Flavin's Corner
4-23-99

¡Yo Quiero Pachelbel!

     I was appalled by Mary Tyler Moore's character in Robert Redford's 1980
film of Judith Guest's novel, Ordinary People.  The woman who could "turn the
world on with her smile" came across as an icy bitch.  Though many were
moved, as well as being significantly impressed, by Mary's acting, most critics
of the film were put off by Redford's soundtrack choice of Marvin Hamlisch
having his way with Johann Pachelbel's Canon in D Major.  Despite Marvin's
mishandling of Pachelbel, the "Canon" has since become quite popular and is
often used in weddings.  I wanted to marry Mary Tyler Moore when I was a
kid, however after Ordinary People ...I changed my mind.  I've been through a
couple of brief marriages, but I'd like to get married again someday. And I
want Pachelbel's "Canon" played during the service.

     Evocative musical compositions like Pachelbel's "Canon," the "Flower
Duet" from Léo Delibes' opera Lakme (used in British Airways commercials
and the yummy film The Hunger), or the Welsh lullaby Suo Gan (which John
Williams used in his soundtrack to Spielberg's 1987 Empire of The Sun), fill
our hearts with wonder and remind us of the basic nobility of life.  Yet, much
like some become depressed during the holidays, I occasionally slip into a
smarmy melancholy when listening to music which encourages me to imagine
beyond my mundane perceptions.  A friend is getting married this weekend and
she recently lost two dogs to a variety of ailments, an ex-girlfriend has an old
cat who's not doing well from advanced diabetes, and everyday I look at my
two cats and wonder: "How are you?" and "Do you need anything?"  Some
music evokes love, loss, hopes, and dreams.  I guess it's supposed to...

       Life sucks and Death swallows...  I'm no fan of Death and if I ever meet Joe
Black I'll surely put up a fight.  Though I reject all beliefs in an afterlife of
resurrection or reincarnation, I do follow the design advanced by J. R. R.
Tolkien in his "Middle-Earth" fictions where immortal Elves are a tad jealous
of mortals who are privaleged to know Death and carry within them a greater
appreciation for Life.  We're often heartbroken in the course of living Life, yet
if we didn't have a heart capable of compassion to begin with, we'd be missing
out on one of the basics of existence: to know others.  Family and friends help
define us, but so do our pets.  And when pets die we grieve no less than if they
were one of us.

    The recent Taco Bell commercials, featuring Dinky the Chihuahua, have
brought back memories of a dog my family briefly took care of in 1973 and
1974.  One day I discovered a tiny dog walking around our front yard, wearing
no collar and apparently lost.  Now, to be honest, I come from a long line of
cat-lovers, and when we invited the dog into our home it was only a temporary
measure until we could locate the owner(s).  Besides, our Siamese cat,
Samantha, controlled admissions into the household (previously vetoing the
presence of tropical fish in a most savage, but playful, manner), and it was
thought the tiny dog wouldn't stand a chance of gaining Sam's approval.

     A few weeks of putting flyers up in the neighborhood, which described the
Chihuahua, didn't produce the owner(s) and we were left with only two
choices: the pound or ...keeping the tiny dog.  Though Sam was in her
glorious, super-kitty prime at the time (and only a few months before had
stopped an attacking German Shepherd with a few swats to the nose), she
...tolerated the Chihuahua.  To her credit, Sam basically ignored the dog and
only occasionally reminded him who was boss in the house.  So, we gave the
Chihuahua (actually a Chihuahua and Dachshund mix -- Chihuahua face and
body, but with the slightly larger, goofy feet of a Dachshund) the name Chico,
and made him part of the family.  Sam never appeared jealous, bored perhaps,
but then no one knows what lurks in the minds of cats.

     My father had a change in jobs and, though we stayed in Michigan, we
moved from the suburb of a mid-sized city on Lake Michigan (Muskegon) to
the way rural boonies in the south-east (Dowagiac).  We moved into a big
house on a lot with a few acres of land and a pond in the backyard.  Our
home faced a road with minimal traffic (maybe a car every 15 minutes or so),
the nearest house was a half mile away, and I had to take a bus to school.  It
was life in the sticks.

     A couple of months later at school, I was interrupted in the middle of one
of my classes and asked to step into the hall.  Some fellow in his 30s (whether
a teacher or a councilor, I never bothered to find out) informed me that Chico
had been struck by a car and killed.  He told me to take the rest of the
school-day off.  I walked three of the five miles to my house before I realized I
should have tried to call my Dad for a ride.  Later I learned this was probably
for the best, as my Mom had called my Dad at work to come and get the body
out of the road, and then he had to bury Chico.

     Mom was in tears for a couple of days.  My Dad and I were numb and
didn't talk.  Sam howled for a day and then lowered it to a haunting meow for
a week or so.  We all missed the little guy, though he'd only been part of the
family for a short time.  Accidents are so sudden...  Life changes places with
Death and the music doesn't skip a beat.

     This weekend's wedding has reminded me of the risks we all take.  We
commit knowing that ...shit happens.  After seeing what my friend went
through with the slow deaths of her two dogs, I'm scared for my ex-girlfriend
as she tries to care for her old cat.  But, what can she or anyone do?  We take
what comes and go on.

     Maybe someday I'll get a chance to listen to Pachelbel's "Canon" at my
wedding.  Maybe someday I'll meet a tiny dog that gets along with my cats.
Life sucks, but it's sure interesting...

[Note:  Click  here for a short-story inspired by a suggestion of an ex-girlfriend
on how to handle the loss of a pet when other pets are in the household.]

getting ready to toss fried-rice,
Rick

Return to Main