It's not about the house.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Day Three, Project 2 1/2: 'Scuse Me While I Kiss The Skylights

My plan for today was to take the porch door off its hinges. Take the porch door off today, the closet door tomorrow, and over the weekend commence to stripping paint -- outside, so I don’t get nose-scabs like I did the first time (which might also have something to do with the fact that I wasn‘t wearing a face mask, because the second time I wore the mask and I didn’t get them. But anyway…) I can’t take the doors off the hinges because it’s gonna rain. Or it might rain. It could possibly maybe have a thunderstorm or scattered shower anytime between now and next Tuesday.

I suppose, now that I’ve already finished doing something else, I could have taken the doors off anyway and just leaned them in the hallway until the weather cleared (or didn’t get bad after all). Ah well, there are plenty of days left in the month. Plus it turns out I didn’t really finish what I was doing yesterday.

I remembered last night about the plastic on the skylights (“remembered,” in this case, should be read to mean “looked up and saw”). Crap. This batch, though, was not my sister’s fault. The skylights are brand-new (well, not brand new. What’s it been? Holy crap: two years, now! Almost three!), and everybody knows that new windows are not supposed to draft. But the Handyman -- who I generally love -- said maybe the reason it was freezing in my bedroom was that the warm air was rising, hitting the cold glass of the skylight, cooling off and falling back down, creating a perpetual sort of negative-thermal cycle. I didn't actually ask him this question, somebody else did, but the answer made sense to me -- especially if you picture my bedroom like a big pulsating lava lamp, with warm blobs of red air bubbling slowly up and cold drips of blue air sinking more rapidly back down…

Why doesn’t anybody ever tell you these things before you decide to install the skylight and spend six months fighting with your contractor about them?

The Handyman said the best way to stop the cycle would be to install storm windows and shutters on them. Yeah, okay, I’ll put that on the list, right after caulking up the sink drain and squirting Great Stuff in the dryer vent. Even the Handyman acknowledges that shuttering the skylights defeats the purpose of installing them in the first place (because who ever heard of decorative shutters on the ceiling?) so as a backup plan he recommended plastic, to at least create a barrier between the room and icy window, with the air between them hopefully serving as some measure of insulation.

In all fairness to the Handyman, I don’t think he’d ever actually done this. I think it was just an I-guess-you-could-try suggestion. Which didn't work. It was still freezing in the bedroom.

Which could very well have more to do with the fact that we have about half as much insulation in there as you’re supposed to have (the walls weren’t thick enough for the standard amount; we were grandfathered in. And again I say: why doesn’t anybody tell you these things? If I’d known how cold it was going to end up being back there I might have sprung for thicker walls. Then again, I suppose if I’d thought it through I might have figured out that half the insulation might mean, well, half of the insulating properties. So never mind.). Or it could have something to do with the fact that the radiator in the bedroom is the last one on the cycle and has never since we moved in been known to actually radiate any heat. (And so help me, if anyone writes in suggesting that I fiddle with the dials on all the radiators to force the heat out back to that one, I will pick up that quarter-ton radiator and throw it through those skylights with my bare hands. I’ve tried fiddling with the dials, the plumbers tried it, three separate furnace guys have tried it -- even the Keyspan representative tried it when he finally came, even though he knew the boiler was broken at the time. It. Doesn’t. Work.)

So the plastic didn’t actually make my bedroom any warmer, but I didn’t see any sense in climbing up there to take it down. I figured it would be just fine until spring, when I’d be climbing up to crank the skylights open anyway. Because, oh yeah, that contractor we fought with over them? He took off with the long-handled crank and we haven’t gotten around to buying ourselves a new one. It's only been two years, after all -- or almost three. Hey, I wonder how much those crank things cost… That could be another project for this month if it’s not too expensive. All it would involve is shopping -- and we know how good I am at that, right? NOT! (Does anybody even say NOT! anymore? Probably NOT.). Anyway, when it finally did get hot about a week ago I didn’t feel like climbing up there so I just turned on the ceiling fan. But now I’m out of excuses. Puritan Manifesto, remember. Plus, it’s only going to get hotter, after all.

So... Stepladder? Check. Found it right outside the bathroom, just in case Johnny ever gets around to finishing that paint job (Puritan Manifesto or no, I have long ago learned to steer far clear of Johnny’s painting projects)… Goof-Off and rags? Check. Right where I left them yesterday (hey, I never said this “do something every day for a month” plan necessarily included cleaning up after myself)… A little Goof-Off music? Check. Johnny’s back to work today so I can listen to whatever I want, so okay this smells good… And we’re off!

Ouch. Here's a hint: Might not want the ceiling fan spinning around if you’re going to be climbing all up under it. Okay, that’s taken care of. Now we’re off.

Whoa, I forgot about how I had to climb all the way to the very top not-a-step of the 6’ ladder in order to put the plastic on. It’s WoBbLy up here… and hot… and awfully bright… Hang on while I get my sunglasses.

Okay, now -- wait. What’s this in the junk drawer? Oh the crank handle, for opening the skylights. That might come in handy. Maybe I should take that back up there with me, too. Okay, now we’re really off.

Whoops. Forgot to press play. Last time, I promise. “My name is Prince, and I am funky…” Okay, there we go. Now we’re really really off.

The plastic practically leaps into my hand, it was barely even stuck there anymore, but the tape won’t give me a loose corner to pull from. What if I just…? Crap. Here’s a hint: Goof-Off, although great for removing tapey gunk, will turn the tape itself into a goopy, slimy mess that just smears around and blows raspberries at you. Oh well, who cares? It’s not like I spent two years stripping this frame. This is just stainless steel -- or aluminum -- or some kind of metal, anyway. And what I learn about this is that if you aren’t afraid of ruining things and you really douse the rag in Goof-Off, not only does it do the job a whole bunch of times faster but you also get yourself a little buzz. Especially if your head and the Goof-Off are trapped together in a shiny pretty little box…

Whoops -- hey, look! Goof-Off removes the white stuff from the metal that is not supposed to be there. It’s not supposed to be there, I swear. I didn’t screw anything up. The plasterers made a mess and we didn’t bother to clean it because someday we're gonna box these skylights in and make them beautiful just like we're gonna make the rest of the house beautiful someday if we don’t burn it down first. Ha! Maybe that’s when we’ll put the storms and shutters in, too… NOT! Heh heh.

Hey! Look! Goof-Off even removes the footprint from the ceiling where I killed a god-knows-what-bug last night with my shoe. That was fun. To reach it I had to leap from the edge of the mattress brandishing my Croc Saber over my head like Ewan MacGregor at his dorkiest (I’m not usually one for the Star Wars references, but I’m not thinking straight right now -- forgive me). That’s how I “remembered” about the plastic on the skylights, actually…

One down!

This next skylight is really tricky. Always has been. That’s not just the Goof-Off talking. It’s over a corner of the bed and even in order to open or close it you have to squish the ladder up against the bed frame and then sort of lean over backwards from the tip-top not-a-step. I don’t remember how I reached to put the plastic on last fall. I think… I think… Did I put the ladder on the bed? No, that can’t be safe. It certainly isn’t smart. And lord knows I would never do anything that wasn’t smafe or smart.

By sort of straddling the corner of the bed and leaning over backwards farther than I ought to be comfortable doing, I can get the goof off of about three-quarters of the skylight frame. From there I have no choice. The ladder must go on the bed if I am going to complete my Jedi Mission. Oh no wait, the Jedi thing was last night. Well, whatever.

Whoa. It iS ReAlLy WoBlY uP HeRe NoW…

Here’s a hint: If you’re ever high on Goof-Off, and you’re on the very tip-top not-a-step of a six foot tall stepladder that’s balancing atop a bed, don’t try to do the “Sexy M.F.” dance.

Though if you do, the mattress makes a nice soft place to land.

Day Three: Accomplished
Total time spent: “My Name Is Prince,” “Sexy M.F.,” “Love 2 The 9’s,” “The Morning Papers,” “The Max,” and almost all the way through “Blue Light” -- in other words, about (oh, Used-To-Be-A-Symbol-Man, why did you have to put the song lengths in Roman numerals on the liner notes?) somewhere around 35 or so minutes
Total cost: Nothing! Unless I amortize the Goof-Off I bought yesterday, in which case $2.35
Having it start pouring rain while you’re at work when you (of course) left the g-d skylights open: Priceless.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Day Two, Project Two: Goofing-Off

“Hey, Johnny? If I wanted to take all the tapey, gunky stuff off the woodwork around the windows, what would I use to do that?”

This is the nice thing about having an in-house decorating expert: no bothersome, impatient-making research to be done. Just ask!

Goof-Off,” he said. “Absolutely. Take it right off.”

“What do I use, just like a wad of toilet paper?” Yes, Erin, because a wad of toilet paper is the answer to everything. Spiders, head colds, cat puke -- a wad of toilet paper and a squirt of Windex, and you’re set.

“No,” Johnny’s very patient with me. “Just a rag.” At last! A use for that garbage bag of clothes that’s been kicking up and down the attic and/or basement stairs since I tried to clean my drawers a year ago! I’ll use an entire t-shirt on each sill!

“Do I need to wipe after it with something? A wet rag or anything?”

“No. Having a dry rag on hand wouldn’t hurt. I mean, you don’t want to leave a puddle lying there or anything.”

“And it won’t…?” He didn’t need for me to end that sentence.

“Won’t harm the finish at all.”

I spent two years stripping that woodwork -- and for a tolerance-challenged girl like me, that’s saying something. I wasn’t working full time on it, of course. I’d do a few hours a day for a few weeks in a row until I would go marginally mad, or the scabs the 5F5 brought out inside my nose would begin to hurt and bleed, and then I’d take a few weeks (or, okay, maybe sometimes a few months) off. But I kept going back, goddammit, and now it’s done. It used to look like this:

And now it looks like this:

And so help me god if the Goof-Off mars the finish I’m going to burn the house down and divorce him.

“So,” I went on, “I can probably get that at the grocery store, right?”

“Goof-Off? No.”

“But I don’t want to get it at Charles Street,” that’s the hardware store near where I work. It’s named for its address -- as in the Charles Street on Beacon Hill in Boston -- and it’s a great little hardware store. Their window displays are fabulous and they have or will happily get just about anything that you could wish for. But they charge twelve dollars for a roll of painter’s tape, and I’m on a budget here.

“So go to Lowe’s.”

“But I don’t want to have to make a second trip!”

“I don’t know what to tell you, love. They’re not going to have it at the grocery store.”

Oh what does he know? It’s not like he’s been doing this for thirty years or anything. They’ll have it at the grocery store. I bet they will.

Yeah, they don’t.

And before you waste your time, they don't have it at Job Lot either. Or CVS. I’m so glad I didn’t make that second trip to Lowe's. Wal-Mart might have had it but I knew that if I walked in there and they didn’t, my head was going to fly off of my shoulders and go spinning around the rafters like an unplugged balloon. Fine, I’ll go to fucking Blowe’s. Which means I have to drive past my house and go a mile in the other direction. But whatever. Fine. Puritan Manifesto, remember…

Huh. Turns out that Humvee that came to a complete stop in the middle of the road and left me blocking the intersection -- when I was so close to Lowe’s I could have thrown my apple core and hit it -- wasn’t just an asshole after all. Turns out the little Subaru in front of him was all smashed up and there was a man standing in the street dialing his cell phone. Maybe I shouldn’t have leaned on the car horn quite so hard. Well, if I could see anything around your stupid Bush-mobile…

Patience, Prudence...

I went to the cleaner aisle at Lowe’s and there were two guys working there. One was wearing a hearing aid (which I didn't notice until after). When I asked him if I was in the right aisle for the Goof-Off he said no, they were working very hard thank you for asking (seriously, I am not making this up). The other guy did not speak English. Actually that’s not quite fair. He spoke English fine, I’m sure. But when I asked him if he knew where the Goof-Off was he said “Goop? Up?” and looked inquiringly at Mister Hearing Aid. Finally a customer overheard and told me to look in the paint department, where I found it and took it to self-check out because I’d had all I could take of Blowey employees.

$4.70 for a small thing of Goof-Off, including tax. I don’t know if that’s good or not. It’s a pretty tiny can. Maybe tomorrow I should have a look at Charles Street and see how much they’re charging. Ooh, and while I’m still here at the register -- why does Lowe’s always need to know my phone number every time I buy anything from them? Do you think it matters that I always make one up?

So now I’m home and I’m off down cellar to get rags… And now I’m off up to the attic to get rags… And now I’m off to -- well, where else can I look? Ah, in the closet, of course. Tricky Johnny, trying to sneak the old clothes back to their rightful hoomes again.

Oh, so here’s a dilemma: if I reach into the rag bag and pull out a perfectly good and practically brand-new dishtowel that I know must have got in there by mistake, am I as bad as my pack-rat husband if I throw it in the washing machine and save it, or does it behoove me to chop it into little bits because I yell at him for salvaging old t-shirts? Talk amongst yourselves whilst I go get off the goof …

This is another project, by the way, that I realize does not exactly count as “home improvement.” Really, it -- like the rug I laundered yesterday -- should be filed under “shit I’ve been meaning to get around to doing and now I’ve simply found a way to force myself to get it done.” The truth is I don’t know why I put the damn plastic on the windows in the first place. It didn’t do diddly-squat towards lowering my heating bill. But yes, I do know. If we’re being honest here, I do. I know exactly why I did it.

I did it because my sister did.

You see, my sister, unlike me, makes good decisions. She finished grad school and she has a good job and she bought a nice house that’s old but isn’t falling down and doesn’t smell like cat pee. If she and her (also-good-job-having, blah-blah-blah) husband thought plastic on the windows was a good idea in their newly-snugly-insulated house, well, then, I’d put plastic on mine. Never mind the brandly-new refinished woodwork, never mind the damper-less (and therefore breezy) fireplace, never mind the daylight I could see through cracks in some of the walls. Just: “Do you really think it’s helping, Brother-In-Law?” “Oh, absolutely,” he replied. Fine then, sign me up!

(Oh yeah, and never mind that two weeks after I put it on we had the floors refinished and I had to take half of it off again to open the windows to let the sawdust out, and then go buy more plastic and do it all over. Sawdust that, by the way, coated the plastic on the half of the windows that I didn’t open and stayed there until I pulled the plastic off in March because apparently I finally found the one thing a wad of toilet paper and a squirt of Windex aren’t good for.)

He was right. Johnny, I mean. It worked, and it didn’t take the finish off. Phee-yew. I only got to use a half a rag though. Oh well. Maybe I’ll just soak a couple shirts in Goof-Off and throw them in the trash. Let the raccoons have a huffing party…

Day Two: Accomplished
Total time spent: Not including the four trips to four different stores looking for the Goof-Off? Exactly the length of one episode of “Entourage” on demand: 30 minutes
Total cost: $4.70
Johnny being always right about absolutely everything: Oh just fucking priceless

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Day One, Project One: Wash The Rug

Not a giant project, to be sure. Not even really a home-improvement project, to be honest. But a project that has desperately needed doing for months, especially since the furnace blew and every trip down to the basement results in a trail of sooty footprints -- which are easily enough dealt with on the hardwood floors but not so much mop-up-able on the cotton woven rug from Job Lot.

Plus, let's just be frank: I'd planned to do this project today anyway, before I had my Puritan-work-ethic, manifestic, epiphanic fit.

So first I had to find the money card. The laundrymat down the road doesn't let you use actual money anymore. You have to put your actual money in the little slot and they give you a plastic card that has more money on it than you plan to spend and they get to keep the difference, either until you come back again or, if you're like me, forever -- because you lose the card and have to get a whole brand new one every time.

Except this time I'm on a mission: don't waste money. So I had to see if I could find the card.

I thought I knew where it was, but it wasn't. We're lucky enough to have laundry machines right here inside the house -- a luxury that I recognized as such even at the tender age of six, when I remember feeling terribly sory for the people who had to drag their dirty clothes all the way up to the center of town. I'm telling you, the day Johnny and I got our first in-house machines was one of the happiest of my adult existence. But I digress... The point is that we have machines in our house so the only thing I have to ever take to a laundrymat is this one particular rug. Even the comforters I've decided won't overload my precious machines, as long as I'm very careful with the way I arrange them in there, and as long as I keep an ear out for the tilt-a-whirl. But this rug is heavy-duty, especially when it gets wet of course, and I would be stupid to try to wash it in our little, regular-strength, household machine.

(Um... don't ask me how I broke our last machine, okay?)

So the only time I go to the 'mat is to wash this rug, which I have only done three times since we moved in here: once before we put it down in the spare bedroom (which is now my office); once when the Nephew (who was staying in the spare bedroom) spilled something so disgusting all over it that I didn't even ask him what it was but just put on my rubber gloves and slid it into a garbage bag and drove it down the street; and once before we put it down in the dining room where it lives now, because ever since I decided that anyone who was going to be spilling anything that disgusting did not deserve my cotton woven Job Lot rug in his spare bedroom/office, it had been folded up in a basket (a BIG basket) on the porch, serving as a makeshift cat bed, and had turned into more of an angora throw. That last time we washed it, to get all the cat hairs off, had been about a year ago, so of course I couldn't find the card.

But then, miracle of miracles, instead of taking a cursory look and having a temper tantrum because it wasn't there -- instead of deciding that I'd lost it and chucking some more money away on a new one -- instead of giving up and throwing the rug in my own g-d machine after all -- I actually slowed down, looked again where I thought it had been in the first place... And there it was.

Hey, this patience thing. I've really got to try it out more often.

So anyway I found the card but of course you can't tell how much money is on it just by looking (though wouldn't that be neat), and I didn't want to put twenty dollars on it in order to use ten (the big-rug-sized machines cost assloads of money, but not twenty-dollar assloads), so I took the fiver I had and borrowed a fiver from Johnny and promised to pay him back just as soon as I broke that twenty (by which time he'll forget, ha ha).

Oh yeah, speaking of breaking things: Johnny's home from work today, and for the next few days, because he broke a toe. I know, can't you just hear the tiny little violins gearing up to play pity music for him? But seriously, he smashed hell out of his left big toe getting wood out of the pile the other night for our very first official chimenea fire of the season, and now it's all purple and red and swollen. He was actually rolling around on the couch last night, moaning in pain (this is the night after it happened), and he's not a guy who usually admits to feeling pain. Doesn't admit, or else just doesn't feel it, I don't know. Plus he is a painter and everything, and he was supposed to be doing an outside job this week, which would have meant a bumnch of climbing up and down ladders and all that other scampery crap. So he really can't be working with a broken toe. Which bodes well for our saving-money project, let me tell you. But anyway...

I had asked Johnny to help me gather up the rug when I was ready. All I needed him to do was stand there and lift one end of the table while I swept the rug out from under it and spread a towel down beneath its feet (because I never got around to putting little pads on the bottom of the table legs when we had the floors done, because the table feet were standing on the rug so why did I need to, and now of course I don't know where the little pad-things went. Hm. There's another project for another day this month, right there! If I can remember that I thought of it, that is...).

So I'd asked him to help me when I was ready, but when I got out of the shower - voila! - he'd already taken the rug completely up without me. Guess his toe is feeling better than I thought. He didn't know about the towel-in-lieu-of-feet-pads plan, though, so there's the table now, sitting barefooted on our brand-new floors, just waiting for me to do something stupid or clumsy (moi?) and put a giant gouge in the middle of the dinging room just like I did the living room the very day we put the furniture back in after we had the floors done (Well, how was I supposed to know there was a tiny pebble caught under the front foot of the wing chair?). When I griped about the barefooted table instead of thanking him and his bum toe for trying to be helpful, Johnny offered to lift it up so I could stick towels under after all, but I decided no, let's live on the edge for the rest of the afternoon...

So I threw the rug in the car and drove to the laundrymat, past the cop that's hiding on this side of the bridge that I have to drive over and back every time I go. Over and back to put it in the wash, over and back to throw it in the dryer, over and back to pick it up and bring it home -- you think I can get past that cop six times in three hours without getting a speeding ticket when the speed limit is twenty-five and he's hiding at the bottom of a hill? Let's see if I can! Half the time I can't remember why I'm standing up by the time my knees are finished straightening, but maybe I can retain this little bit information ("cop hiding under bridge") until it's no longer necessary.

Turns out I had seven dollars on the card, so I didn't need Johnny's money after all (I had a five of my own in my wallet, I'd taken his one just in case -- and yes, I gave it back). I started the machine and went back home to wrestle with my printer drivers for a while.

$5.50 they wanted, by the way, to wash that single rug! Well, in all fairness there was plenty of extra room in the machine and I could have thrown some other things in there along with it but of course I hadn't thought that far ahead. I was lucky to have remembered to bring detergent with me, instead of having to pay a dollar for a single-serving pack like I usually do because oh yeah, right, I'm going to turn around and go all the way back home again to get the soap rather than spend a dollar. (Do you get the idea that, maybe, if I wasn't so gosh-darm impatient all the time, we wouldn't be having to wait three months to save the money up to heat our house? Hm... Nope, I don't feel like thinking about that one right now, thank you. La la...).

Finally got the printer working and -- whoops! Time to go throw the rug in the dryer. Sneaky fucker, that cop. He's in a different place this time. Good thing the 180-year-old woman in front of me was going twelve miles an hour the whole way.

The dryers give you 15 minutes for every fifty cents, so I decide to throw it in for an hour and a half. This rug is thick and woven cotton, which I believe I may have mentioned. Usually I put it in there for an hour (because anything longer just seems patently absurd) but usually it isn't dry when I pick it up and then I have to spread it out on the lawn or something and I really want to get this done today. Puritan Manifesto, remember. Actually, I used to lay the damp rug on top of the Cadillac like a cozy little blanket but, alas, Francine P. Caddy is no more. And I am not laying it on top of Chuck the Fucking Truck because I hate him. He can freeze for all I care. Getting flat tires every time I head west on the Massachusetts Turnpike -- he can kiss my ass. I swear to god, as soon as I can afford it I am getting another car and putting a bullet in Chuck once and for all. Maybe I'll even drive him off the cop-car-hiding Fore River Bridge. Of course, that day's a ways away yet (there's a country song in there, I think: "The day's a ways away when I/Can put a bullet in my truck..."). So the point is what? Oh yeah, ninety minutes of dryer time cost me three whole dollars.

Right now as I sit here typing this I am waiting for those ninety minutes to be up. I've got thirty more to go, and I am so tempted to just get in the g-d truck and drive over there and get it. But if it's not dry yet I'll have to sit and wait and read a book or something, and I haven't had the best of luck with my book choices these days. The latest, which I sort-of finished last night (I skimmed the last hundred pages or so because I was fighting back the rising gorge) was called I Can't Believe I'm Still Single -- which, trust me, if he really can't believe it then he's got to be the only one. Before that was Bitter Is The New Black -- which suffice to say I finally threw across the room. I only (sort of) finished Can't because I felt guilty for chucking Bitter. The only other book I've ever started without finishing was Anna Karenina -- and I'm not comparing the two at all (AT ALL), I'm just trying to give you some idea of how far my tolerance level goes and how guilty I feel for having given up (I mean, come on, I even finished Atlas Shrugged and I was like thirty-one or something at the time -- way past old enough to know better than that). I've got another book on deck called Daddy Needs A Drink, but after the two fat whiffing strikes in a row that I just had, I'm afraid to take a swing and put that K down in the column --

Hey, would you look at that? I wasted those last thirty minutes!

Got it. Didn't get a ticket (he was there on my way over but gone on my way back, mebbe he nabbed hisself a baddie) and the rug was only a little damp. Johnny wouldn't have let me put it down if he knew it was still a little teeny-weeny- bit slightly moist, so I put it down myself (he was preoccupied anyway, vacuuming the underside of the sofa trying to catch the spider that's been biting his legs ever since he's been on the couch with the broken piggy. And again I say, bodes well for the piggy that he's capable of such stunts -- methinks he will be back to work before we can cry wee-wee-wee all the way home). So what I did was, I spread the rug mostly out under the table, right up against the legs, then I got down under it on my all-fours and arched my back up against the underside like a cat to lift it, then smooshed the rug out under the feet with the tippy-tips of my extended fingers. Easy-peasy.

The dirty footprints are still there. But I don't give a soot.

Day One: Accomplished
Total time: Well, total time actually doing things only about 40 minutes.
Total cost: $8.50 -- but only five bucks out of pocket.
Sooty Footprints: Priceless.

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Manifesto

So, I've decided.

It will take us a few months to save up for the new heating system. Until then, all the cash is spoken for, but therefore my free time is just that -- free.

Rather than spend it all whining about how things never get done around here because big disasters keep popping up, I'm going to put that free time to proper Puritan use.

Every day, from now until July 1st, I resolve to do one thing around this house. One thing that won't cost any money (or let's say won't cost more than a can of 5F5). One thing that I've been meaning to get around to but I've just kept putting off. One small job, or one hour's worth of a bigger job, every single day.

Some days, honestly, it's going to be cleaning -- because I just can't see vacuuming and dusting and mopping and everything and then still spending an hour stripping paint. And one or two days in there I'll have to skip (I'm busy, for example, on the 24th). But other than that? Those doors I never got around to stripping when I did the woodwork -- their shabby-looking days are numbered. That functionally obsolete staircase won't be -- well, it will still be functionally obsolete, but at least it will be clear. The shelves I've wanted to hang in the entryway and the crap still piled out back from the back room construction that's been finished for more than a year -- all that shit is getting done at last.

And then I'll write about it.

I swear to god.

For a month.

Then we'll see how it's going after that...

We're Not Worthy

Everyone who writes houseblogs are always doing things, and apparently we're big old lazy slobs.

Because, see, we need time between projects. Not just to recuperate -- although of course there's that -- but time to get money together to tackle the next big thing.

"The next big thing," though, is never what we thought it would be, because suddenly the chimney leaks, which tells us that the roof is falling in, but before we can replace the roof the furnace explodes. So we have to try first to make sure we'll have heat for the winter -- which hey maybe, if we're lucky, will never come!

If the winter does come, well... If you cain't make it nice, at least you can make it liveable.

And if that doesn't work, then just close your eyes and remember this...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Welcome Bleacccch

I'm home.

And my house smells like cat pee.

It's not my cats (trust me when I say I have crawled around my house sniffing the floorboards).

The strays I've been feeding have apparently been pissing all over my house all winter, and now that it's (finally) warm out, my entire -- and I do mean entire -- house, smells like cat pee.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Home, And Away

I tried to find something else to write about today – really I did. I’m on vacation in northern California and I wanted to talk about houses without basements or weather without rain or life without the AssVac. Nothing leapt immediately to mind, however, so I went and bought three newspapers to see if they could help me think of anything to say. I bought the Sacramento Bee, the San Francisco Chronicle and, just in case those others came up snake eyes, I tossed the Grey Lady in there, too.

There was nothing in the Bee except twelve articles about those two poor whales who came in to the delta to lick their wounds in peace and quiet and now are getting shot at and hollered at and chased around by well-meaning rubber-neckers, and speculation about why it might be the two of them are starting to look a little stressed…

I thought there was going to be nothing in the Chronicle, either, but on the next-to-last page I found it. It turns out to have been reprinted from the Times, however, so oh well. I guess even on vacation it’s the same-old, same-old gripes for me – even if I do try to broaden my horizons. (I ate white corn, though, instead of the butter-and-sugar variety I get at home, and I think that counts for something. It wasn’t any good – tasted like cow corn – but I’m willing to blame that on the season and not the region. Ain’t I swell?).

So anyway this article I found in the Times by way of the Chronicle is headlined “The tyranny of the second home” (the Chronicle actually only capitalized the first letter of the title so I am, too – it seems to be the San Francisco style, even on the front page. I think that’s odd. I’m going to have to assume the Lady would have capitalized every word, but the article isn't in today’s edition so I can’t check to be sure. Anyway…)

Now, except for that little modifier in the title (“second” homes), I started out all sympathetic. I mean, it must be nice to have a pied-à-terre in Manhattan with which to split your time and all, but house woes are house woes and my natural inclination in such matters is to lean mostly towards compassion. Plus, since these people are only in these houses part time, they have to deal with everything we deal with every day, only they have to do it all only weekends, when they – like the rest of us – really want to be relaxing. So okay. Poor them.

But then (and of course there’s going to be a but-then) there’s this:

First Man complains that the contractors “saw him coming” because the brand-new house he decided to build (on a farm that, by the way, already had a farmhouse) – the brand-new house he decided to design himself even though he’s not (as best I can figure) actually an architect – the brand-new house he went through seventeen drafts of the plans for – complains that the contractors “saw him coming” because they said they couldn’t build this brand-new house for $200,000 like he hoped. For shame, those contractors!

The article doesn’t say anything about the actual design of the house, but First Guy does mention a wife and children, and I’m assuming he wasn’t going to ask his however-many children to share a bedroom, or ask his wife to share a bathroom with them, or ask his guests to sleep on the couch. Maybe in New York City you can build four beds, two-and-a-half baths and a professional quality kitchen (well, we hardly think he’s going to settle for formica, do we?) all for under $200K – but not in the Berkshires, baby!

He goes on to say that the contractors “wanted three times that … which [he] felt he had to pay.” Um, Buddy? I can’t help but think here of something I know to be true: sometimes contractors quote what’s called an “asshole” price – they don’t want to do the job, for whatever reason, so they quote a price so high you’d have to be an asshole to say yes. If you're dumb enough to say yes, then they're smart enough to take the money. So, while I doubt $200K was a reasonable estimation, it is just possible that the 600 was your own asshole fault…

And the Second Guy – well, let’s just introduce Second Guy the same way the Lady does:

“Then there are the really big issues that lend anxiety…”

Ooh, ooh, we’re getting into the meaty stuff here, now. What are we talking about? Exploding furnaces? Collapsed roofs? Neighbors pricing out your furniture when you’re not around? Bears hibernating in your basement? “Big issues that lend anxiety” – like what?

“ the threat of giant towers in the view.”

Oh jesus.

Not even stupid cell phone towers but “a threatened power plant.” Ooh, please, not…power! Unless it’s the kind you can throw around, apparently. Second Guy actually fought against those towers and sort of won (they were built, but shorter). But then the bastards wanted to build another factory, to - I don’t know - make shit to build houses with or give some jobs to locals folks or some such crap like that, and so Second Guy sold the house and got away. Phew. There but for the grace of God, you know? That was a close one. Second Guy says he’s thinking about buying another second house somewhere else (presumably somewhere they wouldn’t have pesky local industry to worry their heads about) but what with the kid’s tennis and fencing lessons and all the traveling they do, well, he says: “I’d feel awful spending all that money and we’d never be there.”


Imagine what it’s like for those of us who never leave.

So I have an idea.

Someone should build a community on a couple thousand acres – in the Finger Lakes region, or the Catskills, or somewhere. It could probably even, if you planned it right, work like a combination planned-community/nature reserve – like Disney’s Celebration meets Mohonk Preserve. A bunch of extravagant (but not too extravagant) houses, built far enough away from one another so you’d never have to see your pesky neighbors, with a complete staff of gardeners and handymen and such-type local folks (who you’d also never have to see) to turn the water on and off and chase the bears away.

They could even sell the houses on the old assisted-living model: you “buy” it, but it’s only yours until you die. You don’t get to sell it or pass it on. When you’re gone, it goes back to The Reserve, and they turn around and sell it all over again to someone else. It could become a super-status symbol, because it would show that, not only do you have all this cash to throw around on a house outside the city, but that you also couldn't give a hoot about return on your investment… You’re just giving back to nature, getting a little something-something in return – with the added bonys that you don’t have to spend sleepless nights on the French Riviera worrying about who’ll cut the stalks off the perennials.

Maybe, for an extra fee, they could even get someone to write your blog for you when you go on vacation!

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Weeping Camel, Hidden Wagon

Have you seen this?

Actually, if you haven't already followed the link then I'll just tell you, since the website designers obviously thought cute titles and multiple links were more important than actual facts presented in some semblance of order (hey, maybe that's how I can get a bigger hit-count on my blog! Just break everything down into lots of pages and make you click twice through every sentence...)

Anyway it's something they call The Nomad Yurt, and in case you don't know, a yurt is sort of like a teepee only shaped like a boob. They're used by nomads in Mongolia and therefore they are more portable than, say, a Craftsman bungalow but slightly less easy to set up and strike than your standard Coleman two-man.

These folks think they've found the perfect way to capitalize on this ancient tradition -- sorry, I mean found the perfect way to utilize this ancient earth-friendly practice into our modern lives. A yurt as a spare bedroom! A yurt as a new kind of camping experience! A yurt as a fun toy for the kiddies! A yurt as a place to live until the divorce is final!

With a 12' diameter and 7 1/2' ceilings, this yurt is about the size of, and only slightly short than, the actual spare bedroom in our house. So fair enough on that count. And of course it's much cheaper than building an actual second bedroom -- cheaper by almost half.

That's right, the nomad yurt runs slightly dearer than the old kind of camping experience. At $6,800, it comes in about 68 times the cost of a decent tent -- but then again a decent tent doesn't come with its own wooden floor. Then again again, though, a decent tent does come with an actual, you know, tent. You've got to pay an additional $1,300 for the cloth covering on your yurt. $1,500 if you want it water-proofed...

It's portable, though. It is portable. Only takes an hour to set up "with a little practice" (takes two people an hour and a half the first time), and fits very nicely in the back of a truck (a "light pick-up," though -- a small one). So you could take it with you anywhere. If you have a pickup, that is. And if you don't need to fit anything else in there.

Best of all, there's this: "Q: Do you offer a warranty on the Nomad Yurt? A: The Nomad Yurt is sold on an "as is" basis. We do not service the Nomad. And no fitness for a particular purpose is implied."

Hm. You might want to wait until the divorce is final, after all...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Are You Smarter Than Tori Spelling?

Aaron Spelling made a load of money making a load of steaming TV. He took some of it and built a cartoonishly large house - well, I suppose you could call it a house - and he raised two children there. Children who have told of taking food to bed with them at night in case they couldn’t find the kitchen in the morning. Aaron Spelling died last year, wisely having protected the torrid details of his will behind a trust, and now his daughter is following in his footsteps. Not in death, I mean, but in the steaming load department…

Tori’s got a reality show. I’ve never seen it – in all honesty, that's only because we don’t get the cable channel that it plays on, otherwise I know I would be glued to it On Demand like I am to “The Girls Next Door” and “Breaking Bonaduce” and all the other stupid crap I would never admit publicly to actually watching. Oh. Oops. Well anyway…

Ms. Spelling’s show is called “Inn Love,” and it’s just been renewed for a second season. The premise is that pregnant Tori and her second new husband are sinking her entire (albeit relatively meager, considering the source) inheritance into the purchase of an old (also relative, considering the location) four-bedroom house, renovating it, and turning it into a bed and breakfast.

Now, let’s forget for a second that this B&B is in LA -- not exactly a place that pops to mind when one imagines snuggly weekends spent passing pots of jam or plates of buttered scones to overly friendly strangers who’ve come to table in their stocking feet. Forget also, while we’re at it, the fact that those stockinged feet are going to be attached to Tori Spelling and her freakishly not-handsome, John-Corbett-on-a-bender, central-casted husband. And forget that you’d presumably have to sign a release and agree to be on television before they’d let you pay the (actually relatively modest) sum of $150 to spend the night there.

Forget all that.

Concentrate for a moment on the pure fact that this is what Ms. Spelling chose to do with every last cent of the money that her daddy left her. And, though the specific details were kept private, we all know that it was ugly. Aaron “Jiggle TV” Spelling died – Aaron “’Charlie’s Angels’ and ‘Love Boat’ and ‘Melrose Place’ and ‘Dynasty’ and all the other shows you love to claim you never watched” Spelling died – and, depending on which report you read, Tori got somewhere between $260,000 and $800,000. That's not a typo. Of course, most of us would not consider either of these sums meager by any stretch of the imagination, but still, relatively speaking…

And so – rather than investing it, rather than socking it away, rather than piling it all in Mommy’s gift-wrapping room and lighting it on fire – Tori chose to buy a fixer-upper and put herself on TV. Maybe she is her father’s daughter after all. Maybe that’s what he bequeathed to her instead of all that cash. The instinct to know that the one thing everybody wants to see – next to grown women wrestling in a wishing well or Farrah Faucett running in slow motion, of course – is some bleached-blonde silver-spoon throwing all she’s got into one great big chicken-counting expedition and suffering just like the rest of us when some of her eggs refuse to hatch. Daddy would have gotten it on a network that everyone could watch, of course, but Tori’s new at this yet. And hey, at least she put it out there.

Except she didn’t.

The Times reported yesterday that the house vying for screen time with Ms. and Mr. Spelling on “Inn Love” is actually still up for sale – for 2.6 million dollars! Not only did she not buy the house that the promos and commercials and press and everything say she sunk her birthright into, she couldn’t have afforded to buy it if she tried, not even with three times (or ten times, depending whom you ask) what Daddy left her. She’s leasing it, for an undisclosed amount, with the first option to buy. Except, if it’s still for sale and she’s still leasing, methinks she doth have no intentions of acting on that option. (The article doesn’t say whether Tori really ponied up for the renovations that they’ve done, though mesuspects perhaps the cable network may have paid a share…)

Why didn’t I think of that? Why didn’t I keep my inheritance (okay, in my case it was lottery winnings, and relatively meager ones at that) and why didn’t I just rent – excuse me, lease – some suck-ass property? It’s what I was doing in the first place, anyway! I’d still have two-thirds of my money in the bank even if I did pay for my own renovations – except I wouldn’t have had to pay for them, because it would not be my house! If I could have, on top of everything, figured out a way to sign a contract with some suck-ass cable network, I could have maybe even come out ahead – except, oh, right, that would mean I’d have to be on television. Not easy to do, when you're not from as auspicious a gene pool as Aaron Spelling’s. Plus I'm not sure I want to go parading my too-big-for-my-face cheeks all over the airwaves.

But I digress…

The point is, maybe Tori Spelling's smarter than the rest of us. She got hosed by her father, hosed by her mother, hosed by Hollywood and – well, let’s just say it – hosed by her inauspicious gene pool. But in the end, she hosed them all. She has this house she didn’t pay for. She has a tv show picked up for its second season. She has (for now, at least) that re-new husband. She has a whole new tiny bundle of Jiggle TV genes. And she still has every cent of her inheritance.

So I’m just saying, when it comes to realty/reality: are these chickens we’re counting, or is it fish? Maybe Tori, after all, is the only one who really knows.

Relatively speaking, I mean.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007


The Miracle Worker came yesterday and showed me how to use the pump! So (sorry to those of you who are still where I was yesterday, but) here are some things that have been nothing but wordless (or, rather, wordful) concepts until now...

The new linen closet. Oops, the picture's upside down -- well, you see my point. Especially when compared to..

The scary cubby under the stairs.
Or when compared to (protect the children)...

The Medicine Chest. Why haven't we done anything about this yet in the three years we've been living here? Well, we have plans for the bathroom, number one, which precluded us from doing anything so minor until we were ready. And number two (through a hundred) -- shit just keeps coming up. For example...
Here's what it looks like when you weren't planning on redoing your kitchen but the stove explodes so you have to replace the stove and the stove is only 24" wide so you decide since you're replacing it you might as well get a bigger one and since you're getting a bigger one you have to move the sink and since you're moving the sink you might as well get a dishwasher and... So the left side of the picture is New Kitchen, still unpainted because, well, why paint the new left half when you still have the old right half waiting to be newerized someday? (Oh, and that beer in the lower left? That's mine. Gone now. All drunk up.)
This is a bad picture of a little bit of the bathroom we put in. Looks pretty, doesn't it? See that image in the mirror...?
That's the shelf I finally got around to hanging last weekend. Sat in the corner for a year and a half because I was afraid I couldn't hang it straight. Finally decided fuck it and grabbed the drill. It's not straight, but can you tell?
Functionally Obsolete. And not exactly clear for climbing, either.

Our living room fireplace. The source of all the chimney trouble. Well, that and the freakin' furnace, which I've already written of ad nauseam.
Oh, and this...?

This is the one room that we're proud of. You can't see why we're proud, because I couldn't be bothered to clean it just to take a picture, and I couldn't find an angle to take a picture at where I could show the entire room. But please note the devil eyes on Sister sitting there. She's still wondering where that bleeding mousey went...

Friday, May 11, 2007

Lightbulb Moment

I bought Boston Magazine this week - another magazine I don't generally read, because, well, let's just say I'm so gosh-darned busy. But "Big Papi On Big Papi" was the cover story, so how could I pass it up?

Turns out he has a sister named Albania - which obviously means we were meant for each other - but there's only so many times you can read a single article so eventually I got around to all the other stuff. And lookit what I found:

"P. 114 Living Large: Our Spring Home Design special celebrates the ingenuity and imagination that go into making a big - and we mean big - space feel like home."

Well golly. When they say "big" here, I assume they aren't talking about Papi. So let's see what page 114 has to say…

"Of course, in zoning-crazy Massachusetts, simply getting the megamansion of your dreams built is no easy feat…"

Yes, I hate that. Crazy zoning. Massachusetts should just let them build what they want, where they want. They have all this money, don't they? What else is anybody going to do with all that space? Not actually live in it - that's crazy talk!

To be honest, I didn't even read the article. I'm just looking at the pictures and reading the captions and the pull-quotes. Here are some highlights:

"Custom-designed boot closet [the things you put your feet in, not a place to hurl]… Custom-made king-size bed of Macassar ebony and bird's-eye maple [are you absolutely sure those aren't actual bird's eyes?] … So they turned a church into their personal sanctuary [Methodist, of course] … 20-foot-tall wine racks [they're empty] …former pulpit turned into an entertaining nook [homily, homely: tomato, tomahto] … a 19th-century Caucasian tapestry wall hanging [well of course it's Caucasian] … the room feels like an elevator shaft to her [oh yes, it's just so cramped] …"

Oooh, but here's a whole other related article entitled "The House That Ate Weston" (which, for those of you from elsewhere, is the richest town in Massachusetts, with an average property value of a million bucks or so). I've gotta actually read this thing. Hold on…

Okay, so to begin with: "An old rule of thumb says you shouldn't spend more than three times your annual income on a house [ahem]. Pallota's mansion will eat up just 10 percent of his: barring a market crash [yes, let's pray for him] he should be able to pay off his entire property in less than six weeks."

Nope, not reading the article. I'll boot-closet. But there's a sidebar: "After sizing up Jim Pallotta's jaw-dropping spread, we figured out how much dough he's putting into it." Oh goody, let's dish!

Well, to be honest, things like $100,000 home-theater setups and $80,000 regulation basketball courts don't mean anything to me. Neither do landscaping bills for 10½-acre lawns. I just have no standard of comparison. But this one hit home:

"According to lighting designer ["lighting designer"?] Glenn Johnson's plan…Pallotta can expect to spend another $400 to $500 on 2,760 watts' worth of LIGHT BULBS [emphasis mine] for the EXTERIOR[mine, again]. Of course, he'll need several hundred more inside."

Of course. But how many Methodists will it take to change one?

Monday, May 7, 2007

Functionally Obsolete

Nice phrase, eh? My dad taught it to me when we bought this house. Talking about – well, talking about most of the structure, really, but the attic staircase in particular. Too steep, too narrow, would never be let built in new contruction: Functionally Obsolete. Dad declined to even climb them then, and I think of the phrase almost every time I go up or down myself. They really are too steep, those stairs, and dangerously narrow.

I thought of it again yesterday when my modem died.

I’d been online not an hour earlier, nothing had changed - I hadn't even turned it off or put it on standby (I know, not very green of me, eh?) - but when I asked it to dial in to the network it said I had no dial tone. But there was! There was a dial tone! Six ways from Sunday I tried to make it work, plugging every cord into every jack and into every phone-like object in the house. The line, the cords, the phones were fine. Only the modem had gone deaf.

Or, not deaf: Functionally Obsolete.

Yeah, okay, I stamped my feet and swore a little. I mean sheesh, I’d just off sent six chapters of my book in which I’d finally gotten around to giving pseudonyms to half of the main characters, and then I’d forgotten to mention this little fact to the recipient. She was going to open it and think I’d started writing an entirely new book! How would I let her know? And she’d write to ask and I wouldn’t get the email and she’d think I'd died or hated her or finally crawled into a bottle and — and then I remembered that little hand-held device with all the buttons on it that I’d used to test the phone cords…

Telephones, even those with cords on them: still functionally useful.

Now let’s see, what am I supposed to do about the modem? Should I take the whole computer somewhere? Can they fix it? Can I buy an external modem and hook it up myself? Ugh. Dial up. Why do I have to have freaking dial-up, anyway? It’s so slow, and annoying, and — wait. I don’t have to have dial-up. If I have to buy a modem anyway, why not go DSL? Or why not high-speed cable?

Maybe it’s me who’s Functionally Obsolete…

So I called Verizon to find out what the deal is with DSL anyway. The guy said he could sign me up if I wanted but he couldn’t answer any questions because he was in Pennsylvania and I’m in Massachusetts and anyway, it’s Sunday.

Maybe he is Functionally Obsolete…

But he was right, it was Sunday, and 7:00 in the evening at that. I wasn’t going to be getting my new modem running, no matter what I chose and — hey, speaking of Functionally Obsolete, didn’t I still have my old, no-capital-a computer up in the attic somewhere?

So I went up and I got it. I found the plug and everything. And on my way back down I looked at the steps and I thought: “Gee, Dad’s right. One of these days somebody’s really gonna —” and my sock feet went out from under me and I slid down that Functionally Obsolete staircase on my toosh. My feet hit the door, which is thankfully Functionally Obsolete in its own peculiar way so it kicked right open, and I slid out and all over the kitchen floor.

(At this point I tried to squeeze out a few tears, Eliphaz, really I did, but it was just so goddamn funny!)

The computer made it through the slide unscathed – well, no more scathed than it was when it went in, at least. Me, I have some seriously painful ulnar bruising and a hematoma the size of a softball on my left butt cheek, but otherwise I’m okay too.

I went with high-speed cable internet. They can’t come 'til Tuesday -- sorry, UNtil Tuesday - the 15th, which is actually nice because it gives me just over a week to fantasize about how great high-speed cable will be, until they actually show up and tell me which part of what I have is too Functionally Obsolete to make it work.

In the meantime the old computer is set up again, so I can send and receive emails and I can write stuff on my blog, but I can’t post pictures - not on this F-O thing.

Doesn’t matter. Camera’s broken, anyway. I think it was never functionally solete to begin with…

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Abhorticulture At The AssVac

Do you have tulips in your yard? Or does a neighbor? Somebody must. Do me a favor and go out and look at them...

Okay? Got a picture in your head?


Mine look like this:

Pretty, eh?

And my photography skills aren't up to capturing the full nuances of color, the gentle browns and yellows around the edges of the leaves...

Friday, May 4, 2007

Happy Fairie Puppy Love

A friend of mine – let’s call him Eliphaz – says that maybe by writing this blog, by joking and laughing and making fun of the bad things that happen, I might possibly be bringing it on myself. If I would just weep and wail and gnash my teeth a little, he suggests, maybe the universe (or the house, or Satan, or whoever) would stop fucking with me.

Well, I don’t know about teeth-gnashing, but how ‘bout this:

So today

I awoke, first of all, from eight solid hours of uninterrupted sleep to find that the sun had risen a full hour early. No gloom and doom today, not even at 4:45 a.m.!

It was warm – outside and in – so I opened the lovely old ripple-glass windows with only gentle pressure from a single finger, no slamming and swearing and breaking of thumbs for this lovely old house! On a whim I raised the screen as well, and leaned out, and when I did a little cartoon bluebird came and lighted on my finger, whistling the tune to “Oh, What A Beautiful Morning…”

I was barely surprised at that point to notice the lawn freshly sprouted with good-looking green grass – and positively rolling with fat and playful puppies!

Sitting down at the computer, I discovered that not only was everything I’d written last week positively brilliant, despite what both my conscience and my agent say, I also had somehow learned in my sleep to speak html. So I can, at long last, make this blog something deserving of the millions who read it. I'll get to that first thing tomorrow. In the meantime…

On the way to drop Johnny at work, I noticed that the car had stopped making that noise – all of those noises, in fact – and seemed to be actually manufacturing gas for itself as we drove along. How interesting.

When I got home, I (for once) remembered to put the biweekly recycling out in time, so I didn’t have to let it sit around my kitchen for another fortnight. And I certainly didn’t dump it in a bag and hide it in the bottom of the barrel with the trash. I would never do that…

After working out and showering, I stepped on the scale to find a little spring on it had gotten loose in back. I reconnected it and discovered that I weigh twenty-five pounds less than I had thought! I tried on my skinny jeans to see, and sure enough, they fit. They were baggy, even.

The mailman came while I was trying on my pants and he brought nothing but checks and periodicals – no, wait, nothing but checks from periodicals!

I went to work but was sent home after twenty minutes because, well, it’s just such a beautiful day. And I’d had the forethought to drive to work again, so I spent only four times as long on the commute as I had spent actually there (that sounds mean, but it would have been seven or eight times if I’d walked and rode the T).

When I got home there was a message from my high school (those of you who read my last post remember the letter from my high school). They said it was all a big mistake. They didn’t mean to say I owed them money – they meant to say they were naming a library after me, because they’ve heard how brilliant everything I’d written last week was…

And now I’m sitting here telling you about it – not drinking, not smoking, not shooting up or sniffing glue…

See, Eliphaz? Job never buckled either, and just look how his story turned out...

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Assassination Vacation

The AssVac, in all her glory... That's my Guardian Angel shining over her shoulder!

Today I got a letter from my high school – my high school! – telling me that I haven’t paid back a dime of the $1500 I borrowed from them towards tuition for my senior year. Now first of all, it was only like $600 that I borrowed, second of all that was twenty-two years ago (I'm much younger than my years, believe me) and third of all I know I paid it back. But I paid it back in like 1993! I don’t have a copy of the taxes I filed two weeks ago – do you think I have check registers going back fifteen years? (Okay fourteen years. I exaggerate a little, can you blame me?)

Good lord, what am I – Pig Pen? I feel just like freaking Pig Pen, except instead of a cloud of dust surrounding me it’s a big black cloud of doom. Sorry, let me rephrase that: big black cloud of DOOM.

It's got to have something to do with this house.

So here’s the plan:

We’re going to turn the house into a bed & breakfast and it’s going to be called Assassination Vacation (with apologies to Sarah Vowell). Except it will be more like a bed and help-yourself, because Johnny will be outside trimming topiaries and I’ll be too busy typing allworkandnoplaymakesjackadullboy over and over and over again to pay anybody any mind.

If you’ve got someone you hate and wouldn’t mind if bad things happened to them, just give them a weekend at the AssVac! If you really hate 'em, give 'em a week. Two weeks and they'll sign anything you put in front of them if you loosen up the straitjacket enough. Any longer and, well, no telling what might happen. Except that noooo one could be found guilty…

In case you were wondering, the “plumber” never called or sent an estimate. Oh, and also I blew out another sneaker on my way to work today. I drove to work, somehow blew out my left sneaker, and I drive an automatic! Oh great, now that's gonna explode.

Johnny says I picked the wrong week to quit sniffing glue.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007


I don’t give a hoo about plant life. Seriously. I majored in biology and never took anything approaching botany. The closest I came was a course called Animal & Plant Physiology – which I only took because I had to – and I almost willfully flunked the “plant” half. Just. Don’t. Care.

Yes, we bought this house largely for the yard it came with, but all I wanted was to sit out on a summer night drinking beer, burning wood in the chiminea and watching the wind. I truly would not care if the grass grew up around my ears and dandelions prowled all around. I certainly didn’t want to have to work – with plants, no less.

Oh, it’s a long story how I wound up in charge of mowing the fucking lawn. Let’s leave it at stubbornness on both our parts and call it draw. Point is, I did. For the first three years. But just at the end of last summer Johnny got a mower. Not new, of course, but new to him. And he swears he’s going to mow it from now on. It needs it now, but I’ll be damned.

So fine. It hasn’t been warm enough yet for drinking beer and watching wind blow, so I haven’t been outside.

A few days ago I noticed this little – very little, as in like apple-sized – yellow-green, bushy, definitely plant-type thing out in the yard by the end of the driveway. Wasn’t something I’d seen before, wasn’t in a place even Johnny would have planted, but it seemed to have just sprung up overnight from nowhere. What was it?

I was curious enough to ask people – Johnny, his friends, the girl he gives guitar lessons to. I’d stand at the window and point “You see that yellow-green thing? No, by the – yeah, right there. Do you know what that is?” But I didn’t really care, so I couldn’t make myself remember to look when I went out, and I certainly could not be bothered to go out just to see.

But tonight, when I was pointing it out to the girl’s father, there were suddenly three more of them! Same size, shape, color, all three of them randomly spaced. Just plop, plop, plop – smack dab in the middle of the yard. Girl’s father said they were dandelions, and even though he was drunk that was finally enough to get my ass out there because I knew for sure they weren’t dandelions and I could not just let that go. (I believe I mentioned above about the stubbornness?)

As soon as I got close to it, I knew. Do you? You must care more about botany, gardening, horticulture – whatever you want to call it, and whoever you might be, you must care more about the whole business than I. So do you know what it is?

Not the best picture, I know. But I’ll give you a hint. Look at the leaves…

Oh yeah, you can’t see the leaves because I suck at this. Well, all right then, I’ll tell you:

It’s a freakin’ bud end off a branch of the maple tree right above where I found it. Wind must’ve blown the bastards down. Hauled my sober ass outside for nothing.

You see? I told you I hated plants! Oh, when is it going to be warm enough again for beer and wind-watching?