Steven Simpson’s Blog

Please check every Monday for my most recent blog posting.  Most entries will be about nature or other environmental topics, but occasionally I will write about writing, family, travel, or the Driftless Region.

My Dog Doesn’t Like Me

My dog doesn’t like me. I blame the coronavirus. Clare just had her heart broken because she was called home from her study abroad in New Zealand. We were supposed to pick her up at O’Hare a week and a half ago. Instead she was dumped off in Houston, Texas and told to figure it out from there. She rented a car and drove back to La Crosse by herself. 

Now she is quarantined for two weeks. She gets the tv room, one bathroom, and the basement. Manyu and I have the rest of the house. Jack, our dog, hasn’t figured out that we are a house divided. He wants to be with everyone – and because he has a bit of a herding instinct in him, he wants everyone to be together. Manyu worries that if Clare contracted the virus during her flight, Jack might pick it up on his fur. At first, she wanted to ban him from Clare’s side of the house. I insisted that Jack be available to comfort Clare even if we could not. The compromise was that I spray Jack with some watered down disinfectant every time he leaves Clare’s domain. He hates it. It might even be a reminder of when I spritzed him with water as a much younger dog. Jack was two years old when we got him from the Humane Society, and he came with a few habits that needed to be unlearned (e.g., scratching Manyu’s expensive Turkish rug, peeing on Manyu’s expensive Turkish rug; my recollection is that a lot of it had to do with that rug). 

Lately Jack’s been resigned to the ritual. He scratches on the door to be let out from the tv room, then stands there with his tail between his legs while I mist him down. Clare’s quarantine ends tomorrow. As with everyone else, this bizarre way of living is far from over for us, but at least I will get my daughter back. And Jack can relax.

Summer of ’69

As part of my self-imposed house arrest during the pandemic, I’ve been binge watching some of my favorite PI television shows from the past. I breezed through three seasons of Spenser for Hire, then switched over to the Rockford Files. Since I lived in both Boston (Spenser) and Southern California (Rockford) at different times in my life, I was just as interested in the location shots as in the outdated story lines. Manyu is watching these shows for the first time, and she quickly observed that Spenser was tougher than everybody and Rockford wasn’t tougher than anyone. 

Watching the Rockford Files transported me back to the summer of 1969. My dad’s company had sent him to school for almost two years in Southern California, and our entire family joined him for one summer. Three recollections stick out in my mind.


  1. We went to Disneyland three times. For every Midwestern kid I knew, Disneyland was an unachievable fantasy, yet there we were. My recollection is that we were at Disneyland on the first day of the Haunted Mansion, but I could be wrong about that.
  1. We lived across the street from Palisades Park in Santa Monica. Four or five times a week I walked the switchbacked pedestrian trail down to the ocean. I’d just turned fifteen and was painfully aware that I was at exactly the wrong age for Southern California beaches – too old to build sand castles and body surf, too young to chase eighteen year old girls and spike volleyballs. Still this was the first time in my life I’d even seen an ocean, so I couldn’t help but go down almost every day.  
  1. I made my first mistake with women. Very few kids lived in our apartment complex, but I became friends with Annie and Gail, two cousins up on the third floor. They lived a few doors down from Stan Laurel’s widow, but we never saw anyone ever come out of that apartment. Annie had a crush on me, and I was attracted to her. We hadn’t so much as held hands, but we spent plenty of time checking each other out. Unfortunately I ended up walking through the park one night with Gail, and we kissed. By the next morning, both cousins were mad at me and I lost them as friends for most of the summer. I understand my screw up, but even now (50 years later) I can’t say I learned anything from it.