Sad Clown Good Summer

I have been waiting to tell you for almost two months–I have quit my job. Well, I tried to quit. I handed in my resignation letter and everything. My last day in the office was yesterday.

I cleaned out my cubicle, which sent the message “how about send me an email instead.”

I was feeling a lot better around the time I resigned. I felt like I had a lot of clarity. That generic life kind of clarity and a lack of brain fog. I probably felt about 85% healthy at that point.

This is the closest I come to an Instagram filter.

And then they offered me a short-term contract that I could do in 15 hours a week until the end of the year. I’m only like medium stupid so even I knew that was a good deal. I’m keeping my hand in and avoiding a gap on my resume.

In the meantime, I will be writing. I have a terrible pornographic vampire novella to finish. I would also like to edit an unpornagraphic short story I wrote in a laundromat around xmastime when I had time off that I will kick out under my real name. So I need to see if I can do this–write and edit and self-publish when I have concentrated blocks of time. If I can consistently make enough royalties, then I can leave Techworld…FOREVER.

Now as an extra-curricular activity I will be working on my health too, which was another hard thing for me to do in an office.

So things could be a lot worse. I could live with someone who writes messages in eyeliner when my toothbrush head gets ancient.

Wait, that is me. I do that to people.

Anyway. I think I will be off the wifis this weekend in Twin Peaks, and I’m not really going to seek it out, so I’ll be out of touch. I’m bringing my laptop and I’ll probably be writing offline. And I will take pictures, lots of pictures. HAVE A GOOD WEEKEND.

“I have to get up at five o’clock in the morning and SPARKLE, Neely, SPARKLE!”

I wanted to show you my bathroom today, since it was supposed to be finished, but the plumbing inspection failed on Thursday. My least favorite plumber, aka Jackass Plumber, forgot to install a mixing valve on top of the hot water heater. Or perhaps he was not aware he needed to. It’s unclear.

The same inspector who approved the rough plumbing returned.

“Oh I see you went for the FANCY toilet,” he editorialized. There are way too many men in my house lately.

“Mmm hmm,” I said.

“Looks like this shower isn’t done.”

“It’s an open shower.”

“No door?” he asked.

“No door.”

He ran it.

“I guess the water’s staying in…”

And then a tick next to the word “failed.”

We get to try again next week. Also my vanity legs should be here by then. I bought vanity legs via my cabinet company. The legs–really more an idea of legs–were a very small black-and-white picture in the catalog that promised to be good metal companions to go with my retconned faux-nostalgic midcentury vanity that looks like something James Bond could have thrown up into, had vanities like this existed in the 1950’s. They did not. I’m enjoying this trend of thinking about what a credenza looks like and putting plumbing in.

But this isn’t Sears and Roebuck times. It is really bullshit to show me small black and white pictures at all. Sure enough, they arrived, and they are hideous. I didn’t really know what I was getting, which is not a defense. I asked for a picture or an internet link or a sample, but it didn’t really come to pass. First they sent two separate sets of black plastic legs, which was not what I ordered at all–so there was that delay.

Then what I did order showed up.

For size comparison, it cavorts among sauv blanc, water, and someone’s jank ass phone what needs a new case like whoa.

They were also kind of scratched or at least unevenly painted, and didn’t work at all with the actual vanity.

“Sooo the legs finally came,” I said, proffering them to my contractor. “Yay.” I was making bargains with myself at this point, just wanting to finish. I can do something else with the legs at some point, I told myself. He pulled one out.

“Do you like these legs?” he asked me, giving me a hard look.

“Well. Um. Maybe I can paint them, though?” He waited. “No. I don’t like them. And they’re kind of scratched up. I’ll go find some legs I actually like and have them sent immediately.” He nodded.

So I ordered legs from a site that does…midcentury legs. I figure they have ONE JOB, and they can do it well. RIGHT? Knock on knock-off legs.

It turns out the legs that we waited so long for and that I hated don’t even fit properly. So it was all moot.

We were hoping to start demoing the other half of the basement today, but it really needs to wait until the inspectors are done. One project at a time, please. So I have been futzing around the house today doing little odds and ends like painting a pillar on my porch that was getting very weather-ravaged, and test driving the DJ Roomba I bought with my tax refund. (R.I.P. Neato.)

Also I have been thinking about my kitchen today. There’s a couple of issues with it. It’s on the north side of the house, and gets a wee bit of sunlight in morning. It’s a candidate around here for a couple of those tubular skylights.

So this is what it looks like around 2 p.m. on an average April day. Dimmer than this picture makes it seem.

I decided to play up the primary colors feel between the yellow tile with the burgundy sizzle stripe and the teal-ish cabinets by adding a lot of primary red. The peace lily and the chevron bag is my sister’s for the little housewarming visit I made to her today. I had a squee. Among other things, I made her bacon peanut brittle and pickled eggs. I moved into that exact neighborhood when I was exactly her age, except her life is way less fucked up than mine was at 26. Yeh.

Also it’s L-shaped. Not much to be done about that. I like that it’s a one- or two-person kitchen and it’s pretty easy to convince people to beat it during parties so I can do my thing and get out.

Here it is with the lights on:


So here’s the tentative plan, but not for a while. Get ready for 50’s house heresy: I am taking out the countertops. I just cannot with the tiles any longer. Crud gets stuck in them constantly, liquid pools, and they always look dirty. I am thinking about doing wood but am not sure. I am keeping all the yellow backsplash, though. The cabinets are getting a new color scheme, and we have to redo the floors. The dishwasher leaked in January and it fucked up some of the underlayment. I feel lumps when I walk now. And the vinyl is going, of course. I am leaving the OG lights alone and the configuration, basically. It’s a nice cubey kitchen that is very 50’s sensible–no need to rip out the cabinets or anything. And it’s almost impossible to reconfigure an l-shaped kitchen so I am calling it good.

So now the question is how to work with yellow with a burgundy sizzle. I am thinking about doing something Frenchy Provencally after stumbling on a bathroom that is just like my kitchen, really (thank you, comments section).

Grey? Blue? Both? Cannot decide.

I am in the germinating phase now, since it’s far off.

This week was my last week of working part time. I’ve tapered down on Prednisone again today and it was a zap on my brain again. I dropped a bottle of rice vinegar on the back porch today–it was like it just left my hand somehow and shattered. I think I may actually sleep well tonight instead of my heart hammering at 2 a.m though. I’ve been sleeping 2-4 hours a night for several nights in a row and then I have a massive crash and sleep 12-14 hours and have a “good” day.

“How are you doing?” my contractor asked. It was before the plumbing inspector came, and we both thought we would pass with flying colors, and I would not see him again until maybe I asked him back to put in a gas insert in the basement fireplace.

“I’m okay,” I said. “The steroids are worse than the disease at this point.”

“Ah, I hear that,” he said. “I’ve been dealing with steroids for the last 25 years or so. I’m on my third heart.”

“Wow,” I said.

“And I’m a cancer survivor.”

“Holy cats, I’m glad you’re here.” We always say dumb things in the face of surprising information like this, right? Maybe just me, though.

“Me, too.” He said he owed it all to qigong and energy practice. I was not going to argue with that. I pretty much owe everything to obsessive attention to masturbation and the idea that tea tree oil can cure anything, including late-stage capitalism and jungle rot.

However. Cooking doesn’t require much thought at this point, which is pretty comforting. I can kind of just feel my way around. How many thousands of times have I sweated an onion? It sounds stupid but it really is so grounding to me. I had a little moment when I wasn’t able to walk or stand much where I was asking myself why I ever cooked, as we were hauling giant piles of frozen Trader Joe’s loot into the house that cost less than food that required marketing, planning, and chopping.

But now I’ve been doing a lot of cooking after work. On Thursday I made an asparagus and gruyere tart and then made Moroccan lamb shanks because why not? I’ve been cooking for so many years now that I think it’s keeping me from coming unhinged a little. Here is a normal thing. I was so anxious on Thursday afternoon I felt like I was going to have a panic attack, could not answer the phone, so I just focused on cooking. I had an alarm guy coming over and I felt like I was going to throw up, and made myself take an Atavan. It kind of freaks me out how I went from fish oil and an occasional Tylenol eight weeks ago to Valley of the Dolls so quickly. I hate this. I know it’s temporary, but I feel so trapped inside pointless, needless side-effectsy anxiety. I just kept rolling puff pastry dough and chopping garlic while he chit chatted at me about losing a cat from a hotel room during a cross country move.

I decided to see if I could bang together a Moroccan dish that tasted like Moroccan food with what I had in the cupboard and from memory. It was okay, really. I’d write it down, but I didn’t take a picture, so that would be kind of boring. It turned out. But here’s the tart:

Alien wiener tart.

I have been junking/thrift scoring plant stands for the house and bathroom. I liked my new snake plants but I thought they needed some levels to be finished. Behold my whirlwind life.

Now I’m happy with it.

Any thoughts about my kitchen are A. optional and B. would be welcomed.

Butterscotch Stallion Rides Again

Well HEY HO there was a package on my porch last night!

This is called shopping clearance at 3 a.m. on Vicodin and Atavan. And some other stuff, because YOLO. Unlike 98% of the unflattering, bizarre shit I own, this is a New Thing and it’s stiff and looks weird (in a new thing way, ok, I recognize the irony of this statement). I don’t think I’m going to be allowed to sleep in it until it stains with my body oils and softens, so I had better find a rock pile to roll on. This coat actually looks GREAT on Strudel’s dad but he refuses to wear it. I DON’T GET HIM, I REALLY DON’T. He is in the new shower right now, being commanded to test it out (not pictured).

I would have taken a better picture, but a. this is what my face looks like (HA HA, hashtage “awkward”) also b. the carbon monoxide detector started going off because I didn’t charge the batteries enough. Also I woke up at 4 a.m. I am pretty okay mostly but still feeling a little weird. This is a record of that weirdness for later, since I can’t remember anything.

This is currently what it’s doing outside (raining):

Inside the forecast is, “Every picture is going to be blocked by a Cavalier because then you are looking at and thinking about a Cavalier and perhaps some cheese would really work a treat right now.”

Great weather for suede coats. Looking for backalley B-12 shot today, but will settle for Dick’s cheeseburger.

I just found a summary of my brain

On something called Tweetails. This app sifted out my most used words. I have not been tweeting much this year in my desire to be less chained to my phone, but I have been tweeting for quite a while now. Maybe I will get back to it when I recover, since I don’t want to be sick on twitter. So annoying. Almost as annoying as SICK BLOGGING.

I will update on the mess that is my immune system after I go to the doctor this afternoon.

In conclusion,

OMG fucking cheese butt

“I have to go someone is watching me in my space ship”


I’m wacked out on Prednisone at the moment and trying to watch House of Cards. But it’s like BUTTERCUP how did you end up with Humperdick after all? Where’s the giant? Whatever. Do I like this. I do not like this party hat. How about some slash fiction between the Giant from Twin Peaks and the Giant from the Princess Bride. It will be called A Tall of Two Titties, because moobs.

The last time I took this drug I had poison ivy for a month and it was spreading and I was legit dying of poison ivy. I slept with socks on my hands. I watched my roommate, the one who could put cigarettes out on his tongue and turned power tools into sex toys, he had some old fangled 90s gaming system. Nintendo 64? It had a bad Fifa soccer game or whatever. It was hilarious and everything smelled like Dr. Pepper and then my poison ivy cleared up.

I should tell you what I have. I have FLU BEAVERS in my MUSCLES. YUM YUM CHEW CHEW. I can barely stand. Did you know that flu can go into your muscles? But they are also testing for toxins and parasites too. My eyeballs feel like boiled radishes. I am waiting to hear about my blood tests. I have been sick since February 19. I am sad. Also I think I smell bad. If my pee turns brown I am supposed to call an ambulance. I could pee right here but it would only be ok for a minute.

If I die P. says he will update. NAPTIME.

The Plan of the House, the Body in Bed

Let’s get this over with.

Things came to a head with the neighbor, so I am hoping this will be my last dispatch about her. A couple of days after the shrub incident I discovered that something else had taken place earlier that day. I spoke to my contractor the following Monday morning and he said that she had trespassed into the house and yelled at the electrician on Friday, demanding to know where we were and telling him that she “had to talk to us.”

I filed a police report and the cops spoke to the electrician, who gave his account. Now we’re on no contact. I am left scratching my head over what made us so infuriating on that particular day that she had to burst into the house and begin yelling. I cannot come up with an answer, so I am going to go with “is crazy.” Naturally she had the no-contact order extended to us as well. The funny part (in a way) is that the only time we’ve contacted her was to knock on her door to ask her to stop digging up our yard.

Anyway, lately it probably seems like all I think about is my crazy neighbor. I guess in reality it’s something less personal and dramatic I can write about. There’s a lot of old ground I don’t feel like retreading lately. It’s for the best, not to bulldog everything until it’s shaken into shreds. Also, I am an insane Bisy Backson. I feel like my time is claimed from the time I wake up until I lay down in bed. I stand at work all day so some days I feel like I don’t even stop moving until it’s bedtime. I suppose there’s dinner, too, though.

I had my sister over for dinner last night and we talked about being on cruise control and what the year is shaping up to be. She was saying she doesn’t have any burning goals right now, nor any huge obstacles.

“I keep thinking I should get a hobby, but there’s nothing else I really want to be doing,” she said, while I stirred my bologese.

“She’s 26,” I said to P. by way of explanation, who was listening.

“You’re just living!” he said. “That starts to happen in your late twenties if you’re doing okay.”

It was funny to hear her talk about her life with some wisdom and calm clarity, as opposed to the kind that comes with “this crisis is happening and I just had this epiphany at 3 a.m.” That shit is exhausting. Not to hear about, but to live through. I’ve done a combination of holding my breath and cringing for my sister for the last ten years or so as I’ve watched her move out from my mother’s shadow and grow her own life, as you do.

I remember that strange feeling when I started to realize the years really had a rhythm to them and if I chose, I would be doing the same thing over and over again every year. I would be making the same meals, or something just like them. I would be pulling the same weeds out of the garden beds. When it got cold, I would pull out my sweaters for the fourth year in a row. I would spring clean the same house, or at least in the same way. There are small victories and disapointments, but the only real difference is that I’m getting wrinkles and the girls are getting taller. I guess one of the keys is to ask yourself if you still like what you’re doing every now and then. Cruise control does have a seductive quality that can turn into inertia.

I was considering taking up a new hobby this year as well, since I so love new years, but I made the same decision as my sister. I don’t have any serious medical complaints right now, other than my normal bag of genetic weirdness/early old age. I don’t have any goddam court cases. Maybe this is just a year of normal doing, and being grateful for that.

Franny and I have been touring high schools around town right now. I feel really lucky to be in a position to let her make a choice about which high school she wants to attend. It’s been fun spending time alone with her, and hearing her reaction to the schools.

We went to her neighborhood school, which allows thousands of students in. It is an old 1950s building, which I find inherently charming because I am mushy-headed, but even I can see the drabness of the grey and yellow bathroom tiles under the fluorescent lights. I was embarrassed to feel the unpleasant visceral reaction I was having to being in a building like that, like I immediately wanted to graffiti on something or go outside and smoke. We were wandering the halls after the initial orientation was over and she got the standard “Oh my god, that girl has teal hair,” from some students who were there late at a robotics club, which completely irritated her.

We popped into the art classroom and looked around. It looked like a very cool studio space, and was obviously some kind of haven for freaks, as it always is. The walls were covered with handmade posters the teacher had done about bullying and about the studio being a safe space. It was nice to see that being addressed head-on.

The girls in the robotics club went by the art classroom door to spy on us and did that loud griefer thing that kids do when they want to harass someone without directly confronting them. It reminded me of nature shows with monkeys screeching with displeasure when there is a foreign monkey in the next tree scoffing all the best breadfruit. Franny’s cheeks colored and she rolled her eyes.

We went to the opposite of that the next night–a very small school housed in The Seattle Center, which is where the Space Needle is, if you are unfamiliar. We were shown slides of test and SAT scores, but I imagine the makeup of the feeder neighborhoods surrounding the center (mostly white, wealthy) may have had more to do with test scores than the amazingness of the school. I suspect most of the kids in the school have enough support to do well wherever they went. Franny was very charmed by what was presented, and I’m sure she’d do fine there. I think the dealbreaker was the attitude of the kids themselves, who were allowed to present a large portion of the curriculum and programs, and the fact that there is no Japanese program.

I’m informed that this reads, in part, “You are a butthole.”

We picked up some dessert on the way home. Strudel and her father had been out to multicultural night at the girls’ school, but they arrived home first. When we walked in she was making a face like she was going to pee herself with excitement and she started whispering at her dad. Something was afoot. I put my coat away and Franny walked into her room and promptly screamed. Strudel had picked up a life-sized standee of Justin Bieber abandoned on the side of the road on the way home, and had installed it in her sister’s room. All her idea. Franny took it with good humor. The funny part is that Franny is one of the only ones in her peer group who doesn’t like the Biebs. We like to tease her about the Biebs since it’s what she’s “supposed” to be doing. She still has the card I sent her last summer at her dad’s house.

A Guide to the Gentle Art of Driving in Seattle, Washington

Many people are confused about the art, nay, the very concept of driving in Seattle, Washington. Never fear! I have been driving in Seattle since the amazing year 1996 and present myself as your humble guide to a world fraught with inconsistencies and potholes, metaphoric and literal.

I hear you ask, what, are there no established, official rules of the road in your fine berg? HA! HA! HA! Seriously, don’t be stupid. Those booklets are printed so the MVD will not suffer budget cuts, and to distract people from thoughts of suicide while they are waiting seven hours to have their driver’s license photo snapped.

Here are the rules:

1. There is a depressible button or panel in the middle of your steering that makes a sound colloquially known as a “honk” or “beep.” Take my word for that, because trust me, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES ARE YOU TO EVER USE THIS BUTTON. Doing so will result in distress and confusion among your fellow drivers or wayward pedestrians. You may discover that these pedestrians will also stop in front of you and take a photo of your license plate with a promise of “hella tweet-shaming” you. You should be ashamed of yourself, you noisy piece of wombat excrement.

2. If approaching a four-way stop, wait. And wait and wait. Do not make eye contact. It is okay to slouch slightly in your seat; maybe the other drivers will think you are not in your car and that you just parked “assertively.” Eventually the other cars will probably leave. Don’t worry, no one else really knows what to do at these things; just try to endure them until they put a proper stoplight in.

3. If approaching a five-way stop–no. Just no. Take a different route to your destination.

4. Freeway/Interstate. This has its own special subset of rules. The 60 mph speed “limit” is a suggestion, but it is suspected your car will explode if actually driven that fast. 45 mph is much better, at least in the fast lane (in other cities and states, the “fast” or “passing” lane is all the way to the left). If anyone is tailgating you in the fast lane, do not, under any circumstances, move over for them. This is a democracy, for God’s sake, and you got there first. It is your responsibility as a Seattle ambassador to teach others about right-lane passing.

Anything goes in the other lanes! You’ll get there eventually, right?

5. Merging. If a car arrives before you, it is permissible to let them merge first, UNLESS: you disagree with their “initiative” bumper stickers; unironic use of “baby on board” sign; they are driving a hybrid and are merging smugly; out-of-state license plate. As with all Seattle driving, do not make eye contact and cut them off as slowly as possible. This way, you simultaneously do not see them and are not culpable for the accident you may cause.

6. Native Customs. “Traffic was terrible” is a local empty pleasantry, like “How are you?” and “I think you gave me herpes.”


If I cannot honk, then can I use impolite gestures to communicate my displeasure with the complete ineptitude of these morons?

Yes, but watch our lips. If it is the rainy season and car windows are up, you will make out the phrase “fucking Californian.” If it is August (summer) and the windows are down, you will make out and possibly hear, “Well ‘Namaste’ to you as well, Ms./Mr./Ze Impatientpants.”

What should I do if I am at a stop sign and do not have the right of way? I should wait until it’s clear, right?

INCORRECT. Wait until a vehicle is approaching, and then ease out reaaaally slowly in front of the oncoming traffic, so they have to slow down or stop. Bonus points for crossing double yellows or multiple lanes.

Bikes should be treated as vehicles, correct?

Yes, until they leave the road and start swerving around on sidewalks, only to return to the street depending on what the stoplights are doing. Then they should be treated as supporting arguments for mass public sterilization.

Transformation: Surprise

Dear GD Diary:


I’m at the laundromat for the first time in many years. Strudel was up betimes and surprised me by asking if she could come with me. Who wants to go to a laundromat? People who have not spent time there, I guess. When I was very small my grandmother didn’t have a washer and dryer—I’m not even sure if there was a hook up at her rural trailer. We went together every week.

I remember playing outside when it was warm, in the dirt with the other kids who had been dragged along. If there was snow on the ground we would stay inside and the windows would fog up. Sometimes I would be allowed to get something out of the vending machine. I thought it was marvelous, actually, but there was no schlepping for me.

“Aw, I’m sorry I’m going to miss the laundromat,” Franny said, on the way out the door to her dad’s house. Hilarious. Bless her little privileged heart.

Mere surveys the brand new floor hole.

Franny informs me that SeaFed has been made to cut down the pot plant he was growing outside in his garden.

“Did he get a sick harvest?” I asked.

“No. You know our neighbor, Joe, who is 89? He was tired of smelling it. Every time he had his window open he said he could smell it.”

“Maybe he was worried because it’s illegal, too,” I said. “Some people don’t like being around that stuff.”

Currently I am not allowed to do anything that reminds Franny of her father. This means I am not allowed use the word “fresh” as an adjective (he saw my El Camino and declared it “fresh”, giving her a mini-stroke of teenaged embarrassment). I am not allowed to make chili, since that is one of his only meals, and apparently he makes it too often. I am not allowed to play certain music if it reminds her of her father. I am not allowed to say that Robin Thicke does anything but contribute to rape culture (this is an easy one). I have heard Robin Thicke is “fresh” also.

Sometimes it is hard to remember how to act since I was kind of finished being raised by my marriage, and unfortunately my partner in (literal) crime was a b-boy who wore falling down khakis and said “the bomb” a lot. Sometimes I want to say “fresh” too, but I try to mix it up for her sake.

The death of Cool Toilet, Jr. Almost pictured: the driveway portapotty


P’s mother, who is Strudel’s grandmother, is dying. She has an official diagnosis as of a few months ago. It could get her quickly in the next couple of years, or it could go on for quite some time. When he and I were dating a million years ago, before Strudel appeared, I made an effort to get to know his family. His parents split when he was 25, shortly before I met him. I got along well with his father and found dealing with his mother, who retained his childhood home, challenging.

His father had six children, three with P’s mother and three with his first wife. All of the first batch of children eventually came to live with P’s mother and father in Portland. They lived in a giant, grand, multi-storey house that was built by the architect of the park it overlooked. It looks like the Addams Family house mated with a ski lodge. They were the third owners.

P’s mother is a special lady, hard to describe in some ways. She describes herself as “on the spectrum” and has been attempting to manage that for many years. Even so, she was always able to connect with children, in ways she absolutely could not connect with adults. Unless something has gone wrong, most children are simple—easy to see what motivates them, pretty easy to make them happy.

Over the past ten years or so we have watched P’s childhood home decline along with its sole occupant, which has been sad but unsurprising. It was only modernized to a certain point, and then it sort of froze in time after the divorce. P’s mother scraped by on her investments and made huge expenditures when she could, like reroofing. What made sense to us and the rest of her children was selling it as part of the divorce and moving into something more manageable. It had been a long time since there were six children and two adults living there.

In the meantime, things got more strained between P and his mother. He confided in me that he felt his mother just didn’t like him very much when he outgrew being a simple child. I told him that I found that surprising; she always took his calls, always accepted his visits. She visited us once, four or so years ago, but he told me when I came home from work that day that she had spent the whole brief visit in the yard talking with Franny. P overheard her praising Franny for being “skinny,” which worried and upset him.

“I think I need to take a little break from dealing with my mother,” he said.

“What will you do when she calls?” I asked.

“She never calls me,” he said.

And she didn’t. I wondered if it was really him or the fact that she was “on the spectrum” and was so locked into her many daily routines it simply didn’t occur to her. Sometimes the outcome is the same regardless of the cause.

P talked about buying his childhood home. We discussed it as a candidate for our future inn. It was, after all, an historic building with large bedrooms next to a beautiful park. We knew it would probably eat hundreds of thousands to restore, update the kitchen, and to add bathrooms to (incredibly, it only had one shower in one full bathroom plus a half bath and W.C. that P’s father had added–one full bath! Six kids!). We thought we had time to decide and buy his siblings out. We thought it would probably destroy us, but we’re both masochists and Catholics by nurture, so it would have been game on.

Instead we got a surprise on Friday: his mother had finally decided to sell and move into assisted living. She told him and his brother via an email. “Pending my move to Evergreen Manor, would you like to come and get some of your Christmas ornaments?” P was in a panic. Did his brother know about all of this and neglect to tell him? Did his mother forget to tell him with her neurological condition? He made phone calls but couldn’t reach anyone. His brother had never set up voicemail since that cost money. P is possibly the only escapee from a lesser John Irving novel. He has fled to me, and now lives in a Wes Anderson movie.

P finally got a hold of his mother. The timing is unfortunate since the bottom has fallen out of the market, of course, and apparently the furnace is broken. P asked her what her asking price was and she refuses to tell him. She knows he is interested in keeping it in the family, in restoring it.

So I believe we are spending part of Xmas in Portland this year. He made noises about helping when he is there, but I tried to talk him out of it. I was imagining him getting sucked into Havisham Manor himself and never getting out from under the stacks of boxes that filled every bedroom. “Just visit with people,” I pleaded. “Say goodbye to the house. We’ll take pictures.”

I assume she’s retiring from her volunteer gig with the children of Portland. Thirty years worth of children know her name and her face; she had an honored seat in the children’s parade for many years. I have been cross, bitter. I realized I was still hanging on to anger from when P’s father died and she did not say one word of condolences to him about losing his father. The divorce became another person in the family and never left again. I am not going to tell the girls these stories. I need to let it go.


On a “lighter” note, our neighbor still hates us. She launched a massive yard cleanup project this summer that mostly seemed to involve our yard. She wanted all of our shrubs cut back, and offered to have “her guys” cut our stuff back. I have to admit I missed a lot of this stuff. I am out and about on the weekends a lot, running errands or seeing friends, or taking the girls places. I would come home and P would tell me “her guy” had come to the door and asked if he could cut the lilacs back under Strudel’s window. I looked on the side of the house and they had been reduced to one-foot twigs.

“Uh,” I said. “Are those even going to grow back?” In one of P’s former lives he worked as an arborist and knows about these things.

“Eventually,” he said.

There was also a massive cleanup of mature plantings on the narrow strip next to our driveway. When we applied for construction permits recently, our contractor, jolly Mike Ehrmantraut, commented that our houses are very close together, which we’d noticed.

“That wouldn’t be allowed now,” JME commented. I wish it wasn’t allowed then.

The details of exactly what was discussed between P and the yard guy are not entirely clear to me. It’s P’s understanding that our neighbor was going to put a line of arborvitae on the edge of her driveway to block us out after the cleanup, which was fine with us. I was surprised when she decided to almost double the size of her driveway, leaving very little room for the arborvitae.

We woke up one Sunday morning in September to hear the sounds of shoveling. I peeked out of the curtain. The ongoing cleanup and driveway projects always took place on Sundays. P speculated that it was the guy from her normal lawn service who was working under the table on weekends.

“Shit,” I said, still groggy. “The neighbor is having our yard dug up.” I threw on pants and went out in a hoodie with rat’s nest hair, feeling myself wake up a little bit from that Oh Good Here Comes a Confrontation feeling.

“Say, friend,” I said, finally coming face-to-face with her lawn guy myself. “It looks like you’re digging up our yard there.”

The guy immediately bristled at me, reddening. I hate to make this sound like something out of Dickens, but he was one of those guys who is so shiny you can’t tell if it’s oil or…well, he looked greasy. He had bleached blond hair with little roots creeping in. He stood supervising while another man shoveled up the turf on our side.

“I made this agreement with your HUSBAND,” he spat at me.

“Really? I’m pretty sure he didn’t tell you to dig up our yard and plant arborvitae on our property.”

“It’s on the LINE,” he informed me. “I don’t get paid enough to deal with this. I talked this over with your husband and he said this was okay.”

P appeared next to me. “No, I didn’t,” he said.

“Go talk to HER about this,” the guy said, pointing at our neighbor’s door. “It sounds like YOUR HUSBAND is changing his story now,” he said to me. Rut roh. Them’s fighting words.

We knocked on our neighbor’s door and she came out in her robe. Can I say how wonderful it is to argue about bushes in your pajamas at 8 a.m. on a Sunday? I’m sure you can picture it.

We had a talk with her and the lawn guy continued to interject in a hostile manner. He told us he should have spoken to THE WIFE in the first place. He told us we were WAY OVER OUR HEADS with this yard of ours (???). He tried to insinuate a couple more times that P was a big fat liar.

“It sounds to me,” I said. “Like P’s understanding of what was happening was that you were putting up a line of arbor vitae. We didn’t hear that you were expanding your driveway until we saw it happening. Neither of us would have agreed to let you plant anything on our side.”

“It’s just a FEW FEET either way,” the guy said.

“Well, there’s a reason the city recognizes property lines,” I said. There was NO WAY I was going to walk down that road. What if the arborvitae died? What if she decided that it had become her property since she paid for the upkeep? What if something happened and we had to cut the arborvitae down? (Like, say, an attack of spite.)

“No one, in the time I’ve lived here, has kept that property of yours up,” my neighbor said. “I paid to have a bunch of your bushes cut back this summer. It looks much better now.”

“Well, I’m not happy with the work your men did under my daughter’s window. I liked those lilacs, and now they will not bloom for several springs. And if we’re splitting hairs about the aesthetics of other people’s yards, I think arborvitae are hideous, and I would never agree to let you plant them in our yard.”

“But your HUSBAND AGREED,” the guy said.

“We are saying ‘NO’ right now,” I said to my neighbor. “I’m sorry. This is why you get things in writing.”

Later he drove away, his truck full of arborvitae.

We went home and thought about drafting her a letter—formal, written notice that we wished to only speak to her about changes made on our property in the future and that we wished to have no more contact with her prick of a lawn guy. Ultimately we decided that would probably just exacerbate the situation. A week later I came home and noticed that there were surveyors on her property. I went out afterwards and made note of where the little pink flags were left—about two inches past the end of her driveway. So now we know where the property line is.

P.S. I finally got around to asking my delightful Canadian tech elf to fix up TQS. So if you ever wanted to spelunk it, it’s back in working order.