Rescue Dogs of 9-11 (Updated)

We recently observed yet another anniversary of the September 11th terrorist attacks, and a previous post by Barbara on 9-11 rescue dogs received a spike of over 200 views.

Barbara knew one of the handlers, and it seems appropriate now, five years later, to re-post her blog.

Lest we forget ~~  THE RESCUE DOGS of 9-11

A rescue dog is transported out of the debris of the World Trade Center, September 15, 2001.  (REUTERS/HO/U.S. Navy Photo by Journalist 1st Class Preston Keres)

“The last surviving 9/11 Search & Rescue Dog has died. Porkchop was only one year old when he heroically aided the search at Ground Zero. After the World Trade Center attacks, 13 Search Dog Foundation teams were deployed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help search for survivors. These teams offered hope in a world that felt somber and hopeless.  Over the intervening dozen years, the dogs have passed away from old age.  Porkchop was the last.”

I got to meet Erick and Porkchop when I lived in Yosemite in 20002-3.

RIP Splendid hero, all the heroes, the dear departed innocent Americans.



This made me weepy. The look of tragedy in Porkchop’s eyes is almost unbearable.


I think it’s a kind of overwhelm and exhaustion, too, the same their humans felt. Erick said they’d rushed there like so many to rescue, and it turned out to be something very different. There were vets on hand, masseuses for animal and people, and so much love extended, endless abundant caring for precious life. Erick told me a fireman got very angry at him, and Porkchop for a lack of expertise in an arduous search for a fireman in an area they were sure he’d be found. Porkchop fixed on what looked to everyone like nothingness. Erick trusted Porkchop and insisted. The fireman (his frustration understandable) shouted at the “stupid dog”….until they realized the confusing mass of steel and cloth had indeed contained the twisted body of their friend. The emotional toll on the rescuers, and their ability to come through it years later, is heroic in itself. And the dogs were fearless and always ready. Darling Porkchop, yes, what a face, what a look, saying everything.


I managed to get thru the whole day without crying … Until I read this.


I cried through the entire posting, I had to force myself to stop so I understand. I didn’t know until this morning that Porkchop was gone, fabulous doggie, and more about their story another time. But briefly, Erick had just gotten him, started Yosemite EMT, trained Porkchop for search and rescue in Yosemite for its lost hikers, and 9-11 happened. When Erick heard they were in his car headed for NYC in 24 hours, people buying his gas on the way, paying for his meals the minute they knew…what a country united. The handlers were all so worried about the health of the search dogs but none were affected. Erick stopped at Cabella’s along the way. First they said, Sorry mister no dogs allowed. Then he told them his destination, the owner appeared, he GAVE Erick and Porkchop 300 pair of doggy booties for the 9-11 dogs, which they needed badly. God Bless America that today we passed unscathed by hateful savages.



Trevor Paul, February 27, 1972 – January 27, 1996

Trevor Paul

Trevor Paul, detail, Feb Full of adventure, bright thinking, energy and life. A strawberry blond, 6’2″ skinny kid who should be here today, so I wouldn’t be missing him every minute.Trevor Paul, February 2013Trevor Paul, crop, Feb 2013Life size, Oil on Canvas,

by Barbara Sparhawk

completed yesterday.

Trevor Paul, Cascading BouquetHAPPY BIRTHDAY LITTLE BOY. You’d have absolutely loved this century!



It’s not quite accurate to say The Stones are back in the news as they’ve never left sight of us or us of them. But they’re off and rolling big time. The once and always rock and rollers. Years ago in l972 I worked on the mammoth New York Times Square billboard. A city block long marquee, since torn down. It was my first billboard gig, I did the MADE IN THE SHADE cover that was the first of a series to be added to the turbo eagle’s talons. Welcome back, boys.


For four years in the 1970’s I was the world’s only female scaffold-climbing/pulling billboard painter. Oh what a life I (still) lead!

Billboard Painter, 25 Stories Above 42nd Street

Most of the jobs were hanging 10 to 25 stories up, swinging in the breeze above Times Square, New York City’s 42nd Street mecca. We did cigarettes and booze and Broadway openings. John Belushi’s “1944” , The Wiz with young Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones 1973 World Tour. A bottle of Dewars sinking into the Manhattan skyline sunset. You had to work fast, we mixed all our colors on the scaffold, pots of pigment, Japan drier, linseed oil and benzine. Eyes were painted with four inch brushes. The standard billboards were 30 X 60 feet. Big. Sweet.

Rolling Stones 1973 World Tour
Made In The Shade (David Bowie in Drag)

Sparhawk painted the album cover, about 20 – 4X8 sheets of masonite. Huge. The remarkable Paul Chan painted the turbo eagle.

I worked for ArtKraft-Strauss and Villepigue. The companies never wanted women in the business but I was good at faces and they hired me. I’d get fired every 30 days, then brought back in, kept me ineligible for the union. The last job was 25 stories up. The street temp was 18 degrees and it was a windy November and I decided they weren’t paying me enough for all that and quit. During those years, I moonlighted weekends tending bar in a stinky little artist and biker haunt called The Barnabus Rex on old West Broadway before it turned into SoHo. While all the patrons were filling out grant forms for Guggenheims I was spending 40 hours a week with a brush in my hand mastering paint and having a ball. I was snobbed for selling out, to Advertising! Lucky me.

Nausea, Sartre

(Author’s note:  I have gotten more hits on this article for years now, more than almost anything I’ve written. Couldn’t be more delighted.  Thanks for the visit.  Comments welcome.  And I know you’ll like My excellent collection of short stories, The Gandy Dancer, by  BD Sparhawk, illustrated by the author,  available at all book sellers.)

          Me and Existentialism parted company some time ago, so I mystify myself as I pull my old insect chewed pages of Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea from my bookcase, walk it home and start to read him again some 40 years hence. Cool in my hand but serving up hot memories as my thumb traces the cover. Why had I gone from disciple to loathing everything about him. Oh Lordy this was potent stuff in my youth.

I travel a short distance with it, slapping it against my thigh with the front cover revealed and laugh at myself. Do today’s hipsters stuff monumental writers in their back pockets, just enough title peeking out for bragging rights? We did in the 60’s.

I am trying to recall what it was that drew me so powerfully to this group’s writing. (I also note the change in the craft of writing itself. Currently, no more standards for book writing exist than for art work.)

So, I opened here and found this darling bit plunging me back, seeing with the eyes of my youth the time it was pure excitement.

“Something has happened to me, I can’t doubt it any more. It came as an illness does, not like an ordinary certainty, not like anything evident. It came cunningly, little by little; I felt a little strange, a little put out, that’s all. Once established it never moved, it stayed quiet, and I was able to persuade myself that nothing was the matter with me, that it was a false alarm. And now it’s blossoming.”

Isn’t that delish? He’s writing all the creepy secrets about going nuts and we all were and here some Frenchman puts it in a book. Sartre and his buddies, after all, wrote to a rare new age of better educated, demanding, insatiable readers; in an era of facile translating, simplified publishing. They wrote with their own reputations in mind. They had Balzac, Proust and Moliere, Wilde and Hugo and Pound to challenge. At least challenge, at most dethrone. It served to make them thoughtful. That re-impressed me.

So I’m remembering these words that in reality were being played out in every dorm and suburban living room and city apartment and street corner. I was living in this! Writers sure didn’t earn much, this was being compelled by some high moral purpose, setting us all free…

“For instance, there is something new about my hands, a certain way of picking up my pipe or fork. Or else it’s the fork which now has a certain way of having itself picked up, I don’t know. A little while ago, just as I was coming into my room, I stopped short because I felt in my hand a cold object which held my attention through a sort of personality. I opened my hand, looked:  I was simply holding the door-knob.”

Sartre writes about commonly felt uncommonly described alienation. These thoughts existed in the hearts of millions. 

“I saw an unknown face, barely a face. Then there was his hand like a fat white worm in my own hand. I dropped it almost immediately and the arm fell back flabbily.

There are a great number of suspicious noises in the streets, too.
So a change has taken place during these last few weeks. But where? It is an abstract change without object. Am I the one who has changed? If not, then it is this room this city and this nature; I must choose.”

And I’m remembering that this was daring stuff. As wildly different as jazz, as Guernica, as Fellini. How did they dare. 

Sartre, the Impressionists and Expressionists, his fellows, came under the same raised satchel-foot of cultural regulators as all who came before and after them, which still universally carries the weight of scorn, burdens of disbelief and vows of poverty. An established culture does not like surprise incursion of what seeks to uproot it and mar the manicured landscape.

The Existentialists rode in on some new climate that swept planet Earth and it was simply this:  A goddamn hard won lessening danger for The Rebel. But the Existentialists recommended backing off and a lot of people, in the midst, the future, and memory of  astounding human heroics of two world wars, loathed them for it.

Preserve the image, the image, the image perfect. Here goes Jean-Paul Sartre into a portrait gallery of great men.

“They had been painted very minutely, yet under the brush their countenances had been stripped of the mysterious weakness of men’s faces. Their faces, even the least powerful, were clear as porcelain: in vain I looked for some relation they could bear to trees and animals, to thoughts of earth or water.”

Let’s allow that humans are tarnished. So why did these guys resonate so very much with me. What exactly were they doing. And now looking at this from my own changed philosophy and having grown up I think I figured them out and understand my own eventual rejection of what they had to say.

They didn’t like the way the world was turning out but didn’t tackle the changes to be made. Instead, the Existentialists numbed themselves to common human pleasures, in order to neutralize the cultural lions. What a price to pay! I don’t care about anything, I can’t tell if a doorknob is a doorknob or something to have a conversation with. I’m no threat to you. They would make themselves appear, for all intents and purposes, as if they did not actually exist.

“The truth is that I can’t put down my pen: I think I’m going to have the Nausea and I feel as though I’m delaying it while writing. So I write whatever comes into my mind.”

This is man as formless pulp, though we feel undercurrent of the coiled serpent, for he does not intend to be harmless. He has abandoned what is most basic to life, responsibility for himself. That means everyone else is going to have to provide. He is out of control and it’s not his fault. My generation cheered.

I have been in the process of forming a philosophy without really knowing it, by doing, by discovering what’s important to me and making choices to actively engage. I no longer admire bystanders, nor think primitives the most sage among us, nor that ineptitude is equal to achievement. I believe in robust impulse against more prudent planning because it’s landed me an interesting life.

I’ll probably finish reading Nausea. It’s still propelling me to think, isn’t it. But I don’t believe backing away from total engagement with life is worth much. I wouldn’t recommend it.

Several years back I lived by a very pretty slow moving river that despite fabulous overhanging trees and a good cliff at it’s deepest point, got a lot of neighborhood mistrust as a likely bearer of dangerous disease. I got challenged at it’s shore one day by a concerned citizen as I was about to leap in.

Now, I’ve been observing water over and through land for a long time. This had a thriving duck population, local kids, turtles, fish, and a fine lot of surface bugs. Without having to dig too deep I responded to the caution at once by saying,   Lookie here. I am a follower of the Huckleberry Finn School of Immunization. You dive into the Mississippi, gulp it down, take your chances, and swim across to the island to play Nelson at the stern or Captain Blood swinging the sword.

And I did. It’s all I really have to offer in the way of advice in contradiction to the Existentialists. Jump in.


Quotes from Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre, Translated from the French by Lloyd Alexander. 1959; Third Printing. A New Directions Paperback, 333 Sixth Avenue, New York; James Laughlin, Publisher

gandy-dancer-cover-outside-window     “THE GANDY DANCER & OTHER SHORT STORIES” illustrated by author

The David Mammet Situation


I went to Goddard College in Vermont many years ago. Turns out David Mammet, movie director, and that splendid William Macy, actor, went there too not so many years apart.

I wrote a terrifically good novel called NOISE. The synopsis and part of Chapter 3 are here. I thought wow, if I can get David Mammet to read this, us sharing an alma mater and all, I bet he’d be dying to make it into one fabulous movie and that would change all our lives. I’d get paid a lot for the screen rights, do thousands of paintings for the movie and be hobnobbing with a slew of interesting people in no time at all.

I called the Director/Producers Guild in LA. I’m a member. I got Mammet’s agency. I called the agency. I got Mammet’s agent’s name, phone and email for the assistant to Mammet’s agent.. I emailed one ace damn fine hellova superbo letter to  Mammet’s assistant to Mammet’s agent via the assistant to the assistant who worked for Mammet’s talent agency.

Sweet kid, she said she’d be happy to forward my email to the assistant to Mammet’s agent. What a fabulous ten minutes that all was. I thought this is really incredible. The internet age. I don’t have to make up special stationery and copies and write out addresses and type up inquiries and go to the post office, I’m going to be talking to ol’ David Mammet in a couple of minutes here and he’ll fly up to Big Sur and take a meeting with his old Goddard College writing brilliantly cohort.

It was actually faster than that. Almost as soon as I pressed send on an email thanking the agency assistant for assisting in getting my email to the assistant to the assistant to David Mammet I got an email back!

It said, David is tied up with too many projects now to consider anything new. Good luck elsewhere, David Mammet’s Assistant.

Didn’t anybody notice we both went to the same obscure little peculiar school and shared all kinds of Brooklyn and writing serendipities? I guess not. I thought that the assistant to the assistant likely went to his own little peculiar school where the student body was trained for the very moment they would be sending emails to nettlesome writers with just that kind of phrasing, The big guy has too many projects right now….

When I wrote the book ten years ago I had Kevin Bacon in mind for the lead, I almost wrote it for him and Kyra Sedgewick. I spent a year trying to reach him and gave up. I’ll write about that episode some day, too. NOISE would have changed his life and been the best movie he’d ever done. But there it is. Sometimes there are just too many lions at the gate. Maybe I’ll try William Macy next. Goddard isn’t much in the old boy/girl network department.