Thursday, August 30, 2012

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Thinking of Jason... New Orleans, and hoping he is safe and he and his loved ones are OK - at this moment and after the storm clears through.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Committee of the Middle of the Street: Block Party Edition

This is not a picture from our block party, just a block party, in general.
The people in this picture are not actual neighbors of ours, they do play them on TV, however.

Since it's the end of August, it's block party time here on our street and Cookie was there, sans the husband, who is bivouacked in Baltimore until the big move comes along.

 I thought it would be nice to invite the couple who are buying our house so they could meet the neighbors and get a feel for the people on the street.

 Pot Smoking Phil and his current girlfriend Pole Twirling Twila (her job is just a rumor) greeted us and the evening was off to a rousing start.   Thankfully, Twila had her "flipper" partial in, so when she smiled, she smiled "purdy".

Thankfully Phil didn't offer the new owners a joint just as we walked up.

Just Call me Judy borrowed he son's propane cooker so there was all manner of tasty farm animals to eat. She even cooked a goat and served it with Durkee's Famous Sauce, a la Nathlie Dupree.

Of course half the street is either vegetarian or vegan, so the goat didn't really go over so well, but those who tried it said it tasted a lot like chicken.

Witch Wendy and her husband Clovis even drove back from Wendy's mother's bedside. It seems that Mom thinks her time is near, again. Wendy has been shuttling between Columbus and Winnipeg for the past two years where she reported that mosquitoes are the "size of elephants" and "thick as theives."

Helicopter Sandy showed up with a big ass bowl of Pink Junk* on ice.

"Won't that whipping creme go bad in this heat?" asked One Tooth Bit.

"Hold your horses," said Helicopter Sandy. "It's on ice and its made with Cool Whip - Cool Whip never goes bad. Try some."

Pink fluff is nothing more than a tub of cool whip, a can of cherry pie filling, marshmallows and a couple teaspoons of black cherry Jell-O. But to One Tooth Bit it was sweet and soft, just the way she likes her food.

"Hey Bit," I called out. "Save room for some goat."

Just then there was a darkening of the clouds and the smell of burning goat when we looked down the street to see Frigid and Frigda and their Aryan toddler making their way towards us.

"And here I thought it was going to be a fun night," cracked One Tooth Bit.

Just Call Me Judy said she was ready for them and had the proper permits.

Frigid and Frigida scanned the revelers like they were looking not for the guilty, but for the guiltiest among us so they could unleash their special blend of Icelandic and Cincinnati charms upon. Instead of engaging us, they opened their lawn chairs in the street and simply sat in judgement of the group.

Since this was my last official appearance, at some point after I had lost track of the people buying our house, the band stopped playing and yours truly was called to the stage. Giggling Tom, wearing a hunters orange cape, started to present me with a certificate, but forgot my name. Still he had nice generalities to say about me, even if I have spent the last 19 years ducking from him.

Eventually, the new owners reappeared and told me that Remodeler Evan - a man whose house runs a close second to the Winchester Mansion in additions that gotten his hooks into them and wanted to show them his house. Remodeler Evan does this at every function - he steals guests away to tour his home.

"The first dumbwaiter was amazing, but two dumbwaiters are audacious," Mr. New Owner remarked with his tongue in his cheek.

"Did he also try and tell you that Columbus means you have to have a urinal in each bathroom?" I asked. 

"Yeah, what's with that?" asked the wife.

"That's what happens to your brain when you do too much work in un-ventilated rooms."

The beer and wine flowed and several people, the Bob Wolf(e)'s even let their hair down, so to speak, as they joined in the singing of folk tunes.  Yes, sir - it was a real Kumbaya moment when the gayest couple around started dancing with Giggling Tom.

As the evening progressed even Frigid and Frigida began keeping tempo to the bands as they played. Just Call Me Judy said that they even tried the goat.

"I told them it was chicken," she admitted.  "One of them smiled at me.  I'm sure it was just gas."

In the end the new folks will fit in quite nicely, and I suspect they will add their bit of flourish to the neighborhood.

As we were walking back to the house, Mrs. House Buyer asked "Doesn't having us here kinda freak you out?"

 I explained that it was time to move on.

"You never really own a house. You live in it, take care of it, and if you do everything right, then pass it on to the next owner."

I told them that they needed to move in and start making it their own.

"That's what I did - you should too."

Will I miss the house?  Sure.  After 19 years lots of things like finding your way to the bathroom in the middle of the night are kinda automatic.  But you can always adapt and relearn, can't you?  If you can't, it's time for the nursing home.

I will miss our neighbors, though. Nineteen years is a long time to build up bonds of friendship. And we've done that by building more bridges than burning them behind us. Every neighborhood has a Frigid and Frigida, they could be WASP, or any other background. I'll even miss Giggling Tom, but I look forward to finding the next "personality" in our new neighborhood.

*One of the Seven Salads of Marion Ohio

Friday, August 24, 2012

The portend of the dragonfly and the cicada

In Chinese culture, the dragonfly is sign of good fortune, and an appearance of a dragonfly at you home is a portend of good luck and a blessing on those who live there.  Dragonfly lore also includes the insect as a sign that one has overcome self-created delusions, as a symbol of one's power and poise, the opening of ones eyes to a truth, or signals the joy of living in the now and not dwelling on the past or the future.

Also in Chinese culture is the symbol of the cicada.  The cicada is a portend of rebirth - the shedding of ones skin to emerge fresh and revived.  It is the insect of passion, as it exists purely to molt, mate and then die.   Cicada's remind me of what an man made first generation machine made to look like a bug would look and act like.  Ugly, large, noisy and lumbering.  Now watch Karma bring me back as one in my next life.

Right now, Ohio is lousy with dragonflies and cicadas.  They are popping up in all sorts of places.

In the evening the cicadas - or what my grandfather used to refer to a locusts - unleash a deafening noise that drowns out even the trains that travel the tracks blocks from our house.  Walking the dogs is challenge in the morning because stepping on them is given.  After mating the male cicada's life cycle begins to wind down and he behaves in a lumbering drunken fashion towards death.  This is where the crunching walking comes in - because they are all suffering from a love hangover they lounge about.  They intrigue the dogs for all of the reasons and they do not get out of the away as a human approaches.

Most beautiful, and delicate are the dragonflies.  Throughout the warm spring and into the hot summer, a single dragonfly has paid a call on our house for us to see as we've approached a milestone on our move. Our first sighting the was the night before the husband left for his job non-interview trip to Baltimore, and it freaked us out.  A neighbor and his wife - both of Chinese extract - allayed my fears that the beast was here to symbolize death, and instead was a portend of good things to come.

The second and third visitations came the evening before and morning of listing our house.  Nine days later, as I buried St. Joseph upside down in our yard, another dragonfly alighted on the for sale sign.  The day we went into contract.

Yesterday afternoon as I took the dogs outside for a pee, I looked over at the pole that holds our hummingbird feeder and there was another Dragonfly, just hanging out, making itself known.  Last night the Realtor called to say that FHA appraisal and inspection both came back "exceeding expectations...on to closing. "  Our second to last hurdle is cleared.

While I am loathe to admit it, the cicada carries forth a message of fresh beginnings, though I find the bug itself gross.   When combined with the dragonflies symbolism of good fortune and clarity of vision,  it seems like our bases are covered.

Still, as we head into the home stretch, this is going to be the longest three weeks to come of my life.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Brasso is my latest fetish

There's a certain loneliness to being in a house that used to be yours, while you wait for the closing. When your home is "in contract" its a type of purgatory. It's neither Hell (waiting for a buyer) or Heaven (the deal is closed and the money is in the bank), its like being stuck in a no mans land.

Being in contract means that you can fix the things that buyer want fixed, but you have to keep the house as they remember it, because that's what they bought.

I can't pack, because the movers do that in a couple weeks. I have to watch what I buy at the grocery. If I'm not going to use it immediately no matter how great the coupon is it stays in the store.

And then there are things that the movers won't pack and move. Like the organic fertilizers that cost an arm and twig. You can't throw them out because they are hazmat-ible. My only option is to go door to door with my gardening neighbors and ask them if they want the stuff, begging, like a gardening hobo, or worse - a witch peddling poisons like the Evil Queen to Snow White.

To be sure, there are some things that I need to do - like assemble the manuals for the major appliances that stay with the house, and write down the care instructions for some built in features (canvas awnings need to be stored...cork floor: sweep and damp mop once a month as needed, etc.) but most of the time I just look around and wonder what to clean next.

When we were showing the house, everything had to *SPARKLE* all of the time.  My mother used to say "never trust a cook if the range is clean and the sink is dirty." The range was clean enough, so the stainless steel sink in the kitchen got a very thorough cleaning.

First, it got it's Bar Keeper's Friend Treatment. A neighbor recommended salt and a half lemon scrubbing. Then my Realtor mentioned that baking soda on a damp soft rag would micro polish it, and make the water bead.  It worked very well, but by this point I really felt like there had to be something that would kick it up a notch.

Then I found a bottle of Brasso - the new creamy formula -  and with a little elbow grease the sink just didn't sparkle, it glowed.  The Brasso also cleaned out my sinus' like napalm cleaned out the Vietcong - one of the main ingredients is AMMONIA.

"Use in a well ventilated area," the label reads.  Fat chance.  The sink acted like a geological kettle and the fumes were down right leisurely in their efforts to dissipate.

Even the dogs ran for the hinter lands that day.  When I came to after that first polishing, and despite the assault on my sinus, keeping the kitchen sink in that just buffed shine has become my newest obsession, and Brasso, my fetish of choice, even if it kills brain cells I may need in my dotage.

The husband, home for this past weekend, soon learned of my "twitch" for cleanliness, chief among my new ticks is that when you pour something down the drain that it goes down the drain, and not to let it slop on the sink lest it leaves a coating behind, and then I have to break out the Brasso.

"That's where the phrase down the drain comes from," I pointed out.  "The phrase isn't 'down the sink', it is "down the drain."  Verily, the husband was convinced that I was turning into my mother.

He also learned that Windex is now forbidden on anything except windows because it leaves a waxy film behind that collects grime, until you use more Windex to dissolve the waxy stuff and its replaced with new waxy stuff. I also found myself hounding him whenever he set anything down.

"Papers," I would remind him each morning pointing to the pile of newsprint on the coffee table, "go immediatly in the trash."

"Why," he would ask reasonably after each of my hissy fits. "The house is sold, the appraisal is done, the inspection is completed, no one is coming through the house."

"Because," I pointed out, "the buyers could request a visit with their agent to measure something."   This is why I need to get out of the house more often.  I'm not turning into my mother, I am my mother.

His answer to my mania was that he packed up his truck and drove off to the new house, where, I imagine, he will spread out newspapers, leave plastic cups on the counter and keep his bed unmade in a glorius act of rebellion against my cleaning tyranny.  I just hope he found the unused paper coasters that I found at a close out sale from a local motel that say "This is a coaster - USE IT!" and doesn't throw them out.

The fact of the matter is, the more I'm here, the more irrational and obsessive I become. You can only Swiffer so much, right?  But the sink is different: it calls to me.  And the louder is the siren's call to break out the Brasso, and lovingly polish the kitchen sink, so it too can feel pretty and loved and lavished with attention.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Charm City Confidential: Return to sender, address unknown

So we have closed on new house, and installed a window air conditioner to get us through the next couple weeks of humidity to come, and we've had our celebratory dinners and drinks, and the realization has come up that hey, this is really happening, and sooner than we think.

Our friends are asking for our new address and we've come up with a cute "we're moving" card so people have the street address, and it dawned on us that we don't need these for everyone.

We only need enough for the people that matter.

On Wikipedia there is a policy that allows people to who give up the addiction to share everything they know and give it all away for free and its called "The Right to Disappear".  I think I'm invoking this with some people in Ohio.

So who would I just disappear on?  Well, Peenee has written about his friend, Mme Ex.  The albatross that I have hanging over my head is someone that we'll call "Clarice"

"Clarice" and I were tight once.  We were even run over by a drunk driver together while we had the right away.  That happened the night before the Space Shuttle Challenger blew up.  The driver was drunk (the car, not the space shuttle) and he nailed us.  LUCKILY, we were not killed.  But being pathetic, we were both feeling neglected the next day.

So what happened to Clarice and I?  Well, she went for a professional degree and it changed her.  Make that it destroyed her.  And when she reemerged on the other side of her training she came out needy.  Really needy.  Smothering needy.

And when I suggested that she get help, Clarice said "You just can't handle my big energy."

The unhappier she was, the bigger her energy became.  And her ass kept pace with her energy.  And the crazier her demands became.

One night the husband and I were getting ready to go out to dinner and Clarice called and said "I want to come along.  Where are you going?"

We told her and she went off.  "I don't want to eat there.  They don't have anything healthy to eat, blah, blah, blah..."

And that was pretty much where we left it.  We haven't spoken since.  Its been eight, maybe nine years and we haven't spoken since.  There is no reason.

So Clarice won't be getting a card.

A mutual friend volunteered to call Clarice and tell her we have moved after we left, but whats the point?

Mutual friend and I both agreed that some people have an energy field that can be so big, it becomes a black hole of neediness.

Towards the end of the friendship, Clarice was losing her temper with me and my refusal to fuel her need to rage.

"Cookie," she said "If you can't be the type of friend that I need, then I have taken all I'm going to take from you."

And I have given Clarice all I have to give.  Time to let the post office stamp the envelope "RETURN TO SENDER, ADDRESS UNKNOWN".

Monday, August 6, 2012

Seeking approval - but only finding judgement

Where has Cookie been these last few days?

Well, where haven't I been.

I have been to the airport a great deal of the time, and waiting, and being shuttled here and there.  And when I haven't been in those situations I have been on line, on the phone and standing on my head with the mortgage processor playing games, like this one last Wednesday, August 1st:
Processor: "...and once you have faxed those documents to me, then we can finalize your paperwork with underwriting."
Cookie: "So you need a copy of this Document, and that Document, and then you need the following tax forms, A, B and C, correct?  Are there any other documents?
Processor: "No, we should be fine."
So I do as she says (and you know that is difficult as I have issues with authority figures), and double check my work and fax her EVERYTHING that she wants and then I get another call:
Processor:  "Yes, I have received your fax but these documents from your financial institution are system copies of screens - I need the actual statements."
Cookie: "They are stamped and notarized as factual account histories.  The actual statements are being printed and then they'll be mailed.  They should be here by Saturday."
Processor: "Well, I need you statement TODAY, by close of business today.  If you banked with us, you could get your statement online, right now."
Cookie: "Yes, but we don't bank with your because there are no branches of your bank for at least 200 miles.  Your bank has no offices in Ohio."
Processor: "We don't?  I don't think that's true.  We have offices everywhere."
Cookie: "You work for them, look it up.  Besides, as a bank, you can't require that I bank with you in order to get a loan.  Shall I quote Reg B (Equal Credit Opportunity Act) - I train people in for a living."
Processor: "You know Reg B?  Well, what do you know - the nearest branch to you is Pittsburgh!  But you could have opened your account with online.  Well, I guess, Monday will be fine with that statement.  I'll tell underwriting."

So that is where Cookie has been - hitting his head against the wall.