Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Family Visit and a Midyear Resolution

When you live in Los Angeles and family comes to visit, you take them to Disneyland – Disney World, if you live in Florida. Live in S.F. and get company, it's off to Golden Gate Park. There's no shortage of places to take visiting family and friends if you live in New York or Washington D.C., and of course, on St. Croix it was off to the beach. Of course, it was always beach day on St. Croix, but when folks came to visit you had company.

Mary, Ed, Tori, John
And here in New Orleans, when friends come to call, it's the French Quarter.

On almost any night, Bourbon Street is a loud, wandering party. A little obnoxious, more decadent than you can imagine, but always entertaining. So we spent some time there Friday night with Tori's aunt Mary and uncle Ed, who were visiting from Arizona with a group of friends.

The friends were in town for a wedding, so after Friday night's long stumble through the Quarter, we had them to ourselves Saturday, took them to see the  sculpture garden in City Park, and a tour through one of the city's many cemeteries. We've got cool cemeteries. This one features the biggest funerary  phallic symbol I've ever seen. The person so honored is a former New Orleans Police Commissioner. (We believe the draping at the top of the column is a 19th century condom.) There's always something to see in a cemetery. (In Oregon we lived about 200 feet from an old cemetery, which is where I got a lot of names for various characters in books over the years.)

Sunday they all went on a swamp tour, the same one that Max and I went on a year ago with his biology class. (That's Max, greeting a baby alligator on the tour.) So we stayed home Sunday and recovered from the first two days of the excursion. Monday Tori took them all over – around the Garden District, then off to a restored antebellum plantation.

But this isn't really about the tour itinerary. It's about family. When Tori's brother died this spring, we realized she was the only person left from that particular nuclear family. She was the sole survivor. And I haven't been as close to my seven sisters as I should have been, there's only been a couple I keep in semi-regular touch with. We decided we needed to make more of an effort to reinforce those bonds. So it was great that Ed and Mary came out.

We've been talking about a trip west next summer, if for no other reason than we are still paying monthly rent on a storage unit in Albany containing – well, it's hard to remember what a lot of it is. Kitchen stuff that we've of course replaced, clothes that won't fit, a couple of thousand books – but also lots of family photos and other mementos. I made the mistake of doing the math, how long we'd been storing it and what it has cost. Ouch. Time to And now we've got another reason to go. We have a specific invitation to come by the river, where Mary and Ed live, and spend a couple of days. And we've got other family all over the west, plus lots of our oldest friends. We are the farthest east contingent of both our families, except of course, for Millie and Ben in NYC, but we claim them as ours.

So we'll have plenty to do. I don't see how we can make it in less than three weeks and see only a fraction of the people we want to. But that's the plan.

We couldn't have had a better weekend than the one we just spent showing our new home to family. They're airborne right now, on their way back to Arizona. It was great to see them.

Friday, October 3, 2014

Almost Over

We take such simple things for granted. Flip a switch, and we're surprised if the light doesn't come on. Turn a faucet, we expect water to come out. Flush a toilet or open the drain on a sink, the liquid goes down, goes "away," and we rarely give a second thought to where it goes or how it gets there.

So the last two weeks have been educational, if nothing else. Really inconvenient, sometimes annoying, once very funny, but also educational. Go without running water for a day, or without sewage service for 15, and it reminds you how special such simple things are.

I know no one cares about this but me, Tori, Kate and Max, but I just have to say, this long plumbing nightmare is almost over. They've been fiddling around on the front lawn all day, had me flush a couple of times while they peered down the clean out, gave me a thumbs up. Now they're filling in the hole. And presumably, we're good to go.

This started Sept. 19, with jack-hammering. I didn't know then why they were doing it, and now that they're just about done, I still don't. Everything here worked fine before they started, and it seems to work exactly as fine now.

At least for now, I have renewed appreciation for those little things that make what we call "civilized" life possible. I hope I don't lose that, at least for a while.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Great Burgers at Five Guys, and Some Ketchup

Ever eaten at a Five Guys hamburgers? Best five dollar burger I've ever eaten.

One minor side benefit of this ongoing plumbing woe has been we've been eating out a lot. Pizza. Chinese. It's hard to wash dishes when you're aware that every drop that flows through the house ends up in a hole out in the front lawn.

Wednesday was Max's guitar lesson, and there was a Five Guys in the same strip mall, so at his urging, that's where we went. It was great. All they have on the menu is various burgers plus kosher hot dogs, and fries. HUGE quantities of very good fries. They figured out the one thing they were gonna do, and do it extremely well. If you haven't yet, give 'em a try some time.

I was standing at the counter waiting for my order, and beside me was a woman holding a baby and staring into the kitchen to see if her food was ready. She didn't notice the baby, who was I would say six to nine months old. While mom's attention was diverted he was reaching over, manipulating the ketchup dispenser and licking the ketchup off his fingers. It was hilarious. Maybe my laughter alerted her, or her maternal instincts kicked in, but she was horrified when she realized what was going on.

"He's never had ketchup before," she said, wiping his fingers. "Well," I replied, "it looks like he's a convert."

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Unexpected Lake Brings Laughs

I hate to keep coming back to this, because I suspect it's boring if you're not actually living through it, but the work on the plumbing continues. And yesterday was pretty funny.

A different crew came to work Tuesday morning. They had to divert the water main, ever so slightly, so that the Public Works crew can come back and attach our house and the neighbor's to the sewer. (Even though it fit just fine before they started fixing it.)

We were without water while they worked. It was really interesting, I spent a lot of time outside watching. You don't really think about where the water comes from or where it goes. You just take it for granted. It was a rare chance to really look at it, to gain some appreciation for something we rarely even think about.

It was also fun because they expanded the work area into our neighbor's yard. He's an asshole. I don't mind saying that. In two years the only time he's spoken to us has been to complain about  how we don't edge properly. Seriously. So it was nice to see a big swath of trench and mud in his pristine yard. I know that's petty of me. I don't care.

Lake Unexpected.
At about 5 p.m., right on schedule, they were finished. They started filling the hole and started re-pressurizing the system.

And, as could be predicted, the main blew. It was a small geyser, quickly filling the trench and spilling out. It wasn't the part they'd just replaced, but the older line adjoining the new stretch. Right in the middle of the neighbor's yard. His six-year-old son came out and was jumping up and down with excitement. It was something. There was a whole new lake. At least is was fresh water instead of sewage.

So the water stayed off. They got back in the hole and started digging in the waning light. Then the sun set and they were working by the light of a couple of flashlights. I have a set of flood lights we got from Tori's brother's house I brought out and set up for them, because they were never going to get done in the dark. And I really wanted the water back on.

And eventually, maybe four hours later, they were done. Both lawn, ours and the neighbor's were a mess. This morning it looked like a bomb had gone off. But they're back, cleaning up, and soon this part will be finished. Then Public Works can come back and finish the job and our two-week nightmare will be over.

I hope. Because I really need a shower.