Thursday, July 31, 2008


My body is sore all over. Yesterday was the first time in two years that I have gone to the health club, and today I am paying the price. As bad as I feel, I still went to the shelter and walked ten dogs this morning, which has only made things worse.

Some of the dogs are sweet, and love to go walkies without trying to tear my arm off. Others are so crazed at the prospect of getting the hell out of their pens, that they go bonkers, jumping six feet up in the air while I try to put the leash on them. I don't know what it is, but you can take a dog that sleeps twenty three hours a day, put it on a leash, and suddenly it becomes super-dog, capable of ripping your arm out of the socket in a single bound.

It was while I was with one disturbingly strong dog who was dragging me across the dog walking area, that I suddenly had a flashback to my grandfather. For some reason when my grandfather and grandmother were around eighty years old, they decided to get a dog. Not a cute little toy something or other, but a puppy that would grow up into one of the dumbest, largest, Irish Setters you have ever seen. Even at eighty years old, my grandfather was a strong man, yet he was over matched by this dog. Every day for years you would see him being dragged through the vacant lot next to the school, by the huge, goofy, red dog. Her name was Kelly, and I swear she had a brain no bigger than a gerbils.

I hope, over time, my workouts at the health club make me more of a match for the more rambunctious dogs, because if I lose control of a dog, and it pulls me to the ground, I am in trouble. That's because the place we walk the dogs is covered with large rocks and even larger piles of dog poop.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

It's Kind of Cool

Today, my tenant called to tell me that the refrigerator in the studio apartment quit working, much like the guy I hired to rebuild the shower. Curiously enough, the brand name of the refrigerator was 'Welbilt'. I have no idea where it was built or how well, but I did buy it right after the fall of the Soviet Empire, and it might have been an early try by a spin-off S.S.R. to crack the American market. What I do know, is that it was cheap when I bought it. I really can't complain, it has been working since I bought this place. That is just about as many years as my mom had her Philco refrigerator, with the postage stamp freezer when I was a kid.

Mark as usual, considers this to be another excuse to shop, and he was almost gleeful at the prospect of going to Lowes to pick out the new refrigerator. I immediately 'shop blocked' him. We went to Lowes alright, but I zoomed out ahead of Mark directly to the appliance department. By the time Mark got back there, I already had the sales guy getting my choice down from the shelves.

My tenant hasn't come home from work yet, but I already have his new refrigerator installed and working. I hope he doesn't mind that it is a little smaller than the old one. It makes ice really nice, much better than the old one, and it uses less electricity. Most of all it was on sale, and cheap. Maybe he'll like it better if I leave a bottle of vodka in it for him. A cheap bottle of vodka, of course.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

You Say It's Your Birthday

Birthdays to me, are just a horrible reminder of how fast time is flying by. When it comes to my birthday, all I really want is a card from my mother acknowledging that, yes she did give birth to me. I really don't care if no other person on earth remembers the day I was introduced to this world. Truthfully, a quick look in the mirror is all I need to keep me up to date on my aging process.

This past weekend, I got another reminder of the passage of time, when my baby sister turned forty years old. It is hard to ignore that the cute little teeny bopper that lived with my parents, long after my departure, is suddenly 'Middle Aged'.

On the same day as my sister, was my friend Russell's birthday. Now for Russell, we had a little dinner and wine with friends, nothing over the top. Unlike my sisters who always like to celebrate certain milestones, like your fortieth, fiftieth, and sixtieth birthdays by doing something embarrassing to you. Instead we had a nice meal, prepared by Mark, with nothing embarrassing happening to the birthday boy. Meanwhile up at my sisters house, a bunch of cardboard birds with a sign announcing that my sister was really old, had popped up on her front lawn.

I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm the fact that I have never partaken in any stunt such as, birds on the lawn, billboards, Today Show stunts, or any other embarrassing displays, that would point out just how very old my brothers and sisters are. I do this for one reason only, and that is to protect myself from being revenge targeted on my upcoming fiftieth birthday a few years from now. All I ask is, if any of my siblings are really insistent on such a dumb display, please get my address correct so as not to embarrass the wrong person. Remember that I live at 2601 W. Broward Blvd. Ft. Lauderdale, FL 33312.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Busy Bodies

Sometimes the things I write about my childhood make it seem like my mother let us run wild without supervision. That would be a mistake. In reality there was a very simple yet effective monitoring system in place, that we as children weren't always aware of.

It was called the busy body network, and consisted of all the housewives in our little subdivision. The way it worked was this. As a wayward child wandered down the street, with mischief on his mind, or some idea of hanging out with the wrong kids, a slight movement of curtains in nearby houses might be noticed. This was not caused by a breeze or inadvertent movement within the house. This was the busy body network in action. This was the ladies of the neighborhood taking a peek at who we were with, what we were doing, and if necessary reporting that information back to the appropriate mother.

It was when I was about twelve or thirteen years old, when I finally realized what was happening, but by that time I had already been caught doing many bad things. Before I figured out that I was being watched by all my moms friends up and down the street, I assumed that she had some kind of super mind reading powers. I was scared to death that she might unleash those powers at the wrong time and besides burning in hell for what I was thinking, my mom would know and help me get there faster.

During the past month or so, I have been suffering from busy body withdrawal. In this case I am the busy body, and all my neighbors are the informants. You see, when I used to walk Molly around the block every day, I garnered as much information from the other busy bodies as I could on what was happening in the area. By not doing the daily walk I have missed out on a very important bit of info that directly affects me. My next door neighbors are getting divorced. I knew something was up as early as last year when he suddenly started to lose weight and get in shape. Then about two months ago he changed his hair color, a sure sign of middle aged crisis. I can only hope that whoever gets the house in the settlement, decides to sell it to some nice, quiet folks with excellent taste, and no kids. Somebody who minds their own business.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Large Studio Apartment For Rent

Available Immediately, landlord pays electric, free laundry, free WiFi internet. This apartment is FURNISHED, including queen sized bed. Swimming pool and deck in large tropical yard. Walk to Wilton Drive, Alibi, Rosies, New Moon, Publix, CVS. $700 per month plus $700 security. Pet dog or cat welcomed. Call Alan, 954-XXX-XXXX between 9AM and 6PM

Above is the exact text of my ad on the internet. It is clear and concise, and I think it contains all the information one would need to know. So how come some idiot just called me at 8:15 PM? How come so many people show up to look at it and say, "Gee, it's furnished?". How come some people ask if a dog is okay?

Either there are a lot of illiterate people out there with access to computers or maybe there are just a lot of stupid people period. Yesterday I had a young man come to look at the apartment, and when he filled out the rental application, I told him to make sure he gives his full name including the middle initial. I explained that some times when I do a background check more than one person with the same name show up as criminals, and I wouldn't want to confuse him with some criminal. I kind of figured, when he and his girl friend shot each other a look, something was up. Sure enough, there was no confusing him with some criminal. He was the criminal. Three felonies, and a long, long list of traffic infractions.

Then there are the people who call and set up an appointment to see the place. Seventy five percent of those never show up. It is, of course, worth it to be particular when renting to a prospective tenant. More than once I have allowed my soft side to come through and rented to a friend, or friend of a friend, and every time I have been screwed. That is, except for my old friend Dennis. Dennis was an ideal tenant. He paid his rent, he was clean, he almost never complained, he baby sat my animals, and he was quiet.

Hey Dennis! The studio apartment is open. Want to move back to Florida?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Return of the Gummi Monster

'A Christmas Story', the movie, always reminds me of when I was growing up with my older brother. Especially the part where Ralphie keeps checking the mail every day for his Ovaltine Orphan Annie decoder. When we were kids, my brother saved up box tops from General Mills cereal products, for a pedometer that you wore on your belt so you would know how far you walked. For weeks after he sent in his box tops and fifty cents, he would run to the mail box hoping that the pedometer would be there. Unfortunately it never arrived, and from that point on every time we saw an ad on the television for Betty Crocker, who we believed ran General Mills, we would yell out "You mean Betty Crooker!".

I love getting surprises in the mail. Not bad surprises but good ones, like when my mom sends me clippings from the local papers, or when my sister in-law sent Molly a gift package. It seems like a mini Christmas when I check the mail and there is something besides magazines and bills in there.

That's why it was fun to go out to the mail box today and find a little package from my niece Laura. After opening the bills and throwing away the junk mail, I sat down and opened the package. What the hell is this strange blob she sent me, I wondered? It wasn't until I turned on a bright light that I realized she had sent me a box of Gummi Bears. You see, she hadn't allowed for the extreme heat of Florida in the summer, and all the little bears had melted into one big glob of multi-flavored goo. Of course that didn't stop me, within a few minutes I had eaten my way through half of it. I'll tell you one thing, mother was right about eating too much candy. It really does give you a belly ache.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Lessons Learned

I know that as you grow older you are supposed to learn from your mistakes, and I most definitely have learned from most of mine. Sometimes though, it is hard to apply those lessons. Take for example the lesson I have learned, to say 'no' to Mark when we are shopping. In theory it should work, but until you have been in a store with Mark and had your ears assaulted by his high pitched whine, you cannot really fault me for giving in on occasion.

So what is the lesson you should learn from dealing with South Florida contractors, tradesmen, and handymen. Don't trust anybody, ever? Trust only those that you know and have used before? I don't know, I just try to trust my instincts and hope for the best.

Two weeks ago, I hired a man to come and rebuild the shower in the studio apartment so that I could rent it out again. The guy I hired had done work for us before, so I thought I could trust him. When he started the job he seemed to know exactly what he was doing and everything was hunky dory. He had originally said it would take three days, but because of the mold behind the wall it was to be extended another day. That was fine. Fine that is until day five, and day six, and day seven, etc., until on day ten he apparently got tired of coming here and suddenly announced that he was finished and handed me the final bill.

When Mark and I went into the little apartment to inspect the work, we both had the same reaction. Mark turned to him and said, "If we had wanted the job to look like this, Alan would have done it.". It was awful. There were gaps in the trim, the tile was crooked, and the apartment was left in filth. The worst part was, when Mark and I started to point out the problems, he got belligerent and began screaming at Mark.

I decided that I didn't want a confrontation, so I wrote out the check for what he wanted, and bid him goodbye. After he left, I sat and stewed for a while, then I went into my office, signed on to my bank, and put a stop on the check. I guess the lesson is, never pay in cash.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sales Monkey

My brother was always good at making money when he was a kid. In one of his schemes he would rent out his fleet of pedal cars that he had salvaged from the trash, for a penny a ride. For that penny, the kids in the neighborhood could go in a circle around our yard. It doesn't seem like much, but back then you could buy a sack of candy at Rudy's candy store for five cents.

One of the interesting things growing up was the stuff my dad would bring home from work. He worked at a trucking company and every time there was a wreck my dad would help himself to the damaged products that had been in the semi-trailer. Sometimes it was furniture, sometimes candy. One of the more memorable things were cases of decals he brought home from one of the wrecks. My brother, seeing the decals of cute animals, flowers, and glow in the dark stars and moons, hit upon the idea of selling them to the neighbors. The problem was, how to convince the neighbors that they needed to buy these things from this kid. His answer was to enlist his younger sister to do the sales spiel. Who couldn't resist this cute little curly haired girl, and her sad story about how her parents couldn't pay the bills so they sent her out to sell decals.

It worked like this. After my sister knocked on the door and the person would answer, she would tell the sad story of my family's poverty. My brother would then show the prospective customer the product, and collect money from the sympathetic neighbor. After a full day of sales, they would then retire to the local lunch counter at Cavett's Drug Store, for their well earned business lunch.

I am not sure how long this went on, probably no more than a day. It was when one of our neighbors called my mom to tell her about her children and the story they were telling of our poverty that it stopped. I'm sure my mom was horrified when she realized that her children were telling such a story to all of her friends and neighbors, but let's face it, what would childhood be if you couldn't horrify your mother at least a few times.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


My mom, Lila, sitting on the right, and her cousin, Marion, on the left.
My mom lost her cousin, Tuesday. They were very close and good friends.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Bulk Day

Yesterday, in a relentless downpour, I tried to trim away the overgrown banana trees in my yard. besides giving a home to rats, the huge banana leaves fan out directly in front of my satellite dish, interrupting my television viewing, so you can see why it was so important to get the things cut down. The reason I did it on the rainiest day of the year, is because today is bulk day and if I missed it, the cut down trees would rot in the sun for the next thirty days and attract more critters.

When we were kids, every garbage day was bulk day. It didn't matter what you put out, the garbage men would take it, that is if my brother, sister, and I didn't get to it first. I'm sure it made my mom cringe every time we came trudging up the driveway with another cool garbage find, always fearing the neighbors would call, "Hello, Lila, is everything okay? I just saw your kids rummaging through the garbage, again.".

We were always bringing home broken toys and other crap that somebody had no use for, but once in a while we did get lucky. One time we found a working mechanical Santa Clause, which after a good cleaning, took a special place every year under our Christmas tree. The best finds were the pedal cars. My brother would find old, broken, pedal cars that people had put out for the garbage, and bring them home. After a repair job and a nice paint job they were like new. At one point we had a fleet of at least five pedal cars, that today, would be considered extremely collectable.

These days, I see grown people in vans and trucks, drive around the neighborhood on the evening before bulk day, picking through the garbage. I know they don't get anything worth much from my garbage, because Mark has it all in the house creating clutter. But if they really want to, they can dig through my garbage. About the only thing they are going to find are bags of cat poop that I scooped out of the litter boxes and of course my pile of chopped down banana trees.