Friday, October 31, 2008

Trick or Treat?

Must. Stop. Eating. Candy.

It was a perfectly GLORIOUS day outside, so it should be a beautiful evening. Can’t wait to see how many trick-or-treaters we’ll get. (Historically, 10-20, which shocked us. In our old neighborhood, it was more like 80!)

It should also be interesting to see how both Toby and Ozzie react. (Ozzie hates when people come to the door; Toby is generally afraid of EVERYTHING. He will likely spend the evening hiding.)

And so, I'm off to see what the evening holds ...

Happy Halloween!

Happy Friday and HAPPY HALLOWEEN.

I've been promising these for days now but it's hard to take outdoor photos -- that look right at least -- in the dark. So here's some shots of some of the decorations up at This D*mn House.

Here you can see almost all of it. If you look near the porch, at either side of the walkway, you can see the spider-webby yard stake I collided with the other morning. OUCH! (If you think they're hard to see in this photo, you should get how hard they are to see in the darkness of 6:30 a.m.!)

There is also another little sign on the other half of the yard (that I managed to not get in this photo) in addition to all of the stuff on the door and just outside it.

Then there's the stuff on the front door itself as well as on the mailbox and over to the side. The mother really gets into it, though this is pretty subtle.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Pretty (Cute) in Pink

As October winds down, so does the observance of Breast Cancer Awareness month. It's estimated that 1 in 8 women will face this dreaded illness in their lifetime. After skin cancer, it is the most common form of cancer in women.

The good news: It's not a death sentence. The bad news: We still don't have a cure. And it's to that end that I offer this photo. I received it today in an email. (So I'll apologize in advance for the poor quality.)

It is by far one of the cutest, sweetest, and most direct pleas to end this horrible disease that I've ever seen.

I hope we listen to this li'l lady ...

Bus Mother, Meet Birth Mother

Last night, the mother met me at the bus depot where I usually switch buses to grab the one that drives right in front of the house. We were heading for the other side of the river last night so this is a plan that usually works well.

Before I even got to the car, the mother was walking toward me. “The turn signal is burned out on the right.” I got into the driver’s seat to confirm and then flipped the glovebox open to see if I did have a spare left from my adventures in replacing the other side’s light some weeks back. Yeah! One left. I popped the trunk and scurried back to switch it out.

As I prepared to remove the idled bulb, I hear: “Need some help?” There stood my bus mother. You know, the one who is always watching for me. I always tell Teri when I'm taking vacation or driving to work so she doesn't look for me. I grinned and turned to the mother.

“Bus mother, meet birth mother,” at which point we all started laughing.

“I just love your daughter,” says bus mother. To which the mother says, “Thanks, I do, too.”

They chatted for a few minutes while I changed the bulb. A small wire hasp that holds the bulb firmly in place – something missing from the other side – dealt me a fit at first. Once I had it off though, the job was done in less than a minute.

I had to practically drag the mother away as the two had gotten onto the election, one of the mother’s favorite topics, reminding both of them that the virtually deserted bus station wasn’t a good place to be hangin’ after dark, and it nearly was dark. Almost as if to prove my point, a small group of somewhat scary folks began approaching from the far side of the lot. We said our goodbyes and jumped in our cars.

“She seems like a very nice lady,” says the mother as we pulled off. “And It’s good to have someone else watching out for you.”

No argument there.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Birthday Present

There’s a birthday coming up at This D*mn House! The problem has been trying to ensure that the birthday present doesn’t go to This D*mn House – until I take it there.

I bought the mother, whose birthday is next Friday, a Bose Sound Dock. The crappy little speaker/charger I bought with her iPod Shuffle on Mother’s Day has died. Rather than replace it with an equally ineffective piece of junk, I decided to look into a serious upgrade. And when I found one online at an amazing price, I decided to bite the bullet. (Even so, this is going to count for some of her Christmas, too.) I still have to buy an adapter for it, also. Ugh.

Ordering was no problem. The difficulty came with trying to have the item shipped to My D*mn Office. (It would kind of ruin the surprise for it to show up at home. Where the mother is. All day.) I regularly have things that I buy for her shipped to work as there really is almost no other way for me to retain the element of surprise.

Three emails and two phone calls to and two more from the credit card company and I think we’re finally clear. At least I think we are. Or, I hope we are. I did get an email this morning telling me that the item had shipped and should arrive Friday. Whew! I was beginning to think that a week wasn’t going to be long enough to get it here.

I do appreciate that both the merchant and my credit card company want to be sure I’m me. I guess that hassle beats the hassle of trying to prove I didn’t buy something, right?

Ever had difficulty buying something online and having it shipped anywhere other than home?

Cheap Gas and Detours

I was running late this morning. The combination of a cold morning and a snooze bar is not a good one.

As I sprang from the porch, bypassing my walkway entirely to cut through the yard, I collided with some of the mother’s holiday regalia. (I came home last night to find all sorts of Halloween decorations in place. It all looks rather festive, but in a mild kind of way so I’ll try to capture some photos this week.) I didn’t remember some of them in my haste this morning so I collided with a black 3-foot yard stake with little seasonal jinglies dangling from it that was stuck between the edge of the walkway and the rockline of the landscaping. Kind of like it jumped out and yelled, "BOO!" Hey, it was still dark.

Cute, but not so cute when it’s piercing your thigh. Luckily, it didn’t tear my slacks or even break the skin. It just left me with a small red welt. Painful little bugger though.

I limped along as fast as I could, watching for the bus all the while. But I’d also forgotten that the bus detoured last night thanks to a bubbling water line on the main drag. So as I rounded the corner, I wasn’t entirely sure that the bus would even pick me up because it would have to wind its way through a wicked maze of construction cones to do so.

I limped farther down the street relieved to see that the bus was indeed heading my way. I will have to pay special attention tomorrow though (unless I drive to the depot) as they may reroute the bus a block farther down to avoid the maze which would mean I’d need to leave a few minutes earlier. (Like that would happen.)

On the way through town, I saw that gas had dropped 29 cents from the lowest price I could find the other night (to $2.31 from $2.60). We’re going “down 270’ as we say tonight, and into St. Louis so I’m betting there will be even cheaper gas to be had there.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Time It Is A Changin'

In fact, it changes this weekend! The extra hour of light in the summer is awesome but I sure do hate both leaving for work and coming home in the dark.

Am I the only one confused by this shift that used to happen in October? I just thought I was confused until I did a quick look-up recently to confirm when the change was supposed to happen. What I found out was unbelievable.

1. You’d think that Benjamin Franklin might’ve had the idea with the old “early to bed, early to rise” crap. But no. It was actually created by some Brit annoyed by having to stop golfing at dusk!
2. Daylight savings time actually starting during World War I! I always thought it was a World War II product. According to the Daylight Saving Time page: “Daylight Saving Time was observed for seven months in 1918 and 1919. After the War ended, the law proved so unpopular (mostly because people rose earlier and went to bed earlier than people do today) that it was repealed in 1919 with a Congressional override of President Wilson's veto. Daylight Saving Time became a local option, and was continued in a few states, such as Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and in some cities, such as New York, Philadelphia, and Chicago.”
3. The practice reemerged as “War Time” during World War II (February 1942) but ended in September 1945.
4. For more than 20 years thereafter, the time change was optional, not only from state to state but from city to city. Good Lord! How did anyone ever know what time it was?!
5. The Uniform Time Act of 1966 changed all that. It set the standard for time, and for changing it which has happened in the 1970s, the 1980s, and again in 2007. (See, I knew this November stuff was weird!)

So Saturday night or early Sunday morning, depending on your perspective, I’ll be busy changing clocks.

Seems kind of unfair that about 15 minutes of that extra hour gets devoted to this activity. The stove. The microwave. The answering machine. The livingroom. The family room. The kitchen. The bathroom. And the most important one: the battery-run digital in my bedroom that gets me up for work every day.

And I don't even have to change the cable boxes, either of my computers or my cell phone. They'll take care of it themselves.

It occurs to me that with all those devices to give you the time, no one in my house should ever be late for anything.

My Good Friend Charles Grey

Earl Grey and I we go waaaaay back. And on mornings like this, I'm grateful for the introduction so many years ago.

Earl Grey to me is a tea but it's a tea named for an actual guy, Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey, an early19th Century British prime minister. And quite the dude from the looks of it. (His first child, an illegitimate daughter, was raised as his sister. A year or two after that, he married and he fathered 15 more children with his wife!)

But whatever his tastes were for other things, the tea named in his honor two centuries ago, is among my favorites. (Runs a close race with Darjeeling and these two blends are only slight superior to a good cup of English Breakfast Tea.)

Yes, my British Isle roots -- and they are many -- come full circle in winter.
Time to bust out the jumbo mug and steep me up a cup!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Six Things to Do N-O-W!

We’re getting our first official freeze tonight. Anything under 40 is waaaaaay too cold for me, but when you get below freezing, a whole lot of game-changing strategies come into play.
So, if you’re already dealing with the cold, my sympathies. And if it’s just getting to you, there’s no time like the present to do a few things to prepare for it in the weeks and months to come.

1. Check doors and windows. Replace or repair worn weather stripping. Fill holes with caulk or expandable gap filler. (Great Stuff® makes a special kind just for doors.) A quick temporary fix: put a towel or blanket along the bottom of the door. Lots of stores offer “draft dodgers” in a variety of colors and themes, too, just for this purpose.
2. Be road ready. Throw an old blanket in your trunk. (Put a hat, gloves, and scarf in your trunk, too.) Are your windshield wipers in good shape? Locate and check the condition of your ice scrapers, too. Replace them if need be. And while you’re buying stuff, get a can of spray de-icer. You might also consider buying a can of non-stick cooking spray if you don’t have one handy in the kitchen. Spray a light coat around the inside of your car doors and they won’t freeze shut.
3. Tackle the coat closet. You know you’ll be in there rummaging for a coat soon enough. You’re likely to find one or more that don’t fit or that you no longer use. Take them to a Salvation Army, Goodwill, or other second-hand store if they’re still in good shape. Someone can get some use from them.
4. Check on the sick or elderly. If you have family, friends or neighbors who are mostly homebound, make an extra check or two as the temperature drops. These are the groups that are most susceptible to the ill effects of the cold – and the ones who are among the last to turn on the heat due to high utility bills. When you go on a shopping trip, see if they need anything. It gives you a good excuse to check on them and you can ensure they have needed supplies.
5. Cover your faucet. Drain garden hoses, remove them from outside faucets, and cover the faucets. (You can buy covers at the hardware store or an old athletic sock and a trashbag will work, too.) If you have a shut-off valve for your outside faucet (s) use them.
6. Close off your central air unit. There’s a lot of debate about whether or not you should cover a central air unit. One side says they should be completely covered and you can buy poly-plastic covers just for this purpose. The other side discourages this saying that it encourages condensation that can get inside the unit and damage it. They recommend a lightweight piece of plywood over the top of the unit instead. I’ll leave the choice to you. (At This D*mn House, we put a small circular piece of plywood over the top to keep leaves, dirt, debris, and excess moisture from getting inside.)

Ready to Head South

Brrrrr. It’s in the 30s here this morning. A few degrees above freezing, but still pretty cold, especially considering the wind that’s along for the ride. And tonight … it’s going down to 30. Yep, it’s definitely time to break out the flannel PJs, something Jayne over at Dainty Digs already managed to do.

Summer is on a plane for the border and Ol’ Man Winter is starting to unpack.

Just in time, I finished my brickwork on Saturday and yesterday I filled in several joints with mortar along both the porch and walkway. That was something of a challenge with the occasional wind gusts. Also yesterday I drained the hose. This was not on my list from Friday but sure should have been. And since we made it through the season using just one hose and not two like normal, it was a much easier job. The mother helped me raise it up and down, snaking any water in the middle toward an exit at either end, and then helped keep it straightened out while I rolled it onto the hosewinder.

I also got up a few pieces of bric-a-brac the mother wanted up on the back of the house as well as a new thing for the shed.

In between, I managed to snap a few pictures of my brick handiwork. It isn’t pretty, but it’s done.

And I also grabbed a shot of Ladybird who, almost a week later during which she got rained on more than once, still seems to be holding her shine.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Just Plain Lazy

There are things I could do. There are things I should do.

Instead, here I sit on the loveseat, computer in my lap, Yorkie at my hip, eating York peppermint pumpkins. Motivation factor is zero.

I have already been out of the house. I went to pick up some cleaning stuff and my allergy mist and even grabbed some breakfast. Now I am just ready for a nap. Now that I've gotten a dose of mist, something I didn't have last night because I was out, my nose is still stuffy but the coughing fits have ceased and my headache is easing.

I still have some stuff to get on the house today and I need to do some more running around.

Right now, I just feel like crashing. Looking over at Ozzie, who has moved away from my hip and is on his back, all four feet in the air, snoring -- I think I will. For a while ...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Voter Anxiety

It was a busy morning.

I did get to sleep in ('til 9, thank you very much) getting 7.5 hours of virtually uninterrupted sleep. Ah, glorious!

Among this morning's activities, were taking cans in for recycling, mailing a Halloween package at the post office, and voting. Yes, voting.

My county started offering Early Bird voting earlier this month. I thought I would go check it out, though the mother and I had planned to go together. (That way I could alert her to ballot issues. She gets flustered reading them while voting so I always try to tell her what they are and what they say so she can decide how to vote before she goes.) So, I decided to stop by our polling place and check it out. They are open until 3 p.m. today.

I thought, from what I saw online, that they would have both online plaquard style AND traditional punch voting. Not so. For Early Bird, only plaquard is available.

I spend a lot of time on a computer. Even so, this gave me pause. I know how often I screw up that computer by hitting this key or that. So, it wa a little intimidating. And I know there is no way the mother is up for this. I decided to give it a try anyway.

First, it was busy! And, it's a lot of people jammed into a small space. That didn't make me feel any more comfortable. I had no problem checking in and soon there I was with the little toggle wheel running the show. I read the instructions. And I was very careful to stay away from the red button in the lefthand corner marked CAST BALLOT. You don't push that until all selections are made.

OK. Choices made. I carefully scrolled back through and made sure everything lined up with what I remembered selecting. All there. Good. Now. Deep breath. Press CAST BALLOT.

Nothing. CAST BALLOT continued to blink on the screen. Aw SH*T! I knew I'd screw this up. I began waving my hand and saying "Excuse me!"

An older Hispanic man came to my aid. "I pushed cast ballot but nothing happened. I was afraid to push it again for fear I'd invalidate something." He grinned and pushed CAST BALLOT. All of a sudden, a little screen on the left began printing out all my selections.

"These look familiar?" he asked. I nodded.

"Thanks," I said. "I'm just trying to be careful. It's too important an election to waste a ballot."

Now he nodded. "You're right about that. No problem though. You should be good to go now."

He directed me to hit CAST BALLOT one more time. Idid.


OK. That wasn't so bad. It's now done and I don't have to worry about facing any more crowds which I'm sure will be even bigger on Election Day. So, having finished my lunch, I'm off to play with bricks. Ah, bricks, again ...

Friday, October 24, 2008

The Blue vs. The Gray

The sun spent the afternoon desperately trying to shine. It’s been rainy, gray and chilly here for days. Here’s hoping that’s about to change. Not holding my breath though as the clouds have once again overtaken the skies which were trying to turn blue. In fact, it has just started to rain … again.

That has had a dramatic impact on my mood. (I’d say it accounts for much of my dour mood of this morning.) That, and a host of things I’m sick of that have all managed to surround me at once. Not the least of which is that Google Reader won’t work. It stopped working sometime yesterday. I’ve tried all the tricks and tips. Nothing helps.

The good news: It’s Friday.

The bad news: It’s Friday. That means I have tomorrow and Sunday to take on a variety of small outdoor projects with the goal of completing them:

1. Put in few remaining bricks along the side of the porch that connect it to the walking surface.
2. Add mortar to several joints on the porch and along the walkway.
3. Leaves, leaves, leaves! (I have no trees, mind you. Just leaves.)
4. Put up new thermometer and other decorative items from the mother’s collection.
5. Repair drains.
6. Prepare strong argument and remain resistant to the idea of digging up those )_@#$(@#)%(*$%(*$ shrubs.

More good news: I should have pictures to share. I haven’t posted very many lately, have I? The other good news is that because it will be cool, and likely quite damp early tomorrow morning, I’m sleeping in. Woe is he or she who wakes me before I am prepared to rise!

That should do wonders for my demeanor, too.

Yadda, yadda, yadda

Today's horoscope: People are going to appreciate extra long and tight hugs today, NV, so feel free to give them out like candy to everyone you come in contact with. A kind gesture and warm word today will not be forgotten. Let your generous and kind spirit shine through. Open your arms up extra wide to spread love to the world around you. It is the perfect day to love and laugh.

My response: Bite me.

(Do you think someone is a wee bit testy this morning?)

Thursday, October 23, 2008

From Other Sources

One of the good things about having a job that frequently finds you searching the Internet for a variety of reasons is that you often find things that – while they weren’t what you were looking for at the time – they were things that you would otherwise have missed.

Here’s just a sampling of some of the things I ran across this week while researching a variety of work-related topics:

  • Like this column from a Columbus Dispatch reporter whose theories on home remodeling made me laugh.
  • Then there were these 10 quick tips if you’re looking to spruce up your digs to increase its resale value. (Yeah. Right. In this economy.)
  • And how about this very interesting headache created by a remodeler’s attempt to put a hole in the wall?
  • I couldn’t help but smile when I saw this article about how to cope during the current economic crisis. Some of this stuff could have been taken straight out of one my own blog entries! *grins*
  • But probably the most interesting item I fell over was Measure 63, a ballot initiative in Oregon that would allow homeowners to do home improvement projects worth less than $35,000 without getting any building, electrical or plumbing permits.

I see both good and bad in Measure 63. And, having seen several other housebloggers who have had their own issues with permits, I’m betting that a lot of you have opinions about it, too. What do you think?

What’s the Story, Morning Glory?

The sky has an eerie brilliance to it this morning. The sun is nowhere near up yet and rain is forecast so the clouds are plentiful. They’re in layers. A dark blue, followed by a pink layer, followed by a lighter blue. And all of the layers are twinged in a pale red, as if someone is holding a giant red light bulb right on them. (As I type this, the pink layer is taking on an orange hue.) Absolutely gorgeous.

The temperature is in the upper 40s, which is cold to me, but it doesn’t feel so bad. At least, not until that good stiff wind that is accompanying it hits you. It’s like a brutal reminder that summer is truly gone. *pausing briefly to wipe random tear*
As we go into another cold season, I can’t help but wonder what the odds will be that we will be without power again at some point. As I was preparing to leave, the news was reporting that Ameren was having some kind of big news conference this morning on its program to put power lines underground. The way I heard it a year ago, from a lineman in my alley, was that all of their lines were going underground. Now I hear it’s only in some neighborhoods, supposedly those are most plagued by outages. Somehow, I think we qualify. We’ll see if the utility thinks that we do.
When the Monkeygirls came to remove shrubs from Hell back in July, I sure wish they’d taken them ALL! I know I should be grateful that the mother acquiesced enough to have ANY of them removed, but I’m not. I’m not, because she wants to dig up the three remaining plants out front as well as a fourth one on the side of the house, and transplant them. Yeah.

Son of Lawnmower Man was supposed to (nodding at KayO) come by to take on this task more than a week ago. He has never come by or called. The mother supposedly called some landscaping people listed in the classifieds but heard nothing back. One bush, which is actually two small bushes, shouldn’t be that bad. It’s only been in the ground a little over a year. The others? The other two out front aren’t bad, but they’ll be tough as they’ve been there forever, so their roots are probably in the six to eight-foot long category. The one on the side of the house? It’s as bad, if not worse, than the ones that were pulled out with Mr. Monkeygirl’s truck. I’d sooner set that SOB on fire.

Now I think that the mother thinks that I’m going to dig up those bushes. I think she needs to think again because I think that she’s crazy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Let Your Silly Self Emerge

In a recent blog post, Vicki over at Not So SAHM was lamenting the loss of her “silly” side, her general inability to “get her silly on.”

It can be challenging, that’s for sure. Times are tough. Anxiety is high while optimism is low. Definitely hard to get silly in the wake of everything that is going on in the world in between paying bills, working overtime to do it, raising your kids, caring for aging parents (or in some cases, both) and wondering if you’ll have a job just to keep it all together.

But, if you’re me, you get an email that really brightens things up. It lets you know that Scrapbook Escape, or as we’ve come to call it “crop camp,” is all set. The annual scrapbooking weekend – which puts about two dozen women with all their scrapbooking gear and a whole lot of snacks in a hotel for two days and two nights in January – is a virtual hotbed of silliness. See what I mean?
Two steps back to explain. Shortly before crop camp this year, my good friend KayO sent me a link to the Friends’ quiz to find out which Friends’ character you are most like. I shared this with my cropping buddies, the MonkeyGirl, M, K, and J. Oddly enough, without telling each other who we came up with, we ALL came up with CHANDLER! (Except for J, who came up with Rachel. She ultimately rethought one or more responses, retook the quiz and came up with, what else, CHANDLER.)

It was too late though. I’d already long since embarked on my adventure into silliness by making Chandler masks and a Rachel mask for our weekend. (I’m generally armed with some sort of surprise at each of these events. It’s one of the many things I contemplate year-round on long bus rides.) So think me odd for creating it ... but my friends were willing enablers AND accomplices! Silly rules.

The blog has given me yet another venue to display this silliness as well as a new feature: a countdown clock! As you read this, you can glance near the upper right corner and see just how much time is left until the Superbowl of Silliness officially kicks off.

But that's just one side of my silly. The mother and I cannot walk past a display of those swimming noodles -- the giant foam tube things -- without challenging each other to a duel. I have no idea how this started. It's just one of those rare piece of pure silly the mother and I share. But imagine the silliness of two grown women in the middle of a store squaring off with foam noodles ...

Or how my godmother and the mother and I greet one another: "Eyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy!" (Not a Fonzie Ayyyyyy. More like a Heyyyyyyyyyy sans the H.)

Or how I sing parts of certain commercials to Ozzie. (Red Robin. YUMMMMM!) And he responds by going completely spastic.

It's just a collection of stupid little things that make me laugh. Sometimes, they make other people laugh, too. Laughter truly is the best medicine. And our psyches need a regular dose of it.

So break out your own silliness … regularly. Life is short. Cherish your inner silly self, and in particular, all those who nurture it. I know I do.

Christmas at the Door

OK. No doubt, Ann is fainting at the very mention of Christmas.

It’s still two months out, but the Christmas packages are starting to arrive at This D*mn House. Yesterday, the Apple order arrived bearing engraved Shuffles. I know those things are small, but MAN! Just TRY to read the engraving. When I unboxed each one to check it, I had to scurry for my glasses because I couldn’t have begun to tell you what, if anything , was on them! Another point size or two would have helped. And believe it or not, there’s more than enough space, even on these smaller-than-a-matchbook models.

Another order, this one from a catalog/online site, is about to ship. Or, at least most of it is. As happens every year, there is always something that’s already on back order. Even in September and October. It’s stuff for my cousin’s kiddos (three of the four of them), so here’s hoping it will show up.

Our living room is already lined with shopping bags (from Cracker Barrel, the Bread Co., 54th Street) with each one representing a family member, with their respective stuff placed in each. But before I can move all that crap out of the livingroom, I have to locate the family room again. (It’s littered with stuff waiting to go into the still-to-be-remodeled bedrooms.)

Bah freakin’ humbug.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

History Lost: The Ambassador Theater

When it opened in 1926, the 17-story Ambassador Theater building was hailed as “the greatest event in St. Louis since the World’s Fair.” Six floors were dedicated to the theater while the 11 uppermost stories housed office space.

It was a building drawn from the minds of architects C.W. and George L. Rapp, among the nation’s most successful designers of “movie palaces.” It was one of two such movie houses they built in St. Louis.

Here it is in all its glory from an opening night brochure.
Fortunately, the St. Louis Theatre built in 1925 and reopened as Powell Symphony Hall (home of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra) in the 1960s, survived talk of demolition. The building in mid-town has been lovingly restored and pays tribute to its opulent roots.

But downtown, the Ambassador did not fare so well.

Stand at 7th and Locust today and you will hear the rush of a fountain, almost an eerie mimicking shadow of the applause that once rose from the site. The theater featured live shows into the mid-1930s, when it shifted to motion pictures. It added Cinerama movie screens in the 1950s but was shuttered by 1960 when a new Cinerama theater was built in mid-town.
The owners tried to offer a combination of movies and live music well into the next decade.

During the 1970s, it became a venue for popular rock acts including Van Morrison and KISS. The theater closed for good in 1976. Office tenants, however, remained on site until the late 1980s. During this time, the first six floors were gutted of its many lavish fixtures, including its stairways, and they were auctioned off.

The Ambassador remained in a state of limbo and steady decline during the 1990s until the neighboring modern bank building began lobbying for a “plaza” where the theater stood. They won their argument and the Ambassador was demolished between 1995 and 1996. (In some justice, that bank was swallowed up by another bank shortly thereafter. What goes around comes around.)

There’s some great insight and photos on this blog that I happened upon, oddly, while working on this piece. And Vanishing St. Louis offers some tear-jerking views of before, during, and after the demolition. (You can still appreciate how gorgeous the stage area and accents throughout were, even 60+ years later.)

Take a closer look at some of the building shots on those sites. Now look at the plaza photo. Does
anything look familiar?
Maybe these?

I’m not sure what the intent was, maybe to immortalize the theater in some way, but these reliefs are now attached to the wall of a historic bank building adjacent to the theater site and on the edge of the plaza. (I can’t believe I go past these things all the time and never made the connection!) I'm glad they're there and glad to finally know that they are.

There’s a saying that “old St. Louis theaters don’t die – they become parking lots.” Perhaps a bit of prophecy lies therein where the Ambassador is concerned.
Currently, discussions are under way in which the “plaza,” which really serves no real function, may become, what else, but a parking garage.

Is That Ladybird?

Oh, surely not! I can see my reflection in her hood! And the interior – even the trunk – is devoid of evidence of all the hauling she’s done the past few months. Yes, Ladybird got detailed yesterday.

Sometimes I forget how good I have it. (If I hadn’t spent all these years working my butt off to get it, I might feel a little guilty.) Occasionally, they remind us at work and remind us of a variety of little perks. One of them is a discount at a nearby auto detailer that is set up inside the massive parking garage across the street.

When I called last week, they told me I didn’t need an appointment -- just come in. But knowing how bad Ladybird was, I called again before going over there yesterday. It’s some business when the owner answers the phone. “How soon can you be here?” asked the deep male voice. (This guy must be one hell of a singer.) When I said how close I was, Rocky the Car Wash Man was quick to ask if I worked at my company. When I said I did, “You know you’re a VIP,” says Rocky.

I didn’t know what that meant until I went to pay my bill. Basically, he didn’t charge me for the interior. (I should have been charged double.) Nor was there an extra charge for swapping out my wheel covers. (I had to buy a new set because we lost one and of course the new set looks completely different than the old ones!) Then, I got handed a form for a $10 rebate because I’d had the full service that included wash, wax, polish, and sealant.

Rocky had called me personally a few hours after I dropped her off to report that there were some oxidized spots. (The car is 17 years old. It’s not garaged. And as much as the mother fights to take care of her, Ladybird was going to show some age eventually.) He was apologetic. But, they’d have her lookin’ good when I came by in the afternoon, he said.

Apologetic? When I showed up to retrieve the car I was stunned. There among the BMWs, Mercedes, Lexxus, the occasional Caddy, and a variety of import sports cars and SUVs sat my poor old T-bird. The crazy thing was, she didn’t really look out of place. There she was with her showroom shine and glistening tires.

While the mother managed to find fault with a few things (I’d have been shocked if she hadn’t), overall even she thought they did a great job. And they did.

As for Ladybird, she looks right at home now in her nice new driveway, her little mat tucked carefully below ...

Monday, October 20, 2008

Trivial Matters

O.K. kids, it’s pop quiz time! No fair Googlin’ or otherwise looking it up either.

Which went up first? The Berlin Wall or Sputnik.
Which TV show aired first? The Beverly Hillbillies or The Brady Bunch.
Here’s some actors: Matt Dillon, Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle. Name the Oscar-winning Best Picture they starred in.
Here’s some more actors: Rene Zellweger, Catherine Zeta Jones, Richard Gere. Name that Best Picture.
What’s the superlative of stellar? What’s the plural of index? And what do you call a camel with one hump? (Spelling counts!)

That’s just a small taste of our 10-category, 100-question trivia night. At the risk of bragging, we got 83 out of 100. That included three “perfect” rounds where we scored all 10. The goal is always to not be the low-scoring team who gets sent home in disguises (glasses with nose and mustache). We were nowhere close to low-man this year! In fact, we were five points out of third place and 11 points out of first. Not bad a'tall.

The MonkeyGirl brought Mr. Monkeygirl and called MonkeyMama and she came out to play with us again as we had an empty seat on our team of eight. She was our secret weapon. She kicked ass in the geography category and between us, we ran the word category. (We missed one: the word for a person in their 70s. And we missed it because spelling counts.)

The whole table – which also included, Laura, Cindy, and both of their spouses – cleaned up on ‘80s television shows where you got photos of the cast and had to name the show. And we did equally well in identifying photos of sea life. It was an awesome mix of brain power as everyone had something fantastic to contribute.

It was a very fun night. Of course, it’s always good to hang with my friends. We missed Bridget for a second year (she’s in China this week), and while one Chris was dealing with Homecoming, the other Chris was dealing with a houseful of 14-year-olds at a costume party. (I can’t wait to see that Chris as Madonna! You know you can't tell people these things and not have them expect pictures. Especially when the people are me.) And Maria. Well, whoever knows where Maria is? She’s the only one of the eight to leave the metro area so, sadly, we don’t see her as much.

Mr. Monkeygirl and MonkeyMama got to see my walkway and pimped out shed in person. It was night time, so I’m guessing no one saw the huge grin that crossed my face when Mr. Monkeygirl said of my walkway: “This looks even better in person. The pictures don’t do it justice.” Thanks, Mr. MG!

(I’ll put all the answers in a comment tomorrow and after some of my smart readers list their guesses.)

Sunday, October 19, 2008

The Little Things

One of the upsides of having the bigger exterior jobs out of the way means that you have time to focus on some of the little things. Some of the things that need to be done regularly -- like mowing the lawn -- or something occasional like cleaning and painting the cupola and vent.

I did the annual cleaning of the cupola (the metal flashing part) and then painting the base that I had caulked yesterday. Same with the wood vent on the eave of the house over the carport. I mowed the yard. I condensed things in the shed to allow the mower back inside. I carted all the yard waste to the dump and I generally cleaned up or put things away. Oh, and I finally put the finials on the front porch railings. Funny how just a little touch can make such a difference.

Basically, I was busy doing a whole bunch of little things yesterday, so the blog went neglected. I also was busy trying to keep an eye on the mother. When I got home Friday night, she’d been bitten or stung by something on her neck while working outside. While it was red, it wasn’t all that noticeable. That wasn’t the case Saturdaya night when I got home from my day of scrapbooking and trivia. Her neck was swollen and bright red.

It was better last night but still enough to make her miserable.

I also topped off the brake fluid in the car, checked its other fluids while the hood was up, and cleared the interior out so I can hopefully take it across the street to have it detailed. Poor car. It's pretty dirty. Cross your fingers. They may take one look and decide it's too much effort!

Amazing how many of those "little things" can pile up when you're working past dusk on a big project. All you want to do while you're doing that is just get it all inside so you can lock it up!

I spent a chunk of the evening on a project for work which I resumed at 4 a.m. (Yeah. I know. But I was awake anyway so I might as well accomplish something.) So I have this feeling that 's it's going to be a veeeeeeeeeeery loooooooong day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Day of Whine and Roses

I was cold most of the day yesterday which is never a happy state for me. I drank both coffee and tea. I had a jacket on over my v-neck sweater for part of the day.

It was in the mid 40s when I left home and it got up to a stingy 61 degrees. Even in the sun, it wasn't that warm. Today isn't look much warmer. Tomorrow and Monday --70! Yay!

So I was uncharacteristically whiny yesterday. It was a good thing that my group activities were very limited or my co-workers might have found out just how much of a pain in the ass I really can be. Achy and cold, and grumpy as a result. Whine. Whine. Whine.

I was none too pleased then when the mother called later in the afternoon. I could tell from the tone of her voice that something was up, and that I probably wasn't going to like it. "I just went out to get the mail," she began. My brain immediately started trying to process what could have come in the mail to prompt this call. She hesitated. Oh man. I am SO not going to like this.

"Well, there was this bunch of flowers sticking out of the mailbox, it's roses and some other kind of flower all mixed in, and there are one, two, three, four," she trailed off, still counting,

Wait. What?! Flowers. Again? Well, it is Friday. That was two weeks ago. The Flower Man returneth. Having processed that bit of information, my brain returned to the mother's voice. She was just wrapping up the rose count.

"There's no card, but I think we know who they're from. Oh, wait. Here's one. I won't open it though. It's personal."

Uh, mom. I don't know this guy. How personal could it be for Chrissakes? Open the card.

Again, she had trouble deciphering. But she managed to make out that he was “elated” to “receive my correspondence.” (He’s proper and has a vocabulary. I’ll give him that. Bonus points for Hallmark a second time.) He said something about “most definitely” calling at a later time as I had … who knows? Mom couldn’t read it. I can't either. I think it says "as you have indicated." He apparently read what I wrote and is honoring my request. Reasonable guy.

So, he's still out there. Stay tuned.

Right now, I am going to crawl up on the carport and caulk the cupola. It's not quite 50 degrees so I'm biding my time ... a little. That way, it will be ready for me to paint tomorrow. Then, it's back inside for a quick shower and clothing change.

The MonkeyGirl will be here in 90 minutes or so. We're going to Croptoberfest for a day of scrapbooking. YAY! And then, tonight is our high school alumni trivia night. Four of the eight including me will be there. All except me with spouses in tow. A fifth one was coming and was going to be my "date" but canceled mid-week, (Her kid has homecoming tonight.)

Maybe I should have invited the Flower Man. If he could survive a night with my friends (who would be scrutinizing left and right, watching for my best interest all the while) and it might be a fun test of his mental might. Pass this test, pal, and maybe you might be worth it.

No. Even I'm not that mean. I wouldn't put anyone on the spot like that. Besides, I don't want to be distracted by anything that would require that much attention. I want to have FUN!

So, here I go ...

Friday, October 17, 2008

MonkeyGirl, Buy Some Vodka!

(Disclaimer: I don't know if any of these "remedies" work. I've not tried them. I just received them via email today from a friend and they seemed worthy of sharing. If you've tried any of them or happen to try them, I'd love to know what your results were like. And what brand and proof of vodka you used.)

Earlier this month, the MonkeyGirl shared a tale of a dreadful week, a week that ended with the Monkeygirls being out of vodka. (The post title still amuses me.) So it was funny when, while going through this morning's emails, an email titled "Vodka" was in my inbox. The email contained a total of 15 things to do with vodka, other than drinking it. The stuff in parentheses are my thoughts.

  1. To remove a bandage painlessly, saturate the bandage with vodka. The stuff dissolves adhesive. (I'm sure drinking a shot before you remove it couldn't hurt either.)

  2. To clean the caulking around bathtubs and showers, fill a trigger-spray bottle with vodka, spray the caulking, let set five minutes and wash clean . The alcohol in the vodka kills mold and mildew. (Ewww! Gruesome, gross bathroomy germs! Another shot should kill the ones that may have jumped on you during your cleaning.)

  3. To clean your glasses, simply wipe the lenses with a soft, clean cloth dampened with vodka . The alcohol in the vodka cleans the glass and kills germs.

  4. Prolong the life of razors by filling a cup with vodka and letting your safety razor blade soak in the alcohol after shaving. The vodka disinfects the blade and prevents rusting.

  5. Spray vodka on wine stains, scrub with a brush, and then blot dry. (This sounds like a waste of good alcohol on two levels. I say, slurp up the wine when you spill it!)

  6. Apply vodka to your face as an astringent to cleanse the skin and tighten pores . (Cheaper than Botox! And they say drinking ages you. Well, what do they know?)

  7. Add a jigger of vodka to a 12-ounce bottle of shampoo. The alcohol cleanses the scalp,removes toxins from hair, and stimulates the growth of healthy hair. (I can't help but wonder how this would affect brain activity much less a breathalyzer.)

  8. Fill a sixteen-ounce trigger-spray bottle with vodka and spray bees or wasps to kill them. (Or at the very least, get them drunk enough to not sting you.)

  9. Pour one-half cup vodka and one-half cup water into a Ziploc freezer bag and freeze for a slushy, refreshing ice pack for aches, pain or black eyes. (I'm thinking you could add lemonade and simultaneously put it on the sore spot AND stick a straw in the bag...)

  10. Fill a clean, used mayonnaise jar with freshly packed lavender flowers, fill the jar with vodka, seal the lid tightly and set in the sun for three days. Strain liquid through a coffee filter, then apply the tincture to aches and pains. (This is too much like cooking for me.)

  11. To relieve a fever, use a washcloth to rub vodka on your chest and back as a liniment.

  12. To cure foot odor, wash your feet with vodka.

  13. Vodka will disinfect and alleviate a jellyfish sting. (That happens to me all the time!)

  14. Pour vodka over an area affected with poison ivy to remove the urushiol oil from your skin.

  15. Swish a shot of vodka over an aching tooth. Allow your gums to absorb some of the alcohol to numb the pain. (At that point, just drink some already!)

Aren't these great justification for that bottle of vodka you know you've been wanting/meaning to buy? Need some help buying a good vodka? Here's some recommendations.

And, after all, it is Friday ...


It’s another brisk fall morning, a prelude to the cold that’s on its way. I’m starting to see colors all over the place as well as the endless collection of leaves that manage to make their way to my lawn. Yep. Summer has definitely packed it in.

I had planned to do a history post yesterday on a downtown building. I thought it would be quick, relatively easy to do. But no. I started learning all kinds of cool things – cool to me anyway – and I knew I didn’t have enough time to do the story justice. So I didn’t post it.

Besides, this is my 300th post! Three-hundred. I can hardly believe it. I’ve only been at this regularly for a little over six months and I think I had a grand total of seven posts in 2007. I’m either extremely prolific or boring as hell. (The truth probably lies somewhere in between.)

It’s all the mother’s fault. I come by that gift of gab quite honestly. My mother can and will talk to just about anyone. (Her father, Young Tom, was the same way.) And my father? He could sell ice to Eskimos. I like to think I got the better parts of both of their natures.

Case in point: I ran in Home Depot last weekend, leaving the mother in the car. I come out and she's talking to a young guy on a motorcycle parked next to us. Last night, the mother strikes up a conversation with a little red-haired woman at Wal-Mart who was struggling to get laundry detergent off the top shelf. (OK. Now I’m going to be singing Mr. Jones the rest of the day. Mr. Jones strikes up a conversation with a red-haired flamenco dancer. But I digress. Sorry. That’s genetic, too.) All I want to do is get the few remaining things on my list and go home. But no. They’re exchanging life histories and before I know it, phone numbers!

I was exceptionally patient, especially for me, and especially considering it was almost 9 and I was still wearing the clothes I'd put on at 5:30 a.m. (If we hadn't had dinner first, I wouldn't have been able to do it. Of course, if we hadn't had dinner first, she probably wouldn't have been there either.)

As it turns out, the woman lost both her husband and a daughter last year. She still has the daughter’s twin sister and a son and a bunch of grandkids (and as it turns out, I know who her son is from my newspaper days; he’s now a principal at a school in a neighboring town) but she just moved into a retirement village and she seems pretty lonely. Mrs. C. is 75 and quite spry for her age. She said, “My husband and I used to dance all the time” at least a dozen times. Every time she said it, she’d get this wistful look in her eye that just broke my heart.

That just seems wrong. You lose your partner of more than 55 years, your child (at 52) and your home of more than 50 years all within a year. And she seemed to be feeling all of it last night. So how odd is it that we cross paths with her in the cleaning products aisle at Wal-Mart?

I don't know if the mother will call her or if she will ever call the mother, but she seemed to be a little more at peace with herself as she rolled along with her cart. I won’t pick on the mother anymore for not knowing a stranger. Seems like her gift can get put to good use.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Changing of the Guard

I think summer has officially left the building. It’s a brisk morning, under 50 degrees, and we’re only getting up to 60 today. 6-0 – that’s it for a high. If we're lucky, we'll get two weeks of autumn before winter blows through.

The weather calls for dry conditions at least through the first half of next week, so that will hopefully be enough to wrap up outdoor activities. Believe it or not, there are still a few things to get done.

The mother is busy with Christmas planning. (She shops for the holidays year-round. Usually by now, she is nearly finished wrapping.) I figure we’ve still got more than two months, so I’m not worried. (I saw some counter that said it's like 77 or 78 days. Man, that's a little too close.) But, the little pulsing bundle of nervous energy that is mother has managed to produce a list from some catalogs as well as identifying a short list of things that have to be picked up in a store.

She already made one round of these trips earlier in the week. That netted an Indiana Jones electronic whip for my cousin's oldest. It makes cracking noises and plays the movie theme when you push a button. Ozzie wants to get a hold of it in the worst way, too!

So, tonight's agenda includes holiday shopping and a trip to Hardware Heaven. (Of course. It's nearly the weekend.) It should be fun. *serious eye roll*

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The Power of One

The financial crisis has a lot of us on edge. We’re worried about our families. Our homes. Our jobs.

The things that demand a little more of every paycheck just seem to keep increasing. Nowhere is this more apparent than at the grocery store. The cost of food, like everything else, is on the rise.
While you were reading that paragraph, something horrible happened: a child died. According to Bread for the World, a child dies every five seconds due to hunger-related causes. And the chances are good that that child was among the world’s most poverty-stricken. If things are tough for you, imagine how much worse they must be for someone who was already struggling.

So why am I going down this dark path? To shed some light on this year’s Blog Action Day topic of choice, poverty. (Thanks to our friends up north at Old Stone House for getting me aware.)

All the time I hear people say, “I’m just one person. What can I do?” Well, here’s some things just about every one of us can do that can make a difference. Some of them won’t cost a penny!

  • Clean out your closets. Winter is coming. Many families don’t have money to buy winter clothing. Got coats and sweaters that you no longer want/need? Consider donating them to a local second-hand shop or shelter.
  • Grab some canned goods. The next time you’re buying staples like vegetables, pasta, peanut butter, rice, flour or ready-made foods (nonperishable), throw a few extra in the cart. Drop these off at a neighborhood food pantry.
  • Adopt a family. At work, we do this every year at the holidays. I have the joy of heading this up. We work with multiple agencies to help both families and seniors. We get everything from Christmas gifts to household goods, to food and gas cards to try to not only brighten the holidays, but some of the days after, too. You can do this through your job, too, or social organization, church, or even just with your family! And you don’t have to wait for the holidays.
  • Give. If you already donate, give just a little bit more. The need is so much greater this year and many service organizations are already reporting serious drops in contributions. And your donation doesn’t have to just be cash or goods. Volunteer a few hours at a local food pantry or shelter or become part of a literacy or mentoring program.
  • Write a post. If you blog, write about this program. You still have time TODAY, but even if you can’t, there will still be people in need tomorrow. If one person reads your post and does something ... well, there you go. We did it! Feel free to share some of these ideas to encourage others.

You may already be doing one or several of these things or others. Applause. YAY! And if you’re not – and you can please do. It’s amazing the difference that each of us can make individually. Put all that effort together, and the change will be nothing short of phenomenal.


Truly. That's about the flavor of this post, too. Sorry.

I'm in even earlier than usual for a second consecutive day because I have just as much to get accomplished.

Yesterday, like Monday, was beastly. Last night, I got home, shifted into overdrive and mowed the sidelot and the front yard. It was really getting dark (7 p.m.) by the time I finished and got everything put away.

The time change doesn't happen until Nov. 2. I think I'm grateful for that. These shorter days kill me because I go to work in the dark and nearly come home in the dark, too. Leaves no spare time to get anything done. Summer has one leg out the door and its hands on the packed bags. I sure hate to see you go, bud. I really do.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Say It – But Don’t Display It

I live in a largely Democratic county, an almost rabidly Democratic county. Signs during election season, particularly with a presidential race at stake, are as sure as death and taxes. It’s not uncommon to see 10 or more signs in a single front yard. And vacant lots? Usually, you can barely see any ground for all the signs.

With just three weeks before Election Day, I’ve been marveling at political signs – or the lack of them – in my neighborhood. Oh, they’re there alright. Mostly for county board chairman, our local county board members, and a state representative. Notice anything important that’s missing?

Yeah, no presidential signs. This is unheard of!

They’re starting to appear, ever so slowly. About a week or so ago, I saw the first ones spring up for McCain/Palin. On my way home, I’ve counted about 10 so far.

I’ve seen a few Obama signs. Those, however, were confined to areas with largely black populations. Areas outside my city limits. You see, I live in a neighborhood that is 98 to 99 percent white. In fact, the whole city itself can’t have more than a 10 percent African American population. Are you starting to see a pattern here? I know I am.

I live on a main thoroughfare. My yard is prime real estate for politicians. Every year for 22 years someone has knocked on the door – often multiple times – asking to put up signs. Mind you, we’ve had signs in the yard only ONCE. (And that was the last election in 2004.) That’s because I worked for the local newspaper until 2000. While it was something we were never told you couldn’t do, it was understood that you wouldn’t. I can see that. All in the interest of journalistic integrity and impartiality.

This year, no one has been by. Our Democratic party heads are standing with their arms folded, whistling, I guess, until Election Day. What the hell?! Why aren’t you guys out putting up signs?!

Do I have to tell you why? Somehow, I don’t think so. It saddens me that in 2008 to see such a blatant case of racism. You can’t tell me that that isn’t the real explanation for this uncharacteristic lack of support.

But last night, I got some encouragement on the way home. I saw two Obama signs. So, I know the signs are out there to be had. For all my encouragement though, I was disheartened last night by a report on the local news about a homeowner’s association PROHIBITING signs in yards, including political signs.

Excuse me, but when did the HOA start paying these peoples’ taxes?! I understand the intent but I would think that for a few months every few years, people could deal with the signage. That report got me all riled up. Did Constitutional protection of First Amendment rights evaporate and I just didn't know it?

Since my local party representatives can’t seem to make their way to me, I guess I’m going to have to make my way to them, and collect my sign. I’d love to see some HOA try to stop me from getting my d*mn sign and putting it in my d*mn yard at This D*mn House.

A whole lot of people have died in this country’s more than two-century history to make sure I can do that. Their efforts won’t be in vain.

The Side Project

If you saw yesterday’s posts, then you’ve no doubt seen the newly-pimped shed. So you’re familiar with the lattice.

That part of the design – which, for the record, I was unable to visualize until I tacked the sucker up there to measure before cutting it – was the mother’s idea. I think it turned out quite nicely. The lattice was purchased in a 4x8 sheet, a sheet that, because it’s vinyl, we were able to bend up enough to jam in the back of CD’s SUV and just over the top of her 5-year-old’s head.

Earlier this month, the mother helped me hold the lattice while I cut it. Being vinyl, it’s slick. While not all that light, it’s too light to survive the constant motion of a jigsaw without an extra pair of hands to hold it down.

I should have seen the wheels turning then, but I didn’t.

It should have come then as no surprise to me as when I was cleaning up that evening, the mother’s attention quickly turned to the almost 2-foot by 3-foot scrap. “What are you doing with that?” she queried. “Aren’t you supposed to have used it somewhere?”

Nope. It’s just scrap. I was about to ask you if you wanted it for anything. Seems a shame to throw it out though. I must be some kind of moron. There was her point of entry.

To which the mother responded with the four words that when, issued consecutively from her mouth, strike fear in my soul: “I’ve got an idea.”

Hey, no fair! You know you’re supposed to give me at least a 10-minute warning before using that phrase so I can pack! Too late.

So exactly what do you do with a relatively small piece of vinyl lattice and the scraps of a wide piece of composite lattice strip? (That’s what those white strips are on either side of the lattice, framing it against the back of the shed.) You have to first buy another lattice strip. (At Lowe’s. From the same end cap where I bought the PVC vinyl boards for the shed surface.) Then, you can do this:

Once you’ve managed to miter the strips with their corners almost meeting perfectly, then you cobble it all together with very tiny screws. (I think I used 4x3/8 or maybe it was 6. They’re very small and hard to hang onto in any case!) I put my new clamps to good use holding it all in place to make sure that it fit and then once I determined it did, to assemble it.

And once you’ve done all that, your side project – aptly named – can be displayed on the side of the shed. Like this:
The mother liked it well enough. In fact, her response was: “I wish you had some more left – so you could do one for the other side.”


Monday, October 13, 2008

Just Call Me Snap

I think I mentioned that our company picnic was over the weekend and that I was its official photographer.

One of my favorite places in St. Louis – or anywhere for that matter – is Kiener Plaza. It’s a truly beautiful place. Sometimes in the nice weather I sneak over to the amphitheater and have lunch.

That was the site of this year’s picnic. Our company took over the whole thing. I mean, literally took it over. It was a Sunday, so downtown was quiet, especially since baseball season didn’t go into the playoffs this year. There was a whole bunch of food under a catered tent. There were also cart vendors situated throughout the plaza with brats, popcorn, cotton candy, peanuts, and ice cream. A pretty amazing spread.

A few tourists wandered in (it is in the shadow of the Arch and just across the street from the historic Old Courthouse) but you had to have a name tag and a bracelet to get or food or beverages so it wasn’t a problem.

That it’s a location which attracts more than its fair share of the downtown homeless had many people concerned. They needn’t have been. Oh, there were a few but security shooed them away. (Made me feel bad but that’s a whole ‘nother issue.)

And the weather? Oh. My. God. Sunny and 80+ -- in OCTOBER! Mother Nature is working overtime to redeem herself for all of her indiscretions in the spring and most of the summer.

In just a few hours’ time, I managed to snap more than 200 photos. I spent some of last night and today going through them. There were just way too many cute damn kids! They make up the bulk of the photos I shot. That’s due in part because there were so many things for the kids to do. (For privacy reasons, I’m going to share just a few shots of anonymous kiddos.)

It’s not every day you get a pony ride, much less one with the Arch looming behind you.

And how often do you get to stand or dance in the middle of fountain? Or just be a princess? And candy? Buddy, we had you covered!

Want to try on a new face as you decided what to be for Halloween this year? We even gave young'ns that option, too.

I'm not jealous of the pony, the candy, or the costumes (OK, maybe a little) but the one thing these kids probably all have in common that I wish I had in common with them? A nap. I'm in need of some serious Zs!

All the running around, the work at home, and a late night last night is catchin' up with me. Here's hoping for a nice, quiet evening.

Yeah, right ...

At Last, A Pimped Shed!

Well, the shed is officially "pimped." I caulked the trim yesterday, finished a little project tied to it (for another post) and the mother will be touching up with paint today.

MG and CD -- Remember all those vinyl PVC boards you hauled to This D*mn House? Well, they're all up! Remember that ugly puckered spot on the left back corner? (In case you don't, here's a before shot.)
Well, I hope that even having a huge piece of vinyl lattice hanging over CD's 5-year-old's head seems worth it when you see this.

It's not a tiki bar (dammit!), but with any luck, it will still be standing this time next year and not crumbling.

The total cost was a little over $300 -- and that included putting a vinyl board on each side of the front of the shed where the walls were in particularly bad shape.

Based on this, it would seem that "Pimp My Shed" is not canceled, but merely on hiatus ... with a new season starting next spring.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Wiped Out

The blog has been pretty quiet this weekend because I have been in a perpetual state of motion for most of it. Updating the blog would require SITTING DOWN, something I've done very little of since Friday.

LOTS to show 'n tell. Like a pimped shed ... and another project. And some shots from the company picnic. (I was official photographer.)

I am wiped out and I've still got a lot to do. I promise to update my blog and catch up on everyone else's SOON.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The Wrong Color

The poor mother.

She painted the sides of the shed last weekend while I worked on the back. She got one side done when we realized she was using OLD paint. A much lighter shade of gray like the house used to be. I went downstairs and got the remainder of house paint we had on the shelf. She started painting AGAIN.

She didn't have enough, so part of last weekend's Hardware Heaven trip was buying more paint. OK. Full gallon. Good to go. No problem.

We both noticed that something seemed wrong when I started painting the back of the shed that is being covered with lattice.

"That's too dark," says the mother. "You bought the wrong paint."

Did not. Took the label right off the old can and plunked it down on the counter when I bought it. I always do this because it seems to avoid confusion and limit trouble as the person in the paint department on any given day may or may not know what the hell they are doing.

She started painting AGAIN using the new can. At least now, it all matched.

When the paint finally dried, I could deny no longer that something was wrong. I looked at the shed. The house. The shed. The house. Yeah, something is not right.

I went to get the original can. Sure enough, the labels matched. But, not on the label, but on the CAN. it said PASTEL BASE. On the can I had just bought, ACCENT BASE. Uh-oh.

This was confirmed, recognized, and corrected last night. I was given a free gallon of the WRONG color (this time on purpose) last night. The paint kid recognized the problem right away.

All that's left paint-wise on the shed is the trim I'm putting up today and a few other spots that need some touch-up. I'm not going to make the mother repaint it AGAIN. The differences are subtle, but they're different enough that if I had bought the paint in question to TOUCH UP THE HOUSE and had put that color all over the house I just painted last year, TWICE ... that paint department would be in pieces.

So, off I go to start what I HOPE is the final act for Pimp My Shed. I had a change of plans on some of the trim. It would be so wonderful to wrap this project up today. Cross your fingers that it works ...

Friday, October 10, 2008

Very Superstitious

Very superstitious, writings on the wall,
Very superstitious, ladders bout to fall,
Thirteen month old baby, broke the lookin’ glass
Seven years of bad luck, the good things in your past. – “Superstition, Stevie Wonder”

I grew up in an Irish Catholic household. (Even though he had been done for a few years when I was born, John Kennedy’s photo was still proudly displayed in the living room.) My grandmother, who was only the second generation born in the United States, came programmed with every superstition imaginable.

You didn’t walk under ladders or open umbrellas in the house. If you spilled pepper, you quickly threw salt over your left shoulder. And if you broke a mirror … well, you were done for. For at least seven years anyway.

All kinds of crazy shit.

I’ve retained very little of it, fortunately. But it’s always fun when something off the wall seems to work. So when I read this post from Why S? over at the House on Red Hill, I decided to give it a try. “What the hell?” thought I in my classic nothing ventured, nothing gained approach. That was MONDAY.

Two days later …
I received notification that something I thought I was still paying off was already paid. A day later, I received a check refunding half of the last payment I’d made.

Do I think this caused it? The honest answer is that I don’t know. It was awfully strange though. Awfully strange indeed …


It sounds cliché, I know, but THANK GOD IT’s FRIDAY. It’s been an incredibly loooooong and jam-packed week. And today, I feel every bit of it.

This is not good, considering that I still have to make it through today and I’ve got a lot going on. It’s great to be busy again. I need to keep reminding myself of that.

On the plus side, there’s an incredible sunrise unfolding. After yesterday, I can’t help but feel at least a little grateful to see it.

I got home about 6:20 last night as the sun was already trying to make good its escape. I threw my stuff down, changed clothes and ran out to finish the lawn. I was delayed momentarily by the mother who wanted me to see her progress on Pimp My Shed. She had painted all the boards I got up. Now all she’ll needs to do is the trim once I get that in place tomorrow. (Photos aren’t far off. I’ve just been really busy.)

When I finished the yard and put things away, I went in and started taking care of the fur fiends. I grabbed a quick bite, got cleaned up, and headed for Wal-Mart. This was a necessary evil as I was out of allergy drugs. After that, the grocery store, as it was $10 night (off a $50 purchase). They seem to be having those with increasing regularity. Fine by me as each time I go, things seem to cost more and more. I don’t know how families make it. Between the $10 and another $2.50 in coupons, I managed to spend right around $50. And there’s still not a lot of food in the house except Lean Cuisine.

By the time I got home, got things inside and went out to assess what materials I will need to pick up tonight, it was nearly 10 p.m. Yes, I’m headed to Hardware Heaven this evening. How could it possibly be a weekend without such a trip?

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Surrounded by Death

Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality. –
Emily Dickinson

I’m not good with death. I never have been. I have to be practically dragged feet-first into funeral homes. And if I attend a service – well, we were tight. (Or you and I have known each other forever and it’s to support you in a loss.)

During the past 24 hours, Death seems to be lurking everywhere I turn. Its first appearance was yesterday, via email. A colleague let me know that the husband of my friend and colleague KayO had died. I didn’t know Dale, except through KayO’s vivid accounts, both verbal and online. But you can’t help but feel bad for a friend who has suffered such a loss.

The second appearance was last night, via phone. A family friend, long suffering from a host of illnesses, had died. This was someone I did know. Someone whose home I’ve been to a thousand times. Whose children I grew up with. Yet, I couldn’t feel completely sad, knowing how much struggle had gone into the past few years. Still, I feel bad for my childhood companions. I don’t care what age you are. If you’re close to your parents, their loss is not an easy one.

Death appeared again today on the Internet – twice – via blog. One blogger, who is also a published author I admire, had just learned that one of her oldest friends had died a few days ago. Having been blessed with not yet having to deal with losing any of my contemporaries except for my cousin/faux brother, I immediately felt horrible for her.

Continuing down my blog reads, Death appeared once again. I was stunned to find that a former colleague’s father – a legendary personality in the stories I’ve read and heard – had died. Dom recounted how he’d heard the news yesterday. Like my late family friend, and KayO’s hubby, Dom’s dad had also been in declining health, ultimately going blind. Still, that doesn’t lessen the blow to them.

Dom’s stories of his dad have almost always made me laugh. Or, at the very least, shake my head. Today, they nearly made me cry. It was too much loss for people I like and/or love and it was overwhelming.

So to shake all that off, I decided I did need to take a walk. I didn’t get past the corner when I approached a group of people, obviously visitors to the city, one of whom was clutching a cell phone. The woman’s face was paste white. The rest of the group surrounded her in silence as she kept saying, “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Uh-huh.” As I maneuvered past them, I couldn’t help but overhear one of the group members ask, “Does anyone know what happened? Do they know how he died?”

Aw. Geez. C’mon, Death. Take a freakin’ vacation already. He won’t though. Selfishly, I’m hoping I’ve been as close to him as I have to be for a while.

He’s gotten quite a collection in the past few days. Here’s hoping that KayO’s husband, Stacy’s friend, Dom’s dad, Joan, and whomever the poor guy was that was the subject of that phone call all have found one hell of a “welcome” party already in progress.

Safe at Home?

Our homes. They are our own personal headquarters. They are our hubs of activity. They are our buffers to the world outside. But they don’t keep us safe from everything.

This is National Fire Prevention Week. If a fire broke out in your home, would you know what to do? Home fires kill more than 3,400 people each year. That’s like the entire population of the town I grew up in being killed every year. Scary.

There are some easy things you can do to help ensure that you and your family can escape a fire in your home. Smoke detectors are relatively inexpensive, easy to install and can buy you the time you need to get out safely. You need one on each level of your home at a minimum. Put them in hallways outside bedrooms in particular. If you already have them, make sure to put in fresh batteries each year. A lot of people do this in conjunction with the fall time change.

Here are some more tips and fact sheets from the National Fire Protection Association that I hope you’ll read and follow.

Sadly, home is not a safe haven for everyone. For some, it can be the deadliest place on earth. That’s why October is Domestic Violence Awareness month.

Maggie at Okay.Fine.Dammit. has written an article on domestic violence, interviewing seven female victims. She talks about that article here. (I hope we get to read it someday! ) And there are some pretty amazing comments to that post.

Maggie cites a sobering statistic from the National Institute of Justice: one in every four women will be a victim of domestic violence in her lifetime. Do you know four women? Well, guess what … you probably know one of them. Maybe you are one.

Every nine seconds in the United States a woman is beaten. That statistic gave me a chill. Count to nine – it has happened again. Women aren't the only victims either. An increasing number of men are being abused in both heterosexual and same-sex relationships. From a 10-year-old study, more than one-third of domestic violence victims were men.

The good news is that it doesn’t have to happen.

If you’re in a violent relationship, get out. I know how easy that sounds. I also know how easy it’s not. This is the point – the threat of leaving or actually leaving – where many women lose their lives. That’s why it’s important to seek help, both professional and personal. Tell someone close to you what is happening. They need to know. And, you need their help.

There are all kinds of organizations to help you. PLEASE seek them out. Here's a few:

The National Domestic Violence Hotline (If you want to HELP, join their Million Voices campaign.)

The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence

Here are some signs and symptoms if you suspect someone may be suffering from domestic abuse. This sentence on that page leaped out at me: Stressful economic times trigger more instances of spousal abuse. That says that right now, more than ever, we need to help others to help themselves.

Check these sites out. This issue may be closer to home than you know.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

From the Ashes: The Missouri Athletic Club

Someone once asked a prolific bank robber why he robbed banks. His response: “Because that’s where the money is.” I guess it shouldn’t be surprising then that many of the most beautiful historic buildings in downtown St. Louis got their start as either financial institutions or department stores.

Today’s focus, the Missouri Athletic Club, is no exception.

That’s because its original building on Washington once shared space with Boatmen’s Bank. The MAC opened its doors Sept. 13, 1903, probably not too long before this photo from the Missouri Digital Heritage collection was taken. (Note that there isn’t a single car in sight!)

The building, the taller one in the background on the right, opened just months ahead of the start of the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. The clubhouse featured a swimming pool, gymnasium, billiard room and bowling alley in addition to sleeping rooms.

That changed when the building was destroyed by a deadly fire in March 1914. (Read a news account of the blaze here. The article also features a photo of the ruins. You can only imagine what it must have been like to have been in that fire!)

Within two weeks of the fire, members were busily planning their next building. That’s the one that still stands today on Washington at Fourth Street. The Renaissance Revival building designed by William B. Ittner, opened just two years later in March 1916.

This building offers a mix of textures, shapes, and color. It's got a whole lot going on architecturally. So much so, that I almost think of this as being several buildings all rolled into one.

And the geometric pattern woven into its uppermost levels is a sight to behold, especially from afar where you can really appreciate it. The entry to the building looks altogether different and has this grand marquis.

Here's a view of the geometric pattern from Fourth Street. See what I mean about the colors and textures? It's pretty amazing.

The building was officially designated as a city landmark in October 1978 and added to the National Register of Historical Places in May 2007.
Even the cornices above the windows -- which come in a variety of styles -- keep you looking. More than 90 years later, this building can still tip its hat to a bygone era and a history filled with famous names (a virtual Who's Who of historical St. Louisans) from August Busch to Charles Lindbergh.
It's one of the few historic buildings to remain in use for the same purpose for which it was constructed.

Completely At Random

The television is on. A commercial is playing. A man, hawking National rental cars, is pulling a piece of luggage across a parking lot filled with cars.

The mother: “That guy reminds me of Joe Buck.”

Me (shaking head): “Mom, that is Joe Buck.

The mother: “Oh, I guess that would be why, huh?”


In something that is SO typical of my life:

I finished the note last night. While I didn't get it mailed yesterday as I had intended, I at least finished it. I thought, "Now I will write it in the notecard that I had all ready, with the envelope already stamped and addressed. I can put it in the mail today."

O.K. Now where the hell is it?!