Sunday, July 26, 2009

Party Games

Saturday night at dusk, my daughter and I heard people hootin’ an’ hollerin’. I glanced over at my daughter and gave her my best “oh well” look. She said, “It’s obvious someone’s playing a rousing game of pin the tail on the donkey.”

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Silence and Its Antithesis: the Barking Dog Syndrome

If I were a dog, I’d be the type that people would only hear barking when there was a reason to bark, like if I saw a cute guy or spotted a skunk or heard a mountain lion or was upset with my owner for not giving me a juicy bone.

And I’d wag my tail a lot—particularly after I barked at the cute guy.

I would not bark garrulously, for fear someone wouldn’t like me, or would walk away and not say why, or would kill me. Like most, I lack complete confidence. I’d do my best to behave, so hopefully others would like me.

Last year we had a lot of burglaries in our region, so perhaps homeowners bought dogs to protect their property. But like car alarms that only seem to go off on non-break-in occasions, barking dogs don’t seem to be alerting anyone to danger.

The dogs and their owners in my home’s vicinity must have their fur stuffed with groundless confidence, because all I hear is obnoxious, incessant, peace-draining barks. Sometimes perpetual barking fills what should be our night’s silence. I hear more noise than a bar filled with bikers and a band on a Friday night.

I must be the only one who hears the commotion, though, because if someone lived even a couple of houses from any of these abhorrent dog owners, they would conquer the explosive cries with a neighborly little chat or love note, right?

But I live two or three blocks from these thoughtless meatheads and know not precisely where they are. You see, many of the barking-dog owners in a three-block radius of my home sense when I put my jammies on. They know I won’t venture out in the dark wearing jammies to hunt them down.

But soon I may. The mercury is rising.

Oh my God! This just happened. It’s 11 p.m. Two dogs have been barking at each other like jealous boyfriends for 10 minutes. A shot just rang out. Not a firecracker or bottle rocket, a shotgun sound—and the dogs aren’t barking anymore. Hmm, silence : )

Is there something wrong with silence? Apparently the law thinks peace is a good thing.*

The other evening as I prepared to sit in my hot tub, a backyard neighbor’s high-pitched-yipping dog indicated displeasure with its life via uninterrupted yapping for 12 minutes. Mindless little moron.

Preparing to help its yelp with a little pop of the pea shooter, I summoned my strength and opted for a little silence-breaking soliloquy myself.

“No!” I yelled out the window. The pinhead barked a little louder—then went inside.

Minutes later while sitting in hot water, a retriever-sounding dog wailed and screamed and sounded as if it were being castrated without aid of brandy just four houses east of the first dog. I decided to pour vinegar on its wounds later, but first loudly sang, “Staaahaaaaaaaap!” (That’s an elongated “stop,” but if I’d typed a series of o’s, it would look like “stoop.”)

Shortly after my song, the dog stopped—then went inside.

My home should be my sanctuary. Things in my midst should evoke peace. That’s not been the case.

I wonder, 
Am I the only one who hears these dogs yelp?
Are these dog owners deaf?
Are the neighbors of these owners deaf?
Are these dog owners ever home?
Do these rude dog owners give a hoot whether their neighbors three blocks away can’t sleep all night because their dog barks and lives without the attention it apparently needs?
What about all the neighbors in between the dog and three blocks away?

If I were a dog, I’d hunt down the owners of neglected and abused dogs and bite them. Real hard.

To the inconsiderados:
Your dog is driving us nuts,
and frankly, we haven’t the guts
to say to its face
“you’re invading our space,”
so perhaps you would do it for us. Amen.

I’m thinking about starting two new services:
(1) I’ll post barking-dog videos with addresses on Auntie,
(2) for $10, I’ll send an anonymous letter with a nicer poem, or just the letter of the law, to the person you request.

Let’s hear your story of how you got a dog owner to stop his or her dog’s barking.

Remember: It is not the dog’s fault.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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* For El Paso County, Colorado:
Is there a set time that animals are allowed to bark?
Per the City/County ordinance an animal is not allowed to bark and disturb the peace and quiet of the neighborhood at any time, day or night. Please visit the Animal Control Ordinances page for more information.
Barking Dogs
Incessant barking can be very disturbing to the peace and quiet of a neighborhood. In addition, it violates County ordinances to harbor such a disturbance. If your neighbor's noisy pet is habitually disturbing you, please call the Humane Society at 473-1741 to learn about possible courses of action.

City/County Law
It shall be unlawful to own or keep a dog which, by barking, howling, baying or other utterance, disturbs the peace and quiet of the neighborhood. (6.7.115) (Res. 78-136, Sec 16)

Saturday, July 11, 2009

I Am What I Ate

When I was 24, I sat in front of the mirror with my hairstylist behind me clipping away, and she said, "Wow! You sure eat a lot of carrots."

I slowly turned to view her eyes rather than her reflection and gave her an incredulous look. "How do you know that?"

"Because your skin is orange," she remarked.

It had happened so gradually, I hadn’t noticed the effect of eating the carrots I craved in the morning with my coffee. I was what I ate—orange. Maybe I needed beta carotene, the precursor of vitamin A.

Or maybe I just wanted to be more like my bright, beautiful, orange-haired friend Sue. (I love you : )

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Cheap Date

(I’ve always said I’m a cheap date, but I’ll admit, when it comes to dining, I prefer very nice restaurants and they’re never inexpensive. For every rule there’s an exception, however.)

My friend suggested we go grab a bite to eat. I was hot, hungry, and dressed casually, so we headed down the street to a Texas Roadhouse, certainly not one my regular spots. They had a 35-minute wait, thank goodness, so we left. It was very noisy and we would have had to yell to talk with each other.

We jumped back in the car, headed south, and kept looking for a viable alternative. “Let’s try Estela’s Mexican Restaurant,” he said, and up the driveway we went. The place had always looked vacant to me, although their sign remained up for 16 years.

When we greeted the hostess, she asked, “Can I get your name?”

“Is there a long wait?” I asked.

“Oh no,” she answered. “We’re just taking everyone’s name.”

So my friend, being the smart aleck he is, said, “Schmaltz. Spelled S-c-h-m-o-l-p-f-t-z.”

The hostess’ grin got a little scrunchier while I cracked up and rolled my eyes. Promptly someone escorted us to a table for two.

The place was a whirlwind of activity with more waitstaff than I’ve ever seen in any restaurant. The atmosphere was spirited, positive, fun.

“Coming in!” waitpersons would yell as they approached the dual-swinging doors and entered the kitchen. Unusual, but they didn’t have a mirror to see if another person was coming out. So to avoid smashing a burrito on someone’s bust, they’d shout their arrival.

My friend and I caught up with life’s events, crunched on chips, and sipped water while awaiting our food and watching the flurry of people around us. Our waitress, Ashley, was a delight—friendly, attentive, and she genuinely laughed at all my friend’s quirky comments after I explained that they only let him out for a couple hours each week.

During one of Ashley’s visits to our table, she must have recognized that we were wondering why our dinners were taking so long, and she said, “Your dinners are coming. At least they’re free!” Amid the voices, people running back and forth, and clatter of dishes, I wasn’t sure I’d heard correctly, so I just kept smiling and said thank you.

After about a half hour, our meals arrived, steaming hot and smothered in a burnt orange sauce. We dove in. Halfway through, a beautiful woman who appeared to be the owner stopped by and in a breathless, happy tone asked, “How is everything? Are you enjoying your food? And who invited you to our party?”

“Party?” I started to laugh, “We’re at a party?”

“Yes! Tonight is our training night and private party, because we’re reopening!”

I couldn’t contain myself, and the laughter bubbled out of me. “I’m so sorry. We weren’t invited. Are you Estela?”

“No, Estela’s my mother. My sister works here too. We were open for years, then closed for the last nine. But you’re fine. It’s okay,” she said graciously with a huge welcoming smile on her face and perhaps muttering a Hail Mary that we’d vacate our seats soon so the invited guests could dine free.

We’d crashed a party, and the hostess was simply compiling a list of the invited guests who’d shown up. I had tears streaming down my face from semiembarrassment, yet felt overjoyed by this serendipitous faux pas.

My friend left a generous tip for Ashley. Then we thanked our host, Estela’s daughter, and made room for the invited. And I became a cheaper date.

Pretty Schmaltzie.

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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Should English Be Spoken in the U.S.?

I’m beginning to believe being PC isn’t politically correct anymore.

I was at Gnashing, the sprightly restaurant where I recently had my birthday party, and its manager whom I’ve known for years approached me, asked me to step out in the hall with him for what I expected to be marketing ideas, and shocked me with, “Auntie, someone heard you in the bathroom say through the stall to one of our employees, ‘Speak English. You’re in America.’”

The girl had been talking on her cell phone to someone in Haiti, so her language would not have been too unfamiliar to me, given my heritage.

But really, what would be unjust with saying those words, asked my friend who joined me. Is there something wrong with speaking English, or even Americanized English, while in the U.S.? Knowing the aid and intervention the UN and U.S. have given Haiti in 1994, 2004, and more recently, I would think she’d appreciate Americans.

And if she was supposed to be working, why was she in a public restroom talking on the phone? If I were an employee of an establishment, I’d pay homage to those who paid me—the patrons and my employer—showing public honor and respect, which is a good principle for us all.

If she were truly offended by being asked to speak English, why would she tell her American-born boss? As a friend familiar with the establishment wrote: “I don't know what was said, but you are living in America and people can say what they want! Why didn't this girl say something back to you if it was such a problem???? She could've stood up for herself.”

And isn’t it politically correct to respect the language of the people whose country you are living in? I’m not referring to tourists, who would typically speak their native tongue with a smattering of English, unless they’re European and learn English in grammar school.

But this girl was supposed to be working, so she must be living here.

I said to my world-traveler friend, “If I were going to another country, I’d do the best I could to learn some basics of the language before I visited. In fact before I went to Italy, I practiced with books, tapes, and a dictionary. Even though they couldn’t understand me, they appreciated my feeble attempts.”

He, having visited numerous African countries and China a couple times, several Middle Eastern countries, and Europe and Mexico numerous times, responded, “I always try to learn common phrases before I leave. And though Chinese was somewhat difficult, I worked toward educating myself. People really appreciate that I’m making an effort. It’s always said how rude the French are. Well, when I was there, I did my best to speak their language, and they were very gracious to me.”

It’s about respect.

When asked the question, Do you think people should speak English in America? a female interviewee wrote: “Absolutely, it pisses me off when they speak their native language in public or place of business!”

A man said he’s been to Haiti and they spoke English, though according to a few sources, their languages are Haitian Creole and French. “Don’t you know,” he asked, “that there is a current conspiracy against Americans and that we are seen as evil and must be destroyed?”

All I’m discussing here is that we have the United States Constitution, and I’m defending one’s right to exercise our First Amendment right and support a country with its diverse heritage.

It’s about respect.

In 387 A.D. St. Ambrose said to St. Augustine, “When I am at Rome, I fast on a Saturday; when I am at Milan, I do not. Follow the custom of the Church where you are.” Eventually his thoughts evolved into “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

The Gnashing manager wants me to apologize to Miss Haiti or I’m not welcome back. Being obsequious, I probably will. But he wasn’t specific about what to apologize about.

Am I sorry for purportedly saying the obvious: she’s in America, in a public place speaking other-than-American-English? for purportedly exercising the Constitution’s First Amendment right? for interrupting her conversation?

Is it okay to speak your mind in a declarative sense, or is Iran on the right track?

Is it PC to speak French in France, German in Germany, French or Creole in Haiti, English in England, American-English in the U.S.?

Please click the comment link below and let me know how you feel. Go ahead—rip me a new one!

copyright © 2009 by Auntie Eartha. All rights reserved.

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