Elsa and ‘Bones

Frozen in time are memories of Mr. McGee lumbering into the bandroom with that predictable scowl on his face. I don’t blame him, knowing what I know being, now, the age he was back then. Having to listen and direct a hoodlum bunch of blowing junior high quasi-instrumentalists – day after bad note day – had to get on his nerves. A collective group of teenaged tooters divided into the usual sections: woodwinds, brass, and percussion.

Sitting on the row in the top tier of the room, immediately inside the door from which he entered, we were the trombone section. Two Daves, a Jim, and I with a smattering of underclassmen. Four ninth-graders resting at the top of the middle school world who first spied Mr. McGee on any given day. Dave, the principle trombonist on the end, had the best seat, I was second, Jim … then Dave #2. One music stand per two slidey bones, four players, …. and one really good time. We were friends.

Dave to my left was always the better negotiator of chair order to that point, although I knew soon I was going to swing around him – which I did the following year. Music was too much in my bones (yes, pun intended) and he didn’t have the passion I did. Mr. McGee recognized this early on, but didn’t do much the change the status quo, so I went along with the plan. Why not, right? Too many other bothersome things in junior high to stumble over than fight about being 1st or 2nd in a band instrument section.

Roughly 10 years later, Mr. McGee fell ill and reached out to me. He was unable to return to that same outdated bandroom for an extended time and wondered if I’d be available to step in as a long-term substitute. After all, as a graduate and qualified K-12 music educator, it seemed the perfect opportunity. Politely declining, I stepped aside due to other career obligations and thanked him for the chance to walk through that same door he did years prior. He died shortly thereafter. The teacher who did accept the substitute position was eventually hired full-time and had a wonderful career.

Life is wonderful. Opportunities not taken are still excellent … just sometimes for others. I went on to do other things I am so wonderfully glad I was able to do – and continue to do.

This is about Dave #1 … and frozen moments. Mr. McGee walking sternly, yet exhaustively, into that bandroom is a still moment I can see today in my left peripheral vision. In that view is Dave sitting beside me. He will always be there.

Imagine my surprise when, with both eyes, I saw his profile picture a few years ago on Facebook when he accepted my 40-years later formal friend request. Those are definitely frozen moments. The, “Oh, man is this really him/her after all these years?” times that repeat over and over following reunion inspired requests. Yes, this was Dave’s overly dark beard, bushy eye brows, deep brown, tan skin and at- peace personality shining through his small smile.

With all those nice qualities, it’s not surprising his new puppy, frozen in time above, is in his care … or, that her name is ELSA. She is second in charge in his home behind an older canine sibling. I’m taking an immediate liking to Elsa and her apparent position seeing as how she’s “second chair” in the ‘bone section. The family is out of state, so I won’t have any opportunity to commiserate with my young puppy pal-ette of similar emotional coloring, but I can sympathize with her plight from afar.

Being 2nd isn’t a bad position. I’m behind my sister, yet ahead of my brother. Seconding, one could argue, is just as important as proposing a motion. Going for seconds is a compliment to the chef and minutes don’t exist without sixty little divisions within them. Great symphonies need relaxing, beautiful 2nd movements and what historical significance would there be between Washington and Jefferson if Adams was out picking apples instead of presiding as President?

Certainly Elsa didn’t choose to harm Anna in the movie. Kristoff steps in to help Anna find Elsa, eventually breaking the spell cast upon Arendelle. Elsa #2, becomes #1 with the help of an unlikely cast of melty characters.

Our Elsa above simply melts our hearts. No movie necessary. Look at that face.

It’s our cast of characters – unlikely or not – who get us through life … our Mr. McGees long since passed, or Daves popping up with cute puppies on social media. These folks melt away the frost on our frozen memories we may have forgotten.

It’s been some time since I’ve reminisced about those junior high, wool uniform band days. For all of Mr. McGee’s faults, he did a pretty good job of corralling a goofy bunch of late 70’s kids into a semi-large, old, non-acoustic beat up old band room from the 40’s.

As for Dave, I think he’s retired military who enjoys his cars. I doubt he plays his trombone much – if at all. Since I’ve been active in music my whole life, it’s probably about time to challenge him to a friendly head-to-head audition. Not that I’m holding a grudge or anything … we should just put to rest who was the better of the two back when Mr. McGee walked into our lives every other day.

Turns out, I kinda miss Mr. McGee’s attitude. It was real, … authentic. Qualities not seen too much these days. Almost frozen in the past.

Unless you’re the puppy, Elsa. Then you have genuine in spades.

Show Me Chloe

Ok. Since you asked. Here she is once again.

This past July 3rd, I introduced you to Chloe, the puppy. She’s still scampering about in our neighbor’s yard, tethered to – in her happy, anxious mind – a rather annoyingly short lead. If not, every whim and whisper nature provides would have her half way to China by now. This is her world. Her “I see Doug and want to give him something to think about now” universe.

“U” see, I am not one of those whims and whispers, supposedly. Considering I’m only that one letter off of being a dog myself, you’d think Chloe and I should be can-do, man-dog sypaticos. I think we are. She … well, … may think so. At this point, I’m not so sure. The occasional side belly rub gives me some puppy-cred and the special ball toy we play with at times sheds wonderful light into our friendship, however, one rather annoying habit of hers strikes a sour note across my heartstrings.

Being my canine neighbor across our not so well traveled avenue, she stares uninterrupted at me with her sad, wanting eyes. Beautifully calm, still, unwavering, she sits a few blades of grass from the edge of a driveway no more than 40 or so paces from my five trips back and forth on my property – loading the van for a day ahead. I always see her out of the cautious corner of either eye, depending upon which way I walk … careful to not make direct contact with the beast-ette. It is a dangerous game we play, for I would be tempted to smile uncontrollably at her insistence that I immediately approach – abandoning all my business needs at the moment.

One of any intelligence should assume, when finishing the task of loading said van with time to spare, this barely-out-of-puppydom would then welcome the very person to whom such pleas were advanced, right?

Uhm, wrong. That sounded too abrasive, so let me phrase it another way: Chloe wants me to come across and play a few minutes with her, then doesn’t, then does, then doesn’t, then …. you get my point.

If she wasn’t so damn cute and petable, I wouldn’t play this dog and mouse, “who wants to be a schmoozer the least” game at 7:30 in the misty morning. She sits there with her little butt barely on the grass, leash extended to its full length, … and brown marble eyes staring across like arrows lasered on my heart knowing full well I have a blue racquetball somewhere. Ah, the little, round rubber morning ball. It isn’t me she wants at all …

So, I walk “casually” over, pacing my step as if approaching a sleeping bear. Chloe’s tail wags a bit left and right and her, now, slightly larger than puppy body still does not move. Then, I’m only five steps away, a few seconds later, when she abruptly jumps a high-dee-ho, her leash gives a sigh, and back to the porch she runs … taking a path of zig-zags and look backs as if to say, “Ha! … gotcha again! .. Ya big sucker!”

There is no licky-lapy, jump into my arms, nice to see you moment. No Lassie found me alive in a well revelation. She runs from me the very moment I reach down – extending my arms to caress the very compassion and love she so wonderfully extended to me only seconds earlier. I, somehow, got a version of the smelly anti-dog plague in the four-point-six seconds it took to cross the street; OR, perhaps Chloe is playing a game, as usual.

It IS a game. A big freakin’ game I get sucked into almost every morning. Why? Because I’m me … and you’re you … and you’d do exactly the same thing, so don’t judge me.🤣

The lure of cuteness overload is exhausting sometimes. Chloe is sweet. I’ll continue to dance the dance. After a few minutes of rah-rah back and forth, she will settle and we’ll have some quality time as I sit on the stoop on her front porch. Ball-bouncy and side-scratchy morning time, as afforded by my nice neighbors, are important to Chloe, I guess. After all, she’s only a dog and I can only pretend to know what goes on inside her fuzzy little noggin’.

As for my brain, well, it’ll never change much. In about 45 minutes, the pleasure sensors will trigger puppy chemicals once again as I carry heavy coolers out from my commercial kitchen to the van. She’ll be sitting there … staring at me. Geesh.

I’ll not resist. Can’t. Show me Chloe and I’m done with all self-control. The best way to start any morning … on her terms, of course.

The dance begins …

Chloe and Friends

This is Chloe. Ah Chloe, a little four-pawed, eight pound pug-beagle mix puppy and Dolly, an eleven month pure breed German shepherd live in my neighborhood. Dolly, of course, having slightly larger furry footies than Chloe … and the classic sloped back you’d expect to see coming down off her sleek brown and black back fur. Chloe is just a tiny little ball of energy, teeth, and grr-ness. Just enough to make anyone holding her jealous for more time – once returning her to the ever vigilant rightful owners across the way.

Two canine cuties finding their way around the neighborhood these days – such a welcome relief from the dreary life of literal lassitude we’ve been forced into lately. In a phrase, “puppies make personal spaces better”.

These two happy-enticing hounds have no real sense of their intrinsic value to us. Frolicking about, sniffing and barking, is of no consequence to them. In the moment they live – not worrying about tomorrow’s meal or playtime adventures to come. We are the ones who assign value to them.

There is no higher proof than hearing chit-chatter lexicon with a dog. I’ve witnessed so much effort in sentence structure and subject/verb agreement from sputtering dog non-whisperers to their canine consorts. Deep breaths are sucked in before lengthy, adjective-laden heaps of praise are thrust upon unsuspecting flappy ears having no concept of a dangling modifiers, clitics, or malaphors. We speak words to them they cannot understand because of the expectations we have for them.

I could be accused of such. Mind you, not to any large degree, but on the dial. So goes most of our relationships with nice, little to mid-sized puppies and dogs. Perhaps, if I can be so bold, older fur ball friends as well. For purposes of today, I’m interested only in dogs. No offense to cats, turtles, snakes, fish, gerbils, ferrets, rabbits, iguanas, birds, horses, goats, chickens, pigs, and swans. Pets are pets … I get that.

Their value is what we want them to be. We have expectations they’ll fill our happiness bucket – and they do.

For a seven-times expectation of years, these lap blankets and/or breathing floor rugs are expected to fetch not only the animate, overpriced toys, but also our priceless loneliness and need for companionship.

We need them now more than ever. Human shuffle-alongs are not – for the most part – stepping up and are waaaaay too judgmental these days. Any time spent on Facebook proves my point – perusing posts where spitting social diatribes from friends assault my daily wiener-grilling weary eyes. Three-dimensional conversations are better, but not much so. Letters to the editors, television commentaries, news briefs, on and on …. human to human contacts are becoming increasingly combative and expectantly virally centered. Not all, mind you; However, enough to warrant mention now more than before.

Meanwhile, Chloe chews on a stick. This is expected contentment, happiness, and companionship for some of us when we need it the most.

The “We’re in this together” mantra spreading faster than the virus has, by all ironic accounts, pulled us into our own isolation. Opinions about masking, especially, are driving deep divides into once common waters. “What is a mandate, and what isn’t?” followed by, “Who has the right to enforce it?”, both create waves of opposition as hammers wielded by holier-than-thou opinion whackers pound their theories into social seas of their expected injustices.

It seems there’s no filling a bucket with societal agreement … Even beyond that, I fear we have no clear idea what American ideals, equality, standards, morals, values, and ethics are anymore. Contentment, happiness, and companionship are foreigners … drifting in rough waters off the coast … waiting, once again, for entry into the forgotten Ellis Island of our once accepting land.

We need to stamp their ticket – and soon. Chloe, and her friends, would … without judgement or question. Without anger or retribution on Facebook.

She may even offer them a game of tug-of-war with her favorite stick while waiting in line. I’ve played this fun-frolic fantastic tug-a-long with her little self. After about 5 minutes, she’s done … and moves on to snarling a bit with the grass, or wriggling about around my legs. It’s happiness and companionship overload without any stress.

I walk across the street expecting no less. I may – just may – talk to her using goober words laced with high frequency baby inflections, but will never admit to such.

She has so much value to offer … as do all pets. In these ridiculously riled up times of high anxiety, a portable, possibly petable pet provides plenty of pleasure.

As for Chloe, in about an hour she’ll be out again to smell the newness of the day. Everything, to her, will be fresh, invigorating, and alive. I like that perspective and want some small piece of her life. So, saunter off I’ll go to brush my hands over her puppy fur once more to start my day – that is, if she’ll allow me the pleasure.

She will. Though, she does have a say in the matter. Hopefully I can meet her expectations as well. If her expectant tail wag is seen as I lazily scoot across our soon to be traveled, pre-work day neighborhood road, I’m sure I’ll be welcomed into her grr-ness once more.