Of Puppies & Putin

by jkatejohnston

11 November 2018

Dear Max,

The fires news is awful. I feel like I should go up there and volunteer. However, I am not. We’re rather sheepishly donating money.

Teresa tells me that I should explain how it is that D-Day has been going to puppy class before all his shots were done. The answer is that he never sets paw on the ground. He is borne along, in the manner of Cleopatra, to a room in the local community center to meet with other puppies who arrive the same way. All the puppies have to bring paperwork from the vet showing that they’ve started their shots. In Puppy Kindergarten, D-Day was the only mixed breed. In Puppy One, there are a few other mixes. The horrifying expense of the class may partly account for the prevalence of purebreds.

Of course we think D-Day can beat all those purebreds hollow. He really does have an alertness about him. He seems to want to learn. I understand that he really wants treats, but still, he’s quick and biddable enough. I can’t help comparing him with Pete. Pete the Great, Pete the Irreplaceable, but even his most fervent admirers would never have called him bright. D-Day, on the other hand, grapples with whole libraries.

You can probably tell that I’ve been re-reading The Life of JohnsonSensation is sensation, Grapples with whole libraries. There are lots of famous sayings in that book, and they’re great, but the really wonderful things are these long scenes, full of people, all as real as can be, and infused with Boswell’s interest in them. I don’t find that I’m very interested in other people. I have to borrow that by reading, and there’s no one like Boswell for interest in other people. And of course no one in the world like Johnson. He is so great and good.

15 November 2018

Dear Max,

D-Day goes on walks now. He sniffs. He pees. In short, he’s a real dog. Going on a walk in our arms made him a bit anxious. Walking on a leash seems to be no problem. And it makes sense, I guess, because he can sniff the ground and get his bearings. And he’s probably smelling Colin along the route, which must be a comfort. Colin is a liberal pee-er.

I forgot to write that Enzo and I went to see that movie, Free Solo about the guy who climbed El Capitan in Yosemite alone with no ropes. I wavered the whole time between awe and censure. What a stretch of mind and body. What a publicity stunt. Because of course he wasn’t alone. There was a movie crew. If he’d fallen to his doom, it would have served them all right. I really liked his van though. I have a fantasy of living by myself in a well set up camper-van. Of course I’d be miserably lonely, but it’s still sort of alluring.

And of course I’m glad he didn’t fall to his doom. He pushed back the boundary of what’s possible, and it was fun to watch. And as Johnson said, “Such a man, Sir, should be encouraged; for his performances show the extent of the human powers in one instance, and thus tend to raise our opinion of the faculties of man. He shows what may be attained by persevering application; so that every man may hope, that by giving as much application, although perhaps he may never ride three horses at a time, or dance upon a wire, yet he may be equally expert in what ever profession he has chosen to pursue.” (Page 242 in Modern Library Edition.)

16 November 2018

Dear Max,

School is cancelled because of all the smoke in the air, and knowing how other people are suffering doesn’t make it any less delicious. Of course Enzo will be stuck inside all day, which makes it less fun. Maybe he and Teresa can have a Gilmore Girls marathon.

17 November 2018

Dear Max,

A few weeks ago I ventured onto Facebook to figure out why I’m not famouser. I wanted to find out if this diary is still posted there. And while I was there, I decided to update my personal information to reflect the fact that Teresa and I got married six years ago. And in the next few days I got a bunch these automatically generated emails telling me about all the Likes! and Congratulations! that I’d received, of course from people who don’t know me at all, which is my own fault. I found the whole thing inexpressibly irritating.

Attention has always been the thing in the world that’s in short supply. Facebook makes it easy to pay fake attention, or at best low-quality attention. But it’s cheap and flimsy, and so of course you need more and more and more to be satisfied. Like! Like! Like!

With my bad attitude, I should probably just get off Facebook once and for all. But every now and then I see a picture of you, Max. Or one of Caroline Allen’s drawings. And even an occasional baby picture that I’d be sorry to have missed.

The privacy part doesn’t bother me. Mark Zuckerberg can go right up my ass for all I care. I hope he enjoys it there. And as for spreading hate speech and fake news, I’m in favor of it. First of all, if you’re getting your news from Facebook, you deserve to be lied to. And I still think the solution to fake news is real news. And the solution to hate speech is to ignore it. As for people pretending to be someone they’re not–so what? Be skeptical. I could be Vladimir Putin, for all you know.