Fred Solo

You know how God or the Universe or whatever you may call it puts things in your path repeatedly, most likely for no other purpose than his or her own amusement? I'm convinced God gifts me with putterers and finds it hilarious. Yes, I know, it could be a whole lot worse. And it's hard to believe, but I'm not really complaining either, because this one is pretty darn entertaining. I've named him Fred Solo, because he looks a lot like a younger Fred Sanford of '70s sitcom fame, and he is never without a red solo cup in his hand.

Fred is at least in his mid-fifties and lives across the street in his mother's house. He was born and will die in that house. He doesn't work but is very busy. He makes a slew of trips to places nearby all day long. Never gone for more than a few minutes at a time, I never worry, because if his truck isn't in the driveway, it soon will be.  He does have a boat, but if he leaves with it in the morning, he's always home by 5pm. He works tirelessly in his yard, on the boat, and on his truck, and everything looks shiny and new all the time. 

But Fred is a horrible time manager. Let's say he needs Windex and a paper towel to clean a truck window. Fred makes one trip in the house for the Windex, another for the paper towel (I might be exaggerating but it feels like one trip for each square), and because washing a truck window is thirsty work, a few trips are required for solo cup fill-ups. All in all, this one job could very well eat up the better part of an hour and make Fred a tad slower and wonkier than when he started.

You're right, I can close my curtains and my door any time, I am well aware. But like it was for Gladys Kravitz, things are a little slow right now, and, for some odd and probably new reason, I'm not only not bothered by him, I'm apparently a little mesmerized by him. I mean, of course I want to make him a list and find him a job and see what's in the cup, but I also wouldn't mind an explanation for him. 

One thing that does cause me some concern, though, is my dying in this house. See, a few weeks back, an ambulance and fire truck were called to a house about three doors down. I did what anyone would do - watched from my kitchen window to see what was going on. Solo? He, cup in hand, walked down there and stood at the ambulance's back door. At the BACK door. He was going to strike up a conversation with the EMTs as they hoisted the victim inside. The thought of this gives me heart palpitations. If my last breath is taken from a gurney looking up into ol' Solo's bloodshot eyes, breathing in his solo cup breath, listening to him quiz an inevitably adorable EMT about what's wrong with me.......dear Lord, just take me now.

Okay, there IS just one other thing that concerns me. When I moved in six months ago, he, his mother, a woman, and three kids lived there. My landlord and I tried to figure the family situation out, but I'm not sure how accurate we were. The woman, we were thinking, was his girlfriend and the kids belonged to her? But she moved out in the dead of night about a month later (I'm not on watch 24/7, but, luckily, Sabrina woke me up to go outside), and the kids stayed. I thought then that the kids belonged to a Solo sibling who lived elsewhere but wanted the kids to live with Grandma for whatever reason. Now, though, a different woman lives there with Solo and there is no sign of Grandma or the kids. It's all so confusing. Oh, but back to what concerns me.....

One day last month, I turned the corner and saw Grandma sitting in my driveway in her seen-better-days red truck. I honked and startled her into action and she backed out. We rolled down our windows to talk, and she said that she had started her truck in her driveway, ran back into the house for something, and came out to it rolling slowly towards my house. She, well into her 70s or 80s, was somehow able to stop it, but it left her flustered, to say the least. We were both just glad it didn't hurt her or hit the house! The truck must have been taken to the home or the cemetery, because it's not there anymore. But what worried me is that Grandma seemed to have gone with it. Then, on Friday, I saw her leaving her house on foot and with her purse! She had been dropped off by two ladies in a maroon car just a few minutes earlier. Both Solo and his woman were home as usual, yet there went Grandma, hobbling down the street in orthopedic shoes, carrying her purse. With all the places Solo has to go, couldn't he have given her a ride? What the heck is going on over there? Could it be that Solo and this new gal forced her out of her own house and now she has no car and is staying somewhere within walking distance? Please, God, don't tell me she was walking to the bus stop - that's a mile away!

I don't know how I find the time, but I was perusing a magazine this week and learned a couple of things westward where it seems wide open spaces still exist. Carrizizo, New Mexico, is having a huge sale on land and Wyoming has the lowest tax burden in the country. Knowing God like I do though, I'd probably just end up within eyeshot of a 4-legged dysfunctional putterer.

Now that she’s back in the atmosphere with drops of shit-upon in her hair

(Ignore the title if you don't recognize - it's a Train thang.)

Waaa. They say that all good things must end. They must be from Indiana. And they probably said this upon return from a glorious road trip to a better and more civilized world.

I want to tell you all about my trip. It was heaven. But last things first, I'm thinking you might need a good laugh in this heat, and I have the antitode: the story of my first two days back.

Pull up a chair for some background...

I have more than a few neighbors at the condo. They are nutty. Entertainingly so. (Really would be a good HBO pilot. I need to get on that.) Except for Nightmare Neighbor Charlotte. She's just nutty without the entertainment. Plus, we hate each other. She asks me every chance she gets when my lease is up. And I always tell her that I'm thinking of never leaving. You may or may not know about the banging of pots and pans, the slamming of anything slammable, and the dragging of dead bodies that goes on in her condo next door. You also may or may not know about her four (no more, no less, come rain, come shine) daily strolls around the parking lot which put her outside wandering in circles a lot of the day. I'm grateful for the walks, though. Less dead body movement. You may or may not know that she is the "condo street representative" and kills even more time typing up notes for people about things she doesn't care for. She passes these notes out on her strolls, putting them in our tubes (little mailbox cylinders under our business-that-matters mailboxes). Some of us have had full tubes about things she doesn't like. Keep in mind for later that ivy is near, if not at, the top of her list. Charlotte and slips of paper. All day, every day. Well, when she's not banging and dragging things.

Two or three months ago, she started entering my gate (I do leave it open, my bad, but funny, most people do the same, including ol' Char and who cares) and walking in my patio and looking at my foliage. Just staring. Perusing. Like one would do at a botanical garden, maybe. Admiring the flowers. Er, weeds. (I'm a renter, not a planter.) Right before I left for my trip, my godsend of a dogsitter was in my living room, and we were exchanging instructions and niceties. Char came up to the screen door like she wanted to join the conversation. "Someone's at your door." "Oh, Lord. That's my neighbor." I asked Char what she was doing, and she skeedaddled. Well, skeedaddled is the wrong word. She's 4 feet tall, 80 pounds, older than dirt, and sports Mr. Magoo eyeglasses, a cane, some kick-ass special shoes, and a hunchback (childhood polio). After she had finally gone, "Do you have issues with her?" "Oh, honey. I can't tell you about it all, because I have to leave in 4 days."

So, a day or two after cleaning Charlotte's nose print off my screen door, I was putting my trash out and she popped out from around the gate.

Char: I need you to keep your gate closed. Your weeds are embarrassing for my visitors.

Me: What visitors? You don't have any visitors.

Char: Well, that's your reality.

Me: I'm not closing my gate, because I let my dog out on the tie-out and need it open. For God's sake, FIND SOMETHING TO DO!!!!

Char: I have plenty to do, but there is thistle in your ivy!

There's what in my say what? I blew up. Blew the fuck up. I had had all I could stand. Let it all go. Stopped short of calling her a cripple. 'Cause I'm claiming Christian like that.

After it was over, I was clear that there were three things she needed: 1) a closed gate, 2) thistle out of the ivy, and 3) me not to let my screen door slam because she could hear it when she was in the kitchen or outside (which is 23 out of 24 hours a day, remember). There was just one thing that I needed: 1) For Char to DIE.

So, I happily prepared to leave for my trip that June 19th Sunday morning and guess what? Char's car was missing. For the first time in over a year. Did I mention that she never goes anywhere? Come to find out, the bitch had the audacity to go out of town the same day!!! Can you believe that? What a Universe. I could have enjoyed the break. (However, my dogsitter informed me that there were workers - and odd, questionable looking ones at that, one with a missing eye, or maybe it was a lazy eye, I can't remember now - at her house replacing her kitchen counters. That wouldn't have gone well for me either.) I told my Spawn about this and he said, "Oh, didn't you hear? Rumor has it that she's going to Boulder for some creativity event thing." Seriously, nobody loves me.

Oh, right, the reentry. The minute I crossed the Missouri River, the humidity was paralyzing. Windows up and AC on. The east. When I reached the Indiana border, I turned on the radio. Will never do that again. Menards commercials. Meijer sales. Broad Ripple. Ugh. Who cares. Picture sinking shoulders.

Then, at the complex, I wheeled my suitcase to my condo corner and saw it. My gate was closed. When I pushed it open, I saw that my ivy had been killed, pulled up, trimmed, you name it. Just a flurry of ivy activity. Some thistle was brown and dead and some was missing. And I was saving it!!! A piece of my little table right next to the perpetrated ivy area had been broken off and placed in a matching chair. The piece was mysteriously in the shape of a hand. A small, old, bitch of a hand. Then, I opened my screen door and noticed something shiny and new. A new spring-y thing. Installed and everything. And adjusted so the door can't close completely. She had work done!!!

But do I say anything? Nope. I let it go. For almost a whole day.

The next morning, workers had returned to her condo. I didn't expect less. I mean, you hire a man with one good eye to do some counter work, there are bound to be mishaps. So I headed to the store. Screaming kids, big huge fat Indiana families shopping in herds and huvarounds. Then. I made the mistake of a lifetime. I hope you're still reading, because this is the memory that I'll have on my deathbed and I'll need someone to pat my hand, virtually if necessary. I went to Qdoba for a chicken taco salad. I love Qdoba's chicken taco salad. I thought it might relax me. Make me feel better about apparently being roommates with the Indiana world again.

I pulled up into my parking space at the strip mall. Had my right hand still on my keys pulling them out of the ignition and had just started to open my door with my left hand. Two men, probably my age so knowing better, pulled up pretty quickly into the spot to the left of me. Pretty close, too. But before the driver came to a good stop, the passenger opened his door to get out. He turned his head in shock to see me (like what? there are other freeking people in the world?) and my door that he had just hit. I took the keys in my right hand, threw them up in the air a bit (as one does when they're at their limit), closed my door, and tested the Heavens (in the privacy of my own front seat) about what the hell else I could see today. The passenger man got out, stood at my closed window, and yelled, "You know, Midol might really help your attitude." To which I replied, "GO. Just GO. Please, just GO." But he wouldn't move. "I would've apologized to you. There's no damage. But seriously, Midol." Again, "GO. JUST GO."

Then, came his partner. Passenger man was a joy compared to this guy. Driver man came around the car, headed straight towards me holding his key like one would a pen they were getting ready to write with and said, "You are a fucking C*NT. How would you like it if I took this key and just ran it all up and down your face right now?" (There really is no answer to that question.)

The passenger man had moved to the right front side of my car near the strip mall sidewalk to go to Qdoba. I looked at him and said, "Nice choice in this one." And I said, to the c*nt man, "It must be hell to be you." (I know, genius, right?)

So, he said it all again. C*nt. Key. "Upside" my face. Then, he told his partner to get my tag number (what exactly did I do again?). I called him a moron - okay for the blog court records, a fucking moron - and that was the first time I thought he might really key "upside" my face. I looked for my phone to call 911, in case. His friend finally got him to leave. And as I drove away, I noticed a slew of people on Qdoba's patio. Families. Women. And several children. I'm sure the parents will never forget their kids asking them what a c*nt is.

That experience made me decide that I really needed to just start giving back to the world. And not in a good way. So, I wrote a scathing email (as a good passive-agressive does) to the homeowner from whom I rent and copied ol' Char. I told her that this was the final straw and that if the old bat didn't leave me alone and leave my stuff alone, I would call 911. The homeowner was livid, I was glad to know, because after all, I've been money in the bank. She called Char who denied all of it and said that she would be taking this issue to the condo Board to discuss. (I'd like to attend that meeting. "I've been staring at my neighbor and trespassing and messing with and breaking her stuff and she complained to her landlord. We need a letter....I'll put it in her tube.")

Then, I went to the Dollar Store (more punishment from the Indiana public, but it had to be done) and purchased the ugliest patio decorations I could find. God bless America patriotic stuff. And a lovely arrangement of fake red carnations in a plastic cemetery marker cup. Put it all around the gate. This now serves two purposes: 1) it keeps her grubby hands off my gate, and 2) it strokes her out that only she (and her imaginary visitors) can see it and that she can't NOT see it.

I think it's clear who won this battle. Right? I mean, if you ignore the fact that I've thought of little else since I've been back and spent a few countless hours recapping it here and to anyone who will listen to me, it's so clear that I won.

The third day, I spent rental house hunting online. I visited a top contender the next night and, after seeing the hot tub on the neighbor's deck about 20 feet away and hearing the thump-thump bass of a house two doors down, the conversation ended like this: "Will you clean and patch holes and make it rent-ready when you move?" "Uh, yea, I guess, if you want."

And that, my friends, is a reentry. Some might say this is karma biting me in the ass. Perhaps I deserve it for making fun of poor Charlotte. But, trust me, she is the devil, and I've been told she's been given to me as a gift of material. That's how I've chosen to look at her for my own sanity. And sometimes, people think I just make stuff up. Seriously? Nobody is that creative. I'll get a picture of her soon as Exhibit A for the blog court. 

The next post will be a happier one about the exodus and the stay on the moon. And it could be even longer!! :)

Snow Stinkin' White

The condo I rent is in the woods. It’s still in the city, just in the woods. I have a very picturesque view of a small and lively forest through my back windows. If that’s all you know about the place, it's lovely. But there's more. Built in 1974, the only thing that has been updated is the kitchen, which was rehabbed in 2009 to reflect the style of a blind family in the early 1990s. The people who live in the complex defy rational explanation and are perfect for an HBO dark comedy. As just one quick example, Next Door Nightmare Charlotte is about 4 feet tall and 90 pounds, I’m guessing around 300 years old, and wanders the parking lots through rain, snow, sleet, hail, famine, and locusts with her walking cane, special shoes, and mysterious pieces of paper. She’s always carrying one piece of paper. Always. But most of her time is spent wandering around inside and banging on things - cabinets, pots, pans, god knows what. While her not being able to sit is but one of this condo life’s little mysteries, what has occupied more of my time lately has been the onslaught of critters.

First, there was the raccoon. Or squirrel. Or groundhog. Or gopher. Or, and this one makes me squirm the most, big honkin’ army boot wearin' rat. I’ve no idea what it is, really. All I know is that it was loud and fast and mad and scared and couldn’t get out of the crawl space no matter how many things it crawled over, clawed through, or scratched on until the wee hours of one Saturday night. He's returned twice just to torment me.

Then, there was the cat. Also in the crawl space. I’m not a cat person. Translation: I hate freeking cats. I equate having one in the house to being in an abusive relationship. I didn’t feel bad not one bit about it howling. (Besides, I wasn’t totally convinced it was a cat. I really thought it was a Sasquatch type creature that wanted to eat me alive.) I did, however, worry about the smell, if it died. But, my friend, Pamela, damn near started crying when I told her about it on the phone one afternoon, so I walked AALLLLLL the way around the buildings and pried open the door to the crawl space to let it out. I stood there for 30 full minutes. I swear. Once, I even called him, “Come on you stupid freeking idiot cat!!” Nothing. I closed the door (the memory of the ratsquirrelcoon was still fresh) and went back inside. As soon as I put a movie in the machine to watch, the damn thing started howling again. So, I, a 47-year-old civilized woman, leaned out the back window, popped out the screen and worked on the door with a broom until it finally opened and idiot cat came moseyin' out. I guess because then it felt like it. It stopped for a minute to look up and give me the evil cat stink eye like he would get me back for what I had done to him. I saw said cat on top of a fence outside just the other day, and he stared me down as if to warn me to watch my back. I reminded it that I had saved its ugly stupid life. But it just kept staring.

Now there's a bird. It keeps hurling itself into my office window. Every day from sun-up to sundown. I read online that it could be seeing a reflection of the trees and such and thinking it’s going to hurl into some cool new vegetation, so I taped plastic garbage bags to the panes but it's obviously insane and doesn't understand. If only I could train it to hurl itself at Nightmare Neighbor Charlotte, I could enjoy some peace again.

The only positive is that I did get a moment's kick out of a mental picture of me as Snow Stinkin' White. I have a few years on her, of course, but the sentiment in the picture is the same. The dwarfs aren’t pictured, but that’s because they’re actually all rolled up into the one Dopey, Noisy, Gimpy, Loony, Wacko Next Door Nightmare Charlotte who I'm pretty sure can't be captured on film. (Just so's you know, I’m a pretty nice person. People even talk about it, they do. But this woman is the devil. So, if you don’t hear from me anymore, Charlotte turned out not to be the dwarfs but the wicked queen.)

Update: Mr. 5am Hooty Owl is back again this year and perched in his favorite tree. Guess where? Oh, and the woodpecker is drilling on the chimney box as I post this. Pamela tells me that's a symbol for opportunity, but she can't be trusted. Cat lover and all.

Life beside Miss Honey's Posse

It’s official. The Universe is trying to tell me something. And it’s one of two things:

  •  Don’t you ever tempt fate again by saying something like, “It can’t possibly get any worse than this place.”

OR

  •   GET OUT, GET OUT NOW!!!!!!!!

I can’t decide which one to think about first.

I’ve mentioned Miss Honey before, but she became a non-issue for 6 weeks when she was out with her self-inflicted (smoking alcoholic that she is) heart attack. But, she’s been back to work for 2 weeks now, culminating in yesterday’s 10-hour free-for-all.

It was a state government PARTY. At her house (aka, cube). Since my iPod wouldn’t cover it up, I had to hear. They were all giddy about the big department lunch scheduled for 11:30 (when the state bell rings, I have gathered). So, starting about 8:30am, they printed the restaurant menu from the website and had discussions about what they’d order, what they liked and didn’t like AND WHY. “Do you like spinach?” “Well, I like raw spinach like in salads, but not cooked spinach.” “Yea, I don’t like cooked carrots, but I like raw carrots.” “Really? Now, see, I like cooked carrots.”

This spawned other hours-long discussions, you know, as office discussions among productive members of society tend to do, about food shopping, recipes, operating the TiVo, AT&T, golf, unclaimedmoney.com, death certificates, the pub (her haunt) and throwing up but not really being sick discussions.

The one that stopped everyone in their tracks, though, was about crepes on the restaurant’s menu. It confused ‘em. They all asked each other, “What’s a crepe?” “I don’t know.” “Do you know?” “No, I don’t know.” “Well, let me look it up,” Miss Honey said. Which she did and then became the crepe spokesperson. “It’s like a tortilla,” she explained. “Ohhhh,,” they all said in unison. But they all decided they didn’t want to order crepes. Or tortillas.

I had such hope that they’d wear themselves out and be quiet(er) after lunch, but no dice. Discussions after lunch were around the soup, the bill, the tea, the walk there, the weather, mowing the grass, and on and on and on. Until quitting time when they all said things like, “One more day down” and “Will Friday ever get here?” and “What a long day” and “I’m so tired.” Parties can wear out a yayhoo.

By 5pm, I can’t even stand myself. I leave the work trailer for the home trailer. I’ll save this for another day, because I can only handle so much of my own whining. But just this: I complained to the condo’s Board representative about a man whose dog attacked my dog, Sabrina, for the third time last week. The Rep directed me to contact the President (blowing me off by knowing that he’d just blow me off, too). But I looked up the President on the FaceBook. He’s 75 if he’s a day, way too into karaoke and his every other wall post is about either getting drunk at the Blue Martini or having fun on Percocet, which he’s taking for his back, ha ha (his haha, not mine).

I got home last night to a tweet from one of my favorite people in the world, Cynthia Morris, that said, “Your intuition has no agenda other than your ultimate well-being. Always listen to it!”

This morning, I parked my car in the garage lot and prayed. And tempted fate again by realizing I could declare to God and his baby Jesus that, “I will never, ever, ever, in this lifetime sit through another 8-hour day like yesterday. If that means homelessness or a $25,000 debt (I have one more year of college to pay for, which means I need a steady income until August 2011 that provides an extra $25,000 cash), bring it on, you stupid Universe, because I’m just old enough to not give a shit.” (That too old to care thing is new, but I think I’m going to really dig it.)

So, take that, trailer park. My stay here is getting more temporary every day. I’ve never been surer of anything in my life. Never.

Miss Honey and Marty

First off, let me point out that I am a nice person. People say it a lot. In fact, someone said so just yesterday. ‘Course she’s 82, and I was doing her a pretty big favor, but still. Nice. Me. This post does not support this fact, but lightning be damned, here we go.

Contractors and freelancers who work on-site are usually given whatever cubicle is empty. It’s a no-brainer. Thing is though, that the cubicle is always empty for a pretty darn good reason: it’s next to THE most heinous person in the office next to whom no full-time employee will sit.

As a contractor and freelancer, I have sat next to some real yayhoos in my day, but it’s always the current one that I think I’ll remember most.

Her name is Miss Honey.

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Cursed With Higher Expectations

Wouldn’t you know it - a traffic snarl about a half-mile from where I needed to turn. It was Saturday and the weekend number of cars on the road usually made this particular stretch pretty uneventful, so I assumed there must be a wreck ahead. 

I noticed that all the cars were leaning toward the right lane with their turning blinkers on, which was perfectly normal behavior to get around an accident. But just ahead, I could also see a long stretch of lights and turning blinkers from cars pointing towards me and waiting patiently in the left-turning lane. Not exactly. The real situation involved more diesel truck exhaust. :)

When we finally moved up a car length, I got my first glimpse at the situation. The first thing I saw was a gigantically tall wind wiggler cowboy. Then, dozens of balloons floating from the corners of things. Then, a line of people completely wrapped around the building. Then, a ginormous inflatable Red Burrito Taco Salad out front.

Yes. It was the grand opening of the new Hardee’s in Plainfield, Indiana.

My first and gut reaction was, at it usually is, to poke fun at these morons. I mean, who in their right mind would sit in this line for their turn at a speaker or parking place to get a biscuit? Is this seriously the best they could come up with for a Saturday morning? Then, I got a look at the people waiting in their cars. There were parents and grandparents and children and babies and they were all talking and laughing and oblivious to the ridiculousness of it all. Dang it, they were happy. Why, God, WHY? 

I read this year that the people of Denmark are the happiest among us and the primary reason is their low expectations. Denmark, meet Plainfield. Plainfield, meet Denmark. This happy lot in the middle of what used to be KKK country (a big goal around the office is to retire to some land smack dab in the middle of Martinsville, because it’s the hilly part of Indiana, and to hell with the decades of bad karma) doesn’t ask for much and doesn’t expect much. 

Damn you, Universe, for exposing me to things and cursing me with higher expectations. I know I will never be as happy as these people sitting in a line to see their new neighborhood Hardee’s on opening day. 

When I drove back by at lunchtime (contrary to popular belief, there is more than one road in Plainfield, but I had no idea that the hoopla would last into the afternoon), I noticed that a cop had been called to direct traffic. It wasn’t helping much that I could see and this, of course, opened up a whole ‘nother issue in my head: How can a traffic cop direct stopped traffic? 

Argh. Foiled again. Must stop asking why. Must stop asking why. Must stop asking why. Must stop....

An Owl and a Squirrel walk into a branch.....

An owl and a squirrel are having a heated discussion outside my office window. Something about a branch, but that’s all I’ve been able to make out. I don’t think they speak the same language, but apparently, whatever Owl is saying, it’s petrifying Squirrel. He’s yelling back, but even I can tell he’s paralyzed with fear. He hasn't blinked (assuming quirrels blink) or moved. Owl, on the other hand, appears to be washing his face and filing his nails.

Gawd, how I love living in the woods! Well, when the bugs and the bees and the mosquitos and the poison ivy have given up for the season, that is. And the birds stop flying into my upstairs window. Talk about sad. And disgusting. But it has explained the gray and white cat who wants nothing to do with me but loves my front door.

When I go out said front door here at the condo, I’m young again. I’ve recently been invited to “The Supper Club”, a group of retired ladies who meet for dinner every Wednesday evening at 5:30. Kind of late, I know. But it actually sounds like fun and I can pretend to be spry and interesting for an hour.

I’m also excited about the procedures around these suppers. According to the undocumented instructions, I am simply to stand outside in the circle until a car drives by and picks me up (thinking the mailman situation in Funny Farm).

When all of us ladies are in the car, we talk destination. On busy days, I've been told that another car may be required. In these cases, one of the "extras" will volunteer to drive her car and the first car will stop at the second car where the destination discussion will take place. It’s all very hip, very loose, very sixties and I dig it.

But now that I type this, I hope they’re not pulling some prank on the new gal. They don’t know me that well. I might stand out there for quite some time waiting on a trip to food. I won’t think about this anymore.

The picture is not where we are now – it was taken in winter 2003, I believe – but, trust me, her life o’ troubles is about the same.Sabrina has made so many new friends. There’s Mollie and Bear and MyMy and Millie and Jack and Bruiser. There’s a lady we run into a lot on our walks who calls her Samantha, but Sabrina responds anyway. We don’t say anything, because it might only matter in an emergency and Sabrina doesn't really doemergencies anyway.

Squirrel caved. Owl won and now won't stop hooting in a really snotty way. Poor sportsmanship, if you ask me. Sabrina's snoring, and I'm on my own for dinner tonight.

It’s been a good little day today.

Hillbilly Papa-razzo

I live in an area of Indianapolis known as Meridian Hills. It is within the city limits and is considered a more than decent place to live. Mostly professionals, mostly folks with a little money (I moved here for the school district and am in on a "just passing through" technicality).

The name is a little misleading, because you'd have to drive the area for an hour or so to find an actual hill. BUT, you can easily find the hillbilllies. They're next door to me.

When I talk about my neighbors, one might think I live in the sticks. It'd be an understandable conclusion, because it is exactly where they should be. They are recently retired campers. Not RVers, just campers. Their favorite place to go is the campground (and not "the new one") in Gulf Shores, Alabama (lookie there, favorite and Alabama in the same sentence!). They practice casting (throwing a fishing pole, right?) in the backyard. They have gobs of family over almost every day. They have a little fishing boat behind the camper and an overgrown diesel truck in their extended driveway. Sometimes, they rip the tarp off the boat and sit in it with the grandkids. (Don't they have video games to play with like normal children?) Recently, they repaved their driveway and had a big hoe-down in the front yard, grillin', sippin', I'm assuming spittin', and watchin' the tar dry.

Not much goes on in our backyard. Mostly just getting in and out of our cars, dog business, and lawn mowing. But, boy howdy, when something happens, it's like we're movie stars.

Today, we had someone cut up and haul off our downed tree (which every member of their extended family has come in the yard to get an up-close and personal look-see. Maybe they're hoping for Jesus or the Virgin Mary in it or something). When it was cleared and the man had gone, we went outside to approve the job and do a tiny bit of leftover clean-up. I glanced in the neighbor's general direction and saw a big ol' shadow in the screened-in porch. The hillbilly Papa. Just staring and not even flinching when we saw him.

Then, I stood outside and chatted with the cable repairman for a minute or two. And there ol' Pap was again. Unnerving me and cramping my style.

Later, I pulled up in my rental car for my trip to Charlotte for work tomorrow and there he was again. I'm not even sure he went inside. I don't know if or when his shift ends.

Maybe I should throw him a line. He must be drowning in boredom if we're something to see.

Moving Out of the Taj Mahal, The Trilogy

I’ve always heard that bad things come in threes. Since Friday at high noon, I’ve had my three and it better damn well stop there. (It's important to mention how much my kooky landlord thinks of his 1968 3BR, 2BA ranch-style house (although he doesn't spend a dime on maintenance of it - he's complicated like that). He has called me several times over the past two years to check on critical things like the paint, the bushes and the dishwasher. I pray that someday this man has children to worry about this much - no, scratch that, he'd ruin 'em.) 

Friday AM: Landlord receives email I sent Monday about lease non-renewal. He’s ticked. I can hear it when he tells me I’ll be showing the property, he’ll be “inspecting” the property for damages, and that he already has 20 inquiries he’s told to drive by and look at it.

Friday 5PM: First prospect he's given the address to pulls up in driveway, looks for cars in the parking area behind the house, looks in dining room window and leaves.

Friday 7PM: Kitchen sink explodes. When I turn the garbage disposal off, a Yellowstone geyser of water shoots up. Email to landlord (telling him it could indeed be our fault, not sure) and explain again about reasonable notice and my disdain for peeping toms.

Friday 10PM: Tree falls on power line to house, cutting power, cable, phone wires. It’s still 86 degrees outside with 75% humidity.

Saturday 11AM: Cancel my plans to leave for Charlotte. Make reservations at nearby hotel that accepts pets. Call insurance for ideas, etc. High volume on everything due to storm. May hear back next week.

Saturday 2PM: Call landlord about tree. It was like his own limb had been cut off. “We’re fine. Thanks for asking.” (to imaginary "How are you guys? Is everyone okay?")

Saturday 3PM: Check into hotel and cool off. Kindly send pics of tree to landlord for his homeowner’s insurance. “You’re welcome.” (to an imaginary "Thank you.")

Saturday 7PM: Drive back to house to pick up something I had forgotten. Note in the door from someone named Mark who wanted to see the house. Call Mark to find out what landlord had told him (apparently "Stop by! Knock on the door! Look in the windows! Check it out!"). Mark is drunk. And Mark left a trail of roofing nails in the driveway. Leave landlord another voice mail about this idiot and BEG him to make appointments after July 1st (45 days from move-out date according to lease) and not to give out the address anymore.

Saturday 8PM: IPL pulls up while I’m fuming at the house and restores power.

Saturday 11:30PM: Landlord returns call from 7PM and leaves pissy voice mail telling me all the things I owe him because he's been such a good guy. ("Remember how I had the heater replaced when it died that one dead o' winter time?" "Remember how I lowered your rent 6.84% the second year to keep you from moving after the first year?") 

Sunday 7:30AM: Check out of hotel, return things to fridge, and leave for work.

Sunday 11AM: Still trading email barbs with landlord. He thinks he’s done me great favors and I think he's silly. He's ticked that I'm ticked and now I'm ticked that he's ticked. He has now added “lawyer” to “inspector” on his list of professionals he’s going to contact about me. Uhhhh, okay.

Is this still just three? 

Update: Sink issue not my fault or responsibility. Looking so forward to another shit storm of whine from landlord when he gets rent check (less costs). 

This post was tedious, just me venting and has nothing to do with anything. I know this and am now as bored with myself as anyone reading this. 

I Choose Ed

I used to be a really good griper. Now, I’m a more of a mediocre whiner. Ever since I saw a documentary about Ethiopian women, incontinent from being hung from trees to give birth, the joy has sort of gone from my griping, making it sound nasally, insignificant and feeble, a.k.a., whiny.

My latest whine is about my neighbor, Ed. I don’t know him, nobody I know knows him, but everybody knows his name, I assume because there have been discussions about him. See, Ed mows his lawn at night. The minute the sun goes down, and not a minute sooner, Ed turns on his back porch light, as if to warn us, and starts up the riding mower.

It takes Ed about two hours to finish. In a neighborhood where driveways are within crawling distance of each other and ON A RIDING MOWER. I think it’s because Ed likes to mulch. A lot. Although I can’t be sure, I’m just trying to make sense of it all.

His yard is like mine – there’s natural growth all over it. It’s not pristeen, is what I mean to say. Why he has to go over the same spot ten times to cut it into the tiniest blades of grass possible is beyond me. But he does. I thought possibly Ed had skin cancer and didn't have an SPF suitable for, say, dusk, but my son saw him leave with golf clubs at high noon the other day. So, Ed plays golf during the day, but must mow grass in the dark. Oh, Ed.

Last night, the mower cut off at exactly 10:23pm. I was fuming at 9:23pm, so you can imagine. I just hate what seems idiotic. We’re supposed to embrace each other’s differences, but I can’t embrace crap like this.

Anyway, at 10:24pm, I let the dog outside and, standing on the deck to wait for her, I heard thumping. Fairly distant but all too familiar thumping. A few houses down, I saw floodlights and boys and the ball attempting to get through the hoop. Basketball. BUT...not next door. I suddenly had a new appreciation for Ed.

(The worst neighbor I will ever have was a basketball player. I support the passage of any bill banning basketballs in neighborhoods and radios and perfume in offices. Seriously, punishable by death or at least isolation.)

So, these were my choices. Which would I rather have? Ethiopian incontinence, Basketball Boy Jones, or Ed? Yea, God, I get it.

Not So Wily Wiley

Barbara has been married to Wiley for forty-four years. They live on their own road, in a modest house situated on about 20 acres in a part of Mississippi that still doesn’t get cable. She started working for the company the same year she graduated high school and married Wiley. She is now only four years from retirement. Wiley, who is seven years older than she, has been retired and collecting Social Security, his only retirement income, for a few years now. He doesn’t have a lot to do anymore, and Barbara is his whole life. Everyone in the office knows this, because she tells us every day. And because Wiley calls her almost every hour just to chat. He must be her light too, because he always makes her giggle incessantly. She hangs up after each conversation with a girlish, sheepish grin on her face. 

Wiley still pines for a big fancy tractor he saw at the John Deere store a few months back. He has wanted it something awful and has found a way to sneak it into every conversation with Barbara since he first laid eyes on it. She is firmly opposed to the idea because “the stupid thing” costs $75,000 and they don’t need it and they have agreed to save her salary for the next few years so she could retire on time. They have $100,000 in their retirement savings accounts and really need to save more. (Barbara could never be confused for a very private person.) 

One morning, Barbara sits down at her desk with her usual coffee but just doesn't seem like her usual self. We coax her into telling us what's wrong, and she gives in pretty quickly. The night before, she had been looking for her wheelbarrow to haul some fertilizer to her new flower bed when she caught a glimpse of something reflecting an odd light from behind the barn. She investigated and found it. “The thing” was just sitting there “damn near up against the barn, so it’d be good and hidden”. When she confronted Wiley, he said he had bought it and had it delivered a couple of weeks before and was waiting on a good time to tell her. 

“We’ve never fought, and I sure don’t want to start now. I guess I’ll just need to request some overtime.” When the phone rings, there's no question who is on the other end. By the time they hang up, she is giggling. 

It’s been six years, but I’m still confounded. I would’ve used “the thing” to bury ol’ Wiley on the back nine.

An Indiana man and his color-coded folders

There is something in Indiana I call “The Indiana Man Syndrome”. I don’t know if it’s the accent (or the lack thereof), the formal enunciation, the candid emotion, but there are an extraordinary amount of married men who, frankly, seem gay. My first encounter with it was more behavioral: Two men I worked with ate their lunches (packed in little lunchboxes by their wives) together in an enclave behind closed doors every day. Men where I come from wouldn't do this.

Now, I have nothing against anything any-sexual, be it hetero-, homo-, this-ho-, that-ho-, a-, etc. But I don't enjoy people who can't just pick one and own it. Be honest with yourself and the rest of us, I say. Be proud. Don’t pretend. It’s like lying. And don’t think I don’t know. It’s insulting. And creepy.

I am sitting across from a man who is a grandfather. He gets excited (think full-on-girly-giddiness with flailing hands and bouncy feet) about the most questionable things.

Yesterday, he created a ruckus because someone asked him about his color-coded folders.

“Oh, my, yes! I JUST LO-O-O-O-V-V-V-E my folders. I don’t want to think about having to be without them.

I have blue folders for jobs I must do today. I have red folders for jobs due in a week. I have green folders for jobs that I repeat each month.

I enjoy them so much!”

(See? Now, I ask ya: Is this normal man talk?)

“That’s a great setup. Do you mind if I steal your idea?”

“Oh, my, no!!! You’ll love it! You can buy color-coded folders at Staples. They’re right down the road. And I think you could get your system up and running for less than $20.”

“I’ll go today. Thanks, Dan!”

“Call me when you get it together and I’ll stop by your office. You can show off what you created. I know you'll be soooo happy.”

I want to saw off a toe with my color-coded Bic pen. It would have to be less painful.

Being detailed oriented

I love days like this. In 2005, I worked on a project with a woman who became the fourth person on my list of “deal-breakers” (people with whom I refuse to work – so far there are five).

She was a combination of idiot and attempted bitch. Attempted, because it’s impossible to be both.

There are so many things to choose from, but….

She had Bible scriptures taped all over her overhead cubicle cabinets. I think it was her contribution to teach and help her fellow man, because they were all at perfect eye level for passers-by or visitors, but, of course, out of her line of sight.

She loved to start sentences with, “I’m sorry if you feel that way” and “Since you're not an employee here”.

She carried her $1,500 purse to meetings. Most meetings were twenty feet from her desk. And the damn purse always managed to make its way to the middle of the conference room table. (I used to love watching her repeatedly move it here and then there - all the while scouring the room for attention.)

She put MBA beside her name in her email signature.

‘Nuff said.

Well, maybe just one more….

She was a certified personal trainer, and loved to talk about how cute that made her. She also fell asleep for hours at her desk every day. On particularly fun days, you could hear her snore. It’s hard to be impressed by a fitness expert with that kind of energy.

Then, today, almost two years later, a gift from the Heavens. Her name popped up on some networking website I ran across.

Her list of credentials and skills said many things, but ended with this:

Creative and detailed oriented.

That’s no typo, my friends.

If I never, it'll be too soon.

If anyone had told me this time last year that I’d be moving again exactly one year later, I wouldn’t have believed it. But it’s true. The owners and I discussed at length staying for two years, but after just eleven months, they have decided to sell. I would think that they saw me coming - take advantage of my rent money while it's up for sale - but that'd be giving them way too many points for apparently non-existent smarts..

Lessons Learned
Never rent a house that’s up for sale.
Freakin’ people.

Bad Karma
The owners of the current house now have to put the house back up for rent because they’ve received no offers. It’s been up for sale for 29 days now. 16 days ago, I offered them $200 extra each month in rent to stay another year if they’d take it off the market. Nothing. No response. Chirping crickets, as a matter of fact. So, I turned in my termination notice.

Yesterday, Wife, tried like heck to light into me. She believes that the reason the house didn’t sell is because I was difficult toward the realtors trying to show the house. I have pages and pages of horror stories from the past 19 days of showings (little annoyances like 15 phone calls a day, 4-minute showing notice, 7am weekend phone calls, an irate phone call from the listing agent mad at me because his realtor had to break in (Husband didn’t think to put a key in the lockbox), a realtor with no showing scheduled attempting to break in while I was staring right at him, I could go on). She believes I just overreacted and should have "at least been cordial" in the last case. CORDIAL? Are you freakin' kidding me? Cordial never crossed my mind.

But the funniest thing is that she’s mad because I caused them to “lose the summer months, prime time to sell”. They just decided to sell June 26th, with the first showing on July 10th. And there are multiple reasons for a prospect not to buy this house (tiny little issues like cracks in the foundation and ceiling, backyard spigot leaking under house and back bedroom, mildew/mold bathroom issues, leaning trees....)!

Chirp. Chirp.

It takes a special breed of idiot to blame someone else for their inability to have a complete thought. I guess I should have called the poor people to make sure they thought about putting it up for sale in May or June.

Chirp. Chirp.

Good Karma and Faith that everything happens for a reason
We’re moving into a beautiful, well-kept house in a great subdivision near Austin’s friends, in the Township, and for only a little bit more rent. The owner has no plans to sell, looking at it as an investment property.

And, as of this update at the end of September, their house is still up for sale.

Driver's License Renewal Day

You know you’re having a bad driver’s license renewal day when:

  1. The Neanderthal behind you in the check-in line uses his outside voice on his 15-minute personal phone call to his buddy about how lax his week has been. And when you turn around to mention to him that it sounds like he has plenty of time to make this call anywhere but within six inches of your left ear, he just responds with a goofy smile and a wink, because he understands how impressed you really must be.

  2. You count four female butt cracks in the pack of riffraff.
  3. The photographer snaps your picture, looks at it on the computer, and says, “Um. No. Let’s try again.” And repeats this process FOUR TIMES.
  4. You arrive and leave on the same page of the book you brought to avoid encounters with undesirables.
  5. You look at your picture when you’re alone in your car and understand the problem: old and angry, a combination impossible to camouflage.

Natural Selection, a Theory

This picture was in Sunday's Indianapolis Star accompanying an article touting the city's Talbot Street Art Fair. Where's the art? Where are the happy faces?

I can't figure out what kind of person would get there, see the crowd, and join it!

Every single person in this photo - even if just a blurry, distant head - should be taken to a lab and studied....and then caged.

Just one stamp

When did a trip to the post office become just like a visit to the used car lot?

“I want to mail this paper from here to there. I want it to arrive in a reasonable amount of time.”

After the hand-off, Screen 1 popped up with option after mailing option - the most expensive at the top, of course.

Then the auctioneer started (a new skill of the postal employee).

“We can get it there overnight for $10 or 2 day priority for $8 with free confirmation or 3 days and 2 nights in 12 years for $100 if there’s a full moon and a good tail wind or…”

A dumbfounded, “Just regular mail, please.”

She didn't like it, but clicked to Screen 2. “We have 5 days priority with confirmation for $5 or 5 days non-priority for $4 or 6 days in hell for….”

“Regular mail, please.”

She hesitated long enough for a glare and then loudly hit the keys to get to Screen 5 of my options, obviously disgusted with my choice of the postal cheap seats.

“$2 for regular mail. Do you need insurance or confirmation or receipt of...”

“Regular mail, PLEASE.”

“Fine, I'm sure you know best. $2.07, please. Do you need stamps or boxes or any other mailing materials or a car wash or a blow dry or paper or plastic or fries…”

The crickets are still chirping in my head. I hope my letter makes it from here to there in a reasonable amount of time.

A flutter

Warning: This post is not particularly positive.

People have asked me why I seem to prefer to avoid dating. Where to begin. Let me revisit just the past 24 hours. I could go on and on and on and on, but I’m limiting myself to the one day to hopefully prevent a diatribe.

My next-door neighbor, a single man living alone, has three large dogs. Until yesterday, that is. Now he has four. He keeps them outside in his yard, which I’m sure is nice for him. Mind you, this is a yard measured in feet. Not yards. Not acres. Feet. The new dog is possessed. He has barked incessantly (literally) since his arrival and, as a result, keeps the other three and the whole neighborhood going. I’m sure he’s just stressed and keeping him outside will get him adjusted faster (I’m thinking?), but what kind of person leaves four constantly barking dogs in a backyard without a second thought? A man on the market, that’s who.

I looked around my neighborhood on my drive home last night. A lot of the houses have been decorated for the holidays, but it’s always interesting (not the exact word to express my true feelings) to me to see how long the lights stay up after the new year. Today is January 4th and the only houses that don’t still have lights and lit trees in the windows (!) and blow-up yard dolls are those inhabited by we single women (3 widows around me and me).

Today, I've already seen two manager-level men adjust their crotches while speaking in a meeting. This happens all the time, actually. I hope I don’t get used to it.

I sit next to a man at work who apparently taps out Morse code to imaginary people all day on his desk. I have tried, but I cannot count to ten without him thumping, drumming, whatever the hell he’s doing. I’m sure it’s a nervous habit, but damn. And, I’m especially lucky because he NEVER leaves his desk. I’ve never seen him even get up to go to the bathroom. So, when I say it’s incessant, I mean it. This morning, ol’ Thumper had a phone conversation (didn’t interrupt the tapping though) comparing tequila drunks with someone. Apparently, there was a party over the weekend and everyone in attendance passed out in various places in the house. I’m a flutter. There is nothing more attractive than a single man well past his twenties talking about his weekend tequila binge.

And this is my new cubicle neighbor after a request I made in November to be moved away from a man who played talk radio at an annoying humming level all day long who told me when I asked if he’d turn it down (in my most polite voice and demeanor, too), “No, I won’t, because we work in cubes and we all just have to expect noise.” (This guy also came to work a few months ago with four regular-size band-aids across various spots on his face. According to the story, he fell over an extension cord going to the bathroom in the middle of the night and got rug burn on his face. Beyond my 24-hour window, I know - I’ll just call it background.)

Yesterday afternoon, I heard a man at work, who could not be mistaken for Brad Pitt, say to someone, “I like ‘em dumb. In fact, the dumber the better.” Today, he was in a heated (not in a mad way) discussion with a few other men around him about Jessica Simpson. They brilliantly concluded that her ex-husband just married her for her body. “He was just riding on her coattails.” “Well, he was riding something.” Followed by a Beavis and Butthead laugh sequence.

Mmmmm, YUMMY!!! Where’s my remote?

"You must be sensitive."

A co-worker asked me to fill in for him taking notes at a client meeting. I’ve done this twice for him and never think to hesitate, even though I don’t relish the role at this point in my technical writing career. I figure we’re on a team with the same goal, so it’s just one person helping another.

All went smoothly the first time I filled in for him. I turned in my minutes to him and the client and never heard a word. I guess I just assumed all went well. What was blatantly missing was a “thanks” or something of the sort in any communication – phone or email. But I ignored it, thinking he might have just been too busy to be polite.

This time he needed to pick his wife up from the airport and needed someone to fill in for him. He sent an email with the document he had used in his last meeting. This time, he signed each of his email communication, “Regards, David”.

I replied back saying that I had received the instructions and would be there at the assigned time. And at the end of the email I typed, “Even though there is no “Thank you”, I’ll still say “You’re welcome.”

He replied with the following : I have covered many meetings for technical writers within our organization and didn't feel the need to receive a "thank you" from them. It's part of our job to help cover meetings if there is a conflict, and we get paid well for doing the work. Your comment about the Thank You was 100% unprofessional. I did not deem your response appropriate. I hope you deal better with people in the business world.

Along with a Yahoo card of gratitude and peace and joy and sharing and…so on.

Of course, I responded: It’s really just common courtesy – in both the business and personal world. Technically, I would be taking time to fill in for you, so I’m fairly certain most people would deem it appropriate.

Yet none of this is what bothers me the most. When my boss got wind of the communication, she told me “You must be sensitive.” She carried on: “We’re all not perfect” and “we have to be forgiving of each other” and “we have to work as a team”.

I told her that it was not an issue of being sensitive. “I just have higher expectations of people. I will always demand civility from others.”

She never quite got it, but she did mention that this man called her to tell her to apologize to me (again with the manners?), especially for the card which he said was “over the top”, so I feel that maybe my point was made. I hope this person will say thank you to the next person he asks to help him.

If we continue to accept discourtesy, expect the least, and overlook the lack of common, everyday decency from each other, what will happen?

I hope we never overlook people’s lack of courtesy. If we don’t expect it, people won’t offer it, and I hate to think of the world we’d have to live in.