Sunday, January 31, 2010

Mr. Speedy

Today my subway was driven by my favorite conductor: Mr. Speedy. He's the one who, late on a Saturday night when the A was running local, announced at W72nd St. that the subway was becoming Harlem-bound, express to W125th St. The UWS yuppies groaned and exited. The rest of us exchanged quick, triumphant looks about living in the North Pole. Today, as we neared W125th St., Mr. Speedy announced "Home of the world famous Apollo the-a-tre!" I love Mr. Speedy because he doesn't mess around. Today I was in a hurry to relax (I was going spaaahing; see above). Mr. Speedy gets you where you need to go. He closes the doors fast-- who cares about amputating the hand of that rude person holding the door open because she can't figure out whether or not this is her train. Mr. Speedy is in charge of a trainload of people with places to go, people to see. He doesn't let them down. Between stations, he doesn't put-put along. The train works like a well-oiled machine (well, it is a machine, but it isn't always well-oiled.) When Mr. Speedy drives, the subway stops blur past. Hold onto whatever you can-- you're on a bullet speeding down the barrel of a gun toward Columbus Circle. After my spaahing, I rode back uptown, and wouldn't you know it? I got Mr. Speedy round-trip! It was my lucky day. I was so relaxed, and Mr. Speedy was so, well, speedy, that I didn't have time to grow impatient before reaching W190th St.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Coughing and Cabin Fever

The weather has turned arctic again. The Pooch's cough has worsened and we have been cooped up all day. The weather was starting to turn several days ago. We were at the dog park and The Pooch looked so much better-- he was trying to tackle a Russian Wolf Hound and playing tug of war with a stick. He had started to climb six flights, to spend the entire night at the foot of the bed without a cough (now accustomed to sleepless nights, I would wake up periodically, disbelieving that his cough had improved). Overjoyed to see his renewed energy, we stayed late. His cough worsened the next day. I have been through this before. This is when I search for an explanation, when I hope for a solution. I have been feeding him raw meat, hoping it might strengthen his immune system. Back when the weather turned, I had run out of meat and gave him canned dog foot. So now I blame it on the canned food, thinking that it's an allergy.  Now we are back to raw meat, steamy bathrooms and chest PT (physical therapy-- pounding on his chest to loosen the mucous). There is slight improvement in the cough. There is major improvement in the nose (nearly dry!) Now he sleeps in the living room-- these sleepless nights have become unbearable for me. I try to remain patient.  An off kilter system requires a long time to recover. Meanwhile, my neighbors give me concerned looks as we huff and puff up the stairs.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Warm evening!

Today I walked home for the first time in months. There was no subway service past W168th St. (the A line has a will of its own to which residents of Washington Heights must submit). The weather felt spring-like, so I didn't mind the inconvenience. Neither did I mind the cement colored skies threatening rain. The clouds could have opened into a flood and I still would have rejoiced at being outside and not hunched against the cold. The mild temperatures continued into the evening, when The Pooch (nose still drippy but improved) went walking in an empty Heather Garden. Why weren't others taking advantage of this night? We stood on the Linden Terrrace, the lights on the George Washington Bridge twinkling in the distance. The wind sang through the trees overhead, and for the first time in weeks stirred up hopes for the future: for the spring when new leaves would canopy the sunset wine tasting held annually on the Linden Terrace, for a softer, more graceful time. For the last few weeks, I had felt like a leper-- a runaway cold sore had spread across my face and sprouted satellites on my body. Maybe it was the stress of cold weather, or the stress of taking care of The Pooch, or some other stress. I had told myself that I was fine, but it had taken a certain toll. Tonight , feeling myself again with my face almost back to normal, the wind on the Linden Terrace felt almost gentle.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Mature Hercules

In the Metropolitan Museum, opposite the Young Hercules, stands the Mature Hercules. His presence has no need to scream at you in the manner of the Young Hercules. After drinking your fill of the young form, you turn to the Mature Hercules and realize that the Young Hercules is a little over the top. The Mature Hercules stands with dignity, a lion's pelt covering his head and forming a cape down his back. His nose, flanked by furrowed cheeks, is crooked from battle. Rather than surveying the room with youthful vigor, the Mature Hercules' gaze points inward. He has already seen things and now examines himself. Still muscle bound (he is Hercules, after all), the muscles have elongated and become leaner. One hand rests on a club, the other on his hip. The light hits him at a softer angle, revealing a calm self assurance. In the shadows hide other layers whose perception requires patience.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Young Hercules

Friday night at the Metropolitan Museum. It was a long weekend and empty. I prefer the Met at such times, especially the Greek and Roman galleries. There I can sit undisturbed and unselfconsciously gawp at the Young Hercules, my favorite statue in the Met. At such times, a hush falls over the courtyard and the fountain trickles a treble concerto, encouraging relaxation. In the evenings, the light plays tricks on the eyes. The shadows accentuate the bulk of the Young Hercules, creating the expectation of seeing his massive pectorals rise in respiration. I advance closer, to make sure that I'm not seeing things, that there isn't really a heart beating under that muscle bound chest. Despite the pock marked torso, the skin still stretches tight over muscles flexed with self assurance. The Young Hercules stands proud and strong despite an obvious defilement rendered by the Victorians (oh, to have seen the Young Hercules in his original form!) His gaze surveys the room, proclaiming the perfection of his body. Always when I enter this courtyard, my eyes dart directly to him. It makes me want to say, "Damn, he's beautiful." If he could, I think the Young Hercules would smile at the compliment.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dog Park

I've been absent from this blog for a long time. Here's why.
Today I went to the dog park with The Pooch. It had been several weeks since our last visit, but the sun was shining, the temperature had finally warmed to a balmy 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and today seemed like the day to go. I went with trepidation. The dog park is set on a hill, and last time we'd gone this hill had been dangerously slick with ice. The real reason, though, is that for over four months my dog has been sick with a cough and runny nose that no amount of cash thrown at wily, money-grubbing veterinarians can solve. His sickness seems to have been hardest to deal with during the last few weeks, and the recent cold snap hasn't helped. Our last visit to the dog park had been on a very cold evening, which seemed to have worsened his lungs. Afterwards The Pooch had coughed all night, and I didn't get a wink of sleep. I feared today's visit would cause a similar fiasco.
I also felt uneasy about the usual Dog Park Denizens. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy talking to most of them. But when some of them start telling me how to take care of my dog, it rubs me the wrong way. They have no idea what I've been through, the money I've spent, how I've cared for and worried over this animal. Today, the runny nose seemed better, but I still feared the judgment of the Dog Park Denizens.
Over the last several months, The Pooch and I (along with the support of a friend) have battled the constant runny nose and hacking cough. We have endured a seizure, weird muscle jerks, and occasional diarrhea and vomiting. We have butted heads with veterinarians eager to make the wrong diagnosis for a quick buck. For the last several weeks, lest the arctic temperatures make his lungs worse, I have been shut inside alone with The Pooch's hacking cough and runny nose. To keep his lungs in shape, we have been walking up and down the stairs in my apartment building. Six flights, three times a day. It has done wonders for my figure. I have been sitting in a steam-filled bathroom, pounding on his chest to loosen the secretions in his lungs. Twice a day. I have been giving him his antibiotics religiously on schedule. Twice a day. I have been refilling the (hot) steam humidifiers with water. Twice a day. I have tried my best to keep my apartment free of dust and dirt. I have given him a special good-for-the-immune-system diet. And vitamins. Twice a day. And still the mucous keeps running out of his nose, still he keeps me up at night with his cough. I am quite simply worn out and exhausted. Last week, I had reached my wits' end, which regretfully caused commotion in my personal life that I'm not sure will be mended.
And then, what happened today? I thought, if The Pooch is not going to get over this, he might as well be happy. So I gave him free reign. I let him eat dirt (the Dog Park Denizens say, don't do that, he can get giardia. I think, if he's doing it, he might need the minerals). I let him chew on sticks. I let him hump whoever and whatever he wished. Today, I might be imagining it, but he seemed more perky. He ran harder and faster than I've seen him run in a long time. Sometimes (again, was it imagination?) he leapt like a spring buck when he ran-- I would like to say gazelle, but that would be hyperbole. He tried to hump a dog three times his size, sitting straddled on the animal's back like he was saddled on a horse. Yes, his nose ran-- but not like last time. I wiped it off with my glove, deciding to blame it on allergies if anyone gave me trouble. Of course he coughed-- but not like last time (I think?) Of course he gagged-- but not like last time?
When he was running with the big dogs, I remembered (sometimes I forget), why I ended up with him. It's because, despite his runny nose, despite his crappy lungs, despite his small size, he doesn't give up. He runs after those big dogs and humps them as if he were in good health and just as big as them. The Pooch has got spirit, not to mention character.
Now The Pooch is lying tuckered out on the carpet. He seems to be breathing easily. For now. There is no runny nose and no cough. For now. But the worry that I live with is that, just when I think he's getting better, he worsens again. It has been breaking my heart as well as my budget.
Some people may think I'm crazy for going through all this for a dog. Why have I done it? Because it gives me joy to see this little soul happy. I have a connection with him, and would do the same for any soul with whom I have a connection, be it animal or human.