The Perfect Storm

In case anyone has been wondering when I would reach my limit: Tuesday, October 30. 3:13pm. That’s when my brain oozed out my ears and I turned into that pink slime that runs under New York City in “Ghostbusters 2.”

Obviously, the house buying is a big part of it. Turns out, so are Jack and Sandy – two characters from dueling rock stars’ songs that have ravaged my heart in equal parts.

Wow. That was some nauseatingly dramatic prose, right there.

We basically know the Jack story. I mean it’s devolved since last I wrote about it, but who cares. (That’s a period because I don’t have the emotional energy required for a question mark.) He’s not really in my life anymore. The problem is that he’s still in my head, so it’s Groundhog Day all the time. It’s what my friend Angie and I call a “baseline crisis.” Always there, low level, but easy to access via any other life drama. Anything else that comes up brings him with it.

Sandy proved to be so crushing to the Jersey Shore that I ache with every photo and video I see. We don’t yet know how my parents’ house down there is; it’s on one of the barrier islands down south, and no one can get out there right now. The great majority of the coverage has been from areas north of Atlantic City. I don’t know how to describe the feeling of seeing all these images. The one place in the world that has consistently brought me peace since my childhood has been destroyed.

Those who don’t have a personal connection to the Jersey Shore tend to make jokes, but in 24 hours, people’s entire lives and lifelong memories got washed away. Every business there is a small business. They’re all mom & pops. Tourist season will take a big hit and the entire state’s economy will suffer.  Not to mention the people whose life dream has been carried out to sea. I’ve been told that every storm is bad for every region it hits, and that’s true. But this one is personal, and it goes beyond devastating.

Fortunately, all my friends and family up and down the seaboard are fine, including those in Jersey and New York (though some friends have lost cars, and others haven’t seen their kid since Saturday because they’ve been working and the kid’s been home in Hoboken with the nanny, cut off from the world and now apparently set to be evacuated by the National Guard. They didn’t ignore an evacuation warning, to be clear. Shit just got real in ways they didn’t expect).

Rewind: While I was worrying about the then-looming storm and what it would unleash on the coast, my city and my workplace, I’d spent the weekend unable to get a hold of Hottie McHousehunter. I kinda needed to know what might happen to what, in retrospect, was the adorable idea of closing on the house Tuesday. I finally reached him Monday afternoon. I was at work. HMcH told me he was at home, thinking about how apparently the only thing people do in hurricanes is drink milk and use the bathroom, based on grocery store shelf data. (As opposed to my preferred method of storm preparation: wine, books and non-perishable tasty food… and what I really do instead: pack a bag and go to work.) When Hottie confirmed that closing was on hold until the house can be checked out again, and that the earliest that would happen is Thursday, that was it. There was nothing else that could be done. I had to switch my brain off homebuyer mode.

Except for constantly wondering if there was a sewage backup in the basement. Or water. Or a roof leak. Or a window leak. Or fish in the toilet. I mean don’t get me wrong – I was glad I didn’t sign on Friday and own the place when the entire ocean decided to migrate westward and bring a seaboard-sized wind tunnel with it, while I had to be at work just wondering if all these things were happening on my dime.

But anyone who’s bought a house knows the stress, and the constant “the underwriter needs this,” “the underwriter needs that,” “the seller says this,” “the inspector says that,” “the underwriter wants to see this again.” I was hoping all of that would be over as of Tuesday. As I mentioned in a previous post, my very carefully constructed schedule of painting and moving with no time off has collapsed. The light at the end of the tunnel suddenly went out and I sort of started rocking back and forth and muttering nonsensically.

When I got back into work Tuesday afternoon after being there til 2am, I discovered that someone had jacked up my computer and forwarded calls from some random phone to mine. Could I unforward them? Nope. And all of a sudden every little thing had me irked. Soon I felt that everyone needed to just be quiet until I told them they were allowed to speak again. But it wasn’t until someone teased me that I’m not actually from the Jersey Shore and therefore can’t “own” the disaster there that I realized I was a woman on the edge. I actually cried. And then I sat there going, “Why am I crying?”

Call forwarding. That was my undoing.

I got home Tuesday night around 11pm, poured a very large glass of wine and laid down on my couch. (Tricky drinking. I did it. I win.) I zoned out to “Sex and the City” reruns and tried to let everything that had been adding up in my head go away. I slept for 11 hours.

HMcH called on my way to work and said the bank wanted to close today. No can do. So then it was going to be Thursday. And now Friday.

By the time I actually own this house, I’m just going to lie down on the floor and whimper.

And then have Hottie McHousehunter over to warm it.

hurricane

Madam Marie Should Have Told Me

(For some reason, this post will not format correctly in paragraphs. Hence the dashes. Best I could do.)
—-It probably could only happen to me, right? A hurricane ON THE DAY I’m supposed to close on my house? In very, very late October? A perfect storm, to be more precise, of a hurricane and two other major weather systems merging forces and smacking almost the entire East Coast. And it’s the second time in my life that a hurricane will screw up a move; my family was trying to transplant from outside Allentown, PA to Indianapolis in September 1985 when Hurricane Gloria showed up. The movers called and told my mother they weren’t coming, ant which point she sat down on a box and cried because Dad was already in Indy and she was home by herself without power, food or belongings, with three kids ages 8, 6 and 4.
—-Fresh from my therapist’s office where I’d just gotten myself together post-Jack conversation, I spoke to Hottie McHousehunter because I was curious about what happens when you have a hurricane the day you’re supposed to close on a house. He said that “if” the storm hits Tuesday (which is precious, because there’s no “if”), we won’t close. We’ll extend the contract, and a few days after the storm, we’ll do another inspection to make sure there was no damage. If there was, the seller makes the repairs and then we close. Basically, real estate transactions are frozen when there’s a monster storm  looming, so even if the brunt hits before Tuesday, there’s still an excellent chance of delay.
—-Well, that’s all very rational. Except I don’t have time for that. Projecdts at work ramp up in November, which means I am not allowed to take any time off. In fact, it usually means we work more. I was already doing this transaction, painting and moving without any time other than my usual days off, and with this storm and other  professional events, there’s no guarnatee I’ll get those. The movers were booked for a usual day off, about a week after closing, ensuring that there was enough time to paint and let it dry. My father and his older brother were planning to come on Halloween to paint while I’m working, and then I’d finish up on my days off following. Dad and my uncle are both retired, so scheduling doesn’t matter much to them, but Dad can’t come after Nov. 2 because he and Mom will have Twin Nephs while Sister 1 and BIL 1 are on a cruiser for a week.
—-You see, this was all very precisely engineered.
—-And now there’s a Frankenstorm.
—-Unbelievable. I mean I know the hurricane did not form because of me and my alleged plans, but you have to give me the fact that it’s completely unbelievable.
—-I’m surrounded by boxes, by the way. I basically live in a fort I built out of boxes at this point. I packed up all my comfort movies. Why did I do that?
—-And adding insult to inury, I don’t even get George Clooney and Mark Wahlberg.
—-And – *political aside* – the storm is going to screw up the election. How? Early voting. Places that don’t have power won’t be able to function.
—-Sandy is rude.
—-So all of this was going through my head as Hottie McHousehunter was telling me the very rational response to my “what happens when you’re supposed to close during a hurricane” question. Suddenly his matter-of-fact tone of voice changed, softened, and said, “Don’t stress out about it. I can hear it in your voice that you’re stressing out about it.”
—-More accurately, I was starting to cry, like a total girl. I blame at least half of this on the fact that I was still a little tender from the therapy appointment. But I got it together and explained that, yes, I was stressing out about the house, but mostly it was because of the hair-trigger schedule I was working under.
—-Score one for steely resolve, since what I actually wanted to say was, “Hold me.”
—-I’m well aware that, eventually, I will close on this house, and eventually, I will move into it. There’s nothing I can do about this unbelievably poorly-timed but very well-organized storm that is threatening not only me and my life, but those of millions of other people, some of whom might have also been planning a move. On balance, I’m not so badly off.
—-Still, I’m really annoyed.
—-But,working on the now tenuous schedule, I went to Lowe’s and bought the paint and supplies yesterday. Six gallons in my trunk right now: Rich Mahogany, Beehive, Meadowlands, Dark Granite, Jazz Club and Cobblestones, all ready to turn my house into my home.
—-If Dad and my uncle wind up unavaialable, I’ll have to see if Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle are free. Yes, Peter Boyle is dead, but it’s going to be Halloween.
******
(In case you’re wondering, the title of this post is a reference to Bruce Springsteen’s “4th Of July Asbury Park,” aka “Sandy.” I found it appropriate, since Sandy is going to kill New Jersey.)

The Doughboy and the Cat

Pillsbury crescent rolls may have saved my life.

Not really.

Like about three million other people, I lost power Friday night when the drunken, pissed-off, wife-beater-wearing grandpappy of all thunderstorms tore eight states a new a-hole. It came out of nowhere and whipped itself up into such a frenzy as to compel me to turn on the news to make sure death was not raining from the sky. I had come back from futile attempts to see out my living room windows, and the weatherguy had just finished saying that winds were 70 miles an hour, when every source of light and coolness in my apartment went dead.

I’m not one to complain much about power outages. It doesn’t happen that often where I live, and I figure I’m healthy, relatively young and not a mother of small children, so I can deal. Plus I work a lot, and work has generators. Every morning since the storm, I’ve gotten up, called work, they’ve told me to come in ASAP, I’ve taken a cold shower and then gone to work, returning around midnight to find that, unsurprisingly, the power had not returned.

On Sunday, with all hope of refrigeration lost, I opened the fridge door to start cleaning out the more heat-sensitive items. Reaching half-blindly, my hand found something sort of sticky and spongey.

The crescent rolls.

The crescent rolls had functioned as a kind of turkey timer, popping on their own when the temperature inside the fridge had reached a higher-than-ideal range. Though there was still some amount of chill, I found this to be a handy reference. I supposed it meant all dairy and meat must definitely go, but there was still hope for the condiments, juices, and my blessed dozen bottles of wine I had stored in there to shield them from the merciless heat. The bread, peanut butter and jelly were still viable. I lived on them.

I got home from work at midnight-thirty Sunday night/Monday morning to find a new use for my wine thermometer. It’s the only way I knew for sure (confirming tactile perception) that it was a full 90 degrees inside my home. Using my cell phone for a flashlight, I found the cat (she’s black – not helpful in the dark). She was panting like I’ve never heard her before. I hauled her into the blacker-than-space bathroom to baptize her with cold water from the sink faucet. She was not happy about it, but I think it helped.

With my cell phone dying and work my only access to the internet, and I quickly found that all my friends are pains in the ass who complain too much. Sure, it sucks to be without power, but these are first world problems, people. If you’re young and healthy and bitching from your hotel pool, you should reevaluate your life circumstance vis-a-vis your right to complain about the temporary lack of a utility.

You know how I said I’m not usually one to complain about a power outage? It’s true, I’m not, but I decided I could conquer the damned world for want of three things:

A battery-operated fan
A battery-operated hair dryer
A battery-operated coffee maker

These three things, people. When sh*t goes down, they’re all I really need. I could tame the wild frontier if I had these three things.

Sadly, I did not have any of those three things.

Returning from work late Monday night, I noted how many more streetlights were on; how many more traffic lights were working. And I kept telling myself not to get my hopes up. From work, I had checked my power company’s color-coded outage map. I was still red-bad, meaning my area’s concentration of outages was higher than any other. But as I pulled to the curb, there arose above me my building, glowing golden light.

Power!

By the power of Grayskull! IIIII haaaaave the powwwaaaaahhhhhh!

The A/C was roaring. The thermostat said it was 79 degrees. The cat was not in renal failure – nay; she was yelling at me as I came through the door, declaring our victory, practically doing the conga with a party hat on her head. The television was on. The cable! The cable was working! There was light. There was the hint of refrigeration! The vodka in the freezer was chilled enough to drink!

F*&k the wild frontier!

I slept without the aid of a wet towel. I took a hot shower this morning for the first time since Friday. I made myself coffee (albeit with the rinsed-out previously used filter, because I ran out, and without half-and-half, because, well… all my once-refrigerated foodstuffs live in the dumpster now). I wanted to hug a transformer. I still had peanut butter and jelly before I left for work, but that’s because I didn’t have time to go grocery shopping.

Finally, being at work is no longer better than being at home. And the 13 hours of overtime I’ll have will fit nicely into the real estate fund.

thunderstorm

Donnerwetter

I’m on my couch, listening to the rain beat down hard outside. I am thinking of my grandmother.

My grandmother loved storms. Donnerwetter, she called it – one of her occasional shifts back to the German she grew up speaking at home as a first-generation American. She loved to sit out on the back porch on an old chaise covered in brightly-colored ’60s flowery vinyl and watch the lightning. She’d open the front door to smell the rain, though I’m sure that made my cost-conscious grandfather crazy during the summer (when storms were best) while the window unit air conditioner hummed behind the solid wood door.

I remember, as a child, sleeping in the back bedroom of their old duplex in Philadelphia during visits, worrying that lightning would strike the window unit in the bedroom I was in. Even as a kid, I was a worrier. It stood to reason, to me, that a window air conditioner would serve as an attraction for the blue-bright streaks of light that arced through the sky. I was not afraid of storms, and I was not afraid of lightning. I was only afraid of the lightning hitting the air conditioner, and the fire I imagined would start after that.

Well, that, and the really creepy shadow cast by the Infant of Prague statue that stood atop the highboy dresser in the glow of the nightlight below. It’s probably bad to hate a statue of Jesus. Oh well.

When I was little, my mother used to gather Sisters 1 and 2 and me and we’d all watch any storm that came through. Sometimes it was on my parents’ bed. Sometimes it was on our back porch. I think she did it to make sure we weren’t afraid of that particular power in nature, and I’m glad, because to this day, I’ll stand out on my balcony in a fierce squall to watch it happen. When I lived in the midwest, I rarely feared the systems that frequently threatened tornadoes. After a long enough time living there, I learned to know what color the sky had to be before a twister could ever approach, and when it turned that color I simply went inside and into the basement. (My father sometimes shot baskets at the hoop in the driveway, for which we all thought he was crazy, but I now believe he was keeping watch.) When I was in college, I was the one who watched the TV weather reports to spot the bow echoes that could give rise to the fearsome whirls while my roommate, a lifelong midwesterner, locked herself in the bathroom.

I’ve been thinking a lot about my grandparents lately, all four of them, all gone now. I’ve had several dreams about my grandfather who passed away in February. He’s been scattered between the nightmares I mentioned in my last post, looking strong and well and ten years younger. He doesn’t seem to want to tell me anything, or visit, or convey any significance. He just shows up in little vignettes, and when I remember I’ve dreamed about him, I smile.

About an hour ago, I blew out a candle that had reached its bottom. In the heavy air, the scent of the wax lingered longer than usual. It reminded me of holidays with my other grandparents.

I miss them all. I’m glad of the little things that remind me of them in our day-to-day lives. And I sleep better when it rains.

Flux-Schematic

Someone Please Fix the Flux Capacitor

Something is not quite right in the universe.

I’ve suspected it for a while, but I know for sure now because my television doesn’t seem to remember what channels things are supposed to be on.

The last four weeks, if we’re honest, have just been off-kilter. First there was an earthquake. Then my father’s uncle died. Then there was a hurricane. Then there was my great-uncle’s funeral, and the slot machine floral arrangement, which, I think we can all agree, is hilarious but still not right. Then there was all the stuff I’ve posted about with my friend’s family that I won’t go into again. There was the super-skinny obvi-gay kid with the yarmulke mailing 40 packages at the post office, which wasn’t a disaster and it doesn’t even matter that he was obvi-gay but was definitely just weird to see in my ultra-orthodox neighborhood. And there was torrential rain for days and flooding in some places. And then a tornado.

I may or may not have slept through the frogs.

And then it got really weird.

Friday I saw a guy on one side of the street, walking away from me on the sidewalk in red plaid knee-length shorts and a pink striped shirt. And before I could recover from that, I saw a jogging terrorist on the other side of the street, running toward me, wearing indescribably strange clothes and a red lycra ski mask.

*shakes head*

What the hell was that?

Someone told me that those masks wick perspiration.

Great. So, a sweaty-faced jogging terrorist.

Slash bank robber.

With colorful flair.

A couple weeks ago, my downstairs neighbors’ baby turned one, and they were going to have a party for him, and they had big balloons floating on the ceiling in the living room. Only I didn’t know that, so when one of them popped really loudly directly underneath my ass as I sat on my floor around 1:30 in the morning the night before the kid’s birthday, and I felt it, I thought it sounded like a gunshot or, at the very least, an electrical explosion of some kind. So I went downstairs and tried to peer through the windows, and when that didn’t work I kind of knocked, but not too hard in case it really had been a gunshot, and then I thought it was really weird that nobody heard me knock and that the kid didn’t wake up and cry after the noise, and also I smelled something kind of funny, so I called the cops.

Yup. I did. And I explained that I know nothing about guns or gunshots, and I’m not saying it was a gunshot, but that’s what it sounded like.

(The whole time I was thinking how these neighbors are Filipino and this was an arranged marriage and the baby has a really unfortunate skin condition so he cries a lot and only the mom works so the dad is home all day with the crying baby and they only have one car which the mom takes to work which would make me pretty crazy, so it totally could have been a gunshot. But I didn’t tell the police any of that.)

And the cops knocked a few times and the neighbors finally opened the door all messy-haired and confused and I saw the balloons and I was all, “Ohhhhhhhh.”

Move along, people. Nothing to see here.

 Then one night I was minding my own business in my living room when a huge spider the size of the palm of my hand came strolling out from behind the TV on the wall. Just la-dee-da like it owned the place. I gasped and jumped back and it jumped back because apparently it heard me. I knew I couldn’t just scoop it up on a piece of paper and escort it out of the building or into the bathroom, because it was huge and would definitely just scamper up my arm and lay eggs in my ear.

I mean, it had knees.

So I trapped it under a glass against the wall, and it jumped into the glass. And then I clamped a coffee mug on top of the glass, and it jumped up into the coffee mug. And then I high-tailed it into the bathroom and flung it into the toilet and flushed, and it ran around the bowl for a minute before it lost its footing and spiraled into the sewage system.

*shivers*

And then on 9/11, at exactly 6:00am, my smoke detector went off. A quick assessment of the lack of flames told me I was not on fire, and that is an important thing to notice when your smoke detector wakes you up at 6:00am. It’s a very surreal experience, compounded by the fact that it was 9/11 I was waiting to hear about my friend’s brother (which I’m not going into here, but you can read about here if you want to be sad).

So anyway, I got up and looked at the smoke detector, which is a few inches above my line of sight and which I could only vaguely see since I’m blind without corrective lenses. On something like the fourth series of obnoxiously ear-splittingly loud beep-beep-beeps, I clumsily pushed the Shut UP Already Button.

And then I just stared at the thing.

Because I could not figure out why it had gone off, and it was confusing me.

I went back to bed, and a few minutes later it went off again. Fantastic.

After I hit the Yes, I Get It, You Sense Danger, STOP BEEPING Button again, I climbed up on a chair and unscrewed the top of the detector from the wall to see if there was some sort of battery situation that meant it would go off every few minutes for the rest of the morning. It was when I was screwing the thing back onto the wall that I realized it’s also a carbon monoxide detector.

Aw, hell.

Now I can’t go back to bed in case I’m slowly being poisoned to death while my friend’s brother is dying on September 11th. Because that particular combination would totally suck and also would be super-inconsiderate of my friend who already has enough on his mind without me dying of carbon monoxide poisoning.

I wonder how I know whether it thinks there’s smoke (which there’s not) or carbon monoxide (which I don’t know about since it’s odorless and colorless and invisible), I thought.

This. Is so. Annoying.

I had no idea where there might be an owner’s manual for the detector, so next thing I know I’m on the internet at 6:15am trying to find a website for the company that makes the detector so it will tell me what I need to know about whether I’m going to die soon or whether I can just go back to bed. I found the company and the model and the FAQs, but of course none of the Qs were “How do I know if I’m going to die from smoke inhalation and flames, or poisonous gas?”

How is that not an FAQ?

Then I remembered that I still had the bag of crap that the management company gave me when I moved in, and maybe there was an owner’s manual in there. I dug it out from under the bed opened it and turned it upside down on the bedroom floor. It rained magnets and pizza coupons and little boxes of fabric softener and then… AHA! The smoke/carbon monoxide detector alarm owner’s manual.

It was one of those six-folded tiny printed things. I held it close to my face and mumbled some of the words aloud until I hit on what I was looking for.

Three beeps followed by a pause, repeating, indicates smoke. Four beeps followed by a pause, repeating, indicates carbon monoxide.

Excellent. No poisonous gas. Just a stupid guest of the downstairs neighbors smoking a cigarette outside, directly below the window that’s right across from the smoke detector on a humid morning.

Then there was the 9/11 surrealism and the thing with my friend’s family that required traveling and three airports and a rental car and the complete lack of any understanding of a time-space continuum.

Then we had Wednesday through Saturday.

And then last night, a married guy I’ve known for a while asked me out, like, out, because apparently they have an open marriage.

And my television does not remember what channels things are supposed to be on. ABC is on CNN, and Fox is on CBS, and CW is on Fox, and I just plain can’t get CNN or CBS. If I flip a channel, it gives me the correct one for half a second and then flips of its own volition to the wrong one, without changing the actual channel. So it’s showing me CBS’s channel number with Fox on the screen.

And the Eagles lost to the Falcons after Michael Vick gave himself a concussion running into his own guy.

Something is definitely not right in the universe.

...Is this thing on?

irene

I Could Have Been On The Weather Channel

So, Irene.

For the first time in my entire career, I was home for a storm. I didn’t expect to be, and even the day the hurricane hit I kept waiting to find out I had to go to work. But it never happened. So I was confronted with actually preparing.

I went to the grocery store on Friday afternoon, figuring that everyone else would be there after work that evening. But of course, I wasn’t part of the first wave. It’s fascinating, by the way, what people plan to eat when they’re hunkering down for a storm. Did you know that Chef Boyardee is a staple of storm sustenance? I had no idea. I go for toilet paper (because I genuinely actually need toilet paper), it’s almost gone. I go for water, of course it’s almost gone. I go for batteries, fugheddabaoudit. And then I round a corner and see a vast empty shelf and think, Weird… what’s usually here? and get close enough to read the label on the shelf and it’s Chef Boyardee Beefaroni. And Ravioli. Cleaned out.

...I don't understand.

Really?

Like… seriously?

I had a roommate in college who used to eat Chef Boyardee out of the can, cold. I thought it was gross then and I still do. No siree,  no Chef Boyardee for me.  You can take it all. Leave me the brownie mix. THAT is emergency preparedness.

One of my co-workers says she saw a guy in Walmart with a cart full of Spam. Storm Spam.

Blech.

I would rather die.

What happens to people in storms? Jeez.

Since it was also my day off and I cook for the week on my day off, I headed for the meat section. I passed a guy with a whole cart full of Simply Asian instant meals. Whole cart.  And I couldn’t figure it out. I mean, first of all, it looks really odd when you see a guy with 27 packages of Simply Asian instant meals in his cart. But also… don’t you have to heat them up? Which requires electricity, usually.

Maybe he has a gas stove.

Still, I’m worried about the amount of Simply Asian he eats. He’s going to die of a heart attack from the sodium. I feel compelled to check on him or something.

I mean there was nothing else in the cart.

When I got home from the grocery store I strategized about what I could get accomplished while I still had power and then figured out how to divide it up so I could get most of it done Friday and some done Saturday before the power died. (Because I was sure it was going to blow.) And of course, I needed some goodies to take to work when I did have to go in on Sunday, if not before. The only thing that keeps you going when you’re working during a major temporarily life-altering storm is food that’s really bad for you.

Alright, so, cooking: check. Baking: check. Cleaning: check. When Saturday rolled around I got a couple of loads of laundry done and vacuumed the carpet while the rain steadily got heavier and the wind came and went and came back. The Weather Channel kept me constantly updated on what was happening with the storm (I don’t worry about storms usually, but A: this was a hurricane, and 2: that freaking channel is so addictive! Reporters standing sideways while their clothes slap them in the face? How do you not watch that? Getting hit with detritus blowing about? Hilarious!)

I finished a book and started a new one (Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder – I’m 1/3 of the way through and so far it’s really good). I listened to music (but kept The Weather Channel on, with the volume down). Every once in a while I went out on the balcony to check out the conditions. I talked to friends and family on the phone as everyone checked in with everyone else in various parts of the country to see how things were going. Sister 2 texted to brag that she and BIL 2 and Youngest Nephew had driven through the early parts of the storm to get to Charleston for their vacation and it was lovely there. I kept the phone charged because since there were no batteries in the stores by the time I remembered I needed batteries for the flashlight, I was going to have to use the cell phone as the flashlight, at least to get me to the candles.

Late, as the storm was really picking up, Jack sent me a text and told me he was coming over to ride it out. Upon arrival, he immediately tracked mud on my carpet and was almost all the way to the kitchen by the time I got him to stop walking… and then he walked back to the door with the muddy shoes on instead of stopping and taking them off where he was.

“What are you— aaugh! Stop! Just take them off!” I said, half laughing at his cluelessness. He’s not usually like that.

“Awww, hell,” he groaned, pulling his shoes off and putting them in the hall outside the door as I went to the kitchen to get the cleaning stuff. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it, that’s what this stuff is for,” I said, holding up the carpet cleaner that I was using for the first time in a non-cat vomit related incident.

“Ugh. I’m worse than having a dog,” he groaned as he sank into my loveseat.

On my hands and knees with the Resolve and the paper towels, I smiled. We both want a dog, actually, but I had never thought about how they track mud into the house, even as I heard my neighbor taking her apparently desperate basset hound out in the middle of a particularly fierce band of rain. Jack is nothing if not practical.

Still waiting for the power to blow, we weathered the occasional flicker as we watched storm coverage and “Kill Bill: Vol. 1″ on cable (which is a ridiculous film, by the way). When the winds picked up even more, we went out on the balcony – which you’re totally not supposed to do – and watched the trees blow. So far, this is the closest we’ve come to sharing our mutual fantasy of playing in the summer rain.

When we came back in, the power started to flicker a little more seriously. It went out.

For 30 seconds.

Then back on.

For like 90.

Then out.

For 30.

Then on.

For about 60.

Out.

On.

Out.

On.

Out.

On oh for crying out loud I’m turning everything off this is annoying.

We both went to bed. My bed happens to be directly under several trees or parts thereof, on the corner of the top floor of my building. Lying there, in the super-darkness (the power finally went out altogether around 2:30am), I wondered, like the Roaming Gnome in those Travelocity commercials right after he gets shocked by a power outlet.

Am I going to die?

(You have to do that in a refined British accent. I’ll give you a few seconds to try again.)

(‘Kay.)

So I was lying there thinking, Well… that tree could come right through this roof and kill me where I sleep. 

Or… a branch could blow right through the window and pin me here.

Or… the tree could come through, make a hole in the roof, NOT kill me, just make a hole through which it will rain and ruin all my stuff and I’ll have to move. And I’ll be on The Weather Channel.

That thought pissed me off, because as I thought about it, it became clear that that was by far the most likely Tree vs. Building scenario.

I couldn’t get comfortable. I wondered if my phone alarm would really go off when I had set it to go off. I don’t know why I wondered that, but I did. Twice, Jack and I had to use the phone as a flashlight to access the bathroom (him first, after realizing as soon as he walked in without it that he couldn’t see the toilet and that would probably be messy).  I had to get up to check on my laptop and make sure it was powered down so the battery I had thought to charge wouldn’t die before I was up for the day.

Then I remembered my cooking spree Friday and realized I had a refrigerator full of perishables.

Well, that was dumb.

I had a cooler, and my plan had been to use that to house the most perishable of the lot, but by now the ice in the freezer was just water.

As the winds picked up to around 50mph, whipping around the side of the building and sending the trees into wild dances, I realized that my strategy of parking my car on the far side of the street in the one spot that wasn’t under power lines or tree branches would only prove successful if the power lines directly over the near side of the street didn’t come down. The car could be clear as can be, but if I couldn’t get to it, I was going to have a problem.

I think I got three hours of sleep before work called. Which was right after the phone’s alarm went off.

Fortunately, the power outage was the worst of the problems. In the daylight, Jack looked through the blinds and declared that the outside world still existed and none of the tree branches we’d spotted with concern the night before had come down. There was a lot of flotsam and jetsam heaped about… leaves and smaller branches and various undetermined things, but no power lines and no big tree limbs.

And no excuse not to go to work.

But I had realized on Friday that the good thing about always working through major temporarily life-altering storms was that I was always somewhere with power and there were always other people around. And usually pizza. I realized I’d probably lose my mind as some sort of survivalist woman on her own trying to conquer piles of debris without power and for want of refrigeration and a functional hair dryer.

And coffee maker. Jeebus, I couldn’t make coffee. Three hours of sleep and a whole stretch of work ahead of me and no. Coffee.

Oh, this day is going to suck out loud.

Jack’s cell phone had died in the night, and so I sent him out into the storm-ravaged world incapable of communication with anyone else to see if he had power at home. I showered in the dark, thankful for my gas water heater. My prep time was cut significantly by lack of iron, hair dryer and coffee maker.

The Starbucks near me was closed. Closed. 

Oh the humanity! Damn you, Irene! Damn you to hell!

Ten minutes from work after a drive full of limb-dodging, wearing a baseball cap to cover for the lack of hair drying capability and schlepping brownies, banana nut bread, a yogurt and a chicken dish I had rescued from the warming fridge in the 10 seconds I allowed myself to have the door open, I found a McDonald’s and settled for their coffee. Work was craptastic for the first six hours but got better for the last three or four. And when I got home, the saints preserve us, I had power and still nothing had crashed through the roof.

I was not going to be on The Weather Channel, after all.

But I’m still worried about Secret Asian Food Man.


001

Losing My $&%*

I warned you it would happen. In my last post, I said it would happen.

It is 88 degrees in my apartment.

Yes. IN.

See?

Remember how I spent 90 minutes sweating and swearing, installing new energy-efficient curtains because I knew it was going to be uber-hot this week and my entire living/dining room wall is windows and they face west?

The curtains have done nothing.

Except make it very dark.

Last night I got home from work at 11pm to find that it was 88 degrees then, too. And the A/C was not running, even though the thermostat clearly understood that I had set it at 76. I “cycled the unit” (aka turned it off and back on) and it kicked on. After running continuously for two hours, the temperature had dropped from 88 to a manageable 81. (I celebrated each degree with a little “woo-hoo!” and upwardly-thrust arms.) By the time I woke up this morning, it was at 76 where it belonged. But an hour and a half later, it was creeping upward. The A/C was still running, so rather than throwing things in frustration for having spent $200+ on useless curtains and God knows how much more on wasted energy, I started hypothesizing about why this was happening.

First of all, the thermostat is on a shared wall. My Budd-ish neighbor, whose name is Toni but who goes by Shanti-Mayi (this year), lives on the other side of the wall, and I suspect that heat from her side of the building is seeping through. Secondly, the thermostat is about six feet from the un-air conditioned hallway, so I think it’s picking up some heat from there. And third, it’s about four feet from the ceiling, and I live on the top floor, which means I suspect it’s picking up heat from the roof. It’s not really 88 in here… it’s probably more like a stuffy 84, but it’s well above what it’s supposed to be.

Can’t fix any of that.

On top of this, my power company has a program that cycles the electricity the program’s subscribers use. They do it to prevent brown-outs on high-demand days. When you live in a house and have an efficient and effective HVAC system, this saves you some coin, even if it gets a little warmer than you’d like during the day, when you’re not home, because you have a normal 9-5 job. When you live in an apartment complex, the management company forces you to participate, and you don’t really save any money but you suffer the lack of full power, particularly when you work nights and weekends and the 99-degree day is your day off. I think that’s a big part of the problem here, since the banner at the top of my thermostat’s screen currently says SAVINGS and I can hear the unit kicking through various power levels.

Two and a half hours ago, when I got home from running errands in my air-conditioned car, and after a trip to the perfectly cooled grocery store, it was 88 in here and the unit wasn’t running at all. So I “cycled” it, and it kicked back on and has been running on some variant of power ever since.

It is still 88 in here.

It had dropped to 87, but then I moved.

I told Brad about this via Facebook IM. “You should call them,” he said.

“Call who?”

“Maintenance.”

“It’s not broken. It works. It blows cold air. The thermostat is a lie and the power company is cycling the power levels.”

“But it’s hot?”

“Huh?”

“It’s still hot.”

“Yes.”

“So call them.”

“Call who?”

“Maintenance. They have to figure out a way to fix it.”

“They can’t fix it. It’s not broken.”

“Something’s wrong though.”

“Yes. The thermostat is in a stupid place. But they can’t move it.”

“Still.”

Now I started typing pretty hard. “Um, unless they can air-condition the hallway or paint the roof with heat-repelling paint in the next hour, there is zero point in calling them.”

“Call the power company.”

At this point I logged off of Facebook because I was grumpy and Brad was making it worse.

And then you know what I wondered? The HVAC vents are directly below the curtains. I wondered if my A/C was blowing up between the windows and the curtains and getting trapped there by the energy-efficient, hot-and-cold blocking panels.

So now all my dining room chairs are pushed up against my curtains to keep them back from the vents.

It doesn’t appear to be working. I’m not sure if that makes me feel better or worse.

I’m pretty sure I’m hosed, here, at least until the sun that is 93% blocked out of my apartment goes down entirely.

I can’t do anything. I can’t clean or the temperature will go up because my body heat will go up. I can’t turn on the oven, so I’m cooking in the Crock Pot to keep the entire (tiny) kitchen from heating up. All the lights are off. The stupid curtains are closed (as closed as they can be, since they’re not wide enough) and smooshed up against the windows. I can’t do laundry, because the dryer will make it hotter in here.  The cat, who I tend to rename Scarlet in the summer because she’s very dramatic about heat, is wandering around sort of bleary-eyed and then heaving sighs and flopping down on various relatively cool surfaces: the coffee table, the bathroom floor. Sometimes she lays down behind the oscillating fan that’s on full-blast in my bedroom. (Behind it, because she doesn’t like being blown on.)

I am in some sort of Pakistani cave.

Even Osama bin Laden didn’t live like this.

Turns out.

I moved into this place on August 27th of last year. I had this temperature problem then, though it wasn’t above 84 in here at any point. It is currently June 8th, which leads me to believe the summer can, and will, get hotter. I am hoping for some sort of monster storm to knock back this soul-melting, mood-morphing heat… but then the power could go out and leave everyone totally screwed.

Still, I’d go stand in the rain.

Sigh.

If anybody needs me, I’ll be in the refrigerator.

The Smell of Spring

I can smell spring coming like a promise. In the cool dampness of the air, now suddenly emptied of a cutting edge (wasn’t it just a bit biting two days ago?).  In the peaty earthiness of musk and damp that belies the snow I crunched beneath my feet last week.  It’s hidden in a nearly imperceptible breeze on a starry night in March. Hesitant in its first steps, unsure of the sincerity of the invitation it has received. Humidity up. Wind low. Hope bashfully renewed.

Spring smells like hope, I think. Winter, like cheer at first, and then like dispossessed struggle.  Summer, like carelessness and easy revelry with a tinge of disappointment, late. Fall, like comfort and relief, like coming home. And spring, like hope.

Just moments ago, I saw a tiny rabbit – a bunny, as I thought of it, in perhaps  the way one only thinks as winter exhaustedly climbs its way toward warmer days.  The bunny was sprinting through grass, darting away. Hiding for just a few weeks more, until Nature gives it permission to be bold in its presence.  A tiny cottontail punctuating a brown coat, cutting through the dark. It made me smile.

And as is one’s wont, my thoughts turned immediately to summer, to hot days in the sun with the surf pounding confidently in my ears, to showers taken outdoors in late light, with cocktail set upon shelf out of reach of slightly salty water streams. To sunsets watched from decks with sundress on, hair damp, slippery glass in hand and bare feet up. To baseball games and sticky nights, freshly mowed lawns and twilights that linger past children’s bedtimes.

 Why do we rush it?

I love my seasons. I own them all – autumn most, but all, in turn. I could not live somewhere where they do not happen fully, each in their time, even if their early arrivals or late departures set me anxiously to wondering if I’ll not get my just division of the time. But why do we so want the next season to come that we immediately start thinking beyond it? Why must we see time pass so quickly?

I breathe deeply and take in the rich scent of what’s approaching. The trees will bloom soon enough. Winter will unhook her gnarled claws and retract once more into waiting. Though I ponder , a bit worriedly, whether she might slash at us once more before retreat, I give myself over to hoping.