Monday, June 09, 2014

As I write this it is June 1, 2014 and I am 9 days into being the responsible parent for an 11 week old Great Pyrenees puppy named Felix.  I did, however, take one last trip before Felix arrived.

At the end of April, I once again climbed into my heavily packed Volkwagen Touareg TDI with a full tank of diesel and at a very early hour on April 30th I left for the long drive to Ithaca, NY.  According to Google maps it was supposed to take 11 hours and 25 minutes under normal circumstances but according to and the National Weather Service, I was in for anything but normal circumstances.  In fact, the weather was predicted to be so bad that I actually considered leaving at 9:00 the night before when I finished packing the car.  My thought was to drive as far into Virginia as I could before collapsing at a hotel somewhere around Roanoke.  In the end I was just too tired so I went to bed and got up before dawn on Wednesday.

I left roughly when I had expected to and the weather wasn’t great but really there was no rain or wind, which had been predicted in copious amounts.  I drove up I-26 into Tennessee and then got onto I-81 north toward West VA, Maryland, Pennsylvania and the Finger Lakes region of New York.  This particular route is becoming almost painfully familiar to me in view of the number of times I have driven it since 2011 when I bought the ill-fated Earthbound Trailer (the rolling turd that many of you have already had to read about).  Remarkably though the weather held up almost the whole drive.  I had decided to leave 81 near Harrisburg, PA and head North to Ithaca on US Highways and State routes just to vary the drive a bit.  The only place I encountered any rain at all was for about an hour when I was perhaps 20 miles West of Harrisburg, and it was gone by the time I made it to Corning, NY.

The approach into Ithaca from the Southwest is actually more rewarding than coming from the East as one would coming from I-81 but I had forgotten this in the 40+ years since I had been on that road.  As I was heading into Ithaca the sun was low but shining and as I descended the hill down into downtown Ithaca I was reminded how beautiful the geography of the hills in this are is.

I had talked with my niece Amanda on the way and had confirmed that she and husband Tom had already made plans for the evening but she recommended a restaurant that was walking distance from the hotel I had booked on Priceline.

I checked into the hotel and at that point the drive had, in fact, been about 11.25 hours but that included lunch and pee stops as well as refueling.  Not bad for a day that was supposed to be a true horror.  Nonetheless, I was fairly tired and decided to walk to the restaurant, have a nice dinner, and then go back to my room to crash so I would be in decent condition to spend the day with Amanda on Thursday.

The restaurant is called Agava and it was quite a pleasant surprise.  Because I was by myself I was seated at a small bar area that faced their pizza oven.  This was fine with me for a couple of reasons.  For one thing, when I am by myself on trips like this one I prefer to be in a quiet inconspicuous corner of the restaurant.  I usually take something to read which encourages others not to try to engage me in chit-chat.  Possibly more significantly though was that this evening I was showing signs of a potentially nasty cold and featured, among other charming symptoms, the secretion of what seemed like green glue from the areas around my eyes.  It got to the point where I could barely see there was so much of this goo on my eyes.  My lids tended to almost stick to each other because my lashes were completely coated in this disgusting discharge.  I felt very conspicuous every time the server came by since I could only imagine what I must have looked like.

I will not go into detail about Agava other than to say that in spite of feeling like absolute crap on toast, I had a terrific dinner there and highly recommend the place if you find yourself in Ithaca.

After dinner I walked back to my room, did the best I could to clean the gook off my eyes and hunkered down for the night.

Thursday morning I got up, went to the breakfast room of the hotel for a light breakfast (mostly coffee) that was included with the price of the room.  Then I cleaned myself up as much as I could and dressed for the day at Cornell.  Fortunately, even though I didn’t look all that great with this semi-cold I had seemingly come down with at the worst time, I wasn’t feeling terribly bad.

Amanda and I met on campus and spent the day at the College of Architecture, Art and Planning, the Johnson Museum of Art, and a number of other spots on campus.  I hadn’t seen the new building at the College since during my last visit in June of 2011 it was still under construction, and the same was true of the large, mostly subterranean expansion of the Johnson Museum.  Amanda teaches at Cornell but has spent little time around the Architectural school so touring the new building, talking to students who were finishing project before the end of the spring term, and meeting one of the directors of the model lab who showed us all the very sophisticated toys the students get to use was really a treat. 

We stopped a couple times during the day for coffee and lunch and took a break to allow me to have a meeting with the director of undergraduate admissions at the College.

By the end of the afternoon I was feeling like I needed to deal with this cold before it got too bad and ruined my trip.  After all, this was really on the second day of 10 and I didn’t relish the idea of wheezing and dripping all over the Northeast.  After a brief stop at the University Health Services building we took their advice and went to an Urgent Care clinic that was quite close to where Tom and Amanda are renting a house.  I was somewhat unfamiliar with this kind of facility but was very impressed.  It was in a shopping center next door to a Chipotle Grill, and was a perfectly pleasant place.  When I walked in there was only one woman ahead of me.  I sat in the comfortable waiting area and filled out paperwork.  Before I could even finish someone came to escort me to an exam room and within probably less than 5 minutes a very young doctor appeared.  She asked me all the appropriate questions about my symptoms, checked vital signs, listened carefully to my recent medical history, and prescribed an oral antibiotic for 10 days as well as antibiotic eye drops to deal with the infection in my eyes.

The whole process took at most 20 minutes and then I went a half mile down the road to Rite-Aid to get the prescriptions filled.  I paid nothing for the medical care since they bill Medicare and my supplementary policy, and the pharmacy deeply discounted the drugs because of my Medicare Drug Plan.  I was stunned by how easy, pleasant and effective this treatment ended up being.   I started using the two prescriptions that night and got progressively better over the next 48 hours, so by the time I was hiking in New Hampshire I felt fine.

That evening we had a really nice dinner with Tom at Mercato in Downtown Ithaca and then called it a night since I had a pretty decent day’s drive ahead of me to get to Jackson, New Hampshire, where Rob and Carolyn are now living.

Friday morning I was able to hit the road by around 9:00ish which for me, on vacation, was pretty good.  The drive from Ithaca to Jackson involves a lot of back country driving.  The roads from Ithaca to I-88 are mostly 2-lane rural roads through small towns.  There is a lot of truck traffic everywhere so often you simply cannot make very good time.  Eventually I made it to the freeway which took me to Albany.  From there you head a bit North where you pick up another decent but smallish highway to Vermont.  The route then cuts across Vermont almost to its Eastern border and then you follow that Northward until a cutoff that takes you over to the area around Pinkham Notch and on into Jackson.

With all this driving it was around 5:00 when I made it to the Eagle Mountain House in Jackson where I had booked a room for the 4 nights I would be in the area.  This was a fairly last-minute change from my intention to stay at the Kearsarge Inn in North Conway again as I had when I was in the area in January.  The wisdom of that changed though when Rob told me that he and Carolyn would have moved to Jackson by the time of my visit.  Without knowing much about the area I booked at Eagle Mountain solely on the basis of what I could find on the Internet.  As it turned out, this was the perfect choice.

The Eagle Mountain House has been a functioning inn for more than 130 years.  It is a large old wooden structure that sits on the flank of the mountain for which it is named.   On the grounds across the street from the hotel is their beautiful rolling golf course.  Views are quite impressive in most directions.

The first night I was in a room that shared a couple walls with the ancient but still working elevator.  This is the kind of elevator that has outer doors operated by hand, and an inside scissors gate, also hand operated.  The elevator cab won’t move without both inner and outer barriers closed.  What is more significant though is that when the inner gate is opened a very annoying high-pitched alarm goes off and doesn’t stop until it is closed.  Since the elevator is used by people moving their luggage up to and back down from the guest rooms, it gets a lot of use, particularly when people are checking in and out.

As it happened there were both a wedding and a high school reunion at the hotel the weekend I arrived so the place was packed and busy.  After one night of listening to the elevator I decided that a different room might be nice.  The very accommodating staff arranged for me to move to a room on the top floor at the very North end of the building.   This was great.  It was quiet, large and comfortable and had beautiful views of Eagle Mountain and Carter Notch.

The first night I met Rob and Carolyn in the village of Jackson itself for a nice dinner at a place they used to frequent for their pasta feeds during the winter.  In spite of having seen them about 4 months earlier it seemed like there were a million things to talk about so dinner was pleasant and busy.

I managed a reasonably decent night’s sleep in spite of the elevator and in the morning, met Rob for coffee and the first of our hikes.  For starters we took the trail that starts directly behind the inn and goes to the summit of Eagle Mountain.  I will include some photos from this spot, but suffice it to say it was quite rewarding.  The weather was stunning and as usual it felt good to be out hiking again.  Since Abner died my best hiking has been when I go see Rob.  He is so stimulated by natural surroundings in these various gorgeous places where he works that he becomes a great guide and companion on these outings.  The fact that he is 40 years my junior usually means that he makes me work. . .pushing my envelope a bit.

After our usual lunch to resupply our energy level (ok. . .mine) we did an afternoon hike followed by dinner with Carolyn that night and the excellent White Mountain Cider Company.

On Sunday Carolyn decided that she was going to devote her day to getting their new digs set up so Rob took me to the Kancamagus highway for a couple hikes in widely varied weather.  The first hike in the morning was a nature loop that was quite popular with other hikers and dogs.  It was very pretty and had a number of examples of growth and forest development that helped clarify how the evolution of forests works.  Since Rob and Carolyn both work for a program called Mountain Classroom, these are people who are well versed in the details of the nature through which we were walking.  I always go away from my hikes with Rob with a great deal more information than I had at the beginning.

Lunch was at a brewpub in Lincoln and then in the afternoon we hiked to Franconia Falls.  This hike is about an 8 mile round trip but the slope is mostly so gradual you barely feel the rise.  It follows a couple of rivers that were flowing copiously when we were there.  Eventually you get to the top of the falls at which point we turned around and went back.  I gather the trail continues a great distance but, of course, unless one makes arrangements to be picked up later (as Rob does when he goes on these really long runs of his) you are kind of screwed if you decide to keep going.  It rained lightly on and off during the hike so we got a little wet although we were both geared up in what were advertised to be waterproof togs.

That evening there was a pot luck dinner with a lot of people at Rob and Carolyn’s new home.  I made it a relatively early night after dinner and chat with a few of the other guests.

Monday was back to work for Rob and Carolyn so I headed off hiking a couple of recommended routes near the Pinkham Notch Visitors Center where Mountain Classroom operates.  These were really pleasant and, importantly, reminded me that within reason, I can enjoy hiking solo.  I miss the companionship Abner always provided but new beautiful places are pretty stimulating even when you have to enjoy them by yourself.

By mid afternoon I was finished with my two hikes so I grabbed some lunch and headed to North Conway to hit the outlet mall.  This is not exactly a pleasant way to spend the afternoon from my perspective but I have dropped about 30 pounds since late December and was in desperate need from some clothes that fit.

After that, I headed back to the Eagle Mountain House, cleaned up, and waited for Rob to appear for our last dinner.  Carolyn worked late on Monday and couldn’t join us so we went into North Conway, had a great pizza dinner and Rob even got me to try another beer which, I have to admit, I liked.

We said our goodbyes back at the hotel since Rob was planning a fairly early departure for work in the morning.  I packed up as much as possible, read The Goldfinch (the book I brought on this trip and was really into by my 5th night) for awhile, and got a good night’s sleep on my final night in New Hampshire.

I have to recommend visiting the area of the White Mountains if you have the opportunity.  Of course seeing this place with friends who really know their way around is very helpful but having now visited once in the winter and once in spring, I am a big fan.

Tuesday morning I got started around 10:00 in the morning and decided to alter my route to Boston.  The previous time I had just followed the GPS instructions and got there but parts of the drive were kind of unpleasant due to bridge construction and also the necessity of driving into Boston on surface streets through some less than attractive neighborhoods.

This time I decided I would head Southwest from Conway, eventually hitting I-93 in Southern New Hampshire, and then taking that route into Central Boston.  As it turned out, this route took me around the amazingly picturesque Lake Winnipesaukee of Mitt Romney vacation fame.  I have to admit that I could see the appeal.  It does look the kind of place very rich white people would flock to.  The village I drove through had that old New England picturesque look with small cute shops and real estate office.  I had no real reason to stop since I had brought leftover pizza from the previous night’s dinner to have for lunch later on, but I was glad I got to see the place.


The drive into Boston was uneventful in other respects until I was downtown and trying to follow the GPS instructions.  This is one place where sometimes this device is of little value.  Boston, particularly in the very old central parts, is a labyrinth of streets, often with changing names, that are actually quite small and close to each other.  What kept happening was that the GPS couldn’t keep up quickly enough with where I was and didn’t give me instructions in time for me to follow them.  Eventually I just pulled over, let it catch up and figure out where the hell I was, and then develop a way to get me to my hotel, The Boxer.


When I booked this room on Priceline, it indicated that this was a 4-star hotel on Beacon Hill which sounded great online.  As is the case with most of the downtown hotels, parking is very costly and is in separate garages, either by valet or self park.  I had decided that for practical reasons I would spend the extra $8 per day on valet so I could get the car when I needed to.  The self park arrangements, unlike at the Revere where I stayed in January, are a bit more distant from the hotel and do not allow you to take the car in and out.


When I found the front of the hotel there was a generous valet parking slot curbside and I pulled in.  It took a little while but the valet did appear and ran through the options with me.  The one very odd part of all this was that the valet parking service isn’t offered after 11:00PM or before 7:00AM.  What this meant was that if I decided to drive somewhere for dinner and would be coming back late, I was out of luck on getting parked in the garage they use.


I decided to do it anyway because I had enough crap I had to get to the hotel room that I didn’t want to deal with moving the car after unloading and reversing the process when I was checking out. 


I went to check in and was told that I was an hour early.  This really pissed me off since I had called before leaving Asheville to find out some of the parameters of staying at The Boxer.  At that time the assistant manager on duty told me that check-in was at 2:00 or later, and since it was about 2:15 I was expecting to be able to go right up.  The lobby is rather small and there is no place to store luggage while you wait for a room so I was a little flummoxed by this turn of events.  All my stuff ended up in a pile in the lobby and I had to stick around to guard it while I waited for a room.


In the end they found one relatively quickly so the wait wasn’t as long as predicted but it was an inauspicious start.


The Boxer is an interesting place but I suspect will only appeal to a small niche clientele.  The room I had was a handicap-accessible one on the 8th floor (of 9) and all of 3 feet from the elevator.  The room itself is small, with no closet or dresser space at all.  I gather this is the general approach the designers took when doing the extensive remodel of the old Bullfinch Hotel, from which The Boxer was created.


Rooms are very attractive and contemporary and on the top two floors have rather large windows.  Due to the handicap access requirements I also had a rather large bathroom, albeit with a shower you can roll a wheelchair into that consequently has no curb and does not retain water well.  I did a lot of mopping up outside the shower after every use.


There is a nice desk for sitting down to use a computer or tablet and the free wifi worked quite well.  The bed was absolutely wonderful and fulfilled my sleep needs very well.  The lack of any storage space to speak of makes it very hard to use these rooms in a very tidy manner.  There is hanging space but it is completely exposed.  With only one drawer below it, there is not really an easy way to store ones other things so you are pretty much relegated to putting luggage on top of whatever horizontal surface you can find and living out of your bags.  Since I was there only for two nights it wasn’t that bad but I was only one person and for only two days.  I can’t imagine what a mess it would have been with two people and/or more days.  To me this place would be perfect for someone coming into town to see sporting event at the Garden around the corner or go to the theater a few blocks away.  For a single night with only one change of clothes this place might be perfect.


As a rule, aside from the woman who checked me in, staff were very nice people.  Service was uneven but not for lack of effort.  There is a bar/restaurant on the ground floor that, like everything else in the place, is small with a modest menu but is very pleasant and serves very good food and drink.


My big adventures in Boston were mostly on day two.  It was a gorgeous day and I walked all over the place.  From the hotel I walked to ICA Boston (institute of Contemporary Art) whose building was extensively publicized when it opened.  I am glad I got to see it but was decidedly unimpressed.  The building is one of those done by starchitects that while dramatic and in some ways intriguing, strikes me as very self-indulgent and gimmicky.  There is a particularly odd element that hangs down from a large cantilevered upper floor that contains a stepped down room with a bunch of computers in it that apparently is supposed to allow public access to certain data the Institute has.  This was very contrived.  It aims your view to a flat expanse of water in Boston harbor (you literally see nothing but water in the very large window that spans the bottom of the room).  The whole idea of having it step down might have made sense if there actually were a view everyone would want to see but there isn’t.  Furthermore it is completely inaccessible to anyone with a movement disability.  It seems to only succeed in looking like some odd rectangular goiter hanging under the mass of the upper part of the building.


This structure was a project of Diller Scofidio + Renfro who have been quite infamous lately for their participation in the destruction by the New York Museum of Modern Art of the adjacent Museum of American Folk Art.  Seeing this building in the flesh makes me even more contemptuous of their support of this inexcusable loss of an important piece of contemporary architecture.  Like Daniel Liebeskind, I think this practice is guilty of believing that they know better than everyone else what should be built.  To me this building is another example of the emperor having no clothes.

In the afternoon I returned to the Charlestown Naval Yard which I had visited as a child in the early 60s.  This is where Old Ironsides (the USS Constitution) is berthed and open to public touring.  I had enjoyed it as a child and did even more so as an adult.  Several decks of this grand old wooden tall warship are open for touring and the navy keeps plenty of personnel on board to give detailed information about the ship and how everything on it was used when it was a major element of the navy.  This ship played a major role in the War of 1812 and has been retained and lovingly cared for ever since.

Dinner that night was in the hotel and it was excellent, as I mentioned earlier.

The drive home from Boston is certainly more than I wanted to cram into a day so at a certain point I started looking at stopping somewhere around the mid-point of the trip.  Then I remembered that an old college roommate of mine whom I hadn’t seen in 40 years lives in Baltimore.  Thanks to the Internet and his comparative fame in his chosen field, I was able to track him down.

The visit was brief. . .just and evening and overnight, but interesting and fun.  Matt has changed so little in 40 years that it was almost eerie.  Of course everyone goes through physical changes over that period of time but the person I visited seemed largely the same as when we had last seen each other in our young adulthood and at the beginning of our careers.  He lives in a lovely old house in an area of Baltimore that abuts Johns Hopkins University.  His house is filled with art that reflects pretty much the same tastes he had already refined when we were in college together.  He is still soft spoken and modest but charming in a quiet sort of way and in spite of getting older I would probably have recognized his face anywhere.

The next morning I began the somewhat long drive home.  Leaving the Baltimore and Washington urban areas is not easy but I escaped relatively unscathed once I got past Arlington and Alexandria Virginia.  What I hadn’t counted on was the virtual impossibility of refueling in Reston.  For those who don’t know it, Reston was a planned city in the 60s that exemplifies almost everything bad about these places.  It is heavily landscaped so you can almost never actually see any of the endless office parks and shopping centers that line the long, wide featureless streets.  It is very disorienting and make finding anything almost impossible.

I got off at a major Reston exit and literally was driving around, stopping and asking for directions, and slowly running out of diesel for 20 minutes at this one exit before I finally succeeded in finding a service station about 2-3 miles from where I had gotten off that had the combination of working pumps, a connection with the credit card reader that worked, and diesel for sale.  I had been by several shopping centers, countless office parks and apartment/condo complexes, and junk food restaurants and was desperately eager to get back on the freeway.

After that escape though the drive home was pretty easy.  Because of the aforementioned familiarity with I-81, much of which is unavoidable, I bailed at I-77, drove to Statesville, NC and then came up to Asheville on I-40 which delivered me almost to my front door and probably didn’t make the trip 3 minutes longer.  Sometimes risking something the GPS doesn’t encourage is more than worth it just for variety.

So after 10 days, probably close to 3,000 miles, a slight cold and reunions with two friends I had seen 4 months earlier and two whom I had not seen in many years, I made it home with 2 weeks to prepare for the arrival of my new puppy.

Most people who read this blog are aware of the life I led with Abner and the blow I sustained when he developed bone cancer and ultimately died in 2012.  20 months had elapsed between Abner’s death and the long awaited arrival of Felix.  For the longest time I just didn’t feel like I could even consider having another dog around because my feelings of loss were still too raw.  I also had to deal with recovering from a complex spinal fusion surgery I had two weeks after losing Abner, and the subsequent return of the pain that necessitated it.  I was left feeling like I was never really going to get over losing Abner when I met Janet Ingram, a Pyrenees breeder who lives in Radford, VA. 

Last summer, on the return drive to Asheville after visiting Rob in Seneca Rocks, WV I stopped in Radford to meet Janet and her 14 Pyrs.  As you can imagine, it was quite bittersweet.  I was surrounded by all these big affectionate (or in a couple cases, completely uninterested) beasts and a lot of the feelings I had held for Abner returned vividly to my consciousness.  I was sad and elated at the same time.  Janet related to me that in all the years she has bred and lived with Pyrs she has had many dogs she has loved deeply but none so much as one she had in the 1990s.  What she said was that based on her experience, it is possible that I will never get over losing Abner.  This doesn’t mean that I cannot get a great deal of pleasure out of having another dog in my life, but it is possible I will not feel the magic connection I had before.

In the end, I decided she was right and started the process of trying to get a dog.  I will not belabor that whole story again.  Most of you know that there have been a number of false starts in my attempts, since August, to find a new puppy.  In any case, that is now all history.

Felix arrived in Atlanta at dawn on May 23rd after flying overnight from San Diego.  There are a lot of rules about transporting live animals and in the end, it turns out the only way you can come close to complying is to put them on a red-eye.  Even then, Delta, the airline I have hated above all others for about the last 10 years or so, managed to almost screw up this transfer.  On the day Felix was supposed to fly, Kim Lasley, the breeder from whom I got both Abner and Felix, called the airline to confirm the time and circumstances of checking the dog in for his flight.  The plan was for him to travel as extra baggage in tandem with Kim’s daughter who was traveling to Pensacola, FL to visit her boyfriend.

Delta informed Kim that they imposed a moratorium on flying animals that started on May 15th.  This was, of course, typical of Delta.  They had sold tickets, taken money, and booked both Kim’s daughter’s transportation and Felix’s without ever saying a word about terminating the service a week before his scheduled departure.  There was also no word about it on the pages of their website relating to the transport of live pets.

She ended up spending almost the whole day arguing with and then being transferred by various Delta employees and departments until she extracted an agreement that allowed him to fly on the same itinerary (but of course for considerably more money) as cargo. 

Finally on the morning of the 23rd, after spending the night as the guest of Ben Fowler and his father and step-mom, I headed to the airport, with Ben riding shotgun, to pick up my as yet unnamed puppy.

We arrived about 30 minutes after the flight had landed but the crate hadn’t made it to Delta’s cargo terminal so I drank coffee and looked at email on my phone killing time for the big arrival.  When Felix finally did show up he appeared to be curious about what was going on but not particularly distressed or frazzled by the experience of being in an airline kennel for more than 5 hours.

Without a whole lot of ceremony we left the cargo terminal and made the 20 minute drive back to Ben’s house.  Once there we took the pup out and hung out on the porch with him just so he could get kind of stable.  He drank some water, ate some food, and promptly barfed on Ben’s front porch.  Following a quick cleanup we decided that perhaps it would wise to take him to the park across the street to walk a bit and perhaps a quick pee and poo.

Many of the early morning joggers were smitten with this cute ball of fluff after which Ben made a comment that I will not repeat here but it pertained to Felix’s appeal to women.  We stayed in the park for perhaps 15 minutes and then headed back to finish coffee, pack up my car, put the puppy back in his kennel for the drive to Asheville, and head out.

The trip home was uneventful although Felix did pee in the crate once.  Once we got to Asheville though, we started the complicated dance of a puppy and his new surrogate parent getting to know each other.  What I will tell you is that for the first 12 hours or so, I was pretty much panicking that I had made a huge mistake and that I would never bond well with this puppy.  He wasn’t Abner and I felt no magic.  I think I have probably gone through some version of this emotional turmoil when I got Harvey and again with Abner, so it shouldn’t have been a surprise that I would panic at first with Felix.

The first night didn’t improve things much.  Felix was OK until bed time and was definitely not pleased about being crated even 5 feet away from me.  The Monks of New Skete recommend tethering the pup to one’s bed but that really wasn’t an option for me so I went with the airline kennel in which he had flown.  He cried and whined and then barked when he didn’t get the desired response.  Initially I gave him verbal corrections as recommended and when that didn’t work I tried the abrupt noise (bang on the top of the cage).  Amazingly enough that worked and he stayed quiet for a couple hours. 

For the first 5 days or so he had to get up somewhere between every 1 and 45 minutes and 3 hours but then the nights started getting longer.  He almost immediately was able to increase the time to 6 hours and for the last few nights (he is no longer sleeping in my bedroom as he appears to prefer the kitchen) he has gone 7-1/2 to 8 hours in the crate without so much as a peep and no mess inside.  He still occasionally gets lazy and pees in the house without noticeably asking to go out but that is rare.

As day two rolled around my panic abated somewhat as Felix’s charm began to emerge and by Sunday night I was quite taken with him.  I had been agonizing since before his arrival over names and just couldn’t make any of them work.  Then I watched an HBO movie with a character named Felix and suddenly I realized that was the name I was looking for.

We started puppy preschool last Thursday and I wouldn’t say it was a huge success.  He was a little intimidated by the other puppies in spite of being the largest one there.  He didn’t really understand how they were playing and it really put him off.  He spent most of the time hiding under a chair or behind an adult human.  The people who run these classes say this is common the first time and not to worry about it .

So. . .things are slowly evolving toward something that might be mistaken for normal life, whatever that is.  More news of these transitions will follow in other postings.

 Well, I tried uploading these photos in a sensible sequence but to no avail.  Above is one of a dozen or more somewhat cornie "selfies" Rob took of us hiking to Franconia Falls one day.  Since he is not a big fan of photographs of himself he usually makes somewhat bizarre faces.  The shot above is one of the more straightforward ones.  The two photos below were on some side creek where we were looking for critters or their eggs.

 This was the view in the car on the Kancamagus highway from Conway to Lincoln.

 These shots were from my solo hike on my last day in NH when I based myself out of the Pinkham Notch visitor center.
 The photo below as well as two down from this one were taken at the Institute for Contemporary Art, Boston.  In between is another of Rob's shots of us at the Franconia Falls trail.

 Old Ironsides, at the Charlestown Navy Yard fascinated me when I was a kid and still does.

 Above is a classic sign in the Navy yard and below is the view of the TD Garden from my room at The Boxer.

 The photo above is of Felix the first day I picked him up in Atlanta when he was adjusting to everything being new and strange.
 He still likes being a lap dog but that probably won't work for much longer.

Back on the NH trip, these shots were taken on the way up to and at the summit of Eagle Mountain.
 Below is the Eagle Mountain House, where I stayed for 4 nights as viewed from the summit.  It is actually farther away but I used the telephoto lens to see it better.

 Above is Rob exercising the very New Hampshire tendency to ignore authority.  The shot below is mostly about my fascination with moss.  This was a tree that was positively festooned in the stuff.  We encountered this on the way back from Franconia Falls.  You will note that Rob is dressed for wet weather, which we encountered about 4 or 5 times that day.