Thursday, December 29, 2011

Four-hour Rush Hour

The week between Christmas and New Year’s is wonderful if you are a commuter in the DC-Baltimore Region. If you are visiting us right now, you would probably think otherwise. Then again, you visitors are the ones who stand to the left on Metro escalators and block the platforms when the trains arrive. My favorite tourists are the white ones from the Midwest who would rather stand than sit next to a black person on the train. You think we don’t notice; honey, we notice. Personally, I don’t sit next to the tourists from the Midwest because they usually smell like a combination of hash browns, Schlitz and Marlboro Reds.

Every other time of year, driving in this area is a nightmare. On the radio one morning, a DJ said this is the only part of the country where rush hour lasts for six hours. She was almost right. In reality, it lasts 6:00 am to 10:00 am every morning, and at night, it can go from 3:00 pm to 7:00 pm. So, rush hour is really four hours. Does that give you a sense of relief?

Think about this, if you live here, and you need to go somewhere, 33 percent of the time, you have to consider how important that errand is because rush hour here is like nowhere else in the world, and you won’t convince me otherwise.

There is something else I find interesting about rush hour. I get up at 4:00 am, walk Esmeralda, feed her breakfast, go to the gym, come home, walk her again, eat breakfast, get ready for work, and I am still out of the house at 6:55 am. For the first mile or two on my way to the Metro station, there is usually a heavy flow of traffic – not so bad, but not great. However, if I leave later than 7:10, I add twenty minutes to my 11-mile commute to the Metro Station, arriving 45 minutes after I left the house. If there is a drop of rain, I add another ten minutes. All it takes is one drop. That’s it. One drop. God only knows what my first snow here will do to my commute.

Granted, I live in a blue collar community, which means the majority of the people around me go to work as early as I do, so I expect to deal with some traffic. I prefer to go this early to avoid the mad dash into the city on the Metro.

When I get on the train, it is usually not packed at all. My station is on the end of the line, so I get a seat and read the paper. Then, I arrive at work at least an hour before 90 percent of the staff, who arrive after 9:30 am. After an eight-hour work day, I am back on the train, but here is where it gets weird. At 5:00 pm, the trains are packed. When I arrive back at the Metro parking lot at 5:30, everyone and his brother and sister are heading home. I discussed with my co-worker friend, Sarah, one morning, and she made the same observation. Who are these people who leave work when we do? We know they didn’t arrive eight hours earlier. Shouldn’t our commute home be the same as our commute in? Those of us who arrive on a comfortable train should be going home on one, but it is standing room only at that time. And no one will convince me that all these people came to work before I did.

Which brings me to another point.

Very few people actually work a full day. At my previous job, my desk was near the door to the office. This had several advantages. My cube and the hallway next to it were the only areas without carpet, so I could hear people approach, and within no time, I knew everyone’s walk by sound. This helps when you are watching YouTube at your desk. In addition, I knew when people arrived and when they departed. I was usually the second or third one in on my side of the office, so I could keep tabs on the majority of the staff. While the majority of the staff arrived around 9:30 or 10:00, just about everyone left before 5:00. I didn’t supervise any of them, so it was none of my business. But I saw all of them. If there were an opening for a “tab keeper,” I would be the first to apply.

I also have the uncanny ability to count how many drinks everyone has had at a party, and I have perfected the “don’t you think you’ve had enough” look to go with it.

Back to commuting. One of the reasons I left the armpit of Maryland, otherwise known as Rockville, was the traffic situation. In Rockville, rush hour started in 1952 and it is still going on. If you need to go anywhere in Rockville, forget it. Our office moved to Rockville for six months when our lease ran out. For the first time since I lived in Florida, I was within 2.5 miles from work. Did I drive to work? Hell no. Once, I drove in on my “work from home” day to attend a meeting, and it took me 90 minutes to drive 2.5 miles – at noon! Instead, I took the Metro for two stops and walked half a mile to the office, which was much quicker although dangerous because in Rockville, they don’t understand the concept of the pedestrian. People walking? What the hell is that all about? We must run them over to end this unseemly practice!

I never made plans during the week in Rockville because soon after moving there, I was to attend a volunteer training at the Washington Animal Rescue League, and I left the house at 7:00 pm on a Thursday night. After sitting in traffic for two hours, I turned around and gave up. There was no accident. Just traffic. I managed to travel 1.3 miles. I could still see my apartment building in the rearview mirror.

I have friends who throw an annual party in Virginia between the holidays. Last year, it took 3.2 hours to go 16 miles. The brakes on my 1979 Lincoln Continental went out on the way there. I had a cup of eggnog, wished everyone a Happy Holidays, and left. Otherwise, Esmeralda would have been howling. She does that if I am gone past 10:30, so New Year’s Eve should be fun.

Maybe she is the reincarnation of my mother? Will she take my keys away? At least she doesn't worry herself into a case of diarrhea.

There is a talent I have when it comes to traffic. I always end up behind a white panel van in a traffic jam, so I cannot see what is going on ahead of me. If you see a white panel van in a traffic jam, look behind him, and you will see one of two AMCs chugging along with a Gay Jew screaming obscenities and waving his arms. You won’t hear him, but you certainly will see the spittle flying from his mouth as he cusses away his rush hour.

What I don’t understand is where all these goddam people come from? It is as if we import commuters just to screw with us during rush hour. Is the planet that overpopulated? Not that I would consider it, but I can understand why people carry guns in their cars. What I don’t understand is why more people don’t shoot themselves during rush hour – that being the only way out.

And while on the subject of my not getting it. The interstates and beltways and expressways and freeways and parkways, etc. were all designed to move traffic more efficiently, but if you live in this area, you learn to say the following when giving someone directions to your home, “Avoid the Beltway.” “Avoid 95.” “Avoid the Parkway.” You then give them directions that involve a number of back roads and dirt paths and advise them to keep their doors locked and watch out for bald children with banjos.

You want to get somewhere quickly around here, avoid anything with a speed limit faster than 45 mph. Does anyone else see the irony in this?

I once asked an acquaintance whose job it was to design highways and bridges why all highways are obsolete before they are finished. His response: “If we built them to handle all the traffic, we wouldn’t be able to justify more funding to build more highways.”

In New York, when guests arrive at a party, they say, “You should see the parking space I got.”

In DC-Baltimore-Northern Virginia, when guests arrive at a party, they say, “I’ve never seen so much fucking traffic in my life.”

Yes, you have. Every fucking day during the four-hour rush hour.

If you are stuck in traffic, join my email list, follow me, tell your friends, or just scream at the guy in the next car.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Dining Alone

All of us have dined alone, but not everyone in a restaurant. I have been single a long time … a long, long time. By my latest calculation, I have eaten more than 19,709 meals alone (the actual number was 19,710). When I added up those numbers, I was reminded of the penultimate Mary Tyler Moore Show when she adds up all the dates she’s had – more than 2,000 dates. It is then she decides to go out with Mr. Grant.

If you are single, you have also eaten quite a few inappropriate dinners – and don’t go denying it. For example, a quart of ice cream, an entire extra-large, meat lovers pizza or even a family-sized bucket of fried chicken with all the sides. You can do this in the comfort of your own home without anyone knowing what you did. That is until you waddle into the office one Monday morning, and you bang into all the cubicles with both hips at once.

More things single people have done are: eat all three courses out of one very large bowl while sitting on the couch watching that TLC series about the morbidly obese; eat an entire meal over the sink while waving at your neighbors from the kitchen window; or worse, stand in front of an open refrigerator with a spoon, opening all the leftover containers one by one, consuming their contents, and flinging the empty containers into the sink before moving onto the next one, until none are left.

I, for one, have done none of the above, and I dare you to prove otherwise. Uuurrrppp.

However, and I say however a lot, not many single people have eaten dinner in a restaurant alone. I single out dinner because stopping for breakfast or lunch and eating alone does not seem to be a big deal to most people. How self-conscious can one be about eating a corned beef sandwich, two cream sodas, and six dill pickles in seventeen minutes? I can tell you – not very.

Dining alone is not a problem for me, but as a twenty-year veteran of the restaurant industry and being a resident citizen of the United States, I can understand why some do have a problem with dining single on this side of the pond.

Going to a restaurant alone in the New World is a different from experience from dining on the Continent. Americans are uptight people, and some of the people who are paid to serve us are the most uptight of all.  

It usually starts with the host or hostess who greets you with “just one?” I never met a single childless restaurant hostess or one who was in a happy relationship. They don’t understand someone who isn’t tethered to another living being via reproduction or a one-night stand turned twelve-year live-in relationship after a bender at the local western bar. Yes, I generalize about hostesses, so sue me. 

Then, the bitter hostess does this. She looks at the reservation book nervously even if the restaurant is empty. Then she looks at the dining room as if she never saw it before. Several minutes later, you get, “Follow me.” You then follow her all over the restaurant. She is confused. What do you do with one person? This is unnatural. Everyone comes in pairs or four-tops, or groups of eight or more. Never “just one.” You end up seeing sections of the restaurant the owner doesn’t even know about, and finally she seats you. She doesn’t look at you directly. She puts the menu down and looks for a waiter. And you hear, “He is alone over there.” Then, she points.

It is at this point when I want to scratch my armpits and fling my feces at the next person who walks by since the staff stare at me for a minute as if the hostess just seated a monkey in the dining room.

As a former waiter, I know how some of the staff react. Some of the single straight waiters sigh and wait on the single guy as quickly as possible to free up the table. Do you need to get through dinner quickly because you have theater plans? Split your group into singles. They will rush you out of there, you will have time to look for a good parking space, and you won’t miss the overture.

Some of the waitresses will flirt with you and linger until they find out you're gay. Married doesn’t matter whether it is the guest or the waitress. Gay assures you a quiet meal. So, any straight guys out there. If you just don’t want to be bothered while you eat dinner, start the conversation with, “My husband, Trent, recommended this restaurant.”

But if you got me for a waiter in my day, you were treated like any other patron and not rushed. Have I mentioned I am perfect? I also had eaten my share of meals alone in restaurants. I was also the only waiter who would wait on the biker groups. Wild and loud, but the best tippers in the world! It pays not to have hangups.

We are a country that views single people with suspicion while at the same time being obsessed with marriage and relationships. Not our own marriages and relationships – everyone else’s. No matter where on the political spectrum you sit, as an American, it is your duty to be obsessed with everyone else’s marriage. When they say your marriage will ruin marriage as an institution, you point out their multiple marriages, eleven-hour marriages and seventy-two-day marriages. When they say your marriage is forbidden in the Bible, you point out that on that same page it says you can’t eat pork, yet they served ham biscuits at their wedding, which brings us back to restaurants.

Europeans don’t have the hang-ups we do. The women go to topless at the beach with more body hair than Robin Williams. The pear shaped men with bird arms and legs wear bikinis. Their politicians have affairs, and their only concern is what the mistress is wearing.

They also don’t care if you eat single in a restaurant.

I have been to Europe three times, twice alone and once with a cheap partner, who didn’t want to spend money on food, so he ate Powerbars for every meal, while I stopped at street vendors. We were in Paris! We never walked into a restaurant! Don't travel with a Southern Baptist.  

My first trip was to Austria to visit my friend Caroline in Salzburg. I loved it. I ate about half of my evening meals alone, and I never ran into the bitter hostess syndrome. I wasn’t seated in a dark corner or a table by the water closet. I sat in the dining room with the other human beings. No one rushed me. My favorite restaurant was this adorable Greek bistro. The staff and I would hold a conversation with my limited Greek and German and their fluent English. I was given samples of specials and invited to taste different wines. For once, I ate alone in a restaurant and didn’t finish my meal in twelve minutes, while they cleared and set my table for the next party before I could get one arm into the sleeve of my coat.

If single restaurant patrons in the United States were always treated this way, we would have fewer bad marriages because dining alone would not be an unpleasant experience and one wouldn’t seek out bad relationships just so he could try a new restaurant. I have interesting theories.

I have had some interesting experiences in restaurants, especially while traveling this great land of ours.

In Tallahassee while on a business trip, a waitress was so nervous about having a single diner in her section that she spent fifteen minutes explaining how a salad bar works. She must have thought it was my first day out of the crate. The restaurant’s salad bar had six items, two of which were dressing. I decided to dine somewhere else.

In Suffolk, Virginia, after an all-day business meeting, a hostess kept trying to seat me with other people. “Are you sure you wouldn’t want to sit here? They seem like a nice couple.” “How about here? Their kids, other than that one, seem well behaved.”

In my best Greta Garbo, I said, “I want to dine alone.”

While in Horsham, Pennsylvania, on another business trip (do you see why I now put no travel on job applications?), a hostess kept looking behind me for more people, no matter how many times I said, “One.” Then she asked if I wanted to place a to-go order. I guess no one ever sat alone in her restaurant. I stayed, and I dined for two hours. That drove her crazy! The food was lousy.

So, this year for Christmas, I had no plans. I couldn’t decide if I wanted to pop a Lean Cuisine into the microwave or go out to eat. By mid-afternoon, after editing for almost seven hours, I decided to go out for Chinese food. Not only would I be a single gay Jew in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas, I would be in a restaurant full of Jews, being that it was in Columbia, where more than a few Jewish families live.

I cleaned up, got dressed, very nicely, I might add. No jeans. After all, it was a federal holiday.

I walked in, and the hostess said, “Just one.” She then looked at the reservation book, then at the half empty dining room, and said, “Follow me.” I then followed her from table to table as she stopped or hesitated or changed her mind. She then conferred with a fellow staffer in their native tongue, I am guessing Mandarin, and then she gave me the reverse tour of the restaurant, until she finally seated me against the wall in a two-top. She found my waiter, whispered in his ear, and pointed at me.

Some things never change.

If you dine single or know someone who does, follow me, get on my email list, share me with your friends.

Monday, December 19, 2011

The Tale of Woofy

One of these days, a bear is going to explain to me why when he sees a hot guy, he says, “Woof.” Don’t bears say, “Grrrrr”? Dogs say woof, but then again, who wants to refer to his boyfriend as a dog? Puppy, yes. Dog, no.

Of course, none of this has anything to do with Woofy. But before I go on, I have a friend, Lee, who always refers to a hot guy by saying, “He’s woofy.” Now does that mean he is “woof-worthy” or does he feel the need to say “woof” when he sees him?  

My dog says woof to me all the time. Does that make me “woof-worthy”? Or does she just want to play or go outside? I am hardly a bear, so I rarely use woof or grrrr. But, I am getting closer to my point because this is all about a dog, and for once, not one of mine.

My father always told the story of our Uncle Stanley, who would take strays in, give them a bath and feed them then send them on their way. Those were the days before animal rescue leagues and apparently, an awareness of rabies. Now, I always found this story a little unbelievable because Uncle Stanley, a Battle of the Bulge war hero, was a little squeamish. He would not eat any food that looked questionable, and fish because of the bones was never served at his table. The family always said he found bones in milk. He also didn’t eat bananas. I don’t know why. So, someone that squeamish taking into his home a mangy stray dog, bathing and feeding it, is a little unbelievable; however, people do tend to do contradictory things.

I, for one, am germaphobic. I rarely eat food from the kitchen of someone I don’t know, yet I will eat a hot dog from a street vendor. If I enter a home that is unkempt, I politely decline a beverage and sometimes, a seat, yet I have pooped in a port-a-potty. I won’t kiss a guy with bad breath or allow him to … never mind, yet I let my dogs lick my face (Esmeralda still doesn’t do that). No one has ever slept in my bed without showering first, yet I let my dog, who gets bathed once a month, sleep in my bed, and often she sleeps on the pillow next to mine. Then again, my dog has good germs.  

But, this has nothing to do with being germaphobic either. In teaching, what just occurred is called bird walking. You start on one subject, and an hour passes before you realize you have completely forgotten your point.

Where the hell was I?

Oh yes, Woofy.

When I first moved to the park, I was told of the Akita who has roamed the neighborhood for seven years and is a stray but never bothers anyone or barks. A few weeks later, I encountered the Akita one morning while walking Esmeralda. He was sitting in someone’s yard, just looking at us. Esmeralda ignored him, and we went on our way.

As the story goes, he showed up one morning, and no one knew where he came from. He stays close to the houses near the woods, where I live. A gentleman, who died recently, would feed him regularly, but no one knew who was feeding him now.

From the looks of him, he was or is obviously someone’s dog. He is well fed; his fur is thick, his eyes are clear and healthy looking, and his nails are trimmed. They aren’t just short from walking on pavement; they are trimmed. His gait is healthy – no limps or apparent health problems.

Now, in seven years, the theories of his origin have proliferated, but two are the most popular. He belonged to someone who died and now lives in the woods. The problem with this theory is that the last time I checked dogs could not operate nail clippers. The other is that he belongs to someone who lives in the woods. This theory I can kind of grasp.

But, who lives in the woods? Blutbaden? Is his owner a Blutbad? Or maybe the Akita is the owner in his Blutbad form? Now, that would be cool, and to me that would make sense.

Yes, I have no problem believing fantastical things. Wait until I tell you the story of the ghost who has followed me from home to home. Oh sorry, bird walking again.

Back to the Akita.

Being the friendly guy that I am, I started saying hello to the Akita every time we walked by him. Esmeralda continued to ignore him. I worried that with the man who used to feed him being dead he was not eating, but the Akita does not look skinny.

One night, he was watching from across the street as Esmeralda and I finished our walk, so I decided to put some food out for him.  I put a bowl on the sidewalk in front of my house. I then went inside and watched from the window. He didn’t even sniff it. He walked right past it, through my yard, and into the woods.

For a stray, he sure was particular. That was name brand dog food I gave him. Esmeralda likes it, and I have tasted it myself – a little dry, but satisfying nonetheless.

Before you go all “Eeewww, you ate dog food!” Anyone who grew up in a house with a dog and an older brother has tasted dog food, or at the very least, a Milk Bone. You know what I am talking about. “Here, try this. It’s good.” Next thing you know, you are munching on Alpo.

I chalked up his refusal to touch the food to my putting it out by the sidewalk. Maybe like Uncle Stanley, he didn’t want anyone to watch him eat. Or, like Esmeralda, he was food shy? Or, he heard about my cooking.

As the week’s progressed, I didn’t put out food again because he had disappeared for a while. Then out of the blue one morning, he showed up as we began our walk – at 4:00 am. And, for the first time, he didn’t just watch us. He followed us around the entire perimeter of the park. I was told he never left our street. So much for that theory.

He kept a good fifty-foot distance, and I talked to him the entire time, asking him where he lived, who was his owner, if he was a Blutbad. That was also when I gave him his name. Woofy. Everyone deserves a name. I even said to him, “I am going to all you Woofy from now on.”

Woofy wouldn’t show up every morning, but when he did, he would follow us, and gradually he would come closer and closer. Then he did something that I never expected. He came up beside us and hopped around trying to get Esmeralda to play with him.

She played it cool. And, I thought, why us? In seven years, Woofy has never gone near another dog in the neighborhood. But, I realized something. Of all the dogs in the neighborhood, which are mostly around Esmeralda’s size and age, there are no other female dogs. She is the only woman in a land full of men. It’s as if she lives in Felton, Pennsylvania. I wonder if she is also Republican?

This behavior of Woofy’s continued whenever he saw us out. I would continue to talk to him, and he would continue to try and get Esmeralda’s attention.

One night it was raining very hard, and we went out for our walk, and Woofy followed us rather than seek shelter under someone’s porch. We were drenched, but after I let Esmeralda in the house, I decided to try and feed him again. I prepared another bowl of food, and I went outside. I called, “Woofy? Woofy? Where are you?” He then appeared from around my cute neighbor’s house. I looked right at him and said, “Here is some food, Woofy. I am going to put it over here, and you can eat it. OK?” I then put the food by my shed, which is near the woods. He watched me the whole time.

Then, I went inside. I didn’t look out the window right away this time. I figured if he didn’t eat it, the stray cats, which Mrs. E. had spayed at her own expense, would.  A half hour later, I looked out the window, and Woofy was eating the food.

I did find out a few days later that the neighbor of the man who died now feeds Woofy every night, and the night of the rainstorm, she was stuck at work, which explains why he ate my food. In desperate times even my cooking is edible. If she is home, he won’t eat my food, preferring hers instead. So, I only put food out if I know she is running late.

As Woofy has become more comfortable around us, he has also become a little bold. He nudged Esmeralda’s tail one morning, and she turned around, wagged her tail, then jumped at him to play. He jumped back and whined, which was the first time I heard him make a sound. Now, they greet each other with a nose sniff and a hop, but not quite play.

One morning, she turned around and while looking for a perfect spot to pee, Woofy, nudged her again. This time she was on a mission, so I said, “Woofy, you need to go away for a minute while she pees.” He turned and walked away, but not without looking back with the saddest eyes I ever saw.

I felt awful. He understood “go away.” He was someone’s dog. I had a pit in my stomach.

We did not see him for days after that. I even called for him at night. I worried something had happened to him or he was picked up.

This morning, he showed up again, and this time, he let Esmeralda have space to pee and poop before he hopped around her.   

Something tells me he isn’t just fascinated with Esmeralda because she is a girl; he realizes she is a kindred spirit – a dog with a sad childhood, who never learned how to play. She may be his first real friend.

If you like what you just read, follow me, get on my email list, say hello to the Woofy in your neighborhood.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

No One Told Me about This Place

Take away my gay card now. I hate shopping. There, I said it. Walking down aisles, browsing around, trying on clothes, looking at this item, looking at that, not knowing what you’re looking for … uucchhhh.

When I go into a store, I know exactly what I want, I find it, I buy it, and I leave. This has driven many of my friends crazy. They like to browse and look around. If I don’t see what I came to buy immediately, I ask for help. If they don’t have it, I leave. And, I have been known to leave my friends in stores.

Wait a minute! I get to keep my gay card. Straight men never ask where anything is or for directions. I always ask for help in stores and directions when I'm driving. I don’t have time to get lost.

A few weeks ago, I needed to get a purple sweater for Spirit Day. I walked up the street to Filene’s Basement, back to the men’s department, found a purple and a green sweater, paid for them, and returned to my office. Six blocks round-trip with a purchase in between took me twenty minutes. One of my co-workers could not get over it. She didn’t even realize I had left.

I don’t mind going to discount or grocery stores to buy what I need. I just do it as quickly as possible. I can grocery shop for a month’s worth of food in thirty minutes and redeem my coupons in the process. I go to Target and Walmart at least once a week. I go in, get what I need and leave.

But, don’t ever take me to a mall. Oh my God! I am convinced that if you are evil in this life, you spend the afterlife in a mall. I don’t know what is worse, the parking, the crowds, or the stores that sell nothing I want. Take Spencer Gifts. How many black light posters of Kiss do I need? Can you tell it has been thirty years since I went to a mall?

With the exception of the sweaters, I usually buy my clothes online, especially shoes since I wear a size 14, and no one carries that.

I refuse to walk into a shoe store. I don’t know how many times I heard, “We have up to size 13, and they fit large?”

My answer, “If they fit large, they would be size 14.”

My favorite was at Virginia Beach in the early 1980s, at one of those shops that sells flip flops (now they call them thongs and wear them with formals). The clerk looked at me as if I were Lurch and said, “We keep the larger sizes upstairs.”

My question, “Aren’t you afraid the first floor ceiling won’t support the weight of all those heavy shoes?”

Speaking of Lurch. When I was fourteen, I took a four-week tennis course in the summer, and the instructor, who couldn’t stand me, kept calling me Lurch. I told him if he didn’t stop, I would sign up for four more weeks. He didn’t. I did. And, he never taught tennis again.

Back to shopping. I do admit I love discount stores. K-Mart, Target, Walmart, you name it. I may shop quickly, but I do it with a smile. Bargains always get my juices going.

Want to seduce me? Show me a price tag that says “50% off.”

My mother worked in a high-end women’s clothing store called La Vogue, but she loved cheap stores. In Newport News when I was growing up, there was store called King’s. I don’t know if they had King’s where you live, but let me try to describe it for you.

Have you ever been to GC Murphy, Co.? Or a K-Mart in a really bad neighborhood? Imagine a store that makes those look like a boutique. Even the parking lot was full of potholes. My father used to say that they should open an alignment shop next to King’s.

I still remember piling into Mother’s red Corvair and going to King’s. I loved King’s. They also had a grocery store attached to King’s that was separated by those plastic strips you see in walk-in freezers. The grocery department was so trashy, the meat department only sold road kill.

I’m not kidding. She bought a chicken there that to this day I swear was a fat pigeon.

Mother once bought me shirts from King’s. One was yellow with white bands on the collar and sleeves. After one washing, the bands fell off; after two, we couldn’t find the shirt in the washing machine.

Too bad. I really liked that shirt.

Anyway, back to shopping. As you know, I have yet to landscape. However, even I was getting tired of my home looking as if someone parked a camper in an empty lot, so I took a trip to Walmart to look around their garden department – in December!

Their garden department wasn’t even open. I then drove over to Lowe’s, but all they had were Christmas trees. You can’t plant those.

On my way to the Metro every morning, I pass by a place called Behnke Nursery. They always have a sign out front that says what kind of greenery they have on sale. I know absolutely nothing about plants, except that one should trim his bush regularly but never remove it completely because a little grass on the playing field is a good thing.

I decided to drive down to Beltsville (yes, we do have a city called Beltsville – it’s near the Beltway of course). As usual with any of my shopping adventures, I knew what I wanted, and I was determined to get it in as little time as possible. I wanted six planters, and six bushes to go in them to surround my deck.

I grabbed a cart, walked in, and I immediately asked where the hard plastic pots for planting outside were. A friend told me not to get clay pots because they crack, and crack is whack. The clerk showed me where to look.

Then, I saw it: “All pots, 50% off.” I thought I was going to have to change my underwear. I looked at all the pots. I browsed. I pondered. I laid them out as I envisioned they would be around my deck. I walked around them at different angles. I turned my head and back again to see what kind of first impression they would have. And being Jewish, I turned them over to see where they came from (which is why flying saucers never land on Jewish lawns).

What the fuck was I doing? Was I shopping? Was I enjoying myself? Was I taking my time?

I was!

Why didn’t anyone tell me about this place? If I had known what fun this would be, I would have landscaped something twenty-five years ago!

After picking out my pots, I asked for help from a young fellow who looked like Louie Anderson. He showed me the bushes. And there it was again, “All bushes 50% off.” I needed a cigarette!

He helped me pick out six bushes. Then he showed me the right kind of potting soil, and he even helped me pick out the right kind of crushed marble to line the area between my walkway and my house.

I was spent.

I paid for everything, loaded up my car and drove home with a smile on my face and the inability to see out the passenger side or rear of the station wagon.

But, don’t get too excited. I managed to complete the entire shopping trip and unload the car in ninety minutes. Hey, it’s a start.

The following weekend, I returned to Behnke Nursery and bought six more bushes to plant around the house, and I was home in an hour. I just cannot resist a 50% off sale, and I now know I do like to shop – in garden stores or landscaping shops or nurseries or whatever they call them!

My neighbors love my landscape design – or they just love the fact that I finally did something. Who cares? I’m happy.

I cannot wait until spring, when I can buy flowers or bulbs or annuals or – I have no clue, but I'll learn. I hope Louie Anderson is still working at Behnke Nursery then.

If you trim your bush, follow me, get on my email list, join me, tell your friends.

Friday, December 9, 2011

How Alarming

Remember when people first started installing car alarms in the 1980s and they would go off all the time in the middle of the night every time someone walked by one of their cars and farted? Were you one of those people who wanted to go outside with a baseball bat and beat the car to a mangled bloody pulp? Julia Sugarbaker did that on an episode of Designing Women.

You knew who had a car alarm because they had a fob. Now, everyone has a fob. Mrs. M lost her fob one day and asked me if I knew anything about getting one replaced. I said, “Do you see what I drive? My cars use a skeleton key.”

I never had a need for a car alarm. My cars are insured for three times what they are worth, which is equal to the price of dinner for two. If someone wanted to steal one of them, I would hand him the keys, turn around and say, “Gee, officer, one minute it was there and next thing I knew … oh, when … three days ago” (I want to give them time to get away, so I can collect).

House alarms are also very popular now. My upstairs neighbor in Mount Pleasant, the one who would hire teenage drunks to walk his dog, had one. When the dog would whine because the dog walker didn’t show up, I would go upstairs with my key and set off the alarm. I just realized something. He gave me a key but not the alarm code. What was that about?  Anyway, the police knew me by name. I would open the door, and three minutes later, they would show up, and we would have a good laugh.

My parents had a house alarm. Once, while visiting, I came back late – in our family that means after nine o’clock – and I set off the alarm. Their code was the year they met and the year they got married – 5354. I kept doing it backwards. Oh, they’re dead, so you can’t rob their house now. And you wouldn’t have wanted to. A burglar broke into their home once and redecorated. I think his parting words were, “Enough with the Chinese chachkies!”

A friend once told me that if you break into a Chinese home, you willl find Jewish chachkies.

Which brings me to my home …

The problem with living in a trailer is I didn’t know if I needed an alarm, and if so, should I get a car alarm or a house alarm. Think about it. A thief could break into my house or just drive off with it. “We’ve spotted him on Route 1. Yes, an F-150 with a single-wide hitched to the back. He’s doing around 20 mph. We're in hot pursuit.” Then you sing “Bad Boys, Bad Boys” very slowly.

I have been the victim of three crimes in my life, which means I should be done for now – what with all things happening in threes. In 1988, my car was stolen. Later that same year, my apartment was robbed. In Atlanta in 1993, I was mugged at gun point after which I threw up in the back of a police car while being driven around trying to find the culprits – like that made any sense.

“Oh yeah, officer, there he is walking down the street with a gun in his hand with my wallet in his back pocket.” UrrUrrrUrrrrraaalphh. “Oh, sorry about that. Someone’s going to have to clean that up.”

The thief stepped out of the passenger side of a car at a crosswalk and pointed his gun at my head. Seriously, it took a gun to steal $27 and my license. They were driving a white Chevrolet Cavalier; no wonder they were mugging people.

I manage to survive four months without an alarm. Then Daylight Savings Time ended, and I was leaving for and coming home from work in the dark. And for the first time in my life, I have four exposed walls. And more importantly, Esmeralda is alone until Mrs. M comes to get her around ten o’clock for her first walk.

My things, I don’t care about. All my dreck can be replaced. My dog – that is another story. Do what you want to me. Touch my dog, and you’ll regret the day you left your mother. Don’t fuck with my dog! I’m from Hampton Roads, Bitch!

I got that out of my system.

So, I decided to call that alarm company with a short attention span – ADT.

The representative showed up fifteen minutes late, and the first question I asked was whether the police would do the same. You know I have no filter.

I offered him a seat, and he said, “Nice house. Did you have it professionally decorated?”

He could have sold me a motion detector for the toilet after that compliment!

He then went over all the packages and asked what in my house was important to me. I said, “Nothing. This is to protect my dog because thieves take little dogs like her and use them for pit bull training, and I don’t know what I would do if someone stole my dog. I don't care about my stuff. That can be replaced.”

“You are getting an alarm for your dog?”


He knew then to keep his opinion to himself or he wasn’t going to sell an alarm system.  I picked a basic system, while Esmeralda just watched. He asked, “Does your dog ever bark? Are you sure she’s a beagle?”

“Yes. She just prefers to observe rather than comment. We’re polar opposites.”

Not even a chuckle. How do people get through life without a sense of humor?

I chose a basic system for the doors and one motion detector for the dining room. The way my cooking is received, if someone is still moving after one of my meals, it will be truly alarming – unless I serve creamed corn, a family favorite.

Then he needed a $75 check for Howard County. What? I have to pay the county in order to get an alarm installed? Apparently, in Howard County, yes.

The following week, the alarm was installed by my first cute installer. Be it a contractor, plumber, handyman, you name it, I always get the trolls! After a few hours, he showed me how it worked, and that is when I became alarmed.

I didn’t know that when leaving the house, the damn thing would let out a high-pitched beep for one minute. The first time he tested it, Esmeralda was under the bed in less than three seconds.

“This isn’t going to work. You need to remove this thing. I bought this for my dog, and now it is scaring the shit out of her.”

“Mr. Stern, that is how it sounds.”

“You mean I can’t lower the volume?”


“Then rip it out of the wall.”


For every problem, there is a solution. He didn’t have one, but I did – the owner’s manual. I read it – in front of him. You can lower the volume of the beep by pressing two buttons, and I showed him how.

Some things in this world never change. Cute still equals dumb; too bad it doesn’t always equal hung.

I wonder how many people out there have dogs under the bed because their alarm’s beep is too loud.

The other thing Esmeralda didn’t like was the lady’s voice. “Alarm, stay, exit now.” For the first week, every time the lady would speak, Esmeralda’s ears would go down and she would sulk away from the thing. It was like in Sybil, when Joanne Woodward played the tape of alters to Sybil, and she heard her alter with a voice like her mother’s and went under the piano, reverting to a fetal stage.

Something tells me Esmeralda was abused by a woman – a morbidly obese woman with a cigarette. Once while walking her in Rockville, a morbidly obese, chain-smoking woman exited her car, and I said hello. The minute Esmeralda saw her, she took off on her leash and dragged me three blocks. Or maybe Esmeralda worried I was straight and into morbidly obese, chain-smoking women? No, I think it was the former.

Esmeralda finally became accustomed to the voice. Now she just stares at it waiting for it to say more.

But here is the best part.

The $75 check was for the inspection fee. And this is how that works. The county sets up an appointment from 9:30-4:30. On the day of the appointment, the inspector shows up at 9:35 am, walks into your home, looks at the control panel, and says, “OK, that’s it.” Hands you a card saying approved and leaves.

For $75, I expect a happy ending.

Apparently, this is some old rule from the days before wireless to be sure the control box is not a fire hazard or something like that. The inspector said it was ridiculous, and he did about ten of these a day and was usually finished by 10:30.

I want his job.

If you find the above alarming, join me, follow me, recommend me to your friends …

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

When You Know You’ve Arrived

What does a British man says when he is about to have an orgasm? I'm going to arrive? Thank you. I’ll be here all week. Try the fish; tip your waitress.

Don’t worry; this isn’t about orgasms. Although a messy subject, I promise to write about those at another time.

How do you know when you’ve arrived? I don’t mean when you reach your destination, but when you have been accepted into the group. Being a non-groupie, I am not well-versed in the arrival process.

For some, it must be when you get that first invite to join a group of friends at the movies and a night on the town. I am still waiting for that call.

It may be when you are invited to go on an exotic vacation with a bunch of guys. I am still waiting for that call, too.

It may be when you can’t make plans unless it involves the consensus of three of more people. You know I am not even answering that call. I am not big on committee work. I prefer dictatorships and absolute rule – ask anyone who has been on a volunteer board with me. Besides, things get done more quickly when you do them yourself.

Apparently, I have not arrived, nor have I had an orgasm in a while.

Believe me, I am not losing sleep over this, but how does one know when he has arrived in the Mobile Home Community? When can I proudly declare myself, Trailer Park Trash? Some who know me may want to chime in and ask, “When were you not Trailer Park Trash?”

I’ve always been Trash, just not a specific type.

Notice how I capitalize Trash. I say, "Don’t deny it; own it!"

But seriously, for someone who has never fit in, determining the actual arrival time is a foreign concept.

Will it be when people quit slowing down when they drive by my home and pointing as if to say, “I’ve never seen a woman go into that house” or “I hear his people sacrifice chickens to scare away evil spirits?” or “When is that weirdo going to plant some goddam bushes around that tin can?”

Just for the record, no one has said any of those things. The ones who do slow down point at my cars and wonder why anyone would have two AMCs parked in the same driveway. I wonder myself sometimes. Wait until they see my Rambler.

There have been signs that my arrival time was soon approaching. Miss E lives two houses down from me and gets up at 4:00 am to go to her job as a high school cafeteria worker. All through school, I wondered where cafeteria workers lived. Now I know.

Anyway, Miss E, stopped me as I was walking Esmeralda, and said, “Milton. I knew you would be out here. I need your help. My ’check engine’ light is on, and Mrs. M said you know about cars. Should I be worried? What does it mean? Should I go to work? Should I wait until my mechanic opens up?”

Being the car expert that I apparently am, I said, “It means you need to get your engine checked.”

It turns out her car was stalling and backfiring. After five or so minutes of “Should I go to work or should I take it in or will it be ok or what should I do?” I advised her to take it to her mechanic as soon as possible before she found herself stuck on the side of the road. She skipped work that day and took her car to her mechanic.

When I got home from work, Miss E told me it cost her $900 to repair her car because some vacuum hoses had rotted away, and it needed a tune-up, two new tires and some other routine maintenance. She kind of said it as if it were my fault for advising her to take it to her mechanic.  

I sort of felt the way Lucille Ball did when they were filming Lucy Calls the President in 1977, and she told Vivian Vance to go to see her doctor because she was in a lot of pain. Vivian Vance returned to the set and said, “Thanks a lot. Your fucking doctor told me I have cancer.”

I laughed off Miss E’s accusatory tone then she said it was not my fault and even thanked me for the advice. I was kind enough not to tell her that if she had taken her car in for routine service or had a reliable mechanic, she may not have been hit with such a high repair bill all at once. There was no need for me to be a smart ass – this time.

Had I arrived at that moment? I’m not sure.

Now, I have always been the guy who knows all his neighbors (except in that fiery pit of hell they call Rockville), so my arrival time still remained a mystery.

On the other side of me lives Mrs. J, you know, the one who chain smokes on her deck with her back to the road. She recently had foot surgery, and upon seeing her foot in a cast, I told her if she needed anything to call me. I even raked her leaves with her asking.

A week later, Mrs. M asked me why I didn’t tell her Mrs. J had foot surgery. I told her I thought she knew everything going on in the neighborhood, since she was always looking out her window. She knew my cute next-door neighbor was suffering from headaches, she knew the man in the green house lost his wife a week before they moved in, and she knew that Miss E’s other neighbor’s daughter just got out of rehab and was spending all her money. She is also friends with Mrs. J, who is a hairdresser and cut her hair just a few weeks prior.

So, is getting health news before anyone else a sign of arrival? Not sure, but I was beginning to think I was on the descent and about to approach the runway.

Then it happened.

The mailbox pod is located near my house, and it is a great place to meet the neighbors and say hello. One day last week, as Esmeralda and I walked over to get our mail, someone asked me, “What propane company do you use?” I told her, then a discussion ensued with four other people about how they wanted to switch to the company I used and what could I tell them about their billing practices, since the other major company in the area was overbilling them.

I had everyone’s attention as I told them how the company I used handled their billing and what to expect with set-up and the like. We talked for almost an hour about gas.

The last time I talked that much about gas, I was in a room full of Jews!

As Esmeralda and I walked back to our home, I looked at her and said, “Darling, we’ve arrived.”

If you’ve arrived, follow me, get on my email list, share me …

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Christmas Is the Jewish Christmas – The Eight Myths of Hanukah

I love Christmas with all the songs, decorations and lights, especially the lights, and the tackier and more overdone the house, the better.

When we were kids, our parents would love to take us around in the car and look at all the lights. This is where I first learned the word umbeshrian – which according to my mother, meant overdone. And you say it the same way Janis on Friends said, “Oh My God.”

We even had a Christmas tree in our house when I was little, and when my mother accidentally barbecued the den one December, she was most upset about the loss of her Styrofoam snow man with two elves standing next to him.

Now, that I own my first home, I have also strung up some lights – blue and white of course, to celebrate the season. Before you start in on me about decorating for a Christian holiday, keep reading ...

(About ten years ago, I gave a drash during Shabbat services on Hanukah, where I presented for the first time my “Eight Myths of Hanukah.” A few years after that, I was asked to present them again. For your reading pleasure, I present them for the third time.)


Many people do not realize that Jesus was not born on December 25. He was born September 11, 3 BCE, which on the Hebrew calendar for that year was Elul 1.

To make a long story short, in the year 380, Pope Damasus I made it his goal to have all Christians in the Roman Empire yield to his authority, and he convinced the Emperor to issue an edict requiring them to practice the religion of Rome, Catholicism. Damasus I was also seeking to lure the people away from the pagan rituals honoring the birth of the sun god on December 25 at midnight by demanding attendance at a memorial in honor of Christ's death – in other words, the Mass. The people confused this Mass with the pagan solar birth rituals conducted at that same time, and gradually, the Christ-Mass became associated with the Nativity, hence, Christmas. Somehow, many of the symbols and customs remained, most notably, the Christmas tree and fruitcake.

Did you know all fruit cakes were actually baked before the year 380? That is why they are so dense and hard to slice.  

In the United States, Christmas wasn’t even celebrated during our country’s first 94 years because in England it was celebrated with excessive drinking and lewd and lascivious behavior. Not unlike a Tuesday night in my home.

As a matter of fact, Washington crossed the Delaware on December 25, 1776, to attack the British in Trenton because he knew the Red Coats would be hung over.

Americans wanted to reject all things British, so Christmas and afternoon tea were the first to go. I wish we kept the tea.

Congress met on Christmas day every year until after the Civil War. Americans complained there were no federal holidays, so on June 26, 1870, Christmas was officially made a federal holiday. However, you can thank the Jews for something else because we invented the weekend. You know: God worked all week then rested.

So, to all my Jewish friends out there, hang up those Hanukah lights this weekend because Christmas is not a religious holiday; it is a federal holiday, and we want to be patriotic!

Now, I present:

The Eight Myths of Hanukah

1.       Hanukah is the Jewish Christmas. False. How many times have I been asked, "Is Hanukah the Jewish Christmas?" Let me set the record straight. Christmas is the Jewish Christmas. Mary and Joseph were Jewish, Jesus was Jewish, and at least one of the Wise Men was Jewish – the one that brought the fur.

2.      Hanukah is the holiest of Jewish holidays. False. Hanukah isn’t even a religious holiday. The holiest of Jewish holidays is April 24, Barbra Streisand’s birthday. The second holiest Jewish holiday is December 29, the wedding anniversary of Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme.

3.      Hanukah is another Jewish holiday where they tried to kill us, they didn’t, so we eat. True. Also known as the Festival of Lights, Hanukah is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the re-dedication of the Holy Temple (the Second Temple) in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the second century BCE, which brings us to ...

4.      Hanukah commemorates the miracle that one day’s worth of oil lasted eight days in the Holy Temple. True. But, this is hardly a miracle because I witnessed my grandmother doing the same thing with one tea bag.

5.       During Hanukah, children get a gift every night for eight days. False. If you grew up in my house, you got a gift the first night, then for seven nights, you heard about how awful it was to grow up during The Great Depression. The ritual of gift giving is actually very American, since Jewish children in this country are totally exposed to Christmas customs.

6.      Hanukah is a holiday when Jewish people eat bland, colorless foods that are fried in oil and difficult to digest. True. This can actually be said of all Jewish holidays, except Passover, when the foods are not fried but still difficult to digest. On Hanukah, we eat latkes (potato pancakes) or sufganiot, if you are Sephardic. Sufganiot are similar to jelly donuts. I am part Sephardic, so I like donuts, just not jelly ones. 

7.     There are many popular songs about Hanukah, and Jewish people know the words to all of them. False. Other than “Dreidel, Dreidel, DreidelHanukah song, except for “The Hanukah Song,” by Adam Sandler, which brings us to Number 8 ...

8.      Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme and Barbra Streisand have recorded Hanukah albums. SO NOT TRUE! Would you believe Steve and Eydie have recorded a Christmas album, and Barbra has recorded not one, but two, Christmas albums?! And all those Christmas songs we hear on the radio are mostly written, and oftentimes performed, by Jews! Oy vay! This brings us back to myth Number 1, proving once again that Christmas is the Jewish Christmas!

So, from my Trailer Park to Yours, here is wishing you a very Happy Jewish Christmas and a Merry Hanukah!

If you like what you just read, get on my email list, join me, follow me, tell your friends, and hang up a string of blue and white lights!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

It's About the Exterior, Stupid

As a Gay man, I always thought home ownership had to do with the interior, being sure your home was color coordinated, fresh smelling and clean and that all one’s sex toys were out of sight while still being easily accessible. If you are in a condo, this is all true.

In a house or mobile home, or even a camper, it’s about the exterior, stupid!

Considering yard work a chore is something I am resigned to accept, and I promise by next spring to plant a few bushes to give my home a more landscaped appeal. However …

Had I known before embarking on the trailer park adventure that I would have to do what I had to do today, I might still be an apartment dweller.

In the lot lease, we are instructed to keep our homes clean and free of trash along with hiding our trashcans and recycling bins. We are also told to “wash down” our houses at least once a year. These are easy things to do. I keep my trash cans behind the deck, and I am going to get one of those power wash attachments for my hose to wash my home next spring. I think the Mr. Clean car wash kit should do the job nicely.

But I was starting to have a problem with the trashcan placement. With all the rain we were getting this year, my yard was full of mud, and I was constantly traipsing through a soggy pit to empty my trash and recyclables, not to mention disposal of poop bags. I needed a walkway.

I noticed my cute next-door neighbor (whom I am convinced masturbates to fantasies of me behind those closed curtains – let me have this one tidbit) had pavers from his deck to his trash cans, so I decided to buy some pavers to go around my deck to keep my shoes clean. As I have told you, I am legendary for my clean shoes.

While I was admiring his pavers and measuring them, I heard a voice from above. I was startled and said, “I was only measuring them to see how many I need; I wasn’t going to steal them.”

No worries; it wasn’t God. It was my neighbor.

He was on his roof, cleaning his gutters. And he was pulling out a shitload of leaves.

Earlier that day, I did something I thought I would never do. I raked my leaves – all of them! But, I never considered the ones on the roof or in the gutter.

I asked him, “How often do you have to do that?”

“At least once a year, maybe twice.”

I then got on my deck and reached up to see if my gutters were full. Being tall does have its advantages. Oh yes, there were about four inches of leaves in my gutter. I needed to clean them out. And, cleaning them meant two things.

I had to climb up a ladder, and I had to get onto my roof. Two things I have never done and do not have on my bucket list. I am not afraid of heights. I can stand on a balcony and look over the edge with no problem. I am afraid of falling. I am a natural born klutz. If anyone is going to fall off a roof, it is I.

Growing up, I don’t think we ever cleaned our gutters, or at least I didn’t. I never climbed up on ladders either. I never saw the inside of our attic. Our house had all the worst qualities of the homes of the Munsters and the Addams Family, including cultivated weeds and loose shingles.

I, however, am determined not to care for my home the way my parents did. So, I decided to buy a ladder and clean my gutters.

My neighbor offered to lend me his, but for a few reasons I decided not to. His was a little rickety, and I weigh over two-hundred pounds, and I don’t want to be that guy who borrows stuff all the time. I hate those people.

Does anyone borrow a cup of sugar anymore?

On the Saturday morning after Black Friday, I showed up at Lowe’s when they opened. It was empty (for those who don’t know, that Saturday morning is the best time to shop). I first found a ladder with a 300 pound weight limit that was on sale, so I put it in my cart and attempted to maneuver it through the store. That wasn’t going to work. I knocked six displays over before I asked if I could leave it up front until I was ready to leave. I am so much like Lucy Carmichael, it isn’t even funny.

I then went to look at pavers. I found some that were perfect and I loaded them onto a cart. According to my measurements (and contrary to belief, this Gay man does measure, and I measure exactly), I needed forty-eight of them. They weighed twenty pounds each. The cart weighed 960 pounds, and I pulled that bastard from the garden center all the way to the front of the store where I had my ladder and green bungee cords. Did you expect me to buy any other color?

Just so you know. I was the only one in the store, and no one offered to help me. Of course, I didn’t ask for help either. I never do. I am the perfect martyr. I should be in the Bible somewhere. – maybe hauling stones in ancient Egypt then falling off a pyramid to my death because I wouldn’t ask for help.

I checked out then I pulled my car up and proceeded to load it up and strap the ladder to the roof with my new bungee cords. There were some Girl Scouts selling cookies and watching me the whole time. They giggled when I tripped and almost landed face first in my pavers. I made a note to buy some thin mints.

If you don’t know me, you are not aware of the fact that I dive a twenty-eight-year-old station wagon. I loaded the car with no help, and with each paver, the back went down a little more, and once all were in, it was almost bottomed out. I then strapped the ladder to the roof rack, again with no help. I even wore a plaid jacket that morning.

After buying a box of thin mints and a box of lemon cookies, I made it home, and it was like driving uphill the whole way. I took a picture of my car because I figured no one would believe I did this.

Once I arrived home and after I took the picture, I walked Esmeralda very quickly. I was sure my rear leaf springs were going to collapse if I waited any longer. Then, I emptied out the 960 pounds of pavers and laid out my walkway. Unlike most Gay men, I measured exactly. But I do get to keep my Gay card because my measurement ended in “eight,” and I needed forty-“eight” pavers. Think about it.

That went well. However, now came ladder time.

Again, I am not afraid of ladders, just falling off them. I am, however, afraid of spiral staircases. I don’t know why, but I conquered that fear when visiting the Baltimore Washington Monument with my friend Louis, which is also an obelisk, and climbing the spiral staircase to the top. Going down was another story, and I almost had to change pants at the bottom. So …

I used the bathroom then I mustered up the courage. At first I thought I could put the ladder beside the house, climb up a couple of steps then reach up and clean the gutters that way, but even I couldn’t reach that far.

With my cell phone in my pocket in case of an emergency, my wallet in my pants, so they could identify the body, and the ladder on the deck, I decided it was either now or never. I climbed up and looked at the roof. I climbed up one more step then another. With the grace of a goony bird, I clamored onto the roof. I am sure that was a sight to behold.

I was on the fucking roof! I looked around. I was on top of the world. OK, it was only 16 feet up, but I did hyperventilate slightly then I sat down and scooted to the edge to clean out the gutters. Fortunately, I was wearing gloves because no one told me about the gunk under the leaves.

Scooting on my fat ass, I managed to complete one side and only had two near misses. I then looked to the other side thinking those gutters couldn’t be full because the leaves tend to fall on one side of the house. Oh was I an optimistic idiot. There were more leaves on the far side than the side I just cleaned.

I then walked over to that side, looking like Lucy Carmichael and Vivian Bagley putting up an antenna, and again on my fat ass, cleaned that side.

The whole time I was thinking, “I am going to fall off this roof and die, or I’m going to have to call the Fire Department to get me down.” The second option didn’t seem so bad.  

I’m really surprised I didn’t throw up for the first time since 1997.

Then, I was done, but I was now stuck on the roof. A neighbor walked by with his dog, and I asked him if he would hold the ladder for me. Thank God, I live in a trailer park. Everyone is so friendly and willing to help. In Rockville, they would have acted as if they didn’t hear me.

He held the ladder, and I somehow got down in one piece.

Also, no one told me how wet shingles get. My jeans were soaked through my ass, so I took a shower immediately to avoid getting a yeast infection on my bum.

When all was said and done, I was informed there is an attachment for the garden hose for cleaning gutters without leaving the ground.

Why do I always find out about these things after the fact?

Cross one item off my bucket list – after I put it on there of course.

The thin mints were delicious, all of them. The lemon cookies were crap.

If you like getting on the roof, follow me, get on my email list, tell your friends …