Does yer dug bat?

One of my favorite scenes/lines in any movie from any era comes from “The Pink Panther Strikes Again,” I think about 1976.

Clouseau, checking into a hotel room asks the clerk “Does yer dug bat?” The clerk replies, “No.”

The next few lines are just brilliant.

Sometimes, when I meet someone’s dog for the first time I might ask in my best Clouseau accent, which is really lousy, “Does yer dug bat?”

People usually pull their leash a little closer to them at that point.

Last night we went to see “Let Me In,” which is a remake of the fabulous Swedish film called “Let the Right One In.”

We loved that movie so much that we went to see the American version just to see how different it was.

I think it’s safe to say the Linda and I would highly recommend both but you should see the Swedish one first. It’s on DVD now.

So we’re walking past a restaurant just outside the theater and there is a cute little dog tied to the railing of an outdoor area of the restaurant.

For some reason I’m just drawn to him. Party because it didn’t look like I would be bothering anybody if I just walked up to that dog and greeted him and partly because he was just so adorable.

So I start petting him and he starts snorting and kind of growling in this adorable kind of way. He just seemed to really like me and for that reason and others, I fell madly in love with him.

Pretty soon Linda and I are both petting this sweet little dog and he’s snorting and making little love growl sounds, melting our hearts onto the pavement.

His owner, was on the other side of the rail watching us so I strike up a conversation.

“He’s so amazing,” I said.

“Yeah, he’s something, he said.

“How old is he,” I asked. He seemed to be up on his little dog years and he was pretty barrel shaped like some dogs get when they get older.

“He’s six,” the guy says. “He’s a miniature Australian Shepherd.”

“WHAT????!!!” A miniature Aussie?

Are you shitting me?

An Aussie is probably my favorite dog and they come in toy sizes?

I’ve been kicking myself ever since for not taking a photo of that guy but he was kind of tucked into this dark corner and, well, there wasn’t enough light on him anyway, but he looked pretty much like this. And just little. Not even up to your knee.

So we’re there, petting this little dog, he’s grunting and growling, our hearts are melting, dog owner guy does not seem to mind when suddenly this teen chick comes up and says, something like, “Hey will you take this leash for you dog because” … unintelligible … “I had this leash and” … unintelligible … “could you take it for your dog?”

I could barely believe what I was about to say and I had to try really hard not to use my best, terrible, Clouseau accent when I replied, “That is not my dog.”

Of habits and hangy down parts

I’m not a creature of habit.

Some time ago, like a year, I told myself that I was going to make one photo a day. I told myself that it didn’t have to be anything stellar, just something that would be worthy of a “Dude, check this out!”

I think that lasted about 3 days, which is kind of disturbing for a host of reasons, such as:

  • I used to shoot for a living so it was my job to make at least one photo a day that could run on the front page of a newspaper. You would think then, that it would be easy if I lowered that standard to at least one photo a day that could run on a blog.
  • I gave myself the option of allowing that one photo a day to be shot with, anything. I have a bazillion cameras of every size and shape and I carry an iPhone with me everywhere I go. Say what you will about iPhone but given the right light (or enough of it) that tiny lens and sensor manages some pretty amazing images. Don’t think so? Believe me.
  • I live in Southern California.
  • My wife is beautiful.

So, that didn’t work out. Dammit.

Next, I decided that I would turn that one photo a day into one photo a day of my cat. Spooky is actually quite photogenic and even though he’s getting up in his kitty years he still does some pretty wacky stuff.

I know what you’re saying, this idea is not exactly original and I wasn’t planning to try and compete with Dooce and her Daily Chuck. That would just cultivate a feeling of personal inadequacy given that Heather Armstrong gets a half million page views a day and makes like $50K a month from advertising. (Disclaimer: Dooce does not need visualkaos’ link here. My readers, both of you, already know and love her.)

And Spooky is nowhere near as riotous as the amazingĀ City the Kitty. (Similarly, Lori Shepler will not benefit from this link, if anything, the opposite may be true.)

So the one photo a day, even of a beautiful, fluffy feline who rarely leaves my side, sits on the sink as I brush my teeth, greets me at the door every night and writhes on my socks when I get home from the gym, didn’t work out.

I couldn’t get into the habit.

But I do some things habitually. When I get to the gym, I have a routine. You might even call it a habit.

Tonight, when I arrived at L.A Fitness, I did what I always do.

Toss gym bag on bench. Open pocket on gym bag, pull out satchel, remove ear buds, empty the contents of pants pockets back into satchel. Pile combination lock, weight lifting gloves, towel, water bottle, sneakers and iPhone onto bench. Remove work clothes, stuff into gym bag. Put on gym clothes. Stuff bag into locker. Plug ear buds into iPhone, then ears.

Tonight, I tossed my bag down on the bench in the locker room at precisely the same time as another dude. I’ll call him real estate guy because he looked like a realtor and he had a leather bag that had a “Freddie Mac” logo on it.

I don’t know if the federal home loan mortgage corporation known as Freddie Mac has a line of clothing, perfume and accessories but I suspect not. My guess is that real estate guy attended a conference or workshop that centered on instructing realtors in how to bilk the government out of money that could then be lent to working-class humans with little or no knowledge of mortgage banking and who think that have a shot at the American Dream. A large portion of these government funds could then be pocketed by realtors.

At tables with folding legs inside booths made of canvas and PVC, “freebies” such as water bottles, coffee cups and golf balls with the Freddie Mac logo adorned on them would be given away to conference attendees.

A few VIP attendees, or those who signed up the most other attendees, got better freebies like a weekend in Las Vegas (complete with a complimentary tour of the newest Time-share property in South Nevada,) unisex polo shirts (baby blue or tope, size medium only) and leather gym bags.

Real estate guy seemed to mirror my every move. He seemed to have the same routine as mine, with some refinement.

Standing on his sneakers so his feet would never touch the floor, real estate guy folded his starched oxford shirt, hung his dockers on a hanger and stuffed shoe trees into his leather shoes. These were not Italian shoes. I’m gonna guess Florsheim, Broxton. Probably about $70.

When I stood up, earbuds in place, real estate guy was looking right at me. He had a white towel over his shoulder, a water bottle in his hand and ear buds plugged into a Blackberry.

“Here we go, ” I said.

He winked at me.

I’m not very fond of the men’s locker room at L.A Fitness. It’s nice enough. Big, newish, clean, for the most part.

What I don’t like about it is that it’s always full of naked men.

Men walk around in there, immodestly, ass-naked.

After working in an office all day and stopping in a cafe for lunch or dropping by a Starbucks or just being in public all day, then walking through that door into a locker room full of naked men, sauntering around, junk swinging, is still always startling.

But this reaction to a company of naked men isn’t from some deep, emotional distress or a traumatic, childhood experience that I’ve been suppressing all my life.

I’ve never been molested, at least not when I didn’t want to be, have only worm women’s clothes once and I don’t have peculiar behavior around young boys.

It’s just the visual thing. I enjoy seeing naked women, not naked men.

This is particularly true, and it is the reason I’m writing this now, when men’s equipment comes into close proximity to myself especially, at eye level.


Occasionally, while sitting on the bench in the locker room, bending over tying my shoes, a naked man may walk past placing Big Jim and the Twins well inside my comfort zone.

There is only approximately 2.5 feet of space between the locker room bench and the lockers themselves. If a naked someone needs to get to a locker that is beyond where I may be tying my shoes, then he must walk, unprotected past my unprotected self. I’m not certain but I think the tolerance radius for male genitalia and my face is at least three feet.

To me, this is really common sense. I wouldn’t subject someone bending over to tie their shoes to my own wedding tackle in this way. I’m sure, as a courtesy, that I would spare them any ignominy by waiting for the person finish tying their shoes and stand up before I made my way past.

Even then I would likely subject them only to my backside

Although, I’m not sure which is worse.

Magic Clouds

SR126 at Sunset from Thomas Gapen on Vimeo.

It was otherworldly.

Mystical. Magical. Miraculous.

It was magnificent.

Maybe it was the combination of exactly the right amount of Irish whiskey and a single puff of “cloud.”

Maybe it was simply the clouds.

But in the very, early evening last night Linda and I were drinking on the patio and contemplating how we would spend the rest of the night. The week had ended a blistering, five-day-long hot spell that was transitioning into a weekend like we rarely see in Southern California.

A week that had seen days reaching 113 degree temperatures had become mid-90s with extremely high humidity and skies full of a mixture of cumulous and cumulonimbus clouds, that were being painted with a color pallet only mother nature could invent, every night as the sun sank below the horizon.

We’d seen this coming. Just the day before every photographer and non-photographer I know was posting spectacular sunset photos on their Facebook pages. Linda had described to me how the atmosphere in our backyard had turned into Maxfield Parrish painting, a hazy, pink wonderland.

L.A. photographer Gene Blevins had nailed an image that showed a double rainbow and a bolt of lightening in front of the Hollywood sign as a helicopter flew past.

Jaysus! I wanted to ask him, “Gene, couldn’t you have gotten a brushfire and a mudslide in that shot?”

So as the sun began its final descent bringing an end to the first day of October, the wind suddenly started to pick up and the temperature dropped noticeably. As dark, black storm clouds began to gather in the east, the cumulus clouds riding the winds in the west took on a golden, rim-light turning them into giant, cartoon thought bubbles. A few drops of rain sailed by as the wind chimes in our yard sang loudly.

We decided to attempt to capture, with cameras, what we knew would be another glorious nightfall as the setting sun spilled grenadine and pineapple juice across its own sheets and pillows … and then grab a pizza.

We started, and ended, at the usual place. At the end of a cul-de-sac, across the street from our house is a spot where from the top of the ridge you can see nearly all of the Santa Clarita Valley. It’s a place we not-so-cleverly call “The Spot.” It’s where we go to watch multiple fireworks shows on the Fourth of July. It’s where we go for sunsets. And because that’s where we always go, we have more than enough photos from there.

So we headed down to Castaic Junction.

A place where old State Route 126, formerly a two-lane road, passes through rows of eucalyptus and California oaks. It seemed to me that the failing light spilling across the trunks and the bark of those old trees, in combination with the spectacular clouds and setting sun, would make for some pretty landscapes.

We weren’t going to win any prizes but we just like taking photos and sometimes we do it for that reason alone.

But we arrived too late. The sun had already sank below the hills on the horizon and so there would be no direct light to play with. All we were left with was the ever changing ambient light in the sky.

Not that there’s anything wrong with it.

After the most of the best light was gone we drove to Ameci’s, picked up a pie and went back to The Spot.

We stood there, looking down on the Santa Clarita Valley, as the sky faded to black. The wind had completely died and there was no longer even a puff of breeze. We could see the lights from Valencia High School stadium, a few miles away, as West Ranch was about to take on undefeated St. Francis. A searchlight from the school swept the sky like a laser beam, beckoning.

We looked down on suburbia, every house in perfect, little rows with all the lights on. We could hear jack russells and chihuahuas yelping. We could hear families talking and laughing. We could hear kids splashing in swimming pools both close by and miles away. Bolts of lightening were crackling far off in the west. The air was crystal clear and dead still.

John Mellencamp was playing in my head.

Just then, we heard then felt, then saw the elegant wings of an adult owl as he flew past just a few feet over our heads, heading southwest, maybe to watch the game at Valencia High.

Linda and I looked at each and said the thing we often say to each other at times like these, without actually saying it at all.

Although our lips didn’t move and no sound was made, we said this to each other, “These are the days.”

It was magnificent.