vasco de graceland.

Once, a handsome man with light blue eyes and a mischievous grin was at his local Goodwill. It was his day off. He was not looking for anything specific. Though he could use a new belt and maybe some work shoes, mostly he was just checking out what was new this week to see if anything caught his fancy.

His fancy was caught by a conquistador in a golden helmet. From across the room, he saw the painting and his interest was piqued. But when he got closer, he discovered - alas!- that the piece was a velvet painting. Now, painting on velvet is a very old and established technique. Marco Polo brought the idea and the fabric over to Europe, and there are velvet paintings in the Vatican. However, this particular medium has been tainted. In the 1970s, there were assembly lines in Mexico producing velvet paintings of Elvis and John Wayne and wolves, where they then went to live in people's basements with orange shag carpets and chrome lamps. Because of this, any velvet painting ever, even the ones in the Vatican, are tinged with the funk of kitsch.
The young man, disappointed, was just about to put down the painting, which he liked but which was, through the association of countless velvet Elvises, incurably tacky. Then he remembered something.

His fiancee has always wanted a velvet painting.

Since he has committed himself to marrying this woman, to tying his life to hers for the duration, it is possible, even likely, that he may someday find himself tied to a velvet painting. And if that's going to be the case, it might as well be one that he himself also likes, rather than one of the thousands of other velvet paintings which are tacky for being themselves, rather than this one, which was only tacky by association.

He flipped the painting over to see the price, scribbled in black Sharpie on the back of the frame: $8. So he bought the velvet conquistador. And later that afternoon, he made his fiancee very, very happy.


party planning committee.

I met with my wedding planner last night.

Ugh, I know. I go back and read that statement and I am already annoyed with myself. Doesn't "wedding planner" seem like such an unnecessary job? The fact that a title like that exists indicates that society has gone nuts and is too concerned about the wrong things in life. Not that I have much idea what the right things are, but planning weddings is not in the list.

I guess the idea is that throwing a wedding is stressful, not to mention time and labor-intensive. Most people who are doing it have not done it before, so they should hire a professional, right? I guess that makes sense, but I just don't want to pay money for this service. I'm cheap, and weddings are already expensive.

The thing is, it did not take me long after my engagement to figure out that some women are just not that into wedding stuff, and I am one of them. If someone was offering to take care of the wedding stuff and I just had to show up, that would be pretty darn okay with me. Men get to do that. It is completely acceptable for a groom's eyes to glaze over with disinterest as soon as someone starts talking about invitations and centerpieces. But I'm supposed to care deeply. And I tried, but I don't. I feel like a failure as a woman.

It's not that I don't care at all. But while getting engaged seems to be an excuse to look at magazines and blogs for hours on end, filling a folder with pictures and ideas, I haven't been interested in doing any of that.

Back in high school, when I was going to prom, the mother of my boyfriend called and asked me what color of rose I wanted in my corsage. There were two options, and I swear I think they were both some shade of red, though the descriptions were meant to obfuscate that fact. I told her that either one would be fine, because it didn't matter to me. She insisted that I pick one, because I might care someday. If I didn't care about a flower I wore on my wrist for a few hours when it was actually happening, why would I care later? But I picked one, and it was fine. At least, I don't remember anything about the corsage other than the telephone conversation about the color.

That's how I feel about wedding stuff. It's all one big day of corsages, and I'm supposed to spend months picking out the colors.

So I hired a planner. I offered to pay one of my friends, Carney, who is not a professional, but is already more interested in my wedding than I am. When she found out that we were engaged, she asked all kinds of questions that I hadn't even known were part of it. While the idea of paying some random stranger who really likes weddings to care about my big day sounds awful, I don't mind paying someone I know, who cares both because she likes weddings and because she likes me and Josh. Problem solved.

I met with her last night, our first planning session. We looked through some magazines she brought, and I quickly got bored. Looking through wedding magazines is a lot more fun when you're not actually planning one. If you are just imagining some future fairy tale event, it can be anything you want. But when you are thinking of an actual date and an actual man, it's not as fun. Anything you want probably costs too much.

We didn't decide anything. We did determine that I was not very interested in wedding planning. She frustrated me by asking about my official wedding colors and I frustrated her by being stubborn, obtuse, and generally uncooperative.

But I realized that hiring Carney was a great decision. Not only is she genuinely interested in the whole thing, she does a good job of figuring out what I want. Because if you ask me a question like, "What is your theme going to be?" I just sort of scowl and ask whether I have to have a theme, themes are stupid. But then she started asking me specific questions that were less about weddings and more about what kind of things Josh and I like, and those questions were easier.

I feel much more confident about being able to pull the whole thing off. She can tell me that I have to pick a corsage color (or a theme or a centerpiece), and then she can help me figure out the answer. I mean, it may be pulling teeth for her, but I'm feeling pretty good about it.


monday, 11:21 pm.

There is a poetry club happening in my kitchen, spontaneously, because that's the way these things happen. Just hours ago, there had been a pile of laundry on my kitchen table.

Here, in the living room, I sit, reading other people's blogs on my phone (while sitting next to the laptop). Remix is chewing on a Nylabone while lying on a partially destroyed old comforter in the corner.

There's no point to this. That's just what's happening.


how to fix a dishwasher.

How to Fix a Dishwasher That is Not Washing Dishes at All, Merely Heating Them

  1. Notice that your dishwasher is not working. Pressing the START button makes the panel light up, but then nothing happens. When the lights go off, signifying that the dishwasher has completed, notice that the dishes are still dirty. This is the main indicator of a broken dishwasher.
  2. Press the start button again. Notice once more how the lights go on but no running water sounds occur. Open the door, confirm that there is no water inside. Close the door again, shrug, and allow the machine to heat the dishes up once again.
  3. Take out the removeable trays that hold the dishes in the dishwasher. Make sure the spinny things spin. See that there is a toothpick in the bottom. Pull it out. Run the machine again to see if the toothpick was the problem. Find out that it was not.
  4. Notice that some parts are merely clipped inside the dishwasher. Take them out. Having done that, notice that other parts are merely held in with screws. Attempt to remove them, but become immediately foiled by the fact that you've never seen a screw with a design like that.
  5. Google "star shaped screw." Learn what a torx screw is.
  6. Get ready to go to store for a torx screw set. Realize you already have one in your multi-set screwdriver and that you'd always wondered what it was.
  7. Unscrew and remove more parts from the dishwasher. Find more toothpicks, as well as broken glass shards and a whole lot of gross stuff that probably used to be food.
  8. Find a piece that won't come out. Pull harder. When it finally gives and comes out of the dishwasher with a motor attached, realize that you probably should not have pulled that part out. Put it back.
  9. Run the dishwasher again. Notice that it is still broken.
  10. Decide that you must pull the dishwasher out from under the counter to really find the problem. Unscrew the two screws holding the dishwasher to the underside of the counter. Wonder if those are the only thing really holding it in there.
  11. Try to pull the dishwasher out. Determine that there are more things holding the dishwasher, namely a water pipe, a drainage pipe, and an electrical cord. Try to pull out the dishwasher anyway.
  12. Get to point where you cannot pull dishwasher out any further because of electrical connection.
  13. Use a flashlight to look around under dishwasher through gap created by pulling it out a few inches. Notice that it is very very dusty.
  14. Follow the water connection to a hose on the right side of the dishwasher, where it dumps into a plastic container that you suspect goes into the interior of the machine. Decide to test your theory by dumping water directly into it. Realize the challenge of this, since the dishwasher is still mostly under the counter. Decide that a long-necked watering can would be perfect for this experiment.
  15. Remember that you do not own a watering can. You happened to see some really cute ones shaped like hippos at Target last week for only a dollar, but you did not buy it because you don't have any houseplants.
  16. Locate a straw, a funnel, and some duct tape. Combine appropriately.
  17. Put the straw end into the plastic water compartment. Pour a glass of water into the funnel.
  18. Wipe all the water off the floor.
  19. Take apart straw/funnel contraption. Do a better job attaching them with the duct tape. Test new design over the sink.
  20. Put the straw end into the plastic water compartment. Pour a glass of water into the funnel.
  21. Check the inside of the dishwasher. Notice that it is now wet. You have confirmed that water that comes out of the hose goes into the dishwasher, but you've forgotten why you ever wanted to know.
  22. Remember that you are trying to find out why the water is not coming into the dishwasher.
  23. Decide to test the hose that empties into the plastic water compartment. Attempt to remove it. Rip off the plastic thing instead, which was apparently glued on.
  24. Try to reattach the plastic thing, but be thwarted by the fact that you've got about one inch of space to maneuver your hand, since the dishwasher continues to be mostly under the counter.
  25. Realize that you will have to pull the dishwasher all the way out. Use the flashlight to follow the electrical cord from a metal box attached to the dishwasher all the way to a hole in the floor. Wonder why anyone would design a system that had to be plugged in under the house.
  26. To avoid going down into the crawlspace, try some more to stick the plastic thing on. Decide that you need more room to maneuver, but the cabinets are in the way, so take the doors off, just because at least you know how to do that.
  27. Lie in the floor and think about how creepy it is in the crawlspace, particularly on the side directly underneath the dishwasher, where it is actual crawlspace, rather than crouchspace.
  28. Go watch TV for a while.
  29. Take the flashlight down to the crawlspace. Check for snakes or spiders. Scare a few camel crickets. Crouch-walk until there is not room. Use the flashlight to look around. Crawl on your hands and knees until there is not room. Scan the room with the flashlight again. Crawl on your elbows and belly until you are all the way to the wall. Realize that the electrical cord looks exactly the same down here, so it's actually probably connected in that little metal box underneath the dishwasher. Feel like an idiot.
  30. Go take a shower.
  31. Watch more TV.
  32. Call your mother
  33. Google "how to disconnect a dishwasher." Learn about the removeable panel on the front of the dishwasher, below the door.
  34. Turn off the power to the dishwasher at the breaker box. Be thankful that previous owners labeled everything.
  35. Turn off the water to the dishwasher under the sink using a wrench. Think about all the tools you're getting to use today.
  36. Remove the panel at the bottom of the dishwasher.
  37. Remove the little metal box hiding the electrical connection. Disconnect the electrical connection.
  38. Disconnect the water pipe.
  39. Decide that the drainage hose can probably just stretch out far enough.
  40. Pull the dishwasher out from under the counter.
  41. Easily stick the plastic water compartment back onto the side.
  42. Push the dishwasher back under the counter.
  43. Reconnect the water pipe.
  44. Reconnect the electrical connection.
  45. Push the start button, just for kicks. Hear the sound of water running into the dishwasher. Use the flashlight to confirm that no water is dripping onto the floor.
  46. Feel triumphant that you fixed your own dishwasher, even if you're not sure what you did and you did take a completely unnecessary crawl through the dirt underneath the house.
  47. When the cycle is finished, put all the pieces back into the dishwasher, including the racks of dirty dishes. Run the cycle again.
  48. Go online and brag on social media that you totally rock at fixing your own dishwasher. Leave out most of the story.


really unfinished.

Not to speak ill of the dead, but I went to the estate sale of some bona fide hoarders today. Not that hoarding is necessarily bad as long as it doesn't interfere with your quality of life. And in fact, it makes for a great estate sale. The whole house was full. It was so full that the people running the sale couldn't even bother to price everything individually. So they priced the nice items, the antiques and whatnot, and then left everything else up for negotiation.

In fact, there were even parts of the house that hadn't been thoroughly excavated. In both the attic and the basement, there were rooms that looked like they hadn't been touched in years and years and years. I guess at some point, the estate sale people have to draw a line. They will not go through any more dusty crap, but they will allow any willing customers to go through the dusty crap. If you find something good in there, they will kindly sell it to you. I came across a man in the basement who was filling a box with carburetors. Why were they there? Why did he want them? As someone with my own particular taste in treasures, I've learned not to ask.
The weird thing about this basement is that it was unfinished. Really, really unfinished. There were big rocks in the middle that I guess they couldn't get out, so they just dug around them, installed shelves on the side and stored some more of their junk.

Besides hoarders, people with interesting hobbies make for good estate sales. These people qualified on both counts. Scuba, anyone?

Someone in the house was really into ceramics. There were shelves and shelves full of homemade dishes, figurines, and novelty items like lighters. There were two kilns, making today only the second time I've ever seen a kiln secondhand. I saw a sign in the really unfinished basement about student projects, so maybe someone taught a pottery class right in the home.

Oh yes, and the dolls. Some people are into dolls, but you probably already knew that. However, the people who are interested in both dolls and ceramics can make their own dolls. In addition to the dolls, doll cases, and doll books, there were doll parts everywhere. Legs, arms, bald heads with no eyes, it was all there for me to buy as much as I wanted. Which was none of it. There was also a whole wall of cabinets full of doll hair. I don't particularly like dolls, but partial dolls and fake hair give me the willies, particularly when I'm trapped with them in what appears to be some sort of bunker.
I did buy a tall green glass bottle/vase. It was sitting in the basement, next to one of those machines with a belt that you strap around yourself to jiggle the fat away. Like everything else in there, it was sad and musty, but something about the shape and the color caught my eye. Then as I was looking at it, someone breezed by and told me I could have it for $2. Which seemed like a good price for a dirty, slightly cracked bottle out of someone's basement, but maybe I have a weird value system.
As I was toting my glass monstrosity through the house, several people mentioned that they also had noticed it, sitting amongst the carburetors. One of them, an antique dealer, said he almost bought it, but said he didn't know enough about glass to risk it. He probably didn't know that it was $2. He said it was definitely hand-blown glass and may be more than 100 years old.

I have no idea if any of that is true. I'm not an antique dealer. I just like to shop in other people's basements.


regular dog things.

We were on a pack walk one day - a pack walk meaning me, Josh, and Remix - when we came upon a group of our neighbors shooting the breeze in the street. Our neighborhood is very low-traffic, being thirty or so houses and no outlet, so using the street for a chat or a game of roller hockey is not uncommon. One neighbor we knew. He introduced us to his son and another neighbor, Carl. We've lived there for more than three years, and have done a miserable job of getting to know everyone. But something about the number of trees in the neighborhood suggest that maybe we're surrounded by other introverts.

Remix is hit and miss with strangers. She has growled at them, which was thoroughly embarrassing (she growls while backing away, so it's not an aggressive growl, but still). Even when she just wants to go give them a slobbery kiss, she looks like a big and scary dog. I keep treats in a little bag attached to the leash, so I can make her sit. She has gotten much better about not straining the leash to go personally meet everyone we pass, but sometimes, for whatever Remix reason, she wants to go make a friend. If she really likes them, she'll jump on them. Lots of dogs do this, but not all of them are sixty pound pitbulls.

Part of owning a pitbull is noticing all the things that other dogs do, regular dog things, that my dog could never ever get away with.

But when we met this little group of neighborly neighbors, she was great. She sniffed each new friend, but Carl took a step back, clearly not wanting to interact with her at all. I shortened the leash to remove him from her circle of influence. Carl said he didn't do big dogs. I've seen his wife walking their dog before. It's a chihuahua. When it sees Remix, it starts barking and pulling at the leash. Heart of a lion, that one. Of course, all that riles up Remix, who starts pulling at the leash to go meet this noisy little rat. Then the owner of the chihuahua simply picks it up, while I'm wrapping the leash around my wrist over and over, my feet planted as I engage in a mighty struggle an animal that may be stronger than I am, but who doesn't push it.

Remix was getting a little jumpy with her new best friends, so I got out a treat and held it in a loose fist at my side. She sat very nicely and kept her attention on me, occasionally sniffing or nosing at my hand to see if she could unlodge the delicious corn-based bone-shaped processed treat. I wondered if Carl thought I was nuts, putting my own hand in between a pitbull and what it wants.

He told a story about his cousin, who had a pitbull, a nice family dog that one day attacked their toddler. The little girl has had nearly 20 operations to repair the damage wrought by sharp teeth and strong muscles. During the attack, the mother only got the dog to stop by shooting it. And then animal rights people came and protested at her house.

It was uncomfortable hearing this story, about a terrible terrible thing that happened to a family, while my own pet monster sunned herself on the warm pavement. There was nothing to say, except to commiserate with how awful it must have been. I have lots of things I can say when people talk about pitbull attacks (statistics, differences in the level of media attention give to attacks by other breeds, the difficulty many people have in identifying an actual pitbull), but I did not try and defend pitbulls in general or my dog specifically. He had given his statement on the matter, and my statement rolled over in case anyone wanted to rub her tummy.

I trust Remix. Her favorite games are the kind she can play with her teeth, and in the course of a few games of tug, my hand has gotten in the way. Whenever that happens, she immediately corrects her grip. Remix knows that play is play, and no one will play with you if you bite them. I've sat and held tempting sticks in front of me. She stalks, then runs and pounces, but again she knows how to control herself so that only gets the stick. If she has something that I actually want (rather than something that I pretend to want for the sake of the game), I can get her to let go of it by putting my finger into her mouth.

But awful things happen. All kinds of dogs attack, family dogs, even chihuahuas. Pitbulls are capable of tremendous damage. My dog could kill someone. If I were being attacked, having such a powerhouse in my pack would be great. But can a dog always tell when that level of force is needed?

As we continued on our pack walk, Josh asked if I thought we should get rid of Remix when we have children. I shrugged. Wait and see.