Friday, July 27, 2012

The somethin' somethin' somethin' must change

Welcome to The Exciting World of Grout Color.  This episode is entitled, "Sh*t, I just wasted hours of my life debating between "bone" and "linen." 

It's hard to articulate what days are currently like over here.  There are people.  Everywhere.  Two days ago there were eighteen men climbing all over the house.  That sounds hot and sexy but in reality it was confusing, loud, and dusty.

Our fence started going up that day plus we ripped out a bathroom plus we got new gutters.  There were swarms of men crossing the yard, many with ladders.  Sometimes the guys would get confused in the middle of the man soup, forget what job they were doing, and wander off to do another job.  That's how we discovered gutter guys suck at fences.

On top of all that, I hired piano movers to move the piano from our old house.  When the piano movers arrived at Banister Abbey with the piano, there was nowhere to park within a two-block radius on account of all the trucks belonging to men at our house.

The piano movers said, "Errr.. we have a piano?  Move a truck, dammit?  Please?"  Someone did, of course, because we do not employ assholes.

Here's a side effect of having workmen all over your yard -- spending time in a tire repair shop thanks to that nail dropped on your driveway.

Yesterday I was standing ankle-deep in plaster dust and discussing some issues with three workmen when a bright-eyed young man with a passion for liberal politics came up the path and stood on my front porch.  He was raising money for his organization to change the something something something something because we can't be havin' that anymore! 

I knew out of the corner of my ear I agreed with his cause but I was distracted because of the electric saw sounds and the men talking to me and the two children tugging on my skirt, one of whom was also sitting on my foot and yelling "HORSIE."  The only thing holding up my skirt was a weak piece of elastic and the children were testing it mightily.  I hung onto my clothing in the desperate hope I would not be de-skirted in front of the three workmen and the young man with a passion for liberal politics.

(Actually, the workmen and I have been through so much together by now, including sharing the only working toilet in the house, all day, for weeks now, it probably wouldn't phase them too much.)

The political man attempted to give me his schpeel but I kept interrupting him to yell at someone, usually a child but the workmen get uppity from time to time, too.  The young man gave up trying to talk to me and stood silently, waiting for me to make the next move.

I apologized for being inattentive to his pressing political matter.  He nodded, then said the only non-political thing he could think of;  he said, "I think she has a poo-poo" and pointed at Coco.  I turned to look; Coco was inexplicably no longer wearing any clothes, just a diaper.  Hey, when the hell did that happen?

Her diaper was droopy so I can understand the young man's confusion but there's no way it was a poo-poo because we all would have known it without doubt, believe me.  So I said, "No, it's actually not a poo-poo, her diaper's just full of pee and needs to be changed." It occurred to me this was a strange thing to say to a stranger on my front porch but that's just where we were led in the moment. 

Coco, upon overhearing my explanation, did what any dutiful daughter who needs her diaper changed would do -- she ripped it off, threw it on the floor, and ran past the political man out into the front yard.  I chased her naked self outside for a full five minutes while she ducked and weaved and screamed, "MOMMY CATCH ME!"

I tackled and dragged her indoors.  On my way past, I told the nice young man I would like to hear what he had to say but now was not the best time and could he come back later?  He agreed to return in a couple hours when things were sure to be more calm.  Except they weren't.  A couple hours later when he was once again on the front porch, both children were naked and attempting to sled down the front stairs.  I'm not even kidding.

I just made a donation to his cause and let him escape.  We were both relieved it was over.

I'm stuck in a very unhappy blog place.  There are insane things happening daily but I lack the time, the peace, and the energy to write them all down.  I hate this, hate it a lot.  Here are a few pictures and I'll have to call it good.

Seattle Mom and I went to the Capitol Hill Block Party over the weekend where we saw The Lumineers, Phantogram, and Neko Case.  During the Lumineers performance, a large white man with dreadlocks who reeked of The Happy Weed pushed through the crowd and stood two inches in front of Seattle Mom's face.  When she tried to move over, she was accidentally smacked in the face by White Dred's girlfriend who didn't know how to keep her hands to herself when she danced.

When the crowd is that packed in -- JUST DON'T DANCE, PEOPLE.  Stand with your arms crossed and bounce up and down a little like all us normal people.

That's Seattle Mom's face staring at White Dred's back.  Seconds before she'd been staring at the gorgeousness of The Lumineers.  Life is unkind.

Two of my friends broke into the house for sale next door (oh come on, the back window was standing wide open) with one of my emotionally unstable neighbors.  It's a long story.  This was the creepy loot they returned with --

There's also a giant vagina leading into my parlor --

Every time a workman leaves the parlor I throw confetti and yell, "WELCOME TO THE WORLD!"  They may be getting sick of it, hard to say.

On the neighbor front, Angel and Dorita stopped by yesterday.  We chatted out front in the heat until Dorita looked down at her bag of groceries and said, "Oh sh*t, girl, my lettuce is wilting" and took off at a full run down the street.  I hope her lettuce is okay.

Widower Peter is thrilled Contractor God is a fellow Englishman so lies in wait for him.  Contractor God has therefore started slinking around the house behind the bushes to avoid being seen.  When Widower Peter catches him, he chats to him for hours while I stand at the window and mouth, "I'M NOT PAYING YOU FOR THIS."

I met an incredibly normal family who lives two doors down.  They have small kids.  They brought us dessert and a "Welcome to the Neighborhood" card.  They smile all the time.  There is definitely something wrong with them, and I'll let you know as soon as I find out what it is.

I chose "Bone!"

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

People with problems

Alex and Lucien were supposed to leave for their boys-only trip to Quebec Saturday morning.  But they didn't.  Because Friday night, as I packed Lucien's suitcase, I realized Lucien's passport expired six weeks ago.

Seattle Mom and Dad were coming over for dinner and arrived right after the passport realization was made.  Because they are good friends, they sprang into action.  Seattle Dad put the Loosh into his car and took him for a new passport photo.  Seattle Mom prepared the food I was supposed to prepare, freeing Al to freak the eff out and me to punch myself repeatedly in the face in the corner.  We are thankful for our level-headed friends.

What followed was a strange, disjointed night that involved hearing of a friend in hospice and an argument with Contractor God about strippers.  The night was made even more strange when I walked outside to check on the kids and saw two people standing on the sidewalk who asked, "Hey, is that your rabbit?"

I'd never been asked that question before so I had to think a minute before I answered, "Umm...what?"  The couple then pointed to a gray flop-eared bunny sitting in the middle of my yard.  The couple said they'd been following it for six blocks, trying to keep it out of the street, of which it seemed quite fond.

I had a rabbit when I was a kid so I know how to catch the springy little things.  The couple corralled the darting rabbit best they could and I pounced, throwing myself on top of the rabbit as it ran down the sidewalk and grabbing it by the scruff of the neck.  The little sucker didn't like that and attempted to scratch my body to pieces but I hung on, I hung on!

I held him tightly against my chest and walked back into the house.  Everyone looked up and blinked because I'd just walked back into the party carrying a gray flop-eared rabbit.  Then they shrugged and drank their wine because of course I'd just walked back into the party carrying a gray flop-eared rabbit.

Thankfully, another neighbor knew the rabbit's owner.  Soon thereafter the bunny went bye-bye in a cage.  I hope he comes to our next get-together because that rabbit really knew how to party.

We went to the airport the next day to see if we could salvage the boys' Quebec trip.  We debated calling the airline versus going to talk to an agent at the airport.  We decided even though both options were generally useless, we preferred to hate someone in person.

How did airports go from the relatively sane places I remember from my childhood to the absolute pits of hopelessness and despair they are today?  We had to wait in the "people with problems" line which is truly a study in dead-eyed human misery.

We waited for an hour.  Then two.  At one point, the only agent appointed to the "people with problems" line disappeared.  When the angry customer she'd been helping demanded to know where she was, he was told the agent was on her break.

That wasn't a smart thing to tell people standing in a "people with problems" line.  All hell broke loose with a lot of yelling and waving of arms.  People with problems in airports are seriously stressed out people.

An agent finally rebooked the boys for Tuesday and gave us the documentation needed to get an emergency passport on Monday.  Surprisingly, the emergency passport procedure was easy and went off without a hitch, so the boys are finally, happily, in Quebec having a great time.

I'm used to Alex going out of town, happens regularly.  I am not, however, used to seeing my little boy walk away from me dragging his little wheelie suitcase behind him.  I was not prepared for the huge lump in my throat and the hysterical waving and yelling, "BYE LUCIEN BYE LUCIEN BYE BYE."

Al shucking corn in a fedora with a glass of French rosé on our front porch

I talk to Widower Peter nearly every day.  He has a lot to say so it's a real investment of my time when I choose to join him at the gate.  The other day he wanted to talk about "relationships these days."  He's fed up hearing about all these "men who spend their time in bars" and "women who run off to the Bingo parlor on Saturday nights."

Bingo parlor.  Right.  That's where we go.

Speaking of Saturday nights, here was mine --


 photos by the fabulous Christina Mallet

No Bingo in sight.  Gosh, don't tell our fellas.

And Seattle Mom only pretended to do that shot -- she actually dumped it on my foot under the table.  Busted.

That your rabbit?

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Sleepless in the C.D.

Oscar celebrated the Fourth of July by running away.  Fireworks are not Oscar's thing; an unfortunately- timed firecracker paired with an open front door equaled Oscar's freaked-out butt moving at high speed away from the house.

We jumped on bikes, jumped in cars, jogged all over the neighborhood calling his name.  He doesn't yet have a tag with our address on it.  He also has serious pancreas problems; we were filled with horrible visions of someone kindly tossing the scared little doggie something from their grill.  By the time we found him, would it be too late?  Would it be death by burger?

We spread the word amongst neighbors we barely know.  Several volunteered to walk around the neighborhood looking for him.  One heavily tattooed man and matching girlfriend said they would go home and get their chihuahua and walk him around -- maybe their dog would lure our dog out of hiding.  I thanked the cooler-than-me couple for offering their chihuahua as bait.  They may be questionable dog parents but they are very good neighbors.

Hours later, with Alex once again in the car driving slowly through the neighborhood whistling for him, Oscar came walking back into the yard casually like nothing happened.  We were so happy he was home.  But what a little jerk.

We now clip Oscar to a leash that's tied to the house as soon as someone opens the front door.  He would prefer more freedom, but that's the price you pay for exercising your independence on Independence Day, schnauzer.

Other than the dog snafu, our Fourth of July was bizarrely wonderful.  One of the first things we saw that morning was a man in an electric wheelchair with lit sparklers sticking out the back zooming down the sidewalk hollering "HAPPY 4TH OF JULY, YEEEAAAAH!"

The neighborhood party was held at the small rental house behind Banister Abbey, the house on which I've already called 911 for what appeared to be an explosion in their kitchen.  I now realize they were just getting warmed up for the 4th of July.  I called 911 way too early because what I witnessed a week ago was nothing compared to what happened on the 4th.

Everyone was friendly at the party, happy to meet us, happy to talk about Banister Abbey.  It quickly became clear that if this neighborhood were a family of houses, we just moved into Grandma.  The neighbors have an eye on us and are making sure we're treating her right.

The party was a true Central District party.  I'd never been to a party where minorities make up the majority of the guest list until then.  There was also the need for several translators.  But even though we all looked and sounded a little different from each other, everybody loves beer.  We drank it together and smiled.  I always knew -- beer makes the world a better, more unified place.

Dominoes, too.  All my neighbors play dominoes.  I never believed that was a real game.

We left the party at 10:00 to put the kids to bed.  The guy who lives in the rental house, Rusty, yelled after us, "Try to put them to bed if you want but probably not gonna happen -- it's about to go off out here! Nobody sleeping in the C.D. tonight!  HA HA HA HA."

Rusty was right.  The neighborhood's arsenal was the most impressive I've seen at a neighborhood Fourth of July party.  Our neighbors pool their money and do it together every year, seven years running now.

Lucien, Alex and I sat on our balcony and watched the insanity until the wee hours of the morning.  The fireworks lasted until 2:00 a.m.  At times there were ten, twelve, fourteen going off at one time in our stretch of block alone, all exploding directly over our house.  (That's where more beer came in handy -- to cloud the visions of one of those things tipping over and firing into the side of The Abbey.)

It was insanity.  Nobody slept in the C.D. that night.  Happy Birthday, America, you freak

In very sad news, the artists next door are gone.  Turns out the artists weren't so much "renters" as "squatters" so the Sheriff came over and not-so-kindly asked them to leave.  It made a few things more clear in my mind -- such as, what I read as environmentally conscious artists who wouldn't use electricity at night were actually artists who had no electricity.

The owner is now throwing the artists' stuff all over the front lawn in the hopes people will take it.  There's a sweet pair of red Vans, mens size 12, if anybody wants 'em.  I took a beautiful suede jacket that has about thirty years of grime on it and which I will probably never wear.  I just wanted something by which to remember those beautiful artsy squatters.

The owner of the house is a piece of work.  The artists warned me about her.  I had my first run-in with her the other day and they were right -- she's a sociopath devil woman.  I'd love to write about it now but I'm still pretty sleepy from the 4th.

Hey, anyone got a forwarding address for that dark-haired Adonis?  I'd like to send him a lock of my hair and a perfume-scented letter,

Friday, July 6, 2012


We've been living with boxes for weeks.  First it was the unpacking of them, then it was the breaking down and stacking of them.  They occupied most of the floor space.  We had a path between the boxes so we could get to other rooms.

I began listing the boxes for free on Craigslist and other list serves and I asked anyone within yelling distance if they were moving soon, please, please?  Getting rid of boxes became an obsession.  And little by little, the boxes went away, so there was joy throughout the kingdom.

Yesterday I sorted all the kids' clothes that were in storage.  I divvied them into a "donation" pile and a "things I love so much I must keep for no damn reason" pile.  The donation pile grew very large.  Later, Alex asked me what was wrong when I stomped past him grumbling.  I said, "I don't have anything to put these things in; I need a big box."

Al looked at me with an undefined look.  I think it can best be described as "frustrated by irony."   

Goes both ways, buddy -- Alex is on my last nerve.  When he gets too warm in the middle of the night, he tosses the covers off.  But he doesn't kick them down to the foot of the bed or pull them off the bed completely -- he throws them aside, directly onto my unsuspecting and sleeping body.  I wake up half an hour later under a mountain of blankets thinking, "Why am I sleeping in a sweat lodge on the Equator?"

I guess I should look on the bright side; we finally found our sheets and blankets. Up to this point it's been sheetless beds coupled with bath towels.  I'm grateful the prodigal sheets have returned along with the prodigal schnauzer but I probably should have kept the box they were in.

There will be several future posts dedicated to the people of my neighborhood.  We've moved into crazy town, mostly in a good way.  Our neighborhood is full of characters.

Two of my favorites are Angel and Dorita.  Angel and Dorita are cousins of Mr. Cool and used to play hide-n-seek in the attic of Banister Abbey.  They live in the area and walk in front of the house nearly every day.  They first saw me standing outside Banister Abbey with Supermodel Neighbor discussing fence design ideas.  I ran across the street to introduce myself when I noticed they'd stopped and were staring at the house.

Now we're friends.  As they say, sometimes in unison, "We like you cuz you friendly, girl!"  Angel and Dorita are a fast-talking comedy duo the likes of which I've never seen before.  I've never left their company without a smile on my face and a stitch in my gut.  Now when they walk past, they stand outside Banister Abbey and yell, "MJ!  YOU IN THERE, GIRL?  COME TALK TO YOUR FRIENDS ANGEL AND DORITA."

One time the door was open so they came up on the porch.  I was standing in the dining room looking at a rather large wooden chip-n-dip tray I'd just purchased.  I was thinking to myself it was way too large.  When I used it, it was going to look like my chips and dip floated into the party on a piece of driftwood.

When I saw (more heard) Angel and Dorita on the front porch, I asked them, "Hey, is this thing too big?" and Angel said, "Aww hell no, girl, I LOVE me a giant chip-n-dip."  Then I laughed very hard because that's just the most delightful thing I've heard in a long time.

Another time, when discussing their childhoods in Banister Abbey, Angel said, "We used to play hide-n-seek up in there.  Or as I used to call it back then, 'hide-n-come-get-it-cutie.'" Then I said, " old were you when you played this?" and she said, "First grade" and then I said, "Wait...what are we talking about?" and then they laughed.  I don't know what was going on with that one.

The other neighbor I'll mention today is Widower Peter.  Widower Peter lives in a house even bigger than Banister Abbey, all by himself, directly across the street.  He's in his mid-to-late-seventies, an Englishman, with a wonderful accent he's retained even though he's been in the States over forty years.  His wife (whom he calls Precious Wife) passed away last year.

Even on the few warm days we've had, Widower Peter wears a full suit complete with tie and newsboy cap.  He doesn't have many teeth left and has a hard time staying on topic, but he's already adopted us as a second family.  I foresee many long-winded and rambling conversations in our future. 

Widower Peter loves to talk about Precious Wife.  One of our more memorable conversations took place on the front lawn of Banister Abbey.  He very much wanted to share with me the three things that make a marriage great.

The first thing was "togetherness."  The second was "give-and-take."  The third one was..... dang, Widower Peter couldn't remember the third one no matter how hard he tried.  We stood there for awhile and it went like this:

Widower Peter:  Did I mention "togetherness?"
MJ:                     Yep.  Got that one.
Widower Peter: .....did I say "give and take?"
MJ:                     Yep.
Widower Peter   But did I say "togetherness?"
MJ:                     Who cares about that -- just tell me where "blanket inferno" fits into the list.

Widower Peter eventually got so frustrated he said he was going home to check on the third thing.  He'd written all three down on a sheet of paper once and was going to find it.  He asked if, to save himself another trip across the street later, he could just yell the third thing across the street when he found it?

I said that would be fine and walked away fervently hoping Widower Peter was about to stand at his front gate and yell "MIND-BLOWING SEX" in the direction of my house.

(He didn't.  He yelled, "TRUST," which was pretty good, too, I suppose.)

I LOVE me a giant chip-n-dip,

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Gimme Chicken

Thanks for all your well wishes on The Prodigal Schnauzer's return.  He fit back into the family without much trouble at all.  The only problem is he has pancreas issues so eating human food is akin to eating poison.  Oscar doesn't care about that, though, so spends his days relentlessly foraging for things that can kill him. 

There are workmen all over my house.  Some days there are only two or three, some days upwards of ten.  I have no idea what most of them are doing but I like having them around because they're real characters.  I especially like coming home to find them gathered around the dining room table eating a bucket of fried chicken for lunch.  They yell, "Hey, MJ!" and I yell back, "SHH, JUST GIMME CHICKEN."

The first time Alex and I did a "fixer" house, we did it ourselves with the help of several loyal but masochistic friends.  It became our lives, took every spare second we had and every single weekend.  Oh, the caffeine consumed!  The NPR listened to! 

But this time around we've discovered something called "general contractors."  These magical beasts come into your home, do all your work, and in return just take all your money.  It's easy!

Our contractor, Contractor God, is the best.  He's also a good friend of Seattle Mom and Dad and lives on the Street of Dreams right near The Goddamn House next to Supermodel Neighbor.  Check out all those blog monikers in one sentence, truly boggles the mind.

The first day here, Contractor God found a light fixture Mr. Cool left behind still in the box.  Contractor God though I'd purchased it so took it out and installed it in the stairwell.  When I saw it, I said, "Umm... Contractor God, what the hell is that?" and Contractor God said, "It's the lighted dildo Easter egg thing you bought."

I told him I hated it and it had to go.  It was the end of the day so Contractor God said he'd get rid of it first thing in the morning.  He found me on the landing the next day swinging at the beehive dildo egg with a baseball bat and gritting my teeth.

I didn't think it was possible, but it got even worse at night

Lucien spent his first week of summer break at a sports day camp.  A father of a fellow camper was inexplicably always barefoot -- and when I say always, I mean always.  He was barefoot when he stepped out of his car, barefoot walking across the parking lot and up the hill, barefoot in the bleachers, barefoot in the john, barefoot all the time.

 see if you can spot him

At first I thought Barefoot Dad was just a sensitive hippie guy in touch with the earth and his fellow man until I overheard him ask someone, "Was the guy super fat?  Because you said he was Samoan and Samoans are always super fat."  Then I thought wow, that sensitive hippie guy is really insensitive.  Maybe he's just a jerk who hates shoes.

I spent Sunday at our old house on Beacon Hill.  Our renters moved out so I have to get the house ready for new renters.  I also had to do a ton of laundry, which I lugged to the rental house in many suitcases, because we're still awaiting our washer and dryer at Banister Abbey.  We hear they're somewhere between Seattle and Brooklyn.

I stopped at our old neighbors' house for a visit.  They're fantastic -- so fantastic, they gave me a cocktail at noon.  At first it helped with my laborious tasks at the house but then it made me sleepy.  

My feelings are still very hard to manage at the old house.  It's a house full of memories, a house we worked hard to fix, a house we always imagined living in after our years in France.  We changed the plan without ever returning, so there's still unfinished emotional business on Beacon Hill.

When I'm there, I see baby Lucien crawling across the floor and learning to walk in the kitchen.  I hear the sounds of our old parties, full of great friends, some of whom we've completely lost touch with.

 I see the countless number of times we were gravely injured on the spiral staircase

I also remember Lucien's first birthday party when Alex got so sick, he became dehydrated and collapsed.  I called 911 right as the first guests walked in carrying balloons and presents.

First birthday drama right there on that floor we laboriously refinished ourselves

I also remember the false alarm thanks to a faulty ADT smoke detector that brought the fire department to our door, charging up our steep front hill fully clothed in their gear and carrying axes.  Lucien ran around our deck in just a diaper and squealed at the sight of them, in the full throes of little boy firemen heaven. 

The firemen were not so rapturous when we shrugged and told them nothing was wrong.  They looked pretty pissed, in fact.

I painted an apple tree in Lucien's room when he was a baby.  It stood over his crib, wooden letters spelled out his name in the apples.  I ran out of time to paint over it before we left for France so left the paint for the renters.  They never painted over it, either, claiming they "just got used to the thing."

I rocked a colicky Lucien under that apple tree for months.  That kid cried/screamed/acted possessed by a demon all the time.  At one point Alex looked at me with bleary eyes and said, "What if it isn't colic?  What if he's just telling us who he is?"  I think we all know how that turned out.

It still hurt to paint over that tree. 

Bye bye, baby

I was tired when I left the Beacon Hill house.  Alex then told me we had reservations, just the two of us, for a belated anniversary dinner.  He said I had to be ready in five minutes because the babysitter was on her way.  And that's how I came to be at La Spiga, unshowered, my hair back in an old headband, with green paint up my arm. 

Nobody cared.  Now gimme chicken,