Everybody Has Muddy Paws Days

September 19, 2015


     Yep, when Abraham Lincoln moved to the White House in 1860, he left his dog, Fido, with friends, along with an unusually (for the time) high number of explicit directions.  

     You could spend every day of the rest of your life finding reasons to love Lincoln. Mental health professionals should consider prescribing Lincoln biographies to depressed patients. Maybe that sounds trite. I don’t mean it that way at all. I think that reading Lincoln might be worth more than a shot.

     My own Fido, a black-and-white spaniel named Ben, is enjoying his golden years with my parents in Ireland. My Dad has grown as attached to him as I am. We can spend hours discussing Ben’s idiosyncrasies without even noticing the other people running screaming from the room.  My parents are stateside this month, and they left Ben with a dog-minder, M.  My Dad and I have both been fretting about how Ben is doing. Unable to reach M., we bombarded my brother Dennis with emails and texts and calls asking him to check up on Ben. Dennis hasn’t been getting much sleep lately – he has a new-born and two other kids under six and he’s a partner in a busy law firm. Apparently his new BMW also broke down this week (the rich also cry – it’s a Spanish soap opera). I suspect that my Dad and I might have got on Dennis’s nerves a little. I received this email from him on Monday morning:

     “In response to the numerous anxious communications from America and in an effort to allay growing trans-Atlantic fears, I spoke with M., the god-minder this morning for 5 minutes. She was quite alarmed that my charge-out rates are 450 Euros an hour but I assured her that she could add my charges to her own charges for the maintenance of the canine.

     M. reported that Ben is fine and very happy. He was wagging his ears a lot last Monday so she took him to the vet who gave her some drops for him. I said that there might have been a fly buzzing near him but in any case to be sure to add that to his maintenance charges.

     She said that she noticed that he likes to lie down a lot. I said to be sure to bring him to the vet in case he is suffering from bone idleness and to be sure to add that to the maintenance charges.

     She said that she noticed that Ben loved collecting stones and leaving them very proudly in her kitchen. I said that he was without doubt a very intelligent dog, and to be sure to feed him steak and to add the costs to the bill.

     M. said that she would e-mail Dad more regularly as she’s not a “phone” person – not something that was apparent from our call as she was a very enthusiastic talker. I said to be sure to add those costs to her bill as no cost is too much as far as Ben is concerned.



            I enjoyed starting my week with a good laugh. I’ve had a lot of laughs lately.

            In the last four years I haven’t lived anywhere more than a few months. I wake up slowly in a blurred haze of  panic: “Where am I?” and “Who am I?” More recently, I started waking up to a third question, “And, em . . . what year are we in?” 

            That’s when you know you’re in trouble. Come on - that’s Dr. Who territory! And if you’re in Dr. Who land, it’s a pretty good litmus test for knowing you need to stay put for a while.  So I took a 12 month lease in Bushwick with two flatmates. They’re both 28. One is a writer and editor, a slightly more caustic version of David Sedaris; the other is a congenitally cool woman who owns a neighbourhood vintage store.  We share a backyard with an artist, a designer, and a toy-maker (wooden toys) – his name is David but I call him Giuseppe.

            My room wasn’t furnished so I bought an iBed in a box on Amazon. It arrived with a big stamp “patent pending.” It’s basically a fold-out deck chair – I wouldn’t be holding my breath for the grant of that patent.  But it’s super cheap and fast and easy and writers love to moan about back pain.  So I’m all set.

            I feel like I’m living in an artists’ version of The Big Bang Theory. We engage in a lot of misadventures that seemed like a good idea at the time. But it’s not all cool partying and hook-ups and long-into-the-night philosophical discussions. I spent last Saturday night alone eating slightly stale Kale chips watching “A Nun’s Story” on the Turner Classic Movie Channel.  I could have been anywhere ….except the Middle East – the “Nun’s Story” probably isn’t primetime viewing there. I think my point is – I live in Bushwick in Brooklyn because it’s great fun to live in a community of artists and writers, not because I write more or less here.  But I think that having fun, like Learning Lincoln, is a pretty good reason for living. 

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