Mutiny on the NxGen

Our new database sucked so baa-ad.

Its design was so torturous, so convoluted,
ritual seppuku often came to mind.

Luckily, most opted for retirement instead.

To combat some of the madness and mayhem,
the Agency invented the “NxPert.”

Sort of like an expert, but not.

Recruiting willing victims
was key.

 The title carried obvious risks.

Snark being one of them.

“Don’t know the answer, huh?
Thought you were a NxPert.”

One day, with a little smile playing on her face,
B casually halted me in the hallway.

This is gonna be good, I thought..

To my shock, she was wondering if I
wanted to fill the NxPert vacancy.

My initial reaction was,

“Huh?  Who?”

Thereafter, upon
careful consideration,
I followed up with:

“No seriously,
are you talking to me?”

Truthfully, I could not have been more eager
to attend NxGen training in DC.

But I also knew the role
would require a Zen-like approach…

Observe everything

Judge nothing

And don’t take anything personal.

And oh yeah, stay hydrated.

It was immediately clear
the role of a NxPert
held little glamor.

Everyone knows
NxGen Analysts are
the true front-line
flag bearers.

In class, conflicts between instructors
led to nose to nose confrontations.

During especially WTF moments,
Jodi kept threatening
to hurl a block of faux cheese
across the mystified room.

Harry Potter and the Golden Snitch,
meet Jodi and the Cheese of Distraction.

For historical analogy,
I’d venture to say the Agency’s choice of
a data program was as perplexing…

…as the founding fathers’ geographic choice
for the country’s capitol:

A mostly mosquito-infested swampland

In 1801, ten years after the city was founded,
Thomas Jefferson and the Marine commandant
rode their horses all over Washington.

History tells us they went searching
for a suitable home base for soldiers
“within easy marching distance” of DC.

No record of them dropping
into any swamps along the way.

Today, Washington’s Marine Barracks
is the oldest active post in the U.S.

Not long ago, Barracks Row was honored with a
“Best Main Street in America” title.

The delicious build-your-own-yogurt shop
probably helped tip the scales.

 This military neighborhood
is slightly off the beaten path.

 Its visitors tend to be the loyal… and dogmatic sort.

This is not a Barracks Row visitor, this is Katie.
I just wanted to give her a shout-out
cause she’s romping around in Minneapolis
on a rigorous exercise program.

So far she’s dropped almost 20 lbs.  Go Katie !!

On my way to yonder Barracks
as I munched a midget carrot,
up ahead a scraggly soul
came yawning down the dusty road

weaving, panting, oh so sweetly
sweating through his tongue completely,
just a sudden apparition
wandering in a dazed condition.

Further complicating things,
the summer’s been so beastly hot.

For a while, even Montanans
were gripped by the hellacious temps.

Although thoroughly
trained in deep-woods survival,
field-tested boy scouts
eventually succumbed
under DC’s sun.

As bad as it got,
I couldn’t help thinking of Firenze,
who was halfway across the world,
rickshawing and paddling her way across
the swelteringly humid Orient.

With honorable daughters
nos. 1 and 2, respectively, in tow.

Hot or not, whichever way you slice it,
it’s always delicious providence to
mix business with pleasure in the District.

During my stay,
while I was out walking about,
I kept bumping into this
rivetting creature.

Although neatly shaved for the summer,
he unexpectedly sported tufted ears.

In a word, captivating.

His name I egregiously neglected to record.

The more I ran into him,
the easier it was to imagine him as
some sort of Manchurian candidate experiment.


The military could be planting
a new breed of domestic security animals
among an unsuspecting public.

The pooch’s piercing peepers
could be used to disorient a hostile.

These surgically-implanted
laser-contact orbitals could also
operate as a brainwashing tool
as part of a secret security agenda.

Although what that agenda
might be wouldn’t be revealed
since the military rarely spills
its hidden security agendas.

It’s not as crazy as it sounds.

But yes, maybe I watch too much tv.

At the National Botanical Garden

Exotic plants, sample salads
lots of interactive fun stuff

 Nature’s Mr. Microphone


The Plant that Sacked the Bounty

As weary, bleary sailors
scrubbed the Bounty’s deck,
and Captain Bligh flayed them
for some inconsequential speck
it wasn’t till his thirsty and
traveling breadfruit plants
took watering precedence
over sweaty, parched deckhands
that singularly pissed sailors
decided to dispose of his ballast…

Once again at that week’s end
I bumped into my “fateful” friend…

(TM Sari)

When Sari was little,
she loved to use the phrase,
“my fateful friend!”

She must have meant faithful
but she’d say “fateful”
with such alacrity,
it would’ve been criminal
to correct her.

Reminds me of her gleefully
referring to her Mom’s Grand Prix,
as the “Grand Pricks!”

Didn’t correct her there either.

*   *   *

As NxPerts, we were tasked with
assisting, as well as inspiring,
those who needed it.

However, not even Churchill,
who inspired an entire generation,
could have swayed
outraged NxGen objectionists…

Because objectionists
have a fairly strong argument
for NxGen’s obliteration,
(if not unrealistic at this juncture)

Sir Winston’s historic oratory
seems all the more fitting
for this embattled group…

“We shall fight on the beaches,
we shall fight on the landing grounds,

we shall fight in the fields
and in the streets,
we shall fight in the hills;

In conclusion,

We shall never surrender…

At least not until every last kink
is worked out of NxGen…

Diehards might insist that
Mr. Churchill stooped to pet a kitty
as a future nod to NxGen’s predecessor,
the beloved CATS database.

Surely it was unfortunate coincidence
that the furry face evoked a bit of a
Herr Kitler meets Snidley Whiplash.

Sara was so in-demand and thoroughly booked,
Jenny and I had to schedule an appointment
just to schedule an appointment with her.

Filled with wisdom beyond her years,
Sara is often sought for her wise counsel.

This time around, her sage advice to Jenny and me,

“Invite strange men to your table.”

…still resonates.

*   *   *

One night, Roxie was crossing Thomas Circle.

Two years ago,
when her owner rescued her
she was in rough shape.

I noticed right away she was friendly,
but in a guarded, non-committal way.

All the same, a remarkable thing happened.

While I chatted with her owner,
she suddenly rolled over
exposing her belly in an
intimate request for a skritch.

By her vulnerable trust of a stranger,
Roxie had crossed the Rubicon.

She probably crosses it every day,
but it’s nice to think you’re part of the healing.

Too bad humans don’t utilize something
similar for instant people-reading.

*    *    *

Capitol Hill Books –
Where bibliophiles disappear


Because death by book avalanche is entirely possible.

Believe me, I’ve heard it, witnessed it once,
and almost experienced it.


Owner Jim Toole’s Rules

On top of the rules,
he’s pretty cranky.
And proud of it.

That weekend,
a percussion crew
drummed up infectious,
bluesy beats
outside Eastern Market.

A little boy wandered in
spontaneously bopping.

“Dance, little man, Dance!”
the bongo drummer exclaimed.

And so he did.

Really boosted the band’s haul, too.

Word was there was some tasty
smoked salmon in the open-air market.

Word was major accurate.

*   *   *

In the middle of the Market,
I spotted some fantastic glass art pendants
fronted by this smiley dude.

The dude turned out to be the artist,
otherwise known as Ryan Eicher.

“Don’t you have some pieces at Beadazzled
on Connecticut Avenue?” I asked him.

“Hmm,” he had to think about it. “Maybe!”

Somehow, I wasn’t surprised this guy
might not know or remember where
he may have unloaded his artful creations.

Demonstrating the glass top spin.

A way with the wee ones

His most magical pendants
evoked star-filled galaxies,
the Milky Way, the Northern Lights.

Breathtaking stuff.

Ryan exemplified
people with that “Shine.”
(TM David)

And I don’t mean shine like the kid in The Shining.
No, I’m talking that indefinable quality,
spirit, that certain something.

Whatever it was he had,
I could not pry myself away
without buying at least a piece
of Ryan’s vision of the Galaxy.

Centurion sandals.

Not my cup of tea at first.

But now when I spot this intricate,
Caesar-inspired footware,
I can’t help thinking:

“Come sono belli i sandali!”

*     *     *

The next weekend, while I was skulking
around Eastern Market,
I came upon this artwork.

The artist seemed to be off on a break.

he came around the corner,
startling us both.

“OH!” he said.  “Hi !  How are you?”

I told him I loved his work,
that it was kind of John Lennon-ish
and brilliant in its sparsity
and minimalism.

That’s when I realized
my description of his art
was more convoluted than
anything he was trying to impart.

Which reminded me of
my Dad’s favorite mantra:

Keep your lip zipped,
your eyes open,
and your ears open
even wider.


And if you can’t keep your lip zipped,
at least shoot for concise expression.

*    *    *

Carved from Minnesota limestone,
the American Indian Museum brings
elemental, sensual harmony
to the National Mall.

Inside, its Mitsitam Cafe is renowned
for offering regionally-diverse native dishes,
so exotically delicious and interesting,
that if the Mall wasn’t so bleeding big,
I’d have gone there every day for
breakfast lunch and dinner.

In the Native language of the
Delaware and Piscataway peoples,
“Mitsitam” means “Let’s eat!”

George Caitlin’s initial frantic sketchings
of American Indians in their native habitats
morphed into the colorful, rich paintings that
record a fascinating historical snapshot
of Native Americans’ daily lives.

*     *     *

During the Second World War,
twenty-nine Navajo Indians were recruited
by the U.S. Marines to write a secret code.

Never cracked by the Japanese,
it’s reputed to be the only
uncrackable code in the history of warfare.

Lesser known is the Choctaw’s natives’
similar role in the First World War.

Their story illustrates the first time
the American government recognized the
unique and critical skills Native Peoples
could bring to the military table.

This elegant lady, a descendant
of a Choctaw translator,
was regaling visitors
with her grandfather’s story.

The unsung WWI warriors.

*     *     *

Before I turned my attention back to NxGen,
I had time on the weekend to traipse around
and visit my favorite art museum,
the National Portrait Gallery.

I spotted Grandma Moses
seemingly puffing a major stogie
in the one of the galleries.

Could it be?

The painting by Kristen Helberg
is an homage to Ms. Moses,
with perhaps an inadvertent
tip of the hat to cigars.

One hot sultry night,
the warm scent of chocolatey butter
suffused the air.

It was Cupcakery for Chrissakes.

The remains of a semi-demolished piece of
Northern Beauty red velvet cakery

Kristen, Rachel and Jenny,
three beauties who will probably
smack you if you call them cupcakes.

So I will call them ladies who drink and eat
and drink some more at Oyamel.

After a hard day’s NxGen’ing,
we decided to march our way to Oyamel.
Kristen had a terrible time with her work heels.
Washington’s sidewalks and streets are not pump-friendly.

By the time we got to Oyamel, her poor feet,
chronically slipping and sliding out of those
professionally cruel shoes, were bruised and
battered by our brutal pace, and screaming Uncle.
Yet all the while, under her stoic soldierly mien,
Kristen hid her murderous pain
from us clueless cloppers.

Fortunately, the lime-spiked guacamole,
prepared by the shy hombre sonriente,
took Kristen’s mind off her feetsies.

We devoured the guac in dainty little bites,
all of us racing to the bottom of el tazon.

Or, maybe that was just me….

Salt Air-Topped margaritas

Wonderful.  But full of salt.

Because of my phenomenal
ability to retain water,
I must eschew salt
even if it’s only airily
rimming a margarita.

Did I mention the girls were
full of hopes and full of dreams,
full of laughter, full of tears,
full of dreams to last them years…

Clearly, their “youthful exuberance”
(TM Firenze) was showing.

Listening to these ladies
discuss their husbands and boyfriends,
not necessarily in that order,
I realized something. . .

Another glimpse of the devilish Red Velvet Cupcakery
which I totally blame Sara for getting me fixated on
cause last time I was in DC she and Dee indulged
whereas I eschewed them cause they had sugar.

I realized my list of eschewing
was getting mighty seriously long.

So when I spotted the
sugar-free limited edition this time,
I almost had a cow.

Instead, I had a cupcake.

And God saw that it was good.
I mean really deliciously good.

*    *    *

Back in Minneapolis,
upon hearing about the training
experience, Roger mused,

“So you drank the Kool-Aid, eh?”

An observation that, at the time,
seemed not only totally unnecessary,
but mildly insulting.

Yet to be fair,
on closer inspection,
disconcertingly spot-on.

While I sifted snark from the straightforward,
half a globe away, in a much safer environment,
Florence cuddled her new scaly friend in Vietnam.

“Yeah he licked my face after this photo,” F said proudly.

Interesting how even a tropical snake
will give you a sneaky lick first.





R. I. P. Lily



Glacier National Park
Photo by
Deanna Montana


More Canine Shiz








Zen Masterly

Downward doggie



Hot Doggery







Stella, Briefly

Mischief, chiefly

Come hither, rakishly

Infra red, invisibly

Rin Tin Tasha, mimicry

Josh’s pitcher, coppery

T-Bird’s Ecstasy – Part I

Part II

Part III

As the Fur Flies



Once in a while, at the Dog Park,
a bad element infiltrates the proceedings,


…that is to say, someone comes lookin’ for trouble.

Most times, dogs look to their owners
for behavioral standards.

Amid the delicate tension of social interaction…


…one immediately notices the innate
scientific nature of these creatures.

Doggedly tailing their fellow sniffers,
with their ever-curious forensic noses
sifting, scrutinizing the rich scents of the earth.


That day, we crossed paths
with a Bernese Mountain Dog,
whose search for mountains in Minnesota
is destined to go in vain.

And who, after centuries of breeding,
doth not possess a thieving bone in that body.

Whereas Cooper, depending on your values,
is either blessed or cursed with a klepto streak.

Turns out Cooper’s owner thinks it’s a curse and a half.  As Cooper bolted off with someone’s glove, his owner grumbled, “He thinks everything is play!”

Probably just frustrated.  But when Cooper bounded back from his victory lap, the man lunged forward, seizing the dog’s nose, and with sheer adrenalin, began one-handedly hoisting Cooper up by his curly snout.

In slow motion, as if Moses were parting the Dog Park, everyone in the vicinity began to disperse.  Unnerved, even the dogs retreated.  In the universe, a thought bubble:  Chillax.  Cooper’s a dog.  That’s what they do…


Some time after the incident,
Louie the French Bulldog loped over.

 Offering a disarming grin,
and canine congeniality.

And his speckled ears


And his love of sticks.

We didn’t see Cooper anymore
or whether he and his owner had left.

But out of the blue
excitable visitors continued to arrive,
like this honking-sized
thick and curly labradoodle.

Tasha looks downright diminutive
around some of these visitors.


*    *    *


Apparently thievery is catchy,
cause just as Tash and I were leaving,
Blue’s doppelganger ran off with my glove.

After retrieving my slimey mitten,
I couldn’t resist taunting the
wide-eyed pickpocket through the fence.

T appeared to be judging.

Spurred by the need to break routine,
we ditched our normal course home,
opting to slice through the private golf park.

Of which one entire side was peculiarly snow-free.

Both of us were deeply baffled
cause on the other side of the hill…

Lay a winter wonderland…

…blanketed with pristine snow.

Tasha was beside herself.
Not only were we exploring uncharted territory,
we were illegally trespassing.

Further exploration revealed multiple secret trespassers…


Suddenly, the tinkling of distant sounds.

As we topped the ridge,
we were startled to see sledders
exploiting the broad undulating hills…

That is to say, in golf parlance,

Busted !



 Tasha could not believe we had missed out
all winter on that secret-sledding ground

And here it was, almost Spring!

 This called for a stiff slurp (of snow) and meditation


Later, as we watched Animal Planet
reflecting on our day,
Tasha looked over as if to say,
a little military discipline never hurt anyone.



Earlier in the season,
during a dreadfully cold day,
wee Snickers dropped by the park.

Officially, Snickers is listed as a “Chiweenie,”
a cross between a Chihuahua and Dachsund.

When his owner lowered him to the ground,
 he daintily inspected his circumference
while quivering like an aspen. 

Snickers’ beaming owner,
pausing for a few brisk beats
 just smiled inscrutably,
before gingerly scooping up the little hybrid
and tucking him back inside her snowsuit.


“Snickers – for any time”

Snickers clearly philosophizes,


*   *   * 

At the end of the day,
the greatest thievery is
stealing someone’s heart




Rumspringa Spring

The Spring arrived entirely too early.
Freakishly early.
Global warmingly too early.
Causing dogs’ frolicking to have a hint of the…

 Rumspringa in their step.

The springy one’s owner reminded me of…

Ron Livingston, I presume

From left: Damian Lewis as Major Richard Winte...
Image via Wikipedia

 He of the Band of Fine Looking Gents


I come in peace, fellow Rompee

Great Dane !
Come for the chips, stay for the game

Drakkar Musk


The lure of prostration






 Six and a half months on this planetary coil

Bounding, tailing


The Tao of Tobi-Wan Kenobi

Photo by Josh
(long hidden in the depths of his smartphone,
recently recovered by archivist Sari)

A Dee Sunset



Photo by Dee



A Wintry Discontent

Cold and colorless is the inside of my heart

 Since my Mama died

Easter had just passed
when she succumbed
to mighty Death

We all grieved, but individually
threw ourselves on different paths

The weeks and months passed

And sadness prevailed
tinging almost every waking moment.

And if perchance sleep did come
waking meant remembering
and remembering meant
a heaviness forcing you down
making it harder and harder
to drag yourself out of bed

Some days were better than others

But that wasn’t saying much

And crying doesn’t do jack
if you even let yourself go there
alerting the dog to such
scared, sandy-eyed emptiness

But the dog instinctively
comforts you in all its furry glory

Once your Mom’s sufferings were over
you thought you’d be able to move on, grieve, surely,
but move on from the horrors of watching her slowly die

Instead every day is a sentence
and every move or moment
is both monumental
yet so purposelessly unimportant,
so far removed from what you’re not feeling

And then you realize you’ve stopped feeling
because that’s easier, but what’s left ?

You feel disconnected from people and things

You wonder if Mom is looking down on us
and tsk-tsking at our inability to move on

Anything you do accomplish is from sheer robotic tenacity

Not from any passion or want or desire

You watch others and see their smiles and enjoyment of life
of simple things, of big and not so big moments

You envy their energy and silliness

You’d pray for the same
but you don’t really pray anymore

if you ever did

The dog park offers whimsical relief.
Watching dogs’ sheer focus on play is de-compressing.
Their joyful physicality, delirious romping
rejuvenating your mind and body.

Circumscribing your wallowing.

Like when a puppy shows up in his Eddie Bauer vest
and some dogs will put a bead on him, just cause he’s a pup,
initiation time for fresh meat…

And when you see that pup
stand up and fight for himself,
it’s a rare and awesome thing,
cause in these fracases,
puppies get the short end of the stick
generally yelping for help
or running for their owner’s cover

In this case, the owner felt compelled to step in,
but the puppy was not willing to be rescued.

He embodied scrappiness

Sustaining some serious double-teaming !

Hair-raising to watch, as the young referee tried to put the brakes on.

Tenacity shakes off one transgressor…

…and finally the last of the hazers

A particularly sweet-faced mug

At Silverwood, a wedding party featured ice candle holders

Tash was unusually reticent around this sniffer.

It was nice to see her take a back seat to the inspections

Nice and kinda strange,
but she’s not been herself lately.

None of us have.

Spring is in the air.

It’s not even March.
But the eagles have returned
Gearing up for the hatching

Padding the homestead
busy as can be

Every day arising
as if from
the phoenix’s ashes

Dog Log – Winter Edition

Early morning – frosted landscape

Abby, the phantom white Dane…

at first appeared elusive

Until she offered a dignified profile.

While Tasha patiently waited for
someone, anyone, to throw the ball…

Abby continued to offer profiles….

When the young Irish Wolfhound came around,
Abby appeared to channel Donatella:  Geht outta heah!

Apparently that was all for show.
Even though Abby was born deaf,
it doesn’t hamper her scampering.

Without fail, when I dropped to my haunches,
waiting for a doggy action shot,
Remy, so sweet, so mellow, so weary
would come tottering over.

Remy would not take no for an answer
if I didn’t keep stroking her charming self.

With a beagle in the background,
Remy was the amazing dog-headed experiment.

The Irish Wolfhound is just a pup
but with a very worldly grin.

A grin that suggest she’s up to no good.

Opie sported a stylish sweater.

Let’s see, 78 inches across. . .

Cooper gazes up at the notoriously skittish Blue.

That’s some crazy-eyes there, Theodozia noted.

But really, he’s just shy and cautious.
It takes a while to gain his trust.

Although keeping Snausages ™ in your pocket doesn’t hurt.

But he can’t be blamed for his eye to pupil ratio
that occasionally might make him look a little…


In the background,
a rare moment of repose,
Stella with her stick.

In the foreground, Hmm.  So bored.

A dosey-doe and a paw de deux

 Tasha was kinda strange this weekend.

Trouble in Dogwood?
What was happening to her
generally sterling personality?

She was unlike herself at the Park on Saturday.

Was doggie day care craziness
unravelling the usually well-mannered
schutzhund-trained Kay-9?


If Opie flipping Tasha the bird is any indication,
then we’ve got problems…

4-month old Stella
revels in camouflage

Maximus gently supported

Eyes on the Prize
(namely, a neighbor dog nemesis)

Silverwood, January 2012.



Dog flight



Dog Park daydreams

Momma’s Furry Girl

Discovering Rice Creek Woods
St. Paul

Thanks for sharing Furry Girl with us, Auntie

And thanks to James Dyson, who
revolutionized vacuum cleaner technology
by inventing the no-clog filter…

Once upon a time, in Billings,
Parker, Jasper, Tobie, and Kona
posed with pre-meal transfixed stares
(courtesy of Sari Snaps)

Winter’s Bone
Third Avenue Bridge

Nordeast industries
January sunset

Pajama transit napper

*   *   *

Warm days a-comin’ soon. . .

Bliss, Grand Marais
July 2011

Thanks for stopping by !

A Fur to Remember

Meet Henry, prime-time Dog Park visitor,
part-time Gladiator.

Tagging along, his trusty sidekick, Betty.

When Betty wasn’t anxiously chewing bark
in her skull and crossbones harness

she orbited her owner.

Whereas when the big dogs came around,
Henry ran right into the mix.

It started with Sammy on the hill.

Henry and Tasha joined Sammy.

Sammy took a shine to lower-chassis Henry.

Just when you thought, oh no,
Henry’s down and demolished

. . . a second later, with Sammy distracted . . .

Henry reared up his whole 16 inches

channeling his inner Spartacus,

…and let Sammy have it.
Combat never felt so right.

Things got so fun,

Tasha stopped by for another look,
and even Betty risked wandering in…

…before hurriedly exiting, stage right.

Discovering she was not needed,
Tasha left for more welcoming woodpiles.


For Sammy and Henry had seriously bonded…

Everyone knows gladiators fight till the death,
or, until, you know, exhaustion.

Dr. Tongue made a short entrez-vous.

Greeting Tash with a healthy slobberin’.

Many others came to ogle the action.

 Another, like Mangus, turned out to be petrified
of German Shepherds, according to his owner.

Having had a bad run-in

during at least one fur-raising experience.

Seems Tasha restored Mangus’ faith in Sheps,
although it didn’t stop Mangus’ teeth from chattering,

compelling Mangus’ owner to note . . .

“That is the friendliest Shepherd I’ve ever seen.”

Friendly, sure, but often prone
to reflexively blocking camera shots.

Tasha’s stint at Doggy Day-Care
has earned her some diplomatic status.

According to a day-care provider,
she hung out with an 8-month old pup
who was terrified to join the pack on his first day.
After licking his face and lying in a corner with him,
Tasha was deemed a “wonderful ambassador.”

Guardian, counselor, art-aficionado?

*     *     *

The dog park reminds you how satisfying
well-earned exhaustion is at the end of a day.

Dreaming of future episodes of
Dog the Ambassador


Hillary:  “T-Bone, it’s me.  Bo is back to biting visitors again.
Specifically, he seems to have it in for Tea Party obstructionists.”

Tasha:  “I’m not sure I’m following?  What’s the problem?”

Hillary:  “Look, it might be satisfying, but it’s just not good P.R.
Can you fly up and do some dog whispering into that furball’s head?”

Tasha:  “Just say where and when, Madam Secretary.

Hillary:  “Awesome, thanks – you’re the cat’s meow!”

Tasha:   “Don’t mention it!  Seriously, do not mention that expression again…”


Bo’s ginormous cranium is assisted
in identifying the more obstructive Tea Partiers