My dog Ace is always pretty cooperative — you might even say a ham — when it comes to having his picture taken.
But last week he went so far as to provide not just the photo op, but the frame.
We were wandering around historic Reynolda Village in Winston-Salem, where he generally checks each shop’s doorstep for water bowls or treats, then peers inside to see if anything of interest — i.e., food related — is going on.
When we came to Village Smith Galleries, an art and framing shop, it was closed, but Ace hopped up on a bench at the entrance. Both sides of the front step were surrounded by lattice, allowing opportunities for him to present his good sides (and there are many) in a pre-framed manner.
In case you can’t read it, that bandana he’s wearing — he got it as a going-away gift — says “I’m smarter than your honor student.”
Sometimes I wonder how true that might be.
Posted by jwoestendiek May 3rd, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, art, dog, dog photography, dogs, frame, framed, frames, framing, north carolina, ohmidog!, pets, photo, photography, photos, reynolda, reynolda village, travels with ace, village smith galleries, winston-salem
Long Road, Short Legs
When the road
And your legs
You might end up
The plus side is
You’re wiser now
(Sometimes, the poet within wins. To read all his verse, click on the logo to the left.)
Our book is done, so Ace and I — Lord willing and the creek don’t rise — are starting a new chapter.
For two years — yes, two — I’ve been assembling the book version of “Travels with Ace,” which documents the year my dog and I wandered the country, tracing the path John Steinbeck took with his poodle Charley and venturing down some of our own.
Unlike “Travels with Charley” (the literary classic), ”Travels with Ace” (the book in search of a publisher) is a more lighthearted account of road tripping with a dog across America. It’s more laden with dogs, dog lore and dog facts, and delves more deeply into just what it is that makes you, me and America so bonkers over dogs.
Written by a former newspaper journalist (that would be me) whose massive mystery mutt altered the course of his life, the book looks at how we and our country have changed in the 50 years since Steinbeck and Charley circumnavigated America in a camper named Rocinante.
One recurring theme — as you might expect from a newspaper guy who watched his industry shrink and crumble, and who’s approaching old manhood — is my grumbling and anxiety over technology, and where, besides unemployment, it might take us.
That theme showed up in my first book, too – about cloning dogs, a technology that, at least when it comes to pet owners, would be better off never having been invented, in my opinion.
It was, in large part, that first book that led to the second one. Seeing the lengths to which dog owners go upon losing, or learning they’re about to lose, their dog — cloning being probably the most extreme of them — I decided that the best time to celebrate one’s dog (and one’s people) is while they’re still alive.
So I showed my dog America, and came to the conclusion, among others, that while full speed ahead is sometimes fine, slowing down (which dogs can help with) and stepping backwards can be good, too.
Ace and I ended up in North Carolina — moving, backwards, into the same apartment unit my parents lived in when I was born. We stayed there until last week when — because the landlord sold it to a new owner — we were required to vacate the premises.
It was by accident, or maybe fate, that we ended up in Bethania, the oldest planned Moravian settlement in North Carolina, established in 1759.
Looking at boring apartment developments, Ace and I made a wrong turn, or two, or three, and found ourselves going down its bucolic Main Street, which is lined with historic homes. Bethania, while surrounded by Winston-Salem, is an independent jurisdiction, with a population of about 350. It feels like another world, and a very peaceful one at that.
Bethania is not to be confused – but often is — with Bethabara, which was the first Moravian settlement in North Carolina, established by 15 church members who walked here from Pennsylvania. Fleeing religious persecution, the German-speaking Protestants first came to the U.S. when it was still a group of British colonies. Once Bethabara became a thriving village, and became overcrowded with refugees, a second Moravian settlement was laid out — Bethania
After that, a third settlement was founded – Salem, which would become the congregation’s headquarters and the biggest and best known of the villages of what was called Wachovia. Today, Bethabara is an historic park, Bethania is a little town, and Old Salem is a tourist attraction, where one can learn about the old ways
The Moravians were known for doing missionary work with local Indian tribes, and avoiding, on principal, violent conflict. Their cemeteries, such as God’s Acre in Old Salem, are highly regimented affairs where the grave markers, in addition to being in neat rows and grouped according to the Moravian choir system, are all of the same size — a reminder that, as much as we might like or think we deserve a big ostentatious tombstone, we’re all equal. I like that.
Bethania seems to reflect an attention to detail as well. Church members built their houses in the middle of town, and the orchards and farms they worked were on its periphery. I’m pretty sure my house was once orchard area.
It’s quiet, and it feels like I’m out in the country, even though it’s only 7 miles from downtown.
I knew I made the right decision on our new location when, at the town’s visitor center, I inquired whether it would be okay to take my dog, on a leash, down the hiking trails behind it.
“You don’t need a leash,” came the reply.
Almost every home in Bethania has a front porch with two rocking chairs — and, while I’m pretty sure it’s not required by local ordinance, I plan to follow suit
My little white house with a green tin roof has a fireplace in the living room, a grapevine in the backyard, room to plant lots of vegetables and a shed in which I plan to tinker with things. I’m not sure what things, but I definitely want to tinker.
I have a neighbor to one side, an empty lot on the other, and judging from the vines in the trees, I think I’ll have some kudzu to look at, which some of you might remember I have a thing for.
In addition to the visitor center, and the trails, there’s a public golf course, Long Creek Club, just down the road (owned by my landlord); and the old mill in the center of town has been refurbished and sports several shops, studios, and the Muddy Creek Café, a dog friendly spot with live music on weekends.
I’m just a newcomer, but I suspect the biggest social hub is the Moravian Church, just a few hundred yards from my home. (In a bit of a coincidence, it’s interim minister once graced the pages of ohmidog!)
I am not now a Moravian and have never been one, but I do have a family connection. She was considered my great aunt, though she wasn’t a blood relative.
Kathleen Hall was born to another family, but grew up as a sister to my grandmother. We called her “Tan,” believed to be derived from a mispronunciation of “aunt.”
Every Easter, my mother instructs me to put a flower on Tan’s grave at God’s Acre in Old Salem — preferably purple, Tan’s favorite color. I did that on Easter, and noticed, as in previous years, another flower, a white lily, was already there. Who leaves it every year is a mystery to us.
There’s also a memory of her in my living room — her stitchwork covers a footstool my mother passed along to me years ago.
Given that connection, and the fact that the Moravian church is just a few hundred yards away from my new home, I may check it out — at least once I get my boxes unpacked and my Internet set up.
They do have that here — even though several internet/cable companies told me my address in Bethania doesn’t exist.
One who uses Bethania as their mailing address can’t get mail delivered. I could use Winston-Salem or Pfafftown as my mailing address, but I’ve opted to go with Bethania and avoid getting a mailbox. Instead, I’ll walk three houses down to the little post office when I want my mail, which, given it’s mostly bills, I usually don’t.
Other than that, Bethania isn’t one of those places stuck in the past, just a place that honors it. It’s not like an Amish community. I’m pretty sure people aren’t churning butter and blacksmithing. But there does seem to be a respect for times gone by, and the older I get, the more frustrated I get with my computer, and apps, and talking to robots on the phone, the more important that has become to me.
Despite my growing techno-anxiety, I will admit — after moving 20 or so boxes of books — that the Kindle might not be an entirely bad idea.
After the Saturday move, I woke up pretty sore on Easter Sunday.
I’d fully intended to take Ace to the Moravian sunrise service here in Bethania.
But the sound of rain on my new tin roof lulled me back to sleep.
Once I did wake up, Ace and I had Easter lunch with my mother, then dropped by God’s Acre in Old Salem to pay respects to Tan and drop off a purple hyacinth. Then we headed back home.
So that’s the tale of our new place, and a long way of saying our new address is:
PO Box 169
Bethania, NC, 27010
Posted by jwoestendiek April 5th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, bethabara, bethania, church, dog inc., dogs, hiking, history, home, house, john steinbeck, mill, moravians, move, moving, muddy creek cafe, north carolina, ohmidog!, old salem, pets, religion, salem, settlement, simpler, technology, trails, travels with ace, travels with charley, walking, way of life, winston-salem
Six readers correctly guessed the name of the town to which Ace and I have moved.
And while I promised an autographed copy of my book to the one who guessed first, I’ve decided all six should get “DOG, INC.,” which exposes the stranger-than-truth story behind man’s cloning of dog.
The decision comes from my heart, with additional input from my back.
Book writing is a little like dog cloning that way — both are often exercises in selfishness that carry the risk of ending up with a surplus of unwanted editions.
I’ve sent all the winners emails to get their mailing addresses, but in case you missed them and see this, get in touch with me Cristina, Barbara Thompson, A.C., Maryjane Warren, and Bill Garrett.
You, too, Southern Fried Pugs — and since you’re going to sell them to raise money for your rescue, we’ll chip in three copies.
We’ll also be sending one along — assuming we get an address — to Vida, a frequent ohmidog! commenter who said she couldn’t bring herself to Google the answer because she felt that would be cheating.
That kind of honesty must be rewarded.
That advice may not be applicable to every situation, but it’s what Ace and I did over the weekend when we departed from what turned out to be the final stop on our year-long trip around the country — the apartment of my birth.
In September of 2010, 50 years to the day after John Steinbeck and his poodle started the journey that would become “Travels with Charley,” Ace and I left the author’s former driveway in Sag Harbor to duplicate, more or less, his route.
We circled the country, stopping at places of dog significance, Steinbeck significance, or no significance at all, traveling more than 20,000 miles before we returned to Baltimore.
There, having moved out of our home before the trip, we squatted and mooched off friends for a little while, and then rode a little more.
We backtracked to North Carolina, where, planning to linger a few months, we lived in the basement of a mansion in Winston-Salem. After little more than a month, Ace developed back issues and, on our vet’s advice, we started seeking a place to stay that didn’t have stairs.
I was on an outing with my mother when I asked her to show me my birthplace — the tiny apartment she, my father, and sister shared in what’s known as College Village.
Just about the time I was wrapping that up — except for the pesky getting-it-published part — the landlord who owned my unit told me he was selling it, and that I was required to leave my birthplace.
It was a little sad — in part because of the sentimental value of the place; in part because of leaving the friends, dog and human (and one cat) we’d made; in part because it would mean lifting numerous heavy objects.
With little spring in our steps, Ace and I went looking at apartment complexes, only to be turned off by their cookie-cutter sameness, and their silly pet rules — from arbitrary weight limits and breed restrictions to ridiculously high, non-refundable pet fees.
Even when they had swimming pools, we couldn’t manage to get very excited about any of them.
It had a green tin roof, a working fireplace, a shed out back and a front porch that seemed to be crying out for two rocking chairs.
It’s outside of town, but also inside of town, which we’ll explain tomorrow. In any event, we moved in over the weekend.
Friends in College Village held a goodbye party before we left — not a surprise party, but pretty surprising. That four women in their 20s would hold a get-together for a man all-too-rapidly approaching 60 says a lot about them, and possibly even more, I think, about that man’s dog.
Ace got a giant bone, an azalea bush that, once planted, he will be allowed to pee on, and a bandana that says “I’m smarter than your honor student.” Everyone at the party agreed that, in addition to being funny, it is probably also true.
Even before I started packing, Ace realized something was up and got stressed. Ace loves to hit the road, but he also loves having a familiar routine. He became extra needy, extra clingy and followed me around the house, except when I was making too much noise. Then he’d seek refuge in the bed, or ask to go outside.
There, he seemed even more eager to see the friends he was always excited to see, run to and lean on.
Perhaps, too, he was sensing the nostalgia swelling up in me. Even though I’d only lived in the apartment for my first year of life, and had no clear memories of it, it was where I was conceived, where my parents lived when I was born and the subject of much of my mother’s reminiscing.
The only thing that came close to seeming familiar to me was the door ringer — a hand cranked brass bell that, whenever it rang, gave Ace a thrill (because it meant company) and me a vague sense of déjà vu. Either I remembered it from infancy or it reminded me of a school bell.
When I left, I asked the new owner if I could take it, and he said okay, so I unscrewed it from the door and threw it in a box.
In a way, we’re not closing any doors, just opening — and perhaps modifying – some new ones.
I’d like to install the old bell on my new front door. It would be a way of bringing some of the sentimental value of the old place into the new one. It would make my mother’s eyes light up when she saw it.
And every time it rang, it would startle Ace, make him bark once, and lead him to stand at the door, tail wagging in anticipation over who — old friend or new one — might be on the other side.
(Tomorrow: The new place, disclosing our undisclosed location)
Posted by jwoestendiek April 4th, 2013 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, blog, book, college village, dogs, door, door bell, friends, john steinbeck, moving, north carolina, ohmidog!, packing, pets, ringer, stress, travel, travels with ace, travels with charley, website, winston-salem
You’ll have to wait until next week for the details, but ohmidog! is moving, and since we’re not sure how much time we’ll have to post stories in the days ahead, we bring you this three-day musical interlude.
Dog songs, of course — the first by a singer-songwriter once named Cat. (“I Love My Dog” was the first song Cat Stevens, now known as Yusuf Islam, released.)
We’ll be back with fresh dog news next week, good Lord and internet connections permitting, once we’re semi-resettled..
Readers of ohmidog! and its sister website, Travels with Ace, may remember that our year-long trip, following the route John Steinbeck took with his poodle Charley, came to an end when I moved into my birthplace — a little apartment in Winston-Salem, N.C. that just happened to be for rent when Ace and I felt the need to, at least temporarily, settle down.
Having all but finished up the book version of Travels with Ace, and learning that our landlord has sold our unit, we debated hitting the road again and also started looking for a possible new place in the area to call home.
Trying to locate a particular one of those, we got lost. As was the case on our trip, all the best things seem to be found when you’re lost. We ended up in a different town, very nearby, where we stumbled upon a little non-historic house for rent, across the street from an historic one.
We’ll tell you about it next week. For now, we’ll just give you a clue as to our new hometown: It was established in 1759, has a population of about 350, and was the first planned Moravian settlement in North Carolina.
The first correct guesser — whose guess comes in the form of a comment — wins a copy of my first book, Dog, Inc.
Everyone else has to help me move.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 27th, 2013 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, cat stevens, dog inc., dog songs, dogs, i love my dog, move, moving, music, ohmidog!, pets, song, travels with ace
While many players chase them
Sharapova, Nadal, et al …
None, I think, are as enthralled
As dog with tennis ball
(Sometimes, the poet within wins. To read all his verse, click on the logo to the left.)
With the people of whom he is fondest
My dog Ace has a habit immodest
After you greet
He’ll sit on your feet
To make sure that you stay the longest
(Sometimes, the poet within wins. To read all his verse, click on the logo to the left.)
I’m glad that my roommate can’t babble
And that he doesn’t drink all my Snapple
But wouldn’t it be neat
Wouldn’t life be complete
If somehow he’d learn to play Scrabble?
Clicking on the graphic to the left will take you to a page where you can find all of them, once we accumulate a few.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 3rd, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bond, companionship, dog poetry, doggerel, dogs, If dogs could play scrabble, musings, ohmidog!, pets, poems, poetry, roommates, scrabble, verse
Revised, reconfigured and ready to get you all the way through 2013, the “Travels with Ace” calendar is back on sale for a limited time.
A heavy-duty, 18-month wall calendar, it’s illustrated with photos from our year-long, 27,000-mile trip across America — from the coast of Maine, where Ace was the first dog in America to see the sunrise one day in October, to the shores of Monterey, where Ace hopped up for a closer look at a bust of John Steinbeck — the author who inspired our journey.
You can buy it and get more information here, or by clicking on that ad to the left.
Fifty percent of profits from the sale of the calendar go to Rolling Dog Farm, a sanctuary for deaf, blind and disabled animals in New Hampshire (and also one of the stops on our trip).
We’ve added photos of one stop that we didn’t include the first time around — the Coon Dog Cemetery in Tuscumbia, Alabama.
The rest of the calendar is packed with images from some of our other stops:
@Salvation Mountain in California, where Leonard Knight has fashioned and painted a mountain in honor of God.
@Niagara Falls, where Ace — ohmigod! — almost disappeared.
@The Lodge, a gentleman’s club in Dallas, where we met one of Michael Vick’s former dogs, and where Ace briefly took the stage.
@Various points south, like Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, where we kept running into kudzu dogs.
@The mountains of North Carolina, where we went in search of the elusive — and sometimes not so elusive — white squirrel.
@Rolling Dog Farm, where we reconnected with some old friends.
@John Steinbeck’s former home in Sag Harbor, N.Y., where we began retracing the route the author took in “Travels with Charley.”
@A marina in Baltimore, where we lived on a sailboat for a week, which Ace mostly liked.
Initial sales of the calendar raised $400 for Rolling Dog Farm.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 5th, 2012 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, alabama, america, animals, arizona, baltimore, bandera, calendar, calendars, california, coast, coon dog cemetery, dallas texas, dog, dogs, fathers day, following, gentleman's club, gift, gifts, john steinbeck, john woestendiek, lancaster, maine, monterey, new hamsphire, niagara falls, north carolina, ohmidog!, oregon, path, pets, photography, photos, road trip, rolling dog farm, route, salinas, strip clubs, the lodge, trail, travel, travels with ace, travels with charley, trip, tucson, wall calendar, white squirrels, winslow