Sunday, September 30, 2012

No sex; just a lot of rubbing of mezuzahs

There's an old joke that Bette Midler used to tell that she was going to be in a XXX movie.  "You've heard of Emmanuelle, haven't you?  Well, I'm going to star in the first all Jewish XXX film; called Temple Emmanuel.  Oh, there's no sex.  Just a lot of rubbing of mezuzahs."

What is a mezuzah, you may ask.

For all you gentiles, a mezuzah is a small capsule, often adorned with Jewish art that holds a small copy of a prayer called Shema Yisrael that is hand written in Hebrew by scribes using special pens.  For most American Jew's, the mezuzah is nailed to the front door frame, on the right hand side, on an angle towards in the house.

Why is it tipped into the house? So the word of G*d flow into the dwelling; its a mitzvah.

Why on the right side?  Because the left hand side is evil.  Anymore questions?

The more observant the Jew, the more mezuzahs they have, as they put one in every door frame, closets and toilets excluded.  Some Jews will walk through the door doing nothing, while other Jews will reach up and touch the mezuzah.

I'm getting older I'm making my peace with the Jewish side of me, and their's a lot of pieces that need peace with that part of my upbringing.  My father was Jewish, I never fit in with the Jews around me, it was all so alien.  But the older I get, leakier I get, and the more it leaks out of me.

So Friday I had to get out of the house and I went to Ellicott City because I needed to see something outside my zone of comfort.  And they have great antique stores in Ellicott City.  The sun was shining and I just needed a day to be Cookie.  If you have never been to the historic downtown it's pretty amazing, and the topography is breathtaking.

I found two book cases that I would have have bought on the spot, but both were sold.

Then I walked about and found a small antique store - a single room - and it was staffed by its owner, a woman of a certain age.

"Everything has a price tag, but there isn't a price tag then just ask," she said. "Wait. I take that back. If everything has a price tag, but some things don't have a price tag, then everything doesn't have a price tag, does it?  Let's just say that if it has a price tag, I can do better.  If it doesn't have a price tag, I can really do better."

As I looked we chatted. Mutually we agreed that Baltimore has the friendliest people, until they get behind the wheel of a car. "From that point, they're possessed," said the woman.  "A crazy fiend almost killed me this morning on Rolling Road.  Maybe she wasn't a fiend.  Maybe she was in a hurry.  That's a nice book case you're looking at.  Maybe she couldn't see over the hood of her Escalade."

Under her breath she said "Maybe she was in a hurry to kill someone with that SUV."

"Can you imagine the Hell on earth it would be if those really little old ladies and gentlemen all drove those big SUV's?" I asked.

"Lucky for us they can't climb into them," she remarked.  "DWLOL - Driving While a Little Old Lady."

We kept talking and laughing and I told her I was new to the area and the conversation came to chopped liver.

"There are lots of places where you can get chopped liver.  Don't go to those places." She took out a scratch pad and wrote down the name of a store.  "This place has good chopped liver.  Good enough for the Rosh  Hashanah table.  Get it from Gary.  If Gary isn't working then its a day old.  He makes it fresh every morning."

Taking the conversation further, I asked, unaware that I had dropped my voice, where I could get a mezuzah.

She leaned into me from across the counter, looked around the empty store and asked "why are you whispering?"

Damned if I knew.

"In twenty years of running this store, no one has ever asked me that.  She started rummaging.  You could go up to Park Heights, but I have something here for you, EUREKA!"

In her hand was an old crumbled Zip Lock bag.  In the bag was a simple mezuzah.  She opened the bag and removed the bronze rectangle - and simple at that.  As I said, some of the cases border on intricate art.  This one was understated.  I loved it.

"How much?" I asked.

"It was my late aunt's," she pointed over her shoulder to a picture of a blond woman and a redhead.  "My mother had the red hair and my aunt was a blond."

She looked at me and said "I'm giving it to you.  Like I said, I have had this in the store from day one, just in case someone wanted a mezuzah.  And you are the first person to need one and ask me if I knew where you could get one.  So I'm giving it to you.  If I gave you a price and it was too high and you walk out, I'm stuck with this until the next person comes by in twenty years?"

"And let me tell you, in twenty years I won't be here.  Oh, I'll be here, but not in this store. I'm going to be in Florida playing bridge.  So take it, hang it up.  Think of me.  Come back and bring your boyfriend."

So I asked for a piece of paper and gave her the only thing I could - my brisket recipe.

"Four ingredients?  That's all? My brisket takes twenty.  A pinch of this and that.  But just four things would make my life easier.  Print your name and your address and your email in case I get stuck."

While I was printing everything up she said "You like Bette Midler - it's not a question, it's a statement.  Do you remember her shtick about being cast in the only Jewish triple X movie?"

"No sex, just a lot of rubbing of mezuzahs," we said in unison and then laughed.

I gave her a hug and then promised to come see her when things at the house were more under control.

"And stay off Rolling Road - that crazy bitch is still out there looking for her next victim!"

So Friday night I nailed the mezuzah to the door frame and I think of that woman and her generosity.  And I think of Bette Midler, rubbing on her mezuzah as well.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Charm City Confidential: Jack Hughes!

After I read the comment from MJ, I realized it had been a week since I last posted anything and that comes as a shock because I have been writing, but mostly letters of condemnation to ADT Security Systems.

Years ago, when many of you were pimply face teenagers, except for Norma - who is still a pimply faced octogenarian, Cookie had a Brinks Home Security system install in Ville D' Cookie Columbus. All went fine and dandy until they were spun off, and renamed Broadview Home Security, and then quick as you can say Jack Frost they got snapped up by ADT.

At the time we bought our new house, I called ADT, told them when I wanted the new system, when I wanted it and what I wanted on it.  I told them that Cookie's Husband would be at the new house for the install, and gave them a disconnect date in mid September on the old place in Ohio.  Are you all with me.  Start this Baltimore on this date and then cut off Columbus on this other date.  Simple enough, eh?

"They'll be over lap sir," says the ADT Rep.  I acknowledge that and say I have no problem paying both bills for a thirty day period.

So we get the new alarm installed and a couple weeks later I am getting ready to leave Columbus and I call ADT to tell them that the new owners of Ville D'Cookie would like to continue the service, but asked what they need to do to have everything transferred into their name.

"It's too late," says the ADT Employee in Customer Care - which is a dishonest term because none of the people who work in a department called Customer Care really give a damn about much of anything in their own lives, let alone my life or your life.

Customer Care then goes onto tell me that they severed the system two weeks prior when I started the new service at the new house.  How could this be, you ask?  WELL, when you transfer your account as a preexisting client, the shut one down and start the other up.

"How am I supposed to know this," I ask.

"Didn't you read the fine print?" says Jack Hughes, my Customer Care representative.  Evidently, Jack Hughes lives to tell people that they are supposed to read the EIGHT page contract while the ADT installer is tapping their feet, getting impatient when you could just sign it so they can go, says the Husband when I tell him what Jack Hughes accused us of not doing.

SO they turn on Columbus, they keep Baltimore up and running.  Everything is hunky dory, right?

Things are wrong, so, so wrong.  Four days later, on my last day at Columbus, I get a letter from ADT telling me that two weeks before the date of the letter, they disconnected monitoring on the house in Columbus.  How's that for being timely?

No sooner than I move here than I start getting collection calls from ADT.  They want their install money that was supposed to be paid at the install in August.  "Not only that, your financial institution returned your payment," states a very rude Debbie Debtcollector.

"How can this be?" I ask.  I point out that the husband provided his credit card for the install and I never authorized direct debits from my checking account. "And why was it returned?" I further queried.

Debbie Debtcollector has no idea, she just wants the money.  And I tell her I'm not paying her one red cent until she sends me a statement, and I call my financial institution to see what is going on.  I also tell her that she isn't doing her job if she doesn't know what the payment was for, and why it was returned.  "How can you collect for something if you have no idea what the facts are?"

"Sir, I am ending this call because you are being rude."


The debt collector calls go on for a few more days, and each day I have to remind them again and again what is going on, and every day Connie Crabbyass, the Supervisor in the credit department tells me that "The problem is yours, you have to pay this bill or we'll file charges in small claims court."

I tell the husband this when he gets home and set to work. Husband is baffled because nothing has been charged to his credit card, or return because of an over limit charge (like that would happen), and my financial institution is telling me nothing on my account has been presented, bounced or otherwise returned.

FINALLY we get to the bottom of it when they send me copies of everything that they are looking at.  ADT had the husband's credit card, they never charged it for the install. How can one pay a bill to a company if the company never submits the payment amount to the credit card company?  How do we end up in collection if the employees fail to READ THE CONTRACTS correctly?  ADT 0, Cookie 1.

And that bounced payment?  Husband had given them our financial institution's R&T (Routing and Transit Number) and instead of writing our account number on the account number line, the numb nuts installer wrote the R&T number as our account number. So the payment got returned because they sent it to the right place, and then asked the credit union to pay our bill from their accounts, not ours.  ADT 0, Cookie 2.  

So Friday I climbed my way through their phone tree until I got a human who had authority and she had a copy of the contract, and I had mine and I walked her through the entire mess THEY created.

She offered me a free month for my trouble.  "Thats so nice, but I can't accept it."

"Why not," asks she.

So I asked her "Would you be happy with a month of free service after you were threatened with court action?  Would you be content with a free month after ADT screwed this up so bad that even your underlings couldn't figure it out?  And would you be satisfied with a month of free service after waiting about 20 hours of your personal time trying to get through to people, being on hold, being told that the answers to many of my questions can be found on ADT's website - when they can't, reading contracts, making long distance telephone calls and the like?"

"Well..." she starts to say.

"Well, what.  I figure my time on this doing your work for you, and the harassment and the other BS is at least $20 an hour.  I have obligations.  I have overhead.  I have costs.  Twenty hours at $20 an hour comes out to an amount pretty darn equal to a free year of service."

"I can't do that..." says she.

"Well then, you need to at least try."  (NOTE: It's important when backing a company into a corner that you give them something to strive for, correct?  I mean without giving them an outlet, you're just a Bitch, right? And all bitches get negative attention that leaves a bad taste in the amount of others, right?  So give them an out that says to you "we're really, really sorry."

We settled for ten months of free service, and a direct dial number to her if this gets screwed up again, and something else.  Jack Hughes, Debbie Debtcollector and Connie Crabass have to go back into customer service training, or else, I will bring to bear upon ADT the full force of the Government with their illegal debt collection practices, savvy?

People, if you let these bastards fuck with you, they will.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Charm City Confidential: 6250 North Charles is no more

When we were looking for our house in Baltimore, our Realtor hooked us up with a web site that was supposed to give us a dynamic and electronic way to communicate between professional and client.  We did our end, him?  Not so much.  We'd click on houses we wanted to see and he pretty much ignored it as a communication channel.

6250 - taken the last time Google Maps came a knocking

ANYWAY, one of the houses that kept coming up in our search was one at 6250 North Charles Street - a ramshackle three story house built at the bottom of a hill, and kinda into the hill.  The ad said it was a tear down, and after looking at the picture it was pretty much a disaster in field stone.  And for as much as I am about historic preservation, this looked like tearing it down was the most humane thing to do.

So when I drove into Baltimore when I left Ohio, there was a wrecking crew and most of the house had come down.  Over the last 20 days less and less of the house remained.  Today, all that's left is a field stone wall and the one car garage, and, according to yesterday's Baltimore Sun, the site of one of the Baltimore area's most brutal murders is no longer.

On June 12, 1956, Myrtle Agnes Bopst - described as a "baltimore area matron" had just returned her, which was the family home, in her 1955 Chrysler hardtop from a shopping trip into nearby Towson. Bopst's had moved to this secluded house on what was then "North Charles Street Avenue" after their prior neighborhood was identified as one of the earliest sites for a freeway interchange.  That afternoon, she took an snack of a small bowl of ice cream and two coconut covered cupcakes up to the second floor den and she heard someone force the screen door open on the first level door.

Getting up to see what it was, she was confronted by a 21 year old African American Carl Daniel Kier, and Keir attacked her with pure savage intent.  He beat her within an inch of her life during their struggle through two rooms of the house.  Police reported that blood covered almost every surface.  He thrashed her head with a bronze statue, used two army issue bayonets to nail her legs to the floor so he could rape her, and if that wasn't enough, he used a Japanese Samurai sword, still in its scabbard to stab her through the neck.

After making sure she was dead, Kier cleaned up by washing her blood from him in the bathroom sink, took the keys from her purse and stole the Chrysler from the garage.

Mrs. Bopst body was discovered by her husband who saw her on the ground through a window and thought she had fainted. Mr. Bopst, according to police, broke the down the door, found the mutilated body of his wife, was sick, and then called the police.

Keir was found shortly thereafter - he had gone door to door looking for work in the area earlier that day  and a local attorney took his name and promised to call if her had any odd jobs.  That slip of paper allowed police to find Keir to confessed to the crime.

Baltimore was horrified at the crime that killed the mother of four. Lock sales in the area tripled as fearful area residents doubled down on protection.

Kier was tried in Baltimore County and found guilty of capital murder.  Shortly thereafter, it was determined that Kier's first trial wasn't a fair trial, so a second trial was held in Frederick, Maryland, where a jury quickly found him guilty, again.  Kier was executed in January 1959 in Maryland's gas chamber.

Mrs. Bopst was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Baltimore.  Eventually her husband remarried and moved to Florida.   The housed passed through several owners hands, but its location, and history eventually lead to the property's decline and it fell into ruin.  After languishing on the market, the owners figured that a clean slate was in order.

And now the house that was home to Bopst family is gone and the ground laid bare.

I'm not one that finds crime sites all that interesting, but the property was eerie when I first saw it, and now that its gone, it seems just sad.  Last time I drove past it today they were loading the bulldozer onto the transport and the realtors sign now has a placard reading "LOT" affixed to it.

And it got me thinking about that poor woman, who sat down for a treat and had no idea what horrors would befall her in a matter of minutes.   All she wanted was her ice cream, those cupcakes and for her husband to come home.  Tragic.

Life is fragile, and nothing is forever.  Leave nothing to chance.  Check the locks.  Be careful.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

I have become a house urologist

Yesterday I passed the day using my mother's floor scrubber, polisher, on the gross Congoleum floor in our kitchen.  How gross is gross?  The floor was ground in dirt gray and your feet stuck to it when you walked on it.  Swiffer Wet Jet pad lasted two passes before they turned black, yet they didn't make a dent in the dirt.

So armed with a fresh bottle of Pine Sol (used straight from the bottle) a mop and lots of clean water (rinse) I attacked the floor, section by section until the color changed back to factory white and the surface shone in the mid morning sun.  Two hours of my life were spent on that nasty floor that is smaller than 10x12.  The husband was pleased as punch.  A good house husband am I, I thought as I admired the shine in the evening sunlight.

Then today, while taking a load of laundry to the basement I noticed that the dehumidifier empty bin light was blinking.

"How queer," I thought. "It's never done that before."

The dehumidifier was left by the previous owner's family, and then they ran a short hose from the port on the side to the sump pump pit, allowing it to drain without the bin being used.  It had worked fine up to now.

So I started my whites, and then emptied the bin of dehumidifier water, got a wrench and went to work on the hose.

I thought, "what would Thombeau do with a hose to drain it?"  So I twisted and twist the hose to get it off.  Sometimes these things come off easier than others, and this turned out to be a tough one to get off.

When I finally got the hose off, there was this blobbly gray slimy stuff coming out of the end.

Yuck, I thought to myself.

So I carefully walked the hose to the sink, being careful not to get the goo on me or the floor, and under the faucet it went.  I tried to pull the goo out, but it wasn't a solid, and it was squishy.  Then I ran water through the hose to flush out more goo.

In all seriousness, I thought I was going to puke when I cleaned this stuff out of the sink.

After the hose was flushed, I reattached it and put the tank back it.  We'll see what it does later this afternoon before I declare a success.

My husband called in and asked what I was doing and when I told him, in between gagging noises (he hates, HATES, drain goo and other plumbing pipe clean out stuff, save one) he anointed me the house urologist.

Lucky me. Doctor Cookie is in.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

From our house to the crazy house...

The old gate house at Shepherd Pratt Hospital, in winter but a quarter mile!

Husband and I took the Oldsmobile out for a spin yesterday and drove hither and yon, getting our Baltimore legs, as it were.

And with me behind the wheel of Miss Peola, no forbidden path is safe.

We live about .25 miles from Shepherd Pratt, one of Baltimore's esteemed medical facilities, that families never brag about.  Its down on North Charles and its campus is a winding road that bobs and weaves through a magnificent campus.  But because it is a *mental hospital*, its a place that you don't want to be seen driving into.

The main building is a fabulous Victorian structure, much like the one that Olivia DeHavilland was committed to in the Snakepit.

Father in Law spent his professional career as a psychiatrist, and did his residency here at Johns Hopkins.  So as soon as we can speak with him (and hope that his HEARING AIDES ARE IN HIS EARS) we might see what he recalls about the place.

I have an old picture somewhere in these boxes of the old mental hospital, er, excuse me, sanatorium back home that reads "PLEASE DO NOT STARE AT THE PATIENTS", but that was a different era. 

Alas, as we drove through the campus we didn't see anyone who looked remotely as if they needed to seek asylum.

We DID however note a pack of Towson University male students jogging in their short shorts and shirtless through the campus, and we did enjoy watching this fine specimens as they ran and jogged by.  Several of the muscular young men had what is called overly developed pectorals, or as Mr. Peenee would say, man titty.   And that was good enough to drive my husband and I crazy for a good ten minutes.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

We shall overcome, and have a cocktail

God bless you all for your comments and encouragement.

You never know what to expect when you move, and the control freak in me is itching for a fight.

Today, something actually went well.  We found an arborist who will remove the ungangly crabapple tree in our back yard.  Said tree is no more than twenty feet high, but its tangled up in the electrical lines that come into our house and into the neighbors house.

That said, last night I have to tell you that I snapped.  I was so overwhelmed - and a hot bath was out of the question because of that damned orchid tub of ours -  that I had a cocktail.  Now Cookie enjoys a good cocktail, now and then, and only when we entertain.  And if you notice, Cookie said "a" cocktail.  Cookie does not tolerate lots of liquor well - makes me sleepy and sloppy.  And no one enjoys a sloppy drunk because you are never as entertaining when you are drunk as you think you are.  And Cookie loathes drunken guests.

So what did Cookie have in the way of a Cocktail? A side car.  Because I can't find the pots and pans, I can't make a simple syrup, which is what a classic Sidecar uses, so I used Cointreau instead.  Not bad.

When drinking Sidecars, you have to be very careful because you are mixing grain and grape, and that can be a recipe for a Hellish hangover.  Don't believe me?  Try it and you'll come to Jesus when the alcohol poisoning sets in.

My usual favorite cocktail is Vodka Cookietini.  What is this you say?  It's a Vodka Gibson (onion instead of olive) made with Vodka 360, and sweet vermouth.  Its smooth.  How smooth?  You really have to pace yourself because they just glide down, and the sweet vermouth tempers the Vodka.

This leads me to ask, if Cookie were throwing a cocktail party, what could I get you to drink?

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Message in a Bloggle

So, where has Cookie been in the last week?

Moving.  Screaming at stupid hillbilly packers.  And unpacking the mess that the hillbilly packers created.

Consider this my blog version of a message in a bottle, or Bloggle as I call it.

It all started last Monday when the husband packed up the car, and the dogs and headed for Baltimore, the Charm City, leaving me alone to deal with everything.   That night I moved into a one year old Springhill Suites, where I found dried blood on the top sheet, and mold in the bathroom.   After entertaining the Manager and his minion in my "suite"we received a substantial discount on the room.

Tuesday was spent with the packers, and once again I was treated to Packer Estil, a motormouth hillbilly who took great pains to announce "I AM A PACKIN' MACHINE...NOBODY PACKS IT FASTER THAN ME!"

After seeing him man handle a Mica Lamp like a football, I knew we were sunk.  Our large Chinese export vase from 1889? Ruined after being packed by Estil in a box marked "Freaky Large Vase".  Never mind that we listed it as a high value item.  Estil slapped some craft paper around it and tossed it into a box.

Which leads me to the third item on the list: unpacking.

Our move filled a 53' semi, stem to stern, with 506 items, 465 items being boxes and the rest furniture or pieces that defied packing.

Despite this house being larger than our old house, unloading was an eight hour ordeal.  At some point, the movers stopped moving two boxes that belonged in a bedroom, or the basement, or the living room, or the garage, and started mixing and matching boxes.  So garage stuff ended up in the bedrooms and living room stuff ended up in the garage.

We are not amused.

And how do we unpack? Each box has to be located, checked off a second time and then opened.  The packing paper has to be removed, flattened, and collected?  Why?  Because flattened packing paper takes up less room.  Then we have to find a home for the items as they unpacked. Then the box has to be knocked dopwn and all of the tape has to be removed as the moving company will not recycle them if there is plastic box tape on the box.  We get charged $1.25 for each box that can't be recycled.

So far we have unpacked about 100 boxes. The sun room is FULL of boxes, the breakfast porch is FULL of boxes, etc. and so on.

And God love and bless my husband because while I was trying to bring order to the kitchen that first night, he unpacked our bedroom and made our bed.   Still, with 300+ boxes to go, it takes its toll on a person's mind.

So last night, with my husband at my side, and feeling overwhelmed after a solid week of turmoil, Cookie, that is I, had a good cry, followed by an emergency Xanax (provided by my doctor, who just moved himself) and ten hours of sleep.

I will return to regular blogging sometime late this week as unboxing my office is a new priority and a needed function to regain my sanity.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Picked this up for Norma's Christmas present

Look past the bicycle.  Looks so natural, doesn't it.  Just like Wild Kingdom, but without Stan running barefoot after it.

You would really need the right house to pull this off.

But when I saw this I thought, "isn't this so like the relationship enjoyed by Norma and Mistress MJ?"

And yes, that is a Polar bear head on the left of the picture.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

En fuego!

This little coleus really surprised us this summer.  Normally, these just kinda "pale pink" out on us, but we put it in a harsh location this summer (NW corner of the house) and it really came to.  Will keep this in mind for the new garden next year in Baltimore.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Welcome to my nightmare

As some of you know, Cookie supports historic preservation of buildings and the integrity of historic neighborhoods.  Cookie has even lead such projects and is a past president of Ohio's oldest statewide organization for historic preservation.

In the late 1920s through the 1930s, manufacturers like Eljer, American Standard an Kohler went ga ga for jewel and flower tone bathroom fixtures. 

And Villa Cookie comes with this bathtub.  Originally, the house also sported a matching toilet and pedestal sink, long since removed and replaced with modern white conveniences.  ALSO the original white subway tile is in place trimmed with a band of matching color.  The basket weave bathroom tile?  The off-set color matches the tub too, as does the soap dish AND the bathtub faucets.

All that's missing is Miss Norma Desmond bathing in the tub, singing away while Max scrubs his back.

And what is this color? It is NOT purple or lavender, but officially, "Orchid".

A friend of our in Columbus, who is a Sister of Sappho, almost came on the spot when she saw this tub.

"Do you know how many womyn would kill to bathe in that tub?"  That's a image that Cookie would rather not dwell on.

If it were blue, or pink, or a yellow, I would embrace it.  But I hate this color.  I hate this color almost as much as I hate mauve, if not more, because its in our house.

"Oh!" cry our friends when they hear of it or see this picture.  "You must keep this bath tub," they insist.

It's amazing how less enthusiastic people get about said tub when they think about it in their house. It's all fun and games, while its not in your house, isn't it.

Eventually, the bathtub will have to "go".  Why? While Cookie and the Husband love and support historical Preservation, the market reality is that buyers of houses don't enjoy finding surprises like this in a house as much as they love laughing at them.  And eventually, we will have to sell Villa Cookie, as nothing lasts forever, does it?  Better to buy low, sell high and find a buyer quickly than it is to languish on the market looking for a buyer who has always dreamed of an orchid bathtub.

And, while we plan to be true to our house, lets face it, our kitchens and bathrooms have to be functional, and this poor old dear of a tub has had a good life, its run its rest, but it needs to put out to pasture.

So Cookie and the Husband want to know, do you want this tub?  Will you come and get this tub?  Better yet, who do you think, other than Cookie and the Husband, deserves this tub?