Fence Omen

August 24th, 2010

Dear Olive,

Phyllis, in a determined state, decided one day that it would be a good idea to buy a bunch of tennis balls and stick them in the fence along the highway. Not just randomly stick them in the fence but to make words out of them like those signs whose letters are made up of dots. In our case the dots would be tennis balls. The idea was to write little dog oriented mots on the fence and thus incite curiosity which ought to translate to added business. I was less than supportive and produced a variety of potential pitfalls to the idea mostly centering around the difficulty we might find in keeping the dogs from regularly plucking them off the fence. Also, as these balls cost all of $1.59 for three and smelled of solvent I was a bit worried what ingesting one of them might do to the guests. I find it’s best to stay out of Phyllis’ way when she gets her mind set.

The clear result is, the tennis balls have proved(n? Beats me.) to be the most successful method of drawing attention to ourselves. Nobody mentions our weekly ad in the local paper or the posters we place about town. A few people have found Barksville in the yellow pages. Everybody, on the other hand, seems to have caught on to the tennis ball art. They even appear on Google Maps indirectly announcing our marriage. Phyllis isn’t just another pretty girl you know.

Once we realized how much attention the balls receive we though maybe we ought to try and expand upon the idea. So, when we decided to run a bit of a contest whereby people would be given a chance to guess the genetic make up of our little dog Judy (whose D.N.A. we had recently tested for a mere $70.00) we thought, “Better get the tennis balls involved.” We placed an ad in the paper with a picture of Judy and directed people to the web site to cast their vote as to what her genetic make up might be. We called it “All Dogs Matter.” The winner would get some fabulous prizes including the opportunity to have their dog’s D.N.A. tested and be the subject of the next “All Dogs Matter” campaign. So on the fence we removed “Chili Dog” which had really suited the cold snap we had been enjoying and Phyllis set about writing “Judy ?” We took a picture of this and placed that on the website as the link to the “Guess Judy’s D.N.A.”submission form. We figured writing “Judy?” would also round up a little interest from the street. This turned out to be correct. We got about 15 responses from the newspaper but at least fifty people in town inquired about “Judy with a question mark.” Some called to see if we had lost Judy. Judy is truly a most unfortunate looking dog but she sure is endearing to those who know her. All and all it was a pretty good success for an ad campaign that suited our budget of $28.00 in toxic tennis balls. Now the fence reads, “Hot Diggity.” We ran out of balls before we could spell “Dog”

Though our campaign has been over for a couple of months people still ask about it. Just the other day we ran into Florence. I think I told you about her. I worked on the crew that built her house a few years back. Florence was a delight to work for and has an especially keen sense of humor. The housebuilding experience was a bit stressful on her and you might say she has the odd tick. Like one day, to keep herself busy while inspecting the site, she started sweeping the driveway. No one took much notice until about two hours later we saw that she had taken this endeavor out on to the street and had pretty well swept the entire cul-de-sac. Watching her in action was like watching a tribute to several cartoon characters. Conversation could also take on the same feel. “So(sniff),” she might say to Chuck, the laborer(think talking post with a speech impediment), when she witnessed him in yet another act of abject inefficiency, “I can’t help but notice you are moving that pile of wood to three separate locations-three separate times, maybe even four, and, well, I suppose I was wondering, ahhh, if I might ask, (sniff) mmmm… why?” One day I noticed she would often stop to arrange things. If you placed a level on a table you would see her come along at a certain point and insure that the level was running parallel with the table edge. Didn’t take me long to figure that out and start messing with all kinds of things until she eventually caught me in the act and said, sounding a bit like the Chicken Hawk from the Foghorn Leghorn cartoons, “Heyyyyy ey ey ey ey, just wait one cotton pickin’ minute here. You,(throat clearing sound then sniff)now you just cut that right out buster!” Anyway to make a short story long, I always like running into Florence. She is always good for some little anecdote or commentary on the comings and goings of stuff. For instance, last we saw her she invited us up to her place to check out the back yard which she informed us had recently been transformed to look just like the “100 Acre Wood” from Winnie the Pooh. It’s on my list of things to do.

I hadn’t seen her for about three months and then, as I was saying, Phyllis and I ran into her at a restaurant. As we were leaving she got up and said, “Hey,” like Yogi Bear trying to sell you a stolen watch, “you got a minute?” She was a little wide eyed. “So listen,(long pause, long enough to make you feel a little uncomfortable)I been meanin’ to ask you about them balls. You know the “Judy with the question mark.” What, ahh, if you don’t mind me asking, were you referring to by that? We explained it to her. Florence doesn’t have a dog. She seemed relieved “Hmmmm,”she said. Funny thing about that. “I drove by it everyday for about a week, see, until I couldn’t take it any more.” “ I got this Aunt Judy see, and I hadn’t talked to her in awhile and it just kept making me think that something might be up with her-like maybe it was some kinda message.” She said twisting her head a little and lowering her voice, “So I call her. I say, “Ahh, everything all right Aunt Judy?” “She told me that, actually, she had been feeling sorta dizzy lately and her daughter was trying to get her to go see a doctor. Finally she goes in and they told her everything was just okee-dokey-not to worry about it.” Florence paused for a second, “ And then, as she is leaving the hospital, she collapses from this massive stroke. A few weeks later she was gone…………” “I was thinking, maybe if I had heeded the message in the balls a little sooner………..well who knows?”

I worry a bit now that she will be driving by afraid to look at the balls lest there be some hidden message. Lucky for us the the winner of the contest’s dog is not named Florence. I think if we wrote “Florence ?” at this point it might send her over the edge.

I trust all is well with you and yours?


In Absence of Your Presence

July 23rd, 2010

Dear Phyllis,

I am writing to lay to rest any fears you you may harbor about things sliding around here in your absence. I know you are of the mind that men, if left unchecked, would shortly find themselves ignoring even the most rudimentary of domestic duties opting, instead, to float about in a pond of dirty dishes and beer cans which would all eventually conspire to lead them down the path to “no good.” Nope, other than a brief internet search into the supposed ramifications of auto-erotic asphyxiation(inconclusive) I have towed a pretty straight line here.

You will be pleased to know that even without your help I have made some serious headway in our battle against senseless spending. For instance, with nary any noticeable ill effects, I have easily halved our spending on such money eating items as: Laundry Soap, Dish Washing Liquid(do you know you can get pretty good results from the dishwasher on hot water alone?), Kitty Litter, and Cat Food. I am sure we will soon find that this has trickled down to some extra cash in our pockets.  All these savings will easily cover the price of our new Excalibur Dehydrator I just bought on line for only $329.00. I figured it was essential because already I count four pears and almost 12 tomatoes that are going to probably make it to harvest and need proper preserving. Nothing like dried fruit to sparkle up the winter months.

I will say, though it has been pretty busy doing the double shift and all, I am coping quite nicely. There are at least 18 guests here(last I counted). I have had to address a lot of things via email and, as you know, that sure can eat up a morning. I can’t believe the amount of time consumed just to set up a simple appointment and because we are busy these things just keep popping up all day. Though some would argue only part work related, I provide for your interest a smooth example of just how well I am handling the business correspondence end of the stick while you are away:

Dear Quoyle,

At some point, in the next hour or two in an effort to provide a course of moderation for the health inflicting smoothie I am working on and to provide a break from these fucking dogs, I plan on firing up the Weber with the intent of laying down the three 6 inch well marbled beef ribs I picked up yesterday from the grocery. Questions remain however; How long suggested cooking time? Are you available for a light(I have only three) afternoon snack best enjoyed with a cool refreshing febrifuge? I know your escape from domesticity is often difficult. Perhaps if I place an anonymous call indicating there has been a suspected break-in at your storage unit requiring your immediate attention you might be able to seize an hour or two?

Keep us posted shall we?


Then there is the inevitable reply……..

6″ beef ribs are going to need 2 hours of high, indirect heat (325º), augmented by an initial sear directly over the coals and finished over the coals with the application of some of the contents of the jar of Southwest glaze that i will bring over.

It will require that you feign assisting me in fixing my Coleman Hot Water unit which has a malfunctioning on switch that mechanical imbeciles like me are unable to deal with. Normally I would just throw it out and buy another, but the damn things are discontinued.

I would still have to return home and make dinner for my wife and pretend to be hungry.

Please advise.


Please advise? No he couldn’t just say, “I’ll be there at such and such a time.” And so it Continues;

Quoyle, based on your estimated cooking time and the fact that it is noon, let’s call it 2:30 to allow for the coals shall we?

And finally;

Kyle, Cya @2:30.

Cya? Cya @? Really, right now I am fighting the urge to spend a lengthy bit of time lecturing Quoyle on my opinions regarding the use of cheesy little “internet evolved” language shortcuts. I mean he only saved three letters and a space in this apparent need to condense his reply. What’s that,  3/4’s of a second out of his busy busy day? But I know if I say anything he is going to type back a sixteen paragraph reply justifying such prattle which I won’t be able to resist counter-attacking. Doesn’t he know I am working here? So to finish it off and get the show on the road, I simply write;

Quoyle, 2:30 it is. SEE YOU then.

See? Nothing to it. Though now, never having suspected the bait would be taken only to find it had, you can imagine I had some quick work to to. First off; figure out what exactly is a febrifuge? Because, as you know, liking the sound of a word doesn’t mean I’m completely sure of it’s meaning. Turns out, according to Oxford, concisely speaking, a febrifuge is not only a medicine or treatment that reduces fever but also a cooling drink. If I was going to sound not like an idiot who throws about words he is unsure of, I would need to concoct something both cooling and medicinal. These things take time. I settled on putting some fresh squeezed grapefruit juice along side some Compari (Pardon? Well yes, of course I had to go and buy a bottle of Compari now seeing as we didn’t HAVE any)and shook that with a bunch of ice. It then seemed only logical to pour this over a couple glasses half filled with Prosecco. Man, I’m gonna tell you, had I been afflicted with the nasty scourge of a fever as I, no doubt, one day will be, this beverage, febrifuge really, would have chased it into next year. And two? Permanently erased.

When not handling all of this administrative malarkey I have been kept pretty busy just doing the same old hands on stuff. It’s amazing how much shit 18 dogs can pile up if you let a day or two pass. I am pleased to say the garden is faring well. Sinbad and I are getting along great. He is enjoying the new slimmer cat he is becoming and I am enjoying the diminished amount of time I have to spend cleaning out the litter box. I have trained both he and Lester to drink almost exclusively out of the toilet now. This is a relief. I was really starting to worry about how grungy their water bowl was becoming. Disgusting really. As a last note, and you might find this interesting, did you know, if you don’t clean out the kitty litter for a couple of days some wretched dog is bound to just go right in there and eat it?

General maintenance has not fallen along the wayside either. On Monday I spent almost 6 hours dissecting the espresso machine for it really had been in a state of poor performance. You won’t believe the difference!

Anyway, all this to say, I miss you and hope you and Constance are having a good time in light of the circumstances. Please don’t worry about a thing for if anybody has your back, I, Kyle P. Dresden do(does? Beats me).

Seriously baby. Come home. I miss you,

Love Kyle

P.S. Alder’s owners have extended his stay and he has escalated his food aggression behavior and Chai smells like foot fungus and is leaving trails of mystery liquid where she sleeps. I am running dangerously low on bleach.

P.S.S. The mosquitoes have really calmed down so I decided to brave dining out on the patio this evening(boil in a bag chicken pot pie if you were interested). I made it almost five minutes before they started working themselves into the side of my eyeballs which made for dangerous swatting what with holding the knife and fork and all. I tried just squishing them by slamming my eyelids in a karate chop-like fashion but this was no real solution and besides it gave the impression I had Tourette Syndrome cause, along with the blinking, I was swatting at my head and saying “fuck” a lot. Thinking not to alarm the passing cars I finished up inside. Still five minutes……I think we are over the hump.

The Dog Days of Summer

July 16th, 2010

Dear J,

As the heat wave sets in it’s time to reflect. It is now just over four years since we took possession of the estate like setting of Barksville. About the same amount of time has passed since Phyllis, in tears, declared, “I can’t live in that shit hole of a trailer.” She had a point. The day we walked through the doorway(for the door had been ripped off by an angry evicted tenant)the place was looking a little past it’s due date. Of principal concern was a pretty foreboding smell. The evicted tenant had left the place abandoned and with no heat for the months of December and January which hadn’t helped. Phyllis’ daughter Constance was also finding it difficult to hide her true feelings at the prospect of moving into a seven by eight foot room that smelled of an attempt to cover up the stench of a mouse colony. My little angel Cindy just wore a permanent cloud over her head as a general response to anything so it was an easy step to include the prospect of trailer living in her list of woes. I made assurances to all that we could make the place inhabitable. Besides, of prime importance was to get at least one enclosure constructed so the operation of Barksville would not be interrupted. For without any barking we would soon be very short of financing. I told everyone to look at it as if we were settlers whose prime goal should be to provide for the cold cold winter ahead. This proved to be of little motivational use.

First on the list was to rid the place of the reek. Phyllis saw a solution to this by way of burning the entire abomination right down to the ground and replacing it with a new house while she and Constance sought refuge in a nearby hotel. As our mutual divorces had left us with almost three hundred dollars in the bank I lobbied to meet somewhere in the middle. And this is how we became good friends with the generous terms of Home Depot.

Over the past few years we have more or less settled on a design theme for our canister home(While we wait for the house Phyllis pipes in) . Choosing to capitalize on it’s cigarette like proportions I like to call it “Modern Pullman.” I have strived to embody elements of the iconic train car of the thirties-not the first class dining car mind, but something a bit more humble like the luggage car or galley. Still the idea is to somehow impregnate this nasty error of human engineering with a bit of a soul so that when we are in it we might occasionally relax into our overstuffed, made in China, leather chairs and feel as if we are on an incredible journey somewhere-after all, the view is amazing if you crane your neck and when the wind blows it rocks and creeks a little. This is all done with the assumption that any design choice is going to be a step up from how this thing was intended to look-the goal apparently to design a structure which could be built entirely out of cardboard and staples strengthened with little plastic bits and aluminum extrusions.

Still, despite the improvements which include, urine resistant flooring throughout, mouse shit free appliances, a conversion from oil furnace(which, when fired up, meant filling the house with an ominous cloud of decomposing mush that had accumulated in the ductwork) to electric baseboard, a few ceramic tiles here and there in lieu of plastic bits, and an entire new metal roof, we know we aren’t fooling anyone.

But that’s O.K. Summer’s finally here and we don’t have to spend nearly as much time indoors. No Phyllis and I are free to frolic about the grounds arm in arm taking grand strolls exercising our paying hounds. We chit chat back and forth musing whimsically with affected English accents, “Say Phylly Phyl dahling, aren’t we just making wads and wads of dough right now hmmm? I mean aren’t we just?” To which she might reply, “Say pumpkin, I couldn’t interest you in an exceptionally fortified Gin and Tonic by any chance could I?” “Roger that Phyl,” “And say, by the way Phyllis, you wouldn’t happen to know who replaced our little cottage with that clump of a trailer while we were in France would you?” And so on….

Actually all this summertime repartee would be just grand if not for a conspiring pair of factors which by the time the fall rolls around leave us fueling the hope that one day in the not too distant future we will not live here.

The first of these two inconveniences is a population of mosquitoes that might be just normal if we were deep upriver on a headhunting expedition in Borneo but as we’re not, it seems a little excessive. You laugh. Ha ha ha ha ha. That’s what I did when my neighbor popped the “For Sale” sign on her property 15 years ago stating , “I am selling because the bugs are horrific.” What a powder puff, I thought, you’re selling because you’re a great big baby. I might of judged too soon. In 1917, as I later read in our local history book, there is noted a nearly verifiable case of a cow’s passing with the cause of death listed as, “Asphyxiation by Mosquitoes.” The mosquitoes start sometimes as early as May and on a really good year proceed till the first frost.

Phyllis hasn’t yet developed the same, “working tolerance” for the pests as I and so spends much of her outdoor time in apparent preparation for a study of “the long term side effects of heavy DEET use.” She has strewn about the property various cans and spray bottles of bug repellant insuring one never be beyond arm’s reach should she find herself under attack. She comes by this honestly as mosquito phobia runs in her family. Having grown up in an area virtually void of the bastards they have no reason to believe the rest of the world has not followed suit. From my experience it takes little more than the arrival of a lone mosquito to instill a state of unease amongst her crew. Send in two or three and you can be certain they will call off the picnic.

Many new guests from out of town can be similarly troubled when confronted by a few mosquitoes. A couple pulled in at twilight last night. I arrived at the gate to see the male half of the couple swatting his calf and looking up indignantly as if an old lady whom he’d held a door for had just reached out and popped him one in the nose. It had clearly unnerved him. The arrival of a second was more than he could bear. Seeing that swift action was in order, the dog, it’s food and bed were basically thrown over the fence and, asking if I needed anything else, they fled back to their vehicle. I was left holding this bewildered little mop of a dog. As they were rolling up their windows I briefly assured them that what we had here was more or less a freak situation and to fear not. Their little fluffy would not be subjected to this type of itchy onslaught for it’s entire stay. They seemed unconcerned.

Hey, just a side note to this and as a bit of an affirmation of Phyllis’ occasional suspicions; Would you believe, based on such a brief encounter, I couldn’t even tell you the color of the guy’s hair but oddly, if pressed, I could recall many aspects of his female companion right down to the color of the stitching on her orange dress. That ever happen to you? Perhaps the subject of another note.

Anyway, I was talking about bugs. You get this many bugs and it becomes essential to adopt certain rituals before turning in for the night. First off it’s in with all of the dogs. Anyone who has to pee after this point must hold it till morning. Your average black lab alone can unwittingly bring in twenty of the little shits buzzing around it’s warm black slobbering face. This is a good time to kill the ones burrowed into any noses. Then it’s on with all of the lights and time to arm yourself with a rolled up magazine or other suitable killing device. You could just use your hand but sometimes you inadvertently swat at a nail or some other bit of business lodged in the wall and that is bound to throw you off your game. A barrage of swacks ensues as we scour the trailer and put an end to every one we can find. In the beginning of the “season” we usually also take the time to clean up the mess of exploding mosquito goo as we go along. Midway into it, as we are now, this is but a distant concern having been deemed too time intensive. The downside to this is the place looks as if we use it to play paint ball. Some of the dogs hate fireworks others react negatively to the sound of a rolled up newspaper fwapping away for a half hour or so. It’s not uncommon, when it’s all over to have to remove the odd one from under the bed or unwedge another from behind the desk before we can safely call it a night. We apologize and assure them that it is for their own good. They remain, leery. Sweet Dreams.

Thankfully there is slight relief from the mosquito cloud when the weather heats up to about 105 as it did today and will most likely continue to do for the next month or so. Though it sounds ungrateful herein lies the second little bother of summer at Barksville. Although certainly thankful for the mosquito reprieve we can’t help but feel that we haven’t achieved the exact compromise we are after. 105’s not bad, I suppose, if one exists as a reptile or tomato plant or better yet finds himself so fortunate as to live aboard a yacht moored off the coast of southern France(where you might note, they have a different word for nearly everything). As none of the above seem to include us, we can sometimes find ourselves in a state of lowered motivation. In short it’s finally safe from mosquitoes to venture outside and tend to things but the baking heat is now the enemy. Oh we occasionally strive to humor the situation by setting up under the shade of a cherry tree and quaffing a refreshing iced tea. Sometimes this actually works just fine. Other times we quickly discover that fifty thousand mosquitoes are also like minded about avoiding the heat. The result? Outdoor summer activity at Barksville is spent either bleeding out to an army of mosquitoes or rendering down the contents of our brains beneath the broiling sun. When times are that I am looking for a happy medium I find myself, as now, beside our impotent little air conditioner typing some mindless little ditty off to someone who could care less like yourself. Phyllis too has abandoned any outdoorsy endeavors till the heat passes.. Just out of the shower she has retreated to the bedroom and, after careful positioning of the fan, now lies motionless in her underwear like a photo taken of someone in the middle of making a snow angel.

Truly the dogs are better suited to these conditions than are we. They play hard all morning(most likely fleeing the mosquitoes) and then when the temperature rises they find a cool spot or dig a huge hole to lie in and wait it out till the sun wanes. Most importantly they do this quietly. Then it’s right back at it again until it’s time to put them in for the night. Sure they itch a bit. It’s part of the experience, just like camp.

Well, I’m thinking about taking a run at the snow angel before she gets wise and has a chance to defend herself so I’ll be in touch.

I remain, reviewing the possibility of sounding more uplifting in future missives,


P.S. You might want to explore the satisfaction one receives from writing someone back and filling us in on your comings and goings.

Dear Clare,

It is just moments before midnight and we have just finished watching an episode of Midsomer Murders. Have you seen that show? If not, I recommend it. It follows detective Thomas Barnaby in the sleepy county of Midsomer somewhere in England where the murder rate is probably the highest in the world including countries at war. I have been watching it, that is. Phyllis falls into a deep sleep usually about ten minutes into anything. I, on the other hand, find myself oppositely effected by most external stimuli. If we assume that at some point or another both parties are interested in a good night’s sleep than you can see the problem.

In the event of a long term power outage, Phyllis just might find herself on the brink of exhaustion because if there isn’t something plugged into the wall making some kind of racket then she is not sleeping. Now that the show is over and silence prevails I have decided to write a little bit(to help me fall asleep). I face, however, the tricky situation of trying to do so without stirring Phyllis into what I call “the external noise segue.” Sometimes I am successful, most times I am not. She does it almost in her sleep. The sound of one thing will end and a calm settles. It’s like when the jackhammer crew finally packs it in for the day.  At last a much awaited calm descends upon the room.

Then, sure enough, you see her lurking about the radio dials, or messing about trying to get some other program going or, at worst, fishing around for her favorite weapon of sleep destruction, the hair dryer. That’ll be tonight.’s choice.

“Come on, you’re not serious,” I say, sitting up in protest. “Just for a minute, it’s soooo cold in here,” she says, “Just five minutes, I promise.” For Phyllis, the hair dryer provides both white noise and heat. These are two items decidedly conducive to her falling fast asleep. For me it is like leaving a Volkswagon Bug in need of a timing adjustment idling in the closet. It is not an infrequent occurrence to exceed the “five minutes” right up until 4 A.M. rolls around announced by the sound of the hairdryer, having affixed itself to the cat, (another story really)whining and smelling like a vacuum cleaner that has just sucked up a rancid old sock. This, at least, puts an end to the din and not even a slight concern that some of the glowing cat hair and lint that got sucked through the heating coils of the hairdryer is kindling enough to ignite the eiderdown can stop me from sleeping. Our first winter here Phyllis heated the entire back end of the trailer with a hairdryer.

Problem is, we need to sleep these days for they are long and the nights are not likely to pass without disturbance. We have gone from frightfully slow to definitely busy which means we have to employ the outer cabins for accommodation. Currently we have a rather unfortunate grouping which can make 4 dogs seem like twenty. It is a bad combination of a few too many that are overly accustomed to “getting their way” as well as an over concentration of certain breeds. Currently that would be Weimaraners.

One Weimaraner can be a handful. Four is an outright oversight in planning. Throw in a German Short Haired Pointer(Weimaraner at a costume ball)and you have really gotten in over your head. Thing is, these dogs are goal oriented. They were bred for it. Consider being born with the mantra, duck duck duck duck duck duck…..rattling about your brain continuously as a driving force to your every move. As most that we deal with at Barksville may never see a duck they tend to find something else upon which to fixate. We have one here, Clyde, who has cast aside his duck fetching fetish and decided to devote all of his time to humping a mystery cross named Felix. Hump hump hump hump hump hump Felix. Felix, though clearly not enjoying the attention, is weathering pretty well.

Clyde, the humping Weimaraner comes with Bonnie,(go figure)the barking Weimaraner, who lives to instill disquiet amongst the troops. It is she who picks up every movement, every passing bike, every squirrel that needs terrorizing and sets about inciting 12 sleeping dogs to riot. If there is nothing to bark at she just invents something. Due to the removal of her vocal chords by her previous owners, her bark is not of the booming pile driver sort like the other Weimaraners. She produces a sound like a desperate asthmatic in need of a puffer. I think this handicap is behind her need to rally as many as she can to her cause to make up for her lack of volume. Problem is she’s not against doing this at 4:15 in the morning(a mere fifteen minutes after the oft nightly hairdryer incident you might note).

She and Clyde sleep in one of the outer cabins. If she decides to let loose it becomes more involved than throwing a heavy item down the hall and lashing out with silence inducing expletives. No, her outbursts are of an escalating nature and it is only a matter of time before she has somehow convinced Clyde that he has been set on fire and must join in if he is to be saved. He takes that role very seriously. Yelling words of discouragement at the cabin does nothing but rile them up even more. Besides, I was once informed by our closest neighbor that shouting, “Shut the fuck up or I swear this time I’ll kill you,” is almost as unsettling to those within earshot as perhaps the barking. The only real solution is to shuffle out to the cabin in my underwear and deliver a quiet yet effective cease and desist order before the neighbors rebel. Statistically it is inevitably me out there in my underwear as these nocturnal disturbances seem to drive Phyllis into a near coma.

The most neurotic Weimaraner award goes to Ms. Mavis, who we call, Ms. Inappropriate for long. Her day is composed of a little cycle. First off she needs to go outside. Want out of the crate out of the crate out of the crate. She is out for usually no more than five minutes when she is compelled by an overwhelming urge to come, back inside back inside back inside. To make herself clear she starts throwing herself against the back door. Bash the door bash the door bash bash the door. Your choices are to kill her or give in and so, in she comes. She immediately refocuses. Kill the cat kill the cat kill kill kill the cat. As this type of behavior contributes little to our desire to afford ourselves a little afternoon calm around here, she usually finds herself back in the crate. Believe it or not she’s actually pretty good with this and this segment is usually the longest in her cycle. Until some other dog strolls by, that is, or if she spies the cat who makes a game of appearing when Mavis is enjoying a little quiet time in her crate. Then she erupts like a psychotic jack-in-the-box bashing into the grating. After a few of these outbursts(like someone firing a gun off in the room)it’s back outside for Ms. Mavis. Having once successfully completed the cycle she basically starts all over again and repeats until about 9 pm until even she is exhausted. She seems quite happy passing her days this way. We pass our days marking how many days till Ms. Mavis leaves.

Though Bonnie is the master, all of them can agree upon letting loose an impromptu rousing round of relentless and exceptionally loud barking at the site of just about anything-have to let the hunter know where you are once you dash off after the fallen duck duck duck and all I suppose. Bark bark bark bark bark bark followed by a series of annoying whistling/whining sounds. Thank God for the “Super Soaker” pump action water canon. Nothing really produces a much desired silence just like this baby. Unless you are Felix, who is addicted to all things water. For him the appearance of the “Super Soaker” has quite the opposite effect. As twelve instantly silent, panic stricken dogs flee from the comical sight of me madly pumping the “Super Soaker” and charging the gate Felix, finally free from Clyde’s advances, can be seen bouncing his way through the hoard to meet me like a cartoon dog, mouth open, tongue flying and begging for me to give him all I got. A cheap sprinkler running in the yard will both water the grass and occupy Felix for an entire day.

Colonel Klink is back as well. He announced his arrival with a series of convulsions which yielded a plug about the size of a soup can containing the compacted contents of his stomach. Apparently feeling better, he celebrated by bouncing around the yard(just out of reach)and barking like a car alarm. Fortunately he responds well to the Super Soaker.

Amongst the other attendees are: Rebel the Labradoodle-considered great family dogs by some though, from our experience we note most don’t respond to “come” or much of anything else really. Rebel has been known to jump five feet straight in the air just to show you how happy she is; Candy-a Great Dane crossed with something even bigger, perhaps a small pony, who is one of our favorites despite a proclivity to tackle and hump small children who have made the mistake of running. Fortunately we discourage small children from hanging about and certainly not to run if they do show up. She likes(demands really)to sleep on the couch and, I couldn’t help but notice this morning, suffers potentially from a bit of incontinence. If anything she is happy; Kestrel-a Pit Bull cross who if not closely monitored will dine on several large turds(any kind will do), drink a gallon of water and then look really perplexed as the inevitable projectile vomiting commences. She took out the entire front end of the trailer with such tomfoolery not long ago.

There’s a bunch more including two day care Weimaraners who add to the barking chorus but this is dragging on and I am sure you get my point.

All this to say, it is key to get a few hours of sleep when we are to be this busy. I should go. Mavis is on at the back door again and I suppose I ought to do something to suppress the desire to kill her.

I remain, at odds with the hairdryer and also hoping tonight is not the night for any of the 19 guests camped out in our living room to experience gastrointestinal distress of any kind which might result in the discovery tomorrow morning of any “floor pizzas,” “sofa sausages” or puddled matter,



This just in. I have procured a deluxe model hairdryer from a source I can not reveal which operates at a decibel level far below that of the old model. Also, the old model, upon start up has started to make a noise like a coffee grinder and more often then not requires a few solid knocks upon a hard surface to calm it down.


June 17th, 2010


Things remain slow at Barksville though there have been some indications of a slight upturn. We have but 6 or 7 here today which is going to do very little to cut that visa bill off at the knees as is our summer slogan. There is the requisite Yellow Lab who just arrived named Clyde. Not five minutes into his stay he has assumed the position characteristic to his breed( not unlike I noted in a previous letter): bored, confused and famished. And so he sits staring off into space and barking relentlessly at, as far as I can tell, nothing. A full bucket of water to the face barely puts a dent in the cycle(hypothetically speaking). We also have a Karelian Bear Dog. Finnish in origin, they are noted for their tenacity in the hunt. Elk, moose, boar and bear, that’s their specialty. I heard a radio interview with this conservationist explaining how these dogs in combination with rubber bullets had been successful in convincing Grizzlies as well as black bears to stop frequenting garbage dumps and populated areas thus sparing many from being shot by conservation authorities. At the end of her interview she made a strong argument advising against people having these dogs as a house pets. For the same reason people see fit to purchase a little Malamute puppy for their 16th floor apt. this dog’s owner just knew she needed one of these babies. He came with the advisement: “If you put him in a crate he will shit himself…..” I just snapped a picture of him. He is looking at me like he wants to come in the house. Meanwhile a bear, not fifty feet behind him is also looking on. He never saw it. Must have been a wind issue. Anyway just like all of them(even the Yellow Labs)he has managed to endear himself and is now curled up on the chair. He does have an aggressive streak though and isn’t against diving on the unsuspecting boxer cross who in turn isn’t against returning the favor. So far no bloodshed. We strive for no bloodshed around here.

As you asked, the Gall Bladder extraction was just super. 30 minutes before the operation the surgeon entered the “holding area.” The holding area, I am sure, used to be a storage closet. A curtain served as a door. The doctor was dressed in jeans, deck shoes and a frumpy shirt. I was dressed like a patient in a mental hospital. The nurse turned her head in a privacy granting gesture as he pulled aside my fashionable gown and marked, with a large felt tipped pen, an X on the right side of my abdomen-not unlike someone marking a bingo card really. The effect was disquieting. I was hoping for something a bit more precise. I misplaced my shower cap type deal somewhere between the holding area and the operating room. The anesthesiologist was kind enough to find me another.

To slice four holes into a guys abdomen, inflate the area with carbon dioxide, empty the bile from his gall bladder, haul it out and then staple everything back together takes 33 minutes. I woke up sort of thrashing about like the time I dreamed I had fallen off a roof and impaled myself on several pieces of re-bar that were sticking out of some concrete work below. They put something in the i.v. that gave me the idea that worse things could happen. They asked if it hurt. I said that I believed it did. I had something in my throat( great big gob of phlegm if you must know)and the muscle contraction required to produce a cough hurt too much to dislodge it.

The post-op room was restful. Initially I was the only guy in a room that held four beds divided by curtains. I heard one of the nurses say to another, “Why don’t you take your break. There’s nobody here right now.” I felt obligated to pipe in, “I’m here” which sounded like I was talking under water on account of the oyster lodged in my throat.  She then felt obligated to walk over, hand me two little white pills and say, “Take these” and, “of course, we know you’re here.” A while later there was a slight panic as a nurse came in, presumably from the operating room saying, “Where is the vein stripper?” A male model preparing for an underwear shoot and wanting to appear especially endowed, as seems the case, would probably not want to hear the words“vein stripper” just before heading out to the runway. It turns out they were stripping the veins of my neighbor. She has no idea to this day I was lying in the bed next to her as she babbled away all hopped up on pain killers. My experience with her suggests she’s a fan of painkillers, if you know what I mean.

Back home things have progressed well. There was only one incident the evening we arrived. See every year this shit box trailer develops a new little tick. This year it is a larger than normal population of nasty carpenter ants that are slowly eating their way through the back wall of our bedroom. This actually suits me fine as I intend to rip the whole wall out this year to make way for the sleep tower I am going to build in lieu of the new house I was going to build out back because the bank, when offered the opportunity to finance such an endeavor, sagely told us to piss up a rope. In the mean time the ants remain virulent pests. Were they to just remain in the walls doing there damage they would be less of a problem. However they insist on dropping from the ceiling on to your head at all hours of the evening and crawling about. If it suits them, they haul off and pinch big hunks of flesh off of your person. Thus most nights these days we do a pretty thorough sweep of the place. Still, you miss some and if they decide to drop on your head it becomes pretty key to find and crush it before it gets you.

As I lay in bed I was pretty sure I saw one walk across my chest. A large search ensued to no avail. Eventually I gave up thinking that I must have just imagined it and dozed off. I awoke to hear Phyllis hissing, “I got you, you bastard” and opened my eyes to see her palm swatting down onto my stomach. She made contact just as I yelled, “Nooooooo.” Everybody knows you don’t kill a big old hard shelled ant against a slightly portly stomach by just gently tapping it on the back. No, best thing is to whack it with conviction, like you know you can and then, when you have it trapped under your palm, smear the thing along in a dismembering tactic to seal the deal. It was at about the smear stage that Phyllis remembered she was smearing across a stomach largely held together by little staples. Phyllis showed genuine signs of remorse. Though she did see fit to advise me that it shouldn’t and quite possibly couldn’t have hurt that much. I guess she’s right

A week later Dr. Byong Yu pulled out the staples and now I am pretty well fresh out of excuses for not getting back to some kind of work around here. It is time to tame the garden as it is battling for it’s life. As well there has been some serious excavation going on out in the dog runs.  I received an apropos card the other day from a friend that pictured a Golden Retriever on the front and inside read simply, “Heal.”

I will fill you in on Cindy’s graduation at a later date.

Do send news from the epicenter of the American Financial Crisis soon,


your brother Kyle

P.S. There is a new place opened in town.  I need you to email them and ask how much to board an incontinent(just hint that it’s incontinent don’t tell them outright)Yellow Lab that isn’t to be left with small children.  Whatever they tell you, email them back and tell them Barksville came in a fair bit cheaper.

Stab me Vitals

June 1st, 2010

Hey J,

The good news is, I will spare you from news about Barksville today.  The bad news is, I won’t spare you from me talking about me.

I had a panic attack once. At least I think it was a panic attack. It was about 15 years ago when my kid was somewhere around 2 and a half. I had a mysterious pain in my lower abdomen that was like nothing I had experienced before. Not a deathly pain, just a persistent one. Persistence is never a good thing for me when it comes to mystery pain. Though it had eased up some it certainly had not vanished. My standard approach to dealing with any malady is to wait for “it” to go away. As I was making very little progress along this avenue, the dreaded onset of what I like to refer to as “stage two” had surfaced. “Stage two” involves a steady yet tenacious seizing of the mind whereby you gradually arrive at the conviction that this little ache is far more complicated than some simple over the counter remedy. No this might very well be the surprise ending that everyone assumes will never happen to them. Sheepishly, I have to admit that this is not an infrequent thought process that I battle. Normally I can talk myself down, so to speak, while I wait for whatever great plague I think I have acquired to pass. Up to this time however in all my mental battles there had been basically two voices. The one convinced I am to die directly and the one certain that this is not to be the case-just yet anyway. This time however there was a third and formidable speaker-that of my little girl saying, “What, you’re just gonna up and die and leave a two year old behind?” That’s when, I believe, I had the panic attack. I am not really sure what you would call it. All I know is that for what seemed to be a very long time my heart beat way faster than what seemed necessary considering I was just sitting in a chair staring into space.  Then there was  nausea, very sweaty palms and an awareness that the act of breathing didn’t seem to be bringing any air in. Worrying about dying seemed, for the moment,  worse than dying.

I booked an appointment with Dr. Byong Yu the next morning. He was born in Korea but at some point or another moved to Pakistan. This makes English his third language-contributing to why I can’t really understand a word he says. In the end I was left with the impression he reckoned I had a hernia. He suggested a course of antibiotics. I tried to get a bit more specific information out of him as to what a hernia really was and how it might be that a course of antibiotics was going to aid the situation. I used to see if my kid was sleeping, as I read to her at night, by going to the bottom of the page and reading backwards. You could try it with this page here. Anyway, I tell you this because, that’s exactly what Dr. Byong Yu’s reply to my queries sounded like. Any effort to get him to be a bit clearer just seemed to piss him off as he patted my back and guided me towards the door. I didn’t really want him to stick his finger up my ass again so I just left-confused but mostly elated at having been diagnosed with something that wasn’t going to immediately require chemotherapy. I didn’t take him up on the antibiotics though on account of the last time I took them I had to stay within 15 feet of a toilet for two weeks

As I have told you on a few occasions, I hate going to the doctor and I avoid it at all costs. I know this is a foolhardy attitude at my stage in life but these fears are difficult to overcome. It is mostly fear but also living in a small town and a lack of anonymity plays a role. I can’t really get used to finding myself sitting down in a restaurant two seats over from Dr. Byong Yu, dining with his wife, who not four hours earlier was exploring my rectum (the doctor, that is, not his wife). I also feel that when I do go to the doctor I am simply not forthright enough. Not wanting to sound like one of those people that has combed the internet for self-diagnostics (though believe me I have combed the internet)I tend to stick to the general symptoms. What I have learned, however, is this: If after describing your particular issue you are greeted with uncertainty or indifference, you must press on in order to reach a solution. I learned this after I had been enjoying a nagging pain in my dick and lower abdomen which had seemed to develop as an extension to the “hernia” pains. It had only been for about a year or so. Finally unable to stand it any longer I booked an appointment with one of the other doctors in town with the hopes of less communication failure then that I had enjoyed with Dr. Yu. Dr. Cowe seemed even less comfortable talking about my dick than I did. After I described my situation he offered up the following: “Maybe it’s just a pain that comes and goes and you will have to live with it.” I accepted this diagnosis and left his office. By the time I got home, however,  I realized that this just wouldn’t do. I managed to go ahead and book another appointment for the next day to see if perhaps there might be a more optimistic solution. I had expected to see Dr. Cowe again but turns out it was his day off. I repeated my set of symptoms to the new doctor, a woman. I also managed to point out that the “other” doctor’s advice was basically insulting and of less than no use. I added a suggestion that Dr. Cowe might be more suited to a different profession-like, perhaps, a government employee where he could while away whole days getting paid to frustrate people. I hadn’t realized how angry the whole thing had made me. After listening to my little outburst she inquired, and I am going to say a little over-curtly, you know, not moving her lips very much, “So what would you like us to do now then?” I had tired of seemingly indifferent replies. I said, slowly and loudly like an American in a foreign country, “I would like very much for ‘us’ to help me get rid of this intermittent pain residing in my penis via a more proactive suggestion than I ought to just enjoy the times when I don’t have it.” “I see,” she managed. “How ’bout I book you an appointment with a specialist?” As I left the office with my appointment slip I was slightly unnerved to notice that the name on the slip said, Dr. Cowe. I was later to learn that this was because the two doctors were married to one and other. Uh oh… Although I didn’t regret speaking out I feared that my next medical appointment was going to be back with the well meaning yet incoherent Dr. Byong Yu

The specialist found an issue with my prostate for which he offered two solutions. One was to place a lubricated finger up my rectum and apply pressure to my prostate encouraging the build up he was attributing to my pain to disperse. The other was to undergo a course of antibiotics. Opting for the second choice I found myself virtually pain free in a matter of five days. Also cleared up were the “hernia” symptoms. Especially cleared up was my state of mind.

These days, I have managed to limit my feelings of paranoia to maybe once a year or so. I seem to have narrowed things down to a minor yet nagging mental tug of war as to whether I am in the process of having a heart attack…or not. It goes like this: I get up one morning and feel as if someone has their index finger pressing slightly into my chest. “That’s odd,” I think. “My neck and arm seem strangely tight as well.” For the most part it goes away, but not always. “Ahh well,” I rationalize, “there’s no history of heart problems in my family.” I call my dad one morning to see how he is doing and he tells me that Uncle Hugh is visiting. “Oh yeah, how’s he?” To which he can’t help but note “Boy he sure has slowed down since that triple by-pass.”………….. “Hey Kyle, you still there?” I ease the blow by noting Uncle Hugh managed to smoke nearly 60 hand rolled cigarettes a day combined with 40 years of sitting behind the wheel of a dump truck for exercise. No need to escalate things to “stage two, though it’s looming.  That night, to get my mind off of things, I check out a little “Jeopardy”.   At the end of the show they have a special five minute segment where Alex Trebek tells an interviewer of his recent heart attack. “No, I am not a candidate at all,” he states. “I don’t drink, or smoke. I exercise regularly and eat well.”   I started to feel a little indigestion as he spoke.  He continued, “I had experienced a slight tightness in my chest but figured I would just go to bed and see how I felt in the morning.” He goes on, “ As I went to sleep, my wife stayed up and typed in ‘signs of a heart attack’ on the internet. A while later she came into the room and shook me awake and said, ‘Come on, we are going to the hospital’.” “Sure enough, when they hooked me up to all that equipment, the doctor said, ‘Hey Alex, you’ve had a heart attack’.”

Complicating matters regarding peace of mind is that I was trying to hold off the beast while vacationing in Mexico. For reasons that are probably obvious, I can think of better places to be situated at the onset of cardiac arrest. By the next morning, gratefully, things had improved. “Stage two” had stopped tapping on my shoulder. I call Cindy back home to see how my little girl was doing. She said, “Hey daddy, did you hear about Bill Barry?” “No what’s up?” “He died of a heart attack last night.”……………………..”Daddy, are you there?” Bill Barry was my age. I was starting to have difficulty breathing. The rest of the trip involved an active parry trying to ward off “stage two.” I did promise myself that if things continued when I got home, I would have it checked out.

J, I know this is dragging on, but I also am aware that you aren’t doing anything anyway and I know I am not. I am almost there. The short version is that when I got back I did a pile of tests and the end result was whatever it was that created the sensation was not a heart attack. Though the heart specialist was kind enough to tell me that I had done the right thing in getting it checked out. As well as suggesting I don’t let my fears get in the way of exercising, loosing a few pounds and maybe cutting down the coffee to 6 a day he prescribed a daily acid reflux medication just to see if that made a difference.

It didn’t do anything for me but Phyllis, who has a much higher threshold for “stage two” than do I, managed to put an end to 20 years of heartburn in two short days when she got a hold of the prescription. “Hey, what are these for?” she had asked. “Heartburn.” Seeing that she already had the lid off the bottle I ventured, “ But don’t you think you should check with a doctor before you eat any of them?” Phyllis and I don’t really express ourselves similarly regarding matters of “precaution.” “No,” she said popping a pill down her throat, “I don’t.” I will admit the change in her has been quite miraculous. Gone, for her, are the several nights a week spent sitting up in bed eating tums and trying to calm the burning beast. And she did finally have to go see Dr. Yu herself to get the prescription renewed.

Anyway, I had been freed from “the fear” for quite awhile-well at least until my stomach really started bugging me about a year ago. Complicating matters this time was Phyllis’ addiction to seeking out the most tragic and heartbreaking material available on the internet. Often she can’t fall asleep without it. Around the time something was blowing a balloon up in my stomach every four hours or so she was mainlining Randy Pausch reading “The Last Lecture.” If you haven’t checked it out I will give you my very abridged version. First you present an incredibly charismatic man that immediately captivates you and earns your respect as he encourages us to consider our place on this earth.  Once you really start to like him strike him down with pancreatic cancer demanding the question, “Why him of all people? and  follow him on his slow, inspirational and courageous march to the end as he assembles the final words he would like to leave behind for his lovely wife and children who will miss him sorely. Phyllis doesn’t always grasp the implosion a mind like mine can experience while listening to “The last Lecture”( which includes a detailed description of the symptoms of pancreatic cancer) under the influence of a two week bout of stomach distress. But this time, nearly cured of my fear of Doctors, I headed straight to Dr. Byong Yu.

“Gut’s bothering me Doc, I’m thinking I want some tests.” Dr. Yu replied, “Children and wife lovely his for behind leave to like.” In short course I had undergone several varieties of investigation which turned up a bit of food poisoning as well as a certain parasite that may or may not be the bad one. He was going to get back to me on that one. He never did. The whole business died down to a dull roar anyway. In fact it became a pain that came and went and I learned to live with it. “All kinds of people have little aches and pains that come and go and they don’t seem to find it necessary to go flying off to the doctor every time.” Phyllis offered up by way of encouragement. This is also why I am writing to you J instead of troubling Phyllis.

Just last week, a full year since I have done all the tests and Dr. Yu presumably has the results, I find my stomach once again protesting about something or other as well as a distinct tightness in my chest. By this point I feel nearly cured of my irrational fears. I know this will just eventually pass. I have troubled the medical system enough. It could be a slight muscle pull and a bit of something I ate. It’s not like surrounding ourselves with 15 dogs a day comes with no risk of picking up some little grunge now and again. Besides, I couldn’t bear the thought of staring at the blank look on Dr. Yu’s face while I explained, “Well it’s like somebody is blowing up a balloon in the center of my chest making things generally quite uncomfortable.” Keep busy and don’t worry so much. That’s the plan. And, at this very minute, by way of a mental diversion, my old boss from the construction days was pulling in the driveway. I had been meaning to run into him because I couldn’t help but notice his wife and 25 year old son had been driving him around town for the last little while. I suspected this was a result of the local constabulary taking exception to a poor decision to drink and drive. As he rolled down his window I asked him what a night in the drunk tank had been like. “Fuck no, buddy. I lost my license for a month ’cause I had a heart attack.” He went on. “I woke up Christmas morning really dizzy and nearly fell over. Then I developed this really weird feeling, like somebody blowing up a balloon in the center of my chest……I thought, ‘so this is indigestion’.” He then went on to describe the ambulance ride and various details of the surgery and recovery.

So against all better judgment I found myself once again staring at the inquisitive little beady eyed Dr. Yu explaining, “Well it’s kind of like somebody is blowing up a balloon somewhere central in my chest.” I place my index finger just below his collar bone and apply a little pressure to simulate the feeling. He tells me he understands where one’s chest is.(I am translating this all for you as it would take too long to describe the communication process.) After a surface inspection, he predictably concludes that everything seemed fine. As he is paging through all the results of the heap of tests I took, he casually asks, “Hey wait a minute here, what did we ever do about those gall stones?” “What gall stones?” “Didn’t we call you?” “Jeeze, I don’t know why we didn’t call you about these.” I ask, “These showed up on the ultrasound I had 13 months ago? The same ultrasound that found no evidence of me ever having a hernia?” “Yeah yeah, jeeze we better get you to the specialist.”

As I finish up here the phone has just rung setting up my appointment with the specialist. He was kind enough to place a metal camera through my colon last August so I feel optimistic that we are on an intimate enough level to bring this whole thing to a satisfactory conclusion.

Sorry to impose this whole thing on you J but I find that dumping my fears and troubles on someone else can sometimes be effective in alleviating them.

Do send word from the capital city.

I remain, we’ll leave it at that,


P.S. Surgery’s tomorrow. Wish me luck

When choosing a dog…

May 26th, 2010
Dear Olive,

This came with one of the guests the other day-a largish yellow Lab.

Rules for Alder,
1.Don’t touch him-ever!  He gets anxious and will then bite.  Use your body (legs/feet) to move manipulate him if you have to.
2.He is food/toy possessive and will bite a person, and snap (not bite) other dogs.
3.He is also fear aggressive.
4.Loves to run and chase balls/rocks/sticks-as long as no other dog presents competition.
5.Is kennel trained-point and say “kennel”
6.Takes his Clomicalm (½ pill bid) very well.  Tell him “gentle”

Right then.  Here at the hotel is a growing collection of notes that have accompanied visitors.  They range from useful little directions to absurd renditions of what  people imagine their dogs to be.  “He won’t drink water from a bowl that contains other dogs’  ‘backwash'”  This came along with the dog that thought little of eating the fecal matter of pretty well anything.  “He just loves people” A hopeful little accompaniment  to the the Shitzu which if you wanted to relocate it (say out to the yard as an alternative to crapping on the floor) meant throwing a towel over it and then, with gloves, rolling it up,  minding the teeth, till it looked like a little cigar.  Only then was it safe to move it.  This method was only developed after directional motivation with a broom produced what appeared to be symptoms of rabies and a certain degree of incontinence.  It’s always a pleasure handing a dog back to it’s owner with your hand covered in band-aids.

The dog Alder is a special case.  It turns out the note that came with him is accurate.  What’s missing however is a notation indicating that most of the time Alder behaves just like most other dogs.  He comes up to you and wags his tail.  Loves to play and roll around.  Lets you pat him on the head, sometimes.  And then, boom, like an idiot you have three lacerations bleeding down your hand and find yourself looking for a blunt object.  Before you know it he is growling at you and you are advancing on him with a rake.  (Figuratively speaking, that is, we would never chase a helpless animal with a rake…at least I am sure Phyllis wouldn’t)

This brings me to my point.  I know you have a yellow lab.  What were you thinking?  Had you thought to consult your brother I could have provided several strong examples of why not to get a Yellow Lab.  But, since you didn’t,  here are a few unsolicited observations I have on Yellow Labs.

I have been bitten four times since we started this business. 2 times by Yellow Labs, once by a Yellow Lab cross, and lastly by the above mentioned Shitzu.  Sure, the Labs are particularly cute as puppies.  And, as a rule, they seem genuinely happy about life.  But lots of dogs can pull that off.  Like a pound dog who really needs a home.  They say they are loyal to their owners but I know I could get Alder to kill his owner for as little as two large milk bones.  As most people who have them don’t use them for their intended purpose (presumably plowing through swamp-like areas chasing after some lead riddled duck and bringing it back to you in one piece ) they must act out this instinctual behavior in other ways.  Like plucking all of your clean laundry out of the basket, gobbing all over it and then dropping it, like a pile of afterbirth, at your feet.  Alder prefers to forego the dropping it at your feet part and just dares you to touch it-or even look at it. They are fun at parties too when one of the guests immediately ignores your request not to throw anything for Ol’ Yeller.  After you tire of  trying to get the dog to stop dropping slimy tennis balls and muddy sticks on everyone’s lap you lock it in a room somewhere.  The rest of the evening is spent trying to ignore it’s relentless barking from wherever you have locked it away.

Easy keepers they are.  So easy in fact they don’t even seem to need food.  Almost anything that can be swallowed will do.  Socks, golf balls, poop(from any species), a fully charged kitty litter  box or the neighbor’s garbage complete with the plastic bag and twist tie.  If it requires surgery to extract all the better.  Alder’s owner described the surgical extraction of a cassette tape. That’s right, they’ll eat anything at all until they weigh more than their bodies can support.  Then they get crocked bones and joints and all that eating starts eating in to your kids education fund with vet bills.

All of this they manage to do while each year developing a more and more pungent odor that hangs about like a collection of bad feet-like parking your head up the hiney of a sumo wrestler.  As you find you are spending so much time trying to manage the smell you hardly notice the rabbit sized blobs of hair that seem to fall from them endlessly.
Lastly(though I could go on) they also appear to be easy to train once you get the hang of it.  Over time you will see that they can get you to do almost anything they want.

Of course, after “Marley and Me” everybody wanted a Yellow Lab.  This just goes to show you how illogical people are.  I mean, isn’t it odd, therefore, that after “Rain Man” little kids weren’t out asking their parents for an autistic brother? I believe the Yellow Lab has been put here as a sign of a society with too much time and money on their hands and therefore they select an adorable little $1500.00 Yellow Lab pup to fill in the gaps.

I know you will find this “hindsight is 20/20” bit of advice quite helpful but that’s what brothers are for.  I only wish you would have expressed your opinions about me letting my little Cindy run me like a remote control toy for so long earlier in the game.

Just for the record, if I were to choose an over-bred dog whose main purpose was to make you work very hard at loving it, I am pretty sure it would be in the form of a Pug.  I have yet to see one be fazed or disagreeable with anyone or any dog.  Even our little Judy who hates almost all of the guests will lower her standards and play with a Pug.  They were bred, as one source quotes, as “fashionable coach footmen”, which suggests, apparently, that they are particularly suited to essentially sitting on your lap and being hand fed little morsels.

Anyway, all this to say, that a certain Dr. Bile will be hauling out my gall bladder next week in an effort to sort out some mystery symptoms and, truth be told, it’s kind of freaking me out.  Assuming they don’t puncture my colon or leave a set of pliers inside me I will give you a call when it’s all done.  Phyllis has been quite supportive avoiding shows like “Medical Disasters” and the like that all seem to start out with lines like, “It was a simple procedure, one he had performed thousands of times……” Then they fade to some poor fucker breathing from a tube fighting off 13 different varieties of antibiotic resistant superbugs that were traced to the buttons on the remote control of the TV that he was using while recovering as the doctors tried to sort out the typo that had led to the removal of his non-cancerous lung.

Until then, I remain, occupying my mind with thoughts other than somebody  piercing me somewhere about my belly button and shoving some sort of slicer/dicer implement up through my vitals, (Oh don’t worry, it’s got a camera)

Your Loving Brother Kyle

Happy Mother’s Day

May 6th, 2010
Hey Mom,

I can’t really believe it’s been 5 years since you’ve gone.  That you passed away on the evening of Mother’s Day and I didn’t call you has pretty well haunted me since.  I always thought Mother’s Day was bullshit but at least a call was in order, just because.  Being basically an atheist also makes it hypocritical to write this but if you are up there I hope you know how sorry I am that I didn’t make that call.  I want badly for you to be in a place happier than you ended here. When L heard you were gone she gave me two roses which I threw in the river with the intention that at least one of them might find it’s way to the ocean.  I don’t suppose you know if one did?  It was meant to symbolize, I suppose, the chances one has of making it through life without breaking down on the way or getting snagged up in some eddy.  It was a pretty hopeless and romantic gesture but it meant a lot to me anyway and as far as I am concerned one must have made it.

The main reason I am writing is I wanted you to know how things turned out between Phyllis and I. Not that I am foolish enough to be conclusive but I know you were a bit anxious in general about it. I am glad you, at least, got to meet her.   Everyone told us that the bulk of all that new relationship euphoria would wear off in 6 months or so.  Other than a slight scaling back in certain areas(I am nearly fifty now after all)I can assure you that the reality of being together has not tainted the experience.  Nor has it been a case of “different face same problems” as many warned behind wagging fingers.  Oh there’s problems all right, but they aren’t the same as before.  It is just refreshing to be with someone who doesn’t appear to consider the whole thing a necessary inconvenience.  This might sound like setting one’s standards a little low but, based on what became an acute interest in following the relationships of others after mine imploded, I would say it is a substantial if not miraculous achievement.  If this is mediocrity I am all for it.  We both present the odd challenge.   Against both our better judgment we married just about a year ago.  It was a small affair(the wedding that is)which took place in a little park convenient to my best man/witness’ work place.  He immediately got called away to some other task and so a coworker was sent in.  I ended up with a best woman which I was all for.  The guests numbered zero so the catering costs were kept to a minimum.   “Why did you even bother?” was a frequently posed question to which I would clear up with a something like, “Never ride two camels until the man whose footsteps you walk in are yours.”  This held them off for awhile anyway.    Sure, I suppose, it was ridiculous but, in a way which I can’t really explain (well I could but it would take for ever and you’d be bored), it seemed important and I am glad we did it.  By way of a Honeymoon, we drove to the ocean and took it in.  We stayed in old quaint places and ate more than we needed.  Unfortunately we were called back two days earlier than anticipated as Lloyd, who was  minding the hotel suddenly called with the news that he had to work at his other job.  I guess it’s understandable.  We had only given him about three months notice as to the time we hoped to have him there.

As for the kids…….Well, it’s not the “Brady Bunch.”  I hope whatever scars we have inflicted on them by not following the advice of those sage and intact souls who suggest you don’t just hop into another relationship, particularly if there are kids involved, will not run too deep.  Phyllis’ little Constance, who’s not so little anymore, seems to be moving further and further away from taking much notice of the “broken” home.  She is to be 13 quite shortly.  I would say her behavior is entering the realm where any misery she wants to scrape up is self-induced.  I word it this way because any inference that hormones might contribute to human behavior is grounds for castration in Phyllis’ mind.  My little Cindy (6 feet tall) has managed to move right out of the picture taking up residence 100 miles away doing farm work in exchange for room and board.  She is meant to graduate this year.  I feel as if her main goal is to be thirty-five.  When I look back on things I suppose that was mine at that age.  I guess that’s why it’s difficult to watch.  Ah well, “the proof is in the pudding,” which I just learned is incorrect usage.  It should be, “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.”  Neither kid has a serious addiction to crystal meth (that’s a bad drug mom), both work hard in school and, despite it all, the two  manage a degree of respect for their dreaded “step parents.”  As a convenient form of self justification I take the stance that it’s possible to mess your kids up from a variety of marital statuses.  Who’s to say I would have done a better job had I remained with L?  I wasn’t setting any great examples then either.

Other than that the only other real change is that I have fully quit construction as my principal means of income to join Phyllis with Barksville.  Well, I suppose, I should add that I am no longer living in Quoyle’s 24′ travel trailer and Phyllis and I now jointly own a 67′ non traveling trailer.  I know I know, but I can assure you fame and fortune or, at least, a sustainable income are just peeking around the corner waiting to strike….like a panther.
I miss you mom.  We all do.  Phyllis does the crosswords with me now.  I am glad that I still forget and  pick up the phone to call you to tell you of some little tidbit that would have interested you.   I am sorry for the times I didn’t when you were here.  I know it would have meant a lot to you.  I should go now.  There is a dog the size of a small pony failing to take the hint that it’s amorous advances are not currently desired.  I should stop it or he shall flatten the poor girl like a pancake.

Be safe and content,  Happy Mothers Day

Love Kyle

Dear Clare,

I think it’s best that I first tell you about the chicken I made last night. I mean cooked as one doesn’t really make a chicken does he?  Anyway I have been on this mission to come up with a moist product and basically so far the technique has been to under cook the thing to the point that it freaks out most people especially when blood runs down the thigh. Organic or not, bloody chicken isn’t on too many menus and my experimentation has sort of put the members of the household off of chicken.  Anyway,  in lieu of the oven or the Weber, I enlisted the Gas BBQ out front here which is essentially a piece of shit on account of it’s basic settings of “on” or “off”.  Oh they like you to think that you have a few options but if you turn that knob one millimeter from high you are left with nothing more than a rather impotent warming oven.  You’d barely warm your hands placing them right on the grill. Problem is high is quite so.  A “skin on” chicken will ignite in only a matter of minutes-say the time it takes you to walk into the house and remedy your state of mind with a suitable beverage (because we all know winter barbequin’ is mighty thirsty work). So to work with the situation (and we must work with the situation as I don’t think I have even paid for the thing yet thanks to Home Depot’s generous terms)basically anything I cook on it I do so on the bun warming rack above the grill.  Though you are limited to about a five inch strip of cooking surface and an especially flimsy bit of wire rack it gives you the benefit of about 550 degrees of usable heat which is perfect if you are looking for a nice skin without everything else being charred to the bone.  Anyway, pay dirt.  Why am I telling you all of this?  Do you even like chicken?

Pet Hotel is busy right now made even more so by the fact that Phyllis is out with a seriously nasty headache.  Just came back from dropping her at the clinic to find that Pile, the long eared doberman, filled his time with a little abstract diarrhea painting on(luckily)the floor.  Also we have a dog here that is 17 years old and suffers from Alzheimer’s. It spends the bulk of its time defecating on the spot it wants to sleep or walking in circles(to the left) and came with a lot of instructions including what to do if it hauls off and dies(cremation, case you were interested).  It’s owner has very limited use of the English language.  Were I to speak Flemish this would not be so much a problem.  It has a  tumor the size of half a coconut on it’s hind leg which has to be bandaged to contain it’s effluent of pus and looks like an industrial accident-the kind of thing you don’t want to re-dress just before sitting down to a little, perfectly cooked, roast chicken.   Also in the play we have Colonel Klink.  He is on enough anti-seizure medication to stupefy a grown man. The effect it has on him seems quite the opposite.  He holds the title for being able to produce the loudest, most piercing and sustained round of barking.  Any attempt to calm him just accelerates the behavior.  His particular strong suit is randomness.  He might sit perfectly still and silent when someone comes to the door but then decide to explode just as you are threading your bare  hand between the top rack and the broiler element to fetch a couple of tuna melts.  Today I learned, while drying off the Colonel and the floor after the bucket of ice water I was soaking my burned hand in happened his way during another of his outbursts, that he can reduce a bath sized towel to a pile of thread in under a minute.  He just grabbed it from me and started shaking it like a  mongoose with a cobra.  Once Phyllis saw the entertainment value in this she couldn’t resist throwing a variety of linens his way.  We finally had to put a stop to it when he yanked a king size comforter off of the couch and whipped it about in such a frenzy that chairs were being upturned and the coffee table was cleared.

Also visiting is Yolanda a Miniature Yorkie.  She comes from a rough part of town.   A  Miniature Yorkie is a really great choice for a dog that lives in her neck of the woods.  If you live in an area where starving dogs and coyotes will eat a litter of puppies just for sport you might as well have a dog that looks like a chinchilla running around making high pitched squealing noises.  The owners are quite nice but I fear some genetic mishap  may have effected(affected? beats me) their sense of smell. The dog has been known to show up in little “outfits” as so many of the smaller dogs have inflicted upon them these days.  One day she came dressed in a little number that was intended to give you the impression that little “Yoli” was a great big bumblebee.  I think somebody had hooked up the family washing machine to a vat of horse piss based on the smell of that little outfit.  It took out the whole front hall and a pre-soak in bleach followed by a full wash was not able to rid the thing of that indescribable stink. Yolanda is quite endearing however. She can be outside for four straight hours and then come in all excited, jumping and running around wagging her little tail.  Then she’ll hop right up on your couch and take a disproportionately large crap.  She screams to be let out of her crate only to run to the back of it and cower when you try to free the little angel. Once you get her in hand she pees down your arm-like carrying a soaking wet rag.  Her owners love her.  Sometimes that seems like a rare commodity in her neighborhood where the situation of some of the animals can often be heartbreaking. We do the best we can to welcome little Yoli with open arms.

I have taken to running around the fence perimeter with all the dogs as part of my “heart smart” year where amongst other things I intend to lose fifty pounds and become a genius, neither of which seem to be kicking in just yet.  All of this to say, we are flying to Miami on the 23rd this month for 10 days to find some sun and see my dad.  It will be the longest home alone stay for our new girl Marge.  I hope she is up to the task.

Well that’s about it.  Yolanda is out in the yard barking relentlessly trying to provoke an eagle attack so I better let her in so she can pee on something expensive.



P.S. Don’t think for one minute I was unaware that in 2000 words or so I asked nothing of you or yours which is what you would be so kind to fill us in on when you reply.

Deflated Barebecue Hopes

April 6th, 2010

Dear RJ

For starters, I regret to point out that I have found it necessary to utilize the magnification feature of this OpenOffice program in order to enlarge the printing sufficiently to keep from squinting. This is unsettling and might be another cruel sign of old age creeping it’s way towards me. For now I am writing it off to the fact that it is late and I am tired. By the time you finish reading this you will probably be tired too.

I am writing to inform you (in a roundabout way) of my ill-fated first barbecue attempt of 2010. Things have been rather busy here at the hotel and thus we have been mostly restricted to dining in.   Today, being a very optimistic indicator that Spring is imminent, I thought perhaps the time was ripe for a little grilling.  Late February and all.  As you know I have always considered the Weber Charcoal Barbecue a necessary enhancement to anyone’s outdoor dining experience.  It not only does a bang up job, it also looks good and does so in nearly any setting.   So when I set about on a pre-fireup inspection after a winter of near hibernation, disconcerted was I to see that, at one point or another, an unsupervised dog had seen fit to completely disfigure one of the three vent controls at the bottom of the unit.   That’s right three.  This is not a late model plastic handled Weber product constructed of inferior gauge steel and available only in black possessing but limited control over minute heating possibilities.  My current unit is vintage material.  It is substantially sturdier than the newer ones and uniquely colored in sunburst brown not unlike a fridge we had when I was growing up.  It would have taken a very determined dog at least 20 full minutes to detect a bit of pork fat around the vent and then go about excavating until it became mangled to such an extent.  Consider peeling a piece of Scotch tape off the underside of a table using only your teeth.

I happened upon the barbecue completely by accident.  A year ago I set about to purchase a replacement for my previous one which had been mostly crushed in a rather freak accident whereby two feet of snow that had gathered on the roof above where I had “safely” stored it for the winter let loose and buried it.  I actually forgot where I had stowed it until spring came and it’s pitiful demise was revealed.   Entering the hardware store I met a friend of mine and told him of my intention to buy a new barbecue.  He mentioned that perhaps I would like to relieve him of his old one as he had ceased using it and it was headed for the crusher.  My friend takes his house and patio maintenance quite seriously.  He had faithfully moved this unit inside each year for it’s many winter holidays.  It was in pristine condition.  All this to say I am quite attached to my secondhand 22-1/2” Weber Kettle Barbecue complete with three vent controls.  Phyllis doesn’t really feel the same way.

The barbecue resides in an area at the hotel that is designated “supervision only.”  We have the pet hotel divided into four distinct areas.   Three of these areas are zoned, “anything goes.”  These areas take a lot of abuse as dogs have shredded most of the foliage,  decimated a good portion of the grass and generally wreaked havoc.   After all if the dogs were little angels then they could just stay at home and make their own dinners when their owners left town now couldn’t they?  However, the fourth and largest area has been designated a “supervision only” zone.  This designation was a compromise.   I wanted it to be a dog free zone-a lone area of dog shit free sanity.  Phyllis, although playing at understanding a need for such a place on the grounds, insisted we could keep the area virtually pristine if due care and diligence were to be exercised (her use of the word “exercise” should have tipped me off right then and there).   As I mentioned, this is where I keep the barbecue and where we have the option to enjoy a little time, dog free, if we are so inclined.   It is also where I have planted several fruit trees, varieties of berries, many flowering bulbs, grape vines and a garden.  Our lone chicken(down from four but the subject of another letter)also lived here in a heavily fortified enclosure until it died a natural death just recently.

The greatest single threat to this area’s preservation, as far as I can tell, is Phyllis’ interpretation of “due care and diligence.”   She has her own rating system whereby some dogs, apparently, don’t really require supervision.  As well, she maintains a bit of a sliding scale as to the question of acceptable property damage.  For example, if “an incident”, that she can’t effectively cover up, occurs on her watch, chances are, it will be deemed acceptable. Her defense will most likely involve the development of some pressing item of much greater importance that needed her immediate attention.  And yes, it took precedence over keeping a watchful eye on things, just for the slightest of moments.  These “items” are not always forthcoming when it comes to discussion but I can offer up, based on a bit of surreptitious observation, some of the things I have witnessed that would appear to meet the criteria.   For instance, enroute to heading out to look after things I have seen her stricken with an overwhelming urge to pop off to the computer briefly to try and get an answer for #23 down on a particularly tough crossword puzzle.  If this is met with any degree of  success she might follow up with a concentrated effort to solve more of the puzzle and before she knows it half an hour has passed and her concentration is broken only when she looks out the window to note that, oddly, a dog is loping about the yard with what was a freshly planted apple tree in it’s mouth.  Cleaning frenzies are also common distractions.   A five minute foray to tidy up the kitty litter box is bound to involve a bit of vacuuming which might lead to the discovery of some laundry that needs to be put on and soon she has pulled all of the knobs from the stove and has them soaking in some caustic substance that will contribute to the eventual paralysis of our septic system.  “Well, this place doesn’t just get clean on it’s own.”  is often considered sufficient from Phyllis’ end of things to explain any part she might feel inclined to own up to regarding the two foot pit that mysteriously formed in the middle of the “supervision only” area while she was watching things.   Why the dogs are out there in the first place is the real question and the answer is simple, Ease of Access. And yes, this all will eventually relate to the demise of my first spring barbecue.

The issue here is that the “anything goes” areas have some safeguards built in to try and discourage re-entry into the house.  A dog’s first instinct depending on it’s normal home situation is to do it’s business and then plow straight back into the house seeking some sort of attention either in the form of food or affection and then generally get underfoot.  This is all just ducky when there is one dog to look after but when you have 20 all with the same thing on their minds-and you are thinking to have a relatively undisturbed breakfast before heading out to pick up 20 loads of feces-you have to dole out your time a bit more judiciously.   Therefore we have gates and little fences that must be clasped and unclasped as you let the dogs out.   We didn’t used to have these things but a hole chewed clear through our back door by a well meaning pit bull while our man Lloyd was looking after things gave rise to such precautions.   The downside of this is that first thing in the morning, rain sleet or snow, one has to put on a pair of shoes and enough clothing suitable to be seen in by passing cars as well as ward off the elements. This is counter-intuitive to Phyllis’ approach to the morning routine.   As the “supervision only” area requires little more than opening the front door and a quick “see ya later,”   it lends itself much more to her natural tendencies.  Often the temptation overcomes her latent desire to stick to the “rules”.

And so it is, for strictly selfish reasons albeit in the interest of preserving our “supervision only” area I have volunteered, in most cases, to man the morning and evening shifts of letting the dogs out.   This way I don’t have to constantly trouble Phyllis with insinuations of complicity in property damage that she often confuses with accusations of being lazy which, let’s face it, isn’t going to help the situation.  Phyllis doesn’t do these things on purpose she just has a higher risk tolerance than do I when it comes to these types of things.  Take, for example Congo a young German Shepherd and recent visitor to the hotel who, during the course of his one week stay, managed to haul an entire couch, in bite sized pieces,  from the cabin where it stood to various parts of the yard. Congo easily falls into the “high risk” for property damage category and is one I give a 95% chance of wrecking something were he allowed 10 minutes unsupervised in the “supervised only” area.   Phyllis, on the other hand, might see the risk factor more in the neighborhood of 5-10% especially if seeing it this way meant not having to don proper footwear and a housecoat.   Further complicating matters is a diverging opinion as to what constitutes property damage in the first place.  To me property damage is property damage cut and dry.  Phyllis however possesses the ability to make allowances if a particular act of canine vandalism is accompanied by an extreme display of cuteness.  So when a Chihuahua and a Great Dane are going great guns tugging back and forth on a stick all in all making a very Rockwell Painting like impression, how is Phyllis to notice that the stick is actually half of the blueberry bush and the tug of war is a moving game plowing it’s way through the strawberry patch?  Instead of putting a halt to such nonsense she is running for the camera. How can I blame her when she seems genuinely so thrilled?

Anyway by now you have a bit of very important history in order to understand the mood I had gotten into when I spied the mangled vent on my prized Weber.  Phyllis was, characteristically, dumbfounded as to how that could have possibly happened.   But hey, come on now, we are talking first barbecue of the year.  No point dwelling on trifling matters.  The ribs were just sitting there dusted in top secret dry rub waiting for a slow 4 hour bask in the Weber.  The charcoal, however, admittedly over a year old and essentially soaked, was really not getting into the spirit of things.  It smoldered away with very little intention of catching.   After several attempts it took a promising turn and with a slight rescheduling of expected dining times we were off to the races.   I thought this a perfect time to follow up with Phyllis and ask if we could all make a bigger effort to try and watch the dogs out front.   This seemed to be well received though I did notice she seemed a little preoccupied with brushing what amounted to about a bushel of fur off of one of the boarders which was collecting on the front stoop.   Satisfied that I had made my point and that promising cooperation in the maintenance of the “supervision only” zone was imminent I headed in to assemble some sort of beverage worthy of the first barbecue of the year.

About 15 minutes later with my tray in hand I went to spread the coals and lay down the rack of ribs. Umm Umm Umm.   As I opened the door I was greeted with the smell of a full bushel of mangy dog fur incinerating on my hard earned coals. Phyllis had been very busy. All that remained was about a hockey puck sized fossil-like mass and an acrid sickening cloud of burnt hair smoke.   What does one really say?  By now the whole venture seemed about as palatable as pouring kerosene on a dead raccoon and roasting weenies over the flames.  Fuck it.  I put the ribs back in the fridge. Later, in the sushi restaurant, mostly in silence, I ate my roll.   It consisted of a single sprig of deep-fried asparagus wrapped in rice, nori and avocado.  Those 6 bites cost $8.50, the two beers $9.00.  My disappointment probably showed. Phyllis can’t figure me out sometimes.

I remain, hoping all remains well with you and yours,


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