Saturday, June 20, 2009

Three(-Legged) Dog Night


Mark your keeping-track-of-progress calendars: On June 10, 2009, I saw a comfortably-ambling dog with a (jointed!) prosthetic leg near the veterinarian’s office on West 67th St., just hours before (and a few hundred yards away from) the Lincoln Center event honoring evolution expert E.O. Wilson that Gerry Ohrstrom was nice enough to get a few of us into.

I imagine animal prostheses will become more common — especially in Manhattan, where a lot of people (a) are rich and (b) opt for leashless freedom — and the car collisions that frequently come with it — for their dogs.  I remember once watching in horror, along with all the other patrons of a restaurant, as a guy played rather long-distance fetch with his dog right near traffic in Union Square.  I said the guy didn’t seem competent to have a dog, to which my friend Laura Zito said, “And he’s probably got kids.”

My parents were very good about exercising the late Uber’s back leg after she had an operation on it, but I remember being angered by the vet’s comment, reported by my parents, about the surprising number of pet owners who ignore instructions to exercise post-op dog legs and end up with a dog with one “frozen” leg.  Perhaps (though I have no idea) that’s the story behind the stiff-legged literal junkyard dog I used to see down on the Lower East Side (yes, even swanky Manhattan had at least one junkyard dog!), not far from scary Mars Bar.


Mars Bar, like much of Manhattan, has mellowed but still has a bit of the old air of a place (much like St. Mark’s and Tompkins Square a few blocks north, back in the day) where the line between “punk” and “homeless” blurs just a bit too much for comfort (much as “heavy metal fan” and “homeless” seemed to meld on Market St. in San Francisco back when I first saw that area).

That reminds me of a mix-up that gave me a moment of terror years ago: Back at ABC News, one of the video editors said he had to take care of some young kids for a day and thought he might take them to “Mars Bar” — but he meant to say Mars 2112 (the outer space-themed kid-friendly restaurant on the Upper West Side near Letterman’s studio, DC Comics, and the Kaplan main HQ where I worked before ABC).  I’m not sure which is weirder, come to think of it: him almost taking the kids to see Mars Bar or me actually once taking a date to Mars 2112.  I also gave her an anthology of Frankfurt School Marxist essays.  She probably thought I was giving off some odd mixed signals, at least culturally.

Come to think of it, she also happens to have been the only date I ever had who doubted evolution for left-wing postmodernist reasons, seeing it as all too convenient a Victorianism-affirming progress narrative, which is apparently the kind of thing they’ve been teaching people in literary theory classes — now that deconstructionism is safely behind us, causing academics to tell me I should just relax about all that long-discarded stuff.  I can only imagine what E.O. Wilson would think of that.  My date ended up moving to Austria, in keeping with the general pattern of women involved with me moving as far away as possible — though maybe she was just inspired to move closer to Frankfurt, in which case I had an impact.


That same editor who made the Mars/Mars mistake also induced one of the two work incidents during which I had the hardest time maintaining a straight face.

There is a plug-like, access-limiting attachment used with computers, video, and audio equipment called a dongle, then a rarely-mentioned novelty, so a co-worker and I, already exhausted by the usual ABC production grind, had to sit looking sympathetic, nearly weeping with repressed laughter, as the poor, pained editor, mere feet from us in the small, dark editing room, went on about how someone had sneaked into his editing booth and stolen his dongle — and he knew who’d done it, too, he said, since the guy had come in earlier, desperately seeking a dongle and asking if anyone had a dongle he could borrow.  If only he’d asked to use it at a more convenient time, our editor would have been perfectly happy to pass along his dongle, but as it was he was now forced to function without a dongle at all, which no one should have to do.  Where was he now supposed to find a dongle?  You don’t just sneak into a guy’s editing room in the middle of the night and rip his dongle out!  Etc.  (I see online, by the way, that you can also buy “driverless dongles.”)

The other straight-face-challenging incident, also at ABC, was the time Stossel, meeting with producers, asked whether we should mention a recent case of a man fined for shooting a bear that menaced his family, and producer Frank Mastropolo, deadpan as always behind his serious mustache — and not joking, I think — quietly, grimly intoned that the story, alas, might be more complicated than first thought because “It looks like the guy may have shot the bear in the back.”  I was still periodically cracking up about that about twenty minutes later, to Stossel’s dismay.


Speaking of tragic animal stories, there are, I should note, dogs more pitiable than the three-legged and frozen-legged ones mentioned above, such as Strong Bad’s pal Li’l Brudder and this poor puppy who survived being flushed down a toilet.  I salute their heroism.  Oh, Li’l Brudder.

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