In Dog Years

mood: content | drinking: tea

leeloo_12years

It’s true, what they say about dogs being man’s best friend.

My parents bought me a puppy when I was five years old. We lived out in the country and they wanted me to learn the responsibility of pet ownership. Mitzi the Beagle became a good friend of mine, accompanying me on most of my childhood adventures.

Mizti was joined later by Biskit, a blonde Cocker Spaniel, who had a natural mohawk and the sweetest temperament. They were better friends to me than I was to them. I went off to college and left their care to my mother, leaving them behind as if they were teddy bears I had outgrown.

I channel some of my guilt over my unfaithfulness into my love of LeeLoo, my current best friend of 7 years.

Although, let’s be honest, LeeLoo is easy to love for her sake alone.

Boy and I decided we wanted a dog 2 years after moving to San Francisco. (And after trying, unsucessfully, to cultivate warm fuzzy feelings for a tank of tropical fish.) We did our breed research and settled on Boxers–a medium-sized short-haired dog with a good temperament.

Then we scoured websites like Petfinder.com for a friendly face and a good backstory. We noticed LeeLoo’s giant underbite right away, and added her to our list of potential candidates.

Early one Saturday, we drove the 50 miles south to San Jose. LeeLoo was there, with Bay Area Boxer Rescue. She was 5 years old and had been abandoned by her family in LA: sent first to the pound, then to the LA Boxer Rescue. No one wanted her. So they sent her up north to try her luck, and that’s where we found her.

LeeLoo was the first dog we looked at, but after spending nearly 2 hours with her, we couldn’t leave her behind. When we left for home, she was in the backseat.

I quickly learned that being a dog owner in the country doesn’t mean squat when it comes to living with a dog in a metropolitan area. LeeLoo, Boy and I had a lot to learn about each other. We learned quickly with the help of a dog trainer named Dennis and logged a lot of hours of together just roaming the streets, sidewalks and park trails of San Francisco.

LeeLoo soon proved herself to be a loyal, loving and hilarious companion. After 7 years together, we know each other well.

She’s traveled with us on countless roadtrips all over California, up to Portland (where she met her famous Internet boyfriend, Henry D. Monster), down to Phoenix and all points in between. We’ve explored the beach, climbed the mountains; I’ve brushed snow from her paws and pulled out a few cactus needles, too.

She’s always waiting at the door when I get home and no matter how bad my day was, she manages to make me smile.

LeeLoo is part of our family, and today she turns 12 years old. That’s something like 84 in dog years, but as I told her this morning (while handing her a piece of birthday bacon), she doesn’t look a day over 65.

Boxers don’t often live into their teens, and many of them go before their time due to cancer. We’ve been lucky so far, and we’re hoping LeeLoo has many good years left to her. (If 7 naps a day on the couch can add years to your life, she’s going to be spry well into her second decade.)

Here’s to you, LeeLoo. We’re going to celebrate by going to the beach later, with a stop for some cheese on the way.

-Lo, who believes that dogs know a lot more than you might think.

After Dark

mood: dragging | drinking: plain old water

afterdark

Daylight Savings Time can kiss my ass.

I don’t like it. I’m not a fan of it. I really would rather not.

Already I feel that time moves too quickly, whooshing by me like a soft-footed thief. When the workday ends, there is barely enough dusk lighting the parking lot for me to make out the color of my car.

By the time I’ve joined the queue of halogens buzzing down the pavement, all vestiges of daylight have disappeared.

Getting home after dark is demoralizing. It underscores just how little you have left of your day after selling your best hours to the man for just enough digits to put a roof over your head and food in your belly (and your dog’s) and gas in your tank. (And, yes, pretty shoes on your feet and fascinating books on your shelves.)

I’ve begun to feel old, in the last couple of years. And I’m sure that sentence has my elders laughing and laughing. But really, this is the oldest I’ve ever been, and the numbers are really beginning to show signs of wear.

So I wish it would all just slow down, slow waaaaaaaaaaay down.
I want to hover here in the moment before it becomes a memory.
I want to savor the feelings while they’re still warm.
I want to bask in the colors while they remain vibrant.
I want to stay a bit longer in the light.

-Lo, who thinks it’s quite possible that creaky begets cranky.

Ballets Russes

Mood: in-between | Drinking: tea

ballet

For my birthday last fall, my friend K gave me a documentary called Ballets Russes.

I have been a big fan of ballet since I was a wee small thing and my mother took me to see The Nutcracker one holiday.

Unfortunately for my ballet ambitions, I am tall, curvy, and clumsy — and nothing close to flexible, so dancing sur les pointes was not in the cards for me. But I have always harboured a special fondness for dancers that is likely, if I’m being honest, backlit by the green light of jealousy.

Dance in general and ballet in particular is an art form that never fails to amaze me. Perhaps I love it even more because I have no talent for it.

So I knew I was in for a treat when I sat down to watch Ballets Russes, the story of Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and the Original Ballet Russe.

It’s a brilliant documentary, if you’re at all a fance of dance — or of adorable, elderly Russians. I was especially taken with Nathalie Krassovska, one of the founding members — and prima ballerina — of the Ballets de Monte Carlo.

In the documentary, Ms. Krassovska, then in her 80s, dyed black hair coiled atop her head, dons a leotard and swirls about a studio, attempting to recreate the grace of her youth. Something about that moment struck me, made me think about how fleeting beauty is, and how we are in our primes for such a blink of an eye.

It reminded me of one of the last things my grandmother said to me, the day she died, as she struggled to catch her breath walking to the car. She looked up at me with a twisted smile, faded eyes still flashing, and shook her head, “Whatever you do,” she said, “don’t get old!”

“Too late, Nana.” I replied. And I wasn’t really joking.

Of course, this all brings us down to a poem that I wrote, inspired by Ballets Russes and Nathalie Krassovska in particular, but also by my own grandmothers…

Ballets Russes

In monochrome film she is sylph-like,
an ingénue sur les pointes in the footlights,
a fairytale spun across the stage.

Effortlessly she holds her audience.
They time their breaths to each fouetté,
gasp as one with each grand jeté, and
when she pauses, mid-arabesque,
and smiles,
they shriek
they swoon
they die.

Add technicolor and seventy years,
and she is no longer Balanchine’s baby ballerina,
her limbs weighed down with age, unnaturally
bowed with arthritis. In her hair, chemicals
mimic the color of youth, as her violent red lipstick
bleeds into the lines that whisker her mouth.

The mirror behind the barre
reflects her decline, yet she points her toes still,
attempting elegance in orthopedic insoles,
gnarled fingers striving for grace
but falling far short of grand pose.

Then the music begins
and she closes her eyes,
disappearing once more
into sublime black and white.

-Lo, who gets older every passing second.

Slipping Away

slippingaway
Mood: Bleah
Drinking: Blah

I’m having trouble reconciling myself to the fact that this year is nearly halfway gone.

I’m beginning to think time will never slow itself to a pleasant crawl again, but will continue to rush its way past me, faster and faster with each passing day.

And I’m not ok with that.

“Time flies when you’re having fun” is the old adage, but time also flies when you’re busy, when you’re taking a nap, when you’re trying to figure out what to have for dinner, and even when you’re sitting in a dull grey waiting room staring down the clock.

Time just flies. It can’t help it. That’s how it works.

The difference is probably me. When I was a kid, the days would stretch out forever. I thought my birthday would never arrive, or Christmas, or summer. Time had me well fooled into thinking that I owned it. That I had all the time, as they say, in the world.

Maybe it was at 29 when my biological clock kicked in and started clanging, or maybe I figured it out before then, but I’ve known for awhile now that time is not on my side.

Even this year, in which I promised myself and all around me to mellow out, even this year has picked up speed. I thought 2007 went by so fast because I was so busy with all my ambitious publishing projects.

But 2008 is straining neck-and-neck for speed, and it just might break the record.

So I guess that means I have nothing left to do but enjoy it. Every speeding, precious minute. Even the ones spent on unpleasant tasks, like re-editing copy for unimaginative marketing managers (which is what I’m supposed to be doing right now).

It’s a good idea in theory. In practice, my enjoyment comes in small bursts.

But I have a lot to look forward to, even just this week: dinner with friends, a new poetry reading to check out, a visit with family, and walking the pooch at the beach. And it will all be over before I know it.

C’est la vie…

-Lo, counting down the days.

Goldfish

keys
Mood: Threadbare
Drinking: Watered-down tea

Goldfish

It’s gone
before she can close her fingers
around it.

Gone like a flash
like a fish, slippery
and silver. Catch
and release is
supposed to be intentional
but

she looks surprised
every
single
time.

“What are you looking for?”
(The keys are in her left
front pocket.)
She replies with a
triumphant jingle, her
eyes sparking alight.

Three seconds later
the spark goes out and
she’s looking again.

This time I tell her where they are.

She says, “How did you know
that’s what I was looking for?”

I tell her I’m psychic, but
can’t watch her laugh.

The joke’s not funny
when the punchline
is buckled into the passenger’s
seat. The joke’s not
funny when it’s been repeated
17 times in 7 miles. The
joke’s not funny.

Three weeks later
on the telephone
she tells me my
dead grandfather
is waving to all the
smokers outside her
hospital window.

“I’ll be fine, though.”
Pause. Wheeze.
“I don’t smoke
as much as I
used to.”
(Not a single one since
I was 12.)
“Only one or two
a day, now.”

I want to ask
what day it is, exactly.
But days don’t really matter
when you’re stuck
in the wrong decade.

It’s nicer there, anyway.
She’s got cigarettes and Ernie
inside her plastic castle. Please
don’t tap on the glass.

Three seconds later
she remembers herself.

“When you’re a bully
all your life, you get
what you deserve. I
get what I deserve.”
She says it
without pity.
I pretend I didn’t hear her.

The truth is easy to forget.

Wait just one more second
and it’s gone.

-Lo, who is beginning to believe that “growing old gracefully” is a crock.

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