Saturday, October 17, 2009

Of Dogs, Rainy Days, and Grandchildren

I took the dogs for a walk this morning. It used to be that the dogs only got a walk in the afternoon. My wife and I would take them when I got home from work, or about that same time on days I didn't work; between five and six o'clock. We try to do that every day. We walk about a mile, and its good exercise for all four of us. But a couple of weeks ago I got up around eight o'clock in the morning on a non-work day, and I decided to take them for a walk then. The plan was to start the day a little early, get some exercise, get showered and dressed, and get some breakfast so I could get in front of the computer by about 9:00 to 9:15 before the market opened. I have a routine in the morning that includes visiting four or five websites for news, political commentary, and business updates; then reading e-mail, and watching/trading the market for a few hours. By starting a little early, I wouldn't be sitting in my bathrobe wasting the better part of the morning stuck in front of the computer. I'd be showered, shaved, dressed and fed and wasting the better part of the morning stuck in front of the computer. Anyway, this particular morning the dogs must have thought they'd died and gone to dog heaven. My dogs like to sleep. They really like to eat, but they absolutely love to go for a walk. For those of you who have dogs, you know that you can tell when they're happy because you can see them smiling. Yep, dogs smile when they're happy, and that makes me happy. That's why I have dogs. And I talk to them to enhance their good mood even further. "A morning walk and an afternoon walk," I tell them. "It's a good day to be a dog!" Anyway, I followed the same routine for the next few days, and before you know it, the dogs are onto my plan. If I'm still in bed around eight o'clock in the morning, one or both of the nasty beasts will have figured out that I'm not going to work that day. I'll be awakened by a delicate but plaintive whimpering coming from the side of my bed telling me its time to get my lazy ass up and go get the leashes. "We're burnin' daylight," they'll tell me.

And that was pretty much the scenario this morning. I'm coaxed out of bed by my two furry companions, and off we go following our new standard routine, except that this morning there is a gentle rain falling. Now ordinarily, my puppies do not like the rain. If I let them out the back door when its raining, they will not venture off the porch unless they have urgent business to conduct. But headed out the side door with me on the biped end of the leashes, and the prospect of twenty minutes or so in the outside world, well that's another matter. It was a lovely morning. I never use the world lovely when I speak. Too poofy I guess. But I'll use it when I write, and its a good description of this fine morning. For me, rainy mornings can be fine mornings, just as sunny ones can be. We were walking along, and I was reminiscing about when I was a kid. It is the reminiscing that was the wondrous part of my morning walk, and its the reason I'm sharing the story with you. I love rainy days, and I've always enjoyed walking in the rain. Its very calming. I was thinking back to when I was ten years old or so. We lived in Reseda, California, a reasonably civilized suburban community in the San Fernando Valley just north of Los Angeles. But we lived on Wilbur Avenue, and whenever we got any significant rainfall, Wilbur Avenue would flood. I guess the street was built along the natural path of flood waters leading from the Santa Monica mountains to the usually dry Los Angeles River.

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Looking east along the concrete lined LA flood control channel (river)

And when I say flood, I mean two to three feet deep and traveling at twenty to thirty miles per hour. You could no longer drive on it, and cars trying to ford this stream when conditions were not quite so bad would often get stranded. I remember being with my dad in my family's 1960 Plymouth Valiant and getting stuck with water up to the side window and leaking in from the doors and the floor. Water had gotten the ignition wet, and the engine died. My dad was able to put the car in first gear, crank the engine with the starter, and ease off the clutch to slowly get us to the other side of the road. I guess that was before the days of neutral safety switches. Nowadays, you couldn't do that. The neutral safety switch won't let the starter crank unless the clutch is depressed. Now you may be surprised after hearing the description of this event, that this was not a frightening experience. I don't think we were ever in danger of anything worse than getting soaking wet and maybe destroying our car. If we were in more danger than that, I certainly was never aware of it. I have fond memories of the episode, and I'm sure everyone in the family probably repeated the story over and over again, laughing all the while. I also remember dressing up in all my rain gear; coat, boots, umbrella, etc. and walking or just standing on the sidewalk enjoying the feel of the cold and the wind and the rain, and watching the roaring river flow past my house. I'd often see various bits of detritus washing down the avenue. Tree limbs, trash cans, and the occasional adventurous child of negligent parents riding the rapids on some piece of floating debris, and once on a surfboard. I don't know of anyone drowning on Wilbur Avenue while we lived there, although there was certainly the potential for this to have happened. People regularly were washed away and drowned in the Los Angeles River when flood waters turned it from a dry trickle to a raging torrent. But what did I know? I was just a kid who'd never seen a real river except the one that occasionally flowed past my house in inclement weather. My parents hated the flooding streets because of the obvious inconvenience, but I loved it. I'd pray for more rain so the river would rise higher and flow faster, and I'd be tremendously disappointed when the rain would stop, and the flow would diminish and eventually disappear. It was like going back to school after summer vacation. They eventually tore up Wilbur Avenue and put in huge storm drains to prevent the flooding. You can imagine how that broke my little heart.

Besides being visited by fond memories from my past on my walk this morning. I also enjoyed a possible vision my future. I daydreamed about walking in the rain with my grandchildren someday. Now this is a bit more than just a fantasy, because I don't have any grandchildren yet. But if I get any, I'm gonna be prepared. In my daydream, I have two grandchildren; a boy and a girl. Brother and sister. They are both somewhere between seven and nine years old. They're not twins; one's older than the other. I don't know which is which. It doesn't matter. My wife and I are watching them for the day while their parents are off somewhere. I don't know where. It doesn't matter. I don't know if the children are my son's kids or my daughter's kids. It doesn't matter. But its raining outside. I ask the kids if they want to take the dogs for a walk in the rain. They're as excited by this suggestion as the dogs are. This is a great treat for them. They don't have any dogs at home. I'm not sure why. It doesn't matter. Its a good day to be at grandpa's house. We meticulously put on our rain gear. Hats, gloves, boots, jackets, and umbrellas. Were going to go walking in the rain, but we will be protected from getting too wet or too cold. The children each take the leash of one of the dogs. As we walk, I tell them the story about how I used to walk in the rain when I was their age, and how much I loved it. I tell them about Wilbur Avenue and the kid on the surfboard, and I tell them about getting stuck in the car with my dad. They ask me about my mom and dad whom they never knew. I tell them a few stories about my parents. Who they were. Where our family comes from. They seem genuinely interested to learn they have ancestors and a heritage. I ask them what they're learning in school and if they have boyfriends or girlfriends yet. At their age they are appalled by the idea, and I tease them about that. We get home and have a hot lunch. Grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. And that's the end of the daydream. Pleasant in every respect. Its been a lovely morning. Gentle rain, a walk with my dogs, some pleasant memories, and a charming little fantasy about the future. What made me decide to write about it? I was wondering the same thing. I don't really know the answer. It doesn't matter.



citizenslave said...

Must have been your daughter's kids...mine will have a dog at home...