It's not about the house.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Face Down at the White Horse

Do you want to know what's fun? Campfires on the beach.

Want to know what's funny? Johnny, a couple dozen beers into beachy-campfire goodness, trying to wander off into the dark to have a quiet pee. He can't get his beach legs, keeps losing his footing and toppling into the sand with every step. With every step. Step left, fall to the left. Much turtley scrambling. Step right, fall to the right. More turtley scrambling. Repeat, ad infinitum.

But you know what's not fun? Trying to help him and getting taken down yourself. Repeat, sand in-Erin's-bum.

And, last but not least, do you know what isn't funny? When -- the above mission somehow finally accomplished -- Johnny discovers that he's lost his matches and decides to light a cigarette directly from the blaze. He's got the damn butt in his mouth and he's bent over with his sand-scraped face inching dangerously towards the flames, when Gerry suddenly notices what he's up to and grabs him by the seat of his pants.*

So the moral of this story is: it pays to practice drinking a lot even after you have kids. You never know when those parental instincts might get called into play.



*Needless to say, this is also more or less how Johnny managed to get back to the beach house that night: with Gerry's help, and by the seat of his pants.

Crying Wee

Johnny and I spent an overnight this week as guests of Gerry and his family at White Horse Beach (which is not to be confused with the White Horse Tavern, despite the temporary spate of face-down Celts). You didn’t notice we were away because Blogger, if you log into the draft version, has a new feature whereby you can write your posts ahead of time and program when you want them to go up. I love this. I will be doing this a lot. Maybe I’m doing it right now, as a matter of fact. Yes, for all you know, I could still be at the beach. Or in a submarine. Or on the moon.

Anyway, when (if) we got back from the beach (or moon) there were two phone messages. The first was from my One Friend, just wanting to blab, and the other from my mom. “Hi hon. It’s your mom,” she said, and her voice sounded a little weird. “Dad had a little… incident over the weekend and he had to go to—”

Ring.

What? What happened? He had to go to where?

Ring.

Damn! We still use an actual answering machine, the kind that sits on a table and has lights and buttons and LED numbers that flash. If the phone rings while you’re doing anything with the machine – programming the time, recording a memo, playing back a message about how your father is quite possibly deceased – the machine automatically knocks itself off in favor of the incoming call.

Ring.

Shit! Where the hell is the goddamn telephone?

Ring.

I just know that that’s my mom again, or else my sister, calling back to say Dad didn’t make it. Telling me that whatever happened over the weekend was The Big One, and I was too busy playing Annette Funicello at Gerry’s borrowed beach house to say goodbye.

Ring!

Aha! I found it! In the cradle where I’d wisely hung it up to charge before we left! The caller ID read“Unknown Caller” – something it’s been doing more and more these days; I think it’s broken – so I took a breath to steel my nerves, and answered.

“Hello?” I said, trying to mask the quiver in my throat.

“Hello!” the cheerfully recorded voice insisted. “This is not a sales call!”

“The hell it’s not,” I said, “F— you!”

One thing about cordless phones is that you can’t hang them up with any vehemence at all. Slamming a receiver into a cradle carries a measure of decisiveness and finality, even if the person at the other end can never really hear the violence involved. But pulling a handset away from your face, searching for the “talk” button and pushing it with your thumb, well, it just doesn’t hold the same dramatic sway. Even you do throw in my patented Wrist-Flick of Disdain. Un. Satisfying.

Now there were five messages on the machine – the two new ones, plus three from before we left. Was I really patient enough to play through and delete the first four in order to get to Mom’s, or should I just go ahead and call her back right now? No, better to play it. Better not to make her explain all over again what this incident entailed. She’s probably upset enough, already, as it is.

So there’s Gerry, singing happy birthday to me. There’s Gerry again, inviting us to come. And there’s Gerry one last time, wanting to know if we left yet. There’s One Friend, saying hi. And then there’s Mom.

“Hi hon. It’s your mom. Dad had a little… incident over the weekend and he had to go to the doctor and have his toenail taken off.”

His toenail? Dad stubbed his frickin’ toe?

“The thing is, ” she went on, “the doctor kept it. So I thought maybe you could call him…”

Oh. Now that’s kind of funny. I mean, it is well and truly disgusting, and for that I am heartily sorry. But if you were me, you’d think it funny, too

See, when I was little, my brother smashed my finger with a rock (it’s okay, he’s younger than me: he didn’t know what he was doing, he didn’t do it on purpose, and besides, I later kicked him down the cellar stairs, so now we’re even). The fingernail eventually fell off, which frightened me, so Mom told me about the Tooth Fairy’s distant and not quite so famous cousin.

She said if I put the black, dead, disgusting thing in my silver tooth cup (our Tooth Fairy never looked under the pillow: she knew what light sleepers we were, and she wanted us to get our beauty rest), then when I woke up in the morning there just might be a surprise. And there was. A whole dollar! We only got a quarter for our teeth, so a buck was really something. I briefly considered knocking off the other nine fingernails and retiring, but then I remembered about all the blood…

So anyway, Dad didn’t die. He stubbed his toe and lost the nail, and he didn’t get a chance to leave it for the Toenail Fairy because the mean old doctor-man threw it away. I was supposed to call him to commiserate, but I never did. It was kind of late by the time I got the message, plus I was still a little raw from thinking he was dead. I was afraid if I called and woke him, I might wind up yelling at him for scaring me like that, and then he might actually genuinely die, this time for real. So I decided to let his nine remaining toenails get their beauty rest.


Q: The moral of this story is:

A. Beach houses are fun (more on which tomorrow).
B. If you should see my dad today, try to steer clear of his piggies. Or
C. If he seems to need some cheering up, try giving him a dollar.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

If You Knew Time As Well As I Do...

Before I launch into Would You Rather Wednesday, I'd like to extend a Very Special Welcome to beardonaut, who comes to us all the way from Sweden, courtesy of Google's "show me a random blog" button. He came, he saw, he decided to stick around. So therefore...

Welcome to the Nuts Club, bearie (may I? or shall it be Mr. Donaut?)! Now, on with the show!

Okay everybody, pretend I'm that really-fast-talker guy who used to do commercials for FedEx, back when they still had the time to be called Federal Express. Ready?

The game is really called Zobmondo, and you can buy it here, and if you’re going to play you have to choose one or the other, you can’t say “neither” or make up a third option.

Got it? Now gather round!


The category is “random” -- which means it could be any of the previously-played categories (peeking ahead, however, I'd say this one qualifies as "Pain/Fear/Discomfort") -- and the question is:

Would you rather spend the rest of your life in a space station -- OR -- in a submarine?

Funny story:

When I was in college, I had the opportunity to live in a submarine. We all did. It was yellow, and--

Oh no wait, that wasn't real.

Well, I got nuthin, then, so I'll just answer the question for a change:

I would rather spend the rest of my life in a submarine. Because, since they didn't say otherwise, I assume I could at least steer it around and see different things once in a while (coelacanths, geoducks, anglerfishes, protogynous hermaphrodites). If I were in a space station, all I'd ever see would be the same-old space junk. Plus broken toilets. And lady astronauts in diapers.

Unless -- hey, wait a second! Can we keep George Bush in office for a little while longer? (Of course we can: just elect McCain!) Because I bet if we did, and if I could just find within me a bit more patience than I usually muster, the WWIII light show from outer space would be spectacular. And if you add in the bonus that I'd probably be one of very few earthlings still alive, then --- well, that doesn't sound like any fun at all.

Submarine, then. Definitely submarine.

Now you're up: What would you rather?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Townville Tang: My Fair Lady

I’ve decided to just give in and make News Tuesday all about Townville, since odd things just keep on going down. And I’ve decided to call it The Townville Tang, in honor of Kim’s revelation. I hope it’s not too boring for those of you from away…

Last week the Boston Globe wrote a story headlined “Temporary span is raising frustration on South Shore” – to which I responded: “Der!”

See, remember when I said yesterday that we drove 1000 yards over the bridge to the boat docks? Well, that bridge (called the Fore River Bridge) is, in fact, a drawbridge. Not the old-fashioned crank-kind that you could just speed up and jump over if you were an action-movie heroine and drove something with a bit more oomph than Chuck (TFT), but the kind where a flat slab in the middle disconnects from the sides completely and rises vertically. Like a nightmare.


Still, though, when we first moved here I thought it was quaint, in a forced-out-of-the-modern-hustle-bustle kind of way. When that bridge goes up, you have no choice but to sit and wait, just like people have been sitting and waiting at drawbridges for a thousand years. Or a hundred years. Or however long drawbridges have existed, which I don’t feel like looking up.

Patience has never been one of my virtues, however, and I pretty quickly got frustrated with the damn thing’s haphazard schedule. There’s a big LED sign on either shore that purports to announce when an opening is planned, but it inevitably goes up fifteen minutes late or early – which is, coincidentally, exactly the allowance you made in your departure time, and so exactly how much later you will be (or could have slept) as a result. And this is not to mention all the times that it just goes up unannounced.

Sometimes, though, it just gets stuck and stays there (which is reassuring, to say the least), and they have to divert all the route 3A traffic the long way 'round to the next-closest bridge. Ahem. Rte. 3A connects all the beaches on the South Shore, and the long way 'round goes directly by our house. I've learned the hard way that, if I’m hoping to pull the car out of the driveway for any reason on a hot summer day, I’d better pee first -- twice -- and bring a snack.

It would seem obvious that there’d be a web site for the bridge – just one simple page that would list their pretend-schedule and let you know if it was, at any given moment, up or down. (I always used to say “open” or “closed,” until about a month ago. I was relaying crucial to-the-minute info to someone about to make the attempt, and together we realized that while some people may intend “open” to mean “up, and therefore you can’t cross it,” it seems that others take it to mean “down, and therefore accessible to moving traffic.” God, it was like an Abbot and Costello routine when she hit the bridge and called me from her cell phone. “But you said it was open!” “Yes, so why did you try to cross it!?” “Because you said it was open!” “Right, so what were you thinking?”)

Anyway, there isn’t. A website, I mean. And I had the brilliant idea last month that I should mount a webcam to my roof and start my own. I could probably make dozens of dollars selling advertisements geared towards the ones of thousands of folks who would check in (“If you make it across the bridge, buy gas from us!” and “If you don’t, buy it from us!”). Unfortunately, although this might just work in wintertime – if I mounted it from the top of the chimneystack, built a little shelter for it, and then also never burned wood in the fireplace – the little green, flat, fluttery things that dangle from tree branches all summer would quite effectively obscure the view for half the year.

Not that I would have ever got around to it, anyway. Because if anybody’s going to be climbing ladders around the AssVac, something about her had damn well better be looking nicer when they climb their asses down. So if there’s anybody out there reading this who lives closer to the bridge than I do, you can feel free to steal my idea. I guarantee it will be well-appreciated by at least one Townvillean. Although maybe only one, as it turns out. Because when I told my bright idea to a friend who lived for six years in the house directly behind ours, she didn’t understand my frustration with the bridge at all. And when I got all red-faced, ranting about the 15-minutes early/late thing, her response was “Jeez, you really do have bad luck, don’t you?” So maybe it is just me, after all.

Okay, so what was my point? Oh, right, the article. Well, the gist of it was not – as one might logically assume from the headline – that residents are annoyed by the delays. No, it turns out that the main thrust of the article was “Erin and Johnny, you are wrong, wrong, wrong. And also trapped like a couple of poverty-stricken rats. Bwah-ha-ha-ha-ha!”

See, we thought (and had been telling people for a while, though I don’t remember where we got our information) that this was a temporary bridge, that it had been built to last 15 years and had been up for something like twelve already with no plans for replacement. The first part we got right – it’s a 15-year temp – but this article says it’s only been up since 2004 and plans are in place to take it down by 2020. There are a few problems with this, however:

1. We moved here in April of 2004. I know I drove over that bridge with One Friend the last time she visited us in our old apartment. I don’t remember when that was, but it was summer, so it had to have been open since at least 2003. Liars!

2. Even if 2004 was not a lie (which it was), and even if this new bridge will be in place by 2020 (which it won’t), that’s still 16 years on a 15-year temporary bridge. And it’s already falling down. Seriously, if you’re the kind of person who rides roller coasters with your hands in the air and watches Kevin Costner movies for the acting, then you should check out the article (here's the link again). In it, they quote this guy who walks under the bridge every day and has a bucket in his house full of rusty old bolts that he’s picked from the ground beneath it. The officials claim those bolts were dropped by repair workers, but I don’t know which would make me feel worse: that the bolts did, in fact, fall spontaneously out of important bridge-parts, or that the materials they’re fixing it with are that rusty and old. Scylla, I'd like you to meet Charybdis...

3. (And most importantly, because who cares if the bridge falls down as long as noone I know is on it at the time). We’re never going to be able to sell this house! We’re stuck here! Unless Superman comes back to life and flies backwards around the world to 2003 (in which case, I suppose, we could change our minds and never buy her in the first place), there is no way the market is going to recover enough for us to unload the AssVac. Even if we finish all the work we have left to do on her (which we won’t) before our rate adjusts in 2014, they’ll be building one bridge and tearing down another one a thousand yards away! Who the hell’s going to pay any kind of decent money for a place like that? And, of course, if nobody does, then we’ll be the ones who have to live in a construction zone. Forever.

Ah, well. On the bright side, Johnny hasn’t had any income in a while, and future building-trade prospects are looking pretty grim. So if we’re very lucky, we’ll be in debtor’s prison before roadwork begins.

I hope it’s quiet there.

Monday, July 28, 2008

It Took So Long To Break It

In honor of Random Memory Monday, I present a reminiscence from a whopping 24 hours ago. Hey, I'm getting older: I've got to catch these things before they slip away...

One Friend was up here for a little birthdaying this weekend. My birthday, her dime, because she loves me just that much. Ain’t she a peach? Seriously, I sometimes weep for how unworthy I am of the good friends I have. (Of course, at other times I weep for how unworthy I am of the bad bastards that otherwise surround me, but that’s a therapy session for another time.)

One Friend took me for sushi on Friday night (Johnny thinks sushi’s a dirty whore, so he didn’t join us), and I got carded when I ordered my Sapporo Extra Dry! Happy Birthday to me! I thought the waitress might see my cumpleaños on the card there and comp me my cerveza, but that puta no lo hecho (I don’t speak a word of Japanese that isn’t on the sushi menu, so forgive me if I make do with what’s left of my Español).

Being mistaken for 20 on my 39th birthday could very well have been the highlight of my weekend, but then One Friend surprised me with a Saturday morning trip to the Harbor Islands. And when I say “surprised,” I mean: she blindfolded me, put me in the back seat of her car, and drove the thousand or so yards from my house over the bridge to the dock from where you catch the boat.

Seriously, I can just about hit the Harbor Boat dock with a rock thrown from the AssVac’s door. And yet, when I took off my blindfold, I had no freakin’ idea where we were. “Are we getting on a train?” I asked my One Friend. Yes, Erin. Because trains always come in over the water, and they always make big foghorn noises when they do. Doy.

The Harbor Islands were the Best Day Trip Ever. Did you know there’s this big medieval-looking fortress on an island in Boston Harbor that reminds Johnny and I of this castle we climbed that time we were in Ghent? I just googled it – the castle, I mean – and I looked in Wikipedia, but neither of us are sure, exactly, which castle we saw. I think it was this one, but Johnny says it wasn't on the water. Anyway, we do know that it was definitely Ghent. As in Belgium. And this star-shaped fortress-thing I'm talking about that we saw this weekend was definitely in Boston Harbor – as in Massachusetts. As in U.S.A. So I thought that was pretty freakin’ cool. It’s called Ft. Warren (although to be honest I had to google that to know for sure): the signs say the fort itself was George Washington’s idea, and Abe Lincoln ordered Confederate prisoners held there during the Civil war!

Cool...

Then we went to this other island and climbed a hill made of garbage and tunnel guts. At the top Johnny and I had a little disagreement over which direction was due east. While we were, erm, discussing the finer points of the compass and the map, One Friend pretended an immediate need to see what was written on a distant sign, so that she could sidle away from the hot and mildly angry couple – who in turn realized they were making asses of themselves and followed her across the grass. Turns out the sign she was looking at said that due east is over there. Which meant we were both wrong, which I know will shock and awe you all.

While we hiked back down the island, Johnny threw his knee out. It popped back in again, but we decided that was a sign we ought to go home and have a cookout in the yard. This was a big success, despite the fact that the food part was a proper bust.

First of all, the gas grill was still all warped and melty from the chicken-wrangling fiasco, so we had to bring the charcoal one up from the cellar. It turned out we hadn’t cleaned that wee thing since last time we used it, which (we think) was sometime in 2005. Then One Friend and I got stuck at the grocery store with the Dumbest Cashier in the Universe, who froze up in confusion when he saw the beer, but then had the nerve to say “No, you look more than old enough” when we offered our IDs.

The corn we bought (and stole) turned out to be ultra-yackalicious, and the cajun spice we tossed the shrimp in had altogether too much salt. I’ll bam you, Mr. Lagasse! It would have tasted better if we’d flavored it with earwig poo. Ooh, and speaking of earwig poo, you should have seen the army of pinchy fuckers I found in the cooler when I went to fill it up with beer! Or on second thought, you shouldn't have. Seen them, that is. Because then you would be scarred for life like I was. Earwigs. Yeesh.

Despite the fact the food was crap, though, we had a fabu time. One Friend doesn’t drink, so she watched Johnny and I get toasted and then she reminisced with Johnny about their competitive swimming days (they didn’t swim together, of course, but it’s water: you flap your arms and blow some bubbles; how different can it be?).

At some point in the evening, I thought I heard the phone ring in the living room. I ran, but didn’t get to it in time, so I brought it outside with me in case whoever it was tried to call again. It never did ring again, though, and now I’m pretty sure it never will. Because after eight hours and nine beers, I forgot to bring it back in when we went to bed.

And then it rained.

It rained. A lot.

So, to anyone who’s ever called us: consider yourselves warned. It’s possible that we don’t have your numbers. There’s a slight chance that, for some of you, we’ve been making do with flipping through our caller ID cache every time we’ve wanted to be in touch. And it’s a sad fact that the cache has now gone the way of pastry in Macarthur Park .

What I’m trying to say is: there’s an ever-so-remote chance you'll never hear from us again unless you call us first. So call us! Everyone we’ve ever known!

Please?

Call us?

Booo...

Saturday, July 26, 2008

How I Single-Handedly Saved a Girl from Future Fat

We were at Gerry’s house last week sometime (you remember Gerry? Johnny’s old sesiun friend and chicken wrangler?). Johnny had been painting there, and when I’d gone to pick him up, Gerry offered me a beer. Three hours later we were still sitting on his back porch, sweating and stinking in the heat and feeling not one whit shy about it either. Old friends are good that way, what?

It came on time to feed the children and Gerry started preparing turkey burgers, but his daughter, who is something like eight years old (she’ll be in fourth grade next year, however old that is) asked if she could please, please, please have angel hair, and Gerry, being a good daddy, gave right in to her smile. I thought about telling her to remember that trick eight years from now, when she wants to get away with funner things, but then remembered the oath I took to use my powers of persuasion for good and not for evil. Damn.

Gerry went inside to put the water on and Daughter sat down next to me. “I love pasta,” she said. “It’s practically all I eat. My mom says I should eat other things, but it’s just so good.”

“Yeah, you’re just like me,” I said. “I bet you like crackers, too, huh?”

“Mmnmm.”

“And bread.”

“Yum, bread...”

“And cereal?”

“Ooh, I love cereal!”

“Yep, that’s just like me. But your mom is right. You really need to learn to love your vegetables, or else you’re going to end up with thighs like mine.”

She gasped. Gasped!

God bless her, she immediately tried to take it back. “No,” she said, “I mean, they’re not that big...”

“It’s okay, sweetie.” I laughed to show her I was not offended – and I wasn’t. Hell, I know how thundery my thighs are, and if I were shy about it I would not have brought it up. “You’re trying to be nice," I said, "but I know. That’s why I said it. I wish somebody had done the same for me when I was your age!”

At that moment, her little brother stood and hiked the legs of his shorts up to his underpants. “I like my vegetables!” he announced, waggling his skinny, seven-year-old thighs.

“That’s great, boyo!” I told him. “I guess you’re not in any danger!”

And then their older brother – who was playing guitar with Johnny and who I didn’t even realize was listening to our conversation – raised his head and got this faraway look on his face. He’s ten years old, and he’s a thinker. Quiet, smart, and handsome! Hoo, between all of that and the guitar to boot, he is going to be a danger in a couple years. Especially if he perfects his sister’s “please, please please.”

Anyway, he brushed his soft, brown hair out of his eyes (I’m telling you, future ladies, keep your radar out for this one) and took a breath to speak.

“Do you have to learn to love your vegetables?” he asked. “Or do you just have to learn to eat them?”

I wanted to laugh but something told me if I did then I might spook him. “Nah,” I said. “Just eat them. Maybe later you can learn to love.”

“Oh,” he said. “Phew.” And went back to his guitar.

So maybe I single-handedly saved three children that day. Although, come to think of it, if you met their parents… I don’t know what size their mom wears (and if I did I wouldn’t tell you here) but she’s smaller than Gerry, and Gerry happened to mention the other day that he still wears the size he wore when he and Johnny used to sesiun: A 28” waist, he says he has. Which is, I’m sorry for the visual, exactly the circumference of one of my famous thighs. Seriously. I just measured. Yum.

So, yeah. I don’t know how much danger those kids were ever actually in.



We’re supposed to go to the beach with the family on Wednesday. I’ve decided to lose twenty pounds by then, or else go swimming in my Osh Kosh B’Gosh.

Wish me luck!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Update on the Weymouth Police Chief James Thomas Situation

It was a pee-pee cake!

So, okay, that's a little worse than a titty cake. Still, though, I don't think it ought to be a firing offense. Unless it was uncircumcised, in which case...

Off with his head!


Oh man, I'm sorry. I've still got a fuzzy loaf this afternoon from all the birthdaying last night. And yesterday afternoon. And a little bit this morning.

Aw, Shucks

Thanks for the birthday wishes, guys! How did you know?

Wanna see what I got?


Drywall in my kitchen!

And all I had to do was hold one little piece while Johnny got a block of wood and hit it with a hammer. Oh, also, once, I handed him a cordless.

Ta da!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

A Crazy Salad

Who can tell me what all these ladies have in common?

Go ahead, say whatever pops to mind...

Or look them up.

Whatever.


Hint: It ain't their manes!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Moral of the Story Is...

Police Chiefs should not be handing out titty cakes at birthday parties!

Boorish, perhaps, but not something I think really merits taking away his gun and badge. I mean, what? He was going to shoot the titty cake? Arrest the titty cake? Slap the titty cake around a bit? Deny the titty cake its Miranda rights? Abuse his power on the titty cake? Eat a donut in front of it? Lewdly?

Or maybe, since the article does not specifically say "titty cake" -- it specifically says "sexually explicit cake" -- maybe it was a pee-pee cake! Slapping and abusing and shooting off a pee-pee cake would, I suppose, be much more offensive.

No wonder Mayor Sue Kay didn't want to comment on what Weymouth Police Chief James (Jim) Thomas had been suspended for. This is, after all, a multi-layered tale, we wouldn't want it to fall into the wrong hands. He is a decorated officer, after all, and there are several moist eyes at city hall today. Captain Brian Callahan better not be snickering.

What? He is!? Aw, man.

That f*cker really frosts me.

Beware the Wrath of Unknown Gods

Since I seem to have started a tradition here of thanking a commentor before launching into Would-You-Rather-Wednesday, I’d like to take the opportunity here to recognize Kim (a.k.a. pcklsoup). Welcome, Kim!

Kim commented for what I believe was the first time yesterday, and I’m thanking her here because what she said gave me the opportunity to tell the best off-the-cuff joke I’ve managed to come up with all year – maybe the best of my entire life!

In her comment, Kim said she googled Townville (see the post below for more on Townville) and that Tang is made in a place with that name. That’s not this Townville, of course, because this Townville is really called Weymouth – I just started calling it Townville for anonymity’s sake, back when I still cared about that sort of thing. Sometimes I still call it that just for yuks. Because it’s funny! Townville. Heh. But anyway, speaking of Tang…

Ahem:

On the 4th of July, we had the family over for a cookout. Somehow the subject of Tang came up and I mentioned that Johnny, for some reason, is particularly enamored of the stuff. We even have a glass pitcher with the logo on it and everything. It has iced tea in it at this particular moment, but look:

See?

When I said how much Johnny loves the stuff, my mom chimed in. “Oh,” she said. “Well, I’ll have to remember that next time you come, because I always have a box of it in the cupboard!” Or an envelope, or a tin, or whatever Tang comes in these days. (Hey, I said Johnny liked it, I never said I actually buy it for him. Ain’t I a bitch?)

“You do?” I said. See, Mom can’t eat sugar. She’s not diabetic or anything, just more like a hyperactive toddler: if she eats so much as a half a muffin, she gets really hyper and runs around and around and around until she gets sick and falls down. She deems it worth it for occasional things like wedding cakes and apple pie, but I couldn’t see her risking it for a cloying, fruity-flavored, powdered drink. “Why?”

“I use it to clean my dishwasher!” Turns out this is a household hint she’d read somewhere. “If you put Tang in the dispenser instead of soap and then run it, it cleans out the whole inside and all the pipes. Works great!”

And then I said, “Really? Sheesh…

“No wonder they broke the toilet on the space station!”

Ba dump bump! Thank you very much, ladies and germs! I’ll be here all week! Don’t forget to tip your waittresses!

Hoo-boy.

So now that that's over with, it's time to make with the Would-You-Rather. Let’s not forget that the game is really called Zobmondo, and you can buy it here, and if you’re going to play you have to choose one or the other, you can’t say “neither” or make up a third option.

Ready? Gather ’round!

This week’s category is Ethics/Intellect (my favorite!), and the question is…

Would you rather pry out the jewels from tenth century artifacts you found while hiking, then sell them for a quick 10 million dollars – OR – do your duty as a citizen and give the treasures to the state for preservation?

Before I answer, and before anyone decides to go all Elgin Marble on my ass, I gather from the question that you are going to pry the jewels loose (let's just say you're a hopeless kleptomaniac who took to the hills to try to control his tendencies, and just happened upon this big Red Flag), the only question is what you're choosing to do with them next. Let’s also not forget that this is hypothetical. Unlike the story I’m about to tell…

When Johnny and I were traveling through Europe – the trip we should never have taken, but on which we fell in really, truly love – we got in a HUGE fight on the Greek island of Paros. I don’t even remember what the disagreement was about, but it resulted in me marching off all by myself to see the butterfly forest that was supposedly just over that hill.

Or that one.

Or (fuck) that one?

Man, were my feet tired.

I never did catch those g-d butterflies, but I did walk through a little whitewashed town, I did see an old guy herding goats, and I did happen upon what I gathered to be an ancient praying-place. Not a full-fledged temple, exactly, but a little sort of hut with an altar and some writing on the walls. And, on the floor, there were all these little shards of old red clay…

I was going to show you a picture to give you an idea, but I can’t seem to put my hands on it right now. The piece, I mean. The piece I picked up and pocketed and trotted down the mountain with to show to Johnny. He was not impressed. He said I shouldn’t’ve did it. So obviously I marched up the next day and i put it back. Or, well, at least I later dropped it on the floor of the Acropolis. Sent it anonymously to Paros when we got back to the states? Threw it over the wall of the Greek embassy? Gave it to the guy who makes my pizza?

Well, it’s just a little shard. It doesn’t even look like anything. For all I know, it was made the year before by Dmitri McHellenopolis in pottery class. Or it might even be the remains of a clay pigeon. Maybe Dmitri and his father shoot skeet all the time over that ancient altar/shed.

Yes, well, obviously I shouldn’t have picked it up, but I did, and I still have it, so there. I just can’t seem to put my fingers on it right now. I think it’s probably in the steamer trunk that my computer sits on, and I don’t feel like clearing everything off of it just to have a look. If it’s in there, it is safe – as safe as anything else in this godforsaken house, at least – I promise that.

But jewels? Jewels that were actually worth something? That were actually worth something like ten million dollars? Oh, no, man. That shit, I’d give back.

The five-fingered salute is one thing, but I don’t need no oogie-boogie curse called on my head.

You're up: What would YOU rather do?

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Townville Times

When I implemented News Tuesday, I thought I’d be commenting on important stuff like rat’s asses, flying figs and how much they’re charging for a cup of tea in China. I did not intend for the discussion to constantly hit so close to home. But Townville just won’t lay down!

This little burg that we live in is the small-towningest place I have ever real-life seen – and it is technically about four times larger (population-wise, at least) than the town where I grew up. They don’t like strangers here, for example, and they keep trying to get new and illegal laws passed in order to keep them out. They give you tickets for parking on the street in front of your own house, despite the fact that it isn’t posted anywhere on the street itself or in the bylaws that such a thing’s illegal. Even the Post Office, for some reason, keeps different hours than every other P.O. in the whole U.S. of A.

And now this, from the Boston Globe (you'll notice that I've left the real town name in there this time: that's because I'm hoping to be google-able on this. I haven't been able to find any blog-gossip about the situation out there as of yet, but if it happens, I want to be in):

Weymouth Mum On Chief's Leave

WEYMOUTH – Weymouth officials remain tight-lipped about the decision to place Police Chief James Thomas on paid administrative leave.

Mayor Sue Kay confirmed that Captain Brian Callahan, the senior captain in the department, has been named acting chief, replacing Thomas. But she would not explain why the switch was made.

"I'm afraid I can say nothing at this time," Kay said in an e-mailed reply to a request for comment. "Please respect the seriousness of the situation. My answer must be 'no comment.' "


Nor did officials confirm reports that Thomas had his gun and badge taken away in the days before being placed on leave.

I first read about this in a different, local newspaper on July 15. It apparently happened sometime on the 11th. The above Globe article was published July 20. Today is July 22, and still there’s no more news forthcoming. The chief of police is abruptly unseated and relieved of his gun and badge (the Globe here says that last bit’s unconfirmed, but the other article I read presented it as fact so I am, too) and for a week and a half the town officials don’t believe residents have any right to know the reason why?

Okay, kids, it's speculatin' time!

Weymouth Officials Insist the Truth is Out There

WEYMOUTH – Police Chief James Thomas was abducted by aliens last week and replaced with a carbon-based life form claiming to be Brian Callahan.

“How should I know whether it’s really Callahan or not?” Mayor Sue Kay said in an e-mailed reply to a request for information. “I haven’t seen him naked – yet.”

Nor did officials confirm reports that the alleged Callahan has repeatedly filed formal requests to be allowed to “phone home.”

Or, how about:

Weymouth Will Survive

WEYMOUTH – Police Chief James Thomas was seen dancing around Bicknell Square on Friday night lipsyncing to Donna Summers’ “ MacArthur Park,” using his gun as a microphone and wearing nothing but his badge pinned over his willy. He has subsequently been relieved of both.

“I’m afraid I’m not familiar with that title,” Mayor Sue Kay said in an e-mailed reply to a request for information. When informed that it referred to the “someone left the cake out in the rain” song, she had no comment as to just how long it took to bake it.

Nor did officials confirm reports that replacement Captain Brian Callahan has changed the stupid lock and made Thomas leave his key.

Last, but not least:

Weymouth Bans Hooting

WEYMOUTH – Police Chief James Thomas was abruptly unseated and relieved of his gun and badge last week following a nasty public incident involving flying figs.

“Why are you asking me these stupid questions?” Mayor Sue Kay said in an e-mailed reply to a request for information. “What does any of this have to do with the price of tea in China?”

Nor did officials confirm reports that rat’s asses were involved in the above-invented incident.

Sheesh. No wonder Townville has the highest suicide rate in Massachusetts.


Happy News Tuesday, everybody!
Anybody out there want to have a go?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Undifferentiated Anxiety

This is what One Friend and I call it when you have an unwarranted nervous/guilty feeling in your stomach. It doesn’t count it you’ve done something to deserve it, like throw up all over your bridesmaid’s dress at your brother’s wedding, and it doesn’t count if you’re about to embark on something frightening, like work. It has to be just out of the blue, for no reason, hence the name.

I’ve got it right now, something fierce. And the only cure I’ve ever found is exercise. So I can’t write this morning, I just can’t. I have to go climb nonexistent sets of stairs and fling ten-pound weights around, then keep sitting up and lying down until the fight-or-flight feeling fades. If I don’t, I’m afraid I’ll wind up with an Undifferentiated Ulcer.

And that would be even more boring to have to read about than this.


P.S. Do not type “ulcer” into Google and click “images.” I’m telling you: do not.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Good Eats

Here's a helpful kitchen hint for a lazy Sunday morning:

If you're cooking a whole chicken on the grill, and if somebody keeps opening the grill so it won't stay hot enough and therefore the chicken takes three hours to cook, then, when it is finally done, do not crank the grill to high to burn off all the fat.

Because if you do? What happens is, the grill goes up in a big greasy ball of flame. Which would be bad enough, but, in the hubbub of trying to put it out, the poor three-hour chicken gets knocked to the ground and kicked in the dirt before anybody notices.

You eat it anyway -- because, you know, three hours and everything -- but it's hard to tell the difference at that point between cajun spice and earwig poo.

Maybe this doesn't happen if there isn't beer involved. I wouldn't know.


Bon appétit!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Drink, Pee, Suck

Sometimes, if I’m really dehydrated when I’m sleeping, I’ll dream I’m drinking water. Great bottomless gallons of it. And it tastes so good that, when I wake up and get a real-life drink, it’s always a little disappointing.

Conversely, if I have to pee, I’ll dream that I’m looking for a bathroom and can’t find one. Or else I find them but there’s always something wrong. Filthy, broken, overflowing, no toilet paper, no door, occupied. When I wake up and have a real-life pee, it’s always a great relief.

Last night, I dreamt I was vacuuming my bedroom. And before I could finish it, the vacuum cleaner broke. I kept running the machine over the mess but the mess just kept lying there. It was the actual mess, too, not some dreamed-up nightmare pile.

What do you suppose that says about my sleeping state of mind?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Take A Long Draw on the Skull Bong and Recant the Tale of the Master*

On a whim, and because it’s too hot to hang drywall, I’ve decided to list all the jobs I’ve ever held. I think this is all of them. If I’ve left any out, then they were probably traumatic or illegal.


Yes, I was actually entrusted with other people’s children. I lost one once, too. She turned up eventually, so all’s well that ends well. That’s a story for another time. I hear tell, though, that teenaged girls don’t do this anymore. They’re all too busy sending text messages, giving blow jobs, and building up their college resumes. And if that’s the case, then I’ve got one question: who’ll eat all the potato chips in the kitchen cabinets?

I guess that’s what you’d call it. I was eleven. I got a little drunk with power and yelled at a six-year-old for drawing in the sand with a stick while he waited for the bus. It was an important lesson in how not to be when you’re the grown-up. There was this other kid who took off his underpants without taking off his pants. I still don’t know how he did it. He was weird.



It was a camp everybody brought their horses to, so counselors were also riding instructors -- but not really. We weren't licensed or anything. In fact, nothing about that camp was licensed when I worked there. I was twelve years old for god’s sake – twelve! – when they first let me be a CIT. The kids were brats, the food was hideous. I think I was nineteen when they let me be Head Girls. Then I graduated from college and figured it was time to get a real job. See how well that worked out? Hm. I wonder if the horse camp’s hiring…



Yes, ma’am, I did. All through high school and college I worked at Mickey D's, and I never came out from behind the grill. Oh, they tried to make me, but I said nuh-uh. I didn’t want to risk anyone I knew coming in and seeing me in my ass-zit-giving polyester uniform. This was explicitly against the rules: Hamburger University doctrine says that everybody must learn everything. But I got away with it ‘cuz I was good. I could run a 12:12 on the turn all by myself. And if you know what that means then you’ll understand why I, to this day, get a little twitch in the corner of my eye if I see somebody going ketchup-mustard on a hamburger bun instead of mustard-ketchup.

I guess that’s what you’d call it. I groomed the horses and tacked them up for riding lessons at my college barn. Not for long, though. There weren’t enough hours available, and I needed to make more money than I could make there. Though for the life of me I can’t remember what I did instead—Oh! Wait! I remember…

Not really. Not at a restaurant. That aforementioned college that I went to? They have waitressed meals. Or, rather, used to have. I've no idea if they still work that way, but trust me that it’s not as snooty as it sounds. Waitressing was only at dinner time, and it was family-style. You’d take orders from the table and then bring platters with four of these and three of that. Plus drinks. And then dessert. And when the meal was done, you’d bus. Sometimes, though, you had to spend the whole meal in the dishroom. That was infinitely worse. Other people’s garbage. Yuck. Speaking of which:




Also at college. Your basic milkshake-and-popcorn shift. I was the manager of the place my senior year (which, if I remember correctly, consisted of little more than writing out the schedule). But I took a break from it my junior year to be a….

Who can tell me what this is? Anybody? No? Okay, I’ll tell you. It’s the girl who sits at the front desk of the dorm and opens the door for people who don’t have a key. She also calls up to your room to tell you that you have a visitor, which she used to do on a system of bells that was strung to every room. Therefore the name. Mostly, these days, it means you get all the gossip in the building, you know whose boyfriend didn’t send them flowers on Valentine’s Day, and you get to read other people’s newspapers before they do – and, while doing all of this, you’re getting paid! Oh, yeah: some girls used the time for doing homework.

Ugh. The less said about this, the better. I found a dead guy once. Well, he didn’t turn out to be actually dead, but I thought he was, and so it counts. Drugs are bad, kids. Drugs are bad. Do them, and you’ll wake up in an Econolodge, face to face with me and my Flock-of-Seagulls haircut.

Not really a bookstore. Really the book section of a hardware store. If you’ve ever been to Spag’s, you know why this is not as crazy as it sounds. This is where I learned that Harlequin romances come out every month like magazines; that people know which day they’re due to arrive; and that people get pissed if you’ve been lax about putting the Harleys on the shelf. (And when I say “people,” I mean overweight middle-aged ladies in airbrushed kitten t-shirts. I’m one of them, now – overweight and middle-aged, I mean, not airbrushed and harlequinned. Spag’s is a Building 19 now. C’est la vie.)

By which I mean, I worked in a store that sold Christmas decorations all year round. It was in Faneuil Hall. Those damn Annalee dolls (on the left) still give me nightmares. Me and my friend Rusty used to make up dirty stories about the Byers Choice. Well, seriously, look at them (on the right). How could you not?

This was my foot in the door to my One Real Job. They advertised for telemarketers, and I answered the ad because I was tired of eating plain white rice three meals a day. They really meant taking catalog orders over the phone. Except their computer system didn’t work, so what they really meant was taking angry phone calls from customers asking if they were ever going to get the things they ordered. Trust me when I tell you that if a customer service person says they’re letting you speak to their manager, they are handing the phone to the guy sitting next to them while they flip you the double-fisted bird.

Crap.

To the president of the above-mentioned company. This was back when I still thought I might be Madonna, and he hired me because I came to work in fishnet stockings (oddly enough, this was the reason that I’d lost the Christmas job). I didn’t care. I dug being objectified back them (hell, I wouldn’t say no to a little objectification if I could merit it today) and besides: the job paid a whole sixteen thousand bucks a year. Woohoo!

Even when I had this job, I didn’t quite understand what it was. Same company, opening record stores now, I’m supposed to buy “non-music merchandise” – but I had to run everything by the Art Director to make sure it was visually appealing enough to sit next to a CD on the shelf. Whatever. This was in the days before the internet, and it sure took a lot of explaining to the folks at Inland Book, that I had to have one copy of everything shipped to the office so A.D. could approve the cover art. Argh.

Phew.

The company moved cross-country and I chose not to go with. So? They were in the skids, I knew they wouldn’t last, and I didn’t want to wind up in San Francisco with no job and no friends. And I couldn’t get a new job because I was cranking out the Great American Novel. I couldn’t very well do that if I had a health plan, what? The highlight of this phase in my life is the day I spent scraping dried-up, crusty egg off of a clay-tiled kitchen counter, and then having the owner call that night to tell me I was fired because I “just hadn’t done that good a job.” Fuck you very much!

She called herself a decorator. Really, she was a hand-holder, order-placer, and marker-upper for people who were filthy stinking rich. I mean really rich. $264/yard curtain-fabric rich. Wholesale. She, too, was a world-class cunt. I quit her when Johnny painted a few rooms in her house and she accused him of stealing paintbrushes. I mailed her my last paycheck and my key to her house, with a note that said “You have behaved badly and I no longer wish to be associated with you.” Would Miss Manners be proud? Or chagrinned?


Does anybody out there know what this phrase means? It would be disrespectful for me to snark about this job – which I still hold – like I have with all the rest, so here’s a link to the Wikipedia page that defines it. That’s not quite what I do, but it’s close enough. All I’ll say in addition to it is: ah, My Lady. She is the dearest of hearts. And I connected with her indirectly through the “decorator,” so at least that cunt was good for something.


Oh. And also?




* Whoever guesses which of these jobs was the one that inculcated this phrase, will win a rant in their honor. It may be poeticated, it may not. Search on...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

And You Thought the Day Might Never Come…

Can you tell the difference between these two pictures (I mean besides all the crap that's gathered on the floor)?

Before:

After:

Here’s a hint:

That’s right, ladies and germs: the electrics are finally, completely, 100% done!

Well, not finally-completely. After the sheetrock goes up we’ll still have to attach switches and plugs and all that actual-functionality-inducing jazz. But every necessary wire is in the room and run to its official box – and that, my friends, is saying something!

See, here’s what happened: when the electrician was here (in, um, April), I wasn’t home, and Johnny was under the mistaken impression that we had not yet decided where to put the fridge. So Electrician did the whole room except the refrigerator-wire, which she connected at the box and ran across the basement to the floor beneath the kitchen, where she left it for us to finish pulling through. She’d only charged us $100 for the job, and it wasn’t her fault we had not made up our minds (even though we really had), so Johnny promised that we wouldn’t call her back for that one tiny thing. Said we were perfectly capable of pulling one wire ourselves. And we were. Are. It’s an easy enough job. Hell, to hear him tell it, Johnny can pull wire with one hand tied behind his back! (Although, to hear him tell it, I think he might be talking about something else.)

Unfortunately, though, she left the wire live. And we both have this thing about electrocution.

Plan C was Andy. Andy knows how to do things like take lethality out of sparking wires, and he also happens to own the proper tools. But we don’t see that much of Andy anymore since he went and joined the Elks, and it took six weeks of trying to arrange for him to come before we – defeatedly and reluctantly – put plan C on the makeshift kitchen shelf the exposed crossbeams have become.

There was no plan D. We’d started this project in January in hopes of having it finished before the family came over for St. Pat’s, and here we were having them over again for Independence Day with no progress to show. They’re nice folks. They didn’t mention. But they have to have been wondering what sorts of diseased debris might’ve dropped down from the open rafters into their macaroni salad (none! I swear! I picked the big chunks out!).

And then along came Gerry.

Remember Gerry? Johnny’s old friend from his Dublin Days? Well, I just met him, so I can’t say for sure, but I'm getting the impression that he’s something of an Irish Godfather. By which I mean he’s always doing favors for people and putting their karmic debt in his back pocket, then finding some oddball way to call it in. Yoga lessons from this guy, gourmet food from another, wholesale fish from someone else entirely. It may not be Cosa Nostra-type shenanigans, but at least it ain't Sinn Fein.

Anyway, for the past few weekends Johnny has been painting Gerry’s house. Gerry offered to pay him but Johnny said no, they were forever-friends, friends do things for each other, and if Gerry didn’t drop it right now he would pack up and go home. Gerry did drop it, but I guess he felt like he owed us a favor, and there just so happened to be this licensed electrician out there who owed him. So on Tuesday night, at 6:00, Gerry showed up at the AssVac's door with Mr. Sparks.

Sparks (not his real name, of course – come to think of it, I never did learn his real name because I was on the phone with One Friend the whole time he was here) is a Corkman. I heard the accent and figured that much out myself. What I didn’t learn until he left was that he and Johnny’d met some years before. Here’s how Johnny told it:

In a bar called the Blackthorn, on West Broadway in South Boston, a Corkman and a Dubliner are sitting side by side. They’re not friends, they’ve only met, and they’ve both had a few. Big Corkman starts getting loud, saying bad things about Dublin, and little Dubliner starts getting mad. Soon enough, Corkman's calling Dubliner an arrogant motherf’er, and Dubliner's telling him he probably doesn’t want to say that shit again. Corkman does. Louder. And with a few more choice bad words. So Dubliner, without so much as getting off his stool, lays Corkman with an upper cut.

Corkman falls off his stool, lands on his back on the floor. His friends help stand him up, and he asks Dubliner if he wants to go outside. Dubliner says “Not so much, thanks,” and remains seated. Corkman retakes his stool, buys Dubliner a beer, and fifteen or so years later – on the say-so of Gerry the Irish Godfather (which I guess makes him Athair Baistí) – shows up to pull a refrigerator wire in Dubliner's kitchen.

They recognized each other right away. Like I said, I was on the phone the whole time, but even I knew something was up. It was as if all the electricity from that live wire had come shooting out the end and filled the house. In fact, that is sort of why I stayed on the phone. Whatever was going on, I didn’t want to end up in the middle of it. (That, and I really didn’t want to have to help.)

The loud voices and banging only lasted a few minutes, and it was all related to the job at hand. Soon enough, the house went quiet. Also the phone went dead, but -- still not wanting to get involved in the kerfuffle -- I called One Friend back from my cell phone and carried on. When he was done, Sparks stuck his head in my office to ask where the other boys had got to. I didn't know, so I put One Friend on hold to help him look, and we found them in the yard. Apparently, Gerry herded Johnny out there after the third time Sparks zapped himself on that live wire and was starting to get pissed.

The whole job took less than 30 minutes. Well, two months, two weeks, two days and thirty minutes, if you want to be precise. But at least it’s done. We’re having Gerry and his lovely wife over on Saturday, and we’re determined to get at least enough sheetrock up by then to make us look appropriately grateful for the strings that Gerry pulled on our behalf.

It’s hot this week, though, and that kitchen’s awfully small. I can't say I foresee the hanging happening without one or the other of us resorting to a few more choice bad words. Nobody better call anybody else an arrogant motherf’er, though.

Because the precedent (Cork v. Dublin) says that’s legal grounds for getting knocked right off your stool.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

¡Uy, Mi Cabeza!

When I inaugurated Would You Rather Wednesdays, it was not my intent to declare winners at all. The goal was merely to ponder oddball questions and implement discussions on same. However, as no decent debater would ever fess to: I know when I'm beat. And last week, we all were.

As you may recall, last week’s choice was between getting stood up for your prom or taking the date of your dreams and having them leave with someone else. The general consensus, with one or two exceptions, was that we would rather be stood up, but the winning answer came from my cousin Donna. I always thought she was so cool anyway when I was little, but if I’d known this I might have gone ahead and just decided to be her. Here’s what she said:

How's this. Both of my senior prom dates wore blue tuxes (1978). I had a date for the prom and one after the prom. And oh yeah, date at the prom took off with someone else. He was my old boyfriend. My new BF had a date that already bought a dress and I wouldn't let him officially "dump" her until after she got to wear the dress. But would I rather be stood up? No WAY! Being abandoned at the prom wasn't so bad, I got to socialize with more people I think.

Not only did she have two dates, but she managed to make that sound like a nice thing, and get sympathy for having one of them take off.

Winner!

I don’t know if there’ll be a winner this go-round or not, but we are off (like a proverbial prom dress). Just to remind you, the game is really called Zobmondo, you can buy it here, and the only rule is that if you're going to play you have to choose: you're not allowed to say "neither" or come up with a third option.

Got it? Okay. Gather 'round…

The category is Food Ingestion, so the squeamish among you may wish to recuse (although, as Food Ingestion questions go, this one is not so bad)…

Would you rather suck down a 64-ounce frozen drink in 60 seconds – OR – eat the icing off two enormous wedding cakes?



Okay, here’s a story for you:

When I was fifteen years old (sixteen? I don’t remember) I did an exchange-student program thingy and spent a month (six weeks? two? I don’t remember) in Granada, Spain. While we were on the plane on our way over, our poor faculty chaperone’s older brother died, so pretty much as soon as we landed she got on another plane and went back home. Leaving us, a bunch of sixteen-year-old girls (and one not-so-lucky boy) alone for a day or so till her replacement came.

Did you know there is no drinking age in Spain?

That first day, actually, we didn’t do so bad. We were still intimidated by the strange money and the stranger language (a language which, incidentally, we'd all been studying for seven years, but those people don't pronounce their s's! Who ever heard of dropping a perfectly good consonant for no apparent reason? Weihd.). We did, of course, go immediately to a bar and order a cerveza, but then we pretty much just giggled and ran back to the hotel.

Her replacement, though, was a fresh-out-of-college 21-year-old, whose only response thus far to us acting up in class had been to say “You guys. Come on.” She had no idea how to rein us in on foreign soil. And when we discovered that not only could we order cervezas in corner bars, but could also buy Bacardi off of supermarket shelves, there was no stopping us.

Unfortunately, we were still sixteen years old. An age when “no stopping” and “Bacardi” ends in broken toilet seats and puke stains on hotel floors. ("What is that awful stain?" asked our Dozy Chaperone, and shook her head when we refused to answer. That was the extent of her disciplinary act.)

So the point is, I don’t know if I could or not, but I would much rather suck down the frozen drink. Because I like frosting (which is what that sugary stuff on cakes is really called, no matter what the printed game-card says). I like frosting a lot. And I don’t know what might happen if I ate two wedding-cakes worth.

But I do know I haven’t been able to enjoy a rum drink in twenty years.


You’re up: What would you rather do?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Offal I Can't Refuse

The news this week is brought to you by Sara over at Lovely Listing. Only not really. Not in the sense that she gave me any money, or asked me to mention her, or even knows who I am or has ever read The House and I. For all I know, she’s a member of some vast right-wing conspiracy and wishes I would go step on more frogs so she can out me for the plague-wrecker I am. But she’s my new favorite blog, so I’ll talk about her till they come make me stop!

See, what she does, is: she takes photos from real estate listings -- really ridiculous photos of strange rooms and odd angles -- and gives them these little captions that make you laugh and laugh. Go there! Now! Look! Read!

(For future reference, she is in my blogroll under the name “My Listing-Lover.”)

(For past and present reference, those of you who’ve been in my blogroll for a while, you are now all called “My Something-Lovers.”)

(For search-engine reference: this is not a sex thing – although I wouldn’t mind a couple thousand of those porny hits.)

Now, on to the news of the week:

I know it will shock you to discover that I'm featuring an item this week that affects only me – well, me and 54,000 other folks, but I don’t give a holy hoo about any of them. It comes from Sunday’s Boston Globe, the South Shore Section, and there is no link. I had to type this. So I took the liberty of adding editorial comments. I also re-paragraphed it a little to make it easier to read in this format. Here goes:

TOWNVILLE [where I live] —

Residents don’t have to sort their recycling anymore.
[can I have a HOLLA!!]. Glass, plastic, cans, paper, and cardboard can all go in the same recycling container [I’d throw in that final comma, too, but that’s just me]. And residents no longer need to use a special recycling container, but can throw everything in a regular trash barrel [oh my god, I think I’m hyperventilating], which they mark with a recycling label provided by the Department of Public Works [oh, crap, so I can’t just chuck it in the bin with the regular trash? Balls].

The change to “single stream” recycling [meaning: we take it down the road and dump it in the River, so why get your hands dirty?] started this month when the town switched its waste disposal contractor to Capitol Waste Services for curbside collection [why not Capital Waste Services, I wonder? Ah well, if anybody googles them and finds anything bad, I don’t want to know about it. Hear?].

“We anticipate increased recycling [erm, you mean I could have been not doing it all along, using sorting as an excuse? Balls!] and increased recycling revenue [lemme hear you say “tax cut!” and then we’ll talk], just because this is easier [you know what would have been really easy? A little notice in the mail, or a door tag, or something. Who the hell reads the Globe South section? Besides me, I mean.],” said DPW director Robert O’Connor.

Among the items that can’t be recycled through the program are plastic bags, fabric, foam packaging and Styrofoam, aerosol cans, and food waste
[so what you’re saying is: you haven’t invented any new technologies or anything. Got it. But, um, while we’re at it, can we get a ruling on used tin foil? It’s been a point of contention at the AssVac for a while.]. More information [blah, blah, blah]…

Okay, this is me again. And you might want to stand back and block your ears, people, because I’m fixin’ to shout…

I DON’T HAVE TO SORT MY RECYCLING ANYMORE!!!!!!!!!!!

This doesn’t change much in terms of my actual daily life, of course. I may not have to separate the paper from the cans, but I do still have to pick out the stryofoam when Johnny throws it in there (and maybe used tin foil), and I do still have to keep it all apart from the cigarette butts and the cat poo. Although you really ought to be able to recycle cat poo, don’t you think? I know a dog or two who have a few ideas in this department, if the DPW is interested…

But if you’ve known me for a while, you know how much I hate recycling. (Don’t remember? You can read an oldy but particularly Goody post right here.) I hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, hate it, so every little bit of my not having to do it counts. In fact, I’m having tiny little lazy-orgasms right now, just at the idea that I could go get a Rubbermaid-type bin with a decent lid to keep the rain out, slap one of those whatchacallit stickers on it, keep it outside with the regular trash barrels, and never again have to keep two weeks’ worth of trash inside my house!

I think I need a tiny little cigarette.

Of course, though, that would mean walking outside with every box and can, instead of just to the back hall. Which would probably mean some sort of temporary transfer bin. Which would inevitably become my job to empty. Just like the disgusting, smelly, fruit-fly-laden compost guck. Which was also decidedly not my bright idea. And for which I’ve also been scolded (I throw eggshells in the trash can, so?). And which I therefore also hate.

Hey, Capitol Waste Services! Can we get a ruling on the worm-food? Preferably before Johnny and I turn each other into it?

Thanks so much!


Happy News Tuesday, everybody!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ker-Squish

Welcome, once again, to Random Memory Monday...


This one time? At horse camp? I was running downhill really fast? And I stepped on a frog.

It went pop.


I didn't really bury him, but I did go back and look.

Frog pancake.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Sorry, Numnutz...

Did those loud Tappet brothers wake you?





Yes, friends, I am finally figuring out the video function on the camera I've had since January! (Hint: it's like taking a picture only you hold the button down.) So you can expect a few stupid things this weekend while I decide on the best way to do this. Maybe Johnny will sing for you!

If I get him drunk enough, maybe he'll dance!

Friday, July 11, 2008

May You Never

Johnny – and I swear that it was Johnny – spilled beer on my keyboard. Here’s what happened:

There’s this song he used to love but forgot about and only recently remembered (I’ll tell you what it is later, don’t you concern yourself with it for now). He doesn’t own it on CD or tape or vinyl, so lately – especially when he’s in his cups – he's been asking me to call it up for him on YouTube.

It’s a nice song. If you’d asked me month ago I would have said that it was beautiful. But 1200 hearings of the same song over and over again does something to a girl, something a little twitchy. And we do know that Johnny gets into his cups regularly, right?

So tonight, when he asked me to call it up, I may have been a little short with him. I may have, in fact, at first refused. And I may have, in fact, raised my voice. We may have gotten in a little outside-voicy tiff, that may have ended in me calling the song up and then walking away. Okay, I may have stormed away. And then I may have crawled in bed to sulk.

What I failed to notice was that he had a beer in his hand when I left. And not just any beer, but a long-necked bottle, when he’s used to drinking from a can (I do not defend my husband’s choices; I merely present them here as fact).

Time went by. I could hear that he’d gotten in the shower. More time passed. I couldn’t hear what he was doing. More time, and then he came into the bedroom being all cute and lovey in a very non-Johnny-after-a-fight sort of way. He started combing the cat and everything. I should have known something was very wrong.

I crawled out from the covers and let my defenses down. I pulled the hair out of the cat-comb so Johnny could continue playing Dad. I even told him I was sorry that I yelled. After a few minutes we both got up and left the bedroom, forgetting that we’d either of us ever been upset. We wandered through the house, heading who-knows-where, telling each other about the dentist-appointments that we’d both had this morning (which may explain why we were both a little raw). And then, for some reason that I don’t remember, I went in the office.

If I were an obsessive, insane blogger, I’d’ve grabbed the camera; but I’m not, and I didn’t, so I’ll trust you to imagine what I saw. There were several puddles on the floor in a distinctly drippy pattern: one big splash with lots of little satellites around. Like a -- oh, like a murder scene, only not (yet) blood. And then, before I could get the words “what the” out of my mouth, I saw the desk.

My keyboard was overturned on it. And under the keyboard, a mother-puddle that was the source for all the rest.

Well, I won’t detail the banshee-screaming that came next. Suffice to say that I am heartily ashamed. After all, for a year and a half I typed on a laptop that had no letter ‘a’ because of my own beverage-related carelessness. But somewhere in all the screaming, I did say something along the lines of “I’m not as mad that you did it as I am that you just walked away! Why did you not tell me?”

And that banshee-bit, I’m willing to stand by.

So anyway, he left. Up to the pub. I spent a half an hour taking the thing apart trying to clean it, before I remembered that I also said “Why can’t you act like an adult!?” At which point I called his cell phone and apologized, giving him ample opportunity to do the same – for the, you know, ruining-my-keyboard thing? – but he didn’t cotton.

Ah, well. Johnny’s 48. His mother didn’t die till she was 83 years old. There’s loads of time.

So I went to Staples and I bought me a new keyboard (oh, yeah, for future reference: taking keyboards apart and wiping the innards with a sponge is, as it happens, not the best idea). I’m typing on the new one now. At first I thought I hated it, but after 712 words I’ve realized new things just take some getting used to.

Like, for example, marriage.

Like, for example, men.

I’ll still get that apology out of him one way or another, though – and not the Lysistrata way you may be thinking. No. It will take subtlety. It will maybe take some tears, and much conniving. But I will make him understand why it wasn’t just about the fact that he broke something that belonged to me---

Although

As it happens, I, Destructo, have broken loads of things that used to belong to him.

He always does get angry when I do it, but he always does forgive.

And the song that started this whole thing...?

Well, now that he’s not here and I’m feeling all remorseful, it does still bring a tear to my supercilious eye...


So never mind.

Burning and Raving

The weather this week has reminded me of a story I started a month ago and couldn’t find a good enough ending for. I’ve been thinking about it all week, because the weather’s been the same, and then yesterday the ending fell right in my lap. Well, not exactly in my lap, per se, but – well, you’ll see. It’s a longy, so bear with…

At the time this tale begins, it was what you call unseasonably hot. Unseasonable for where I live, that is. Not unseasonable for, let’s say, the bayou, or the Amazon. In fact, I’m sure there are lots of places on the planet where 95º in early June is normal, but the Massachusetts Bay ain’t one of them.

And humid! Sixty-five percent! I thought I’d die!

Now, it just so happened these were the exact same days the car was broken. The second time the car was broken. You remember, about Chuck and the water pump and everything? I don’t usually drive all the way to work unless I’ve done something special to deserve it, like had a bit too much to drink the night before, but I do usually drive to the beach and walk to the train from there – about a mile each way. That week, though, because Chuck was broken on the days it was 100º with 80% humidity, I had to take the bus.

Except, you see, I do not take the bus. I’ve lived in and around Boston for (good lord) eighteen years now, and I know the subway map like I know the crack of my own ass (i.e., I know where it starts and ends, and try not to think about every little stop it takes along the way), but until we moved here to the ’Vac, I had ridden the bus exactly once. And that was only because, as a fresh-faced newcomer to the city, I didn’t trust myself to drive from Eastie to JP without getting hopelessly, Dupont-Circle lost.

Anyway, the point is I’d managed just fine without above-ground public transportation till we got here – and even from here, for the most part. The only time I take the bus from here is when I’m going to and from the airport, because I have a Scottish gene that will not allow me to pay for long-term airport parking. And oh, man, was that a fun trip-before-a-trip: walk, bus, train, other train, other train, shuttle bus. Ugh. But they opened a new line last year, and now it’s not so bad: walk, bus, train, other train – that’s it. And really I ought not even bother mentioning the walk: I’ve been known to throw pickle jars greater distances when the lids refuse to budge.

But still, I hate it. I hate how it only comes every however-often, and not even then if enough people ask for it to stop along the way. I hate how, if nobody asks for stops, then it gets there before you do and you have to wait who-knows-how-long for it to come again. And I hate that, when you finally do see it creeping over the horizon after two-times-however-long, half the time it turns out to be full, and unless it has to stop to let somebody off, it just whizzes by.

As much as I hate all of that, though, I hate the ride home even more. Because it has all of those joys plus the added bonus of the Quincy Center T stop (where I get off the train if I’m taking the bus) being the end of the line. Which means the driver always gets out and takes himself a leisurely stroll. I’m sure this habit’s not designed to make the blood drip from my ears, I’m sure it has something to do with a schedule adjustment to make up for all those late and early stops along the way, and I’m sure that, if I were a bus driver, then I, too, would rather stretch my legs if I had time to waste instead of staring at the inside of a dumb old, idle bus. I, however, would first make some sort of announcement.

I would not sit there like a bump while passengers filed in. I would not collect their fares without returning a smile or a how-de-do. I would not shout at them to keep moving along and then, when everyone is in and settled, heave a big old farty sigh, power down the farty bus (including reading lights, a/c and everything), and leave, without giving my captive, paid-up charges any expectation of when they might look for me to return.

And actually, that isn’t fair. I might do this once, if I’d polished off an Extra-Large Turbo Ice or something and then had to pick up passengers at every single stop along the way. Still, though, I’d like to think I would at least shout reassurances over my shoulder if this were the case. And anyway, this did not happen only once, or with just one driver. It happens every time – and, of all the driver-backsides I have watched recede into the implacable distance, not one of them looked to be in a bathroom-related rush.

So anyway, back to that week in June. Like I said, that week was hot – 110º in the shade, and with something like 95% humidity. The car was broken, so Monday I took the bus to work and back. And I took the bus on Tuesday morning. But I just couldn’t stand the thought of it on Tuesday afternoon. Something had happened at work that day – I don’t remember what, but it sent me to the edge of earth-shattering, tooth-grinding frustration (I probably got a blister on my thumb, or they forgot to put mustard on my cheese grinder again) – and I didn’t have the patience to play Waiting for Ralph Kramden.

So I walked.

I’ve never been the most rational of thinkers when patience is involved. I’ve been known to drive 25 miles out of my way rather than sit in two miles of traffic, just so that I would be moving (I got stuck in traffic on the flip side anyway and wound up peeing off the Tobin Bridge; but that’s a story for another time). So, yeah. 125º outside, 114% humidity, and I hoofed 2½ miles rather than risk having to sit in an air-conditioned chair for seven minutes. And do you want to know how bad I showed those bus drivers? I let two of ’em pass me on the road, just to piss ’em off.

Boy, were they sorry.

It took about an hour to get home. It really isn’t a bad walk; I’ve done it several times before (what? You think this is the first time my patience got the better of me?) but with the Africa heat and all, I was moving kind of slow. At one point, about halfway there, I ran into the friendly Indian guy who runs the package store around the corner from our house, and he offered me a ride. I said “No thanks! I’m walking for the exercise!” but the truth was: he already knows how much I drink, I didn’t think he needed to be privy to how bad I sometimes smell. If he’s as nice as I think he is, he’d feel obliged to contact social services.

Anyway, by the time I was over the bridge and one turn from my house, I was veritably plodding. My socks were squishing in my shoes. My heels were muttering something about dry-ice. My underwire had rusted and run down into my underpants. And the last leg of the journey is uphill.

Not a big hill, certainly – it is still at sea level, after all – but certainly an incline. You might not even notice it if you’re driving in a car, but on foot, on the last leg of an hour walk, in 1200 degree heat with 700% humidity, it’s freaking Kilimanjaro. Only Kilimanjaro would be better, because there would be snow.

Anyway, I got up it. Past the dive shop, around the bend, and on the straightaway. I could see my house. I could crawl from here. But I wouldn’t. I would keep on walking. I was at least in the shade now, anyway.

And then, when I was on the sidewalk of my very own yard, just making my way those last twenty-five feet to the end of the fence where I could turn and legitimately flop into my very own grass, a youngish man in a big black pickup truck pulled over.

“Do you want a ride?”

The first thought that went through my head was “What are you, a moron?” But that went away quickly and I figured out that this must be a friend of Johnny’s from the pub. He must know this was my house; he must be joking. So I laughed, waved a limp arm in the direction of the AssVac, and said “I’m here!” He gave me a funny look and drove away.

I got inside and dissolved into the futon. Johnny was in the kitchen and he brought me a cold drink. Once I’d revived a little, I found the voice to ask him “Who do you know from the Sandtrap that drives a big black pickup truck?”

“What?” says Johnny. “No one. Why?” So I told him.

“Nah,” says he. “Nobody I know. Kid must’ve been hitting on you.”

How sad is it that this thought had not occurred to me? I mean, I still wasn’t entertaining the possibility that it could be true, but apparently I am so far out of hit-on range that the idea no longer crosses my mind even briefly enough to be discarded. I was pondering this clear sign of impending hunchbacky, used-tissue-up-my-shirtsleeve biddyhood when the real truth came to me in a hot flash:

Not only am I not cute enough to be hit on by young men in pickups anymore… I am old enough for them to offer me charitable rides.

Oh, my head.

* * *

So that’s where the story ended a month ago, more or less, with me all fat and old and sweaty and feeling sorry for myself. I didn’t run it because, although it has its moments, that’s not a punchline at the end so much as a complaint, and I didn’t want you all to think I was looking for shore-uppance. Instead, I saved the story and went on a diet. Started working out again in earnest. I’ve lost ten pounds so far, and lord knows I’ve got at least ten more to go, but my back hurts less, and I’m not quite so sweaty in the heat.

It’s hot again this week, in fact, although 1200º with 700% humidity is not quite so unseasonable in mid-July. Yesterday, I decided out of the blue that I wanted to wear a wife-beater tank top and my good overalls. The overalls that don’t have the straps tied on to them with baling twine. My Osh-Kosh. I haven’t worn them in two years because they’ve been too small, but something told me that if I climbed up and pulled them down they just might fit. And I was right. A little snug, perhaps, but one good squat took care of that.

See, here’s the thing: I don’t care how I actually look in my Osh-Kosh, I feel cute when I wear them. Not in a grown-up woman, hot-and-sexy sort of way, but like the tomboy I used to be before I cared what young men in pickup trucks were thinking. Especially when I wear them with a men’s tank underneath, because it’s thin enough to feel like nothing, which is what I used to wear beneath my Osh-Kosh when I was a girl. Although of course, these days, I do need that underwiry support.

So anyway, yesterday, in my Osh-Kosh and undershirt, I drove Chuck to the beach and walked from there. It was hot but not too hot, and the humidity was mitigated by a strong seabreeze. I was reading the Sunday Times Magazine as I strolled along, an article about how and why people commit suicide, and it actually made me happy – grateful that I’ve never had that impulse, can’t even imagine it, not even at the apogee of one of my myriad neurotic pity-parties.

And then, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a big white van slow down. It was coming in the opposite direction, so I didn’t think it would be offering me a ride, but there wasn’t a cross street or even so much as a driveway that it might be slowing to turn into. Johnny does know some people in this neighborhood, so I thought it might be someone who recognized me and wanted to say hello, but I kept walking with my eye in my magazine and waited to hear my name. Instead, what I heard was:

Nice tits!”

And then they peeled away.

Aw. Thanks, boys. You have no idea what it means to a hunchbacked old biddy to hear that sort of thing once in a while.



And no, there will be no final indignity in this one. I’m ending it here before I find out they were only making fun.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Greatly Exaggerated

Some of you out there may not know that Johnny used to be a sesiún musician – which is kind of like a professional except you get paid in pints instead of pounds (which are kind of like dollars except worth something). He did this for lord knows how long back home in Dublin, pawning his guitar every Monday, getting it out of hock with Friday’s paycheck, playing and drinking for free all weekend ’round the city, then pawning it again on Monday to get drinking money for the week.

He’s Irish, what can I say?

He also played (and painted) his way through all of Europe, plus Egypt, Israel, Turkey, and I-don’t know-where-else – and it was the reason that he first came to America. He and a buddy from back home (let’s call him Buddy) were on their way to Australia to live, permanent-like, and they’d lined up a few weeks’ worth of Boston sesiúns on their way. They sold off or gave away all they had back home in Dublin and planned to have a real piss-up in Beantown before starting the rest of their lives walking upside down and eating vegemite instead of marmite sandwiches. Which blech, on both counts, but anyway…

Instead, Buddy stole Johnny’s guitar, plane ticket, and traveler’s checks and disappeared.

Thanks, buddy!

So Johnny was stranded. He had a room at the Y, but really nothing else, and no way to pay for that the next time it came due. Then, one day, he was walking to his room when he heard somebody talking on the hall phone. “John Conroy? No, I don’t know no John Conroy! There are 350 people staying here, you think I know them all?” He was big, and he was working himself up to a good lather at the audacity of whoever was on the line, but Johnny just tapped him on the shoulder, said “John Conroy, nice to meet you” and put his hand out for the phone.

It was another friend – a real friend – from his sesiún days. Gerry had been in Boston for a while, and when he heard through the Irish grapevine that Johnny was on his way through, he called all over town until he found him. (Although, technically, I’ve heard a few different versions of this story. In one, Buddy was still with Johnny when Gerry called; in one, Johnny had left the phone number for him somewhere. But I’m sticking with this one because it’s the best, because it’s the first one I heard, because nobody can seem to agree on what really happened, and because it makes Gerry out to be that much more of a hero. Yay, Gerry!)

Gerry gave Johnny a roof and lined him up with a job (yes, an illegal one, but what choice did he have?). Eventually, they both got their green cards, married beautiful American ladies (ahem), bought houses, and settled down. Gerry even had a couple kids. They lost touch over the years, but in the past month or so they've reconnected, and it turns out he only lives about four miles down the road.

They’ve been hanging out a lot these past few weeks – playing music, drinking beer – and in the course of one of these musical conversations Johnny happened to mention that another guy they knew from their sesiún days had died. We’ll call him Jay. Jay made a life for himself (and a lot of friends) as an actual, professional musician: he played all over New England and, sometimes, still back home. They hadn’t seen him in donkeys years, but they remembered him fondly, and it made Gerry sad to think he’d passed away.

So Gerry, being a hero, got to work.

A few days ago, he called to say that he’d alerted the Irish grapevine and there was a benefit in the making. This is what musicians do. No insurance, no security, so the team rallies when one of them needs help. You’re always seeing signs at bars around town for this benefit or that one, sometimes to pay for medical bills, sometimes to give a sort of safety net to a grieving widow. Now Gerry had started the ball rolling on one for Jay’s family, and he was looking for a bit more detail from Johnny’s source.

Johnny didn’t have a number for the fiddle player who’d first told him the news, and after a couple fruitless calls to information, I went to the 'net. Still nothing on the fiddle player, but after an hour of searching I did find a phone number for Jay. I also found, oddly, that there are a lot of teenaged black girls out there who share his name, but this phone number was definitely his. It was going to be awkward, but it had to be done, so Johnny called.

The widow answered.

“Hello?”

“Hello,” says Johnny, “My name is John Conroy, and I’m calling about Jay LastName?”

“Ah,” says she, “He’s playing a gig up in Portsmouth at the moment. Would you like his cell phone number?”

Whoops.

Apparently the fiddle player lied. Typical. Never trust a fiddler, I always say.

So now obviously the plan is to go ahead with the benefit and bring Jay in as a secret, surprise guest. The only question is what to do with all the money. Can’t give it to him, that wouldn’t be right. And, considering the pass-the-can nature of these things, it might be logistically impossible to give it back. There’s always charity, but that, too, seems wrong. People thought they were donating to a family, they might not want their dollars going to save some stupid seal. No, it seems to me the only way to handle this situation is to treat it like the proper Irish wake it tried to be.

Drinks on the house!

And there’d better be a damn good sesiún, too.