KingMidget's Ramblings

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A Dog’s Name

When I met the woman who would become my wife, she had a dog. A long-haired dachsund named Peanut. After we moved in together, we started talking about getting another dog. I think it was me that came up with the idea of a cocker spaniel.

When I was a kid, we had a cocker spaniel named Christy. She died when I was still pretty young so I don’t have much of a memory of her. In family lore Christy was the best dog, the best pet, a family could hope for. She apparently let my brother teeth on her nose. She was mellow and happy and a great companion and pet for a young, growing family.

I wanted a Christy.

My future wife and I lived in an apartment where we weren’t supposed to get another dog. We did anyway, but knowing we couldn’t stay there with two dogs forever, we soon rented a house — the better for our little doggies to have room to roam and run.  We doggie-proofed the backyard to make sure there was no way our exuberant little puppy couldn’t escape. The only problem was that the cocker spaniel still found a way.

I was in law school at the time and had odd hours. Typically I was the first home, somewhere around the middle of the afternoon. Twice, I came home to find our little cocker spaniel fur ball missing. So imagine my embarrassment when I had to run up and down our street yelling her name. Keep in mind that we had just moved in and nobody really knew me.

You see, when we found the dog we wanted, it was a black cocker spaniel puppy. We had to wait a couple of weeks to get her and we did what all new dog owners (or parents expecting a newborn baby) do. We discussed a name.

My wife came up with all sorts of names consistent with her coloring. Midnight. Blackie (not sure how that would work in a politically correct world). And a few other names. Like April. With each name she threw out, I would object. All too predictable. Too cute.

Finally, she jokingly threw out a name and I jumped on it and that was it. We agreed. My wife has the patience and understanding of a saint.

Yes. Because of my foolish sense of humor and sarcasm, I was the one running up and down the street yelling for my black cocker spaniel puppy.  “Snowball, where are you? Snowball, come here?”

The good thing is that both times, there were neighbors who found her and kept her until I came running along. And Snowball lived a long, glorious life for 17 or 18 years. And she was a great dog. I didn’t mind the embarrassment that came with having to yell “Snowball” after her whenever she got loose. She was worth it.


A Song For Today

Of the knock your socks off variety…

The Toilet Bowl

Living a childhood driven by fear, I didn’t play much football.  The neighborhood boys had two sports seasons.  There was the portion of the year when we gathered for pick-up baseball games at the neighborhood school.  On a narrow strip of grass in front of the school, we only needed about three to a side.  Pitcher, a player in the middle and a player in the “outfield.”

The other part of the year was for pick-up football games.  They played tackle.  I always found a reason not to play.  See above.  Fear.  I didn’t want to break a bone or two or three.  The idea of being tackled by two or three other boys who tended to be bigger and stronger and faster than me was not an attractive idea.  I recall playing once.  I don’t know how or why I played, but play I did.  At one point, I was sent deep and somehow the quarterback lofted a pass to me that dropped over my shoulder and into my outstretched hands.  And somehow I gathered the ball into my body and continued in stride.  I was going to score a touchdown.  Until I didn’t because the ball developed a life of its own and started traveling up my body and over my shoulder.  And I fumbled in my moment of glory.  I’m pretty certain I never showed my face at the after-school pickup game again.

We also occasionally played football in the street in front of our house.  A few kids playing something that wasn’t more than catch, but if there were enough we’d play two-hand touch and I was better about that.  Until I wasn’t.  One day I was playing catch with Paul Koenig.  I don’t remember there being anybody else out there.  But somehow I caught the football and fell to the street scraping up my forehead, nose, and upper lip.  The days of street football were done.

A few years later, my brother (five years older than me) and his friends began a Thanksgiving tradition.  They gathered for a flag football game at the neighborhood school.  I still wonder why my brother and his friends were smart enough to forego the macho necessity of tackle football and were good with flag football.  I wish they could have been my friends!

For a number of years, the Thanksgiving day football game became an annual tradition.  The rainier the better.  The muddier the better.  They called it The Toilet Bowl.

My brother generally didn’t want much to do with me.  I get it.  Five years younger, I was the kid brother to pick on but not to bring into the circle.  For a few years, however, he allowed me to join he and his friends at the annual Toilet Bowl.  In my memory, the first year or two were unremarkable.  I managed to fill a spot on the field without drawing attention to myself.  I blocked on runs that other people took.  I ran routes that took a defender’s attention while the ball was thrown to other people.  And I was happy.  I was playing football with my brother and his friends without fear of broken bones, a smashed face, or the embarrassment of fumbling the ball while running untouched down the field.

And then it happened.  My moment of football glory.  After a couple of years of invisibility, I played for the final time.  I scored either three or four touchdowns.  Somehow, instead of ignoring me, the quarterback (who, in my memory, was my  brother’s best friend, Dean LaRosa) found me over and over again.  I was a running, darting, twirling devil on the field that day.  I was awarded the Toilet Bowl MVP that year.  I got a trophy.  No, I didn’t.  I went to Disneyland.  No, I didn’t.

But I did retire after that.  I ended my football career on top.  Toilet Bowl MVP.  I never played in another Toilet Bowl or any other football game for that matter.

And I thought about this while I went on my morning run today.  Thanksgiving morning.  You just don’t see kids doing this type of things these days.  I ran by several parks and an elementary school.  No pick-up games going on.  Almost nobody out.  It’s a shame.

The world needs more Toilet Bowls.



My Destiny

When I went to college, I thought I wanted to major in journalism. I took one journalism class and knew it wasn’t the thing for me. I then spent the next year adrift and unsure. After beginning the second semester of my second year, I realized I was at that point where I was wasting my time and my parents’ money unless I came up with a major. So I dropped all but two of my classes (to keep my on-campus job) and pondered the lint in my navel.

By the end of the semester I knew I wanted to major in Government and that’s what I did. When I graduated, although I had enjoyed my major, I had done nothing to create job opportunities for myself out of my major.  I went to work as a receptionist/word processor/executive assistant at the local law school.  Because the one skill I had was the ability to type really fast and I was reasonably personable.  I think.

But that wasn’t what I was really meant to be.  After a year, I enrolled in a masters program at the local university.  International Relations.  Because that just fascinated me.  After a month or so of working full-time and going to school at night and realizing that the amount of reading and projects and reports and assignments just didn’t mesh with having to work full-time, I dropped out.

And I cast about for what else I could do, because the executive assistant life just wasn’t the life for me.  I mean I was responsible for filing and keeping track of all this stuff for the Assistant Dean and … filing isn’t my friend.  I looked around and realized if all these other people could go to law school, then, gosh darnit, I could too!!

So, I enrolled in law school and that was it.

Only it wasn’t.

Halfway through I thought I should have gone to culinary school instead.

And at one point I thought I should have got a Masters in Social Work instead.

And since I received my law degree, passed the bar, and began practicing law, I have identified the following careers I should have pursued:  stock broker/financial advisor, elementary school teacher, writer … anything but what I was doing.

And I now realize that I have simply failed to recognize my destiny.

My father was in the Air Force.  He was a navigator of B-52s.  I don’t know why, but I have always thought of that with some pride.  My dad navigated the planes that carried nuclear bombs on them for a chunk of the Cold War.  Regardless of how I feel about the Cold War and nuclear weapons and all that, I still just feel that what my dad did was special and it has always made me feel good to know that he did that.

Somewhat coincidentally, my parents provided me with a name the initials for which spell out the word MAP.

Do you see where I’m going with this?

An odd thing has developed over the years.  I work in downtown Sacramento.  I wander the streets during lunch occasionally and at other times during the day and week.  The number of times somebody picks me out of the bustling crowds to ask for directions is pretty amazing.  I can be walking with a friend to lunch or with several co-workers to a meeting and every single time, the direction-seeker will come right to me and say “How do I get to …?”  It’s as though my parents besides giving me my name also tattooed the initials on my forehead and I’ve never figured that out.

Tonight I was driving home from work.  Late enough that the sun had gone down.  On a busy, rush-hour freeway, filled with cars.  Four lanes of traffic.  I’m driving along in the left lane when I look over and realize there is a woman in a mini-van next to me with her window rolled down, waving vigorously to get my attention.  My first impulse is to ignore her.  My second impulse is “maybe there’s something wrong with my car and she’s trying to let me know.”

I push the button for my window to roll down.  I’m probably driving 30 miles an hour.  She’s going a little slower, so I slow down to keep pace with her.

“Where the hell am I?” she yells at me.

“I … I …” Truthfully, I have no idea how to answer that question.  On Hwy 99?  In Sacramento?  Approaching Florin Road?  North America?  The United States of Trump?

She helps me out.

“I’m trying to get to Marin.”

“Ummm … you need to turn around.”  And then I try to figure out how to tell this woman she is woefully off course while driving 30 miles an hour and trying not to rear end the car in front of me if the traffic slows down suddenly.  “You need to go back to …”  And how do I explain how to get her to Marin from where we’re at, which involves turning around, going back through the downtown interchange and heading west on 80 and then all of the things she’ll need to do from there to get to Marin, which is 100 miles away and north of San Francisco.

“To 80?”

“Yes … you need to turn around and get back to 80,” I reply and that’s the best I can do.  Really.  It is.  So I push the button for my window to close and I accelerate away.

But, yes, all of those other ideas were just distractions from what I should have become.  A mapmaker.  Or in the modern world, one of those people who drives the Google mapping cars.  Or maybe I should just walk around with a sandwich board with maps of the area I’m walking through so people can just look at the maps and figure it out themselves.

Let Me Live

Slave owner, slave owner
Sing me a song
Sun rises, feed me
Sun sets, beat me down

Let me live
Let me love
Let me see the moon
And the stars

Slave owner, slave owner
Tell me a story
I breathe the air
Squeeze the life out of me

Beat me
Rape me
Destroy me
And my dreams

Slave owner, slave owner
Your song
Your story
Fall on deaf ears

I know your truth
I know your threat
I know
I know
Slave owner, slave owner
You cannot beat me
You are weak
I am strong

I will live
I will love
I will be
My life is mine

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