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Me and Bark McGee – my invisible dog

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It was a good day for a dog walk and a good place to be walking an invisible dog. “Spenard”  was where I was told I belonged when I landed in a Mountainview hostel in 1997. I have lived in a duplex apartment on the Valley of the Moon edge of Spenard for twelve years with a spinning carousel of roommates, some of whom move up and down and some of whom are of the more staid chariot types.  We have all mourned not being able to have a dog in our house. We have hidden guest dogs from our landlord at times but have always been found out when the need to find a tree became clear. And so I adopted Bark McGee, an albino, six foot long, 6 inch tall dachhund.

I would like to thank #MimeSpenard for the opportunity to show Bark the light of day. He has been a housedog, licking up cheap pork grease, spilled granola and discarded body parts, (mostly hair and fingernails), for too long.  I felt it important to dress well when taking a dog like Bark on a big adventure. We are both long so I opted for stripes. I cut open one of those tubular striped cotton blend scarves and slid him in clipping out holes for his legs and found some complementary striped apparel for myself. I applied some face paint to make myself look even paler to match his complexion and also to prevent more age spots. Note to self: Next time bring the face paint to the hairline so I don’t get an oval of sunburn framing said face.

Here I am.

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One of my friends noted, “You look like a young Florence Henderson.”  That was enough to make me decide to take Bark out next week as well. Without makeup I am usually  compared to the late, great James Cromwell, otherwise known as the farmer in Babe.

 

Here is  Bark.

 

 

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Here are some of our adventures.

It was Sunday and hot. The first people I saw, barely, as I was not wearing my glasses, were calling to us from across the street.

” Archie! Archie”, they called.  A guy biked over and asked if I was Archie. I shook my head and he explained that Archie was a really tall Native friend of his who was going to be a mime. He patted Bark.

His friends yelled over, “I told you that wasn’t Archie.”

The gentleman on the bike asked me again. I sort of mimed that I had the curves of a woman but then realized that Archie could just as easily have these. The biker’s pals on the bench patted Bark when we greeted them and we walked on.  This was the first time that I noticed that Spenard has virtually no trees.  The only thing that saves Spenard from being Muldoon is that it curves around quite a bit in remembrance of its farming past. Although once I saw a youngster wearing a “Straight out of Muldoon” tee shirt and realized that Muldoon would not be as forgiving a place to walk an invisible dog.

I walked past the windows of the Northern Lights mall and saw some joyous toddlers running towards me.  Then one stopped and screamed, one of those long, loud screams like they pay you to do in the movies. The father shook his head and tried to explain the concept of an invisible dog to him. This did not help. I scooted by.

We ambled past the Spenard Road House and took in the very nonchalant crowd who barely looked up from their cell phones to greet us.  I took this as an existential warning. Never check or post to social media when in public. Photo taking is okay but remember you are not a movie star, no one really cares about your changing hair or what you ate as much as you do. Enough said.

We had the most fun meeting bicyclists and other dogs. Bark, like any high spirited pup, lunges at fast moving objects and living things. I had to restrain him unless we got permission to meet and greet. The bicyclists are very thankful that you have restrained your animal and the dogs, of course are delighted to check out the smells of another collared creature.

Next stop was The Bike Shop where the helpful staff aided me in purchasing some grips without me so much as opening my mouth.  We decided to follow the detour linking Northern Lights to Benson since that part of Spenard was unearthed. I remembered that I needed some Linseed oil so we stopped in at Blaines. What a wonderful source of artistic inspiration for Spenard.  I have visited many times but have never caught the café open, even the drinks looked inspiring. I  have yet to save my money for the water based oil paints so linseed oil it is.

It was indeed getting hot so we crossed over Benson to the pawn shop and took in the air conditioning and fine selection of inexpensive dvds. There was a nice keyboard for $59 but I did not bring a credit card. That was probably all for the best. A mom kept encouraging her daughter to come over and greet  Bark but she was having nothing of it. That’s okay, Bark is not too sensitive. He embodies the ideal of giving without expecting to receive and taking nothing personally. One has to be like that when one is an extra long invisible hot dog.

Up ahead, in front of a lonely parking lot, I spied an entrepreneur selling lemonade. I could hardly restrain my measured mime footfalls.  I believe I was her first customer and she took my speechlessness in stride. Real thirst trumps miming beverages and so I marched on until coming upon another speechless soul who appeared to need a beverage as well. This Spenardian was beautiful beyond belief but with ethereal nature which may be the result of hunger and addiction. She had take out food and sat on a shaded curb to eat. It was then I noticed the nature of the takeout, from the universal street side distributer. I backtracked for more lemonade to help her digest her feast. It was gratefully received and I moved on.

We next took a trip to the wild side by stopping in at Dankorage where we were most graciously carded. They had a great card game called “Drunk, Stoned or Stupid” that I will have to return to buy. It’s the first pot shop I’ve been in which actually had edibles in stock but once again I was lucky not to have a credit card handy.

On our way home we stopped in at Anchorage House of Hobbies where we were kindly directed to the upstairs where there were even more fascinating items for sale. The children downstairs were more interested in mechanicals then dogs so with some effort we negotiated the stairs and fell in love once more with Rock ’em Sock ’em Robots.

Last stop of the day was a yard sale where the proprietor insisted I wait while he got his camera which was somewhere in the house. Meanwhile the proprietress insisted that I was going to charge him for taking a photo because “That’s how mimes make a living.” I begged to disagree and had her take a photo of me with my camera instead. Meanwhile a boy in diapers tumbled out of another garage to greet Bark. He approached, Bark approached, he retreated, Bark retreated. Finally I had to pick up Bark and exchange licks to convince him that Bark was really sweet.

Me  and Bark at the sale.

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Please ignore the shadow. The sun does not know how to deal with invisible dogs.

Our last real Spenardian encounter was back at the bus bench where our previous bicycled acquaintance pulled up and asked if I wanted to share his edibles. I politely declined fearing that their might be sexual strings attached but mimed an empty stomach instead.

On a high note as it were, we travelled home via Westchester Lagoon where one little girl demanded that Bark sit, beg and rollover and Bark got to interact with many of his canine kind who are not very judgemental.

I learned on my trip that it would be fun to do this again with other owners of invisible dogs. Maybe we could go to the new dog park at Arctic & 30th! Despite the lack of trees, Spenard is beautiful because of its people, the beautiful sky and the lovely intersection of art and commerce.  I hope that folks realize that even on a Sunday where backhoes and blockades sit upon the upturned earth like steel conquerors that Spenard  still lives. Come and visit. Bring your imaginary guide dog who will free you from the fear of being a stranger in a strange land. Come with me next Sunday for another adventure. Meet at Hillcrest and Spenard at 12 noon or at the dog park on Arctic and 30th at 12:45.

 

 

 

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Do I live to make people laugh and is that sad?

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I just got back from vacation with a not to be named relative who fears their identity will be kidnapped and held for ransom baked in kitty litter. We were in Waikiki which is beautiful even if though it is full of human beings. Many of those humans were also on vacation which means they were having fun or supposed to be doing so.

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Come in thin, leave Fluffier! That’s the Aloha spirit.

My not so distant relative was appalled at my habit of cavorting in the elevator. The hotel was about 80 percent full of visitors from Japan. They would innocently pile in on their way to or from the free breakfast not expecting a six foot tall lady in a pink hat to pretend to shrink in size as the floors went down or grow as they rose. They did not expect dancing or bird calls but these were included gratis. Some people chuckled or danced a bit if there was any room. Most people looked down. That just made me want to roll around on the floor. I kept thinking “Snakes on a Plane!”, “Clowns in an Elevator.” Clowning is a universal language best practiced when a language barrier is present.  It is important to communicate to people that they are in the elevator with a crazy person and should exit promptly.

Today, I’m back in Anchorage and  saw this gentleman out painting.

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Which would you prefer? A clown in the elevator or a mime painting your business?

I was not really motivated to go on a bike ride but I’m glad I did. Riding against the wind, passing baby geese and tourists covered in similar fleece I was excited to see the meter which counts the bikes that pass Westchester Lagoon log my passage. I biked around the triangle turnaround to see if the number had increased and found two other folks trying to figure it out. They observed that kids on bikes had not triggered the counter although I had, so it was not emotional age which was a problem.  We finally decided that it was magic. Then something set off a flight of about 60 gulls and I cried “The Birds, The Birds!’ as I leapt on my bike and set off screaming.

I like having the power to create something out of nothing. I especially enjoy creating a moment,( some relatives might call it a scene), that will make a great future story.  My look alike relative is not always averse to this idea. For instance, they were not familiar with the idea of “Aloha Friday” where people in Hawaii wear their Aloha gear to work, a reminder of the laid back welcome of Island culture and the coming of the weekend.

We both jumped into and out of the above mentioned hotel elevator and onto  the streets of Waikiki yelling, “Happy Aloha Friday!” to everyone we saw.  This cleared quite a path in front of us. We are tall, loud and very white.  We sounded drunk. I don’t think anyone said a word back to us but we made ourselves laugh. Yelling “Aloha” is like screaming “I love you”, probably not the most common approach.

I have very few silly photos of Hawaii only because I don’t like taking pictures as much as I used to with my old brownie camera. Here is a photo of a mask from The Honolulu Museum of Art which I feel is a fine resemblance of me.

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My doppelganger pointed out that my nose seems to be growing longer. I parried that my face was just receding, like the glaciers. My appetite for humor is still healthy and I find still find beauty in strange places. This is a great quality to build as age demands we let go of conventional understandings of life and love.  Here is one of my favorite photos of our trip. This is the look I am going for as I get older. I don’t think it’s a sad bicycle or a funny one but it’s different and it wants attention. That’s not so bad.

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Some dubious accomplishments since we last spoke

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My 40th high school reunion is approaching at the speed of a Presidential error in judgement. I have compiled a list of recent accomplishments to remind myself, and everyone else, that I am not a failure. I am the best. I am the greatest.

Just today, no lie, I won the pie eating contest at work! At 57 years old you might think I would have been outclassed by the many young folks competing but I have a very large mouth and really like vanilla pudding.  Never choose the chocolate pie, the flavor is too distracting. I was a bit distracted myself when the judge noted that my boss was pulling ahead. I then decided that breathing was not that important to me.

Also a few weeks ago I completed a theatrical performance where I had to shoot someone in the head on stage. Previously I have drugged children or cut them down with a wooden sword but this was my first time pulling a trigger. In real life, I am a notorious peacenik who  left a very lucrative employment situation at a military installation because I made myself sick. It is more difficult in real life to swallow one’s morals than it is on stage.

I am not a fan of guns and was the only one in the production to actually drop mine on the floor in rehearsal. But I managed to pull off this role because I was not myself, but a character. Even though  people call me a “character” there is a slight difference between being a character actor and a character. I am what they call a “double threat” when it comes to theatre. I would be a “triple threat” if I could dance without resembling a praying mantis doing an Irish jig.

Other grand accomplishments – I have now sung  “At the Cross, At the Cross, Where I first saw the light and the burdens of my heart rolled away…” more times than I have heard the song “We are the World” played on the radio. My previous record for singing the same song over and over would be  “Matchmaker, Matchmaker” which I sang twice a day for a whole summer. Before that I believe I sang the role of Miss Mazeppa in “The Strippers song” from Gypsy nightly for a couple of summers in my backyard.

Last year I managed to get into an elevator wearing stilts.  This year I became addicted to the show “Victorian Slum House.” It is still a bit cold for stilts in Alaska but never too cold to watch people eating eels and trotters or trying to sleep in the doss house.

Oh I also slid into a telephone pole this winter in the company van, ripping off the handle to the wheelchair lift, effectively stranding a number of disabled people. Luckily, I have very nice co-workers who coordinated a rescue and mending of the handle. Did I mention that I did not have to take a drug test after this accident but did have to take a drug test after I got run over by a wheelchair?  I think this has to do with the idea of workman’s comp but still, what a waste of a drug test.

I tried frozen Russian cream cheese bars this year. Yummy! I have managed to avoid all flavors of Oreo cookies over the last few decades even though there are more of them springing up each month.

Mostly I am proud of having kept my sense of humor and my appetite, at least on most days.  Now time to break into my prize for winning the pie eating contest – a banana cream pie!

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This is what a winner looks like! Note the use of hairnet and plastic garbage bag vest. Napkin is placed in lap. Mouth appears to be full but plate is decidedly empty.

 

 

 

What to do about The President

Just for a change, I’m going to give you the title of this painting—The Princess picking lice from the Troll—because I don’t think that knowing what it’s about will be too much of a limitation. Why a princess is sitting in a darkened room picking lice out of a troll’s fur is up to you. […]

via Sunday Strange microfiction challenge — Jane Dougherty Writes

 

My response:

You’re so vain. Let’s give up this charade. Not that shaving your head will help your brain but it may improve your image and that’s what you care about isn’t it? I understand that you can’t trust anyone but your family to help you rule but what if you actually hired a competent hairdresser? Is that too much to ask? It’s hard being a princess these days and I could use a tiny office in The White House to get my thoughts together. Just think about it.

Another idea. Maybe if you didn’t mess around with every person who annoys you, you might not be in such a tangle. You’re coming across as a troll, up all night monitoring the net for fake news. The more you lie to combat perceived slights, the more wild your hair gets. Every evening it takes me a longer time to straighten you out. Pretty soon, it will be beyond me.

Did you ever see the play “Bloody, Bloody Andrew Jackson?” I highly recommend it. Meanwhile, can we do this somewhere besides your dungeon? It smells of Democrats down here.

My incredible stint as an mature model

 

I’m having a hard time lately with auditions. As I get older, I know what I want and where I fit in.  Most of the time I have to make up my own opportunities. I went to a film audition the other day and asked to audition for one of the many male characters as I often do because they are usually less one dimensional. Even as a clown, I take my art seriously.

This modeling opportunity presented itself as a chore no one else wanted. Basically I volunteered to play an elderly patient who could not identify herself and needed help eating. We were helping Certified Nursing Assistant students practice their skills. Here I am pondering my meal tray.

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Sometimes people with Alzheimer’s and other dementias can do many things for themselves. Sometimes they cannot. The CNA’s had to practice not making assumptions and practicing good hygiene.  One thing I enjoyed is that they all basically talked aloud about everything they were doing. This is something I do in order to remember steps and to help the person understand and be able to give consent.

 “May I come in?” “Would you like a clothing protector?” “Would you like any assistance with that?”, “I’m going to put your bed in a position so you can eat.” “I’ll leave your call button here if you like.” These were all great prompts I heard. My part didn’t require much but I added small things to put the person at ease like saying “thank you” when they provided me with care. I exaggerated my shaky hands when eating and  did try to  help them out a little bit if they forgot something. For instance, I would say “Oh no, I’m spilling on my new pants” if they forgot to offer me a clothing protector. Sometimes I got a little goofy and asked them if they wanted to sing with me.

There was some weird chocolate rice hazelnut bar that was on the lunch tray. I would stick it in my belt after the meal to see if they recorded it as eaten or not. I soon began fantasizing about actually eating it and wound up taking it home with me. I consider that my payment. Here is my co-worker Jenny who did the judging for the enactment. I finally got to eat instead of just feigning it.

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We are birds of a feather, both a little kooky and dedicated to fun. The other enactments in our room involved processing a discharge and taking vital signs. They were much quieter folks but when they weren’t busy they would laugh at us.

Tomorrow I will go to an audition for a play about The Irish Uprising of 1916. I’m interested in this because it is supposed to be a working class perspective of the event. The majority reaction in Ireland is documented to be negative as there was little working class buy in to what was largely a project of the intellectuals of the time. It was a confused and confounded effort but was largely successful in galvanizing an independence movement because of the British decision to martyr the leaders. Even if there is no part for me, I hope I will learn something and have more fun.

I judge myself for not wanting to audition for stereotypical older female characters but life is short. My contribution to feminism is to resist conformity and expand expectations. I believe that is the challenge of artists and all those who are curious about humanity. It’s difficult not to want approval and security. I succumb to this everyday in terms of my anxieties about  work, relationships and the meaning of life. Luckily I live in Alaska where nature rules and human must be humble and creative to survive.

My roommates and I have a new project, the kazoo band. We have about 15 kazoos. It will be time to really celebrate spring when the trails get plowed in a couple of weeks. We are going to organize a flash mob of sorts to meet at Westchester lagoon and march to the nearest bridge playing popular tunes. The whole neighborhood will be invited to bring improvised instruments and dress in antic attire.  So far our playlist includes such classics as Row, Row, Row your Boat, Three Blind Mice and Losing my Religion by U2.  More details to come!

 

Spring Forsakenings

Most people look forward to spring. To people with mood issues and to people who live in Anchorage, it’s just another day in Mar a Lago but without the green, the golf and, thank God, the president.

My winter was okay, plenty of cross country skiing and skating, employment, fun. When spring comes to Alaska the winter sports end and the waiting begins. Waiting for summer because spring is a mess just like my head.  This photo sums it up.life.png

This is what snow looks like after the spring plowing exposes it to the light. Layers  of  snowflakes crushed  into prickly ice mixed with months of dirt. That’s what I feel like right now. More like layers of ice cream crushed into bitterness mixed with months of black mood morsels.

Spring cheer is not based on a date or on the return of sunlight. It’s rooted in hope and opportunity.  I like to go on walks but this is what greets me.

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Icy hills North or South are my only alternatives. Deathtrap. Stay inside. Eat. Mope

But if I do I miss the view at the top.

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Or what’s on the other side.

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The little birds are back despite the ice. The geese and gulls are waiting. The actually greening will occur in early May over one short week. Until then I will keep my car plugged in and trudge on.

 

Jesus ain’t got nothin on me

This is a painting that’s odd if you don’t know anything about it, so I’m not going to give anything away. I like it for itself, and I’m sure it will suggest some dream-like writing.

via Sunday Strange microfiction challenge — Jane Dougherty Writes

I began doing Quigong off the Coastal Trail some years ago. I’m not a very grounded person.  Supposedly all the movements follow the breath and I would become more whole and integrated with daily practice.

Then I took it too far. I  kept breathing in such a mindful way that I popped the buttons off my jeans and had to switch to wearing a toga. I began to expel large amounts of gas because of my overly mindful breathing. The gas propelled me off the ground and I began to float over the water.

All I could think of was where are all those microwave cameras now? This must be how Jesus did it.  No one would believe me anyway because they’ll think I’m just using special effects like in Swiss Army Man.

That’s when I hit the water. I have since realized that if I can maintain mindful breathing, avoid gluten and negative people then  I can walk on water and my farts smell like ice cream.  But I can’t wear shoes, especially ones with marking black soles.  Bad karma.

I would suggest you try this at home in the safety of your own bathtub. Work your way up to a wading pool before you get over your head. It’s not easy being holier than everyone else but it’s lots of fun.