Thursday, January 25, 2018

Self Help Radio 012418: Ringo's Show

This week I chose to remember my sweet Ringo by playing a bunch of songs about some famous & infamous Ringos.  I know, it's not much of a tribute.  I wish I had recorded him more, had hours of his barking, snoring, whining, & huffing.  It would've made a more interesting show.  But I felt I needed to do something to memorialize him.  He was such a good dog, such a good friend.  He was supposed to be with us for much, much longer.

Anyway, the show is now at the Self Help Radio website.  You'll need a username & password to listen, those are available on the site.  The show is in two one-hour parts.  What's in each part is listed below.

& yeah I wish you could've met him.  To know Ringo was to absolutely adore him.

(part one)

"Ringo" Lorne Greene _Pop Memories Of The 60s, Vol. 1: Walk Right In_
"Ringo's Revenge" Robin Garrett _Ringo's Revenge_
"The Other Ringo" Larry Finnegan _The Other Ringo_

"Ringo Ringo" Darlene Terri _Ringo Ringo_
"Go Go Go With Ringo" The Whippets _I Want To Talk With You_
"John, Paul, George, & Ringo" The Bulldogs _John, Paul, George, & Ringo_
"What's Wrong With Ringo?" The Bon Bons _What's Wrong With Ringo?_
"Ringo Beat" Ella Fitzgerald _Jukebox Ella: The Complete Verve Singles, Vol. 1_
"Ringo For President" The Young World Sisters _Ringo For President_

"My Ringo" The Rainbows _My Ringo_
"Ringo Did It" Veronica Lee with The Moniques _Foreign Boy_
"Ringo Comes To Town" Chug & Doug _Ringo Comes To Town_
"Like Ringo" Dick Lord _Like Ringo_
"Johnny Ringo" Dickson Hall _Country Boy's Dream: Country, Western, Bluegrass, & Instrumental Classics_
"Ringo" The Big 3 _Live At The Recording Studio_
"The Return Of Ringo (Maurizio Graf, vocals)" Ennio Morricone _Il Ritorno Di Ringo (Colonna Sonora Originale Del Film)_

"Beagles" Monty Ray _The Great Outdoors Show, Vol. 2_
"Macho Beagle" Bunnygrunt _Standing Hampton 7"_
"Looking For The Beagles" The Beagles _Here Come The Beagles_

(part two)

"My Friend Ringo" The Young Fresh Fellows _The Men Who Loved Music_
"Ringo Buys a Rifle" Dead Milkmen _Beelzebubba_
"Ringo" Polyphemus _Scrapbook Of Madness_

"Like Ringo" Wildfang, The Band With 1,001 Names _The Promised Airwaves_
"Ringo" Month Of Sundays _Month Of Sundays_
"Three Geniuses & Ringo" Michael T. Scott _Pre-Chewed Appetizers_
"Head Of Ringo" Love Battery _Far Gone_
"Ringo (I Feel Like)" Custard _Loverama_

"It's Hard To Walk Tall When You're Small" Morrissey _Swords_
"Ringo, I Love You" Stereo Total _My Melody_
"Ringo Starr On A Bingo Card" Lefty Jones Band _Businessmanland_
"Ringo" The Young Liberals _It's... The Young Liberals!_
"The Real Ringo" Elvis Don Ringo _Songs In The Key Of Z, Vol. 1: The Curious Universe Of Outsider Music_
"Ringo The Gringo" Laurel Aitken _The Godfather Of Ska Anthology_

"Total Ringo" Happy Mondays _...Yes Please_
"Ringo" Atmosphere _Fishing Blues_

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Whither Ringo's Show?

The picture above was sent to us by the folks at Houston Beagle & Hound Rescue.  In it, Ringo (then called Grady) had just had surgery on his left eye, which was stitched shut.  He was not yet two years old at the time.

My wife wrote to the organization to tell them about Ringo's passing, & even linked to my stories here.  In turn, they responded with a fuller account of what happened to him before they adopted him.  I don't want to quote personal correspondence, so here's a paraphrase:

A woman called the organization because of events that culminated after she heard dogs fighting - yelps, screeches, noises of animals being hurled against walls - next door.  She looked over the fence to see poor Grady being set upon by a pit bull, with his left eye ripped out of the socket.  The dog was still being aggressive, so she called 911, a Sheriff came, they took poor Grady & he was taken by the SPCA.  The woman did this despite being afraid for herself, as I guess she didn't know how her neighbors would respond - & if they would do so, you know, in a manner in some ways equivalent to how their pit bull attacked their beagle.

It's crazy that this is all we know, by the way, about Ringo's beginnings.  I always wonder with my animals what their parents & siblings were like.  I do wish Ringo could have told us something about his early life.  Anyway, to continue with the story:

This wonderful, caring neighbor called Houston Beagle & Hound Rescue to ask if they'd check up on poor Grady at the SPCA.  The representative, a superhero named Sandra who has saved the lives of countless hounds, checked on him & was relieved that they didn't put him down but had performed surgery on him.  That picture above is among the first photos Sandra took of Grady.  They released my poor boy into her custody, & she tells how he was in great pain after the surgery, even on pain meds, although he proved as resilient as his breed & in a week of so became the beagle whose picture would make my wife Magda fall in love with him.  I wish I could live life the way he did - we had no idea he'd been through such trauma & the truth is, he never acted in any way that would suggest he was scarred by it, except, you know, his eye.

& that eye, oh how I loved his poor unworking eye!  But the truth is, I loved everything about him.

So much so that today, on Self Help Radio, I'll be playing nothing but songs about someone named "Ringo" in his honor.  Sure, some of those songs will be about a famous outlaw, & many of those songs will be about a famous drummer, but there's something about hearing his name that makes me very happy.  It's a poor tribute to such a magnificent hound but I hope it's at least interesting & the music is good.

It's on 93.9 fm WLXU in Lexington & online at Lexington Community Radio online.  From 9-11pm eastern, 8-10pm central.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Preface To Ringo's Show: One Photogenic Beagle

My dog Ringo was easygoing & got along well with his siblings, so I thought I'd share pictures of him with them (sleeping, one of his favorite things to do) from the past few years.

You saw yesterday a photo of him with his brother George.  Here he is with George & the upstart beagle Winston:

They did love sleeping together.  Here he is with his little sister Pauline:

She's a bit much more the smaller beds, but his littlest sister Yoko was just fine, as you can see here:

& here's a picture taken just a couple of months ago of him with little Winston:

This last picture means a lot to me - I took a bunch of photos of my animals but I hardly ever took photos with them.  This is a picture of me & Ringo from seven or eight years ago:

I miss him so much.

Monday, January 22, 2018


Last week, I had to say goodbye to a dear old friend.  He was more than that, really - he was one of my children.  My dog Ringo died of renal failure at the age of fifteen.  He had a wonderful life, & was a wonderful creature, & my life is so poorer for his passing but so much richer for his presence in it for the time we had him.

He was technically the first dog I've ever owned.  My wife Magda, when she was my girlfriend, brought her dog George into our relationship.  My family had had a dog in my teen years but he wasn't really mine.  As my wife reminds me, I paid for Ringo to be ours.  The circumstances were this:

In the summer of 2004, my girlfriend Magda went to New York City to work to make money because she was a graduate student & then as now they don't make much money.  I was left alone with her dog George & my two cats, Buster & Beatrice.  While in New York, Magda browsed the web for what she called "beagle porn": adoption websites.  She found a fellow named Grady at Houston Beagle & Hound Rescue with whom she fell madly in love.  A picture & a story & Grady won her heart.

Grady had been mistreated by people who kept pit bulls they trained to fight.  Grady was apparently used as a "bait dog" for the pit bulls & in one unfortunate circumstance, Grady's left eye was ripped from its socket.  They were able to reattach it, but it probably didn't work for the rest of his life.  (Veterinarians often told us he might see "shapes" or "light.")  The eye was something of a conversation piece - we were often asked "what happened to his eye???"

You can see his eye in this picture from 2014:

When Magda returned from New York, she wanted us to adopt Grady, & so I procured him from the group & he arrived at our house in August of 2004.  We called him our "love child," since he was the expression of my love for Magda.  But I didn't like the name Grady - it reminded me too much of the gross fried southern food chain Grandy's - & since we already had a George, I figured we could use a Ringo.  I don't recall if he took to the name at first, but I do recall he appeared in the house & proceeded to run around for a full day, while George barked at him, for a full day.  Magda reminded me that he took a shit in the middle of our living room floor - the only time he ever did that until he got sick in old age - but he would make more of a mess when it came to food.

Beagles love food.  They will eat until they're delightfully morbidly obese.  We do our best to make sure our animals aren't too unhealthily fat, but they will eat anything & everything.  Ringo proved to be an expert at getting into things & eating too much.  (His brother George was, as well, but Ringo took it to a new level.)  He broke into our pantry & stole kibble, he knocked over a deep fryer & ate oil, he ate dried beans, flour, anything.  He once ate one & a half bags of Costco tortilla chips.

One time, when I was setting up to deejay at a Lion's Club that had been rented for a friend's birthday, Ringo & George spent some time licking up the animal fat that was on the concrete under a barbecue smoker.  Ringo got so sick - well, he got pancreatitis - that he was in the hospital for a couple of days, & it almost killed him.

Another time, he almost killed everyone in the house.  This was in our first year in Lexington, after Magda had gone to pick me up from a WRFL meeting.  She had made some sweet potatoes for burritos, & they were cooling, mashed, in a pot on the stove.  Ringo used the door of the stove as a kind of springboard to get on top of the stove, eat the sweet potatoes, & generally make a mess.  The trouble was, it was a gas stove, & he accidentally turned it on as he was getting up there.  Had we not returned as soon as we did, he might've gassed the entire household.

If you had met Ringo in his later years, you might scoff at such a determined & active dog - Ringo certainly knew how to conserve energy.  But Magda took him & George for long walks at the Greenbelt in Austin where she'd let them off leash & they'd go running, looking for food & fun (mainly food).  Magda tells me that late in the walk she'd often hear a plaintive bark - Ringo's - & Magda would call his name.  He would then come running.  The truth is, though I had gotten Ringo for Magda, he would turn out to be the best gift we could've gotten for George.  They became fast friends, partners in crime, & sleeping buddies.  I used to think they were closer than Magda & I were!

Ringo was just so easygoing.  Soon enough there was another cat, Bolan, who was attached to him from the get-go (in general all the cats have tried, & failed, to be Ringo's best friend).

Then there was little beagle Winston, who had many issues, & who wanted so badly to be George's number two.  (One of the saddest things about Ringo's absence is that Winston was very kind to him in his illness, & encouraged him to go outside when he did.  Winston lately looks around when I let him out as if to find Ringo to take bring him along.)

In West Virginia, we adopted Bronte.  In Lexington, it was Boone, & after George's death, Pauline, & after my sister Pat's death, Yoko.  Ringo had no complaints.  He was always a good traveler, even after surviving a car accident with his mom & brother that left the car totaled on I-10 outside Van Horn, Texas.  He was always a good eater, even though this past year he slowed down, chewing rather than inhaling his food.  & he was a good cuddler, usually at his mother's side on the sofa in the evenings, & sometimes in bed with her, always closer to her than to me.

When I lived in Austin, I was quite busy, work in the day, a KOOP meeting at night or on weekends, & so I didn't really get to know Ringo too well until we moved away.  Pretty much every day since the summer of 2009 I have spent with him, & I'd like to think he came to like me, if not love me.  Certainly I walked him, although if Magda were around, he'd walk with her, & certainly I fed him (& the others).  Plus I give way more treats to the animals than she does.  Here's another thing: if I were back in my room or somewhere else in the house, & he needed to go out, he would bypass Magda (even if she were right there) to come find me.  He knew she was less likely to get up off the couch than I was to walk the length of the house to let him out.  He had me pretty well trained.

Ringo was a stingy kisser.  I think the last time he kissed me he did so by accident.  He wasn't a howler like some beagles are but he did have quite the voice.  He wasn't aggressive, & had very little interest in other dogs, & didn't care in general about issues of dominance, although occasionally the odd dog would push his buttons.  He didn't mind being George's second-in-command, & after George was gone, he didn't mind letting Winston pretend he was the most important.

He got less spazzy as he aged, like we all do.  He used to have a very distinctive walk, which we called, "slow-slow-slow-quick-quick-slow": he'd amble a bit, then speed up slightly, then return to the amble.  Like I said, always conserving energy.

Ringo traveled with us to California & back, he moved from Austin to Huntington to Lexington to Fort Worth.  He visited Georgia & North Carolina & Ohio & Tennessee, among other places.  He loved Texas, though.  On our first return to the state after leaving, at a stop in Texarkana, he got out & just rolled on the Texas grass.  He was doing that outside our house days before he died.

& yeah, death.  At some point last year, on a vet visit, we discovered he was in renal failure.  We adjusted his diet & watched him, but of course there's no cure.  Although we did toy with the ideas of an organ transplant (though Ringo may have been too old to survive such an operation, which has about a 40% acceptance rate) & even dialysis, we didn't want to complicate things for a creature of about fifteen years of age.  He seemed to hold steady for a while, but the end came quickly.  He traveled with us to Austin at the end of last year, & two days after that stopped eating his regular food.  The next fortnight we tried so many foods to get him to eat, but more & more his condition made it hard for him to find anything acceptable to eat.  & how tragic an end for a beagle who loved food more than anything.

Here's one of the last pictures I took of him:

In his old age, he had lost most of his hearing, but he could see all right.  He had suffered a bout of Old Dog Vestibular Disease last February or March & remained a bit wobbly, but he was walking with us up until two weeks before he died (though he walked a shorter route than the others for the last few months).  He loved his routine, he woke around 9am, went outside, took his place on the big circular pillow he loved to sleep on (or on the sofa), but when he went for a treat, he didn't want them, & his breakfast & dinner went uneaten.

Was he in pain?  Our vet says no, but Magda talked to people who had helped humans who went through renal failure & they do report pain.  Ringo didn't complain at all, he remained soft - he was quite frankly the softest-furred dog in the world - & endured my embraces & kisses to the end.  We just kept hearing people say things about his "quality of life," & we knew a beagle that is not eating has no quality of life to speak of.

Ringo Starr Muchlinski - often fondly called "Ringo Pants" - died in the early afternoon on January 14, 2018.  He hasn't really gone, of course.  I've dreamt about him almost every night in the past week, & I look for him, like Winston does, when I wander around this colder & emptier house.  I hope we were able to give him a good life, I hope he knew how much we loved him & how much we gave him beyond meals & treats.  & I am going to celebrate him with a radio show this week.

People who've never had the love of a dog - people who imagine they're just animals & treat them somewhat different or even meaner than their fellow humans - they won't understand what a loss this is.  Ringo was sweet, sometimes kind, often ridiculous, always adorable, always hungry, always sleepy, always ready to go for a walk, to go to bed, to wake up, to bark happily when you got home & to bark grumpily when you wouldn't let him back in.  He endured walks in rain, on ice, in snow.  He got to run free from time-to-time, where he'd roll in dead things & feces & return happily smelling like all manner of filth.  He got into trouble but I don't remember him being as guilty as the others.  He had a beautiful face - his eyes looked like they were lined with mascara, so we joked he was a goth who wrote sad poetry - & bunny-soft fur & an expressive tail that often betrayed his neutral beagle demeanor.

It's quite cruel that these animals who can mean so much more to us than humans have such short lifespans compared to ours.  I would've gladly traded places with him so he could be on earth much longer.  As it is, he lives in my heart, the ridiculous Ringo Pants, our love child, the beagliest beagle we have known.  I of course don't believe in anything supernatural but right now I think I believe there's a place where dogs go after they die & Ringo is there with George & the two of them are running around, fucking shit up, & having the best time.

I miss you, my sweet child, my sweet friend.  Thank you for sharing so much of your precious life with me.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

This Week's Show

(Image from here.)

This week's theme changed because of something sad that happened, something I thought I could write about today, but I was extra-procrastinatory (I'm sure that's a word) which signaled to me that I needed to give myself a little more time.  Let's try tomorrow.

& by the way, sorry about the weird graphic, it sort of implies there'll be some kind of change to Self Help Radio & that's not what's happening.  I was just trying to think of something that would serve as a placeholder while I made a lame but heartfelt excuse.  & frankly I'm just too exhausted & sorry to change it right now.  Or look for a better graphic.

But tomorrow.  Tomorrow, it will all be made clear.