For those businesses in North Carolina that have something to hide, hiding it became much easier this week.
Both the state House and Senate voted Wednesday to override Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of a bill that muzzles whistleblowers who call public attention to anything from agricultural atrocities to elder abuse.
Dubbed an “ag-gag” measure by its critics, the bill gives businesses the right to sue employees who expose trade secrets or take pictures of their workplaces.
Animal rights groups say the measure is aimed at curbing the kind of undercover investigations that have exposed brutal and abusive practices in factory farms and slaughterhouses.
But House Bill 405 (click on the link to see its final version) could curb far more than that.
Nursing home employees might be discouraged from reporting possible abuse cases. Animal shelter staff could be dissuaded from reporting horrid conditions or cruelty to dogs and cats. Even journalists could be hauled into court for simply doing their jobs.
Only government agencies would be safe to shed light on criminal corporate behavior — whether it’s stomping on chickens at poultry farms or mistreating veterans in need of medical care.
Concerns that the bill reaches too far were behind Gov. Pat McCrory’s veto of the bill.
The governor said he agreed with curbing the practice of people who get hired merely so they can film undercover or gather corporate documents, but he said the bill doesn’t protect those “honest employees who uncover criminal activity.”
The House voted 79-36 to override his veto, and the Senate quickly followed suit, voting 33-15 to override.
Among those against the bill were animal rights groups, journalism organizations, the Wounded Warrior Project and the AARP, which said the law could have a chilling effect on those who might come forward with evidence of elder abuse.
“To give one relevant example, allegations surfaced last year that employees at Veterans Affairs facilities in North Carolina had been retaliated against for whistleblowing,” wrote Steven Nardizzi, chief executive of the Wounded Warrior Project. “As an organization dedicated to honoring and empowering injured service members, we are concerned that this legislation might cause wrongdoing at hospitals and institutions to go unchecked.”
The sponsors of the house bill said critics were wrongly characterizing it, WRAL reported.
“It doesn’t stop good employees from reporting illegal activities to other authorities,” said Rep. John Szoka, R-Cumberland.
That much is true. All the bill does is make it easy for large companies and their lawyers to go after those honest employees and ensure that, when they open their mouths, they’ll be stomped on too.
Republican backers of the measure said it was important to protect businesses from bad actors.
As for who’s supposed to protect us from bad-acting businesses engaged in harmful practices, well, that’s not covered in the bill.
“Not only will this ag-gag law perpetuate animal abuse, it endangers workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, and the freedom of journalists, employees, and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply, said Nathan Runkle, president of Mercy For Animals. “This law is bad for consumers, who want more, not less, transparency in food production.”
(Photo: Inside a North Carolina poultry plant; by Bethany Hahn / Associated Press)
Posted by John Woestendiek June 5th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abuse, ag gag, agriculture, animal shelters, animals, business, companies, corporations, criminal, dogs, hb 405, house, lawsuits, legislature, mistreatment, neglect, north carolina, nursing homes, override, pets, poultry, senate, veto. mccrory, whistleblowers
I would no more stereotype animal lovers than I would pit bulls, and yet I have to ask the question:
Are we an overly gullible lot, more likely to be taken advantage of by greedy and unsavory types?
As a rule, yes. As scammers and schemers have realized, our overflowing empathy and eagerness to help an animal in need often overrule our powers of deductive reasoning, leading us to whip out the checkbook and contribute to some pretty suspicious “causes.”
We are going to use the Grieving Rottweiler as our example here — not to say that the owner of that dog (who is asking dog lovers to help him buy a house so he can rescue more dogs) is a scammer or a schemer, but only because his fundraising drive, as explained by him, is so full of conflicting information, question marks and red flags.
We raised questions about it earlier this week, after Brett Bennett of Seattle posted a video of his Rottweiler, Brutus, appearing to mourn the death of his fellow Rottweiler, Hank. His YouTube post links to an indiegogo page aimed at raising money to buy “a house in the country.”
“Don’t let Hanks passing die in vein (sic )with him,” Bennett asks. Instead, he urges people to give Hank’s death some meaning, and honor the dog’s legacy, by making cash contributions so he can buy a house and some acreage in the country.
The viral video of “Brutus grieving” was nearing 4 million views yesterday.
Between the summary he posted there, his indiegogo page, his Rottweiler rescue website, and what he has posted on his Facebook page (which disappeared the day before yesterday), one has to wonder about what a tangled web he has woven — lie-wise — since he first started trying to raise money through his dogs. (Not to mention how a man who describes himself as homeless can be so active on the Internet.)
That Facebook page included photos of Rottweilers fighting, him recounting a plan to sell his Rottweilers to drug dealers, background information on the dogs that vastly differs from what he has stated elsewhere and this warning to a commenter who questioned his motivations:
“F— off, you tweaker white trash c—.”
Bennett raised over $6000 in January to help him and his dogs find a rental property. Then, a week after Hank died, he started another fundraiser to raise an additional $100,000 to help him purchase a home.
As it turns out, one woman has been raising questions about him for a while — Anne Fromm, who, in an attempt to spread the word about his activities, started this “Social Media Scammer” Facebook page.
It points out some of the many discrepancies in the online accounts Bennett has provided, including in the story of Hank’s death.
“Ask WHY he never took the dog to the vet if it was dying, instead videotaped it, for the tearjerker points and the funds that poured in. Is the dog even dead? Or will he show up miraculously in a few more months when Brett needs more money?”
Fromm points out that Bennett has said the dogs are twins, from the same litter. Yet he has also said one was 2 and one was 4 when he took them in.
Bennett said he awoke to find Hank dead, but he also says, in another account, that he held him in his arms when he was dying.
Mainstream media outlets have carried the video of the “grieving Rottweiler,” and helped catapult it to viral-ness, but none apparently had the time to look into its veracity.
Seattle Dog Spot reported that records from VCA Animal Hospital show Bennett took Hank to be cremated on January 22, but the video of Hank’s death was uploaded on January 20. “What did he do with the body of a 150-pound Rottweiler for 2 days?” the blog asks.
That form also showed an address for the homeless man.
Seattle Dog Spot also reported a text message exchange in which Bennett told someone who was questioning how he spent donated money, “They gave me money and I am using the money to pay off my legal matters and for my everyday bills. I can pretend to spend it on whatever these gullable (sic) people will believe.”
Those are just a few of the disconcerting conflicts in Bennett’s story, all of which anyone with enough time could have found on the Internet.
But, dog lovers being trusting and good-hearted sorts, few did.
Dog lovers tend to believe, and they tend to react, and they tend to want to save, if not the world, at least its dogs — all admirable traits.
Schemers and their schemes, in addition to taking money from them, stand to also take away something even more important — their faith.
Do we need something that protects those so committed to protecting, say a Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Lovers?
No, but dog lovers do, unfortunately, need at least a tiny grain of cynicism within, enough to consider the possibility that what on the surface appears to be a worthy cause might not be.
When it comes to fund-raising drives being conducted by individuals, and all we know about those individual comes from what they’ve posted online, we need to exercise due diligence — or at least a little diligence — to separate those who are pretending to care about dogs from those who are seeking only our dollars.
(Photo: Bennett, Hank and Brutus, as pictured on the Rottweiler Twins Animal Rescue website)
Posted by John Woestendiek February 5th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: brett bennett, brother, brutus, buy, campaign, death, fundraising, grief, grieving, grieving rottweiler, hank, house, indiegogo, mourning, new, news media, questions, rottweiler, scams, schemes, seattle dog spot
I eschew anthropomorphism. I eat meat. I am neither touchy nor feely. Yet even I, a (mostly) cynical and unemotional sort, couldn’t help feeling some emotions rise up in me when watching this video of a Rottweiler seemingly grieving the death of his litter mate.
It was posted on YouTube last month, by a Seattle man who says he awoke to find one of his Rottweilers dead, and the other resting his head atop the deceased dog, refusing to move.
“Clearly you can see in his eyes, he is crying for his brother who had passed as his world around him just crumbled. We both grieve and cry for our brother … This is proof that animals DO have emotions and feel pain just like we do,” Brett Bennett wrote in the YouTube post.
I, being a cynic, question some of that, particularly the crying — I’m not sure dogs shed actual tears of emotion. But I do believe dogs have emotions, and can feel sadness.
What I question much more than whether Brutus is truly grieving, though, is how Bennett is using the video to get online donations to buy himself a house in the country.
On the post, he provides a link to an Indiegogo page he created, seeking donations he says will be used to provide housing for himself (he says he’s homeless) and his dogs (he says he has four).
In fairness, he began the campaign before Hank died in late January, initially seeking enough money for a security deposit and first and last month’s rent required to rent a home.
Since reaching that goal, and since the death of Hank, he has apparently set his sights higher:
Under the headline “Help Grieving Rottweiler Buy a New Home ,” he explains, ”before Hank passed, we had started a fundraiser to help us into a nice warm home and off the streets … We have succeeded in our goal, but have been approached by animal lovers from around the world to reach for the stars and to ask for donations to not rent, but to own a home.
“As everyone knows, it is very hard to rent a place with a Rottweiler or with several rescue animals. It would give us the option to rescue as many animals in need or as possible. Our mission goal, our dream, is to buy a house out in the country, on some acreage, with the ability to freely rescue and foster as many animals that we can…”
I applaud his stated intentions — to rescue more animals — and I have no problem with people who are experiencing hard times seeking the public’s help, or with the public providing it.
But even assuming Bennett and his plea are all on the up and up, it still strikes me as a rather bold request. Asking for help to pay for a life-saving veterinary procedure is one thing; asking us to help buy a house in the country for him and his dogs is quite another. And recording and broadcasting the heartstring-tugging reaction of Brutus to the death of Hank may be laying it on so thick as to border, in my opinion, on exploitation.
(Then again, the same could be said of those ultra-sad ads some animal welfare organizations use in their quests to raise funds.)
“Don’t let Hanks passing die in vein (sic )with him,” Bennett asks, “Please share our story.”
So I’m kind of doing that, with obvious reservations.
Being cynical, I’m a little wary of pleas by dog owners appealing to the public for financial help via crowdfunding websites like Indiegogo. There’s really no way to know — short of playing detective yourself – which ones are legit, and which ones are scams.
With his video of Brutus going viral — more than 2.5 million views as of last weekend — and with it bringing in advertising revenue as well, I suspect Bennett is on his way to amassing a decent down payment, and he’s definitely showing some initiative.
But as with another dog-related story I’ve covered at length, pet cloning, there’s something distasteful about turning people’s tears and grief into big bucks.
Bennett says on his Facebook page for the dogs that he suspects Hank died of a broken heart.
“I’m so sorry you guys … I wasn’t strong enough and had a breakdown in front of the dogs. Hank was right by my side with his Therapy Dog service and grieved with me as I was so upset. He looked so sad. I noticed Hank never came out of his grievance and stopped eating. He was still drinking and nibbling on food so I thought he was okay. A week later Brutus and I awoke to his peaceful body next to us as he passed in the night in his sleep.”
He says the video was shot “about 30 minutes after we woke up and were missing our baby. I normally don’t video record my real life catastrophes or share but decided I needed to send a message to the world and show how much pain my dog was in as he loved his Twin so much.”
Bennett says Brutus is weeping on the video. And, in it, you can hear Bennett sobbing himself. I’m not suggesting any of it is fake. I’m no expert on human emotions, or animal emotions. Is there really any difference between the two? I don’t know, but my hunch is, based on how the video is so blatantly being used to raise money, that it’s the reaction of Brutus that may be more sincere.
Posted by John Woestendiek February 3rd, 2015 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, anthropomorphism, campaign, crowdfunding, crying, dog, dogs, emotions, fundraising, grief, grieving, grieving dog video, hel, house, indiegogo, internet, mourning, pets, plea, rottweiler, seattle, video, viral, youtube
A pit bull saved a woman from a fire in a Long Island home Friday, barking to alert her as flames began to engulf the house.
Then the woman returned the favor.
Jackie Bonasera said she was drying her hair in an upstairs bathroom of a home in East Norwich when she heard the dog barking. She ran downstairs and saw the flames on the side of her garage, according to NBC Channel 4 in New York
She ran out of the house, but then returned to save her dog, a pit bull named Cain.
“So I just put my robe over my face and I ran back in and I grabbed the dog and then I stood out here and I watched my house burn,” she said.
Bonasera believes she would have been trapped upstairs if the dog, named Cain, hadn’t alerted her to the fire. Her daughter, Alexus Stallworth, called Cain “the town hero.”
More than 70 firefighters fought the fire, the cause of which hasn’t been determined.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 6th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: alerts, animals, barking, barks, burning, cain, dog, dogs, east norwich, fire, house, Jackie Bonasera, long island, new york, pets, pit bull, pit bulls, pitbull, pitbulls, rescues, saves
It’s a done deal: Dogs Deserve Better, a nonprofit group that fights chaining, penning and other forms of cruelty to dogs, has closed on Michael Vick’s old house — the former headquarters of the quarterback’s dogfighting operation, Bad Newz Kennels.
Dogs Deserve Better plans to turn the property in Surry County, Virginia, into a center to rehabilitate and resocialize dogs that have been mistreated and abused, with the hope of finding them adoptive homes.
The name of the facility will be: The Good Newz Rehab Center for Chained and Penned Dogs.
The potential deal, which we told you about in February, became a reality in May, when Dogs Deserve Better raised enough money for the down payment and secured a bank loan to purchase the 4,600-square-foot white brick house and surrounding 15 acres.
The group paid $176,507 as the down payment for the house, liisted at $595,000, and is still raising money to pay for the rest and make improvements.
Once complete, it will be a $2.5 million facility, founder Tamira Thayne said told the Virginian-Pilot.
“Purchasing this property and in effect giving it back to the victims of the abuse that occurred here is a very powerful step for animal advocates and our country’s dogs alike,” said Thayne. “We are sending a message to those who want to abuse and fight dogs that a new day is dawning in America, a day where dogs are treated with the love and respect they deserve as companions to humans.”
The Washington Post had a report on the property’s transition from a place of nightmares to a place of hope earlier this month.
Dogs Deserve Better, which will move from its Pennsylvania base to Virginia, has never had a facility of its own, but it says it has rescued and rehomed more than 3,000 dogs during its existence.
Dogs Deserve Better says having the facililty in a house will help in socializing the dogs it takes in. The group hopes to rescue and rehabilitate 500 dogs a year.
Thayne said that, in addition to welcoming visitors, Dogs Deserve Better will also build a memorial on the property for the dogs who died and suffered there, according to Dogster.com.
For more information on the purchase, the plans and how you can donate, visit the website of Dogs Deserve Better.
Posted by John Woestendiek June 1st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abused, adopt, adoption, animals, bad newz kennels, bought, buys, center, chained, dogfighting, dogs, dogs deserve better, dogster, football, former, good newz rehab center, home, house, michael vick, mistreated, moonlight road, nfl, operation, penned, pets, philadelphia eagles, pit bulls, property, purchase, rehab, rehabilitation, rescue, ring, surry county, tamira thayne, virginia
I believe there is an interior decorator within all of us.
I would like the one within me to leave now.
That’s because he’s an annoying little twit who’s spending too much of my time and money in his attempt to make everything “just so,” insisting on “color schemes” and “balance” and “flow,” and of course “bold accessories that really make things pop.”
I like to think that I’ve always had some taste, that I’m a notch above those uncivilized brutes who – having never watched HGTV, having kept the interior decorator within them buried — are content with soft reclining seating (built-in cupholder optional), a wall-mounted flat screen TV the size of your average billboard, and nothing in between to obstruct the view.
For one, Ace and I have just completed a year on the road, most of which was spent hopping from pet-friendly motel room to pet-friendly motel room every day or two. Remember the Motel 6 bedspread? We do. In those places we stayed longer – a friend’s sailboat, a trailer in the desert, an empty house and the basement of a mansion – we weren’t afforded much opportunity to make them “our own.” After all that flitting about, I think I developed a zest to nest.
For another, while staying in the basement of a mansion in North Carolina for the past month (with free cable TV provided), I became briefly addicted to Home & Garden Television (HGTV) – and all those shows that showed people moving to new homes, or renovating and redecorating their old ones. I despised many of those househunters and homeowners – because they were whiny and spoiled – but I also, for reasons I can’t pinpoint, or don’t want to, envied them.
On top of all that, the place we’ve moved into is special – to me at least. It’s the very apartment unit my parents lived in when I was born and, while dozens of people and families have moved in and out of it since then, I hoped to make it mine again, tip my hat to its heritage and make it presentable.
So join me now for the reveal, keeping in mind that — unlike those HGTV programs — we had virtually no budget to work with. Nevertheless, I’d appreciate it if you say “ohmigod!” a lot on our walk-through, because that’s what they do on all those home makeover shows.
We’ll start in the living room.
Among its featured pieces are my mother’s old couch, an old family desk, an old rocking chair, a wingback chair that once belonged to my father’s parents, my cousin’s coffee table and my mother’s old footstool featuring the needlepoint of great aunt Tan, seen here (in the lower right corner) before I stripped off the old cover and discovered the prize beneath.
I chose copper-colored faux silk drapes from Target for the living room — one of my first, and one of my few, purchases. I just thought they looked cool, and that I could build my color scheme around them.
That gave me copper, burgundy and gold (in the big chair) and blue (the couch). Fortunately, I found a cheap area rug at Wal Mart that bespoke them all, and which, in my non-expert opinion, really ties thing together. I describe my color palette — yes, palette — as being based on elements of the earth: copper, silver, gold, water, wine (I consider wine an element) and silver.
While the living room, through its furniture, bows to tradition, its more modern artworks, I think, make for an eclectic mix – eclectic mixes, such as my dog Ace, being the best kind.
At first I had some concerns that the piece — its inspiration, Lance says, being a silver, Airstream-like trailer — would disappear on my grey walls. To the contrary, I think it works well … subtly, as if to say, yes, I am here, but I am not going to shout about it, even though I am silver.
You can learn more about Lance and his art — his father played major league baseball, and younger Lance once bartended at Baltimore’s Idle Hour, a bar in which Ace spent his formative years — at his website.
But back to my place. On the living room’s opposite wall, I – believing there is an artist in all of us, too — have commissioned myself to paint my own piece of modern art, of copper and blue and maybe some red, further establishing our color scheme.
The goals I was trying to achieve in the living room were comfort, simplicity and a rustic elegance that says “come in, sit a spell, OK you can leave now.”
Moving on to the dining room, I found some discounted copper-ish drapes with swirly things on them to echo, somewhat, those in the living room. The dining table was a Craigslist find and the featured artwork is a portrait of Ace resting by a waterfall in Montana, painted by my friend Tamara Granger, Ace’s godmother.
Again, I was striving for simplicity, making sure not to use too much or too-large furniture, since that prohibits Ace from easily navigating the house.
Decorating around your dog (don’t laugh, a lot of people do it) is crucial, especially when he’s 130 pounds. That’s probably why he doesn’t — as much as he’d like to – go in the kitchen, which, in terms of floor space, measures about the same size as his crate.
In it, one can accomplish all kitchen duties without walking — a simple pivot step is all that is required, or permitted. The kitchen features another of Tamara’s artworks, a big black bird, hung over the stove, where it echoes the greys and silvers elsewhere.
Behind the kitchen and dining room is an added on room — not part of the house when I first lived in it — that will serve as a laundry area, once I figure out where to put all the junk now stored there and get a washer and dryer.
In my sole bathroom, I have put up a shower curtain of turquoise, and hung towels to match. So it is white and turquoise. I think it needs another color.
My bedroom is simply decorated with a box spring and mattress that sit on the floor, the better for Ace, until his back problems improve, to climb in. There are two end tables, and a dresser whose origins I don’t remember, and another TV. With cable television starting at $60-something a month, I have opted for the far cheaper, totally undependable and highly unsightly digital TV antenna.
As we enter the guest room/home office, we pass two old editorial cartoons in the hallway — a preview of a bigger collection ahead which pays homage, if you will, to those talented and artistic souls who were once able — and in some cases still are able – to make a career at newspapers out of hoisting the rich and powerful on their own petards.
Amazingly, they were able to do this even though hardly anybody knew what a petard is. While, in modern day slang, some use it as a derogatory term for members of PETA, a petard is actually an explosive device. The phrase ”hoist by one’s own petard” means to be undone by one’s own devices.
Editorial cartoonists are becoming an endangered species, but I was always a huge admirer of them — for they were people whose jobs seemed more like playtime, who were allowed to be goofy, and who had the power to makes us laugh, think and feel, sometimes all at once.
They could, and some still do, bring attenton to an injustice, afflict the overly comfortable, and point out that the emperor isn’t wearing anything — all with just a sketch and a punchline. It’s a shame many newspapers have opted not to have their own, anymore, because I think we have more naked emperors walking around on earth than ever before.
My collection — mostly from the 1950s and 1960s — includes the original works of Tom Darcy, Burges Green, Sandy Huffaker, Bill Sanders, Cliff Rogerson, Edmund Duffy, D.R. Fitzpatrick and C.P. Houston.
I lined their works up in two rows above my futon, AKA Ace’s bed, the arms of which still bear the scars of his gnawing on them as a pup.
They, too — those gnaw marks that angered me when I discovered them but now view as Ace’s childhood art – are part of the decor now, another little piece of history, or at least his history. I wouldn’t cover them up for anything.
Rounding out the home office furnishings are my old library table, two dinged up file cabinets, an office chair, an actual bed made for dogs, and four newly purchased, less than stalwart Wal Mart bookshelves, ordered over Internet.
What’s now the home office was 57 years ago my bedroom. From birth to the age of one, I shared it with my older sister.
The futon — long Ace’s favorite place to rest, and from which he watched me write my book — is one of five soft sleeping areas he now has to choose from. He also sleeps on my bed, the living room sofa, actually a loveseat, the actual dog bed, passed down from his Baltimore friend Fanny, and the Wal Mart rug that bespeaks the colors of my decor, and, come to think of it, of Ace as well.
This is where we’ll end our reveal, and we apologize if it was overly revealing.
(Next week: A look at the family that lived in the house that’s gone from being my crib to being my crib.)
Posted by John Woestendiek May 11th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animal, apartment, art, artist, baltimore, birthplace, cable, cartoonists, cartoons, color scheme, copper, crib, decorating, dogs, eclectic, editorial cartoons, end of the road, furnishings, furniture, hgtv, hoisted, home, house, idle hour, journalism, lance rauthzan, mixes, nest, nesting, newspapers, north carolina, petard, pets, reveal, revealing, road trip, settled, settling, silver, tamara granger, target, television, travel, travels with ace, walmart, winston-salem
Pieces of my past
Freed from their dark cardboard jails
What the hell is this?
We’re at that point in our unpacking now where there are just a few lingering boxes, and they all contain what I will loosely call junk — items that I’ve hung onto for reasons sentimental, hopeful and, more often, unclear and irrational.
All those 34-inch waist blue jeans? Hoarding those paid off. After decades of wishful thinking, they suddenly fit now, after our near year on the road. My baseball autographed by Willie Mays? It — though his name is fading – still falls into the category of forever keeper.
But what of all the rest — the five unpacked boxes that remain: a jumble of shoelaces; matchbooks; cables, cords and adaptors that I have no idea what they go to; marbles; sea shells; little green plastic toy soldiers; a doggie Christmas stocking; old dog collars; artwork by my son; artwork by my self; unlabeled VHS tapes that contain who knows what and I have no way of finding out; cassette tapes of which the same can be said; old sunglasses; remote controls with nothing to control; owner’s manuals for things I haven’t owned for a decade or more, old keychains, some of them with mystery keys; a set of large plastic ears that fit over your real ears; a fake severed finger in a pool of blood; balls of all kinds; musky smelling pipes; business cards for people I can’t remember ever meeting, mysterious names and numbers scrawled on bits of paper?
All, mostly, things that served a purpose, things that were important, once; and at least one item that, as mentioned in our poetry above — it has been some time since our last Highway Haiku – we’ve never been able to figure out.
Mixed in with these are souvenirs accumulated during my travels as a writer — some Korean money; two stuffed dogs from a company that clones dogs; chips of wood from the woodpile outside the Unabomber’s isolated cabin in Montana, a framed get-out-of-jail-free Monopoly card; a matchbook from the Mustang Ranch in Nevada, a no-longer-greasy stone from the Exxon-soiled shores of Alaska; a photo of a twenty-something me swilling Thunderbird wine with two hoboes on a dirty mattress in Lexington, Kentucky.
They, too, occupy the boxes of items not essential to everyday life — boxes labeled “junk,” though not all fall under that rubric. (Speaking of which, where did I put my rubric? I thought I packed it away with my milieu, under my ephemera.)
I remember a time in my life when I only had one junk box. How did I get up to five? It seems once we outgrow and leave behind our childhood toys — hey, there’s my squirtgun! — we find other stuff to squirrel away, in my case enough to fill a box every five years or so.
In these boxes – oh look, a yo-yo! — are items of great sentimental value, nestled with items of questionable value (plastic vomit, anyone?), nestled with items of no apparent value and, sometimes, no clear purpose.
Which brings me to these wooden things — pictured atop this entry.
I’ve probably had them for a couple of decades at least, and I believe they came from the home of grandparents. I haven’t a clue what they are, yet I’ve held on to them, moved them from home to home, and packed and repacked them away in junk boxes.
Maybe you can help me out.
Allow me to describe them. They are made of wood, polished on one side, grooved wood on the other. They interlock. They have a brand name, “Blitz” emblazoned on one side. They are slightly bigger than your average blackboard eraser, about the size of a telephone receiver, or what used to be size of telephone receiver.
What they do — or ever did — I don’t know. My best guess, given the grandparents I think they came from were once in the laundry busines, is that they have something to do with the maintenance of garments.
If you know, I’d love to hear. If you just wish to hazard a guess, I’d love to hear that too — for often there can be more fun in the guessing than the knowing. (The first person to provide the correct answer will receive some slightly used plastic ears; I won’t just lend you an ear, I will give you two.)
We are nearing the last of our boxes, and have made five trips now to the Goodwill donation center down the street. I love that place. One can drop off unwanted items with such ease — you pull in, drive over one of those gas station hose bell ringer things, and a smiling man comes out with a cart to help you unload. Then you’re off. It all goes so smoothly — unlike much else in life — that I’m tempted to start dropping off items I actually need.
Need, of course, being a relative term. If we learned anything during our travels it’s that so much of what we think we “need” is really just what we want, or are convinced we must have by advertising and the media. In our 11 nomadic months, food, water, coffee, something to sleep on, a roof when the weather’s yucky, an electrical outlet and, of course, each other, sufficed nicely. Not until Ace and I moved into a structure of our own did I start feeling the need to accumulate things – even as I’m doing the opposite of that, getting rid of the junk.
I really shouldn’t call it that. It’s an overly broad term that’s unfair to some of those items that reside in the boxes so classified. “Accessories,” or “accoutrements,” would be a kinder label, but those are too easily misspelled, and take too long to write on the side of a box.
And, in truth, they have value. In a way, these items — your junk, my junk — are like life’s loose change: However seemingly trivial they appear, taken together they amount to something. We keep them because, even when packed away, they are pieces of our identity, they’re what makes us us, and throwing them away is like throwing pieces of ourselves away.
That, in my case, those pieces include yellowing newspaper clippings, whorehouse matchbooks, big plastic ears and a severed thumb in a pool of blood, says something.
I’m just not sure what.
Posted by John Woestendiek May 4th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, ancestral, animals, beginnings, belongings, birth, blitz, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, haiku, help, highway haiku, home, homeplace, house, identity, items, junk, matchbook, mementos, moving, mustang ranch, north carolina, novelties, pets, plastic ears, possessions, resettling, road trip, settling, severed finger, souvenirs, stuff, travels, travels with ace, unpacking, what is this, whorehouse