Archive for category Austin

The day water poured from the side of the toilet.

That was Wednesday. To keep the story short (and as sweet as anything involving sewage can be), it took the industrial sized mega rooter to clear the 90+ years of accumulated sludge to allow water to exit from the house somewhere other than onto the bathroom floor. Original cast iron plumbing–that’s how we’re keeping it real.

I would elaborate on the story, but really I think there’s a more expressive medium: a television ad. Like greeting cards, there’s one for every occasion.

Not following? Then watch this (and scroll below it to see the transcript).

Pickle you, kumquat indeed.


Not the Saturday I had in mind.

The day up, agreed upon in advance, was a hell of a lot of home-owning-errandy-work stuff. Not a thrilling time, but the sort of stuff that gives one a sense of accomplishment afterwards. We’d get that done and then enjoy the evening.

First it was the ceiling fan. This entailed dealing with the light fixture, an ugly and cheap thing whose removal from the ceiling also caused the paint to come up in two spots. The existing electrical box was poorly installed and nothing at all like what we saw in the diagrams in the instruction booklet or in any number of sites on line that purport to help (I’m not linking to any of them, they don’t deserve it).

After admitting defeat on the fan, we called the Large Open Warehouse of Essential homeowner Stuff and arranged for an installation. Or, rather, we started the process only to be told we’d have to come in to sign the paperwork. Fine. Now we assembled the bed. The previous bed did not survive the move well and was prone to rocking, creaking, and cracking.

The bed was not difficult, nor was it irritating. It just took a long time. About three hours in total. The old bed (and our mattress) spent the afternoon in the garden, enjoying the sun and lovely breeze. We moved the mattress back in, vacuumed it, wrangled it back into its cover, and enjoyed a bed that did not threaten to split or collapse. The old frame was moved to the curb with a sign that said FREE NEEDS WORK.

Now tired and sore, we needed food. A congratulatory burger? Excellent! But first we must deal with the Large Open Warehouse of Essential homeowner Stuff. Here I’ll offer a simple summary: it took 45 minutes to sign and pay for installation of a fan. I don’t know why.

Now for that burger! We saw a parking spot right by the door, pulled in, and immediately witnessed a suburban dad shove a homeless guy in the alley in front of us. The homeless man stumbled a few steps before the dad threw him to the ground, right in front of our car. I called 911 to report what was going on, and got out of the car to get suburban dad’s vehicle information (since he heroically jumped in his pickup truck and sped away). Yongi was talking to the homeless man and then told me to get in the car. Apparently the guy had threatened to kill him, and informed him that “some shit was goin’ down.” I was still on the phone with 911, giving them a play by play of the action even as it made less and less sense.

OK, burger attempt #2. There’s a decent place down the street and around the corner. We park and see there’s live music tonight. At this point I could weep. A police officer calls me back and asks for more details on the rampaging homeless man. Immediately after he hangs up, the homeless man starts ambling across the parking lot. I try to call the police back but get the main number, am shunted to the non-emergency line and then shunted back to 911. I can’t just give an update, they want the whole miserable thing retold.

We leave, seeking food as far from this area as we can manage. I order something entirely not a burger.

Did I mention that we originally had plans for the evening? Wonderful plans? Totally crushed and abandoned plans? No, it really didn’t matter at that point anyway.

post script: On Sunday we get a call regarding the fan installation. The installer is on vacation and won’t call until Friday at the earliest. There’s no one else who can do it, and we should call if this is a problem. Yongi tells me to take a deep breath and not call just that minute. On the plus side, the gaping hole and wires sprouting from the bedroom ceiling sort of look like a stingray.


The little froggie cure for the blues

The torrential and entirely unseasonable rains Texas has experienced has created a paradise for critters. Birds are double clutching and there are the impatient squawks of baby grackles everywhere. Fortunately, there are also temporary ponds filled with tadpoles. I haven’t seen such masses of wriggling commas since I was a kid in upstate New York. The grackles have discovered this and have taken turns fishing–the only other footprints at one pond were those of feathered frogeaters.

It didn’t take long to find a couple of jars and a small net. We had a spare two gallon aquarium, already outfitted with rocks and gravel. Dechlorinate a little water, grab some algae and little snails from the tank, and voila–almost!

Tadpoles are really dumb. If they change into a froglet and there is not an easy beach for them to climb upon when their gills close, they will just drown. Really, really dumb. I added a few flat rocks so that the poor things didn’t bump themselves so easily out of gene pool.

Such tiny little things swimming around, bumping into rocks or other tadpoles, burrowing face down in the gravel until they get distracted. little elbow nubbins poking out… these things are incredibly funny. Last night one made the transition from water breather to air breather. Its tail had shrunk to a goofy nubbin by morning, and now clings to the wall an inch above the water. One of today’s errands includes a trip to the pet store for Frog & Tadpole Bites.

Three others are ready to make the change soon, loitering at the edge of the water. Their brief moment in the spotlight as The Missing Link awaits. That still leaves about nine in various states of transformation, meaning anywhere from two to eight weeks more enjoyment from these littlest-fingernail sized beasties. Once they’ve transformed and beefed up a bit, they are destined to live in the garden and (hopefully) keep me from being eaten alive by mosquitoes.

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Lawn Mower and Weed Whacker Joint Hunt For Missing Bike

AUSTIN (AP)- In a show of solidarity with their former garage-mate the Schwinn Cruiser, the Briggs & Stratton Lawn Mower and the Black and Decker Rechargeable Weed Whacker have taken to the streets to recover their missing comrade.

Working in tandem, they cleverly pried the hasp off the front garage door sometime between 10:30 AM and 6 PM as reported by the neighbors. The police already on the case of the missing bike were clearly impressed by this unanticipated show of bravery and fortitude. “They must have already known what they were going for,” Detective Rodriguez said, “and they worked quickly so as not to attract attention.”

In their haste to join the bike the Weed Whacker neglected to take its charger. Their owners, concerned that other objects may also be bold enough to leave, have taken drastic measures to secure the garage. Anyone seeing a red and black lawn mower and an orange and black rechargeable electric trimmer loose on the street should call the Austin Police so that these two can be commended for their efforts and returned to their garage where they can be fueled and recharged.


Motherfucker stole my bike

My stolen bike

Originally uploaded by patita pirata

At some time around 2:30 PM, some degenerate took the trowel that was on my back porch, forced open the door on my garage, and made off with my bike. Whoever it was left their skanky set of wheels in its place, probably just another stolen bike itself.

The police have already been here, I’ve got a case number and have made up flyers to post at local bike shops and around the neighborhood.

I don’t know what I can do to dispel the anger. It was a beautiful bike, and a present from Yongi for my 30th birthday.


The most beautiful thing I’ve seen all week.

Driven past the limits of typical behavior, exhausted, wet, and not able to wash and dry a load of laundry in the house since the 11th of June–this is the most wondrous sight. Both doors open the same way. They are stacked, as intended. The vent connects to the back and to the wall at the same time. More magical than unicorn kisses.

The move was, or rather is, a strange test of wits and skill. The fact that it has rained or threatened with vile humidity the whole time has not made the situation any easier. Weekends are no longer great lazy stretches occasionally interspersed with an errand or two (not that they were really like that before, but I digress).

The last stretch of this can at least be accomplished in clean, dry clothing.


Everything is bigger in Texas

When I returned from many miles of wandering the ditches of the Texas Panhandle, I found this behemoth in the garden.

Under the leaves, it looked like a piece of black pipe. Then I realized it was attached to the plant–that it had grown there. A massive mutant Black Eel Zucchini! In May! Strange and wonderful.

It was delicious in a chipotle sauce. Next time we’ll try one with tomatillos.


Less than an acre and a chicken tractor

As befits spring, things have been busy with growth and change and activity. In addition to move-related things, I’ve established a garden plot at a community garden in our new neighborhood. As part of the deal with the Sustainable Food Center, I’ve agreed to share part of what I grow with other people.

When you’re out there working a fork to break up a brand new plot, it’s a good bet that anyone walking by will have a question or a comment. One older gentleman even offered to lend a hand when he saw me struggling with a nasty clump of invasive grass. Another wanted to know how early I’d started my tomatoes (I bought them as starters from another community garden in town). It’s been a long time since I felt like part of a neighborhood, so it’s good to have some familiar faces around before we even move in.

Gardening runs in the family, and not just the little pottering around beds. I’m talking full scale growing for fresh and canning things that take up the yard and the sweet time in the evening after work when the sun is still up and the air has cooled a bit. Checking the leaves, weeding, and watering are just the thing to ease into a good night. I helped my grandparents in their garden and worked at my mother’s greenhouse until i moved down to Texas. Getting back to the soil, especially stuff as wonderfully black and fertile as I’ve got, is refreshing.

When I was meeting with the organizer to establish my plot, we got on the subject of chickens. For reasons unfathomable to Yongi, I’ve wanted to keep a couple of chickens. He was hoping they could be kept at the community garden. The organizer suggested that I could set up a chicken tractor on my plot in the off season. Immediately I saw a team of chickens hitched up to a plow and wondered how that could possibly work. Luckily, my vision was incorrect.

Yongi’s still not sure that a pair of hens will improve his life, and for the time being I’ve agreed to hold off lobbying. We’ve got enough going on now, but come next year I hope to have some help weeding and fertilizing my plot!

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Saturday night, out with friends, leaving the restaurant and headed back to the house to play board games (oh what hijinx married couples get ups to), driving down a busy residential street.

There is a man writhing in pain on the sidewalk. No one else is around. Yongi pulls over, my door is open before the car has stopped. The man is not responding, he’s on all fours trying to get up. I see his red shirt, his dark skin, his black hair. I run back to the car.

Yongi tells me to call 911 (the emergency dispatch number). I give our location, explain that he’s not respond but moving. They will send an ambulance. Our friends and I go to him to see what is wrong, he’s still not responding. I realize he may not speak English and run back to the car to get Yongi.

We couldn’t understand his explanation, but his chest was clearly hurting him and his knuckles were scraped. A car hit him, some guys jumped him, there was a drunken argument? He was in pain, clutching his side. We tried to explain that we had called for help, that an ambulance would come and they would take him to the hospital. His eyes widened. “No police!”

How do you say ambulance in Spanish?

“Emergencia vehiculo” was our best guess. “No, no!” we said. Yongi tried again to explain that there would be no police, just a doctor to help him. He said he was going home. Down the dark street, he pointed in the direction of some apartments. We confirmed that it was a short distance, and that he would be OK if he went home. At this point he shook Yongi’s hand. “Thank you.” He waved thanks to me as well and slunk off into the night.

The ambulance called me back and I had to tell them that he’d left the scene. We couldn’t see where he’d gone down the street, so they asked me to call if we saw him again.

Sure, I said. In the distance, a siren stopped.

I drove to the house, not far away. I could still smell his cologne in the air. We tried to come up with happy endings to the story. Maybe he just bruised a rib. Or he didn’t have money to pay the medical bill. All different ways of not saying the real reason. All different ways of thinking he was just like us, with civil rights and protection under the law. We hold these truths to be self-evident, but we stood there in the dark watching a man run away from help out of fear.

The Spanish word for ambulance is “ambulencia”.


Where did those two weeks go?

My mother worked in the office with my great grandfather, patriarch of the family business. He confided in her that the months passed by like weeks. Sitting at the peak of 80 years old, I can see where perspectives shift.

In any case, the past two weeks have been spent in furious activity, emotional tension, and geographical exploration. In other words, looking at houses to purchase. Yongi and I seek to become landed gentry, and damn if it’s not a complicated process. A friend joked that we should get in a house before the next season of wheat needs to be sewn, lest we be obligated to help the landlord through the harvest.

If I ever get my hands on some property, I promise to plant some wheat in honor of our “freedom” (as mortgages are anything but free).