Sunday, February 7, 2016

A Super Day, Indeed

Whoohoo, it's finally here! That one day of the year I've been eagerly anticipating: none other than (drum roll please)...

Super Bowl Sunday! Yowza, bring it on boys. 

Because while millions of fans are glued to their sets watching future patients of the concussion disease CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) thrashing about on the field knocking themselves senseless, I'll be enjoying a different type of playing field: empty shops, empty streets, empty parks, museums, movie theaters, and restaurants.  No sitting in traffic, waiting in line, jostling crowds or maneuvering an awkward U-turn for that last remaining parking space. 

It's mine, all mine, she said with a diabolical laugh.

It's almost overwhelming trying to decide how to spend this one day of glorious isolation. If I go to a matinee I can avoid the inevitable back-seat kicker or cell phone dolt who texts throughout the movie. But I do need to buy a birthday present: maybe I should go to the mall where I can avoid being run down by linebacker mothers pushing their eight year-olds in Hummer-sized strollers used as battering rams. 

No, no, no, wait! Costco--that warehouse of infinite stuff you never knew you needed-- will be empty. This means I can grab my frozen salmon and saline solution and not get stuck behind 15 carts that appear to be stocking for the apocalypse. Then again, it is an amazingly sunny 73 degrees outside. What a great day to take Hazel for a walk on the Iron Horse Trail without fear of being mowed down by bicyclists who seem to take a perverse delight in not calling out while getting as physically close as possible to unsuspecting walkers. On second thought, a quiet stroll on an empty beach sounds better.  

All so inviting, so alluring.  Maybe I'll just take a nap and decide later.

Hey, you have your Super Bowl dreams and I have mine.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Coffee Junkie

Yeah, I like coffee, but I'm not a snob about it.  Well, not too much.  I admit I won't touch the canned stuff my parents used to drink, like Hills Bros. or Folgers. My teamster dad would boil a batch of coffee at 5am before leaving for work, let the cold leftovers sit in the carafe all day, then reheat the bitter swill in the microwave for he and mom to enjoy while watching All in the Family or The Flip Wilson Show before going to bed.

No wonder I grew up thinking coffee tasted like battery acid. 

These days I usually buy whatever ten ounce bag of coffee is on sale for under $10  but I prefer Peet's. Strong, robust, delicious. I love Peet's.  Yes, I'm a Peetnik.

So I was intrigued when I got a November email from Peet's announcing their limited edition "Red Mocha Haraaz" which proclaimed it "the rarest, most complex and exciting coffee we have tasted this year!"  The email went on to describe "enticing aromas of Maraschino cherry and elderflower liqueur, deeply smooth with date sugars, and a dusting of cinnamon.

Elderflower liqueur? I'd never even heard of the stuff but Peet's had my attention. This coffee was a complex and exciting drink that was deeply smooth with date sugars and a dusting of cinnamon; my God, who could resist?  I was practically salivating as I shared the email with my coffee-loving friend, Deanna, who agreed it sounded delicious but added, "Did you see the price?"

Uh, no.  Maybe I should have scrolled a bit further?  

It was $30 for a half pound. A HALF pound. Now maybe folks like the Kardashians, Jay Z. and Beyonce can afford to plunk down $30 for a half pound of coffee, but I'm a working stiff who cuts coupons, recycles sandwich bags, and uses my Safeway Reward Card to save 50 cents off a bag of Barilla pasta. No way would I waste $30 on a half pound of coffee that was probably overrated and overpriced anyway. And just like that, poof! I resumed my relationship with Major Dickason and kissed goodbye my dreams of elderflower liqueur, date sugars, and dustings of cinnamon. 

Until Christmas when Deanna surprised me with a bag of the golden beans.  She knew I'd never splurge so when I forward the email to her, voila! I unknowingly supplied her with an idea for the perfect Christmas gift. 

Last week I brewed my first latte using Red Mocha Haraaz ground beans and while I wasn't near a mirror, I'm guessing that the look on my face when I took my first sip was probably not unlike that of a future junkie getting his first shot. I swear I felt a power surge bolt through my body. My curls might have actually straightened for a moment.

Oh yeah, it's that good.  And now I'm hooked.

But for only as long as my meager supply lasts because it was a limited edition. Smart people, those folks at Peet's. Invite the desire, create the need, then withdraw the supply.   

Sigh. I may have to turn to battery acid to get me through the next roast of Red Mocha Haraaz. 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Aloof Woof Part ll

It's not like I have low self-esteem or anything, but it's a little disheartening to be rejected by one's own dog.  

Hazel hasn't outright disowned me, not in so many woofs. But after 16 months of cohabiting with my adopted ex-racer, I'm still not feeling that overwhelming rush of love and affection that my previous greyhounds, Elvis, Lucy, and Olivia, lavishly dished upon me. Those dogs adored me. Idolized me. Looked upon me with such deep abiding love that sometimes I swore I could see little hearts shooting from their pupils. If ever I needed an ego boost, I could always count on my beloved four-legged fan club.

Uh Hazel, not quite. Oh, she loves me. As the can-opener. The dog-walker. The pillow-plumper. The dispenser of treats and driver of car to awesome destinations like beaches and parks.  

Basically, I'm a canine concierge.

Yeah, dogs are supposed to love unconditionally, but Hazel is clearly a bit more discriminating. And while I'm honored to be on her list at all, it's obvious that I'm not at the very top. Now call it presumptuous, but considering that I provide luxurious room and board, cover costly health care, and freely dish out premium treats, gourmet meals,and multiple walks, not to mention endless belly rubs and needle-nose kisses, shouldn't these provisions automatically elevate me to numero uno?

That would be a big fat no. Sure, my girl loves me. She seems happy enough to see me and allows me to spend my every waking minute tending to her needs.  It's just that Hazel has a few other preferences that take a higher priority. These would include:
  • Other greyhounds
  • Other dogs
  • Men with treats
  • Men without treats
  • Big men, small men, fat men, bald men, hairy men, gay men, any men
  • Going for walks
  • Going for rides in my Honda CRV, sticking her head out the window, and roooing like a canine fire siren
  • Barking at squirrels
  • Kongs stuffed with peanut butter, creamy not crunchy, thank you very much
  • Did I mention men?
Oh yes, and then me. 

Well, at least I'm one up from the vet, but let's not test that. My ego is bruised enough as is.

But then, right when I'm ready to concede defeat in the affection department, my 63-pound hound will knock the wind out of me with a surprise jump on my lap. She'll snuggle as close as she can, burrow her knobby head under my chin, and rest her face against my chest, followed with a deep contented sigh.

And as I wrap my arms around my goofy girl, I realize that it doesn't matter if I'm not first in Hazel's heart. Because she's first in mine.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Excuse Du Jour: Leaky Pipes

It's getting ugly here in drought-stricken California. Neighbors are snitching on water-wasters such as the car-washing dolt who was once revered for bringing the most amazing barbecued ribs to the neighborhood potluck; the apparently oblivious family on the corner whose sprinklers go off every morning like clockwork at 7am; or, that single gal with the two Golden Retrievers who hoses down her backyard patio every night under the cover of darkness.

Yeah, that's right woman, we hear the spray. We know what you're doing.

These days no one is immune from water shaming. Heck, thirsty Californians will throw grandma and her arthritic bones under the bus if her showers last more than three minutes. 

The pitchforks are out. We're dry, disheartened, and desperate, all drawing from the same straw and angry at those who are sucking up more than their share of our dwindling liquid gold.   

Water hogs. We've seen them and now, thanks to reports by the San Francisco Chronicle, we know them specifically by name.  But all these water-wasters have something else in common besides their multi-million-dollar mansions tucked behind wrought iron gates manned by security booths.

They all have leaky pipes. Imagine that!

Most were truly shocked when their stratospheric water levels were publicly exposed. Pay no attention to their massive acres of lush green lawns. Those lawns have nothing to do with their excessive water usage, nothing  at all. It's because of leaky pipes, they insist, darned leaky pipes! Every one of these fairly new luxury homes that cost more than most of us will ever make in three lifetimes have leaky pipes. 

What an amazing coincidence. These days, developers must be using LEGOS for conduits because never have there been so many sudden cases of plumbing gone awry.  

But now, thanks to the public exposure (or flogging, as some of the accused have whined), the water hogs are going to make nice and "fix" their faulty lines right away. Because they promise their excessive usage was truly unintentional and feel horrible about it and swear on their mothers' graves that they would never use more than their fair share of water, and stop looking at their damn green lawns! It was leaky pipes, mind you.

Leaky pipes.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Roo Hoo

I know, I know, three dog posts in a row.  Okay, maybe four, but who's counting?   

In the greyhound community, our hounds have certain endearing characteristics that amuse us no end. Every day on Facebook, multiple guardians from our rescue group, Golden State Greyhound Adoption, post photos or videos of their dogs exhibiting these singularly unique ex-racer traits, and I have to admit, after 14 years of living with greyhounds, I still never tire of them.

There's ETS (Extended Tongue Syndrome), epic Bed Fails (half on the pillow, half off), and Chattering (teeth clattering when the dog is super happy or content). Perhaps their hound is Roaching (on their back, belly-up, with all four legs askew, like a "dead cockroach"), or maybe has a wild case of the Zoomies (in an enclosed yard racing 'round and 'round in circles).

But nothing makes me laugh harder than Rooing. This is when a hound points their long, skinny needle nose toward the sky and does what other dog owners might refer to as howling. Except greyhounds don't howl. Not exactly.

Oh, it starts out as a howl: "Rooo." Cute. The second one is a bit longer:"Roooooo." Okay. And then it happens: they go into a full blown, high-pitched, deafening, single-note, ear-piercing ROOOOOOOOO, exhibiting an impressive lung capacity worthy of a world-class soprano or deep sea diver.

And I laugh every time. It just sounds so darned focused, like they can't contain themselves.  This photo of Hazel was taken as I was playing a video that someone had posted of their hounds rooing. She was sound asleep, but when she heard the call of the wild, she perked right up and was seconds away from joining the chorus before I turned off the video. It was late after all, and let me tell you, my girl is quite the rooer herself. 

She's also a supreme Roacher, but that's for another day. Which I guess will mean another dog post. 

You've been warned. 

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Aloof Woof


My experience has been that greyhounds are the consummate snuggle bug. 

While Elvis and Olivia preferred cuddling on their La-Z-Boy pillows, Lucy would invite herself on the sofa, but that's where their differences ended. As I laid alongside them, each would melt into my chest, position their knobby little head under my chin, close their eyes, and revel in the luxury of having their belly rubbed, ears scratched, and nose kissed. Every once in a while they might make a little "mmmmm" sound, clearly relishing the affection. My pups lived for our nightly love ritual.

And then there's Hazel.

Sure, she's affectionate, but on her terms. When I lay next to her on her pillow, she looks at me with this expression that clearly implies, "Okay, if I must." She nestles close against me and I wrap my arms around her with a warm embrace, my heart bursting with love for this dog...and then, after a few minutes, she gets up as if to say, "That's enough," and moves to another spot on the rug, abandoning me on the pillow. The dog pillow mind you. Her pillow. That's right: she'd rather sit somewhere else than stay on her soft stinky pillow because I'm on it. 

I know this sounds crazy, but it hurts my feelings! It's like dating all over again. I'd expect this from the school Homecoming King, but really, my own dog? Because seriously, what dog doesn't want to snuggle? Especially greyhounds, who are notorious for being love bugs.

However, in our 14 months together, I've come to realize that Hazel is not your average greyhound. 

She's energetic. Rambunctious. Goofy, spirited, and playful. She's everything that our rescue group, Golden State Greyhound Adoption, tells people greyhounds are not. Canine couch potato? Ha! Her energy is endless...no one-mile stroll for this dog. That's just a warm up, mind you.  

And people ask how I stay so slim.

She's a barker, something greyhounds rarely do. She doesn't bark out of aggression, but as an introduction. "Hey there, I'm Hazel, who are you? How 'bout we sniff a little tail?" When we're driving someplace she loves, like her BFF's house or Central Park, she'll stick her head out the car window and howl like a fire siren the entire way, holding one single deafening note longer than Andrea Bocelli.

I do know she loves me in her own Hazel way. She follows me throughout the house, never leaving my side.  She loves jumping on my lap, not realizing that a 61-pound hound is not exactly a lap dog. When I pick her up from play dates, she plows into me like a canine steamroller, ecstatic that I returned. 

And sometimes--just sometimes--while I'm reading a book or watching TV, I'll sense that I'm being watched, and look to see Hazel gazing at me with heart-shaped pupils. It's the look of total adoration that I used to get from Elvis, Lucy, and Olivia on a regular basis. But Hazel is more discriminating, which makes her hard-won affection all the more precious. 

I'll take what I can get.


Monday, September 7, 2015

Life's a Beach

When Nicole suggested we take our hounds to the beach, I thought sure, that sounded like a nice way to spend a couple hours. Bury our toes in the sand, soak up some rays, listen to the waves, and catch up on "girl talk."

Uh, not quite.

How did I not know that taking a dog to the beach is like taking a kid to Disneyland? As soon as Hazel felt the warm sand beneath her paws, she started digging and pawing with obvious doggie delight, spraying sand behind her like a fire hydrant. I kept her on leash because when you adopt a greyhound from Golden State Greyhounds you sign your name in blood swearing that you will never, EVER let your dog off-leash in a non-fenced environment. Greyhounds are sighthounds with excellent vision that spans a good half mile. There's always the risk that they might sight something of interest, like a squirrel or bird, and bolt without warning. And at 45 mph, they're not likely to be caught. 

But the leash didn't hinder Hazel in the least. When the surf first crashed around her legs, she jumped a good three feet with surprise. And then, I witnessed the purest joy I've ever seen in a dog. She was doing zoomies in the surf, barking and doing the Downward Dog pose, inviting me to play and chase after her through the water, soaking us both. She rolled in the sand, dug some more, dozed next to her BFF Nadeen, ate a bacon treat or two, and then repeated the process. Nicole and I didn't do that much sitting or talking--the day had gone to the dogs, but in the best way possible.

When we left the beach four hours later, Hazel and Nadeen were dripping wet, covered in sand, and exhausted. Come to think of it, so was I.  On our way to the car my girl kept plopping on the beach trying to nap. It was like she just couldn't muster the energy for One. More. Step. It was clear that she had had the most awesome day ever.  

And I had, too.  Watching my goofy girl experience such absolute canine joy was like the parent who watches their kid light up on that first magical trip to Disneyland; there's nothing like relishing the happiness of a loved one, be they two-legged or four. 

It was indeed the most awesome day ever.
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