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This past Father’s Day was not the type of day I’d envisioned, wanted, or was pleased with. Sick with a head cold, one hand wrapped up in gauze from a deep sheet-metal cut, facing major changes to my work and domestic patterns, I spent the day at the veterinarian’s office, saying goodbye to our seventeen-year old cat, Mouse, euthanizing her after she’d suffered acute kidney failure.

Not a good day.

But it did get me thinking, specifically about my dad. Apropos.

At heart, my dad was a taciturn country boy. He was born in the small, rural town of Point Reyes Station in west Marin County, California. His parents were a truck driver and a housekeeper, his grandparents were gardeners and charcoal burners and boarding house matrons, and the town he lived in was quiet, remote, and full of independent, practical-minded, deeply conservative folks.

Dad’s rustic, back-country upbringing during the 1920s and ’30s was the source of many eye-popping tales of cultural dissonance. I’m pretty sure Dad told us kids some of his stories purely for their shock value. He took pride in his pedigree, his gruff, hardscrabble roots, and much of his identity was tied to a story arc anchored on the picturesque shores of Point Reyes and Tomales Bay.

With this as preamble, it’s not surprising that Dad’s philosophy about pets was . . . different than mine. They were animals, like livestock. He would tell of neighbors who put unwanted whelps in burlap sacks and disposed of them in a cruel and despicable fashion. When it came to the cats and dogs who shared our home, he cultivated a facade of casual disinterest. They were just animals, he’d say.

But it was a lie. (more…)

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I’d heard of them long before I saw one in the wild. Rare, elusive, they were things of power and legend. Sure, I saw them in movies, but I knew those were fakes; we all did.

The C-note. The Benjamin. One hundred smackeroos.

I was nine years old when I saw my first one.

We were at Tiburon Tommie’s, the Chinese restaurant of my youth, a place where the drinks menu was long and fixed, and the food menu was short and subject to change. (more…)

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