January 26, 2004


... are some of the neatest people I know.

The creative play of this fellow resulted in a mockup of M C Escher's mind-boggling image, "Relativity" ... done completely in Legos. I can imagine this man's dreams while he was puzzling through the X, Y and Z planes he would encounter during his daytime play-periods. Which way is UP?

And let's hope that ugly is a universal quality and that American cities and hiways may someday have a bit less of it. Let's follow the lead of the British, who are disguising their cell phone antennae in most creative ways. (I did see one faux "tree" tower when visiting Birmingham during the summer.) If this is to become the rule rather than the exception, there needs to be more voting with our feet (or mobile phone contracts). Can you hear me now?

Via the Ecotone and Google, I've had the opportunity to meet Tom Montag this weekend. Tom is in the midst of a most fascinating undertaking. I'll let him explain (in the first paragraph of his mission statement, read all of it, okay?)

On October 2, 2002, I left a career in the printing industry to devote myself full-time over five years to "Vagabond in the Middle: An Expedition Into the Heart of the Middle West," an attempt to elucidate what it is that makes us middle western. The project is an exploration of place on a wide scale, across the tall grass prairie from western Ohio to the eastern half of the Plains states. I want to identify the "middle western" characteristics; but, more importantly, I want to find the stories in our lives that illustrate those characteristics. This will be literature, not sociology; it will be creative nonfiction, not scientific report.

Notice, too, that he is looking for occasional lodging in his target areas. I can imagine that after an evening of conversation with Tom and his wife about their work, I'd have a hard time dozing off to sleep. The wheels would be spinning. They already are!

Moving right along... my future Floyd County neighbor Doug Thompson has snazzied up his blog, American Newsreel, and adds this to a long list of things that keep him busy. For instance, check out Capitol Hill Blue and his writerly persona at DC Darkside.

And lastly, speaking of humans, let's talk about dogs. (Neat segue, eh?) Yesterday, I wondered outloud about the dog's long days at home should I get the Parkway job. Pascale suggested I just take Tsuga to work with me! First response: NEAT IDEA! Second reflection: NAH. Even if the dog was the epitome of good behavior and docility (I think regular readers know better than that) I would not take a dog with me into quiet places where people have come to the solitude and sounds of nature. I've had my own reveries too often shattered by Irish Setters (with jaunty bright yellow bandanas tied around their necks) and experienced other doggie presence in the waffles of my Vibram soles. I understand the freedom of letting your city dog run free in the woods, but too often, this infringes on the experience of other hikers or campers, in my opinion, even while more and more dogs are showing up in National Parks and on the Appalachian Trail. What are your thoughts about dogs in campgrounds and on trails?

Posted by fred1st at January 26, 2004 06:40 AM | TrackBack

Too often our four-footed friends get excited and scare away the very critters we go into the woods to see--not to mention how they seem to annoy non-dog people. Better Tsuga should be where he's loved and wanted.

Posted by: Cop Car at January 26, 2004 07:20 AM

I don't think a per se rule against dogs on trails is reasonable. It depends on the dog and the trail in my mind. Before her hips gave out, I had many great hikes with mine. She knew to stay on the trails, didn't bark, and didn't even approach, much less molest passing hikers.

The only argument against it is the one above - that seeing wildlife is less likely. But in my case, only slightly.

Posted by: Trey at January 26, 2004 08:02 AM

Whenever I hear about cool people seeking lodging in their travels, I want to mention Servas, the hospitality and World Peace organization I belong to. No money changes hands. You stay for two nights. You have scintillating conversations. You might even make lasting friends. There's a wee bit of red tape to sign up, but the fees to join (as traveler or host, the two not being inseparable) are reasonable.

Some people are squeamish about staying in homes, but it sounds as if Tom is actively looking for the opportunity. Our visits to Servas hosts in America continue to renew our faith in the American spirit of generosity and depth of thought. Tom is looking for the cultural depth of a region -- Servas hosts are not only people deeply OF a place, they've traveled enough to see what is invisible to most people, the culture so engrained that we take it in like the very air we breathe.

Posted by: travelertrish at January 26, 2004 08:02 AM

Re mobile phone masts, there is one on top of Guildford Cathedral at the feet of Gloria, the 12ft golden angel that masquerades as a weathervane. Took me all term to figure out the angel moved ("I'm sure she was pointing left this morning, maybe it's just me...").

MCI, who own the mast, pay for Gloria's periodic service and paint job for the priviledge of sharing her space on top of the tallest building at the highest point of the town.

Posted by: Ali at January 26, 2004 09:12 AM

It depends on the dog. My beagles will go nowhere near nature - the can't behave and can't be trusted. When we go to the woods - they go to the kennel.

Posted by: Chris at January 26, 2004 09:26 AM

Without hesitation I say "yes." IF you can control Tsuga with obedience commands--reliably. This notion that humans exclusively rightfully have access to public spaces is nonsense. 40% of US families have dogs. They are part of the family and in my view should be able to participate in a family's outdoor activties. If your state, county, city or nation has public parks, paid for with your tax dollars, then at least 40% of the parkland, or 40% of the time they are open should allow dogs.

Posted by: Daniel at January 26, 2004 10:11 AM

Hi Dan... I love seeing well-behaved dogs in parks. But I'm not sure I agree with the 40-40 rule you suggest. Ten percent of US households have horses (lets say) and one percent have pet cougars, but I don't think this warrants making a Noah's Ark out of a public park. Leash rules seem to make sense, and wisdom and discretion on the part of the pet owner. I've been in parks where small dog-averse children were traumatized by well-meaning free-ranging family pets. Your caveat re obedience commands, I think, is key.

Posted by: fredf at January 26, 2004 10:21 AM

And it sounds like Tsuga has quite a way to go yet, before being reliably obedient. But maybe, if the job does work out, you'll see a way to fit him in. I know lots of people who take their dogs (adult, calm dogs, that is) to work, even in Atlanta offices, and the dogs seem happy just to sleep under a desk or in a crate - or in your case, maybe in your vehicle when the weather's OK for that? - as long they're with their people and get enough good exercise breaks during the day. Whereas I don't know any dog who seems happy being left alone at home.

Posted by: Lin B at January 26, 2004 10:33 AM

Errrm... "segue"

Also: PASCALE (not Pasquale, think French not Italian).

Posted by: Pascale Soleil at January 26, 2004 12:31 PM

As much as I love dogs they don't belong on trails, but neither do about half the humans that I encounter. Campground ecology is already pretty much fubared, so well-behaved dogs are fine.

I been thinking about leaving Tsuga alone in the house...that's a tough call. I couldn't leave Harley, he's too bonded with us as companions, he'd pine and most likely become a problem.

An older dog doesn't much care as they sleep a lot, but a young dog may be unhappy and act out. However you could build a sturdy dog run with a weatherproof kennel or access to your mudroom or back porch so he could get exercise, keep up with the critters & goings on in his territory and have a measure of freedom but still retain his house manners.

We did this with our four Irish Setters. We had a two acre property, but a Setter can easily jump a 7 ft fence and the two males did so when left alone for hours on end. We took our dogs to work with us, but when we expanded our business they weren't welcome in the new building.

The SU built a run in a weekend by fencing in a large section of the side yard next to the back porch/laundry room and installed a dog door into the side wall...each dog had their own bed and a radio was left on...they were content. It was the perfect solution, they were safe but still had the option of fresh air, grass to roll in and sunshine to sleep in, a patch of pea gravel for a loo and entertainment besides playing tug-of-war with the sofa cushions.

The two cats quickly learned how to get in the run from the porch trellis and were usually tucked in beside a dog when we came home.

As I recall it wasn't horredously expensive to build as we bought used wire fencing from a resale yard...the heavy square type used for goats and small farm animals (Setters learn to climb cyclone fencing). We sprayed it dark green so it pretty much disappeared. I planted stands of sunflowers and hollyhocks and climbing beans and peas in season on the outside perimeter and an established white Clematis crept from the trellis onto the fence next to the house...so it wasn't unattractive either.

Posted by: feste at January 27, 2004 01:34 PM

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