Nov 21 2014

Week Two Update / Smog is Real

We’ve been in Beijing for two weeks. I had intended to already have posted more photos and updates by this time. I HAVE taken some photos and had some thoughts during this period, but the truth is that I have had a hard time making much sense of either. I’m not sure exactly why I have taken the photos I’ve taken and let other, more interesting scenes pass by; and, I’m not exactly sure why I have chosen which thoughts to explore, which to write about, and which to let pass by. I’ve often found myself bouncing back and forth between feeling isolated and feeling overwhelmed.

I immediately liked Beijing. But when Shana asked what it was that I liked I had no answer. It wasn’t love at first sight… I just liked it. Maybe it is as simple as just being here. It was a very long journey to get here and perhaps I was just happy to have landed, like reaching the beach after a long ocean voyage on a two person raft. Having no real clue about what lay ahead in the forest, at least we had arrived.

I can tell you that it wasn’t an immediate attraction to all of the people on the streets. My first impression was just that there were a lot of both people and streets. A LOT. I intend to write more on this at some point, but Beijing seemingly has an abundance of everything, including a ton of Chinese people… who knew?

I spend much of my alone time, when Shana is out doing her work, looking out the window where we set up a desk for me to paint or write or (apparently) stare out of a window. I watch people and dogs and even a few really cool black and white birds do their thing. Sometimes I think, and sometimes I don’t.

This next bit might seem intensely obvious but I don’t care:  This smog business is very real and pretty scary. I won’t go into a bunch of smoggy details because you can find those elsewhere, but I will post two photos that show the difference between a smoggy day and a relatively clear one. They were taken at the same time of day, one yesterday and one today. That’s all for now, talk to you later.

clear day smoggy day


Nov 17 2014

Grocery Video and Some Words including: Turtle

Beijing, first impressions: awesome.

Beijing second impression: hmmmphh

Beijing third impression: Let’s go to the grocery store!

The video cuts off where every video should cut off—at the mention of the cost of a turtle.

Oct 9 2014

Short Read, Cool Picture

We are currently in Iowa, staying with Momma Mary while working/waiting on visa things and Ph.D. things, and Chinese government things to resolve themselves (or deciding how to force the resolution; either through the wit and wisdom of Shana, or the “F-you, I will rent a boat and let customs figure it out when we get there” style of thought that has worked so well for me in the past.

Anyway, I came across this picture on my mother’s wall.


This photo of Jonny and I makes me think of that time, as photos are rumored to do. I can’t recall exactly when it was captured, but I can remember the sense of it. It was a time when I believed I knew everything and I also believed that I knew nothing, and both things were equally true.

It was during a different visit to my mom’s place. That time with Jonny but without Shana. I still believe that I know everything and nothing simultaneously. If there has been any growth, it is in recognizing that there are states of being in between the two.

Sep 26 2014

Jonny Video & Lyrics

I remember Jonny

Jonny come lately

I remember her shoes like a ballerina

A girl called Jonny who

Changed her name when she

Discovered her choice was to

Change or to be changed

I remember a girl called Jonny

Black as hell and white as a ghost

“Don’t talk about life or death”

She said “I’ve had enough of both”

A girl called Jonny who was not scared

They’d have torn her to pieces but

Who would dare?

I remember a girl called Jonny

The train came to town, boy she got on it

With no looking back, with not a word

If she said goodbye, well I never heard

But the noise goes on

The noise, the jazz

And the truth is in somebody else’s hands

And the house that a girl called Jonny built

Is now just ashes and sand

Sep 23 2014

Jonny: Last Refrain


I suppose when you call anyone at 3am there is a good chance that they were sleeping. I told a groggy but awesome dude named Jim on the situation and he gave me directions and off we went. Shana and I are horrible with directions… we have  lived here for 3 years and I honestly can’t tell you which bridge is the Ravenel or the Cooper or the Connector and which of those constitute 17 or old 17 or what the fuck is going on in this town. But, we’ve managed to get from here to there and will leave quite proud of our Charleston knowledge.

I also suppose that when someone calls at 3am and they are coming to visit, this man named Jim—presumably the assistant—whose job is mostly to learn from and wake up the other vet because of emergency situations, goes as fast as he can into high gear and becomes a Robin to Batman Superhero of “what is wrong” mode.

That seems slightly dramatic as I write it, but fuck off… that is what happened. The assistant, Robin, immediately triaged the situation, and I think there was a slight lag while he decided to awaken Batman.

This is all to say that the assistant and Doctor at the Emergency Vet that we arrived at were nothing short of incredible. Here are two people–one a pretty asian girl, the other a mad scientist without the science part, who walk in at 3am and say “Hi, this is Jonny, I think she hurts.”

We go into one room…….. Jonny goes into another room….. and I can hear her crying again. (this could be because you touched her paw wrong or pet her head in a way she didn’t like right then, or if you interrupted a great dream where she almost caught that pesky skunk)… it’s a different cry though… it was a fuck! this isn’t good type of cry and I knew it and I recognized it and I was like fuck! this isn’t a good type of cry.

The vet, probably a guy in his 40s or maybe he was 30 or whatever he was he knew the deal. It turns out that he has a husky dog that is 13, and I would bet anything that he saw me in his own eyes.  This entire time, neither he nor the tech or the wind or the universe could have been more quite, understudying, supportive, and compassionate, or open to whatever I said to do.

Long story short: I signed some type of paper and they gave Shana a packet or folder with cremation details and then asked if we wanted some time before the final drugs. I was adamant that no, I don’t want a drawn out thing… so the vet came in, Jonny was sedated and she laid down and I say I love you bird, and I held her her head and Shana stroked her back and then Jonny was gone.

They asked if we wanted some time and my first thought was no, I want to get out of here, I can’t stand this pain and we both got up to leave and then at the same moment we both looked back… and there was Jonny’s body… and without a word we both went back to her and talked and cried and Shana said “I love you J”, I said “fuck you, you little shit… that wasn’t supposed to happen, but thanks for everything.”

And then somehow we drove home.

Sep 19 2014

Last Thursday



I feel that I need to write or say or scream or scratch on a wall with my fingernails something about Jonny. Or maybe it’s Jonny’s death that I need to say—I’m not exactly sure, but if I am writing things I should be honest, yes?

Everyone who could possibly be reading this knows the relationship, and the love connection, and the “if-not-for-me-who-are-you-ness, and the this and that-ness”…. and they also know the Mother who got a new apartment that accepted Jonnies. And maybe they know the Wife who joined Jonny when Jonny and I were both sort of old and already haggard, but who eventually made herself a natural wolf-dog mother, and they grew to love each other. Shana was now a mother—or competition for me—as Jonny and I had a set-up arrangement, as pack dogs do: I was Alpha and she was next in line, should anything happen to me while I showered, she was second in command in the home. At some point, maybe the first night they met and Shana Frebreezed her as we slept, or maybe when Jonny was ok with the constant vacuum, or when they both just said “ok, we can both be #2 and let’s just be ok… you leave me alone when I guard the shower door and I will leave you alone when the bedroom door is closed and I will trust that no one is actually being attacked.” It was always a question and sometimes difficult and often funny, and lots of times I was third… a simple observer.

Jonny woke me up at 2:30, two Thursdays ago telling me that she was in pain. Behind the couch—not a usual spot—she was asking for help. She and I walked it out and  she was crying and I was crying and we talked it out and she kept circling and circling and I knew she was looking for a place… a tough place for everyone involved. At 3:30 I called the emergency vet and got directions. I told Shana the details and asked if she wanted to come… she jumped out of bed immediately and we were on our way.

Now—any vet—emergency or not, cannot really “tell” you what to do. Their eyes can tell you and their demeanor can tell you, and this and that can tell you. But everything was an option… She was 15, had gone through 3 cancer surgeries, and he was “pretty sure” he felt a mass in her stomach area.

I will finish this story at another time, because I’m crying.

Sep 15 2014

11 days

It has been 11 days and 23 hours since Jonny died. I desperately want to report that things are better. Brokenness and chaos are all that I can honestly report. I did not know this about myself, but I am completely ill-equipped to accept certain truths.

People with beautiful intentions talk about dogs and heaven and Rainbow Bridges and wonderful notions that she is still here and she is waiting for me and other troubleshooting solutions to soften pain. I don’t reject anything, because I don’t know anything, but I’d rather not think of Jonny being anywhere—because if she is, I think she might be missing me, and that idea breaks my heart.

I forgot where I am driving, but I will just keep going, because eventually I’ll get there.

I think that a perfect friendship is neither bad nor good, because as good as it is, the end is bad, and I cannot imagine a world in which I won’t be sad.17047_106022909410563_878938_n

Sep 11 2014

A Girl Called Jonny

Sometime around 15 years ago I decided I needed a dog. I proceeded to name this imaginary dog Jonny. I then set forth to find this dog named Jonny. This is when there were still newspapers and they had classified ads and a section called “Dogs for Sale”… This couldn’t have been a better tool for my plan to find a dog named Jonny. I bought a newspaper and I went to the section and I scanned the offerings and one said “Wolf Dogs For Sale”.  My 15 year old younger self thought “oh, that is the greatest idea ever.” A dog and a wolf together would be the most authentic way to have a dog and a wolf and the wolf part would be super cool but the dog genes would make it way less likely that my pet will kill me with it’s face at some unexpected moment.

(I will interrupt myself here to say that yes, I know that dog breeding is bad; and dog/wolf breeding is probably even more bad, and spay and neuter your pets and all of that business, etc.)

So I went to this place and I will admit that it was a bit unsettling. Barking and growling and small pens and large pens, and somehow a knowing in the fight/flight part of my brain that made me twitchy. A girl comes out of a house, I assume a daughter of the family operation and we walk around this strange world. She makes some small talk and then says that we are going to see the parents… the “originals” I guess. The genesis of this wolf dog world. I’m not exactly sure, but I think at some point there was a wolf call off in the distance near the river and this girl seemed kinda scared, so maybe these were not the first “parents”. Anyway, these two were in separate cages, and as much as I wanted them to look wolfy or super-cool or something, they were pretty much just angry and scary and sad and slightly ugly. Continue reading