Lunch Marin-style

“I’ll have the 1/2 turkey sandwich with avocado and small salad for here,” the tall, brunette woman in front of me said at a local café.

From the back of her head, I noticed her collarbone-length, blow-dried hair which was styled into soft, gentle waves. She wore a blue-and-white-fitted ruched long-sleeved top, black yoga-ish pants and black patent sandals.

The young woman with the gray eyes behind the counter wrote down the order.

“How large is the salad? Blow-dried asked.

“It’s a side salad,” Gray eyes said. “What kind of dressing would you like?”

“What do you have?”

“Balsamic vinaigrette, vinaigrette that goes on the Greek salad, and blue cheese.”

“What does the Greek salad vinaigrette taste like?”

“I don’t know. I’ve never tried it.”

“Well, I’ll have that on the side.” Blow-dried paused. “Is there an extra charge for the avocado?”

“No, that’s part of that sandwich order.”

“I’ll also have a 1/2 Cap, 1/2 Espresso with soy milk,” she said. “Is the soy milk sweetened?”

I exchanged glances with a tanned, balding man reading the Wall Street Journal at a nearby table. I hoped he was having the same internal eye-roll reaction as me.

“No, it’s regular soy milk,” Gray eyes answered. “What size would you like—small or medium?”

Blow-dried peered over the counter and pointed. “The size in the middle”

“Those cups are only for the To-Go orders.”

“Then, I’ll take a small.”

“What kind of bread would you like on the sandwich?” Gray eyes asked.

I could have answered that question.

“Do you have gluten-free bread?”

Gray eyes nodded in the affirmative.

What a relief.


Dog Diary Twelve-Marin Dog

Last week I was a real Marin dog and didn’t even wear a red bandana around my neck.

Before we left the house my mother asked my father, “Do you think we should give Ponzi some Dramamine for the ride?”

I hoped she was referring to a new brand of smoked trout biscuits.

“No, he’ll be fine,” my father answered. We’re just going to Bolinas.”

After a long ride where I swayed with the curves on the road until I gave up standing, we arrived in Bolinas and parked on Wharf Road. As soon as I got out of the car, I stuck my nose straight up to absorb the briny air, empty mollusk shells, pine trees and a Siamese cat four houses away. I heard barking and looked around for a large dog, but only saw an off-leash, bushy-tailed white animal the size of an oversized squirrel following a woman in a long flowing skirt made from—according to my mother—an Indian print bedspread.

My parents and I stopped by the entrance to the beach. I sampled a piece of brown bulbous seaweed, and promptly spit it out.

“We’re not going all the way down to the beach,” my mother said. “There are too many off-leash dogs.”

That part disappointed me, but I didn’t have a paw to stand on to disagree. If I were off a leash in an unenclosed space, I might decide to take off and go from Bolinas to Stinson Beach, or somewhere. Not my fault. It’s the breed—blame it on the “call of the wild.”

Instead, on-leash, I peered over the nose-high seawall, and did a double-take in canine terms when I spotted a rotund dog-like creature swimming in the water.

“That’s a sea lion,” my mother said.


We meandered back to town and passed by a store emanating a skunk-like odor that made me sneeze. We entered the Coast Cafe, and found a table on the patio next to a small black dog accompanied by three plaid-shirted men wearing two-day-old beards. The dog, named Pisces—or something like that—and I were formally introduced. Pisces dog-smiled at me. I chirped to show I have good manners, but was more interested in the hamburger by the edge of the table. No such luck.

When the waitress brought my parents menus, she gave me a bowl of water. That’s always mark of good service, and I hoped they would leave a good tip.

While I waited for some shredded cheese from my mother’s Caesar salad to fall on the ground, I heard her mention that her parents­—my human grandparents—had a house in Bolinas in the 1960s. The family spent most weekends there.

“We went clamming, searched for agates at Agate Beach, and picked blackberries,” my mother said. “I remember my brother vomiting off the top bunk bed. Maybe he had the flu. He was eight at the time.”

That was my human uncle. I threw up once on my bed when I was three after eating a dead salamander in the back yard. My mother had to get rid of the bed.

When my parents finished lunch we went for a short walk so I could pee on some more plants before we got in the car for another long, curvy ride. By the time we arrived home, I needed a nap. Being a Marin dog is exhausting.

Ponzi couch1

Dog Later Years

I never met a squirrel I didn’t like. On the other hand, I never ate a bar of soap or a shower cap like my predecessor. For a husky, I’m relatively well-behaved. However, I do have a major weakness.

“Who chewed up the toilet paper?” my mother asked one day. Remnants of white tissue lay sprinkled on the carpet like cottage cheese curds.

“It wasn’t me,” my father answered.

I admit it was delicious, including the cardboard tube.

“Who dug a hole in the backyard?” my father asked two days later.

“Guess?” my mother asked.

I swear I could have gotten that gopher if I had bothered to dig deeper.

I love hanging outside, and walks are even better than the backyard.

One morning my mother and I strolled by a group of men wearing floppy shirts without sleeves and hats that looked like my upside down food dish.

“Nice dog,” one of them said, fiddling around with a leash-type belt filled with objects that resembled my chewed Nylabone bacon bone and turkey leg.

“Is that a pure breed?” another asked.


“Is that a Malamute?” a third guy asked. He held his food dish hat in his hand. No kibble.

I started to feel insulted. My ears are a lot better looking.

“He’s a husky,” my mother said. “Malamutes are larger.”

“Cool dog,” Leash-belt man said.

I receive compliments a lot although they never go to my head, thanks to my mother. She’s strict. “Leave it,” she yells just when I am about to eat a morsel with the essence of eau d’horse shit on the bike path.

On our way home we usually pass by my equivalent of the House of Prime Rib—the House of Squirrels. I almost always see at least two in the driveway, although I haven’t caught one. Yet.

I start preparing myself two houses ahead. First, I assume the crouch position. Then, I stalk, ready for the pounce. It’s disappointing when no one shows up. Fortunately, squirrels aren’t the only entertainment on the walk.

One particular morning we encountered a runner with her off leash barf-brown colored dog. He darted towards me and my mother reeled me in.

The barf-brown dog’s mother grabbed him and put him on a leash. “I’m sorry, he’s usually so well-behaved,” the woman announced. “He doesn’t like white dogs.”


My mother raised me to treat everyone equally, including black, gray or red squirrels. I’m the perfect husky.

Ponzi bone

Dog Walk Marin-Style

The single blade of grass overwhelmed my olfactory nerve. The smell might have reminded me of Zia, the hot yellow Lab on the bike path who now ignores me, but I can’t recall. All I know is that my correction collar jerked. Although I wanted to say, “I didn’t do anything,” like a whiny human-child instead of the placid Siberian husky who I am, I refrained. Then, I noticed a large Golden Retriever bounding towards me—I don’t like blondes­—followed by some miscellaneous brown dog. I curled my freshly-brushed tail in preparation for the encounter when I heard my mother—not my birth mother—scream.

“Call your dog. Get your goddamn dog,” she yelled.

The Golden zoomed towards my mother’s left hip. My retractable leash vibrated with tension and my collar tightened as she reeled me in. My ears zoomed up like antennae.

“Ponzi, leave it,” she said to me.

I wasn’t particularly interested in the dog anyway. Not my type.

“He’s fine,” the tall, long-haired blonde woman said. She wore a Patagonia jacket and knee high boots that at quick glance seemed to be on the cheap side. Or, at least they did compared to the shoes in my mother’s closet.

“He’s not fine,” my mother shrieked. “Get your dog.”

I could understand her being paranoid. Four years earlier a neighborhood black Lab with an IQ of 25—whom I never liked­—plowed into my mother and fractured her left ankle.

“What’s your problem?” Patagonia jacket asked as the Golden made a U-turn and headed for a tree. “Calm down.”

“You need to keep your dog on a leash. This is the third time your dog has charged.” My mother glared through her Anne et Valentine sunglasses.

“Just relax.”

I could tell my mother wanted to respond. But, she used her Alexander Technique training to center herself even though she did yank me up the hill. When we reached the street, I noticed a shiny Land Rover that looked as clean as my father’s car.

“There’s her car,” my mother said. “Nice shade of red.”

I’m sure that would have been one of my favorite colors if I wasn’t color-blind.

My mother pointed out the Grateful Dead license plate frame next to skull decal along with a bumper sticker that read, “I Miss Jerry.”

“I’m sure she doesn’t mean Jerry Ford,” she muttered to herself.

Whatever that meant.

She patted my head. “Ponzi, let’s go.”

I had gotten a whiff of a squirrel crossing an electric wire so I was ready. Still, I would have liked to pee on one of the Land Rover’s tires.IMG_0403

Too Much Information

I was unloading my groceries at the local Whole Foods when I heard the tall, curly dark-haired checker with the diamond nose stud say, “I’m going back for green, orange and a lot of blues.” She patted her stomach.

“That’s going to look really cool. Will it hurt?” the blonde bagger with the hair extensions asked.

“Yeah, but once you recover, it’s not bad,” Diamond Stud said. “The first time wasn’t too painful.”

Red, yellow and orange swirls waltzed from her wrist to her shoulder. I focused on my Jalapeño pepper cruising down the conveyor belt.

“I guess I could handle that,” Hair Extension said. “I’ve had three C-sections, so I can’t feel a thing.”

“It can’t be anything like giving birth,” Diamond Stud said.

“But, I didn’t give birth,” Hair Extension answered.

I took a sweet potato out of my cart. “Yes, you did. Technically,” I said, tossing my Lexus Nexus canvas shopping bags towards the end of the belt.

She laughed.

“Do you have any tattoos?” Diamond Stud asked me.

I looked around at my fellow check-out compadres and wondered if anyone else was listening. I shook my head. “My son represents the family in the tattoo department. Besides, I’m too old.”

“No, you’re not,” Hair Extension said. “My mom started at 40.”

“You can’t wait long to get inked,” Diamond Stud said. “Your skin will get baggy and wrinkly.”

“Then it’s too late for me,” I said, even though I still fantasized that the new trainer I was working with could perform miracles.

“Yeah, and once you start all you can think of is getting more,” Diamond Stud said, ignoring my comment.

“How do your son’s tattoos look?” Hair Extension asked.

“They’re okay,” I said.

“Some tats are soooo sexy,” she said.

In the past five minutes I had already received the Cliff’s Notes on ink injections. Thankfully, I didn’t have enough groceries left to continue the conversation.