With this Ringtone ...

... I totally screw up your morning hike ...

I took Sammy the curious dog -- and he took me -- out for our morning hike over Thumb Butte. I was on a schedule because I was meeting Victoria, for whom I serve as a glass mule (I'll explain later) to breakfast at the St. Michael Hotel at 9:30. I had an hour to get over the butte, but that's plenty of time if I don't let Sammy sniff the same bush for ten minutes. There was a ringing, or more specifically, a ring tone, in the bushes.

But let me back up because the last sentence is out of sequence with the intrusion of a Beagle named Bella.

She was walking down the end of the loop trail as we were starting up the beginning. Sammy went on high alert. He is an elegant kind of dog, who poses his slender body, forward curving saber of a tail and tall pointed ears like a fashion model in a chocolate brown suede coat which has dripped on his white socks. Nobody knows for sure about his lineage but he's vaguely Japanese and was robbed of his balls when still a child. The part about being vaguely Japanese began when my neighbor Kim took him, with her dog, to the lake. They were gone well after dark and I began to wonder, what might have happened? Because Sammy is almost blind, I pictured him swimming out into the lake and just disappearing. It is a form of suicide popular in Japanese history. You just wade into the sea. It was from that imagined picture that Sammy became known as being vaguely Japanese.

But back to Bella.

Maybe because he looked so gorgeous, she showed interest in him as well. She's a cougar. Nine years old and he's not yet five. They snorted each other's coffee tables for awhile and I made conversation with the young Sicilian man who was walking her. We shared information about where we'd been in Italy, and such nuggets of wisdom as how a visit to Venice when it rains every day can put a damper on one's memories of it. I assume in some parallel universe I know what Venice sidewalk cafes are like on a sunny day ... but not in this one. I scratched Bella's ears and told her how she didn't look nine, and headed on up the trail. That was when we heard the ringtone in the bushes.

I found the phone and answered, expecting it was the owner looking for his phone. And that seemed to be the case. It was a guy from back East, visiting friends in Phoenix, trying to ring his own phone. But as the conversation progressed it became obvious there was a problem. He was trying to find an iPhone and this was a Verizon phone and already antique. "Maybe they put in the sim card," he said, and I had to remind him that it wouldn't be possible to switch an iPhone with a Verizon phone by just changing over the card. This was not his phone. And yet he was calling it to try and find his phone. We even had him try again, and it came to this phone from the bushes beside the trail.

So I gave him my number in case he was having an acid trip and pretending to have an iPhone when he was still on an old Motorola dumb phone, and would come to his senses and admit the truth after a few days with his therapist. Then I found a number on the Motorola which was listed, "Home," and called it. A lady answered and I told her I found a phone beside the trail, and was it hers? She said her husband had gone to climb Thumb Butte and wasn't back yet, but he was driving a white SUV and if it was in the parking lot I could put the phone on the hood and she would so very much appreciate it. I scanned the lot and told her there was no such vehicle there. Her husband came home at that moment ...

Well you get the picture. I waited for him to come get his phone and it was too late to make my hike and get to breakfast on time. We took a shorter walk and Sammy went all moody, as a vaguely Japanese dog will do.

I promised, back in the first paragraph, that I would later explain what a glass mule does, and the time has come. Victoria is an artist who has a small gallery in the Firehouse Plaza, here in Prescott, Arizona. I used to see her at the dog park where she would bring her Shar-pei and he and Sammy would run around together. She told me she has a daughter in San Francisco who does glass work, and I looked up her web page and bought a piece of art from her. Because I travel between San Francisco and Prescott, I began to transport glass from Meri to her mother, which was put into the gallery here. So I called myself a glass mule.

We went to the St. Michael's because she likes the amaretto French toast, and so do I. I don't go into the St. Michael much because I don't expect things to go all that well in some places, and it's one of them. You know how in some places something will be not right more often than not? It might be where you're seated or the service or the food ... you don't know ... it's just that there is a law of restaurants, that if things go wrong twice in a row you really aren't going to be open to an expectation of a good experience the next time around. And if nothing else intercedes, that alone will make it pedestrian at best. I have only recently begun to enjoy the Dinner Bell again, because of the attitude of some of the waitresses.

The Dinner Bell is actually two cafes with a kitchen in the middle. In front, it's a dive cafe, with the vinyl booths, long counter, and probably one of those "Our credit manager is Helen Waite," signs. They take cash and nothing else, no plastic. There's an ATM machine on the premises if you don't have any cash. The waitresses who work there fit in just fine, like actresses who read for this particular play and were chosen for their authenticity. But on the other side the kitchen there's a nice restaurant with a wall of glass opening out onto Granite Creek. There are brightly painted tables and chairs and everything has been nicely done, including the art chosen for the decoratively painted stucco walls. Through the back door is a patio enclosed with a decorative iron fence from a local artist. Beneath the patio is the creek and the foot path between the tall cottonwoods.

It's a great place. But when waitresses who work the front part come and work the back part, they bring their attitude with them, and it doesn't fit at all. It's like they are back stage now and their character is still stuck to them, and won't come off. What in the front end of the cafe was a character is in the back dining room ungracious and mean. I stayed away for a long time after we went in with friends on New Years, when it was bitter cold, and one of them said, "You're in my way. Why don't you wait outside?" Of course we went somewhere else, which was really what she was suggesting, because they'd had a rush of business. I waited outside a very long time before I went in again. But recently I did go back and we got a really good waitress, one who now recognizes us and takes good care of us, and because she is friendly, courteous and efficient we take good care of her as well.

The last time I was in I pointed out to her that the "Vegetarian Sandwich" on the menu was listed as being a Gyro with lamb and beef. She said, "I know! Somebody ordered it and I went to pick up and said, 'This has lamb on it!' That's the worst I think for a vegetarian." Some things are just a mystery. For example, when we were leaving, Linda was looking at the new ramp they have built, I assume to comply with handicap access rules. "What's that?" she asked. At the bottom of it there was an iron pole, about two feet in circumference and three feet high. It was placed in the middle of the ramp exit. "Maybe it's to keep kids from skate boarding down it," I suggested.

"But isn't it for wheelchairs?" she asked. "They built a wheelchair ramp and then put up a barrier that won't let a wheelchair get by."

"Remember the vegetarian sandwich?" I asked.

At the St. Michael's the problem is deeper. There is a management problem that has to do with nobody really keeping an eye on the process itself, from start to finish. When we ordered the French toast we were offered blueberries or strawberries or something else, I forget, and Victoria asked if they were fresh blueberries. The waitress said they were. I don't think she really understood the question. I think she just was being asked if they were spoiled or something, which they were not, as they were frozen immediately on arrival. They had to be fresh. And we might not have known the difference if the cook hadn't microwaved them to thaw them out before he put them on the bread. You know how when you microwave frozen things, like blueberries, some of them can be hot and then others will be cool? The one's I was eating were hot, but she said hers were awful. They were warmed on the outside with a cold center. I tried some from the back of my plate and sure enough, they were awful. They took the blueberries off the check. I left the waitress a good tip because I didn't want her to think there was any problem with the service. She was a good waitress. She just needs some training on what it is she's selling.

When I finished breakfast I worked out awhile. I have some weights and a leg lift chair at the little house in the dells where we have a hideaway. I hooked my iPhone into the stereo and ran Public Radio off the application. There's no ATT phone service there but we have a wireless network for operating a laptop or iPhone, or the Skype phone that serves as the home number. It's a relaxing place, but hot in the summer, as it's cooled by a portable air conditioning unit. It just can't handle really hot days without heading toward 80. So I don't hang there much right now. I came back to the main house and helped my daughter find a birthday present for her squeeze, Shawn, who collects music on vinyl. You have no idea how hard it is to find a vinyl copy of, "Gypsy Valentine Curve" by the indie band, Dilute. Actually I couldn't find one at all, and we ended up having to settle for a collector's copy of, 'The Tired Sound of Stars of the Lid."

It cost me forty bucks, in the end, but I managed to get in a little information as we shopped. For example there was an album we were looking for called, "Carte de Visite," by Stars of the Lid (a duo specializing in a kind of droning ambient sound. I understand. I used to have Eno and Fripp ). An exploration of the title revealed that a Carte de Visite is a kind of thin paper photograph, mounted on a card sized 2 1/2 by 4 inches, and patented in France by photographer Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi in 1854. What a wonderful thing to be able to slip in some information other than price and shipping address.

I had actually sat down to do some writing when she called to get help with Shawn's birthday celebration. I know she loves him, or at least I know she hasn't been this attentive to any man before, and that she wears an engagement ring. I guess I don't mind helping him space out to the sounds of ambient drone sounds on a forty dollar vinyl record. What the hell? They tried to stop smoking cigarettes by buying a hookah. Who can ask for anything more than this kind of honest effort from the young? At Christmas I gave him a copy of a novel by Charles Willeford, "The Woman Chaser." He said, "Normally I don't like contrived endings, but I enjoyed that one." I liked that review. I decided he's a smart cookie.

I gave up on doing any serious writing today. I'm tired of serious writing. As Garrison Keillor once observed: "If you sit down to write the great American novel you're in for a very long afternoon." Ain't that the truth? I'm going to shoot for the great American email today. I did find time for an exchange on the Harvard newspaper, where I suggested that the attitude of Bush and Cheney had permeated the police departments. That attitude is essentially that power is the law. (The story just came up on an aggregator, but I like reading their newspaper now.) I was challenged by a man who said it was blaming all the ills on the Bush administration, thus when was Obama to become accountable for all the ills in the world because he is President? My reply was that there's difference between being accountable and being imitated. Clinton's cigar smoking was widely imitated, but he can't be held responsible for the stench. If Obama is imitated, in my opinion and in the opinion of much of the world, we'll be a better people for it. For example, the police will be more relative, even with people who are not themselves police officers.

Posted: Mon - July 27, 2009 at 02:51 PM