Friday, June 29, 2007

The River Approach

Typical afternoon by the Key Bridge. Another big plane turning and banking along the Potomac River on the visual River Approach to Reagan National Airport. They fly quite a bit lower than the planes I grew up under powering down over the Menlo fix enroute to the Tiptoe Approach to San Francisco Airport. I stopped paying attention to them after a week living under them. Takes Alice less time to tune them out. But there is no way to tune out the military helicopters that fly *under* the windows. Banging the walls. THUMP, THUMP, THUMP!!! Drowning out all music, human, dog and bird sounds.
Just like the British in 1812, Alice says those helicopters will go away, too. Perhaps only to fly higher and quieter one day.
I mean, really!! Pika and I would not go bark, bark, barking down the street disturbing everyone. Why do those military helicopters need to do that?

Key Bridge 7 AM

Alice woke up very early one Saturday morning. Goofy time-shifts she said. No traffic. No helicopters. The river still as glass. Perfect for reflections from the bridge. She took some panorama pictures. Remembered all the times she crossed that river on the Key or Memorial bridges the year she worked on a hilltop nearby. The sunrises. Sunsets. Cross country skiers when the river iced over and the sculls when it was open. Party boats and rowboats.
Struck her as funny this calm scene of the bridge named for the one who wrote the poem "The Star Spangled Banner". In 1812, Francis Scott Key watched the USA's flag survive bombardment by the British in Baltimore. Did lots of things as a lawyer, but he's rembered best for this Key Bridge and also as a poet, dontcha knowit! ; )

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Mr. T

Another friend of Pika is Truman. "Mr. T", Alice says. He'll do anything for food some say. I doubt that. We dogs are smarter than most people imagine. Mr. T. is huge and gentle. Pika loves walking with him. A very big guy. And strong. . A prince amoung dogs.
I wonder if any human royalty went to the party over at the Swedish Embassy roof Alice saw on her visit to Pika and C. I don't mind heights at all, but Pika does not like being very high unless she has a warm human shoulder to lie upon or cling to. I guess her great-great-great grandparents spent too much time in the lowlands of China in palaces but mine stayed a long time high up in Tibet patrolling the high walls for danger.
Those Swedes. Have yet to meet a Swedish dog. I wonder if they like to go in saunas? That embassy roof that evening was a sauna....

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Pika, Ellie and C

I met Alice at the airport last night. Her flight was late. Late, late, late. She got stuck on the ramp at JFK for two hours thanks to some clouds coming in and the fact Air Traffic Control likes to shoot all departures west from La Guardia, Newark and JFK over one navigation fix. Silly humans. They must learn to be more flexible and creative. Willing to dash OVER THERE! if it makes sense as we dogs know to do.
Pika gets lots of walks just like me. Here are Pika and neighbor Ellie ready for a walk. And a "nice" picture of Ellie for the humans. Funny how the humans don't like the view we dogs like best.
Pika lives part of the year above a river. Lots of big airplanes roar by. The low helicopters she just tunes out. They fly below her windows!! Marine 1 and 2 back and forth. Black U.S. Customs(?) helos with gold stripes. Imagine that. As if there are actual combat conditions in that place requiring such low flight. Humph! Snort.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Alice is Leaving!

So, Alice is off for a flying trip. She said something about seeing Pika, friends in DC, Neue Galerie, Takishimaya, Brad and Gay, and Boston. Well! I will be getting lots and lots of chicken, liver, and all sorts of good things with stepsister. Including the new #75 toy!! I expect Alice and I will have lots of things to tell each other about our adventures after the next couple of weeks.... if only Alice could understand perfectly dog-speak. Still trying to train her up!

Friday, June 08, 2007


Sometimes I just have to shake my head and blow out the cobwebs. A big shake nose to neck to back to tail. In that order. Poor people. No tail to shake.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Alice's Plaid Skating Costume

When Alice was in grammar school her Mother made her a plaid skating costume. For years, it was her favorite outfit. The other day, her Mother gave it to a family friend named Morgan who is a skater, too. Morgan recently cut off her long curls to make a wig for cancer patients. Mother thought she deserved the plaid costume for that.
The costume always makes Alice think of Sun Valley since that is where she and her sister had their photos taken one Summer in the early 1970's for figure skating competition programs and Christmas cards. Sister Catherine skated there twice at the Summer competition. Isn't her spread eagle great?! She had a fantastic delayed double axel. A jaw-dropping layback spin... She won a lovely silver plate one year for a win. Alice went along one Summer to watch the competition and wander around Sun Valley thinking about the Peggy Fleming TV show filmed there a couple of years before hand. Peggy skated on the pond in front of the Lodge instead of the outdoor rink out back where the big outdoor rink is still today. Alice spent a lot of time looking at the ducks in that pond that Summer thinking about how it would look in Winter. Peggy has always been one of Alice's favorite skaters. Her Mom, too, made all her competition outfits. Peggy was - and is still today - always graceful and elegant. Always feels the music. Powerful without apparent effort. Beautiful hands and arms. And, most often looking like she was having a lot of fun no matter how cold the ice and air might be. A real lady on and off the ice.Other favorites of Alice are Tenley Albright and Carol Heiss. Radiating joy and confidence on the ice. Fast and sleek. A sense of fun. Otto and Maria Jelinek are favorites, too. Alice has lost count of how many times she has read the book by their brother about how they escaped Communnist Prague and beat the Soviets years later in their own former hometown.
Jacqueline Du Bief and Sarah Hughes still have some of the best Falling Leaf jumps ever. Power and joy. Exuburance for life.
Jacqueline and Sarah make that Sun Valley poster from the 1940s look a little scary. That model.... needed to relax the face and neck.... a lot. Barbara Ann Scott and Sonja Henie are always fun to watch, but - have to say - the costumes of their day were quite weird with baggy pants and much too much bent legs on entrances and exits to jumps in Alice's humble opinion.
Well! Maybe Morgan will take the plaid skating costume back to Sun Valley and do a lovely thing on the ice. Or maybe to St. Moritz where Barbara Ann skated, or Grenoble for Peggy, Cortina for Tenley, Squaw Valley for Carole..... Maybe doing fast sitspins as Alice loved to do. Or a spiral. Or maybe even a falling leaf. A great one. With her own style.
Peggy in her "The Long Program" book wrote a credo that fits me perfectly everyday I walk outside with my leash pulling Alice along always forward while listening to the world. I'll bet with that plaid costume, Morgan will learn a credo, too, if she hasn't already.

I find a calm spot in the center of my soul.
I am gliding, moving free.
I feel as if I will never stop.
I push, floating on the music,
always becoming something new.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Carol Wins!!!

I was snoozing on the couch next to Alice after a nice beef and barley dinner tonight when she shouted out to me, "Look! Carol won!!!!" I stared and stared at a small picture of Carol's face. Then back to the snooze.
Carol is the first person Alice ever saw me walk up to on first acquantaince and look deeply into that person's eyes. You see, Carol can understand everything we dogs say. She cares. She knows.
Alice said Carol won a prize in a photo competition for a picture she took and digitally manipulated of a pier over near Half Moon Airport where Alice, Art and I sometimes fly over to for lunch at the Three-Zero Cafe on the field. We like to sit outside by the half wine barrels full of flowers. Watch the pumpkins grow on the field between the taxiway and runway. The seagulls. The vibes coming off the Mavericks surf break nearby. Stretch out in the sun in a place sheltered from the wind. Thankfull to be in California.
I met another person who can talk to dogs today. A man was reading the water meters over at step-sister's house. I went right up to him and had a chat after sniffing his feet, looking deeply in his eyes and nuzzling his legs. Warned him about the Rhodesian Ridgeback nearby who does not like to talk to strangers. Not at all.
Funny thing how a willingness - and ability - to talk to strangers is often a key ingredient inside the few humans who can really talk to us dogs. I think many good photographers have that skill, too, like Carol. An awareness - and liking - of what is beyond your own nose and what is truly inside other creatures and things.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Airport Playhouse

The day before I went on the emergency beacon hunt with Alice and Carl, I'd had a look at the playhouses on display at Stanford Shopping Center. Every year a local charity auctions off a bunch of them. Never have seen an airport playhouse before! This one had a control tower and a mini-hangar. Inside was a little pedal car low-wing airplane, a play flight simulator with real aircraft instruments, and walls covered in real aviation charts. Alice noticed the charts where peeling off the walls and the flight simulator did not look like it could work. No windshield-computer screen.
It got her thinking how she could improve it for use by kids or adults. (First, it would need a water bowl, I think! And a bin for Greenies!!!! Heat for winters. A nice blanket for me to cozy into.) Yes, yes, yes, says Alice.
She is thinking about some of her favorite hangers and airport structures. Old British WWII flying control towers at airports. A modern building with moveable awnings made out of exposed wing spars and ribs. The hanger from the Disney movie "The Rocketeer" which is now at the Santa Maria Airport's Museum of Flight. A big hanger door with windows in it. Perhaps a big hanger door with windows and a little door for kids and dogs? Room for a real radio room and radio antennae to listen to airplanes, short wave stations, AM and FM. Maybe a ham radio, too? Lots and lots of antennea, Alice says. Our local airport has a tower with lots and lots of antennea. The local hawks love it. And a catwalk around the "cab" which Alice likes to use when the tower is open to quickly narrow down a search area for emergency beacons at the airport.
Yes, it would be nice to have a little airport tower-hanger playhouse for the backyard if we had lots of land and good views. But we've a big redwood tree and many Japanese maples so perhaps a proper Japanese teahouse instead, Alice says? But I'm happy just to have my doggie door and my sunny lawn.

Monday, June 04, 2007

"Search Beast"

Carl gave me a new knickname last night: Search Beast. Alice and I went over to Palo Alto Airport at 2 AM to find an emergency beacon signal somewhere around Palo Alto and Moffet Field in Mountain View. The Cospas-Sarsat satellite system had been picking up the signal for more than 5 hours. Alice and Carl got lucky. The offending beacon was at Palo Alto Airport in a Citabria. It was most likley a TSO 91A model since those trigger a flashing light on the cockpit instrument panel when activated and that Citabria had such a flashing light.
Carl, Alice, and I drove all around the airport with direction finding (DF) gear and then walked around the Citabria once we suspected it and verified for sure that was the one. Here's a picture of Carl standing right beside the beacon's antena inside the airplane to see the signal strength and direction shifts on the DF gear. Bad form Carl says to wake up an aircraft owner to shut off a beacon if it's not the right one! Back in bed before 5 AM.
Alice wondered if I as a canine can hear beacons' 121.5 MHz signals. I don't think so, but I can ESP who might have made a hard landing and set off the beacon. Waves of embarassment I can detect. They linger sometimes around airplanes.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Vista Hill

Had a walk around Vista Hill up at Foothill Park yesterday with Patsy, Pele and their Jane and my Alice. Gotlots of ham from Alice. She gave a small piece to Pele, too. That's why he's licking his chops in this picture while he looks at Alice taking our picture. Pasty got a big piece and some kibbles, too.
I think maybe Patsy had the best time. She found an AMAZING smell to roll in on the deer meadow lawn. She spotted a deer before any of the rest of us did. And, she really enjoyed being first on the paths to do her shepard duty to protect us all from the mountain lions in those hills. YES! There are mountain lions there who would consider Pele and me small snacks. But we were safe with Patsy along.
The view from Vista Hill is great. Alice and Jane talked about the big wind tunnels you can see behind by tail and we dogs could smell EVERYTHING in northern Santa Clara County and southern San Mateo County. Litle do the people know what we could smell. Rather overpowering it was. But, we can handle it.