December 25, 2005

"Crappy" Morning - At Least It’s Friday

OK. So it's Christmas (almost). Sugarplums, stockings, frankincense, yada yada. My new home in the Salt Lake Valley is unseasonably tepid, which is really of no concern since there's 100 inches of powder snow 20-30 minutes away in all directions. A common maxim out here is that "It snows in the mountains, not in your driveway." You get the idea. The only drawback is that the grounds of my apartment complex are sopping with mud. And while there is a paved walkway to our car-park, they did not pave the path behind the building that leads to the "dog exercise area" where they keep the poop bags. Nevertheless, I complete that faithful circuit several times daily out of appreciation to my dog-friendly housing authority and respect to my friendly neighbors.

This fine morning, however, as I slopped through the squishy clayish top layer around 5:30am I was unaware that some other resident had not extended me the same courtesy. While most of the topical earth had lost it's grip upon climbing the two flights to our appartment, a much more resilient matter was clinging vehemently to the Vibram treads of my Keen clogs (Don't laugh. They're sporty.) But it wasn't until I entered our off-white-carpeted appartment, proceded down the hallway, and flicked on the harsh bathroom light that I saw IT. A faint trail of smudges lined the hallway carpet like a landing strip and led right to the culprit. The forensic evidence was undeniable. I picked up my shoe (clog) and there, anxiously cloaked in a clump of leave, hugging the compensatory treads was the wet, doughy pad of wayward dog waste. It stared at me so smugly, taunting..."Your move, sucker."

I tried to remain calm. My wife, Sarah had not woken and I didn't want my frustration to bring her to an abrupt rise, or at the very least I needed no advice or suggestions yet. First things first. I cleaned the carpet. Spray. Dab-dab-dab. Spray. Dab-dab-dab. Etc. I then had to attack the shoe. I sorted through a series of crude disposable tools. I settled on an old allen wrench from the bike kit. It was a simple solitary L-shaped hex-wrench from my days at the inline skate shop in Boston. It would have to be sacrificed. Over the railing of our third-floor deck, I started scooping chunks of offending gunk from the surprisingly deep treads. Ironic after all that the very treds that justified the borderline effeminant, yet super convenient casual footwear were the very treads confounding my dilemma at this moment. My progress was somehow gratifying as the major globs extruded into interesting shapes and fell to the ground by the decks below — neighbors be damned. Having removed as much of the oodles of doodles as possible, I went to the kitchen, where I sprayed and wiped the surface as much as possible. Then I used hot water and the sprayer to clean out the rest. Finally, I sterilized the sink with hot water, paper towels and some kind of spray. Most of the apartment was still dark mind you as I had not yet awoken my bride.

I brought the shoe out to the deck to dry and air out, or perhaps to think about what it had done wrong. I walked back into the unlit living room to start my day. I must have taken a slightly different course than on the previous two trips as my left foot, still bare, landed squarely in a NEW pile of dog waste. Apparently after eating several magazines yesterday, Blü decided that the 3 or 4 deposits she had made last night were not enough to last till morning and the middle of the living room floor was the perfect place for an encore. No such level-headed calm was forthcoming at this point. —"F***!!!"— That woke Sarah up. I explained what happened and she seemed unmoved. I hopped to the bathroom in a rage. I ran the water over my slimy soul, trying to collect myself. Eventually my repulsion turned to an eye-rolling sense of irony in the moment. After all the lumps were NOT the of most muculent variety, as the dogs miraculous digestive system was mostly just passing dry nuggets of satisfactorily digested paper products, rather than the usual heaps of moist steamed mush. Once my foot was steamed and pristine, I returned to the living room to clean the mess. Sure enough, this new pile was not all that glutinous so the damage was in fact, minimal. I cleaned the area anyway.

My morning proceeded without incident for a few minutes. But as I began clipping my toenails, I actually dropped the nail clippers into the toilet bowl. UGH! WHY?! Keep in mind the toilet had been recently flushed. But the last flusher was ME! And I've been known to be quite abusive to a toilet first thing in the morning. Especially, after the tumultuous morning I had already endured, I may have unleashed a little fury of my own, before showering. Regardless, no time for that kind of thinking. I invoked the same logic that created the "5-second rule" and the "morning after pill". I punched into the suspicious toilet water to rescue the drowning instrument. I shook off as much water as I could and turned to rinse the clippers and my vulgar hand. I scrubbed like a surgeon, but I have this haunting agitation, a feeling of contamination that lurks in my vertebrae and leaves me with chilled bones in the temperate dawn.

I recounted the mornings events to my wife, now rising from blissful sleep. Squinting and yawning, her response was simple. "At least it's Friday."

'At Least' indeed. Humbug.

December 19, 2005


The longer you stay in Utah, the more you pick up on cultural nuance. We all know the funny New England expressions and accents. Here it's more subtle, but there definitely is something unique about it. It's not southern, it's not midwestern. It's just Utah. Here are some examples we've noticed.

First there is an indistinct accent buried in certain words or sounds. For Instance, Utahns really like to hit their "L's". Massachusetts folks might drop their "R's" at the ends of words, but here any word beginning with the letter "L" might sound like it's spelled with a series of "L's". Take the word "Layout". Now drag the "L" and say "LLlllaayout". Another odd sound is the omission of double "T's" in the middle of a given word. The "T's" in the word "rotten" might be replaced with glottal stop, sounding more like "raw-en".

Even more charming are the everyday expressions Utahns use in casual dialog. For example:

"Just barely"
Relating to a lack of excess. Example: "Have you been waiting long?" "No I just barely got here." The phrase "Just Barely" downplays any sense of urgency in the moment, putting both parties at ease. It's pedestrian nature suggests a sense of acknowledged personal fallibility.

"I appreciate you."
This heart-felt phrase is not unique to Utah. However it's casual usage is something that might catch a cynical New Englander off guard. Utahns may use this phrase in thanking you for a good deed, like holding the door open. However where some people might say, "Thank you. I appreciate that." Utahns are likely to say "I appreciate YOU." The difference is awkward at first, but it's just pleasant to hear things like that. However it is more likely to manifest casually in passing as "apprecia-Cha." Slightly less heartfelt but preferable nonetheless.

"You're OK" or "You're fine"
A casual response to an excuse or apologetic sentiment. Utahns are quick to forgive. Sometimes too quick. Rather than dismissing an offense, Utahns are likely to absolve the offending party altogether. For example, you're checking out at the grocery store and when asked if you have your frequent shopper card, you say "sorry, no I left it at home." Rather than saying "It's OK" or "That's OK", Don't be alarmed if the checkout clerk says "You're OK." He or she is pardoning the offense, although it may sound like they're acting gracious in excusing your very existence. You might think "Well of course I'm OK. I just forgot my frequent shoppers card. I wasn't looking for your approval." But try to take this generous expression with the innocent nature in which it was intended.

"Oh my heck!" (NEW!)
Apparently, no matter how humbly you were raised, there's still a need for exclamations. "Oh my heck" is a nice way of expressing shock or befuddlement without offending even the most impressionable of passersby. That's a skill we've yet to master.

ADDENDUM: As a research exercise, I posted the preceding on Craigslist, a popular online classified resource. I asked locals to respond with their favorite "Utahisms" and these were some of their responses.
Here are a few of the best, original Utah-isms I recall as a child.

1. Oh my hell!

2. Gad Sakes

3. Oh my land

4. Bugger to hell (I don't think they knew what the word "bugger meant or they wouldn't have used it...but their ancestors brought it over from Wales and so they thought it was OK)

5. Geeso-pete

6. For the love of hell

7. Damnit to hell

This was pretty much the extent of profanity in the Valley back in the 1960's-70's and 80's. Then the Starland Vocal Band released the song "afternoon delight" and everybody focused their attention on getting it banned from the airwaves and we all contemplated for the first time what a nooner must be like.

How about this:

"We was going to Kmarts and Fred Myers."

"He was literally climbing up the walls."

No, he was not literally climbing up the walls. He not spider man, he's a four year old. Unless you mean to say that he was actually scaling the wall, it is a figurative expression meant to convey the idea that he had excess energy. It's worse than when people incorrectly use ironic to mean coincidental or unfortunate.

"Oh, I seen you in Jeremy's CRX the other night!"

"Was you gonna go with him to wendover?"

"He's doin' pritty good since he got outa jell last month."

"He got new wills on his Honda! I think his mom melled him a check. She lives past the poin of the mou-un..."
"melk" instead of "milk". It seems that as a rule, if there are any vowel "L" combinations, Utahns will screw it up. "Sell" instead of "sale", "pell" instead of "pale", "mell" instead of "mail", "dill" instead of "deal", it goes on. Then there's Lay-un instead of Layton, with a "T". I had to train myself to say it correctly again after living there for a while.
One of the all time best -

I'm suprised to see this one has been missed - words ending with 'ing'.

"I was goun' ta walmart taday and I seen a car go crashun' into that Dodge."

Another Utah oddity, trucks are not trucks. If someone tells you about a Dodge, Ford, or Chevy, you are expected to understand that they mean pickup truck.
'Tuezdee', 'Wenzdee', 'Thurzdee', Frydee - Enough said.

December 12, 2005

Dog Blog — The Demystification of a Dog’s Inner Monologue

Booburt's Log
By BlüDog Myers
Roxie's Log
By Roxie Caret Myers
Today started out slow. I woke up early to warn Mom and Dad that the buzzing machine was about to make its crazy noise. That's my job. I always try to wake them up out before it happens, but they don't appreciate it very much. I jumped on the bed but Daddy kicked me off. Then Roxie joined in and we started rocking the bed back and forth until Daddy got up and put on some warm stuff to go out. Daddy doesn't have any fur so he needs lots of layers to go outside. Mommy stayed in bed.

It was cold and snowy out today. My toes got salt in them too, which hurts. But I like to spend my morning cleaning them out anyway. Everybody needs a hobby. Mine is cleaning each of my parts thoroughly. Sometimes, when I run out of things to clean, I clean Roxie too. She doesn't always mind because she knows I love her.

Then Daddy spent some time in the bathroom. That's where some of the best snacks are. I think he likes to eat them by himself, but when he's done I like to clean up what's left. The silver can is usually a jackpot. But the big white bowl has the best water in town. You really can't beat bathroom water after a good hike. I like to hike. Roxie does too. She likes it so much I used to think she'd never come back. She'd run and run until we couldn't find her. But now she stays pretty close. Sometimes we race up and down the trail. We like to run into Mommy and Daddy. And we can poop ANYWHERE when we hike. Mom and Dad even pick it up for safekeeping. I'm not sure why they're saving it all. Maybe they're building something with it. Or maybe it goes to charity. I think some people can't afford poop. What was I saying?? Oh yeah! Hiking is fun!!

After Mommy and Daddy put on all their layers they made us breakfast and drank some smoky black stuff. Then they started hiding things. They try to hide all my favorite chewing stuff when they're gone. Sometimes I have to jump the fence and break into their room to chew stuff. It's VERY inconvenient. Other times I'll just chew what's closest. One day, Roxie and I chewed the table in front of the couch. I can't remember who's idea it was, but it was so yummy!

Then we heard the jingles. The jingles make the car go. Some times jingling means we're going for a ride in the car (the Super-RuRu). But usually it means Mommy and Daddy are going away. It pretty much depends on what feet they have on. If they're wearing their big rugged feet, we get really excited. We just can't help it because they wear those on fun hikes and stuff. But today they wore their shiny feet. So that means they're just going away for a while. That's a bad jingle. So I got sad. I tried to sit and be good to change their minds, but it didn't work. I cried a little. After they left I forgot why I was crying, so Roxie and I just laid on the couch for a while. Mommy and Daddy leave the radio on for us. Sometimes we dance. Other times we sleep all day until they come home. Did I mention I like to chew? Sometimes I do that ALL day! I like mail, socks, DVDs, remote controls, tupperwear (so yummy), and blankets. There's more, but I forget. Anyway, today was slow. We mostly slept and stuff.

After forever, we heard the GOOD jingling. Mommy and Daddy came home and we were so excited we jumped and howled and ran in circles. Daddy took us out quickly and then they both changed into FUN CLOTHES! They put on boots and dirty pants and started packing stuff. We all jumped in the car. Once we got off the fast road, Roxie and I knew where we were going. MILL CREEK!!! We go to Mill Creek Canyon a lot. Those are the best days. We can run all over and they even have poop bags waiting. When we're there, our parents put our poop in a big can, with other poop. I think it goes to charity or something. We ran up and down the hills. We chased things—I don't know what, but I just follow Roxie. Then we get to drink from the stream and jump and splash people. It's funny. When we finally got home we were tired. We all laid on the couch together. Our couch isn't very big so usually I just lay on top. I get my best sleep when I'm touching Mommy and Daddy. Sometimes I clean them too, to tell them I love them.

Booburt woke me up today. I was sleeping in my corner by Mommy and Daddy's bed. She came tromping in and leapt about in her usual haphazard manner. She then jumped on the bed to the chagrin of our two-legged guardians. I was dreaming like a puppy about running through the woods, chasing rabbits in the snow and rolling in deer excrement. Sometimes I wake up from those dreams and my legs are still in motion. I find it embarrassing because everyone stares at me.

Anyway, Blu-Tard (that's what I call her) got kicked off the bed. So I figured I'd help initiate the day's productive cycle. Sometimes we have to wake Mom and Dad up so I gently serenade them until their eyelids reluctantly peel open. Dad arises slowly, dresses himself and stumbles down the hall. The insult of his inferior night vision is compounded by my step-sister's unpredictable movements. Finally, we make our way down the stairs. I arch my back and drink in the cool winter air like a fine wine. It was serendipitous to find a layer of fresh snow on the ground. And by the smell of things, there was more on the way. Seizing the moment, I tossed myself into the fresh patch, rolling my face on all sides as if to shape cookies of my likeness in the heavenly dough. I must confess, there are moments like this when I forego my usual poise for the basic pleasure of being a creature of instinct. It is in these moments when I find a kinship with my simple sibling, to the delight of my parents. Often in fits of jubilee, I will initiate playful interaction. It even takes some prodding on my part to motivate my parents, but they recognize and appreciate my efforts. Admittedly, I can be aloof, but never am I drab.

Upon completion of their morning rituals, our parents made their usual swift exodus, imploring us to "be good" before closing the door. I have trouble containing my smirk as they say such things. I am after all, "the good one". "Good" is a relative term they apply to simply being independent and self-occupied. The antithesis in their eyes is made commonplace by my adolescent-minded sister, who spends her days chewing things that don't belong to her or having "accidents". In lieu of asserting ill intent upon our actions, humans prefer to pre-excuse behavioral abnormalities, assuming we always try our best to please them, but sometimes come up short. I find it deliciously entertaining. Equally charming are the antics my sister employs throughout the day. When she's not cleaning herself or trying to sterilize my undercarriage, she's often wiggling on her back to the music du jour. She claims she does it to itch her back, but I truly believe that she simply does it to burn off excess energy. For more localized itches she swipes carelessly with her rear feet, which makes me cringe. Her first few swats land abusive blows to the head and neck. She lightens up until she fails to connect at all, swatting with less and less intent as her attention is commandeered by any number of alternate stimuli.

Anyway, today being rather quiet, we spent the majority of it on the couch relaxing. I had some time to organize my thoughts and work on my upcoming novel. After some meditative loafing, our parents returned. I'm constantly surprised by my own enthusiasm toward my human attendants. As a rule, I make few allowances for people. I often keep them at a safe distance until I determine their intentions are respectable. Even then, I keep an eye on them. My parents, however have rescued me from purgatory and a life of servitude, affording me a life of whimsy and security that I cannot refute. Their arrival evokes a primal elation in me that escapes in sporadic song and dance. We both celebrate and parade the affects of our "good" behavior. But rather than a quick walk and comfy clothes, Mom and Dad quickly changed their wardrobe to a more rugged look. They snatched up our leashes and led us to the car (the Super-RuRu!). Blü and I were overcome with excitement and curiosity. We rode along patiently, barely containing our emotion. Once Mom made the turn up Mill Creek Canyon I howled my approval, however helpless and barbaric.

Upon agreeing to be "good" we were released along the trail, like a gun releases a bullet. Charging down the wooded path, we planted fresh tracks in the foot of new snow. Sprinting and cutting back, rolling and jumping, we ran and played with such unabashed delight that I welled up in the moment. I headed back to thank Mom and Dad for the fun time and we wrestled a bit. They whitewashed me and I splashed them with snow. It's a little ritual we developed in the woods behind the big house in Maine. I miss that place, and I miss Umie and Opa, but I hear they're coming out for a visit soon which makes me happy.

When we got home, I curled up on the couch. Mom and Dad sat with me, warming my spirit. Then Booburt climbed on top. She affectionately licked all of us before falling asleep. Sometimes she's not so bad. But you didn’t hear that from me.