It's kind of embarrassing. Not just because I'm such a dolt that I lock myself out of the house all the time, but because I also know how to break back in within one minute.
Mark had gone off to New York, and my tenant who has a copy of my house key was off to work. I had shut the door. Locked it securely behind me so no bad men could break in and steal all our great stuff. I knew that I didn't have the key even as the latch made that solid clack of a securely locked door. I have done this so many times that I didn't even break a sweat. I immediately went over to the door that leads to our bedroom. After a bit of twisting at the little window frame on that door, I was able to slide the glass panel out, and reach in through the screen. With a quick twist of the wrist, while the two dogs barked crazily at me, I had unlocked the door and was in.
I know that I can't really secure my house against somebody who is determined to break in, so I don't try that hard. What I depend on is for the dogs to deter would be burglars. So this was kind of a test. Would the dogs notice somebody breaking into the house? They did, Chandler barked loudly, like some kind of insane hound, while Sasha yapped, and yapped. The only problem I can see is that once somebody got in, Chandler would probably stop barking, and bring them a squeaky toy to play with. It's Sasha who would continue yapping, tolerating no intruders.
I used to keep a spare key under a rock in the back yard, but I decided that was too easy. Besides, I kind of like the challenge of breaking in.
Around the fourth grade I started wondering about what the nuns were telling me about god and religion. What set it off might have been when I questioned the nun about a timeline in a story, and she came up with some cockamamie explanation about people living hundreds of years in biblical times. It doesn't matter. I now have my beliefs, and everyone else has theirs. If somebody wants to believe in an afterlife, or reincarnation, that's fine. If it makes them feel better, good for them. What I don't like is when people need to get me in on it all, just so that what they believe in is validated.
I have known Nonny from across the street, for almost twenty years. We stop and chat often, gossiping and trading news about who did what on our street. I know that she's Catholic, so I have a bit of a soft spot for her. My mom is Catholic, and about the same age, that's why I feel that way. I myself, don't believe in religion, god, or an afterlife, but I never tell people that. I don't need their approval. Easter Sunday I saw Nonny all dressed up, and getting into her car. "Off to Easter Mass?", I called over to her. Nonny stopped, and we proceeded to have one of our little chats. All very nice and friendly. Then as we said goodbye, and Nonny was climbing into her car, she called out to me, "I'm praying for you Alan!". Why would Nonny think she would have to pray for me? What about me is so awful that she needs to beg god to intercede? It was kind of an insult.
Look, if Nonny, or anybody else thinks that they would like to help me by praying to god, I say fine, but I don't think I need to know about it. Just saying you'll pray for me, implies that you think I have a flaw, that there is something wrong with me. I think it's kind of rude, and it bothered me all day. So later while we were all sitting around at the bar and drinking, I lifted my vodka up, and said, "Here's to Nonny.". Now do you think it will make her feel any better if I tell her later, that we drank vodka on Easter Sunday in her honor?
Apparently I don't have a very strong sense of smell, because until Mark walked into my office and remarked that, "This place smells like cat piss.", I hadn't noticed. I assumed that it was just a little musty from the old rug, and sofa in there. I was wrong. After a few deep breaths, and a walk around the room, it was obvious that fat kitty had peed in my office. The problem was where? I opened the closet, and sniffed around in there. Very cluttered and filled with old dusty smells, but no musk of feline. I then crawled around on the floor, smelling under my desk, and all around. Still, I couldn't pinpoint the source of the odor. Finally, after pulling the couch away from the wall, and sticking my head down into the corner of the room, I found it. A strong, pungent whiff of cat piss rose up to my nostrils, and when I shined the flashlight back there, I saw the unmistakable sheen of a dried pee puddle.
Immediately I started stripping the room down. Out went the rug, and as much furniture as I could remove. I then scrubbed down the floor. Not once, but twice, with two different types of disinfectant, and two different mops. By the time I was done that room smelled better than a bed of roses, and more sterile than a fresh hospital room.
Fat Kitty hated it. It seems that cats like stink. Maybe the smell of her pee delineates the area, telling the dogs to beware. Whatever, Fat Kitty refused to go back in there, and hid somewhere for the next two days. No amount of shaking the Pounce® can of kitty crack could lure her out. I don't really have a problem with Fat Kitty hiding, and not eating for a few days. I know she'll get over it, she's a cat. My only fear is that I haven't seen her near her stinky old litter box all day, and I might have to do a more expanded search next time.
A little over a week ago, when Mark's sister called and told us that his aunt had died, I was of course sympathetic. When Mark told me that he was going to the funeral up in New York City, I was quietly giddy with anticipation. You see I look at these little times Mark is away from the house as mini-vacations from Mark, or as I call them Markations. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy, but sometimes being together day in and day out, listening to that squeaky voice opine on everything from politics to Bravo television shows, can wear on the psyche. So as I helped him prepare for the trip, I was already planning my weekend. First the yard sale. I did drag a bunch of stuff out there to sell, that if Mark had been here he'd have vetoed it. Unused kitchen crap, and various other things that have been cluttering up the place. But that wasn't the real thing I was looking forward to last weekend. I was looking forward to uninterrupted naps. Since the day Mark moved into this house, I have not been able to take a nap without being awakened by Mark. So I had my nap time all planned out, which is to say, any time I wanted to, I was going to take a nap. Wrong! Because of the invention of the goddamned cell phone, Mark was able to nag me from afar. At least six times Thursday, as many on Friday, and again, and again all weekend Mark called. I never did get a completely uninterrupted nap.
Mark just called again while I was writing this. He was bitching about having to check his bag, and whining because he left the cameras in that bag. He is scheduled to come in at midnight, and I have arranged to get him picked up from the airport. I also scheduled a nap during the time I knew his plane was in the air. I know I'll need that rest because if he finds out the cameras were stolen from his checked bag, all hell is going to break loose, and nobody is getting any sleep. Not me, not the baggage handlers, and not the baggage claim people. The only people getting some serious nap time in, will be the air traffic controllers.
I knew when I saw her swaying back and forth, wearing what looked like a Stevie Nicks hand me down, that she would be a problem. I was in a hurry to get some cash, and the easiest ATM for that was at the super market. The only problem is that sometimes you have to wait in line to access it. This time I had to wait for 'Stevie Nicks' to figure out just how these modern contraptions work. I stood behind her, watching her ample ass move side to side, and I figured that she was waiting for the cash to come flipping out of the machine, but no cash was dispensed. Instead, after what seemed like minutes, she suddenly stuck her card in the thing, and then proceeded to poke at the buttons. Beep, beep, beep........ beep.... beep, beep. More swaying, more staring at the machine. Finally, after another minute, she turned and sashayed away. The asshole never got any cash. I seriously think she was just screwing with me.
Years ago we had to go to the bank to get cash. You'd stand in a long snaking line, slowly inching along until you were next. When it was finally your turn, you would walk up to the teller with a withdrawal slip, and she would give you cash. If you didn't have enough money in your account, you didn't get any cash. The whole process took at least fifteen minutes, longer if you got caught behind the guy depositing piles of coins he had saved up all year. I suppose I shouldn't get all pissed off at people who don't know how to use an ATM in under one minute. It's still better than the old way.
I still do go to the bank and stand in line once in a while. Not to get any money out of my account. No, I go there with my bucket of coins for deposit. Best part about it, nobody in front of me in line anymore, and nobody behind me making faces. They're all out at the ATM.
So, Saturday the kids and I had our yard sale. One thing I hadn't counted on was the sheer drudgery of it all. Schlepping all that crap from the house and shed out to the front yard, seemed to take forever. Even as I was dragging it all out there, people were already showing up, pawing through the stuff, and leaving. In fact, in the first fifteen minutes five people came by, and left without buying a thing. On top of that, three cars slowly crept by while the passengers gave my sale the old squirrely eye, and then they sped off. It was quite a slap in the face for me. All this crap that Mark, and I had so highly prized, was deemed junk not worth buying by these strangers. I still had hope. It was only fifteen minutes into the yard sale, and I was sure the crowd with money, ready to buy, would be along soon.
There is a funny thing about tropical downpours. You can be standing outside on a sunny morning, and suddenly you will hear a clatter quickly building in the near distance. It's the sound of rain marching steadily towards you. Rain, deep buckets of it with drops the size of quarters, coming on so fast that you barely have time to grab yourself and get to shelter. I managed to grab the DVD player I was peddling, and get up to the porch before everything in the front yard was drenched. Thirty minutes later it stopped, but the damage was done. Wet clothes, wet Bozo, wet everything. On top of that, the rain seemed to put an abrupt end to the yard sale people. Not one person came by after the rain. I guess that would make sense. Who the hell would want to buy soggy crap that was barely worth buying when it was dry. So I called it a day, and dragged all that shit back up to the house, cluttering up the sun room with piles of wet junk.
So the kids and I were done. Kids you say? Yes kids, as in children. The day before the sale I had invited the little darlings from next door to drag their toys over to my house for a combined yard sale. A little boy, and a little girl, in the eight-ish age range. All I can say about that is god bless mothers, fathers, teachers, and any one else who deals with kids on a daily basis. After two hours with them my brain was hurting. I found that children ask a lot of questions. I was asked about everything, about my tenants and why didn't they ever go outside, and how deep is my swimming pool, and are there snakes in the yard. I also became engaged in conversations about hunting with toy guns, and whether I liked Barbie or Ken. For the record, I don't like either. Barbie because she represents an unattainable perfection, and Ken because all he has is that little hump where his manhood should be. But of course, I didn't tell the kids that.
I was walking Chandler with a few of the neighbors the other day, and the little kid from next door asked me why I walked so slowly.
"I have a bad pain in my knee.", I told him,
"That's what happens when you get old."
"Really?", the kid said, "You don't look that old."
I could have kissed that child. Except he is only about eight years old, and I don't want to go to jail, and he wears glasses, so maybe he isn't seeing me so well.
A few years ago I returned to bowling after being embarrassed out of the league by Mark. I like bowling, and I'm glad to be back, but the longer I bowl the more apparent it is that I'm getting older. In the mid nineteen nineties my bowling average hovered around 180. When I returned to bowling about four years ago, I couldn't get my average above 150. This season my average has been scraping the low 130's. First it was my eyes that went bad, couldn't see the lane very well. Then my elbow developed tendonitis, couldn't hit my mark anymore. Now it seems I've developed torn cartilage, and arthritis in my knee. That causes me to toss the ball down the lane instead of rolling it.
I don't know why I keep bowling, other than it gives me an excuse to drink a few vodkas, and gets me a night out without Mark. Which leads to the reason I was embarrassed out of it the first time. It involved Mark running all the way down from our lane, twenty lanes over to where the league secretary was, and screaming at the top of his voice that the secretary was a cheat, and a liar. Over the din of balls crashing into pins, and the rock music blasting, I could hear the high pitched squeal of Mark's voice. Words like 'cracker', and 'bitch' wafted across the alleys. It seems that the guy had changed our score on the sheet after we had left the week before, and this put a bug up Mark's ass. The evening was a bit tense after that, but I thought it would all blow over. That was until we walked into the bowling alley the next week and found the league captains having a vote to kick Mark out. We saved them the trouble and quit.
I was invited back to bowl on the league some years later, but without Mark. We still see that league secretary once in a while. He doesn't bowl anymore, but he is a waiter at a restaurant where Mark and I often eat. Of course that's more Mark's problem than mine.
Yesterday Mark had the audacity to accuse me of being embarrassing. This from the man who created a huge, smelly, stink on an airplane because he couldn't get his chicken meal. He says I embarrass him because of the stupid things I tend to blurt out. I do, do that, but not with evil intent. When Mark is embarrassing it usually is with evil in his heart. He cursed that flight attendant, and accused her of hoarding the chicken.
Every morning Chandler, Sasha, and I partake in the ritual of the neighborhood walk. It's quite the social event, as numerous other folk are out walking their dogs. One of our fellow walkers is the guy on the corner who has a chocolate Lab, and a golden retriever. The poor golden retriever is quite old and slow. She's so slow that I am usually able to walk Chandler around the block, go back home, get Sasha for her walk, and still over take the guy with the golden retriever a second time. Yesterday I had stopped to have a conversation with a third dog walker, when I saw Jameson the retriever slowly moving down the street with her owner almost pulling her along. "Hey!", I shouted, "Why don't you put her on wheels! You'll get around faster!"
I had made what I thought was a clever joke about putting the dog in a wheel chair. Hilarious, until I looked back down at the other guy I was talking to, sitting there in his wheel chair. Yes, I was embarrassed. Yes, I felt like an asshole. No, I didn't apologize. Instead I returned to the little conversation we were having about the porn house that's across the street from his house. I then said "See you later.", and walked off.
That's how I deal with my faux pas'. I ignore them and hope nobody else notices that I said something truly asinine. What I don't need is Mark telling me that I embarrass him. Because if embarrassing your partner were an Olympic event, Mark would get the gold, and then be disqualified for doing it on steroids.
I love living in the city. Too bad I don't live in one. Where I live is what we refer to as 'Gayberry', a small town of twelve thousand next to Fort Lauderdale. In a big city you can be more anonymous, and ignore your neighbors more easily. Here in this quasi-suburban town I find that I have to deal more directly with neighbors.
To the east are the ones I call the Clampetts because when they moved in they immediately cut down the large trees in the front yard so that they could park boats, and cars out there. Lately one of the Clampett boys got his ass arrested for breaking into an old peoples home (It is Florida after all). I'm not real sure, but I think junior is now under house arrest because he doesn't go to school anymore, and he spends his days in the side yard next to my office, partying with his buddies. Whatever, I figure as long as he doesn't bother me or break into my house, it's none of my business.
The neighbor to my west is another story. She is an absentee landlord, and she pisses me off. I never used to care much until Mark overheard her telling her tree trimmer not to worry about her trees hanging over my house because, "Alan can take care of those.". It costs me a couple of hundred dollars every year to have those things trimmed back, and if we have a hurricane they'll probably come crashing through my roof.
Yesterday big storms went through the entire eastern part of the country. After the storm blew through here, every leaf from the tree of Miss Absentee Landlord was sitting in my swimming pool. It's been a continuing problem over the years, and I need to do something about it. What I need to know is how do I kill that tree without it being obvious that I killed it, or that it was intentionally killed? All suggestions will be kept in the strictest confidence, just like everything else I do on this blog.
I'm slowly, very slowly, getting things together for my upcoming yard sale. It's absolutely amazing how much useless crap there is around this house. The first place I'm trying to tackle is my office. Mark insists that he is not responsible for the clutter and mayhem in my office, and at some level I feel that frees me to take everything I find in there and put a price tag on it. But of course it's not that easy. For every one item I know I can get away with selling, the next two require me to check with Mark.
"How about this Lamb Chops puppet, and Bozo Doll?"
"Oh my god, not my Lamby puppet. I've had that since 1994. The Bozo doll you can sell."
So the puppet is a heirloom, but Bozo isn't. I'm pretty sure I could sell the stupid puppet easier than Bozo, but that's the way it's going.
One of the biggest problems with selling off useless, and stupid things, is the fact that many of them were gifts from Mark. Like the automatronic monkey head. I still remember receiving that gift about six Christmases ago.
"Oh, how nice. A monkey head."
"There's a switch in the back. Turn it on. It makes noise."
So for two hours, every time I walked by the monkey head it would awaken, start screaming, and wag back and forth. As you can imagine the novelty of that wore off quickly, not to mention the fact that it was terrorizing the dog and cats. So now I'm trying to figure out how much to sell the monkey head for. It comes with an AC adapter, a remote control panel, and hours of laughs. To be exact, it comes with less than two hours of laughs.
Thirty years ago I smoked, and I liked it. I liked everything about it. I loved opening a new pack of Marlboro Lights, and smelling the fresh tobacco. Pulling that first cigarette out, putting it between my lips, and striking that match gave me a thrill. Slowly moving the flame towards the cigarette, and gently sucking in so that it barely touched the tip, turning the end of it a glowing red, was supreme joy. At that time I worked at Great Lakes Naval Base, maintaining the small Burroughs computer system there. While I couldn't smoke inside the computer room, a large ash tray was set just outside the door, in the large common office space. I would sit out there at least twice an hour gabbing with the secretary, smoking my Marlboros, leaving a large blue cloud hanging over her desk. The fact that she was pregnant never bothered me. Back in 1981 people weren't all freaked out by second hand smoke, and really, wasn't the baby all protected, being inside its mother and all?
Now in 2011 we all know differently, cigarette smoke isn't innocuous. It does affect a fetus, and on top of that it smells bad on mommy's clothes. These days you can't smoke anywhere, even in your own home in some cases. I know that I write it into my tenant's leases, no smoking, and put it in the ad when I need to rent out an apartment. Down the street from me is a very nice woman, who is addicted to cigarettes, and even though she isn't allowed to smoke in her apartment, every day I walk by and see her arm hanging out the door with a lit cigarette dangling from her hand. I have to give her credit, she technically isn't smoking in the house. I just wonder where she exhales. I, myself, quit smoking twenty seven years ago. It had nothing to do with the smell, the mess, or even the health issues. I quit because they raised the price to a dollar, fifty. I still miss it to this day.