My Father Among The Chinese



The Chinese children watched the funny fat American in the ridiculous sport coat try to blow up the balloons.


H e was a tourist in his late 60s, wearing a gray floppy hat. His face was a fleshy sagging caricature of itself, accented by an unkempt bushy salt-and-pepper mustache intended to disguise the steady loss of masculinity from his features.

Someone back home had told him that Chinese children love balloons. But what really caught the attention of the children was the exuberant vaudeville of this short-winded man in the funny clothing who was having a terribly difficult time inflating the balloons which were too small and thin for such an amateur. Each balloon he attempted to inflate flew from his lips into the air with the sound of a small fart, prompting laughter and applause from the children gathered around him.

My father, a man who once made deals with some of the most influential businessmen in America, had successfully transformed himself into an amusing street monkey.

Later that day he would show a group of Chinese university students how to peel an orange.




~ Story and artwork by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved





After I Died I Saw My Dog



The first thing I saw after I died was my dog Nova, wagging her tail madly and wriggling like a salamander with delight.

She was the only dog I ever had, a border collie and Australian shepherd mix given to my family when I was twelve years old. There were two puppies, Nova and Scotia.

We got Nova.

Nova was a gift from friends of my parents. The dog donors were people of wealth and standing in the community and so my parents felt they could not refuse, accepting the gift with feigned appreciation.

About a year earlier my parents' English bulldog died. He was a snorting bowlegged drooler named Charlie. He did not enjoy going for walks or companionship of any kind. Charlie was an ornamental dog. Eating, scratching, snoring and rubbing his genitals on the back of an old black cat too feeble to escape his advances—that was Charlie’s life.

I essentially grew up a dogless boy until Nova came into my life. She was my dog by default due to a lack of enthusiasm on the part of my late middle-age parents whose hobbies were dining out, ice cream and television. My older sister was too busy with the demands of high school society to spend time with a dog. But I was in dire need of canine companionship. I was an indifferent student on the low end of the popularity totem pole in a snooty private school that was a freeway away from my neighborhood. My only friends were our three family cats, and they could take me or leave me.

Nova and I were boy-dog, dog-boy soul mates. We were constant companions; the Lewis and Clark of our neighborhood. By summer Nova had grown and loved to run. We were creatures of the summer, awakened early by the excitement of eternal youth. We would never grow old and the day would never end. I see us still, taking the long hike to the foothills, running through unsubdivided fields, collapsing under a shady tree, finding secret places. We will be there forever.

Nova was smart. I taught her dozens of tricks. I'd place a cracker on her nose and she would hold perfectly still until I said, “OK!”, then she’d toss the morsel into the air, catch it and eat it. Each trick she learned reinforced the fact that we could communicate directly with each other. We knew how to say all the things that dogs and boys need to say to one another. We were sincere, and our sincerity was a river of love that flowed between us, through us.

The years went by and I moved away from home, no longer a boy. Nova was always overjoyed to see me when I returned for a visit and she never forgot any of her tricks, always so proud to perform them. One day, I returned home to take her on a last car ride, to the veterinarian. She was dying and my parents decided they could no longer take care of her. When I led her into the verterinarian’s office she was nervous and shaking as I had never seen her shake before. She knew, somehow. I never forgave myself for not being with her when the assistant led her away for that fatal injection.

~ ~ ~

"Welcome to heaven,” Nova said, extraordinarily delighted to see me, yet still remembering her manners and restraining the impulse to jump on me. I’d been in the hospital, sixty-seven years old, with a bleeding ulcer, my skin turned too, too white. After days of weakness and decline I awoke in a place between life and death. I heard a dog barking. I saw her. I crossed over.




~ Text and photograph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved




Meeting Slated
















The Inland Valley chapter of the Society For Clear Thinking will hold an all-day workshop on “How To Make Life Simple” from 10:20 a.m. to 5:47 p.m. Saturday, March 2, at an undisclosed location.

New members are required to attend an orientation session at 7:48 a.m., in the Thoreau Room of the Simple Gifts Meeting Hall at the Southern California College of Agronomy and Moral Certainty.

After the orientation, exit on Walden Avenue South, past Civil Disobedience Drive, then turn west on Emerson Road and make a U-turn at the third intersection past the green/black student dormitories (If you see the black/green student dormitories you’ve gone too far!), bearing to the right onto Harpers Ferry Way to Parking Lot 81, Section 26 (southeastern quadrant), next to the campus greenhouse.

Walk northeast on Campus Loop toward the Transcendental Arts Building, past the Hell No We Won’t Go food court, turning right at the Gandhi memorial bird bath. Walk straight ahead until you see the second unmarked bus stop and wait for bus No. 331, or 28-A if after 9:15 a.m., or any bus between H-9Q and 12 if after 9:33 a.m.

Exit the bus at Tolstoy Street and walk north on Tolstoy, past the King Cotton Laundromat (on the left) to the Thrifty Chick fried chicken restaurant (on the fourth, north-south corner of the traffic hexagon). Enter Thrifty Chick and say: “Sir Larry has come to collect the poll tax,” if the man at the counter is wearing a hat or an eye patch, or “The goslings weep for their mother” if there is another man without a hat and/or an eye patch, or a woman (mature, no eye patch), behind the counter.

You will be led to the rear of the shop and put into the cargo area of the Thrifty Chick delivery van whose driver will blindfold you and take you to my house where I will then drive you to the meeting. The workshop fee is $20 (stamps).





~ by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved





Before I Barely Knew Anything













Before I barely knew anything
I awakened each summer morning
To the cawing of crows
And thought,
How very tall these trees
In which they gather to ruffle their feathers
In the morning breeze,
How tall these trees
And how much these crows must see.

I climbed an orange tree,
So frightened by the height,
So amazed at the sight of neighboring houses
And city streets
And thought about what the crows must see
From the tops of the sycamore trees
And from higher still
As they rise into the sky,
Knowing I would never know
What they know,
Before I barely knew anything.




~ Poem and photograph by Russ Allison Loar
© All Rights Reserved