Wednesday, January 1, 2014

No. 155 – Like a Tattoo

Performer: Sade
Songwriters: Sade Adu, Andrew Hale, Stuart Matthewman
Original Release: Love Deluxe
Year: 1992
Definitive Version: None.

For years, whenever a song that was on my list came on at home or in the car, I’d mention that to Laurie. A few times, a song came on, and I’d say how this was “a 2014 song,” meaning it was near the top of the list. With Like a Tattoo, we’re officially among “the 2014 songs.”

I didn’t take many CDs with me when I went to Torch Lake for my three-month research hermitage in the fall of 2004—I had my computer loaded up—but the Best of Sade was one of them. There are worse things to have with you when you’re alone than the sweetest sultry voice in rock.

After I arrived with Maile and got myself situated in Dad’s house, I began to create what became my daily routine. That routine started with two simple tasks—feed Maile and take her for a walk.

It got to be like clockwork: If I wasn’t up by 8, Maile would start scratching at the door, just a single paw brushing against the wood every five minutes or so until I got up. I’d feed Maile, and as she inhaled her breakfast, I’d go to the bathroom and get dressed. By the time I was dressed, she’d be champing at the bit to go out.

I’d leash her up, and away we’d go. Most of the time, she’d dump almost right away, long before we got up the driveway to the road. The first day, I used that as my excuse to end the walk and unpack the car. After that, however, I continued the walk, so Maile—and I, for that matter—could get some exercise. I also did it so Maile would be tuckered out and I could get to my work without her bothering me to play or get a pet.

When we got back from our walk, I’d get my breakfast while Maile hunkered down on her sofa pillow that I threw on the floor beneath the coffee table in the living room that I set up as my work site. (The picnic table-like dining table and benches were my office.) I wanted to be in front of the TV, so I could watch all the baseball playoff games, which started the first day I was at Torch Lake.

Soon after I arrived, I began a subscription to the Traverse City Record-Eagle, which was the closest daily paper of any import. I still wanted something of a lifeline to the world, and I was old school—I wanted a newspaper every day. Besides I had to use dialup for my Internet, so I didn’t have much bandwidth to be reading things online.

The Record-Eagle folks brought out a plastic delivery mailbox that they stuck in the ground next to the regular mailbox. Dad was concerned that this would become a permanent fixture, but I explained that I’d pull it up when I ended my subscription. He was fine with that, and I paid the $10 monthly price.

I read the paper over my cereal, and then I’d work till lunch, stop for a sandwich and roll through the afternoon unimpeded by Maile. She’d wake up at about 3 or so wanting to go out, so I took a long break then to go out and kind of knock around on the grounds.

In October, it was warm enough to go down to the lake and look for stones. I’d have to keep one eye on Maile, though, when I did that. She was allowed to go in the water but not above her ears because of infections. So we’d play this game where she’d wander into the lake … slowly. She’d take a step—wanting to go all the way in and swim around—looking over her shoulder at me. Then another. Then another, always with her eyes on me knowing that the inevitable command to “get out of there” was coming soon, which it always did.

Maile loved to play fetch, and that’s how we spent most of the afternoon playtime. She was great at the fetch part but less so with the “drop it” part. Inevitably, when she finally let go of her tennis ball, it’d be pretty goobed up. Bleah!

So I started using a stick. I’d find a big stick in the woods, and I’d toss that. Then when Maile brought it back, I could grab the stick, and we’d have a little tug of war. Maile loved that, and I exerted my Alpha Dog dominance over her through a show of strength. Sometimes I let her win and pull the stick out of my hand. Usually, she’d tug and tug and tug only to have to concede or try a different spot on the stick for leverage.

With no one else at the compound, we could play stick all over the yard, pretty much anywhere we wanted. We also could go anywhere we wanted, and I took it upon myself to check up on the other houses that had been locked up. (I had keys to all of them.) I didn’t need to do this; I really just wanted to nose around at things in the Big House or Little House I hadn’t seen in years.

One place that always had cool old stuff was the boathouse under the Little House, which was nestled in the side of the hill to the road. It might have been a decade since I poked around there, so I wanted to take a look. I noticed that Aunt Martha, who was in charge of the Little House now (as well as Grandad’s newer house), had put little green pellets out in a few places around the boathouse. Rat poison.

Unfortunately, Maile noticed them, too, and before I realized what was happening, I heard her go, lick, lick, lick. I turned and saw a couple pellets disappear. No, Maile! No! It was too late.

Quickly, I got her the heck out of there and called Dad and told him what had happened. He gave me the phone number of Maile’s vet in Bellaire, which I called right away. It was late afternoon, but, luckily I got ahold of them before they closed. Bring Maile in right away, they said.

When we got there, they took her back and gave her something that would make her throw up, which she did all over the kennel floor. After awhile, during which time I got a prescription filled for her at Glen’s across the street, they said I could take her home. Walk her around the yard outside first, so she can get her bearings, they said. We walked for about 15 minutes. She seemed OK if a bit woozy, and we drove home. The vet said to call him right away if I noticed that Maile was lethargic or having difficulty walking.

Maile seemed fine but went to bed and didn’t get up till the next morning. The next day, she was back to normal. Whew! Needless to say—but I’ll say it anyway—I tied Maile up outside any time I went anywhere where rat poison might be lying about.

After we were done playing outside, I’d fix dinner—Maile’s and mine. Laura left a few things in the freezer in anticipation of me coming up, and I mixed that stuff in with my own recipes. I’d have the TV on during this time, either to whatever playoff game was on or, when there wasn’t a game, kids cartoons that I had gotten into in Cleveland—SpongeBob and the Fairly Odd Parents.

After dinner, Maile and I would settle in for the evening—her on her pillow, me at the table with a game on, working away frantically. About 10 p.m., Maile would need to go outside one last time for the day, and we kept this break short. I usually just watched her as she roamed around a bit before doing her business.

One night, the moon was so bright—there’s no light pollution at Torch Lake whatsoever—that I almost could see color in the yard. I certainly didn’t need a flashlight that night. It was one of several amazing things I saw that fall (with more to come).

At 11, Maile would head to bed regardless of what I was doing. She’d trudge down the hall and climb into the bed I put outside the door to my bedroom. I stayed up only as late as needed to watch the end of whatever game was on TV, and then I’d trudge down the hall to my bed. I couldn’t stay up too late, because I knew “my alarm clock” would start scratching at 8 the next day.

(To be continued)

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