The Sparky Paradox


I hope this story doesn’t put too strange a slant on your personal interpretation of “The Sparky Paradox” off the Mosaic CD. We are often asked what “The Sparky Paradox” is, and while it is to be taken metaphorically, here are it’s origins. Laurence and I love to walk. In particular we like to walk our dogs together. We do it twice a day whenever he isn’t out on tour. When he’s gone, I try to enlist one of the kids (although they are not nearly as enthusiastic about the tradition) or I do it myself. I do two shifts – it’s not recommended to do all three dogs alone, Benny pulls too much. We used to just call it “Walking the dogs”, but it now has a new name. Sparky, Ilsey’s dog (a pound rescue mutt, part hound, part “other”, renamed it. Sparky talks. She was even on TV talking. She said “Hello” on one of those “America’s Funniest Video” type shows.

At some point Sparky took to throwing back her head and letting out a triumphant howl of “Rooooo – Roooo!” whenever she saw us grabbing the leashes, or stuffing plastic bags in our pockets. It has since become known as going on a “roo-roo” (or “roo” for short if in a hurry). The dogs know this word now and get over-the-top excited if you say roo. I don’t get it, really, they act as if they never go out. Sparky sometimes gets so enthusiastic she chews on Marilyn’s head. Marilyn is an adorable, spunky little Maltese who has to bear the brunt of Sparky’s frustrations, being Sparky’s favorite chew toy.

Within their ridiculous behavior they are usually very predictable. First you have to catch them to put on the leashes (some sort of canine practical joke, I guess, considering how much they enjoy the walks) then everyone tries to squeeze through the door at once leaving Benny, (who is big and furry and an oaf) whining in the doorway like a kindergartner benched at recess. Finally we’re off and Benny takes his place as alpha-dog marking the territory and leaving little messages for other neighborhood dogs who might want to catch up on Juber-dog gossip. Sparky in particular loves to read her P-mail.

Occasionally we encounter other dogs, which can be either completely uneventful or an intense confrontation of barking and dogs throwing themselves around in frantic circles. I, personally, don’t understand the criteria for these exhibitions. Sometimes the most fierce displays are saved for an old, pudgy Bijon-Frise from around the corner. Benny is convinced that he can take on anything. This includes trash trucks, and those noisy street cleaning trucks, he just knows he can pee higher than those things.

Eventually, usually about half of the way through the roo, Sparky heads off to the side of the street and pees. You can depend on it. Marilyn, for some unknowable, but apparently crucial, doggy reason, has to then pee in exactly the same spot. We call this putting her Two Scents in. She cannot rest until she does this. Even if she just peed moments ago, it doesn’t matter. She can be very stubborn and refuse to move, digging her paws in and dragging along the ground, until you let her pee where Sparky did, on the side of the street. Once accomplished, she’s fine and we move on.

There is something funny, and almost comforting about the dependability of these rituals. That’s why it came as so surprising when one day, as we were in the home stretch and Sparky was sniffing about, for some reason she stopped, headed out to the very middle of the road, squatted down and peed. Right there. Not on the left or the right. We watched in amazement as she defied all of her previous self-imposed doggy rules and peed in the middle of the road.

I began to think about that and all of it’s implications and it suddenly occurred to me that it was truly a paradox. That if someone is known for going to extremes, (like the extreme side of the street) and then, out of character for them, they go to a middle-of-the-road position, that the middle-of-the-road is, for them, an extreme. Thus “The Sparky Paradox”. This story has nothing whatsoever to do with the song, but Laurence was writing the music at the time. It came to define an uncharacteristically mild position in people who are given to extremes.