larceny or recycling

I love my dog. I do. I love my dog. He is a wonderful dog, and everybody likes him, including me. I need to remind myself of that, days like this, when all I want to do is sell him to a laboratory for scientific experiments.

I keep getting pulled over, around here. It’s enough to make a girl paranoid. The car that I drive is mine in all the ways that count, like replacing the wiper blades and refusing to wash it until pollen season ends and actually being the only person who drives it, but on paper it belongs to my mother, because the insurance is about half as expensive as it would be if it belonged to me. I’m all for loopholes like that. The problem is that, when she stopped driving a few years ago, she never updated her driver’s license and it is now well beyond expired and into the archaeological record.

This means I get pulled over, because cops around here apparently have nothing better to do than run plates, and the computer pings the car as being Operated Illegally because of her expired ID, and then there’s a big to-do about my license and registration and who owns it and okay no you’re cool hey man it’s all good when really I want them to go away as quickly as possible, because I am never comfortable around people who are encouraged to whip out guns whenever they feel like it. They never do this during the day, and my dome light has never worked, so it’s a big production finding the necessary documents. “Hey, can I borrow your maglite?”

I swear, this comes back to the dog.

The last time it happened I was on my way to the airport, and a damn good thing I’d left early because while I can plan for traffic I don’t (but probably should) plan for a pullover slowed by a computer which is seemingly connected to the county databases by dialup. In a plain white SUV, mind, which seems like cheating. They should be marked. You know what’s worse than a Very Serious Business cop? A slow, chatty cop who thinks he’s funny. They never are.

“Yeah, I know,” I told that guy, when I was on the way to the airport, “it’s easy to mistake me for a sixty-eight-year-old woman.” Because I default to humor in any awkward situation.

“Well, yeah, kinda,” the cop said, grinning. He looked at me, and I must have been glaring daggers, because his Officer Friendly Chuckle switched off as suddenly as someone turning off a radio. The rest of the transaction, as it were, happened quickly. I give good glare.

All of this has made me a bit spooky, so when the prospect of the cinder blocks was brought up, I needed a little convincing. See, this really does come back to Logan — he is a horrible dog who likes to get under the house, which is up on pilings or platforms or whatever they are called because this is Flood Country With Sand Not Dirt and that’s how they built them, until the housing boom of the seventies and eighties. You would not think a dog of Logan’s size could get in there, much less comfortably have adventures there, but he does. He saw the cat dart under the deck once, and that was all it took: monkey see, monkey do.

The solution to this, obviously, is to acquire enough cinder blocks to cover the squeeze points between the deck and the ground. Well, no — the real solution would be to get some of that wooden lattice stuff and put it all around the deck, which would look much nicer and less trashy than blocks, but at this point I do not honestly care what it takes as long as the dog is no longer rolling around in the flea-infested sand down there where leprous armadillos and hissing possums hang out. Besides, I don’t have a saw. So blocks it was.

What I have learned since coming to this conclusion is that when you do not need cinder blocks you are constantly tripping over them, but when you do need them there is not a one to be found. Anywhere. For any reason. Ever. I kept my eyes peeled while walking Logan around the neighborhood: not a block to be seen.

I am sure at this point you are wondering: why not go down to the hardware store and buy some? Who buys cinder blocks? That’s not how they happen. They just appear. You find them in drifts of trash and discarded furniture on the side of the road. Or someone you know has a few sitting around and will happily give them away. Or you look on Craigslist and there are people begging you to take them after they demolished a shed or garage. Cinder blocks are migratory, except for when you need some.

When I was out with a friend and she pointed out a house that had been demolished – a lovely enormous heap of cinder blocks that were only going to the dump – I needed some persuading, because by now I am convinced the cops around here are out to get me. It’s not paranoia if they are, and oh, they are, and always when I’m in a hurry.

One five and a half point turn later, we were out of the car and grabbing greedily from a tall heap of smashed blocks, most of them conveniently broken by the demolition so that they were halves, with only one hole in each piece. They were old blocks, too: the inside holes were circular, not square.

A question that I still don’t have a proper answer to: was that theft, then, or recycling? I highly doubt a big pile of scrap concrete was going anywhere but the dump — except maybe if anyone nearby needed a block or two, thus perpetuating the endless cinder block migratory route. I’d much rather reuse something like that than buy new ones while the exact thing I need gets transported to a landfill because it’s old and designated garbage. There isn’t a difference, except for the bits of plaster and paint stuck to them. (Lovely 1950s turquoise.)

There’s such a, a compulsion I suppose, in this society, to always get new things, and with it the idea that doing otherwise is somehow distasteful. I don’t get that. Clearly this is the result of the questionable company I keep, all those loony lefties interested in freecycling and yard gardens, swapping around lists of 30 things you can use as flowerpots. I’m constantly seeing stuff like this, reuse and repurpose, how to turn shipping pallets into Adirondack-inspired furniture, arrange coffee cans on a drying rack so that when you water the top row of plants in the cans, everything else gets watered too. Once again, I am turning into my grandmother.

I like that way of thought: this is an object, with these properties: what can I do with it? We get so attached to what a thing is originally for that we don’t think of what else it can be. A flower pot does not have to be terracotta, or plastic made to look like it, with a perfect round hole in the bottom: it just has to be a thing that holds the dirt and lets the water drain out. But even as I write this, and as I like the idea, some part of me thinks “oh, that’s tacky, oh, that’s cheap,” as though I must purchase objects that other people have decided are specifically for the use I want to put them to. I’m not explaining this well, this thought kicking around in my head.

We brought the blocks home and I spent the next day fitting them into place. Two days later, my lovely wonderful dog, my dog that I love so much, my dog who unfortunately is a little too smart for his own good sometimes, figured out that he could bypass the deck entirely and slide on his side, kicking with his back feet, to get directly under a wall of the house where the concrete pilings are a bit too widely spaced.

I hope they haven’t cleaned the site up yet, I need more blocks.