Thanks, guys.

To the people who ruined our back yard, sometime in the ’80s:

Look, I understand. It was a different time. Gas was cheap, no one talked about climate change, and you liked to hit the open road in your RV. And, after all, it was your house. You could do what you wanted. For the record, I support your right to screw up what became my property 20 years later. Even though it was a really, really stupid thing to do. (Stipulated: It was a really, really stupid thing to buy, as well. The last kick the newspaper business gave me was relocating my husband to Detroit in the middle of the damn winter, at a time when we absolutely needed two sets of parental boots on the ground to make our life together work. We were, as they say, over a barrel, and inventory was a little tight.)

On paper at least, it must have made sense to pick up the garage and rotate it 90 degrees, then pave pretty much everything that was left. You needed RV parking, not grass. Grass was for golf courses, RVs were for pavement, and so you did what you thought you needed to do.

Even though it wrecked the yard. You putzes:

You don't have to mow.

Little by little, within the constrains of our meager budget, we’re trying to undo the damage. That strip along the back fence used to be gravel, but we paid a fortune last year to have it dug out and filled with decent topsoil. It’s now our kitchen herb garden and (shh) a raspberry patch. But until we a) save a contractor’s child from drowning*; or b) write a best-selling novel, the garage will have to stay there. But I have a plan B. It involves a strong thunderstorm, a trip away, and this tree:

The dead tree.

It’s the one in the middle, the one covered with ivy. It’s an ash, and like many of the ashes around here, it’s dead. Because it’s back behind the owner’s garage, he doesn’t pay much attention to it. They painted that garage last year, and when the owner came back to trim some limbs so the painters could get to it, I asked if he was starting the removal process. He looked startled; why would he want to remove it? “Well, it’s dead,” I pointed out. He honestly didn’t seem to have even considered such a thing.

Here’s what I’m hoping: That some day when we’re both gone, that tree will come crashing down on our garage, hard enough to make it a total loss. Then we’ll have a little seed money to tear it down and rebuild from scratch. Ideally we’d do so at the end of the driveway, where it belongs, but I’d settle for expanding it to encompass that concrete pad on the far side of the structure, where you can see my car’s butt:

The Passat's butt.

Alan recently got a new car, so that’s the “old car” spot. Yes, because even though that may look like a two-car garage, alas it is not. It’s a 1.8-car garage, or at the moment, one-car/one-boat. Not the boat you see, although that one lives in there, too, so I guess it’s one-car/two-boats. Whatever.

* This sorta worked for our neighbors. They gave a landscaping contractor a big down payment on fixing their back yard a few years ago, and he absconded with the dough and used it to feed his drug habit. One day last spring he turned up on their doorstep, 12-stepping it through the “making amends” part. He ended up transforming their back yard into a place of glory, giving them far more than their money’s worth. It’s sort of like a modern version of winning the lottery.

Anyway, that concludes today’s spell of grumpiness. I see you folks have taken to speculating on the Pennsylvania primary. OK, I’m in: Clinton by…7 points. And Pennsylvania comes off looking as bad as Michigan. Or like a horizontal version of Indiana.

Brief bloggage:

I can’t believe I ever liked Richard Cohen. I mean: Can’t. Believe.

Back to my big monster writing project, which is mostly research, which is turning up fascinating factoids, including this: Della Reese’s original first name was “Delloreese.” Imagine that.

Posted at 3:26 pm in Current events, Same ol' same ol' |

28 responses to “Thanks, guys.”

  1. moe99 said on April 22, 2008 at 4:18 pm

    Richard Cohen started going downhill when he was caught in pari delecto with the wife of another big time journalist a while back. Not a nice guy.

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 22, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Clinton by 12 points. Sorry, but i live in semi-rural Ohio and have spent lots of time in Pennsylvania, the union-centric, blue-collar, gov’t jobs parts of PA, which is to say most of it. SEIU is doing all they can, but the pipefitters and tool and die guys and teamsters aren’t leaning Obamawards, not a’tall.

    Clinton by 12, maybe 14, and this party continues to . . . Indiana. Where the primaries never matter, and Democrat primaries aren’t even . . . ah, what a year.

    Is anyone pushing Howard Dean to do some chairman-ish things, or are we really supposed to think he’s happy to be above it all until he gets buried by the worst (for the party) convention since 1980, if not 1968?

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  3. Jolene said on April 22, 2008 at 4:27 pm

    Howard Dean keeps trying to do chairman-ish things, but no one pays attention to him.

    I’m saying Clinton by 6, but that may be just wishful thinking.

    Dana Milbank had a piece in today’s WaPo that suggests you might be right, Jeff. Title: In This Forgotten Town, Obama Can Forget About It.

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  4. Scout said on April 22, 2008 at 4:35 pm

    I get all my election notions from Al Giordano of “The Field” lately since the guy’s prediction record has been pretty darn good. Al predicts a Clinton win ( but only a +4 delegate gain for her… which if you have been following “the maths” is not a win at all. Whether she slogs on or not depends on just how badly she intends to scorch the Democratic party earth.

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  5. deb said on April 22, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    delloreese? i can top that. one of my great-aunts was named roszeka gayree. we called her aunt zeke, which didn’t seem all that out-there, considering. her mother claimed she got the name out of a book. hmpf.

    clinton by 5.

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  6. Sue said on April 22, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    It’s that time of year again in my office: zoning/property maintenance hell. Starts in spring and ends in late fall, as all sorts of horrors come to light. I can’t believe your municipality allows paving of such a large percentage of your property; I assume the previous owner of your property did all that paving without the knowledge of anyone in the zoning department of your friendly neighborhood City Hall, and now you get to live with the consequences. The real scare is that more municipalities are adopting a change-of-ownership compliance requirement, which means that anyone selling a property must bring it up to current code. My municipality has no interest in that kind of enforcement; it would cost massive amounts of money (both for the City and the property owners) and make City workers even more hated than we already are. However, I have noticed more and more potential buyers have figured out that they can determine compliance themselves by checking building inspection/zoning/property maintenance records for a property. And the ones who are of a nastier personality will bring problems to our attention so that we have to enforce. Enemies right and left.

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  7. Dexter said on April 22, 2008 at 5:16 pm

    I went on record just before the polls opened: HRC, 8.75%.
    I hope your tree fantasy comes true for you; two old maples ruined first my truck and then my house, cracking my house open like an egg shell. That was in the 90s, now I only worry about the huge Chinese elm limb of my neighbor’s which will take out our bathroom when it strikes. The owners are nasty old people who even had the elms trimmed but were offended when I told the tree trimmers to try to talk the old folks into having that limb removed.
    Zoning? I don’t think this city I live in enforces any zoning rules unless it pertains to the mayor’s neighborhood.
    A few years ago the neighbors put in a chicken wire fence to separate our properties. Yes, real chicken wire! We raised hell with City Hall…no help. Now the yahoos have started a “Sanford & Son” business…they go around scarfing (stealing??) old junk like washing machines and old swingsets and reduce them to smaller chunks of metal and drive away and come back and do it all over again. The decibel level is horrendous, the truck has no muffler, and it starts at sun-up and stops about 10:30 P.M. Jesus H. Kreist!!

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  8. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 22, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Our previous house was between two members of village council and the mayor’s mother lived just down the block. Our snow removal was swift and thorough and checked by the village manager, and the sidewalks were level.

    In a really dry summer, the grass finally eked out enough growth to force me to mow — as i diagonalled the front lawn, a spot i’d often crossed suddenly went “spaaannnnnggggg,” where the ground had pulled down around a water valve cover, causing my blade to whang-dang-doodle off the edge of the metal.

    I stopped, flipped the mower to one side after letting it cool and pulling the spark cable, took off the notched blade, and went off to a friend’s house on the other side of town who had a full workbench with vise and files where i could fix the blade enough to finish the season without replacing it.

    Did the work fairly quickly, chatted a bit, and stopped by the church on my way home to check messages and sort the mail. When i got home, three guys from the service department were finishing up having shortened the water valve cap and replacing the cover, which was barely ground off along one edge, impacting its function not at all.

    “What’s up, guys?” I asked, dim-wittedly. “Oh, we got a call. Is your mower OK? Can we do anything to fix it? Sorry about the damage.” They helpfully watched me put the blade back on — they would have done it if i’d a let them — and i never did find out who called. Not that it mattered.

    Clearly, having such worthies in your neighborhood is a nice benefit, which i had not quite realized until that day. Growing up near Chicago, i thought it was just about getting your more inept family members decent jobs. Turns out it’s a bit more than that.

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  9. Dexter said on April 22, 2008 at 6:02 pm

    …back to the elevator story…I had no claustro-issues until I had an MRI . I got through that OK, but the next time I drove through Big Walker Mountain Tunnel I had a big-ass panic attack. At 1:45 into this video you’ll see just exactly where I freaked out.
    The next tunnel, same thing. Damndest thing. Now I can ride but not drive through tunnels. All my self talk therapy and the passage of time hasn’t helped much. “Tapping therapy” does help, by the way.
    I ride elevators but I don’t like it. The worst thing is that it has spilled over to flying. Flying never bothered me at all before , and I have flown a lot. Now as soon as I exit the jetway and enter the jet my heart races and I have to just sit and wait until I can get off that winged tube. So I am not crippled and incapacitated by claustrophobia, but it makes my life miserable at times. Oh, tunnels are just fine as long as I can see the light at the end…if I can’t, it’s like I am in the movie “2001 A Space Odyssey” , where the astronaut is traveling through the colors.

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  10. Colleen said on April 22, 2008 at 10:58 pm

    I was house/pet sitting for a neighbor when I was a teenager. I woke up one Saturday morning to hear my mom tell me “A tree fell on the H’s house!”. “Nuh uh”. “Look”. “ohhhhh”. Right on the garage. Thru the attic, with a big ol’ pointy branch stopping about a foot from their brand new car.

    We just had to file for a variance for our bathroom renovation. The plan was to bump out over an existing breakfast nook, but the house is aparently 4 inches too close to the building line. Where it has been since 1926. Variance approved, project underway, but geeze.

    And yet I never did hear back from neighborhood code about the dead Cadillac in my neighbor’s driveway. Hasn’t moved for a year.

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  11. Peter said on April 23, 2008 at 5:59 am

    NYT has Clinton by 9.4 with 99% in, so it’s either Dexter at 8.75 or me at 10.0 (but I was over, so I would not be the next contestant on the Price Is Right).

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  12. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on April 23, 2008 at 8:00 am

    Dexter, would you like to play Plinko for . . . A NEW CARRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!

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  13. John said on April 23, 2008 at 8:04 am

    Big Walker Mountain Tunnel….Dexter, you are hitting very close to my old stomping grounds. Once the tunnel was completed, all the traffic went that way to avoid the fun fun fun of Cloyd’s Mountain (Dublin to Pearisburg), the long cliff hugging stretch from Narrows to Glen Allen and finally the switchback ascent up to Princeton.

    I drove over the old road about 4 years ago and it had completing been re-done and re-worked. Cloyd’s Mountain in now just a easy up and gentle down now and Rte. 460 is an interstate grade four lane from Pearisburg to the entrance of the West Virginia Turnpike.

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  14. Jolene said on April 23, 2008 at 9:08 am

    WaPo is calling it at 10%, Peter, but perhaps they just don’t do decimals.

    So how is everyone feeling this morning? Happy? Sad? Tired of the whole thing?

    What do all you Hoosiers think is going to happen there?

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  15. brian stouder said on April 23, 2008 at 9:34 am

    So last night, I’m at Red Cross with a needle jammed into each arm for about 2 hours, watching the election returns…and the nurse, noting that the pundits’ incessant yammering has mesmerized me, matter-of-factly says “I just can’t believe that Barack Obama refused to be sworn into the Senate with his hand on a bible!”….which broke the trance I was in, and made me look up. I said something like – it’s a good thing you can’t believe that, because it’s NOT TRUE!…which drew a puzzled look – and then the retort “well – he’s a Muslim, you know”……..and then, remembering that I was immobile and still a long way from the completion of the donation, I paused and took a breath. After conversationally mentioning that I had read that same e-mail (which elicited a big nod from the nurse), I said that the thing is just completely untrue – at which point I drifted back to the glow of the tv, and the nurse wandered away.

    By way of saying, this political process ain’t bean-bag. I’m an Obama guy, but the biggest thing is to fire the incumbent party in November. One might (or might not) shake one’s head at the sort of ‘facts’ people vote upon – but that doesn’t make them go away. Whatever the delegates and super delegates decide – it is what it is (and I think a winning number of voters across the country will ultimately vindicate whatever decision is made)

    edit: Jolene – I think Jill Long Thompson and Hillary Clinton will both win in our May 6 primary

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  16. kayak woman said on April 23, 2008 at 9:36 am

    Good luck on the tree. We were out of town a couple weeks ago and I got an email message that a neighbor’s tree had hit our house.

    The house is habitable but there is some serious damage and I doubt we’ll get to do anything above and beyond fixing it.

    This is our second such incident and it’s getting a little old. One foot in front of the other.

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  17. Dorothy said on April 23, 2008 at 9:42 am

    Dexter I mean no disrespect but I can’t honestly see what frightens you about that tunnel. Maybe it’s because I grew up in Pittsburgh, and regularly went through the Squirrel Hill Tunnels, the Liberty Tubes (that’s what Pittsburghers called them but it’s actually the Liberty Tunnels) and the Fort Pitt Bridge Tunnels. If you need to get around Pittsburgh there’s almost no avoiding these things.

    The only time I remember getting freaked out while traveling was while crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on our way to the ocean one summer. I had to close my eyes and be told when we were finally across. I don’t think I could ever drive over that bridge.

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  18. Jolene said on April 23, 2008 at 9:43 am

    That’s a heartbreaking message, Brian, but I know you’re right. Sometimes I think I should go door to door, correcting people’s misconceptions. Not just about Obama, but about all kinds of things that lots of people believe that simply aren’t true. I don’t know why anybody believe me, particularlly, but I’ve spent my whole life working to generate and communicate facts, and it kills me to hear about people making decisions on the basis of things that are simply wrong.

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  19. Danny said on April 23, 2008 at 10:11 am

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  20. Danny said on April 23, 2008 at 10:12 am

    The Chesapeake Bay Bridge never freaked me out, Dorothy, but the Coronado Bridge does. The slopes and curves of it combine to reveal a beautiful, but dizzying view of Coronado Island, the San Diego city skyline, the coast and the water. I’m always torn between keeping my eyes on the road to stay alive and admiring the beauty around me whilst driving off and plunging to my death. Quite the Sirens Song. And I ain’t great with hieghts.

    Now the Harbor tunnel in Baltimore can play odd tricks on the eyes if you’re driving late and somewhat sleep deprived. My wife kinda white-knuckles that one too because she grew up in Orange county and doesn’t truck with tunnels.

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  21. Kirk said on April 23, 2008 at 10:22 am

    Driving over the replacement for the collapsed Sunshine Skyway over Tampa Bay was the one I didn’t like. It was windy up there.

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  22. alex said on April 23, 2008 at 10:40 am

    Gawd, Brian, if I encountered a medical professional who was that fucking stupid I wouldn’t let her touch me.

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  23. Danny said on April 23, 2008 at 10:55 am

    Weird, Alex. We recently had relatives visiting recently who also repeated the false Obama/Muslim story. And one is a nurse practitioner (oncology) and the other is a chiropractor. We set the record straight, but I sensed that they were skeptical still, so I told them to research it though. Odd stories sprout up during political races.

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  24. Danny said on April 23, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Man, I heard something shocking this morning. Obama got more delegates from the Iowa caucuses than Clinton got from a win in New Jersey. You have to be kidding me. Wow. That does not sound right. I think Iowa has just under 3 million in population.

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  25. Jolene said on April 23, 2008 at 11:03 am

    Odd stories sprout up a little more often than average, I’d wager, if the candidate in question is black and has a funny name.

    I’ve seen people wondering, in some of the less savory corners of the Internet, whether Barack Obama is really American–that is, whether he’s even eligible to be president. To me, it seems kinda unlikely that someone not born in the US would go to the trouble of running or that the early supporters needed to launch a campaign wouldn’t check that out, but some people don’t seem to be too troubled by logic.

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  26. Jolene said on April 23, 2008 at 11:09 am

    No, Danny, Clinton got 59 delegates in NJ, and Obama got 25 in IA. There’s a very detailed summary of who’s won what at Wikipedia.

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  27. Danny said on April 23, 2008 at 11:24 am

    Odd stories sprout up a little more often than average, I’d wager, if the candidate in question is black and has a funny name.

    I’m not sure that is true. Presidential races seem to have always been equal opportunity employers for smear tacticians. And until recently, Obama has gotten a pretty cushy ride from the press. He was naive if he thought that was going to last when he is running for president … and against Clinton.

    In any case, I have a problem with claims of racism. One of the ways of getting beyond it in this country is to stop feeding the meme.

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  28. Richard Boys said on April 23, 2008 at 5:31 pm

    Nancy: I remember the Fort Wayne house you lived in. That back yard was kind of tiny also, I thought. Nanette, the hairdresser cut my hair and I was always aware of the “celebrity” living across the alley (I always parked my massive Frito-Lay truck in front of her house). I also really liked your columns in the paper. I discovered your blog about a month ago and always read the whole thing. Someday I hope you write a book or three, because you write very well. VERY well. I love your honest, no BS attitude. Keep at it and I will keep reading and cheering for you.

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