Friday, March 22, 2019

The Old-Timey Screens

The screened porch is 50 percent of the reason I live here, and I'd patched its holes for years but last summer so many that fresh screening is this season's home improvement priority. But I had no idea how. "Old-timey hardware stores will do it," I heard. "Bring 'em in by Thursday," they said at Cotton's Ace, where I learned why my patches never held well, and why critter claws so easily pierced the screens -- they are fiberglass. That means too the screening is not 80 years old although their frames are. I ordered aluminum replacement screening.

In the Tuesday night cold by the light of the lone yellow porch bulb I unhooked seven of the eight screens (the photo shows five) and for the first time pulled them down. Painted, repainted, nailed on, chewed, their varying sizes did not fit into the car so Wednesday I drove three round trips to the store, but it was the first day of spring and I was jubilant and look forward to driving three round trips back.

I'd previously asked the price and thought they'd said .35 per square inch of screen. With 10,007 square inches of screen the total was $3,527 or thereabouts -- shocked, I wondered if perhaps I was mistaken, as I am far more often than I think-- and in fact it's more like .035 per square inch.

The man who did the paperwork (lots) said that the trim holding the screening onto the frame was fragile and might have to be broken to remove the old screens and staples and I said fine, I'd pay as long as the trim was replaced. Oh, did I mention I'm paying? This is my project -- not a necessity but a "lifestyle" choice -- while the landlord contemplates installing new carpeting in the Divine living room and bedroom. It's a more than fair exchange, in my view.  (While they install the carpet I can live on the porch.) You might pout and say "You ought to make them pay at least some," but I appreciate beyond words having a job and being able to restore something so enchanting as the porch, my box seat on nature and the seasons.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Please Re-Lease Me

October 1 came and went and no new lease arrived in the mail, and the landlord's office said somebody else had to decide, and meanwhile I feared that the delay meant eviction.

Months went by. I kept paying rent thinking, where would I go?  I guess I could be happy anywhere, I said, knowing that each day I woke up in a tiny (affordable) apartment or trailer or shack, even with better carpeting than now, I'd be heartbroken: 100 acres, gone! Porch, lizards, woodpeckers and hummingbirds, crocuses and mushrooms, firebowl and two-car garage -- gone! I couldn't live -- I couldn't make it! (Oh, come on, I thought. This is not Syria. You could rent a two-bedroom in the part of the city that only looks like Syria.)
Crocuses appeared March 12 this year.

After five months I learned that the people who'd routinely mailed the lease had retired and the new employees were months behind on their work, and the lease was now ready to sign, all backdated to October.

But modified, so that every year the lease will renew automatically.

So relieved I nearly fainted. I will probably stay here the rest of my life, I thought, and began making plans.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Spring Sunrise 2019

Waiting, waiting. . . purple clouds in the east, the great Source color-mixing on its palette in real time, then adding some light, knowing we are watching. Light is a specialty. The work must be totally unprecedented. There can be no error, cannot leave a blank space or discard and start over, must differ from all before it, because this day is a gift specifically for the majestic Earth, and the sunrise its wrapping! And it has to be unsigned so everybody and everything has to guess who gave it. Everyone's answer is different. Everyone is at a different place to receive it. Perfect! I'm smiling. The artist hopes only that the gift will make us smile.

I have enjoyed the long, elaborate, poetic springtimes typical of mid-Missouri, with upsetting lilacs and startling bunnies and winds that invent their own kites, and hope this spring is another. Not only that, I love sharing the greenery and music of the birds and frogs with visitors from the north who travel in a day from their winter to our spring, and marvel.

Saturday, March 16, 2019


Emma was born in 1892, and in 1980 I lived in her basement and she gave me a 1940 seafood cookbook pamphlet, me being a Midwesterner living on the east coast where fish was the cheapest food, and I have treasured the cookbook, especially the Fish Roll recipe I made several times to feed hungry me and drug-addled friends, all so mentally ill we stayed out 'til 4 a.m. listening to bands like The Young Snakes and Rubber Rodeo singing songs like "Life Sucks, Then You Die," and vomiting, etc. Emma didn't like when police came to the house looking for "Eric" or whoever. . . "Unexpected guests will not daunt a hostess who knows how to make a fish roll," said the cutline beneath the illustration -- and in honor of those days we used to sleep ("crash") on bare hardwood floors, today having on hand 1.5 cups of  leftover cooked fish and an onion and some parsley in place of green pepper, I got out the cookbook (pictured) and made the frugal fish roll (result, pictured).

I used one of those baggies of Bisquick baking mix. The recipe was supposed to serve 6. In 2019 it serves 3. Great way to make leftover fish appealing.

A daunted hostess? Me, never. In grad school out east, fellow grad students, easterners and Midwesterners, all of us extremely thin, dropped by my place to chat and after a while might venture, "Uh, you wouldn't have, like, anything to eat around here, would you?" Food has always been my second-highest priority, after rent.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

The Latte F-f-f-actor

A guy figured out that a millennial enjoying a $4 latte each day should invest the money instead so that 45 years from now $4 a day plus interest would amount to half a million dollars she could use to support herself in her old age. From this he developed a popular trademarked book and calculator called "The Latte Factor."

I've seen this argument also with a millennial buying and enjoying a fruit-vegetable smoothie.

Sure, "little things add up," but, did you know, fella:
  • That millennial with her indulgent whipped cream mocha latte or smoothie in early afternoon might not have eaten all day. She lives with roommates (unlike Mr. Latte Factor) and one terrorizes her so she flees her dwelling and cannot cook breakfast or fix a lunch because said roommate steals or eats her food or smears it on the floor or screams when she uses the kitchen calling her a fat pig, and for some reason (like, she lives at home and the sicko is her mother or brother or nephew and half her salary goes for room and board) can't move out.
  • That millennial is insomniac or severely depressed and by having coffee midday is trying to have a second start to her day to see if it will start any better.
  • That millennial owes thousands in student loans, has a crummy job and boss, is the only single left among her friends, and without the daily latte there is nothing to live for.
  • That millennial grew up poor and graduated from the public school system and has no idea what an investment is.
  • She and her co-workers pooled what money they had and drew straws to see which one of them could have lunch that day, and she won enough for a latte and scone at the nearby coffee shop because any farther away from work and she might get sacked for coming back late. (There is a reason those scones are 700 calories apiece. They are the only food some people get all day.)
Wish I could locate another such study: A psychologist watched amazed as people waited in a long line at the bank for their entire lunch hour trying to cash their weekly paychecks, instead of eating lunch as the psychologist thought they should. Dear amazed psychologist: Until they cashed their checks they couldn't buy any lunch. Maybe their nicely bagged and frugal lunch was at their work station. Even so, the banks open at nine and close at five when these people are working, and the lunch hour is the only window of time they had.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019

How to Be Happy Despite an Extended Winter

March with snow on the ground, 17 degrees, wearing fleece robe over fleece clothing in the house, clutching cups of hot drinks, thinking of deceased folks etc. = misery, unless you must, no buts about it, take the car in for the fuel-pump recall, plus regular oil change and tire rotation -- "How long will this take?" "Hour and a  half, two hours" -- and decide that today the wait will be fun.

Realize via Google Maps that a liquor superstore known for wines is .3 miles from the car dealer, and toddle there on icy sidewalks and across strip-mall parking lots. Spend 45 minutes in two aisles each of a hundred linear feet of cabernets and red blends, like a library, organized by price, telling self "You can have only one," and choosing a staff-recommended Languedoc. On the way back, decide that a person who loved themselves would buy themselves lunch. At a hole-in-the-wall BBQ I have a fine pulled pork sandwich with pink applesauce and a Pepsi.

Upon return, the car service is finished. Realize the car now picks up like a swan when  in "eco" mode -- they fixed it! Drive my personal rocket ship to another store where before the holidays I bought a startlingly good random red wine, hoping they might have one bottle left, and miraculously they have restocked it and I buy 3 bottles. Cheerfully drive home, not hungry, with payload of wine thinking of happy and friendly occasions. The sun is out and it doesn't feel cold or windy now.