It's not about the house.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Are You Ready For the Summer?

I really don’t think they had to go and call the cops. The fire brigade maybe, but come on. It’s not like we were doing anything illegal. Or not at that point we weren't, anyway.

Some of you who’ve been here for a while might remember me mentioning how I used to work at camp. Well, a couple weeks after I wrote that – and not because of it; it was just a strange coincidence – everyone who worked there with me showed up on Facebook in a great big whomp. And it turns out I’m not the only one who thought the whole experience was honking bucketloads of carry-it-around-with-you-for-decades worth of fun.

For a few months we had a grand old time in our growing Facebook group, remembering private jokes (What are they gonna do, take away my birthday?) and public humiliations (you’re absolutely right, Cathy: if the four staties and two town cops who pulled you over didn’t know that you were drunk, then who the hell did that redneck camp director think she was?), comparing what-were-you-fired-for stories (pretty much sex, sex, sex, sex, and sex), and making endless lists of favorite things (seriously, that list is endless, and it would bore anyone who wasn't there to tears – but there is a pretty good consensus on the dinner rolls). People think I'm kidding when I say it was like Meatballs when we worked there but -- as I think you are about to see -- I'm not.

One of us, in fact, loved it so much he could never bring himself to leave; he's president of the board of directors now. And when he showed up on Facebook, he made the following executive decision: if we all spent a couple hours on the campground raking leaves, he said, then we could all also spend the night there drinking beer. So that’s exactly what we did on Saturday.

Thanks, Kenny! No wonder you’re Jen’s favorite brother-in-law!

Johnny came with me, and we were a couple hours late because I got a little lost. I took no end of campy guff for that, but I steadfastly maintain it’s not my fault except insofar as I decided to trust Google Maps. Everyone knows Google Maps are ass, but I don’t live in the town I grew up in anymore, so I couldn't go the way we used to go. When we left, though, I went that way anyway -- even though it meant a detour almost all the way to my parents' house -- and we were door to door in ninety minutes flat. As compared to three fucking hours getting Google-lost the day before. Fuck that noise.

Anyway, so we were late. They were just breaking for lunch when we arrived. Johnny and I had already eaten (because we were google-lost for three fucking hours) so we just sat and visited while everybody ate. When they were done we raked some leaves for about an hour, then Cathy Barry decided it was imperative that she go home and get a tarp (“We’ll just put ‘em on the fuckin' thing and drag ‘em. It’s just, like, a mile and a half down the fuckin’ road.”), and Johnny and I decided it was imperative for us to tag along.

(You might notice that I’m saying fuck a lot in this post. That’s because I’ve regressed. Which, in turn, is because it turns out you can, in fact, go home again. And at home we say fuck a lot. So Q.E.D.)

All together it took almost two hours to go to her house, play with her kids (the little one’s a nutjob, man, I tell you what), fail to find the tarp we were looking for, go to a hardware store to buy one, get Johnny a sandwich because he decided he was hungry after all, then go to the package store for ice and cigarettes and lots and lots and lots and lots of beer. By the time we got back to camp, most people were finished working for the day, but since we’d done hardly anything so far we put the brand-new tarp (and beer) to use. For, oh, I’d say at least the best part of a half an hour.

It was Danny’s idea to toss all the leaves in the woods instead of hauling them up the hill, and he hadn’t even started drinking yet. “They’re leaves,” he said. “Don’t they belong in the woods?” Good point -- he was trained in landscape architecture, after all. That stroke of brilliance saved us all a lot of time, so by four o’clock we were putting rakes away and drinking for real. Which was a novel thing, because most of us got fired before turning twenty-one, so we had never gotten drunk at camp before.

Ha! Ha!

There was dinner, but for some reason Johnny and I didn’t eat that, either. I don’t know why, but I’m pretty certain it was Cathy Barry’s fault. Her husband showed up then, and he’s an ex-Navy Seal sniper, so maybe we were too busy trying to picture him shooting pirates in the face. For the record: Cathy Barry’s husband is as big a fan of Cathy Barry as I've always been -- and, now, so is Johnny. Although apparently, because of the husband and all, her last name isn’t so much Barry anymore. But to me she's Cathy Fucking Barry, so fuck that.

So we ate (or, rather, they ate and we drank), and then they rang the bell and announced that The Fire was being lit down in The Glen.

This is something they used to do when we were there. A Big Ass Fire in the glen on Friday evenings for closing ceremony. They’d pick their favorite campers and give awards and read a story about how coyote first brought fire to the Indians (were allowed to say Indians back then because it was the ‘80s). Then one boy counselor -- who had been body-painted with totems and stripes, dressed in a loincloth, and hidden in the woods -- would run out with a flaming torch and plunge it in a giant pile of felled trees. This crucial role was, in later years, sometimes played by a girl. Because we always were politically-correct like that.

We didn’t do that whole shebang this weekend. Somebody just lit the fire and we all wandered down. Heidi did get up and read the fire-bringer story – but I think in the good old days they must have had a microphone or something, because I couldn’t hear a fucking word she said. And when I couldn't hear it, the story seemed to go on awfully long.

They don’t tell the story anymore, incidentally. Nor do they have a fire. It is apparently neither okay to dress a white boy (or girl) in a loincloth and paint his or her body with faux-tribal patterns, nor is it safe to build a fire that is more than one Dot high. Dang.

But we weren’t They, we were Us, and so we torched the fucker anyway.

And it turns out that when the neighbors across the lake see the forest glowing orange and flames shooting up over the tops of trees, they start to wonder if there might be something wrong. (You thought I was kidding when I said they built a fire? Dot was tall, man, I’m telling you: Dot was tall.) Instead of sending the screaming fire brigade, though, they just sent a pair of flashlights, and at the sight of them every one of us reverted to old form. Some of us just shut up and cheesed it. Jon (and Johnny) kept right on playing guitar. I’m pretty certain I heard giggles from a girl or two. And Cathy Barry – who was on the waterfront when the flashlights arrived – said to herself “Those look like cop flashlights,” and wisely decided to stay where she was. Kenny talked to the flashlights, told them it was okay because he said so. And he is President of the Board of Directors, after all.

So they left. And nobody got fired.

It’s probably a good thing that the you-know-what did not come out till after (and by "you-know-what" I mean "another thing we never, never did either back then"). I won’t name the man who brought it, but I will say he was my kindergarten boyfriend and – although he still loyally swears I was the best colorer he ever saw – I approve wholeheartedly of his grown-up wife. They met at camp, as a matter of fact, but that was after I’d been fired (not for sex), so I met Mrs. Randy for the first time yesterday.

Oops.

(And not for nothing, but I gotta tell you: I never knew boys talked so much about each other’s dicks. Seriously, for those boys who worked at camp with us but weren’t there this weekend? I know what every one of your dicks look like now. And I've only ever seen like two or three of them for real.)

I tried to stay up later, really I did, but fourteen beers and a couple hits of you-know take their toll. Johnny says it was about 1:30 when we retired. I headed for the girls’ side but I couldn’t seem to find a cabin, and I knew if I wandered off into the woods there was no way that bunch of drunken motherfuckers would remember how to run the missing-camper drill. So we turned around and found an empty cabin on the other side. Johnny says Randy and Jen came in giggling at three in the morning, poking at my feet and whispering my name, but I didn’t hear them, and when they realized Johnny was awake they turned and ran.

Silly. Very silly.

In the end, I’d have to say nobody’s really changed. Even physically. Seriously, the pictures everybody’s posting are a lie: you all look exactly how you always looked back then. And it was more than a little freaky to hear everybody’s voices. The face Mark makes when he knows he’s saying something funny. Randy and his you-know. Maggie blasting “St. Elmo’s Fire” and the “Axel F” theme from Beverly Hills Cop. The way Danny sometimes sort of goes away inside his head when you're talking to him. And Cathy Barry... Cathy Barry...

Well, Cathy Barry is still Cathy Fucking Barry.

And Johnny says that girl is bleeding mad.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I Could Sing You a Tune or Promise You the Moon, But...

I do not like working in the garden. Never have. I don’t cry about it like I used to – there’s really no sense throwing yourself on the ground and thrashing around in a temper tantrum when you’re forty and there’s no one around with the authority to give you a reprieve. But I still hate it every bit as much. It’s right up there with writing on the cosmic list of Things I Would Rather Do Anything Else Than. Give me a deadline, and suddenly my favorite job is scrubbing toilets. But give me a weedy garden and it reminds me just how much I love to write.

Hm. Maybe that explains why – no matter what deadline I give myself and no matter how vehemently I insist that next summer I’ll be free – my Biggest Projects never seem to wrap up till July.

Aw hell. Ain't that a balls of a catch-22? I mean, if any of these Allegedly Big Projects ever pay off big enough that we could afford to hire someone else to do the gardening, then I’d be freed from the heinous responsibility – and therefore never able to find the motivation to complete the next one. Then we’d be poor again and have to grow a garden to survive. In which case I'd get another Project done and hire gardeners...

Of course, if any of my Projects ever paid off big enough for us to get a gardener, there’d be so much flying-pig shit in the yard that regular old grass-blades would be shooting up and sprouting ears of corn.

Besides, Johnny would never want to hire someone anyway. Gardening is something Johnny actually likes. He spends the last few cold months every year thinking and planning and reading and organizing, drawing little pictures and making little maps – until by the time the real spring rolls around he’s just exhausted. Which is why, despite the fact that every year I swear I hate it and I’m never helping him again, every year I get recruited anyway. Because as much as he loves it, Johnny’s rather like da Vinci on this score: once he figures out how something can be done, he doesn’t always get around to actually doing.

So he pulls dead leaves from the garden beds and leaves them strewn in nasty piles on the lawn. He pulls live weeds from between the rows and ditto. He stays right on top of the tomato plants -- until they outgrow their wire cages and fall over, then they're left to hold their own against the cucumbers and zucchini for the right to grow among the leaf-and-weed mess on the ground. Eventually even I give up on deadheading the basil, and let it just become an uglitive (which is kind of like a decorative except it looks like ass).

Johnny never lets me pull it up; any of it. He never stops insisting that it’s all still well and good. Like that year he planted mesclun mix and stubbornly made a salad after 99% of it had gone to seed. He said he preferred the peppery (read: tongue-curlingly bitter) flavor of "mature" leaves, anyway. I told him it was cat and gave the (ahem) guests permission to throw their no-thank-you helpings in the compost bin behind his back.

This year, though, I tried to be preemptive. I joined in on the planning and picture-making. I even offered up some ideas of my own. How about, I suggested, if we don’t plant zucchini this year -- since all it does is grow all over the grass anyway, and we’ve never picked a single squash, not even once? And what if we skip the fancy-colored tomatoes, too, since we can never remember which plant is which, and so wind up either picking red ones much too early or leaving yellow ones to rot right off the vine? And neither of us even likes banana peppers -- they're too hot to be sweet, too sweet to be hot; what are you supposed to do with the damn things, anyway? Not to mention that all we've ever gotten off of the alleged “pumpkins” were those two tiny little gourdy-things last year.

Why not (I went on, emboldened) try new things that we actually like, and old things that we like and we know work? The eggplant worked out really well in 2007 – why don't we give that a shot again? And brussel sprouts: we’ve never tried them, but we like them, and they are ass expensive at the store. Plus eggplant and brussel sprouts both have the added benefit of growing in a stalk, rather than a slug-attracting, lawn-mower defeating vine along the ground.

He agreed. Or, at least, I thought he did. Then he broke his ribs and went to England for a funeral and came back talking about bush beans.

Bush beans are fine. Bush beans are great. In fact, bush beans fit perfectly into my upwards-growing, proven-yield, will-actually-get-eaten-by-something-other-than-slugs garden plan. But since the English relatives had never heard of bush beans, he’d promised to send seeds over, and their growing season starts a little earlier than ours. So we had to go buy seeds right now.

I’m not clear how the fight started. I know I had other errands to run already, and the seed store is five miles away in the same direction I was going. I know I didn’t want to come all the way back for him and go all the way back over, so I asked if he’d rather join me on all my errands or if he trusted me to buy the seeds myself.

“I don’t want to go all the way into feckin’ Boston,” he said. Which I (apparently mistakenly) took to mean “I would really appreciate it, honey, if you’d stop on your way home and get the seeds.”

And so I did. And while I was there, I thought: why not get all the seeds we needed? I didn’t really so much know what seeds we needed – not specifically, not 100% – but at a buck a pack, how much harm could it do? I'd err on the side of extra, and if nobody else wants to plant them then I'm sure our pregnant squirrels will be thrilled.

So I got bush beans, and red tomatoes. I got two kinds of peas (sweet and the kind you eat as pods) and two kinds of peppers (green bell and jalapeno). They didn’t have brussel sprouts or eggplant (dang) so I grabbed broccoli and cauliflower in their stead. Also cabbage. And a few kinds of flowers on a whim. But I did not get zucchini. I did not get pumpkins. I did not get crookneck or butternut or anything, for that matter, that came from the squash family.

Would you like to guess what was the first thing Johnny said when I got home?

I’ll give you a hint:

It wasn’t “Thank you.” It wasn’t “I love you, honey.” It wasn’t even an understandable inquiry into the glaring absence of eggplant and brussel sprouts. No, the first thing Johnny said when I got home and proudly displayed my admirably-chosen selection of seed packages was:

“Where’s all the squash?”

I, but. We, but. Oh, man!

“I thought we said we weren’t planting any squash.”

“Yes, but I said I’d send some to England.”

“Well, you should have told me that before I went.”

“I did tell you. Last week. You never listen to me.”

Watch it buddy. That’s my line.

So naturally I denied responsibility. Then I went on to (very calmly) point out he could have joined me if he had whole lists of specific things he wanted me to get. And he said he didn’t feel like being dragged all over hell and half of Georgia (actually, he didn’t say that; that’s not an Irish expression at all; but this is my blog, and I like it, so I’m leaving it in). And I said I didn’t feel like being dragged all over hell and half of Georgia either, but there were things that just had to get done, and so I had to do them, which he wouldn’t understand because he doesn’t drive a car, so I always wind up doing everything around here.

Here’s a hint: when you’re fighting with a loved one – especially a loved one who’s really mostly still upset because his brother died – try throwing in a little “here's something you don't know how to do." If you can find a way to add a splash of "I do everything around here,” it can reeeaally do wonders for calming a volatile situation down.

He marched over to the stack of seeds and started snapping packets on the table like he was dealing out a deck of cards. “Don’t need cauliflower." Snap. "Don’t need broccoli." Snap. "Don’t need peas.” Sn—

“Don’t need peas?” I said, snatching the pea seed-packet from his hand. “Well, all right then!” And I—

(ooh. you have to promise you’ll still love me later. really? do you promise? well, okay.)

—I grabbed the envelope of Burpee pea-seeds, lifted it over my head, and tore it open.

Here’s a hint: if you’re the type who tends to find herself in volatile situations with her loved ones, try carrying an envelope of Burpee pea-seeds in your pocket at all times. Because I cannot begin to describe the satisfaction that can be derived from the sound and feeling of an unexpected shower of legumes.

Doesn't end the fight, though.

That was Wednesday. The fight finally ended sometime Friday afternoon. Today (Sunday) we were supposed to go together to get the last few things I "forgot," but Johnny fell in a hole yesterday and he thinks he aggravated an old fracture on his foot.

And as for me, well: I'll send the bush beans off to England in the morning (because I still have to do everything around here), but I’m beginning to think we might not have a garden this year after all.

Woohoo!



So, um, does that mean I don’t have to finish my Big Project? No? Well, dang. But hey...


Look how disgusting the toilet is!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Individual Power

When we bought this house, in 2004, the room that is now my office was piled with a load of random shit. Some of it was regular-old shit that actually belongs in a bedroom – or, rather, would belong in a bedroom if said bedroom was located in a house in Broken World. There was a broken bed, a broken dresser, broken bookshelves, all drunkenly regurgitating their respective rightful contents. And I don’t want you to think too hard about what the “rightful contents” of a broken bed might be. Suffice to say there were soiled bedclothes involved. That is all.

Then there was this whole entire other bunch of crap. Fireproof file boxes full of high school diaries (yes, I read them; no, there was nothing juicy). A complete series of fifty or so lithograph prints on really nice paper that I still pretend to hope might turn out to be worth something someday (I haven’t done the necessary research because if I do, and if I find out they’re worth nothing, well, then, what will I have left to hope for after that?). And the rest of the room was a big festering pile of shoes and ships and sealing wax and cabbages and kings.

No, really, there were ships and sealing wax. They came as part of a motley assortment of sketches and kits; magazines and blueprints; pictures and models and sailboats in jars. Virtually every category of ephemera that could remotely be considered maritime. Dude might as well have painted a great big puffy “I Heart Boats” in day-glo letters on his ceiling.

(I wanted that to have an actual heart instead of the word, but I couldn't find a way to make it happen here. Somehow, it seems a little less insulting to him the way that it came out. So wherever you are, kid, I meant to call you a wingding!)

But my sister helped me (in this room, others helped me elsewhere) and we cleared every last speck of it out. Threw it all in trash bags (or quite possibly yard-waste bags, since the AssVac for some reason came fully stocked with sturdy dozens of the otherwise-useless things) and hauled it to the curb.

Then we promptly, and quite happily, filled the whole dang room back up again.

Well, hell, the house was barely habitable as it was. We couldn’t very well put all our moving boxes in the dining room, now, could we? If we did, where would the extra refrigerator go? Or the litter box? And it’s not like we didn’t already have four sofas, two recliners and a wing chair stacked on top of one another in the living room. So we had to put the boxes in what was then allegedly the second bedroom.

Well. Actually? Officially and technically? It was allegedly the third. But the master was at that point doing its darnedest to evolve new forms of life from it's own brand of primordial black ooze, so – no matter what the assessor of record might have on file – I maintain this master bedroom did not come to exist until January 1, 2006. La la.

(Which doesn’t mean they should tax me any differently, or rescind the Grandfather exemption that lets the bedroom exist now. La la!)

Anyway, so yes: we filled this bedroom/office right back up. Literally, this time: floor to ceiling, wall to wall to wall to wall. Then we shut the door, put our fingers in our ears, and cried and wept and screamed and (some of us) nearly died, in the interest of dealing with the ooze.

We (for which read: I) finally did get around to (for which read: moving to the attic) all those boxes, but only when it was discovered (for which read: Johnny informed me) that we had a Nephew on his way from Dublin to move in (for which read: to move in!). And when the room was finally really empty and being used as an actual functional space, we realized it wasn’t so much “functional” at all.

(Forgive me, Laura Ingalls, but this isn't 1885, and we don't live in a carved-out hole at the side of a river. When i say "functional" -- and I know, I should count my blessings -- I expect a bit more than four walls and a roof. If only so taht somebody else might want to give me money in exchange for this carved-out hole someday. All right, then?)


The light, we’d noticed. By which I mean to say the lack thereof. There were a few (presumably live) wires peeking through the plaster where the fixture used to be, but that was all. Who knows what happened to it? Considering the state of the remainder of this house, I can’t imagine it was so adorable that Mister "I Heart Boats" absconded with it. Did he tear it down and cut the wires, hoping for a spider to brush up and accidentally burn the AssVac down?



At any rate, we’d noticed them. The wires. We'd seen 'em when we stacked the boxes. They are, in fact, a large part of the reason why we closed the door: so the cats wouldn’t scale Mount Carton and electrocute themselves. (That, and so they wouldn’t climb through the gaping hole in the one wall and turn this house into more of a conglomeration of Edgar Allen Poe short stories than it already was.)

The outlets, though? The outlets were a surprise. How do you have a bedroom – a non-Laura-Ingalls-housing bedroom – with just a single cotton-picking plug!? I don’t mean one functional plug, either, like in the living room. And dining room. And kitchen. Hell, even the oozey room had plenty of outlets that were useless duds. But this one -- this cask of amontillado? -- had only, ever, one.

We, however(for which again read: mostly I), continued to soldier on. The Nephew moved in, the Nephew moved out, and I set up my office. (That bedroom is my office now, remember?) When, a year and a half later, the Comcast man came in to set up my broadband service, he had to configure the whole shebang in such a way that everything could reach the single outlet. Or, rather, reach the power strip that I had running from the outlet. Because the outlet itself was now hidden – and half-occupied – by the all-important extra fridge that holds the beer.

Fortunately, the circuit never blew from overloading (which was something of a miracle, considering the entire house was running off just the one). But there were only exactly as many holes on that power strip as I had things plugged in, so if I ever needed to, let’s say, turn on a fan (for any reason, not necessarily a fish or bean-juice related one), I had to turn something else off. Plus you had to lean over and around behind the dresser just in order to turn on the light.

See?

Can you even FIND the light in that picture?

So.

Fast forward a couple years. 

-----pretend these are wavy lines-----

Andy’s been staying over at our house a lot these days. He’s got things to do in the area and it’s easier tofor him to crash here than to go home to the fixer upper he (coughcoughstupidlycoughcough) bought himself waaaay the hell down on the South Shore. And – maybe just because he loves us, maybe as a way of saying thanks for the spare room, or maybe because he needs something to keep the devil away from his idle hands – he’s been doing a lot of neat things for us while he's here.

First, he cleaned out the basement. That was the day Johnny found the snake. Before Johnny got home Andy had been down there for like seven hours, organizing and throwing shit away and building shelves. You should see it now. Alright, alright, I’ll show you.

Ready?

Here:


Yeah, that doesn't look quite so impressive actually. Hang on...

Ta da! Other corner! And also...? 

Ta da! Shelves!

Can you believe it!?

Andy also ran cable to the extra bedroom (the one that's not my office or the master) and hooked up the spare tv. He even managed to program the universal remote, which is something I've never been able to do. That, admittedly, was a bit less altruistic than some of his other acts, considering how much time he spends in there and all. But it doesn’t make it any less appreciated.

(Oh, and you should have seen the stooge-routine around here that day! Andy found the extra cable wire in the basement and couldn’t figure out where it might lead. He kept insisting it had to go somewhere, and I kept insisting there were just the two TVs, so eventually he took the wire off and used the port. Ran the cable, got the guest-room TV working, and programmed the remote. Yahoo! Then, when he was leaving, he asked me to go online for the train schedule -- and I discovered that the "extra" cable he had disconnected was my broadband! He ran back down, put my internet back where it belonged, and -- when he came back the next time -- re-hooked-up the TV.)

And then? The next time after that one? He did this:



Which is here:


In my office!



I haven’t been able to make myself remember to use the goddamn thing, however. I only think of it when my computer’s on -- like now. In which case I am, you know, using it. By the time I shut it down I’m usually so bollocksed that it's all I can do to run screaming from the room. Then the next day I stumble in at 5:00 before my coffee, switch it on, and the entire cycle starts anew.

Andy's coming back on Saturday, though. If I want him to do anything else around here, I'd better get moving on those plugs. Wouldn't want him to think I wasn't grateful!



I am, Andy. I am...

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Loaves and Fishes

You all know Johnny’s Catholic, right? He doesn’t go to church or anything, except to get his ashes or when someone he loves dies, but he Believes.

I Don’t. But I speak the language. I grew up immersed in it and, although I’ll go to hell for saying so (if, you know, there is one), sometimes I still think it’s fun to play along. One Friend asked me once why I strew (strow?) so many Jesuses around my house at Christmastime, to which I shrugged and answered: “I don't know. I don’t believe in Santa, either. But they both seem to go with the territory!”

(For the record: I think Jesus is really Cool. I just don’t think he’s God. Then again, I don’t so much think God is God for that matter, so—

Well, anyway. This was not the road I meant to travel. Let’s go back to the fork and start again. Okay?)

We don’t eat meat on Fridays during Lent. Honestly, I don’t eat meat most days anyway, and when I do it’s mostly only chicken. I’ve got nothing against the beefier bits philosophically, and Lordy knows I loves my bacon, but if I eat too much of it I get all logey and wind up down a deep, dark roadway that you really wouldn’t want to join me on. But during Lent I help Johnny remember.


The funny thing is, it is ingrained in him that he has to have fish. As far as I’m concerned, the rule is No Meat. You could have salad, you could have mac & cheese. You could have pizza or French toast or veggie burgers. But Johnny must have fish. “Fish on Fridays.” Or, I guess, you go to hell.

Now, as much as I don’t have a philosophy on meat (not anymore, at least; but before my mother weighs in with a comment on my hypocrisy, I should state for the record that I used to. For twelve or fourteen years I let no meat pass my lips except for turkey on Thanksgiving, and the lard-cream filling of an Oreo cookie, and an occasional slice or pound of bacon. So you see? I’m not a hypocrite at all! Now, where was I? Oh yes…) I do have a philosophy on fish. It is:

Fresh Is Always Better Than Frozen, But If It’s Not Going To Be Cooked Today, Then You’re An Ass To Pay Fresh Prices.

So when I made plans to go away Good Friday night, and Johnny asked me if before I left I’d have time to go pick him up a nice piece of fish for dinner -- and he even told me where to go because they had his favorite filets on special for $5.99 a pound -- I went. But when I ordered my pound of haddock and the fishmonger asked if I wanted fresh or frozen, I instinctively said “fresh” without looking at the price.

And wound up being charged $10.99.

Yes, yes, I could have handed it back over the counter. But no, no, that is nothing I would ever do. In addition to the whole Catholic-language thing, I was somehow brought up with a pair of ingrained fears: money, and confrontation. If I tried to give the fish back, I would be risking the latter and coming way too close for comfort to breaching a discussion of the former. So I paid it. And then, just to ease the sting, I bought some beer.

When I got home I explained my gaffe to Johnny, and impressed upon him the importance of him treating this fish right. Eleven dollars is usually like three days’ meal-budget for the two of us, and I wasn’t even going to be home. So even though one of our favorite things – discovered when we used to get haddock for free and were always looking for new ways of cooking it – is to simmer it slowly in a skillet with a half a jar of salsa, I didn’t want him to hide this light under that sort of bushel. Respect the animal is, I suppose, what I was asking.

“Fuck no! I’m not going to smother it in bleedin’ salsa. Jaysus! I’m going to batter it and throw it in the deep-fryer with chips just like we used to do on Good Friday at home!”

Well, that’s not quite as Respectful as I’d imagined. I was thinking more along the lines of a bit of lemon juice and a light broil. But I knew he was an Irish snake when I picked him up, and besides, what kind of Grandest Lady would I be if I rained on my own husband’s Easter parade?

So I went on my overnight. And when I called Saturday to give him my e.t.a., he announced he’d spent the evening on his hands and knees, washing the kitchen floor. By the time he had a chance to eat at all he couldn’t stomach cooking, so he had ramen noodles for his Holy Friday meal. “So the haddock’s still here, and there’s plenty for the two of us to have tonight!”

Saturday? You’re not supposed to have fish on Saturday! And besides, by dinnertime it would be two days old (at least; and that’s if the Stop & Shop fishmonger is actually down the docks at sunrise every morning, which I doubt). But what the hell. I paid eleven dollars for it, I might’s’well eat it. And if he’s only going to batter it and deep-fry it anyway, what difference could twenty-four hours make? I actually started to look forward to eating a big greasy dinner and then waddling off to bed, where I intended to remain for the duration of the Highest Holiday.

When I got home, though, I was informed we’d been invited to Gerry Smyth's for Easter dinner, and Johnny wanted to bake and bring along some bread and cake. So if I would help him quickly throw those two little things together, when we were done he’d get right to work on battering the fish.

But doesn’t crumpet bread take three and a half hours to make? And didn’t I walk in the door at 7:00 p.m.? And even if two of those three hours are rise-time, doesn’t the ginger-carrot-walnut cake occupy both of them? Plus, um, didn’t we maybe, possibly, have a couple beers apiece while we were baking? So by the time we were at last ready for dinner, wasn’t it eleven?

And didn’t we decide to just have Welsh Rabbit instead?


Irish Pizza, Johnny calls it. Yum.

After we ate – and thank god it was after – Johnny got off his arse to freeze the fish. The eleven dollar fish, that I could have had for six if I’d bought it frozen in the first place, only now it had the added benefit of being two days older... and it stank.

I mean, not rot-stink. Not foul-stink. Not death. But fish stink. A distinctive wouldn’t-kill-you, but-wouldn’t-serve-it-in-a-restaurant-either degree of smell. The kind of fishy stink they tell you fish is not supposed to smell like when it’s fresh. And it doesn’t. Or it didn’t. Yesterday.

It got the cat all excited, though, I’ll tell you what. And since the morsel of it that I fed him didn’t kill him, I held my nose and tongue while Johnny put the filet on a cookie sheet to freeze. And then we went to bed, where I dreamt of having a day off.

This morning, I woke up at the crack of dawn like always, spontaneously decided to give myself the Holy Day off writing (can’t you tell?) and working out, watched an episode of Charlie and Lola and one or two of the Colbert Report, then showered and dressed and decided 9:30 was late enough for Johnny to be sleeping, considering we were expected at the Smyth’s house before noon. I cleaned up the bread-and-cake-and-Irish-pizza mess from the night before, and just as I was finishing Johnny came in and set up the sucker-thing to vacuum-seal the fish. Which he fetched on its cookie sheet from the freezer in the other room.

The freezer, which happens to be attached to the (ahem) beer refrigerator. And the other room, which happens to be my office.

Do I need to tell you – or are you sufficiently-skilled students of certain literary devices – that the fish, even frozen, now stank worse?

I said pee-yew, and Johnny said it smells like fish, and I said yes, but fish is not supposed to smell like fish, and he said ’course it is, that’s the way it always smelled when I was growing up, and I did not say well, that’s probably because you were even poorer than we were back then, and your ma was probably buying day-old fish! And then he said:

“I’ll tell you what, though, there’s clearly a pong comin’ from that freezer.”

Now it is 11:51. We were supposed to be at the Smyth’s at 11:30, but he said to call him first and nobody is answering the phone. So I decided I might as well have a beer, but every time I go near the fridge I get a pong. It didn’t stop me (you know me better than that), but I’m worried about next weekend. We have a houseguest coming – two, in fact – so one of them is sleeping on the day bed in the office. And now the entire office smells like pongy fish.

I’m not going to make any Courtney Love jokes today, don’t worry. But I do earnestly hope that, on today of all possible Days, I might be forgiven for saying this:

Jesus Christ Almighty!




Smyth just called. We have to go. So I don't have time to proofread. I apologize if there are typos. And oh my god I'm heartily sorry if none of the above makes any sense.

Friday, April 10, 2009

How To Make a Really Yummy Veggie Stew

Jenni noticed -- which I didn't -- that I've been on a bit of a Sesame Street bender lately. In honor of that, I briefly considered titling this post "How Could I Be So Dumb? Plants Need Water, Man!" But in the end I decided not to, so as not to confuse anybody.  

So herewith I am happy to present -- absolutely straightforward and not confusing at all...

How to Make a Really Yummy Veggie Stew

Ready?

Okay.

Step One:
Wonder who put a pair of medicine balls down on the futon cushion, and then realize that those giant prints are from your ass. Resolve to lose weight and eat healthier. Really, this time.

Step Two:
Go to the cheap produce store and load your cart with every kind of vegetable you can find. Which isn't many, because it's the cheap vegetable store, after all, and not Whole Wallet -- I mean Foods. But there is a good selection of zucchini and summer squash. So take home six. Of each.

Step Three:
Accidentally spend the next five days drinking beer and eating instant noodle mix for every evening meal.

Step Four:
Okay, this is ridiculous. Lose weight! Eat healthy! Remember! Besides, those dozen squash are starting to turn bad. So on Thursday night you absolutely must prepare that casserole. The one your mother used to make. With eggs and milk and onions in it, and saltine crumbs on top.

Step Five:
I'm sorry, did you think there would be saltines in the cupboard? No. No no. Saltines can't seem to help but get themselves eaten by the box in this house, and we're being healthy around here this week, remember? Let's see... you can put Stove Top Stuffing mix on top instead.

Step Six:
Accidentally spend the next six hours drinking beer, and leave the casserole for too long in the oven. Discover, when you finally take it out, that despite the caramelized (for which read: blackened) edges, the squash slices are still not completely cooked.

Step Seven:
Hm. 

Step Eight:
No matter how many beers you've had, that shit just ain't edible. Leave it on the countertop and go to bed.

Step Nine:
The next morning, fuck it in the faux-Le-Crueset dutch oven you bought your sister for her birthday last year, but she already had one, so she left it in the package and gave it back to Johnnykins for his, because he was really jealous of it all along. Slash through it with a knife a couple times (the squash, not the faux-Creuset) so that the pieces are smaller, add a half a can (the big can, or I suppose you could add a whole small can if you have one, which you don't) of crushed tomatoes and... um... a can of kidney beans? Sure. Why not. And there's no sense wasting all that kidney-beany can-juice. It adds potency!

Step Ten:
Simmer it till you remember that it's Friday, fo crying out loud, and that Dr. One Friend's on her way. You and she and Johnny have been planning for, like, years now to have fish cakes, salad and asparagus for dinner tonight. Balls.

Step Eleven:
Stick the faux-le-creuset in the fridge. The beer fridge. That way, if the steamy-hotness of the stew raises the temperature a little, it won't cause whatever awful food-borne thing that's supposed to cause. Botulism, I think.

Step Twelve:
Eat your fish cakes. Slipping on salad and breaking ribs is, at this point, gravy.

Step Thirteen:
Have nineteen people over for corned beef the next day. Forget all about your veggie stew for a while.

Step Fourteen:
Monday? Yeah, I think on Monday... Take all the crudite your guests ignored (which in this case means just carrot and pepper, because it was St. Patrick's, after all), and chop it into little bitty pieces. Because you've already cooked the squash in the oven for three hours and simmered it on the stovetop for another two. If the pieces are too big, the squash will turn to complete mush before they're cooked. Which would be gross.

Step Fifteen:
Throw all the itty bitty pieces right on in. Add a little extra onion while you're at it. And -- shit -- garlic. Do you remember if you added garlic when you simmered it the other day? Well, if you can't remember, taste it! Bleah, it's fridge-cold. That's disgusting. Eh, a little extra garlic never hurt anybody who wasn't undead to begin with, right? Right!

Step Sixteen:
God, even itty-bitty pieces take forever to cook! Did we move to a higher altitude and no one told me?

Step Seventeen:
If it's too watery at the end (which it is), take your whizzer thing and whiz it up a little. Add salt and pepper to taste, and voila!

Step Eighteen:
Shit! Wait! Parsley! Somewhere in there you also add some parsley! The end of the bunch you bought for, I don't know, something, that was starting to rot in the crisper drawer! Throw that in, too! Before now, though! Way before now! Like yesterday! Or two days before that! I don't remember!

Step Nineteen:
And Voila! 

 
It might look like throw-up, but it tasted good!


And now, just because I love you, I'm going to post a real recipe for a real veggie stew in the comment section. One that does not involve drinking beer or letting it fester for the best part of a week. I've made it lots of times, and it's yummy

No joke.

 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Don't Turn the Page!

Johnny wants me to write about the snake in the basement but I don’t want to write about the snake in the basement.

I mean, I do want to write about the snake in the basement, but I also want to write about fish cakes. I also want to write about so many other things. Like the Raven and the Plastic Cup, the Miracle Mechanic, Andy and the Internet, or the fact that I Stubbed my Second-to-Middle Toe and Broke it -- On my Stairmaster!

Man! I’ve been working so hard on something else these days that all these stories have whizzed by me like public rest rooms on an interstate highway. Meaning, by the time I pick up on the signs, I’ve passed the exit. “Hey! It looks like there might be a … oh, man.”

At least I haven’t wet myself. Not yet.

I absolutely have to write, though, before I forget, about the fact that Johnny lost all the email addresses he collected at the funeral. This doesn’t surprise any of you, does it? I mean, don’t forget we’re talking about a man who’s replaced his green card more times than Johnny Carson did his wives (have I dated myself with that reference? How about J. Lo and fianc├ęs? Courtney Love and diaphragms? Although that last one’s probably not too adept a metaphor, if you know what I’m saying. And if you do know what I'm saying, could you explain it to me, please? Because I’m afraid that it’s disgusting. Thank you.).

Anyway, the point is – or this point is, anyway – that now all of these presumably Irish (or possibly English) people are leaving comments on my blog, and I’ve got no bleeding idea who they are! I mean, well, Mook I know. Johnny remembers about Mook. I think I might have even met her once – right, Mook? Twelve years ago? I was the one who kicked your uncle Mick’s ass at the snooker table. But, Mook, we looked in the pocket of Johnny's Funeral Suit like you said, and your email address simply isn’t there.

And Hubert – Hubert? Are you out there? Are you one of these alleged Irish people, too? I think you might be, but when I tried to find out where you were commenting from, you didn’t even show up on my sitemeter, so I now think you might just be a ghost. Either way, who are you? Johnny’s absent-minded, sure, but Hubert seems to both of us a name that anybody would remember if anybody had been introduced. Especially if the Hubert in consideration was translucent. Or a relative.

So, if I may be permitted a private note to Mook and Hubert and the rest of the whoevers that Johnny so proudly told to read my blog? My email's in my profile. Right over there ---> So please -- please, please, please -- drop us a line. And would those of you who read this be so kind as to spread the word to those who don't? Because Christ knows there’s enough trouble in Johnny’s family these days without the nice ones thinking he’s a yob.

(Oh man, I'm going to hell. I said "Christ knows" and here it is, Maundy Thursday.)

Which brings us right back naturally around to fish cakes. It does. What? Of course it does! Did I not say right up front that I don’t want to write about snakes in the basement?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind snakes. Really, I don’t. I used to pat them at the Worcester Science Center and therefore know firsthand that they aren’t the least bit slippery or digusting at all. Not like Courtney Love. Shudder. And lord knows I prefer snakes to a spider – or even to these little grey-black spotted beetles we’ve been discovering around the AssVac lately. I don't have any idea what these beetles are. When I try to identify them on the internet, I just keep bumping up against the same general construct, and I plain old don’t want to know what’s going on in the secret nether regions of my house that might call for a forensic entomologist.

I don’t! La la!

So, fish cakes. I mentioned eating them a couple weeks ago and Sparkle asked me for a recipe. I fessed up that I'd bought mine, so my mother kindly posted a recipe there in the comments. You can find it here. But I say “my mother posted a recipe” instead of “her recipe” because I don’t remember ever eating fish cakes when I was growing up. If I we did have them, let me tell you, there is no chance I wouldn't know how they were made.

(Although, to be honest, if we had them, I'd know how to make them but the recipe would go something like this: “A piece of shmo and a slab of shma and a little bit of flour, plus whatever you discover almost-rotting in your crisper drawer.” My mom was (is!) a killer cook, but she’s never been what you call particular about details.)

Okay, so what the hell am I talking about now? Oh, right. The fish cakes. Well, I do not have a recipe. Mom posted one already and if you want the healthy one I got from Charlie you’ll have to comment here and ask her to post it, too. I don’t know how the Christ she gets them to stay in one piece, anyway.

(Oh man, there goes my last best hope at Purgatory.)

I really started writing this here particular blog-post to share my recipe for veggie stew. It is veggy-yummy, and I forgot about it till I was downloading Johnny’s beard-pictures from my camera and saw the shot I’d taken of it weeks ago. Even at the moment that I took it I knew what I planned to say. But then, like a bathroom-break, it fleeted. I’ve been holding it for weeks, now, and I’m fixin’ to explode, so I’ve simply got to get this off my euphemistic chest.

Ahem

So, um, tune in on Friday for

How to Make a Really Yummy Veggie Stew

Oh, and by the way...

JOHNNY FOUND A SNAKE IN THE BASEMENT!!


Oh please. It's just a brown snake. Did you really think, Grover, that there'd be an honest-to-god Monster at the end?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Pong. It's A Word.

I. Hate. Housework.

Ha! That was a Freudian slip there. What I meant to say was I. Hate. Yardwork. I’ve been planning to say it in my head for hours. Just like that, too, with the periods and capitals and all. Then I was going to say it again like normal, with all this other writing after, too. It was going to be so funny! But when I finally sat down to type, it came out all poopsie-daisy. So let’s try this again, together, shall we?

I. Hate. Yardword.

(Oh hell. Whatever. Fat lot of good you people are. I tell you what. Screw it. I’m moving on.)

I hate yardwork so much (there we go), I actually believed the Boston Globe last fall when they said you didn’t have to rake your lawn. I know! Right? But it's true. I'd link to it if I were a bit less lazy, but I'm not (as you shall see). Really, though, they said that if you had mostly maple trees (which we do!) and especially if you were expecting a harsh winter (which we had!) then you could leave your leaves all over the damn place and they'd be rotted and absorbed by Eastertime.

Stoopid Globe.

The flaw in this logic didn’t even occur to me until I was bitching about it to my hairdresser the other day. See, the grass started going green this week -- overnight, as a matter of fact, on Wednesday -- and I knew that if I wanted any sort of lawn at all this summer, I could put it off no longer. I had to pick them up this weekend. Now. Now. Now that they were all squishy and pongy after six months of freezing and thawing and freezing and absorbing the brunt of a particularly harsh winter.

So I was sitting in the chair, letting Edward Scissorhands fuck up my hair for the third appointment in a row (he did a good job the first time, but since then it has devolved into what appears to be a sort of modified "O Superman" mullet. Yay. But that’s another story for another time) and suddenly the flaw in the Globe’s logic rang out O Super loud and clear:

If you didn’t have to rake your lawn every year, then nobody would. Doy. What do they think, we all actually care how the neighbors feel about the appearance of our lawns in January? Pong.

Now, the downside of this for me (well, the other downside – in addition to the fact that I had to do the yardword, and that I now had to deal with leaves that had all but turned to pong-ass mud) was that, if we had done it in the fall like you’re supposed to – or, for that matter, if we’d done it a month ago when it first became obvious that the Globe was full of pong – I would have had my husband’s help. He doesn’t like it any more than I do, but he is at least an extra set of hands. An extra rake. And often, when I’m working myself up into a good snit because I have to actually do the things that go along with being a non-wealthy grown-up who has chosen not to breed, he makes me laugh. Which is pretty good of him. Especially considering the fact that, if he were in control of the ovaries around here, we’d have a whole litter of lawn-rakers running around.

But I digress.

The point is this: the yardwork needed done. It needed done immediately. And Johnny has broken ribs. But just as I was contemplating taking my own self out of commission with a strategically-placed slice of tomato or something, I remembered:

Dr. One Friend's coming this weekend!

I emailed her. I told her all about how smart and young and beautiful I thought she was, and I confessed my sorrow at having to report that I'd be occupied for nearly half her visit because of my unfortunately no-long-avoidable obligation to my yard. And then I allowed as how I might see myself treating her to a no-holds-barred calorie-fest at our favorite guilty-pleasure, too-embarrassing-to-name national-chain restaurant, if only she would be kind enough to, I don’t know, sit in the goddamn yard and keep me company while I worked.

She offered to help!

Well, naturally, I was shocked and humbled by her suggestion. But what else could I do besides accept?

And then, also naturally, all the weather guys could talk about was rain.

Seriously, I didn’t know what I would do. I couldn’t even conceive of myself raking that yard alone. I’d already sworn to do it once, while Johnny was away. One hour a day, I told myself, till it was through. And then I heroically failed to even start. If One Friend came and went this weekend in a hail of stormy weather, I might as well park a rusty old van in my yard and have somebody knock out half my teeth.

(Cuz of the pongy-yard image, you see? It's white trash. Oh, never mind.)

But Saturday morning, as it turned out, was free and clear. They predicted rain for afternoon, but this was not supposed to be an all-day job. One Friend and I were awake and dressed and fed and coffeed before nine (but not showered, ‘cause we were only fixing to work up a pong), and we were raring to well-begin. And you know what they say about well-beginning, right?

Yahoo!

One Friend has never been in my basement before. In fact, she pretends to not believe that it exists. But she came down with me this morning to gather yarkwork implements – and so she was with me when I realized that the leaky pipe I “fixed” last April didn’t hold. There was water everywhere. I didn’t care. That is not the point of this story. That leak was not my problem. I fixed it last year, this year was Johnny’s turn. I put a wee paint pot under it to catch the slow drip that was coming at the very moment, and reminded myself to remember to tell Himself to switch it out.

(Hang on a second... Okay, I told him.)

(Hang on another second... Okay, now he's actually done.)

And then it turned out I’d misremembered the details of our Implement Inventory. All I could find down there was the cheap-ass old rake, the big-ass floppy plastic one I bought last year when I broke the old one, and the metal one we use for ponging corners. Still, though, that was plenty. One Friend could use the big-ass one because she’s bigger, I could use the cheap-ass one because I’m -- well -- and we could fight over the pongy corners.

Go!

Well, didn’t I break the cheap-ass one on my very first rake? Yes. Yes, I did. One Friend says you really should have seen the expression on my face. I wasn’t even all that mad – I am Destructo, after all – but it’s a good thing she stopped me before I went in the house. I was going for my wallet so we could get a new rake at Blowe's, but she noticed just in time that -- in that selfsame inaugural 30-second spurt -- I put my foot in a snow-sogged pile of One Doggy doo.

My god.

Have I mentioned how much I ponging hate yardowke?



It’s done now. We bought a new rake and another little one for corners, the rain held off, we worked our tails off and were done in just over two hours. After that we had a couple beers (well, I did), and a nap and a shower (both of us -- but not together, jeez!), and any minute now we’re off.  To (okay, I'll admit it) Chili’s. For chips and salsa and classic nachos and southwestern cobbs and beer and beer and beer and beer and beer.


And she says she's not even really going to let me pay!

Friday, April 3, 2009

Eleven... Eggs? And One... Cookie?*

I did mention Johnny's back home safely, right? Yeah. T'ank god.

Um, so does anybody want to venture a guess as to what this newly-discovered windowsill sculpture might possibly be about?


He's at the pub (I did mention he was home, right?) so I can't ask him. I'll tell you what, though: I'm sure glad he found a more creatively productive use of his time while I was out than, oh, I don't know, VACUUMING like he was supposed to!


*I know, I know: there are actually seventeen eggs and one cookie here. Okay fine. Sixteen eggs. Sixteen potatoes and one onion. But if I called this post "Sixteen Potatoes and One Onion" NOBODY would get the reference. As it stands I might have to wait till Monday and my sister reads this blog from work before anybody gets it. Too bad my sister doesn't love me enough to read my blog from home.

Spuds.

Johnny's Beard

...is exactly half white.



He swears it was like that before he left, but I don't think so.

Although, hm...


...maybe I just never noticed it before.

You wanna see something else weird, though?

Here's a picture of the brother he just buried:



Opposite!

I don't know how to interpret that in the grand scheme of things.

Anyone?

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

May the Hearthstone of Hell Be Your Best Bed Forever

Dear Aer Lingus,

I think you’re swell. Really, I do. The way you have a monopoly on travel to your country, and in your pride you spell your name all Irish-like. As if “Lingus” didn’t sound like it might be some medi-clinical word for “tongue” – or else a slang word for some unthinkable body part down at the other end of the digestive system. (Although, it being Irish and everything, “Lingus” is probably pronounced something more like “Shropsky” and probably means something along the lines of “piss” or “beer” or “two deodorants.”)

But no, really, I kid because I love. Your name is swell.

So is the rest of you. Those uniforms your stewardesses wear that put one so pleasantly in mind of moldy cheese, and the way you put a shamrock on your planes (which, conversely enough, is not cheesy at all). I like how you leave the orange from the Irish flag out of your color scheme, as well, substituting a slightly lighter fungal shade for it instead. Because you wouldn’t want to remind anyone of your country’s actual history or anything, when you could be calling up images of Darby O’Gill. You know which side of a slice of soda bread the tourist simoleons will stick to, that’s for sure.

And I applaud that.

But what I really wanted to tell you in this letter is how much I appreciate your customer service. I mean, I can’t begin to express how nice it was, when I called last Saturday to inquire about booking my husband’s passage over for his brother’s funeral, to be put on hold for twenty minutes by a machine before getting to speak to a real person. Although the recorded voice asking “Are you still there?” every five minutes was a nice touch. It actually had me answering out loud and feeling like a chump the first few times I heard it – which, in other circumstances, might have had me laughing out loud. I’m sure that was your intent. You bunch of wacky leprechauns.

Getting back to this circumstance, however...


I was thrilled to find out that the person I finally did get on the line (a recent immigrant to the Emerald Isle from the subcontinent, if her accent is any indication), could tell me the industry term for the “my-husband’s-brother-died-unexpectedly-and-he-needs-to-fly-immediately-discount” that I was looking for. “Bereavement rate,” of course. And she sounded sincerely sorry when she told me you didn’t offer any such thing, anymore.

Also, I completely understand, now, the a difference between “booking” and “confirming.” I’m a writer. I really ought to learn to use my words. It was absurd for us to assume that just because he booked and selected his seat within 24 hours of his actual flying time, he would have been automatically confirmed. But you’re right. Calling to substantiate is not the same as purchasing at all. Whoops

Sorry.

And it’s not your fault he was in mortal pain for five hours because of it. After all, I didn’t tell you that he had four broken ribs. His doctor said he was okay to fly and everything, but he didn’t have a note, and I was afraid you wouldn’t allow him up there if you knew. So we kept that bit of information to ourselves. Still and all, it would have been nice if he could have had the window seat he thought he booked, the one that did not include a neighbor’s elbow poking his ribcage through his liver every time he turned around. (It is a bit odd, though, even you have to admit, that your counter-staff person was flummoxed by my request for an aisle seat “with his right hand on the aisle.” But I always have pen and paper in my bag, so I drew that diagram for her with no trouble at all.)

I should have known better – on the day of his return – than to try to telephone my inquiry about the status of his flight. You are very busy. I understand. But, despite your regular, automated requests for me to hang up and go online to get my answers, I was just too simple-minded to figure your website out. All I wanted was to make sure, before I left for work, that his flight had gotten off the ground okay – and your convenient “Scheduled” and “Actual” side-by-side comparison was pretty neat – but as far as I could tell the “Actual” had him landing in Boston five hours earlier than he left Irish soil.

In retrospect, with that kind of in-flight service going, I should have fully expected to spend 45 minutes on hold. But it still came as a bit of a shock when I was disconnected. I mean, the endless, pseudo-“Feelin’-Groovy” tape loop you were playing was annoying, sure, but that didn’t mean I wanted it to end. You must have somehow just known, though, that it was time for me to hang up and go to work.

Considerate of you, as well, to disconnect me after twenty minutes on hold on my cell phone in transit. I know, you didn’t want me to get a person on the line just as my train entered a tunnel. You have no way of knowing they wired those tunnels last year for just these sorts of things. Generally, I find it annoying and unnecessary, but I was really kind of counting on it just this once. Oh well.

And I probably shouldn’t have used My Lady’s phone for hours like I did. I figured – since it was an 800 number I was calling and she wasn’t home – it didn’t matter. I was just trying to save my cell phone battery in case Johnny tried to call. But you’re right. I should have asked permission first. Thank you for repeatedly disconnecting me after I’d been on her phone for too long. What if, while I was doo-de-doo-ing along to your hold music, somebody had been trying to get through?

I can’t believe it took me four hours to figure out The Secret, either, (which I apologize profusely for disclosing here) that if I just don’t hit any buttons at your automated start menu, it rings straight through to an operator. She was right, though. I should have thought to bring his reservation number to work with me if I wanted to be able to find anything out. Naturally, without it, I deserved another ten minutes on hold while she figured out where he had been re-booked. I don’t imagine they use computers or anything at Aer Lingus headquarters. She probably had to dig through piles of parchment scrolls.

Lastly, I apologize for hanging up on that other lady. After eight minutes on hold I got impatient, but I did not dare disconnect myself. So I called and tried The Secret on my cell phone while still holding My Lady’s line to my left ear. It worked again, and that other operator had every right to scold me when I requested that she not put me on hold. I’m sure she was, as she said, “working on it either way” – but after four hours I just couldn’t bear the thought of listening to that hold music in stereo. Still and all, when operator #1 came back on my left-ear line, I should not have just hung up on #2. For all I know, she is still working on it.

Either way, my point is this: it was some kind of customer-service miracle that you managed to get Johnny on an earlier flight. I don't know how you did it. When I ask him, he just keeps muttering about a transit strike. It is a shame I didn’t find it out till he was just about to land, but at least I could leave work early, didn’t get a speeding ticket on my way to East Boston, and managed to be at our regular rendezvous-spot at the airport bar, ten minutes before his adjusted arrival.

I’m sure it wasn’t your fault the plane was an hour late.

I'm sure we can chalk that up to your Lingus.

Thank you,
Erin Ellia

(on behalf of Johnny Conroy)
(who swears he’s never going back to that bleeding country, ever again)

(but we’ve all heard that before, now, have we not?)