Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Green Mountain State

Vermont is a remarkable place. If you have not visited, I can't recommend it highly enough. The quality of life is stellar. Most of what you have heard is true. I brag to anybody who asks about the fact that there is no traffic, very little crime, no billboards, good schools. My daily commute takes me through the kind scenery that most folks only get to visit - pristine winding rivers, mountains jutting up about me, rolling hills and farm fields separating the mountain range we reside in from Lake Champlain and the surrounding valley where my office is located.

It has taken me years to uncover all that Vermont has to offer. Like many before me, my early years here were spent going to the real tourist spots - Ben & Jerry's, The Vermont Teddy Bear Factory, Stowe - all heavily trafficked and well enjoyed destinations. Subsequent years found me exploring the natural wonders of the state: mountain biking, hiking, days at the lake. Wildlife is often available in abundance for observation.

The benefits of this beautiful environment are not lost on Vermont residents. People just love the place. The lifestyle is laid back, with endless possibilities just beyond your door. It really doesn't suck.

But much like an onion, there are layers to be peeled from the surface of a community before one truly becomes aware of, and familiar with the subtle nuances that tell the entire story. Stick around long enough, keep the peeler working and you just might discover why Vermont is referred to as the Green Mountain state. Use Google to search for Vermont's second largest cash crop and you'll save yourself the years I invested in discovery.

The place is loaded with weed. If you ever wondered what happened to all the hippies, wonder no longer. I've found them, and I'm convinced that they are hiding in the hills, poised to rise again to glory. There is a plethora of Birkenstocks, VW vans, and peace signs to behold. The town of Woodstock, Vermont is just fifty miles from our home. People sit around campfires and talk about their feelings. Interpretive dance involving unshaven female armpits occurs with merciless frequency. The hills glow in a series of very small fires every night, and potato chips are consumed in mass quantity.

It stands to reason, therefore, that it was only a matter of time before I had a close encounter with a Mary Jane fan. In order to unwittingly further my education in things green, I moved in right down the street from one. An ardent fan, his days were spent researching all things marijuana. His appearance was part hippie, part mad scientist, long hair and bloodshot eyes bearing testament to his pursuit of, well...nothing, as is the case with most burners. Since he almost never left the house, I considered him relatively harmless.

This consideration was proven quite wrong in a series of events that I will try my best to remember, a series set in motion by a phone call I received one autumn night not too long ago.



Neighbor: "Dude you need to come to my house right now, this is not cool!"

Author: "What is not cool?"

Neighbor: "I don't have time to explain just come NOW."

I did. I grabbed Sola and a flashlight and ran down the street to see what had peace corps all wound up. As we made our way up the driveway I shined turned the light to the house, and what I saw had me running as fast as I could to get to the occupants. I was convinced the house was ablaze, and Sola picked up her pace to match mine as we landed on the front porch. I half expected the doorknob to burn me as I burst through the front door, Sola still at my heels.

We forged ahead through the haze and found our neighbor and his Golden Retriever despondent on the living room floor. I was without my cell phone and could not see my way through the house to find a landline. Plumes of smoke bellowed from the kitchen as I shook the two of them, desperate to see any sign of life. I dropped the flashlight, and Sola took a step back as both my neighbor and his dog opened their eyes and started laughing. It took forty minutes to stop them.

Once their gigglefest subsided, I forced an explanation from my less than present neighbor. He had taken a shot at horticulture over the summer, and as the days shortened and frosty nights approached, he had harvested his his baby. He explained to me how he had dried his plant, and stripped the leaves from it for the purpose of making brownies and cookies of a different kind. He layered these leaves on baking sheets and placed them in both of the dutch ovens in the kitchen (without turning them on) and left them there to dry for more than a week while he tended to the buds and stripped away the stems.

Experts say that pot impacts your short term memory, and here was a man on a mission to prove them right with a bullet. He had imbibed, and was hanging out with his dog while playing online poker. He was in the midst of a moderate winning streak when the hunger bug bit. He placed his laptop on the kitchen counter and scrounged for food between poker plays. Once he decided on his dinner he fired up the oven and returned to the living room to give the ongoing poker match his undivided attention.

Cheech and Chong had nothing on this guy. In a matter of minutes his cooking stash was incinerated, and the house was bursting at the seams with smoke. It was this disquieting scene that Sola and I found ourselves in the middle of - for just a little too long. As neighbor Chong surveyed the damage in the kitchen I started to become lightheaded. A quick look at Sola confirmed my fear- her eyes were drooping and she kept asking me where the water bowl was, which was odd considering that dogs don't talk. I wished my neighbor luck in my newly discovered slow motion voice, and Sola and I stubmbled home in the dark, purple elephants and unicorns in hot pursuit.

Both of us passed out. Mrs. Author and I shared a laugh over coffee the next morning as I conveyed the details of the previous evening's smoke show. The cobwebs cleared from my head as the day wore on. I ate like a horse. Our routine resumed.

Sola was changed.

I had not considered the risk, but it was becoming clear that some of that flower power had rubbed off. The first ominous sign: the attack of the bead curtains. Every doorway was adorned with noisy strands, some strung with seashells, coconut shells, heart shaped glass beads. Entry and exit to and from each room was announced with a loud rattle. My tacky radar was lit up like my neighbor's brain.

It went downhill quickly from there. I returned from work one evening to find the stereo on 10, Led Zeppelin rocking the house to it's foundation, Sola waving to and fro with the wall of guitar noise. Nigel and Truffles observed, nonplussed. They had pulled pillows from the couch to their ears and were nursing substantial headaches by the time I found the volume knob. As the music silenced, all that remained was the methodical tap of Sola's paws on the floor as she continued her dance, the music still playing in her head. I ushered her in to the dog room and closed her in for a bit to let her sober up.

I was baffled. I'd never heard of dogs spending time at the Betty Ford clinic, but I knew that I'd better figure out a solution rather quickly. Sola was embracing the culture too readily. I had kept her away from the Golden down the street to eliminate peer pressure. Mrs. Author and I had shown her scared straight videos from the pound - the images of Rotties being hauled out of Cadillac Escalades in cuffs, and Bulldogs doing time for possession apparently having little effect.

I asked Nigel to go check on Sola, but he came flying back to the couch, Sola angrily screaming "I can quit any time I want, stop snooping Magnum P.I.!" The dog room door slammed shut with a bang.

Nigel: There were piles of cash everywhere and it reeked of incense.

I waited a few hours for her to calm down. I continued the mental struggle for an appropriate course of treatment as I cracked the dog room door open to check on my little wayward corn nut.

Not good.

A truly terrifying poster adorned the walls.

Sola rattled her way through the bead curtain again, passing me and running down the hall, out of sight. I made my way back to the living room to find her playing Rock Band on the Wii, singing White Rabbit by Jefferson Airplane at the top of her lungs. "Feed your head!" she bellowed, and I truly believe she was in the song. It was all wrong, and remained so for months.

My car was the last straw. I walked out of the office the other day, laptop and keys in hand, twenty minutes late as always. I hadn't been punk'd as much as I'd been "pimped."

Fearing serious hooker traffic, I made a commitment at that moment to end the fierce addiction and reclaim my little girl. I was dangling dangerously from the end of my rope, and I needed to save her at any cost. That night Mrs. Author and I huddled with Nigel and Truffles and share our plan. Once all had it memorized we dispersed - Truffles to the kitchen, Mrs. Author keeping an eye on Sola in the back yard as Nigel produced her rolling papers. We were done in less than five minutes, and Sola was none the wiser as she returned to her spot on the couch.

At seven that evening we were watching news of the financial meltdown when Sola had a meltdown of her own. We heard the flick of a lighter in the dog room followed by a series of coughs that evolved in to a consistent dry hack. Sola came rattling back at us through the bead curtain, demanding an explanation. "Someone raided my stash. This isn't my stash, someone replaced it with garbage, where is MINE?" We tried to talk her down, but addiction is as strong as it is ugly, and she wanted no part of it.

I explained that we loved her and that we all needed her to be healthy and well, and free of her demons. Mrs. Author told her that we missed the Sola we knew. She held up a defiant paw and ignored us. I asked Nigel to produce the evidence. He handed it over and I threw it on the table in front of her angrily.

Sola: I quit I quit I quit I quit!!!!!!!!!!

Mission accomplished.

Nigel: You smoked catnip, you'll never live this down in the dog community.

Truffles: Anyone seen my Joaquin Phoenix beard and glasses?

Sola: I have quit, but as you may have noticed, corn nut is one of my nicknames. You all should really click this button to help me with the transition back to reality. Just keep on clicking into oblivion...feed your head!


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Wordless Wednesday #7

I'll be quiet today.

Not so tomorrow...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Off The Wall #2

You bet I'm going there again. Twice.

Join us on Facebook if you can, it's a blast.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Monday Mood

It's been a very long winter. As I type this snow is piling up at unreasonable rates, quickly erasing any sign of the hours I have spent outside clearing it. It would not surprise me to find as much as a foot by tomorrow morning. I am returning to the computer after the first real thirty-six hour break I've taken in ages. My eyes needed it, but I'm running far behind.

A mixed bag of goodness:

A Saturday morning visitor.

Thanks to Jan and Homer for passing along these:

When I get out from under this mountain of snow and work deadlines I'll participate properly!

Finally, Sola reminds me that no matter how deep the snow, there is always room to celebrate.

Life with dogs is the only life for me.

I'll be headed out to shovel again until bedtime, so here's hoping that your Monday is a little less frigid.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Please Don't Litter

Mrs. Author and I are food snobs. We all have our faults - may as well throw that one out there. It's a serious affliction when you consider that we both hate to cook. We just don't like junk food. It's not like our kitchen is dripping with saffron encrusted lobster tails and vials of truffle oil, but you won't find nukeable pockets of any sort in the freezer.

We follow the same approach to our life with dogs, and buy them all natural, high quality food. Sola has allergies that rule out most of the cheap foods. No chicken lips and gristle kibble for her. Our monthly budget for dog food is not insubstantial, but we believe that our dogs benefit from a healthy, balanced diet.

Sola: Tell Fudgepants that.

Author: Truffles has a little issue. Far too often, her smile matches her coat. If you happen to stop by for a visit and Fudgepants wants to plant one on you take a quick gander at her gums. Run at the first sign of brownies. Don't ask why: Just put down the fat dog and run.

Ours is a house of love, and that is apparent in the behavior of our dogs. They are unfailingly affectionate. Smooches are distributed with regularity and with no regard for circumstance. I'll be mid-sentence in a discussion and Nigel will walk by and get in a zip with that lizard quick tongue of his. Sola will tackle me and try to have her way if I'm not careful. Truffles has thrived in this environment, and regularly joins the love fest, fluttering about the family room, tail slicing arcs through the air, rump shaking, kisses flying.

Considering the caring environment we foster, you'd expect us to embrace her affection. Reality paints a substantially different picture. When Fudgepants peels back those lips and moves in for a steamy pucker, family members are seemingly ejected from assorted windows of the house. Our expenditure for glass replacement in January alone was just under nine thousand dollars. I'd bet a fiver that on more than a dozen occasions the neighbors must have thought the damn house was on fire.

It's as though the little pudgewagon has a built in kiss forcefield. If only that were the case.

Nigel: Stop dragging this out and spill the beans.

Author: The dog has elevated the act of turd chomping to an art form. Cat nuggets to be exact. I can't count the number of times that Truffles has emerged from the guest bathroom with a stench ridden smile, her snout encrusted in gray matter. This elicits much profanity as we scramble for the bathroom to clean up her post-picnic mess. Mrs. Author sweeps up the sprinkles. I put away the butter and the napkins.

We have devised numerous schemes to discourage her. Leaving the door open to grant the cat access is necessary, so the past few months have found us testing a variety of objects to achieve poo pursuit blockage. We vastly underestimated her determination. Her heft and hunger foiled our every move. Chairs, hampers, SUVs: all were waylaid in her pursuit of crunchy culinary delights. The dog is nasty.

Just the other day I sat down at the table with the paper to find Truffles looking back at me, obviously unhappy at being interrupted.

A lascivious litter lover, she's not content to eat from the box. All means and methods of preparation are employed, much to our chagrin. A recent movie viewing was interrupted when I noticed the microwave running after I had already retrieved a bag of popcorn from it. Returning to the kitchen, I was immediately forced to pull my shirt over my head in order to avoid being engulfed by a humid, gray smog that filled the room. I used a kitchen towel to wave about my face and clear a path to the nuker, hit the stop button and swung the door open.

An oven mitt was employed to launch the molten poo kiln abomination in to a snowbank by the garage. The nearest pine tree sagged a bit, needles browning. I watched the clay smolder as the snowbank melted and swore that I would put a stop to her less than pleasant habit. I had an idea.

Our cat gained thirty-four pounds the following week. I fed Boo no less than seven full boxes of Imodium in the course of as many days. He swelled up like a Limbaugh.

Boo: You just suck.

Author: Hey, if Truffles wouldn't stop coming to poo, then poo was going to stop coming to Truffles. At least I didn't starve you.

Yet I failed miserably. The following week the cat exploded - flying to and fro on a river of fudge; Truffles with paddle in hot pursuit, bib flapping behind her. Something had "popped the cork" so to speak, and I was determined to locate and eliminate the source of my angst. The obvious had escaped me until yesterday, when I tripped over this interesting piece of evidence:

Count me all the way out. And bid with confidence.

Nigel: Turn that frown something other than brown.

Truffles: I found a Milky Way in the couch loser. If it is not sh*t, you must acquit.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Off The Wall

If you are not on Facebook you're missing out. The banter alone makes it worth signing up.

Click to enlarge and spare yourself the eye strain.

Sadly, Nigel did not achieve his objective.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Territorial Dispute

Truffles: Hey two-legger, Nigel won't get off my side of the couch. I told him it was my side but he won't stay on his side.

Sola: snicker

Truffles: Hey two-legger, Nigel won't stay off my side it's my side make him stay off my side NOW.

Author: I heard you the first time. Nigel, knock it off.

Nigel: What do you want from me? She's nearly seven hundred pounds. Every side is her side.

Truffles: Whatever. Go take another diet pill rice cake. If I cut you I bet you'd bleed balsamic vinaigrette. Ever meet up with a protein you liked?

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Get a Leg Up

Something is awry. Nigel has not been right since we caught him reading dog porn. I never held it against him - a dog has needs. I filed his magazine away in the office and put the incident out of my mind.

Apparently Nigel did not...

It's not at all unusual for me to fall asleep in front of the TV at night. I work quite late and frequently awake on the sofa at two in the morning, laptop dead in front of me. Mrs Author frequently calls to me from upstairs, but I can be difficult to wake. She has made countless trips downstairs to rouse me from a deep slumber, dogs passed out on either side of me. I'm an internet junkie, so the television constantly loses the battle for my attention. I lose the battle with my eyelids.

Weeks ago I awoke to the guffaws of Mrs. Author. She had done me the favor of snapping a picture before letting laughter get the best of her. I was surprised by, and not too sure what to make of what she shared with me.

His method of procurement evades me, but Nigel somehow managed to get his paws on some flowers and chocolates, and had placed them on my leg in the middle of the night as I lay sleeping.

Nigel is a sweetheart, so I took this as a gesture of kindness. He studied me intently as I found a vase for the flowers and put the chocolates on the kitchen counter, relieved that none of the dogs had chosen to eat them as I slept. He continued to watch me as I turned off the lights and made my way to bed. He never looked me in the eye.

The following evening I was violated. I won't go in to the gruesome details, but I awoke to the droning thud of....Nigel romancing my leg.

Nigel: When I get that feeling...

Author: Stop. Because I slept so deeply, Nigel had sufficient time to do substantial damage. His regrettable rhythmic leg ride had left me bruised and confused; my shin shattered, pants tattered. I cast off the sleep dust as Sola looked on, a knowing smirk emerging.

Sola: Nigel's gone off the reservation.

Truffles: Beyond the pale.

Author: The aftermath was unsightly.

Nigel: You know I tapped that.

Author: I was out a pair of pants, shoe and sock discarded. I made the limp of shame upstairs and showered. It was two in the morning. A fitful sleep enshrouded me. I dreamed I was being chased by jackhammers.

I left early the next morning. I wanted to replace my destroyed pants, and ravaged socks and shoes. Limping back to the car with my newly purchased replacements, I made the decision to put the matter behind me, and chalk it up to a classic case of leghound. We've all seen it - owners scrambling to evade the rogue hump. Not a big deal.

After filling the bird feeders one afternoon, I brushed the snow off my boots and stepped up in to the sun porch to find Nigel entranced. Thinking he was soaking in a sunbeam, I removed my boots and coat and turned for the kitchen. What I saw stopped me cold, and had my 911 muscles twitching.

He had created, well - not a collage per se; but rather a leg shrine of sorts, carefully arranged under the Valentine tree. Candles burned and spread a musky scent about the room. Things just felt way off, in a Jeffrey Dahmer kind of way. I wanted to spare Mrs. Author a scare, so I abuptly blew out the candles and swept Nigel's leggy photo collection in to the trash.

Nigel continued to watch me sleep with malicious intent.

I don't want to gross anyone out here, but I must admit that every time I fell asleep on the couch it happened again. As much as I tried to make it to bed some nights just found me too beat to escape the shincritter. Leg porked eight ways to Sunday, I sacrificed numerous pairs of pants to the wicked leghound. I shopped with frequency.

It was customary for me to carry out these shopping runs quietly, eyes glued to my feet in embarrassment. But I'd have to have been blind to not notice a disturbing trend. On more than one occasion I bumped in to one of my neighbors. Vermont is small, so at first I did not pay it any mind. After the third trip I noticed two neighbors: The fouth trip yielded five.

All were limping. All were buying pants, shoes and socks. None would look at me.

You can't imagine my relief. I had been convinced that only one of two possibilities existed.

1. I had located the single most horny Greyhound this side if the Mississippi, and his mother had screwed up bigtime, telling him the story of the birds and the tibias.

2. Aliens had taken tractor beam mental control of the male canine species worldwide, and were hurling subliminal messages of oysters and Spanish fly to their captives.

Instead I had solid evidence that this was a normal male dog thing, and that other dog owners were just too embarrassed to talk about it. I was awash in relief. I shared my shame and my two long-held theories with Mrs. Author. We laughed heartily at the absurdity of it all. I bought shin guards and slept like a baby, Nigel knocking himself out in a barrage of plasticky muted thuds on a regular basis.

Yesterday my joy abated in a split second when I awoke to the following sight:

The back door was open, a cold wind sweeping through the house. Nigel lay exhausted on the sofa amongst a collection of socks and shoes that he had collected from his victims. I screamed and ran down the hall as my mind started to bend toward the twisted truth that was shown me. It all added up - the limping neighbors who shopped with me but would not meet my gaze, the leg shrine, now the evidence was just too strong to ignore.

Nigel was a serial shin shagger.

I slammed the office door behind me and caught my breath. What was I to do? Mrs. Author was out running errands. I had no phone with me, having left the cordless handset elsewhere in the house. Even worse, I was wearing shorts. I decided to go with the safe play and locked myself in, expecting Mrs. Author to handle the situation when she returned. Hours passed and I began knocking about the office, poring through piles of mail, straightening up clutter.

The sound of Mrs. Author's SUV coming up the driveway broke the silence, and just as I unlocked the door I noticed a magazine hanging awkwardly off one corner of the desk, about to spill the pile of catalogs and mail balanced atop it. I pulled it from the pile for inspection and ceased to breathe. The real truth - the underlying cause of my shinjuries and shame, so many sacrificed slacks, neighborhood alienation - had been there all along, waiting for me to happen upon it.

I repeated the first line I read: quietly, then aloud. Nigel disappeared. Mrs Author entered the house to find me clutching my source of angst, color drained from my face, trembling. I was despondent and did not hear her pleas for an explanation. She became frustrated and forcibly ripped the object of my dismay from my hands. She dropped her purse, cell phone and keys as it landed upright on the desk beside me...

Notes to self:

Clothing donations gladly accepted, 36W 32L.

Subscription canceled.

It's time to get to work on my new blog.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Wordless Wednesday #5

Tomorrow: words :)

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Who you gonna call?

Sharing our home and our lives with dogs is a privilege. We simply provide for them. What they give back is immeasurable. We laugh often, play like children, forget the troubles of the world together. We are blessed.

It was never our intent to have three dogs. They all found their way to us by different means, tugging at just the right heart string at just the right time. Each needed a place to call home, and we were happy to oblige. Considering their disparate histories, and scattered geographic origins, I would never have expected them to fall in love with each other and embrace life together as quickly as they did.

In hindsight it all seemed so innocent.

For some reason not known to me, Nigel, Sola and Truffles share a common goal: complete and utter fruitbowl decimation. Not a day passes without a paw, tail, or deliberately thrown snout making contact with my nether regions. It is not at all uncommon for Mrs. Author to walk around a corner to find me writhing on the floor, cursing one of our critters. I often return from work to the bustle of my beloved family only to find myself temporarily crippled, laptop bag and its contents strewn about me, the safety of my office miles behind me; Nigel eying me for a treat that will not be dispensed.

The long term result of this behavior has been a change in my posture and stature. Multiple instances of paw to parts contact has left me hunched over. I walk with my legs slightly crossed. Mrs. Author likes to remind me that I was 6'1" when we met. I now stand at just over four feet tall.

Nigel: I do not want to relinquish my sofa rights to children. So you're not having any.

Author: Had I not investigated a strange rustling sound emanating from one of the guest bedrooms Saturday, I would have chalked all of this up to coincidence. The door thrown open, I froze as my blood temp dropped by a few degrees - Sola was practicing.

Frightened and disillusioned, I started to pay closer attention to the happenings around the house. All was quiet until Sunday evening.

Unfortunate as it may be, Sola's hatred for TV dogs necessitates confinement when the Puppy Bowl plays during Super Bowl halftime. I thought it best to send Nigel and Truffles to the dog room with her so she would not be lonely. Another mistake. As pooches of assorted breeds made their way across the screen, Mrs. Author and I were oohing and aahing when the faintest sound of music drifted toward us from the dog room at the end of the hall.

If the pops comes home, and his parts aren't blocked, who you gonna call? Junk Busters!

Throw a paw right up, gonna break that.......spirit. Who you gonna call? Junk Busters!

If he gets home late, use your newfound trick. Who you gonna call? Junk Busters!

Make him quite irate, try to smash that-

Mrs. Author slammed the door and ushered me in to the kitchen. A tear of painful remembrance ran down my cheek as their tune of torture echoed in my head. I watched her rustle through kitchen cabinets and drawers, and closed my eyes as one of the original lines from the song found its way back to my memory:

Lemme tell ya something
Bustin' makes me feel good!

My love for music had burned me. We listen to music daily in the car, the house - iTunes is always running in the background. I had always been told that leaving music on for dogs was soothing and helped them to relax. It never occurred to me that the lyrics were of importance, nor was I aware that said music would facilitate twig and berry destruction.

Reality sank in when I felt Mrs. Author tugging at my belt. While this is normally the sign of good things to come, I looked down to find a rather foreboding arrangement. The dog room door creaked open slowly, ominously. Sola inched her way down the hall on a poorly disguised scouting mission and moved in for a closer look.

It would be of no surprise to me if Williams-Sonoma did not approach me for their next advertising campaign, but let me be the first to tell you that Mrs. Author is brilliant. The ensuing days sounded like a loop tape of the Gong Show. Paws flew with fury, only to be met with a metallic clang that signaled serious canine disappointment. Time after time, my little metal friend thwarted their advances with a resounding ring that rattled my fillings and knocked crows off their perches countywide.

A call from the neighbors underscored the effectiveness of my newest fashion accessory, Mr. Strainer.

*Ring* *Ring*

"Hello, Hunchback house."

Neighbor: "Hey I just wanted to ask you quickly - have you been hearing church bells?"

"Um....well yes, I have. It sounds like it's coming from the neighbors on the other side of me..."

Neighbor: "OK, I thought someone had taken the Liberty Bell on tour and was driving it up the street."

As I recall the events of the week, two things occur to me:

It feels smashing to walk upright.

And I'll never look at pasta the same way again.

Note: 1-800-Got Junk © 2009 1-800-GOT-JUNK? LLC and RBDS Rubbish Boys Disposal Service Inc.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Wordless Wednesday #4

Click to enlarge and see hostage negotiators at work.

See you again tomorrow ; )

Monday, February 02, 2009