Friday, July 28, 2006

Unfamiliarity breeds contempt

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A while back, I wrote about a stupid ordinance the city is considering passing that would criminalize every pit bull and Rottweiler in Fall River. At the time, I asked how you could enforce something breed-specific when so many dogs in this city are mixed, and so few people can make accurate distinctions as to breed.

Since then, I’m happy to say that the City Council still hasn’t figured this problem out, and it doesn’t seem particularly interested in trying, either. Happy, because that means this idiotic idea will get struck down at some point.

If passed, it will mean that owners of these kinds of dogs will have to keep the pooches locked away and never take them off the fenced-off property unless they’re muzzled, even if they don’t have any history of bad behavior — even if the dogs do nice things like work for security guards or sniff out drugs.

To be clear, I don’t want bad dogs biting people or other dogs — that’s why specific bad dogs have to be regulated. Generalizing about breeds is stupid. Plain and simple.

To illustrate why a breed-specific dog ordinance won’t work, walk with me over to the kitchen. Come on — step into my office.

Here I have loaf of Wonder bread, a jar of peanut butter and a jar of Marshmallow Fluff.

The City Council says, “We want to outlaw Fluff sandwiches!”

Fine. So if I take two slices of bread and spread some Fluff on it, that’s clearly just a Fluff sandwich. Bad sandwich! Bad!

OK. If I take two slices of bread and put Fluff on one side and peanut butter on the other, I have a totally different thing. It’s called a Fluffernutter. Remember the Fluffernutter? God, I could go for a Fluffernutter right now. On some nice toasted rye bread with a cup of hot coffee. It reminds me of my younger days, when I had no cares nor worries, a veritable picture of innocence—

My point is, goddammit, it’s got Fluff in it, but it’s not a Fluff sandwich. It’s a Fluffernutter. Is that now against the anti-Fluff sandwich law? Fluff is pure sugar and not good for your teeth or ass, but peanut butter’s actually a healthy source of protein. So does the Fluff make the whole sandwich bad?

What if I take two slices of bread and put peanut butter on both sides, but I'm a slob so I use the dirty knife with Fluff residue on it to smear the peanut butter on, thereby leaving some visible traces of Fluff on the outside. Is this now considered a Fluff sandwich, even if it's really just peanut butter? If so, why? And if not, how much Fluff, exactly, do I need to put in there before it becomes bad, before it magically attains the essential qualities of a Fluff sandwich?

Let’s say I take two slices of bread and fill them with jagged shards of glass and rusty screws, and I top if off with a cockroach impaled on a toothpick. Then I put a piece of human shit on the side, like a pickle. And I take two other slices of bread and make a delicious Fluff sandwich that’s perfectly innocuous. And I put the two sandwiches in front of you. Which one is the bad sandwich?

Which one is the worse sandwich?

What if it’s my right as an American to eat all the goddam Fluff sandwiches I want, as long as I don’t fling them at other people or try to force them in other people's mouths? I mean, if I start taking Fluff sandwiches and cramming them into people's eyes, I'm totally cool that that's criminal. But if I'm just eating a Fluff sandwich because I happen to dig Fluff and don't press my Fluff-love on other people, what's the big deal?

What if I take two slices of bread and put only peanut butter on them, but the cops are so used to seeing Fluff sandwiches running around with reckless abandon that they automatically assume it’s got Fluff in it?

What if I take two slices of bread and put Miracle Whip on them? When you put it together, it sure looks like a Fluff sandwich. But it’s actually just a very gross Miracle Whip sandwich. What if the cops say, “You’re in big trouble, pal — get that Fluff sandwich out of here!” And you say, “It’s actually just Miracle Whip!” And the cops don’t believe you and haul your Miracle Whip sandwich away to be quarantined away from Decent Society? What do you do then?

A variation of this last problem came up just recently. A dog that attacked and killed another dog in Fall River was described in a police report as a Rottweiler. By all other accounts, including that of the former city dog officer, the dog’s actually a shar-pei.

Those two don’t look anything like each other.

It’s not an uncommon problem. Most people really don’t know dog breeds very well. My dog Stanley looks like this:

I’ve had people come up to me while I’m walking Stanley and call him a springer spaniel, a cocker spaniel, a Dalmatian, a Weimaraner, a greyhound and a coonhound. But mostly they don’t know what the hell he is.

He’s a German shorthaired pointer.

He’s also not a Rottweiler. Just so you know.

My other dog, Myrna, isn’t a Rottweiler, either. Care to guess?

She’s a mix of border collie, Labrador retriever and German shepherd. So basically, a mutt.

I repeat: not a Rottweiler.

Many dogs are not Rottweilers. In fact, studies show that most non-Rottweiler dogs tend not to be Rottweilers. I should probably go ahead and give you some more examples of dogs that are not Rottweilers. Just so you know.

The Following Are Not Rottweilers

This is a shar-pei puppy (right). As a puppy, it’s very wrinkly. As it gets older, its skin gets very tight, which fills in the wrinkles. Think of Joan Rivers ten years ago, then Joan Rivers nine years ago, then make it a dog.

A shar-pei is usually not big and black like a Rottweiler. If it is, then chances are you have yourself a Rottweiler.

This is a Chihuahua (left). The Herve Villechaize of the dog world, it is very small, foreign, and sometimes hairless. Chihuahuas are sometimes carried around in purses by socialites who have nothing better to do with their lives than train their pets to be as lazy and dependent as they are.

Rottweilers are large and covered in dark fur and cannot be carried in purses, unless you generally haul around your lipsticks and checkbook in a 100-pound potato sack. I don't know. Maybe you do that. Good luck to you. Point being, there's a discrepancy in size with the dogs. Just so you know.

This is Lassie (right). Lassie is a collie dog from the classic TV series of the same name, seen here with Timmy whatshisname. Timmy is probably giving Lassie a big bear hug because the dog saved his life. Again. Perhaps it chased away prowlers or fetched Doc Watson for some reason or other. Maybe Timmy just had one of those moments when he had a strong urge to show his affection for Lassie, who appears strangely distant here. She's often got a more involved look in her eyes than she does here, is what I'm saying. There's some other personality issues she's working through we don't know about. But what I mean to say is that Lassie is generally known to be a very good dog.

Rottweilers are very good dogs, too, if properly trained, but yet are not Lassie. And Lassie is not a Rottweiler, yet she is very nice and helpful. So are many Rottweilers! Yet they're not the same. I can see how this can be confusing.

This is a cat (left).

Just a general sort of tabby cat, usually pretty harmless.

I think it's got a bow tie on, or maybe it's just a collar that looks like one. I'm leaning toward bow tie.

Well, I don't know now, looking at it.

This is not a Rottweiler. Just so you know.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Five gripes

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Being neurotic really sucks sometimes. I woke up just fine today, ready to make the hell out of my day, and then all of a sudden—somewhere between my toaster waffles and my fourth cup of coffee—I felt an awful sensation that put me off life. You know the one I mean. The one where human existence reveals itself to be a puny, miserable, cosmic hoax, except calling it “cosmic” gives it too much spunk. Anyway, I ended up taking two Advil.

My point is, I remember a friend from college once calling my personality “jolly.” Like Santa Claus. But off and on for the last few weeks, I’ve been a Grinchy McGrincherson. It was difficult to explain why. But as the headache dulled to a mild holler, it came to me.

Here, off the top of my head, are five reasons why I’ve been mopier than usual lately.


No. 1: Have you realized there is an entire generation of young Americans walking around right now with no idea how fun it is to dial a rotary telephone? Sad but true. You may have one of these poor unfortunates in your home right now. You may even be one of these poor unfortunates. Congratulations! There’s a hole in your life!

Trust me. I remember vividly from my childhood how fascinating it was. You’d poke the tip of your finger in the rotary device and spin it around and listen to the satisfying clicks as it reset. It was like a toy. You’d wish for someone to call with lots of 9s.

Now you press buttons and get your choice of three tones: beep, bop, or bloop. Big deal. Or, even worse, you press one speed-dial button. Way to suck the joy out of making a phone call. The only contemporary telephone dialing procedure that seems almost as cool—almost—is when a person with a fancy-schmancy cell phone tells the device whom to call. Sort of like when the mom on “Lassie” would ask the operator to get Doc Weaver.

Point being, was the rotary phone so goddam slow that we had to get rid of it altogether? Couldn’t we figure out some way to make the clicky thing quicker? Wasn’t there some way to make the rotary phone compatible with 1-900 sex lines, too?


No. 2: In a city where the nearest pizza parlor can be found by throwing a handful of dirt in any direction, I still can’t find the perfect pizza.

Look in the phone book. There are like 79,000 OK pizza places in Fall River. Even a few pretty good pizza places. But none really knocks my socks off. This is utterly depressing.

The closest one to perfect has interesting toppings and advertises its “thin-crust” pizza. Unfortunately, it’s so thin most of the interesting toppings slide off onto my shirt. I’m not so hoity-toity that I won’t eat a little shirt-spillage. But I’m spending a fortune on Stain Stick.

Other pizza places have a more robust crust, but if I want something besides pepperoni, I’m royally screwed. You have no idea how frustrating this is—yes, even given the current state of the Middle East.

One pretty good place I used to like has closed. Opening in its spot? Another pizza place. There’s another one set to open at the bottom of President Avenue. Listen up, both of you: Make a really great pizza, for Chrissake. Put some effort into it. I want a crust that’s not Saran Wrap-thin and not six-servings-of-bread thick. I want toppings that don’t begin and end with processed meat. Good portabella mushrooms, artichoke hearts, prosciutto, salty black olives, zucchini. I like those. I'm an American, and I deserve this kind of pizza because I work hard and pay my taxes and don't commit crimes. My wife is the same way, and she wants vegetables on hers—veggies that aren’t frozen and diced into miniscule pieces. Don’t use sauce that tastes like glorified ketchup. And gooey cheese. I like gooey cheese.


No. 3: For the past few months, I have been plagued by severe nasal allergies that would cripple a brontosaurus. Some days, I’m so allergic I want to rub my face off with a cheese grater.

I’m on generic Allegra right now, and it barely gets me through the day without blasting globules of mucus across the room like a paintball gun.

Who did this to me? I want names. I used to be fine up until three or so years ago. Is it because of all the smog these days, and if so, can I sue somebody? Did cavemen have allergies? More importantly, did they have Allegra? If not, what did they do? Did they just fling themselves into the nearest chasm? Because that’s crossed my mind.


No. 4: My wife jogs for health and for fun. When she jogs, she is all business. That means no lewd interruptions by stray frat-boys, thank you very much. Just let her jog by and leave her alone.

This is for male readers: Just because she looks nice in jogging shorts does not mean that you can talk to her. In fact, that’s a reason not to talk to her—chances are, you do not look good in jogging shorts. So you don’t have that in common.

Don’t try to talk to her about the weather, as an excuse to get her to notice you. She is very busy jogging and doesn’t want to talk to you.

Don’t stare at her. Control yourself, for God’s sake. Staring is rude, and also it’s scary. From what women have told me, there is a constant nagging fear in the back of their minds that crazy men are going to spring out of nowhere and attack them for no reason, because that does happen, sadly. If you stare at her too closely when she’s jogging by, she will Mace you in the eyes. You will vomit and cry, and you will deserve it.

I’m not kidding.

Don’t think that she’s wearing shorts because she’s trying to attract your interest. She’s wearing shorts because it’s too hot to run 13 miles in jeans.

Don’t honk your car horn at her or shout anything at her from your passing vehicle. I see this all the time with stupid guys who have bad pencil mustaches and who don't wear their baseball hats correctly—honking at random women on the street. It would be a fascinating phenomenon if it weren't the vehicular equivalent of snapping a girl's bra during social studies. What, exactly, do you think is going to happen when you honk at a woman? That she’ll honestly take it as a compliment that you blasted "Shave and a Haircut" in her ear or screamed some perverted two-word remark at her from your beat-up Ford Probe? When has any woman ever flagged you down and ravished you because of the way you honked?



No. 5: A glossy gossip magazine I saw at CVS had a cover story taking “a look back” at the 1990s. You know—way back in the 1990s. Urkel, that Counting Crows album everybody had, dirty flannel, President Clinton, “Titanic,” Will Smith while he still made rap music. You name it!

We are six years away from the 1990s, for the record.

Everything once-hip eventually gets mashed into little pieces, pounded into a paste, molded into familiar shapes and recycled into the Spam version of pop culture: kitsch. I guess I was just hoping the years I spent in high school and college had a little more shelf life before they underwent refried processing.

So now I’m culturally obsolete and I’m only 29. Fantastic. Looking forward, I have 40-plus years to revel in outdated references and to complain about how new stuff can never be as good as the old. And I just threw out my last flannel shirts.
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