Archive for March 2012

Two Words of Advice for Quarterback Mark Sanchez   3 comments

Hi Mark,

I’m not a real big football fan but I watch games. Actually I watch the instant replays. I’m usually reading  or checking my email when you’re playing but  when I hear yelling I know something good happened. So I look up and wait for the replay. This way I get to see all the important plays without all that huddling and standing around.

The reason I’m writing is because I heard the Jets are bringing  in that Tim Tebow. I saw you on TV saying  kind words about him but it has to hurt. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m sure you’ll play great and they won’t need Mr Tebow.  But just in case (you can’t have too many  just in cases) Yes, just in case things start to go downhill, here’s a word of advice. No, here’s two words of advice:

That’s right. Depew Park .

In case you’ve been so involved in your playing that you never delved into Jets history, here’s why Depew Park is the place for  you  guys.

Now I’m sure you know enough Jets history to know what happened  to the Jets in 1969. But if you want  the details ask that nice Mr. Namath, Joe Willie, BroadwayJoe. He’ll tell you all about the good old days.

So what has the team been up to for the last forty three years?  I hear you tried practicing out on Long Island but Hofstra didn’t bring any rings.  Neither did going all the way upstate to Cortland,  still ring-less. Florham Park? New Jersey – nuff said.

Maybe Peekskill’s worth another try. Come on, I’ll take you on a tour of the park.

Here’s the field. As you can see in winter, it’s not very crowded.

And when you need a break, you can just chill out with a Gatorade or two.

The pool’s closed now but in August when you start training, it will be great for cooling off after running sprints.

Or maybe you just want a quite place to go over those plays.

Grill a steak or two after practice?

Shoot a few hoops?

Hit a few balls across the net?

As you can see, winter’s a quiet time, just us hard core runners

and dog walkers

So, next time you see Coach Rex Ryan, take him aside and give him the good word. No, two good words. Depew Park.

And as for Timmy Tebow, well we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.

..

A St Patrick’s Carol   2 comments

The Spirit of St Patricks Past

St Patrick’s Day was never one of my favorite days. It started in high school. Back in the 60’s if you attended a Catholic girl’s high school in Manhattan chances are you marched  in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

Some schools were competitive, requiring their students to spend time after school or on Saturdays drilling march steps and turns so each line would fan out onto sunny Fifth Avenue from their staging area on a side street with  kaleidoscopic precision while the Irish-flag waving crowd cheered them on. Left, Right. Left Right. Eyes right at St Patrick’s Cathedral to be honored by a wave or nod from Cardinal Spellman,  all in hope of winning the Cardinal’s medal or trophy or whatever it was they coveted.

The reason I don’t know what it was is because my school was not one of those.We just had to show up;  no practicing – unless you counted that one P.E. class devoted to marching  back and forth in the gym to blaring John Phillipe Sousa music. And since we didn’t start off early with the contenders we could sleep late. The down side of that was by the time we assembled on 46th St, the sun’s rays no longer reached down between the tall grey office  buildings. But the wind stayed for us. Have you ever been in midtown Manhattan in late afternoon in March?  No? How about  a windswept canyon? Been there? Well then you know what I mean when I say that by the time it was our turn to move  toward Fifth avenue, we’d frozen off  our as-pirations of school spirit.

At about 4:00 we spilled out, amoeba-like onto Fifth Avenue. The crowds were long-gone but the green stripe remained, and we had other decorations that our friends in those  competitive schools had not; random piles of horse plop, soon to be scooped up by the marching contingent to our rear – the Department of Sanitation with their brooms and shovels.  It would be untrue to say we had no spectators. We did, captive ones : Nannies and toddlers on the Central Park  side of the Avenue, waiting for a break in the action  so they could dash across  Fifth Avenue with their carriages after a day in Central Park. There  were also the dog walkers – ditto for them. On the building side of Fifth, there were the doormen ducking out of  their lobbies for a smoke.  and  when we reached the reviewing stand at St Pats? Empty unless you counted the orange white and green bunting fluttering in the wind or the abandoned folding chairs.

We would have  a crowd though, up at 86th Street,  it would swallow us up as we approached the official Parade finish line at Park Avenue  – a crowd of drunks, no , excuse me,  revelers: office workers of all ranks, sprung  loose from their  nine-to-five’s and intent on partying to the max, tourists, college kids from near and far. The drinking age back then was eighteen  which made it easier for my high school friends with their doctored birth certificates to try to pass for legal

As for me,  it was all too much. I won’t say the atmosphere charged with enough beer fumes to give a contact high frightened me, it just made me uneasy.  And so I’d leave my friends to celebrate for me, and make my way to the bus stop to wait for the 86th Street Crosstown to whisk me through park and over to the sanity of the West Side.

Maybe it’s the contrarian in me, but I bristle at being required to do something, even party. That’s why Years Eve is  #1 on my hated days list,  followed by Valentine’s Day, impose  romance doesn’t appeal to me either. So is St Patrick’s Day #3 on the list? No, I don’t hate St Patrick’s Day, it’s just that ‘I’ve never felt it was mine to celebrate. I may have had an  Irish American grandfather but I also had a German American grandmother and a grandmother and grandfather who’d emigrated from the West Indies so somewhere along the way any bag pipes or Danny Boys in my gene pool got drowned out. I know they say everyone’s Irish on St Paddy’s Day but that was just talk to me.

But flash forward…  never mind how many years later but 48 miles to the north where this St Patrick’s Day found Marcos Dog and I following our Saturday routine We enjoy our tranquil morning walks  all week but we’re city people so we need our fix of sidewalking! And downtown Peekskill is but six miles from our house.

Peekskill is an old river city, its multi-cultural population a mix of aging old time residents, young professional families restoring the city’s abundant crop of beautiful old Victorians, and Latino laborers and their families sharing Victorians that have been divided into apartments. Accordingly, the downtown area is a mix of upscale restaurants, art  galleries, artists ‘lofts, antiques stores, as well as bodegas and bars.

Latino Spirit(s)

Ubiquitous posters advertise  Spanish  bands and groups playing each weekend at the bars and clubs catering to the  young, single, and probably lonely young men. The first one I come upon this week displayed in a bodega. The usual buxom dark-haired beauty in the forefront  shares the poster with the handsome guitar-laden musicians. But it is the words that have me smiling and shaking my head. St Patrick’s Day. Cerveza Verde. Shots de tequila. Margaritas. Botellos. Ah well, I think You don’t have to be yada… yada

African-American Spirit #1

I smile and continue on. Next we come upon a cluster  of people, clutching take-out coffee cups and smoking cigarettes  in front of one of the downtown churches. It must be ten o’clock, The doors will soon be opening to admit them to the AA meeting.  I pass  two older women, one black, one white. The black woman proclaims, “My man is gonna cook corned beef and cabbage . I’m gonna be eating good tonight!” Yes, you don’t have to be I____

Kindred Spirit

Finally Marcos decides the walks over, time to head back to the  truck. As we pass a stately apartment ,a preppy-looking bi-racial teenager laden with a lacrosse net cuts across the grass.   “Happy St Patrick’s Day” he calls. His smile is so infectious I fond myself returning it along with his wish. Ah well, like me, he could be part .You don’t have to be IR___

African-American Spirit #2

But the universe is not through with me yet. That afternoon one of my errands takes me to the beer and soda distributor in town. I walk over to the bottle return area and the  young African-American young man  in charge is wearing his usual broad smile.. as well as a string of green beads interspersed with glittery shamrocks. I see you’re ready to celebrate.” I say. You don’t have to be IRI__

But we’re not finished yet.

Post script #1. I turn on the 11 0,clock news.

 

Alright, Already. You don’t gave to be IRIS__

Post script #2 The next day I visit the cemetery to do some early planting. I look up at my brother’s grave while digging and while I can’t say I’m noticing it for the first time, but the engraving adorning it pops out at me. A Celtic cross!

 

I give up. You don’t have to be IRISH to celebrate St Patrick’s Day. Just don’t make me march!

The Sixteen Year Old Dog   27 comments

“A sixteen year old dog was surrendered to Animal Control Saturday. He needs a home.” said  my computer.

If you’ve read my earlier entries you’re probably waiting for me to say it was a sign. But no, it wasn’t. To be more precise the plea came out of my computer speakers, and it belonged to Maria Milito, the  DJ and animal advocate  on New York’s Q104.3 classic rock station.

She’d planted a seed of an obsession in my brain. When it comes to obsessions  the soil of my brain can be most fertile, encouraging them to take root and  send  out tendrils and vines that strangle any  rational thinking that might be attempting to  send up a shoot or two. Usually these seeds  involve  cutting my hair or finding just the right pair of flip-flops.

“Did you hear that?” I asked  my co-worker,  Laura.

She hadn’t, but after hearing it in my words,  said “You don’t want a dog. You don’t have time for a dog.”

She’s told me this every time I’ve mentioned that maybe I need a dog. And usually that’s all I need to hear. But a sixteen year old dog? The poor thing. Who could anyone do that?  The more I thought about it, the more I realized, this might just work. After all –

  • Sixteen?” How long was he going to last? This way I could see if a dog would fit into my lifestyle. It would be kind of an experiment.
  • Sixteen? How much energy would he have. He’d sleep all day and I wouldn’t have to worry about him hurting the cats.
  • Sixteen? That probably meant he was house trained.

I checked out the New York City Animal Care and Control website . He was easy to find, the only sixteen year old dog who had been surrendered on Saturday

“Laura,” I whined. “Come here.I’m in big trouble. Look what his name is!”

She crossed the room and bent over my computer screen “Yeah? Marcos.”

“Don’t you see? Marceau, Marcel, and now Marcos?”

Now I was seeing a sign.

I e-mailed Maria and she was more than happy to put me in touch with the  outreach  person at Animal Control who, in turn, promised to have the kennel manager get back to me. I needed to  know Marcos’ temperament since my main concern was how he’d get on with the cats. I never heard from the kennel manager so there was nothing left but to see for myself. Friday I emailed Maria once more to make sure  he was still there.

Yes, she replied.  She’d been there the previous evening, working with the volunteers and saw him. Her only comment was that he’s very thin.

Saturday turned out to be a day of October gold, a picture perfect backdrop for an apprehensive me to drive into the city, hoping I wasn’t bringing an earthquake home to Fremont’s  World. I reminded myself I could turn around at any time. I didn’t have to do this.  But my obsession was set in drive  I couldn’t not do this.

NYCACC is  a fortress-like multi-story building abuzz with noise and movement. I showed the website  print-out to a man at the information window. He looked at the number A317 and directed me up to the  third floor. I took the stairs and upon opening the door marked 3, found myself at the end of a long cinder block corridor punctuated by doors  that opened to rooms lined with  chain link runs. I seemed to be  in the pitbull/rottweiler section. Barking vied with the metallic clanging  of fences and  the smell  of damp concrete rose as kennel workers hosed down the  floors, switching  dogs from one run to another. Amidst all this, a parade of prospective adopters flowed in and out of the rooms clucking, whispering, and wiggling finger at dogs who caught their fancy. And this was only one of four floors; no wonder the kennel manager never got back to me.

I found a young woman in yellow rubber boots and showed her the profile .”A rescue group is taking him,” she said.

“Rescue group?” I asked. “Aren’t  they going to have to find him a home. I am a home.”  I followed her to a computer terminal at the end of the corridor where she clicked a few keys and told me “Nope, they took him yesterday.”

I went back out into the orange autumn sun, my spirits  floating like a feather. Yes! I had tried. That’s all that mattered. it just wasn’t meant to be. The world was good. I rewarded myself with a trip to Trader Joe’s and returned  home.

On Monday morning, I e-mailed Maria to tell her of the happy ending.  She replied immediately.Do you want me to find the rescue group?

Alas, my craziness had only been lying  low.  I typed yes

And so I made the acquaintance of Linda Vetrano, the wonderful woman who, with the help of her network of foster parents and generous veterinarians, runs Posh Pets Rescue.  She adopts dogs on Animal Control’s kill list, sees that they are given any necessary medical care, and a temporary home until a permanent one can be found.

“Marcos is presently at the veterinarian  with a terrible case of kennel cough”, she told me in her East London accent.” He’ll be staying there until it is cured.  We only place healthy dogs.” Her five-day estimate turned out to be ten, and the foster mom she’d hoped would be able to test him a night or two in her multi-cat household  had to bow out when one of the cats came down with a urinary tract infection.

As these delays piled up that subversive voice reminded me “This is giving you time to change your mind.” But did I listen? No. On another beautiful October afternoon I retraced my trip into Manhattan, but  his time to a veterinary office on Second Avenue. I found a parking space on Eighty Sixth and Third, three blocks up and one block over from the vet’s office which in terms of NY  parking is a gift. After all, this was the Upper East  Side on a Saturday afternoon.As I hurried along ( I only had a 30 minute meter) I found myself worrying,  one, would he be able to walk these five blocks, and  two, could he could make it up to the front seat of my truck. Maybe if I got all the paper work done I could come back, get the truck and double park. They could bring him out and help me  lift  him into the truck.

The veterinary office, like most in Manhattan, was a store- front operation. The front room was  filled with waiting clients and their fluffy little poodle types and cats in carriers. Rafael, the  technician came out and suggested he bring Marcos out through the side entrance.  I found that odd but agreed, handing over the thin woven leash and camouflage collar I’d bought. He took one look at the leash and said, “You’d better get a longer leash. He’s going to pull you all over town with this. “And he was gone in a flash, leaving me to match up these words with my image of Marcos. I didn’t have to wonder long.I waited outside for a minute or so when I heard staccato  nails and maniacal panting. The door flew open and Rafael handed me the taut leash. At the other end was a raring to go sheath of muscle  and ribs,  declaring to all the world that he’d been sprung from the joint.

“This is the Posh pets dog, right?” I asked Rafael as he re-entered the building.

“Yep,” he said. “Marcos.”

Our walk back to second Avenue can best be described as a tug of war. Me, trying to establish dominance, and Marcos, a dog on a mission and in a hurry to get there. When we arrived at the truck,  I opened the passenger door and he was on the front seat in one graceful leap. He stood, in perfect pointer stance, facing front  for the entire one hour ten minute drive home. He never moved. Months later I related this at a family gathering and my brother declared, “He was memorizing the way back.”  Don’t you love  little brothers?

We arrived home and I led him to the door. I peeped through the glass, and as usual, Marceau and  Marcel were  at the door,  ready to welcome me  home.

I tightened my hold on the leash, pulling Marcos close, and opened the door slowly. They saw him before he saw them, and if he did catch a glimpse, it was of a whirl of  black and white legs, hightailing it up to the loft.  I led Marcos into the spare room which was to be his  until I could judge the climate. He took one look at the bed and leaped onto it, perching there as if to say “yeah, my kind o’ place.

I secured the thirty inch gate I’d purchased, and walked through the living room into the kitchen.The  cats recovered their composure at seeing me in the kitchen. If I was in the kitchen, it must be to feed them. I opened the fridge to get cat food and froze at the sound of a thud followed by a rush of  nails  tapping over my living room floor.

“No! No!’ Put him down,” I screamed as Marcos stood wide mouthed over Marceau.I don’t know if it was my hysteria  or  Marcel’s protective hissing and growling but  he skidded back to his new bed, clearing  the gate in one graceful arc, and stared back at me  as if I’d imagined it all.

“Sixteen years old, hmm.” I muttered, as I  stacked books under the gate to raise its height.

And then I recalled the other thing Maria Milito had said when she’d  told me Marcos was very thin. “He definitely doesn’t look his age.”

To capsulize the last four and a half years:

When Marcos entered The House of Mars, he weighed 46 pounds.

He  is now sixty-eight pounds.


Marcel  conquered his fear and his growling and had Marcos backing out of his way by the next month.
Marceau took  a while longer, spending most of his time in the loft when Marcos was loose.

but he was observing and biding his time. When he finally approached Marcos it was with a one-two to his tail.
For the most part, Marcel stays above the fray

while Marceau has become a stalker

                                                                              

prone to  nudging his Marcos out of his own bowl at chow time.

                                                                                          

On our first visit to the vet he made an estimate that Marcos was more like eight or nine years  old. On our last visit, in October, I commented that Marcos had gained twenty-two pounds in his three years with me. The doctor looked at his chart and said, “According to my notes, you’ve had him four years.”

Time flies when you’re having fun I guess. And so you have The House of Mars – Marcel, Marceau,Marcos, and yes me, my middle name is Margaret.

Fremont, Gone but……   12 comments

Life without Fremont meant different things to different residents of Fremont’s World. The chipmunks and mice felt safer. The raccoon whom Fremont would invite into the house for water stopped making his midnight raids. And the  groundhog he used to sit with now just waddled on through and disappeared Alice-like into his burrow underneath the deck.

As for Bully, the French bulldog who lived next door, he rejoiced in being able to come and go without being chased home.

Ironically, Niles, about whom I’d worried most, seemed not at all affected. He had Dino.And while Dino never showered him with nightly groomings on the couch like Fremont had, or snuggled up with him on winter nights,at least he stopped his pugnacious ways – most of the time. And so they co-existed peacefully for a year, a year in which Niles accursed lump grew back.

Late in August of 2005, I opened one eye as Dino stomped over me to leap off the bed and jump to the floor. It was 4:15 AM. I know because when I heard the pet door flap closed I looked at the alarm clock and thought Ah, three more hours of sleep. It was the last time I ever saw Dino.

It was the last time four of my neighbors in this community of 26 cottages saw their cats over the next few days as well. Too late I learned a fox had been spotted in the yard next door, and coyotes, well, they are always around. Some cats, like Fremont and Niles are “street  smart.  Dino at just over a year was not.

The timing couldn’t be worse, I had to be a way for a week. After much back and forth I decided I’d leave the pet door unlocked. Niles was accustomed to coming and going as he pleased and to confine him with no company seemed worse than leaving him to his feline instincts. I put it in the hands of  the powers that be, and instructed his pet-sitter to call me if on any of her twice daily visits Niles failed to show up.

Thankfully I received no call, but still I found my heart beating and my stomach tumbling as I drove up my driveway upon my return. Would I find Niles? There wasn’t even a moment of mystery. As soon as I opened the car door a loud mournful cry issued from the woods above, accompanied by the sound of Niles plodding his way down.

He continued the distressed mewling. Was he in pain from the cancer? Was he injured?  A fight wound? I scooped him up and hugged him, examining every inch of him. The lump was indeed bigger but he showed no discomfort when I touched it. Could  it be that he was lonely. Well I was back, that should fix things.

I brought him inside and released him on the kitchen floor. He ran into the living room and ascended the stairs to the loft, his cries accompanying him  and continuing up there. I looked at the clock. Three o’clock. Saturday. The vet’s office closed at one.

As it so happened I recalled having seen in the paper that Hartsdale Pet cemetery was having their annual blessing  of the animals and a pet adoption fair on September 11, the next day. Perhaps that’s what Niles was asking for – a new buddy.

Sunday found Niles still crying, and so I set off for Hartsdale.

I passed by the man entrance and  the  people milling about the canopies providing shade for the lines of cages beneath, and headed up the hillside to Fremont’s resting place.I stood looking down at the headstone

“Dino’s disappeared and Niles needs a friend. Send me to a cat that’s going to be good to your little Niles. Ok?”

I  touched the black stone, and set off on my search, stopping first at a cage containing a black kitten, a female. I knelt down and wiggled my finger through the bars of the cage.I have a soft spot for male cats but maybe a little girl would be better for Niles. Look further something told me.

I passed a couple of dogs then stopped short at ……Fremont and Niles! Well not quite a Fremont, but a mirror image of Niles. This cat’s little smudge of white lay to the right of his nose while Niles’ was on the left. The Fremont look-a-like had more perfect tuxedo markings than Fremont’s.

A volunteer told me they were four month males and had been found wandering with their mother and litter-mates in Mount Vernon.Mount Vernon! That’s all I needed to hear. My brother, Jim, who a month before his death had foreseen Fremont in my life,  taught at Mount Vernon High School for almost twenty years.

And so, although I had set out to find one cat, I returned home with two. And  I named them before we even arrived home.Since they muttered not a peep on the twenty- five mile trip home (anyone familiar with  cats knows this is out of the ordinary) what better than Marcel and Marceau? Their introduction into the house also quelled Niles’ crying. He had company once more.

Unfortunately Niles only had three more months left in his journey, but the brothers stood guard over him on the recliner. Niles curled up on the seat and the brothers on the headrest Sometimes Marcel groomed him  sometimes Marceau. And when  they took to brotherly squabbles over  the headrest, they made sure to miss him when they tumbled to the cushion below.

On December 23 Niles and I the vet for the dreaded “last appointment.” His last moments hit me harder then Fremont’s had. To be so gentle and trusting and to only have five years to show it; I found myself crying quietly and unable to stop. The doctor kept telling me how sorry she was but I could only nod.  She took him off to find a box for his trip to Hartsdale but I just stood there at the examining table in the center of the room, staring at the bulletin board on the opposite wall.

It’s tan cork surface was empty of the usual photos of furry clients.  I noticed that all the red, green and blue push pins were clustered in the center. It took me a while to realize the pins formed two letters. W and F., I frowned in concentration. W F?  Did it mean something? And then with a rush of adrenalin much like when I’d found the stuffed catl in the cemetery, it came to me WF. With Fremont.

Out in the parking lot, I sat at the steering wheel, repeating With Fremont, with Fremont.  As my psyche weren’t shaken, I started up the engine only yo have the old 70’s song by the one hit wonder Five Man Electrical Band blast forth from the radio. “Signs, signs, everywhere there’s signs, blocking out the scenery, breaking up my mind…”