Sunday, August 24, 2014

The time the ladder fell down

We have a large deck.

The deck is 15 years old, which I think is old for a deck that isn't cedar, but rather just pressure treated wood, that was slapped up as a condition of sale when we bought the house in 1998.

There was a deck with a tacky cover that was in  terrible condition, so we asked that it be replaced and the previous owner replaced it.

We were terribly naive at the time and didn't realize that we could do such things and we had a terrible realtor, and it was only when the inspector pointed out the dangerous nature of the old deck that we took action.

It was the one good thing the inspector did.

He wasn't much of an inspector; he missed many other dangerous things.

I had no idea.

I was pregnant and overwhelmed by the notion of buying a house.

I thought home inspections were done by some kind of ethical governmental agency and everyone was equally good. 

That's how dumb I was.

A real babe in the housing inspector woods.

So there we were, two of the most ill-equipped housemates in the world, for home ownership, buying a house together.

The deal was Rolf and I would buy the house, and Mark would come live with me there.

We would have our baby and live in this large house, collectively, because I had lived with Rolf my entire adult life and my heart might break without him.

I had only known Mark for months.

I liked him.

I loved him, but I am not one to throw out the housemate with the bathwater.

None of the three of us is very yard workery, or terribly sensible, or knowledgeable  about housey things, so we were like sitting ducks, real schnooks waiting to be taken advantage of over bad wiring and the lack of a shut off valve for the kitchen sink.

So the deck guy built a new deck, and on the way out the door mentioned that he hadn't sealed the new deck.

We bought the house in October, so the rain was already an issue.

Had I been slightly more tuned in at the time, I would have demanded that he seal the deck, but I wasn't, and I didn't, so there I was with this unsealed deck, in the rainy season.

So we sealed it ourselves with toxic stinky stuff, on a Saturday. 

And almost every year since, we seal it.

Twice we have had it done for us, by a deck guy.

Once my friend Brian sealed it for us, when he built a little roof over half the deck.

It was his little gift.

A bonus.

This year we borrowed a pressure washer from our friend M.

M is very handy and sensible and owns a pressure washer and a truck.

We are constantly asking him for help with this, or that. 

He lectures us on the appropriate way to do this, or that, and we do our best.

I pay him back with dinners; buttery noodles, pork, salad, roast chicken and mashed potatoes, glasses of plum brandy and PBR on ice, coffee with sugar, cheap red wine, cookies and pieces of cake.

It's not what anyone would call a square deal.

Not by a long shot.

He was very anti-pressure washing of the deck.

Clearly, he had never scrubbed a 300 square-foot deck by hand with a brush.

We washed the deck very nicely, taking turns.

Both Rolf and I sprayed our feet, which hurts.

Mark was smart enough to wear sneakers.


 It was a very messy process. 



The very last thing that we needed to do was the roof of the deck.

It is a type of corrugated plastic that was very dirty and mossy.

Mark, being the lightest went up on the roof of the house and sprayed one side, but it was terribly HOT out and he needed to come down after a while.

Mark is afraid of heights, so when it was time to come down he asked that we adjust the ladder so the incline was not so steep.

For some reason he had used the flimsy extension ladder, rather than the regular ladder. I started to say something, but thought better of it, because who wants to be criticized for his choice of ladders? 

I went up and sprayed for a while, but the ladder was stretched out far and it was swaying a lot and making me dizzy.

I have been very dizzy in general because of the anemia, so I asked Rolf if he would finish up. 

Rolf climbed up the ladder and was spraying away the very last bits of moss, when the ladder slid across the wet deck stopping only when it hit the railing.

One rail was knocked off, but it held steady enough for Rolf to climb down. 

Later in the evening he noticed that his ribs were bruised. 

He could have been badly hurt, but he wasn't, thank goodness. 

He was much less hurt than the time he stepped on the rung of the other ladder, the one that has "do not step" printed right on it.

The one intended for putting your can of paint on.

That time the ladder collapsed and he fell off, and into a rose bush.

This time he just slid down a few rungs. 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

sleep away camp

Freyja is off to sleep away camp this morning.

Mark is making the trek, with the sleeping bag and the rain poncho and the unicorn pillow pet, seven pairs of athletic socks, close toed sandals, flip flop shower shoes and pre-written letters from home, with twee pictures of cats and baby bulldogs.

I have a cold I am trying kick and my sciatica is acting up and dropping my children off makes me sad.

The camp is accessed by a winding dirt road that is one way in, then turned around into a one way out.

Freyja and I went out to a bakery for breakfast and she had a mini raspberry croissant and a mini chocolate croissant, which was a foolish choice, and I knew it at the time, but let it pass anyway.  She is now acting cranky and unmanageable, which is how she is when she feels nervous.

All through the year I save up for these camps that the children go to.  I want them to go and have fun.  I want them to be carefree and frivolous and create memories that will bring them joy when they are older. I want them to be resilient, self assured people.

Camp is an alien concept for me, as my summers where spent with my grandmother, visiting my father for two weeks, and visiting my paternal grandparents. We might have gone camping here, or there, but there were no camps.

No drama, sewing, fairly, nature, sleep away, social justice-activism, martial arts, or circus camps.  

When I was very young there simply wasn't money for such things, and when I got older I was too used to not going, that attending a camp would have made me crumble with nervousness.

My father's father was a minister and my grandmother was often organizing vacation bible school in the summer when I would visit.  I must have attended some, but I mostly remember sitting with my grandmother.  I was never much of a joiner, even as a child.  When I was around ten, I went with my grandmother to pick out prize for the children that memorized the most bible verses.  I chose a white enamel cross pendant, my grandmother chose a handsome children's bible.  I wanted the necklace for myself and I spent the entire week memorizing verse and won the contest.  I know that my grandmother was disappointed that I chose the necklace over the bible, but I couldn't help myself.  The following year, I went to a church camp with the same group of people, at a lake, with little cabins.  I had a sleeping bag that was very old, it might have belonged to my father as a child, the outside was silky, a sort of mink color and my grandmother had replaced the lining with leopard print flannel.  I loved that sleeping bag and used it when I visited.  I brought it with me to the camp, even though it weighed a ton.  I lasted one day, before my father was called to pick me up.  The notion of sleeping with strangers in a cabin was too much for me.

My mother's parents often went camping in summer, and because they were foster parents to a huge group of  children (licensed for 12 at a time) it was a bit like being in a camp.  A camp for rag-tag, broken down people.  My grandfather would erect their ancient canvas tent that always felt damp, and my grandmother would cook over the fire.  She would cook full meals for 15 people in a outdoor kitchen.  We would go to Beverly Beach and my grandfather would complain bitterly about the sand.  My grandmother loved the ocean and would wade out into the freezing water, carrying me on her hip, or back, up to her chest.  It was one of few things I can remember her being truly joyful about.  I have a photo of my grandmother standing on the beach with a turban wrap on her head, and her pants rolled up to her knees, holding my hand.  You can tell the wind was blowing fiercely, my hair is whipped around my face, I am wearing a brown and orange poncho and the sun is shining.  We would build fired from the driftwood, on the beach and roast hotdogs and marshmallows. 

I did go to a journalism camp for a week the summer before my senior year in high school.  It was at the University of Oregon and I went with the other kids from the yearbook staff.  I was a vegetarian and I liked to smoke French cigarettes, and read Camus, I felt completely and utterly out of my element staying in a dorm with other girls.  There was some kind of swimming party at the pool and I thought of the drowning scene in  one flew over the cuckoo's nest.   I had a nice time in spite of myself, but it was weird.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Like thousands of fans, I was saddened by the news of Robin Williams death.

I have a great deal of personal experience with mental illness, depression and suicide.  It's ugly and sad and difficult and it's hurts cast a very wide net.

When my dear friend killed himself in 1985, I just wanted answers.  I still would like to know the whys.  I've written so often about this piece, this puzzle that influences the filter I see life through. 

Over the years I have taken on the role of helper, saver, prop up queen, mother, bailer out of jail.  I am often characterized as a "giving" person, but in reality, I am a selfish person that is on a very long damage control battle.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

PIE!

I was invited to this pie event that I had been dying to attend for the past five years.  It started as a city wide contest, but then when the contest ended, one of the winners decided to host a giant foodie potluck in the park with pie.  I had heard of it, but never knew anyone directly related, until this year, when I got an invitation and began hatching my pie plan. The even started at noon, so I started my prep work the night before, with my trusty assistant at my side.   Mark was good enough to clean up for me.



I made a kale, mushroom, caramelized onion pie in a shredded potato crust.  It was FABULOUS.  I made some pickles to go with it as a garnish.  People RAVED about this pie, and it was that good.  I also made my old standby, the goat cheese and plum pie, in an oat & almond crust.  It is very good too and very rich.

There were 96 pies represented.  All very good.  There was a leek and Havarti quiche, that was outstanding.  When we arrived, my friend Jim and his girlfriend were not there, so it was sort of weird for a minute, until a woman Mark works with showed up, and everyone assumed we were with her.  She was a jolly sort, and very welcoming. We sat with her and her friends, and had a nice time, which is unusual for me, since I don't usually like big social gatherings, but these were lovely people.

The green pie in the foreground is asparagus and it was fabulous. The little hand pies in the red bowl were filled with bourbon BBQ pork, also outstanding.  The small white souffle pan was ground lamb with Lebanese seasoning, baked in a filo crust, made by the editor from Mark's work, also very good.    There were 240 people invited, all stranger(ish) friends of friends, and everyone showed up with beautiful food to share, some people brought drinks, lawn games, decorations, ice, napkins... it was one of those really beautiful moments where you see the goodness in people shine.


The ugliest photo ever of me, but I am being a good sport.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Across the great divide

I suffer from extreme righteous (self righteous?) indignation.
I consider myself an ethical person and someone that gives a great deal to anything I do, and in return I expect, well, I have high expectations.

This doesn't really serve me particularly well a lot of the time. I find myself in conflict more and more often.

Most recently in conflict over quality and service issues.

For instance, our new, brand new, out of the ever living box, $1500 refrigerator, has not worked right since delivery.

Literally.

It was jacked up, right out of the box and has cost me a fortune in spoiled food, time off work, and aggravation.

In the past we purchased off brand funk, from the dude on 82nd, for cheap- AND THEY WORKED!

what's wrong with your unit? 

Umm, it's not cold.  

Can you be more specific. 

It's warm.  My fridge is 50 degrees, the milk is clotting and clumping.  It's NOT COLD. MY UNIT IS NOT COLD, man. 


And on and on and they send out a repair person and the refrigerator is not cold and I am livid & stabby and furious.

They the faucet tipped.  

It was straight and it leaned to the right.  

My father crawled under the sink and tried to fix it.

The contractor came and fixed it.

The next day it leaned over again. 

We know it has a  

BASIC DESIGN FLAW.

How is that even possible?  

It is a faucet.  

It should function.  


It is not a rocket ship, it is not brain surgery.  

It is a faucet and it should function. 

The contractor e-mailed me tonight to tell me the company has redesigned this faucet to correct the design flaw, and do I want to exchange it?  

Hell YES, I want to exchange it, except I can't find the receipt, so my bank is sending over a credit card statement, which most likely will not work, because god knows I may have STOLEN the faulty designed faucet, installed it, fixed it TWICE, before attempting to exchange it, for KICKS!

Because I am crafty like that.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

This post was sponsored by the Grateful Dead.



My father came to visit me, which is nice and devastating. I am one of those people that has never gotten over my childhood traumas and doesn't cope well.  Idon't deal with loss very successfully.    My husband was out of town, which made it more challenging.  My father is a nice man, which makes it harder, believe it or not.  Losing an asshole? There is some kind of righteousness to be found, but the loss of someone dear that is good, it's  like a gross insult to injury.  He brought my grandmother's cookie jar.  It is my taste.  It goes well with my subway tile.  It kind of breaks my heart. 


A few weeks ago I made a perfect paella, with a lobster tail I bought on sale at Safeway.  Mark, who has visited and fallen in love with Barcelona, said it was perfect, so HA!

A few weeks before the paella, Aunt Karen came to stay with me for a few days, while Mark and kids went to Reno for his father's wedding celebration to his long time partner Duane.  We all love Duane to pieces, because he is so lovely and gorgeous and delightful, but I couldn't take time off work, and it was very expensive, so Aunt Karen came, and stayed with me, because my iron level was still dangerously low and I was pretty much feeling like dog-meat, and afraid of dying at any moment. Aunt Karen made cocktails and wore pearls like any decent person would do in the face of death. We went to the Portland Art Museum and watched "Harold and Maude" with my friend S, who I love like crazy, and who doesn't mind my crying in movies (very much?), or leaning on him, or drinking his iced coffee.  My friends are amazing and the very best people in the whole wide world.


We had an insanely lovely lunch at this shitty New Mexican cafe.  The service sucked, but we were happy.  We totally WON! HA! There was excellent coffee.

Then we made this remarkable pork and my friend Jim came and we laughed more.

It was very hot.  And I hate heat when there is not a large body of water around. 

Then I decided to cut off a great deal of my hair.