Saturday, May 7, 2011

Excuse me, your tortoise is out

Yesterday Merlin and I were out for a morning stroll and I noticed a sign tacked to a tree that said:

"Found: Tortoise in North Park"

And immediately I think, oh my god, I think I know where that tortoise lives.

A few months back, on the way to the dog park, Merlin and I stopped to marvel at a tortoise casually grazing on someone's front lawn. Whose lawn, I haven't a clue, because there wasn't a person in sight to monitor the tortoise's whereabouts. I assumed this was because the risk of the creature making a mad dash for anywhere likely was fairly low--hindsight 20/20.

In any case, while Merlin cowered behind me, maintaining a safe distance from the snarling beast, I snapped a picture and we went on our way.

So I'm staring at this sign, wondering if I should take down the number as I'm calculating the odds that:

1) There is only one pet tortoise in the greater North Park/South Park area
2) That this one tortoise walked the roughly one mile from where I first saw him to the area where this sign was posted (and presumably where the beast was found meandering)

I wondered, is it possible that, on that very day several months ago, I witnessed the start of his long, slow pilgrimage to North Park?

In the end, because I have the attention span of a box of hair these days, I got distracted (likely by a dog with a fluffy tail or something equally as inane) and did not take down the number. Today I walked by that grazing lawn and thought about knocking on the door to verify that their tortoise was safe and sound. But then a fat squirrel ran by and I forgot all about it.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

A walking trio

I realized three things today.

1) There are lots of different faces of Santa. Some are sweet and comforting and make you want to run out and buy some kid a new bike. Others are less jolly, more creepy stranger whose red novelty trousers may or may not be hiding a monitoring anklet. Growing up, we had a giant Santa head that resembled the latter version, and the thought of his leering eyes following me across the room still scares the shit out of me.

2) I have an intense compulsion to read notes left on parked cars. I never actually give in, because I'm fully aware that the message clearly wasn't meant for me. But I enjoy guessing what they might say based on the type of car, parking job, or other cues that might reveal the note's contents. Was it a missed connection? Random act of kindess? Invitation to a nearby event? The most common scenario I settle on is something like, "Nice parking job, asshole." 

3) There is nothing my dog won't eat. As we waited to cross at a light, I turned my attention toward what appeared to be a toys for tots type meetup for Vespa riders. And when I looked back, Merlin was gnawing on a discarded pizza crust laying in the gutter next to an old, ratty sock. Farther down the road, he pee'd on his own feet. He's disgusting.

Oh, and Pat was sleeping in a different window this time. It was good to see her trying new things.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Smash from the past

Today I was so deeply contemplating my current state of affairs that I nearly walked right into the path of a car. This brush with a nasty glare and "what the F" gesture from a relieved yet angry driver took me back to a time when I didn't get off quite so easy.

The time to which I refer was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon several summers ago. I decided to bike over to a friend's house, an easy ride of about 6ish miles. I had never made this ride before, and after my friend verbally mapped my route for me, I asked her if it was safe. "Oh, yeah, definitely," she said.

So off I went, donning flip flops, Jackie O-sized sunglasses, and my favorite pair of jorts, my wire basket swaddling my stocked beach bag.

Everything was going swimmingly as I hit the midpoint of my ride, a sort of out-of-the way stretch that passed by a luxury hotel. I was pedalling at a comfortable pace as I approached the hotel's driveway, and I was perfectly comfortable as I indifferently noted a car approaching the standard-issue, entirely unobstructed stop sign that stands between the end of the hotel road and the one on which I was traveling.

Now, truth be told, for a split second I did casually ponder whether or not that car was planning on stopping at that sign. And yet, I pedalled on without slowing, well, because I was in clear view and there was a stop sign, afterall.

But as I rolled up onto the hood of that car and splattered to the ground on the other side, it occurred to me that engaging in a battle of principle with a moving vehicle probably is not wise, no matter who's right.

It took the driver and his horrified passenger, both seemingly in their early twenties, about 10 seconds to do anything at all. Perhaps they were contemplating screeching off, then realized that my mangled bike was tangled in the undercarriage of their car. Nonetheless, they finally got out to assess the carnage of their vehicular negligence.

Although they offered to take me to the hospital multiple times, I just wanted them to go away so I could get on with my day. The clearly terrified driver handed me a scrap of paper with his information -- which could have been his grocery list, for all I knew at the time -- retrieved my pavement-chewed sunglasses, and drove off.

Now alone, I started to assess the damage. With shaking hands, I lifted my shirt to find an already darkened bruise about the size of a grapefruit on my hip -- the place of impact. I was bleeding from both knees and elbows, and my right ankle was starting to swell. Still, if my front tire wouldn't have been folded like a taco, I would have finished that ride. Cuz that's just how I roll.

Accepting that I was going to have to get help from someone, I retrieved my phone from the grassy  knoll and called my friend. Here's how that went:

Her: "Hey, where are you?"
Me: "Um, I have a problem."
Her: "What's up?"
Me: "I just got hit by a car."
Her: "Oh my god! Are you ok?"
Me: "Yeah, but now I'm gonna need a ride to your place because my tire is bent."

She still laughs at the casual nature of my delivery. Given my tone, my problem just as easily could have been that I wanted to pick up beer on the way but forgot my ID.

As I stood there next to my crumpled bike waiting for her to collect me, the adrenaline slowly subsided and the reality of what just went down started to set in. And I started to cry.

It wasn't that I was scared or in terrible pain. It was just a delayed reaction to a very startling event. Nonetheless, tears just kept streaming down my face from behind my glasses. I just couldn't stop them.

In my peripherial vision, I noticed a guy approaching me, and I was filled with dread. Although I appreciate the instinct of a stranger to see if someone who looked as pathetic as I did at that moment needed a hand, I just wanted to be left alone.

"Excuse me," he said. And I turned, prepared to thank him for his concern but assure him that I was fine.

"Do you know how to get to Mission Beach?"

Of all the many, many people who were out and about that afternoon, this guy saw me, crying and bleeding next to my broken bike, and thought, hey, I bet she knows where to go.

We shared a moment of silence as I stared at him, expressionless. Then I said, "Go back in the direction you came and turn right."

He thanked me and went on his way. And even though that guy may never know how big of a tool he was that day, and my friends will always laugh at how bizarre it was that I actually gave him directions, it did get me to stop crying. So for that, I'm thankful.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pat, revisited

We saw Pat through the store window again this morning, this time in her jammies but alert and taking in the bustle of the morning from the safety and stillness of her store. When I looked at her, she smiled back.

Now my previous Pat sighting doesn't seem quite as outrageous. That section of the store, I believe, is Pat's living room. So seeing Pat all sacked out on Thanksgiving morning isn't unlike randomly catching a glance through parted curtains of someone napping in their favorite recliner.

I must admit, if that store didn't have a visible exit, I might wonder if it was some sort of biodome experiment, or perhaps a wormhole to another time. But it's just a store. Pat's home. Where she's surrounded by things she loves. We should all be so lucky.

Next time I'll be sure to wave and mouth an exaggerated "good morning," like a good neighbor should.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving, Pat

I was reminded of something very important this morning: never leave for a walk without the camera.

This morning we walked by this antique wonderland called Pat's. From floor to ceiling across the huge expanse of store, Pat's is packed with distressed treasures from another lifetime -- which you can have custom refurbished for a very reasonable price.

To find something specific -- say, a small vanity and cute little stool -- you'd have to spend hours, days maybe, navigating the mazes of stuff stacked upon stuff propped up by stuff that's covering stuff. Or you could just ask Pat. Because Pat know exactly what's in every inch of that place, inside and in the giant antique graveyard out back. She's like the rainman of cluttertown. And she's awesome.

I can't say I know Pat all that well. She helped me find my vanity and cute little stool so many years ago, and that was our one and only interaction. But I remember her well. She's an older, no-nonsense, let's-get-down-to-business kind of lady. I like that. And she had this cat (there were many, but I remember this one, in particular) that laid on the counter, entirely uninterested in the world around it.

In any case, we were walking past Pat's, and I turned, as I have for the past few weeks, to look through one of the giant picture windows that surrounds the place to see if they still had the chair that I've been meaning to tell my friend Mary about. And there, sitting in that very chair, was Pat. Right there in the display window.

Now, when I say sitting, what I really mean is totally passed out, head draped over the back of the chair, mouth agape, wearing yesterday's clothes. And next to her, looking back at me, was that cat.

This was such a wonderously awesome sight that I actually looked around to see if there was anyone around who could maybe take the picture and send it to me. I don't mean this in any sort of condescending way. Even though I don't really know Pat, looking at her in that chair, all sprawled and uncaring, I thought, that's so Pat.

As I continued on my walk, I started thinking about Pat, and how it's a holiday, and that she was all alone (except for the cat) in her store. And I started to worry. I created a whole slew of "what if" scenarios as I hurried back that direction. To my delight, I found an empty chair when I passed by the second time. Pat's all good. Happy Thanksgiving, Pat.

On a side note, I also saw a round man wearing a sky blue velour suit with a green top hat pulling a roller bag behind him as he ran to catch the bus. I'd pay cash money to know what's in that bag. I also may or may not have seen Bono. It was a great walk.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Ruffin it

It's been raining a lot here. But the dog still must be walked. And the car still must be retrieved from the night before, hopefully before the ticket has been cast (not this time).

So Merlin and I were out walking in the rain, totally commando style (in the rain sense), and on the other side of the street we saw some sort of schnauzer wearing a raincoat. And when I say raincoat, I don't mean some flimsy canine poncho. I mean an REI-style raincoat designed for the hardcore doggie outdoor enthusiast. It was so elaborate that I had to do a double take.

As we continued on our walk, both pretty soggy, I started thinking about this alternative doggie lifestyle. And I wondered if I was a bad dog owner for making my beloved pooch brave the elements without protection. When I was in San Francisco a few weeks ago, I saw several dogs wearing sneakers -- yes, sneakers (I'm very sad that I didn't get photos of that). I have absolutely no clue what the point of that is. And yet, I still wonder, is Merlin underprivileged?

Of course, I will never know the answer to this, since Merlin can't whine about not having what all the cool kids, like the schauzers, have. Nor will he ever refuse to go outside for a walk or trip to the park in the rain, even though I know he hates being wet. But still, I wonder. Perhaps next summer I'll buy him some doggles just to keep him current. But for now, we'll just continue to ruff it ... ah, I know. terrible.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Superman in daisy dukes

This morning I was out walking the dog and I saw what I believe to be the oldest man in the world wearing what I'm certain are the shortest shorts I've ever seen on a man. His getaway sticks were long and the loose skin on them rippled in the breeze. And I looked away before I could confirm, but I think I may have caught a glimpse of the satchel ... ew.

At first I was horrified, but as I walked off I thought, good for him. If I make it to be that old and I want the ladies to peek out from beneath a totally inappropriately revealing blouse, then I hope I have the genuine F-it attitude required to just do it. If you're gonna do it, you better rock it.

That old guy in the daisy dukes stood with his fists on his hips, all superman style, chatting up his grand kids with all the confidence in the world. So I say, you go guy. You inspire me.