Vacation Week

Last week was Vacation Week here in Maine. If you are picturing me lounging in the sun, fruity drink in hand, keep dreaming.  The only downtime I got was Sunday, between the hours of 12:30 and 2pm.  I didn’t see a single fruity drink the whole week, unless you count the orange juice I had to wipe off the windows when the kids missed the sink.  The one highlight? My husband also took the week off. Normally this would have rocked beyond belief.  But since we are LIVING THE DREAM of 250 year old home ownership, Vacation Week was Hell.

Highlights of Hell included:

Cleaning out the basement.  Normally I wouldn’t complain, a little tidying here & there, but our basement was so congested we had to rent a jumbo sized construction dumpster.  It arrived Friday afternoon.

Let the Vacation begin!  Our super duper olde house had some super duper olde wood in the basement.  As you can see here:

All the construction debris from upstairs had to be stowed somewhere.  Unfortunately, the recent rains which flooded our basement also waterlogged much of the discarded material.  Causing it to mold as well as rendering it ungodly heavy.  The rodent excrement peppering much of it was just a bonus.

It took us four days to haul everything outside to the dumpster.  And if the backbreaking labor wasn’t memorable enough, its aftermath was truly unforgettable.  Likely b/c of something I breathed in/touched/otherwise ingested while hauling all that crap, I spent two nights splayed across the bathroom floor, longing for death.  There is something about a severe GI upset that scars a person.  Twice in 3 days is enough to induce psychosis.

In between the wood hauling, full body chills & bathroom trips, we enjoyed nature.  And we didn’t even have to leave the house!  When you are Living the Dream like we are, you discover all sorts of things you never knew you had.  Like red squirrels!

OOOooOOOh!  Yes he (or she) IS VERY CUTE.  My older daughter was beside herself with worry and desire, both to save and KEEP the squirrel.  I am wild about animals. but frankly, I draw the line at eyedropper feeding an infant squirrel ten times a day for the next who knows how long.  After 2 days of trying unsuccessfully to reunite baby w/momma, we took him (her) to the nature refuge.

So, where was that squirrel hiding?!  Remember all that wood in the photo above?  Well, it’s reeeeaaallly hard to see, but there in the back you can faintly make out some wood paneling/shelves.  These walls/shelves were put up by the former owner, who had hoped to use the basement as a workshop – before realizing how high the water table is.  Back before we bought the house, our home inspector urged us to remove as much of this stuff as possible.  50 years of flooding hasn’t been good to this wood.  These walls/units were serving no other purpose than to 1) hold water, 2) mold, 3) conceal stuff.  Stuff like the squirrels who’d been living behind them.  As well as a lot of chewed up batting, poop, and potential structural issues – which, thankfully, we’ll now be able to see before they wreak havoc.  Here is the space with the beautiful brick archway exposed.

But the nature discovery didn’t end there.  Oh, no.  With all that work we’d been doing INSIDE, we hadn’t noticed just what a beating the outside had been taking.

When we moved in 8 months ago, we had a green lawn. Over the winter, the green naturally turned brown. As spring has sprung, much of the grass – mostly out back – has regained its verdant look. But the lawn out front?  About a month ago, these strange brown patches started appearing. Subtle at first, now downright ugly. Initially the dead grass fit the pattern of being urine burned. Along the edge the sidewalk, where dogs do their business. Or, as one neighbor suggested, it could have been salt burn from the snow plowing. Initially this made sense, until these brown patches began to grow, moving up from the sidewalk to the upper part of the front yard. My husband and I wondered whether it could still be dogs? But our neighbors are courteous, and we had such a mild winter. Surely, neither explanation could account for this, and no other yards seemed touched. The dead zones kept spreading and our concern grew.

I went out late last week to investigate. I brought along a heavy metal rake, and began first by poking, then by scraping the surface of the grass. The brown dead areas came off effortlessly, and just below the surface, to my horror, I found:

AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!  WHITE GRUBS. Dozens and dozens of them. I spent some time removing the dead zones, which of course just so happen to be DIRECTLY IN FRONT OF OUR HOUSE. Facing the street. Where everyone can gaze upon them.

Ughhh.  Yes, it is UGLY.  Having had a mere postage stamp of a yard in Philly, we had no freaking clue.  How could we have possible hedged against a nemesis we didn’t even know existed?!  And so, we got to work.  Once again.  We spent time researching online, investigating natural and chemical pesticides, trying to determine the best course of action.  I wish I could tell you we did it the happy holding hands way, but this time – it was us or the grubs.  We decided to take the dirty route and poison them using Grub-Ex.  I did not want to do it, but dammit, we have invested everything we have & more in this house and I will not let some white grotty grubs take my beautiful lawn away.  OH NO.  Our next door neighbor lent us her spreader and we put that Grub-Ex down on every inch.  2 days of work and the lawn’s still ugly as sin.  But hopefully it’s on its way to health.  Time will tell.

The icing on the cake came at the least expected time.  I went to relieve myself and was greeted with this.

No droppings in the (lived in portion of) the house, no sign of them at all – then BAM! a dead one in the TOILET?!  When the mice are jumping ship, is that a sign?  Sigh..

MORE things they’d arrest you for in the suburbs.

On Friday I blogged about hookers. Specifically, how do my husband & I drive them from our block back into the darkened alleyways from whence they sprang? Hayden mentioned SIGNS, Curly suggested an AIRHORN. Both excellent ideas, but of course the airhorn has won my heart b/c it is WAY LOUD. Unfortunately as I was waaay too busy this glorious weekend to buy an airhorn, I am hoping Curly will be a love and send me hers. THANKS IN ADVANCE, BABE!! I promise to think of you each time I interrupt coitus w/ a blast from your horn.

All this talk of hookers has reminded me of another post I wrote a while back, describing other Quality of Life issues we’ve experienced living here in Philly. So I figured – Hey, IT’S MONDAY. It’s gray and cloudy & Blah. Why not spice up the crapfest that is The Start of the Workweek w/ MORE weird tales?? YAY!

11) Years ago my sister rented an apartment just off Rittenhouse Square, a wealthy part of Philly. Her only issue there was walking her dogs – at the time, 2 rescued greyhounds. Her one dog was fine when it came to letting fly; she’d go anywhere. Unfortunately her other dog had been severely abused at the track and was so skittish she couldn’t potty without privacy. A pretty tall order in the middle of the city. My sister ended up walking the dogs through a labyrinth of darkened alleyways three times a day. Not enticing. and even less so when she began discovering mounds of human feces along the way. So much for hoity-toity.

12) One night years ago, I went out to meet friends. At the end of the night, I walked back to my car and noticed the window of my jeep hanging open. DAMN! what’d they steal this time? Strangely, nothing. But someone had decided to sit inside consuming an entire six pack of beer. Leaving the empties. How nice.

13) I met a guy when I was 19. He was older, foreign, went to PENN. I wasn’t attracted to him in the least, but he was so dogged persistent I finally gave him my number just to shut him up. LEARN FROM MY STUPIDITY. For weeks this dude would call my parents’ house, leaving messages on the machine, and if I ever mistakenly answered the phone – that’s right, inevitably him. Initially I was polite. Quickly that disintegrated into downright hostility. I’d never met anyone so overbearing, arrogant and aggressive. Everything about him screamed I AM A RAPIST. Finally I’D HAD ENOUGH, and in no uncertain terms told this guy that I was never ever EVER in my life going to go out with him. I ended with LOSE MY NUMBER! & slammed down the phone. I kid you not, this clueless jackass called back 5 minutes later to ask when we were going to meet. Shortly thereafter I moved into my first apartment. Somehow dude got my new number and began calling. I started sleeping up the street at a friend’s. FINALLY finally, he stopped calling. Perhaps he’d been deported.

14) I was driving to school one day behind a big old beater. Suddenly the driver rolls down his window and tosses out – not just a cup, not just a napkin, but a WHOLE F*CKING CHICKEN DINNER. Jumbo bucket with assorted bits, biscuits, the whole damn thing. Bones flying everywhere. I was so shocked I nearly rear-ended him.

15) Years ago, my husband worked as a manager at a bookstore in 30th Street (the main train station here in Philly). One night after closing, he went to get a drink at the public water fountain. when he sensed someone standing right behind him. He spun round to find a homeless guy inches from his face. My husband took off. The man, enraged over something, began coming at him, swinging an enormous bag filled with (it turned out) heavy glass bottles. He flung the bag at my husband. Fortunately it missed him, but crashed to the ground, bottles shattering everywhere. My husband scrambled to find the box cutter he kept on him for work – finally pulling it out of his pocket and threatening the guy to back off. At the sight of the cutter, the man stopped and just walked away.

16) One night in college, I was out at a dive bar with friends. The place was packed. We were lucky enough to get a table and pretty soon a couple guys asked if they could join us. We spent the next few hours boozing with these new “friends,” one of whom was an extremely effeminate dog-groomer. I’ll never forget him. Not only was he a good laugh, but at some point during the night he STOLE MY WALLET.

17) When I lived with my parents, I had to drive to and from the city, 30 minutes, each way. And YES, it got old real fast. I used to see a panhandler at a particular intersection almost daily, who w/out fail would give me the same line. His wife – at that very moment – was giving birth to their child in the alley behind the car dealership, and if I could please spare 50 cents, it would surely mean the difference between life & death. He was so damn earnest about the whole thing, I gave him money. But after a dozen kids, it was just plain insulting.

18) Years ago, there was a guy who lived on Rittenhouse Square called Fast Eddie (same nickname as Philly’s former mayor (now PA governor) but a different guy altogether). THIS Eddie had a distinctly disturbing addiction to used underwear (aka, poopie pants), and would solicit purchase in the park from desirable candidates (aka, young boys). He was ultimately arrested and charged with a whole host of crimes involving minors and deviant sexual acts. A FORTUNATE THING for many inner-city boys. Unfortunately, a guy I once liked confessed he’d sold a pair of his boxers to Eddie for cash. We remained “just friends” .

Things they’d arrest you for in the suburbs.

But in the city – anything goes. Need proof?

1) When we lived in our last apartment, my husband & I were awoken one night by noise in the alleyway. We looked out our 2nd floor window to find our landlord splayed on the steps outside his apartment, mumbling incoherently. What really caught our attention: he was dressed in drag and shooting up.

2) A couple years ago I was on the phone with a friend, looked out the window into our alley and spied a man standing there urinating. Middle of the day, just casually taking a wizz against my next-door neighbor’s house. I ran out and started yelling at him. He took off running down the block, fastening his pants as he went. I suppose I should be happy – another neighbor has a “pooper”.

3) Our block on summer nights is a prostitute’s dream – dark, semi-secluded with lots of tree cover. Some of the more interesting run-ins we’ve had with local hookers:

  • My husband approached a car where an illicit rendezvous was taking place. He banged on the window and told them to hit the road. The client got out of the car and threatened to kill my husband. Threatening? Not really – since the dude was standing in the middle of the street buck naked.
  • One prostitute was finishing up with a client. As I approached her car, she very considerately opened the door and proceeded to vomit on the curb. This would be just before she threw the used condom out the window.

4) Back in graduate school, I owned a Jeep Wrangler which I drove to & from campus. One morning, I left my apartment, got into my jeep to head to school, and noticed another car had pulled up right next to mine. As I was parked on a busy street, I assumed the person was just waiting to take my parking spot. Nope. I looked over (and being higher up – in a JEEP) saw Mr. Happy Hands going to town on himself, grinning up at me with enthusiasm. I did not smile back.

5) A few months later, same thing, different guy. I spent 20 minutes on I-95 trying to avoid some whack job driving right beside me, trying his utmost to get my attention, in my elevated jeep wrangler. To be safe, I now avoid all brownish Monte Carlos with Delaware plates.

6 ) My first year of graduate school, I rented an apartment right next to a guy with an unbelievable addiction to (surprise, surprise) porn. Unfortunately didn’t know this until AFTER signing the lease. He seemed to be a fairly nice guy, but I don’t think I ever saw him with a pair of pants on. Liked to hang out in the hallway in his boxers. He appeared to spend all of his waking time watching porno movies, which wouldn’t have bothered me quite so much had he been considerate enough to a) turn down the volume, or b) close his window shades. As we shared a wall – which ever-so-conveniently happened to be wood paneled (old Victorian house), I spent many waking hours wondering whether he’d drilled some sort of Porky’s style peep hole into it I’d never be able to find. I started changing in the bathroom after that. Occasionally my cat Sammy would wander out into the hallway before I could stop him. Dude would throw his door open like he was waiting for it and immediately start petting my cat. I really didn’t like that. When workmen at the building started asking me about him – “hey do you know that guy? he’s got a real problem..” etc, it got to be a bit much. A small porn collection might disturb a sensitive person, but one so massive that it’s creeping out the Big Burly Workmen? YIKES. I didn’t renew my lease.

7) Same apartment – other side. This second guy was really nice with no apparent porn addiction. A big heavyweight footballer. One night, I woke up at 4AM, my apartment filled with smoke, someone wailing on the door (porn guy in his boxers) – hallway also filled with smoke. The fire department arrived in moments, no response from the Footballer. They break down his door to find him out cold. Turns out he’d gone to the huge Greek Picnic at the Plateau here in Philly, came back wasted and decided to make some hot dogs. Unfortunately, he passed out before he took the pot off the stove. Great smoking wieners, Batman!

8) More about my jeep. Man how I loved that car. Unfortunately b/c of the soft top it was the biggest theft magnet imaginable. I had at least one radio stolen per year, sometimes two or three, and additionally had huge kicker box speakers literally pried out of the back of my car. I installed a Viper alarm system, as in: “Protected by Viper, STAND BACK” which never did anything except amuse neighborhood boys who used to love setting it off, and annoy the sh*t out of myself and everyone else w/in 200 feet. While clubbing one night, someone stole the entire TOP off my car. This was only topped by coming out one morning to find someone had stolen both doors. Man I miss that car.

9) The second apartment I had in grad school was a lovely place – with built-in bookcases and a sweet little balcony I wasn’t supposed to use, but of course I did. The down side: people were constantly leaving the front door open, so occasionally you’d hear your doorknob rattle, look out through the peep hole and see some shady guy standing there on your doormat, mumbling something about having “mistaken your apartment for someone else’s.” Yeah, okay. I came home one day from school to find someone had conveniently popped the lock open on my door and stolen the few things I’d had worth stealing: my VCR, my jewelry, and my gym bag. Of course what do I miss still? The jewelry? Nah. WELL – yes, the one turquoise ring most definitely – but NO, it would be my ratty yet irreplaceable gym shorts which were in the bag, and doubtless got tossed right into some dumpster. Cops came, took the report. No arrest, no leads. No gym shorts. Sad story.

10) Several months ago, my husband caught a 9 year old kid trying to steal our daughter’s bike off our porch. Broad daylight, middle of the afternoon, and this kid’s flat on his belly squirming up our steps, reaching out to pull the bike to him, so he can leap up on it and flee. His two companions, on their own pint-sized bikes, were waiting as lookouts in the street. So my husband comes around the corner of the house and actually catches this kid in the act. And was he scared? Crying? Shame-faced? Fat chance. He actually had a lie ready & waiting. Told us he was coming up on the porch to ask for a tire pump. Funny, I didn’t know we looked like the local service station. Unless you’re looking for the SELF SERVE. Poor dumb kid. 9 years old and he’s already a remorseless criminal. I must have asked him ten times to tell me where he lived. YOU KNOW I was gonna set his mom straight. “Um, I don’t know where I live.” “I don’t know the house number.” “Our phone number just got changed.” etc. Too young for the juvenile court system, no parental supervision – Unless you’re counting the 17 year old thug he calls a friend. The future ain’t looking too bright.