The one person in my life who is completely in favor of the pandemic is my cat, Schwartz.
I feed him twice a day, at the same time as the dogs, but if he finds someone up late getting a snack, or up early to talk to someone on the other side of the world, he asks for an extra breakfast. The Bacon Provider is working long days, from home.
When I get up, I feed the dogs first, and lock them in their kennels. Schwartz’s breakfast is a tiny scoop of cat kibble and a spoonful of the raw chicken medley I buy for the dogs. He finishes most of it, and if he leaves so much as a single crumb, Eggi gets it.
I do pilates via Zoom three times a week, at 9:30 am. In the first few weeks, he’d visit me during the session, and leave. Then he started demanding to be petted during the session. After that he got overstimulated or impatient and bit me a couple of times. So I got a big bag of the cat treats he likes, and started throwing them around the room to divert him. Now Schwartz howls loudly and insistently every day at about 9:15 am, just in case it’s a pilates day.
He stays the whole session.
On the days I don’t have pilates, he goes to the room and has a nap just in case. He doesn’t want to miss out.
He is turning 16 in April, so he’s not an especially active cat anymore. If he isn’t waiting for pilates, he likes to nap on his special windowsill, or under the piano bench, on a chair in the living room, or in my bed.
Schwartz yowls if his water bowl is empty. He yowls if the dogs’ water bowl is empty. He yowls if his water bowl is almost empty. He yowls if the water bowl might someday be empty, or should be changed or shouldn’t be changed.
He also shouts about his litterbox needing attention, and screams if he wants to go hunting in the basement, and meows if he experiences symptoms of ennui.
When he produces a hairball, everyone has a chance to see it and admire it, because no one has anyplace to go.
Schwartz voices no opinion about anything in politics. He is probably an egoist anarchist with revolutionary tendencies, committing acts of sabotage (pooping outside the litterbox, pissing on piles of dirty laundry) and violent insurrection (biting me while I’m exercising).
When he leaves a turd on the floor next to the litterbox and I’m not the first to find it, there is an entertaining moment of excited dogs running around and people yelling.
Dinner is promptly at 6 pm. Schwartz starts complaining for dinner at 4 pm.
After dinner, there is TV to watch or a fight to pick with a dog.
At bedtime, Schwartz remembers that he is probably a dog, and joins us in the bathroom when the dogs get their teeth brushed.
The cat visits me while I’m sleeping, walking the entire length of my body and curling up in the pillows or next to me, or stretching out on top of me, with his paws on my face. He takes up as much room as my husband.
He hopes everything stays just like this, forever.
Every day I wake up and very first thing I have to jump on the bed and see if anyone is still sleeping. Then I run to the back door because a girl has to go pee as soon as she can, every day. I run out the door and go around the yard as fast as I can in case there was a squirrel or a bird.
Then I go pee and then I need to come back inside immediately to find out what is taking so long with breakfast.
I like to wait for my breakfast in my kennel in case they forget to give me mine. I always eat all of my breakfast, including all three vitamin pills (one to make me shiny, one to make me run fast, and one that I don’t know what it’s for). I clean my bowl. I would eat twice as much breakfast as they give me.
Then I have to have a nap in my kennel because that is the rule in this house.
When they open the door to my kennel I have to go check the cat’s bowl first. The cat’s food is even better than mine.
Then we run outside some more. You have to check behind the bushes because there might be something there.
On Tuesdays I skip the morning nap and I go to obedience class. I get a cookie just for getting in the car. I rest in the car but I do not nap because I have to be extremely ready for what’s next.
When we are almost there I stand up and do a little bit of squealing and howling; I am quite excited to arrive.
I have to wear a leash to go from the car to the classroom, up a flight of stairs above a big garage. Before I go up the stairs I do a pee so everyone knows that I, Eggi, was here.
Obedience class is with my good friend, Hamilton, and this other dog, Walker. Hamilton’s person brings me chicken so I always run over to say hello to her. Hamilton himself is a gray standard poodle and if you don’t know what that is, it’s like a vizsla, but the wrong color, and with fluffy soft curls. Hamilton is fun to chase or play boxing with. Sometimes when Hamilton jumps he goes extra high and I find it a little embarrassing but don’t tell him I said so because I wouldn’t want him to be self-conscious about it. If I were to be another kind of dog maybe I would be a poodle.
I am good at heeling and getting the dumbbell, but I do like to toss it back onto my molars to give it a good hard chomp even though I am not supposed to. I get special things like cheese and pieces of pork chop at obedience class. I like all dog treats even the sad, dry ones that other dogs don’t like. I check the spots on the floor every week, just in case there are crumbs.
Mostly, I am a very good girl at obedience class until I get tired; my teacher says sometimes dogs get headaches. Then I have trouble knowing when I should be sitting and when I should be lying down.
After class I have another pee and get one more cookie just for jumping back into the car.
I have a rest in the car almost all the way home but when we turn onto our road I leap to my feet and squeal because I know we are almost there.
Captain and Fellow are happy and excited that I am home and we all run out to check the bird feeder for birds and then the back fence for people. Usually Fellow wants to play chase and while he is fast, I am clever and I am quick, so I always win.
If the UPS truck comes I bark a lot because that’s what dogs are supposed to do; I don’t make the rules.
If Fellow gets a squeaky toy I have to take it away from him and even though we have plenty of toys he will bother me until I give it back.
In the afternoon when we go for a walk, sometimes we stick to the road and sometimes we go in the woods. I like to pee on the corner by the stop sign so everyone knows this is my house. Me, Eggi. I live here. If there are any big rocks on the way we stop and my person says, “Table,” which means get up on it so I stand on the rock and my person takes a picture. If I see deer I stand up on my hind legs and yell my head off. Deer make me mad as heck. Usually I have to poop, and I spend a long time finding the perfect place to poop because I have my standards. When we get home from a walk we run around the yard as fast as we can just to show the people how slow they are.
Then we have a rest to wait for dinner, and sometimes it is a very long time to wait.
Nevertheless, it is important to wait in the kitchen when the people are cooking because you can get pieces of carrot or potato just for being in the right place at the right time. And sometimes food gets dropped on the floor and cleaning it up is a dog’s job.
At dinner time I always eat all of my dinner. I would eat twice as much dinner as they give me.
Then I have to have a nap in my kennel because that is another rule in this house.
After the people are done with their dinner, they open the door to my kennel, and I have to go check the cat’s bowl again.
Then we run outside some more.
Running around in the dark is very exciting.
When we are done running around, we press ourselves against the French doors so the people can see that we need to come in immediately. My person makes us sit on a rug before we track mud everywhere.
We usually take another nap until it’s time to watch TV. We like TV and I always sit with my person.
When it’s time for bed we get to go run around outside one last time and my person yells “No toads!” at me and “No jumping out!” at Fellow. She doesn’t yell at Captain because Captain’s too old to jump out and too slow for toads. When we come inside, everyone gets their teeth brushed, even the cat. Then we get one last treat for going in our kennels and go to sleep. Sometimes Fellow digs for a while in his kennel. I might have to turn around three times, and sigh.
I hope tomorrow is Tuesday again, but if it isn’t, that’s ok, because I will probably get breakfast anyway.
In October of 2019, people still went on business trips, and the Bacon Provider was out of town for a couple of days. Left to my own devices, I signed up for the 10th KenKen International Championship.
When we bought the house in Bedhead Hills, I was so grateful to be able to get a New York Times delivered to my house every day that I quickly deeply intensified my crossword addiction. I saw my first Times crossword in college, and if I tried to solve one then I don’t recall being able to get very far. But at some point in my adulthood my enormous underused brain started drumming on the inside of my skull and I took it to mean DO THE PUZZLE EVERY DAY. And once I got good at it I started doing the KenKen puzzles, too.
At first you might not really understand that they are different from Sudoku puzzles, but they are. KenKen puzzles have math operations. You use a lot of logic and a little arithmetic.
And I can do them pretty fast. Like, sometimes I just take out a pencil and fill in the numbers. So, when I saw that the World Championship was going to be held in a town not far from me, on a day in the near future, I signed up.
By way of preparation for a puzzle competition, I did the usual puzzles in the newspaper every day, plus a few online. I did not read up on strategies for doing KenKens quickly. I should have.
The day of the event, put on sneakers and jeans and arrived pretty early. The first wave of nervousness hit me as I got out of my car. Am I fast at mental arithmetic? Maybe above average, but not really very. Am I good at KENKEN puzzles? Probably above average, but not going to be competitive here. Why did I sign up then? I checked in and got a special big KenKen pencil and an official orange shirt. At the check in desk, they were surprised to hear I’ve never been here before. I guess I looked experienced.
My Past Self always wants my Future Self to go Out and have Fun and Interesting Adventures. Her optimism is eternal. She’s a frickin joiner. Present Self had to ask for the bathroom. She maybe didn’t need to go, but what if she did, later. Also, she wants to have a word with Past Self, because she is never the one who wakes up with a headache.
The KenKen International a gymnasium, really, where under normal circumstances the room is full of ping pong tables. It has gymnasium vibes. But there are excited clumps of people (mostly men), including kids (mostly boys).
There are big tables, set up in a regular array throughout the room. People are already sitting, and warming up for the competition by putting their heads down and doing puzzles. Looking at them makes me a little sick.
Now I have to sit. Seats are filling in, and if I want a choice—and I do, I do!—it’s time. I choose the table closest to the women’s bathroom (which does not seem to have a proper sign). But I asked; I know where it is. I could have done more to be ready for this morning, but knowing where the bathroom is makes up for a little of it.
There is one seat taken at this table, by a man named Louis, who came to the event in a $90 Uber from the Bronx.
In my seat I am perfectly situated to watch people approach tournament organizer and puzzlemaster Will Shortz for selfies.
I realize I left my big eraser on the island in my kitchen. Next, I realize that the empty bleachers behind me are going to be filled with spectators.
Doing KenKen puzzles are supposed to make you smarter. It’s true if “smarter” is “better at KenKen puzzles.” I am feeling less smart at this moment than when I locked the car, but more smart than I did in early October of 2019 when I signed up for this.
Other people brought snacks and water. I left my water in the car. I guess I could buy a snack. If I’d brought any money. Who carries money anymore? Not me.
The seats at my table are filled quickly, mostly by other women, who seem genuinely relieved to find a table with other women. The last two seats are taken by a young enthusiastic woman whose sister is sitting in the bleachers, and a sort of rumpled older fellow.
Starting any minute. My optimistic goal is to finish all the puzzles. My realistic goal is not to give up and start giggling. My best alternative to meeting any goals is leaving; I’m sitting equidistant from the women’s bathroom and the exit.
Now for the medley of national anthems played on violin by a local high school kid. It includes the songs of U.S., Egypt, Israel, Uganda, UAE, Australia, India, and China. Play ball!
Round one is done. The first one went ok, but something about the puzzles is different from the ones I’ve been practicing on. The second puzzle is tricky, and I have to erase the whole thing twice. I’m not used to doing this with my heart thumping in my chest!! I am able to finish about 4 minutes before the time runs out. When you finish you raise your hand. The young woman next to me is incredibly fast. I should have been faster.
In round two, I cannot finish the bigger, harder puzzles in the time allowed. I realize that the contest puzzles are hand-made, and not according to simple algorithms. Now I’ve given myself a nice headache and I just want to leave. I check my pockets for Sportsmanship pills, or forgotten candy. Wouldn’t peppermint Lifesavers be just the thing at this point?
I am running on fumes. The rumpled man at the table mutters while he’s solving. I take out my earplugs and put them in again. It doesn’t help.
But for you, I tell Twitter, I will stick it out. Even if I can’t finish the puzzles.
And then I’m done. I finished only one of the puzzles in the last round, and my head hurt, and I decide it was all great fun. While the puzzle sheets are checked, I chat with the others at my table. I feel kind of silly when I realize that many of the adults here are math teachers. Of course they are.
When the results are in, the kid winners are announced first. The winners in the youngest group are from China and the UAE. Kids from the UAE swept the second kids’ division. The high school division winners were from New York and India. Senior division (by which I mean the elderly) winners were from Tenafly, New Jersey, Manhattan and Yorktown, New York.
Louis who spent $90 on an Uber was happy to announce that a friend would be picking him up to take him back to the Bronx. This was his 2nd year competing. He finished third and his was a new name to the announcer. It was gratifying to clap for my new acquaintance’s achievement.
Since starting to do KenKen puzzles, I dream about doing KenKen puzzles. So there’s that. When the organizers published the results, I saw that I did not come in last, and was, in fact 54th in the adult division. If I can figure out how to do puzzles with my heart pounding in my chest, I might try again.
This year’s competition was postponed, due to the pandemic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
At 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.
Right 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.
On 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.
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.
“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
“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
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”
“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
“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
“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
“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
“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”
“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
“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
“Hello World: Being Human in the Age of Algorithms,” by Hannah Fry
“Temporary,” by Hilary Leichter
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.
Anyway, 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.
The 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.
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.