Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Beet seeds and basil

Twenty minutes in the garden and I will have the resources to survive a difficult meeting at work. Dead heading basil and holding the smashed little balls to my nose and inhaling them will get me through the false smiles and handshakes at the start. While the people around me are debating how best to spend the money in my budget I'll think about the wet beet seeds I dropped into the soil. I'll imagine raking the weeds out of the lawn, those brats that keep setting down roots all over the place. I'll puzzle out the fencing that I want to put up, imagine the lumber, the wire, the paint color, the gate. They don't even know where I am when I put my fingers together on the conference room table, forming a steeple, imagining these hands making pesto in just a few hours.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Going Down, Down, Down

I need a new heater. It started in November when REIT Fuel came out on a service call and said that my 37 year old heater needed to be replaced. The man even wrote on the heater "Heater needs to be replaced." And it wasn't in nice tidy handwriting either. It looked like God had written it after a few drinks.

Evidently my chimney liner is just gone because he also wrote "Chimney bad." It's the crooked chimney from the nursery rhyme "there was a crooked man and he had a crooked house."

So I got a bunch of estimates. The first was from a man who had worked with the Daleys, the matriarch and patriarch of my church.

Another from a neighbor who does this on the side. He came out to look at it and never got back to me. I thought it would be awkward when I ran into him while dragging the dog, but oddly enough, he's never outside his house when I walk by.

Another was recommended to me twice. He was the most persistent and there was that weird sort of attraction that happens between a helpless homeowner and a know-it-all contractor (He can save me! Fix everything!) but after my experience with the Third Generation Arborist, I thought it best not to contact him this go-round.

Then there were the two Russian guys who were so eager and seemed a little young "Yes, we will be there tomorrow and it will cost $2,000." I said, "whoa, whoa, whoa...tomorrow? I need to see something in writing." I never got that thing in writing.

Anyway, I took a long look at all my options and tried to eliminate any that had a crazy edge to it (like the Third Generation Arborist) and decided that the guy who had worked for the Daleys was the way to go. Let's call his company Edwards Plumbing and Heating. We'll call the contractor Ed. He seems like your solid, reliable guy who will show up, not necessarily save me, just do the job.

In the time that he sent me the original estimate and now when I am ready to get it done the economy has tanked, things cost more and the price has gone up. He came out yesterday and we went down to the horrible basement, reviewed the job and ended with me promising to have the one side of the basement cleaned out.

"Including the cat shit behind the current heater?"

"Yes Ma'am," he replied kindly, tipping his baseball cap.

Actually that conversation didn't happen at all. I only discovered umpteen years of cat droppings later after I started removing the piles of detritus that had accumulated after 23 years in this house. (23 years! I am that woman. Another woman I am surprised to find that I have turned out to be.)

I found the groupings of many tools for the various projects I have accomplished or have underway, tiling the bathroom floor, re pointing the foundation, painting rooms, conquering mosquitoes, gardening, gardening, gardening. I do not have to buy one more thing.

I also tackled the bureau that was the last remaining shrine to the ex-husband and his labors in the house. When he went through that front door for the last time, worn out and overdone on fixing up this house (in only Year Four) he left all the tools and equipment in an old bureau we had moved to the basement from the kitchen. In the beginning I would go to it and claim the most basic tools but after that, I wouldn't even go near it. Yesterday I emptied it. I felt sad, so much was rusted, and there were his old gloves, t-shirts he had torn into work rags, the bits of locks and door knobs that he had worked on, glass glazing points in a jar. He and Bob, my step-partner, re glazed every window in this Victorian house. They've held up well for 19 years. Thank you.

The bureau came out, as well as two little flexible flyer type sleds, an old red wagon, a broken old red wagon, tomato cages, boxes that had collapsed, cans whose contents had evaporated and about 20 pounds of cat droppings.

At first I didn't know what they were because they had calcified. But after shoveling a pile I finally put the shape together with other shapes I have seen in my life. "This looks like what?"

Evidently Pickie had claimed lots of places as her own. An especially lovely spot was behind the heater. I wonder whether the good men who had cleaned that heater over the years debated whether to tell me. Maybe they have some kind of code that you don't mention to the homeowner that they might want to look behind the heater sometime. Maybe back at REIT Central they called my house the Cat Shit House. "Oh no Glenn, don't send me to the Cat Shit House, I went there last year."

I hope that I haven't gotten some kind of illness from shoveling that up. But more than that, I hope that Pickie can forgive me and that Carol will forget it.

The basement looks great.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

End of Story

The day after I got back from Prague I asked the neighbor if the Third Generation Arborist had returned as he had promised.

"No he didn't," she said, "and to tell you the truth Anna, it doesn't surprise me. We're still going to send a letter through our attorney. You know, it's the principal of the thing."

It did surprise me and disappoint me. I wanted to believe the guy. So I called him. He said that he had been out, my neighbor is insane. He said, "ask her what her husband thought because he came out and told us what a wonderful job we had done." Who do I believe, the insane neighbor or the insane tree guy?

A few days later I was digging in the garden and Heidi, the neighbor on the other side, called over and said hey Anna, I wanted to tell you how much I like the trees!

I staggered over, it was hot and I was wearing my gardening attire which is a holey, long sleeved t-shirt, old khakis and a straw hat. By the look on her face I could tell that she hadn't expected to see such a fright up close.

I asked if the arborists had been okay.

"Oh yes," she said, "they were great! And they even came back the next day and cleaned up the yard again. And then he came to the door and asked if I would come out and tell him if he had done an all right job and I was in my pajamas so I sent my brother out and he told them what a wonderful job they had done."


I ran over to the other neighbor and said, hey, funny story! Turns out they went to the wrong yard!

Those &*(@# idiots! she said. What %&*(@ idiots.

They made a mistake! I said.

It went on from there, too tedious to tell except that now we don't talk about it.

Friday, July 18, 2008

In my head on 16th Street

Nice dress!

What are you looking at?

God I need a hair cut.

I wonder if Elizabeth had fun last night.

Why didn't I get any sides with my main?


Not gay.

What are you looking at?

Why don't you just run me over?!

Maybe I'm incapable of having fun.

I forgot to bring an apple.

LIKE the outfit!

Excuse me, I'm trying to get to work here.

Should I stop for coffee? God it's hot.

I think I'm late.

It's not easy to carry iced coffee with all this Crap.
What the hell is in this bag anyway?

I like her shoes. Should I ask her where she got them?

She didn't have to be so rude.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Wedding in Provincetown

Joy and Tina were married on Sunday. They were so happy it makes even this jaded divorced woman believe that hey, maybe they'll beat the odds. They rented an amazing house with the bay on one side and Commercial Street on the other. There were exactly 25 people there because that was a house rule. Among them were siblings, a sister-in-law, three children, one dog, six lesbians (two couples) and that's not counting Joy and Tina, a nephew, a stepmother, some parental ghosts, a minister, fish in the ocean, people on the beach, tears, dancing, laughter, a broken glass, lots of flowers, sand, sun, wind but no rain.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

13 things about Dan Laster

I'm back from my ten day adventure abroad. Prague, Vienna and London. I left on Thursday night June 26 and my feet didn't stop moving until I got off the plane in Philadelphia on Sunday, July 6.

I was there to celebrate my friend Dan Laster's birthday. I have known him as Stan for our entire relationship which has existed mostly on air (phone lines) for 30 years. Ten years ago we spent a weekend together with two other friends and his amazing wife. Before that I had only seen him very sporadically over 20 years. Stan is the friend I could call in the middle of the night and the one who always seemed to call right when I was ready to jump off an emotional ledge. He's pulled me back many times.

Here's a list of things I learned about my friend Stan, probably the most successful person I know.

1. Stretch your body every morning (and do this for 30 years.)

2. Don't drink soda (for 30 years.)

3. Run 18 to 35 miles a week (for 30 years.)

4. Whatever you are doing, it is the best. That whole thing about positive self-talk? He does it. Our adventures were the best. It was the best museum, the best meal, the best conversation. I was the best. By the end of the week I started believing it. (The trip really was the best though.)

5. The financial tips offered by waiters mean that particular strategy has run its course. For example, flipping real estate. When the waiters start doing it, it's done.

6. Be generous with your friends and family.

7. Be frugal about your own stuff though.

8. Take the stairs even if the elevator offers a cooler view.

9. Think the best of people and believe their intentions are good.

10. Become a vegetarian. And stay one for uh, 30 years.

11. Re-invent yourself every ten or 15 years. Either professionally or personally.

12. Do what you say you'll do (see soda, running, and stretching.)

13. Remember your roots. And then pinch yourself. (His are Palisades Park, N.J., and a view of the turnpike from his bedroom window, believing he'd travel that road some day. He's gone much further.)