Rex: The first weekend.


He wasn’t home for ten minutes before he discovered his toy. He hasn’t put it down since.

It happened. I went and adopted Rex. I told so many people about it that I simply had to do it.  And, also, he charmed me so I had to do it. 

We’ve spent the past day or so together and he’s adjusted to me quite quickly. Faster than I’ve adjusted to him.  He’s figured out that I am a bestower of treats, walks and love. He seems to love sleeping on the soft surfaces of my house, the rugs, his bed, the pillow that used to be Spike’s bed. He doesn’t try to get up on the couch or my bed, which is amazing. I, in the meantime, am trying to get used to his paw prints on the floor and the driblets of water around the water bowl.

I’ve left him alone and he gets upset when I first leave. But when I get home, it seems like he’s just spent my time away snoozing, not making any trouble.

He’s gentle and goofy and friendly with every person and dog he’s encountered so far.


Sweet sleep.

I look at him sleeping right now and think, “Aw. What a cutie.”

And yet, I have this lump in my heart. The lump has been the source of many tears this past day or two. I still miss Spike more than I realized.

Don’t get me wrong; there is nothing wrong with Rex. He’s a sweetie. He’s a keeper. But he’s not Spike.

That sounds stupid to say. I knew I wasn’t getting Spike when I adopted Rex. I purposely wanted a big goof with whom I could go running and who would intimidate any bad guys when I take him for walks at night because, honestly, I’m not living in the safest neighborhood.

So, I’m surprised by this lump. I’m trying to make sense of it. Am I just nervous that my day-to-day routine with Rex won’t be as easy as it was with Spike? Am I wishing that Rex were the kind of dog that could fit on my lap? (As an aside, Rex has shown no inclination to lap-sitting whatsoever. This is good since he weighs at least 50 pounds. Unlike some big dogs I know, Rex seems aware that my lap is too small and will not be very comfortable for him).

There’s a part of me that knows what the problem is. Spike was a one-person dog. He didn’t want to share me. Every time I took care of other people’s dogs, he made that very clear. He let the dog and me know that I belonged to him. So, perhaps I’m experiencing a bit of guilt that I’m letting another dog into my life. Maybe I’m feeling his posthumous jealousy.


Still playing with the toy…showing it who’s boss.

Or maybe I’m a one-dog kind of person. I can have other dogs in my life and learn to love them, but in the end, it will always be Spike that I loved most.

I know it’s too early in my life with Rex to make that kind of statement. It’s a speculation on my part. But why else would this lump be so large and tender?

But then I look over at Rex who is passed out after our 3-mile walk this morning  and I think, “Aw.” And i’m tempted to snap another photo. So, if I weren’t already enamored with Rex on some level, would I have taken so many pictures of him?



For perspective: The blue pillow was Spike’s bed. Now it’s Rex’s head rest.


Musings on a New Dog

I am ready to take the plunge again.  I think.

For the past month, I’ve been telling myself, and others, that I am going to adopt a dog.  It’s been a little more than a year and six months since Spike passed away and my heart is healed, sort of. And I really think having a pooch in my life again would be great.


He will be called Rex, Latin for King. Because he’s so regal. Also, he’s such a mutt that he is king of all dogs.

In fact, I’ve already met a handsome fella who fits the bill. I guess we always go for the opposite of our most recent loves, because this dog is nothing like Spike in stature, attitude and size.

So, in many ways, I’m ready. But I’m also terrified.

I don’t know how people go into a shelter and come out with a dog or cat a few hours later with what seems like very little thought.  I’ve been going back and forth about Rex (that is what I will call him) for nearly three weeks now.

I first saw him at the shelter where I volunteer.  A week later, I asked if I could officially meet him and I spent 45 minutes getting to know him and realizing he was one cool dude

Then yesterday I took my parent’s dog to the shelter to meet him because, to be honest, little Sadie is picky about other dogs she likes.

Sadie gave her grudging long as she gets to sit in the lap, she'll tolerate the big galoot.

Sadie gave her grudging approval….as long as she gets to sit in the lap, she’ll tolerate the big galoot.

But since she’s very likely to become my dog one day, Sadie had to approve.  The visit went well. And now, I’ve told myself, I will make it official next Friday when I have a whole weekend without any other obligations so I can get him comfortable in his new home.

And yet, I’m terrified of taking this step.

I’m worried I won’t have enough time for him. I’m worried about the expense of taking care of him. I’m worried he’ll be more of a handful then he seems to be on first introduction. I’m worried that I have become too accustomed to leaving the house at 6 a.m. and returning at 10 p.m. More than anything, I’m terrified of getting attached to Rex and having a great life with him and then losing him when he dies at a happy old age.

"I'm a working dog."

“I’m a working dog.”

And, yes, it’s that last fear that stops me the most. I’m theoretically ready to have a dog, but I so fear the heartbreak that inevitably comes with it. We’ll see if that is enough to scare me off entirely.

I have five days to decide.

Either way, even contemplating a dog has gotten me writing again. Which makes me think that canines are the ideal Calliope for me. Calliope (as opposed to Polyhymnia, the muse of sacred poetry, or Erato, the muse of love poetry), because Calliope is the muse of epic poetry. And life with a dog is most certainly epic.


It’s been a little more than two weeks since Spike died.  I’m still not fully recovered. In fact, I’m not even recovered a little.  But I’m trying to.

In the past two weeks, I have written electronic reams of paper about Spike – about his habits, his predilections and some adventures we had together.  I’m not finished writing about him and one day I may make the tomb available for other people to read. But I’m pretty sure no one really wants to read all that.

Still, I wanted to have some kind of written memorial to Spike for everyone to read.  But I don’t know how to do it.

Spike’s death has been profoundly disorienting.  The shock that everyone talks about of coming home to an empty house  has mostly passed. And I no longer expect Spike to wake me up at 3 a.m. so he can have a snack.  I cannot bring myself to get rid of his toys, food and bed, so they are sitting there as if waiting for Spike to come back.  As some may know, I’m just a wee bit obsessive about having a clean house, but I haven’t cleaned since he died. I had cleaned the apartment that day…even washed two of his three blankets, which I wouldn’t have done had I known he was going to die.  Now, I don’t want to erase any more evidence of him. I want to find just one more dog hair to remind me he had been here. I want that one blanket to still smell like him forever.

I’ve nearly stopped drinking coffee.  I walk into the grocery store and cannot think of anything I want to eat, so I leave. I’ve come to expect that I’ll get weepy for no reason when I’m on the metro. I can feel my smile muscles atrophying.

All of this is to say that I’m not getting over Spike’s death very well.

I know my loss is not unique. It seems that everyone is familiar with the void that results from a pet’s death. There is nothing new I can add to the cannon about this particular kind of loss. Still, it’s hard for me quell the impulse to express this grieving to the world.  Even though it feels trite to do so.

There has been one upside to Spike’s death, though. My friends.  It turns out, I have some.  I think I had forgotten that fact in the past few months because I have been living in a new city, feeling unusually isolated and cut off from everything that isn’t work related. But when news of Spike’s death spread, I found myself held up by people I thought had forgotten me.

The realization that I do have friends and that their love has been wonderful to have really struck me. I told myself during that first week that I am not going to let these friendships lapse – that I’m not going to fall into the trap of assuming that people are too busy and tied up their own lives to care about hearing from me.

This will be a challenge. It requires me to get over my misanthropic tendencies and my love of solitude. It requires I shake my habit of shutting out the world when I feel the least bit sad. And I’m sad all the time now.  It requires me to expend a huge amount of energy to pick up the phone and call someone when I just don’t have the energy to do much of anything.  The hardest part is that it means I have to admit that I need people. I hate needing people, but I don’t know how else to get through this.

So, there… I am putting my wounded self out there for all of you to know. Be on alert. I may call.  Feel free to call me, too.

In the meantime, here is a movie I took of Spike back in Seattle. I can’t upload video into my blog, so I had to do it on YouTube…

He went through this routine, or one very similar to it, after every walk.  I have several videos of him doing his post-walk dance. I chose to share this one because he broke from his usual sequence to just look at me for a minute.  It still makes me laugh.

Where ya’ been?

I go for long periods without posting anything here.   You may have noticed because you fervently check every four hours to see what is new and you are perpetually disappointed.

As much as I hate to disappoint, I hate posting stuff that I think is unworthy more.  It’s not that I haven’t been writing. It’s that I haven’t written anything worthy of your eyes.

Or I’ve written stuff that wouldn’t be appropriate (and yes, I hear my father’s voice when I write that).

Rather than go another day without providing some mild entertainment for my thousands (OK, dozens) of readers, I thought I’d give you an example of what I haven’t been posting.

I kind of wish I could do this in Power Point format, but I’m not that technically savvy. So, let’s pretend that each grouping below is its own slide representing a reason why you will never read about it.

Too Dull:

  • Why yoga feels so great and why I can’t seem to find time to do it.
  • How to make cookies.
  • Describing the frustration of trying to learn a new musical instrument (a ukele in this case).
  • Whining about what I don’t like about DC.
  • My obsession with keeping my apartment clean even though it never feels clean enough.

Too risque:

  • The excessive exposure of skin with heels that are so high that there’s no way anyone could walk more than a block – much less run – in them.
  • My love affair with wine.
  • Memories of an active youth – mine.
  • Observations from Fire Island.
  • The pubic grooming habits of women at the gym.

Totally unprofessional:

  • Complaints/thoughts/judgements about co-workers – past and present.
  • Description of work life in a very rarified media world.
  • Rants about the world of public relations.

Too much Spike:

  • Whiskers.
  • Spike’s ability to nuzzle his way under blankets.
  • Feeding time.
  • Relationships with other dogs (Spike’s relationships, not mine).
  • Spike’s bowel movements.
  • Facial expressions and how I know what he’s thinking.

What have I learned from this?  Mostly that I need to get out more and just describe what I see… without complaining, without judging, without giving specifics.

But do you know how hard it is to write about experiences without naming names or without imparting my own biases on a situation?  Lately, it’s very hard.

As much as I know that many of you would LOVE it if I did let your read more about some of the categories listed above (the Spike category, of course!), I have to refrain.  I am still trying to figure out a balance between wanting to share my writing – hoping that people want to read all the inane things that I write about – with my instinct for discretion and privacy.

Maybe, just maybe… I’ll start writing a different blog under a mysterious assumed identity. That way, I could cut loose and no potential employer, current family member or future paramour would know about this alternate Shula.

Meanwhile, here’s another cute one of Spike – wearing an ear up (it’s the asymmetrical look).  He doesn’t care what I write about, as long as I feed him.


The results of sex

Now that I know my beloved readers are a bunch of sex-obsessed, lewd-minded perverts who only read my biary out of a prurient interest, I thought I’d go for something really naughty.

My grandmother.

Now, before you click away from reading more, let me explain my logic.  At some point in her life, my grandmother had sex with my grandfather and begot my father.  How lascivious!!!  Then, much later, my father then had sex with my mother. They had to try at least four times before getting it right and begetting me.

Uch… it’s so unsavory. Isn’t there a better way of being born?

Anyway, I want to talk about my paternal grandmother, Mary, whom we always called Mem.

Mem, standing next to Grandpa Harry. The three boys are my brothers. The curly-headed blonde is my cousin Stephanie. I’m the cutie with the goofy smile.

She was a wonderful grandmother.  Stylish in a way that women who came of age in the 30s and 40s were.  She doted on all of her grandchildren and held fast to the belief that her son (my father) could do no wrong – which is true.  She was an amazing baker AND she could cook up a storm. She loved practical jokes and scatological humor.  Later in life, I learned of her endearing ability to express her disdain for people she didn’t like in a way that didn’t seem insulting or cruel.

She was my after-school caretaker when I was in kindergarten and my mom was going to graduate school.  Mem and I would play cards and watch game shows and giggle up a storm.  She taught me how to play solitaire and also taught me how to cheat at it.

Mem knitted dozens of sweaters, dresses and afghans for her children and grandchildren.  She never taught me how to knit.  But after I learned on my own when I lived in Denmark, Mem was eager to see that the Danes taught me how to knit the right way.

My cousin Stephanie and I… just before her wedding. Next to Grandma is Steph’s sister, Rachel. Ah, the 1990s.

After my grandfather died, I was living in St. Louis and would visit her at least once a week.  She was depressed by then and really didn’t do much of anything aside from watch game shows on the game show channel.  But she would always perk up when I showed up.  I would hold her hands (they were so soft) and change the channel to the cooking network and we would talk about nothing in particular.  It was a great way to spend a quiet hour or two with a lovely lady.

She died 11 years ago – before 9-11, thank goodness.  Mem was born and raised in New York. As a girl, she would travel from the Lower East Side up to the Bronx to visit her uncles and return with a suitcase full of moonshine.  So, I suppose my grandmother was the Prohibition’s equivalent of a modern-day drug-runner. Even though she never lived in New York when the World Trade Towers existed, she would have considered any attack on New York an attack on her personally.

I’ve been thinking about Mem lately because of I’m still thinking about stuff and the meaning that we attach to stuff.

I am not a tchochke person.  Aside from art that hangs on the walls, I prefer that my décor to be functional as well as fun to look at.  Yet I have these two little, blue statuettes of what I think are supposed to be Chinese men sitting on my bookshelves.

Little Blue Men

They belonged to Mem.  I don’t know why I decided to keep them after she died – perhaps because I couldn’t find her knitting needles and I wanted something to remember her by.

Unfortunately, I know nothing about these little guys. I don’t know why Mem owned them in the first place. I have no idea where they came from – she never went to China or even expressed an interest in Asian art.  I don’t know what significance they held for her that prompted her to keep them.  I’m sure they have no monetary value. Perhaps Grandma bought them one day at the department store on a lark… a strange urge to add culture to the array of knick-knacks she had around the house.

I wish I knew what these little fellas meant to Mem. I think it would help me appreciate them more.  It would explain to me why I keep moving them across the country and setting them up on my bookshelves.  That way, the blue guys would be more than a reminder of my grandmother. They would be a little porthole into her sentiment and her own memory behind acquiring them.

Of course, the real question you all have about Mem is: How would she have liked Spike?  The answer, alas, is that she wouldn’t have.  For all of the ways that Mem was a wonderful person, she had one shortcoming. She just didn’t care for pets.  She particularly hated cats. She tolerated dogs, but didn’t seem to have any particular affection for them.

Spike wouldn’t have cared how Mem felt – although if she ever fed him anything, he would have adored her.

This is difficult to talk about

Here is a little writer’s confession.  A blogger’s quandary, as it were. Or, in my case, a biarist’s dilemma.  (You like how I did that? I’m writing a biary, which makes me a biarist?  Get it?)

My dilemma is that even as I write odd and random snippets about life in the Shula Lane for the entire world to see (or for the two of you that actually read this thing), I am painfully aware of how much I wish to avoid anything too personal.  I have been going by the maxim that I shouldn’t write anything that I wouldn’t want my parents to read.

I have also been censoring my writings that could reveal too much about my political leanings (my career aspirations put the kibosh on that). What’s more, I have a strong disinclination to lay my romantic world open for anyone to stumble across (mostly, I think it would depress people too much).

These limitations help to explain my obsession with Spike – who really is a fantastic dog; my observations about life’s transitional nature; and my made up stories that amuse me (even if my dear readers find them dull).

So today, I must veer for a second from my usual decorum.

I want to talk about my upstairs neighbor.  I’ve never met the woman (I know it’s a woman for reasons that will be clear later).  I have no idea her age, weight, hair color, income level or any other descriptor that would help me like her.  I do know one thing about her:  she’s not a quiet person.

She moved in a few weeks after I did in the middle of winter.  I first heard her because she has a penchant for wearing high-heels.  Heels have a very distinct clickity-clack pattern when you walk on hard wood floors, which is the first clue that she is a woman.  She also didn’t bother to put down any carpets.

The second clue that she is a woman is that she is also a screamer.  Allow your minds to traverse to the naughty place it wants to go, because that is exactly what I’m talking about.

My apartment building is old (vintage, as the real estate types say) and the walls between apartments are solid. I never hear my neighbors on either side of me, or below me.  Several years ago, the building was updated and vents were built for central air conditioning.  This must have opened up a direct stereoscopic line from the fifth floor to the fourth because sound travels as clear as if someone were standing next to me  laughing heartily at something on TV or relaying a particularly good yarn on the telephone… or, more likely, moaning and screaming.

The first time I heard the screams, I thought it was coming from the zoo.  But my window was closed, so that didn’t make sense. I turned off my music because I was confused about what I was hearing. Was there something wrong with my stereo? Was someone in trouble? Was that….ohmygod, is that what I think it is?

Yes. Oh, Yes.  Oh, god… Yes… it was just that.

I turned my stereo back on.

I have to say, living underneath Jenna Jameson  (or someone who read Jameson’s book and is following its instructions to a T) is embarrassing, humbling and irritating.  I gave the girl a week to put some rugs down up there, hoping it would mute the sound. But even a week turned out to be a long time to wait because, as it turns out, Ms. Upstairs is not only a vocal love-maker, she is prolific as well.

When I finally did talk to the building manager, it was a little awkward. I’m not sure I conveyed what I was hearing.  Here’s how that conversation went:

ME:  So, apparently, I have a new neighbor upstairs…

MANAGER:  Yes, that’s right.

ME:  So, I don’t think she has put down any rugs. Isn’t she supposed to have the floor covered?

MANAGER:  Yes, 80 percent of the floor space should be covered. Of course, that’s hard to measure, but usually people put down a large enough rug. Why?

ME:  Well, she’s a bit loud. I’m not sure if she has heavy footsteps or likes to move her furniture around a lot…or what…

MANAGER:  Moving furniture?

ME: That’s what it sounds like sometimes. And she walks kind of heavily… I’m just hearing a lot of … stuff.

MANAGER: Thanks for letting us know.  Some carpets will help with that. We’ll say something to her.

They said something to her… the footsteps are now muffled and for a while the amorous sessions abated, or were muted.  But not entirely.  I was reminded of Ms Upstair’s vocal skills again last night.  I think she removed the carpets or something.  And, from what I can tell she and her partner (I know she’s not alone up there), seem to make good use of the entire apartment… not just one corner.

I hate to admit that I even thought about it that much – to wonder where the heck they were. But the sound seemed to be coming from everywhere.  Even after I turned on my music.

The thing about living underneath someone whose voice carries it that you can’t help but feel like a total prude.  The random thoughts that go through my head include: Why does she go on like that?  My goodness… aren’t they done yet?  She’s totally faking it for him.  Can anyone else in this building hear this?  Do they know how loud they are?  Are they still at it?

I’m glad that there is love in this world.  I’m glad that my neighbor is in such a comfortable relationship that the two of them feel free to totally let their guards down.  But I’m not glad that I have to hear their love.

My willingness to be generous in my opinion about her is gone.  Instead, I imagine the following personna: My neighbor upstairs is 23 years old, has long, blonde hair (sorry), and is curvy with some un-needed weight.  Big boobs.  She takes at least 45 minutes to apply her makeup before stuffing herself into a dress that is a size too small when she goes out at night. The dress is short and has sequins. She had a nose job when she was 16. She is a student of some sort – but not a terribly erudite one.  She drives a Camero. She is probably being supported either by the boyfriend or her father or both. She eats Lean Cuisine.

Here’s the other thing about living underneath Ms. Screamer: The very fact that I have thought about her enough to paint such a picture makes me wonder if I’ve turned into the crotchety, old crone downstairs.  I have yet to grab a broomstick and bang on the ceiling.  I’m not even tempted to do that…yet.

Finally, I keep worrying about one thing: If I ever do meet my neighbor above… what in the world will I say?

I cannot include a photo of Spike in this entry… it’s just wrong.

Objects of Desire

My parents are starting to contemplate preparing to get ready to move out of their house of 40 years.  This is an improvement over last year when they were contemplating getting ready to think about preparing to move out.

Last weekend when all of my siblings and I were home we had a family meeting to discuss how we “kids” could help my parents kick-start the moving process.  My parent’s house is large and it is filled with STUFF.  Most of it is worthless stuff. There is an abundance of tablecloths, kitchen utensils, coats, exercise equipment and books. Lots and lots of books.

During our family talk (for which my 12-year-old nephew took minutes), my mom mentioned that a year ago getting rid of some of her books would have been too painful. She still has the statistics and microeconomic textbooks from her college days and she is only now ready to give them up.  She knows they are not valuable to anyone, she said, it’s just that she has an emotional attachment to them.

The idea of being emotionally attached to an object struck a chord because, quite frankly, I didn’t think that I harbor bonds with objects. Generally, I have no trouble tossing aside old books, clothes or furniture.  But the whole idea of being emotionally attached to things got me thinking about what I have actually kept throughout the years and what I’ve tossed overboard.

Every time I move (which seems like a semi-annual event), I clear out old stuff. There are only a few things that I have lugged from Watertown, NY to Bogota to Seattle and back (not in that order) that serve no purpose whatsoever other to take up room and collect dust.

Yet I keep them.  Why?

Let me describe just one of these object. It’s a sign for a street called Bæverdalen.

Baæverdalen was the name of the street on which I lived when I was an exchange student in Denmark when I was 18.  It was a dead-end street in a little suburb called Ny Hammersholt, about three kilometers outside of the city of Hillerød (which is about 40 minutes north of Copenhagen, for those of you who don’t feel like pulling out a map).

Most of the teenagers my age who lived in on my block had known each other since they were toddlers.  They hung out together most every night of the week, mostly watching TV, drinking beer and, on weekends, going to the disco in Hillerød and getting into fistfights.


Yes, it was the 80s

I fell in with this crew with easily (although I never engaged in fights on the weekends).  I was inaugurated within a few weeks after arriving on the scene by getting invited to my neighbor Kent’s 18th birthday party, at which I drank more beer and wine than I had ever consumed before (had to keep up with the Danes) and then got horribly sick on Kent’s mother’s very pristine white rug.

Still, the gang accepted me and I have fond memories of too many evenings spent lounging around in someone’s basement talking shit with each other and generally enjoying wasting our teenage years.

At the end of the year, my host-family threw me a little going away party to which the neighborhood gang, of course, was invited.  The specifics of that night are a bit blurry – in part because I may have had a drink or two, but more likely because I was still recovering from a concussion I had a week earlier, when I fell off my bicycle and broke my fall with my head.

I do recall that I was a bit concerned because Michael, Lars and Henrik were late.  I feared they were either blowing me off, or were up to no good. Either way, I wanted to see them again before I left the country and was sad to think that they might not bid me farewell.

When they did show up, they proudly produced the sign and presented it to me, a token for me to remember they gang of Ny Hammersholt, they said.

Now, how could I ever get rid of an object like that?

Still, it is a ridiculous thing to keep around.

It’s huge (put into perspective by Spike).

It reflects headlights – a feature severely under-utilized these days. The blue adhesive is chipping off around the edges.  It’s not terribly attractive and doesn’t really fit in with my décor.  There is never a classy place to put it. It serves absolutely no purpose.  But every time I look at it, I feel a giggle in my tummy at the thought of those three goofs sawing the sign off its post so I could have something of Denmark to take home with me.

I could never get rid of the Bæverdalen sign. So, in some way, I guess I can understand my mom’s attachment to stuff.

Zoo life; a neighbor’s perspective

When I lived in St. Louis, I lived across the street from Forest Park; a fantastic place full of running paths, museums (free), tennis courts, golf courses and one amazing zoo (also free).  On hot summer days I would wake up early to get my bike ride in, doing figure eights on the park’s roads. Three loops would be about 16 miles or so, a perfect mid-week ride. Each ride included at least three trips up Art Hill and one trip past the zoo.

In the colder months, I could tolerate going by the zoo infinite times. But in summer, even early in the morning, the stench was powerful enough to get me to alter my cycling route.

It was the recollection Eau de Zoo that made me hesitant to move into my current building in Washington DC. It is located literally next door to the National Zoo.  However, I was assured every which way from Friday that there is no malodorous perfume that floats around the building.


So far, it’s true. No smell.  But at night, with my window open, I hear the mysterious back and forth of various zoo animals.  There’s a honking-bark that usually starts things off. Followed by a whinnying-bray. I have no idea what animals are producing these sounds, although I’m fairly sure it’s not a donkey and dog. I imagine I’m eavesdropping on perhaps a sea-lion communicating with an ostrich. Do ostriches make noise? Spike doesn’t react to the animals’ vocalizations.

I find the sounds entertaining but also disturbing.  What if the sea-lion is calling out into the world, “I want more space! I want more space!” To which the ostrich says, “Why isn’t anyone here to look at me right now?”

During the day, the animals are remarkably quiet.  Maybe they save their discussions for when they think no one is listening.

My daily walks with Spike frequently take us past the zoo’s entrance. It is thanks to these perambulations that I have come to observe the most heinous part of living next door to the zoo. It’s not the smell; it’s the visitors.

They stroll in groups of three to 15.  The closer they get to the zoo’s entrance, the slower their pace becomes – as if they are saving their energy for the awesome sights they are about to witness within the confines of the zoo’s gates.  Somehow, they manage to take up the entire sidewalk, spilling over onto the grass on either side, making it impossible to get around them.  They stop frequently and without warning, which makes for some awkward encounters.

Some of them allow their young ones to run up and down the grassy slope along the zoo’s border.  Frequently, at the sight of Spike, the munchkins assume that the small black dog is part of the zoo’s exhibits. Without warning they swoop in to pet Spike and poke him in the eye.  Not that anyone has actually poked him in the eye, but that is what I fear will happen when I see the young ones making a bee-line for my dog.  Luckily, Spike is an exceptionally tolerant hound and puts up with the swarm of tiny hands that descend on him quite well.  He sometimes will even bestow a “kiss” to the little people that are cooing over him.  At least, I tell them it’s a kiss. I know that he probably smelled the food on their breath and he is trying to lick the remnants off the kids’ chins or noses.  The parents don’t need to know that.

Another remarkable feature of these visitors is that they seem to not leave their house without packing large quantities of food.  Then they buy food at the zoo and take the leftovers home with them. As a result, there is a trail of crumbs going into and out of the zoo, on both sides of the street – it’s a trail leading from the zoo to the metro stations in both directions.

Mmmmm...garbage can grime... a goldmine for Spike.


The remnants of the popcorn, goldfish crackers, French fries, chicken wings and chewing gum are a delight to Spike’s snout and an eyesore to me.  The visitors frequently seem to have some kind of slime dripping out from their pores, because invariably there is at least one puddle of viscous stickiness that has spread out on the sidewalk – indistinguishable from an oil spill. Spike finds these puddles irresistible and ferociously licks at them to the point where I wonder that he doesn’t shred his tongue on the concrete.

As much as I find it amazing to observe animals up close, I am reluctant to actually go into the zoo to check things out for myself. I feel that way about any zoo, really, because I get a little depressed when I see the animals confined.  However, going into the zoo next door might help solve some of the mysteries I mentioned… the food, the pace of walking and, of course, the origins of the animals that serenade Spike and I at night.

Listening to yourself is the hardest thing to do.

I’m not going to ride my bike today.

This is an incredibly difficult statement to make.  It’s Monday, a day off for me. It’s a perfect 60 degrees outside.  I could head out at 10 a.m. for a post-rush-hour ride on relatively untrafficked streets. I could. I want to.  But I’m not going to do that.


Because the new bicycle is still causing issues.  It’s a delicate matter, and those of you with more sensitive sensibilities may wish to avert your eyes.

In the month since I bought the new bike, I have gone through three seats.  The longer I the ride the more each saddle has caused problems.  Last week, after a 30 mile ride of excruciating discomfort, I realized that the skin where my leg meets my lady parts had dozens of tiny, little lacerations.  Even putting on underwear after that ride felt like torture.

Too much information?  Sorry… but I warned you.

Saddle number three has now been returned and I have purchased the seat I should have insisted on in the first place, a Specialized Ruby– the same kind that I had on my beautiful Seven (may she rest in peace, wherever she is). That saddle never caused problems, aside from the initial butt-bone bruising from the first ride of the season.

Ruby... my savior. Or so I pray.

Ruby sits on the new bike waiting for me to give her a good ride. But I am STILL waiting for my skin to heal and I dare not exacerbate the matter with a ride until I know for sure I’m ready.

Telling myself not to ride and sticking with that order is not easy.

Years and years ago when I was living in Cleveland, I tore my hamstring doing yoga one cold February morning.  The tear occurred where the hamstring meets the gluteus.  After a few weeks off, I thought it had healed and by spring the snow was gone and I began regular rides nearly every morning before work in training for a cycling trip to Italy.

At some point during that spring I should have listened to my hamstring talking to me.  It was saying, “Hey! This kind of hurts. I don’t think I can handle the strain.”  I ignored it.  After another month or so, it started to feel as if I were sitting on a stone under my right butt-cheek when I was out riding. This was probably my hamstring saying, “Listen here, you!  If you don’t stop riding soon I won’t go so easy on you. You have been warned!”

I still didn’t listen.  The Italy trip was one month away, all paid for and I turned a deaf ear to the whiny hamstring.

The inn that was "home base" for the Italian Cycling Center. At the foot of Monte Grappa...which I did not climb.

I acquired some lovely anti-inflammatory pills from the doctor I was dating at the time, and off I went to Italy where I spent more than a week cycling the “pre-Alps” of the Veneto.  I paid attention to my talkative appendage enough to avoid doing the three-hour climb of Monte Grappa, but I still did my fair share of riding up big hills (they were unavoidable) and pushing myself to go faster with the other awesome cyclists.

See that mountain behind the building? That's the start of Monte Grappa, which I did NOT climb.

When I got back, my hamstring had had enough.  “You Bitch!” it said to me (my hamstring, it turns out, has potty mouth).  “You wouldn’t listen. You wouldn’t pay attention. I warned you and now –  KAPPOW!  You down for the count.”

I couldn’t walk upstairs without hurting. Heck, I couldn’t step onto curb without pain.  Sitting down was uncomfortable after 15 minutes and even bending over to tie my shoe was an ordeal.

Even then, I didn’t fully listen.  I still rode, although not on long rides and never rides with big hills.  It always hurt. Then one day, a gorgeous fall morning, I was dressed up and ready to ride. I foisted my trusty steed onto my shoulder to walk down the back stairs and out onto the road. But with each step down an invisible force was stabbing my butt, leg and lower back with a white, hot sword. It really hurt.

It finally occurred to me, “You know… you probably should take a break from riding.”

The next six months I was out of commission and into some serious physical therapy.  That’s another story.

The point being that I have learned (sort of) to listen to the aches and pains. I’m listening now.  And I’m telling myself it’s OK if I don’t ride today. I won’t fall apart. I won’t suddenly lose my ability to ride. I won’t gain 15 pounds in one day.  A few days off the bike just means that I will have the whole summer to actually go out and ride.

I have been repeating that last paragraph to myself for the past 15 minutes.

Spike, meanwhile is psyched to have me chilling in the house.  And for once, he doesn’t have anything more to say than that.

He's overjoyed that I'm home with him instead of out cycling...can't you tell?

Bicycle – part two

I’m back in the saddle again.  Bike saddle, that is.  But here is the news, for those who haven’t been paying attention.  It’s not the saddle on the bike whose virtues I once extolled in these pages.  That one was stolen about six months ago. Right after I moved to DC, before I was fully unpacked and had a place to put her inside my apartment unit.

I had stupidly locked the Seven in my storage locker in the garage of the building where I was living (I’ve since moved from there).  I came down to fetch it about three weeks after moving in and found the lock on the locker was missing along with the bike.  Nothing else was taken.

The insurance company reimbursed me for about three-quarters the value of the Seven. This still allows me to get a pretty darn nice bike, but not the same totally custom outfitted gem that I had before.  I would have supplemented the insurance money with some of my own to recreate that wonderful Seven, but I’m not really a financial position to do that.

So, after some consulting, I went and bought a Kestrel, carbon fiber with Dura-Ace components.  The frame is last year’s model, so I got a bargain, in a way.  I didn’t even fully spend all the insurance money – I still had about $200 left over.

The new addition

Thanks to the unusually warm weather, I’ve been able to take the new bike out several times now.  What I have to report makes me a little sad.  The bike is lovely.  It feels wonderfully light and stiff when I ride over the pot-hole ridden streets of Our Nation’s Capital.  And yet…

…it doesn’t feel right.  I’ve changed the seat twice already, tried different length stems for the handlebars and angled the handlebars in various configurations, all in an attempt to feel like that bike is 100 percent MINE…

… but the bike just doesn’t feel like an extension of my body the way the Seven did.  Maybe I’m still out of shape – I have yet to go more than 22 miles on a single ride.  Or maybe, after six months off of a bike, my body is still adjusting to the feel of it. Maybe I forgot the idiosyncratic feeling of sitting on a bike.  Maybe it’s the new shoes and pedals.  Maybe I need to cycling clothes.

I’m not done playing with the bike to make it fit better, to take away the feeling that I’m either too slumped over or not stretched out enough. I have yet to figure out how to take away the numbness that I sometimes, irregularly, get in my right big toe.  I’m not giving up on it yet.   But I just got back from another ride and I’m scratching my head wondering what to do.

My real theory is that the problem is the bike’s color. It’s the first bike I have had since the Bridgestone that is not blue.

In the meantime, I apologize to my swarms of devoted fans for not writing sooner in my little biary. I know how you all rely on my regular revelations to keep your spirits up.  I will endeavor to keep the pages of the biary up to date. Or at least filled with photos of Spike, who is still the world’s most manipulative and loveable dog.

I managed to catch him one day in a rare silly mood…

Up to no good

I love when he gets that look, which lately hasn’t been often enough.

He hasn’t had much to say lately, by the way.  We live next to the National Zoo and Spike has devoted himself to cleaning the neighborhood sidewalks of the variety of sticky substances and animal crackers that sully the concrete.  It fulfills him, somehow, to be so fastidious about clean sidewalks.  It drives me nuts.

I think he misses having a window to look out of to bark at passing dogs.  Even if he could get up high enough for some quality window-gazing, all he would see is a forest and the fence that keeps the zoo on one side and the wild on the other.  When I open the windows for fresh air, we can hear the sounds of various animals.  I haven’t figured out what kinds animals they are, but they must not be feline or canine because Spike doesn’t react to grunts and shouts at all.

He just reacts to the sound of his snack container opening.  It’s good know his hearing is still so good.