Monday, May 28, 2012

The Dogcatcher and the Accidental Activist

“All this chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter, chitter-chatter ‘bout schmatta, schmatta, schmatta...” -Jagger/Richards

This one is tough to start.  Not that I have writer’s block, I think I know what I was going to write about.  It’s just that getting started seems a little... I don’t know... uncomfortable.  I can’t walk into a fresh topic without acknowledging the events that transpired from the last.  My last post garnered attention at a level I never expected.  By today’s count, more than 22,000 people have read it.  Sometime this week, it’ll be syndicated on a web magazine with a significant viewership.  Thousands more, I suppose, will read it.  I only know about 15 people, and a couple of them don’t read, so that’s a lot of strangers.  There are more than three times as many subscribers to this blog right now than there were a week ago.  Welcome, new friends!  Some of you might be disappointed to learn that I am only an occasional dissenter, an accidental activist.  I hope most of you took a look through previous posts so you know how boring this really is.  Usually I write about the very mundane happenings of my everyday, which probably look a lot like the mundane happenings of your everyday, if your everyday is just a regular life with your genius-artist husband, three kids, some bitchy chickens, a well-meaning dog who can’t or won’t stop peeing everywhere and a cat who complains loudly and incessantly, which might be related to the dog pee situation.  Oh, and a bird who is somehow still clinging to life despite the rest of us constantly overlooking him, all in a small house on the periphery of a small community full of other creative people and the people who love them, their chickens, dogs with and without overactive bladders and whiny cats.  I don’t know how many of their kids have parakeets to ignore.  Nobody talks about their parakeets, so probably most of them do.  

Contrary to some of the feedback I received from my last essay, I am not angry.  Well, I am intermittently angry, but never for the sake of being so.  It just happens that I have a talent for observation and analysis, and a creative imagination for conjuring up possible solutions to the situation that’s pissing me off.  Also, I’m not afraid of swearing.  I write pretty much the same way I speak, and maybe I would have changed some words if I’d known I was going to be speaking to strangers.  Or maybe not.  It’s too late now.  I’ve seriously hacked off the religious right, offended atheists, slammed sex-workers, and I’m guessing there is a bottom feeder out there (catfish?  ass eater?) who is too pissed for words that I compared him to the Koch brothers.  Or maybe he was afraid my dad would yell at him.  But it got people talking and thinking and I hope... it got a few of them to reconsider their spending habits.  I wrote that post two hours after returning home from Planned Parenthood.  It was fresh, it was raw, and it was very honest.  By far the most insulting comment I received doubted the authenticity of the event.  That must have been the angry bottom feeder.  His name is Bill.  I wonder if Bill is a semi-literate catfish or just a poop eater.

Is there a way for me to question policy without personally insulting people who don’t agree with me and subsequently provoking them to insult me back?  I slammed three people in my last article: Sam Brownback, David Koch and Charles Koch.  No regrets there, and no apologies.  I’d spit in their soup, given the opportunity.  Then I guess I’d probably feel bad about my unprofessionalism and call myself a sissy for doing something so passive aggressive and just pour it in their laps when I got to the table.  But what about the offended readers, the ones who took my words as a personal affront?  I took issue with corporate and legislative policy and ended up offending a whole slew of folks, some of whom are on the same side I am, like the atheists who said “Hey!  Don’t use godless as an insult!”  Impossible for them to know that I was raised by an atheist, though one with a sense of humor.   See?  I just offended about 300 not-funny atheists, right there.  See how easy that is?  Do I, from this point forward, consider that my words might potentially be run through 20,000 different filters and strike 20,000 different nerves by the time they’re flushed through?  I have to tell you, I am an empathetic person, but I don’t think I have that in me.  It sounds exhausting.  Besides, the primary purpose of this blog is so that my kids will have a record of my thoughts someday.  Seriously, wouldn’t you love to have something like this that your parents wrote when they were young and beautiful?  When you were too self-involved and tunnel-minded to even notice that they might have an opinion or a thought on anything outside of what kind of birthday cake to make you?  I know I would.  Theirs are the only filters I consider when I write.  The rest of you can fend for yourselves.  

Okay.  Now I can move forward.

Here’s something easy to digest.  We could all use a break this week:

The dogcatcher has it in for my small-bladdered friend.  As I mentioned, we live on the periphery of the neighborhood.  We’re pretty isolated.  The dog, who despite his urinary habits inside is fairly well behaved outside, hangs around the house, mostly staying pretty close unless he is on a quick walk-about down to the river or chasing a squirrel around the corner.  He always comes right back and, to my knowledge, has never made too big a nuisance of himself to anyone but said squirrels.  One day when my son and I were sitting on the front porch with popsicles, the city dogcatcher paid a visit.  

“Is this your animal?” she motioned brusquely to the dog who was licking up grape popsicle drips near my feet.

“Uh...this dog?  He looks a lot like my dog, but my dog only likes cherry, so I’m not sure.”  My son looked concerned.  He’s still getting used to my sense of humor.  The dogcatcher wasn’t amused, either.  Sometimes I’m not that funny.  “Yeah, he’s ours.”

“I need to see your license,” said the dogcatcher.  Suddenly, the situation felt very serious.  I retrieved my license from inside the house and was promptly presented with an $80 ticket for having the dog off leash in an unfenced yard.  Sitting next to me, licking popsicle drips off the ground, but unleashed.  Then she told me if she sees the chickens “off property” she’d ticket me for that, too.  “Fair enough,” I said, “they’re pretty aggressive... but they don’t need to be on leashes in the yard, right?”  She blinked rapidly with irritation.  I decoded the Morse signal of her fluttering lids: lady, I have a badge, don’t fuck with me.  “I can ticket you for that cat, too, if he goes out of your yard.”  I told her I’d speak with the chickens and the cat about their legal boundaries.

$80 seemed like a pretty stiff penalty for letting a dog clean up popsicle drips without a leash.  But we paid it and for a while we put to use the tie out in front of the house.  Habits die hard, don’t they?  It wasn’t long before we were back to just letting the dog be a dog and sniff around the yard and chase the squirrels and trot down to the river and back.  Then one morning the dog catcher came and snatched him out of the yard.  Yes, I said snatched!   A construction worker next door reported the whole event to us.  While we were on the back porch drinking coffee, she lured him into her van from right out in front of the house.  Now, I’m not saying we didn’t break the law by letting him roam in the yard.  We most certainly did.  The dog, though a pain in the ass, is not a menacing, vicious animal.  He’s a sniffer and a barker and he pees uncontrollably, but he’s never hurt anyone.  He’s never even caught a squirrel.  Somehow I hoped that made us exempt from the rules, which I assume were created to protect the public.  It doesn’t.  Not only are we not exempt, but my smart ass attitude and my husband’s muttering of “miserable bitch” under his breath when he went to collect the dog and the accompanying $160.00 ticket that followed the dog’s confiscation have made us prime targets of the dogcatcher’s attention.  Lawrence’s Most Wanted.  She drives by slowly, and often, looking for another chance to bust us.  I’m still hopeful for the moment that I’m walking him on his leash (yeah, I do that) when she cruises past.  I wonder how many fingers I’ll use to wave.

At nearly 40 years old and an example to three small children, maybe it would be best for me to put behind the “question authority, question everything” mentality of my youth.  It would keep me out of trouble with the dogcatcher and some sensitive atheists and Bill the Poop Eating Catfish. That would be a lot easier to do if the authorities would behave more rationally.  Come to think of it, the increased vigilance on the part of the dogcatcher corresponds eerily with the first piece I ever wrote in defiance of the Kansas House of Reps and Governor Brownback.  Maybe Animal Control was dispatched directly from the state gubernatorial office in hopes of distracting me and costing me so much in fines that I won’t be able to afford my cable/internet service and my virtual megaphone of opposition will be forever silenced: “Just listen to this liberal, foul mouthed, feminist crap!  I’ll bet this lady has a dog off its leash in her yard right now!  I’ll get you, my pretty, and your little dog, too!”  Well, guess what, Brownback and Co.?  I’m hip to your game.  Just to piss you off, I’m going to keep my dog on a leash.  To boot, I’m going to follow every local ordinance to a tee.  No more jaywalking on empty streets.  No more crossing the train tracks anywhere but designated intersections.  No more chickens loose and acting aggressively.  They are now securely penned and acting aggressively amongst themselves.

As for my tendency to question authority, and to teach my kids to do the same, I can make no bargains there.  I realized (halfway into page two, naturally) that the poor dogcatcher is the unfortunate recipient of much displaced frustration that is more accurately directed at those who hold real power in my state and are using it to enact twisted policies that mirror their deranged morals.  Their agenda is pretty transparent to me and to many others like me who are thoughtful, observant and analytical.  It’s a tricky balance, demonstrating to your kids how to be respectful of people while questioning policy.  I don’t want them to swallow whatever I sell them.  Put in terms my 11 year old son can understand: what would have happened to Luke Skywalker if he’d just done what his dad told him to?  Observe.  Think.  Ask questions.  Consider the answers. Then ask more questions.  Cut off your dad’s mechanical hand if he wants you to be evil with him and you don’t want to be evil.  But be respectful.  I’ll do my best to do the same here, now that there are more of you and some of us don’t know each other well.  I can’t promise that I won’t offend you at some point, but I can promise that I will never spill hot soup in your lap on purpose.


  1. Your father has a hat coming your way. You'll smile.

  2. A local friend recently designed a ball-cap: It says "aQa" - "Always Question Authority"

    It's on the way.



  3. :) I live in Olathe & am so very glad to hear your voice in our f'd up state. Preach it, sister!

  4. Meg,

    And so it begins. Forget the hot button nature of the Planned Parenthood post; that just opened the door. The point is that the world is now seeing a gifted writer.

    You're due.

  5. Thanks for displaying your thoughts so openly. I have enjoyed reading this and felt a little more like "normal" after doing so.

  6. OK. Just relaying information here; but I hope you're getting the message that you have enough talent to make it pay bills.

    I steered one of my multi-novel published friends to your latest post, Her response: "I find Meg in the now. I don't have the connections she deserves. I do have a couple."

    Is this sinking in?

  7. I hope it's sinking in.

    Meg you are a seriously gifted writer. I would know. I am a seriously gifted reader, lol. I shell out a ton of money on books every year, so many hackneyed themes and repetitive stories. Few writers have the talent you do. You make a page come alive with your words and you stir our emotions with your raw honesty. It's a beautiful thing to see.

    Also, don't feel as though the attention you are receiving is unwarranted, or that you "got lucky" with your PP article. All that did was draw our attention, it's your writing that has held our attention.