It's not about the house.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Every Other Day of the Week is Fine

For the next little while and a half or so, my Mondays are going to be kind of nuts.

Normally, I'm slacker enough that, even though I roll out of bed at 5:30 or 6:00, I don't have to roll off to work until 10:30 or 11:00. But, on Mondays, that rolls back to (gasp!) 8:30 or 9:00.

Normally, I'm obsessive enough that, even though I don't know why anyone would want to read this dreck, I crawl in here and crank out a bit of it before I go. But, for the next few weeks at least (and, if I'm lucky, months), there's something else that I'll be cranking in that time. And I ain't waking up at 3:00 in the morning, no matter how much I profess to love you all.

The rest of the week will still work like it always did: I break something, Johnny suffers my stupidity, I write about it, you read same and make funny, funny comments, the AssVac sits back and plots her next move. But on Mondays I won't have time. I don't even really have time to be doing this today.

Which is, you see, why I'm being so brief about it.


All of this is by way of introducing a new feature on the blog. Let's call it Manic Monday. Or Blue Monday. Depending on which end of the bipolar spectrum I'm feeling. Or just Monday, Monday, in the weeks I'm catatonic.

Here's what we'll do: Every Monday morning I will ask a question pertaining to one of my posts from the week before. You can try to be correct, or just try to make me laugh. I'll pick the winner based on my own eclectic judging system, which will change from week to week -- but if I'm insisting that you try to be correct, I'll let you know.

The prizes will vary, and I'll announce them with the questions. Most of the time, honestly, it will be a poem written in your honor (hey, I'm poor, remember?). Sometimes I'll offer to send you something gross that I found under the bed. Once in a while, though, I will even shop.

And if you knew me, you'd know what a sacrifice that is.

So what do you think? Sound like fun? Shall we start right away?


The other bear suggested that I give away that "tie-dyed" t-shirt, but we decided to wash it first and all the color came right out. The hand-print on Johnny's, too. Dang ity. So we'll kick off this week by playing for a poem, because I've already wasted too much time today to think of something else.

So, for a poem: Remember those empty Toblerone packages that I showed as evidence of my ill-advised chocolate bender? Which is more likely: That I ate them all at once, or that I had one every day and just let the empty wrappers keep accumulating on the floor beside my bed? Discuss.

Jeebers, look at the time. Go!

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Attempting to Find a Motive

One friend is gone -- thank god. Now maybe we can actually get back on track around here!

Normally, as you know, I am a tireless worker bee, puking away for the greater good of the hive. But here it's been two weeks since we got anything accomplished in the kitchen. Well, except fixing that leak. Which has to count for something.

So -- now that Johnny's home and rested up, One Friend is gone, and I've got exactly one month before getting on a plane and flying all the way across the country, then getting in a car and driving all the way back home (!) -- it's time for me to buckle down.

I've got to tear that wainscotting out of the kitchen, run wires through the walls, buy and hang some plasterboard, rip all the old staples out of the ceiling and finish tearing those tiles off the floor -- all while coming up with an outline and synopsis for a project destined, if I do it right, to be hailed as "Huck Finn meets Leopold Bloom" (no "N" word, but lots of "F"s!).

Sheesh, that's a lot of work.

Hey! Was that the Times hitting my doorstep?

I think I'll start tomorrow.

P.S. I've taken a few weeks off of this as well, but I'm back over here today. Sort of. I might have phoned it in a little bit, but at least I got a poet killed before hanging up.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

The Guy Sure Looks Like Plant Food To Me

Last night was One Friend's final night in town. Until next month, that is, when I will be flying out to Sacramento (that's in California) and driving alllll the way home (that's in Massachusetts) with her and her One Dog.

Well, actually, not all the way to my home. But to her new home, in New Haven (which is in Connecticut), from where I will board a choo-choo for the last, two-hour leg. And then, after that, One Friend and I will not only be in the same time zone for the first time in seven years, we will also be just that teeny-tiny little two-hour train ride away from weekend visits whenever we can scrape up the $120.


But for now, back to where I started.

Last night was her final night in town. Also the first time since she got here that she and Johnny were both in the AssVac. So I requested that he make his Special Chicken Curry for our sup. This is something he wants to make at least two times a week, and usually I want to fall to my knees and cry "No. More. Chicken. Curry!" But it is really good, and since One Friend and I have been living since she arrived on a diet of variously-melted cheeses, plus whatever happened to fall under them -- with the incongruous exception of a shockingly large wooden junk decorated with raw fish -- I thought it best to send her off with something healthy in her bel. One Friend was due on the 3:15 from New Haven, she'd be under our roof again by 4:00. I chopped up some veggies to be a healthy snack for us while dinner was cooking, and Johnny agreed to feed us sometime before dark.

One Friend, fortunately, is an avid student of The House and I. So -- even though she was due to arrive at what is, for normal people, just an hour or two shy of suppertime -- she went ahead and ate a sandwich on the train. It's a good thing, too, because when we got back from the station, Himself was still up at the pub. And, for some odd reason, the AssVac smelled like dirt.

We ignored the dirt smell, watched Top Chef reruns, and munched on crudité. And, since I brought it up, let me just say this about this season's crop of "chefs": without lamps, my friends, there'd be no light. (Even One Friend didn't get that reference when I made it out loud in actual, real-time context, but I'm still proud enough of it to want to share. Maybe somebody out there will understand. Amalie?)

Anyway, Johnny got home just in time to ruin the final judging so we don't know who got sent home (though we hope it was Big Baldy. He deserves it for saying that "fine dining and Mexican don't go together" -- as if there is not a single high-end restaurant in all of Mexico. That, and for cooking corn dogs four hours before they would be served. Neomaxizoomdweebie.). And then he (we're back to Johnny, now) had the sterile balls to announce that it was time to make some pickles.

Remember at Christmastime, when we made pickled beets and eggs? Well, Johnny gave a jar of them to Andy. He didn't open them until February sometime, and when he did he ate those suckers up. Liked 'em so much he wanted more, and he also wanted to learn to make them for himself. So -- two days before Johnny left for Ireland -- Andy showed up with sacks and sacks of beets. Twenty-five pounds, all together; ten for us, fifteen for him. He wanted to get started right away, but we convinced him the beets would keep until Johnny got home. Which ours did. In the refrigerator.

Andy, apparently, chose to skip this crucial step. Andy, apparently, brought his beet-sacks home and abandoned them upon the pantry floor. Andy, apparently, was now the proud owner of fifteen pounds of soft white fuzz. So Johnny, being Johnny, determined to save the day.

Which is why the AssVac smelled like dirt when we walked in:

Eau de cooked beet = 1 part corn, 1 part sugar, 1 part dirt. And of course, once they're boiled, they really must be pickled right away. Otherwise, ten pounds of cooked beets sitting in water overnight would leave us with -- well, since this is us (by which I mean since this is Johnny), it would probably leave us with yet another carboy of something homebrewed and disgusting. So I gave him permission to pickle away. One Friend had had her sandwich, after all, and I was picking at my crude. We could wait a few more hours for our curry.

A few more hours later, Johnny was still dicking around with the vegetable peeler. He said he didn't want to just slip the skins off (which is one of the only joys, as far as I'm concerned, in handling cooked beets) because it would make the skins look ugly. Because he planned on pickling the skins as well. Because, as his mother's son, he is constitutionally incapable of throwing anything away.

(I kid you not. Yesterday, I found a small head of Romaine lettuce that was in the fridge before he left. It was not what I'd call fresh, but it was not exactly rotten either -- just sort of limp. He wouldn't let me compost it. He plans to put it with the half-cabbage we didn't cook on Patrick's Day, and make himself a soup. That's right, a lettuce soup. The kicker is, it will probably be delicious.)

But by 7:00, knowing that dinner can take Johnny the best part of two hours once he starts it, and also knowing how I get when I get hungry, One Friend took it upon herself to stop the movie we were watching and go in to help.

Only, instead, she killed him.

There was blood everywhere. On the new cabinets.

On the floor in the back hall.

But, fortunately, most of it went back into the pan the beets came out of. When I saw it there, it suddenly occurred to me how long it's been since I tie-dyed anything (which would be since the last time somebody made me do it when I went to summer camp). I looked around for an appropriate textile to hippie-fy and I found this, which Johnny brought home from his recent trip:

But with his dying breath my husband cried "Ya will, me bollocks!" And, since it was his last request and all, I found a shirt to dye instead.

I left it in too long, though, and something vile happened. I still don't know exactly what. But whatever it was, yuck.

The shirt came out looking like someone washed the car with it. If, that is, anyone around here would ever do a thing like that.

And, also, it smells like dirt. Skips the corn and sugar and just goes full-on underground.

Anyway, after we had finished chopping Johnny into bits...

We drained the blood into the newly drip-free kitchen sink...

And ran the pieces of Himself down the disposal...

I'm telling you, man: when I'm hungry, feed me!

And you don't ever want to mess with One Friend.

Bleah! Boo! Boogah-boogah!

I kid, of course. She didn't really kill him. But she did do this:

And you have to promise not to tell.

Friday, March 28, 2008

I Snooze, You Lose

My alarm didn't go off!

Or else maybe I'm suffering the effects of an ill-advised Toblerone hangover...

Nope. Alarm. That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

At any rate, I just woke up, and Johnny has a doctor's appointment in less than an hour that I've got to drop him off at on my way to work. So I can't tell you right now about the pony. Or the princess. Or the magic, magic beans...

But maybe later.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Snip, Snap, Snout.

Continued from the post below.

Whoops. No. Not the post below. Toblerone stands up pretty well all by its lonesome. I meant to say the post
below the post below.

With me now? Okay.

Pretty much by the time I reached the car in the Home Depot parking lot, I knew I wasn’t going to use the waterproofing tape. I just wasn’t convinced the leaking pipe needed to be torn out and replaced like the Home Depot Plumbing Guy suggested, and something told me that if I taped over the joint I might make it more difficult to fix properly later.

But oh well. The tape only cost $7.49, and I’m sure it will come in handy for something else. If there’s one sure thing about life at the AssVac, it’s that something is bound to need waterproofing sooner or later. You can make book on that, and tell 'em Prudence sent you.

So I drove the twelve miles home, debating: Would I call Andy after all? Would I do dishes in the bathroom sink and leave the leak for Johnny? Or would I drop a match and “accidentally” burn the house down? I could see pros and cons for each one of these perfectly reasonable resolutions.

And then, as I came around the rotary on the other side of the Fore River Bridge, I saw my answer. Cue rays of light from heaven and Zarathustra music, please…

Mazzini Plumbing Specialties! Old Skool!

Since the AssVac lies just the other side of that same bridge, I'd always known this store was there – I'd even been inside a few times (okay, once) – but I'd forgotten. Now that I remembered, I knew exactly what to do.

I went home, got my trusty camera (for which I had fortunately purchased new a new battery that very afternoon), went down cellar, and took a picture of the leaky pipe.

I know, I'm brilliantin', amn't I?

Although, huh. As it turns out, that's not so much an elbow joint at all (like I told the Home Depot guy it was, after I said a couple other, even wronger things).

Oh, well.

I also, while I was down there, upended the empty bucket (the drip was dry, since I hadn’t run the water in two days), clambered onto it, and laid hands on the pipe itself. I figured I might as well see if it was glued. The man at the Home Depot had wanted to know, so there was a chance the Mazzini Plumbing guy would ask me, too.

It wasn’t. I could pull the two pieces clean apart. Considering that Home Depot Guy said we needed to cut the pipe out and replace it only “if it had been glued,” I took this for good news. So I headed with my good news – and the camera – back over the bridge and around the rotary.

There were two guys behind the counter at Mazzini’s. One looked kind of like this:

And the other, kind of like this:

I chose door #1.

“I wonder if you could help me out,” I started. “I’ve got a leaky pipe in my basement, and I brought a picture of it—”

“Great!” said Joey.

“Let’s see!” said the old man.

So I pulled out the camera and I called up the shot. I tried to hand the camera to them, but they did not reach out their hands. They just bent over and peered at the little screen – Old Man over Joey’s shoulder – while I tried to guess at the optimal viewing angle for them with the overhead fluorescent lights. After a few seconds, I gave up.

“You can go ahead and take the camera,” I suggested.

“Gee, thanks!” said the old man. “I could use a new one! Ha ha!”

I tell you, these guys were chock full of exclamation points.

Joey took the camera from me, gingerly, and when he looked at the screen again his face went pale. Oh, shit. Shit! What? Just tell me. Whatever it is, tell me. I can take it.

“I did something,” he said. “I hit something. I hit this button over here, and now it's gone all black.”

“Oh! That’s okay. That’s what that button does. I only figured it out myself a few weeks ago. Here, give it to me.” I may not know much about plumbing, but at least I don't go around breaking cameras by touching them. Not anymore, anyway. Or yet.

I took the thing back and got the screen working again, called the picture up and handed it back over. Joey took it, this time by the corners – where there were no buttons to be accidentally pushed – and he examined the picture right up close.

“Looks to me,” he said, “like the pipe was never glued.” Old Man wasn't paying attention anymore, having taken a quick glance and turned to root around for something on the shelves behind them.

“What you want to do,” Joey continued, “is – can you pull it apart at the joint? Do you know?”

Why, yes, on both counts. Yes, I thought to check that out before I came here. And yes, indeed, I can pull it apart at the joint. (Dig me, having answers to the questions people ask!)

“Right,” he said. “What you want to do is take a bit of sandpaper and sand it down. Sand the pipe and inside the joint. Then clean it – pipe and joint – and cement it, also inside and out. Put the cement on, slide the pipe in right away, and hold it for thirty seconds or so to let it set. That ought to do the trick.”

“So I clean it with what? Rubbing alcohol?”

“Nope,” says Joey. “He’s setting you up right now.” And thunk, Old Man set a tiny can down on the counter, labeled Whitlam Clear Cleaner. And thunk (or actually more like tink, considering they were so small) another one, labeled PVC Cement.

(For comparison’s sake, that’s my Toblerone behind them. And no, I did not open it and eat one already – why?)

“Great!” I said! Those exclamation points are catching! “So what do I apply the cement with? Does it matter?”

“There’s a brush right on the lid – see?” and Joey opened up the cleaner-can to demonstrate.

Well, I’ll be. What they won't come up with next.

Old Man rung me up. “That’ll be $8.17, please. Hell of a lot cheaper than a plumber!”

“You got that right, boys!”

As I turned to go out the door, somebody I didn’t see hollered out from behind some rows of shelves: “Hey! Did she pay the consulting fee?!”

And we all had a good, exclamation-pointy laugh.

So I went home and I fixed it. I couldn’t, as it turned out, pull the pipe apart enough to clean the inside of the joint, but I did the best I could. I put extra-globby amounts of cement on the pipe before I shoved it in, and I held it for a full minute instead of the thirty seconds recommended. I also, for good measure, painted a little cement around the seam when I was finished. And, just to be safe, I continued to not wash dishes for another day or so. But when I eventually did, my patch job held.

Andy called to check in on me that night after it passed the washing-dishes test, and I was so excited to tell him what I’d done. He let me tell the story from beginning to end, the same long-winded way I’ve just now finished telling you, and he made all the appropriate ooh-ah noises at the proper times. But when I was done, after laughing and congratulating me, he said: “Yeah. I told that little troll what he had to do before he left.”

Troll. It's what Andy calls Johnny when he's being silly. I think it has something to do with Johnny's diminutive size, although I always thought trolls were big old hairy things that lived under bridges.

Anyway, when Johnny stepped off of the plane last night, I told him this whole story – shortened a bit, because he already knew about the leak and stuff, but also including what Andy had told me the night before. And do you know what
he said?

“I know. But I didn’t have any of the cement.”

Well, maybe if you’d come out from under your
bridge once in a while, troll!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Johnny's Home!


Oh, hang on. What I meant to say is: I love him and I'm so glad he's safe and sound.

P.S. But also...

You are so jealous.

Darkened Kitchen #1,000,001

Continued from the post below.

After I discovered that the drainpipe drip had morphed into a madhouse shower, I shut the water off and went to bed.

Well, what would you do?

In the morning (this would have been Monday morning), I didn’t have much time – what with all the watching-John-Adams-On-Demand that I wanted to get done before I had to go to work. But as long as that faucet wasn't running, the leak was held at bay, so I resolved to keep doing what I’d been doing all night. Namely: not washing dishes.

I don’t mean to brag, but I could keep this up indefinitely if I have to. I’m selfless and brave like that. Especially when it comes to putting out fires in the AssVac, I am perfectly willing to do nothing for the cause.

But then that voice piped up again. “If Johnny gets home,” it said, “and you have not only managed to turn a drip into a madhouse shower, but you have refused to call for help and left a week’s worth of dirty dishes in the sink – well, what would you do to him if the situation were reversed?”

Reflexively, I covered my testicles – only to realize anew that I had none. On the spot, I resolved to grow a pair of my own by the end of the day.

On my way home that afternoon, I swung into Home Depot. Walked into the plumbing department, searched out the most-knowledgeable-looking sales clerk I could find (read: oldest, and carrying an official-looking gadget of some sort), and cleared my throat.

“Excuse me,” I said, squeaking the way I do when I’m trying not to come across all submissive and dumb (it works a charm, I tell you what). “Could I ask your advice about something, please?”


“I'm assuming you work in the plumbing department?”

“You assume.”

Hm. In retrospect I realize that wasn’t quite a yes. But I’m sure he did, ’cuz watch what happened next.

“I have a PVC pipe that’s leaking at the joint,” I said – and let me tell you boys and girls, I was damn proud of myself for knowing those two things. “I’m wondering if there’s any sort of cement or putty or something that I can just sort of shove in there to make it stop.”

I don’t know how he figured out I had no idea what I was doing.

“Well,” he said, “that all depends. Has it been glued?”


I tell you, I don't know how he sussed me out. Maybe the crickets filled him in?

“How about this,” he continued, still mercifully willing to pretend we might come to a solution. “Is it at a corner?”

“Yes! Well, not at the corner, but there’s a u-joint, and the leak is right below.”

“Ah, so it’s at the trap?”

“Yes! Yes. Definitely at the trap.”

“What kind of trap is it?”


Damn crickets.

“All right, come with me.” He led me around to the next aisle over, held up two different kinds of traps, and asked me to point to the one I recognized.

“Oh,” I said, “the trap...

“No, ahem, I didn’t mean to say it’s at the trap. It’s in the basement. The pipe goes through the floor and turns a corner, and it’s right after that.”

“So it’s at the elbow joint?” And he picked one up, just to be sure.

Elbow joint, that’s what I said! Oh no, wait a minute. Rewind up a couple paragraphs. Yeah, I said u-joint, didn’t I? Damn. I must have been thinking about my car. You see: cars, I know. U-joint, exhaust manifold, carburator, all that good stuff. (And if you're familiar with these terms, then now you know I've never owned a car made in this century -- or in the final decade of the last one -- but that's beside the point.)

“Yes,” I said in a distinctly Eeyore tone. “Elbow joint. That's what it is. Elbow.”

And here is where I just gave up. I hung my head and said the words that I’m sure had Mary Lyon rolling over in her laurel-laden grave:

“My husband’s out of town.”

Somehow, this did not surprise him.

In my defense, this was not intended to be a “save me, I’m a helpless woman” plea. It was meant as more of a passing-of-the-buck excuse: “I’m not quite the idiot you think I am; this is not supposed to be my job.” Like explaining that the sandwich I’m ordering is not for me when the guy at the deli doesn’t understand why I don’t know what kind of cheese I want. He doesn’t care who it's for, he just wants to get the sandwich made and move on to the next customer.

“The thing is,” Plumbing Guy went on, and I could tell by his tone of voice this was the end of our interaction, “if it has been glued, there’s really nothing to be done but take the pipe out and replace it.” My eyes, I know, went all a-goggle at this bit of information. “But I can sell you some tape that will patch it temporarily.”

He was kind enough to not say what he really meant, which was: “until your husband gets home and can take care of things for real.” But I don’t blame him for thinking it. How could I?

The tape seemed like a bad idea to me, but I bought it anyway. At least, if I did decide to use it, I wouldn’t have to go back out and repeat the whole humiliating process.

Maybe I would wash the dishes in the bathroom. Maybe I would continue to not use the kitchen sink, and maybe I would warn Johnny when he got home to not use the kitchen sink, and maybe this would not exactly thrill him, but at least it was better than being greeted – after an exhausting week of traveling from stout to bitter to Budweiser and back again – by a kitchen sink full of dirty, stinking pots and pans.

Speaking of which: if I’m not mistaken, there still ought to be a Guinness or two around here somewhere, leftover from St. Patty’s Day…

Sorry folks, brevity has never been my strong point. I’ll wrap it up tomorrow. Figuratively speaking, that is. Unless I decide to use the tape.

In the meantime, that TITLE is pretty darn obscure, but if anyone wants to take a stab at EXPLAINing it, I feel as though I might have a POEM coming on. The hints are all here, if you plug the right combination of keywords (plus – here's another hint – one extra "s") into the search engine of your choice...

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Everything, But …

The day Johnny left, about two hours before drop-dead go-time, he suddenly interrupted his last-minute packing with a look of panic on his face and made a mad scramble for the cellar stairs. A minute later he came back up, lugging a half-full five-gallon bucket.

“I forgot to tell you,” he said. “The kitchen sink is leaking.”

Wha wha wha WHA?

The brand-new kitchen sink? The okay-not-exactly-brand-new kitchen sink, but the kitchen sink we just put in two years ago? The kitchen sink that we are only now lollygagging through the process of completing the rest of the room around? Correction: not the sink that we put in, but the sink we paid somebody to put in? Sort of? No money actually changed hands regarding it, but still: wasn’t this supposed to not be the type of shoddy work we usually bumble through ourselves? Wasn’t this supposed to be actual, genuine, know-what-you’re doing, licensed mastery?

That kitchen sink?

“Uh-huh,” he said. “Well, not the sink itself, but the drainpipe in the basement.”

Oh, well, that’s a relief. At least it’s not affecting the new cabinets, or rotting – like the old one – through the floor.

“So, while I’m away, make sure to keep an eye on this bucket down there, and blah-de-blah-blah-blah…” I know he said some more words after that, but all I heard was “one more AssVac disaster,” then the blood rushing in my ears made everything go all white-noise and drowned him out completely.

My own personal Defense Against the Dark Arts: selective deafness. Amazing, these self-preservation superpowers that kick in without our even being aware that we possess them, don’t you think?

He left, you may recall, on a Sunday. That Thursday, four days later, I was talking to a friend on the telephone when she said something that called to mind the image of Johnny lugging that heavy bucket up the stairs. So I told her the funny, funny story of our leaky kitchen sink, we both had a good laugh over the AssVac’s brilliant mind for base misfortune, and then, while she and I moved on to shoes and ships and ceiling wax, I jotted down a quick reminder to myself:

Check bucket.

Fortunately, it turns out you don’t have to empty the bucket every day. Fortunately, it turns out that the full five-gallon bucket is just too freaking heavy to be lugging up those (also f-o) basement stairs. And fortunately, I did not wait until after work as I told myself I’d do.

Yikes. And, may I just say, pee-freakin’-yew.

I think Johnny must have dumped some bleach in there. He’s a big believer in the bleach, my Johnny is. Because it had a sort of cloudy yellow tinge and a distinctive acrid note – but the rest of the bouquet was decidedly stuff-that-went-down-the-drain-a-week-ago. Skanky, smelly, cloudy, chunky, funky, fetid — bleah! I dumped half of it from the full bucket into that empty one conveniently standing by, lugged the half-bucket up the stairs, then decided I’d had enough of that and went to work.

When Johnny called that night, I asked him.

“About that bucket in the basement,” I said. “Is there anything else I ought to know?”

You like how I did that? He won’t remember what he already told me, he never does, so he’ll start at the beginning and tell me the whole thing again, as usual. Normally I find this trait annoying, but this time I was glad. It meant I didn’t have to admit I wasn’t listening the first time, didn’t have to admit that I’d done nothing up till now.

“You know what?” he said. “Why don’t you just call Andy? He’ll come by and put some cement on it for you.”

Dammit, Johnny, that is not what you told me the first time. At least, I don’t know. I don’t think it was.

Andy. God bless him. Whenever Johnny goes away, Andy always keeps an eye on me in his absence. He calls every couple days, we talk about going out for breakfast, but somehow we never do. This sort of chaperoning is not something I would have thought to ask for – I Am Woman, after all, and I did live alone for years before teaming up with Johnny – but I like it. It’s very old-fashioned and chivalrous, and though my Seven-Sisters soul feels as though she ought to bristle at the very notion that a bicycle might come in handy for a fish once in a while, she just can’t seem to get her hackles up.

But still.

I hated to bother him for something as small as this. It bothers me enough that Johnny’s first response in these situations is to call a friend rather than try to piece it out himself; I certainly didn’t want to turn into the Friend-Caller just because he wasn’t home. If Johnny’s only solution to the problem was to get Andy to fix it, then I could empty the bucket until Johnny came home, at which point he could make that call himself.

And so that was my plan. Until.

Sunday night, as I was washing dishes, I heard water running somewhere after I had shut it off. I checked faucets and toilets – even checked under the fridge, because sometimes it drains weird and fools us like that (and yes, we need a new fridge; and no, we won't be getting one for a while – but that's a story for another time). I found nothing. But by that time the noise had stopped. So I went back to the task at hand.

Wash a few dishes. Shut the water off. And sure enough: there was that noise again.

Oh crap, the bucket! For all my trans-Atlantic, making-sure-I-know-what-I-should-be-doing talk, I had not been in the basement since that first time on Thursday. The bucket must have overflowed and is now running all over the basement floor! I grabbed the spare that I’d brought up half-full the other day, and tore down the cellar stairs to have a look.

In my haste, I forgot the camera, but the good news is that the bucket was not, in fact, spilling all over the basement floor. The bad news is that the leak had graduated from a steady drip into a sort of madhouse shower.

I decided that the best plan, certainly, was to stop washing dishes right away and put myself straight to bed.

Hm. This story’s turning out to be longer than I intended it to be, so I suppose I’ll tell you how it all turned out tomorrow.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter Everybody!

Ta da!

I intended to show you a picture of the truly stunning, Faberge-quality, little ovoid treasures we created, but I can't. Because, immediately upon taking this in-process shot, my camera died.

Don't fret, though: it was just the battery. And the old one had enough juice left to download the images that were in it, which I did without panicking because I knew I had a spare. For once in my addle-headed life, I actually had the foresight to buy two of something, so that I would have backup in an occasion just like this.

(Actually, I'm lying a little bit here. The fact is, they just so happened to come two to a package. And the truth is, I really didn't want to spend that much money that day. The reality is, I looked and looked and tried to buy just one. But they didn't have any one-battery packages, so I sucked it up and bought the pair. Still, though, it was nice to know I had the thing around. Until...)

I couldn't find it.

I looked where the other batteries go, I looked where the camera goes, I even looked in the camera box, which I also saved for the first time in my dispose-all existence. Nuthin. Although I did discover that the CD with the camera software on it has somehow broken clean in two. I don't know how Destructo pulled off that one.

I looked in the junk drawer, and in the other junk drawer, and in the junk drawer in my bedroom. I looked on the bookshelf where I shove shit, I looked in the file envelope marked "camera" (which I have since conscripted for something else because I thought it was empty, but where I found, lo and behold, the SD card I thought I must have thrown away).

I looked in that tray on the table where things sometimes get put. I looked in both little pot-fors on the mantelpiece. I looked in the stationery drawer, the random-electrical-cord drawer, and the Drawer Where Secret "Things" Go. I did find one Secret Thing I had forgotten that I owned (woohoo!), but still no camera battery.

I looked in, on, under, and behind my desk. I looked in the crack between my pile of "ideas" and the shelf where they belong. I looked -- very carefully -- in the place where I cram all my to-be-filed paperwork. I even, just this very second, sucked it up and emptied out the pen thing.


For some reason, One Friend thinks this is hy-ster-ical. For some reason, One Friend thinks this is "oh-so-very-typical" of me. For some reason, One Friend is not at all surprised.

For some reason, One Friend is spending Easter with Somebody Else.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Dr. One Friend Answers!

Welcome to Ask Dr. One Friend, in which we (mostly I) ask questions (mostly about me) to my One Friend, who will answer truthfully (or not) in the Wise Old Manner to which she is now contractually obliged to be inclined.

Ha ha.

Let's begin with a write-in question. Khurston says: "why do AM radio stations fuzz out when you go under a bridge, but FM radio stations don't?"

Dr. One Friend says: A little known fact is that AM stands for Always-clear (Mostly), and FM = Fuzzy (Mostly). So, like a "grande" being medium, and a medium pizza being the smallest...AM is sometimes fuzzy and FM is (mostly) clear. Glad I could help!

Now one from me: What do you think about me, Dr. One Friend?


Hm. Interesting. Let's go back to the peanut gallery. Jean at I Love Upstate asks: "Why does Erin only have "one" friend? Is it her deoderant?"

I feel sorry for her...and yes, her pits do smell nice.

Why, thank you Dr. One Friend! May I call you DOF?



Can I call you Ass?

Why not? Everybody else does! Okay, so let's see here... Ah, yes. Donna Staf asks: "What is clam pee?"

A reliable source (okay, my dad) once told me that the foam in the ocean is clam pee. I am starting to wonder if he was pulling my leg....

No, no. Parents would never make up stories just to shut their children up. Right, Donna?

So, back to me: Dr. O. Friend, I am not drinking a beer at 11:00 in the morning. Am I?

Please, please feel free to call me Dr. One Friend. No, I believe it is only 10:59...

Ahem. It is 11:07. Moving on---

Ahem...I don't want to be obnoxious, but you opened the beer at 10:58...

Moving on: Su asks: "Why do sting rays jump out of the water and into boats?"

Well, Su...I guess the real question here is "why do people jump out of boats into the water?"

Fascinating. Now let's bring the mood down a bit. What do you think of the AssVac, Dr. One Friend?

Lovely, simply lovey. I really love what you have done with the place. Have you seen my cane? It was white with a red tip? I think I left it by the door?

Whoops, we're out of time.

One Friend's Recipe for Spaghetti Pie (Soooo Good)

1. Pie plate. The deeper the better. That's why we used this disposable one. Because my glass ones are very shallow.

Yours doesn't have to be leftover from the pastry shell somebody (cough, cough, not me, cough, cough) bought at Christmastime instead of making it from scratch. But if it is, you can ignore the printing on the bottom.

I'm pretty sure that's just talking about the (ahem) store-bought food that used to be inside.

2. Spaghetti.

Regular old spaghetti. Not thin or fancy. 1/2 box (i.e. 1/2 lb.). Drain. Don't rinse.

3. Eggs & butter.

2 & 1 (tablespoon, that is). Plus Parmesan cheese that I forgot to take a pitcure of. The cheapy-shake kind. You could probably use the real kind and shave it yourself if you want to, but why bother? Use about 1/3 cup. I think. But One Friend is still sleeping, so I'll double-check that amount with her when she wakes up. [She says yeah, 1/4, or 1/2, or 1/3, or whatever.]

3. Stir spaghetti into egg mixture. I also forgot to take a picture of this.

4. Spaghetti --> pan.

Press it around (with a fork! it's hot!) to make it sort of like a shell. It won't really work, so just give up when you get frustrated.

5. Cottage cheese.

About a cup. If you live in Massachusetts, I'm going to have to insist that you use Hood Lowfat, because all the other brands are just disgusting. But if you live elsewhere and can't get your hands on Hood, then I'm willing to forgive. You cook it anyway, so your guests will probably never know the difference.

6. Meanwhile: Veggies!

About a pound of whatever's in the fridge all chopped up and sauteed with olive oil. You could also use meat instead. Or with. Or whatever. Make a filling, is what I'm getting at.

7. Sauce it up.
One Friend makes her own using canned tomatoes and spices and tomato paste. When she goes home and I make this for myself, I will use sauce from a jar. If you tell her, I will kill you.

8. Slop it in.

Mmmm... Steamy....

You'll notice this is all overfilled like any good pie should be. Hence the cookie sheet it's resting on. You don't want to mess up your nice new oven.

9. And shut up about the messy oven.

10. Mozzarella Cheese.

Loads of it. This is not all of it. Keep going. More. More. More!


Okay, you're done.


12. Yummy yum yum yummy!

If you're smart, you'll let it sit five minutes or so before you cut it, to let it sort of grab on to itself. We didn't. Tastes just as good all piled in a gooey mess as it does in nice firm slices.

Tune in later for the answers to Ask Dr. One Friend. Plus questions of my own because I am obviously curiouser (and curiouser) than most of you good people.
Hm. Maybe I better go check on the cat.

Friday, March 21, 2008

We're Back!

And we're stacked for the duration:

Neither one of us is leaving this house until Sunday morning. At which point neither one of us may be able to fit through the door.

Later: One Friend's recipe for Spaghetti Pie!

Ask Dr. One Friend!

I wrote this whole essay here about how I met My One Friend, but then I realized: she's still sleeping, and she might not want me to run it without running it by her. It involved hot dogs and ladies underwear, and she might not want everybody knowing about that part of her past. Especially now that she's been officially offered the New Haven job and everything.

(I'll pause here, whilst y'all applaud My One Friend... thank you. Now, moving on.)

So instead of telling you about all the transvestites and ETs we used to pal around with, I'll open up the table for discussion:

What do you want My One Friend to tell you?

It could be about this house, about me or Johnny, about her or the Ivy League. It could be about the weather or the clam pee or the stupid, stupid cat. Ask her anything!

Remember, she's very, very smart. So she might just know the answer. And if she doesn't, she's very, very good at making answers up.

We'll check in later this afternoon to see what you've come up with. If you come up snake-eyes, then I'll ask her some questions of my own.

Play! Play! It's Fun!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Mother in the Jar

I take it back. I was right the first time. It's Johnny that has the pack-rat problem.

He not merely orders everything they sell on late-night informercials. He not only hangs on to every working toaster. He not just takes everything off everybody's hands that they're looking to get rid of.

Oh, no.

He also spends a lot of money, and a lot of time and effort, starting things he never finishes and yet refuses to throw away.

Exhibits 1 through however-many:

These are in the guest bedroom. I don't even know what's in them anymore. I'm sure Johnny does. I think one is maybe Green Tomato wine and the other is peach port or something. He insists that it's still good. He swears that wine is not like beer. He says that wine can sit in the carboy (glass bottle) or plastic bucket until the endtimes come. That the smaller, glass bottles we're used to using (or, lately, for some of us, the cardboard boxes) are only for convenience's sake.

Whatever. When he opens it, I'll smell it. If I don't gag, then I'll take one tiny sip. If that doesn't make me throw up I might drink up the whole glass. Slowly. But experience has taught me that tomorrow-me will loathe today-me if I let her get schnockered on my husband's homemade wine.

Headache... I thought I'd die!

This is what I learned that lesson on:

Tea wine. How we invented this was, Johnny put a gallon jug on the fire escape of our old apartment, with a couple Irish tea bags in it and some lemon slices stuffed with cloves. It was July. He thought he was making sun tea.

In August, when I remembered about the sun tea on the fire escape, I pulled it in to dump it down the drain -- but, of course, Johnny (say it with me) wouldn't let me do it. He threw in a little yeast, makeshifted a gallon-carboy, and he let it brew. That time, we did actually bottle it. It tastes like whisky for non-whisky drinkers, if you see what I mean. Same sort of flavor, but we non-whisky-drinking lightweights can still get it down. We've made a batch or two of Johnny's Sun Tea Homebrew every summer since. I recommend it. But I have to warn you: this shit will knock you on your ass.

Okay, what's next? Oh...

That doesn't count. Somebody handed that down to us before we moved here, because they'd fouled up their own homebrew adventure. Johnny was supposed to dump out the vinegary contents and just score the carboy for his own use, but he figured five gallons of vinegar was still five gallons of possibly-useful vinegar. Five years down the line, he hasn't tapped it. And I love him and I try to be adventurous enough, but even I don't know about the looks of that. I don't think the hole in the stopper is plugged up anymore. And I really don't like the look of that ring around the surface.

So but this one?

Eh, this one's just dirty. I'd drink what's in there. If I knew what it was.

This picture I took before I checked the bucket:

Turns out the bucket is just full of empty bottles. So why is it not in the basement, then? I don't know.

And this seems to be the only one of these that I can find:

One-gallon jugs full of random experiments. There are usually five or seven of them wandering around. A canteloupe goes bad and he throws it in a jar. Somebody hands us down hot peppers. Water, yeast, and anything vegetative means to Johnny the potential for alcoholic drink. But they're all gone now.

Maybe he dumped them all when we tore out the kitchen? Nah. They're in a cupboard or something somewhere.

Okay, so here we are, back where we began, at the Mother in the Jar. Three people this week have slept in my guest bedroom, and all three have commented on this ... thing. Now, out of pure coincidence, I've posted a picture of it, and now Tara's asking, too.

I called it a Mother, but it isn't really. It just looks like one. So what the disgusto is that Moreau-Island-looking thing?

It's this:

Some big fat stupid mushroom that some "eat according to your blood type" friend of Johnny's recommended that he buy and brew. It's supposed to, I don't know, make you grow wings and crystals or some such shit like that. Johnny brewed it up, he tried it once, it tasted foul and did nothing, and yet still he just can't seem to throw the nasty thing away. And so it sits. On the dresser in the guest bedroom, begging all our guests to ask us what it is.

Actually, no. It's there because I was getting it out of the kitchen when we re-began the Kitchen Project. But now that it is there, and they're inquiring as to what it is, I ask them all if they want to try a sip. I figure that we got Jean to eat a year-old Christmas pudding, and we got LadyCiani to eat a year-old New Year's pig-rat, so I've got to at least try to get somebody to drink this shroomy brew.

Oddly enough, we've had no takers so far.

It would be really funny right now if I offered to send a sip to somebody, but I don't think I can have that on my conscience.

In the meantime, let's all be glad that
this is not a part of any intended-to-be-potable project.
Yeah. I'll tell you about those buckets some other time.

The Apocrypha

My One Friend is here this week -- well, she's not here today, but she was here yesterday and she'll be back tomorrow. Really! She's even agreed to team-blog with me, so you will know she does exist, so there. She's here because she has Post-Doc interviews in Cambridge and New Haven. (I'm trying to be all Miss-Manners modest on her behalf about those secret locations, but you know what I'm saying, don't you? Wink wink?)

Anyway, she'll tell you more about what she really thinks of The famous House (and I) tomorrow, but for now I had to elaborate upon this observation:

"I love," she said, "how you have all these secret stashes of books everywhere."

What? No, I don't. There's only one bookshelf, and it's not even really a shelf, per se, but just the hole in the wall where the old window used to be. Secret books? Whatever are you talking about?

So she commenced to pointing.

Oh, those. Those aren't books. Those are just ideas that I keep handy in my office. Also one pig-rat (can you spot her?) and some soup.

Oh, those? Those aren't books. Those are just the leather-bounds that we keep next to the guest bed. See, Johnny's severely dyslexic, so reading is a chore for him, but still important. Because it takes so much out of him, he reads only Important Things, and every time he finishes one through to the end, he buys himself a copy bound in leather. So this is really more like a trophy shelf than it is a bookshelf. I merely filled in a few empty spaces. Plus a purple paperback that One Friend left here. (That adjective is not a comment on the contents, I don't know what the book's about, but the cover of it is the color purple -- see it? On the top right? So that proves it: One Friend is real, and she was here.)

Those aren't books. They're just a few things that wouldn't fit on the actual bookshelf. Plus Superstar. And, behind Jesus, the Partridge Family. (See? The glass on the table? One Friend was here! She's real, I tell you!)

Now that is the real bookshelf. The old back window that was boarded over on the other side when Previous Owners built the addition that is now my bedroom. See that starburst parttern on the bottom left there? That's where I duct-taped a blanket to this wall in order to keep Him and Her from escaping while the construction was going on out back. Four years ago. Yeah, no: we haven't gotten round to painting this bedroom yet. So?

Those aren't books. That's just Johnny's secret stash of magic.

And that is mine.

Those aren't books. Ahem. They're cookbooks. And empty beer cans. And maybe a pot or two that I've yet to put away from our St. Pats party. They're clean, though. The pots, that is. Not the cans. Sorry, Redemption Guy.

That's just my bedside table. The on-deck circle, as it were. What? Oh, I sleep fine, thanks for asking. Why?

Those aren't books. That's Johnny's music.

And those are his National Geographics. Plus a few other things. And hey, come to think of it, why are there other things in the FLW magazine-holder that Mom bought us last year? It's supposed to be only for NatGeo (that was not a condition of the gift, just a House Rule that Johnny and I have Agreed Upon. Because once a NatGeo is read and put away, it doesn't tend to get touched again, and the FLW magazine rack Tips Over easily). Oh, that's right. We had Company last weekend, and a few Things just had to get Put Somewhere. Remind me when I finish this, and I'll go take them out.

Hey, now! Those really aren't books. Mostly. With a few exceptions. How did that happen? Well, I guess I know what I'll be doing this afternoon with that long-neglected box up in the attic! Ah, Mr. Mezzrow, we will at long last be together again...


Someone may have stealthily snuck in here yesterday and insinuated that my husband is a pack rat. Lots of you may have shared your own male-of-the-species woes in this regard. We may have all commiserated and agreed that they are the pack-rat problem, and if it only weren't for them, our houses would be clutter-free in a New Haven minute (well, come on, have you seen the AssVac? That's a lot to cram into a New York one, don't you think?).

But then my One Friend came along, opened her very impressive, PhD-finishing, soon-to-be-Cambridge-bound eyes, and without even meaning to -- with, actually, the intent of complimenting me -- pointed out what a hypocrite I was.

So, the moral of the story is:

Them Ivy-leaguers are some snobby bitches, ain't they?