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Thursday, July 31, 2008

Lisa, our editor at Houghton Mifflin, who was seen partying incognito in previous posts, brought a toy for Chet made by Orca. It was fabulous, until the doggehs unlocked the secret of its destruction. They somehow untied all the knots that kept the colored ropes in the squishy plastic tube. This photo was taken before the untying.
As you can see, things are beginning to unravel. There is not much that can stand up to two Boston terriers pulling in opposite directions, when one is equipped with big grown-up shredders, and the other with needle-sharp puppeh dentition.You are a pesky little puppeh. Here. Be of some use. I will hold this steady and you pull the ropes out of it.That is good. Keep pulling the orange rope. We must show Miss Lisa that there is no such thing as indestructible, or even durable, where Boston terriers and toys are concerned.Although our main goal is to destroy it, they like it when we romp. Hear them laughing? So romp with me, pesky puppeh. Romp, romp, romp.

All right. It is time to go in for the kill. Pull! Once we get one rope out of it, the others will follow quickly. Next we will study Squeaker Removal. I am the champion at that. Mffft!

Here's the thing. The toys are not quite as fun with no innards. They need to bring us another toy, soon.

I am actually rather tired. Aren't you, puppeh boy? You know, I could get used to having you around, even though you are pesky and your teeth are too sharp. I might even miss you a little bit when Miss Jennifer takes you back home. Hummm.

I did not just say that. Mether. He is not staying here, is he? I am still your only dog, right? You love me the best. Right?

My only dog, Chet Baker, now and forever.

Booker T. Comes to Visit

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The post to follow is my way of thanking you for indulging me with my self-indulgent, gloaty posts about my party. We only just disassembled the groaning boards in the kitchen and living room, after scraping the dishes and trying to find their rightful owners. There was precious little left. I did spend about four hours the day of the party making a delicious vegetable chowder. But there was no room for it on the table, so it sat on the stove, where it stayed as untouched as the driven snow. By midnight, I had transferred it to giant Tupperwares, but I left it out on the counter to cool. At 3:30 AM I came in to find the lids had popped off the Tupperwares, and the chowder was oozing down the cabinet faces, having fermented. Being greenish and full of chunkage, you can imagine what it looked like. Nice. In retrospect, shucking and cutting the corn off two dozen cobs, Cuisinarting six large zucchinis and four Vidalia onions, and making a four-hour vat of chowder was kind of like being sent off to boil water when the baby's coming. It kept me occupied and not fretting, and that, I suppose, is worth something.

photo by Shila Wilson

As I think about the self-indulgence issue, though, you all go warned here. You're reading the blog of a Leo, and there's nothing Leos love more than to be queen for a day, if they swing that way. I forget who took this photo. Maybe Phoebe. But it is a perfect representation of how I felt to have Patrick playing in the garage (you can see him over my left shoulder, peeking out like Lincoln on the back of a penny), my friends hanging out grooving on the music and chowing on scallops and crabcakes, the weather smiling perfectly, and a night of revelry ahead of us.

Lights, in this picture and the food picture, by Jen, purveyor of good and beautiful things. Photo by Shila, ditto.Thank you, sweet B, for a night against which all to follow will be measured. (BOTB, here shown heading up the Orangs in his shiny shirt). Photo by Shila.

I’m sittin’ in a railway station
Got a ticket for my destination…

Yep, at it again, on the fly, and this time I was caught flat-footed by the party and guests and aftermath, such that I’m having to come up with a blog post each day. Oh, I don’t like being a grasshoppa. I have plenty of pictures but no time. But I do believe it’s time for a Chetfix, don’t you? Whoa. Take it easy, Chetfans. I can hear you yappin' all the way to Providence.

My dear friend Jen has been a fan of Chet Baker’s since day one, and when the time came for her sister to acquire a puppy, there could be only one destination: Pups Will Travel, our source for all things black-and-white and googly-eyed. There are puppeh pix of Chet on that site, under Pictures, but the susceptible among you must beware the page titled, "Pups Looking for Families."

So Jen’s sister traveled over to eastern Pennsylvania from Columbus, and picked up little Booker T., continuing the tradition both of great Boston terriers named for musicians. Let’s see. We know a Jack Black, Ella Fitzgerald (Baker’s half-sister), Otis Redding, Chet Baker, and, stretching it a bit, we know a big brindle named Oscar, who might just be named for jazz great Oscar Peterson. I don’t think it is a coincidence that we name these dogs after people, or that they seem to beg for both a first and last name. They are something more than dog, something almost human.

Booker T. is precious. He is just as cute as Chet Baker was, and that's saying something. At 11 weeks, he promises, like Chet, to be a dog of both size and substance. He’s got big paws and heavy legs and a gorgeous head. His marking are picture-perfect; he’s got the white tux, muzzle, belly, front legs and collar that people envision when they think of a Boston terrier. Time will tell if he gets spots all over his tuxedo the way Baker did. There are 38, but who’s counting? Phoebe is. At least somebody in our family has time to inventory Baker’s polka-dots.

Photo by Phoebe Linnea Thompson

Zick: Baker, stay here, you little goofball. Jen: Ow ow ow ow ow takethepictureplease.

Please note Booker's pink belly meat. This is expressly for blowing raspberries, while keeping your cheek out of danger. It's an art that we fans of male dogs learn to perfect.

So on the day of my birthday party Jen came down with Booker T. so she could hang party lights and we could watch a little dog TV. Of course we had to pose with the animals. But mostly we watched them be Bostons.

Chet was delighted to have a pup around, with the caveat that he never, ever forget who is Numba One.

For his part, Booker must have been the alpha pup in his litter, as Chet was, because he’s like Texas toilet paper—he don’t take s--- off nobody. That said, he’s utterly sweet, while being assertive. And his ears both flop the same way. (I had to learn with Chet that Boston puppies have floppy ears until the cartilage hardens, and they get the classic bat-eared look).
I would like to think that this is the definitive puppeh portrait of Booker T. If you want to know how to take a good picture of a Boston puppeh, you must get him all tuckered out first, preferably with another Boston, and then lie down on your belleh using a telephoto. Otherwise they will come romping up and lick your camera.

I was delighted that Chet enjoyed having Booker around, not least because, having lived with a Boston, I cannot imagine life without one, without the warm smell of popcorn paws and catfish breath in the morning, without the interludes of hilarity that have become necessary for me to carry on in this all-too unhilarious world. So when Chet reaches the appropriate point of dotage, I intend to call on his breeder Jane for an understudy, and this was a good test of how that scenario might pan out.

It was hilarious, and absolutely riveting, to watch Baker play with Booker. Keep-away is the Boston’s forte, and they played it tirelessly.

But Chet made it easy for Booker, deliberately passing the toy beneath the puppy’s nose, just begging him to grab it.
Here is one of Shila's photos of the pair at play. Booker has a long but straight tail, in contrast to Chet's screw tail. Lots of people ask if we have cropped Chet's ears and tail, and I tell them that he was born perfect. So was Booker.

Tomorrow, the Boston brothers will demonstrate how to destroy an indestructible dog toy.
This is your Chetfix for July 30, 2008.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

As much as I loved the Night of Zick, I loved the next morning, too. Although it came too soon, with a cavalcade of happy revelers shuffling down the hall to our weary bathroom. I think I dozed fitfully for an hour all night, too wound up and overstimulated to collapse. BOTB set to work cooking a massive breakfast, which I believe involved four dozen eggs. Toast, bacon, scrambled eggs with all the trimmings--his elbows were flying and the short-order cook in him came out of hiding.

Eventually we gravitated to the garage, the scene of so much revelry the night before. Our longtime friends John from Oxford and Bill and Joe from Baltimore pulled out their guitars, mandolins, harmonicas and dobro, and we made homespun music--tunes like Catfish, Bully of the Town, and a string of Dylan songs that I'd forgotten how much I loved.

Patrick wandered in, fresh from the showers, and hung with us.I had to have a documentary photo of me doing an inner squeeeeee! I geeked all the way out, and had to retire to the shade of the forsythia bush, where little Jesse, son of John, had spread his blankie and pillow. Baby boy and dog and cicadas playing their saws on a summer morning, it doesn't get much better than that.Jesse and Baker cuddled for a long time. Chet Baker adores little kids, and always goes out of his way to play with them and make them feel special. He watched Jesse spreading the blanket on the ground and as soon as it was ready he flopped down to keep him company. Chet Baker, Comfort Hound.The sweet resonant drone-tickle of the dobro washed out over us. I decided it sounds like rain on the road.We spend an awful lot of time laughing our heads off when we get together.Bill loves playing music with his old friends, and the sound they produce is warm and deeply familiar.
Baltimore Bill's left foot has a life all its own. It flops like a fish when he plays and sings. When the Flat World Band used to meet and play in BOTB's old Baltimore apartment, the woman in the apartment downstairs always got out her broom and banged on the ceiling, but it didn't help. That foot has to move. Later that evening, Bill and Bill assumed their true identities.
I got to spend some time with some of my favorite babies, when I could work my way in between Phoebe and Liam, who love babies as much as I do. This is by Phoebe Linnea Thompson

Patrick and the Patrick Sweany band finally left around 2 the next afternoon, having had probably as good a time as we did. Pat handed out his new CD, Every Hour is a Dollar Gone, like candy. Go here and listen to Hotel Women. Listen to any of them. Oh my goodness. I had to ask Pat to pose, celebrity cheek to celebrity cheek.So cute, I had to take another.A Sweanyfix and a Chetfix in one go. Sigh. I guess it had to end sometime. We're still reassembling our house and garage, and trying to figure out what to do with half a giant jug of Gallo wine, huge bags of chips, melted candles, paper lanterns, mystery pie plates and serving spoons, homeless sippy cups, six giant leaf bags of trash, about a ton of bottles and cans, and a long purple shawl. Thanks for all the good wishes.

Smiles of a Summer Night

Monday, July 28, 2008

I wasn't going to say anything. I really wasn't. But Bill blew my cover in his blog, and then people piped up all over the place saying, "So how was the party?" Uh, who said anything about a party?

It defies description. It was the best party I've ever been to or hosted or anything, and I have my sweet BOTB to thank for that, and dear Margaret, and my other friends all of whom pitched in to make it a night to remember. You know who you are. Twinkle Girl, FlankSteak, BottleCap, SpringRoll, Cheap Lawnchair, PolishPants, KayakBoy, FabulousFungus, NatureMama and Pennsylvania Wine, to single out just a few.

The weather was perfect, sunny and clear and about 82 degrees with low by Jane Streett

Bill transformed our four-car garage into a performance space, draped with tapestries and colored lights.

Friends came from far and near.

He hired our very favorite band, the Patrick Sweany Band.Nope, not my photo, sadly.

Just looking at Patrick made me forget which birthday we were celebrating. He makes me feel like spring has sprung, and there's a wonderful song to be sung.

There were scallops the size of your palm, and little crab cakes, and Kobe beef in red pepper sauce, sour cherry pies and rice salad and fresh peaches from Grimm's Green Acres and cheeses and strawberries and wine and fancy beer and just every delicious thing you could think of, and this apparition chased me around all night with trays of food, asking if I wanted by Jane Streett

There was a giant photo of me smiling down on the proceedings, just in case anyone forgot why they came. Heaven forfend. Along about ten, Patrick sang our song, Rain on the Delta.
And I told Bill how much it all meant to me.
After that, it got a little crazy, kind of Southern-fried and sweaty and hot.There was dancing, and some beers were consumed.
The Swinging Orangutangs played a few sets, too. But mostly, we partied, letting Patrick and the boys carry the music. Along about 2 AM, everybody got hungry again, but the fancy food was gone. Bill of the Burgers to the rescue. Band, front and center. I believe that this is the gig against which all the Patrick Sweany Band's future gigs will be measured.

Then it was time for jokes. I will not disclose what was discussed here, except to say that Jess and I felt very much one of the boys.
Chet Baker retired to the lap of his foster mether, Mary Jane. The faithless little sprite leapt into David and Mary Jane's car the following morning, ready for another stint at Camp Baker. They almost pulled it off, then came rolling back up the driveway with big triumphant smiles and Chet in the front seat. Hmmph.

Tents had sprung up all over Indigo Hill just before dark, and the last revelers crawled into their sleeping bags around three. Little did they know that the birds start yelling at 5:15, and the sun would cook them slowly to doneness by 7:00. Hey, we'll sleep when we're dead.

Aftermath: tomorrow.

Taking Care of Bluebirds

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bluebird season is winding down. Here are five baby males--pretty unusual, to find all of the same sex in one nest, but it happens. You can sex baby bluebirds at about 11-12 days of age. You can tell males from females by the amount and quality of blue in the emerging wing feathers. Lots of cobalt blue: male. No blue, or just a bit of dusty turquoise: female. And then you have to leave them alone, because after 12 days they're liable to boot out of the nest when you handle
them, and you don't want that to happen.

Phoebe loves nest changing time, because she gets to cuddle the young birds while I make them a nest out of fresh dry grasses. I take the old nest away as most of them are infested with bluebird blowflies, Protocalliphora sialis. Specific to bluebirds, this bluebottle fly's maggoty larvae suck the nestlings' blood at night, then writhe back down into the nest during the day, where the adults can't find them to pick them out. Heavy infestations can weaken the young significantly, so I change all nests when the young are a week old.
Photo by Bill Thompson III

Here I am, making a new nest. I've put the old one in the bucket to take it away and count the larvae. Some people think you should leave all those larvae in the nest, so parasitic wasps can infest them. I don't like the notion that maybe 50-175 maggots are going to suck my babies' blood every night, and I don't like having them die in the nest from parasite infestations, so I take a more ham-handed approach to managing blowflies. I get the heck rid of them. Same goes for mites; it's been a terrible year for mites, and I've lost a few broods to them. Most nests leave me swarming with them, so I've been busy changing nests and rinsing the boxes with boiling water before replacing the grass and birds. It's the least I can do for them, as they bring me so much joy.
A bluebird thanks Phoebe for her solicitude with a little fecal sac. She says, "Yucccch!" but holds steady. That's my girl.

It was quite a weekend. I'll tell you about it later, when I've had a chance to download some photos. Man. I'm whipped sideways, but in a good way. And completely out of canned posts. Yikes. Not where a blog ant likes to be. Bear with me?

North Dakota is...

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Old barns, fancied up, then forgotten

The sweep of a Swainson's hawk against a white sky

A ruddy duck blowing bubbles through an impossibill

A lanky girl against endless space

Eager birders on the hunt for an obscure sparrow

A buff Cochin's tiny challenge:


And a red horse, serenely peeing.
Among many, many other things. Thus end the prairie posts.
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