June 21st, 2006

Many thanks to Dave for enabling comments for me again. Muchos crepes.

Hey, Baby, Wanna Play Contractor & OSHA Inspector?

June 19th, 2006


Since returning from my trip east, I’ve been thrashing in the quicksand of home improvement projects. I think I decided to do one simple thing, like paint the guest bathroom ceiling or something, but who can remember. You know how it is. I can’t do that until I rip out the light fixture, and while the electrician’s here, I should have him help me take out the old security alarm box, and as long as I’ve got the spackle out, I should fix those spots where the curtain hardware used to be, and as long as the ladder’s out, there’s that place where the paint went on kind of thin up by the bedroom ceiling, and the smoke detector could use replacing …

In No. 6, this is my domain. Steve called me once while I was away to ask where he could find a screwdriver. “Why do you want one of those?” I asked. Turns out, he needed to open the back of my computer to add ram (whatever THAT is). Anyway, it’s an arrangement that works out for everyone, I think. I operate the electric sanders, and Stevel makes sure I can print from just about any device short of the hair-dryer. This week, Stevel has gotten somewhat involved, however, out of an (in my opinion) amplified concern for my safety. Questions/statements have included the following:

“I really don’t think you should mess around with stripping stuff in enclosed spaces.”

“An electric sander? Did you buy some of those face masks? You can’t be breathing that stuff.”

“You need at least one more fan in here if you’re going to be stripping paint. Seriously, you shouldn’t mess around with it. This is how people have kids with extra heads.”

“I know the electrician said this is something you could do yourself, but if anyone’s going to get electrocuted, it’s going to be you.”

“I mean I REALLY think you shouldn’t mess around with this stripping stuff.” [Holds up can of stripping goop in front of the general area of my ovaries and raises eyebrows.]

Mind you, these aren’t even the endeavors I consider risky, like the time I decided to move the sleeper couch down our narrow stairwell myself ([sproing!] six hours later, I had finally unwedged it—and myself) or the many times I’ve stacked things on top of other things to reach something high up and teetered … teetered … whew. But it feels good to know Stevel is looking out for me (and our future family) … and that he’s around if I need to be rushed to the ER.

Dear Old Latrobe

June 8th, 2006

It’s the new old story: This used to be a small town, but the city has crept further out and taken it over. In the 13 years since I graduated from high school and moved away, Latrobe has gone from a lower-middle-class, struggling-to-hang-on-commercially, small town, insulated by miles and miles of dairy farms, to something else.

When I lived here, it was a big deal to drive into Greensburg and go to the mall. Every day my school bus passed trailer courts and dirt roads that led back into the woods. When farm kids grew up, they put mobile homes on their parents’ property and worked the farm or got jobs in town. Townies rented apartments across from the VFW or near the hospital. Few people left for far-away places.

Now the farms and woods are being snapped up by developers and turned into subdivisions with six-bedroom homes that boast in-ground pools and four-car garages for the storage of Escalades and Hummers. I don’t mean to sound scornful of the hard-working urbanites who have elected to nestle their families in this beautiful area where the schools are excellent and crime is practically nonexistent and new homes—brand new homes—are plentiful. Who can blame them? And it’s certainly not the fault of the developers, or the farmers who sell their land. It’s no one’s “fault” when a sleepy area explodes in prosperity.

But the culture has certainly changed. After ten years of fighting from local residents, the zoning commission let a Super Wal-Mart replace the neighborhood between my old high school and Route 30. My sister has had to deal with my niece being teased by a classmate because she lives in a trailer. During certain times of the day, traffic is exasperating. Of course, not all of the newcomers are bad. Most of them seem to be easygoing, family folks. They are, after all, the type of people who would choose to move out just “past” the suburbs, to “small-town” Latrobe, to the “countryside.”

In the latest “New Yorker,” Nora Ephron describes what it felt like when she moved away from New York City, her beloved home of many years:

“But when you move away and become a visitor, the city seems to turn against you. It’s much more expensive … and much more unfriendly. Things change in New York; things change all the time. You don’t mind this when you live here … but when you leave you experience change as a betrayal.”

I guess I do feel a little betrayed. Life out here isn’t supposed to be “quaint.” It’s supposed to be the real way that real people live. Deer aren’t supposed to be scarce, they’re supposed to be plentiful—beautiful and exhilirating to see every time, yes, but also a nuisance in your garden and the reason we always got the first day of deer hunting season off from school. Certain times of the year, it’s supposed to smell like shit everywhere, because the farmers are fertilizing. And summer Saturday nights at the drive-in are supposed to be packed with local families and teenagers on dates, not yuppies who read a magazine article about a real, operating drive-in. This town isn’t supposed to be special. It’s just supposed to “be.”

But what kind of complaint is that. And what right do I have to feel betrayed when, driving my nieces home from school yesterday, I stopped twice along the back road home, once to ogle a deer, and once to point out to the girls a farmer—overall, straw hat, I kid you not—riding a rickety red tractor along the road perpedicular to ours. And I didn’t just do this because my nieces are young and may not have thought to appreciate these things, but because I was excited to see them. I’m a semi-city girl now. There are no deer in Santa Monica, and I didn’t think for one second about my mom’s garden or a day off from school. I just thought, wow. How cool. How rare.


June 6th, 2006

I know I am a truly assimilated Californian now, because it is my second day in Latrobe, and what I feel the most need to report to you is this:

I am full of McToxins.

Check out What Linus Just Puked Up

June 2nd, 2006

It’s amazing. I ran into the bedroom when I heard his usual hacking morph into the sound of an elephant with pneumonia. This was from the bamboo plant. How did he even get it down in the first place?