Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Saturday on Ludlow

Mike, Duffy, and Sophie on Ludlow Ave.

Dear George,

Donna went to Nashville last weekend to visit her kids, so we took care of Sophie. I’m always glad when our dogs’ younger sister comes over. Having two sheepdogs in the house is fun, but three is like nirvana. Sophie is such a different personality – peppy, playful, always ready to go – and she perks up her brothers as well. I especially like taking the three dogs for a walk on Ludlow Avenue because they get so many reactions from passersby. Saturday was busy because it was the weekend for Streetscape, the arts festival in which Telford Street is blocked off and artists draw reproductions of famous paintings on the pavement in colored chalk. I put Mike, Duffy, and Sophie on three leashes hooked together, and we went out after lunch. Probably two dozen people told me how beautiful the dogs are, and I said, “Yeah, they’re great” to each one. A man with white hair and goatee took a photo of us with his zoom lens camera as we approached. A two-year-old came up with her mother and father and was utterly fearless in petting the dogs. Then a pair of ten- and eight-year-old boys joined in. We met two large poodles, a weimeraner, a little shaggy white dog, two huskies, an orange mutt, and some others I can’t even remember.

Streetscapes at Ludlow and Telford

When we got to the Roanoke Apartments, a tall woman and a man were having a yard sale on the patch of ground at the corner. It was mostly large items, e.g., a TV, a microwave, exercise equipment, an air conditioner furniture. The item that caught my eye was a Coleman camping stove. I reached over the fence to unlatch and open it up. It was old and had clearly seen better days – rusty, paint scratched off, blackened in spots. I have a camping wish list that I put together for yard sales, but a new stove isn’t on the list. Nonetheless, I’ve spent most of my life with Coleman Stoves and have a certain primal obsession about them. The tall woman said, “We’ll take whatever you offer on the stove.” That was tempting. I thought about offering three dollars. I was pretty sure she would take it. However, I already own two used Coleman stoves that I bought at yard sales, and last year I got rid of my third stove to scale back my inventory. I told the lady I already have two Coleman stoves. She said, “You know, sometimes you just want one more.” I nodded. She was clearly a kindred soul. “I’m going to think about it,” I told her, and I meant it since we’d be coming back that way.

Next-day leftovers from the Roanoke yard sale

As we crossed Ormond Ave. to the public library, I heard a voice behind me ask, “How much would you take for one of those dogs?” I turned, shook my head, and said something like, “No way.” It was a smiling, middle-aged, balding guy on a bicycle. The guy persisted, pushing his bicycle along with his feet. He said he’d give me $800 in cash. Right now. Cash. I shook my head. I did think about it for a second. “My wife would kill me,” I told the man. Then I wondered what Donna would think. I considered calling her in Nashville. For $800, you could buy two brand new sheepdogs. But then I decided she would be offended if I even mentioned such a possibility. The guy followed along behind me for quite a way on his bicycle, asking more questions like where you find a breeder, did I get these dogs around here, how much do Old English Sheepdogs cost, etc. I said $500, and he said that was a terrific deal. I agreed. He did seem genuinely interested in getting a sheepdog, but I couldn’t judge if he really had $800 to spare or not. I started walking a little faster. Finally the guy said goodbye, and that was the end of that potential transaction.

A gray-bearded street artist was set up outside the toy store, and he was busy doing a charcoal portrait of a young brunette woman in her mid to late twenties. The woman was rather pretty. I looked at her face, then at the artist’s depiction. It was a shock. I’d seen this artist many times, and he’s always seemed capable. But this time he was using black charcoal to highlight shadows on the woman’s face, her lips were distorted, and her eyes looked sunken into her head. I couldn’t imagine how the woman was going to react when she saw her unflattering picture. For a moment, I wondered if she had perhaps commissioned a portrait of herself as a ghoul. I wanted to stick around to see what happened when he showed it to her, but when you’re walking three sheepdogs you have certain responsibilities, and so I moved on. [Postcript: The artist was back at the same spot the next day, and he was exhibiting his finished portrait of the young woman. It looked like she didn’t buy it.]

Street artist awaiting his next client

At the fire station on the corner of Clifton and Ludlow I saw a familiar face sitting on the bus stop bench. It was a woman named Miranda who used to work at Kellers and who is a long-time admirer of the sheepdogs. She hadn’t seen the dogs for ages because she moved downtown to the YWCA for financial reasons. She said her I-phone had crashed, and she’s been very upset because she lost her picture of Mike and Duffy. I promised to e-mail her some new ones, and she was relieved and grateful. Afterwards it occurred to me that, since I had my camera in my pocket, I should have just taken a picture of Miranda with the dogs but I was too late.

Jefferson Ave. looking west

We walked up Jefferson along the edge of Burnet Woods park. After a long block, we crossed the street and started heading back. Down the block who did I run into but my nephew Chris who was walking his dog, Calvin. Chris and his wife Karrie moved to Cincinnati from Portland, Oregon, about two weeks ago and found an apartment in Clifton, next to Dewey’s Pizza. We’ve never had any extended family members live close to Cincinnati in all the years we’ve been here, so that’s an exciting prospect. Karrie and Chris had paid their first visit the night before to Skyline Chili, a Cincinnati institution. Chris had had a Cheese Coney, and Karrie had a plain hot dog. They’re sort of slowly working their way up to a Five-Way (chili, spaghetti, cheese, onions, beans). Calvin, who’s a mix of a Dalmatian and an Australian Shepherd, seems like a very sweet dog, and he and the sheepdogs sniffed at one another. It’s the third time in three days that I’ve run into Chris and Calvin on the street, so we will probably have a lot more dog and human encounters in coming months.

Streetscape artists at work

Streetscape was going on just past the Esquire Theater, and the dogs and I stopped by to check out the artists’ progress. Somebody in charge politely asked me to keep the dogs away from the painting area in the street, and I complied, though it was harder to see the art from the sidewalk. The drawings were large and quite splendid. As we were leaving, I noticed a big sign that said “Absolutely No Dogs.” That didn’t seem very Clifton-like. They prohibit drugs and weapons at the Clifton plaza across the street, but they don’t have large signs saying, “Absolutely No Drugs” or “Absolutely No Weapons.” I couldn’t imagine what sort of bad experiences they’d had. I thought that humans were probably a greater hazard to the art than dogs were. I did feel nervous that we had inadvertently violated the no-dog rule, but there’d been a couple of other errant dogs on the sidewalk with us too.

Absolutely No Dogs!

On our way back we passed by the Roanoke again. The yard salers were starting to pack up, but the Coleman Stove was still sitting there. I looked at it again and felt certain that, since they were closing up, they would accept a two dollar offer. As beat up as it was, I figured the stove would probably work. It’s hard to explain how much conflict I felt. I walked away. Then I walked back. Then I walked away, then walked back again. The woman selling the stove didn’t recognize me and didn’t say anything. If she’d said, “Just buy it,” I’m sure I would have. Finally rationality won out over desire, and I used all my mental will power to force my feet to keep moving. I had an unpleasant, constricted feeling in my chest that didn’t subside till we were well down the street.

Near the CVS Pharmacy corner I saw a sign advertising a garage sale on Whitfield Ave. The dogs have been to hundreds of yard and garage sales over the years, so we checked this one out too. Two gray-haired women were selling miscellaneous household objects at reasonable prices. The item that caught my eye was a GM clock radio. Katja likes to listen to NPR when we go camping, and I had added “Radio” to my yard sale camping equipment list after our recent trip. The tag on t he radio said “$5, Works Well.” I turned it on and tested the reception for 91.7, WVXU. It sounded great – clear, loud. crisp. I thought to myself that Katja would probably be more interested in camping if I had a radio like this. I didn’t bother to bargain. For $5, it was already a good deal. I was happy with the outcome -- I would definitely rather have a good radio than a third Coleman stove.

Whitfield Ave. yard sale house

When we got home, Katja was in the kitchen. I plugged in my new radio and turned on WVXU. Katja thought it sounded very good. She didn’t think we needed a new radio just for camping, but I said it was good to have one we could store with our equipment so it would always be available. The dogs were excited from our walk, and they crowded around Katja, probably maneuvering to get a hoped-for treat. I went upstairs to watch the LSU football game. The dogs and I had had a successful walk, and I was already looking forward to our next outing.



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