The Real Housewives Of Hobbiton

…they mostly cook and eat

Our Dogcon report proceeds.

Day One: In which we travel through 1954 California and see many Giant Oranges.

At a few minutes before dawn this morning, we drove the bus over to Auburn Boulevard (about a mile from our house), popped back to 1954 (when it was also Highway 49) and headed west until we got to Highway 99 South. Our trip had started.

(Daisy: And all before any dogs…)

(Leon: ...or cats…)

(Max: …or rabbits…)
(Daisy: …were fed.)

We have traveled to some strange places, folks, but driving along roads I use every day, but 62 years in the past and a good 57 years before I remember first ever traveling on them was hella strange. Some buildings are still there in 2016, a few even still occupied, but most are gone. We saw motels, burger joints, diners, gas stations (remember, this was and still is part of the Lincoln Highway), houses, farms (!) and all manner of businesses. “Hamburgers! Buy ‘Em By The Bag!” read one sign. “Ice Cold Beer!” read another. “Rooms: $5.00 per night” was on a motel sign. Gas, by the way, was about 18 cents a gallon.

(Silky: Wow, the past smalls funny, yet oddly familiar.)

(Sasha: People smell a little stinkier, at least to us dogs. We approve of this.)

Everyone was looking out the windows, checking this all out. Spike was riding up front with me and we chatted about how this might be a fun thing to do in Baltimore, Toronto and other cities.

Speaking of Spike and I, it behooves me to point out that everybody on this trip has been fitted with a personal holo-projector that will make sure we look period proper in the 50s and beyond. With our long hair and beards, Spike and I would stand out like whores in church in 1954. The womenfolk would also attract unwarranted attention. And just to avoid any REAL catastrophes, the critters will be in android bodies whenever off of the bus. Also, our destination sign is off and the bus is no longer tie dyed, it is now white and says “XXXX First Church Of God” (with the XXXX being constantly updated to a town 100 miles further along the road) in big blue letters. We also have a sound unit to make the normally quiet bus sound like a 1940 school bus with high mileage.

After about 2 hours of driving the 60 mile an hour speed limit and stopping to take pictures every so often, we ate breakfast at the Red Barn Restaurant, in Lodi. I’m pretty sure at one time or another, every town in North America had a Red Barn Restaurant, most of them little independent joints like this one. The food was great, the service was great and the prices were crazy great. 12 people ate for just over 25 bucks, including a buck fifty tip. The only slight eyebrow raiser for out waitress was when Max (a vegetarian because rabbit) asked for fruit for breakfast. Thinking quickly, Daisy said “My fiance is having some digestive problems” and all was cool. Well, except for Max who was stunned to hear Daisy use the word “fiance”.

(Max: It just caught me off guard!)
(Leon: Dude, you looked like a deer in the headlights!)
(Sasha: I checked as we left to see if he pooped.)

Around 8:45, full of very tasty food, we got back on the bus, but only after “Pastor Cross” was asked by a carload of folks traveling north to do a little pre-breakfast prayer for them. Despite me being a lifelong atheist, many generations of Southern Baptists, Irish Catholics and Portuguese Catholics is in my DNA, so I was able to pull it off very convincingly.

(Sasha: I got the feeling that Daddy would make a hell of a fire and brimstone Pentacostal evangelist.)
(Silky: He’d sure be making more money.)
(Roxie: He has a nice preaching voice.)

We drove for another 3 hours, stopping once to take pictures of the House Made Of Glass, which was closed to the public and scheduled for demolition, and once for the Giant Jesus Of Merced. As Giant Jesuses go, it was merely ok. It was barely 18 feet tall and the sculpting and paint job were very average. Still, another one for our photo album.

(Daisy: Definitely not even in our top 20 Giant Jesus List.)
(Leon: What kind of family has a Giant Jesus List?)
(Sasha: The kind with our Dad in it.)
(Daisy: Don’t even ask about the competing Museums Of Body Parts Lists that Dad and Auntie Mary have.)

As we drove along 99, we saw a vivid memory from my early childhood: Giant Orange drink stands. Indeed, you’d see one about every 20 miles.

For those of you not from California or born after about 1970, these stands were, well, let’s read this bit from the Weird California website.

In 1926 Frank E. Pohl started his chain of “Giant Orange” stands opening up his first orange shaped stand on what was 11th Street near E Street in Tracy. Before trying out orange juice stands, Pohl had a giant lemon from which he served lemonade in Menlo Park called Jumbo Lemon Stand. But his first “Giant Orange” was in Tracy, California and spawned a franchise and imitations throughout California. The franchise peaked in the 1950’s with approximately 16 different stands built throughout Northern California from Bakersfield to Sacramento to Merced and Redding. It’s rumored that a stand could easily go through six thousand oranges during a week as it quenched the thirst of weary travelers who pulled over for a quick drink.

So yeah, there were more Giant Oranges along 99 and other routes from Redding to Los Angeles than you could shake a stick at. Naturally, we stopped at a couple for cold drinks and pictures. I think the last time I drank at a Giant Orange was about 1971.

The rest of our trip saw us stopping at a burger joint for lunch (cheeseburgers were 20 cents each, real milkshakes were a 30 cents), viewing a bunch of plaster statues telling the history of Fresno and closing down a roadside zoo.

For those of you who are under about 45 years of age, roadside “zoos” used to be very common. They generally featured wildlife native to a given area, plus a few monkeys and maybe a chimp and a lion or bear. They were almost universally small, dirty and terrible for the animals. When we saw the first sign advertising one at a truck stop north of Bakersfield, I could see the critters tense up. Being pretty pissed off by the thought of suffering animals, I was also pissed off and so we stopped.

It was pretty large as such things go. Lots of local wildlife, including 4 deer, plus two lions, two bears, a wolf, two chimps, a half dozen monkeys and an elephant. The cages, while clean, were way too small and little was done to mitigate the 100 degree heat

Normally, if one of us is going to go off on a tear and try to change history, it is usually Sasha or I, but this time, it was Silky (in an 18 year old looking human body). Below, the transcript.

(Silky walks up to the owner of the place, a big beefy ex-Texan, with her fists clenched and a neuralizer in her hand. There are about 30 other patrons standing around.)

Silky: “Hey, you son of a bitch!”

(Texan turns quickly to look at her and she drops him with a roundhouse right.)

Silky: “I did NOT fight Nazis in the war just to come home and see this shit! Game over, motherfucker!”

(There are many gasps in the crowd. Silky holds up the neuralizer and zaps everyone but us.)

Silky: “You will all get back in your cars and leave here. You will NOT ever again tolerate animals being treated like this! You will be KIND to animals for the rest of your lives! Now get the fuck out of here!”

(The crowd disperses rapidly. Silky turns back to the Texan. Spike, Sasha and I look at each other. It is looking like this is an instance of MAKING history, because you cannot change it. Silky zaps the Texan.)

Silky: “Listen up, you cowboy asshole. You are going to close this zoo permanently TODAY. You will release the animals that can survive in the wild and then take the exotics back to their homelands OR a really top notch zoo. You will spare no expense in doing this. You will then devote the rest of your life to helping animals and shutting down these fucking roadside zoos. Now DO IT!”

(After a few seconds, the Texan springs into action, yelling at his helpers to cool these animals down. We all get back on the bus and Silky, now back to more or less normal, asks Jeeves to please pour her a double synthehol bourbon on the rocks.)

After we were back on the road, Sasha checked the timeline and found out that, sure enough, that guy and many other animal rights activists started their careers that day. Another case of one of us causing history to happen as it should.

(Daisy: Holy fucking shit!)
Roxie: That was incredible!)
Leon: That was a wicked bad punch she gave him!)

The rest of the trip was much less eventful, being mostly through the desert to Blythe, where we stopped for the night. We had dinner in Palm Springs and saw several big name stars like Bob Hope, Ray Milland, Benny Goodman, Shirley Temple and Barbara Stanwyck. Even better? A ritzy meal for 12 cost me only $157.87! SCORE!

So right now, we are parked off a side street in Blythe. Tomorrow we shift to 1968 and drive across Arizona. Right now, however, I am off to play some games and partake of pints of Guinness.

More trip reportage tomorrow.


The Journal Of The American Society Of Earwax Collectors

…with a circulation of 32!

Sasha Explains It All

Reader Mail

Hi there, folks! Time for another go at reader mail.

Kyle Miller asks: “Do fish sleep?”

A good question, Kyle. Turns out, fish don’t sleep like humans and other mammals, birds, reptiles or amphibians. They do slow down all bodily functions from time to time, sort of going into suspended animation, but nope, they don’t actually sleep.

Now, that’s here on our Earth. Over on Earth 17, there is a fish called the Sand Snoozing Cod that actually comes into very shallow sandy coves and does indeed fall right to sleep for about 5 hours out of every 30. They even snore! To protect themselves during this vulnerable time, they excrete a deadly poisonous mucus that spreads all over their bodies.

Carol Robinson want to know about the canine sense of smell: “Can your beautiful species smell intentions? Can you tell when someone is up to no good as opposed to someone who loves you at first sight?”

First off, Carol, thank you for the compliment about my species. And the answer is a definite yes. Dogs can smell bad folks and good folks pretty easily. We know if you are up to no good or are a nice person. Generally, bad people smell of fear and sometimes insanity. Also booze, drugs and filth. Nice people smell like, well, you humans have no word for it, but in canine it would be “roowurf”. It’s a good smell.

The big problem is that we dogs are fighting about 20,000 years of wanting to cut you humans slack and be with you. That’s why some dogs stick with bad humans and other dogs fear everyone. It’s not that different than mental illness in humans or whatever it is that makes people stick with abusive mates or parents or vote for the same scumbags over & over. It sucks, but there it is.

As you no doubt know, we dogs can smell all manner of things you can’t. And wolves can smell stuff we can’t, at huge distances. Of course, wolves are often arrogant wankers, but man, can they catch a scent.

In a somewhat less than serious vein,
Joshua Simon wants to know: “Has anyone fed you in the last three weeks?”

Well of course they have. We get fed four times a day, plus a Milkbone or other treat at midday. Most days it’s dog food, sometimes dry, sometimes mixed with a delicious sauce (our dad makes an excellent Stinky Sauce). Recently, the Parental Units have been mixing in delicious cooked lentils. Yum Yum!

The problem is that the portions are never enough to satisfy our doggie lust for food. There is also the fact that Mom & Dad eat delicious human food right in front of us and almost never share. However, this seems to be a common human trait, so I guess we can’t change it.

My Auntie Avis Crane wants to know: Why is the sky blue?

As you well know, Auntie Avy, the sky is blue because we see it after certain wavelengths of light have been scattered by particles in the air. Now, some folks not involved in the hard sciences will tell you that in the past, people did not see a blue sky because they had no word for blue. These folks are as full of shit as a well fed hog. Blue has always been there, but those old humans just didn’t know how to describe it. A bunch of stuff was there that they didn’t have a word for, like germs, radiation and lead poisoning. Ancient humans were not nearly as smart as modern man thinks they were. Of course, modern man is pretty damned stupid, too.

Now we dogs, as well as many other animals, have also always seen blue (and yellow & grey), but we had a word for it: wefif. Just as an aside, I’d like to point out that once dogs like me become Smart, certain pysiological changes occur that let us see the rest of the colors. I can tell you that seeing green grass and red flowers for the first time was quite the mindblower, yessir.

If you ever want to hear a REALLY strange description of the world, talk to a swarm of bees. It has to be a swarm, the bigger the better. They see all sorts of goofyass colors.

Ok, folks, that’s it for this session. Good questions.

Until my next rant,

Sasha Jane Cross, PhD

Chapter 12: In Which Our Hero, Having Been Swallowed By a Whale, Learns To Enjoy The Taste Of Krill

…until he was coughed up onto a beach in the Azores

The Road To DogCon 3: Say Hello To Flash

As I announced many weeks ago, Grace & I decided to get an imaginary cat and that he would go with us & The Girls to DogCon this year. For a long time, we did not have a name for the little fellow, but that has changed. His name is Flash. Actually, his full name is Flash Alexander Cross.

Flash is a 4 month old Dwarf Shorthair Portuguese Jungle Cat. Yes yes, I know their are no jungles in Portugal. But even if there were IMAGINARY jungles, it still wouldn’t matter, since the DSPJC is a fully domesticated and civilized feline. Flash is colored just like a tiger…orange & black…but otherwise looks like an ordinary cat. Of course, he is quite small (hey, yo…DWARF?) and weighs a mere 7 pounds. He has vividly green eyes.

His personality is not unlike Winker’s: Bursts of rowdiness lasting up to 20 minutes, then several hours of mellowing out up to and including sleeping like he’s in a coma.

He gets along famously with both Lucy and Winker and they wrassle a few times a day.

His favorite food is scrambled eggs with tuna, but he also enjoys canned cat food and boiled chicken with rice. His favorite place to sleep is on top of Lucy, who outweighs him by 44 pounds. His favorite toy is an old sock filled with catnip.

As one might expect for an imaginary cat, he is totally hypoallergenic and has excellent litter box ettiquite. He is a great kitty and a proud member of our family.