Pug Hill

Pug Hill

by Alison Pace

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For Hope McNeill, pugs are love, happiness, freedom-and everything else she finds lacking in her own life. With no time or apartment space for a pug of her own, Pug Hill in Central Park is her one refuge from her mismatched boyfriend, her hopeless coworker crush, and the biggest crisis of all-a speech for her parents' fortieth wedding anniversary that will require her to overcome her huge fear of public speaking.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780425245057
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/01/2011
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 4.26(w) x 6.80(h) x 0.88(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Alison Pace is the author of the novels If Andy Warhol Had A Girlfriend, Pug Hill, Through Thick And Thin, and City Dog. Her essays have been included in several anthologies including Howl: A Collection Of The Best Contemporary Dog Wit. She lives in New York City where she is at work on another book.

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Table of Contents

Title Page

Copyright Page




chapter one - The End

chapter two - There Are No Pugs at Pug Hill

chapter three - You May Feel Sad

chapter four - Single Jewish Male, 32, Likes: Squash; Hedge Funds; WASPs; Long ...

chapter five - Set Me Free, Why Don’t You, Babe

chapter six - Elliot, My Elliot

chapter seven - Overcoming Presentation Anxiety

chapter eight - Just Like Jean-Paul Belmondo, Albeit Briefly

chapter nine - Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game

chapter ten - There’s One, One Pug

chapter eleven - I Am Jan Brady

chapter twelve - How Awful Would It Be If This Thing Stopped?

chapter thirteen - I Should Tell You About the Commune

chapter fourteen - Man!

chapter fifteen - We Should Really All Just Go Get a Drink

chapter sixteen - The Encyclopedia of Dogs

chapter seventeen - Under No Circumstances Are You to Mention the Tent

chapter eighteen - Be My Boswell

chapter nineteen Haiku Is a Seventeen-Syllable Verse Form

chapter twenty - Cornered

chapter twenty-one - All the Ones Who Went the Way My Boyfriends Tend to Go

chapter twenty-two - To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before

chapter twenty-three - What If I’d Just Laughed?

chapter twenty-four - I Coulda Been a Contender

chapter twenty-five - I’ve Been Looking So Long at These Pictures of You

chapter twenty-six - Standing on Smith Street in My Pumas, Waiting

chapter twenty-seven - I Want to Tell You a Story

chapter twenty-eight - Breakfast at Pug Hill

chapter twenty-nine - How Do You Know?

chapter thirty - You Are My Best Friend

chapter thirty-one - You’re Not Ready and You Don’t Know What You Want

chapter thirty-two - Ready?

chapter thirty-three - She Really Was Magnificent

chapter thirty-four - Do You Want To Dance Under the Moonlight?

chapter thirty-five - The Beginning


If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend

“If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend is pure, guilt-free pleasure. When you’re not laughing your head off, you’re in the middle of a remarkably honest and heartfelt story about a woman who has to find love inside herself before she can find it outside.”

—Joseph Weisberg, author of 10th Grade


“Laugh-out-loud funny.”



“Alison Pace takes us on a whirlwind transcontinental journey (first class, of course) with a lovable main character who, amid the crazy world of abstract art, discovers a little inspiration of her own.”

—Jennifer O’Connell, author of Bachelorette #1 and Off the Record


“A funny, feel-good fairy tale set improbably in the high-powered international art world. If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend will give hope to the most relationship-weary heart.”

—Pam Houston, author of Sight Hound


“A poignant and very funny look at the dating life of a fictional New York gal.”

The Washington Post


“This book is GENIUS! I stayed up all night laughing hyena-style.”

—Jill Kargman, coauthor of Wolves in Chic Clothing


“A sweet, stylish tale about love, art, travel, and highly pampered dogs. If Andy Warhol Had a Girlfriend is a terrific, unique read full of heart and humor. I loved it!”

—Johanna Edwards, author of Your Big Break


“Art lovers, dog lovers—even EX-lovers—will love this fun, funny book.”

—Beth Kendrick, author of Fashionably Late


“A laugh-out-loud look at art fairs, true love, and overindulged miniature schnauzers. A great read!”

—Kristen Buckley, author of The Parker Grey Show


“A fresh and beguiling story set in New York’s art milieu... Perfectly balancing comic missteps with insights, Pace gets Jane’s tricky growth spurt just right.”

-Romantic Times


“A funny, snappy, beauty of a read—I loved it.”

—Sarah Mlynowski, author of Monkey Business and Bras & Broomsticks


“Simmers with a quiet brilliance and polish that will stay in a reader’s mind for days.”



Published by the Penguin Group

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Penguin Books (South Africa) (Pty.) Ltd., 24 Sturdee Avenue, Rosebank, Johannesburg 2196, South Africa


Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England




This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. While the author has made every effort to provide accurate telephone numbers and Internet addresses at the time of publication, neither the publisher nor the author assumes any responsibility for errors, or for changes that occur after publication. Further, publisher does not have any control over and does not.assume responsibility for author or third-party websites or their content.


Copyright © 2006 by Alison Pace

Title page photo © Ellen Weinstein


All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

BERKLEY is a registered trademark of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

The “B” design is a trademark belonging to Penguin Group (USA) Inc.



Berkley trade paperback edition / May 2006


eISBN : 978-1-101-00725-9


An application to register this book for cataloging has been submitted to the Library of Congress.



For Mom and Dad

(Happy Anniversary)


This book might never have been started without the enthusiasm of Allison McCabe, and it certainly never would have been finished without the endless encouragement and thoughtful advice offered to me by my agent and friend, Joe Veltre. Tremendous thanks to you both.

Endless appreciation goes to my wonderful, talented, and ever-patient editor, Susan Allison, who made revisions seem like a fun new adventure, and who was so available to me throughout the entire process with her invaluable ideas and insights.

I am very grateful to Jessica Wade, Julia Fleischaker, and everyone at Berkley Books for all their hard work on my behalf; and to Karen Schifano, Grace Shin, Mark Greenberg, Boris Sternberg and Simon Parkes at Simon Parkes Art Conservation for the glimpse into their careers.

For listening to all of my stories and for always making me laugh, special thanks to Cynthia Zabel, Joanna Schwartz, Christine Ciampa, Jennifer Geller, Sarah Melinger, Francis Tucci, Zander Byers, Kerry Dolan, Kimberly Bohner, Peter Bohner, Wendy Tufano, Jessica Good-man, and of course, Crankyface.

And most of all, always, love and thanks to my sister, Joey, who has never once said she’d like to join a commune; to Mom, for being much nicer than Hope’s mom, for instilling in me a great love of dogs, and for reading every last page of my early drafts; and to Dad, for always reminding me to stop and smell the roses, while wearing sunscreen.


Someday we’ll find it.

—Kermit the Frog











For Holly Golightly, there was always Tiffany’s. No matter what was going wrong in her life, she always had Tiffany’s. For me, there’s always Pug Hill. For as long as I’ve lived in New York, whenever I’ve wanted to think, or relax, or be happy, or even sad, my destination of choice has been, without fail, Pug Hill.

Pug Hill, if you haven’t heard, is a hill in Central Park, over on the east side around Seventy-fourth Street, where pugs from all over New York City convene. Just as I imagine Holly Golightly was in it much more for the diamonds than for the big building on the corner of Fifty-seventh Street and Fifth Avenue, I’m in it much more for the pugs than for Central Park. It’s not that I don’t like the serenity and tranquility of Central Park as much as the next New Yorker, it’s just that I’ve always had a pretty big thing for dogs.

Dogs have always been a great presence in my life, have always affected it in ways you might call deeply. I simply can’t imagine my life without them. I wonder if it must speak volumes about me that I’ve never had one of my own.

What I do have right now are all the same reasons as all the other people in New York who love dogs but don’t have one: I work too much, I’m not home enough, my apartment is too small, it’s never the right time. But one day, and I don’t doubt this at all—or at least, I try not to doubt it—it will be. And of all the dogs there are to love, pugs are, by far, my favorite.

So until that day, when the right time begins, I try to content myself with all the many versions of my favorite, all the endlessly comforting pugs of Pug Hill. I know all the regulars. I know their names and the colors of their harnesses and I know which pugs to expect if I visit on a Saturday or if I visit on a Sunday. Most of the time I’m the only person at Pug Hill without a pug. And that might seem kind of sad, but actually, it’s not. I like to think that, in its own way, it’s kind of hopeful really, if you think about it.

chapter one

The End

“Conservation,” Elliot says quietly as he picks up the phone, and then, a moment later, “Okay, hold on a sec, please.” I watch Elliot, focusing intently on the flick of his wrist as he hits the hold button and puts down the receiver. I watch Elliot a lot; it’s a problem, it might be a bit stalkerish, this I know.

“Hope,” he says, looking over at me, “it’s your dad.”

I look away, embarrassed, regretful. I tell myself it isn’t my fault. I had, after all, no way of knowing the call was going to be for me. Really, I had no way of knowing that Elliot wasn’t going to look across the room right then, not at me, but at our coworker, Sergei, or at our boss, May—people who the call could have much more likely been for. Nobody calls me at work. People e-mail me, or they instant message me when I turn on the IM during lunch, but they refrain for the most part from calling. It’s generally understood that I don’t like the phone. It causes me anxiety.

“Thanks,” I say without looking up and reach for the phone. As I do so, it occurs to me that Dad, even more than anyone else, doesn’t ever call me at work. Dad thinks talking on the phone while at the workplace is slacking. Though I don’t think he uses that actual word, Dad doesn’t approve of slacking and does not wish to be an accessory to it.

“Hi, Dad,” I say, worried now, wondering if maybe Dad is breaking his rule of never calling because something is wrong.

“Hi, Hope, how are you?” he says, very much not like anything at all is wrong. Dad’s voice is calm and clear and assured, as it almost always is. For as long as I can remember, I have always felt so assured from just the sound of Dad’s voice.

“I’m good. Is everything okay?” I ask just to be sure there isn’t actually something wrong and I have just been lulled into a false complacency by the very soothing and comforting nature of my dad’s voice “Oh, everything’s fine,” he says, “I’m not disturbing you at work, am I?” I tell him, no, not at all.

“Well, good then, I’m calling because I have some exciting news and wanted to talk to you about it right away.” I wonder if this exciting news has something to do with my older sister, Darcy. In my family, a lot of things have to do with Darcy. I try my best to push the thought from my mind.

“Sure, what’s up?”

“Well, Mom and I have decided to have a party for our fortieth wedding anniversary. May seventh is a Saturday this year; we’ll have it right on the actual date,” he tells me happily.

“That’s great,” I say, and I think to myself, not for the first time, Wow, forty years.

“Oh, yes, we’re already really looking forward to it. Mom’s already all caught up in the planning. You know how she loves a project.”

Oh, I know, I think, believe me, I know. “Yes,” I say in lieu of anything that could be construed as hostile.

“Well, Hope,” he says and pauses for a moment, “Mom and I were thinking how nice it would be if, at the party, you made a speech.”

A speech.

I say nothing. I stare blankly ahead of me as the word speech scrapes through my brain like nails on a chalkboard.

Well, Hope, I think to myself, because suddenly all I want in the world is to go back to the part of the conversation where Dad hadn’t said anything about a speech, where he’d only said, Well, Hope. I want to go back to Well, Hope and have something, anything, even something about Darcy come after it.

“I’m sorry?” I say in a last-ditch effort to allow myself to think that I didn’t hear what I thought I just heard, a last-ditch effort to delude myself into believing that this couldn’t really be happening. But, sadly, tragically even, Dad simply says the same thing again.

“Mom and I were thinking how nice it would be for you to make a speech at the party.”

He says it happily, in anticipation, it seems, of all the niceness that will surely be my speech. He says it all just like it’s any other sentence, any other perfectly harmless sentence. He says it all as if what he’s just said won’t, in its own quiet way, kill me.

“A speech?” I ask and the words don’t sound like nails on a chalkboard anymore, now they sound very much like the first two bars of the theme song from Jaws.


My heart has stopped beating. I put my hand to my chest. “A speech, yes,” he says it yet again. I listen to the duh-duh! getting louder and louder in the background.

I sit frozen, phone in hand, and along with the music, I listen to this voice in my head: it’s listening to the Jaws music, too, and it’s shouting at me, quite loudly, “Get your drunk, naked ass out of the ocean, you are about to be eaten alive by a motherfucking GREAT WHITE SHARK!”

And then, there is another voice in my head, one that apparently isn’t listening to the music. This one speaks calmly, softly. It says to me, “Look, so you’ve had this one thing, public speaking, that has scared you more than anything else for your entire life. So it’s your Great White Shark, so it’s your BIG SCARY THING, it’s also your parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary.” The voice pauses for a moment, maybe just to be sure that what it has said has sunk in, and then continues, “You love your parents and your dad has asked this important favor of you, and really,” the voice asks me, “who says no to such a request?”

“Really,” it says again, “who?”

I think for a minute that maybe I do, that maybe I am the person who says no to such a request.

The shark is approaching, faster and faster, bigger and bigger, but somehow, I manage to think how saying no would be so ungrateful, so flippant, and so disrespectful of forty years of marriage. Saying no seems kind of hostile and churlish and as right as I want it to be, I know it would be wrong.

“I’d love to, Dad,” I say, and wonder how much time has actually passed.

Dad says, “Wonderful.”

Somehow I refrain from explaining to him that this is all pretty damn far away from wonderful. Instead, I say, “Great,” and then I say, “okay.”

The okay, I know, is more to calm myself than for any other reason.


There is no more Jaws music. The voices in my head, the frantic one, along with the calm, cool, and collected one, have both fallen silent. I listen, helpless, hopeless, alone, as Dad says, “Okay, then, back to work. Love you, Hope. Talk to you soon.”

“Love you, too, Dad. Bye,” I say, and put down the phone. My heart has started beating, though I wonder if it will ever beat in quite the same way again.

I stare blankly at my computer screen. I try to think how long I’ve been trying to prevent this from happening. Ever since Mr. Brogrann’s tenth grade English class, and the disaster that was my oral report on The Grapes of Wrath, I’ve been petrified, horrified really, of even just the thought of public speaking. Since then, I’ve taken great pains to avoid any sort of public speaking; in fact many decisions in my life, it could be said, have been predicated on keeping this fear at bay. It may seem like a lot, like too much really has stemmed from that day in tenth grade English that began with my freezing in front of the class and ended some horrible twenty minutes later with my throwing up, locked safely in a bathroom stall. But that’s how it happened.

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