We’ve a houseguest for the next several days so I bleached the bathroom good and he in turn gave me shortbread cookies from a bakery in NY that I love. I like the personality that old buildings have, but one of the drawbacks of living in a 90 year old apartment building is the bathroom’s toilet and sink look a very world weary 50 years old. Cleaning the toilet and sink and tub goes generally unappreciated as the most you can do is hope for a lighter shade of yellows and browns.

Unsolved Mystery…At Least For Me

Been an unusually loud few hours. Our landlord had the heat turned off over the weekend (geez) but it was back on last night and kicking the pipes harder than I’ve heard so far this year. Bang bang bang bang bang, the radiators were rattling and all the pipes leading to it. Bang bang bang bang bang all night long.

And now for the past 20 (maybe longer) minutes there’s been a helicopter buzzing us. Pulse pulse pulse go the blades. Must be longer than that because I kept expecting it go away and finally I went to the front window and stood there for a long while waiting for it to pass into sight, so I could see what kind of chopper it was. Dark dark dark green-black with no visible markings that I could see anyway. Wasn’t a news helicopter. Flying just right above the level of the buildings and down to tree top level on the street below us. So low that as it circled slow slowly around again it dropped down below the next block of buildings (which are slightly below us on a hill) and out of view. That’s low for a helicopter in the city.

Wait…I think it’s gone. Yes, it does seem to be. Good. It was annoying.

Oh, never mind, it’s back.

What was I going to write about?

Now it’s gone.

The helicopter.

Not what I was going to write about.

But now that the helicopter is gone and I’ve stopped puzzling over it I’m called elsewhere and unable to write about what I was going to write about.

The why of the helicopter will be one of those unsolved mysteries. No, not as in woooo-woooo mysteries. Just one of those annoying things where you never get to know why. Someone knows why it was buzzing these buildings for so long but I never will.

Life’s like that.

Yuck! Yuck, yuck, yuck!

One thing this apartment has been fairly good about is a lack of bugs, which I appreciate. Sure, during the summer months there’s always one big ol’ waterbug sighted scrambling across the kitchen floor to scurry back outside under the door, and about three or four times a year, after it rains, ants suddenly flow in under same back door and all over the miniature so-called kitchen. An application of chlorine beach on the old concrete outside the back door will stop it. And, yes, we can’t go out back during the summer because of all the mosquitoes (not that you’d want to, because of the urban rats), and we get these great big house spiders that are of a size to pay rent. But otherwise we’ve been pretty good about bugs. In other words, we don’t have german roaches and the one nightly waterbug has always kept itself confined to the kitchen and makes a quick break for it.

Continue reading Yuck! Yuck, yuck, yuck!

Autographs and a refuge-seeking cat

Two events added a little levity to our tissue-packed day on Tuesday (H.o.p.’s working with me on a third roll).

(1) When Marty got home in the evening a cat that belongs to a woman upstairs decided it’d had enough of being locked out of the building in the rain and zipped past Marty into the building and then into our apartment. We spent a little while looking for her before I found her behind the futon. Way back behind the futon and what serves as an end table, tucked down in a bookshelf scrunched behind the futon. She was scared and shaking and so I talked to her a while and eventually she stopped shaking and laid down back in the shadows. We couldn’t entice her with lunch meat as ours had gone bad (we’re not big sandwich fans) and she was having nothing to do with a bowl of milk. Many fine compliments paid her weren’t drawing her out either. Finally we simply opened the door and she bolted for the outside hall

and turned and quickly ran back in our apartment

and we got her back out

and she ran back in

and we got her back out and she stood at the door staring up at me with curious eyes like she was wondering what role we should play in her life, if any, and I informed her she needed to go make eyes at her mistress instead and that was that.

Long ago when we were living in a garage apartment we acquired a great cat in just such a manner. She ran in and refused to leave. We learned her owner had been hospitalized then not returned to her apartment, so we took the cat in. We named her Paloma and after a while gave her to a friend who really, really, really wanted her (and we were too much on the road) and Paloma caused her to crash her car on the interstate (got under the pedals) and the friend was uninjured but Paloma took off across a farm and that was the last seen of Paloma who was a great cat with loads of friendly personality. She was also a very small cat–very small for her size when she entered our lives and she never grew any larger. Then later one Halloween night a little cat zipped in past some kids, which again we thought was a kitten, but she also never grew any larger. She turned out to be very ill and I’ll stop writing about that as it’s making me sad. Nothing could be done and she died within the year that we took her in. Was one of the sweetest cats in the world.

We’ve not had a cat now for about three years, after our last couple died of regular old age. I was kind of reminded what it is like to have a cat and briefly enjoyed it. But I thought also of the huge vet bills we’d spent over the years on animals, and that made me grateful that this cat has an owner upstairs, otherwise we’d have likely ended up with a new cat after putting up “Lost Cat” posters to which no one ever responds. Seriously, an animal is something we can’t take on at this point in our lives.

The number two bit of levity. (2) A delivery slip dated the 10th arrived in our mailbox. Why we didn’t get it until now, I don’t know but that’s the way things are around here. I couldn’t remember expecting anything, so what could it be. Marty got the box at the PO and was carrying it in when the cat slipped past him. So first we all attended to the cat (H.o.p. loved trying to help coax her out and went on about how beautiful she was) then turned our attention to the box. It was from BrainPOP. A few weeks ago they had come across some nice things I’d written about them in a blogpost where I also offered a couple suggestions, and they wrote thanking me and offered to send H.o.p. a t-shirt and replace his Brainpop Almanac which I mentioned was worn out with religious use. And here were t-shirts (one signed) and a brand new signed almanac and a couple of pens and a mouse pad to boot.

Needless to say, H.o.p. was thrilled. He forgot his tissues for the moment and looked several times at the autographs and pulled on a t-shirt and grinned big. He thought it all better than terrific. It was major grandioso terrificalist.

When he was done ogling he settled down and started popping the bubble wrap.

And yes he had been at BrainPOP earlier in the evening watching the flash animations on the Blues and Filmmaking. And after he was done with the bubble wrap popping he went to his computer and replaced his mouse pad with the BrainPOP mouse pad and went to BrainPOP again and watched a flash on Monotremes and then told me all about spiny anteaters. With tissue wads stuck up his nose. While I sat and blew mine. But we were feeling a little better by Tuesday evening so we were making fun of each other’s sniffling and nose blowing.

Really, that was super nice of BrainPOP. H.o.p. is a super fan and is happy as can be.

Fresh pipe

Wherein You Learn From My Mistakes, Hopefully, But Probably Not Because I Never Did (should be the name of this blog).

Well, for several hours this morning our kitchen sink got needed attention from the landlord and his helper, G. (who I call the Super and for all intents and purposes is). Turns out there were several problems. Yes, seems a few of H.o.p.’s straws had slipped down there (sorry about that, blush) but the main culprits were a significant mass of cat hair from our apartment neighbor’s pipe that had caused a big clog at a juncture, and there was found also a hole in our pipe. Then while they were replacing our pipe the trap broke so we now have a new trap and pipe. That’s good. No more plunging the sink several times a week to try to get it to drain.

As for the bathroom ceiling, where all that sawdust whatever is coming through. Well, the ceiling already had problems (we knew) as before we moved in there lived above several women (there are always several women living above) and something happened with water left running that flooded their bathroom and partially collapsed the ceiling in our future bathroom. So our ceiling I guess was partly replaced but it had a…well, it has always had kind of an obvious limp to it. We have a gimpy ceiling, yes, but I figured it must be solid. Anyway, the ceiling has lowered a bit now very recently, enough to push down about an inch of flex-acrylic-paint on the neighboring window (excuse me while I sneeze numerous times from all the work done this morning because the foam caulk spray that was used to seal the holes in the wall left from the replacing of the kitchen sink pipe is getting to me as I’m allergic to all kinds of crap like that). The landlord looked at the bathroom yesterday and he and the super cleaned up the mess, and observing the sawdust like stuff and everything else slowly crumbling into our apartment from somewhere above said ceiling, he offered maybe there was a mouse up there (rat, I said, big rat, makes lots of noise) and that he thought the current women up above (very nice he said, very nice girls) weren’t using the shower curtains and that water from above may be crumbling the ceiling in.

Continue reading Fresh pipe

The outside makes its way in

The rat population out back of the apartment building seems to have exploded. The rats have even eaten away the edges of the lids of the garbage bins…and now we have critters in the walls. Whatever they are I don’t know because they thus far remain in the walls and I can’t see them. But something’s in there. In the bathroom. It was wrecking havoc scratch scratch scratch in the corner of the ceiling the other day, and I heard it banging around last night in the wall behind the sink. Disconcerting when you’re brushing your teeth and a couple feet away from you, inside the wall, is something very loudly making its way through.

Especially disturbing is that the windowsill in the bathroom is now filled with gray sawdust like shavings and they are even in the bathtub this morning…apparently fallen from where the ceiling isn’t quite flush with the wall?

I’m kind of freaked out about it this morning. Because last night when I went into the bathroom at one point, the shower curtain rustled.

The landlord’s supposed to be dropping by tomorrow to work on the kitchen sink. I’m thinking I’ll leave the shavings on the sill for him to see. He’s got to somehow take care of this.

Yes, I’m freaked.

Answer me why…

Everyone else can write about the important stuff. My blog is for asking pointless questions that no one either bothers to answer or simply can’t answer. (Oh, wait, I was informed the aloe vera was dying because it was getting too much water. I stopped watering it except when the soil was completely dry and, well, my big beautiful plant still died. It was gorgeous up to the end though, looked beautiful even as the roots all signed out.)

So, Super G. knocks on the door this AM to let us know they’re working on the pipes upstairs and the water will be turned off for a while. I have no idea how long the water might be turned off or what might go wrong and a life time of living in undependable circumstances has me promptly filling up the bathtub and several pots in the kitchen just in case.

By the way, ever since our new upstairs neighbor moved in, our kitchen sink is having to be plunged a couple of times a week. What’s she doing up there in her kitchen?

But back to our bathroom…

We weren’t without water that long.

Eau De City available again, I go in to brush my teeth.

Surprise!! The water is now coming out of the bathroom faucet at an angle. Serious. All the previous days we’ve lived here, the water has gone straight down, focused on the drain like it should be. Now, even on low, the stream of water is at such an extreme angle that it’s shooting to the left and missing the drain by over an inch. The higher I turn up the water, the more at an angle the water shoots out of the faucet until it’s shooting a full couple of inches to the side of the drain.

It’s not a matter of a washer and fixing the washer as it has no washer.

So, tell me why the water is shooting out of the bathroom faucet to the side of the sink? Is it an air bubble that’s gotten in the pipes and once the pipes burp it’ll be all right?

I went back and checked again and the hot water alone goes pretty much straight down. It’s the cold water that’s doing this. And if I turn on the cold and hot water together, the cold overrides the hot water’s inclination to obey gravity.

And no, the building isn’t falling over, not that I can tell.

We have a new upstairs neighbor (still typing without the apostrophe as WordPress will not let me use it now)

Our last upstairs neighbors were two women who moved in and then never paid rent. The apartment just above us has a history of people moving in who cease at some point to pay rent and then skip out. These women never paid rent again at all.

Earlier this week I heard someone upstairs at a time when the landlord would not be up there. “There is someone upstairs,” I told Marty. As it was around the first of the month, I wondered if it was a new tenant, though no one had moved in yet.

The next day I heard a lot of banging around on the stairs leading upstairs and then upstairs. What is amazing to me is how people make a lot of noise when they move in but when they are skipping out on rent they make no noise at all.

“Someone is moving in upstairs,” I told Marty.

He thought instead the landlord might be up there getting rid of any furniture left behind by the people who skipped out on their rent last month, because our landlord usually lets us know what is going on around here and he had mentioned nothing about a new tenant. I said, no, that this was definitely someone moving in and looked and outside was a U-Haul moving van.

We were returning from a trip up to New Echota on Thursday, saw G., the resident Super (he helps the landlord) and stopped to talk to him. I saw coming up the hill a pretty dark-haired young woman in a tight hot pink tank top. G. noticed as well and mumbled something about her and we made out that she is the new upstairs tenant. We progressed to the door of the building and I was thinking we would say Hello and introduce ourselves as we would reach it at the same time but she instead ignored us and walked by to talk to G. I heard her making hearty greetings as we went inside.

The first words out of my mouth when we got inside?

“She is stacked,” I said to Marty. Honestly, the bust was the second thing I noticed about her. First I had seen the pretty face but then immediately I had seen the hot pink bust leading the way of the pretty face. And when I had seen the bust in the hot pink tank top I thought well, if it was difficult getting some things fixed around here before now, it was a good chance that Pretty Young Woman With Bust would from now on be ever standing in the line ahead of us, which was why the bust merited first comment. I am a practical person that way.

“Is not she though,” Marty said. (Weird, not being able to use contractions.)

Marty went back outside to get the few things we had left in our car and heard Pretty Young Woman telling G. he had great sneakers on. They are whatever sneakers that have seen better days. Pretty Young Woman also knows how to puff up egos. I now know not to believe a word she might ever say to me in a complimentary fashion, should that ever happen. And I doubt that it will.

G. was strutting and said, “Yes, everyone likes my shoes! A man in a BMW stopped his car once and got out to ask me if he could buy my shoes!”

What a story. It is one of the reasons I like G. Anyone who can whip up a story like that on the spur of the moment is OK in my book.

I told Marty I was going to tell G. he better be careful or he is going to pop a blood vessel.

Then on Friday when I was washing dishes our kitchen sink backed up with black stuff. It is not often that this happens but I have noticed that it is when we have an upstairs neighbor that we start having plumbing problems. Even though there are a number of other apartments in the building, it is when we have an upstairs neighbor that we seem to be affected. I took the dishes out of the sink and got the plunger that is reserved for the sink and stood up on a chair, stuck the plunger in the nasty water, and for about twenty minutes attempted to make an iota of difference. It seemed after about twenty minutes I saw the water level drop slightly but I decided no and called Marty and asked him to pick up some Drano on the way home. I noticed the black in the water seemed not so black, was clearing up a little, but as the water level did not appear to be dropping any further I reasoned it was sediment settling. When Marty got home he walked in and made one stab at the sink with the plunger, just one stab and whump down went the water.

So seems my working at it for twenty minutes had almost made a difference but not quite. Or so I told myself. Having managed to have almost opened the sink back up made me feel as if I had almost managed a measure of success that day.

“Remember, I have a hundred pounds on you,” Marty said.

I bleached the sink and got the dishes out of the bath tub and hauled them back in. As we had just been at New Echota the day before, I had fresh in my mind their replica of an early 19th century kitchen with the well out back of the house and did not feel very put out by all this.

Hot here, there, everywhere, busted AC and myriad failures

Hot here, there, everywhere – need I say more. But I will. We live in an urban apt with no natural ventilation because the windows are all nailed shut or sealed shut with paint. Our couple of window air units aren’t the best in the world, the one in the bedroom cooled about 14 inches away from its face and the other one cools half the living room. Or the bedroom unit (which sends cool in here) used to cool about a foot from its face, and then we had a brief black out that busted the thing on Saturday. We have power outages here, short ones, on a daily basis, enough to reset the answering machine and make the clocks go blink-blink. But with this one the AC decided to quit working. We used a fan to push some of the cooler air from the living room into the work/dining room where I do the computer work. The fan stopped working so Marty started working with it.

Marty said, “The only good thing about my handyman work is I know to stop before I totally destroy something.”

He cut on the fan and it was reduced to sounding like a load of metal washers in a blender.

After a weekend of my webhost going periodically down and finally going down for a day, I sat to work on one of the websites I do as a volunteer. I’ve been keeping their files on a zip disk. Crackle bang bang crunch goes the zip drive and that’s all there was to that. We were melting in here and I figure the heat did it in.

We’re drinking chilled green tea by the gallon. Sweetened. I never drink sweetened tea. I’d finish up one and go fill it again.

But today the landlord replaced the bedroom AC with a new unit and though it’s still kind of warm in here (we don’t take the temp down to 68) we are feeling much less grotesque and I even managed to muster a smile this evening.

I was loading some photos up to Flickr today before it had a massive failure. These are old photos I was just loading up for family and I came across some of me enjoying popsicles with the sibs in the Seattle summer back lawn. I cut and pasted the me of then into the header image here.

Preserving the underground history of a city

Apparently it’s annother anniversary with Earthlink. They send us a link to an anniversary page that shows a present with confetti raining over it. Despite the fact I hate Earthlink, confetti always manages to make me feel special. Inner child goes, “Look, confetti!” for one split second. But even the inner child knows better and shoves the present back, crying, “You don’t care about me. Stop pretending you do!”

My brother-in-law calls. H.o.p. picks up the phone. They talk a long time about cartoons. “Is it a Looney Tunes?” I hear H.o.p. say.

The serial arsonist (well, the accused) who attempted to torch the apartment building autumn before last (or is accused of it) was in court this week. I don’t know what happened with that. I have heard it turns out he knew one of the tenants. Perhaps that explains how he got inside the building. I go to the Atlanta Journal Constitution online to see if they’ve any news on the case but there’s no report.

There are however those pics of the Japanese Prime Minister with the Bush and Presley families. There are first 13 pictures of the Prime Minister enjoying himself at Graceland. A number of pics of the folks having fun putting on Elvis’ aviator sunglasses. And then pic 14 shows “Civil rights leader Benjajin Hooks accompanies Bush and Koizumi at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. The hotel visit followed a tour of Gracelend.” Then pictures 15 and 16 show the Prez and Prime Minister having bar-b-que. 13 pics of Graceland and aviator glasses. 1 pic giving a nod to Martin Luther King. 2 pics decoted to bar-b-que.

H.o.p. is going through stop animation blogs. One is kept by a guy in Louisiana who in April was writing about how difficult it is to find some materials for his stop animation puppets in the hardware stores with the rebuilding after Katrina.

Speaking of Katrina, I have another picture I’m working on right now, a restoration of a photo damaged by Katrina. Get the photos through the hard work of the people at Operation Photo Rescue. This one is a black and white image of a woman seated on a sliver of moon, backdropped by a painted background of evergreens, lake and mountain. I wonder where she was. This has been a fun one.

The OPR people continue to upgrade the efficiency of things, making it easier to connect restorers with images, and have put together a forum for news and sharing tips etc. A remarkable thing they’ve doing.

A lot of the photos to be restored seem to be wedding photos and baby photos. The wedding photos and baby photos are a top emotional priority for people. But that isn’t all. Photos of people cooking. Photos of people playing. Servicemen lounging with sweethearts on Louisiana lawns. Priests with parishoners and infants being christened, reflecting the Roman Catholic heritage of the area. Photos of sailors reflecting the seaport heritage of the city. As you work and go through the photos it becomes more and more like rescuing an underground history of an area. These aren’t the images that show up in historical societies. They’re the ones tucked into people’s home albums (many glued by the flood waters to the plastic sleeves) and the snapshots in the shoeboxes, the polaroids with names of individuls penned in at the bottom.

Women throw flowers at their weddings, couples cut cakes, infants peer up at the flash of their first photograph.

Georgie (uninvited guest blogging)

Georgie may not look large to you, but when I saw Georgie skitter across the floor away from me, I screamed. She looks a very respectable size in person. She (or he) is trapped here underneath a large mouthed vase.

Update: It occurs to me that Georgie’s big enough that I could paint a smiley face on her (his) abdomen before setting him loose next to another tenant’s door.

The apartment above us doesn’t like anyone to pay rent for it or live there very long

When you hear lots of scraping on the floor above in the middle of the night, if you live in an apartment building you may suddenly become an heir to plants left behind by neighbors who are slipping away without paying their rent. The first time we ended up with a concrete lawn bunny and some chimes. The lawn bunny had been painted an ugly green color and I was thinking we would repaint it white in honoro of the bunny in Alice in Wonderland but we didn’t and one of its feet has since broken off but still it sits out there next to our concrete alligator. (Used to have a concrete penguin but its nose broke off too many times. Need to get a new one.) The second time this happened we received no inheritance. But with the last we have suddenly lots of plants.

The landlord mentioned week before last that the upstairs tenants hadn’t paid rent in a while, then in the wee early morning hours this weekend there was lots of scraping and banging about above, which turned out to be the upstairs neighbors moving out on the sly and not their dog being especially vigorous, which is what I thought was going on, having listened for months to the dog entertaining itself by chasing balls all over the place, slipping and sliding and scratching, and bang bang bang bang goes the ball and more running and slipping and sliding and then wham bang thunk occasionally sounding like it had run into a table and knocked it over.

So now we suddenly have five new plants, mostly fan palm frondy things or spiny palmy things which have nothing special to say about themselves except that they are all a deep healthy green and were well-tended. Not a single cactus, which was disappointing. The largest palm is a Chinese Fan Palm that still has its Lowes tag attached. I learn from the tag that Chinese Fan Palms are supposed to be outstanding houseplants but that they like bright light, which in my book means they are not outstanding houseplants. We have one already that we’ve managed to keep alive for a number of years and which summers outside. A website tells me that they get weak and “leggy” if not in full, bright sunlight, which ours is, real leggy, because even outside here there is no full, bright sunlight and our apartment doesn’t get full bright sunlight except through our bedroom window in the morning, for which reason we have regular blinds and venetian blinds and room-darkening blinds up over that window.

Anyway, wish these plants luck because I’m not the best with plants. I do fairly well by the cactus as long as I don’t try to take care of them.

The story on the upstairs neighbors who just slipped away into the night, given by the upstairs neighbors to the landlord,was that they were nurses, were sisters, they missed paying rent the first month when their dad died and they had to go up to Chicago for the funeral and they stayed for a month (they said) and because of that they lost their jobs as nurses and so couldn’t pay their rent the second month and then they didn’t pay their rent the third month and it was eviction time and they stole away in the deep dark of the night and left their plants.

All of the above could be true or none of it, that is exempting the fact they moved in and then never paid their rent.

I only spoke with one of the upstairs’ neighbors once, the older one of the two, and never saw the younger one. The first time was after they had given Marty mail for us that had been left in their mailbox. Several days later I was outside talking to the UPS guy who was delivering something to us, I was in my pajama bottoms with the penguins on them which I figured was all right because those pajama pants have recently been popping up all around town, seen browsing around in grocery stores for food etc., which surprised me because they’re several years old. So I was talking to the UPS guy and the upstairs neighbor was out walking her dog across the street. I noticed she looked at me kind of oddly. Then she yelled out at me if I lived in such and such number apartment. I yelled back yeah. She yelled that she had given the mail to some guy. I yelled back yes that he was yes my husband. I tried to muster a smile but I was in a lousy mood and I wasn’t sure it translated very well. She didn’t sjmile and continued to stare. I kept glancing back at her to see when she was going to stop staring and get on with walking her dog. For some reason I got the feeling that I’d somehow lost my chance to be a nice friendly neighbor. And I decided I didn’t care because this isn’t the kind of building where you have nice friendly neighbors, you just come and go quietly and pretend no one else exists. I was, however, grateful that she was thoughtful enough to give us our mail and that she wanted to make sure that she had given it to the right person.

I’m impressed that they took great care of their plants. They felt a responsibility to those plants and their dog. They felt a resposibility to give us our mail.

I heard them vacuuming a lot, usually early in the morning. So I always thought gee they must have some real clean apartment since they seemed to vacuum a lot. I thought gee they must feel a great responsibility to keeping their apartment clean

The landlord is miffed not just about the loss of three months’ rent but they left a decidedly personal impression on the apartment. I’d told Marty yesterday it was funny people kept getting that apartment who weren’t going to pay for it because of the apartments I’d seen it was one of the nicer ones, nice bath with nice old tile and fixtures and nice kitchen and the walls are nice and it was nicely painted and it was nice and bright. Well, they partially painted the trim black (a project they started and abandoned) and there are racing stripes painted all over the walls. Now, at our last place I did murals in the kitchen but I also suspected we would be the last tenants as the place was falling apart, and we were the last tenants. The walls in the apartment above are in pretty good shape, from what I’d seen before, and so I don’t know why the black painted trim and racing stripes. I understand more the tenant who covered his walls with plywood, splash painted the plywood, and painted the trim with “gold leaf”. That I understand. That sounds like it has distinct possibilities.

We have been content to keep our walls a nice dull off-white.

It must sound like I’ve an obsession with penguins, talking about the penguin lawn ornament and the penguin pajamas, considering I wrote In Search of the Great Penguin. But I don’t. I used to have the penguin lawn ornament. I now only have the penguin pants and a little clay penguin sculpture that H.o.p. made one day and gave to me. Those are the only penguin things around here.

Except for the book.

The one time I spoke to the upstairs neighbor, the UPS guy was delivering a box of the penguin books. They have all been sold and another couple of boxes of them. The little penguin is now here and there and no longer just here. But only a little here and there.