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Domestic Obsessions

Tuesday, April 5, 2005 -
Apóslâmin ida corbalanyrtne 'lsão rohl'daathiém vá nença iroyssÿrd.

"If you sing that song one more time," Jimmy told me, "I'm gonna throw this chainsaw at your ugly white gringo face."

(Jimmy is, as you may recall, one of the Inestimable Lofvendahl Brothers, who are my partners in Yard Dogs Ltd. Jimmy didn't actually use the word "gringo", he used a much coarser Mexican-American epithet, but I really really don't want hits for that particular word.)

The song in question was, of course, the Monty Python Lumberjack song.

I'm a lumberjack and I'm okay
I sleep all night and I work all day

We cut a lot of firewood this past month, for various customers, clearing away trees that came down in the winter storms. I usually relish the hard physical labor that's part of my job, but the work became a real grind when I was working every weekend and holiday* until Easter. It's been the same for Jer and the Fiend. I think Jer's been the busiest. Last semester, he had classes eight hours a day, Monday through Thursday, and four hours on Friday, plus he took on the job of tutoring three kids in violin, plus he worked on a project with Josie that had him driving to LA and back for five consecutive weekends.† For the Fiend, it's been this house, which for him has not been a home as much as it's been a home-improvement project. We've lived without heat and phones, and with termite holes in our floor and plastic tarps stapled over our roof, and if those misadventures are now things of the past, it's because of the Fiend's efforts.

Daylight Savings Time meant that on Monday I came home to the Fiend in a sunlit kitchen—in fact, he was almost lost in the blinding glare bouncing off the floor. That was his latest project, the tiling of the kitchen floor, with shiny red tiles. Very shiny red tiles. Believe me, these are the glossiest things you have evah seen. Everyone who walks into our kitchen immediately starts to mince like they're walking on slippery glass. Or maybe they walk that way because they don't want to be the first to put a scratch on the glorious perfection that is our kitchen floor. The dining room is the same. The dining table and chairs are all wearing thick athletic socks, doubled, to protect the floor until the Fiend can come up with a more graceful solution. I think we'll just have to put a rug in there or I may never feel comfortable eating in that room.

Yesterday, in the DST glow, the Fiend was occupied with his other domestic obsession, the one that doesn't involve belt sanders and respirators. He was making foccacia in his bread machine. Not all of our discoveries in this house have been domestic disasters like the bats and mice and termites and turds—we found the bread machine in one of the kitchen cupboards. It had seen some use, but it was in good shape, and there was nothing grotesque encrusted inside it. The bread bucket was a nice size, capable of turning out a two-pound loaf. None of us, not Jer, nor the Fiend, nor I, have ever owned a bread machine. I had seen them at garage sales, but I could never quite grasp the point of their utility, but maybe that's because it's been many years since I've lived without a dough hook and an oven.‡ Jer was the only one with any experience of bread machines, a vague suffering of his childhood. His mother, the Lady Medea (not a domestic goddess by any stretch of the imagination), once had a bread machine, but despite its reputed convenience, she rarely made bread. Her few loaves were less than memorable—Jer remembers nothing about them except for a single clear memory of a dense, gummy pumpernickel, which instilled within him a deep distrust of all dark breads. His reaction to the discovery of a bread machine in our kitchen was not a friendly one.

Unlike the Fiend, who embraced the appliance like a long-lost treasure of his heart. It's funny how you can know a guy, intimately, for three years and still encounter uncharted territory. I had absolutely no idea that the Fiend was yearning for a bread machine. But there he was, dancing around the kitchen, squealing with delight. Well, not really. Actually, his initial reaction was rather sedate, something like "Oh, wow. A bread machine. I've always wanted to try one." But I suspect that inwardly, the Fiend's mad alchemist soul was dancing around the kitchen, squealing with delight, in full festival costume, bedecked with jingling bells and flying ribbons. He had found his Philosopher's Stone and his crucible, molded together into a single cauldron wherein base matter like flour and water and salt could be changed into ingots of gold. Or at least, ingots of golden brown.

Not that every loaf has been a success. Some have been absolutely delectable. Some have been a challenge to palate, but not failures. Some have been failures, but they've all been interesting failures. A few failures have been downright comedic, like a dough so thick and stubborn that it caused the machine to shake itself off the edge of the counter. Or the dough that wouldn't stop rising, which had to be divided into four loaf pans and baked in the oven. Which produced bread so insubstantial it couldn't be cut without squishing it like a pillow.

~

* I never did tell you the tale of my President's Day weekend, helping my downstream neighbor clear the creek after a portion of his back yard fell into it.

† Plus he embarked on livid affair with a BDSM Master, which is a saga onto itself—and not finished. Oh, Dear Diary, I've got so much to tell you, haven't I?

‡ I left my heavy-duty monster mixers behind, with She-Ra the Princess of Power, who now rules my cookie empire. All I have is my little hand mixer with the battered chrome beaters that will rust if you leave them too long in the dishwater. We have an oven, but it doesn't always work when you turn it on. The range is fine—we can fry and boil and griddle and sauté with confidence and even élan, but baking is an unchancy adventure. We need a new oven, but we needed a new dryer even more desperately, and before the new dryer on the list of desperately needed things was the new furnace, the new roof and the new washer. Fixing up this house has cost the Fiend more money than he planned for, and the Central Coast expansion of Yard Dogs Ltd. has pushed me a little deeper into debt. (Specifically, a new truck, a new trailer, the conversion of my Ford 350 dually into a flatbed, two new mowers and a chainsaw, plus various hand tools, plus the hire of two new New Guys, have pushed me deeper into debt.) Getting a loan can be deceptively easy when you're a hard-working white male who pays his bills and owns real estate, especially Californian real estate. There are all sorts of people who will lend you all sorts of money against your property, but you gotta know from the start how much and how long you want to be a slave to your mortgage. At the moment, both the Fiend and I are a little sour 'bout the idea of spending another fat chunk of someone else's cash. We can live without baking for a while. Besides, the Fiend's gonna build us a barbecue pit.

<~>
Apóslâmin ida corbalanç 'lse nesgla ugaró-cham sa cru ogrulho batãoltha alémvásde.

last eleven:

Resurrection - Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Arts and Letters -
Friday, June 17, 2005
Domestic Obsessions -
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
The Kindness of Strangers -
Tuesday, April 5, 2005
Gone -
Saturday, April 2, 2005
Coming Back, Little By Little -
Saturday, April 2, 2005
Effing Around -
Thursday, March 31, 2005
Explicably Yours -
Wednesday, February 9, 2005
Things Too Innumerable To Mention -
Sunday, January 30, 2005
Mr. Armstrong -
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
The Pope in Our Kitchen -
Saturday, October 2, 2004



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