Monday, 9 June 2014

Meet the Dids

The Fragrant Missus and I don't have kids. Well, that's not true. The Fragrant Missus actually two children, a daughter who is hard-working, bright and funny. She also has a son who is...well, none of those things, but that's a tale for another day.

In the absence of children, the Fragrant Missus and I have three dogs. And since they are dogs and not kids, we refer to them as "the Dids". Or, most recently, "the Three Didiots". I despair of them, both as individuals and a group, but they are, for better or worse, a large part of our lives, so you might as well meet them. And what better place to exact my revenge vent my spleen introduce them than here on my blog! It is called Douchebaggery Abounds, after all, and they are capable of the highest levels of canine douchebaggery.

Did Number One: Scooter Pot Pie.
Meet Scooter. Scooter is a six-year-old wire-haired fox terrier cross. Like the other dids, he is a rescue from the Edmonton Humane Society, and came to us as a three-month-old puppy in September, 2008. He is about fourteen inches high at the shoulder, bow-legged, light-boned and scruffy. Physically, he's goofy looking. He is also very "sensitive". He is terrified of thunderstorms and the pressure cooker. He is also the pack's "hall monitor"--if one of the other dids are doing something he knows they shouldn't, he'll let us know. A good friend of ours once described Scooter with resounding accuracy as "that kid in class who would ask, 'Were we supposed to have a test today', just when it seemed the teacher had forgotten all about it."

I seriously think Scooter is gay. You only have to see him prancing through the tall grass (or the short grass or along the boulevard or anywhere he goes, really) to know that this dog is a little "light in the loafers". Also, watch him eat. One day, I'm going to videotape Scooter lingering over his kibble and post it on YouTube with an appropriate voice-over. The other two bolt their food down like they've never seen it and will never see it again. But Scooter is more refined; he takes a few kibbles and chews thoughtfully and deliberately, savoring the complexity. Then he pauses to survey his surroundings, because "Ze light; she changes every second, non? Eet ees tres magnifique!" Yes, if Scooter was a human, he would be some effeminate French asshole, critiquing international films and "high art". He'd wear a fucking beret or some shit.

As a dog, though, Scooter is the best. Despite his propensity for getting up on the dining room table and passive aggressively pissing on the bathroom floor when he is disgruntled ("I should not have to tell you what ees wrong, hein? Eet should be obvious to you, Two-Legger!"), Scooter is quite clever. I have taken him to three Agility courses and he does very well. He appreciates words, and when I talk to him, he cocks his pie-shaped little head to one side and listens intently for the one word that will indicate what the hell it is I want. He is sweet and gentle and just wants to be friends with everyone and everything, including cats, hamsters and the field mice that occasionally come into the kitchen. He is very compliant and, despite his overall timidity, lacks the behavioural issues that plague the other two Didiots. We know that when shit has gone wrong during the day, Scooter wasn't involved. But he would dime them out in a red-hot minute.

Did Number Two: Nipper T. Biscuit
Meet Nipper. If Nipper looks guilty in this photograph, she probably is. Nipper is a four-year-old corgi/Jack Russell Terrier cross. She is sturdy, short, curious, confident and fiercely intelligent. Whereas Scooter isn't particularly interested in exploring his environment, Nipper is an intrepid explorer and problem solver. We had to get a padlock for her crate, because she learned how to undo the latch. Sometimes, you can actually see the gears turning in her brain as she figures out how to get around an obstacle or get at that toy she wants. One day, I watched as Scooter circled the crate where a juicy bone waited inside. He pawed at the sides with no effect and went around the front to where the door was closed but not latched. He couldn't quite figure out how to get at the bone. Nipper was also watching from the couch. She got down, crossed the floor, opened the crate with her paw and then went back to the couch. It blew me away.

Unfortunately, the intelligence that makes Nipper such a joy to be with also gets her into plenty of trouble. If we fail to provide her with something to do, she creates her own fun. And fun, in Nipper's mind, involves getting into the garbage and/or recycling, and spreading it from one end of the house to the other. You can almost hear her saying, "I can't believe you guys were going to throw away all this cool stuff!" Items that Nipper has destroyed in the past few months include bellydance cds belonging to the Fragrant Missus, a box of Cards Against Humanity and my hearing aid. She also ran right throughthe nylon wall of the bughouse in the backyard. It had been up less than an hour, and Nipper wrecked it.This resulted in her being referred to as "that fucking burrito-shaped twutplunging shit-tube furbag." I actually called my dog a cunt. To her face.

She spends a certain amount of time in her crate, pondering why she's there. Nipper's YouTube video would consist of her in her crate with Eric Carmen's "All By Myself" as the soundtrack.

I will admit, though, Nipper is my favourite. Despite her many and frequent transgressions, she is my constant pal. I miss the days when I could take her to work. I was going to say that if Nipper was a human being, she'd be a sensible-shoe-wearing, talkative intelligent lesbian. Then I realized I was describing me. Oops. But I do adore her and she seems bonded to me, too. When I fell on the stairs last August and couldn't move, Nipper came and sat by me and wouldn't leave my side until the Fragrant Missus arrived to take me to the emergency clinic. I just wish she'd stop eating my stuff.

Did Number Three: Dieter Schnitzel.
Also known as Dieter the Delayed, Dieter is the latest addition to the pack. He is a one-and-a-half year old schnauzer/terrier cross. He is, as you can see, very cute, which has saved his life on more than one occasion. He is blissfully free of the intelligence that is characteristic of the other two dids. When you look into Dieter's eyes, there's nothing there. I swear, if you listen closely enough, you can hear the white noise between his ears.

Fortunately, he's kind-hearted and sweet and craves affection. In the words of Harvey Fierstein, "(He) just wants to be loved, is that so wrong?" But somedays, loving Dieter the Daft takes some effort. He's a compulsive licker; he'll lick you, he'll lick me, he daily licks the perimeters of the kitchen and living room, sometimes more than once. Dieter's motto is, "When in doubt, lick it." 

Although he is better now, he used to be a door-dasher, and would take off up the street, always a few feet out of reach. He simply would not come when called, even when treats were offered. Dieter is the kind of dog who needs to be persuaded that obeying orders is in his best interest. His defiant phase seemed to last a Really Long Time. We still don't let him off-leash at the dog park--it's not that he isn't properly socialized or has ever in any circumstances exhibited aggression towards people or other dogs. He's just a bolter and he won't come back if he doesn't want to.

He has also picked up Nipper's bad habit of chewing shit that doesn't belong to him. And when you yell at him, he just looks at you, like, "What?" The Fragrant Missus wants to introduce him to Agility, but I dunno if he has the brains to get it right--I fear he'll be one of those dogs that stops to crap on the course halfway through and then wander off to sniff stuff. Seriously, we're talking about the dog who walked into the wall of the bughouse THREE TIMES.

I don't know what Dieter would be like as a human, but it probably involves medication and a hockey helmet.

So these are the Three Didiots. If you're in the area, come on by and meet them! Or take a moment to say hi to them in the comments! I promise to read the comments to them if you do. They love (eating) mail!

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Damn Right I Got the Blues

"Hey, Anne R. Key," you might be saying, "how did you celebrate Pride 2014? Did you go to the parade, or attend one of the many social and educational functions available throughout the city?"

No, dear reader. I did not. I spent Pride getting hit on by men at the Commercial Hotel in the heart of Old Strathcona!

While the Fragrant Missus and several of our closest friends marched in the Gay Pride Parade, I elected to see Mr. Eddie Shaw and the Wolfgang at Blues On Whyte. The nice thing about the blues, compared to more popular or prevalent genres of music, is that it is still possible to get up close and personal with some of the legends responsible for some of the most gorgeous, emotive music ever created. Eddie Shaw is a tenor saxophonist who played with Howlin' Wolf away back in the 1970s, just before Howlin' Wolf died, and who has had a successful career with his own band since. Eddie is in his late eighties or early nineties now, so opportunities to see him are rapidly diminishing.

He was playing with his band, the Wolfgang, last night, but I usually elect to attend the afternoon jams. The Saturday afternoon jams place an emphasis on local musicians, so that one can see the feature performer with some local talent. We get the best of both worlds, so to speak. Also, because the performer is often playing tunes that are typically not a part of their regular set, one can see them do some phenomenal work. And, of course, since the afternoon jams are not recorded, they are ephemeral--they are purely "of the moment", brilliant and never to be repeated, and there's a certain magic in that.

And, it cannot be denied, a large part of the experience is the venue itself. The Commercial has been a fixture in this part of town for years and years. It is run down, dirty and dark. It is owned and operated by the Hell's Angels. It's denizens are older and rougher; man of them are bikers dressed in leathers, though not flying any particular colours--one never actually sees the Angels themselves at the Commercial, at least not during the afternoon jams.

One does, however, see plenty of other things one either shouldn't or wished one hadn't. For example, yesterday afternoon, I went in, chose a table next to the dancefloor, and put my stuff on two chairs to mark my territory. I then went over to the ATM to score a bit more cash in case Mr. Shaw was offering cds for sale after his set (he didn't, alas). These cd sales are strictly a cash proposition. En route to the machine, I happened to observe a couple of guys at the table next to me engaged in another cash proposition involving a marble-sized ball of hashish. When they noticed me noticing, there was a brief moment of all of us looking at each other like deer in the headlights. Then I casually looked at the television above and behind them and pretended to be checking the score of the hockey game while casually moving on.

My nonchalance must have impressed them, because no sooner was I settled in my chair back at the table when one of them approached and engaged me in conversation. Now, I have been to Blues On White several times before, and I know what kind of people hang out there. In lots of ways, I rather admire them; they're older, they have clearly been around the block a few times, and if some of them exhibit varying levels of mental illness or social inadequacy, at least they typically keep to themselves and don't pretend to be something they are not. They sit there in their grungy t-shirts and their leather vests with their bellies hanging down over the waistband of their jeans and drink their beer and appreciate the music. The women just want to dance. And I am acutely aware of being in their environment; it's like being in bear country, and there are certain precautions you have to take. Don't make eye contact, keep to your campsite (table), stay on the well-established trails (back and forth to the washroom) and always travel with a buddy. So far, this has worked admirably and, despite the place and clientele being a little rough-and-tumble, I've never needed to use bear spray.

Unfortunately, I had broken the last rule, travelling with a friend. As previously mentioned, the Fragrant Missus was at Pride, my companion for this excursion was under the weather, and I had failed to connect with my sister-in-law, who had expressed an interest in coming. So there I was, a woman alone at the Commercial. I had, however, taken precautions. I was carrying my cane (due to a flare-up of my rheumatoid arthritis), I was reading a book and let's face it, people--I'm not exactly putting out the right vibe for a pick-up in that environment. I am stout and carry all my weight in front, like Winnie the Pooh. Or Poppin Fresh. I have short, no-fuss hair and sensible shoes. I am not, in any way, shape or form, physically alluring. And I was very obviously sending out "not-interested-in-social-contact" signals--the cane disqualified me from dancing, I was immersed in my book and I look like a lesbian. Because I am one. Go figure.

Evidently, however, these signals are lost on some people (i.e. men), because this guy walked up to me and started a conversation about how he must have been bitten by a bug last night in bed, because he had a vivid mark on his arm and there was blood on his sheets. I suggested, as politely as possible, that he change his sheets--having encountered a regular in his habitat, I was careful not to display any indication that I was interested. DO NOT FEED THE WILDLIFE.

Eventually, after determining that it was probably a spider bite rather than a mosquito (or a bedbug), he wandered back to his table to rejoin the herd.

I wish I could report that this was my last encounter, but the second one was even more bizarre than the first. As I sat there reading, I was approached by a drunk guy in a Hawaiian shirt. Now, to set the scene, he was on the dancefloor and I was at my table, which is elevated over the dancefloor by about a foot. It takes two steps to go from the seating area to the dancefloor. So when he approached the railing that separates the tables from the dancefloor, we were roughly at eye level. Hawaii-Five-Oh put his drink down on my table (thereby invading my space without permission) and looked at my cane. I looked at him and he wiggled his eyebrows at me suggestively. I was confused--was he seeking an explanation? Did he want me to hit him with it? Shove it up his ass? I wasn't sure. I remember thinking vaguely that I wanted him to fuck off and leave me his shirt.

He said something innocuous to me (I don't recall what it was, honestly). I responded politely but with detachment, and then Hawaii-Five-Oh grabbed the railing with both hands, relaxed his knees and let them fall off to each side of his body so that when I looked at him, I was forced, briefly, to look at his junk.

Now, I don't know what kind of reaction Hawaii-Five-Oh was looking to elicit from me, but I can pretty much guarantee that it wasn't the outburst of laughter and the covering of my eyes that resulted. I might also have said, "Jesus Christ!" in a tone heavily laden with derision. Thus rebuked, Hawaii-Five-Oh collected his drink and walked away.

Later on, during Eddie's set, Spiderman came by my table and hollered in my one good ear, "I'd ask you to dance, but I think I need some kind of shot!"

Charmer! Does that line work on all the girls?

Anyway, despite my interactions with the regulars, I'm happy to report that Mr. Shaw himself gave a terrific, if abbreviated, performance, and I enjoyed my afternoon. I distinctly remember noticing a dent in the bottom of his sax where it had been set down too hard on an unforgiving surface. Nevertheless, even at his advanced age, Mr. Shaw still told us the time of day and gave his all for the brief time he was on-stage. I was utterly delighted by his bass player, who was big fat black man just beyond middle age, who shuffled onto the stage and slouched against his stool with that big black axe against his chest. He played effortlessly, and did not appear to be even remotely interested in his surroundings. He just stared out at his audience through a veil of pot-scented smoke with sad and indifferent eyes, his mind perhaps on getting an oil change for the car, while his fingers, with the most beautiful coral-coloured fingernails, pulling those fat metal strings and softly gripping the frets.

Afterwards, I shook Mr. Shaw's hand and thanked him for coming to our city to perform. He's a tired old man, but he gave us what he had, and at least I can say I shook Eddie Shaw's hand.

And got hit on by two men on Pride Day.