An email came a few days ago telling me that Herman had been found. That’s great, I thought, but who is Herman? It explained that Herman’s “chip” had been scanned and the serial number matched at an animal shelter in Colorado. So Herman probably wasn’t human. The email was meant for a Douglas Schultzberg (which sounds like but is not his real name).
I replied briefly and set the email aside. Still, I was curious about Herman. My son and I agreed Herman must be a cat, because Herman isn’t a good dog name. Dog’s names have to be something you’re willing to shout out in public without embarrassing yourself or the dog. Herman doesn’t sound right—says the man with a lanky coonhound named Daisy. (Hey, she came to us that way.)
I got a form letter follow-up two days later from the chip people asking if I’d picked up Herman. There was no mention of my email. There was no box to check saying, no, that’s not my pet. So I wrote to the animal shelter. They didn’t respond.
I figured it wasn’t my problem. Then I pictured little Herman in a cage on death row. I imagined his whiskers sticking out through the bars, nose quavering, forlorn eyes gazing out. You know, like in those tearful save-our-furry-friends ads. I worried that maybe the chip people had no way to contact the owner, if they even cared.
So I grumbled and stalked Mr. Schultzberg on Google. I found someone on Twitter with a profile pic of a balding man sitting on bleachers next to someone wearing a Cubs T-shirt. I skimmed through his many sports-oriented tweets. This Schultzberg is a fan of the Bears and a Missouri college basketball team. That seemed questionable for Colorado but I sent a tweet. I got no response and didn’t really expect one. The tweet date stamps were pretty stale. LinkedIn had a loose match for a systems engineer in Colorado, but there was no contact information and I couldn’t find a website for the company.
At this point I realized that old tech might be the best tech. What I needed was his damn phone number. At whitepages.com I found a Schultzberg in a town near the shelter. I gave the number a shot, not realizing it was an Illinois area code.
An older woman picked up. I said, “Hello? I’m looking for a Douglas Schultzberg with a pet named Herman.”
“Hello?” I asked.
The woman on the line seemed confused. “There’s no one here by that name. He lives in Colorado. What do you want?” She was pleasant about it but had no idea what I was saying.
So I explained. Laboriously, I convinced her I was legit. She gave me his cell and landline numbers. I called the cell number and got voicemail. On the landline, I got another confused person. After a little bit he said, “Oh, I picked up Herman yesterday.” Jackpot. The “actual” Mr. Schultzberg. (The nice lady in Illinois is his mother.)
Turns out Herman is a beagle who keeps his nose to the ground and doesn’t watch where he’s going. So Douglas explained. He explained a lot of other things, such as that Wyatt Earp was born in Illinois in a small town near where Douglas grew up. I learned a bunch of trivia about Colorado, local history, and the alleged superiority of Apple products.
I wasn’t forced to listen to all this. I played along while I figured out what was going on. I told him some things about myself, like that I’d stayed in his town some years ago and explored the area. I told him where I lived and he asked about the cherry blossoms. It was one of those conversations you have with an older person where you have to be careful to wait for silence before you say anything. Interrupt and you’ll throw the train off the track.
I realized Douglas was lonely. He had three strokes last year, mild ones he said, but with that and some lumbar spine issues he’d been forced to retire from his job as a Windows software specialist. I noticed that he’s having a bit of cognitive trouble—sometimes it was hard for him to express himself. Nonetheless at 62 he isn’t ready to give up.
So the wayward dog wasn’t the only one who benefitted from human attention. Frankly, I didn’t mind getting some myself. After a fairly long series of random non-Herman topics that left my eavesdropping son wondering who the heck I was talking to, I volunteered, “I should let you go.”
He said, “Well, thank you for calling. I guess I made a new friend.”
And I said, “Yes, you did.” I’ll check on Herman sometime soon.
I was speaker #22 last week at our county school board meeting regarding next year’s budget. I was there to object to plans to eliminate the modest “twice exceptional” (2e) program, which amounts to a single counselor at one of our high schools. The 2e kids are both learning disabled and gifted. The program gives them the exclusive attention of someone trained in both areas, versus generic special education. My son, a senior with attention deficit disorder, has benefitted enormously from this program.
The 2e kids may at first blush seem like an unsympathetic group. In my son’s case, his high capabilities—e.g., his SAT scores were near-perfect—suggest that his poor performance is due to immaturity. I admit that’s partly true: he’s struggling to grow up like any other teen. Yet he also struggles with a disability that unfortunately doesn’t get much respect. Some dismiss ADD as an excuse without evidence. Space doesn’t permit here, but this is a devastating ignorance. ADD kids struggle simply to put pen to paper. They often flunk despite their best efforts. They risk depression, even suicide. Ironically their “gifts” become poisons in the face of drastically failed expectations.
My family recently undertook the Hunger Challenge posed by the local Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). AFAC asked us to eat for $4.03 a day, the typical benefit allotted Virginians of limited means by the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Since the winter, my sons and I have volunteered with AFAC to pick up surplus produce from a local farmer’s market to supplement, along with milk, bread, meat, etc., what their clients can afford through SNAP.
SNAP is the modern version of the food stamp program. According to the the USDA FAQ it serves one out of eleven Americans each month, more than half of whom are children or the elderly. Most report income far below the poverty level. The average participant stays in the program for nine months.
“I can’t say as ever I was lost, but I was bewildered once for three days.
Driving in France is more exciting than in the States. I anticipated this and arranged to rent a car for a few days. A stick shift too, an essential feature I think for drivers who like to feel what they’re doing. (I also suspect the manual transmission will soon be extinct.)
With my son Julian and his friend we rented the car at the Paris airport and set out for Normandy, but along the way dipped into the northern part of the city to circle the Arc de Triomphe. The roundabout there is six or eight or ten lanes wide—no lanes are marked— with a dozen roads radiating, and it swarms with cars at maniacal cross-purposes. Fun! Read more…
There are two kinds of beauty: what you find and what you make.
That’s a thought that crossed my mind at the coffee shop today. It certainly sounds like something someone said but I can’t figure it out. Cervantes drew a lovely distinction between two beauties, “one of the soul and the other of the body … when we focus our attention upon that beauty [of the soul], not upon the physical, love generally arises with great violence and intensity”—but that’s a different concern. Kant propounded a notion of free versus dependent beauty that I won’t attempt to understand let alone explain.
The bipolar romantic nut Lord Byron penned perhaps the writing of beauty itself.
Much more on account of my quirkiness than erudition I have long liked The Tempest, Shakespeare’s straightforward tale of Prospero, a bitter old wizard, and his grudge match against his brother and the clowns who betrayed him, stole his neglected dukedom, and stranded him with his young daughter on a romantic little hell of an island somewhere in the Mediterranean.
It’s expected for a writer to dislike some or all of their published work on account on perfectionism, insecurity, self-deprecation—or overdue enlightenment. In The Author to Her Book, Anne Bradstreet used a child as a vivid metaphor for a disfavored book of her verse that she may have felt was prematurely published, and to such a degree you’d think the poem was about a real child if you neglected to read the title. Taking to task the “ill-formed offspring of my feeble brain” as “one unfit for light,” Bradstreet speaks with the hair-wilting harshness of a disappointed parent running out of ideas. In the end she softens, empathizes, and offers a bit of counsel on the rigors of the world (“‘mongst vulgars may’st thou roam”). A good thing, because she evidently harbored enough venom to kill a Puritan village. Really, the affection seems to have been there all along, and part of her anger is with herself for … being angry.