Sunday, 9 December 2012

Ugly can be beautiful too.

Plugger the pug taking a well-earned break from standing/thinking/life in general. which I prove that I can write a post connecting puppies, personal growth and air-to-surface missiles. Just you watch me!

What's cuter than a frolicking litter of pug puppies? To me it's the sound of my neighbour's twelve-and-a-half-year-old pug trying to bark for his dinner: "Uff, uhhff! Uff, uff, uhhhff, uf! [pause] Uff! Uff, uhhff, uf! [pause] Uf!" It's not a bark, it's the out-of-breath sound of a sweet old man still trying to make himself heard in the big, ole, don't-care world. Every time I hear him on a still, tropical evening it makes me stop and smile.

Plugger, as he is most ironically named in honour of the AFL legend, my neighbour being a mad Sydney Swans fan, ambles slowly around the yard in the morning, sleeps by Carol's side as she works from home, and gets two very slow walks up and down the street each day, generally punctuated by long, contemplative pauses. I recently had the pleasure of dog sitting him for three days and I am now more enamoured than ever. I even filmed the barking-for-dinner behaviour and know that the pauses are when he half nods off to sleep between the barks and their accompanying semi-leaps in the air. He gets worn out just 'uff'-ing.

What I find so intriguing about my appreciation for Plugger is that I used to think pugs were the ugliest dogs I had ever seen. When I was in senior high school, my art teacher had a pug that she would bring to school every day. We heard that it was one of two she had owned, but its sibling had accidentally hanged itself trying to jump out the window of a parked car when its leash was tied around the gear stick. Some of us joked that maybe it had caught sight of itself in the rear view mirror and decided to end it all. Shame on us!

At the same time in my life as I was ill-educatedly dissing pugs, the father of one of my best friends bought a prestige car—a 1986 Saab fast back. I thought that was pretty friggin' ugly, too. I couldn't understand what all the fuss was about. However, I have been the proud owner of a 1987 Saab 900i for eight years now, and I think she is the most beautiful car ever. I don't notice her deteriorated paint job and the bat poop that is still stuck to her after I left her parked under a fruit tree for a few days, oh, um...several months ago now. I just see jaunty, angular styling, note the ahead-of-their-time safety features, and hear the thug, thug, thug of her engine that betrays the fact Saab-Scania also made aeroplanes, semi-trailers and missiles.

I have come to appreciate the unconventional, the wonky, the wrinkly, the considered functional design, the happy accident, and the beauty that can be found in what is generally believed ugly. What I find fascinating, and a relief, is how one's taste can change so much during one's life. The pug and the Saab are, of course, just two examples, but there are many things that I found so integral to my sense of identity when I was younger that have passed into oblivion now, and, as illustrated, many things I dismissed that I have come to love. Admittedly, some people like to stay stuck, but personally I prefer a bit of reinvention.

A page from the owner's manual for my now-Classic 1987 Saab 900i. One of my most very favourite things about this car is that she sounds like a plane about to take off.


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