Resilient Hombre

Mani, summer 2009
Mani, summer 2009

“Nine percent. He shouldn’t even be here, sniffing my hand and looking around, at 9 percent. He’s clinically dead.”

Our vet knows that my wife and I want her to be candid. She is.

At this point in the clinic visit, we’re learning that the lymphoma has progressed to where Mani the Tibetan terrier has anemia. The only thing that could remedy anemia this severe is a blood transfusion, but the cancer stops that option.

We know the dog overnight has taken a turn for the worse, that’s why we’ve called for an appointment on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. He’s down to 18.1 pounds where his weight for most of his 10 years was 22-24 pounds. It began dropping on the Aug. 10 cancer diagnosis; we had brought him in because he stopped eating.

A dog’s red blood cells should be 35-37 percent of his blood, so the 9 percent worse than bad anemia. She took the sample after a chest X-ray. The liquid in the vials we saw was like berry Kool-Aid, so thin was his blood. The X-ray showed a lymph node in the middle of the chest had swollen to the extent it pressed against the heart, which isn’t so harmful, but was displacing his trachea (windpipe) a good inch. That’s sizeable, in a beagle or cocker-size dog as TTs are.

We thought Saturday’s might be That Visit to the doctor. The last one.

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A Neat Loaf

A Neat Loaf, Thanksgiving 2018. Also, PCRM mashed potatoes and Crescent Dragon's Neo-Classical Thanksgiving Dressing
A Neat Loaf, Thanksgiving 2018. Also, PCRM mashed potatoes and Crescent Dragonwagon’s Neo-Classical Thanksgiving Dressing.

Thanksgiving went great this year, food and conversation both. I handled vegan dishes and my sister-in-law the flesh ones as well as the green bean casserole. One success was my bean loaf, judging by how many took seconds on it.

A pot-luck omnivore and herbivore dinner needs a protein-emphasis entree from the latter. Having never settled on a bloodless loaf recipe, I “Googled” from scratch, but no recipes on the web appealed.

A phrase from one though called a loaf a glorified veggie burger. Hmm.

Well, I do have a favorite burger. It’s one of Mark Bittman’s. I  found it online in mid-2017, from Grub Street, “How to Make Mark Bittman’s Simple, Satisfying Veggie Burgers.” The print-out is full of my notes. It’s easy to make, tastes better than store-bought — maybe one exception — and if prepared well the texture is great, including how it doesn’t crumble into a pile of confused pilaf.

A sidebar in the seven-burger section of  Bittman’s encyclopedic How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food explained how to convert any into a veggie loaf. Eureka!

His book’s first recipe by the way is the one found online, “The Simplest Bean Burgers.” I barely changed enough of the recipe to call it an adaptation. Here ’tis, though, amounts for 4-6 burgers. Loaf adaptation follows. Continue reading

The Indian and the Jew

Kevin Dawes
Kevin Dawes, about 2016
Photo by Carly Hamilton, with permission

“The Indian and the Jew.” Kevin loved saying that about us. This is a man I’ve known since we were 6 or 7 years old, meeting and becoming fast friends in first grade at Ballman Elementary in Fort Smith. That’s in the vicinity of five and a half decades.

I have not seen Kevin in the last four of those decades. He moved away, although not all that far from our hometown. I moved away, not that far, either.

The Facebook tributes to Kevin Dawes, who died on the 17th following a long illness, are uniform in how many of his school buddies and adult friends admired his kindness. The childhood friends in particular haven’t shared large anecdotes, just everyday ones. That is key. Ann related that her first dance date was with Kevin. David noted that he, Kevin and Brian rushed to enjoy off-campus lunches in high school.

My clearest memory is the zillion times he’d walk the three blocks from his house on Wolfe Lane to my house on Valley Lane for us to play h-o-r-s-e using my driveway’s basketball goal. That would be latter grade school and a good chunk of Ramsey Junior High. Continue reading

The Goofus American

HAVANA — We went to Cuba! On our return, family and friends wanted to know all about it. “How was the food in Havana?” has been the most frequent question. Our answer: We barely ate on the island, not a satisfactory response for us, either.

What can my wife or I report? I didn’t lose my wallet at customs, and I was not mugged behind the mausoleum.

The Pollocks at Habana Cafe in Havana's Melia Cohiba Hotel dancing to an incarnation of Buena Vista Social Club.
The Pollocks at Habana Cafe in Havana’s Melia Cohiba Hotel dancing to an incarnation of Buena Vista Social Club.
Photo Christy K. Pollock

We went more as tourists than travelers, a silver anniversary cruise, so the passage was half the time and half the fun of the trip, not just conveyance. After 25 years, even before our second date two years earlier, I learned not to speak on behalf of My Beloved (MB). These are my perceptions. Going by the draft’s word count, I have some.

A few months after the trip, I can’t make this a travelogue. Like any other writer with any other destination, it’s all been said before. Reflective anecdotes I’ve got, though.

I did not approach the visit as a journalist, nor could I have done much, by my standards, as a professional observer. Yet after decades in news media I can’t help but watch, question, take notes and try to figure things out. When you share what you’ve learned, it’s journalism. Might be less than first-rate, but it’s real.

Our long-planned second honeymoon happened to overlap the day, April 19, 2018, when Raul Castro with little if any notice retired from the office his brother Fidel held for decades before him. Raul’s vice president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, succeeded him. Find journalism on this at “Castro Steps Down as Díaz-Canel Assumes Cuban Presidency” and “Cuba’s New Leader Vows to Modernise Economy but No Return to Capitalism.”

We almost had no idea anything was happening. The guide for our afternoon bus tour of Havana historic sites mentioned that “tomorrow,” Wednesday, April 18, was going to be important as a new vice president was to be announced. I don’t know if the guides on the excursion’s other seven buses informed their passengers. MB later asked the guide for our evening nightclub excursion, and he knew only about the same.

The Norwegian Cruise Line ship had few channels on the stateroom TV sets so I watched MSNBC and BBC, avoiding Fox News. CNN was not available. Nothing off the boat was in the daily schedule handout so no word on Cuban politics. Late Thursday, though, BBC ran three words on the bottom screen crawl, “Raul Castro Retires.” 

Internet on board cost $35 a day, so we decided to take a social media holiday. Did you miss us April 16-20?  Continue reading

Town Home


A home town is where you’re from. After a while, a home town is now where you’re from. Later on, the home town is where you’re from now. Finally, there is no finally, the home town is where you are.

The trouble is, who agrees? People in the current hometown see you as a newcomer. To be an old-timer you have to be there X years plus oh maybe some extra Y years. Where the X and the Y are variable, depending on the stakes, of tenure.

The earlier home towns don’t count, don’t count as home towns that is. But they’re important — good things and bad things happened in those places, that got you where you are now, God help you.

The first home town, well, that still is your home town. Even the people still back there, who remember you, call it your home town. Not that they’d welcome you back for good, of course. You’ve changed, they haven’t.

Someone not living in this home town told me last month, “You can’t make old friends.” She was right, friends if they last turn out that way.

There’s no place like home. Damn it.

©2018 Ben S. Pollock Jr.

2020 Vision in 2018

Arkansas flag
Wikimedia Commons

Remember Conner Eldridge? He was the Democratic opponent to Republican Sen. John Boozman in the 2016 general election. Because Republicans are hot stuff these days and it’s tough to tackle an incumbent he lost. He’s back to lawyering.

There’s any number of good people like Eldridge who at least for the moment end their political aspirations once defeated. This is why I’m not stating which candidate I will choose in Tuesday’s party primaries.

Also, my record on endorsements and election predictions is under 50 percent so I likely could jinx my pick.

Over the weekend, I posted a problem on Facebook. My neighborhood is in the 86th District of the Arkansas House. If you’re on the liberal side of things, we rock: It’s so traditionally Democratic there’s no Republican candidates. Whichever Dem wins the May 22, 2018, primary heads to Little Rock in January.

[UPDATE, May 22, 2018: I was reminded at the ballot box today that we live in the 85th District, represented by Democrat David Whitaker, who faced no competition today and has no GOP opposition in November. Otherwise, the rest of this column is cq.]

This time out, the 86th is considering two similar candidates, Fayetteville City Council member Mark Kinion and community organizer Nicole Clowney. (Names are linked for their vitals.)

Both would be strong legislators for Northwest Arkansas.

The response was lively. Supporters of both, and opponents of either, wrote in public comments and private messages.

A third side also wrote in, calling for “strategic voting.” As Arkansas has open primaries — a voter asks for the party ballot on signing in, rather than being on the record as D, R or I — we can for the moment belong to the other party. In this case, choose a Republican to the right of incumbent Gov. Asa Hutchinson and one to the left of 3rd District U.S. Rep. Steve Womack. This mid-term year has few contested races. In this neck of the woods, little might be lost by crossing over this time.

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