Middle Aged Treehouse

I'm only mature in years.

Friday, June 16, 2006

The Country Dog and the City Dog

Our neighbors' black and white border collie escaped from their yard last week and came over to visit. After letting all the dogs enjoy a good chat (a delighted exchange of butt-sniffing), I slapped a leash on Rex and took her back across the street.

"Thanks, Tracy," Jeff said. "You can let her go now."

Jeff is a real live cowboy, from Wyoming or Montana or one of those faraway cowboy states. He teaches horseback riding at his house on Saturdays. He and his family rented the property across the street from us while he finishes grad school. When I returned Rex to her cowboy owner, I realized that there are two kinds of border collie people.

Dave and I are the pretend kind. Jeff is the real kind.

Jeff gave a command to Rex by emitting a series of short, shrill whistles, which made her snap to attention, cock her head at her master, then quickly leap into the back of his pickup truck as if by magic.

When I need our dogs to come out of the pasture and back into our house (so that I may leave them for hours to nap on the furniture, watch television and root through the trash) I don't call them, rather, I negotiate with them, shrieking like a crazed auctioneer:

"Hey pooches! Alllllieeee! Seannnnn-y! C'mon, let's guh-oh! Yes, I mean you! I need y'all in the HOUSE! Who wants a GOODIE? Or maybe a CHEWIE? Wouldn't that be fun? CHEWIE GOODIE CHEWIE GOODIE!!! Yessssssss! HOUSE!"

I know this is way too much verbiage, even for a small child, and certainly for an uber-brainy border collie. This technique is probably the textbook example of how not to call a child or a dog, to say nothing of my use of food bribery. Our neighbors must think we have dogs named "Goodie" and "Chewie."

Serious border collie owners always name their animals one-syllable names, like "Rex," "Fly," or "Kit." I call the neighbors' dog "Rex Anne" behind Jeff's back. I mean, she's a girl, for heaven's sake. I guess we messed up with our two: "Sean Connery" and "Allie."

BCs are working farm dogs. But I think somehow we have made a nice compromised life for our suburban pets. They get to "herd" our pony twice a day, and are only a chain-link fence away from 20 head of sheep. Not such a bad life for dogs who live to group livestock, though it's sometimes really annoying to the pony.

Rex Anne — I mean, Rex — has never seen the inside of a house. And yet she seems perfectly happy. But when I see our beloved poser dogs asleep on their backs, sprawled atop the Ralph Lauren comforter with their fur swaying in the ceiling fan's breeze, I don't feel too guilty about all of us not being the real deal.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Texas is Not For Sissies

Don't read this if you're easily grossed out.

I checked Jack into band camp today, a process which robbed my life span of several hours and left me with what Kate refers to as my "pink ham face." I stood in line for about at least an hour with 350 other exhausted and confused parents. When I pulled my sunglasses down from the top of my hairdo where they were jauntily perched, the lower half of the lenses were beaded with sweat. And I was inside the building at the time.

It was so @#$*ing hot today, I swear my water bra dehydrated down a whole cup size. Not kidding.

And don't try to blame it on pre-menopause. Texas is HELL!

Friday, June 09, 2006

I Heart New York

Kate and I just returned from a short trip to New York. I love going there, but I'm always happy to get home.

Favorite things about New York: The weather, the architecture, the history, the amazing way the city works, Lincoln Center, any and all theaters, Central Park, Grand Central, the wooden escalators in Macy's, 30 Rock, St. Pats, cheap flowers, iced coffee, musicians hurrying to gigs, the library's lion statues, Jews in black hats, Japanese tourists, and the scarcity of blondes.

Least favorite things: The smell, the endless grey, winos begging on corners, the lack of light, the noise (mostly honking and jackhammers), subway stress, bitter looking people, the barrage of grime that spits down on you from the skyscrapers.

Things I love when I get home to Texas: Green grass, lawns, square footage, driving all over, huge grocery stores, cheap shopping, happy dogs that don't live on concrete, and Tex-Mex.

Things that are hard to come home to: Nothing, except for the ceaseless 100 degree oven-like heat, the cloudless sky, the wilting flowers and broiling car interiors.

I saw a little sign years ago in a Hill Country shop: "Texas is not for amateurs."

I've always thought New York was the same way. Forget the Manolo Blahniks you're seen on Sex and the City. Comfy shoes are a must. I think we walked about twenty miles just this morning.

Kate was delighted to walk through a beautifully green, misty Central Park and sight a rat (which I mistook for a squirrel with a straightened, fur-less tail) and two well-dressed men kissing.

At one point during yesterday's rush hour we were walking across a busy street in Midtown Manhattan. An ancient, stooped woman with a dowager's hump minced alone beside us, clutching her cane. Becoming impatient with the traffic, she suddenly started talking to the cars:

"Gow, gow if you're gowing, ya bastids! Son of a bitch."

It was our favorite New York moment.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

There Goes the Neighborhood

I was out watering flower beds this morning when I noticed our city police directing traffic at our corner of the quiet suburb where we live. Cars started lining up to park in front of my house and my neighbor's. Then I realized that this was Open House day for the multi-million spec house— a two-year-long project— that was built across the road from us.

Three small, older houses were razed and their acreage reorganized in order to build this monstrous McMansion, one of two in the neighborhood. A fourth homeowner whose husband was transferred to Houston was also given an offer, but she tearfully sold her house to a friend at a loss rather than have it bulldozed. I have to admire her for that.

There are mixed feelings about the swankification (a nod to Wicked's Stephen Schwartz for that word) of our block. Will the new neighbors mingle with the rest of us at the annual holiday covered dish? Will they turn up their noses if we take them squash and tomatoes from our gardens? Assuming, of course, that any of us ever make it past the electronic guard gate. Will they hit a panic button direct to Animal Control when our livestock escape and graze their professionally landscaped entrance?

Kate votes "no" on the question of mixing with the rest of the block, saying we'll never get to know the new family (or families, or cult, or syndicated world domination society — since the place is almost more of a compound than a house. I mean, the mailbox is encased in a ten-foot-tall brick tower). But I prefer to think things will be fine. Living in this community for years has shown me that the Haves and the Have-Nots have a lot more in common than one would think. I reminded Kate that her classmate since kindergarten whose dad is a famous (and somewhat infamous, since last year's steroid hubbub) professional baseball player got his childhood chicken pox and head lice at the same time everyone else did.

Still, I had wonder what sort of family would want to live in a house like that, in an area like ours, where carports and goat barns dot of the landscape.

As I stood in my cutoffs spraying the wilting zinnias, I squinted and mentally pre-qualified the house-hunting visitors.

Gawkers, I thought of the couple that climbed out of their dusty Dooley truck, followed by three elementary aged moppets in matching Wal-Mart denim.

Ah, here we go, I thought, eyeing the grey-at-the temples fifty-something emerging from a shining Lexus to open the door for his young(er) blond(ish) wife. She tottered down our crummy little asphalt street on Jimmy Choo stilettos, her highlighted mane of hair perfectly arranged atop her overly perky and obviously medically enhanced chest.

No one seemed to notice me as they all excitedly formed a herd of humanity to the open gates which, I might add, look something like the entrance to Paramount Pictures. I felt like an oversized garden gnome or kitschy pink flamingo (both things I adore, by the way), a little out of place in my own universe.

Several dozen more couples and families made their way to the open house, their cars lining the street. I had seen the floor plan and amenities sheet months ago after David filched one from the realtor's sign case. I knew that the visitors would ooh and ahh over over Italian granite countertops, a five car garage, and a computerized sprinkler system.

I became aware of my aching, wrinkling wet thumb plugging the plastic hose and thought, happily, to myself: this is all the sprinkler system you really need.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Morning paper

Here's what your Saturday morning looks like when your yard has mature trees and your kids have immature friends.

I should have gotten up at 2 a.m. and looked out the window instead of merely mumbling at the dogs to "quit barking at the neighbor's damn cat."

Hmmm. A mystery. Whomever did this had a terrific throwing arm, I discovered when I had to blast the garden hose thirty feet high to coax the paper streamers into dropping down like dead snakes. So that would rule out a good portion of Kate's theater and choir pals.

The culprit(s) spared no expense, using at least eight double rolls of Ultra Premium Charmin. I marvelled at its cushy softness and am considering switching brands. Darn upscale kids.

But who? Most of Kate's friends have access to cars but few have the gumption to break curfew.

Secretly, I'm a little pleased to know that high school kids haven't changed much in thirty years, and that Kate is enough of a blip on the social radar to warrant this bit of deliquent attention. The TP actually looked kind of festive swaying in the morning breeze. There are still vestiges of unreachable white fluff lingering, which should come down with the next good rain.

In our part of the Lone Star state, that should be by about October.

Maybe by then the mystery will be solved.