Saturday, July 13, 2013

Life with Buster

1. Midlife Dog Crisis

 The pup is integrating itself into the household much better than I thought it would all those months when I was dragging my feet about getting him. He sleeps at night, he whines very little, and he has only pooped on the floor twice. I have to keep reminding myself that he's a puppy, and the one law of puppies is that they change. Or maybe that's the one law of babies. In any case I've had babies in the house more recently than I've had puppies, and man, it just does not compare. I've heard people - okay, one person, and he was a rather traditional male, and I am pretttty sure his wife did most of the heavy lifting of the baby - say that puppies are as hard/ harder than babies. Yeah, um: no.

Signs already indicate he is a gentleman.

 Still, there are things. For example we have to pile all our shoes on chairs now, or they get whisked away. Also, socks. I will be innocently filling a laundry basket and suddenly a pair of PJ bottoms will slither away by itself - hey! No! Buster! Drop it! Then there are all the things that Costi had been trained to do/ not do that are suddenly, rudely, on the table again. Such as paws. Such as running diagonally right in front of your feet, forcing you to either trip or be a puppy squisher. Such as finding little threads in the still-new rugs and tearing at them, usually with a little decoy toy carefully positioned to block my view. Augh! Buster! Also the pooping.

Plus there is the New Dog mystery. Will this dog grow up to be the kind of dog that fits with our family? will he be friendly? Will he bark? Will he be a dash-out-the-front-door-er? Will he heel? Will he like other dogs? Will he like hiking? (Some members of the family might disagree that this is priority.) Whenever he does something that Costi never did, I blink: who is this little affectionate little stranger we've bought into our house, anyway? Or, disapproving, when I have just hauled him back onto the sidewalk after the 18th dash into the road: my heeler didn't do that.

My heeler didn't do this, either.
And I've been having pangs of regret every time I happen to see a heeler when I'm out and about. We're not really a heeler family, but in my soul I'm a heeler girl all the way, standing by my mud-splattered pickup with my sunglasses resting on my weatherbeaten neck while a triangle-headed iron dog pants loyally by my feet. So what am I doing with a beagle? Who has beagles? English royalty? Daisy Buchanan? If I ever run out in the night and come back with a little heeler puppy friend for Buster, you'll know I finally snapped. It'll be my equivalent of a red convertible.
Helen. Has has beagles.

2. Clocking out

Ooh yeah. The last baseball game ended about twenty minutes ago; the last swim meet ended at noon. Sure, there's fall. But that's miles away and besides: one game. Fall baseball is one game a weekend and so is soccer. Here's a toast to having my life back. Sleeping in! Yard projects! Long runs! Hiking! These are all things I've managed to do in the past four (4!) months, of course, but almost always at the expense of something/ someone else. Oh how I love the crazy hedonism of the off season!

3. Epic, man
I just finished The Son, which I tore through at a record rate, esp. considering it has no suspense to speak of and its plot is basically One Family Gets Really Rich. One review I read said it was updated James Michener - a cruel jab at any literary pretensions the author might have, I guess, but more or less true. The characters don't feel quite so much like they were collected from central casting for the day, but otherwise: history? check. Integration of disparate cultures and peoples to give a total picture of an area? check. Unspooling family histories where everyone turns out to be related in the end? check. Educational? check. Totally compelling read in spite of myself? Yup. I was originally turned on to this book by the Wall Street Journal interview with the author, where he described the extensive research he did to get the details right - an author after my own heart, I thought at first, and then, shamefacedly, an author who took my heart and doubled it and then doubled it again and also finished a 561-page novel to boot. He learned how to make arrows and track deer, went on a bison hunt and ate the liver raw from the still-warm body, talked to elders of the Comanche tribe - yeah, basically set the goddamn gold standard for researching what you write about. Fine. So maybe I was rooting a teeny tiny bit for the novel to suck. It didn't, not at all - it's very well written. Overall it is perhaps more dutiful than strange; but that is a minor matter, or a matter without consequence at this point in time. It still sets the damn gold standard.

3. Definitely an 8
Our designated home improvement project this year was the front and back concrete - on a scale of one to ten, where ten is a dramatic new kitchen and one is replacing the sewer line, you might think that fixing the place where the drainspout creates an ice hazard and making the back porch less slippery might be closer to a one than a ten, but you would be wrong. The new front sidewalk/patio is sinuous and sexy and the back patio is twice as large as it was and I feel like royalty when we sit out on the new huge back patio with a beer at the end of the day. I also feel like I never want to clutter it up with plebeian things like a table and chairs, which is kind of the whole reason we made it bigger (so we can eat outside at a table again after 6 years). Still: royalty. Priceless.
Big enough to hide a baseball guy.

Buster approves.

4. Now a major motion picture.
I also (more distantly) just finished reading my TBR book The Ambassadors. Other than I never managed to get behind the main character's name (Lambert Strether. My mouth does not like), I liked it, and better yet, I never felt I was imprisoned in a Henry James box from which I would never escape or from which I might escape, but only if I relinquished any claim to understanding a single blessed scene of what I had dedicated a big chunk of my life to reading (The Wings of the Dove, I am looking at you.) It's because I discovered the secret to reading Henry James with pleasure, at least if you are me, and it's this: imagine you are making the book into a movie, and you have to convey the essential character of the book - not the plot or the scenes, but its character. I think it would be mostly closeups of people as they talked - not their faces so much as just below their faces. The essence of Henry James is body language. And also maybe a slight chronic frustration on not just getting scenes and plot like an ordinary novel. There would be a few panning scenes and interior shots, but they would have to convey what the characters felt about them.

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