With my column in two more days, I’m sipping coffee at 5 a.m., sitting at my old wooden desk that’s been dragged into the center of the dining room. A heavy orange extension cord runs from the back of the computer through piles of other haphazardly placed office supplies to an electrical outlet. My red velvet armchair with back rests to my left with the prized gold lamp of the Greek goddess behind it on a cluttered table. Beneath the parchment-colored bell screen with red beaded rim… the goddess has downcast eyes with hands on her head as if thinking, “This is what I left the Mediterranean for?” It will fall on deaf ears to tell her she moved for her own safety because there is a clogged drainpipe upstairs and one access through the ceiling of my office. Water is no friend of a lamp.
There are also cats around me, as always. I hear newspapers rustle and something crunching in the kitchen and something has fallen on the floor somewhere.
A few weeks ago I decided to add a male to the mix here because my two females needed a lively playmate. I got him from the shelter in Ely and named him Grady. He is full of love, has an easygoing personality and is a brilliant little thing even at 2.8 lbs. It is generally quite busy these days at the “House of Stone”. There’s still a lot to do before winter arrives, such as solving the current plumbing problem, staining the deck, laying the roll of new office carpet that takes up the necessary space in the hallway and kitchen, and cleaning the damn garage. I enjoy company and extra help as a former husband, constant friend, Bill is back. We’ve had our ups, downs and yet we chose NOT to go our separate ways after 16 months of separation. I went on a trip to Missouri in early June, he stayed in the house to watch the cats and never left! He then moved out of an apartment in Tower that he had rented. (House of Stone – West as I called it.) We’ve had a really nice summer biking, swimming, weekend trips and are back on projects as we’ve always enjoyed…except plumbing.
This old house was moved to the two lot lot sometime in the 1920’s or 1930’s, and a small upstairs bathroom was added with plumbing that needed a steeper drain than the space allowed. Last fall, when I lived here alone, the shower gradually stopped again. After trying the basic solutions, I gave up and chose to shower in the basement bathroom. One afternoon last week, Bill decided to deal with the situation. Using his hand-held hose, he tried to empty the shower drain as he had in the past, but this time with no luck. He then removed the rear shower panel and a few pieces of hardwood floors in an adjacent upstairs bedroom to get to the “guts.” The P-trap for the sink and shower in the upstairs bathroom must be accessed through a removable ceiling panel in my ground floor office. Clearing the pipes has not been successful so far, because the blockage is about two meters away from the P-trap. Why couldn’t this be easy? We’ve even brought up the big portable electric drain cleaner with no success, just a mess of working overhead. Bill thinks he knows where the clog is now, but to get to it he has to pull out the vanity, the linoleum, and some of the floorboards. The simple afternoon project is clearly moving into overtime.
We set up the tools last weekend, were joined by son Keaton and his fiancée Ashley, and set out to celebrate Bill’s birthday with miniature golf and dinner at Vermilion, followed by a few cocktails under the canopy lights at home on our deck. We were enjoying the atmosphere when we suddenly heard a lonely, unsteady wail coming through the darkness behind my birch trees. We turned off our music to listen and the sound stopped wondering if it was an animal or human source. Just then an ambulance with a row of eyebrow lights and no sirens came slowly up the avenue from the church corner and turned and drove through the darkness to Superior Street past my house and disappeared from view. I wondered who was in danger. Curiosity overcame the string of lights and delights that had preceded it, and Bill got up to take a walk in the dark. “Ambulance fighter,” I joked, chuckling and taking a sip of my wine. Bill was gone for a while, then reappeared from the shade of the birch trees along my empty lot that I call the vineyard. I remind you that there are no grapes, but I partially live in a fantasy world because too much reality is not fun at all. Bill reported that the wailing came from a large garage down the street attached to no house. He said the ambulance was parked in front of an old two-story house in need of paint with shabby window treatments and dim lighting that I’ve called “the haunted house.” At this point the children decided to take their basket of clean laundry, which we quickly folded and they went home and set us up on the street for further investigation. When my Crocs hit the curb and Bill got out of his side of the car opening a bottle of beer, the ambulance quietly rolled away and no one else in sight.
What a strange evening I thought. We hadn’t seen much in Sudan since the night of last July when a clumsy neighbor slammed into our side door just minding his own business. Glass flew, a handful of sheriffs arrived to restore calm to our corner lot. Further vivid details of that night are left to history.
In reality, we had actually gotten home just fifteen minutes earlier that July evening, and I was sitting back in my muumuu chuckling over details of a fun trip to Houghton and historic Hurley’s Silver Street, where we met a traveling gypsy pole dancer at The Idle Hour Saloon. She was nice and then offered me a thirty dollar lap dance because she had misjudged my motive of kindness. “Oh no, I just want to visit,” I replied, “after my jaw dropped. She was very interesting, tall and skilled at her craft and kept “one with the pole” during her performance, which she later explained as deliberate slow movements to relieve oncoming arthritis.Through the rigors of life, her face was in her mid-forties, while her body seemed ten years closer to the innocence of a girlish tap dance.Our intention was to visit an old tavern next door , called “Dawn’s Never Inn,” which is said to be haunted by the ghost of Lotta Morgan, a popular actress and scarlet woman who fell victim to an axe-wielding killer in the late 1800s. To my disappointment, that bar was closed, and I should have realized it was coming from the title Dawn’s Never Inn I must add I see pole dancing becoming an Olympic sport It occurred to me that women’s volleyball outfits are only a few strands more than a pole dancer costume. So many stories, so few words in one column.
In any case, Bill and I solved one of the mysteries on Superior Street in Sudan last night, concluding that an unlucky dog was locked in the garage. A truck was parked haphazardly outside in the grassy driveway and I felt so sorry for the lone animal, but decided to mind my own business and see what morning would bring. The first thing I did the next day… make coffee… was look out the kitchen window to see if the truck was gone and it was… so I knew I wasn’t going to march out into the street to leave a reprimanded PETA tone on a windshield. The dog was probably fine, and I came to the conclusion that it takes a lot of work to be a busy body, even in Sudan, and it’s best to remain a crazy cat lady minding her own business. interferes. The next mystery to be solved is the plumbing problem and I hope in my next column everything is functional and in place again.