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My pal and former Office co-worker Owen Ellickson is one of the greatest Twitterers in the game right now IMO, on track to become a legendary Dad Humorist.
Owen and his lovely wife used to be my neighbors, so I oft visited with Owen’s dog Jerry, who was, to be blunt, not always a pure joy to encounter. Nonetheless I was fond of Jerry and sad to learn of his recent passing. Owen wrote a tribute to his dog that I found very refreshing and tender and with permission I reprint it here for Helytimes readers:
We put our dog Jerry down yesterday. Jerry was somewhere between 13 and 15, and had lived with me for over a decade. Everyone has been very nice about it; in truth, few will mourn his loss. Jerry was a bad dog.
We like to think of dogs as paragons of kindness, bottomless pits of furry empathy that remind their owners what they aspire to be. In this “Marley & Me” framing of dogdom, even the worst things our little friends do are adorable, the kind of benign bloopers rom-com protagonists commit. Marley’s big sins were things like “chewed up a bra,” and “pooped somewhere silly.” Jerry’s sins were things like “bit a person,” and “bit a dog,” and “bit another person.” Over the ten-plus years Jerry was with me, he bit four dogs and six people. He bit residents and visitors; he bit men and women; he bit inside and outside. He bit me. He bit my wife. Owning him made me feel angry and nervous and guilty and negligent. Yesterday was a long time coming… the subject of putting him down was on the table for the majority of our time together. Jerry wasn’t a (charmed coo) “bad dog.” He was a (frightened whisper) “BAD dog.”
Jerry had bounced around Los Angeles pounds in his youth – ours was at least his fourth home, Jerry at least his fourth name (previous monikers included Frowly, Donut and Buster). He’d gotten smacked around a bit at his previous stop, and maybe before that too; whether that was the sole cause of his demons wasn’t clear. What was clear, a month or two in, once he started getting comfortable: Jerry was a little nuts. He flew into rages when anyone tried to enter our house. He had an unquenchable thirst for screaming like a lunatic at dogs he encountered on the street. And he didn’t like sharing me with anyone: if I kissed or hugged my girlfriend (now wife) in front of Jerry, he’d let out this piercing whine. It made us laugh, but, I mean, that’s crazy, right?
Simply put, Jerry had problems. We gave those problems names (separation anxiety, border aggression, stress-induced colitis, psychogenic polydipsia) and plenty of attention (heavy exercise, chicken-flavored Prozac, a litany of trainers and experts and behaviorists, including a man who called himself the Dog Whisperer’s protégé, although I never got documentation on that, although how could you, really, I guess), but we never solved those problems. At best, we managed them. At worst, he bit. If our goal was to make him a good dog, we failed.
But I don’t think it’s fair to say that HE failed. I don’t think there was some beatific, Upworthy version of Jerry that he simply refused to become. He was who he was; he gave what he had. Jerry wasn’t a perfect soul, a living vision of kindness. He was just another asshole, like the rest of us. He was aggressive and neurotic and selfish and flawed. He was still my couchmate, my hiking buddy, my pillow, my eater of last resort. He still animated our home with his grumpy-old-man noises, still made us laugh when he stared at apple-eaters like a weird drooling Sphinx, still licked my head fanatically after basketball. He still made me happy every day that I owned him, even if he made me feel all sorts of other things too.
Jerry was a bad dog. But if I could go back in time and pick a different dog from the tens of thousands that littered 2005 Los Angeles, I wouldn’t. And, with apologies to the various creatures he bit, if I could go back in time and change Jerry into a good dog, I wouldn’t. I didn’t love him because he was good. I loved him because he was Jerry.
W. B. Yeats the poet had a kid brother, Jack Yeats, a painter.
Early in his career he worked as an illustrator for magazines like the Boy’s Own Paper and Judy, drew comic strips, including the Sherlock Holmes parody “Chubb-Lock Homes” for Comic Cuts
Jack Yeats won a silver medal at the 1924 Olympics (the Chariots Of Fire Olympics). They used to give out medals in art and culture categories, and Jack won for The Liffey Swim:
The juried art competitions were abandoned in 1954 because artists were considered to be professionals, while Olympic athletes were required to be amateurs.
Bring ’em back I say!
And MY Christmas shopping is done.
My little niece Deirdre already has a pretty rad aesthetic going. Very much into this scene:
Seamus on the other hand has been having some trouble at school. Luckily I found a book that should help.
Caddie and I always have fun doing a little project together over the holidays, so I got her:
Ian’s my most intense nephew – the kid is like a mini-Kierkegaard. I think he’ll be into:
Tim is quite mature for his age, but you don’t want to weird a kid out. He’s been asking me a lot about Zola lately so I grabbed him:
I don’t think he’s read Nana yet, let alone got into the debates about which is the real original, but who knows.
Phil loves ancient Rome so I picked up:
Hope I am not jumping him ahead in the Testament of Man series. I KNOW he’s finished Children of Dune but not Heretics Of Dune so duh I got him:
Ezra kind of freaks me out, actually. He’s kind of a junior Machiavelli or something. But, whatever, I guess you can just help him along, so I got him:
As for Fred? Kid needs a positive male role model in his life.
People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.
Got that from Peter Thiel. Wikipedia reports about Adam Smith:
Smith was described by several of his contemporaries and biographers as comically absent-minded, with peculiar habits of speech and gait, and a smile of “inexpressible benignity”. He was known to talk to himself, a habit that began during his childhood when he would smile in rapt conversation with invisible companions… According to one story, Smith took Charles Townshend on a tour of a tanning factory, and while discussing free trade, Smith walked into a huge tanning pit from which he needed help to escape. He is also said to have put bread and butter into a teapot, drunk the concoction, and declared it to be the worst cup of tea he ever had.
Adam Smith got a job tutoring the young Duke of Buccleuch, and with him they traveled all over Europe and met Ben Franklin.
This Duke of Buccleuch spawned a whole line of British aristocrats: one of his descendants was this handsome devil, Prince William of Gloucester:
Apparently it’s after this Prince William that the current Prince William, husband to Kate Middleton, is named.
On page 3 of The Great Gatsby, Nick tells us:
The Carraways are something of a clan, and we have a tradition that we’re descended from the Dukes of Buccleuch, but the actual founder of my line was my grandfather’s brother, who came here in fifty-one, sent a substitute to the Civil War, and started the wholesale hardware business that my father carries on to-day.
Marc Isambard Brunel was Isambard Kingdom’s father. He was born in France and served as a naval cadet, during which service he built a quadrant for himself.
During his stay in Rouen, Brunel had met Sophia Kingdom, a young Englishwoman who was an orphan and was working as a governess. Unfortunately he was forced to leave her behind when he fled to Le Havre [because of the French Revolution] and boarded the American ship Liberty, bound for New York…
…Sophia Kingdom remained in Rouen and during the Reign of Terror, she was arrested as an English spy and daily expected to be executed.
Meanwhile, in New York, Marc was sick with worry:
In 1798, during a dinner conversation, Brunel learnt of the difficulties that the Royal Navy had in obtaining the 100,000 pulley blocks that it required each year to fit out its ships. Each of these was being made by hand. Brunel quickly produced an outline design of a machine that would automate the production of pulley blocks. He decided to sail to England and put his invention before the Admiralty. He sailed for England on 7 February 1799 with a letter of introduction to the Navy Minister
Back in London, Marc was joyfully reunited with the now-freed Sophia. They had a son, Isambard Kingdom. Marc went to work on an idea for a tunnel under the Thames.
Marc’s helper in this project was 18 year old Isambard.
I’m stealing all this from Marc’s wikipedia page, which in turn seems to be stolen from a book called The Greater Genius? by one Harold Bagust. Q: is that the perfect name for the biography of a father?
A good way to remember the Brunels is the lyrics of Irish traditional song “The Humours of Whiskey,” found here.
Come guess me this riddle, what beats pipe and fiddle,
What’s hotter than mustard and milder than cream?
What best wets your whistle, what’s clearer than crystal,
What’s sweeter than honey and stronger than steam?
What’ll make the lame walk, what’ll make the dumb talk,
What’s the elixir of life and philosopher’s stone?
And what helped Mr. Brunel to dig the Thames Tunnel?
Wasn’t it whiskey from old Inishowen?