gall and gumption

Saturday, January 06, 2007


I took Sweetie for her first ride in the new wheels today. We drove to Fredericksburg which I recommend to dog owners, it has a place where you can get a dog massage, that is, the dog gets the massage, as opposed to giving you one. I went into a deli to get a sandwich and left Sweetie tied up by the door and this nice lady who owned a dog salon offered to watch her so she wouldn't chew through her leash. Chewing through her leash is Sweetie's idea of "taking initiative and owning the solution." Fredericksburg has a nice bookstore too, where I bought a stack of good things including Rebecca West's letters and three novels by Susan Hill.

Susan Hill is an English writer of rather light novels. I read one of them called, I think, "The Woman in Black," a ghost story that was really really creepy without being the least bit gory, sort of old-fashioned. Then some years ago I went with my mother to see a stage play of it in the West End. It had three actors, that's all, and it took some doing to stage it, as the whole play is set out in the country in this coastal village with a sort of tidal marsh connected to an island and all these details are key to the story. And obviously you couldn't have the sea flooding causeways etc. on stage. So it is mostly narrated by the two male actors, on an almost bare stage. And let me tell you it worked. There was one moment in it when the audience, including me, screamed with fright.

Fredericksburg is on the Rappahannock River, for your information. The old town itself is now a tourist trap (Cf signs in every store window announcing that restrooms are for customers only), with lots of stores selling antiques and things, and just barely managing not to be what my mother calls "twee." Carmel is twee, for sure. And a lot of English villages. You get the idea.

It took about an hour and a half to drive there from where I live in Maryland, and on the way home I decided that now was as good a time as any to see a bit of Virginia. So I turned off Highway 95 early and went up through Manassas and past Dulles airport/Centreville, towards Leesburg. Most of it was depressing, farmlands turned into subdivisions all brand new and named after the things that they had paved over. The reason I aimed for Leesburg was because I could cross the Potomac there. If you look at a map you will notice that once you get out of Washington DC there aren't a lot of places to cross the river. I do not know why. One person told me that the rich along the Virginia shore of the river didn't want the traffic. Anyway you can cross at Leesburg. At Leesburg there is a bridge, but I was headed for White's Ferry, the only actual operating ferry on the Potomac, according to a sign. I drove down this little lane skirting some estates and joined a queue of cars at the end. The ferry was just this big metal platform that is pulled across the river by means of some sort of cable arrangement. You drive onto the back of it and it goes slowly and soundlessly across the river and then you drive off the front of it. Then the queue of cars that is waiting on the Maryland side drives onto it and the whole thing works in reverse. White's Ferry, the Maryland side, looks like a place where you could happily waste some time. It has a bait shop. Then it was less than half an hour home from there. I didn't really save any time by going this way. And except for the ferry experience I didn't really see anything either. I just wore myself out.

I wore Sweetie out too. Unlike your basic average sensible dog, she has not grasped the idea that you can just curl up and go to sleep in a car. She stands at attention the whole way, stepping up between the front seats to give the driver or any passenger a kiss on the cheek, or she sits up and just sort of stares at me so I have to ask her, "Why are you staring at me like that?" Well, dogs actually need a lot of snooze time. And if we spend the better part of a day driving around she is of course exhausted and when we get home she just sort of staggers up onto the sofa or the bed and conks right out.


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