Friday, July 30, 2010

Jane Austen in 2010

My day got much better.

I got several things done. A four-month-long project FINALLY launched. And then I saw this.

Oh. My. Freakin' God. This is hilarious. It's hard to maintain composure -- much less a seriously bad mood -- after viewing this!

Hi, I’m Grumpy. What’s Your Name?

I love my job -- most days at least. But today, I was ready to throw the alarm clock across the room and just bury myself in the covers of the bed that I clearly woke up on the wrong side of. Ah, to sleep, perchance to dream ... It's just one of those days that's going to be nearly impossible to get going.

I’m writing this down: this bus is leaving the station on time. In all the weeks that I have been riding it with some regularity, this is a first. Granted there are mornings that it has been stopped by a train. There’s nothing to be done about that.

But not every day. And yet, the bus is late every day. Everyone jokes about it, sometimes wagering on the number of minutes late for the day, because the average is as few as two to as many as seven minutes. Every day.

I’m one of the luckier ones on two counts. First, I’m not trying to catch the train once downtown and second, I rarely have a specific start time. It makes me feel bad for those who actually have to be on time. Their only option is to go 30 minutes earlier as a precaution!

Each day on the bus station lot there is usually a gray truck and a maroon sedan already parked. Nearly every day, one or both of these vehicles are parked badly. Sometimes the truck takes up as many as FOUR spaces (though it’s generally two) and the little red car is inevitably on or just over one of the lines.

Seriously? Where did these people learn to drive?! A go-cart track?

Granted, I’m not the world’s greatest driver and parallel parking has never been one of my strong suits. But this is straight-in parking. And, as these are generally the first two cars on the lot, it’s not as if they have the excuse of having to adjust for someone else’s bad parking. AND the truck parks on the end, which has at least a one-foot margin between that space and the sidewalk that it NEVER uses.

Being grumpy this morning (you noticed the title of the post, right?), it took an incredible amount of restraint to not leave a note on the truck saying: “Would you mind sharing the parking lot with the rest of us?” I could see it happening occasionally but EVERY DAY? That’s beyond rude. That’s going deep into a**hat territory!

And of course I’m grumpy because I’m tired. It’s been a long week. So long that I did NOT get any of my prep work done and here it is Friday. So, that is jeopardizing my game plan for the bathroom. The best laid plans and all that crap.

Wait … did I just say it’s Friday? Hey, it IS Friday! Having said that (and unloading all of the above) I’m feeling a little better already. Happy Friday, everyone!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

St. Louis On Display

Yes, we'll gather at the river,
The beautiful, the beautiful river;
Gather with the saints at the river
That flows by the throne of God. - "Shall We Gather at the River," Hymn

Downtown St. Louis gets up early. Each morning, as I make my way to the office, there are certain scenes to greet me.

There's Gino, the hotdog vendor, hurriedly emptying his white van and setting up for the lunch crowd. There's the small army of commuters, some in uniforms, some not, making their way to their respective jobs from trains and buses.

And then there are those who amble into Starbuck's or one of the corner convenience stores to get a quick chemical jolt before officially starting their day.

But this morning there is another group that is among our ranks. There are park officials and even some white-collar types milling through Kiener Plaza. Lots of them. A huge fence has cordoned off the side boundaries of the plaza.

While no one will 'fess up, the talk is that brass from the Democratic National Committee are in town and St. Louis is among four finalist cities going under the microscope as a potential venue for the DNC's 2012 nominating convention. The group most recently was in Charlotte, N.C. Minneapolis and Cleveland are the other contenders.

The fenced-off Kiener will be the site of a concert by legendary rocker Chuck Berry. The free show starts at 8:30 tonight. St. Louis officials are hoping that events like this will help show the excitement and local interest in drawing the DNC.

I, for one, hope it works. This city has an awful lot going for it. It has been remaking itself as a convention venue in recent years, an image that plenty of organizations who bring thousands of visitors to town have bought into. (I think PartyLite is in town this week.)

I am nice to tourists. I go out of my way to speak to conventioneers, greet them, try to help them find places or things, even volunteering to take a group shot so that the photographer can make the frame. I know when I am traveling, a lot of my most lasting impressions of places I visit are the encounters I have with the natives. Rude people are a turn-off and this is 100 times as true when you're far away from home.

As an unofficial ambassador for St. Louis, welcome DNC. Take a look around. St. Louis is a fabulous mix of culture and common Midwest working-class values. I'm sure that Minneapolis, Cleveland and Charlotte are all very nice cities and equally capable of pulling off a big political party. But none of them are St. Louis.

They don't have Forest Park and its many gems. They don't have the Arch and its fabulous grounds. (A prime location for an acceptance speech.) They don't have the history that St. Louis does in drawing people -- common and not -- from all over the country and the world.

So, let's all gather at the river in 2012. You won't be disappointed.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Here's Your Box

Sometimes when you take on a project, it’s very easy to get thrown by all the prep work that can be involved. Take our bathroom for instance.

Just so there are no unpleasant surprises this weekend, when I fully intend to dive back into this recurring reno head first, I’m trying to get started in dealing with all of the minutia that can make a job on even the smallest of rooms seem endless. So, I broke out the boxes.

We have what are essentially two medicine cabinets in our tiny bath. One has a mirrored door. (The mirror to which has been absent lo these 11 months and very sorely missed. But I couldn’t see putting it back up only to take back it down the manillian times I’ve now started – and then stopped – working on the walls in there. So, down it has stayed.

The other is directly over the back of the commode. It has a small exposed shelf (which the mother dutifully and maniacally filled with knick knacks) beneath two doors which cover three shelves of storage space for drugs and beauty items. And, sans vanity (we have a pedestal sink), it is jammed full. Note: I found two small “towers,” each containing three tiny baskets, at Target some years back, that we had on either side of the sink, to alleviate some of this overcrowding. It worked. For a while.

Then Toby came – and stayed. His litter box and food dishes – along with a “sometimes” bed – all now live in the tiny bathroom. So, the towers were relegated to the linen closet. (That, however, is a post all its own!) But I digress …

I’ve decided that I am removing the larger cabinet to do a better job of stripping old wallpaper, repairing the wall and to make the actual job of putting in new wallpaper much easier. This means it has to be cleared out. And, I have to find a space for it (until it can be painted), a space in which to paint it and a space for it to dry once it is painted.

Clearing out those cabinets … that was my plan for last night. That’s not what happened.

Instead, I got out of the office late. I had stops to make on the way home. And once home, I had a variety of things to do. The chief task was dealing with Ladybird. Yesterday morning, her brake light on the dash winked at me. This happened a few more times as I gunned her toward town.

That winking light usually means that the brake fluid needs topping off. So, I bought some Dot 3 brake fluid. While I was at it, I bought some windshield cleaner. After dinner and before it got dark, I added these vital liquids. I also added some antifreeze and checked the oil while I was under the hood.

At home, we didn’t get the brief downpour that removed some of the heat from the air. No. It was hot and it stayed that way. By the time I got back in the house, after finishing with Ladybird and throwing a bit of water around in a lame attempt to cool things off, I was drenched. I no longer had the will or the energy to clear cabinets.

Instead, I gathered up the boxes and issued one to the mother specifically to put what she’d need out of said cabinets over the next several days. “Here’s your box,” I said as I laid a few other boxes to the side to do the bulk of the clearing.

But that would be for a different night.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Just Us ‘Goyles

Vicki at NotSoSAHM is finally posting again after her recent European vacation. And her post of yesterday immediately caught my attention: It’s about gargoyles!

They aren’t just the scary monsters you think they are.

They actually provide a function by covering up one monstrous, albeit necessary, structure feature: drain pipes. Leave it to me to get all excited about a post on drain pipes. (Yes, I’m a nerd like that. Sorry to shatter any illusions you may have had about me.) In my defense, it was a fab post with great photos and a link to a news story with more of the same.

My love of elaborate cornices and other decorative details is well documented. But just in case you missed it, here are some shots – old and new (new being some I haven’t blogged about yet) – of some of my favorite grotesques, all courtesy of downtown St. Louis’ historic architecture. I don't have to go to Europe to find fabulous examples. (Though I'd certainly love to!) In fact, I don't even have to leave my stompin' grounds.

Believe me, this doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. And I love that about this town.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Temperature Is Relative

I don't know how weathermen define "cooler" but I can tell you that while the numbers may have been less yesterday where the temperature was concerned (compared to Thursday and Friday), it most assuredly was NOT cooler.

The alleged cold front was due to a series of storms that ripped through the area shortly after sunset Saturday. (We lost power twice in under a minute but it quickly righted itself. Thank God!) Our street flooded, like normal, but no other ill effects. Lots of places in the metro weren't as lucky.

I worked outside most of the day yesterday, mowing, trimming and weeding. The sun was relentless during most of this time, only occasionally ducking behind a cloud. As a result, I'm sporting quite the sunburn today. (I must say I did a masterful job this morning of concealing the degree to which my nose now outshines Rudolph's.)

Spending all day outside only painfully reminded me of how much stuff is waiting to be done out there. But wait it must. Part of the reason I was so dedicated to yardwork yesterday (after skipping last weekend due to excessive heat) is that I plan to skip AGAIN this weekend. That's because I am going to get back on the bathroom reno.

Something has to get done soon or I'm going to lose my mind. It's as simple as that. The bathroom that I was going to have completed 11 months ago is going to get done this weekend. There. I said it.

Now I just have to do it.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Trip to the History Museum

On Friday, the mother and I visited the Missouri History Museum. I'm wondering what the hell took us so long!

The motivation for going was the Vatican Splendors display. It was OK. (I thought some of the things were very cool but I don't think it was as cool as a Vatican Display we saw at the art museum four or five years ago.) Even so, it had its moments. What I thought was very cool:

*Replica of the Pieta -- This was a cast done in 1975, made from a cast of the original that was done in 1930. That cast was very important as its existence helped to restore the statue in 1972 after some freak, claiming to be Jesus, wigged out and attacked the 15th Century masterpiece.

*Several portraits, including one of St. George, that had never before been displayed outside the Vatican.

* Frescos of several ancient popes which survived an 1823 fire of the 4th Century Basilica of St. Paul.

*Mock-up of the workspace of Michelangelo during the painting of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling.

We spent a little more than an hour in the display itself. We meandered into a meager display from the World's Fair (1904)and logged at least another hour in the gift shop.

Photos were forbidden in the Vatican display but I snapped these at the World's Fair section.

The stuff they had was neat but I was surprised that it was so sparse.

Another of my favorite things was the view as soon as you entered the door.

The short version of this story is that we only scratched the surface. We didn't get to see much of their offerings at all. So you just know we'll have to go back!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Sizzlin' Summer Birthday WINNER!

The mother will tell you that it's not really my birthday ... yet. That's why I know a call from her is forthcoming. (I get one every year, shortly after lunchtime central, assuming I'm not traveling or in a meeting which has happened a few times.)

Thanks to all of you though for letting me have the whole day, actually most of the whole past week, and for all of your birthday wishes! Today really did get off to a good start and only seems to be gaining momentum. Hopefully, that's its charted course.

And thank you to all those who participated in the Sizzlin' Summer Birthday Giveaway. I really appreciate your entry and your help in spreading the word about the contest.

OK. You've been patient long enough. The winning entry, courtesy of, is: Kate R.! Kate has won an $80 gift card to, meaning she has MORE THAN 200 STORES to choose her prize from.
Way to go, Kate!

Kate is a faithful follower and regular commenter here at This D*mn House AND, I'm happy to report, a newbie on Twitter. Because she retweeted my tweet about the contest and commented on the contest post she got a total of six entries. See, Kate, social media has its advantages! By her own admission, Kate said she was "being dragged into the 21st century kicking & screaming the whole way." (And you should thank your daughter, BTW, for dragging you along.) ;-)

Congratulations to Kate and thanks again, everyone, for helping me celebrate.

The Deluge

The rain started just before I left work. As I spoke to a colleague, the storm revved up behind me, rattling my windows and echoing off my walls.

Lovely. It couldn’t wait until I got home. Oh, how I wish it had.

The wind whipped my little umbrella to and fro, inside out and then righted it again. The water beat down on me like tiny needles. I was soaked from the knees down, my feet squishing in my sandals, my hair dripping down my back. Yet it was still so warm that initially, the cool of the bus was a relief.

As we made our way down Washington heading for I-70, water shot up from the sidewalk. Because the rain continued so ferociously without slacking, the sewers filled quickly, touching off mini-geysers on the sidewalk, spraying water straight into the air. People on the street scrambled away from the tiny versions of Old Glory.

The water was thick along Broadway, coming halfway up car tires in places. Cars created thunderous rivers as they made their way through. Once on I-70, water poured off the overpasses like waterfalls. Some of my fellow passengers pointed and gasped. “Does this bus have fins?” I quipped and everyone laughed. We weren’t laughing long.

Route 3 was treacherous and water-covered. Cars were still getting through but that would not be the case less than an hour later. Police would close it to traffic after several cars got stuck in the rising waters. Finally, we reached the station. I made S. wait under the shelter of the depot while I grabbed Ladybird. Suffice it to say that while I'd gotten half-dried on the bus, it didn't matter. I was now soaked to the skin from head to toe after Mother Nature treated my umbrella the way a terrier would a rag doll.

S. was brave and she and I endured a white-knuckled ride on the last leg of our journey. Along the way, we watched the power go on and off – twice – in businesses and at the hospital – before quickly coming back on. More than once both she and I stiffened as Ladybird performed more like a boat than a car. Lots of other motorists would have begged to be so fortunate.

Luckily, these experiences were fewer once I made my way onto the main drag. However, I opted for sidestreets once we finally reached uptown and I watched other cars navigate rising waters at the intersection, I was pleased that I’d taken the alternate route. Shortly down this path and the rain finally began to abate, something it hadn't done in nearly 90 minutes.

As we neared S’s complex though, something was amiss. While it was dark as sunset (though that was hours away) no lights were on. Anywhere. As I pulled into her entrance, I spied light. Hey, there’s light!

“Looks like candlelight,” she said and groaned. Yeah, that's what it was, too. Looks like she went home to no power. Would I find the same at home?

As I made my way down the road, I passed darkened homes and businesses. Traffic lights were out, save one just before my turn. I held my breath as I turned onto the last street before my alley. Front doors stood open. People were sitting on their porches.

Uh-oh. This doesn't look good.

Our street light wasn't on. Hmmm. I parked Ladybird, grabbed my gear and headed for the back door. While the AC wasn't humming -- gulp -- cool air greeted me as I opened the door. As I opened the kitchen door, I held my breath.

LIGHT! YES! The power hadn't gone out.

Dorothy was right: There really is no place like home.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

A Final Reminder: Get a Gift for My Birthday!

No, silly. You don't have to get me a gift. Enter my Sizzlin' Summer Birthday Giveaway and the gift could be headed to you!

Click the link. Leave a comment. You're entered! You have until 11:59 p.m. tonight.

Please, NO SPAM or multiple identity entries. Thanks!


She Is Upright Once More

I don’t mind the rain so much. It’s helped keep the temperatures under 100.

I do mind the storms. Storms that happen every night either at bedtime or in the middle of the night. Storms that violently shake the house and light up my room for more than an hour, setting my Yorkie off into a ceaseless growl and the occasional out-and-out bark. It’s been doing this since Sunday.

The good news is that while the power did go out both last night and on Monday, in both cases, it was only for a matter of seconds (Yeah, I’m still really sensitive to that, four years after the July storm that left us sans power, phone and cable for a week in 100-degree heat.)

I stayed home again Tuesday but I’ve dragged my sorry a** out of bed today. Just getting dressed was enough to wear me out. I’m really tired but, other than that, I do feel better.

And since I’ve managed to do that, you need to go enter my Sizzlin’ Summer Birthday Giveaway. It ends tonight and I announce the winner tomorrow so go now! What are you waiting for?!

Monday, July 19, 2010

And She Falls Silent

Sorry, folks. Those of you who posted comments since late last night, I'm truly sorry that you had to wait nearly 24 hours to get them posted. I was not online to moderate them.

That's because I spent the bulk of today in bed, fighting a sinus infection that has pushed stuff down through my ears and now, I fear, has touched off an ear infection. I now have a Z-pack and hopefully that will do the trick.

I think this is my second or third such infection this year. That's about average but there are still five months left in the year. Hopefully, this will be the last.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Soggy Sunday

Any plans I had for today are washed out. Literally.

We're in the middle of the first round of a day filled with one storm front after another. But that's OK. Maybe I'll take a nap.

Yesterday, on the other hand, was a great day. I spent a good chunk of it with the MonkeyGirl We managed to sneak in some scrapbooking but not before I got to snap some photos that are defintely scrapworthy.

Through her partial ownership in The Skaterboy (who was just a slip of a boy when she began dating Mr. Monkeygirl), MG now has partial ownership in The Monkey Child. And what an adorable little monkey she is! (With apologies to the MonkeyGirl for honin' in on her photogenic little subject. Thanks for sharing her!)

She is on the move and growin' like a weed. Hard to believe she is already 10 months old. So glad I got to visit with her, too. It was an extra special treat and a fabulous way to start a fun day.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

A Year Later, a Happy Ending

Almost exactly a year ago, I was haunted by the terrified screams of a kitten. This went on for days.

Finally, I was able to both locate and reach said kitten. If you’ve been following the blog for a while you’ll recognize these photos.

Tiny little thing, not even weaned. (You might also recall that I thought the kitten was a boy and started calling it Taz. NOT so! He was actually a she. But she looked so much like a boy that even the vet did a double-take.)

We agonized over keeping her and for months last year I tried desperately to find her a home. And then, just when I’d resigned myself to having a third fur fiend again, a phone call and an email changed everything. So, it was with more sadness than I thought there’d be that Taz went to a new home last fall.

As hard a choice as that was, there is no doubt in my mind that it was the right one. We were meant to be Taz’s rescuers and temporary caretakers. We were just a stop on her intended path. She was meant to fill a void for someone who’d lost a feline companion of 14 years and was stuck in that terrible place between wanting another one and never wanting to feel the heartbreak of such a loss ever again.

This was the last photo I took of Taz. I had no idea that I would miss her so much. But missing her is easily overcome when you get periodic updates and photos. And when, almost a year to the day she first padded into your life, you get a note that says, in part:

She is so much company for me. She does believe my ankles are her
toys. But I love it when she attacks me as I walk through the house.
She is a good eater and a great litter box cat. She loves yogurt which I eat each evening....many times she digs in while I'm still eating. I prefer she waits and then I save her some......but that doesn't always happen and I truly don't mind eating after her.....again my husband thinks I'm crazy and I always say....yes I am....crazy about Taz !!! So thanks again for bringing her up the right way her first few months.

And when that note comes with photos, like these.

That little baby has grown into a beautiful girl cat (who looks a LOT like Toby!) who hit the jackpot in the home department. Yeah, sometimes things really DO work out the way they’re supposed to.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Sizzlin' Summer Birthday Giveaway

Getting gifts is fun but I really enjoy giving them, too. I had so much fun last month giving away a cordless 24V Black & Decker trimmer/edger. So when chose me as a "preferred blogger" I jumped at the chance to do another giveaway.

Here’s the deal in the Sizzlin' Summer Birthday Giveaway: The winner gets an $80 gift card to (Provided by

You could put it toward a new bathroom vanity. (And believe me when I say I know how hard finding just the right one can be.)

You could buy yourself a wine rack. Or maybe a new tool for that next DIY project. Perhaps a little something for the kiddos. You could even buy a purse or some shoes if that’s more to your liking!

Win and you can spend it however you’d like at any of CNS’s more than 200 stores. That opens up a whole lot of opportunities – and makes for a fun online shopping trip to decide. Interested? Then leave me a comment telling me how you’d use your gift card.

This contest will work just like last month’s giveaway. By helping to spread the word, you can earn additional entries. Winner will be announced on my birthday, Thursday, July 22. So, make sure you have all of your entries in by 11:59 p.m. CDT on Wednesday, July 21!

There are THREE ways to get your name in the hat. Please note, while you can do all three, you can do each ONLY ONCE (for a maximum total of 21 entries). Here’s how to enter: ·

  • Leave a comment on this post – 1 entry (post-related, please)

  • Tweet this post’s link – 5 entries

  • Write a blog post – 15 entries (your post must contain a link to the contest post)
Good luck … and happy shopping!

(One fine print caveat: The gift card is good for merchandise only. It cannot be used toward shipping cost. Winner is responsible for any shipping costs.)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Hotter Than July

I swear if I hear someone use that phrase just one more time -- I may be forced to smack them. It can't be hotter than July people. It IS July and it is friggin' ROASTING!

It’s barely 6 a.m. and it’s already 84 degrees. That’s a full four degrees warmer than yesterday. Even so, when I left work yesterday it was 94 degrees and the heat index was 109. (It was still 110 in most areas by the time they got to weather during the six o’clock news.)

Funny thing is that I lunched with some coworkers yesterday outside on one of our building’s patios. It was shade-covered and while it was hot, there was a breeze and it wasn’t unpleasant. Go figure. I think we’re just spoiled based on recent summers. Except for June, we had a pretty good summer last year at least where temps are concerned. This year, we seem to have gone full-tilt in the other direction!

At least it’s cool on the bus. I had just enough time to throw some gas in Ladybird (at $2.69/gallon) and still arrive at the station just ahead of the bus. And that included having a cop behind me for the first few blocks of the trip. Pretty good timing.

We’re supposed to get storms this afternoon and evening and they could turn severe. I’m hoping not, but this is generally one of the side effects of extremely hot weather. One of the other unpleasant side effects: raging tempers. You see it in drivers even more than usual. And pedestrians are putting that extra artful dodge into street, trying to get in out of the heat.

The one upside as noted by the mother last night: a lack of bugs. “There is nothing stirring out there,” she said.

Well, take the good where you can find it. Speaking of good and hot (you just know I stayed up all night thinking up that transition ...)

Who likes SHOPPING? Meeeeeeee!!!!! Well, if you like it, too, stay tuned for details on my Sizzlin' Summer Birthday Giveaway. Who knows? An online shopping trip could be in your future ...

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

All Aboard! Cruisin' Past the End of an Era

As I was walking down the street one day
A man came up to me and asked me
What the time was that was on my watch, yeah
And I said
Does anybody really know what time it is?
I don't care
Does anybody really care
About time?
Chicago, "Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?"

It is a hot July day. There is a band playing this song at full volume. I am in a ballroom and I am dancing.

I like this song. I even know some of the words. I sing the ones I know. Wait. What is the time on my watch? I glance down at Cinderella, strapped to my wrist. The little hand is on the 5. The big hand is on the 6. I think. Or is it the other way around? I glance again. Yep. That means it’s time to go up on deck!

I am surrounded by cousins on all sides as we look out over the railing and take turns with the giant viewer scope. We are cruising along the Mighty Mississippi. Look! It’s the Arch! We all run to the fence that bordered the deck and point excitedly and yammer on like the 3- to 7-year-olds we are.

I am 6, nearly 7, and I am aboard the S.S. Admiral.

It was not my first visit. That had been a few years earlier. Of course, the mother had appropriately slapped a sailor dress on me for that occasion. And, we took advantage of a fairly recent addition to the Admiral: the photo booth. (See right)

June 22, 1940

Franklin D. Roosevelt is President. France has fallen to the Nazis.

But a world away, a steamboat that spent more than three decades hauling railroad cars along the Mississippi river is getting a new lease on life. The Albatross, a 1907 sidewheel steel-hull railroad transfer boat, is fresh from a two-year, million-dollar renovation that beefed up the steamer and finds it clad in gleaming steel.
They’d gutted it after the Streckfus Steamer Co. purchased it in 1937 and its art-deco style, both in and out, is already gaining legendary status.

But today, there she is in all her glory. At 374 feet, she is longer than a city block. She is billed as the first "all-steel inland steamer" and she has air-conditioning!
While they weren’t on the maiden nighttime voyage, my beautiful grandmother, along with her parents and a cousin, did visit during that inaugural season. I don’t know the date. But I know that it was during the summer of 1940.
I know because within just a few months, my great-grandmother would become ill. She would die in March 1941. She would not see the United States enter World War II. She would never meet the mother or the godmother.

Yet on this summer day, Julia is very much alive. There she is with my great-grandfather standing on the Admiral's deck.

And there’s my grandmother with her cousin who was nearly a decade older. (I’m not sure if Young Tom was on this little excursion or not. He’s not in any of the photos. He and my grandmother would have been just exiting the “honeymoon phase,” having just marked their second anniversary. Maybe he took the photos? Or perhaps it was my late great aunt, my grandmother’s younger sister, who is behind the shutter as she is also noticeably absent.)

July 2010
It is another July day, far removed from my childhood memories, and farther still, some 70 years, since that first summer. It’s been more than 30 years since the Admiral last sailed. She’s been docked here and then there, changing ownership a few more times and undergoing yet one more renovation during that time. (This one, in the late 1980s, preceded riverboat gambling legislation in the early ‘90s that transformed her into a floating casino. Henceforth, she is tethered to the riverfront.)

I was on the renamed President Casino exactly once. It was in late 1996 or early 1997. I lost my $20 and went home. This boat held none of the magic or charm I’d felt so acutely in my childhood. It was as if the slot machines and gaming tables had desecrated it somehow.

The Admiral lost its gaming license earlier this year and was scheduled for closure this month. It ended up closing a few weeks early as the rising waters of the Mississippi flooded its entryway.

While I was on the Admiral a few more times before it stopped sailing in 1979, no visit is as vivid as the one just prior to my 7th birthday. Maybe it’s because of the pictures. (I can’t find the one of us kids all together or of me scanning downtown with the giant viewer scope. But, they’re just as flat and blurry as this one, so you get the idea.)

Maybe it’s because it’s the first time I am old enough to amass such vivid a memory. And maybe, just maybe, it’s to remind me nearly four decades later as I stand before this hulking boat, how lucky I was to have experienced it, as a fourth, and final generation of my family.

I don’t know what the fate of the Admiral is. More than likely, it’s a scrap heap.

And while the magic has long since died aboard this vessel, as I carefully trod along the overrun banks of the Mississippi, for just a second, I swear there is music accompanying the ripples of the water …

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

National Enjoy Your Deck Day -- July 24

July 24 is more than just a summer Saturday this year. It’s National Enjoy Your Deck Day!

There are lots of activities you can get in on to observe this special day like:
Nationwide celebration on Saturday, July 24 – encouraging people to enjoy their decks and spend time with family and friends
• Celebration includes a huge national deck party - host or attend a local deck party in your city at National-Enjoy-Your-Deck-Day
Numerous ways to celebrate with fun deck activities, game nights, themed deck parties, grilling and relaxing (see ideas below)
• Join the celebration, find fun tips and ideas, and enter to win your dream deck. Fiberon is giving away a free custom Fiberon Horizon Tropics composite deck, and helping throw the ultimate deck party.
• Include the Deck Party widget on your blog to help people find parties in their city (or host their own). The top 5 largest parties win $50 for food, drinks and party supplies! Get the widget code here.

Five Fun Ways to Enjoy Your Deck

Here are some other fun ways to enjoy your deck. Have more? Share them below!

Host a pet party - Invite your friends and their dogs over to beat the heat on the deck. Dog bowls and bones for the pooches and margaritas and kabobs for their owners.
Throw an ice cream social - Tell everyone to bring their favorite toppings and provide vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream to experiment with on your deck.
Family game night – Play your favorite board or card games with your family and have a best out of five contest.
Read and relax-Hang a hammock and grab the latest summer novel and spend some time unwinding while reading.
Get crafty-Outside is the perfect location to paint, sew, knit or start any other craft you’ve been wanting to try.

Monday, July 12, 2010

A Good Week

I know it’s going to be a good week. (If I say this enough, I know I'll believe it.)

It’s getting off to an auspicious start with a late bus (more than 10 minutes) and an office that is absolutely stifling but I’m standing by that call in spite of it because:
  • You can find out how to win a new deck from Fiberon Decking … and learn about National Deck Day.
  • You can see the early birthday gift I got myself.
  • And for my birthday, you could win a prize in This D*mn House’s second-ever give-away!
  • A key project at work should launch later this week.
  • And last but not least, I hope to make major progress on the blog redesign. (You did notice that it already looks a little different, right?) Now that I've done some toying with the new system and the new look, let's just see what the girl can do!

Any one of those would be reason enough to declare it a good week but put them all together and it’s got to be unavoidable! Stay tuned …

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Trapped While Sitting

I have some running around I need to do but I can't seem to extricate my butt from the sofa to go and start doing it. Must. Get. Up. For a three-day workweek, last week seemed to go on FOREVER.

It's glorious outside though and is supposed to be all day. While it is forecast for a high near 90, none of that dreadful humidity that has been pummeling us for so long now. (That returns again tomorrow.)Should be ideal for car-washing and mowing.


Need to give a shout out to Kohl's, my new favorite store. Last night, I got a really cute dress, a watch and a pair of jeans for LESS THAN THE MSR PRICE OF THE DRESS ALONE! (Thanks to their 15 percent off your purchase deals. I even got $30 back in store credit after I added a few things for the mother and the house, too.) So, you know I'll have to go back next week to claim my $30 before it expires.


Did you get in on Ozzie's birthday giveaway? No? Well maybe, just maybe, I've got ANOTHER giveaway up my sleeve. Stay tuned for details next week ...

Friday, July 9, 2010

A Whole New Look

Do you ever get the itch to put a new color on the wall? Or to buy all new furniture? Or even just to change out all the pictures in a given room? The itch that wants you to alter your surroundings.

Yeah, that itch. Well, it turns out I've been suffering from this for some time not only at This D*mn House but also where the blog bearing its name is concerned. I wanted to do a little changing up of the whole layout. Blogger recently made some changes that supposedly made this easier and I've been playing with them off and on during the past few weeks. It's never been one of my strongest suits but I'm slowly getting better at it.

After trying a variety of different combinations, this is what I've hit upon -- at least for now. One of the biggest and most immediately noticeable changes is the logo. Do you like that? It's something that has actually been in use for more than two years on my profile. In fact, it was created specifically for that.

Recently though, I've been asked for my "logo" by different people for different reasons. So, it's out there. It's showing up different places. That got me thinking. Shouldn't it be on this site then?

I actually have a different picture that I wanted to use as my background but I haven't figured out how to do that. (This painting ladder scene was as close to DIY as I could find amongst Blogger's current offerings.) So, it could potentially change. If I was betting, I'd put money on it changing. That's due in large part to the fact that I still don't know what I'm doing. As I slowly figure it out, change is inevitable.

It's all still under construction so I hope you'll hang with me as I put it through the paces. I'm sure I've already made some mistakes but nothing ventured, nothing gained. Right?

All Hands (and Feet) on Deck

Summer and backyards – they go together like hand and glove. And if you have a deck – especially if it happens to surround a pool – you know where you can find everyone from May through September.

But maybe this is the year you’d like to build a deck. Our friends at Better Homes and Gardens have a variety of ideas for designing the perfect deck. Location, size, building materials and a budget are just a few things to work through first.

A growing trend in exterior design is to take the kitchen outdoors with us as we move outside for the warmer months. has some ideas, too, to accommodate that outdoor kitchen for your next get together. This is one I really like. (D'ya think it just might be those beadboard cabinet doors?!)

Already have a deck, but maybe it needs a little love? has tons of photos of before and after deck makeovers too. Here are just a few of the transformations.Suggestions are as simple as adding flowers for an added extra splash of color, to adding a canopy for more deck privacy, to selecting the right deck furniture.

Just looking at all the options is making me at least think of what I might do with my own behemoth. What do your plans include?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Casting a Stone at Religious Barbarism

If you’ve visited this blog before, you probably know that I occasionally crawl up on my soapbox. Few issues can get me up there quicker than inequality. Doesn’t matter which of its many forms (social, racial, gender, economic to name a few) it may take, it generally lights a fire within me.

You might have read a post I did earlier this year, On Being a Girl. If you did, you know that the subjugation of women is a pet peeve of mine. Anatomy has absolutely nothing to do with a person’s inner strength and it should in no way prevent that person from fulfilling their potential.

And yet, we live in a world where this occurs every single day. Every. Single. Day. (Do you get the idea yet that this really pisses me off? Good. It does.)

Granted, the United States doesn’t have a whole lot of room to talk. Though Wyoming and Colorado passed women’s suffrage in the 1890s, it would take the rest of the country another 30 years to catch on when the 19th Amendment to Constitution gave women the right to vote in 1920. And owning property? Well into the 19th century, after marriage a woman had no control over the income from any of her property. In most states she could neither give nor sell property, hers before marriage, without her husband’s consent.

Mississippi became the first state to rectify this legal imbalance in 1839. Yet in 1913, there were still 20 states requiring a husband’s signature before a married woman could dispose of her own property. And still, in 2010, the average American woman earns between 75 and 80 cents for every dollar that her male counterpart does.

Yet all that pales in comparison to the plight of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old Iranian woman, “convicted” of alleged adultery. (She gave a confession but says it was given under duress; her children vehemently deny the charges.) Already imprisoned for five years, Ashtiani was given 99 lashes. And if that wasn’t barbaric enough, now she is scheduled for execution – by stoning – the punishment of choice for male and female adulterers! An offense which doesn't even always result in divorce in the United States.

And this, for a woman who may not even be guilty. Without evidence, a judge "said" she did it. Wow. (Imagine if we started doing this in the United States. The halls of Congress would be mighty friggin’ empty in a hurry would they not?)

Wait. Did I just jump in Mr. Peabody and Sherman’s WABAC machine? Or, can it really be 20 freakin’ 10?! I know that not all Muslims follow the Sharia or adhere to every word of the Quran that allows sh*t like this to go on (and makes women cover themselves from head to toe and prohibits their education and has them married off with no say in the matter).

It would seem then that maybe the Islamic faith needs its own version of Vatican II.

But Christians and Jews, don't be feeling all superior now. The Bible offers just as much barbarism. Adultery, taking God’s name in vain, homosexuality, a woman “found not to have been a virgin on her wedding night,” even cursing a parent – all punishable by, yep, death. It endorses both slavery and polygamy, too. But that’s all Old Testament.

In its defense, modern Christianity has, at least for the most part, gone all New Testament and is more apt to ask itself “What Would Jesus Do?” (As if the second half of the Bible serves as a big “nevermind” for the first part. But I digress.)

There are conflicting reports out as I write this. Some say that Ashtiani has been given a reprieve. (Though there's no clarification as to whether that means that she'll just be hanged instead.) Others tell of a growing outcry from governments and celebrities around the world. Then there's the crazy commenters. Some of whom say all of us protesting need to "just go away. It's not your country. It's not your law."

There is that. Yes. But as a citizen of the universe, that BS doesn't fly with me. I learned right from wrong more than 40 years ago. And this is wrong. Very wrong.

But what would Jesus do? I can only guess, mind you, but I think he’ might say something like: “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

No matter what your beliefs are (or aren’t), it seems like there’s a whole lot of wisdom in that.

A Gray Day

The air is thick and ultra-heavy this morning. It’s cloudy and gray.

It rained a bit overnight and we’re in for more showers later this morning. I’m just hoping they’ll hold off until I get into the office. You know you’re in trouble when it’s 77 degrees at 6 a.m. Unfortunately, the rain isn’t going to do much to change that. It’s only going to be marginally “cooler” and by cooler, I mean by about 2 degrees. Maybe.

We’re at a point where we could use the rain but it would be nice if it would bring a little bit of relief with it.

I know I shouldn’t complain. We’ve been in the mid-90s while the northeast has been above 100 degrees the past few days. Now that’s hot. I feel for ya.

At least the bus is cool. It’s like a refrigerator car, in spite of the fact that it’s quite full. I’m grateful because there are few kinds of commutes that are worse than a full, unair-conditioned bus. In July. In the Midwest.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Waging War Against Slugs

One thing about being home during the week is getting to see a variety of things on TV that I normally don’t. This week, that included P. Allen Smith’s “In the Garden” segment on our NBC affiliate’s noon news.

His topic: slugs. We’ve been fighting them for years. We’ve tried beer. That works, but it’s a pain in the butt, as Is going out at night with a flashlight and smashing them. (The mother does this; I refuse.) We opted against using the chemical treatment we bought last year –after a more careful read of the label –for fear of harming other creatures.

So, when I heard that Smith was going to offer remedies for dealing with this benign-looking but evil creatures, he had my full attention. In fact, he offered up three remedies that I’d never before heard. There are just some barriers that slugs won’t cross, Smith said. OK. And they are?
1. Wood ash. Spread these ashes around the bases of shrubs or trees where slugs like to attack. Supposedly, they won’t go near it. Something that should be in easy supply … and free! There’s a caveat though: You have to replace the ashes every times it rains!
2. Copper sheeting. If you wrap a copper barrier around the bases, it’s supposed to have the same effect. He didn’t specify how thick, but what was shown didn’t appear to be either very thick or high. Doesn’t sound then like this would be an expensive option.
3. Sweet gum balls. Again, collect and spread these at the tree and shrub bases. For smaller plants, you can even smash them up with a hammer. These are plentiful in my neighborhood and I curse them regularly. And I thought their only function was to be arch-nemesis to my lawnmower!

I don’t know if any of these actually work, but at this point, I’m willing to give them a try! I’m even willing to try putting stuff around the base of the deck to keep their slimy little selves off there.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Et Tu, Pearl?

Yesterday, I spent the entire morning in the yard. It was pleasant for about the first hour. After that, it was hotttttt. I was already sore when I started, so by the time I finished I was miserable.

The mother got a mid-morning call that one of her friend’s fathers had died. She is now the official flower-buyer for her circle so despite how bad she felt, she took care of that. Or, she tried to. Because it was a holiday, her favorite local place was closed.

By this time, I’d emerged from the shower and found my second wind. Because she had bothered to get dressed, I coaxed her into a little shopping trip. She was hoping to find a dress or suit to wear to the funeral home but no dice. We found a lot of other things though so it served as a suitable distraction for her.

By the time we got home and got the car unloaded, I was running out of steam. Still, I had to run to Hardware Heaven so I could get a few gallons of paint while the Behr rebate was still in effect. I made a few other stops while I was in the neighborhood and then gunned it for home. As I flipped on my blinker to make a lane change, the blinker began to “fast blink” in the dash. Sh*t. Not again!

Maybe you recall the fun I had a few months back changing the same turn signal , but on the other side. Now I get the joy of repeating the experience. C’mon, Pearl, it’s not fair that you’ve been dragged into the conspiracy. It really is as if the universe keeps throwing crazy little crap my way the past few days so I can’t get anything significant done.

Perhaps it will be safer to return to work. I guess I’ll find out tomorrow …

For now, I’ve got a lot to keep me busy. None of which will get anything accomplished on the house but I guess it gets stuff done.

UPDATE: During round one of today's errands, the turn signal started working again. I think the bulb is temporarily making connection. Perhaps this means this is a job that can wait 'til the weekend.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Audio Fireworks

"Why don't you go watch the fireworks?" the mother asks me.

Instead, I stay in place on the loveseat, listening to the reports echo and boom.

I had intended to go. I really did. I wanted to take pictures this year. It would be a first with the "new" camera as I had skipped last year, too. But, no. The day had taken its toll.

I had hoped to be nearly finished with the bathroom or at least to have made a major dent. But after a shopping excursion yesterday, that goal disappeared. The mother hadn't felt well yesterday and I noticed she was even more fidgety than normal. When we got home, she raised her shirt to exposed a rash-covered waist and trunk. Oh sh*t. The mother has shingles. Again.

She had a very bad night. It was no picnic for me, either.

So, to avoid disturbing her today, I opted instead to do some repair work to the porch and walkway. This kept me outside (in the heat, in the scorching humidity)and it meant a trip to Lowe's. I came home with three 40-pound bags of concrete which I thought was overkill as I bought it. I used all but 1/2 a bag.

I would have used that, too, but within an hour of finishing the walkway and before I could mix up some concrete to work on the porch, the sky went black. Sh*t. Clearly, I can't cut a break with a buzzsaw this weekend!

Luckily, the concrete was already setting up well when the first in a series of 5-minute light showers began. Later, this would graduate to a single, brief downpour.

When I checked on the walkway, all still seemed well. When it's hot, you're supposed to continue to periodically mist the concrete to keep it from drying too quickly and from all of the moisture being sucked out too quickly. So, it doesn't appear that the rain harmed my work.

Instead of fighting to get a parking space, walking about 2 blocks, setting up and getting my pictures, I stay in place. In part, because my back hurts. Not conducive to all of the above and then being stuck in the car for at least 30 minutes trying to get out of uptown traffic to make it home. (The main drag here is the prime objective for everyone viewing the fireworks once the show stops. It's always bedlam.)

And, the other part is that the heat just zapped the life right out me. By the time I got back in the house earlier, I was completely soaked. It was more like I had stood out in one of the bouts of rain, even though I had not.

We'll see how the next two days go. Ideally, much, much better.

Just Outside My Window

Fair St. Louis wraps up today but the riverfront already was full of activity Friday.

I'd run to the bank and to run an errand when this outrageously loud noise began. Someone asked if it was NASCAR racing but this noise came from the sky.

When I looked up, I saw four biplanes flying in unison in the downtown sky. The Air Show! I'd heard it was coming back to the fair after a five year absence.

When I got back to the office, I hurried upstairs to find that I had something of a front row seat. Something only because the trim of my window generally blocked the death-defying dives and swoops. Even so, I did manage to catch a few decent shots.

It was hard to work with the noise and the occasional glimpses buzzing past my window. So, I devoted about 20 minutes to just watching the sky. (I was eating lunch after all.) The noise continued for a while after I'd put the camera down and returned to my work.

I'm sure they were a big hit this weekend!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Historic St. Louis: The Old Post Office

Following the Civil War, the five fastest-growing U.S. cities at the time were slated to receive federal buildings to help handle the burgeoning new government’s responsibilities in the post-Reconstruction era.

Those five cities were Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Boston, New York and St. Louis. Alfred B. Mullett, secretary to the Treasury Department from 1865-1874, presented designs for these structures.
All five structures were completed between 1880 and 1885. Today, the only one of these buildings that remains is this one in the heart of downtown St. Louis. This massive structure takes up an entire city block, bounded by Locust and Olive, between 8th and 9th Streets.

Construction began in 1873. It was a painstaking process. With memories of the Great Chicago Fire just a few years in the past, builders were determined to use as little wood inside this structure as possible. As a result, the building is a cast iron fortress.

Its massive interior columns -- and even this grand staircase, one of two in the building -- are cast iron. The structure is a living tribute to the beauty that can be had from cast iron!

It took more than 11 years and nearly $6 million to complete. But, finally, on March 15, 1884, the U.S. Customs House and Post Office opened its doors with much fanfare. Everybody who was anybody made their way downtown for all the hoopla.

If you were a famous somebody, you were invited to the affair being formally summoned. And you no doubt got to keep a lovely little program, outlining the day's events, as a souvenir like this.

The building originally did triple duty, serving as the United States Court House, Custom House and Post Office. It later housed offices of federal agencies, and once served as the St. Louis Visitors’ Center.

The building was home to the Federal 8th Circuit Court, the largest in the nation in 1891, covering 10 states and four territories, representing more than 11 million people. At one point, in its post office duties, more than a million pieces of mail were handled each day.

But within 30 years, its usefulness began to wane. The main post office to 18th and Clark in 1912. Two years later, the Weather Bureau vacated the cupola (which you can see in the design photo; it was removed around mid-century and not replaced). The federal courts and offices stayed remained until 1935, when they moved to a new government building at 12th and Market.

The once state-of-the art building languished for decades. It was threatened with demolition in the 1960s after the government declared it "surplus property" in 1957. Preservationists, however, rallied on its behalf. The nationwide effort lasted more than a decade and got it placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1968 and subsequently declared a National Historic Landmark in 1970.

Unfortunately, these accolades didn't resolve what to do with the building and it was vacant by 1975. Demolition again became part of the conversation. But, less than a decade later, it would undergo a two-year facelift. Just in time for its centennial, the Old Post Office got a new lease on life.

But within just a few years, like much of the rest of downtown during the 1990s, it languished.

A redevelopment project emerged from a public-private partnership in 2000. It breathed new life into the Old Post Office once again. The Missouri Court of Appeals, Webster University and later the St. Louis Public Library and a handful of merchants would become the building's new occupants. Sadly, these plans brought about the felling of another historic structure, the Century Building, in 2004. It proved once again that in downtown St. Louis old buildings never die; they just become parking lots. Luckily, this one came with a Schnuck's store attached.

I'm glossing over quite a bit. There are things wrong with how this was achieved and I disagree with a lot of it. The bottom line though is that that area is bustling again. I'm hoping it stays that way. Can you even imagine having lost any of this?

But I'm neglecting another really cool feature.

Ever heard of a guy named Daniel Chester French? No? Me neither. But I'll bet you're familiar with this.

Well, decades before he even thought about that, he was commissioned to do a piece to grace the outside of the Old Post Office. You can see it there today on the Olive Street side of the building. Oh, wait. That's not the real one. It's just a replica. They moved the real one inside in 1990 because after more than 100 years, it was starting to show its age. Here's the real deal.

Depending on which resource you consult it's either called "America at War, America at Peace" or "Peace and Vigilance." Doesn't matter that much to me. I choose to call it gorgeous!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

In Praise of Austin P. Leland

If we tear everything down, how will our children and future generations know what America was like? If everything is a glass tower, how will they know our heritage? – Austin P. Leland (1907-1975)

I think I shuddered as I read that quote on a wall a few days ago. The words affected me that profoundly. You see, I didn’t know Austin P. Leland. In fact, I didn't even know who he was before this week.

Shame on me.

Leland was a longtime director of the Landmarks Association of St. Louis, and in the 1960s he led the fight to save St. Louis' Old Post Office building from demolition. He also was a trustee of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and of the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial.

Since 1978, Princeton University has issued The Austin P. Leland Award annually to recognize “general excellence in regional alumni activities to associations and clubs with more than 300 members.”

In my defense, when he launched a major offensive in 1964 to save the Old Post Office from the wrecking ball, I hadn’t even been conceived. When he died, I was just 9. While I didn’t know anything about the battle he helped wage to save that historic structure, I did get to witness the fruits of his labor. I saw the first phases of its redevelopment take place in the early 1980s, work that would be completed in 1984 – just in time for this glorious building’s centennial.

Speaking as one of the “future generations” that Leland alluded to in that now immortalized quote of his, we owe a debt of gratitude for keeping slices of America (or at least St. Louis’ portion of it) intact, for preserving our local heritage. Albeit belated, "Thank you, Mr. Leland."

While it’s been almost 46 years since this editorial page comic was published, as part of the argument to protect the Old Post Office, I think its message is just as valid now as ever.

It's a pretty apt depiction. I’m sick sometimes when I think of how much history and breathtaking architecture was lost in the name of the tornado that is “progress.” At least this was one piece that was spared -- because someone was brave enough and determined enough to stand up and say, "ABSOLUTELY NOT!"

No, I didn’t know Austin P. Leland – I only wish that I had.

Stay tuned for a lengthy and visual report on the historic structure his efforts left standing …