Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The House


It's six-thirty and the guy who came to install new windows in the kitchen, the laundry room, and my bedroom at eleven this morning is still here, still pounding away at something or other. I was hoping to get to the gym today, but clearly that's not going to happen.

And in many ways, this is just the start of it all. New bathroom, new powder room, new kitchen, the place painted inside and out, new floors. (Yes! I will have new floors! No matter what my brother thinks! The stained awful plastic carpet of a shade of blue that calls out for white french provincial furniture to be placed upon it must go. I will have cork and bamboo, dammit!)

For the last couple of days, I've been tossing a thought around in my head like a frisbee: maybe I'll delay putting the house on the market until next year. What's the rush? Maybe I'll spend a year living here, enjoying the place I've fixed up.

Per the current rules, I'm doing nothing with this thought, taking no action whatsoever. It's just a thought. Sometimes when it arises, it's quickly dismissed. Sometimes I'll sit with it for a while, noticing how it makes me feel.

But it makes me nervous. Design has proved to be my heroin indeed. If I wasn't trapped here all day with the guy installing the new windows, I'd have been off looking for a new lighting fixture for the kitchen. Because his keeping me here gave me time to reflect, I realized that I don't need a new lighting fixture for the kitchen.

At least not yet anyway.

I worry that being in this house means spending money on this house. There's always some new thing to tweak and, I hope, make better. But if I stay in the house too long, I won't have enough money to leave it.

Perhaps this is my father's ghost haunting me. Or the same ghost that haunted my father now haunting me.

He retired early from his job so he could work here at home. That meant planting and transplanting, painting, chopping down trees, cleaning the gutters, replacing the gutters, watering the lawn, building the tractor shed, digging pits around the basement windows... It was more than a full time job. My father resented being anywhere other than home, but especially on a "good day to get work done."

And lately, I know just how he felt. And working in America's Home Improvement Super Store sure doesn't help matters much. There I'll be, stopped dead in my tracks while I'm escorting a customer to where we have the plate hanging wire thingys over in Aisle 32 by the huge savings we're offering on Garage Storage Solutions.

For example, on Friday, I'm looking forward to painting the basement.

Let me repeat that: On Friday, I'm looking forward to painting the basement.

See what I mean?

I didn't say "playing softball" or "heading to the Eagle" or "hitting the beach" or "putting my kayak in the water for the first time this season," I said "painting the basement.

It will look beautiful. All clean and new and tidy.

And if there's time left over, I'll square up and rehang the screen doors on the front porch.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

They Say We're Young And We Don't Know

I have to admit I found the piece in this past Sunday Times Magazine about gay twentysomethings in Massachusetts tying the know really interesting. Although, I wonder how much of the phenom' is not a gay marriage thing but a generational thing.

Y'see, I work with bunches of guys in their twenties. And they're all married. All of them!

It's spooky!

I'll be talking to one of these kids and he'll mention, "Yeah, the other night my wife and I..."

And, without taking a formal poll or anything, I'd say that guys I work with who are in their thirties? Not married by and large.

I think that in my college graduating class, there were maybe five people who got married before they hit thirty. And this was a Catholic college.

Something is going on here.

And whatever it is, it's just another thing that makes me feel old.

Ho(t) Me(n) Depot Gets Weird

I know!

No blogging!

What's with that?

Oh just take a guess.

All I do is work. And when I'm not working, I'm really really busy.

I could go on endlessly about "this thing that happened to me at work today," but I have always tried hard to make SingleTails Not That Kind Of Blog. But two recent items bear noting.

Okay. There I was at Ho(t) Me(n) Depot. It was a Saturday afternoon, a couple of weeks ago. Although Gardening was busy, not so the rest of the store. It seems that everybody was focusing on planting Spring bulbs and nobody was much interested in gussying up their bathrooms or kitchens. (Fools!)

When it's slow like that, I position myself in the center aisle of the store, right in front of the kitchen design center. A former fellow employee would refer to this as being a Wal-Mart Greeter, since it mostly involves smiling and saying hello to customers passing by and directing them to the aisle where they'll find whatever it is they're looking for.

Now, I was carrying the department phone. If'n someone calls the store they get one of those annoying menus, and one of the options is to be connected to one of the department, and if they select Kitchens and Baths, the portable phone in my apron pocket rings.

It's reeeeeeally annoying. There you'll be, busy with fetching down a bathtub from the overhead storage racks for an impatient customer, and the phone will go off. "Do you have...?" or "How much is...?" mostly. Now, since there's no way to put the phone on hold, you have to apologize to the customer your helping while you abandon them to go running through the aisles to answer the question of the caller.

So anyway, there I am, doing the Wal-Mart Greeter thing, and the phone rings.

Here's the conversation. Just about verbatim.

Me: Good Afternoon, this is Drew in Kitchen and Bath!

Caller: Hi, how are you, Drew?

Me: Pretty good. What can I do for you?

Caller: You're pretty well endowed, right?

Me: 'Scuse me?

Caller: Well from the looks of the way your filling out those pants your wearing, I'd say you're pretty well hung.

Me: Uhhh... So is there a Kitchen and Bath question that I can answer for you?

Caller: Not interested, huh? Okay.

Me: Only if it pertains to kitchens and bathrooms.

Caller: Okay. Just thought I'd ask. 'Bye.

My first thought: It was someone I knew having some fun at my expense.

Nope. No one I know would be aware of the complexities of the Ho(t) Me(n) Depot phone system to pull that off.

My second thought: It was one of my co-workers having some fun at my expense.

Uh uh. All of my co-workers who would pull anything like that are straight, and wouldn't be able to believably pull that off.

My third thought: Right now, standing there, I was the target of a voyeur. Who was probably watching me still, gauging my reaction.

Creepy. Infuriating. Flattering.

All at once.

I mean, did he know who I am? In certain circles, I'm Well Known. I've got creds. (Although not, admittedly, for being particularly well hung. I'm Standard Issue Six. Just like John Dillenger.)

But the mystery deepens. Must have been a current or former employee of Ho(t) Me(n) Depot. No one else would be able to navigate the phone system like that. But at the same time, someone who at least knew enough to know what department I worked in.

Very strange. I can't figure it out.

At the other end of the spectrum, today I worked with our store's own elected official. It was pretty slow today, but steady enough so I wasn't bored. So these two contractor guys--and, as it happens, pretty unappealing contractor guys, come up the aisle with their cart loaded down with shower doors or something. In response to my co-worker's question, "Do you need help?", one contractor guy said, "Are you a psychologist?"

"No," answered my co-worker, "But he sort of is."

(Later, in retrospect, I "got" it. Contractor guy was punning on the phrase, "needing help," using it to mean, contending with mental illness or delusion. Very witty, no? No.)

The contractor guy turned his attention to me.

"I need a psychologist," he said, "this guy I work with (indicating the other contractor with a thumb over his shoulder) is gay."


Homophobia rears it's ugly head!

Right there in the middle of Ho(t) Me(n) Depot!

My standard retort is to say, "So have you heard they invented this stuff that turns straight guys into cock suckers? They call it 'beer.'" But I was at work. And we always have to be nice to the customers, so I let is slide, saying something mamby-pamby like, "Well, don't know that I have much to offer by way of a response there."

I think a dim light of recognition flashed on his otherwise blank face, and perhaps some aspect of his reptile brain registered the fact that, in fact, he had just addressed this to a Gin-You-Wine Homo.

Or not.

Who knows.

So it's sort of run the gamut lately.

Gay goings on at Ho(t) Me(n) Depot.

Although, last week, a call went out over the walkie-talkies, someone somewhere fielding a question from a customer they couldn't answer and appealing to all of us for help: "Do we have any pansies in the store?"

It took all I had not to answer, "Well, I'm over here in Kitchen and Bath..."

But I didn't.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Not Far From The Truth

Oh gosh.

This chillingly well observed offering is from The Onion.

Home Depot Honors Fallen Soldiers With Great Prices On Tools

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Freakin' finally!

Throughout the several gray cold months now past, I have made it day by day with one image front and center in my mind's eye: me sitting on the porch of Starbucks in Doylestown drinking an venti iced latté and smoking a nice cigar.

So I was thrilled to the very core of my being when I saw that the weather report was calling for the temperature to approach Eighty this week. The time had come! And it's still only April!

Okay, so Wednesday would have been the perfect day. I even had off work. But no. In the afternoon I had a meeting with the real estate brokers who will likely represent me in the sale of the house. Afterwards, I had to stop at the bank, and then I had to do some shopping and rush home to bake a cake. Each of those elements ended up taking twice as long as I thought they would.

So close, but no cigar. So to speak.

Finally yesterday.

It wasn't looking likely. I worked 6 a.m. to 3 p.m., and then I was hosting the Baron that evening for dinner and (the aforementioned) birthday cake. I ended up working later than planned, and as I was rushing out of Ho(t)me(n) Depot to head to the supermarket, I had another idea.

Y'see, I have recently discovered this really cool mexican restaurant in Plumsteadville of all places. I was hopeful going into the place, since there actually is something of a mexican population in Plumsteadville. The food was dee-lish, and smacked of a vague authenticity. So instead of treating the Baron to one of my home-cooked dinners, I would treat him to dinner at Mariachi Restaurant of Plumsteadville.

That, I realized, would give me the time I needed. So I headed to Doylestown, and there I was, sitting on the porch of Starbucks, drinking my iced venti latté (which I've taken to ordering without the ice), and smoking a nice CAO red label maduro robusto.

And watching the boys.

Per. Fect.

For me, that event marks the First Day of Spring. Not that day on the 22nd of March, which, as I recall, was cold and overcast. Such a recipe for complete and utter bliss. After a leisurely spent afternoon, I raced home like a bat out of hell to put the icing on the Baron's birthday cake.

And there my troubles began.

In the past, I've started with about two sticks of butter and added the confectioners sugar "to taste." Usually ending up adding about a cup and a half. Two cups if I was feeling pretty daring. The recipe I found called for three sticks of butter, and two pounds--as in two one pound boxes--of confectioners sugar.


I mean, really?


It seems that this is the combination that works. The sugar strands stretch and stretch and you end up with an immense volume of buttercream frosting. Whereas in the past, I had to scrape the bottom of the bowl to make sure I got complete coverage of the birthday cake, I had plenty.

As in more than plenty.

So I could gleefully eat dollops of frosting and not worry about not having enough. In fact, I had plenty left over.

But sadly, I had forgotten that at my advanced age, I really can't handle all that sugar.

My heart was palpitating. My face was flushed. My throat was dry. I was jittery and edgy. When the Baron arrived, he took one look at me and asked, "Are you okay?"

I explained that I'd just eaten enormous quantities of sugar, probably more sugar in the last hour than I've had cumulatively in the past five years of my life, and I was feeling the effects. And just be warned, I explained: soon, I would be crashing. The Baron steeled himself, preparing for the possibility of me falling asleep face first in my guacamole.

Luckily, the nice mexican food at El Mariachi did me well. (I loves me my starch!) And I managed to make it all the way through dinner in an upright position. But as soon as we got in the door, I had to tell the Baron that he would have to load up his sister's SUV that he had used to drive up here with the perennials I got him for his birthday himself, because I was going to bed.

And so I did. And was asleep almost immediately.

But not before smiling to myself and remembering that April 17th was the first day of 2008 that I got to enjoy by sitting on the porch of Starbucks in Doylestown drinking an iced latté and enjoying a cigar.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

From The Bitter Commonwealth

I'm looking forward to watching the debates tonight, although I'll be busy baking a birthday cake for the Baron while I do so.

I have to say, it's pretty amazing having the Pennsylvania primary election be of any consequence. Bill Clinton was in Doylestown the other night. Hillary was at Quakertown High School last night. I ran into Caroline Kennedy (we had met previously) stumping for Obama outside Starbucks last month.

I have to admit, I'm fascinated by the Bitter controversy. On the one hand, talk about mountains out of molehills. But on the other, speaking as a pennsylvanian who "clings" to religion, Obama's tone and phrasing were pretty off.

Am I bitter?

Only when I think about it. About how real wages haven't increased for people who do the kind of work I do since 1973. About how the economy is so totally in the tank right now that the want-ads in the local paper amount to three-quarters of a column looking for assistant dog groomers and the like. About how our corporate masters at Ho(t)me(n) Depot are pressuring us to sign up customers for store credit cards (if you want to shut down that sales pitch, just ask, "What's the APR on that?"). About the war in Iraq that's just become a sucking vortex, devouring everything that was good and noble about our country.

All that I find terrifically embittering.

That said, I am naively looking to the current election to give me respite from these bitter, bitter draughts. I'd like to pick up the New York Times and see stories about the President doing things that don't make me scream.

I say "naively" because I don't imagine that any of the contenders are really going to provide the kind of remedy that the situation calls for. "If elected, I promise a massive redistribution of income!" Where probably not going to be hearing that, dig?

But I drifted to the conservative end of the spectrum during the Clinton years when it seemed to me that government of whatever stripe was incapable of solving any fundamental problems. All that could be done was some tinkering around the edges and making people momentarily feel better. And if that's the case, than the proper role of government--or at any rate, the one thing that government can do, is to instill good values in the citizenry, such as respect for other, self-reliance, pluralism, hard work, and responsibility. Politics, I decided, was a great big game. And it didn't really matter who was elected.

And then George W. Bush got elected.

At the outset, I viewed him benignly. How much damage can he do? He seemed like an affable dunce.

Omigod was I ever so wrong about anything ever?

So I've amended my take: The people we elect can't do a hell of a lot to make things better, but they can do a hell of a lot to make things worse.

Thus, I'm considering the matter deeply.

I have to admit that although I have my preferences, I'm agnostic on the Obama-Clinton choice. What I do want very much is for the Pennsylvania primary to be decisive, for the Democratic primary race to be over either way, and for the party to be able to focus on defeating John McCain (whom I like and admire and to whom I gave money in 2000 but who hasn't given me any indication that his presidency would be anything more than Bush's third term).

Anyway. I have a cake to bake.

But I like my tea bitter! Does that count?

But all the same, I'm naively looking

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

"Ow" Is Not A Safeword


I called out sick from work at Ho(t)me(n) Depot today. First time ever I've done that. What has laid me low?

Last night, I worked at another area Ho(t)me(n) Depot helping them out with their inventory. The shift was scheduled to run from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Anyone who has ever worked retail can tell you that inventory is always a huge fustercluck, and last night was no exception. I had huge difficulty the entire time finding Someone In Charge who could tell me what to do. Too, I wasn't given an orange apron to wear, so the entire time I had people who worked for this other area store coming up to me and asking if they could help me find anything.

I started off the shift working in Gardens, and there my troubles began. My assignment was to clear the aisles of grass seed that had to go up into the overhead above the racks of merchandise. I plunged into it with gusto. Pretty quickly, hauling fifty pound boxes of grass seed up a ladder and working them into the already crowded bays had me feeling twinges in my back.

That should have been sufficient warning. I'm Forty-Three for God's sake! I can't do stuff like that anymore! That's what teenagers are for.

Heedless, I pressed on.

After everything was nice and tidy in Gardens I found my way over to the Moulding aisle and joined in a sort of spree of counting lengths of moulding. I would grab the ten, twelve, fourteen, and sixteen foot lengths of casement or toe kick or crown mouliding or whatever out of the racks, sort it, tape them together into bundles of five to make them easy to count, and put them back in the racks.

Other than continuing complaints from my back, things were going fine until I got The Mother Of All Splinters. After that, I was bleeding for a time. I made a mental note that if I'm ever contacted by the police and asked to explain how traces of blood containing my DNA were found at the scene of a murder à la CSI, I'd be sure to ask exactly where the blood was found, and if it was on any decorative moulding around doors and windows, I've got an explanation.

Satisfied with my work in the moulding aisle, I stepped out for dinner. Upon my return, I found my way to my home turf, Kitchen & Baths. There, I was charged with organizing the faucet aisle, which was a total mess. Nothing was where it was supposed to be, stuff was on the shelves without price tags, a disaster. I spent an hour making it all Perfect, much of that involved crawling around on my hands and knees digging ancient and forgotten faucets out of the shelves.

Then came the bad time, when the No One In Charge phenomenon really kicked in. I was basically just wandering around, pitching in where I could. At ten o'clock, after I counted all the spray bottles of weed killer in a display to confirm the count done by the outside firm that does our inventory, I realized that someone else from Ho(t)me(n) Depot had already counted these spray bottles of weed killer to confirm the count.

I looked around, and it seemed that except for me, the store was deserted.

And so I left.

Now, even before I started, I had a headache. I took a couple of Tylenol, but they didn't seem to have much of an effect. I figured a good night's sleep would set me right.


I woke up from a deep sleep at Two in the morning with my head pounding. It was excruciating. Blinding. I couldn't make it stop. I was sure that it could only be a brain tumor or something. I climbed out of bed and went reeling to find some more Tylenol or something... anything to quell my pounding head.

After about an hour, it must have abated because I was able to get back to sleep.

And then the alarm went off, getting me up to go to work.

My back is killing me, the site of the splinter on my right hand is swollen and tender, and my headache is still there, although it feels like it's wrapped up in gauze, just waiting for the Tylenol to wear off so it can again wreck me.

While walking Faithful Companion, I considered the situation, mumbling "On the one hand... But on the other hand..." as we strolled up Tollgate Road on this beautiful Spring morning.

No no no. No work for me today. I need to stay home and take care of myself. If I'm feeling better a bit later, I'll go in then.

So I called my Ho(t)me(n) Depot and asked for the manager on duty. When I gave him the news, he replied with an "uh oh" and commented that I was the second person in the department to do that today.

Say wha?

Now that sounds impossible to me. There is no one else in the department who was scheduled to work.

But it worked perfectly. Now, I'm racked with guilt, haunted by the thought that I've Left People Down.

So we'll see. I'll take a nice long hot shower, get a good breakfast, get some stuff accomplished here around the house, and then see about heading in to work.

Damn my Work Ethic anyway!

Way Hot Man is coming up for dinner and to plunder my ass tonight, there's tons of stuff to do here at home, and it looks like sitting on the porch of Starbucks in Doylestown enjoying a cigar and a latte in the Spring sunshine this afternoon would be a sublime experience.

But nooOOOoooOOOOooo. I'm burbling over with misplaced--what? sympathy? consideration?--for a national chain of home improvement retail stores.

Chances are that I'll be there running around on those hard concrete floors, grasping my head with both hands like somebody in a SciFi movie trying to fight the effects of a Mind Control Device being used on him when my headache comes back, and putting more stress on my back.

Oh well.

At least I have a day off tomorrow.

Friday, April 11, 2008

All I Want In The Whole Wide World

You can have your Falling Water. You can have your Glass House. You can even have your Richard Meier Perry Street Towers.

This is my absolute idea of a paradise here on earth. It doesn't get any better. I would be happy all the time.

But wouldn't you know it: seven months to go till my birthday. And me without a tip jar here at SingleTails.

What The Hell? Right?

As riotpup pointed out in a recent email, I post on Good Friday, and then nothing for two weeks. (More than two weeks?) Am I okay? Did I go off the deep end? Have I taken off for parts unknown?


I'm here. Here in Bucks County.

Now there are numerous possible reasons I could point to for my silence. For one thing, my brother has been staying with me since my father's funeral.

Ah, my brother.

Love the guy!

No, really!

This is probably the most time we've spent together since we stopped sharing a bedroom when he moved out all those years ago when he was twenty and I was five. We have a good relationship--great as adult siblings go from what I've seen. But over the past few weeks, I've learned something about my brother that I was heretofore unaware of: my brother drinks way Way WAY too much coffee. He brews a pot in the morning, and sometimes has to replenish that mid-afternoon. When I would arrive home from a long hard day selling toilets and what-not at Ho(t)me(n) Depot, I would be greeted not by the peace and quiet and opportunities to putter and Get Stuff Done that I craved but by my hyper-caffeinated brother in a very manic state.

Not much time for blogging there.

Also, there's been the whole issue of Getting Stuff Done. My brother was a huge help with all of that. I arrived home work one day to find that he had cleaned out sixty years of accumulated junk--much of it destroyed and moldy from the Great Sump Pump Failure of 2006. All by himself. (That's what a pot of coffee will do for ya!) And we've had the carpets cleaned--a pointless effort as far as I'm concerned because I have my heart set on hardwood floors--that required moving all the furniture off the carpets.

The carpet cleaning has been interesting. The process the cleaning guy used involved stripping away the protective stuff on the carpets, and, as he warned us, this started the process of all the stuff buried within the piling of leaching up to the surface. So it's sort of been an olfactory Greatest Hits thing going on. ("Oh my gosh! I think I smell turkey gravy! From that Thanksgiving back in the Eighties when it spilled on the way to the table in the dining room...") And, of course, Faithful Companion has contributed his share of bodily fluids over the years, all of which are now being reprised.

Meanwhile, I've been turning my attention to getting the place gussied up in other ways.

Y'know, I should just throw in the towel and become an interior decorator or some shit. I know this guy who looks like a former Marine DI who now runs an auto body shop: military brush cut, sleeve tattoos, broken nose. He's a hairdresser. That always irked me. Okay. So you're gay. But why is it necessary for you to embody the stereotype?

But interior design seems like some great sucking black hole lately.

Anyway. The bathrooms.

Gonna be FAbulous.

Slate floors. Soaking tub (holds sixty gallons!). White subway tile in the bath surround. This amazing iridescent green mosaic tile on the tub deck and for accent. Soffit. These great Kohler fixtures I found. And on top of this antique dry sink we have, there's going to be a white vessel sink serving as the lavatory.

There WILL be artfully arranged ceramics, pebbles, and shells.

What's worse, there WILL be candles. Hella candles.

And most importantly, I'll be able to look forward to coming home and taking a Nice Hot Bath beneath an open window with the Spring breezes gently wafting over me.

I'm taking particular care in choosing a tub drain, since that's where I'll have to hook up my Shower-Shot so I can clean out my hole, and I'd rather have the turds go right down the drain instead of having to scoop them out and lob them into the (Kohler Santa Rosa One Piece) Toilet.

So it's gonna be pretty sweet.

Just the thing that a weary newyorker looking for a place in the country reasonable driving distance from the city might like to have waiting for him come Friday afternoon.

And then there's another reason why I haven't been posting much at all.

I have to wonder whether the subject of this weblog, to the extent that there is a subject, has been my father.

Now, technically speaking, the subject of SingleTails is Me. So for the past four-and-a-half years, has the subject of my life been my father? Has my father been sort of the organizing principle of my life? Without him, do I just not have much in the way of material on which to report?

Now, going forward, against what will I contend? For what will I strive?

Remains to be seen, I suppose.

I work tomorrow. Tomorrow night I'm hoping to host Way Hot Man for dinner and a bout of sweaty, adventurous sex. We have softball practice on Sunday which I'll be able to make due to nothing short of a miracle in Ho(t)me(n) Depot scheduling. I may have found landscaping help in the person of this terrifically hot man who is doing landscaping while he keeps an eye out for a Master. He arrives Sunday to take a look at the place.

So stuff is happening.


Gotta run. I want to shop for lighting fixtures before I head into work.