I was taking a walk yesterday, and I passed a house a little down the block from mine. It has a yard that often contains toys and whose sidewalk sometimes has chalk drawings covering it. I know that a little girl lives there, because I've seen her there before. She's about five or six.
Yesterday there was an arrangement of toys in the yard that nearly stopped me in my tracks. As I think it's generally creepy for someone to stop and stare into another person's yard, I gave it a couple of glances and kept walking, and then gave it a few more glances over my shoulder.
It was a tea party. There was a little child-sized table and two little chairs. It was a very civilized scene. The table had an umbrella over it, like a little cafe table.
It was the guests at the party that threw me. They were lawn decorations. One was a bunny, concrete or stone, abstracted and sleek, like an art nouveau rabbit gargoyle. He wore a slightly expectant but slightly vacant expression. He sat at the table with his paws on the edge of the seat.
The other was a plaster owl, much taller than he was wide, painted in blues and greens. He was slightly ragged, and seemed tired. He sat up as straight as he could in his chair, trying his best to remain dignified in a situation that perhaps had slipped out of his control.
The two of them were the only guests. On the table was a plate of Barbie. She was not the least bit mutilated or abused in any way. She was fully dressed and standing on a plate, not so much exemplified as cheerily offered up to the diners.
In any case, it was really an odd scene. If someone asks that little girl what she wants to be when she grows up I dearly hope she says "conceptual artist" and not "waitress."
Ted and I try to be environmental. When we don't remember to bring our own bags to the grocery store, we reuse and recycle the plastic ones. Plus I am a master at shoving anything that will fit into one bag so often we get a full trip's groceries into two or three bags.
We also use organic cleaning and personal hygiene products, and we buy organic food when possible.
We work near home, so we rarely drive. Etc. etc. etc.
We also do not air-condition our house. Except when it gets really really really hot. We wait as long into the summer as we possibly can, letting two or three heat waves go by in sweltering sweatiness before breaking.
But when we do (or I should say when Ted does) lug the window unit up from the basement, it's cause for celebration. We put it in our bedroom window, then shut the doors to the kitchen and dining room leaving an air-conditioned swath that includes the bedroom, bathroom and office. The kitchen, pantry, dining room and living room might as well not exist during those days.
We call it the hotel. It is very decadent. And this year, Ted bought a fifty foot cable and installed our TV in our bedroom. TV in bedroom! Just like a hotel- see?
Anyway, we've been living at the hotel for the past three days, but today it's lovely and cool, dry and clear. I hate it. I miss the hotel.
If perhaps your house was robbed and a detective comes and dusts for fingerprints and they ask you, the rightful inhabitant of the house, for your fingerprints for elimination purposes, know that they can only use your fingerprints for the purpose of eliminating you as a suspect. They do not go on file with the police. This means that you are free to go out and commit any crimes you want. I know because our house was robbed and the detective came over to dust for prints and I asked him.
Also know, if you didn't already, that all of the forensic processes you see on CSI are complete fabrications. I asked him that too.
Oh boy. My poor little blog. How I've neglected you! And for no reason other than that I didn't feel like writing. I missed writing about some good things too, like my trip to Wisconsin, my friend Rachel's new house and a design competition that Ted and our friend Andrew and I all did together. We lost, but out of 230 entries, we couldn't really expect much. There were six finalists chosen and we are convinced that we were totally in seventh place.
Anyway, I make no promises about the future of goodonpaper, but for now I will tell you about the most depressing fourth of july ever. It rained, it was cold, there were no fireworks, Ted worked all day. The only thing that prevented me from jumping off a bridge was that we had dinner at our friends' Laura and Andy's house.
There was key lime pie, pasta salad and beers. We WOULD have had burgers grilled on the grill, but as it was raining, we took them inside and spiced them with Turkish spices and had a feta yogurt sauce with them. Take that United States of America! You and your lousy freakin' weather. That's right, we had the cuisine of another nation on your birthday. And we'd do it again. Oh when will you stop drinking and come home?
The rain! It didn't even let up enough to light a friendship pagoda:
I wore wool tights, on the Fourth of July, and sat with Laura on her porch, half drunk, smoking cigarettes, staring into the rainy darkness and wishing for the sparkle of fireworks.
But things are looking up. Tonight I am driving to Boston to see Alicia, my best friend from college. We are also seeing our friend Ethan, whom neither of us has seen in about twelve years. Can that be right? I think it is.
This means I will be missing the great Stephen N's Kansas Barbeque Birthday. Every year he imports Kansas City Barbeque to New Haven and shares it with like, fifty friends. I have charged Ted with the task of bringing me leftovers, but I tend to doubt there will be any.
That's it for now. I really hope the long lapse in posts doesn't completely reduce my readership to one. Me. But if it does, I totally deserve it.
My family is complicated.
We all got together last weekend at my parents' house to celebrate my sister's birthday. Everyone was there except my brother-in-law. Hi Matt! It was a beautiful spring day, so of course all my two nephews wanted to do was play outside. The oldest one has always had an enduring love of throwing and catching balls, and I must say for eight years old, he really has quite an arm on him. Gone are the days when playing catch meant throwing the ball to him, waiting for him to pick it up and throw it back, then fishing it out of the bushes.
Anyway, somehow or other a big red ball found its way up to the roof. It may or may not have been my dad's doing, as he has a way of scheming up things that will be "neat." It got stuck in a truly improbable looking place, on the very peak of the roof. It turns out that there was actually a section of flat roof up there that the ball was sitting on, but it really looked like if you took another ball and threw it at the first ball, you could knock it right off and it would roll down the other side into the front yard.
I knew that there had to have been a section of flat roof, but still, I was fairly confident that if you threw a second ball hard enough you could probably manage to knock it down. My dad, the engineer, believed otherwise.
I thought I'd give it a try. Ted positioned himself in the front yard, and I stayed in the back yard and we had a few rounds of roof catch. Even though I could see him through the windows of the house, there was no good way to indicate to him where the ball was, as he could not see it from the front.
You can't play roof catch in front of an eight year old boy without him wanting to play, too. But time was of the essence, for several reasons. The first is that my parents live in a retirement community. It galls my dad, but my mother really enjoys it, on account of its being really lovely. It's about thirty years old, so the flora is really grown in and it looks a little like a fairy tale, with ponds and winding paths and flower gardens.
You only have to be fifty-five to live there, it's not assisted living or anything, but there is the slightest feeling that the greatest generation is all around you, peering out lace-curtained windows, frowning suspiciously on anything that looks like fun. So I really wanted to get the ball down and start playing badminton or croquet. But naturally, I kept missing the ball, as did Ted, on account of his poor sight-lines. The nephew was too wrapped up in the excitement of it all to aim the ball properly, and that, coupled with the need of constant assurance that everyone was watching him before throwing, resulted in some truly off-the-marks throws that all took way too long. Then the ball would roll off the roof and he would insist on another turn.
So it was taking some time, and as we were using two small, slightly hard-ish balls, the chaos seemed destined to produce injury. Ted was really hucking them back at a rate and trajectory that was simply unpredictable. My sister got pegged good once, and, as she didn't understand that Ted was on the other side of the house fulfilling his uncle-y duty, promptly blamed it on the nephew. I explained the situation. Then my mother came out. I explained it to her. I think my brother was sleeping. The whole scene was a study in frustration and misunderstanding.
The one family member unaccounted for was my dad, which is really no good. He's the FIRST one you should watch. His head appeared at the top of a tall wood fence attached to the house. He was standing on a lawn chair. Remember what I said about time being of the essence? Okay, come on! Ball come down now!
We aimed again. A miss. No ball. My dad was suddenly, mysteriously, on top of the fence, clutching the eave of the roof. BALL COME DOWN NOW! Swing and a miss.
The fence wavered, my dad wavered, then recovered. Then my mother broke out in a moaning, wifely harangue. "Oh my god! What is he doing? What is that stupid man DOING? He's going to kill himself. I'm not watching this. I can't watch this. I'm going inside. If he wants to kill himself, let him. I don't care. But I'm not watching. I'm going inside." But she didn't go inside. She continued on, loudly and continuously, which merely fueled my dad's fire. Up he went, first one foot, then the other, then slowly he was up in the roof, crouching at the edge, unsure of his footing, not wanting to stand, not wanting to crawl, not wanting to get back down.
Really, it didn't look that dangerous to me. It didn't seem like that steep of a roof, nor was it that high off the ground. Never mind that there were four able-bodied young people around the house, who could have scampered up and down more easily if not more safely, but my dad was a Marine, and he lives in a retirement village. He had something to prove. My mother can be very proud, but she simply doesn't seem to understand the role of pride in other people's behavior. It also enrages her (and I think rightly) that my dad won't get out of his chair to move a box out of the hallway for her, but damn if he isn't up on the roof to get an inconsequential toy off of the roof for anyone who isn't her.
So, I think she was awash in mixed feelings, which is probably the most charitable way to put it, as was I, because I was annoyed that he didn't even us very much of a chance to try to knock the ball down, and the nephews were excited because, hell, Grandpa was on the roof! Ted didn't know what was happening on our side of the house, and I think my brother was still sleeping.
My father climbed to the peak of the roof and, once at the flat part threw the ball down then took a look around, walking back and forth on the flat part. I was slightly curious as to how he was going to come back down, but didn't really give it much thought, as he had the whole fence/chair setup, plus the ground on the other side of the fence was a considerable amount higher than the side we were on. But a while later it slowly came into my consciousness that my dad was still on the roof. He sat perched up on the peak and was taking off his shoes, at my sister's recommendation. He threw the shoes down, then paused, like he was done. He gave his sock feet a couple of tests. He said tentatively, "No..." I suggested barefeet. Everybody agreed that it would be worse.
My mother stayed, shielding her eyes from the sky, looking up at the man, who stayed, up on the roof, looking down at the ground. He may as well have been licking the air nervously (see last post- skittish floor cat Ibby). Then he turned and disappeared down the other side of the roof. My sister and I ran around to the front of the house. On the way she exclaimed how surprised she was that he would climb the roof in the first place, being so afraid of heights as he was. I stopped dead in my tracks. "What?"
"Yeah, he's really afraid of heights."
"No," I said, "He gets seasick on twirly rides and swings."
"Yup. And he's also really afraid of heights. Remember at the old house when the bathroom vent on the roof had to be cleared, and he convinced Ted do it and he was chased by all those wasps?"
No, I hadn't remembered. But Ted did.
He chose the front of the house because the roof seemed to be less steep, and came much closer to the ground. Also, there were bushes and grass under it, not a stone patio.
When we got the the front I offered to get my dad the chair.
He said casually, "Um... sure."
When I got back with the chair, he had one foot on my brother's shoulder and one foot on the little roof that covered the electric meter. I went back inside with the chair.
When he was down everyone came inside. We had cake. The roof was never mentioned again.
Mrs. Delicious left a comment on my last post which was simply this:
Here's the link if you want more toothpaste for dinner: www.toothpastefordinner.com.
She has a point. My blog has been sadly neglected, so I'll ease into this.
My cat got stuck in a drawer.
Nobody knows little grey Ibby except Ted and, from afar, my upstairs neighbor Howard, who doesn't think twice about engaging her in conversation through the window screen on hot summer days as he's passing by on his way to the back door.
She's a skittish little entity, jumping a mile high when the toaster ejects toast or when the shower curtain is pulled aside. We got her from the Greater New Haven Cat Project about four years ago. We picked her because she was so miserable. All the other kitties were jumping around and roving in packs around the place, but little Ibby, or Dee as she was then called, was huddled in the corner of her cage, and would not be pulled out at any cost.
She was terrified of everything, especially the ceiling fan in the living room. She once was trapped behind a bookshelf for the greater part of a day because the fan was turned after she had entered the room and HOLY CRAP there was no escaping! Oh, the cowering.
It was in this early phase when she found her way into the basement and we discovered she was missing after maybe two days, because we never ever saw her anyway. We lured her back upstairs with a trail of little piles of dry food. What a life she's led.
Anyway, we won her over by trapping her in various places (mostly on top of the books in the bookshelf)and petting her until she trusted us, and it seems to have worked well. She's now a full-fledged member of the household, feeling perfectly comfortable to meow pointlessly at walls and sleep on my legs in the middle of the night and lick all the "gravy" off of her food, leaving it for ten minutes or so and then returning to finish the job. She's also a drooler.
One thing she rarely does is leave the floor. Ted has classified her as a Standard American Floor Cat. She hates to be picked up. She'll allow it briefly after a long, lonely weekday, but thirty seconds is all you really get before she tenses completely up and starts licking nothing nervously. She's slowly working her way up to sitting on laps, but seriously, I think she'll have lived her nine lives before earning her degree from the Lap Sitting Institute of Technology.
She rarely jumps on things either. When she does it's startling, because you just don't expect it. And when you discover her on the counter or desk (I think it's happened three times) she just looks at you like, "Yeah, I'm on ur counterz licking ur cheezes" and it makes you want to kick her fuzzy gray ass.
So why would she be in the middle drawer of my dresser? She's had plenty of opportunities to get to know my folded T-shirts, both in the drawer and in the laundry basket, but until now, she's shown little or no interest. In fact, she generally shows disdain at the thought of the laundry basket, becoming haughty even, licking a paw momentarily before sweeping dramatically out of the room.
And why wouldn't she have said something as I was closing the drawer with her inside? Surely she would have woken up if she was sleeping. Why did it take her over an hour before she started her piteous, tiny cries? And why when I finally caught on to the fact that it sounded like she was somewhere muffled and very far away did she completely clam up after I started calling her name?
The answers to all of these questions is because she has a brain the size of a hard boiled egg. We call her Little Dummy. She's not a strong problem solver.
Anyway, she's out now, and probably off licking her paw somewhere in the living room.
A few weekends ago Ted and I made a trip to Massachusetts to see my friend Madeleine.
Maddie and I were best friends in high school, a school filled with hockey jocks and Grateful Dead fans. Since we were neither, we naturally gravitated towards each other. We soon discovered that we had many, many things in common such as the inclination to spend our time writing clever and witty poetry to each other on the back of calculus homework, similar skipping and cartwheel talents, the ability to give each other chic asymmetrical haircuts, an interest in dark, but not goth, lipsticks, general mistrust of the school's religious faculty (it was a Catholic school) and deep and abiding ability to swoon endlessly over whichever combat-boot-clad bad-boy had just crossed our path.
We were also friends with Kip, who is a frequent commenter on this blog. Hi Kip!
Anyway, during and after college we all went our separate ways, and pretty soon it had been ten good years or so since Maddie and I had any meaningful contact. Kip and I occasionally spoke and visited, more so recently than in the years immediately following school.
I would occasionally get news of Maddie from my dad, who despite having a limited hairstyle, still gets it cut by a family friend of Maddie's. So I knew she taught chemistry at our high school for a while, and then moved to Massachusetts where she lives with her husband and two little boys. She, on the other hand, had been alerted to the fact that Ted and I were getting married by another friend of ours who had found my blog.
We all decided that enough was enough and got together for a weekend sleepover at her charming house-in-progress, where we met one of her boys Sammy (so sweet!), consumed stinky cheeses brought by Kip and many bottles of wine. We had a great time.
As we, in our drunken states, forgot to take any photos of us now, here are some photos from then.
Maddie and I at graduation:
Kip at graduation:
Maddie, drunk and silly, in her dorm room in college:
The matching photo of me, drunk and silly, in Maddie's dorm room at college:
And a classic, Maddie and me, drunk and silly at her prom-themed twenty-first birthday party:
I don't think it's stretching the truth to say that Ted really, really enjoys this photo of us.
Anyway, Maddie and Kip, thanks for the all the lovely times, this past visit included. See you soon.
Even though Ted and I both have degrees in architecture, the student loans to prove it and almost fourteen years of professional practice between us, we are not architects. Not legally. In order for that to happen you have to pass an exam that has nine parts (at $100 a pop) and get yourself a stamp that grants you the privilege of being sued for your own negligence.
Anyway, Ted just passed the first of the nine tests and is well on his way to being a real live architect. Congratulations Ted!