With a deep bass toot, the ferry to Connecticut began churning across Long Island Sound. I leaned over the railing and, as the water rushed by, felt a deep sense of accomplishment — for the ground we’ve already covered and that which we will be covering in the second phase of our trip.
Ace not being around — he was inside the car in the ferry’s gut — I gave myself, figuratively, of course, a pat on the back. This was a good idea — my highly original plan to copy (more or less) John Steinbeck’s trip. Others have retraced the route, and written about it, but I had the foresight to be starting off exactly 50 years to the day after Steinbeck did.
I had just settled on a bench, and had stopped patting myself, when Bill Steigerwald walked by, camera around his neck, notepad at his side, taking it all in and looking at passengers that way reporters look at people — like they are cuts of meat that might be worth tasting — as he pursued his highly original plan … to copy John Steinbeck’s trip.
So we sat and talked, comparing notes about our highly original plans to copy John Steinbeck’s trip. We decided, I think, that we liked each other, and concluded that though our goals our similar — a book, somewhere down the road — we weren’t barking up, or peeing on, the same tree.
Steigerwald, like me, was a career newspaper guy. We both accepted buyout offers from our newspapers — he in 2009, from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, me in 2008 from the Baltimore Sun — in hopes that, if we continued our writerly ways, we might survive in 21st Century America without having to become fast food cooks, Wal-Mart greeters, or strip club flaks. And both of us are now self-subsidizing our travels in hopes that some day, in some way, somebody might want to buy what we want to write.
We are both brilliant, in a stupid kind of way; or maybe we’re stupid, in a brilliant kind of way.
Steigerwald, who is traveling doglessly, is reporting on his trip — which will be a more precise retracing of Steinbeck’s route than mine — for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, where he also once worked. He, like me, is blogging about it daily.
Bill is 62, five years older than me, but I think we’re both among a large group of once-and-maybe-still-somewhat-idealistic baby boomer former reporters who jumped ship amid the industry’s downward spiral. Now we’re seeking a flotation device. In my case, at least, I’ve continued doing what I’ve always done — write stories — even though I’m not paid (other than by my fine advertisers) for it. I wonder if people who have left other careers do that — keep plying their trade even though the salary and benefits have stopped. To some extent, I think yes. One’s job gets in one’s blood. So retired lawyers probably keep arguing long after their last case closed. Former politicians probably continue to lie. TV weather reporters likely continue to make erroneous forecasts.
Possibly the whistling ferry loader in charge of getting cars aboard the boat yesterday will keep whistling, waving his arms, complaining about “f***in’ management” and saying things like, “Give me a couple of minutes, I’ll wave youse up,” for at least several months after he starts drawing a pension.
With writers, though, I think that runs even deeper — either because we see it as somehow noble, or because we don’t know how do do anything else. Like dogs, we tend to keep following and sniffing along the trail we are on. It’s not a totally mindless pursuit. We do what we know how to do. We know there might be something good ahead.
Not knowing, either, how to board a ferry, I just followed the shouted orders yesterday. I didn’t get a ticket in advance, so I paid $61 for my sound crossing; Bill, clearly a better planner than me, paid $49.
I took him down to the bowels of the ferry, and we compared vehicles. He has a red sport utility much like the one I’m in, but his backseat — because he’s not toting a dog — is open, with a large mattress he can sleep on. I showed him my dog, then took Ace up on the deck, which I had assumed wasn’t allowed, but actually was.
Bill fell for Ace, but, as he wrote today, was kind of glad — after seeing how much space my dog took up in my vehicle — that he didn’t have a dog along.
We parted ways — both intent on continuing our highly original plans to copy John Steinbeck’s trip — agreeing to try to meet up again in Maine or Michigan or Montana. As he plans to complete his trip in six weeks, I’ll probably be lagging behind, though.
As I waited my turn to pull off the ferry, I wondered what Charley — now buried behind John Steinbeck’s house in Sag Harbor — would make of it all: all these literary/scholarly/newspaper/blogging types who, over the years, have seen fit to repeat the trek that he made with his master.
Silly humans, he might think, following their so-called instincts, which aren’t very good in the first place.
My guess is he would get a good doggie chuckle out of it all. He’d probably break into a poodle smile.
“Ftt,” he’d say.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 24th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, american, animals, baby boomers, bill steigerwald, blog, blogging, blogs, charley, connecticut, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, ferry boat, industry, john woestendiek, long island, new york, newspaper, pets, pittsburgh post-gazette, poodle, reporters, road trip, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley, travels without charley
This one’s about a dog named Stella, a carny named Barney and the woman who sort of adopted them both — a Nashville photographer who motored up to Baltimore last week to carry out Barney’s last wish: that his ashes be spread upon the grave of his mother.
Susan Adcock became enamored with carnival workers more than a decade ago, and continued to count them as her friends long after she completed a newspaper assignment documenting their lives in photos. A highly compassionate sort, she helped them through troubles and sometimes even gave them shelter in her own home.
Among those she befriended was Barney, a down on his luck, hard drinking sort from Baltimore who she met while taking carnival photos. Barney, for a while, had a job as Barney, the dinosaur. He’d put on his purple dinosaur outfit and delight when the audience cheered and called his name, which was actually his name.
When Barney died, it was Susan who saw to it that he was cremated, in accordance with his wishes, Susan who took possession of his ashes, and Susan who cleaned out his apartment.
“I packed up his apartment over the weekend and by Monday afternoon, twelve years of hard living evaporated into space,” she wrote on Pitcherlady.com, one of her blogs. “People that hadn’t seen Barney in forever stopped by to say how sorry they were. They asked for things and I didn’t mind them asking. Most of them loved Barney too. Just not enough to stop by and help him get to the bathroom when he needed it …”
The next day, she took the Baltimore native’s ashes back to her house in Nashville, and found some comfort in having them around.
“Often you have three days or so to say goodbye and then that person in in the ground under a stone. This experience taught me that being able to take the remains of the deceased home with you is much more bearable. I knew in my head that Barney was gone but I was able to sit the box on my kitchen table and we hung out all summer together. That was a gift. My grief was tempered by having him around.”
As summer wound down, Susan planned the trip to Baltimore. Barney wanted to be “returned to the arms of his mother.” She died in 1978. This week, Susan drove to Baltimore with her dog Stella in the back seat, and Barney’s boxed ashes in the front. She took the ashes to a cemetery on Eastern Avenue, where she me Barney’s daughters, and a grandson he had never met.
“Their pictures used to be stuck on the side of his refrigerator with magnets and he told me once that he wanted them there so he could see them from his bed whenever he looked up. He used to tell them goodnight before he went to sleep, ‘like the Waltons,’ he said.”
Barney was a big fan of TV, and, for 12 years, never turned off the one in his apartment. “I remembered Barney saying once that wherever he ended up, they better have cable,” Susan wrote.
Once Susan accomplished her mission and the ashes were spread, she — along with Stella, a pit bull also adopted from the carnival — saw a little of Baltimore. She visited Edgar Allan Poe’s house, they took a ride in a water taxi, and she went in search of crab cakes — finding none below $20. That’s when she wrote me.
A regular reader and commenter on ohmidog!, Susan knew Ace and I were on the road, and didn’t know we were back in Baltimore for a bit. Long story short, as they say, we emailed back and forth, talked on the phone, met with our dogs in Riverside Park, and went to Captain Larry’s for crabcakes.
Susan, though she has a degree in psychology, decided to become a full-time photographer almost 20 years ago. You can see her work on her blogs, including pitcherlady and carnydog, which centers on Stella, the pit bull she adopted two years ago. Stella belonged to some carnival workers and was three months old when Susan took her in. By then, she — Stella — had already been to four state fairs and a variety of other spots throughout Wisconsin and Illinois.
Knowing how hard carnival life can be, on dogs and people, Susan volunteered to adopt her and the owners agreed.
Stella and Susan left Baltimore Thursday, headed for a visit to the beach before going back to Nashville. We wish them safe travels, and count ourselves lucky to have met someone so compassionate, so talented and so aware that not every creature in need of rescue has four legs.
(Photos: Barney photo by Susan Adcock; Stella photos by John Woestendiek)
Posted by John Woestendiek September 10th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, ashes, baltimore, barney, blogs, carnival, carnival life, carny, carnydog, carnys, cemetery, compassion, cremated, dog's country, dogs, last wishes, pets, photographs, photography, pit bull, pitcherlady, remains, road trip, stella, susan adcock, travels with ace, workers, writing
I’m even more honored to learn that we are in the category “misfits.”
Click the link on the top of our leftside rail to vote for us, though I should point out it does requiring logging in and setting up an account with the Sun — meaning not that you have to subscribe, only that they will probably bug you to later.
As I am a good week late learning of this competition, and as dogs don’t get to vote, I don’t hold out much hope of besting the other “misfits.”
But a respectable showing would be nice — at least topping, say, “The Baltimore Sewing Examiner.”
There’s a new animal blogger in town, and she used to be my boss.
Mary Corey, the Baltimore Sun’s features editor has taken over my old Sun blog (“Mutts”), given it a new name (“Unleashed,” not to be confused with the sister paper Los Angeles Times pet and animal blog) and is off and running.
The revamped blog launched last week with a poignant debut entry on the death, two months ago, of Mary’s dog, Gracie.
We’ve added Unleashed to our blogroll, and we wish Mary all the best in her new venture.
We thought we’d take this occasion — our 500th post — to bring you up to date on how ohmidog! is doing. We are, after all, turning six months old on Sunday.
Since we started in August, our readership — both in terms of visitors and page views — has been doubling about every month. In the last month alone, nearly 35,000 of you stopped by, visiting nearly 50,000 pages. We’ve hooked up with 10 sponsors, whose advertisements can be seen running down the rail to the left. We’ve become an official news organization, at least in the eyes of Google, which now includes our posts in its “news” search.
We’ve (temporarily at least) reclaimed our banner space — used for advertising in most blogs — and instituted a “best of ohmidog!” feature that has proven popular. Our “Behave!” column kicked off last month, a monthly feature about dog training and behavioral issues. (You can find the link to its archives on the tabs on our right-side rail.)
We’ve done our best to keep up with local purveyors of dog goods and services, which we list for free in our “Doggie directory,” and tried as well to keep up with area dog-related events (see “Doggie Doings”) — also findable through the tabs on the right. We’ve done a bit of doggie do-gooding, taking part in BARCStoberfest as an official sponsor and raising money for BARCS Franky Fund for sick and injured animals.
We’ve held true to our mission — staying on top of dog news (and sometimes even having it first) and, while not proclaiming ourselves spokesman for dogs, watching out for their interests and well-being and making the public aware of any threats thereto.
We also have avoided using fancy words like “thereto,” at least up to now.
Posted by John Woestendiek January 30th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 500 posts, ace, birthday, blog, blogs, contest, demographic, dna, dna test, Elliott, features, goals, google, half-birthday, improvements, mission, news, ohmidog!, page views, party, popularity, status, visitors, website