Friday, June 27, 2003
...The Center Will Not Hold

So the toilet has been drippy lately. Dripdripdripdrip, comin' right up outta the tank. Opening up the lid revealed the drippy to be a leak from the ballcock construction. Actually I'm not entirely sure that's what was leaking, but I know that it's a name for part of the toilet and I derive juvenile pleasure from saying that my john had a leaky ballcock.

I fiddled with it a bit but, seeing no obvious solution, eventually replaced the lid and resigned myself to the drippy.

A few days later the drippy had stopped mysteriously, replaced by a constant running sound. The next day the running sound had stopped, and a glance under the lid revealed a nail polish container wedged under the floater arm. This stopped the constant running quite effectively. Immediately after a flush, however, the container had to be removed to allow the tank to refill and then replaced a minute or so later.

Tuesday evening D. showed up with a replacement part for the refill device and "Sleepy Hollow" on video. We watched the movie. I was able to guess the culprit, and finally realized at the beginning of the climax why the actor looked so tauntingly familiar (beware: the previous link may be a spoiler!) Figuring out the toilet was another matter entirely.

Step 1 (instructions version): Shut off water supply to tank.

Step 1 (real life): Turn handle one way with great effort. Realize that you're opening the valve further. Turn handle all the way the other direction. Realize that the water is still running. Give self blister straining to get the handle one more eighth of a turn. Water still running. Grab a towel, wrap it around the handle, use ends of towel for leverage. Pullllll until handle snaps right off. Decide that remaining trickle of water should be manageable with use of a bowl to catch spillage. Wonder how eventually to turn water back on. Next morning, discover tube of superglue. Attempt to glue knob back on, hope that glue doesn't fuse entire works.

Step 2 (instruction version): Flush tank and sponge out remaining water. Remove old fill valve assembly.

Step 2 (real life): Try to sponge out remaining water, despite trickle still coming in. Notice water turning black. Track blackening to aged disintegrating rubber flapper. Remove flapper, turning fingers black in process. Clean tank and flapper, turning hands, water in toilet, and perfectly good sponge black or dark grey in process. Remove top of old assembly. Discover that remainder of old assembly is screwed on with bolts too big for any of wrenches or pliers currently in apartment. Go down street to hardware store to buy 6" adjustable wrench. Discover that new adjustable wrench is still too small even at its largest setting.

Sleep on it (problem, not toilet). Use bucketfuls of water to flush toilet in meantime, pretending to live in third-world country. Drive to Home Depot first thing next morning (aka 2PM). Notice lack of gas. Stop at fill station on the way. Splurge on Premium octane by way of apology to car for putting off oil change. Notice right rear tire a bit low. Drive over to air pump. Fill tire. Notice first cracks in treads, then head of screw apparently embedded in tire. Add trip to tire shop to mental to-do list. Continue to Home Depot, buy new flapper and 10" adjustable wrench. Install new flapper. Finally succeed in removing old assembly, catching trickle of water in bowl.

Actually, the Remaining steps went pretty much as the instructions described them. That is, until I got to the final step.

Step 12 (instructins version): Turn water supply on.

Step 12 (real life): Snap off inadequately superglued nub trying to turn on water supply. Procure hammer and screwdriver. Try to drive screwdriver into remaining plastic bit with hammer and turn on water using screwdriver as handle (housemate's suggestion, honest!). Repeat attempt with phillips head screwdriver and alan wrench. Try glue again, end up gluing fingers of left hand together. Throw in towel. Call it a night. Consider calling plumber once use of fingers regained.

The good news: the toilet no longer leaks, and in fact works perfectly

The bad news: the tank takes an hour to refill

G'night Gracie!
Wednesday, June 25, 2003
Random Recent

Sleeping far too late recently... didn't get up until almost 4 today.

Went grocery shopping. Went to Fresh Fields because the Giant no longer carries Cayenne Pepper (WTF!?) and we're almost out. Spent too much, paid in cash.

The last time I used my credit card was at the used book store in Bethesda. M., her housemate, Snarkout, Redfox and I went to the theater there to see "The Whale Rider," only to find the early show sold out. We got tickets for the later show and went to a tapas restaurant. We sat right by the front and I could NOT for the life of me stop ogling the very pretty blonde hostess. The food was almost but not quite goof enough to distract me. I think my boorishness went unnoticed by all involved but me. As is generally the case with that group, conversation was interesting... I only remember it being interesting, however. All other specifics are obliterated by memories of a tight, knee-length skirt.

Snarkout and Redfox did not have enough cash to pay for dinner, so I floated them a loan from the massive wad of cash I've taken to carrying around since all my money comes from a tip jar. So I had no cash to pay for the three ratty paperbacks and two LPs I got for myself.

The paperbacks were Vonnegut's "Mother Night" (I cannot go into a used bookstore without picking up something of Kurt's), Woody Allen's "Without Feathers" and Brecht's "Caucasian chalk Circle," which caused Snarkout and Redfox to remark that my selections made me out as an intellectual of the previous generation. On further thought, I realized that such to my mind is the entire point of used bookstores. My musical purchases also bore this out: a Blue Note release by the Horace Silver Quintet and a recording by Freddie Hubbard and Curtis Fuller. Possibly it's the wonderful smell of all the old books that puts me in a retro mindset.

In more recent retro, M. got herself a Seven Year Bitch poster which she thought remarkable for having a photo of Paul Westerberg's S.O., but which I found remarkable for being drawn by Jaime Hernandez.

After the movie M. and I headed to the 'Farm and played Settlers of Catan until shortly before 3 in the morning. I got my butt kicked and found the game rather dull... two possibly connected things.

Yesterday was my first Ft. Reno show of the Summer-- Bob Mould doing an acoustic set. I never listened to much Husker Du, so all I recognized were "Hoover Dam" and "Your Favorite Thing." Ran into my old housemate there and learned he's now working as a bouncer at the 9:30 Club. Also met Cheech there, who gave me a burned copy of an early Yo La Tengo CD. Trying to play it last night revealed that my system was once more refusing to acknowledge the existence of its CD drives.

I've been working on that, the random lockups, and the random intermittent refusal to recognize a valid network connection for most of today. I've tracked some of it down and pinned it on some extraneous Creative software (I have Creative brand sound card, modem and webcam) which I now can't figure out how to uninstall. Blastation.

In other news, my dad ended up back in the hospital briefly after he passed out one morning last week. After running a battery of tests for stroke and heart problems, the doctors determined that the problem had been mere dehydration. We are all quite relieved. Also a relief is that x-rays revealed that the tumble involved in the passing out didn't knock loose any of the new hardware from his neck surgery.
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
Slightly Less Urn-y

Behold and lo! On actually viewing the '(o)Bblog I see today's thought-lost entry safely posted! It's a Day-After-Father's-Day Miracle! Huzzah!
Urn of Tacit

Every time I start writing something for dis 'ere 'blog it ends up ballooning out of control until I run out of steam and abandon it, or else a computer lockup or accidental window closing kills an all-but finished but foolishly unsaved entry. I haven't been ignoring the site, really, it's just that none of the effort is showing up of late. Stay tuned true believers!

Today I cleaned my room. I even vacuumed. It was an epic undertaking.
Monday, June 16, 2003
Father's Day

I keep starting long and involved entries and losing steam halfway through... such is my usual writing mode. So this one should be more of a quickie.

Yesterday was, as some of you may have heard, Father's Day. This was interesting for my family because my dad recently had major-ish surgery on his neck. By recently I mean the preceding Wednesday. In fact, due to an unexpected pinched nerve keeping him in the hospital longer than expected, he had just gotten home. My sister's take on my dad on valium was that he reminded her of the Ozzy Osbourne footage from that MTV show-- all shuffling and mumbly.

My sister has been working in a hospital and mentioned that most people feel much better after showering and changing into some of their own clothes. So when I arrived at my parents place, my first opportunity to see my dad was when I was called upstairs to help wash his hair.

He hasn't had much appetite since the surgery, so he's lost a bit of weight. My first sight of him he was thin, wide-eyed, dazed from the valium and naked but for a neck brace, with my sister soaping his arm trying to remove the remaining adhesive from the hospital electrodes. His voice was deeper and throatier than usual and a bit slurred. It was something of a Don Barthelme moment for me. We helped him wash his hair, him leaning stiffly to get under the shower's stream. Then mom dried him off and blew his hair dry, Dorothy changed his bandages and put his neck brace back on, and I stood around trying to be helpful, mainly just handing people things.

Usually on Father's Day we'll have my dad's favorite food, that being leg of lamb. Since he wasn't up for that, we asked him what he'd like instead. After some thought, he decided that he probably needed some protein and requested a cheese omelette. We decided that worked for all of us, so mom and Dorothy got some eggs at the store and we set off cooking.

Making a cheese omelette for my dad for some reason made me self conscious, and I finally realized that I hardly ever make them for anybody but myself. Unlike most things I cook, I don't have any outside validation of whether or not I do it well. In fact, I've only ever shared an omelette once with an ex-girlfriend. This realization reminded me of the rule that I had made for myself that I couldn't make an omelette for anybody who wasn't sleeping with me... I don't even remember how I came up with that one: something about the intimacy of eggs, butter and body language; the way you can't learn it any way but experience, by trial and error; the way that everybody has developed their own idiosyncratic techniques. They're not like scrambled eggs, which you can throw together for any old pals who come over. They are displays of prowess! Add to that as well the fecund symbolism of the eggs and you just gotta admit it-- omelettes are kinda sexy!

(Even a short entry finds time for a tangent)

But I decided that such intimacy could be extended to include familial love, especially on a special occasion. I made a 3-egg omelette with monterey jack for dad and a 4-egger with mushrooms, onions and cheese to split with mom. This was my first time breaking the 3-egg barrier, as every cookbook I've read suggests you're better off making two double-eggers. I can now understand why-- the top wouldn't set quite right, though it still turned out well. Almost as if to reinforce my theory of omelette intimacy (though undermining my egg limit) my brother-in-law Justin then took over the range to make a full 5-egger for himself and Dorothy.

Mom also steamed some asparagus and we poured some champagne. After dinner, dad announced that he was starting to fade and was heading upstairs to turn in. But he was very grateful to us all, and said that we'd made him feel much better just by showing up (though the shower helped a lot too). He gets a month or so to recover, then his prostate surgery will be in mid-July.
Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Randomly Resurfaced Childhood Memory du Jour

A friend recently asked me to share a story, and for some reason this one popped into my head:

One night when I was very young and lying in bed trying to get to sleep, I looked out my window and saw these two lines... glowy vertical lines and one was red and the other was green and they were dancing around each other and every once in a while one of them would bend over at the middle to point its top (which I considered its head for some anthropomorphizing reason) at me and SHOOT OUT A BUNCH OF BATS! And the stream of bats would come flying at the window, only to deflect soundlessly off.

So I started whimpering and crying and calling for my mommy and finally she came and turned on the light, which meant I couldn't see outside anymore, and I told her about the two lines shooting bats at me, and she told me it was OK, they were gone now.

Then she left and turned out the light and I looked out the window and she had LIED! They were still RIGHT THERE! Danicng malevolently, or with what passes for malevolence in a vertical line. So I wailed "Mooommmyyy! They're still there!" But she didn't hear or chose to ignore, so I just hid under the covers and hoped that the window would hold.
Friday, June 06, 2003
Quick Silly

Remember all those bad movies from the 80s-- the one's that you'd only ever see in heavily-edited versions on late night cable? Remember how the last five minutes or so went? No?

Well, now you don't have to!

80s Ending!

Pitch-perfect, right down to the robot.

And yes, I did swipe this from Bradley's Almanac. Hi Brad!
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Yesterday morning I was awoken by a call from my mother. I'd been expecting to hear from my parents because they'd just returned from a trip on Sunday, and my housemate D. had called me at work that night to let me know that my dad had called. I was eager to hear how his biopsy had gone, whether it had been as painful as advertised.

A few months ago my dad's PSA numbers had turned up a little high. We all figured it was a false result or a fluke, but the doctor needed to test his levels again. Just to be verify that everything's ok, we all thought (actually my sister was worried, but she's a notorious worrier).

The second reading was significantly lower, but still high enough that the doctor wanted to do a biopsy. Just to verify that everything's ok, we all thought.

But the call from my mom was to tell me that they'd be in town because dad needed to see a doctor to discuss his options. The biopsy had found a small tumor on one side of his prostate and some pre-cancerous cells on the other. So I was to figure out a good restaurant, possibly around Georgetown, where we could all get dinner while they waited out the rush hour traffic.

The news sent my mind spinning. I could hardly settle on one thought long enough to shave and get on some pants, let alone find a restaurant. Somewhere over the course of the day my political anger boiled over and I signed up as a volunteer on both the Howard Dean website and the Green Party USA site. And I kept thinking about the prostate, little ticking timebomb clinging to the underside of my bladder, one that every man is literally sitting on at any time they happen to be sitting down. Everything else ages, the prostate -- its cells without the usual off-switch and constantly dividing -- instead simmers.

My friend Fruitbat, when asked about aging, will explain that aging is DNA's way of preventing cancers, that individual people get old and die because otherwise our genetic material itself would be threatened. Cancer is the enemy of continuing life-- improperly duplicated cells. Imagine a picture after several iterations of photocopying, when the slight imperfections of each copy become magnified by the subsequent copying. Soon the original information is lost, the picture only so many unrecognizable blobs. Cells that stop replicating after a while don't reach that stage, which is why all cells shut down, which is why we age and eventually die. We could find a way to shut it off, this limit, and be effectively immortal, but then every organ in our body would be like the prostate-- we'd soon be farms for tumors.

Death, like love, is a dirty trick our genes play on us in their battle against cancer.

D., when asked for recommendations in Georgetown, passed on Mary's raves about the 1789. I managed to make reservations and get directions off the Mapquest by the time my parents showed up.

The food was excellent, but much more importantly I got to see how well my parents were taking everything. "Good Spirits" is the standard, hackneyed term for people who have received bad news, especially about health, but aren't gloomy about it, and I have a difficult time not falling back on it when describing the mood at dinner. The doctor recommended prompt surgery, and so the only decision now is the location and the timing-- will he want to postpone the neck surgery planned in two weeks ("They're gettin' me from both ends!" he joked before the biopsy)? It sounds like he's decided on the DC location, probably sooner than later, although mom thinks he should wait until they're back in Florida so she doesn't have to give him a ride on the beltway. Dad scoffed at this idea.

He sometimes wakes up, she then told me, at 3 in the morning and stares at the ceiling and imagines -- says he can feel -- the little cells dividing. The doctor told him there's a 20% chance that the cells have (which is to say, "the cancer has") already spread, but we're all being optimistic for the other 80%, that this is a preventive measure, that the surgery will get it all and that everything will turn out ok.

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