Thursday, June 28, 2007

dog days of summer

I had the pleasure of dropping about $200 on my chocolate lab Baci's annual checkup at the Capitol Hill Vet yesterday. As a result of that expense, my life does not feel much different or improved today. Sure, I have some peace of mind relative to my dog's health, but it's like paying for new tires -- your wallet is lighter, but the car basically drives the same. These expenses give me humorous pause. Having a blog provides an excuse to reflect on such inane matters, so here goes nothing.

Being a bit of an opportunist, I scheduled the appointment last minute when a friend asked if I'd be down with a drink after work at Belga. Baci was about a month overdue for the annual, so it was not too hard to sell my wife on the idea of me"grabbing a quick beer" after the vet. Leave it to me to weave a social event around a vet appointment. I can't exactly apologize though because, as a working dad, these windows of opportunity can be few and far between. When you stumble upon one you have to hold on with both hands and grip the shit out of it.

As I walked my meat head animal to the doc, the bag of his shit that they requested in hand, I mentally prepared myself for whatever sales pitch the lady would throw at me this time. I've been to the vet enough times to know it's not a matter of whether they will sell you on some obscure treatment; it's a matter of how they will position it. Add to the equation that I would be breaking up with them to hook up with the vet in my new part of town and you know they're going to milk me.

In the exam room, the vet went through all the motions and filled me in on the vaccination updates he would need on this visit -- the standard song and dance. Then she seemed to cast this 100 yard stare for a few seconds before telling me about some new bacteria they have heard about and how there have been a few animals (not dogs) that have been hit with it. She went on to tell me animals that drink from streams or ponds are most likely to be candidates for this mysterious bacteria. Here's how the rest of this went...

Me: Well, he doesn't really drink from streams. In fact, I don't know of any streams around.

Vet: Oh, but it might make sense just to be safe and protect him.

Me: Yeah, I don't know if it applies in this case.

Vet: We could add a strand of it to the shot he is getting today.

Me: Okay?

Vet: Then you would just need to come back in 3 weeks for a booster of it to complete it.

Me: Oh, okay. Then definitely not.

Vet: No?

Me: No.

Vet: Okay then. I just want you to be aware of the risks.

Me: Yeah...I'm just not convinced. But thanks.

In the waiting area, I patted myself on the back for shooting down that guilt trip of a sales pitch and shrugged off the vet's blatant view of me as a deadbeat dog owner. While I waited for the receptionist to swipe my card, I marveled at one of the more off putting displays of entitlement I have seen in a while: some crunchy Hill lady filling up her Big Gulp-sized Nalgene bottle at the water cooler. Then I noticed her pathetic cat in the small crate next to her and felt much, much, much better about myself.

Later at Belga we actually toasted my small victory. As we clicked our highball glasses together, my friend said what was lingering in the back of my head: "Murphy's Law -- Baci catches that mysterious shit before summer's out."

barking up the wrong twee?

A couple of Wednesdays ago I managed to defy my old age and decrepitude by making it through a show at the Black Cat. This was a personal accomplishment for me because, as I have mentioned, weeknight shows have this pesky tendency to be the bane of my social existence. True to its antagonistic form, Black Cat slated two opening acts ahead of the headliner,Voxtrot, which automatically translates as two things: "long-ass night" and "torn up tomorrow." Both of those materialized. Go figure.

A close friend in Chicago turned me on to Voxtrot a month or so ago, a couple of weeks before their new album was released. He hooked me up with a few of their EPs, which I devoured. My friend Angie, who I saw the show with, told me that Voxtrot falls into a category of music labeled Twee Pop. Angie is in her early 20s and therefore doesn't flinch at the thought of a late concert. I am jealous of her youthful energy and drive, obviously. She is also more hip, hence her dropping the Twee bomb.

In any case, I'd say that label fits Voxtrot. Their sound evokes images of Morrissey and his mod disciples pedaling bicycles on cobblestone streets without a care in the world. When I listen I pick up hints of the Smiths, the Cure, some New Order and Luna. These are all good ingredients, and I dig it.

Here's the problem -- in this digital world, where you can absorb a bounty of information and gain immediate access to just about everything, it's too damn easy to tire of a band and move on to the next indie sensation without batting an eye. Not to mention, I think in my old age I am starting to become disillusioned about the pedestals on which I have placed these artists (writers too). I sometimes long for the days when I knew next to nothing about a band other than the mystique it projected. Now I feel like I know way too much and find myself turned off by some of this knowledge.

Since that show, which I enjoyed, I have not played a single Voxtrot track. My iPod is too jammed with new music for me to stay in one place. Basically, being a new music fan is akin to speed dating. I feel kind of whore-ish these days. Oh well...

My friend Sean in Chicago wrote a
solid article that speaks to this dynamic much better than this meandering excuse for a post does. Check it out.

Monday, June 11, 2007

the little role model

When I'm carting the Jackal around in his stroller, usually killing time after work by meandering up and down Connecticut Avenue, some passerby inevitably comments on the luxury of being wheeled around town every day. There are many different variations on the shape and delivery of this commentary -- "Must be nice" or "Man, what I would give to be in his shoes today" -- and I suspect I've heard every last one of them. My typical response entails a grunt of sympathy laughter combined with a subtle nod of the head, nothing more and nothing less, but the other day I actually engaged someone with a fleeting piece of dialogue along the following lines...

Someone: Don't you wish you could get pushed around like that?

Me: Not really, no.

Someone: Well why not?

Me: Because I'm a grown man, so that would mean I require a wheelchair, which would be awful.

I don't believe he responded, but I really didn't linger long enough to find out. Obviously this guy hung a meatball over the plate and I swung for the fences on it. I'm aware that he didn't mean any harm with his question and that its context didn't apply directly to me as a grown man. For whatever reason, at that particular moment I couldn't resist. My wife was not with me, so she was spared any embarrassment. As for the Jackal, he laughs at just about anything, which I certainly appreciate.

That same evening we got a call from Mom saying she would be running a bit later, so we scored some play dough at the local toy store and grabbed an outside table at La Lomita Dos. While he rolled the play dough into snakes and guided these creations toward my jugular, I dabbled in chips and salsa and found myself completely absorbed in the idea of being him. The pure joy he displays at the simplest of pleasures erases the truly insignificant abrasions from my work days and makes me feel weightless. Here's an example of how we cover just half of one city block: "Hi, bird! Hi, bus! Hi, cars! No Cars Go! Hey! Oh, hi doggie! Look - one, two, three bus! Hi, bus! Wow - fire engine! Hi, fire engine! Oh my gosh! Look, daddy! Flowers! Hi, flowers! Hi, butterfly! Hi, bird!"

Hanging out with this kid is absolutely refreshing. It's scary how much I have to learn from him and how much I sometimes feel the need to hide from him. It's no mystery to us that with experience comes wisdom, and part of wisdom is reaching a point where you notice those dark circles under the world's eyes. Right now I don't discourage him from chattering with the occasional street person or pan handler. Much of that has to do with the fact that I want him to be extremely open to people. In that regard, I think the exposure to all walks of life that DC offers is a wonderful asset for a kid. At the same time, I can't deny that one day those same street hustlers will be off limits or that I won't institute certain detours on our excursions. There's a fine line somewhere between psycho, protective parent and open-minded, urbane dad. Here's to hoping I find it and walk it.

For now I can't help but sum it up with a snippet of my favorite Eels lyric:

Every moment is built to last, when you're living without a past....

Smacks of optimism, yes?