Chairman Bao is a Shih Tzu. We travel a lot. I drive. He watches. We've logged at least 10,000 miles and he's never once said, Sweetheart, don't you think you should stop and ask someone?

Saturday, June 30, 2007

One last, fleeting look at Minneapolis as we head off into the sunset. Bilbao on the Mississippi. It's actually the Weiseman Museum of Modern Art at the University of Minnesota campus, designed by Frank Gehry. Pretty fantastic, huh?

We're now in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. No, I lie. We're somewhere north of Sioux Falls, in the middle of what looks like a corn-field. All accommodation in Sioux Falls proper has been booked out for the past three months, because -- wait for it -- there's a Softball Tournament on, with 60 teams from all over the midwest. So once again, we were miles from dinner last night. Ah, the viscissitudes of travel!

Turns out, there are all sorts of things to do in Sioux Falls on a sunny Saturday morning, including a corn maze. That really does look interesting, but with my lousy sense of direction it would most likely be a big mistake. There's also a winery made out of bales of straw. Corn straw, probably. There's a lot of corn in this part of the world.

True confessions, I wasn't sorry to leave Minneapolis. The art is wonderful, but the roads are a snarling, tangled nightmare, a veritable lover's knot of freeways, which have multiple, often confusing designations (35W for example, goes east) and merge continuously and abruptly into one another. And nobody gives way to anybody, ever. You just wait for a break in the traffic and hope you survive. I thought Barbara was going to have a total nervous breakdown.

Gotta go. Bao says he needs to visit the corn-field and do what dogs do.

Friday, June 29, 2007

You're wondering, Does this pair ever do anything except lunch?

Well, after an entire morning spent touring the Chinese collection at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, we needed a bit of sustenance. The Museum Cafe overlooks the lobby, and that wonderful burst of yellow to my left is a fabulous piece of Chihuly glass, hanging from the ceiling. The cafe serves interesting salads and sandwiches, and wine. I'm easy, really. Give me a place to sit down and a glass of red wine and I'm happy.

It was so exciting to finally actually see -- in real life -- so many of the exquisite pieces of Chinese art that I'd only ever seen in books. Like a dream come true. Guided by the immensely knowledgeable John Brooks (he and his wife also come to my class) we wandered through what seemed to be endless galleries full of marvels. Alas! I'm not as young as I used to be. After a couple of hours I was beginning to wish I could swap places with Bao in the stroller. I'll ride and you push, I told him.

He just looked at me.

After lunch, we continued on through the "highlights" of the European collection. My favorite was the Van Gogh. But my favorite is always the Van Gogh.

Lots of people have taken photographs of Bao, especially when he's in the stroller. He's become accustomed to it; he even poses for them. I often wonder what becomes of all those photos. Do they get entered in My Holiday Photos competitions? Do they win?

Seeing friends and familiar faces here in Minneapolis has been great. But today we regretfully turn our backs upon the wonders (and the traffic jams) of the city and head off on the next leg of our adventure, into the wild west.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Bao doing lunch at 20-21 Restaurant & Bar by Wolfgang Puck

Minneapolis has been a revealation. I never dreamed there could be so much to see and do in a city that's only a third of the size of Tucson.
You could easily spend an entire day at the Walker Art Center and that's basically what we did yesterday. Our host was Phil Von Blon, one of the Museum Directors. (I teach a course in Chinese history in Tucson, and Phil is one of my students. In fact, he's the one who talked me into coming to Minneapolis)
This is a lovely, welcoming museum. White walls, soaring vistas, huge windows. I kept imagining what it must be like during the winter, surrounded with snow, white on white.
First, we toured the Picasso and American Art Exhibition. Picasso never visited the United States, but his paintings created a huge stir when they were first exhibited here in 1914. This particular exhibition explores the impact that Picasso had on American artists, many of whom took cubism as a starting point to be followed wherever it led. The juxtapositions were astounding. Plus lots of wonderful Picassos.
After lunch, a leisurely stroll through the Sculpture Garden, which also features a wonderful glass conservatory with palm trees (in Minneapolis!) and a huge, glass leaping fish by Frank Gehry.
Phil and his wife JoAnn were our hosts for dinner at their breathtaking condo in the sky overlooking the Mississippi River. It's a converted flour mill, one huge room as big as a football field, fabulous art competing with fabulous views. I've only ever seen homes like this in the glossy pages of architectural magazines.
What an absolutely fantastic day!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Bao liberated a stuffed animal at Mall of the Americans. A goldfish. He hung onto it like grim death (wouldn't even let go to allow the saleperson to scan the price-tag) until I paid for it. Then he totally lost interest. This is sort of a game we play. I think we need to find a less expensive game.

Mall of the Americas is a shopping mall. Okay, it's big. Four department stores, 520 shops, a 7-acre amusement park and an aquarium. Four levels, all enclosed. But at the end of the day, it's a mall. And to paraphrase Gertrude Stein, a mall is a mall is a mall. I don't know what I expected, but I was a tad disappointed.
I met up with my friend Marlena (a native of Minnesota who also has a condo in Mexico) and we did a bit of shopping and then had a leisurely lunch at Napa Valley Grille. With wine. The wine was really good. In fact, it was so good we had a second round. Where did the day go? we asked one another.

When Bao and I got back to the room, my head itched, so I scratched it. I felt something, a little lump on my scalp. Further investigation revealed a tick. Yikes! and it was alive! No ticks on Bao, thank goodness. Pity they don't have Frontline for humans. Ticks are everywhere this time of year, I'm told. And not just ticks. Other common, Minneapolis pests include bats, mice, squirrels, raccoons, moles, skunks, gophers, beavers, woodchucks and snakes. And mosquitos.

It's been hot, too. And humid, not like Tucson. My bangs are all curly. Hopefully, it'll cool off when we head into the wild west.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Is this the face of an art connoisseur?


Let me tell you about something that happened at the Des Moines Art Center. Among the many displays was a video installation. You went into a dark little room and sat down on a bench and watched a video projected onto the wall opposite. It was called, Zeno Writing and it was quite extraordinary, mesmerizing in its way. Black and white, surrealistic imagery, murmurous symphonic music, all that. Bao sat there, enthralled.

I'm serious. His eyes were wide open, his head was erect, he was rapt. This was unprecedented. Usually, he just curls up and goes to sleep.

First I thought it was because it was there in front of him, but the TV set at home is in front of him, and he never even looks at it.

The video lasted about 10 minutes, and he never blinked. He wasn't frightened, he was fascinated. And when we'd watched the whole thing and it was time to leave, he kept stopping to look back at it.

What do you suppose was going through his mind? What was it about this combination of sound and imagery that so intrigued Bao? Is there a canine aesthetic? Was it because this was in black and white, and he's only ever experienced the world in color?

They say dogs write their history in urine. Outside the museum -- when Bao thoughtfully lifted his leg -- I couldn't help wondering if what he was "writing" was a film critique!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Des Moines Art Center

You went through Des Moines and you didn't see the Art Center?
That's what people said last year. How could I miss the Art Center? Maybe I was tired. Or maybe it was Monday.
So this time, we stopped. And yes, it's something to see. Another architectural triumph. Three amazing buildings, designed by Eliel Saarinen, I M Pei and Richard Meier and set in lush, green gardens. (You're looking at the Richard Meier bit) The art is amazing, too. Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Giacommetti, Georgia O'Keefe, wonderful things, gallery after gallery. To my surprise, the Art Center's award-winning restaurant is closed on Sundays. Luckily, I had one, last banana.
I'd selected a motel just off the exit ramp, for convenience. And guess what? The exit ramp was closed for construction, as were adjacent streets. Barbara (my name for the navigation system) had hysterics. She kept saying, Take the next right turn and then the second left turn. We went round in circles, three times. Barbara finally fell silent. Talk to me Barbara, I pleaded. Nothing. When the navigation system gives up, you know you're in trouble.
The other reason I'd picked this motel -- the Quality Inn -- was because it had a restaurant. "The best-kept secret in Iowa" they boast on their website. What they don't tell you is that it's closed on Sunday. I was so hungry by now that even Bao's Cesar Canine Cuisine was looking good. Maybe, I thought, with ketchup. Bao was horrified. There are boundaries, after all.
I knew if I went out, I'd never find my way back. And of course, I didn't. Not for hours. And then the air conditioner roared all night and left puddles on the carpet. At least there was a hot, buffet breakfast -- although the presiding Misery Chops looked daggers at me when I went back for a second helping of bacon.
By all means see the Art Center if you're in Des Moines.
Then keep going.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

If Bao was writing this it would be all about doggy things like food and smells and the Cocker Spaniel bitch who passed through last week and peed under the third bush on the north side of the motel.

We do share an interest in food. So here we are doing lunch at a Red Lobster. which I stumbled upon while searching for an Olive Garden. After lunch, we visited Leila's Hair Museum.

Actually, it's not Leila's hair. It's Leila's museum. The hair belonged to thousands of other people whose loving relatives crafted it into elaborate, floral wreathes. Leila found the first one in a garage sale, fifty years ago. She's been collecting them ever since. If you think this sounds a bit odd, you are not alone. The Society of American Travel Writers selected Leila's Museum as one of the ten "quirkiest" attractions on the interstate. Leila's Museum is also unique. It's the only hair museum in the world.

In the era before photography, crafting your loved ones' hair into intricate, floral shapes and arranging these to form wreathes or necklaces was an important American folk art. There were special tools for shaping the hair, and a special kind of wire -- hair wire -- around which hair could be wound. You could also pulverize the hair into powder, mix it with paint and create what were called "sepia" scenes for remembrance jewelry. These tools and techniques have been lost. All that remains are the hair wreathes themselves, many in their original frames. Leila's got 300 of them, plus nearly 2,000 necklaces, brooches and bracelets, all made out of hair.

Whole family trees are recorded (and sometimes labeled with names and dates) in elaborate, horseshoe shaped constructions. (The horseshoe shape allowed more hair-flowers to be added as the family grew) Sometimes, hair from favorite pets was included. There's a matched pair of wreathes made from the hair of two sisters whose heads were shaved when they entered a convent. And another wreath made by nuns from the hair of a nun who had died, as a gift for her family.

The oldest piece -- a brooch with a piece of hair enclosed in crystal -- was made in Sweden, in 1680. And there's a mourning brooch that contains a lock of Daniel Websters hair, adorned with 32 seed pearls. It's engraved, Daniel Webster Oct. 24 1852 (the date of his death)

On to Des Moines.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Tired Tibetan Shih Tzu meets Thai Buddha at the Nelson-Atkins Art Museum of Art in Kansas City.

I'm always in two minds when I visit exhibitions of Asian temple or funerary art. The pieces themselves are invariably beeautiful and I feel privileged just being able to look at them. Yet I also know they don't belong in museums. They belong in the temples and tombs from which they were taken, usually illegally. I imagine booted, bearded men hacking away at them, lopping off an arm here and a head there, and I feel uneasily complicit.

"A stone and a feather" is the way architect Steven Holl describes the juxtapositon of the newly opened Bloch building (which he designed) and the original, neo-classical Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art building constructed in 1933. I have to say, these two utterly dissimilar buildings sit strangely together. Not so much a stone and a feather as chalk and cheese.

Yet both are wonderful buildings. The Bloch is long and feathery, all Channel glass (a special, very strong type of glass capable of withstanding a tornado) terrazzo floors and polished plaster walls, a symphony of greys and whites that enhance the African and Contemporary collections housed within. This building -- unlike the disappointing MOMA reconstruction -- really does work.

The older building works, too, but in a totally different way. It awes you. It is monumental, overpowering. The soaring pillars, the expanses of marble, the loggia and atria simply blow you away. Here you'll find the European collections, the Impressionists, and the wonderful Asian galleries, including a Chinese Temple and a special exhibit on the care, training and feeding of singing and fighting crickets.
So both buildings are great. It's the combination that's peculiar, sort of like blue mashed potatoes.

We spent the whole day. But it was so hot and humid we didn't manage to get through much of the outdoor Sculpture Garden, which has the nation's largest collection of monumental Henry Moore bronzes. It's cooler this morning. Maybe we'll go back for a second look.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The National World War I Museum at the base of Kansas City's Liberty Memorial Tower is the only one of its kind in the world.

I'm not usually one for war museums. But this was amazing. It's as close as you'll get (and as close as you want to get) to the trenches. War, up close and personal. It's mesmerizing. It's awful. Did we really do this to one another? And then there was World War II. And Korea. And Vietnam. And now, Iraq.

You enter by crossing a glass bridge that spans a field of 9,000 poppies, each of which represents 1,000 combatant deaths. That's where Bao is. And look at the expression on his face. It's as if he's thinking, If this people do, I'm glad I'm a dog.
There are evocatively presented galleries filled with everything from uniforms, grenades, barbed wire, gas masks and ration books to field artillery, torpedos, a Model T converted into a truck for transporting battle supplies and a life-size replica of one of the Havilland fighter airplanes -- canvas and wood, as fragile as a moth. And the trenches, a thoroughly realistic re-creation with openings through which you can see how the soldiers lived and fought and died, while listening to archival recordings that describe their lives.

You can watch a vivid film (juxtaposed with No Man's Land) depicting the circumstances of America's entry into the war. Or peer into a crater that holds the remains of a building destroyed by artillery fire. Did you know that during World War I you weren't allowed to send anything written in a foreign language through the mail unless you provided the government with a translation? And that suffragettes were arrested as traitors? Do you know why we wear poppies on Remembrance Day?

I suppose young people today think of World War I the way I used to think of the Civil War, so remote that it can't possibly be relevant in a modern world. Or maybe they think it was like a huge computer game, but with real bullets. Whatever they think, they need to see this. Everyone needs to see this.

Lest we forget, and do it yet again.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The road to Wichita took us through Greensburg, home of the largest hand-dug well in the world. You can actually walk down a stairway into it, or rather, you used to be able to walk down a stairway into it, before the tornado hit last month.
I'd seen the photos, of course. You probably saw them too. But I didn't connect the dots (as they say) until I was driving into Greensburg, or what's left of it. Not much is left. And forget about photographs, or even videos. Nothing -- absolutely nothing -- could possibly convey the utter destruction and desolation, the obliteration of an entire town and just about everything in it. Everywhere, rubble. Everything flattened. Torn-up, blackened trees. And the silence. Total devastation. Unexpected, and quite awful.
By the time we reached Wichita, what I really wanted was a nice lunch and a couple of glasses of wine. We drove around looking for a restaurant, but all we could find were buffet places, so I ended up eating the banana I got at the La Quinta and saved for just such an emergency. Then we visited to the Ulrich Museum of Art at Wichita State University.
It's beautifully done. And one of the exhibitions -- Poets on Painting -- really grabbed me. This is one of the most unusual and effective artistic collaborations I've seen, pairing 20 artists with 20 poets and simultaneously evoking both a visual and a literary response. Here's a taste. You're looking at Mequita Ahuja's "Tsunami Generation". It's about animals, wolves and seals and elephants and polar bears. (Bao is the blur at the bottom)
The poem is by Eric Baus:
"One blue word removed from the sky is what is noisy in the sky's return. One may decide to leave out the sun.
The song produced inside a wolf is the sound of leaving its wool behind.
A bank becomes blank, sun smears.
Beeds revolve, flowers end in the month of cow.
Sleep next to a wolf, sleep next to the ground it effaces.
A bear may lift a woman when its fur no longer culls. Some blood shifts mid-breast. Some blood becomes a red dress."
Interesting, huh?
Next stop, Kansas City.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Dorothy's house, in Liberal, Kansas. We've just done the tour, led by -- who else? -- Dorothy. (There were actually two Dorothys, and both of them wanted to be in the picture) So here we are.

You know why it's called Liberal? Because Uncle Seymour used to let strangers drink from his well for free. That's mighty liberal of you, people said. And the name stuck.

This really is the house upon which Frank Baum based his tale. My husband grew up on a farm in Kansas, in a house like this. Wood stove fueled by cow chips (not much wood in Kansas} A crank-up victrola. A cream separator. A flatiron. A mustache cup (the wax in men's mustaches melted if it came in contact with hot liquid) The Sears catalogue. You could buy a house in a kit for $1000. Or a bicycle for $8. The catalogues arrived every second month. You hung the old ones up in the outhouse and ripped out the pages and used them for toilet paper.

Bao was more interested in Toto. He barked at a lion? He ripped away the Emperor's disguise? He chased a cat and made Dorothy miss the balloon? I never do things like that, Bao said righteously. I'm a good little dog.

My heart sank when I drove up to our $38 motel, but it turned out to be quite cozy, inside. All the mod cons, as they say in Australia. And there was one hell of a storm last night, thunder and lightening that actually shook the building and flooded the parking lot and knocked out the TV signal and went on for nearly an hour. True confessions, I was a bit scared. Remember, it's tornado season in Kansas.

Are we going to Oz? Bao asked after a particularly spectacular display of lightening.

I told him I hoped not, because I'd forgotten to pack my magic red shoes.

On to Wichita.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Would you believe a huge, modern art museum filled with top-quality works by dozens of exciting contemporary artists, in Roswell? Would you believe two modern art museums in Roswell?
Bao and I are visiting the Roswell Museum and Art Center, surrounded by sculpture and the kind of innovative and experimental work you'd expect to see (but don't, anymore) at MOMA. This is unbelievable. And there's room after room after room of it. When we're done here we'll continue on to the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art and another seven galleries (comprising 17,000 square feet) of photographs, paintings, prints, drawings and sculpture. All of it top quality.
How can such a small town support two major art museums, neither of which charges admission? asks Bao.
Since 1967, the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program (founded and funded by local businessman and artist Donald Anderson) has been bringing artists from all over the world to Roswell, providing them with a full year of accommodation, studio space and monthly stipends. The Roswell Museum showcases their work, and the artists show their gratitude by either lending pieces or donating them outright. Everybody wins. Roswell gets an Art Museum filled with a collection other cities would kill to acquire, and the artists get a "gift of time" that allows them to work without distraction and break new ground. Pure genius.
Plus they have the Anderson Museum, which is also a venue for civic and charitable events, dinners, meetings and workshops. And a fabulous collection of Donald Anderson's own evocative, haunting landscapes, which fill an entire gallery.
Turns out, there's a lot more to Roswell than UFOs. Bao is impressed. I'm impressed.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Roswell UFO Museum gift shop is about as close as we got to the little green men whose spacecraft crashed near here in 1947. Bao isn't particularly impressed. As far as he's concerned, there are dogs, and there are other sentient beings. Cats, fleas, people, extra-terrrestrials, whatever.

And in fact, the little men weren't green. They were little, though. And there were three of them, and they were dead. And anyone who doubts this should spend a couple of hours walking through this meticulously ordered display of documents -- old newspaper stories, letters, telegrams, reports, affadavits.

This was one big cover-up. Just the fact that everybody involved so desperately insisted that nothing had happened (or that it was just a weather balloon) makes you wonder. If nothing happened, what was all the fuss about? What (or who?) was secretly flown to a Texan air force base, embalmed and buried in three, specially ordered coffins?

One of the most fascinating displays was the one that examined the plight of the abductees. You know, people who say they were abducted by aliens. Did you know that an American doctor recently presented a paper at an AMA conference detailing the methodology that should be used to surgically remove alien implants from such individuals? And that he's actually performed a few of these procedures? And that the material he found didn't come from this planet? Scary stuff, actually.

There's a research library, with books from all over the world and hundreds of videotapes, that would keep ufologists busy for months.

If you go -- and it's definitely worth the trip -- the audio-tour is great value, and it only costs a dollar. You can't even buy a cup of coffee for a dollar!

Roswell turned out to be full of surprises. More tomorrow.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

White Sands National Monument

The sand really is white, almost blindingly white. And surprisingly cool to the touch, because the heat reflects off it. This isn't just any white sand. It's gypsum, and rarely found in the form of sand because it's soluble, and usually ends up being washed into the sea. Rain dissolved gypsum from the rocks in the surrounding mountains and carried it down into the Tularosa Valley where it turned into crystals that were worn down to sand by the weather. But no river drains the Tularosa basin, and this 275 square mile area of shifting sands in the middle of the Chihuahuan Desert is the largest of its kind in the world.
So where's the ocean? Bao wanted to know.
No ocean, but lots of dunes. And they're constantly on the move, sometimes traveling as much as 30 feet in a year. So you can walk -- or dune surf -- anywhere. There are no signs telling you to keep off the dunes. I mean, what would be the point?
It's a bit tricky for the plants, though. Some of them (notably, the Soaptree Yucca) have adapted by learning how to grow faster than the sand moves, which enables them to keep their heads above water. Or I should say, their stems above sand. The Soaptree Yucca can grow a foot a year, if it has to.
Cottonwood trees can survive almost total burial, so long as a few leaves remain exposed. And then of course the sand dune moves on, and the cottonwood shakes itself off and goes on doing whatever cottonwoods do. Pocket mice and lizards have evolved a white coloration to help them blend in. And if you're lucky, you'll see the occasional oryx, a South African antelope originally introduced onto the White Sands Missile Range, God knows why. The park rangers consider the oryx a threat to native plants and wildlife. I'm sure the oryx consider the missile tests that still occur twice a week on the missile range an even worse threat.
White Sands National Monument was established before White Sands Missile Range, which is just as well. The Missile Range surrounds it, and they close both the road and the park whenever they conduct tests.
Bao liked it. He got to go to the beach without getting wet.
Tomorrow, Roswell. The truth is out there, or so they say.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

On the road again

First stop, Las Cruces, New Mexico.
The sky in New Mexico is fabulous, a constantly changing panorama of cloud and color, endless permutations of blue and white and grey. It's as if God took up watercolors. That's what it's like -- driving through a watercolor someone else is painting.
Las Cruces is bigger than what you'd expect after 200 miles of nothing but desert, rocks, bare hills and cactus. The Mogollon used to live here. Then came the Spanish and in 1848, the Americans. The US Army laid out the city with rawhide rope and stakes and people drew lots for their property.
Billy the Kid was tried and convicted of murder here.
There's a Farmer's and Artisan's Market this morning. We're going. I love markets.

Monday, June 11, 2007

All I needed to do was set up my umbrella, spread out a towel and voila! Bao decided that the beach wasn't so bad, after all.

Of course, the tide was out. I think that helped. I'm noticing that the further the water recedes, the better Bao seems to like it. Puerto Penasco is on the eastern shore of the Sea of Cortez, formed 15 million years ago when an earthquake dislodged a chunk of the Mexican mainland, creating both the Baja Peninsula and the body of water that separates it from Mexico proper. The beaches on both the mainland and the peninsula are famous for their tidal surges, which are quite dramatic. The water can rise ten feet up the beach in just 30 minutes.

I suppose this is quite scary from a Shih Tzu's point of view.

Besides, Bao doesn't much like water unless it's in his water dish. He swims like a stone. It's not that he doesn't try. The little legs pump furiously but it just doesn't work. Too much body and not enough leg, I suspect. Has anyone got a Shih Tzu that likes to swim?

And I also think Bao finds the whole thing with the tides a bit baffling. Some mornings when we come out for our walk, the water is practically lapping at the embankment that separates the hotel grounds from the beach. Other mornings, there's a vast expanse of sand and the water is so far away you can't even hear the waves breaking. On these occasions he stands looking out at the water and then at me as if to say, What's going on here?

If they're right about global warming and rising tide levels, this place won't last another 50 years. But on the other hand, neither will I.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Trouble in paradise. Horror of horrors, Bao picked up a flea on the beach.

We've never encountered fleas here. Maybe we stepped into a swarm, or a nest, or something. (Do fleas build nests?)

I know fleas lay eggs, because we had an infestation in Australia when Bao was a puppy. I'd been away for a week (Bao was staying with friends) and my first night home, Bao wouldn't come up to bed. He just stood there at the foot of the stairs, whimpering. Finally, I carried him up. But in a couple of minutes he hopped off the bed and went back downstairs. He lay there all night, crying. It was awful. And I couldn't figure it out. The next morning he was scratching frantically so I took him to the vet. Mystery solved. He was covered with fleas.

That's why he won't go upstairs, the vet explained. As soon as he gets up there, they jump on him.

We'd probably always had a few fleas. But when I went away and the house was empty they'd had nothing (or nobody) to eat, so they laid their eggs in the bedroom carpet (the only room with carpet) and died. The eggs remained dormant until they sensed motion. Then when we came home they hatched, and went looking for breakfast. That's apparently what fleas do. Australian fleas, anyway.

Bao had to be dipped, and the house had to be fumigated.

This is less dramatic. Bao isn't scratching anymore, and I don't itch. So maybe it was just one flea. I sure hope so.


Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Both of the New York restaurants that refused to serve us -- Le Steak Bistro and Katz's Deli --had prominent signs in the window saying, Zagat.

I'd never heard of Zagat. But when I got home I googled it and lo! This is a site for people (in big cities) who like to talk about the restaurants in their big cities. But anybody can play, so I signed up and logged on and started a discussion topic called, Service Animals. Would you believe 40 posts in two weeks?

Some of the most controversial came from an apologist for the restaurant industry who calls himself Meathead (he's into ribs) Meathead's concern is that someone might bring a "fraudulent" service dog into a restaurant. How, he asks -- rather sanctimoniously -- is a restaurant manager to know the difference between a "real" service dog and a fake? Seeing Eye dogs are okay -- but the rest of them?

What was surprising is the response he got. Most people said, The law is the law, and restaurant owners are no more exempt than anyone else. And nobody -- except Meathead -- seemed interested in making things more difficult for the disabled by making them jump through complicated, bureaucratic hoops to obtain a service animal.

But here's the interesting bit. None of the people who responded seemed overly fussed at the idea of the occasional dog in a restaurant. Nobody (except Meathead) worried about allergies, fleas jumping into the pate, or dogs savaging unsuspecting diners. In fact, someone pointed out that the French have been allowing dogs into restuarants for decades, with no observable ill effects.

I personally think it should be up to the individual restaurant owner to decide whether or not dogs are allowed. (That's already the rule for hotels and motels) Of course, they'd still have to admit service animals. But even though technically I can stay anywhere I choose, I bend over backwards NOT to pick accommodation that doesn't allow dogs, because I don't agree with their policy and I won't support it by giving them my business.

If the rules for restaurants were brought into line with the rules for accommodation, at least we'd have a choice. And I think most people would end up opting for restaurants with signs that said, Well-behaved pets welcome.

What do you think?

Friday, June 01, 2007

Love' s Labor Lost

Oh, the agony of it all.
The little schnauzer bitch four houses down from us has just come into heat. They're keeping her inside, of course. It doesn't matter. Bao knows. He spends his days lying on the rug in front of the door, catching whatever whiff of her wafts past. He is totally at the mercy of his hormones. And he knows it. He looks at me from time to time as if to say, Do something! But what can I do?
Our morning walks have turned into an extended tour of their front garden. Every shrub is inspected, and marked. Every place at which she may have squatted is sniffed with an almost religious reverence. There are long pauses, during which Bao simply stands gazing at their closed front door. He sniffs and stares, pauses and pees. There is nothing and nobody else in the world. Bao is besotted.
You're too old for her, I tell him.
He just looks at me.
It all takes me back to the not-so-good old days when I was 17, and in love with Neil. He was my first love. He didn't know I was alive, but what difference did that make? I used to wait on a particular street corner for hours, waiting for him to drive by on his way to work. I was pathetic. Nothing ever came of it, of course. Nothing will come of this, either.
Poor Bao!