Showing posts with label House. Show all posts
Showing posts with label House. Show all posts



Everyone's faking.

That may sound like a broad stroke, but hear me out.

I was feeling frustrated today, after limping home from my run (knee is acting up again) and not feeling like I had accomplished much with the day. At the height of my frustration I was hunched over a tray loaded with paint, staring at the brush I continually fail to properly wash when done painting. As a distraction I was playing the latest episode of the podcast Harmontown, in which Dan Harmon (famously fired by NBC for running the thoroughly fantastic show Community in a manner they saw fit) invited two members onto stage. Dan and cohost/comptroller of Harmontown Jeff Davis talked to the two guests about why they were both feeling terrible. After chasing the varying issues around in their heads for a few minutes, Harmon and Davis realized that everyone on stage at that point was grappling with the idea that they had somehow either made the wrong choice, arrived at their current place by default or failed to act in the best manner. In a sense, they concluded, they all felt like failures and frauds. 

It was incredibly affirming to hear the notion articulated. 

In recent years I've talked with my better half and our mutual friends about a similar idea. We all feel, when sufficiently pressed to reveal it, that we are frauds or that we are somehow faking our way through the day. I read someone's explanation (in a book I can't seem to recall...) that they would get through the day and their head would hit the pillow and they'd think something along the lines of "I'm so glad no one found me out, today!" as though they had pulled some great con over on the world.

That is so much more common than we realize. I felt that reality sink in, in the house I bought with my wife, while painting a room in my free time. I am married. I am a home owner. I choose to work on home improvement projects in my free time. I have a strong 401(k). I was upset that I exercised so much that my knee was failing again. Despite all of these stupid, simple realities I was taking for granted, I still was feeling as though I was slacking or faking my way along. I joke about it with my wife when we come home from somewhere together or when we (guh) have to make yet another run to Home Depot on the weekend (instead of say, going to concerts or bars like when we lived in Uptown) - "Can you beleive some people think we're adults? Why do they trust us with all this? Who said we could buy a house?" 

It's absurd, but there it is - you're an adult. I may not have kids or gray hair or a PhD, but people trust me and think I know what I'm doing. That was what they were affirming in the podcast. You never feel like you're making the right move. You always feel like you're just improvising and constantly averting disaster. That's apparently what life is. You just get older and get more responsibility and if you don't make many mistakes you find yourself accumulating trust. 

Weird how that works.

You never realize it until you step back and look at it. It makes me feel better to have other people come to that same understanding through their own logic. I know I've certainly told it to my better half to calm her down during a crisis. Sometimes you just need to hear it from other people.

We're all fakers, but no one's faking anything.


Bad Mojo

How could I forget?

I struggled a bit with what to post on Halloween proper. I was afraid the magic was fading a bit. It's been hectic around here, there have been all sorts of obligations and things at the office and early colds/bugs...I wasn't really feeling it.

I know, I know.

Comparing the volumes of words last year to the scant posts this year, it's clear my head wasn't in the Halloween game. It felt like the intangible special air of the season hadn't appeared. But then I got home to my better half's chili and the giant bowl of candy to hand out. Suddenly it clicked. It was last minute but it was there. Spooky tunes on Pandora. Treehouse of Horror. Trick or treaters are coming for the first time! We've waited so long for this (and no more huge lines at bars and paying a cover and getting a cab and all the other adult Halloween misery)!

So I got jazzed here at the last minute.

To celebrate, I'll impart something I had forgotten (thankfully). In a recent post I mentioned how I don't believe in this mumbo jumbo about ghosts and things that go bump in the night. Supporting my steadfast adherence to science is the fact that nothing...paranormal...has ever happened to me.

Until I was house shopping.

My better half and I had looked at probably 30 houses and were growing frustrated. One day while out with our realtors we stopped at a bit of a fixer upper in the west metro area. Decent, but not great neighborhood. The house was in fine shape from the outside. Inside, though, it I don't know. It's still hard to put a finger on what did it. It had this funny salmon color all over, and I think it had been foreclosed on? Or maybe the owners were renting it out and the people that were there weren't taking care of it. Whatever it was, they weren't taking proper care of it on the inside and everything was kind of slap-dash and in disarray. Seemed like a guy and a little girl, from the toys strewn about. 

As soon as the door had closed behind us something was happening to me. As far as I can recall, no one else felt it. I sure did, though. It felt terrible, like I was drowning, or there was a gas leak and only I was getting the fumes. My head was heavy and throbbing. My eyes hurt and I wanted to lie down and die. My chest felt like it was being crushed. I took maybe five minutes to get my bearings in the house, all the while my better half is imperviously seeing promise. She and the realtors are walking around admiring the kitchen and I practically vomit the phrase "I'm leaving. Now. We're not interested." They were totally perplexed by my sudden change in demeanor, but since I had never exhibited any kind of displeasure on this level, they shrugged and went with it. 

By the time we were in the car and driving away, my head cleared out and I explained what happened. They were a bit surprised but they accepted my reaction with aplomb. My better half was a bit bummed to miss out on what she saw as a great kitchen, even if I felt so horrible. We moved on, they were all cool with it. I'm sure the realtors had seen weirder and worse in their time.

It was so strange. I've never had such a bad feeling, this sense of malevolence or foreboding space. It was as if the house had the strongest bad vibes I'd ever felt. I don't know what to chalk it up to. My religious childhood and paranormal pop culture obsession wants to knee-jerk to call it spirits. My logical mind wants to call it undetected electromagnetics and low-level sub-audible humming. Hey, maybe it was low blood sugar and high stress. I just know there was no way I was going to spend more than five minutes there, let alone buy the place. It gives me the creeps to think about it, so I was glad to put it behind me. Dredging it out for you guys is kind of therapeutic. 

So, there it is. My only spooky deal. Not fun. Like I said, I don't beleive in any of it, which when considering how it felt, is just fine with me. I'll stick with cartoon skeletons and candy and the Monster Mash. Werewolf Barmitzvahs and all that. No real haunts, just real thrills. 


Lawnmower Man

So Fall is here. 

Mixed emotions! 

I say mixed because I absolutely adore Fall. There are way too many reasons to list - the crisp, clear air. The cool, sunny days. Leaves crunching under foot. Making chili and cooking hot meals to warm up. Sleeping with the windows open. Look, I could go on and on. 

There's also a downside, though - it's the end of any measurable light in Minnesota. From now until April it's pretty much dark all the time. I can make peace with that, but there is definitely a physical toll on the body. The cold, unrelenting winter. It's the price we pay for having three amazing (truncated) seasons. 

There's a new reason in the mix this year.

When I was 14 you could not have paid me enough money to mow the lawn. Actually I did not get paid for my own lawn. My dad knew better. Neighbors, though. They paid. Not as much as I wanted, but some. And I loathed it. Owning my own home, now I look for excuses to get outside and tinker with my lawn. What has become of me? Who is typing this? Who is this young man wandering around, picking weed, laughing to himself while listening to oddball podcasts?
There's a certain zen aspect to it, though.

A friend of mine said if she has to mow her lawn, she's having a couple of beers to ease the process along. I heartily agree. Yard work becomes a calming, manageable thing when you nurse a beer or two on a warm Summer afternoon. Now it's a cool Fall afternoon and it's not the same thing. Mowing the lawn has a hypnotic effect, though. You get outside of your head as you follow these little grooves in the lawn. There's the white noise of the mower. After the two-thirds point I can start to feel when the blade hits the grass, with a zing in my hands. It's soothing and eases anxiety the way doodling while on a phone call or putting together a puzzle while having a conversation takes you mind off matters - you distract your conscious mind just enough to let thoughts rise to the surface, free from constraint. What comes to mind is free and accepted. It's not unlike having a brilliant idea while taking a shower or vacuuming - you're free from thinking about thinking.
The joy of mowing a lawn. Man, that's some malarkey. When did I become this suburban stereotype? Did I watch that much King of the Hill? Am I going to be obsessed with my lawn? Give me two years and I'll be out there with a ruler and some kitchen shears, micromanaging like a true neurotic.
It also doesn't hurt that it's a thing that I can put a pin in and call 'done'. I can point to my yard and say "It's not perfect, but I don't have to deal with it for another week." Such a tangible, concrete task in my ADD, screen-filled life is a relief, to be perfectly frank. It's exercise with a definite benefit. 
It's not the end of the world that Fall is coming. I have next Spring to gear up for the whole process. I'll have a driveway to shovel (woof). Also, I'm getting way ahead of myself - after all, the leaves haven't all hit the ground, yet. I need to rake pretty soon.

Now there's some home-owning torture, right?



This is the only post my parents asked me not to write.

They relented, though, after determining the statute of limitations had probably put them in the clear by now. I doubt Los Federales will come knocking but I can understand their trepidation, I suppose. You see...we had bats. Lots of them.

As I explained last time, our house was very, very old. Such old houses have a way of becoming host to uninvited guests. I never saw a mouse or a bug (that started when we moved to the country - HUGE spiders) but damn did we have some flutter-mice. The attic, technically the third floor of the house, was host to who knows how many bats, sleeping and pooping during the day and leaving and swooping at night.

It wasn't a constant, swirling maelstrom of nocturnal nuisances, but it was definitely a problem. You would be sitting and watching a movie with the lights off, not even considering the risk of rabies, when a dark shape would flit across your field of vision. Instinctively we would all duck and cower and make a bee-line for our parents room, which contained our only method of pest control.

A tennis racket.

Wii remotes have nothing on the feeling of swinging a tennis racket as hard as you could, connecting with a terror-inducing bat (Bruce Wayne was a dick, it seems) and sending that little airborne menace flying across the room. Seeing them thwack against the wall and drop to the carpet, lifeless, we would then grab a folded newspaper and sweep them onto it, to be deposited in to the trash barrels outside. So it would go, for the foreseeable time - them, occasionally finding their way into our living space instead of the night sky, us killing a protected species in a shameful act of self-defense/cowardice.

The dynamic shifted one day when my father said he'd had enough. Enough shrieking children. Enough cats doing nothing while a free meal circled overhead. Enough siting up in bed, grabbing a racket that was sitting next to the damn night stand and killing them without even getting up. He had hit his limit. He created something that astounded and horrified us all.

The Bat Trap.
You see, bats can't take off like a bird. The have to drop from a perch and swoop up to take flight. My dad figured out which eave of the house they were mostly flying out of at night and set about devising a solution. A containment system. Risking a broken neck, he climbed up to the top of the house (an impressive height, especially without scaffolding or any safety gear whatsoever) and affixed a bucket and pulley mechanism. At dusk he would raise the bucket. Bats would drop in by the dozen, unable to alter course in time. In the morning, he would lower the bucket full of bats and do something horrible - kill them all. I won't divulge the method he initially attempted, but I'm still impressed and horrified he was able to do it and then put on a clean shirt and have a cup of coffee. After this disastrous first attempt he realized he needed to simplify and streamline his approach. The solution: put water in the bucket. Bats drop in, bats splash around, bats sink. Voila.

Secret best part to the story - he found out he had to kill them because he tried simply burying them alive one morning, only to have a league of furious bats claw their way up from the earth, obviously in search of vengeance. So my dad decided "I'll have to kill them before they can rise from their grave."
Being a fresh homeowner now, I can sort of see how he arrived at his course of action. I just hope I'm not driven mad in a conquest against a similar vermin like some villain from Batman.


Crown Jewel

Hi, gang.

It's been stressful times, as of late. I'm not speaking solely of the moving process; in fact given the potential for stress and heartache in a huge move like that, I think it went amazingly smooth. No, I mean more in the last 8 months or so. Basically, since the time I stopped having a place of my own. It wasn't solely the living situation, though, and I mean in no way to impugn my wonderful housemates. I mean more the external, coincidental factors coupled with being a married couple cast adrift while we weathered the seas of uncertainty.

Times got to be overwhelming.

The little things, the simple pleasures got to be reassurances. I liked being able to cook a meal. I'm no foodie, but I am a growing sous-chef to my better half, who has become a talented chef on her own. Most of our free time was spent preparing meals and dissecting what made things good. She reads cookbooks like literature. I try to keep up, but mostly my skills have favored pouring wine and doing dishes. One little bonus we had lost was the ability to watch copious DVR'd shows from the Food Network and the Cooking Channel. Honestly I think it was about the only TV my better half would watch, save the occasional Simpsons or Daily Show. So being without a kitchen staple, missing the lovely white noise of those specific shows, took a toll.

There was a life raft, though.

While we had no cable to speak of, we had access to the local PBS-esque affiliates. Turns out, on a regular basis they show cooking and food related programming. The best of the best? Our cream of the crop? Old episodes of Julia & Jacques Cooking At Home. It's a bit dated, being filmed and broadcast in 1999, but it is all kinds of awesome. So while we go about our business, getting settled in our new home, we make sure we tune in whenever possible.
In short, it's a classic cooking program and Julia Child is every bit as legendary as you'd expect. She was 86 when they filmed these! That she would have the gumption to still shoot these instructional shows, with the energetic yet patient Jacques Pepin, is nothing short of incredible. One cannot help but admire her spirit and passion, even past the point most others would have simply retired and coasted. No, Julia Child is amazing. She's totally the embodiment of all the parodies and jokes and SNL skits. She's so sincere and genuine that you can't help but find her endearing. Whether or not my palate can handle the amount of cream and white wine in her recipes, the shows are still a sight to behold. There's nothing quite as astounding as seeing a woman as old as your grandmother grab a gargantuan meat cleaver and hack a gigantic fish in two, without skipping a beat. Nothing broke her composure. She was super fun. Plus, I'm learning just from watching.
The stress will alleviate over time, certainly as we get more boxes unpacked and more things put away. In the meantime, we can cook with the limited means we have available and tune in to these hidden gems from a generation ago. If this is suburban living, I'll take it. Even if it means doing more dishes until our furniture is delivered.