Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Dog Days

Apparently it's my year for doggy drama. First losing Izzi in October to a rare heart explosion.

Then my friend Rob asks me to dog-sit for his brother for a month. No problem, right? Sweet dog. Calm. Smart. Chocolate lab -- very soulful eyes.

But he's an escape artist, and soon he and Cleo are out on the town. He returns like a gentleman a day later, strolls right back through the back door as though in from a jaunt.

Cleo takes advantage of the freedom and ROAMS. Flyers and many panic attacks later, I call about a cryptic note on the Animal Services Website: "Female tan pitbull. Age unspecified." Worth a call, right? She's been found by Paul, who sounds nice enough. I describe Cleo, he describes the dog he met, and they don't seem to match up. His mention of the brindle on her belly is particularly disappointing. That's not my sweet girl. He's had her chip read, and it came up with a couple of names from somewhere in the NE heights. Doesn't sound like my dog. But he says, you should come by or else we'll always wonder. Wise man. So I hop on my bike on one of the hottest afternoons of this summer, and haul up to Stanford and Lead -- a good five miles from my house at least. And there she is. All unapologetic smiling girl herself.

Bring her home -- she's all casual. I'm in disbelief but happy -- sooooooo happy. I really didn't think I'd see her again.

The next morning, the dogs are in the front yard. I'm changing to take them for a long Sunday morning hike. Hobbes slips through the picket slats, Cleo follows, I run down screaming at them both, and suddenly, Cleo can't walk on one of her legs. She holds it at an odd angle as she hops around. But it serves her right, right? This will teach her! She'll hobble around for a couple days, and then she'll be fine.

Only she doesn't get better. She can't get comfortable. She's sitting on her knees holding herself up with her front legs. It looks awkward and painful, with her leg crumpled beneath her. I take pity and take her to the vet. They have no time for an appointment, so I drop her off so they can take x-rays when they have a minute during the day.

Bad news: her hip is dislocated, and she'll need surgery. So I try to make her an appointment at the surgery clinic, but of course they can't get her in until the morning. We wait 45 minutes in the lobby, where she can't calm down, and each time she settles, another dog comes along and gets her up and agitated. It takes the surgeon 10 minutes to say there's no hope for reconstruction (it's been too long since the original trauma, which we're still not sure of -- maybe she got hit by a car? No guilt about waiting to take her in. None at all! Gulp.) unless I want to replace her hip altogether for the bargain price of $3700. Ummm... what's the next best option? Cutting off her femur.

What's that? You heard right. They cut off the top of the femur so that the bone no longer comes in contact with the hip. The dog can walk on the leg, but she'll never be able to run normally or for very long. There goes jogging. And one of the reasons I got a dog is to go jogging and feel safe. Guess it's time for yoga! Lots of down dogs. Literally.

So I take her back to my vet, where at least she got good attention and lots of love. In fact, the nurse offered to take her home -- okay actually threatened to steal her -- AFTER I pay for the surgery. That was funny. At least, I think she was kidding. She was. She's the sweetest vet assistant ever. Cheers to the Manzano Animal Clinic. Best vet in town.

But of course they can't do the surgery until tomorrow, so 2.5 hours and 3 car trips later, I take Cleo home, drug her up, and head to work.

Tomorrow's the big day. Say bye bye to cartillage.

I've been telling people I'm going to have to get one of those medical tags that declares her condition so that the next time she escapes whoever finds her will know she's missing a hip and shouldn't run! I can just see Mr. Skateboarding trying to leash her up again for a quick pull and running over her when she falls!

Send us your fastest healing wishes. We'll need them.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Knowing Stories

What stories I know about these people I will share with you.
The stories begin with the men and always end with the women;
that’s the way it is in our family. – Denise Chavez, Face of an Angel

I know no stories,
and the ones whose shadows
seem familiar
were probably lies.

Maybe not lies
but no one in my family
wanted to fess up
about the truth of his or her
own experience

Maybe they just had no faith
in the ability to communicate
what can only be personal
chaos – the randomness
of our days – the crazy
juxtaposition of events –
and the inevitability of an end
that never comes
until it does.

Our family holds secrets
that encompass whole lifetimes
eclipse whole personalities
bury connections of blood
that will never grow beyond family.

We are not friends;
we cannot know each other.

What I know about my family
I take on faith.

The Fortune Cookie

An old dream you thought was lost will reoccur.

And it will slay you
pulled back into old nightmares
you’d killed by never sleeping
pinching the chair to see the moon
every second
without blinking –

Too tight to follow cases that lift above security lights
empty pockets
unlace your shoes
and walk with bowed head
through our century’s gothic arches

We lift off
fingers gripping
shared armrests
that assert and question
our personal space

We race to visit cultures more exotic
than our own

When in foreign markets
that dream you once thought lost
glistens to you
from between naranjas

It picks you up in seedy bars
limbos under your expectations
gathers limbs reaching to capture a moment
before the worst had already happened to you –

This dream, growing slowly
in the black light
of back-yard, drug-store hothouse
seems as simple to you now
as it did then
with room to spare
for everything that doesn’t come easy.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Thesis Check-in

My library books are all overdue. Can't imagine why. I've had some of them checked out since 2004. Not kidding.

Right now, I'm reading about the importance of culture to identity in a little book with a great title: Cultures, Communities, Identities : Cultural Strategies for Participation and Empowerment. The title's better than the book, which focuses on community art and theatre in creating identity. Good in its own right if you're interested in those things. For me, I really want the physical design/place aspect, which is missing from this book.

The other thing is a discussion in urban geography about how to delimit communities within urban areas. This is a rather central question to my thesis, but in a method backward from the discussion in the book. The book says, how can you find sub-areas within a city? They're there, but how do you know when you've properly defined them so that you can study them separately? My thesis asks, how can a community delimit itself so that it can BECOME a sub-area within a city? How do they go about setting themselves off? Is it enough to give themselves a name? Do they have to make physical changes? Is there an empirical reason to become a sub-area, other than the simple fact that they want to be? Maybe the sub-areas in this sub-area should be delimited, instead.

The basic question is still about the relationship between place and identity in a North Valley neighborhood. Which comes first? Which is most important to this community? How can one serve to create the other? Basically, I'm taking the position that you can’t just jump to identity. This neighborhood wants to declare an identity (in this case a district name), thinking that that will help create place. I say they have some work to do first and foremost to organize themselves and make sure everyone has a voice in the process and secondly to enhance the built environment to reflect the kind of place they want this to eventually be.

In a slight aside and in reference to a comment my very smart friend Cassy made when I last posted about the thesis (in February -- ahem), I found a great article by Sudhir Venkatesh about Chicago's neighborhood names. Chicago is one of the most-studied cities in the world. In the early 20th century, the University of Chicago sent out an army of researchers to "discover" the neighborhoods in Chicago and begin gathering data on them over time in Community Fact Books that came out every year. All of that is standard knowledge. What you don't hear much about is how the researchers chose the names for many of the neighborhoods, or adjusted the boundaries, based on their own preferences or in order to fit the data already gathered or simply data-gathering in the future. Then the head researchers, Burgess and Park, spent a lot of time and energy getting the names accepted by the communities, by the city, by the businesses (especially white pages -- which they got separated by neighborhood), and finally -- by the U.S. Census Bureau. Originally, the census had its own neighborhood designations for Chicago, but Burgess and Park convinced them to use their delineations in order to facility their own data gathering down the road. And for the most part, their efforts have paid off. Now these neighborhood names and boundaries are institutionalized and exist to this day.

So it can be done. Names can create places (with help from natural boundaries like roads and landscape features). The question remains: should it be done in this case of a neighborhood at the crossroads of 4th and Montano?

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

"Speaking of Gabriel" -- Rosario Castellenos

This from a beautiful book called These are not sweet girls, an anthology of Latin American women poets.

Speaking of Gabriel

Like all guests my son got in the way
taking up a space that was my space,
existing at all the wrong times,
making me divide each bite in two.

Ugly, sick, bored,
I felt him grow at my expense,
steal the color from my blood, add
clandestine weight and volume
to my way of being upon the earth.

His body begged for birth, begged me to let him pass,
allot him his place in the world,
and the portion of time he needed for his history.

I agreed. And through the wound of his departure,
through the hemorrhage of his breaking free,
the last I ever felt of solitude, of myself
looking through a pane of glass, also slipped away.

I was left open, an offering
to visitations, to the wind, to presence.