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 jwoestendiek 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
The days of dogs bringing in the newspaper might be numbered — for reasons that have nothing at all to do with dogs — but until then there are those, like Nariz, who are eager to deliver.
Nariz, whose name comes from the Spanish word for nose, belongs to Deb and Roger Pyle, who get their local newspaper delivered to their home in Astoria, Oregon. Every afternoon, Nariz sticks her nose into the Pyles’ newspaper box, pulls out The Daily Astorian and delivers it to her waiting owners in exchange for a cookie, reports — who else — The Daily Astorian.
“We didn’t train her. She just likes to do stuff for us,” Deb Pyle explained.
The Pyles’ adopted the dog from the Clatsop County Animal Shelter when she was 10 months old.
“There was one day when she was acting like she wanted a job so I walked her out to the paper and put it in her mouth and then we walked back to the house together,” Deb Pyle said. Next, Roger Pyle taught Nariz how to put her head in the newspaper box and remove the paper herself.
After that, Nariz expanded into mail delivery. “The mailman has learned that he can hand it over to her and she’ll bring it to us,” Deb Pyle said.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 31st, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, box, communications, daily astorian, deb pyle, deliver, dog, dogs, fetch, internet, journalism, mailbox, media, nariz, news, newspaper, newspaper box, newspapers, ohmidog!, online, oregon, pets, retrieve, roger pyle
It’s no secret that animals seem to sense earthquakes before they hit, but here’s some video proof.
A 6.5 magnitude earthquake that caused millions of dollars of property damage in Humboldt County, California, Saturday was sensed by a Labrador named Sophie well before humans started reacting, according to this video, from surveillance cameras in the offices of the Times-Standard in Eureka.
Sophie bolts from the room several seconds before the room starts visibly shaking and workers can be seen fleeing.
Yet more proof that dogs have more sense than humans — or at least humans who work for newspapers.
Posted by jwoestendiek January 12th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: california, detection, detects, dog, earthquake, eureka, humboldt county, magnitude, newspaper, northern, office, quake, reaction, reacts, sense, senses, times-standard, video
Columnist Ronnie Polaneczky paid a touching tribute to her dog, Blackie, in yesterday’s Philadelphia Daily News.
Blackie, a female border collie-Labrador mix, died on Sunday evening after a sudden illness.
“I was so overcome with tears as she died, I was unable to properly tell her all the ways that her life had made mine better,” Polaneczky wrote. “So this is my thank-you letter to Blackie, the first dog I ever called my own.”
Nine years ago, Daily New columnist Stu Bykofsky offered her the dog, which he had taken in after finding it abandoned in South Philly. Here’s an excerpt from Polaneczky’s column:
“Thank you for tolerating the way we claimed that you had magic ‘healing powers.’ See, not long after you came into our lives, we discovered that our daughter’s bumps and scrapes didn’t hurt her so much once we had her press the injured area into your warm, shaggy coat. Soon, she was telling her young friends to use your powers when they were hurt, too.
“Over time, we realized that those powers were not a parent-created myth but a true ability. When my husband and I were distressed about something, you’d sense our upset and quietly lean against us in solemn comfort.
“Thank you for letting us dress you as a bee on Halloween.
“Thank you for never – ever – chewing our shoes into jerky.
“Thank you for having a gentle spirit that belied your fierce appearance. The first time my husband took you to the schoolyard to retrieve our daughter from kindergarten, a few of the parents pulled their children away in fear of your wolfish looks. Within moments, you were sprawled on your back, a portrait of maternal contentment as a dozen tiny hands rubbed up and down on your belly.
“Thank you for your tolerance of your four-legged housemates. You put up with one prickly cat until his death at 19. You endured the addition of two kittens, who tried to nurse at your row of tiny teats. And then you gamely allowed the latest member of the family, a tiny Yorkie with a brain the size of an M&M, to use your belly like a trampoline, grabbing at your ears and snout while you lolled placidly on the floor.
“Through all of it, you’d look at us with world-weary affection, as if to say, ‘These little ones, eh? Waddya gonna do?’
“We were there with you at the end, at Penn’s veterinary hospital, to sob goodbyes and stroke your soft, dark fur as you peacefully slipped away from us. The doctor had told us that the illness in your lungs was slowly suffocating you and had caused an en
Posted by jwoestendiek September 2nd, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, blackie, column, columnist, death, dog, dogs, letter, news, newspaper, pets, philadelphia, philadelphia daily news, ronnie polaneczky, thank you
Finally, the Baltimore Sun is giving dogs some say. Either that, or it has laid off so many people it has to turn to dogs to provide content. In any case, the once-great newspaper printed a letter to the editor today from an Airedale, who may or may not have been assisted by her owner, Tom McCracken.
Apparently provoked by the new $1,000 penalty for unleashed dogs, the dog unleashed some opinions of her own in the letter, which was directed to Baltimore’s City Council. Here are some excerpts:
City Council Members: Please do not be surprised to get an e-mail from a dog … My name is Maggie Mae, and I am a very lucky dog. My people live along a wonderful park … A lot of my friends and I get to meet in this park almost daily for socialization and exercise, and any dog will tell you that a happy dog is a much better citizen than a frustrated one.
The park itself gets a tremendous amount of use. Why just tonight at 3 a.m., I was awakened by Loyola College students having a party there … Well, that got me thinking about all of the people who do share the park and ways that they do or don’t take care of it. The college students will leave their empty beer cans scattered about. My owner often crushes them and carries them home in a poop bag because there are no trash cans there. Speaking of poop bags, we should all hope that The Baltimore Sun doesn’t go out of business, because that would be the end of poop bags as I understand it…
Another problem in the park is trail erosion. Every afternoon a hundred or so young humans come running through the park. They are wearing shirts that say Friends, Gilman, RPCS, Bryn Mawr, Hopkins and Loyola. They wear shoes with lugged soles that destroy the grass and cause mud puddles. I think it would be smart if the City Council asked them to wear collars with annual $10 ID tags, and maybe keep them all in a tight pack with a leash…
My purpose in writing this morning is to lodge my concern about the new $1,000 leash-law fines … I like my owner’s leash. It is important to get me safely across streets and past urban areas heavily populated with humans. It keeps a good dog honest. Conversely, a leash is a detriment in safe wooded park areas like mine.
If it is necessary to crack down on real dog threats, the dog police need to be given discretionary authority, to focus on those parts of the city where humans are being irresponsible … Barring that, the city should create and maintain fenced parks, for dogs only, where there would not be drunken college kids, high school runners, bicycles, and flowing sewage. There was a time when blacks and women could not vote. Council people, there will come a time, thanks to the Internet, when dogs will.
Thank you for your careful consideration on this matter.
Maggie Mae Airedale
Posted by jwoestendiek May 8th, 2009 under Muttsblog.
Tags: airedale, baltimore, baltimore sun, city, city council, dog, dog parks, fines, journalism, leash free, leash law, letter to the editor, maggie mae, newspaper, parks, penalties, pets, tom mccracken, unleashed