Thursday’s Theme Music

My goodness, Thursday is already upon us.

Many songs have the potential to be the theme song for the COVID-19 season for folks locked up in their house together. We can get under one another’s skin, you know?

This 1983 Genesis offering came when I was contemplating should I eat one more cookie. We don’t usually have cookies in the house because we eat them. For cookies to successfully stay available for a while, they must be cookies we don’t like, or frozen and tucked out of view. As I’ll eat just about anything, it’s tough finding cookies that we don’t like.

But that whole should-I-eat-one-more thing brought about lyrics from “That’s All”, “Taking it all instead of taking one bite.” Phil Collins, the vocalist, delivers it with outrage.

It was an amusing exercise. For the record, one cookie was left. It was due to be my wife’s, but she came in and said, “You can have that last cookie.”

She’s such a nice person.

Also, for the record, this song always seems like it could be by the early Bee Gees or a Gilbert O’Sullivan song.

Closure

First, a commercial interlude. I’ve been watching Hulu late at night, streaming Fargo. Interesting commercials come on, then. One of them is about Peyronie’s Disease. In the commercial, men are holding up carrots, bananas, and cucumbers. The fruit and vegetables look straight, but the men then turn them to reveal sharp curves. A voiceover says something like, “Does your erection have an unusual curve or bump that it didn’t use to have? Your erections shouldn’t hurt.”

It’s eye-opening.

I never thought about what my erection looked like. Naturally, this commercial made me wonder. Also, my erections never hurt. It’s scary, though. Nothing is safe.

The things I learn from commercials. Maybe I should watch less television. (Sure, that’s the answer.) I pulled out my computer (did you think I was going to put another noun there?) and googled PD to confirm it existed.

It does.

Okay, on to the main event.

I’m a Do-It-Yourselfer.

I’m not a very good one.

Whether it’s writing a computer program or a novel, fixing a car or a wall, painting a house or building a computer — which are things I’ve done — I usually achieve decent results, but it’s a messy process.

I have a few reasons that I think is behind all this.

  1. I’m self taught, but I’m not a very good teacher.
  2. I’m an impatient person.
  3. Whenever I asked for help as a child, Mom told me, “Figure it out.” Like most moms, she thought I was smarter and more capable than I really am. I started believing her.

I was painting our kitchen when I broke my arm in July. Painting the kitchen can be violent, can’t it? What transpired is that our kitchen window is five feet wide and four feet tall. The window looks over the front proch.

A blind was installed for privacy, light, and all that. The blind is one of those that can be pulled up by a cord on one end, or let down by a different cord on the other end. I think the official name is something screwy, like two-way blinds. I don’t know. Look it up.

The thing is, when I re-installed the blinds with my wife’s help after painting the kitchen, one end didn’t get correctly placed in the bracket. Whenever you pulled the cord to raise and lower the blind on that end, the blind bent down. That irritated me. Thus, “I will fix!” I decided.

Climbing onto the counter, I removed the blind and discovered that the brackets weren’t properly aligned. Easy fix, yah? Off I went for the appropriate screw driver to loosen and adjust the brackets. Except, I couldn’t turn the damn screws. They…WOULD…NOT…TURN. But I’d reinstalled the brackets. If I screwed them in, I should be strong enough to screw them out.

Damn it. With rising irritation, I turned to jump down off the counter to get a better tool. When I did, I caught my foot on the counter, setting into motion the awkward crash that broke the bones in my arm and twisted my hand up against my arm, sandwiching it between arm and body.

After that it was pain, hospital, splint, recovering, therapy…

Here we are, three months later. That damn blind was still down. It was driving me crazy.

My wife and I had talked about asking someone to put it up or hiring someone. Neither had happened. She was out yesterday, socially responsibly visiting friends (masks-distance-outside on a private deck). I walked into the kitchen and saw that big window and the brackets where the blind should be installed.

Time to fix it, I decided.

First, a pep talk.

One, I had to be careful. If I fell and hurt myself, I should just face up to it and end my life, because my wife would probably end it for me.

Two, I had to be careful, because I didn’t want to get hurt. I was nervous, which didn’t help, because…what if I fell? I’d never live it down. (I imagined going to the Emergency Room. “You again?” they would exclaim. “What did you do THIS time?” It’s weird that I imagined that. I’ve only been there once in the fifteen years that we’ve lived here.)

So, I told myself, BE CAREFUL. Take your time. Stay in the moment. FOCUS, fool.

I did. The brackets were adjusted and the blind reinstalled. It took about fifteen minutes.

I showed it to my wife when she returned home.

“How did you do that?” she asked.

“Just put on my splint, got the tools, climbed up there and did it.”

“Did you use a chair to get up and down?”

“Of course. I’m a professional.”

“Were you nervous?”

I smiled. “What do you think?”

It was very satisfying to fix the blind. I believe they call it closure.

Secretly

The sun is beating on my head through my hat. I’m just the help. It’s a role that I enjoy.

Some.

“Boss me around, baby,” I do NOT say. I stay mute, gloves on hands, left arm in its removable brace, hoe nearby, spade in hand.

My wife is the master, planting her garlic for winter. She’s serious about her garden. Fresh bulbs had been procured, along with the right soil and fertilizer. Potatoes occupy the usual garlic winter home. A new one is required. “Somewhere in the sun,” she proclaims with steely vigor, looking around.

A song spurts into my head. Oh, hey. Did you happen to —

“We need to move the compost bins,” my wife declares.

We’re in the side yard, where most of the gardening is done. Boo, the backyard panther with a white star on his chest (like he’s sheriff) (guess, that would be a floofriff) moseys along toward us, talking as he comes. One compost bin (previously emptied) is moved to a new location. With this happening, Boo retreats to the backyard He wants nothing to do with work.

I shovel the compost from the full one to the empty one’s new location. The song resumes it secret playing in my head. Oh, hey. Did you happen to see the most beautiful girl in the world. And if you did, was she crying?

Yes, Charlie Rich is serenading my brain with “The Most Beautiful Girl” as I do as I’m told. (We’re now on breaking up the soil where the garlic is to reside.) I blame my mother for this song. While Charlie Rich’s voice and the accompanying music is coming off vinyl courtesy of Mom’s mohogany Magnavox console stereo, it’s Mom singing along along with Rich who is actually singing in my head. She used to frustrate me by singing this song when I was trying to talk to her about it. It was apparently funny to her. The song came out in 1973. I would turn seventeen that year. I’d left home a year or two before to live with Dad, but would return to Mom for major holidays. Dad, single guy that he was, didn’t do holidays.

Why did Mom sing that song to me? Why was I singing today? These the mind’s mysteries. At least, they’re my mind’s mysteries. I don’t know what goes on in others’ minds. I barely comprehend what’s happening in my own.

“Now I just need to water them.” My wife was finished. I was dismissed.

It was a good day. Time to go wash my wife’s car. Wonder what song will be playing?

Oh, wait, Rose Royce begins their 1976 hot song, “Car Wash”. I was stationed in the Republic of the Philippines when it was out. My good buddy Bopie introduced it to me.

At least this one is task appropriate.

Monday’s Theme Music

My wife made some delicious spicy chick pea soup for dinner yesterday. We both love soups, and she delights in finding healthy recipes.

It was good soup weather, coolish but sunny, with a blue sky that let us see the far mountains. As I sat to eat the soup, I regarded its contents and breathed its aroma. Spinach, chick peas, carrots…good stuff, made with her homemade stock. Warm ciabatta bread (we’re mad about ciabatta bread) was available. Dipping the bread in the soup and eating it as the soup cooled was almost orgasmic.

After tasting it, I said, “This is great soup. What a wonderful smell. Thanks for making it.”

She said nothing. After a few minutes of quiet eating, she offered, “This is good soup, isn’t it?”

I kept eating but I thought, is this a trap? Did she not hear me before? Is she fishing for compliments, or just being redundant? (That’s probably the wrong way to think of it.)

In the past, I may have sniffed, “I just said that.” This time, I answered, “Yes, this is great soup. Thanks for making it.”

But my mind jumped on a train of thoughts about comments I’d made throughout the day that didn’t gain me a reply, no reply at all.

Which took me to the Genesis song from 1981, “No Reply at All”.

The Car

Monday, I was settling back into my writing routine. Had my coffee, had surfed the news and fed the cats. The cats were now asleep. I was ready to write.

Well, first, one quick computer game. I’d just begun when the phone rang. Churlishly, I checked the incoming number. If it wasn’t someone looking for me that I wanted to talk to, I was going to let voice mail answer.

It was my wife’s cell phone. She was out making food deliveries to shut-ins, something she does once a month with Food and Friends.

I answered (of course). (No, there wasn’t even hesitation.) “K’s answering service. She’s not home right now. May I take a message.”

“My car died.”

“Died?”

“I’m trying to start it. It won’t make any sound.”

“Are there any lights?”

“Just one that looks like the little teapot.”

“Where are you?”

“Corner of Terra and Siskiyou.”

“I’m on my way.”

I was dressed and just needed shoes and mask before I was on the way. I figured, battery, but was surprised. I’d bought her a new battery two years before. She doesn’t drive it much. Other thoughts: alternator, maybe solenoid switch or starter (didn’t sound like it, though). I had cables, and would try jump-starting it.

But first — “I have to finish the route,” she said, transferring the food to my car. “Then we’ll worry about the car. I just have two stops. Then I’m supposed to pick up money from Judy. She and a friend want to donate to help some Y employees who lost everything. I’m taking up a collection so I can buy gift cards.”

I already know all of this but it’s part of her process to go through her own checklist aloud. She’s not actually talking to me.

We complete all that and get back to the car. Because of where it’s parked, my cables are too short to reach it. I head back home because I have a longer set, and return.

The car won’t take a charge. Although the radio comes on, the engine won’t turn and the starter makes a tinny clattering noise. I know the sound: it’s definitely a flat battery. But it’s a five year battery that’s two years old.

Probably the alternator. I can’t change it myself with the arm I have. I’ve swapped out three generators or alternators in my lifetime (also replaced a starter before). That was decades ago, when I was younger. Besides, that Ford’s engine compartment is too packed. The traversely mounted engine is festooned with wires. There’s not a spot of daylight in it. The cars’ engine compartments of my youth had room to work, less wires, and simpler belts.

I’m also annoyed. I’ve been after my wife to replace her car for about fifteen years. We’ve had it for seventeen years. Since the beginning, my wife has complained about its squeaky brakes. Its auto transmission also does some odd clunking. Then there was the seat fabric; it’d worn through, so I’d put some custom seat covers over them. It looks great, but it all points to a cheap car.

That’s not a surprise. When we bought the car, one of her requirements is that it use regular gas and it costs less than fifteen thousand dollars because she insists on paying cash for cars. The woman does not like having debt.

My annoyance has been growing because I’ve been telling her that parts will start failing. “But I don’t use it much,” she answers. “I just drive it around town. And we keep it in the garage.”

“They’ll start failing from age and fatigue.”

“But it only has a hundred and five thousand miles on it.”

“That has nothing to do with it. It’s still a 2003 car in 2020. Driving it less is actually worse for it in many ways.”

She’s not listening. A tow truck is arranged. The car is taken in for testing. “You need a new alternator,” they tell me.

I nod. “Yeah. I know.”

A Year of Change

That smell of wet, burnt wood from a large fire bristles in my memories.

1971. I was fourteen. Dad had just returned from an overseas military assignment and took me in, a refugee from an unhappy time with Mom and her husband then. We lived in Dayton, Ohio, first in an apartment, and then in Wright-Patterson AFB base housing, in a place called Page Manor. We lived there from the beginning of July to the end of August. Then, an opportunity came up. He retired from the military to start a new chapter to his life.

He and I moved to West Virginia and he began his new job. Housing was limited so Dad bought a mobile home. A space was found for it in a trailer park. School started. A month later, the trailer burned up. Days were spent trying to recover what we could from the trailer. I carried a smoky odor around my clothes for months.

Dad’s co-worker let us crash at their place, but it was crowded, and the co-worker had a young wife and a new baby. Goaded by her disenchantment to be rid of us — nothing personal, and I understand it — we found a new place to live within a month.

Coincidentally, that was the same time that I met the girl who would become the woman who would become my wife. We married in 1975, less than four years after meeting. We’ve been together since then, although we’ve had separations and struggles. Amazing to think that I’ve known her since 1971 and have been married to her since 1975. It seems like a lot longer… Bet it seems even longer to her.

It’s all sharp in the head, strong in the memories, that period, a time of destruction, change, and beginning. I can’t say that I don’t look back; I’m always looking back, then turning around and looking forward, re-establishing where I’m at, and moving on.

Or trying to.

K-con One

My wife – K – was on the other side of the room on her Apple laptop, grousing about the state of the world. News about Trump, COVID-19 (and something about lying), and his supporters triggered an angry explosion. “I’m tired of this. I have no sympathy for any of them today.”

I looked over at her. “So what K-con are you in?”

“K-con?”

“Yes, it’s like DEFCON, you know, defense conditions that the United States employs. DEFCON 1 is the highest state of military readiness.”

Yes, she knew about them. I was in Air Force command and control for twenty years. She’d heard me talk about LERTCONs, DEFCONs, EMERGCONs too many times.

“Would K-con 5 be my normal level?” she asked.

“No, K-con 5 would be when you — “

Realizing I was walking myself into a trap, I stopped. I’d been about to suggest that K-con 5 would be when she was happy and easy-going. I’d been about to observe that she usually stayed in K-con 4, or maybe higher. Anyone who’s been married for over forty-five years, like us, knows that the other has moods. Hell, most people discover this about their partner in the first year, if not the first month, after marriage.

She realized what was happening. Her eyebrows went up, her warm brown eyes grew big, and a grin split her face.

Looking around, I jumped up. “What was that noise? I better go see.”

I hurried out of the room to the sound of her laughter. Yes, I’m a coward, but I’m no fool. If she’s in K-con 1, those nukes are armed and ready to fly.

Let her target someone else.

Heard on Zoom

A friend, Marsha, had her sister visiting. Knowing her sister, she’d thoroughly cleaned and tidied before the other arrived.

Marsha thought everything looked pretty good.

Toward the end of the sister’s visit, they were talking about the other sister, and which one was ‘the tidiest’. The visiting sister concluded they were probably about the same. Later in the day, Marsha’s sister indicated the trash can and asked, “Do you want me to wash this for you?”

That sister has left. The other sister is due Sunday.

Marsha begins cleaning today.

A Truth

My wife revealed a truth about myself that I didn’t know. I said, “Have you tasted the potato salad?”

She answered, “No, what’s wrong with it?”

“That’s a weird response.”

“Well, that’s what you say when you don’t like something or think it tastes funny.”

“Do I?” She was right. When I like something, I just say that. But when I don’t like something, I seek validation that someone else doesn’t like it.

I liked the pot salad, though. Was this then an exception to my approach to food, a new beginning, or just the way it’s always been, unnoticed among my general idiosyncrasies?

An Old Post – Out with the Old

Visiting my Red Room archive, where I posted for a while, and read one of my final post. It’s from June, 2014, but it remains valid. As soon as the pandemic lockdown began, my wife began cleaning. The thinking remains the same…

Here’s the post.

My wife has been on a continuing project.  Starting in March, she selected a room and cleaned it.  Emptied the closets.  Drawers.  Each item and article was examined.  Subjected to investigation.  Do we need it, do we use it?  Bag after bag was filled.  Trips to the Salvation Army and Goodwill were executed. I helped a little but she made it a project, creating lists, planning and executing foot by foot.

We’re down to two spaces she wants to clean:  the garage and my office.

My office.  My sanctuary, my Fortress of Solitude plus one and two cats. See, although it’s my office, that’s just a title.  She has begun calling it the snug.  It’s the warmest room in the house in the winter.  Heat attracts her.  It also has the best wifi connectivity and excellent natural light.  She urged me to buy a larger television for my office, then a recliner….  Despite being an experienced husband, I fell for both. She makes the recliner her home for reading, surfing the net, watching television and talking on the telephone.

Most stuff in the office is mine.  Much is writing or work related.  Clearing her throat in early June, she cautiously suggested we clean the office and get rid of some ‘accumulated junk’.  “Junk!” my heart cried.  She was calling my heritage junk.  Oh, the wound.

“You said you wanted to clean the garage,” I countered.  I’d been waiting for this strike.  “You can start there.  After all, most of the boxes in there are full of things you’re storing.”  Aha, take that!  En guarde!

The negotiations entered a tricky phase.  “I will admit that most things we store in the garage are mine,” she said, tiptoeing through words and tone, “and we should go through those boxes but I’m not ready to do it yet.”

A chink in her logic.  Riposte.  “I understand what you mean,” I replied.  “I’m not ready to go through my office…yet.”

Negotiations were at an impasse.  Weeks passed.  She returned with a counter offer.  “How about we each take out five things from the office?”

“Okay,” I answered.  “And two from the garage.”

She grimaced.  “If we get rid of things, we make room for new things.”

“Assuming that we want new things.  What if I’m happy with the things I’ve already acquired?  Besides, if that’s the case, there’s more junk in the garage.  If we want to make room for more things, shouldn’t we then start with the garage, where more things currently reside?”

My wife launched a rant about the junk we’ve accumulated.  I let her rant until she’d spat it all out.  Silence fell.  She sank her shoulders.  “Okay.  How about five from the office and two from the garage?”

“Okay.”

That’s where it was left, five days ago.  I’m no fool.  She’s not forgotten.

Tick, tock.

 

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