Running Blind

Taking Oliver to Prospect Park is a nice way to unwind from the day. He hops through the grass like the dog-rabbit hybrid that we say he is, and I stop thinking about anything to let my mind wander to everything. It’s a good system for both of us. Sometimes, if we’re lucky, the evening has a lesson or two hidden up its sleeve.

We went walking the other night and entered by the 11th Street opening. Oliver stopped to pee on a large tuft of weeds growing next to the Celebrate Brooklyn bike rack, turning around and lifting his left leg to do so. It was a quick stream, just enough to call dibs on the spot, and then we were back on our way. A group of girls sat around the picnic tables. They wore workout clothes and watched Oliver as we passed. One reached out her hand but he had zero interest. He was pulling towards Longmeadow, the big and, you guessed it, long field sitting less than 100 yards away.

I locked Oliver’s leash before we got to the top of the hill. He turned and looked back up at me, his big doe eyes asking why on earth I wasn’t letting him go. I smiled. “Hold up, buddy,” I kept him close and looked left for bicyclists. None were coming so I gave him slack. He ran to the other side of the road, making a straight line for the grass and then darting back and forth once he got there. I whistled for his attention and led the way north. Our walk was squirrel and distraction-free until we neared the path that ran from the 9th Street entrance to Nethermead. There, about fifteen feet away, was a man walking his two Dachshunds.

Oliver, half Dachshund and half Pomeranian, goes crazy for dogs that share his genetic code. Seeing two at once was almost too much for him to bear. He started tugging and pulling and doing his best to make me move faster. The other dogs’ owner looked and smiled at Oliver’s effort. I took that as a welcoming sign and broke into the tiniest of jogs so Oliver could get over there quicker.

“Hey,” I said with a smile, watching Oliver sniff and get sniffed. “This is Oliver.”

“Hi Oliver,” the guy said. He pointed down to his dogs. “The black one is Gorby, and this one’s Red.”

“Because of his fur?”

“It seemed fitting.”

I bent over and offered a hand. Red came over to investigate but Gorby did not. He stayed behind his owner’s legs while looking in Oliver’s direction. When Oliver got close enough to sniff his snout, Gorby backed up and started biting the air, moving his head from side-to-side like he was saying no.

“Is he shy?” I asked.

“Blind,” he answered.

“Oh.” I felt the pity in my voice even though I tried to hide the look on my face. Gorby didn’t look blind. His big black eyes seemed attentive, following Oliver and Red as the pawed each other and ran in circles, locking onto Oliver when he got too close, and snapping back to me when I spoke my next words. “Was he born that way?”

“No. It happened in May.”

“Just this past May?”

“Yeah. It’s only been a couple of months.”

“Was he sick?”

“He got SARS.”

I stared blankly. “Dogs can get that?”

“SARDS,” he answered, taking special care to pronounce the D. “Sudden acquired retinal degeneration. It’s an autoimmune disease.”

“Jesus.” I shook my head and looked down at Gorby looking up to the left of my face. “How’s he adapting?”

“He’s doing great.” The guy bent down and patted Gorby on his butt. He turned and nuzzled against his owner’s leg. Oliver and Red stopped running in circles long enough to walk over and try to get some petting of their own. Gorby bit at the air again, either as a warning or an attempt to locate Oliver for introductory licks. I’m guessing it was the former. “He’s still a little timid out on the street because of everything that’s going on, but he loves to run here in the park.”

“Really?” I pictured myself running blind. It wasn’t graceful or effective, but I also didn’t have a leash to show me the way. “That’s pretty awesome.”

“He’s my little hero.” The guy then unhooked both dogs’ leashes. Was he joking? How could a dog, blind for only two months, run through the park with no leash? My unasked question was answered when he pulled a set of keys from his pocket, shaking them to let Gorby know it was time to get going. “Come on guys, let’s go for a run. Nice to meet you.”

“Nice to meet you, too.”

I stood there with Oliver and watched him take off. Both dogs followed. Red stopped to sniff and pee and say hello to random strangers sitting in the grass, and Gorby stayed two steps behind his owner at all times, letting the sound of jangling keys paint a picture of the path ahead.

I knelt down and rubbed Oliver behind the ears. “Amazing, huh? Do you think you’d be able to do that?” Oliver licked my hand and met my eyes. He blinked a couple of times then took a couple of steps towards the ball fields. He wanted to keep walking. I took one last look at Gorby, still running blind in the distance, and smiled. For such a small dog, he had a big courageous heart.

 

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Burn Canvas Objects: A Solo Show in Brooklyn

Mike Serafino

@mikafino

I’m not saying Mike Serafino has me to thank for his upcoming Burn Canvas Objects solo show, but I think it’s pretty well understood that my influence was a driving force in getting him to where he is today. If you find this statement highly dubious, I suspect you and Mike now have that in common. I don’t retract my words, though. If anything, I’m prepared to double down and state my case.

Listen:

I met Dave, Mike’s oldest brother, in the basement of a Sigma Chi rush party the first week of our freshman year up in Boston. Neither of us was interested in pledging. We simply went where the kegs flowed like college kegs. Our friendship grew over the course of the year, but our paths diverged when he chose bong rips over a physics midterm, securing a D in the class and dropping his GPA below the number needed to keep his scholarship. Big whoops on his part.

He left Boston and spent that first summer working as a waiter up in Maine. Jen, a girl he swears he never kissed, told him he’d be raking in at least a grand per week. “Rich white people,” she promised. “They eat lobster and tip like it buys their way into heaven.”

Things didn’t quite work out as he hoped, but he still planned on returning the following summer. He even tried to get me to join him.

“Come up to Maine,” he invited. “It’ll be fun.”

“Weren’t you miserable last summer?”

“Mostly.”

“I thought the money was crap and you lived in squalor?”

“Pretty much.”

“So tell me again why I should go to Maine?”

“I’ll be there.”

“What if you weren’t?” I asked. I was headed back to Berkshire Hills and offered to get him a job. A couple weeks later we were reunited in front of my favorite body of water in the entire world.

image by Ryan Rose photography

image by Ryan Rose photography

Dave had such a great time that he returned the next year, bringing his youngest brother, Mike, along for the ride. Mike was 16 and ran track for the Henderson Warriors. Being the serious athlete that he was, he only signed a contract to work 4 weeks. His second half of the summer was to be spent back home, training with the rest of his team.

Life, as you know, doesn’t always follow the plan. Mike fell in love with camp, told his coach to go screw, and stayed around long enough to help paint the banner for Folk Fest, the talent show held on the last night of camp (just like the one from Wet Hot American Summer, but with a lot less wind-bending).

Folk Fest 2001

Folk Fest 2001

Mike returned to Copake the following summer where he was joined by Dave, their brother James, and Ari, a friend from West Chester who was just starting to push the limits of his own artistic boundaries. They rigged the hockey draft so they could all be on the same team, but the plan backfired when they couldn’t win a single game. Seriously. Not a single one. Their teamwork was on much better display in the Folk Fest banner they collaborated on:

Folk Fest 2002

Folk Fest 2002

That was my last summer in camp. I was sad to say goodbye, but I was under the impression that real life couldn’t wait. Hindsight, am I right? Mike continued in Copake for one more year before starting at the School of Visual Arts. He worked hard, pushed himself to learn and grow, moved through styles as he searched for his voice, and finally landed the solo show I mentioned up at the top.

And that brings us back to me and the role I played in Mike’s ascension. Without my bringing Dave to camp, there’s no way that Mike would have ever gone. If he never went, he never would have ignored his track responsibilities to paint a Folk Fest banner. If he never painted a Folk Fest banner, he wouldn’t be an artist today because he would be the world’s most decorated Olympic runner.

Of course there’s no way I can prove this theory is true, but there’s no way you can prove it’s not. Unless, of course, you want to come at me with logic. Then I’m screwed.

Either way, you should head to 630 Flushing Ave. to check out Mike’s show. The opening is this Thursday, July 23rd, and there are going to be some great pieces for you to ogle. I hope to see you there.

@mikafino

@mikafino

Mike Serafino

@mikafino

Mike Serafino

@mikafino

 

@mikeafino

@mikeafino

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The 8 Types of People You Meet When Your Mustache is 12″ From Tip to Tip

One Magnificent Mouthbrow (shot by Bill Wadman)

Mine is the life of a mustached man, and I couldn’t be more blessed. Or burdened. For you see, this magnificent mouth brow opens doors, breaks ice, and makes me memorable to people I forget. While there is little doubt you are one of millions who would give it all up for the chance to spend a day wearing my whiskers, the mustache code demands I share my knowledge so that when you step out into the sun, my lipholstery adorning you like a debutante’s dress at her first cotillion, you will be prepared for the 8 types of people you meet:

Continue reading

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The Happy Trap

Young Alistair was on his own
and hungry as could be,
so he decided it was time
to come down from his tree.

He reached the ground and spun around
to do a search for strangers.
The coast was clear, he did not see
a single sign of danger. Continue reading

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Rising Up From the Underground

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reBar in DUMBO

PJ O’Rourke walked into reBar wearing a sweatshirt of his own design.  A little self-promotion was appropriate, he thought, since the Brooklyn Tea Party was all about celebrating local artists and clothing lines.  He looked around the space and smiled. There was a good energy in the air.  He found his spot, introduced himself to those nearby, and got to work setting up the Flye Lyfe booth, all the while marveling at how far he’d come. Continue reading

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Day 15: When Mistakes Are Made

There is little room for mistake when one is practicing the ancient Ayurvedic art of Oil Pulling.  The steps are simple:

  1. Dip a spoon into a jar of coconut oil (or sesame, or fine virgin)
  2. Insert spoon in mouth
  3. Remove spoon from mouth, leaving oil behind
  4. Swish the oil around your mouth for ten to twenty minutes, taking care to “pull” it between your teeth
  5. Spit the oil out into the garbage

Continue reading

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Day 14: Must. Stay. Vigilant.

The thing about Oil Pulling is it doesn’t pull itself.  I can fill my mouth every morning, but nothing good will happen unless I remain vigilant about swishing the stuff around for twenty minutes.  It’s not easy.  My mind will wander and I’ll realize that two or three minutes have passed since I made any movement.  At that point, I try to make up for it.  I’ll swish extra hard.  I’ll pull the oil back and forth through my teeth until my jaw starts to ache.  But does that help?  Does that make up for lost time? Continue reading

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Day 13: The Scientific Method

Ok.  You got me.  I skipped the last two days of Oil Pulling.  I woke up Saturday, drank tea and ate a scone, and didn’t swish for a single second.  Then, when Sunday came, I woke up, ate a chocolate donut from Entenmann’s, brushed my teeth, and went out to face the day without sitting down and doing my twenty-minutes-in-the-morning ritual. Continue reading

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Day 12: Telepathy at Home

Anyone who visits our apartment knows we have a dog.  He is there to greet  you the moment you step across the threshold, his tail wagging, his eyes wide, and his head rubbing back and forth against your shins.  “Pet me,” he seems to be saying.  “Love me like I’m your own!” Continue reading

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Day 11: Vader Redux

Mouth full of oil. Twenty minutes on the clock. Let’s go.

In yesterday’s post I wrote about Darth Vader and a Sith shortcoming that has been bothering me for years.  How was it possible, I asked, for him to Force Choke Admiral Ozzel from across the Super Star Destroyer Executor, but when it came time to chase Luke down the trench he refused to reach out and choke someone?  Was it because he refused to kill his son?  Are there limitations to his Force Choking abilities?  Or was it something else entirely? Continue reading

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