“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” – Albert Camus
Will someone please tell me which of the jealous domestic appliance gods we’ve angered recently so that we can sacrifice the appropriate item (sock to washing machine, milk to back of fridge, etc.) and get on with it?
Wednesday when I got home, I noticed it was a bit chilly but I had to quick turnabout to go pick up J. so I just adjusted the temperature and figured all would be well by the time we got back.
Foolish, foolish C.. You know the domestic gods hate you. When we got home it was colder – our furnace had thrown up its hands in defeat and was slumped uselessly in its closet, clicking and wheezing occasionally but for all of our pleading, threatening, and dancing around cabalistic signs and fires…nothing. The handyman was duly summoned.
I had to take off work as J. had class so I went home…and waited. He was an hour late and then only stayed about 10 minutes, the ultimate underlying problem being that our furnace is from the Neolithic Age. Our pilot light, clogged with the grime of ages, mastodon hairs, ash from Vesuvius, and soot from the Industrial Revolution, can’t stay lit very long. The quick fix is a thorough cleaning – which the handyman advocated but was, of course, too busy to do that evening. I smiled tightly, pulled out my diary, and briskly inquired when he would be available next. He stuttered, “Saturday,” and I wrote it down firmly in dark, indelible strokes.
The real solution is, of course, and entirely new unit. And since apparently we’re not the only people in our building to have our furnaces give out recently, I’m hoping the landlord will fork over the funds. In the meantime we’re guarding our small, flickering light like Vestal Virgins and wearing sweatshirts to bed.
My Lord and Lady Stompington are long gone, but the creaky floors above us remain. Our newer neighbors, whom we have never actually met have their own quirks (including loud, ahem, conjugal activity. And even more inexplicably, always vacuuming directly after said activity. We still haven’t figured that one out) but by and large we prefer them to the clay-footed, bowling ball dropping, riverdancing jerks who went before. But yesterday they almost lost their Small Dog Family stamp of approval.
While J. worked on finals, projects, etc. yesterday, I was busy being a phenomenal wife. I cleaned the whole flat and did two loads of laundry… and nearly went completely round the twist before noon.
Because the smoke alarm in the flat above us apparently needed its battery changed, it beeped precisely every thirty seconds. All day long. For the first hour or so I tried vainly to locate it, pressing my ears to the walls and moving incrementally about the apartment with me head cocked to the ceiling. The second hour I paced in circles fuming and pondered angrily as to why the neighbors didn’t shut the blasted thing off. The third hour I lay on the couch, waiting to switch out laundry loads, and glared upwards. It didn’t shut off until nearly 9pm at night. You may imagine my wrecked mental state at the time.
J.’s nickname for me, despite my legendary Small Dog Syndrome personality condition, is Kitty. Not from any simliarity to my real name, but because apparently I have a cat-like tendancy to hide things. Not consciously, but it would seem that after I use certain things they have the obnoxious habit of vanishing into the ether. I also do admit to tucking somethings away in their “designated place,” the geographic location I immediately forget. This means that our marriage is a constant smorgasbord of rediscovered treasure.
Hairpins turn up in the oddest places, especially considering I almost never use them, but we find bushels of them every time we vacuum or dust. Pens! Everywhere! They breed in my pockets, purses, and cup holders. Despite practically never carrying cash, coins (of mutiple currencies!) rain from me like I’m some fairytale maiden who got on a witch’s good side. I lose my glasses at least once a day. They have been found, variously, in my jewelry case, under the couch, in the shower, beneath my pillow, and in my purse which both of us had searched thouroughly four times previous only to finding them smugly nestled besides my wallet. The possibilities truly are endless. And without fail, whever something turns up from somewhere it doesn’t belong, J. rounds on me with a pointed finger and an accusatory voice. “Kitty!”
Just so we’re clear, and so my mother doesn’t wring her hands and ask where she went wrong, our house is not dirty. That’s the amazing part. We’re minimalistic in our decor, specifically because neither of us like clutter. We deep clean once a week. There is absolutely nothing to attract the wildlife. People comment on its cleanlines when they come over. And yet, when I go to plump the pillows – voila! That book I misplaced a week ago.
And apparently the way to really unearth all the things I’ve “mislaid” is to install new windows.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful. Our old windows were nearly a half century old, leaked heat out, let cold seep in, and were generally a source of larger than necessary utility bills. The largest one in our flat faces west and made summers in the desert a misery! It got so hot during summer that our blinds would melt – or at least warp to a fantastic and almost unuseable degree. So, new windows equalled better utility costs, temperatures human beings can survive at, and less destruction of our abode. Plus someone else was installing them. Terrific!
Saturday morning at 8:30am (who does that? On a weekend!) my phone shattered the tranquility. The landlords told us the contractors wou!d be by in an hour to rip massive holes in our walls.
“J.! Get up! Clean everything! Move move move!”
Despicably undomestic as I am, I’ve got enough feminine pride/residual 1950s guilt to not want total strangers see my house a “shambles.” Poor J. was dragged from his bed and forced to dismantle window blinds while I made the bed, dusted (before a bunch of workman came to chip away my windows…yeah…) and fell to scrubbing even the bathroom with religious fervor.
It was when we invaded the office/storage space/Room of Requirement that things started turning up. Piles of papers neither of us could identify. Chords to appliances we have never owned. Boxes for things we never ordered. A couple of cups we never missed. Ribbons, Christmas gifts bought months ago, a couple of paintings… J. was laughing uproariously by the time we finished. We’d thrown out masses of stuff and I’d taken to sulking from his teasing. “Kitty!”
Then we headed back to the front room to move the couches. And found sweet, sweet justice.
Beneath the sofa I found an external hard drive, a leather business folder, two textbooks, and a pile of notes. All J.’s. The dumbfounded look on his face was priceless. I danced in a circle around him crowing, “You’re a kitty! You’re a kitty!”
Naturally ten minutes later, he found my glasses. Again. The status quo resumed.
“Nature’s all well in her place, but she mustn’t be allowed to make things untidy.”
– Cold Comfort Farm
Of course, summer is moving towards its inevitable end. Though not quite in her death throes, she’s sensing that they’re not far off and so is looking to have a last fling with a boy a third of her age, wear skirts that are far too short, and spend all her money rather than let her grasping nephew Fall get a penny of it. In other words, generally behaving badly.
The other day J. called me up.
“Are you coming home for lunch?” he asked.
“Wasn’t planning on it. Why?”
“Because you need to go to the store.”
“Because you need to pick up ant traps and spray.”
Augh! Apparently ants had descended on our flat. They were crawling in from a closet runner, bent on global domination (For the record, Mum, our flat is in no way in a state to attract the wildlife, please don’t wring your hands and bemoan anything). Anyway, I dashed home armed with chemicals, J. vacuumed everything, sprayed and booby-trapped our closet to the point that those famed nuclear-resistant cockroaches of lore couldn’t survive, and we waited with baited breath to see if it had worked. So far, nary a six-legged fiend has been sighted.
However, marshalling the ants to send them indoors was only Old Lady Summer getting drunk at her granddaughter’s wedding. She finished the night by climbing up on the buffet table, shaking her bon-bon, and collapsing spectacularly into the punch.
That night we had a massive lightning storm. I read later that in a half hour period we had nearly 150 lightning strikes in the area. And unlike normal storms, where the flashes and rumbles are spaced out a bit, this was explosion after explosion for hours. Neither J. nor I slept because every few seconds our whole room would light up and it would sound like someone had cracked a whip right next to our heads. And this sort of weather has continued, with varying degrees of intensity, for the last three days now. The power was knocked out yesterday, making getting home from work a nightmare.
Summer and I have a middling relationship. Round about February of each year I whine and long for sunlight, but as soon as we’ve made it through July, I start glaring at bank signs along the road with their publicly displayed roasting temperatures and start mumbling things like, “October sounds good. I could do October right now.”
*Photo of cracked old biddy, from mygutinstinct.wordpress.com *Photo of the vile insect invader, still from the 1954 film Them!
*Photo of my approximate face come mi-August from: findavet.us/blog/2010/04/how-to-keep-your-dog-safe-in-the-heat/
“I want to make Korean food this week. Let’s to to the Asian market.”
“I just got back from the store. You can go get things without me you know.”
“I like to go with you. You tell me what I can and can’t buy. Because I’d come home with Korean marshmallow pies and you know it.”
– C. and J.
We do and buy strange things sometimes.
J.’s been into a new exercise regimen recently, and after begging me for a few days for a pull up bar and finding a good deal on one, I gave in. Naturally one thing led to another and now our house looks even more ghetto as he had to take off the door to our office to use it. I resisted that for a couple of days too, but since I have my bike sitting pretty in the front room I had lost the aesthetic appeal already and didn’t have a leg to stand on. But as he works out everyday and I ride my bike faithfully (for an hour yesterday, kittens! My legs are jello!) I suppose the loss of a door is alright. Except when company comes over.
Then,because summer arrived quite suddenly this year–we went from snow to heat in mere days, what gives!–I realized, as I do every year, that I was dying. I didn’t own a single pair of shorts. So I marched into Old Navy and bought a stack. Jupiter, Odin, and Quetzalcoatl, what have I been missing?! You mean wearing these things makes my legs that much less glow-in-the-dark white, and keeps me cool? What has a professional-only wardrobe done to me?!
Finally, while doing the grocery shopping yesterday, I came across almond butter. I’d read of its awesomeness here at Thinspired, and from various health conscious friends and so snatched it up. Go. Buy. This. Stuff.
In happier news, it would seem my Lord and Lady Stompington may have moved out! Building gossip suggests it, and the unnatural quiet we’ve been enjoying seconds the idea, but it has not been positively confirmed yet. Fingers crossed, all. Good fortune and goodbye!
Also, Sav and her husband CK may be moving into our building. Which would be lovely! When Venice basely abandons me, it would be nice to have someone I know and like in easy cup-of-sugar borrowing distance.
“It’s an area of Dublin that still has lots of character. It hasn’t been yuppified to ****.”
Lisa’s spirits started a slow slither. She was desperate to live in a place that had been yuppified to ****.
– Marian Keys, Sushi for Beginners
Every once and a while a strange urge takes hold of me, shakes me around a bit as I struggle to be free of its grasp, and and is finally, forcibly thrown off while I stagger around gasping and trying to reorient myself. It’s the (understandable but currently impractical) desire to have an upwardly-mobile-ish change to our lifestyle.
Nothing desperate, you understand. But maybe…an in-house dishwasher (that isn’t J., I mean). Or a newer flat that doesn’t have creaky floors (or my Lord and Lady Stompington above us). A second car, one that can manage the highways without 4000 rpms or a using half a tank of gas to get to the city (45 minutes away).
Now, I’m aware that I’m in one of the best phases of my life. Newly (relatively) married, no kids, no mortgages, the ability to do nearly whatever J. and I want. And yet…sometimes I have this strange desire to be just a bit further on. First house together and past renting creaky flats. First pet, instead of surreptitiously googling local breeders and the Human Society at work. First real double income paycheck, instead of single-and-very-small checks on paydays.
Again, I feel as if this an understandable feeling, but I’m constantly shocked by what will trigger the flood of longing. Today Wise and I headed out to get a cake for our monthly department birthday party. The venue was Costco, wherein I have not spent previous quality time. Oh dear.
There were boxes of strawberries that had not yet succumbed to slime and decay. There were bags of frozen chicken that contained more than two or three breasts. There were quality diamonds, iPods, lawn chairs, massive bags of chips, huge bales of toilet paper…yes, it was all very impressive. But, above all, there were SAMPLES.
Wise and I wandered the store sucking down granola, salad, juice, and finally this.
And now, suddenly, I am wrestling the desire for a Costco membership, something I will probably not need until there are more than two of us…solely because I now crave a bottle of Roasted Blackberry Chipotle Sauce. Aren’t I supposed to be craving babies or something? Why do I want a dog and fancy fruit/chili sauce instead?
“It is folly to punish your neighbor by fire when you live next door.”
– Publilius Syrus
Those of you who remember this little fiend, will be happy to know that he has departed for grimmer and more diabolic realms. Alternatively, you will be saddened to know that he has been replaced with something far, far worse:
Our new upstairs neighbors.
Not only do they fight, constantly, at the top of their lungs, specifically at ridiculous hours of the the night, but they are also completely incapable of walking. No, no. They stomp. Which makes our ceiling shake. And they throw parties with loud friends in which they, as far as we can tell, practice riverdancing. Or dropping bowling balls.
The other night, when we were watching a movie, we heard the door above us slam and moments later the light fixture started rattling around.
“Ah good,” J. said, “Lord and Lady Stompington are home.”
Obviously all this PBS watching is starting to rub off on him!
Watching the Westminster Kennel Club dog show has had an unintended effect. Out of nowhere, J. has told me he likes scruffy-furred dogs with beards (see Fig. 1). He also showed a distinct fondness for large dogs with dragging jowls.
On the other hand, I go for the more streamlined and sleek looking dogs (see Fig. 2).
In fact the only things we can agree on is that we both like border collies, and both are seized with rampant puppy lust. It’s a good thing we don’t live in a flat that permits animals, otherwise can you imagine the raging fight we’d have?
Fig. 1 now updated. The first “scruffy dog” I displayed was insufficiently scruffy, according to J. This is my point.
I went home with J. for lunch and as we walked in the door, we were met with an overwhelming smell that neither of us could identify. We sniffed dubiously around trying to solve the mystery. We dumped all the bins, lit candles and opened windows to clear the air, but it wasn’t until J. wandered into another room and got a fresh whiff that he exclaimed, “Sesame oil! But…why…how?”