Watching the annual Westminster Dog Show makes February bearable. I’m a sucker for pet videos on the Internet, especially those of dogs greeting their owners after a long absence and cats snuggling with toddlers. Nicole Hollander is one of my favorite cartoonists, not only for her biting wit, but because cats abound in her “Sylvia” cartoons. Memories of my own pets over the years can draw a tear or two at the mention of their name. So it’s no surprise I’m attracted to news articles that feature critters.
Dog stories, as one might expect since they are “man’s best friend,” are a dime a dozen. But their commonality does not make them any less extraordinary.
Years ago, a Pekingese, Danny by name, was accused of having a face lift and nearly lost his title as Supreme Champion at the Crufts Dog Show in the United Kingdom. I can only imagine what would be involved in “lifting” a Pekingese’s pug face. Though considering it...
In T. S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” Prufrock says “I grow old … Do I dare to eat a peach?” To which I reply, why the heck not? Unless you’re worried about juice dribbling down your chin or, in a senior moment, forgetting not to swallow the pit. Which would lead to embarrassment. Or death. Options available to anyone under any circumstances, regardless of age. There are two sides (and often more) to most situations, including getting older. Forthwith:
CON: You become invisible.
PRO: You become invisible.
CON: You are bedeviled by insomnia. You’re not coming back from a party or an evening out at 2:34 a.m. You are staring at the numbers on the clock by your bed.
PRO: Well, you are getting closer to the grave with each passing day, headed for the eternal sleep, so maybe a little less shut eye isn’t such a bad idea.
It’s the little things in life, the small pleasures, that make quotidian life a joy. A hot cup of coffee thick with cream, the smell of spring grass, waking up to the drum of rain on the roof in the middle of the night.
There’s a great scene in Woody Allen’s film “Hannah and Her Sisters,” when, faced with the possibility of a terminal disease, he reasons to himself, “How can I die? I’m surrounded by people and cars and restaurants?”
Eating in a restaurant is a life-affirming experience?
Actually – yeah.
No matter how my financial status has changed over the years, from a poor student in a work-study program to a woman in a comfortable middle-class home, eating out has always felt like splurging. I love to cook, but having someone else prepare and clean up after a meal is a delightful luxury. As long as this indulgent experience is available, whether it’s a cheap...
I have, yes, on occasion, checked under my bed for … well, whatever evil entity lurks beneath beds. I maintain a healthy supply of nightlights and Raid. I firmly believe that amusement parks featuring roller coasters and other death-defying rides are anything but amusing. I hate Halloween, wouldn’t go into a haunted house if you paid me, and I hope Alfred Hitchcock and Rod Serling are not resting in peace.
Some people actually seek experiences that scare the pants off them.
Some people are out of their minds.
An entire genre of cinema exists for these loonies: horror movies. As a film enthusiast unwilling to be excluded from the cultural conversation, I’ve watched my share (mostly through the fan of my fingers across my face). I still get the creeps thinking of those twin girls standing in the hallway of the hotel in “The Shining.” Or remembering Linda Blair’s head doing a t...
Okay, I’m going to just come out and admit it: I was kind of a weird kid. Not that anyone necessarily noticed. I had good manners, was pleasant and cheerful, and generally well-regarded. But inside my head was a whole ‘nuther story.
Take bike riding, for instance.
Many adults, when they describe riding a bicycle, nearly always express how it brings them back to childhood. That carefree, summer-breeze-in-my-hair experience of exploring the neighborhood on two wheels. (The equivalent of barefoot Opie going to the pond to fish with his Pa in the opening credits of The Andy Griffith Show).
For me, however, memories of riding my bike are nothing short of traumatic. I managed fine as long as the street was flat and free of distractions (like people and cars). But rounding steep curves and – horror of horrors – going downhill, I ceded all power to The Bike God (who, apparently, did not approve of the appl...
There are few activities I loathe as much as driving. It’s right up there with picking up dog doo and vomiting. I’m enthralled by the open road, the prospect of new vistas (like Mr. Toad or Jack Kerouac, depending on your point of reference)—as long as someone else is at the wheel. Merging with highway traffic, as cars and trucks barrel past at the speed of light, instills abject terror. I see death on every two-lane country road where passing another vehicle requires a combination of confidence and bravery I sorely lack. Drive at night in heavy rain? I’d rather eat a snail.
The simple fact is, I learned to drive too late in life. Not that I was fearless at sixteen, the age at which most sensible people take driver’s ed. It’s that I didn’t realize the many ways there were to be injured or killed in a car. Growing up in an East Coast city where walking and taking public transportation were the norm, I could easily postpone the ine...
Crossing items off a bucket list is one of life’s pleasures, nearly as satisfying as doing them. As the items on my own personal list are accomplished, I derive a wicked glee adding to what I call my f^*k it list, activities I have either considered engaging in or have already done. To the former I say, fuggetaboutit. To the latter, nevermore.
Ski. Those clunky, heavy boots. The blinding whiteness of snow that makes it hard to orient my body in space. The prospect of my body hurtling through space.
Take a selfie. There is no good angle. None.
Paint a room. The prep work. The clean up. The storing of paint cans, brushes, rollers, trays, spattered dropcloths. The primal scream when I realize it’s not the right color.
Tell a hairdresser to be creative.
Drive cross-country. The tedium, relieved occasionally by a glimpse of beautiful scenery or an amusing...
In his poem, “The Tyger,” William Blake writes: “What immortal hand or eye/Could frame thy fearful symmetry?” The impact of that unexpected adjective, fearful, modifying a noun that suggests a pleasing, harmonious quality, symmetry, strikes me every time I read the poem. It informs my own contrary reaction to some of nature’s most perfect forms, not least because I agree with Francis Bacon that “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in its proportions.”
I marvel at the structure of honeycombs, sunflowers, the undersides of mushrooms, at the extravagant beauty of a peacock feather. At the same time, however, I am filled with unease, a mild repulsion. In the case of the termite, distinguished from a flying ant by the equal size of its wings, straight antennae, and uniform body width, my aversion to its symmetry is readily understood. In the other instances mentioned, though, I have difficulty reconciling how s...