Mad dog

I took a few days off from the zine, and now I'm back. Did ya miss me?

Thursday was Thanksgiving, and I'm thankful I didn't force myself to write about it. It's a bullshit holiday, like most holidays, only with better food.

♦ ♦ ♦

Because his ears poke up like a bat's, because he's cloaked in black fur and can appear frightening, his name is Bela Lugosi. He's Jake and Judith's dog, a huge hairy hyperactive hound.

Judith says Lugosi is as smart as two sharks and a rock, but I'd give him more credit than that. Maybe three sharks, two rocks. He's kind of a dumb dog. He's housebroken, and knows and might obey a few commands — say 'sit' and he'll sit, say 'lay down' and if you say it twice he might. He knows 'stay', but it only applies while you're looking at him; walk away and he'll follow.

He's a slobbering furball of love once he knows you, but if anyone walks in front of the house, Lugosi will drop whatever he's chewing and bark ferociously as he charges, salivating, throwing his 166-pound body against the door for dramatic effect. We live at a busy intersection, so there's often something that needs to be barked at, especially when I'm trying to write or sleep. It's gotta be unnerving for the neighbors, and for anyone else within a block.

When the mail comes each day, it is announced by thunderous roars from the dog, and he runs down the stairs to attack the mail slot, where letters drop through the door to the floor.

To keep the dog from devouring the mailman's fingers, there had been a metal box over the inside side of the mail slot, but pouncing and chewing at it, Lugosi killed that cage a month or so ago.

Now there's a plexiglass basket that's supposed to protect the mail and the mailman's fingers, but Lugosi can and sometimes does knock the basket over sometimes. When that shield is gone the dog attacks the mail as it drops through. Magazines, bills, letters, small packages, whatever, all mail will be punctured, or shredded if nobody stops Lugosi. He'd maul the mailman, probably to death, if the door wasn't securely latched.

The dog has bitten strangers twice, and there's a death sentence if Lugosi bites someone a third time, so he is not allowed outside except on a short leash (maximum length, two feet) and muzzled. That's by order of some city agency, and Judith keeps the letter posted on the fridge, so nobody forgets.

There's also a warning posted on the wall, soon as you step into the house: "For your own safety, all visitors must play ball." When guests enter, they're handed a tennis ball, and instructed to play fetch with Lugosi for as long as it takes the dog to decide that they're OK.

The first time I visited, long before moving in, Lugosi and I played ball, and we've been playing ball ever since. I like the dog. He's never bitten me. He's not my dog, not my problem, but he is a problem — he's dangerous. He's too big and full of energy to be pent up indoors all day, but by law he can't be outside unless someone's holding his very short leash.

In the house, then, Lugosi paces the floor a lot, and comes running, slobbery ball in his mouth, hoping to play, whenever any of the flatmates emerge from our rooms. On your way to the john, the dog will meet you in the hallway, and for as long as you're seated on the porcelain you'll hear him dropping the ball outside the bathroom door, then picking it up, pawing at the door, dropping  it again. And again and again and again. Playing ball is all he wants to do, ever and always. That and eat the mailman.

The guy from the gas company comes by once a month to read the meter, and the dog goes crazy. The meter is on the back porch, reachable only by walking through the house, through the kitchen. The dog cannot be held back, so he has to be locked in a bedroom until the gas guy is gone.

In other words, Lugosi is a scary dog. Judith got him at the dog pound, and she thinks he must've been abused as a puppy, or trained as an attack dog, since he's so vicious with people he doesn't know. 

Well, last night Jake's sister and niece arrived for a few days' visit. Can you see where this is leading?

His sister is 40 or so, and I met her in the afternoon, while her daughter stayed with Jake at his work. The sister played fetch with the dog, and Lugosi decided she's OK.

When Jake came home with his 8-year-old niece a few hours later, though, he didn't know that the little girl hadn't played ball with the dog.

She didn't need stitches, just bandages and antibiotics, but her hand is still wrapped. When the kid came back from the emergency room it was late, but she adamantly refused to sleep here. Smart kid. She's asleep in the living room now, though, because at her Aunt Judith's insistence, the bandaged girl and the dog played fetch and became friends. 

Their bounce and bring the ball games woke me up, and I was moderately pissed off, until Judith explained that Lugosi had bitten the girl, necessitating this late-night bonding time.

Guess I'd heard the biting too, a few hours earlier, but I'd slept through the dog barking, because the dog always barks, and I knew a kid was coming to visit, so I'd just assumed she was screaming and bawling like kids do. When I heard it, I rolled over and went back to sleep. 

(Have I mentioned that you can hire me as a babysitter, for just $5 an hour?)

The lady and her daughter are Jake's family, so nobody's going to complain to Animal Control, and Lugosi will live to bite another day.

That dog and this household, though, are not a good fit.

♦ ♦ ♦  

Here's the latest on Jay's endless bureaucratic battles with Berkeley over "free speech."

On Monday the 20th, Jay was supposed to talk to someone from the city attorney's office about whether Darwin fish could legally be sold from our stand on Telegraph Ave. An hour before she was due at City Hall, though, some secretary called and cancelled the appointment. "Something came up," she said. Are there regulatory emergencies? They've been ignoring Jay's paperwork for so long, I'm surprised the call didn't come from the coroner's office.

On Wednesday, Jay called the city again, to make another appointment, and they told her to call again in a few more days. She told them she was tired of the runaround, and insisted on making an appointment, and they relented, told her to be in the city attorney's office at such-and-such a time, day after tomorrow — Friday the 24th, which is now yesterday. I offered a bet with Jay, $10, two hours wages, that there'd be no meeting that day, but she wouldn't gamble on it.

So yesterday Jay went to her re-scheduled meeting at City Hall, and the guy she was supposed to talk with wasn't back from lunch yet. She says she waited 45 minutes before giving up and leaving.

Meanwhile, I'm still selling fish on Telegraph Ave, but of course not the controversial and contraband Darwin fish that's been banned in Berkeley. 

Again I said to Jay, and again I'll say to you, all this is stupid, wrong, and oxymoronic. If you have to ask the city for permission, it's already *not* free speech.

We're not allowed to sell the Darwin fish because it's manufactured elsewhere, and the street vendor's license allows only the sale of arts and crafts and clothes and candles and whatever else if it's all made here in Berkeley. 

To sell the Darwin fish, we'd have to discard the license, and run what's called a "free speech" table, offering merchandise that makes a political statement. Half a dozen unlicensed vendors are already doing that, selling subversive bumper stickers and t-shirts, so if we did it, it wouldn't even be risky or daring. 

But Jay doesn't wants to do that. She wants us to be a licensed vendor. I don't understand why. She wants to argue with the city, instead of selling Darwin fish.

From Pathetic Life #18
November 19-25, 1995

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.


  1. Doug, I assume you have a list of movies to review somewhere, if only in your head. One of my favorites is Bang the Drum Slowly. I've found over the years that this film is either loved or despised by movie buffs (as you will know, I'm not one). It's a simple story with some stunning scenes. The locker room banter rings true, and the rainout scene with The Cowboy's Lament in the background is a classic.

    It's fun to see Michael Moriarty, Robert De Niro and Vincent Gardenia eating the scenery and going deep before finding the thin thread that binds us to life squatting behind home plate.

    Just a nomination for future consideration.


    1. Saw it many years ago, and of course it's great.

      Odd thing -- it's the only *grown-up* movie that kids in my grade school loved. When they talked about movies it was always just action movies, but even in fifth and sixth grade, the kids (well, at least the boys) loved Bang the Drum Slowly.

      Yeah, it's gotta go onto my big long re-watch list.


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