Archive for October, 2007

crazy guy

Posted in Shouldn't have happened on October 13, 2007 by samsondoggie

It was just after Rosie came home that I had “The Incident with the Dog and the Guy at Night.”

Before I tell this story, let me set the context. My daughter is a very light sleeper. Maybe its a product of how she came into the world. I do not know. But heavy tooth brushing is often enough to wake her up. And yet, she lives in a house with one the barking-est dogs around. When we got Samson, they told us he had one issue. They called him “Sir Yaps-A-Lot.” Because, he barks so much.

So, if you make noise, you might wake up Rosie. And that will unsettle Susie. And if you make enough noise to get Samson’s attention, everyone is going to wake up.

Back to my story: There was this guy.

He would let his dog roam all over our yard at night. It happened again and again. Every time it happened, it woke up Samson. I guess it mattered because then Samson would wake us up. It was always the same: I’d look out the window. There’d be some guy just lolling around in the street.

One night, I decided that I had taken enough of this.

The “guy” was outside on the street. He was tall and skinny. He was standing in a shadow, outside of the pools of light cast by the street lamps. He had on jeans and some sort of synthetic polyester vest. The kind of thing you might get at REI. He had a leash in his hand. So I guess he had picked our yard out, for special, to let his dog roam free.

I could not see his dog, but Samson was yelping and barking. It was way after midnight. I threw on a pair of jeans, went downstairs, and out into the front yard.

Our yard is terraced. There is a front porch, then an intermediate level, and then the street level. I stood on the intermediate landing, about twenty feet away.

“What are you doing? Are you crazy? Do you know what time it is?” I shouted.

Now I could see that his dog was in fact up on the middle terrace, about forty feet into our yard, doing his business in our ivy.

I was more energized than I would have expected. Maybe it’s different when you are on your own home turf. Whatever it was, I was not holding back.

“Why don’t you go s*** your dog on your own yard?” I asked him, speaking in a voice loud enough so that my neighbors could understand the nature of this confrontation.

I was fighting the good fight. It wasn’t just me against ‘this guy.’ It was me against the people who don’t bag their poop, against the huns who trample on the efforts of people to have nice homes, who flout good manners…

“Go home!” I was hot. “You know, while you are at it, bagging your own poop in your own yard, you ought to think about doing it during the day. Because a lot of people are sleeping at night.”

The guy was really defensive. “I do have a job,” was all he would say, in kind of a reedy voice, as he called his dog and left.


For about 18 months, we have been planning to redesign our kitchen. It is a great project. We are going to double its size by moving our eating area out onto the back porch. We have a good architect. We have come up with a great kitchen cabinet scheme with the staff at orange big box.

The orange big box designer is named Michael. He’s in the AIA. He’s kind of distractable, though. But he spends lots of time, and somewhat effectively, working to make little things better in a cabinet plan. Right now he is designing a place in our kitchen to hold our dog bowls. How great is that?

Susie is driving home. Michael calls her on the cell phone.

“Susie,” he says, “I am on my lunch break. I was thinking it would be great to see your kitchen, to get a better idea of the space.”

Orange big box does not send designers out to homes. Rather, they have an assistant photograph the kitchens and then the designers draft plans with the pictures. Its not a great system.

“That would be great,” says Susie. “Do you know where we live?”

She tries to spell it out for him, but its clear that he actually understands without much in the way of directions.

“I used to live there!” he says. “I used to walk my dog there all the time. Which house are you? Are you beside the crazy guy with the dog?”

“Kevin doesn’t have a dog,” says Susie. Kevin is the only guy on our side of the street who is young enough to be labeled “crazy” in a semi-threatening way. The rest of the ones nearby are women or 95-year old men.

“Are you beside that white house on the hill?” he asked.

“No,” says Susie, “we are the white house on the hill.”At that moment, Susie turned into the driveway in our backyard. The wheels hit the gravel. Rosie woke up.

“I have to get off the phone, Michael,” she says.

I guess its fortunate, at least for the flow of the conversation, that I am standing in the backyard. She hands the phone to me.”Talk to Michael about how to get to our house,” she says.

She’s a bit exasperated. I want to ask — why is Michael coming over?

“Adam,” says Michael, “we’re talking about how to get to your home.” There is an edge to his voice.

“We are the white house.”

“Adam,” says Michael. “Did you ever remember a time when there was someone out in the yard, at night, with a dog?”

I do remember that time. I still remember the guy, or at least his frame. How could I forget that moment. I sometimes talk about it, because it was an unusual moment.

For Michael to mention it, though, forces me to examine the possibilities of his question.

I feel dread. I like Michael. I have enjoyed learning about the difference in stains, wood finishes, maple or cherry, knobs, and all of the other details that make a kitchen work on a design level. Now I realize that I knew him before, in a compromising way.

Now we can laugh about it. Its just one of the wrinkles in our kitchen project. I told our contractor about the situation. He said that in his neighborhood, people get shot for doing things like that at night in other people’s yards. I think it bothered Michael a lot, because he did have bags.


Big Changes

Posted in literally happened on October 8, 2007 by samsondoggie

I am the person behind the big new renovation in our kitchen.

There was a time when we were keeping the measuring cups on top of the microwave, in the corner behind the dinner table. Not any longer! Now the measuring cops are on top of the range.

That was my idea.

People ask ‘what else is going on?’ The thing I have to let them know about first and foremost, after the cups, is that John has learned to ride his bike. I know how these things are supposed to work. Fall down, get up, fall down again, but sooner or later it all pays off. Except that it wasn’t that way. John had some training wheels, but they made it difficult to ride. So we took them off. From that moment on, John rode his bike. He took a four mile ride the next day. This past weekend, he went five miles.

He has also suddenly become tall. If you are a parent, or the friend of one, then you are probably familiar with the height and weight indices that are adjusted for age. Well, John came home at around 20 percent in both. In a few years of regular meals, he’s at 80 percent now in both.

Kathy Mason is here. Kathy’s community, once known as the Bruderhof but now referred to more vaguely (and more like a sign outside the gate of a housing development) as “The Community at Platte Clove,” decided to send her down for ten days. We have been sharing candy bags, lemon curd, cheese danishes and Rummikub.

I am glad to be your Darlin’

Posted in hit bull win steak on October 1, 2007 by samsondoggie

Rose Post retired from the Salisbury Post, after 56 years, on Friday.

Rose will not be an idler. She still plans to work about 8 or 10 hours a week. She intends to write a book, too. Her mother worked at Zimmerman’s until she was 89. By that measure, Rose has a while to go.

She has a lot of stories to tell. The City of Salisbury is going to have a luncheon in her honor tomorrow. Four mayors will recount their favorite Rose Post stories.

I know someone will tell the story about writing a first person narrative about being target practice for a local archer. Someone will talk about her series that led to changes in the state laws that protect children. I think the City Council wants her to discuss covering integration.

There is a great story in the Sunday Post by Emily Ford. Rose is one of her heroes. She remembers that the best lesson Rose taught her was to always read. It helps you to keep a hold of a piece of yourself.

I have heard a lot of writers tell me that Rose made a difference to them. She makes people believe in themselves. But there was a catch. She made you believe in your ability to get the job done if you tried.

When I was just out of graduate school (the first time), Rose set me straight. I was trying to make a few dollars by making portraits of a few classes of the local day care.

This, by the way, was before digital cameras. They had this process where you used a bit of plastic emulsion with some silver on it. Really! And sometimes you had to get wet with these poisonous chemicals that made you dizzy after a few hours. And sometimes you didn’t see the pictures for hours or even longer. And you could get dust everywhere, and all you could do about it was to paint on top of the picture with some bluish-gray ink. Seriously!

But I digress.

I charged $7 for a 5 by 7 and $10 for an 8 x 10. I was making the prints on spec and bringing them to the parents when it was time to pick up the kids. Anyway, one mother liked the pictures enough to ask me to come over to her house and make some Christmas portraits of her kids in nice clothes.

The prints came out great. I mean, they were poppin’. Sepia hues and just a perfect bokeh. But, we hadn’t discussed prices too explicitly. I kind of thought that $17 for coming out to her house was a bit on the low side. I sort of felt like they came out so great that I should charge her a sitting fee.

Rose had an opinion about that.

“You did a good job,” she said. “But that shouldn’t be a surprise. You have a lot of talent. You are a smart young man.”

She paused, put her phone book back next to phone, and turned around to face me. It was her kitchen. It was tidy. It was her turn to talk. She took a sip of a cup of coffee, her fingers clasping a set of keys on a large round key chain. Anyway, I was dating her daughter. I needed to keep my mouth shut.

Dory was quiet, too.

“Darlin’, why are you going to charge her extra because things came out well?” I could hear some traffic on Innes Street. But not much else. She looked at me, real close. “I think you should be glad to get a chance for the work.”

Well, she was right. I got my $17. I got more than $17.

Susie said it well, “If mom is writing a story on deadline, or if she is making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, she never thinks its perfect and she’s always working hard to make it better.”

I admit its not that simple. The town is saying goodbye and the reasons are complicated. Will there be another one like her at the Post? Maybe or maybe not.

And, there is some sadness here for Rose. She is leaving something that she has loved for so long. Some people have a job and its work and sometimes it’s not fun. I think Rose is ready to pick up her notebook and tell as many stories as she has time left. She still wants to do it for its own sake. She never did it for the $17.

The other day I had lunch in Salisbury. What was surprising was that the people I ate with, Claude and Anne from Kannapolis, did not actually know Rose. That caught me off guard. Then again, Claude’s career with Cannon Mills took him to New York and Chicago. And an executive with the mill was hardly the first focus of Rose’ attention.

No, her heart was in a different place. She would have been with the scores of workers, living in those factory row houses, drinking Cheerwine, rooting for the Hornets on Friday nights. Rose knows that we’re all kind of like that factory worker: if you could see inside the pockets of the coat we’re wearing, we’ve got our fingers crossed hoping that our best is going to be good enough.

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