Last weekend, I had a day when I wished I were a guy named Larry.
Let me explain.
Years ago, when I had a job working for people with intellectual disabilities, I had two clients named Larry and Ronald.
Those aren’t really their names, of course, because that sort of thing is confidential, but, what you need to know is that Larry and Ronald were brothers, who lived together in a two-bedroom apartment. Their elderly mother had passed away recently and they lived among her many, many possessions, as well as their own and seemed to be managing their bachelor life just fine (other than eating nothing but hamburger patties for 3 meals a day, 7 days a week).
Larry, the younger brother, loved gadgets and machines. He (and his late mother) had collected record players (6) and cameras (they had everything from a Brownie to a Polaroid to a Disc camera to a Nikon SLR) and fans (29), among other things.
Larry liked to take things apart to see the insides of the gubbins and how they worked, so all of his many, many gadgets and machines were in bits and pieces. Larry was better at taking things apart than putting things back together, it seemed.
Anyhoo, to get to my point: one day, their landlord called and said that their apartment was a fire hazard because of all Larry’s and his mother’s junk, not to mention the 29 fans and the evolution of cameras and that we needed to get rid of some stuff pronto, or he would serve an eviction notice.
I hightailed it over to Larry and Ronald’s and began the process of trying to respectfully negotiate the removal of some of their treasures–some to storage, some to charity, some to garbage. These were adult men, after all. They had a right to live among their junk.
Heaven knows, I do.
But, only until the roof over your head is in jeopardy, I figure.
The conversations went something like this:
“Larry, do you think you need 5 vacuums?”
(Larry looked at me with sadness in his eyes.)
“Maybe you don’t need five, Larry. What do you think?”
“Well,” Larry stammered, “I need one.”
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
“And, Ronald needs one.”
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
(Pause and puppy-dog eyes.)
“What if one breaks?”
So, I managed to give away 2 vacuums, leaving Larry and Ronald with 3 vacuums, which is apparently the perfect number for a 2-bedroom apartment and no one who vacuums.
Last weekend, I was wishing I had the foresight of Larry.
I killed the vacuum.
Dead, dead, dead.
And, there were no spares, no sirree.
But, I do live with Practical Man so after explaining how the vacuum had inexplicably, mysteriously perished on my watch after a mere 15 years or so (maybe I shouldn’t vacuum, whot, whot?), he set to work.
In the meantime, I gnashed my teeth about having to spend hundreds of dollars on something as boring as a new vacuum.
While I was grinding off my teeth, Practical Man went about breaking into the vacuum.
There were no screws to remove anything to get at the gubbins inside on account of it’s very vintage to want to re-use and fix things you already own.
Maybe you have wondered at times why I called this blog, “A Vintage Life?”
These are some of the times and the reasons, why.
I mean, seriously, have you ever seen the inside of a vacuum when it wasn’t in Larry’s apartment?
But, in our modern “green” society, practically no one fixes stuff anymore so why would you need to get inside something to look at what might be broken?
Y’know, unless you are Larry or Practical Man?
Practical Man somehow figured out how to break into the vacuum, without…um…breaking it.
I’m not even sure how that happened since it’s 98% plastic.
Crazy, mad, skills, that man has.
He came back from the workshop and announced that the motor was fine, it wasn’t the relay (I nodded and tried to pretend I vaguely recalled something about relays from O-level Physics) and that he figured it was the switch.
I could barely hear him over my gnashing of teeth.
Vacuum shopping – blah, blah, I thought again.
Maybe I could console myself over having to spend hard-earned moulah on a boring vacuum by buying a nice yellow one, I reasoned.
Have I mentioned that I’m the yin to Practical Man’s yang?
Meanwhile, he was looking online for switches but they were expensive and likely imported, meaning more expense and duty and exchange, etc etc.
So, he found an electronics vacuum shop (someone spent hours working on that name, I bet!) And, when we got there, he did something oh-so-vintage and awesome:
He pulled out the wiring schematic he had made for the vacuum:
Isn’t it adorable?
I love science-y people.
So do guys in vacuum repair shops who almost never, ever meet a bona-fide Practical Man.
The guy’s eyes practically fell out of his head when he saw the hand-drawn schematic.
And voila! New switch for $15.
Today, he installed the new switch, fixed something else that also turned out to be broken and the vacuum is now put back together and very much ALIVE.
Also: Not. Thrown. Away.
Also: Not a Boring, Blah Blah Blah Expense.
But, we still only have one.
Not one for Ronald, too.
Not one, in case one breaks.
Thank you, Practical Man.
It’s October, so my Christmas list is well overdue.
Of course it is.
Santa is so demanding.
And, lest you think this is all a tad early, let me inform you that Costco has been Christmas-ing since August, yes indeedy.
There are entire aisles you can Deck the Halls in, wearing your flip-flops (we can’t generally wear flip-flops during the ACTUAL festive season in Canada).
There are buffalo-checked Christmas doo-dahs as far as the eye can see (I try my best to avert my eyes back to the free samples they give out at Costco, which it’s really important to keep one’s eye firmly upon so as not to forget the real reason we shop at Costco).
Practical Man does not approve.
Of the Christmas doo-dahs, I should clarify.
He’s a free-sample fan, though.
What kind of Practical Man would he be if his favourite thing was not anything, preceded by or followed by the word, FREE?
He never eats the free samples – he gives them to me, like some kind of Snack Saint. He doesn’t snack and did I mention that he’s kind of annoying, sometimes?
Lovely, but annoying in a Snack Saint sort of way.
Or, maybe Snack Santa.
But, festive flourishes (even with free snacks for his beloved) before a respectful observance of Remembrance Day (Nov 11)? Now, them’s grounds for grunting and Rick Mercer-esque rants.
I don’t disagree.
It’s only October, merchants! My Hallowe’en costume is barely out of my head and onto the sewing machine, yet.
But, Practical Man still wants my Christmas list early, early, early.
He’s not a huge fan of all the commercialism and forced gifting that comes with the season but, he does like to make someone happy.
“You know that I don’t go in stores after the beginning of November,” he warns in a Bah Humbug sort of voice.
Who cares about that when everyone knows that Santa doesn’t shop in stores? Santa has elves making things in workshops and eating gingerbread, dontcha know. They don’t shop at Costco (unless they are snackers, in which case, who can blame them?)
Ho, ho, ho.
Still, on account of their too early Christmas hullabaloo, I wonder if Costco has been listening to our conversations about overdue Christmas lists? Like a George Orwell, big-brother-is-watching-you kind-of-creepy, Santa?
Oh wait, that’s Siri and Okay Google. Neither of which we use and yet…
I’m feeling spooked.
Which would be fine because it’s nearly Hallowe’en: the season of spookiness.
And what with my distraction about whether my non-Siri/Okay Google devices are listening to my conversations without my permission, it’s a bit difficult for me to think of what I want for Christmas.
Except maybe a vintage, Fisher Price hospital, complete with X-ray machine and working elevator.
Because, every woman in her 40s needs one of those, right?
And peace on earth, wrapped in buffalo check flannel.
Except, not yet.
Because it’s wa-a-a-a-y too early for Christmas-y stuff.
So says Practical Man–and me.
But, not Costco.
There is a type of person who aspires to live in weird places.
Like, a lighthouse, say.
Or, a converted barn.
Yes me, but not just me. There are other weirdos about.
Behold the Tiny House movement.
Naturally, I would love a Tiny House.
Of course, a vintage Boler is really a kind of Tiny House.
Arlo Guthrie memorialized the cool, weird house back in the 1960s with his song, “Alice’s Restaurant” in which Alice, Ray, and Potcho the Dog lived in an old church.
My dad introduced me to the song when I was about 12. As an adult, my friend and fellow Alice’s Restaurant fan, Bamboo Guy, even owned a church that was very swoon-y. Bruce Cockburn lives there now and how cool is that?
I’ve wanted to live in a church ever since.
And, even before.
In fact, my fascination with weird houses manifested itself as a child when, with every snowstorm, I attempted to build a house made from snow.
Unfortunately, I never learned the Inuit tradition of igloos (although I tried to build one many times!)
Usually, it was just me and my sister with shovels and soggy mittens, making a hole in the snow bank at the end of our driveway and trying to pretend that the result was a cozy as a Hobbit house.
In a melty, collapse-on-your-head kind of way.
My mother was concerned (as all Canadian mothers were) that the snowplow driver would kill us, by accident, with all that gallivanting at the street side.
That meant, my other option was an old margarine container in the back yard.
I would pack the snow in the container tightly, then tip it out carefully on the ground.
Sometimes, it was that dumb sugary snow that wouldn’t hold together.
Boo, hoo, hoo.
Other times, it was close to Spring and my “bricks” had a lot of leaves and twigs in the mix.
It marred the pristine, crystalline, margarine beauty I was going for, but I tried to just pretended it was mortar.
I wonder if Frank Lloyd Wright ever had these kinds of issues?
I’d lay out the floor plan: kitchen here, library here, secret passageways there.
My projects always seemed to cover the whole back yard.
Not one able to keep to minimalism even then, no siree.
Which meant that either I got discouraged, or the snow melted before my margarine-tub-formed walls were more than about ankle height.
As an adult, I drag Practical Man around to look at every weird building I can find.
Yesterday’s schoolhouse was very fun.
Built in 1847, it counts as “very old” among buildings in Canada.
It was kind of in the boonies, of course, since that’s where country schoolhouses tend to spring up.
It still had slate chalkboards.
Be still my heart.
There were tin ceilings in what used to be the girl’s and boy’s entrance foyers. Oh yes, they were of a time:
And the original schoolhouse lights (SIX!):
Swoon-y swoon, swoon.
As you may have observed, it even had a bell tower.
Ding, ding, ding!
Minus the bell, but I’m sure we could remedy that.
Alas, it had a bidding war planned for Monday and about 10 years of hard labour involved after purchase.
Boo, hoo, hoo.
One of the things stopping me from buying some of these weird buildings (besides a usefully-practical Practical Man) is their one-room schoolhouse size.
Since we can’t usually afford the life-size ones that don’t have 10 years of hard labour, I’ve been collecting small buildings.
Fisher Price vintage ones.
I’m sure you guessed that’s what I meant, since I have no children and I’m pushing 50.
They do take up a bit of space, as you can imagine.
So far, I have a castle:
an A-frame Cottage:
and perhaps best of all,
the School house:
This Schoolhouse was the perfect price and size.
It even has a bell in the bell tower.
Last week, I had my first bath in over a decade.
Why so traumatized, you ask? Because, this, my friends, was not a good bath, with bubbles up to your neck and your favourite Ernie-and-Bert-inspired Rubber Duckie.
No, no, no.
There was no lovely book or glass of wine (although I’m really not coordinated enough for any of that kind of nonsense).
Not even the sort of lovely BAWTH that one of my favourite literary characters, Eloise, likes to take.
This was the kind of bath that your mother tells you to take.
Or rather, MY mother.
Because, I’m in my 40s, dontcha know.
You’re never too old for a little vintage, motherly, health advice.
Or, for a bath.
“With oatmeal”, she said.
“Or baking soda”, she said.
“Maybe some Epsom salts”, she said.
Possibly a cocktail of all of the above.
Yessiree, I am officially a geezer.
No Bath and Body Works jams and jellies for me.
I get to bathe with breakfast cereals and baking products.
I’m like Wilford Brimley, with hair.
This was the kind of bath you take because you have been itchy for nearly a month FOR NO GOOD REASON.
And, all the icky sticky goo and chanting of OM doesn’t make it stop.
OMMMMMMM…I’m so itchy!
And not only that but, this was the kind of BAWTH where you had to decide which third of your body to dunk in the water at a time, on account of, you are possibly eleventeen feet tall and your tub is a shallow, five-foot long, jetted, vintage relic from the late 1980s.
It was a complex dance of toes-ankles-calves for a while and then knees-thighs-abdomen for another while and then chest-shoulders-neck for an encore.
Slip sliding away. It’s not as exciting as it sounds in the song.
Who, among the regular old, pre-every-bathroom-must-be-a-spa-thing-that-we-seem-to-have-going-on-now, bathtub owners, finds this fun?
You must be blessed with some short-ness, is all I can figure. Me and my eleven-teen feet of tall-ness are jealous.
Anyhoo, this was the kind of bath where Practical Man had to set a timer in order to get me to stay in there for 20 minutes, because someone–possibly me–kept yelling, “Can I get out YET?” approximately every 32 seconds.
I am a delight to go through life with, as you can tell.
This was the kind of bath where, when I scrunched down so my shoulders could get a little of the water action–and my toes were creeping ever so elegantly up the wall towards the shower head–I was exactly eye level with the toilet.
As my friend Pippi has said, “Bathing beside the toilet is not my idea of luxury.”
Toilets figure prominently in 5-star resort brochures, I’m sure.
Um, yes and this was more of a long-term-care facility kind of bath.
Nessum Dorma is the key to life, really.
Honestly, just close your eyes and listen. You don’t need to be in a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad bathtub for it to be magic.
But, after a million-zillion torturous hours, when I was finally allowed to get out, I was victorious.
I had a few hives.
Nearly a month of scratching and complaining about invisible sensations and I finally had something to show for my efforts.
I’m a little Type A that way.
Stay with me. The hives mean that maybe, possibly, I’m not imagining the itching–just having some kind of allergic reaction.
To what, I don’t know.
Or maybe…don’t you think…it might be…Nessum Dorma beside the toilet?
The basic treatment for hives is, YOU WILL NEVER GUESS:
Take a bath.
Or as I and Eloise prefer it: BAWTH.
Or baking soda.
Possibly some Epsom salts.
So says The Google.
And my mom.
Can I get out yet?
Don’t ask me what I’m doing on Tuesday.
Or, what’s in the freezer.
That’s called “being organized” and I’m not that.
But, I l-o-o-o-ove organizing.
As in, Zing goes the organizer!
Don’t put that on your dating profile.
Take it from what they used to call A Very Late Bloomer.
So, not good for catching Plenty of Fish.com but let’s say, you want to get your cupboard or closet in some semblance of order on a Saturday night: you should call me.
What else would I be doing on a Saturday night, besides dreaming up ways to make your cupboard or closet a thing of beauty? I can’t drink alcohol (I’m a frequent fainter), I can’t dance in a really fun club, even though I love to dance (I have chronic vertigo), and I can’t even look around too recklessly (I am the proud owner of a left optic thingy–with a cherry on top).
I’m basically a middle-aged woman in a 90 year-old body.
Except, that’s an insult to my Grandma Verna, who is 90 and can (and does) do all of the above, with style and in disco ball high heels, no less.
We are moving and downsizing (someday, if I can manage to be not quite so picky so we’ll actually find a house) so, we are purging and organizing.
I just love me some going through of things, straightening of things, putting “like” with “like”, colour-coding of things, and that sort of hulapalooza.
Can we say, “Control Freak” boys and girls?
Pegboard and some hooks are my drug of choice.
Even better if pretty boxes or polka-dot file folders are involved.
Not so much for Practical Man. His idea of hulapalooza is problem solving or rescuing someone while making a mess. Preferably, while out in The Nature.
Opposites attract, what can I say?
I am messy too, I must confess. But, we are messy in different ways.
My mess is very much indoors and usually involves food.
As in, food flings itself all over the place on the rare occasion I am preparing it. Don’t ask me how the spaghetti sauce got on the ceiling but, I have no kids or pets to blame that on.
A few weeks ago, we attacked The Bombshelter, as I affectionately call our cold room. Even though Practical Man leans to the Boy Scout, “Be Prepared and Buy Things On Sale” type, what with the pending (heaven knows when) move and all, I happened to catch him when he seemed less concerned about a looming apocalypse. For a while, we were sorting and tossing like some kind of fainty/dizzy/messy Cirque du Soleil act.
Zing, zing, zing!
“Likes” were stacked with “likes” and I confirmed that we have four fondue sets, which I’m sure you’ll agree, is absolutely the perfect number, especially when preparing for a possible looming apocalypse.
That’s not a joke.
Fondue sets are essential in any bug-out kit, my friends.
Before we knew it, The Bombshelter was an organized thing of beauty.
Well, organized at least.
And my office mates, who are chronic victims of disappearing utensils in our staff kitchen, are the lucky recipients of a giant bag of sealed knife/fork/napkin/salt/pepper packets accumulated from 15 years of Swiss Chalet take-out.
You. Are. Welcome.
Today, I went down to the Bombshelter to get something and there was a vintage Tupperware devilled egg carrier just flung on any old shelf. I got a little thrill when I put it in its rightful spot.
Because now, it has a rightful spot.
So, please call me for your next linen closet re-arranging party. (Does anyone even have a linen closet anymore??)
I am a strange and cheap date.
Every year, when we take the tree and decorations down, I am startled.
I don’t think I have reached the Griswold level of festive decor, so that can’t account for the Disturbing Disappearance of Decor.
Triple D – that’s a thing, right?
Yet, take away the seasonal dressing and everything suddenly looks bare and forlorn.
I guess it’s to be expected when you remove a giant conifer and acres of greenery and glittery things from your Not-So-Great Room.
(Our house was built at a time when Great Rooms were not yet a thing, so we only have an ordinary living room or as realtors probably think of it: a Not-So-Great Room.)
Our Not-So-Great Room looked perfectly fine in November.
In early December, it suddenly got bulge-y with a seriously extraverted Tannenbaum and all its festive friends.
I think we might be kindred spirits, me and the Not-So-Great Room.
I feel quite bulge-y in December myself.
“Deck the Halls with crates of Toblerone“…isn’t that how that song goes?
Every year during the time when the Not-So-Great Room is still looking seriously festive, Practical Man and I head out to admire our neighbourhood lights.
First, I admire the heart he stamped in the snow of the front lawn, with our initials in it.
Then, we cruise around for a while (we used to walk when we lived in town but we’d have to be Santa to make any time, now that we live rurally), surveying the crop of Griswold-esque specimens.
I’m not really keen on the blow-up thingys, so I haven’t photographed those.
Nor the keel-over-inducing light shows (even when coordinated with music).
Give me a loaded, over-the-top, plain old, static light show any day.
Or night, as it were.
Once we have oooh’d and aaah’d for a good while, then comes the hard part.
We have to choose.
We each get one thank-you card, that we filled out before we left the house:
“Thank you for your beautiful lights. Your house was our favourite!”
We don’t sign our names. We simply slip the thank-you card into their mailbox.
It’s seriously festive and fun.
Then, we return home to our own festively-adorned, albeit slightly bulge-y Not-So-Great Room and cuddle up.
Even though I don’t think I’m quite at Griswold level of festive decor, I can still love those who are.
I’m just too lazy for that sort of outdoor, holiday hulla-balloo.
Forget the 12 Days of Christmas, I’m all about the 12 Days of Pajamas.
Happy New Year to me!
Except, that after all the Disturbing Disappearance of Decor, our Not-So-Great Room will soon look like the Nearly-Naked Room.
Naked, I say, in January.
Please agree with me that naked in Canada in January is sometimes not such a good look.
‘Tis the Season for down-filled puffy coats, thank goodness.
But, having no such down-filled puffy coats for the Not-So-Great Room, it has to spend the first parts of the new year standing around, naked.
Naked in the season of diet and exercise commercials galore.
Naked in the season of resolutions and recriminations.
After a little while, we get used to our naked, Not-So-Great Room again and can see it for all the beauty that it holds.
Unadorned and lovely, in its year-round state.
Perhaps, a lesson for us all.