So the dogs and I are walking along, getting tangled around light poles, slurping up bits of biscotti off the sidewalk, nothing special, and I get to thinking: “Fine, OK, I love dogs again, I really do,” when the golden retriever pup — this almond-eyed delinquent — grabs the handle of her leash and starts to tug-of-war me into our town’s busiest boulevard.
We live in a town of Very Important People – well, except for me – and they are zooming by on their way to wherever they have to go, five minutes late (as always), in their Teslas and Rovers, as this dog pulls me into traffic – first the bike lane, then the slow lane, though in our town there are no slow lanes, since everyone drives too fast.
She’s strong, this retriever, stronger in reverse than in drive, and here I am panicking, as I’m fond of doing in deadly situations. My mind is racing through all the things James Bond might do if he were me, because that’s how I was raised – on James Bond movies.
Back then, men could smoothly get themselves out of sticky situations. You don’t see so much of that anymore. Just in my lifetime, we’ve witnessed the demise of the debonair hero (and a little of what made life fun).
Really, this situation is life and death, cloak and dagger. My daughter’s dog is pulling me into the bike lane, and inching me into the super-fast slow lane.
Back on the sidewalk, I can hear White Fang laughing. Like me, my dog always had a hunch that somehow my kids were going to kill me, she just didn’t expect it to be quite like this. No one did.
How devious of them, to purchase this puppy, to pawn it off on me, and then teach it to drag Pop-Pops into traffic just after he finishes updating the living trust. Now they’re about to have a down payment on that four-bedroom in Toluca Lake; it’s all working out. Genius.
Suddenly, and perversely, I’m super proud of my kids.
So to recap: I’m being dragged to my death; White Fang is laughing; my next-door neighbor Lisa is laughing. She just happened to be walking by, and she is laughing, and wondering who’s going to buy the house when I’m gone — maybe she’ll get the listing?
Like every woman in our town, Lisa is a Realtor. There are some 20,000 of them. They have, like, zero inventory amid extremely high demand (it’s much like dating in LA). So that’s flashing through Lisa’s head, all these neon $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$. Who could blame her?
This is just the latest episode in my week spent puppy-sitting my daughter’s dog, Penny Laine (aka Penny Pain). You think I’m exaggerating, when really I’m not at all. In fact, I’m sparing you some of the gritty details.
Like the morning she dug up the septic. Or the morning I woke up groggy and, thinking it was a chewed paper towel, reached my hand into a pile of … trust me, you don’t even want to know, though now you sort of do. Great way to start the day, that’s all.
Or, the couch. Taking a lot of grief from you people for buying a white couch when I have dogs and a grandbaby.
“I don’t even have white rice in the house,” reader Mindy teased.
Look, I have a gushy, angelic view of life. I bought this couch a year ago as a symbol of my life without young kids and misbehaving dogs…a next chapter…a small slice of Heaven.
It was like the purity statement Utah girls make when they turn 16. Yes. Almost exactly that.
As you may recall, when Handel finished “The Messiah,” his greatest hit, he said: “I think God has visited me … I think I did see all Heaven before me and the great God himself.”
That’s how I feel while sitting on this white couch.
Now, as you’ve surmised, my life is a daisy-chain of ironies, large and small, the kind that can really crush your spirit.
So it comes as no surprise that I buy a white couch and then invite Penny Pain to stay with me for a week while my older daughter is in Hawaii with her babes (Finn and Catty Cakes).
Yeah, my idea to watch the dog. Sometimes, I just order out my disappointments, as you might a pizza:
“SMARATCUS, WHAT STUPID THING DO YOU WANT TO DO NEXT?” I asked him the other afternoon.
And my son muttered something about chicken wings.
He’s sleeping now, in his room on the other side of the house, in his final days of Spring Break. I can think of no feeling – nothing richer and more soothing to a parent’s heart, nothing more genuinely Heavenly – than knowing my kid is back in his boyhood bedroom, safe and warm and snoring over thoughts of beery hookups.
The other day, he was telling me tales of Spring Break, and some of the things his friends are going through back home with their parents. One girl he knows got busted at dinner for discussing the surprising sensitivity of the male chest.
“My dad asked me what I was learning at school,” she explained. “What was I supposed to say?”
In Laguna, we hear that some college boys flaked on some college women who were set to rent a beach house together, just didn’t come through on the bargain.
Me, I’d have gotten the money up front, but what do I know. I’m no one to give advice. I’m voluntarily watching my daughter’s needy dog.
Look, I live for love. I start every morning with a prayer and a promise: Be better. Be patient. Buy a book, a newspaper, a racing form, then bet it all on kindness and good deeds.
And, with these dogs, these derelicts who will shove their noses in an old shoe as a public display of affection, or drop their chin on my foot as I write this slithering essay…well, that’s love and kindness too.
In many ways, the purist form of love and kindness that I know.
Happy Oscar weekend. You don’t care? I’m fighting that feeling myself, but I’ll still watch Sunday’s Oscar telecast. By the way, best picture of the year? “CODA.” Look, what do I know? If I were any more out of touch, I’d be an avocado. I preferred “La La Land” over “Moonlight.” I liked “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” way more than “Parasite.” For the record, I thought the new “West Side Story” was a dud. I’m a traditionalist, but it’s not like I don’t evolve (subtle William Hurt tribute there). Which brings us back to CODA, a movie without a bad moment and with several outstanding ones, particularly if you’re a dad who struggles with his words and emotions, as I do, and has an exemplary daughter or two who always seems a step ahead, as I do as well. Be sure to see CODA, is what I’m saying. Perhaps it’s not Hollywood’s idea of what’s relevant anymore. Hence, it has humor and pathos and all those things that Hollywood once mined so beautifully on its way to becoming the world’s most-famous place. Most of that is out the door, as the Oscars prefer weird little movies no one sees. When was the last time someone quoted a line from a contemporary movie? Lasting power is one measure of greatness – a good house, a classic car, a song whose lyrics you’ll never forget. So it is with movies. But see “CODA.” It’s worth your time. Cheers!