Friday, November 15, 2013

Frivolous Friday, biker bar edition

Bizarro Comic by Dan Piraro, obtained from Chicago Tribune Comics Kingdom.

Obtained from the Chicago Tribune, even though the comic itself runs in the Chicago Sun-Times. Ah, well.

You should be getting a full-fledged rant this morning about the latest outbreak of chaos in the Curmudgeon home, and how the unplanned activities of yesterday evening prevented me from getting to any of the things I was supposed to do last night. I also have a good post in mind about Long Suffering Spouse grading papers until 2:30 Thursday morning and identifying a number of really, really feeble attempts at plagiarism. That ought to be amusing.

And that's what you should be getting here.

Except that I didn't do any of the things I was supposed to do last night. So I have to do them now. And there are other things that must be done this morning as well because I won't be here this afternoon either. That might (or might not) turn into a post on this blog.

Have I whetted your appetite yet?


I was afraid of that.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Lost barbecue tools, a dangerous drawer, and an untimely phone call -- business as usual at the Curmudgeon home

People who think writing is easy -- as I do, sometimes -- find out differently when they try and tell a story that isn't exactly linear. Real stories aren't that linear. But writers, unlike audio engineers, can't work with multitrack tapes: The words on the page, or the screen, are a single track only and every clashing action must be integrated into the single stream of words. And if one thus brings order to chaos, has one actually described it -- or has it only been watered down?

The thing you have to understand here is that the kitchen in the Curmudgeon Manse was probably updated shortly before we bought the place in 1996. Updated on the cheap. The sellers were preparing the house for sale and every effort was made to maximize appearance and minimize expense.

Thus the cabinets in the kitchen had a nice label but were the cheapest model offered by that manufacturer.

For the most part they have served us well.

But there is a large drawer, in the cabinet left of the stove, that came off the tracks once a few years back. After considerable lifting and straining and pushing and bending and cussing and swearing (the cussing and swearing mostly from me) Long Suffering Spouse and I got the drawer back on the track and closed. She removed everything she was likely to need from that drawer before we closed it up, like a Pharaoh's Tomb, with solemn vows never to open it -- and certainly never to try and fully open it -- ever again. The children were likewise instructed. We moved on.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

We jump now to last Saturday afternoon. It was not exactly warm, but it was nicer than it's been, and Long Suffering Spouse decided to barbecue.

Ever since my insides were removed, I don't much care for barbecue, but there was leftover pizza for me to eat. And we needed to free up some freezer space. We are heading into cookie season, you know.

Just the other day Abuela generously sent us two boxes of large QVC hamburgers -- chock full of onions -- and I went down to the basement to wrestle the box from the bottom corner of the freezer.

The electric company is always after homeowners to get rid of their obsolete basement refrigerators. And you should realize that an old aging hippie like me would not have an energy-hogging frig eating up energy in the basement: Oh, no, the ancient refrigerator died a natural death many years ago and we promptly replaced it with a newer, more efficient model. With five kids -- and all of them went through adolescence in that house -- we needed the second frig. And in cookie season we need the freezer section even more.

You would think that removing a box from a freezer would free up space therein. That's how the laws of physics are written.

But the laws of physics do not take into account bags of frozen Costco chicken wings and chicken breasts which expand to fill any space made available. Younger Daughter and her husband are responsible for the wings. I'm not sure they sealed up the wings bag properly because it promptly discharged contents all over the freezer when I removed the box of burgers. In trying to close that I somehow spilled chicken breasts. And my wife keeps foil packages of frozen meat for tacos or sloppy joes or Chinese food in that freezer, too. In theory these should be stackable; in practice, however....

It took awhile, but I eventually got everything back in it's proper bag and everything stuffed back in the freezer. It looked more crowded than ever, but at least I had my box of burgers. Chock full of onions. I couldn't eat onions when I had insides.

Long Suffering Spouse set up the grill and I headed off to the Jewel for hamburger buns and, as long as I was there, for some liquid refreshment for my own personal use.

When I got back, Long Suffering Spouse asked me where the barbecue tools had gone.

The barbecue tools are kept in the front hall, in season. I think in the winter they are supposed to be consigned to the garage, but I can't say for sure.

I could say for sure that they weren't in the front hall because the bench there had been cleared off in favor of candy for Trick or Treaters.  And Long Suffering Spouse had already determined they weren't in the garage.  I might have said that I didn't have the foggiest notion where the barbecue tools might be, because I didn't, but I would have been instructed to look for them anyway.  I gamely accepted my charge.

I went in the house and hollered for Younger Daughter. You may think that cheating. But I knew I could have wandered around the house as long as Moses wandered in the desert and never have gotten so much as a clue about the whereabouts of those barbecue tools: They are too big to hide in plain sight, which meant they must be truly hidden, and I didn't hide them. Younger Daughter might have.

And, as it turns out, she had.

She came into the kitchen with her daughter on her shoulder -- she'd just finished changing the baby -- explaining en route that she'd hid the tools in (cue scary music) The Forbidden Drawer.

I had barely begun reminding her that the drawer was never to be opened -- ever -- when Younger Daughter pulled at it with her one free hand.

There was a crashing noise. The drawer stopped moving after about only four inches, tilting ominously upward.

I hollered. Younger Daughter started to explain that she'd used The Forbidden Drawer lots of times in the last few years without incident -- and the baby -- who was sure that they'd come into the kitchen because it was time to feed her -- began crying. Younger Daughter removed the baby to her high chair, leaving me to work with the wreckage.

I opened the cabinet beneath The Forbidden Drawer and pushed upwards. I still couldn't slide it along the track of course; the drawer had completely jumped that. But holding up the bottom of the drawer with one hand, trying to make it as level as possible, I could feel inside The Forbidden Drawer with the other. The giant barbecue tongs had gotten wedged in; I had to work them free. With that I was able to open The Forbidden Drawer just enough more to extract the tools.

Then I tried to close the drawer. Of course it would only go so far and no further. I picked up the tools and headed for the front door. (Long Suffering Spouse sets the grill up on the driveway.)

"I've got good news and bad news," I told her, cautiously, as I handed her the tools. "The good news is that we found the barbecue tools."

"What's the bad news?"

I told her.

She started hollering at me.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

As soon as she got the hamburgers inside, we went to work on drawer repair. Task one was to get the drawer out. Long Suffering Spouse got underneath and pushed; I stayed upright and pulled. And tugged. Eventually we got the drawer about halfway out, to the point where it was pretty much blocking the whole kitchen (it's a narrow room). The baby was still carrying on because she wasn't getting fed; Younger Daughter was trying to explain to her mother why she thought it a good idea to use The Forbidden Drawer and Long Suffering Spouse was telling me that, whatever I was doing up there, I was doing it wrong.

At that moment, the phone rang.

Still gripping the partially open drawer and trying to wiggle it free I yelled out, "Hello, Older Daughter."

"It can't be her; she's at a football game with Hank this afternoon," protested Younger Daughter. (Older Daughter and her husband are both proud alums of the University of Illinois. Their Illini were playing at the University of Indiana Saturday; the game was still early in the second half at this point.)

"You know it's her," said Long Suffering Spouse, head buried in the pots and pans stored below The Forbidden Drawer, pushing up on it all the while trying to set it free.

"Call from Wireless Caller," said the telephone. Younger Daughter and Olaf had gotten us these talking telephones last Christmas. A computerized female voice announces each new call, with sometimes hilariously unintelligible pronunciations. Still holding the drawer I turned around to look at the phone's caller ID.

Sure enough.

"Well, pick it up," my wife told me, and I did as I was told. "Are you OK?" I asked, brusquely perhaps. "Why are you calling? Aren't you at a football game?"

Well, yes, she said, but without seat backs on the stadium's bleacher seats, her back had begun to hurt and she went back to the car to sit for awhile and, as long as she was sitting, she said, she thought she might call and chat --

I cut her off.

"You're OK, then?"


"Fine. We'll talk to you later. We've got a situation here. Go watch your game."

I learned later that she soon thereafter texted her sister, apparently in tears, because I hung up on her. Younger Daughter had to explain why I was so curt.

"Oh," said Older Daughter, according to her sister's later account. "I guess my timing was bad."

But her timing wasn't bad. It was amazing. She has a talent -- a true gift, really -- for calling at the exact wrong moment.

At the moment, however, I had to return my attention to The Forbidden Drawer. I resumed grabbing and pulling and wiggling. Long Suffering Spouse kept pushing and jiggling. Eventually, we got the thing out.

I cleared off a spot for it on the kitchen table and set it down.

"We are not leaving this here forever," Long Suffering Spouse warned me.

"Well, maybe you can eat first," I suggested. The hamburgers weren't getting any warmer.

"No," she said, "I know you. I eat now and you disappear and the next thing I know we're trying to work around this drawer on Thanksgiving Day."

It was at this point that Olaf showed up. He'd worked another full day on Saturday (putting him on salary turned out to be a great cost-saving move for his employer). He innocently inquired what was going on.

"You're in manufacturing," I said, "you can figure out how to get this fixed."

To my pleasant surprise, he started looking at the problem, marching back and forth between the cabinet and the table where I'd set the drawer down, interrogating my wife about the availability of various tools.

The phone rang again. "It can't be Older Daughter," I said, "not so soon."

It wasn't. It was Middle Son.

"Talk to your son," Long Suffering Spouse commanded.

I took the phone and walked into the den, turning on the Illinois-Indiana game as I settled into my chair. Long Suffering Spouse stayed behind to supervise her son-in-law.

I explained all this to Middle Son.

"I've called at a bad time, then," he said.

"Nonsense," I said. "Your sister called at a bad time. Olaf has taken over my spot in the kitchen; we can't all be in there at once.  There's not enough room."

Middle Son was actually calling about his big sister. Hank is turning 30 this week and Older Daughter has been talking about having a party, or maybe two parties, on either Friday or Saturday, or Friday and Saturday this coming weekend. Older Daughter wanted everyone to come down to Indianapolis for the occasion.  Oldest Son and Abby had an iron-clad excuse; they were going to a wedding at which Abby was to be a bridesmaid. That eliminated Friday and Saturday for them. Youngest Son has no car and couldn't get away from South Janesville College anyway. Olaf and Younger Daughter didn't want to go because it would be too hard to bring the baby -- and then Younger Daughter committed to sitting for her brother's dog, Rodent, 'forgetting' that this was the same weekend of the proposed party or parties in Indianapolis. Middle Son didn't want to be the only one to go, but he'd heard that Long Suffering Spouse and I were going to go, and he was hoping we had more information than he did.

"You saw the Facebook invite, didn't you Dad?" Middle Son asked.

I had. We knew that a party was proposed for next Saturday. Although no location was specified, we were given to understand that the party would be at Hank and Older Daughter's home. But the invite did not specify any time for the party.

"Well, do you know what time they're thinking about?" asked Middle Son.

"Who knows?"

"Maybe I should call her. Since she's just sitting in her car instead of watching the football game."

I advised against that. "She's got to talk to her husband about this -- and right now they're fighting over which one of them has to clean the house for the party. There may not even be a party."

"Well, when are we going to find out?" Middle Son asked.

"Hopefully before next Saturday, that's all I can say."

We agreed that we'd let each other know if we got any information at all.

*  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *  *

Olaf did get the drawer in  (he apparently really does know this manufacturing stuff).  Nevertheless, I will break the arm of anybody that tries to open it again.  Also, as of today, in case you're wondering, the party appears to be set for Saturday afternoon. But Older Daughter is still thinking of cancelling because Hank won't take a day off work to clean....  Meanwhile, Long Suffering Spouse and I are arguing over whether -- because the party is in the afternoon -- we can make the trip there and back in a single day.