My New Profession

So, I won't bore you with the beginning part of this story in which I forget to write down the address to the open house I want to attend and I call my Taller Younger Brother who lives across the country, for god's sake, ask him to open up my gmail account and hunt for it in there... and when he can't find it, demand he open up craigslist and search for what I remember of the address under "houses for rent" in my city and then Google "79th St. and cute house". Because I would never, ever want you to believe that I could be a) that forgetful or b) that desperate for an address that I would call someone in another time zone to help me find a house that was about five blocks where I was sitting in my parked car.

The real story here is that when I got to said house, (which was, in fact, on 79th street, but was only cute on the outside) Michele, who was supposed to be showing the house, was not there. Instead, there was an older gentleman there. An older gentleman wearing a tie tack in the shape of a house key. A house-key-shaped tie tack that was pinned to his tie and his fuchsia colored shirt. A gentleman who looked like he had recently been in a fight with a bag of boiling hot french fries because half of his forehead and part of his right cheek were covered in short purple scars. Now, had this guy just been wearing a hot pink shirt, or a key shaped tie tack, or just covered in bizarre scars, there really wouldn't be any story here. I'd just tell you that a slow moving man with unfortunate looking scars showed me a house that smelled of cat pee.

No, the real story is this: When I got there, he was in the middle of telling the people who'd arrived before me that he was only filling in for Michelle, that there weren't many questions he could answer about the house. I felt a little bad for him. He seemed very out of place. If he had ever been a real estate agent (and I'm guessing he didn't get that shiny tie tack for selling steak knives door to door), it seems like he had been out of the game for a while. Perhaps he had been recovering from the accident with his face and the nail gun when Michelle called and asked him to cover for her. I don't know. He just kept talking nervously to everyone who came into the house to compensate, it seems, for his total lack of knowledge about the heating bills and the square footage. All of a sudden, he stopped talking to a woman to my right, turned to face me and asked me, "And what do you do for a living?" I was a little taken aback, his nervous prattle going right into direct questioning, but I responded, "I'm a bookkeeper". And that's when the fun began.

"A bookie?" He asked. And without even blinking, I said, "yup". Now, I know it's not nice to mess with the hearing impaired. And I know it's even meaner to mess with someone who is probably taking daily painkillers, but I couldn't help it. It was hot, the place smelled like pee, I had just been on the phone with Taller Younger Brother for twenty minutes to find a place that took only five minutes to walk through, and I didn't appreciate this guy looking me and down like that. So I went with it. "And how do you get your clients?" he asked me, knowing full well that he thought I was a bookie. "Oh, you know. Word of mouth", I said, winking. His jaw went a little slack in surprise. He took a step back and really took his time eyeing me up and down. I folded my arms across my chest for affect. The woman next to me made a little shuffling noise and cleared her throat. "And you can make a living in this city doing that?", he asked me, completely and totally astounded. I knew where this was going, so I took a breath, waved him away, and said, in an accent tinged with just a touch of Tony Soprano, "Oh, yeah. A VERY good living".

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The OTHER OTHER Reason I Live In The Northest: Yielding To Waterfowl

Look right into the center of the photo. That's right. There are two ducks there. In the middle of the road. Two waterfowl are crossing the street and the CARS ARE FREAKIN' WAITING FOR THEM TO CROSS. Only in the Northwest, folks. Only in the Northwest.

I just so happened to be fiddling with my phone (illegal here in the Northwest! No phone fiddling while driving! Stop for ducks, but don't dial and drive!) when I saw these two, so I was able to snap this (contraband!) picture as they were crossing the road. Seriously. Look at that traffic backed up for miles. People are just so darned KIND towards their migratory mate-for-life birds here. If these same ducks (er... pardon me. Duck and Mallard) had been crossing the road where I grew up, they would have been flattened in seconds (after they'd been honked at, cursed at, and had balled up gum wrappers thrown at their heads). God bless 'em for having NO idea about anti-lock brakes.

In other news, I went to the first ever Carrotmob event here in our duck-loving little town! And, adorable spokesperson (who'd already had a beer or two in her) that I am, I gave the camera guy who was filming the whole thing a little interview about why I thought this was such a great idea. Vote with your wallet, America! Duh! So, maybe I'll be featured in the next video! How thrilling! I'll keep you posted. You can read more about Carrotmob and the idea behind it here. Thanks to my friend Rich for being my personal tooth inspector tonight. No one should appear on film without having a cute boy inspect her gumline for black olive bits. What a pal, huh? Oh, and note to camera guy: you might want to edit out the part where I mention that wheat beer is no good for my intestines. I don't know why i thought it was a good idea to advertise my flatulence problem while talking about social change. I was drunk with power... and wheaty beer.

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Let The Packing Begin

CLH and I have begun the process of packing up our belongings in preparation for our move from the house in the flight path of an international airport. Tonight we took our first load of books from the bookshelf and put them in the staging area in the garage. It's a strange thing, this move. For one, it's not exactly full of the hope and excitement that usually accompanies a new start. I'm feeling more like I just want this to be over, like I just want to let out the giant breath I have been holding for about two years now. This isn't going to be the clean break I was hoping for. This house, and all the responsibility that comes with it, has the potential to be a whole flock of albatrosses around my neck for the next few years here.

I haven't written much about the house because, well, I just haven't wanted to talk about it. Sure, I can write about our racist neighbors (charming!), or that time my battery was stolen out of my car while I was asleep 50 feet from the door (hilarious!), or how CLH saw a coyote in the neighbor's wild, abandoned lot of a backyard (sounds safe and fun!), but I can't seem to find the humor in any of this. All I can think of when I think about this place is the enormous burden I took on because I was one of the idiots who thought home ownership was something I needed to cross off my Great American Dream List (as if I've ever done anything in order on that list in my life...). There is, of course, much to talk about, given just how freakin' weird this whole arrangement is. And it really is weird. It's only occurring to me now that maybe I should talk about it because it is so weird and people are just dying to know how i do this. I just don't think I'm quite past the hump in this whole saga where the insane and tragic things that have happened here finally become, in retrospect, laughable. Right now, everything just seems raw and uncertain. And there's nothing really funny about uncertainty.

So, I'm just not really ready to talk about it. When my friends and clients ask how are things with the house, what they're really asking is, "What in the holy hell have you done with your life? And thanks for letting me watch while you figure it out". This whole experience has been a weird, slow motion train wreck; everyone who sees it pretty much says the same three things, in this order: "Wow. What a mess. Thank god I wasn't on that train."

And, really, I guess I can't blame them. I mean, if someone had said to me, "I am going to buy a fixer upper, in the flight path of an international airport, in a town with no sidewalks, and live in it with my two friends, and then try to move out after two years... during the biggest economic downturn in American history", I would have told them good luck and then laughed at them as soon as their backs were turned.

It's tough to tell the train wreck story over and over and over without wanting a happy ending. I mean, if it always ends in gore, you start to feel hopeless every time you tell it. So, I guess that's where I am right now: sick and tired of talking about the gore. I want to start talking about how the paramedics arrived and med-evac'd everyone to safety. I want to start saying that everything worked out; less people died in the wreck than initially believed.

I keep telling everyone that I think this is all going to work out; I believe it when I say it, though, lately, my belief fluctuates hour by hour. I wrote the "for rent" ad last night, and a lady at the office I was in today overheard me talking about it to my client, asked me to forward on the information, and she's totally interested. When she asked me for the info, I felt like this whole transition might be easier than I had planned. But, here, hours later, as I go over the idea in my head of having to be someone's landlord... of leaving my friends here to live with strangers because I just couldn't hack it in the suburbs... I get all down about it again.

I know I've made the right choice in leaving this house. I know that even this worrying will be funny one day. But, I just had to be honest with myself and admit that this process is weighing down a HUGE part of my soul. The release will come. And then I'll finally be able to tell the story of the house that nearly broke me.

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Adventures In Dogsitting Entry #1

I promised myself when I started this blog that I would never try to craft a clever title using the words "adventures" and words ending in "ing", but I've gone ahead and done it anyway. You have my permission to just shoot me.

I came home tonight and The Dog had my sock in his mouth. Not in a guilty no-eye-contact "Umm... yeah... about your sock being in my mouth...." sorta way. No, this was a maniacal "And guess what ELSE I've been doing all day?MWHOOHAHAHAHA!" sorta way. In fact, this dog wanted to PLAY with the sock with me when I got home. There he was, jumping, and, I swear to God, smiling at me, holding a ball of saliva-moistened blue Smartwool in his mouth. I'm pretty sure he was trying to tell me that he was bored all day and then LOOK WHAT HE FOUND! and why wasn't I as excited as he was?

You would think, given that I grew up with a beagle who would literally try to pull the socks you were wearing on your feet off to play with them, I would know better than to leave my socks on the floor of the living room. Dogs like socks. It's a given. It's just that the sun finally came out yesterday and after months upon months of weather that has made me want to suck on an exhaust pipe, I just HAD to take 30 minutes and just lay there, in the small shaft of light coming in through the window in the front room. And, for maximum exposure, I took my socks off (every square inch counts when you're this desperate for sun). I just forgot to bring them upstairs with me at the end of the day.

The Dog made sure my humiliation was complete by running off with my sock (after I commanded him to drop it) and depositing it in a hole in the backyard he's been working on for what seems the last eight years or so. He then came back inside, acting as if he had not just dumped an article of clothing of mine into a three foot ditch.

AND, you would think, given that this sock, this very same sock, was the victim of another sort of dog abuse just a week before, that I would have been extra careful with my socks this go around. You see, about two weeks ago, another Dog, a small, impish dog the size and shape of a loaf of bread, stole my sock when I wasn't looking, and then she sat on it, like a hen on her nest of eggs, until her owners got home and found it. I was watching this dog, making sure that she was fed, and kept warm and out of the jaws of much larger dogs while on walks. And this is what she did to me. She stole my damn sock and then hid it. Unbelievable, huh? That was my payment for putting fresh water in her bowl? I mean, have you ever heard of such cunning coming from something the size of a fuzzy slipper?

To be fair to this Other Dog, I did leave my socks out at a latitude that she could reach. And, I was warned by her owners that she might be inclined to steal not just my socks, but my underwear as well. I thought I made sure to hide all unmentionables, lest they be used as a prop in a modern dance routine involving lots of violent head shakes...but this dog rooted through my suitcase anyway, found my purple striped panties, and pranced around the house with them in her jowls like she was a majorette and my Hanes Her Way were her baton. I only found out about the sock via a text message that included a picture of said sock that read, "Is this your sock? We found it in the dog bed".

Tonight I will be gathering up all discarded footwear and bringing it upstairs with me. I will have a talk with The Dog tomorrow before I leave for work and I will tell him that, though it completely grosses me out to have to touch it, I will leave him a pig ear on the kitchen floor for a snack/plaything. All he has to do is go and get it. The socks are off limits. And if he promises to stick to the pig ear and the pig ear only, I will work on not using the word "adventure" in my blog titles.

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The OTHER Real Reason I Live in The Northwest: Renegade Marching Bands

I don't know how this happened, but I've lived here in the Northwest an entire NINE, count 'em NINE, YEARS and I have never once been to Honkfest West. NEVER! I'd never even heard of the festival until a gracious co-worker who understands my penchant for public displays of absurdity told me about it. I don't think I can adequately spell out my love for marching bands. Maybe it's that Eastern European in me, but if you give me an open road, a drum, a horn and maybe a violin or two, I feel like I've come home. Add a whistle or ten or fifteen, multiply the drum factor by eleven, and throw in some striped stockings, bowler hats, and eye makeup, and you've got the makings for a perfect night as far as I am concerned. Lest you confuse the folks below for the buttoned up band folks leading the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade... let me warn you: these are not they. This is more like anarchist biker clique meets talented musician meets Grandma's dress up trunk. I literally planned my whole weekend around this, it was that important to me. I just love the circus. I'm not even kidding. So, without further ado, I present to you, compliments of my phone camera with no flash, HONKFEST WEST!:

This blur is the Leland Stanford Junior University Marching Band. Well, part of it anyway. I couldn't possibly take a picture of all of them because a) there seemed to be hundreds of them and b) they danced like maniacs. Quite possibly the most energetic band of the night. You might not be able to read it... but the inside of this man's instrument says "This Bud's For You". He ran around carrying that thing like it weighed nothing. And when I say "ran", I literally mean "ran". He ran with that tuba. Do you know how in shape you have to be to run with a tuba? I'm out of breath running to the bus stop with a tuna fish sandwich in my hand, never mind 20 pounds of fluted pipe.

There they are. The Yellow Hat Band! Just one of many bands that we followed into dark alleys to hear what else they could play that would echo off the highway overpass.

Apparently, the man carrying around this obscene (and sexy) amount of bent brass is the man responsible for this whole hot mess. If he weren't so busy cranking out the Klezmer tunes with the rest of his Fedora topped crew, I would have kissed him right on the mouth in gratitude.

That's right. That's a man in a carrot suit. Playing a saxophone. In a parking lot. You can't see it in this picture, but there's a stilt walker to his left. God bless the Northwest.

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