GUS

September 2009 – March 2021

In the beginning he was Mr. Brown, the color of his yarn collar. The first time I met Mr. Brown, easily the largest of the litter, he lumbered up, crawled in my lap, all over me, chewed the knees of my jeans, jerked his head up like he’d just awakened, ambled over into a corner of the large concrete slab greet-the-puppies pen where he dropped a hefty deuce. He walked past me and we shared a head nod acknowledgement of a job well done. He waited for all the other puppies to climb up on the dog hammock before he climbed through them and collapsed on top of the pile. Done. I knew I didn’t need another dog, but knew I needed this one, knew his name was Gus before he got old enough to come home.

To make that work for the breeder he became Kenwell’s Run Free Saint Augustin.

Gus was a product of an oops litter at the breeders. No, not a puppy mill, but an AKC Irish Setter Breeder of Merit. I say that to keep any would-be Animal Rights Activists out of Gus’s story. A story that has been in the gel process for a while.

Is that a ball out there?

I wanted to tell the messy and often comical stories of his reaction to stress being to pinch a loaf. Or two or… He was an 85 pound Irish. He shit like a horse. In the vet’s office, in my Jeep, at the St. Francis blessing of the pets…

But that wasn’t his real story. Or his real gift. He was known as my heart attack dog, although I never had a heart attack. I had inexplicable (to this day) blood pressure that could have run a road grader. No blockage, no plaque. Just pressure. I was still freaked out, dealing with all that mortality junk without an answer 5 months after the fact when I met Gus. When he got big enough, which didn’t take long, he’d jump on the bed, stretch out longways next to me, breathe all over my face with dog breath that would peel paint. I couldn’t get angry with anything that glad to see me.

He learned, sort of, some leash manners and as for years with one dog or another, sometimes two or three, we’d head off on the morning two-miler.

Gus the Graduate

I hooked a setter with radical rambling tendencies to Gus. It was like finding a mobile anchor. Chester would dive bomb a squirrel or a bunny or a tulip, hit the end of the short leash, fly up in the air, come back *splat* shake it off and Gus wouldn’t flinch, he’d just keep on. He was solid that way. In fact when I hear the phrase “do/did me a solid” I think of Gus. He did us all a solid just being himself.

When he was about five or six years old he got seizures. An 85 pound dog in the throes of a seizure is frightening, heartbreaking, confusing… We tried vet after vet trying to get him some help. At last we got a vet who was all vet and not chrome and glass and little Muffy specific. We put him on Kepra XR. After more, but smaller seizures the real vet landed on Kepra XR 750, twice a day and 2.5 phenobarbitals. 1 in the morning, 1.5 at night.

Now, if that was me I’d be so fucked up I couldn’t hit the ground with my hat. And there I was, on my own load of RHBP meds feeling sorry for myself. In the throes of his early seizures he lost some control of his right back leg. According to the vet there was nothing physically wrong with it. No torn muscles, no breakage. One of the seizures snapped something upstairs. It didn’t seem to phase him.

Don’t sweat the small stuff. When you’re this big it’s ALL small stuff.

And that’s what I learned, what we can all learn from Gus. For seven years he’d play ball till he or I dropped. He out-paced everyone on the walk. When it was down to him and me every morning he dropped the nonsense and walked a straight line (in a hurry). Up until the day he said, “I’m done” he got up every morning and gave being a dog everything he had and never missed a step.

Old Gus and Ubiquitous Ball

How many of us waste too much time on how sick we are(‘nt), the pills or “responsibilities” we endure, how pitiful we decide our situations are and here’s this damn dog, more fucked up than a squat junkie, ready for the game. Every minute of every day giving ‘dog’ his best shot. It’s embarrassing, you know?

He was the Gentle Giant that pooped when he was scared, greeted me with a slobbery tennis ball and an 85 pound lean against my thighs, had a ridiculously thick undercoat that made him look, and often smell, like BigFoot. And most days I still miss him like a leg.

Dogs don’t live long enough, the good ones are irreplaceable and take a piece of our hearts with them. So Gussie, old buddy, this one’s for you. If I’m lucky, and half what you thought I was I’ll see you again. If not, thanks for knowing when to chill regardless, blowing all of my unfounded fears over what is beyond my control out of the water with a tennis ball, a leash and an indefatigable, undruggable joy for life. For showing me a new morning full of zoo breath every day instead of one just like yesterday’s.

If your puppy bed’s too small but it makes you feel good, sleep in it.

SURPRISE!

Paxton Smith – “The Hot Girl” is No Longer a Myth

Six years ago I wrote a book. Make that several. They chronicled the life of a young, angry, would-be “Feminist”, “Women’s Rights Advocate”, “Libber” named Deanna Collings. Then #metoo hit and it felt opportunistic to let go of a what amounted to a coming of age fairy tale with a cast of female characters from sledge hammer moms to the interns working for a pair of rich, powerful lesbian fairy godmothers. And the evolution of an eventual boyfriend.

A number of people told me no such girl existed. Or that she wouldn’t behave the way she did, or swear like her brother or be such a romantic or drive like Danica Patrick or know how to hotwire her brother’s old motorcycle. Or be a cool and klutzy ex-cheerleader, pretty and smart, risky in some ways and not in others. I quit listening because 95% of Deanna Collings is a patchwork quilt of the same people who told me she wasn’t all that.

However one beta reader, a middle school teacher, mentioned seeing a Deanna type pass through every couple of years and hoped they made it without being waylaid by pitfalls from bad boyfriends to Stepford Syndrome, things Deanna and other female characters encounter along the way. The teacher even sent me a school picture of what she thought Deanna looked like. Which was interesting because over several books Deanna is never described in great detail. On purpose. I set her up to belong to the readers from page one.

MEET PAXTON SMITH – The other day a local girl pulled a Deanna Collings at her valedictorian address. She removed a subversive substitute speech out of her commencement gown to supplant the one she’d had approved. Kick ass, Ms. Smith.

Maybe I should dust off the first two THG’s, rethink the title, sharpen my editor’s crayon. Because the world needs more Paxtons and Deannas.

Hey, Germany and Lithuania

Why the hell are you mining my site?

If you’re not really Germans and Lithuanians and you’re hitting me from VPN, tell me why. If you are Germans and Lithuanians, tell me why.

I’ll be glad to engage in a conversation. Failing that, I’ll take this site down and start over. Which would be ridiculous at this point because you’ve hit everything on here at least 4 times. I would like to flatter myself by thinking I am such an addictive writer that y’all can’t stay away, but my Mama didn’t raise no fool.

This site was supposed to be a place like SoundCloud where I could run my own gallery, so to speak. But 60 and 70 to upwards of 90 hits per day, no comments, no likes, just trolling the site over and over for several weeks has made me suspicious.

Not that I have anything worth stealing or plagiarizing, repeating or reprinting. Nothing incendiary, rarely topical and pretty much mainstream. So the shadow game is inexplicable.

Contact me directly or go away.

Happy Birthday, Beethoven!

On Sunday afternoons in Vienna at the time of Beethoven, pianos were parked outside in the squares around town and in front of concert halls where pianists would improvise for the Viennese civilians. Beethoven showed up and caused widespread panic. There are journal entries from pianists at the time threatening to lock their doors and cut off their hands. Others claimed LVB was possessed by the devil.

Aside from the piano Beethoven was also an accomplished violinist. When asked to compose something for another house of royalty’s visiting violin gunslinger Beethoven would agree and then write something the new guy in town couldn’t play. When confronted, he would play the piece himself.

My favorite professional story might be how, in the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies, he wrote a varying number of bars of introduction where he would weave the themes around each other, exposing the “colors” of the key. He got a lot of critical flack for it. By God, composers were to state the key on the front end, not fart around getting to it. In response to the critics Beethoven begins the Seventh Symphony with the entire orchestra making a one note WHAM of A major. He proceeds to beat us with it several times in the intro. Dum dee dum dee WHAM. Carl Maria von Weber, a contemporary no one remembers, said of the Seventh –

“The extravagances of Beethoven’s genius have reached the ne plus ultra in the Seventh Symphony, and he is quite ripe for the madhouse.” To which Beethoven responded, “I quite liked your last opera. I’m thinking of setting it to music.”

There are far too many stories to tell about Beethoven. Poet, romantic, insane genius, rock star, ladies man. Now, 24/7 two-hundred and fifty years later, someone, somewhere is listening to or playing Beethoven. On piano, violin, cello. On YouTube, on the radio, in school, a movie, a church. However, possibly the closest we may come to immortality, musical genius and artistic vision are not the major takeaways from Beethoven.

Huh?

What Beethoven wanted to show through his music was a way to a better, enlightened world. He dedicated much of his music to a concept of the Heroic Age called “benevolent despots.” Rulers who with wisdom and charity would bring the whole of humanity up out of ignorance by the bootstraps for the common good. We all know how that worked out. It was down to the artists.

His answer? The Ninth Symphony. In which Beethoven declared that the ideal society, Elysium, was not going to rise from heroes, benevolent despots or from God, but it was something we must do for ourselves. As brothers and sisters. As citizens in the brotherhood of humanity.

Even without the music, that right there? Pure. Genius.

Happy Birthday, wild man.

It’s Hard Being Mixed in America — storyteaching

This a reblog everyone, make that everyone needs to read. It’s time to call a halt to the divisive marketing of trendy ethnic bias.

…demonstrates how far we have to go, America, in our acceptance of what it actually means to be American.

It’s Hard Being Mixed in America — storyteaching

NVDT Random – Why Bother? I Mean Writing Fiction

I have an old friend who gets email updates from the absurd. I get sale flyers from Lamps Plus because I bought a ceiling fan on blow out years ago. He gets mini-novels as news stories. I confess to having used pieces of things he’s sent me, and embarked on a weekly series a year or so ago where I’d publish something he’d sent me as story starter fluid.

It’s not 2020, y’all. It’s just people. We live in an incredibly obscene world. I say that because yesterday I published a follow-up to the lopped-off heads investigation from Russian Interference. Here’s where it came from.

Then there’s this from Dallas. Jag Booty and Wee Wee, the murderous butt injectors? You can’t make this shit up.

Okay, so she had an affair. This is how you deal with it?  Seems to be a sort of fad in India these days. Think of the Law and Order episode where the lawyer tries to get the husband a light sentence for diminished capacity because, your Honor, only an idiot would behave this way.


See what I mean? There’s a Welsh crime drama, 35 Days, where it opens with a body then rewinds 35 days to play out how it happened. One could start with any of these headlines and write the lead up to death by butt injections, greedy child, or angry husband. With a cast of whack jobs that would take Elmore Leonard, Carl Hiaasen, and Irvine Welsh combined, all on acid, to even get close to. So I ask you, why bother with fiction? My answer is that fiction, like a lot of stand up comedy and music, takes the edge off the pain of reality, removes it a step to make it more digestible. I mean the song “Hey, Joe” could easily have been a (reasonably commonplace) page six newspaper article. 

The big question here – Is fiction a fallacy, a coping mechanism? Because life is way stranger.

The two severed head stories were from the Daily Mail. The death by butt injection from Fox 4 News, Dallas.

Who Will Sing Me a Lullaby?

I’m a big fan of the lullaby. The beauty is that they lurk in a song that wasn’t written to be one. Except to me a number of the early innocent songs before my time were looking out the window with longing lullabies. A favorite of mine – “Count Every Star”. I’ve heard it done from Doo Wop to Vegas lounge lizard. Treated properly kicked down to acoustic guitar or deep space piano it will knock the volume out of a loud room and turn adults into children, if only for a moment. I have no idea why. I do know it as fact.

I also have no idea why Kate Rusby isn’t a household word. If you don’t know of her music, you might think of getting acquainted. Most everything she writes and sings is in that magical land where beautifully executed simple from the heart storytelling meets the air between the notes. Everyone needs a lullaby once in a while. Who will sing you a lullabye? Kate Rusby. Don’t know if she’ll share the cheese.

Happy 808 Day!

1980 to 83. That’s it. Three years. Easily the most used, abused, sampled, looped, and heard by all drum machines in history.

Why? The thing sounded like the cheezy beatbox in home organs. Boom chikka chikka. Little filtered analog noise bursts crammed into audio envelopes. Tish tish tish clack boom. I mean Kraftwerk made of it by sampling their own voices and using them as a beat track on Boing Boom Tshack from Electric Cafe

Except…unlike the CR78 and other drum machines of the presampling era, the 808 had  variable tuning. No, not the city in China, but actual pitch up and down on the klacks and booms. If a car has ever pulled up beside you and rattled your windows with low-frequency Boooooooom…. Boooooooom that’s the 808. Stretch and distress and compress that low kick until it never fades and rattles your windows when it goes down the street. A sound, we learned, that keeps an amplifier buried on the power supply rails until it burns up.

People will complain about all the kinds of music that sound brings to mind but be advised, plenty of pop and rock songs were demoed with the 808. And more million-selling R&B than you can shake your booty to, jazz, acid jazz, smooth jazz…everybody incorporated the sounds of the 808. In fact I’ve used 808s widely myself in everything from cover tunes to electronica to synth space fart tracks.

Gain access to a state of chill and some headphones, here’s some 808 in a hippie redux context

Why again? Because I was inspired by the old 60s synth instrumentals and hearing a Muzak version of Jethro Tull (?!) in an HEB Grocery store in Austin, TX and figured, you know, I do that &*^% for a living.

Happy 808 day, even if you’re not all that happy about how it’s found its way into everything music-wise.

 

 

 

RANDOM NDVT – Lunacy

Famous Composer Arrested For Patriotism!!

This date, 1940, composer Igor Stravinsky was arrested by the Boston police. For conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra while they were playing his arrangement of The Star Bangled Banner.

There is still a law on the books in Massachusetts’ General Laws – Chapter 164, Section 9, that threatens a $100 fine for performing any version of The Star Spangled Banner other than the original.

He defended his call on a dissonant dominant 7th as being “more democratic” because it was easier for non-professionals to sing. All copies of the arrangement were confiscated so no one today knows exactly where that 7th was.

Judging by the abundance of singers yodeling their way through The Star Spangled Banner looking for the notes at major, minor and local athletic events, maybe Igor was on to something.

I wonder what Massachusetts does with all those Benji’s?

It should be noted Stravinsky, a Russian immigrant, became a legal US Citizen in 1945. Also, that Grammarly insists Star Spangled should be hyphenated.

In honor of what is usually Tax Day and Igor’s arrest and artistic bigotry –

 

Another One Gone — Stevie Turner

Today I brought my New Year resolution forward a little bit. I promised myself to cut down on social media, and so today LinkedIn bit the dust. I feel quite liberated, because apart from a few people, the rest of the 650 were only there for the sole purpose of trying to sell me something. […]

via Another One Gone — Stevie Turner