Blog by Bonniwell
Wednesday, November 7, 2007, 01:50 PM - All Creatures Great & Small
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I know Shep is a stupid name for a dog, but he was smarter than most of the people who tried to order him around.

Herb (my step-dad), estimated Shep's vocabulary of understanding at thirty words, which, measured by any criteria, was more than could be said for Herb.

Shep watched a lot of television. If he didn't care for the program, he watched ME watching television. If he DID like the program — and you changed the channel, he'd bark until you changed it back.
He waited faithfully at the school bus stop every day for my return, but never on weekends or holidays. It seemed as if he could read our minds.

Shep was with me the day I broke my arm, a freak bicycle accident orchestrated by God to keep me from serving in the army.
The drive to the hospital was my first experience with excruciating pain.. Shep sat in the back seat of the car as usual, very concerned.
My mother kept repeating we were almost there (I had never heard her voice so soft and caring). The break was at the elbow, so they had to operate early that evening, about an hour after we arrived.
Ether was the anesthetic used in 1953: It was my first psychedelic trip. During the operation I went for an out-of-body roller coaster ride in full color! Mythological creatures flashed before my eyes while my body swirled up in a sickening green-keyboard burrito.
I regurgitated for a week after the operation, and to this day I can't stand the smell of corn tortillas.

Shep loved corn tortillas. Fact is, he refused to eat dog food.

Twister, Herb's dad, raised Shep from a pup and taught him a variety of tricks, not the least of which was how to flush the toilet by pushing the handle down with the underside of his snout.
When a visitor found it necessary to use our bathroom, Shep would follow them -- supposedly to wait his turn by sitting outside in the hall.
Visitors always returned amused but bewildered, not knowing how to explain that Shep had gone into the bathroom after them, and closed the door: The toilet would flush — we'd hear the door open again — and Shep would trot back into the living room... taking his prior position of guard dog with a low groan of relief as he sat down... indicating with aloof awareness that preferred conversation could now resume.

Shep was with me the day I made my singing debut. My 8th-grade teacher was Mrs. Wheeler... beautiful Mrs. Wheeler. She talked me into singing for the school assembly. She could have talked me into eating dirt.
I sang the Perry Como hit "Don't Let the Stars Get in Your Eyes, Don't Let the Moon Break Your Heart," and (to add a measure of mature irony), "Once I had A Secret Love."

I couldn't stop Shep from following me to school that day. I wasn't concerned that he might not find his way back home again, and since my Uncle Joe was the principal of the school, I knew Shep would be allowed to stay as a special guest.

Without any coaching whatsoever, Shep took his place in the audience off to the side, in the front row. He sat down as if he had a ticket, more well-behaved than any one of the nine hundred genetic mutations throwing spitballs and scuffling for a better seat.
I had a monstrous case of stage fright, and the odd feeling that a quiet power was waiting inside me. I had sung for my relatives on occasion, but this was different. It occurred to me that singing for a crowd of strangers might be easier than doing so for people I knew, and although nearly paralyzed by fear, I was determined to impress everybody. Including Shep.

I sang both songs a Capella, and when I finished, the crowd whistled and cheered while Shep ran back and forth in front of the stage wagging his tail. It looked as if he was saying, "I'm with him!"
Mrs. Wheeler gave me a kiss and a great big hug. That was reward enough, with or without Shep's approval.

*Excerpted from Beyond The Garage
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A Bird In Hand... 
Wednesday, November 7, 2007, 01:06 PM - All Creatures Great & Small
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Promoters stand unnoticed, in the very center of the eye of the storm, directing traffic. They are the dinosaurs of the entertainment business — as old as the profession is — with immunity to changing times and vacillating economies. They will take a prisoner or two, but they're known to shoot their wounded if necessary: Promotion is "survival of the fittest" at its best OR worst, there is no distinction. Still, it's hard not to like most of these entrepreneurs, they possess a charm that is peculiarly infectious.

Independent agents booking small towns and out-of-the-way places can't really cheat you — a shoe-string operation is easy to watch when you're the shoe. They enjoy organizing events that bring the artist and the people into reciprocal fulfillment; some even do it for money.

Some use fictitious names and some use fictitious banks. Most of them are honest men and women guided by the compelling notion that Murphy's Law is rendered victimless by astute attention to detail.

Fast Eddie spit in Murphy's eye and booked the Music Machine wherever he could throughout Texas and Louisiana. Eddie looked like a good argument for the theory of evolution: The globosity of his drooping belly was profiled by long hanging arms (that didn't swing when he walked), and his small, almost completely bald head, made his handlebar mustache look like an insect antenna. To be sure Eddie was humanoid, but that’s as far as it went.

Eddie's flat, slanted forehead, defied the twinkle in his beady-blue eyes, and his beaver like mouth could talk as fast as was necessary for things to go his way.
Eddie had a raspy Louisiana twang that often betrayed his unyielding temperament, for he never spoke a word below the kind of yelling heard in a factory.

Eddie loved the telephone, but he hated the telephone company. His pride and joy was his desk, and the big comfortable reclining chair behind it. Eddie was top man in that chair.
When Eddie's phone rang his eyes would sparkle with anticipated profit, and he would grab the receiver and plop into his chair in one decisive movement! This he did often, but each time he had the same unfailing dash, flair, purpose, and style: Eddie was going to talk MONEY.

Eddie found a baby sparrow one day on the sprawling porch of his Louisiana "mansion." He nursed the bird and fed it with an eye-dropper. He even kept a low-watt bulb burning day and night over the poor little creature's box. It was (his wife Trilby confided), Eddie's one and only humanitarian act.

The bird became strong enough to cling tenaciously — if not somewhat desperately — to the top edge of Eddie's precipitous shoulder, and was soon regarded as having always been there.
But, when Eddie left the den where his desk, chair, and all-important telephone was, the bird (although now quite sure of itself) flew off, opting for the relative safety of familiar surroundings.

Evidently there was a big deal in progress — hanging on the line so to speak — and Eddie was pacing... waiting for the phone to ring. Under such auspicious circumstances he preferred NOT to do his waiting in the den, believing this required lady luck to act on his behalf. No one knows why this worked, but it did.

Sure enough, the big phone call came and Eddie allowed the ringing to fill the house -- announcing once more to all skeptics that his brilliant, strategic superstitions, never fail. He waited until the number of magic rings satisfied his intuition, and then WHIPPED the phone from its receiver and FLUNG himself into his chair, squashing the little sparrow beneath his ass.

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Man's Best Friends  
Tuesday, November 6, 2007, 03:50 PM - All Creatures Great & Small
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It was 9:00 P.M. But my day had commenced at dawn — distributing flyers portraying a smiling goon with a paint brush in his hand, announcing that "he" would be back to collect a donation for painting your address where dogs could pee on it.
By law, the flyer had to be taped to the mailbox. This necessitated dodging cars backing out of driveways, and watchdogs forming in packs. While jumping fences and cutting through hedges in an upper-middle-class neighborhood at the crack of dawn is a feat of marathon proportions, being chased looks decidedly criminal.

It was not uncommon to be stalked by expensive breeds; the rich allow their dogs to range wide in the hope they'll find the neighbor's lawn a more enticing designation for configuring piles of dung, and I was often chased by yelping hounds defending established depositories.
Territorial barking alerts the early residential quiet that an "intruder" has been cornered and treed. Mothers peek out from doors, or stare from kitchen windows. A little girl, on her way to school, saw that I was trapped in the fork of a tree — with the curb-painting equipment scattered on the street in front of her house — and said under her breath just loud enough for me to hear as she strolled away, "GOOD."

When all the notification flyers have been distributed, it's time to go back and paint the house number on the curbs, so, by 10:00 A.M., I'm squatting, bending, and spray-painting as fast as I can. (The speed was prompted by a profit motive, but in truth I was revisiting the same locations I had narrowly escaped from earlier).
It was back-breaking, leg-aching work, but the real challenge was collecting the "donations," beginning around 6:00 P.M. — when the head of the household was sure to be home. Having just returned from a day at the office, he (and sometimes she) was overjoyed to be interrupted at dinner time and asked to pay for a service that wasn't necessary or authorized, as it was required by no one in particular.

After painting curbs for nine hours, facing irate people is no easy task, but I became the essence of polite diplomacy, collecting money in spite of what names I was called, or what they tried to do to escape. I had to pluck and gather fast, because the boss worked only as a "collector," and kept all the donations that were mine! In addition, I had to split my collections with him 50-50. It was capitalism spelled cannibalism. Was this guy a music publisher?
Of all the curb-painters working I was the most successful collector, averaging about a hundred bucks a day. Not too bad for providing a service nobody needed.

So, here it was, almost 9:00 P.M. I had just come from the house of two gays. They delayed me for over an hour with their indecision and appraisals, and even drove down their street with the headlights on to assess the visibility of the new curbside address. In the end (so to speak), they gave me three bucks and a pinch on the ass. (I saw it coming, but couldn't elude it.)

The next house featured a very careful Japanese man, who deliberated, considered, and debated principles of free trade as he struggled to arrive at gracious compensation. Forty-five minutes later he gave me a dollar, but did so with so much agonizing reluctance, I gave it back to him. He took it, but remained troubled.

It was late and I was exhausted, but the boss was nowhere in sight and every house I could beat him to meant more money in my pocket:
The door was opened by a huge, hairy, naked man, who shoved the flyer in my face and then slammed the door shut! Scribbled on the back of the flyer was a very obscene suggestion — detailing what I could do with it and where I could put it!

I skipped the next two houses (no lights were on).
As I walked up to the dilapidated porch of a rather sinister-looking abode, it occurred to me that this too might be a waste of time.
I rang the doorbell, waited, rang again, waited, and was just about to leave when I heard a granny voice say, "Just a minute."

I stood there, listened, knocked, waited, and started to leave again: "Just a minute."
I hesitated, then walked back up to the door... it was very quiet. Suddenly the door opened and animal noises filled the air! — cat screeching, dog howling, bird calls??
In a heartbeat a clowder of cats bolted about my feet and between my legs! My natural reflex was to cover my head with my arms while leaning to the side on one foot, but I lost my balance and tumbled to the porch in the midst of what can only be described as a terror-stricken stampede!

Sprawled out on my back, I looked up in horror as a regiment of dogs descended on me! The howling-yelping pack hurdled over my body after the cats, and right behind and above them a rampage of birds on the wing fled as if from fire!! -- Macaws, canaries, cockatoos and one gigantic, greenish parrot -- a fluttering feathered melee fleeing their captor's monotonous detention!!

Any ex-rock 'n' roller — toppled on his rear with bird droppings on his head, would wonder if there wasn't a better way to make a living.
This occurred to me while still hunkered on the porch, watching the departing swarm make their getaway into the night.
As I got to my feet, I was satisfied that such a cacophony of creatures was too alien for residential sanity; the open door to the house was now empty of life, but the silence and eerie darkness beyond was robbed of its sinister gloom by the granny voice: It was slightly subdued, but still cheery when it said... ".... just a minute ..."

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