Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Memorial Day in AZ

Howdy!  Hope everyone is doing well!
We just got back from a very nice trip to Arizona over the Memorial Day weekend.  We flew out on Saturday (thanks for the airport shuttling, Mom and Dad), and got to Phoenix in the afternoon.
We stayed at Carol and Jerry's house, which was really nice.  They were up at their cabin at Munds Park when we first got there.
Raylan slept pretty well.  We had fish tacos from Rubio's the first night.  Good stuff.  Jean made some desert bars that had chocolate and coconut.  Also very good.
Sunday morning we got up and exercised and went to the Butterfly Wonderland in Scottsdale.  Raylan loves butterflies, and the place had thousands of them.  He was very excited.  Jean, Amy, and I also really enjoyed it.  Beautiful colors.

Sunday evening the Sinex crew came over, and Raylan got to play with his cousins.  They all got along well together.  Jean and Greg made a marinated, grilled chicken dinner with potatoes, salad, and a really tasty and interesting peanut sauce.

On Monday morning I borrowed Greg's bike and went for a bike ride.  As hot as it gets in Arizona, the mornings are actually pretty cool (God bless low humidity).  I rode about 15 miles.  It was a nice change of scenery, and the flat terrain in their part of the valley made the riding pretty easy.


After the bike ride and Amy's exercise we met Matt and the kids at the Vistancia pool.  Raylan had a blast.  He loooves the water, and he had fun with his cousins.  He tries really hard to swim.  Soon!
Their neighborhood pool has a couple of big water slides, so Scott and I went down them a few times.



On Monday Jerry and Carol arrived back in town, so we got to hang out with them on Monday afternoon.  It was nice to catch up with them.
Monday night I went out to dinner with Jean, Amy, and Greg at Saigon Kitchen while Carol and Jerry took care of Raylan and got him to bed. We had a really delicious, nice dinner.  It's a really good restaurant.
Tuesday morning I went for another bike ride, we hung out with the family a bit more, and then we had to head to the airport.  It was a really nice trip!
Thanks for the hospitality, Phoenix Family!


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Goodbye to Cassidy

On Saturday we had to say goodbye to Cassidy. I really, really loved that dog. Still love her.  She'd been with me for 14 years, and she was family.  She'd been having joint pain and arthritis for a couple of years, though.  More recently her mobility had been extremely limited and she seemed to regularly be in varying amounts of pain despite efforts to control it through medication.
Even with all of this, she would still exert the effort to hop around the house and into the yard to be with me and the family.  Being with us always seemed to make her happy.  Being petted made her happy.  Being talked to made her happy.  Sitting in a warm sunbeam in the grass while we worked or played nearby in the yard made her happy.
These things kept her going up until the end.

Having been born missing a front leg, Cassidy always stood out, but the physical abnormality didn't really slow her down.  I adopted her on a trip to the Humane Society with my good friend, Jeff Wilson.  I called my dad at his office from the adoption center, I think inadvertently pulling him out of a meeting, to ask if I was crazy for adopting a three legged dog.  
"What are the drawbacks?" he asked.
"She might not like long walks?"
He just laughed and lent his support.  Hop-a-Long Cassidy came home with me that day.
Throughout her youth and much of her adult life we spent a lot of time walking the neighborhood, swimming at Barton Creek, hiking on the green belt, going to dog parks, and just hanging out around the house.  When she was younger she slept in a blanket on my bed.  Later, she slept on a dog bed on the floor, but still in easy reach of where I was sleeping.

Back when my band, Mono Ensemble, used to play at my house, she would sit right outside the practice room, wanting to be as close to me and the guys in the band as she could handle, in spite of our ridiculously loud volume and her sensitive dog hearing.

When Jefff Wilson, one of my closest friends, was unexpectedly killed by a drunk driver, Cassidy was a therapeutic and loyal companion for me, accompanying me to the swimming holes and hiking trails near Barton Creek as I spent months and months working through my grief.  We would swim in the cold water and lay in the warm sun, sometimes listening to music and sometimes just listening to the water, enjoying each other's company.

Amy mostly only knew Cassidy in her later years, but when Amy first moved in we all used to go for walks together on a regular basis.  When Amy was studying for the bar exam, I would come home to find that Amy had taught Cassidy new tricks and had been playing hide and seek with her (one of Cassidy's favorite indoor games) during her study breaks.

The rest of my family loved Cassidy, too.  She spent a lot of time with Ryan and Jamie, and really enjoyed hanging out with their dogs, Scout and Lucy.  My parents took care of her on many occasions when I was travelling, and Cassidy and I road tripped to see them down in Spring many times before my parents moved to Austin.  Cassidy always seemed really happy to see all of the members of my family.

She was just a good friend.  Some dogs are just happy to get attention from anyone.  Some dogs are skittish.  Cassidy was neither.  She liked people, but could be slightly wary around them until she got to know them.  She was a very intelligent dog (perhaps owing to the Border Collie in her), extremely loyal, and brave.  Having three legs rarely deterred her from much (although later in life the arthritis slowed her down), and she would, on very rare occasions, get into a scuffle with another dog if it growled or snapped at her aggressively at the dog park.  I never saw her get into a scrap with a dog that wasn't considerably bigger than herself.  She didn't like fighting, she just didn't like being bullied. Really just wanted to happily play with other dogs.
She was not only brave, but stubborn.  I remember jumping off of a 15 foot tall bluff once into a swimming hole at a spot near Twin Falls, figuring I would get out and go back up to get Cassidy after cooling off.  There was a happy cheer from the crowd of swimmers a couple of minutes later after three legged Cassidy, overcoming her trepidation, refused to let me swim without her and launched herself off the small cliff into the water below.  
Another time I remember a small boy approaching me at the Barton Springs spillover (a regular destination when it wasn't crowded).  Watching Cassidy clamber out of the water, he said he was amazed that she could swim so well.
He said, "That is amazing that your dog does that and only has three legs!"
Unable to stop myself, with a straight face I looked at the boy and then at Cassidy before responding, "Oh God!  When did that happen?  She had four legs when we got here!  Help me find that other leg!!"
The poor kid looked freaked out and looked like he was gonna cry, and I spent 10 minutes reassuring him that it was just a joke and Cassidy was fine.
Another time three hippie girls, dancing around in body and face paint and waving burning sage, told me they were blessing the creek with some kind of prayer or ritual or something.  They told me that Cassidy had some kind of incredibly strong karmic-cosmic energy, and they fawned over an extremely self-satisfied Cassidy for quite a while.  They were probably super stoned, but it was still a nice sentiment, and I told them I agreed about her karmic energy.

I'll miss sitting outside and playing my guitar with Cassidy for my audience.  She's probably heard more of my music than anyone else (I hesitate to say she was my biggest fan-but at least she didn't object!), and she used to jump up when I grabbed my guitar, hoping we would head outside.  She'd sit nearby and keep an eye on the yard while I played, happy to spend time together.

Despite being old, having three legs, and some pretty painful arthritis toward the end, Cassidy never snapped at or even growled at Raylan, even when he climbed on her or played with her a little too roughly (which we tried to prevent).  I think she barked at him one single time, from what I can remember, but even that sounded more like a sound of annoyance than a threat.  She could sometimes seem a little wary around rambunctious Raylan (hopping away from his curious touch at times), but she was also pretty patient with him, and he had some of his first lessons about how to be gentle and kind to other creatures while heaping affection upon her.

Anyway, I loved, loved, loved Cassidy.  She was a ridiculously smart, loyal, and loving dog.  

There have been various posts on this blog over the years that have talked about Cassidy and shown pictures of her and talked about her, so I don't feel that I have to prove anything now.  I just love her, and I'm gonna miss her.  I can't stop reflexively looking around for her in the house to check in with.  If I'm up at night after Amy and Raylan are in bed, it feels weird and lonely to not have her around.  She was a really good girl, and she'll always be in my heart.

I love you girl.  I'll always love you.  People told me that you were lucky to be adopted by me, but, in truth, I was so lucky to have you.  You made my life so much better.  I'll miss you.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Touch-a-Truck; Mother's Day

Hi!  Hope everyone had a good weekend!
Friday night I think we ate pizza and just relaxed.  I took part in a Twitter viewing of Escape from New York  that Ryan hosted for his blog, The Signal Watch.  It was fun, even though I missed the beginning because Raylan decided he didn't want to go to sleep.
Saturday morning we got up and went to Maria's Taco Xpress for breakfast.  There had been an article in the paper saying that Maria's was closing down because the property taxes on the place were making the operation unfeasible.  When I talked to the woman who took our order, though, she said she thought things had stabilized and that the plan, at least for now, was to keep the place open indefinitely.
Which is good news!  We like Maria's, and it's a sort of South Austin institution!

Raylan learns on his first trip to Maria's that the salsa is
a little bit spicy.
"I can't believe you guys almost let me die."
After breakfast we went to Touch-a-Truck over at Camp Mabry.  It's a really cool event for the kiddos, and it benefits SAFE Austin, a program designed to prevent domestic and child abuse and to help victims.
Basically Touch-a-Truck involves a bunch of trucks from the City of Austin, construction companies, fire department, EMS, etc., and the kids get to, well, touch the trucks.  They can sit in them if they want, and they're even allowed to honk the horns.  Local businesses provide treats and bounce houses and stuff like that (thanks for the popsicles, HEB!!).
Raylan loved it!  He loved touching the trucks and their tires right away.  At first he was afraid to sit in the trucks (they're pretty big), but once Amy got up into a dump truck and sat in it with him, from then out he was excited and wanted to do everything.

"These look like my toy trucks.  But they're really big.  Orrrrrr did someone
shrink us and make us really small?!?!"

"Everyone wants me to honk this one more time."

"So where do you need me to dig the hole, lady?"

Family in a front loader!

The helicopter was technically not part of Touch-a-Truck, but still
very cool!  and I'm guessing that the soldiers who work at Camp Mabry
probably don't really appreciate it on a daily basis the way that Raylan

In addition to touching the trucks, Ryaln got to go into his first bounce house (short-lived- too many big kids), play in an inflatable play pen, and run around an awful lot.
After Touch-a-Truck there was lunch and napping.  Amy and I exercised.

Saturday afternoon we went grocery shopping.  We thought it would be fun, since we had sort of a short list, to go to Central Market.  We were wrong.
It was just sort of a madhouse in there.  I like Central Market, but Saturday afternoon is apparently not the time to go.

Sunday was Mother's Day!  We got up and messed around a bit in the yard.

Raylan helping his mom water the flowers on Mother's Day morning.
Later we met up with Mom, Dad, Ryan, and Jamie for brunch at The Iron Cactus.
It was nice!  We had good food, and it was fun to hang out with everyone and celebrate.
Between Amy and Mom, we have two great mothers in our midst, and while we appreciate them every day, it's nice to get a chance to put a punctuation mark on it once a year!
When you think about all of the endless work and toil and worry and effort that goes into being a mother, there's nothing that really repays that debt like brunch once a year, right?

Love you, Amy!

Happy Mother's Day, Mom!

So that was Mother's Day.  Other from that, we spent some time at home hanging out in our yard and playing with the kiddo.  I ran an errand or two.

That was the weekend!

Hope you guys had a good one!

Sunday, May 07, 2017


Hi!  How are ya?  Are weekend was pretty good.
Friday night was Cinco de Mayo.  We tried to go to La Posada to celebrate, but, despite the fact that we got there early, there was a huge line out the door.  I was troubled to an unreasonable degree by this.  I guess I've come to think of La Posada as sort of "our place", so the intrusion of all these interlopers one of our Friday night spots made me grumpy.  Momentarily.  We ended up getting something else for dinner, and going to La Posada the next morning for breakfast instead.
And after our breakfast, Raylan, of course, wanted to go to the laundromat to see the washing machines going around and around.

"I can't explain why, Dad, but this is important."
Later that morning Raylan insisted upon driving the car.

On Saturday night my Grandma and Poppa took Raylan for the night, and Amy and I went to see The New Pornographers at Stubb's.  We ran into our friend, Adam, at the show, which was really fun.
The show was really good.
Despite the punk rock sound of their name (which is apparently a reference to a claim by Jimmy Swaggart that rock music was "the new pornography"), the New Pornographers play fairly accessible, uptempo form of harmony-driven rock that alternates between being catchy, fun, and occasionally powerful.
We really enjoyed the show, and it was great to get to hang out with Adam.

Three toddler parents who all look pretty happy to have
made it over the wall to see a show!

On Sunday we ran some errands, and the Raylan came home and we spent some time just playing with him around the house.

May 2017 in our back yard.

In the evening I went to band practice, which was good.
Amy made chicken tinga for dinner.  It was excellent.

And that was the weekend!!

Over too fast...