Waiting For An Opening

The newly framed closet upstairs.

Hey. I’m so sorry. I’ve been neglectful in the telling of my remodeling story. Instead I’ve been staying in the office late, coming home to make amazingly delicious dinners in my camping kitchen and splitting bottles of wine with The Spouse. Oh, and every day, on the way home, I’m scoping out the progress. Of which there has been much.

So, mostly, I’ve been getting drunk.

That’s the first step in the program. Admitting it.

Truth be told, I’ve been a little bit bent since Labor Day. See, I was super pumped because the windows and doors were scheduled for delivery the Friday before the holiday. I was especially super excited about my new front door.

When your house is 102 years old, things have happened. Like there was evidence of gas light fixtures from before electricity. There were the tracks from the pocket doors that were removed some time back. There was also the ugly wall paper that covered up the damaged hallway plaster that was itself hidden by cheap, dark brown paneling.

There were the evenly placed holes in the walls where an ecologically minded prior homeowner sprayed in a shit-ton of cellulose insulation. I know that it was a shit-ton’s worth based upon the comments of the demolition crew that carried bag upon bag upon bag to the dumpster. While they don’t curse in front of me, I know they were thinking of short, perhaps four-letter, words based on their rated-G expressions at the volume of fluff.

Our red door with the heavy door knocker and a small slice of window at the tip top wasn’t original. Sure, it was old. Yes, it was cracked. But it wasn’t part of the starter package.

Nope. At some point the original door was replaced. But the doorway wasn’t “standard.”  It was extra-wide, by about eight inches. An impressive size. A welcome portal to embrace even Hagrid. Larry, Curly and Moe could all walk in at the same time without any bonks.

Somebody preferred a “standard” sized door and added some wood framing to close in the doorway. They were able to accommodate a “standard” door. It looked fine, but I knew that the door had been majestic. I longed for that big door.

I’ve been pretty careful (cheap) about unnecessary features, but the wide swing of a new door was intoxicating. Talk about curb appeal. We made the call to re-rightsize the entry.

I could barely wait. I’ve been tracking the door and window install dates on the project calendar for weeks. We went on vacation and I thought, “The door will be installed in two weeks.” We got back and I told The Big Guy that we were installing the new door during his birthday week. That was two weeks ago. The newest delivery date was today.

No windows today. No big door. Sure, I know it will happen. The Spouse reminds me that it will happen, but I want my new door. Now.

It’s not like work has halted, mind you. Lots of stuff is happening.

Like, today, the air conditioner was delivered and installed. The duct-work was snaked through the rafters a few weeks ago. The returns placed in each room all the better to cool our jets. The filter and blower was positioned in under the rafters at that same time.

Here's our new, energy efficient heat pump. Someone is very very impressed by the energy ratings.I had no idea how HUGE the actual heat pump would be! It’s a monster. The fan looks like it would cool a factory. This is also the first central air I’ve ever had (except for those eight months I lived at that weird place in Silver Spring). It’s also the first time in our married life that we won’t have window air units. It’s going to be so quiet, I probably won’t be able to sleep.

Tonight I won’t sleep because the windows and doors are supposed to be delivered tomorrow. I’m shaking my head as I’m typing this. Patience isn’t my thing. But just you wait until you see my new door. Because waiting is what we’re doing.

Boom Clap

A pint of beer topping the bar, flanked by a napkin dispenser and a religious candle.

It was a classically delightful bar, from the worn wood floors to the mirror-backed shelves stocked with firewaters to the small well-curated selection of brews  Friendly people were amassing to watch the game, like they did every Saturday afternoon. The stalwarts arrived early to stake a seat around the cozy bar.

The folks in the front, lining the bay window had been there for a while. They had that end of the night volume, and it was just 2 p.m. There was the crash and shatter of a glass. The hands of the guilty flew into the air with a flurry of apologies. The server quickly arrived to clean up the shards.

A few minutes later he was at the bar for refills. He wisely ordered cans this time. The smash and splintering of a second glass hitting the floor ensured everyone’s attention. Patrons clustered around the bar all individually and as a group exchanged glances that said, “Who are these people and I hope they leave before kickoff.”

The server came around a second time with her broom and dustpan. She was much less cheerful this round. “You can’t break any more glasses.” The folks in the front knew that, but in a bar you have to be very clear with your instructions and warnings. Drunks aren’t the best at comprehension or nuance.

The man at the bar was worried that they would be asked to leave before they could finish the beers he just ordered. He safely cashed out and was joined by two young women who defiantly ordered more drinks. A guy watching the pre-game warmups suggested plastic cups for their round of vodka and tonics. The new bartender on shift verified that they were the ones with “two strikes.”

She asked to see their IDs. She was a bit gruff, but she was establishing dominance. She had a long shift ahead. She needed to assess their sobriety levels. Her goal was to make sure they stayed within the lines. This wasn’t her first rodeo. And anyway, she was a bit hungover herself.

It was time for kickoff.


Staggering Through

Boozing it up. Eight tumblers filled with cocktails.

Actually, the worst thing about people being drunk is they don’t know that they’re drunk. Wait. Let me take that back. The worst thing about people being drunk is that they don’t want you to know that they’re drunk.

This is super not okay when they want to prove to you that they are okay to drive. Like those times when they insist that you give them back their keys. Ugh! Let’s just make a rule right now to keep those keys.

But I want to talk about when they’re not driving.

For some reason, drunk people don’t want you to know that they’re drunk. But, let’s face it, they are too drunk to effectively cover up that obvious fact. Yet, somehow, they think they are sneaky.

Drunks speak super slowly. Not because they don’t think you understand them. They just want to be clear and they know that they are not clear. The state of not speaking clearly is also called called slurring. Drunks somehow think that if they slur their words more deliberately, nobody will notice they’re buzzed. It doesn’t really work that way.

Another thing drunks do is try to walk straight. Emphasis on the try. You can watch them concentrate on catching themselves. They forcefully put one foot in front of the other. They might walk a little bit to the left and then the overcorrect and lurch right. Drunks hope that nobody sees their corrections. In fact, they believe that they are slick enough that you don’t see the sudden straightening that then veers off to parts not yet known. They think that their overcompensations are invisible. But, they are not.

The second worst thing that drunks do is act like buttheads. While this behavior is not as bad as driving like a butthead, it’s fairly close.

The feelings of drunks can be both raw and easily tweaked. A friend can go from reminiscing about a joyful event from their youth to careening, in an impossibly rapid pile of tears, about a lost dog, a lost bracelet, a lost love or–and this really hurts–a lost packet of ketchup. Really. Did one need to get bent about a condiment? Definitely the booze talking. Definitely a drag.

Then there is the angry drunk. This can be caused by specific types of booze–say gin or tequila.

The angry drunk can be self-righteous but is more often just plain mad. Mad can be about politics, a difference of opinion over the ending of a movie or about a slight. That slight might be of the imagination or of a single deed that gets distorted into a heretofore unbelievable size. Way bigger than it deserves. Sometimes, the appearance of anger and anger itself can be melodramatically increased via volume of the inebriated. That is, someone sounds more angry than they are, and then they become angry. Silly? Sure, but it happens.

There is no disputing the reaction of the liquored up. It is not wrong. It is not overblown. It is the truth. The truth of that extra glass of wine, mug of beer or shot of liquor. And that truth might be elusive to the drinker. We have to wait for a shot of rationality. At least until tomorrow when they might better be able to admit it.

Fell Asleep Beneath the Flowers

Sherlock Holmes experiences a ridiculous dream.

Window down and the sun warms my elbow as the deep throated scream of a mouth organ asserts itself from the public radio Saturday blues show. Cue the dissolve for a flashback.

[Insert the the strums of a harp interrupting the bass groove. I’m shaking my head violently back and forth, trying to immerse more fully in the memory and erase that damn, incoherent harp.]

It feels like a day for a street festival in Ann Arbor. We’d sit on a paint-peeled porch as the sun was passing the noon mark. We didn’t drink in the morning. Our beverage of choice recipe included plenty of ice, many cans of frozen lemonade and Popov. Our people would gather with the supplies. Sometimes someone would get cocky and bring the Smirnoff. The one with the extra proof.

I don’t think the person who lived at the house with the porch had the blender. I’m sure that we left it there. I’m pretty sure that it was a yard sale find.

It’s a miracle that we didn’t burn that motor out. It’s not like it was a will-it-blend? Vitamix model. No. It was a lowly Oster that probably once belonged to a graduate student. We stuffed it with ice cubes and frozen lemonade and enough vodka to make a slush. We didn’t want to dilute the liquor too much. The ice should have been too much for that cheap blender. But it wasn’t.

Ann Arbor is small enough that the porch could be central. We could get back easily in between bands and when our cups were empty. Or we could just do the brain freeze downing of the slush and leave the cup behind. This method was optimal for dancing, if not for responsible drinking.

We’d find the schedule on a poster plastered on a wall or in the student newspaper. Someone or two would pour over the schedule to optimize our band selections–avoiding the bluegrass and making sure we hit the reggae cover band–and so we would know where to meet up if we were separated.

The best music was the blues. There were old bands and young bands. The young bands were usually made up of white kids who grew up in suburbia and had instruments and listened to Cream, the Stones and others in the British Invasion. They discovered that there was an entire history behind that music. That it originated many generations earlier. There were also the old bands. They were usually more diverse, and had traveled along the circuit from bar to bar. They were done with the circuit and now stayed closer to home. They played when they could. They had day jobs.

When we were lucky, when the sun went down there were bands that were still playing the circuit that would come through. They’d be in the bars after the festival wound down rather than on the street stages during the day.

We’d all be salty and gritty from sweat. Hair would be amuss. Sandaled feet filthy. Maybe someone needed a bandaid. Occasionally someone would bow out due to a sun stroke or bad meat*.

We’d try and get there early enough for a table. We’d order pitchers of the cheap beer. And we’d stand close to what would stand in for a stage, listening to people 10 or 20 or 30 years our senior playing the blues.

We didn’t understand the blues ourselves, but we felt that chord progression. We incorporated the growl of illicit sex–either the cheater or the cheat-tee. Sometimes we couldn’t tell exactly who was wronged. We’d feel the rhythm section through our feet and sometimes the bass would explode directly from our hearts. The thud of the bass drum and the hiss of the snare would knock us woke.

We would stand in front of that stage and sway. We’d sing. We’d dance. We’d make out. We’d feel it. We’d pitch a wang dang doodle all night long.

The tiny snug bars didn’t have dressing rooms or green rooms. The bands would come in, set up and play. They didn’t have a quiet space. For breaks they’d go outside to smoke, get someone older than us cheap kids to buy them a drink. They’d fade into the crowd or hang out near the dumpsters behind the joint. Once, I met up with Koko Taylor in the ladies room. There was a line of cocaine that disappeared from the restroom vanity. Gatemouth Brown and Bobby Blue Bland held services from those risers that stood in for a stage. There were guitarists, horn and harp blowers of renown. We didn’t know.

The bar was dark. It stunk. The floor was sticky. We didn’t tip for shit. We were just college punks, drunk, dirty and loving the blues. And, in festival season, we’d get up the next day and do it again.

What a beautiful day.

[Next time I do a memory, I’m going to fall into the pensieve rather than do the Gilligan’s Island dissolve to the next scene.]

* a euphemism for being sick from drink.