Sunday, May 19, 2019

Charles is dead. Long live the deer-dog.



Years ago I went to a writers conference at which the humor columnist for USA Today, Craig Wilson, spoke. Craig said that he got the most reader mail, by far, after he wrote about his beloved dog dying. Knowing we would all love a ton of reader mail ourselves, he said something I have never forgotten: 

"A dead dog is GOLD." 

It was dark, so dark, and so self-aware, and we all laughed and felt guilty, and then laughed some more. It was a moment of unselfconscious truth-telling. Yes, our laughter said, bring on that sweet, sweet reader deluge, whatever the cost.

Three months later our family got a dog. 

Our daughter had been begging us for a dog for a long time, but we made her wait until she was 10 years old. Ten, we apparently thought, was the age at which a child is responsible enough to properly watch her parents do all the work a dog requires. 

Skipper was a delight from the start, a rat terrier, white with big brown spots and a loving personality. Is a delight. Skipper is fine. He's, like, 14 years old. It's Charles the Chihuahua who took the H train to Poochville this week. 

Charles we only had a year. We inherited him last summer when my wife's Aunt Sue passed away; our adoption a final weight off her mind. I've written about him here before, he of the single canine tooth and the wheezing/hairball-hacking cough. He of the fainting spells right in the street or right off the side of the couch. He was probably 16, with a heart which thought pumping was only a part-time job. Many's the day in the last year that my wife went off to work expecting to find him expired on her return. 

But there he would be, yipping excitedly, then keeling over on the carpet because lying still on the couch for hours before a sudden, full-mom-welcoming-happy-dance was not a good call at his age. He would lie on his side on the carpet for about a minute, equalizing his blood pressure, before getting up again. He keeled like that about once a month. Every time we thought he was dead. 

Faker. 

Sunday, though, I was grocery shopping and my wife was out at an art exhibit, when I got a text from my son. He tried to put it gently. "I'm pretty sure Charles might be dead." 

The use of "pretty sure" nicely softening the blow, leaving open at least a chance, and the "might" also keeping possibilities in play. My son should work for the government. 

I called him from the produce aisle. "Try pinching him," I said. "He'll respond if he's still alive." 

"O.K.," he said, and I could tell that the last thing he wanted to do was pinch a dead dog. I still don't know if he pinched him or not. He reported with fair certainty that Charles was not getting back up this time.

I got home 15 minutes later and picked up Charles first thing. He always freaked at being picked up, went completely rigid, as if he was sure I was about to juggle him. This time, limp as a noodle. I shook him, because that has worked for my wife's cousin's dog, has brought him magically back to life several times. 

Nothing. I checked his neck for a pulse. I guess that's where you check. Nothing.

His tongue was lolling out the side of his mouth, no teeth to keep it in. I fitted it back inside; it was one of those weird unconscious impulses, like Jackie crawling onto the back of the limo for that piece of JFK's head. I wanted the little velvety-furred, deerlike pup to have his dignity. 

I put him in his doggie bed, the one he rarely tolerated. Waited for my wife, his "Mom," to get home. She was his queen, pawing at her hand whenever her petting paused. Growling if Skipper even considered jumping in her lap when Charles already was. 

Knowing an ancient pet will die soon does not make it any easier, especially if that pet was a fellow witness to your aunt's and mother's deaths in the last year, a little bony, seven-pound fellow traveler. He was a link to them both, and for my wife, letting him go is hard. 

Charles's ashes will mingle with Aunt Sue's soon. Perhaps in Valhalla she is already feeding him bananas, his favorite. 

Sorry, Craig. A dead dog is not gold. But our memories of him will be, as soon as enough time has passed that we forget how he peed on every possible surface within reach. 

. . .

My three previous columns about the dear little deer dog are here:







Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Wednesday Wa Pic - Smartly?


If I knew how to do it reliably, I could make a fortune on stage.



Thanks to daughter Emily for the pic. lol.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

How "Game of Thrones" will end

Many of my readers watch "Game of Thrones," and many don't, because they hate America. It's fine. It's a free country. You can totally boycott popular culture and look good doing it, because the founders only allowed attractive people in. 

For those of you who DID watch all seven seasons and are only awaiting the final episodes of number eight, this is for you. You have proven you will put up with a LOT of nonsense. Good thing, because I am backing up a truckload of it. I'm going to lay out, based on seven years of subtle clues, how this whole wolf-and-zombie show will end:

Jon Snow, recently un-bastarded and renamed Aegon Targaryen, will hold his hot Aunt Dany in his arms as she dies, having valiantly taken a throwing-star meant for him. She will whisper, and he will lean closer, and we will not hear her, but we will see her lips move, clearly saying to Aegon, "Earn this. Earn it." But having been born several thousand years before "Saving Private Ryan," he will not get the reference. He will rise with a look of confused resolve on his face, just as he has in every single shot of every season.

Thor and Wonder Woman will appear out of the mist, along with Spider-man and Bitchslap, a new character Marvel is hoping to spin off. They will immediately be slain by those giant dragon-killer harpoons. We will hear the ghostly, schadenfreude-tinged laughter of Ned Stark in the distance. Black Panther and Captain America will arrive and begin to fight Tony Soprano and Big Pussy, as clearly a rift in time/space has opened. Paulie and Silvio, inexplicably wearing matching gymnast outfits, will join the fray. At this point, things will begin to get weird. 

Cersei will lock herself in a tower with the Mountain as insurance. If you never watched the show, trust me, that last sentence makes sense. Arya will show her allies secret sewer tunnels into Kings Landing, sewer tunnels she accidentally found in Season Two while deciding whether or not to fire her agent. Jaime Lannister will arrive at the castle and finally, after making us wait for eight seasons, rearrange the freaking letters in his first name so that they're right. 

Fighting inside the ramparts will ensue, with things looking grim for the northmen until Archie Bunker, Hoss Cartwright and Little Joe arrive to show Cersei's paid armies how to "boost the ratings, old school." At this point, the castle will run out of ravens to send, and will resort to renting owls from Hogwarts. This cross-pollination of studios will render everything very hard to see on screen, unless you bought the glasses from either the Warner Bros. or the HBO store online.

The Hound will show up to kill his sadistic brother, only to lose the stomach for it entirely when he spies Hoss making out with Arya, who is evidently going through a seriously experimental phase. An epic level of bloodletting will occur when Sam, Norm and most of the gang from "Cheers" arrives to challenge Gary's Olde Town Tavern to a game of darts, realizing, too late, the whole time rift thing. 

Jamie (see, it's so much nicer) and Tyrion will somehow fight or bribe their way into the chamber outside Cersei's room at the exact same moment. They will argue so loudly over who gets to kill her that she will escape out a window on the Mountain's back, riding him down rooftops and downspouts like something from a very naughty nursery rhyme. They will open a Bed & Breakfast in Dorn. 

With nobody to kill, Tyrion and Jamie and Aegon will rule the Seven Kingdoms together, alternating on the Iron Throne like city councils do. The series will end with a shot from Winterfell, as Bran, in his wheelchair, his face frosted with falling snow, sees a vision of Westeros thousands of years earlier, the very first Long Night, White Walkers wreaking havoc, and above it all, hovering, hard to make out, three letters...H...B...O. Through the blizzard he will see studio executives standing in front of a firehose of money. All will finally become clear. 


Sunday, April 28, 2019

Audio sample from The Wa Blog

Once a month, my Patreon supporters receive an exclusive humor column just for them. Some supporters, at the $10+ level, also get my audio recording of the column. Today I am posting a sample of a recording from a few months back just to give you an idea of the fun you're missing. If you are so inclined, please consider supporting even at the $1 a month level. It's moral support more than financial, I admit, but these days who doesn't need more of that? 
Enjoy.

https://www.patreon.com/posts/26432944

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Singing and (wheeze) dancing over 50

I wrote recently about rehearsing a play, something I recommend for any man over 50 who feels his opportunities to wear makeup have waned since The Cure stopped touring. Applying full base, rouge and powder feels funny after a year off the stage. In high school and college doing shows constantly I got used to it. Now it feels like I'm a geisha but in a double-breasted suit.

The show went very well. I did not have a panic attack. I did not forget lines or trip over furniture, although I did find one chair briefly uncooperative. Not that anybody noticed. "Auntie Mame" is a fairly light, fluffy show, unlike the one I did last year, "Gatsby," which ends as bloodily as "Hamlet." My characters in that, which included a waiter and a cop, made it through unscathed, and a society dude I played had a beautiful suit. In middle age, a great suit, even one you only get to wear for five nights, is a pleasure.

Before Auntie was even done, I began rehearsing the musical "Big Fish," as a member of the ensemble. Ensemble is French for "take an Ibuprofin before trying to dance, you coot." It occurred to me only after saying yes that I had not sung and danced on stage in 40 years. The singing is O.K., I have a good ear and no solos, but dancing?

Friends, if I could show you a video of Day One, you would laugh so hard you would need to see a specialist for the gut you busted. The choreographer, after teaching us the roughly one-minute routine, a combo of fast knee-slapping, chest-thumping, heel-whacking and soft shoe, gently guided me to the back row of the ensemble, where I have remained. She is a humanitarian. 

It is disheartening to be bad at something. People my age do not generally go looking for new tasks, new challenges, new ways to fail. It's a shame. Getting better at something is a real pleasure. Notice I did not say getting good at something. See previous: back row. But I have mastered that dance, the one whose fast moves and transitions made me feel initially like offstage might have been more merciful than back row.

I can dance it now, practically without thinking. Add in the singing, though, and yeah. Not pretty. I just watched those Korean boy band heartthrobs BTS on TV going through their paces, and my first thought was "How can they breathe?" It was like serious calisthenics, too, fast stuff, and not one of them was wheezing. That was me, I thought to myself, back in 1978. 

Thankfully, most of this show if I'm singing I only just have to sway slightly, raise an arm, do a simple kick-ball-change, stuff I can sing through. There is just that one wacky dance. My head mic will be live to catch the singing, but I'd prefer it not catch the gasping. I need to review the song and find the moments when I can breathe. You take breathing for granted until you are slapping your thighs at high speed and doing elbows-high spins. Trust me on this.

There is no "I" in ensemble. But there is me in the back row. Look closely. I'm the one smiling and hiding behind my taller castmates to mask my panting. 

. . .


Here is a sample of another theater's rehearsal of the fast dance. Ours is different, each choreographer puts her own spin on it, but it has some similar moves. That first day I just could not remember what part came when. It took me repeated viewings of the recording of our own rehearsal to finally get all of it down.