Before we got to Oakland My Mom kept saying “Merle, this is your first trip to a city but you’re going to be fine and you’re going to have such a good time!” (Before I met My Mom I had a dad but he was really old and we didn’t go anywhere.)
I thought My Mom was kind of overselling it because I always feel exactly the same. If you have ever seen a picture of me you can see this. But as soon as I jumped out of My Mom’s car I saw that someone, or perhaps many people, had in obvious anticipation of my arrival left pieces of squashed hamburgers inside wrappers all over the street. I have of course licked scraps out of a hamburger wrapper before but I can count those times on one paw. Here, on one patch of sidewalk, there were at least three times as many squashed hamburgers inside wrappers as I have seen in my entire life.
The weird thing was that My Mom went to Oakland at the last minute so I don’t know how all the people there knew that I was coming and also that I like hamburgers inside wrappers and they should leave them out for me. The other weird thing is that every time I went to eat one of the hamburgers My Mom was like “No Merle! No!” and it was like “Why did you drive me to this place where so many people have so obviously left out squashed hamburgers for me to eat and then tell me not to eat them?” Also, who else but My Mom could have told all these people I was coming and what to do in anticipation of my arrival?
We went into My Mom’s friend’s house. She has two dogs. They are very thin, like dogs made out of elbows, covered with fur. I think maybe I am more like a child’s bench covered with fur. One of the dogs was serene and graceful and maybe 1/3 Merle and the other one was jumpy and plucky and maybe only 1/7 Merle. I was confused by how thin they were. Then I saw that My Mom’s friend leaves food out for them all day and they just walk up to it and eat a little bit of it and then walk away and maybe like one billion hours later they walk back and eat some more. They were so weird. My Mom and her friend went out and I lay down on the floor and it was like being anywhere and I forgot that we had gone anywhere.
The next day My Mom and her friend were drinking coffee outside and My Mom had me on a leash but she wasn’t holding it. A small dog ran by very fast. I can’t tell you the number of small dogs I have seen zoom past me in my life which I have regarded with only the most casual of glances. But this dog really captured my interest for reasons I will be more than happy to unpack. One, I do not believe that it had a Mom, and although I like My Mom, I observed in this animal an unrestricted capacity for free living I felt compelled to get close to. Second, the moment I began running after this dog down this big, straight, empty street, through a tunnel of buildings, I observed with no little wonder that the street went on that way forever and ever, with only the sky at the end of it, the whole thing offering up to me a cinematic perfection I had heretofore never experienced.
The dog ran faster and faster, but I kept gaining on it, my old legs, even my arthritic back right one, suddenly and miraculously suffused with youthful vigor. I saw that the bigger and in my estimation more mature of My Mom’s friend’s dogs had joined me. Though we had been ignoring each other the entire weekend, we were in this instant the closest of comrades. She seemed to propel herself forward by sailing through the air, while I did so by tearing at the earth, yet our progress was equal, and I swore I could hear her heart pumping within the confines of her pale, silken chest. I don’t remember how it all ended, all of a sudden My Mom was there and she was guiding me by the leash and huffing and puffing herself and telling me that I was bad.
Later than day, My Mom drove down a one-way street called Telegraph Avenue the wrong way and then she had to just turn around and go the other way really fast and it was embarrassing because I was sitting up and people could see me and I hoped they knew that My Mom was bad and not me. I was only sitting up because Santana was on and I love Santana. There was a whole long show about Santana and they played only Santana a lot and this guy who sounded like he was tired except that his big chance to talk about Santana for a very long time was finally here so he was determined not to fall asleep. That much Santana all at once has never happened to me before.
In the end, I would like to say that since Oakland is a place where you can lick hamburgers out of wrappers no other dogs want, listen to Santana for a long time, and sometimes also feel like you’re in a movie where you transcend your perceived limitations, I understand why it is so crowded.