Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Grunge Garage: Do Not Judge Me!

He has a dream.

He dreams of a manly place where no kids bug him, no wives nag him and no one needs anything from him. A tidy place where he can keep his tools and possibly park his car.

So it goes, on sporadic Saturdays here in beautiful downtown Brownsville, that my husband heads out to clean ‘his garage.’ He makes a great show of it. Banging and clanging and using the occasional *&%!-word.

That’s because our garage is full of it. Crap, that is. Old bicycles, hobby horses, tires and toys, used stereos, magazines, pop cans and sporting goods. Not to mention three stray cats and their litter-box. If it's smelly, dusty or homeless, I can guaran-dang-tee you it lives in our garage.

On such a Saturday, he generally comes inside to ask questions like this:
Him: Hey. Do you want this (fill-in-the-blank-with-plastic-from-Nixon-administration)?
Me: Yes I want that! I might use it someday!
Him: But Honey, it’s broken. Also, you’re old. You'll hurt yourself.
Me: Well, the kids might want to play with it!
Him: But it’s broken. And the spiders…
Me: Anyway, the memories! And it could be valuable. Keep it till I check Ebay.

Defeated, head down, he slinks away. Closes the garage door, gives up and heads to 'his office' (the bed). Flips on the Military Channel.

He says it's my fault, the mess in the garage.

But here at the Weber Center for Completely Uninformed Social Research (WCCUSR), we have determined that this is indeed not my fault, because I have the female pack rat gene.

This gene causes pack rat women like me to think about, nay, ponder the sadness that will befall the household if Really Important and Necessary Stuff - like baby shoes, Hot Wheels or Veterinarian Barbies end up in the Goodwill bag.

Several of my girlfriends also carry this gene. There's Brenda, who moved three truckloads of antiques and furniture from California to Ohio - all for two people. Marlene regularly fills her garage with unwanted stuff from other folks' garage sales. Another woman I know saved the crayons her son used - 30 years ago.

Perhaps the Queen of my pack rat friends, Sonia has kept the shirt her husband was wearing when she met him, a banana from her honeymoon breakfast (in a baggie) and her babies' belly button stumps (more baggies).

And, true to form, all over the Midwest, our husbands dream of orderly tools and parked cars. Then they scratch their heads, lower the garage door and retire to 'their offices.' Flip on the Military Channel.

Why do pack rat women save this stuff? I mean, besides the fact that it could become valuable on Ebay?

I think it's because time flies by faster than a Walmart bag in the wind. I can't remember what happened last week, let alone ten and 20 years ago, so I need this moldy old crap to remind me. Also, some stuff is just too precious to throw away. It’s just like that old Jim Croce song, the one that goes ''If I could save time in a baggie...''

But it is true: the garage is a mess. A maze of storage boxes, broken bikes and overflowing recycling bins. Even I can't ignore it anymore. It's getting so bad that the three stray cats have reconsidered homelessness.

O.K., O.K., I hear you. One of these days, I'll let my husband have his dream of an organized garage. I will fight my pack rat genes and he can toss some stuff. Yes sir, I'll let him do that. Just as soon as I check it all out on Ebay.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Archie Bunker, Mr. Beaver Local and Me

It was 1974, and I don't know what frightened me more: Archie Bunker or his chair.

Age five. Footie pajamas. Had yet to start kindergarten. And still, I knew enough to be absolutely horrified by Archie's boorish behavior.

I was even more revolted by his hideous easy chair.

Some kind of nappy, nasty, dirty, ol' brown, material - look up "fugly" in the dictionary, and you'll see that gawd-awful chair. Stinky lookin' thing, too. You could practically smell it through the TV.

That chair was Archie's throne, the perch from which he ruled poor Edith with his acid tongue. She rarely spoke up to him - or kicked his ass, which so richly deserved a kicking...

"Edith, get me a beer, huh?"

And off she shuffled, as fast as one can shuffle in a house-dress...waiting on that old coot Archie hand and foot.

Sensing my disgust, Mom had an insight for me:

"See? This is what happens when girls don't get an education. They end up with Archies," she said.

A smart cookie, is Mom.

Well, there was no way I was ending up with Archie. Or his chair. So you can be damn sure I got an education.

And Mom was right: I did not end up with an Archie. I ended up with a loving, wonderful, modern man. A guy so swell that he was voted "Mr. Beaver Local 1985" by his Ohio high school classmates. The dude is obviously best in show.

I mean, everyone wants to be Mr. Beaver Local.

Imagine my shock, then, when this came out of his mouth:

"You know what I've always wanted? A recliner. I could just lay back, put my feet up and watch TV. Ahhhh," he said.

"But...but...I went to college!" I said.

"Huh?" he said.

"Never-mind," I said.

My mind reeled. How could this be? My modern, chore-sharing Mr. Wonderful-Freakin'-Beaver-Local wanted a man-throne?

If he got this easy chair, would he morph into an Archie? Would I have a chauvinistic cad on my hands? Would I have to quit my job, don a house-dress, fetch him beers?

Most importantly, if he's camped out in this recliner,who would fetch MY beers?

Worse yet, THOSE CHAIRS! Three decades haven't done much to improve the looks of easy chairs. Big, bulky - if they're truly comfortable, they're hideous and usually resemble the Michelin man copping a squat.

I tried to put the husband's Recliner Revelation out of my mind. I didn't think it would be an issue. I have no problem ignoring his needs.

Then came the awful day. The day I realized that this year is our 15th wedding anniversary, I had better get him something special, and for once, he'd given me an idea for a present. This is not usually the case.

"Oh, you're all I need, honey. Don't get me anything," is the B.S. I usually get when I ask him for gift ideas.

Actually, he has other, unprintable suggestions for what I can "gift" him. He's a funny guy, that one. And again - I have no problem ignoring his needs.

But I realized I had no choice. For once, he may have dropped an actual hint for our big milestone anniversary, which also falls on the same day as his birthday.

Hence, I commenced shopping for Mr. Beaver Local 1985's throne. This was not easy. How can something so hideous be so expensive? I've had cars that cost less than this. And so huge! Where would we put such a behemoth?

Much online clicking, here and there, ensued. La-Z-Boy.com, Sears.com, Overstock.com, Amazon.com...ugly, ugly, expensive and fugly.

And then I found it. At JCPenney.com. Red. Comfy. And not-too-heinous-looking!

Best of all, girlfriends? Vibrating massage! For realz, ya'all! A little something for the ladies. Word.

So honey? You don't know it yet, but your chair is on its way. All I ask is a chance to sit in it, too. For an hour or three...

Oh, and Archie? Get me a beer, huh?

And a cigarette.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bless the Buicks

Every time I’m in a hurry, I end up behind a Buick.

And I’m always in a hurry.

Sure are a lot of Buicks on the road. Tell me - why did we have to bail out G.M.?

I know, I know. I’m trash-talking the Buicks. Being politically incorrect about their drivers. Not very nice of me, is it? I can’t help it.

Because, slow-Sunday-driving in the PASSING lane of the INTERSTATE, there he is again - the sweet, fedora-topped, Buick-clad man in front of me. God love him. I hope, I dream, I aspire, someday…to pass the dear gentleman. That’s what the left lane of an interstate is for - passing.

Dear Mr. Buick: It’s great that you’re not in a hurry. How nice for you! Mr. B., did you know that it’s 5:35 p.m., Thursday evening on I-70? Did you know that the minimum legal speed of an Interstate is 45 m.p.h.? Did you know your turn signal’s blinked for the last 27 miles?

If you‘d look up, you‘d see that the 59 sets of headlights behind you are in a bit of a, well, a pickle. Already, we’ve been away from home for half a day. We’ve got kids to pick up, spouses to nag, “American Idol” to watch. Really Important Stuff.

It’s O.K. though, Mr. B., you‘re not the only one pounding my pulse right now. Let’s not forget Mr. Sneaky-Right-Lane-Passer. Yeah, I see you!

Slyly flying up, stealing along my passenger side. Trying to cut in front…You think I’m going too slow?

You think I’m going to let you squeeze in, don’t you? Ha ha ha…

Dream on, Sneaky!

You’re the opposite of Mr. Buick. Speeding around in your fancy sports car. Whipping in and out of lanes, all cocky, all dangerous…

You thought I was holding you up, didn‘t you, Sneak? Now that you‘re up here beside me, you can see that we‘re all at the mercy of our darling Mr. Buick. He’s lost in the 50s on a country road. We mustn’t interrupt his reverie.

Oh, and Sneaky? Enjoy that right lane. You’re not going anywhere.

I guess it would be nice to live in Mr. Buick’s world. Never rush-rush-rushing to make it to the next appointment, the next event, just to get up tomorrow and do it all again. Our boss? Yeah, that’s right, he’s our ’boss,’ not ’supervisor.’ Same guy for decades.

Ah - olden-times.

Now, many of us travel an hour or more to work, every day. We consider ourselves lucky to have a job. Our supervisors change as often as Mr. Sneaky-Right-Lane-Passer over there changes lanes. Stay at a company more than five years? Ha! Only if you’re very, very lucky.

Hmmm…maybe you’ve got something there. Maybe I want to live in your world. Don a jaunty cap, hop in my Buick, back up traffic and cause some cussing.

You know what? That day will come for me, Mr. B., that day will come. All too soon.

But right now, I’m stuck in the middle. I’ve got crazy Sneaky swerving beside me, and you, pokey Mr. Buick, in front.

If Sneaky doesn’t kill me, Mr. B. might just let me arrive home. By, say, Sunday?

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Bum Vacation

I yearned for it.

Walked slowly past, looked longingly, touched lovingly, eyed the price tag, sighed and kept walking.

“You don’t need it,” said the voices in my head. “The one you have is just fine. It looks OK. It will serve you for years to come.”

But still, I lusted, year after year after year. The look of it, the feel of it, the downright luxe of it…

The Padded Toilet Seat.

“Psssst,” it says. “Have a sit-down! Relaaaxxxx…..”

Ahhhh. Nothing like it. It’s a bum-break, a pooper-pamper, a wee (-wee) vacation for the tired tush.

(Not that I would know. I never utilize these things. For I am a Pretty Flower, who never, ever has to use, um, facilities. No, I am only thinking of the family.)

But, like I said, here at the Weber house, we were already the proud owners of a toilet seat. Yeah, we’re wealthy like that.

It was here when we bought the house. From the late 1980s, heavy, dark, oak - purchased in the days of stenciled walls, country-blue geese and Randy Travis.

So I waited. I waited and waited and waited for that ugly oak Randy Travis Toilet Seat to break. Or die. Whatever. The practical Youngstown girl (Another steel mill could close! Or I could lose my job! Again!) in me just couldn’t see replacing a perfectly good, structurally sound shitter-seat with a new one.

Oh, we, er, they gave Randy Travis their best shots over the years - in sickness and in health. Little and big men in the house, lots of slamming up and down, lots of sideways spillage.

I waited 16 years. SIXTEEN YEARS. I gave him the best years of my life, and still, the ugly oak Randy Travis Toilet Seat WOULD NOT BREAK.

This year, I said the hell with it. I simply could not wait anymore. We received our tax return check, and I got crazy.

I went to Walmart, plunked down my $19.41 and walked out with It: a Deluxe, Lovely, Soft, Vinyl, Padded Toilet Seat. Color: Vanilla.

I rushed home, tore out my toolbox and set to work. A simple thing, toilet seat replacement, right?

You'd think so. You'd be wrong. The Randy Travis Toilet Seat wouldn't let go. The corroded bolts had seemingly melted into the very porcelain of the crapper bowl.

I hated to admit it, but I needed some man power. I called my husband.

He grunted, sweated, cussed. Then he got up from his chair to come work on the toilet seat. Grunted, sweated and cussed some more. Randy Travis did not budge.

Oh, I was so close. So close to my dream of pampered poopers for all. (Except for me, of course. Again, Pretty Flower…) What to do?

Then it hit me out of the Tidy Bowl Blue - we’d call our buddy Greg. Dude's a complete genius when it comes to home repair, car repair, any-dang-thing-repair.

Best part? Will work for beer.

It wasn’t long before Greg pulled up, in his magical truck o' tools. I knew now that I was THIS CLOSE to my dream of cushy-seat-softness (Well, the family was close. I’ll never know…)

Greg whipped out his equipment, and tackled Randy Travis, who was really having trouble letting go of the Webers. Seemed he planned on hanging around “Forever and Ever, Amen.”

But he was no match for Greg and his large tool.

And, after a couple of hours of blood, sweat and toilet water, my dream finally came true.

Randy Travis was trashed.

And in his place, in all its comfy, soft, dreamy glory, was the vanilla Padded Toilet Seat. I was in heaven. Think of the peaceful pees! (For the family, I mean, I think only of them...)

We all stood around to admire his work, while Greg mopped Weber sewer water from his brow.
I felt bad for the guy. He was certainly due many, many cases of beer for this odious task.

But, he remained unruffled. He simply shrugged, packed up his toolbox and said:

"You know, I never have liked these things, these soft seats like this. It's like taking a crap on the couch."

Yeah. Thanks, Greg. Thanks a lot.

No beer for YOU!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Dirty Little Secret

I love Walmart. There - I said it.

Go ahead. Mock me, taunt me, shout it out:

"They drive American companies out of business!"
"They work their employees just below full-time to avoid paying benefits!"
"Their shoppers are card-carrying hill-jacks!"

I know, I know, I've heard all that, and much more. I feel so ashamed. I'm sure this makes me a terrible person. And a card-carrying hill-jack.

I feel naughty…dirty…almost like I deserve some jail-time.

But I don’t care what anyone says. I’m coming out of my Walmart closet. I mean, if that place doesn’t have it, do you really need it? Where else can you get milk, pickles, tires, underpants and live bait? All at the same store, all cheaper than dirt, and all after 2 a.m. last call?

Very few of my friends admit to shopping there, those La-Dee-Da Princesses. Oh, no - it’s only Target for their highnesses. If I dare mention Wally World and all the money I save, they scoff, laugh, and generally call me Wanda Whitetrash.

The La-Dee-Da Princesses try, from time to time, to talk some sense into me, try to have Target interventions. They speak of reasonably-priced designer clothes, fair trade, responsible corporations…blah, blah, blah.

But look! There, across the street, with the white letters! Cheaper Stuff! More stuff! Stuff probably made in China. (By little children. With lead paint. Sigh.)

I think it’s the bright lights that suck me inside, in addition to the "rollback," prices, I mean. Those Walmart ceiling lamps burn with the heat of a thousand suns, but somehow they make the cheap crap for sale look ever-so-appealing. And they make people look like cheap crap.

It’s true: Everybody's ugly at Walmart.

No wonder someone created an entire website, www.peopleofwalmart.com, devoted to mocking the store’s worst-looking clientele. The glaring, blaring lighting, combined with the “gotta-run-to-Walmart-real-quick” attire spawns this hideousness.

For example, there’s always that one guy.

You know the guy. You’ve seen him. He's just crawled out from under the car/house/trailer, and he generally needs oil/screws/nuts to finish the job. Dressed in his finest sleeveless 1988 Poison t-shirt and greasy jeans, he's come to Wally's for his quest.

Trouble is, this outfit has not fit him since ‘88. So, while he’s squatting down in aisle 36 looking for oil/screws/nuts, we can see half of his oil/screws...well, you catch my drift.

I’ll admit it. I have been that guy, er, gal. Yep, during desperate times - and midnight children's Tylenol runs - I've wandered the store in pajama bottoms, bed-head and Poison t-shirt with the worst of them. Didn’t care one bit that I looked like a crazed, middle-aged Brittney Spears in need of a bath, fresh hair-color and some crystal meth.

Why? Because my fevered babies only take the cherry Tylenol and the grape popsicles, and that pukin’ flu done gone and run me out of paper towels.

Ya'all had better get out the WAY. I am a person of Walmart.