Wednesday, September 08, 2010

conversations with my neighbor

Yes, I know I owe you, the readers, reports on my trips to Camp Mather and Burning Man, but what I feel like writing about is what happened today. Actually what I really am dying to write about are some things from the Sober Husband's place of work, but I've discontinued what I used to call "Scenes from the Silicon Valley Soap Opera" because he got too recognizable on here so I have to exercise a higher level of self-censorship. If he and I were more organized, we'd write a book together about Silicon Valley, he generating the material, me doing the writing, together under some adorably clever pen name. But instead you get anecdotes of the children's wackiness or cute cat stories or whatever comes your way:

Part I: This morning my neighbor, B., stopped by, holding a brick in one hand, to ask if I could unlock my side gate so the city inspectors could come through to inspect the side of his house and new foundation. I said it was no problem to let the inspectors in, as I was waiting for my new range. My neighbor, like everyone, was well versed in my epic struggles in getting a new range. "That's amazing! I was down at the Ferry Building the other day, on Monday, and I saw a container ship come in, and I thought, 'Maybe Carole's stove is on that.'"

"And it was!"

B. was carrying a special, sample brick, which he showed me, because he is spending much of his time shopping for the perfect bricks to lay in his yard. His involved and extreme search for the right bricks reminded me of my obsession with researching ranges. Like me and ranges, B. had become a master of arcane information about where bricks come from ("It turns out ALL the bricks in California go through Sacramento"), had dismissed what was easily available as unacceptable ( "All the bricks at Home Depot are just terrible. They're not real bricks; they're made of composite"), and had been making a lot of unsatisfactory field trips ("I've been to Redwood City, I've been to Antioch, I've been so many places..").

My neighbor felt that conducting life's transactions is becoming harder and harder. As well as the bricks, he couldn't get new wheels for his car easily; they have to be special ordered. I said that I thought these problems arise only because B. has climbed to an elite position in consumerism. I pointed out that B. drives a Porsche Boxter convertible, not a Toyota Corolla.

"Are you saying that if I drove a Toyota Corolla, my life would be different?" He scoffed. "I'd be happy with the Home Depot bricks?"

"No, I'm saying that if you drove a Toyota Corolla, you could buy wheels for it! When my ex drove a Porsche, they used to always tell him for everything, 'Oh, we have to send to Stuttgart for the parts.'"

B. began to see my point, but wouldn't cop to being demanding in his tastes. I called him out: "I've heard about you and your coffeemaker." [He has a notoriously expensive coffeemaker].

"That's different! I cannot tolerate drip coffee!"

Part II: Much later, while the appliance installation service was hard at work replacing the aged, broken Magic Chef (which they estimated at 15-20 years of age) with my fresh, pristine Aga, I heard a voice. "Carole? Carole?" It was my neighbor again.

It turned out that the inspectors had uncovered termites, "unusually active" termites. My neighbor, stressed, had efficiently gotten an exterminator on the scene already. "That's what all that noise is, they're drilling. They're drilling and putting that stuff down there, that stuff they use."

We discussed termite treatments, and I brought up the possibility of getting rid of the termites without pesticides, like "The Bug Guy" recommends. My neighbor acted to dismiss any concerns I might have about the exterminators visibly working between our properties. "They're not using poisons, they're putting down stuff that wards the termites off. It scares them away."

"So they run off your property and come onto mine??" I immediately resigned myself to getting our house treated for termites.

To cheer my stressed, termite-plagued neighbor up, I ushered him back towards the kitchen to admire the new Aga, which the appliance repairmen were laboring over. We both felt happier looking at it, and the conversation turned to all the food that would be made on this stove in the future. B. made a reference to meat, and I cut it off. "I'm a vegetarian."

"I thought that was just Iris."

"No, there's no meat in this house."

"Are you serious? You don't ever eat meat?"

I pointed out the rows of vegetarian and vegan cookbooks.

"You can't be a vegetarian! Your food tastes too good! You must hate us, we're always having steaks."


Claire M. Johnson said...

Yes, well, I was going to write a book exposing what it's like to work in a restaurant and Anthony Bourdain beat me to it! I was all set and then I picked up a copy of the New Yorker and my potential for fame immediately evaporated. Of course, I didn't have that drug-abuser, boinking anything that moves thing going for me.

Regarding "parts." I owned a SAAB before it was fashionable to own a SAAB and, cripes, my husband I were convinced that the King and Queen of Sweden had a lathe and machine shop and were churning out the parts for that car themselves. Sort of like a castle industry. It was more expensive to fix my SAAB than a Mercedes! Plus, there was only one garage within within a four-hundred-mile radius and drug deals were going down in that place all the time.

Third. My husband once spent five hours one Saturday looking for a watch. He put over two hundred miles on his car looking to replace a TIMEX! I think he and your neighbor should meet for coffee.

Congrats on the new stove. Oh, you lucky woman. I am green with envy!

the Drunken Housewife said...

You deserve a Lacanche, Claire! And you have two published books (and a third on the way?), so you are no slouch. I do feel your pain about that Bourdain thing, though. I remember being mesmerized by that first New Yorker article he wrote. I had always wanted to know the things he wrote (don't go to brunch, go to dinner on Tues., etc...).

Here's another consumer hell story: my ex and I had a rabbit for a while, and the vet we took it to told us that for rabbits, they were going to call a specialist at Tufts every time to confirm the treatment by fax because rabbits are so special and tricky to treat, and we'd have to pay a fee for that. My ex snorted. "This is a rabbit, not a snow leopard."

Claire M. Johnson said...

FYI, everything is his book is so true. Order swordfish at your own peril! Well, not you. :). We put in a decent cooktop and double oven (I LOVE MY DOUBLE OVEN) when we did remodel from hell, so I can't complain. Although it's not a freaking AGA!!!!!!!!!

Third book, um, is done? Sort of. Am waiting to hear from agent whether it's okay or not. Not a mystery but about the mystery writing scene. [erhaps my own expose of sorts? Actually it's fairly tame, but I had way fun with it, and would love to think it will SELL big time. The reality? Probably not. :( I think people think that most authors make enough money to make this writing gig worthwhile. NOT! I know people who are writing porn that make more money in six months that I have total.

I think there's a book in that!

PS My husband just got from BM and said that the wind was horrendous this year.

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