Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Happy Homemaker

If I had my wish, I would have become a housewife. I love cleaning, laundry, cooking (and making reservations), and driving car pools. 

I would live in a split-level raised-ranch style home with my husband, two kids and a dog in a cozy Southern town. He would drive a green Imperial Crown four-door hardtop, and I would drive a Rambler Ambassador Cross Country Station Wagon. It would be pink and white with a matching interior and have Weather-Eye All Season Air Conditioning and a push button Flash-O-Matic transmission.

I would play Mah Jongg with the girls on Tuesday evenings and Thursday afternoons just like the girls in On Tuesdays, They Played Mah Jongg and Michael’s Secrets by Milton Stern (shameless plug). The Tuesday evening group would gossip about the Thursday afternoon group and vice versa, and I would be the only one to play in both groups. On Wednesday nights, my husband and I would play bridge with the Weinsteins. On Saturday nights, we would go for cocktails and dinner at the Huntington Club.

Our kids would go to the Jewish day school, and we would belong to a Conservative Synagogue – Bet Midler or Bet Davis or something like that. While the kids were at school, I would volunteer to help with Soviet Jewry even after realizing it had nothing to do with earrings. I would serve as Synagogue Sisterhood President for at least three years, perform in our synagogue’s annual cabaret and organize the annual rummage sale to benefit Jewish refugees. I would also go around the neighborhood and collect donations for the Heart Fund and American Lung Association even though I was a social smoker.

On Fridays, I would get my hair done in the morning with all the other Jewish women at Nachman's Hair Salon, so I could look good for Shabbat services that night. And my clothes would be tastefully tailored in a style similar to my favorite First Lady, Jacqueline Kennedy.

I would have a home cooked meal on the table every night, pot roast, meatloaf, baked fish, or fried chicken. All meals would include overly boiled, tasteless vegetables and a starch, rolls and iced tea – I am Southern after all. If I were feeling lazy, I would make spaghetti and a salad, and if I were angry, I would make tuna casserole.

At least once a week, my husband would come home and find me in a bad mood. He would ask why I was in a bad mood, and I would reply, “If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you.” Then I would storm out to the back porch and sneak a cigarette. A good housewife has to be dramatic.

My husband and I would have relations on Thursday nights since I was getting my hair done on Fridays. All other nights, my hair would be wrapped in toilet paper to maintain my bouffant while I slept on a satin pillowcase. If I didn’t play Mah Jongg on a Thursday in the summer, I would be at the Jewish Community Center Pool and go down the slide and make a big deal out of it because normally I would swim with my head above water to protect my coiffure. I wouldn’t slide down until everyone was watching because I must always be the center of attention (some things remain a constant).

With a few exceptions, I just described a woman I knew named Harryette.

Alas, my dream of becoming a housewife is just a faded hope for three reasons:

1. I was born in 1962.

2. I was born with a penis.

3. I was born in 1962.

Being single at my age diminishes my chances of finding a sugar daddy. I asked my friend Danny what was the stage between daddy and troll. He said, “Last week.”

However, I may work two jobs and bring home the bacon – kosher of course, but I still love and find time for housework. Yes, I love it all, vacuuming, laundry, dusting, scrubbing, etc. I have been doing my own laundry (and my family's) since I was thirteen. I make my bed every morning even though I live alone. I have three vacuum cleaners and a carpet steamer. Why three? The upright is for the carpets, the canister for the linoleum and hardwood floors and getting under furniture, and the stick vac for quick clean ups. I don’t use a mop. I clean floors on my hands and knees. I make a big bucket of suds with ammonia and detergent and go at it – none of those goofy contraption duster thingamabobs for me. My broom isn’t outside my window serenading me, he is in the broom closet waiting to be used on a daily basis.

I found a store in Jessup called Ollie’s Surplus, and they had vintage Top Job for $1 a bottle; I bought five bottles! I was so thrilled.

I sometimes clean in heels because it is good for the calf muscles. And I always wear a do-rag to keep the dust out of my hair.

Now, why am I sharing all this? Well, who knew moving into a mobile home would make cleaning even more fun! Joan Crawford, whom I admire and love, would be so happy here. But first, a story.

Back in the day in the Ivy Farms neighborhood of Newport News, Virginia, there was one empty lot at the end of one of the streets (I won’t say which one to protect the present occupants). One day, an eighteen wheeler with half a house came in followed by another with the other half, and construction workers put the two sections of a house on the lot, connected them, then laid brick on all sides to make it look like a stick house. But I knew what it was, and so did all the women in the neighborhood, especially my mother.

I remember her saying, “They can brick up that piece of shit, but once you go inside, you know it’s a goddamn trailer because it's one long hallway with rooms on either side. They aren’t fooling anyone.”

When I heard her say that, I stopped playing Donna Reed – or was it June Cleaver or Miss Brooks? – in my bedroom and ran outside and down the street to see the “open house.” I was eight years old, but I knew perfection when I saw it.

Yes, it was one long hallway with rooms on either side. It was fabulous! Even at that young age, I appreciated the efficient use of space. One could so entertain in there … and clean in a breeze!

And it had the one thing I have always wanted in a home, a bathroom that does not back up to the dining room. There is nothing worse than having your only bathroom on the other side of the wall to your dining room. Someone goes to the toilet, and everyone hears it while they are eating. Every apartment I have rented had that awful feature because apartments are usually squares not rectangles.

Years of working in restaurants taught me how to clean a space efficiently with little to no time. At the end of the evening shift, a waiter has thirty minutes to vacuum, clean and set tables for breakfast, scrub down the serving area of the kitchen, clean the bathrooms, and put everything away. It is a great training ground of people who like to clean.

I could clean my apartments in about two hours from top to bottom, but it was a bit of a cluster-fuck at times because I was always going in circles in one room then out the other and back and forth, knocking over the bucket of suds on many an occasion and getting tangled by the vacuum cord more often than I care to admit. My dogs would get nauseated watching me act like a whirling dervish or a Tasmanian devil, depending on how much time I had.

Enter my new mobile home with its long layout and a series of rooms in a row. Oh my God, the first time I did my weekly top to bottom cleaning, I was in heaven. All I had to do was start at one end with the vacuum, then the other vacuum, then go back with the Windex, then back with the Endust and two dusters (yes, two), then back with the sudsy ammonia water, and before I knew it, one hour and fifteen minutes had elapsed, and I was done! Four laps were all it took, and I didn’t knock anything over or get tangled in cords. Even Esmeralda loved it because she followed me back and forth without vomiting.

My mother may not have appreciated the efficiency of a mobile home because she did not like to do housework. She thought the best way to keep a room clean was not to use it. We never sat in our living room, and we had four inches of dust to prove it. My Nana (mother’s mother) visited once and said to my mother, “There is a cob web over there.” My mother replied, “Don’t look at it, and it won’t bother you.” During that same visit, Nana was standing in the kitchen holding a broom, and my father said to her, “Leaving so soon?”

Nana once told me a story about visiting a friend when she was a little girl whose house was a mess with potato peels in the corner of the kitchen to name one atrocity. Her mother prohibited her from visiting that girl again. Nana then told me if you keep a messy house, you won’t have friends. I will never forget that.

There is only one thing about being a clean person that I find curious. They have all kinds of psychiatric terms to describe clean people. My favorite is anal retentive – “my mother rushed my potty training, and you are paying the price for it.” And until the shows Hoarders and Clean House became popular, sloppy people were admired for their ability not to care. Sloppy people were always fun … until you had a sleepover and had to take a Silkwood shower upon your return home.

I don’t spend my time wearing latex gloves and dusting envelopes like the woman I saw on 20/20 in the 1980s, but I do appreciate a clean home (and car for that matter), so here’s to all the people who like to do housework. May you find your sugar daddy some day!

One more piece of advice. The secret to keeping a clean house is not to let it get dirty!

And to all you slobs, clean your goddamn houses!

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Friday, July 22, 2011

The Big Man in the Little House

Now that Esmeralda has settled in, I can start to enjoy my new home, and she can, too. Esmeralda has discovered that having a long house with an open floor plan makes a great beagle race track. During sudden bursts of energy, she runs from one end of the house to the other while barking at me when she passes by. This lasts about five minutes and is funny to watch because she is a little clumsy and has a big tuchus, like me. I think she is also Jewish. Do you know what they call a Jewish ballerina? A klutz.

But enough about her. I’m the one paying the bills, and I can operate the can opener!

As I settle in, there are some subtle differences I am beginning to notice.

In a luxury building, you have a concierge who accepts your packages for you. This is a major convenience. Here they leave packages on your porch. However, if you are as fortunate as I am to have the community spy living across the street, who is also your dog walker, she will sign for them and bring them in for me. Or as I did for Mrs. J, the chain smoker next door, I signed for hers and gave it to her when she arrived home on Saturday.

In a luxury apartment building, you have garage parking. This is lovely until you go grocery shopping and realize you live two city blocks from the garage. This is not a joke. I lived two city blocks from the garage. I had to go through three security doors before entering the hallway, then walk to the other end of the building while carrying bags. I ended up buying a granny cart and a dolly.

My mobile home has a small driveway, and it is a pleasure to walk from my car to the front door in just a few steps. It is also a pleasure to walk the dog without having to wait for an elevator that may or may not be in service ... or have a vicious Bijon waiting inside to attack your dog because her alcoholic owner never trained her.

But, here is where size matters. My driveway, although a two-car affair, can only accommodate two subcompacts, side-by-side. Before I moved, I had to sell my 1979 Lincoln Towne Car because her ass stuck out in the street.

In a luxury building, the crazy people are outside and cannot get access without a fob – unless they move in next door. I never told you about the woman who would search the online sex offender registry every time a new tenant moved in. She was convinced everyone was on the registry (the same way Suzanne Sugarbaker reported Charlene’s nanny to America’s Most Wanted). This former neighbor of mine thought everyone wanted to rape her.

I heard she was attacked by three gay men right outside the building. Two held her down, and one gave her a makeover.

Here, the crazy’s have their own homes, and guess who is the world’s foremost crazy magnet? Me. That’s right. I have a witness. My friend, Ed, and I were at the DC Auto Show, and the only crazy in the place found me and started a conversation. Ed couldn’t get over how I am a crazy magnet. Sometimes I end up dating them – it cuts out the need for a middleman.

We have one here who knocks on your door asking if you need yard work. Yard work? I have a yard that is no bigger than my driveway. I can mow my grass with an old fashioned reel mower in ten minutes. He always seems to knock on my door just as I’m getting ready to take a piss, too. How curious.

A luxury building is noisy. Seriously, I have never lived in or visited a luxury apartment building that was not noisy. Someone is always throwing a party, or the location is next to a busy street. The hallways are filled with people having loud conversations as they try to impress their neighbors with where they are going and what they are going to spend when they arrive there. I think they are purposely designed to allow hallway conversations to travel into your apartment by pretentious people and those that love them.

Mobile home communities are quiet. That’s right, quiet. People stay in their homes. I usually sleep through the night. Sometimes, the quiet keeps me awake. If your neighbors are outside, they are usually sitting on their decks having a conversation with some friends, but nothing loud. I have walked Esmeralda at all hours of the day and night, and I have yet to hear any noise.

However, there is one aspect of mobile home living that is cause for adjustment. The size of things. Although I gained 120 square feet of living space – efficiently laid out I must add – there are certain things that are smaller – especially the bathtub. You can get a “glamour bath” installed, but I opted out.

I think that if they let everyone take a shower in their new home before purchasing it, no one would buy a new home. Getting used to a new shower is the hardest thing to do. We have all stayed in hotels with little water pressure or tiny tubs or shower heads that are set too low. My brother calls them penis showers. We are both over six-feet tall, so hotel showers aim right for our “members-only section.” To wash my hair in a hotel shower, I have to do my Cirque du Soleil moves. Some might find that alluring.

In my luxury apartment, I had what they called a “deep soak tub.” I had to step way over the edge then down into the tub. It was huge and a pleasure to take a shower. However, giving the dog a bath required me to get into the tub with her (Serena, too, when I first moved in). I got totally used to stepping up and then down. Sometimes in a hotel, I would find myself stepping way up before getting into a tub.

My new tub is the exact opposite. It has a low rim, and it is set higher than the floor. It is also set against the side of the house. The first time I stepped in, I slammed my foot on the bottom thinking I had three more inches of tub. Once in, I realized that because of the slant of the roof, my head was two inches from the ceiling. Fortunately, I put in a hand-held showerhead. The tub is also six inches narrower than my old one. It is a good thing I lost weight, or I would have to step out to wash my ass.

When I was done with my first shower, I stepped out of the tub expecting to step up. When there was no floor where I thought it would be, I tumbled and almost slammed into the opposite wall (my master bathroom is as wide as the house as most mobile home bathrooms are). Fortunately, I recovered before leaving an imprint of my naked body on the exterior wall of the house, or worse, falling through the vinyl siding. Now that would have been something for the evening news.

Even without a deep soak tub, living here is so much better than where I was. They may call it luxury living, but I was never champagne and caviar.

I am the beer and pretzel type.

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Friday, July 15, 2011

Four-legged Wrecking Crew

Forget everything you’ve ever read about moving with your pets. It is all bull shit!

You remember a week ago my lovely rescue beagle, Esmeralda, ran away for an hour? That was nothing compared to the first few days in our new mobile home.

Surprisingly, the one thing all the advice columns said not to do, I did, and it went well. They said (and I really wish I knew who “they” were) have someone watch your dog on moving day, then slowly introduce your dog to your new home. I took her with me. I also purchased a 15-foot chain, so she could be outside watching while the movers brought everything in.

Before you call the Humane Society, the chain is only for when I am outside, so she won’t go nuts while inside watching me. Esmeralda has this incredible need to be where I am.

As you know, I only have a general history of her first eight years of life, but apparently, she had been hooked to a chain before because she wasn’t even bothered by it. She watched patiently as my things were unloaded from the truck and taken inside and wagged her tail the whole time.

I thought, “Wow, this is going quite well. She is really adjusting.” Once everything was in, I unhooked her, walked her around a bit then took her into our new home. I set up her water dish and some food, just as I was advised by “they.” She drank some water then followed me around. She also witnessed my meltdown. Finally, she found a spot in the corner behind my bistro table to curl up and nap or observe.

I was so pleased.

Now, I must make one clarification from my prior post. Mindy does not dislike Esmeralda. She just doesn’t want her in her home again. The reason is because Esmeralda decided to damage an expensive custom-made window blind five minutes after being left alone. I take the blame because I knew Esmeralda hates blinds. She damaged them in my apartment the first week she was there, and the trick was to roll them half way up … or so I thought.

Frank, who was still with me, and I decided to run an errand to Lowe’s and get some dinner. I rolled all the blinds half-way up, closed all the doors to the bedrooms and bathrooms, and fed Esmeralda before leaving the house.

Before I go on, I have to share one more thing about my sweet little beagle. The Washington Animal Rescue League evaluated her and declared her a “purple” dog, meaning laid back, docile, just needing a quiet place to rest and be comfortable. I wonder what quack evaluated her, Dr. Phil?

That first week in my apartment, she removed a door frame, took down the blinds, knocked over a lamp, and pretty much drove herself crazy. OK, it was the first few weeks in a new home. But understand –the bitch has only six teeth and can chew through a wall!

Silly me, I figured by now, she was done with her need to tear down a home piece by piece. Was I a fool!

When Frank and I returned two hours later, she had removed the blinds from both windows in the living room and dining room, and she had destroyed them in the process. She also left a vengeance poop on the living room floor by the front door.

OK, she was adjusting. I didn’t even yell at her. I just cleaned up the mess and we went back to our business. Besides, they were just $4 mini-blinds. She didn’t touch the window treatments. She only hates blinds. I did put scratch guards on the door, door frame and window sills, so I was safe there.

And she never damages furniture or curtains! Or so I thought.

The next day, I left to go and clean the old apartment and run a few more errands, mainly to get new blinds. When I returned …

My lovely little Esmeralda removed all the curtains and left another vengeance poop on the floor by the front door. I yelled. I know I shouldn’t have, but jeez, she had chew toys, food, a Kong filled with treats, and more than anything, a lovely new home with no screaming neighbors, sirens, or loud fire alarms going off every time Five Guys burned an order of fries! She just wagged her tail because she thought it was all a game.

Did I mention I also take her on four 45-minute walks a day! How much energy can an old “purple” dog have?

I put in the new blinds on and rolled them all the way up, winding the cords around the valances, which she generously left in place, probably because she couldn’t reach them … or so I thought.

On Monday, I returned to work, and I called a dog walking service to come over that evening to interview because I thought that having a mid-afternoon break from her new career, razing mobile homes, would be entertaining for her.

I came home a couple of hours early and discovered something very odd. Two of my dining room chairs were on their sides and pictures I had on a side counter were knocked over. Had someone broken in? And yes, there was another pile of vengeance poop near the front door.

That little dog had managed to walk on top of the dining room table, knocking over the chairs when either going up or down. She also left nose prints on the windows, paw prints on the table and teeth marks on the chairs. I was planning on replacing the table anyway because it was a tad too big for the space – but not so soon!

In addition to all the above, she had howled, whined and barked herself hoarse. When she tried to bray, she sounded like Brenda Vaccaro. I looked at her and said, “You need to quit smoking menthols.”

I was at my wits’ end! I was also becoming quite religious asking God to help me not to kill this poor helpless creature I decided to rescue, who was destroying my new home piece by piece.

I considered getting a crate and putting a sign on it that said, “Beagle Jail. You do the crime; you do the time.” But after spending the first eight years of her life in a cage, she would probably hang herself in her cell or shank me with a Milkbone carved into a knife when I returned home.

As I was taking all the damaged goods to the curb for the garbage men to pick up, my neighbor across the street, a nice retired lady, came over and said, “Are you throwing all the window treatments away? They’re new.”

I told her the story and how I was interviewing dog walkers, and she said, “I’ll walk your dog twice a day while you’re gone. My husband says I am too old to get another dog, so I would love to watch yours.”

And she agreed to give her two walks for $2 less a day than I was going to pay the dog walker for one. Also, since she had two beagles at one time, she knew the craziness of the breed. I invited her in, and she took Esmeralda on a test walk. Esmeralda, who usually doesn’t like anyone but me, was not upset in the least  (I did walk with them to be sure).

We made a deal, I gave her the keys, and as I opened the door to say goodbye to her, I noticed that the wood was completely scratched away from the legs of an antique telephone table by my front door that was my Nana’s. There were also bite marks on the top of it. I rolled my eyes at Esmeralda, who was lying on the couch looking all innocent and wagging her tail.

The next day, I called Mrs. M around noon to see how the walk went. She said everything was fine, and she stayed with Esmeralda for a while and watched some television if that was all right. I had no problem with that.

When I returned home everything was fine. My dog was tired, and I walked her as usual before dinner and again before bedtime, and that night she slept and snored peacefully in a new space she claimed in the corner of my bedroom closet. I put a pillow in there for her to be comfortable.

Is she spoiled? Yes. Shut up.

There is an old Jewish joke, or story if you will, that goes like this:

An old man is on the roof of his home during a flood. A helicopter flies overhead, and the pilot says, “Grab the ladder and climb up.”

The man says, “Don’t worry; God will save me.”

A woman in a boat rows by and says, “Hop in!”

The old man says, “Don’t worry; God will save me.”

A talking whale swims by and says, “Hop on my back.”

And the old man says, “Don’t worry; God will save me.”

The old man drowns as the flood waters rise and upon arriving in heaven says to God, “Why didn’t you save me?

And God says, “Are you meshugina? I sent you a man in a helicopter, a woman in a row boat and a Mydamn talking whale for My sakes?”

When I looked for a mobile home, this park – I mean community – was not on my list, but I pulled in anyway upon seeing the manicured lawns. They had one new home left. I bought it. If Esmeralda had not removed the curtains and blinds, I would not have thrown them out. If I had not thrown them out, Mrs. M would not have come over to talk to me and offer to be her dog walker – and occasional babysitter if I go out of town, which is a better prospect than a stranger.

Someone at work said I had a guardian angel. Miracles happen all the time; you just need to know how to recognize them when they do.

Another good thing about Mrs. M is that she is the neighborhood busybody. She watches out her window everyday to see what is going on, so I don’t have to buy an alarm system. However, I think she is using my home as a base operation for her spy game because my kitchen blinds, which Esmeralda cannot reach without a trampoline, are always turned up when I return home, indicating she is watching someone. She also said she would use the dog walking money for Bingo. I don’t know. The TV is always tuned to QVC when I return home.

But who am I to question God … Oh yes, I’m Jewish; we always question God.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Melt Down

Moving days are always loads of fun.

For those who don’t know me, let me tell you something about myself. I don’t accept help easily. Having learned at an early age that I would need to take care of myself, I have become fiercely independent where all aspects of my life are concerned. I had a boyfriend once who told me the most frustrating thing about me was the fact that I wouldn’t let anyone help me. The most frustrating thing about him was he would get drunk and leave his toupee in the bushes.

When I moved to Rockville, the only help I needed was for my friend, Mindy, to watch Serena on the day the movers arrived. By 4:00 pm that day, I was all moved in, and every box was emptied. I couldn’t ask her to watch Esmeralda because they don’t like each other – a long story for another blog.

However, something told me this move would be different. My brother offered to help me on the Friday before the movers came, and I accepted his offer. He was really going out of his way, driving up to Rockville – a three-hour drive from Newport News – to spend about three hours, helping me cart my electronics and clothes in his truck to Jessup. This was a huge help because the one thing that takes the most time during a move is emptying the wardrobe boxes while the movers wait and charge by the hour. I decided with Esmeralda with me, it would be a nightmare if I waited until the official move day to do this.

Also, for those who don’t know me, my clothes are big and my shoes bigger – size 14. When I travel, I cannot take more than two pairs of shoes or I will need another suitcase. My brother then drove home after helping me in a series of thunderstorms, making a three-hour drive a four-and-a-half-hour drive! I cannot express my appreciation for what he did. He said it was fun.

I cannot imagine spending a few hours with me, ordering you around to put this there and that over here fun!

Did I also tell you I like being in charge and giving orders? They say every eleventh person born is a leader. I consider myself a number eleven. Actually, “they” didn’t say it; Lucy said this to Charlie Brown. The crap I remember.

My friend, Frank, or as I refer to him, the "Martha Stewart of McLean" (he doesn’t know I refer to him this way because I just thought this up), called me on Friday night and asked if I needed help. I said, “Oh, I'm fine; everything is packed. My brother helped me move all my clothes and electronics today. He was a huge help. The movers will be here in the morning, and they are the best.” He decided he better help and would be at my apartment at 8:00 am. I accepted his offer. Wow, was I maturing?

There is also something else I must share. I like things to happen on time. Not early, never late, but always on time! I can be a real pain in the ass about this. I also had a boyfriend say he couldn’t point out my faults because I would beat him to the punch. He was a nose candy freak who couldn't achieve an orgasm. There is an entire list of adjectives to describe me, and I add to it more than anyone. For the purposes of this story: obsessive, overbearing, controlling, irritating – just to name a few.

Saturday morning came, and the movers and Frank both arrived five minutes early. I was not ready! I needed five minutes to get the apartment concierge to open the loading dock and lock the elevator. She was late! Frank came up, and I started barking, “Take the laundry basket and granny cart to the car!” I have a granny cart because my apartment was two blocks (not kidding) from the parking garage. Frank didn’t say a word and did what I told him. He was so calm.

In 90 minutes, the movers were all loaded up. I used the same company that moved me to Rockville, Great Scott Moving, and one of the guys also helped with that move. They are the best movers, so I have to give them a plug!

Now, all I had to do was lock up and get in the car and go, so I could arrive before they did. As I was pulling away with Frank behind me, I saw the moving truck ahead of us.

They arrived at the house five minutes before we did. Oh no. Not early, never late, always on time!

Now, the nervous wreckedness began. I immediately opened the house and showed them where everything was to go.

The problem with an empty space and a space with furniture is one looks so much bigger than the other! Seriously, I didn’t know this? Apparently, other people do.

Here is something else you may not know about me. I am a bit claustrophobic. I don’t panic in elevators, but I don’t handle tight rooms, especially full of people, very well. The front bedroom, if you can call it that, is 7’ x 12’. My original plan for setting up was not working, and suddenly, I was in the middle of this little room with a bunch of boxes, two book cabinets that did not fit and a desk that was in the way.

I don’t know if you have witnessed a meltdown, but you have not lived until you have seen one of mine.

First, I started spinning around – kind of like Linda Carter turning into Wonder Woman, except without the blur or the magic bracelets. Then, I started flailing my hands. Then, I started a combination of whining and kvetching accompanied by high-pitched sounds that can be heard miles away by rodents and birds of prey. I kept repeating, “Nothing fits! Nothing fits! This isn’t going to work! This isn’t going to work!”

Can you picture all of this?

While Frank was considering calling a shuttle from Saint Elizabeth’s, my phone rang. It was the cable guy. He was fifteen minutes early! They are never early. I told him, “I am not ready for you! Give me fifteen minutes! We just arrived!” He said no problem; he would go get a bite to eat.

Then I melted even more. Thank God for Frank. He said, “Just step out of the room. Come over to the kitchen, and let’s tackle something else first. Breathe. Breathe. Count to ten.”

I stepped out of the office. In about 15 minutes, I was fine.

We unpacked everything else in about three hours. Then, we took the oversized book cabinets out to the curb, put a “FREE” sign on them, and they were gone in less than an hour.

Problem solved.

Ironically, the appeal of this house was finally having a real office space. Who knew such a gift would send me over the edge?

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Monday, July 4, 2011

Runaway Dog

Since the weekend before the actual move was a holiday weekend, I took advantage of the time to bring over all my stuff for the shed, which before had been in my bedroom closet, and get the bathrooms set up and decorated thanks to Jaclyn Smith and her coordinated accessories. I also thought it would be a good idea to bring Esmeralda out one day to see our new home.

This isn’t the first time I have moved with a dog. Serena moved twice with me. When she was one, we moved from eighty degrees in West Palm Beach to thirteen degrees in Washington over Martin Luther King Day weekend in 1997. She adjusted quite well after two days in my Plymouth Colt with all our remaining belongings. Sure, she shivered, but once inside, she was cozy and warm, especially with Christian’s pug, Yoshi, who fell in love with her immediately. Whenever I was in the room with them, I felt as if I was intruding. Thank God, they were both spayed and neutered.

The second move with Serena was to Rockville. By then, she was thirteen, deaf, blind in one eye and losing what little sight she had in the other eye. I brought her up after the furniture arrived. She didn’t care once she found her food, but she did sleep in the closet the first couple of nights with her head on one of my shoes. She did adjust well, but six months later, she died. She hated Rockville more than I did, do, still do, done, did. Whatever.

I guess for Serena it was easy because I had held her when she was one day old. I babysat her mother, Venus, while she was still nursing Serena and Muchy (pronounced mooocheee), her brother. She had no abandonment issues. 

Serena was a toy parti-poodle (two color poodle) and as such a rescue, since up until recently, breeders would kill them because they could not be registered and were considered part of a bad gene (ironically all breeding poodles give birth to one parti-poodle at some point). Venus was pregnant when my friend John rescued her. When Serena was born, he saw she was two colored and said I could have her if I didn’t say who gave her to me. I kept my word until the AKC recognized parti-poodles as a breed. Serena was a tuxedo parti-poodle with black face and back, white feet and a bow-tie pattern on her chest in white, perfectly symmetrical. She would have been a champion show dog. She was beautiful, and she knew it. I never saw a dog pose for the camera the way she did.

Esmeralda is a different story. Four months after Serena died, I was delivering items to the Washington Animal Rescue League our car club, the Straight Eights (yes, with a name like that it is a gay car club), collected and feeling a bit lonely, so I strolled down the hallway of this fantastic no-kill facility and spotted a Jack Russell Terrier who looked as if he would make a good pet, but he was a bit needy. Sharing the room with him was an aloof beagle, who looked as if she had given birth non-stop for years. She was a bit skinny and did not make any effort to get my attention. She had given up on being adopted. The sign said she was eight years old, and the name they gave her was Lulabell.

Always the guy who likes the special needs and underdogs (Serena had luxating patella, canine IBS, and an alpha personality that scared pit bulls), I asked for more information on Lulabell. It turns out she spent her first seven or so years in a puppy mill as the “breeding bitch,” in a cage and possibly gave birth three times a year for her entire life there. Her front teeth wore worn down from chewing on the cage. From the puppy mill, she was “rescued” by a well intentioned but psychologically challenged women in Mississippi who had a bit of a hoarding situation. She had over three hundred dogs living on her property and in her – brace yourselves – mobile home.

The Washington Animal Rescue League along with several other rescue organizations rescued her and the other dogs. Lulabell, who was very beta, had been attacked (a very small piece of one ear is missing, and she has bite marks on her snout), and she was food shy. She would only eat if no other dog was around for fear of being bitten again. She was and still is scared of any barking dogs, except other beagles. 

Lulabell was also considered a challenge because of her appearance. She is a beautiful tri-color beagle, but her nipples and belly are distended due to multiple births. This apparently grossed out some potential parents. What did I care? At forty-eight, you should see my nipples.

She also sneezed a lot due to her allergies.

I couldn’t help myself. I adopted her, and because she sneezed as much as I do, I named her Esmeralda, after Alice Ghostley’s character on Bewitched who would sneeze and the thought nearest to her cerebellum would materialize. Or was it her cerebral cortex?

Esmeralda was her first real name (Lulabell was a rescue leage designation), and I was her first human. I often say, Serena thought she was a person, and Esmeralda thinks I am a dog.

For six months, Esmeralda would not eat until I went to sleep. For the first few weeks, she lived under the premise that I would take her back at any time. She had been fostered a few times before I got her. We were like strangers in the same home. Slowly she came around, and the first real sign was at the Straight Eights annual meeting when she insisted on sitting on a chair next to mine. She is not one to snuggle, but she showed her loyalty in other ways.

The reason I am telling you all this is because I should have known better than to take Esmeralda to my new home before the furniture and the rest of our stuff arrived. I thought it would be good for her to see where we would be moving.

What is amazing is that I am the self proclaimed expert on everything, so how could I be so dumb?

When we arrived at the house, I took her inside, and she freaked. I went out to the car to get a load of stuff, and when I opened the front door, she bolted out and ran under the car. I called her, and she came out, then I grabbed her quickly and took her back inside.

It was obvious she thought I was going to leave her in this house, especially since it was a mobile home (how could she tell?). I stayed inside with her and acted as if all was normal, putting this and that away and even doing a load of laundry. But, she continued to whine and follow me everywhere as if I were going to leave her.

Then, I wanted to try the keys I had copied in the back door. So I slowly opened the door and blocked it, so she couldn’t get out … or so I thought.

She leaped over my leg onto the back porch and into the woods. I hollered after her and dropped my keys. I screamed, “Esmeralda, come here! Come here now!” She took one look and off she went. I chased after her until I could no longer hear movement. I screamed her name over and over.

I then looked around. I was in the woods. I never go into the woods. I am a Gay Jew, I don’t even hike. I was scratched and bitten, and I thought I was covered in spiders. I was wondering if I now had Lyme Disease. I tripped on vines and my shoes were filthy. I am known for my clean Chuck Taylors, and my white Chucks were filthy. What was I doing?

I exited the woods realizing it was getting me nowhere. A lady drove by and asked if I lost my cat since she heard me yelling. I told her about Esmeralda, and she was so nice (as everyone in these parts is) and looked to see if Esmeralda was wandering the neighborhood. I called my brother who assured me she would come back because this is what beagles do. He has one named Charlie.

I got in my car and drove around to see where the woods ended. Fortunately, there was a fence on the other side some two or three acres away, so I returned home in case she decided to come home. By now, forty minutes had gone by with no sign or sound from Esmeralda.

Then, I did something I rarely do. I prayed. The last time I prayed was during a violent allergy attack when I prayed for death. This time I asked God to bring back my dog. I mean how stupid could I be? I buy a house and lose my dog in the same week. I needed God's help. 

Surprisingly, I was not in a panic. When I am in a panic, I get diarrhea. I did have to pee, but I always have to pee.

I sat down on the back porch and waited. I had never had this happen before, so I didn’t know how long one should wait before calling the … whom do you call when your dog runs away? I felt assured someone would find her. She has a microchip and her tag has my number on it (that reminded me, I needed to order a new tag). But what if she never showed up and ended up spending the night in the woods? What if I never see her again?

By now, it had been an hour, and I started to panic even though in the back of my mind, I knew she would come back. But when?

I had one trick left up my sleeve, so I thought I would give it a try. In my loudest but calmest voice I yelled, “Bye Esmeralda. I’m leaving now. Want to go for a ride in the car?”

Less than a minute later, I heard a jingling behind me. I looked around front to the driveway, and guess who was sitting by the passenger side of the car as if nothing had happened?

I slowly walked up to her and said quietly, “Come here, Esmeralda.” She wagged her tail and walked over to me, and I scooped her up. She was wet, muddy, dirty, and covered in sand. Sand? Where in the hell did she find a beach in Jessup?

I called my brother, and he jokingly asked if I was going to beat her. I didn’t even yell at her. I was so glad to see her. All I said was, “Where have you been? As soon as we get back to the apartment, you are getting a bath!”

I carried her inside, and she drank some water and ate a Milk Bone as if the prior hour had not even occurred.

Let this be a lesson to anyone. Don’t take your dog to your new home until it looks like your new home with all your old furniture … unless all your old furniture is crap.

I still want to know where the beach is in Jessup.

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