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Tag: light

Tales of debasement: Living 6 feet under

One of the disadvantages of living six feet under – aside from the lack of sunlight, of which we’ve already spoken – is the worms.

I measured the other day and determined that the entrance to the basement apartment Ace and I are living in is exactly six feet beneath ground level. I’m trying – despite coming from a family of undertakers – to not read anything into that.

It was while trying not to read anything into it, standing in the stairwell just outside my door to smoke a cigarette — here in a town that owes its existence to, as they’re sometimes called, coffin nails — that I noticed the worms, slithering by my feet.

The “man cave,” as the owner of the mansion in North Carolina calls it, is a fine place – warm, clean and comfortable, with a wood burning stove.

But living in a basement can play games with your mind – both dog mind and human mind, I think.

Ace has shown a distinct preference for the upstairs, and I don’t think it’s solely because its occupant, the homeowner, is prone to handing him treats – making sure to give one to her dog, Lord Barkley, at the same time.

He dashes up the ten stairs to the outside, ground-level world, and shows some hesitancy when it’s time to head back down. Twice now, I’ve returned from brief outings to hear him moaning from the bowels of the mansion – eerie moans that cease as soon as he hears me coming down the stairs.

I’m wondering if he has a touch of seasonal affective disorder, or if maybe he’s sensing some evil spirits lurking within the mansion walls. Or, it could just be the newness of it – though he’s stayed in about 100 new places over the past nine months. It might even be the fireplace. The sound of crackling wood distresses him, and he tends to never forget sources of distress.

Possibly, he – a very social dog — is bothered by the lack of socialization that seemingly comes with living in a basement. Even though we get out several times a day, there’s a sense of solitude when you’re a cellar dweller that follows you up to the earth’s surface – a feeling that you’re disappearing, a need to shout, “Hey, I’m here. Look at me. You do see me, don’t you?”

Maybe other people can’t see you anymore. Maybe, the memory of you, too, is vanishing.

John and Ace? Oh yeah, they used to hang around the park. Nice dog. Didn’t he write a book about something … John, I mean. Whatever happened to them?

Last I heard they’d gone underground. They’re with the worms now.

Sorry to hear that. Ace will be missed.

The worms aren’t actually that bad. They come out of a drainpipe built into the bottom step, then slither their way to an underground drain in the floor, about 18 inches away, go down that hole and – I’m guessing here, because they all look alike — continue to make the circuit every time it rains.

I’m not sure whether their journey is intentional, or not. Perhaps it’s a light at the end of the tunnel thing. Perhaps they’re seeking some refreshment, a quick burst of sunlight, then taking the subway back home to their families beneath the dirt. But, in any case,  I think they might be on to something.

The secret to living underground, in addition to buying more lamps, is to get out as much as possible.

Then again, partly a result, I think, of my subterranean lifestyle, I have a growing fear – unrealistic as it might be — that I might not be accepted on the actual surface of the earth; that when I slowly emerge, pale and slow-moving, blinking my eyes in the harsh light of day, perhaps a worm or two squirming in my hair, I might frighten people.

They might shriek in horror. “He’s coming out! He’s coming out!” They might run away, convinced that I am intent on drinking their blood, or, worse yet, smoking a cigarette.

“Hideous monster. Why can’t he just stay underground, where he can’t infect us with his evil ways?” they’d say. “We don’t need his likes up here.”

“Nice dog, though.”

Praise the Lord, I saw the light

 

It’s dark down here. Even with every light on, even when the sun’s up, the temporary home Ace and I have landed in — a cellar apartment in an old southern mansion — is, given its subterranean location, something less than bright and cheery.

I have window wells, but little light shines through. I look out and assume it’s a rainy day — only to step outside and see that it’s as sunshiny as it can be. Down here, it’s as if it’s always 3 a.m. Ace wakes up, looks around, and — like me — assumes it’s not morning yet.

I haven’t been cursing the darkness. That’s best reserved for internet connections. But I think it has been keeping me from being awake as I might be, and I haven’t gotten a lot of writing done. Instead I’ve mostly been oversleeping, setting up housekeeping and visiting my mother. She lives about a mile down the road, so Ace and I have visited almost nightly — conveniently around dinner time.  I mentioned to her how dim things were in my apartment, and she, being a former newswoman, felt the need to share that — at least with my sister.

“This just in: John’s apartment is kind of dark. Details at 11.”

I’ve introduced you to my sister before, when Ace and I passed through Madison, Wisconsin. She’s prone to random outbursts of karaoke singing, sermonizing, deep thoughts and good deeds, and I was about to be a recipient of one of them — luckily the latter.

She called to tell me she had found four lamps on Craigslist, and that she was giving them to me as a Christmas present. All I had to do was drive to some town called Midway, and find the home of a man named Ken. She sent me an email with the directions. Like all her emails, it ended with the same quote from Edith Wharton: “There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” (Buying lamps via Craigslist wasn’t an option in Edith’s day.)

Thankfully, Midway was only about 20 miles away. Ken was in the driveway when I pulled in.

I popped open the back window of the jeep. He greeted Ace, noticed there was no air in the tires of my bicycle, still attached to the rack, and offered to pump some in. He helped me load the four lamps into the car, and told me to help myself to the kitchen items packed in boxes in his barn. They, like the lamps, had belonged to his mother, who died last fall at age of 98.

I tried to pay Ken $60 — $48 for the lamps, the rest for everything else I grabbed – but he insisted on giving me change. I stuffed as much as I could into the car — or at least as much as Ace would permit. Ace doesn’t like things rattling around back there, or any of the contents to shift while we’re driving, and given the back seat has been his home for most of the past nine months, I try to oblige.

After loading up, we stopped for lunch in Midway, which is next to a town called Welcome, at a place called The Dawg House, then headed down the road to the Midway General Store, where it was hard to find things because it was dark inside. But I got three copies made of the key to my new place, bought two plug adaptors, three packages of cuphooks and a big greasy hambone for Ace — all for a mere $11.

Ace nibbled his bone as I took the back roads home, passing church after church — all with marquee signs out front:

‘Hands joined in prayer are never empty,” one said.

“The church is a pit stop in the race of life,” read another.

“God’s plans for us are better than our own,” another advised.

Space being limited on church signs, attribution for the words of wisdom on them is seldom provided — so you never really know whether they come from God, the local preacher, Edith Wharton or some book, like “1001 Catchphrases for Your Church Marquee.”

Whether they are original words, or a reflection of somebody else’s, doesn’t really matter — as long as they are getting shared, because church marquees, even those that don’t light up, are all about spreading the light, giving life some meaning, tossing a little hope, inspiration and joy our way.

My new lights, once plugged in, didn’t lead to a hallelujah moment of the religious kind. But I can read now, and find where I put my coffee filters, and make sure the socks I’m putting on match.

On top of that, never having lived in darkness before, I’ve learned that, much like a chili cheese dog, light – the non-symbolic, simple wattage kind — makes me happy.

For Ace, a hambone works just fine.

Poop power: Feces powers park lamp

Dog feces is being used to keep the lights on — well, one light, anyway – at a park in Cambridge.

Conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta, through an MIT-funded project known as Project Park Spark, is the brains behind the scheme, in which a “methane digester” is used to to convert freshly scooped dog waste into methane.

Dog owners simply collect their dog waste in a special biodegradable bag and throw it into an air-tight cylinder. The feces are broken down by anaerobic bacteria. The process produces methane, which is then released through a valve and burnt as fuel — in this case to power an old-fashioned gas-burning lamppost in the park.

Mazzotta is open to other suggestions on how to use the flame, and suggestions have included a teahouse, popcorn stand and shadow-projection box.

It’s a pretty brilliant use of dog waste, which, when it goes into landfill, releases methane into the atmosphere. Harnessing it is a far better idea, considering methane is a potent greenhouse gas more than times more harmful than carbon dioxide, WIRED reports.

Mazzotta hopes to install permanent underground digesters in parks throughout the United States.

(Photo: Project Park Spark)

Dachshund killer gets 1/6th of max sentence

An email campaign, aimed at ensuring dachshund killer Dudley Ramsay receive a full two-year sentence for fatally bashing his dog against a bathtub, failed to produce the intended result.

Ramsay was sentenced to just four months in prison on Friday by New York Judge Michael Gary.

Ramsay, of Fort Greene, was convicted of aggravated animal cruelty in March for disciplining the 5-month-old dog, named Junior, by smashing him against a bathtub, causing six fractured ribs and damage to the pup’s lungs and liver, according to The Brooklyn Paper. Then he waited several hours before taking the dog to a veterinary hospital, where he died.

Syzmanski

An email campaign was launched after Ramsay’s conviction by Mike Szymanski, of Greenwood Heights, who owns three dachshunds and writes the Dachshund Examiner for Examiner.com.

“This is a tragedy,” said Szymanski, who noted Ramsay had freely admitted by then to killing another dachshund earlier. The sentence, he said, “is a fraction of what Ramsay certainly deserves. It was a slap on the wrist and showed that the judge didn’t care.”

A spokesman for the district attorney’s office said it received over 100 emails from pet owners across the country, demanding that Ramsay gets the maximum sentence. Deputy District Attorney Carol Moran pushed for the maximum sentence, the spokesman said, but the sentencing decision rested with the judge.

“People have to realize that Dachshund lovers can be way more radical than the Tea Party if we find out than an injustice has been done,” Szymanski said. “This is something that could cost this judge his office.”

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