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by John Nov 15, 2006 08:23

Coco Spuds Sobel


(Unfortunately, all I have here in Sacramento are latter-day pictures of the dog)

Before my plane flight to Italy on Tuesday, Oct 24, I passed by my 16-year-old beagle to give him a goodbye and a pet on the head. It was a strange feeling and not much of an exchange – Coco had grown rather unresponsive and struggled with many basic functions. The goodbye was too brief. It was entirely disproportional to how much he means to me and in knowing he’d likely be gone by the time I flew back on November 11.

I remember walking into the breeder’s home with my parents, older brother, and two younger sisters in July of 1990. We had begged and pleaded our parents – specifically our allegedly allergic dad – for years to get us a dog. Certainly, a beagle would be the answer to summer boredom, empty afternoons, and, as a friend of mine once put it, living in a geriatric ghetto.

Almost immediately, my brother, Paul, took to a tubby, rambunctious beagle puppy. I followed suit. We chased the puppy around the house and under tables and chairs. After quite some time, I remember turning my attention to the other puppy in the litter. Spuds was a runt. He didn’t run around or play with any of the toys. He just kind of stood there. If I had any idea the type of hell he’d raise in the future, I wouldn’t have felt sorry for him. But at that moment, I did. I wasn’t conscious of the reasons behind my empathy, but looking back, as a shy, undersized, socially awkward kid, I was drawn to the shy, undersized, socially awkward beagle puppy. The family was soon convinced of Spuds’ merits as well; I suppose my parents thought the quiet dog would be better for their sanity.

Spuds would have no such nonsense. Spuds would be renamed Coco, and Coco would become an obnoxious, oversized, and life-of-the-party beagle. So much for dog and owner sharing characteristics.

Let me share some of his exploits.

Anyone with a beagle knows of the breed’s stubbornness. Coco took it to the next level – constantly straddling the line between plain stupidity and utter canine genius. We thought we had Coco-proofed the house. After a brief innocuous period, Coco proceeded to trash the house and violate all of the rules we had set forth. He dumped over garbage cans, chewed any pair of shoes possible, and destroyed beloved childhood toys and stuffed animals. He often sought refuge by army-crawling under the bed where he knew we’d have difficulty reaching him. And he wouldn’t stop when we found him. Though Coco was harmless around his food, prying your last pair of socks from his jaws was downright dangerous. I can’t count the number of times I literally had to pry that dog’s jaws apart to get him to let go of something. We would often come home to find garbage spread out all over the room and Coco delicately tearing pieces of tissue apart in the middle of the room (he would hold objects between his two front paws). He seemed downright angry and offended that you dare break up his fun.

He charmed his way past the no-Coco-on-the-furniture rule and, soon enough, each of the four kids wanted the dog sleeping on his or her bed every night. My father, with no allergic reaction in sight, fought a subdued, unsuccessful battle against Coco’s behaviors and our indulgence.

Of the six members of the family, the dog developed different strategies for dealing with each of us in an attempt to reach the food on the table. He would nudge and claw some and wait rather patiently for others. He also knew who was most inattentive; he wouldn’t just watch the food, he’d watch your eyes. When you looked away for a split second, a quick strike to your plate fetched him his bounty.

Chocolate can be deadly to dogs. Yet, when afforded the opportunity to select among a dozen donuts, Coco went after the chocolate donut and ate it. Luckily, the vet (who was by then intimately familiar with this four-legged disaster) told us the amount of chocolate wasn’t enough to be harmful. Our vet informed us that beagles had “iron stomachs,” and it certainly seemed true. The dog sought out and consumed such items as entire plates of pasta, an entire box of powdered donuts, chicken bones, and nearly anything he thought edible. He would even eat carrots. I remember laughing as he ate cupcake wrappers and the sheer horror (and humor) when he’d waddle back up the stairs from the laundry room, his stomach and sides enormous from gorging on his dog food (Coco would often surpass the Rubbermaid seal, and he didn’t know when to say when).

He had his medical limits though. Before his selection of the chocolate donut, Coco opened and ate a one-pound box of chocolate intended for a girlfriend. That required a stomach pumping. Oh, but it wasn’t the first stomach pumping. You see, in his early days, Coco decided to snack on a small, metal bottle of baby diaper rash ointment. He had retrieved it from the diaper bag. I remember the x-rays showing the little pieces in his stomach. By the end of his days, Coco amassed an x-ray collection to rival a linebacker. The baby deprived of the ointment was not a Sobel; it was a child my mom babysat. Yet, Gerald’s first word was ‘Coco.’

Coco outsmarted my father on two separate occasions. There was a seat on the sofa my father liked and my dog coveted. Should you get up from that seat, Coco would quickly take over. One morning, my father was reading the newspaper, and Coco had it in him to supplant my father. So he took a section of the newspaper, ran out of the room and, when my father gave chase, dropped the section and ran back to the seat. He employed a similar strategy to force my father to leave his breakfast unattended.

Coco failed obedience school, wouldn’t heel, never fetched (though he liked chasing objects), snatched a sparrow out of the air, and often caught flies by the window. He slept across your bed so your legs had no where to go (when he wasn’t sleeping on your pillow), became annoyed when you tried to move him, and once attempted to lie down on my head (since it was on the pillow). Coco ran out of the door constantly, made a break for it down a street in San Francisco, and generally jumped higher and farther than what should have been physically possible. He would swing open doors with his paw, bark at cats on command (though he failed to recognize our house cat as a cat), and disliked many old white men.

He knew when we were about to leave the house and would become increasingly anxious. We always put him in the lower portion of the house where he had access to the backyard by not the warmer, cozier main portion. He’d do his best to break hearts when we attempted to herd him downstairs and often employed the strategy of getting up, running to another spot or room, and lying down again. In his later years, we’d often leave him in the main portion if he looked settled in. Coco soon exploited this. I remember a time before church when Coco belated realized we were leaving. He sprang into action, ran across the room to his couch, made the quickest 180 possible, and wedged himself between the seat and back. He then looked directly at me to see if he’d got one by me.

He would get too excited if someone said the word ‘walk.’ So we then changed the code-phrase to ‘get the leash.’ He learned that too, so we were forced to change it to simply ‘w.’ That sometimes worked. He then learned to monitor your actions and anticipate a walk.

Coco took a lot of crap from the cat. She’d pick a fight with him, and I’d of course cheer for the dog to win the contest. One Christmas, we gave the cat a small plate of gourmet food. Coco sniffed it out, shoved her aside with his head, and inhaled the cat food. I laughed … a lot.

He often sat on the bench at the dinner table if he could worm his way up there, and when he delicately wanted your attention for the purpose of table scraps, he’d look at you and make audible exhaling noises – just enough to let you know he was there.

Coco had better standing in the neighborhood than any of us, was once fed an entire tray of meat because “he looked so sad” (my aunt), and in his autumn years, would occasionally knock over a garbage can for old times sake. (As a twelve year old dog, he still enjoyed the occasional destruction.) It was still annoying to clean up, but his actions seemed much more amusing to me.

Perhaps a sign of how much he meant to us, Coco had a dozen or so nicknames. Homer-dog, Fatty (accurate for several years), Ococ, and simply, as I came to call him, Buddy. My mother always referred to him as ‘Puppy.’

A couple months before Coco passed on, I was describing to my uncle his current condition (which was steadily worsening). My uncle said calmly, “Yeah, but he was a good dog …” I paused, thought for a second and said, “No he wasn’t!” Coco was a complete ass. He was selfish, destructive, dangerous, disobedient, and usually ungrateful. Like a diva, he didn’t want your attention so much as he wanted people to be around him for company. That said, he was always hilarious and, as my brother stated, taught me to do whatever the hell I wanted.

When Coco came home on that summer day in 1990, I was between the second and third grade at Village Elementary. With his reckless behavior, I wasn’t sure he’d outlive my high school days. I was almost certain he wouldn’t make it through my undergraduate college years, and I was absolutely positive his time would come during my graduate work. Well, just like the times he ate a pound of chocolate and bottle of baby ass ointment, Coco pulled through. However, time was short.

Sure enough, on Tuesday, November 7, my youngest sister informed me that Paul and my parents had put Coco to sleep the past Saturday – not a day too soon and not a day too late. As was the joke with my sister and her friend that trip to Italy, I took a long evening constitutional in Rome. I can’t remember the last time, or really any time, I’ve taken a walk by myself.

I don’t resent the fact that I was not there for his final moments. Given my attachment to him, I doubt I could have handled it. I’m glad my older brother was there to take charge. Taking Coco into the vet one final time was one of the things I feared most. In fact, I knew for years I wouldn’t be able to handle his final days. Moving to Sacramento moved me away from my dog, but, though selfish and petty, I knew leaving would almost ensure it wouldn’t be me. Coco’s final moments on earth were incredibly painful for those with him and, I hear, caused one of them to collapse. I don’t know how I would have fared. All six human members of my family knew this day was coming, we knew he was reaching the end, and, most importantly, we knew that one day, he’d be alive but gone and it’d be beneficial to let go. Moreover, he really hadn’t been the same dog for the past year. We had an entire year to prepare.

Despite this, I put aside machismo and say it still feels like a sledgehammer to the chest. He is simply irreplaceable. Anyone who knew Coco knows he was like no other dog. I think so much and so highly of him, I had started of late referring to other dogs as ‘Not Coco,’ because I feel they paled in comparison. It may sound like typical owner nonsense (if any of us truly owned that dog), but I’ll die swearing otherwise.

For over 16 years, no matter how wonderful or terrible the day, I could return to the home in Pittsburg and find Coco waiting to greet me briefly before completely ignoring me until I had food or he needed something. Jokes aside, it was a source of stability and a sense of comfort I enjoyed for two-thirds of my entire life. Like a phantom itch, several times in my first weekend home since his passing, I instinctively looked in the direction of his bed when walking through the front door, almost expecting to find him there. Yet, now the room is rearranged and his bed removed in an attempt to lessen our sadness.

This small tribute to Coco isn’t worthy of his importance. It’s going to be a strange Christmas this year. Without exaggeration, I can say he captured everyone’s attention for every family-and-friends gathering for his entire life. Some years, family life was rocky (though since much improved). But no matter how we felt about each other, Coco was always there to serve as the culmination of the family’s love and adoration. And at each gathering, we need only to watch the dog for a matter of minutes before his behaviors and actions would bring laughter and joy to the room. It will be insufficient this year to have him only in our memories. Without knowing, Coco kept the family together, helped me out of depression, and very literally gave everyone a reason to return home during the bad years. The Sobel’s bad years are behind them, and, in very large part, we have Coco to thank for our current togetherness.

I don’t remember if there was any debate some 16 years ago when I said we should pick Coco instead of his brother. Paul, who usually prevailed in such situations of selection, was strangely acquiescent. I claimed credit for picking Coco for his entire life. Now, at the time of his passing, I very humbly claim credit once again for picking the smartest, funniest, laziest, best-looking, and all-around greatest dog that ever lived.

He brought more joy to me, my family, and anyone within eyeshot than I could ever imagine or ever hope for. It was the best 16 years, and I love and miss Coco dearly. Coco Spuds Sobel: chooser of the chocolate donut, unwitting savior of the family.

Bye bye, buddy.


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Random sports thoughts

by John Oct 2, 2006 08:19

1. Idiotic "expert" sports analysis of the past ten years cannot go ten minutes without the phrase "give them credit."


Sideline Dipshit Reporter: So, the Ravens really kicked your ass, coach. And by that I mean my producers tell me they won. How did they best you out there on the football court, tossin' around the ol' sheepskin?
Brain-dead coach: Yeah, I mean, give the other team credit. They really kicked our ass good. Give them credit; I have to give credit where credit is due.
Sideline Dipshit Reporter: I really wanted to be a weatherman. Can you tell?
Brain-dead coach: Yeah, I mean, give them credit for hiring you ...

Give them credit; like you're a 5th grade teacher.

2. Fifty percent of all player interviews will involve the phrase "mentally and physically."


Sideline Dipshit Reporter: [now practicing his filthy reporting in the locker room] So, how did it feel to have you ass handed to you by the opposing team?
Overpriced Rhino: Well, I mean, you know, they just outplayed us [really?]. I mean, you know, mentally and physically, they outplayed us. Give them credit ...
Sideline Dipshit Reporter: So, how'd you feel coming back from an eight-month turf toe injury?
Overpriced Rhino: Well, you know I just felt that, you know, mentally and physically ... [pauses as he searches for another "ally" word] emotionally ... psychologically ... hypodermically ...

So you use your brains AND your muscles for sports? How novel! Go figure that you can't run a slant route or a triangle offense without both. And here I thought I could brain my way to an open jumper.

I think they're "regurgitatingally" doing the same interview over and over. Think of something new, guys. And thank you sideline reporters for applying the pressure. You're like Fox News in the Rose Garden ("Mr. President, what would you say is the BEST way you and the Republican Congress have kept America safe? Oh, and I'm going to have to limit your answer to 15 minutes of camera time here ...").

3. Men hate fashion except when it comes to the color and design choices for men in spandex and shoulder pads.

Seriously though, how ugly are the [insert any team uniform design following the Bronco's asymmetric horror of 1997]? While we're at it, bring back the Buffalo Bill's logo without the retarded buffalo side runner. It's like I'm climbing into an '85 Suburban every time I see it. And hey, just get it over with and make the uniforms black. That dark blue is a disgrace to blues.

Uniforms are going the way of car interiors. I expect the Niners' uniforms will be obsidian and shale-colored by the year 2020. There's a better chance of this happening then of them making the playoffs by 2010.

4. Joe Theismann's intellectual capacity has all the strength and integrity as his leg did with Lawrence Taylor and Harry Carson staring him down .

Oh snap! Ahh ... that was low. And satisfying.

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I'm informed!

by John Oct 14, 2005 08:13

I'm an on-the-go new millennium type of guy. And by that I mean a lazy, hasty, and self-absorbed type of guy with shoes dating back to the previous decade. Amidst the hustle and bustle, I don’t have time to evaluate things properly. In fact, I don’t even want to crack the cover; I want to judge a book by its cover.

Hey look at this new CD on the rack. It tells me it includes the hit songs “Backwoods Cousins a’Shufflin’, Tustlin’ Terries, and the Irreparable Stain.” I know this is a good album because it has a cool cover and the sticker tells me the songs are hits. Good purchase! Sam Goody is a great place to find excellent new tuneskies.

Check out this USB cable! Best Buy is a good place to shop because it implies it has the “best buy”! Get it?! MARVELOUS. Anyway, it says here this USB cable is gold plated. It must be worth this awful inflated price. Gold! One day, a magazine ad told me gold was helpful in analog connections, so the same must be true for digital over a length of cord less than the length of my midget inseam. Gold! It’s useful for more than paying off Thai hookers and making TV-inspired investments.

Wow, I can really go for a flick. Let’s hit up Blockbuster. I think they said “no late fees” a while back. Haha! Check this out. "Black Knight.” Haha. That’s hella funny. Get it? Martin Lawrence is black and he’s the black knight. He has a backwards cap and dark negro-man shades along with what appear to be some expensive urban-targeted athletic shoes. His pant legs are rolled up too so you can tell he’s “ain’t strapped.” That’s exactly how my black friend dresses. Well … he’s in one of my classes at least.

And look here, critic Joel Seigel says “This is the funniest fucking movie I’ve ever seen in my entire fucking life.” Haha! I bet he’s a tough critic. If this movie is half as funny as Bringing Down the House, I’m there! Why are you picking that old movie up for? Who the hell is Jimmy Stewart? He’s wearing a suit, and it’s in black and white. How boring. BLACK KNIGHT BLACK KNIGHT BLACK KNIGHT!!! Hey, have you guys seen Hitch? Man, that looks funny. The fat white guy on there is trying to be all black! Haha. What a novel approach, BRO!

That’s all the shopping I can do for now. I gotta hop into my Dodge Stratus. It’s a JD Power and Associate’s Best in Initial Quality pick. Take that Toyota! Initial quality! Time to hit up that new Del Taco. I could practically eat the master tape to their commercials.

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Relationship milestones

by John Jun 1, 2005 08:11

Women see really inane things as symbolic milestones in a relationship.

“Oh, this is a picture from our five-year anniversary!”
“Oh, this is first time he touched my cheek. I traced his hand with a runny marker and then face-planted onto a piece of white paper to create a stamp.”
“Oh, this is my wedding ring.”

Whatever. Hogwash, nonsense, and balderdash. Let’s talk about a real milestone. The moment when I can turn to you and say, “Hey, can you take a look at this thing on my back?”

Yes, I will allow you to peer at my shirtless back. Not for wont or pleasure, but for a medical purpose. Yes, my back, which one day will be covered in a fine Mediterranean coat, is ready for your diagnosis. Feel free to put on your spectacles for a more detailed inspection.

And thanks; I do work out.

Take a good look at my skin aberration – be it pimple, boil, or imbedded tick – and enjoy the surrounding skin area. This is a momentous occasion. One day, what you see will be doughy, bespeckled, and obscured by fleece. So drink in the exotic scenery and treasure this milestone.


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ReaL THuGz! I love the internet!!!

by John May 27, 2005 07:53

ReaL THuGz! I love the internet!!!The following is a 100% true and accurate account of a ReaL THuG on the streets of [your suburbia]. I apologize for the profanity. It’s merely a reflection of the tru street lyfe theez hardcore dudes live.


Yeeeeaah. Yeeeeaah.

I’m a thug! Thizzz face, thizzz face.

You know you breezies want it. Damn I look good in FUBU. For Us By who? Whatever. For Us By thUgz. That’s me. Check out my fancy thug hat. I bought it at Hat Xchange at the Galleria. The homeless need to quit bitin’ my style. I’ll kill a homeless. Somebody test me! Fuckin’ wino muthafuckas.

Damn, pink looks good on real thugz.

Yeeeeaah. Take my picture with my brand new HP digital camera. I paid less than retail. I had a gift card. What?! Thug! Reggie, Ernie. Oh, shit, I mean E-tabz and Reg-eezyniggaluv. Get up in this biatch! Hey, we don’t spend too much time together, right? Do you guys have dates yet for the dance? Damn, me either.

Yeeeeaah. Watch this; I’m gonna flip off the camera. HAHA. Damn I’m funny. Ain’t no one thought of that. Hey, unknown viewer of this picture, FUCK … uh … FUCK SOMETHING!

Hold on Chelsea; don’t take our thug picture yet. My flip phone is ringing.

Wassup slut! Oh … damn Mom, why you gotta be hatin’. No, I’m not done with the Accord yet. Damn, I don’t care if I’m over the minutes on our family plan. I’m a thug! I know; don’t block in Dad’s Prius. Hey, did you get my prescriptions for me? Cool. Thanks. Latez! Biaaatch! HAHA. Now everyone knows I called my mom a biatch at the end there.

Ok Chelsea. We ready. Wait, check thizz out. I’ma throw up a hand sign for my thug family name. Vandercleet, bitches! Yeeeahh. Rememba the name!

Damn, where’s my Medic Alert bracelet? That shit ain’t listed on my HMO card.

Shit, why these dudes tryin’ to roll up on Vandercleet. Shit, I’m bout to throw down once I can get my arms free from this 3X Phat Farm sweater. What?! What, nigga?! I represent myself that’s who. Fuck ya’ll fake ass gangstas. Where did I put that pepper spray Dad gave me? You’re gonna be fucked and peppered up!

What?! What? Oh ... oh damn. Ouch! Hey, Reggie, help me out, man! Why are you getting back into your Xterra?! Oh shit, my teeth! Will my full dental coverage be able to save me? Where are the cops?! We need law enforcement! Oh damn! Ouch! I think I broke a rib falling down. Oh! Oh damn! Nah ... my wallet … That’s a Coach original! I have emergency numbers in there!

Why can’t I defend myself?
[Ed. note: because you’re a total pussy.] Can you ghetto peeps stop whoopin’ the shit outta me? Oh shit, I think I see a gun. A REAL GUN! I carry the one I stole from my Dad with no bullets cuz that shit is dangerous. Why are these guys so reckless?

Oh … someone just kicked me in my perineum. Really hard. Twice. I want to go home and to the bathroom. I just did the latter. Both kinds. Good thing there’s so much space in these pants Mom bought me. I think I’m blacking out.
[Ed. note: finally, your dream is realized!]

I’m going into a euphoric state. Damn, I just wish I was playing Peanut League Baseball with the Teddy and Bret and the whole gang. Oh … my Dunks … Aunt Samantha gave me those.

I think my nose is broken. My nose! Someone help! I need a towel and an ambulance. My suburban tears provide me no comfort.

Now let’s take a look at some “ReaL THuGz" who fit this description. Prepare for a shockfest of violence and antisocial behavior! I’d like to thank everyone who took the step of tilting their chin up all thug-like. It will make it easier for me to coldcock you in your homegrown face.
Without further adieu ...

ReaL THuGz !

Oh snap!


Loving friends!


Living feminine products


Happily shared a hotel room




MLK rolls over in grave

Thanks, douchebags!



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