Before

I’m pleased to announce that Wednesday and I have been reunited.

I picked up a new battery at the car parts store – well, the nice man at the car parts store picked it up and carefully placed it in the loaner car – and a new headlight, and headed home.

Rob came by and replaced the headlight pretty easily. While the new battery had a handle, facilitating getting its extreme heaviness out of one car and into the other, it was also a bit smaller than the old, handle-less one. Rob looked around and found some wood to hold it firmly in place, and so far, so good.

His quest to make my life better continued a few days later. Rob arrived one Sunday afternoon, armed with tools and shelves for the Closet of Doom. I had kind of thought it would be a few weeks before anything happened. I wasn’t expecting an instant installation.

Here it is in all its Doomish glory:

As you can see, it’s a really awkward space, with one side the slope-y part under the stairs, cut off by the propane heater vent pipe, which makes it impossible to walk back into the slope-y part:

The other side is mostly occupied with the washer and dryer:

The washer takes about 5,000 years to wash anything, and the dryer only allows one to choose between low and lowest, so each load of laundry takes at least three tries to dry. When I moved in, Danielle made it clear that she was not responsible for the quirks of the washer and dryer, so there you (and I) have it. At least I don’t have to trek 25 miles each way to the closest laundromat*.

Rob and I removed all the things and stuff from the closet, and then the existing shelf, which also blocked the light switch so I had to reach behind it to turn the light on and off. Why it’s not conventionally located by the door, I don’t know. All part of the Doom experience!

Up next: After!

*Long ago when I was young and living in the big city, my bijou apartment did not have laundry facilities, so I used to drag my laundry a couple of blocks to the laundromat. Sometimes, I’d go to a nearby strip club to wait for the wash cycle to be finished, since each dance took about the same amount of time.

A YEAR AGO: Car problems were making Wednesday and me a little less than happy.

FIVE YEARS AGO: My last day of working at the jobette. I’d still be doing it if I could. So much has changed.

TEN YEARS AGO: New tile in Megan’s bathroom and new carpet for my sleeping loft.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Bettie Page on the TV and a naked man on the fire scape watching a fire on the building’s roof. You know, the usual.

Car

One dark morning, I slid into the seat of my car, deciding what music to listen to on my way to work as I turned the key in the ignition. Wednesday must have disapproved of my early morning selection of Tom Petty’s Mojo, since she refused to start. There was an ominous clicking sound, all the zillions of warning lights on the dashboard flashed, but Wednesday’s battery appeared to be taking the Big Sleep.

I called in the cavalry in the form of Jonathan and Rob, and they arrived, wielding tools. Their considered opinion was that the battery was out for the count. They also observed that one of the headlights was out, which was news to me, though perhaps not surprising, considering how much time I spend driving in the dark.

The boys called the auto parts store for me and ordered the battery and headlight replacement. I helped by giving them my credit card to pay for it. The parts would not be in until the following week, and then I’d have to wait for my unpaid mechanics to install them, and in the meantime, I had a loaner car to drive.

The loaner car is a nice Toyota, a couple of years younger than Wednesday, but I’m always uncomfortable driving unfamiliar cars. I spent a few minutes figuring out where the lights, wipers, etc. were located, and drove more slowly than usual. It didn’t help that it was both foggy and smoky on my maiden voyage, and that visibility was terrible. I was following the lines on the middle of the road and hoping that I I didn’t meet an unexpected deer on my way to work.

The car measures speed by kilometers, so I never know how fast I’m going. If I get pulled over, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

A YEAR AGO: More delights at the County Fair.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Driving (not dancing) in the dark.

TEN YEARS AGO: A look around the Village.

Repairs

For months, my MacBook was acting up in the manner of a surly teenager, refusing to do things when asked and dragging its feet when forced to fulfill my eminently reasonable requests. I spent a lot of time with the spinning ball, and despite its multi-colored festiveness, this did not endear it to me. Doing anything, even writing these simple missives and editing the visual aids to go with them, took an inordinate amount of time.

Patience is not, as you, one of my few virtues (what ARE those, anyway?), but my impatience was locked in a battle of wills with my innate reluctance to ever upgrade anything or buy a new anything until the previous anything died, usually of old age. Faithful readers may recall that my sister’s inability to deal with the limitations of my old phone drove her to replace it at her own expense earlier this year. Also that it took time (three long visits to the unenjoyable Verizon store) and money (nearly $22 hard-earned dollars!) to get things (allegedly) transferred to the new phone. I never did get all my contacts, and what I have is mostly outdated. Bet you’ll be amazed to hear that I have done exactly nothing about this.

Eventually, my hand was forced by the MacBook going behind my back and upgrading its operating system, thus rendering Word and Excel inoperable. They had a ghostly X over them. So my battered old computer with its shiny new operating system finally went for a visit to the computer repair folks, whose office is in the historic building that used to be the lumber company’s store back in the 19th century.

I should not have been surprised that it took longer than the promised two days to get my MacBook back. Even after all these years, I: a) believed them; and 2) completely ignored the Mendo Factor™. It took more like a week, and in the lengthy interim, I found having to write emails and do internet searches on my phone about as efficient and enjoyable as the spinning ball era on the computer. Like five days of the power shut off last fall, the computerlessness seemed to go on forever.

Eventually, it was ready, and of course I was notified when the shop was five minutes from closing. I raced over there from work. They had replaced the hard drive, transferred everything, reinstalled Word, Excel, and PowerPoint, and relieved me of $309. The computer looked cleaner than it had in months, or possibly years.

When I got it home, I discovered that there was an issue with the trackpad, where the cursor wouldn’t move or got stuck. I managed to increase the speed in the preferences, and it worked well sometimes and not others. The computer guy said to clean the trackpad with rubbing alcohol and see if that did the trick. I didn’t point out that it was cleaner than it had been since it was new, and tried the rubbing alcohol anyway. There was no discernible difference, but I was reluctant to part with the computer yet again, so I just put up with it. Eventually, it started working fine, I know not why. I just know I’m glad it works. For now.

A YEAR AGO: The many joys of the County Fair, Part 1.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The Fair was beautiful and glamorous, two of my favorite things.

Fiery

The monthly Board meetings at work always mean around a twelve hour day for our heroine, so it was both disappointing and ironic in equal measure that this month’s arrived the day after Labor Day. I have started doing them from home, which is a process improvement for me. I leave work around 3:15 pm and get the long drive out of the way in daylight, instead of hitting the long and winding road in the 7:00 pm darkness. And when the meeting is over, I’m already home.

As I drove down the Ridge that afternoon, I could see where the fog at the coast met the smoke from the Oak Fire in Willits, about 30 miles to the east:

My house is nearly 6 miles east of the highway, so I was basically driving toward the fire and smoke, even though the fire was unlikely to reach us through the intervening mountainous terrain. By the time I was set up for the meeting, the light outside was an eerie dark orange. Here’s how it looked from my back door:

Clyde did not like it. During the meeting, he kept going from door to door, looking to see if it looked any less disturbing. It kept getting darker, even though sunset was still hours away. Clyde did not approve of this. He is a sensitive boy, and seemed as perturbed as he did during the moving process last year. He enjoyed the chaos as much as I did, and we were both stressed out by it.

I could hardly wait for it to get dark so I could stop looking at the creepy orange light and get some semblance of normalcy. As the days wore on, the fire was thankfully contained, but the air remained smoky and terrible-smelling. You could see the ash and particulates in the air. We are used to such clean air here, and it was a dramatic and distressing change. The skies stayed orange or brown, dark in the daytime, to the point that I had to have both lights on in my office. I longed to see the sky after a week of not seeing it.

Still, we were the lucky ones, not being evacuated or under immediate threat. This time. I can’t help wondering if it’s like falling off the dock was when my siblings lived on boats at Pier 39, or hitting a deer when you live in the depths of the country: There’s them that has, and them that will. I wonder when it will be our turn to flee for our lives and hope our house isn’t burning to the ground behind us.

FIVE YEARS AGO: The absurdity of “insurance”.

TEN YEARS AGO: Pantry invaders!

Brotherly


My big/little brother

My brother’s birthday is in early September, usually on or around Labor Day weekend, the unofficial last long weekend of the summer, and my sister’s birthday is on or around the Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial first long weekend of the summer, neatly bracketing the season.

This was a landmark birthday for my brother as he turned 55. Faithful readers may remember that I promoted him to being my big brother when he turned 50. Megan is next in line for promotion next year, when she (gasp!) turns 50 and celebrates her 30th wedding anniversary.

Never one to be deterred by logic and reason, my now “older” brother is somehow my first memory, on the day he came home from the hospital. He was small, wrapped in a white blanket, and red faced from yelling. I told my parents that the baby was broken and should be returned. Fortunately, they paid no attention to me, and this was only the first of many happy memories we share.

When things go wrong, he’s the one I turn to, and when there’s something to celebrate, he’s next to me, raising a glass with that unforgettable smile.

He captains our annual cider pressing, rules the grill at family dinners, fixes his sisters’ cars, can make a circuit board from scratch, and makes the best pies ever. He fought the wildfires in 2008 tirelessly and valiantly as the 100 foot high flames came within 2 miles of our houses. He is never happier than when doing a cliff rescue or camping in the wildest wilderness he can find. He is a Number One Groover on Life.

He is the best brother ever. I love you, Jonathan!

A YEAR AGO: The tale of the water heater.

TEN YEARS AGO: The joys of the September Issue.

Rob

It was nice to come home and find Rob there pottering around. This happens less often now that I reside 20 minutes away instead of two minutes away (or less, before Megan and Rob moved to the family estate).

He diagnosed a problem with the hose that had been puzzling me – not, as I had thought, that I bought the wrong size sprayer attachment, but rather, the acidic water at the old place had rotted out the interior threads that the attachment should fasten to. He cut off the rotten end and gave it to me to take to the hardware store. I will get a new one and let the expert install it.

Rob brought a rake so I could rake up the remainder of the bear-related mess:

I put the big stuff back in the garbage over the weekend, but little bits were loitering with intent in the fallen pine needles. I also found a trash annex next to the compost pit. Thanks, Mr. Bear! On the bright side, he has not made his presence known since I sprayed the trash cans with ammonia, nor have I had any bear sightings on the increasingly dark mornings when I scurry to the car.

He also took a look at the Closet of Doom, which is located under the stairs. It is a repository for pantry items, cleaning supplies, shoes, my current handbag, and the washer and dryer. It has a rather challenging shape, since it is under the stairs and one end slopes to the floor. At that end, I have things that I don’t need to use very often, like Christmas ornaments and my father’s letters, which I still cannot bring myself to read nearly two decades after his death, though they are also some of the most precious things I own.

In addition to the steep slope, the propane heater’s stove pipe goes directly through the closet to vent outside, cutting off the sloping side and making access to it even more difficult.

So Rob is going to design some kind of shelving solution which will avoid the pipe and hopefully make the space more usable than it is. I do miss the storage space at the old house. Hopefully Rob can come up with an ingenious Rob-type solution. I got money out of the bank to give him for supplies, and I think I can hear his creative brain whirring as I write.

A YEAR AGO: A culinary adventure.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Celebrating my brother’s 50th birthday. He has now been promoted to big brother. Megan is next in line for promotion.

TEN YEARS AGO: Megan was back at work after recovering from knee surgery, to the joy of her colleagues.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Calamity Suzy once again tests the limits of gravity.

Updates

So, I decided that Audrey’s outdoor privileges were revoked after the skirmish with Kiki, Danielle’s cat. Audrey and I did not see eye to eye on this. She expressed her displeasure with her unjustified imprisonment by clawing madly at the glass on various doors (thankfully, not on the wood of the doors) while squeaking with rage. A frantic Audrey is hard to ignore – well, Audrey in any mood is hard to ignore – but I steeled myself to it and thought that I had won the battle, if not the war.

Silly me. I should have known better. Audrey skulked stealthily under the couch unbeknownst to the Help, and scooted out the door as soon as she saw an opportunity.

Of course the opportunity was right before I was ready to go to bed and the sun was almost there.

My inner worrier kicked in automatically, like those enviable people who have generators that come on as soon as the power goes out. I reminded myself that Audrey is the undisputed winner of Survivor: Hooterville, but I didn’t love knowing that she was out there with the monsters and possibly a revenge-seeking Kiki.

Eventually I went to bed and read In Five Years while wondering what the hell was going on out there. I went to sleep with Clyde cuddled up next to me – he has been cuddlier than ever lately, for some reason – and hoping for the best.

I checked a couple of times during the night, and eventually found her sitting on the front porch, peeking in the door (which is basically a giant piece of glass). I opened the door and she walked in daintily, as if nothing had happened, and went upstairs to have a snack before vanishing somewhere in the house. She is very good at being unseen in the house, so perhaps these skills also stand her in good stead in the wild.

I still had a couple of hours to sleep before I had to get up in the dark and go to work. The dark circles under my eyes went with the general darkness motif of that morning.

As I drank my much-needed coffee out of my starry mug that morning, I noticed that Kiki was peeking through the glass door, to Dodge’s displeasure. He was wagging his tail and making quiet little bird sounds as he stared at her with his big blue eyes. I was glad that she wasn’t there a few hours earlier. I shooed her away, even though she is adorable and clearly needs petting and affection. But I can’t risk her hanging around my house in case of more Houdini-like escapades.

In happier animal news, Stella went to the vet to get her stitches out, and was pronounced cancer free. There is only a 2% chance that the cancer will recur, so that is something to celebrate!

A YEAR AGO: Helping to set up the annual library book sale.

FIVE YEARS AGO: Thinking about cars, past and present. I still miss my Mustang.

TEN YEARS AGO: A trip to town.

Improvement

You know I have had a long and tempestuous relationship with appliances, from coffee makers to microwaves. They can be temperamental, working sometimes and not others. They can give up on me completely, at the worst possible time. They can be unpredictable, working for other people, but not for me. I feel that I have gone through more appliances than should be necessary at this stage of my life, and I wonder if I am like those people whose magnetic fields mess up watches, whatever the appliance equivalent would be.

The microwave I brought from the old house did give me notice, sputtering to a halt from time and time and generally hinting that the day was not far off when it would break up with me completely. Despite my appliance-destroying track record, I remained optimistic that this would not happen, or at least that it wouldn’t happen soon.

As usual, I was wrong, and one day, it simply refused to work, sitting on the counter silently and stubbornly.

Fortunately for me, the house had come equipped with a much smaller microwave, which I had placed in the Closet of Doom under the stairs. In my uncharacteristic optimism, I thought I wouldn’t need it in the immediate future and placed it in the far reaches of the closet, out of reach. I made a path through the boxes and clambered ungracefully over the propane heater pipe that inconveniently bisects the closet, thankful that the heater wasn’t on.

I retrieved the microwave and brought it over to the kitchen, where it occurred to me that I could now rearrange things. The old microwave was too large to fit on the small counter to the left of the stove, but the smaller one did fit there. I relocated the coffee maker and its accoutrements to the right of the stove, under the cupboards, which gave me extra work space.

Here’s how it looked before:

And here’s how it looks now:

Here’s a close up of the ceramic pear on the counter. It is a set of measuring cups, and I use it quite often. Each measuring cup is a different color inside.

Next to it is a jam jar from Maine:

which is probably 50 years old and which is also a prized possession, reminding me of those long ago summers. Lately I have noticed that when I think about childhood, I think more about Maine, where I spent three or four months a year, than New York state, where I spent the rest of the year. I have been remembering those days a lot lately. Of course, I have always loved the past. It’s my favorite place.

FIVE YEARS AGO: A fun outing with the girls.

FIFTEEN YEARS AGO: Thinking about mortality.