Wednesday, February 20, 2008

And A Bunny In A Pear Tree...

In the years PD (pre-divorce) I used to take my two youngest whippets out for exercise every afternoon after work along a peaceful river dike. Sometimes I walked the two mile trail along the river, and the dogs ran loose the equivalent of ten miles along with me, and sometimes I attached both dogs to my mountain bike using a marvellous device called a Springer. The Springer allows the dogs to run along side the bike and theoretically, they can’t pull me over.

The theory would work fine with a Lab or a Husky. The Springer people never anticipated a pair of whippets taking off full speed after Peter Cottontail. Sir Isaac Newton would have been pleased – I can actually physically prove the accuracy of the First Law of Motion (A physical body will remain at rest, or continue to move at a constant velocity, unless an unbalanced net force acts upon it). The bunny went straight into the blackberry hedge. The dogs stopped, the bike stopped, and I sailed on after the bunny, until the unbalanced net force of the blackberries stopped me. I came home looking like the victim of a horror movie – maybe the Texas Shredder Massacre.

However, the day after the massacre, I resolved to go biking again – determined to not let a few scratches and a little whiplash slow me down. (Hmmm. Now I know why it’s called “whip”lash.)

I came home from work and put Nike and Travis out in the "big" dog yard while I changed to biking clothes. Nike stayed close by; knowing a run was coming and not wanting to be left out. Usually both dogs were pretty tuned in to running time. Besides that, they got the added bonus of watching Mom go flying through the air. What could be more fun than that? When I was ready I called Travis.

No Travis.

I looked out the window. I could see Travis and Travis was enthusiastically playing with something. Something brown. Please let it be a branch or a dog toy.

I couldn’t be so lucky. Travis had caught himself a real live bunny rabbit. Only it wasn’t quite so live by the time I got to the backyard. But he couldn't have been more pleased. He ran joyfully around the yard, dropping the bunny, charging it, scooping it up and running with it some more, tossing it in the air. Clearly, bunny-ball was better sport than watching Mom fight the blackberry bush.

In the post-divorce years, I discovered that one of the least appreciated benefits of being married, besides having someone else to take out the garbage and put gas in the car, was that carcass removal normally wasn't in my job description. However, I needed this bunny body gone, and Evan wouldn’t be home for another couple of hours. I sighed, gathered up a shovel and headed out into the yard.

Now here's where things started to really go awry. Travis was, and still is known to the whippet world as"Son of Sanibel". His mother, Sanibel, was infamous for her bruising enthusiasm for racing and lure coursing, as well as her determined refusal to give up her own leporidae to my friend Karen in the middle of a Pennsylvania sleet and hail storm at 11:00 at night. At 2:30 on a pleasant June afternoon in Washington, I have a better chance at winning the Powerball lottery than I do of convincing Travis to hand over Thumper.

He put it down, he let me get close, and then he snatched it up and ran off with it again. Like I said, this was more fun than any old run with Mom. Thinking that perhaps a distraction might do the trick, I got a stuffed toy.

Yeah, right.

I tried cookies.

Yeah, right.

I tried smelly cheese.

Yeah, right.

At that time in my life, I actually got paid a salary by one of the largest insurance companies in the world for my problem solving skills. I could not, however, manage to get a rabbit corpse away from my dog. It is a humbling thing to own a whippet.

I tried $6.99/lb deli roast beef.

Nope.

At this point, about half an hour had gone by, and Roger Rabbit was starting to look rather worse for wear.

Travis took another lap of the yard, made another toss in the air. And then it happened. Another physics lesson.

Sir Isaac, while accurate regarding the bike incident, was wrong this time. What goes up, does not necessarily, always immediately come back down. Particularly when you have a rather branchy ornamental pear tree in your backyard.

I was, for the first time in my life, utterly speechless.

Travis, on the other hand, was furious. He had a great deal to say to me, to thepear tree, and to the *&%^$ bunny.

I managed to drag him in the house, away from the crime scene. When Evan came home, I asked for his help with corpse removal and indicated that he’d need a ladder. At that point we’d been married long enough that very little surprised him. He simply looked at me, raised his eyebrows, and politely inquired “the body isn’t human is it?”

While he dealt with the bunny in the pear tree, I went to apply my problem solving skills to what on earth we were going to have for lunch for the rest of the week. We seemed to be out of roast beef and cheese.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Attack of the Dishwasher ~ Jenn's Version

“Attack of The Dishwasher” ~ Jenn’s Version

My friend Patience has a post with this same name. It is quite funny, and if you haven’t checked it out, go to the Patience link to the right and find it on her blog. Anyway, I’m pretty sure that there must be dishwasher conspiracy. I have long been convinced that photocopy machines are alien probes sent here to collect data. That’s why they always jam when you’re in a hurry – they know it’s something important and they want to make note of it. I now believe that dishwashers were sent to test my ability to cope with the world.

When I was living with my friend Laura, we had dishwasher issues. At one point, a part mysteriously became detached from the dishwasher and we were simply unable to determine where it came from. Since the dishwasher still worked, I decided we didn’t need it. My suggestion was to just toss it, but Laura wisely chose to set it aside. Good thing too, as it later turned out to be the water distributor (not sure that’s really what it’s called). Those were fun times. Some day I’ll tell the WD-40 story, but not here and now. Mike and Marty can just hold their tongues.

My dishwasher at my Bellingham house belonged to a dishwasher union. It worked a certain number of times, and then it flat stopped. Done. No more. I missed hours of work due to appointments with the Sears repair man. I was about ready to give the guy his own house key. Fortunately for me, it was under warranty. Sears finally got sick of sending my buddy out every few weeks and replaced the motor.

I am not a home-owners good luck charm. Some day I’ll use the blog to tell the Garage Door Chronicles. There is also a chapter on “How Not to Glue Finger to Dog Door Whilst Installing Weather Stripping”.

Apparently I now have the opportunity to pass the joy on to Rob. We returned home on Super Bowl Sunday after the game to find the kitchen floor was not as we left it. When we left, one could walk across the floor and there was no water seeping up through the laminate flooring. When we left, the floor was nice and flat, with no ripples and buckling. When we left, the cabinets next to the dishwasher didn’t have any water between the cabinet base and the floor. There was also no water in the kitchen furnace duct. Not so upon our return. Attack of the Evil, Evil Dishwasher!

Thursday after Super Bowl (February 7), the Servpro guys showed up to evaluate and begin repairs. I got home on Thursday night to find that half the kitchen floor was ripped out, the kitchen itself was encased in huge strips of plastic sheeting, and two industrial strength drying fans were running. And a de-humidifier. The Evil Dishwasher was visiting the elliptical trainer in the dining room, and the oven was inconveniently positioned in front of the cabinet where I store the dogfood.

Did I mention that industrial strength drying fans are LOUD? That particular kitchen configuration lasted from Thursday the 7th to Monday the 11th. If not for the noise, it wouldn’t have been so bad. I managed to fish out the dogfood and we cooked on the barbecue.

I came home Monday to general peace and quiet. The plastic sheeting was gone, and the only foreign appliance was the relatively quiet de-humidifier. The oven had returned to its normal station. However. Half the kitchen cabinets were ripped out and their contents were in boxes. That includes the cabinet that used to hold the kitchen sink. The sink was in the dining room next to the Evil Dishwasher and the elliptical trainer. Do you have any idea what a pain in the *$% it is to make coffee and do dishes without a kitchen sink?

We went today to pick out new cabinets and countertops. Thankfully, insurance will cover most of the cost. And the new kitchen will be lovely. When we get it. We have no ETA on when we’ll get a kitchen sink. But when Rob figures out that this is all because of my dishwasher karma, I may be needing a new place to live.

Anyone have a spare bedroom and need a new kitchen?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Port Out, Starboard Home

Hey, everyone!

Sorry it’s been awhile. It’s been a busy couple of weeks, and I haven’t felt like I had anything great to say. Not that anything is wrong, or that things are going badly. I’ve just been caught up on an inside horse on the carousel. I really try to avoid that in life. Find an outside horse!

Work has been so busy that I haven’t even had a chance to go prowling around the city at lunch. That means less interaction with interesting characters. And now that I’m officially living in Snohomish with Rob and Nick, my commute is not as socially oriented. Train travelers are just not the same maddening crowd as the ferry folks. The trip is no less beautiful though. The tracks run right along the base of a bluff overlooking Puget Sound most of the trip from Everett to Seattle. By “right along” I literally mean that for much of the journey when you look out the window on that side, you don’t see land. At All. As in, you’re looking straight down into 46 degree salt-water. Of course, my twisted brain is trying to make a murder mystery out of having someone pushed out of the train into the sea, but I haven’t quite figured out the details.

Actually, I like to sit on the land side of the train. It’s not that I lack appreciation for the Olympic Mountains and the Sound, they are indeed magnificent. But that view tends to be static. I’m more fascinated by the sneaking glimpses into life on the other side of the tracks. To me, the train provides a front row seat to scenes much more interesting than anything on t.v.

Even as the train lurches and sways out of Everett, past the Port and the industrial core, there are interesting contrasts. Ubiquitous blackberry brambles and gutsy alder trees hide grafitti and discarded junk, and also provide shelter to a variety of fauna. Rabbits and song-birds have been forced to think that the urban jungle is a fine place to call home. I wonder what they think of the train.

Everything out there has a story. Burlington-Northern Railroad utility buildings, surrounded by chain link fences – what are they used for? Why are they secured like Fort Knox? I want to know what’s in there. Can I hide a fictional body in there? Is there a potential weapon? Colonel Mustard in the utility building with a railroad spike.

There are tidal lagoons with playful ducks and elegant Great Blue Herons amongst the snags of fallen trees. What else is in there? I envision a fantasy Loch Ness Monster-like creature gliding through the mud and murk. The lagoons are bordered by homes, some brand new and stand-offishly modern, oblivious to the fact that their aged and weather-worn neighbors were once someone’s dream as well. And what’s up with the half-sunken canoe at one of the piers? Someone used to go paddling, and now they don’t. Why? Maybe in my mystery story it belonged to the protagonist, who could have once been a world class skull rower, but has not been on the water since the tragic drowning death of her best friend and crew-mate in college.

Some of the newer homes have pools. How’d you like to hang out in your beautiful, expensive seaside pool and have trains whirling by fifty times a day? And more relevant, how do you keep the Canadian Geese out of them? I can see the geese on the manicured lawns. Maybe they don’t like chlorine. Perhaps it’s bad for their down.

South of Edmonds, the bluff is higher and steeper and the train perches precariously between the hillside and the sea. Here the Himalayan blackberries and Scotch Broom fight an endless war for territory in their hostile takeover of the incline. Neither is indigenous. I wonder what would really be growing in their place if they weren’t here. Actually, I think they may be the only thing keeping the bluff from sliding into the sea. Several times a year the train doesn’t run due to sudden and unpredictable assaults by mudslides on the tracks. If this were Nessie’s fantasy world , the map would read “Here There Be Slides”, instead of “Here There Be Dragons”. It’s much the same sort of threat.

Things get really interesting as we enter the city. The Ballard locks where one of the homes keeps a small powerboat at a pier. If the locks are full, the boat is afloat. If the locks are drained, it’s mired in mud. “Gee honey, lets take the boat out today” “Oh, never mind, we can’t, there’s no water…” There’s a park that always has suspicious looking vehicles hanging out by the canal at 7:30a.m. Obviously my mystery story victim witnessed some sort of crime from the train and was somehow caught out. To be interesting it would have to be another murder that was witnessed. So besides having my commuter victim pushed out of the train into the sea, I’ve now got an original victim to hide. I need one of those darn utility buildings! The beauty of being the writer is that you get to try on the ideas and see how you like them. You can always put them back in the closet and bring them out later.

We roll past the railroad maintenance yards at Interbay. There’s a giant box spilling over its cargo of fire extinguishers. Huh? Why fire extinguishers? Why are they sitting by the railroad tracks? There’s also an abandoned orange hard hat. How does one lose a hard hat? It’s not something you just happen to drop and not notice. Another clue to be written in to our story.

Downtown Seattle now, I can see the Space Needle, the Old Spaghetti Factory, and some of Pike Place Market. Then into the tunnel to arrive at King Street.

My ride is over. To be sure, I could have spent the hour preparing for my day gazing out over the water. Instead, I can create the headline “Canadian Goose Saves Seattle…..Uses Fire Extinguisher to Battle Dragon Attacking Space Needle”.
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Jenn and the City

An Award

An Award
Thanks Patience!

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