Sunday, February 18, 2024

Nothing Special Edition: An unexpected snow.


We met friends for dinner last night.  

When I got up, yesterday morning, the sky was clear, and it was bright out, a rarity for NE Ohio this time of year.  As we neared noon, the creeping clouds came in from Lake Erie, nothing abnormal.  

But by 4:30, there was a layer of fine snow on the porch roof. 

The husband and I settled for some time with the dogs and the sofa, and by the time we went out at a quarter of six, the car really needed to be cleared off - with about two inches of fine powder snow. 

Now, the east side of Cleveland usually does a great job at clearing the roads, but last night, something was off.  The roads were white, the snow wasn't melting, and it was coming down kind of hard, but still fine, like frozen dust.

So we got to Geraci's on Warrensville Center and enjoyed the company and the catching up, the food came, and a good time was had by one and all. 

Two hours later we left for the parking lot and the streets still hadn't been cleared.  Moreover, now the first layers of snow had become slick, and with powdery snow on top, the lane markings were obscured. 

So we carefully got in the car and started home, and I have to say that 99% of the drivers were great, not hurrying, not driving recklessly, and we only encountered two cars being driven like the roads were clear.  One of them made a left too fast and spun out.  I think he/she/them/they might have learned a lesson, or maybe not, but they weren't going where we were headed. 

We did get home safe and sound, and the dogs had a good romp in the snow.  They were like puppies, wanting us to toss the powder into the air so they could run through it. 

All in all, a pretty perfect evening. 

Still, I find it odd that the roads hadn't been prepped, which was unusual. 

But it was a nice night, without anything happening but a good meal. 

Wednesday, February 14, 2024

The Nonstop Pie-Hole


Even Joan Cusack wouldn't know what to do. 

As a Valentine's date, the Husband took Cookie out for a meal. 

We were seated, the table next to us was empty, and the table to my right was a man, about sixty-something who smiled when we were seated. 

About five minutes later, while we gazed at the menu, his dinner companion arrived. She was well dressed, almost stylish, but once she was seated, her mouth kicked into gear. 

Now, Cookie and the Husband were at a modern, nice dining location. The hum of the people talking was semi-loud because people operating restaurants think that a vibrant atmosphere means that the noise level should be loud enough that when using your inside voice you need to lean forward so the person seat on the other side of the duece top can nearly hear you.

The husband and I were seated next to these two for one hour and twenty minutes, and of that time, her mouth was in gear for an hour and fifteen.  A very LOUD hour and fifteen.

She only stopped talking long enough to throw some food into her piehole or take a quick sip of her Moscow Mule. 

And her constant kvetching wasn't anything worth listening in on.  There was nothing juicy, no complaints about food, politics, not even sex or gossip. 

Nope. Her mouth ran nonstop complaining about employees and coworkers, and their inability to follow or communicate their processing of workplace processes. 

Honest to Gawd people.  It was as if she picked up an abandoned unfunny script for the final episode of Seinfeld.  

And, she was loud.

AND dear reader, I kid you not, this came out of her mouth: 

"I asked her to explain her process for processing the required process to reach the outcome assigned to her, and she couldn't! Can you believe that?"

I leaned into the husband and said "Not explain her process? That takes some nerve."

At one point, her dinner companion took one of the few moments in which is was sipping her drink or chewing her meal and started to say "Well, being Swiss..." and she plugged that leak in the conversational dyke faster than the little Dutch boy in the child's story. 

"Then you know what I know about the importance of established processes..." and with that, she was off to the races again. 

We finished our meals, listening to nagging neh, nehneh, neh, wash rinse and repeat. 

When we waited for the check the piehole was in fine form, with process this, and process that, process, process, blah, blah, blah, process!

When we left, the husband had a rager of a headache.  "How did she even breathe?"

"I would have recommended a career as an auctioneer."

And I swear that while watching Find Your Roots, I started mumbling to the TV demanding that Skip Gates show us his researcher's processes when the husband said "You know those processes better than Dr. Gates."

To clear our minds, the Husband put on an episode of All Creatures Great and Small, which settled us down.  

Instead, our conversation turned to a favorite topic of mine, Helen's massive hair, which deserves its own paycheck and representation. 

No matter how bad something is, Helen's hair can always divert my attention. 

Last night in my dreams I remade the Sandra Bullock film "Speed", only this time, the heroine was told by some malevolent being that if she stopped talking about processes for more than thirty seconds, then bad things would befall her.  

How did the dream end?

I have no idea, I left the theater with Helen's hair before the resolution and then woke up.  


Friday, February 9, 2024

Damn hippies


We the hole is being filled in.  Thank Jesus Christ almighty. 

And we passed our inspection.  Praise Allah

The plumber hands me the permit and says "You ought to post this in a window."

A little late, slim, ain't it?

Tomorrow we go and buy gypsum for the gash, to try and make the clay they are turning up more porous. 

We did have a "neighbor" come by walking her dog.

Woman: "What's going on here?"

Me: "Draining our savings, it'll flow freely to the water treatment plant."

Woman: "Did you let your neighbors know?"

Me: "Oh, yes."

Woman: "I had no idea."

Me: "Where do you live?"

Woman: "Three blocks that way.  Did you tell the city?"

Me: "The plumber pulled the permit with the city and we passed inspection this morning."

Woman: "If you did this without a permit, I'll need to call and report you."

Me: "Call away, Gladys."

Woman: "My name is Tonya."

Me: "Kravitz did you say?"

Woman: "No, TONYA!"

Me: "Stop by anytime Gladys."

Our neighbor Randi heard this and came over.  

"Tonya has lived over there her whole life. She'll call the city and report you, but she won't remember the address or she thinks you are probably the people who lived here in the 50s."

Shaking her head, Randi said "She's harmless, but a pain in the ass sometimes. Lotta peyote, that one."

Wouldn't doubt it. Damn hippies. 

But what do I care?  I am poorer, and our house's poop pipe is squeaky clean. 

Damn Hippies, indeed.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Sewer stuff


Well here is my update: What will be will be.

The sewer repair seems like Mr. Tesander and Mr. Apollonio and digging the trench for Mr. Blandings. 

"Well, we've run into a problem.  You see that blue marking for your waterline?"


"Well, the water line doesn't come in there. No.  It comes in here about five feet south of the marking, then travels across your front yard at an angle to the other side of the house.  So we'll have to cut it and hook you up a temporary connection."

What about the gas line?

"Well, it should come in over here, but there is a ledge, or an erratic over there, so it comes up on this other side of the tree."

The up shot is, the price has doubled not because of the sewer line, but the ulitites that aren't where they are supposed to be.

Then the city got involved. 

"You need to display your permits."

But we don't have them.

"Of course, you don't, because they were issued to the plumber and he should have let you know."

Well, he didn't.

"Ignorance of the process is no excuse..."

Would you like to speak with our attorneys? 

"Well, I can let you off this one time, but the next time you have this line replaced, you better have that permit displayed."


So we have water from 4pm to 8am.  Then we are on our own. 

Our neighbors have been wonderful in letting us use their bathrooms, and their dogs have been wonderful in giving us all types of love. 

Honestly, if it weren't for the neighbors, both of us would be in a rubber room.

Friday, February 2, 2024

Hot Chicken Sandwich

Vonda, Can I get a third Hot Chicken Sandwich?

The Plain Dealer, Cleveland's main newspaper, ran a story last week that made Cookie's jaw drop.   


I said to myself, "Cookie, this cannot be true." and "What witchery is this?"

It claimed that the Hot Chicken Sandwich - something I grew up with when I visited Marion, and later moved there -  is a very well-known entity in Greater Cleveland.  So well known, it is part of the Cleveland Canon of Foods. 

Why I nearly took to the couch and called out for the husband to "bring me my digitalis."

Dear Reader, having regained my composure, in the first 14 years of my life in Shaker Heights I never encountered a hot chicken sandwich in anywhere in Cleveland. 


My Cleveland family never encountered it.  And my mother would never have made something that would betray her farm girl childhood.  (But if the Marion Fish and Game Club had an ox roast, she'd ask for one.)

So the idea that the sandwich is part of the same food heritage that gave us chopped liver, corned beef, Aurora Spaghetti House spaghetti sauce, Bertman's brown stadium mustard, perogies, the Polish Boy Sausage, Kilbossa, Chicken Paprikash, and a Heck's Rocky River Burger, is like saying that the sun comes up over Fairview Park and sets over Pepper Pike.  Madness I tell you, its just madness.

But you will say, "Cookie, that was in the last century." 

And that would be right. 

You will point out that "surely a chicken breast on a bun is the creation of the 1980s that exists today, usually in fast restaurants." 

Yes, a chicken breast sandwich is a universal thing these days.  A cliche among sandwiches. 

But that isn't what I am talking about. 

I am talking about a HOT CHICKEN SANDWICH, not a chicken breast sandwich.  

The Hot Chicken Sandwich's beauty exists in its simplicity.  

So what is this food unicorn that evokes memories of neighborliness, community, and good eating? 

A Hot Chicken sandwich is shredded white meat chicken, that simmers with a can of cream of chicken soup, salt, pepper, and maybe a crushed cracker filler in a crockpot (Or Nesco Roaster if you are feeding twenty or more) for a few hours and, served on a hot steamed bun and served with a couple Vlassic dill pickle chips.

The Hot Chicken Sandwich.
Look good? I told you it is.

First of all, the only place where you can get a Hot Chicken Sandwich is:

  1. At a covered dish fundraiser for the fire department
  2. At the county fair from the tent run by the Rotarians, the Lions, Altrusa, or a fundraising tent for a fire department.
  3. The Jer-Zee drive-in, or Stewart's Rootbeer Stand, or some other such that is local.
  4. A tailgate party at someone's house in the fall - or - 
  5. From your mother's kitchen if she says she has a "yen for one."
How do you make it? 

Well, its rather simple:
  1. Either bake or parboil your chicken, but don't overcook it, because the chicken is going for a mellow swim in the crock pot.  If you hate baking and it's a million degrees out and you don't want to heat up the kitchen, you can buy shredded, unseasoned cooked chicken at the market.*  
  2. Turn on that crock pot for low.  
  3. Shred the chicken.  Don't dice it, don't slice it, you want that chicken shredded.  You can use fork, an egg beater, meat claws, or whatever floats your boat.
  4. You take shredded chicken - how much is a mystery, and no one knows for sure.  If you are going to make some you might as well make enough for the neighbors, too - and place it in the crockpot. 
  5. A can or several cans of a condensed cream of chicken soup.**  (How much?  No one knows for sure how many people you are feeding. It is based on whether or not you are feeding your family, family and friends, family and neighbors, a church group, or several hundred people at the fair, tractor pull, or family reunions.  Generally it's one can for every four to six people, more or less.)  
  6. Some salt, some pepper.  How much, enough to season it but not so much that it tastes salty, or too peppery.  When you overseason people think you are trying to cover something up. 
  7. Stir it around and cover for a couple hours.  Add just a wee bit-o-water now and then. 
  8. After about four hours, serve it on a steamed fresh bun with some dill pickle chips. 
That's it, people. You have mid-Ohio nirvana. 

Now, there are a couple "oh, no you don't" things to keep in mind.

A) Do not add any hot sauce to the batch.  Not everyone thinks Frank's Hot Sauce, Tobasco, or some other overly spicy sauce is ever needed, wanted or desired.
B) If you want hot sauce, as my mother would say "do it alone in the corner of shame." And ask yourself "What in the hell is wrong with me that I need to ruin perfectly good food with that crap."
C) Stop adding crap like ground cauliflower, fresh herbs, and Gawd only knows what else.  You are not above good basic food.
D) Don't overthink this.  Seriously.
e) Just open that pie hole of yours and eat.

a) Some people will crush a few Ritz crackers, or saltines, into the mix at the beginning of cooking.  If you do, add a bit of water.  This can extend the recipe if you really are feeding a big group. 
b) Purists will use chicken base instead of soup.  I you do this, add 1/2 cup of water and 1/4 cup of whole milk.  You need the fat from the milk.
c) Some people will use cream of mushroom soup, but Cookie is not a fan.

As for side dishes?  Ballreich's chips are good, so are tater tots, and so is California medley.   Asparagus? I wouldn't, but that's me. 

For dessert? Well if you really want to knock it out of the park, a mock apple pie.  And before you say anything, it is out of this world delicious, and people will want to cook you a chateaubriand and throw you a parade. 

NOW, people tell me that the Hot Chicken Sandwich is a West Side thing and that I get it.  Cleveland is merely a city floating in the middle of a sea of communities. I am an eastside person and only hang on the west side if I have reason.  They feel the same way about the east side. 

So this year, if there is a Fire Department fundraiser in Avon, or a church festival in Parma, I will go and see if someone is serving up Hot Chicken Sandwiches.

But until I find it commonly served, it will remain to be seen if it is a local example of good eating.


*Only you will know if you shred it and put the love into getting it right, or some stranger named Beverly or LaVerne who could be a man, could be a woman - has put their love into prepping the bird.  You'll know too, but you are not telling anyone, because well, it's all part of that aura of yours. We all know it and people will and do talk.  I know I do. 

**Use Campbell's Cream of Chicken because it shows you love the people you are feeding.  Store-brand, or off-brand cream of chicken soup tells everyone what a cheapskate you are because everyone knows it's not as good as Campbell's and people will, and do, talk. 

Wednesday, January 31, 2024

How much?


Today was a lot like the movie Ground Hog Day. Get up, find strange men in the backyard putting up the fence to keep the dogs in and the deer out, being miserly with water, cursing the sewer line, and on and on...

We got the estimate from the plumber.  Well, let's just say it isn't as much as the worst possible number, but it came close at $1X,XXX.68

That's a lot to deal with.  In any event, the work starts early next week.  And the good news is that they won't be working in the rain. 

But they are going to be digging a whole lot of digging. 

Anyway, the utility marking people were here and the good news is that the gas line was not laid over top of the sanitary, so that's good.  And the gas line is nowhere near the sanitary sewer, so that's good. 

The downside to this is my hope of attending Roots Tech in Salt Lake City no longer exists, along with the new car I hoped would be on its way over the next three years.  So it looks like the Doodlebug will have to keep itself together until 2029.

On the plus side, a friend of mine that I met in Kindergarten came over for coffee, and we realized that it has been a half-century since she came over to my house to play!

So while I feel horrible about this expense, things could be worse.  I could have no friends left from Mrs. Bauter's kindergarten.  And that would be a shame. 

And here is the best news in the world: Ground Hog Day really is less than 48 hours away, and Ground Hog Day is Cookie's first day of Spring.  

Monday, January 29, 2024

I am having a sick headache.

 And are they ever good? 


The news on the plumbing is horrible.  

We have a collapsed sanitary sewer pipe.

How bad is it going to be? 

Really, really bad. 

And we will know the amount when the estimate is tomorrow. 

Then it needs to be scheduled because they are bringing in a backhoe, and not one of those adorable little ones, either.

We are so fucked.  

Now, we trust this plumber - we really, really do.  That's why we called this plumber. But the idea that things are so bad that it going to take him another 24 hours to estimate it all out is unnerving as fuck.

UNTIL THEN, we have been told to use "minimum plumbing" We can't run the washer.  Showers at a minimum, and the dreaded "If it's yellow, let it mellow - if it's brown flush it down" is now in effect.  

Because no one wants effluent in the basement, and we really don't want it down there because there are about 70 boxes of our stuff down there.  Luckily they are sitting about a 3" off the floor, but still. 

So, try not to make any noise, no playing in the living room, someone bring me a washcloth soaked in cool water and wrung out well and I just try and get through this sick headache. 


Sunday, January 28, 2024

This Old House Angst: backed up drains


Today in Old House Angst, we are featuring backed up drains.  Went to do a load of laundry, started the machine, and noticed the floor drain well is full. Then I check another floor drain well, and it is full. 

Why, fuck it all. 

Fuck Yeah!

So now we have a call into our plumber's emergency service, and a backup (no pun intended) call to Roto-Rooter, which I loathe having to call.  The Rotor Rooter call can be canceled at any time. 

While a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, a hand in the bush is much better, so I have heard.   

So Cookie has options covered.

Nothing seems to have burbled out from the sanitary lines into the floor drains, but we do not want "effluent" in our basement. 

And why-o-why does this have to happen on a Sunday?

Obviously, the fates are testing me. 

In any event, the weather has been - in Auntie Mame speak - nothing but Diedre weeping cruel tears.  The whole yard is underwater.  I heard from the granddaughter of a previous owner that our backyard had a spring-fed pond.  Filled in many years ago, and gardens around it.  I believe it.  Maps of this area from the 1890s show tributaries to a brook.  Lucky us. 

Good lord, looking out over the acreage, I am wondering if we will need a boat. And we are not even in a low spot, either. 

In other news, the Husband and I have started watching Harlots on Hulu. Personally, I love a good girl fight, although the mention of things gleety and gleamy can make me queasy.  Still, I recommend it. 

I'll let you know when our "full" house turns into a Royal Flush. 

Friday, January 26, 2024

Oh, mother. And all this time...


I thought my whites were really white.1

I thought that the girls kept declining invitations because they were busy.2

I thought that Dad was my father.3

I thought Dave Garroway was talking to me, not at a camera.4

I thought that Bill and Bruce said that they were going fishing with the guys.5

I thought Al Ghazali was Aristotelian when in fact...he was actually anti-Aristotelian!6

I thought I only had to do it one time, but the truth is: I liked it. I like doing it. Now Bill thinks I am too demanding.  What is wrong with me?7

1 Detergent ad

2 Lysol ad

3 Genealogy clients after DNA returns a NPE.  

4 My father about one of his early clients

5 A wife who is confused about what he husband really gets into.

6 The Big Bang Theory

7 True Stories Magazine

Saturday, January 20, 2024

Just a wee bit-o-snow


See, just a wee bit-o-snow.

So we got a wee bit-o-snow yesterday.  

Woke up to a winter wonderland and watched all day as it continued to snow.  The whole day.  Hour by hour. 

And from 1am to 5pm, it continued.  Oh, it slowed down alright. But it kept coming down. 

Lest anyone panic, we really didn't end up with much because it was a very fine powdery snow, fluffy and the temps kept it from getting heavy.  So in all total, we only have about 12" as I type this. 

When we told people we were moving back to Ohio, the universal chorus was "But the SNOW."

And my response was always "But they know how to deal with the snow."

The thing is, greater Cleveland really does know how to deal with snow, like a pro. 

So while we were toasty inside, the snow fell outside.  Snow plow crews kept the main arterials and freeways clear, and when they had time, they dealt with the secondary streets.  Residential streets where we live got plowed once in the day, and once in the evening.  

This morning, we got plowed again.  

Yesterday, our driveway was plowed twice by Luis in his big black truck.  Once at 1pm, and again at 10:30PM. 

And this morning, the roads are fine.  Went to the grocery, and the stores were fine.

Now in Baltimore?  Schools were closed if they suggested snow. People would be complaining about ice on the sidewalks. 

And three inches of white powdery stuff? Chaos. 

"But," they would say "the ICE".  

"Be safe," they encouraged us as if we were in Iceland and the fissures were opening under our feet.  

From 12" of soft powdery snow?

But it's just snow. Thats all.  And people from this area know it. 

Now we did drive out to Legacy Village this morning and they were getting Lake Effect Snow.  But down where we are. Not much, today. 

Nature is resilient. The birds are chirping up a party next door where our neighbors feed them.  And I went out and slapped so Crisco onto the bark of a box elder, and the woodpeckers are having a feast.  So I guess all is right with the world, right?

And wouldn't you know it, but the January thaw is coming this week.  So all this lovely snow will be gone. by Tuesday or Wednesday. 

Well, it was pretty while it lasted. 

Wednesday, January 17, 2024

Winter is a cruel, cold mistress


Aunt Doris Winter* was a cold, cold woman.

Well, it's cold here. It could have been colder, but we lucked out. 

It could be colder if Aunt Doris Winter was around.  Doris was not a blood aunt, she was a longtime friend of my grandmother's, a cold woman, lacking any warmth for anyone under 40. "Doris has been through a lot," Gramma would say. "So don't bother her."

Aunt Doris would visit Gramma if she didn't think I was around. She had no phone, so she would just show up. She would bring a Miller High Life -  just one for herself because Gramma didn't drink - and pour into a jelly jar glass, which had Flintsones graphics on it in pastel colors.   When she left, Gramma would reach up into the "sugar jar" and fish out a five-spot which she gave to the woman.  Evidently, Aunt Doris seemed to hit rough patches in life like a newly-minted driver hits icy patches on the road.  

"Everyone needs a friend," is all Gramma would say after Doris' car left the space in front of the house.

Grandpa didn't care for her, and was usually sound asleep by the time Doris would come by after lunch. That dislike reached far into the past, a past not discussed, and when asked, wasn't answered.  

At Christmas, she would leave a bank deposit envelope from the Fahey Banking Company for me, with a dollar in it, signed "Doris".  No "Merry Christmas", no "Season's Greetings".  Just "Doris." But I steered clear of the woman as the adults advised. 

I asked Mom, years later about what happened to Doris, but Mom said "She was always like that."

"Did you ever ask Gramma?"

"Cookie," my mother would say, "My mother would never discuss Doris' plight. Sometimes, life hands you mysteries that should remain just that."


Back in the winter of 1994 it got down in the -20s in Columbus, so hovering around zero this past week was simply an annoyance.   The boiler on the house is working overtime to keep the first floor at 67, while the steam heat on the second floor has my home office up to Tuscon-in-Summer.  The boiler man was here this morning adjusting the fuel/air mixture, and he said "Above 10° they do find, but when its below 10°, they start to struggle."

The bad news is we really do need a new boiler.  The good news is we have some time. 

This has been a bitterly cold week in New England, the Upper Midwest, Lower Midwest, the Mid South, South, etc., and Canada. 

If anything, misery loves company.  Everyone, except Blobby, is cold.  Well, he may be cold, but Blobby doesn't let it slow him down.  He's either cooking or running or doing something. 

For Cookie, this type of cold feels heavy, like a burden.  

It takes more from you to get up and walk the dogs, to take out the trash, to get the car cleaned off.  Trips get canceled, and that sort of thing. 

And it takes a lot out of the Husband who has been working nonstop for the last week, and under a mountain of pressure.  I feel a spousal sense of obligation to help him.  So the laundry gets done and folded, errands get done, shopping gets done.  But not walking the dogs.  He needs to leave his office, which I have named the "Crows Nest", get out, get some air and walk. 

In other news, I think I found a general practitioner and a dermatologist.  Given the surgeries to remove diseased bits from me, I am due to see a GP.  And January is my mole check month. (I know, but "as we grow older", things can develop.)

Still, the people of Northeast Ohio continue to be wonderful. Every now and then you meet someone not at their best, but we all have off days. And who amongst us doesn't have a bad day, and that isn't a question. 

I have started keeping a list of all the places I want to go and see when the weather breaks.  I have research trips planned for Canton (Ohio, not China), and points south.  I have also been driving about, going down roads, and reacclimating myself.  In the spring, I want to walk the Euclid Creek path, from top to bottom.  I want to explore Lakeview Cemetery.  And I want to become more familiar with the west side.  

Sometimes we need the cold restrictive times to nest, to think, to plan, so we can revel in spring when the days grow longer, the smell of wet earth blossoms, and the crocus pop up with those first peeps of color. Mother nature has goals, and first time in a very long time, so do I. 

*Not the actual Doris, but the best representation I have ever seen.

Thursday, January 11, 2024

My indoctrination thus far

 Well, I am STILL here and STILL unpacking. 

My will to go through boxes at this point waxes and wanes.   I feel energized on days when it is brighter outside - I would say sunny, but we have had but one "sunny day" since December.  During the winter, the east side of Cleveland is known for its gray days.  We get socked in with a solid cloud cover that makes the outdoor light bleak.  Oh, the sun is up there.  And If I am about 30 minutes south or west, the sun is more likely to show its face. Otherwise, I am quickly reminded of why I hated my childhood in Shaker Heights.  

Moreover, we still haven't found my full spectrum light and I am about ready to buy another.

But do I regret moving here? 

Not for a single second.  

I have all but blotted out that eleven years in Baltimore.  Oh, I know I was there, but it seems like decades ago, and fading fast.  I may need to reread this blog to remind myself of the things that happened. Or not.

As for indoctrination to "The Heights", well, I continue to find lovely people all around us.  Save for a nasty woman in Home Goods the week before Christmas - and frankly, I too can understand why she was unpleasant - everyone has been at least a good sport, but most are simply wonderful.

Streets and avenues aren't a thing here like they are down in the city of Cleveland - it's either a road, a boulevard, or in rare cases, a lane.  No "garths" either.  The is a "Mews" in Cleveland Heights; haven't been down that one yet.   Traffic lights on main roads? They are freaking everywhere.  So are "Stop" signs.

And what about the snow? Well, we haven't had one of those 12-24" storms yet.  It comes and goes.  The rain, on the other hand, has turned the back year into a bog.  

Honestly, a bigger problem are the dear herds.  They are fucking all over the place.   And Bambi doesn't trot away when humans are around.  Oh, no. They just sniff at you like you are the hoi polloi.  

We had a button buck looking into the house through the back door while I was coming up from the basement.  Scared the shit out of Cookie.  Did he trot off? No! The bastard just looked at me like I had farted in a packed theater. 

Still, the wonderfulness of being here outweighs any minor inconveniences. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Still here


Cookie admits it. He has been quieter than usual.  

I had forgotten how dreadfully dreary in winter Cleveland can be.  Still, we go through each day as best as we can.  But dear God where or where is the sun?  Today was rainy and then the fog swept in while I was running an errand on the west side. While heading east on 490 to get to the Opportunity Corridor (a fairly new road that connects University Circle to I-77 and points west) as I drove past "Steel Valley" I could not see the huge steel plant or three car lengths in front of me.  But I made it back unscathed.

We are still unpacking, though at a much slower pace.  

One of the unpleasant surprises about the new Maison d'Cookie is that our furniture doesn't fit in many instances.  We have too many side chairs and too many side tables.  We also have too many windows that don't have UV Glass, so the art that we had on walls in the old house can't be placed in many places for fear it will fade. 

But we are through Christmas, and we are meeting new people.  

And I am going places that are totally new - Like Cleveland's West side and burbs. I am finding out that the chain stores out that way are really superior to what we have on the east side. 

One thing that has me concerned is that I have been having some memory issues, which I am attributing to having so much on my mind.  Oy!  New traffic patterns, and new routes, and I am still conquering a lot of the agoraphobia I developed during COVID.  I'll get there, and some sunlight will help. 

In any event, on to New Year's.

There is a lot to do and get done in 2024 and I am looking forward to it all.  The people we have met around here are beyond wonderful.  And that makes it all worthwhile.  

Thursday, November 30, 2023

Jade Dragon

On a swatch, it's one thing. in a large room, it's overpowering.


As the husband and I settle, or try to settle, into the house, something has us bamboozled. 

Where are we going to hang the art?

We don't have priceless works, but we have a few that have been in the family forever.  And this house, at 112 years old has an interesting problem - a forty-foot-deep living room that has two big bay windows, two huge arches, a fireplace, and as little wall space as you can imagine.

Honestly, many open floor plans "for today's living" don't even offer that kind of space.  

The walls in the living room were, at one time, Sherwin Williams' Jade Dragon, a color that has darkened over the five or six years since the room was last painted.  What color is Jade Dragon? The same color as Margaret Hamilton's make-up in The Wizard of Oz.

Said living room will be painted a far lighter hue come spring, but in the meantime, we are pulling nails, and patching, which meant, finding the remnants of what was in the can of Jade Dragon in the basement, dry as the desert. 

So I spent an hour and a half at Sherwin Williams today waiting for my turn.  All I needed was a quart of this concoction (I am a Benjamin Moore kind of guy) watching other painters who got there before me, strut around. 

I spent most of the time looking at my paint fan (that quasi booklet of every paint color that Sherwin Williams makes, they give them out if you ask) and trying to decide what color we could paint the living room if I didn't hate dirty Jade Dragon so much. 

Then my mind had a thought: Jade Dragon is a perfect drag name. Not for me, but for someone else. Neither the Husband nor I do drag, still, we have drag names. The Husband's "drag name" is Taffeta Darling, after Madeline Kahn in Young Frankenstein. 

Mine is decidedly more Shaker: Bubbie VanAken®, an homage to all the Jewish bubbies that lived on Van Aken in the 1960s and 70s, who furnished their houses in Glitzy Louis the XVI furniture. 

Anyway, after the rough trade painters were through, it was my time.  I told Miss Thing at the counter what I needed and his reaction was "Really? Do you really need that color? I mean I never would have thought you were a Jade Dragon type of guy."  I told him that we evidently were in sync, that I wasn't, but that I needed it for touch-ups.

And we talked about colors, and the names of the colors. And what a job it would be. 

"Could never do it," said he. "My names would be too honest for Corporate."

I could see his point.  I mean, one of S-W's biggest selling colors isn't a color at all, it's a shade: Agreeable Gray.  It's not too light, not too saturated. With white woodwork, it's a totally safe bet. 

I told him I would have named it Safe Choice Gray.

"And who wants to go safe when you paint a space?"

Which brought us back to Jade Dragon. 

"This color cries out for bird of paradise wallpaper, with banana leaves."

So I left, a can of paint in hand. The spots have been touched up and are now drying. 

And before you know it, the sun is beginning to set. 

Tomorrow, another adventure. 

But tonight, it's all about covering Jade Dragon up with art.

Wednesday, November 22, 2023

Your catharsis is not my ephiphany


What fresh Hell is this?

Well, today is my birthday.  Whoop de-do.

When you are born on Thanksgiving or have a birthday during Thanksgiving week, it's always a bummer.  

Making it worse is that in the United States, this date is always a day of National Day of Mourning.  Kennedy was killed on my first birthday. 

After a while, you get used to it. 

You never get a real birthday party on your birthday if you were born on a Thanksgiving week, because everyone is traveling.  And a meal on Thanksgiving is never a birthday feast.  Trust me, my family tried that con enough times and it never worked. 

Presents always came after the Christmas sales started. UNLESS, you have that Aunt who buys a gift for you at Christmas close-out time and by the time your birthday rolls around, you are too old for the gift. 

The absolute worst of those idiots are people who say "It's your birthday? Well did you know that Kennedy was killed on this day?" 

Why yes. Yes, I do. Because I am not stupid, I have lived that connection for my entire life, had the national news remind me every damn year. And your catharsis doesn't equal my epiphany.

There was a girl in high school who took every opportunity to ask me if I knew I was going bald.  And every time she did it, it was like the first time she knew it was happening. 

And some people, like "Becky" from high school, who have said it once, like to do repeat performances like "Becky" every damn year. 

"You have pointed that out every time my birthday rolls around, and, I can assure you, it's not as big of a revelation to me as it is for you." 

Quite literally, I am trapped in some macabre Groundhog Day movie. 

Making matters worse is that the weather in Cleveland every November is dismal, wet, grey, chill to the bone cold, which just makes my SADD shift into high gear. 

None to worry - this too will soon pass. We'll get through this weekend, and then ramp up for Christmas. 

Still, The Husband hurts for me. He wants me to be happy and have a nice day, and it pains him that he can't make it so.  I keep telling him I have everything I could ever want. I do have friends. I have my health. He has his health. We have a rainy day fund in the bank, not much, but enough.  So what else could I ever wish for?

Good things come to those who wait.  

I can wait. 

And because Thanksgiving floats around the calendar like Veterans Day, you really have no way of knowing one year to the next.  But in 2024, its on the 28th, and my birthday is a Friday the week before.  So things are looking up.

And yes, I can wait. 

Friday, November 17, 2023

When did light bulbs become such a pain in the in the socket?


One of the toughest things about the new house is getting the "light" situation in each room settled. 

Unlike the last two houses, where the longest exterior walls faced north and south, this house is like our home in Columbus, this house faces east and west.  Because of this, and the layout of the rooms, our windows are east-west and north, with only five facing south.  

The previous owners, who were a man-child and his wife, were huge fans of bare bulbs in clear glass fixtures, which give off horrible lighting effects, making everyone look like a ghoul.

I mean, c'mon people, it's going to be 2024 - don't we all know what lightbulbs look like?

We've been using LED bulbs for a very long time. But the new mainstream LED bulbs in "equivalent watts" don't seem to get the job done anymore. 

Light output is measured not in watts, but in lumens.  Today's modern 60-watt equivalent bulbs are supposed to crank out 800 lumens.  Add to that the light temperature of daylight (which makes everything look and feel cold), Soft White, and Warm White, which has a brownish cast. 

The problem is, that there is no standard for what qualifies as "Soft White" light anymore.  And then the manufacturers have their own standards.   today I saw a box of lightbulbs that claimed to be "Soft White" and on the high end of the kelvin (bluish light) scale.  Can someone tell me how that is supposed to work?

And there doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to the lumen ratings.   The difference between GE Reveal soft white 60-watt equivalent bulbs and the 75-watt equivalent is 15 lumens, supposedly. But when I get out my camera light meter, the output between the two bulbs is almost the same. 

We've had luck with GE 100-watt equivalents which actually do put out a reasonable amount of light.  But at the same time, we now have a box full of lousy 800-lumen bulbs that are worthless because their light output is all different. 

Change is the only constant in life, but dealing with these light bulbs and their inconsistencies in illumination could drive one to drink. 

Slowly, we are testing and finding "watt" works, but so far, the 800-lumen bulbs are losing out to the brighter cousins. 

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

A lot to unpack here.


Even Kevin has tried to help with the paper problem. 

So here is the deal.  We've been here for five weeks. The movers packed 215 boxes and crates of our stuff.  Yes, we have a lot of stuff.  But remember, both Cookie and The Husband both work from home and out of our home. Still, 205 boxes of all sizes into a 2,500-square-foot house is a lot. 

To date, we have unpacked around one hundred boxes.   So there are, more or less, 105 boxes to go. 

And that isn't counting the art on the walls. 

Our burb picks up trash once a week and yard waste and recycling on the same day.  everything has to go in the can, or the yard waste bag at the curb.  The only time you can put out "overage" is the first trash day of the month. 

Do you have any idea how hard it is to get rid of these boxes so they don't end up wet or bug infested, and recycle them?

But wait, there's more! 

The movers used 24x36 sheets of clean newsprint to pack each box.  The paper wrapped around stuff, wadded up to provide a soft bed to place things onto, stuffed inside stuff, and wadded up and placed on top of said stuff, filled up voids, etc., and so on.   

On average, dishpack box (about 48" tall, 24" wide, and deep) contains about - and are you ready for this, on average, 40 sheets of this crumpled paper.  Less for smaller boxes and more - sometimes a whole lot more -  for huge boxes, especially if they just contain a "lamp".  

That means we dealing with potentially 12,000 sheets of this stuff, more or less.

So when we unpack, each sheet needs to be pulled out, and searched through (to make sure there is no little stuff), and then the sheets have to be laid down and smoothed out. That takes time. It can take one minute or ten to unpack an item. 

And this shit doesn't lay down smooth.  No, you can smooth it out and it'll fight ya.  And try as you might to make neat piles, like likes to slide this way and that. 

That's why after five weeks, we are only into 100, more or less, boxes. 

MOREOVER, those boxes need to be broken down and the tape stripped from the boxes so they can be recycled. 

But there is nowhere to take these boxes as they pile up.   And you can't put things where they need to go because the dumbass movers put the furniture in the middle of the room and boxes against the walls. 

But ah, the good news is that we have found several people who have gladly taken the boxes, and most of the sheets of packing paper.   One woman was in a disability-accessible van talking to a young man about boxes.  Cookie interjected himself overhearing this, and asked "Does someone need moving boxes?"

Indeed.  The woman is the sole caregiver for her son who has CP, and they are moving into a one-floor condo and needed boxes. They took fifty boxes and reams of packing paper.  "How much do I owe you?" I said that we should be paying her.

Then after not being able to give the boxes away on Next Door (ugh) I stumbled into a Facebook group and found that a woman had just posted something asking for boxes to help a friend move. How about thirty of them, I asked, and packing paper, too. Again, I got rid of the boxes and packing paper, and she was delighted that they were free. 

Another 20 boxes went to someone that a friend knew who was moving into his condo. 

And lately I have been having dreams that one day I will wake up and find my home full of the boxes that I gave these people.  Having used them, they returned them. Then I wake up. 

Last weekend I unpacked my office so I am taking it easy until this weekend when we get into the pictures and artwork. 

I am hoping to have the first and second floors squared away by New Year's.  

But the basement is clearly a 2024 project. 


Monday, November 13, 2023

East side, West side, We're Going On the Town


Cookie and Husband have been exploring the East side, and the West side of Cleveland, but not the South side of Cleveland.  Cleveland doesn't have a south side. Oh, there is a south side, but the parts that are east of Cuyahoga are the East and the parts that are west of the river are west. 

To help the husband acclimate to what is where, Cookie has made sure he knows which main roads lead to, and what they don't do.  And he has passed driving tests, where I tell him where we going and he has to navigate the route. 

He has learned that Mayfield Road is a east/west arterial, that Warrensville Center Road will take him to Shaker, and that Warrensville Center Road is fucked up as they replace the bridge over the Rapid at Shaker Boulevard.  And that's not all. 

He's been the entire length of Superior Avenue, which alas is mostly not Superior to anything,  and that Prospect Road doesn't lead to any prospects unless it's hookers yer' after. 

He has learned that effectively that one can get to Culver's in Eastlake just as fast as S.O.M. Center Road will take you, and that the nearest Menard's is in Mondo Parma. 

The great surprise is that the "Opportunity Corridor" (a stupid name for a road through the burned-out neighborhoods of the eastside), which is an extension of 105th Street will get you to I-71 faster than if one had taken Lee Road across to 480. 

Together we have learned that the huge modern building that looks like a tribal casino from the Opportunity Corridor is in fact the new youth courts building and detention center. 

He also has learned, as have I, that the Giant Eagle at Legacy Village is the place to shop, not the Giant Eagle on Chagrin, which is just gross.   That Heinen's, a grocery chain from my childhood, really does have finer foods, in more locations, and that Dave's Market is great as well. 

And we have discovered that Spectrum Cable sucks - I mean, Jesus it is lousy - when it works. 

He has also learned that the dysfunctional city of East Cleveland (sister city to East Saint Louis, Illinois) is to be avoided, always. No reason to go there, no reason for it to be its own city.  May it be ripe for redevelopment in our lifetimes, or annexation by the City of Cleveland.

Finally, we have discovered how much we hate steam heat and that the ker-chunking of the heat pipes as water and steam vapor duke it out.  I tell you the first night we heard that racket we both sat upright in bed thinking that some depraved soul had taken a pick axe to the house. 

Two weekends ago, I took him to the West side of Cleveland, another land, far away. 

So yeah, it's good to be home. 

Saturday, November 11, 2023

Longer than a little while.


Well, that really did take longer than expected. 

Our time in the "Old Line State" has ended. 

The husband and I are in the Heights!

The whole moving company was a gigantic fuck up, maybe more on that later. 

But the good news is, the air is sweet in Ohio.  Cookie's asthma is doing better, and the dogs have more prance in their steps.  The husband is more relaxed. The Grocery stores are better, shopping in general is better, and the drivers aren't as batshit angry when they drive. 

Cookie's office should be set up on Monday or Tuesday.

One bit of good news is that the Husband and I registered our cars, and I was able to snag my old license plates, which had been my mother's for 55 years and my father's for 10 before that.  Somehow, that seemed to reset our exit from Ohio 12 years ago. 

AND, we were able to vote in the November election, casting YES votes for women's reproductive health, and legalizing weed for retail sales. (Although the scuttlebutt on the street is that the Ohio House is trying to introduce legislation to muck up BOTH constitutional amendments.  We'll see.  Ohio voters don't like to be ignored.)

So more to come as time permits. 

And oddly, there is nothing we miss about Maryland, except AMTRAK. We aren't pining for anything, or anyone, save for a handful of friends.

My body still aches when I move and I am exhausted from all of this lifting, but we are getting there!

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Going off line, for a short while


Well, here we are waiting for the packers' who didn't show up today. 

Cookie was not pleased. Still ain't ten hours after their expected arrival. 

Why? I don't want to get into it.  Suffice it to say that the head of the moving company was on the phone today apologizing for their fuck up. But he is guaranteeing me that they will be here tomorrow.  He's already peeling back charges. We'll see.

But the people who are crating the uber fragile things were here, busy as bees.  

So something did get done. 

Anyway, from tomorrow on, a cascade of events will take place, including the shutdown of the internet access at this house. Hotels get involved, equipment gets packed away, etc., consuming lots of takeout.  The worst isn't having TV, its watching the boys wander around this house, being very confused by the boxes that are everywhere. (Their toys get thrown in the back of my car while the husband loads them in his for the six-hour drive to N.E. Ohio. They'll get doggy relax pills to take the stress of the move away.)

And then, we give the keys to the new couple buying the house, and we literally drive northwest with the night. 

They say, for the movers, the stressful part is playing packing box Tetris - trying to use every inch of space in the van so nothing goes wrong, gets crushed or flies about.  For owners, the stress happens when they unload the van, put things in the wrong places and whoopsy daisy two legs on that table built by an ancestor in 1790 snapped off and you deal with insurance. 

So you may hear from sooner, or later. I have no idea. But we'll get back online. 

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

The things you end up thinking about on the cusp of something new


Cookie has been deep in thought.  

Deep in thought when he should be packing.  The movers swoop in to start the job of packing our lives up in brown boxes in about 36 hours.  

A snap of the finger in time. But there is something about me that wants to be in this moment. 

Remember when a day and a half felt like an eternity when we were young and had no idea how time worked?  When we are young, the things and places that we pass, and we think we will always be there because they always have been there for us. 

Now it seems like it flies by in an instant. They say by your eighties, time feels like minutes. In your nineties the past flies by in seconds. 

Maybe my age is beginning to show, but there comes a time in your life when saying goodbye to your familiarities, to your surroundings becomes as important, as the people in those surroundings.  People and the space around you become part of you, however small they are.

In writing every book, it's the pictures that people say "I debated whether to bring this or not" or "I know you won't be interested in this," that ends up being the most important image we come across.  So today, it's not a streetside picture of our neighbor's beautiful homes that I will miss, but the view of those houses from the window in my office. Or through my windshield. Or on a walk. 

In my youth, when I went to Park Synagogue Nursey School in Cleveland Heights, the small bus that we rode in would take a route that took us down to Fairhill Road, to pick up a girl who lived at Belgian Village, a set of chic houses built in the cliff overlooking the Doan Brook ravine.  

The ravine was populated with birch trees. None of us had ever seen these white trunk trees, and unable to process where we were or traveled, that place, that seemingly enchanted forest - at least to us - simply became known as "The White Trees".

I captured that in my mind, and it has stayed clear as if it were yesterday. But that yesterday was fifty-eight years ago.  

At the same time, I couldn't tell you the little girls name.  

So how do you capture the knobley trunks of the Sycamore trees that dot parts of Baltimore, when they are wet with rain, and the new bark turns brilliant green and putty brown.  You can take a picture, but pictures never really capture the life of that moment. 

How do you capture the people who stand at this corner or that, along York Road waiting for a break in traffic before they dart into traffic to get to the other side.  What are they thinking? 

How do you capture those incidental things?

And then you start to wonder while running an errand, "In all likelihood, I'll never be here again."  

Which leads you to ponder some very foolish thoughts.  It's not grand considerations like "the last time I saw Paris" but it is the everyday tasks like the last time I go to this Staples, the last time I enjoy the Enchiladas Supreme at El Salto, and the last time I will ever set foot in the Ruxton Post Office. 

When you're young, you're foolish, you don't know it because you have nothing in your experience to give you perspective on what lasts and an explanation on why it matters what matters. The places that have always been will always be.  And what was here before you doesn't matter because well, the world revolves around your experience in that moment.  

It isn't until you look back and think, "Wasn't there a house there?" "Where are all the people I remember walking in this area. The streets look so barren, and the shop windows are empty," that you realize that just as you have gotten on in the world, the world has gotten on without you. 

If we are fools in our youth, then I am surely a foolish old man now. Who is to say that even if I concentrate right now, with all my might, I can freeze this moment in time as it is, looking out this window so in five, ten, twenty years I'll remember it perfectly?

In time we forget the type of details that, at this moment, feel so important. As studies have shown that as we forget, our thought functions kick in and fill in what makes sense to remember. You know that you were at a place, you know there was a building, but you have forgotten that the building is cream color, so your mind makes the building white or tan, and then that becomes ingrained in your memory.  Why? Because we don't like having to think that we forgot the details. 

And perhaps it's this old man's mind that desperately wants to remember these moments because I am so afraid of forgetting what is familiar. 

Still, in these quiet moments, before the chaos of the movers enters this house in a couple days, in the ponderings of this place we called home, there is a gentle calmness that I'll need to get through everything that is about to happen to us.  

And it will happen because we want this newness. 

We won't have time to dwell in a place we no longer live. We will be focused on life as we live it. 

Friday, September 22, 2023

Saying thank you.


As my mother would say, while removing one article of jewelry from her cocktail attire before heading off to the event, "No matter how boring the party, you thank the people who have been the bright spots - they're the ones who get you through the event."

Over the last 11 years, there have been many things that I have complained about in this city, but there have been people and businesses who have twinkled like bright spots.  

So has been Cookie during this past week. 

There are plenty of good people here.  They just have different priorities.  And there are good businesses that helped us get through the daily schlep. 

I have thanked the owner of the local market near our house. That store became more of our lifeline than I care to think, but they usually have what we want, produce excepted.

I have thanked the mechanic who kept our old cars alive and running, sometimes on short notice. 

I have thanked many of our neighbors for their kindnesses, especially when one of us has been down for some malady like the 2017 flu that sidelined both of us simultaneously, or my surgery last January.  These people made sure we had food to eat so the Husband could relax. 

I have thanked the post office of in Ruxton, the best-kept and now exposed secret, in northern Baltimore for their efficiency and kindness.  

I thanked our former mail carrier, Reggie. What a terrific guy. Despite hardships in his life, he has always been dependable. And seeing the neighborhood rally around him and help him, thank all of you as well.

I have thanked our yard care company who always took care of us.  Carol, you are the BEST.

I have thanked even BGE, because their linemen, through multiple power failures, always kept us in the loop. 

I even thanked Dino, the dishwasher whisperer, who can repair any home appliance, and who is far smarter than almost anyone I know, my husband aside.

Then there have been the special neighbors, the ones who are especially kind in ways that you can't put into words. 

Thank you to my colon surgeon who saved my life in 2014.  Thanks to you I had six years of near normal life. 

Thanks to the urologist who helped me get cancer-free for eight months. 

Thank you to our family physician who has taken care of both of us since discovering him in 2015. 

Thanks to my shrink Charlie for finally getting me to a point where I can deal with my depression. 

Finally, and I cannot believe I am including this one, thank you to Comcast. Despite being the worst-run, abusive, and most frustrating service provider that anyone needs to tolerate, you carried every single PBS station around giving us ten channels of programming that got us through COVID.  And every British mystery imaginable has been digested and enjoyed us.  

And I need to thank this blog's readership - you have stayed with me through the worst years of my adult life. 

Fair warning, there are more to come, but better I hope.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

Facebook, this really isn't me.


And just in time for Yom Kippur, too.

But Zuck the Fuck, your algorithm is way off. Way off.

I simply don't have the body for this because I am not a self starving Kardasian, or a pole dancer. 

So thanks, so much, but with all that money you pour into this monster of yours, do your advertisers really understand that you are sending them on a billable snipe hunt?



Friday, September 15, 2023

Just why is it called "the Heights"


East of downtown Cleveland there are suburbs that bear names ending in "Heights".  There's a reason for that, and it's geographical, with a bit of elitism sprinkled in.  

Cleveland also has suburbs on its west (of the Cuyahoga River) that use the word "Heights" in their names as well. There is no real geographical reason, and while some are very nice, they are not heights.

The eastside heights are geographically indeed situated on "heights".

The west side, not so much. 

Allow Cookie to explain. 

East of Cleveland - which has nothing to do with the city of East Cleveland - and trust me, that is an entirely different kettle of fish - rises an ancient plateau.  And that plateau rises very quickly.  It stretches roughly from the banks of the Cuyahoga River north towards the Lake Erie plateau and points northeast of the region.  In some places the rise is subtle, in other places, such as between University Circle and Cleveland Heights, it gets rather steep, 300 to 500 feet up. 

When these areas were being transformed from farmland overlooking the expanding city of Cleveland, they colloquially were called the heights, because they were higher ground.  The first example that Cookie can friend is from a man named Dr. H. Ambler who wanted to develop his land, and he named it Ambler Heights.  Dr. Ambler also built a quixotic ruined "Indian fort", complete with a crumbling stone tower to entice people to come up and have a "look see."

As the rich escaped ever commercial and industrializing Million's Row or Euclid Avenue, a good percentage made their way up the Cedar Glen Parkway, the Mayfield Pike, and Ambler Road (Now Fairhill Road) and built mansions in what was called the Overlook at the top of the first rise. 

Other developers followed, and the places that built up for their idealized communities started to include "Heights" as part of their names.  Still, yet another increase in elevation happens along Fairmount Boulevard and Cedar Road.  

So we end up with Cleveland Heights, and Shaker Heights (built on the land owned by the North Union Shakers). 

While both communities catered to the wealthy, Cleveland Heights developed over time and through the efforts of many developers.  Shaker Heights also developed over time, but its development and street grid were tightly controlled through 1950. 

In the meantime, the other "Heights" burbs developed.  Garfield Heights started the trend when development began in the 1910s, followed by University Heights in the 1920s. Warrensville Heights, Mayfield Heights, Garfield Heights, Maple Heights, Bedford Heights, Highland Heights, and Richmond Heights all flourished after World War II, but lacked investments by the well-to-do.  Lyndhurst and South Euclid are honorary heights cities, but Beachwood is not. Well, maybe it is, who knows.

And what of the westside's Broadview Heights? Not a Heights. Fairview Heights? Not a Heights. Oh, sure, they use the name, but being from the Heights is an Eastside thing. The Village of Highland Hills? Not a Heights, although it has higher terrain than most around it. 

It is, however, a unified school district shared between Cleveland Heights and University Heights that was bestowed the crown royale of being just known as "Heights" upon Cleveland Heights.  It entered the flow of conversation because "Heights High School" is in Cleveland Heights.  Shaker Heights kids went to Shake High School, but Cleveland and University Heights kids went to "Heights".

For the non-locals, the inclusion of University School, a prep school which has it lower school building in Shaker Heights, not University Heights.  University Heights has John Carroll University.  Just so you know. 

And what of Dr. Ambler and his Ambler Heights? Ultimately, it was swallowed up by Cleveland Heights. 

And where is the height of the Heights?  Cookie has no idea. But I do know that the highest point in the Dugway Brook watershed is Lyman Circle, in Shaker Heights, although I never considered that as being exceptionally "high".  I also think that Sulgrave Oval is higher in elevation than Lyman Circle.

So when someone from the Heights says that Cleveland is downhill, we mean it is down the hill that we call the Heights. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Well, its ours, -or - A place to call Home.


What's this about a Zuzz-Zuzz Water Softener?

The key is ours, and work on Castle Cookie is underway.  

We have cleaned the kitchen, which took four days. And yes, it was that bad.   New appliances are on their way. 

As I type, the gutters are being cleaned out, and the floors are being sanded and brought back to life. \

More as we move forward.  But mentally and physically, it's exhausting work.

Sunday, September 3, 2023

We are in state of Suspense...


...and but which type of suspense is the question.   

Geographical: Are we Marylanders, or Ohioians?

Hitchcockian: In this genre, we feel that everything is OK on the surface that we see, but the undercurrent is rife with things that could go wrong, have gone wrong, or we are about to confront what is about to go wrong, but of course, it predicated on murder, international intrigue, or finding that Shirley McClain has buried an ex-husband on the property.

Marionette: In this genre, we are subjected to the whims of those people and institutions pulling our strings - a reality not of our own volition.  The buyer's mortgage company plays a tune for documentation and we dance.  The seller's agent plays a little tune and we dance.  No fun. No one is dancing for us.

Enforcement: The house we are buying will be ours, yet we owe The municipality certain "fixes" and worse still, they want the cost of fixes held in an escrow account, but we need those monies to pay the contractors. 

Datewise: We are far enough from the move that we can't really pack personal stuff because we are still using it, but we are close to moving and it is gnawing and clawing at our very souls. 

Accounting: We are neither homeowners having sold our house, nor are we homeowners because we haven't closed on the new one.  So we feel as if we are the ACH that has arrived at the credit union today, but we can't post to the member accounts until tomorrow.

Are 'ians, 'ers, or 'ites?: Are we Baltimorians, or are we Clevelanders? Or are we ex-pat Columbusites?

Are we: Befuddled, Bemused or Besotted?

Finally, should I keep Doing Hard Time in Shaker Heights going, or should I create a blog anew?

See?  No fun. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

And the moving company has been selected...


After various fits and starts, the moving company has been selected. We chose the winner on a variety points, and we ended up with the same van lines that moved us here.

Moving interstate is really expensive folks, when you pay for it yourself. 

Within a state, it's by the miles and by the hour. 

Interstate is by the time, the miles, and the POUNDS.  THEN you tack on the packing.  We are having them pack because then the insurance covers damages incurred to your items.  We may not have museum-quality items, but we have things that matter to us, and we want it all there in one piece, not pieces.  And we'll fill the whole damn van.

Paper items weigh the most, in terms of small items piling up and equaling POUNDS.  Old magazines that you are keeping because they have images you mean to scan, or reference articles that you turn back to? HEAVY. Books? HEAVY. 

That both the husband and collect ephemera works against us. 

The second-place company didn't get it because I wasn't too sure about the estimator. She glided through the house in a dream state, seldom tapping on her tablet.  Did she get it all, or was she some sort of savant, I'll never know, but she did come within a ton of the last-place contender.

Our last-place contender was the van lines with the orange trucks.  They have a good reputation, but he was simply an asshole. He came in dressed too well, set up computer equipment, and walked him around tapping things into his device. 

When he asked where we were going I said "Cleveland" and his response under his breath was "That's too bad." Strike one, asshole.

Then I was showing him the family pieces that have been our families for GENERATIONS his crack was "Everyone has stuff that they claim is valuable."  Strike two, asshole. 

Strike three was delivered while he was printing his estimate and telling me that "Every time I have seen a move go bad is when clients violate the terms of the contract and expect the carrier to supply extra boxes - then our contract is void and the prices goes exponentially blah, blah, blah..."

And I am thinking to myself "Listen here asshole, maybe you did the estimate right, maybe you effed it up. Don't blame it on me." So strike three.

The cherry on top was that he demanded a signed contract in two weeks. Nothing like high-pressure sales and threats to earn my trust, right? 

So we have our movers, and we are happy. We have our week, we are just waiting for verification. 

Now I need to find a shredding company to take stuff to. 

Wednesday, August 16, 2023



If you are from Cleveland's "Heights", and are of a certain age, you remember Mawby's, a small chain of burger places.  The picture above is the one at Cedar Center, a shopping center that lined both sides Cedar Road just west of Warrensville-Center Road.

Mawby's also had a Van Aken Center location in Shaker, but for the life of me, I cannot remember it.  Or maybe it closed before my mind could hold memories, or it could have closed even before I was me.  There was another at Cedar-Lee.  There may have been others, but they were all gone by the time I was twelve.

But, whatever the location, they made the best burgers in the world.  And the coffee, my mother claimed, would grow hair on your chest.

Mawby's is no longer, and that's a shame.  

They weren't fancy, in fact, they were downright spartan.  The restaurants didn't serve booze (that would have made them "a joint"), and they had no booths or tables. What they had were the longest counters in the Western Reserve with round stools bolted to the floor. The undersides of these counters were caked with years and years worth of chewing gum stuck under the counter by generations of patrons.  

At night, from the outside, the locations looked a lot like Edward Hopper's Nighthawks.

They may have had other things to eat, but people went for the burgers, the french fries.  I seem to recall onion rings, as well.  Other people remember their "Indian Pudding" which sounds good (cornmeal, butter, brown sugar, molasses, eggs, a pinch of salt, and cinnamon, which is first heated to incorporate the ingredients, and then baked) that I may need to make a batch this winter. 

At Cedar-Lee, and at Cedar Center, the burgers were cooked on flat-topped carbon steel grilles, by cooks who mostly kept their backs to you.  These were not men in white jackets, but men in pants and white tee shirts, a paper hat on their heads, and long-apron tied in the back. Orders were taken by a counterwoman who would say "Tell me what you'll have." 

And if you tried to pull a dine and dash, those same cooks would tear out of there and catch up with you and shake the money out of you. Those were great days. 

My mother, who worked very hard at keeping her figure slim, would crave a Mawby's once in a great while, with grilled onions that were out of this world. I can still see the grease that would drip from those burgers, but that was what made them so good.  But the onions, my gawd those onions, they were pure heaven. 

Eventually, the clientele that made Mawby's famous died off or moved on, if not in location, then with their palettes.  Cedar-Lee went through a difficult 1970s, and then into a decline, which happily is behind it.* While Cedar Center made it to the 1980s, after that it went into decline.  The last Mawby's closed about the time the "Saucy Crepe" opened at Van Aken, and Heck's became popular in Ohio City.  Another place, Our Gang, opened in Beachwood, under the huge water tower, but it wasn't the same. Heck's is still around, but the crepe phase faded out, and Our Gang closed, and "Yours Truly"**, a smallish chain, took their place.  

Still, they ain't Mawby's.  

I doubt anyone ever will. But I can hope. 

*When they reopen Chin's Pagoda, then it will be really back. 

**Cookie has a personal aversion to Yours Truly.  The food is fine, and the restaurants a clean and well-run. But I always found the name to be somewhat forced, and frankly, it leaves you hanging because someone's name should follow it. But the biggest strike was that it was a favorite of Shark, my Step Monster, who would gush "I just love Yours Truly because that's the way I feel about my husband."  Never my father, but he was her husband and she wanted every fucking person to know it.  Still, should you get the chance, try it. It has its fans. My "meh" is about Shark, not the place itself.