Friday, May 28, 2010

Photo Friday

I like to think of myself as the alpha dog around here, Mark is definately the queen bee. The problem is Chandler is always testing me. He figures if I ever abdicate he'll be the big dog, and to that end, out of all the places he has to sit, Chandler picks my big fluffy chair. I'm pretty sure he thinks magical powers emanate from that chair, and whoever is sitting in it is the boss of the house. Little does he know, the only thing emanating from that chair are fumes from the gas I sneak out.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Video Thursday

 During the local evening news, they run this crazy commercial. It actually scared me at first, I thought it might be some kind of secret Al-Queda code. It is really hard to tell what the hell they are saying, but it's okay they're just selling mattresses. It still creeps me out though.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A Home Next to a Jiffy Lube is Just as Prestigious as Ocean Front. Thank You BP.

I've taken on quite a few projects around here lately. Today I am hanging a new office door to match the one I put up for the bathroom last week. While I'm doing that the television is on in the other room, tuned in to one of the cable news networks. All afternoon I've been hearing about how British Petroleum has destroyed the Gulf of Mexico, and why hasn't the President fixed it. I'm trying to take care of my little corner of the world, and all the while, world wide, corporate giants are working on destroying it. The facts are quite simple, ecologists have been warning about the dangers of drilling off shore for forty years. Now the worst has happened. Everyone is bitching that the president isn't doing enough. What would they have him do, swim down one mile below the ocean, and put his finger in the hole? We can scream all we want about stopping the oil gusher in the gulf, but unfortunately the only people who have any expertise in these things are the oil companies themselves. Oh, and one more thing, anybody who has ever uttered the words "Drill, baby, drill" needs to shut the hell up.

Sorry, I didn't mean to go off on that subject. What I really wanted to write about is Home Depot, and  corporate incompetence. After spending thousands of dollars at the Depot over the years, I have noticed a couple of things. If you have a project, it is a guarantee that Home Depot will not have all the parts and tools you need to finish it. Half of the unfinished projects around here are because of that, and once I stop working on a project it's very hard to get me motivated again. The second thing I noticed is that when you return a product to Home Depot, for any reason, like it's broken, or parts are missing, the folks working at Home Depot simply tape the package back together, and return the damn thing to the shelf. Which is why last week I purchased a door knob set that had no screws, and yesterday I purchased an electric planer, that when I opened it up to install the blades, I found saw dust. The damn thing had been used. Apparently some people are confused, and can't tell the difference between the tool rental desk and the sales shelves. Honestly, if I were going to buy a tool just to return it when I was done, I would buy top of the line, not the cheapest one, like I did.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Hero to Zero in One Second

The house is eerily quiet right now when in reality Mark should be storming around, squealing about what an asshole I am, and bitching that I never can do anything right. He would have a point there. My projects always seem to go a wee bit awry, no matter how hard I try to do them correctly. Today's project was the repair of the deck out back. When I replaced the thing a couple of summers ago, I neglected to replace the small apron that spanned the gap between the main deck and the concrete pool deck. Naturally that has now rotted out, and after stepping through the rotted boards on my way out to the laundry room, I realized I had better fix it before one of my tenants broke a leg and sued me. So, armed with my circular saw, a drill, and a Diet Coke, I tackled that project.

Just the fact that there was a circular saw involved meant that there could eventually be some drama, but this time it seemed that all would turn out well. I had measured every board, and executed each cut with amazing precision. As I laid out the new section of the deck, it became apparent that this was going to turn out to be one of the finest jobs I had ever done. Each board fit perfectly, right down to the last one. As I stood back and admired my work Mark came out and started gushing, "Wow! That's great, you really did a nice job this time, but I do hope you will fill in that one little gap at the end.".
Of course I would. I got down and measured out exactly what I needed, three inches by twenty seven.
"Come over here and help me cut this board Mark. I'll just lay it out on the bar here, and you hold it steady."
I slowly moved the saw across the piece of wood, saw dust flying, Mark flinching. Then I hit something that kind of slowed the saw down, so I stopped and backed it off. Here's a little lesson for all of you, don't ever use a glass top table or bar to cut something with a circular saw. What I had hit was the frame to the glass top. In slow motion, the whole top of the bar fractured into tiny fragments, hovered in mid air for about a nanosecond, and then fell to the ground. With one loud squeal, Mark turned and stomped off into the house. Mark loved that bar. He had picked it up for fifty dollars, marked down from three hundred, and when Mark gets a bargain like that it's the same as a hit of heroin to an addict. So like I said, it's much too quiet, and I am waiting for the storm to hit. I know he's sitting in the bedroom seething. There is just one thing though, I never did like that stupid bar. I didn't destroy it on purpose, but now that it is destroyed I am not sorry.

It's so damn quiet though.

Monday, May 24, 2010


I'm writing this on Friday night, and on any normal Friday night instead of sitting in front of the computer writing one of my stupid little stories, I would be at Sidelines bar sucking down vodka cocktails. But I am not there, I am at home doing Nyquil shots. It seems that late Wednesday evening some kind of deadly germ worked it's way into my head and turned it into a waterlogged sponge that is dripping, no gushing, liquid from every orifice. To my left, on the desk, is a pile of handkerchiefs that I have blown my brains into. As each hanky gets used up, my face seems to explode all the more, requiring an ever increasing need for the little cotton squares. Thank god Mark always gets me a dozen or so as a Christmas present each year.

As I sit here looking at the computer screen, made blurry from peering through my mucus and tears, I wonder what asshole gave me this cold? Looking back, I don't think it was the dogs I walk at Abandoned Pet Rescue. Dogs don't pass cold germs to humans, at least I hope not because I get down and dirty with those little fur balls, and more than once I got a face full of dog slobber. No, I think it happened last Sunday, a week ago, when I went to a memorial service for an old friend. I'm not sure which person it was who passed the germ on to me, but I do remember a certain sweaty, fat headed fellow, who grabbed me when he walked in, and gave me a big kiss hello. I hate kisses, and this one was of particular creepiness because his skin was clammy, and even though I tried to turn my head, and catch the kiss on my cheek, he managed to give me the big lip smack. Oh well, it isn't so bad. It seems that the Nyquil like product I've been slugging down is something like ten percent alcohol. The only problem is, it tastes like shit.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Photo Friday

The Nest

Photo by Mark. I didn't know he took it until I unloaded the camera last night.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

2 Bed, 2 Bath, Pets Okay, Free Laundry, and Lovely Swimming Pool... Cheap

I bought my house seventeen years ago from a drug dealer. Not a big time, Miami Vice kind of drug dealer, but a desperate, slovenly, trailer park trash, hooked on his own stuff, kind of dealer. When I had looked at the property the first time, it had been tidied up a bit, and the pool was a deep azure blue. On the day I took possession a couple of months later, the pool was half full and the color of Kermit the frog. The interior of the two main apartments were a warren of trash filled rooms that smelled worse than they looked. For some reason the third apartment was completely empty and in good shape. I found out later that was probably because they had just cleaned it up after it had flooded during the previous light rain.

After weeks of making my new apartment habitable, I turned to renting out the front apartment to somebody who would pay rent. On the day my friend Dennis was to take possession of that apartment, the rabble that was supposed to be moving out, was still piling trash bags of belongings into a beat up van even as Dennis' movers pulled up. They had waited until after midnight to start moving, and after they were gone I couldn't figure out how they knew what was valuable enough to take and what was just shit to leave behind. It all looked the same.

I'll never forget the look on Dennis' face as he walked in the front door of that place, nor the actual tears that he shed as the odor hit him. The apartment looked and smelled like one of those cat ladies homes that you always see on television. The ones that reporters like to refer to as 'A House of Filth', only these guys didn't own cats. They managed to stink up the place with their own filth. I consoled Dennis as I grabbed a shovel and a push broom. Together we started at the front door and worked our way out the back door, pushing and shoving all the piles of crap ahead of us. Finally, after a couple of hours, we had got down to the actual bare floors, and Dennis was ready to move in. Unfortunately, I now had a bunch of garbage piled six feet high in my side yard that eventually filled a dumpster to the top. Dennis ended up living in that apartment for thirteen years. It couldn't have been that bad.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

CVS 500

It was a simple request, "Mark, can you drive through the CVS so I can drop off my prescription?". With a heavy sigh, and a stab at the accelerator, we were flying off towards the drug store. I should have known better. all through dinner Mark had been trading texts with a couple of friends who were apparently waiting for him at a bar, and I was obviously another impediment between him and that first vodka. Into the CVS parking lot we sped, and around the back to the drive through, where he slammed on the brakes, rolled down the window, and reached for the tube thingy. "Out of order", read the sign on the machine. Mark flew into a rage, "Damn it, damn it! I have people waiting for me.", he squeaked. "Just back up......", and before I could get the rest of the sentence out, we were racing forward and rounding the corner of the building. Honking and cursing at various folks who were attempting to park, Mark made a complete circle around the store and pulled up to the other drive through window. He leaned out of the car and started pushing on the call button, "Where the hell are these people?". It had only been a microsecond since Mark had pulled up to the window, yet he had already reached his limit. Finally, after what was an unacceptable wait of about thirty seconds, the pharmacist came to the window.

Mark, while waving the scrip out the window, yells "Just dropping this off. In a hurry."
"Put your phone number, and date of birth on the back of it please." 
For some reason Mark has an immense collection of pens, both in his kitchen and in the car that haven't worked since Clinton was president. After digging through the mess in the door pocket, Mark came up with a handful of pens, with which he started scribbling. One after another they failed to work, all were dry as the Sahara.
"Can you just give me your date of birth?" the lady asked. So from the passenger seat, I shouted out my date of birth to her, as Mark shoved the scrip towards her.
I don't know if my prescription will be ready today. As Mark was speeding away, all I could see was the blur of the pharmacist's face as she was shouting back, "Sir, is that December 27th.........."

We learned a valuable lesson today, don't get between Mark and his cocktails, and always make sure he has taken his XANAX®.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Measure Twice, Cut Once

Measure twice, cut once. That is the cardinal rule of home projects. Kind of like Ohm's law in electronics, although don't touch a live wire also would be appropriate.

I don't know what it is with me and doors. No matter how hard I try, when I install a new door at my house, it always ends up looking like I was in a drunken stupor when I did it. When I was replacing my tenant's back door a few years ago, I had the thing up on saw horses, out in the dog run, and was going at it with a circular saw when a huge thunder storm broke out. Instead of stopping the saw, and going inside, I decided to rush through the job while lightning bolts exploded all around me. When I was done and the door was re-hung, there were gaps and deep gouges all up and down the edge. There was one good thing about it though, it made it easier for Dennis to pass me the rent check without actually opening the door. My back door is no better. I measured everything, and was sure I had it right, but still you can see sunlight all along the jamb. Chandler loves it, he sits and waits for lizards to squeeze in through the gaps.

To finish off my bathroom project, I decided to put a new bathroom door in. So it was off to the Home Depot where I picked up a nice door, and loaded it into the back of the PT Cruiser (this led to the door flying out of the car as we crossed the Fifteenth Avenue bridge, but that's a story for another day). I was so careful this time. After all my failures hanging doors, this time I would do it right. I set up a table in the back yard with clamps and a long piece of lumber that I used as a saw fence. Then I measured the door opening. Exactly twenty three and three quarter inches. That meant I had to take one quarter inch off the door. Remembering the cardinal rule, I measured again, and once more just to be sure. Apparently, I measured wrong three times. After slicing the appropriate bit off the edge of the door, I brought it back into the bathroom, where I screwed hinges on it, then I screwed the hinges to the door jamb, and then closed the door. From the other side I could hear Mark's squeaky voice,
"I can see you."
"I can see you, through that huge gap."
I looked to my left and saw two skinny fingers poking in between the door and the jamb, wiggling around where there should have been a nice tight fit.

Son of a bitch.........   Goddamned, son of a bitch!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Photo Friday

The Monkey Paw isn't just for scratching your back any more.

Introducing the Monkey Paw Plumbers Helper.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Alan's New Throne

Some people are enamored with 'Mid-Century' design and architecture. For those of you who have never heard of this nomenclature, Mid-Century refers to the ranch houses, and split level homes of the nineteen fifties, and sixties, and all the crap that your parents put in those homes. Having grown up with it, I find it hideous. I specifically remember a sofa set, referred to as a 'sectional', that my mom had. It was gray with a zigzag pattern, and when our fat neighbor from three doors down would visit, I would sit there fascinated as she slowly sank, almost to the floor, in it's mushy cushions.

Mid-Century is one of the reasons I hate Florida architecture. Fifty percent of Florida was built in the fifties and sixties, and my house was built smack dab in the middle of that era. It features all the 'modern' amenities that everyone clamored for back then, including a pink and gray bathroom. The bathroom is such a sickly Pepto-Bismol pink, I often sit on the can with the lights dimmed so I don't have to see it. Sure it's hard to read magazines in that light, but it does give it more of a romantic feel. One thing I did to try and help the situation was upgrade the sink to a seventies era vanity about eighteen years ago, but that only added to the ugliness of the room. So this past week I ripped out the old ceramic floor tile, the toilet, and that ugly vanity, and replaced it with some nifty new stuff from Home Depot. Stuff that people will laugh at in fifty years.

One thing that will make you feel old, and feeble, are do it yourself, home projects. Back when I was in my twenties I used to tear out walls and rebuild whole rooms. Re-doing a floor was no problem, and lugging heavy construction products up into the house was a cinch. This past week I found out what my new limits are as I coast into my sixties. Tearing up the tile floor? No problem since I laid it down seventeen years ago with the wrong kind of glue. Ripping out the toilet was easy, probably because I broke the 'flange' when I yanked on the thing. Getting the vanity out of the house was a little harder, that is until I hit the door sash in the kitchen and the whole thing fell apart. Then I was able to toss it out the back door in little pieces.

It was when I started rebuilding the bathroom that my age showed. After laying the tile I found that my arm was like a noodle from smearing the thinset across the floor, and then laying each section of tile. Smear, lay, smear, lay, and on, and on into the evening. I was sweating like a pig, and in the end I couldn't even get up without rolling over to a door knob to help pull myself up. After the tile, I had to repair the toilet flange, and install the toilet (no leaks, hooray!). Then this morning I installed the vanity and sink (leaked all over the place). I swear I had to get up and down under that sink fifty times before I figured out where the hell the leaks were coming from. My legs were cramping, and each time I tried to stand up I wanted to call in a crane to help hoist my fat ass off the floor. My new bathroom is real nice now, and I have banned Mark from going in there to 'decorate' it. I didn't spend three days crawling around on the floor, and wrestling a fifty year old toilet off it's crud encrusted flange, so that Mark can clutter the place up with fragrant soaps, and stupid towels I can't touch.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


Warning: If my poop stories bother you, go no further.

I'm not the most diligent person when it comes to picking up dog poop. When I had Molly, I almost never picked it up, but now with Chandler I have almost been reformed. If he poops on a neighbors lawn I definitely clean up after him, but if he goes down by the church, I have rules. The church rules are these, in the daylight if he does it anywhere but up under the bushes, I clean it up. If he drops his load after dark however, and he is up close to the fence or even near the bushes, I leave it. Otherwise, I'm there with the rest of my neighbors walking proudly up the street with a nice, neat, bag of dog shit.

For the last two years I have been walking dogs at Abandoned Pet Rescue, two days a week. Our route for walking the dogs is a two block stretch of weeds and rocks, along the FEC railroad tracks. In addition to the weeds and rocks, there is usually a good smattering of medical waste, discarded liquor bottles, used condoms, and various chunks of household goods ranging from furniture to luggage. So you can understand why when one of our dogs stops to drop a load, we don't really feel it necessary to bend over, and pick it up. Obviously nobody cares about this strip of land. At least that's what we all thought. Last week the city of Fort Lauderdale sent a policeman to the shelter to advise them that we must pick up all the dog poop along that stretch of land. If we are caught letting a dog crap and don't clean it up, it will cost the shelter $500 for each dog. It seems the budget crisis has got so bad in Fort Lauderdale that they are scouring the law books looking for new revenue streams, and somebody saw dollar signs in dog shit.

My first impulse was to defy the order. That is my first impulse whenever cops are involved. I hate being pushed around by steroid bloated bullies. Of course, after I thought about it for a while, I realized that I couldn't put the shelter in jeopardy of getting a fine, so I grabbed a handful of bags and joined the crowd. I'm sure it will all work out just fine, and I'll get used to the job of picking up warm, steaming turds. I just wish the shelter would feed the dogs something that will firm them up a little.

Monday, May 10, 2010

That's Okay Mark, It's Not Poisonous.

I think our iguana problem has abated for at least this year, if not for a few years. The extremely cold winter weather we had seems to have killed over ninety percent of the little green bastards, and so far here in the heat of summer (yes it's summer here already, no matter what the calendar says) I haven't seen evidence of a single iguana. That might be why Mark's tomato garden is producing fruit faster than we can eat them. No iguanas to destroy them. On the rat front though, it's a different story. late every night, in the silence, I can hear their little feet scampering around in the attic. I would put more poison up there, but I just don't want to go through that stench of dead rodent again. At least not for a while.

Just when I thought I was totally up to speed on all the pests and beasts that Florida has to offer, I came across the following headline on the Sun-Sentinel web site. "Boynton Beach woman finds deadly coral snake in swimming pool!" That is scary shit. I have a pool, I find things in it all the time. But wait, is this just some kind of weird pet that some tattooed butt-hole has let get loose from the herpetarium he keeps in his mobile home? So I read a little further, “The bite of a full grown coral snake can kill an elephant.” Whoa, that sounds pretty serious, but it still didn’t answer my question. Do I have anything to worry about? Upon further reading I had my answer, “Coral snakes are native to Florida......   Son of a bitch! I have lived here twenty one years, and I never knew I had to keep an eye out for snakes with red, black, and yellow bands. I spend quite a bit of time out in that yard, digging around in the weeds that I call ground cover. I always hear things skittering away in the under growth, and never think much of it. Must be lizards is what I figure. There is only one answer to this development. Encourage Mark to do more of the gardening, and I’ll pick up the slack in the kitchen. Even if Mark doesn’t get bitten, at least with me cooking I know that I will lose weight. I can’t cook for shit. Instead of snake bite, we’ll starve to death.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Photo Friday

Happy Mothers Day

Little Alan getting some potty training. It didn't take too well.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Video Thursday

Ace was abused by his previous owner because she wanted a mean watch dog. She succeeded in making him mean. He won't let any stranger near his cage, and if you stray too close he will give you crazy eyes and try to attack you. More than once he has come at me teeth bared. It was only by backing off quickly that I didn't get bit. He has lived at the Abandoned Pet Rescue shelter for years now, being 'damaged' goods nobody will adopt him. Finally after a year and a half of working with him, Ace will let me in his cage. He even wags his tail when he sees me.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Street Food

I was walking Ace, the fearsome watchdog at Abandoned Pet Rescue, and he got me thinking of all the street food I've eaten over the years. I've always been a fan of food obtained from a rickety cart or shack that's been slapped together and plopped down in a vacant lot. There was a hot dog vendor who sat on a corner, on the north side of Chicago, that I always could count on for a quick snack. And when I drove a taxi cab thirty years ago, one of my favorite late night meals was a pork chop sandwich that I would get from a shack on Maxwell Street. The neighborhood was a little scary at that hour, but I think the smell of fear added to the flavor. Those sandwiches were quite delicious, all smothered in fried onions, the only drawback was that the pork chop still had the bone in it. That made eating them a little tricky, but worth the extra work. And of course if you are ever in New York, you must have a Sabrett from a cart. Never mind that it's been sitting in that dirty water for an indeterminate length of time, they taste great, and you can deal with the consequences later with a little Pepto.

How did Ace get me on the subject of street food? While walking him down the swath of grass alongside the railroad tracks, Ace grabbed something off the ground and started munching madly. It must have been something good because he continued chewing all the way back to his cage at the shelter. I know, I should have taken it away from him. The only trouble with that, is Ace would have ripped my hand off the end of my arm and eaten that too.

Why do dogs have such low standards for what they will eat off of the street? They will grab a rotting squirrel corpse and devour it as if it was a delicacy, yet the dog food in their bowl will sit for hours as if we were forcing them to eat prison gruel. This all gives me an idea for a commercial dog food. Imagine going to the super market and picking up a twenty pound bag of 'dog food' consisting of rotting rodent bodies, squished lizards, and tasty nuggets of dried cat poop. Your dog will love you.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Frequent Power Loss

I was sitting at the computer Sunday afternoon, looking up some interesting facts about things (naked people?), and on the cd player was my newest purchase, 'Girl Group Greats' cranked up to party volume. Just as 'He's So Fine' by the Chiffons started, and a photo of Elliot Tittensor popped up on my screen, the house went dark and silent. FPL had struck again. How in the hell can a power company that charges one of the highest rates in the country, constantly allow my house to go dead, and why on the hottest day of the year.

After making the call to the power company, and bitching out a totally unconcerned man at the help desk, I learned that we would be without electricity for at least two hours. So to kill time I took Chandler out for an early walkies, where I found that most of my dog owning neighbors had the same idea, and were roaming the streets. While I and my neighbors were all standing around whining about no air-conditioning, the dogs were having a great time. When we had beaten the subject of FPL being the worst power company in the USA, to death, I decided it was time to take Chandler back home and wait it out. Unfortunately, while we had been outside, the inside had been heating up to a totally unacceptable eighty five degrees, with an equally high humidity. As the puddles of sweat under my man-boobs started to spread out across my shirt I realized there was only one answer to this. Sunday afternoon in a bar. It actually turned out great. Sidelines bar has a Sunday special, five bottles of beer in a bucket for fifteen dollars. They also have twenty large flat screen televisions showing every baseball game being played. The best part was that they had the air-conditioning blasting, and those man-boob sweat marks evaporated in no time. Of course by the third beer I really didn't care about that.

Monday, May 3, 2010

I'm Telling Mom!

I was watching a bit of that dog and pony show last week where a bunch of senators with bloated egos were 'grilling' the big shots of Goldman Sachs. It kind of reminded me of a mother bawling out her recalcitrant children that she had spoiled since birth, and then when she was done, telling them that she would give them some ice cream if they behaved. Later as the Goldman Sachs guys were leaving the hearing, trailing a coating of slime on the floor behind them, I thought of my mother. She would have never let them get away with the vague, partial answers that they gave. My mom would have had their smug little asses spilling the beans, and admitting that they'd screwed everyone, including their grandmothers.

My mom was a master at getting the truth out of her children. Having to deal with eleven of us all pointing at each other and blaming everyone but ourselves for transgressions, my mom had worked out a few tricks. Sure, she had the eternal threat of "Wait until your dad gets home!". If that didn't scare the truth out of us, at least it got us out of her hair for a while as we all scattered to our hiding places, where we cowered in fear, dreading the sound of Big Al's station wagon pulling into the driveway. That threat served my mom well over the years, but she had another little trick that used to drive me crazy, mostly because it worked on me every time. Here is how it would go. I would have done some kind of misdeed that was high on the list of things that mom and dad considered evil and hell bound. In the course of conversation with one of my siblings, little, tiny bits of information about the said misdeed, would be dropped. Mother, who had the hearing of a bat, would pick up on these little nuggets of information, and after a while would interject into the conversation as if she knew all about what I was talking about. At that point I'd think to myself, "Gee, I guess it's alright if mom is talking about it." I would then proceed to spill my guts, and fill in the rest of the picture for mom. No matter how many times this happened to me, I was always surprised to see my mom's face turn from friendly confidant to grand inquisitor.  "You did what ? You just wait until your dad gets home mister." Damn, she was good.