My sister Susie, and brother in law Bruce, tried for months to shame and browbeat me into driving 240 miles south to where they live in Palos Verdes, park my car at their fine home, go to LAX and fly with them a couple days before Christmas to Denver and spend 5 days with my nephews and their toddlers while leaving poor old needy insecure moody Wilbur with friends.
Well, even though Bruce, a retired steel executive expert at browbeating went all out, they failed. They even offered to board Wilbur free of charge with a Lab rescue unit across the street, the same place I found Wilbur 3 years ago. Truth is, even without Wilbur I ain't getting involved in Christmas traffic (they ended up enduring a 6 hour delay at the LAX madhouse) on the way to the frozen tundra so I can share in the “holiday spirit” of traditional gift giving with those closest to me, because they still don't understand that after all these years I remain a humbug.
Also, my part time woman for going on 30 years invited me to a Christmas day feed and gift sharing in Paso Robles (26 miles away) with her brother and various in laws and relatives, all dedicated Fox news watchers and Trumpites and mostly non drinkers. She wanted me along for moral support, being the liberal black sheep renegade of the family. I agreed to go because I felt a moral obligation to my woman and wouldn't have to cook and could also gather material to excoriate these folks and their asinine rituals and beliefs. I had to promise Miranda not to intrude or create controversy and dissension when these Midwestern slugs riled me. I was warned to keep my mouth shut!
I was relieved a few days later when Miranda called to inform me they had come to their senses and un-invited me with the half-assed excuse that they didn't have enough food. Well, I was elated, though for some reason Miranda felt my feelings would be hurt and was near tears but relieved when I explained I “understood and was fine with it” and would find a way to “fend for myself.”
So, Christmas morning, after feeding Wilbur a sumptuous meal of wet and dry dog food, we set out for our walk on a crisp cold Sunday along the beach at the south end of Cayucos known among locals as “dogshit beach,” a good a place for Wilbur to interact with other dogs and humans after his ouster from the Morro Bay dog park for fighting with other dogs over treats.
The Tide was in at DSB and there was nary a soul in sight as Wilbur romped along, peeing, sniffing, climbing onto the iceplants of one of the many homes looming on bluffs over the beach and took a dump on the high ground, a ritual for which I was grateful as it kept me from scooping his poop into the little baggies and contributing to DSB, though from what I could observe almost all of the people were devoted to scooping up their dog poop and carrying it for miles. Wilbur seldom if ever poops on the beach like all the other dogs and seems obsessed with iceplants, and one time a couple stood on their veranda and watched Wilbur poop very high up on the iceplants below their gorgeous beach house and scowled when I shrugged in a manner indicating helplessness, but there was no way in hell I was going to climb several yards up onto slippery iceplants and search below these plants to secure Wilbur's turds.
On this gorgeous gleaming morning on the empty beach I did have to shoo Wilbur away from trying to eat a dead bird and then dig up and nibble the buried carcass of a seal that had been dead for over a month. We walked well over a mile, and maybe two, and toward the end I could see that Wilbur was dragging and we completed our walk and returned to our little cottage in time for me to ride the stationary bike out on the deck for 40 minutes while I worked an LA Times Sunday crossword puzzle and finished just in time for a blueberry muffin with my coffee as the Golden State/Cleveland NBA game came on the tube.
During this game Wilbur insisted on bonding as I sat in my recliner browsing through the Times as I watched the game. He insisted on pets and repeatedly nudged my left arm, which hurts, because my shoulder is shot and permanently out of joint. When I pulled away, he walked to the other side of me and nudged my right arm, so I petted him until he tried to haul his 90 pounds atop me. I'd had enough.
“Go to your pallet,” I instructed in a firm voice.
He went to his pallet. I watched the game, as skilled and entertaining a contest as one could have possibly wished for as a Christmas gift, though I was disappointed in the ending even if the play was great. Afterwards, I poured kibble for Wilbur and fried some mini tater tots and ate them as Wilbur watched me with guilt rending eyes. He got nothing—not even for Christmas.
Next, I turned on the Pittsburg/Baltimore football game and continued browsing the paper and working my crossword while watching the game, multi-tasking, which is one of my few talents. The beginning of the football game was not particularly exciting so Wilbur and I drove back to a different area of DSB and this time the tide was far, far out, the beach was teeming with humans and dogs, some in clusters, the dogs frolicking, chasing, playing grab-ass while their owners visited amiably, petting dogs. Wilbur, loping and lumbering, entered the fray, immediately shoving his nose at the waist of a woman who obviously had treats. He wouldn't leave her alone. She gave him a treat. I pulled him away, embarrassed, as Wilbur's behavior is a reflection of his master, even if his master has no shame.
One couple, holding hands, around 30, bundled, had their dog in a Santa cap and red sparkly vest as they walked him. He strained toward Wilbur, who sniffed him and moved on, wanting nothing to do with a yappy thing in Christmas regalia. Wilbur then powered into a cluster of Australian Shepard's running in circles, knocking one down inadvertently, and began nuzzling the owners, who told me Wilbur was “handsome and had beautiful eyes.”
We moved on. The homes were of a more advanced architecture and upon higher bluffs, the iceplants on far steeper ground, but Wilbur found one and climbed up to drop a turd, afterwards digging up the plants with his back legs and then sprinting off the plants and lumbering toward a German Shepard chasing a ball tossed by one of those contraptions held by a young woman in tight pants. Wilbur approached her, wanting a pet, but she backed off, and when the Shepard dropped the ball, Wilbur stole it.
I knew he would. He steals balls and refuses to give them up. I should have leashed or grabbed him, but I get a sort of demonic thrill watching Wilbur steal balls and march in circles, tail wagging, ball tightly secured in his mouth. I tried to pry it away after grabbing him by the collar and apologizing to the gal.
“He might not give it up,” I explained. As I got hold of the ball, he ducked his head and growled ominously. The woman stood with hands on hips while the Shepard circled Wilbur warily, wanting his ball. I reached into my jacket as if securing a biscuit and held a rock. I had fooled Wilbur into dropping a stolen ball before with this ruse, but he was now wise to it. “Well, we're going in your direction, so sooner or later he'll drop it,” I said.
She made a face but her eyes were hidden behind shades. Christmas was not a time to chastise miscreants. We walked along while I chastised Wilbur and repeatedly made a phony effort to get the ball. The gal marched ahead, obviously wanting nothing to do with us. But soon Wilbur invaded a football game among young adults, wanting the football, and dropped the soggy ball, which I retrieved, and then I shouted and limped along until I caught up with the gal and held the ball before her while the Shepard tried to get it out of my hands. It was filmed with dripping saliva.
“Please give it to my dog,” she said, cringing at the sight of the ball. I tossed it to the Shepard, who secured it just before Wilbur showed up to snatch it.
We turned around. We had gone well over an hour and I wanted to get back and see the rest of the football game, but Wilbur knew this and started dawdling, spending extra time sniffing patches of seaweed before peeing on them. He humored three Chihuahuas who yipped and jumped at him, acting vicious. One had a sparkly collar and coat. A good humored couple with a white Lab petted Wilbur and asked could they give him a treat. I nodded. They gave him a treat. I finally had to leash Wilbur when he turned around and lumbered about 50 yards to hit a woman up for biscuits. How did he know she had biscuits? But he knew.
We returned just in time to watch the last exciting quarter of the football game; Pittsburg pulling out a barn burner. Another game was coming on, the Sunday night game, but since I was burned out I only half watched it and resumed my crossword and finished off the paper until Wilbur began nudging me and pacing, his time clock demanding his evening meal. I let him wait. I, too, needed to eat, and looked forward to blackening my filet mignon on both sides in olive oil with adobo, garlic salt and black pepper, accompanied by Yukon Gold potatoes boiled and smothered in butter. I decided against a salad. I got the potatoes to boiling, which increased Wilbur's edginess and pacing and nudging. Any time I enter the kitchen he is aroused.
Finally, amid the football game, in my new no-stick frying pan purchased at Rite Aid on senior day at a 20% discount, I started my steak. While it fried, I mixed Wilbur's meal and he inhaled it. My steak came out perfect. I ate it with dabs of horse radish. No chef in any steakhouse or gourmet French restaurant in new Orleans could have surpassed my perfect blackening of prime meat. I savored each bite while Wilbur sprawled beside me, looking away—his way of shaming me. Finally I gave him a piece. He chewed it thoroughly, realizing it was special.
I belched, took out the Haggen Dazs Belgian Chocolate and splashed some whip cream into half a pint and finished it out of the carton, belched again, and when the game ended I flicked through all the cable channels and discovered “Fargo” was coming on around 9:30. By this time Wilbur was out on his pallet. He needed his nightly walk so he didn't pee on the deck, but it took some effort to get him up. He refused at first, rolled on his side, dug in. I fastened the leash around his collar and began gently pulling. This usually worked, but not tonight. I yanked, dragged him to his feet, and he creakily limped out with me into the cold night, soon moving freely and peeing accordingly. I hustled him back, took my shower, found some Ben & Jerry's vanilla, got under the covers and began watching Fargo, a perfect movie, one of the few I'll watch 20 to 50 times, like “On the Waterfront” and “Arthur,” and a few others.
Every scene was funny and intriguing and different. A masterpiece. Meanwhile, Wilbur snored on his pallet in the office.
Best Christmas since my days of bartending and getting the loneliest of rejects hammered and happy, alone with myself.