ust go to the search box at sfgate.com and put in “Adair Lara” and then any title or date or phrase you wish to search for.
I JUST REALIZED THAT while children are dogs, loyal and affectionate, teenagers are cats.
It’s so easy to be the owner of a dog. You feed it, train it, boss it around and it puts its head on your knee and gazes at you as if you were a Rembrandt painting. It follows you around, chews the dust covers off the Great Literature series if you stay too long at the party and bounds inside with enthusiasm when you call it in from the yard.
Then, one day around age 13, your adoring little puppy turns into a big old cat. When you tell it to come inside, it looks amazed, as if wondering who died and made you emperor.
Instead of dogging your footsteps, it disappears. You won’t see it again until it gets hungry, when it pauses on its sprint through the kitchen long enough to turn its nose up at whatever you’re serving. When you reach out to ruffle its head, in that old affectionate gesture, it twists away from you, then gives you a blank stare, as if trying to remember where it has seen you before.
It sometimes conks out right after breakfast. It might steel itself to the communication necessary to get the back door opened or the car keys handed to it, but even that amount of dependence is disagreeable to it now.
Stunned, more than a little hurt, you have two choices. The first — and the one chosen by many parents — is that you can continue to behave like a dog owner. After all, your heart still swells when you look at your dog, you still want its company, and naturally when you tell it to stop digging up the rose bushes, you still expect it to obey you, pronto.
IT PAYS NO attention now, of course, being a cat. So you toss it onto the back porch, telling it it can stay there and think about things, mister, and it glares at you, not deigning to reply. It wants you to recognize that it has a new nature now, and it must feel independent or it will die.
You, not realizing that the dog is now a cat, think something must be desperately wrong with it. It seems so anti-social, so distant, so sort of depressed. It won’t go on family outings.
Since you’re the one who raised it, taught it to fetch and stay and sit on command, naturally you assume that whatever is wrong with it is something you did, or left undone. Flooded with guilt and fear, you redouble your efforts to make your pet behave.
Only now, you’re dealing with a cat, so everything that worked before now produces exactly the opposite of the desired result. Call it, and it runs away. Tell it to sit, and it jumps on the counter. The more you go toward it, wringing your hands, the more it moves away.
Your second choice is to do the necessary reading, and learn to behave like a cat owner. Put a dish of food near the door, and let it come to you. If you must issue commands, find out what it wants to do, and command it to do it.
BUT REMEMBER THAT a cat needs affection, too, and your help. Sit still, and it will come, seeking that warm, comforting lap it has not entirely forgotten. Be there to open the door for it.
Realize that all dog owners go through this, and few find it easy. My glance used to travel from my cat Mike looking regal and aloof on the fence to a foolish German shepherd on the sidewalk across the street, jumping for joy simply because he was getting to go outside. Now I miss the little boy who insisted I watch “Full House” with him, and who has now sealed him into a bedroom with a stereo and TV. The little girl who wrote me mash notes and is now peeling rubber in the driveway.
The only consolation is that if you do it right, let them go, be cool as a cat yourself, one day they will walk into the kitchen and give you a big kiss and say, you’ve been on your feet all day, let me get those dishes for you — and you’ll realize they’re dogs again.
Warnings That Can Never Be Heard
Published 4:00 am, Tuesday, August 18, 1998
The bomb will explode at 3:10.
It’s just 3:05 in Omagh, Ireland, so there’s five minutes to go. Plenty of time to get away.
Brenda Pogue, 17, a soccer player, is in a shop with her mother. Stay in the shop, Brenda. No, her hand is on the door handle, she is going out. Her mother, absorbed with something she’s thinking about buying — a package of T-shirts or some blue thread — lets her go. There is a blur at the edge of her vision, her daughter leaving. Going out into the street, attracted by the commotion. “I’ll be over there, Ma. See you.”
Two minutes to go. Brenda heads into the summer crowd on Market Street. The police have got word of a bomb threat and are herding the carefree summer crowd from the courthouse steps to safety — in Market Street.
Stay on the courthouse steps. This crowd is used to bomb threats that turn out to be nothing. But they go along with it, good-naturedly.
NEAR BRENDA ARE young exchange students from Madrid, a woman shopping with her pregnant daughter, her little granddaughter, a scattering of small boys — look at blond-haired 8-year-old Oman tagging along with his friend Sean. There’s broad-faced 21-year-old Adrian Gallagher shopping for jeans. What do you need jeans for, Adrian? Wear your old jeans, for Pete’s sake. It’s reckless to go out shopping on a Saturday afternoon, don’t you know that? Shop tomorrow. This Saturday’s afternoon light is dangerous.
Julie Hughes, 21, a university student, has run out of her summer job at the Image Xpress to see what’s going on. Go back in, Julie, go back to developing pictures. Don’t listen to the music. Get your head down.
No one is paying attention to the danger. Kevin Skelton is shopping with his wife, Philomena, 39, and their three teenage daughters. Philomena. What kind of name is that? Go home, Philomena. Your daughters will live, but you, you are going to have your clothes blown right off, right here in what is at present a shop but soon will be rubble. Right in front of Kevin. Philomena, go home.
Nearby is a festival, with floats and music. The crowd mills past a maroon Vauxhall Astra. A couple of teenagers even lean against it, maybe, as they talk. What are they talking about? Why don’t they listen? Go somewhere else, kids.
What kind of car is that? An absurd purple plum of a car, packed with explosives. The men who put the explosives there have hurried away. They did not stop to finger a pair of jeans, or riffle through brightly colored pairs of socks, or try on jeans. They are no dummies.
BRENDA STROLLS NEAR the car. She’s not thinking about getting that job she wants on the mushroom farm, or about playing soccer, or about her twin brother, who sensibly stayed home on the farm. Like Julie, she just wants to see what’s going on out here.
Some of the fathers have gathered in the Kosy Korner pub to wait for their wives and daughters who have, against all reason, chosen to go shopping today. One mother has gone out to buy a school uniform for her youngest child. This can wait. Buy it next Tuesday. Discover you have no cash and step to the safety of the bank in the next street. Go on, now, while there’s still time. Remember that you have to call your mother or that you haven’t fed your parking meter.
Oh, God, it’s 3:09. There’s a man getting in his car, driving away. Smart man. Don’t wait for the light to turn green. Just go now. He’s turning the corner. Oh, the relief. He’s out of sight now, but we imagine him, driving into the rest of his life. The blast will fill his rearview mirror with rubble and smoke and orange flame.
Brenda, go back into the shop. There’s just time.