What Is Happiness?

Discovering new things.

Enjoying a Snow Day.

Ice cold beer after a long hike.

Eating damn good food.

An engaging book.

A sing-along anthem where everybody knows the words.

Being outside.

Getting licked in the face by a wiener dog. Okay, it can be a different kind of dog, if that’s your thing.

Sitting around a campfire, making up ghost stories with nowhere else to be.

The first bite of a fresh chocolate chip cookie. Or a s’more if that’s all you got.

Pushing yourself to new heights.

Making something you like, that other people also like.

Sand between the toes.

White Beach

 

It’s the Little Things

The little things in life matter. The little dogs in life matter more.

Kuma lived to be 11-1/2 years old. May 2, 2003-October 17, 2014.

He is survived by his two brothers, Riley and Petie, and his mom, Josie (she’s 14-1/2).

He is with his other two brothers now, Auggie and Jango.

 

His full name on his American Kennel Club Birth Certificate: Little Samurai Kuma

Kuma means bear in Japanese. He was ferocious.

Every decision I made; the shape of my day, about travel, about day trips, about evening plans or whatever, I made with him in mind. What time I had to be home, or who could watch him, or walk him, or feed him if I was out-of-town or just late.

Whenever I traveled, which was frequently, I knew he was at home waiting for me. Worried about me. Whining because I wasn’t there. After a few days, I would start to miss him. By the time my trip was over, I was more than ready to see my dog again.

No matter what shit happened during the day, I knew everything would be fine because Kuma was waiting for me at home.

Every minute that I’ve lived in Washington, D.C. has been with Kuma.

We’ve lived in five different apartments. One in Burien, WA and four on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C.

Kuma has been my dog for all of my 30’s. With the exception of the first 1-1/2 months. My birthday is March 18. His is May 2.

I can’t claim that Kuma is the most well-traveled dog ever, but he has to be in the conversation.

I estimate that at least 23 people have watched Kuma or walked him or cared for him, while I was traveling.

He’s been to 24 US states.

We’ve been on six long road trips (Total of 10,389 road miles)

  1. Bonney Lake-Chicago-DC: 2,772 miles (when I moved to DC, we drove)
  2. DC-Delaware-DC: 242 miles (a day at the beach)
  3. DC-Cincinnati-Detroit-Cleveland-DC: 2,197 miles (me visiting baseball stadiums)
  4. Chicago-Milwaukee-Minneapolis-Chicago: 837 miles (baseball stadiums)
  5. DC-Boston-DC: 876 miles (baseball stadiums)
  6. DC-Gatlinburg-New Orleans-Houston-Arlington-Nashville-DC: 3,465 miles (baseball stadiums)

Kuma has been to 11 of the cities that I’ve visited to see Major League Baseball stadiums. Sadly, they don’t let dogs inside!

He’s flown in an airplane for 47 flight segments. Eight different airports. Mostly between DC and Seattle, sometimes with a layover.

He’s racked up 80,741 frequent flyer miles.

He has seven appearances in the Hill Rag Pet Photo Contest. I don’t know if that’s a record, but I would like to think so.

When out walking, he found all the chicken bones left on the street. People are slobs.

He chewed the stuffing out of all stuffed animals. He went straight for the squeaker inside.

He loved to chew paper and cardboard. If given the chance he would make a huge mess.

His favorite toy was a red Kong.

Goodbye Kuma.

 

Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.

 

Did you get my good side?
Did you get my good side?

 

He destroyed stuffed animals. He chewed the squeak out of them.
He destroyed stuffed animals. He chewed the squeak out of them.

 

Kuma's travel carrier. He always tried to get out.
Kuma’s travel carrier. He always tried to get out.

 

Sleeping
Sleeping

 

He loved to chew paper and cardboard. Loved it!
He loved to chew paper and cardboard. Loved it!

 

What?
What?

 

Good day for a walk!
Good day for a walk!

 

I eat paper?
I eat paper?

 

Road tripping
Road tripping

 

A die hard DC Dawg.
A die hard DC Dawg.
Peace
Peace

 

Kuma’s Last Day

On Friday, October 17th, my best buddy, Kuma, passed away.

Anybody that knows me or has read this blog, will recognize Kuma. I post photos and write about him frequently.

It was huge shock. One that I still can’t believe. I don’t know what it means yet to be without my dog.

His back had been bothering him, something that has come and gone over the years. Miniature dachshunds are prone to back problems.

The solution is to have him chill out for a time, and to not jump on things or climb steps. Sometimes he would take pain meds. We’ve managed this before.

But on Friday he wouldn’t eat. If you know Kuma, that’s a huge warning sign. He eats everything. All the time. He was also pacing and laying down in the middle of floor. Only to get up two minutes later and lay somewhere else. He was lethargic.

I took him to the vet. His temperature was 94.5 (98 to 103 is normal). He had pale gums. They rushed him up for X-rays and blood work. X-rays showed a mass in his abdomen. Blood work showed low white blood cell count. They took a needle to his abdomen and discovered he was bleeding internally.

He had no option but immediate surgery. Best case scenario would be a benign tumor on his spleen. But it didn’t look good.

We had to get to the Friendship Emergency Hospital in Friendship Heights. During rush hour in DC.

They performed surgery. A Hail Mary.

He had multiple bleeding tumors. Worst case scenario.

Nothing could be done.

One of the worst days ever.

I had to get that off my chest.

I will honor Kuma in a later post.

 

 

Five Random Vacation Photos Shared in September ’14

Sage advice. Too bad I read this after I used the urinal...
Sage advice. Too bad I read this after I used the urinal…

 

The only thing risky was the amount of BBQ they give you.
The only thing risky was the amount of BBQ they give you.

 

Power nap before his driving shift.
Power nap before his driving shift.

 

Random courtyard in Nawlins'
Random courtyard in Nawlins’

 

Don't mess with Texas. Seriously, their wieners will hurt you.
Don’t mess with Texas. Seriously, their wieners will hurt you.

Bonus!

If ever a photo didn't need a caption, I would guess this is it.
If ever a photo didn’t need a caption, I would guess this is it.

This is My Dawg on Dog Treats

The reign continues! Kuma is victorious in his 6th consecutive Hill Rag Pet Photo Contest. All Hail Kuma!

This time he won Honorable Mention in the Funniest Category.

Not his best effort, but every reign has a few bumps now and then.

I think the fault lies in his master’s lack of initiative in staging just the right photo. Just the right caption. Just the right angle or action shot.

Oh well, his master is too busy taking selfies or something.

Here is his winning entry:

A True DC Dawg
A True DC Dawg

 

Here is the 2nd, non-winning, entry (and yes, I’ve posted this before):

Jeremy and Kuma go to White Castle.
Jeremy and Kuma go to White Castle.

 

To see the Hill Rag’s complete Pet Photo Contest, click this link:

http://issuu.com/capitalcommunitynews/docs/hillrag-magazine-july-2014

To find Kuma, go to Page 49 out of 180

Note: The Best Dog winner is also a wiener dog!

 

Archive of Kuma Awesomeness

2007 – Best of the Rest

2009 – Best of the Rest

2010 – 3rd Place in Funniest Category

2011 – Honorable Mention in Most Laid Back Category

2012 – Best in Cleverest Category

2013 – Honorable Mention in Best Caption Category

2014 – Honorable Mention in Funniest Category

Five Random Photos Shared in May ’14

May happened. Just think, it was the first and last May 2014. Ever. There will never be another.

Now it’s June’s turn. No need to dwell on the past. Except…take a moment to preuse these photos then start living in the moment.

One sunset in Bangkok.
One sunset in Bangkok.

 

Let's get to Frolfing in the grass.
Let’s get to Frolfing in the grass.

 

Don't mind if I do. Post Sugarloaf Mountain hike sangria.
Don’t mind if I do. Post Sugarloaf Mountain hike sangria.

 

Don't SHOUT, I'm trying to camp.
Don’t SHOUT, I’m trying to camp.

 

Now where is a Wookie to put him back together?
Now where is a Wookie to put him back together?

Since I cannot count to five…

Nope, not a Wookie.
Nope, not a Wookie.

Enjoy June 2014. It will be the last one.

Five Random Photos Shared in March ’14

Today we explore the general worthiness of the iPhone 4 camera.

Conundrum of the day: If the iPhone didn’t exist, would any of these photos exist?

Conversely, if a bear sh$ts in the woods next to a falling tree and no one is there with an iPhone, does it make a sound?

Ponder.

And witness.

This is Washington, D.C. Don't enjoy it.
This is Washington, D.C. Don’t enjoy it.

 

This is also Washington, D.C. Stop being jealous.
This is also Washington, D.C. Stop being jealous.

 

The Irish are coming. The Irish are coming! Happy St. Patrick's Day.
The Irish are coming. The Irish are coming! Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

 

Victory! Beer!
Victory! Beer!
Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.
Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.

 

Peace out.

Five Random Photos Shared in February ’14

The snow and the cold won’t stop, so neither will I.

Here, I assault you with a monthly allotment of photos.

The power of feng shui leads the Seahawks to Super Bowl victory!
The power of feng shui leads the Seahawks to Super Bowl victory!
Where is my gold medal for the Giant Slalom?
Where is my gold medal for the Giant Slalom?
Always keep your wiener on ice.
Always keep your wiener on ice.
Thanks for the encouragement, but I usually just pee directly on the toilet seat.
Thanks for the encouragement, but I usually just pee directly on the toilet seat.
The District sleeps alone tonight.
The District sleeps alone tonight.

Because Punxsutawney Phil said we’d have six more weeks of winter, you get one extra. This one might just be…

...on a frozen lake. Is that ice cracking?
…on a frozen lake. Is that ice cracking?

Let it snow!

Five Random Photos Shared in January ’14

Start your day off with a slew of randomness.

...this exists. Literally the most awesome packaging ever conceived.
…this exists. Literally the most awesome packaging ever conceived.
All the way to Portland, OR to find Daddy's Chocolate Milk. Don't touch!
All the way to Portland, OR to find Daddy’s Chocolate Milk. Don’t touch!
(In) Edible delights from the gas station Hot Case.
(In) Edible delights from the gas station Hot Case.
Oh boy, US government  cheese straight from the teat, all for me!
Oh boy, US government cheese straight from the teat, all for me!
The Polar Vortex Strikes Again
The Polar Vortex Strikes Again

 

Bonus! Because I can.

Just the way I like to start the day!
Just the way I like to start the day!

The Wiener Also Rises

The annual Hill Rag Pet Photo Contest has cast its penetrating light on the dogs and cats of D.C.’s Capitol Hill. This hotbed of pet perfection is well represented by the Wiener Dog, the Greatest Breed. Having said that, few wiener dogs actually make the pages of the Hill Rag. A strange and sad phenomenon, only made better by Kuma, the Wiener Dog.

For the fifth consecutive year, Kuma has graced the Hill Rag with his winning personality and wit. One more year, and he’ll be named Editor-in-Chief of the whole publication!

This year he gets ‘Honorable Mention’ in the Best Caption Category.

Wiener dogs are cute. Wiener dogs are feisty. Wiener dogs are winners.

Honorable Mention: 'Did you get my good side?'
Honorable Mention: ‘Did you get my good side?’
Other Entry: 'I'm 10! Where's my cake?'
Other Entry: ‘I’m 10! Where’s my cake?’

Archive of Kuma Awesomeness

2007 – Best of the Rest

2009 – Best of the Rest

2010 – 3rd Place in Funniest Category

2011 – Honorable Mention in Most Laid Back Category

2012 – Best in Cleverest Category

2013 – Honorable Mention in Best Caption Category

Say Hello To My Little Friend

Victory! It smells so sweet.

The Hill Rag leaked the results of the 2012 Pet Photo Contest in the form of their July issue.

Kuma, hot dog extraordinaire, is victorious. He wins Best in the Cleverest category.

He also gains the distinguished honor of being featured three consecutive years. And four out of five. An honor only bestowed on the greatest of dog breeds, the wiener, in the greatest of neighborhoods, the Hill.

Kuma is available to the press to bark at any questions or to pee on any fire hydrants. Get your appointment in early, he does have a full schedule of sleeping all day.

Going deeper into the Hill Rag’s contest there are still critical gaps in wiener dog representation. Only three this year? One of those is hard to tell the breed. There are so many to choose from.

See below for Kuma’s photo submissions. Also peek at the Pet Photo section in July’s issue of Hill Rag.

Winner: Cleverest Category

Foie Gras

The other submission – ‘Taking care of business’

Have you seen my red stapler?

Profound Observations, and Other Reasons to Get Out of Bed

After a spinning, dizzy time on this planet, I’ve made some profound observations with my keen and scientifically rigorous studies. I didn’t write anything down, so I’ve promptly forgotten everything.

In order to say anything useful here (as if), I had to invent a few observations. Just keep that between you and me. I don’t want my Junior Scientist of the Week Award (from 2nd Grade) revoked.

Let’s get to some hard-hitting and earth-shattering observations with a bit of analysis and evidence thrown in at random.

Observation #1: The proportion of women sporting sundresses in July is 1000% greater than in January. Also, so is my attention.

Observation #2: 70% of all people alone on the street stare at and text on their cell phones. The other 30%? Joggers listening to their iPods.

Observation #3: A wiener dog’s primary goal in life is to lick your face. The only difference between individual wieners is how aggressively they pursue this goal.

Observation #4: I have access to infinite information via countless modalities, yet I am dumber than I was 10 years ago. Evidence: I assume, because I can’t remember 10 years ago.

Observation #5: Our children, with their texting and tweeting, will give the keepers of dictionaries a heart attack. The English language will revert to the dark ages of spelling. Evidence: IMHO they r teribl spelrs n r PPL w/o a POV. RBTL. WTF. #typosforever.

Observation #6: Mother Nature was extremely peeved at the East Coast this summer. Evidence: Hurricane Irene, a 5.8 earthquake and multiple 100+ degree days.

Observation #7: Hurricane Irene was more bark than bite. More Charlie Sheen than warlock. More scorned first date than scorned wife. More chihuahua than wiener dog.

Observation #8: People overreact to the slightest things. Evidence: New York City closed down its metro service for the first time in history to avoid getting blown away and flooded by a hurricane. Analysis: Wusses.

Observation #9: Give me an umbrella and I’ll give you a milk carton with a ‘Missing Umbrella’ notice on the side.

Observation #10: If you pay someone a small kindness that goes wrong (like breaking their leg while saving their life), they will still have no problem suing you.

Observation #11: I prefer to talk to people after they’ve had their coffee.

Observation #12: If you typically wear full body paint to a sports game, you probably don’t care what people think of you. Or your father dropped you as a baby. During a game.

Observation #13: People that complain about the weather in the Pacific Northwest, didn’t grow up in the Pacific Northwest.

Observation #14: The default setting for many people these days is as a self-centered, lazy, unmotivated procrastinator. Evidence: No World Peace. People dying of hunger. Animal cruelty. US politicians saying nothing and doing less. Child trafficking. Pollution. Epic amounts of waste (trash and food). Yet we accept these things as normal. Analysis: Do something. Change your setting.

Observation #15: Observation #14 was a bit of a downer.

Observation #16: Puppies are cute. Evidence: Observe a puppy at play.

Observation #17: People that wake up by 5:00 am every morning are old, farmers or crazy. One can be all three.

Observation #18: Most corporate meetings are a colossal waste of time. Evidence: Dilbert.

Observation #19: You are smarter than you look. Evidence: I really hope this is true, because otherwise you need to start worrying.

Observation #20: I didn’t have anything good to blog about. Evidence: This post. Analysis: I’m self-centered, lazy and unmotivated to the point of procrastination.

Obseration #21: People that demand perfection, need to get out in the real world more often.  Evidence: That bumper sticker saying ‘Nobody’s Perfect’. Analysis: I left some tipos hear to realy miess with u perfecktionolists.

Observation #22: I’m directly responsible for wasting 2:20 minutes of your day. Evidence: You are reading this last observation (assuming you didn’t just skip to the end). Analysis: You won’t sue me, because you’re smart.

And the Wiener Is…

The results are in for the Hill Rag’s 2011 Pet Photo Contest. The competition was fierce and all entrants fought tooth and nail (sometimes literally) to win the coveted chance to appear in full photo glory. After all the ballot boxes were stuffed and counted thrice, the bribes pocketed, the attack dogs chained, and the catnip had worn off, July’s Hill Rag proudly showcased the cream of the crop of dogs and cats of Capitol Hill.

Except the creme de la creme, Kuma the wiener dog, only won Honorable Mention in the Most Laid Back category. Clearly not enough bribes reached the right pockets or the attack dogs didn’t terrify the right people to vote the right way. Since he’s too laid back to care that much, all acts of vengeance to correct this slight are on hold until further notice.

An analysis of this year’s contest shows that there were three wiener dogs represented. Given the number of wiener dogs that live on the Hill, this remains a mysteriously underwhelming disappointment. I’ve noticed a healthy influx of new wiener dogs in just my neighborhood alone. (New: Beastie, Otto, Moochie, Dodger, Bo. Stalwharts: Kuma, Gage, Jasper, Mr. Big, Olive).

The goal for 2012 is a 100% wiener winner in all categories. Best Photo? Wiener. Top Dog? Wiener. Cutest? Wiener. Funniest? Wiener. Top Cat? Wiener.

See Kuma’s photo spread:

Most Laid Back Category: Honorable Mention

 

Cutest Category: Entrant

Woof.

The Best Non-Required Christmas Letter 2007

(Originally sent via email January 2, 2008)

I trust you had a fantastic year and are just about ready to wrestle this new year, 2008, into submission. I simply ask that you keep your New Year’s resolutions child-friendly. Forget it, no one ever listens anyway.

Once again, I give you exactly what you didn’t want, another biased, self-absorbed Christmas Letter (albeit now after the fact). You can run, you can hide, but why bother? Like a scab, you just have to pick at it. Since you probably have a ridiculously short attention span and more interesting things to do, I have used bold letters and words a 5th grader can follow (no research went into this claim). So here it is, a graphic, untamed sampling of my experience that was the year 2007. No minors allowed.

Butterfly Farm (Georgetown, Malaysia)
Hot and steamy… this is not the opening of a romance novel, it is simply the environment butterflies like to pupate, grow and burst forth from their cocoons. They seem to be quite happy flitting about their flower gardens, babbling brooks and koi ponds, that is until a net flashes from below and they find themselves pinned behind a framed pane of glass in your plastic shopping bag. You just had to ruin it, didn’t you? A writhing pit of large, obsidian scorpions stabbing each other with mammoth stingers is also a good way to enjoy the wonders of nature.

Northern Virginia Wineries (USA)
On two occasions I spent the day touring wineries and quaffing the various offerings. My pretentious wine awards go to:

  • Best winery name: Naked Mountain
  • Best hot tub wine: Moonrise (from Gadino Cellars)
  • Best use of fake guns and fake beards: Civil War Re-enactment (at Gray Ghost winery)
  • Best T-shirt slogan: Drink Naked (from Naked Mountain)
  • Best wine: Mediterranean Cellars’ Sweet Lucia
  • Best documentary: My thrilling, timeless expose of an inchworm’s quest for the meaning of life (42)
  • Best view: Rolling farmlands – everywhere
  • Best Sommelier: Me

Top Songs
The best songs I heard this year…..drum roll please…….. “Bubbly” by Colbie Caillet, “Starts With One” by Shiny Toy Guns, “Time” by Chantal Kreviazuk, “LDN” by Lily Allen, “Love Song” by Sara Bareilles, “Sugar, We’re Goin Down” by Fall Out Boy, and “Champagne From a Straw” by Andrea Corr. If you haven’t heard any of these songs, hmmmmmm – why do I even bother

Cliffs of Bandiagara (Mali)
Intertwined within a dusty, heat drenched cliff face, village ruins (former home of the Dogon people) overlook a tree-scattered landscape that almost touches the Sahara Desert. Climbing up and around narrow paths, ladders, random paintings and dark rooms passing off as homes, you finally reach the town meeting place, a narrow, cave-like hollow that one cannot stand in – so one cannot jump up in anger during the tumultuous town meetings.  No women allowed. Why didn’t corporate America think of this? (well, the first part)

McMenamins Kennedy School (Portland, Oregon, USA)
McMenamins has a tendency to convert old buildings, theaters, schools, frankly whatever they can get their hands on, into brewpubs serving their various beers on tap. The Kennedy School just so happened to have been an elementary school early in its existence. Now it is a busy brewery, restaurant, theater, hotel, art gallery, pub and whatever else they managed to cram into the former classrooms and locker rooms (yes the showers still work). The only thing that’s missing right now is me.

European Champions League Match (London, England)
In an epic match between football clubs from England and Portugal, titan Chelsea (England) took on FC Porto (Portugal) at Stamford Bridge in London. The stadium was electric with blue and fans hoarsely and enthusiastically singing “Blue Flag” and “Blue is the Colour” as Chelsea handed Porto a devastating 2-1 defeat to advance to the Champions league semi-finals against Liverpool. Me, I just tried not to provoke any hooligans. Go Chelsea

Pet Photo Contest (Capital Hill, Washington, D.C.)
My wiener dog became famous for one month during Capital Hill’s Hill Rag annual Pet Photo Contest. He didn’t win anything, but he was pictured under the “Best of the Rest” section, looking so cute carrying an oversized bone. At least I didn’t dress him up in a stupid costume! Those people should get acquainted with the inside of a padded room. You know who you are.

Facebook.com (website)
Oh man, last year I got on MySpace and this year I added Facebook to my repertoire of extreme time-wasting activities. I’ve “superpoked” so many people that I think the police are looking for me.

Fish (Key Largo, Florida)
In the Florida Keys, I saw fish from all angles, inside and out. First, we went to the Fishhouse, a busy little restaurant that served great Mahi-Mahi stuffed with blue crabmeat. Fried Conch, although it sounds interesting, is just not. Then I did four (scuba) dives off French Reef and played with the inquisitive lobsters and tried to tickle the clown fish (apparently they don’t find that very funny – false advertising!)

Planet Earth (DVD)
This 11-part epic mini-series exhibits our little planet through breathtaking cinematography and stunning, never before captured live action. Wait, do I sound like I’m writing the back of the DVD jacket? Crap, well, if you want to see lions kill an elephant, or crystal caves that are off-limits to preserve their beauty (except the film crew and only for this series), or a desperate polar bear try to kill an elephant seal bull (not a good idea really), or the lovely ecosystem that lives in a pile of bat guano the size of your house, then this is the DVD for you.

U.S. and A
Over the last few years, I’ve been traveling to quite of range of countries. This year, I actually took some time to poke around my home country a bit. So I had a look see of Boston (no tea party but plenty of Harvard talent), Atlanta (home of the Braves), the Florida Keys (where else can you get key lime pie on-a-stick?), St. Petersburg (it’s silly to expect much), New York (those damn Yankees want how much for a ticket?), Seattle (still sore from too much sports and coffee), Portland (good for drowning oneself in beer) and Miami (South Beach!).

Canadian Rocky Mountains (Alberta, Canada)
If only to stroll the picturesque Banff in minus 13 (Celsius) weather, to sip hot cocoa at Banff Springs Hotel or to ski much too fast down the Lake Louise ski slopes. Or to be overwhelmed by the imposing blue mountains as the sun begins its descent. Or to spy a bald eagle at dusk making short work of a frozen deer. Or to…but I digress.

Beaches and Tsunamis (Dar es Salaam, Tanzania)
Outside our hotel, south of Dar es Salaam, was a beach granting uninhibited access to the Indian Ocean. With just a 20-minute boat ride, you could land on a small island and stroll up from the cobalt blue water and small patches of coral and park yourself in the sand. Or you can wait out a tsunami warning after an 8.2 earthquake rocked Indonesia. Sadly, it petered out and didn’t wash us all away. Though harder to write about when dead, it probably makes for a more interesting story.

Top Books
The best books I read this year….”The Road” by Cormac McCarthy, “Manhunt: The 12 Day Chase for Lincoln’s Killer” by James L. Swanson, “Heat: How to Stop the Planet From Burning” by George Monbiot, “Made To Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die” by Chip Heath and Dan Heath, and  “Guns, Germs and Steel” by Jared Diamond.

Spice Farm (Zanzibar)
If you want to know where nutmeg, cinnamon, peppercorn, cocoa beans, lanolin, vanilla and other spices come from, then your next adventure should be a trek through a spice farm. Smell, taste, touch and guess what each plant grows. Then eat all manner of fruit until the juices can’t help but drip from your chin. If you also want some guy to make hats, ties, bags and jewelry out of banana leaves (you heard me), then my work here is done.

Blogging
Yikes, I started a blog this year. Noooooo! Although it is the last thing the world needs, I feel compelled to infect the unsuspecting masses with my unnecessarily lazy prose. Dark, disturbing and beyond redemption, it can only get worse. Read more: (Myspace link removed – A Random Journey is now my blog which you are on…)

Top Movies
Some of the best movies I saw this year, even if they weren’t all released this year were….”Pan’s Labyrinth”, “The Lives of Others”, “Superbad”, “American Gangster”, and “No Country for Old Men”.

Wicked (Musical in Baltimore, Maryland, USA)
As you may not know, the Wicked Witch of the West was actually good, just misunderstood. This is a great bit of revisionist history about the classic tale ‘The Wizard of Oz” set to music. Green is good!

Flowering Balconies (Cartagena, Colombia)
Ahh, perchance to stroll aimlessly about the walled city of Cartagena de Indias, spying the spectacular hanging flowers exploding from balconies, plazas, and gardens only to be tempered by the pulsating colors and architecture of the myriad of edifices densely packed into narrow cobblestone streets. (Would you rather I wrote it in Spanish?) You can gaze out onto the Caribbean watching (hoping) for pirate ships to attack the impregnable Castillo de San Felipe. Wishful thinking, once they built that sucker, no one ever took the city or made off with boatloads of booty again.
 
Speaking of booty, this is the end of the Christmas Letter. Get back to whatever you were doing before this unwelcome intrusion. Or do something interesting.
 
Bonus Entry!
For anyone just not sure how to handle 2008 yet, let me give you some options. Baseball games at Yankee Stadium (New York Yankees) and Shea Stadium (New York Mets). They are tearing down the stadiums after the 2008 season and I have to go before it happens. Mark your calendars.

Foremost Things That Are So Necessary

I’ve written about a few bad things lately (Foremost Things That Are So Unnecessary and Things That Rub Me Wrong), so now a little love for the good things.

(American) Football season – regardless of what you call it (gridiron does have a nice ring), there are few things that have a more a passionate following than college and professional football. Go Huskies! Go Seahawks!

Coffee shops – read a book, sip a coffee, breathe in the atmosphere, relax.

Beer on tap – no matter where you drink your beer, whether it’s German pints at Biergarten Haus or cask ales at Churchkey or just a frothy pint at the local dive bar, everyone needs a cold one. Probably now.

Wine tastings – raise pinky finger, swirl the contents of your glass, sniff, sip, swish around in your mouth, swallow, gulp the rest, fill glass, repeat.

New things – new restaurants popping up on H street NE or new CDs and books or new places to visit or new episodes of your favorite TV show or new types of food to try or a new season of your favorite sport or new friends or anything new!

Hiking/Nature – get outside, tie your boot laces, shoulder your backpack, listen to the creek babble and the trees rustle, sniff the flowers, take a photo of the disinterested bear, wait patiently for the rattlesnake to leave the trail, take a ‘break’ far away from the poison oak, smile.

Wiener dogs – the only question is whether one is enough!

Hammocks – to nap in the shade is a must on a hot summer day. Ice cold beer within reach.

Baseball – try to visit all Major League stadiums or crave a foot long hot dog or feel the crisp evening air on your face or root for your favorite players, just enjoy yourself already.

Music – go to a concert, hear new music, listen to old favorites, take the iPod Touch everywhere, get stoked by band reunions, dance (preferably not you) in the streets.

Good books – read the Millenium trilogy or tales of trekking through the Brazilian Amazon or anything by Bill Bryson or whatever books you can’t do without.

peace

The Lion’s Share of Awesome

(As told to this writer by Kuma, the wiener dog, of his chances after submitting two photos to the Capitol Hill Rag’s 2010 Pet Photo Contest.)

“I have the lion’s share of awesome. And by lion’s share, I mean I don’t share. In my clenched jaw, I hold all of the awesome available. Ever. You have none.

You could be wondering why I bring this up, as it is often de-motivating to discover someone is not awesome. Not awesome even in the slightest. Well, I can’t help myself. I have all the awesome and everyone will simply have to cry themselves to sleep each night with that knowledge.

I am telling you and your readers this so you can stop striving for awesome. Simply be. Simply exist. Don’t hurt yourself trying to rise to a level that is too far above you. Don’t be that person or dog that spends all his/her time trying to grab something just out of reach. You will never have it. It is mine and it is awesomeness.

You might think there is enough awesome for all who seek it. Not so. I have already obtained all awesomeness ever in the course of my being awesome. It is simply not possible for anyone else to even get a sliver. Or a splinter. Or a drop.

You may be speculating on how someone might snatch the awesome away. Or how to steal it when I’m not looking. Or how to kill me and pry my cold, dead jaws apart and take the awesome for themselves. Well, let me tell you. Don’t even try it. Earlier I misbarked. I don’t hold the awesomeness. I am the awesomeness. So when I die, all awesome dies with me. You can’t take it from me, without me going right along with it.

You could be wondering if this will be over soon. No. It won’t. Not until everyone acknowledges their inability to obtain any possible speck of awesome. Since people are likely speechless from shock and sadness, I’ll let it slide this once.

Just remember the lion. He did not get even a simple lick of awesome…it is all mine.

Awesome.”

(Editor’s note: Kuma finished 3rd in the ‘Funniest’ category. Photo available below. His anger is immense. Currently, Kuma is reviewing his revenge options: a) rampage through the Hill Rag offices – implementing maximum carnage, b) poop on the patio of all those that voted for the other non-awesome dogs or c) look at the voters with his big, sad eyes until they concede and reprint July’s Hill Rag with him on the cover.) 

Funniest Category: Show (3rd Place)
The other photo…

Not Your Grandmother’s Cat Blog

“No one cares about you. Almost no one even knows you exist.”– Seth Godin, “Who’s There?”

On that somber note, let’s first establish that neither of my grandmothers like cats. They are dog people, through and through. Just like me.

The reason I bring up the term ‘cat blog’, is that it’s been used by the author above to describe blogs about YOU. When you share and blog about details of your life, what you ate, where you went, what your cat did yesterday, etc.  That’s considered a ‘cat blog’. As opposed to a second category of blogs that are for sharing ‘ideas’ with the audience or providing them a service.

This blog is probably closer to the ‘cat blog’ realm, though I’d argue I occasionally dip into the sharing ‘ideas’ realm (as lame as they are). Before we continue, I’m dismissing the name and changing it to ‘dog blog’, because cats drool and dogs rule. And the reason I’m pontificating now is because today there can be no doubt about the fact that this particular post is all about the ‘dog blog’…

My dog’s photo was featured in the July 2009 DC Hill Rag’s (a monthly publication) Annual Pet Photo Contest! High Five! Kuma is cuter than those others dogs! Long live the wiener dog!

I know no one really cares (with all the tragedy happening on this planet), but after all this is my blog and I’ll write about whatever dog I so choose.

Was it good for you?

Winning wiener photo
Winning wiener photo

Top Things I Wouldn’t Even Give To My Dog

Here are some unfortunate food or drink items I recently attempted to ingest. I wouldn’t even subject my dog* to these awful concoctions:

 

Those sambuca shots – pretty self-explanatory.

That dense ‘chocolate coconut cake’ thing at Ebenezer’s coffee shop – okay, it did look good in the display and I didn’t know there was coconut in it.

That chickenesque deli sandwich in South Africa – what was that? Chalk? Sadly, if that was a chicken, it died in vain.

That mummified ground beef from the freezer – surprisingly, taco seasoning mix cancels out all other potential tastes.

Those Obama cookies – did not try them, but just have to ask, why? No, we can’t.

That “cinnamon flavored” whiskey called Fireball – I probably don’t even need to add a wry comment here.

That Mexican food in Truckee, California – the mole sauce might refer to the burrowing kind.

That ‘snack’ on South Africa Airlines – 98.3% bread, 1.6% meat, .1% sauce. 100% trash bin.

That Verizon Center popcorn during a college basketball game – it might have been leftover packing peanuts from my move to DC 5 years ago.

Cyprus fruit of doom
Cyprus fruit of doom

 

That candied fruit in Cyprus – a new way to puke without being sick. People eat this for dessert? They are better people than me…

 

 

 

 

* My dog has discerning tastes, and enjoys an occasional ripe dish of cat poop tartare garnished with blades of grass. Dessert is a small swath of my bed sheet to clean out the colon.

Is Your Wiener Dog Happy To See Me?

I wanted to bring you a well researched, thoughtful exposé on climate change and the green revolution, but I realised that would involve more then five minutes of effort. So instead, let’s talk wiener dogs:

http://www.showusyourwiener.com/

 

http://www.wienertakesall.com/

 

 

Wiener Dog Chasing a Rottwieler

 

 

Wiener Dog Races

 

Fugu for Fuji

(Note: I have updated this post, including reformatting the photos and adding in new ones.)

Part 2 of 2

So concludes this sweeping, thrilling tale of an elegantly described vision of Japan. Part 2 finishes the best of Japan. The details are so vivid, only a Jackson Pollock or a Wordle could divert your attention. Let’s get started and finish this.

Fugu

A poisonous puffer fish deserves a modicum of respect in that it has the ability to strike you dead in an instant. Prepared by only the most skilled and trained chefs, fugu cut wrong will end both your culinary and life experiences. A mere nick of an internal organ and the deadly poison seeps into the flesh. Our fugu arrived first as thin slices of sashimi, then as a still writhing plate of fish cuts (no organs). These cuts are cooked at your table in a boiling hot pot with veggies and noodles and then eaten directly from the pot. Tasty yes, but surviving was the best part.

Sashimi
Writhing Fugu

Himeji-jo

One of Japan’s ‘three famous castles,’ sometimes called the White Heron Castle because it’s… well, white. It was used in the The Last Samurai and a few other films. Aside from all that, this castle is every bit the iconic showcase of Japan’s feudal history of shoguns, samurai and battle. You can walk (take off your shoes, put on slippers) past the collection of weapons, over hardwood floors designed to expose creeping ninjas, past hidden compartments for stealth attacks on intruders, all the way to the top and feel almost like you’ve been transported back 400 years. (Heroes joke here.)

Himeji Castle

 

Battle stance

 

Vending machines

Japan has just the right combination of societal conditions that allows such things as vending machines to be integral to its very existence. You can find a random (yes, still working) vending machine on a sleepy, residential street far away from anything. They are found in train stations, malls, bowling alleys, on sidewalks, in parks, in gardens, near temples. There are almost 5.6 million vending machines, or one for every 23 people. In fact, if you go more than two minutes without spotting a vending machine you are no longer in Japan. The most common items are drinks, which includes beer. My favorite was the coffee in a can, your choice of hot or cold.

 

Okonomiyaki

Okonomiyaki basically means ‘grill what you like’. So, as with all Japanese food, eating it is an experience unto itself. It is essentially pancakes filled and covered with all kinds of ingredients; especially veggies, seafood, meat and sometimes noodles, usually with a special sauce. (Some Japanese put mayonnaise on it. Then again those same people put mayonnaise on everything.) Most of the time you get the ingredients and you cook them on the grill at your table, but other times a chef will walk out with a huge sizzling pile of goodness. There are two regional styles vying for your palette’s attention, one from Hiroshima and one from the Osaka area. We tried both styles and they were both damn tasty.

Eating what we like
Osaka style
Hiroshima style

 

Umbrella ella ella ella

At the ‘Karaoke Bar’ in Kobe, Rihanna belted out her velvety smooth rendition of Umbrella in a sound proof room. Oh wait, it was actually three drunken dudes and a Japanese chick singing this, and the dudes sucked. Karaoke bars are the scourge of Japan, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in there and destroy ear drums!

Karaoke booth

 

Philosopher’s Path, Kyoto

As a learned philosopher myself, I was eager to trek along the same canal that Kitaro Nishida (this is his path after all) would walk on and meditate in its calming solitude. Known as the Tetsugaku-no-michi (philosopher’s walk), it meanders through the northwestern part of Kyoto. The path is lined with cherry trees that snow pink blossoms and a brook that gushes through the stone canal while koi swim about. The two kilometer journey on a crisp April day brings out the zen-like peace only nature and beauty can elicit. Whatever.

Find the path

Sake

You sip it repeatedly from a small choko (cup) or masu (wooden cup) and it will bring you a long ways towards drunk in a hurry. Generally it is rice wine, but as with both beer and wine, this isn’t completely accurate as there are a lot of varieties and ways to brew sake. We visited a sake brewery and had our fair share of samples. Get your own!

Wiener dogs

The Japanese have an unhealthy fascination with miniature dachshunds. Nothing wrong with that per se. It seems everybody has one, usually the long-haired kind, and walks them here or there. We stepped into a pet store and lo and behold! six wiener puppies. All so damn cute!  As a wiener dog owner, this is my kind of place! Yet the situation deteriorated into chaos when a big screen at a train station plaza revealed a frenzy of ads (product still a mystery) with dancing and singing cartoon wiener dogs. You had me at wiener.

Mt. Fuji

As an iconic tribute to the splendor of Japan, Mt. Fuji’s grandeur towers over the landscape with majesty and vigor as its snowy spectacle glistens from the luster of sunbeams. (sigh, did I actually write this tripe? Or even worse, did you actually read it?). We arrived at Lake Kawaguchi one evening and checked into a small, clean hostel with anticipation of great views and photo ops. As we walked around town, took the scenic boat ride, all while fidgeting with our cameras, Mt. Fuji refused to show itself from behind its mask of clouds. The coy bastard. As the afternoon wore on, we were resigned to the reality of a wasted trip. Suddenly just at our lowest, the clouds dissipated and Mt. Fuji stood before us. Quickly we added another 1000 or so postcardesque photos to the world. Oh wait, I feel like I’ve seen this mountain before.

Yes, Mt. Fuji

 

fin

Wordle version