Something Is Up In The Kitchen

My sweetie was away for two weeks tubing on the Niobrara River and chilling at a cabin on a Maine lake, and all I got was this questionable tea towel.

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(Disclaimer: I don’t travel well, I don’t do togetherness with families much better, and someone had to stay home and feed the cats. I haven’t gotten on a plane since 9/11 and don’t plan to. I was fine with this.)

It’s supposed to be a towel or decorative hanging for Sumo fans. I ask you: is wrestling the first thing you think of,

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or is this gay household porn for guys who prefer chubby guys?

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Vote in comments. I’m not sure what to do with it.

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The Haunted Bijoona

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Does anything actually work the way it is supposed to any more? I am on my third washing machine in a decade. My refrigerator, which replaced a sturdy sale model with eighteen years of service, has been repaired twice. And now I have, not only a bijoona, but a disturbingly, authentically haunted bijoona.

This is, to recap, the commode I had installed a shave over three years ago to replace the one that served the first floor of the house loyally for the Biblical three score years and ten. So of course before it was really even seasoned into its job, something had to happen. The eve of Thanksgiving, 2015, in the middle of a wiring upgrade which was supposed to be done by early November and continued till January, The Bijoona suddenly fell prey to an affliction whereby either the bowl would empty completely and not refill, or fill to the brim and decline to drain.

The Engineer, inevitably, was out for the evening rescuing an idiot, a hobby which he has gradually, thankfully abandoned, but that left me here with a holiday weekend, a spanking-new commode sticking out its tongue at me, and the Internet. Hot water was recommended: “Do not use boiling hot water as it can crack the porcelain. The water should be the temperature of the hottest tea you would drink.” These are not thoughts you like to connect to a plumbing fixture. I doughtily boiled water, let it cool, poured, plunged, and wondered idly if the electrician, an ADD poster child who left a trail of tools and personal effects and could never show up when promised, might have dropped his cell phone in there and flushed it. Right about when I hit the brink of despair the goddam thing finally worked. Just in time for the Engineer to get home.

We had one other episode of that, and then, about two months ago, something snapped in the flapper assembly and I had to shorten the chain so that the flap would come up. Not long after, it started running steadily after you flushed; the flapper wouldn’t seat unless you diddled the handle in just such a way, a very tiresome process on which to coach clients, all of whom not only want to use the bathroom but explain, with great specificity, why they need to pee at that exact moment. I got nothing here. I just always assumed that using the bathroom was a given and that you didn’t need to identify the cause (coffee, green tea, honey I really DON’T care.)

One of the clients, a dear man who can talk till my eyes glaze over about the clever improvements he is incessantly making in his own house. insisted on opening the tank and adjusting a screw. “That will fix it,” he announced. Yeah right.

Then, about a week ago, I heard a dire moan: a human, B-horror-movie sound issuing weirdly from the bathroom. Water chugged briefly in the pipes and quit with a squeak. It sounded as if someone had had a disturbing gastric episode.

Every so often it happens again. Marley’s Ghost with diarrhea.

So, has this been the problem all along? I call a business that I trusted and they unload a haunted commode on me, like a British estate agent played by Christopher Lee foisting the psychopompous ancestral property on a clueless American couple? The Engineer says it’s just a pressure thing in the pipes, but he’s an engineer and has to think that way.

I haven’t sat down so cautiously since the rat came up through the U-bend. Updates as they occur.

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*Enjoy the Clancy brothers singing about a haunted privy. These guys were a joy to me in my teenage years.

 

 

The English Bach

This is not actually a post about music.

What happened was, Sebastian, my faithful handbuilt desktop of ten years (my Engineer spec-d it out, I passed screwdrivers and told him what I needed it to do) started crashing a couple of weeks ago. Repeatedly. The mail program, the browser, the whole damn OS. It accelerated over a period of 48 hours to the point I would have been frantic without a laptop in the house. A client who gets paid to understand computers all day (and very probably emulate Russian hackers as a security geek, for the military) said it sounded like a hard drive problem to him, with an explanation that matched the observed gyrations.

(I named him Sebastian because the case is a Bach VX, even though I lean more to late Romantic than Baroque. It seemed only natural.)

So we tottered out to Micro Center and bought a new hard drive, even though the old one was not even two years old — I’ve had a defective hard drive before — and the Windows 10 OS for the heck of it, since one thing Sebastian had apparently not been able to do for months was update Windows 7. Some of this is chargeable against tax. This is the excuse I use.

A few hours later, we had everything installed, restored, activated and updated, and I set to work. It was nice. Windows 10 was fast and so was the new drive. I used it through Monday, annoyed only to note that every time the computer slept, it woke up thinking it was September. All those site certificates out of date. I got really tired of resetting the clock.

Then Thunderbird started crashing again. Then everything. Three blue screens in a row. I haven’t seen a blue screen since Windows XP.

“I think it’s the motherboard,” I said, pointing out the clock issues. We reflected that the motherboard was ten years old.

Newegg ships in a day if you pay a modest fee. We got a new motherboard and a power supply, considering there were possible power issues in some of the crap we saw.

Everything went together fairly well, and because I am anal-retentive about things like this, we had all the manuals for the remaining hardware, and it powered up and today we loaded everything back on it. It was so new by this time that I named it after Sebastian Bach’s son, Johann Christian, also known as the “English Bach” from his main stomping grounds (he is buried in England, and the royal family endowed his widow). I decided to start this post by searching up a music video of one of his concertos, which Mozart admired.

The audio burred. The browser crashed. The system blue-screened.

  1. The audio card may be poorly seated.
  2. The MEMORY_MANAGEMENT crash makes me wonder about the RAM. The memory sticks are one of the few pieces of hardware not updated so far.
  3. If it is about a couple of sticks of RAM, despite the fact I love the new OS and zippy startup, that percussive sound you hear will be me rhythmically and repeatedly slamming my forehead into the especially stout and unyielding plaster walls of my 1940’s-built residence.

In the meanwhile, enjoy some music.

America

It’s the Fourth of July and I can’t, I just can’t. My neighbor across the street, who two elections ago had a big orange “DEFEAT OBAMA” sign in his shrubbery, and during the last election interestingly displayed no sign at all, has a honking big American flag hanging in his porch entry, as sort of a flyscreen I guess. I ought to tell him it doesn’t work that way.

My country is taking kids away from their parents and giving them back, if they’re given back, broken, and I can’t do a lot more about it than write kiddygarten postcards to voters begging people to vote for anyone who will act to stop this insanity. I don’t even like kids, but you don’t do this. You don’t.

There’s a link there at the word “broken.” Read as much as you can stand. Goddammit.

Nonetheless, I’m an American — not a Brit, though I almost did that once (and they have their own problems), not a Canadian or anything else. When I was born Eisenhower, aka the Last Honest Republican, was President. My father played in the Army Band, Pershing’s Own, and I learned first hand how full of shit the rah-rah-red-white-and-blue could be, but still, here I am. I have to find something that I can still love.

I reverted to Arthur Foote. A Unitarian kapellmeister, who studied in Europe and channeled Dvorak, Brahms and Mendelssohn, he is the only American composer I can entirely embrace. Fuck your folksy Aaron Copland first grade orchestral settings and your Charles Ives cacophony. Here is a beating heart.

Unitarianism is an interesting faith, if it is one. I don’t really understand it much. I think it basically follows the rubric “be a good person.” We could use that.

Here is the Foote piece that I always come back to. Tell me if the world isn’t redeemed at about 1:24 when the B section kicks in, or if not there when the melody comes back dancing on the roof of Creation at 7:35. An American did that. So we’re not all damned to the outer dark.

Sorry, but those are the thoughts I think these days.

The World Sucks And Yet

This was a very depressing week to be an American. There are people, of a rather Ralph Naderish persuasion (purportedly he never broke for rest and relaxation and slept on a cot in his office) who suggest that if you’re not using the Internet for anything but organizing to fight back,  you are part of the problem.

Well we all know how it worked out with Ralph Nader.

So I must share the thing that helped get me through this weekend: vintage Sondheim with Simon Russell Beale,  Daniel Evans, and Julian Ovenden plus, wait for it, the operatic bad boy of my heart-throb dreams, Bryn Terfel. Just blundered across it. Totally incorrect in these days of #Metoo but I would tidy up the dishes for Bryn any time, if he would sing.

Nadia

This was a weird one. A little while back I resumed using a thing called Sleep Wizard which is a speedball of nutriceuticals that accelerates your progress into deep stage sleep. I’d used it for years, then tried some other things that kinda sorta did the trick but seemed to leave me with an unrelieved calendar of anxiety/futility dreams, the kind where you’re trying to dial a phone but it doesn’t work, or you can’t find a restroom anywhere that isn’t too disgusting to even exist. Fortuitously, the company that sells the Sleep Wizard got its operation smoothed out, one of the reasons I’d looked elsewhere. It’s been about a month. I have interesting dreams.  Some of them are almost good.

Last night, I was at some sort of public performance or event, a fairly informal one that seemed to be taking place in a big open room or sheltered outdoor venue, with no seats, just people on the floor. Maybe blankets. Not sure. I am not even sure what music was being performed, but at a pause, famous people in attendance were to be brought forward.

The emcee produced a slender, ethereal woman, clearly old but not hag-like — in fact her features were hard to distinguish, her hair and eyes seemed dark — wrapped in a sort of sari or swaddling so closely you could not really discern arms and legs, and introduced her as Nadia Boulanger. For those who aren’t classical buffs, Boulanger was one of the Grey Eminences of twentieth-century music, composing little in her later life but teaching and directing copiously, mentoring most of the “modern” composers you possibly have heard of: Aaron Copland, Philip Glass, Virgil Thomson, to name a few. When I was young and trying to channel all my mental energy (including melodies that hit me at all hours of the day and night) I asked my father, the hornplayer, if women had ever been composers — you wouldn’t know it from the playlists of the time. He brought up Nadia Boulanger. As far as I know, that’s the only conversation I ever had about her.

But in the dream I was stunned to discover that she was, though aged, still alive (she actually died in 1979), and appearing in public for unclear reasons, other than that it was a musical occasion, at least in part. And suddenly I stood up from my place on the blanket at stepped forward and sank to one knee in front of her, welling over with reverence and joy.

I have no idea what this means. Should I start practicing the piano again? The guitar? Terrifying the cats with my singing? Or found a religion?

Bag It

So all over the Internet, according to my Twitter feed, there seems to be a rash of weeping and hand-wringing because a fashion designer named Kate Spade was found dead. Holy priorities, Batman.

Don’t get me wrong: suicide from depression is always a sad thing. Take it from someone who lost a best childhood friend that way, largely, I’m fairly sure, because her mother loved a bunch of retarded kids more than her own brilliant daughter and continually forced the daughter to interact with them. I remember the hushed explanations, the mealy platitudes reported to me from the funeral service — thanks to dysfunctional everybody, I didn’t know she was dead till she had been in the ground for a month — and the posthumous denigration of someone who was suffering. I remember clearly that the parent who had all the time in the world for the feeble-minded curtly told her own daughter to “do something about herself” when her first year in pre-med went down in flames from her emotional struggles. I have enough bitterness about the way depressed people are treated to curdle the sea.

But all this sentimentality about handbags? There are people online rhapsodizing about the “aspirational” nature of the designer product and what it meant to them — some sort of image of “adult womanhood” — as if a handbag were more than just a fucking container to carry things around in, and as if we need to carry so many fucking things around.

I have two clear memories of people who cared jack shit about handbags. One was an epicene overprivileged blonde skinny woman in a toy job at the first gym where I ever worked, who drawled “I found a wonderful sale on Anne Klein. Are you into Anne Klein?” “I’m heavily into Sears and Montgomery Ward, myself,” I replied, thinking of my $3.60 an hour part time paycheck which for Skinny Blonde was just the garnish on a placeholder gig so she could say she was a real! working! person before going home to her parents’ fancy mansion. The other was a sad matter of someone who had only been able to survive, after escaping an abusive family, by finding generous gentlemen. Things that money bought were earnests of permanence to her. I was nicer to her.

Bags? What the fuck even is it about bags? A nuisance, a drag, a thing to look after, something that no man in history has ever felt he had to own. I went from a backpack to a hip pack to a key wallet over the last thirty years and I never really looked at who designed the things. You use them. You try to find something that doesn’t drag you down. It isn’t your identity.

There are these women at my gym who drag bags around. One day soon I’m going to go up someone’s nostrils just because the idiocy of it ticks me off. You’re in the gym, lady: first off, get yourself some real gym clothes and shoes; second, if you carry something around — I do — it should only be the stuff you need to have with you to work out — this is the US so you came here in a car and the car has a trunk. Stop leaving that horse-nosebag-handbag on the floor for me to trip over. Aside from, it makes you look stupid and focused on things other than the reason you are here. Please get your day tripping self out of my sight.

But here we are, with the world and especially America burning down around us, unjust deaths by the quire piling up among our veterans and our poor people, and someone needs to grieve over a person they never knew because handbags.

America will bullshit itself to death. Been happening for years. Just putting up signposts.