Thursday, July 25, 2013


I’ve never been a big fan of hot weather.  In fact, when I was a kid, hot weather used to make me feel so woozy, I’d have to stay inside during recess whenever the temperature rose above 80 or I’d end up losing my macaroni and cheese on the playground. Of course, it could have been that the school cafeteria just served bad macaroni and cheese, but I liked to blame everything on the heat.

I even got sent home from school once because I had what the nurse called a heat rash or “prickly heat.”  It was pretty ugly – a bunch of itchy red bumps all over my neck, which kind of gave me a plucked chicken look.

So this recent heat wave has been less than pleasurable for me. When it’s hot out, I get really irritable and complain about everything. The other night I even caught myself yelling at people on TV and telling them how dumb they were, as if they actually could hear me. They deserved to be yelled at, though. I mean, they were in an old Superman movie and they couldn’t tell that Clark Kent really was Superman just because Clark Kent wore glasses and Superman didn’t?  Even a two-year-old could tell they were the same guy!

I must confess I haven’t exactly been doing much to stay cool during this heat wave. On one of the hottest days, I baked four dozen chocolate-chip cookies for my neighborhood’s annual July 4th party.

The problem was, I own only one cookie sheet – a Lilliputian-sized one.  So I had to bake one small batch of cookies at a time. It ended up taking me about five hours to bake all 48. By then, my house felt like the inside of a blast furnace, even with the air-conditioner on. And the chocolate chips completely lost their shape and oozed everywhere. The cookies looked as if they were chocolate frosted instead of chocolate chip.

Another scorching day, I decided I couldn’t put off mowing the back lawn any longer. Because of all of the recent rain, the grass had grown to huge proportions – kind of like a rain forest. My dogs practically had to carry machetes to hack their way through it so they could go to the bathroom.

I’m not the type who mows the lawn in a tank top and shorts, however. No, I have to protect every inch of my body from the sun, ticks, mosquitoes and wayward snakes.

I finally emerged into the yard looking as if I were in the witness protection program. I was wearing a wide-brimmed hat, sunglasses, sweatband, long-sleeved shirt, and long pants tucked into knee-high rubber boots. Oh, and I also wore knee socks under the boots because if I don’t, the rubber chafes me.

I hadn’t even started the lawnmower when I felt as if I were about faint. Every five minutes, I stopped mowing and headed into the air-conditioned house to revive myself and drink water. As a result, I tracked in so many grass clippings, the kitchen looked as if it had green shag-carpeting.

By the time I finally finished mowing, I was pretty sure there were no fluids left in my body and that my internal organs resembled raisins. Everything on me was drenched with sweat, including my teeth. Never has a cool shower felt so good. I swear that steam came off my body when the water hit me.

The day before the July 4th holiday, another scorcher, the 110-foot trench that had been dug across my front lawn to lay a gas line for my generator finally was filled in. The problem was, the lawn, or what was left of it, ended up covered with rocks, most about the size of my fist or larger.  Determined to get rid of them, I put on my lawn-mowing attire (freshly washed), grabbed a bucket and headed outside.

I picked up two rocks and put them into the bucket. Immediately I began to feel as if I were hanging on a spit over an open fire. I picked up two more rocks. Perspiration popped out on my face and ran down my neck.  Two rocks later, I was lying on the front porch and praying for a swift and merciful death.

So I’ve decided not to bother trying to clear or replant the front lawn.

I think it looks much better as a rock garden anyway.




Friday, July 12, 2013



Two months ago, I had the tie rods replaced on my car, followed by an alignment. Ever since then, it just hasn’t felt right.

For one thing, the ride has been really bumpy, kind of like driving over a cobblestone street. Finally, last week, after riding around feeling as if my tires were square and my lunch was about to make a return engagement, I pulled into the dealership where I’d bought the car.

“My wheels feel like they’re going to fall off my car,” I told the guy in the service department. “And the car vibrates so much, I practically have to take Dramamine when I drive it!”

“Well, take a seat in the waiting area,” he said, “and I’ll have someone road test it.”

I went into the waiting area, where a man, two women and a young girl were seated. We all sat there in silence for a few minutes until I, having never been a big fan of silence, decided to break the ice.

“I think my car has square tires,” I said.

They laughed.

As it turned out, the guy in the waiting area was a humor writer and singer from Massachusetts, so within a few minutes, he and I were joking about everything from the original bumper stickers he creates (example: “I’m on my way to my anger-management class, so get the &$#@ out of my way!”)  to the fact that I’d heard that if you play Michael Jackson songs, they repel mosquitoes. 

The guy was jokingly in the middle of singing a stirring rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean,” switching the lyrics to “Billie Jean is not my bug-girl,” with all of the appropriate moves, when the service technician entered the room and just stared wide-eyed at us.

“Um, whose car has the rough tires?” he finally asked.

I raised my hand.

“Well, the good news is your car is safe to drive and the wheels aren’t falling off,” he said.  I was just about to do a happy dance when he added, “The bad news is you need four new tires and an alignment. The tread on the tires is badly worn off on all of the outer edges.”

“But I just had it aligned,” I said.

“Then you must have hit a really bad pot hole.”

I didn’t remember any pot holes – and I was pretty sure I’d have remembered one bad enough to destroy all of my tires. Unfortunately, the dealer was booked until the next week, and I, the queen of impatience, wanted the job done right away. So I headed over to Sears.

“Is it possible to get four new tires and an alignment today?” I asked the clerk. By then, it was 5:30.

“Sure,” he said. “We close at 7:00, but someone will stay and finish the job if it’s not done by then. And we’ll thoroughly check out the car first to make sure it actually needs tires and an alignment.”

I felt like hugging him.

He took down all of my information and then proceeded to give me a tire tour, where he showed me the various tread patterns on about eight different brands. They all looked about the same to me – rubber. I picked the Road Huggers, mainly because they were on sale – and their tread had a really pretty pattern.

He then gave me a $5 gift certificate, encouraged me to shop around the store, and asked for my cell phone number. He said he’d call me if he had any questions – or if no questions, he’d call when my car was ready.

He didn’t have to tell me twice to go shopping – I was off and running.

The trouble with my cell phone is that I use it maybe once a month because I work out of my house and don’t really need it. I took it out of my purse to check it and it said, “no signal.” So I stepped outside to see if I could get a signal out there. I did everything but climb the flagpole before I finally got one. The minute I did, the phone rang.

“This is the automotive department,” the voice said. “You took your car keys with you.”

So back to the department I went.

I then spent over an hour roaming throughout the mall and shopping. I bought “must have” items like lemon-scented body spray, a Red Sox T-shirt, a couple packs of The Walking Dead trading cards, vacuum-cleaner bags, a pair of earrings and a Johnny Depp as Tonto action figure.  I was just about to buy a CD of the greatest disco hits from the 1970s, when I looked at my watch. It was 6:45. I remembered the clerk telling me the automotive department closed at 7:00, so I raced back over there.  To my relief, my car was ready.

“We left you a voice mail when we finished,” the clerk told me.

“Yeah, well, I forgot to step outside again, climb a tree and face east,” I told him. The poor guy had no clue what I was talking about.

“So, did my car need four new tires and an alignment?” I asked.

“It sure did!” the mechanic, who was standing next to the clerk, said. “I don’t know how you drove a straight line with it, it was so bad.”

That might explain why my car recently seemed to develop a strong attraction to trees on the right side of the road.

So now I don’t feel as if I’m riding around on a washboard any more. But I’ll probably have to live on peanut-butter sandwiches until Halloween to pay for the tires. 

On the bright side, they are under warranty for 100,000 miles. The way I figure it, by the time I drive that many miles, I’ll be 127 year old.

So I think I should be safe for a while.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013



Since 2009, I have had to suffer through 16 power failures at my current house. It seems as if anything stronger than a mild breeze knocks out the power. It’s gotten to the point where if someone with a bad cough walks by my electrical wires, I rush to dig out the candles.

So last month, I finally decided to have a full-house automatic generator system installed. I’d scrimped and saved $6,500 for the project, and I fully intended to stay within that budget and not spend a penny more.

The first two generator companies I called for estimates nearly caused me to give up and just go buy a case of candles because one wanted $10,000 and the other, $11,000.  When I happened to mention this to my insurance agent a few days later, he suggested that I call an electrician friend of his who has connections (pun intended).

I called the electrician and he advised me to buy the generator myself at one of the big-box home-improvement stores, and then hire my own electrician and gas fitter. He said I would save a bundle that way. So I followed his advice and bought the generator – a powerful Generac system for a little over $2,500. Then I called back the electrician, told him I’d taken his advice, and asked him if I could hire him to hook up the generator for me. He said he’d just begun a huge project rewiring an entire mobile-home park, and made it sound as if he wouldn’t be available until about December of the year 2020. So I called the electrician who’d originally wired my house and asked if he could install the generator. He said he’d get back to me. He never did. Finally, I found another electrician who was willing to do the job right away for $2,400.

Then I searched for a licensed gas-fitter to connect my underground propane tank to the generator.

Well, as luck would have it, I was out walking my dog one afternoon and a neighbor I’d never had the opportunity of meeting before was outside in his yard. I stopped, introduced myself and struck up a conversation with him. When he happened to mention what he did for a living, I couldn’t believe my ears. He was a licensed gas-fitter! Fate had intervened!  I told him about my generator and he said he’d be glad to do the work for me.

I think, however he probably regretted that decision after he arrived to size up the situation.

If I had wanted to put the generator in the middle of my driveway, then it would have been a snap to connect. But I wanted it hidden behind the house, over 100 feet from the gas tank.

“I think the best way to go about this is to run a line from the gas meter through the basement and then out to the generator,” he said. “It should cost about $800.”

After he measured my basement, however, he didn’t look too pleased. “The farther the line has to go, the bigger it has to be, and the more expensive it gets,” he said. “Let me check with your gas company to find out if running another pressure line directly from the tank to the generator might be a better option.”

The gas company recommended the pressure line. “The trench for it has to be 18 inches deep after you’ve added two inches of sand,” they informed me. “Let us know when you finish it.”

They sounded as if they wanted me to dig my own trench! Me, who digs like an aging gopher and would have to hire a live-in chiropractor afterwards? So although I knew it would further strain my budget, I called an excavator.  He said he could dig the trench and provide the sand for the bottom for a total of $400.  I had no clue what the going rate for trench digging was, but $400 sounded OK to me, especially since I could forgo chiropractor.

The trench digger arrived on his Bobcat two days later and proceeded to dig the equivalent of the San Andreas Fault Line in my yard. And the trench has to remain wide open until the gas line is laid and the building inspector approves it. I have visions of small animals, particularly skunks, roaming through the yard at night and falling into the abyss. Or, if there’s a period of heavy rain, I’ll end up with my own private moat.

Meanwhile, the electrician asked me to pick out 12 things I wanted to connect to the generator. The first few were easy – the furnace, the well, the water heater, TV and the refrigerator.  Then it became more difficult. Did I want the automatic garage-door opener or the backyard floodlight so the dogs wouldn’t stumble around out in the dark and accidentally end up “doing their business” on the bulkhead?  Or did I need a bathroom light so I wouldn’t end up stumbling around in the dark and accidentally “doing my business” in the bathtub? It took me over an hour to decide, but I finally chose the 12 things I wanted hooked up.  The electrician then spent seven hours getting everything wired.

After he left, I realized I had forgotten to connect something really important – the water purification system in the basement. Without it, the water will come straight into the house from the well.  And the water in my well contains 10 times the normal levels of arsenic.

So I guess I’ll have to remember that the next time there’s a power failure, not to invite anyone over for iced tea.