Payment due on the Fourth of July

Yogi hates the Fourth of July. Now, don’t judge! He’s not unpatriotic, he’s an all American dog… he just hates fireworks. And since people in Bonita are always looking for an excuse to shoot fireworks I suppose I can safely add New Years, Christmas, Easter, your mom’s birthday and National Cheetos Appreciation Day to his list as well.

Unlike some dogs, he doesn’t appear to be afraid of fireworks, they just seem to make him angry. So on these special days, but particularly the 4th and for about a week leading up to the 4th, he spends most of the evening running laps around the house from window to window, across the couch, over and on top of my face and stomach and then out into the yard through the ever thickening smoke and then back again, looking for whoever is responsible for ruining his evening. I don’t personally participate in setting off fireworks anymore… but I think he suspects that somehow I may have had something to do with the creation of this custom in our city. He might be right.

As kids growing up in Bonita we had access to maybe three firecrackers each. So if all 20 of us got together, the thrill would only last for a few seconds. Occasionally, somebody would produce one of the legendary and deadly Cherry Bombs or M-80’s. Just before they would light one they would always announce, “This is like a quarter stick of dynamite!” After it went off and your ears quit ringing, firecrackers (and everything else for that matter) would never sound the same. This is where the story gets a little dicey, because after witnessing a couple of these mini explosions, my friend Steve and I were convinced that we could improve on the M-80 design. After all, we were almost 12 years old, and would build it in secret without the permission or the knowledge of our parents, so what could possibly go wrong?

For the sake of everyone who would rather not blow them self up like an idiot I will not divulge the details of our creation and will also add… DON’T DO ANYTHING LIKE THIS EVER! IT’S STUPID AND INCREDIBLY DANGEROUS! But when the 4th of July finally rolled around that hot summer, Steve and I took our newly designed M-8000, which was the same size as a box of kitchen matches, down the railroad tracks, across the trestle to the old railroad yard. Ironically it is the same exact place that the city, under direction of the MAYOR (me) and City Council, currently sets off its annual fireworks! Coincidence? Maybe…

After we set the M-8000 carefully on the railroad track we finally became a bit apprehensive about lighting the half-inch long fuse. So after a long volley of “You light it!” “NO, YOU light it!” we set up two sparklers so that they would have to burn down before lighting the fuse. We lit the sparklers, ran like hell to a place about a hundred yards away, laid down on the tracks and waited.

Minutes ticked by. “Man! Sparklers burn really slow!” I said as I let my forehead rest on the railroad tie. Steve rose up a bit and squinted. “It’s just getting to the fuse!” We covered our ears and grimaced as the sparkling stopped. Nothing. We waited. Finally we both stood up, staring into the blackness. Steve whispered to me. “I don’t think that….” and then a blinding flash of light and an earth shattering BOOM! Suddenly we were sitting back on the ground again covered in gravel and dirt. My ears were ringing and I could barely see as I brushed the dirt off. Then I turned to Steve. “HOLY MOLY that was…. Steve… STEVE!” Steve had noticed all the lights coming on in the Liles Hotel and was already making his way over the river and trestle towards home. Then I heard voices from across the tracks. “Time to go!” I said out loud and off I ran never to dabble in the idiotic art of amateur fireworks design again.

So this 4th of July, I suspect you will find my wife and I sitting in our safe, comfortable lawn chairs at beautiful Riverside Park watching the City’s spectacular fireworks show go off behind the very same Liles Hotel. Then, I will go home, stretch out on the couch and let our dog Yogi trample me for hours… fair payment due for a past indiscretion.

For the Love of Cheetos

Every morning I wake up and let our dogs Molly and Winston outside. Not because I want to… but because they MAKE me! As I try to wring out an extra 15 minutes of sleep… Molly sits there next to the bed… staring at me, growling. Then, every minute or so, she’ll jump up and punch me, kangaroo style with both her little Jack Russell hooves. Like any responsible pet owner I try to wave her away, my face still buried in the pillow. It finally takes Winston (a.k.a. Mr. Buzzard Breath), to wake me up. One lick on my face and a strong exhale from him and I’m awake… and nauseous.

As soon as my feet hit the floor both dogs become the happiest creatures on the planet… smiling little doggie smiles, spinning around in circles, running at full speed through the house. No, not because they have to go outside… but because they get two dog biscuits when they come back inside. Personally, I just don’t get. Dog biscuits are hard, dry as dust and taste like they’re made out of dried mud and straw. (Yes, I tried one.)

But to our dogs, biscuits are ambrosia! They love and crave them beyond all reason, and without knowing or caring what they’re made of. As they come barreling in the house after their frantic “tour” of the backyard, they spin, jump, beg, walk on their front legs, do card tricks, ride unicycles… whatever it takes to get a biscuit from me. Once they snap the precious cardboard flavored “bone” out of my fingers they rush off to opposite sides of the house so they can crunch up their rock hard cookies in private, all the while making little yummy noises of delight. It actually makes me a little envious. What must it be like to love and crave a treat that much? Especially one that’s not exactly “food.” You guessed it… this is where the Cheetos come in.

I suppose we all have our own “dog biscuit,” and yesterday, as I stood alone in the supermarket checkout line, I realized what mine was. Cheetos… the crunchy kind. I casually looked around. There were no witness’. I snagged a bag off of the rack and quickly laid them down between the salad mix and almond milk. Once I was safely in the car I ripped open the bag and wolfed down crunchy, salt loaded handfuls of the florescent orange, extruded then fried…I don’t know… Corn guts? Whatever! I really didn’t care… They’re delicious! As I upended the bag and poured the tasty last crumbs into my mouth, I made a little “dog yummy sound” and then felt a twinge of guilt. I knew they weren’t good for me and that if my wife found out that I had eaten an entire bag of Cheetos… I was in big trouble. I stuffed the empty bag under the car seat and began licking my paws like a cat while driving down the road. I know… it’s disgusting behavior… but I also know that some of you understand and know it was the right thing to do!

Pulling into our driveway, I quickly checked my clothes for orange crumbs, grabbed an armload of bags and then headed inside. “Hi Honey!” I said, plopping the grocery bags up on the counter. My wife Lori stopped doing her bookwork and looked at me over her glasses. “So, did you enjoy your Cheetos?” My mouth dropped open. (I mean really! How does she do that?) I started to protest, but then I realized that I was sporting bright orange fingers and lips.

Now, I can argue the merits of a case with the best of them, but trying to justify eating an entire bag of dog biscuits… I mean… Cheetos, is apparently beyond my capacity, so all that would come out of my throat was a choked and feeble “errr…Ahhhh.” Of course our dogs… “Mans Best Friends”… were sitting there next to Lori (traitors!) with their smiley dog faces, anxiously waiting to see how I would earn my Cheetos.

Since I am no longer capable of walking on my hands without serious injury to myself or the furniture, I am happy to report that the dogs and I have come to an agreement.

We shook paws on it and then celebrated by sharing a biscuit… the crunchy kind.

Dog to the Rescue

If you watch the news or read the paper it’s quite easy to become discouraged about how people treat each other.  Compassion, understanding and tolerance seem to be in short supply.  But someone always seems to come along just in time to restore my faith in the human heart.

My wife and I are “Dog People”.  We don’t really own a dog; we just share a home with an 11-year-old Jack Russell Terrier named Molly.  Now, we love Molly very much, but she does have a few quirks.  She will go from calm, sweet and loving to spinning around in one place for no apparent reason, to staring at the last known location of a lizard for hours, then straight to her “Sling-Blade” character who will attack a dog the size of a horse or the top of our friend Cheryl’s head (sorry again Cheryl).  So, naturally my wife Lori and I wanted another dog… not a different one mind you…ANOTHER one. Continue reading