Friday, July 2, 2010

The Wonders of Modern Technology

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, I can now scan documents and photos. I am thrilled. No more taking flash-bleached photos of photos or documents and then downloading and cropping. Now, with the press of a single button, I can digitize pretty much anything that will fit face down on the scanner's flatbed. So exciting!

My new scanner is like a time machine. It lets me resurrect photos that have been stuffed in shoe boxes for more than a decade, and relive the moments in them. Now I can now digitally revisit my Roma artifacts—as well as preserve and share them on the Web. Roma, of course, was born long before the acceleration of the digital age (and she passed away six months ago this week). All the photos of her youth and middle-age were taken and printed the old fashioned way—on film and at the nearest drug store. So, I am pleased, very pleased, to be able to show folks (most of whom only knew her as an old dame) evidence of Roma in her prime.

But first, here is the health record that came with her from the Austin Humane Society. As you can see, she was originally called "Chardinet," pronounced Chardonnay. I don't think I ever realized before that her name was not spelled like the wine.

Here is Roma at age 2, in August, 1998. We had just moved to Iowa City, Iowa. (I can tell from the unforgivably ugly carpeting.) It was in Iowa that Roma discovered the joys of snow and winter, joys I did not share.

Here she is at age 3, at my parents' house in Pennsylvania for Christmas.  I had forgotten that she was pretty solid, almost voluptuous, in those days. Also, her right ear did that flop-down thing. The tip would jiggle cutely when she ran. For some reason, in her old age, both ears stood up properly. Her look of intent earnestness, however, never changed.

And here's my girl at age 7, cooling off at Bull Creek Park, her favorite place in Texas. We had just moved back to Austin after our stints in the Midwest and New England. Although Roma loved cold climes, I did not. I regretted bringing her back to Austin (in August, no less), but I missed my friends and Austin's laid-back vibe, good food, and (usually) mild winters.

My sketch of Roma at the top of this page is an artifact I unearthed recently in a box of old papers. Apparently, I drew it on the back of a print-out of a chapter from my ex-husband's dissertation. That fact helps me date it to 1996, the year that we adopted Roma. (She was the best birthday present ever.)  My rendering makes her look a little more coy and wide-eyed than she ever was. Gosh, I miss that dog.

Thanks for indulging my little dog walk down memory lane.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Crazy Guy Magnet

As you all know, I've had my (un)fair share of run-ins with Dog Park's Crazy Guy. Apparently, my ability to attract Crazy Guys is not limited by geography. At the end of my trip to Chicagoland, I had several unfortunate encounters with CGs. Two took place as I sat on a bench by Lake Michigan, enjoying this view and, as always, minding my own business.

I had been taking in the scenery and enjoying the lakeside breezes for about five minutes, when a group of fellow tourists passed by. They asked me to take their photo, which I was happy to do. I took the shot, returned the camera, and exchanged pleasantries. A moment after the group walked away, I heard a voice say, "Hey, you know what would have been really funny?" When I did not respond, the voice got louder and more insistent: "Hey, Camera Lady!"

The voice belonged to the guy sitting on the next bench over. A skinny dude, he had a baseball cap perched on his head and was missing several front teeth as well as his left leg from the knee down. My glance emboldened him. He continued, "It would've been really funny if you had grabbed their camera and run away, yelling, 'Thanks for the camera, losers! Welcome to Chicago! April Fools!'"

I nodded, "Uh, huh." Then I looked back at the water. Within seconds, another fellow lumbered along. To every person he passed, he gave this blessing: "Follow the yellow brick road." He even said it to the first crazy guy. I waited to see if some kind of reaction would occur—like when matter meets anti-matter. Would the clash of two CGs cause some kind of psychological black hole to form over Lake Michigan and threaten to swallow the entire city of Chicago?

Of course, nothing happened, but I did feel the need to talk to a professional. Fortunately, Bob Newhart was holding sessions nearby.

Be cool—in every sense of the word. -z

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Year of the Dog

One stop last week was Chicago's Chinatown for some delicious dim sum. Hmm, hmm. Yum. After stuffing ourselves, pals Maria and Alfonso and I took a stroll as a digestive aid. I saw the figure of the dog and started snapping photos even before I understood that all the animals of the Chinese horoscope were on display.

Just for the record, I was not lucky enough to have been born in the year of the dog. Neither were my own actual dogs. I do like this description of the "type," though. As you can see above, while loyal, dogs "have sharp tongues and do have the tendency to be fault finders." Also, I love the bit about Year of the Doggers being stubborn "when filled with righteous indignation." Perhaps my Roma was a YOD dog after all.

Just for the record, both Maria and I were born in the year of the Snake. Never mind what year, smarty pants. (We have already established that I am 6.3 years old in dog years. You do the math.) Snakes are smart and snarky and can be self-righteous pains. Also, we don't like criticism, so think twice before you send in that comment, 'k?

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

President Lincoln's Dog

Last week, my pal Maria and I took a break from Chicagoland and headed downstate. We spent an afternoon in sunny Springfield, ground zero in the Land of Lincoln. The town doesn't have much personality, but it had a mysterious disorienting power over us. Despite the fact that downtown is probably smaller than Dog Park and uses a grid system, we could not, for either love or money, get our bearings. We headed off in the wrong direction every single time we consulted the map. It must have been the aura of greatness interfering with our navigational processes. Eventually, though, we did find our way to the Lincoln House, where Lincoln lived in for seventeen years, until he was elected President. 

Lincoln paid $1,500 for the house in 1842. That seems a lot of dough for a place with no running water. (Note: The privy was a three-holer.) Mary Lincoln decorated the place according to the Victorian principle of "harmony through contrast," which means that the carpets and upholstery were some crazy, mixed-up colors and patterns. Think plaids and houndstooth—chosen by someone with colorblindness, and you get the idea. On the bedroom walls, hung photographs of eminent politicians of the day. The tour guide explained that back in the mid-19th century, modesty was a valued virtue. It would have been prideful to show photographs of one's family on the walls. Instead, one hung images of people one admired. So no Elvis on velvet. 

As fascinating as real estate values and interior decor are, of course, what was of most interest to me was Mr. Lincoln's dog, Fido, "a yellow mixed breed." Whatever his mixings, he was obviously enormously patient. As you know, photographs weren't created with the snaps of a button back then. He would have had to sit very still for several minutes. Unless someone was dangling cheese in front of him, I don't know how he managed. Muzzy would never have lasted so long. Even when asleep, she flings herself around.

Fido's fate is unknown. He parted ways with the Lincolns after Abraham won the presidency in 1860. According to the National Park Service, Fido, despite his name—Latin for "I trust"—was given to a neighbor when Lincoln and his wife and sons left for Washington. Poor Fido. And they say in Washington, D.C. that if you want a friend, you should get a dog. I don't know what they say in Springfield, other than "D'oh!" or "Doughnuts: Is there anything they can't do?"
The credit for the photo of the Lincoln House goes to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library & Museum. The Fido inset at top and the bottom photo are from the Illinois State Historical Library. The middle one I filched from Sorry.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Bad Dog, Good Food

Hi, everyone. Muzzy is glad to be home. Me, not so much. Chicago in summer is pretty excellent. For one whole week, my friend Maria and I ate fantastic food, saw plenty of sites, drank plenty of drinks, and lived a carefree (read: dog free) life of hotels, cafes, museums, lake-side views, and breezy summer weather. That said, if a dog walked down the street, I would turn away from whatever architectural wonder I was gazing at so that I could dogle. (Note to self: Walking a dog in Chicago in summer is great; in winter probably not.)

Maria and I made a special trip to have lunch at the Bad Dog Tavern in the Lincoln Square section of town. On Fridays, salads are only $6! A bargain. And delicious. Also, dogs are always welcome. We saw a big friendly Lab there. He was not a bad dog at all. No begging. Even the dogs in Chicago have manners.

One of the things I forget, living in Austin, is that summer is the time when people elsewhere in the world eat outside. We ate al fresco at every opportunity. What a pleasure to eat a good meal while not being eaten by mosquitos or scorched by the sun. 

Here is Maria.

See you at the Park. -z