It's not about the house.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Ten Years Burning Down the Road

I got pulled over by a cop the other day.

I used to be so good at that! Seriously, in the decade between my driver’s test and my first speeding ticket, I can remember at least eight times that I got stopped and managed to get away scott-free. It may have been partly because I was a 21-year-old blond with big tits and a still-clean driving record, but some of it, I know, was also skill. Or chutzpah. Or luck. Or whatever.

I never cried or anything, but I sure played dumb a lot. There were a few years there I didn’t even have a license – mine had expired, see, and I wasn’t always so good at grown-up follow-through back then – so playing dumb was a matter of survival. I perfected the art of handing over the expired card with an air of innocence and giving ‘em a wide-eyed “Really?” when they complained. Worked every time.

Well, not every time. There was this once I was going 60 in the Callahan and happened to have a smashed window taped up with garbage bags, because someone stole the backseat boom box I was using for a stereo (I still like to imagine the looks on their faces when they pressed play and heard Jesus Christ Superstar). Since I couldn’t pull over until I cleared the tunnel, I had plenty of time to think, and came up with the brilliant plan of sitting on my purse and telling the officer I didn’t have my license on me because it had been stolen. Really. Look at my window! He was very nice. He said he didn’t want to totally ruin my evening, and he strongly recommended that I come down and fill out a police report first thing in the morning. Yes, officer.

I finally did get a valid license, though. Sort of. So when I got nabbed in the Combat Zone at 1:00 a.m. with a flat tire that was shooting orange sparks, I batted my eyelashes and handed it over, saying “I know, Officer. I’m sorry. But I didn’t think this was a very good place for a single girl to wait for the AAA guy at this hour. I’m only trying to get myself safely home.” The cop took one look at my license – which still listed my folks’ address sixty miles away, because I was still illegally insuring my Chevy Impala there – gave me an arched eyebrow, and said “Where are you trying to get to?” I said “Oh! I mean, I’m staying with a friend! In a neighborhood over that way? I think it’s called, um, the South End?” “Well, all right then,” he said. Thanks, officer!

Another time, I was speeding home from I don’t know where with my Big Gay Bear riding shotgun. When we saw the blue lights coming for us in the distance I pulled off the highway and onto a soft shoulder. The Bear and I crawled into the back seat, breathed hard on all the windows, and started frantically making out. The cop came down the exit ramp and shone his light on us, but just kept right on driving by.

(I don’t recommend any of these methods, by the way. I’m just telling you what worked for me when I was young and dumb.)

At a speed trap on a different highway – the kind where there’s one guy behind a tree with a radar gun and one on foot beside the road waving you down – I just pretended not to see the waver-dude and kept on driving. Nobody chased me, and I never got anything in the mail. This success, being my first, probably made all the others possible, but I know for certain if I’d failed I’d be in a wheelchair now. Because I was still in college then, see, and I was driving my Mom’s car.

Twice, I simply told the truth: at Logan I said I was trying to catch a flight (“So is everybody else,” the cop said. “Now slow down”); and in Rhode Island being low on gas got me an escort to the nearest station. Even the cop in Brookline who – when I watched him approaching in my rearview mirror – made me think “Oh my god, he’s a Nazi” just like Thelma and Louise, turned out to be a sucker for a little abject subjugation.

So when it finally happened, I was stunned.

It was my first traffic stop since meeting Johnny, and we'd been together for at least a couple years. We had our own place by then, in fact, and we might have even been on our way home from Thanksgiving with my family. At any rate, I know he was in the car with me, because we were in the middle of an oh-my-god screaming fight. The cruiser tailed me for at least a mile before I even cottoned on, and when at last I noticed and complied, neither I nor the cop said an extemporary word. We just stuck to the required script, he wrote me a ticket for $180, and then I cried. But not till he was gone.

Johnny didn’t understand why I was getting all emotional, and since I hated him I didn’t bother to explain. I was upset because getting a ticket meant I was really a grown-up now. It meant I had to start playing by the rules, following through, acting responsibly and worrying about mundane things like insurance premiums. But most of all – and I hate to admit this, but since I’ve told you all my other shameful things I might as well (oh please, you don’t think I was sober when I tore through the red-light district with a shredded tire, do you? Shit. But I learned my lesson then, I swear to god). So here goes: most of all, I cried because getting that first ticket meant I wasn’t young and pretty anymore.

The second one made me cry because I felt it crush my idealistic spirit. What can I say? I don’t think the government should tell me what to do with my own body, even if that means letting it become an airborne projectile through shattered shards of glass. But I paid my ticket, and I hung my head, and I put my paternalistic seatbelt on.

Thankfully, the third ticket came while we were moving to the AssVac – literally on the way here from the old apartment with a carload – and I had more important things to weep about by then. I was so unfazed by it, in fact, that I got a little of my old chutzpah back: I fought that citation in traffic court, and won. Well, I didn’t “win,” exactly – I had no leg to stand on – but the judge threw the whole thing out because, he said, I “really wasn’t going all that fast.”  When I got home, I looked it up. In this state, at the speed I was going, I could faced a $200 fine or fifteen days in jail.

That was my first clue there might be an upside to this middle-aged thing, after all.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Harvest at the AssVac Comes With Evil Strings Attached

Warning: I had to write this post with one eye closed. Dad, you might want to do the same...

The weather has really taken a turn of late around here, and with it we have finally gotten ripe tomatoes...

...a bowlful of butternut...

... and one of these:

Johnny put his glasses there by accident. He laughed and laughed when he saw it and insisted I go get the camera. He's right. It's funny. And later, that eggheaded little fella made a tasty parmesan.

Unfortunately, the only apple to survive the windstorms and the rot, wound up half-eaten in the gutter across the street:

Johnny's blaming neighbors, but if it hadn't been washed off in the rain I'm fairly certain we'd find squirrel-prints all over it. Ah, well. At least we still got five gallons of these:

And another five or so of these:

Unfortunately (and yes, this is where I take my own autumnal turn, so be warned: now would be a good time for the squeamish among you to squint your eyes), when you wash the grapes off in the sink, you might find you've brought in a bunch of these:

Well, not a bunch, technically. Technically, I only brought in two. But since they were in the water, on the grapes, I couldn't squish 'em -- I had to scoop 'em in a cup and toss 'em back outside. Johnny thought that was funny also, but I didn't. Because, see, spiders are the other things that start showing up in the AssVac at harvest time, and every year they jumpstart my arson fantasies anew.

These first few were not actually inside. Not yet. But I could see the scheming in their thousand beady eyes. I found this dude, for example, among the plants on the back porch:

Those plants have got to come in soon. Remind me to hit 'em first with a bulk-sized can of Raid.

This next bugger (who may or may not be the same bugger as above) ...

... strung his web all the way from the back porch to the woodpile. You can't actually see it in this picture, so I took the liberty of illustrating to give an idea of the size:

Of course, it's possible it didn't look like that at all. But it was really there, I swear to god.

This next one, I'm warning you, makes me want to throw up in my mouth a little:

Big-ass, juicy, nasty, meaty, toad-looking motherfucker. Gross.

This bastard here, I shit you not, we first spotted from about eight yards away, in the freaking dark. Johnny insisted I take this picture the next morning. All I wanted to do was curl up in a ball and cry.

Because I love you people, and because I am the bravest arachnophobe that ever peed herself, I just went outside -- in my pjs! -- to measure that awning (a different corner of it, but still), so as to provide your imaginations with a sense of scale. But when I got there, I discovered the awning's gone arachno-condo, so instead what I did was yelp and drop my tape measure and run inside.

This last one, though? This last one is the worst. Because not only does she look like she wants to kill me (and oh yes, while those others were all definitely dudes, this one is unmistakably a she-beast), and not only does she look like she quite easily could, but also I found her on the wall above my bed.

That bitch was just waiting for me to fall asleep so she could saunter down and eat my face. Kee-rist. Every time I look at her I get the chills. And yet I can't stop looking. Help. I think she's hypnotizing me...

There is a silver lining, though. At least we didn't get any earwigs mixed in with the grapes this year. I don't know why. Because I swear to god they've been everywhere else in this house lately. Like my shower.

And I'm sure if you took a picture that tightly-focused of your own shower floor, you might find a couple brown spots that surprise you, too.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Guess What?

I got sick.

I don't have swine flu, really. Or at least I don't think I do. It's just a cold. And not a very nasty one at that. I had to go to work anyway, both yesterday and today, so I didn't even get to wallow like I dreamed. Johnny did make me chicken soup and homemade whole wheat French bread for dinner last night, though, of which I ate so much I thought I'd burst. I didn't, though. Instead, I fell into a fitful sleep at 7:30 and dreamed I found a little lost girl in Gillette Stadium who'd gotten separated her mother, and when I tried to call someone for help, neither of our mobile phones would work. Mine had a loose wire, and hers turned out to be just a little notepad after all.

Gee, I wonder what that dream was all about? Anyhoo...

I also didn't create the above cartoon. It was forwarded to me by a friend, with no attribution. But it made me laugh a lot, and now that it's (sort of) topical (as regards to me, that is, which is the important kind of topicality; school closings and international death counts be damned), I thought I'd share. With apologies to whomever, and of course to A.A. Milne.

If I (or A.A., for that matter) had created it, you can bet your Bippy that the Penultimate Word would have been Spelled Correctly.

Phluyqun A.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I’m a Fine Girl, But…

I’m not brandy.

Not generally, at least. I mean, sure, there are certain names I stick to because they’re what I know – ketchup is made only by Heinz, for example, salt by Morton’s, toilet paper by the good folks at Scott. Others I’m loyal to because they’re cheap – Aim toothpaste, Ivory soap, Scott tissue (in case you haven’t noticed, those rolls are pretty darn important around here, important enough to’ve earned themselves the right to double-listing). And a few other things I do try to keep consistent for one imaginary reason or another, but most of those I can’t remember what the brand name actually is, so if they change their packaging, I’m lost.

I keep my deodorant, for example, because I’m used to the smell. I don’t actually know or care who makes it, but as long as it keeps being a red container with a clear blue stick inside, I’ll keep picking it up off the shelf. On the rare occasion that I do use something different – if I stay with Dr. One Friend, say, and forget to bring my own – I spend the day catching random whiffs and inching subtly away from the imaginary person I’m convinced is invading my personal space so boldly as to actually be inside my clothes.

Speaking of Dr. One Friend: if she were here, she’d want me to mention (because she thinks it’s weird), that this deodorant I’m so loyal to is made for men. It would be easy to chalk this up to laziness (why buy two?) or poverty (why buy two?), but the fact is that I do buy two (one armpit hair on the clear blue stick was enough to cement that lesson), and I’ve been using this stuff since back when the full extent of my experience with two deodorants – or Irishmen, for that matter – was on kitschy tv ads for scented soap. Johnny uses Red Container because I do, not the other way around, and I also – on the rare occasions that I dab it on at all – wear men’s cologne. I like smelling like a man, okay? Or, I should say, I prefer musky/spicy/leathery to flowery/powdery/frou-frou, because it’s not like traditional “man smells” are anything but arbitrary chemical inventions, anyway. Really, what a man smells like is sweat and dirt and natural fibers and tobacco, and sometimes, if you’re very lucky, poo. Am I right? 

Righty-ho, EGE! 

Anyway, speaking of secondary sexual characteristics… When I say I’m not brandy, I mean I don’t much care what the hot new thing is (and I have no idea what that has to do with secondary sexuals, but I need a segueway). I’m man enough to admit that – while I definitely see the advantage in a nice Harry & David pear – I simply don’t taste the difference between a ten-dollar bottle of wine and a thirty-dollar one. My chest isn’t hairy enough for Starbucks coffee. I won’t be shamed into buying sea salt because it doesn’t dissolve and it hurts my fillings when I crunch down on a piece, and I have even (some of you, I know, will find this shocking), come to appreciate the appeal of a piss-poor, lemon-yellow, American-style beer.

I still prefer a muscly IPA or ESB, mind you, but Budweiser’s $22 for a case of 36 and Johnny hasn’t had work in a year. I am, apparently, a man, and a man knows when it’s time to hang up the cleats, I’ll tell you what. Am I right?

Righty--wait. What? 
I'm sorry. Could you repeat the question? 

Oh, sure. I could keep repeating the same question over and over and over until everybody wants to punch me in the neck. But I wasn't talking to you. You, sir, can go back to what you were doing. Again. If, you know, you think you can.


I say: A real man knows when it’s time to hang up the cleats. Am I right? 

Righty ho, EGE! 

So, anyway, yeah. This dude-smelling lady with the roll of toilet paper on her desk doesn’t give a hoo for names on labels... but don't you fuck with her Café Du Monde. All right?

 Righty-ho, EGE!

I first tried it at the place itself in 1995. Actually, that's a lie. It was at a satellite cafe in a mall, and I am forgiven for spending three of my 48 precious New Orleans hours at the mall because we were there to see Rockin' Dopsie on the Riverwalk, so nyeah. I liked the chicory flavor fine, but it was one cup of coffee in a three-week cross-country trip that included stops in Seattle, Salt Lake, Alburquerque, Austin and, yes, Orlando, Florida – so let’s not overstate its relative memorability. It paled, for example, beside the Zydeco Twisters. Am I right?

Yea, you right, EGE!

The next time I was down there – this was probably in 2000 or so – I found the Café store, picked up five or six cans, had them shipped, and gave them to loved ones as souvenirs. Kept one or two for myself, enjoyed it, and moved on.

Then I discovered that the Asian convenience store up the road from where we lived then stocked it, but not reliably. I’d buy it if they had it, sometimes I’d pick up a bunch at a time, but then the roof fell in on the little Asian convenience store up the road from where we lived then, and they closed, and I moved on.

(I did try the French Market brand you can buy at Stop & Shop, and I still have the little red plastic scoop that came in it because Johnny insists it will someday be good for something. But if he’s right about that, then that plastic scoop is the only useful thing that came in that can. Nasty? I’d rather drink earwax.)

Then I discovered that a chain of Asian markets in the Boston area had Du Monde, too. This was more reliable. They always had it; they were a chain so it’s not like they were going anywhere; and they were right on my way home from work if I got off at a different T stop and went home the other way. And that is when Cafe Du Monde became my go-to brand.

I think I realized I had a problem when Katrina hit and my immediate response was to go to the Super 88 and buy every can they had in stock.

I'd like to say I was trying to do my part for the economy of New Orleans, but the truth is I was just afraid there's be a break in the supply. There wasn't, and by the time that shopping-cart supply ran out, the Super 88 was out of business. Boo.

Conveniently, Mom & Dad decided to do their part for the economy of New Orleans’ by actually going there. Unfortunately, what they accidentally brought back with them was something called Café Da Mont. It cost the same, and the can looked identical right down to the font, but the stuff inside tasted like it had been swept up from the Bourbon Street gutter on Ash Wednesday. Not to sound ungrateful or anything, but I’d rather suck on Aaron Neville’s big black hairy mole. Am I right?

No, EGE. That’s disgusting. 

Well, sor-ry.

I didn’t tell my mom, though. I thanked her and pretended that I drank and loved that crap, and apparently I played the part so well that when she found the real stuff at her Asian market up in Maine, she agreed to become my dealer. The first batch was free, and after that I’d place an order and we'd work out a meeting place for the exchange.

I’ve never figured out what it is about the Asian markets, by the way, but maybe that analogy is apt. Maybe my drug of choice comes in on shipping routes like lonely sailors, heroin, and longhorned beetles?

Righty-ho, EGE!

Anyway, you know what happened next: my mom got sick. So my source dried up in May. And by the end of August, I was out. I spent a week or so blending espresso beans with Maxwell House and Dunkin' Donuts in a sad attempt to duplicate the taste, to no avail, and then I spent another generic week drinking tea before I remembered about Cafe Du Monde's website! Unfortunately, at that point I was so caffeine-deprived it took another week for me to remember to actually place the order, which then took another week or so to come.

Yes, yes, I know I've added up too many weeks there. It's a teeny bit possible I may be using a device we literary men refer to as comic hyperbole. Deal with it. The point is that the box finally arrived, and now everything's righty-ho in my world. Or in one crucial corner of my kitchen, anyway.

One of these days I really ought to hie myself to the actual, you know, Café Du Monde. But in the meantime...

Can you spot the roll of ScottTM brand toilet tissue in this picture...?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Have a Hangnail, and My Heart Is--

I’m lying in my bed, watching a Law & Order rerun on the USA network, wishing desperately that I was ill. Yesterday Johnny thought he might be, and even though he looked completely miserable, I got all inwardly-excited at the thought that his outward-misery might be contagious. It turned out to be a migraine, though, so rats.

See, I’m looking for an excuse to stay in bed for a couple days. No big deal. I’m not depressed or anything, just tired. I need a vacation. But I don’t get one and can’t afford to take one, so instead, every time I hear anyone so much as sniffle in my immediate vicinity, I wait until they walk away and then very subtly lick everything I think they might have touched.

Not really.

I do this every year, apparently. And as much fun as it is to feel sorry for myself, it’s not really just about needing a vacation. It’s also that, after the first few crisp nights of the season, I start hankering to hunker. But it isn’t fall yet, really, and I feel guilty about wanting to stay inside on these beautifully pure, late-summer days. Perfect temperatures, no humidity, fewer bugs – although we do seem to have more than our fair share of skunk juice being squirted out around here lately. I really ought to be outside barefootin’ in it all. Well, all except the skunk juice, naturally.

But I don’t want to go outside. All I want to do is pull the covers over my head and eat soup. Which is why I have been dreaming of disease...

Not real disease. I mean, my mother – who hasn’t been out of bed except to do her necessaries since the last crisp nights of spring – reported yesterday that, with Dad’s help over the weekend, she walked the whole length of the driveway to inspect her garden! I’m not saying I want to be like that. I will admit, though, that for fleeting moments here and there it’s sounded good. Especially considering that she’s also lost fifty pounds in two bedridden months and is under doctor’s orders to put as much food in her body as she can. Tell me that doesn’t sound like a late-summer vacation I could sink my teeth into! Except for the walking-down-the-driveway-to-inspect-the-garden part.

But no. I don’t need debilitation. Just mild impairment. A particularly virulent summer cold. A hint of porcine influenza, maybe. A tiny touch of escherichia coli, perhaps.

Ooh. Ick. Never mind on that last one. I just looked it up. “All blood and no stool”? No thank you. I guess plain old food poisoning will have to do. Or, you know, some other sort of general malaise.

What always happens next is that I pine for it long enough I somehow make it happen. After two or three weeks spent daydreaming of hot cups of soup and cold bowls of ice cream delivered bedside by my beloved (or by Johnny, depending on how high my longed-for fever is) I at long last feel some sort of tickle in a place where tickles aren’t supposed to be – throat, GI tract, bronchioli, hair follicles – and then...


It’s never near as much fun when it finally happens as it was in my imaginarium. It always turns out Johnny’s working, or at the pub, or just sick to death of listening to me whine, so I have to get my own damn cups of tea – which I then fall asleep before drinking and have to suck down later, cold. Not to mention I don’t feel good – which, I know, is kind of the whole point, but I somehow manage to forget about that part in the anticipation phase. The camel-breaker, though, is that there’s never anything good to watch on television in the daytime -- which is perhaps why this morning’s procrastination hour set me off.

Because really, all of this is just a long-winded way of saying I never understood the appeal of Law & Order. To be completely frank, I think it sucks. I can’t stand to listen to all of those poor actors trying to deliver all those weightily portentous sentences as if any actual person would ever talk that way. The episode I watched this morning, for example, ended with the following exchange – the last line gamely delivered by Vincent D’Onofrio, back before he decided to pay corpulent homage to Orson Welles:

“But if she had the lesion in her brain, doesn’t that prove the professor’s theory?”

“She didn’t commit the murder in a fit of rage. She did it for love.”


“Love. It’s a many-splendored thing.”


Yack. Who writes this crap? If you ask me, they’re the ones who ought to be licking handrails.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I feel a migraine coming on. Or else maybe I'm developing a rage-murdery lesion in my brain.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

For Want of a Nail...

I've taken to leaving my shoes around the AssVac lately...

Those are my red Keds. They make me run really fast. They also make me feel like I have bone spurs in my heels.

I started this habit when it was hot. I'd take two steps in the house at the end of what counts for me as a day, and suddenly my feet would feel all suffocated and confused. They couldn't stand to be constrained for one more second...

This is an old picture. You can tell because Destructo actually managed to break this pair of Crocs the other day. Kicked the strap clear off the left one with her right foot, she did, while she was walking, and even Johnny can't put the poor humpties together again.

You'd almost think the piggies would be cool enough in Crocs, but no. Because, see, I'm one of these fashion-forward people who wear socks with everything. My feet may not be small (size 9 1/2) and my step may not be dainty (I clomp like a stormtrooper, in other words) but my pedal extremities are delicate, I tell you. At the slightest insult, they blister like a pair of bastards in a holy-water bath.

I don't like these shoes. They're LL Bean, they were a gift, and I am an ungrateful sow. But they make my feet look flat and large, like a Don Martin character from the old Mad Magazine. So bleah. I've had them for five years and worn them twice. Both times with an off-shoulder shirt I have that's the exact same color. Matchy-matchy!

I even -- for the thirty seconds I allowed myself to be convinced they were not the ugliest, most uncomfortable footwear on the planet -- wore socks with Birkenstocks. I don't wear them with flip-flops, but only because I can't possibly wear flip-flops. Oh my god, the chafing between my toes! And I gave up wearing high heels, years ago, for even the fanciest of occasions, cultivating instead a fashion sense that allows me to craft appropriate ensembles around a snappy pair of boots.

Yes, it's possible I raised more than one glass in Teddy's honor after the aborted wake on Friday afternoon. Why do you ask?

The only shoes I don't wear socks with are the $4 faux-Keds I wear to mow the lawn. They started out as real shoes but rapidly decompensated.

Now I swear I keep finding them in places other than where I left them, as if they spend their nights creeping around.

I don't know which is spookier: those shoes, that picture, or the fact that I took it the last time I mowed the lawn and the date-stamp on the shot is August 8th.

"Decompensation" is a new word in my vocabulary. Wikipedia defines it as "the functional deterioration of a previously working structure or system." It's supposed to be a medical term, but I think it's okay if I use it here. Those shoes, after all, really do appear to be pining for the Norwegian fjords, don't you think? Although, for the grammar geeks among you, if I'd written that definition, I would have hyphenated "previously-working."

In order to realize this shot is old, you'd have to know what I know, which is that I left those shoes in my sister's living room two weeks ago, the day I learned my new four-dollar word.

Sometimes, I'm afraid I might be rapidly decompensating, too. But then I remember that the structure or system in question must not only be fart-in-a-windstorm useless, but it must also have been, at one point previously, working.