Covid 19.2:

Every day blends into every other day.
It is Monday. I have pilates. I go upstairs to the room that has space for the yoga mat, but I forget my computer. The dog has stolen one of my shoes. I can’t find the email from the instructor with the Zoom link. I am late. Two days later I have pilates again. It is as if I never left the room.

Corona bottle on the ground, next to skunk cabbage

It is raining. It is sunny. It is windy. The power goes out. It takes a full day to be fixed. It is sunny again. We get out the big umbrellas for the yard.

A crew arrives to cut down the trees that are expected to interfere with the power lines in future storms. They don’t wear masks and they leave trash on the road.

I hear reggae coming up from the Tennis Party house. There is that dog that’s escaped and is in our yard again.

My neighbors are gone. They are still in Florida for the winter. My neighbors are back. I can hear their children playing in their yard.
It is yesterday.
It is tomorrow.
It is today.
How far are we from the end?

It is Saturday. It is quieter in Bedhead Hills than it ever was before.
An airplane passes overhead and I come out from under the umbrella to see it. It is above the cloud cover. There are no planes. Planes are from before. No one flies now.

I hear the traffic on the big highway to the city. It is not empty but it is emptier.
I hear the frogs at dusk. I hear the red-winged blackbirds in the afternoon.

It is Tuesday. I hear compressors at the neighbors. The landscapers prepare the neighbor’s yard for their return, blowing things for what seems from this side of the fence like a whole working day.

People race their cars on the freeway, revving engines screaming, ripping open the air. I hear the silence settle like dust.

It is Sunday. I am having a tearful meltdown because it is raining and I have to choose between a coat that fits with a zipper I can’t zip and a coat that zips but is too tight and has no interior pocket for my phone. The dogs are waiting, Fellow is watching outdoors and Eggi looking at me with concern. It takes me so long to get ready to go, Captain changes his mind and wants to come. We get very wet, and very muddy, but the road is empty of walkers and no bicyclists who ride up behind me and mutter “on your right,” startling me out of their way just in time.

Dog wrapped in beach towel 

It is Friday. I am reading the feedback that my last blog post was too lighthearted.
People tell me people are dying. I know people are dying. Four days from now there will be a million known cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., and the next day there will be almost 60,000 dead Americans.

There is dog poo on the road. I arrange the tree workers’ trash next to it. Still Life, with shit.

In the beginning, in mid-March, I wave to the neighbors. I greet other walkers. I smile at people who compliment my dogs. In March, I see another dog walker once a week. Now it is April, I see multiple walkers every day. I want to be welcoming. I want to be proud and pleased that where I live is so nice other people come.

But they aren’t wearing masks. They barely move out of reach of my dogs.
Eggi barks at the car parked where there was no car before. I find a pair of discarded blue nitrile gloves on the road: things worse than dog shit.

Two nights ago I dreamed I started having symptoms. I had the cough. My lungs felt like they were filled with shards of glass. My stomach rumbled. I sweated with fevers. I dreamed I went up to the sewing room to be alone. I slept for hours and days and weeks in the dream and when I came back downstairs, the windows were open and there were dried leaves blowing around. My house was empty; everyone had gone. Even the cat.

IMG_7181 2
The cat Schwartz says he’s been on lockdown since 2005 so welcome to his world.

The goldfinches came back in a riot of the best yellow.
The woodpeckers are vigorously courting.
The swamp down the hill is alive with a mob of blackbirds.
There is a pair of cardinals. Affronted, they chase the dogs and me out of the woods. I reach my hand into a blue New York Times bag and use it as a glove to open the mailbox. The mail is weird coupons and two different issues of the New Yorker at once. There is a pair of peeved blue jays in the bushes by the mailbox. They scold us as we walk down the driveway.

Three mourning doves scatter when I unleash the dogs. I know three people who have died so far.

I have more birdseed delivered. I include a special thing just for the woodpeckers.
The ground beneath the feeders is spongy, full of birdshit and empty shells.

The dentist texts me to postpone my upcoming appointment. Indefinitely.
Someone runs over the trash I so carefully arranged on the road and now it is in my woods.

It is Wednesday. I email the grocery store a list. I hear nothing back for hours. I panic and re-send. I get an auto-reply, saying I can only email a list between 9 am and noon. Then I get a phone call saying my order is ready to pick up. Then I get another email saying my order was filled. I reply saying thank you. Thanks a million.

I leave the mail on the floor and throw away the bag even though I could re-use it.

In a burst of enthusiasm a few yesterdays ago I pull out all the weeds and rake and ready our planting beds for vegetables.

Dog standing on large box which contains 80 rolls of toilet paper.

The asparagus is coming up and we will harvest some soon.
It is two years ago and I am planting asparagus. I am promising that when it is established we will get to eat it. I am saying it will take a couple of years.

A message comes through on the group text with the barn friends. It’s a parody song about the president. What is funny anymore. Are we there yet.

An email. Dear Valued Customer, in these trying times. It is almost May.


F838D6E7-F1A6-440E-AB4E-6253DDA0E43DAt the beginning of March, my oldest son and his girlfriend left for a long-planned trip to Australia, and they dropped their dog off with me. A few days later, my husband left on an international trip.

On the 5th of March, I baked a loaf of sourdough bread and tweeted every step of it.
On the 9th, I met someone for lunch and we ate together in a restaurant.
On the 11th, I went to agility class with Fellow.

Friday the 13th of March I went to the barn and rode horses, mostly walking around the ring and talking with a barn friend, and the next day when I texted her to say hey that was fun let’s do it again sometime she told me that she had been in contact with someone who may have been exposed to the coronavirus and that she had been tested and that out of an abundance of caution she was staying home until she had the results from her test. This was the first person I had heard of being exposed and the first person I knew who was tested.

But on March 14th I did not know how any of this would go, so I stayed in. When everyone rushed out the next week and bought up all the toilet paper, I didn’t. I stopped going to dog obedience and agility classes. I stayed home from the barn. I washed my hands a lot. I worked on a completely improvised quilt top. I played with the dogs in the yard. I tweeted. I baked. I started watching Mad Men from the beginning. I cleaned the kitchen.

On the 17th I made scallion pancakes.
On the 18th, my husband cut his trip short and flew back into Washington D.C. where he spent the next two weeks in self-quarantine. He worked and ate frozen dinners and slept weird hours.

On the 19th I made a half-batch of cinnamon rolls.
On the 20th, I finished piecing together quilt batting for the enormous square quilt, basted it, and started machine quilting.

DECA62DC-BB11-4C83-BC95-EB814BE6EE90Right around March 22, the time the governor of New York announced everyone is to stay home except essential workers, I finally heard my barn friend was ok, which I figured somehow anyway, despite the high numbers of infections and I was able to go out to buy groceries and wine. My pilates teacher had given herself a crash course in teaching via Zoom, so I was able to resume working with her. I figured out how to gather all four dogs, get leashes on them, get them out the door and untangle, untangle, untangle them in an activity that would over the course of the next many days come to resemble walking four dogs at once.

On the 23rd, we had a little bit of snow and I finished the last of my Valentines Day chocolate.

81EC1E7F-8C82-49FA-A82C-9BC6B4943D35_1_201_aOn my husband’s birthday we celebrated over Zoom.
On the 26th, I got a picture of my horse looking cute and happy from the barn manager and I cried.
On the 27th, I found thin slices pf pork in the freezer and made schnitzel.
On the 29th, I heard from our landscape guy, telling us that because of the governor’s order, he wouldn’t be able to cut the grass. I made turmeric sugar cookies and homemade pizza and finished Mad Men.

March 30th, I tried making masks. And I made Jello.
April 1st, I finished binding the quilt and watched that Tiger King thing.
April 2nd, my husband came home.


April 4th, I labelled the quilt. I counted the toilet paper rolls.
April 6th, I had Zoom cocktails with barn friends. As of this writing, my barn friend remains the only person I know who has been tested. Her test was negative.


The Next 51 Books I Finished Reading


I have been keeping track of what books I finish since January 2017 (previous years here and here). My only regret is that I didn’t start doing this a long time ago. I credit my iPhone for making it easy to keep track, and Audible for making it so I can read while vacuuming, read while driving, and read while sewing.

Looking down my list, you might notice that the majority of the titles are written by women authors. This is by choice. Of course I make exceptions, like for Benjamin Dreyer (who is great to follow on Twitter), and Charles Dickens.  You also might notice that the theme of this group of books is monsters. This is a happy accident. Or a reflection of the times we live in.

May 2019 
“Rogue Protocol,” second-to-last of the terrific Murderbot series, by Martha Wells
The satisfying conclusion, “Exit Strategy,” by Martha Wells (though I hear another title is coming in this series in May)
“Scratchman,” a fun Doctor Who novel, written and read by Tom Baker

June 2019 
“When Breath Becomes Air” a cancer memoir by Paul Kalanithi (I sometimes read books about cancer, but this one sucked)
“Sing, Unburied, Sing,” a novel by Jesmyn Ward
“Dreyer’s English” by Benjamin Dreyer, a book I would have given my mother for her birthday

July 2019 
Shirley Jackson’s “The Witchcraft of Salem Village”
Zoe Caldwell’s memoir, “I Will Be Cleopatra” (both this and the previous novel were mentioned in Dreyer’s book, as was “Bleak House”)
China Miéville’s good, weird novel, “The Last Days of New Paris”

August 2019 
“Because Internet: Understanding the New Rules of Language,” by Gretchen McCulloch, which I recommend to anyone who has an opinion about the internet
“The Great Believers,” a sprawling, satisfying novel set in the age of Aids, by Rebecca Makkai
Viv Albertine’s absolutely fun memoir, “Clothes, Clothes, Clothes. Music, Music, Music. Boys, Boys, Boys”
Mary Robinette Kowal’s “The Calculating Stars,” the promising first book of the Lady Astronaut series

September 2019
“Bleak House,” by Charles Dickens
Book 2 of the Lady Astronaut series, “The Fated Sky,” by Mary Robinette Kowals, which I liked even better than the first
“The Vagina Bible,” by Jen Gunter, MD, a splendid read for anyone interested in vaginas
“The Middlesteins,” a novel by Jami Attenberg
“She said,” by Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey, which made me shout out loud in anger

October 2019
“The Haunting of Hill House,” by Shirley Jackson
“Mostly Dead Things,” by Kristen Arnett
Laura Spinney’s “Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How it Changed the World,” which I recommend highest of the books I read last year about epidemics
“Lady in the Lake, a Novel,” by Laura Lippman
Eleanor Davis’s glorious graphic novel “The Hard Tomorrow”
“My Time Among the Whites,” a nice collection of essays by Jennine Capó Crucet
Olga Tokarczuk’s “Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead”
“Two Old Women,” by Velma Wallis

November 2019
“Bleak House,” by Charles Dickens (re-read because I needed to)
“Rabid: A Cultural History of the World’s Most Diabolical Virus,” by Bill Wasik and Monica Murphy
“Asleep: The Forgotten Epidemic That Became Medicine’s Greatest Mystery,” by Molly Caldwell Crosby

December 2019 
“Children of Blood and Bone,” by Tomi Adeyemi
“The Man Who Would Be King,” by Rudyard Kipling (technically, a short story, but if you listen to it twice maybe it counts as a book)
“The Butchering Art: Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine,” by Lindsey Fitzharris
Ruth Ozeki’s amazing novel, “A Tale for the Time Being”

January 2020
“Beowulf,” translated by Seamus Heaney
John Gardner’s “Grendel”
“Gideon the Ninth” by Tamsyn Muir
“A Thousand Acres,” by Jane Smiley
“Fludd” by Hilary Mantel
“Miss Burma “ by Charmaine Craig

February 2020 
“The Third Rainbow Girl, The Long Life of a Double Murder in Appalachia,” by Emma Copley Eisenberg
“Fleishman Is in Trouble,” a very good novel by Taffy Brodesser-Akner
“The Devil’s Feather,” by Minette Walters
Sally Field’s surprisingly good memoir, “In Pieces”
“The Memory Police,” a novel by Yoko Ogawa (translated by Stephen Snyder)
“The Cactus League,” a baseball novel by Emily Nemens, recommended
“Where Reasons End: A Novel,” by Yiyun Li
“Poison Squad,” by Deborah Blum
“Sawkill Girls,” by Claire Legrand

March 2020
“Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms,” by Hannah Fry
“Temporary,” by Hilary Leichter


Canoe at twilight on a quiet lake

Whose idea was it to go camping?

Oh, I know. I was thinking about the fourth of July and how our goofy rich idiot neighbors sometimes shoot off some goofy big idiot explosions scaring the shit out of Captain. It was my idea to go camping.

Last July I was so tired of the fireworks we endured every weekend that I emailed the town supervisor. And I’m still peeved because I never got a reply. If you hold elected office and receive an email from a crackpot resident you have to answer it.

It’s still a democracy here. I think. Or it was supposed to be. Once.

img_6233Anyway, I still say camping is 12 parts preparation to one part insect bites, no matter what “science” says. I’m thinking that 47% of any 78 people are wrong (and maybe especially 78 people who spend too much time on twitter). But the goofy idiot neighbors made a few test shots to indicate their intention to reenact several historical bombardments, so we planned a trip to a remote cabin on a secluded lake in the High Peaks region of the Adirondacks

Then there was a threaded email exchange involving five people (one of whom repeatedly fucked things up by failing to hit reply-all) and don’t forget the “wouldn’t it be better if….”

But this was explosion-avoidance on behalf of dog, so the dates were fixed and cabins chosen. I grew up going camping in Colorado and Missouri, but the Bacon Provider did not. The Bacon Provider’s family escaped from a totalitarian regime when he was a child, so when he was growing up, camping was categorized among the Dire Fates That We Risked Our Lives Avoiding. But yet somehow being able to take all our unfrightened dogs to the wilderness and build campfires and go fishing and canoeing and hiking had now led to the joy of shopping for summer-weight sleeping bags and LED headlamps.


The way you get to the lake is you take several large highways and then the exit through a small town to a two-lane road and head for a smaller town and beyond that towards one of those towns that’s almost not a town and go left after a business that’s no longer in business and left again at a road that’s paved but unstriped and from there around a few more bends than you think it was last time to an almost-unmarked turnoff to a dirt road with a locked gate. Someone has to get out to unlock and then hold open the gate, and then close it again after the car goes through. Then there is a second, similar gate a ways after that, and it’s at this point that the road really narrows and the trees close in and you realize you have to go all the way to the end to turn around, but it’s at the end where you will park.

While other people unpacked I took the dogs around so they could see where they were. Captain was very excited to see the lake again and expressed his enthusiasm by jumping off the dock.

Fellow has never seen a lake before and because everything he encounters is For Him, he ran at it, full-speed, hitting the water at an open gallop, which translated nicely into swimming, which is what he had to do next, directly, immediately and in order not to drown forthwith.


Eggi fell in sometime after this what with the excitement of the other dogs bumping and jostling on the dock and she was having none of it: cold water, phooey!

She fell in once again over the next few days and sank and panicked so I will have to commit to getting in the water with her next time. If there is anyone in this world who understands the struggle of learning to swim it is me.


The Bacon Provider took meal preparation very seriously and made bacon and eggs and grilled toast over a campfire. He also caught a fish, a nice-sized bass, and it was delicious but I didn’t get a picture before we cut its head off.

The rest of the trip included two hikes, some rain, fishing, campfires, sailing, canoeing at all hours, more rain, and bug bites.

P1020782The four primary biting insects of the Adirondacks are mosquitoes, black flies, midges, and deer flies. I was bitten by all of them. And also two different kinds of lil’smol green monster flies, one that was cronchy when you crushed it and the other that was squishy. The deer fly bite swelled up and looked very dramatic but lack the itchiness of any of the others.

The dogs had a super time.

Case in Point

On the second day of the show cluster, I loaded the dog, got in the car, punched up the directions on my phone, resumed the audiobook about cancer I was listening to, and hit the road. Then I turned off the directions because I knew the way out of my own neighborhood. And then I turned off the book because it was depressing. In the minutes of silence, I decided Eggi wasn’t going win anything this day. It was hotter. Sunnier. More humid. Also, it was Saturday, so there would be more competition. I was prepared to go home early.

I turned the book back on.

S says that when you win, the other owners will put a target on your back, try to beat you. I am still in the bubble of naïveté, where everyone at the dog show seems a little strange but also nice enough.  I know my attention span, which is short, so I go to dog shows only once a month. So I feel there I’m still somebody almost nobody knows.

I didn’t find a shady parking spot, so I moved Eggi from my car to a kennel in my handler’s van. Then I wandered around the show grounds. I unexpectedly encountered our chairs, still set up next to the ring where Eggi showed in the group the day before. I hadn’t even missed them yet.

The vizslas started, as usual, with the youngest dog (one puppy 6 & under 9 months), and then they skipped ahead to the bred by exhibitor dog, then the open dog, and then the two puppy bitches, the 12 & under 18 month bitch, and then the two bred by exhibitor bitches, and the three open bitches. Vizsla goes in, handler stacks, judge sends them down and back and around. It was a lot of red-brown energy running around in the ring.

In the chaos of people going in and out of the ring someone handed me the leash of a dog to hold. I don’t know what dog it was. Then they was traded me for another dog. Then it was time to sit down and watch Eggi compete for best of breed.


At a dog show, amid the quiet cacophony people talking and laughing mixed with dogs whining and barking, you don’t normally hear the judges in the ring. Judges you have to watch. They don’t say much beyond, “Down and back,” or “Take them around.” Some judges give you a glimpse of their thinking by looking pleased when they see certain dogs. Others give nothing away. I still have to remind myself to watch the judge and not my dog.

Judges indicate their choices by pointing, either with a flat hand or an extended index finger. This judge pointed at four vizslas. Most of the time, judges pick the best of breed first, best of opposite (sex) second, and then maybe a select dog and select bitch. The judge pointed at the bitch behind Eggi, a dog ahead of her, another dog, and then Eggi. So, I thought, she went select. That’s good. Not a win like yesterday, but points are points. I had started the day prepared to lose.

Then the judge looked at the four he’d pulled out of the line, pointed at Eggi with one hand and the bitch he’d pointed to first with the other, and with emphasis (and maybe a little vexation) he crossed his straight arms, indicating that the two bitches needed to change places. The chatter of the people gathered under the tent to watch the vizslas paused.  It was quiet long enough for me to hear when he pointed to Eggi and said, “Best of Breed.”


Now I felt like the day before hadn’t been a fluke. What fun! And, once again, we spent the warm afternoon waiting for the sporting group.

I bought empanadas from a food truck and they were so good I ate them without waiting to sit down. I held the leashes of a couple more dogs. Then I spent some time talking to some other vizsla owners and as of this writing I can say that I do remember one of their names.

My handler was stuck in another show ring with a boxer or maybe German shorthaired pointer when it was time for Eggi to go in for the group, so the handler’s husband took Eggi in.

He did a great job, but she seemed a little bit beat. No more ribbons in the group.

We were home in time to play in the yard. I guess she got a second wind.



The third day of the show cluster I woke up with a migraine, and cancelled. Eggi has 16 grand champion points as of this writing, so she needs 9 more points, including one major win. To become a grand champion, she will have to do a several more shows, even if her winning streak continues. 

Best of Breed

What are you doing Friday?

I have nothing on my calendar.

Come to the dog show with me.

But I’ve been to a dog show.

But this dog show is outside.

Where is it?

Ulster County Fairgrounds.

How far is that?

I dunno. Like an hour and a half maybe.

How long will we be there?

Vizslas are at 9:00, and best of breed goes last. Unless Eggi wins the breed we will be out of there at 10:30 at the latest.

So 10:30.

Well, probably.


It hasn’t happened yet, but if she goes best of breed, we have to stay for groups at 1:00.



She looks great.

Last time she showed in the rain she was flinching.

Well, that was exciting.

It was.

Let’s go get a picture.


So much for leaving by 10:30.

How long until the group?

A while. Let’s get lunch. I heard they have empanadas.


What kind of dog is she?

A shih tzu.

I want one.

Of course you do.


She’s never been in the ring with other kinds of dogs before.

She really doesn’t seem to care.

Heck no.

How many points was it?

Oh, man. I should know.

Second Guess

fullsizeoutput_3510T told me to get to the dog show early. Parking would be tight, she said. I changed my mind again about which car I was taking, leaving the big new truck at home and going with my small, trusty, 8 year old wagon. I packed the car, downloaded a new audiobook, did Eggi’s nails, brushed her teeth, and gave her a bath the night before. I woke up before my alarm, wondering if I’d overslept. It was 5:15 am.

I haven’t been sleeping well. I’m usually busy enough to be tired at a reasonable hour, but I’ve been waking up at 4 am or 3 am or 2 am, and running headlong into the thought that I won’t be able to go back to sleep. I excuse myself from stepping on that thought, and try to walk away from it, making no eye-contact and exchanging no pleasantries but if there is sleeping after that encounter I do not know how it is done. Imagine! Being my age and being bad at something as fundamental as sleeping! I’ve been practicing my whole life! The next day I will be tired by 3 pm, and drag myself through the second half of the day, and go to bed knowing I might be up again at first light.

Before leaving early for the dog show, I had the normal dog-centered morning routine, letting them out, and making their breakfast, and getting my own coffee. I rejected several routes suggested by the navigation app. I don’t pretend to be a Connecticut expert, but I am allergic to the state, and know which of its features (parkways, malls, boarding schools, I-95) trigger my worst reactions (excessive feelings leading to tears), so I opted out of the Merritt, favoring every tiny, oddly spelled, crooked two-lane road between here and where I was going.

I was on time. I asked the parking attendants if I could drop Eggi at T’s RV and they allowed it. I put her in an empty kennel, and parked on the sun-baked grass at the top of the hill.

Dog showing is long stretches of waiting, punctuated by bursts of intense anxiousness.

First off, we had a puppy sweepstakes where Eggi would be competing against the 15-18 month old vizslas. The catch with sweepstakes is no professional handlers, so owners like me have to put on the distinctive sensible shoes and non-distracting work attire of people who show dogs, put a number on their left arm with several rubber bands, and go in the ring with the dogs.

I’ve been in the show ring with our even younger dog, Fellow, doing beginner puppy classes. Those judges are sometimes nice and also helpful, especially if they can tell you don’t know what you’re doing. Fellow did better moving around the ring than he did standing still, which was when he barked at me, threw himself on the ground, and amused himself with wriggling.

I got confused picking up my number and when I couldn’t find my dog’s name listed in the catalog, I went to the show superintendent to try to figure it out. The superintendent told me to follow a woman in a pink sweater, who was walking away with some other confused person with the same problem. While the pink sweater woman tried to find my number, I realized that I had my entry and judge’s program in my car, so I went back to T’s RV to get my car keys, and then up the hill to my car, and by the time I was back at the vizsla specialty ring with my entry the woman in the pink sweater was gone. The ring steward looked at me like he’d never seen me before, and handed me my number; there never was a problem, other than I had looked on the wrong page of the catalog.

Then I went to get Eggi and forgot to get a dog treat to tuck under my number in case I needed to get her refocused on me. When I realized my error, the only person I was comfortable enough to ask to borrow some didn’t have any. Did I really need it? I would find out.

Once we were called into the ring, I felt like a child who thought they knew how to drive a car because they’ve seen grown ups do it. Put your hands on the wheel, and stop on red! Hold the leash with one hand, and stand your dog! The judge came over and fixed it when I put Eggi’s hind legs out too far.

I felt conspicuously clumsy taking Eggi down-and-back and then around the ring. I felt conspicuously clumsy trying to get her to stand square and look at me and not sniff the grass or scratch herself. I felt conspicuously foolish for not having a piece of chicken under my number. I felt conspicuously clumsy when we were picked for second place and I did not know where to go. We got a brown ribbon and a check for $14.63. I put Eggi away so she could decompress before her other class (with the handler T, in the afternoon).

I never did get around to changing out of the dress I wore, and so it meant that someone I did not know approached me afterward to say I’d done a good job showing Eggi. I said thank you, but suspected that the person was being mean-nice, and really what they wanted to say was “HOOOOO NELLY! Y’all don’t know what you’re doing out there, huh!?” If it was mean-niceness, though, it was conspiracy of mean-nice folks, because two other strangers encouraged me, too.

The best of breed competition was after lunch. Because of the specialty sweepstakes in the morning, there were over twenty vizslas in the ring for this class. The sun was high and bright, and the line of dogs and handlers stretched from the deep shade of the tent out onto the grass.


The judge walked around making eye contact with each dog and bitch entered, and when she was finished she moved everyone into the shade. Next, she sent them around the ring one at a time.

Eggi looked great.

Eggi loves to show.

Eggi loves her handler.

I’ve owned vizslas since 1992, so they don’t all look alike to me, but Eggi (foreground) and her sister Vivva (right) really do look alike.


Eggi’s handler T gets her attention even when she isn’t asking for it.


After the judge inspected each dog, sent them down and back and then around the ring, she sent everyone back to their places and went around the ring one more time. Suddenly she started picking dogs, selecting Fellow’s sire first. Other than this dog, I was unfamiliar with all the judge’s choices. And then she was done.

Eggi was not chosen.

But she looked great in there.

We made our goodbyes quickly and headed up to my car. It was very hot inside. I punched up the navigation app and we headed home some other, winding way. After about ten minutes, I began to wonder why the car was still so hot. I opened some windows, but kept the AC on full. Ten minutes later the car was still blowing warm air at me. When, I wondered, did the AC in my car stop working?





The Last 50 books I Read

I did not read as many books in 2018 as I did in the previous two years. We got a puppy in March, and  another in late December, so maybe that’s why. Maybe I also started paying more attention to the news, but after a few months I knocked it off. Maybe I remembered a piece of advice I got a number of years ago: Don’t Watch Bad Goes.

My favorite work of fiction among these titles is “Milkman,” by Anna Burns, followed by Gail Honeyman’s “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine.” My favorite non-fiction was Tara Westover’s “Educated: A Memoir.” I have continued to try to read books by women authors, but have made a couple of exceptions since making that pledge.

January 2018

Elizabeth Strout’s “My Name is Lucy Barton,” which is like “The Handmaid’s Tale” but historical fiction, so less stressful.

Roxane Gay’s “Bad Feminist”

Gail Honeyman’s “Eleanor Oliphant is completely fine”

“Dust Tracks on a Road” an autobiography by Zora Neale Hurston

“Little Fires Everywhere” by Celeste Ng

February 2018

“The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter” by Theodora Goss, the super adventures of the daughters of monsters

“The Ice House” by Minette Walters

“A Darker Shade of Magic” by V. E. Schwab

“The Power” by Naomi Alderman, fun times in the land of misandry tag.

March 2018

Mary S. Lovell’s “Straight on till Morning: The Life of Beryl Markham” (which took me a year to finish)

“Homegoing” by Yaa Gyasi

April 2018

Gish Jen’s portrait of creepy suburban Asian Americans “The Love Wife”

The steam-punk hippo western, “River of Teeth,” by Sarah Gailey

“Home” by Marilynne Robinson

May 2018

“Lila,” by Marilynne Robinson

“All the Answers,” a graphic novel by my Twitter friend Michael Kupperman

“Gilead” by Marilynne Robinson (a reread)

“Woman at Point Zero,” by Nawal El Saadawi

June 2018

“Smoke gets in your Eyes,” by Caitlin Doughty

“Everything Happens for a Reason,” by Kate Bowler

Jennifer Egan’s “Manhattan Beach”

July 2018

“Tin Man,” by Sarah Winnab

“The Scorpio Races” by Maggie Stiefvater

Barbara Ehrenreich’s grouchy “Natural Causes”

August 2018

“A Mind to Murder” by P.D. James

Svetlana Alexievich’s “The Unwomanly Face of War”…interviews of female soviet war veterans

“The Dry: A Novel” by Jane Harper

Jack London’s “White Fang,” which I listened to on Audible because it was free, and really, I almost couldn’t get past the extremely racist and tiresomely sexist bits, but the dog stuff was pretty engaging, especially since I was traveling with a dog when I listened to it.

Gail Caldwell’s “Let’s Take the Long Way Home” …a salad of dogs, friendship, and cancer, tossed in a dressing of sobriety

September 2018

N.K. Jemisin’s “The Fifth Season”

“Carsick: John Waters Hitchhikes Across America,” written and read by John Waters, an excellent road trip audiobook.

October 2018

Tara Westover’s “Educated: A Memoir”

Catherynne M. Valente’s rollicking “Space Opera,” which is as good as Douglas Adams but without his heteronormative nonsense.

November 2018

“Leadership” by Doris Kearns Goodwin…I read her book about Lincoln when I was in the leadership cohort in business school and I swear I quoted it in at least five different papers. My leadership challenges these days are all dog-related, so this one didn’t grab me the way the Lincoln book did.

“Washington Black” by Esi Edugyan

December 2018

Audre Lorde’s “Sister Outsider”

Feminism is for Everybody” by bell hooks, because if you are reading this, you are, actually, a feminist.

January 2019

“A Conspiracy of Truths,” by Alexandra Rowland. These are times for books about liars and storytellers and spies.

February 2019

“Pachinko” by Min Jin Lee

March 2019

“Milkman” by Anna Burns, and I can’t wait to reread it.

April 2019

“All Systems Red” by Martha Wells, the first of the Murderbot novellas, which are my favorite sci-fi in decades.

“Trump Sky Alpha” by Mark Doten, in which the current US president brings about the end of the world

Chuck Wendig’s “Blackbirds”

Joan Didion’s “The White Album”

“Born a Crime,” an autobiography by Trevor Noah, who reads the audiobook. Parts of this were so funny I had to stop listening to it on an airplane because I was laughing so loudly I was afraid I was being rude.

May 2019

Jane Rawson’s “A Wrong Turn at the Office of Unmade Lists,” which was kind of like “The Phantom Tollbooth” but for gin drinkers.

Peter Shinkle’s “Ike’s Mystery Man: The Secret Lives of Robert Cutler,” which I read because Peter is one of my oldest brother’s closest and oldest friends. Turns out I liked it anyway.

“Artificial Condition” by Martha Wells

“Slouching Towards Bethlehem,” 1960s essays by Joan Didion, which I listened to as an audiobook read by Dianne Keaton, who sounds so gloriously Los Angelean, with her sloppy diction and flat delivery, I’m ready to pack my books, give away my sweaters, and move (slowly) to Malibu.

Barbara Kingsolver’s “The Poisonwood Bible” …I don’t know how it took so long for me to get around to this book because it’s the kind of thing I like, and I found it very satisfying. I bet my mother read it in her book group right around 2000, and sent me her copy when she finished, and I dismissed it with an eye roll as the kind of thing my mother would read with her book group. It is beautifully written, intimate, engrossing and larger than life, and has connections to Marilynne Robinson’s, Peter Shinkle’s, and Tara Westover’s books.

Little E at the Big Show

There are dog shows, and then there is the one that everyone has heard of, the one in that movie about dog shows, the big one in New York City: the Westminster Kennel Club Show. Eggi qualified her very first time in the show ring, by winning a major, and I didn’t know that when it happened, and really didn’t know what that meant. 

Eggi arrived at Westminster and was the only open class bitch in the vizslas. Her sisters both finished their championships about ten days before and would move up to compete for best of breed. Vizslas are in the sporting group, and their classes were Tuesday. 

733A2406-x-MaggieA snow storm was forecast to begin around 8 am that day, changing to freezing rain in time for the evening commute. We decided on Sunday to book a room for two nights at one of the hotels served by the dog show shuttle. Monday afternoon I drove up and picked up my friend S and her bitch, Vivva, who is Eggi’s sister. At the hotel the sisters rode the elevator, used the artificial turf potty balcony on the 12th floor, and chased each other around the room.

Our show day started early. We caught the second shuttle which left from the front of the other dog show hotel, the Pennsylvania, which I had been warned to avoid.


Eggi shivered most of the ride. At the show I took her to the exercise pens to pee several times but she wouldn’t even smell the situation. She stayed in her kennel until it was time for vizslas.


S had hired a professional handler to show her bitch, but did not want to sit in the front row of spectators lest her dogs spot her.

733A2401-x-MaggieA woman in the front row turned and said to no one in particular, “I don’t know why anyone would bring a class dog to Westminster!”

Eggi had no competition for the open bitches, so all she had to do was beat the open dog to take the best of winners ribbon (and the point). I’ve watched Eggi do enough showing to witness the losing. We’ve lost to dogs with pointy little heads, and bitches that misbehaved. The class dog was scrawny and small, with a shrimpy pelvis and a pointy little head.  Did that guy even feed his dog? I got that surge of adrenaline that you get when you really really must not lose. 

733A2395-x-MaggieAnd then, it was over.

Eggi got her winners bitch rosette and took best of winners. Her sister V got an award of merit.

I watched pointers and akitas and a little of the Nova Scotian Duck Tolling Retrievers after that. The thing is that what the put on TV (the groups and then best in show) skips over the bulk of a dog show, which is what happens in the breeds. Every dog you see representing their breed has beaten a bunch of other, winning dogs and bitches to get there. This is the real meat of any dog show sandwich. If all you ever see is the best of breeds and the best in show, that’s just the pickle and toothpick; you’ve missed out on the unique pleasure of a dozen of the same breed of dog, prancing or lumbering around in a big circle, being halted and stacked, having their bites examined, and the judge making their choices with the pointing of a finger or hand. It’s all over in an instant if you don’t pay careful attention. 

Eulogy for a GMC

Apologies to Churchill and King George VI

My friends, when the death of the truck occurred in February there struck a deep and solemn note in our lives. It stilled the diesel clatter in our yard, and the screaming belts that made countless human beings pause and look around them. A new sense of values for the time being took possession of us, and a Ford SUV presented itself to us at the same moment in its serenity and its sorrow, in its splendor and in its expense, in its fortitude, and in our suffering.

The truck was greatly loved by all our family. It was respected as a vehicle and a Puller of Trailers far beyond the many roads over which it drove. The simple dignity of its life, its manly virtues, its sense of duty–alike as ruler and servant of the vast highways and passengers for which it bore responsibility–its gay growl and happy rumble, its example as the truck of the fleet, its courage on pavement or off–all these were aspects of its character which won the glint of admiration, now here, now there, from the innumerable eyes whose gaze fell upon the GMC Sierra 2500.

We thought of it as naval lieutenant in the towing of the boat. We thought of it as head cowboy when, calmly, without ambition or want of self-confidence, it trailered our beloved horses up and down the west coast of America. We thought of it, so faithful in daily commutes to Redmond, and later, to a commuter train station parking lot in Westchester, New York, so Large when parallel parked on a city street, but responsive during stop-and-go traffic, and yet able to stop when necessary, so uplifted above the clatter of ordinary traffic, yet so attentive to the driver, so able to drive over a curb, or pothole. All this we saw and admired, its conduct on the roads of America may be a model and a guide to heavy duty pickups throughout the world to-day, and also in future generations.

Through the last few months of the truck’s life, with the squeaky belts, rust, iffy AC and mice living in the engine it endured–its life secretly hanging by a thread from day to day, and it was all the time cheerful and undaunted, stricken in body, but quite undisturbed and even unaffected in spirit. This has made a profound and enduring impression, and should be a help to us all.

It was sustained not only by its natural buoyancy but by the sincerity of its American make. During these last years, landscapers and contractors spoke to us in admiration of it, making informal offers if we ever intended to part. Once, the Bacon Provider was asked (in Spanish) if he could haul some horses from a horse show. In the end, death came as a result of putting me in a dangerous situation, instead of after a happy day of sunshine and sport.

In this period of mourning and meditation, amid our cares and toils, we may draw comfort for tonight and strength for the future from its bearing and fortitude. There was another tie between King George and his people. It was not only the sorrow and affliction that they shared. Dear to the hearts and homes of its six seats is the joy and pride of a united family. Only once were we pulled over for an unbuckled seat belt, and once for speeding. No family in these tumultuous times was happier or loved one another more than our Family Loaded up in the truck, heading for a weekend adventure.

No vehicle got more maintenance than the truck did. The Bacon Provider made certain that he changed the oil, check the tires, and had the brakes serviced.

Let me tell you another story. When we had our Seattle house painted, the painter struck one side of our truck with his, and he took a few hundred dollars off the price he charged us. We never did get around to fixing the dent. It seemed to be a revealing trait by which we could identify it in a crowded lot of other pickups.

There is no doubt that having a truck is a handy thing, In the present generation it has made possible the acquiring of barbecues, and tools, lumber, and plants. It connected us to our friends and neighbors who needed to take a load of household goods to Goodwill. We were offered money for it when we left Seattle, but we felt it was necessary for getting our pets to New York. It was always cheap to fix, and the last repair was under $300. The truck had become a mysterious link, indeed, I may say, a magical link, which united our loosely bound but strongly interwoven

For fifteen years our GMC Duramax Sierra 2500 was our truck. Never at any moment in all perplexities in Seattle or New York, city or suburb, did it fail in its duties. Well does it deserve a farewell salute.

It is at this time also that our compassion and sympathy go out to the Bacon Provider, who used it for years as his daily driver. Their partnership was a love match with no idea of regal pomp or splendor. Indeed, there seemed to be between them the charming mismatch of a Medium Cheese Executive and a Workman’s vehicle.

They were under the floor mats

May I say–speaking with all freedom-that our hearts go out to–night to that valiant Brand, GMC, with the blood of America in its veins, that sustained us through toils and problems. May they be granted the wisdom to design a full-size SUV capable of pulling a large two-horse trailer sometime in the near future.

Now I must leave the treasures of the past and turn to the future. Famous have been the reigns of our vehicles. A purple Chrysler Town & Country Mini-van, and then a gold. A Volvo wagon the Graduate still drives. Nagymama’s Porsche. Some of the greatest periods in our history have unfolded under their sceptre.

Now that we have purchased a Ford Expedition Max, our thoughts are carried back nearly 15 years to the magnificent vehicle, presiding over the deck of a ferry to the San Juans, embodying and inspiring the grandeur and genius of the Turn of the 20th century. We are required to embark on new adventures. And, because we have more room, we can take all the dogs.

In fact, we have already driven it to the Adirondacks and back.

I, whose young parenthood was passed in the august, unchallenged, and tranquil glories of Seattle at the turn of the millennium, may well feel a thrill in invoking once more
the anthem:
“OMFG we bought an SUV!”