It's not about the house.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Furniture I Own And Where It Came From, Episode # – Well, We’ll Call It 2

The guest bed:

What? You didn’t think I was going to clean and stage things just to take these pictures, did you? This is my guest bed. This is what it looks like right now. Here we go.

Johnny told me a funny story the other day about the Waltham – the now-defunct South End tavern where we met. In this space, I can’t possibly tell you everything there is to know about the Waltham. Y’all are just going to have to read the book. But for the sake of this story let’s just say it was a full-on joint, with all the appropriate stains and smells and secrets, and all the kinds of people you’d be alternately proud and scared to get to know. I was one of them for a while, and so was Johnny, but we figured out while he regaled me with this tale last night that it took place a few years before my time.

It seems there was a pre-op regular that Johnny used to drink with – I’ll call her Mary. “Feckin’ gorgeous,” Johnny says, “but with too much goin’ on downstairs to interest me.” She acted like a gay man around Johnny, but like a lady around folks who didn’t know. And she passed. Oh man (or woman), did she pass.

So this one night, Johnny was in there with a colleague I’ll call Jack Doe (because John Doe, combined with Johnny, would be way more confusion than I feel the need to self-impose), and Jack and Mary took a liking to one another. They were flirting up a storm, as Johnny tells it, and he let them, until it became obvious that Jack was planning to take Mary home. Mary was game – Mary was gung-ho, for that matter – but Johnny knew Jack well enough to know that such a rendezvous could never possibly end well. So Johnny told Jack about Mary's vestigial addenda. And Jack ran into the bathroom and threw up.

Mary was annoyed that Johnny tattled, but he's not sorry. He says it's better Jack should toss his cookies at the Waltham than beat the hell out of Mary when he unwrapped her surprise. While we're on the subject, though, here’s a little tip for guys like Jack: If you look and act like the troglodyte you are, and a feckin’ gorgeous amazon is hitting on you – she’s got a dick, man. Face it.

Anyway, life happens, and you play the cards you’re dealt. So when some years later, times were tough as usual, and Jack called Johnny with a bit of work, he took it.

I still remember him coming to fetch Johnny in the mornings. We were living in South Boston then, our door opened directly on the sidewalk, and for some reason Jack refused to come in. So he’d get there early and stand out on the sidewalk waiting, hollering “Fer fuck’s sake, Johnny!” every minute and a half.

Anyway, they got a job painting the South End condo of a middle-aged gay couple – men, well-off, both decorator types. They (the men, not Jack and Johnny) had ordered a fancy bed from somewhere that took forever to arrive, so for the month or so meantime they bought themselves a standard Sealy king. Johnny and Jack were there when the chi-chi bed arrived, and the boys were planning to throw this one out. After a month.

We’re talking about Johnny, now, remember – Johnny, who saves the seeds out of every vegetable he cuts, makes stock out of the leavings, then makes compost out of the boiled mush. Johnny was not about to let those boys throw away a perfectly good bed. But it was technically Jack’s job, and the etiquette of the trade is the man who got the job gets first dibs on any giveaways.

Jack wanted no part of it. “Think what they’ve been doing on it all this time!” he gagged. Johnny shrugged. All he saw was a free king-sized mattress and box spring, and an (admittedly queen-sized) bedroom in our apartment that was begging to be filled. “I’d rather think about them than you and your wife. At least they’re clean,” he said, and took it home.

Jack did help him deliver it, more or less dry heaving the whole time, and we’ve had that bed in three different apartments for more than eleven years. I thought it was on its way out when we first moved to the AssVac, but it turned out I’d put it together wrong and it wasn’t really sagging but just coming apart the long way down the middle. It was in my room for a long time, but it’s in the guest room now. Lately, I remembered just how comfortable it is and started napping in there, in the afternoon after a sleepless night. I get the best forty winks there, that Sealy King is still as snug and firm and welcoming as new. Or as snug and firm and welcoming as one month old, at any rate.

We haven’t seen Jack in a while. He wound up screwing Johnny -- so to speak -- on that and a couple other jobs, and so they parted ways. Last we heard his wife spent everything he had and then some (which wasn’t much, I’ll grant you) and then went on vacation alone and got herself knocked up by someone else.

I wonder if he managed to keep his lunch down after that.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Michael Jackson was my first real boyfriend.

Well, David Cassidy was my first real boyfriend, but those shows were on reruns by the time we met. Michael was my first real real-time boyfriend, and he taught me to start thinking for myself.

I loved the Jackson 5 when I was really little, but somehow in my tweeny years I missed out on Off the Wall. I was twelve, maybe thirteen, when Thriller came out, and I remember passing a note to my friend Dawn in typing class (which, now that I've heard myself say that phrase out loud: how many of you out there remember typing class!?). The note said "Don't tell anybody, but I think Michael Jackson is the best singer ever!!!"

He may have been the best-selling artist in the world, but it wasn't cool to like Michael Jackson at my school. I loved him dearly. My sister and I were babysitting at different houses on the night "Thriller" made its Friday Night Videos debut, and we spent the rest of the night on the phone with each other jumping out of our skins with every little sound until our respective grown-up folks came home. She wasn't what you'd call a diehard fan, my sister wasn't. Bruce Springsteen and Tom Petty were more her speed. But she taught me to dance while Thriller played ("Just close your eyes and let your body do what it wants to do," she told me; I had fun, but I didn't move in any way like Michael did). And (last, but far from least) I didn't have the actual album with liner notes and everything -- I just had a tape of it somebody made me -- so Thriller is also where I learned to listen close to lyrics and try to figure out what they might mean.

I. Loved. Michael. Jackson.

And yet I knew it would be social suicide to publicly declare my love.

The second that I passed that note, though, I also knew it made me a betrayer -- although of myself or him, I couldn't say. I just was positive I'd done somebody wrong, and so immediately I wrote another note. "You know what?" the next one said. "Never mind. I don't care who you tell. I think Michael Jackson is the best, and I don't care who knows!"

After Thriller I went back in time to Off the Wall, which prepared me for Prince, who readied me for Jimi Hendrix, who led me to Muddy Waters and Fela Kuti and so on. This is all a noble lesson, and I'm thankful for it, but Thriller also gave me permission to say that Like a Prayer is a good album, that Faith was its own kind of masterpiece, and that Justin Timberlake does not completely suck. Thriller set me off on my musical life-path secure in the knowledge that everything doesn't have to boil down to rock vs. disco like it did (to my twelve-year-old mind, at least) before he came along. It demonstrated that there was a rare genius involved in crafting perfect pop. The Beatles knew this. Smokey knew it. Buddy Holly had a clue. But somewhere along the line the music snobs forgot.

They remember now.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

How I Spent My Week In Pretend-Seattle

It's been raining around these here parts for donkeys. Which is sort of appropriate, considering we've spent much of that time looking after a small horse.

Ain't he stunnin'?

He's my Mom's dog, he weighs ninety pounds, and his name is Charlie. That last bit gets confusing in this house, because Dr. One Friend's real name is Charlie, too (actually her real name is Kathryn, and her father calls her George, but to me she's Charlie and she always has been -- except when she's Charles or Chas, or Chuck, or Chucklebutt. Chucklebunny just occurred to me this very minute, but I'm calling dibs on it for future use). So rather than have to say "dog-Charlie" and "people-Charlie" all the time, we've taken to calling the dog Tigger, because he likes to bounce.

He's a fun thing to have around. He loves it when I do exciting things like eat dinner and come home from work. He cleans up any messes as long as they're made of food. And once in a while, just for the hell of it, he knocks Johnny in the bollocks with his fwappy, fwappy tail.

But you know what I don't like about taking care of ninety-pound dogs...?

Ninety-pound dog's doo. 

Seriously. How do you people do it? I look after Tigger just a couple times a year, and I look after Dr. One Friend's dog a couple more -- and I don't mind; I'm happy to be able to help -- but every time I do I'm counting down. "Okay," I think to myself, gagging and holding the plastic bag at arm's length by one finger. "Assuming he does his business once a day, that means I only have to do this business three more times... Two more times... One." And then I watch him out the window, silently begging him not to cock his fwappy tail.

When I was in my twenties, before people believed me when I said I don't want kids, I used to answer pushy inquiries on the matter with "Trust me, there's a reason I have cats instead of dogs." Now, it seems, my logic has turned on its head: if I wanted a ninety-pound thing I had to feed and wash and clean up after, I might as well just go ahead and have a baby.

A really, really, really giant baby.


Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Decent Docent Doesn't Doze

See this?

No, no, not the pineapple. Not the stick, the bottles of wine-in-progress, or the hookah. Or the juicer. Or the bar. All that crap is just the detritus of life in the AssVac, and you should feel free to ignore it just like I do every day.

(Although if I'm being honest, the only things on that list I actually ignore are the stick and juicer -- and, now that I think about it, why is there a stick in my dining room, anyway?)

(I also ignore, but didn't mention, the bottle of omega-3. I didn't mention it because I don't even like to think about it, because the one time I took one I wound up burping fish oil all day. Bleah. No, thank you. My radicals can keep on being free for all I care (or being all chained up; whichever is the bad way for tiny radicals to be). No, the omega-3 is Johnny's gig. His mother made him take spoonfuls of cod liver oil every morning, so fish-burps taste to him like a reprieve.)

Anyway, the point of this post was supposed to be the piece of furniture. I got it from my friend Benzojo when he moved back home to Vegas years ago. That link actually goes to his wife's business page, but she's my friend too, and he works for her, and he abandoned his blog, and he did the picture for me on the top of this blog -- the one with the fancy letters and the vavavoom -- so I didn't think it would be wrong of me to send all twelve of you to their professional website, just in case you might foresee any web-design needs in your future.

Oh crap, I've done it again. Where was I?


So Ben gave us this ... bureau? ... when he left in 199...7? I suppose it is a bureau -- I'm pretty sure that's what Ben used it for. Although I really can't be certain, because my memories of the place Ben had back then are pretty much a solid mass of furniture, plus ravioli. There was nowhere to walk, that apartment was so small and stuffed you had to climb over the bed just to get in the bedroom! Not that I was ever in Ben's bedroom, mind, but with the furniture like that there was no way to shut the door, so you couldn't help but see. And anyway, I shouldn't talk. I was, at the time, sleeping on a twin mattress on the floor in the corner of a one-room basement studio. But at least I could shut my bedroom door.


We've never actually used it as a bureau or had it in a bedroom, though. It's always been, for us, a sort of dining-room buffet (in three different dining rooms by now) and we've always just put assorted junk-crap in the drawers. You might think good things to put in buffet-drawers would be, like, dishes and linens and silverware, but these aren't the most stable drawers I've ever seen. Pull them out more than an inch or two and they tend to flop around, so breakables are out of the question. And linens? Please. I think I own a total of three cloth napkins (there used to be four but I don't know what happened) and they're printed with a pattern of red and white checks with little picnic-ants crawling all over them. I like them fine, but they're not exactly service for the Queen.

So the drawers have become a sort of catch-all. Right now, for example, without even looking I can tell you that the contents go like this:

Top left: Mortage papers, insurance agreement, bank statements.
Middle left: Notecards, tape, wrapping paper, and (for some reason) new checks (why aren't they in with the bank statements? Because that drawer is a mess and I would never find them, silly!).
Bottom left: Those felt things you put on chair legs so they don't scratch up the floor. Plus a few of the plastic kind. And, um, binoculars.
Top Right: Lighters, matches, candles, incense, rolling papers and etcetera, old lottery tickets (which Johnny insists on saving, and which live in this drawer till it's too full and then I throw them out), a length of old cotton strapping or something (I've no idea what it's for or where it came from) and a lint brush. Because it's important to present a put-together look.
Middle right: Phone books and porn.
Bottom right: Tobacco and charcoal and other assorted accoutrements for hookah-smoking, plus The (remarkable unyellowed) Boston Globe from the first day of the new millenium (by which I mean January 1, 2000, and I don't care what you say).

The reason I'm telling you all this now is that the middle drawer is broken. The middle left, that is. Don't worry, we can still get at our phone books. But two weeks ago I was wrapping a present, and when I went to put the tape away the drawer was locked.

I mean, it wasn't locked, it doesn't lock, but it won't open. It wouldn't, and it didn't, and it doesn't, and it won't. Poof. Just like that.

I don't mind about the wrapping paper -- it's just the Sunday funny pages, anyway. And I don't mind so much about the notecards -- they mostly were given to me by my Lady, and they all have pictures of cats. But for some reason my checks are in there, and I've only got six left in my book.

I've been ignoring it for this long, hoping to come up with a solution. I tried jimmying it and glaring at it and kicking it and swearing. All in vain. I tried taking out all the other drawers around it, but this is the one bureau-type-thing in the whole wide world that actually has dividing-shelves between the drawers. I even tried squeezing my hand in under the shelf from the right side, but my hand's just not that little anymore and besides, even if I could get in, how would I ever get the damn checks out?

We're going to have to break it.

And the thing is, as much as it's a hand-me-down -- as much as it's not really a buffet and as much as it has inappropriate contents in its drawers -- I've grown to like it. We aren't really the furniture-buying kind of people, anyway. Not really deciding-what-to-put-where decorator types. Things tend to tumble in our direction, and we just gently nudge them in the direction of a convenient empty space. If we have to break that drawer, and we can't fix it, then we can't very well leave the bureau-cum-buffet in the DR for the Queen, and who knows when another one's going to spin our way?

(Am I the only one picturing the tornado scene from Wizard of Oz right now? I didn't think so.)

In honor, then, of our dear, nearly-departed buffet-thingy, I've decided to embark on something I've been thinking about doing for a while. In between regular ranty postings about lifey stuff and poop (although, now that I think about it, I really haven't talked about poop in a while) I'm going to go through the AssVac stem to stern, and tell the stories behind every piece of furniture we own. Well, almost every. You don't really need to hear about how the toilet seat was a housewarming gift for Johnny, because somehow he always manages to bring the conversation round to bums.

Do you?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

I'm Sure You Must Be Weary, Dear

I haven’t been sleeping at all well these past few weeks. For reasons that I won’t get into here, but of which the AssVac and our increasingly tenuous relationship with her are but a nearly-negligible part. I go to bed relatively early and exhausted, fall fairly easily to sleep, and then wake up fifteen minutes later feeling like it’s morning. I have a pee, watch TV, or just lie there playing the alphabet game inside my head, and then ten or sixty minutes later I’m drifting off again. This time lasts an hour and a half or so, and then I wake up sweating. I watch Chelsea Lately (twice), and try to squeeze in 45 more minutes of shuteye before the alarm gives me my regular a.m. infarction.

(I never noticed it before, but “infarction” is a pretty funny word when taken out of context. I mean, I imagine it’s not quite so hysterical when preceded by “myocardial,” followed by “stat!” and shouted by any ER doctor but Wayne Fiscus. On its own, though, I bet a good infarction could provide any twelve-year-old boy with hours of entertainment.)

I’ve been trying all sorts of things in my quest for a good night’s sleep. Windows open; windows closed. Earplugs in; radio on. Midnight snack; starvation diet (well, after 7:00 p.m., anyway). Guest room; day bed; La-Z-Boy. And as far as external assistance goes, I’ve tried everything from alcoholic torpor to meditating on a shot of Carrie Nation.

No dice. Although in retrospect that’s really not surprising. I mean, have you seen a shot of Carrie Nation lately?

Anyway, so nothing’s working. Ten minutes, ninety minutes, night sweats. That’s all I get, and I’d begun to think that might be all there is.

Two nights ago, though, I got my first glimmer of hope. I was snuggled up with an extra feather pillow watching reruns of Family Guy, when I felt The Perfect Sleep arriving. The bedside lamp was still switched on, but – polar bears be damned – I couldn’t bring myself to rouse and douse it when I felt beauty sleep calling me at long last (although at this point, real “beauty sleep” is probably beyond my ken; at this point, I’d settle for a catnap and a smaller ugly stick). But just as I was drifting off – just as I was imagining myself a scoop of World’s Best Vanilla on a big marshmallow cloud, and the pink behind my eyelids as, I don’t know, strawberry syrup (work with me here; I don’t really dream in ice cream, for heaven’s sake; the point is I was just nodding off when) -- Johnny’s stupid cell phone sprang to life.

Now, I’m not going to name the stupid friend who called him at the god-awful hour of – I don’t know, 9:30 probably, if Family Guy was still on – but I will say that Johnny’s been calling this S.F. on and off all winter, and S.Fdidn’t see fit to return the favor until now. Well, not now. Two nights ago. When Johnny, tired of my thrashing, accidentally left his cell phone on my bedside table and crept off to the pub.

Could we start again, please?

So last night, same thing. I wasn’t exactly embracing Mr. Sandman yet, but we were well on our way to second base – this time to the accompaniment of The Duel II: The Sh*t They Should’ve Shown (about which I have to say: for watching it, I fully deserve the image I now have in my head of Big Easy’s balls) – when I heard what sounded like a slow-motion (or slow-audition, I suppose) version of the igniter clicking to light the burner on the kitchen stove.

“Ah,” I thought. “Johnny’s making himself a cup of tea.”

Until I remembered that a.) Johnny was asleep (the bastard), b.) the ignition clicks way more than once a minute, and c.) the kitchen stove ain't out in the back hall.


So I tiptoed out of bed and listened, creeping around and zeroing in, until I figured out that whatever it was was behind the hallway door. Which is held open by a pair of leftover cedar shakes from when we put the finishing touches on the AssVac’s ass four years ago, and it's probably been open ever since. I stood there listening for another little while to be sure, then steeled myself, kicked the shakes out of their spot, and swung the door.

There, swinging two inches from the floor and looking like a piece of dirt caught in a breeze, was a smallish beetle of a type I didn’t recognize. Now, it so happened I’d just spent the best part of an hour running boiling-hot water over my sister’s Coleman cooler to rid it of a thousand earwigs accumulated over three days left out in a rainy yard (sorry, Khurston!), so it’s fair to say I already had a decent willy on (you know what I mean, jeez). But I shook my willy off, grabbed hold of my Big Easys, and crouched down to have myself a look.

This one-inch dude was long and brown, with a comparatively largish head. He was caught in a rudimentary spider web, and was clacking his little beetle heart out in alarm. For all his fuss I barely saw the spider. She was just a moving bit of fuzz around the belly of the beast. Spinning and wrapping and deftly dodging whatever powerful parts he had for making such a sound, she worked away. After all, who knows how long she’d had her web behind that doorway? Who knows how long she’d waited for a meal?

I stood there with the doorknob in my hand for half a minute, contemplating this appropriately microcosmic scene. Here I was, failing to sleep for who-knows-how-many reasons, wrestling with my pillows and watching reruns of Roseanne, while little teeny battles to the death were going on around me. And such poetic ones, at that. Don’t we all wait years for opportunities? Don’t we all take wrong steps and get caught? Don’t we rail and writhe and wrap and spin, twist and dodge and clack our little beetle hearts out at the natural injustice of it all?

I thought of all this, like I said, for about a half a minute. And then I swung the cedar shake and squashed them both.

Well, hell. A girl’s gotta get her smaller ugly stick where she can find it, or else she might wind up like Carrie Nation.


P.S. When I told this story to My Lady this afternoon, I told her I went back to sleep with earplugs in and let the two of them fight it out. That was never an option. If the beetle won, see, then I’d have a small beetle in my house somewhere near my bedroom with some unidentified body part capable of making clacking noises loud enough to hear two rooms away. Obviously unacceptable. And if the spider won, well, then I would have a spider. I may, however, tell the same white lie to Johnny, and if I do, I’m trusting all of you folks to keep hush.

I’ve still got that cedar shake, remember, and I think I've proven I know how it's done...

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Don’t Borrow Trouble

I want to get off-topic for a bit today (as if bitching about my husband for two months counts as “on-topic” in any real sense of the word) because I need to get something off my chest that’s been bugging me for quite a while. Since 1979, to be precise. When I was ten.

The grudge I've been holding for thirty years is about Momar Gaddafi. Though it wasn't really him that bugged me so much as his name. Momar. Mohammar. Or Muammar. Or Gaddafi with a Kh and one d. Or with no h. Or a Q.

I was ten (as I may have mentioned), and a pretty solid reader for my age, but all this shit just threw me for a loop. I knew then and I know now that written English -- just like life -- has all sorts of nasty, sneaky tricks. Maybe that's why I love playing with it so. I remember, at around this time, reading “apostrophe” as "app-o-strofe" -- and I can describe the book and chair and room and everything that I was in when I found out the truth. But also as in life, I maintain that when there are real and definable rules, they should be followed. I still think, for example, I should have been right about the apostrophe thing. And I'd stand on my Funk & Wagnalls, then or now, and tell old Mummar himself that G and Kh just don’t sound the same. Never have, never will, no matter how old or experienced or Libyan you are.

“Yes, dear,” my elders told me then. “But ‘Qaddafi,' you see, isn't English.”

Well, I bought it. It didn’t really explain why one man had twelve different spellings for his name, but I was still, remember, only ten. (Not to mention, ahem, that in English there is always, but always, a u after a q. There simply is. Cashmere-like undercoats of musk-oxes be damned.) I accepted the explanations of those with more life experience under their belts than I, and dashed out to the schoolyard to run around it really-really fast.

And then I think I forgot the whole thing till 9/11. I was 32 then, and the missing u this time still bothered me, but at least there was a general consensus on how al-Qaeda should be spelled (give or take an appostrofe here and there). No, this time what nobody could agree on was how to say it.

Was it ahl-kay-da? Ahl-kai-da? Ahl-kai-ee-da? Ahl-ki-da? All-kah-uh-dah? Every one of these and more were being tossed around the newsrooms of networks with real authority. Sometimes a handful of correspondents would each stubbornly stick to their own pronunciations for the distracting entirety of their on-air back-and-forth, until you wanted to knock their talking heads together. Come on, people!

When it comes to English pronunciations of foreign words and names, we've always had two choices: say it the way the natives say it, or say it the English way. And when we’re talking about words from languages that use the Roman alphabet, the second choice is always the safer bet.

We say pair-iss, for example, not pah-rhee -- and anyone who goes native on Nicaragua earns his or herself a punch in the throat. Sometimes we rearrange the native spelling until it makes better sense; lop the silent start and finish off Oostende, say, so's we don’t go around calling it oo-stend-ee and embarrassing ourselves at UN cocktail parties. And if englishing a foreign word proves just too difficult, well, then, we've been known to implement our own. Deutschland, Sverige, and Den Haag become Germany, Sweden, and The Hague. Although that last one's not really such a great improvement, after all. And, honestly, we don’t do this sort of thing much anymore, since it was itself redefined as diplomatically uncouth.

But when it comes to words from languages that don't use the Roman alphabet, it ought to be no problem. Listen to how the native-speakers say it, then spell it out phonetically like that. Rite? E-Z! And if we don’t have the correct sounds in our alphabet, then chances are we don’t have them in our throats, so we should just approximate and standardize, diplomatic couth be damned. To hell with stringing together random letters just to impress other linguists with the delicacy of a vainly well-tuned ear: "I hear gh with just a hint of ui, grown on the western slopes of o'a, with slight qi overtones and a finish of bhanf."


My “r” doesn’t sound anything like a Franchman’s (oh, man, that was a typo but I just can’t bring myself to fix it, what with the context I'm working in and all), and a Chinese person’s “r” does not sound very much like mine. But I trust the Chinese aren't insensitively trying to distort my language, and I'd similarly hope the Franchman thinks no less of me (although he probably does, but that’s a faux pas for another time).

If nothing else, my plan would solve the malaprop-Q problem: If it sounds like a K and it kacks like a K, then let’s just call it a goddamn K and carry on. Life’s too short to be memorizing new grammar rules every time there's an international incident, don’t you agree?

All of which is an excruciatingly long-winded way of coming round to this:

Uighur? Uyghur? Uygur? Uigher? Uigur?


Give me a phluyqun break.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Kingdom of Dreams and Shadows

Because I haven’t been posting that much lately, y'all probably think Johnny and I have been high-hogging it on the down-low (poor is the new rich, or so they say). But no. We adopted that trend early, and we're over it. Crying poormouth is just so last-fifteen-years. We were destitute back when it was not cool to admit it, and quite frankly this trendspotting has me pissed. It took (and I had help) more than 20 minutes to find a pair of my-size Levi's in Goodwill the other day. Feh. So now that everybody else is playing pauper, Johnny and I have decided to go ahead and act the prince. To flaunt ostentatious displays of accomplishment designed specifically for others to admire, with utter disregard for others' comparitive skint.

All of which is to say: the AssVac's got her paint on! 

Sort of. Mostly. With a few minor exceptions.

As you can see, for example, the Ugliest Thing is no more (which is a kind of shame, despite its turpitude) but it still wants a couple shakes over the extant hole.

And also, that's not a finish coat, it's tinted primer. But it's the same color that the finish coat will be, and scraping and priming is the longest, hardest part of the paint job, anyway. 

Except for windows.

Yes, well, they keep predicting rain this week -- it hasn't rained, not really, but they keep insisting that it will -- so Johnny's spent more time peering out the windows than he has painting them. Eh. It will get done. Eventually. In the meantime, the trim really doesn't look all that bad from the window of a passing car, and the neighbors are so thrilled with the red they haven't noticed. 

Seriously, people we've never met before are stopping on the street, rolling down their windows and shouting from their cars. The ten-year-old from one house down even stopped his bike and mimicked Johnny's accent: "Jaysus, man," he called out, "that looks grea'!" It's all made me wonder if that cheery red isn't the reason for the sudden welcome feeling that we've gotten in the neighborhood...  

I mean, I've told you about Alice; we've always liked Alice. And the Irish girls over the fence are always nice (I've told about them, too, but I can't find it). Lately, though, the new young couple across the street have been really friendly, too -- which might or might not have something to do with the fact that their two year old walked out the door when nobody was looking, and it was Johnny who saw him, hopped the fence, and scooped him up out of the busy street. But I defy anybody to tell me why the neighbor we hate would suddenly offer us an entire tree's worth of firewood that he cut down, just so we could burn it in our chimenea. That one gesture right there shattered my every notion of the Townville universe.

(Unless, you know, he's a landscaper and dumping it in our yard was easier than paying a disposal fee. And unless it turned out to be crawling with carpenter ants. (I'd like to take this opportunity to give a shout out to my Cousin Donna, who unfortunately knows better than I about such things -- Donna, you should post the story you told me on your blog! I still have the email you sent, if you want to cut and paste...). I sprayed a total of four cans of Raid into every piece of that friendly firewood, and I only felt bad about it for a second, when I saw a tiny earthworm come coughing out of one of them, writhing in little annelidic death throes. I'm not sure how healthy it is now for burning, either, because on some nights, when there's no moon in the sky, I swear it glows. But at least it restored my notions of the universe! Now, where was I...?)

So the neighbors are happy about the color, yes. Although they might have been just as happy if we painted it puce, as long as it was the same color all around. Because the shingles on that back part have been raw wood since we hung them in 2004 and, like I said, the rest of it has been two-toned for seven months. Now, at last, the AssVac's vitiligo is no more.


Johnny's got a thing about working at heights. Something to do with falling from one once upon a time and breaking bones. I told him I would do the dormer, but he insisted that he could. He has now, over the past few months, managed to borrow scaffolding and whatever else is needed from three different people for the job -- he has enough safety gear piled under the porch to tightrope the Grand Canyon -- and yet, somehow, the dormer just keeps sitting up there being blue.

I hope it changes someday, but am also realistically resigned to semi-permanence. And, in that light, I've decided to think about it as a public, and yet appropriately subtle, declaration of our new-found, self-defined, aristocratic blood.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

On the Grass, Alas.

Rhododendrons are like pigeons:

Run across one in the middle of a hundred-acre wood, and you might catch yourself thinking “What a bold and oddly handsome sort of thing!”

But in populated areas, when they insistently encroach:

You grab a chainsaw and start hacking ankles.

 Or, rather, you make your husband do it.

He accidentally cuts down the laurel, too, which you’d both agreed ahead of time deserved to live. But neither of you care. It will grow back. It was an accident. The two plants really do look very much alike.  

You would, therefore, be wise to puzzle over the question as to why one of the two plants is unquestionably lovely, while the other's so categorically inane. Yes, you would. Wise, wise, wise. But you could puzzle over it until your puzzler was sore, and still you wouldn’t be any closer to figuring out what kind of pretty little flower this is, which your husband discovered has been hiding in the odious rhododendron all along.

Long Shot: