Greetings, friends and readers. I write you today from the remodeling hell that is Retirement Acres East.
It’s a long story. We’ll talk all about it someday. In the meantime, I’m organizing a coup against the HOA. In last month’s newsletter (which they don’t mail), Neighbor Inez wrote in her front-page column that she was vexed by the barking of a dog, and if she located the source of that barking her neighbors could be fined up to $100 per day. No word on where this money goes, but I have a few opinions on some very mildewed vinyl siding. Welcome to the neighborhood!
In another column, the West neighbors are exhorted to watch their water usage carefully. Water bills are paid by the HOA, which never had such high water bills in their day. If you get caught with the dishwasher running while you’re gone, the punishment will be severe, and the HOA is working with the city to find out who is overusing water. Later that same evening, we received an emergency email that all of the West condos had been turned off due to a massive leak discovered under townhouse 2. On what is assuredly an unrelated note, Agnes next door has been watering the grass in front of her unit from 3-5 every afternoon. We’ve been in a drought since mid-July, but nobody seems to have any questions about why Agnes has the only grass in the zip code that isn’t brown and crunchy.
These are interesting distractions from the fact that my non-functional kitchen has been ripped out since mid-September. Workers arrive mysteriously, as from a void. They mumble words such as “joist” and “dammit” before disappearing into some dark netherworld of contracted workers, with nary a whisper of when or if they’ll return. In an unsettling development, most of the drywall has also been ripped out of the laundry room.
“Effing jumps,” the surly electrician explains. It does not sound like a command. It sounds like a lament, ancient and longing and disgusted. She vanishes. Probably not into the laundry room.
“Here’s what it comes down to,” Dad says. I have called him in to supervise, help, hector, and control the kitchen workers to the extent they can be any of those things. Plus, it gives him something to do other than explain to Mom how she’s putting the trash in the can wrong. “Here’s what it comes down to: you need new windows on the top floor because none of those windows will open unless you slam a chair through them and that’s just unsafe.”
“Any word on when the stove will be out of the living room?”
“You can get all five windows replaced for $8000. They have a lifetime warranty, plus they open and close.”
“That’s…just, a ton of money and the kitchen isn’t done. When is the contractor going to level the cabinets? All the plates are going to slide out.”
“He’s gone on a cruise. He’ll be back no later than Thanksgiving.”
“Dad, that’s a month from now. How could you let him get away?! We’ve had this job scheduled since June!”
“Well, he won’t be in the way of the window workers, will he?”
“I…what do you mean in their way?”
“I had them come out and measure yesterday. The new windows should be here in three weeks.”
“YOU SAID THEY WERE $8000, OLD MAN. HOW MUCH BLOOD DO YOU THINK I CAN SELL?”
He resumes swiffering the kitchen floor.
“Stop shouting. You’ll strain your voice and Neighbor Inez might mistake you for a barking dog. Let your grandfather pay for the windows. It’ll serve him right.”
He died in February. He was Mom’s father, hence Dad spending his money.
“Cheap bastard had the same windows in his house from 1962 until the day he sold it, had the nerve to complain to me about his power bill. You could see the damn curtains blowing around in the living room every time the wind was over 10 miles an hour.”
“Was that the problem? I just thought they never turned on the heat.”
“There’s a reason your grandma always had paper weights on the napkins. Speaking of curtains…”
Which is how Dad found himself in an antique store watching me look for consignment curtains. Look: the country club set here redecorates every six years and consigns all their stuff to these little small places. There’s not a chance I’m turning down custom curtains at Bed, Bath, and Beyond prices.
“We have six of those,” the sales lady said. “You can pick the two you like best.”
“What’s the price?” Dad asked from the sidelines. “Because there’s a definite point we could just go buy new ones.”
“You wanted to do this,” I muttered.
“Forty dollars a panel for these,” she beamed.
“Hot damn! Sold!” I answered gleefully, snatching up two before she could change her mind, staggering under the weight of them.
“I’ll just go set it up!” She all but sprinted for the register, leaving Dad and I to gather up approximately 100 yards of lined curtains. With tassels.
“Damn is right,” he continued. “What are these curtains made of? Lead?!”
“Will you hush? She just sold us $500 of designer curtains for less than $100. Do not screw this up for me. I am not going to Bed Bath and Beyond to buy curtains that cost exactly the same amount for one third the quality.”
“We’re also going to have to find something to hang these on, which should make the price a lot less attractive. And also what are you going to do with the abomination hanging on your bedroom window now?”
(The lady who owned the condo before I did was *really* into window treatments. Like, really massive ’80s window treatments. Miami Vice era window treatments. Curtains with shoulder pads, if you will. We had already removed these massive, dusty relics from three other rooms. It’s not every day you have to use a hacksaw on the curtains, but it’s been three for us so far.)
“Consign them, maybe. Give them to Goodwill.”
“Not sure how much Goodwill needs 300 pounds of sun-damaged curtains with butterflies on them.” He thinks I was too far away to hear that. I wasn’t. It’s another problem for later.
It’s important for you to know at this point that the lady who originally owned my condo was the society florist for Retirement Acres East. She helped found FTD. I’ve seen pictures; if Barbie had ever been a florist, she would have looked like Anna Sue. She arranged bouquets and centerpieces and big complicated floral things until well into her 90s, and apparently was extremely precise on what flowers should be used at her funeral. There is evidence all over the place that she was quite crafty and also of the mindset that everyone should just get out of her way so she could do it herself. She even had her very large custom work station moved from the house she sold to her condo. Her children didn’t bother to empty the contents before they sold the condo because, except for the three bottles in the wine cabinet, none of it could be sold for profit. (What a pair. And if I had to guess, they’re also litigious brats.)(I don’t have to guess.). Anyway.
“I think this isn’t a curtain rod,” Dad said from atop the ladder. “Curtain rods come apart. Usually when you don’t want them to.”
“Is there something specific I should be doing?”
“Don’t stand on the curtains. It just makes them heavier.”
“Should we check that ladder for a weight limit?”
“Point taken. Maybe if we can get these stupid swags down, we can see how these curtains are attached to the wall.”
I want you to believe me when I say the curtains in this place have been a horror show. Some were screwed directly into the window casing. One set was stapled to the wall.
“Oh,” Dad said. “They’re held up by pins.”
We’d already put curtain ring pins in the new curtains. They’re sharp, and they hate people. I’m still bleeding out of three fingers and probably need a tetanus shot.
He pulled pins for half an hour before the first swag collapsed into a dusty heap on the floor.
“You were supposed to catch that in the garbage bag so it wouldn’t spray dust everywhere.”
“Look, I don’t know what might fall out of these curtains. There’s no way I’m standing under them.”
Outside, a squirrel tried to dig his way in through the window pane. The glass in the storm windows broke out a long time ago, so the window is full of vacated hornets’ nests and mummified corpses of…let’s not think about what those might be.
“Just when I thought it couldn’t be any dumber,” Dad sighed. “These aren’t held on by pins. I mean, not curtain pins; they used hat pins.”
As a collector of things, I immediately got excited.
“Hat pins?! Sparkly ones?! Yes!!”
“No,” he answered. “Hat pins.”
He dropped six into my open hand.
You guessed it: corsage pins.
Thanks, Anna Sue.