Friday, December 26, 2014

If Only One Tree Were Left On Earth, We'd Burn It

It's time for a house update.  The house is becoming more of a home.  It was a perfect fit to begin with, but it becomes more homey, less housey the more we do. How serendipitous: Urban Compass, a company the matches people's personalities with neighborhoods to find the perfect NYC Apartments , is interested in   Starter Stories, tales of ownership beginnings.  We are still beginners, and I think we'll feel like that for a long time to come.  

Upon finding a house that had an updated kitchen and bathroom and not much needed except for fresh paint, Eddie and I focused on ridding the property of anything green.  We stick firmly to our motto: no plants, no pets, no children.  We do not want to be responsible for keeping anything alive aside from ourselves. In our search for a home, we looked specifically for no lawns and small yards, you know, the opposite of what everyone in suburbia is looking for.  We found a good match with a small backyard, though we do have a front yard, and since it's a corner house, we have curb grass on two sides.  No matter--we plan to get a push mower.

But first, we needed to take care of some larger annoyances.  Plants.  The plants.  Oh the plants plants plants.  The woman who lived here before us had a knack for all that is green and flowery.  Sure, the three trees curbside are not special for those who have a penchant for gardening, but the tree inside the house was interesting.  Yes, a tree inside the house.  In the living room.  A small tree, but still a tree nonetheless.  On the other side of the living room was a jungle of sorts.  I'm sure all this was well and good for the production of oxygen, but it was also (1) a chore neither of us wants and (2) a breeding ground for critters. That means keeping the flora would be a violation of two thirds of our motto--plants and pets.

There creeps the tree along with its friend, a bush.

Jungle window
Though these plants were not left behind, the holes in the ceiling that had hooks from which the plants hung were still there.  In other rooms, the hooks were still there.  Those hooks are a pain to tear out.  I suppose that's a good think if you plan to hang things from them so nothing falls on anyone's head, but for those of us non-hangers-of-things, it's a pain.

Getting rid of all plants might seem like an overreaction, so let me tell this next story before finishing the first.

So we were here for maybe two weeks and I'm leaning out the front door to get the mail and I look up and there's a gigantic spider gliding up and down a web from the outdoor light to the mailbox.  Gigantic like the size of my fist.  Or at least that's what it seemed like.  I could be exaggerating.  But let's say that I'm not.  This spider clearly was having a field day, or maybe just a good strong workout, as it hovered above the zillion plants on either side of the front door.  I did not get the mail that day.

I'm not saying this isn't pretty.  I'm saying it's pretty AND pretty buggy.

But that's not all.  As I was sitting in my office, typing away on my laptop, sipping some green tea, content in my new home, I glance to the left, about a foot from my head, and I see a gigantic bug crawling up and over my printer.  It had antennae.  It had legs.  It was skinny and shiny.  It was all up and in my grill.  So I did what any rational adult would do--I jumped up from my rolling chair, screamed, and ran around in circles and then jump-jogged in place, flapping my hands all over the place.  Because, you know, that's helpful.

This was a bug I could not walk away from.  So I gathered almost a roll of paper towels and somehow found wherewithall to smother it and throw it out.  I don't have a problem taking bugs outside, but the creepy crawlies that crawl in my face I'm not so okay with.

A few nights later, Eddie and I came home from a night out of fun and fantastic times.  I walked into the bedroom and flung off my shoes.  He stopped short of walking in behind me and yelled, Holy Shit!  I looked at where he was looking and there on the base of our floor fan sat a cave cricket.

Cave crickets should not exist.  Cave crickets and hyenas.  I have no use for either of them.  If a hyena had been sitting on our fan, I'd feel the same way.

I have a bit of experience with cave crickets because I used to live in a basement and they, too, lived in the basement at times, just on the steps.  Here was a clear violation of private property.  This was in our bedroom, not on some outdoor steps.  So I did what any normal wife would do--I jumped on the bed and yelled, Get it honey Get it honey You're the boy Get it get it!

Stepping up to the man plate, Eddie removed his shoe and aimed.  I warned, You need to get it the first time because if you don't we have to move because it will jump away and we won't find it.

He got it. First shot.  It didn't have much of a chance as Eddie wears a size 11 shoe.  I'm pretty sure its legs came out from under it.  He also cleaned it up.  He's a nice boy.

Additionally, there were more spiders.  I found tiny ones.  I have a long-standing issue with spiders because I once got bit by one and then got an infection and had to take Keflex so that the back of my hand was not puffy and red.  I would have left them alone, but because of the Keflex incident, I squashed them.  Also, we knew there were more because we found webs every day in places we'd just cleaned.

And beetles.  And a silverfish.  I am not a fan of either.

So why were we being invaded?  The Orkin woman told us that the spiders were there because we had bugs.  The Orkin man said we had bugs because we were in the process of moving.  And because there'd been a jungle inside.  Oh, yes, we called Orkin.  They came.  They sprayed.  They warned we'd see more before we'd see less.

And that's when we went into the garage where I'd seen one large spider who came at me mid-air sideways once and that had been the last time I'd gone in there.

Oh, yeah! I almost forgot.  We'd stopped parking our cars in the garage because one morning Eddie pulled his car out and felt a tickle on his ear and turned and saw a large spider web spun inside his car from the driver's seat to the wall of the car and into the back. That was a fun morning.

Back to the garage--oh the cricket-manity!  It was like a collective slow hop towards death.  There were crickets of all kinds coming out of every corner and wall.  Cave crickets.  Spider crickets.  Skinny crickets.  Fat crickets.  Just all kinds of crickets all wobbling and wasted.  It was quite the disturbing scene, things that nightmares are made of.  I didn't want to slowly kill things. I just wanted them to go away.

And they did.  The Orkin magic worked and we didn't see much more of anything else.  Except for the bees.  We had bees in the yard.  And that's when we called the gardener.  It was time to take a machete to the greenery.  The gardener agreed, too.  He said it was way too much.  In the back, on both sides, in the front, too much.  He did want to keep a few bushes on the side, and so we did at first, but then, in the end, we just tore it all up, keeping only some in the front for the sake of the neighbors.

BEFORE: There'd been even more in those now-empty pots.

BEFORE: The green is pretty, but the bugs are not.

BEFORE: That tree in the back got trimmed but kept.

BEFORE: Backyard greens near the house.  The mini-tree is the only thing I kept and moved to the front.

BEFORE: I mean, come on.  There's a plant hanging from another plant here.

BEFORE: It's a jungle out there.

BEFORE: Cute but critter-ful

BEFORE: Trees and bushes and bushes

BEFORE: Seriously, where's the house?

BEFORE: Do you want to walk through this to get inside?  Neither do I.

And so we chopped and hacked and trimmed it all down.

AFTER: No more vine! 

AFTER: No more plant hanging from a plant

AFTER: We have a fence that we can see.

AFTER: Okay, it's not pretty, but there's nothing attacking us.

AFTER: Some plants.  Just some. They are no longer there either.

AFTER: No more dying tree and no more excess bushes

AFTER: No more gigantic bush.  And look--still no vine.

AFTER: Much neater
We aren't against all green.  When we had all the plants removed from the side, we planted grass.
Little baby grass!  It's grown so much since then.
Inspired, Eddie and I decided to trim some of the trees near the curb ourselves.
This Brooklyn boy has tackled suburban life superbly.
However, we still have some work to do.  These trees aren't the most pest-filled trees (though in bagging our 20 bags of trimmings, we came across white and almost see-through spiders) but they are old and large and scary in the wind.  Also, this particular tree had a plant hanging from it and we couldn't take it down because the chain was drilled through the tree.  Drilled.  Through.  Fortunately, we found a friend with some chain cutters and got that down.  We plan to call a tree trimming service for these:

This tree went clubbing without me. But it probably took the drilled-in plant.

There is a tree growing out of the top of this tree.

Creepy Tree! Creepy Tree!
And there were more.  There's a large dent in the front curb lawn where a large tree used to be.  We also have a stump on the side between two of the trees.  When Eddie's friend came over to take down the stupid drilled-in plant, he kept tripping over the stump and told me I'd need to get it removed.  I said it was in the plans, as soon as I look into trimming or cutting down the other trees.  He commented, Wow you really don't like plants, do you?  I was liked, I don't like bugs and I don't like taking care of things.  That's when he responded: I think if you two had the only tree left in the world, you'd burn it.  You know, I can't say whether or not that's true.  I think it mostly depends on whether or not we have to take care of it.

We did get rid of one tree already.  It was a pretty tree.  It's the tree from the front lawn.  Though it was pretty, it's the tree directly over the main line to the sewer.  We  have roots from trees all through the lawn in the front, but this tree's roots were all through the pipe.  We do not want another incident of water coming up through the floor of the bathroom like we did two weeks after we moved in due to a completely clogged through pipe.

It was also growing into not only our power lines, but also the lines that were coming from our next-door neighbor.  So, we took it down.  We still have the stump, and it had been growing so quickly and without care, that it also grew into the wire, so we have one little piece that looks like a bird sitting out there.

That means we still have some work to do.  We want that stump out of our front yard.  We'll keep the piece attached to the wire so that no one gets electrocuted trying to remove it.  We need to actually mow our lawn when spring comes.  That means we need to get a lawn mower.  We do have a leaf blower that Eddie has become quite attached to--with all the trees still standing tall, the leaf clean up was a never-ending task. The awesome thing about our neighborhood is their leaf-clean-up program.  We got to put our leaves out into the street in large piles, and then one morning, a big truck with a large vacuum came along and sucked up all the leaves.  It was nothing less than amazing.  I wish they had a truck that could suck up trees and stumps, but I suppose I can be content with what I've got.

And I am.  I've battled the crickets and the spiders and the beetles and other bugs, and I had the gardener do some reverse-gardening, and it's all been for the grand scheme of making a house a home--something to call our own.  So we don't like nature.  That's why we bought a house in the first place.  So we don't have to live outside.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

On Gratitude

For 75 days, I've been thankful. 

I was thankful for big things like my family and my friends.

I was thankful for abstract things like inspiration.

I was thankful for small things like fuzzy socks.

I was thankful for fun things like Kevin Bacon.

Most days, I listed three things.  Some days, I doubled up and listed six.

This week, Thanksgiving arrives on Thursday.  I've been thankful all up and through it.

My favorite Thanksgiving cookies -- get them from Southpaw Sweets -- Thanks S!
 Being thankful has been difficult. 

It has been challenging on the days when all I want to do is rant about stress and stupidity.  However, in listing those things for which I am grateful, I have found a way to spread the positivity rather than dive into the negative, the latter of which is much easier.

It has been most challenging on the days when I've felt like I've been hit by a car.  I was, in fact, hit by a car when I was driving my own car back in January, and now I have daily pain in my back.  It would have been so easy--75 days of aches and pains, new twinges, deeper spasms, a constant search for relief.  I would  have garnered commiseration of those in pain and probably sympathy from others, but that probably would have have sustained as the main reaction.  After 75 days of complaints, people probably would have unsubscribed to my FB feed because I was bringing on the misery.

Instead, I sat and searched until I found whatever I could label as a highlight in my life.  Some days, quite frankly, I felt like a fraud.  I mean, who needs to sit around and really think that hard about what to be thankful for?  In my defense, I was not repeating, so I could have said "my husband" every single day, but again, who wants to hear how much I'm grateful to have a great husband every single day?  Well, probably Eddie and our parents, but that's about it. 

So fraudulent or not, whether or not the moment of gratitude did its trick for the day in making me or anyone else feel more positive, I plowed on.

75 days is not such a long time, and I wondered how long I'd be doing it.  I mean, even thankfulness can get old: Ugh, there's that Christina Farone again, trying to be all grateful and shit on a daily basis--Unsubscribe!

Since Thanksgiving is here, I'm thinking it's a perfect time to roll up all that thankfulness and give it a final release into the universe.  I might post every now and then a moment of gratitude, but not as a regimented activity.  It'll be genuine, though now more than ever, I'm more aware of those moments when they hit.  I will not fall back into a world of negative comments, but I will share both sides of the coin--the heads of thanks and the tails of woe.  See that?  A pun.  I'm a poet.

Thanks for indulging. Hey, look at that!  Day 76: one final thanks to everyone who followed and commented.  Oh, and Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Whodunit? Don't Ask Me

No sign is complete without Eddie's raccoon stick (look to the left)
The year is 1922.  At the height of prohibition in Chicago, a mob war was brewing between the South Side Gangsters and the Northern Mob Outfit.  The two factions are planning to meet up at The Grand Gatsby Speakeasy to discuss the future of underground casinos...but not everyone may make it out alive. So don't be a pikah.  Stay outta the clink, get all dolled up, and come out for a night that's sure to be the cat's meow.

And so began the great murder mystery dinner party that S had gifted to me at least five years ago.  After years in the making, my house transformed into a speakeasy owned by Hal Sapone aka Eddie, called The Grand Gatsby (no, not The Great Gatsby.  That's Fitzgerald's speakeasy).

What speakeasy is complete without a little decoration?

The premise of the night was that everyone would be assigned a character, everyone would received a name tag, some notepaper for crime solving, and instructions and hints for the night to interact with each other.  Each course of food (cocktails and apps, main course, and dessert) came with not only these clues but also games.  These games were to be graded, and so I found myself grading.  Even at parties, I'm grading.
Everything everyone needs to solve a mystery. 

Main course




More grading

Gatsby and casino
The house filled with chatter and laughing and shrieks (and smoke -- we aired that out quick) and then the lights flickered and someone wound up dead.  Then we all figured out which way was north and had to diagram the murder scene.  Actually, this did not happen.  At first, I didn't even know why everyone kept asking which way was north because I was so busy grading and fanning out the smoke, that I was behind in my game play, which is also why whenever anyone said any clues to me, I responded with an "Okay!" and then went back to them ten minutes later with the actual response I was supposed to give.  The papers for the accusations had a spot to diagram the crime scene, but no one really did that.  Everyone did guess, though, and then we had to reveal whatever our final round clues stated.

Turns out, I knew nothing.  There were some fun twists.  I found out the next day that there was some more murdering that was supposed to happen but someone doesn't read instructions (meaning Eddie) so the final murdery stuff didn't happen.  That was fine.  We'd had enough mystery for one night. Who won?  S and S! Who lost? Everyone else. 

Revelations from a right-hand man

Clearly innocent faces

Crime boss and some other guy's dame

The singer and the baseball player/jazz musician who are also great cooks

Our grandmother is so proud.

Mess with them

Again, makin our family proud

Some final findings
The next day, my house looked like a horde of strippers had rolled around in it.  Glitter, spangles, fringe, and sequins  were everywhere.  I kept up the signs until I'd scooped up the last of the sparkly stuff and then returned to modern-day everyday living.  Except for the sign outside on the house.  That stayed up for at least a week.  I'd cut out the letters freehand and was dang proud; plus, a speakeasy ain't such a bad idea.