Walking on, Walking on Broken Glass. . .

We are saying goodbye the horrendous green monstrosity of a bathroom we have coped with for the past six years.

The bathtub, sink, and toilet were all green. But they were all different greens. The sink and tub were slightly different shades of mint chocolate chip ice cream green (minus the chocolate chips) and the toilet was closer to avocado. The painted part of the walls – yet another shade of green, and the floor tiles – oh, you guessed it, several varying shades of green. But then, there was the wall tile. . . oh, the wall tile . . . all around the room, and it was . . . MAUVE. Not the kitschy 50’s pink that often got paired with a pastel shade of green. That we could play with. This was dusky, dated, ugly mauve – that lost space between kitsch and neutral that makes you dream of sledgehammers. And, were it not bad enough, there was a mirror that took up most of one wall, so all of that color madness echoed.

We lived with paint chips taped to our walls for YEARS, because there was no way you could walk into that bathroom and decide on a new paint color. All the permanent fixtures were so offensive that there wasn’t a good choice. Even white would have been obnoxious.

To add insult to injury, while the bathtub looked like it was a perfectly normal size, it wasn’t. I am about as average as you can get. I’m 5’6″ and my clothes are always mediums, but when I tried to take a bath in that tub I felt like an Amazon woman. My knees stuck out and the water level couldn’t get deep enough to stay warm for more than 2 minutes anyway. We will never again buy a house without first sitting in the bathtub.

And no, I didn’t take before pictures (just the above ‘during’ shot), because I don’t want to remember the way it looked. I just want to move on.

Do you like how I’m writing all of this in past tense, like it’s all gone already and replaced with something better? Like we didn’t just put some holes in the walls and make the bathroom unusable and then realize it was harder than we thought and it was best to regroup and figure things out? Like I didn’t spend the entire night trying to convince myself that I did not have to pee, so I wouldn’t have to walk down the dark stairs to the creepy basement bathroom in the middle of the night by myself, because my faithful canine companions were too busy snoring to lead the way and protect me from basement spiders, or wall squirrels (there was an incident, but we are hoping it was just a case of sound echoing from outside critters, not an inside critter the size of a house cat).

So, we’ve got some good holes in the walls. We’ve got enough broken tile chips on the floor so it’s not reasonable to walk in there just to use the facilities and risk tracking little fragments everywhere. But the mirror is gone, so at least there’s no reflection of our haphazard destruction. We’re trying to save as much as we can to donate, and the mirror was going to be a part of that, but it cracked coming off the wall, and as much as I would have liked to find a way to recycle it, I also didn’t want to risk it breaking further while we were storing it, because glass shards and dog paws are not a good mix, so J hauled it out to the curb last night for the trash pickup.

This morning, when J took the dogs out, Stella barked like crazy. J said he heard loud, crashing noises coming from The Crap Garden. When he brought the dogs back in, he looked out the window to see Mrs. Gnome wheeling half the broken mirror down the sidewalk on a small metal luggage cart. She leaned it against our garbage can and dragged her cart back to The Crap Garden.

I’m not sure I want to know why she felt the need to break glass in her backyard, what she plans to do with broken mirror shards, or why she only wanted half of what was left of the mirror and not the whole thing. How does one decide how much crap is needed in The Crap Garden? Half the broken mirror was just right, but the whole thing would have just been overkill? I guess I can’t pretend to understand her vision. Nor can I pretend to understand why our down-the-street-neighbor was in the front yard in his underwear in 40 degree weather last Wednesday afternoon.

I’ll put my respirator and goggles on today and chip away at the tiles in the bathroom, but no matter how much I temper the crazy inside, it will still be lurking out there . . . Although, I just posted a picture of myself in a respirator on the internet. Am I becoming one of them?

My New Neighbor

Monday, I was settling in to do some editing, when I heard a noise that sounded a lot like a jackhammer off in the distance. I figured it would stop, but it didn’t. It felt like every time I started to type, the noise started again. Twenty-minutes later, I was starting to lose it. I walked to the other side of the house, and it got louder. It sounded closer than I’d originally thought, and less like a jackhammer. More like someone drilling metal.

I walked around the house (followed by my canine entourage) muttering “What the hell is Mrs. Gnome doing?” and cursing our house, our neighborhood, and lawn ornaments in general. I presumed that this was another bout of insane Gnome gardening. Maybe she was making some kind of bizarre hubcap altar for Water Jug Jesus? Sometimes, I’ve seen her head into the garden with a pick axe, and then I hear the sound of metal clanking on rock for the next two hours. Maybe she’d upgraded to a power tool?

My blood was boiling. I know the world isn’t going to be quiet for me just because I’m editing my book, but my neighborhood is full of retirees who devote inordinate amounts of time to making crazy noises outside (and covering every surface of the outdoors with carcinogen laden lawn chemicals, but that’s another story for another day) and it just gets old. It’s a raw nerve that is repeatedly poked. Some days, I want to stand in the front yard and yell “Your lawn doesn’t matter! Volunteer at the children’s hospital. Knit hats for the homeless. Deliver for Meals on Wheels. Start a book club. Develop a gambling habit. Do something productive (and quiet) with your time!” Some days, I think J worries I will.

Last week, my work was interrupted by my across the street neighbor gleefully sending the remains of a hedge through a wood chipper. FOR FOUR HOURS. After spending way too much time trying (unsuccessfully) to get visions of Steve Buscemi out of my head, I decided to go to the library to work, only to be interrupted there by a girl TALKING ON HER CELL PHONE IN THE LIBRARY and two boys looking at boobs in old issues of National Geographic.

I had been hoping for a few quiet days before everyone starts mowing their lawns ad infinitum, but there was Mrs. Gnome ruining the last few mower-free days by drilling metal. I stormed around the house working up the nerve to go outside and ask her if she could please drill metal some other time, except, after checking out her yard from the window, it didn’t look like she was outside.

The noise seemed to be happening at regular intervals. I could anticipate the next round of the drilling noise correctly most of the time. And as I walked around the house some more, I realized it sounded like the drilling noise was coming from the basement.

In the basement bathroom, I located the source of the sound (or at least, I thought I had). It was an air duct. I hit it hard with my fist and the sound stopped. I felt like an ass. Even though Mrs. Gnome didn’t know I’d been walking around my house blaming her for everything that had ever gone wrong in my life, I felt guilty.

All week, the noise would start and stop mysteriously. I did endless Google searches on “drilling noise in air duct,” and “jackhammer ductwork,” and any other combo that might describe the sound and the source. I joked on Facebook and Twitter that it sounded like there was a woodpecker in the ductwork. I decided the sound was caused by the recent drastic temperature changes and the wooden beams expanding, and that it happened when the heat kicked on, or was about to kick on, or had been on recently. I decided this was a reasonable explanation, and I put it in my head that J and I would look into ways to muffle the vibrations of the duct sometime over the weekend.

But then, yesterday, when the noise started up, J said it really sounded like it was coming from outside. We counted between the drillings the way you count out thunder and lightening and determined that it wasn’t happening at even intervals. Sometimes it took ten beats, sometimes nine, sometimes twelve. J slapped the bathroom window. The noise stopped. Something fluttered outside.

I ran outside, but I didn’t see anything. Then, I heard an awful cackle coming from the roof. I looked up to see our new neighbor, Mr. Woodpecker, staring down at me with his creepy black bird eyes. After doing some research, I discovered that woodpeckers like to peck on metal when looking for a mate because it makes a louder noise than wood does. This guy, it appears, has been hitting the air vents on the roof and side of the house (which is why the noise sounded like it was coming from different places all the time). When he pecks at one of the vents, it vibrates through the ducts and sounds like it’s coming from the basement, when he pecks at a different vent, it sounds like it’s coming from Mrs. Gnome’s yard.

This morning, I woke up to what sounded like someone drilling from inside our walls. I ran outside in my pj’s, barefoot to yell at the woodpecker. He stared at me from the roof, and I swear he laughed at me. I fear Mr. Woodpecker will never find a mate and go away. He’s obviously a bastard. Who would want him? I can only hope there’s a female woodpecker with low self-esteem trolling our neighborhood.

Who Are The People In Your Neighborhood? – The Garden Gnome Edition

Stella comes with some fun habits. She won’t do her business while attached to leash, but she won’t necessarily come in when called. We don’t have a fenced in yard, so this makes things tricky. She was doing better with it, but then the storm door swung shut and scared her and now coming in through the door at all is a tough sell.

The other night she took off and ran through The Crap Garden next door, and it reminded me that I should tell you about The Crap Garden.

The Crap Garden is carved out of the land behind our next door neighbor’s house (even though they do not own said land). It’s full of oddities: broken clocks, old mailboxes, broom handles stuck in the ground like fence posts. Koosh balls in jars, wind chimes hung from trees, astroturf pathways, bed frame railways, vases stuck on the ends of branches, a life-sized Doberman statue, Jesus encased in half a water cooler bottle, mirrors, shelves pulled from the ends of neighboring driveways on garbage day. All of it is arranged very precicely. And all of it moves and makes noise, and the noises change depending on the season. Few things in life are so creepy as the sound of an iced over pinwheel creaking and spinning in the middle of the night while frozen wind chimes tinkle in the background.

When we first moved here, The Garden Gnomes would bring half the stuff from the garden inside to store for the winter. This year I did not see the massive crap migration, which involves laying all the crap out on the yard and then hauling it into the house in laundry baskets in many many trips. Sadly, I suspect Mr. Gnome has not been feeling well as of late, and this means much of the crap will spend the winter outside, covered in plastic bags and packing tape.

I used to very much not get along with the Gnomes, because every time I tried to do anything in our yard, Mrs. Garden Gnome would come over to tell me I was doing it wrong. Sometimes her points would be valid, but sometimes they wouldn’t be. Had she been right all the time, I would have been more tolerant of the situation. The bad advice mixed in with good and tied up with a healthy does of judgment just got me revved up and pissed off. But over the years, we’ve come to more of an understanding of each other. She seems to respect my efforts in growing some of my own food, even though she’s made it known that she doesn’t think I weed enough. And I have some malfunction in my brain that reverses the whole “familiarity breeds contempt” thing.

Seeing her out on her hands and knees picking tiny pieces of dead grass out of the lawn, mowing three times a week, or shoveling her driveway at the slightest hint of a flake has endeared her to me. Her penchant for watching me work in the yard from her kitchen window has proved useful, as she’s taken it a step further and will often run out to bring me a garden tool to borrow if she feels I’m not using the appropriate one. And over the growing season, we regularly exchanged little packages of our harvested goods by leaving them on each others’ back patios. She’s given me a lot of good advice as of late, including warning me to pace myself when I work in the garden so I don’t get burnt out. So, I have to say that I like her now. I appreciate her. She’s a part of this place that’s now my home, and I am, at the risk of sounding sappy, grateful for her.

Even The Crap Garden has started to grow on me. Chasing Stella down the garden paths the other night, it seemed less creepy and more magical. The assorted crap glistening by moonlight through a thick dusting of snow, was . . . beautiful. And it is, after all, a fantastic example of recycling.