Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Dog and a Cat

I’ve written about my dog ‘Chica’ before, but my wife and I also have a cat. We got him from a lady who rescues feral cats and abandoned dogs. We brought him home when he was about six months old. He’s now about a year old. We named him ‘Buster’. Named him that because the top of his left ear is cut off, neatly, as if it might have been done with a scissors. Makes him look like a Buster. I don’t know why that makes him look like a Buster, but it does.

Anyway, I find it interesting that people are always asking other people, “Are you a dog person, or a cat person?” People ask me that also, and the question has never made any sense to me. Why can’t you be both? Why are love of cats, and love of dogs, considered to be mutually exclusive of one another? It’s like asking, “Are you a Democrat, or a Republican?” Why can’t you be an Independent? Are you a Christian or a Jew? Why can’t you be a Born-again Jew, a Jew for Jesus, if you will?

Chica and Buster have become great friends. The big Doberman with the floppy ears, and the little kitty with the left ear lopped off. It’s been interesting to watch the development of their relationship, the boundary setting, the trust, the rules for play, etc. Buster has set most of the rules, and Chica has had to learn to respect them. It’s had to be that way since Chica is so much bigger than Buster.
Unlike the human world where the big guy, the richest, the most powerful and influential, always gets to set the rules.

The relationship between the two began as soon as I brought Buster home. Home was already Chicas domain since she’d been with us since she was a pup. She was immediately challenged with the necessity of acquiescence, even allowing Buster into her territory, and she did concede ground, albeit not so willingly at first. The second stage of the relationship amounted to the two of them just watching each other. They watched, and took note of one another’s behavior, learned each other’s body language, and other means of communication. Then came the testing of boundaries, slowly, deliberately, and ultimately, quite successfully. They each learned what was OK with the other, and what was not.

Today, just a few short months later, the two of them are the best of friends. They kiss each other all over the face, and snuggle like bunnies. Buster will put his whole head in Chicas mouth trusting Chica to be gentle and, invariably, she is. The cat will lie on his back on a table, exposing the vulnerability of his underside, and Chica will lay her snout on his belly. Buster, hanging upside down under Chica’s jaw, will wrap his paws around the top of her head, and the back of her neck while Chica licks his belly. It’s pretty cute.
Oftentimes Buster will stand on a table, on his hind legs, claws retracted, and box Chica like a fighter in the gym having his way with a speed bag. Chica will stoically absorb the friendly assault with a toothy grin, and then come back for more.

Chica gets quite concerned when neither of us can locate Buster, whether indoors or out, and will relentlessly search for him until he’s found. It’s quite poignant to see how much the two of them like, even love, one another.
Anthropomorphism, I know, but just because psychological properties can be attributed to something
doesn't mean that it can't also be true.

I think that Buster and Chica are such good friends, and get along so well,
because they don’t ever talk about politics or religion.

At least I’ve never heard them.

Don't ask me if I'm a dog person, or a cat person.
They each touch different parts of my heart and soul.

Sunday, February 13, 2011


Well, some people are characters.
And some people have character.
Some people who have character are not characters.
And some people are characters but don’t necessarily have character.
I find the most interesting people to be those who are characters,
and have character as well.

But if ‘character’ is something you aspire to, having character is a lot more important, in my opinion, than being a character.

There are lots of pretend characters. Really, it’s pretty easy to be a pretend character. The world’s full of them, especially since the advent of such advanced technology, giving birth to mediums that can put people in our faces in a matter of seconds, and keep them there until we’re sick to death of them. Pretend characters don’t have actual character, they’re all about perception, they are all about attention. One just needs to have a gimmick, an intentionally pronounced personality quirk, along with a style and appearance that is somewhat out of the ordinary. An unusual accent, inflection, a peculiar, and cultivated manner of speaking, or laughing, for instance. A bizarre affectation.
People can pretty easily establish themselves as some sort of character or another with a cherry-picked shtick and the click of a mouse.

But those people are not real characters, they are character wannabe’s, just-add-water- microwave concoctions.

True characters, however, tend to think differently than everybody else, and be a bit out of the ordinary, out of the mainstream, as it were. They don’t just test out the unconventional, they actually live there. The mainstream tends to wash most of the un-ordinariness out of a person. That’s why authentic characters have not spent much time swimming in that river.

When I was growing up in Southern California there was a man in Laguna Beach by the name of Eiler Larson. Eiler stood out on the corner all day, every day, rain or shine, and waved to the people driving through town on the Pacific Coast Highway. He became known as ‘The Greeter’. People depended on him. They depended on seeing him, and being greeted by him with a big smile, a wave, and a loud “Hello there”. The Greeter had a really big bushy gray beard, long hair, a ruddy complexion, wore a red coat, and carried a cane. He was there on the corner in front of the Hotel Laguna for years, many years, more years than I can even remember. He was always there. He was a permanent fixture, and sometimes my friends and I would drive to Laguna Beach just to see him. He said he used to be a gardener before he realized he didn’t have enough time to garden and greet the folks.

Eiler was not on the corner begging for change, or hoping to be discovered to parlay his notoriety into a big payday, or fifteen minutes of fame. He was there because he needed to be there, he needed to greet people, to make them smile, to make a difference in their day. He was on that corner for four decades, from 1934 until 1974.
Then one day he was not there, and Laguna Beach has never been the same.
Eiler Larson died in 1975. There is now a larger-than-life-sized statue standing alongside the road where he used to greet, with equal enthusiasm, those of us he knew,
and those he’d never met.

The Greeter was an authentic character.
And I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet my life on it that he had character too.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

When My Restless Sleep Is Done

Some people sleep through the night.
And some do not.
I do not. I lie in bed and wait to get up.
I lay there, usually half awake, in anticipation of daylight.

Some people are night people.
They sleep during the day.

I am not a night person.
I do not like to be out at night, and I do not like to be up at night. I like to be in bed even if I don’t sleep. In case you haven’t noticed, it’s dark at night. It’s hard to see where you’re going, or who, or what, is coming your way. It’s also hard to be warm at night. I like to be warm, so I prefer the sun to the moon for that purpose. The moon is always beautiful, it’s magical, and romantic even, but it does not keep me warm. It enthralls me, it enchants me, and it captivates me, but I usually have to wear a coat if I’m going to be outside enjoying it. The same with the stars, they provoke me to dream, to daydream, as it were, to envision ways and places beyond my own means and circumstances. I like that about the stars. Stars, like the moon, stimulate my imagination.
For me, the one drawback about the moon and the stars is that they’re out at night.
I wish they were out in the daytime so I could enjoy them more than I already do.

The other thing about the night is that darkness hides an abundance of intentions. People act differently at night than in the daytime. If you haven’t noticed that, it’s probably something you just have not cared that much about noticing. I remember hearing an old axiom that simply says, “Nothing good happens after midnight.” Well, that may, or may not, be true, and probably isn’t, but I think the idea of it is true. There are a lot of statements that are not necessarily specifically true, but which are regarded as truth.
This could be one of those. In any event, it’s a cautionary axiom.
And those are important.

And speaking of the night, Keith Richards, guitar player and songwriter for The Rolling Stones, once said something to the effect of, “I feel sorry for those people who sleep at night because they miss out on a lot of good songs.” In the context of that particular interview he was implying that he writes his best songs late at night after everyone else has crashed.

I used to write my best songs late at night also, when I was younger, and had some boundless energy.
But that’s changed. Now I lie in bed at night and listen.
And when my restless sleep is done
I get up and write down what I heard.

Even though I prefer the daytime,
I guess you could say I’m still writing my songs at night.