doesn’t know simple commands, and is slightly wild.

We went to pick up the dog and fell instantly in love. Since I refuse to separate any of my animals, the question was would she fit in with my pack, and would she breathe new life into poor Blitz.

The answer became evident within a few days. She is now a work in progress.

Meet Jada. She came with the name ‘Jade’ but ‘Jada’ is more fun to say. What is she? Don’t know, don’t care. A blend of beauty, affection, and spirit.

What can I say?

Jada's second day with us, still uncertain

Jada meets the neighbors

Jada and Blitz bonding over marrow bones

Jada makes friends with Blitz by the old stand-on-your-head method

Blitz shakes Jada's paw---with his mouth

Jada sizes Blitz up

Let the games begin

Tug-of-war, a favorite of dog buddies everywhere

One of the many positions of tug-of-war

Getting serious

It's not easy to tire Jada out, but Blitz gets it done.

The Week in My World 9-23-11

The gnawing of homesickness abrades—not for my native home, but for someplace that feels like home. But whether inspiration to act is born of ecstasy or sorrow, the result is the same—you are moved to discover resourcefulness you didn’t know you had.

Finding Love in Arizona

The two dogs rescued from my neighbors have been adopted into wonderful homes. I continue to keep a close watch on the yard, which right now is blissfully empty. But there are thousands more animals hanging on to life in similar hells. All mammals have an instinctive will to live. I am researching how to approach schools to talk about how to care for animals. There are scripts to be learned and protocols to follow.

A Story to Share with My Victims

I promise never to use the word share unless it’s to share buried treasure, my bed with dogs and cats, or pizza with a friend. I promise to never share news, an absurd encounter, or personal confessions. Those, I’ll just flat out tell you. Leave the word share for something tangible, like your meal or your toys. You may not notice the almost imperceptible cringe of a polite person when you say you have a story to share, but it’s there.

The Trials of Tag Surfing

A good way to show disrespect to your readers is frequent use of the following phrases:

As I said  •  as I said before  •  like I said    as many of you know    as I mentioned before    I’m sorry I haven’t posted in a while    I haven’t posted in a while and for this I deeply apologize    now I know a lot of people will be surprised about this revelation  •  everyone who reads my blog knows how I feel about  •  if you know me then you know that when I  •  it’s a well-known fact that I do not like…

All these phrases do is highlight your ego.

Was it a Girl Shad or a Boy Shad?

Before personal computers existed, I ran a typesetting shop for 12 years. My job was not to edit, but to set the type for a variety of businesses—but naturally I corrected errors. One of my clients was the Griswold Inn, a historic restaurant and inn in Essex, Connecticut. The inn changed its menus frequently and was a steady customer.

The owner at the time was a wealthy businessman from New York who used pompous phrases such as “I’ll see you in a fortnight” or “ring me up” or “it’s frightfully good.” Brochures outlining the inn’s history were available in the lobby, typeset and printed long before I came on board. The owner wanted to make some revisions and asked me to re-typeset the brochure. As I was typing it and fixing the usual errors made by careless typesetters (and careless business owners who sign off on proofs before printing), I came across a howler I will never forget. The copy explained how the inn was situated at the mouth of the Connecticut River where it meets Long Island Sound, and it read:

In the spring, when the androgynous shad swim upstream to spawn…

There, in a haughty Connecticut town full of extravagant homes, luxury cars, sumptuous sailboats, and trust-fund kids, not one person had ever reported the fact that shad are anadromous. I fixed the ridiculous blunder and never said a word.

The Awkward Alsatian

Before restaurants started creating their own menus with computers, they were a primary source of work for typesetters. Owners were often difficult to work with, and would insist I set the copy exactly as they had written it. One testy man from Alsace, France, was not a native speaker. His menu read: I welcome you to sample the flavors of my region. This struck me as both distasteful and hilarious, but there it stood.

Second Pup Rescued from Mean Neighbors

I got her. Scarred, scabbed, starving, and scared to death. Covered from head to tail with ticks, even deep down inside her ears. There is no agency on earth that could have acted as quickly or prevented my fear of reprisal. I answer to a higher authority—my own conscience.

Ears and back of head of pup rescued from neighbors on the border in Arizona

Inside ear of pup rescued from neighbors on the border in Arizona

It’s a Culture Thing

Two weeks ago I rescued a neighbor’s starving dog. She had no food, water, or shelter. I worked on this case for months, waiting until nightfall and wearing dark clothes to sneak her dog biscuits through a chain link fence. I tried to talk to the owners months ago about improvements I could help with, but they would not listen and in fact told me to mind my own business. I had already asked them to pick up the piles of kitchen garbage in their front yard and did not want to start a war.

I tracked down a free doghouse and planned to sort of diplomatically force it on them, but saw that the dog was getting thinner by the day, her ribs and backbone prominent under her short fur. Then I noticed she was in heat, which is obvious when you know what to look for.  She looked to be about 20 pounds underweight and I knew she wouldn’t make it through the winter. I finally decided to liberate the dog in a midnight black-ops rescue.

We brought her to safehouse in another town where a contact took her in. We had her vaccinated and spayed. When they spayed her, they found she was carrying FIVE DEAD DEFORMED PUPS due to malnutrition. If we had not rescued her, the vet said she would have delivered the dead pups within days and died from infection. The dog never once complained about the discomfort she must have felt.

I feared disclosing this information to anyone but a few trusted animal-rescue contacts, and stressed over how to find her a home other than the usual route. She is loving and smart, but I was afraid to advertise her in any way. Since the owners did not look for the dog or take any action at all, I assumed they didn’t notice she was gone, but I still did not want to push it by publicly putting her up for adoption.

My shock and disgust at learning the true severity of her condition changed all that. I no longer cared if the owners saw her picture on a poster. But by some miracle, through my connections, I met someone who is coming to meet the dog this week. For the past two weeks I have felt a sense of relief as I pulled into my driveway and did not have to watch a starving dog desperately trying to get my attention. I could not feed her during daylight hours because I feared the owners would see me and make the dog’s life worse by chaining her in another part of the yard where I would not be able to reach her without trespassing.

This morning  I saw my neighbors pull into their driveway with a new puppy. They immediately put the pup in the back part of their yard where I cannot reach her.

The physical sickness I felt before is now back. I am in a difficult position—not wanting to start a war with my neighbors, not wanting to call authorities because I cannot prove anything or admit what I did. I have learned the hard way living here that calling local agencies often proves futile. There is a fine line between keeping an animal barely alive and actual abuse, and agencies often do nothing. Many people who live in town just look other way.

My neighbors have religious icons in their yard and attached to their house but apparently this belief does not extend to animals. I just don’t get it.