Dogs love me. Dogs see me coming and think, "Chewy Treat. Big Shiny Head Like a Ball. Slow of Foot. Easy to Lick." Carol's three dogs all go for me like I was covered in Gravy Train, even poor, dear Fletcher hobbled by a recent ligament repair to a back paw.
I've been missing our poor old boy, Tucker Satellite, so I give all the dogs a little love before Carol and I settle in to big soft couches in a gorgeous room (paintings, piano, Christmas tree.)
Carol Muske-Dukes lives in a stately neighborhood east of Hollywood, an area that first boomed in the 20s. Her daughter takes two of the dogs for a slow walk around the block while Fletcher hunkers down at our feet.
We talk a little about L.A. I'm intrigued by the folks who live here. Nobody thinks of it as a city. It's too sprawling for that. It's a bunch of compact and busy towns built on desert and mountains, bounded by the sea on one side.
Carol tells me that it's a good town for a writer, easy to isolate oneself from the fray. Any place you want to go is 20 minutes away, so you've got the preliminary buffer of the car ride. Plus, if it's just too far, you can stay home.
We're talking about influences to Carol's writing and she remembers being 4 years old, pushed in a swing while her mother recited Robert Louis Stevenson in the backyard of the family home on Pascal Street in St. Paul, MN. "I had the sense of being pushed out into the world, and yet brought back," she says. She tells me that it remains a lovely and unforgettable memory, which of course I know.
We take all the dogs and Carol's daughter into the back yard and we shoot some photos under a steely winter sky. And then I go.