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Sunday, August 23, 2009

If this isn't nice

And now I want to tell you about my late Uncle Alex. He was my father’s kid brother, a childless graduate of Harvard who was an honest life insurance salesman in Indianapolis. He was well-read and wise. And his principal complaint about other human beings was that they so seldom noticed it when they were happy. So when we were drinking lemonade under an apple tree in the summer, say, and talking lazily about this and that, almost buzzing like honeybees, Uncle Alex would suddenly interrupt the agreeable blather to exclaim, ''If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.''

So I do the same now, and so do my kids and grandkids. And I urge you to please notice when you are happy, and exclaim or murmur or think at some point, ''If this isn’t nice, I don’t know what is.''

That’s one favor I’ve asked of you.

That's a quote by Kurt Vonnegut. If that's not a nice, true quote, I don't know what is.

Yesterday, after Greg got in from work (and was properly greeted by Waffles), we strapped the dog into his leash and harness, and took him across the street to the park. It had just rained. The air was thick, but cool, although the sun occasionally pushed through the dense purple clouds and raised the temperature up several degrees. Breathing felt like drowning.

Waffles, a Dachshund, is not a fan of rain. Or maybe he's okay with rain, but he's not fond of sloshing through puddles or pouncing through wet grass. Usually, when he sees the slick sidewalk outside our building's door, he stops dead in the doorway, plants his paws, refuses to take a step. Yesterday, though, he trotted right out, and padded between us as we took him up the steps of Isham Park. Waffles, when he's in a good mood, walks with his ears flopped forward, his tail straight out, and he bounces.

So that's how he walked. We steered him into the grass, and let him off his leash. Since it was just after the rain, there were few people in the park. One young woman stood a good deal away from us, one hand shielding her eyes from the dull white glare of post-rain NY, the other on her hip, and she watched her tiny Pomeranian diving through the uncut park grass.

"Oh," Greg said. "There's Butterfly. He had pneumonia last week."

"Looks fine now," I said, watching as the dog disappeared into the tall grass, then shot back up, landed, disappeared again, over and over. From here, I could see why the dog was named Butterfly: huge ears.

Since we got a dog, Greg and I have entered into the dog-owner's community of Inwood. We see the same people each time we walk our dog, and have casual conversations while our dogs sniff each other's butts, play around. Waffles bit a dog last week, though, a Lab named Trouble twice Waffles' size, so Greg and I are lately cautious about our dog's temperament around other dogs.

Greg began running around the park, Waffles shooting past him, then turning and running straight for him. Waffles is a quick runner, and a rainbow formed around him from all the drops of fallen rain he shook out of the grass. The sun would come out, and Waffles would run in no particular direction, and then he'd glow in technicolor.

At full speed, he hit a hole and flipped ass over tits, so to speak. A perfect, rigid flip, like a stick being thrown. He landed on his feet and continued chasing Greg around. I was wearing flip-flops. Whenever I tried to run, my feet slipped and my flip-flops slid over to the top of my feet, so I gave up.

In the park, there's a rock rising out of the grass about a foot, a mound. The neighborhood witch casts spells here on this rock, which I guess makes it an altar. Sometimes there's rose petals scattered on the rock, sometimes herbs. Always the butt ends of cigars. She casts her spells, and smokes cigars, and does no harm that I know of. Maybe she gave Butterfly pneumonia, or maybe she cured him.

Greg tired long before Waffles. Greg and I stood in one place and watched our dog shooting back and forth across the park, dive-bombing pigeons, barking at squirrels. A few weeks ago, he managed to tree a squirrel, and often returns to that same tree to bark at it, making sure the squirrel stays good and treed. He bounces on his front paws when he barks, and his tail stands up like a flag pole. His ears flop over his eyes. Cute.

We put him on his leash, and walked back down the stairs. The stairs are long and secluded, and lead down to Broadway. People do a lot of drugs along these stairs. They also sit quietly, drinking a beer, and that's what Frank, an old Irish guy, was doing as we walked past. Frank was sitting on the stairs, drinking a Bud from a paper bag, and his dog, Lucky--a white mutt--was tethered to him. Lucky and Waffles like each other, so we stopped, chatted with Frank a while, and let Waffles and Lucky do their thing.

"Helluva storm earlier," Frank told us. "Trees down on the back row." He gestured with his beer to the general area where trees had been blown down by the winds. "Watched'em falling from my living room window. Damndest thing."

And then we were out of the park, Waffles leading us across Broadway. We took him to the pet store around the corner from us, bought him a chew toy and some doggie breath mints. The mints smell worse than his mouth, frankly, and have words like 'Bow-wow' and 'Ruff!' written on the tiny minty bones. "Talking bones," I read aloud from the mint container.

"Yeah. People get nuts with dog stuff," Greg said.

Then we went back to our apartment.

If that's not nice, I don't know what is.

1 comment:

Matt Osborne said...

Extra point for appropriate Vonnegut reference.

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