Wednesday, April 22, 2009

And life goes on...


The neighborhoods I've lived in since going off to college have not always been the best. Whether I stood out due to my different race, language, or just lack of shared lifestyles, for the most part I've never been one to communicate heavily with my neighbors. Currently, the duplex I live in is sandwiched nicely between two winners. First, there's the Rage-aholic who I refer to only as the expletive which he yells out the most towards his ex-wife and daughter. Then, there's the house with the ever changing array of Mexican gangsters who are liable to either have a barbecue on their front lawn or start a fight there any given day, gambler's choice. The rest of the neighborhood is made up of mostly illegal immigrant workers who don't speak a lot of English and try to keep as low a profile as possible. Needless to say, though I love the inside of my place and its affordability, I don't feel as though I can really be understood by those around me, nor have I ever felt the need to be.

The one bright spot in the area for me has been a little black mutt of a dog which I have only ever referred to as "that scrappy little guy". His small size, mangy, matted coat, permanently injured right hind leg, and questionable breeding are all qualities that would not win him awards at Westminster. Still, I love that little guy. He hobbles around in the middle of the street happy as a clam, always up early to greet the day with a wag of the tail and a spring in three of his steps. He's always looked as if he's saying "Hey, buddy, how's it goin'? Gonna be a helluva day!", with my picturing his voice somewhere in that dark place between James Woods and Maurice Chevalier.

Though I don't know where he sleeps at night, he is always in the same area and is like our little neighborhood ambassador, greeting delivery men and police officers with equal excitement, who sadly often show up with equal frequency. His desire to remain in the street at least four feet away from the curb at all times is always a concern to me, but he seems pretty "street smart" and I try to believe he can handle himself as much as I'd like others to believe in me.

Another reason I like him is that he seems like a practical jokester. More times than I can recall I have been driving back home with a friend or model and they have seen him on his back, flopping wildly in the middle of the street. Their immediate reaction is of course that he's been injured, hit by a car. The truth though is often he basks in the glow of the afternoon sun, enjoying a prolonged scratch of his back on the warm asphalt with a big cat-chasing grin across his crooked little teeth. To add to the dramatic effect, he wriggles on his back continuously, lingering for thirty seconds or more as if to prolong the worry and agony of the concerned viewer. Eventually, the little guy snaps back on his feet, jauntily skipping along once again to parts unknown, looking refreshed and satisfied as the observer breathes a deep sigh of relief. I secretly imagine him peering from behind a car, deviously pleased with himself, thinking "Man, I really had that chick going for a second! Ha!"

I love that little guy. He's a symbol that reminds me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, stay true to your nature, and smile at what the day brings you. Though I don't see him every day, nor do I know whom he belongs to, he's been a little bright spot for me on days when I've needed it.

Then, I left for work this morning. Imagine my shock and sadness when I saw him there in the middle of the street lying on his belly, not moving. At first, as so many times before, I assumed he was resting, or playing possum, about to spring up at any moment to give one of his little trademark grins. Alas, there was none.

The odds ran out, simple as that. Some reckless, speeding driver, of which our street has countless, probably clipped him and sped on without a second thought. I'd like to think he saw one last sunrise before the final moment, but who can say? Anyone who knows me is aware that I'm not a huge "pet-person", and though I like and respect animals, I've never been one to place my emotions for them any higher than for a favorite pair of shoes or random acquaintance. Still, that scrappy little guy has been on my mind all day.

Some call it callous of me to be able to take photos of sadness and death. My belief is that if we are to document the good times, it is just as important to remember the bad, which makes those happy times all the more special. I couldn't help but take a second and crouch down next to him in the middle of the street this morning, studying his features one last time hoping to remember every detail, knowing I wouldn't. Finally, I took a photo of him as I had always wanted to when he was alive, yet had never made the time to do so. When I came home from work this afternoon his body was gone, as if he never existed.

And that's what happens to us all. And that's why its important for us all to share these stories of lives, big and small, and thus I am. Rock on, little fella.


  1. Lovely story, Mark, despite the sad ending. It seems "that scrappy little guy" lived the Life he wanted, and who knows, maybe he left the way he wanted too.

  2. You kicked m in the gut with that final photo. :-(

    RIP SLG.

  3. Total powerful shocker. Hospice motto: "Each day is a gift."