Saturday, July 22, 2006

afflicted with lassitude

I'm out of sorts. It's hot. The cat and I are afflicted with lassitude of the worst sort.

The cat moves from spot to spot in our house looking for the arctic air that I've been known to complain about: there's usually no shortage of cold. Instead of moving with feline stealth and a preternatural grace, he throws himself on the ground with a thud and meows as if he were a Siamese.

"It's hot," he tells me. "For godssake. Do something about it. I didn't sign on to work under these conditions."

Then he sighs. A big ol' world-weary sigh. Cats can and do sigh.

He's even off his feed. He's a big hungry cat and it takes a lot to put him off his feed. I offer him a shrimp from my homemade Pad Thai. He just glowers. He knows I could do something about this heat if I just put my mind to it. If I applied myself. Focused. A pink morsel of shrimp is no compensation for being required to wear a gray fur coat in this relentless heat.

And I know he'll want overtime pay and days off in exchange for this pain and suffering. You probably didn't realize that cats are unionized. They are.

What you also might not realize is that San Francisco is a city with no air conditioning. Sure, those snazzy skyscrapers in the financial district have A/C, but out here in the Castro, we're too rustic for that. The bears in their flannel shirts suffer; the leather boys in their chaps suffer; and my cat in his fur coat suffers. Most of the bars and restaurants have opened their windows with the hope of conjuring up a breeze. But it's not happening. The boys at The Edge spill out into the street; even there, there's a limit to how many sweaty bodies make a bar feel just a little too hot and crowded for comfort.

Nothing is working.

It's hot. All the windows are open and it smells like car exhaust and roof tar up here.

Then there are the fireworks. Didn't someone use up their Red Devil Safe and Sane Jumbo Assortment on the 4th? It seems like they didn't. Pop-bang-fweeeee! Some green sparkly bits fly high into the night sky. Pop-bang-fweeeee! Just how fucking big was that assortment pack?

PacBell Park has the same idea. I can see giant professional chrysanthemum explosions visible over the intervening hills. These go off with a dull booooom. It's loud! With the Middle East behaving the way it's behaving and GW behaving the way he's behaving -- and here I'm not referring to his ill-conceived touchy-feely back rubs that instinctively alarm female world leaders -- I'm instantly filled with anxiety, especially if the fireworks don't go high enough in the air for me to see them twinkle and pop. Just a louder-than-loud boooom. Wouldn't you be alarmed?

I try to mollify the freaked out cat (neither of us likes these explosions), thinking to lure him back into the kitchen with some ice cubes for his water bowl. I open the freezer; there don't seem to be any icecubes in the automatic ice maker's overly capacious tray. What's the deal? The ice cubes that had been in there were apparently so old that by now they've completely sublimated. Vanished. Gone. No ice cubes for the cat's water bowl.

I have a feeling that if there were still ice cube remnants, he'd have something sarcastic to say about their age. Once an ice cube demonstrates visible shrinkage, you know it's going to taste like ass. It is. There's no getting around that. And the cat's not shy about letting me know that something tastes like ass.

I stand in front of the freezer, contemplating the non-functional ice maker as long as my conscience will let me. Ah, that cool breeze feels good. Not much in the way of food to obstruct cold air circulation. What's that fluid in the recycled baby food jar? Might that be motor oil (20-50)? Looks like motor oil to me. Perhaps a leftover from a little at-home science experiment. Hope no-one thinks it's potable; it does look just about as appetizing as anything else in the refrigerator.

A lone jar of baby food filled with Castrol 20-50 is sufficiently disturbing to make me close the freezer door, cool breeze or no, conscience or no.

When I hunker down on the floor with the cat in a display of empathy (and with the thought that it's often cooler hunkered down on the floor), I can't help but notice that there's an awful lot of perma-dirt in the kitchen. Perma-dirt. That's really why anyone moves. It's not the dirt; it's the perma-dirt.

My old pal Bill Liles recently opined what we all secretly subscribe to (and I believe I've said elsewhere in this blog): that beyond a certain point, a house doesn't get any dirtier. After 7 years or so, he said, a house reaches a filth equilibrium. That would be a fine theory if it weren't for perma-dirt.

Think of it this way: the dirty-house-in-equilibrium theory is like special relativity. But perma-dirt is like general relativity. It's a much harder problem.

You might say "Perma-dirt? You're making that up, Cathy. I've never heard of perma-dirt. Really!"

Oh, you might not have heard the technical term, but I'm sure you've experienced the phenomenon. That's the stuff that's left over after you've applied the best chemical warfare against household dirt that Dow and Dupont have to offer, the scrubbing bubbles and the mold-banishing solutions. The stuff that warns you not to get any on the dog. The stuff that makes your nosehairs curl and catch fire. The really toxic solutions that have adorable personified mascots: big-eyed bubbles with Groucho Marx brows and talking scrub brushes that sound like Don Rickles. It's Agent Orange rendered loveable.

But despite their MX-quality toxicity warnings, these chemicals don't work any magic against perma-dirt. And you can just forget about your Simple Green or Amway L.O.C. Perma-dirt just laughs at those wimpy wrong-smelling cleaning products. They're not gonna square off against a good solid case of perma-dirt.

Anyway, when it's hot, and you're lying around on the floor with the cat, you've got plenty of time to contemplate the perma-dirt. Plenty of time. You're closer to your household surfaces than is prudent, and what you see isn't pretty.

Time to move; we're afflicted with perma-dirt big time. The lassitude is nothing, NOTHING, compared to perma-dirt.

Our worse offender is a Kitchen Aid portable dishwasher.

Don't look at me that way. It came with the house; we've only used it once. It hooks up to the kitchen faucet and noisily and moistly cooks your dishes until you convince yourself, they must be clean by now. They've just got to be clean. Moist, noisy, and an absolute magnet for scum; that's the Kitchen Aid dishwasher.

In spite of the fact that we don't use it, we just can't seem to get rid of it. A really deep analysis of the situation -- one that can only be performed when one is prone on the kitchen floor, trying to absorb the last bit of coolness from the tiles -- tells us: (a) it'd be really hard to carry this LARGE APPLIANCE out of here; 75 lbs x 75 stairs = 5625 pound-stairs or -- get this -- 2.81 stair-tons; and (b) (and this is a not-insignificant rationale) there's no other surface where we can conveniently deploy Mr. Signature Gourmet coffeemaker.

You might remember Mr. Signature Gourmet, purchased in haste after the untimely demise of the more respectable Mr. Coffee. You might also remember the neurosis I developed about the fact that Mr. Signature Gourmet has no automatic shut-off mechanism. For the last month, every time I've left the house (which is admittedly not very often), I've had to scamper back up 75 stairs after I've gotten down to the street and realized: I forgot to check if the coffee maker's been turned off. I've got to go look! Just a second! I'll be right back!

You might also remember that Mr. Signature Gourmet was developing a bit of a warp and that by my calculations, in a year -- using the most conservative extrapolation possible -- the top would be warped wide open, and Mr. Signature Gourmet's soft underbelly would be exposed to the corrosive morning air.

You might also remember that Mr. Signature Gourmet was white. Unlike Stephen Colbert, I do see color. That's why I'm not going to even pretend that this is the same coffee maker. And contrary to what you may be thinking right now, we didn't replace it because of my neurotic need to run back up 75 stairs and into the house to check its on/off status. Nope. Nobody knows about that. It's a secret neurosis. Even my imaginary hypothetical therapist doesn't know about it. In the best Northern California way, I'm not working on it. You don't know about it. It never happened.

Nope. What really happened was -- another gravity experiment! Yes, glass carafes fall and shatter like many other breakable everyday objects. And with coffee makers, the carafe is cruelly priced to be more expensive than replacing the entire coffee maker.

So, buh-bye Mr. Signature Gourmet I. Say hello to Mr. Signature Gourmet II (or Mr. Signature Gourmet Prime, if you insist). Mr. Signature Gourmet II is a sleek black small appliance with a timer. For 5 dollars more, we purchased the neurosis-reducing model that doesn't force you to run up 75 steps every time you leave the house. It's a real time and energy saver, Mr. Signature Gourmet II is.

Because it's equipped with many more sophisticated coffee-making functions, Mr. Signature Gourmet II sports four (4) (IV) buttons. And they're labeled so there's nothing to remember, nothing left to chance. The thing that I find vaguely disquieting -- and I don't want you to think that I normally comment on minor design elements like typography -- is that Mr. Signature Gourmet II's functions (on/off, hour, min, prog) are labeled with ComicSans characters.

Yes. My coffee maker was designed in PowerPoint. Comic Sans. There's no mistaking it. I'd recognize it anywhere. In a dark alley. On a Broadway stage. At Carnegie Deli, eating a lean corned beef on rye. Comic Sans.

See what I mean? Disquieting.

After my success with the pigs and the yellow mushrooms, I thought I'd teach the whole lot of 'em to make coffee (especially since the yellow mushrooms have wilted in this heat and the pigs no longer show any interest in the potted plants). I know there's some kind of adage about teaching pigs to sing, but I'm not teaching them to sing; not even to sing karaoke. I'm teaching them how to operate a very simple piece of equipment, a small appliance that automatically shuts itself off after 2 hours, an elegant bit of kitchen technology labeled in user-friendly Comic Sans.

I mean, how hard could it be? The pigs are better-than-average pigs. They can do it!

I think I've got 'em trained after a few short hours. We'll see tomorrow morning. There's a bit of a nuisance getting them to manage the heavy spoonfuls of coffee grounds, but we've made a heckuva a lot of progress today.

Heck of a job, pigs! You go, pigs! Gig 'em, piggies!

Tomorrow morning, I'll wake to the smell of freshly brewed java, java that'll stay warm for exactly 2 hours and no longer.

So when I leave to go to Philz to get my morning coffee after discovering that the pigs forgot to use a filter to contain the grounds, I won't have to run back up 75 stairs to see if Mr. Signature Gourmet II is safely at rest.

P.S. On top of my other woes -- the lassitude, the cat ire, the explosions, the missing ice cubes, the perma-dirt, the comic sans, the piggies doing a heck of a job -- without meaning to, I've messed up the columns of my blog template. See? Column 2 (the profile, links, past posts and the like) starts at the bottom of Column 1 (although it's correctly aligned in the horizontal dimension). I don't recall actually editing anything in the template, but apparently intent to edit is enough. Anyone who knows the probable cause & how to fix it will be praised lavishly if he or she either drops me an email or posts a comment.


Post a Comment

<< Home