Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Twelfth One: What Was That Noise?

So every year, we have a party on the Sunday before Memorial Day. It's a tradition, celebrating the holiday as well as the general anniversary of when Terry and I got together. I say "general", because there is another tradition wherein Terry and I completely disagree on the actual date of our anniversary. Sad, but true.

See, Terry firmly supports the "theory" that our anniversary is May 26th. I strongly advocate for the solid fact that it is May 27th. Neither of us will waver. We argue every year. It's a relationship thing. Give me a high-five if you know what I mean by THAT.

And yes, we have tried reconstructing the scene of the crime in order to resolve this lingering issue. This also gets nowhere. It was nine years ago. We were younger then. And horny. It was initially a "date" that turned into a several-day game of slap and tickle. I had no idea that we would eventually be renting a U-Haul and filling out change of address cards. So I'm not certain of the exact day, other than "it was Memorial Day weekend". It's not like I can review the guest register to see exactly when he checked in. (I had to get rid of that book after a small scandal involving a local city council member, sayin.)

A year rolls by. We are still together. Yay! We decide to have a party to celebrate the holiday and our anniversary. Yay! The date of that party? The 27th. THAT's why I remember the 27th, because I still have the dang invitations we sent out. If the 27th was good enough for our anniversary that year, why is it a question in subsequent years? I mean, really.

I know, I know, why not just let it go, be supportive of the one I love, and just quietly let the anniversary be the 26th? Three things you must know about me: I'm Italian. I'm a male. And I will happily admit that I am wrong ONLY if you can prove it with power point slides and irrefutable witnesses. Terry is up against insurmountable odds, poor thing. He cannot win.

Speaking of which, since this is once again the 26TH of May, he just tried to present me with an anniversary card. I'm sure you can imagine how the transaction went. ("It's the 27th!" "It's the 26th!" "We have this discussion every year!" "And every year you are wrong!" "ME wrong? Why can't YOU be wrong?") Love is in the air, every sight and every sound...

So he's now off in the other room, chattering to his sister on the phone. I'm sure arsenic and well-constructed alibis will be talking points during the conversation.

And finally back to the initial reason for this post.

The guest list for this year's party was in flux, as it always is. You never know who is going to show. As Sunday approached, there was a definite spike in interest, and it appeared that we might be inundated with manic queens, radical lesbians, "curious" moths to the flame, and all our straight friends who love us and the potential jaw-dropping events that might unfold.

So, the day of the party, I'm racing madly to arrange for additional lawn chairs, extra food, structural reinforcements, and an appropriate amount of legal advisers on stand-by in case they are needed. I am obsessive about these details. Bree on "Desperate Housewives" is a mere deer in the headlights, a pathetic amateur, compared to me.

The clock of doom winds down to 6pm on Sunday, and the guests start to arrive. You must understand that until this apocalyyptic hour, the weather has been perfect, lots of sunshine and happy birds chirping merry tunes while Snow White flitters here and there, humming along. ("Terry, would you take off that stupid cartoon dress and make sure the toilets are sparkling? NOW!") Almost immediately, the sky darkens and it begins to sprinkle.


Within 30 minutes, we are in the midst of a torrential downpour as guests are clamoring to get in the house, lugging vats of guacamole and coolers of adult beverages that must NOT be compromised in any way or the world will end. The house is packed with dripping people running around trying to keep their Bonnie Bell Lipsmacker Glitter Gloss from washing away.

The lights dim, and I hear the weird buzz/throb noise I recognize as an indication that a power transformer somewhere in the neighborhood is about to blow. We live in an "established" neighborhood, meaning "old", and are used to transformers blowing with the slightest weather disturbance. But normally this transformer-blowing business is relatively short, a few seconds of buzzing, a loud bang, and then we have no power for hours or days.

THIS time, the buzzing noise stretches out for way longer than it should, and increases in intensity. Not good. Then some queen in the front of the house makes exclamatory noises while looking out a window. We race to said room to discover that there is an orange glow bursting upwards behind a house across the street, and there is smoke everywhere. We can see that power lines have snapped and something is clearly on fire. This transformer didn't just blow, it slammed to the earth like a meteor. Minutes later, we hear sirens.

We are standing in a darkened house. You can't see squat, except when the fireworks flare across the street. People cannot find the food. People cannot locate nerve-calming adult beverages. And more people are arriving constantly, somehow not noticing the fire engines in the street or the lack of any lighting whatsoever on the entire block. (Are my friends really that clueless? What does that say about ME? Sigh.)

But actually, I welcome each new arrival with open arms. Seriously, if I'm going down on this train wreck, I need some love and support, and you better give it to me or I will cut you.

Amazingly, the power is back on within the hour. This is a record of some kind. Before long, it's all behind us, and we are once again in the groove, with good friends all around us. Everybody having a great time, laughing, which is the best part, forever and a day. Warmth. All is well.

Happy Anniversary, Terry. I love you. Screw the actual date, it doesn't really matter. At least not until next year...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

The Eleventh One: Mea Culpa

"Bless me Father, for I have sinned."

"And how is that, my child?"

"It's been over a week since my last blog."

Silence on the other side of the confessional wall.


Throat clearing. Then, "Son, I'm not quite sure what this means, but I am here to guide you. What is this blog you speak of? Is it carnal in nature?"

"Oh no, Father. It's nothing like that, although we probably should talk about THOSE issues in our next session. No, a blog is where I post interesting things so that other people can read them."

"You post things?" Short pause. "Are you sure this isn't carnal?"

"Yes, Father. It's like a diary, but it's online, it's on the Internet, and people visit my site to read what I put in this diary."

"I see. This is a computer thing. Well, my son, we haven't been allowed to have computers here since the unfortunate incident with Father O'Brien and that horrid website. Hot Naked Choirboys, I think it was called. But you know they never really proved anything. God always has the final answer, my son."

"Uhh.... I really don't know anything about that, so can we get back to me? How can I be clean again?"

Another pause. "Are we talking about the blog thing again? Sorry, my child, the incense in here is really strong, full of the Lord, you might say, and it's hard to focus."

"Yes, Father, the blog. They say it's a sin if you don't post every day. That your readers will get bored and seek other blogs."

"I am beginning to see the light, my son. Your flock is growing restless, and wandering from the pasture, turning away from the Lord. We have seen a lot of this in The Church lately. It saddens me greatly, this loss of faith. Why are the sheep turning on us, when our message has not changed? For thousands of years?"

"Uh... maybe the sheep have cable TV and can watch other shows? Newer shows, based on what's going on now, and not scripture written for issues that no longer apply? Just guessing. But back to me. How do I wash away this sin?"

Long pause, then "Feed the sheep daily. There can be no other way. You don't want the sheep to pick up the remote and start pushing enlightened buttons. As for penance, you must blog every day whether you want to or not. Repetition is the key foundation of Our Church."

"Thank you, Father. I will try harder."

"Good. Now that we have that out of the way, could you please place your order?"

"Sure, Father. I'll have the What-a-Chicken with cheese, and an order of onion rings."

"Thank you. That'll be $6.97. Please pull forward to the second window."

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Plumbing Incident: Please Cover Up the Giant Vagina

Click Here to Read the Previous Entry in This Series.

Editor's Note: There have been rumblings from the fan posse that I am dragging out this whole plumbing thing. Getting a bit stale. I understand that. However, you, dear reader, should also understand that I lost an entire month of my life to this heinous ordeal, and I must exorcise all of the demons. Otherwise, I will never be able to sleep through an entire night. I must triumph over the Linda Blair tortilla. But I'll try to wrap it up with this post...

So anyway, a few days later, there is a jackhammer attacking the innocent driveway. Do you know what it's like to be on a conference call (yes, I am on them all the time, if you haven't noticed), trying to appear professional and in control, while a man with a jackhammer is right on the other side of the wall from you, acting out childhood fantasies of proving his mastery over concrete?

And apparently the driveway is fighting back. This hammering goes on for hours, with angry chunks of said concrete slamming against the side of the house, full of bitterness and rage. (On the conference call, people are continually asking "Could you repeat that? I didn't quite hear you." Well, no duh, you horrid Executive VP of Bitterness, I can't even hear myself.) It takes every ounce of strength I have not to just tell all these Helen Kellers to go hell, and then slam the phone down. Bet they would hear THAT.

A knock on the door. I already know the drill. Door-knocking means there's another GD problem with the plumbing. Sigh.

I open the door, to find Dim and Wit shuffling around on the porch, working on how to express their next pronouncement of doom. I hate them.

"Well, we busted up that driveway, alright. But it looks like we're gonna have to get under the house and see what's goin on, cause sumthin ain't right." Then Dim and Wit smile nervously. They have obviously practiced this, with choreography just short of Jazz Hands. I see a total of three teeth. I am not amused.

So I throw open the door, and do the march of death to one of the hall closets where the entrance to the "basement" is located. See, this is Texas. We don't really have basements. What we do have, if you have a pier-and-beam house like mine, is a dirt-floored area under the house where you can crabwalk around and get to effed-up plumbing, should the need arise.

But first, you have to get TO the trapdoor which gives you access to the pretend basement. So I'm hauling all kinds of clutter out of the way as fast as I can. Vinyl dance mixes that no one has listened to for 20 years. Boxes of barely-used hair products. A taped-shut box that still manages to dribble glitter as I throw it to the side. Gee, do you think that me and my same-sex partner might be gay?

I glance at Dim and Wit, who now appear to be standing much closer to each other than when I counted teeth. Interesting. Shades of unshared desires? Maybe. But I really don't care. Hate them.

Anyway, I get everything moved and open the portal. Dim and Wit descend into the darkness, practically holding hands. I return to my conference call, where Hillary, the Pope and the VP of Bitterness are ready to rip me to shreds for stepping away.

Mere seconds later, Dim and Wit hop out of the portal. I put Hill, Pope and Bitt on hold again.

"Dude, it's really, really bad down there."


"Everything has to be replaced. The pipes aren't connected right, they slant the wrong way, you got leaks everywhere."

I force myself to take several deep breaths. Dim and Wit slyly look at each other, as if wondering "do gay people breathe like this? Do we need to practice that?".

Then I begin. "You're telling me that even though 6 of the 8 previous plumbers in your squad have ALSO been down in the pretend basement, that none of them noticed the issues you are bilging about now? Why didn't anybody say anything? And why didn't you check this out FIRST! This is where the plumbing slope STARTS!"

My cell phone rings. It's my manager letting me know that the Pope is not happy about the wait. Sigh. Do people NOT understand what it's like to have pickling issues? Jeezuz.

I turn back to D and W. "Okay, look, just go get what you need and let's get this done." They race out the door and pile into the truck. I think I can hear Gloria Gaynor wailing about how she will survive as they drive away. Apparently W has thrown caution to the wind and pulled out his bootleg CD of "Adventures of Priscilla" from behind the bottle of moonshine and handed it to D. The truck accelerates.

Two days later, cause these plumbing bitches never come "right back", they show up with two additional plumbers (ratcheting the tally up to 12 plumbers so far), and descend again into the pretend basement, lugging pipe sections and equipment and whatnot. Since they are working directly below where I am sitting in the home office and I can hear everything, it appears that they are having a frat party of some kind. Lots of laughter, sounds of mechanical destruction, and belching.

Hillary, on yet another conference call, asks me "Are you in a bar?"

No. Despite my aching desire to be in one. Why? Are you looking for Bill?

The frat party abruptly ends. (Out of beer?) The plumbers arise from the earth, proclaim all is well, and drive off into the night. Gloria is still surviving.

A day later, the toilet overflows. Again.

Time for a Bay of Pigs showdown. Somebody better flinch here, and it sure as hell isn't going to be us. We get on the horn with the Plumbing Mob Boss and make our demands. Figure out what the problem is NOW. Repair the crater in the driveway NOW. Fill in the giant earthen vagina NOW.

Days pass. The plumbing mafia is working with the city, apparently all options have been exhausted and the issue must be with the city-owned side of the sewage network. Why this wasn't a consideration in the beginning, I have no idea. I am weakened. I accept and go on.

I finally have to break camp and actually report to the work office, fully expecting that my security badge no longer works on the entrance doors. Amazingly, I get in, although I do have to shoo away some new-hire that thinks he can sit in my cube. ("I have SPERM older than you. GO!") Magically, the lovebird plumbers choose this same day to return. Over the phone, Dim explains that he is at the house and waiting on the city people to show.

Later that day, I'm driving toward the house when I notice an irritating, huge equipment hauler parked at the alley entrance on the end of our block. Lots of city workers in orange vests are running around, waving flags and getting in the way. What the hell? I honestly make no connection between whatever they are working on and the faulty plumbing at my house.

I pull in our driveway, and my jaw drops open. There is an ARMY of these orange-vested city workers swarming all over the backyard and the alley. There is a two-story digging machine thing ripping massive amounts of of asphalt and concrete out of the alley and depositing said debris into a dumptruck bigger than my house.

I wander into the house in a daze. Terry is there. The noise outside is so deafening that we have to use sign language.

"What are they DOING?"

"I don't know. Dim called me and said the city found something, they're working on it now."

And work they did. For hours. Digging and ripping and hauling off. It gets dark, and they bring in these ginormous searchlight things that brighten the sky. Just in case the whole neighborhood wasn't certain where all the noise and commotion was coming from, our house is now lit up like Christmas on acid. We try to be polite and wave when appropriate.

Oh, and did I mention that half the houses on our block only have entrances to their properties from the ALLEY? And now they can't GET to their houses because the alley is blocked on both ends. We are so screwed in the neighborhood popularity contest. We will not get Yard of the Month for the forseeable future. If ever.

Then the noise stops. The army of city workers rumble off into the night. Um, could you maybe let us know what you found and did? Guess not.

With hearts pounding, we approach the guest bathroom toilet. And flush. The water rockets down the pipes with no problem. We flush the other toilet. No problemo. We turn on every device in the house that involves water. Everything whisks away with no sign of an issue. The long-sought celebration begins. I am actually a functioning human being again. I can release my pickles at will!

Then it dawns on us. Apparently, none of the things the Plumbing Committee pursued were really necessary in the end. Helpful in the long run, maybe, but not necessary. The real culprit was on the city side of things. The side where we don't have to pay for anything.

I am back in my dark place again.

Cut to five days later. The Plumbing Mafia Mob Boss is at the house to collect payment. He glares at me. I glare at him. This gets us nowhere, obviously, but I still enjoy it. He clears his throat. I make the fork-fingered sign that I think I remember from my days as a little Italian boy, the sign that means you are nothing to me and I spit on your grave.

He looks at me like I have Tourette's. Perhaps that was not my best move.

Then he slides the bill to me, face down. I turn it over with a flourish that I hope expresses my hatred for him. My disdain.

Then I see the total. 2300 dollars. Might sound like a lot, but really, he's had at least 12 people come out here. Repeatedly. For a month. They've rented expensive equipment, they've been here for hours on end, they've basically replaced every inch of plumbing in the house, all the way to the "city side" of this whole ordeal. I want to hate him. But I can't.

And he knows it. I am now HIS bitch. I sigh and sign the check.

He smiles as he walks out the door, the theme from "The Godfather" playing in the background.

My eyes wander to the Linda Blair tortilla. She is mocking me, I can feel it. The tortilla starts to levitate. I calmly walk over and snatch it up, march down the hallway to the office, and promptly shove the damn thing into the paper shredder. There are tiny little screams of pain and surpise. And it feels good, people. REAL good.

The end.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

The Plumbing Incident: Gawd I Feel Dirty

Click Here to Read the Previous Entry in This Series.

So the party was a success, despite the threat of our poo spilling into the neighborhood.

(Dudes, did you EVER think you would see a post start with THAT line? I think I deserve a reward of some kind. Have your people call my people and work something out.)

Yes, there were a few love/hate friends running around at the party and proclaiming things like "And I didn't even wipe my ass!". Then laughing hysterically. This was SO not amusing to me. I just sat there and twitched. And cursed them repeatedly. And drank. But then, I always do that. No harm, no foul.


The plumbing committee wanted us to "monitor" the situation by checking this damn trap thing on the side of the house. Okay. We can do that. Not really excited about it, but we can do it. So for the next several days, my ass is marching out there every time we do anything involving water, and taking notes. And surprisingly, it seems to be okay. Sometimes there's a little bit of water not flowing through the poo pipe, but most of the time, pretty dry. Yay.

But of course this doesn't last. There is nothing in this world like popping the top on a plumbing trap, and seeing one of your little byproducts splashing upwards on a geyser of water. Not a pretty sight. Demoralizing. So we call the plumbing Mob Boss again. He'll send someone out. Of course he will.

And it's yet another new guy, with a new buddy. I now officially know more plumbers than my total number of friends on Facebook. My life is so Girl, Interrupted at this point I could spit.

So the new duo does the whole snaking thing again, using the marvelous and fancy trap on the side of the house. Hours of snaking. But hey, they've brought with them one of those famous camera things that really let's them see the innards. So maybe this will actually be worth it in some way. Then they knock on the door with a report.

"Well, we've snaked it as best we could, but it seems to be pretty cleaned out. Looks like your real problem is that you've got a couple of bad falls."

I'm totally mystified by this sudden dramatic change in the dialogue. I have bad falls? What could this possibly mean? I even look down to see if my knees are bloody, on the odd chance that there has been a recent blackout and I took a tumble reaching for another Michelob Ultra. Nope.

"Come on, we'll show you."

So we traipse over to this freakin trap thing that has become the focus of my entire existence, and I get to peer into the monitor for the camera that's been shoved into my plumbing. I don't understand a single thing I'm looking at as they push and pull on the camera. Looks like the ultrasound for Rosemary's baby, that's all I know.

Long story short, the main drain pipe does not happily descend to the sewer as it should. There are a couple of sections that have sunk lower than the others, meaning the sewage has to perform a miracle leap to get to the next section. Picture poo as salmon swimming upstream to spawn, if you will. Yay. But I'm pretty sure Mutual of Omaha wouldn't have approved this episode.

So it looks like they'e gonna have to dig down and replace the whole damn pipe. Kinda pricey, that little game plan. But they're gonna keep snakin the thing, just to make sure there's not something else stopping the salmon. I sigh, and stagger back into the house to begin sealing the windows and deciding which outfit I'm going to wear when I shove my head in the oven and turn on the gas.

But wait, there's another knock on the door. The latest update on the funfest? The fancy, hard-to-find drillbit snakehead thingy they were using to hack away any obstructions? It's broken off at one of the salmon jumps. They can't get it out. And the fancy magnet thingy they normally use to retrieve broken-off snakehead thingies? Won't work, cause this plumbing is CAST IRON plumbing, apparently installed shortly after the Mayflower docked, and the magnet can't get down the pipe, just sticks at the trap opening.

My sixth sense picks up on the fact that Plumber #9 is a little bit concerned about losing the fancy drillbit thingy. (Maybe it was the fairly obvious signs that he had just wet himself before knocking on the door.) Seems this drillbit is really expsensive. Seems he RENTED it. He's gonna have to pay for the damn thing if he doesn't return it. They really need to dig down to the pipe in order to get this pricey salmon blocker. Whoops, he MEANT to say, they really need to dig down to the pipe to fix MY plumbing issue.

I realize, ladies and gentlemen, that the tide has just turned. This man is suddenly in a pickle, instead of it just being an issue of my pickles not being able to go where they need to go. Normally, I'm a fair and decent guy. Too fair, really. But I've just been through weeks of having to arrange for my pickles to be released at work or at the bathroom of the gas station down the street. I can't even pickle in my own house. I'm done, over it, and I'm tired of the escalating cost of repairing the pickle pipeline.

"Don't know if I can really afford that, replacing the pipe and all" I say. I pause, and pretend to be looking at something in the distance that doesn't really exist.

His eyes actually fill with tears. (That must be one expensive drillbit.) I own him now. He is my bitch. I actually feel a slight erotic stirring over this turn of events. Power is GOOD, people.

He breaks. "Okay, we won't charge you labor at all. Just the cost of renting the digger, no upcharge."


So, a few days later, I'm at home on yet another conference call with work, trying to be polite with the likes of Hillary Clinton and The Pope. When suddenly it sounds like Air Force One is rumbling up the driveway. I peek out the window to see this behemoth machine ripping the earth apart in the backyard. I have to cut Hillary off because of the deafening noise ("LOVE the dress, sweetie. Let's do lunch?") and I grab the cats on the way to the bomb shelter.

Hours later, I have what looks like the Grand Canyon in my backyard. ("Hey, is that Thelma and Louise racing this way?") Once again, the Chinese are pissed off. There's debris everywhere. Parts of the sprinkler system, dinosaur bones, Jimmy Hoffa. Three neighboring houses are sucked up in the sinkhole.

Then Air Force One leaves. Thoughtfully, Michelle Obama leaves a thank-you note at the end of the driveway. And one of the dogs that they rejected because of Malia's allergies.

Next day, plumbers 9 and 10 are busily replacing the naughty cast iron pipe with PVC. This is a major initiative, takes all day, someone arranges for a parade, and the mayor is out there cutting a ribbon. I stay inside, because I can't stand people. Seriously.

And another knock on the door. New problem. They've replaced 100 foot of pipe, but now they realize that the main drain leading out from the house and under the driveway is too low, resulting in a super-high spawn jump for the salmon pickles at the point where the new pipe connects with the old pipe that leads to the sewer. Miscalculation. They will have to rip up the driveway and replace even more of the pipe and raise everything. Oh, and they might still have an issue under the house, won't really know until they check it out. Hee hee.

I pause.

Then ask "So, you're telling me, that after all this work, and three weeks of no unauthorized pickling, that we have nothing to show for it except a giant earthen vagina in my backyard that has claimed the lives of several neighbors and totally alienated those who managed to survive? And now you want to rip up the driveway. And even THAT might not work. Do you have any idea how much I hate you right now? DO YOU?"

I fully understand serial killers at this point. I really do. It is now crystal clear to me how someone who all the neighbors thought of as "that sweet little boy" can one day pick up a fireplace poker and gut the mailman.

Click Here to Read the Next Entry in This Series.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

The Plumbing Incident: Still Unclean

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So Terry is back on the horn with the Mob Boss contractor guy. He's amazed that the singing plumbers would leave without fixing the problem. (Why would we make this up? Did he think we found this amusing?) He will have someone out in the morning, and will come by himself to make sure the job gets done. We accept his words with total faith, just as if some bearded guy walked off a mountain and handed us a stone tablet. Because we're stupid.

Morning brings a casting change. The singing duo apparently got a record deal. Now we have a big bald guy, covered with tattoos, stomping around the drive-way in oversized boots, and exuding an attitude that would make a gang of crazed crackheads drop their weapons and scamper away. I make Terry deal with him ("It's YOUR turn! I've been trapped in this giant outhouse all week. Go!") while I race around the house, hiding valuables in case Baldy decides to kill us for our DVD collection.

As I'm shoving Season 6 of "Angel" under the couch, I hear Papi Muerto ask for a ladder. A ladder? What the hell? How does a ladder figure into this equation at all? But I'm busy, I still have several seasons of "Wings" to lock up, so I race off, throwing an old towel over the XBOX 360.

I am interrupted by the sound of what appears to be a giant metal spear slamming through the roof and into the attic. Did we just time warp to Sparta? The noise continues, with whatever it is working it's way toward, I'm only speculating at this point, the guest bathroom. My senses are a little off, mainly because I don't have any mental reference points to apply to the sound and activity I am currently hearing.

I slink up to the patio door and motion Terry over. "What the hell is he doing?"

"He's snaking the toilet through the ventilation pipes. You know, those pipe things sticking out of the roof."

The concept boggles me. I mean, at random moments over the years, I did sort of wonder about those little pipe things on the roof. What are those for? Where did they come from? Why? But it was a brief curiosity, I didn't really care. And now I learn that they are basically transmission points to send our personal aromas out into the universe.

Good gawd.

So I slam the door and wander away, because I'm just not ready to deal. And then the apocalypse began.

People, take a seat. I am here to tell you that what happened after that were some of the most astonishing hours of my life. The noises I had heard up to that point were NOTHING compared to what followed. Papi had only been positioning his devil equipment. When he kicked that thing up to full throttle, the earth freakin MOVED.

Literally. The walls were shaking, the wood floors were vibrating, there were agonizing metallic screams coming from the 50-year-old pipes. An image of Linda Blair burned into a tortilla in the kitchen. I stopped in my tracks in the bedroom, unable to even function at the moment.

Scotch, our already simple cat, came thundering around the corner, mad foam flying from his snarling lips. He slammed full force into my legs, and then started ripping said legs to shreds because I was in his way. I limped to the side, and he dove toward a two-inch opening under the entertainment center. And he got under there. All the way.

And this trauma continued for hours. The only thing that got me through was a vague idea that Dr. Kervorkian had been paroled, and I might be able to find his number if I just googled hard enough.

Finally, the assault stopped. (I kept googling anyway. Hey, I was OVER this.) Terry and the three plumbers came in to check the status. (How did we get to THREE plumbers? Did the noise attract them?) Verdict? It didn't work. Time for Plan B.

This plan involved digging down to the main exit pipe on the side of the house, busting that puppy open, and proceeding from there. So they did this, in a tag-team sort of way, with one plumber snaking, one plumber standing out in the alley at the manhole opening to the city lines, and one plumber running between them, spewing cryptic code and secret passwords. I think they really enjoyed it, so at least somebody was having fun.

I sat on the patio and mopped up the blood that was still gushing from my legs.

Hours later, the plumbing committee decides that there is still a vague issue. Things are flowing a little better, but there's still an obstruction. They are gonna have to come out with a fancy camera, and shove it down that damn pipe to see what's what. But hey, in the interim, they can install a trap on the side of the house to help with the situation. This intrigues me. They are going to install one of these thingies that we should have had in the first place. So I get in my wheelchair and roll over.

"So, how does this work?" I ask, looking all tragic and pale.

"Well, we're gonna cut out a chunk of this here pipe, and insert this little piece of PVC that's gotta screw-top lid. That way, when people need to snake this thing, they already got access, don't have to go through the toilets or the roof." He's obviously dumbing this down for me, probably because I'm clutching my medic-alert bracelet and I have a twitch in my left eye.

"But, how does that help us NOW? We're still draining slow."

"Well, until we can get this all worked out, if you start backin up again, you can just pop the top and let it gush out. We can throw some lime on it, you won't smell a thing."

So I look at where he's standing, next to the driveway. And I look at the driveway, which slopes down to the street. A street full of retired people who have nothing better to do than stand at their bay windows and record every detail of every single thing that ever happens. People who might see poop floating down our driveway and into a public thoroughfare, and then proceed to call the City Council, because they've already got them on speed dial.

The twitching in the left eye increases.

But the plumber, he's a professional at spin control, and offers "But at least you can still have your party tonight, just use this trap if you need to. Of course, might wanna tell them to hold off on the toilet paper."

OMG. The party. Completely forgot about this during the last few hours what with the howling pussy and the slashed legs. We have people coming over. In a few hours. Great. Lovely. Now we've got to call all the party guests and say "Hey, if you envision a bowel movement in your near future, could you maybe take care of that before you head over? Oh, and you probably shouldn't walk up the driveway. Seriously."

Just shoot me in the head. Please.

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Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Plumbing Incident: More of the Not Feeling Fresh

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So Terry gets on the horn with this plumber guy we've worked with in the past, although only for small jobs like replacing the washers in the shower faucet or fixing the leak with the kitchen sink. Nothing major like the Devil breaching our household. And the plumber guy is asking things like "well, it could be tree roots, do you have a lot of trees?" Why yes, we do. Lots of trees. Thank you for asking.

"Probly oughta snake it then."

Okay, I have porno containing dialogue such as that, but I digress. Fine. This plumber guy doesn't actually do the work himself, he has a network of mysterious contacts that he just "sends out." Great. Start with the sending. Of course, this means that one of us must actually be home so that the exorcism can be performed properly. Which means me.

I'm the one that can work from home, if needed. Terry cannot do this. In fact, Terry is a little suspect about this whole "work from home" concept. He pretends to be supportive and all that, but I know in his heart he considers "working from home" to be the same as "not working". I have tried to convince him otherwise, but it's clear from our conversations that I have not succeeded.

Home phone rings at 5 pm. It's him. I put the conference call on hold, the call with 7 directors at my "anonymous for fear of losing my job" un-named company.

Terry: "I'm on my way home. Are you at the house or in the office?"

An innocuous-seeming question, but I'm already clenched. The subtle hint is coming, wherein I've had a play-day while he's actually furthered mankind in some way.

Brian: "I'm at the house. Got paged before I could even get out of the house and I've been on conference calls ever since."

T: "Oh. Okay. Did you call your mother about that surgery thing?"

B: "Um, no. I've been on conference calls, all day."

T: "Okay. What's for dinner?"

B: "Haven't really thought about it. Conference calls. All day."

T: "Okay. Did you find the gas bill so I can call about the discrepancy?"

B: "Been a little busy. Calls."

T: "Okay. Hey, this is Big Trash week, did you move the-"


And then we don't speak for two days.

But I digress again, which is apparently the theme of this post. Anyway, it's up to me to work from home and wait for the mysterious plumbing pod people to make an appearance.

So I wait. And wait. And wait some more. Three days go by before there's a knock on the door. I open said door to find two overly-exhuberant, supposed plumbing people. They are really excited to be here. I think they might even break into song. This is almost fun! Until they ask a question which completely mystifies me:

"Where is your trap?"

My trap? I have no idea what that is, let alone where it might be. I say something profound like "Uhh...." and they know they have me, I am down for the count. It's easy pickins from this point forward. I am a complete waterworks victim, ass to the wind.

So the lead singing plumber says, "Well, we'll just go have a look around." And off they go, to look for this trap thing, which, apparently, is somewhere outside, since they didn't come INSIDE. I close the door, convinced that my manliness has been compromised in some way. Just not sure how, why or where.

Two hours later, another knock. They can't find the trap. Maybe there isn't one. They will have to go through the toilets. Fine. I just want to flush without fear, I don't care what you have to do.

So now begins the tromping through the house with heavy machinery. The guest bathroom toilet won't do, not enough elbow room. So they focus on the master bath. Terrific. Strange men are in my bedroom, and not in a good way. And there's already a layer of mud on the previously pristine wood floors, because "wiping your feet" is apparently not part of the "Plumber's Devotional Credo". I hate them already. There will be no more singing.

So, master bath toilet is ripped up and cast aside. But hey, after hours of a horrid grinding noise, there's some kind of complication and this isn't going to work. So it's back to the guest bath, (wait, I thought this bath wouldn't work, did I suffer a head injury at some point in the last few hours?) and that toilet is manhandled into the bathtub. More grinding. And more complications. Something is just not right. Obviously, Satan has claimed our plumbing as his current lair. And the bitch ain't gonna move anytime soon.

It's getting late. The now-no-longer-singing plumbing duo temporarily re-installs the master bath toilet, cautioning that we can't get too carried away cause "it's loose". Okay, shouldn't be a problem. Did you think we were gonna have some type of aerobic sex in here, what with the lovely smell from the sewer, and the MUD everywhere? Define "carried away". Please.

And then the plumbers drive off into the night, promising to return in the morning...

Hate them. Seriously.

But imagine my surprise when, lo and behold, they DO show up in the morning. Okay, LATE morning, almost lunch, but still. It took them three days to get here the first time, I really wasn't expecting to see them again until the end of the Obama Adminstration. And they are super-pumped, they claim to have a fancier machine that will work better than the grinding but ultimately pointless machine from yesterday. Yay. But once they get started, the grinding noise is eactly the same, the sitting around and waiting is the same, the boredom and hatred of my life is the same.

And they grind for hours, once again. I am fully convinced that at any moment Chinese people will come spilling out of the bathroom, jabbering in a foreign tongue, but the message will be very clear that they are not happy about being awakened in the middle of the night.

Then suddenly the grinding stops. The lead singer summons me from my clenched and puckered position on the ceiling. He thinks they've cleared the demon out. Things look good. Just one small problem. (Of course there's a problem, how could it be MY life if there wasn't a problem.) He very briefly waves some hose-looking device in front of me, then just as quickly hides it behind his back. There was a small incident and this device has been broken. (Did the Chinese do it? I bet they did.) They will have to go buy a replacement and return.

And off they go. I swear I hear them laughing. And maybe singing just a little.

Hours later, after Terry has arrived home from his "real job" ("So what did they do? I have no idea. But you were here the whole time. I have no idea. Didn't you ask them? I have no idea, something broke."), the barbershop duo returns. They are in the house roughly 37 seconds, replacing the mystery part, and then racing out the door like the hounds of hell are nipping.

This can't be good. They said it was fixed, but why the racing off?

Terry: "Did you flush the toilet? To see if it worked?"

Brian: "Um, dude, you were sitting here, too. Did YOU flush the toilet?"

This gets nowhere fast. He's thinking it's all about me being the one officially in charge of the home invasion. I'm thinking it's all about me not being able to have a bowel movement for the last five days.

I sigh. Then approach the guest bath toilet and flush. It overflows.

The anguished wail coming from my lips destroys all flora, fauna and fine china in the entire neighborhood. Three people die.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

The Plumbing Incident: I've Lost That Fresh Feeling

As the experts say, in order to fully emotionally heal from a trauma, you have to put some distance between yourself and the events of the offending ordeal. I assumed this to be sound advice. It seems logical that things always appear to be worse than they really are WHILE you are in the midst of the trauma. The passing of time will eventually reveal and brighten the sunshine. Butterflies will fill the golden air. Someone will sing.

And now that a few days have gone by, I decided to look back on my personal hell to see if the pain has eased. To see if maybe I overly-dramatized things here and there. To see if I might even want to sing about it, even if it's just a trite rap song with only four words in the lyrics and featuring a guest vocalist that you've never heard of before. And I have discovered this:

The experts are liars. The pain is still excruciating. I have not moved on. I am not singing, and I will happily kill anyone who dares to do so within a five-mile radius. I don't think I will ever get over The Devastating Plumbing Incident of 2009. (Cue the violent string music from "Psycho", zoom in on tight shot of Brian standing in an overflowing bathtub, head thrown back in a primal howl of fury and impending dementia.... fade to black...)

It all started rather innocently enough.

I was laying on the bed in the guest room, playing XBOX 360 with the curtains drawn. (Not out of shame, I just like playing in total darkness, makes the imagery onscreen even more vivid and helps bolster the sensation that I am indeed somewhere else, anywhere, where they don't have to pay taxes or look at ugly people.) I was just about to receive the Golden Rod of Power from one of the lesser overlords (well THAT looks interesting once you type it out) when I heard this strange gurgling in the wall.

Gurgling. In the wall.

With irritation, and only a minimal amount of concern at that point, I paused the XBOX and approached the wall. Granted, there is indeed a bathroom on the other side of this gurgling wall. But the sound wasn't coming from DOWN THERE, floor-level and such, where you might expect to hear this type of noise. Besides, no one was using the facilities. And the sound was coming from UP THERE. High. Like where you would point when asking something like "Do you think this is where we should put the Malawi print we got off the Madonna website?"

Then the noise stopped. Like any of the idiot minor characters at the beginning of a Halloween movie, I assumed nothing more would come of it and went back to the XBOX to accept my rod.

A few days later, while Terry is in the shower and I'm doing something meaningless like re-organizing my CD's or pretending to think about doing my taxes, I think that I might be hearing the gurgling again. I head toward the guest bedroom, and realize that not only is there gurgling, but this time we have the bonus feature of what sounds like a catfish flopping around in the guest toilet. An angry catfish.

I alter the flight plan slightly and head to the guest bathroom. Approaching, I can see one of our cats, Scotch, who has an odd, un-catlike obsession with water, sitting on the toilet seat in a near state of rapture. Even before I am physically IN the bathroom, I can see little geysers of water spurting above the rim of the toilet bowl. Geysers. Shooting upwards and falling back. In Disney's "Fantasia", this scene would have been set to music. There is NO music here. There is no Disney. Only toilet water defying the laws of gravity, and a drooling cat about to hit the Big O.

Old Faithful finally gives it up, and the waters calm. It's almost serene. Zen-like. Except this isn't a pristine lake nestled in the mountains of Utah. Or a buddhist temple. This a toilet. And I shouldn't introduce any unnatural qualifiers into the situation. This much I have learned since my journey from Broken Arrow to... well, anywhere else.

I pry Scotch off the toilet, his claws frantically scrambling to retain any type of purchase on the porcelain. (I briefly ponder the realization that if they ever invent Viagra for cats, the world as we know it will end. But I let the thought go. Bigger fish to fry, must move on.) I close the toilet lid, fully aware that this is not over, and wait for Terry to finish his shower.

"What do you mean, with the gurgling. And the geysers," asks Terry, primping in front of the steamed-up mirror, like Veronica Lake with really good lighting and a decent director. Except that he's not blonde, or a woman. As far as I know. "Are you sure it wasn't a weird fluke thing?"

Well, maybe. He could have a point, it might never happen again. (This is where someone in the audience watching the movie would stand up and bellow "You idiot. You DO have a problem. Why are you being so stupid?" I hate those people, especially when they are right.) So I buy into the delusion, and choose to not think about it.

A few days later, and deja vu kicks in with reinforcements. We have Terry in the shower (why does he need to clean himself so much? he's not Catholic), we have gurgling, we have geysers, we have an incredibly aroused cat. For some inane reason, I completely lose my mind and approach the demon guest bathroom toilet and actually FLUSH the damn thing, like a Republican trying to hide the INS papers for his nanny. And of course the toilet water spirals upwards, spilling over the rim. And does not go back down. Great.

Then I realize I can hear gurgling in stereo. Something ELSE is whacked. I trace the noise to a hall closet, where the inside air-conditioning unit USED to be before we paid people to move it to the attic. There's a drain in the floor of this room. Apparently AC units back in the day had to have some place to gush out water. Don't really know the story. Anyway, liquid of some kind is quickly rising out of this drain and flooding the floor. Great, Part II.

I race to our bathroom and inform Terry that he must turn off the shower NOW, no matter how unclean he may feel about his un-Catholic-ness. I can tell that he's not certain if this is some kind of intriguing sex game or if something more important is afoot. I do my best to remain calm and explain the situation, shouting over the noise of water gushing throughout the house and a certain feline critter calling 900 numbers in search of relief.

Clearly, The Devil has entered our house.

There is no turning back.

I muster up all the courage I have and state what has been crystal clear to the viewing audience since Scene 2.

"We have to call a plumber."

Cue the soundtrack of "The Exorcist", zoom in on famous shot of Max von Sydow standing on a foggy corner in Georgetown. There is a feline screech howl and a horny cat races across the screen and into the darkness.

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