I’ve been wanting a dartboard for years.
I love to play darts. I’m pretty good at it, it’s still fun if you’re playing alone, and it’s both non-aerobic and drinking-friendly. The only other game that comes close is pool and though I think it would be reasonable to replace the dining room table with a pool table, that’s kind of a hard sell with Lena. Unfortunately the dart board, with its attendant cloud of tiny holes in the wall surrounding it caused by some yahoo you invited into your house who for whatever reason can’t even hit the board, has proved to be just as difficult with the wife. I have over the course of our marriage come up with a variety of schemes and plans for ensuring the safety of walls, floors, and pets — but even when I can get all the rest sorted out we never seem to have the cash on hand when we’re someplace that sells them. It has been a sad and deeply affecting issue in my life. (snif.)
As I am sure I’ve mentioned previously, Lena and I live in the historical Riverside district of our city. It’s a great place to live with tons of old houses and tall trees and flagstone paved sidewalks. This morning we were taking a walk with Guinness (the dog) and Lena pointed to a pile of somebody’s stuff that had been placed beside the road next to a picket fence trash-can enclosure. This kind of pile is a fairly regular occurrence around here. It says that the owner of the home (who most likely divided the house into two or more apartments) has either kicked out a tenant or has had one bolt on him, and is dumping all their crap in the yard. You can often find some real gems in these piles, such as the awesome dartboard cabinet Lena was pointing right that second. Oversized board, black stained wood, little chalkboard and two rows of dart-holders — no darts but who wants to play with someone else’s darts anyway? It was pretty heavy though so we decided to get it on the way back, and I moved it behind the ancient pea-green vacuum cleaner and framed but faded six-foot long poster of NEW YORK CITY.
There is a little bridge that leads over a stream which in turn runs a few blocks down into the St. Johns river. This usually marks the midpoint of our walk and Lena likes to do calisthenics against the railing. We were standing there chatting when a woman in her early sixties walking a fluffy yellow dog of her own came up and introduced herself. She said her name was Kathryn and she knew Bonnie and we should call her and find out how to get in touch with Peg about the calendar she’s putting out with pictures of all the neighborhood dogs in it. Kathryn thought that Guinness was a unique and fine-looking dog and would be a welcome addition to the calendar. This of course hit squarely on the egos of Lena and I, who as proud puppy parents love getting stopped by our neighbors to hear how beautiful our dog is. (He’s a black and white spaniel/setter mix with one brown and one blue eye.) Anyway, that’s what I think she said. I’m kind of filling in some of the blanks here myself, since it was nearly impossible to hear what the woman was trying to communicate over the snarling, barking, and growling of our two angelic and attractive doggies who seemed to get along somewhat less well than their owners did.
As we started back we had gotten barely a block when Guinness decided it was time to conduct a little business. We stood there waiting for him to finish while I fished the plastic garbage sack out of the pocket of my jacket. Handing the leash to Lena, I picked the poo, tied the bag and found a nearby trash can in which to deposit it. (Long ago I’d had it explained to me that as the Man of the Household, all jobs which are Dirty, Gross, or Involving Bugs, Rats, or Snakes fall completely into my purview. It’s a good trade though. She makes the money.) We started walking home again, but hadn’t gotten more than 30 feet when…
You know what? this next bit is a little gross. I’m going to put it in italics so you can just skip over it if you want.
We started walking home again, but hadn’t gotten more than 30 feet when Lena stopped me. She had noticed a rather large dingle berry swinging tightly around the dog’s butt and it was freaking her out. To be frank, it was kind of hard to think about anything else.
We stopped once again and raised Guinness’ tail to knock the hanging button of poo off. As an officially Gross Job this was my responsibility. I found a small, smooth twig and tried knocking it off, but to no avail. It was anchored by a hair that the dog had swallowed and was still stuck in… well, you get the idea. Eventually the hair broke and the poo fell, but not before I accidentally broke part of it into several pieces and really accidentally flung them towards Lena’s face. There was an ear-splitting shriek and…
Lena suddenly moved into Bullet Time, pinwheeling her arms and bending over backward at the knees in a move that would have made Keanu jealous as the tiny bits flew over her head.
Crisis averted, we continued on.
We were getting close to the pile with the hidden dartboard when Lena said, “What does that dog have in its mouth?” I looked forward, seeing but unable to resolve what I saw into any kind of meaningful image. The dog was medium sized, short brown hair, and limping purposefully down the middle of the sidewalk towards us. Not wanting a repeat of the scene at the bridge, we led Guinness off to the side and let the dog pass. She was kind of squat and had obviously had many litters of puppies in her life. She wore a once-red bandana around her neck and was holding a bright pink stuffed rabbit in her mouth. (This cracked me up, as it made me think of the way Guinness obsessively ferries his stuffed grey lamb toy around the house, into bed, out in the back yard… everywhere) She limped along down the sidewalk with the focus of a dog trying to make it to an important board meeting on time. Though tempted to stop her and read her tag, she obviously knew where she was going and we decided to give her space to carry on unmolested.
Letting her pass by took us perilously close to the street however, which at that moment was very much notwhere we wanted to be. For there in the middle of the road, in between me and my awesome new/used dart board stood a man in a stocking cap, black pants and wife-beater undershirt, who had stopped his baby carriage filled with assorted junk picked out of trash cans along the way, to air guitar along to a recording ofFree Bird which was loudly playing… in his head. Unfortunately we could hear it too since he was was trying to sing over the Lynyrd Skynyrd version and was shouting the lyrics as noisily as he could.
Now we have a number of colorful street people about. Riverside is close to town and has several nice parks, and both of these things seem to attract the homeless. Many of them are very personable and fun to chat with and bring a sandwich to. Others are kinda crazy and though they probably need our help even more, aren’t the type of cats you want to get close with. Or even close to. This guy was new to us and we didn’t really know which camp he fell into, so we just kept on walking, leaving him and his 70’s southern rock revival behind for the next lucky listener to chance upon.
As we closed in on our own home I started thinking about how lucky I was. I think most successful marriages involve people who meaningfully contribute to each other’s lives. Who add to each other socially, domestically, and emotionally. I am married to a woman who does all that and more. She significantly improves the way that I think, contributes to me professionally and engages in my hobbies. She is always there for me when I am feeling broken and really gets me in every facet of my life when I am up. And the most wondrous thing about her is that she somehow loves me back as much as I love her. I truly have the most fantastic and fulfilled life of anyone I know or ever have known.
Damn shame about that dart board though.