AGAIN

Nothing is built to last anymore. Even the repairman said so as he packed up last week, after administering Extreme Unction to my old washer. I dearly hope this one holds up for a while though.

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When you do massage for a living, you inadvertently become an expert on other subjects, to wit, sheets and washing machines. I remember washing machines the way some people remember addresses where they’ve lived or schools they’ve gone to. There was the economy Kenmore that lived at my former landlady’s house (for some reason, she insisted that its top always be daintily protected from any drifting dust or cellar grime by an old beach towel). There was the exhausted relic that came with the house where I live now, which started widdling on the floor like an incontinent old dog almost as soon as I moved in. I replaced it with a scratch-n-dent from Best Buy, which churned along for several years until I took a flyer on one of the first European style front-loaders to hit the US market, the “Neptune.” I got fond of Neptune. His door gasket eventually became mottled with black mildew stains, but he got things clean and didn’t use very much water. After nine years of spinning two or three loads every day, though, he began to make an alarming racket, suggesting one of the bearings was finally wearing down or that a small private plane was preparing to take off in my basement, directly under the massage room.

I hied me off to the showrooms, where I made the worst decision of my householding life. Neptune had cost a bucket but worked like a champ, so I decided that spending more wasn’t a stupid idea, and I sprung for an upstyled front-loader made by a company which might have made your phone or monitor. They make pretty decent electronics. Their large appliances, so far as I can tell, are for shit.

At first I thought the weirdly stiff sheets and towels were in that condition because the deliverymen had transposed the cold and hot water intakes. Oops. But no, even after that was fixed, things came out of the dryer looking kind of like origami. You can certainly design a washer that uses less water if you want to save water, but just a flea in the ear, there has to be enough water to actually wash things, I mean, if you take this to its logical conclusion, just don’t wash your clothes at all. Oh, and the bleach was meant to go in a little pull-out drawer positioned just exactly so as to drip bleach on your black work pants. Three pairs. Goddammit.

After a while the dark loads acquired a composty, funky smell that rose up from my person whenever I got hot and sweaty, which I do a lot.  It wasn’t stale sweat, it was actually mold that appeared to be forming inside the washer.

I prayed for the thing to break. There had, I learned, been a class action suit by a cohort of other moldy-smelling householders, but no joy. Fourteen hundred bucks before the discounts. You could do better pouring Tide in the bathtub and doing a grape-stomping number with the sheets.

So when the thing finally stopped draining, one crisp October evening in 2014 — pouring a black, viscous sludge over my basement’s concrete floor — I was delirious with joy and sped to Home Depot to buy a top loader with no agitator, very cool, and with a glass lid (it was $20 extra, but I don’t have a TV and it seemed like good entertainment), guaranteed not to fester.

It died last week.

Mike

Now you need to understand that when I say died, I don’t mean with a sigh or a whimper, nothing so unremarkable as press button = nothing happens. Oh, no, no, no. This washer was Violetta in the last act of Traviata, commencing on a Wednesday to utter incomprehensible “error messages” stating per the manual that the lid could not open, or could not close, though on these occasions neither action was required of it. It beeped at me, shrilly, in the dramatic soprano registers. I did some resets, also per the manual, and it performed for a while. Nonetheless, I sensed a need for a service call, especially as the whole small private plane sound effect seemed to be recapitulating itself. Wednesday went into Thursday, I was busy, I looked up my repair company’s website, I ran another load. Friday came around. I plunked a load in the washer. It beeped. CANNOT OPEN LID.  Wtf. It beeped. Unless unplugged, it beeped, harshly, piteously, importunately. I picked up the phone.

Mike was available, I was told. On Tuesday, he showed up and avowed that my machine was one of the greatest, generally speaking, he had one himself, but that I must have gotten one built on Monday, whose tub leaked and whose bearings and drive shaft were likely corroded, and that is before you get into the motor control responsible for all those merciless beep, beep, beeps. He actually got on the phone with Maytag, who were not going to budge on paying even a pro rata compensation for the parts he would need or, alternatively, comping me part of the cost of a new unit, unless I took a number and stood in line for one of their repair people to come look at it. This is how corporations wiggle out of paying for any of their fuckups.

Mike left me with a list of the models he regarded highly. He pulled the plug back out before he left. We had almost gotten used to the beeping.

Diane

Diane entered my life, briefly but meaningfully, an hour or so later in the local Home Depot showroom.

I had berthed in front of a Samsung washer with a hundred bells and whistles, amazingly discounted from something over a thousand to $548 large, and was trying to figure out what all it actually did (grill hot dogs? translate from the Sanskrit?). Diane, in her orange apron with name badge, sidled up beside me, caught my eye and shook her head slowly from side to side.

“You don’t want that one,” she said, sotto voce.

I like an honest salesperson. “It was a recall,” she elucidated. You remember all those Samsung phones that were exploding and catching on fire and they wouldn’t let you on a plane with one? Well they also succeeded in manufacturing exploding washers. (No, seriously, click on that link. You know you want to.)

I told her what I needed and she looked in her computer, and found the last year’s model of one of Mike’s picks, in the warehouse for about forty per cent off the original price. Somewhere in the system there was a ten per cent coupon floating around and she applied that too. It was Tuesday and they couldn’t deliver till Saturday; I counted the sets of sheets I had left, looked at the client schedule, and figured I’d come out with one to spare. If no one else called, which would have left me back with the prospect of stomping sheets in the bathtub with Sudso. Damn if I am going to a laundromat and listening to other people’s kids scream while the sheets tumble, I already have enough tsores.

Henry

So Friday night the phone rang. A robot lady told me that this was the Home Depot delivery service and my delivery was scheduled between TWO and SIX pm tomorrow. An hour later the call repeated. And again, an hour after that. I felt pretty sure I could expect that washer between two and six, and I was done at three, so that was pretty promising. At twelve-ten the next day, just as I was settling a client on the table, the phone rang. I was going to ignore it because it was a Hispanic name unknown to me and I am always getting butt dials from local Hispanic guys, but then the hair prickled up on the back of my neck and I picked it up. “Hello, this is Henry from Home Depot. I’m on my way now with your washer.”

It is nice the Engineer is living with me now for a lot of reasons. He met the guy, signed for the washer, and made sure the hoses were connected to the right pipes. A younger me would have called up Home Depot and bitched, but everyone’s just trying to live, and at least I had the frigging washer.

Here is how the laundry room looked once I had the first two loads in progress.

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I didn’t come up for air till last Tuesday. In case anyone was wondering where I’ve been.

Tonight

I don’t know anyone who was born in Syria, needless to say, I don’t know anyone who has had to flee Syria since it became, so far as I can tell, the battleground of a tyrant who intends to cling to power no matter what and regional powers who want a piece of the action and fundamentalist militants and fuck knows what else. Who can tell any more.

I was born in the palmy aftermath of the Second World War, when in America at least — my Brit friends have acquainted me with a less swimming narrative — suburbia was thriving and people who had survived deployment were fathering families and going to school on the GI bill and slapping down the down-payments on houses and saving to send their kids to colleges which wouldn’t bankrupt either generation. No Fortune 500 company hired me, but I had the platform in an increasingly unequal economy to scratch, claw and clobber my way to a house. I love my house. My house cares for me. It protects me.

No one (yet) has any reason to bomb my house or the neighborhood where it sits.

No one (yet) has dropped anywhere near me chemical agents that sear lungs, blind eyes, execute whole families.

I get up in the morning and I bitch about the people I have to deal with performing my everyday errands. The sky is blue, when it isn’t raining the blessed and gentle rain of the Tidewater. Nothing evil falls from it.

I live in Paradise. I have a few dollars to send to the UN refugee aid, after making sure my future is taken care of. No one has yet ripped it away from the sky.

I don’t know what to say or think about the state of the world, or Tomahawk missiles. I do have to think that we in the United States can take the chance on people who are running away from a sky that, on a random day in a random place, can rain hell on the home you have worked for your whole life.

I am lucky. So lucky.

V For Something

Victory, possibly. Or Vendetta. I am not quite sure.

What it was, I was driving down the main drag of South Arlington to the gym, an experience always fraught with idiocy and mundane perils, like the construction site where I turn out of the hood (festooned with a gigantic banner engrossed with the initials ED, which means Ellis-Dale construction but given the humongous crane perched on the hillside, the last thing you want to see suffer Erectile Dysfunction, all I can say is it is a bit unnerving). People weave in traffic. They look cell-phone-dazed. It is half a mile of quotidian horror.

So suddenly there is the staccato blatting of a car horn obviously intended to attract attention, and a black sedan pulls alongside me in a meaningful way. At the wheel is a lady of A Certain Age — and I mean only a tad more certain than mine, I would say high sixties, with the stringy gray-white shoulder-cropped I-quit-giving-a-fuck hair you see on some women her age, waving at me and making gestures that at first I thought added up to flipping me off. Really? Is she a Trumpie who doesn’t like my Hillary Bernie Planned Parenthood bumper stickers? What did I do?

She gunned her car, which I could now see was a Mercedes thanks much, and seemed to be getting the window open, worked her arm out and began waggling it high in the air, the first two fingers of her left hand sprouting into a V sign. The arm thrust, danced, pirouetted with insane zest until she accelerated out of sight.

I can’t think it was just the candidate stickers. The Cthulhu religious fish? The DUKAT 2016 sticker subscribed “Make Cardassia Great Again”? Grumpy Cat?

Either she was a nutter, or someone I’d like to know. Ships in the night.

Critter Crises

Just before we start, no one was ever anything but fine. Except me. I think I had my last heart palpitations this morning, just thinking about it.

What happened was, about a week ago I asked the Engineer if he would make me just a giant bowl of braised mushrooms for supper, as I frequently do. Normally he does these bad boys (shiitakes and baby portabellas) with a whack of shallots, along with thyme from the front yard and dry vermouth and some garlic, only we were scandalously out of shallots, so he doubled up on the garlic and the whole house smelled like Lucy Westenra’s bedroom. In the end there were more mushrooms than I could eat and I left my bowl on the table while I did the washing-up. And forgot about it.

In the cold dawn I awakened and remembered with horror that garlic (like onions and all their relatives, including lilies) is toxic to cats. And that four of our six had had the run of the first floor all night. And that my dearly beloved Mr. Ferguson is the one who likes to get up on the table.

The Engineer was off to work early so he wasn’t around for me to cling to as I approached the table and saw the mushrooms, with their visible festoon of garlic chunks, nosed about and looking nibbled-on in the ceramic bowl. We had sprinkled them with cheese. The cats love cheese.

Everyone looked okay. I called the vet and asked. They punted and told me to call the Animal Poison Control Center.  Veterinarians who know their toxicology are standing by, they said.

I have dealt with “toxic to cats” before, at least in a mild way. Once, back in my old house when I was married to my Late and Ex, Apricat of blessed memory ate some azalea blossoms. I found him chomping away and seized my veterinary manual, which advised me that azaleas caused nausea and irritation and that I should cause the cat to vomit them up by placing a quarter teaspoon of salt at the back of his tongue. I am a good cat wrangler and had the salt in there faster than Mr. Zip can spit; Apricat, released, took a couple of steps away from me, turned his head back with an expression that clearly said “You swine!”, put his head down and urked a wad of melon-colored blossoms onto the beige carpet.

Here, however, I faced the possibility that the garlic had gone down the hatch anything up to eight hours ago. I tried to add up the number of cloves the Engineer had minced and divide by the poundage of mushrooms corrected for the water they had released.You get the idea. The best the Poison Control people could say is that there was a low risk of a toxic dose and that I should watch all the cats for the next five days for signs of weakness, nausea and locomotor ataxia. (They said wobbly gait, but I was busily looking it up online and reverting to the medical terminology that I find exact.) Garlic damages the red blood cells, so that the liver and spleen can be slammed with busted erythrocytes that overwhelm the normal clearing functions of both organs. It sounded perfectly horrid.

Everyone was okay all that day.

And the next. And the day after that.

And, well, everyone was okay. Either someone pushed the shrooms around and said “Blargh,” or ate some and went off and barfed in a corner which I have yet to find, or it just wasn’t enough garlic to do damage. Back in the day, some people would tell you to worm your cats with garlic. Never tried it, happily.

Anyway, don’t leave garlicky things out where your cats might eat them. And for god’s sake never let them near lilies, which pack enough of the critical chemicals that a little pollen can kill a cat. They smell like rotting ragout anyway.

The Poison Control Center wanted my Visa for more than I would charge for a half hour appointment. The workman is worthy of his hire and I paid it, but some people don’t have that to pay. I wonder what they do.

In other news, hawthorn extract  alleviates heart palpitations. Verb. sap.

 

 

 

Oooookaaayyy

So I was on my way to the gym yesterday and ran into a permutation of a recently occurring pattern of clusterfuck, road work compounded with some construction company excavating on the approach to the main road, and had to detour through some narrow neighborhood streets which are staples of my speedwalk route. One of them is slightly obstructed by a large, ballasted basketball hoop and backboard.

On this occasion, there was someone under the basketball whatsit. Only he did not appear to be practicing his shots. At closer approach, I saw a man easily my age — white-haired, at least what you could see under a ball cap, with a wiry runner’s build, cruising a skateboard in circles around the street beneath the basket and holding at present-arms a hockey stick.

Sorry no photos. I kind of didn’t want to slow down.

Better Living Through Technology

My phones have been screwed for a week. I’m actually starting to enjoy it, even though it obliges me to conduct a daily work-around of checking the Verizon voicemail box to see if anyone’s called the landline. Some days no one leaves a message; most people want to text or e-mail, which I don’t mind. All my clients who might need to connect quickly have been advised. I hate the sound of that damn thing ringing, which it seems to do all day long. As a semi-blind lady I long ago adopted speaking Caller ID, so I don’t have to run over to the phone and squint at a teensy little screen that tells me I am being called by Organizing For America or someone’s campaign committee or the Fraternal Order Of Police, or any one of a hundred charities, causes and scams whose phone-bank representatives will, if I am so foolish as to pick up, address me by my first name with obnoxious familiarity and ask how I am today before trying to shake me down. Now I just get to hear a robot voice tell me these things.

Robot voices are big these days. In fact the only calls I have gotten in two days, on either cell or landline mailbox, are from the Verizon Robot Lady who advises me primly that “you recently called about trouble with your phone line. We believe the problem has been resolved. If your problem is resolved, press 1. If you are still encountering problems, press 2.” Then the mobile phone screen goes blank and I can’t get it back in time to press 2 and the robot lady hangs up on me and calls again later. I am mightily fed up with the sound of her voice and would like to sic Barney the Dinosaur on her, if I could find either one of them.

Every day or so someone tells me that they gave up their land line years ago and don’t miss it yada yada. I get the point, but this number is on business cards that have been floating around for years, and sometimes after a twenty-year gap people have found that card and remembered the great massages they got at Spa Lady back in the day and they call up. Plus, cell phones are no good for talking. My stepmother, Vacuums-With-Snakes, likes to call and chat every so often and I can guarantee you the call will drop twice before we are done because she only uses a cell.

When my dear friend Dorothy died — she had unexpectedly listed me as next of kin — I was left standing in my office with one client leaving and one arriving, waiting for a Fairfax County cop who had found the body in her condo to work his way out of a cellular dead spot so he could utter a complete sentence before being cut off.  That is crap. (I always thought that when people died and the police needed to notify you they actually sent an officer in person, but I guess this is better living through technology. At least they could use a real phone.)

Anyway the first time we could settle on a service call is Saturday, so I can count on a few more days of luscious silence around the house. The text message noise is a polite little triple plink, down a perfect fifth and back up. I can live with this.

George Takei Liked My Tweet

Image result for Allegiance show logoSo I went and saw Allegiance. This is a musical show about the internment of over a hundred thousand Japanese-American citizens and legal immigrants who were forced from their homes by armed soldiers soon after Pearl Harbor, told to take only what they could carry, and confined for four years in camps across the western part of the country. Just the thing to inspire choruses, comic turns, and dance numbers, right?

Right. It worked.

If you have not come across it before, this production, which premiered in 2015 and had a five-month run on Broadway, was the brainchild of George Takei, the onetime Mister Sulu and modern-day social activist who may well be the oldest Twitter addict in existence. (Favorite alltime quote: “Back when I was young, it was illegal for me to marry a white woman, and now I’m married to a white dude.” Bears on the book of the musical. We’ll get back to that.) Takei’s family was one of those taken out of their houses and loaded onto a bus — poignantly, he describes his mother lugging a sewing machine because she was sure they’d need to mend their clothing — and he lived and went to school in the camp till he was nine and the bomb ended the war and everyone got a bus ticket and $25 to go out and start life anew. Yeah. (Real reparations were finally paid during the presidency of Ronald Reagan.)

John Tateishi says the experience was both humiliating and disorienting. “We came out of these camps with a sense of shame and guilt, of having been considered betrayers of our country.” He says that after the war most families never spoke about it. “There were no complaints, no big rallies or demands for justice because it was not the Japanese way.”

But decades later and inspired by the civil rights movement, the Japanese American Citizens League launched a contentious campaign for redress. It divided the community along generational lines. (Transcript from NPR’s All Things Considered, August 2013)

In Allegiance — not directly based on Takei’s family experience, but on the kinds of experiences that happened all around them — there’s every sort of reaction to the internment, from a determination to prove loyalty by serving in uniform, to explicit refusal to sign loyalty oaths. Some internees keep their heads down; others stage protests. There’s — fairly predictably — romantic attraction between an internee and one of the camp personnel, double jeopardy since even outside the camp they couldn’t have legally married at the time. And a grandfather, played by Takei himself — who also takes the part of the family’s estranged son fifty years on — simply kneels down on the packed soil of mountainous Wyoming and coaxes vegetables out of it. It is worth the whole production to see how much fun Takei had playing slightly dotty old Ojii-san (whose origami skills come in handy when the loyalty questionnaires make their appearance). I was there on Crispin’s Day when all Takei ever got to do on camera was say “Aye aye, Captain” (except for that memorable time he channeled D’Artagnan stripped tastily to the waist), so watching him turn in two disparate and nuanced performances in the same show at the age of nearly eighty was slightly exhilarating.

It’s a musical show, so I expected the broad brush, and historians have lodged their complaints about ratcheting-up of the conflicts between internees and American soldiers, while I squirmed over a too-contrived fatal accident. And no one is ever going to nominate the fairly bland and derivative score for a Tony (though I’m still shivering over the Japanese-language chorus that arises from a stage foxed with light and dark at the moment the war is finally ended). But the music occasionally flashed — at the moments when irony and bitterness were uppermost, the breath of Kurt Weill animated the score:

Allegiance isn’t generally available yet, though this was a high quality recording of a live performance. My guess, they are hoping to see if it can be revived or go on the road before they make it too easy for someone to buy a video. I only knew it was going to be in the theater for one afternoon because I follow Takei and his Twitter feed alerted me that show was being rebroadcast on the anniversary of the Presidential order that established the camps, now observed as a day of remembrance. (When I tweeted back “got our tickets!” a little heart promptly appeared on my timeline: “George Takei liked your Tweet.” I’ll never wash my smartphone again.)

It was more than remembrance; it was a touch of verb. sap. People can fight and shed blood for their country, while others dig in their heels and resist when they see their country doing the wrong thing, can differ so much about what’s right that they go through life without ever speaking again, and they can all still be loyal Americans. I hope we can keep that in mind going forward.*

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*It occurred to me while clocking mileage that I ought to clarify that last. I am not referring to people who “differ” because they somehow have a problem with inclusiveness, fairness, due process under law, and other forms of common decency, some of them enshrined in the Constitution, some of them now matters of law. America at its best has always aspired to fairness and fraternity, even if it has taken a long time to realize even part of that ambition. I have yet to decide what to call people who, rather than argue about how best to defend them, actually scorn the ideals embedded in the Bill Of Rights, while waving American flags. 😦