Captain America’s Roseland Ballroom, 1956-2014.
Roseland closes tonight.
From Captain America #258, June 1981
Caption: On 52nd Street in Manhattan, between Broadway and 8th Avenue, stands one of New York’s celebrated landmarks—a dance hall called Roseland. In this age of new wave, rock ‘n’ roll and disco, it’s a place where a couple can do a slow, romantic shuffle to the music of a big band. And among tonight’s couples are Steve Rogers (perhaps more widely known as Captain America) and his downstairs neighbor Bernadette Rosenthal.
"Strange. I was last here almost forty years ago. It was a victory bonds party. So long ago, yet for me it seems like only yesterday. I’m still young, thanks to the years I spent in suspended animation after the war—but the WAC I danced with should be in her 60s. With children and grandchildren. I’ve seen so much in my life—and yet I’ve lost so much more that can never be regained."
Poor Captain America, fated to outlive everything he’s ever loved.
I’d never had a dog. I grew up in a small apartment in Manhattan. I had hamsters. After Jamie and I moved to LA, we had the same transitional problems everyone has moving here (There’s crime, but I have to maintain my lawn?) and plus I had just learned to drive and it took us a few months to get settled. And after we did, Jamie thought we should get a pet because 1) she loved dogs growing up and 2) we should practice keeping something alive.
Jamie loved pugs, loved their sweet smushy faces, their snorty sounds, their cuddly disposition, and her enthusiasm was infectious – plus big dogs kind of scared me (see above, re: hamsters) so we went online and found Little Angels Pug Rescue, an organization based in Pasadena but serving the greater LA metro area. They held an adoption fair in Malibu on bright fall Sunday.
The place was packed with small dog enthusiasts (Tiny little actresses! Mickey Rourke!) and littered with little pugs running around peoples shins in a small play area. Overwhelmed by the rampant snorting cuteness, Jamie sat down on a bench to catch her breath.
And it was then that a chubby little guy started sniffing around her ankles, and hopped up next to her, putting his head into her lap. He had a pronounced nose for a pug – as we had learned from our pug research, this would lead to fewer respiratory problems later in life. He was no puppy, but he was spry and playful, and nosed his way under her arm, resting his head in her lap. Jamie looked up at me “How about this guy?”
Well, I reasoned, he likes her, but she’s a pet person, she had a dog growing up, and then a couple cats in her early 20s. “Let’s see if he likes me.” I picked him up, slowly, deliberately, lifting with my legs, and he promptly nuzzled into the crook of my elbow. He looked comfortable and safe down there, just under my nose. Was that a – no, John, don’t be an idiot, dogs don’t smile.
And he fell asleep.
We took him over to the little card table they had set up for adoption paperwork, told them we’d sign anything they wanted, but to look at us – did Little Angels Pug Rescue want to separate this family? The name they gave him was Eagle, so named because he was found wandering homeless around the neighborhood of Eagle Rock, just a little bit east of Glendale. We took him home the following week, beginning of November, 2002.
He had a sad, serious face, and I had just made Jamie watch Seven Samurai – which features a timid farmer with a sad, serious face named Yohei, played by the great Bokuzen Hidari. Our friend Will checked in with his Japanese stepmother and confirmed – ‘Yohei’ means ‘guardian’ or ‘protector.’ In retrospect, was it a little racist to name a dog after a Japanese movie character? Yeah, probably not my shining moment as a citizen of the world. And it also required me to sound like a pretentious douchristocrat whenever I explained how we got the name. But he was our baby. He got dressed up occasionally. We took him to dog parks, even though he wasn’t very social and couldn’t play fetch, but he loved to sniff and he loved doze in the fresh air and would occasionally deign to be chased by some gigantic newfie who looked at him like a chew toy. We traveled with him to Boston, and New York and Seattle, visiting friends and families. We took him to the desert where he learned that peeing on cacti is a risky proposition. We made a page for him on Dogster. We entered him in a Little Angels Pug Rescue beauty contest where he was disqualified for wearing a shirt that read “Where all the bitches at?” Jamie and I learned that keeping something alive, taking care of something was, for us, a burden that felt like a gift.
Yohei was 2 when we got him, and after we’d had him for about 5 years, and gotten married in that time, we decided we should go pro, and have an actual human baby, which we did. When we brought Nola home from the hospital in August of 2007, Yohei promptly hid under the coffee table for two months, emerging only occasionally to pee on her toys. His dismissal was stunning, brutal, hilarious – and then it shifted. He would come out from under the table when Nola was having tummy time, or lying on her back staring at her mobile, and he would walk over to her, turn his back and sit down. And just sit there, with his back turned. “What the fuck is that?” we thought, until we realized: Yohei was standing guard.
When we had Walter, the little boy took a real shine to the pug and embraced him often, occasionally getting a little too Lenny and the Mice with him, but always with a deep sweetness. The kids called him YoYo, because it’s easier and I’m not going to make them watch Seven Samurai for a couple of years. We were a picture of old-fashioned domesticity - husband, wife, two kids, dog. But time doesn’t kid around and Yohei’s eyes started to go, and his hearing followed suit soon after. The trips to the dog park became pointless, he lost interest in sniffing and just wanted to sit on a bench and sleep. He still wanted to come up on the couch, but needed to be picked up and placed. His blanket smelled awful – not the usual “good/bad” Jamie and I loved, but something sadder.
This past saturday, on a whim, we took him to a birthday party – friend of Nola’s, turning 7, and the kids were enamored of him. They gently petted, snuggled, scratched his sweet spot – that patch right above the tail, ah, ecstasy – and showered him with cautious affection.
Last night we tried to walk Yohei and he couldn’t support himself on his hindlegs. We gave this about 20 minutes to see if he would shake it off, but when he didn’t, I said I’d take him to the vet. Jamie said no – we should all go. And we did, where Yohei’s arthritic spine and hips were x-rayed, and a lot of nerve damage was detected. The doctor said they would keep him overnight, try cortisone, saline, let him recuperate, but that we should “manage our expectations.” Jamie, Nola, Walter and I all crowded into the exam room, gave him kisses and snuggles. Said good night. The doctor said we should call the office in the morning around 8 to see how Yohei was doing, and then we could discuss other options.
At 7:15 this morning, the vet called us. Yohei had had a quiet night, no longer standing, just looking around, and just after seven, he closed his eyes. He had fallen asleep.
What kind of dog does that? What kind of dog says “look, I don’t want to put you through the pain and cost of watching me go through surgery. I also don’t want to die at home so the kids find me. Also, I don’t want you to have to make the worst decision a pet owner can make. Let me take care of this quietly.”
What kind of dog does that? A guardian. A protector. Yohei.
Good boy, Yohei. Sleep well.