Category Archive for: ‘Road Trip 2009’
“My dog died.”
Those are three of the saddest words I know. I have been right in the middle of them for four days and counting.
Last Thursday afternoon, break time: Yay! Dodger and I left my office at 3:36 to go check the mail, but first a quick round of campus “squirrelveillance,” par for a Thursday. I clicked on his trusty red leash and hopped on my trusty red bike, just like hundreds of times. Across Main Street, we rounded the corner of Cunningham by Carnegie—no cops, yay! *Click* He arced right by Phi Hall and the Old Well, I arced left over the D Road bricks in front of Chambers. As our trajectories began to reconverge on the far side of campus by Sloan, we gained speed, more than usual even, since we’d been cooped up a couple of days and it was brisk out. We must have been approaching his top recorded speed of 32 miles per hour, timed by ’67 Comet on the lake campus dirt road just last summer. This day, traction control on the curving bricks made it advisable for me to suspend my self-imposed prohibition against riding my bike on the grass. Reunited now side by side in a straight line, we just flat hauled ass across Chambers Lawn, churning and laughing and flapping in a cold wind, yay! Twenty seconds farther on, that happy dog, a dirty no-good squirrel and a small but fatal outcropping in a brick wall conspired for a mercifully brief end to Dodger’s time on earth. He broke his neck, probably never knew it, and my dog died in my arms.
But first, he lived, and boy, did he ever.
Dodger’s aplomb even rated an obit in the local online newspaper, DavidsonNews.net.
His exploits are well-documented in the “Search: Dodger” functionality of this blog.
Of particular note are his young adult years as a travel co-writer in the Great Summer Road Trip of 2009.
[Updated Tues., 1/29/13: WDAV will be running a day sponsorship in memory of Dodger tomorrow at 8:30am and 1:30pm, and featuring a pix of him on their homepage then www.wdav.org. Thanks, classical music friends!]
What’s been most striking to me just in the four days since his death, when I’ve been able to perceive anything at all outside my own black grief, is the touch he brought to so many lives on the Davidson campus, at St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church in Mooresville, in the town of Davidson and in Charlotte, across this nation. I’ve had calls from Maine to Miami to Vegas, fielded e-mails from all over, watched Facebook explode with heartfelt love, all of it for Dodger and for many good dogs who’ve gone on ahead of him, and for the people who’ve loved them.
In the course of any given week these last five years, it has not been unusual for students, or even faculty or fellow staff to introduce themselves to me by saying, “You don’t know me, but I love your dog.”
Oh, no. If you loved my dog, I know you, and I love you, too.
Way back in May, as I planned this transcontinental voyage, Carol Higham, adjunct assistant professor of humanities at Davidson and a good buddy, piqued an academic interest in my yen to, as Horace Greeley is purported to have said, “Go West, young man.” Okay, I’m only somewhat young, and Greeley is not the original author of the quote. The important thing here is that Carol told me about her new Western U.S. history textbook, Conquests and Consequences, co-written with William H. Katerbery of Calvin College. Even more important, she brought a laser-printed galley proof to my office, for me to pack along in the trunk of my Comet. I could picture the stack of sheets blowing off a campsite picnic table in Colorado, so I paid Central Services in the college union a buck fifty to wiro-bind it.
In my six weeks of drive time across the United States of America this summer, geography was not the only thing I covered. I was all over the musical map, too: rock’n'roll (of course); country (unavoidable, and fine by me—most days); jazz (for short periods); classical (not available in some states); get-it-on blues (void where prohibited); pop (exact definition depends on the town; I heard some fine nouveau-California-pop songs in San Diego that I haven’t heard before or since); and that egregious call-in show with easy-listenin’, lovey-dovey “Delilah” (you can run but you can’t hide). Okay, there was no rap or hip-hop on any of my playlists or stations, so I guess I wasn’t all over the musical map. So sue me. Stuff works my nerves.
Tank goodness Antonio, my new bes frend in Pomm Sprangs, fix us up a picnic for the rolly house, cuz it was very scorchy panty panty comin back acrost a dam California desert. We stop at the Colorado River so Him could cool off, but I stayed instinctive away from the warter. My foredogs was hunters, not swimmers. We let them dumb blond retrievers do that! (Hey, you know why blond retrievers can’t tree a squirrel? The bark is all wrong. Ahahahaha!) So, anyway, after the desert and the river we clumb and clumb and clumb in the hot rolly house up a canyon by a big warter and come to a pavement city and stop in the only shady spot lef. It was still so hot I felt all squawsh down. Looka here:
Oof. By the time I had made it through all the storms of south central Missouri in my leaky old Comet ragtop (“Dodger, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore!”), I was very happy to have gotten two last Davidson invitations for lodging on my way homeward. Thanks to Curtis Bickers ’93, for a redux of my westbound visit to his gracious Memphis home. And big thanks to my dear, fun and funny classmate Linda Cassens Laforest ’85, who had called me up on a rainy, Motel 6 kind of a day earlier in the week to ask when I was coming through Oak Ridge. O, happiness! Dodger and I were plumb tired of Motel 6 by now: Kingman, Ariz., Gallup, N.M., Goodland, Kan., Lawrence, Kan., St. Robert, Missouri… Nice as it is to see that dog-friendly sign from the interstate, it’s not home. For instance, I would never have such a thing as that bedspread in my home. Please. Come to think of it, I would never have that bed, either. Ah, well. Motel 6 is, like WalMart, what it is: When you need it, it’s exactly what you need, but when you’re done, you don’t want to just hang out there. So anyway.
My iPod bit the dust. At a Motel 6 in Kansas, I went to update my hallowed Road Trip playlist in order to delete “Smokin’ in the Boys Room.” The nostalgic novelty of that song, I had found, turns out to be rather paltry. Grating, even. But when, in room 116, I connected my digital drives and mashed “sync,” I received, OMG, a stop-sign, exclamation point, “Error 1429″ pop-up warning that my device was “corrupt.” Well!
When I blast e-mailed Kansas and Missouri alumni before heading east from Colorado many miles ago, Davidsonians came through. My thanks to all who offered to meet for coffee or a meal or more. My only regret is the need to keep the miles rolling in this my last week on the road, so I won’t get to visit with you all personally. So many alumni, so little time… One who responded to the call was Andrew Campbell ’00. He opened the University of Kansas Museum of Natural History in Lawrence to me for a private tour on a Monday, when they are usually closed. Andrew is collection manager for herpetology, which made for an appetizing tour before lunch. Mmm, tastes like chicken! (Andrew avowed that he has probably heard every tastes-like-chicken joke there is, and with some 360,000 reptilian and amphibian specimens under his TLC, one of the five largest such collections in the nation, I believe him.)
Kansas is a very, very long state, even at 75 mph steady, in a hefty crosswind. Happily, Jesus is everywhere. I missed my favorite shot of Him, plainly and exquisitely painted onto a billboard poking up out of the greening summer bounty of the earth with no verbal interpretation, just a very happy and welcoming, hippie-style Jesus holding a stalk (whatever) of wheat and smiling at me. I liked that Jesus. This more personalized Jesus, below, which I did manage to capture on pixels, runs a close second, even if the godsmack message and Photo-Shopped halo, not to mention the blood-red ray of—something?—shooting off of His—heart?—are a bit much for my tastes.