Monday, August 30, 2010

Back to Normal?

It has been a while since I talked about gardens. Mine is faring better since some major downpour quenched its thirst. I keep exotic potted plants near my kitchen entrance that enhance my approach and make an inviting view as you might agree. I have spent very little time gardening out of apathy, overwhelming heat or you tell me, but in truth I stopped counting how little time I was gardening. This was the year I finally walked through it more than worked in it.

My old training manual and the destruction evidence!

This said, the arrival of Limo in the garden has been more problematic for me than in the house. In the house he is my shadow and with the odd exception when he has run off to pee on my dining room carpet because I have let too much time lapse since his last draining. All in all, very few accidents and I think he is beginning to let me know that he has to go out. On his first morning home I fed him and figured I would have time to make coffee and have a toast – WRONG! When you feed a puppy it goes in one end and almost simultaneously comes out the other.

I trained Taxi to mostly use the garden for her business and did not avail myself of the wonderful parks around my house. For her part Taxi was very dainty and gentle dog everywhere. Limo is not, well maybe he will be. Limo will not be trained that way. Upon arrival he quickly created a new path through my glorious bed of Hosta plantaginea, a wonderful white flowering with a jasmine fragrance. Well, that will not do! Puppy or not, he will learn. Now a towering trash can sits guarding the entrance to his path to focus him away from there.

Having a puppy in your life takes a little getting used to. Whether you like it or not it is pretty much like a baby with the exception that this one likes to lick its butt. I surveyed my house prior to Limo’s arrival and really did not change much of anything. He has been incredible self disciplined and has only destroyed three baby basketball with a noise doodah in them, a soft baseball, another medium-size green ball, and a soccer ball within hours of receiving these tributes. Another neighbor gave me and a stuffed raccoon that managed to survive almost three days until he performed ear surgery and started eating out the brains stuffing. Only Taxi's Kong and a funny shaped football made out of steel hard rubber endure and keep him focused.

Newton Creek

My life has changed and for the better. I have a new routine that someone else is first. He has to be fed, walked, put to sleep in the middle of the day so he can grow while he sleeps. He gets walked three times a day, fed just as many and poop patrol just as many as well. By the way, he now weighs 25 pounds he has more than doubled in size since I posted the picture introducing him. I have also lost eight pounds since he arrived in my life. I have walked at least fifteen miles since he came on the scene.

Fortunately the Newton Creek is four blocks from my house. It is a small estuary to the Delaware River with fish, plants, turtles, Canada Geese and Limo loves it. I am actually enjoying my walks at 7AM. You may all think I am a wuss, but I have always been a night person reading and working into the wee hours of the morning and getting up later than most – no longer! Although I am training Limo to wake up later he is now getting up at 7AM instead of 5AM. With any luck I will train him into a bit more of my schedule and get up at 8AM. Taxi, was very well trained, she did not stir until I got up. With any luck Limo will learn my bad habits.

Strike a pose!

Water Lilies at Newton Creek

Pickerel Weed (Pontederia cordata)

Invasive Purple Loosestrife (Lythrum salicaria)

Invasive Mexican Bamboo or Japanese Knotweed in bloom (Polygonum cuspidatum)

So my life is back to normal. It is Limo, not Taxi anymore, although I have slipped calling him Taxi. We are walking everywhere. Last Saturday I took him to our farmer's market and he charmed everyone. Besides the shoppers, it was a parade of puppies and children. Who says that this economic crisis has slowed down baby production? Initially, he was apprehensive with the crowds, but in no time he adjusted just as long as I stayed tethered. One of the vendors is a baker specializing in Animal Crackers and Limo was treated to a sampling of liver, turkey and something else. Oh, to be a puppy!

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Cleveland and the 40th Rocky River High School Reunion

Prior to picking up Limo I went to the Cleveland suburb of Rocky River to celebrate my friend Vori's 40th High School reunion. Mine is coming up soon, but I think that with his, I have covered the bases from the safest distance. Also mine is in LA and living vicariously is not bad in this case. I attended this event to support my friend in this keystone life event and have similar support picking up my new puppy. I did not want to put Limo in a travel crate and have him traumatized by an 8 hour drive. All the books recommended that you take a friend who could drive while you play and bond with the pup along the drive. So this is what I did and Cleveland and the Reunion were a bonus.

All in all, Cleveland is a fabulous place that like Philadelphia and most other cities in the heartland, with few exceptions, have seen better times. Speaking as a planner, they have done themselves in by building tier upon tier of suburbs ringing the core and walking away from a wonderful downtown center which has not much by way of public transport to funnel people back and forth. Cleveland's location on lake Erie could not be nicer. Huge oak trees grow in parks along the lake. That is some accomplishments and thanks to the rust of the industrial belt the waters of Cuyahoga River that flow into Lake Erie, once known to be flammable are now cleaner than ever. People swim on Lake Erie and along the many historic communities that are scattered along the lake front.

The missing link here seems to be density. You can drive most places and encounter three people (my standing joke to Vori). You hardly ever see more than that and I continued to rib him that the same three people are moved around to give an impression of activity. The facts are that everyone here seems to have their own house and they are scattered everywhere so it is hard to see a person walking anywhere. Even malls seem to have few people in them. I toured all of downtown Cleveland parking anywhere and everywhere I chose in the civic center, the old commercial center, etc with parking places abounding. All day parking in downtown Cleveland is a bargain $2.50.

What I saw was quite eye opening and quite beautiful. It is clean and functional and although under populated it is not derelict like so many places in Philadelphia or Detroit (although I am sure there are neighborhoods that are less desirable). Just before departing for Cleveland a friend from Detroit sent me this latest poll attesting that Cleveland was the worst city in the country. He was excited because he lives in Detroit and it has just been upgraded to second worse. I have been to both places and I can't see what these polls are about. I think some people have nothing to do other than make lists for lazy people who can't figure things out on their own. Bottom line: Cleveland is quite nice. It may not be what it was, but then, what is?

Memorial Fountain Downtown Civic Center

Arcade Building now a Hyatt

Civil War Memorial Downtown

Simple Downtown Building Lobby

Louis Sullivan's Rockefeller Building

Deco Masterpiece Bridge Pylon

Rocky River as it meanders through the "Valley"

There is this chasm that locals refer to as "the Valley" that encircles Cleveland in a horseshoe type shape also referred to as the Emerald Necklace. This glacial scour from the last glaciation has left a valley of varying widths but roughly 300 feet lower than the the surrounding terrain and also stretching down the state for several hundred miles. It is certainly a wilderness and a city park system within the development all around Cleveland. Cuyahoga National Park is just outside of the city limits and explains the landscapes surrounding the confluence of the Ohio and the Erie Canals. These are some of the nicest parks and in the best shape I have seen in any American city.

25th Street Market

Vori enjoying old haunts

Cleveland Art Museum

On the east side of Cleveland is the University Circle with its grand institutions that serviced the historical city and is adjacent to the old rich suburbs of Cleveland Heights and, tonier still, Shaker Heights. The Cleveland Art Museum is magnificent in structure and collection. It is free to the public. Few institutions in the country aside from the Smithsonian, which we all pay for, are free. In the midst of all this culture and botanical gardens was the Peter B Lewis Building a new structure by Frank Gehry that is part of Case Western Reserve University. Wonderful! I worked on MIT's Stata building by Gehry which this resembles and also prone to masses of snow falling of its convex roof in winter. You decide, I think it is great fun.

Gate to Botanical Garden

Peter B Lewis Building by Frank Gehry

Rocky River High School Reunion at Clifton Beach Pavilion

Well this trip was about renewing our past, Vori with his reunion and me with my Dalmatian. In 1940 Thomas Wolfe's You Can't go Home Again was posthumously published - a testament that you can't go "back home to the escapes of Time and Memory". I wrote a blog about my failure to bring a past memory into the present last year. I guess like all generalities some things work and others don't. Vori's reunion was planned by a group of friends trying to regain some past and memories of youth, which is a challenge at best under all circumstances. This event worked as well as it did, because of the people involved. I know I may be sticking my foot in it, but there is something about midwesterners that is real and genuine and lacks pretense. Of, course there are exceptions, but generally speaking....

The reunion was held in a beautiful location called the Clifton Club in the beach pavilion overlooking the bluffs of the surrounding Valley and the immense lake Erie. About 150 people attended and wore buttons that had their name and a picture of what they looked back then. There was a general excitement about all these people seeing each other with the proverbial "you haven't changed" phrase coming out of their lips. I told Vori that they should be shot for that kind of statement because WE ALL HAVE CHANGED! Specially when you consider we are 40 years older than we were in high school. The spirit may not have changed, but we have. I just turned 59 and haven't got a clue what that means anymore because I still feel 29 or something like that. Regardless, change is the only thing that is certain in life. For three days the members of the Rocky River Class of 1970 had not, they were full of youth, vitality and charm - at least they were for me.

Sunset from the Clifton Club Beach Pavilion

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


My first glance of Limo with his sister Eugenie

I am not a sports fanatic or anything like that but touchdown seemed the word for what has happened. Limo has landed is another phrase that seems to fly, pun intended. The reality is that after a long wait I now have my hands full. I am not going to bore you with baby pictures, but I will share just a few images of this journey.

I spent four Days in Cleveland at my friend's, Vori, 40th High School Reunion, and although I enjoyed watching him like a kid in a candy store playing with his old pals, I would have rather been enjoying my new pup. The truth is, that it worked out for both of us Vori sharing his Cleveland and his old high school friends with me (next blog) and I needed him to drive while I bonded with Limo on the trip home. I did not want to crate him and take him away from his family and have to face the consequences later on. Maybe a bit over the top on my part.

We arrived at the farm where he was born and met Sally and the rest of the gang. There were several other Dalmatians who seemed to be having the time of their life. Surveying it all was a Great Pyrenees Greta, who was like the Nana the dog nanny character in Peter Pan who took care of the kids. The farm was located in a beautiful setting in southern Ohio. Limo shared his life with Guernsey cows, Nubian goats and the rest of the dog pack. There is something wonderful seeing dogs of a same breed in a pack. They really enjoy each other!

A little rough and tumble with Eugenie

The fun continues with his Mother Penny watching on

Limo with Taxi's favorite toy: Kong

We took care of business and the paperwork of transfer of title. Yes, he has a title. He is registered with the United Kennel Club. He is a very special dog as I mentioned before regarding his low or normal uric gene. AKC does not recognized normal-uric Dalmatians. His father is Insignia American Hero Robinwood and his mother Champion Robinwood Penny Ante. His father was just in the Western Reserve Dalmatian show and may have attained champion status as his mother, but I don't care he is my Limo!

The trip home was easier than I expected. My friend Vori drove and I scrunched myself in the hatchback part of the Prius and we played slept for a while. I don't think that he had ever had a long car trip before and like all of us at one point, he did not fare too well. He managed to get car sick twice but aside from that he was an angel. He never whined or barked he is very well adjusted no doubt thanks to his upbringing.

Not wanting to be alone in the back

The hatchback got a little warm so I lowered one of the seat-backs and he placed himself there for the entire rest of the trip. I was glad, too, I felt like a pretzel while in the hatchback compartment with him.

Exploring the garden this morning

The possums have been drinking in the fountain and flattening the irises and he could smell it this morning as he lay claim to his domain.

Of course, he is so small compared to everything that it will take him time to get it all in place, but he is growing fast. The photo I posted last week is but two weeks old and shows a puppy half the size he is now. He seems to be growing by leaps and bounds. His paws are already the paws of a much more mature animal. They are 4 times the size of anything else in him. It is like he is wearing gloves or inflating from the bottom.

It has been two and a half years since Taxi passed. It took me a long time to decide that I could live with another Dalmatian. I missed Taxi so much that I think it took a toll on me. It took me a long to determine the need of getting another dog and eventually returning to the breed I loved. I spent almost a year looking for this pup. It was worth every minute of it. Limo is a splendid pooch and I am sure that Taxi would have loved him.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Beloved Too Cool Limousine

Samson and Delilah (Sam and Lily) at the Dock

My recent trip to Vermont had dogs everywhere I went. Either at the house, swimming or all around me, reinforcing the subliminal message for what I already wanted: a new pup! As you well know it has been a year that I have looked for what I hope would be a perfect pup. I guess this must be qualified too, as you don't know what you have until you have it and all other things are cosmetic. So I should say that I wanted my ideal looking animal and that I am afraid to say was something that I had no idea until I saw it. Personality is a trait that will hopefully follow and I am sure hoping that it does.

At Middlebury College even the sculpture garden had a message for me with this wonderful bronze entitled Frisbee Dog by Patric Villiers Farrow.

Less classy but quite unique is the Dog Wash at the local Agway in Middlebury. Dirty dogs are no fun and when mud season comes around in Vermont and you wish you had this set up. It is like an operating room with a table and a gizmo to wash terrorize your dog for five bucks. You puts in your money and it works like a car wash the only difference is you do it on a table and you even get an apron as well as all the other necessities such as shampoo and a hair dryer. What could be simpler and the pooch gets an outing to boot!

While you are checking out at the Agway with your other farm implements or hunting gear you can even get yourself a figurine of a dinosaur or even a Dalmatian from the noble German house of Schleich that has been making every figure imaginable since 1935.

If however, you still did not get the message, you can pick up your dog beware sign. They actually had killer chihuahuas for those fortunate enough to own them. I must say that I passed all these tests without the least bit of temptation other than to photograph the culprits.

Then you come back to camp and you see this 60 pound dog thinking he is a puppy on my host Gordon because he is afraid of lightning and you know that you need to put one of these precious creatures into your life. I don't know why it took me as long as it did but the waiting is over!

Introducing my Beloved Too Cool Limousine or Limo for short. He was born on May 12. He comes from the Beloved Farm ( ) and was named Too Cool by the breeder, Sally McDonnel. Long ago when I got Taxi I always wanted another so she would be accompanied. I think Limo would have been her perfect companion. I got a boy this time and his markings are nothing like hers. He has been described as a love and a heathen by Sally.

I looked at potential adoption candidates and they were too this or not enough of that and I guess I just wanted to sculpt my own pup. You also know of how much fun I had with some of the characters from multiple adoption groups. Some wanted a pound of flesh and references to boot. In truth I got Limo through the help of my dear friend Louise who informed me of the existence of Low-uric Dals and then thanks to many other people concerned with finding a right person for their precious pups.

Limo is of a new strain of Dalmatians termed Low or Normal Uric, meaning they don't produce an intensive concentration of Uric acid which has been typical of Dalmatians and consequently problematic with kidney stones, particularly for the males if not kept on very strict diets. This pup is normal and will never have a potential for painful stones. But enough of that if you want more information go to: If you are in the market for a Dalmatian, Nubian Goats or Jersey Cows you might look Sally up. I pick him up next weekend so if I don't write a blog next week you will know that I am otherwise occupied!

PS The garden is managing to survive in spite of roasting temperatures and little rain. Got to water before I go pick Limo up.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

The Road Taken

Gang prepping for lobster dinner
Like all things in life, this party has come to an end. It has been a magical time of suspended animation where we as friends gathered. For almost a fortnight it has been about discovery, about nature, about beauty. It has also been about friendships and sharing and helping one another. My hosts Louise and Gordon could not have been more wonderful in opening their home to me and others and sharing their wonderful camp and their great pooches.

Our hostess Louise

As I said before this camp has a long tradition that is now in its third generation. Many a meal has been cooked to entertain friends and family over seventy years. The accommodations were sumptuous and anything other than what you think of as roughing it. Below is the little "performance cabin"

This sweet little one room cottage is the last remaining unimproved part of the camp has a famous history. It is here that the renowned Bach Aria Group often would assemble to play during weekends or summer holidays at the camp and create quite a classical hoedown. The cabin has two screen walls with awnings for privacy is a real gem of a place facing the forest. I hope one day to stay here.

A misfortune left me alone in the camp for four days taking care of the dogs and having sometime to think about next steps. When I was accompanied and busily having fun with others I did little thinking about what was to come after this holiday. I took advantage of the solitude for some thinking not that I have come up with anything revolutionary. I took a drive and revisited Breadloaf writers camp which had so struck me when Gordon and Louise took me there before. I had a moment to sit and contemplate some of the beautiful vistas.

Not far from Breadloaf I took a road less traveled to see the Noble Lesser farmstead near Ripton Vermont. It is here that Robert Frost called his summer home from 1939-1963. It is a simple and forgotten place.

I don't know how I managed to be the only person to make the journey up the mountain road and had it to myself for my entire visit.

Further along route 100 nearing Waitsfield I came to another solemn place. A memorial of little white flags: 1205 for Afghanistan and 4413 for Iraq representing all those dear young men and women who have given their all.

The following bend had a sweeping field of Joe-Pye Weed (Eupatorium purpureum) not a quite a memorial but almost a grand celebration of nature.

The sights of Vermont are truly stalwart. They are upright and towering and say take a look at me for what I am. I know I romanticize life a bit, but why the hell not!

Whether farm,
mountain or
glacial valley, I shall always remember this wonderful summer.

This road was near our cabin. It was a road that led to another camp where few summered and even fewer entered. I often looked wanting to enter, but never going further than to our fork. The vista and the tracks seem pure and should remain inviolate. I leave you with Robert Frost's The Road Not Taken.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth.

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same.

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.