Friday, August 15, 2003


I've decided that whoever it was who created Scooby Doo must have really had a dog who acted like that.

It used to seem impossible to me, this proposition, but then I took Molly the Collie of Folly on her first extended camping trip.

We just returned from same this afternoon and she made a rapid, furniture disarranging, blurry black beeline from the front door to her little hidey hole in the closet, and hasn't even come out for a Milk Bone Marrow Snack, to give you an idea.

We've been together a little over a year now, this intrepid border collie and I, and so I was well aware of her fear of thunderstorms – many dogs are afraid of thunder, I'm always told – and I had noticed she's not too fond of gunfire, either, after one fall day last year during our morning constitutional around Saratoga Lake when a few folks sighting in their rifles at the nearby gun club reduced her to a mass of quivering, skulking jelly.

And while she manifests the usual dog's delight and eagerness at the sight of other dogs, one whiff, two at the most, of the other's tail, and she cowers and cries.

That's all stuff I've gotten used to.

This week, though, she also manifested as frightened of: four-wheelers, hummingbirds, dragonflies and, at one point, seed pods bouncing around at the ends of tall blades of grass.

During Tuesday night's moderately satisfying rainstorm, which had only a little thunder, the poor creature nearly tore down my tent trying to get inside to hide – while she had made under the motorhome her preferred haunt overall, I suppose same magnified the booming noises. She stayed in there all night, cowering in a corner, having managed to smoosh herself in under my cot (only about 7" off the ground, mind you) and into the smallest possible space – and forcing me to throw my bedding on the ground, as I wasn't about to smoosh me on top of her.

And even the next morning, when the sun beating down on the tent finally made its presence known (about 9 a.m. – no dummy, me, I put the tent up in the shade) by raising the interior temperature to that required to nicely burn a Tombstone pizza, as I unzipped the tent flap fully expecting her to bound out and head for the creek for her morning dip... she continued to cower.

Finally My Own Dear Personal Mom and I managed to coax her out, but she stuck very close by me for several hours in the morning sun, obviously dying to dip in the creek, but afraid to stray at all until finally I escorted her the forty paces or so to the water and went in with her.

Then all was well. Whooppie, mom, where in the great outdoors! Watch me run and bound and sniff and snuffle and roll in the burrs and drag long pieces of raspberry cane out of thickets for you to gingerly pluck out of my fur! I am Camping Dog, watch me go!

Oh crap, there's another hummingbird. Ah! Ah! Mommy, don't let it hurt me, whimper whimper whimper, and dive back under that motorhome that is the only shelter except oh, ah, it's moving why is it moving (MODPD performing the abbreviated camping version of morning ablutions, is all, but try explaining that to a terrified border collie)? Aaaaahhhh! Make for the tent, burrow under it if necessary, eeeeeeeeek! All that was left for her to do was, say, jump up into my arms like her cartoon avatar... but she'd been overindulging in camping leftovers for a few days and so was not doing too well in the jumping department...

Then MODPD emerged, said, simply "Hi, Molly" the way he always does and all was well. Tail wag, play position, romp around, shakin' her whole butt with joy...

(The irony here is that when I first adopted this silly black beast, she would not come out from under the couch at the chamber office to meet him when he stopped by. He went home and grumbled to my mom "That dog and me are never going to be friends." Within a month, of course, he was her favorite thing on two legs. Only one other person gets that special butt-shakin' greeting, and that's the Sewer King, who takes us cross country skiing).

So, while this is of course Steinley Cup Weekend, it's also going to be a weekend of intensive and emotional therapy for the C of F, as we're due to head back up the mountain on Monday.

Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 10, 2003


I had originally thought that this summer would be all about me and the Rock Star (she who takes the most unique rocks known to man and makes of them the most elegant jewelry known to woman) givin' the boys hell at coffee, but since she is wholly occupied in helping out Saratoga's own dear personal fashionista instead, what it's actually all about is pretty well summed up by a 2NU song called "The Submarine."

One night I found a bunch of empty beer cans in my backyard
And decided to build a submarine.


I'd need a periscope
One change of party clothes
And my own mysterious little language.

"Every explorer needs a quest... mine was to find the coolest place in the world..." the song continues...

Well, the fact is, I have of course found the coolest place in the world and it is, in fact, the backyard at Kate's Landing, home of the Summer of Cheap Beer and Chess, so designated by Your Humble Blogger and the Punk Martha Stewart herself because, well, that's what we do whilst ducking the attentions of brown myotis bats and watching the kestrels fly and yes, drinking cheap beer and yes, playing chess.

Very, very badly.

Chess occupies rather a unique niche in my lack of nostalgia for my childhood. I learnt the game at the age of around seven, and was, for a seven year old, frighteningly good at it, to a degree to which I quickly ran out of opponents here in Saratoga. Not a lot of folks enjoy losing to a preternaturally obnoxious and arrogant second grader, and as such it was difficult to encourage same to try for a rematch, even against my obvious and craven tactics (largely dependent on sending a rook early into the enemy's back ranks to wreak wholly predictable havoc on said ranks until the king is in check and my rook goes where the woodbine twineth). Soon I was forced to give up the game altogether, and by age eight I was already referring somewhat nostalgically to my good old chess playing days.

My only association with the game since then has been an overwhelming fascination with the Broadway musical devoted to the game and composed and written by those wacky two boys from ABBA, Benny Anderssson and Bjorn Ulvaeus. I particularly like the part of the semi-dangerous Russian official in same, with the deep, deep voice and the hilariously overdone accent, which part I know by heart and can sing with (in PMS' opinion) uncanny accuracy... but of course I digress...

Cut to this summer of 2003, when PMS' and my good friend Juan Ponce-de-Leon shows up at Kate's Landing with a chessboard in one hand and a plea for cheap beer in the other.

By the light of citronella torches and a single dim citronella candle, I soon got my ass handed to me on a shitty tin plate.

I still play like an eight-year-old.

And not being able to see the black pieces in the blackness doesn't help, either.

But I am now resolved to make sure this and subsequent other humiliating experiences are not experienced in vain.

This is the summer of Cheap Beer and Chess. Keystone Light by the 30-pack, and chess until we drop.

So far, PMS and I are 2-0, largely because I posess a smidgeon greater talent at completely committing third-grade caliber carnage on her rooks and bishops from across the board, and then taking out her queen in a hideously craven move that would only work against someone whose body is exactly as aslosh in Keystone Light as I am.

Sad but true: our first game for tonight, for instance, ended with me having not one but TWO queens and her having... a king... and we finally just decided to knock it off because it was getting boring, my chasing her around the board and all.

A proper chess player could have wiped her up without ceremony or prejudice with two queens to her one king.

I am not a proper chess player.

Perhaps I should build a submarine instead.