Friday, October 31, 2008

The Audacity of Soap

Or, how my day started with him:
And ended with him.

Friday was a grrreat day. It started with an emergency appointment in Bushkill, PA. I moved some things around to accommodate it, and three more quickly queued up to completely fill the day. First, the gentleman I missed on Tuesday owing to the Scranton area's Ice Age Drill grabbed the top spot at 9am. Then we slid a Forest City right behind it, followed by Mr. Bushkill, and just for good measure, one more in East Stroudsburg. For you geography kids, this is one hell of a loop that starts about three an a half hours to the Southeast of me. So I got up at Ye Daemon Houre of Sorrows. (about 4:30am). I slapped on my Velma glasses and threw a bag of randomly chosen cosmetic items and a toothbrush in my tote, intending to improve my appearance as soon as the sun came up or I gave a crap, whichever came first.

I have my nappin' spots when I drive long distance, when I start out that early I usually need about a 10 minute snoozaroo about 2-3 hours into the day. I pulled into my last-spot-back-lot Dunkin Donuts parking place in Tunkhannock and set my alarm for 10 minutes. I settled into the seat, wondered briefly how I'd fall asleep 500 yards from a concrete plant and zzzzzzz......10 minutes later I sat up and looked around, as the drive-thru coffee-goers eyed me curiously. I gave my hair a brisk brush and looked purposefully into my vanity mirror just long enough to assure them I was neither homeless nor insane and I was on my way.

I sat at a crosswalk smiling in Carbondale as a dad led a diminutive Buzz Lightyear across the street to his preschool Halloween party. I thought about the crisp fall evenings where I set out in some product of my imagination with a plastic pumpkin to collect goodies from my grandparents' neighbors. Even then the lure of having a look around someone else's house nearly trumped the candy in terms of interest. My Carbondale guy was nice shoes, expensive cologne, and ego; it was a divorce situation and I got the condensed version of what happens when Beautiful People must divide their spoils and go in separate directions, their house was a blur of Pottery Barn, exercise equipment, and ornamental dogs. It was spookily clean. I was glad to leave.

Number Two was in a small Scranton-y village 15 minutes to the north, nice people, I managed to smile as I grabbed a bag of parts off a shelf in their basement to explain what washer locks look like, only to discover too late that the bag had been used repeatedly by the cat for claw sharpening and the odd piss. I just talked and talked while I Lady Macbethed my hands in their basement sink with a squirt of whatever laundry detergent they had sitting there. My powers of denial and moving on are strong; one of those things a couple years of volunteering in emergency services will get you. I'm sure I'll be puked on by a random customer child at some point; I'm waiting for it.

Lunch break, then on to Number Three. Number Three lived in a state park. No. Really. IN a state park. I got to try out all the roadblock avoidance functions on my GPS since the route that it chose for me took me down the ONE road that has been washed out for two years that they decided to fix THAT DAY. I pulled into the steep driveway and glanced at the piles of plastic toys that littered the yard, topped here and there by a scroungy bad-tempered cat. I suspected I had arrived at The House The Neighbors All Talk About. I was not disappointed. The living area of the house looked like it had been filled with toys and household items from a hatch located in the ceiling, perhaps with a backhoe. I broke things I stepped on. I couldn't help it. They stood and sort of giggled while I attempted to calculate the approximate number of boxes the piles might be efficiently shoveled into, while considering how I might be kind in my report when the ready vocabulary for the mess included words like 'squalid' and 'disaster' and 'mind-boggling sh*thole'.

Task completed, I set out across the Poconos for my last appointment. I was sitting at a traffic light when the college radio station I found played this, and made my day.

You know, it was kind of warm Friday. And I had my window down. And I probably should have considered that before yelling "WHO THE F--- IS STEVE REEVES??" At a traffic light. There were stares. It was college all over again.

Number Four was small, the appointment brief, and I was happy to be heading at last in a Northwesterly direction. By the time I got back on Route 6 I was just chanting a mantra to myself: "I'm going to make dinner. Then I'm going to take a shower. Then I'm going to put my jammies on. I'm going to make dinner. Then I'm going to take a shower. Then I'm going to put my jammies on." I was hungry. I was tired. I was anxious to take off the Work Pants and scrub off the dirty house cooties. I was tired of the radio. I slapped in my headphones and was tapping the steering wheel listening to this when I looked in my rear view mirror.


Was I speeding? Did he see my oh-so-inconspicuous white iPod headphones? Was I SPEEDING? I didn't think so. He walked up to my window and informed me that 'this conversation is being recorded'. Oh, jeez. Here's my license and registration, Captain Serious. The whole time he is telling me that the police are out IN FORCE because its one of the 'most celebrated holidays' and I'm all like, "What??" I recognize him. His sawed-offedness. The space between his teeth. The Barney Fifery. This was not your typical crew-cut, disarmingly handsome and usually good-smelling Pennsylvania State Trooper. This was a local dude, and more than that, the very SAME local dude who gave me my FIRST SPEEDING TICKET EVER.

Flashback: thirteen years ago. I'm driving too fast through a very small town trying to get to my boyfriend's house before it starts snowing for reals. I get pulled over. $117, thank you very much. I cried for miles afterward and generally felt dirty. I wanted to write an apology letter to send with my check. (Yes. Sometimes us Good Girls are sad and a little ridiculous. Sue us.)

He explains to me that Halloween brings out all the drunks. I nod politely and want to say, I'm not a drunk, I'm a 38 year old woman in a minivan, for crying out loud, who has been driving for umpteen hours and I just want my honey and olive oil soap and my jammies and some supper. I sign my ticket and drive 43.5 miles an hour all the way back to Mansfield, then 4.35 miles an hour THROUGH Mansfield, cursing the trick or treaters and the empty gas tank that forced my interaction with them as I pulled into the station for a fill.

I see my little house. There it is. I pull in the driveway, stagger into its inviting warmth, and drop all my junk in a heap. And walk straight into Himself having a girlfit because his cell phone isn't working. Also, he lost his credit card.

Some very uninteresting screaming ensued, followed by an angry shower and his retreat to the grocery store to get some nachos to throw in my cage. Followed by some more screaming, because I started to write this Friday and he had Girlfit II because I was using the computer.
You know what knocks the wind out of stress/anger/anxiety mixed together with a stupid high histamine level, complete with spontaneous hives? Three Benadryl. I passed out and slept for 10 hours, awaking refreshed and altogether ready to panic clean my entire house in three hours for unexpected overnight guests.

Its a new week, and I am rested and ready! Whether or not things go your way tomorrow, history will be made and the river rolls on. Go easy on the candy.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I get the frightful....not so much the delightful

I didn't take this picture.

As my husband often complains, I never have my camera when I see stuff. But I took a couple of snaps like this on my cell phone.


I had an appointment in Hallstead, PA, then another in Port Jervis, NY. For those of you playing along at home without an offhand knowledge of Pennsylvania geography, it's the right hand half of the rectangle kinda near the top, then aaaallll the way off the edge back into NY where the Delaware is merely a creek. I travelled down Route 81 and noted with amusement that it was getting progressively worse. Cue the wadded up station wagon against the guardrail.

Then I hit 84. Route 84 goes through the Pocono Mountains. Usually its a lovely, pleasant drive through towns with names like 'Promised Land' and the ever-giggle inducing 'Dingman's Ferry'.

Yesterday it was like crossing Caradhras with an elf and a bunch of cranky hobbits.

I made 45 miles in just over 2 1/2 hours, with the van in low gear, creeping along flanked by trucks who were going as slow as I was. Truckers are the flight attendants of bad weather driving for me. If I'm on a plane and there is turbulence but the attendants don't look concerned, I don't worry. If its snowing like a bastard and truck drivers are still hauling ass, I don't worry. When my Schneider guys and my North American guys and my big dumptrucks are going 20, I want to panic a little.

Almost to Matamoras (I love the name of that town, though the name is the most interesting thing about it; it needs a snazzy Mexican restaurant. SOMETHING. Though the welcome center bathroom is obsessively clean.) the road clears up a little and I am cheered. Perhaps its passing. I do my thing in Port J and get back on 84, ready to patiently brave the creeping traffic back toward the Scranton area. The electronic billboard is flashing CAUTION CAUTION CAUTION/ROAD CLOSED MM37 /USE ALTERNATE ROUTE.

I think to myself, where is Route 37? Never heard of it. Oh well. I don't have to drive on it.

(sound of penny dropping)

Oh. MILE MARKER 37. Crap.

I get off the highway, and plan my escape route. Because my THIRD appointment, the one I was most assuredly going to be late to, was in Carbondale, and I was hearing that they were having some sort of apocalyptic ice age and thank ya no, I wasn't going to risk my neck getting there. So I followed my second customer's advice and jumped on 209 north because "It'll put you right on 17, and you can run right on in to Binghamton!".

She left out the part about it being 98 MILES from Binghamton. And the fact that I'd have to drive through the Catskills. But it turned out to be not so awfully bad, I just continued my stress management technique of driving in low gear singing songs from the 70s at the top of my lungs and eating string cheese for the extra 98 miles and got back to familiar territory. Total workday: 6:30am-8:15pm.

Yeah, I slept in today.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Weekly Curiosities

This week’s curiosity comes to you from the ‘Sometimes a yard ornament is just a yard ornament’ Department.
I drive by this house about twice a week, though I didn’t notice this treasure until recently. It appears carefully crafted and is deliberately placed on a small rise at one corner of the front yard.

I think the great wealth of candidate endorsement signs elsewhere in the yard should have been artfully arranged around this magnificent pillar. (Not that I’m implying that a four foot concrete phallus would be a fitting focal point, given the candidate on the sign. You can draw your own conclusion there.)

There are a couple of snaps I didn’t get this week, and they are, in no particular order:

Two gentlemen in Ithaca crossing the street; one pushing a shopping cart, the other tucked neatly INTO the shopping cart , with his crutches alongside and his apparently broken leg propped up on the front. It didn’t look terribly comfortable, though they both seemed cheerful enough about it.

My favorite political candidate name EVER. I don’t know what party he is with, I don’t know what kind of person he is, but anyone who is willing to get out there with signs that say VOTE TINKLEPAUGH is awesome. Sadly most of his supporters seem to live on busy roads with no shoulder and I couldn’t get any snaps. I did find this though. He’s on page 12. His home address is there too, if you are in the Greater Binghamton area and want to drop by. If you do stop by please don't mention that I referred to the Greater Binghamton area on Twitter as ‘Craptaculopolis’. ) Oh, and now I know he’s a Democrat.

The last of the glorious color making a cavern of golden light on a side road as I passed. ‘Denuded lanes, with leaves adrift below’, I thought. Yeah, I'm kind of a dork. But I like Rilke and I don’t watch TV so that’s the kind of stuff that rattles around in my craw.
The whole poem, in my favorite (and arguably, most depression-inducing) translation, is here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Three Years On

I realized while dawdling down the highway this morning that the third anniversary of our flight to the hills is upon us in two weeks. I got reflective. What have I learned since I left behind the convenience of the "Main Line" for the Glorious Northern Tier?
A lot, my friends, a lot.
I wasn’t a privileged girl, but I lived close enough to privileged people that I got a little bit of their snobbery on me. When I came up here, everything was cute, quaint, primitive, or OMG worthy. (Archival evidence here and here.) I talked too fast, drove too fast, and kept having to translate everything in my mind, though instead of English to Spanish it was What I Had Available Before to Where The Heck I Get It Now That The Mall Is 60 Miles Away.
I’ve chilled out a bit. This was facilitated not only by time but by a job loss that resulted in a readjustment of my income and my attitude. (One went down, one went up.)
Things I’ve learned after three years:

What a brush hog is.

That 'drivin' it like ya stole it' has to do with speed, not larceny.

How to correctly pronounce Jonsered and Husqvarna.

How to ride a six wheeler (though it was a mildly traumatic and majorly hilarious experience and I doubt my fellow firefighters will let me do it again anytime soon)
That bears can and will do this:

(PS- I have one just like that— and it’s a wrought iron pole.)

That misery may love company, but poverty likes it okay too. Something about having lots of friends that also have no money makes you feel less like the world will end at any moment because you don’t have any.

That its never too late to do something you’ve never done before,


Its never too late to get the brothers you always wanted.

Arnot Building Supply Fire, Mansfield, PA July 10, 2007.

Jeremy Raymond Memorial Softball Tournament. Department 1 Team. (The girl is someone's daughter and our ringer. Without her, it would have been an embarassing day. You rock, Kash.)

I have also learned that for every desolate, snow scoured, cold and gray day that makes you wonder why you moved here, there is a day like this:

Or this:
And all is forgiven.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Weekly Curiosities

I believe I shall start something new.

I can't give it a name with any sort of alliteration, mostly because I can't guarantee that it'll always happen on the same day. Or that I'll be in the office on the same day every week. When I'm not in, this is my workspace:
That stretch of highway excitement is I-81 southbound. And despite this promising sign:
I can assure you there are no margaritas, white sand beaches, or overpriced parasailing opportunities to be found off that exit.

On my way to my work task, I stopped for a wee at a mini mart, and when I pulled out, I saw this.

Yes, that would be located alongside the 'It Pays to Enrich Your Word Power' marina. Though I realized this morning as I was cleaning the cat box (you'd be surprised how many feats of mental agility are performed over a scoop of poop) that I was confusing the word above with this word. Perhaps I should have lingered a bit longer over the Reader's Digest myself.

With a tip of the hat to Carmen Sandiego, I will publicly laud the first person who knows where I was yesterday. (I'll take a town name within, say, 26 miles of my actual destination. Since there's pretty much nothing but boat storage, customs clearance warehouses (hint) and signs like this in-between.)

The picture I didn't get:

I was driving through Onondaga Nation Territory and I found The actual Vortex. The source of that elevator rendition of 'When Doves Cry' that haunts your dreams. Yes, the Muzak office. I was in traffic on the wrong side of the road and couldn't get a picture. But now you know; people are working somewhere, making that music. For you. On purpose.

Friday, October 03, 2008

And that's all I have to say about that.....

I really, really miss the days when this was the only Maverick in my world. *

Also, evidence I may be a bigger pen geek than Himself: While watching the debate last night, Joe Biden held up a pen, which I immediately recognized to be one of these. And yes, I did say to myself, 'Hey! That's a blue Uniball Vision! I love those!'
*I also miss the days when Tom Cruise wasn't a crazy bastard.