Monday, June 16, 2014

Fox On the Run

     You might say that we are an urban family, living in the City of Buffalo and our dog Harold being lost and found here (thanks to the City of Buffalo Animal Shelter). So, country visits are cool and taken advantage of by all.
     They are also rare, and mainly consist of Val’s weekly (during the summer and spring) therapeutic horse riding sessions at the Rivendell Recreation Center on South Wales. While Val does her therapy session, Harold and I take a long country walk on the surrounding rolling country roads.
      Saturday is the day for Val’s horse riding, and this Saturday appeared to be a fine day for a walk; cloudy (hopefully the rain would not come), a bit cool and breezy but still with the temperature in the 60s, so neither Harold nor I would feel too hot or tire too fast. Happily, it also meant that I didn’t have to wear a hat. After Harold and I walked Val over to the stable and into the fine hands of the staff and volunteers at Rivendell (and these volunteers and staff are simply incredible people), off we went over the lawn and onto Warner Hill Road.
     Warner Hill Road, like the other roads in this rural area, is rolling lanes through mostly farms and horse stables, often both, along with houses, many old but some new builds. We take one of two basic routes, and this day we took Warner Hill Road about 3/4 of a mile (maybe a bit longer) to Merlau
I do not want to hear one joke about Fox News.
Road; we turn down Merlau Road, with a couple more homes but still very large properties and some farming, which heads mainly downhill at first. Harold and I usually go about 3/4 of a mile before heading back, making our walk about 3 miles, taking about 50 minutes and perfect timing for when Val’s session ends.
     Harold is in his glory during these country walks, with all of the scents and smells from animals, birds, crops, horses, cows and the like, of course with a lot of attention paid to the waste left behind by the animals. Harold also enjoys actual appearances by these animals, as well as some aquatic life. But about a half-mile down Merlau, we encountered even more interesting scents; first, a mound of brown fur kind of taken apart, then a larger pile with what appeared to be dried blood. The stench was incredible, that of a dead animal.
     Before we found anything more, while Harold was busy sniffing the fur, something caught my eye a couple of yards down the road. I looked up and saw a red fox crossing from our side of Merlau to the other; just then, Harold looked up and saw the fox, first stiffening his back and then starting to pull me toward the fox. The fox looked at us, noticed Harold and took off across the street and was last seen leaping into the tree line. Harold tried pulling more until I told him that we weren’t going to chase the fox, and then tugged once on the leash and he followed me.
     We started to walk back, but noticed the smell had become even worse, and in a couple of steps we came across the rest of the carcass of a woodchuck, smelling to high hell and teeming with maggots. Harold of course wanted to investigate further, but I convinced him otherwise and we returned to Rivendell in a few minutes. Harold maintained his usual Short Attention Span Theatre while I kept looking along the tree line and fields for the fox. We did get to see who I believe is the same red-winged blackbird we see every week we walk this way fly above us a couple of times and land on a utility pole. Upon our return, Harold once again enjoyed the smells of the horses and stable, and Val continues to tell him that they are kind of like really big horses.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Famous Green Raincoat

    
     Chance encounters, with objects as well as people, often lead to the best memories.
     I was taking some bedding from the washing machine to place on the back porch railings to dry (our dryer has decided to stop heating the air it puts out), and I had to walk through the room the porch connects to, a storage room of sorts.
     In that room, among old toilet fixtures and coffee makers for which accessories are no longer made, is a metal clothing rack on wheels, about 5 feet high, with some classic items on it; most notably may be my wife Val’s beloved Sweet Home High School letter jacket.
     But what caught my attention was the dark green rain coat that I inherited from my late father Edward, and I believe that he bought it new, which means it could have been any time from the late 940s, after he graduated from Grover Cleveland High School, or the early 1950s, after he returned from his U.S. Army Korean War service. After I hung up the laundry, I had to go back and check out the coat again, a coat which I pressed into service mainly for two destinations/reasons.
     The first thing I did as I took the coat off the hanger was look for and find the inside pocket patch, which reads “Hengerer’s The Store for Men.” While a bit stained and in need of dry cleaning, the coat at least no longer has the cigarette smell it took on from my time wearing it to the Continental; for those of you not from Buffalo, the Continental was the number-one punk, new wave and alternative night club for both live and DJ music at 212 Franklin Street. I loved wearing the coat, because it took on a real cool dark green/black sheen in the less-than-ideally lit Continental, and several people at times said it gave off a Mod look, surprising because if anything, I was more of a rocker or punk, although in reality really a nerd or geek.
     As I put on the coat, which still fits remarkably well (and I didn’t even have to inhale to make it fit), I remembered the first times I wore it in public, not for regular wear at the time but on stage in musicals at Lancaster Central High School and the Lancaster Summer Playhouse. Particularly in high school, the shows we performed were 1940s-1950s influenced (“On the Town,” “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying” and “Bye, Bye, Birdie”), and this was something that looked right in place and actually impressed some of the directors.
     I also remembered that my mother Sheila was the first person to recommend I wear my father’s jacket, as well as some suits, in my high school musicals; as just about every male high school student in the 1970s would do, I hemmed and hawed and thought it would look stupid, and had to sheepishly agree with my mother how good and in-period they looked. While my father sometimes had difficulty being overly expressively with my late brother Brian and I during our adolescence (and I assume with my sister Heather as well, although he could say he was leaving that to my mother), he later came up, smiled, and said that the suits and coat did look good on me, and that regardless of how they looked, my mother would have won the argument.
     If I can get a decent photograph of the coat, or me wearing it, I will post it here.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

When You Run with the Canines...

    
Photo: Val Dunne/Barkloud Productions
In this corner: Me, the author, alleged human being, 6-foot-3, about 210 pounds (maybe closer to 200 pounds due to unemployment weight loss).
     In the opposite corner: Harold Dunne Hosey, a pit bull/Cane Corso mastiff blend canine, about 3 feet tall, weighing 64 pounds, apparently 60 of them muscle.
     It wasn’t supposed to be a contest, match or squaring off of any kind when Harold and I went into the backyard at about 6 p.m. Monday, just a normal relief visit for Harold and some playtime for us. But, as it turned out, the Clash of Titans occurred, and you can guess who won (hint: not me).
     To get as much physical activity out of Harold as possible and to get his pent-up energy flowing, I like to play stalk and chase Harold; we both know that there is no way I will ever truly sneak up on him or, even more unlikely, catch him, but it gets Harold running, and sometimes, he really cranks it up in the spare property we have.
      One of the games is for me to “sneak up” on him as he looks out the front fence at the sidewalk and street; he either goes to the left corner bordering our neighbor’s property, or the right corner adjacent to our front porch; the left corner is on the lawn, the right corner on the concrete driveway.
     Monday, he went to the right and was standing on the driveway, so I “snuck up” on him; he was actually just barely looking over his shoulder at me and starting to get into his hunch, from which he sprints away. Sometimes, he goes around me by several feet, while other times, he comes close to me, as if to get the most excitement by barely avoiding me.
     This time, he waiting just a touch longer than usual, with me about 15 feet away instead of 20 feet, and chose to run very close to me; unfortunately for me, he turned even sharper than normal, and ran straight for me. I barely was able to kind of yell out “Oh,” before Harold ran into me and sent me airborne.
     While some people have remarked that the low center of gravity caused much of this, there is no way I would have been sent into the air simply because of this; it would have been more likely that I tripped and fell face-first. I went up and started to twist a bit; somehow, as I was coming down (and this all happened within a couple of seconds), something told me to turn and shift my head or shoulders, so I wouldn’t hit my head on the concrete and really cause some damage. The experience of having all of this seem to happen in slow motion allowed me to prepare.
     But that’s prepare, not prevent, because I landed, and landed hard; fortunately, I was able to prevent my head from hitting the driveway. It hit the chain link fence, and while it didn’t feel great, no cut or bruise was caused. I landed mainly on my right knee, hands and posterior, and the wind was knocked out of me and some pain was felt in my rib cage. I landed slightly on Harold, who barely moved when we collided and who was unhurt.
     What Harold was was concerned and a bit scared for me; he pushed my with his nose a few times to see if I was OK, licked my face and sat against me, very concerned.  Because I was out of wind, I was gasping for air and took a few moments to be able to force out a few words, telling Harold I was OK and that I appreciated his concern and protection. He seemed to calm down and licked my face again, and stood against me until I finally stood up, after checking to see if I had been otherwise hurt. We made our way to the back door a bit slower than usual, with me still gulping for air and sounding rather pained as I spoke.
     A final inventory of injuries shows a brush burn about the size of a quarter on my right knee bruises and scrapes on my hands as well as the pain from the ligaments around the thumbs, and some pain in my ribcage. But the pain was much less than I expected and much less than when I torn some tendons or cartilage there when I had bronchitis a few years ago, and I can lift my arms above my head without pain; I do have to sleep in one position and not on my side for a few days. There is some pain when I bend or pick something up, but ibuprofen is handling it. Harold has been doting on me since the collision, and happily suffered no injuries; talk about a muscular head and shoulders.

Friday, April 04, 2014

How Not to Gain My Petition Signature

Just in case you haven't had the glorious opportunity to do this, here is some advice to people helping candidates get on the ballot: Don't argue with a person whose signature you are seeking to get on the petition on the clipboard in your hands.
During Harold and my walk today (Friday), as we approached Anderson while walking down Elmwood Avenue, a man about age 30 crossing the street looked at me and shouted, "Are you a registered voter in the City of Buffalo." Of course, I said yes, noting the clipboard and apparent petitions in his hand.
He said that he was seeking petition signatures to get the name of a person on the ballot as a candidate for the Buffalo Board of Education. I did not recognize the candidate's name (male), so I said that I would like to know something about the candidate before I signed and wanted to ask a couple of questions.
Before I could ask any, the man said that he didn't know any of the candidate's stands on issues, but that it didn't matter, because my signature would only qualify the candidate to get on the ballot and not indicate my support or be a vote for him. I told him that I still wanted to know where the candidate stood on certain issues before I committed my name/signature to him, and that I very well knew what petition signatures meant and indicated, because I have been a Democratic committeeman on Buffalo's West Side for about 10 years and have collected thousands of petition signatures.
The man replied that it didn't matter, repeating his previous arguments and saying that I should be supporting and allowing alternative candidates and views to be aired to the public. I replied that I had no problem allowing varying candidates and their ideas to be aired, but that if I was going to sign my name to a petition to get a candidate's name on the ballot, I wanted to know something about that candidate, as well as the fact that voters can only sign a certain number of candidate petitions for any office. Thus, I wanted to make my voice count.
I asked if this candidate had a web page; the man said no, but said that he had a Facebook account I could check. (When I got home, I tried to look but I could not find a Facebook page under the name on the petition or a slight variation of the first name.)
The man looked at me and said, "So, you're saying that you don't want to allow Mr. X (the candidate, whose name I won't reveal because he did not act in this manner) to be able to get on the ballot and voice certain opinions." "No, sir, I did not say that. I said I will not sign my name to a candidate's petition without knowing something about him or her, which you can't even tell me." The man gave me a very loud "Have a good day," and walked away.
Throughout this time, Harold was incredibly well behaved, sniffing and looking at the man and me, but as the other guy left, the pup muttered under his breath, "You know, Dad, just give me the signal and I'll pee on the next person who does that."

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Thoughts on Canines and Porches

While Harold and I were on our extended walk around Buffalo's West Side today, two items caused this anal, self-possessed, geeky writer to take notice.
One was more an annoyance: As we proceeded down Richmond Avenue from West Ut
Harold say relax.
ica Street toward Bryant Street, a male, about age 40-50, was riding his bicycle on the sidewalk toward us.
Besides being annoyed at someone riding their bike on the sidewalk, particularly when there are dedicated bicycle lanes in both directions on Richmond, as we approached, the man stopped, got off his bicycle, stayed on the sidewalk and pretty much in our way, and just stared, with fear in his eyes, at Harold. Harold, a pit bull/mastiff/couch potato blend, barely turned his head to look at the man, instead sniffing a tree and pile of dirt/debris.
But earlier in the walk, on the portion of West Utica Street on the other side of Richmond Avenue going toward the Five Corners, a more dangerous and negligent situation occurred. Across the street from us was a house, not in horrible condition but not owner-occupied or pristine, either. It basically looked structurally good except for the second-floor porch, which had no railing of any kind and was slightly sloped toward the front.
The window to the apartment connecting to the porch was open, and a large, black-and-white dog was standing on it. He started to bark at Harold as we passed across the street, becoming rather animated in his barking, and he then started looking at the ground and for some way to jump down, no doubt wanting to exchange pleasantries with Harold. No resident or other people were observed at this house.
I think I heard Harold bark under his breath at how foolish the resident and/or owner of the house was, because dogs expect their owners/parents to know better. Indeed.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Ulysses Grant, My Father and Some Reading

I just finished reading a very good, well-written book, and I have a feeling my late father Edward would be borrowing it from me, in case he didn't already have it, if he was still alive.
The book is "The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace," by H. W. Brands (Anchor Books), which was published in 2012 and was one of the excellent Christmas gifts my lovely wife Val Dunne gave me this past holiday season. The 637-page book, not counting notes, was just published in paperback in time for the holiday season and the cover price was an amazingly reasonable $17.95.
The author, through extensive use of letters, diaries, journals, official military and government documents, and other sources, details Grant's successes and failures, his early military career and leaving the U.S. Army for several years, business flops, his painful relationship with his cold father, and later his somewhat reluctant entrance into politics and attempts to avoid the worst of it while trying to succeed as the number-one American politician. His innate military knowledge and skills are balanced by his almost hatred and fear of public speaking, and Grant's drinking problems are both detailed and shown to be exaggerated.
I have been a major reader of American history since my adolescence, mainly from 1900-present, but I did take some interest in the Civil War, which was sparked by my father's lifetime interest, reading and amateur research of sorts into it. As a child, I remember family vacations (always by car) to places such as Gettysburg (twice, and my father and mother Sheila visited it again several times after I moved out), Fort Sumter and Manassas/Bull Run. As well as those mentioned above, my father also visited the sites of the battles of Antietam, Shiloh and the Wilderness, and others I can't recall.
When we sold my mother's house after my father died and my mother moved into assisted living, there were tons of books, many mine and many my father's. Among those I kept were two great photo histories of the Civil War, "The Blue and the Grey" and "Divided We Fought." I went through those two books again during and after finishing "The Man Who Saved the Union." Of course, with my father having been a Korean War U.S. Army veteran, I have extensively read about that war.
Frankly, I can't think about the U.S. Civil War or Gettysburg without thinking about my father and his pride and reverence cor our country's history and the service of those who took part. With the 10th anniversary of my father's death approaching, they are nice memories to have.
Thanks, Ed (something I would NEVER call him while he was alive).


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Camaros, Rabbit Heads and Doubletakes

I virtually snapped my neck when I walked from my car to the house at the amazing sight I beheld a few days ago.
There, parked in the street next door to our house, was a late 1980s/early 1990s Chevrolet Camaro, with the oh, so classic dark grey/black (I wasn't certain, due to road salt effects) and bright pink paint scheme.
What made this car even, er, better looking was, first, the pink color forming flames coming back off the engine compartment on the top and sides of the hood and parts of the doors. But even better, on the hood was a giant, 4-5-foot Playboy bunny head logo in black, with bright pink framing. I didn't even know they still made his detailing package, although I presume that there are lots of detailers who would do this custom job if contracted to do it.
I admit that I lingered several times over the weekend while going to and leaving our car to not only get a look at the car, which I have never seen on our street before, but to see just who was the driver, including what their gender is. Sadly, between this and even looking out the window on occasion, I never saw the driver, who left while we were visiting friends for brunch.
I checked Google Images to see if I could find a car matching this description, but despite viewing hundreds of images, I could not find one even close; whew, I think.