Well, as you can obviously see, we’ve been busy. The young ones have been growing like weeds, the one with the lipstick has been taking lots of pictures, and the old guy seems to have written another novel. And me? Well, I’m still dead. Have been for several years now. But apparently the one with the lipstick doesn’t trust the one who writes the novels to accurately characterize the activities of the young ones. So here we go again, you and me, trying to reconcile the awkwardness that results from otherwise sane people lapping hungrily at the words offered up by a dog whose holiday spirit ascended during the Bush years. Go figure. But Fear Not! (Remember that phrase. You’ll see it again.) We’ll get through it. We always do. So let’s get this party started.
First, the oldest of the youngest, a child whose height belies the brief passage of time since my last letter, and that’s applying the usual discount to a dog’s concept of time. She’s even outgrown the house. She packed up her books and her toys and her cello and moved to New Hampshire to go to school. She seems to like it very much, though snowfall as of this letter has been minimal. The old guy has shared her report card with me several times. Each time I pretend to be seeing it again for the first time. Poor sap. She’s running cross country, playing the cello, meeting lots of new friends, and making good marks on paper. Ah, the joy of youth. I remember making good marks on paper, but I don’t remember the old guy showing them to everybody. He seemed proud at the time, though.
The youngest of the young also seems to know the business end of a book. I have no idea what that means, but I’ve always wanted to say it. Her report cards are fabulous and her energies are decidedly entrepreneurial. I know. That’s a big word for a dog. She has created her own line of greeting cards and an emerging assortment of bath and beauty products. And she’s finishing up her first novel, despite the old guy’s suggestions that she pursue more practical interests like accounting or small engine repair. Something she can fall back on when the literati dash her hopes against the rocks of post-modernist deconstructionism. Fortunately, she’s also a very clever one, always handy with puns and pithy comments. Despite dietary preferences to the contrary, the world is her oyster. She will survive.
So the young ones can list interests and achievements as numerous as the gray hairs they’ve generated across the old guy’s pate. But he is unabashedly proud. He keeps muttering, “My kids ain’t smart by accident.” Bless his heart. Mortality holds a man with a death grip. Literally. Trust me on this one. Even without opposable thumbs, I know a thing or two about death grips.
And his pride naturally extends to their mother, the one with the lipstick, whose timeless beauty and unfaltering grace are made manifest in the genetic splendor of the young ones. In addition to running a tight ship (be forewarned, I might be mixing some metaphors ahead), she is the consummate artist, exploring the wonder of the natural world and capturing the confluence of light and texture with surgical precision, microscopic clarity, and compelling composition. Really. I’ve heard him tell her that. I don’t think it worked, though. Her photographs hang in galleries and living rooms and car dealerships across the country. And to think that I was one of her early subjects
As for the old guy, he continues to shepherd a small flock of rental properties, with daily tasks as momentous as cleaning gutters, fixing toilets, and mowing grass. (Tell me again why we went to all the trouble to get the Ph.D.?) In that respect he is the ultimate jack of all trades, or, reduced to utter simplicity with no regard for etymological relationships, The Jackal. (Remember that phrase. You’ll see it again.) The best part of his vocational morass, it seems, is the perceived freedom he feels to perpetrate sins of the utmost depravity on the unsuspecting by, you guessed it, writing fiction. Well, there was that little book on marriage, but even marriage is largely a fictional construct, at least to an old dog. And so his evil tendencies have once again wrought and brought forth another tome that he thought ought to be sought, bought, and taught, or naught. (Oh yeah, the old dog’s still got it. Wave your paws in the air like you just don’t care! Word Up.)
And here’s the shameless plug of it all: the new book is Fear Not the Jackal. Raise your hand if you saw that one coming. Okay, now put you hand down. (Remarkably, some of you will have actually raised your hands just then. And now you’re looking around the room to see if anybody else saw you do that.) I’m not the old guy’s agent, though I’ve heard some deceased old dogs are still active in the literary agency business, and I have nothing to gain by promoting his books. But think of the young ones, the ultimate stakeholders in his success. And when you think of them, imagine Sally Struthers tearfully describing children starving in Africa. You can save those children. And for only pennies a day when you really think about it.
But here’s the big picture paragraph, the part where I have, in the past, imparted some semblance of philosophical methadone that might help free you from your heroin-like addiction to the chaos that the human condition now promulgates. Starts to sound a lot like Charlie Brown’s teacher after all these years, so we’re going to play the B Side of that record, the one that accepts the unchanging nature of the train wreck your life has become. Once you skidded off the rails, there was no going back. So let’s celebrate that momentum and the inevitable messiness, and let’s mitigate the collateral damage.
How do we do that? Quite simple, really. Support the arts. Buy a book or two. Purchase a photograph. Drop a dollar in the case next time you pass a street performer or take some kids to the symphony. Get involved in community theatre or find a choir beyond your shower. Take stock of how the arts have, through the course of human history, fostered expression, promoted understanding, and challenged us to be better people. And when you find the art that really speaks to you, throw money at it like you stole it. After all, you can’t take it with you. Trust me on this one. I tried. I got bones buried in holes all around the yards I marked through the years, and not a single one made the trip with me. So share the love and love the sharing. And make it a habit to be mindful of the needs of others and needful of the minds of others. Let that mantra ring loudly through the rooftops this holiday and every day.
Thus saith the Bacchus. Peace out.