Monday, January 16, 2012

Resolution road: Incomplete

The veterinarian was the subject of a story I was working on, but I'd met him once before at a Halloween party where we'd all drank far too much. I think he'd passed out around three that morning, crumpled up in a pile on a couch with his girlfriend.


He had a nice house, an interesting collection of pets and a vast array of hobbies: an old car, RC gadgets, music and different remodeling projects.

Everything was kept very orderly, but it was all in that vague middle of completion with no real end in sight. Some of the projects, like the car, he'd been working on for years; since he was a teenager. Most of them, at the pace he was following, would take years before they were finished, if ever.

None of this really troubled him. He joked about how this was kind of his nature, but it didn't worry and the man was anything but lazy or distracted. Everything was being taken care of as needed and as it suited him.

I kind of admired the peace the man had with what were, essentially, things he chose to do. There was no real deadline. Everything would get done when it got done. If he never finished, that was okay, too. The point wasn't necessarily the finished product. In almost everything he did, nothing was ever going to be entirely and permanently finished anyway.

He was learning things, exploring and finding his way. I liked that.

So... another resolution. Take the incomplete sometimes, especially with things that aren't mandatory. Nobody is grading.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Resolution road: Sleeping on it

The posting in Freecycle read, "Queen sized mattress and box springs," and I almost fell over in my chair. Months ago, as part of a big used furniture buy, I'd landed a Queen size bed frame. The only problem was: I had a full size bed. It was too small.

Still, I'd managed to jury rig the thing, got it off the floor and that was a start, but it was still a little awkward. The ends poke out too far. I've hit my ankle on the lower half three or four times and one night out of five, I wake up with my head crammed down the space between the bed and the wall.

The posting said the mattress was in good shape. It just needed to be cleaned.

Free was too good to pass up. So, I put a claim on it and the owner told me I could have it.

"Just come pick it up."

Easy enough.

So, I borrowed a truck and in the dark of night went to get it. The little house was located at the top of a steep hill. Looking down from the top, I noticed the shiny new guard rail at the bottom and wondered how often that got replaced.

Just a guess, but every other winter.

The street was dark and finding the little house was a pain in the ass. Evidently, nobody bothers with house numbers anymore and postal employees can just miracle the fucking mail to the right house. I doubt a pizza had been successfully delivered on this street since the Nixon administration.

Still, I reminded myself, I was getting this mattress for free. A little hassle was expected.

"Don't look a gift horse in the mouth."

The house I was looking turned out to be located behind another house. You had to creep up a set of narrow, river rock steps then fumble past the gate of a chain link fence just to get onto the dark property. I navigated by the stars since the household seemed to have a strict "only use one electrical device" at a time policy. Flickering blue light escaped from a single, dirty window.

I knocked on the door. A scummy looking character opened it immediately.

"You here about the bed?" The guy asked. "It's on the back porch."

He closed the door then turned a light on, not the light for the back porch, but the light for the front stoop.

Right off, the mattress looked wrong. It looked too small. It looked like it was the same size as the one I had at home, but it was dark, I was annoyed and I have been known to make mistakes when it's dark and I'm annoyed. I considered for a second. I was already here.

I decided the situation was still workable. At the very least, I figured, it's an improvement over what I have and I could be wrong.

I lugged the mattress and box springs to the truck then coasted down the hill, riding the breaks and feeling pretty damned glad I didn't have to live here.

It was a bad night. Getting the truck had taken too long. Finding the house had taken too long and by the time I finally got home, the whole evening was shot.

But I had the bed.

It was while dragging it into the house that I noticed the smell: urine, sweat and a sickly sweet deodorizer that wasn't quite cutting it.

In the light, I saw the mattress wasn't in such good condition. It was pock-marked with small holes and the foam beneath looked funny, partially dissolved. I'd seen this sort of thing before, back in college dorm rooms where half the mattresses looked like they'd been scavenged from a plague hospital.

The cats and dog were fascinated by the thing, but there was no way I was keeping some drunk's flop mattress and piss pad in my house. I dragged it right back out, tossed it on the patio and called the garbage company. I asked them to donate the mattress to a deserving family of rats at the county landfill.

The fiasco taught me a lesson. For years, I've done a fair share of scavenging: furniture, food and odd items. I did it because I told myself I was being thrifty. I was being resourceful. Sometimes I deluded myself by saying I could fix it, patch it up or use it to make do somehow.

Usually, that didn't work out. A stock pot I got for nothing turned out to have pinhole leaks six inches up from the bottom. A loveseat I found smelled like a couple of dogs on a two-day viagra binge. The box of chestnuts I took turned out to be rotten and infested with little bugs that took weeks to get rid of.

My list of hopeful acquisitions is long and it is sad.

Looking back, most of the junk I scavenged was just that: junk. And sometimes, the junk cost me something: extra money, extra aggravation; time that could not be replaced. In most cases, if I'd really wanted the item I picked up in the first place, I'd have been better off just buying it.

So... there it is, my first new resolution of the year: Stop picking up other people's trash, especially when it's offered freely. This is not to say, stop looking for bargains, but stop accepting less as adequate. It really never is, no matter how much you pretend that it might be.

Sure, it's true what they say: "You shouldn't look a gift horse in the mouth," but maybe you should if you think the horse might be a goat.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Back in black

It only seems like I've been away awhile...

Actually, I've thought about this blog quite a bit, but I wasn't sure about what to write. Lots of things have changed in the six weeks or so since I abruptly stopped posting.

If I was to end the blog, the post about discovering my grandmother had been reading my letters would have been a good one. Parting with the wedding band would have been another. Both sort of represent high points; going out on a high note, but there is no ending in sight.

Explanations are in order for where I've been, naturally, but all in good time. I have to limber up a bit and frame my little stories. I have quite a few to tell, but these are not the same sort of stories we're used to here.

All in good time.

Typically, at the beginning of the year, I make some sort of list of things I'd like to accomplish. I am a believer in resolutions, but I'm usually hit or miss with them. Some years I take the inevitable failings harder than others.

Still, I try. Sometimes the point isn't the actually accomplish the goal. Sometimes it's enough to just try.

Right now, I'm working out what I want to do this year. Some sort of list will be posted eventually, but the possibilities seem almost endless. I'm having trouble narrowing it down. There seems to be so much to choose from. It's funny. My world seems much larger than it used be. I'm not sure how that's even possible, but it sure feels that way.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Ring Cycle: An ending of sorts

I cradled the wedding band in the palm of my hand and watched some poorly dressed clown swing a bell as people dropped changed into a bright red kettle.

I'd made a decision about the ring. I'd come to it a while ago, but now we'd reached the point where something needed to be done, where I could no longer bear to keep it any longer.

For a while, before Christmas, I'd considered taking the ring to a pawn shop. Gold fetches a nice price these days. I could have traded it for cash, got a waffle iron or maybe bought a few Christmas presents, but hadn't been able to do that.

Once upon a time, I'd had a different ring, nearly as blameless as this one and done just that: sold it off for a few coppers to a guy in a cut off shirt in a dimly lit shop. The memory of watching a greasy, stringy-haired clerk toss that ring in a fat JFG coffee can along with several dozen others still haunts me.

It was a mass grave.

A marriage shouldn't be dispensed with so cheaply, I thought. Even the corpse of the thing deserves some manner of respect.

I always regretted selling that ring and this one, it deserved a better fate.

Truth be told, the ring never quite fit. This is not some existential statement, but a basic fact. I lost weight right after I purchased the thing and the ring wouldn't stay on my finger. I had it resized, gained some weight back and the ring wouldn't fit. Eventually, I lost the weight again, but took up lifting weights and the ring just never rested comfortably on my hand.

I talked about getting it resized a hundred times, but never did. There are a dozen reasons for that, none of them very good.

Still, I was ready to give this one up, but I didn't want it to go cheaply. I didn't want it to pay for dinner or even for the start of my new life. I wanted it to perhaps find its way to a new hand, a new marriage and a new start.

I could hope the same things for myself one day, I supposed. Why not that for me, too?

If I took it to a pawn shop, I figured they'd probably just sell it to a gold buyer. It would be melted down, turned into wiring or tooth filings, perhaps, but the Salvation Army is a church. They believe in marriage --acknowledged: their definition of marriage is a bit more conservative than mine, but I didn't think they'd cast the ring aside or boil it down to its brute material. They deal with charity and the poor. Maybe they'd find someone who wanted to get married, who didn't have a ring.

I hoped so. In my way, I was trying to give the ring a chance to move on, too.

So, I wished it well and slipped the ring into the kettle as I went in to the grocery store to buy Granny Smith apples, flour and sugar. The man standing at the door wished me a Merry Christmas. Almost correcting him, I said, "Happy New Year."