Dog Day Before-Noon

Woof.

Woof.

Every day for the past five-plus years, I’ve walked two blocks to my local deli for coffee and, when available, breakfast.

For the most, it’s a quiet journey, a peaceful few minutes for me to clear my mind before I have to interact with fellow human beings.

Upon arrival this morning, I walked by a car with tinted windows. No big deal, really, because in Connecticut tinted windows aren’t much of rarity, but the sound emitting from the car’s interior was unseen but instantly recognizable.

Call it a woof, call it a bark, call it a dog being a dog, going absolutely bonkers thinking a tired old crank like me was going cause harm to the car. But, there again, it’s a dog so maybe it thought I had  a stick hidden up my rear end, and I was going to let him out to play fetch. Or maybe he had the worst owner in the world and he barking out “Help, please help me, hey mister .. Don’t walk away – Hey Asshole!”

I don’t speak Woofian and my Barksdale dialect is rusty.

But I digress. This story isn’t about one dog. Who would write about a single dog? Other than a dog-lover, I suppose, writing for a dog blog.

I am not a dog-lover. Nor do I write for a dog blog, though some might say this blog should go to the dogs.

I grabbed my coffee and my breakfast sandwich and began the downhill journey back to my abode. Sipping the coffee, which I once described as my morning hit of crack, I heard it coming from my right.

Woof. Bark. Bow-wow.

What the?

I looked up the driveway that I’ve passed countless times and there it stood. A dog I had never seen before – a dog I had never heard before, for that matter – standing in the drive way, looking at me with that cock-headed look.

Bark … Bark … Bark.

As I said it before, this was usually a quiet journey up and back and now I’ve had two dogs ruff-ing me up with their noise. I walked a long a hedge that led to the mid-point of my journey, the first block of the trip, over the second block of the trip about to begin.

And don’t ask me how, but I just knew what was going to happen.

At that corner is a house that owns a dog. I’ve seen THAT dog many times of the year. Unfriendly to those who do not know him (Much like its owner, I’d say), that dog has barked at everybody who walks by the house when it’s outside. I knew in my heart that mutt would be sitting there waiting for me once I cleared the shrubbery because that’s how life happens.

In threes, right?

Good things happen in threes. Bad things happen in threes. Celebrity deaths happen in threes.

It’s the backwards E of life — Dogs were about to happen in threes, as well.

And there he was. Or she. It. Whatever.

Sitting at the bottom of the steps that led up to the porch was Dog Number Three, ready to complete the canine trifecta by — wait for it —

Woof.

— Barking at me.

A three-dog morning over a journey in which I might see one dog a week. It had to be a sign, right?

I rushed home. (Mainly so I could chug my coffee) and when the time was right I turned to ask The Almighty what message he was trying to send.

I Googled, “Dogs Barking In Threes.”

The very first website was for “KODY KUPS – by Three Dogs Barking.” Or, in other words, “A healthy alternative to ice cream for your dogs.”

Once I got over my anger and frustration of the fact that dogs could eat ice cream and not put on weight, I briefly perused the website before moving on.

I can’t imagine three dogs were joining cosmic forces to tell me to avoid ice cream, though the dog term “Bow-Wow” could translate to “Lose Weight” – at least in terms of straight-up syllables.

The second offering from Google was titled, “Why do dogs bark?”

The very first item read, “Continuous rapid barking, mid-range pitch: “Call the pack! There is a potential problem! Someone is coming into our territory!” Continuous barking but a bit slower and pitched lower: “The intruder [or danger] is very close. Get ready to defend yourself!”

Hmm, sounded like the first dog, trapped in the car. So it didn’t want to escape and run free from a horrible owner. Instead, it thought I, despite my foggy head from having just awoken, was going to wreak havoc to the family car. What was I going to do, Rover? Piss on the tire? Though that would be some nice revenge to countless dogs who have walked by my car and watered my tire.

I read on: “No. 4. One or two sharp short barks, mid-range pitch: “Hello there!” This is the most typical greeting sound.”

Sounded like the second dog, perhaps somewhat new to the neighborhood since I’d never seen it before. It was just being a friendly, a dog’s version of “Good morning, kind sir, how are you today?”

Now I feel guilty I didn’t answer. The dog likely thinks I’m just another rude Connecticut resident, nose in the air because I’m better than the four-legged community that can hear sounds no humans can.

The third dog I had figured out a long time ago. Like his owner, he’s just a grumpy, miserable pooch who would bark at a girl scout selling cookies. (The owner, not the dog).

But still three dogs barking within a block of each other? Something was up.

It was time to dig deeper into the meaning I had uncovered. After all, what if the pooches were about to rise up and take over the world. After all, us humans aren’t doing such a great job.

I found my answer in the little-known book “Legends of the West” by James Hall. The book was published in 1854 in New York City.

There it was on Page 206, “All at once, a barking was heard.”

Yes, exactly, it was just like that. During the usually tranquil walk, all of a sudden a barking was heard.”

I was one to something and kept reading.

Page 210 — “On they went, full of hope, the scent growling more and more fresh, and the dogs barking louder … “

True. Each dog barked a little bit louder. From the possible friendly Dog 2 to the mean, angry hate-the-world Dog 3, the barks were louder.

I was about to discover the answer, adding to the World Order of Threes and perhaps changing human kind forever for those who come across The Barking of the Threes.

I kept reading, anxiously chewing up the words and waiting for the answer to leap off the page.

Finally, on page 279, there it was.

“Now it doesn’t take a Philadelphia lawyer to tell,” Hall wrote, “that the man who serves the Master one day and the enemy six, has just six chances out of seven to go to the Devil; You’re barking up the wrong tree, Johnson — take a fresh start and try to get on the right trail.”

On Page 285, more: “Have your own way, said the farmer; if you do quit money hunting, I am satisfied; but I must say when I hear you talk of spirits and such like, I am sorry but you’re still barking up the wrong tree.”

Barking up the wrong tree?

Well, I suppose, that could be the case.

Three dogs barking might mean nothing more than a coincidence, but I can’t help but wonder Johnny Cash, Warren Zevon and John Ritter might think of that. They died during the same week in 2003. Less than five years later, Suzanne Pleshette, Heath Ledger and Brad Renfro all passed. And, of course, who can forget Michael Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon all approaching the Pearly Gates together — easy as 1-2-3.

Woof to the non-believers.

Just beware the dog today. And, remember, you heard it here first.

Manhattanville College should be embarrassed to call itself a college after this

Shocked to read the following blog post from sports journalist Jeff Pearlman about what a school of higher learning did to him and the students under his direction.

http://www.jeffpearlman.com/i-was-a-college-newspaper-advisor/

When people in power treat journalism like this, it’s no wonder were a dying craft.

SUNDAY SERMON — Me, My High Horse and The Music of Our Lives

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

— Abraham Lincoln

• • •

Let’s face it. It’s been a fucked-up week, no?

From the Monday when our world was again shattered by a pair of bombs going off at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, to the insane, crazy, not-made-for-TV, Hollywood manhunt that played out in front of our very eyes on Thursday and Friday, the week was full of emotions and confusion, tears turned to cheers, and Boston, for 24 hours following, held a place right above Heaven in the eyes of many.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Boston. Growing up in Maine, Boston was our only real city — sorry Bangor, sorry Portland, you can’t carry a true city’s tax burden — and all my journeys there brought forth nothing but great memories.

But if there is one thing I’ve noticed about every tragedy that has happened in our country, it’s the place where it has happened is brought into our national consciousness as a place that’s so special, it deserves special acclaim.

Pearl Harbor in 1942. Dallas in 1963. Oklahoma City in 1995. New York City in 2001. Boston, last Monday. And, let’s not forget, all those “it can’t happen here” moments from Littleton, Colo., to Newtown, Conn., times ten.

When tragedy happens our thoughts and prayers go out to where it happened, and rightfully so. Yet if there is one thing that has become so obvious through a lifetime of tragedy it is this: One place is no more special than the other, not from sea to shining sea, and that is what truly makes the United States of America so great. The people in New York and Boston have the same exact resolve as people in Littleton and Newtown.

Chicago? Los Angeles? San Francisco? Seattle? They are all major cities just waiting for something to happen and when it does our prayers and positive thoughts will be redirected in their direction because that’s what we do as a country. Your little town? My little town? Both hold the same potential for tragedy to come a calling, tearing apart our fabric of trust with the passing of each and every day.

If anything, all of the madness that has struck our country in my lifetime points to one obvious fact that I think everybody should embrace. No one place is better than another just because of what has happened there. Likewise, no one person is better than another, at least not at the core, because in a way we all are one. Not to sound Michael Jackson corny, but “We Are The World.”

At least that’s how I see things from my high horse.

Just last week I was told to “Get off my high horse” and this proved to be the second time in the last five years those words have been uttered about me — once by a man I respect a lot, the first time by somebody that I don’t.

My reaction was simple and swift: The only reason I’m up on this high horse is so I can look in the eyes of the ego-driven folk who uttered those words about me. One person, for the most part, uses his ego in positive ways that I think actually make things better, even though it can totally rub people the wrong way and, from time to time, almost gets his ass kicked. (Not by me, of course; I’m a liker, not a fighter).

But as I sat on my high horse, looking down on what an embarrassment the world of journalism had become on a national scale through its coverage of Boston’s week, I was reminded that the present day media world isn’t what it once was.

Once upon a time, it was ABC, CBS and NBC vs. the Associated Press and United Press International. Those were our news services and because there were only five of them, going head to head to head (to head to head), they could afford to take their time to make sure they got things right. One source wasn’t good enough. Two was do-able, but the digging rarely stopped there.

Today, our heads spin as we bounce around our cable dial, yearning to get the latest piece of news like we’re waiting for a plot twist in a movie . Even that’s too slow in the year 2013, so we turn to Twitter and Facebook and Reddit and Instagram for live updates and photos of what’s going on out in the world, with nary a concern about if any of it is right.

CNN didn’t intend to report wrong news, but was rushed into it by the thousands of other media outlets — some of whom reported the same news, forcing hundreds of others to be wrong, as well. I’m sure the New York Post didn’t intend to be so wrong by saying a dozen people were killed in the Boston bombing, and then running a photo of two “suspects” that were totally the wrong people. But, there again, they’re the New York Post so who knows that they’re thinking in their tabloid minds.

It’s a different world and we have to get used to it and quit pining for the good old days when we didn’t have to worry about stepping outside of the safety of our homes and dying so tragically, or being worried that our children could go outside and play and won’t be blown up by somebody with a grudge.

Last night, I had the pleasure of taking pictures of the legendary band Fleetwood Mac, a group that’s been around since the late 1960s. They certainly took me back with a couple of their songs, bringing back memories of my younger days when the world was different and seemingly far more innocent. But was it?

Imagine if the Internet had been around when Oswald (or others) pulled the trigger. Would Walter Cronkhite have taken off his glasses, paused so dramatically and told the world the President was dead. Or would the words “The Huffington Post is reporting the president is dead” been sent wirelessly around the world.

Imagine if Kent State students could have Tweeted what was happening on their campus on May 4, 1970.

We live in a different world that, at its core, isn’t all that different because of the people.

Some of us ride around on high horses, thinking they’re better than the common man. Others ride around on a high horse because they have to, as they try to keep up with the people around them. More still, perhaps, ride around on their high horses because the view appears to be better up there.

Right now, though, it doesn’t matter where you’re sitting. The view in 2013 is pretty God damned scary and it doesn’t take a fucked up week like the one just past to remind us of this.

Boston 2013 — Anger first, questions later

Boston Marathon-Explosions

Bruce Benke, a 36-year-old runner from Westport, Conn., had already finished running the Boston Marathon on Monday when yet another explosion rocked the world we all live in.

Right away, Benke knew it wasn’t good, it wasn’t right. Races might begin with the bang of a starter’s pistol, but it never, ever ends with an explosion tearing limbs off bodies, ending lives in a flash and changing everything — again.

Benke had been a Marine and his sixth sense kicked in almost immediately.

“(My wife) thought it was like a water (main) break, or gas main,” Benke told The Hour newspaper on Monday afternoon. “I said, ‘No, that was a blast. We need to take cover and get out of the streets. This is bad.”

Without missing a beat, he delivered the unintended punch line.

“So we headed to a bar and we hunkered down there.”

I can’t blame him. As of three o’clock on Monday, I felt like I needed a drink, as well.

It was while channeling surfing that I flicked upon CNN and immediately froze. Two explosions had occurred at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.

Our Boston Marathon.

My Boston Marathon.

My relationship with the 26.2-mile Hopkinton-to-Boston race dates back to the late 1970s, when an American named Bill Rodgers won three straight races, thereby cementing his role as a running legend in the eyes of millions. Soon after came a man named Alberto Salazar, who became the first man to run under a 2:09.

Joan Benoit-Samuelson, from right down the road in Freeport, won the Boston Marathon twice, once in world record time, and all I could think about back then  was running stride-for-stride with her at Benjamin’s 10K in Bangor during that same time period. (Yes, she later pulled away from me down the stretch).

Right around that same time, 31 years ago, I was in the midst of my own running career. Granted it was a lifetime ago, not to mention 100 pounds or so, but me and my friends — whose teen-age goals had consisted mostly of getting a little something-something from our girlfriends — had actually openly talked about, dreamed about, running Boston someday.

Sadly, that day never came, but the marathon rarely if ever wavered from my consciousness.

One year, right around the turn of the century, I even covered the Boston Marathon for the newspaper I was working for, planting myself at The Tunnel of Love — the all-women Wellesley College, which comes out in droves to support the runners, making it one of the loudest and most memorable places along the course.

On Monday, all those happy memories were buried underneath the rubble of the aftermath of the bombing that took place at the finish line of this year’s marathon.

I couldn’t speak. I immediately thought the worst. Like the rest of us, I’ve been waiting for the answers ever since.

In the meantime, I’m just angry. No, that doesn’t do it justice. I’m genuinely pissed off.

Terrorism found its way into my country on Sept. 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down.

Now, it has found its way into my world — the world of sports — and I am so fucking angry.

Boston Marathon Explosions

An eight-year-old boy lost his life just moments after hugging his father at the finish line. Just like that, his life was taken from him — taken from all of us, really, because who knows how many lives he would have touched had he been allowed to grow up. Never again will he look up to the runners who brave the challenge of pushing themselves over a 26-foot mile foot race, be it the Kenyans who do it in such a ridiculous time that it’s almost absurd, or to his own father who accepted the challenge himself and the completed the course, getting not just a medal, but more importantly one last hug from the little boy who certainly thought of his dad as a hero.

Yet tragedy refused to settle for taking a little boy’s life. His sister has reportedly lost a leg. His mother suffered a head injury. A family left to grieve and heal and ask questions that will never be answered.

At least two others are dead, a number that could still rise. More than 140 remain injured, forever scarred by the act of something few of us can comprehend.

In the aftermath of it all — after the blood has dried, after the ringing in our ears has stopped, after the tears in our eyes have dried up — so many people are stepping up through social media, posting and Tweeting such offerings as “Pray for Boston” or “Thinking of the people in Boston” or asking the never-to-be-answered questions “Why?”

I know people mean well, but what’s bothering me more than anything right now is while this incident occurred in a two block area of the city — a long a street that I have walked upon perhaps a dozen a times over my life — it is just a microcosm of everything that is wrong in our world. This time, it’s just being played out on a major stage.

But this is just another chapter in the story of what is wrong with life in the 21st century.

We have an insane punk kid given power because of his family in North Korea threatening us with nuclear weapons. We have a mentally disabled person in Newtown killing our children just because he wanted to. We have people shooting our politicians in Arizona, our movie goers in Colorado, and on the streets of our big cities and small towns every day because together we have created such a violent society. And our leaders can do nothing about it because they’re busy fighting with each other.

Pray for Boston, if you must, if it makes you feel better.

But please think of the bigger picture. If an eight -year-old boy can die after giving his father a hug at an event like the Boston Marathon, then once again this type of story can happen anywhere.

After all, this is the world we have created.