Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Pass the Soap, Please.

So, what I need to know is: What is the proper greeting when you are outside behind your house naked and showering off with the hose and the electric meter reader lady walks around the side of the house to read the electrical meter?*

It was a very hot day. Should I have offered to hose her off? Should I have nodded my head casually  continued indiscreetly soaping myself?

Was shrieking and running away a socially appropriate response? For both of us?

I ask because I am in the middle of what I like to refer to as A Twenty Minute Job.

A few weeks ago, a peculiar odor began wafting through the bathroom.

I fully understand that you will need to interject many, many thoughtful and hilarious comments at this point so here is plenty of space for you to do just that: (      )

The problem is that the smell was not one of a scatological origin. It was a musty, funky sort of odor. And it was coming from under the tub.

Our tub is, if the truth is to be known, the only reason that Kerri wanted to buy our house at all. The bathroom was the only room in the house that had been updated since the mid-seventies and it looked wonderful in comparison to the faux-wood paneling that covered every surface in every other room of the house . The bathroom had a big, tiled whirlpool tub, a shiny tile floor, and was the one room in the entire house that actually had a closet. Kerri was delighted.

It was unfortunate that the whirlpool tub sounded like a submerged lawnmower when you turned it on, depriving the bather of the quiet, relaxing experience she may have been seeking in the tub. It was also unfortunate that the shiny floor tiles were terrifyingly slick and slippery when they got wet. And the closet door doesn't ever stay closed.

And now there was this smell.

Some of the tiles covering the outside of the tub had come loose and I suspected that water had found its way in and began a vigorous campaign of populating the bathroom with mold. My solution was A Twenty Minute Job.

"I will pull the tiles off, replace the wood underneath them with cement board, and re-tile the front of the tub."

To be fair to myself, I would like to point out that I only counted pulling off the tiles as A Twenty Minute Job. I knew the rest of it might take a few hours. Maybe a day. But I had the tiles already. All I needed was cement board, grout, and tile adhesive. So the whole job was going to cost about $40.  And take a day.

And now, faced with this, I wonder if the electric meter reader lady and I might be able to come to some sort of understanding.

There was a bit of mold there. And the wooden supports around the tub were soaked. And when I was prying the tiles on the front of the tub off, all the nice shiny, slippery tiles on the floor started popping off. A bit of homeowner wisdom for you all, courtesy of me: Don't attach bathroom tiles to regular wallboard or plywood. The person who buys your house will hate you. Even if it's your mother who buys your house. She will hate you. Tiles don't go on wallboard or plywood. Remember that. Always.
The one good point here was that the previous owners' incredibly incompetent installation job made removal much easier than it should have been. But I still hate them.

So now, my $40 one day job has turned into a complete removal of the tub, the floor, the tiles and sheetrock walls in the tub surround and, because Kerri is my wife and must be obeyed, new light fixtures.

This week I've been busy with the destruction of the bathroom. Next week a kind gentleman will arrive to install our new, acrylic, tile-free, humongous shower stall. We will no longer have a tub. But, the shower will be big enough to accommodate us and nearly all of our friends at the same time. I'm not inviting you over for a group shower, mind you, I'm just making the point that it's a freakin' huge shower.

All I'll have to do after the nice man comes is paint the bathroom, change the light fixtures, install the new subfloor, put down the vinyl flooring, paint and reinstall the baseboards, and convince that meter reading lady to announce herself a bit more loudly before she comes into the back yard next time.

All that should take me about twenty minutes.

* Yes, I was naked in the yard because the shower was dismantled. Also, because really, why NOT be naked in your back yard? 
Your back yard. 
Please do not come over here to be naked in my back yard.
The meter lady would probably think that was weird.

Monday, July 4, 2011

You Might Want To Stay Away From Me. Far, Far Away.

I realize now that my previous post (When Will The Hurting Stop?) was obviously some sort of cryptic foreshadowing to the delightful bout of Lyme Disease I've recently contracted.

My previous post was about an 11 mile hike. I assumed that the pain I was feeling was a direct result of allowing Julie to drag me through the woods. Turns out, that was only part of it.

The rest of the pain, as well as the fatigue, muscle cramping chills, dizzying fevers, and general feeling of overall poopiness are a result of a tiny little tick bite. I am trying to find a valid way to blame Julie for this, but the timing/incubation period simply won't cooperate with my wishes.

I started feeling pretty lousy on Saturday, the day after the hike. I thought I might be getting the flu. So, naturally, I hung around in our blow up pool and drank fermented beverages in an effort to restore myself to peak operating condition. Saturday night I had chills so badly that I went to lay on the couch so my shivering wouldn't wake Kerri up.

Then, on Sunday, Kerri noticed this decorative rash adding a warm splash of color to my otherwise pale hip.

"Um... I think you may have Lyme Disease," she suggested.

I was actually relieved. In the wee hours of the night, my imagination had extrapolated my burgeoning sickness to include: EEE, Spinal Meningitis, and Leprosy.

I called the fine folks at Ask-A-Nurse, whom I cannot say enough about, and they advised me to haul myself to the local Urgent Care Facility. After a 65 minute wait, the doctor popped into the room for–I am not exaggerating–60 seconds. That included introductions, a few quick questions, and the quickest, most cursory exam I have ever had.

"Um... I think you may have Lyme Disease," he announced as he disappeared through the door.

I sat in the exam room for another 10 minutes, awaiting his return. A nurse came in to draw some blood.

"Will the doctor be coming back in?" I asked.

"Nope. He's all done with you." she answered.

So I walked away with a prescription for some heavy duty antibiotics and a hefty medical bill.

All was well until about 11:30 last night when the chills started up again so badly I feared that I was going to chip my teeth. I took out the thermometer and got a reading of 104.7 in one ear and 105.3 in the other. Those numbers are fine if you are an FM radio station. If you are a human, it means that things are not going well for you.

Once again, I called Ask-A-Nurse.

"My temperature is about 105. Should I be dead?" I asked.

"Well, not dead, but probably not as perky as you seem to be," she answered.

She suggested that I go purchase a more reliable oral thermometer.

"Now?" I asked.

"I'm afraid so," she said.

"It's midnight on a Sunday night," I reminded her helpfully, "Plus, also, I live in the boonies where things shut down for the night at about 5 pm on a late day.

"You might have to drive for this," she said, "But you really need to get an accurate reading. If your temperature is really that high, you need to be in the hospital."

So Kerri and I had the pleasure of a midnight drive through Manchester to locate an all night pharmacy. When we finally did, my temperature on the new thermometer was 100.4. But then at home, the new one and the old one gave me the same readings. But at least I wasn't afraid that I was going to burst into flames in my sleep anymore. So I spent the Fourth of July Sleeping like this.

I'm not posting this to get sympathy, though any sympathy you'd like to send to Kerri will be greatly appreciated. I am not a low-maintenance sick person.

I'm posting this as a warning. I've been wondering if there isn't some cosmic sort of retribution being levied against my closest friends and me.


Julie nearly drained of blood by black flies on a recent hike.

My daughter, Tori. The same hike.

Ben's back after The Warrior Dash.

Julie's thigh after The Warrior Dash.

I'm not trying to scare you all off. I'm just thinking that you might want to keep your distance from me until this all clears up.

Who knows what might happen to you otherwise...

Saturday, July 2, 2011

When Will The Hurting Stop?

The first problem came in the email. "I'll be at your house at 5:30."

The problem being that it references 5:30 A.M.

In the morning.

While I should be sleeping. While everyone should be sleeping.

The second, third, and fourth problems are that Julie, my alleged good friend,  has decided that we will be hiking not one, not two, but three mountains. On the same hike.

There is a limit to the amount of pain and suffering and early rising that the human body can withstand. Julie seems intent on finding out what my limit is and possibly pushing me past it; if only slightly. Slightly past the limit, however, is all it will take when the hike in question includes warnings in the guidebooks like, "The ascent up the north slide is strenuous and, in inclement weather, can prove quite dangerous. The slopes are steep and you will most certainly plummet to an unpleasant death if you take one wrong step."

Or something like that.

It also goes on to warn that the descent is "The most terrifying, bowel-loosening vertical drop you have ever witnessed. The entire trail down the south face is composed exclusively of loose, bowling ball sized rocks that will dislodge and slide down the hill at the slightest provocation. The best you can hope for is that you will not kill any other hikers as your battered, lifeless body bounces down the rocky slope toward the woods far, far below."

I'm paraphrasing, of course.

So it was with a song on my lips and joy in my heart when Julie arrived at my house yesterday morning and I hopped in her car and we headed north to my certain destruction. Of course, the fact that I am writing this does spoil the ending a bit, as you are no doubt aware that I didn't die.

I just feel like I did.

The trail is one that Julie refers to as a lollipop loop. A lollipop trail merely describes a trail that follows a straight line, then does a loop, returning to the straight line which you follow back to the starting point. The name, however, evokes images of sweetness and happiness and brings to mind scenes of carefree children skipping about in a sunny meadow without a care in the world. Butterflies and flowers speckle the tall, swaying grass and everything is as wonderful as it could possibly be. None of that is true. And, I’ll get to those disgusting butterflies later.

The trail description in the book did little to dissuade us of this bucolic image of serenity. It describe a gentle three mile stroll along a well maintained dirt road before you leave the road and venture off into the barren, tortuous rock-scape that is the north side of the Tripyramids.

We pulled into the parking lot, and were both immediately struck by the fact that there was not another vehicle there. It was a parking lot big enough to rival that of a large chain store, but were were alone. To smarter people, that would have served as a clue.

A sign of impending doom, suffering, and despair.

But not for us! Oh, no. We were ready to hike. To explore the wilderness. To see nature as nature was intended to be seen. Experienced. Smelled. Tasted. Lived!

This is how happy we were when we started.

Or something like that. We strolled the three miles up the dirt trail and, by the time we reached the turn where we were to begin the actual Tripyramid Trail, we had been lulled into such a sense of complacency that the sight of the towering slabs of rock, jutting heavenward in front of us was like a punch in the kidneys.

We remained happy until we saw the first little climb.

I may have cried a little bit right then. And Julie was gracious enough to point out that was doing a lot of sighing on this particular hike. I assured her that the sighs were merely gentle expressions of boundless internal joy and delight. In fact, they were muted squeaks of boundless internal horror and terror.

We scaled the endless granite slabs, searching for handholds and trying very hard not to envision the human scab that we would be transformed into with one wrong step. Adding to the excitement was the fact that it had recently rained and the rocks, in addition to being steep, craggy, and pointy, were very slippery.

Please note sheer drop off of doom behind Julie.

View from the top of the first slide. Not in photo: Me weeping like a baby.

And covered with slugs. I realize that most people, when confronted with the dual trials of plummeting to a splattery death or accidentally grabbing a slug with your hand, would consider the splattery death to be the worst by far. I have long held the belief that slugs are the most horrible things in the universe; sent to this earth for the sole purpose of making me want to sprout extra mouths and vomit myself to death.

So the slugs added an extra thrill to the climb.

A few days later, we finally arrived at what we believed to be the top of the most strenuous part of the climb. As it turns out, we were mistaken. It was only the end of the part that we could see.  The rest of the perilous ascent was merely shrouded by pine trees.

A few days after that we finally arrived at the first summit, demarcated only by the fact that everything after that sloped downhill. The guidebook described the saddles between the three summits as gentle, strolling paths through the something, something, blah, blah, blah. And, for the most part it was.

The first summit.
Each summit, oddly, was exactly 40 feet lower than the previous one. Julie tried to explain her theory that, as each summit was lower, even when we were going uphill toward the next summit, we were really going downhill. Julie Hiking Physics is a special branch of science understood by very few people in the universe. I am sad to report that I am not one of the privileged few.

Second Summit. Notice how chipper and happy Julie looks.

I am also chipper and happy.
Third summit. Isn't this fun?

We made our way over the three summits and then reached the final descent that lead back into the wooded wilderness stretching out as far as we could see in every direction. It was then that my finely tuned instinct for self-preservation kicked in and I pleaded with Julie to call for a helicopter to come and rescue me. “No cell reception,” she said. But do you know what? She never even looked at her phone.

I spent a few serene moments hyperventilating and surveying the majestic landscape that surrounded us. “What mountain is that over there?” I asked in order to distract myself from the fact that I would soon be reduced to little more than a greasy smear across a few hundred feet of granite.

“Tecumseh,” Julie answered without hesitation.

That’s the thing about her. She always answers without hesitation, in a tone of absolute conviction. The problem is that 50% of the time, she has no idea what she’s talking about. I am aware of this. She is aware of this. As a result, I am dubious of everything she tells me with relation to the outdoors. The problem is, 50% of the time she is absolutely correct. She makes it difficult to discern between “Truth” and “Truth As Julie Sees It”. Her working theory is that if I know that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, but I still ask her; she’s going to answer me.

My doubt all stems from The Gray Jay Incident, which I wrote about some time ago.

The thrilling descent.
Eventually, after I had asked her to identify every mountain in our field of view and I ran out of any other possible excuses to postpone the decent, we began the climb down the south slide. Slide is another poorly chosen word used by outdoorsey types of people. A slide is a little playground toy that whisks you safely to the ground from a reasonable height. A slide, when hiking, is an exposed scar of jagged rock that can, should you step incorrectly, whisk you to the rock covered ground hundreds of feet below. The difference is not subtle.

The car is a mere 4 miles out of the top frame of this picture. Easy!
We did manage to safely maneuver down the slope, only occasionally sending deadly showers of rock down on to one another.
Slippery when wet.

Reaching the bottom, all that remained was a leisurely stroll three miles back to the parking lot.  In theory, this should have been easy and, if the guidebook is to be believed, fun.

In practice, it was a horrible ordeal, made far, far worse by my constant whining and complaining. We slogged along the path, dragging our sore, swollen feet and cursing the fact that we didn’t bring jet-packs.

Out death march was punctuated by occasional swarms of butterflies, clustered in great, fluttering heaps on the road.

“Butterflies eat poop,” Julie explained.

Obviously, I did not believe her. This was clearly nonsense.

“Butterflies are symbols of innocence, freedom, and joy,” I told her, “They are dancing, shimmering creatures of magic, like unicorns and fairies and creepy garden gnomes. Butterflies eat pollen and moonbeams and sip dewdrops and nectar. They flutter gently onto the pink cheeks of young children and kiss them.” 

“Oh yeah?” she said, pointing to the festering pile of dog crap that the butterflies vacated as we came near them. “You want them kissing your face now?”

We finally arrived at the car, almost exactly seven hours after we had left it. My feet and my faith in the magical properties of butterflies ruined.

There were the cars of a few other fools in the parking lot as we pulled away.

But they were still hiking and we were going out for ice cream, which I planned on enjoying to an extent that was probably not normal.

We arrived at the ice cream stand, ordered, and sat down with weary sighs to refresh our souls with ice cream.

And everything was fine until a butterfly fluttered onto my Mocha Madness cone.