landlady blues

If possible, one should never meet the people who are renting your house—or vice versa. This weekend, though, it was unavoidable. The previous renters, who left the place spotless, had told me that the French door handle needed replacing. Jose and I did that, then I made beds and he cleaned the grill and we finished up other little chores, and then the septic system alarm started going off. Siren, flashing light. Over and over. I called Septic Maestro.
When he called me back, the new renters were already installed—the teenaged girls in the shower, the little boys playing video games, the father pacing the deck with his cellphone.
"Excuse me. Hi, I'm Claudia, I have to get into the house to fix the septic system."
Right. Like turn the circuit breakers on and off. Once I figured out how to open the box, which was stuck, with the renter watching me. In the process, he discovered the mint bed. I only hope I left the circuit breakers properly on, or we'll really have a septic problem by the time I go back in a month.


baseball and baseboards

"What do you think? Is this a good color?"
Dolores and I were in the Bronx, painting swatches of color on the walls and looking at them in different light, yanking off old baseboards and measuring for kitchen cabinets. Twenty-two floors down, the Yankees were playing. The stadium was full, even in what must have neared 100 degrees.
I liked the colors. Sort of a terra cotta for the kitchen and entryway. A creamy white, a cool, misty greeen.
Picked out cabinets from the Home Depot catalogue and realized I'd forgotten drawers (no, not that kind of drawers, idiot). or a pkace to keep the broom. The painters come on August 8, then the Pergo laminate floors have to go down. Then the moldings, switchplates and etc. "If you were a baseball fan, we'd stay," said Dolores regretfully as we left. She is a baseball fan. For who won, check your sports pages. I don't really care.



So Discovery blasted off today. What the NYT called a disco-era spaceship. I was there when the last shuttle came down in fragments all over Texas. I prowled the terrain and saw the pieces. I thought we humans had to go back into space, despite the risks. You can read what I said in Discover Magazine. It still makes me sad, though. I'm pretty sure I'm not going to make it up there in this lifetime. But I'm glad someone is.


peace and love

"Peace." Yeah, baby, the last time I was in a big crowd on an upstate New York hillside listening to music was some years ago, like (if memory serves and my addition is correct) 36 years ago in White Creek at the festival known as Woodstock. The Falcon Ridge Folk Festival was somewhat smaller (say, 10,000 people rather than 500,000), but some things appear to be eternal: tie-dyed T-shirts, serious rain, white people, a cool farmer, protest songs and a general distaste for the status quo. I don't think there were any lesbians at Woodstock, however, or contra dancing, or Sirrus radio, or cell phones, or enough food booths, or fire dancing, or dreadlocks or environmentalists. On the other hand, Woodstock boasted nudity, serious drugs, traffic jams, helicopters, the Hog Farm and free-floating paranoia. And Jimi Hendrix. But, hey, some old farts lived to make it up to Falcon Ridge. Jessie Colin Young—the Youngbloods, remember? C'mon people now/ smile on your brother/ everybody get together/ try and love one another right now.
Do it. I'm sirrus, uh, serious.


work cut out

This is Dolores's new place. It needs some work. Like cleaning, paint, floors, new kitchen cabinets. She acts like a deer caught in the headlights. No wonder, this is the same woman who let a toilet run for a month and only realized the water wasn't recirculating when she got a water bill for thousands of dollars. I think she needs help.


no lock on it

"Is it a 2 3/8ths backset or 2 3/4?" Hmm. what's a backset? They are very nice, and gay, down at the fairly new Home Depot at Fifth and 23rd Street. And the help seems to actually know things about the product, which is good. Unfortunately I learned too much about the product I wished to buy—another freaking Schlage lever to put on those damn French doors. I have less than an hour to switch it out between renters, so I need one with the same dimensions. I prowled on the web and thought I had ascertained that the heavy duty needed the same size holes as the light duty. I didn't know about the backset. Basically, it is the length of the latch, measured from the edge of the door to the center of the lockset see diagram. So there.
While at Home Depot, I also saw a human—the first one in a long time, and keep in mind I live in New York—who I was unable to figure out the sex of. Wearing booty shorts and a T-shirt. Apparently that Home Depot already has a reputation as a great pickup joint.


if i were a carpenter

The door to the outdoor shower became a project mostly because of my own stupidity. I didn't realize that the finish-screw bit I was using was no longer really square and was stripping the screws. As soon as I got a new bit they went in smoothly—and came out, too, if I put them in the wrong place. Which I did quite a lot. If, putting in a little paneling, I had begun to fancy myself a woodworker, this project, ill conceived and poorly executed, taught me the error of my ways. Just figuring out where to put the hinges was like a Three Stooges routine, with me playing all three. Slapstick, slapdash. Whatever. It's operational. For the moment.
Oh, and thanks for the editorializing with the picture, Oceangurl. I really appreciate it.


counter culture

Yes, the kitchen counter is made of plywood. A dumb surface, probably. I urethane it every year, and still a black ring of rot collects around the faucet.
I don't care, though. My brother, a set carpenter, made it out of a cutout for a bathtub surround upstairs. He thought it looked like a fat surfboard and carried the motif of the building's previous life as a surf shop throughout. I love it.
But now I have to think about surfaces for the next place. Wood again? It was cheap (except in design and labor, which I got at a rock bottom price). What else would I use? Stone? Cement? Corian? Tile? Lucite? Given the exigencies of the historic district requirements for the exterior, I want to run counter to the traditional look inside.


calling schlage

The infamous shower door, along with the yet more infamous French door.
I'm about to get on the boat to get to the mainland to meet the courtesy car to take me to the Ford dealership to pay $3000 to get my truck inspected when there's a call from the Renter. The French door knob (lockset, whatever you want to call it)is busted. Again.
What this means was that in this very damp spring, someone tried to force the door open or shut and broke the piece of junk Schlange lever I bought last fall. Or rather the one that replaced the one I bought last fall.
Will this French door thing never end? I'm considering fiberglass. . .


get a life

A house is not a life, but you'd never know it by my family. Over the years, my parents together and separately have built many houses—the most recent ones—one in Mexico, one in Alabama—when each (parent) was over 70. My sister is currently destroying the kitchen of her very old house, in the process uncovering this flamingo on old beadboard. My brother built out his own house as well as Claudia's Surf City. And none of us can wait for long to start up again. There's always another building project chez nous. My currrent project, Claudia's Surf City 2 (Claudia's Surf Village?) is on hold pending zoning board approval. I'm hoping that the lawyer is in fact submitting the papers for a hearing in July. We'll see. I'm not sanguine, but ever hopeful.


the landfill song

Yes, it's the moment you've been waiting for: Angelina channeling Heart.
I know what you're going to say. Why is the video quality so shitty? (I don't know but it looked fine coming out of the camera. Perhaps something was lost in the free upload.) Why is Angelina wearing those clothes—they're nothing like Heart? (She always wears those clothes.) And probably, most pressingly; Why on earth are you subjecting us to this bad music video?
All I have to say, is if you think "ALL I WANT TO DO IS BUILD A HOUSE WITH YOU" is bad, you have to listen to THE TWO CHINESE BOYS lipsyncing or THE WORST MUSIC VIDEO EVER. Then we'll talk about bad.


coming soon!

The Landfill Song! On video! Wait for it! Tomorrow! As if I don't have enough dumpster adverts already!

floating floor

Dolores is interviewing contractors for the upcoming renovation of her new apartment in the Bronx. She needs a paint job, new kitchen cabinets and a floor. Specifically, she is planning to install a floating floor, which consists of glued-together laminate that, as the name suggests, floats as a unit over what's beneath it—in this case, concrete and linoleum. I'm trying to convince her to extend the flooring into the kitchen, although she seems to have a bias towards the more-familiar tile. She has no idea what this is going to cost as she still has no idea what the square footage of her just purchased place is. Brother.
In any case, I'm looking forward to sitting on her terrace overlooking all of Manhattan and, directly beneath, Yankee Stadium. Not to mention busting out those old cabinets.


there's surfing, and then there's surfing

No surf, just city. "Here we surf the Internet," says Citichild. "Everyone can be a surfer. I surf in my office."
It's just not the same as getting into the water to catch a wave. The rhythm of the city is not the ebb and flow of the tides, but of opposite side of the street parking. The sets rolling in are subway cars releasing waves of workers in Midtown. The beaches are tar beaches, and you can't go barefoot.
But summer in the city has its pleasures. Cafes bloom on the sidewalks, and there's plenty of elbow room. In the neighborhoods, people hang out on stoops and in parks. You don't have to wear a jacket except in the frosty movie theaters. And not everyone has fled: The shoppers have come from all over the world to buy, buy, buy, speaking the international language of cash money. I think I'll put on my flip flops and an aloha shirt and wrestle with the computer. Surf's up.


church for nonbelievers

"I have to go to church," says the Artist Known as Chang.
Well, it is Sunday, and on Sundays, if he's in town, TAKAC always heads for B & H Photo to put some dough in the collection plate. This time, he wants a new backpack. Apparently there is no perfect backpack for photographers, because they are always buying new ones. They get excited, thinking this will finally be The One. Disappoinment sets in as soon as they get the thing home, and then they either return it in despair or it joins the other rejects in the closet and the hunt begins anew. There ought to be some money in this, but since I can never perceive the design defects deemed so glaring, I guess I'm not the one to make it. At least TAKAC doesn't have to buy a new tripod. For a while there I thought I'd lost his.
Me, on Sundays I head for my own church: the newsstand. Then I commune with the New York Times and remind myself that it's a big world with a lot of belief systems, and we're all on it together, the suicide bombers, malaria sufferers, mourners, millionaires, soldiers and skateboarders hurtling over the Great Wall. It's a lot to keep in mind, which is why I only try on Sundays.
What's your church?


hit list

My poor renters. It's freezing and doing nothing but rain on the island. Meanwhile, here in the city, where we don't care so much about the weather (after all, there are still museums), we've been having a gathering of sistahs. We grazed on gourmet snacks, laughed, gossiped and complained.
The sisters from the Bay Area also began collecting a list of annoyances. Don't you just hate. . .
. . . Ugh boots?
. . . high school seniors wearing college sweatshirts?
. . . blow-in cards in magazines?
. . . people counting carbs, as in, for instance, V-8 has half the carbs of OJ?
. . . menu items, particularly in unpronounceable foreign languages, that require diners to order using complete names?
. . . cut-off denim skirts with exposed pockets hanging below the hemline?
. . . insincere airline announcements about how much they appreciate your business?
. . . LiveStrong bracelets?
To that we could add: rain at the beach.


life is not beautiful

Well, Dangerman predicted that London would get the Olympics. He was right. He also predicted that the next terrorist attack would take place on subways and buses. He was right, although he hadn't predicted that it would be in London. I assume that Desperado, visiting her former photographic paramour there, is out shooting the action right now. So, Dangerman, what's next?


la vida bella

"And to think that my hometown has been referred to as a cultural void," says the Teamster (center), as the Breakfast Club of Key West turns out in style to celebrate another year of drinking and carousing before noon. So as the air waxes humid and the sun wanes late, raise a glass of morning lager for your brothers and sisters and those of indeterminate gender and unimaginable relationships at Schooner's Wharf, and remember that life can be tutu beautiful.


The Lawyer weighed in. Said it should be happening for July. We'll see.
Angelina is here. The ex-wife and her sister are here. Citichild is here. Dangerman and The Artist Known as Chang just left. We've been having a ya-ya good time. Kick it.


french doors

"Let me help you."
I was wrestling with the broken French door I had managed to single handedly wrest from under the house and heave into the truck. It was at its final destination: the construction debris dumpster at the town dump. I had backed the truck up so that it was a mere yard or so into the bin. Piece of cake.
But then I looked up. The man who had offered to help me was extremely handsome. He seemed to know it, too. And he had an accent. I'm a sucker for accents. I went all girlie as he threw the door into the bin.
We watched it smash.
"Hope you didn't want that," he said. "French doors are ridiculous on this island."
"But they're pretty," I said. "I'm going to put more in."
"I tell all my people out here to use fiberglass. Paint 'em up and you can't tell the difference."
"I would know," I said, thinking, yuk, fiberglass.
He flashed me a smile and I climbed into the truck. Bemused, I drove all the way home before remembering that I had neither weighed out nor paid at the dump. I had to go back. But he was gone.
I have two new sets of French doors to put in.
Maybe I should reconsider fiberglass.