Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Prodigal Schnauzer

Alex and I celebrated eleven years of wedded mostly-bliss over the weekend.  Alex had to board a plane to Europe for work the morning of our anniversary but that's OK; we've celebrated many together, and frankly neither one of us made any plans this year.  I felt the love in his text after I drove him to the airport that said, "Flight delayed.  F*ck everything."  It was enough.

Oscar the dog was our wedding present to each other eleven years ago.  He was a mini schnauzer, "our first baby" as they say, though once a real baby came along he felt less like a baby and more like a dog again.  Still, we loved the little guy.

We drove up to Marysville a few days after our wedding to "just take a look" at a litter of schnauzer puppies.  And of course, we left an hour later with Oscar.  We had absolutely no dog supplies at home so had to stop at Petco on the drive back.  Oscar's arrival was not the best planned in the world but we had a habit of doing things like that so nobody was too surprised.

A week after our wedding, we went to Quebec for a party with Alex's extended family to celebrate our marriage.  Because we had an unplanned puppy at home, we had to enlist a string of volunteers to stay with him while we were away.  A couple friends were refinishing their hardwoods so were happy to have a non-fumey place to stay.  Other friends were intense dog lovers and happy to spend time with a puppy.  One friend (Cavanaugh, in fact) still takes immense pride he's the one who taught Oscar to go up and down stairs.

Another friend was willing because he was a horny selfish bastard who was happy to use the puppy to meet chicks by walking him up and down the street outside our condo.  The pup was well exercised and slept for days when we returned.  Much to his chagrin, our friend was still single.

Our years with Oscar pre-Lucien were happy ones.  They were full of days at the dog park where Oscar insisted on making the most intense ear-piercing shriek whenever he caught sight of another dog.  Which was often.  Because it was a dog park.  We eventually stopped going to dog parks because the sound emitted from our dog was truly unbearable.

Oscar slept in our bed, often on our pillows with his butt in our faces.  He joined us on road trips to Colorado where he got carsick and threw up every hour on the hour.  He went on a Labor Day camping trip with a group of our friends and accidentally had his head rolled up in our friend's car window.  That was a terrible moment.  Oscar made strangled sounds, Alex tried to break the window, and the rest of us just screamed.  The driver was so flustered, it took him a minute to find the button to roll the window back down.  We just kept screaming behind him, which he claimed didn't help.

Oscar once ripped apart one of his toys and ate all the stuffing inside.  I didn't realize he'd done that until I took him for a walk and he squatted to poo.  But there was no poo coming out of Oscar -- it was just stuffing.  A woman walked past and screamed when she saw the steady stream of white stuffing coming out of my dog.  She said, "OH MY GOD, WHAT ARE YOU FEEDING THAT POOR THING?"

Oscar had surgery on his ear that necessitated him wearing a cone.  He couldn't figure out how wide that damn cone was so often ran into door frames with the edge of it.  If he was running, the force was strong enough to knock him backwards.  He was one dazed and confused little schnauzer.

Alex tossed Oscar into Lake Crescent once because "all dogs love to swim!"  Turns out Oscar didn't love to swim so Alex had to go into Lake Crescent, too.

Those were some good days.  But when we had Lucien, things changed.  Oscar was not happy.  Lucien followed Oscar everywhere and freaked him out.  He snapped at Lucien many times, growled at him regularly.  I had to shut Oscar in the bathroom much of the time.  It was a tense, stressful existence for all of us.

So when we decided to go to Paris for a few years, the decision to give Oscar up was, frankly, an easy one.  We knew we would have less living space -- much less -- putting Oscar and Lucien in even closer constant proximity.  Oscar wouldn't have a yard in which to run, the thing that gave him his greatest daily joy.  Plus, we would be traveling more often so he would be boarded more often, which he hated. 

It was time to part ways with the schnauzer.  A couple months before we left for Paris, Oscar went to live with friends of friends in southern Washington.  Al and I cried when we said goodbye to him and promised we'd visit someday.  We didn't really think we'd ever see him again.

But life's funny.  Because here's Banister Abbey's newest resident --

 Return of the Schnauzer

Oscar's back with us, as it should be.  The family who took him could no longer keep him.  They traveled extensively, often for weeks at a time, leaving him alone.  Even though neighbors came by to feed him and play with him, our emotionally needy schnauzer grew depressed and started chewing the fur off his legs.  He was so despondent he eventually stopped eating.

When the family contacted me in Paris to ask if I knew of a better home for him, we tried to find one but nothing worked out.  I begged the family to hang onto him until we could get back to Seattle and into a home where we could have a dog.  A week after we moved into the Abbey, the adopted family drove Oscar back to Seattle. 

When they pulled up in front of Banister Abbey and Oscar jumped out of the car, I couldn't tell if he remembered me.  He seemed happy but confused.  When Alex came home later that day, however, Oscar was not at all confused.  Without question, he remembered Al.  Alex was always Oscar's soulmate, his number one, and apparently nothing's changed in Oscar's schnauzer heart.

When Alex came walking up onto the porch, Oscar nearly had a heart attack.  It's like he couldn't believe who he was seeing, couldn't move he was so overwhelmed.  At first he just collapsed to the ground like a preteen girl at a Justin Bieber concert.  Then his entire body started wagging and he frantically flopped all over the place. 

He couldn't get enough Alex, jumping all over him as if to demand, "WHERE THE HELL YOU BEEN, PUNK?"  He pretty much tried to crawl into Alex's mouth to be as close to him as possible.  A man and his dog reunited is a beautiful thing.

Oscar's an elderly dog now at eleven years old.  He sleeps a lot more.  He no longer makes the squealing sound when he sees another dog.  He no longer gets carsick.  He no longer poops stuffing, or at least not that I'm aware of at this time.  

He's mellowed in all ways, including with children.  We were prepared to keep them separate but it doesn't seem necessary.  The kids threw a tennis ball for him and he decided they were OK.  Sometimes they smother him too much but he doesn't growl, just sighs deeply and rolls his schnauzer eyes.  So far so good.

I didn't mean to write all that about Oscar but I guess the dog deserved an ode.  It feels so good to have him back.  We always felt guilty about giving him away, and wondered what it meant about our marriage that we were able to give away the symbol of our love and commitment so easily.  Symbol of our love?  Meh, screw it, take it to southern Washington.

Welcome home, doggie

In other news, Lucien is now a Kindergarten graduate.  On his last day of school, the parents assembled in the classroom for a performance.  The kids sang some songs they learned over the course of the year.  Lucien, as usual, was placed in the back row as if to hide him, where he half-heartedly sang until he got bored and started smacking his own butt and grinning widely. 

He's in a sports day camp now that school's out.  I heard from a friend Lucien suggested they name his team "The Underpants" but the coach vetoed it.  Lucien then begrudgingly agreed to "The Banana Peels" but remains vocally disgruntled to this day.

I had a lot to say today but Oscar took up all the room.  Kind of like what he's doing in our bed once again.  Dog butt has returned to our pillows, huzzah.

We promise to give you a good last few years, prodigal schnauzer,

Friday, June 22, 2012

Boxes and piles

What the hell is going on?  Where am I?  Who are you?

Life has been a chaotic blur since a large truck pulled up in front last week and unloaded the things -- ALL the things -- into my house --

Our lives are now boxes and piles, piles and boxes.  Every box I open reveals a plethora of things I didn't remember until that very second but no longer want one second more.  It's an endless cycle of excitement and despair --

"Ooh!  What's in this shiny box?  I can't wait to see... oh dammit, that thing?  It was a piece of crap before we left for France and now it's even worse.  What am I going to do with it?  I am a loser for buying that thing in the first place.  I have poor judgment.  I hate myself..... Ooh!  What's in this shiny box....?" 

and so on and so forth.

I'm sorting things into three piles: things I want to get rid of this very second, things I want to get rid of yesterday, and things that have to go "somewhere else" in the house.  That last one is a mystical pile indeed.

There is also an "I have to recycle this old electronic thing to be a decent human being but have no idea how to do that" pile.  That's my least favorite pile; I try not to look at it too much.

 The packing material sneaks up on the children.  They will not see it coming.

We moved in and Banister Abbey was immediately part of the family. We celebrated by riding bikes through the entry hall and breakdancing in the kitchen.  The oak floors are already traumatized and seeing a therapist.  There are several million boxes and piles and loud voices echo even more loudly in an empty house, but we're happy.  We finally, finally have a home.

...a home with a temporary banister so we don't fall off our stairs

We lured some friends over with pizza and booze and razzle dazzle so they would help us all day Saturday.  They dismantled our swingset at our old house and re-assembled it in The Abbey's side yard.  They also went to the storage unit in Bellevue (where I likely left Hemingway Guy shuffling around) and cleared out all the furniture.  We may not find the bedsheets or coffee maker for many months, but at least we have a dining room table.

 The men of Banister Abbey

the contents of a storage unit

a swingset in the city

a dining room table

This neighborhood is full of characters.  I've met many of them but have the feeling I've barely scratched the surface.  My favorite people in the neighborhood are thus far the artists next door, of course, who are so environmentally conscious they don't turn on lights after dark.  I like to imagine the artists running into each other in the hallways at night.  It makes me smile.

There's also the man who works at the large building down the street so walks in front of our house twice a day.  He swears Coco is a boy.  When I tell him no, really, she's my daughter, he says, "Honey, that ain't no girl," looks at me like I'm crazy and shakes his head as he walks away.  There's no persuading him.  Coco doesn't care, just continues to play in the mud in her Nirvana t-shirt and torn jeans.

My least favorite neighbors are the ones directly behind us on whom I've already called 911 for detonating what sounded to be a stick of dynamite in their kitchen.  I went over to check on them after I called 911 and they were like, "Nope, explosion didn't happen here *cough cough* *billowing smoke*"

The nice firemen who showed up told me the sound was likely an M-80, a very illegal firework.  That was a firework?  It sounded more like a cannon firing next to my ear, or a transformer blowing, or perhaps a meth lab exploding?  The Fourth of July is not likely to be a quiet one this year.

Banister Abbey gets an immense volume of foot traffic in front all day long.  All I have to do is sit on the front steps and within five minutes I've made a new friend.  The previous owner, Mr. Cool, has five thousand cousins, some of whom don't realize Mr. Cool sold the house when they pull up front with the intent to visit him.  When they see me, the confused cousins call out things to each other like, "Hey Reggie, who is that small white woman sitting on Mr. Cool's porch?"  One guy even rubbed his eyes then looked at me again.  I was still there.  I was not a small white woman mirage.

When they find out I'm the new owner of The Abbey, the cousins are shocked at first but then shake my hand warmly and tell me tales of hide-and-seek in the attic of the house as kids and large family dinners in the dining room.  I've invited them back to play hide-and-seek with us anytime.  I've also invited them back to cook me a large dinner.  Those are my favorite moments so far in the new neighborhood.

Many neighbors stop by to express their relief Banister Abbey wasn't bought by a developer.  That's what was assumed would happen when it went up for sale.  It happens often to the big old houses of the C.D. -- they get torn down for townhouses or broken up into individual apartments.  It's a damn shame.

But when we put that swingset in the side yard, the neighborhood realized it was us, it was a single family intent on living here, and came out to greet us joyfully.  Banister Abbey lives on huzzah!

I have to go unpack more boxes and shuffle more crap around. I don't have a lot of writing time these days but I will certainly be back to tell you tales of copper thievery and possible meth labs and my neighbors who are all colors of the rainbow and speak many strange languages.  There are also many people with blue hair and tattoos pushing babies in strollers.  It's the C.D. baby.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

And that's just Day One

I realize I said in my last post you wouldn't hear from me for a week on account of no internet and moving and such, but I apparently lied.  Because sometimes you have a day you must capture before it's gone.  Enter Day One.

Yesterday after receiving the keys to Banister Abbey, I met our contractor to discuss some details of the work schedule.  While walking around the house, Contractor Man noticed there was a three-foot section of copper pipe missing from the heat pump.  Ours for two hours and already -- sabotage! 

A call to my real estate agent revealed copper theft is popular, especially on buildings known to be vacant.  It was not a great "Welcome Home!" It was more of a "Welcome Home, assholes!"

Slightly unnerved by the near-immediate theft on our property, Alex and Seattle Dad went to Banister Abbey last night to "turn on some lights and leave a radio on" but judging from the shot glasses I found over there this morning, I think they really just went over there to drink whiskey.

It sounded like a good idea to leave a radio on, create a little sound around the house, perhaps give any further intruders slight pause.  But as I pulled up in front of Banister Abbey this morning,  I wondered, "What the hell is that sound?"  I unlocked the front door and YOU'VE BEEN..... THUNDERSTRUCK.  

"Thunderstruck" accosted me at an eardrum-piercing decibel level and nearly knocked me backwards onto the porch.  The boys sure did leave a radio on -- wisely at intruder-paralyzing volume -- all night long.  No wonder someone stole our copper pipe.  It's like they sensed we were going to be horrible.

But let me go back a few minutes.  When I first pulled up to Banister Abbey, before the AC/DC encounter,  I saw a familiar truck parked out front of the house.  It was the decidedly unique truck of the seller of Banister Abbey, whom I'll call "Mr. Cool." 

I pulled into the driveway and Mr. Cool immediately charged towards me with his hand outstretched and a loud,  "Congratulations!"  We shook hands and stared at Banister Abbey together.  He told me how long the house had been in his family -- that he, in fact, had been raised there himself.  He was happy to know there would be children growing up there again. (He was there to get the water meter reading, by the way, not to be creepy and stare at me through the windows.)

A little later, my meeting with a security system guy wrapping up nicely, another guy walked up and stood on the porch. He introduced himself as Detective So-n-So from the Sheriff's Office, and asked if Mr. Cool happened to be home? 

Hmm.  That's not so good.   I told Sheriff Guy Mr. Cool was gone and Banister Abbey was my house now, official as of the day before.  Sheriff Guy asked if I knew where Mr. Cool moved?  I said no.

(I did not mention I'd just had a delightful conversation with Mr. Cool out on the driveway less than an hour before.  That was our special passing-the-torch time, no one's business but ours.)

Sheriff Guy assured me it was a civil matter he was investigating, not a criminal one, so I didn't need to fear for my family's safety in our new house.  Fantastic news!  Missing copper pipe and only a civil matter that brought the law to my doorstep!  It's only Day One!  Yippee!

The cleaning lady, the one scheduled to do the extensive move-in cleaning, decided not to come but apparently didn't want to talk about it because she wouldn't answer her phone.  I started scrubbing the crap caked on the refrigerator shelves myself while frantically calling more cleaning ladies.  My children ran laps through the empty house, yelling.  Yelling really echoes in a big empty house.  It hurt my ears more than Thunderstruck.

The security guy came back because he forgot his bag.   He scared the crap out of me when I saw him peeking through the front door.  Is it ironic the security system guy nearly made me scream at the top of my lungs for help?

While chatting again with Security Guy,  someone else walked up the pathway and stood on the front porch, a woman this time.  Lucien immediately took her by the hand and led her upstairs.  What the hell?  I ran away from Security Guy to stop the lady on the landing and ask her who the hell she was.  Security Guy called out he'd be back with a security system bid and I responded, "Good, we gonna need it, all sorts of people up in here."

Neighbor lady is a nice lady who walks two miles up and down the street every day.  She knew Mr. Cool and his family from her many passes in front of the house and had many tales to tell about the house.  Nice lady, happy to meet her, but I really must talk to Lucien about leading strangers around our new house by the hand. 

While dragging the recycling bins out to the curb before I left,  I met another neighbor.  He's a spritely little thing I'll call "Puck."  Puck is a middle-aged artist and lives next door to Banister Abbey in a rental house full of other artists.  They're trying to pool their money to buy the house together when it goes up for auction in August. 

A house full of artists, musicians and actors?  I nearly squealed with glee because for me, that's the jackpot.  I've been around those types all my life.   I love them and want a house full of them, complete with organic garden, next to me at all times.  Close your eyes -- can't you just hear the guitar and smell the pot already?

As I walked back to the car, puzzled but thrilled with the happenings of the day, I glanced up at a window in the house full of artists.   Oh Sweet Jesus -- an Adonis!  A dark-haired, artsy Adonis.  And he was shirtless.  And gazing longingly into the middle distance.  He looked down and waved.

So far so good over here, people. 

I'm anxious awaiting, yet horribly afraid of, Day Two,

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Scaring the birds

Did you enjoy my disappearing act?   Sorry if you thought I died.  No worries -- I'm fine, family is too, we've just been distracted by a big old house that needs a stupid amount of work.

But rejoice, for Banister Abbey is ours! We signed the closing documents this morning -- at 6:45 a.m. because Alex had non-stop meetings beginning at 8:00 a.m. and lasting until eternity.

Today we finally have keys to a goddamn house (though not THE Goddamn House, for which I still mourn). Our warrior real estate agent, who has been walking this road with us for a year and a half, is either going to miss us terribly or undergo a complex and dangerous procedure to wipe us from her memory.

It's been so long since I posted, I'm hopelessly behind and am going to have to let some really weird stories go.  In an effort to catch up just a little bit, here is an abbreviated version of recent events.  This is a very long post, but you'll likely not hear from me for another week because of the moving so I'm going to throw it all out there.

Prepare yourselves for the razzle dazzle.

 We saw a flying boat

I chaperoned a field trip to the Japanese Garden in the rain.  My group left shivering with wet pants thanks to near-constant puddle jumping.  I am the worst chaperone ever.  

 Lucien went to a fair in a wetsuit

 Coco picked up a six pack at the grocery store

We went to a very cold beach up in Edmonds...

..and took a very nice self portrait there

 I went back to our old house.  I have a lot of feelings about that
Another time.

We went to a party.  Alex broke a pint glass...

...so he put a hat on it so no one would know....

Let's see, what else...

Saturday was official Capitol Hill Garage Sale day.  There were sales all over the place.  I scored a set of Fiestaware for cheap, cheap.  I also met a very distraught woman who was trying to finance her divorce through her sale.  I bought all her placemats and napkins and told her everything was going to be all right. 

Lucien may be a hyper little thing but he indulges Coco's need to hold hands every day when walking home from the bus stop.

I went to see a show Saturday night with Seattle Mom and Supermodel Neighbor.  We saw Michael Hurley, famous old folk singer, at a neighborhood music venue which happens to be a bike shop during the day.  It was a hushed show amongst many bicycles.

Seattle Mom and I were supposed to meet Supermodel Neighbor inside.  We got a little worried as we approached the front door, however, because it appeared to be a very subdued show and we were not in a subdued mood.  We became increasingly concerned when we met a hipster outside who dreamily said "Hurley's like a bird sitting in your hand; you don't want to startle him because he might fly away" because Seattle Mom and I are definitely the bird-startling types.

We jumped up and down a few times to expel our rowdiness and went inside.  I liked Michael Hurley very much, especially the song where he repeatedly begged us to stop kicking his dog.  Supermodel Neighbor only had to tell Seattle Mom to "settle down and listen to the music" once.  All in all, a success. 

You could tell it was a real hipster show because they were selling eight-tracks at the front door --

My parents and my sister are on an adventure in New Mexico right now, an adventure which has apparently involved some getaway-style driving and some breaking and entering at Georgia O'Keefe's former ranch.  I'm not sure what the hell they're doing down there, but they appear to be causing trouble, and I wish I was with them.

In other news, Lucien no longer wants to be called "Lucien."  He wants to be called "The Flying Dutchman."  What the hell?

At least we finally got a house.  And what a house it is,