DIRT AND BUGS

Everywhere I’ve ever lived has been dirty and full of bugs. Most buildings are full of insects which, because people and insects are a relationship non-starter, we try to ignore and when that fails to work, we spray, poison, swat, and squash.

Dirt is ubiquitous too. New York was dirty. Air, streets, sidewalks. Its suburbs are full of pollen and leaves and the city was plain filthy. Jerusalem had almost no air pollution — no factories worth mentioning — but it was full of sand with the grit of the Negev everywhere. Boston is normally as dirty as any other major American city, but during the Big Dig, it took on exciting new levels of grime, building dirt and all the crud which comes with demolishing roads, old bridges, decrepit buildings, roads, and sidewalks. Although bucolic Uxbridge has (mostly) trees. trees are their own dirt on a stick. Pollen. Leaves. Dead leaves. Acorns, pods. Seeds. And don’t forget the bugs.

Our bug guy says we don’t even want to know what’s out there. There are things we are best off not knowing. I get the creeps not thinking about it.

Life is messy. Everything is one more item doomed to add grime to your world. Cooking, pets, shoes, clothing. Furniture. All the small adorable things on shelves and the pictures on the walls. They are all items waiting to be encrusted with filth. The paws of your dogs go places you probably would rather not imagine. Sometimes, they drag things in from the outside that might have legs and start to move. Ew.

So what has this to do with trance?

Becoming entranced is the only way to not notice the accumulating mess. No matter how much you clean, somewhere you have yet to notice, it is building. Waiting for you. You could clean all the time, 24/7 and there would be more dirt you missed. Trance — self-induced — is our only hope of survival. We all have things we clean so we feel if the shower is clean and the windows shine, everything else must also be clean.

It’s a trick. Nothing is really clean and never will be.

I am in favor of deeper trances. Trances so total they obliterate reality and if you consider the state of the world, that doesn’t sound like such a bad idea. If I’m going to have to live in a grimy world full of things that crawl, slither, and scurry, I don’t want to know. If my own self-entrancing is insufficient, I might need help getting it right.

Help?

ENTRANCEMENT – THE FINAL FRONTIER

ANT RELIEF

BANISHING THE ANT ARMY

We have not (yet) been overwhelmed by a massive wave of caterpillar eating machines. So far, the tree spraying and endless rain have held them back, though they seem to be doing damage elsewhere. If it’s not one thing, it’s another.

Life marches on. This year, it’s ants.

They arrive in May and by June they are getting aggressive. This year’s bunch are more tenacious than usual. As long as I can remember, the ants make a determined attempt to set up their new world order in our house. They did the same in other houses in which we have lived in New England.

Ants arrive with the spring. No matter how I rant and rail about it, they show up anyway.

I spray the hell out of everything. I wash everywhere. Clean under, over, around and through the kitchen and living room. Floors, cabinets. Under, over, and around the knife block and the small oven. Behind the cutting boards.

We threw out the old wooden bread box. Garry said he thought the ants were setting up shop in it. It’s old. I bought it at a yard sale 15 years ago. It’s an old-fashioned wooden slatted breadbox. I’m a sucker for old wooden kitchen stuff. But I think that old bread box has passed its prime.

Now it’s out on the deck, soon to make its move to the trash and I have ordered the largest, best-designed breadbox I could find.

This should, in theory, hold two loaves of bread or one loaf and plus English muffins. Not quite the $2 yard sale choice of last time, but presumably easier to clean and more spacious. I hope so. We went with the flat top so we could put stuff up there. Like the big containers of spice for which I’m running out of room.

I used steel-wool to polish the drains in the sink. I cleaned between the cabinet and the fridge,. then I washed, vacuumed, washed again every surface I could find. After which, I sprayed more ant killer. This is supposed to be safe for humans and dogs. It better be or we are all doomed.

Now, the builders have arrived. I’m trying to not listen to the conversation. It might make me want to get involved, which would not be a good idea. They are professionals and I am not. No matter what they are doing, my interference would be unlikely to improve the situation — neither mine nor theirs.

I do not yet know if the result of all of this energetic cleaning and washing and spraying and scrubbing will be the final end of the ants, but it certainly can’t hurt, right? And inevitably, they disappear all by themselves in a week or two. I think they show up entirely to force me to to all that extra cleaning I typically avoid. Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide if I deserve new grids for the bottom of the sink and maybe a new set of shakers for spices.

It’s a housewifely thing, that cozy sense of relief I feel when I’ve done the work on a long deferred — but necessary — task. I’m not sure Garry gets that same feeling from it, but it always gives me a warm feeling that my house-keeping skills are still with me.

But now — I’m also ready for a nice, long, nap. The day feels as if it’s over … yet it’s barely lunch time!

I’LL NEVER WEAR IT AGAIN

I got up this morning and I wasn’t in a great mood. No reason. Just not a great mood. Grumpy, sort of. I decided I should wear something other than black because — my husband really believes in this — you should “dress against the weather.” I figured I should dress against my crummy mood, so I went looking for a long, red dress which I wear around the house. It’s comfortable, warm. And I couldn’t find it.

It doesn’t mean it isn’t there. When it comes to my clothing, not finding it is more typical than finding it. Much of my clothing is dark — black or charcoal or navy — so it all looks pretty much the same. Including when I’m wearing it. Moreover, the closet is crowded with clothing I always mean to wear, but don’t.

I gave away a really nice outer jacket yesterday. That felt good. But today, I wanted my red dress and I could not find it. Finally, I looked up and realized I had maybe a dozen pairs of pajama bottoms I used to wear and no longer do, not to mention a whole bunch of plastic bags that used to hold blankets and quilts. And there are a dozen shirts which I don’t wear because I don’t like them. Will I change my mind and like them in the future?

I grabbed the big bag. Pulled down all the pants and shirts … and stuffed them into the bag. After which, Garry carried out to the trash.

Whew! Suddenly, I felt better.

Red dress, found!

I found my red dress. I cheered up. Now, I just have to do the same thing with all the rest of that stuff I know I will never wear again.

Is this the oncoming of spring? Maybe it is!

A SATURDAY AFTERNOON FOR YOURSELF

Home Alone, by Rich Paschall

So, it is Saturday afternoon.  You don’t have to go shopping.  There is no dry cleaning to pick up.  There are no appointments to keep.  Friends or relatives are not expecting you at a shower, football game, or bowling tournament.  Aunt Ethel is not waiting for you to meet her at Starbucks so she can fill your ears with the latest gossip.  It is just you and the afternoon.  What will you do?

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The desktop, laptop or tablet may be calling your name.  There is always the temptation to check your email, check your facebook, check your Instagram.  You may be lured by Tumblr and Pinterest.  You may wish to watch your favorite You Tubers.  I always think I will just watch the latest from Tom Law, Alexander Rybak or Eric Saade.

Perhaps you just want to check shopping sites.  You can check ebay or Amazon for something you always wanted.  Maybe you need a movie, or a book or even a CD.  Searching the sites is fun and soon you are looking at items you never dreamed your had an interest in, but there you are, looking at book titles and movie titles.  Perhaps you are reading the reviews. “This book looks good,” you may think to yourself.  “Should I order it? Should I get the audible book and just listen?  They have instant download!”

You may have the strength and intestinal fortitude to resist the siren call of the internet.  There will be no World Wide Web for you while there is actual free time to be had.  Nope, you will look for something old-fashioned, something useful, something of another era.  Television?

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What is on the television that you could possibly want to see when you have the day to yourself?  Of course, there are a lot of channels if you have cable or satellite service.  You can indulge in sports.  You can watch a variety of movies.  You can see concerts or comedy for pure entertainment.  News channels would love for you to drop in as they spin the stories depending on their particular point of view.

You could always watch a movie.  If one of your many channels does not have a feature film to your liking, perhaps you can pop in a dvd.  I think you should make popcorn first.  Do you have the microwave popcorn, or perhaps a stove top kind?  I have an air popper and can make a big batch in a hurry.  It even melts butter in a separate tray, if you like.  What could be more appealing?  Popcorn, a movie, and you!

If the feature film of your choosing does not meet your expectation, perhaps it is time for a good book.  Imagine a Saturday afternoon with no distractions and a good book?  What could be better?  If you have not read If Only Again by David Farrell or The 12 Foot Teepee by Marilyn Armstrong, than let me make a blatant plug.  You need to read something entertaining, educational and important.

Of course, you could curl up with John Adams, the historical story by David McCullough.  I have been meaning to read it, but the task seems daunting.  I am more inclined toward David, Marilyn or James Franco.

72-dustmop_02I would like to think that if I am home alone on a Saturday with nothing special to do that I would get a bottle of my favorite French white wine, properly chilled, and read a good book as I sipped this wonderful wine.  Maybe latter in the day, I would put in a favorite movie, like Casablanca or the Wizard of Oz.  It would be a totally relaxing day, with nothing urgent or pressing to demand my time.

In reality, I probably could not do anything relaxing.  No matter how free I was, routine chores would steal my attention.  I would do the laundry, sweep the floors and do the dishes.  I would take out garbage, recycle the paper, cans and bottles,  I would rake leaves and clean up the surrounding areas. The linens and towels would need to be washed as well as the floor, the windows and the mirrors.

On the rare occasion that my mother was home alone on a Saturday (I did not count when I was under high school age),  she would clean, do laundry, and listen to Mario Lanza, Johnny Mathis or Andy Williams, depending on her mood.  I might listen to Andy Williams, but more likely Barbra Streisand or The Association.  If I need something modern, Maroon 5, Steve Grand or One Republic will do.

I guess I can never escape the chores.  As long as there is something that needs to be done, I guess I want to do it.  The mail has an insidious way of piling up during the week, maybe I should tackle that.  I don’t know.  What will you do with your Saturday?  Share your thoughts in the comments.  That’s another thing to do on Saturday.  Read the comments.

DOES IT SUCK?

If you own pets, buying a vacuum cleaner is a big deal. Regular non-pet owning people go to a store and buy a vacuum. Any reasonably good machine will do the job and last for years.

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For those of us who have more than one furry friend, buying a vacuum cleaner is a major life event.

In this house, pet hair is not a sidebar: it is, as David Frye says, a condiment. During high shedding season, the house looks like someone slashed open a cushion and spread the stuffing around. Vacuuming and sweeping is a daily task. Failing to vacuum for a couple of days might make the house a candidate for condemnation.

When our Australian Shepherd is blowing his coat, no amount of vacuuming is enough. Everything is covered in fur. I always swore I would never own a dog with so much fur, but promises are made to be broken.

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If you happen to own a heavy coated dog or cat (or several), you are always looking for a better vacuum cleaner. It’s a mission. Thus a purchase is an event requiring consultation, discussion and complex negotiations.

What are the parameters? Mostly, that baby has to suck. I want a machine that will pull the wall-to-all off the floor, suck the cushions off the sofa and eat the draperies.

Bonnie morning

It has to be easy to clean because pet hair really clogs the works.

Last, but far from least, there’s the price tag. If I don’t keep clearing it, no vacuum will survive. Small, light machines are a waste of money. Cheap gets expensive when you have to replace it twice in three years.

After burning out two vacuum cleaners in a year, we got a Hoover Commercial Portapower Vacuum Cleaner.

Small and agile, it has done surprisingly well. The review that sold me said: “This little commercial vacuum cleaner is one of the best buys out there. I can clean up Great Pyrenees hair with ease and empty out the bag and start over again without clogging up the vacuum like other machines I have killed with dog hair.”

So far, so good. Against all odds, it is still working. Now, does anyone have a recommendation for an upright? Something that will really suck, please.

Does it really suck?

Buying a vacuum cleaner when you own pets, especially long-haired dogs or cats, is a big deal. Normal people go to a store and buy a vacuum cleaner.  Almost any reasonably good machine will do the job and last for years.

NanFor pet owners and especially for those of us who have more than a few pets, in our case dogs, buying a vacuum cleaner is a major life event, potentially a life-altering event. For us, pet hair is not a sidebar: it’s the central theme of life. During shedding season, which for long-haired breeds is all year — though much worse from late summer through autumn — the house looks like someone slashed open a cushion and spread the stuffing everywhere. Vacuuming is a massive undertaking performed daily. Failing to vacuum for a couple of days might make the house a candidate for condemnation and/or a Hazmat team.

When our Australian Shepherd is blowing his coat, no amount of vacuuming is enough. Everything is covered in fur. Note the main difference between purebred and mixed breed dogs is that purebreds “blow their coats” while mixed breeds simply “shed.” The results are identical, but it sounds classier for purebreds.

Nov 2012

Many long-haired breeds are bred to have huge coats and most owners who aren’t showing their dogs clip them.  Even clipped, there’s still an awful lot of fur. We adopted our Aussie; he had been a show dog … and the absolutely heaviest coated Aussie I’ve ever seen. All of that coat falls out annually. You can comb and brush him daily; there’s always more. The volume is astonishing. No mixed breed dog could generate such a gigantic mess. I always swore I would never own a dog with that much fur. I’ve turned down free pups and full-grown show dogs because they had too much fur. I had a breeder beg me to take one of her Samoyeds. He was gorgeous and a champion, only 8 months old … if I was willing to bathe and groom him myself.

I was young and hardy then. But I looked at him and I said, NO. A large (he was bigger than most Samoyeds), snow-white dog with a coat designed to withstand an arctic winter? I love dogs, but not that much. Yet despite more than forty years of dodging that particular bullet, I still wound up with a dog that sheds enough fur to carpet the world in hair. Somehow, I lost focus long enough to adopt him … and here we are, up to our eyeballs in fur.

If you happen to own (for example) a Great Pyrenees, a Sheltie, an Australian Shepherd (think Collie without a tail), anything that looks like Lassie, a sled dog (any sled dog including mixes), an Old English Sheepdog (possibly THE worst of all, being triple-coated), a long-haired St. Bernard  (the list goes on), you are permanently in search of a better vacuum cleaner. It’s a mission.  

Thus the purchase is an event requiring consultation, discussion and complex negotiations. What are the parameters? First and foremost, that baby has to suck. You want a machine that will pull the wall to wall carpeting off the floor, pull the cushions off the sofa and try to eat the draperies.

You have to balance the percent of carpeting versus hardwood flooring, number of stairs, weight, portability, how hard is it to clean it out because pet hair really clogs the works and finally, price. If you don’t keep clearing it, no vacuum will survive long. You quickly learn that small, light machines are a waste of money. If it doesn’t have a bag, anything other than a small hand vac will die in short order. You need power. You need a bag. You need strength of character, the understanding that you are going to have to deal with filth and lots of it. You need amperage, determination and above all, you need sucking power. Nothing can be too powerful. Your budget determines the limit, so within what you can manage, you try to get the best sucker available.

Bagless machines are weenies. We multiple pet owners need bags. Big ones.

The terriers don’t shed much. The short-haired dachshund doesn’t shed much. The Aussie sheds enough for 10 normal dogs and in the fall, it’s indescribably awful. Every morning, the house is covered in fur, great gobs of is. Huge piles of it cover the rugs, floor, and sofas. It infests the upholstery, adheres to the drapes, forms giant cobwebs that make your house look like the Adams family redux.

We’ve burned out two vacuum cleaners in less than a year, both bagless. This time, we bought a Hoover Commercial Portapower Vacuum Cleaner, 8.3 Lbs, Black. Typical five-star reviews say stuff like “This little commercial vacuum cleaner is one of the best buys out there. I can clean up Great Pyrenees hair with ease and empty out the bag and start over again without clogging up the vacuum like other machines I have killed with dog hair.” This customer understands our needs.

AmberWill will also need an upright to deal with rugs? Probably, but affording ONE machine was hard enough. A second will have to wait until next month at the very least.

I really hope this machine seriously sucks.