A dog’s life expectancy…please don’t remind me

‘Stop it with the photos,’ Ella insists

When I go on a trip, especially if it’s more than a few days, the worst part is taking the dogs to the Hundepension and saying goodbye. Don’t get me wrong: I know I’m about to go galavanting around somewhere bombarding my feed with photos of the sky in some far flung locale or food I’m eating that makes people think, ‘Hey we have food here, too. We don’t need another shot of today’s Tapas…

I don’t want to come across as complaining when I’m out here making such a big deal of what a good time I’m having. And to be really candid, a long screed about the frustrations of travel could be equally annoying. Again, it’d come across as ungrateful and somehow entitled. 

However, not being with Ella and Louis is a major drawback of being gone, and particularly now more than ever. Why’s that, you ask. Well, the clueless, bumbling Louis and his wise-beyond-her-years sister Ella are not getting any younger. 

Only yesterday, I wrote a quick caption on a photo that went like this: 

Had to say goodbye to #EllaandLouis. She understood the whole concept of farewell, while her brother? He found another ball & couldn’t be bothered with such sentimental nonsense.’

Then I got on a big jet plane and arrived in a city I didn’t know and juggled figuring out where to go with poor or nonexistent wifi along the way, and at some point I checked social media to discover…

Plenty of people read that text as some sort of final goodbye to one or both of the dogs. Immediately, I could see how that had been misconstrued, so I quickly assured the most worried/agitated of my dogs’ fans and thought to myself, ‘I should write about this comical little mixup, but at the same time now would be rather opportune to talk about a longer project I’ve been mulling over for ages.

Still life with mini basketball

A book about Ella and Louis’ adventures from their perspective. I’ve considered it for years. I’ve got enough amazing photos of them for at least one book. I considered a new site or a web series or whatever it is the kids are doing these days, but last year I worked on a book for somebody and the thought of my own couldn’t quite be shaken away. 

So, the question is: why now? What happened that makes it so urgent to finally get these ideas down on paper?

To explain that, I’ll have to tell you about the guy I used to know with the Great Dane. He loved that dog immensely, and while he was out walking someone would invariably walk up and say, ‘That’s a gorgeous Great Dane. What a shame they only live nine years or so.

It didn’t happen once or twice. It didn’t happen every once in a while. It was a daily occurrence. A constant reminder of his dog’s mortality. He wanted to pull his hair out and say, ‘I know my large breed dog has a shorter life expectancy than smaller dogs…please don’t remind me.

Which brings us back to my dogs. They’re so healthy and equally happy and I’m reminded nearly every day of how I need to savour every moment. That’s where writing about them comes in. 

Would you read something like that. Photos of these insanely photogenic hounds with anecdotes of their take on life. Does that sound like something people would want more of?

creating a backstory…for all of Palermo

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A very comfortable place to have a lie down

We are bad tourists, Elaine and I, and we’ve not done much of anything to right our wrongs. Partially due to our limited skills in the speaking of Sicilian, or Italian for that matter, and partially because we’re so wrapped up in our meandering conversations, we’ve had nearly no interaction with any actual Sicilians during our time here.

It hasn’t stopped us from having strong opinions about what they’re up to. We’ve created a backstory for all of this.

The dogs seem to have figured the place out rather well. There are many, and they don’t appear sick. They’re not emaciated…someone must be feeding them. Not sure if the photo above shows it clearly enough, but that dog is actually lying in a busy street. Although the cars seem to speed up when they encounter a pedestrian, they steer clear of anything canine.

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Get in on the Real Estate while it looks bombed out.

There are so many places that gentrify and then the original occupants talk about how wonderful things used to be. I’ve come to the conclusion that now must be when everything here was truly great. Before this corner of Palermo has been bought up and rebranded. We’ve grown accustomed to this, so much so that when we go to other parts of the city, we miss our ruins.

If there is going to be an Apocalypse of some sort, living hereabouts would prepare you for at least the aesthetics of that new reality. There are certainly some advantages to the way things are done here.

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Can you see the garden on the balcony?

For example, there are some distinct advantages to having a bit of green on your balcony. Pots and whatnot really are overrated if you think about it. Here you’re able to have a bit of the wildness under your feet.

There are plenty of beautiful sights here, you know. I suppose I shall get to those in due course. The street food of Palermo is another thing I can’t fathom passing up.

At some point, we really should actually attempt a bit of dialogue with the locals. I’m just not sure their real story will be nearly as entertaining as the one we’ve created for them.

smoke and mirrors

Today I found out about a friend’s death, and I’m so disoriented that I find my emotions swirling here and there. I might be able to leave impressions scrawled on the page, but at the moment I can barely have a conversation with those closest to me.

I regularly read about how unreal the friendships we make online are. That they’re ultimately superficial. Those of us who think we really know anyone from what they post on their blogs or sputter on about by way of various microblogging possibilities – the likes of us are questionable to the population at large.

‘This isn’t real life,’ I hear them admonishing us. ‘You’re wrapped up in a world of holograms. Make-believe.’

And in some ways, I suppose they’re right. It’s easy to forget that. That none of this is real. That we’re just avoiding life while we post photos of our children or dogs. Somehow we missed learning interpersonal skills, so we crawl into our caves and approximate a life with total strangers half a world away.

It’s not natural.

But here I am weeping over the death of a woman I’ve only gotten to know through electronic snippets of her life. A guest blogpost where she explained her fascination with all things British and how that came about. Photos of her new grandchild and the unmistakeable pride that someone she’d created had then created something so precious.

I know I don’t know her and she didn’t really know me. That we were just fooling ourselves. The way people do.

When I was visiting family stateside, she’d chirp that she was pleased we were in the same time zone. We could finally correspond in real time without having to do a bit of arithmetic to figure out competing clocks.

She liked my dogs. That’s the only reason she reached out to me early on. Saw a photo and thought, ‘Anyone who has such beautiful dogs, can’t be all bad.’ When she said it, I refrained from mentioning that anyone could purchase beautiful dogs. I mean really. Good thing we kept it all on the surface. Where things belong.

When her dog, Wellington, was gravely ill, I convinced her that I knew what that was like. And when he died, she was inconsolable. Somehow, I was able to create the impression that I knew what she was going through. Not really sure where that came from.

Something she found out about me became a recurring theme in our conversations. She was Anglican, or as it’s called over there Episcopalian, and found out that I have clergy in my family. She was curious and for some reason I talked about it with her.

Normally, the tone of the conversation was quite light and whimsical. Sometimes it went a bit deeper, but what was I thinking? She was just some lady on the computer screen. We didn’t even know one another.

There’s an odd sort of person – you’ve probably known one or two like this – who has an innate ability to make you think that you’re truly a friend. I’ve seen countless people online today, who were similarly hoodwinked into thinking they’d really known her.

Her make-believe tea trolley and her deft display of double entendre? All that was a ruse. To get us right where she wanted us. Believing we mattered to her. The trickster that she turned out to be.

Here’s the thing: it was worth it. All of it. Would I do it again? Of course I would. The fact of the matter is that I’d rather have that superficial, make-believe, whimsical friendship for just a few more moments than many of the day-to-day encounters I have with my neighbours.

Do I miss her? Of course I do. It’s inconceivable to me that she’s no longer there. But she never was there, right? Smoke and mirrors.

I’ll remember you Mildew. Your smoke and your mirrors.

where to store your meat

rotisserie meat

So I’ve tried writing about serious topics here, and gotten very little response. I’ve included a bit of whimsy, and that attracted some dialogue and then some.

To be fair, what’s one to say in response to not very anonymous? That Shakespeare didn’t really write the plays? Please. If you really believe that, you and I are already on opposing teams. Or more recently, I wrote about press freedom in something rotten in Hungary. What stirring commentary might that trigger? That you really like censorship? Actually, that might be an challenging point to attempt to make.

Lisa Galaviz has been doing some important yet unappreciated work when it comes to Quantum Weirdness. She knows how to forget her blog voice for a post or two and alienate her readers. I could learn a lot from her.

When it comes to my teablog, I have a voice that I’ve developed. I have a feeling for what I do well there. Here? Not so much. I know what I like to write. Some things have come pouring out of me onto the screen, while others were a bit more laboured. That part I have some say in. On the other hand, what resonates with others is completely beyond me.

But the things I’ve gotten the most mileage out of had to do with defecation. And dogs. Oh, and vomiting. Bringing those together might possibly be blogging gold for me. Well, I already wrote about the second and third in chocolate spewing forth. If I wanted to play it safe, I’d keep writing variations of that.

I was reading Amy Durant‘s blog earlier (you might know her as @lucysfootball) and she was going on and on about a stomach bug in I think it’s fairly likely I’m either dying or pregnant with a magic dream tractor baby. It reminded me of something that happened recently in France, and it includes at least one of my target topics. Maybe two if you’re generous.

Don’t particularly like eating chicken, but I was persuaded to have some of the rotisserie variety that’s pictured above. It was New Year’s Day, and few places were open. I made an exception. Just this once. And the result?

Was up half the night wishing that chicken had been cooked at just a bit higher temperature. Or that I hadn’t eaten it. Not too much to ask was it? Well, apparently it was. Who cares, right? Everyone gets ill at some point. And what’s the big deal about losing a bit of sleep?

I completely agree with all of that. Nonetheless, while walking through the streets the next day, here’s what I saw:

windscreen meat

In case it’s unclear what that is, that’s a hunk of meat on the front window of some Frenchman’s vehicle. At this point, I began to wonder about food storage in this beautiful country.