Gus sat for one of his first genuine portraits this afternoon, his left ear is beginning to stand up, which gives him a big of a dashing look. He is intrigued by the camera, and he has a studios air about him. More and more he reminds me of Yoda, the Wizard Master. Perhaps Gus is a Wizard Master, I think so.
Gus and Fate both slept in their crates at night. In the morning, while Maria is sleeping, I let Fate out and she jumps up on the bed and waits for Maria to wake up. This morning, I let Gus out and fed him and then brought him upstairs to also greet Maria, I thought it would be a great moment for Maria to wake up to two dogs (although Fate is still flowering at Gus and staring at him malevolently).
Gus got the idea quickly, she crawled up against Maria's knee and leaned back on her back and I rubbed his stomach for a moment and he went to sleep – two dogs sleeping on the bed. There was a joyous celebration when Maria woke up, although Fate quickly jumped off. She isn't ready to share anything with Gus.
Still, this was a big moment, a family bonding moment. Gus is becoming a family dog now.
Maria got even this morning, she videotaped me smooching with Gus, and I guess I had it coming. She can be ruthless, that woman, not only was it payback for many videos and photos of her, she relished the chance of exposing all of my pompousities and pretense. No man looks more ridiculous than when cooing to a puppy. I did give her permission, what the Hell? And maybe I'll get it up before she does.
On a more dignified note, I took with my agent Christopher this morning, and I told him I wondered if I couldn't recast the current book – "Lessons Of Bedlam Farm" onto a different book, "Gus And The Lessons Of Bedlam Farm." The decision to get Gus, and my experience training and living with him is, or will be, among the major lessons of the farm for me this year.
And I could still incorporate the other ideas – The Army of Good, Maria's Trip to India, Red and the Mansion, The Refugee Children – into the book, only Gus would be the narrative line, and the lessons woven into that story. The Gus story is just beginning, and I realize how much I love writing it.
Christopher loved the idea and he will talk to the publisher about it, and we'll figure it out. I like the idea, I think it could really work as a book on many levels. I'm eager also to write about how the political turmoil has been a gift to me in some ways, and I am also interested in writing about how I dealt with it, and am dealing with it.
I think it could be helpful. And having Gus on the cover is a great way to launch any book.
Meanwhile, have a chuckle on me. Check out the video. Gus and Maria have pulled one of the masks right off.
I got the small dog itch in part because a lot of my friends up here – big men in trucks – melt like ice cubes when they talk about their small dogs. The septic man has five corgis in his truck when he comes around, Greg Burch, a long-time logger, rides with J.D. the pug, John Halloron, a big touch ex-NYPD officer who installs and cleans wood stoves, bursts into tears every time he mentions the bulldog that died last year.
Some of these big and powerful men cry just talking about their small dogs, and they are not, as a rule, given to emotion.
I am not a big touch man in a big truck but my friend Bob, who works at the dump is, and he nearly went to pieces when he met Gus at the recycling station yesterday. Bob is one of the nicest people I have ever known – he gives biscuits to every dog who comes through the dump.
But he just glows when he talks about his dogs. And mine.
Maybe I have a secret desire to be tough, or to have a big truck (I had one once in Hebron, but it was a disaster) but I am curious to explore this phenomenon with Gus. I think it may be a key to understanding the complex and sometimes hobbled male psyche.
Perhaps it is the male equivalent of "cute" or "endearing." Perhaps it's the size or the outsized ego of small dogs. Bob got the full Gus treatment yesterday, Gus wanted to chew on his beard. Bob loved every minute of it, then went back to hauling giant trash bags out of trucks.
I'd like to be a big man like Bob.
Belly dancing is one of the oldest, if not the oldest forms of dance, although it's literal origins are unknown. One historian said belly dancing originated with the birth of women. French historians claim the name was first used in France, where it was called the "dance du venture," the dance of the stomach.
The term "belly dance" was first used in the States when a promoter labeled the dance at the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. We do not see much of it up here in Washington, County, New York, so Maria and I were excited when a friend, Kitty Farnham, told us she was emceeing a belly dance at the Bennington Mason's Auditorium in Bennington, Vt. last night for the benefit of Meals on Wheels, a non-profit organization that helps to feed the elderly and the poor.
We jumped at the chance, and were not sorry.
We had one of the warmest, most joyous and entertaining evenings in memory at the dance, which drew belly dancers from all over New England and New York.It was just a pleasure to see these woman – not just the stick figures we associate with dancing, but beautiful, ordinary looking women of different ages, all dressed in the traditional garb of the belly dancer.
The women were gorgeous, on many levels. Ordinary people rarely make into the American entertainment business. But these women knew how to entertain, and they gather in towns all over the Northeast to work hard with one another to keep this ancient art alive.
They women just radiated enthusiasm and warmth and an impressive kind of athleticism. The dancers were difficult, complex, to-tapping and they were performed flawlessly, at least to my eye.
It was great to see this kind of dancing under the grim portrait of some stuffpot Mason bigshot hanging over the fireplace. The setting – a beautiful old Mason auditorium – made it all the more appealing. This wasn't Lincoln Center or some other performance hall.
The fun the dancers were having was infectious, as was the informality of it. We were all clapping along and clucking our tongues and yip-yipping in the Middle Eastern way – one dancer taught us how to do it, they call it ululation. And the whole audience – it was a smallish crowd in a beautify and musty old space – jumped right in. We were ululating all evening.
Meals and Wheels is a great cause, they are becoming more and more important to so many people all the time. So great to see all of these belly dancers coming together to support them.
The belly dancing reminded me that you don't have to be something other than human to be creative and bring joy, and I was touched to see yet another sub-culture where people connect with one another to express the best of the human spirit.
There are no male belly dancers that I know of, and if you think about it, it is, sadly, not surprising.
Men do not gather together in that way to shake off the restrictions of the modern world. I could see that Mason above the fireplace turning in his grave.
I believe this connection is far more natural than arguing, and perhaps it is no accident that belly dancing is the unfettered expression of the female heart.
Afterwards, we just made it to Johnny T's clam and ice cream shack. We both will remember the night for a long time. And thanks to Kitty for telling us about it, she was a great emcee. I learned later that she is a belly dancer herself.