Reading too deeply into these things since 1981


July 8th, 2015 | Posted by Philip J Reed in personal - (2 Comments)

I checked the mail a little later than usual today. I’ve been having a difficult week, if you want to know the truth. Lying down this afternoon, finishing a book with the rain keeping time against the window was probably the most relaxed I’ve been. I knew I’d barely have the energy to make it to the mailbox. It’s on the other side of the apartment complex. Not a long walk, exactly, but I’d have to be in public longer than I really thought I could take.

Still, I went. I headed out in my shorts and a t-shirt, because it wasn’t raining that hard, and I knew I wouldn’t have the energy to find my jacket. I ordered a book, and it was supposed to be here today. Another good book would help right about now.

Near the mailboxes I passed somebody’s window. A dog was pressed up close against the screen. I kept walking. Got my mail. Got my book. And I started back just in time to see the dog knock the screen out of the window and escape.

The dog hung around the outside of the apartment for a while. At first I wondered if it was a puppy that saw a stranger and wanted to play, but before long it squatted and did its business. Then it explored a bit…did its business again. And then a third time. It had obviously been holding it in for a while. Maybe seeing me reminded it that there was an outside world, but most likely I think my presence was coincidental. The dog just had to go and, finally, it could no longer hold it in.

I walked over to the apartment and knocked on the door. Nothing. Through the screenless window I saw that there were no lights on anywhere. I didn’t know what to do. I still don’t know what I should have done.

It was after hours for the maintenance crew, otherwise I’d have called the main office. As it stood, it was just me, in the rain. And the dog was starting to explore further and further from home.

I called the emergency maintenance number. Of course, it goes to an answering service. I explained to the woman politely what I had witnessed. She had me repeat things multiple times, including things that had no bearing on what was happening (such as my own apartment number), requesting several times a piece of information I couldn’t give her (the number of the apartment from which the dog escaped, which I couldn’t see, because the conversation had already dragged on long enough that I had followed the dog several buildings away).

She told me that she would file it as a service request tonight, and they’d look into it first thing tomorrow.

I tried explaining to her that that wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t just let the dog run off (it had no identification), and I also couldn’t sit in the rain with it all night until somebody decided to look into it.

While this happened, the dog stopped to investigate something and I was able to get hold of the chain around its neck. It made me feel good to know that the dog was no longer in danger of jetting off into traffic, but we were also no closer to a solution. I’d have brought the dog back to my apartment, but it was very far away and the dog didn’t want to move. Its collar was one of those things that chokes the dog when it gets tight. Since I had no leash, I’d have to have my fingers in there. The smallest pull started the dog to gagging. I couldn’t do that to the dog.

I asked her what she thought I should do. She said she was unable to give advice over the phone. I asked her if I could have the direct line of a maintenance person for the complex so that I could figure something out with them. She said no, she could not do that.

I explained to her again, politely, that I needed something to happen here. She ignored me. I had to say “Hello?” twice before she confirmed that we hadn’t been disconnected; she really was just refusing to answer me.

The best she could do, she said, was contact a maintenance guy and let him know the situation. I asked her, please, to give him my number so that he could call me as soon as he got the message. She made it very clear that I was being unreasonable. In retrospect, she was right. I should indeed have sat in my shorts, overnight, in the soaking grass with a stranger’s dog on the off-chance that a maintenance guy deemed it fit to check on the situation in the morning.

So we sat there, the dog and I. My phone wasn’t charged. Why would it be? Time passed and I sat with the dog, trying to hold everything together. Other people walking their dogs came over, I guess to see what was going on. They were all full of questions. I asked one woman if she’d mind coming back with the leash after she brought her own dog home, so that I could bring this one to my apartment and get us both out of the rain. She said, “Nooooo,” in the same way you say it to a homeless person who asks for your change.

Somebody else came over and let their dog sniff and climb all over the dog I was with, in spite of the obvious anxiety it caused my dog. He was all full of questions, too. When he finally decided to leave he pulled out a treat from a little bag to get his dog moving again. I asked if he could give me a treat, too, so I could calm this stranger’s dog down. He thought for a while about how to say no, I guess. He never did decide. He just eventually walked away.

My mail was wet. The rain wasn’t hard, but it was steady. And I couldn’t hold the mail and the dog very well, so the mail had to go on the ground. The dog, by this point, was very scared. Its teeth were chattering. It was shivering. My mail came apart. The book I ordered was already ruined. I wouldn’t even give it to Goodwill in this shape.

I tried hard to get the dog back to its apartment, but as soon as it realized where we were going it dug its claws into the ground. It didn’t want to go. I don’t know why. It had just been locked up in the dark for god knows how long without a bathroom break, it had no identification, and it lived with a choke chain permanently around its neck where most dogs have a collar. It sounds like a lovely environment.

I called the police station. I first had to Google the number. The battery was in the red. When I called, of course, it was a series of numerical prompts. There’s nothing better than trying to navigate those while you’re getting rain in your eyes and a whimpering dog is tugging at your other hand.

The police officer, or dispatcher, or whomever it was, was very friendly. They took all of my information and listened to my story. I don’t know why they did either of those things when they told me I’d have to call animal control instead.

Can you transfer me, please?

No. Here’s the number.

I don’t have anything to write it down with.

I’m sorry. Here’s the number.

I pet the dog. I tried to calm it down. There wasn’t much I could do. I couldn’t get it out of the rain. I couldn’t tell it whatever it was that it needed to hear. I couldn’t give it a treat. I couldn’t let it go.

So I waited. I scratched it behind the ear. I was trying to calm myself down as much as I was trying to calm the dog down.

At one point the dog held out its paw to me. I took it and it just stared at me, like it didn’t know what to do, and was just trying the very few tricks it knew until something worked. Before long the dog laid down in my lap. It was still whimpering. But it trusted me, I guess. It probably didn’t like me very much, but it knew I wasn’t going to hurt it. I thought it might be a good time to try to move toward its apartment again, but it dug its claws back in the ground immediately. It didn’t want to go back.

Time passed. People passed. Nobody helped. Nobody cared. Who can blame them, really?

I finally Googled the number for animal control. I didn’t know what else to do. I could let it go and that would be that. It would be hit by a car, that much is for sure. It was raining, and we live in Denver, where nobody pays attention to anybody else, for any reason. The dog would be killed.

Or I could sit in the rain until sunup. Then maybe I could walk it over to the main office, when it opened, and be told in person that there was nothing anybody could do.

I didn’t have a choice. I called animal control. And, again, I had to navigate menus. The police department and animal control. Surely no callers to those places would need to speak to somebody in a hurry.

While I was trying to figure out what would get me where I wanted to go, I received a call. It was a maintenance guy for the complex. He said he got my message and was told to contact me urgently, but that there really wasn’t anything he could do.

I asked him if he could open up their apartment. He said he didn’t see what good that would do. I saw a dog run away, right?

I told him no; I had the dog right here with me. He said, “Well, there’s no way I can tell you who owns the dog.” And I said that’s okay. I saw the apartment it jumped out of, and if he comes over he’ll see the busted screen for himself.

He apologized. The woman at the answering service hadn’t told him any of that. She took all of my information, and relayed, it seemed, none of it. But I’m positive she let him know how unreasonable I was being, which is why he was on the defensive.

He asked me where I was. I told him. He said he’d be right over.

And a few minutes later, he was there. He walked toward me and asked, “How long have you been out here?”

I said, “A while.”

He said, “I see that.” I don’t know what I must have looked like, but I knew I was soaked and chilled to the bone. He said, “I’m sorry. I just got the message.”

So the woman who knew exactly the situation I was in made sure to take her time to relay the message to the only person who could help. Lovely. She sure taught me a lesson about my selfish behavior.

He asked me if I could hold on a couple more minutes. He’d call the residents of that apartment to let them know he’d be letting their dog in. He couldn’t open the door without their approval, unless it was an emergency.

I waited. I don’t know where he went. He probably had to look up their number, or find their key. He was gone for around twenty more minutes.

I tried to comfort the dog. I didn’t know its name, so I tried a few commands. I said, “Easy” to see if that would help. And “Down” to get it to relax. It didn’t understand either word. I even tried “Treat?” I didn’t have a treat, but I thought maybe the promise of one would at least get its mind off of things. The dog didn’t know the word.

Based on its behavior earlier, I said, “Give me your paw.” I tried “Shake.” I held out my hand. The dog didn’t understand any of this. It hadn’t been taught anything. It gave me a kiss, though, of its own volition…and then its eyes got suddenly large as if I might scold it.

When the maintenance man came back, he said they weren’t answering. He’d unlock the door anyway, he said…and he’d close the window they’d left open. He had to do something, he said, and even if they weren’t answering he couldn’t ignore the problem.

He came over and took the dog by the chain. It still dug its claws into the ground, but he pulled it along. The dog was in obvious pain…but I understand. I understand why he pulled it. He really was helping.

After the dog was inside he locked the door and said to me, “I don’t know anyone else who lives here who would have done what you did.” Which was pretty sad, since, for all he knew, all I did was place a phone call and wait for an answer. He was an older guy. Probably twenty years older than me. I thanked him for his help, but he thanked me instead. He said, “If everyone was that nice…” and just sort of trailed off.

Then I left. He left too, I’m sure.

It’s been a difficult week. The highlight of it, so far, has been losing a book I ordered and sitting in the rain for over an hour with the dog of somebody I’ll never meet, because I was more worried about it than its owners were.

Or, no. The highlight was what the older man said to me. “If everyone was that nice…”

Then…what? We’d have a lot more people sitting out in the rain, I guess.

It’s been a difficult week, if you want to know the truth. I don’t even know if returning that dog to its home was the right thing to do.

I guess there aren’t really any definitive answers.

You just do what you can do, and you hope it’s enough. Or you decide it’s not your problem, and you move along.

I’d be a lot happier if I knew how to move along. But I never learned how.

Death and Taxes

April 15th, 2015 | Posted by Philip J Reed in personal - (4 Comments)

Monty Python's The Meaning of Life

Just a partial return from me on Tax Day, the holiest and most introspective day of the year, to let you know that I intend to resume full service (and then some) next week. For now, Mr. Fabiola is letting his engine cool a bit.

I appreciate your understanding during this time, but I look forward to getting back into a routine again, and having specific things to write about. That will be a big help.

Losing my grandmother was rough…but seeing how it affected others she was close to — related and not — is what really hurt. The strained relationship I have with my family doesn’t make it any easier, as I ended up without much of an outlet for mourning. It’s hard…but it happens. It’s a part of life. Specifically, it’s the last part.

It’s sobering when you lose a family member. I joke a lot with my friends that we don’t really feel like adults. When does that start? I don’t feel like a kid, either. I just feel like I’m somewhere in the middle…and many of my peers seem to as well.

I think you start to feel like an adult when the previous generation or two starts to pass on. As those lives wind down, you realize that yours is winding down as well. As those people go away and do not come back, you realize that, one day, that will be you, too.

And that’s when you’re an adult. When you realize that anything you’re ever going to do, you need to be doing now. Fortunately for me, I realize that I am doing much of it now. The reminder that I don’t have forever doesn’t fill me with despair, but has rather given me a little more appreciation for what I have, and for where I am.

On the subject of taxes, I got unexpectedly hammered by the government. I owed a pretty large chunk of money, thanks to the (mercifully short) time I spent unemployed this past year. I sent in my tax return about a month ago and got an electronic acknowledgment that it’s been accepted…but the money is still in my account, so I have no idea what to do now. I guess I’ll just wait around until it disappears? Or should I let someone know?

You’ll probably notice that I’m trying advertising again. This time I’m using Google Ads, so they should be pretty reliable and unobtrusive. If you’d like to toss a fraction of a penny my way, click one now and again. If not, that’s fine too. The only thing that I do ask is that you let me know your thoughts. If you get some obnoxious ad or see something spammy, or it in any way interferes with whatever it is that keeps you coming back to this site, let me know, please. If I can defray the cost of webhosting, that’s great. If I’m doing it at the cost of readership, that’s far from great.

Years ago when I managed an appliance store, we hired somebody I knew when I was a kid. His name was Joe. He’d hit a really rough patch in his life…I knew little about it at the time, but when he re-emerged we brought him on as a delivery driver.

Only a month or so before he’d been involved in a serious car accident. His brakes failed on the highway, and his car went underneath the chassis of an 18-wheeler. The roof of his car — and much else — was sheared off. He ducked. His car veered into a ditch, where it crashed and caught fire. He doesn’t remember being pulled out of it, but he was. I saw the photos of the car. It seemed miraculous that anyone could have walked away from that…let alone with nothing but some bumps and bruises.

Joe agreed, I guess, in his own way. He was going to get his life back on track. He said the same thing he said when he showed anyone those pictures. He said, “I shouldn’t be alive, but I am. God wants me here for some reason.”

He struggled with a lot, and I couldn’t begin to express — or want to try to express — the nature of whatever demons he faced every day. But a matter of weeks later, still fresh off of his awakening, he died of a heroin overdose. He didn’t come to work one morning. Later that day his roommate found his body.

The other delivery driver was named John. John knew Joe well. He was happy to see this man — who, at one point, was probably a friend — start taking his life seriously, and working toward something…even if that something was just a job and a steady check.

When John found out about Joe’s death, he threw something on the ground. It could have been his clipboard. I don’t remember. But I remember that he threw it. And that he looked up at the sky, raised a middle finger, and said, loudly, “Fuck you.”

John wasn’t a man prone to theatrics. He had his own kind of posturing and self-assurance, but these were small. He acted like a tough guy, but the kind of tough guy who didn’t need to say much. When this facade broke, and he cursed whomever it was that he cursed, it hurt. It was scary. And I remember it — that moment, those words, the sound of those words and the gravity of that gesture — more vividly than I remember anything about Joe.

Seeing others dealing with unexpected death is always harder for me than dealing with it myself. In the latter case, I know someone’s gone. It’s sad, but, eventually, it’s something you can come to terms with. When it’s somebody else, though, the victim is still alive, and is carrying a new kind of pain. I can say with confidence that it’s nearly always a kind of pain that nobody deserves.

Do something fun this weekend. Whatever you might consider fun to be. Have yourself a good time. One you can look back on and be happy about.

You may not die tomorrow, but somebody sure will.

Textual Static

April 8th, 2015 | Posted by Philip J Reed in personal - (6 Comments)

The Black PageJust a bit of a heads up that it might be a short while before things get back to normal around here. My grandmother passed away, and it’s hitting me in waves. I don’t know that I’m in a position to elaborate quite yet. I’ll need some time.

But I do want to share my appreciation for everyone out there. It’s always hard when somebody you care about — and who cared about you — isn’t there anymore. But it makes it a bit easier to know that there are others — great friends, great readers, great coworkers, a great significant other — that are there for you.

A loss is always a loss. And while I have more to say, I won’t be saying it now.

Just take a moment (you can afford to) and let somebody know you love them.

Golden Slumbers

March 29th, 2015 | Posted by Philip J Reed in personal - (5 Comments)

Metal Gear
Just a few short words about where I’ve been. Or, one short word: asleep.

This entire week or so I’ve been feeling drained and lethargic. As best I can tell, it’s due to a medication I’m on, which has recently had its dosage reduced. This is good news, at least on the whole. But my body seems to want to hibernate until it adjusts…and that’s been problematic for a few reasons. The most visible to you is probably the lack of updates on this site. It’s something that I hope gets rectified soon. Especially since there’s something I really want to get written and ready for this week.

I’ve been more or less useless outside of work, which soaks up what little energy I have. It’s nothing to worry about in the long-term, and I don’t feel sick or uncomfortable at all. Just dead, dead tired.

So…yeah. I appreciate your patience. Again, I’m hoping to have something special ready this week, and to resume my normal level of erratic productivity soon.



One of my most appreciated (and appreciative) friends, Emily Suess asked me to share a request. And…yeah. The moment I read the post, I knew I’d be more than willing to help.

Emily’s post about it is here, but I’m going to paste the content below. It’s short, and I don’t want an extra click to stand between anyone and participation.

At Christmas, Cheryl Gregory had a stroke.

She is unable to see her two sons.

Her siblings have been doing their best to visit her and keep her spirits high, but recently she was transferred to a new facility. She wasn’t recovering as well as the doctors like, so they transferred her to a new location in a different county. While the distance makes visiting her more difficult, it also doesn’t help that her brothers and sister are only allowed to see her for two hours a day.

Recovering from a stroke is hard enough, but fighting depression and loneliness makes getting better even more challenging, no matter how good the doctors and nurses may be.

Cheryl is only 63, but if her recovery doesn’t progress, she may have to stay in a nursing home for the rest of her life.

So I’m reaching out to my own family, friends, and complete strangers to show Cheryl some support. As Valentine’s Day approaches, I’m asking everyone I can to mail her a postcard, a get well card, a Valentine, or submit an online patient card to lift her spirits. Have your kids draw her a picture. Fold and mail an origami crane. Anything you can think of that might bring her a little extra joy.

Send a Valentine or get well wish by snail mail.
Cheryl Gregory
C/O Serenity – St. Mary’s
1116 Millis Ave
Boonville, IN 47601

Send an online greeting to be printed & delivered by hospital volunteers
St. Mary’s – Send a Patient Card to Cheryl Gregory

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If you’ve only got five seconds or you already have plans for Random Act of Kindness Week, consider passing this post along with a simple like, share, forward, or retweet. Don’t forget to use hashtag #RAKweek2015.

I don’t know Cheryl. But I know depression. I know loneliness. I know distance.

I’ll be participating, and I’m asking you personally, if you have it in your heart, to send something as well. I know I have a lot of talented, artistic, and good-hearted people who visit this blog regularly. If even one of you took the time to mail a valentine to someone who’d appreciate it as much as Cheryl, you’d make my day, too.

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