12 july 1999  

104 f/88% humility

It's time for my local newspaper to run the picture of the kids eating watermelon or frolicking in the fountain next to the "no swimming" sign. Sometime very soon I'm going to read a caption that says, "Sunny side up? Amber Bloomquist, 6, watches as her dad Butch fries an egg on the sidewalk last Saturday during the 347th annual Elks picnic in Wormwood Park."

It was late in coming to southern California, but now summer is here and it's a feast of American iconography - Uncle Sam, gasoline price signs, motorhomes, Yellowstone. Picnic tables, Frisbees, dogs in bandanas, the Coppertone sign. It smells good too - coconut oil, barbecue, fireworks smoke, citronella. The symbols are all so familiar now; we grew up with them. It's conformity's easiest season, and no shock therefore to see Cousin Buck in an apron.

July and August are when I relearn that I have to let go of the expectation of getting some good writing done. Summer is a fat kid who sits on my chest and insists that I play with him. He does not accept excuses. Do you know him? He is not sympathetic about your list of chores nor does he care about where you think you have to be. He just sits there, arms folded, bouncing on your ribs to punctuate and emphasize his wishes, squeezing the air from your lungs until you promise to do things his way. The slow way. The hot way.

It comes as no surprise that the Fat Kid's ways often parallel Amy's ways, and in a bold move to appease them both we bought a pool. It’s an out-of-the-box above-ground type, 3' deep and 15’ across, with an electric filter pump to keep the water sparkly. At first I was hesitant about stationing this big blue thing out back as it conflicted with the whole mission-style theme we’ve got going there. But now that I’ve swum a few times, I’m thinking of equipping it with one of those big inflatable alligator lounges and several squirt guns and proclaiming myself Neptune, Ruler of the Cool Half-Fathom.


Attention to the realm and its trappings is all the rage here at Rancho Suburbio as Viv and I are going through a fit of home improvements.

Right now it’s the kitchen that’s in disarray. The room’s main feature is a 16’ ladder, one of those aluminum versi-ladder jobbies with the ratcheting hinges that reminds me of the cartoon where Felix The Cat is nearly eaten alive by a folding beach chair. The tile around the sink is partly chiseled away, the wood trim is off the cupboards, some walls are just primed, others finished. The baseboards are gone. The kitchen table is useless as it serves now as a paint can caddy. The phone is off the wall. The spice rack is out on the patio with the baking sheets, the chair cushions, and the dish drainer.

When I say Viv and I are going through this fit of home improvements I mean, of course, that she is doing them and I am having the fit. I’ve known for years that her vision exceeds her grasp in these matters, so while I enjoy her enthusiasm for prettying up the castle, I always wince when she’s first pitching her ideas. In the interest of fairness, I have to tell you it’s her lack of time that makes the projects so agonizingly drawn out. While she does plan the major work around time off from her job, again, it’s the vision thing. If she had two weeks off in a row she’d start a three-week project. If she had three weeks off, it would be a month-long remodel. If she had more than a month’s vacation from work there would be a wrecking ball hanging from an enormous crane in the backyard. The federal government would have enough confidence in her scheduling to note this crane on aeronautical charts.

Here, walk with me down the hall… I give you Exhibit A: The Bathroom. Last year she removed the wallpaper that came with the place when we bought it six years ago and she replaced it with wainscoting and a more subdued wallpaper. To this she added a border featuring lighthouses on a windswept peninsula. What four lighthouses are doing on one windswept peninsula I cannot tell you, but if one sat there long enough, and I did as the opportunity presented itself daily, the imagination would run wild and a variety of scenarios would come to mind. Eventually, I fancied that each lighthouse contained a family. I gave them names and jobs and substance abuse problems. They had clambakes. These ruminations were good because they’d keep the eye from wandering over to the unfinished trim in the corners or the carpet that remained frayed where it was cut off to lay in the new floor covering. It stayed that way for a year. We went all the way around the sun, folks, and it stayed that way. All the way around the sun.

As a new summer approached so did a new whim. Texture paint! So the lighthouses are gone now, swept out to see if thick white texture paint and chrome will make the room look bigger.

Well, whaddya know. It does look bigger. And hey, it’s finished. I’m going to let three months go by before I begin negotiations on a couple of the new pieces of infrastructure she chose, but wow, the bathroom is done.

It was this completion that gave her the confidence to move on to the kitchen. And as the good supportive husband, I gave her the thumbs up on the redo. I know. I’m swell. You’re lovin’ me right now, aren’t you.

Some of you more keen observers may be asking why I don’t jump in to pull my weight here, why I don’t hold up my end, do my share.

G’head. Ask.

KEEN OBSERVER: Steve, I know you’re a really caring man and all, in touch with your feelings and such, and you are the primary caregiver for your child and you’ve stayed home for eight years now doing that sometimes thankless job with practically no adult contact sometimes, and you’ve been cooking the meals, doing the yardwork, and doing the shopping and keeping the budget in the black, helping Amy with her homework and transporting her to swimming lessons and basketball club and medical appointments and yeah, sure, you had some medical problems yourself, and okay, of course you may need to sleep every once in a while, but hell, man, couldn’t you have nailed up that trim in the bathroom? I mean, sure, you’ve got projects too, projects you’ve asked Viv for help on like cleaning and sealing the teakwood outdoor furniture, and okay, so she dropped the ball and never really exhibited any memory of you wanting to get that done, and maybe holding a small grudge is actually justified, but we’re talking wood trim here, dude. In your bathroom, fer cryin’ out loud. Don’t you think you could’ve nailed it up, maybe as like an anniversary present or something?


When the kitchen is done, and it will be done, on earth as it is in heaven, we’re yanking the carpet in the living room and hallway and putting in a hardwood floor. Yes, I said we.

But they’ll have to get me off the alligator first.


What is this called? I call it a bread bag closer thingy, but what do the people who make bread bag closer thingies call them? If you know, tell me. I'm just curious. There are no fablias prizes.

today's music:

"Those Lazy-Hazy-Crazy Days of Summer" -- Nat King Cole -- NAT KING COLE: THE CAPITOL COLLECTOR'S SERIES

(hey, any song that rhymes "weenies" with "bikinis" can't be all bad)


today's wisdom:

"The Sun does not move."

- Leonardo da Vinci

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