Inhuman Swill : December 2001

Santa's little helper

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I hope those are the sounds of contented deep sleep I'm hearing from the other room. I hope I'm not busted.

We live in a three-floor house. Laura and I occupy the main floor, and we have a neighbor upstairs and one downstairs. The upstairs neighbor and we share a common entrance, since this used to be a single-family dwelling. We often hear him coming home late at night in the entrance hall, right on the other side of our nailed-shut bedroom door (we sleep in what used to be the house's living room), and prowling up the stairs to his apartment. The downstairs neighbor has his own entrance, but we share a common storage area in the basement, a narrow hall that runs the length of the house.

Well, down in that narrow hall is where I've been hiding Laura's present from Santa all week. Santa had me pick it up for him at Home Depot, him being busy with other things and not having much room in the sleigh and all, and asked me to stash it until the big night. I rearranged some boxes and nestled the big blue carton back in a niche, disguised it with some artfully placed bubble-wrap, and then stacked chairs on top and in front of it.

Tonight Laura was feeling tired and a little ill, so I read to her from Watership Down until her eyes grew heavy, and then I lay in bed beside her reading Black House to myself for another hour, until I figured she was good and asleep. Then it was time for Santa's little helper to go to work . . . since Santa had called frantically earlier in the day to report that he'd be just a little too busy to manage the transfer of the big box from the basement to the room we use as the living room.

I can get to the basement three ways: from the basement door out front, from the basement door out back, or from the staircase going down from the entrance hall. Reasoning that it would frighten Charlie, the downstairs neighbor, less if I were heard to be descending the interior stair, that's what I resolved to do. I dressed quietly, slipped my Red Knit Cap of Stealthiness down over my ears, and set out for the basement.

Only trouble was . . . well, when Laura arrived home from work today around 5:30 pm, her first words were, "Put on your coat! I need some help garbage-picking!" A block away, she had passed a nice cupboard with intact glass doors put out at the curb with the garbaage. We beat the other neighbors to it, and wrestled it home. Not sure where else to put it until we strip it, refinish it, and find a real place to put it, Laura insisted on leaving it in the entry hall—blocking the door to the basement stairs.

All right, no problem. I can't believe I didn't wake her up with the noise, but I did manage to wrangle that cupboard out from in front of the door and down the narrow entrance hall far enough to get the door to the stairs open, despite the fact that one of the cupboard doors won't stay closed and swings out with a crash at the most inconvenient moments. Of course, the top of the stairs themselves were blocked, because that's where Laura likes to store such items as her ladder and a folding cart and roughly seventeen square yards of black plastic sheeting.

So I moved enough crap stuff to get down the stairs. At the bottom, I could see light behind Charlie's door. I hoped that meant he was still awake and I wouldn't bother him too much as I moved heavy objects behind his wall.

Well, I got the chairs out of the way and got the big box scooted out into the downstairs hall and was just putting everything back when an only slightly worried-looking Charlie—thin young Asian fellow with spiffy horn-rims—ventured out into the hall. I realized later looking in the mirror how menacing I might have looked, with my Red Knit Cap of Stealthiness pulled down very low (and it should be mentioned that I've been wearing the RKCoS every chance I get, ever since a waiter down at Sanford Diner told me I looked like a rock star—no, that guy from Smash Mouth—no, the Limp Bizkit guy—but you get I'm saying something good, dude).

Fortunately Charlie is not one to confront nightwanderers with a baseball bat or a .38. We had a very pleasant conversation while I stood at the base of the stairs holding this big blue box that contains a 10-inch compound power mitre saw, my love's one true desire, all the while shrugging off the offer of help and worrying that the sounds of our voices through the open door at the top of the stairs would wake my sleeping beauty.

At last, after having invited Charlie to come up for a Christmas toast tomorrow, I hauled my quivering, compound mitre saw–cradling arms up the stairs. I negotiated the stuff crap at the top of the stairs and lugged the box into the living room (the current living room). I arranged the box in the corner with all our other presents on top of it, stuck a tag on the front that Santa had sent 'round labelled "To Laura, From Santa the Pagan Myth" (that jolly old elf sure has a sensayuma!), and added to the tableau as a last touch a 12-pack carton of the Sam Adams winter assortment—two bottles each of six seasonal varieties, including the Winter Lager and the can't-find-'em-separately Old Fezziwig Ale and Cranberry Lambic—that Santa sent over as thanks for helping him out of the mitre saw jam.

(I'm an ex-Mormon. I love having beer under the Christmas tree. Well, under where the tree would be if we had one, anyway. Santa left me to pick up the tab on the mitre saw.)

When I saw myself in the mirror, I quickly swiped the RKCoS from off my head, then I closed all the doors, replaced the cupboard in its stair-blocking position, and sat down at the keyboard to report this all. Now I will have a little Christmas fudge (hey, Santa's not coming to eat it), check that all the Christmas lights are functioning, check the locks, check the locks again, and then retire to bed with my sugarplum.

I hope I'm not busted.

Listen up

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So I woke up this morning and had a lovely walk with my wife Laura to the Akropolis Meat Market on 30th Avenue to pick up a nine-pound cut of prime rib for Christmas dinner tomorrow. Then I escorted her to the train station so she could go to work. I bought a bottle of triple sec for my famous cosmopolitans and carried everything home. Where a pretty raw cry was waiting in my inbox to pop up and slap me. The subject was "Listen up":

FOR ONE THING UNLESS YOU HAVE A MISSING LOVED ONE FROM SEPT 11 YOUR OVER BLOWN STATEMENTS MEAN NOTHING....WE AS FAMILY MEMBERS HAVE TO FEEL THAT WE ARE DOING EVERYTHING WE CAN TO FIND OUR FAMILY....SO IF THAT MAKES YOUR LIFE ALITTLE HARDER......WELL WHO GIVES A FUCK!!!!!! MY HUBBY'S NAME WAS —— ———....REMMEBER THAT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Apparently she's responding to one of the two or three essays I've written about the experience of creating the survivor registry. I wrote back with a generic and unemotional expression of sympathy for her loss and a wish for the new year to bring comfort. What else could I do? I mean, her comments aren't fair exactly, but any distress I felt as a result of the 9/11 experience is certainly orders of magnitude less than what she's still feeling for the loss of a husband. But the thing is, we all lost something that day, and we all have a right to talk about it in public forums—her, me, you, and anyone else. I hope yelling at me made this poor woman feel better, but it almost certainly didn't.

"Two for Las Vegas"

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Got a phone call from a fellow at Film Garden Productions on Friday. He gives me the following airtimes for the episode of Two for Las Vegas featuring Laura and my wedding:

Tue 15 Jan 2002, 1:00 pm Tue 15 Jan 2002, 7:00 pm Wed 16 Jan 2002, 2:00 am Thu 17 Jan 2002, 1:30 pm
All times are Eastern Standard, and the program airs on the Travel Channel. Check your local listings in case of last minute schedule changes.

(God, I've always wanted to say that!)

There and back again

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Well, after a lovely Caribbean dinner and scintillating conversation, we hied ourselves off to the movies for three hours. And...

I'm sure I'm not saying anything here that no one else has said, but IT SUCKED. I mean, it bit the big one. It stank up the joint. It ran up the bellrope and joined the Choir Invisible.

Oh, it had some nice moments, and a few good lines. Some spectacular visuals. But the director was not content to settle for subtlety of emotion when things could be amped up to 11, or 12, or 20. And the screenplay completely failed to respect the wisdom and intelligence of the characters, and the grace of Tolkien's language. I understand that cuts have to be made in a novel to translate it to the screen, but not these cuts, not these. Peter Jackson has misunderstood The Lord of the Rings, has disrespected it, has broken it up into pieces to feed the masses like stale Communion. I'm going to try my hardest not to see the next two films.

I don't feel strongly about it at all.

Fuck.

The Ring goes south

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Two loaves of pumpkin bread just came out of the oven, and I'm off to the city! Lórien, ho!

Flight to the Ford

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I finished rereading The Fellowship of the Ring last night. What a relief! I'm a slow reader, and I really thought I wasn't going to make it in time. I really thought the Black Riders had me there at the Ford!

I'm going to a 10:00 show tonight with my friends Bob and Ken, after a dinner of lembas and cram—sorry, wait, Caribbean food at Negril. Laura didn't want to go on opening day, so she and I will see it later this week.

I feel like a little kid. This must be what it's like to be seven and looking forward to seeing Harry Potter.

Gyroscape

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I live in Astoria, Queens, which has the largest population of Greeks anywhere in the world outside of Greece. There's a statue of Athena, a gift from the city of Athens, in a park just a few blocks from here. It seems absurd that when I want to buy a Greek gyro, I should have to act like an ignorant American and say "jye-ro" instead of "yeero."

Boing boing!

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Hey, Cory just blogged missionaryman.net, with a really nice little accompanying blurb:

http://boingboing.net/2001_12_01_archive.html#7970374
Thanks, Cory!

Way behind!

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Man, except for the subway story, I haven't written a substantive journal entry here for a while. All these things keep happening, and I keep wanting to write about them, but then other things come up. It just goes to show that, no matter my best intentions to get to it eventually, if I don't write about an event right away, it never gets written about.

So here is a quick rundown of all the recent things I wanted to write about but didn't:

  • The BBC documentary crew who interviewed me for television here at our place.
  • My dad's trip all over Eastern Europe.
  • Laura's new job.
  • The splendid Thanksgiving we had with Shana and Margee and Emmy and Liz and Cory.
  • The part-time work I just got, temporarily, at Sesame Street.
  • The fire that destroyed a ramshackle garage five doors down from here.
  • The postcard we got from our friend Scott on a trip in China.
  • How much we both loved Ocean's 11, and how much we both liked but didn't love Harry Potter.
  • The entire actual novel I just received from a friend in the body of an email message. (Too cool!)
  • The eeriness of visiting downtown Manhattan at night, with that gaping hole in the skyline.
There's more stuff that I'm sure I'm forgetting—and writing news too, although for that you'll have to visit [info]missionaryman.

The thing is, we took pictures of the fire and everything, and I hate to let them go to waste. So here are some pix of the garage burning down the street from us:


You can't see it very well, but there were three or four big fire engines there, including a hook-and-ladder truck, and twenty or more of New York's bravest.

Now, this last picture is what was left of the garage the next day. The burned-out vehicle used to be a BMW SUV. Ouch! But fortunately that was about the most serious casualty.

The white building to the left, though, had just barely been rehabbed, and the new tenants had just moved in. The fire really messed up the top-floor apartment, though the lower floors were pretty much ruined by water damage from the firefighting efforts. The firemen dragged hoses in through the front door of the house, then sprayed water from the second-floor windows down onto the roof of the garage. It was a surreal sight.

No one was hurt, but man, is this city is seeming like a dangerous place to live lately!

      TODAY'S WEATHER
      PERIODS OF RAIN
      THE RAT PACK

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