You can always have ice cream

I wondered where the boom was today when my big stone government building swayed and danced. The building’s hips moved to a beat…but I didn’t hear the band. I assumed “You Will Hear The Explosion” would be the title for a future miniseries, on TLC or Lifetime, about the terrorist attack of 2011. Probably be called 8-11 or some shit like that.

I thought there was a man-made source to the swaying, but alas it was just Mother Nature saying hello with a 5.8 earthquake. Mineral, Virginia, is now a known place. This is supposedly the first earthquake in the region since 1897…so with my shoes off…that means this is the first one in 113 years (somebody check my math). In retrospect, this was a weak way to announce “who’s your daddy!”

My professional career is based on 9-11 (thankfully it isn’t based on my blog writing abilities). So the serious side of me assumed it was a bomb. The other 95% of me found my reaction, the reaction of coworkers, and DC’s reaction highly entertaining.

So after having my “victim of a terrorist bombing” hopes dashed, I realized it was an earthquake. My coworkers and I stood in our office doorways staring at each other with an almost surreal (more on surreal later in this post) look on our faces. All I remembering saying was “let’s get out of the fucking building”…or some other inappropriate comment unfit for a professional workplace. The walk down the stairs wasn’t as panic-stricken as expected. Everyone moved in an orderly manner…matter of fact the Capitol Police were pissed at our lollygagging. At the exit, one actually yelled “move people!” “Move people” is not the phrase I expected. I expected them to tell people to calmly leave the building…but no…this person of authority (police during an evacuation are an authority) was actually telling me (and all the other peoples) to “move!” This utterance was the moment I knew this was going to be some funny shit. I wasn’t wrong.

Here is what I learned from 8-11:

1. Gaggling IS the appropriate response to an evacuation following a real event. If it had been a fire alarm exercise people would have faded off to Pennsylvania Avenue (SE) for a coffee and donuts, or heading home to take a nap…I live too far away to get a quick nap…damn!. No one strolled away, people gaggled because they honestly didn’t know what the hell was going on. This is what one would call a “goat rodeo.” Gaggling, or herd mentality, really does kick in when you don’t know what the hell is going on. In Apocalypse Now, Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) asked an unnamed solder at Dulong bridge “hey soldier, who’s in charge here?” The soldier replies “ain’t you?!” Today, I had my own Dulong bridge experience. We gaggled with bureaucratic efficiency. We gaggled so effectively that I was physically pushed into the sun by a group of older ladies who weren’t going to let me enjoy the shade more than them. Note to self: in case of summertime evacuation…take ball cap with you. Also, keep an eye out for Charlie on the wire!

2. The machines are decades away from enslaving us. If cell phones can’t get a signal after a small earthquake on the eastern seaboard, there is no way these machines, or their cousins (automated bank teller machines and computerized parking meters), are going to beat us into submission. This was their moment! We were helpless. Huddled (gaggled) masses were awaiting their technological overlords. Senor iPhone (in my mind, my machine overlord is named “Senor iPhone”) didn’t have the balls or ability to become dominant. The Terminator turned into the Textinator…the best Senor Textinator could do was send my text messages at a snail’s pace. A true technological sentient entity, who had some learning from the National War College (shout out to my fellow Warriors!), would have recognized this strategic opportunity. Nope…the best thing these machines did was to allow me to only post the two following Facebook statements: “eartquake” (yes I misspelled it…give me a break) and “Holy shit.” I lost my ability to FB my nearly, sort of, death experience immediately afterwards for a few hours.

3. “Eartquake” and “Holy shit” should not be your (potentially) last words to the world. “Shawn was a dumbass” would have been how I was remembered. I always thought I would have been funnier! (My memorial service should be one where people tell funny stories about me…not an event where everyone shakes their heads at my stupidity) My coworkers would have remembered me as the guy who told them to “get the fuck out of the building.” At least I didn’t run…matter of fact I didn’t see anyone run. Proudly, I can say I didn’t wet my britches either. However, I let the world know that we were having some sort of event that  seemed similar to an “earthquake” and I thought fecal matter could be of a religious nature. I am a dumbass.

4. I never realized so many Germans visit DC in August. Every other tourist I saw wandering the streets aimlessly (obviously the Smithsonian kicks people out of buildings during an “eartquake”) was speaking Deutsch. Who knew that Hanzel und Gretyl  enjoyed the swampy confines of our nation’s capital in the summertime? Well, they needed bread crumbs today. Every other street around the Capitol, Library of Congress, and the Supreme Court was blocked, by the police, to foot and vehicular traffic. No one was getting an easy route to their destination.

5. Looting cost me $8.89. This is the price for one liter of water and a can of Skoal (straight/long cut…no nasty ass flavors for me) in DC. Not only did I forget my ball cap for my balding head, but I forgot my can of dip on my desk! The machines may not be my master yet…but nicotine sure is the lord of my existence. Note to self: throw away official emergency pack (yes…I have one of these issued to me) and make a more appropriate emergency pack. Bourbon, Skoal, water, and Oreos are far more realistic.

6. Living in the suburbs sucks. I got to walk 3 miles home; didn’t have to rely on Metro or a car. Plus, walking home allowed me to think about this blog post and enjoy the Bratwurst eating tourists. In an emergency you can’t trust your car or the automated trains (see our machine overlords couldn’t even get their railroad act together!). I did offer a coworker my sofa…he chose the trains instead. Note to self: never be a good Samaritan, all it gets you is an uncomfortable silence from a coworker.

7. You can always get ice cream. Right there on Massachusetts Avenue, shimmering gloriously in the afternoon sun was a baby poop green ice cream truck! The driver was a REAL AMERICAN because he analyzed the situation and decided to sell ice cream to Germans instead of getting into the parking lot of DC streets. He knew that his time was better spent making money than worrying with getting home. This true entrepreneur, this Warren Buffett of ice cream, was representin’!

Overall, I learned an important lesson today. In case of emergency: get a fudge bar, stand back, and watch your world go crazy…there is some funny shit out there.

Now about surreal. Surreal is defined as something being fantastic or unbelievable. I used the word “surreal” early in this post. I was mistaken. Today’s events and reactions (even my own) were not fantastic or unbelievable. To be surreal the earthquake needed to be an alien invasion, or at least frogs falling from the sky. I didn’t react in a fantastic or unbelievable manner. If you’re reading this blog…then you know me. Nothing I have recounted of my actions says unbelievable. More than anything it reinforces your opinions of me. So for the record, I should do a better job editing my writing. Obviously, that won’t happen because I am haphazard in my written communication…like FBing “eartquake’ and “Holy shit.”

The Four Horsemen of the Apocaplyse and One Exploited Child

I’m listening to The Police’s “Message in a Box: The Complete Recordings” and Sting sounds young and earnest. His future weirdness isn’t completely evident…but you get a sense that, if successful, he will do this whole dark solo career where he will go on stage barefooted with a massive back-up band, and look all reflective/deep…sort of a more commercialized Morrissey. Andy Summer’s guitar is loose and freewheeling. The early tracks are especially raw and mixed loosely that allows the vocals to run into the bass, guitar, and Stewart Copeland’s drums. They were obviously too poor to have a good sound mixer and engineer. This is the Police I like. It’s a band that is making the music of musicians who have talent and don’t give a fuck. 

But we all know the weirdness is there…we see it in their “Wrapped Around Your Finger” video. Those candles, the dancing…that’s just creepy because it’s about their willingness to be a bitch for someone and then celebrating it in song. “Wrapped Around Your Finger” is way creepier than “Every Breath You Take.” Obsession seems way more normal than self-actualized bitchness. By the way, the longer I listen to their musical catalog I am struck by the fact that the vast majority of their songs are about losing/wanting/needing/stalking women. This means The Police are the antithesis of Metallica. Metallica never sings about women, unless you consider “Last Caress/Green Hell” a love song. Note here: this would also imply that your definition of “love” is of a deviant and violent nature. 

Stewart Copeland’s foray into opera and classical music is proof too. Gen X moms love solo Sting; Gen X dudes want more Synchronicity. I have no idea what Andy Summers is doing these days (I guess I could Google him…but its more fun to think he is living off Police royalties and laughing at Stewart and Sting’s self-absorbtion), but Stewart and Sting chose themselves over music. 

Speaking of choosing oneself over their art. The world ended Wednesday, August 17th, 2011, at precisely 10 p.m. EST. At this moment, America’s self-absorption and commercial masturbation reached the pinnacle of apocalypse inducing events. The actual fabric of time was shorn, ripped, shredded. This is the time that the National Geographic Channel (HD) aired “Pint-Sized Preachers.” (http://channel.nationalgeographic.com/episode/pint-sized-preachers-5547/Overview)

For the rest of this post I will refer to this end-of-time moment as PSP (sorry Sony…but yes, your gaming system has more socially redeeming qualities than this Nat Geo crap). 

Ok, confession time: I did not watch PSP. So now would be the appropriate time to stop reading this blog. This television show “review” is based on uninformed opinions formulated within the confines of a glass of bourbon and ice. You will obviously wonder how I can have a strong opinion (yes apocalyptic opinions about unwatched shows would be considered “strong”) on a show that I didn’t watch. Well, I feel it doesn’t matter that I didn’t watch this train wreck. I have never seen “Jersey Shore” but I know it is a piece of shit. Another side note here: I can’t quite articulate it, but I find Snookie sort of attractive. Maybe it’s the tan and hair, or (this is almost to perverted to type) maybe it’s her accent! 

I did, however, spend time debating myself on the advantages and disadvantages of watching PSP. I even set my DVR up to record it. Five minutes later, at the end of said debate, I deleted the record function. Explaining the debate is better than detailing the advantages and disadvantages. 

Me: “What a train wreck! Really?!!!! A: who thinks up this shit at these television corporation meetings? B: ….ah Hell! I am so pissed at this show already that I have forgotten what ‘B” was!” 

Me: “But you know it’s gonna be funny as Hell!” 

Me: “Yeah…but I get all pissed when I see, yet again, an example of religion being all perverted. It’s not worth the anger that will ooze from my pores while watching it.” 

Me: “But you know its gonna be damn funny!” 

Me: “Have we really, as a society, decided this is ‘normal’ enough to show on TV? I know it’s not normal normal but it is normal enough to not cause an immediate outrage. Shouldn’t social services be called on parents who exploit their children this way?” 

Me: “Dude, it’s gonna be funny! Like watching a little monkey reciting Bible verses! Then there is going to be all these adults (who should know better) encouraging the little monkey. It is going to be a riot!” 

Me: “My DVR deserves better! BBC America is showing the first episode of the ‘The Hour’ at the same time. A self-respecting human being with an ounce of intelligence would record that instead. I owe my DVR the right to record something other than ‘Squidbillies’ and ‘The Andy Griffith Show’….no BBC America wins!” 

Me: “PSP is gonna be…” 

Me: “I know ‘funny!’ but no! Nat Geo just lost some street cred!” 

Basically, we have chosen ourselves over our art. People are willing to watch PSP and not be so disgusted that this “church” is burned to the ground by an angry mob. This self-absorption, this desire to watch a child be exploited, is truly the final horseman of the apocalypse. See this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=68SgQLKnlYM because it’s the soundtrack I imagine in my head when I visualize me kicking the shit out of the PSP’s parents. Yes Virginia there are stupid television producers and tiny preachers who want your money! Santa Clause is waaaaay more normal!

By the way, I stopped listening to The Police a long time ago. They got too “weird” for me…Metallica is singing about something other than women right now on my iPod.

The Rough Wasn’t

They were walking really fast, making me sweat as I tried to keep up. They were 20 years older than me. I referred to them as the two grumpy Hobbits. In reality they were Mark and Phil, two retired Royal Air Force officers. They knew why there were riots going on in England. The quick answer is laziness and lack of education…military conservatism is universal. The grumpy Hobbits gave me a quick (as in they played really fast) lesson in British golf. I was not up for the lesson, but I gave it the ol’American try. I swung my club. I grabbed my bag. I walked quickly to my ball (if I didn’t launch it into a sheep pasture). I moved as quickly as possible. They still beat me to the green. I didn’t want to make America appear to be the land of lazy golfers. Sorry America…I failed and I came away believing that the people who inhabit UK, the ancestral home of golf, know how to play and enjoy golf better. We may have more courses (land issue), we may have more golfers (population issue), but we don’t have tradition. I don’t think I can mentally chant U-S-A, U-S-A anymore when watching the British Open. It is their game; we just commercialize and exploit it better. 

First: I play golf, I buy expensive golf clubs, I buy (and lose) a lot of golf balls, hell…I travel just to play, and my handicap is 21 (this number means I suck at golf). That is my golf knowledge in a singularity (see: http://www.ias.ac.in/jarch/jaa/20/221-232.pdf – this is a random link that has “naked singularity” in its title). I can stand on a fairway and know where the ball ought to go (well sort of), but I can’t explain why the hole, or golf course, is designed that way. Golf courses are designed a certain way, but I don’t know what that “certain” way is. My vocabulary fails me when attempting to describe this. Golf courses are the product of art and science and these are two things that I am totally incapable of understanding beyond laymen’s terms or concepts. 

Golf course design is an art and a science. Architects who design them actually have their own association (http://www.asgca.org/). Having an association is a sign of legitimacy. Golf course architects are very legitimate. They are also bastards. All the bastards are not made the same and their bastardliness (not a word) is varied. It varies by location and the targeted golf clientele. A basic rule is that the more expensive the course the better the design and upkeep. Another basic rule, the more expensive the bigger architect bastard. 

Second: I recently played golf in East Anglia (think NNE of London), England, and the golf courses are designed in a fashion that I had never experienced before. Additionally, the manner in which golf is played in East Anglia was different from golfing in America. It isn’t as if the game was different or the rules were changed; it just had a different feel and attitude. East Anglia is not British Open country, there were no sand dunes, no rolling hills with sparse vegetation, no gnarled coastal trees (or gnarled greens keepers stalking the course with their sheep dog). “Parkland” is how it is described in England. I describe it as Pennsylvania…except it is devoid of the Amish, outlet malls, Camaros, and mullets. 

Here is how English golf is different: 

1. The rough isn’t. See http://golf.about.com/cs/golfterms/g/bldef_rough.htm for a definition of “rough.” But East Anglia rough isn’t rough, thick, or shaggy…it was just a little less flat than the fairway. It was pristine, a green velvet that stretched out until meeting a sheep pasture (sheep pastures are green too…but decorated with little black dots of poop). What the rough missed in hampering your golf shot the trees and angles made up for. There were holes where trees actually camouflaged the holes. Odd angles from one group of trees to the next never allows the golfer to aim straight at the hole. English golf course designers are crafty bastards. 

2. There are no lost golf balls. In America, if you are running low on golf balls (because you are constantly launching them into the woods) you know you will find someone else’s lost ball. For me it usually turns out to be some pink breast cancer awareness ball, but hey, I am secure in my masculinity. I have no problem launching a pink golf ball into the woods! But, seriously, I never found an errant golf ball. Now this may the result of the manicured green velvet they call rough in England which makes it easy to find an errant golf ball, or it may be that English golfers have better eyesight. Honestly, I don’t know. What I do know…make sure you buy and carry enough golf balls in your bag to replace when you lose yours. Americans are wasteful that way. 

3. British greens are soft but not bruised. This sounds like a description of perfectly ripe kiwi, and actually that is a good way to describe British green texture. Supple smooth and soft enough to cradle your bump and run shot. I played with six different golfers in England and none of them “went for” the green. All of them ensured their second or third shot was close enough to easily be bumped up and on. This may be a result of the greens’ softness or the greens’ softness is the result of the British game of bump and run. Either way, the greens were wonderfully textured…after two holes I started aiming for a bump and run shot. Americans leave heavy footprints in the world; I didn’t want to replicate it on these terry cloth greens. 

4. It’s “dykes” not “ditches.” Don’t ask me, I guess it’s like “lorry” instead of “truck,” or “torch” instead of “flashlight.” They call things differently…but don’t put your ball in the dyke. By the way, that last sentence sounded a lot dirtier than intended. 

5. British golfers walk. Walk sounds like stroll, but it isn’t; there is no strolling on British courses. You move out with a purpose (this is how the U.S. Army describes the term “range walk”…which means you can’t run with a weapon on the firing range but you better be moving with a purpose). Because they walk, there is no cart paths which means there is no lucky bounce off a cart path to give you an extra ten yards on your drive. In England you are stuck with your game; no gimmies from the course or life. 

6. British golf is not elitist. When one thinks about golf it is understandable to think elitism. In America, a certain socio-economic class is drawn to golf…old, fat, rich, white guys. In England the courses are covered in the old and the young, women and men. British golf is about tradition. You have to know the rules and you have to respect the game. You don’t have to be good (I beat one of the grumpy Hobbits), you just have to play with a purpose, know the rules, and respect the game. This equates to no cart girls loaded down with beer and cheese crackers.

I suck at golf in America; I suck at golf in England. Golf, for me, is like running…I’m not good at it but I like myself more for doing it. Both are humbling experiences. Golf in England was hobbits, moving with a purpose, and wishing I could have found a pink ball in the rough.

Inflight Thinking and Drinking

I am a lazy person. It is in my nature to avoid any extensive work of any kind. If it isn’t easily attainable then I want no part of it. My writing is no different. I have a lot of ideas on what would make an interesting book but that would entail me having to actually research and write the books. Instead I think I will continue to think up book ideas and titles followed by nothing else.

I do, however, write notebooks. A significant portion of these notebooks is written while I am flying because it is either me writing or me drinking. I believe my fellow passengers prefer me to write instead of downing bourbons and singing along with my iPod. These notebooks are filled with eclectic ideas, sights, experiences, and rambling thoughts. The following is a list of book ideas and titles gleaned from my notebooks. Feel free to take them and use them in your own literary pursuits. I know there is a best seller on the list somewhere.

1. Henna: Picking Up Chicks on the Indian Subcontinent – On a recent flight I saw two young Indian American women with temporary henna tattoos (I assume they were returning from a wedding) and I think that henna tattoos are attractive.

2. Shut ’em Up or I will: Kids on Planes – Okay, this is an easy one…sort of a softball of book ideas…because who isn’t driven mad by kids on planes. This book, however, may be seen as a rip-off of the movie Snakes on Plane.

3. Blog Writing for Morons – Probably already written and I have obviously not read it.

4. My Teenage German Girlfriend: Real Shit That Happens to Me on International Flights – Seriously, this girl snuggled me for 6 hours as we crossed the North Atlantic.

5. The Rough Wasn’t: Misadventures in English Golf – This is actually the title and subject of my next blog post.

6. Airlines Want to Make You Fat: They Can’t Afford It Though – International flights have lots of snacks, meals, and drinks but the portions are so damn small that it would piss off a toddler…see number 2.

7. A Little Unrest is Good for Society: Everything I Learned About Rioting in England – I golfed with two grumpy Hobbits who were retired RAF officers and I learned A LOT about what caused the recent riots in England, oddly it was not the same causes that BBC reported.

8. Central Asians Like Boobs: Seeing the World Through Airline Magazine Ads – This is when I wish I was technologically proficient enough to post pictures here, also see number 4.

9. Soundtracks to Travelling: Metal and Electro-Pop – The UK gave us head banging and club music. They may not have an empire, but the British sure as shit have a way with marketing musical genres.

10. Big Waves and B Grade Movies: Cruise Ship Television Sucks – Having a large catalog of B grade movies does not make good viewing, but it does allow you to watch Weekend at Bernies while eating ice cream at 2 a.m. in your cabin (true story).

11. I Thought Sarah Palin (or Michelle Bachmann) Was Hot…I Was Wrong – There is so much to say about this, alternate title could be Sssh! Just Stand There and Look Pretty.

12. Romuluns Are Sexy: Dangerous Guy Syndrome – Who doesn’t like an evil ET with a tribal tattoo plastered across their face? Sorry, Mike Tyson is neither an ET or evil, he is just a weird human.

13. England is Burning; I’m Golfing – See numbers 5 and 7.

14. Me & Metal: Puberty Sucks – Heavy Metal and I both hit puberty at the same time, I wonder if I could figure out how to describe how the two of us have aged and if there are any parallels.

15. I is What I is: Popeye the Self-Actualized Man – This would be a study in the art of adopting a Popeye life philosophy. I imagine it would include eating spinach and chasing Kate Moss skinny chicks.

16. Yes You Should Get a Nose Ring: Stuff I Find Hot – Would probably just be a book length version of this list, and this is something I have said to a woman.

17. My Baby Likes Prison Movies; I Fear Communal Showers – This would also make a great Country & Western song…John Prine sings one that is similar.

18. Six Conversations At Once: How My Family Communicates – One: this is true, and two: this says a lot about me.

19. Pharmaceuticals for Dummies – This would be a great Christmas gift for that loved one that is looking for a meth alternative.

20. Digging Up The Dead: How Our View of Our Ancestors Affects Us – This phrase “digging up the dead” is how my Aunt Naomi described us sitting around talking about our dead family members…it was one of six conversations going on.

21. Women Who Try Too Hard Are Ugly – This would actually be an essay in a woman’s self-help magazine.

22. The Art of Bullshitting: Guys Expect It – It is not about the truth, it is about the entertainment value.

23. Sam Adams Has a Cell Phone: How to See Boston in 6 Hours – True story.

End of list for now.

A middle relief pitcher, a welder, and a spider walk into a bar…

…or at least that was the original title.

New Title/New Post: There are no dogs in Dushanbe.

We all have expectations about the world, especially the underdeveloped world. I had expectations when visiting Tajikistan this past May: feral dogs, unwashed children, and trash heaps…no, no, and no on all three accounts.

I ran every morning while in Dushanbe, and it is a good city to run during the early morning hours. Tajikistan gets into the mid-90’s in May, if you aren’t out by 5:30 a.m. you will dissolve into a swampy pile of running clothes before you get back to your hotel. There is very little pedestrian or vehicular traffic that early, and the city is aesthetically pleasing in a weird, demagoguery sort of way. This weird place was a feast for the eyes, I couldn’t consume the views fast enough. I couldn’t run fast enough to get to the next view, the next weird moment. Running is a pleasure, running in a surreal city is a sexy pleasure. Ever step of my running shoes was an exclamation point to the thought “I am running in fucking Central Asia!”

By the way, the weirdest moment wasn’t native to Dushanbe, it was the sight of me running with a female friend in Nike running tights. Tajikistan is an Islamic country, Tajik women wear head scarves and ankle length dresses (with pants!). My American female running partner was the weirdest sight in Dushanbe. It made us laugh at the looks, we discussed possible conversations after we ran by groups of Tajik men. American decadence at its best. We will bring you McDonalds, we will bring you Coke, we will bring democracy, and we will give you women runners in running tights. Fear us! We have come to conquer and put your women in sinful clothing!

President Rakmon, the current dictator of Tajikistan, is a lover of statues and monuments. Rule 1 when you assume your job as dictator – build statues to your country’s historical heroes…in Central Asia it is poets, scientists, and historians, which isn’t really a bad group of heroes. Unfortunately the statues are meant to be a distraction from the fact that 45% of your GDP is the trafficking of Afghanistan heroin. I am not really sure it’s working.

Dushanbe is made of large unfinished plazas and parks, with large statues, that bleed into building construction sites bordered by unfinished sidewalks. These unfinished sidewalks, which are strips of concrete that end abruptly and then immediately began as dirt paths, are swept daily. Running these sidewalks early in the morning reminded me of walking in virgin snow, you get to be the first person to go where no man has gone before. Small puffs of brown and talc like powder surrounds your legs. But this pleasure of being a new explorer of virgin dirt paths doesn’t make up for Dushanbe being a city that feels and looks unfinished. Flower beds are not weeded and park benches lay up ended on the ground. It is as if the whole construction industry in Dushanbe is afflicted by ADD. It seems that once construction or landscaping begins it is immediately forgotten and workers move on to the next job…which they will immediately walk away from. When you run a city, or location, you get a feel for its physical presence. Dushanbe felt like a corpse with peeled skin and an exposed skeleton with  bones cracking and splintering.

Dushanbe’s hollow and unfinished feel didn’t meet expectations though. I want my Central Asian countries to be stereotypes. I want huddled masses, angry dogs fighting each other on trash heaps, and hordes of unwashed children kicking ratty soccer balls. I got none of this.

I never saw the unwashed kids, but I did see young boys and girls in school uniforms walking to school. The boys, like all boys across the planet, acted like puppies and were yipping and chasing each other… tails gleefully whipping the air. The girls moved in packs whispering to each other and eyeing the boys with disdain. These were not the kids of my expectations, but it didn’t bother me. 

Dushanbe had trash but it wasn’t heaped in piles. Instead trash was scattered about the plazas, streets, parking lots, dirt, grass, and in the unkept hedges. Like the manmade structures, the manmade greenery was halfway done yet already going into disrepair. Stuff couldn’t get made fast enough before it moved into disrepair. Fluttering pieces of paper and cast off clothing  hung limply in wrought iron fences, rested in door frames, and soaked in wet road side ditches. It looked as if someone had made an attempt to pick up the trash, but it was a half-ass attempt to straightening up. This didn’t bother me either.

What did bother me, and totally disconcerting, was the total absence of dogs. I never saw a single dog in Dushanbe. Out in the countryside I spotted a few farm dogs, but that is a universal truth – have farm, have dog. But in the city itself, I never saw a single dog. No dog ran out from a driveway to menace me for getting to close to its property. No cur, with tail between its legs, dodged traffic. Petsmart will not be establishing a store there any time soon.

I had never been to a place where there wasn’t at least a couple of angry dogs fighting for dominance in the abandoned places of people. It wasn’t just the absence of dogs that bothered me, it was that Dushanbe was devoid of dogs. There was no dog shit on the ground, there was no fenced yards torn up and stained from an ignored family pet! One of the rituals of a city run is the game of skipping or dodging dog shit. My morning runs in Dushanbe did not include this game. Dushanbe made me sad, not because it was half-finished and yet decaying, not because its residents were willing to let trash to scatter like confetti, Dushanbe made me sad because there were no dogs.