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As Long as We Remember...

March 17, 2009

Pushkin's Winter of Discontent

Roy Meachum

Mother Nature and government frequently disagree. Washington told us clocks must be turned back February's last weekend. A sure sign of Spring? The season doesn't begin until three weeks later.


We are living through winter's dregs. Windy, cold days still endure. Especially for Pushkin; others may say it's the English pointer's own fault. He insists on the daily promenade. Because of the blustery weather – especially in recent months – we've taken a shortened route, turning back on North Market, short of Church Street. This is sometimes a hardship.


Downtown has received a shake-up and not from the recession, as far as I can tell. Jennifer Stillridge's Venus on the Half Shell, and Joe Cohen's cigars and English goods right next to it, left the Second Street corner bereft. Thinking still in a boom mode, the building's new owner doubled their rent. They both moved, Venus first.


Jennifer took over maybe the oldest building downtown, across Maxwell from the Deli. She first moved in with a friend who departed not long after. A better location for her vintage clothing store; it's on East Patrick's antiques row that breeds a higher traffic flow for her business. Pushkin turns enthusiastically in her direction, counting on cookies Jennifer cheerfully provides.


Transferring Joe Cohen's beer, wine and assorted goods took more than a week; it might still be going on. The store looks half-furnished, which may be the owner's design secret. Where Market Street Café had second-hand books for sale, there is a series of wine racks and in the other front window a cigar humidor. (Starbucks rendered the café out of business.)


Gloria, the manager, continues placing Pushkin's treats up front, on top of a shelf. Being closer to the Square Corner has proved a benefit; the customer rush lasts through the noon hour, Joe said. With my two friends better off, I have nothing but sympathy for the old building's new owners. They bought in anticipation the economy would climb still higher. They lost.


Both Pushkin and his best friend must cope with change, not easy at our respective ages. The English pointer stops at what was Joe Cohen's door each day, as he lingered for a long time at Kat and Guy Williams' Portobello Road, hoping for warm smiles and biscuits. She went to Washington's Philips' Collection. A photographer rented the space.


As you can imagine, during the eight years Pushkin has scouted downtown stores, there's been a lot of scuffling and breezing about. I suspect he reads my mind; being of a lesser breed I can't read his. Still I suspect he must begin each promenade trepidatious, uncertain where his friends are. On a personal level, he's lost a major element in his life for seven years.


Knowing very well how the psyche governs the physical, I've noticed very recently that my boy dog is getting older. I've caught him twice needing two jumps to reach the bed; he succeeds only after extended encouragements and exhortations on my part.


It was almost 11 years ago that this roly-poly black-and-white butterball appeared on the sidewalk in front of my house. I have never known great affection for a dog before; but Pushkin's more: a very intelligent, thoughtful, courteous and caring critter.


Sometimes a nightmare says he's dead and I must wake to feel the warm body next to me. I love you, Pushkin.


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