San Francisco is considering terminating its $1.4 million in art contracts with Brooklyn sculptor Tom Otterness, who once shot and killed a dog on film and called it art.
San Francisco’s Arts Commission, which is in charge of publicly funded art projects, will hold a meeting today to vote on whether to rescind the contracts, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
The commission awarded Otterness earlier this year with a $750,000 contract for 59 bronze sculptures in the Moscone station of the proposed Central Subway project. That was in addition to a $700,000 contract he received last year for a sculpture at San Francisco General Hospital.
The commission said it was unaware of the incident in his past when they approved the contracts, the second of which was signed in September.
Apparently they missed out on the hubbub on the east coast when, in May, Otterness was awarded $750,000 to sculpt a set of lions to sit outside the Battery Park City branch of the New York Public Library.
Otterness, when he was 25, shot and killed a small black and white dog he adopted from a shelter for an art project — basically a repeated loop of film showing the execution. He called it ”Shot Dog Film.”
The incident has repeatedly surfaced during the career of Otterness, who is famous for his whimsical sculptures of people and animals, and it did again after he received the second San Francisco contract. After media reports and amid public complaints, San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee placed a hold on both contracts, pending review.
Arts Commission Chairman PJ Johnston said that review is completed, and discussions have been held, but he declined to discuss them and said he was unsure how he would vote. He said he was concerned with the commission “getting into the position of judging the artist rather than the art.”
If I may boldy opine: I don’t understand that statement, or piece of one, but I’m not a real artist. I see nothing wrong with judging both the artist and the art, or, for that matter, the actor and his acting, the football player and the football play, the author and the book, or the arts commissioner and the art he commissions. Doing something well should not relieve one of the responsibility of being a decent human being, or following the rules everyone else lives by.
End of bold opining.
It’s unclear whether the city, if it terminates the contract, will be able to redeem the $365,750 in payments it has already made to Otterness, the Examiner reported.
The San Francisco Animal Control and Welfare Commission, called for the termination of the contracts in an Oct. 14 letter sent to the mayor and the Arts Commission.
“The city of St. Francis cannot display, with public funding, art from someone who has committed such an unconscionable act of animal cruelty,” the letter said.
St. Francis, after whom the city is named, is the patron saint of animals.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, artist, arts commission, central subway, commissions, complaints, contracts, dog, dogs, ed lee, filmed, funding, haunted, judging, killed, mayor, moscone station, new york public library, past, pets, public art, san francisco, san francisco general hospital, sculptor, sculpture, shot, shot dog film, st. francis, termination, tom otterness
They both killed dogs, then went on to even greater achievement, fame and fortune in their respective professions — Vick as an NFL quarterback, Otterness as an artist.
But both are still dogged by their pasts, and both seem to imply that’s wrong — that those who keep bringing up the dogs they killed should forgive and forget and let them get on with their lives.
Boo. Freakin’. Hoo.
Otterness, a Brooklyn artist who once shot and killed a dog and called it art, has just landed a $750,000 city art contract for the Central Subway in San Francisco, according to the San Francisco Examiner.
Vick, meanwhile, will have to subsist under the terms of the $100 million contract he recently signed with the Philadelphia Eagles.
In June, the board of directors of the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency approved a contract with Otterness for 59 bronze sculptures for the proposed subway’s Moscone station. (The board was unaware of the incident in Otterness’ past — even though it has reared its ugly head several times before.)
“Tom Otterness is a world-renowned sculptor who has been commissioned by government agencies around the world to create major permanent public art projects,” Susan Pontious, who pilots the San Francisco Arts Commission’s public art program, said in a statement. “The Central Subway Artist Selection Panel chose Otterness based on the strength of his proposal and his impressive portfolio of past sculptural work.”
We can only guess Otterness doesn’t list his dog-shooting movie on the resume.
Otterness has repeatedly apologized for the 1977 film project. He was 25 when he bought a small black and white dog from an animal shelter, chained it to a fence and then shot it. He filmed it for a work entitled, “Shot Dog Film.”
But the artist, like the football player, has learned that — no matter how much remorse is expressed or, in Vick’s case, time is served — some people aren’t willing to let bygones be bygones when it comes to slaying dogs.
“You do not let an animal shooter put up 59 sculptures in your subway system,” said Anita Carswell, director of the Guardian Campaign for In Defense of Animals. “This is a slap in the face of the city. It’s going to be offensive to everybody that rides the subway, a reminder: ‘People who shoot dogs for stupid reasons get rewarded.’”
As Carswell noted, San Francisco is named after St. Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals.
In a recent New York Observer article, here’s how Otterness responded when the dog killing was brought up:
“What the f— do I do with this? Certainly the scene it was part of, it was in the context of the times and the scene I was in … It is something I’ve grown to understand that nothing really excuses that kind of action. I had a very convoluted logic as to what effect I meant to have with that video. Whatever I had in mind, it was really inexcusable to take a life in service of that.”
Posted by jwoestendiek September 19th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, apologies, art, artist, contract, criticism, dogs, killed, killing, memory, michael vick, moscone station, past, pets, quarterback, remorse, san francisco, shelter, shot dog film, subway, tom otterness
Everyone knows about the six degrees of separation, or at least knows somebody who knows somebody who does.
To put it in its simplest terms — as opposed to the manner of the bubbly graphic above — it’s the theory that you know somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody, who knows somebody who is lucky enough to know me.
In this small and growing smaller world, only five people stand between us — usually tall ones who block the view.
While the six degrees of separation may be an accepted algorithm, I have found it holds truer in your big cities — your Tinsel Towns, your Windy Cities, your Big Apples — moreso than in places like the one I’m living now, Winston-Salem, North Carolina.
In Winston-Salem, there is only one degree of separation, if even that. More often it seems, there is no degree of separation.
Then again, as you’ll recall, I recently moved into the house where my parents lived when I was born. In doing so — returning to my birthplace after 40-some moves and 57 years of separation — quite possibly I altered the algorithms of my six degrees of separation beyond repair.
In any case, in Winston-Salem, everytime I go out I run into either somebody who knows me (and I only know about three people here, having moved away at age 1), or someone who knows my mother.
That translates into a degree of separation of zero, or one, at the very most two. Take my recently moved-in neighbor here in College Village. Her grandfather lives in the same retirement community as my mother. That same neighbor and the neighbor on my other side went to high school together, then ended up, after attending different colleges, two doors away from each other. The neighbor on my other side has a brother who used to date my neighbor four doors down.
A lot of great brains have wrapped themselves around the six degrees of separation, including actor Kevin Bacon, who some people think invented it. All he did though was come up with a game version, which he has since refocused on philanthropic purposes.
In actuality, the six degrees concept is even older than him.
Mathematicians, sociologists, and physicists alike have long been captivated with the field of “network theory,” which, contrary to what you might think, existed even before Facebook. In 1929, Hungarian author Frigyes Karinthy published a volume of short stories titled Everything is Different, which included a story called “Chain-Links.” The story investigated and elaborated on his belief that the modern world was shrinking due to the increasing connectedness of human beings.
Since his time that connectivity has increased exponentially. With the advent of telephones, and advances in transportation, the world got smaller yet. And when the Internet came along, the world shrank, shrunk, shrinked a little more, as did correct use of grammar.
Indeed, thanks to the Internet, Facebook and the like, the world has become so small that I sometimes get claustrophobic. There’s a study that shows the degree of separation between two users of social networks such as Twitter averages 3.43, under an optimal algorithm.
Of course, that is why we are signing on to Facebook, and Twitter, and Linked In, and Genealogy.com and Match.com — to connect.
We humans — like dogs, who do it mostly by peeing — have an insatiable urge to connect. Whether it’s with old friends, dead relatives, new friends, potential business associates or hotties of the opposite sex, we want, and maybe we need, the linkage.
My personal belief is that — with all those websites that link us, at least superficially — we will all become so connected that something is going to short out. Either that, or we will all bore each other to death with details of last night’s dinner and how it was prepared.
What we often fail to realize, amid our quest for connections is that, when it comes to degrees of separation, sometimes more of them is better. Sometimes, having a hermit side to me, I get in a mood where six is not enough, where I would like twelve or fourteen of them instead.
If you’ve been following Travels With Ace, and our dispatches on resettling in North Carolina, you know that, while I’ve somewhat sequestered myself, I’ve also grown interested in reconnecting with my past, and exploring my family tree — both my father’s side and my mother’s.
Zonja Woestendiek is, or was, a German model who was also featured in a series of commercials for Volkswagen called, “Unpimp My Ride.”
Believe it or not, I once owned a Volkswagen — not a beetle, which makes the world seem even smaller, but a van with a pop-up roof, which makes the world seem larger, unless you are driving behind one.
Between exploring family trees and researching degrees of separation, I’ve been marveling at all the small world coincidences I’ve come across, especially in the past week since getting two teeth pulled.
They lived next door to each other, separated only by plaque in what, according to my dentist, was a deteriorating neighborhood.
The pain pills prescribed by the dentist, while blurring some things, have allowed me to focus clearly on others, like the six degrees of separation, and Zonja.
In researching the six degrees of separation, I came across something interesting — something I’m sure I have some connection with as well, given the similarity in names and other eery coincidences.
There is a Flemish television production company named Woestijnvis, that produces a show called “Man Bijt Hon,” or, in English, “Man Bites Dog.”
(My last name is Woestendiek, and, though I’m not biting much of anything these days, I do a dog website.)
The production company gots its name from a wrong answer provided by a contestant on the Flemish version of Wheel of Fortune, called Rad van Fortuin.
(I used to watch Wheel of Fortune all the time, and was very good at it.)
In the game, the following letters were showing: W _ _ S T _ _ N V _ S.
The correct answer would have been “WOESTIJNVOS,” or desert fox. But the contestant answered “WOESTIJNVIS,” or desert fish — humorous, to the Flemish at least, insofar as one rarely finds fish in the desert, or for that matter in dessert.
Anyway — stay with me now — on the show “Man Bijt Hond” there’s a weekly feature called Dossier Costers, in which a recent event of worldwide significance is linked to Gustaaf Costers, an ordinary Flemish citizen, in 6 steps.
I was able to find this episode on YouTube. It’s in a different language but — either because of my European roots or my Vicodin — it made perfect zippety-do-dah sense to me.
Let’s see if it does to you.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 7th, 2011 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: algorithm, associates, chain links, claustrophobia, coincidences, connect, connecting, connections, connectivity, conspiracies, degrees of separation, dossier costers, facebook, family, family trees, flemish, friends, frigyes karinthy, gustaaf costers, internet, kevin bacon, linked, linked in, links, man bijt hon, man bites dog, networks, north carolina, ohmidog!, pain pills, past, peeing, rad van fortuin, relatives, shrinking, six degrees of separation, small world, social, social networks, twitter, unpimp my ride, vicodin, volkswagen, wheel of fortune, winston-salem, woestendiek, woestijnvis, woestijnvos, zonja woestendiek
I don’t find that too bizarre, given some of the far more outlandish lengths bereaved pet owners go to — all covered in my book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
I don’t find it particularly newsworthy, either.
But it is Jennifer Aniston, and it is her foot, and she did love her Norman, a Corgi-terrier mix.
As many a pundit has noted, including those at the Daily Mail, which devoted major space to the story yesterday, it was a truer and longer lasting relationship than she has seemed to enjoy with any of the men in her life.
Norman died last month at age 15.
Aniston confirmed that the tattoo was a tribute to her pooch while talking to James Lipton during a taping of “Inside the Actors Studio,” People reported.
In 2008, Aniston, while doing publicity for the movie version of “Marley & Me,” in which she starred, told a magazine she wished men were as faithful as Norman.
Aniston, who divorced Brad Pitt in 2005 and had recently split from singer John Mayer, told the magazine she longs to meet a man that is more like Norman.
“It wouldn’t be bad if, when a man comes home, he’d run to his woman with his tail wagging,” said Aniston. “This sort of excitement is something I’ve always missed in a man, to be honest.”
Norman was already slowing down by then, and was undergoing a full regiment of therapy, at a cost of $250 a week, including massage, Reiki and and acupuncture, according to media reports.
In DOG, INC., a chapter is devoted to the sometimes extreme lengths people go to in trying to hang on to the memory of their pets — from freeze-drying to modern-day mummification. Cloning, in a way, is only the newest, not to mention most expensive and controversial, one.
I’m glad Aniston — at least as far as I know — didn’t choose to pursue that route.
In comparison, a tattoo is almost tasteful.
(Top photo: Aniston in a 2005 Elle magazine spread)
Posted by jwoestendiek June 28th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, aniston, celebrities, clone, cloned, clones, cloning, dead, death, dog, dog inc., dogs, entertainment, foot, honor, jennifer, jennifer aniston, media, memorial, name, norman, past, pets, remembrance, tattoo, tattooed, tattoos, tribute
Here in the waning days of Travels With Ace – it has been just about a year since we pulled out of Baltimore some 27,000 miles ago — our journey is going in a different direction.
We’re heading to the past, for multiple reasons.
One: Oftentimes you can get to the past pretty easily — without burning a lot of gas. Sometimes it can be a matter of letting your fingers do the walking through a dusty box of photographs, digging up that family tree your uncle once assembled, asking questions of your parents you never asked before, or getting in touch with a relative you’ve never met. While visiting the past we will, of course, continue to live in the moment (Ace insists upon it).
Two: We humans, in addition to getting too busy to live in the moment, also get so rushed to get where we’re going that we fail to appreciate where we’ve been. And even though the pace of our travels across America was more full dawdle than full throttle, life before that, jammed as it was with deadlines and pushy editors, is in some ways a blur. Sometimes the only thing that slows us down to a reasonable pace – enough to appreciate life, smell the roses, all that crap – is our dog.
Three: Our travels triggered memories, many grown hazy. That, along with the return to the state of my birth, to the town of my birth, to the exact same house of my birth, has sparked my interest in how I came to be on the planet. Realizing that I probably know more about the heritage of my dog than I do my own, prompts me to put at least a little effort into investigating the latter.
Not long after I got Ace six years ago, I decided – because I was constantly being asked what kind of dog he was, and since almost everything about him was a mystery, from his age to his breed to how he ended up in Baltimore’s animal shelter – to find out what I could about his roots.
The result was a seven-part series in the Baltimore Sun about his heritage. In addition to being lengthy, it had a lot of those hanging thoughts set off between dashes — like in the paragraph above, and, hey, now this one, too — because that’s the way I think and because I like making dashes.
The investigation included searching records, pestering the shelter he came from, consultations with veterinarians, at-home DNA tests to determine his breed, wandering the zip code he came from in hopes he would be recognized, and even turning to an animal communicator — an attempt to get the story from the horse’s mouth, which in this case was a dog.
I learned Ace had been a stray, wandering the streets, spotted by a citizen who called animal control. He was picked up in southwest Baltimore and taken to the city’s animal shelter, where he was labeled a hound mix, and where he’d stay a couple of months.
I met him while visiting the shelter for research on a story about volunteerism. Three days later, I was back to fill out the paperwork and adopt him.
I’ve had three DNA breed tests conducted on Ace — not so much because I was dying to know what he’s made up of, but for the purposes of that story, and subsequent ones that tested the tests that were hitting the market.
All three had slightly different results — but the breeds that showed up were Rottweiler, Akita, chow and pit bull (unless you are a landlord or insurance company or other form of breed nazi, in which case he is a, um … cat.)
Tracking down Ace’s heritage gave me more than just an answer for the dozen people a day who asked what kind of dog he was. By using methods scientific and spiritual — and neither of those is foolproof — the project gave me a better understanding of what made him him, convinced me that environment plays at least as large a role in a creature’s development as genes, and showed me that being pure of breed, unless you’re the AKC or a breeder, isn’t the most important thing in the world, or maybe even desirable.
The four breeds, all of at least some ill repute, joined together, in his case, to produce 130 pounds of gentle, mellow sweetness, enabling him to serve as a therapy dog for others, ward off evil humans by his size alone and keep me sane on the side.
I’m a mutt, too — the product of a mother whose roots are Welsh, a father whose are German and Irish, not to mention I’m a cross between a southerner and a Yankee.
Those are my parents at the top of this entry, youthfully frolicking it appears, in the yard of my father’s father’s house in Saugerties, New York.
Here they are again — not frolicking.
The photo of my father was taken while he was serving in the Army in Korea (and, yes, the typewriter is mightier than the sword, or at least it used to be.)
The photo of my mother — though she appears to be multi-tasking before it was called that — is a staged one, shot to illustrate a 1950s era newspaper story about newfangled kitchen appliances. While homemaking was among her skills, she was not a stay-at-home housewife, but among those groundbreaking women who stepped into newspaper work when journalism was still mainly a boys-only pursuit.
My father’s parents met in Newark — the New Jersey one — when both were working at the laundry that my great grandfather, who immigrated from Germany, owned. They married and later moved to Saugerties, N.Y., where they’d raise three boys in a big white farmhouse.
My mother, meanwhile, grew up in Asheboro, N.C., where her family dates back to Revolutionary War days. Her father owned a furniture company that, seeing how well coffins sold, made the transition to full-fledged funeral home and, later, a chain of them.
So, in one way of looking at it, I owe my existence to dirty laundry and dead bodies — those being the lifeblood of the industries that enabled my parents’ respective families to make enough money to send them off to college.
They both ended up at the University of North Carolina, studying journalism — a pursuit that traditionally draws its practitioners from those with egos too big and egos too small; people with a desire to change the world, or at least see it; the nosey, the gossipy, the terminally curious, the perpetually suspicious, and those who lack any truly marketable skills.
After graduation, getting newspaper jobs, getting married and moving to Winston-Salem — eventually into the apartment I have recently re-occupied — they had their their first child, my sister.
She was about three years old when my father got called upon to serve in Korea.
Upon returning from his stint there, pretty immediately as I understand it, I was conceived, in the room I now sleep in.
Not long after his return he was off again — one of the journalists invited to witness atomic bomb tests in Nevada.
Unlike area residents and, possibly, him, I was not subjected to any fallout from that, for I was already forming in the womb by the time he left. While, in subsequent years, I would have to hide under my elementary school desk during bomb drills, I was otherwise unaffected by the Cold War’s psychological shrapnel, I think.
A few months after my father witnessed that spectacle, there came another one — me. For one year, I slept, peed, cried, spit up and crawled here in the apartment I moved into last month.
Being here hasn’t automatically rekindled memories. There is only the vaguest sense that I’ve been here before. The doorbell, and it’s actually a bell — you turn the crank and it rings — struck me as familiar. The first time it rang, I did a dog-like head tilt (but didn’t start barking). Was it stirring an infant memory, or just my imagination?
At the age of one, I’d be moved — temporarily — to Boston when my father was selected to be a Nieman Fellow at Harvard. Instead of returning to North Carolina after that year, my parents moved to New York, where my father had gotten a job at Newsday.
After 10 years there — we lived in Huntington, where my parents would have another son — we moved to Houston, where my father would work at the Houston Post, and my mother at the Houston Chronicle.
Their marriage would implode about the time I was 12, After their divorce, I lived with my mom in Houston and later Raleigh, spending summers with my father in Connecticutt and Colorado.
I, like them, would end up at the University of North Carolina, and, like them, in journalism — and as a result I would see both dead bodies and dirty laundry, but plenty of joyous and inspiring things as well.
I, like my father, would have the privilege of getting a fellowship (a Knight Fellowship, at Stanford University), be involved in winning my newspaper a Pulitzer Prize (Philadelphia Inquirer, 1987), bounce around to a lot of different newspapers and get divorced twice.
After about 35 years in newspapers, I left to write a book, and produce my own website. And a year ago, in a rare show of spontaneity, I put my belongings in storage, moved out of my house and hit the road with Ace, to see America, and its dogs, and blog about it.
During those travels, we made some stops at places of my past — my grandfather’s house in New York, Houston, where our house in Raleigh used to be, and Tucson, the site of my first real newspaper job — and doing so sparked a desire to remember more and learn more about my past, and about my family roots, whitebread as they may be.
Among the many things I learned, or had reaffirmed, on our trip were not to take my dog for granted, or my friends, or my family.
Since coming to Winston-Salem, I’ve been rummaging through old boxes of family stuff, reconnecting with relatives, and learning more about my family history and working on better remembering my own life as well — all those memories that got shoved aside to make room for new ones. For the next few weeks, we’ll continue doing that, including taking at least two more trips, the kind that do burn gas, before we wrap things up.
A little further down the road, we’ll be visiting a battlefield and a cemetery and seeking to shed some light on this question:
Why, on June 19 (which is also my sister’s birthday), 1771, was my great great great great great great great grandfather hung?
Posted by jwoestendiek May 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, atom bomb, atomic bomb, author, background, bill woestendiek, birth, book, breeds, dead bodies, dirty laundry, dna, dog inc., dog's country, dogscountry, family, heritage, history, home, homeplace, houston, jo woestendiek, john woestendiek, journalism, korean war, memories, mix, mixed, new york, ohmidog!, past, pugh, road trip, roots, testing, travels with ace, tree, unearthing, university of north carolina, what kind of dog is that, winston-salem journal, woestendiek, writer
You can repaint a house, remodel a house, update a house, but there’s one thing that no amount of changes can erase — the memories.
Some of them came back to me the minute I pulled into the driveway of my grandparent’s old house in Saugerties, N.Y., triggered by the crunch of gravel; more yet when I climbed the wooden stairs where the “Kingston Dairy” milkbox used to be; and even more when I rounded the corner on the vast front porch and was hit with the slight smell of mildew — the same one that was there 50 years ago.
That’s exactly what I came here for — not the mildew odor, but the memories, grown fuzzy over time, covered up by the subsequent layers of paint of my life.
Being there, I found them reinstilled by the sight, smell and sounds of what used to be my grandparent’s house: The hollow thud of my own footsteps on the wooden porch, the giant, climbable sheaths of slate near the back of the property, the sounds of highway traffic darting by — more now than when I fell asleep upstairs, waiting for the next passing car.
Standing outside the home, memories whizzed by as quickly as the cars — of my highly tidy grandmother, of my jokester of a grandfather, of my great grandmother who lived in the backroom, of pinochle and pot roast, of hot tea in the afternoon with tons of cream and sugar, of morning eggs and toast popped from a toaster that, when not in use, was always neatly blanketed with a cover that said “Hot Toast Makes the Butterfly,” of a certain cookie, a raisin-filled wafer whose name eludes me, but that we enjoyed before bed with ginger ale.
My grandparents are long gone, and the last time I saw the house was in 1999, when the Woestendiek family reunion was held in Saugerties and we descended on its current owner, a New York City lawyer, begging for a peek inside.
She kindly obliged back then, so I figured she wouldn’t mind — especially since she no longer lives there full-time — if I dropped by for another look. The house, once white with green trim, is now cream colored with burgundy trim. The old windows have been replaced with modern ones.
I peeked in a window and saw the kitchen, much modernized since the days my apron-clad grandmother would whip up the best dinners I’d ever tasted. And there was one more difference — a “for sale” sign in the front yard.
I called Amy Lonis, the real estate agent listed on the sign, and explained to her I wasn’t a potential buyer — much as I would like to be — but was interested because it had been my grandfather’s house.
She agreed to meet me the next day and let me inside.
Inside, it was a far different place than it used to be — lots of old furniture still, but filled with modern art, painted by the current owner.
The arms of the sofas and chairs were no longer neatly draped with the lace doilies that my grandmother was quick to set back in proper position whenever they got rumpled, as they inevitably did.
Even though it has been majorly revamped, with some new walls put up and some new windows added to let the sun in, with what used to be great grandma’s room turned into the laundry nook, there were still plenty of reminders of the past. While the bathroom has been equipped with a jacuzzi, I’m pretty sure I saw the old claw-footed bathtub — the one I used to watch Ivory soap float in — stored underneath the house.
Seeing the old house rekindled enough sweet memories that I wanted to buy it.
It would be the perfect place to write another book, even with the whizzing traffic, I thought. And how wonderful would it be to hold the family reunion of all family reunions — back at the place where the family got started?
Why didn’t I snap it up? For about 268,000 reasons.
With about 5.7 acres, it’s listed at a pretty reasonable price. Unfortunately, I’ve never been as frugal and money-wise as my grandparents (he was the village tax collector, and grandma did the books at the family laundry in Newark.)
They moved to Saugerties when doctors told him country living would be better for his health.
Apparently, it was. There, they would have three boys, starting with my father.
My father remembers, when he was but a toddler, going into my grandfather’s car, somehow releasing the parking brake and rolling down the driveway, across the highway into the field of apple trees across the street.
If traffic then — on the road from Saugerties to Woodstock — had been what it is now, I probably never would have happened.
After visiting the house, and dropping in on the town of Woodstock, I was headed back to the campground thinking about dinner. I stopped at the only grocery between Woodstock and Saugerties, a place run by an Englishman and featuring mostly goods imported from England.
I did find a can of Spam, though — the last one — and what I thought were those raisin cookies we used to eat at grandma’s. I bought them, too, and opened them up the next day for breakfast.
They weren’t the same thing. These were filled with currants, and had a crunchy wafer instead of a golden soft one. These were called Garibaldis.
When I opened them, even though they were a year from expiring, they crumbled in the package. When I tasted them, I made a face. I threw them away at the next garbage can.
The moral of all this is that — oftentimes at least – you can go home again. You can — at least in your mind — relive your past. You can even find the obscure cookies of your childhood, or at least what you think are the obscure cookies of your childhood.
Just don’t expect them to taste exactly the same.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 17th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cookies, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, going home again, grandma, grandpa, grandparents, home, house, memories, new york, nostalgia, past, pets, revisiting, road trip, saugerties, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, woestendiek, woodstock
Maybe it’s in part to pay respects to those who died and suffered, in part to remind ourselves of how evil man can be – that whole business about keeping history fresh enough in our minds that we don’t allow the mistakes of the past to be repeated.
Maybe (last maybe, I promise) that’s also why you still find Michael Vick stories on ohmidog! and elsewhere – not so much because we want to keep punishing a man who has paid what the courts decided was his debt, but because we think the public, and public officials, need to keep it fresh in their heads, and do all in their power to wipe out the ongoing scourge of dogfighting.
Our travels having taken us to Virginia — and having recently finished reading “The Lost Dogs,” the new book by Jim Gorant that recounts the horrors that took place at Vick’s country estate and the redemption of the dogs that survived them — a trip to 1915 Moonlight Road seemed, while morbid, somehow in order.
So Ace and I headed from Norfolk up Highway 10 through Virginia’s tidelands, past the meatpacking plant in Smithfield, and turned left down the narrow road, where homes are few, far apart and – unlike the one Vick had built — mostly modest.
It’s a two-story, 4,600-square-foot, white brick home, with five bedrooms, four and a half baths and master bedroom suites on the first and second floor. It has several outbuildings, a pool and a basketball court; and the real estate listings — which make no mention of the former owner — note that there’s a kennel, too.
Yes, Michael Vick’s former house is available, and has been ever since Vick sold it before heading off for his prison sentence.
The private individual who bought it then has it listed at $595,000 – a price that is $152,000 under its assessed value. In other words, it’s a bargain – if you don’t mind the fact that it’s haunted. How could it not be – after what the 51 dogs seized from Bad Newz Kennels had gone through, not to mention the eight more murdered dogs that were dug up behind the home and removed as part of the investigation?
The house, which has sat empty for nearly three years, has more recently — amid the sluggish real estate market — been offered for rent as well. The price is $2,500 a month.
There was no open house on the day we dropped by — no one around at all. Taking heed of a sign on the gate that warned “Keep Out, Private Property, Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted Even the U.S. Army,” Ace and I kept to the perimeter of the property, across the street from a small white Baptist church.
Usually, when Ace gets out of the car he commences to sniffing and excitedly exploring for minutes on end. But here he behaved differently. He walked up to white metal gate, sat down and stayed perfectly still, staring inside for what had to be three full minutes.
I won’t read anything into that.
Vick bought the 15-acre property in 2001 – for the purpose of setting up a dogfighting operation. For two years, only a trailer occupied it. In 2003, he had the custom built house constructed, though he never lived in it full time.
A Long and Foster agent told me yesterday that the house’s prolonged period on the market is probably more a result of the housing slump than its shameful legacy — my words, not her’s. She said there is a prospective renter, but that a deal has yet to be finalized.
Not too many who have looked at it have been driven away upon learning its history, but then again, that history is not on the property sheet.
While there was an animal welfare group that sought to raise funds, buy the property and turn it into a sanctuary for animals, the agent said that plan was apparently dropped. The group thought that it would be a triumph of sorts to turn Michael Vick’s old house into a place that helped dogs.
But it’s hard to get over an awful past — whether you’re a dog, a person or a house. While Vick’s dogs have shown it can be done, and while Vick insists he has reformed, his former house remains in limbo.
As for Ace, he eventually came out of his trance, sniffed around the shrubs in front of the house and did his business.
I won’t read anything into that, either.
Posted by jwoestendiek August 25th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 1915 moonlight road, ace, ace does america, animal welfare, bad newz kennels, dog fighting, dog's country, dogfighting, dogscountry, empty, estate, for rent, for sale, history, house, legacy, mansion, memory, michael, michael vick, moonlight road, nfl, past, philadelphia eagles, quarterback, real estate, redemption, rent, rescue, sale, smithfield, surry county, unoccupied, vick, vick's house, virginia
Yesterday, I went searching for a piece of my past and found Hilton and Hyatt instead.
The house where I spent my seventeenth year – not quite 40 years ago – is gone, erased without a trace and replaced by a Hyatt Place hotel with, for your pleasure and convenience, Starbucks coffee and ample parking.
One purpose of my continuing journey across America, with my dog Ace, is to revisit some places of my past – both those I have recollections of and those whose memories, like some dog’s used-up bone, are buried in my head and difficult to locate without help.
On this trip, we’ve tried to dig some of them up. The triggers, we’ve found, can be a road once traveled, a scent once smelled, a song once heard, or a human reconnection, be it with childhood friends, or college buddies.
It was on Wake Forest Road, just a block or two off the beltline (I-440), once a sparsely populated stretch that ran from the town of Wake Forest into downtown Raleigh, lined, back then, by lots of woods and homes spread far apart.
Now, as it nears the beltline, Wake Forest Road is a lot less foresty. It’s Anyexit, USA, with a Denny’s, a Day’s Inn, a Marriott, a Hilton Inn and, on the property where I once lived and roamed, a Hyatt Place. Once nearly rural, it’s now upscale suburban – an area where weary travelers can get a tasty meal and a decent room exactly like those they got in the previous town and will get in the next one.
But 40 years ago, I can tell you, that same swath of land, now mostly paved over with parking lots, had character. Man, did it have character. Read more »
Posted by jwoestendiek August 10th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, bahama breeze, biggs, childhood, dog's country, dogscountry, front yard, hilton, house, hyatt, hyatt place, j.c. biggs, james c. biggs, memories, north carolina, nostalgia, parking lots, past, paved, progress, raleigh, ruffin, travel, traveling with dogs, wake forest, wake forest road, wakeforest road