Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Free Downoadable Christmas Cheer! Blistering Fiddle! Mooing!

If there's a person out there who says George Strait isn't a poet (I mean, look at this American specimen), I say strip off yer fancy blouse while I take off my nice ring, we've got a brawl to get into.

She's Playing Hell, Trying to Get Me to Heaven
There Ain't No Way All My Sins Can Be Forgiven
They Say There's Only Ten Commandments, but I Broke at Least Eleven
She's Playing Hell, Trying to Get Me to Heaven 

Poetry, man. 

A couple of years back I fell into a country band thanks to a certain Tony Award winner and songwriter and professional JJ Abrams TV creeper. (Why. Wasn't. Fringe. Ever. Nominated. For. Emmys?)

In keeping with the very little tradition yet established since this motley band of musicians came together, Loose Cattle returned to its Semi-Annual Last Minute Holiday Christmas Single this year with a crumbly sweet cover of George Strait's "Christmas Cookies." Recorded in, oh, about 1 hour, fueled with pizza and beer and the desire to hang out eating pizza and drinking beer, it's the least we could offer as a gift to supportive, wonderful, fascinating characters in our lives.  It has blistering fiddle and sexual innuendo, we think. It's hard to judge the level of purity Mr. Strait operates on.

The link below will letcha choose between streaming or downloading, but both are free. We humbly ask if you like it, share it on your interwebs and keep the spirit moooooving. May it tickle your funnybones and make at least 3 minutes of your Christmas Eve a little brighter.

Wishing you all happiness and health in 2014.

Fa la la la mooooooo moo moo love you. -- LOOSE CATTLE

LOOSE CATTLE featured on this track:

 - Michael Cerveris, lead vocals and guitar
-  Kimberly Kaye, lead vocals
-  Gabriel Caplan, guitar
-  Lorenzo Wolff, bass
-  Eddie Zeibeck, drums
-  Fiddle - Justin "Giant Fidder" Smith

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Poet: The Deaf Pit Bull Strangers Rescued

Last weekend Ray and I spent 10 minutes introducing a 12-month-old, 55lb, deaf bull terrier/dogo mix to a Muni-meter on First Avenue. We were the best show in town.

This is Poet, and the 100+ blessed supporters, Samaritans, and donors who sent letters, food, cleaning help, and money in the wake of Stella's sudden passing should formally make his acquaintance. You truly are the ones who took him from a cage to a home.

I doubt there will be a time when thinking of that list of names, nearly half strangers, won't put a lump in my throat. Think of that scene in The Lion King right after Mufasa has been trampled to death by wildebeest and his baby son is pushing himself under the lifeless king's paws, begging his father to hold him, to please wake up, but he can't, because he's dead. That lump you got going on now? It's that kinda lump, but on steroids.

Anyway, back to the boy:

Poet just turned one. He's interchangeably nicknamed "Chip Bull," in honor of his ink drop markings, and "T-Rex," because his head is ENORMOUS. (And full of teeth.) He, like Stella, was born deaf as a result of irresponsible breeding.

Poet was originally purchased at 8 weeks old from a breeder who clipped his ears for the "tough guy" look. His new owner took him home, named him Ares the God of War (...um...you already got the clipped pit bull, brother. You don't need to saddle it with verbal proof of those insecurities about your manbits), then sent him away for a two-week training program at a facility for police dogs. The trainer there discovered "Ares" was deaf, alerted the owner, and ultimately Ares stopped training. Three months later Ares' owner surrendered him to a New Jersey rescue, citing financial duress as a result of a messy divorce.

The rescue was happy to take Ares, but placing him was exceptionally hard. No one wants a disabled bully, so Ares' spent the next 7 months in a kennel. Most of his time was spent alone, depriving him of the vital socialization puppies need to learn to behave around dogs and people. The rescue, without experience raising deaf dogs, did their best, but the Ares we ultimately met was anxious, terrified, and frustrated out of his gourd trying to communicate. With more than half his life first year spent in a kennel, he was as institutionalized as a Shawshank parolee.

It was Ray's idea to name him Poet--a sweet, silly name for a sweet, silly dog born wearing emo eyeliner, and a nod to the friends and readers of this blog, without whom caring for Stella and rescuing Poet would have been impossible.

Which brings us to urban Muni-meters.

As a result of his isolation, the outside world can scare Poet into barking like a junkyard dog or hiding between my legs while fear-peeing. So far his list of fears include, but are not limited to:

- strangers
- strangers carrying bags
- strangers in puffy coats
- strangers with pouffy hair
- flocks of drunk NYU students
- people who gesture extravagantly on the sidewalk
- bikes in motion
- bikes in park
- bikes on the sidewalk
- bikes
- skateboards in motion
- skateboards
- strangers on skateboards
- hats- shopping carts
- flags
- banners
- flashing lights
- scrolling light signs (like the ones in every bodega window)
- shadows on the ceiling
- sunlight on the ceiling
- the fucking ceiling
- screen savers
- end credits on the TV
- Hulu on the iPad
- hands that raise or reach quickly (he cowers as if we'll hit him)
- the electrical cord on the flat-iron, but not the blowdryer
- the vacuum
- Mom and Dad practicing Krav Maga in the house
- yappy dogs
- blurs of motion
- some parked cars
- inanimate bags of garbage
- bags of garbage and rats
- ATMs

Having wiped that one Muni-meter with beef and successfully coerced Poet into eating a small pile of jerky hidden under it, thereby establishing the limited threat posed by a box of government money welded to a pole, we seem to be on the way to peace between deaf canines and local pay structures.

We had no idea that Poet would have so many fears. He was billed as a bright and beamish boy who loved tug-of-war, other dogs, and children, and needed "a little socialization." In reality, he is whip smart, beamish, wildly playful, and deeply insecure. He and Stella are polar opposites. She was gorgeous, feminine and fawnlike, with an addiction to garbage and a soulful, healing energy. She lived for laps and naps, got along with everything, only barked as a trick, and feared only basements. Poet, by comparison, is a bull. Handsome, muscled, drooly, and goonish, he skids and lumbers through the apartment, knocking over anything we are stupid enough to set down. When he yawns he "deaf whistles," which means we're basically living with a nazgul with anal glands. 

Poet deeply resents Apple, Steve Jobs, and all electronic devices which steal your attention, and has invented "The Pelican" as a defensive maneuver: go to water bowl, fill massive mouth, walk to Mom who is trying to write, and empty contents of mouth into feet or lap, receive attention. Ray thought I was making it up. Then in happened to him.

We have worried, I think as all "second child parents" do, that we made a mistake. That a deaf dog with serious fear issues is too great a challenge, that we'll fail him, that we'll disappoint everyone and weaken the argument to adopt special needs animals. Or become those people everyone glares at, walking around with their dog alternately barking like a Resident Evil zombie-Doberman and pissing with fear near the Citibikes while the folks in Starbucks point and mouth "Ugh, why don't they TRAIN their dog...".

But we are bonded. For the first time in his life, Poet is connected to two people and has a lap to sit in at home for 6-12 hours each and every day, depending. Last week he crawled out of his crate at night, quietly joined his sleeping adoptive parents in their bed, curled up between them, and has been there every night since, grinning, alligator rolling in the sheets with delight, knocking over both lamps with his tail while trying to stalk, attack, and then eat a sleep mask.

I can't hear a word you're saying. 

Thanksgiving Day Turkey massacre.


Dad? Dad  I--zzzzzzzz.....

Dogfather Michael!!


Um...okay, also 9ers.

I know we have to try. The rescue, woefully unprepared to work with deafies, offered to take him back. His chances of being adopted a second time are low. We will continue to work with his trainer, and try--and then thank you all for giving us the chance to try and help a Poet. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Did God (and Billy Collins) Just Tell Us to Get a Dog?

The passing of my most valuable writing tool, aka Stella the Arm Rest, aka Stella the Needed Distraction, aka Stella Who Once Slapped the iPad In a Fit of Jealously, has taken words out of me and left empty spaces. You can hear the wind whistling through them. So we've tentatively started talking about adopting again.

This weekend we met a little boy with pointy ears and a tongue longer and thicker than my wrist. Deaf, like our previous girl. We were weighing pros and cons in the car, gliding up the Garden State Parkway back to New York City. As we were discussing, Garrison Keillor announced poet Billy Collins on Prairie Home Companion, about to read his work on the radio. I hushed everyone, because when Billy Collins reads you don't matter to me. Unless you're on fire. Then you matter, at least until we put you out.

Important fact: Billy Collins is one of the wisest and wryest writers I've ever read. He makes me want to set myself on fire, as a mercy killing to prevent my family and friends from ever reading another swiss cheese draft of something I wrote. THE TROUBLE WITH POET blog is named for a line in Sondheim's SWEENEY TODD, and Collins' poem "The Trouble With Poetry."

Collins stepped to the microphone, hundreds of poems in his portfolio available to read from. He chose this:


I am the dog you put to sleep,
as you like to call the needle of oblivion,
come back to tell you this simple thing:
I never liked you--not one bit.

When I licked your face,
I thought of biting off your nose.
When I watched you toweling yourself dry,
I wanted to leap and unman you with a snap.

I resented the way you moved,
your lack of animal grace,
the way you would sit in a chair to eat,
a napkin on your lap, knife in your hand.

I would have run away,
but I was too weak, a trick you taught me
while I was learning to sit and heel,
and--greatest of insults--shake hands without a hand.

I admit the sight of the leash
would excite me
but only because it meant I was about
to smell things you had never touched.

You do not want to believe this,
but I have no reason to lie.
I hated the car, the rubber toys,
disliked your friends and, worse, your relatives.

The jingling of my tags drove me mad.
You always scratched me in the wrong place.
All I ever wanted from you
was food and fresh water in my metal bowls.

While you slept, I watched you breathe
as the moon rose in the sky.
It took all of my strength
not to raise my head and howl.

Now I am free of the collar,
the yellow raincoat, monogrammed sweater,
the absurdity of your lawn,
and that is all you need to know about this place

except what you already supposed
and are glad it did not happen sooner--
that everyone here can read and write,
the dogs in poetry, the cats and the others in prose.

Some might call that a blatant sign NOT to get a dog.

In our macabre little snow globe, however, it sounds like Billy Collins' just voted in favor of adopting the little beast with the giant tongue, so long as we have an action plan in place to be certain the right places get scratched. 

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Thank You from Stella, or, Our Dog Was a Terrorist

One of the first things Stella did when she entered our lives was bite Ray's father in the nuts.

Not enough to hurt him, or break the skin. Just enough to be hilarious. They were running together in a grass backyard in Jackson, NJ, and Papa turned on her fast, as if catching a spiral. She blocked the play with a mouth to the jewels. It was an indicator that we needed to get our new creature to school, and that whatever horrific starvation and mistreatment Stella had endured, she was totes over it. Because dogs who are not over it do not gently jostle genitals for fun--they destroy them with purpose.

In spite of all our crying, photo posting, crying, and also crying, Stella passed in happiness on Sunday because of the selfless gifts of (mostly) strangers. Some monetarily, some morale. It made for a loving crossover in the comfort of her home, wrapped in her blankie, cradled by three sets of hands while Gillian Welch sang "I'll Fly Away." The song ended with Stella's last breath--a blessing of divine theatrics--and our girl stepped into space to literal applause.

To all: Thank you for giving her peace and dignity. Thank you for caring about weepy strangers on the other side of a computer screen. Now, we have to come clean.

You were told about Stella's compassionate soul and sweet disposition. But we left out how she was an evil, garbage-fiending genius with mutant superpaws. And how she betrayed The United States of America. And that time she ate an innocent dreamcatcher off a wall. We didn't want anyone to know her sordid past. Things are different now. Friends of The Ninga (named for the sound of her tags jingling) should know them. And laugh at them.

Stella was stone deaf, but could hear laughter.

Ningconvenient Truths

-- The Dreamcatcher. Given to us by a dear friend, it hung on the wall behind the bed. It was made out of good leather, and subtly decorated. Stella slept under the dreamcatcher with mom and dad every night for nearly two years. Then, one Wednesday afternoon, she waited until she was alone, climbed onto the bed, stood on her hind legs with her front paws on the wall, and yanked the ornament down by its decorative leather tassels. Somewhere, a Native American cried without knowing why. No one knew what had happened until she started shitting feathers. The motive of this senseless crime remains unknown.

-- We bought a "wolf proof" garbage can with a lifetime guarantee. It was wall mounted with giant screws into the bones of the apartment, had two different locks, and was an impenetrable rectangle of slick steel. In 14 days there were two deep holes in the wall, the lid had been pulled from the can like a skull from a spine, and we were used to seeing a broken kitchen trash can chillin' in the bathtub.

-- Stella's inbreeding gave her the deafness, cow coloring, and health complications. It also gave her a dewclaw and exceptionally long, almost prehensile, feet. The mutation allowed her to curl her paw into your palm during snuggles, as well as wreck havoc on kitchens, closets, cabinets, and pantries. Anything with a horizontal grip was fair game. Low mounted knobs? Please...so easy. The fridge? There's a reason we only kept condiments on the bottom shelf. The peanut butter wasn't safe in the pantry, and it wasn't safe in its jar. Both front paws could grip the lid, and it only took a few minutes to go from "Chunky" to "That expensive organic nutty shit all over your dog's muzzle."

-- For three weeks we fundraised to build care packages for troops in Iraq, then spent another week buying all the goodies and boxing them for a trip overseas. Four large boxes total, stuffed with magazines, books, jerky, granola, roasted nuts, drink powder. It took Stella around 2-3 hours (after the dog walker left, before we got home) to open the bedroom and bedroom closet door, drag out and open all four boxes, and sort through what she wanted. She discarded the beef jerky and ate 3 pounds of cinnamon raisin granola--you know, the only thing in the box that could kill her. It made her poo smell like a candle.

We had a brief discussion with the vet about whether stealing charity food from American heros was an act of terrorism. Stella was acquitted, but remains on a Bush-era watch list of unpatriotic dogs.

-- Mom's first adult tetanus booster came as a result of Stella's extremist vaccination advocacy. She could have left a note, maybe, saying it was time. Instead, she waited for mom to strap on the rollerblades and take her for a roll. She remained docile throughout the 15-minute jaunt. And then, just as she reached the home stretch of Main Street in full view of an emptying NJ Transit commuter train, she bolted. Maybe there was a rabbit. Maybe there wasn't. But she did use all 50lbs. of pit muscle to suddenly sprint as if compelled by god for 50 meters, towing mom behind. Dad said Mom's scream had a doppler effect as he watched his new dog and old ladyfriend roll into, and then out of, sight. The next day, Mom was all good on tetnus shots until age 34. Also rollerblading.

Stella was so devoted to Dad she stored her bones in his hats and boxing gloves. She sat next to mommy for nearly every IV and injection for 6 years, and whimpered when they brought the needles out. There are so many stories.

Today, I so regret never letting her throttle any of the swans in sweet Cranford Park. It would have been epic, and she would have smiled so wide. We ended up moving anyway.

I'll fly away...
We love you baby girl.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Goodbye, Stella for Star

Friends, and strangers, who have offered our Stella help for no reason other than extraordinary kindness, thank you. Our hearts are broken, and yet held in place by so many good people. We have set up the PayPal below for any contributions to Stella's goodbye. To have the resources to keep her medicated, free of pain, surrounded by love, and respectfully handled after she "crosses" means the world to us. We feel such deep shame for promising her a good life, then falling short at the very end.

We have been encouraged to use PayPal because the service fee is nominal and funds arrive quickly, allowing an emergency fund to be in place already in case her decline occurs even faster. Please contact either Ray or I if you have any questions or concerns.

We understand these are brutal times for everyone--we truly appreciate the individual offers made to pay for everything in full, but couldn't sleep knowing we'd taken that much money out of the pockets of friends. Please do not feel any obligation. No donation is too small. If you are able to help Stella in her farewell, please know that funds will only go towards her medications, humane euthanasia (if it  comes to that) via the most wonderful vet, and cremation. If we happen to have an excess we will either return any unused funds, or, if you are comfortable, roll them into the penny jar for rescuing the next deaf/abused pittie, in honor of Stella. There's not much more I can offer the world anymore than written words and raising pups no one else wants. We would be honored to continue Stella's legacy in that way. Please specify your wishes and we will honor them. Do not feel uncomfortable being honest.

Our account for Stella is here:

If you've never heard Stella's story, "The Ninga" was rescued from a kill shelter one hour before she was scheduled to be euthanized. A "throwaway mama," she had been found in a parking lot in Queens tied to a light pole. She was malnourished, freezing, had one eye infected shut, and had very recently been separated from a litter of puppies. There were obvious indications of abuse. After being rescued, Stella was bounced from foster to foster for nearly a year, but no one wanted an adult pit bull with zero training and a disability. We met her after the rescue contacted us directly asking if we "would please consider saving" her. She was the color of old newspaper when we took her home. She has been my only companion during these long days of recovery when Ray is at work 10-14 hours, and comfort for Ray when I have been ill.

One time she got into the garbage--a "wolf proof" stainless steel tub with a latch lock on it--and pulled a discarded pint of Chinese sweet and sour sauce onto the ground. She took the lid off, ate some, rolled around in the rest, then glued herself to the kitchen floor when the corn syrup started to clot and then harden. It took three washes to get the sticky our of her fur. She was stained fluorescent pink for the next 9 days.

That's our girl.

**One Last Thing**

With Stellabella in our hearts we gently ask people to please consider adoption and deaf, blind, or other special needs pets. Abandoned or surrendered pets are already labeled "trash." Special needs animals are seen as "broken" trash. Our experience with Stella indicates that she knowingly traded hearing and opted for heightened empathy, an ability to connect with anyone, and the kind of maniacal intelligence that allows a 2-year-old dog to figure out how to open the refrigerator. Twice:

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

On Brutal, Manic, Terrifying Criticism (Can anyone really hate trumpets?)

I've written a little about criticism here in the past. I've experienced kidney punch criticism about my writing, looks, folk singing, and social views. I've definitely cried about it, and have even been paid to flip the table and provide criticism. But this clip documents a critical "Perfect Storm," a cloud of hot air, negative feedback, rage, and bizarre neurosis whirling like typhoon from the mouth of one sad NYU film student. He is explosive. Hypnotic. A mix between John Simon, Ann Coulter, and The Penguin.

If you missed this one, it features a man driven to literal madness by the thoughtless practicing of a trumpet player in a public alcove. It's hilariously heartbreaking, because even as you choose which man to side with, there's no getting around how broken the critic has to feel inside in order to unleash that kind of seething spittle.

For those of you slammed and critiqued in the past: see? It happens to everyone! To aspiring critics: this. is. not. how. to. do. it.

At the end of the day, aren't we all looking for some acknowledgement that we stood near Bob Dylan that one time?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Of Sausage and Unborn Children

We moved recently. That meant, among other things, coming to terms with how vile I am, based on the ruthless dog hair and urban dust netherworld I apparently allowed to flourish under the bed for three years. It also unearthed a long-since forgotten tin box, with bits of writings dating as far back as 2005 written on scraps of paper of all sizes. Some of it is really bad. Like, burn it bad. Some bits I love for their imperfections and clumsiness.

This was one of them.

Untitled, 2010

I've been up and down the sheets
Made and unmade those beds of roses
and worn the thorns as buttons
while sticking thin fishbone pins into voodoo lovers

I've tied every love letter ever with twine
And set them on fire in a secret place
it took three days to reach on foot

One time I held two stagehands hostage until
they turned the spotlights on me
So I could perform the rain dance to call
wet love down from the skies

But now I want one bed
One bed and two pillows
One bed and two pillows for two bodies
A place to cook you dinner
and a Cajun who can teach me to season sausage

I want to hear my children
laugh from inside your daydreams

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I've been away a long time.

Too long.

There are several fascinating reasons why. There are even more totally mundane reason why.

Who cares why? I'm back. Me and the pooch are in this together with you.

I missed your words.

The Prodigal Blogger