This be the place of Cthulu, squid-like scourge of the sea.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Steele nose, a brindle tiger dog

It was the summer of 2014, maybe 13, when my father asked me to drive down to Alexandria to pick up a pupper who'd become a companion for the King of beds, Padre.

Willingly obliged, cause I wasn't doing anything else right then. Steele was being rehomed, and had been taken/given back to the greyhound adoption agency because he had a knack for being a runner. If you'd let him outside, off leash, he was gonna jettison off and out near top speed like a greyhound would love to do.

Dadderino and I agree that because he wouldd run, his keepers would probably punish him harshly. Upon meeting Steele you'll notice a few predominant scars across the body. There's maybe a 1/4 inch rise on his snout that for some reason didn't flatten out, just forward of his right hip and up about 30 degrees he's got this 1.5 inch scar that's kind of bowling pin shaped, on his left side on his high ribs there's a another dark mark devoid of fur, and he's got a few patches on his chest of similar character.

That's unknown, because greyhounds are raised from weening to be racers and not dogs, so it's entirely plausible some of those scars were from his kennel days, but it doesn't matter.

He was a little at odds with Padre upon arriving, but having another dog to hang out with probably helped him absorb into the household easier. There are two leather couches in the living room, one two part love seat and a three section couch. Padre'd staked out the love seat, and within days Steele began squatting on the sofa. 

Those first few months I'd always leash him before ever opening a door, but not to padre who understood the pattern of hanging out on the porch and catching a fresh breath before attaching the lead to his collar. As Steele grew accustomed, and my trust in him had built, we got to the point where you could do the same thing and we'd all stand outside and weave circles around me as the fresh excitement to walk got out their minds.

Dogs make noises, some noises most of the time, bit greyhounds are different as a result of being race animals. If you can get one excited, talk about walks, they'll get excited and let out a holler or a grunt or some mixture between that and a whinny.

Bless his heart, if you talk him up the right way or make him weight longer than he likes to, Steele will stand up on two legs to show how eager he is to be trotting down the sidewalk. He's a pretty sizeable mutt.

Not many people assume he weighs 75 pounds, but if you pick him up you know instantly. He's a pretty tall dog, and comes up to at least three feet standing on four legs. My favorite way to introduce people to him used to be picking him up and spinning back and forth left and right at a slow roll. You know how a chicken head stays in one spot if you're holding the body and move it directionally? Well Steele changes his head direction depending on how you spin, and going the other way makes him turn his neck and look that way too. 

He's a pretty solemn pupper. Real quiet, likes to lay down in odd places, and think about his finances both local and abroad. I love to lay down next to him, or any dog, and kind of look him in the eyes and see how long he'll let me stare at him. His soft brown eyes are so shallow with depth. Toward the edges they're a little more gold, and they're pools of beauty surrounded by a white sclera. After one such time, he kind of grunted at me, to which I mimicked the sound back his way. We exchanged noises a good 5 or 6 times before he picked his head up and pointed it away from me.

At the beginning, he'd walk into the kitchen when nobody was there to eat cat food but leaving a baby gate there and clapping at him while he eat feline food a few times let him learn how the kitchen wasn't his place to hang out.

If I could walk Steele solo forever it would totally happen, he's just so if fun to be alone with. Ordinarily he will walk on the left side of a sidewalk giving me ample space for the right. Moving far right and ahead to sniff a tree, I keep walking because the leashes are 15 foot leads, and he'll always catch up around behind you to the left and wrap you with the lead. He's a careful thinker, and you can see him pondering routes to walk when we get to a corner that goes straight or turns.

There's something odd about his posture that I've never seen in the other 3 greyhounds we've loved or fostered, and that's that he keeps his head up high. Sight hounds are long necked, big eyed, poor smelling monsters, but Steele always keeps his head up and pointed like somebody of refined tastes wearing a starched collar. He's doesn't have good running or jogging stamina, I think because his head is always right inches higher than it needs to be up and looking forward. All the others kept their heads pointed forward, from the shoulders out and ahead from their bodies but this guy holds his straight up like an ostrich.

The bastard sniffs out food and I've had to pull many a chicken bone from his eager jaws. With their long narrow snouts, it's easy to wrap your hand around it and insert some fingers to convince him to drop the breast or thigh bones haha.

No idea how big a dog's bladder is, but he starts off strong peeing on everything. Trees, light posts, sign posts, fire hydrants, cars that are so far down the driveway their bumper's extend over the sidewalk, and onto a driveway trying to hit the bumper of a truck that's too tall for him to reach.

In the rainy season, he's an avid puddle drinker. Most dogs have some sort of funk to their breath, some dogs even have bad breath, but it's very cool that Steele's is neutral. We get face to face at least thrice a week and I never get scared away from an odor creeping out of his mouth.

He's got this weird fetish about where he poops, and it's most often in a bush, next to one, beside and at the base of a tree, inside tall grasses or in a perennial cluster. I often get everything out in one go,  but Steele's always been a two poop shoot kind of guy. Two can easily be three. I always want to and seldom succeed in taking a pic of him hunched over bush hiding his load, or him squatted back at a tree looking straight out away from it while pondering dreams of a beach somewhere. He's a quirky kind of weird, and I love it.

We haven't done this a lot recently due to the heat but it's fun to get down on his level, wrap both arms around him and just hug him for a while. I read somewhere that most dogs aren't big fans of being hugged, but Steele's not most dogs. After about thirty seconds he starts to lean on you always adding more weight until he's trying to push us over and I'm the thing holding us up. These exchanges are typically about three minutes, but they can go up to seven minutes until we end it and go back about our business.

Steele's pretty quirky and reserved. With nothing better to do, he likes standing in one spot looking at you or maybe through you just lost in his head. He doesn't come when you call, and most of the time will avoid you just because you showed interest. He's a real hoot.

We spend a lot of time hanging out in the same area, me and him. Every night and some of the day  whenever I'm not doing shit but hanging out in bed. Years ago I took this doggy bed we had had since padre came through, and it was sitting at the edge of the living room hardly being utilized. One day I picked it up and placed it in my room, and it garnered a little extra foot traffic my way.

I'd had this older red and Persian frilled with gold thread comforter that ended up my way. It was winter, and I'd kept it on the foot of my bed just to keep these toesies warm. As spring came and things warmed up, the toe warmer blanket became unnecessary. Instead of washing it and stowing it away, it ended up on top of that doggy bed and Steele was smitten. Due to a misfortune, my dad invited Padre into his bed some day and spent the next three years regretting ever doing it. That was his perch, and the red blanket on a foam bed on the floor of my room is Steele's. He's a lazy poop, and will spend hours basking on the thing, kick it off onto the carpet and then lay on it off his bed all content like his world couldn't be better.

Sometimes I'll take that skewn blanket, pull it out from under him to give it a folder-ooni and place back rectangularly on top of that bed. When that happens, he stands up and walks 4 feet away to turn around and look at me with this shocked expression, like 'why would you do such a thing.' After throwing it back down and stepping out of his way, he will tip toe on over back to his perch with glee, circle three times, then lay down begrudgingly to forget it ever happened.

It's his safe space, and whenever he's scared or frightened that's where he recovers. Right now it's the third of July, and the last couple of days there have been fireworks intermittently so he'd be in that room, on top a blanket, cowering with his mouth open and letting saliva escape out onto ole redderoo. No animals are fans of big bangs, but since grey hounds are trained to race and catch Rusty the Rabbit at the sound of a gunshot firing, I wonder if, he's a little PTSD'd over being a young dog forced to run competitively when a shot was fired. Tomorrow's the fourth, and of nothing comes up I'll probably be hanging out in bed reading a book with some white noise hoping he feels safe while shots, booms, and explosions rattle outside that window all up and down the streets. 

Of the three dogs we've had, we were never told Steele's full racing name. You can google Padre of Ruckus or WS Sweet Pea and find their pedigree, from what line of dogs they originated, and even their race records, but that never happened with Steele despite the occasional search. 

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

monday, 1st of february

The joy of life

Joie de vie

I’m either simple or happy, though quite possibly simply happy; a good part of my childhood involved small town Louisiana and the joys associated with such. There’s this perspective on life called Joi de Vie, French for the joy of life, that I love to think about. It’s a serendipitous way to look at things like the glass is 60% full, that you have time to talk about what’s exciting, and that you take the time to be excited even if just for the moment.

South Louisiana is the kind of magical place you can’t compare to anywhere else, especially if you live in north La. Maybe it’s the small town structure anywhere sort of in the country, but I like to think it’s that subtropical climate where elephant ear plants and some bushy palms love to thrive.
Monday, 2/1/2016, I drove home from new Iberia, Louisiana after an amazing weekend with my grandmother and aunts.

Leaving my granny’s house, I stopped at the local corner store to grab a bottle of water and had a fantastic conversation with a stranger named Peggy. There, I shared with her a story about my grandfather’s adoption. We were on Duperior street in a small down, literally across the street from Mount Carmel academy, formally Dauterive’s hospital where the following story takes place ------

The Treasure Of A Child
Written by Shirley C. Breaux (not my granny, keep reading to the end.)
'The old Frederick Hotel in New Iberia, Louisiana was where it all began. The date was October 19, 1921. A young black woman had been given a baby boy and for reasons unknown decided not to acknowledge this fact to her parents. Sad and homesick, she wanted to go home. The father of the child arranged for a black lady to care for this child, as a baby sitter.
Weeks passed. The couple did not return. The black lady found herself in a dilemma. In 1921, no matter how much love and care was given, a black woman was not allowed to rear a white baby. Dauterive hospital was founded by a doctor of the same name. This doctor was compassionate and kind, as well as a provider of medical skills and he possessed a special understanding of the people he treated. The baby was brought to the hospital and the doctor intelligently and with common sense found a solution to the problem of figuratively, if not relatively!
Across the street from Dauterive Hospital, there lived a childless couple. Their names were Gervais Edward LeBlanc and Adeline Dugas LeBlanc. Adeline was the doctor's patient and he was privy to the fact that this lady longed with all her heart to be the mother of a child. The doctor advertised in the news media seeking the parents of the abandoned baby boy. Legal steps were taken when the natural parents were not found. When the path was cleared for adoption, the doctor called Adeline and asked her to come see something in the hospital.
Adeline Dugas LeBlanc crossed the street. She went into Dauterive Hospital and met with the doctor. He took her into a room introduced her to a healthy baby boy. "Well. Adeline" the doctor is quoted as saying, "I have something for you, do you want this baby?"
And, so, Huntz LeBlanc became the cherished son of Gervais Edward LeBlanc and Adeline Dugas LeBlanc. He moved in the LeBlanc home across the street from Dauterive Hospital.
The little boy enjoyed enviable time growing up. His parents doted on him, but never allowed him to be "bad", knowing with strict Cajun heritage that a child must be good to be happy. Huntz LeBlanc still lives in the house that he grew up in and sleeps in the same bed he did as a boy. He concluded his memories with the observation... "Mama found me at the Dauterives... and I found my wife, Shirley at the same place." Dauterive's was a lucky place in my life.'  (That's my granny, Shirley Breaux LeBlanc)

-------- Peggy loved hearing that story. Her passenger had exited the quickie-mart and returned to sitting in her passenger seat, so Peggy excitedly hopped out of her driver side seat to tell me something fantastic from her family history. Peggy’s mother was disfigured due to an illness. The woman had ‘cancer’ on her face, which ate away at her skin leaving her in wretched pain. In older Creole culture there's a term for a healer, known as a Traiteur. The person would lay hands on you, pray, for the hope of some healing to occur. Peggy tells me about her mother whose nose had been eaten by cancer, which just left the cartilage. Her family sought out a Traiteur, she didn’t tell me where or how they came across one, but after locating one the woman came over and assessed the problem. She then applied a sav (salve, ointment) to the area, wrapped her face in bandages, and prayed for a healing. Peggy described her mother’s pain, how when it would hurt, she would hold her face and pray about the problem. Peggy then told me that one day the pain stopped, and her mother went on to live a full life.

In my opinion, Joi de Vie means so much. It’s a motto of life, the kind you carry with you where ever you go. It’s stopping to talk to a stranger, telling them something magic in my life, and hearing a magical story in return.

My long weekend had been so great (Friday to Monday) and I was excited. A good friend I met in college at Northwestern State University of Natchitoches, lives in Alexandria. It’s the quintessential halfway mark between New Iberia and Shreveport, where I live. and I had shot Will a text the Sunday before and asked if he was going to be busy on Monday, where he explained he wasn’t busy and to stop by. I fought my way down MacArthur drive in Alex. fighting the early afternoon rush. A few days prior I had decided to start writing stories, exactly what this blog is, and gave him and his girlfriend Raven a full unscripted story of all of the idea floating around in my head.

We talked somewhere between one and two hours, and with the setting sun around 4 in the afternoon, I’d made the decision to carry forward home. Having spent time in Will’s house after a failed 20 mile hike one time, I asked his permission and made my way to the bathroom. 
Will has this big, dark beautiful German shepherd named Sampson, and he’s a cool dude. Walking in to the house, he stands up from laying five feet from the door and I scratch his head playfully and speak excitedly like you would an old friend. I continue on to the bathroom to take care of business, where everything flows well, and carry on.

Sampson had laid down after I walked away, and got back up as I made for the exit. He got more head scratches, more sweet talk, and on the way out the door I tried giving him a full pet from noggin to tail. About the time my left hand reaches his hips, he gets aggressive and starts to bark at me. 4 or 5 barks later and he needs to bite this stranger in his home. I jumped out the way of that first snap, while walking the four feet to the door. He went for a second bite on the side of my left calf while I was reaching for the door, and luckily less than ten teeth graced my skin. I had the door opened and in a last ditch effort sweet Sampson bite my right back pocket and held onto my wallet as I walked out the door and shut it behind me.

Here's what Sam was able to do: (I'll legitimately have those pictures embedded after figuring out how. Fight me.)

Will and Raven had stood up, hearing Sam barking, and looked concerned as I emerged from the abyss. Now Raven’s a very sweet, shy person who’d rather listen than talk. We went back to sitting on a swing, I laughed and talked about more things while Will took care of Sampson. I mentioned to her how a dog wanting to steal my money, and walking away with it, would be a great addition to this Joi de Vie story.

Will was embarrassed by Sam's behavior and proceeded to punish his dog, he’s got a large backyard and this doggy door giving the house’s dogs free reign to come in or out. He had walked inside to warn Sam he’d made a mistake. Raven and me were sitting on that swing talking, and he had walked outside, toward his truck, and then back inside again with a  leash. After coming back outside again, he described how necessary it was to punish Sam, and as a result he planned to leave him on a post long enough to know he’d made a mistake. He came out and apologized for the behavior, but the joy of life personality in me could only laugh at that fortuitous afternoon.

Will is a good friend and I look forward to the day ten years down the road when this will be funny, but his beautiful puppy wanted my money and I could only laugh at the afternoon's events. I’m nervous that all dogs just want my money try to keep things in plastic near friends on four legs.

Joi de vie is a charismatic way of looking at life. Each day is exciting and new, and if you’re lucky enough, you may see something you’ll want to talk about that evening, write down as a story somewhere, and still laugh about when you’re older and see good friends a whole lot less. 

Sunday, February 14, 2016

i am a sociopath

I am a sociopath

Hello all, my name is Jason Thomas and to some degree I’m sociopathic. Here's my opinion of what that means from my perspective:
I don't know that I feel, but I think I know how to feel.

I am verbose and wordy, there are times when I won't or can't stop talking (it takes a good three drinks, sometimes a buzz). You would never know the inner dialogue happening in my head that doesn’t end. Less than 1/10 of the words thought or conversations created internally ever reach my vocal cords.

I am this way due to the tragic loss of my mother from our family when I was 11 years old and in the seventh grade. She didn't pass on a leap year, but sometimes I wish she had, instead of on February, 28th, just so the day didn't come around every year.

Some back story: my sister and I had wonderful childhoods, we just had to grow up way too soon. My parents both met and retired from the USAF. Mother was a lab technician, to some degree she worked or ran the lab, and I say that because I have at least three bad memories of mom bringing me to work a few times.

We lived in Nebraska on a street with a hill, I remember walking up that street on a pretty day, and walking down it on a snowy winter day. Apple trees in the backyard, we had two dogs named Christie and Noel, one a beautiful dalmatian the other a spunky little black terrier.

That's when my earliest memories are from, from making noises in my crib? And just playing with low noises in my vocal cords until mom or dad would come pull me out. Mom would often start drinking a cup of coffee, she'd make me a small cup of lesser strength to drink while she drank hers.

I'm not going to lie and say I wasn't, but I was and still to some extent today am a momma's boy. My friendship with friend's mothers is different than my and that friend's relationship.

Mother retired and father continued to be active because he had joined much later than she had. He spent a year in south Korea, when us three remaining packed up and went to south Louisiana to live at grandmother's for a year. 

After that we spent 3 years living in paradise at Hickam air force base in Hawaii. Most days you had to go swimming at the pool because the beach was a little bit farther away, but every day was beautiful. 

From there my father was reassigned to Barksdale afb in Bossier City Louisiana.

I don't know how long my mother had been a smoker, but I think it was ultimately what led to her cancer. She didn't wean herself off cigarettes until we began living in Bossier City, because by that time she'd outgrown her addiction to them.

Before we knew what she had, my mother would get piercing, blinding, headaches from anywhere to 30 seconds to a minute. After she got those headaches, she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with breast cancer. I could have been no older than 9 by the time that happened. Maybe 8. My sister and I were never told how bad her diagnosis was, but often times I think she didn't have good odds from the beginning. My mother had a mastectomy performed to remove her breasts, and I remember days after she came home she began losing feeling in her feet. You see, the cancer had spread throughout her body, and to my knowledge what was responsible for the loss of feeling was a tumor or growth on her spine.

My favorite person in the world lost the ability to walk. The next many months she would spend time between at least 2 rehab centers on the south side of Shreveport. My father drove that thirty minute drive every afternoon after work, at least that’s what my memory remembers. I wish I had gone to see her more often, but I preferred to spend my afternoons riding a bicycle around neighborhoods. No hands on the handle bars, just hands in my pockets balancing, going nowhere in particular. Chasing an escape almost, wanting to be in any reality but mine. In her hospital room, I had learned how to hold a wheelie in her wheel chair much the same way I’d cruise up and down streets on the bike. No hands required, just focused on pursuit. In those afternoon to evening visits, we'd sit together and I was playing around the room in her hospital issued wheel chair.

Mother was there until her doctors decided to let her come home to pass peacefully.

I helped my father demolish his bathroom before she came home to retro fit it to make it handicap accessible. At that time and in that place, I really enjoyed destroying that old nearly seafoam green shower tiles. Standing in the shower with a hammer and just destroying it. It was a labor of love, and one that required hard work and I enjoyed doing it.

Mother came home, I would go to school. She'd been a fan of Star trek and the show series Highlander all my life, and I think she would watch her shows while spending a little bit of time with each of the three cats we had at that time.

I have some awful memories of not helping my mother enough at that time in her or my life, I was angry about my dying mother and happy to ignore her when she'd ask for help with something. That thought today makes me angry and sad, that I could have done more for the best person I ever knew.

Family had collected around, and my mother's best friend who I call Aunt Sue (no relation). One night my father's father asked me to spend the night with him at his RV, and I jumped at the opportunity. I'd said goodnight to my mother before leaving and she was still Darlene LeBlanc Thomas that night.

I didn't know that coming back the next day, after a great night hanging out with Papa Tom, that  would never seen the mother I'd known all my life again. My beautiful mother, covered in freckles and with a smile that'd light up a room.

I know why I'm sociopathic. Because during my formulative years my heart was broken.
The morning mom passed, I woke up and had the feeling you have when you’re the last person to arrive to anywhere or thing. I woke up intending to go to school, but instead woke up to hugs and crying about somebody who's life had left her slowly and then quickly over a span of maybe two years. Dad offered the chance to skip school that day, and I jumped at the opportunity. I’m almost certain I wouldn't have made it at school that day. My world as I'd known it had been snuffed.

That day I remember her passing, having the chance to not go to school, eating Mexican food for lunch with Dad and Papa Tom, and a softball game that evening where my sister played shortstop or second base. She had gone to school that day and told her friends about it, and when they saw me they immediately hugged me. It's a warm thought. It was getting dark and the game wasn't engaging as an audience member, and I told my father I'd decided to walk on home to where Aunt Sue was hanging out. I remember walking home from what was then my middle school, an every day occurrence after school, and walking home down the long road of Waller avenue, which wasn’t the normal afternoon route. I remember feeling empty on that walk home.

By the time I'd made it home, I think I had cried myself out and decided what would become instinct over the next many years. Saying "I'm alright," and doing or trying to a mask on. Sue was sitting on a couch when I walked in, we might have talked a little bit, but I don't remember any of that.

I pulled into my shell at that time, to protect me I imagine. 
My father did the same thing, probably for the same reason. 
My sister, 14 at the time, turned to her friends with less than alright results. Drinking and getting drunk at every chance, and smoking cigarettes as a way to escape the pain she felt. (Stop smoking Sarah, or I'll kill you before they do.)

My dad doesn't like to drink very much and I have an alright understanding of why. It's a good reason. 

I discovered his unused collection of booze early into high school and would drink it to try and feel something. (No I didn't drink your booze that night Sarah saved me when drunk. I had emptied your cabinet months in advance, and over a longer period of time.) I remember my freshman year homecoming dance, I'd brought a flask to the dance and showed some guys and we all had a little drink in the bathroom at least twice that night. My favorite teacher in the world is a wonderful Egnlish teacher who had the misfortune of landing me in her class that same freshman year, at least thrice I’d brought alcohol to school, gotten drunk in first block, and suffered through until lunch when the food sobered me.

Earlier up I mentioned wearing a mask. I do do that. My personality changes to gain favor or sway with people. It’s easy to do that when you’re an emotional blank wall that applies color to wash it off when a new color is preferred.

In an environment with people I don't know like the back of my hand, I critically think about every word said they say, how they say it, their inflection and pauses, and excitement or lack of when speaking. I keep a running tally of what my over-thinking brain assesses when it's said. Talking or not, I critically think about what you say and how you say to think of how I can change my tone, angle of speech, or choice of words to get what I may want out of you or from you.

I don't think that's bad, but don’t see it as necessarily good either. That's what the young me did to make it through one day to the next.

Why did I write this? Because I wanted to. It felt necessary to tell a little bit of a story I keep bottled up, from my perspective, and I wanted to get it out in the air.