Saturday, January 05, 2013

Preface To George's Show: Saying Goodbye To An Old Friend

I have been extraordinarily lucky that very few people who were close to me have died.  My father died over twenty years ago, & my grandparents (on my mother's side) not too long before that, but I was never close to my father (he descended into alcoholism when I was four), & might have been closer to my mother's parents if they hadn't lived in Germany.  No, the two major deaths I've had to deal with in my life were two of my cats: Blue Boy, who died in 1999, & Buster, about whom I wrote here.  I have emptinesses in my heart from the loss of the two of them, emptinesses that never go away.  Other animals come & take up space in my life, but they create new space for themselves in my heart, & I worry as I get older that the absences will be larger than the filled spaces.  I think all people worry about that as they age.

We lost George, our eldest beagle, to cancer on December 10, 2012.  The sadness & grief have not left me.  I had never lost a dog before, & as much as I love cats, one's relationship to a dog is intrinsically more emotional.  They have co-evolved with human for thousands of years, & they learn to read your emotions, they learn to be a comfort & they learn to protect you.  I don't know if any animal "loves" the way humans do, but whatever it is that is "love" in a dog is often more profoundly real & deep than what any other human could ever offer.

I don't know if I can write as much about George as I did about Buster because I am still deep in my grief.  He was my wife's dog first, he saved her life when she was broken & he was first & foremost her best friend.  She adopted him from a hound rescue place in Austin, who rescued him from some rich twats in Austin who kept him chained to a tree outside for the first two years of him life.  There's a bumper sticker we often see: "Who rescued whom?"  George & Magda rescued each other, & his love for her - well, I don't know if I can ever love her as much as he loved her.

It was hard for me, as a cat person, to get used to George.  George would climb between me & Magda in bed when she & I first met, so he saw me as much as a rival as I saw him.  He had had some issues with men as well - perhaps his old twatty rich Austin owners had kicked him around - & I remember the first time I leaned over to pet George, he peed on me.  I tried not to take it personally.

Of the two of us, Magda spent the most time with George.  They would go on long walks, he'd go to school with her, he'd be next to her at night.  He was a very loud dog, & he would cry & bark when we left & howled his happiness when we returned.  He was a charmer, very handsome, & I admit with sadness I was always a little jealous of him in those early days.  He was crafty, too - at the first Christmas I spent with Magda at my family's place, with no one watching him, he ate an entire cheese log in one triumphant gulp.  It wasn't the first time he managed to steal food - as Magda has put it, "Gary never had a birthday cake that didn't have dog bites in it."

In 2004, we adopted another beagle, Ringo - I thought it was for Magda, & so did she - but it turns out, Ringo was a present for George.  They became fast friends & partners in crime.  (I wish Ringo could talk - it's hard to ascribe feelings to an animal - but I don't know how he's dealing with George's loss.)  I didn't go on walks with Magda & the boys in those days - not much, anyway - but she'd take them off leash & the two of them would go wandering, having adventures we'll never know about.  & always, always coming home.

It goes without saying that everyone adored George.  He was prone to love others, too.  When the band Bearsuit stayed at our place during SXSW in - gosh, I guess it was 2008 - I often found George sleeping on the futon with Iain.  He had a twinkle in his eye & a spring in his step - he really did - I loved to watch him prance.  He was a little big for a beagle - perhaps he was a mixed breed - so he had a deer-like quality to him.

I started feeding the dogs around the time Winston came along - that was in 2007.  He was our third beagle & our problem child.  He's a dwarf, & taking care of him because of his health issues became our focus (although to her credit, Magda would carry him on her daily walks, because he, too, wanted to be with George - & Ringo, naturally).  Beagles, it might not surprise you to know, don't share well, no matter how good friends they are, & Magda was never able to discipline them.  Dinnertime was a raucous mess.  I took over just so there wouldn't be as much shouting.  At that point, & when I began regularly giving them treats for going outside, it seems to have dawned on the dogs that I was the "alpha" in the household, & not just some guy who was around, & George started to pay more attention to me.

It wasn't until we moved to West Virginia, though, that he & I really became friends.  I was home more, I went on walks with them, & we had the time to get to know one another.  George was a senior citizen then, 11 or so, therefore less of a spazz, & I had the leisure to play with them.  I finally understood what Magda had seen in him, & you can say we fell in love, because we did.

This is so hard to write.  George hurt himself jumping off a porch sometime in the summer of 2010.  He slowly recovered but even so he couldn't go on the super-long walks we do daily.  We bought him a carriage to carry him around in, & surprisingly, he didn't much complain.  He just loved to go on walks.  He loved to be with us & with his brothers.  He also loved that I gave him treats as we walked.

This past summer, it seemed as though the injury he received in Huntington had returned, & we took him to a specialist in Louisville - these guys, who come highly recommended by me - thinking he might need back surgery.  They discovered a cancerous growth in his right front leg & it was amputated.  The doctor thought he had "gotten it all."  We hoped so too.

Three-legged George was still very Georgie.  I told someone, "He's the bravest person I ever met."  He didn't let his "disability" deter him - one night I dropped a tortilla (accidentally) on the floor, & he beat his two younger, healthier brothers to it.  But though he made it through a rough couple of weeks of recuperation, it was only a few months until the cancer came back, like cancer does, because cancer is sick & deceitful & evil.

The saddest thing, to me, as the cancer spread, is that it took his sight.  George had steadily grown more & more deaf, & I hated that he couldn't see for the last week of his life.  He never stopped relying on his magical nose, & he never stopped loving to eat.

He died Monday night on December 10.  He would have been fifteen in April.  He was a remarkable dog, he was a remarkable person, he was more loving & caring & friendly & loyal & kind than most of anyone I've ever met or will meet.  I understand why people want to believe in an afterlife - it's very hard to believe that I'll never see him again.  It seems crueller than any torture imaginable.

I dream about him, I miss his touch & smell, I even miss his extraordinary lungs.  He is another absence in my heart that I will never fill.  I can only hope I grow used to the absence, & find a way to live with is, as I did with the space left by Blue Boy & Buster.  But right now, that seems too difficult for the poor, poor likes of me.

I will try not to cry on the radio as I celebrate his life on Monday.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Puppy Play Time!

Here is a brief snippet of our youngest pup, Pauline, playing with our middle-agest pup, Winston, in our backyard this afternoon.  Taken from a longer, but just as poorly shot, bit of footage I was able to capture until my eyes starting bleeding from all the cuteness.  Enjoy!

Thursday, January 03, 2013

A Preview Of Self Help Radio In 2013

A new year is the perfect time to revitalize one's radio show - it's an excuse to make much-needed changes & improvements!  Self Help Radio, however, is never one to squander an opportunity, & can promise pretty much the same thing it's always done for the new year!

Among these things:

1) Same old website!  Well, there will be one change: a new front page will have to be made, as each of the pages represents a year of playlists.  Also, the current front page with become the "2012" page.  It should take all of thirty minutes, & the webmaster (who's also me) will complain about it the entire time.

2) Different themes!  Yes, the one constant in Self Help Radio is that themes will be explored in the exact same way, which means that (except for anniversary shows) no theme will ever be repeated, no matter how many glaringly obvious songs I miss!

3) Twitter!  Facebook!  Again this year I will continue to underuse social media tools.  Mostly out of embarrassment.  I mean, have you heard the radio show?

4) Still on Monday morning!  Yes, Self Help Radio remains on Monday mornings (at least for the spring), making it another terrible thing that happens at the beginning of the work-week.

5) This blog is really dull!  I can't do much about it, it's kind of a reflection of me & the show.  I was toying with the idea of hiring a ghostwriter, but then I don't believe in ghosts.  I mean, seriously - if there really were such things as ghosts, wouldn't you see them all the time?

6) Cheating on my taxes!  Wait.  I don't think you needed to know that.  My backspace isn't working!  Crap!

7) I'll do more "Indiepop A To Z" episodes but won't be anywhere near finished!  But you expected that.

8) If you've heard it before, you'll hear it again!  Oh, it's true, there's not a cornball joke or routine that I won't run straight for, time after time, during my interminable airbreaks.  I wonder if there's a clinical name for this malady, & if so, is it Henny Youngman's disease?

I can't apologize more for the rut that I'm stuck in that's called Self Help Radio, mainly because I can't think of a synonym for "apologize."  However, you should take a small amount of comfort in the fact that, as the world gets more horrible due to stupid politicians & climate change, one thing stays the same: the predictability of Self Help Radio!


Monday, December 31, 2012

It's Indiepop A To Z # 39!

Self Help Radio 121231: Indiepop A To Z # 39

Yes yes yes.  The alphabetizing continues!  Hen to Hit today!  The end is nowhere in sight.

I can't go on, I must go on.  See?  This is an existential radio show.

The show is now at the Self Help Radio website &/or you can access the files in an individual manner: here's part one & here's part two.  What's in both parts is listed below.

The last show of 2012 is a list show.

As always, thanks for listening!

(part one)

"Get Yourself Together" Henry's Dress _Bust 'Em Green_
"Nobody Loves Me" The Hepburns _How The Fallen Are Mighty_
"Ultra-Crush" Her Tears _A Gift From Sing-Sing_

"Idlewild" Here's Johnny _Idlewild_
"No Milk Today" Herman's Hermits _There's A Kind Of Hush (All Over The World)_
"Surfin' Vietnam" The Hermit Crabs _Let's Try Another Ideal Guest House_
"So Blue" The Hermit Crabs _Time Relentless EP_
"Slumber" Herostratos _EardrumsPop 100_

"Me & My Charms" Kristin Hersh _Hips & Makers_
"Two Mothers" Herzfeld _Two Mothers_
"Enclosed" Hewas _Invited To Dinner_
"Haystack" Kevin Hewick & New Order _From Brussels With Love_
"Belle & Julian" Hey Hey My My _Too Much Space EP_

"I Really Do Love Penelope" Hey Paulette _The Sound Of Leamington Spa Volume 1_

(part two)

"Blue Hat For A Blue Day" Nick Heyward _North Of A Miracle_
"It Only Works Because You’re Here" MJ Hibbett _Indietracks 2009 - An Indiepop Compilation_
"Fee Fie" The Hidden Cameras _Awoo_
"Box Set Go" The High _Somewhere Soon_

"Addicted To A TV" The High Fidelity _Demonstration_
"Flowers Bloom" High Highs _High Highs_
"Giddy & Gay" The High Llamas _Gideon Gaye_
"Finding Clovers" The High Water Marks _Polar_
"There Is A Town" The Higher Elevations _Always The Same_

"Conspiracy" The Higsons _Conspiracy_
"Nowhere Train" Hill Bandits _Nowhere Train_
"Long Brown Eyes" Hip Young Things _The Noise & The Melodies - The Pearl-Compilation_
"Psycho" Hipslingers _Young Blood_
"Baby Fish Mouth" His Name Is Alive _Mouth By Mouth_
"You Didn't Love Me Then" The Hit Parade _CD86: 48 Tracks From The Birth Of Indie Pop_

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Whither Indiepop A To Z # 39?

We'll start with HEN or so.  We may get as far as HOL.  Interestingly, I was once called a Hen's Hole in high school.  I shook the fellow who was insulting me's hand.

It's tomorrow morning on the very last day of 2012, from 7am to 9am.  I don't know about you, but this was not an easy year for me.  You can listen on the 88.1 fm frequency in Lexington, or and you can listen online at  I am hoping that 2013 goes a little easier.  I will try to get the show online at the Self Help Radio website but it probably won't happen until the new year.  But perhaps I will be better about such things then.

Happy new year!  I hope yours is fun & you'll be safe & stuff!