Pet Pigs and Smoking Dogs
Arthur C. Brooks
September 25, 2022
I hope you and your family are thriving and enjoying a little early autumn. The Brookses are scattered about the world this week—three around Boston, one in Spain, and another at a forward operating military base someplace. I have been on the road, in exotic locales from Pamplona to Pittsburgh.
The through-line of my travels this last week has been an unusual amount of contact with animals. It began Monday morning, as I was going for my morning coffee before class, and ran across a young fellow out for a casual stroll with his pet pig on a leash. Yes, just another day in Cambridge, Massachusetts. I watched him as he went back into his building and into an elevator, presumably to an apartment he shares with a hog. I shudder to think what else he’s got up there. Thoughts and prayers for his mother.
You thought I was making it up? Well, maybe you’ll trust me from now on.
Wednesday I headed over to London where I ran straight from Heathrow to a training engagement at a company’s leadership retreat Thursday morning. Later that same day I dropped down to Spain, where I got into Bilbao at midnight and crashed at a little hotel in a rural village a few miles from the airport. I rose at dawn the next day, jetlagged and stiff from all the travel, and decided to go out for an easy walk to loosen up and take in some local pastoral sights.
A bucolic scene on my morning walk, taken minutes before my altercation.
My peaceful walk abruptly turned into an all-out run when I turned a corner and unexpectedly met up with a couple of snarling village dogs who were none too keen on a foreign interloper. They gave me a good chase, but fortunately I had a decent head-start and they gave up after a minute or two (but continued hurling murderous insults after me, the xenophobic fleabags). For the obvious reasons I have no photos to share, but I know you trust me after the proof-of-pig.
My next stop was Pamplona, made famous by Hemingway for the running of the bulls on the Feast of San Fermín each July—and even more famous to regular newsletter readers as the city where my beloved daughter—the Baby—goes to college. I gave a university-wide lecture there which was absolutely a blast—we had a packed house and I talked for an hour about happiness. I then spent a very happy Saturday with the Baby, where among other activities, I watched her scrimmage with her rugby team. I must say, she’s tough as nails, all 4’11” of her, tackling grown Spanish men and diving right into the scrum. The coaches call her “La Moto” (the motorcycle), and as one summed her up with great admiration, “No fear, strong legs.” Those village dogs would rue the day they came after the Baby.
I did not meet any bulls in the streets of Pamplona. I did, however, witness this line of customers queuing up outside the local cigarette shop. In Spain, even Rover needs his smokes.
Despite these jokes, I will confess that I have a heart for pets. We’ve had a few over the years, including our family cockapoo Chucho who gave up the ghost in 2019 after 13 love-filled years, and our son’s pit-bull Steve, which he had to give away when he joined the Marines. (Mrs. B and I took a hard pass on adopting Steve.) We’ve been considering getting a new dog. It’s a tricky decision for empty nesters. On the one hand, they are wonderful company; on the other hand, we kind of like being able to split for the weekend from time to time without finding a dogsitter. Although that’s probably easier than finding a pigsitter.
While my travel schedule didn’t allow me to participate in person, I was so pleased to provide a virtual address for the United We Stand Summit earlier this month. The United We Stand Summit brought together Uniters from across America who are leading work in their communities to build bridges and address hate and division, including bipartisan federal, state, and local officials, civil rights groups, faith and community leaders, technology and business leaders, law enforcement officials, former members of violent extremist groups who now work to prevent violence, gun violence prevention leaders, media representatives, and cultural figures. You can learn more and watch the recording here (my talk is at the 5 hour mark).
What I'm Listening To
I am a fan of the jazz trumpet player Chet Baker (1929-1988). Here he is playing the Bill Evans ballad “Blue in Green,” made famous a few years earlier by Miles Davis on this album Kind of Blue.
Baker was nicknamed the “Prince of Cool,” and you’ll understand why when you listen to this song. His life wasn’t so cool, however, like so many jazzers of his era. By his early twenties he was addicted to heroin, periodically getting arrested, getting beat up, doing time, and pawning his instruments to get a fix. He died from falling off a hotel ledge in Amsterdam while high. As impactful as he was, he could have done so much more.
His common-law wife Ruth Young, looking back over Chet’s messy life in a documentary film made after his death, summed him up by saying, "You gotta realize, Chet was not that intelligent." Oof. Sure hope Mrs. B goes easier on me when the time comes.
Until next time, look out for the village dogs,