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Saturday, October 27, 2012

Pre-Storm Bulletin


All the meteorologists and most of the population of the greater DC area is abuzz at the approach of the “Frankenstorm”, courtesy of sometime-hurricane Sandy coming up from the Caribbean and a couple of winter systems sweeping down from Canada.  I think this new affectation of naming weather events (not moving, relatively discreet systems like hurricanes, but particular events, real or imagined) is a bit silly, and indicative of the desire for drama in the weatherperson community, which thrives on anticipation of disaster, and the subconscious desire to be filmed while screaming into a microphone while wind, rain, snow and debris whip crazily around one’s body.  I have not followed the masses to the store to stock up on water and toilet paper, there being enough liquid and Charmin in my house to last me for a while.  I do anticipate having to eat several gallons of ice cream should the power go out, but at least that will be the only casualty in my refrigerator.  That and my thighs will be too big to squeeze into my pants.

My scare of the week came not from weather, but from the incompetence of the technicians installing my new AC unit (which-surprise!-does not work. I am still attempting to sleep in 80 degree heat). I got home at 11:50 on Wednesday night to find my apartment door standing open three inches.  The back hall light was on.  Visions of thieves and serial killers danced in my head, and I briefly considered calling the cops.  But I held my cell phone in one hand, swung the door fully open, and hallo-ed into the space without response, noticing that all my electronics were still present.  I left the door open while I explored the rooms (there’s relatively little space for anyone to hide, given my packrattiness) and noticed the installation of the new AC (at that point, I didn’t realize that it was as useless as the one it replaced).  Disgusted, I returned to secure the front door and found that the knob and the bolt were both locked—the idiots had simply not shut the door before they’d locked it!  Which is about as useful in keeping a place secure as the application of brakes while a car is in midair is in slowing the vehicle (something I can vouch for personally).  Of course, neither my resident manager nor the apartment office had their answering machines on.  I went to bed.  And stewed gently all night.

The estate sale work is wearing us down.  I’ve put in a trio of dozen-hour days this week, and next week, when we are supposed to put together a sale in a 16,000 square foot McLean mansion (its 200-guest ballroom has a Waterford chandelier bigger in cubic footage than my kitchen), promises to be worse.  Besides the usual hassles of item setup, we’ve had to deal with hovering in-residence owners, and next week’s octagenarian owner is quavering over the destination of every single item in the house (no kidding—she was going through the pantry to check all the expiration dates on the canned goods!).  It’s enough to drive one mad. Turnout for the last two sales has been middling, and sales have reflected this.  People are paranoid about the weather, for one thing.  For another, in resident-owner cases, the owners want to go around and comment on all the prices—this morning, the lady of the house yelled at my boss for selling her desk for $400. “But we paid $600!” she wailed.  It’s a used desk, and the buyer actually tried to get us to drop the price further, but we’d held firm.  And meanwhile, though she wasn’t aware of it, the costume jewelry which she had given me, declaring it was worthless, had netted over $300.  So, if she’d just sat back and waited, instead of second-guessing our pricing, she should have been pleased with the results. We all get emotionally attached to our possessions, and the benefit of having people like us come in to arrange and sell stuff is that we can tell what is actually valuable versus what the client has become convinced is valuable.  The twain are frequently different.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Eyeball, Chair

Rachel and the NPV had three couples and me over last night to celebrate one of the couples recent wedding, which few of us were able to attend, it having taken place two time zones away. We all brought snacks, and the new bride, Serena, made kettle corn for us.  Her husband, Lad, ate a large quantity of it, and also of Serena's wonderfully fudgy brownies.  I understand now how it is possible to gain 15 lbs. in one's first year of marriage! 

A couple of years ago, I acquired a carved Victorian chair with casters on the front at one of the first estate sales I worked. I spent the whopping sum of $12.50 (plus tax) on this thing, whose upholstery, well, kindly put, was a disaster. I had grand plans for it.  First, I'd remove the casters and get my brother to raise the front legs. Then, I would reupholster it, turning it glorious.  It didn't turn out like that.  First, everyone else in my family hated the chair, which spent months in my parents' garage after my brother declared he'd do no surgery on it.  Eventually, I decided to haul it back to DC, where I paid a local woodworker to fix the legs. Fifty dollars for the shoddiest workmanship I've seen. I would have done better with an ax. (My family would say "yes, you should have taken an ax to the chair"). Be that as it may, I recently acquired a better chair, and have no further need for this Frankenstein's monster in the corner of my living room. So, I put it into this weekend's sale.  In the basement, to be exact, with a $35 price tag on it.  And this afternoon, when we were closing down, I found out that it had been stolen!  There was only one way out of the basement (through the house), and someone had nicked the bloody thing.  Of all the stuff to abscond with... 

I went to the young people's evening church service today, since I'd only made it to Sunday school, not worship, this morning.  It was a really good lesson on Job, though introduced by the overly enthusiastic little staff person who burbled about the total awesomeness of the speaker to an embarrassing extent (a trait she demonstrated two weeks ago as well--I am not exactly sure how to respond to her bubbly boilerplate "welcome newcomer" email to me asking me to have coffee. I think I might be tempted to squelch her, and unreasonable, almost idiotic cheer is simply her personality type--I shouldn't begrudge her. It would be like kicking a puppy.)  Afterwards, I spotted Serena and Lad on the other side of the room and went over to harass them.  I was joking around about being a senior citizen, laid up by various ailments, when Lad remarked, with total sincerity, that it reminded him of when our former senior pastor's eyeball fell out.  Serena and I both looked at him in shock--"When did this happen?!"  "You know," he said, "When he got a detached cornea or something and had to spend six weeks in bed."  I just about died laughing.  Assured him that a detached retina was in no way similar to having your eyeball fall out.  Ahh, young friends. Old friends. We are all goofy together.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Comment On Comments

I realize it must be frustrating for my half-dozen readers suddenly to be unable to leave comments, but Blogger disabled the imported comment function at the beginning of October, and I haven't had time to figure out how to re-activate the domestic version.  If something really strikes you, you can email me. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

Life, Death And Travel

Grandmommy’s 90th birthday party was a long-overdue family reunion on a happy occasion, kind of like Thanksgiving, but warmer, and with relatives coming from much farther away.  My cousin Honor presented the two-volume quilt/memory book which she and I had been working on for months—I harassed everyone in the family to send in pictures and stories, and she did the real work, assembling everything that was emailed to me into a beautifully-laid-out scrapbook, 88 pages in all.  Furthermore, she scanned the completed project and posted it online, so that we all could enjoy it.  She’s not a rocket scientist for nothing!  Her husband, who has requested the blogonym Didymus (I think I will refer to him as “Diddy” for short), was a huge help and encouragement in the effort.  They are awesome.  Honor did all the photography for the party—she’s phenomenally talented.  She and my friend Rachel would be instant friends if they ever were to get the chance to meet, I believe, but as Diddy and Honor live in Colorado, I don’t know that this will happen anytime soon.

Grandmommy got the one birthday present from the whole family, but she gave each and every person who came an individual gift!  That is Grandmommy in a nutshell, writing some almost twenty  individual notes telling each person what they meant to her, not neglecting the four great-grands or the two non-family members who came as guests of guests. 

My brother Bob had picked me up at the Columbia, SC, airport Friday night, and he was in a rare conversational mood on the ride home and late-night larder-raiding that followed.  He regaled me with tales of autopsies—one suicide, one murder, and one natural death, all with their own peculiarities.  It seems that pathologists compare everything to food (“pre-mortem clotting looks like [edible substance], while post-mortem clotting looks like [a different edible substance]”]. He had a great time, and actually got to participate.  It’s really remarkable what pathologists can figure out from examining a corpse, and how some things you’d think would kill you won’t while others will.  For instance, the autopsy on the stabbing victim showed he had a terminal auto-immune disease which was attacking his organs—although his family might think his life was cut drastically short by violence, it was in fact not that long before he would have died of undiagnosed natural causes.  The heart of the man who’d suffered a fatal pulmonary embolism had two sets of scarring, one old, one new, showing that he’d had a heart attack sometime in the distant past, then another in the time immediately preceding his death—from the latter the pathologist deduced that there had been a “shower” of tiny clots which had caused a minor attack a bit before the big one had broken off and killed him.  The last autopsy was that of a woman—apparently a fairly common method of female suicide is to make up one’s face nicely and shoot oneself in the chest.  Bob was interested to see that aside from the traditional “v” cut to open the chest cavity, the pathologist also cut out the tongue, roots and all, to examine it.  All the internal organs, once extracted and tested, were tossed into a large orange biohazard bag, and then the whole, in the bag, were dumped back into the abdominal cavity.  I didn’t think that the organs would necessarily be placed back in order, but, like my brother, I was a little boggled by the fact that they are deposited, chopped up and bagged, in an autopsied body.  Well, we are all only so much offal, anyway.

My travels back to DC were as eventful as the trip from, but in a much more pleasant way.  Mums sped me to the airport in her little silver convertible, and I was through security and at the gate in plenty of time.  Then they announced that they had oversold the flight, and they were looking for a volunteer to give up a seat in exchange for a $450 certificate.  I thought for about twenty seconds and then volunteered.  The certificate is good for the purchase of any one ticket on US Airways, domestic or international; I have to use it within a calendar year.  They got me on a later flight with a layover in Charlotte.  First, the plane was late, so we were late boarding.  When we were seated the pilot apologized for the lack of air conditioning and said that the issue that was keeping the AC from working on the ground was also preventing the engines from self-starting, and we were going to hear a loud noise as we were essentially given a jump from an external power source.  The flight attendant went through the safety procedures, the pilots attempted to start the engines, and then they made the announcement that there had been a major electrical failure during the attempted jump, and we might want to deplane because of the heat while they were consulting a mechanic.  Some people were grousing, but I really appreciated that the pilot was prompt, and upfront, with telling us what was amiss and ensuring our comfort.  We all filed back indoors (I had gate-checked my suitcase, with my computer inside, and so was sans K-dramas for this unexpected interlude) and waited for the verdict.  I could see the silhouette of a mechanic in the open door of the aircraft, as it was dark out by this point, and I wondered what was being decided.  My connecting flight to DC was supposed to board at 9:40 and it was 8 pm by this point.  Happily, after only twenty minutes or so, they announced we were good to go, and we all went back across the tarmac and climbed aboard.  The pilot told us what they’d done—they’d just turned the whole thing off and back on again, rebooting the system, like a recalcitrant computer or balky copy machine.  And everything worked, even the AC.  He assured us they’d checked and rechecked everything, and they were confident all was in order.  We made it to Charlotte without trouble, the one fly in the ointment being that we arrived at a gate at the end of the “E” terminal, and my connecting flight was leaving out of a gate in the “B” terminal, which was clear the other side of the airport.  Even without a sprained ankle, that’s a hike.  I made it to the “B” gate just as the connection was starting to board, so I didn’t get a chance to grab anything to eat.  During the flight to DC, I distracted myself from my empty stomach by talking to the nice young newlywed National Guardsman in the exit row seat next to me.  Good conversationalists have been the norm in my seatmates this weekend, a boon when one is without internet access in a place where the only reading material is the quarterly airline magazine and a couple of duty-free catalogues.

Parking for the two-days-plus-a-fraction cost $60, but with the $450 ticket voucher I feel like I came out on top, expense-wise.  I think I also may write a note to the airline telling them what a good job the first crew this evening did.  So many inconveniences and mechanical challenges are endurable if you are told (like we were) exactly what is going on, and are permitted to wait out the resolution in relative comfort.  The courtesy of this crew on Sunday more than made up for the lack thereof in the customer service agent Friday.

Friday, October 12, 2012

At The Airport


One of the problems with air travel these days is that once you’ve gone through security and discovered that indeed, as feared, your flight has departed without you, and, after weeping in front of the passenger assistance desk for 30 minutes, being told that the next two flights are sold you, and the earliest they can get you to your scheduled destination (two hours’ drive from your Grandmommy’s 90th birthday celebration, to begin at 1 PM tomorrow) is 12:30 PM tomorrow, it is physically impossible to shoot oneself, or better and more dramatically, to commit ritual seppuku in the center of the “C” Concourse.  I was sorely tempted to rake the edge of my federally-issued picture ID across my throat to see if the rumor about the emergency use of plastic-card edges as weapons was true, but instead I made my way moistly and dejectedly to the ladies’ room, where I discarded the crumpled paper napkins I’d taken off the disobliging U.S. Airways woman (I confess I didn’t feel much guilt about omitting the traditional “thank you” when we finished our frustrating tete-a-tete). I washed my hands, put on a pair of granny-style wrap-around sunglasses, and applied a stripe of bright red paint to each pale and trembling lip, then walked to the gate where the flight to Columbia, SC, rather than the desired flight to Augusta, GA, is due to leave at 7:20, an hour after my original flight will have reached Bush Field, on the edge of the swamp south of my hometown.

My mother had arranged for the wife of her assistant pastor to come pick me up at the Augusta airport, and I’d called her several times to update her on my travel woes.  She then volunteered to come all the way to Columbia, in the dark, to get me, rather than have me rent a car I couldn’t conveniently return, and I was so mortified by this generosity I burst into tears again. I phoned Mums to let her know what was going on, and my sister suggested that I call my Navy brother in Charleston, to see if he could get me instead.  Bless him, I forestalled his Friday five-o’clock indulgence with my request, and he sweetly agreed to meet my plane, thus sparing the pastor’s wife.  I told him to save some of the booze for me, because after today, I need it. 

It’s the little foxes that spoil the vineyard; today has been chockablock with minor annoyances, which I should have handled with more grace than I did.  The weather has been fabulously fall, though, and I am really looking forward to seeing the family tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Xrayed and Fondued

The radiological tech presented me with a CD of xrays of my right foot this morning--toting films has come a long way from the days of oversized folders holding large sheets of silvered plastic.  Having dug around in my wallet for a considerable period (like a lot of people's, I suspect, it isn't stuffed so much with cash and credit cards as with old receipts, notes on paper scraps, and business cards from people long forgotten), I managed to unearth my insurance card, and thus equipped I went to an urgent care clinic first thing, to assure myself and others who'd been badgering me to get my foot checked that nothing was seriously amiss.  It's pretty swollen, and my foot feels loose, like the bolts at my ankle have been sheered off, and it's just swinging free, but even a non-radiologist like myself could see clearly on the computer that my bones were intact, though the tissue swelling was visible, ghostly around the solid white.  The physician on call, who looked about 14, gave me a list of orthopedists should I continue to have problems--I may have torn a ligament, he said, but the xray wouldn't identify this.  While I was getting vetted, I went ahead and got a flu shot, despite swearing them off several years ago after that horrible reaction, because my insurance sent me a voicemail saying that they'd pay for it.  How much of the rest of this visit they'll pay for is unknown.  I have an enormous deductible, but at least I didn't have to fork over a $75 emergency room fee.

My friend Leah and I went out to the Melting Pot for a Girls Night Out yesterday.  My lackluster experience at the restaurant some four or five years ago seems to have been unusual, as both the food and the service were superb.  We two had such a good time talking over our multi-course meal that our waiter gushed that we were the nicest customers he'd had since he'd begun working there, and insisted on bringing us complimentary champagne to accompany our dessert.  After 2 1/2 hours of dining, we practically waddled out to the car--I don't think I've eaten so much at one go in months.  And in a bonus 20% of the evening's revenue went to breast cancer research.  Again, I was reminded how grateful I am for old friends!

Monday, October 08, 2012

Doings and Undoings

One of the traits I wish my father hadn’t passed on to me is that of frequent accidental self-injury.  I missed a step on the stairs to the parking lot this morning, and my right lower leg emitted a loud and unpleasant crunching noise as I quickly descended to the asphalt.  I don’t know that I’ve broken anything (thanks to the obsessive milk-swilling), but my ankle is swollen and aches, and the tissue stitching the bones together has stretched so the foot actually feels loose. Steven and Susan invited me over for pie tonight, but I’m staying in, and in bed, for the rest of the day, missing trivia as well.  My sunburn has mostly healed, but there is a large patch of purple scars on my left shin, which was the worse affected.

I went to the young adult fellowship at church last night.  A Korean pastor is leading the group as our senior church pastor has left for another ministry, and the Scot who was in charge of the larval singles is now filling in the main adult-church role.  I will probably be spending more time in this evening church setting than in the morning services over the next month, as somehow our estate sale schedule has us doing sales on four consecutive weekends, starting next Friday.  This Friday I’m to fly to GA for Grandmommy’s 90th birthday celebration.  I just hope my leg won’t be in a boot and I won’t be hobbled by crutches for the trip.

Saturday Rachel and Patricia and I went to the Maryland Renaissance Faire.  I supplied the costumes.  There were easily over 10,000 people at the event, and the weather was lovely.  Besides the always-entertaining jousting, they had an archery demonstration, with explanations of the evolution of the bow, and how (in my interpretation), arrows were the medieval equivalent of pencils, requiring five sets of specialized skills to make, but used up in quantity in seconds in warfare, when archers were flooding the enemy with ten arrows a minute, from 150-lb bowstrings (the latter weight evidenced by shoulder skeletal remains).  Aside from the interesting details about bows and swords, we enjoyed the entertainment at the multiple outdoor stages, and window-shopping the various handmade goods.  The fried Oreo booth that had impressed Patricia and me with its greasy midway ambiance last year had been completely remodeled into a drinks stand, and there were a variety of vegetarian and reasonably healthy (not fried and/or on a stick) offerings in the food areas.  I had carrot, potato and beef stew in a bread bowl, which was actually pretty tasty.  Most of the craft booths’ wares were incredibly expensive, but the beekeepers’ were reasonable, and I bought a dozen beeswax candles (to put in my underwear drawers) and a gallon of Killer Bee honey (wonderful caramel flavor).  My annual Christmas party is scheduled for December 15.  I plan to use some of the honey to make my traditional baklava.  Yum!

It’s fascinating how, when you get interested in a particular subject, it seems to begin appearing everywhere.  Not only have I started seeing South Korea more often in the news, and there is the new pastor is at church, but our estate sale company has been interviewed to do a sale for the former Korean consulate, which was expropriated by the Japanese during their occupation of the country in the 20th century and eventually made its way into private hands, whence it has just been re-purchased by the South Korean government.  That sale should be fun!  Must expand my Korean vocabulary beyond a dozen words before then…

Monday, October 01, 2012

Eighth Blog Anniversary

Today is the eighth anniversary of this foray into the blogosphere, a landscape considerably eroded by the Facebook tsunami, before whose onrush I refuse to bend.  I've averaged about 140 posts a year, despite my considerably reduced output of late, when I am overwhelmed by work and distracted by DramaFever. 

Happy in singlehood for several years now and always intimidated by the prophet Samuel, who warned the Israelites against their selfish demands for a king "like everybody else", I have long avoided expressing any prayerful desire for--just maybe--having a nice guy come along for me.  Sure, I have ongoing spells of the usual superficial "gosh, he's HOT" flashes (I haven't yet become subject to the "gosh, I'm hot" flashes), but serious prayerful petitions I haven't submitted.  I guess I'm more than a little afraid that they might be answered affirmatively.  And I sure as there's a hell below and a heaven above don't want some rotter.  But I did, in a humorous manner, actually ask my Bible study on Wednesday to pray for me a husband "of Korean extraction", as I've become enamoured of the phenotype.

And I've got such a good group of married friends, who are faithful to include me in social activities despite that I'm close to being one of the only unattached people they know!  On Wednesday I met my honorary niece Grace for the first time (she's only just come from China) and discovered she loves "horsey" rides. Her proud parents took us out for dinner that evening. Thursday night Rachel and the NPV and I went out for pho at a good restaurant near their house, and I got a Vietnamese moon cake for dessert at a nearby sweet shop.  Then I spent Thursday and Friday nights at Susan and Steven's because my air conditioning unit died and it was 82 in my apartment--and I'm not a person who sleeps well in the heat. Saturday the outdoor temperature had dropped to the pleasant low 70s, so I was able to open my windows and enjoy a pleasant breeze.  Sunday, I had lunch with the Wiggle family, Merry, June and little Augustus, who has teeth, and when he got tired went over to his quilt-lined playpen and made "put me in" gestures--and once in, lay down immediately and went to sleep.  I've never seen a little kid do that before. He's a general sanguine little soul.

But, I also got some unwelcome news Sunday.  Susan and Steven got word from the Marine Corps powers that be that they're to be shipped out of the DC area, just a few months after my latest small honorary nephew makes his appearance.  I told them that if they get posted to South Korea, I'm going with them.