Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Celebrating Cheyenne

I suddenly realized I have a whole bunch of pictures of Cheyenne and I wanted to do something with them. So here they are.
When  we got her new bed we put it down in the living room she looked at it. Then  when nobody was looking at her she stepped onto it and passed out.
Cheyenne has lived with me for  six year now and is approaching 14 years of age. She travels well enough especially now we have installed a fan on the back seat to keep her cool. She has single handedly raised the stock of La Quinta the best dog friendly chain of hotels we have found.   
 And though she is visibly slowing down the smell of dinner to go still gets her up and moving. She will follow food smells to the end of the earth or across the hotel parking lot.
 And when there she puts  her piteous face on and waits for good things to happen.
Cheyenne is a stubborn dog, she walks in the direction she chooses, she prefers rainwater to filtered tap water, she likes walking urban environments to  seek out discarded food and wrappers. I never knew a dog who knows her own mind as clearly as Cheyenne.  
I had anticipated another busy winter for the two of us when temperatures dropped into the cool range. In the past she would walk for hours wearing me out as  she stumped along tirelessly. This winter to my surprise a half hour at the most and she is done. 
 Her interest in life remains as active as ever, but she prefers sitting down or laying down and observing to walking in midstream.
I suppose it's fair enough. She has more than made up for the lack of stimulation and inactivity that attended the first half of her life before they dumped her at the pound.
5:30 on a cold foggy Sunday morning in Ft Myers and Cheyenne was done after her now usual thirty minutes. I don't know if she is bored or just ready to slow down, the dog equivalent of turning the old age corner. I am not ready to accept that her decline has started but there it is, summer is coming and air conditioning will do more for her than being out in the heat.
 She sleeps a lot. I bug her from time to time and she looks away when I ruffle her fur or scratch her forehead so I know to leave her alone.
 Sometimes she flops on her back which is a sign she is ready for attention and I scratch her tummy wishing I could turn the clock back.
We have made the most of our years together and I have no regrets, well hardly any, as I have yelled at her once or twice in exasperation which I wish I could take back. She seems to have forgiven me.
She sleeps a lot and I am glad I got her the bed. She still jumps up in anticipation some days when she feels like going out and I tempt her with what I hope are interesting walks but they are never as long as they were.
She has grown a bunch of warts, the vet says they are normal and best left alone though one on her ear keeps breaking and bleeding. We apply  aloe vera and hope it will heal soon though she keeps scratching it with her huge clawed feet or knocking it against things.
That's my Labrador's exciting life. I have no desire to do without her.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Mountain Life

Ask me why I live in the expensive, out of the way, flat, humid, hot Florida Keys. Ask my dog and she'll tell you I'm nuts. I should live here:

I'm a fair weather kind of woodsman. Bring me back in summer when the grass is long and thick, when the trees are full of green leaves, when sunshine dapples the forest floor. When it's warm enough you barely need a sweater after the sun goes down, then maybe I can live in the mountain valleys. Frost is outside my comfort zone.

I like the scenery of the mountains, the vigor of the wind pushing the massive clouds rolling over the peaks, the sudden rush of noise as the wind ruffles the branches. I like the winding rolling countryside.

The roads: give me a break. Who couldn't love a road like this? The speed limits around here are so high I can't drive them half the time. I'm not one to drive the limit because it seems to me speed limits are decided with liability in mind, zombie drivers texting etc... Around here 55mph on a state highway like this is not that easy to exceed. Locals manage nicely and I spend a lot of time pulling over to let them by. Florida drivers! Locals despise us.

I vacation for variety, so helping my brother-in-law garden is something I do here that I wouldn't do at home. Cheyenne is just fine watching me taking orders.

Bob likes the idea of self sufficiency which essentially requires constant physical labor, so I suppose it's a nice change for the former university professor. Heating his home is an act of joyous liberation for him.

For me it's hard labor wheeling logs through the woods.

Lots more trees where these logs come from.

Ely likes the mountains. She used to live in Taos where she raised her kids. That was after she met my wife in college where they became friends and still hang out together. Now Ely lives near Asheville and hangs out with my wife's sister, monitoring her grown sons from her North Carolina hideout.

Ely is a sweet woman who grew up in a privileged world devoid of work or deadlines, but her self awareness makes her a wry companion with an eye for the absurd and no doubt about her place in the world. Ely's vagueness and lack of worldly wisdom is the source of endless amusement among those who care for her. Once asked what the time was, Ely looked up bright eyed and asked with perfect seriousness: "You mean right now?"

But Ely has managed her inheritance with shrewdness and wisdom, her kids love her and she has a circle of friends anyone would envy. Sometimes she drives me crazy but she never takes offense, nor gives it. I hope that if there is life after death she will be in my circle of hell and we can giggle eternity away together.

Nancy has lived in Asheville raising her son, an avid motorcyclist (good lad), and she isn't really as severe as my portrait would suggest. She is a potter by trade, an artist circling in and out of my wife's family for four decades. Nancy doesn't live in the Keys, land of heat and mosquitoes and flat views.

My nephew Jacob was born on a kitchen table in a country home in the hills outside Asheville, and has wanted nothing more than to live and work in this community. He's married, has two kids, manages a bicycle parts manufacturing factory and races mountain bikes in pursuit of the sport of his youth. Soon to be 40 his life is exactly where he wanted it to be, in a carbon-neutral dollar home he designed and had built mortgage-free in extra hip West Asheville.

These are some seriously together people. They are my family, oddly enough. I have lived on the periphery of other people's lives, and now I live on the periphery of the continent. Connor thought my trick of tying the ends if his sleeves in knots was brilliant. It kept his hands off my beer and his father Jacob looked at his wrists in puzzlement..."What have you done this time..?"

His older brother Aidan got deeply annoyed with me as I kept distracting him and stealing his fries. "You are a thief!" He said it like I should be ashamed of my low moral character. Mmh I said, taking another one. Are you done with that grilled cheese? My dog would like it. No, he howled, thief! I mollified him by returning the stolen fries when my order arrived. Kids are like cats, they are attracted to people who are allergic to them.

Even the kids are nice in Asheville though it took all my self control not to ask about the high visibility tooth straighteners. Everything is high viz suddenly, and in hip Asheville people walk in high viz, drink beer in high viz and for all I know cook dinner and wash the dishes in high visibility colored clothing.

Asheville is a terminally fashionable youth oriented town. Young men don't wear tutus here, they sport spade shaped beards, plaid shirts and horrid tattoos with pierced flesh reminiscent of medieval torture but actually symbols of Modern Fashion. Asheville breeds bookstores and poets in defiance of pixels, young women look like distressed fashion models, torn clothes on spindly frames, bicycles combat the incredibly steep hills between consignment shops, everyone drives a Subaru.

There's so much to like about Asheville. Bevin, Jacob's wife has a good job as a code nurse in the hospital, and she's a woman whose company I enjoy. She has a brilliant laugh and a wry sense of the absurd of the family she has married into. We are outsiders together and we see the good and the funny about our marriages. I could hang out with Bevin in her kitchen on a rainy afternoon - even if her kids were there. They are her offspring and enjoy many of her adult qualities. Jacob's family is actually good company.

Then I come home to this, open water views, my skin stops itching from contact with the dry mountain air, my boat tugs at its mooring lines, my motorcycle is ready to ride year round. Millions come here, sighing, on vacation.

Funny isn't it, where you choose to live and why.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Vacation Pictures

This Sunday a disparate collection of pictures from our week in western North Carolina. I got to walk my dog, ride a motorcycle (thank you David!), and play with my phone camera.




Wine, absinthe, scallops, spicy potatoes, calamari salad, lamb: great tapas.

This tag surprised me. I liked it.

Mountain road works caught by my pink iPhone.


Outdoor dog. Only when it suits my love, then she comes in.

Me figuring out my iPhone, just puzzled not mad.



Bob posing. Ingles grocery is proudly American owned. Bob grew up in Alabama. Owned? Only by his wife.

Cold mountain air will wear a girl out.

Ride North Carolina highway 80. Turn off the Blue Ridge Parkway and have fun.

Thanks Jersey Biker for the loan of the Harley Davidson Street 500. Fabulous ride on roads I cannot name.

Have a good Sunday. Plan your vacation, mine's done!