June 22, 2010

Torn Asunder

Throughout my life, I've stubbornly held on to the illusion that summer is a time of rest and relaxation.  It's a sad day when you realize that you've been living a lie.  The fact is ... Summer is the least relaxing season of the year.  Not only do you have to keep the inside of your place liveable, it turns out there's all this shit that starts happening outside that you have to take care of too.  Like a lawn, and trees, and bugs and peeling paint and all manner of other needy things.  Plus, Ma Nature makes it so easy for you to work 18 hours a day because the sun never seems to set.

This summer, Jan and I are pouring a shit pot load of money into remodeling, which means that my anal retentive nature is going to take a major hit starting ... well, now.  Crap is everywhere except where it's supposed to be, and not one nail has been driven yet.

So, one month for renovation and one month to put everything back together again.  And then, summer will be almost gone.

If the truth were to be told, I haven't had a relaxing summer since I was 15 years old.  Days filled with fresh mornings, golf, baseball, watching television, taking naps in the middle of the day and staying up past midnight every night of the week.

I certainly hoped I enjoyed it, because little did I know it would be the last one for a long, long time.

Well, there's a little daylight left.  Guess I'd better go water the plants.

June 15, 2010

Neighborly Chat

Over the weekend, I was out puttering in the yard, laying down some weed killer to stem the hoard of unfriendlies creeping in from my neighbor's yard.  In the past, I haven't paid much attention to my yard, but this year, thanks to the abundant rain, it looks better than any of the previous 23 years we have lived here.  I'd love to show before and after pictures, but the daguerreotypes I have from the 1980's don't scan well onto the computer.

Anyway, while I was spraying, my favorite neighbor, Hillbilly Ron (HR), came out to take a look at what I was doing.

HR: Whatcha' doing?

Me:  Spraying the weeds coming in from your yard.  You know, remember a couple of years ago when you got irritated at me when I didn't use the TruGreen people to spray my yard like you did and all of my weeds were growing into your yard?  Well, looks like I'm getting my payback.  Ha, ha!

HR:  Uh, yeah ... they were kinda expensive so I stopped using them.  I see you cut your lawn this morning.

Me:  Sure did.

HR:  Kinda mowin' over on my side a little, aren't you?

Me:  Noooo ... I don't think so.  I'm coming down the line from your fence.

HR:  Yeah, well see, my property kind of angles back out from the fence, so you're mowing on my side.

Me:  Nah, your line goes straight with that fence. Actually, you don't have a hell of a lot of side yard.  You know, I just happen to have a Plat sitting in my truck that I had to dig up for some work we're having done.  I'll show you.

(I pull the Plat out and show HR)

Me:  See.  In fact, if you look straight down that line, you'll see that your mailbox is in my yard, actually.

HR:  Huh?

Me:  Yeah!  I'll bet if we go down there, we'll find the marker.

(We amble down to the mailbox and sure enough, the marker is on the wrong side of the mailbox)

HR:  Shit ...

Me:  Yeah, maybe it would look nicer on the other side of your driveway.

HR:  Uh, well ... I think I hear the wife calling.  Say, your yard sure does look nice!

Me:  Thanks!

Never pull territorial shit on a guy with a Survey Plat.

June 14, 2010

Crap Here You Dumb-Ass Cat

About seventeen years ago, I made a minor error in judgement.  For several years before, Jan had been laying down heavy suggestions that we ought to have a pet. Specifically, a cat.  I had fended off the subject repeatedly, but following a bit of nasty surgery, I was feeling vulnerable and agreed that the family could purchase one.  So we went to our local pet store and bought an adorable little kittie-wittie and named her Sam, for no particular reason.

Before I go on, yes ... those were the good old days. Where you could go to a pet store and buy a dog or a cat. I guess you can't do that anymore, at least in this state. We were at Petsmart the other day and instead of "Dogs and Cats For Sale", there were "Adoptees".

How fucking cute.

Instead of an inbred pet, you can buy a free range mongrel for the same inflated price.  And although they say that they've had all their shots and pixie dust and mental counseling and are as normal as can be, the fact remains that they are ticking time bombs, set to go off about 48 hours after you take them home.  Then you find out that you paid 500 dollars for a shedding, vomiting, shit & piss anywhere, bad tempered minion of Satan himself.   The more sane amongst us drive to the nearest corn field and let the beast loose to wreak havoc on the countryside, but others resign themselves to 15 to 20 years hard time with a slobbering money pit.

But back to Sam.  Following her training period, we gave her free run of the house, and amazingly, she didn't destroy all that much.  I figured that given the average life expectancy of a pet store cat, I could be rid of the thing in five years.  Then our pet "phase" would be over and no animals would ever darken our door again.  Ever.

That was close to two decades ago.  And the cat is still here.  Still moving, eating and breathing, with no end in sight.  Lucky me.

The cat's litter box has been housed in the unused shower in our downstairs bathroom for all that time.  But now, with a complete remodel of the room scheduled for next month, which includes removing the useless shower, the cat will have to find someplace else to poop.  Because I'm not spending that kind of money on a remodel to showcase a plastic pan full of shit.

So over the weekend, we went to the above mentioned Petsmart and bought this:

And placed it in an unused corner by the cat's bed on the second floor.  That was two days ago, and it sits, accumulating no poop.  The cat eyes it warily from her bed, but makes no move to use it.  Hell, she makes no indication that she even knows what it's for.

I have no idea how to toilet train a cat.  Especially a cat as old as Methuselah.  So, I'll play the waiting game for now, and maybe in a few weeks, something will click in that little cat brain and all will become clear.  You're losing your lower level crapper cat ... and this is the only game in town.

I hope this is how it turns out.  Because if it doesn't, it'll be time for "Plan B".  Shoving her through that door and taping it shut after her until she gets the idea.

Tough love.

June 11, 2010

Rehab Math For Dummies

Here at "The Ranch", Jan and I are in full swing preparing to rip our house a new asshole.  Well, we're ripping it a partial asshole because we don't have the elebenty gazillion dollars needed to redo all of the 1980's out of our 23 year old home all at once.

This summer we are concentrating on completely tearing out and rebuilding our second bathroom on the first floor and replacing every fucking window in the house. In the past, I would have fearlessly tackled these projects myself, but fortunately for everybody, I went back to work and don't have the time.  And anyway, I can imagine the results would have the place looking like Jed Clampett's residence before he moved to Beverly Hills.

We hired a different contractor for each job.  The window guy appears competent, but was overly reliant on his many certificates and awards when he made his sales pitch to us.  At one point I thought he was going to whip out his Congressional Medal of Honor and his Order of Sainthood from the Vatican in order to seal the deal.  The bathroom guy is much more low key, but on our first pass at an estimate on fitting out the loo, where we were urged to "think big", big turned out to be five figures. And although our second and final estimate was a much more reasonable amount, it's still kind of pricey.

Just for fun, I thought I'd shuffle around some numbers and try to put a face on what we are spending to remodel a mere 40 square feet of our home.  Play along with me if you will.

In 1987, Jan and I built our home at a cost of 76 dollars per square foot.  Hey, not bad ... right?  If I were to take the cost of the bathroom remodel, divide it by 40 square feet and then take that number and multiply it by the total square feet of the house, then our house would be on the market today for ...

Let's see, divide by 13, carry the four, multiply by 2, add 2,123 and subtract the square root of pi.

Our house would now be worth approximately 200k above it's present market value, or well over 200 dollars per square foot.

Somebody is going to make money off of this house, but I have a feeling that it's not going to be me.

Once again ... I think I picked the wrong line of business to get into 'lo so many years ago..

June 07, 2010

Crab Salad Days

Last week was lousy.  About midway into the week, one of my "helpful" co-workers let it slip on purpose that the boss had been spreading rumors about me, and since my contract was up at the end of the month, I thought I was a goner.  This did nothing for my good humor and self esteem, so I spent the weekend alternately pondering another stretch of unemployment and generally grousing about.

Even web surfing couldn't lift the gloom that hung about me.  One of my "friends" on facebook had written a particularly smarmy, self-absorbed post that went something like this:  "I'm sitting here with my good friend (name).  What do you do on a rainy day on (place) to have some fun!".  Now, if you're like me, you just look at that post and think "WTF"?  Some other bright eyed friends had made helpful suggestions like playing Yahtzee, or doing a 1,000 piece puzzle, or watching "Wuthering Heights".  Again, "WTF"?  My fingers hovered above the keyboard, and I came that close to quickly typing "Why don't you go fuck yourselves." Thankfully, two centuries of ingrained civilization kicked in, and I refrained. But it would have felt soooooo good.

Instead, I shut down the computer, locked up the house and turned in for the night.

And then, on a gloomy Monday morning, I walked into my office, turned on my computer, dialed up my email, and found ...

That my contract had been extended to end of this year. Six months.  Three months longer than this place ever extends a single contract.  So, a show of confidence in my work.  I should have felt flattered, but instead, I felt a little let down.  All of that time wasted over the weekend getting into the groove of having my days free again.

I should feel ashamed of myself.  But tonight, I'm starting to recover and remember that work is good for the soul, and that the by-product, money, is good for a hell of a lot of other things.  So to bring me back, I looked at my secret file of inane things that I had collected from the internet that always seem to make me laugh.  And I'm going to share ... because that's what I do.  Here are three of my favorites.

Totally off-the-wall.
I wish I'd thought of it.

My favorite secret thing to say out loud.
No one ever knows what I'm talking about.

How do they choose?

Anyway, I'm feeling better already.  I should go iron a shirt and make my lunch for tomorrow.  After all, I do have to go to work.

June 03, 2010

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

After a particularly ugly day at work yesterday, I trudged home with a sinking feeling that lasted throughout the evening, and was only interrupted when I mercifully fell asleep.  When the alarm went off at 5 a.m. this morning, I glumly went through the motions of getting ready for the day and more bad news.

But, as sometimes happens to even the most downtrodden of sinners, providence intervened.

Providence came in the form of Jan coming down with a horrific case of poopy pants.  So horrific, that she asked me if I would take her to the doctor because she was cramping so badly.

And for me, the world took on a shine.  We gathered ourselves and headed first to school to drop off lesson plans, and then to the doctor for 7:15 sick call, where she found out it was just a normal case of diarrhea.  After we returned home, I went to Walmart for all the diarrhea necessities.  Jello, Activia and Gatorade.  Walmart at 8 a.m. on a weekday morning is a magical place, because there are so few people there at that time.  And even though I got stuck behind some 120 year old fossil at the checkout lane who couldn't figure out how to pay the cashier, I didn't care.

From there I went to the bank, because we had been caught off guard in the cash department and had barely been able to scratch together the co-pay at the doctors office.  Inside, the walleyed teller confused me because I couldn't tell who she was looking at when she spoke, and asked me for 50 forms of ID to cash a 26 dollar check from Jan's mother.  But I didn't care.

It was a beautiful morning, and I decided to mow the lawn.  Later, I took a walk and stopped for a friendly chat with a group of unemployed dads who had sent their wives off to work that morning.  When I returned, I laid on the floor to watch "Vice Squad" with the unlikely duo of Edward G. Robinson and Lee Van Cleef. And then I took a nap.

Ferris never had such a fine day.  And even though I can feel my stomach tightening up a bit this evening in anticipation of returning to work tomorrow and facing the same dilemma I left last night.

Well ...

Fuck it.  It's Friday.