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The Sweet Relief of Jon Stewart

 

This has been a rough year for me. Just when Donald Trump took over my television set last summer, Jon Stewart left The Daily Show for parts unknown (or to help his wife rescue animals on their family farm, whatever). I’ve tried to take comfort in Samantha Bee (Full Frontal), Larry Wilmore (The Nightly Show), and Trevor Noah (The Daily Show). I’ve come the closest to finding sustenance with the one-two punch of Rachel Maddow’s comprehensive historical take on the news on MSNBC, and Steven Colbert’s giddy musical review of the news on The Late Show. But no one filled that Jon Stewart void.

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Butterfly sought comfort from Duckie.

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Cricket went for the food.

I’ve watched this year as the Republicans moved from disbelief, to disgust, to acceptance, to an embrace of the post-factual Trumpian world view that we witnessed at the Republican National Convention this past week. Jon Stewart showed up Monday night on The Late Show, as promised, but only to do spit takes and reintroduce Colbert’s alter ego from The Colbert Report. It was not enough.

I watched this week as the media refused to blame Melania Trump for plagiarizing Michelle Obama’s 2008 speech, as if she is a child. But, she speaks, what, five languages, became successful on her own long before meeting Trump, and is, in fact, a forty-six year old adult woman. If Michelle Obama had been caught plagiarizing, would her speechwriter have been blamed? Or would we assume that she is an intelligent human being who can tell the difference between her own words and someone else’s? I wonder if the media think that Melania is a moron because she was a professional model, or because she’s a non-native English speaker, or if it’s because she chose to marry Donald Trump, and they assume that any truly intelligent woman would know better.

Then I watched the media fawn over Trump’s odd waxwork children, none of whom seem to be able to breathe outside of Trump’s sphere. All three of the older children work for their father, and Tiffany seems to be on her way into the organization too, now that she has been indoctrinated and proven her loyalty. How many families do you know where all of the children go into the family business, and no one goes off in another direction? Is it not allowed in this family?

But I almost lost my mind when, after Ivanka gave a lovely speech on Thursday night, seemingly advocating for Hillary Clinton’s and Bernie Sanders’ policies and pretending that her father is just a lovely man, Trump came out and patted her butt with both hands. That just broke me.

People have been joking about his inappropriately sexual relationship with Ivanka for a long time, ever since some disturbing pictures surfaced of her as a very young model sitting in seductive poses on her father’s lap. Trevor Noah on The Daily Show, has been making jokes all year about Trump wanting to have sex with Ivanka. There are interview clips where he talks about her sexy body, and how he would date her if she weren’t his daughter. Ivanka sits there awkwardly in these interviews, as if she isn’t taking it seriously and is just embarrassed by the silly things her father says. I took her lead and didn’t take it very seriously, either. I thought the jokes were in bad taste, actually, and that the things Trump said were just more evidence of his “word salad” problem. But when, on National television, in front of the world, in response to the air kisses she gave him from what looked like a foot away, he grabbed her ass, it all came together. This is an incest family.

In her speech, Ivanka presented her idealized father – who bears very little similarity to her actual father – and she made it clear that she advocates political beliefs that are not in concert with the Republican Party. Either she is delusional about who her father is (which would be a sign of a deeply dissociative state, common among incest survivors), and/or, she was giving a public, lady-like fuck you to that man.

People have talked about how Trump is a dictator and a narcissist and a sociopath, but all week the media have been saying that he can’t be such a bad guy with such wonderful children. Ivanka is his “closest ally and confidant,” and she is the “princess,” (according to one of her brothers), and she is going to be the “real first lady.” But Trump reminded her, in front of everyone, that he can do whatever he wants to her and no one will stop him. He owns her.

How is this man being lauded and supported by a political party that supposedly believes in Christian values? I can’t imagine what kind of moral convolutions Paul Ryan (Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives) must be going through to make this seem okay.

I did not watch the seventy-five minute speech Donald Trump went on to give at the Republican convention that night. I took the dogs out for as long a walk as possible, checked Facebook and Twitter, and then twiddled my thumbs waiting for the after shows to offer some perspective. Alex Wagner, a guest on The Daily Show, commented on the “inappropriate touching.” Larry Wilmore talked about his discomfort in finding that, for one strange moment, he found himself, eek, agreeing with Ted Cruz (“Vote your conscience.”). And then, finally, Steven Colbert came on, live, after Midnight. He looked like he’d slept in his iridescent blue suit, but he was still awake and giddy and dancing, which gave me some energy and some hope.

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“Did Donald Trump pee here?”

And then, Jon Stewart popped up from under the desk, and gave me the rant I’d been waiting a year for. There’s something about his mix of outrage and earnestness and humor that digs deep into my sternum and makes room for me to breathe again. I have missed him more than I ever thought possible. I have needed his no-bullshit voice all year long and it was such a relief to breathe deeply again. But it’s not enough. It was over too soon.

I know that animal rescue is important, and I understand that Jon Stewart’s kids need his attention, and that the daily grind of the show was getting to be too much for him. But I need rescuing too, Jon. Please, come back soon!

 

Cricket & Butterfly waiting for Mommy

Cricket and Butterfly are waiting.

The Story of Sticks

 

            Sticks was an awkwardly built, wiry haired white dog. She was about sixty pounds, with all of her weight in her sizeable trunk and nothing in her spindly legs – ergo her name, her legs were like sticks.

She lived in the house across the street from us when we first moved into the top half of a house on a hill. We’d found an apartment that would accept our dog and had a lawn for mom’s garden. There were signs that we would be happy there, with the smell of honey in the air, and the flowers starting to bloom in April. There was the librarian at the local library who smiled at me for no reason other than that she was a nice person. And there was Sticks, the calmest dog I’d ever met. I was used to black haired dogs, depressed dogs, angry dogs with psycho-social disorders.

            Sticks wandered down her driveway towards me and she looked like a ball of white steel wool. She wobbled a bit, but she never barked, and she almost purred when I scratched her head. She was sunshine. Not the bright hot sun that burns your skin and wears you out, but like the soft rays of early spring on your face.

            Sticks’ mom was in her late eighties or early nineties, medium height, white hair, and a little cushioned. She spoke with a German accent that made me unsure what she was saying. She lived alone in her house with Sticks and wasn’t up to taking her out for walks, and picking up poop, but Sticks was so well loved that neighbors pitched in, including me.

            A few years later, I noticed that I hadn’t seen Sticks in a while. And then we heard from her owner’s daughter, that Sticks’ owner was in the hospital with end stage cancer. When we asked about Sticks and where she would go, we were told that Sticks had been put down, because she couldn’t live on without her person.

            I couldn’t speak. I was so angry that no one had asked us if we would take Sticks in for her final years. I could have found a way to lift her up the stairs into our apartment if her arthritis made it too hard for her to climb. But no one had asked me, or warned me, and now Sticks was gone.

            I never knew how old Sticks was, or what her health problems might have been. It’s possible that she was on her last legs, just like her owner, but that’s not how the story was told. I’ve never heard of a veterinarian euthanizing a dog because her owner was dying. And Sticks was so sweet, and loving to strangers, could it really be true that her life wouldn’t have been worth living without her person? I don’t know. But the story haunts me.

Saving Little White Dogs

Cricket and I had gone for a short pee trip after dinner a couple of years ago, in Spring I think, during dogwood season. We found Mickey the Maltese digging up the grass on a neighbor’s sidewalk. He was thrilled to meet Cricket. He was a friendly little guy, not suspicious at all when I went to look at the tag on his collar to see where he lived. He was matted and scruffy, but he licked my cheek when I picked him up and carried him in one arm while holding Cricket’s leash with the other.

We walked downhill towards his address and I heard a woman calling out “Mickey! Mickey!”

“I found a little white dog!” I called back, because his tag said, “Mikmous,” and I wasn’t confident I knew what that meant. Cricket led me to Mickey’s Mom.

He’d just run out of the house, leash free, she said, because her sons had left the door open and they didn’t care and they resented him and he was her husband substitute because her husband had died a few years ago. She sounded drunk, actually. I didn’t love handing him back to her, but I had no right to balk, and no one with me to help if I tried to run back up the hill with the two dogs. I had to hand him over and hope for the best. But it stung.

My neighborhood has become more dog-filled in the fourteen years I’ve lived here. When I used to walk Dina, my black lab/shepherd mix, who died five years ago, we would mostly hear dogs barking at us from behind closed doors. Dina was, to be honest, fine with that. But Cricket meets new dogs all the time. There’s Bella and Coco and Toya, there’s Snuggles and Poochie and the twoRockiesand Amber and Taffy, and on and on.

Poochie is a Maltese with a drop of Bichon mixed in to help poof out his waistline. He’s a very slow walker, especially since he hurt his knee. His mom is devoted to him. She gives him allergy baths and forces him outside at regular intervals, to his dismay. He’s not a fan of socializing, or exercise. He’d rather sit on the porch while his mom does the gardening, cleaning, heavy lifting, etc. Whenever Cricket tries to play with him, by jumping and screeching and sniffing his butt, he stands behind his mom and waits for the onslaught to be over.

            But, around the time of the Mickey incident, we were out walking near Poochie’s house and we heard him barking as we passed by. I didn’t think much of it. Cricket rushed ahead, because she thinks barking, from other dogs, is scary, no matter how much she likes the non-barking version of that dog. We crossed the street and started up the hill and only stopped when Cricket needed to sniff an errant pair of purple underwear on the curb. I glanced back, just because I wasn’t as enticed by the underwear, and there was Poochie, alone and unleashed. He stood there, twenty feet away, watching us. I wasn’t sure I was really seeing him. Poochie is the mama’s boy of all mama’s boys and I’d never have imagined him misbehaving, going anywhere without his mom, or, and this was the biggest shock, being so desperate to see Cricket that he ran out of the safety of his house. He stood still as we moved towards him, slowly, and he even let Cricket sniff at him for a moment. But a moment was more than enough and he turned and started to run into the middle of the street. I called to him, but he just stood there, until I aimed Cricket at him and managed to coax him to the side of the street with the threat of her nose about to sniff his butt. When he saw his Mommy running out to find him he raced into his harness and asked for uppies, while Cricket jumped up at his mommy’s legs.

            Now we troll the neighborhood looking for dogs to save. It is such a high. For those few moments, I felt like an actual good person, a brave person with her values in the right place, even an effective person – none of which I get to feel in my life otherwise.