The Sunday Magazine: The Art of the Trailer; Game of Thrones and Avengers: Endgame

In the next five weeks the end of two of the greatest pop culture stories will begin their endings. On April 14 the first of the final six episodes of HBO’s Game of Thrones will be followed two weeks later by the Marvel Studios movie Avengers: Endgame finishing the story told over the first ten years of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not that either of these events require any promotion to have everyone who has been invested in them to show up they have still released short trailers over the last week or so. Both are good examples of how to build even more anticipation without giving anything away that we already didn’t know what was coming. I thought this was good opportunity to mention why I think they work so well.

The Game of Thrones trailer uses its first moments to confirm the battle we know is coming takes place. We see one of the biggest toughest characters breathing heavily with what looks like dirt, could be blood, running in a rivulet down her face. She seems to be hiding as she then runs at full speed away from something. To see Arya in this state is an ideal scene setter. They juxtapose her headlong run with words of her saying how she looks forward to the battle.

Over the next minute or so we see quick glimpses of all the characters we have been following as they gather where the story began; at Winterfell for the battle. The final shot is of our heroes lined up outside the walls. As the camera pans back and we see the undead leg of a horse for the army of the dead.

This is effective for me as a viewer because the opening piece lets me know something goes enough wrong to put Arya into that state. By showing her confidence with the voice-over pre-battle bravado as she pelts down the halls. It is all I need to know this is not going to be a clean resolution. For our heroes to win they will have to sacrifice and overcome much. I really know little more than I did at the end of last season which makes it the right amount of enticement.

Avengers: Endgame also reminds us where it all began. Instead of location the first half of the trailer are the three core Avengers Iron Man, Captain America, and Thor reflecting in voice-over about how they ended up where they are. The old footage used is in black and white except for the color red which is still there. I thought it was a nice visual cue because in between the old footage are new scenes which are in full color. Natasha says “even if there is a small chance” followed by many of the characters responding “whatever it takes”. This leads to a beauty shot as the Avengers clad in matching white suits head toward that “small chance”. Then we see the logo followed by a funny moment as Thor meets Captain Marvel for the first time.

This is another effective trailer because it does move me a little bit further on from the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. I have an idea of who will take that “small chance” without knowing what it is. I assume it is the one path Dr. Strange mentioned in Avengers: Infinity War where they had the chance to beat Thanos.

I am left at the same place the Game of Thrones trailer left me; battle lines clearly drawn a whole movie in front of me to resolve it. This is how trailers used to be. I am shown just enough to excite me without ruining any of the major plot points.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts by Bob Dylan

In the mid 1970’s the state of popular music was going in all directions. There were the bands which were adding in symphonic orchestras. Synthesizers were creating the first steps of computerized music making. Punk rock was a repudiation of all of that. I recently ran across a box of the cassette mix tapes I had made during these years. While I found representatives of all that I mentioned above there was another segment of songs which took up a lot of space on my 90-minute tapes; story songs.

Story songs were pop music’s version of setting a narrative to music. These were usually done by the most talented of the singer-songwriters of the day. As radio stations became more flexible these five to ten-minute musical tales found radio airplay. For about ten years these songs all found some success. From Johnny Cash’s “A Boy Named Sue” through to Barry Manilow’s “Copacabana” I could see these people the same way I did when reading a book. I know what Sue, Lola, and Tony look like. Which makes my favorite story song quite different because the first time I heard it wasn’t on the radio. It was in a bedroom sitting with my best friends; my family by choice.

I have three great friends who have known me since I was fourteen. I call them my family by choice. One of them was a guitar player. One of our favorite things to do was to ask him to play songs for us. Eventually we all came to know the lyrics that these would become a sing-along. Although it was only my guitar playing friend who had the singing voice. One of his favorite artists was Bob Dylan. Outside of the songs played on the radio it was he who introduced me to most of Mr. Dylan’s music. Which was what happened the night when my friend played “Lily, Rosemary, and the Jack of Hearts”. I was spellbound by the story being told. I would borrow the album it was on, “Blood on the Tracks”, so I could listen to the song over and over.

The song tells the story of the three people in the title plus one more; Big Jim. Rosemary is married to Big Jim, the diamond mine owner, who is having an affair with Lily who he has given his ring to. In to this step the mysterious Jack of Hearts one night at the cabaret where Lily performs. Over fifteen verses the story of all four people come together in tragedy. Oh yeah, there is a bank robbery going on which is what brought the Jack of Hearts to town.

On the recorded track it is Mr. Dylan and his guitar singing each verse which ends with the Jack of Hearts as part of the last line. He finishes the song by playing the music of each verse on a harmonica. For a song which I came to love because of the live playing of my friend Mr. Dylan only played it live one time, in 1976.

It is also a song which seemingly begs to be made into a visual form of some kind. It has gotten as far as screenplays being written a couple of times but no further. One apocryphal story about the song says Mr. Dylan read the lyrics to Joni Mitchell which then became her song “Diamonds and Rust”. I am not sure I believe it, but I have both back-to-back on my playlist. Because even though there are some modern things like telephones in “Diamonds and Rust” I imagine it as Lily and the Jack of Hearts meeting after many years.

Most of all even though it is Mr. Dylan’s voice in my headphones it really is my family by choice singing together in a bedroom about Lily, Rosemary and the Jack of Hearts.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James

There are many people who will flip to the last page of a book and read it. I don’t do that. I like having a book get me to the destination on its own pace. The new book Black Leopard, Red Wolf by author Marlon James has the protagonist tell you the ending in the very first line of this first volume of an epic fantasy trilogy.

Mr. James has chosen to follow up his 2014 Man-Booker award winning “A Brief History of Seven Killings” with Black Leopard, Red Wolf. The narrative flow of that book carries over to this one. The space moves from Jamaica to a fantasy version of Africa. This is the second epic fantasy series which has taken Africa as a seed upon which to grow a fantasy landscape. It allows Mr. James to employ much less known cultural fantasy tropes. Which means for a Caucasian reader it has surprises which spring from my lack of knowledge. Unlike when there are fantasy realms based on European foundations.

Marlon James

The story is told by Tracker who at the beginning of the story tells the reader that “The child is dead. There is nothing left to know.” That child is who Tracker is asked to find. Tracker also warns you he is maybe an unreliable narrator, or one who moves between worlds, when he tells the story of how he left his family and name behind to become Tracker. There are two different versions. That is the narrative quirk which keeps a reader guessing exactly what is going on as Tracker circles around different narrative beats. Mr. James delights in telling this fractured narrative similar to the way a Tarantino movie unspools.

Another similarity to Tarantino is the quantity of the violence. The battles are bloody and bone-crunching. The sex is also unflinchingly portrayed. Mr. James seems to have a fascination with the scents of sex. You can be sure all of that was interesting to me. He writes it so vividly I knew I could add a smell-track if I wanted to from my box of essential oils.

Tracker is joined on his task by a typical coterie of epic fantasy characters. Witches, giants, werecreatures, and almost anything else you can think of is here. Mr. James uses the African legends in place of the European ones.

This is the first volume and we are left with many questions. I have read the succeeding books will tell the same events from one of the other characters points of view. Considering how uncertain I am of the truth of Tracker’s narration if another book gave a different perspective, I think that would be a fun way to fill in the blanks. Black Leopard, Red Wolf is only the beginning.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Strong Women Make Weak Geeks Freak

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I have always embraced being a geek; even when it wasn’t a great thing to be called. The wonder of time is if you live long enough sometimes things change. Over the last 15-20 years it has become a good thing to be a geek. Pop culture has reflected that. It has also dramatically expanded from the early days of convention rooms of a couple hundred white guys to the 150,000 at New York Comic-Con. I am amazed, and gratified, at the diversity of the attendees representing something much closer to real-life demographics.

I’ve written in the past what a golden age it is for representation in the geek world with heroes that look like any race or gender. Nothing has made me smile more than seeing little girls wearing Wonder Woman or Rey from Star Wars costumes. As they make sound effects with their mouths to represent their strength. With another candidate coming in a few weeks with the release of “Captain Marvel” it is the best of times. Except from one small corner of the internet; there the cries of week geeks threatened by seeing strong women are heard.

It started with the weeks prior to the release of “Wonder Woman”. There were multiple online campaigns about how the movie was going to fail because it featured a woman hero. This tiny minority bombed the review aggregation site Rotten Tomatoes with derisive comments prior to and after the release of the film. Sadly it was covered as if this was representative of the geek community. Box office don’t lie and $821 million later that they were spitballs off a battleship.

Nothing breeds sticktoitiveness like failure and so these idiots turned their eyes to the addition of a female Asian character to Star Wars: The Last Jedi. This time not content to just try and use Rotten Tomatoes they harassed the young actress, Kelly Marie Tran. Causing her to delete her social media accounts. Ms. Tran’s character, Rose Tico, was a classic Star Wars hero type who proves her worth over and over. Along with Rey as the central protagonist this was double trouble for the weak geeks. This time they were as effective as tissue versus a lightsaber. Star Wars: The Last Jedi would rake in $1.3 billion at the box office. I want to point out that these trolls were covered as if they were representative of something other than flawed thinking. There were many articles that wanted to use them as a device to speak about the direction of Star Wars instead of treating them as drunk hecklers who should be ignored.

Now they’re back in these days before the release of “Captain Marvel”. They’re also being covered as if their opinion again represents a large group of fans. They’re criticizing Marvel for casting, wait for it “a feminist” in the role of what was one of the first feminist superheroes. She was Ms. Marvel before she became Captain Marvel. Then the star Brie Larson asked for more female and people of color to be included in her press tour promoting the film. Not at the expense of the white critics but in addition to them. As in add a few more rows of folding chairs for some new blood. Now the jerks are at it again working overtime on Rotten Tomatoes and blasting Brie Larson for being a “feminist”.

If there was any description of me which got under my skin, it was being called a “fanboy”. I always felt it indicated a lack of ability to be critical of the geeky things I enjoyed. I now realize I want to use it to describe this small group of weak geeks because they are immature boys who purport to be fans.

I know the answer to this kind of behavior is the continued success of movies with strong women in the lead roles. Eventually there will be enough female fans who will drown out the weak geeks. I know I’ll be standing with them.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Netflix’s Sex Education

If there is anything which shows there is a large part of me which refuses to accept my age it is my love of the teen drama. Well past my teens the movies of John Hughes showed there was a part of me which always enjoyed the goings on of teenagers looking for love. Now in this era of peak television a series on Netflix called Sex Education is a new way to tell an old story.

Sex Education is an eight-episode series created by Laurie Nunn who wrote five of the episodes. The series is a long form version of all the classic tropes. A group of three protagonists; the virgin, the gay man, and the misunderstood girl form the central triangle at the heart of the series. Ms. Nunn does a delightful job taking these story devices into the current day.

The basic set up is Otis is a virgin who can’t even masturbate because his single mother is a famous sex therapist. His best friend Eric is one of only two out gay students at their private high school who lives in a strict religious family. Maeve is the girl who lives in the trailer park with the bad reputation. Maeve realizes Otis has absorbed a lot from listening to his mother talk about sex. Maeve gets the idea for him to be the therapist to the school’s lovelorn. Eric is there as the best friend who supports and warns of the pitfalls. Over the eight episodes these three stories are told cleverly even though they are familiar.

The young actors are fantastic. Asa Butterfield as Otis is just the right mixture of awkward frustration having to talk about sex while not having any. Ncuti Gatwa is allowed to take the best friend’s story arc into much broader places as we see him coping with his father’s disapproval. Emma Mackey plays Maeve with a balance of I don’t care/ I care which provides a sympathetic spin on her choices. The final part of the acting I must mention is Gillian Anderson who plays Otis’ mother, Jean. Ms. Anderson shines as one of the few adults with something to do.

Ms. Nunn keeps the plot moving along and by the end our characters haven’t exactly found happily ever after; because there is a season 2 coming. By the end of Season 1 things have changed enough for all three that they won’t be retreading the same problems.

If you’re looking for a fun binge watch in your Netflix queue give Sex Education a try.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Cookie Rookie

I think you can tell I enjoy cooking. It is a kind of chemistry on its own. I also like to be able to improvise a bit while following recipes. Which means the more complicated the recipe the less freedom I have to do that. About three years ago I discovered a website which fits my style because of its ability to improvise on the recipes. The website is The Cookie Rookie.

The discovery is all from Mrs. C as she received a link to this recipe for oven baked chicken tacos. When I went to the website I looked to see who The Cookie Rookie was. Her name is Rebecca Hardin or just Becky when she’s writing on the website. She was newly married in her early-30’s and had never cooked at home. The early posts are Becky figuring it out. The later posts are an intuitive synthesis of what she learned by doing, combined with an ability to make delicious meals quickly and easily. Which brings me back to those tacos.

Rebecca "Becky" Hardin

When Mrs. C sent me the recipe, I didn’t realize it was going to become the foundation for dozens of meals over the last three years. It is the kind of recipe which has been so flexible I have been able to use it in so many ways it never seems the same. For the original post here is the link. It is the most popular recipe on the site.

If you want specifics click on the link but the basics are these. Take any cooked meat; chicken in the original. I’ve used almost any leftover meat you can imagine. To some sautéed onions in a pan I add the meat, diced tomatoes, and some diced jalapenos. Spice it up with taco powder. Stir for a few minutes. Then line the bottom of a taco shell with a layer of refried beans followed by a scoop of the mixture from the pan. Cover with cheese; lots of cheese. Cook in the oven for ten minutes and you’re done.

These have become the only way I want tacos now. The variations are I’ve added a bit of yellow rice to the pan to provide a kind of fried rice texture. I’ve added whole beans to the skillet mixture instead of using refried beans. I think I’ve tried every kind of bean on the shelf by now. My favorite bean to use in this way are Cuban pink beans. I’ve coated them in guacamole and enchilada sauce after baking. I think you can see how it can be used often without becoming boring.

The Cookie Rookie is full of recipes like this. My current new obsession is the ravioli lasagna recipe. I’ve only made it three times but just like the tacos I’m having a lot of fun changing it up as I go.

If you’re looking for a down-to-earth cooking website you should give The Cookie Rookie a click.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Super Bowl of Commercials

I’ve written about it a few times, but I am a fan of a well-done television commercial. My current favorite is the one for Progressive Insurance where we discover that Jaime, who has been the butt of jokes, has an amazing home life. The insurance companies have all stepped up their commercial games recently as not only Progressive, but Farmer’s and GEICO are also ones which make me laugh. My favorite overall recent series is the Allstate “Mayhem” ads. Those are the everyday ones. With the airing of the Super Bowl the other game besides the one on the field is to be named the best commercial of the game. It has become a crown worth seeking.

The commercials at the Super Bowl often debuted something new for the brand they were representing. It was where new soft drinks or beer would have their first exposure. The eternal fast food battle of McDonalds vs. Burger King has had Super Bowl skirmishes. The real turning point took place 35 years ago during Super Bowl XVIII.

It was partway through the third quarter of a game where the Los Angeles Raiders were handily beating the Washington Redskins. As the announcers sent us to break nobody knew what was coming. Over the next minute a commercial showing a female runner in red shorts and a white tank top running with a sledgehammer. As she is chased by the police, we realize this is the dystopia described in George Orwell’s 1984. The runner approaches the screen where Big Brother is speaking. As he says, “We shall prevail!” the runner throws the sledgehammer through the screen; exploding it. Only at the end do we see the tagline from Apple Computers saying, “you’ll see why 1984 won’t be like 1984”.

That commercial was directed by Ridley Scott less than two years after he had done “Blade Runner”. In those days there were only a few VCRs and no internet to see it again. Over the next couple days it was as talked about as the game. Ever since brands have upped their game looking for that kind of buzz.

The commercials at the Super Bowl fall into a couple of categories; funny and heart-warming. The funny commercials have become such a recent trend that having the funniest Super Bowl commercial almost assures it will be voted the best commercial. If a funny commercial doesn’t win it is because there is an ad which is meant to make you go, “aww” while complaining about the dust in your eye. There hasn’t been a big spectacle ad like the Apple 1984 ad in a while.

I would give out a yelp of delight if Apple marked the anniversary with a new big-budget ad. I still expect to laugh and wipe a tear away in those four minutes of advertisement in between the game itself. Because that’s the other Super Bowl going on.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Best Picture v. Popular Picture

The Oscar nominations were released this past Tuesday. I was particularly interested in the nominees for Best Picture. Over the past few years it seems like if you were a film which made money at the box office that excluded it from winning, or even being nominated, for the big award. The Oscars had become about saluting the best movie which had the least audience. There became this unspoken rule that the popular moneymaking movies didn’t need the publicity an Oscar nomination brings. Better to nominate movies which could use the spotlight. It made it seem like if your movie makes money the box office position is enough notice.

This is a recent phenomenon. From 1940 through the win for “Annie Hall” in 1978; 90% of the Best Picture winners were also in the top-ten box office list. From 1979 through 2004 it became a less reliable indicator of Oscar glory as it broke 60-40 in favor of the box office winners. Since 2004 do you know the number of top-ten box office movies which have won an Oscar? Zero! I repeat, zero! That’s a problem.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized the issue and tried to come up with a solution. In the summer of 2018 they proposed an award for “Outstanding Achievement in Popular Film”. One reason is the TV ratings have been declining because the movies most of the television audience have seen are represented nowhere. I’m one of those people. I have watched the Oscars every year. I’ve only become bored recently because I have no rooting interest. I remember rooting for ET in 1983 only to see Gandhi win. I remember feeling the opposite when Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King won in 2004. Too often over this fourteen-year run of small movie nominees, and winners, I have no rooting interest because these are niche movies made for a small segment of the audience.

This was why I loved the idea of Best Popular Movie. I would once again have the chance to root for something I had seen. Critics of the move hated the idea of two “separate but equal” awards. They worried that the Best Picture award would become ghettoized as the place for the small serious movie. The Academy caved to the pressure, but I don’t have to.

Using this year’s list of nominees I am going to break them down into two categories. My imperfect barometer for the Popular Film category is grater than $100M box office or if released in the last quarter of the year three consecutive weeks in the top 10 box office list.

Using that criteria the nominees for Popular Film would be: Black Panther, Bohemian Rhapsody, and A Star is Born. Best (Artistic?) Film would be: BlacKKKlansman, The Favourite, Green Book, Roma, and Vice. In my fantasy world that means there would be two slots left to fill in the Popular Film category. One would certainly be Crazy Rich Asians. I’m going to give the fifth slot to Mary Poppins Returns although there are three animated choices in Incredibles 2, Ralph Breaks the Internet and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Let’s look at those lists again:

Best Film

BlacKKKlansman

The Favourite

Green Book

Roma

Vice

OR

Popular Film

Black Panther

Bohemian Rhapsody

Crazy Rich Asians

Mary Poppins Returns

A Star is Born

Now ask yourself how many of those movies have you seen? I’ve seen all five Popular Film nominees and three of the Best Film nominees. Now ask yourself which list you have more rooting interest in? Which movie do you most want to see win an award? Which list is it on?

I really hope the Academy reconsiders the idea of the Popular Film category. I think if a movie can get enough people to leave their house to go see it in a theatre to the tune of over $100M that is not a flaw. I continue to think that Popular and Best are not mutually exclusive but if the Academy voters need some help then two categories would be great.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: The Other Wild Poodle, Henry

Never let it be said I don’t respond to my readers. I received a half-dozen e-mails asking about the other poodle inhabiting Poodlesville; Henry. They wanted to know his story. This week I will give Henry some equal time.

We adopted Henry in 2013. We have been a two-poodle house for a long time. After our oldest dog had passed away Mrs. C began to reach out to rescue organizations for a new poodle. Relatively quickly she was offered Henry. She took our other poodle up to see if they would be a fit. They walked towards each other on a leash. Shared poodle business cards by sniffing each other. When they both got into the universal crouch of “let’s play!” Mrs. C knew we had a match.

Almost all rescue poodles have some kind of adversity. It requires patience to overcome this. Henry surprisingly carried none of this. Despite having overcome two different tragic situations. The first was his initial owner, when he was a puppy, smacked him so hard on the right side of his head it caused his right eyeball to come apart inside; blinding him on that side. Thankfully the rescue organization stepped in and removed Henry from this abuse. His second owner was a young woman who loved him. Unfortunately, she had an eating disorder leading to a fatal stroke. When she was found, days after dying, Henry was curled up next to her body. He was extremely dehydrated which has caused some kidney issues we keep a close watch on.

Henry is the most loving rescue poodle we have adopted. The poodle who stayed next to his owner after death is a snuggle bug. He likes curling up next to Mrs. C, me, or Jackson. It’s almost unnatural for me to be sitting on the sofa without the weight of his curled-up body next to my leg. A lot of evenings it is Henry on one side and Jackson on the other. Mrs. C calls it the “man couch” when this happens.

The other position Henry holds in our house is the Minister of Toys. We have toys all over the house. Jackson will pick up a toy and race around with it. Once Jackson has tired of whichever toy he has been playing with, Henry will amble over pick it up and move it to whatever he considers to be the correct place.

In the past our older poodles have jealously guarded their places. Often barking at the younger ones to let them know this is my spot. Henry has never been that way. When he first joined the household, he slowly won over the older poodle Rocco. After only a few months they would sleep next to each other with nary a growl. Once Henry became the older poodle the chain was broken. He loves sleeping with Jackson. They can be found with one of them resting their head upon the other most nights.

Every time I look at Henry, with his ruptured eye looking back, I marvel at the ability he has to forget the abuse of the past. He just wants to be loved. It may have taken three tries, but he has found a place where he gets as much as he wants.

Mark Behnke

The Sunday Magazine: Jackson Year 2

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As someone who writes a blog and puts their words out there you have a question which is hard to answer. Is anyone reading? I have all manner of metric measuring tools which give me the answer in graphs and percentages. I’ve realized over this past year that fundamental question carries a deeper corollary. Does anybody care? The best analytic site can’t give me any insight into that. My best way of measuring that is a single sentence added to the end of a lot of the e-mail I’ve received this year. It goes like this, “Give Jackson a scratch for me?” Or “How’s Jackson?”

I introduced our black standard poodle, Jackson, here in this column a year ago. We adopted Jackson on January 2, 2017, what is called “Gotcha Day”, from a rescue dog organization. As I recounted in last year’s column much of the first year was convincing Jackson I wasn’t the scariest thing in the world. By the end of his first year that was mostly accomplished. It taught me patience and love can cure a lot of ills.

Henry (l.) and Jackson

The first year was giving Jackson the socialization he was denied for his first year of life before we adopted him. He came to trust his new pack members; me, Mrs. C, and our other older rescue poodle Henry. By the end of that year within the confines of Poodlesville he was a happy confident young canine.

One of the things that was left to do was take him out into the rest of the world outside of home. I knew he was going to go back to being scared. I just thought it was important to start giving him the chance to learn there weren’t dragons on the other side of the fence.

What this has meant is four or five days a week I put Jackson on a leash and take him on a walk. We are lucky to have many options within a short drive of home to walk him. To start I just took him to the wide common park in the center of town for a few laps around it.

Our first excursion was one of half curiosity half fright. Every noise and other person we walked past glued him to my thigh; making sure I was between him and the perceived threat. The tail was tucked the entire time we took that first walk. The worst moment came when we walked by the flagpoles and the wind made them clank against the lanyards. I thought Jackson was going to jump in my arms.

Jackson taking a nap on his favorite pillow…..me

Ove a few weeks things got better. The tail began to move upward. The sniffing began. He jumped up excitedly when I picked up the leash. He even cried at me one day when I drove by the park to use the bank drive-thru. He got very used to the commons. Except for Halloween. Our town has a scarecrow contest where various organizations put up scarecrows. As they went up Jackson noted them but seemed to ignore them. Until the one which was made from a posable skeleton reaching out towards the path was installed. Every time we got to that corner of the common Jackson would drop his tail and keep an eye on it until we passed. At which point the tail began to wag again.

Because of the scarecrows it seemed time to expand our horizons. I began taking him to a park which had a wooded trail. The trail remains a sensorial overload for him which vacillates between momentary fright and poodle inquisitiveness. He still isn’t fond of the way a dog in one of the houses barks at him.

One day we got to the park and the trail was closed while they did some repair work on it. There was still a large soccer field to walk around and I thought we could do that. What made this interesting was there was a team practicing on the field which was taking a break. I came upon one of the young men playing as we turned a corner. Jackson hugged in close to me. The boy asked if he could pet him. I told him to be cautious and bend down to Jackson’s level. He did everything correct in approaching an unfamiliar dog. Jackson was soon getting his ears scratched by a stranger. Unbeknownst to him was a few teammates had come looking for their missing man. As they approached, they began to scratch Jackson all over his back. Jackson’s eyes opened as soon as he felt the first unfamiliar hand. Then as soon as he was receiving an all over scratch his eyes closed in pleasure and the tail wagged.

Like my readers when we walk past the boys practicing they ask, “How’s Jackson?” My answer is to all who ask, “He’s doing great!”

Mark Behnke