Tuesday, January 21 2003
Today I finally got around to trimming out the triangular stained-glass window separating the master bedroom from its palatial bathroom. I didn't have a protractor with which to measure the 22.5 degree mitres I had to cut, so I was forced to download one from the web. Despite careful work, the corners ended up needing gobs of plastic wood anyway. Without this miracle substance they would have resembled two-pronged serving forks.
Gretchen and I have had a plan for several months to get a third cat. We want the cat to be a black kitten and for us to name him Clarence. Gretchen has been searching Petfinder.com all this time, hoping to find a suitable cat. Recently she found one that might be right, a five month old kitten named Ollie who lives at an animal shelter down in Newburgh. Today she wanted to check out Ollie, and she asked me to come along.
I felt miserable for whole ride down to Newburgh. Strangely, I couldn't really place the source of this misery. It was a subconscious emotional condition, a feeling of pointlessness in the world exacerbated by Sally in my lap. The bitch would lie the fuck down, insisting on sitting up on her bony ass and watching the scenery roll by.
The Newburgh animal shelter was the official government-funded dog catcher headquarters for the town, complete with a big green dog catcher net. It was a small, under-funded facility, though it was reasonably clean and most of its four-footed inhabitants were in good health. The guy then staffing the place was an unhelpful man who didn't know anything about the animals in the shelter. His reason for being there wasn't all that much different from that of the animals - to pass the precious time given to him as life. We couldn't find any kittens in the cat cages and tried to inquire as to Ollie's whereabouts, but the best this guy could do was suggest that he'd been taken to the vet. It turned out that this staffer wasn't actually a shelter employee; he was simply on loan from the AARP, a sixty year old man who still lives with his parents.
Next we made the mistake of going into the dog kennel part of the shelter. With the exception of one old Rottweiler, all the dogs were Pit Bulls or Pit Bull hybrids. What we were seeing was a consequence of a shameful characteristic of lower-class black urban culture: a strictly utilitarian view of dogs (coupled with indifference to their fate). If a dog won't fight and isn't needed as a guard, it's trash and ends up in a place like this. There were some very cute dogs here, particularly a little striped brown dog who looked a lot like Sally. There were also some that had clearly been through traumatic experiences and weren't convinced that their nightmares were over. At the end of the row of cages was a female Pit whose cage bore several warnings. She barked ferociously as we stood there. Suddenly Gretchen started crying. At first I thought that the dog's profound non-adoptability had Gretchen dwelling on the dog's probably-eminent euthanasia. But it turned out that she'd seen scratches and other injuries the poor dog had accumulated as a result of being made to fight.
Out of sympathy for the dogs, and not yet knowing the uselessness of the one staffer present, Gretchen asked if we could take the cute little Sally-style brown dog for a walk. He said we couldn't, but couldn't really say why. We decided to go do something else for an hour to wait for a more helpful staffer to materialize. So we went to a retro-50s-style Greek diner called Alexis and had a dinner of veggie burgers and fat golden brown fries. I didn't discover until after I'd eaten some food that the source my earlier malaise had simply been low blood sugar levels.
When we returned to the animal shelter, we could see that the big white official dog catcher truck was now there, and this meant we'd actually be dealing with official shelter employees. The old unhelpful guy had left promptly at five and been replaced with a reasonable woman wearing a dog catcher uniform. It turned out that the cat we'd come to see had been in the shelter the whole time. His name was Ollie and he was a lot bigger than we'd expected. On the question of the cute brown Sally-style dog out in dog kennel, the dog catcher told us that she was an untrained little hellion who was likely to chew everything up in our house and then clamber like a monkey atop the kitchen table and counterspace, strewing fragrant loaves of doggy doo in her wake.
Our attention was drawn to a small Pit Bull bounding gleefully back and forth through the office. His name was Scout and he came equipped with a large glistening penis and appeared to be at least partially blind. The story on Scout was that he'd been found by the dog catcher with his penis frozen to a block of ice; she'd had to chip the block out and carry both the dog and the ice back to the shelter so they could eventually be separated. Now Scout is being kept as evidence in an animal abuse case against the owner, who also blinded and starved him. Scout seemed to have special privileges not usually extended to the other dogs, allowed to romp around and play with the cats. As for the cats, at night they were released from their cages and given run of the office, thereby suppressing a mouse infestation amongst the sacks of donated dry food.
With Ollie being a bigger than expected, it didn't look like he was going was to be our Clarence. "But I am going to make a donation," Gretchen said. I was thinking maybe she was going to give the shelter $20 or maybe $50 - it's not like we have much cash these days. She did a little mental calculation factoring in all her resources and the imminent closing of the Brooklyn brownstone (scheduled for Monday). Then she wrote a check for $400. I was aghast. But that was just my reaction. Impulsive decisions are like explosions. They have a ground zero, in the mind of the impulsive, from there their effects radiate out as others try to come to grips with them, whether they're good news or bad. The dog catcher woman was astounded, particularly after our experience with the guy on loan from the AARP. "There's more where this came from," Gretchen added. All I could I do was roll my eyes.
The second series of the idiotically-compelling show American Idol began again tonight. It was interesting to see what had changed and what had stayed the same since the last show. Things that had worked stayed: the good-cop consoling and polite "speechlessness" of Paula Abdul, the inane put-down slinging of Simon the Limey, and the embarrassed chuckling of Randy the Gainer of Weight. Things that hadn't worked as well, at least with me, included the vapid middle-school-play-level horseplay of the behairgelled co-hosts. Now there appears to be only one host, and though still behairgelled, he plays a much-less prominent role. Given the target audience of this series, that might not have been such a wise move. Oh yes, and there's a hostess as well. Her job is mainly to expose her navel and impersonate the empathy of Mother Theresa as rejects are flushed from their auditions. This hostess, if you can call her that, was actually one of the contestants in the first American Idol, and she probably came cheap. The fine print of the contract she signed last year probably read, "For compensation not to exceed the federal minimum wage, the Fox network reserves a ten year option to have Ms. _______ serve in the capacity of cohost for a future nationally-syndicated television series."
More distressing than the show was what followed it, a piece attempted to answer the question "Last year's American Idols: where are they now?" The answer appears to be that Kelly Clarkson gained some weight and was de-emphasized in favor of the runner-up, the distractingly-benosejobbed Justin. But all the top American Idols did go on tour around the nation and performed for thousands of adoring Coke-drinking/Ford-driving fans in such places as Las Vegas (appropriate for stars who are automatically has-beens at the moment of their ascendancy). I'd like to think, just for what it would mean about our species and society, that the people attending these concerts were singled out for ridicule and humiliation in the hallways of their daycare centers and middle schools.
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