On the Road Again, Nelson!

I used to drive with the window down, my left arm resting on the door. Never had air conditioning in those days. Summer or winter, the rolled down window was all there was.

Always had a cassette player, though, so I could blast the Doobie Brothers, Jimmy Buffet, the Crusaders, Weather Report, Bonnie Raitt, or whatever else I was listening to at the time and sing along.

I hear your voice everywhere

It’s echoes of love

Making me look back over my shoulder

Echoes of love are started all over.

Something like 30 years ago, I had a teeny, white Renault. Never went very fast, even going downhill. Got blown around a lot by big trucks on the freeway. In their rearview mirrors, I could see the drivers laughing as they passed. I guess they didn’t see many Renaults in North Carolina. Could also have been because I had a license plate that said “SLUG.” Or maybe it was because you didn’t often see big guys like me driving little cars they could barely fit into.

I suppose I should have given them the benefit of the doubt.

One winter night in Philadelphia, I was stopped at a red light. The guy next to me motioned for me to roll down my window. He leaned over and yelled, “Hey, brother, they build that car around you?”

The light turned green and he took off laughing.

It was a honey of a car, though. Still maybe the best I’ve ever had. Reliable. Great gas milage. Easy to work on. Once replaced the gas tank by myself; wouldn’t dream of even trying it with my current car. Couldn’t go fast, but it did make it cross-country more than once, packed floor to ceiling with all my worldly possessions. Truth is, I’d probably still have it if it wasn’t totaled by a drunk driver one night. I saw it for the last time, there amidst the auto ghosts on Pier 40, where they towed it after the accident.

Folded up like a little, white, French accordion, my hand to God.

My Dog Speaks French

What do we know about dogs and the way they communicate with human beings?

Scientific American concludes they don’t, at least not really.

Numerous times in fiction, especially in films, dogs can give voice to very complex ideas.

In his wildly popular comic, The Far Side, artist and lunatic Gary Larson hypothesized a very low level of canine understanding (or is it interest in?) of our spoken commands, much less ability to respond verbally.

But human propensity to dress dogs up, babble at them endlessly, and make them into little playthings leads me to conclude that we humans believe dogs can indeed understand, if not communicate in response. Given my long experience living closely in the familiar company of “man’s best friend,” I have come to believe that (1) dogs do talk, but (2) they don’t speak all languages equally well.

Evidence?

There’s a professional dog walker I’ve observed speaking to his pack in a sort of pidgin Gaelic; and they never listen to him. He’s constantly repeating commands again and again, to no apparent result.

 On the other hand, here’s my dog, DeeDee.
I speak to DeeDee, most often in English, but sometimes in Greek and every so often in French. Why? Just to see if she notices any difference and, probably most of all, just because I find it funny.
Does she respond any differently to “Let’s go!” than she would to, say, “Allez!”? (Or should that properly be “Allons!”?) Not that I’ve noticed. She also responds to French and English, and only sometimes Greek, in a soft verbal response that is not barking. I would classify this as speaking.
Therefore, from my scientific – albeit not exhaustive – study, I can conclude that DeeDee’s understanding of French is equal her understanding of English.
What can we conclude? Dogs understand English and French, and some Greek, but not Gaelic.

I know just what DeeDee would say: “Ca ne fait rien.”