Wednesday, August 15, 2007

No Move is Good Move: A Primer on What My Problem Is, Part IV

If you're new to the No Move is Good Move saga, you'll find part one here, part two here, and part three here.

Our rental house on the hill was owned by a couple that I’ll call, for the purposes of talking trash about busybody people with too much time on their hands, the Smiths. And because their real-life professions probably had nothing to do with their annoying-as-fuck behavior, let’s say, just for the purposes of my own small-minded entertainment, that Mr. Smith was a stunt body double for Woody Allen, and Mrs. Smith was an amateur wrestler on the GLOW circuit.

It’s true that the Smiths were nice and all, but they weren’t giving their property away. The monthly rent wasn’t even close to a bargain, but all their busybodying was contagious, and so we looked up what they paid for the place. Turns out that what we paid for rent against what they were probably paying for a mortgage meant that they weren’t making a killing either.

The place was textbook Boulder, in that it was a totally random mish-mash of fixer-upper and state of the art. It was a schizophrenic mess, that house, and if the place could talk, it would exclaim, “We’re hippies, man!” one second, and, “We’re yuppies, darling!” the next. Right off the bat, I was incredulous that The Smiths paid about $980,000 for it; that just seems like a lot for no more than 1,000 square feet from the ‘50s and a fenced yard. In the kitchen was a million-dollar stainless steel Viking stove cozying up to crappy formica counters and a butcher block island that was so big that you couldn’t get around the kitchen without sucking everything in. There was also a stainless steel dishwasher with a broken top drawer that required a special tool to keep it shut during loading and unloading: A plastic baby spoon. Whenever someone was kind enough to help me around the house, I would hand them the spoon and train them on how to jam it just right between the rails and the drawer. “Here, you’ll need this or you’ll go crazy trying to unload that thing,” I said. And then there was our crappy old refrigerator—cream colored, not stainless—which we moved from our house in Ned because, well, we were going to need a fridge in the house, and it didn’t come with one already installed.

There was a beautiful, if one can call a furnace beautiful, brand new, industrial grade furnace in the basement. It had blinking lights and a computer inside, and I was wont to call it Kit on the few occasions that the pilot light went out. Because instead of getting down on my hands and knees and taking the thing apart and finding a fireplace match and pressing a button or turning a valve while trying to hold the flame steady in the belly of the beast without setting the whole place on fire, all I practically had to do was ask the nice furnace, in the parlance of everyone’s favorite rapper, to check itself before it wrecked itself. Thank whatever gods are available right now that we had that furnace, too, because there was no insulation to speak of, and most of the windows were bare and of the original, single-paned variety, which would have been fine in a milder climate, but it was the dead of winter and I swear I could feel the wind blowing right through the pores in that old glass.

I’m often reminded how small of a town Boulder is, and one of those reminders came when our babysitter showed up shortly after we’d moved in and said, “Oh, I’ve worked in this house before, but back then, the floor was warped to hell.” Apparently, there’d been some kind of leak all over the hardwoods, which eventually righted itself with time and Colorado’s patently dry conditions. I wondered, though, what kind of mold or mildew was living beneath us, waiting to strangle us come spring.

Our lease came right out and said that we were not allowed to pock the walls with new holes. Fine, we were leaving in six months and left our prints and art in a box in the basement for the next move. “And don’t paint anything,” it told us. No worries there. But what it really, really did not want us to do, under any circumstance was for us to flush tampons down the toilet. To do so was strictly verboten to the point that even Mrs. Smith mentioned it herself a few times. I figured that she’d learned some hard lessons after a few full moons with two daughters in her house. It’s true that calling the Rotor Rooter Man can hurt, but I am a grown woman who’s smart enough to appreciate the necessity of keeping sacred the marriage between aging plumbing and tampon responsibility.

That summer we learned that, in addition to praising the furnace, we were to fall down with gratitude for the central air conditioning. All the windows were painted shut, which we would have been willing to remedy with a crow bar had we failed to notice that there were no screens covering the windows. And so there was no fresh air in the house, ever, a phenomenon that resulted in the daily practice of leaving the backdoor wide open all day. When Alex would come home at night, he’d find me in the kitchen, cooking dinner with a can of Raid in one hand and a flyswatter in the other, and Sophie in a little beekeeper’s suit, remarking that she enjoyed the taste of Deep Woods Off with her green beans.

So, we were moved in to the house with a lot of flaws, but a sick location, and because I would rather give myself a lobotomy than spend my good money on blinds for a house that wasn’t ours, we put tin foil over the windows in Sophie’s room to make it dark and we called it good.

In hindsight, it wasn’t choosing to rent a house with bad mechanics that was “our bad.” In hindsight, we were lucky to find that place. In hindsight, we had some good times and a few bad ones that had to do with being sick all the time to the extent that we took more than one trip to the ever-popular urgent care clinic. (Hello, mold!) In hindsight, I was just more than sick of renting.

Next time in No Move is Good Move, we'll find out why.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

How to Behave at a Wedding Reception: A Guide for the Drunken Modern Woman

First, mingle. When complimented on your appearance, say, “I’ve worn this dress to three weddings and it still smells pretty good.” Throw in another impressive, random fact about your appearance, such as the fact that you cut your hair yourself without even really using a mirror. Pretend to listen when two Stepfordesque women strike up a conversation about how much they adore golf. When they begin to openly wink at each other as they tease you about your dress, burp loudly and then shout, “Fore!”

When you learn that the man seated next to you is from Vermont, ask if Vermont is the state that’s skinny at the bottom or the top. After he answers, make mention that you never can remember which one is which, only that the way that you recognize Vermont and New Hampshire on a map is by picking out, “The states that sixty-nine each other.” Pretend not to notice that his seat is empty when you return from the bar.

Confirm that people are right to praise your daughter’s intelligence by letting them know that she’s only two and a half, and yet she already knows that salad is just a polite way of eating dressing. Say, “I was in my twenties before I figured that one out.”

After the band warms up, make requests by calling out in between songs, “Something in the key of G!” Or, “Something with C, G and D in it.” When a guy actually gets out his cowbell, lose your voice shouting “MORE COWBELL” over the amps that the band turned up to 11 specifically so that they could finally drown out your pleas for “Anything by El DeBarge.”

Tackle the bride when she threatens to enlist her bridesmaids in the Macarena or Electric Slide; while you’ve got her pinned, ask her for her honest opinion about your dress. Eat cake until you’re nearly paralyzed, dance like everybody’s watching, and above all, spout that mythic rule of etiquette at least twice an hour: I’ve got a year to buy a gift!