Tuesday, April 26, 2011

If You Can, Offer Your Help

As scenes of the local devastation continue to dominate news coverage in the St. Louis area, there's one thing we can't claim: loss of life.

After a series of violent storms in Arkansas last night, seven people died. Twice that many have been killed in storms just this month.

All of our local news stations have been collecting money for the Red Cross to help local victims. I can't imagine what it must be like to suddenly find yourself without a home and everything in it. Worse still, I can't imagine that topped with having lost loved ones.

So, if you're like me, and you escaped the St. Louis storms unscathed, do what you can to help those who weren't so lucky -- not just here, but all over the country. With all the destruction and with all the rain, now there will be another round of tragedy in the form of flooding.

Whether it's a donation of cash, supplies or volunteering in some way, if you are able to, I urge you to help any way you can. The way these storms have been ripping through on a seemingly endless course, you never know when the person needing help might be you ...

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Just a Few Blocks Away

I went for a walk early this afternoon. I circled the house twice and walked the entire property line. Nothing. Whew.

But within three blocks of This D*mn House, I was astounded by what I saw.

Sadly, this is home to an ill, elderly couple. They did not need this. I stood there for several minutes staring at what was left of their garage. Their roof is in tatters.

These are places I go by nearly every day. And last night, you couldn’t get within 200 yards of them. Still today, there is a side street a block from this devastation that the police won’t let you go down because there is even worse damage.

This is the front of a convenience store where they come out to your car to take your order. (We frequent them for sodas.)

And these scenes were all too common.

I continue to be astounded by what I see from across the river. (Our cable, which went out shortly after we got an “all clear” around 9 last night, finally came back on well after 3 this afternoon so I’m just now getting caught up on those images. They are frightening and heart-wrenching. Those poor, poor people!) They’re saying this is the worst tornado to hit St. Louis since 1967.

As we huddled in the basement last night, I grew more and more concerned as I could hear the distant TV tracking the storm as it grew ever closer.

And to think, if it had come just a few more blocks. Not miles. Blocks.
Grateful doesn't even begin to cover it.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Weathering the Storm

Ay yi yi. What a night!

But … we have power. This D*mn House is still standing – and in tact.

Some of my neighbors can’t say the same. Just three blocks away, our road is closed due to major damage including debris, flooding and downed power lines. Police and fire crews are all over the place. About six blocks in the other direction, MORE serious damage.

We spent nearly an hour in the basement but the storm went OVER and AROUND us. I am so grateful

We listened intently to the radio – and what I could hear of the TV from downstairs – as the storm drew closer and closer. I heard reports of a tornado at Lambert Airport. (We’d later heard that the airport suffered significant damage and it is now closed.)

I worried about family and friends and made some contact as soon as I could get a signal.

Our cable is out. That’s the worst of it.

I’m feeling pretty fortunate right now. Pretty fortunate indeed.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The 50-50 Split

The weekend was an even mix of work and play. It started out with play and a National Scrapbook Day event, meaning hanging all day with the MonkeyGirl, Harriet and A. (We missed you MamaMartha!) It was just the therapy I needed. It went by all too quickly. Good friends, very good eats, relaxation and catching up on my photo documenting, something I haven’t done since Camp back in January!!! I managed to get 12 pages done and a 13th one nearly so. It was more than I thought I’d finish, but not as much as I’d have liked. I’m still trudging toward the end of 2007 (I do my albums chronologically) and I would dearly love to start 2008 before the end of THIS year. Sunday was all work though I didn’t start until after noon. I mowed, swept, dumped, cleaned and cleared and then carefully assessed the outdoor projects that I really need to do. These include: 1) The “mystery” project involves removing the rotting wooden ties from around the base of the shed’s foundation and replacing them with a bricked edge. Should be a nice way to tie in all of the other brickwork with the back of the house. 2) Putting some bricks or concrete blocks along the edge of the front walkway 3) Same for around the base of the mailbox 4) Ditto that for the rock – but not until after I take it all up, put down several layers of plastic as a weed barrier and then put the rock back. 5) I need to repeat steps 2 and 4 on the side of the house, out back by the patio and around the birdbath and in front of the smaller section of fence out back Whew! Wears me out thinking about it. It really needs to be done though to try and keep the weeds under control and to keep the rocks contained and from getting under the mower. If we have a spring/summer like last year, there’s no way I can hope to do all of this. (Last year, it either poured down rain or was so miserably hot that you didn’t dare work outside for any length of time.) So, I guess we’ll see how cooperative Mother Nature is this year and just how much time, energy and money I manage to have all at the same time!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Historic St. Louis: The Roberts Orpheum

One of my favorite destinations during my regular downtown walks is the old American Theatre. "Old" in that it is rapidly approaching the century mark, and old in that unless you've been in St. Louis for a while, you wouldn't know it once was the American. When the Beaux Arts style Orpheum Theatre opened at Ninth and St. Charles streets in 1917, Hollywood films were in their infancy. It would be more than a decade before "talkies" would arrive and begin rapidly extinguishing the fire of vaudeville theater.

Downtown St. Louis was once home to a variety of movie houses and theaters. The original American Theater was part of a hotel built a decade earlier (in 1907) and a few blocks away. It was demolished in the 1950s to make way for -- what else? -- a parking lot! Today, the Orpheum/American remains the last of its kind, following the senseless demolition of the Ambassador in 1995/96.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, it was a movie house. During the 1970s and 1980s, it had an occasional theater offering but became better known as a concert venue, hosting the likes of Pearl Jam (who filmed a video there), the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Alicia Keyes, Dave Mathews Band, Tori Amos, Phish, the Black Crowes and Nelly. It was during this period that this beautiful old building made it onto the National Register of Historic Places. After that distinction and continuing its long run of concerts from up-and-coming performers, the poor building sat. And sat. It might well have seen the fate of downtown's other performance venues at one point. For much of the last decade, it’s been owned by Mike and Steve Roberts, St. Louis brothers who now possess much of historic downtown. To their credit, they undertook a major rehab of this glorious old building and even restored its original Orpheum name. The theater is rented out for private gatherings and even still manages to host live performances a few times a year. I've got to get back there one of these days! For now though, I'm content to know that it's there and to take in the lovely views its exterior affords. The day that I took these photos (which was last spring) a woman was walking with two young children in tow. The elder of the two, a boy no more than 10, suddenly charged several yards ahead of his mother, wildly pointing at the building's roofline. "Looooook, Mommmy!" he yelled. "I see lots of faces." There are, indeed, DOZENS of faces that make up this gorgous cornice. And the fact this future little architecture buff noticed was more gratifying to me than I can describe.

To my delight, they were only momentarily distracted by my presence as the mother then became just as absorbed in the architecture as her son. Had I been smarter, I would have offered to snap a photo of the trio outside the theater and offer to email it to them. Though it might have been an awkward offer to extend, I'd like to think it would be a nice memory for them.

I know that it is for me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

On Housing and Mortgages

I would LOVE to move.

It would be awesome to have a home with more space, “real” closets (as opposed to our imaginary ones), a garage (at LEAST one-car, preferably two), more than one postage stamp-sized bath, a sunroom or an open out onto patio area … I could go on and on and on. In many cases, I’m sure you could, too.

It’s just that getting those things would require selling This D*mn House, taking on a mortgage again – and considerably larger than the one I paid off a few years ago – and a highly elevated rate of taxes and homeowner’s. I wouldn’t be hot for that plan in a good economy, but in an uncertain one? Yeah. We’re staying put.

Even with all the daunting work ahead, work that won't net any of the things I so long for listed above ... Funny. We’re not alone. There was an article in the Chicago Tribune last week talking about how redoing is far outpacing relocating. For many folks making that choice, it’s the state of the housing industry. And no wonder!

I couldn’t believe that there are currently more than 2.2 million homes more than 90 days behind on the mortgages. Add to that, that it can take almost two years between the time of foreclosure and time of actually vacating the premises. Two years.

Not that I’m faulting the people. So many have lost their jobs in recent years, you can’t help but sympathize. You’d think those numbers would be daunting enough that banks would want to work with people to keep them in their homes. I mean, almost two years rent-free and then who knows how long on the market and at what loss? (Sometimes people gut homes after foreclosure; I saw one recently and couldn’t believe how the residents had raided it. They took a BATHTUB!!!)

It’s all good news for the home improvement business. But for the housing industry, it sure sounds like it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets any better.

Monday, April 11, 2011

“Firsts” of the Season

It was soooo hot over the weekend. You could have told me it was July and I’d have believed it.

The temperatures marked a series of “seasonal” firsts. That’s because we were very warm on Friday and then at or near 90 both Saturday and yesterday. Trust me when I say it made for one hot house. We toughened up and made it through several back-to-back unseasonably warm days recently, but after tossing and turning Friday night and being too miserable to even sleep in on Saturday, I decided enough was enough.

I had the air up and running that afternoon. Before I turned it on though, I hooked up the hose, removed the wood we keep on top of the A/C unit during its downtime, and rinsed the unit off. I attempted to buy some new tubing for the drain because the old one is looking a might poorly but I’m still not sure if it will fit or not. (Every time I would think about checking, the A/C kicked back on; I never had the forethought to shut it off so I could check. Doh!)

I picked up a new filter while I was out and about Saturday and changed it that night. (A spring thing to do if you haven’t lately!) Then yesterday, I got the mower out. I mowed and then I trimmed the neighbor’s tree (he doesn’t) because it had branches that were dangerously close to both the carport roof and to Ladybird in the driveway.

I took all those clippings to the dump and then washed Ladybird on the way home. Poor thing. She was covered in dead buds and leaves and goop and other tree debris from said tree that budded during warm weather a few weeks ago only to have those blooms perish in the snow a week later. I pulled weeds, too. The ground was still a little damp from early-morning rain so it wasn’t the monster of a chore it normally is.

The wind (which was blowing a steady 15-20 mph most of the afternoon and occasionally gusting to 35-40) made things a bit challenging. I had wanted to start on my latest brick project but it would have been a nightmare in that wind.

This coming weekend is going to be damp and quite chilly (40s and 50s) so I guess it won’t be happening then either. Talk about extremes! Welcome to weather in St. Louis.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Shut ‘er Down

If you regularly read this blog (or if you did when I was actually contributing regularly to it) you knew I couldn’t let all this political BS slide. Right? Not in the mood for a rant? Sorry. Move along now then, please.

First things first. Donald Trump is an a**hat.( An egotistical blowhard a**hat at that.) The very sight of him makes me want to puke. Unfortunately, he’s everywhere. Yeah, he’s a billionaire. So what? Money definitely isn’t a guarantee of sense or principles. Direct quote that made me want to hurl something at the TV yesterday: “I’m only interested in Libya if we keep the oil.”

Well of course you would be, a**hat. You don’t give a sh*t about Americans, so why would you care about Libyans? Definitely the kind of attitude I know I want from the leader of the Free World – NOT! I’m wondering where dear Donald was during the EIGHT YEARS of the Bush administration as the country went hurtling down the path to hell. (The one we’re on, according to him. Um, exactly who put us there?) Sir, kindly take that dead animal that lives on your head and go back and crawl under your rock.

Whew! That felt great. Continuing on …

DENYING HEALTHCARE TO DISADVANTAGED WOMEN IS NOT A GOOD REASON TO SHUT DOWN THE GOVERNMENT. ( I’m hoping that this shutdown can be avoided tonight, but I’m not holding my breath.) Don’t want public money to fund abortions? Fine. That’s been the law of the land for some time now anyway. (But wait, I forgot. You folks aren’t very good with American history, even in the current century.)

But to not want to fund pap smears, cancer screenings, mammograms – seriously? This is the place where many women turn for such “routine” care because they couldn’t afford it otherwise. If you’re one of the dumba** legislators in favor of this, then I think you should tell your wife/daughter/sister/mother to cancel any and all such screenings. Wouldn’t dare do THAT, would you? Didn't think so.

Oh, right. I keep forgetting ... these are the people who don’t give a d*mn if anyone has healthcare—‘cept them of course. (I remember one of these freshman Teaheads going all whiny because he had to wait XX number of days for his healthcare to go into effect. Welcome to the ranks of the 32M you could care less about, sweetie!)

Between Paul Ryan’s “budget” and this Congressional stalemate over women’s healthcare, I can only conclude that the Republican and/or Teahead healthcare plan for the old, impoverished, or otherwise disadvantaged can be boiled down to two words: DIE ALREADY!

And I have never ever never been able to understand how people can see contraception and abortion as mutually exclusive. Don’t like abortion? Guess what – contraception can be your best friend! Oh, yes, there’s abstinence, of course. But people are human. They generally forget a lot about what they’re supposed to do/not do when hormones come a’ calling. And sometimes, contraception fails.

While I support a woman’s right to choose, it’s not something I personally could do. But hey, I don’t think that should be imposed on everyone. I totally support someone who wants to decry abortion – I just don’t agree with them. I have just one beef with the “radical” side of the pro-life movement (of which I think some legislators are definitely a part of). Some of these same legislators are busy “defunding” education and the very social programs designed to help the women they’d like to see forced to give birth! *stops to scratch head*

Yeah, go ahead and tell me how much you care about kids as you eviscerate education. Go ahead. I’m listening.

Your respect for the unborn is admirable. Too bad that same passionate concern doesn’t apply to the millions who are already here.

A Project

It’s my own fault, really. I’ve waited so long to start back on house projects (having done pretty close to nothing for several months). In fairness, work has been busy and sinus/allergies have been awful. Making it through work and tending to the basics (groceries, laundry, car maintenance) has taken what little spare time and energy I’ve had of late. Poor little blog has been frightfully neglected. But during all that inactivity, the mother couldn’t help herself but to see beyond the already as yet undone. Yes, that’s right. With all this downtime, she has had plenty of time to think up yet another project. One that will require the cooperation of Mother Nature to complete. And one that will probably take twice the 150 bricks I purchased and hauled last weekend. (I can pick up some extra when I go to get some mortar mix.) But with rain and wind in the forecast, that’s not exactly conducive to brickwork, especially to brickwork that will be completely exposed to the elements. I’m hoping to at least get started this weekend but that’s still a big question mark at this point. Any guesses on the mystery project? Here’s another hint: My “stone patio” is involved.