A little hair of the dog for comfort



"Hello," I said to my neighbor.
She smiled.
She had her little Jack Russell terrier with her, and he was pulling his leash taut. Luigi, who may be 25 pounds after a particularly wet bath, is the arch-nemesis of my 50-pound bearded collie, Zeke. They loathe each other -- at least, they put on a pretty good show.
(A couple of years ago, we thought we'd see if they might "be friends," and we led them gingerly toward each other on leashes. A low rumble of growling broke into the cacophony of a dog pound at feeding time. Legs flailed, fur bristled, teeth bared and jaws clamped. We dragged them back using taut muscles and heels dug into the grass.
"Well, that went well," Luigi's owner said dryly.
"Uh-huh," I replied.)
"Hello, Luigi," I said to the Russell, who isn't fond of me either. It was at this point that I realized my husband was standing behind me and that he'd left the door to the house open.
I heard a skittering noise on the driveway, and there was Zeke barreling out of the garage, his toenails scraping along the concrete. He lunged for Luigi, and Luigi lunged back. My husband stood there, and I screamed, and our neighbor tried to contain her dog, who was properly leashed, and I tried to catch my dog, who was free and rounding the pack of us avoiding capture and positioning himself to pounce on Luigi again.
Injury
As Zeke dove around my back, I thrust my hand toward his harness, connected, and hoisted his front paws into the air. Zang! He dangled there. But more importantly, my back -- which I have been nursing to health for a year now, that has undergone triggerpointing, physical therapy, back exercises and endless nights on the couch -- seized, the muscles rolling up like a line of electrified potato bugs.
So, it was with just a "bit of tension" that I followed Zeke and John into the house, screamed the now subservient dog into the basement, yelled goodbye into my husband's face, and jockeyed my unbending back into the car for my ride to work.
I was almost in tears. I didn't want to go to work. I wanted to go to a spa or some place to cry.
A mental detour
Instead, I drove north toward Interstate 680, then at the last moment detoured -- South Avenue. That's what I needed. On the interstate, I tune away from the environment and into my troubles.
But on South Avenue, I would see my favorite half-mile stretch of road anywhere -- a blue collar enclave that suggests a home I've never had, a youth I never knew, and an adulthood I can only imagine. And do. It's a place "where everybody knows your name." At least, that's how I think of it.
On this aging strip of road, there are more neighborhood bars than I have ever seen before. I don't mean more than I have seen in one stretch; I mean more neighborhood bars than I have seen in my entire life.
Eleven in one scant half mile. And if you add the next half mile as well, there are 14 signs, all told: Teenies Tavern, The Evergreens Tavern, Coconut Grove, East Side Civics and Athletic Club, Sundown Tavern, The Pastime, Southside Civic Club, Boomba's Lounge, M & amp;K Handlebar II, Bean's Petri Club, Irish Bob's, Classique Lounge, Acme Club and Mighty Ducks Bar and Grill.
No, I didn't stop. I didn't pull up to a tavern and park around the side. I didn't walk through the door and wave hello to "Harry." And Harry didn't say, "Hey, Diane. You look a little down today."
And I didn't say, "Yeah. Rough morning."
And Harry didn't yank down the handle on the keg and slide a frothy brew in front of me and croon, "Sit down. Tell me all about it."
I just imagined he did. And it was comforting knowing that there may actually be people who do just that. (Gail White, my alter-columnist, said, "Hmmm, that's not the social commentary I would have had for 11 bars in a half-mile of road." But, that misses the point. It's not the brew that's important; it's the Harrys.)
It cheered me up some. And some day, maybe, I'll actually stop.
murphy@vindy.com

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