Monday, August 12, 2013

Zsa Zsa

2001 -- 2013

It is with sadness that I have to announce that Zsa Zsa, my constant companion here in Linguiniland, died on Sunday morning due to a sudden and brief bout with pneumonia.

It would be somewhat cathartic to relate the details of Zsa Zsa's last days but, since those final moments were so not what she was about, I'd rather focus this blogland tribute on stories that tell exactly what Zsa Zsa's ultimate purpose here seemed to be.

She was almost six years old when Karen (Mama K), my friend and mentor for all things about purebred dogs, offered Zsa Zsa to us as a sort of "practice dog" for dog shows. Zsa Zsa needed to learn not to shy from the judges and, frankly, so did I.

When she first came to us, no one could approach Zsa Zsa without her hiding behind me. She shied away from other dogs. In the show ring, she would back away from the judge. Karen advised taking her everywhere and socializing her with anyone willing to give her a pat.

And so began my travels with Zsa Zsa. Ultimately, we both overcame our terror of the show ring, but it was very apparent neither one of us was having a very good time. However, for Zsa Zsa, socialization had somehow made her think she was responsible for the entire world running properly.

Sometimes she could be downright bossy. At rally classes, she'd scold any dog that would cut up or jump around or behave in any way she considered beneath the dignity of a canine. When the Heirs would tussle around, she'd get into the thick of things, separating the two parties and "yelling" at them to knock it off.

With me she became my caregiver. She was never convinced I had the brains to navigate through life safely, so she followed me everywhere watching carefully for any situation that might befuddle my inferior human brain.

She never left my side as I went through through the worst days of my life and worried over me when a mysterious illness had me practically bedridden (mysterious because my "healthcare plan" is called WebMD and the final line of every WebMD diagnosis is "see your doctor").

My favorite Zsa Zsa story comes from when I was Volunteer Coordinator at "the other" volunteer farm, where she accompanied me every day. One of my tasks was to greet the groups of volunteers that would come to us from various organizations, explaining what the farm does, what they would be doing and how to do it. During this time, Zsa Zsa would work the crowd, walking among them being petted and admired (as well they should, she felt) and probably sniffing for treats.

One particular group consisted of special needs elementary-aged kids and their teachers. I was going through my spiel and noticed a little kerfuffle in the back of the crowd, but I finished up and sent them all out into the field. But one of the teachers and a little girl remained behind. The teacher was sort of ... trying not to cry and the little girl and Zsa Zsa were sitting on the ground. The girl's face was right next to Zsa's, which sort of surprised me since the teachers were very careful to instruct the students about how to approach a dog they didn't know (let them smell the top of your hand, don't go face to face, no pinching or hitting or grabbing...).

I was a little concerned  because the girl was clawing at the fur on Zsa's chest with one hand and sort of grabbing her rhythmically at her withers. But Zsa was leaning into her and even "nudging" the girl's cheek. And the teacher was just standing there, all emotional, instead of correcting her student's behavior.

So I went over to coax the kid away from Zsa Zsa and maybe mention to the instructor that, had this been any other dog, it probably would be biting the girl's face off by now.

As I approached, I realized the girl was muttering into Zsa Zsa's ear. Making a wide berth around the two of them, the teacher pulled me away to talk.

The girl was six years old and in the school program for two months. In all that time and in spite of all their efforts, the child had not spoken a word. Even at home she'd only spoke a few rudimentary words or grunts, certainly not the long oration to which she was subjecting Zsa Zsa.

Well, then. The two of us had a good (off-to-the-side) cry over that one and Zsa Zsa spent that morning with the girl and the teacher. After they left, Zsa Zsa spent the afternoon being smug: "Yes, Dah-ling, you can type and tie shoes with those ugly opposable thumbs of yours; but I made a mute child speak!"

And that was Zsa Zsa. Right now I just know she waiting at the Rainbow Bridge -- telling everyone what to do.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Silence is Golden

Last night Dirtman and I went to the Library of Congress' Packard Campus where they preserve various media like film and television and radio shows. They have various showings throughout the year and last night was a silent film accompanied by live music.

Okay -- I know what you're thinking...

Everyone knows I'm a die-hard film fan. So naturally I was in my element.

"But, Sisiggy," you say (yes, I can hear you. Think about that. I can hear you.). "Why would I, a normal human being with a brain and some form of consciousness that requires stimulation, want to sit in a theater for a couple of hours and watch people pantomiming boring old plots when I could be parked in front of the television watching, say, a competition among three chefs trying to make egg rolls out of red JuJuBees and frozen muskrat?"

I get that. In fact, on the way over, I cautioned Dirtman, "DO. NOT. FALL. ASLEEP."

(And, lest you think I was being a overly bitchy, you need to know that Dirtman fell asleep during Lord of the Rings.)

For one thing, there is nothing more exciting than when someone is sharing with you something they are passionate about. The organ accompaniment was provided by Ben Model who, in addition to his musical accomplishments, is a silent film buff. He had scored both the feature film -- Paths to Paradise -- and the short that previewed (a comedy with Oliver Hardy before he was teamed with Stan Laurel) and his attention to detail, time and place was stunning.

While I won't go into the geekier aspects of enjoying silent film and these two offering in particular, I will say to someone coming to the genre* for the first time, notice the background, the fashions, the landscape. That was what first got me hooked on silent film -- sort of the same reason I love to stand in abandoned buildings, poke through antique stores (the dusty kind -- not the kind with lines of glass cases or, worst, "tableaus") and listen to old jazz on scratchy vinyl.

And then there is the communal aspect of watching something in a group that appreciates the effort. While admission is free, the LOC Packard Campus isn't exactly on the beaten path -- it's close, but it's not nearby a lot of commercial development. They don't advertise. So everyone who is there is there very deliberately to see an archived film (and it's not all silent or "historic" films -- tonight's film is Meatballs with Bill Murray). Everyone is sharing information and insights and even a confirmed introvert like me gets caught up in the interaction.

While I'm on the subject, I have to say that one of the perks of living in the Washington, D.C., area is that throughout Virginia there are annexes of some of the attractions in the city itself, just like this one.

When we were homeschooling, I used to take the boys to the Museum of Natural Science lab in Loudoun County where they could see how pieces were studied, cataloged and prepared for display. Warren County has the overflow from the National Zoo and Dulles has the overflow from the Air and Space Museum. It's all free and open to the public -- in fact, I think the employees are anxious for people to come and justify the facilities' existence.

*Is there a more pompous word than "genre," especially when talking about "the arts," which is almost equally pompous? Sorry -- I couldn't think of anything more down-to-earth.

P.S. Dirtman DID NOT fall asleep -- I almost wish he had because he laughs very loud and very explosively...right in my ear.