It's not about the house.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Random Memory Monday

Want to see the best pictures of me that have ever been or will be taken, ever? I was looking for something else from my childhood this weekend and I found them.

They're from a photo booth.

That's my friend Matt. Big old bear. I wonder what ever happened to him?

This is back when I thought I was Madonna. Obviously.

I wore a lot of matte lipstick. And little else.

I remember this night vividly, despite the fact that I apparently couldn't bear to be separated from my Rolling Rock long enough to take the pictures (you can sometimes see it in there, over Matt's left shoulder). We were at the Ramrod. And I know it will shock you to hear this -- what with the brahmin-sounding name and everything -- but the Ramrod is gay.

It was Leather Night. Unofficially, every night was Leather Night at the Ramrod, but on Official Leather Night you got in for free if you were wearing something made out of dead cows. (I just looked it up and was shocked to find that not only does the Ramrod still exist -- which must be some sort of all-time nightclub record around here -- but they also still do Leather Night. Although, these days, you're allowed to drape yourself in something faux.)

We didn't know this when we planned to go there. In fact, we really just decided to pop in on a whim. There were five of us, me and my Gay Gang, and I was the only one who had any leather on at all. But I had on enough to pass around.

I gave the hat to Rusty and the biker coat to Matt, traded Michael's sneakers for my combat boots, let Peter wear the collar and kept the brassiere for myself. Oh yes, that is a leather bra I'm wearing. Got it at a store called Hubba Hubba. They also sell lots of, um, other things.

When we were through the door I gathered all my stuff back -- though I think Peter must have still had the collar on when Matt and I got in the booth -- and we had a grand old time. We closed the place, in fact, and on the way home we stopped in at Burger King. I was starving, and not a little drunk, but all I ordered was french fries and Diet Coke.

Because of course I wouldn't think of eating meat.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Why I Bought a Gun

Look what came in the mail yesterday:

A printout from regarding Balance Training and Proprioreception. The parts about improving balance and preventing injury are highlighted, and there's a handwritten note on the bottom that says "Retrain proprioreception so you don't re-sprain."

Page two is a photocopy of some specific, handwritten physical-therapy exercises:

With blanks before the word "foot," where the words "right" or "left" have been filled in by the same hand. There's a post-it stuck there, too -- one from a drug company, so this is obviously a medical person of some sort or another -- that says "Start these once you can weight bear comfortably on the right foot. Good luck!"

I, personally, would have hyphenated the words "weight" and "bear"-- or else I'd have reversed them. Because I'm not exactly sure how one might weight a bear. Especially if one was limited to one's right foot.

But I shouldn't be linguistically spanking, because this is very nice, right? Someone out there -- someone with medical skill and knowledge -- heard that I had hurt myself again, and they took steps to ensure I didn't sprain my other, third ankle for lack of proprioreception.

But the note's not signed, and have a gander at the envelope it came in:
In case you can't decipher my bold-faced scribbles in that shot, they read: No return address! My name and address, handwritten! USPS bar code stuff across the bottom! But the stamp's not cancelled!

And I don't recognize the handwriting, so: Yeesh!

I think I have a stalker-doctor.

All kidding aside, this is very thoughtful. I mean, assuming they're not secret how-to-hurt-yourself routines or anything. Which I doubt. Though, now that I've thought about it, I don't think I'll do them, just in case. But if someone out there saw that picture I posted of my bruised and swollen ankle and thought to send along some inside poop, that's very kind. And I do understand why you might not want to include a return address or sign your name. After all, you wouldn't want anonymous PT exercises showing up in your mailbox, now, would you?


The next time you secretly offer of yourself to others, might you provide a smidge more information? Some indication, at least, as to how you know me? Maybe how you know I hurt myself? And perhaps where the hell you got my street address? Because, seriously, this shit's creeping me out.

Then again, maybe I should consider myself lucky. Maybe I should think of it as a plus. The health care system being what it is these days, it's not everybody who can post a picture of a swollen body part and get advice delivered to their very door.

Okay, then, Stalker-Doctor:

What have you got for my swollen ass?

PS That gun is big (just like my ass), and locked and loaded (ditto). There's also an English Mastiff with a taste for blood, an alarm system with trip lasers everywhere, and a Samoan security guard whom I affectionately refer to as The Hurt. Also, invisible forcefield.

So don't mess.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

New Soul for an Old Machine

When I started this blog, I decided it would be about this house, the housing market, or general housing-related issues like curtains, poop and paint. I had my reasons – namely: I was working on a little housing project of my own, and I just knew that a strung-together series of wannabe-Bombeck daily musings about my sorry house and home would bring a world of opportunity crashing through the AssVac’s green front door. I thought I was Lana Turner, and The House and I would be my Schwab’s, if I only sat here long enough.

Actually, I'm not quite that naive. Technically, it wasn't my idea at all. But what I’ve learned is this: you sit at the same lunch counter babbling about the same topic for eighteen months, people get the idea you’re not actually working. Also, that you might just be a little nuts.

So it’s time to change the subject. That "housing project" I referred to is on the back burner for now, and if I'm going to stay on this barstool -- I mean, lunch counter -- I have to start talking about other things or I'll start turning into Baby Jane.

(Oh, you didn’t think I meant I was getting off my ass, did you? Non, non, non, non, non. Mon Dieu!)

This change of subject was actually suggested to me last week by Dr. One Friend, but I didn’t understand. I was complaining (again) about how we aren’t making progress in the kitchen. I know that we have lots of valid reasons for it, but I was still developing a complex that revolved around you lovely people thinking I’m a lazy sod. As if you think that hard about me. As if you wake up in the morning thinking “Ooh, I wonder if she hung drywall today!?”

“Well," said Dr. One Friend, "why don’t you blog about other things? Not just about the house, but everything?”

But, I thought, I don’t just write about the house. I mean, that’s how it started, sure, but now I also write about Johnny and the cats and the car and everything. My ass. Poo smells. And honey.

(If, by any chance, you are just tuning in: please rest assured those last three topics are in no way related to one another. Except in the sense that my ass smells like honey.)

So I said “Yeah, you’re right.” But I said it in a distracted tone that really means “I’m not going to take your advice, but I don’t want to talk about this anymore, so let's both pretend I will. How ’bout them Red Sox?” Then, if I am not mistaken, I went and wrote some more about the car, and Johnny, and my ass.

Fast forward to Wednesday. I’m driving Chuck (TFT – who has been incident-free for seven days now, thanks for asking, and who doesn’t smell so much like a corpse farm anymore) and I’ve got the radio station tuned to NPR. There’s this lady on there talking about a book she wrote that sounds so fascinating, and it would be the perfect thing for me to give My Lady, so on a whim I pull into B&N to pick it up. My Lady’s next gift-giving occasion isn’t till October, but by then I would have forgotten all about this Perfect Present – and besides, now I’ll have plenty of time to read it first, carefully, without breaking the spine (I always do this, sorry Miss Manners, and Everyone I’ve Ever Given Books To).

I had to ask for help to find it. The lady who helped me said they couldn't keep it in stock on the display table, but the computer showed there were a few left on the shelf. It was in the Self-Help section, which is A. ironic, considering that I needed help to even find it, and B. not a part of the store I'd ever wander through myself (shreepy!). She led me there and handed me a copy; I thanked her and scurried away before I wound up with Dr. Phil poo on my shoes. In my haste, I accidentally wandered down the Humor aisle, where this pathetic thing reached out and tugged my sleeve:

What? No! I’m not buying you. Shut up. I'm poor! I shouldn’t even be spending the money that I’m spending on book #1, what with all the lack of kitchen progress and the ass car and everything. But book #1 is going to be a gift. Eventually. At least I can justify the purchase of book #1. I certainly can’t plunk down another $25 on some tome I never even heard of, by some apehead who (I’m told) really ought to stick to doodling.

But when I went to the register, it followed me. Whimpering, making doe-eyes, and pawing at my leg.

Fine. Whatever. Get in.

And it's a good thing I let it in, too, because book #1 turned out to be so unreadably awful that I couldn't make it past page 75. There is no way I can give it to My Lady, so I’m bringing it back. It’s too bad, because the author was genuinely engaging on the radio, and her story sounded fascinating, but the work reads like she published the thing herself. And who knows? Maybe she did. Maybe she’s just better at the self-promotion thing than I am. Maybe she published it herself and promoted it herself and was so successful at it that a major publisher picked it up from iUniverse and reprinted it without insisting on so much as a, you know, editor. If that’s the case, then good for her. I could never pull off something like that. But I still want my money back, because there’s just no there there.

Except I accidentally threw out the receipt and emptied the litter box over it. So I guess I’ll have to settle for store credit.


If only I’d had the tits to say no book #2 on my first trip to the store, I could go back and get it now for free! Which is, apparently, what I could have had it for in the first place, because according to the dustjacket, everything in it has been previously published on his blog.

Double dang.

Ah well, the money’s spent and the book’s in my possession and the receipt’s in a landfill somewhere becoming one with cat pee, so I might as well go ahead and crack the spine.

And when I did, the damn thing smacked me right upside the head. “Oh…,” I thought. “Blog about everything…”

Now of course I’m no Scott Adams, and I'd never try to be. I can't even draw a good line in the sand. I’m also no Betty MacDonald or Erma Bombeck or David Sedaris or Dave Barry. But that doesn’t stop me dressing up and dancing around in front of typewriters sometimes. I do have interests outside this g-d house, and it’s worth discovering whether or not I can write about them in an entertaining manner. It’s also worth trying to see if I can stand up on my barstool (I mean lunch counter) and wave my arms and legs around a little bit.

So you’re going to start noticing some changes here. I’ll keep the title because I like it, and because I paid GoDaddy for it, but the subheader has already changed. I’ll still write about Himself and the AssVac if something happens to come up, and I can’t help but continue to drool over the Dirty Boy, but I’ll also weigh in on vital issues like Silly String, Leather Bars, and, if I drink enough beer, Politics. I’ll be introducing a few new regular features (the one I’m most looking forward to is Would-You-Rather Wednesday, about which you'll just have to wait and see) and I may even figure out how to work the video feature on my digital camera, see if Johnny wants to give us all a jig and reel.

Plus, I’ll be doing everything I can think of to rope more random strangers in. You may have already noticed a few new buttons in the margins over there. There’s going to be more of them, and I hope you’ll click through them once in a while and cast your “early, often” votes for me in whatever context. In the past, I've believed this sort of thing to be unseemly and uncouth. I didn't wanted to clutter up this pretty page with all that noise. Wanted to keep it clean and simple, like Quinn Cummings has. If you’re Lana Turner, I thought, you don't have to go flashing your cootch to get attention.

But, of course, I am no Lana Turner. And neither am I any former child star. That doesn't mean I'm prepared to flash my cootch for page views, but...

There’s nothing wrong with a tasteful hint of metaphorical décolletage.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Do You Feel Scared? Oh, I Do!

I just left this story as a comment on jeanmartha's blog, but I think it's earth-shattering enough to share. It also fits in with my so-new-it's-still-percolating blog philosophy, which I'll try to shape up enough to tell you about tomorrow. For now, enjoy:

The other night, Johnny and I were at a friend's birthday party at a bar a few miles from the house. I was bitching about my craptacular life, Johnny said "ah well, things can only get better," and so of course I sang "whoa, whoa, whoa-oa-oa. whoa, whoa, whoa-oa-oa..." He recognized my warbling but accidentally said Tom Jones instead of Howard Jones so naturally I made fun of him. This led to a HUGE fight that logically ended with me leaving him at the bar and driving home alone. Somehow he was here before I was, pretending like nothing had happened, so of course I went to youtube and played the Howard Jones video for him, and he said "I know, that's why I was singing that song in the first place." Which he wasn't, it was me.

But I just let it go.



"Good Dog, I love ya...

"But if you knock me balls with that tail one more time, I'm gonna rip it off ya!"

Whoops! Good thing Good Dog goes home this afternoon!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The End of the Ordeal

This story starts here, continues here, and this third part is the conclusion. Thanks for your patience. Three days is a long time to wait to read a story about a tire. I know you all must have lost a bit of sleep for all the wondering...

Little-Truck AAA Guy assured me – as had the Wrecker Man, and Johnny – that there was nothing wrong with the car besides the tire. He said the whompada-whompada I heard was just what a really flat flat-tire does, especially at 65 mph. He described it so well for me that I took his word for it, and took his advice. I moved Chuck to another parking spot. At one mile per hour.

whomp… a…da…(god, I hope you all are right that it’s okay to do this) whomp… a…da… (almost there, now) whomp… a…da…(phew!)

Made it!

Little-Truck AAA Guy moved over with me, and sat there shooting the breeze while waiting for dispatch to call back and tell him how long it would be before the tow truck came. I wished he’d leave me alone so I could go back to the New Yorker article I was reading about talking computers. (Hm. No misanthropic implications there, what?) They finally called and said the Big-Truck AAA Guy would be there in 20 minutes, and so Little-Truck Guy left – but not before admonishing me to be there when Big-Truck Guy came. As if I hadn’t been there all along. As if there was, for that matter, anywhere else to go. And as if I wasn’t positively bursting for a pee.

One should always keep a bottle of water in the car for emergencies. But in emergencies one should never, never drink it!

Big-Truck AAA came in less than 20 minutes (man, am I never going to get to finish this New Yorker article?). I filled him in on the whole ordeal up to now, asked him, too, for an opinion on that axel (he agreed with everybody else) and told him that I wanted to be taken to my tire guy, out in North Quincy.

My tire guy just might be the only honest businessman I have ever managed to dig up on my own – although, technically, Johnny dug him up and handed him to me – and he is so good and decent as to restore anybody’s flagging faith in humanity. I wouldn’t go so far as to say I was glad that this was happening, but the way my life’s been going lately, I wasn’t exactly sorry for the chance to get a dose of Jimmy’s Tire.

I had Big-Truck AAA Guy pull in to Jimmy's the back way so he’d have plenty of room to put me down – to put Chuck (TFT) down, that is, and not in a shotgun kind of way. Jimmy met us in the yard, and I told him the whole story.

“, yeah,” I concluded. “Then the AAA guy said the spare was bad, and here we are.”

“Okay,” says Jimmy. “Come on in the office, let me get a phone number from you where you can be reached.”

Office. I love Jimmy. This so-called “office” is a desk and a telephone in the middle of a big pile of tires. With a roof over it. But how did he know I got myself a cell phone since the last time I was here? Didn't matter. I followed him in the so-called office and rattled off the number.

“AAA Guys lie,” he murmured as he wrote it down. “Didn’t want to say anything out there and embarrass him, but we see it all the time. They tell you that your spare’s bad because they don’t want to change it. Maybe ‘cause they hope to sell a new one. We’ll have a look, but we won’t replace it unless it’s really necessary.”

Jimmy is officially my Pretend Grampa.

He said it would be done in about an hour, and that he’d call me when it was. Said I’d be welcome to wait in the office, but I didn’t think that sounded like the most comfortable place to waste an hour on a beautiful morning. Besides, I was still bursting for that pee, and something told me Jimmy’s bathroom might not be the most sanitary place for me to have it.

While I was walking over to the Stop & Shop to use their bathroom, I decided to give Johnny a call and let him know what was going on. He was painting in My Lady’s house, remember, so he could also fill her in and put her mind at ease. Except for, hm, that’s odd. Johnny’s phone was trunking over as if he were still on the subway, underground.

That can’t be right.

I tried a few more times, then decided that he must have accidentally shut it off, and called My Lady.


“Hello, Lady, it’s Erin. I—“

“Yeah!,” she interrupted. “What ever happened to Johnny?”

“He’s not there?”

“No. And,” she stammered over it, said it in the absolute nicest way possible, but still: “and I can’t, you know, sit around here all day waiting for him.”

Um, didn't you and I have plans? Weren’t we supposed to be reading the Bible in the cemetery right about now? Where, exactly, do you need to go? Also, Johnny has my key, he can let himself in, you don't need to wait for him. But most important, like you said: what happened to Johnny?

I told her just the part about him having a key. I apologized on his behalf, said I was sure he’d be there just as soon as he could. Said, maybe a little pointedly, that I hoped he was all right. Asked her to have him call me as soon as he turned up, then wished her a good weekend and rung off.

I’d be lying if I said the thought didn’t cross my mind perhaps he’d stopped off for a pint along the way. A little liquid Prozac after our harrowing ordeal might have been something an Irish doctor would order. I was beginning to crave a smackerel my ownself. But then I remembered that it was only 9:00 a.m. when he’d left me, and that he loves My Lady almost more than he loves me. (He always has been a sucker for the ould ones; I think he wants them all to be his Pretend Ma.) So I put that thought out of my mind and rang him up again.

And again.

And again.

I called his number repeatedly, hanging up and dialing again as soon as it trunked over to voice mail. (Somewhere in all of this, I made it to the bathroom. No, I did not dial from the pot.) Finally, as I was making my way back across Newport Ave., he picked up.


“Yeah. What?”

He was okay, and yes, still on the train. I didn’t get the whole story from him until later, but I’ll tell it to you now:

Turns out that the T station we could see from where I’d left him – JFK – is the only thing (or the only thing I’ve ever heard, at least) Johnny’s afraid of. He apparently was mugged there one time, years ago, ever since he won’t go in save at the pinnacle of a rush-hour commute. And according to his definition, 9:00 a.m. was not quite pinnacley enough, so he’d walked up to Andrew.

Andrew was closed, so he walked up to Broadway.

Where he sat.

And sat.

And sat.

Until the train came.

And then he sat some more.

So yes, he was physically all right, but emotionally he was a little bruised. It really did take him two and a half hours to travel – oh, what the heck, let’s get the exact distance from google maps, shall we? hang on... 4.1 miles.

By now I decided that I deserved a treat, so I walked up to 7-11, bought a liter of Diet Coke and a 99-cent-sized package of Baked Lay’s, and headed for the beach. I was still dressed for lunch with My Lady, but that did not preclude me from sitting on a bench in the seabreeze, sipping soda and snacking on processed potatoes while finally finishing that New Yorker article.

It was a lovely walk, the beach was gorgeous, and no sooner had I sat down on that aforementioned bench than I heard a trill, electronic warble.


“Hi Erin, it’s Jimmy! Your car’s all set. Didn’t need a spare after all. Just cleaned the rust off the old one and it’s fine. Got a used tire on there for you, and you’re good to go.”

“Okay, great! I’m up at the beach, so I’ll be there in as long as it takes me to get back.”

“Oh there’s no hurry. It’s a beautiful day! Stay up the beach all afternoon for all I care. Heck, maybe I’ll come up and join you!”

Have I mentioned how much I love Jimmy's Tire?

But I didn’t stay. It was coming on noon and, since my loverly plans for my loverly day had been dastardlily dashed by Chuck (TFT), I’d taken a cue from My Loverly Lady and decided there was someplace else that I needed to be. And I needed to be there by 12:35.

So I walked back up to Jimmy’s Tire, paid a whopping total sum of $50 (have I mentioned?) and took myself to see Sex and the City. Bought myself a large Diet Coke with just a little bit of ice, and a large popcorn with no butter but whopping gobs of salt. Sat there licking my fingers and laughing to myself (and hating Mario Cantone, but that’s a whole other gossipy story), and pretended, for two and a half hours, that everything was going to be okay.

Never did finish that New Yorker article. Can anybody tell me how it ends? Do the computers really talk? And if so, when do I get my freaking jet pack?

P.S. The next day, Johnny and I did some early-bird grocery-shopping for the 4th of July, and a five-pound box of frozen hamburger patties slid under Chuck’s back seat. I found it yesterday. And it's been hot.

So now he smells like the fetid, rotten, dead thing that he has been all along.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Five Other Things That Happened Around the AssVac This Past Weekend

You know already what's been going on with Chuck (TFT). Mostly you know, that is. I'll finish telling that story in a day or so, but I thought you might like to know what we've been up to in the meantime...

1. Not ours.
Just visiting. For the week. This is the "please can I have some of that, whatever it is, can I have some?" face. We get that face all the time. Even when we're not eating anything. I think I might get a similar face from Johnny when Good Dog goes home. I think Himself might be one Irish boy what needs a dog. (Oh, and if you're wondering exactly who this Good Dog is, please read this Christmas post.)

2. Ours.

And we are so very proud.

I'm serious: this is a monster accomplishment for that Jamoke. For years, the Idiot has been a big fat roly-poly pig, and a month ago I finally put him on a diet. Turns out the vet was right: you can diet one cat but not the other. I wonder if he learned that fact in college. Anyway, as of Friday morning, the Doof had lost one pound. Which must be a heck of a lot for a cat, because it's a long time since he's been able to clean hisself properly down there. In fact, just a few days ago Johnny did it for him with a washcloth. God bless Johnny, it didn't even occur to me that was a thing a person might attempt to do. But I think it's what inspired the Dope to give it the old college try.
Don't want the old man swabbing at your bunghole anymore, eh, NumbNuts?

3. Drywall!

Not wall. Not yet. But dry!

4. Economic Recovery:

The faux kind. It's going straight into our savings account, to plug the hole created when we paid the guvmint in the first place back in April. Sorry, Porgy.

You want to know what's funny, though? Since we live in Massachusetts, our IRS center's in a town called Andover. Therefore, look what they printed in the upper right hand corner of the check, just after my name:

And overstimulus is right, too. Because look at #5:

5. Not Shrek:

Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I have sprained my other ankle. Pretty, ain't she? And I know it goes without saying, but I was not drunk. I swear to god. I wasn't even drinking, not a solitary sip. I was just walking down the street, minding my own business (well, technically, minding Johnny's business, but that's neither here nor there) and somehow my toes wound up where my heel's supposed to be. Heard a little something pop there, too. Didn't even hurt, which I thought was odd, but I knew it was bad right away because of my so-recent similar experience.

I don't know what that popping sound was (no, I haven't been to a doctor, don't be ridiculous) but I know it's not as bad as last time. It may be ugly as all hideous get-out, but I can at least still walk. I don't need crutches, or prescription drugs. I'm not even taking any time off work. Call me a working class hero if you must.

In fact, I think I've just decided that you must. Yes, you definitely must.

I'm waiting...

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Drive, He Said

continued from the previous post

The Big Green Wrecker pulling up behind us wasn’t God, it was the Citizen’s Bank Samaritan Van. The driver got out and bellied up to my window, trying to keep his Samaritan bottom as far out of the line of traffic as possible.

“Got a flat tire?” he said.


“Car still run?”


Apparently, the trauma had turned me into a wordless moron.

“Okay,” he said, “we’re just gonna get you safely off the highway. Go ahead and drive it – 10, 15 miles an hour – I’m going to be right behind you. Just get off that exit right there,” he indicated the one in front of me that I could have hit with a rock, the one I’d been trying to get to when I realized Chuck was no longer drivable. “And when you get to the bottom of the ramp, stop.”

“Um. ’Kay.”

I forgot the car was actually still on, so the starter motor called me a few choice screaming names when I moronifically turned the key. But that was nothing compared to the whompada-whompada that came from underneath when I tried to turn the wheel. Ten or fifteen miles an hour, hell. Even one mph was not going to be in the cards.

I got out and, keeping my own ample bottom out of the passing traffic, bellied up to the Wrecker Man.

“I think something worse is broken,” I said. “I don’t think it’s just the flat. Thrown tie rod or busted axel maybe. I don’t think I can drive it. I’m afraid I’m just going to make it worse.”

As if I could. Make my life worse, I mean. As if I had that kind of power in me. But at least it appeared I’d found my words. So, you know, that’s something.

He got out, walked up with me, and got down on his hands and knees in front of Chuck (TFT) while I got back in. Stood up and announced “I’ll put it on the truck. I’m going to pull around in front of you. As soon as I do, I want you both to get out – on the curb side – and climb into my cab.”

Okay, Mister Take-Charge Wrecker Man. I’m kind of liking you. But, um, if you don’t mind my asking: What, exactly, did you see under there?

Johnny and I were oddly calm while waiting in the cab. When one thing goes bizarrely wrong, I tend to panic. Two or three or four, I sometimes cry. Five or six or seven start to be a little funny, but after eight or nine or ten I just go numb. That’s been our lives lately, eight or nine or ten to the eleventeenth, and so we found ourselves treating this latest setback more like a minor detour on the road. Should we go left or right? Did it really matter? All roads in our world just lead straight to ruin, anyway.

The verdict we came to was that we’d get Chuck towed to a service station and charge the repair, because we just couldn’t bother George again so soon and besides, we didn’t have the cash to pay him, anyway.

“How much is this going to cost us?” Johnny asked, just like he was saying “What time will you be home this afternoon?”

“I don’t know,” I answered, with the same nonchalance. “Depends on what exploded under there.”

“No,” he said. “I mean the tow.”

“Oh, the tow? The tow’s free! Or, if it’s not, AAA will reimburse us for it.” I delivered this news like I was Ed McMahon – the old Ed McMahon, I mean, before he decided to be more like me. “Mr. John Conroy, you have won a free half-mile tow! And all you had to do to collect was nearly die on the Expressway!”

Hooray! Huzzah! And hallelujah!

When Chuck was securely on the flatbed and the Wrecker Man was in the driver’s seat, I asked what he’d seen when he crawled around. “I don’t know,” he answered. “Maybe a little fluid leak or something, but…” and he trailed off, too kind to say what he was thinking, which was either that we were screwed or that I was obviously a maroon.

He literally got us off the highway. That was his job, and he did it well. There was a State Police Barracks right off the exit – “Special Operations,” the sign on the building said – and he put us down in the parking lot there. Told us to call AAA, gave us a customer satisfaction survey to fill out, refused to accept a tip, and was on his merry Wrecking way.

Before he left, though, he said he’d been two cars behind us on the Expressway and had been watching the whole thing. He said we were pretty lucky we had not been killed. Cars zooming by, us cutting through them trying to pull over. Yeesh.

From the highway at some point I had called My Lady and told her what was going on. Now I called her back again to report. Johnny, I said, would walk to the T station and be at her house within the hour. I would wait for AAA and, if it was just a flat tire – which I didn’t think it was, but I was trying for once to be optimistic – then I might actually beat him there.

“Oh no,” she said. “I don’t think we’ll be able to go at this point. I have to be back by one o’clock to have lunch with so-and-so.”

Oh. Um...?

See, so-and-so is very sick, and My Lady has been delivering lunches as a neighborly gesture a few times a week. This is very kind and Samaritany, very Mitzvahish of her, but um… Weren’t we supposed to have been having lunch? Shalom Hunan and the Old Testament and everything? I mean, I understand that rescheduling might be the wisest thing to do, considering, but, well…


Anyway, when AAA pulled up, it was the little truck. The baby pickup that they send for lockouts and jumpstarts and tire changes. I’d explained to them on the phone that I might need a tow, but they, apparently, had decided otherwise. Was this a good sign? Had they somehow diagnosed Chuck as fine and me as stupid right over the phone?

Chuck’s spare donut hangs beneath him, between his two back tires. I’d tried to take it down to get it ready for the AAA guy, but hadn’t even been able to unscrew the knob that holds the lug wrench in place behind the jack. (I know: I’m a big fat stupid girlie. So?). I explained all this and popped the trunk for him, but he dropped to his knees under the spare without so much as a pliers in his hands.

Was he magic? Bionic? Magnetized? How was he going to get this thing down without the proper tools?

Apparently, he wasn’t.

“Oh, yeah,” he said. “That thing’s no good. All rusted out. If you were my wife -- my mother, my sister -- I wouldn’t put that donut on your truck. It’s up to you, of course. I’ll drop it for you if you want, show it to you, let you make the call, but… What do you think? Want me to go ahead and get a tow?”

Um. Okay?

But wouldn’t it have been more convenient if you had been a tow in the first place, as per my original request?

He called in the tow, then told me to move Chuck to a different parking spot. Scolded me for being where I was. Where, ahem, the Wrecker Man had put me. Said he hadn’t been able to see me there, said he drove by the lot twice before pulling in. It seemed to me, since he’d been told I was in this parking lot -- with a flat tire and maybe something worse and everything -- he might have gone ahead and pulled on in the first time, but whatever.

Now you're asking me to drive the car?

To be continued.


Saturday, June 21, 2008

Bad Things Come In… Wait: Fours!?

I’ve been a little raw this week. For lots of reasons. None of which have anything to do with you folks, whom I have so thoughtlessly forced to stare at the cat puke on my radiator for as long as I have stared at it myself.

But enough of all of that. I cleaned the cat puke up this morning. Because today was going to be the Day of My Salvation.

See, My Lady and I have been reading the Bible together every Friday morning for just over six years. The King James. It’s not a religious thing. More of a “getting it under our belts” thing. A “know thine enemy” endeavor, as it were. We’ve been covering eight chapters a week (actually, we started out with four, but we decided that we wanted to get through it before one or the other of us joins Elijah in the sky). Each of us reads the week’s passages on our own to begin with, and when we get together we take turns reading them out loud. Then, after we read a chapter, we discuss. We have a couple study bibles we refer to, and she has the complete OED if we get really stuck, but mostly we’ve found we prefer to suss it all out on our own. From what we’ve seen in the conflicting footnotes in the study bibles, our interpretations are as valid as those of any scholars.

It’s been fun. A lot of times we end up laughing. Me, I can’t stop thinking of those wandering Jews as so many Terry Gilliam-style animated cut outs, shouting things along the lines of: “Run away!” “Doom!” and “You’ll never make it…” Last week, I was a veritable blooper reel or something, unable to get through my reading-out-loud chapter without bursting into fits of giggles over the footnoted-phrase “What happened to Zerubabel?”

Maybe you had to be there. But if you were? Oh, holy Christ. Snork-freaking-snork!

Anyway, this week – today – we were finishing the Old Testament. After a half-a-dozen years, we were putting the God of Wrath and Punishment behind us and turning the page onto Him of Forgiveness and Love.

“Hooray!” say all the cartoon Christians. “Huzzah!” And “Hallelujah!”

My Lady and I decided we needed to do something special to celebrate the grand occasion. After all, who knows how long our slog through the New Testament will take? I mean, I could certainly figure it out by paging through The Book, counting out the chapters, doing the divided-by-eight math and adding a few weeks here and there for holidays. But I’m not quite that neurotic. Yet. And anyway, My Lady is 69 years old, and I cross against the red light all the time. If there’s one thing the OT has taught us, it’s that you have to seize the day. Otherwise, you just keep reliving it. Over and over and over and over again…

(Gotta love those Babylonian-exile inside jokes, don’t you, Henny? Yukka-yuk!)

So we decided we would read our last eight chapters of the Jewish Bible at Mount Auburn Cemetery, where My Lady’s Gentleman is buried. Mt. Auburn is not a Jewish burial ground, by any stretch of the imagination, but Her Gentleman was of Hebraic descent. My Lady ain’t – she’s High Episcopal, that one is, and she was nearly disinherited for marrying Her Jewish Gentleman when she did, back in the day. Maybe because of that, though, and in spite of the fact that he was not at all Observant in his adult life, she’s discovered a Judaic connection with him since his passing, largely through our half-decade wrestling match with the Words of OT God.

The Mount Auburn thing was my idea, and I think I saw tears in her eyes when I suggested it. We agreed that we’d have lunch after as well, and after a little internet searching I thought I’d found the perfect place. I told My Lady that I wanted to surprise her, and also that I wanted it to be my treat. She always treats everyone for everything, and mostly I play the old three-objections-and-give-in. But it didn’t seem right to make the where-to-eat decision on my own, not tell her about it, and then let her pay. Miss Manners would have taken away my grape-scissors!

The place I found to buy My Lady lunch is called Shalom Hunan, and it is – as you may have gathered from the name – Kosher Chinese. I thought that was fittingly ridiculous, in the spirit My Lady and I have brought to our studies thus far, and I only hope that, if we both survive through to the closing of The Book, I can find a diner called “The He Is Risen Grille.”

Now, Johnny’s been painting in My Lady’s place this week. A kitchen, bathroom, laundry room, and hall. Since I was driving in this morning anyway, to pick My Lady up and take her on our celebratory jaunt, it was decided that I’d come a little earlier than usual, so I could drop Johnny off and pick her up at the same time.

She lives in Beacon Hill – which, if you don’t know, is Boston Proper. When Johnny and I are going into town together from the South Shore, where we live, he always wants to take Morrissey Boulevard and I always want to get on the Expressway. You might think, since I’m always the one in the driver’s seat, that I would get my own way 99% of the time, but it’s actually the opposite. You try sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic with an Irishman who’s not afraid to say “I bleeding told you.” Most times, even if the Expressway is a happy flowing river of joy, I go his way just to avoid the possibility of getting stuck.

But not today.

Today, the highway was clear, and I got on it. He questioned my choice as usual; I said “Yes” in the tone that he has only recently cottoned to mean “Do not question me on this one.” And he didn’t. Looking back now, I can’t remember why I bothered. We weren’t late, and I wasn’t even mad. I guess I just wanted my own way for once, because today was going to be My Day. And I was right. We did not get stuck in traffic. But we did


hit something.

“What the hell was that!?” I said.

“A rock?”

“You think? Jesus. I hope we don’t end up with a flat tire. Oh, man. Pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease.”

And then.

“Oh, shit.”

Oh, shit is right. And you know what the Expressway into Boston doesn’t have? A breakdown lane.

So I pulled over as close to the guardrail as I could, while the car went whompada-whompada-whompada. I was pretty sure by now that I’d not only blown a tire, but thrown a tie rod or broken an axel or something equally expensive and horrible on top of it. Also, it’s not so easy to remember – when you’re trying to pull over and stop with a thrown tie rod going whompada-whompada-whompada – that everybody else on the road is going 65 miles an hour on their way in to work, and that they don’t instinctively understand your brake lights to mean you intend to come to a full and complete stop. On the expressway. Without a breakdown lane.

Oooh, the honking!

My first reaction —

Actually, I’ll pause this story here to share a little post-traumatic, hindsight-20/20 PSA: My first reaction should have been for both of us to get out of the car and climb over the guardrail. Get our flesh-and-blood out of the way of oncoming, bone-crunching kinetic energy. Nothing horrible happened to us. We are both fine. Still, though, it would have been a good idea.

My first reaction was, however, to pull out my cell phone.

My cell phone! The little damn machine I never wanted in the first place, which I have barely used in the ten months I’ve had it, and which has recently reproduced itself (oh, I haven’t told you about this, what with the whole ostrich-week and everything) in the sense that Johnny now has a complimentary Razr of his very own. Turns out they come in handy, after all.

“Are you calling AAA?” says he.

Oh. AAA. That might be a good idea.

No. I was dialing My Lady. But I promptly hung up, because I saw a big green wrecker pulling up behind us.


I’ll finish this tale later. It goes on for three tow trucks, a cock-up on the T, a missing Johnny, a concerned but increasingly impatient Lady, one liar, a walk on the beach, three liters of Diet Coke, one honest man and a silly movie.

Then, eventually, beer.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Umm... Cat Puke?

On the radiator?


I'm working on something about the Celtics game, but I thought you might like to know what I've been up to in the meantime.

Cat puke.

On the radiator.

That about sums it up.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Hello, My Little Friends!

I saw the following story on the morning news this weekend, and stole this text (which I’ve edited for length) off

CONCORD, N.C. -- Older homes are expected to have some problems, but Mark Jones’ 100-year-old house has more than 60,000 of them. Jones and his wife, Amychelle, said they can sum it up in one word: insanity. Beekeepers removed 60,000 bees from the Joneses' home Sunday morning, leaving about 1,000 still buzzing inside.

Jones said it wasn’t a bee sting or the buzzing sound that tipped him off; it was a stain on the wall downstairs. “I came over here and dipped my finger in it and tasted it,” Jones said. “Sure enough, it was honey coming out of the wall.”

Jones took home video of the beekeepers as they tore down the walls to carefully collect the hives with a vacuum. They were put into three buckets and will be taken away and cared for.

“It didn’t seem right to my husband or myself to kill them,” Amychelle Jones said. Some of the thousands of bees could be seen outside the home sticking around. The beekeepers said they’ll eventually find a new home.

Now, I’m not concerned about the 1,000 bees they left there, or whether or not they killed the ones that they took out. What I want to know is what kind of person, when he sees some viscous substance oozing from the walls of his 100-year-old house, decides to stick his finger in and taste it?!

It got me thinking …

Maybe I should have sampled the black, grainy gunk that coated the walls in the back room when we first bought the AssVac. It was awfully wet back there, and we aren't that far from the bay… Maybe the whole mess was a sturgeon spawning ground, and what we had was really caviar!

Or the gem-like blobs I found when we gutted out the kitchen, the things I assumed were hardened tree-sap from the beams. Maybe, if I’d tasted it, I would have found out it was toffee, and our house was overrun with Keebler Elves!

Or how about the crystals that are always forming on the cellar walls and floor? I looked this up and decided it was probably “efflorescence” – supposedly caused by minerals and salts leaching out of groundwater when it passes through concrete. They said it’s harmless, that the only thing to do is vacuum or ignore it, and if you know me then you know I chose the latter. So it’s still down there.

Dare me to go snort some?

And, if it does turn out to be whatever it is I’m implying folks might be inclined to snort, do you think I could convince exterminators to catch-and-release a basement drug cartel? It just wouldn't seem right to my husband or myself to -- well, you know.

I don't think even Mr. Jones would be inclined to taste the mess that that would leave.

P.S.: "Amychelle"?

P.P.S. "Joneses'"?

Saturday, June 14, 2008

I Think the World Might Be Coming to an End

Johnny's bottling his wine.

And on a related note...

"Johnny, what did you spill all over the kitchen floor?"


"Well, it doesn't matter, because I cleaned it up!"

I don't know which would be worse: that he can't remember what he spilled, or that's it's something so bad he's afraid to tell me.

Also: that he should think it's all cleaned up, or that it actually is.

The shiny round spots in the middle though? Those are all me. Shaking the Ken's Italian in one hand while holding its lid in the other.

But at least I know for sure that, when this picture was taken, I had not yet even tried to clean it up.

Friday, June 13, 2008

... and A-Two

I’ve been smelling poop a lot lately. I mean, not intentionally leaning in and taking whiffs, but rather it’s just been wafting over me all of a sudden, at random, without warning. And not just in the house -- where, lord knows, it would not be a surprise.

The first time was on the subway yesterday, and noone else in my train-car seemed to notice. You can tell when people sense a bad smell on the train, because they hold their fingers to their noses or else they pull their collars up, all the while looking shiftily around in an attempt to spot the culprit. I was the only one doing that this time, so I instinctively began to hope it wasn’t me. Fortunately, after a few stops, this ample-bottomed lady got on and sat down next to me. She was wearing so much perfume I had to fight for breath, and by the time I disembarked I’d plum forgotten about poo.

Until I noticed it again. I don’t remember where I was the second time, but the third time I was walking down the street. I stopped and checked the bottoms of my shoes, but they were clean, and anyway by then I didn’t smell it anymore,

It happened a few more times yesterday, and then again this morning. I was taking out the recycling – which is a pretty poo job, you have to admit, but it’s never given off an actual stench before. Right out by the fence I smelled it, and there was no guilty pile. I was in my pyjamas, with bare feet, so it could not have been my clothes. Or, at least, if it was my clothes yesterday, this would be a pretty bummer coincidence.

Anyway, it just happened again now, this time in the dining room, and I’m starting to freak out. Because, if I remember my Amityville Horror correctly, the smell of excrement is a sign of Satan – as in Lucifer, or Beelzebub. And even though I don’t technically believe in him, I sure as hell don’t like the idea of him following me around.

Or, wait. Hang on. Was it Satan? Or was it Santa? I'm confused -- am I getting presents?! I guess I wouldn’t mind if Santa followed me around, but I do wish he’d make with the gifts already instead of just farting in my general direction. I better check the source material. Hold on...

Hm. When I google “Amityville Horror” and “excrement” I mostly get links to reviews of the movie. People really no likey the movie.

If I search “excrement” and “occult” I get colon cancer. Well, I don’t get colon cancer, but I get links to colon cancer. Web sites.

When I type “smell of excrement” I get links to something called Diogenes syndrome – which I thought might be the answer until I followed one of them and found it has nothing to do with futile quests. I just means that you’re old and you don’t wash. I shower daily, thank you very much. Most-daily, anyway. Not always on Sundays. Which, despite the poo-smell, is in no way related to devil-worshipping.

But I can’t find anything to prove my Satan theory, which I suppose must be good news. Also good news is that I don’t find anything that says I might be nuts. Except for Johnny. He says that all the time. But not for this. I haven’t even told him about this. Because I think he'd believe the devil thing, and I think I'd freak him out.

Unfortunately, though, if it's not Satan and it isn't madness, then that leaves just one possible interpretation. I know you’re thinking it anyway, and have been for a while, so you might as well just go ahead and say it with me:

I have a bionic nose.

No? Well, then what? What were you going to say?

Oh. Shame on you. That isn't very nice.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


I had this whole post planned, about how I'm old and fat and everything, and it was going to be really long and really funny. But then I got distracted.

Johnny had a bad day. I mean a really baddd day. I mean, it was like ---


In honor of Johnny's Bad Day, let's take ourselves a quiz, shall we? This is not a contest, it's just a multiple-choice game, in the interest of finding out who's the real a-hole here.

Ready? Let's go!


If you were a guy, and you ran your own business, and you only had one guy working for you, and you kind of needed this guy working for you in order to keep your business going, and the agreement you had was that said guy would get himself to your house every morning and you would get him back there every night, but then this one night something came up and you had plans...

Would you...


A. Take him back to your house anyway, because that was the agreement.

B. Take him someplace from where he could easily catch public transporation.

C. Take him someplace else, where public transport is possible, but which is only about 3 miles away from someplace where it would be easy.


D. Tell him his wife ought to pick him up at the job and if she didn't like it she could go something-bad herself.

If you answered C & D -- you are correct!

So, anyway. Etcetera. Yeah.

Now we're both drunk.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

I'll Just Have A Sweet Roll

The lady whose house Johnny's working in this week told him that when she first met her husband, she knew she'd never marry him because his last name is Buns. That may sound shallow, but don't judge. She married him anyway, obviously, and now she's Mrs. Buns. But do you want to know what her first name is?


She had triplets last week. With a name like that, it wouldn't have felt right to have just one in the oven. I'm not sure, but I think they named 'em Sticky, Raisin, and Hot Cross.

His name is Harry.

At least, that's what I've decided to pretend.


You should see the ant-monsters I've been killing around the AssVac this week!


Yes, wings! And beady eyes! And bad-guy, v-shaped eyebrows!

Not beaks, though. Those were supposed to have been fangs, but they came out all beaky-looking.

Yes, fangs!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

This... not iced tea.

Nor is it Russian dressing, which is what I originally took it for. It is a super-strong, secret-recipe, only-the-professional-guys-know-about-it, hand-washing detergent that George brought over to use after he -- da da-da daaaaa! -- finished fixing the f'ing truck!

It smells like oranges.

One More For The Road

I forgot about a request from List Week! Donna wanted to know what the best-selling books would be in 20 years, and what they'd be about. So herewith:

What the Best-Selling Books Will Be In 20 Years, And What They'll Be About

I should explain that, in the future (and probably not in the twenty-year future, either, if I have anything to say about it), there will only be a handful of best-selling "authors." All the actual writing will be done in a factory like Andy Warhol's and published under the proven names, regardless of whether or not the original nameholders in question have gone round the bend or died. Or ever actually existed in the first place.

Now then:

1. How "You Are Old, Father William" Cured My Crippling Halitosis
By Erin Ellia
The trick is to stand on your head while reciting. Seven times a day.
"Shhh!" -- Kevin Trudeau

2. Oonmay Alfcay
By Erin Ellia

A coming-of-age novel written entirely in pig latin.
"Ittyway!" -- Entertainment Weekly.

3. How to Lose Friends and Irritate People
By Erin Ellia
Practical advice for the feeble-minded misanthrope.
"Annoying!" -- Bill O'Reilly's Ghost

4. Whither Pumbaa?
By Erin Ellia
An allegorical novel about the nature of mankind. With recipes.
"Stupid!" -- My High School English Teacher

5. Everybody's Poop, or: All I Really Need To Know I Learned From the AssVac
By Erin Ellia
A collection of ravings from a sad and obviously deeply bothered mind.
"Cease!" -- Taro Gomi
"Desist!" -- the estate of Robert Fulghum

Monday, June 9, 2008

Chuck's On Blocks...

... and on blocks he shall remain until the morrow. Something about the bolts being the wrong bolts, or the holes being the wrong holes, and George having spent four hours here tonight only to have go back to the Chuck-part store then come back here again and have another go.

Poor George. What in our wicked, miserable past did we ever do to deserve a friend like him? Jeebers, it just occurred to me: maybe we should cut all contact with him, in the interest of the hardworking bastard's own well-being. D'ya think? Ah well, we'll wait till this job is done and the man's been paid for it at least.

In the meantime, Johnny would like you all to notice the nice shiny new brake plates on that eviscerated tire. And he'd like to reassure you that it is not the five-gallon plastic bucket that is holding the car up, but rather the red triangle jack-stand right behind it.

I'll give you a thousand dollars if you go kick the jack-stand out.

Oh no, wait. I don't have a thousand dollars. Well, then name your price. Buttons? Dust? Cat litter? What do we actually have around the AssVac that might tempt you to commit a decidedly non-random act of solicited destruction?

Disclaimer: This is the part where you understand without my having to say so that I don't really want anyone trespassing in our (or, I should say, Johnny's) lovely garden and beating hell out of our truck. That there is my job. If any of you buggers do decide that your life would not be worth living without another wad of dryer lint to add to your collection, and you do come after we fall asleep (by 10:30 p.m. most nights) to the AssVac (at 10050 Cielo Drive) and lay so much as a (20lb ought to do it) sledgehammer on the '96 Plymouth Voyager with Massachusetts plates (23SKIDU) that's up on jack-stands in the driveway, I will have you prosecuted to the full extent of the law. And punishment for willful and malicious destruction of property is based, I believe, on the monetary value of the property destroyed.

So you'd only have to give the dryer lint right back.

The Second Shortest Poem Ever Written (with apologies to the Champ)


Remember how I said last week that his f’ing Republican brakes were squealing and I was pretty sure that it was just one worn out shoe? Well, I was wrong. It was the brakes. All four of them. And all of all of them to boot. George said, when he got his grubbies in there, that we were about ten seconds from dead.

So there’s that.

Jeebers, though! They’d only started squealing on Tuesday – and maybe, yes, in a perfect world I would have brought Chuck (TFKT) into a service garage right off. But in a perfect world we would have money, and we don’t, so we waited until the weekend when our Good Friend George could get the parts for us at wholesale and do the work in our driveway at a just-between-friends rate.

Have I ever sung enough praises about Our Friend George? Could I ever sing enough praises about Our Good Friend George? Not only is he always here for us, but he’s always so soothing to the soul when he arrives. “Yeah, you were about ten seconds from dead,” he says, and the way he says it, all we think is: “Really? Gee.”

Johnny did not get paid on Friday, for reasons I will not get into here, so I had to dip into my secret stash of unclaimed cash to finance Chuck (TFET)’s surgery. The parts alone cost $130, and by the time we paid George for his time my emergency stockpile was wiped out. What can I say? It’s a pretty small cookie jar.

I’m speaking figuratively here, of course. I don’t literally keep hundreds of dollars in a cookie jar. Literally, I keep it in a piggy bank. And it’s not even really all that small.

It’s just usually really, really empty.

And now it’s really, really, really empty. Look:

So you can imagine my joy when I drove out to Worcester yesterday and the water pump exploded.

Okay fine, it did not literally explode. It just figuratively blew. And it’s not like I didn’t know that it was blowing. But – what with the echoing piggy bank, what with Johnny still waiting for last week’s paycheck, and what with the whole lightning-doesn’t-strike-twice theory – we really, really, really hoped it would hold on. And just look how well that strategy worked out for us!

I’m not going to hope for anything else, ever again. No, wait: I hope John McCain wins in November. There.

So I had a big crying fit and scared my Football Buddy just a little, then I kept the whole fiasco a secret from my folks (hi, folks!) because I didn’t want to ruin my father’s birthday party (Happy Birthday, Poppo!). We waited till everybody left, then we called AAA and sent TFBT home at the end of a rope. I wanted to tell the driver that when he arrived at the AssVac he could just come around the corner really fast and fling him right through the side of the house, but I didn’t think he’d take me up on that advice, so I didn't bother. Because he might think I had a screw loose somewhere, and we sure as shinola can't afford any more loosened screws -- as evidenced by the fact that I chose to ride the train back home instead of shotgunning it with the AAA guy.

You know what’s fun in 90-degree heat? Amtrak bathrooms.

And you know what makes for riveting reading on a four-hour commute (car, train, subway, bus, walk) that would have taken an hour and a half in TFAT? New York Times Sunday Magazine – the Architecture Issue.


I read every f’ing word. Because staircases are just so four-hour fascinating.

The upside is, however, that I found the place we’ll move to when the inevitable happens and Cuntrywide (a typo, but I’m leaving it) finally wises up and claims the AssVac for its own:

It’s not pretty, but it is in Amsterdam.


Saturday, June 7, 2008

Wrapping Up List Week

People I'd Vote For
If They Ran For President


He's accustomed to manure stains.


He's got your back.


She knows how to pronounce "nuclear."


I don't know. I like the hat.

And, last but not least...


But would we ever get to see him in that coat?

Maybe they'll change the rules and let it be run by committee.

Friday, June 6, 2008

I Can’t Handle The Truth

All through high school, basketball was my sport. It was the only varsity letter I ever got, in fact, and from the boys team to boot. There was a girls team, but that wouldn’t have been nearly as much fun. Why would I want to get all gussied up and ride the bus to an away game with a bunch of girls?

What’s that? How come they let me join the boys team if there was a girl one? Oh, you’re misunderstanding me: I didn’t play. Lord no. I kept the books.

I was that person at the table, courtside, making little tick marks in a little tab. Did it for baseball, too, my senior year (so I guess I lied: I guess basketball was not my only varsity letter) but baseball – as I’m sure will not surprise you – was infinitely more laid back. I’d lie in the grass in my surfer socks and minidresses, with my little silver boom box playing 1999, and count off the positions while practicing my curly Ks.

But in basketball, they yelled at you.

I honestly don’t remember most of what I was writing down in that record book, but I do know that the best part of every match-up would be when some boy – preferably from the opposing team – would rack up five personal fouls. I’d signal the ref, and he would eject the dirty bastard from the game. Nine times out of ten the kid would storm the table, insisting that the foul in question had only been #4. Sometimes he'd insist with swear words; sometimes in an outside voice. And I would swear-word, outside-voice back at him, telling him he'd better get a math tutor because he sure as hell didn’t have a parquet career ahead of him if he couldn’t get through a game without knocking five people down.

Oh boy, that shit was fun!

Even better, though, was getting to learn the ins and outs of a fast-moving sport. I dare say I knew the game – how to watch a game, that is – better than the boys (and girls) who actually played. And how to watch it was important back then because, back then, everyone was watching basketball.

Those were the glory days – the Bird/McHale/Parish days – and for all intents and purposes the Celtics were our only team. You loved the Red Sox, of course, for being such storied losers, and you rooted for the Patriots even though you knew down in your heart the Bears would crush them in the end. I think there might have even been a hockey team in town then, too – I think there might still be, in fact – but nobody's given a flying puck about them since Bobby Orr. No, for most of pro-sports history the Celtics were the only thing that allowed you to hold your head up when you called yourself Bostonian. Or Worcesterian. Or Whereverish.

And when I say everyone was watching, I mean everyone. To wit: at the end of each school year, from sixth grade right on through graduation, my friend Dawn Yules had a sleepover at her house. Ten or twelve of us would bring a backpack to Awards Day, and when it was over we’d take off our Izod dresses and our espadrilles, pile into Mrs. Yules's Cherokee, and pile out an hour later at Riverside Park. We’d ride roller coasters until it got dark outside, go home and spalsh around in her nightlighted in-ground pool, then put on our pyjamas and watch the Celtics (usually) kick some Laker ass. Every year. From sixth grade right on through graduation.

So you see: if this was how a bunch of thirteen-year-old girls chose to spend their first-day-of-vacation slumber party, it’s safe to say that everyone was watching.

But then, a week after our final sleepover – a week after we graduated, and a week after the Celts won what would turn out to be their last championship for at least twenty years – K.C. and the sunshine gang drafted a Maryland forward by the name of Lenny Bias.

For those of you who didn’t gasp on reading that, I should explain that poor Len Bias up and died less than forty-eight hours after getting the call. And (not to sound too cold-hearted or anything, but) for the Celtics it was all downhill from there. The Lakers bested them in ’87, then one by one, Bird, Parish, and McHale all retired from the game and moved away. Since that time, well, suffice to say that Riverside Park is a SixFlags now. The last I checked, they were charging $50 to get in.

By which I mean it’s been a long time since I watched a Celtics game, and I’m not the only one who tuned them out. I'm sorry, but it was embarrassing. We love our losers here in this town as much as most folks love their champions, but we could not wrap our foam fingers around this. The Celtics, you understand, are not supposed to lose.

So for twenty years (or let’s say fifteen, to be fair) we all but forgot they existed. And when I say “we” here, I mean “me and the folks I know.” I’m sure somebody was paying attention all those decades, I just don’t know who that somebody was. All me and my folks knew was that Paul Pierce (a.k.a. “The Motherfucking Truth” – a nickname given to him by a Laker, by the way) was out there playing his heart out for us on a losing team. We appreciated that he never gave up on us and left; it was even almost good a few years ago, when Antoine Walker was playing Scottie Pippen to his Michael J. But the fact remained that, while everybody else in this swamp of a town was racking up Lombardi trophies and World Series rings, the boys in green just couldn’t push it through.

Then, last year, the team got tired of being a footnote in Title Town. The back office went shopping. The Truth came out to motherfucking play. And, since Day One, they prevailed.

Still, though, I wasn’t watching. I’d gotten out of practice through the years. Couldn’t remember anymore what all those little tick marks in the chart book used to mean. Was no longer used to keeping up with that much back-and-forth on a teeny-tiny court. I’d grown accustomed to a grassy, expansive diamond, or to a hundred-yard gridiron with Astroturf. I'd come to like my points accumulated slowly every hour and a half, punctuated liberally with breaks to use the john. The single basketball game that I tried to watch felt like an entire baseball season compressed into one night: early points marginally exciting with enough drama going on, but I didn’t really care until the final clock ticked down.

Even without my bottom on the couch for them, however, the Celtics wound up with the best record in the league this year. Even better (for me; because you know how I love a good narrative), they had a tough time in the playoffs, going six games in one series and seven in the next (a pair of sweeps would have bored me all to tears). Then finally, as if to bring it all back home, the hated L.A. Lakers won the Conference West.

(Also, I don’t know if it’s related, but Six Flags (née Riverside) recently cut its ticket-price in half. Therefore perhaps these are the '80s, after all.)

So I had to watch it, right? For the story of it and for the remember-when. I had to watch it for the old clips – of the clothesline, and the sauna series – that the networks were guaranteed to dig out of the vault. I had to get my chance to see the old boys suited on the sidelines, if they'd be there: Magic and Kareem and Larry, Danny Ainge and McHale and the Chief. And I had to see old Nicholson in his dumb shades at the courtside – really, really hoping that the crowd would imitate his voice to shout “You can’t handle The Truth!”

I thought the game was on at 7:00, but it didn’t start till nine, so I was watching the pre-game hype when Johnny burst through the front door hollering something about the baseball game. The Sox had moved their first pitch up a couple hours so that folks like me wouldn’t feel the need to choose, but I’d forgotten. And shame on me, because the Sox were at home against the Devil Rays – a.k.a. The Team We Hate When New York's Not In Town.

There’d been a fight, a proverbial Bench-Clearing Brawl, and Johnny’d run home from the pub to watch the replay of it with me. We changed the channel on the TeeVee, and he reenacted the kerfuffle in the living room a dozen times before they finally showed the clip. Coco Crisp throwing his helmet, charging the mound, leaning like Neo from the sissy punch the belly-itcher threw, then coming right back up with a jawbreaker of his own, and -- BOOM! Dugouts spilling people out like so much porridge.

By the time 9:00 rolled round and the Celtics game was starting, there was no hope of getting him to change the channel. Johnny is a baseball guy to start with (actually, he was a hockey guy to start with, but since the strike a couple years ago even he doesn't give a hoo about the Bruins anymore) and, since he only landed in the Hub in '86, he’s got no nostalgic feeling for what's going on downtown. When I reached for the clicker, Johnny said “What if there’s another fight? We don’t want to miss it!” I tried to explain to him that there’s never another fight, but finally I just gave up and went to watch basketball in the bedroom.

Where, of course, I promptly fell asleep.

The Celts bested the Lakers last night, and apparently it was a hell of a game. Me, though, I didn't see a second of it, because I was at a private slumber party of my own. Paul Pierce got hurt and came back in again; I snored. The crowd chanted “Beat L.A.!” just like they used to in the glory days; I smacked my lips and muttered for them to quiet down. I do know Nicholson stayed home, so I guess he can't handle the Truth -- but if you're going to look at it that way, then neither can I.

Because apparently, (I hadn’t noticed, but) I am not fifteen anymore. Evidently, too, this isn't 1984. It also seems that 39-year-old, 2008-me is no longer riveted by basketball. And, big rumor has it, alcohol’s a sedative.

The truth hurts, Jack, old boy.

But The Truth is Beauty.

At least, from what I hear.

Oh, and apparently there was another fight in the baseball game, after all. Not a bench-clearing brawl, though. No, these two guys didn’t even have to get off the dugout bench to hit each other.

Ah, Boston sports. Every day inventing a new way to make us proud.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Buildings and Food (and fire and death)

I know a few of you had suggestions for lists that I could write, but then something happened that made me decide to do this instead:

Five Funny Things That Have Happened
Around The AssVac This Week

1. Call me Yossarian.
Are you wondering about our progress in the kitchen over the months since I've reported on it? Yeah, well, so am I. Nothing has been done in there, the end. Except for, well, I cleaned it the other day – which, if you know me, is actually kind of a big deal.

See, we’ve been stuck in a loop, because the back seat of the fucking truck is stuck and won’t go down. In fact, it has never gone down. Not since we’ve owned it, anyway. It is supposed to go down, and it used go down to when George used to own it, but since the day we took possession the damn thing has remained in an upright and locked position. Maybe it’s just a boy scout, Being Prepared for the inevitable crash.

Anyway, we need to go get drywall before we can wrap up the kitchen. But the only days we can get drywall are the days Johnny’s not working (you think I’m going to haul drywall and tie it on the roof all by myself? Yes. Then I'll sit on it and twirl.), and the only days that he’s not working lately are the days it rains. You can’t tie drywall to the roof in a rainstorm unless you don’t mind laying it on with a trowel when you get it home, and so you see: we're stuck. Can’t go unless it’s raining, but if it’s raining, we can’t go.

I did really clean the kitchen thoroughly, however. So there’s that. And then, that very evening, Johnny cooked himself a steak.

2. No, Call Me Martha
Because not only did I clean the kitchen, I cleaned the whole entire AssVac, practically. This is not funny so much as it’s a somebody-catch-me shock. I told One Friend on the phone that I was “clean-cleaning – you know, like moving furniture and vacuuming cobwebs off the walls – not just shifting things around and running a dustmop down the center of the room.” And she said:

“You mean like Spring Cleaning?”

Well, yeah. I guess. Except the place has never been sprung-cleaned before. Not in our tenure, anyway. And not for decades before that, I’m certain.

I mean, it did get cleaned when we moved in – I am not right now scraping away Jimmy-Carter-era grime. But this is the first year since then that we’ve had enough rooms close enough to finished that I was able to track the progress of a winter’s worth of grime (which has a tendency to blend in to the poop-brown linoleum, or else look positively sparkly next to the spreading mold-stain on the wall).

So, room, by room, I’ve been tackling the crud. I started in (I think I even mentioned in this space last week) the bedroom – vacuuming cat hair off of the love seat and everything. The clean bedroom made the hall outside look crappy, so the next day I did that. Then that made the kitchen look like hell, and before I knew it I was washing windows in the entryway.

What I'm saying is: if anybody out there wants to see the AssVac when she’s clean, you had better get your butts out here real soon. Because something tells me this whole wall-to-wall spring-cleaning thing ain’t going to be happening for at least four more years. At which point we’ll be referring to it as: “staging to sell.”

Before then, though, someone’s going to have to bring the office up to speed.

Hey, I did say "practically."

3. Poop!
I am not the gardener around here, Johnny is. There is no love lost between me and the Kingdom Metaphyta, and when you combine that raging animosity (or more like simmering indifference) with my tendency to break things, it really is just best for everybody if I keep my sticky fingers out.

But Johnny doesn’t drive.

So the one concession I have made to his seasonal shop of horrors through the years, is to pilot Chuck (or, rest her soul, Francine) to the garden shop for starter flats. I push the cart around the too-small aisles, I make menu requests (if not for my assistance he’d forget the green beans, every year) and edit his selections (five kinds of tomatoes, really?). I sometimes even give him $20 towards the cause, if I’m feeling particularly flush or have made more than my share of requests. And then I drive back home, where he does all the unloading and planting and watering and whatever else it is you have to do to keep the damn things alive until they start making themselves useful. At which point, sometimes – sometimes – if he isn’t home, say, and I want to make a salad, I’ll tiptoe out into the yard and grab a big green cuke.

It’s hard work, this agri-business, I tell you what.

Anyway, so this week was that week. We drove and pushed and chose and paid, and then at the last minute Johnny decided to get a bag of cow poo to spread around. Actually, he decided he’d get three. No, make it four. I pulled the car around and popped the trunk, killed the engine and turned the key backwards so I could sit there listening to Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me while he heaved the bags inside.

“Ah, bollocks!” he said.

Cow poop. Everywhere.

“Well,” he said, “there’s a half a bag for nuthin’, anyway.”

By the time we got home, it had somehow worked its way throughout the car. Under the gas pedal and everything. And guess who didn’t lift a cloven toe to clean it up?


4. I Will Brake You
Speaking of Chuck (and pigs, for that matter), he has of late developed what I’m sorry to say is a rather unattractive squeal.

It sounds like: weeweeweeweeweewee, and it’s coming from the brake shoes. Of that much, I am certain. But the part about how only one of the fours shoes is worn enough to be dangerous is just a pet theory of mine, based on the fact that he only squeals when I steer him to the left. For this reason, Johnny and I have decided that Chuck has secretly been a Republican truck all of this time, which means his appellation rightly should be “Chuck (TFRT)” -- and which only makes us hate him all the more.

Unfortunately, he shares a few other qualities with the GO(F)P that don’t bode well for me & Johnny. Namely:

1. He’s in charge
2. He thinks we ought to sign our paychecks straight over to ExxonMobil, and
3. If (or when) he does at long last crash and burn, we’re going down in flames right along with him.

He thinks all this is nine kinds of funny. When he’s not wheezing in his shoes he's making a grotty sort of chortle in his throat and emitting noxious gas. But what grand old Chuckles isn't counting on is:

#4. The dignified, island-born black man who’s fixing, as we speak, to set him right.

That’s right, Ladies and Gentleman, I’m talking about George. Remember George? The outie who recognized Dirty Boy on my computer screen? We haven’t seen him much these days, but Johnny gave him the heads up and we’re hoping he’ll come give Chuck what-for this weekend.

Until then, we’ve taken to joining in the chorus, crossing our fingers and hoping to weeweewee all the way home

5. Just In Case
As you can see, Johnny and I have been mostly laughing in the face of failure this week, but failure really doesn’t seem to be getting the joke. So yesterday, in the name of Better Safe Than Sorry, I picked up some candles and arranged this little shrine.

Well, the cross and the Buddhas live there permanently, that’s just our covering-all-bases mantlepiece. But both the Santeria-type candles are new. The one on the left is wishing us fast luck in all corners:

And the one on the right is calling to St. Jude.

Because, while I may be a quintessential doubting Thomas when it comes to All Things Holy, I sure as Simon know when it’s time to pray for a lost cause.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Make S'Mores!

It took all four of you, and my brain makes five –
But my brain needs help these days just to survive.
The poor thing is wasting away now, I fear
(Though not the rest of me; just look at my rear!)

She (that’s my brain) has been needing a shove
So I turned at long last to a writer I love.
A collector of things taxidermic and strange
Who’s admitted to crabs (but avoided the mange).

Where was I? Oh yes: it took you all four
To come up with the thing that I was waiting for.
To think that I waited for eight months to get it,
And now, in thirty-two (and-a-half) hours, I’ve read it!

Khurston knew but would not say, to give folks a chance
Courtney knew but did not want to get off her hands
Charlie looked it up and found out what it’s called
And LadyCiani did nothing at all!

So I guess that makes three, really, brains that it took
To come up with the name of Sedaris’s book.
When You Are Engulfed in Flames -- just what Doc ordered.
The cure for what ailed me…

Thanks, David!

(And Borders!)

But We'll Keep Them All In A Locked Room

I’ve declared this List Week here at The House and I. Mostly because I’m still easing my writing muscle back into play after having been on the DL for a month or so. It’s easier this way, like using a – oh, what’s the word? You know: that Y-shaped thing you put under your arm to help you walk with?

Anyway, so Monday I listed things the universe should do for me (which can be summed up as follows: shape up and get out of my way); Tuesday I listed bullets I’ve dodged (in sum: walking billboard of shame); and today I’m filling a request from my Pretend Nana:

Five Things I Hope Do Not Exist
When I’m 20 Years Older

1. Mirrors
No. I mean, this was my first instinct, but then I remembered the smooth chin I had at age 19, pictured what my billy-goat scruff would look like by 59, and decided I’d have to keep the mirrors around for tweezing purposes. Of course, by then I probably won’t be able to see well enough to do the job. Dang it.

2. Whippersnappers.
Again, no. Again, instinctual, but then I thought: who the hell’s going to mow the lawn? So keep the whippersnappers, too. Dang it!

3. Bathroom Scales
Well, on the other hand… I got my hated hips from my (loved) grandmother. I’ve seen pictures of her when she was younger, and we could be twins – or twin bagel bottoms, anyway. But by the time I knew her she was teeny. Teeny-tiny. So maybe in twenty years I’ll be teeny-tiny too, and wouldn’t I like to register that number on the scale? Of course, by then I’ll be too blind to read it. Dang!

4. You Know That Guy With The Pencil-Pimp Moustache Who Does The Colon-Cleansing Infomercial? Him.
I’ve never even watched the dang thing, but when I flip past a channel he’s on I get the creeping willies. Except, isn’t hoping he doesn’t exist kind of like hoping he (gulp) dies? And that’s not a very pleasant thing to hope for, dang it all, even if he does look like something I’d hit with a rock.

Oh, I know. I’ve got one. And I mean this one, too. No backsies. (Ha! When I typed “backsies,” Microsoft Word automatically changed it to “backsides.” Yeah, well, none of those, either! Right, Grammy?) Ready? Okay:

One Thing I Really DO Hope Does Not Exist
When I’m 20 Years Older

5. The AssVac

Dang you, AssVac! Dang you to heeeeccck!

Now: what should I listify tomorrow?

*(Image also from
Ben Grasso. Same guy I stole from the other day. Love him. Do.)