Thursday, December 10, 2009

Apocalypse 1984



To engage in a little understatement here, it was probably not the best idea for me and Karen to move to Los Angeles in 1984. We didn't know anyone in L.A. and we had no jobs at a time when unemployment was at levels comparable to today. We were thousands of dollars in debt to student loans, which were taken out at 17% interest. Really, all we had that was worth anything was each other, and Lyric, Karen's Seeing Eye dog, and Holden, our little mutt.

Twenty-five years later, it's hard for me to imagine what we were thinking. We had one bachelor's degree between the two of us, a junker car, and absolutely no plan. Nevertheless, we rented a house in Glendale that we couldn't afford, and we set out to conquer the world.


These were great times for Lyric and Holden. Karen was going through a phase of custom cooking for the dogs, and homemaking biscuits. We had a huge yard they could play in, and we lived a few blocks away from a massive dog park that we took them to daily.


One of the reasons we got Holden in the first place was so that when Karen got back from training with Lyric, there would be a playmate waiting for her. Lyric adored Holden from the start, and once he got used to her, Holden reciprocated. Lyric loved spending time with Holden, and even took to grooming him daily. She knew he was still basically a puppy, and she loved mothering him.

The mothering didn't extend to the dog park, though. Lyric lived to go to the park. She would chase sticks endlessly and also just run with the exuberant energy of a German shepherd in the prime of her life. While she was doing this, Holden would leisurely wander the park, mainly sticking to the perimeters. Holden wasn't a dog who enjoyed vigorous exercise. For him the park was mainly an opportunity for a good sniff, followed by a poop, which he always took while as close to the road as possible, so he could look at cars as they whizzed by and be sure the drivers were looking at him while he produced his little masterpieces. But I digress.


There was just one problem. Almost every time we went to the park, at one time or another, Lyric steamrolled Holden.

This is another example of what I would call a dog's sense of humor. Lyric thought it was funny to see Holden at a distance of 25 yards or more, when Holden was sniffing and paying no attention. Then Lyric would charge him like a bull, and just smash into him, sometimes at full speed sending him flying and sometimes at a glancing angle simply knocking him down. Holden would get to his feet, dazed and confused, while Lyric laughed like a maniac and pranced away.

She never injured Holden, and he didn't hold it against her, long-term, anyway. It took him completely by surprise every time, which is why Lyric thought it was so funny. There was nothing mean-spirited in this steamrolling game, and at home, after the park, Lyric would gently groom her little brother before they both enjoyed their dinner that mom had made them.


At the same time, Karen and I began exploring L.A. In 1984, at least, there was a definite air of the apocalypse to Los Angeles. The summer Olympics were in L.A. that year, so the city was jam packed. It was also the year crack began appearing in cities. AIDS was still new, and seemed like a possible plague precursor. Unemployment in LA was higher than 10%, and it seemed that an air of sinister violence hung over everything.


We were out in Hollywood one hot and sticky weekend night. The street was full of weird, scary looking, people. A young Hispanic man was shouting to a soft drink vendor, "Put plenty o' coke in that Coca Cola, man!" and it seemed violence might be eminent if he didn't. There were bright lights and 80's clothes and music everywhere, and the air stunk from pollution, patchouli and piss.



I don't know what it was about that particular night, but it affected both Karen and me profoundly. It seemed impossible that Armageddon wasn't right around the corner, perhaps as close as Burbank. We saw that night, as if for the first time, just how bad people could be, and what a fragile hold "society" had over them. The world seemed violent and dangerous and full of people we didn't want to be around, or, worse, become.

Lyric and Holden brought us so much happiness, and society was letting us down. We decided to get another dog. We rationalized that Holden wasn't really a suitable playmate for Lyric, who was so much smarter, bigger and faster than he was. We thought it would be nice to get a third dog, one who could keep up with Lyric. Holden wouldn't get steamrolled anymore, and, we asked ourselves, are three dogs really any more trouble than two? (The answer is, "No." However, it's a slippery slope. Four dogs really aren't any harder than five, and so on. That's how we eventually ended up with six at a time).

There is one difference in having three dogs instead of two that we didn't know about, but which wouldn't have stopped us had we realized. When you have two dogs, you have pets. Once you hit three, though, you're part of a pack. That summer of 1984, in a strange city, repelled by humanity, we added a German Shepherd/Australian shepherd mix we named Chelsea to our family, and the group of dogs I refer to as our first pack was completed.



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4 comments:

Buggys said...

What a great post. I really enjoyed reading it, very much a reflection of the times.

tashabud said...

Being hit at full speed and then get hurled up into the air, I think, is a real "oucher!" Truly enjoyed reading this post. Six dogs?! Wowie! is all I can say to that. LOL.

Good thing that I've never lived in LA.

Rich Sands said...

Getting steamrolled only made Holden cry once or twice, of the hundreds of times it happened, but it knocked the wind out of him. Bless his heart, he never once saw it coming. But I promise, he wasn't being injured.
As for six dogs - I guess there's no "off" position on the "crazy" switch!

Jennifer said...

I have to say that I like the alliteration (and descriptive qualities) of that Hollywood stink: pollution, patchouli, and piss. My husband is from the L.A. area and I still think it feels apocalyptic out there on the highways (though not in a scary 80s way).

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