Good morning readers! I can hardly believe it's October. This week's issue of CityBeat is full of wonderful, esoteric words. (It also has the information you need to enjoy FotoFocus 2014, the month-long celebration of photography and lens-based art throughout Greater Cincinnati. Pick one up!)
Best word in this week's issue: besmirched, in Kathy Y. Wilson's "The Semantics of Weed" (This is probably the only article anywhere in which the words "ISIS air strike" and "weed" are used in the same sentence).
besmirched: To besmirch is to dirty or spoil something or to damage someone's reputation (v.)
In this issue: "Winburn drops Thomas’ name like an ISIS air strike, incessantly blaming Thomas for the original 2006 weed ordinance that besmirched the records of weed offenders charged with minor misdemeanors who now have problems securing jobs, housing, etc."
Or, as Carrie Nation (a radical member of the 19th century temperance movement) once said:
“Men are nicotine-soaked,
beer-besmirched, whiskey-greased, red-eyed devils.”
Next best word: titular, in the preview of the movie Annabelle.
tiltular: of, or having the nature of, a title; titled (adj.) Not to be confused with the word titillating, which has a much different meaning, but try saying titillating titular three times fast.
In this issue: "In a world filled with sequels, prequels and spin-offs developed off the flimsiest of premises, Annabelle arrives with solidly built awareness thanks to the presence of the titular doll in last year’s horror release The Conjuring from James Wan (Saw)"
Panoply: beautiful and striking set up, magnificent decor or clothing, or a protective covering. (n.)
In this issue: It actually appears in the headline "Bind Dancers Present a Panoply of Authentic Indian Dance", a piece by Katy Valin on Articulate Ability.
And lastly, moniker, in Mike Breen's Spill It. I guessed that moniker meant monkeys, or had something to do with monkeys, or maybe money, but no.
moniker: a name or nickname.
In this issue: "Despite moving from the state park and changing the moniker, the fest will continue to spotlight some of the region’s finest Bluegrass and Roots music practitioners."
Hey, readers. We’ve got some catching up to do.
As CityBeat’s new Web & Copy Editor, I’ll be taking over our weekly vocab blog, in which I’ll point out, define (and sometimes snicker at) the high-minded choice of words by some of our writers. These are obtuse words, or at least words that aren’t used in everyday language, like seraphic or anthemic. (Full disclosure: I have a master’s degree and I still reach for the dictionary at least once or twice a day.)
My goal is to define so you don’t have to, and to (hopefully) enhance your mental catalog of impressive and/or strange-sounding words.
Here’s the list this week:
Seraphic: of, like, or befitting a seraph (adj.) OK, great, what the hell is a seraph? A seraph, according to dictionary.com, is “a member of the highest order to angels, often represented as a child’s head with wings above, below, and on each side.” (n.) Thus, we can deduce seraphic means angelic, heavenly or cherubic.
In the issue: Actually, seraphic appears in the band lineup of our MPMF guide here. Garin Pirnia says we’ll like the MPMF band Mutual Benefit (who?) if we like “ ‘Post-lunar Buddha turds,’ seraphic glockenspiel music mixed with unpredictable soundscapes, cats chasing butterflies.” (Another disclosure: I don’t know any of the bands kids these days are listening to, nor do I have any idea what Buddha turds are.)
Anthemic: pertaining to music that has the qualities of an anthem, such as a serious tone and strong tune; also, regarded as an anthem (adj.) This seemed obvious after I read it. STILL, Microsoft Word doesn’t recognize anthemic as a real word.
In the issue: “Extracted from a dream, Holiday fashions an anthemic fistpumper that nods to Muse, Bruce Springsteen, and U2…” in Brian Baker's review of Caged Heat. Does the name Caged Heat conjure up unpleasant images for anybody else?
Arcane: known or understood by very few; mysterious; secret (adj.)
In this issue: “Tonya Beckman brings up a studied
tongue-in-cheek, choreographed delivery to the role of “Club Secretary,”
the sexy-tuxedoed character who guides club members through their
arcane selection process,” in Rick Pender’s latest Curtain Call column.
Each week our intern
Amber will be exploring what Cincinnatians are interested in by scouring the
local Twitter trends and reporting on what she’s found. From serious tweets to
goofy hashtags, she’ll highlight what Cincy’s been buzzing about. So get to tweeting,
This is a wrestling reference hashtag. I’m sorry, but how was this trending and not Bates Motel? I am ashamed of you, Cincinnati. I know they are both scripted, but at least Bates has good acting and an awesome plot. FYI: Norma Bates did start trending though, thank god. In this week’s episode, Norman visits Ms. Watson’s grave way too much, Norma makes a scene at a city hall meeting and Bradley blasts some guy’s head off and ends up in Norman’s bedroom asking for his help. Poor Norman, surrounded by all these crazy bitches. All you WWE fans better get hip to Bates Motel.
Muskie fans were blowing up their newsfeeds expressing their frustration after Monday night’s game when they lost to Seton Hall 71-62. Monday’s upset left many fans complaining about wasting their last Hopslam and chugging too much wine. On top of all the frustration, Matt Stainbrook went down with a knee injury and left the locker room on crutches. Better luck next year? Maybe.
I actually watched some of this show, Pretty Little Liars, for once. Awkward used to be my Tuesday night show (don’t judge me), but since Jenna and the crew are AWOL until next season, I figured I’d give this show a shot since I was apparently the only female in Cincy not watching it. I am a few seasons behind, so I don’t really get all the drama and who I should love/hate yet, but not a bad show from what I’ve seen so far. The season finale is Tuesday, March 18 at 8 p.m. on ABC Family.
If this just isn’t confirmation that Cincinnatians are obsessed with their alma maters, then I don’t know what else is. Fox 19 set up a March Madness style bracket of all the high schools in the area and launched a Twitter competition. I’m reppin’ the Newport Wildcats, who already lost in the first round to Simon Kenton. Voting for the North bracket is going on now until midnight tonight.
I saved this one for last for a reason. Ukraine was trending all week. I haven’t been keeping this blog for very long, but nothing has ever stayed trending for an entire week before, as long as I’ve been keeping track. I also saved it for last because honestly, I don’t know what to say about the crisis in Ukraine. I guess it’s good that people are taking to social media for such a serious matter, but most of the people tweeting about it seem more clueless than me. I do know that most Americans want our government to mind their own damn business and do something about those crazy fucking Russians.
Also trending: Oscars, World Cup, #LiesToldByFemales, WCW (can this one just die already,) Taco Bell, #Scandal and The Lakers.
A few weeks ago when I was heading to the CityBeat office I encountered a woman who changed my perspective on many things. It was one of those "Everything happens for a reason, even if you don't know the reason yet" moments.
I parked in the Elm Street lot, paid the machine my $3.50 and walked towards Race Street as usual. It was cold outside and my hands were full with coffee, a notebook, my lunch and purse.
I was running late — also as usual — when a woman approached me. Looking back now, I can’t even recall how she sounded or what she looked like.
Our conversation went something like this:
"Would you help someone in need if you could?" she asked.
"I'm selling my poems for $2 so I can have extra money to pay for my son's birthday."
"I don't even know if I have $2, hold on. I'm kind of in a hurry...Oh, wait…Here, I do have it."
I had three single dollar bills in my wallet and I handed her two of them.
"Thank you, God bless you," she said. We made our transaction and parted ways. Her poems were typed, printed and covered by a clear paper protector. She continued up Elm toward Vine Street as I turned the corner.
As I waited for the elevator, I began reading her poems. That's spelled wrong, I thought. That needs an apostrophe. It’s "to," not "too." I picked out a laundry list of grammatical and technical errors and immediately dismissed her work. I looked at her poems, but I didn't actually read them.
A few days later one of the ice and snowstorms hit the Tri-state area again. I wondered if anyone was out in this weather because I was certainly not leaving the comfort of my bed for any reason.
I don’t know why, but I began thinking about the woman who approached me on the street earlier in the week. I wondered if she was out there, in that terrible weather, selling her poems. Had she needed the $2 that badly? Did she ever get to have her son’s birthday party?
All of these thoughts washed over me. I pictured her, the image I had created of her, sitting at the library typing up the poems she had written while her son was at school.
I pictured her taking her last few dollars to buy the transparent paper protectors at the dollar store and preparing them for the next day when she would hit the streets to sell them.
A feeling of shame had overcome me. How could I dismiss what she had written because of a few errors that had no real effect on the message of her poems?
This woman had already probably sold more of her writing than me, and that’s what I am paying thousands of dollars in tuition for: to sell my words.
One of her poems is titled Determination, which is what she has and I was too blind to see that at the time we met.
I might have some of the editing experience now, but when I first started writing those were skills I didn’t possess or even care about.
I didn’t care if I needed a comma here or there, I didn’t care if I used the wrong form of “to” or ended a sentence with a preposition. I simply wanted to write.
I lost the passion behind my own words because I’ve been so worried about being technically correct all the time. And trust me, I never even end up being technically correct all the time.
That woman, whoever or wherever she is now, showed me that you don’t need a college degree to have determination. You don’t need to have the perfect sentence or know every grammar rule to express how you feel.
We, as humans, judge people all the time whether we want to admit it or not. We judge people by appearances, by the way they talk, or the way they write in this case.
She signed her name at the end of the poems, a signature that I can’t make out very well, but I want to thank her for showing me what real determination is.
Cincinnati prides itself on the local artists, musicians and writers that are bred here. We celebrate them and award them for their talent. I don’t know where this woman is now, but she, and the others just like her who might not be at the open mic nights or in galleries, deserve recognition as well.
To her I say: That was the best $2 I ever spent.
Each week our intern Amber will be exploring what Cincinnatians are interested in by scouring the local Twitter trends and reporting on what she’s found. From serious tweets to goofy hashtags, she’ll highlight what Cincy’s been buzzing about. So get to tweeting, folks.
Either you love it or you hate this zombie show — but if you hate it, just keep your stinking mouth shut. Seriously, though, now that football is over, it seems like Sundays are devoted to TWD in Cincinnati. New characters and old ones constantly dying off either give viewers something to look forward to or break their hearts each week. I think everyone can come to a consensus that Lizzie is a little, um, psycho. Plus, three new characters, from the comic, were introduced last week. What are you looking forward to in the next episode?
Tuesday, Feb. 18 was National Drink Wine Day. According to NationalWineDay.org the purpose of the day is to spread the love and health benefits of wine, so I’ll drink to that. If you celebrate wine every day, like me, check out these local wine events:
WineStation Wednesdays: Free, every Wednesday from 4-7 p.m.
at The Wine Merchant.
Wine Tasting: Free, every Friday from 4-8 p.m. at DEPS Fine Wines.
Saturday Afternoon Tastings with David: $10 monthly through July 2014, Noon-5 p.m. at Water Tower Fine Wines.
Cincinnati International Wine Festival: $40, 5:30-6:30 p.m. March 8 at Duke Energy Convention Center.
Trending, not necessarily because of his performance, but because of the emotional post-race interview he had with Christin Cooper. Miller’s brother, also a skier, passed away in 2012. Cooper pressed him with questions about his win and his brother, even after he shed tears. Where do you draw the line and become a person again instead of fishing for that next great quote? There were people arguing both sides; some say she was doing her job and others believe she went too far. As someone studying in this field, I think she was doing her job. See the interview here and decide for yourself. Miller, however, did not blame Cooper, tweeting:
Lorde won International Female Artist, Bruno Mars won International Male Artist and David Bowie won British Solo Male Artist. There might not have been any Miley moments, but they did have some fabulous fashionistas in attendance from the States. Queen Bey made that green gown her bitch and Katy Perry glowed, literally, during her performance of Dark Horse. The one thing that the Brit Awards does have on us: Awesome English accents. Cheerio!
Jimmy Fallon started this brilliant hashtag. You’ve done it too: Thought a song said something, belted it out and got funny looks from all of your friends. Trends like this are just fun:
“Dirty deeds, Dunder
“Got me feeling so fried like a cheese stick…”
“Excuse me while I kiss this guy...”
The entire Kidzbop version of “Thrift Shop”
Votto was in the running to be the Face of MLB Competition, but was eliminated by Felix Hernandez of the Mariners by a margin of just .8 percent. Votto was the reigning champ from the 2013 in the Twitter competition, but fell short this year. Although Votto might have lost, Reds fans can rejoice in the fact that Opening Day is now less than two months away. Voting continues on Twitter if you are interested, click here for the bracket.
Other trending topics: MVP, True Detective, Tornado Watch, #GhettoJeopardy, UNC, #USAvsCanada and Winter Jam.
The ten-year anniversary of Kanye West’s College Dropout album was Monday, Feb. 10. Other than just making me feel old, this album does bring back memories. Many people tweeted that it was one of the best rap albums produced and, with songs like “Through the Wire,” “All Falls Down” and “Slow Jamz,” it very well could be. Even if you don’t like rap or Kanye West, the dude rapped “Through the Wire” with a broken jaw and his mouth wired shut. There’s just something you have to respect about that.
No, not the drink... She was a 1930s child star that worked her way up from acting and singing to a place in politics. Temple was a young star that never went on to be plagued with the many misfortunes of child performers today. Is it the media, the relentless spotlight, the ruthless critics or the constant negativity on social media that drive so many to overindulge in drugs and drinking today? Even in the tweets about Temple, some were saying she died of AIDS, that she was a racist and a communist. Really? She died at age 85 and so many of the stars we all grew up with probably won’t even live to be half that old.
Tons of people were thankful for their hot cocoa and caramel macchiato this week due to the below-freezing temps again. Throw in the whole “Dumb Starbucks” stunt and you have thisa trending topic in Cincy. I predict Graeter’s will be trending at some point this summer and there will be pictures of banana splits and chocolate milkshakes everywhere. Someone should make a “Dumb Graeters” and see how much money their old cup sells for.
Ahh, ‘tis the season for another funny trend thanks to Valentine’s Day. What is it about Tuesday afternoons that makes it so difficult for people to work? Now, imagine these sayings on a little candy heart from your sweetie:
It’s not me, it’s you.
If only someone loved you.
You were almost my first choice.
Front: ILY, Back: I’m Leaving You.
This hashtag was supposedly started about Shaun White, the snowboarder. Of course, if you’re not following the Olympics this trend could be seriously misconstrued. Whoever started this had to have seen the blatant double meaning. If you want to start a trend on Twitter, by all means go for it, but use your damn brain. Regardless of what this hashtag means, it should say #IfIWereWhite. You’re welcome, grammar Nazis.
Apparently MTV has a show that is not about the young and pregnant or the young and drunk. Congratulations, Teen Wolf, apparently you are worthy of watching.
So, Big Lots will be the official discount seller of Hostess products. Each week an assortment of Twinkies, Ding Dongs and Ho-Hos will be shipped to Big Lots everywhere and sold for cheap. Big Lots is based in Columbus, so it makes sense that this would be trending in Cincinnati. In light of this trend, many people were offering some of their best thrifty advice. Here were a few tips I found interesting:
Don’t use the heated dry cycle on your dishwasher; it saves money on
your energy bill.
Make a grocery list and only buy what is on it. This helps to curb impulse buying at the store. This one is definitely harder than it sounds.
Go to the thrift store first. Many places have a rack with all brand new clothes sent from the store because they weren’t selling, were returned, have a crooked seam or something minor.
Bring your coffee from home. Figure out how much you spend a week on coffee compared to investing in a coffee pot and making your own. The savings are more than you’d expect.
Follow @Thriftinnati or go to www.cincinnatithrift.com for more info on thrifting and thrift stores in Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky.
Also trending: Marcus Smart, Michael Sam, #Curling, #SoChi, #HoneyBooBoo, Valentine’s Day, #SingleLife and #ForeverAlone.
They say you move to Cincinnati and put on a pair of goggles — the longer you stay, the harder it is to take them off. And why would you want to? I’ve lived here for five years and still manage to fall deeper in love with this city every day. For all you newcomers, here are some necessary guidelines for your initiation into the greatest city in the Midwest.
1. Pick a chili, not a side. The East side/West side rivalry is deeply rooted in competitive turf wars and stubborn rationalizations. When brought up in conversation, it’s usually best to remain indifferent and let your eyes glaze over until the fighting stops.
2. Become a regular at (at least) one bar in Over-the-Rhine. Find your favorite bartender at Neon’s and dance to the ‘8os music at Japp’s on a Saturday night. Discover new music at MOTR or wind down with some jazz at 1215 Wine Bar.
3. Understand that high schools — and the culture surrounding them — are really important here. “Are you from around here?” is almost always followed by, “So what high school did you go to?” Cincinnatians stick to their alma maters like glitter on glue, and everyone has a reputation.
4. See The Cincy Brass play at Mr. Pitiful’s before you die (or move). Request the song “Let Me Clear My Throat” by DJ Kool. Gyrate on everyone.
5. Get to know Kentucky. Bounce around the Levee and Mainstrasse. End your night with a cheesy goetta omelet at the Anchor Grill. Trust me on this one.
6. Cincinnati has the second largest Oktoberfest in the world (The WORLD!) second only to Munich. Dress like a German, drink like a German, eat like a German.
7. Develop a severe case of road rage while driving on I-75. Perfect the ability to stare someone down after cutting you off.
8. Vote. Get involved with this city’s politics. Picket City Hall or write a letter to an editor. Cincinnati had a record-breaking low voter turnout in the 2013 mayoral election — make your voice heard.
9. Give back to your neighborhood. Volunteer at the Freestore Foodbank or tutor kids at Wordplay Cincy. Teach an art class or buy someone an umbrella on a rainy day. Start a collaborative effort to make this city the best it can be.
10. Master the Metro and make friends with the drivers. Sit up front and strike up a conversation with a stranger. Try not to fall when the metro slides down one of Cincinnati’s many 90-degree angles.
11. Appreciate Cincinnati sports. Tailgate at a Bengal’s game, cheer on the Cyclones and pledge your allegiance to Brandon Phillips’ smile.
12. EAT ALL THE GOETTA. And LaRosa’s. And Graeter’s. Now start training for the Flying Pig.
13. Find your favorite city park with your favorite view of the skyline against Kentucky. Feel safe tucked away in the hills. Ponder about the meaning of life.
14. Roll your windows down and go 10 miles over the speed limit on the Roebling Bridge. Listen to the whirring sound. Just do it.
15. Develop a deep love for all things Cincinnati and defend your city when people talk shit. Recognize that you are a part of something larger than yourself — that Cincinnati isn’t just the Queen City — it’s a community and a network and a lineage of diverse Midwesterners who all contribute to making this place a force to be reckoned with.
Oh, and read CityBeat.
A few weeks ago, I was headed downstairs with a basket of laundry and when I got to our kitchen doorway, I automatically raised my right leg to clear the baby gate. We haven't had any babies in the house since Clinton's first term, but we wound up using our long-neglected toddler barriers as a method to contain Bosco, our rambunctious Boston terrier.
Initially, we thought we'd use the gates for a few months while Bosco got acclimated to our spacious family room and kitchen, and to give our two cats — ancient 15-year-old Sushi and weeks-old and then just-acquired Pansy — a safe haven to escape from his brilliantly maniacal bursts of energy. Bosco would patrol the rooms like a perimeter guard, listening for the sound of one of the cats jumping over the gates, his signal to tear off in their general direction. This behavior inspired one of his many nicknames: Officer Bosco.
His relentless pursuit of the cats and his propensity to carry off, and sometimes chew on, various shoes left on the floor resulted in the gates becoming a semi-permanent feature of the downstairs blueprint. As I began to step over the gate, it dawned on me that this leg lift was pure muscle memory.
I didn't need to step over the gate because the gate wasn't there anymore. Bosco wasn't here anymore.
Bosco became a part of the family in 2004, a present for our daughter Isabelle's 10th birthday. My wife Melissa had been pressing me about the possibility of getting a dog to teach our ADHD-challenged daughter some responsibility, but I had been hesitant as I had just discovered a rather virulent allergy to certain hound breeds. Melissa's on-line research indicated that pugs, Yorkshire terriers, Welsh Corgis and Boston terriers were relatively non-allergenic so, with slight reservations on my part, she started the search for a dog.
After several missed opportunities and lack of follow-up response, Melissa found a Boston terrier breeder in Kentucky who had two males left from her last litter. She e-mailed Melissa photos of the pair, which she printed out and brought home for Isabelle to inspect. She gravitated toward one that was mismarked for a Boston; mostly white with brindle spots and black around the eyes that made me think of Jonny Quest's dog Bandit (not an actual mask but whatever). Isabelle noted that he looked like a scoop of chocolate chip ice cream (we all have different reference points), and so she chose him. At that point, Chip was probably the leading contender for the dog's name.
A check was mailed out and arrangements were made to meet at a rest stop halfway between our locations (several other prospective owners were meeting her at the same spot). Just before the big day, which by coincidence was Isabelle's actual birthday, Melissa and Isabelle sat down to compose a list of possible puppy names. Chip was high on the list, of course, as well as several others that seemed fairly promising, but when they presented me with the choices, I reacted to the very first thing Melissa had written down: Bosco.
For Melissa, it was simply a riff on the fact that he was a Boston, and maybe it was a touchstone left over from our childhood days (Bosco was a chocolate syrup back in the '50s and '60s, and remains available today). But for me, it was a blast from my teenage past.
When I was a junior high school student in southern Michigan, one of my favorite regional bands was Brownsville Station (ultimately famous for their No. 3 hit single "Smokin' in the Boys Room," covered in the mid-'80s to great effect by Motley Crue). Their debut album, 1970's No BS (it was actually self-titled but came to be known as No BS because of the graphic prominence of the phrase on the album's cartoon cover), featured a song that became a fixation for my best friend Kevin and me. It was a jumped-up little Rock number written by Brownsville's guitarist/vocalist Cub Koda and vocalist/guitarist Michael Lutz and titled "Do the Bosco."
At that point, albums were an expensive luxury and there was no single release for "Do the Bosco," so it was left to Kevin and me to monitor local Rock radio, armed with our ridiculously cheap cassette recorders and a .39¢ tape (which was actually video tape cut to cassette width), in an effort to capture our favorite song for posterity. We finally did, but between the indistinct signal, the tinny transistor speaker, the ambient room sound bleeding into the hand-held microphone and the hiss of the cheap tape, it sounded like someone was filling a blimp with a fire hose next to the radio.
But it didn't matter because it was the Bosco.
"That's it!" I shouted when I saw the name at the top of the dog-names list. "He'll have his own theme song! How could we not name him Bosco?"
My wife and daughter laughed at my rather animated reaction to naming the dog, but I was convinced, running to the Bunker to find my CD copy of No BS and cranking it up on the portable player in the living room: “(Bosco) Because it's easy on your feet/(Bosco) While you're walkin' down the street/(Bosco) Yeah, with your radio on, the Bosco makes you feel alright."
We met with the breeder south of Erlanger and I tested any possible allergic reaction by rubbing the puppy on my face. With the assurance that I could see and breathe, we crated the newly christened Bosco in our pet carrier and headed for home.
For the first few nights, we kept the carrier in our bedroom. Bosco would cry occasionally, and for two nights I camped on the floor next to his crate, leaving my hand in the open door so he could snuggle up next to it. During the day, I brought him down to the Bunker and let him sleep on my lap while I wrote.
Because I was home with him all day, he probably bonded closer to me than with Melissa or Isabelle. And while Isabelle adored him and gave him copious amounts of attention and love, the actual mechanics of his care and feeding fell to Melissa and myself. We realized within a few short weeks that it's not feasible to teach responsibility to a child by way of a living thing. At least someone learned something.
Three weeks after bringing Bosco home, Melissa found a fairly new kitten abandoned by the roadside on her way to work. We were a week away from going on vacation so we arranged for our neighbors to take care of our elderly cat and the new arrival, which Isabelle named Pansy, after her late grandmother's favorite flower.
We realized that we couldn't really leave Bosco home alone in our neighbors' care so we decided we would take him on vacation with us. We're not really travelers by any stretch of the imagination, and while a certain part of me would love to see various locations around the country, a bigger part of me knows that the stress of getting to a place we've never been and the planning required would undermine the restive benefits of the vacation. And so we rent the same cabin by the same lake in northern Michigan every year, and have a lovely and relaxing time doing something short of nothing.
The day before we left for vacation, Melissa was fired from her job (via an answering machine message left by her gutless employer). The relief of knowing she wouldn't be returning to that snake pit allowed her to have the most relaxing vacation of her adult life. And we all had a solid week paying very close attention to our new addition.
Bosco was an absolute champ on the 10-hour trip to the lake. We stopped and walked him constantly, he peed and drank, and then hopped back into his crate in the back seat. And once we got to the lake, Bosco loved everything about the experience; swimming in the shallow water, romping in the grass, chasing squirrels and napping in the sun. We kept a close eye on him because nature is fairly wild up there; a pair of mating bald eagles have an aerie on the other side of the lake, and naturalists have found pet collars in the nest so we were careful to make sure Bosco didn't wind up on the menu.
In subsequent years, Bosco could sense the excitement surrounding our imminent trip to Michigan and his excitement matched our own. We had taught him the word "adventure" meant a car ride for him and whenever the magic word was spoken, he immediately ran to the hook on the kitchen wall where we hung his retractable leash and waited to be collared and taken out. He was equally excited about "walkies," a word we pulled from Wallace & Gromit's The Wrong Trousers, but that was just a stroll down the walking path near our house. Bosco lived for adventure, which could mean a trip to Sharon Woods or Winton Woods or the vet's office or PetSmart, but he knew the time of year when that the biggest adventure of all would be taking place.
Bosco loved french fries and ice cream, neither of which were given to him in any great amount or with any substantial frequency. On his regular trips to the vet, his weight was always in the acceptable range for his age and relative size; we saw a Boston at Sharon Woods one afternoon that looked like he needed a roller skate under his belly to keep it from scraping the path. The Boss was always trim and healthy.
“The Boss” was one of a number of nicknames we had for him. Mister B, Pee Pee Raymond (from an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond), the Bosconator, Count Pupula, Bossy (he was marked like a cow; his first vet held him up and said, "He's my first Holstein"), Francis Ford Puppola, the aforementioned Officer Bosco. The obvious love and affection we invested in each new and often incomprehensible deviation of his actual name and beyond (Biddly Boy? Idder Bidder?) somehow let him know we were referring to him and his ears shot skyward in recognition to every stupid thing we called him.
For nine years, Bosco was our constant and brilliant companion, an animal with a better code of loyalty and love and a more defined sense of humor than a lot of human beings we encountered on a daily basis. Bosco claimed the couch in the family room as his combination bed and throne; he would drag pillows and blankets from end to end as his canine caprices guided him, fluffing and kneading and pulling until everything was in place and prepared for him to crawl under and within, emerging only for food or a good cat chase or, of course, any adventure.
Last year, Bosco's trim physique started taking on a more portly appearance, which we initially passed off as our boy entering into middle age. He had become slightly more sedentary, still interested in walking the path but actively deciding when the walk was over; he would simply turn around and head for home. Still, he seemed in good spirits and health overall.
Last winter, we noticed a patch of dry skin on his back that seemed to scab up and get flaky. When it started to spread, I took him into the vet, who informed us that he had the symptomatic appearance of a dog with Cushing's Syndrome, characterized by the dry patches, distended belly, voracious thirst and hair loss on his legs and elsewhere. The tests to confirm this diagnosis were wildly expensive and we decided against them for the time being as his health didn't seem to be compromised significantly and we were assured that dogs could conceivably live with the disease for many years without adverse effect.
Last summer, I was checking e-mail on my laptop in the Bunker when Isabelle ran down and said, "Something's wrong with Bosco, Mom wants you to come up right now." When I got to the kitchen, I found Melissa kneeling on the floor next to Bosco, who was in the midst of some sort of seizure, tongue lolled to one side, legs stiff. I took Melissa's place and started talking calmly to Bosco, petting him and trying to soothe him. In a couple of minutes, he came around and didn't seem any worse for the wear.
When he had a second episode a week later, I took him to a different vet for a second opinion, which turned out to be twofold: A) Bosco most likely did have Cushing's, and B) his seizures were not connected to it. The cost at the new vet for tests was considerably less so we went ahead and got the confirmation that he had Cushing's Syndrome and then set about planning for how we would try to work out the source of the seizures.
That's where it stood toward the end of last August when Bosco suffered what I came to believe was a massive stroke. When his seizure ceased, his personality was almost completely erased. He no longer responded to his name, he was disinterested in any kind of affection or attention, he was oblivious to the presence of the cats. All he did was walk around the family room and kitchen in a shuffling gait that seemed robotic and programmed. He only turned to the right, and if he got under a chair or pushed his nose into a corner of the room, he didn't seem to understand how to get out his predicament. He would just cry.
The most alarming loss in his training concerned the basement. As a pup, he seemed unaware that he could go down the stairs to the basement. I had always carried him down when I took him to the Bunker, and he somehow got it in his head that he couldn't go down any other way. We went ahead and let him believe it because it gave the cats a safe place where he wouldn't chase them. Even though he would run up and down the stairs to our bedrooms without a thought (when we would spring him from his baby gated rooms), he would not go down the basement stairs.
With that part of his training seemingly vanished after the second seizure, he was suddenly very curious about the basement. And because he was a little shaky on his feet, once he started down the steps, his momentum would be so great that he crashed into the wall at the bottom of the staircase. We were terrified that he was going to break his legs or his neck, so we closed the basement door, bringing the cats' litter boxes upstairs so they wouldn't need to go downstairs.
He kept us awake most of the night after his stroke with his thumping around and crying. Melissa went down and kept an eye on him, and I took over during the day after she left for work. That night, she was exhausted and so I camped out on the couch in the living room with the hope that I could get him to lay down with me and that maybe after a good night's rest, he might bounce back a little. There would be no bounce back.
I got maybe two hours of sleep that night, the brief amount of time that I got Bosco to lay down with me on the couch. The rest of the time he wanted nothing more than to walk in his shambling pattern around the two rooms. He constantly got tangled up under the kitchen chairs or stuck behind the couch or caught in the cross braces of the coffee table, all of which required me to extricate him.
All the time I was with him, I desperately tried to reach him. I asked him if he wanted to go for walkies. Nothing. I tried to get his medicine down him with food. He spit it out. Finally, I kept chanting the mantra, "Do you want to go on an adventure?" I swore to myself if I saw even a glimmer of recognition in his demeanor, I'd pack him up in the car and take him for a ride, somewhere, anywhere, just to reinforce his slight return. There was no recognition, just a dull and lifeless look when I spoke to him.
At one point, I sat on the floor and called to him. He walked over to me, which seemed like a hopeful development, and he pushed his head into my stomach, a move that used to signal he wanted to be petted. But I quickly realized he wasn't looking for affection, he was just trying to push his way through me, a giant fleshy obstruction that was keeping him from his appointed rounds.
Melissa came home for lunch the next day, and asked how Bosco was doing. I tried to recount the day's events as rationally as possible but the long night and the inevitability of all that I had witnessed came welling up. I said, "He's just not in there anymore," and broke down.
We packed up our beloved boy and drove him to vet for that last awful time. She gave him the sedative to calm him down and we spent a good half hour petting him and telling him everything would be fine, and as emotional as we all were, Isabelle provided perhaps the most poignant and heartbreaking observation of the day.
In second grade, Isabelle received her ADHD diagnosis, and the severity of her developmental challenges often separated her from her peer group. Kids at school and in the neighborhood would accept her for a while but ultimately decide she was too different or weird and give up on her. She did eventually make some good friends within her Individualized Education Program, but it was a long time coming and not before a considerable amount of loneliness and angst.
As Isabelle stood scratching his ears and gently stroking his face, she looked at us and said, "Bosco was my first friend."
In that beautiful, terrible moment, we knew that bringing this 15-pound bundle of energy and incalculable jaw strength into our lives nine years ago had been exactly the right thing to do, no matter how difficult the end game was proving to be. Because he was the Bosco. And the Bosco makes you feel all right. Did he ever.