It is true that Dachshund training can be challenging, specially when it comes to mini dachshunds. And Lady, my little dog, was no exception. Born in Normandy on the D-Day-landing beaches, this French girl had, from the start, a lot of personality and attitude for someone her size (she was the smallest of the litter, and could be described as the tiniest sausage dog ever). When she arrived in Brussels, Belgium, she had not yet reached the age of one, and still had a lot to learn.
The first days in our brand new gigantic flat on rue Royale were a bit chaotic for the both of us. Lady, being the size of a large rat, found difficult to adapt to the new distances she had to walk to reach my desk from her basket. In proportion to her size, it was like walking one or two football fields, several time a day (when she didn’t get lost at all!).
On my side, my adapting to our new life was beyond awkward, borderline disaster. To make a long story short, unaccustomed to living with closed door, I thought appropriate to grant a 24/7 free access to my property to anyone who felt like visiting. The result of this rather peculiar lifestyle, inherited from years of bohemian escapades all around the world, ended with my precious little dachshund somehow escaping a ‘Patty Hearst kind of situation’ when a couple of homeless people, who had spotted the arrival in the neighborhood of a new canine celebrity, would simply follow us, open my door and abduct Lady. But the fact of the matter is that dachshunds are famously difficult to grab and their barking is so hysterical that ‘The Disappearance of Little Maddie as a Kaninchen’ never happened.
Potty training had been an excruciating experience for my little dog and after six months, to my great despair, she was still struggling, in spite of her extensive effort. After having scientifically studied a few Youtube tutorials (around six hundred), I came to the conclusion that the more Lady was going out (according to my calculations a minimum of six times a day), the less she would be tempted to use our loft as an open-space toilet. Good news was we were living five minutes from Le Parc Royal. A cute little park surrounded by the Belgium senate, the Flemish parliament and all the embassies and consulates you could possibly imagine. Apparently, it was said that the King of Belgium did not live far away. Following some recent terrorist attacks, the American embassy was heavily guarded by hot military men, which was not to displease me. It was thus decided that we would go to the park as often as necessary in order for Lady to complete her ‘apprentissage’. The minute she entered this new territory, she immediately felt at home and completely ignored me as she started a very thorough investigation of every square centimeter available on the lawns. While my dog was ‘vibing’, I couldn’t help but notice the great number of lonely men, walking along the paths and side alleys, amongst Asian tourists, family picnicking, and young people playing frisbee with dogs. It was the beginning of spring and it was quite nice to enjoy the blossoming of all this nature and the general atmosphere of happiness and joy. I don’t know what Lady was doing when this man with a backpack who was coming at me from nowhere and almost hit me, but I was so intrigued by this sudden encounter that I couldn’t help but look back at him and noticed that he had turned too with a big smile on his face. He was actually quite handsome with his pale blue eyes and short chestnut hair. Meeting strangers in a park was, I thought on my way back, a very sexy idea.
Once I arrived at my flat I decided to practice a bit of yoga, feeling invigorated by this walk in nature. It wasn’t an hour that my tiny canine roommate was already yapping at me, kindly asking to… go back to the park! Cautious, I conceded that her potty training was a priority, and having absolutely nothing else to do, I thought why not take her back. It was the end of the afternoon, and I decided to be a bit extravagant with my fashion choices and kept on my yoga short and a t-shirt to go out (a very bold choice for someone who had never worn a t-shirt in public). At the same time, I didn’t know anyone in this city, where I moved to be closer to Felix who was living in Antwerp and with whom I was very much in love.
Back to the park, Lady couldn’t help but instantly be a bad girl and the very first thing she did, once released from her Goyard leash, was an attempt to commit an outrageous felony by almost killing a pigeon. God, how high can such a tiny-legged being jump! And I’m sure the pigeon, left stunned by the assault, never thought this rodent-looking creature could have ever posed a potential danger.
I was surprised to see the same guy again, the one with the backpack. Actually, nothing had changed since we had left a couple of hours before. The same family picnicking in the same spot on the lawn, the same dogs playing with frisbees. The fact that I was still immobile following the wildlife episode opposing my feral mini sausage dog to a stray bird, might have been interpreted by the unidentified walker as an invitation, because within a few seconds we were face to face, feeling each other’s breath. I was still unable to move a muscle when he started caressing my lower back, and my great state of confusion did not let me prioritize if I should be alarmed by what was happening in full view of everyone, if I should feel embarrassed by the fact that I was not wearing any underwear or if my dog Lady, left unsupervised, was not going to run away.
I was thinking about so many things at the same time that when this gentleman with a backpack positioned himself behind me, apparently very happy with the situation, I did not push him away, even though he had already lowered my exercise short, and I got so carried away that I did not immediately understand we were actually making love standing in the open air, surrounded by two bushes, in the middle of a path in a park with hundreds of people around. Once the stranger left after whispering a saucy “nice ass!” I found myself with my shorts on my knees, looking for my dog who was a meter away from there sniffing around. It was then that I realized I could see everyone but no one could actually see me. A mixture of shrubs and bushes were hiding most of my body.
The Day after, I was still so distracted by this episode that I forgot my dog in the street.
I was being worried, my mind was somewhere else and I hadn’t been to the park that day, leaving lady grumbling in her basket (and Lord knows how dachshund can be vocal when they’re not having their way). At the bottom of the apartment, there was a small square of grass (only as big as a handkerchief) where I took my grumpy companion for a quick walk. Then I went straight back to my desk to finish drawing Beth Ditto’s portrait. An hour later, when I heard knocking at the door, I was surprised Lady didn’t bark but I couldn’t be bothered to look for her so I opened the door and witnessed a very bizarre scene: an Asian girl holding a shivering sausage dog staring at me with very dark eyes. Amusing fact, the small dog looked exactly like my Lady (where was she actually?). I recognized my neighbor from the third floor and said: “Oh my god, I had no idea you also had a dachshund, that’s so…” The visitor, probably thinking I was having a stroke, interrupted me: “I am almost positive this is your dog thanks to its collar. I found her completely panicked on her own at the reception of my restaurant and thought that she was probably lost. Isn’t it your dog?!” I couldn’t help but look behind me to find no dog in the flat and felt suddenly extremely embarrassed by the whole situation and decided to make up a lie. I really don’t know if dogs can understand what humans say but I would swear that I saw my mini dog rolling her eyes when I started explaining that she was such a fan of Thaï cuisine that she probably couldn’t help but run away to find her delicious restaurant in the hope of snatching a little snack.
The neighbor would eventually die from cancer a few months later and take with her this very embarrassing secret.
I would not go back to the park for a while, thinking the police was searching the place for two exhibitionist perverts who had committed outrageous sensual acts in broad daylight. It was obvious, even though I had this feeling no one actually saw us, that we had been reported. What if I was expelled from the country? I had already been arrested and jailed (with my mini sausage dog, who had her own dedicated cell, a cage) for defending a Syrian refugee who was assaulted by the police on a train back from a visit to Felix in Antwerp.
I cannot remember the name of this delicious fish restaurant (perhaps La Marée) where we had dinner with Ròisìn, who was having a show in Brussels that night, but I do remember that, being completely drunk, it was impossible for me to find a cab and I was eventually forced to walk back home in my children-size Ralph Lauren herringbone tweed jacket and my whiskey Trickers brogue shoes, which were probably made entirely of wood, because they must have weighed no less than five kilos each. When I finally reached Parc Royal out of breath, I knew I was almost there and even though I was, at this point, seeing double, I was quite surprised it was still open past 2am. I was informed earlier at the dinner (I couldn’t help recounting my scandalous affair with the backpack man) that Parc Royal was actually known as ‘Le Parc de l’ Amour’ where making love in open air was tolerated, based on the will of someone very important and influent in Belgium, probably the king himself, who, it was said, liked to cruise at night (I did not believe a word of that story). There even would be a police station inside the park ensuring that this giant cruising area was safe. I wanted to find out for sure and although my heart was beating fast, I entered the mysterious public space once again. It was atrociously dark in there, the trees looking like giant monsters with very long arms and crooked fingers. But not so cold actually. I could see some stars. As my eyes were becoming accustomed to the darkness, some silhouettes began to appear. First, I spotted a guy and his girlfriend cuddling in the grass. Then in a distance some heads in the bushes, like an enigmatic shadow puppet theatre. I started my night walk. I could not really see people’s faces but the place was actually pretty crowded. Most were men, a few youngsters in tracksuits, perhaps some elder gentlemen in leather jackets. Tall for most (a lot of people are tall in Belgium). I strolled around the pond where the rare wild ducks were quietly asleep and it started to feel like all the stars in the sky were illuminating this dreamlike scene. The more you walked around this unusual park, the more you passed the same people and some faces even became familiar. But then I heard: “watch out, he’s police!” I didn’t really know what I was looking for, perhaps some fresh air before going to bed, but I felt a bit like an outcast for not wearing the right outfit for the occasion. I thought maybe it was the style of my shoes or probably the cut of my jacket that screamed Police. I had an idea: COSTUME CHANGE! I was only five minutes from home after all. I didn’t calculate though that I would have the company of a sleepy rodent princess if I went back and that the next step of this after-dark cruising experience would be as a duo, but I had managed in a few minutes to put together an old cap, the sneakers I used for jogging, my yoga shorts—that already proved to be efficient—and Lady’s miniature harness. The fact that my sweater was a Céline and was worth eight hundred euros would not be an issue as it was very dark. My petite dog, who was finally fully awake, seemed to be delighted by this impromptu night getaway. The only question was “should I wear the cap backward or forward?” Anyway, I tried both ways but it’s when it was backward that I met this tall guy named Georges. My night vision had become so acute that I could even spot the seam on the back pocket of his jeans that certified he was wearing Dior Homme, and the quality of his leather jacket was not to disappoint. We laughed a bit while fucking (not far from the police station hidden behind an enormous tree) because at some point we got entangled in Lady’s leash (she couldn’t be less bothered). When I invited him home, he declined. He was beautiful, with his long curly blond locks and his beard. We exchanged names and phone numbers. “King’s names” he said. He never called me back and I’ve never seen him again after that night.
But I went back to the park to find him. Several times. Like a lot. I couldn’t find Georges. I would go back at the exact same time. Or in the afternoon, would text him from the park. But no answer. I would go with and without Lady as a reverse lucky charm. I would go in the rain (there was this little white marquee where a few guys gathered and started fucking like some sort of fairground orgy. I eventually joined), in the snow, trying to find Georges (Gosh, it’s beautiful a park at night covered with snow but it’s also very cold and it’s hard to keep focused on certain unusual outdoor night activities).
I couldn’t find Georges. Anywhere. Well one night, feeling adventurous and exploring some places in the park where I had never been before, I discovered a hidden cruising area where I found… a corpse (the park would eventually be closed for 24 hours for a police investigation). Another time I found myself in the middle of a children gang fight, probably child prostitutes, with one of the kids telling me, very proud: “We’re Albanese sir, we’re the strongest, we’ll protect you”. That same night, looking at the stars, I noticed that there were some people who were living on the trees but you could not see them during the day.
When the decision to move to Paris for business reasons was taken, I was actually spending most of my time in the park and like an addict I started getting worried I would miss this nocturnal wild life.
The large number of men I was meeting outdoors had become industrial. And this is when Lady, the mini-dachshund, finally decided it was time to declare war to the residents of the pond (the rare, wild ducks) probably because she felt she was lacking time now that we had to move to a different country. It would force the military an intervention to immobilise this out of control, no larger than a shoe, wild sausage beast. The safety of the ducks being an absolute national priority, it seems.
But I was lucky enough to catch the eye of one of the army guys. One afternoon, as I passed by the park, I heard the horn of a car behind me and it was him. We met a few minutes later not far away from where I met Georges the first time (at this point I was wearing tracksuits on a daily basis and my looks could be described as more ‘urban’). This young man was phenomenally gorgeous—quite the obvious for a military guy—but his body, which was really awkward, was completely soft. From outside the muscles were visible but when touched, there were lump like jelly. His privates had nothing spectacular neither. When I left our impromptu meeting halfway through, he was so surprised that he yelled “hey! Where are you going? I’m a top you know!"
As our last summer was going by, the park was closed from time to time without any notice. Sometimes because of terrorist threats, sometimes because it had been privatized. The residents of the neighborhood were a bit annoyed, and I was a bit desperate. And then Pokemon Go came to destroy any hope of night recreation. The few days of August where it was still possible to wander in Le Parc Royal, there were hordes of kids hanging around like zombies in the bushes looking for virtual creatures that were planted all around by Nintendo, but more specifically in my favourite cruising areas. There was an obvious incompatibility of quests. At that point I had almost forgotten about Georges.
Felix and I put on our best suits to go grocery shopping in the centre of Brussels. I wanted to buy some fish at Noordzee on Sainte Catherine square. Even though he only had a few suits, and not that many pair of shoes, he always managed to look extra fancy, like the son of a rich swiss banker or the heir to an old French aristocrat family. I hesitated for a moment between my Ralph Lauren and my Céline blazer, the one with the pearl buttons. We let Lady at home as canine friends were barred from stores due to very strict and specific European laws. I invited Felix to walk through the park, it would be one of the last times and realised we didn’t go there that often together. I was showing him the trees, the place where they found the corpse, the spot from where Lady’s arch-nemesis, the ravens, intended to terminate her by throwing a branch to her head. When we passed the pond with the rare, wild ducks, I couldn’t help but notice the young Albanese prostitutes. One challenged me when we reached their level (“It’s not nice of you to steal our clients, we thought you friend!” I blushed so much all of a sudden that I must have given the impression of an instant sunburn or a stroke. Felix, presidential as always, acted as if nothing had happened but I was sure he heard the inuendo and I finally exclaimed, a few milliseconds before my head was right to explode: “Don’t you think it’s funny the kids assume there’s such an age difference between the two of us that I could be a young prostitute going with an elderly diplomate from the European Parliament (you, en l’occurrence)?”
Felix replied calmly: “Charles you’re such an arsehole, maybe this is the reason why you live alone in this foreign city with no friends. And if I may, you don’t look that young. You just look Albanese. That’s probably why these kids were concerned in the first place that you might take over their gang with that cute Céline female jacket of yours”.
He had a point.
Charles is an accomplished designer and artist who created his own label, Charles Anastase, in 2004. He recently held an exhibition of his illustrations at the 3537 in Paris. He currently is selling his work through his on-going project and website, Charles Little Shop of Horror, which you can visit here.