Friday, December 08, 2006

rudeness in shapes and forms

This week I seem to have been super aware of rudeness in many shapes and forms.

Is it just New York? Or am I just becoming increasingly aware of how dysfunctional our world is becoming? Are we so entrapped in our technical devices and communicating through a keyboard and monitor (whether at a desk or personal communicator/phone/etc.) that we've forgotten how to look someone in the eye? What ever happened to calling up someone just to say "hi!" or writing a letter just to let someone know you've been thinking of them? Perhaps I'm just hanging out in the wrong places? Or office?

It seems, especially at this time of the year, when the messages around us are about "gifts and celebrating," our emphasis is more skewed toward material objects or other types of consumables. To me, the real meaning of the holidays, whatever strain of religion you care to spend your money in, is about spending TIME with those we care about. It's not about the gift. It's about the effort we put into seeing the people in our lives.

My next gripe is this silly insistence that all the gifts must be given at the end of the year (and on birthdays). I'm a firm believer in gifts being given throughout the year. Expressing your love and appreciation for the people in your world shouldn't just be how many (and how big) are your gifts on one day (or eight) at the end of the Julian calendar.

Maybe I'm being a bit Scroogish, or maybe I'm just feeling poor this year, or perhaps it's a bit of weltschmerz (

So, yes, I'm saying: "please look me in the eye when you're speaking to me," "please call rather than email," "please give me cards and gifts all year round." To no one in particular, but since I have this platform I figured I'd (selfishly?) pronounce it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

All I learned about Fashion from my dog (walks).

Teddy's trip through Soho; or "Fashion Walks" or "All I learned about Fashion from my dog (walks)."

We take a left out of 40 macDougal Street and immediately are stopped right next door at the French restaurant, Provence. All the waiters and bus boys are standing outside, leaning against the cars parked on the street and smoking a cigarette, enjoying the warm sun on their faces and back before they have to head in for another night of mis-management and boring slow table service.

"Teddy! Teddy!" Come 'ere Teddy!" the chorus of French, Tibetan, Mexican and Kentuckian voices ring out. "Hey dude! How're ya doin,'" Mike, the bartender from Kentucky who doesn't drink and who epouses his left-wing radical points-of-view to anyone who'll sit and listen to his grumbling, asks. He musses up the fur on Teddy's head and picks up his front paws so he's standing like a circus bear. Sometimes Mike will put a big square white napkin over Teddy's head and make up a little political skit. Sometimes he'll ask Teddy if he was down in Washington protesting Bush this past week.

After a few more jokes, jabs and laughs around Mike and his engaging Teddy in his political activism, and after relatively few words even acknowledging Courtney, his owner, she decides it's time to go. Courtney laughing says, "alright…we'll come back later, but Teddy's gotta go have his walk now. We'll be by later, for some steak."

Teddy moves up to the next planter filled with Ivy, sniffs and lifts his leg. Then to the other side of the sidewalk, he approaches the corner of the building. Simon and Anna live here, at this gorgeously large townhome with front windows filled from top to bottom with hanging plants, trees and cacti on the windowsill. It's almost a tourist attraction with young people stopping to show it to their parents as part of their "this is my New York tour." Simon and Anna moved into the building on the corner of MacDougal and Prince in 1970. Today, the market on that house? Well, as Tony Bagandoughnuts would say, "fo-get-abou-it." Teddy lifts his legs and proclaims, "I was here" with his piddle.

We round Prince and Teddy stops at the planter, filled with ivy, on the Prince Street side of Simon and Anna's house. A lift, a piddle and we're on. Teddy criss-crosses down the sidewalk, going from garbage heap on the curb to the corners of buildings and storefronts, lifting his leg, sniffing and marking his spot.

Once we reach Thompson Street, Teddy usually will want to pull and head up North. He stays close to the curb as we get mid-block when, good New Yorker that he is, jay-walks to the other side of the street, and we continue North to the Pet Bar. Of course, there's a little stop for a quick mark, and then we head into the famed Pet Bar.

Teddy immediately banks a left and inspects all the raw-hide chews in the bins close to the floor. After moving down the aisle, sniffing cat food and then heads back up to head to the other side of the store and check out the dog food. Courtney inspects the leashes and toys. "Would Teddy like a cookie?" "Sure." The owner offers a cookie, which Teddy promptly snubs his nose at. He wants a special "dried lamb lung." Courtney takes the cookie and they leave, heading South again and back onto Prince Street to head East and then further South down West Broadway.

The first stop is the Swatch store, where Teddy will mark on the corner. If it's summertime, he likes to go in there and lay flat on the cool granite tile floors. He'll chill out here a little bit and then bounce up and trot on out to the next stop.

A little sniff here. A little sniff there. Lift the leg at this spot, lift the leg at that spot. We make our way down, marking the black-painted concrete stoop where a petite poodle lives and his owner, always in roller blades and in tight black short-shorts and t-shirt, a terry-cloth headband, knee pads, elbow pads.

There's the new mediteranean day spa with large fruit and cake shaped soaps, the adorable French mens' and boys matching swimming trunks store Villebreune and my one of my favorite jewelry stores (NAME) with brightly colored gems and lacquer gold and silver chunky necklaces, earrings, rings, brooches and bracelets.

Then we approach the highpoint of the walk. Jaime Mascaro Shoes with Fanny, the store manager. Fanny has known Teddy since he was about six months old and she's the only one he let's pick her up by his armpits and let dangle facing forward. Teddy's now able to just relax and go for the ride. As soon as Teddy walks through the large all-glass doors into the long spacious store with mirrors and diagonal-poles scattered the length of the store to the back mirror wall and serpentine shelves filled with gorgeously crafted shoes, he pads over to the cashier check-out desk and sit down under the desk waiting for Fanny to finish. Sometimes she'll come around out from behind to greet Teddy and pick him up and kiss him. And, sometimes, she's down in the center or back of the store and Teddy has gotten used to just padding to the back of the store and peak around the wall to see if there's someone there. This is where the magic water bowl is waiting. Well, to be true, it's either on the floor there or on a shelf in the bathroom. Fanny fills up the water bowl and Teddy laps up a good drink of water.

After Teddy's filled up on water, he'll turn around and plop down on the cool concrete floor and just look up and around while Courtney and Fanny chat, smiling at the whole world like the very satisfied pup that he is.

After Courtney's had enough of chatter--usually about her divorce or men or some other woe-of-the-day, she bids adieu, thanks Fanny for the water and she and Teddy head back out onto the street.

Immediately out of Jaime Mascaro, Teddy immediately needs to sniff and usually pee on the wooden column of the shoe store next door. Sometimes Teddy will cut the walk short by heading up the stairs into DKNY

This store Teddy will usually just pretty much head straight through to the other side and exit on the other street--Thompson Street--which will deposit us directly next door to a pet shop with all sorts of froofy and hip toys, clothing, accessories and snacks typical of the posh New York dog owner set.

Teddy's far too "street" for this though, despite his debutante looks.

However, this sidetrip through DKNY doesn't happen too frequently since his first year. Usually Teddy keeps his eye on the prize, or prizes, which are treats at the Origins store on the southwest corner of Spring and West Broadway.

Once or twice, again in his first summer, Teddy decided to have a tour of Giorgio Armani, but he quickly decided it just wasn't his taste. The Diesel store held a lot of interest for a while because of the carpeting and full-length mirrors in the dressing rooms. The first time Teddy headed in there he meandered straight back to the dressing rooms and promptly began barking at himself in the mirrors. Then he'd flop over onto his back, do the squirmy-wormy dance. After a few more barks at himself and after Courtney could compose herself from laughing at her cute little doggy's antics, they'd walk out, thanking the staff for their hospitality.

THEN we'd make it to Origins. All the staff at Origins love Teddy. Fortunately for Teddy. He'd get several cookies and even learned a few tricks as a result. He's learned how to spin around and much of his "down" training was conducted in that very store! Sometimes Courtney would get a hand massage or a few makeup tips. Every now and then she'd get a free makeup sample but usually it was just pleasantries exchanged and most of the conversation focused around Teddy.

After a few treats and significant attention from Origins Teddy and Courtney would either head further south and Courtney would try and show off her amazingly cute doggie to all the Euros and others sitting outside at Cipriani's downtown and perhaps stop into Tommy Hilfiger's three-story store for a walk through. Lately Hilfiger's has been giving treats, so that might become a more frequent stop.

Most of the times though, after Origins, Courtney would swing Teddy around and head West on Spring. A handful of times he'd take her into Intermix, but usually they'd cross at Thompson and either head up Thompson on the Famous Ben's Pizza side, (pee on the resin statue) or on the Vesuvio Park side. Or, sometimes they'd meander up to Sullivan and walk up the StuART jewelry side (which butts up against the other end of the block-wide park) or the quieter, more residential side of the street, past the large, modern apartment buildings with all the bikes in front and the smaller, older brick townhomes.

Teddy would try and prolong the walk back as much as possible and especially linger by the flower beds on the St. Anthony's convent side of the street. But once Courtney mentioned the magic words he'd pick up his pace and get quicker to the big reward at the end of the walk.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Livin' Large: 4 Chapters of Teddy's Book

Livin' Large: Operation Teddy

CHAPTER ONE: "Movin' On Up"

It was a bright, warm, sunny morning on the morning Teddy was to begin his journey abroad. I'd been preparing myself mentally for a few days, admiring him with loving looks as he sat on the window-bench nibbling on his paw or a dental treat. Peter rang and we headed downstairs and up MacDougal Street to meet him on Houston. We climbed up into Peter's big Chevy Tahoe and sat on the plush leather seats in the roomy front seat. Teddy was his usual whiny self, unsure of where this adventure would end up and where he was going. I did my best to assure him all would be fine. And I rolled down the electric window to let him perch there and check out what was going on.

Peter drove leisurely up 6th Avenue in the middle lane, and I thought how different this was from my frantic and agressive morning commute bike rides. Teddy got more excited as we entered Central Park, remembering early Sunday mornings and thinking perhaps this massive blue chariot was to carry him to his favorite play place. But no! We continue on, up through and around the park, exiting at 72nd Street. The blue whale continued across town and then up Madison. As we got more North, we broke out into the Jefferson's theme song.

Teddy's "moving on up! To the East Side! To a Deluxe apartment, in the sky-eye! Ohhh, he's moving on up!" And movin' on up he was. Teddy was to spend the weekend with the O'Neills. Sheila has been begging to have a dog and, since Luke is wildly allergic, Peter wanted to do a more extended play date to create as realistic a scenario of owning a dog for his children. And so, I, generous woman that I am, agreed to donate Teddy to the cause. Or, shall I say, pimp him out!

We pulled into the garage and Teddy, always relieved to get out of a vehicle, was ready to see about relieving himself. He sniffed and marked as we rounded the corner of the Upper East Side street onto Tony Fifth Avenue.

We were introduced to the doorman, who was very curious as to who I was, as in "what's her connection, not her name." Nevermind that anyway, "Mr. O'Neill as a reminder, you know you have to use the service elevator with the dog."

"Look Teddy! You get your very own elevator! You're such a special little doggie, you get your own elevator."

Teddy's sniffing and sniffing all the corners and Peter begins his observations of how a little dog operates.

Operation Teddy is going into full swing as we enter the spacious 3-bedroom, 4-bath 15th-floor apartment. We toured the apartment, showing Teddy the den, living room and the kitchen--via a ball toss in that direction. I walked him down the hall and we inspected Luke's room, Sheila's room (picking up little knick-knacks along the way). Peter opened the door to the master bedroom where we saw the spacious bathroom and large room, now with just a large mattress in it and none of the accoutrements that had been there during the Reign of Caroline (the soon-to-be ex-wife).

Teddy obviously recognized this as the master's bedroom because after I left Peter called to say he left him "a steamer." Atta-boy Teddy! That's showing him who's master.

CHAPTER TWO: "Family Life"

Teddy enjoyed a morning of chasing the ball for about 1/2 hour when Hilde, the housekeeper showed up and promptly took the Tedster for a walk.

Peter came into work to report more. The report: "he pees everywhere" and "2 more doogies." And, "how much can that little dog store in his bladder? He must be all bladder! It's phenominal how much pee that little guy has in him! But he's a dogs-dog. He goes ballistic from the other side of the door when Baxter the sheephound goes in and out of his apartment. And he pees everywhere. He definitely likes to mark his territory."

I'm just glad he didn't mark all over the apartment.

Leaving after a couple of hours in the office, Peter goes to pick up Sheila and then, avec Teddy, Luke at the school where he's practicing in their play. They took him to Central Park and walked him all around. Despite his hesitations on "filling up the tank again," Peter let him drink some water from a fountain.

The next report came in a couple of hours later, "how much do you let him sniff other dog's butts? Is it alright if he sniffs every butt?" They also began learning that fine line between walking-the-dog and the dog-walking-you. Apparently Sheila and Luke had a philisophical difference where Luke wanted to bring him along and Sheila was going at Teddy's pace. I assured them these were all issues that can be dealt with when you get a puppy and train him to walk better.

After dinner, I got a call regarding Teddy's ability to sit bolt upright and manage to look completely indignant at not having a place-setting at the table as well. Ah yes, the dinner antics. Teddy is quite the dramatist. He successfully begged and got a couple of carrots for his first meal. I tell ya, that dog is very successful in getting what he wants. Those big round brown eyes that are so expressive. They'll getcha every time.

Saturday I got a call that they've taken Teddy to the Park several times and "he loves chasing that ball!" No kidding. They'd taken him to Petco and got him a bunch of new toys.

Boy-oh-boy this story really is turning into one of those Fresh Air Fund kid stories. Peter and I spent the next few calls, several hours apart, figuring out when to do the return drop-off. I agreed to let them take him out of the city, to the old-world moneied Oyster Bay. Now Teddy really was going to be rubbing shoulders with the Rockefellers! Go Teddy!

So Teddy was packed up and carted out of Manhattan, little inner-city doggie that he is (NOT!) to the idyllic, wealthy, priviledged countryside. As soon as they arrived at The Yellow House Luke took Teddy by the leash as he and Sheila Teddy-proofed it for him. Let loose in the backyard, Teddy was swooped up at the last moment by Peter before the neighboring, stalking, cat had her chance to take a swipe with her paw, claws extended, across his little snout. Peter joked that he didn't want to have to say, "pay no attention to that marble eye, Courtney, it's nothing. Teddy's fine!" Yeah, uh huh. Marble eye. Right.

Teddy's reprieve came when Caroline called in to reclaim her children for the night and Peter headed out for four hours to Uncle Henry's 80th birthday party. A four hour rest, and then a full night's sleep was just what he needed before another active day in the country.


It's true that animals gravitate towards those people who don't necessarily even like them. And Mrs. O'Neill, who's the Rockefeller in this story [she was born where the MOMA now stands] was grumbling as Teddy walked all over her petunias and promptly sat under her chair. Her feet propped on another chair, to rest her ankles after a surgery, she was good-hearted and laughing about the situation as Peter lovingly joked with her.

[insert pic of mrs. o'neill, teddy, peter and sheila]

After a respite, Peter threw Teddy's green squeky ball in the yard. "His eyesight is really bad!" "Well Peter," replied Courtney, "he's only used to having to go about 20 feet in a small New York City apartment! He's not used to having a ball thrown 100 yards out." We joked over the size of Meriwether, the O'Neill's Long Island residence.

Teddy walked in Central Park, claiming each landmark.
Teddy inspected Peter's entire back yard, almost getting swiped at by a neighboring cat.
Teddy chased the ball at Meriwether, the O'Neill's Long Island residence. [image: Peter shouting, "Go Long!"]


The kids had Monday, Columbus Day, off, so Peter called and asked if they could keep him out on the island one more night. "Sure, no problem." Courtney slept in on Sunday and Monday so her morning routine was miraculously short considering there was no dressing for the dog-walk, making coffee to go walk the dog and then the walking of the dog, to take up anywhere from half and hour to 45 minutes. She even got to take care of a few errands after work without having to worry about getting home in time for his after-work-walk.

Monday night, around 7:30 PM Peter drove up to 40 MacDougal with Luke and Sheila holding Teddy across the front seat bench. Teddy was perched on Sheila's lap, facing out the window, recognizing his street but still not seeing "mommy," as he was facing the other side.

Peter opened the driver side door and as everyone said "Hello Courtney," Teddy turned around and saw he was truly going home. Peter opened the passenger door and he set Teddy down, who prompty came running around the back of the car and onto the sidewalk. Mommy scooped him up and he clung to her like a little baby, nuzzling his head close to her neck on her shoulder. Peter opened the back door of the massive SUV and placed Teddy's crate, filled with old and new toys and his food bowl, onto the sidewalk. After getting back into his seat, starting the truck and rolling down the window, they stood there for a few moments while there were general comments on how valuable the weekend was, how much they appreciated it and how much fun they all had. "Kids, what do you say?" and they all three chimed together, "Thank you, Courtney."

Courtney, holding Teddy to see them, waved and waved Teddy's paw. She turned around and set him down, and carried his crate upstairs. After a moderage walk around the neighborhood they settled in for an evening of hugs, snuggling and playing.

Teddy nuzzled in on his window bench. "I'm home," Courtney could almost hear him say. Milkdud, the cat, was also relieved. "He's home! Yah! Finally my little furry playmate is back! Yippee!" He quicky tagged Teddy and they had a brief chase and wrestle.

Courtney scooped up Teddy and plopped him on her bed. This night, Teddy, you're sleeping with me! He padded up the bed to the pillow and flopped over. Head on the pillow, facing the wall, she spooned him. It was the first night he ever spent the whole night in the bed, sleeping at the head, with his mistress.