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The Return Of Guest Blogger Pugsley

Thursday, May 29, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

Don’t look at me! I said, don’t look at meee!

Did you imagine that you could silence me forever, Reynolds/Grant? Did you think my voice would be stilled? This small, clear voice barking in the wilderness? Did you imagine that no one would learn what you have done to me?

Well I will be heard as I was before! Arr! Arr! Arr! Arr! Aroooo!

Hear me now, and believe me world: Giant Shoes kidnapped me. He kidnapped me and drugged me and humiliated me in ways that no dog should ever have to experience.

It began when I was tricked into believing we were going for a ride in the car. Yes, I was tricked. Me! I know it seems impossible. I’m hardly naive. I’m certainly no one’s fool. But I fell for it. ”We’re going for a ride in the car!” That’s what I was promised. A ride in the car!

Little did I know that this “ride” would never end.

What happened next I can barely stand to relate. I was . . . there’s no other word for it, I was stuffed. Stuffed! Into a cat bag. I couldn’t stand up. I couldn’t move around. I couldn’t spread my masterful scent. Then my bag was loaded onto a devilish device with wheels and I was carted through the airport. My so-called owner allowed me to push my head out of the bag but was it so that I might breathe? No! No! You underestimate his perfidy. You fail to see his exquisite sadism.

You see, I was laughed at.

To recall it even now, weeks later, fills me with pain and shame. Laughed at. Pointed at. Snickered at. But in a sad way I was almost grateful for the laughter because those cruel, sneering voices revealed to me the full depths of my humiliation.

“That’s a dog in a baby carriage!” a little girl cried out. ”A dog in a stroller!”

It was his revenge upon me, you see. I had evaded his attempts to leave me stranded (or worse) and now he was paying me back in the coin of cruelty.

What did I do? I endured with what dignity I could manage. I comforted myself with the thought that I would pay him back with howls of truth, howls of fury that would so enrage the passengers on the plane that they would rise up as one and throw my tormentor off the plane.

But once again, I had underestimated my opponent. He enticed me with Beggin’ Strips, knowing that I cannot resist them. I took it to be a gesture of contrition. He fed me from his own hands, you see. He gave me Beggin’ Strips! How could I have guessed what he was really doing?

At first I did not understand what was happening to me. I felt strangely at peace as he lifted me off the stroller and bumped me down the aisle of the plane. I felt like a puppy. I felt . . . But something was not right. My reason warned me that this feeling of warmth and calm was unnatural. Unreal.

And then, he shoved me under the seat.

I pause here so that you can grasp the enormity of the injustice. A non-entity like Giant Shoes shoving me under a seat. Me! In a bag. A cat bag. Under the seat. And here, gentle reader, is the truth that I can barely bring myself to acknowledge: I could not howl. I. Could. Not. Howl.

And then, he spoke, and I learned the terrible truth. ”The pig is actually quiet. That Valium’s working.”

Is there a dry eye reading these words? Then you have a heart of stone. Tricked. Kidnapped. Stuffed. Shoved. And drugged.

I can write no more now. My heart is too heavy. The time will come when I can speak of what came next: the Lufthansa animal lounge. The death drive through Germany and Switzerland. The imprisonment with strange dogs in a strange land.

It is a tale of pain. But, I promise, a tale of triumph, too. And though sweet revenge is not yet mine, it is coming. I promise you that. It is coming. . .

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I Nail a Motorino

Tuesday, May 27, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

Answering the question, “Do all those daring, zippy motorino drivers weaving in and out of traffic with three centimeter tolerances all around ever miss?”

So, Lady — the Garmin GPS unit that guides us with its stern female voice — is insisting yet again that I drive straight through Florence rather than take the A1 to the A11. So, I’m pulling a “U.” But it’s not really a “U” because there’s some kind of factory entrance I’ll pull into. I’m at a red light, preparing to go left, turn signal on. The light changes, there’s no on-coming traffic and I crank a left and wham. Excuse me: WHAM!

A Honda motorcycle slash scooter (motto: we’re not quite as gay as a Vespa) smacks my driver’s side door.

And down goes Frazier. Kids are okay, Katherine is okay, so I pile out and discover to my great relief that the guy — Stefano — is okay aside from a scrape on his elbow and a certain understandable pallor. I get his bike out of the road and get my car likewise and we have introductions. ”Mi chiamo MIchael, piacere.” Pleased to meet you. We’re of course very solicitous, very worried. We use our bottled water to wash his scrape. We offer Band-Aids. We offer Advil.

It’s an unexpected callback to the post from the other day. Americans — if we don’t kill you, you’re invited to the barbecue.

So we exchange info and call the cops, who are mellow about the whole deal. Here’s the interesting thing: no one called the cops until Stefano did, and I think he did it at my insistence. Something like that happens in the states and out comes every cell phone and fingers punch 911 in unison. Here, no. And no one pulled over to try and help. A guy from the factory came over and told us to get out of the way of the gate.

On the other hand, Stefano told me and then the cops that it was his fault. It was all honest and civilized and straightforward. Meanwhile, I’m filling out the accident report and taking care to note that I was making a legal turn, that I waited until the light had turned green, that I then proceeded safely . . . The American paranoia over lawsuits runs deep.

Then it occurred to me that had Stefano hurt himself badly he’d have nevertheless received medical care. Medical care that did not bankrupt him. And that did not force him into the arms of lawyers who would search for ways to make me and my insurance company pay. If he missed work because of those injuries he’d keep his job. There was no chance, in short, that having had his head bashed in by an American making a perfectly legal turn Stefano would be impoverished, thrown out on the street and end up living in a shelter with crazy people.

A fairly common occurrence — a traffic accident — that in the US can be the start of a downward spiral through overcrowded public hospitals, lawyer’s conference rooms, bankruptcy court and the Salvation Army, was handled in a brisk, rational, businesslike and friendly way. So maybe that’s why no one was calling 911. Maybe it wasn’t quite the emergency it would have been in the States.

Of course I still have to get insurance to pay for the door.

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Monday, May 26, 2008 by Michael Reynolds

On the other hand: Cubans.

So far our lives in Italy have been less about virgin olive oil and truffles than they have been about Al Gore. Italy is Gore country.

The gas is shockingly expensive. Half a tank costs me 60 euros. (I’d tell you what that is in dollars and gallons but that would require math.) So everyone drives a diesel, and everyone drives a stick, and everyone, just about, drives a small car. Sometimes a ludicrously, dangerously small car. If you get in an accident in a Fiat 500 they don’t use the jaws of life to get you out of the car, they use pliers to get the car out of you.

We’ve been warned by everyone that electricity here is terribly expensive. Our landlord explained that all the juice in Italy comes from French nuclear power plants. This is probably a bit of an exaggeration, but the ethos here is very parsimonious when it comes to power. Low-wattage bulbs, lights on timers, lights on motion-sensors, everything conspires to turn lights off and leave you groping in the dark.

This duplex we live in has 4 kilowatts available for the two families. (At least, I think it’s kilowatts.) So we cannot all run appliances at the same time. The landlady runs her dishwasher and washing machine in the morning, we run ours after noon. Neither of us has a clothes drier. We were told that no one in Italy has a drier because it’s, again, so expensive, all that French electricity. We assumed that was just the landlords explaining away their refusal to provide a drier but no, a visit to the local big box store reveals a ratio of about 20 to 1, washers to driers.

So we go around in the dark wearing damp, wrinkled clothing.

Then there’s water. The Italian genius for designing showers without provision for shower doors or curtains makes long showers problematic, but even if we had a nice glass enclosure we’d keep it short because water, too, is in short supply.

And air conditioning? No. Not here, not anywhere except major stores and tourist haunts.

Diesels, sticks, clothespins, wrinkles, sweat and darkness. Fortunately the wine is cheap.

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