March 28, 2008

First Person:

Just A Walking the Dog

By Al Carlos Hernandez

Part of my new responsibility as a Pet Parent is to take Miss Sally our puppy for a daily walk. Everyday around 5pm, I bundle myself up negotiate with Miss Thing regarding the putting on of her training leash, and then hit the road.

We have lived in the same neighborhood for 23 years, and it was sobering to realize that this is the first time I’ve literally walked around the block of our middle class housing development or ambled the immediate community in general.

As adults we see life though the windshield of a car or through dark glasses of a motorcycle, but local architecture seems like a movie prop, trusted visual friends like Lucy and Desi’s living room. The houses could all be facades for all we know, we don’t see life, we see the illusion of life.

I like many of you make it a point to look inside as many houses as possible as we drive by, so we can clown other peoples whack concepts of interior de sign. We have seen the same house fronts for years, albeit different paint schemes, different cars, and different neighbors, but never got to know any but a handful of localities.

As kids I can remember every house, every crack in the sidewalk, places where every crackpot lived, who had a dog, who was in the dog house, and what most cribs smelled like. Dostoyevsky often wrote about his town, that he knew the awnings, shutters, window panes, ornate doors and door knobs as friends, comforting sight visuals that convey the warmth and security of home.

While walking La Mamita at a leisurely pace, I experience the houses up close and personal, player hate the perfect lawns, while smug, gliding past yards that looks worse than mine. Each home has a story, a life, if those walls could talk in my neighborhood it would be probably be Tagalog, which reminded me to find a Lumpia hook up for the holidays.

As we walk I can smell the change of seasons in the air, as Fall is making the way for winter, and given the body politic of this society this may be the winter of our discontent.

Nature has a way of renewing itself, oblivious, it doesn’t need us, we a like grass will wither and pass away, life cycles will no doubt continue without us.

How many sons and daughters of the warm homes past will not be home this time? Those who rode razor scooter and in line skates while I whipped around town in my two tone Monte Carlo, or the Crush velvet pillowed van back in the day?

Sally, who is more enthusiastic than I, take the daily trek to a strip mall about 5 blocks away. My job is learning to teach her how to walk on a leash; her job is to bite the leash and growl at me, when people I don’t know are around are admiring her.

To add insult to injury, I have to bring a plastic bag to scoop up and retrieve her “processed lunch” should she have the inclination, and she does so regularly in peoples driveways when whole families come to the window to admire the cute white fluffy dog, with the Michael McDonald looking owner who has hair to match.

I start the walk bundled up for the cold collar turned up towards the fog. Sally starts out thin and matted, but as she walks the cold fluffs her out to almost double her size. She leaves the house an adolescent Bichon Frises, I come lumbering back from the other direction herding a sheep.

We walk the neighborhood in relative anonymity, embarrassed to say we only know a few next door neighbors; those we didn’t know grew suspicious when a few years back some teenagers spray painted lines on everybody’s cars up our block but ours. I forgot to mention all of my sons grew up here; we live in a society where reputations still matter.

There will be a time, when those who sneak glances at us out the windows will see a bent over old man and a fat white dog, shuffling down the street, not knowing, never knowing who we were or what we meant to our families.

Sally and I plan to be in shape to join the parade when the Homies come marching home again.

What a long strange trip it’s been.

-Jerry Garcia

Al Carlos Hernandez writes from Hollywood.

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