Sunday, January 15, 2006

A Metaphor Gone Horribly Awry

I’m housesitting up in Los Feliz this week for some really great guys, Albert and Abbot. I dig the housesitting gig for a bunch of ridiculously selfish reasons (like Their House Is Better Than Mine, They Have More DVDs Than I Do, An Empty House Means Amy Sings Her Heart Out And Nobody Hears Her), but the MOST important reason are their dogs, Basil and Ginger (yes, the dogs fall under the Assumed Name Rule as well.)

Basil and Ginger are Westies, and the best way to describe them is they kinda look like Sam Sheepdog from the Bugs Bunny cartoons, ‘cause their hair is all in their face. Like so:

I am a HUGE dog person, despite the fact that I link to a site called There doesn’t appear to be a, and damn if seeing pictures of things that people put on their cat aint the funniest thing in the whole world. Seriously. Go check it out and come back. I can wait.

Anyhow, I’ve been trying to come up with some kind of metaphor for my spiritual struggle, and I’m reminded of something that happened at the housesitting house last year that may or may not make sense.

Basil is an older Westie, around eight or nine years old (Ginger is still a puppy going on 2.) And Basil is, without a doubt, a diva in a dog’s body. I say this with all love for him.

See, in the beginning, it was just me and Basil, in a different house (because I’ve had this gig since 2003), and Basil was very lukewarm to the idea that his masters were gone and he was going to be stuck with me for certain periods of time. He would keep his distance when I would watch movies in the living room (“C’mon Basil! It’s Notting Hill! What’s wrong with Notting Hill! It’s just for research!”), he would keep his distance when I’d take my laptop out on the patio and write (I wrote the first draft of A Muppet Midsummer Night’s Dream out there, still one of my best scripts.) He really wasn’t keen on the I’m A Dog Person And I LOVE You aspect of me.

But by the time Albert and Abbot moved to their current location, Basil seemed to accept me, or perhaps it was the strangeness of new surroundings and he wanted to hang around anything that seemed familiar. We now got along famously, and when I’d come home to feed him, we’d have the Jumping Olympics, because I’d come home, let him in, and he’d be so excited, he’d jump as high as he could in the air, which I’d try to match, then he’d try to match, and if I timed it right, we’d both be jumping in the air together, and we could’ve been a serious contender for Ice Skating Pairs in the Winter Olympics if, y’know, Basil could skate. And not be a dog.

Then Ginger came into our lives. I love dogs, and that includes puppies, so I was excited to expand the circle. Basil, not so much. Oh, he tolerates her enough, but he’s older, wiser, and not to mention he was FIRST in this household. And he got very diva-esque. When I came home to let them in, of course Ginger would get there first, she’s a puppy with an inner rocket, she’s so excited about EVERYTHING. She’d get to the door first, and jump jump jump like she knows she’s not supposed to, because she’s been to Obedience School. And the second I’d lay a hand on her, Basil would hightail it back into the backyard, affecting the classic You Don’t Love Me routine (in human terms, this is when the distraught girl leaves the bar and hopes the guy catches up to her in the parking lot to tell her “No, no, don’t go. You’re beautiful, you’re wonderful, I’m attracted to your inner sensitivity, I’m attracted to your outward appearance which includes a SLAMMING ass, can we go get coffee and talk about it somewhere far far away from this maddening crowd.”)

So I’d have to hike into the backyard to coax Basil out. No, no, YOU’RE my favorite, Basil, I promise. The puppy means nothing to me. You were first. I’m attracted to your jumping abilities, I’m attracted to your aloofness. We’ve got a history together, we sure do, and, um, you wanna come inside the house now? It’s kinda cold out. I’ve got jerky treats! Everybody loves jerky treats! And eventually Basil would come out from whatever bush he had crawled under and we’d go inside. I’d like to think it was my superior powers of persuasion, but it was usually the jerky treats.

Which brings us up to last year. I was running late, and I really needed to be gone, like, fifteen minutes ago. Ginger Puppy is inside, patiently watching through the door going, “Is she coming back? It’d be SO COOL if she came back! I haven’t seen her in all of a minute and a half!” and I’m in the backyard, trying in vain to lure Basil the Diva inside.

Whether Basil’s sulking because I lingered a split second too long on Ginger Puppy, or whether he senses that I need to be somewhere else other than here with him, today he has chosen his sulking spot under a very large bush, where the branches are so low, there is no crawling beneath to get to him, but I can see him quite clearly. And he’s just lounging, really. All he needs is a beach chair, a mai tai, and a couple of drunk college girls on spring break to complete the picture of complete and total Diva Boredom.

And I am frantic. I’ve got fistfuls of jerky treats, I’m begging, pleading, “Basil, please, you wonderful exasperating dog, you. I love you all to pieces but I HAVE TO BE GONE NOW, please, please come out from underneath the bush. Whatever I did, I am so so sorry, I didn’t mean it. I need to be more attentive, I need to be more sensitive, can we go get coffee somewhere and talk about it, metaphorically speaking because I need to go…BASIL! I didn’t mean it! It’s ALL ABOUT YOU, BASIL!”

And I kid you not, Basil looks over at me, yawns, and puts his head back down on the ground, stretching a four paw stretch that essentially means “I see right through your pathetic human pleading. I aint going nowhere. Deal with it, lady.”

Somehow, I got him out from under the bush. There were a lot of scratching branches involved, and a few colorful phrases of profanity from me at the scratching branches. But I got him inside, Ginger jumped around a lot because she thought it was an Amy Came Home! party, I set them up upstairs, and off I went.

But several months later, when I’m trying to figure out how best to craft the perfect metaphor that would poetically and perfectly depict my struggle of trying to experience the presence of God, I keep coming back to that moment. And if it’s all that keeps coming back, then I’d like to think it’d God trying to turn my head. Or it could be me basking in another round of navel gazing. It’s entirely possible with a Writer, by the way. Fair warning to you, readers. Writers are perennially engaged in the act of Navel Gazing. It’s all about ME, folks. Basil has figured it out, and he’s a dog.

Anyhow, when I look back on that experience, my first impression was this:

You’re you, and God is Basil, and you’re trying desperately to get God’s attention. You can see Him, you can’t reach Him, it’s frustrating as hell, and your pleas and promises do not move Him. He knows that you’re only begging for His attention because you’re trying to accomplish something else, and He prefers to yawn in the face of your entreaties and take a nap, because He thinks He’s on a beach in Cancun drinking a mai tai while drunk college girls are trying to get Him to turn their water into cranberry vodkas.

And I lived with that impression for, dunno, about a week, or so, when it suddenly hit me that the impression was inverted (and unfortunately, I can’t identify what switched within me, although I’m sure that’s where a potential sighting of the presence of God came through. But I think it was something along the lines of This Metaphor Seems Off. Go Deeper. Don’t Be A Pastoral Twit.)

So the second impression was this:

You’re Basil, and God is you. YOU’RE the one lounging underneath the bush, dreaming of mai tais on a Cancun beach, wondering why mai tais on a Cancun beach don’t satisfy like you thought they would, and why aren’t there any cute guys to see me in my bodacious black bikini, and all the while, God is frantically trying to get your attention with a handful of, um, spiritual jerky treats? And you look over at Him and say “Hmmmm? You want me to do what? Oh, well, I’m kinda cool where I am, thanks. Got anything else? You’re not really thinking about me at all, are You. You’re trying to accomplish my spiritual salvation because you need to be somewhere else, don’t You.”

And that’s the impression I had when I started this entry, which was, oh, about an hour ago (I overwrite like hell, and editing takes awhile.) And then, midway through typing, it hit me at this sentence.

“Ginger Puppy is inside, patiently watching through the door going, “Is she coming back? It’d be SO COOL if she came back! I haven’t seen her in all of a minute and a half!”

Oh it’s so obvious. Obvious in a painful Sunday School Story kind of way.

God is not Basil, ignoring my pleas to come out from under the bush.

God is not me, trying desperately to reach an unresponsive Basil under the bush.

God is actually Ginger Puppy, patiently waiting at the door, desperately wanting me to come back, because we’re gonna have a party when I do. Regardless if I’m bringing a Diva Dog back with me, regardless if I shut her upstairs and leave her two seconds after I come back. It’s gonna be a party when I come back, whenever I come back, that’s all Ginger Puppy knows. God is Ginger Puppy in this metaphor gone horribly awry, and boy, is Basil gonna be pissed if he ever figured THAT out.

Ugh. I just reread the entry, and I don’t think I could get my head up my own ass any harder if I tried. Gross. Gross, gross, gross.

Whether this was the conclusion I was supposed to come to, not before I wrote the entry, but WHILE I wrote the entry, or whether this is winning the gold medal of Navel Gazing Blog Entries, I feel exactly the same. I think I know more, but I feel the same. This was an intellectual revelation, all in my head. If I think about it any further, I can come up with a billion other explanations, “God is the bush Basil is hiding under. God is the jerky treats I’m using to get Basil out from under the bush.” Matter of fact, when I arrived at the house today, that bush in the backyard is now GONE, they’ve bulldozed it because they’re putting a pool in, so maybe that means Albert and Abbot are God. Hell, I’m not so sure that God isn’t me, trying to get a hold of an unresponsive Basil. Though that might be Basil’s subliminal influence, trying to bend me to his diva ways again

I want something I can FEEL. Out of my head, into my heart. I want to feel something I recognize WHILE it’s happening, not something I look at in retrospect however many months after the fact and say, “Oh, well, DUH. God is Ginger Puppy.”

Or maybe I just want a simple metaphor that doesn’t take three and a half pages to explain. Sigh.


Anonymous said...

Hey Ames! This entry made me smile. It was a part that's-funny smile, part a wincing I-feel-your-pain smile.

On a day like that - I'd just try to draw comfort from the fact that God made dogs. Make it into a Venn diagram. God made dogs. Dogs rock. *three dots signifying "therefore"* God rocks.

Love you.

Curiouser said...

What the hell?
You're suffering from the assumption that God is outside of yourself. That'll make you miserable and powerless forever. You're also under the delusion that God will give you something that you don't have. And what is it what you "don't have" that you want? It's probably a feeling. A wonderful feeling of accomplishment & security. Yeah, you're right - you're all about YOU. You gotta start to focus on others - and we're not talking about being kind in order to get "God points" . Maybe then you'll start to feel less desperate. Guess what? We're all looking for the same thing. So when you focus on others, look at their needs not their "better life than yours". And realize how fuckin' lucky you are to be in good health with a home and a great education. PS - I like the Pastoral Twit, and think he'd make a great lover for a character in some story.

Jefe The Teach said...

Hey Amy.

I think that your metaphor is actually pretty right on. Which version, you ask? Depends on the day.

Just remember that sometimes, you just have to remember to breathe... and, yes, I remember how you always used to hate it when I said that...

Keep it up, my friend. I truly enjoy reading you. Then again, I always have... And the Muppets script IS fabulous.

Craig said...

No, no, no... God is the Bush!
Uh, wait. No. God is the house, and we're ALL housesitting.
No, wait a second... God is your navel!
Uh, hold it a second... what other nouns were in this story.
I love the story. And although I can't do the reverse, I have been known to turn cranberry martinis into water. Just... don't drink it.... seriously.

Yummyteece said...

I haven't laughed this hard at a blog in awhile... but this line

I just reread the entry, and I don’t think I could get my head up my own ass any harder if I tried. Gross. Gross, gross, gross.

says it all to me.... i end up feeling that way at the end of many of my blogs.. but HEY, that's what blogs are for.

and I like Ginger Puppy! But if we were to turn this into a metaphor of my dating life... I'd be out there, knees in the dirt, handfull of jerky treats, just BEGGING Basil to pay attention. *headdesk*