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Playa del Rey and Venice Beach, California

7:05 p.m.: Seated at a fine restaurant. Intelligent, attractive, interesting and sometimes flammable man on one side of the table. Me across.

Trout with almonds. Carrot soup. Half a bottle of chardonnay. Mountain elk.

Dessert: the one on the cover of a magazine that made me want to dip my finger onto the page and come away with a drip of chocolate. The photo that led us here.

I nearly choked on my morning oatmeal when I stumbled upon this article from the BBC.

From the article:

Pet Shop Boys reject PETA request

Pop group Pet Shop Boys have revealed they have turned down a request by animal rights group PETA to rename themselves the Rescue Shelter Boys.” PETA Europe has written to Pet Shop Boys with a request they are unable to agree to,” reads a post on the band’s official website. But the band admits the request “raises an issue worth thinking about”.

Now, I’m an amateur semantician at best, but when you first heard who sang West End Girls, did the cognitive assembly of those three words: Pet. Shop. Boys. make you rush right out to the mall and pick up a scrappy pup when you were freshly into your teen years? Did you suddenly think: “I, too, want to be a Pet Shop Boy (or Girl)” and start saving up for your very own Petland franchise? Would it have made a difference if they had been called The (almost certainly career-destroying) Rescue Shelter Boys?

No. More than likely, you spent time scratching your head, trying to figure out if it wasn’t a rip-off of One Night in Bangkok.

(It wasn’t. But it’s a good argument. Chess was released in 1984, West End Girls was first released in 1984, but to little notice. So they re-recorded the tune with a new producer and released it a second time in 1985 to wider acclaim, capturing the Number 1 spot in the UK in 1985 and in the US in 1986. But I digress…)

So with this plea, 25 years after The Pet Shop Boys first burst onto the scene and 29 years after PETA was founded, what, exactly does PETA hope to accomplish now? Shouldn’t they have seized the moment when the band first came out, like the initial outrage over Joy Division? Are they suddenly running to the forefront waving long-lost statistics of the influence of a single British technopop band’s one-hit wonder on the spike in demands for puppy mill puppies? A noticeable decline in animals adopted from the pounds across America circa 1986???

Interestingly enough, Pound Puppies also arrived in the early ’80s, and I don’t know about all you other Gen X girls out there, but didn’t you hum “Pound Puppy, you’re my one and only puppy love” almost as much as you hummed the Monchichi song?

If The Pet Shop Boys drove the angsty ’80s teen-traffic to the puppy mills, I’m certain the ‘tween girl set drove equally as much, if not more, traffic to the ASPCA to have a real, live pound puppy of your very own. Why isn’t PETA, instead, focusing on the positive influence of the Pound Puppies? Or eschewing dogs altogether and instead, touting Cabbage Patch Kids for adoption?  I mean, hell, if you want to adopt something, adopt a child – and one that grew out of a VEGETABLE GARDEN to boot, thus keeping right in line with PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk’s own ‘hippo’-cratic oath: “Therefore [animals] are not ours to use – for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or for any other reason.”

Why does PETA have to be so damn preachy and negative? Ingrid Newkirk lives in Norfolk, Virginia. Didn’t all her time spent living in the South teach her that you catch more flies with honey than vinegar? But I suppose that would be inhumane to flies, so nevermind…

Now don’t get me wrong, I love animals and I sympathize with animal advocacy. I do.  I have had four animals adopted from rescue groups. I have worked with rescue groups. Hell, one of my best friends even RAN a rescue group for years and years. And I’ll confess, I like the underlying principles of PETA. I think puppy mills are bad. I think throwing bags filled with litters of kittens into the river is bad.  I think mistreating the animals used for medical advancement is bad. I think we should adopt pets from pounds, rescue shelters and directly from reputable breeders, and I think pet owners should be, above all else,responsible pet owners.

But I also wear my great-grandmother’s mink stole when I go to the Opera and, like Lenore, had a beloved white-rabbit coat when I was a little girl.  I believe that feral and dangerous animals should be humanely euthanized, rather than left to live out their days in a cage. I’m thoroughly enjoying Claire Cameron’s ongoing and highly-entertaining TNB series: A Guide to Thinking About Urban Chickens. I would rather that scientific research be tested on rabbits and chimpanzees than on my nieces. I do.

Oh. And I eat meat. Red meat.  Often. Saignant. I think it’s why we have incisors. And why God made cows and pigs and chickens and fish taste so damn delicious.

Now, I didn’t learn these things from bands’ names. I didn’t learn to eat meatloaf from Meat Loaf, I don’t appreciate fish because of Phish (truth be known, I don’t even like Phish), I don’t love bacon toffee because I also sing along to Pigoletto, and personally speaking, I prefer rotisserie chicken to Electric Chicken.

But it doesn’t mean that, because I’m a meat-eating, fur-wearing, frequent Kittenwar website-visitor and Stupid Pet Tricks-watcher, I’m going to challenge your equal right to be up in arms about leather, orBabe, or lab rats, or Steak tartare.

So give it a rest, Ingrid.  People aren’t so impressionable that we’re going to think anything of a band’s name other than it’s just another stupid band name.

Which most of us had forgotten about.

Until now.

Thanks.


In 2005 and 2006, I spent a year in federal prison for the alleged crime of “illicit sale of archaeological artifacts.” It’s not my case that I want to write about but the people I met while serving time. I was sentenced to a prison in northern Ohio on the Pennsylvania border near Youngstown, a one-time crime family capital of the state where a once strong steel industry gave way to corruption and gangs. It was, I suppose, a suitable location for a prison.

The unit where I was housed was over an INS (Immigration and Naturalization Services) block that contained mostly Hispanic inmates but also black, Dominican and Mexican prisoners along with a smattering of Europeans. It was from this unit I made my best friends. There was Andrew from Poland and Thomas from Germany and there were, of course, the Russians. Most of the latter were from Uzbekistan.

As one who had a passion for reading and writing, I spent most of my free time doing so. It doesn’t take much to earn a reputation in lock-up and I was soon dubbed the “Professor.”
Damn Professor, you reading another book? Haven’t you read every book by now?

I was often the deciding vote on many a prison debate. Hey Professor, is the moon a planet or a star? And even (this was a serious question, I swear), do brown cows give chocolate milk?