June 27, 2003

Credit Cards and. . . Doga?

I've never been in debt. Okay, that's not entirely true. Yes, I've been in the kind of debt where I had to make car payments, and I'm currently in the kind of debt that says I have to make house payments.

I've never been in credit card debt, however. Truth be told, I've never even owned a credit card. I don't trust them. I've been conditioned not to trust them thanks to many years of living with college roommates.

Most of my college roommates had this weird outlook on credit cards. Basically, they thought credit cards were magical pieces of plastic that just magically paid for things and that they were somehow immune from the the ensuing debt that came about due to excessive credit card spending.

I'll admit it: I was sort of jealous of my roommates and their magical credit cards. After all, they always seemed to have money and, if they didn't, they just whipped out their credit cards. Books? Put them on the credit card. Food? Put it on the credit card. Night out at a strip club? credit card.

And yet there I was writing checks and budgeting like a fool. I remember thinking that I was doing everything all wrong. I mean, there I would sit, meticulously lording over my finances, while my roommates went waltzing all over town swiping their credit cards with the careless glee of a six-year-old with a loaded pistol.

Then, one year, I was a roommate with a guy named Chad. Chad was actually a former high school classmate of mine. He was, and is, a tech-head. He's one of those guys who was born to know technology. Way back in elementary school, he taught me how to write simple programs for the Apple IIc, and he always just seemed to know everything about computers.

But he didn't know shit about personal finances. He whipped out any one of his many credit cards with the swiftness and ease of a Old West gunslinger. By the time we became roommates, he had already accrued over $10,000 in credit card debt.

I remember thinking what an incredibly large amount of money that seemed to be, especially when I factored in the understanding that he also received financial aid, and that he also worked. Granted, he worked at the local Brach's candy factory on the Gummi Bear line, which paid about as well as you might imagine, but it was still money, so I came to the conclusion that old Chad was a pretty carefree spender.

Well, one day, I popped into Chad's outrageously messy room where I noticed, tucked between two huge bags of pilfered defective Gummi Bears, a credit card notice that was slugged "Urgent!" and another that was slugged "Immediate Payment Required" and still another that read "We Break Fingers And Toes."

Then the calls started coming in, usually two or three a day. "Is Mr. Haugen available? We really need to speak with him." No, he's not here. "Are you sure you're not really Mr. Haugen?" Yes, I'm sure. "Well, when he comes in, have him call Mike at Discover immediately." *sound of shotgun cocking* Will do.

Chad was masterful when it came to avoiding creditors. He always seemed to leave the apartment just two or three minutes before a creditor called. It was like he had some sort of sixth sense. Which was all fine and dandy, except that I ended up being the intermediary between Chad and the creditors, so I got to absorb all the impatient anger and suspicion of basically every credit card company on the planet.

It was the day a creditor appeared, in person, at our doorstep that I realized Chad's debt situation was probably more dire than Chad cared to admit. There was a knock at the door, I answered, and a gentleman in a suit that looked both impressive and threatening stood before me. He asked to see a Mr. Chad Haugen, at which point I heard a little scuffling emanating from Chad's room as Chad scurried out the back entrance which, conveniently, was located at the far end of his bedroom.

We chatted together, the ominous creditor and me, for about an hour, waiting for Chad to get home, even though, of course, there was no way in holy hell Chad was going to make an appearance while that guy was in our apartment. I even had to produce my ID, so the creditor was satisfied that I wasn't, in fact, Chad Haugen.

After that, I believe, Chad ended up getting a loan from his parents, or somebody, so he could pay off his credit card debt at least enough to keep the creditors at bay. He eventually got a job working at IBM, which was a long-assed commute from Winona to Rochester, but paid a whole lot more than the Gummi Bear line.

As for me, Chad's experience with credit cards pretty much scared me away from plastic for good.


I really can't see myself ever living in New York City except for maybe as a perpetual stream of comedy gold. New Yorkers consistently come up with bizarre ideas, and then they actually dedicate money, honest-to-goodness cold hard cash, in an effort to make their dreams come true. I try to imagine myself as a New York citizen, awaking at 6:32 a.m. on a broken beer bottle in some alley somewhere, recovering from a severe meth binge and nursing a strange ass pain that I don't want to know the source of. As I stumble home, I notice that people own dogs, and those dogs appear excited. In my meth-twisted mind, I come to the conclusion that dogs need to chill out, perhaps through yoga, and I was going to set out to start the first-ever canine yoga class. That, I'm convinced, is what happens with frightening regularity on the streets of New York City. Case in point:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City dog owners who worry that their furry friends need some stress management have a new option: yoga for dogs.

See? And you all thought I was just being silly, didn't you? You were all laughing, sitting there thinking how utterly ridiculous the concept of dog yoga was, but then it turns out that it actually exists. I don't know about you, but I feel dumber knowing I'm part of the collective human experience right now.

"Ruff Yoga" -- a so-called doga class aimed at relaxing the canine denizens of this often un-Zen city -- is being offered once a month in a downtown city park.

Did I read that right? Did I read "Ruff Yoga" and "doga" in the same sentence. *checking* Oh. My. Yes, there it is. Only once a month? Is that enough? What if your dog is super-stressed out. I mean, what if the dog's owner is so clinically insane they actually conjure up things like "Ruff Yoga?" That poor dog would be high strung enough to require "doga" at least four times a week.

Half an hour on the yoga mat makes Isaac, her cocker spaniel, a calmer dog, said doga devotee Sarah Klein.

There is no explaining here just how far into my skull I just rolled my eyes. Suffice it to say, I briefly saw my brain pulsating.

"Usually when he's in the park, he can't focus," said Klein, who was among nine New Yorkers and their dogs who attended a class on Thursday night.

Focus on what, exactly? On a fire hydrant? What the heck is a dog supposed to focus on, besides the nearest butt to sniff?

First there was a short inspirational reading about dogs and a moment of "OM-ing." Then the women, following a yoga instructor, took their dogs through traditional poses, starting, without a trace of irony, by forming the furry bodies into the inverted V of the "downward dog" pose.

ISAAC: Psssst. Hey, Spike. What the shit is going on here? I think the old woman's been sniffing too much Alpo. She's twisting my body in all sorts of uncomfortable poses here, and what's up with all the OM-ing?

SPIKE: Beats me. All I know is, one minute I'm chasing a squirrel, the next minute I'm stuck around all these wackos. I guess I should count my blessings. At least I wasn't named something stupid, like Isaac.

ISAAC: Oh, I'm so going to bite you when this is all over.

Then they bent over the dogs and curled their best friends into "child's pose," renamed "puppy's pose."

Lots of lonely people in New York. Lots. Of. Lonely. People.

As a crowd of onlookers grew, the women stretched their dogs -- all of them on the small side -- to the left and the right and lifted them in their arms like furry weights. From time to time, they paused to pull the wandering dogs back to their mats and shush their barks.

SPIKE: Bark, bark, bark, bark, barkity, woof, bark (translation: let me go! Let me go! Let me go! Let me go!)

ISAAC: Ha! Ha! Spike can't do the puppy's pose! Spike can't do the puppy's pose!

"Give him a little love," yoga instructor Suzi Teitelman, 31, told her students. "Come forward, give him a kiss," Teitelman instructed as she leaned over her own spaniel, 2-year-old Coaly.

SPIKE and ISAAC (in unison, with heads cocked to one side): Coaly!? Dude! Your name is Coaly?! Hey, everybody, get a load of the spaniel with the super-stupid name of "Coaly!"

COALY: *wimpers softly*

The class, sponsored by national fitness chain Crunch, grew out of Coaly climbing on her owner's yoga mat at home, Teitelman said. "Yoga came from the animals. It's natural instinct," she said.

Well, there you have it, folks. Yoga came from the animals. A more profound statement of truth has never been spoken before and. . . wait just a fucking minute here! That's so monumentally stupid, I think the left side of my brain just popped. Let's see. . . a dog climbs onto a yoga mat, so that must mean that animals instinctively know yoga! No, wait, in my world, if a dog climbs onto a yoga mat, chances are pretty high the pooch was trying to sniff the mat because it smells so entirely much like ass.

Three women left the lesson with their dogs after several minutes, but those who stayed said it was worth it.

"I feel more relaxed and I think she does too," 24-year-old Tracy Alfajora said of Tallula, an 8-month-old, 3-pound Yorkshire terrier who had just finished her first class.

SPIKE, ISAAC and COALY (in unison, with heads cocked quizzically): Tallula?!! Your name is Tallula?!

TALLULA: Don't start guys. Please, just don't start.

Yoga for dogs, sometimes called doga, has taken hold with pet lovers beyond New York.

Oh no. You mean the insanity is elsewhere?

Due on bookshelves in September is "Doga: Yoga for Dogs" from Chronicle Books. The book, based on the fact that some of yoga's best known positions are based on the movements of dogs, has tips on practicing yoga with your dog.

That's it! I'm going to go out today and buy a dog and train it specifically to bite dogs that do "doga."

And yoga guru Bruce Van Horn is studying the physiological effect of yoga on dogs at a New Jersey animal shelter. Using stress reduction techniques like breathing exercises, he aims to calm the dogs and help them be adopted.

Breathing exercises? You mean like panting?

Van Horn, whose book "Yoga for Pets and the People who Love Them" also is due in the fall, says he has noticed results with his own dog. "It's a healing thing," he said.

It's a healing thing. Healing from what? Forget it. Just forget I asked. I don't think I ever want to know.

1. What is your most proud moment?
That one time, in band camp, when I stuck a flute in my pussy. Er, wait. That was American Pie. My most proud moment? Wow. Jeesh. Heavy. I would have to say the time when I was out driving along the Mississippi River and I saw an overturned car slowly sinking in the water and I could tell people were in it, so I jumped in and scrambled to save them, and I did, even though I was only able to rescue one of the three people inside. Okay, none of that actually happened at all, but I think I saw it on television once. My proudest moment was that one time when I had everyone who reads this blog believing that I rescued someone from a sinking car. That was my proudest moment EVER.

2. What are you most proud of in your life?
Hands down, I'm the most proud of graduating from St. Mary's International School in Tokyo. That year entailed the most personal victories for me academically, physically and psychologically, and I still smile when I look at my diploma.

3. What is your most guilty pleasure?
That one time, in band camp, when I stuck a flute in my pussy. Oh, wait. Once again, that was American Pie. Guilty pleasure? Hmmm. Masturbation is too easy of an answer. Let's see. I would have to say chewing on Jolly Ranchers. I know that chewing on those things is murder on the teeth, but you can't beat the flavor rush inherent in chewing rather than sucking on them.

How much shit would you take from your employer before you quit on the spot without another job lined up?
That one time, in band camp. . . okay, okay, that joke has run its course. I think the funny thing about taking shit from an employer is that you often don't realize how much shit you take until you're in a different job. During my last job, I put up with the most dastardly bitch manager ever to haunt the American workforce, but I didn't realize it at the time. Sure, I hated her and I wished disease and plague on her and her family, and I kind of still do, but at the time I just kind of figured that was the way of things: I was destined to rot in that job and die prematurely of bitch-related stress. Then, I got laid off by IBM because they couldn't afford me, and was then hired by IBM a couple weeks later at $3 more an hour than I was making before. Now that I'm in a job with awesome bosses, in a work environment that allows for unprecedented autonomy and freedom, I can honestly say that I've been spoiled to the point of not putting up with any amount of shit from anyone at any other job. It's just a job, after all. It's not worth sacrificing yourself for.

Did I mention that one time, in band camp. . .

Posted by Ryan at June 27, 2003 10:27 AM
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