Sunday, August 28, 2011

Cock-a-Doodle Who?


In my world, Saturday nights usually consist of a glass of wine and a hot date with Alex Trebek from Jeopardy. So I'm a trivia geek. Sue me.

But last night I ventured out. My best friend, Pam, invited me to a bon voyage party her mother Anita, and stepfather Walt, were hosting to kick-off their three week vacation to Colombia next month. Held on their large deck overlooking the serene Delta waters, it was a festive catered affair complete with a Mariachi trio.

Now as far as I know, Mariachi music is Mexican, not Colombian, but perhaps Shakira wasn't free. Then again, my mother was from Colombia and she absolutely adored Mariachi music, so maybe Colombians have a soft spot for Mariachis. Who knows.

Anyway, that's why I was invited. Anita and Walt thought I'd enjoy the music my mother so loved. And much to my surprise, they were right. Because as a kid, I couldn't stand the stuff.

My sister and I grew up listening to Mariachi music. Almost every Sunday afternoon, Mom and Grandma (who was from Nicaragua and lived with us) would play their favorite Los Panchos Trios albums on a stereo the size of a Winnebago. They'd crack open the vino, which in the early 70s was Gallo Wine, a perennial supermarket favorite. Today Gallo has been rebranded as the moderately decent Turning Leaf, but they can't fool me. I remember Gallo when it came in a green gallon-sized jug and tasted like a cross between vinegar and rubbing alcohol. But Mom and Grandma liked it.

With the volume cranked up, they would stretch across the sofa with their vino, laughing, talking, and singing along for all the neighbors to hear. I just criiiiinged, wishing they liked the same stuff the other moms were listening to, like Tom Jones or Mac Davis. There was one song in particular that I couldn't stand -- The Rooster Song, I called it. So coined because in the main chorus, one of the trio warbled like old Foghorn Leghorn himself was being massacred.

But last night, that was the song I wanted to hear. Every tune by the Mariachis was like an invisible hug, bringing back a flood of warm memories. When I requested that song, I couldn't remember the name, but I sure knew how to describe it.

I crowed like a rooster.

With a knowing grin, the Mariachis nodded and began serenading me with The Rooster Song. And I closed my eyes and reveled in the moment. Missing Mom. Missing Grandma.

And grateful that the Mariachis weren't Mac Davis.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Baby Gene





There I am, reading this book about how to train the perfect puppy in just seven days, and I am absolutely salivating. Not that I'm thinking of getting a puppy, mind you. After losing my sweet Lucy, my heart is still healing, plus I don't think my little old man, Elvis, could handle the stress of a newcomer just yet. No, this book is for an article I'm writing for The San Francisco Chronicle, about, well, how to train the perfect pup.

But oh, the pictures are getting to me.

I lust after puppies the way most women lust after newborns. Never have I stuffed a pillow under my shirt and admired my profile, pretending to be pregnant. Never have I conjured up fantasy babies with fantasy names, like Oliver or Tara. When menopause kicked in and I lost the ability to conceive, never did I bid a sad farewell to the ghost baby I'd never know, the one with my eyes and his chin.

I'm pretty sure there was a happy dance about no more periods, and perhaps a Kotex-shredding party, but there were definitely no tears.
Seems I was born without that baby gene.

Not so for pups.

I find puppy breath intoxicating. I love their soft little growls, their sweet fuzzy fur, and even their weak attempts to bite me with their microscopic needle teeth. I can't resist the charming, clumsy, innocent antics of a puppy, and I'm not alone: there's a reason why Animal Planet's Puppy Bowl, held each Superbowl Sunday, is such a resounding hit.

But when I'm ready to open my heart to a new dog, it won't be a pup, but another ex-racer greyhound. Because, as my sister consoled me while I was sobbing over Lucy, "Somewhere out there is a racing greyhound, living in a crate, neglected and unloved. And on the day this dog retires, he is destined for the best life ever when you adopt him."

She's right. When that day comes, I'll be charmed by my new dog's discovery of life outside the racetrack. I'll be enthralled by his newfound delight over squeaky toys and treats, and will melt under the tidal wave of instant affection that greyhounds are known for. I'll overlook the inevitable accidents in the house, exhibit a patience hitherto unseen when he chews my slippers or climbs on the sofa, and will glow with excitement, adoration and pride over the new love that has entered my heart.

Just like a typical doting mother. Which makes me think, maybe I do have the baby gene. Even if my preference leans towards the four-legged variety.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

For Love of Dog

So there I am the other night, watching the season three finale of AMC's brilliant series, Breaking Bad. I'm absolutely riveted to the murky screen of my 16-year old RCA, holding my breath while waiting to see if Jesse kills Gale (I'm one season behind because I watch it through Netflix, so don't tell me what happens!).

Suddenly, I sense I'm being watched.

I turn to my right and there's my greyhound Elvis, lying on his La-Z-Dog Recliner next to the sofa, just as focused on me as I am on the TV. He's watching me with such intent adoration, I can practically see little hearts shooting from his eyes. This pup deserves a kiss.

So I stop the TV, lay on the pillow next to him and hold him tight, peppering his needle nose with kisses. It occurs to me that if I could get a man to look at me the way my dog does, I'd be the luckiest woman on earth.

Then Elvis tucks his knobby little head under my chin, leans against me, and heaves a sigh of contentment. And I realize, I already am.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Saying Goodbye




I was dreading this day.

Oh, I knew it was coming, but really thought there would be a change of heart and at the last minute my dear friend, Deb, would tell me that she and her husband weren't moving to North Carolina after all. "We've decided to stay in California!" she'd announce. And we'd crack open a bottle of our favorite Chardonnay, Wente Riva Ranch, and celebrate the good news.

No such luck.

And so, on Friday, I said goodbye to the woman I call my "there-there" friend. So named because of her amazing ability to make me laugh and believe that, "There, there, things are going to be all right."

Over dinner at a quaint little outdoor bistro, we each brought the other a farewell gift. Ironically, both hearts. I gave Deb a necklace with two small silver hearts to represent the heart of friendship and she gave me a beautiful glass paperweight. Perhaps to symbolize our heavy hearts over the miles that would soon separate us.

Oh sure, there's Skype. Email. Postings on Facebook and specials on JetBlue. But it won't be the same. Nothing is the same as sitting on the porch alongside that special friend on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Sharing deep thoughts, light banter and a giggle or two over a glass of wine.

And for the moment, really believing that, "There, there, things are going to be all right."

Friday, August 12, 2011

Making Peace



There she was. My nemesis. My arch enemy. The bitc...er, woman I had the shouting match with that I wrote about in my July 10th post. I'd concluded that post with the hope that I'd see her again one day so I could apologize for my behavior.

Now, apologizing might sound like a really gracious thing, except deep down I'm not an especially gracious person. Wish I were, but nope. And while I might have liked to apologize in theory, the reality is that I never thought I'd see this woman again and damn, here she was, walking up the hill right towards me.

Gulp. Countdown to graciousness.

I did it. Stopped her and apologized. Explained that I had just learned that my other dog, the little white greyhound I was walking that morning, had a terminal illness and I was raw, upset and emotional. She asked how my dog was doing and I teared up when I told her that Lucy had died just days later. Her sympathy appeared sincere and profound.

Then she apologized too, explaining the reason behind her rude behavior. Just a couple years ago she and her dog were attacked by a stray. It was a vicious, bloody attack, she said, landing her in the hospital and her dog in emergency, both with multiple bites and required stitches. Now, when she hears a dog barking, she panics and freaks out.

Can't say I blame her. As I'd known for myself and suspected with her, driving forces had been behind our behavior during that first encounter. Sort of a Perfect Storm, if you will.

Her name is Ruth and I told her mine. We chatted a bit more, apologized again and then parted ways with a friendly, "See you 'round."

And I meant it. I think she did, too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

The Baffling Case of the Dog's Limp




-Treatments, pain pills and therapies: $2,000
-Specialists, X-rays, ultrasounds and MRIs: $2,500
-Removal of a corn wedged in his pad: Priceless

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