333. Plumbing Adventures

It’s an odd topic, I’ll grant you that, since I am not a plumber nor much of a handyman. Some men are born plumbers; some achieve plumbing training; and others have plumbing thrust upon them. [Malvolio said something close to that in Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.] I am in the last category. (I know how to call a plumber. “Hey, Plumber Boy, come here. Closer.  I sprung a leak and I need you to fix me up”, or in a raspy Janis Joplin voice… “I need you to come on, come on, come on,  Take it! Take another little look at my sink, my sink now baby. You know you’ve got it, if it don’t drip no more.”) Okay, that tangent is getting awkward for everyone. Time for some plumbing dope. It stops even hard to control neural and verbal leakage.

This morning as my wife and daughter scurried about responding to Work’s siren call, two things stood out: the first one I have already forgotten, and the second one was that the sink in our master bedroom was leaking, a lot.

The Wife: “I don’t need this. The Gestapo at work are now logging precisely when we swipe into the building and we’ll be written up if we’re a minute late. I’ll just eat breakfast in the car again. Forget the fact that I have to work at home every night to keep up with the kids’ IEP’s.” (I can attest to the veracity of this last statement. My bride’s face has the equivalent of a tanning booth cathode ray burn from her laptop’s screen. I’ve been shopping for computer sunscreen ointments, but these have apparently not been invented yet. I am concerned, however, at night after she shuts the laptop down, that her face continues to glow like a fog-covered moon in autumn.) “I’ve had too much of tirement.” She says, ” I need to get to that re- prefix and soon… Will you look at the vanity downstairs and turn the water off? Oh, and the hair dryer stopped working this morning, of course.  Ahhhh!!!”

(I could attest to the truth of that statement as well since only the right side of her hair was dry. It was a different look that might work if she were a 20 year old punk rocker with blue hair.)

“And don’t forget to let Johnnie out before you go.”

(That’s what I forgot! Head slap.)”Oh, and we’re out of coffee, so can you pick some up in Greencastle or at your coffee shop? I like Sumatran.”

“Yeeeahhh.”

“Yeah what?  Yeah, you heard me? Yeah, you agree with me? Yeah, you’ll check the sink?  Yeah, you like my hair, which I know is not true, so don’t even try that. Yeah, you’ll let the dog out? Or yeah, you’ll get the coffee?”

“Yeah, all of that. Yup. I’m going to write it down this very instant.”

“Okay, I’ll see you tonight. Don’t forget to pick Jess up after choir and send that insurance check off, okay?.”

“I, uh, dang pen won’t write… Let’s see. Number one is, uh, let the dog out. [Yeah, fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on you again.] Okay, bye.”

Silence.

Fear rising.

Nothing but blank checks bouncing across my brain’s screen saver.

Alone and scared. Clothed and Afraid.

“Oh no. I sense my memory banks are all bankrupt!  Wait, I remember something about coffee. (I have to pee when I get nervous and when I’ve had too much coffee.) Oh, yeah, let the dog out to pee. Got that. Oh, and let him back in. I guess that’s understood. If you go to the bathroom it’s a given that you will come back, unless you have a seizure or die there. Actually, I did have a seizure in the bathroom, this very bathroom almost exactly 12 years ago. Wow. This is like an anniversary peepiphany for me!! I may need to re-assess my opening claim and claim a different sort of plumbing competence.

“I will boldly plumb vaguely connected concepts, tiny and tenuous threads of relevance. I will get the dope out. I’ll solder the disjointed joints. Run the gradients. Snake the trapped. Flush the commodious. And hook you up with high pressure hyperbole.

Plumb, verb with object:  to examine closely in order to discover or understand:

to plumb someone’s thoughts. 
“Yeah, baby, baby, baby!!! Who’s the Plumber Boy now? Excuse me for just a second. I need to get up and shake my plumber butt around. Whooohooo.!!! Shake, shake. Oh yeah. Cue up “Macho Man” by the Village People. Where is my toolbelt? “I want to be your Macho Man.
“Okay, focus. Breathe deeply and slowly. Remember your yoga intention for the day. I wrote that down on a yellow sticky note upstairs, I think. OOoooh, the list. What was next?
“The sink. I sink I can, I sink I can, I sink…huh, looks like this big gray cap nut is loose.”  Turn, turn, turn. “Hmmmm, let me dry it out and see if the drip is done.”  Wipe, wipe, wipe.
Silence as the dehumidifier does its magic. An hour later our hero, me, slides a baking dish beneath the pipe.  Two hours later not a drop in the dish. Victory is mine. I let out a powerful exhale and strut around my bedroom like Mick Jagger singing “Midnight Plumber”…
Did you hear about the midnight plumber?
Everybody got to go
Did you hear about the midnight plumber?
The one that shut the kitchen door
He don’t give a hoot of warning
Wrapped up in a black cat cloak
He don’t go in the light of the morning
He split the time the cock’rel crows
Talkin’ about the midnight plumber
The one you never seen before
Talkin’ about the midnight plumber
Did you see him jump the garden wall?
Sighin’ down the wind so sad
Listen and you’ll hear him moan
Talkin’ about the midnight plumber
Everybody got to go
Did you hear about the midnight plumber
Well, honey, it’s no rock ‘n’ roll show
Well, I’m talkin’ about the midnight plumber
Yeah, the one you never seen before.
Ahhh, delirious Amen.
 
 
 
 

 

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295. Reality Testing

The doctor asked the 80 year old man with a split skull what day it was, what his name was, where he was. The patient managed a few words but fumbled the date and who was president on a follow up question. In the medical and behavioral health business this is called reality  testing. It seems pretty clear in a medical sense when a neurosurgeon is probing an old man with a head cracked open like a  pistachio. But there are many other types of reality testing.

At the coffee shop recently, okay, TODAY, I was enlisted for my off the wall opinion on the current status of the Awkward Aardvark Café  where I javanate daily.

“Burrito, what do you think of the homeless shelter atmosphere that has developed here over the past few years?”

“You mean the living DSM V museum of mental disorders and coffee? Nice hat and shades, by the way. Is that a fake beard?”

“Yeah, that. Focus!!”

“Well, if you added some washers and dryers in the back room, that would complete the design of a small town, dirty sock hors d’oeuvres ministry on a cracker budget. Then, if we installed pull down Murphy beds along the north wall, we could squeeze in about 20 folks per night.”

“But we are still a business not a charity.”

“What would Jesus do?”

“He didn’t run a coffee shop!”

“C’mon Andrea! I’m sure at the carpenter shop there were loungers on his chairs and benches. He probably had stragglers and loiterers, even litterbugs doing jitterbugs. 21st century America did not invent the slacker. I’m sure he had to whack someone or just give them a hard Galilean stare every now and then. I’ll bet he had a no smoking sign posted above his sawdust piles.”

“Tobacco hadn’t been discovered back then, Mr. Anachronism. And the jitterbug comes from the Roaring 20’s. But customers are complaining now, the paying customers who fund this shop’s business. And some other business owners are complaining that our slackers are creating an unsavory environment outside on the square. They want to speak to the manager, which is why I am wearing this disguise.”

“Yes, but why go all Nazi on these folks? They are still human beings, right? They are our slackers. I mean there is Brenda the bread lady, and Lola the sticker picker, and Shelly the director of the United Nation of human ruminations.”

“It’s not them. We all like them. They are sweet in their own odiferous ways.”

“So, it’s Dudley?”

“No. Everyone likes him. He’s harmless and follows all the rules. He smokes across the street not at the outdoor tables.  And then he sweeps up others’ debris.”

“So it’s me, isn’t it?  This whole  ‘let’s talk’ thing was just a ploy to get me to confess, wasn’t it? Then I’m supposed to have a glimmer of insight and change for the better on my own, but I’m…”

“Stop! No, it’s not you. I’m seeking ideas from you. I’m desperate.”

“Wow, you must be floundering like a… flounder on the desert floor, floundering in a red hot iron skillet, popping with olive oil and pumpkin seeds to consult me. Let’s see, I can propose a committee to study this and then issue a report for a subcommittee to study and then make a proposal at a later time to the full house. Then, there’s the funding question. How’s that?”

“Not helping.”

“Okay, if the actual measurable offenses come from only two slightly creepy old guys, why not tell them as soon as they say or do something inappropriate? Then you don’t have to ride herd over the whole of humanity, picking winners and losers, the haves and the have nots. This is starting to sound like Marxism.”

“Like how?”

“Well, when X says something… say, Mr. X! That is inappropriate. If it continues, you’ll have to leave.”

“That’s harsh. Could you say it for us?”

“Let me see if I’m hearing you right– you want me to come up with the solution and the enforcement of said solution?”

“Yep. We’re scared to push, you know, be too bold. We’re young girls. Defenseless. Weak. You are old and don’t have long anyway. Most days you fail your daily reality test. Can’t you be the coffee shop cop?”

“No, you just don’t know what you don’t know. Let me share a bit of self defense wisdom that I learned while getting my hair cut an hour ago. The best in-house defense you can use against an intruder is Bee and Wasp spray. If you keep  a couple of cans open and at the ready, you can hit a man in the eye at twenty nine feet, essentially covering the entire coffee shop. Brilliant, eh?”

“You’re serious, aren’t you? Wasp Away. Hornet Hit Man. Bumblebee Tumble.”

“Sober as a gun slinging hairdresser, Sweety. And I don’t mean a blow dryer.”

“What if we miss and hit the wrong person or poison a muffin? Hit a baby in a stroller?”

“Collateral damage, Ma’am. The cost of urban warfare.”

“You are no help, really. We’re trying to find a way off this spider web and you are smearing honey on it.”

“Andrea, your metaphor is a bit obtuse, but I think you have hit the bull’s eye.”

“What?  I don’t follow.”

“The coffee shop is the web. Some critters come for the honey, i.e., the coffee, which is good, right? Some come for inappropriate reasons, to meet deep psychopathic emotional needs. Those are the guys you spray. It’s aversion therapy for free. You’ll see. Folks will applaud after you have cleaned up the town. You’ll be the new marshal in town. Just trust me on this one.”

“Well, will you spray the first offender? I mean, there’s the liability, the police, the drama.”

“Andrea, that’s why we have Joel on retainer. He knows how to handle the legally insane. He is a member of the Coffee Summit, for goodness sakes.”

“Thanks, Burrito. When I doubt myself, I think of you and feel so much saner.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

186. the lull latte

Image result for christmas landscapeIt’s a quiet Christmas morning. Frozen outside, a weak sun cannot melt the ice spots on our deck. Inside, the wood pellet stove fan’s whir is interrupted by the augur pushing more pellets into the hopper to burn. My bare ankles detect a chill at floor level just above the ridge of my new slippers. I adjust the stove’s setting a click higher as a sneeze sounds upstairs where my oldest daughter and wife sip tea and read books silently.  My youngest daughter sleeps behind me on a recliner after a tough night of coughing and sipping robitussin. And I, I want to memorialize gratitude on the blank document before me.

The grand baby Leah was off all  night as well. She had a wet sort of cough and a stuffy nose. At ten months of age she can’t have medications willy nilly, nor can she sleep with her binky in her mouth while snuffling through a stuffed nose. Something had to give last night, and that was her parents’ right to sleep. They held her upright and sat in a steamy bathroom on and off to ease her discomfort. As Grace cheerfully said this morning, “If anyone else prevented you from sleeping all night, you’d be upset and cranky. But when it’s your own baby, well, it doesn’t matter.” Simple truth: love sacrifices.

Several times over the past two days I have gazed at my granddaughter’s sparkling angelic face and smiled a joyous smile back at  her. She pulls her binky out of her four tooth grin and offers it to me with an outstretched little baby girl arm. Each time I think but don’t say, “Grace, thank you for not going right to work and delaying these moments for years or forever. What a great gift you have given us. As parents we did not have a choice. We  had to work up to, during, and after delivery. We lived on the edge, often upset and cranky with each other and with our station in life.  We could not be as resilient as  you. Thank you for this joy born of faith.”

“Thank you Stu for working without complaint or measuring to provide Grace and Leah this ideal time together. Thank you for who you are and who you choose to be in a world that clamors to divide your attention and loyalties. Thank you for loving God, my daughter, and my granddaughter so deeply.”

Grace, baby Leah and hubby Stu drove over to Stu’s good family this morning. Fortunately they live only three miles away so we don’t have custody cravings and clashes. They are good people, those Gallaghers. I want to thank them for putting family ahead of stuff, and for putting faith first in their family. Days like today are rich dividends paid on those investments. Not big material gains but subtle relational ones, for all the gifts exchanged mean nothing compared to the laughs, the smiles, the hugs and the love of family. “Thank you Dan and Joann for holding cracked family systems together and re-bonding the fractures. Thanks for  parenting again as grandparents. You are twice blessed.”

 

This year we really dialed it back on the gift giving, not because we had to. It was more a question of stewardship and priorities. We lack nothing. It’s an odd contradiction when you must really concentrate and take inventory to come up with a gift wish. After a few searching moments, I said, ” I could use a belt.” My wife bought me two. I’m full, Blogelves. Anything more and I will overflow in wasteful luxury. What I wanted was abundantly present before and around me– my faithful wife, my three fabulous daughters, my amazing son-in-law, and my precious granddaughter. All in harmonious peace.  Friends visited during the day, then we all went to church, opened presents and played a tough game of chess and later Scrabble. (I lost both… happily.) It’s all good.

So in the quiet of today comes the lull, the slow and easy break from the breakneck life we live. It’s the root of lullabye, a repeated lu-lu-lu sound that soothes children to sleep. I imagine Mary and Joseph lulling baby Jesus back to sleep in the brutal world they inhabited. Soothing sounds from a loving mother, better than robitussin and vodka, and before you know it the babe is rhythmically breathing, a little bird in its downy nest, a little lamb on its mother’s warm, fuzzy belly. The lull is a safe and satisfied place to be, a drainage ditch off the bayou of joy. You can bed down in the sweet long grass there like a fawn, safe and blessed. A pause in the struggle of survival. Today tastes like victory, like tiramisu and cheesecake with rich creamy coffee. It’s playing the X on a triple word space overlapping a double word line in a  seven letter word play fifty point bonus. Yeah, like that.

Yesterday at the coffee shop the coffee was free. I said to Andrea, “This must be what heaven is like.” She did not disagree. I told her I would initiate a pay it forward program all day long for coffee. She was unimpressed with my antilargesseness.  But it’s all good in the lull, the moment between inhale and exhale as oxygen hooks up on dates with blood cells in your lungs. Sure, there is more stress coming tomorrow. The world will erupt again in chaotic activity and conflicts of all sorts because this was too small or that was too large. Our first world problems will seep up to street level like sewer gases. But for the moment I’ll have the lull latte. Thank you.