Monica Bielanko
That's What She Said
Just A Junk Drawer Dream
You can also find Monica's writing here:
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Summer Song

Every summer I develop a routine. Like every summer there is a song.. The song you know all the words to whether you want to or not. The ditty you hear on every radio staion when you're desperately spinning the dial in search of something else, the tune you hear floating from car windows, carried aloft by imperceptible breezes, the melody that flutters inside your head long after the car disappeared around the corner. The words you find yourself singing despite yourself. My routine is like that. It's a mood, a vibe, the way I'll look back and remember that particular summer.

When I think of the summer of 2005 sweltering subway platforms come to mind. Toe tapping, sweat sliding, slyly observing fellow commuters from under lowered lids, iced coffee anticipation and the icy gust of air that would joyfully molest me when I took my turn whirling through the revolving door at WABC.

My routine this summer is a much quieter, more solitary affair. With The Surge away in Nashville recording his next album, Max and I have solidified our routine, slipping into step, skipping down littered Brooklyn sidewalks to the beat of our own drum and the jackhammer that always seems to be assaulting cement somewhere nearby.

Every morning when I wake up, I feel him radiating warmth into some part of my body. Sometimes it's just my foot, other times he's curled into my side. One time I awoke holding his paw. I'll open my eyes with a smile because I know he senses I am awake, is just waiting, waiting, waiting. The moment he sees me see him he squiggles and squirms his way to me.. It's his signal, he's reading for morning rubs.

After "rubs" I perform my daily ablutions, which I'm sorry to say are sorely lacking.. A splash of water, a quick but vigorous teeth brushing all under the watchful eyes of Max. And then. When I slide my feet into my flip-flops he knows: Game On.

The joy is first evident in his tail. It trembles with excitement and soon, his back end is waving to and fro in the simple glory of it all. Morning walk! His claws tap out a staccato rhythm on the kitchen tiles as he dances his We're-Going-For-A-Walk jig. When I reach for the leash, like a typically horny guy failing at prolonging his orgasm, Max can contain himself no longer. Oh the joy! The rapture! He jumps up and places his paws on my shoulders, licking madly, jubilantly acknowledging his love for me and his ecstasy over the walk we are about to take.

We leash up and he walks me to the East River. The greenish gray mass flows a mere three blocks from the front door of my apartment and we are there in no time. We hopscotch across earth, moss and rubble until together we are standing on the last rock before stone gives way to water.

We stand, letting the waves splash over our respective toes and paws, observing the goings on.. the tourist ferries rumbling by, solitary planes droning far above, birds dive bombing the water in the distance. New York is waking up.

Our eyes trace the Manhattan skyline.. There, way down to the left is the Brooklyn Bridge and the cluster of skyscrapers in which ridiculously large sums of the world's money is traded by the second. There is the red Williamsburg Bridge and then the riot of city stalls a bit until Midtown. We think of Times Square in all it's frenzied fuss, stark contrast to our peaceful existence here on the edge of the world's most famous burrough. We take in the Chrysler building which signals the beginning of Uptown, buildings looming protectively around Central Park. Finally, we observe one of the city's main arteries, the Queensboro bridge, nearly pulsating with it's lifeblood of traffic way off to our right. It is time.

Max looks at me for the signal and I give him the nod.
"Okay buddy.. Go on."

Without hesitation he leaps into the river and begins his laps. They consist of swimming around the rock on which I stand. I'm told the current is swift and so I keep him leashed. He splashes and flaps, giant tail churning like a propeller. He tries for ducks out in the middle of the river, but because of the leash ends up dog paddling in place. But he doesn't mind. He's swimming! Oh, the glory of being a dog.

And then he tires, lumbers out and gives a mighty shake, spraying me with water, river debris and slobber.

We bid farewell to the skyline, turn our backs to the river and begin the walk home. That is our morning. That is this summer's song, routine, vibe. When I'm old and dear Max is but a whisper in my head I'll remember these days and all their perfect imperfections. The sky, the egotistical Manhattan skyline, the confident East River.. even the jackhammer.. It's the bass to this summer's song.

Reader Comments (32)

You're a good momma! :)
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
must say. dude takes an amazing pic.
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterXmastime
Beautiful story - even more beautiful pictures
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterTarah
Taking my boyfriend's Lab/Great Dane mix out is one of my favorite parts of the day. This morning, the boy rushed out the door with the dog while I was still rubbing sleep out of my eyes. I'd never thought about our routine, but I've felt like I've been forgetting something all day.

Reading this made things click. Tonight, I'm sure there will be a battle ofver who gets to hold the leash. Thanks for the post.
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMelissa
ain't animals the best? i love the look on my boy soda's face when i realizes i am awake. he leaps on the bed with a determined look on his face, much like a gymnast approaching the vault. not certain which he is more stoked about--the belly scritches that await or the promise of breakfast.
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commenteranna
God I miss having a dog. Stupid Manhattan landlords won't let me. I cried for my dearly departed Allie, reading this, and now the boss is looking at me quizzically. I doubt his black heart would understand...
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDeanne
I miss my dog. He was a lab mix named Bart. He loved his walks but loved the car even more. He was treated like a rockstar at Pet Smart! I envy you having such a cool pal to hang with while your man is away!
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkittenwtw
Your dog is BEAUTIFUL!!!! He has one lucky owner that's for sure!! Make sure you keep him happy because you can always count on him!
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJrLouie
Oh Max. What a guy. Beautiful post.

Did you hear Monica? Arrest made in Jon Benet murder case!
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
Awww! Never thought about it, but we have our summer routines too. My dog is too big to jump on the bed, but his 'wake up call' involves sniffing our faces for signs of consciousness. Occasionally, a gentle drop of slobber will caress my arm or face. If that doesn't work, he'll press his head down on my chest or nibble my toe. After breakfast, it's his time to patrol the 'hood and fuck shit up a little.

Monica--Snaps for being able to climb over wet rocks in flip-flops!
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterPurr Meow
Dog lovers are just the best. Can I have Max?

Such beautiful imagery about New York.
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMichelle
Some of your best writing is done when Max is in the story. The images linger after I've walked away from the computer and strangely, I think about him sometimes.

August 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjls
Like janet says, I can feel your love for your dog radiating from the screen. Like I just followed the two of you on your walk. Great writing.
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterSloopy
Must say I LOVES me this post! I could almost smell the in NYC soon enough.
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterRichelle
Aw, too cute. I miss when my dog was young enough to swim and play fetch. Just like yours he would run to the water without a second thought and it was, besdies, eating, his greatest pleasure I think. He still goes for dips occasioinally but not really swimming anymore.

He is about to turn 13 and though he can't run around the way he did as a puppy, he's still doing great for his age and as long as he's with us and he's comofortable, we're happy. Thanks for reminding me of those days when my dog and I would walk home from central park and he would be brown, instead of white, from taking a dip and then rolling all over the ground to get dry.

p.s I love the pic where he is sitting looking out over the water, you can just feel the joy he's feeling.
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermm
Has anyone read the book Marley and Me. You will cry. It is the best book I've read in a looong time. This post reminded me of the way I felt when I read that book. If you are a dog owner or dog lover you must read this book!
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJelloRules
Stop it. you're making me miss my Oreo.

August 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterbob
great story. My dog is totally opposite. She's not a "morning dog" and has snapped at me a couple of times when I try to wake her to do the morning deed. So I let her sleep in until it's time for me to go. Then I give the car keys a shake and open the front door and sleeping beauty awakes from her sweet dreams and comes looking for momma. Here's a couple of her in a deep slumber.
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered Commentercynthia
Love the summertime rhythm and LUV me some Max.
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterKaren
Aw, Cynthia your dog is a sweetheart! I am missing my dog as well. But he is alive and well, still living with the parents.
August 16, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterAimee
and again I need to tell you...I like you even more:) great story, it's like you are singing my routine's song as well, well, except I'm not from NY right...I love go for a walk with my dog, it's so relaxing and I can take a huge breath for all day long...dogs are the best friend and I can relay on them in 100%,
on May I lost my sweet dog (german shepherd) and I know that it was the worst experience I'd ever had, so paitful and real loss, and I hurted for that routine...anyway I've got a new small boy ...

reading your text I visualised us, we stopped for a morning coffee on the way home :) that's funny! hmm,that's mean your great writer, I guess...
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterana
Stumbled onto your beautiful site just yesterday. If all your articles are of THAT quality - you´ve got a new addict!!
Greetings from the old continent, Maxx.
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermaxx
Makes me want a dog soooo bad...
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNCTRNL
what a great story. dogs are the best.
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterfancythis
You really made me miss living in NY. Thanks for giving me a beautiful day dream.
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMariY
love this maxmorning post. Made me give my spliffer some extra luvin....Sorry bout the other day...just can't handle that part of my past and makes me physically sick to hear it...but if it's real to you, then it's real...OH GIVE ME SOME OF THAT MAXER, and put him on the bus. You can come too, I guess.
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermama
Forgive me this story, I'll try and be brief.

My two dogs (both 4-5 years old, male, female, rescued mix-breeds) are the joys of my life, as have been all my dogs through the years.

I'm one of those "dog's first" guys, as I suspect many who frequent this site, are also. Their walking, eating & playing needs come before mine, and I KNOW I do right by them. People always tell me what a great dad I'd be, based on how I care for my dogs. Alas, no such luck, yet.

Anyway I've been laid off all summer and its been all dogs all the time, and I've loved it!

During our nightly walks this summer, we had continually run into this guy and his new puppy. We'd always pass by his backyard and my guys would do their own, unique, "welcome to the neighborhood" playing routine, while me and this relative stranger would laugh and talk dogs. We never introduced ourselves to each other, but referred to each other as "man" and "bud." I'd see him some mornings on his porch, shirtless, playing guitar while our dogs barked at each other in recognition of their shared friendship.

I didn't see him for a few days last week and wondered if he had moved away? How strange and sad, if the case? He seemed happy and peaceful. I missed our dog get-together's.

I picked up the Sunday paper a few days ago and saw his obituary. He had died in a car crash. DUI. (100mph on a 50mph highway to rescue his girlfriend from a nightspot altercation), and straight into a fuckin' tree. His mom found out at 4:00 AM that night and took 57 pain killers, rubbing alcohol, and the rest of the liquor in the house and died before anyone could get there to save and comfort her.

In the course of one hour, mother and son dead, two boys and a dog, dadless and grandmotherless.

Mike was in a band called the Chaos Method, who's music I would suspect, was pretty heavy, based on the tattoo's he had, and some of the stuff blaring out of his window.

Yesterday I was offered, and accepted a Programming Manager position at the, still-in-contruction, 585 seat, non-profit theatre in my town. I'll be booking music and films.

I'm thinking that one of the first things on my list to do is try and organize a benefit show with proceed's going to Mike's two boys, and maybe, hopefully booking someone that he loved during his, much too short, life.

That will forever be my summer song, 2006.
Oh! That is so sad Joe! I think the benefit is a lovely idea. Congratulations on the new job. I wonder who has his little dog now?
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterGemma
Man, that is one handsome boy of yours. He just looks like he absolutely LOVES his life!
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHeather
Oh my gosh! That is thee saddest thing! Both of them gone so fast! About how old was this guy and are his boys still small? Congratulations on the job and how inspiring that along with the job is an opportunity to also help someone out in a time of need. Along with the good, sometimes comes the bad, but to turn it back to good again. Let us know how it all turns out.
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commentermama
He was 27. The boys were 4 and 7. I appreciate your kind words mama, but I'm overcome with sadness about this. I only knew him because of our dogs. His pup had the BIGGEST paws. She's going to be gigantic, and no, Gemma, I don't know where the pup is now.

I'm going to walk over to the memorial ceremony on Saturday afternoon a virual stranger to the family and friends. It feels like something I need to do.

Maybe this is the thing I need to do in the cosmic sense?

It sure feels like that.

Once again, Monica lit another fuse for me.

BTW: I'll try and pay her back by employing her husband's lil' rock band as often as I can.
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJoe
As all ways an awesome post!
August 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterShannon

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