It's not about the house.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Squirrels, Incorporated

Remember this? 

I came home and found this interesting installation on my windowsill a couple months ago, and everyone but me knew what it was. Everyone but me knew it meant that Johnny’d decided to plant potatoes (I don't know what to say about the onion), but first he had to leave them on the windowsill in an egg carton for a while to, I don’t know, give me a chance to make an obscure Sesame Street reference on this here blog.

No, seriously, it’s called “chitting” I guess – which I gather is an old-fashioned word for “sprouting potatoes” – and apparently the next step in the time-honored process is to put one or two of them in the ground and leave the rest just lying around to make the yard look nice and pretty and generally be a bother to your wife.  

And yes, for those of you who might remember it, that in the upper left is our old friend the mother in the jar. I got him to take it out of the house when it began to stink, but haven't been able to convince him to get him to toss it altogether. By now it's been rained in, caterpillar-pooped in, and probably peed in by something or other, yet still it's out there, still thought of as too good to throw away. Ah well. At least the whole mess is outside. I’d hate to think what my back porch would smell like if it was all still on the windowsill.  

Now, Johnny feeds the squirrels. He always has, everywhere we’ve lived. Doesn’t buy special food for them or anything, but apples that go squashy, cookies that go stale, homemade bread that for whatever reason didn’t rise. Give it to the squirrels! 

Of course, other creatures started to catch on, so we started feeding them as well. Skunks like mushrooms, raccoons are fond of moldy cheese, ravens are mad for meat scraps, and seagulls will eat anything at all. And when we started noticing stray cats out there fighting for their share of slightly rancid chicken soup, I bought a big bag of Wal-Mart cheap food and stuck an old ceramic bowl under the porch. We are one hungry pushmi-pullyu away from Puddleby-on-the-Marsh, I swear to god. 

(Although that prior paragraph is not 100% true. I had to stop feeding the cats in the summertime, for example, because the skunks were eating that food, too, and getting a little bit too comfortable under the porch. And, well, this past winter I might have bought a bag of birdseed – but only because the starlings were sucking down the spongy Jammie Dodgers as fast as we could put them out, and the poor squirrels were starving. Okay and I might have also bought a bag or two of roasted peanuts to put out for the starving squirrels, in another attempt to foil the flying rats. Starlings are too dumb, I figured, to be able to remove a peanut from its shell. And I was right. But ravens aren’t. Ravens will hold three peanuts in their mouths, fly up to a tree, and open them one by one. It’s hard to stay mad at a display of ingenuity like that, though. So okay, when I say "one or two" bags of peanuts, it might have been more like three or four.) 

Anyway, lately, I suppose we’ve been remiss. The squirrels are happily breeding away as if they’re still living in boon times – I actually saw them doing it right outside my kitchen window, and every day another one heads up a different tree with a great big mouthful of nest – but we’ve been eating our cookies before they go stale, making fresh salads with all our old fruit, and just generally muddling through with tighter belts. And the squirrels, apparently, are getting pissed.  

I know, because look what I found on the railing yesterday: 

And this on the one that's opposite: 

Johnny’s chitting potatoes! Not just robbed and eaten, but robbed, dragged to an obvious spot by the back door, half-eaten, and left there for us to see.  

What’s next? Notes saying "Those are lovely apple trees; I'd hate to see anything happen to them"? Or will we wake up to find wee little horsefly heads left on our pillows?

Whoops! Gotta go! I think I hear an apple going squashy in the other room...

Monday, May 25, 2009

Quite Contrary

Okay, I’m back. Sorry. I got a bit distracted for a while because Thursday was Hidden Gardens Day on Beacon Hill. I work on Beacon Hill, for those of you who didn’t know, and Hidden Gardens Day is a yearly tradition in which people who don’t have gardens open their twelve-square-foot terraces of ivied brick and potted plants to the public to show off the expert watering they pay illegal immigrants to do.

Well, not open to the public as it were. To paying ticketholders. And the profits go to – hang on a second, let me look this up. Because I don’t have any idea what the profits go to, and I wouldn’t want to be unnecessarily snarky and make up something obnoxious, only to find out it's a purely altruistic and civic-minded affair...  

Got it: they are “committed to the beautification of Beacon Hill” (“and areas of immediate proximity”). They dress it up in a lot of talk about conservation and flying Garden Club members down to Washington (and thank god, because these people would otherwise probably have to use their private planes, and that would just defeat the whole purpose of all their conservation talk), but that's the gist. Phew. I’m sure glad I caught myself before getting all snarky.

Anyway, so on that one day every spring (and they don't see any need to post a notice letting the neighborhood know ahead of time exactly what day that might be), the area is overrun. Every wanna-be society lady from Weston (and areas of immediate proximity) comes down with her tennis sweater (over her shoulders, naturally) and her new straw hat, and spends the day pretending to all her wanna-be friends that she knows her way around. They stand on street corners looking at maps, pointing in random directions and saying names of streets that lie somewhere else entirely, then agree that the whole thing was just lovely and spend the rest of the afternoon stopping abruptly on the sidewalk to peer in the windows of every twee cafĂ©, deciding which one they ought to pay eleven dollars for a mini-quiche in. It’s the one day of the year I allow myself to fart openly in public, and if I could only remember to find out ahead of time what day it was, I’d spend the week before it eating nothing but canned baked beans and brussel sprouts. Alas, again this year, I didn’t know. So instead I spent the weekend trying to tuck my poor prolapsed colon back in where it belongs. 

Speaking of gardens, though, and speaking of snarky (but not, thankfully, speaking of colons): I do appreciate all of your wishes and sympathies and advice about the lawn mower saga that I wrote last Tuesday, but if you'd all done better on the reading-comprehension portions of your SATs, you would have retained all the way to the (very) bitter end the information I gave in the first sentence. Namely, ahem: “the lawn mower’s finally fixed.” 

Seriously. I said it. Go back and check. I’ll wait...

See? I told you. What happened was this: 

Before we knew that it would turn into a fruitless wild goose chase at the Sears store, Johnny told George we were on our way to get the part, and George said he’d be over the next afternoon to put it in. When our snipe hunt turned up snake eyes, I told Johnny to ring George and call him off, but George said that if worse came to worse he would fix the old push mower for us (which is still in the basement even though it’s been broken for three years) – and since we desperately had to cut that damn grass somehow, Johnny decided to just let him come. 

I sort of somehow managed to forget all of this when I went to work on Tuesday. And when I came home there was Johnny, in Alice’s yard, mowing Alice’s lawn with Alice’s mower, while our grass was still knee-high to Manute Bol. As shocking as it may seem, however, this did not annoy me. I didn’t even raise my voice to ask him what was going on. I just brought him a beer, because I knew. 

See, the week before, on the day George and Johnny spent replacing parts and failing to crank up our Crapsman tool, Alice had been in her yard with her son doing the same. So when George showed up that afternoon, instead of bringing the push mower from the basement, Johnny rang Alice’s bell and said “If we get your mower going, can I use it?” She agreed and -- naturally, because it's George we're talking about here -- they got it going in about an hour. 

Johnny did her yard first (because that's the kind of guy he is), and it was dark when he was finished, so he rang her bell again and said that he'd call for the mower in the morning. She tried to pay him, but he told her to shove her money up her arse. The next day, he mowed our lawn, and we pretty much assumed that would be the plan for the summer (or until the economy turns around and he has work again). But a few days later, without us knowing he was going to, George came over with a new carburetor for our Crapsman that he’d built for us from scratch. Well, not from scratch, probably. I mean, I don’t think he mined the ore and forged the steel or anything. But you know, from spare carburetor-looking pieces that he found lying around. 

We seriously have the best friends ever, don't you think? Plus, if you put your thumbs up to strategically block the sight of certain houses, we’ve got some awfully darn good neighbors round here, too. And now, thanks to all of us (except for, notably, me), our gardens are looking fine. Maybe not as finely-planned and manicured as what they’re charging $35 a pop to peek at on Beacon Hill, but I think ours are nicer – in their untamed, wild way – and I’ll stand on Mrs. Weston’s straw hat in my shit-kickers and say so, anytime.  

Just let me give old George and Alice time to get upwind.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tooling Around

I got home Sunday from a long weekend at Dr. One Friend’s, and before I could ask Johnny why the rhododendron is still standing, he jumped in to inform me the lawnmower’s finally fixed.

Oh, that’s right. You didn't know it was broken. Well, it was. I don’t think I wrote about that little ray of sunshine in my otherwise-pitch-black existence over this past week and a half, because I was too busy fending off puppies and handing out lollipops.

Johnny and I can't decide whose fault it is the damn thing broke, because we can't decide who's responsible for leaving it out in the yard all winter. What's certain is that last summer, for the first time in all the years we've been together, mowing the lawn was finally Johnny’s job. And not for nothing, but in all the years I mowed the lawn, I brought the mower in. Not just after the season, either. Every time.

I used a push-mower all those years, though, and that dull old thing couldn’t have weighed thirty pounds. The one Johnny uses is gas-powered (and before anybody feels compelled to lecture us on greenitude or exercosity, please note: the push mower is as broke as we are, and George gave us the power one for free). The new one’s a lot heavier and more awkward than the old one, and (seeing as how we have no outside access to the basement) bringing it in means carrying it through the house and down what amounts to a set of spiral stairs. Last but not least, in October (because why should October be different than any of the other eleven months?) Johnny had a couple broken ribs.

He says he asked me to help him and I never did. I say if he'd asked, why in heaven's name would I say no? But in the interest of Stopping the Bitching and Getting On With Life, we've called a moratorium on laying blame for now.

The point is that the damn thing did stay in the yard all winter, and when Johnny pulled the cord this spring to start it, it went all French-public-servant on his ass. Which is to say, it blew a puff of smoke at him and went on strike. 

Johnny wheeled it around front (so he could actually see it without the obstuction of knee-high grass) and discovered that it had a leak. How did he make this observation? Why, after two days on the front walk, it left a distinctive stain. (Just to double-test that notion, he moved it over a foot and a half -- and sure enough, two days after that there was another one. Theorem proved!) Armed with this bit of information, Johnny did what we always do at times like these.

He called George.

Our Friend George is a mechanic by trade, and by calling. George can fix anything, anything, from toasters to eighteen-wheelers – though he got his training in the army, so “from transistors to tanks” would probably have been a better choice of words. Whatever. You name it, I’m saying, George can fix it – and if by any chance he can’t, he probably knows where he can get another one for almost-free.

So George came over (this was sometime around the 5th of May), took the leaky hose off, went to the store for new one, and replaced it – showing Johnny all the steps along the way so he could do it all by himself next time. after all, with our life being what it is, you just know there’s going to be a next time. The only thing you cannot know is when.

Like, for instance, would you have ever guessed that as soon as the hose worked we'd discover a bad spark plug?

So George and Johnny went back to the store. George put the new spark plug in, showed Johnny how. Then, with the new hose and plug raring to go, the carburator coughed twice and keeled over.

By this point it was too late, too dark, and just too %$&;#^%! for George. He told Johnny to get the carburetor on his own time and call him when he had it, at which point he’d come back and show him how to put it on.

For little things like tubes and spark plugs, George and Johnny had been going up the street, but for the carburetor – seeing as how this Tool was made by Craftsman – we were going to have to go to Sears. I didn’t even know where there was one, and I was damned if I would go alone. Johnny may not know what he’s talking about in the carburetor department any more than I do, but at least he has a dick to wag around. Me, I’m snake eyes in the Tool department. So to speak.

So while I waited for the carburetor fairy to magically leave one under my (or preferably Johnny’s) pillow, days went by. The weekend rolled around. Weekend rolled past. Johnny went away. Returned. And miraculously, no matter how much time I spent in the backyard bunker cranking that secret handle. the grass did not curl back up into the ground.

Finally, when I came home from work on Monday, we could wait no longer. I may not have time to go to Sears, I reasoned, I may still have no freaking idea where Sears is, but we need to get there now, or else by the time George can make it back to fix the mower he won’t be able to see the AssVac from the road. I looked online and found a Sears, Johnny got the model number off the Tool, and we were on our way.


Very Helpful Sears Lady #1 says she doesn’t know about no carburetors, but if we wait for Sears Gentleman over there, she’s sure he’ll be able to help.

Sears Gentleman says they don’t sell Sears parts at Sears. We have to go to a store that’s called Sears Parts. He can’t tell us where to find one, but gives us an 800-number and says he’s sure they’ll be able to help.

Sears Lady #2 – whom I call from my cell phone standing right in the Sears store – gives me a Sears Parts Store address in the next town over (the next town over from where we are now, mind you; which is three towns away from home – but never mind). She also gives me their phone number, and says she’s sure they’ll be able to help.
Lady #3, who answered the phone at the Sears Parts Store, says “We don’t sell parts to the public, Ma’am.”

It's at this point Johnny and I decide to hit the pub.

On the way, I called back Lady #2 (yes, I was driving while I did it, and no, I don’t care. I really don’t. I was driving to the pub, not from it, and I didn’t hit anybody. Did I? No. So hold your whisht). It was actually not Lady #2 I spoke to, but she was at the same 800-number, so we'll give her the benefit of the dooce.

I asked (this was Johnny’s idea) whether Lady #3 might sell the part to George, seeing as how he was a licensed mechanic and therefore possibly not “the public,” as it were.

Lady #2 (technically #4) said she didn’t see any reason why Lady #3 would've said they don't sell parts to the public. “They are a Parts Store, after all, that’s what they do.”

This is what I’m saying.

“Maybe she just meant they didn’t have the part in stock.”

But I never got that far. I never gave her the model number – or even told her it was a lawn mower. I just told her I was having a problem with a Craftsman Tool. I'm having problems with several of them, now.

Never mind. How long will it take if we order the part to be delivered to our house? Sears Gentleman #1 at Sears Store #1 assured us you’d be able to help with that?

"Shipping times vary on location and availability, ma'am." For all their unhelpfulness, them Sears Ladies are very ma'am-y .

So I read the model number to her. Off the pad, in Johnny's handwriting, over the cell phone, while I was driving to the pub. (Hold. Your. Whisht). She put me on hold for, like, ever, and when she came back said it could be in my mailbox on May 22nd (this was the 11th) or, if I wished, they could expedite for the 14th.

Oh, yes, the 22nd is much too late. There will be lions eating my parents through the living room walls by the 22nd. How much will it be to expedite?

She put me on hold again for even longer, and when we were one stop light from the pub she came back on, thanked me for holding, and said that to expedite the shipping – from the Sears Parts Store in Norwood, Mass, to my house in Weymouth; a distance of 18.1 miles, door to door – would be $110. And eighty cents. Would I like her to place the order?

“A hundred and ten dollars!?” I said. “How much is the part!?”

The carburetor for the Craftsman Tool power mower Model # GOF4SELF, she informed me (getting a little testy, I might add), was eighty bucks.

“For two hundred dollars I could buy a new lawn mower!” I said, sticking fingers in my ears to staunch the bleeding.

Sears Lady #2 (or #4, whatever) was not amused by this revelation. She immediately launched into an explanation (which I never understood), about all the hoops I'd have to jump through in order to be approved to buy the part myself at the Sears Parts Store in twenty minutes, instead of paying $110 to ship it eighteen miles in two days.

A hundred and ten dollars. I could push it eighteen miles with my nose faster than that.

“And you know what?” I said. “For eighty dollars I could buy a brand-new new push mower just like the broken one I used to have!” She wished me luck with that, and I hung up and went into the pub.

Though we weren’t technically at the pub. I drove past the pub while all the rigamorole was still transpiring, and found myself now at a Mexican restaurant down the street. We sat at the bar, told the sob story of our poor ould mower, made a few jokes about getting a pair of goats...

And got a round of Kamikazes on the house.

I’ve never had a Kamikaze before. I don’t even have any idea what one is. But I drank it that night, and I'll tell you what I learned:

A pair of ‘em go a long way towards alleviating sharp pains in the Tool.

There is more to this story, but I’ve been going on too long, and I meant to post it two days ago. I’ll tell you how it ends soon. Soon. In the meantime, Johnny promised me Gorton's fish sticks and Ore-Ida fries for dinner, and we don’t eat Sears-quality food like that too often. If I want to continue to fit in my fat pants, I’d better get my fanny in there while the crispy getting’s good!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

(Insert Obligatory Monty Python Reference Here)

So, um...

Johnny started to finish painting the outside of the house. Sort of.

See, what he did is, he cut the shrubs down.

He told me he was going to cut the shrubs down, but I didn't know he was going to cut the shrubs down! He said I'm going to cut the shrubs down, and I said what do you mean, and he said you know because they brush up against the house, and I said didn't you do that already, and he said no --

And then he cut the shrubs down!

But, see, when he said he was going to cut the shrubs down, I didn't think he meant cut them down cut them down. I thought he meant trim the branches where they brush against the house. Which he did do already. Last fall. When he started to start to paint the house.

What did he think I meant when I said didn't you do that already? Did he think I meant had he already cut them down? Because, I mean, does he think I couldn't see them still being there?

At least they were still being there, until I came home from work and they were being in the driveway. Like a pair of giant, shrubby, tumbleweeds.

Well, they were being in the driveway. I may have accidentally hit them with the car.

Apparently bushes are the bane of an outside-house-painter's existence. Johnny doesn't paint outside that often, but when he does he's always tried unsuccessfully to talk the owners into cutting the bushes down. This time, though, he was the owner, so he was pretty easily convinced.

He left the boxwood, though. Because he likes it. So do I, but, um...


Oh, hell, I can't bring myself to give a shit. I don't give a shit about too much these days. Yesterday I was all "what if we have to sell the house tomorrow? Think about the curb appeal!" but today I'm all "So what?" If we do have to sell the house tomorrow, it wouldn't be very much like the two of us (or the AssVac, for that matter) to get anything approaching market price. And besides, those newly-open spots happen to be the only six square feet in the whole yard that get sun enough for flowers. So instead seeing a toothless, hillbilly smile when I look at my house, I'm seeing an empty place to plant those four-o'clocks. Stop Bitching And Get On With Life, is my new motto. I've got more important things to think about. Like, for example, Johnny offered to teach me to use the chainsaw.

And I've had my eye on that rhododendron in the back for years.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

We're All Mad Here

We have a window in our shower. See?

Old houses do this, and I've never understood the reasoning. Best I can figure is it probably has something to do with ventilation, before there was any such thing as exhaust fans. But even so, you can't open it while you're bollocky-bare and soaking wet, except for maybe two months of the year. Plus, if you don't hang a plastic shower-curtain over it, the whole window frame rots out (I know, because it happened in the apartment we rented before we bought the AssVac; we didn't own that damn apartment, so we didn't care). And it's not like there were any such thing as plastic shower curtains in 1914.

Or 1913.

See, the deed -- and the assessor, and every other official person and paper I've ever seen -- says that this house was built in 1914, but Johnny insists "somebody at the pub" told him otherwise. I don't know how anybody at the pub could possibly remember (the oldest fella there is in his '70s, after all), but Johnny always believes pub-knowledge over, oh, say, actual fact. I've gotten to the point where I don't argue. '13, '14, what the christly difference does it make?

Either way, the AssVac is definitely older than the wee green house next door. So although the original owners did have to deal with a mildewed ceiling and rotted window in the bathroom, at least they didn't have to worry about neighbors peeping at them when they were in their nude.

Like we do.

Howdy, neighbor!

But I'm kidding. Really. Alice (that's the lady in the wee green house next door) would never peep. She's in her '70s herself (but no, she's not the pub-regular I mentioned), and she lives there all alone. I don't think I've ever seen that -- or any -- window in her house when the blinds weren't closed up tight.

But you never know what might be accidentally visible. Alice's blind is always drawn, and 75% of the time we've got the window-curtain pulled (I open it sometimes in the summer, to get some fresh air in the bathroom for a change), but when it's dark outside and the lights are on in the bathroom, you never know what sort of image might get through.

It's not that I'm over-shy. Someday I'll write a post entitled Public Places I Have Peed. But I wouldn't want poor Alice to be going to bed (or something; I've no idea what room that window opens to) and be subjected to even the slotted, gauzy outline of my fat, white, naked ass. Even the hazy knowledge that a vaguely humanoid shape walked in, dropped trou, and subsequently sank to sub-windowsill levels, well, even that is more than poor old Alice needs to know.

So when I go in at night to sink beneath the window, I make double-sure that all curtains are closed:

There might still be hazy shapes involved, I've no idea. But, absent boarding up the window (which couldn't possibly be good for mildewed ceilings), three curtains are the best that I can do.

And yet...

We have two bathrooms, the other one of which in en suite in my bedroom, so the only times I use this one after dark are the times Johnny and I hang out together. Watching "Big Bang" in the living room. Drinking beer at the kitchen table. Watching "Dearg Doom" (again) on Youtube at my desk.

Oh, heck. Here:

And on the evenings we pursue this frivolity, I'm always surprised to walk in the bog and have to pull the curtain closed. I do it every time. I just did it, didn't I? I'm drinking beer, for crying out loud! I swear to you, I just did it, seven and a half minutes ago. And yet there the goddamn curtain is, wide open.

Now, I can understand Johnny -- or anyone -- not being as obsessive as I am about protecting Alice. I can see not remembering, or bothering, to pull the curtain closed. But to pull it open? What the hell reason could there possibly be for that?

Generally speaking, though, when you're drinking beer and watching "Dearg Doom," you're in the middle of a sentence when you realize that you have to pee. By the time you're zipped and dried and ready to return, the question on your lips is not usually "What have you been doing with the shower curtains?" but "What was it I was saying when I left?"

Finally, though, recently, I remembered. We were in the kitchen at the time. I'd only had a couple beers, and I was reading Bill Bryson out loud to Johnny while he--

Oh, hey, not for nothing, but have you heard they're making a movie of A Walk in the Woods? Yeah. It's supposed to star ... wait for it ... Robert Redford. Now, when Bryson took that fabled walk he would have been 45. Robert Redford just turned 73 (and the film's still in development). I love Bob -- and Bill -- but by the time the one can play the other in a movie, the one will have been pushing daisies for a while.

(That's okay, though, because Bob's also producing, and it's apparently been in development since 2005. When he signed on back then, he said he hoped he could convince Paul Newman to play Katz. And if you don't understand how that could have been the long-awaited, up-till-then impossible sequel to Butch & Sundance, well, then you're just going to have to read the book.)

Anyway, what was it I was saying when I left? Oh.

I was only a little drunk that evening when I bookmarked Bryson to go pee, so when I came back I remembered to ask.

"Johnny?" I said. "When I go in to use the bathroom, I make sure to pull the shower curtain closed. But every time that I've gone back in, I've had to pull the damn thing closed again. What's up with that?"

He hemmed and hawed a little, sheepishly.

"Yeah," he said. "I pull it open."

"Why, though? I mean, do you want Alice to see your junk?"

"Jaysus, no! What's wrong with you, woman?"

"Well, what, then? I close it for privacy. What could possibly drive you to throw it open?"


"I'm sorry. What?"

"I have to make sure nobody's in there!"

That's right. Apparently my husband has a Psycho complex with the shower, even when he's just having a wee.


As to the question of how anybody could get in without our knowing, in the seven minutes since I pulled the curtain closed...

Go ask Alice.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

This Is Why I Don't Do This

Johnny’s working nights this week.

Well, not “nights” exactly – 4 p.m. to 10 or so – but it means he’s gone when I get home from work or shortly after, and he isn’t home till after I’m in bed. Maybe I’m supposed to say I miss him and everything, but I’ve never been that much of a shmoo.

I’m getting a buttload of alone time in, I’ve lost four pounds thanks to eating what I want, I’ve got two more chapters of the damn book nearly finished, and I am feeling infinitely better, thanks.

Thanks, that is, to those of you who asked after my mood, and also to Whoever’s responsible for this surprise respite.

Hear that? I said Thanks, John B.!

That picture’s from last year, John B.’s the big one. Johnny's cut his hair and beard since that time, see?

Johnny and John B. are working in Quincy, which is technically just over the bridge, but it’s far enough away that Johnny can’t walk home, or hear me...

So let’s talk shit about him, shall we now?

Well, please. I take a lot of heat myself in general on this blog. I’m always “Oh, I’m such a shrew” and everything. And it’s true, and it’s funny, and I can be, but let me tell you: that little mick ain’t always such a picture of a peach himself.

Take the house, for instance. I don’t know if I’ve even told you about this one.

See, we’ve been talking about painting the outside of the AssVac since we took possession of it in 2004. He finally started it last fall, in a really nice, slightly ocher-ized barn red. I say “he” finally started because it goes without saying around here that I don’t help with the painting. Johnny's been doing this for thirty years; he can cut a corner in one sweep of the brush without a tape line; I am really more a hindrance to him than a help. Even for jobs (like this one) that would take two skilled men a solid month to put behind them, our lives are really better if I let him do it by himself. But it was autumn in New England. And as skilled as he may be, he is still, after all, a single man.

Well, not a single man. He is still married. To me. But the other night I turned down dream-sex with Robert Redford (Sundance Kid, not Leatherface) because, I said, I loved my husband – so that experience just made me madder, and he’s walking on thin ice.

He’s just one guy, is what I meant by “single man” (this ain’t Opposite-Utah, after all!). And one man plain old can’t work two months in thirty days all by himself, and so, well... This is what happens:

Since November.

I didn’t mind so much all winter. Really. It wasn’t anybody’s fault it went and snowed. It wasn’t Johnny’s fault it turned out to be two months work for two men – which meant (stay with me) four for one. It took three weeks alone for him to scrape and prep the long side, another two to scrape and prep the front (thank god he didn't have paying work, I tell you what). So before he even got the front completely primed, the temperature had dropped below acceptable wet-paint-overnight levels. And what is a New Englander to do?

So no, I didn’t hold our two-toned house against him. In November.

But a few months later something funny happened. Something that, in my forty years on this planet, I’ve come to expect occasionally in this part of the world:

It got warm!

I don’t know, chalk it up to Aqua Net or something, but five or six months after that first frost in November, the temperatures dipped above acceptable-for-paint again. But by that point, as best I can figure, Johnny had decided he was done. He liked the house in two different colors, and he saw no reason why it shouldn’t stay that way.

Oh sure, he had excuses. “My ribs are broken!” “My brother died!” “I broke my toe!” But mostly what it came down to, he said, was weather. If it has rained, is raining, or is going to rain, then nothing paint-related can be done outside.

This may seem reasonable, but look at that sentence again. How often, in spring in New England, is it neither raining, drying from, or fixing to? And mind you, also, there is much he could be doing on the inside in the meantime. I’m still waiting, for instance, for the final finish on my kitchen floor. I expected (and wrote) that it would be done over Easter, but by the looks of my kitchen, that poor bastard is still hanging on that cross.

What? What? I said it. What? Oh, hey, tell Johnny. Maybe it’ll make him mad enough to throw the floor and get that bastard down.

Now where was I? Oh, yeah, that's right: the outside-paint.

It so happens we have close to thirty people coming over in mid-June for a cookout, and Johnny's sworn the AssVac will be one-toned when they arrive. Even if it means he has to let me do the dormer, because he’s all “I fell from a great height once and broke my back and now I’m scared!” But the days keep going by, pulling us into the future, and he says there’s three and a half weeks of work left.

“Three and a half and done?”  I asked. “Or 25 days spread out over three months, taking rain-days and rest-days into account?”


He actually had the sterile balls to get a little pissed at me for asking.

“Three. And a half. Weeks.

“Don’t worry about it.”

So now I’m worried.

It actually has been raining all week here, finally. Plus (as I mentioned above) Johnny has for the first time since last summer actually had paying work. So I can’t be mad at him about this. And yet time keeps on slipping, and so what’s a girl to do?

I mean, he didn’t have paid work last week, and it wasn’t raining, and yet he spent all that time cleaning out the freezers and making pots of soup. Is that industrious? Or stupid?

He actually went out over the weekend. Spent the whole time in the backyard raking leaves. Out of the one spot where we’ve never raked leaves from before. And never mind he didn’t help me rake the yard. Never mind he seemed to judge I’d left that spot there. What really teed me was his reasoning: We have almost thirty people coming over in a month, he said. What would they think if they saw the leaves?

I don’t know, dear. What will they think when the directions describe the house in different colors depending on which angle they approach from?


Or North?

Johnny’s still here, by the way. He was supposed to leave an hour ago, but John B. called and said he would be late. By the sounds I'm hearing through the office wall, I'm guessing he's decided to have a wash. But before that, he took all those outside pictures of the house because I asked him, and he never even wanted to know why. He doesn’t know I’m writing this bit, either, but you can bet he’ll wonder what the photographs were for.

What should I tell him?

Friday, May 1, 2009

Catch! That! Metaphor!

Poor Johnny.

I’m having a bad week.

Not that bad, in global standards. I mean, it’s not like I have pigs up my nose or anything. And it’s nothing you need to feel sorry for me about. I’m sure you all have bad weeks, too, sometimes -- maybe you’re even having one right now. Johnny and I aren’t dying (yet), we’re not in foreclosure (yet), and we’re not trying to move past our first 100 days with a Vice President who doesn’t know how to keep his big mouth shut.

Seriously! Would somebody shove a pig up that guy’s nose or something? Or at least give him an “End is near” sandwich board and point him towards the nutjob section of the village square? Hey Joe, should we keep all our money in our mattresses? Hey Joe, should we lock up all the Japanese? Hey Joe, will Y2K end civilization as we know it? Is the sky falling, Joe? Is there a wolf, Joe? Is there?

(Don’t get me wrong. I like Joe Biden. But how do you – in twelve hours! – go from the inspirational, landslide-winning, history-making, republican-converting, liberally-mandated, rising tide (not to mention slightly hunky; which doesn’t mean I’d want to see him in a Speedo) leader of the free world saying “I’m humbled by the limitations of my power” — to this cuckoo clock shaking his fist at the kids and yelling “Don’t get on the subway!” Jeez. Loosen up, Mr. Pitz. Get an enema. Do something.)

So I may not be having the worst week ever, but it has not been good. For lots of reasons, but I won’t bore you with them all. I’ll leave out the parts about the locusts, the midges, the boils, and the blood – because that’s all been done before, and on a much more epic scale. For now, and for the want of Charlton Heston, I’ll just bore you with this:

I’ve been having to stay late at work.

I know! I know! But it’s okay. I’ll be all right You don’t have to start a foundation in my name or anything. The GEGETAVE Imperative can wait. (That’s “Get EGE To the AssVac Earlier,” for all y’all acronymically impaired.)

It hasn’t really been all that much later, either. Not much later at actual work, I mean to say. A half-hour here, an hour there, and I don’t mind about the extra time. I get paid well for what I do, I know it. I don’t get paid by the hour, so I don’t get any more when these things happen, but when they do, I don’t see any reason to complain. Not to my boss Lady, anyway...

But somewhere in those half-hours is the tipping point – somewhere in there the T (Boston’s public transportation system) becomes a pumpkin. We all know how efficient pumpkins are as public transportation systems, yes? And therein, for my poor husband, lies the rub.

See, up there – in the op. cit. paragraph – I didn’t say I get paid well. I said I get paid well for what I do. Like, if you suddenly paid the burger-flipper twenty bucks an hour, but told him he could only work three days a week. It’s a situation I set up deliberately, to force me to keep working out something better for myself. I didn’t want to get a real job and end up the CEO of Morgan Stanley before I knew what was happening (hey, I’d have to do at least as good a job as that guy), with no time left for Following My Muse. So I work short hours for large peanuts, and I set aside certain hours of the day for chasing rainbows.

And when anything interferes with my rainbow hours, I get mean.

Like, for instance: I get up at 4:30 every morning so I can be at my desk at 5:00 a.m. So when somebody comes over on a weeknight, drinks all our peppermint schnapps (“It’s summer, you’re not using ‘em!”), wanders around half the night bumping into furniture, and the other half tumbling from our guest bed with a series of loud thunks, I fall asleep the next day at my computer with my head on my arm and miss my morning shift. So I tend to get a little shouty that afternoon when I see him at our kitchen table with a Goldschläger bottle in his hand.

This is not unreasonable, right?

I didn’t think so.

How about when my best friend in the whole wide world – Dr. One Friend, whom I haven’t talked to in a week, whom I know I’ve been neglecting, and who is, not incidentally, going through a little something of her own – has the nerve to call at 7:29, when she knows I write till 7:30, and when I see her on the caller ID I flip the telephone the double-bird and shout “Fuck off! You stop annoying me! Leave me alone!”

Yeah that’s not quite so kosher, is it? But it’s not like I meant it. I was just letting off a little steam. And besides, I can always defend my behavior on the basis that I didn’t do it to her face. It's like writing an angry letter and then throwing it away. She’ll never know.

Oh. Oops.

Hi, Dr. One Friend! I love you, Dr. One Friend! Call me!

My p.m. windmill-tilting hours are a little less defined. Because, although I always know what time I’m leaving in the mornings, I never really know what time I’m getting home. It depends how many burgers my Lady has for me to flip. And these are little burgers. Sliders, really. Even thirty of them go down pretty fast. (I trust you understand I’m speaking metaphorically; my Lady doesn’t even eat meat, except for hot dogs from New York City carts.) Aside from super-special occasions, my flipload hovers around twenty burgers, and sometimes it’s as few as two or three.

So for my afternoon impossible-dreaming, I give myself a little guilt-reducing gift: I am finished at the same time every evening, no matter what time I sit down when I get home. Sometimes I thrash around in that bucket for an hour, sometimes for as much as two or three. But knowing I get to walk away at 6:00, have dinner like a normal person, and still get to bed at a time that will allow me to get up at 4:30 and start the whole thing again, frees me from having to sit in here listening to Johnny watch “The Big Bang Theory” and write angry blog entries instead of doing work.

(Which is not what I’m doing right now, I swear to god. “Big Bang Theory” isn’t even on on Thursday night.)

If, once in a while, I have to flip a hundred burgers, I try to think of it like half a snow day. You won’t be home till after quitting time this evening, EGE, so you don’t have to hunt for snipe today! I still feel a little guilty, but I imagine it’s on the same level a parent feels when they hire a sitter and get drunk: I couldn’t do that if I didn’t do this once in a while.


Lately, though, it’s been a hundred burgers every day. And, coincidentally, I’m at a point now where I can see the light at the end of the pipe dream. If I could just stay down long enough to... suffocate ... the canary? ... or something? ... I don't know, I lost track of that one somewhere. Anyway if I could, then I might at long last finally wake up. So every day my Lady asks me to flip extra, and every day I ride the goddamn pumpkin home, and every day I walk in the door – before quitting time, but not enough before to catch a cloud and pin it down – and shout at Johnny.

I swear, I’m like that quintessential ‘50s dude who comes home from the office to kick the dog. And Johnny’s like the cringing little wife.

“Thanks for taking the plexi off my office window like you said you would, my dear.”

“I started! But the battery in the power drill was dead. See? It’s charging.”

“Maybe if you started a little earlier you could have charged it and been done by now. It’s not like it’s 93 degrees outside and I might like to breathe or anything. What have you been doing with your day? Oh, soup? There's a surprise. I hope you don’t expect me to eat it. It smells like crap. You know I hate turnips and besides, have you noticed that it's 93 degrees outside? Now don’t talk to me unless I talk to you first. I’m going to lay a few bricks on that castle I'm building in the air, and you know everything you say or do when I'm in there pisses me off.”

At which point he goes to the pub.

He’s been there a lot this week.

But really, can you blame him? Then he comes home after I’m in bed and makes his dinner – really, really loudly – when he knows perfectly well that I’m trying to sleep. So that I can (ahem) be at my desk at 5:00 in the morning, rolling out my giant piecrust in the sky.

You think he might be trying to tell me something? You think, on the days that I’m late anyway, I should probably hit the pub myself on the way home?

Or should I just hit the nutjob section of the village square and rage at angels?

All this is to say: Sisyphus, if you're out there: this week's boulder's probably gonna be a little late.