Friday, August 29, 2008

That's Entertainment

Thanks to the kind folks over at Wide Lawns I discovered a very funny blog called Miss Doxie. Here's a collection of her dog related posts. Before you know it Halloween will be upon us and I'm sure you all want to get going on planning your dogs' costumes. Miss Doxie has plenty of good suggestions for you (I think she might be channeling the spirit of Team Small Dog here. Or maybe they're the same person. Has anyone ever seen them in the same place together?).

In other news in a fit of optimism I registered Strummer with USDAA. He's still ages away from being ready to compete but he's exhibiting enough self control these days that I felt confident enough to spend the registration fee. Not sure if I'm going to bother registering him with NADAC. Plenty of DOCNA and USDAA to keep us busy and do I really want him running hell's bells over a novice NADAC course? I think his fuzzy little brain might explode. Never mind my calf muscles. Maybe I can get Usain Bolt on board to handle him?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Masters Standard & Snooker Courses

Here are some of the courses from last weekend.

I didn't stay to watch the 22" Champ. class but I heard people walkting it who were planning on all four 7's, don't know if they pulled it off. I imagine it was doable for a dog with fast weaves and then the Super Q's would boil down to whoever was fastest. This has happened before in my height class (Perf. 22") when the teeter was #7 and there was plenty of time and only 3 reds possible. I don't typically like Snooker courses like that because there isn't much strategy involved, it's all about who's fastest and tightest.

For Cody I started with the red furthest to the left, did the weaves then the red to the right of the weaves then the #6 jump then back to the startline for the middle red back out to the #6 jump and into the closing by running past the #5 jump on the far side. Lola's course was almost the same, only difference was I took the #6 jump instead of the weaves just in case someone beat Cody out for first place so she wouldn't take the second Super Q from him. Plus I don't see the point in making her do the weaves more than she has to these days and why risk the fault? I got too far ahead of her after the last #6 jump and on the way to the #2 closing tunnel and she snuck behind me and took the #5 jump. Oddly enough it's something I would expect Cody to do but not her so I hung a little tighter with him and we had no problem.

This Standard course looked like fun, I wish I hadn't got caught up at the table with both dogs and been able to do the course but I'm more concerned with fixing the table problem than handling issues at this point.

Lots of handlers had trouble with their dog turning to the left after the #4 jump. Both my dogs did it then one back jumped #4 and the other took it forward again for off courses all around. I pushed them to the left to take the jump but it was too much motion in that direction and they read it as a rear cross. It looks obvious now seeing it on the course map but I didn't notice this possibility while walking. What I should have done was realized they would turn to the left and simply wrapped them around to the #5 weaves. Several people did this and it worked nicely. Others were able to get far enough ahead to cue a turn to the right but for people with super fast dogs getting up there was a challenge.

I had planned 2 blind crosses after the #10 adn #14 tunnel but of course never got the chance to try them out. A few people did them and they looked nice. I liked that option because the dog can see your feet running past the tunnel so hopefully plan for a turn in the correct direction. Some people did a front cross after #10 and simply pushed the dog on their right at #14 to #15. One person reasoned this would keep them from getting pattern trained and thinking they were going the same way the second time through.

#17 to #19 was a problem for some as well. Most people did a front cross after #17 and another after #18 but you had to be quick and some didn't quite make it. That was my plan and since my dogs have solid teeters I'm pretty sure I could have left them to do the teeter and gotten in place no problem. If I get a chance this weekend I may try to set some of this up and give it a try.

No trials for me this weekend, I'm going to sleep in and have some relaxed fun out at the training field. Good luck to those of you trialing this weekend! I'll think of you as I roll over in bed and go back to sleep.

Monday, August 25, 2008

All's fair in love and Super Q's

I got up at 4 am yesterday morning to drive up to Laramie, WY for a USDAA trial. I decided to sign up for only one day for a variety of reasons and I'm glad I did because when we got there the dogs were full of beans and eager to go. I had fast, happy, motivated, non-stressed dogs all day and Cody was even pulling me into the ring! Cody needed 2 snooker Super Q's, a pairs leg and a standard leg for his Perf. ADCH title. I don't care all that much about masters titles, the earlier levels are fun to get because it means you get to move up a level but once you're in masters there's no where to go and the piece of paper I get in the mail doesn't mean all that much to me. Except for the big champ. title for Cody, that one would be special. Part of me always had this dumb stubborn faith that we would get it eventually and another part of me thought, 'Yeah, you just keep reaching for the stars miss little engine that could girl and give me a call when you finally snap out of it and come down to earth'. As 10 year old Cody gets closer to retirement the title has meant less and less to me and the focus has been on enjoying each run as much as possible because who knows how many he has left. And he's come so far, way farther than the doubter in me thought he ever would so if we're a few legs short of the big fancy ribbon what's the big deal? Still, if he gets the big fancy ribbon I promise you there will be tears. And I'm not a crier, especially not over a stupid slip of satin and a piece of paper.

We were entered in pairs, standard and snooker so we had a chance to make a little dent in what little is left. I hate pairs, what a stupid concept for an agility class, so I was thrilled to pieces when both dogs had beautiful clean runs and their teams Q'ed. No more pairs for Cody and Lola needs only one more Q, yeeha. Part of the reason I hate it is that there are so few teams that it's always a rush for me, I have to hurry one dog into the crate then scramble back to the line with the other dog. Warm-ups are always a challenge. We had only one team between this time but thankfully both the judge and the gate steward were nice about it and told me to catch my breath and go when I was ready. It's also a hassle to find partners and you have to negotiate what part of the course you're going to run plus feeling extra specially bad about it if you screw up. But after thinking about it I realized I've met quite a few people I probably wouldn't have if it wasn't for pairs relay and team so maybe it's not all too terribly bad. Still, I'm so glad to have only one dog left to run in it, it will be so much easier.

Standard did not go well for either dog. I mishandled the course early on for both dogs (will have to set that part up and practice it) and had off courses so I thought I'd take the opportunity to leave the ring early to reward the table if things went well. Cody flat out refused to lay down and eventually I excused ourselves from the ring and put him in his crate with no celebration and just a few bits treats. I felt terrible about it but was unsure what else to do. Lola also refused to lay down and had a barking fit at me, got off the table and tried to continue on the course but I wouldn't let her. Finally she laid down and I rushed her out of the ring for a big party and treats. Not sure what the problem was today, it was an indoor trial, not hot, judge was standing miles away and the table was in the quietest, farthest corner of the ring from the ring gates and bleachers. I was working with Lola on her down out in the field today and got a few insights into the problem but I'll write about that in a separate post. On the plus side both dogs hit all their A-frame contacts. We never got to the dogwalk in standard. In fact the table was obstacle 10 or so so we didn't get to do the other challenging parts of the course which was a shame but oh well.

Finally it was time for Snooker. I was a bit dismayed when I saw the course map-the weave poles were the 7 point obstacle. Why do judges do that so frequently? Plus the reds were set up perfectly for three 7's and not for much else. I'll try to post a course map tomorrow. I couldn't see making Cody do 4 sets of weaves. And what was the chance he would pop out or miss at least one entry? But Snooker is all about strategy right? So I took a look at the gate sheet and realised that there was only one dog, a fast BC, with faster weaves than Cody, all the other dogs probably would do only one set of weaves if they did them at all. Also there were 2 Super Q's up for grabs so even if the faster dog did multiple sets we still had a shot at the second Q. So I settled on doing one set of weaves for 7 points and the number 6 obstacle was a single jump so we'd do that twice and head for the closing. We had the option to do 4 reds but it would have been cutting it close and opened up the chance for more errors and I didn't think I needed it. I doubted any of the other dogs except maybe the fast BC would go for all 4 reds because that 4th one was so far out of the way and if I was worried about time certainly they would be too.

Cody was the first dog on the line of the entire Snooker class so I couldn't change my plan or see how the course would run, we had to step up to the line and go for it. And it was a fabulous run, everything went according to plan, turns weren't too loopy wide (though there's always room for improvement), Cody hit those weaves and plowed right through to the end in both the opening and closing. I sprinted to the finish and made sure to bring him with me. I couldn't watch the class because I had to get Lola out and warmed up but I heard the fast BC going for the 4 reds but got hit by the buzzer before he finished the number 7 weaves. The crowd groaned in sympathy but I actually heard myself utter a 'Yes!' then felt instantly bad. I HATE how snooker pits you up against other people. I HATE feeling good about other people screwing up. Anyway, I knew Cody had a good shot at the SQ so I decided to do three 6's with Lola so she wouldn't steal it from him just in case someone else managed to beat him and why make her do a set of weaves when she doesn't need the extra points for a regular Q (she has all her SQ's)? I never walked this though so I had to make it up on the fly but the opening went well and it wasn't until the closing that I lost her. I was a bit too wound up and sprinted far ahead of her to start the closing and she sneaked behind me to take an off course jump. Still, it was a nice run up to that point and she was running her buns off and having a blast. In the end Cody got 1st place by 4 seconds and was 12 seconds under course time. One more Super Q and one more Standard Q is all he needs now. Funny to think that mathematically he could do it in one trial. Now if only we can get his table fixed.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Running Contact Training Gizmos

I found this cool gizmo for training running contacts. Yeah, I know Clean Run sells something like it but it doesn't shoot tennis balls! I wonder how quickly Lola would learn if I had one of those??!! The problem with this thing is that for one it's $1000, maybe more if that price doesn't include shipping from Europe. It's hard to tell from the website what the shipping policies are. The other problem is that the dog could hit the contact and still be jumping which wouldn't work for me since my criteria includes no jumping. Also you don't get to learn how to be a better trainer with impeccable timing and crazy mad clicker skilz. But if you aren't concerned about jumping, your timing is bad and you don't care you just want your dog to hit its contacts dammit and you have boatloads of money to burn this is a cool little gizmo.

I asked the expert DIY guy in my office how difficult it would be to build a remote ball launcher and he sounded optimistic about it but let's just see if I can get a simple table built first before we start messing around with electronics.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Run Lola Run

We went to a little DOCNA trial over the weekend, just one day and just 3 runs. There's a USDAA trial next weekend and I didn't want to wear out myself or the dogs though I only entered one day of that trial too. I'm trying to take it easy on the dogs since they're getting older.

I woke up at around 4:15 Sat. morning to the sound of heavy, pounding rain. Lola was snugged up next to me all toasty and warm and I rolled over and went back to sleep, extremely grateful that I'd signed up for Sunday and not Saturday. It rained solidly until around 12:45 pm and I guess they finally called the trial at 11:00 am due to thunder & lightning. It's so unusual to have rain all day and it's been forever since we've had any rain. I woke up at 5:00 am on Sunday morning to a light drizzle and cloudy skies, nice and cool for the dogs. Could be perfect conditions for the dogs as long as it didn't rain.

And it didn't. In fact by the time I had my standard runs the sun was shining and I was cursing my luck that they hadn't run masters (or whatever it's called in DOCNA) before the other 2 levels as it had been advertised in the premium. I could have had all 3 runs done by 10:00 am or so! After seeing the dogs so unhappy about running in the heat at Regionals I'd intentionally entered only the first 3 classes of the day reasoning that it likely wouldn't be too beastly hot that early in the day. As it was I finished at around 12:15 pm, still not too bad and it never got hot enough to make the dogs unhappy (high 60's or so I'd guess). In fact the dogs loved the cool weather and had great runs. Best part about DOCNA-no table! Both dogs got to fly through their standard runs without having to stop for the evil table.

The highlight of the trial for me was Miss Lola. The last few trials seemed challenging for her and it seemed to take a lot to get her excited for her runs but I'm suspecting this was because of the heat because she was raring to go this weekend. She had nice clean runs in one of her standard runs and the North American Challenge (yeesh what a mouthful) which is DOCNA's version of USDAA's Grand Prix. I think this qualifies her for 2009's Champs but I doubt we'll go. We're going this year though, will be fun to see what it's like. Anyway, she was out there running her buns off and looking like she was having a blast. She hit all her contacts, did all her weaves, really her only 2 mistakes were brought on by poor handling. That idea that I have that yes I can make that front cross, well, it works o.k. in USDAA but not so much in DOCNA. I found myself behind after a straight line of jumps and had to throw in a late rear cross on the fly and the end result was ugly for both dogs. She was slow on her dogwalk but not nearly as bad as she's been and she trotted through the contact rather than leaping. Maybe the plank work is working? Maybe just dumb luck. I think the leaping is more a stress thing and she didn't seem at all stressed this weekend.

Cody did well too, got a Q in masters standard, had a nice run in the NAC/Grand Prix thingy but leaped off the A-frame and took an off course jump, his only mistake. He took a flying leap off the dogwalk in one of his standard runs-naughty boy. I was not at all happy and afterwards I was kicking myself for not making him go back and redo it since DOCNA allows training in the ring. Then I thought about it and I was glad I kept going. He was happy and having fun, he's so close to retirement and I've let the problem go so long that it seems unfair coming down on him about it now. Plus I've tried this before and clearly it doesn't seem to be working. I remembered something from the Susan Garrett seminar too, that giving a dog a cue is reinforcing in itself so asking him to repeat the obstacle isn't necessarily teaching him anything. She gave an example of a trial where she saw the same dogs blowing the contact the first time then doing it perfectly the second time for several runs throughout the trial. So I'm not so sure I made a wrong decision there. Better to work on this at home and if it never gets fixed, well, oh well, he's got how many trials left? Probably not the best attitude if we're going to do well at Championships but I'm not going to go crazy with training a 10 year old dog. He made all his other contacts, had nice weaves in 2 runs and ran right past the poles at the end of a standard run but that was a handling issue and maybe even a little bit of a stress issue since it was the same run with the blown dogwalk contact.

As for myself I had one minor triumph with my handling. In recent lessons Joy has pointed out my terrible habit of running with my arm up all the time and sometimes even pointing at random things that have precious little to do with the course at hand. I don't even realize I'm doing it. It's hard to send your dog if your arm is up all the time. Cody doesn't seem to notice but Lola finds it horribly confusing. I managed to remember not to do this for all my runs and it felt so much better, Lola was sending so nicely. I'm sure this had something to do with how happily she was running.

I think I need to stop trialing in hot weather. The dogs are so much happier and faster when it's cool, why make them suffer in the heat? So many of our USDAA trials are outdoors on potentially hot days though. The trial this weekend could easily have been in the 90's. So hard to predict the weather here. Maybe I need to take the chance and eat the entry fee if it turns out to be too hot.

Next weekend is USDAA up in Laramie, WY. All the hotels up there that allow dogs are so skeezy I couldn't bear the thought of spending 1-2 nights there and paying $90 or so for the privilege so I opted for only 1 day. Cody needs 1 pairs leg, 1 standard leg and 2 Super Q's for his champ. title and we're entered in pairs, standard and snooker so maybe we'll get just a little bit closer. Maybe we'll be able to pull it off before it's time to retire. If not, no big deal but will be fun to try.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cody's Got A Drinking Problem

Ah sweet Cody, ever the challenge. For several years now he's been drinking way too much water. Of course we've had him tested, he doesn't have diabetes and his blood & urine tests come up normal every year except for the finding that his urine is way too dilute which is obviously a consequence of all the water drinking. I did some research on the internet and came up with a couple of possibilities-psychogenic drinking or diabetes insipidus which is not the same or as serious as regular diabetes. Psychogenic drinking is not uncommon in neurotic dogs and it's a sort of compulsive, anxiety based disorder. Cody could easily be the poster boy here. Diabetes insipidus is rare and the test involves several days of water deprivation, very difficult when you have a multiple dog household living in close quarters. Over the years the vet has told me not to worry too much about it. Diabetes insipidus isn't serious and the treatment involves squirting medicine up the nose on a daily basis. Uh, yeah, just what Cody needs. You should see what the vet goes through to give him his kennel cough vaccine (also a spray up the nose). I could not see going through that on a daily basis, especially since the disease is not exactly harmful, just a nuisance since I have to deal with his constant need to pee. I have to let him out every hour at agility trials and each time he pees for a ridiculous amount of time. But this seems preferable to daily nasal spray treatments. Psychogenic drinking can be 'cured' by limiting water which is both problematic due to all the dogs in my house and dangerous if does have diabetes insipidus in which case he really does need to drink excessive amounts of water. The vet knows Cody is a freak and suggests that psychogenic drinking is the most likely culprit.

So all these years I've been ignoring the issue since the test is too hard to administer on my own. But I'd like to know which one he has because if it is psychogenic I can do something about it. So when we left him to be boarded I asked the vet to do the water deprivation test so I could know for sure. Well, Mr. Psycho ended up drinking less water than would be normal and his urine test came up normal for the first time in 3-4 years. I've also noticed that lately he doesn't seem to be drinking as excessively. According to the vet this means he can't have diabetes insipidus. She claims that dogs don't drift in and out of this ailment and if they have it they drink excessively all the time. Guess that leaves the 'psycho' option. One the one hand this is good news because it means he can possibly get better without unrealistic medical treatment. On the other hand geez why can't I just have normal dogs?

Of course ever since we picked him up from the vet his drinking has been bordering on normal. Though last night after we came in from a walk he spent the evening pacing back and forth between the front door and a big dog bed pillow which he would hump for a few moments then return to the front door and on and on and on into obsessive compulsive land. Now Olympic (my ass!) women's beach volleyball was on t.v. and I'm sure he wasn't the only male in America last night wanting to hump a pillow (or something) but he continued on even after we switched the channel to an old Smith's concert circa 1984 which only made the humping seem more disturbing. Anyway, Cody's old age is going to be fun. Anyone know some good treatments for Dogzheimer's?

Monday, August 11, 2008

Spare Us The Cutter, Part 2

I saw my knee doctor about a month ago and he went over the MRI results. The bads news is that I have several small meniscus tears as well as some built up fluid/bursitis as well as some damaged cartilage as well as a whole bunch of other minor crap. At one image the doc said, 'It looks like you've crushed something there'. How I've accumulated all these tears & things including a crushing injury since the last MRI 2 years ago is an utter mystery considering how little I've been doing. The good news is that he thinks the meniscus tears are small enough that he doesn't recommend surgery. The bad news is that the tears won't heal on their own no matter what I do so if they get worse I will at some point need surgery. In the end he prescribed physical therapy to build up the strength in my leg that I lost due to foot surgery. My activities have once again been restricted, no running or hiking at all and only an hour on the bike on the flattest terrain I can find (flat terrain is a challenge here in Boulder). Agility activities have been restricted but I usually give the older dogs the month of July off anyway because it's so hot. Unfortunately despite a month's worth of stupid stretching and mind numbing strength exercises my knee still hurts and I'm beyond frustrated. The only thing that makes the pain go away is rest and the P.T. said resting is no good either. Anyway, yet another summer goes down the tubes to injury. I miss the hiking most of all but I'm also finally starting to miss the running too.

The other bad part about this is that I suddenly have a bit of spare time for 'projects'. I need a table for working on Cody & Lola's table issues but also for propping up my board for running contact practice. Normally I would just buy one because yeah, I've got time to build one myself but this weekend I suddenly found myself with time for it. I've got the design part all worked out, no problemo, the problem is the execution. It turns out I can't saw a measly little 1x4 in half by hand, at least not with the saw I have. Then I thought about all the millions of pieces of 2" diameter PVC I'd have to saw and did a quick calculation on what are the odds I'll lose at least one finger in the process and decided hmmm, maybe this particular venture into the world of DIY is a false economy. If only I had a power saw. Oh, you mean like this? How cool would it be if I had my own power saw??!! Then I started thinking of all the cool things I could build or rather I realized hey I don't need to build anything other than this table so maybe this is a waste of money. Then I remembered the chickens.

I've been wanting to get chickens for a while now. Or rather, I've been wanting to get farm fresh eggs for a while now. To be honest, I have no interest in chickens for chicken's sake. I had a good source for home raised chicken eggs but she changed her work location and now it's not convenient to get eggs from her. I was getting them from a farm on my way home from work but they weren't as good. Once you've had good eggs there's no going back to the grocery store kind, even the 'organic' ones. So I've been entertaining the idea of my own chickens and one of the many hurdles has been the chicken coop. They need a coop for sure, even in summer, since my neighborhood is rife with racoons, foxes and all other manner of predators including my idiot neighbor's wolf hybrid who's already gotten another neighbor's chickens.

The other big hurdle to all of this is Jonny. He's not at all down with the chicken idea. In fact I believe his exact reaction to the mere mention of chickens was to roll his eyes, throw his head in his hands and yell, 'For fuck's sake!' As far as he's concerned there are already more than enough animals leaving presents in our small little yard. He thinks the organic grocery store eggs are plenty delicious thank you very much.

Where were we? Oh yes, the table saw and my agility table project. I sent Jonny the link to the table saw and his reply was, 'I feared this day would come'. It's no wonder I'm not handy what with all the complete lack of support I get. On the other hand he's seen me trying to cut a bagel in half so maybe he has a point. Maybe I should just order the darn table from someone who knows what they're doing and leave the chickens and finger slicing for another day.

Friday, August 08, 2008

North Boulder Crime Wave

My sleepy North Boulder neighborhood has been experiencing a rash of thefts, assaults and even a murder the other night. The thieves are foxes stealing wallets, cell phones, shoes, etc. off the decks of unsuspecting residents. The fact that my neighbors leave their wallets unattended outside on their decks tells you just how used to crime we are. The assaults are caused by mule deer defending their young. They give birth in people's yards then attack to defend their young. If you're with a dog you're even more of a target because you're more of a threat. Some woman walking her dog on a street 2-3 blocks away has been repeatedly attacked. Apparently mule deer are among the most aggressive mammals when it comes to defending their young, something I did not know. A deer gave birth in the neighbor's yard a few houses down and I've seen plenty of deer with babies while walking the dogs but so far have not been a victim of a deer attack.

The murder was caused by a mountain lion killing a deer in someone's driveway, about 3/4 mile from my house. Jonny was walking Lola in the morning and came upon a woman who told him there was a lion with a kill in the ditch just 15 yards away or so. Division of Wildife had not yet shown up and Jonny didn't want Lola to get into it with a lion so he turned around sharpish without going to look. D.O.W. later trapped and relocated it.

On a more serious note there was a fire in the neighbor's yard across the street and just 3 houses down. I realize this is no big deal compared to the fires raging in California and we have had bad fire seasons before and even a bad wildfire that threatened our neighborhood (came to 3/4 of a mile from my house) so I understand how scary that all is. Still, it's a bit unnerving when you open your front door and hear flames. I went to check it out and a good portion of yard was on fire as well as trees with flames shooting way high in the air. Everything is so dry, if it had been windy the whole neighborhood would have gone up. There's a fire station just 4 blocks away but it took over 5 minutes (maybe longer, I'm not sure who called 911 and when) and the firetrucks came from a different street. The cops got there before the firetrucks! A neighbor was trying to put it out with a hose which was a joke but I suppose you want to do what you can in that situation.

I went back to the house with the intention of packing things up in case we had to evacuate and found myself dashing around the house with a dog dish in my hand and completely incapable of thinking of what else to pack. I didn't want to go totally crazy because likely the fire would get put out but I didn't want to be unprepared. Jonny thought I was nuts. He's not usually all thay level headed in a panic situation but for some reason when it comes to fire I totally lose it and he's Mr. Cool As A Cucumber. When the bad wildfire hit and smoke was pouring down our street, you could see the hills on fire from our living room and the cops were evacuating up to 2 blocks away from us I had to literally shake him awake to get him to throw some underwear in a bag just in case they widened the evacuation area. I had the cars packed up with dog & cat supplies, photos, records, agility tapes of my dogs, who knows what else and it was a huge pain to put it all back. So this time around I wasn't too eager to get too crazy right away. I checked the fire again and the firemen had finally come and things looked under control. Phew! It turned out it was a power box that exploded and set a fence and then the yard on fire. Thankfully no houses were damaged and no one was hurt. On the plus side I did get to chat with some of my neighbors though this was a stupid way to have a block party if you ask me.

Hopefully we're done with excitement for the summer. Oh and I guess I need to work on a better evacuation plan in case of emergencies because running around the house in a panic with a dog bowl in my hand is not going to save our skin.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

The Agony and the Irony

Ohhh, my head. I don’t go out late at night very often anymore, maybe once a year and usually to see Alkaline Trio which is where I went last night. I bought the tickets months ago because when I saw the size of the club they were playing at I knew it would sell out quickly. Seemed like a good idea at the time, a chance to see Alkaline Trio in an intimate setting with maybe 1/2 the amount of people that would normally be there. But when it comes time to get in the car and drive to Denver it suddenly seems more like a chore. The show has sold out and people outside the club are looking to buy spare tickets and both Jonny and I are tempted to sell ours and go home and spend a nice quiet evening on the couch with Netflix and fall asleep 2/3 of the way through the movie like normal middle aged people. In the end we don’t, I know once we get inside and the band gets going we’ll have a good time and we’ve had this debate before.

The club Cervantes is in the 5 Points neighborhood of Denver which is a good place to go if you’re looking for crack but has little else to offer. I had to work in 5 Points back in the 90’s when I worked for the public transportation department. They were putting in Denver’s first light rail lines and chose 5 Points in part because they knew the poor people there would give them little resistance. Once they had a line up and running they could convince the rest of the city that it was a good thing. They set up a little public relations office in the heart of 5 Points that people could pop into to ask questions and pick up pamphlets telling them what a great boon the light rail line would be to their neighborhood. It would bring development and commercial opportunities and people that were looking to buy something other than crack to the community. I got the job of manning the office every once in a while. I don't know why since I was hired to work in the engineering department but if things were slow they'd send me to 5 Points. I didn't mind, it was an easy job. I'd sit and do homework since I was in grad school at the time and every once in a while someone would come in looking for a job but for the most part no one came in. A few times a pack of kids came in and stole handfuls of buttons & stickers and ran out. What they did with them I don’t know, can you trade buttons that say ‘RTD’ for crack? Kids were probably just bored. It never happened on my watch though.

Anyway, from what I could see 5 Points was looking much the same, a few yuppie condo buildings here and there but mostly still crackheads, rehab centers for your drug of choice, and weird little shops selling a mishmash of things like purple ceramic elephants and red horses and praying hands and it was a good thing it was shut because I probably would have come home with armfuls of weird, creepy useless crap. One shop didn’t even have a name shown anywhere. Obviously a front for something.

We get to the club way too early and there’s a huge line to get in so we decide to walk around for a bit then decide we don’t feel like dealing with the loud, incoherent freaks on the street and head back to the club. It’s a small, divey place, perfect for a punk rock show and a far cry from the larger more corporate places that Alkaline Trio usually plays. There are not a million stupid rules and minimal security at the door. The last few shows I’ve been to had security way stricter than what you see at the airport. The best part is that I finally don’t get attitude or a sarcastic remark about my age from the guy checking I.D. Last time they didn’t want to let me in because they were sure I had wandered into the wrong club and not realized in my old age senile haze. ‘Are you sure you’re here for the Bouncing Souls ma’am?” Jonny doesn’t even get asked for his I.D. though and he's bummed about that. One of the games we play when we’re sitting around bored between bands is find someone else here who’s older than us. Every year it gets harder. We see a woman who could be a few years older than me but she’s there with her teenage daughter. We spot another older couple but they’re also there with their teenager. We’re waiting for one of these parents to come up to us and ask ‘So which kids is yours?’ I’m sorry though going to the punk rock show with your parents is so not punk (says the woman who drove up to the punk show in a Honda Element with an ‘Agility Dog On Board’ stencil on the back window). Then again showing up to the punk rock show in your huge ass zillion dollar tour bus is also high on the list of not punk but Alkaline Trio sold out to the majors years ago and you don’t go to one of their shows expecting a real punk rock show. Though I have to give them props, they’ve kept their ticket prices low and though they’re supporting their new album, ‘The Agony and the Irony’, they’ve chosen to play small clubs half the size of what they could easily fill (many if not all of their shows on this tour sold out on the pre-sale). Over the years Alkaline Trio have stayed faithful to their fan base and I have to give them credit for that. I can hardly begrudge them a nice comfy tour bus given the years they’ve put in but still, so not punk.

Every year it’s the same, you would think I would learn, but no, I show up to the club way too early and it turns into an exhausting affair. I make a beeline to the balcony and end up standing next to the sound board where Jonny sees a schedule for the evening’s events. It’s only 7:30 and the opening bands don’t start until 8:00 pm, Alkaline Trio goes on at 10:00 pm and finishes at 11:30. 11:30???!!! Are they kidding me with this??!! Then I have to drive 35 minutes back to Boulder, I’ll be up past midnight! Last time I was up that late was the last punk rock show a year ago. I wish I could remember this because we could show up at 9:45 and it would still be past our bedtime but at least we wouldn’t have had 2 exhausting hours of standing around beforehand not being able to breathe in the hot sticky club with no air circulation and barely a hint of air conditioning on one of the hottest days of the year. I’m hot and tired and dizzy and grumpy when the first band, Sleeper Horse, comes on but they win me over from the very first chords which is unheard of I’m so cranky and jaded when it comes to new music. They sound a lot like a band I like a lot called Hot Water Music which I’m sure 99% of you have never heard of but trust me it’s a good thing. In fact I’ll go even farther and say I like them better than Hot Water Music. Jonny comes up to me after 5 minutes or so, tugs on my sleeve and yells, ‘Hot Water Music’ in my ear. Great middle aged punk rock minds think alike.

The second band is o.k., nice and tight and good music but generic and toward the end I work my way over to the couches against the wall so I can sit. I can’t see the band but I don’t care, I just want to sit and rest my legs for Alkaline Trio. They’re not all that exciting to watch anyway, buncha guys in jeans and black t-shirts playing guitars.

Finally Alkaline Trio comes on. All the waiting reminds me of agility trials, sitting through all the other classes until it’s finally your turn. Singer/guitarist Matt Skiba is looking a bit long in the tooth these days as is the drummer. The bassist is smart and wearing a baseball cap so noone can see how old he’s gotten. It makes me sad (though not as sad as watching the teenage boy with his zombie eyes glued to his cell phone presumably texting non-stop through the first 2 bands), he’s getting older, we’re getting older, no way to stop it. The band is still great though, sound is good too in the small club, vocals aren’t loud enough but maybe that’s just my hearing going. Listening to them brings back memories of long runs from long ago marathon training because I had tons of their songs on my mp3 player. That just makes me sadder somehow. It’s a great show though and I’m glad we didn’t sell our tickets. There’s no comparison between a big impersonal concert hall and a small intimate club and no telling if/when they’ll ever play such a venue again. One other great thing about a small club-you’re close to the stage and have a great view even if you’re up in the balcony away from the sweaty masses.

Getting out of the club proved to be the most stressful part of the night. We had to go down the balcony stairs then cut across the main dance floor to get to a tiny exit door. There were exits at the stage but they led into the alley and I didn’t think it was a good idea to be stumbling around a dark alley in 5 Points at 11:30 on a Sat. night. Also, the clubs sometimes won’t let you out the back way. So we were squished together cheek to jowl trying to get out of the hot, dizzy sweaty club and I’m wishing they would turn off the lights on the disco ball because the flashing bits of light are only making me more dizzy. I’m fighting off a panic attack because I don’t like crowds of people and then some people start barreling through the crowd trying to get out. A seriously drunk sweaty hippie girl is heading straight for me, bashes into me and I give her a good hard glare. She says ‘Oh, it’s o.k.’ and to my horror throws her arms around me and doesn’t just hug me but squeezes me tight in a death grip. She is freakishly strong. Why do the hippie girls always want to hug? And why am I such a freak magnet? Then I hear angry yelling and feel pushing behind me and there is a huge 350 lb drunk belligerent meathead barging his way through the crowd and getting in a fight with a woman foolish enough to push him back. My philosophy when it comes to 350 drunk meatheads is that you avoid them at all costs and don’t get in an argument with them. He’s right behind me and I panic and squeeze my way through a hole in the crowd to get away (there are rare times in life when it pays to be small). I get away briefly but then I feel a sharp jab to my hamstring as the guy deliberately knees me in the leg to get past me. I’m walking next to a goth chick in a wheelchair and once he sees the wheelchair he sees his meal ticket out of the place and starts angrily bellowing to the crowd to make room for the wheelchair whilst kneeing me in the hamstring and squeezing his mass of meat between me and the chair, practically climbing over the poor girl in the process. I reflexively yell back at him because I’ve been carefully making room for this girl the whole time and don’t like being accused of harming the disabled, especially when he’s the one causing her problems and using her for his own selfish purposes. Luckily he’s focused on pushing his way ahead and ignores my outburst. Again, why am I such a freak magnet? I’m thinking at this point that I would have been much better off chancing it in the alley. We should have stayed behind in the club and waited for everyone to leave but didn’t realize how bad the situation was until it was too late to get out. Like trying to swim backwards through the crowd once you start having a panic attack during the swim part of a triathlon and want nothing more than to be back ashore. Much better to just ride it out and do the backstroke for a bit until your heart rate goes down. Maybe you’ll catch an elbow or something but it’s better than fighting your way against the crowd back to shore.

We made it home in one piece though and my leg seems to be o.k. The guy didn’t knee me super hard, just hard enough to get me out of his way, and I don’t feel any effects so far today. I’m heading out for a short bike ride right now, I’ll see if I feel anything. In the meantime I think I’m done with concerts for awhile. It was fun and probably good for me to have some change to my routine but it was enough to last me for a good while.

I didn’t take my camera this time but here's a photo from a show a couple of years ago. You get the idea. Buncha guys playing guitars.

Had a run in with a rattlesnake while riding my bike yesterday too. Sheesh, too much excitement for one day.