Thursday, November 19, 2009

Winter Stories: Get Your Mug O' Hot Chocolate & Cozy Up

Story #1
I don't know who the architect was of the condo I live in, or if it was even that person that made this decision, but somewhere someone in the early 80s thought it would be a good idea to use radiant heat in my place instead of a conventional furnace. Normally I would be thrilled - who wouldn't love walking on warm floors in bare feet in the colder months? Except this genius decided to put the radiant heat in the CEILING, not the floor, even though the floor is tile and therefore would definitely benefit from some heat. Newsflash in Thermodynamics Einstein: Heat rises.
Needless to say, I do not use the provided heating system in my house. The downstairs unit may take care of upstairs, but upstairs would definitely only be keeping the spiders warm in the attic, and those little bastards don't pay rent.
Last year I purchased a couple space heaters from and they worked out pretty well. Even with three of them cranking they're not too bad on my power bill and they keep the areas I occupy warm enough.
One of the heaters did a great job heating the room, but the thermostat never seemed to work properly so it just kept heating and heating unless you were there to turn it on and off yourself. This was only annoying when I needed to leave the house for long periods; then I would have to choose whether I wanted to return to a freezer, or South America with Spunky (the iguana) sprawled out on his shelf sporting zinc on his nose and a margarita in hand.
This year, being unemployed, I decided I cannot afford to have a faulty thermostat helping SDG&E raid my bank account, so I kept watch for the same type of heater on craigslist. I finally found one for only $25 (I spent $40 on the first one; retail was like $80+ USD) and went to grab it. It looks exactly like the old one with a few extra scuffs. At home tonight I plugged it in and set the thermostat just as the gorgeous surfer dude showed me (amazing I even remembered how, I was so entranced by his steel blue eyes). It heated up past what I had set it at, then the temp number started blinking. I felt above the heater - still very hot. Hmmm. I waited a bit. I felt again. Still felt like heat coming out. I'm thinking darnit, this one doesn't work either! Maybe this is some faulty thing with all of these Honeywell models.
I sat playing with it awhile longer. Eventually I figured out that when the temp blinks, it has turned itself off to cool down, however, it doesn't feel like it because the metal grate above the heating element takes a long time to really cool off. Oh. Ok, my bad. So it IS working properly. Well yay for that.
I watched it do its thing for about 10 minutes, then I got to thinking. I wonder if I made a mistake with the old one and just didn't set it properly? Only one way to find out. I drag the old one upstairs and repeat the test process. Turns out it works perfectly! Now who's the dumbass about heating? ::sigh::
So anyone need an extra space heater? I mean seriously - when it gets down to 63°F, down blankets and wool socks just aren't enough!
Story #2
Last Saturday I attended a class on Brain State & Consciousness offered by Teri Mahaney at a new age store in Oceanside. It was a great class, but that was the third time I'd forgotten to bring something to write notes in. The Jeep hauls around enough "just in case" items to make any Girl Scout leader fall over with pride (no, I was never one of them), but paper is not among these items unless you count the deposit envelopes in the console, or the Starbucks contraband napkins in the glove compartment.
After the class I was determined to remedy this oversight, so I decided to stop by Barnes & Noble to buy a really cool notebook I'd seen that was on clearance (yes it was $7 - hell no, a $3 spiral bound from the drug store will not satisfy a Mac-toting, Starbucks-drinking, Whole Foods-shopping Snob Like Me).
Have I mentioned how DANGEROUS it is to let me loose in Barnes & Noble?
As I headed to the car consoling my wallet, I noticed Santa Claus sitting in the cafe reading a book. No, seriously, it was him. Round cheeks, big belly, white hair/beard, glasses, Reebok sneakers. If it wasn't him, I'll bet the dude never wears red lest he be accosted by small children everywhere he goes.
I made it to the car to leave, but my silly child-brain was poking me and giggling the entire way about how cool would it be to sit in B&N and read next to Santa Claus? (How old am I?) Even tho I had no intention whatsoever of speaking to him or saying anything about what I was thinking, the idea was just too much to resist. So I went back in with my books and sat down to read there. He even had THE PLATE WITH COOKIE CRUMBS NEXT TO HIM. C'mon! It was HIM!
I tried to sneak a peek at what he was reading but I couldn't see the title without looking like an idiot. I must've read for about an hour, or as long as it took to finish my latte anyhow. He eventually put down his book, took a snooze (I'm serious) for about 10 minutes, then got up and left in his sleigh. Ok, maybe it wasn't a sleigh, but I'll bet he had reindeer stuffed in the trunk. No, really.
I had such a nice time reading the other day tho that I went back tonight after picking up the heater just to be out of the house for awhile. I was looking for Augusten Burroughs' new book, You Better Not Cry. I thought it would be just like his previous publications - a regular size memoir - but it turns out these were just Christmas stories in a smaller, more compact read.
And read I did. In fact, I sat there and read the ENTIRE book in three hours. Straight through with one break for coffee. Which is good because then I didn't spend money buying the book (sorry Augusten!) but it was very funny in his normal morbid kind of way - MUCH better than his last full-length book, A Wolf At The Table. That one just made me cringe the entire way through and I hope never to read something that depressing again. You Better Not Cry was good though. It made me laugh out loud several times, to the point I was trying to suppress it so people didn't stare.
Lovely - there was a point to tell you that story, but I've been interrupted in writing it so many times I forget the point now. So I guess you'll just have to take it for what it's worth.
Ok, I remembered. Sort of. While in B&N, I also decided to pick up two classic children's stories for my Godnephew for Christmas. One was Shel Silverstein's The Giving Tree, and the other was Maurice Sendak's Where The Wild Things Are. I remembered having read these stories maybe once or twice as a kid, but I did not remember what each story was about. I only knew they were classics, and certainly every kid should have the classics in his library, even if he's only 2 years old. I was being a good Godmother, right?
I get home with these books and decide I should read them to refresh my memory. I wish I had done this in the store now. First I open The Giving Tree. In my adult life I've heard over and over what a great spiritual message it sends, or perhaps it was supposed to have a really good moral to the story. I can't really remember, so I dive in.
It's about this tree that loves a little boy. And the little boy asks for things from the tree constantly - all through his growing up years. And the tree always gives him what he wants... all the way to the end when the boy is an old man and just wants a place to sit and the tree can only offer the stump the boy has turned it into as a place to rest.
And then the book ended.
Wait, WHAT?
Where is the awesome moral? The spiritual message? Isn't there at least some GRATITUDE? The tree gives and gives and gives, and the kid takes and takes and takes - even chops it down to build a boat for his own selfish purposes - and never gives ANYTHING back to the tree? Doesn't even plant a new one? What is he, the CEO of a logging company? WTF??!! HE CHOPPED DOWN A TREE and was completely selfish and THIS is a great book that has become a classic? Ok, well it says he loved the tree, but I have a hard time believing asking more and more of something and never giving anything back is a good example of love. Or perhaps that's the exact message. But I don't see how a kid would get that message out of the book. It was hard for ME to salvage that from the story!
To me, this book says he only loved the tree for what it could give him. That is not Love in my world. Love is shared. Love is a two way street. A mutual thing. You take, but you also GIVE. The tree was the only one doing any giving here. I've read Silverstein's other books - A Light In The Attic was one of my favorites as a kid and I had several of his other works. He's probably the only poetry besides Dr. Suess that I've ever enjoyed, but THIS... maybe I'm missing the point, but this is a SUCKY story. Chopping down trees is sacrilege in my book (all puns intended) to begin with. Besides, the picture of Shel on the back cover would give a kid nightmares. What editor picked THAT photo? Dumbass. This book is SOOO going back.
Ok, so that one wasn't what I thought it would be. Surely Sendak's work - which is now a major motion picture - is better. I crack this one open.
Max, the main character, backtalks his mother and gets sent to his room without supper. But instead of being remorseful and thinking about how crappy he treated his elder, or the story supporting respect for your parents, the kid grows a forest in his imagination, travels to "where the wild things are," becomes their king, treats them shitty the same way he felt he was treated, finally gets bored, goes home, and finds that his mother (presumably) has left his dinner in his room for him.
Wait, WHAT?! WHAT??!!
The kid acts like a total brat and gets punished for it, then spreads the negativity to imaginary creatures, and comes home to be REWARDED??! Are you KIDDING me?
Ok, MAYBE forgiveness is the message here? But that would mean it's forgiveness on his parent's part, and what of his being a brat in the first place? Shouldn't the lesson be NOT to be a 'tard to begin with? Forgiveness is such a stretch, and again, how is a CHILD supposed to get that out of this story? My ADULT brain had to really dig around for that one.
What is WRONG with these authors? And HOW - pray tell - have THESE particular books become such "classics?" I can only think that they are popular because people my age who had them as kids saw nothing wrong with how the characters acted because they were a bunch of spoiled brats themselves, and to a worm in horseradish, the world IS horseradish (as quoted recently in a MUCH better book for bigger, more intelligent kids: What The Dog Saw by Malcolm Gladwell - I HEART HIM!!).
And THAT, my friends, is exactly what's wrong with the world today. Nothing but brats born in the 60s turning into bigger, older brats and seeing nothing wrong with their bratty behavior because they have NO respect for their elders. At the risk of sounding just like my grandparents, what is this world coming to?!
Both of these books are going back. No wonder I don't remember them from when I was a kid. Their messages suck. If anyone has a better explanation of what I'm missing that others must be getting from these stories, PLEASE PLEASE enlighten me.
Story #3
Today was trash day in our neighborhood. I'm always grateful for the G-man on Wednesdays because I never want to take for granted the fact that I don't have to deal with the trash I create beyond getting it out of my house to the curb. What a blessing! I think too many of us don't often think about where it goes after that, or the people it takes to get it there. Or that we should really be making a much bigger effort to send less of it wherever it ends up. But that's another blog...
I personally have it down to less than one kitchen-size bag of trash per week, except for when I clean the chinchilla cages and I have a second bag full of their nasty peed-on cage substrate, which is all biodegradable anyway. The roommate has added a bit more to my weekly refuse, but mostly we are less trashy than most of my neighbors. And I mean that literally when I talk about the asshole with the two always-screaming children and mufflerless Harley under my bedroom window.
When I moved in and realized I had to buy my own rubbish bin, I bought a 42-gallon wheeled thing that I knew I would never fill in a week, but figured bigger is always better for those few occasions when not everything fits, right?
The first time I left it on the curb on trash day I got it back with a terse note that they would not empty anything larger than a 32-gallon can. Oops. Sorry guys. I took the 42-gallon back to Home Depot and got the smaller can. Everyone was happy.
Today though, the garbage man not only took stuff, he left us all a present. Apparently Waste Management got a new contract, or new truck, or something because everyone in my little condo complex received a brand new GIGANTIC plastic city-owned trash bin. This thing is the size of Kansas. Even bigger than the original 42-gallon one they were so upset about. I guess the trucks have stronger back muscles than The Man.
Unfortunately fitting this monster in my garage has been a challenge. It's only a one-car garage and with all my daughter's stuff packed up in boxes in there, there's not much room left for things besides the washer/dryer and the Jeep.
Now that it's 3am and my brain is getting fuzzy, I don't know why this is news, but it did make me laugh earlier trying to fit it in the garage. I swear the Jeep actually glared at it because the only place for it is right in front of its nose. I tried along the side but squeezing the car between that and the other wall was just too much maneuvering. The Condo Association won't let us keep cans outside where anyone can see them - not even on the back patio (not that I would want it there anyway), but seriously, where do they think we have room for these things? Why wasn't I consulted? Oh yeah, maybe if I'd go to the Condo Assoc. meetings I would know. :)
Okay, time for bed. I just discovered I have other blog entries I haven't even finished from awhile back, but there's no way I'm staying awake for that. I'm not even going to proofread this. Ooooo - living dangerously!