Saturday, December 26, 2009

Hipster Holiday

With great sadness I admit that I'm probably a fucking hipster. The greatest piece of evidence being at how offended I get should somebody try and brand me one... everyone knows a true hipster will deny it 'til the bitter end.

Now, with that out of the way, I can tell you about my holiday without you pointing out how just about every fun thing I mention is a hipster staple (though my attitude towards it all is not one of irony but, rather, neo-sincerity, so there).

The plan was for Aaron's parents to come down but his dad got sick at the last minute (like, hospital sick) so they couldn't make it. He's doing better now so we've rescheduled everything until late January and we simply considered this Christmas "practice." In fact, we plan on keeping our tree up until then, which is fine by me since it smells nice and is pretty to look at. Being our first, we didn't have a box of decorations lying around so we simply went to Fantastico (aka. "the best party store in the world") and got a ton of birds and a string of large bulb lights. Here's our topper:

Y0u can also see the tree in the background of this next picture, which also prominently features [drum roll please]... my new bike!

my new bike

Yep, Santa was good to me this year. I haven't owned a bike since my cruiser was stolen a few years back. Not a naturally graceful or athletic person, I always thought I needed fat tires or extra wheels in order to be a bike rider, but my test run on this guy proved me wrong. I can't wait for the weather to get a little better so we can bike all over this town.

My other favorite gift was the loop rug kit given to me by my grandma. She's an avid crafter and has accumulated all sorts of crafting crap over the years. Every Christmas she brings down a car load of goods and lets us grandkids fight it out. This year I scored big time and got the faux zebra skin loop carpet which I've been constructing feverishly since we got back from my family Christmas. I'm about 6 hours and two hind legs in. The goal is to get it done some time during the year 2010.

working the loop rug

While I've been obsessing over the rug, Aaron has found the time to explore a hobby he's been dreaming about for months: pickling vegetables. The goal is to make baby carrots as good as the ones at Tartine.

Bad food pictures always remind me of bad porn... you be the judge:

pickled veggies

He's also got a batch of sauerkraut going which might be done around the time we head to Berlin in about two weeks. Since Germany is the land of the pickled foods, I figure it's the perfect time to begin our education.

This was probably the best Christmas I've had for a while. Nothing super spectacular happened, we didn't really go anywhere, it was just a nice, relaxing holiday. And, in the true spirit of giving, I did give one gift I wanted so badly to keep for myself (but figured my mother was as equally worthy):


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Stranger than fiction

So the other day I got a Google Alert for "Ana Poe" (yes, I'm a nerd and keep track of these things... let's move on). Usually these alerts bring me back to either this blog or the Paco Collars page, so I hardly ever click on them. But this one was different, so I clicked.

Lo and behold, it seems as if someone cast "me" as a flute-wielding-ghost-Granny in a musical battle of the ages. Read for yourself (you have to read a bit until Ana Poe makes an appearance).

I'm sure it's just a coincidence... right?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Sadtown Sacto

Sacramento has always held a special place in my heart. In high school (and beyond) my friends used to play shows there so we'd make the trek every so often and hang out with the local kids. The punk rock scene in Sacramento was a unique one. Since there's a shortage of things to do there, the result is that everyone seems more creative as you need to make up your own fun. When you get bored you simply pump up the radio and drive through the alleys real fast, jump into the giant piles of leaves, have a drawing contest, a shotgunning contest, write stupid songs, etc.

But last night I saw a sad Sacramento.

A couple weeks ago Keith Campos was killed in a horrific manner. His friends banded together and held a benefit concert in his name with the proceeds going to BAD RAP. Carolyn and I went up to Sacramento to represent the group.

It's weird when you meet someone you've known via the internet in person for the first time. It's weirder still when you "meet them" via their wake. The faces are familiar, the names, the stories, but there's just one big absence around which everyone swirls.

In a way, it was the best show I've ever been to. A lot of the time at shows people like to stand around and look cool, but, at this show, no one bothered to pretend. Old rivalries were put aside and everyone joined together to celebrate his life. I don't think there was a single dry eye in the room (er, basement) as Keith's old band performed, one man short, and gave props to him. Keith was a strong presence who drew people together, inspired many, and was a passionate advocate for pit bulls. His friends told stories about he touched their lives and urged them to keep smiling, even when things suck.

It's easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of life, but occasionally something so profound occurs that makes you stand back and reevaluate everything. This morning I awoke to a weird feeling halfway between loss and inspiration.

And I was also reminded to conserve water, for punk rock reasons.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

New Light on Old Posts

Yesterday I found myself poring through the blog I kept when Paco went through bilateral tplo surgery.

I rarely look at the blog except for when someone has canine surgery questions, and the posts I forward are pretty routine ("Here's how you can make a sling yourself at home...") so I never go back and actually ready anything. But the question posed yesterday forced me to actually search through what I'd written for one small sentence, and I came across this:

"So one of the more unpleasant side effects of the surgery is that Paco now has 'cankles'. His hocks and ankles are so swollen with fluid that there's almost no distinction where one part ends and the other begins. I kinda want to get him some control pantyhose.

"Just look at the shame.

"The only way to relieve the problem is to massage them by by hand frequently in an effort to redistribute the liquid. It feels a little strange to rub the squishy, hairless parts of my dog, but it also feels cool, like petting a Sphynx or Xoloixcuintle [sic].

"Massaging him this morning I remembered that, ironically, when Paco was a puppy, I used to tell people he was an Ixcuintle [sic]. It wasn't a far stretch, since he was missing a great deal of hair due to mange (mostly on his head in an awesome imitation of male pattern baldness). I started the lie one day after a five year old girl recoiled in fear after I informed her she was petting a 'pit bull'. I mean, how can you be scared of a 5 lb puppy, regardless of what it is? But she was.

"From that day forward, for several months, we lived the lie. At the time I figured it was either my puppy's socialization or the truth, since it isn't easy for folks to give pit bulls a break (or even a chance, most of the time).

"Eventually, though, I realized there was no shame in Paco being what he was. He couldn't help it more than I can help being Mexican-Irish. We turned a corner, decided to turn our handicap into our strength, and we haven't looked back (or lied) since."

It's funny how words can bring you back to the time, place, and head space you were at when you wrote it, which in turn catapults you even further back as you were meditating and writing about events even years before that. And then to see yourself clearly in those two previous inceptions, armed with the knowledge you have now... what would they think of the present you? And would they be shocked to know you actually now have an itzcuintle?

In a random turn of events, I had an argument a few months back with a random woman on the BART platform who swore up and down that Xochitl was a pit bull. I just laughed.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Best Birthday Ever

Normally I have an every-other-year-birthday thing going, meaning that one year I'll have an awesome day, everything will go right, I'll make a party and all of my friends will come, and then the next year everything goes wrong and I end up crying. It's been consistent since I turned 20 so I don't mess with it, just accept it and plan accordingly. This year was an off year, so I opted to skip town.

After a full day of research, we decided our destination would be Aaron's parents' house in Enumclaw, Washington. The whole reason we got Xochitl was so that she could be "the travel dog" (ie, small enough to ride in the cabin on a plane) and the dream was to take her up to the farm at some point and let her run free in the fields but she had yet to experience a flight (minus her homecoming trip).

In retrospect a million things could have gone wrong, but the entire travel experience just went perfectly. Nobody gave Xdog a second glance even though she was technically over the wight limit and the carrier didn't meet specs, no flights were delayed even though weather on both ends was sketchy, and we even landed early coming back.

Living in the Bay Area I tend to forget we have seasons, other than that people generally change the color of the clothes they wear, but up north it's most definitely fall. The trees were striking shades of gold, green, and red, and the air was crisp and moist (and occasionally rainy... but remarkably only so when we already wanted to stay in).

We made a trip into Seattle, saw old friends and met new ones, explored places neither of us had been, as well as Aaron taking me places from his youth. We got enough rest and plenty of exercise. Basically, it was pretty much the most perfect vacation ever.

Without further ado, the pictures...

My birthday present from Aaron's parents, a pink bb gun and targets to go along with it.
birthday bb gun


The view from Shavi's window
view from Sahvi's window

Xdog experiences her first fall
xdog in Seattle

We took the ferry to Whidby Island, had the most amazing day with new friends, their dogs, the beach, and golf course beers and somehow this is the only picture I have to prove we were ever there. Documentation fail.
Whidby Island

My birthday hike
queen of the mountain

And finally, the crocheted tequila bottle cover. Amazing.


Monday, October 12, 2009

The Words Escape Me

I'm not quite sure what my problem of late has been but, for some reason, I'm having a hard time expressing myself. Actually, that's not what I'm trying to say. It's more like I'm having a hard time understanding why I feel the way I feel, and the inability to understand the cause makes it impossible to share with others.

For instance, the other day at the end of yoga class the teacher finished by saying, "Namaste." Tradition dictates the whole class will softly repeat it back to the teacher, but the woman next to me instead said,"God bless you." I instantly got mega-offended and my savasana meditation was blown. I laid there in the dark classroom, silently seething.

Afterward I tried to explain to someone how annoying this was but I couldn't. I mean, "Namaste" pretty much means "God bless you" but just not in English, so what was the big deal? What was it about hearing that particular saying in that particular setting that made me so mad? Am I that anti-Christian? If I classified myself an athiest it would make sense to boycott the whole "Namaste" tradition altogether, but since I don't identify that way and I regularly participate by saying the one thing, why not the other? Why is it okay to participate in hollow forms of other religions, like the Ganesh-esque tattoo I sport on my right arm? How would I react to the if I saw some Indian guy walking around with a tattoo of a Jesus fish sporting googly eyes? (Actually, I'd probably crack up)

Anyhow, the point is that I never figured out the answer, and that in itself left me more upset than the original incident.

This weekend we went up to Eureka to my grandfather's wake. As we drove up I realized I hadn't seen that side of the family since I was about 13, and that was nearly 20 years ago. The whole thing read like a high school reunion (rather, what I imagine a high school reunion would be like... I've never had the slightest inkling to attend one until I'm a mega-billionaire who has invented an untraceable gamma-ray-type weapon that will extinguish all those who have wronged me). Basically, no one had changed yet everything had changed.

What struck me most was my one cousin. We'd been relatively the same age growing up so had always been clumped together. As we stood chatting around the keg I realized how different our lives now were.

The whole drive home I couldn't shake it. As an exhausted Aaron napped I had plenty of head space to take in the whole thing, but I couldn't place it. I remembered looking around the house at photographs and piecing together the landmarks that make up a person's life. It wasn't pity I felt, but more like a kind of sadness or guilt. I searched for the source of the emotion and I tried to put my finger on what it was, but I couldn't. It's like I was blank, and the more I thought about it the more it escaped me.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Dressing Impaired

Back when I was a freshman in college, there was this boy I had a crush on. I'd never met him, only seen him from afar, but really liked the looks of his dreadlocks (you can stop laughing now).

One day I actually made it to my 9 am Friday class and was surprised to learn that he also had a class that let out the same time. I figured this out when I passed him on my way to the second class. Quickly, I made a plan.

The next Friday my goal was to seduce him from afar. I put on my favorite hat, my favorite shirt, my favorite shorts (including wallet chain), favorite socks, and my low-top converse. I was so proud of myself.

Halfway through my first class I looked down and actually took stock of my outfit: it was hideous. My "favorites" didn't match at all. In fact, my apricot bowling shirt totally clashed with my orange Halloween socks, and the big, baggy shorts and the green converse just made the whole thing look like a clown's outfit. I ran back to the dorms in shame, hoping he wouldn't see me.

Even though I and my wardrobe have grown since then, there are still some days, like today, where I look in the mirror and ask myself, "Wtf are you thinking?"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Vegas, I'm Over You.


This past week I spent almost 6 days in Las Vegas. After Day 2, I was over the town. Don't get me wrong, I had a good time. I traveled with good people, Paco Collars did some good business, and we made lots of important connections. But the things that make Las Vegas so charming in a 24 hour window suddenly became huge inconveniences when spread out over several days.

For instance, it's impossible to get a healthy meal in Vegas. Dare you to try. If you're remotely sick then you'll never overcome it being stuck in recirculated air that's constantly filled with cigarette smoke. You have no choice than to be stuck in air-conditioned, smoke-filled hell as the temperature outside it 107 degrees (oh wait, it was a cool spell when we got there so it only hovered around 98-100 the whole time). You stay up way too late due to unnatural lighting and you wake up way too early from the heat. It's hard to stick to a budget since everything costs an arm and a leg (and the cheap deals will probably get you in doctor's bills down the road). The 10+ hour car ride either way does not help the pain.

The way I see it, I've done Vegas right. I've eaten my share of buffets, gambled the night away, been to a strip club, gotten my blood alcohol level probably up into the double digits, nearly gotten married, seen mud wrestling and bikini bull riding, consumed mushrooms and then played nickel slots all night, celebrated the turning of the New Year... twice...

I've pretty much done it all so, you know what? I'm done. I'm done with Vegas and I don't really see a need to go back (until next year... shudder!)

But to prove we actually had fun, here are the pics:

Winner, winner, winner!

winner, winner, winner!
(the ticket proving I was up to $14.80 after gambling only $10... and after I lent $5 to Dang)

epic entrance

epic entrance

slammed I am

slammed I am!

reluctant cuddler

reluctant cuddling


what you think it is

daybreak after a night of gambling

excalibur at daybreak

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Work talk

A long time ago I promised I wouldn't talk about work. Well, I lied...

I am so freaking busy right now it's stupid. We're gearing up to go to SuperZoo which will be our largest sales endeavor to date. In the world of large companies, mass production, and slick displays we're the underdog with our homegrown DIY mentality. Despite the fact I was pulling work days that lasted until midnight last week, it was just today that the enormity of the task in front of us hit home.

About 11:30 am the work phone rings. It's a woman who remembers us from the Costa Mesa show and she wants to know if we'll be on the SuperZoo TV segment to be played on local television (with little Xdog, of course). Of course I agree, despite the fact this means I'll have to look presentable at 4:30 Wednesday morning (we'll be on with Tillman, the skateboarding bulldog).

We finally get around to reading the rules for the thing (we like to fly by the seat of our pants) and find out that we have to ship our entire booth down in advance and have it set up by the union. Not wanting to piss off the Las Vegas mafia but also well aware we're capable of carrying all of it in ourselves, Paul makes some calls and finds out we're exempt so long as we use the main entrance and not the loading dock. Crisis averted.

We spent the entire day cutting and training two new production-pinch-hitters so that we'll simply have enough product to show at the event. I'm scheduled to work insane hours until we leave, my day off being Saturday. And my day off I'll be spending in Aaron's shop making us new signage. All the while e-mails are pouring in at an astounding rate since we're having a sale to fund the gas money to get down there.

Don't get me wrong, I love this, I thrive on it. Minus the "OMG, I don't have one single decent pair of shoes to wear" freak-out I had yesterday this has been a relatively stress-free process, and the folks going are exactly who I'd want to hang out with in Vegas (bwahahaha!).

All the cards are lined up just right...

Monday, August 31, 2009

Late Summer is the new June

I don't know what it is, but everyone is getting married right now. Or breaking up. I've heard of so many weddings and breakups in the past couple of weeks. The ongoing theme is definitely "change."

We only had one wedding to deal with, but it was a big one. Aaron's best friend/business partner got married this past weekend to his longtime girlfriend, Parul. The event was a 3 day long celebration one year in the making that spanned the entire Bay Area and included a candy table, photo booth, rickshaw, umbrellas, an hour long ceremony in 100 degree heat, saris, an art gallery, wine country, shuttle buses, and lots, and lots of drinking.

The entire Edsinger clan came into town to celebrate, which means I'm still recovering today.

The highlights:

During the ceremony


The rickshaw


View from the driver's seat

driver's view

And finally, this picture that cracks me up every time.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Punk rawk

Last night I saw Greenday.

If you haven't already stopped reading, I urge you to continue.

I was first introduced to punk rock the summer before my senior year of high school. A straight-A student and active 4-Her, at the time I was pretty much the furthest thing from punk rock. But the fact I had a driver's license, a car, and the trust of my parents meant my new friends had reason enough to enroll me into the clique and drive them to Gilman to see the Gr-ups.

So naive was I that I tried to wear Birkenstocks to my first show. Fortunately someone lent me a pair of closed-toed shoes so I wouldn't lose any digits in the mosh pit, and I was hooked to the scene.

That summer, Greenday dumped local heroes Lookout Records and signed to Warner Brothers. My clique was crushed. This made them the ultimate sell-outs in our world (you know, because we were so hard-core and all), but it didn't stop any of us from going to see them that next January at the Phoenix theater in Petaluma.

The show was just a few days after their first video hit MTV and I remember being amazed at the size of the crowd that invaded our tiny little venue. "Wow, this is the biggest show I've ever been to," I remember thinking.

Fast forward many years to when I was working for the dog day care and Buddy Pritchard was one of our bigger clients. Buddy was a Shar-Pei, frequent boarder, pick-up/drop-off customer, one of my favorite dogs, and happened to belong to Mike from Greenday. I'd see Mike occasionally and things were always cool. I'd started playing in bands myself, and some of my bandmates were former peers of his so I'd run into him occasionally while dropping off his dog, at parties, etc. I'd play "too cool for school" but, in retrospect, I think I was pretty star-struck. When he asked me to make Buddy a cool, punk rock harness I was ecstatic.

Buddy had been riddled with health problems his whole life. As Greenday got bigger, Buddy got sicker. For long chunks of time he'd pretty much live with us at the day care while they were on tour, and that stress added to a naturally poor immune system did not bode well. He'd turn his nose at the gourmet meals I'd painstakingly crafted for him. "But it's so delicious," I'd coo as I took a very real and very large bite of his salmon/currant/barley dish, hoping the act would inspire jealousy-induced hunger.

Sometimes it would work, and sometimes it wouldn't, but over time Buddy's health diminished. We'd seen the cycle many times over and Buddy always seemed to bounce back, but this time it was different. He'd lost so much weight, his eyes became dull, he lost his spunk... basically, he gave up. A decision had to be made.

Watching Buddy go was incredibly hard. I'd never seen a dog get put down before, and it struck me in a really intense way. Mike handed me Buddy's harness and instructed me to give it to a dog in need.

But when I got home I couldn't bring myself to donate the harness. I still needed to process whatever was going on inside of me, which was a weird grief. Buddy wasn't my dog, but I had taken care of him for so long it felt like he was. I sat down and made two bracelets out of his harness, one for Mike and one for Diane, Mike's assistant and other primary caretaker. (side note: this was the inspiration for this policy).

Again, fast-forward many, many years.

Diane e-mailed last week and wondered if I'd be interested in going to see Greenday in Sacramento. I didn't even know they were on tour, had no strong desire to go, but I never refuse a gift. A few phone calls later I had a posse together.

Franz Ferdinand finished their set by 8:30 and we drew a collective sigh of relief. "This is great. We should be home by midnight," I mused. Stephanie and I sat in the seats while John and his daughter moved toward the stage.

An usher addressed the people behind us. "Last night in San Jose they played until 11:45," she bragged.

"Wow, you really get your money's worth!" the guy in the Sturgess denim jean shirt shouted back.

We thought they were kidding, but they weren't.

As the 3-hour set labored on I was struck by many things. I did the math and realized the last time I had seen this band I was nearly half my current age (with the magic number being 17). A lot had changed during that time. In the punk rock world, as with just about any other clique, one of the easy ways to the top is bring everyone else down. Held to a strict standard, nearly everyone fails as not being "punk rock" enough, and most of the rhetoric I'd heard about Greenday over the years echoed this mindset.

But the punk rock standard isn't the end-all. Most of the critiques I've heard over the years were uttered by quitters. In front of me were these guys who had broken through the glass ceiling and gone on to become this incredibly entertaining stage act that had the ability to rivet an entire stadium at once. I even found myself singing along at one point. I was pretty impressed.

After the show Stephanie and I took advantage of the "Aftershow" passes included with our comped tickets. As we sat in the Sky Lounge with a handful of other fans, we watched a family playing the arcade version of "Rock Band." As I watched the little brother and sister duo playing along to Greenday, I realized this band was far from punk rock. They were mega-insane-uber-superstars, and that was pretty cool in itself.

On the drive home I found out the one-man-band I saw perform on John's bus the previous week was actually Neutral Milk Hotel. Now that's punk rock.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


A few months back, a series of events that included bad planning, missed phone calls, and sheer forgetfulness found us at our friends’ house unattended. No bother, we made ourselves comfortable riding dirt bikes (well, dirt bike), hitting golf balls, enjoying the view, and playing with goats on their secluded acre spread in the El Cerrito hills. We fantasized about living there.

Later I called Brian. “Dude, if you guys ever want to do a house swap, we’d be down.”

Fast-forward a few weeks and Brian calls. “Hey, uh, were you serious about wanting to stay at our place?” Turns out Brian and Nadia would be gone for extended period of time and needed someone to goat-sit.

We mulled it over. The timing couldn’t be worse. Aaron was in the middle of a deadline and staying there would turn his 5-minute commute into a 40+ one, depending on traffic. I had a hectic week lined up as well, but we decided timing be damned, we were going on a mandatory “Fake-ation.”

Saturday morning rolled around, we handed our house keys off to Eric and Yuni (since they’d expressed interest in “Fake-ationing” at our place sometime), and headed east. The first commute wasn’t so bad, flew there in only 30 minutes, and soon Brian and Nadia were giving us the lowdown as they scrambled to pack and leave town. As they drove off we sort of looked at each other and wondered what the heck we’d gotten ourselves into.

The first day was weird. See, when you go on regular vacation, there’s that whole period where you adjust to your surroundings and familiarize yourself with your new, temporary “home”. If something is missing, you forgot to pack an essential, or your new environment doesn’t offer the same amenities as home, well, you write it off. “Oh well, guess we can’t so anything about it now,” is the mantra.

But in this case all the comforts of home were in teasingly perfect view. “Argh, I wish we had the ______ ... it’s just right there,” and as we’d point over the majestic mountain crest toward the perfectly silhouetted Bay Bridge as it made its way through Treasure Island and onward to San Francisco (and did I mention this place has an even better view of the Golden Gate and Marin?). No internet, spotty cell reception, and minor hangovers did not help us feel any better about the situation.

Sunday morning found us back in the city as there were errands to run and Aaron had to work (deadlines know no weekends). We stopped by the house for a few essentials. Seeing somebody else’s belongings in our environment somehow felt wrong, but it was just the wake-up call we needed. There was no turning back. We’d committed to a week so we’d better start looking on the bright side.

That afternoon, as I returned to the hill with Stephanie in tow, it somehow felt different. We sunbathed, Xochitl played with the animals, I read a novel and, all of a sudden, it felt like vacation. Real vacation.

I could go on and on about how it’s all in your mindset but, frankly, a scenery change helps a great deal. Oh, and being cut off from the internet. This is actually being composed in Word (!) and will be cut and pasted when I return to civilization tomorrow.

And now for the pics...
(taken on the one grey and foggy morning we’ve had)

Bello, the polydactal manx, and Little Girl, the Nubian

inter-species love

Xdog runs from Buddy

run, Forrest, run!

One with the herd

Xochitl joins the herd

(Buddy has to stay tethered since he has a history of wandering. Little Girl, being a good herd-mate, always stays wherever Buddy is)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Oops Texts

So every first Friday in Oakland they hold Art Murmur downtown. Tons of galleries open their doors, they close off the streets, and you're allowed to meander in and out, carrying booze, schmoozing with friends as you go. It's gritty, it's sceney, and it's very, very "Oakland."

The Paco Collars store is located in Berkeley, but it's essentially a straight bicycle shot (or a couple BART stops) to the downtown action. Always looking for an excuse to serve booze in the store, I got inspired last week to create a pre-Art Murmur event. Today I sent out the mass text that read:

"Turn your art walk into an art workout by coming to Paco Collars this Friday 5-7 for pre-Art Murmur wine, cheese, and dog lovin'. 2905 Shattuck ... be there!"

A few minutes passed and I got a text from my friend, English Jon. It read:

"Why do you have to be so impossible? Aaaarg!! -jON-"

This response worried me. Jon did have a point. The store is not exactly close to downtown Oakland. He's an artist and Art Murmur is only once a month, so it was safe to assume he had other commitments. Also, he and I have had a rocky friendship to say the least, and I was afraid I'd asked him to go a little too far out of his way this time.

I sent an apologetic text asking if maybe he had too many art commitments, to which the response was:

"Oops, supposed to go to [the girlfriend]. Sorry Ana Poe!"

At first I was relieved, then I laughed, and then I worried about their relationship.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wax on, wax off

Sorry for the absence. I've had a mad case of writer's block ever since Aaron begged me not to blog about my first-ever bikini wax experience, which was pretty much the comedic highlight of my week. I understand, since the parental units read this and all (hi, mom!) but it made me think about the things in life worth writing about.

Rather, it made me realize that sometimes your week's list of accomplishments is so insane sounding that's it's hard to pick just one thing. The end result is that you never write about anything, yet any one would have made a great story. For instance, this week I...

... played croquet
... got in a fight with a meter maid
... saw my waistline again (yay yoga!)
... sang karaoke
... witnessed Paco Collars' biggest bank balance ever
... got drunk with people that make dog mannequins
... rode in a limo
... found our new dog, then got rejected
... sold my car
... got a bikini wax.

Any one of those events is story-worthy, but only one makes for a good picture:

the not-so-remedial team.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Freud would be stoked

The other night I had this dream. In it, I was with a bunch of friends and we came upon this large, stone arch. Everyone was getting amped about climbing it, including me. Everyone was taking turns scaling to the top and down the other side. When it came my turn I started out with so much enthusiasm, my friends were cheering me on. I made it most of the way but, but just a hair's breath from the top I turned chicken. My sense of vertigo kicked in hard, and I clung to the arch for dear life.

Someone was behind me, "Go on, I've got you, I won't let you fall," they said, and I could see their hands right there.

I looked ahead, the crest was just a few feet away, but my body was absolutely frozen. I could not move.

"I can't, I can't, I can't do it. Just let me down."

I woke up and was amazed at the textbook components of my dream. To me the whole dream was just so obvious... was I afraid of success?

It was 5 am, but between the dream and a small creative idea kicking around in the back of my head, I had to get up. I checked the business e-mail and saw an e-mail from our Japanese buyer. It was on order. A wholesale order for the new line we designed for them. It was the biggest wholesale order we've ever gotten... by a lot.

Guess I better not be *that* afraid of success.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Extra Caffeine, Please

Today is a two-cups-of-coffee morning. It's nearly noon and I'm sitting here in my pajamas waiting for that second cup to brew. Don't worry, I haven't gone that feral, it's just that I had to take Aaron to the airport at an ungodly hour (read, had to wake up at 4, after staying up 'til 2, and then couldn't get back to sleep until 6) so I'm moving a bit slow.

Aaron's down south at a robotics conference where he was invited to give a talk and show off the new robot. This will be their first industry demonstration of the robot and the first talk he's given in two years. I can't say who is more nervous, me or him, but I also know he'll pull it off in style.

This weekend was a pretty good one. The front house had a BBQ featuring "Luther Burgers" (a cheeseburger served between a grilled Krispy Kreme donut) that degenerated into a hap-hazard karaoke party (which was basically just people in their underwear singing along to an ipod). Saturday we ran all over town clothes shopping, had dinner at Blue Plate, and then drank a bottle of whiskey with Eric and Yuni around the fire.

Yesterday morning we woke up with Eric and Yuni on our couch, then met up with their friend Chris for brunch. Aaron had to get some work done, so he prepped his talk while I went on a huge dog walk with Tanja. It was pretty entertaining to walk through the city, rolling deep with 4 Shepherds and little Xdog.

By the end of it I was tuckered out, but in a major act of bad planning on our part we'd agreed to meet folks for the 10:30 showing of Bruno. In an even worse display of planning, at 9:50 as we sat down for dinner, we discovered the movie actually started at 10:15 with the theater located clear across town. We broke major land-speed records, made it just in time, and laughed our asses off.

Ever since, I've been obsessed with reading the reviews of Bruno on Twitter. It seems teenage boys across the country are booing and walking out on the film, urging each other not to see it because "it's gay." Intellectuals are insulted by the potty humor and the shy are shamed by the number of cock scenes. It seems either you loved it or you hated it, there are no in betweens.

Personally, I cringed as much as I laughed, but kind of really loved the movie for so many reasons (for the record, I'm totally fine with potty humor). I mostly loved it because it will hit a nerve with everyone... you will be offended at some point. A random twitterer said it best: "Bruno: a litmus test for society's tolerance to weirdness"

Go see it.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Old habits die hard

At first I didn't want to jinx anything, but it's been a couple of days so I can now officially report that I'm back to Bikram. And it feels great.

I started Bikram many years back for the same reason so many people decide to try it: the intro month was ridiculously cheap. I'd never attempted any form of exercise in my life, was in my late 20s, and had smoked for a decent portion of my adulthood. The first class nearly killed me and triggered a migraine that lasted 24 hours, but I wanted to get my money's worth so I went back for a second class. After one week, my heart condition had disappeared and I was sold.

At the time I had a full time job, so it was easy to slip into a membership package once my introductory month was up. My practice was diligent, the only week I missed being the one where my mentor, Sarah, passed away.

When I left my salaried job to pursue Paco Collars full time, I had to make a decision, so I decided to spend my unemployment checks on yoga. When that ran out, I started volunteering at the studio in exchange for classes. My practice was as an integral a part of me as my name, and I went to any length to continue it.

But then... well, life happened. After 4 years, I started to burn out. Working behind the scenes in the studio I witnessed all sorts of atrocities as it changed ownership, and the new regime sucked big time. I watched my friends go and new faces fill their places. People I'd introduced to the practice got on the fast track to become teachers, and suddenly I felt like my special little place wasn't so special anymore. I began to slack, and then disaster struck.

Two days after Christmas 2007, the electrical system on our house melted, which left me and Paco Collars homeless for a month while the landlords rewired the property. I stayed with Aaron in San Francisco (which was a great leap of faith in our then two-month old relationship) while Paco Collars operated out of a garage in a West Oakland cooperative household.

After that things just got even more jumbled. We rehabbed a toxic West Oakland warehouse into a decent studio and moved Paco Collars again. Paco blew both of his ACLs and had to go through surgery. I moved back into my house, found a new place to live with Dango, and then in a random turn of events, moved in with Aaron a month later when the cottage behind his house suddenly came up for rent. While all this moving was going on, I was fighting the battle to save Paco Collars as it was on the brink of failure (the year we'd spent trying to become a cooperative had resulted in leaving the company in serious debt and disarray).

At first I tried to maintain my practice, I even took the intro month at the Bikram studio closest to Aaron's house, but it just got lost in the shuffle. As I worked continuously both at work and at home, I promised myself I'd resume my practice once things settled down. But they didn't settle down.

Paco Collars began to heal and sales shot through the roof. Then the economy collapsed and we tried to stay afloat. Then the Christmas rush hit. Then we went on vacation to Mexico. Then there was a new puppy to consider. Then Paco died. Then we got a storefront.

In addition to the logistical reasons keeping me from practicing, I also had to consider my fears. I was totally out of shape, had put on a bit of relationship weight, and could barely touch my toes. Not to mention the social aspect of explaining to everyone where I'd been for so long just seemed overwhelming. This mindset was not exactly the best motivator.

But then last week something happened. Tim and I were poring over the soon-to-be-schedule since Paul was due to return from his month-long trip. I was complaining about my knee hurting, and saying I needed to go to yoga to fix it. I realized that, between the three of us, we have the store/company covered and there's no reason I can't leave for 3 hours every couple of days to take care of myself. So we made it official.

Now I'm back. The first class wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be, and I already made my peace with the owner. There are even fewer familiar faces, which is actually a good thing. Now that I'm anonymous again, it feels like it did when I first started. It's just me and the yoga, which is the way it should be.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Cops + pit bulls =


As more photos come rolling in I will link so you can see BADRAP's contingent in full swing. I, of course, forgot to bring a camera... d'oh!

The video

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Pyramid Lake – Part 2

We awoke the next morning unscathed, despite our having to cut the previous night’s campfire short from fear of approaching lightning strikes (Aaron tends to view the retreat as cowardly, but I like to think we acted like any rational person would who is sitting atop the highest point in the desert and the lightning strikes the water nearby… I voted to hide).

Once again alone in our landscape, we set to making coffee and a hearty breakfast. Even Xochitl ate well. It may have only been a Cornish game hen, but to her it was a feast beyond compare.

game hen

After we ate, it was time.

Aaron pried open the pine box that held Paco’s ashes. I’ve never actually seen anyone’s ashes before, and was surprised at how much they looked like the scenery. You could have broken off a chunk of rock or poured sand in my hands and I wouldn’t have been able to tell the difference.

I searched through the ashes for proof of Paco, most specifically the titanium pieces that replaced his knees, but everything was the same consistency. Aaron pointed out that they probably sift the large chunks out. I shuddered.


We went down to water’s edge. I climbed atop the dead tree that I associate so much with Paco, and poured half of his ashes in the lake. And then we made Xdog pose in front of the tree in relatively the same position Paco had taken many years before.

the shot

The rest of the morning we sat under the shade of a tree and looked out over the lake. We talked about loved ones, the ones we’ve lost, and the ones we will lose someday. I think it's rare to remember to pay homage to the people in our lives who are still around, but we did.

For several hours we continued the meditation begun the day before, though we did break away long enough to take advantage of the lake and drift out atop inflatable pool toys.

Around lunchtime, we had a powwow around the cooler.

"I think we should make a big lunch, go back down to the lake, and then leave when it starts to get dark tonight," Aaron proposed.

"I think we should eat lunch, pack up, and leave," I countered.

"Don't you want to stay any longer?"

"You know, I could always stay at this place longer. I'd love to stay here forever, but I kind of feel like I've accomplished what I've come here to do and it's time to leave now."

He agreed, and, as if on cue, 6 people arrived on our secluded coastline with fishing poles, a jeep drove up, and dark clouds appeared over the mountains, giving us 20 minutes to pack up before the rain began.

I knew, and the desert knew, that it had given us 24 perfect hours to celebrate Paco, and now it was time to move on.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Pyramid Lake -- Part 1

Thursday night we left the Bay Area and headed east toward Pyramid Lake.

We hit Reno at about 1 am and immediately began gambling. Being a total wuss, my normal game of choice is nickel slots or low stakes video poker, but Aaron wanted to try out "real gambling" for once. We found a patient dealer who was already schooling another newbie, so we hopped in. Aaron was "the face," making the bets, asking the questions, absorbing the odds, and I was "the brain," adding the cards, orchestrating the plays, and ordering drinks. Together we made one fine player, walked away with $15 extra bucks in our collective pocket(which was promptly spent on a grilled cheese sandwich).

By 3 am it it was time to turn in, so we shoved Xochitl in a messenger bag and headed up to the room. Now, I don't condone breaking the rules and sneaking dogs into places they're not allowed... ah, who am I kidding. The reason we got a small dog was to be able to take her anywhere. We didn't actually ask if it was okay for us to have a dog in the room because we didn't want to hear "no." Full well knowing she won't shed, is potty pad trained, and we'd only be in the room for a few hours while sleeping we figured it was worth the risk. Besides, if they caught us then we'd just get kicked out, and there are worse things in life than being blacklisted by Circus Circus Reno.

Besides, she loves hotel rooms.

porcelin doll

The next morning we grabbed coffee at a cafe (where they served us beignet's covered in baking soda instead of powdered sugar... blach!), hit the grocery store, and headed to the lake.

We arrived in the early afternoon. The sky was overcast with thick clouds but the thermostat still read 83 degrees. As we pulled off the dirt road and toward the lake's edge, I was happy to see no other camper's in "my spot". We unpacked and quickly got down to the task at hand: being lazy.

Xochitl picked up desert life like a fish to water. It was as if the landscape awakened the dormant tendencies that lay beneath the surface. She whipped out an entirely new skill set in order to cope with this new place. In a word, she went feral.

The fear was that she would see the small critters and take off, never to be seen again. But the opposite happened. In this new land, everything was foreign so she clung to her pack a little tighter. Foraging along the coastline, she would find treasures, like old bones, tennis balls, and dried fish segments, and bring them back to home base. Once there, she was comfortable enough to settle down and enjoy her booty. If she ever wandered out of sight, we would quickly hustle ourselves to a hiding spot and watch her panic trying to find us. Sneaky move for sure, but the end result was that she stopped wandering off.

As the day went on, thunderclouds began to form, swirling and darkening the skies. We watched as lightning and thunder began. It was a beautiful sight made even more magical when coupled with the fact that somehow we manged to avoid any precipitation.

Here is my attempt to capture part of it, though I missed a spectacular lightning strike as I panned out over the lake and the wind totally obscures the thunder. You get a sense of the landscape at least. Oh, and we're cooking pork chops.

There's something about the desert that facilitates reflection and meditation. Sitting at lake's edge that day, I was struck by not only the timelessness of the landscape, but also about how much my life had changed. Watching little Xochitl run around, I thought about Paco. I thought about every trip we'd ever taken there, where I was in my life at that point, and who we were with. As much as I looked back, I also thought of Aaron, Xochitl, and the future. For hours I sat there and contemplated the cycle of life and the way the world works. Sure, I barely touched the book I'd brought, but I also gained so much more.

For instance, I came to terms with Paco's death in a way I never had before. It sounds cliche, but I truly felt the ending of one chapter with the simultaneous opening of another. Without the background noise of the city and the clutter of life to distract me, I experienced that sentiment in a deep way. But it wasn't sad. It actually felt liberating.

At one point I looked down and saw Xochitl nudging a caterpillar with her nose. My instinct was to reach out and shoo her away because it might be poisonous, but I stopped myself. See, when Paco died I went through a period of thinking I was a bad owner. I know that's not the case, but all it takes is one bad comment from a message board to make you completely beat yourself up all over again, thinking you could have taken extra steps, removed the risk even more, perhaps even bubble wrapped the world.

But a series of freak events lately involving the death of other people's pets has made me put things in perspective. The thing is, risk is a part of life. You can, and should either avoid or lessen obvious forms of risk (ie. wear a helmet when you ride, leash your dog in the city, don't drink the milk if it's chunky), but you can never eliminate it completely. And there is such a thing as going too far in avoiding risk, which can actually put a damper on life. It's all about making safe choices and accepting the small percentage of life you can't control.

As I reached forward to shoo Xdog from the caterpillar, I stopped, waiting for the worst to happen. I watched as she touched it once again with her nose, then turned and left it alone. I kind of laughed at myself for ever being so paranoid, and swore I'd learn to buck up.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Pyramid Paco

In about an hour we'll be leaving for Pyramid Lake. Our to-bring list begins, "tent, Paco, Xochitl." It's not a typo. This is the trip up to scatter Paco's ashes.

It's been the plan since day one to scatter half his ashes up there. I first went there the weekend after 9/11 when Paco was 4 months old. On that trip he learned to swim and I fell in love with the landscape. Ever since, we've done a yearly pilgrimage. It's our favorite place on earth.

It's funny because this weekend kind of snuck up on me. We'd planned to do this a few weeks ago, but life got in the way so we canceled. The Pyramid Lake trip was to also be a BSA riding trip, but the bike is still out of commission. With no quick BSA fix in sight we decided to postpone the trip until much later in the summer and just do a quick, fun nature getaway this weekend.

Because we are last minute kind of people, we began seriously planning the trip yesterday morning over coffee. Aaron wasn't enthused with the landscape at New Melones, and I couldn't readily find the dog policy for Pinnacles.

"Fuck it," he said, "let's just go to Pyramid Lake."

With the destination settled, it took all of 5 minutes to make a rudimentary to-bring list. I got the tent from Dango yesterday, and started making a pile when I got home last night, a pile that centers around Paco's cedar box sitting atop Xdog's crate.

Tonight we sneak The Roach into a Circus Circus hotel room and tomorrow we head out to the lake. It should be an interesting trip in many ways. Aside from the whole ritual of scattering ashes, I'll be experiencing the trip with a new dog, a new dog who may not come back after she sees all the interesting critters the desert has to offer. Don't worry, we're bringing plenty of containment options.

This is a picture of Paco at the spot where we'll be scattering half of him (the other half will stay with us). I know I've posted this picture before, but it's one of my favorites so bears repeating.

Pyramid Paco
Paco circa 2004

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Craft Nerd (emphasis on nerd)

It's been 13 years since I've picked up a pair of knitting needles and you can add a few more since if we're talking about having actually completed a project. But this week I hit a milestone.

A few weekends ago we hung out with my sister in Los Angeles and walked around her neighborhood. We went into an uber hip craft store, I saw a skein of yarn, thought of the 7 hour drive ahead of us, and got a major urge to knit a sweater for Xochitl.

I tracked down an employee and we started talking craft, at which point, as Aaron pointed out later, I out-crafted her. It's not that I am just that cool, it's that when I was young, I was just that nerdy. I didn't have any friends, hung out mostly with my sister and my goats, and I'd do all sorts of projects. I knew how to knit by the age of 7 or so, and was working a sewing machine at 9. I was not particularly great or gifted at any of these things, I just don't have the super meticulous mindset it takes to iron at every stage or follow a pattern perfectly, but I could totally make something that wouldn't fall apart.

When I picked up spinning (yarn, that is) in high school, I found my niche. Like a fish to water, I spun perfect yarn my first time out. There was something so rewarding about taking a raw material, like wool, silk, or cotton, and taming it. Each medium demanded a different approach, so I adjusted accordingly. There were even differences between the fleeces of the same breed of sheep, and my joy was finding the quirks and working with them.

Though my spinning wheels are long gone, I still find joy in working with materials that you have to persuade rather than force. In college it was wood and metal, now it's leather.

As I stood in that Los Angeles shop, staring at the skein of homespun, I was struck with the desire to feel the yarn in my hands again. The constraints of the car limited my choices of craft, so I asked if they had any knitting needles. They didn't really, nor did they have yarn that was less than $30/skein, but they did give me a free pair of circular needles someone had abandoned there many months back.

We tracked down a Joanne Fabric (which is a feat since all the ones up here are out of business), brought Xdog in the store to pick the perfect color, and left with all the fixins to make a dog sweater.

The process wasn't pretty. It involved a lot of re-learning, cursing, and unraveling. But even as I undid 8 hours worth of work, I was determined to finish the piece since I hadn't actually finished any knitting project since that watermelon hat I made in high school.

It took over two weeks, but I finally made a sweater fit for an 18 lb dog (with a little growing room to spare).


I'm not getting up unless you have food

nice ears

modeling the sweater mom made

It's a good thing she's lying down so you can't see the weird ball-sack-esque pouch between her legs, the result of a miscalculation.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Better Start Again

Yesterday was Aaron's birthday.

We celebrated by playing hookey from work. The original plan was to go on a BSA ride, but the weather had predicted thunderstorms so we scrapped our plans. However, as we ran our errands around the city, we noticed the sky clearing up and bits of blue peeking through. We ate lunch and did a quick time inventory: Aaron's pie and whiskey birthday party was due to start at our house at 8, we had already finished the prep work, and it was only 3 pm. We donned our riding gear and hit the road.

I'm not a risk taker, but I love riding the motorcycle. Rather, I like riding on the back of the motorcycle while Aaron is driving. I'm not confident with my ability to operate any two-wheeled vehicle, despite my having taken a motorcycle riding class a few years back. Aaron, on the other hand, has both decades of experience under his belt and a healthy respect for mortality, the result being I can simply sit back and enjoy the ride, knowing I'm in capable hands.

We fought our way through pre-rush hour traffic, headed north over the Golden Gate bridge, and off through the mountains towards Bolinas.

I know it sounds cliche, but experiencing the road on a motorcycle is such an exhilarating experience. With nothing between you and the outdoors, you have a connection to the landscape you wouldn't have otherwise. The wind whipping through your hair, the scent of the greenery... even the rat's nest that is the result of the aforementioned wind/hair/whipping combo is all worth it as you just feel so alive!

You notice the small things:

Wild peas climbing a broken fence.

A doe grazing on a cliffside.

A hawk coasting on invisible wind currents, seemingly motionless in midair.

And then... we broke down.

breakdown #1

But not that bad. It turned out that the chain simply popped off. A quick fix, no tools involved, and we were off again. We rolled into Bolinas, hit the grocery store, and walked toward the beach. As we passed back by the parked motorcycle, a man stopped us.

"Ah, I wondered who owned my bike," he joked. He then went on to tell the story of how he used to own a vintage bike shop that housed scores of vintage BSAs, Nortons, Triumphs, etc, but how it all burned to the ground during the Stinson fire. He lost everything but was able to recover one 66 Norton, which, to this day, was his baby.

At this point I should back up and mention that we can't go anywhere without someone commenting on the bike. It's old, you even could say "vintage," and the result is that people go nuts over it. Even if you know nothing about bikes, the rumble is so loud and distinct you can't help but look for the source as it goes rumbling by.

Last weekend we pulled up to a biker bar in Port Costa and were surrounded immediately.

"Is that a '69?"

"What size engine? Oh, 441?"

"You know what BSA stands for, right? Better Start Again! Hahahaha!"

Even when we're in the middle of something, we always stop and listen to the stories. People like to share, and the BSA provides that platform. In turn they hear how the bike belonged to Aaron's dad and how he just spent the last year getting it to actually run.

As we hit the beach in Bolinas Aaron remarked, "It's funny. I've met so many people who work on old English bikes."

"Maybe that's because they keep breaking down," I shot back. We laughed.

The beach was beautiful and the weather perfect. While the sky was mostly blue, thick clouds hung in the air and mist enveloped the mountaintops. The threat of rain and the fact that it was a Thursday afternoon kept the general public away, so we had the beach pretty much to ourselves.


Eventually we looked at the time and freaked out. We had to get back and get ready for the party at our house.

On the ride back the chain fell off again. Like a well oiled machine we hopped off, each took a job and the chain was back on without us even having to stop the engine. A ways down the road it popped off again. And then again. And then again.

The last time I took a look and noticed the master link had broken. Half of it was missing and the remaining part had bent out of shape, causing the chain to continuously fail. As Aaron rolled the bike to a safe turnout the chain fell off for good. We were officially stranded.

calling for help

The bad news is that we were 5 miles from civilization in either direction. The good news was that we broke down in a spot where we actually got cell phone reception. The bad news is that for AAA to tow us I would need a special package, since the regular membership excludes motorcycles and RVs. The good news is that Aaron had the foresight to leave his pickup truck key behind, Dave was home, and willing to come rescue us. The bad news was that it would take him an hour to get there, it was getting colder, and the clouds were now threatening rain for real.

We decided to hitchhike. Once we made the decision, we realized that we were the world's worst hitchhikers. The first car was too fancy. The second had a baby. That guy looked creepy. Those girls look obnoxious. Okay, we'll take whatever car comes next.... wait, not the Landrover, it looks too yuppie.

Finally a bright turquoise 1957 Bel-Air drove up the rode and we started waving our hands wildly. They didn't stop, but the car right behind them did, and they gave us a ride into town (they explained their friends in the old car were unable to stop as they wouldn't be able to get it going again... a concept we understood completely).

They dropped us off in town 5 miles later. Using the iPhone as a guide, we found a nearby restaurant. Taking a scenic footpath, we stumbled into our destination via the bushes out front. Dirty, stinky, and covered with oil we pulled up to the 5 star restaurant bar and ordered a beer.

As we waited for Dave to arrive I reminded Aaron, "Well, this won't be a birthday you'll forget anytime soon." And then we laughed.


Sunday, May 31, 2009

Shameless Puppy pics

Here is Puumba, in all his adorable glory

being thoughtful

I know, he's so cute it hurts. Everyone who meets him instantly falls for him. I hand out his adoption information daily as it seems we can't go anywhere without someone deciding he's the one for them. It's too bad I'm not single as this dog is the ultimate chick/dude/can't-you-imagine-the-two-of-us-raising-him-together magnet. Everybody loves Puumba, but that doesn't mean he's staying. Don't get me wrong, he's a cool dog, but we are not keeping him.

Last weekend we drove down to San Diego to meet another potential dog. On paper he was perfect, just about everything we wanted. In person he was also great, and he and Xochitl had great chemistry. But he never had a chance.

See, on the drive down Aaron and I had a long conversation and we realized our lives are complete. The huge part of me that craved another dog was simply mourning Paco, but now that time has allowed healing I can now appreciate what I do have rather than focus on what is gone. As Xochitl matures and our training continues, I realize she's all the dog I need right now, it's as simple as that.

I got home and promptly closed all the Firefox tabs I've kept open and check obsessively for the past several months: Petfinder, Craiglist, Petharbor. Like a junkie quitting cold turkey, I haven't looked back.

In the meantime, everyone around us is convinced Puumba is "the one". I post pictures and they tease how he's a dead ringer for Paco (he's not) and wonder when I'll crack under the pressure and give into the puppy cuteness. They point out what an awesome little guy he is, how nothing phases him, how he marches with such a confident stride, and his even-keeled energy and intense focus is something so rare in a pup so young.

All of this is true, but what they don't know is that my heart has already closed the possibility of adding another dog right now.

p.s. don't feel bad for Puumba, he just got an *awesome* application.

Friday, May 22, 2009

I'm not a hippie, I swear

Since marijuana is practically legal, I think it's probably okay to post this...

Not to get into the specifics, but yesterday I found myself suddenly in the possession of a free pot brownie. I'm not anti-pot by any means, but I just don't ever find myself seeking it out. However, as I stared at the delicious looking edible I went through my mental checklist for the night and found everything pointed toward "eat me":

* I had no plans for the night

* Aaron was working in Atlanta until Friday

* My neck had been killing me for two days and I could barely turn my head

* between me making a major ass out of myself (long story) and Xochitl's graduation, I'd had a stressful couple of days

* it had caramel on top!

After a big meal with Dango, I went home and went through a preparation ritual. Both the hairless wonder and the foster puppy had had plenty of exercise, so they were taken care of. I did all my chores first so I wouldn't have any reason to fixate on a messy house down the road. I tried to download a movie, Johnny Got His Gun (which I've always wanted to see ever since the Metallica video), but it didn't work so I turned on the Family Guy.

I ate the brownie and waited a while. Nothing happened, not even after an hour. I knew eating dinner would slow things down, but, at this point, I hadn't even noticed anything. A little relieved the brownie was bunk, I passed out.

A few hours later I woke up and was, for lack of a better term, tripping balls. It was then I was really glad that my original movie choice didn't work out.

As I laid there half asleep, I went through all sorts of introspection and had a few epiphanies. The following sounds pretty hippie-like but bear with me...

First, I'm scared to go back to yoga. I'm ashamed that I let my practice slide and it's been nearly a year since I've gone to a class. My body knows this and is in pain because of it. But last night I listened to my body and stretched away the back pain that's been plaguing me for two days.

The second epiphany was that I figured out how to fix a few work-related issues. I won't bore you with the details, but the bottom line is that it all comes back to me and so long as my center is grounded and happy, then those around me will reflect that. This also kinda goes back to the yoga thing.

The third thing I discovered is that I need to let go of trying to find the perfect new dog, it's actually Xochitl's decision. I realize I just want the easiest fit for all of us, and that's going to depend heavily on the chemistry between the two dogs.

So I'm going to step back, push aside my preferences, and let Xochitl do the footwork from now on. She can act as divining rod, if you will. If there's something about the chemistry I'm uncomfortable with then we'll just pass. She's a good dog with bad habits so her partner in crime needs to compliment her, not challenge her. It may take a while, but I also realize she deserves to be the focus for a bit since we're just now making progress. We're driving down south to meet another dog this weekend, so it's good that this is fresh in my mind.

The fourth epiphany is that Xdog would probably be good at yoga.

I was up pretty much all night, I'm kinda tired today because of it, but you gotta hippie out every once in a while, you know?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Puppytron 3000

This weekend we drive down to San Diego to check out yet another new dog prospect. In the meantime, we have a little foster to keep us occupied. His name is Puumba, he's just over 10 weeks old and, according to the scale at Aaron's shop, he weighs 17.5 lbs (Xochitl weighs 16.5, according to the Paco Collars postal scale).

Here is what the two look like in action:

Overall Xochitl is doing much better. The last week I've really gotten serious about training. I've thrown aside the puppy class curriculum, have begun homeschooling from the book Control Unleashed, and Xochitl's progress is amazing. She is absorbing lessons like a sponge and leaves our mental workouts so tired that she sleeps like a rock.

I try to keep her under threshold but we do live in the city so I can't control the environment 100%. For instance, yesterday as we were working on "heel" outside of our house, a drunk homeless man bent over to her eye level and yelled, "Aye, aye, aye, chihuahua!" right in her face. She barked, and I can't blame her. Still, she seems to settle more quickly after disruptions and is now more willing to reorient to me.

Tonight is our puppy class graduation and the final is "real life cafe" simulation which involves the puppies staying on their mats for several minutes. I'm determined not to leave embarrassed. Yesterday we worked on the lesson "Go to Your Mat" and we were up to the point where I could throw the mat across the room and she would run to "down" on it before it even stopped moving. Once she's on her mat she won't move, even if you're dragging her around on the mat or dropping toys right next to her.

But, of course, this is in a very controlled environment. We'll see how it goes tonight in the classroom with ten screaming, out of control puppies...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Breaking the Spell

So Sunday night we finally went back to eat at the new BBQ place in the Mission. This event stands out because the first and only other time we ate there was the night Paco died.

I've debated writing about the details of that night not because I'm afraid of what other people think (it doesn't matter, I've beaten myself up more than anyone possibly could), but because I just want to be over it. I want to be done, but then someone asks me about what happened and I, literally, can't speak anymore. I know you can't rush healing, but not talking about it certainly can't help, so I'm hoping that finally writing about it will prove at least somewhat cathartic.

We moved into the cottage last summer. Previously Aaron had lived in the "front house" with his four roommates. When the cottage came up for rent, we jumped on it since property like that is nearly impossible to find in the city. It took an hour long interview with the landlord, but he eventually conceded that Paco was an exceptional dog, despite being a pit bull, and allowed us to move in.

For months, things went swimmingly. We remodeled the heck out of the cottage and, except for Paco's removal of the cat door during a fireworks induced freak-out, the place improved ten-fold. The white picket privacy fence that separated our two yards was often open to accommodate large parties or share laundry. The entire property was so secure that doors were often left unlocked and people (Paco included) moved freely between houses.

Just after the New Year, while vacationing in Mexico, we decided to add Xochitl to our family. We had just one day to make our decision and, at the 11th hour, we finally heard back from the landlord. He approved adding a dog to the lease provided we pay a reasonable pet deposit increase and fix the fence. "We haven't gotten any complaints yet from the front house," he wrote, "but I'd like to keep it that way."

We got back from Mexico and hit the ground running. Both Aaron and I had a ton of work to catch up on, not to mention there was a new little distraction in the form of one small hairless dog.

Dango had reported that Paco was destructive in our absence. I chalked it up to lack of exercise, but little part of me was worried that this behavior, coupled with his seemingly more ravenous appetite of late, was actually a sign of an underlying medical issue. Still, I had no time to follow up on my theory as we were getting ready for a huge event at the end of January.

A couple of weeks passed and we finally found a free day to take care of house stuff, which included dog proofing the property as per the landlord's specs. We ran our errands, picked up a new cat door and went home. Well, the cat door was off by 1/4" on each side so we couldn't install, but we managed to jimmy rig the rotten fence into compliance. See, Paco had made it a hobby to pop open one of loose boards and squeeze through to check Pirate's feeding spot on the other side. We'd tried to fix the fence before, but it would always fall apart. This time, we took our task seriously, used extra long screws, bracer bars and, on Paco's favorite loose board, a boulder to wedge it shut.

One week later our big event arrived... it was the Golden Gate Kennel Club Show, one of the largest AKC events in Northern California, and we had a booth. I'd been attending the event for years as a spectator so it felt amazing to actually be exhibiting for the first time.

Saturday morning came along and I headed out the door at 7 am to work the booth. Aaron had the dogs for the day and would send me little texts like, "Cuddling on couch with dogs, making sales?" and, "Just took Paco for walk, now for a beer at Benders". I didn't have any time to reply because, well, we were slammed. In fact, I didn't even have time to eat, save the gross $10 nachos Paul and I split in the morning.

When I got home after dark, I was exhausted, famished and elated. We'd done pretty good in sales and met a ton of people, but I'd been on my feet all day. Aaron had forgotten to feed Xochitl breakfast, Paco and Pirate were out of raw food, and I needed to eat as well. Quickly, we made Xochitl work for her food, kibble by kibble. As was the norm, Paco and Pirate participated as well.

We threw Xdog in the crate and left for dinner. The plan was to pick up food for Paco and Pirate on the way home. As we left, I saw Paco crawl out of the cat door and watch us depart. "Uh uh. Inside," I instructed, which was a command he knew well, but this time I didn't stop to enforce it. I can still see his little round eyes as he watched us leave.

We went to dinner at the new BBQ place up Mission street, and it was amazing. Especially after you haven't really eaten all day. On the walk home we stopped to split a piece of pie at the new pie place that opened on Mission, and then to split a whiskey at the Phone Booth. Along the way I discovered we actually had food for Paco and Pirate if I got creative (egg, brown rice leftovers, yogurt) so there was no need to stop at the store.

We were gone for about two hours, and, when we came back, that's when we found Paco.

Aaron went in the gate before me. He later told me that at first he thought someone from the front house had hung Paco's jacket up on the fence, but then he realized it was actually Paco, wearing his jacket, hanging from the fence by his neck. I heard him yelling, "Paco, no!"

I rounded the corner to see Aaron pulling at Paco's neck, trying to get his head unwedged from the fence. Without thinking I ran forward, grabbed Paco by his chest, lifted him from the fence. I later found my purse and bag upside down on the ground, thrown aside.

Since nobody was there, we can only guess at exactly what happened. My theory is that, unable to push aside his trick board, he went over the fence to check Pirate's feeding spot. The spot was empty and it was a pretty cold, January night so he tried to get back into the house. Once again, the trick board was not there, so he tried to go over. The fence had braces along the inside, so he could probably get out easily. However, the fence was smooth on the other side with no foot holds. Any other part of the fence would have been fine, but Paco attempted to go over the part closest to the latch, which happened to be the one part of the fence that had a gap of about 3 inches between the slats. He tried to jump over to get back into the house, didn't make it, his head slid in between the pickets, down the gap, and his feet couldn't touch the ground.

There was so much self anger and blame surrounding the event. Why didn't we feed him before we left. Why didn't we clip him up on the tie down. Why didn't we put him in his crate. Why didn't the cat door fit. Why did we have to fix the fence. Why didn't I take him to the vet. Why did we get Xochitl. Why did we move in the cottage.

As the spiral of blame kept going round and round, the most senseless finger pointed at that restaurant. I couldn't go past the BBQ place without thinking that, if it hadn't sounded so good that night, we would never have left and Paco would be fine. I knew it didn't make sense, but I blamed the place. I was, literally, mad at it. And the fact that the meal we ate was one of the best of my life was just more salt in the wound.

We "forgave" the Phone Booth a few weeks after Paco died. How could we not, it's our favorite neighborhood bar, but it wasn't until this weekend, over 3 months later, that we returned to the BBQ restaurant. It felt weird going in, and somehow the food wasn't as good as I remember. But the act of going back did the trick. It was if the spell was broken and now life can return to normal.

Even so, I refuse to go back to the pie place. I don't care that it was featured in the last issue of Readymade, I'm still mad at it. And the pie sucks.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Lights, Camera...

So tomorrow we film a commercial. Actually it will probably be more like an infomercial or educational video, something like that. I wrote the script today and it's pretty dry. We'll do our best to spice it up but the point is to educate rather than entertain, so the bar is low.

It's a far cry from our first commercial attempt just a little over a year ago. I remember it was just a few days before Paco's TPLO follow up appointment where he got the green light to return to normal activity, and that was Cinco de Mayo last year. Eric, JR, and I stumbled into Van Kleefs without a script or direction, just a vague idea about about what we thought would be funny. I don't know why we thought it was a good idea to shoot a dark dog in a dark bar, but the background was necessary for the loose plot we'd envisioned.

The result is here. We're supposed to be having a relationship talk but the salvageable material may not make that clear, and somehow the end disappeared into the nether-regions of unusable footage. JR sent me this clip last week, and I just finally got the point where I can watch it without bawling my head off and successfully uploaded it to youtube tonight.

Yeah, it makes me sad, but I'm really happy it exists.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Boot Camp

In dog training you call it "the breaking point." This phrase refers to the exact moment when the dog's behavior becomes so offensive it prompts the owner to finally address it and the relationship dramatically shifts.

This weekend we hit the breaking point with Xochitl.

It happened in Dolores, again (first bad episode in Dolores resulted in Xdog losing all off-leash privileges). We took her there and she began barking at everything. And I mean everything: dogs, people, balls, kites, food, etc. We tried all the different tricks we learned, but she was obviously making it a sport.

We went home, Aaron crashed (he had just flown in from Germany earlier that day), and I did some research. Low and behold, I realized that we'd allowed Xochitl to run the house.

I blame myself a little. After Paco died it was just too hard to be strict, and with a little dog it's easy to allow them up on the furniture and in the bed. If she was larger, we may have noticed sooner, but when it's kind of cute when a little dog is being bad. Behaviors you wouldn't allow in a big dog, like tearing across the couch, harassing the cat, or ripping up anything that looks like a dog toy are adorable when done in miniature. During the months after Paco's death we needed a good laugh, and little Xdog provided it.

But now things were out of hand. As I poured through training materials, I realized we'd totally let her run our lives. It's hard to step outside yourself and get a good read on the situation, but, as I did so, it became very clear what was going on.

So now it's boot camp.

No furniture privileges and no bed privileges. She is either crated or on leash, attached to a human or a table leg. Off leash time is spent working on her homework, highly monitored, and exercise is more regular. It's good for all of us, really, and her behavior is improving rapidly.

The first night I fought with her for an hour, making her settle on the floor versus the couch. She would settle for a minute and then try and get up again. The theatrics were incredible, as she flailed like a fish and whined like crazy, alternately attacked the leash or pawed at my leg. All the while I quietly stood on her leash with just enough slack to make the only comfortable option for her to lie down. Eventually she gave up, but now I had a measure by which to judge her bad attitude. See, I've done that exercise with many a dog before, the most stubborn of which was one of my other favorite dogs in the world, Boodles the Boxer. She fought me for 30 minutes before she gave up, but Xdog put that record to shame.

Now she settles on the floor instantly and doesn't even try and get up on th couch, but this is also just a couple days into boot camp. We'll see how the progress goes and, until then, this is a thing of the past:

Gandul squared