The Hellhole

Sunday, January 31, 2016

I recently finished reading So Anyway, a memoir by John Cleese.  I'm not sure I'd give it a hearty recommendation, even for a die-hard Python fan like me.  It is amusing, as you'd expect, and in some cases truly laugh-out-loud funny.  On the other hand, some parts just drag on and on.  It turns out that it took Cleese three years to read his law degree at Cambridge, and I was beginning to think it would take at least that long for me to slog through his narrative of it.

I loved the way he described his father's propensity for buying "'surprisingly inexpensive' stylish Yugoslavian sports jackets, or top-class Libyan shoes, or premier quality Albanian ham".  'Albanian ham' made me laugh so much every time I'd think about it; I mean, it's funny, but some things strike me as way out of proportion funny, and this was one.  I was chuckling about Albanian ham for days and trying to talk Alan into inquiring about it at the deli counter when we made our next grocery run.

Another LOL moment was a story about Graham Chapman.  John and his then-wife Connie were expecting a couple for dinner who were basically stuffed shirts, "formal and stuck-up", and that sort of thing irritated Graham.  The Cleeses realized about ten minutes before their guests arrived that Graham had been all over their flat hiding very small pieces of paper, upon each of which he'd written an obscenity.  They scrambled to find and dispose of all of them, but discovered after their guests had departed that they'd missed one; Graham had placed one upon which he'd written "anus" on the basin in the visitors' bathroom.  Cleese concludes, "I've always wondered whether our guests speculated why we might have put it there."

So a few nights ago I had a major crying jag.  After I finished, I went to the bathroom to have a hot bubble bath and try to do something about my very puffy eyes.  I have this plastic bin that I bought at Target in which I keep facial cleanser, toner, masques, unguents and various skin-care items, so I got that off the shelf.  Starting to rummage through it, I discovered that Alan had left me a small strip of paper with "anus" written on it.  It had been hidden there for some days, waiting for me to find it.

It just goes to show you how funny and unpredictable life can be, that I can now add, "Thank you for the anus!" to phrases I never expected to say to my husband.  But he was sincerely owed a thank you, because I really needed that laugh.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Alan and I recently visited the High Museum of Art - getting ourselves a little culture besides what's growing in our yogurt.  I wanted to see a visiting exhibit called "Hapsburg Splendor" about the Austrian dynasty.  Many of the items had never been outside Austria before so it was quite a treat.

So many lovely objects!  Some of them were so beautiful and intricately detailed that it was hard to believe they were real, much less made by hand in the 15- and 1600s - it almost seemed like it had to be CGI.  But they were real, and amazing.  Here are some pictures, worth, as you know, a thousand words each, which will save us all a great deal of time.

 This is a little prince's jousting armor.  His brother's jousting armor was set up just out of frame to the right - you can see the tip of his lance.

This is the sight that greeted us when the elevator doors opened into the exhibit.

Sorry about all the reflection from the glass case.  That's a coral-trimmed sword and matching scabbard from the late 1500s.

Drinking goblet carved from rhinoceros horn.

Alan photobombs my carriage photo.

Carriage without Alan.  This isn't even the royal Royal Carriage; this one belonged to the little jousting princes.

The royal sleigh - ostrich plumes on the horse's headdress.

One of the coolest things we saw, as far as I am concerned, was an early 1900s portrait of the queen arriving at some posh occasion (I think someone's coronation but I could be mistaken) with her little princeling.  In a glass case right beside it was the outfit the little prince was wearing in the painting, right down to his tiny ermine-trimmed boots.

The funniest thing that happened was while we were examining this piece.  You can't tell from this photo but the suit of armor was incredibly detailed, with royal symbols such as the eagle, Madonna and child and other things engraved on it, and lots of fancy trim.

So if you read the description you will see that the armor belonged to Archduke Ferdinand II of Tyrol (1529 - 1595).  While we were admiring it, this elderly lady toddled up and was reading over my shoulder.  Suddenly, she announced loudly, in that querulous yet authoritative old-people tone that carries for miles, "It was his assassination that started World War One!"

Alan and I kept our 'BWAHAHAHA's contained until we'd ducked around the corner into another room.  But then I set us both off again when I remarked, "Well, if it did, that was the lord god king of slow burns!"

We had a wonderful day at the museum - ducked through some sculptures, the old Italian masters (my favorite) and the Mattie Lou O'Kelley exhibit (Alan really likes her), enjoyed a tasty lunch at the bistro there and oh! the Hapsburg exhibit was incredible.  I'm so glad we had that opportunity.

And remember, in case it comes up on Jeopardy!, it was Ferdinand II of Tyrol whose assassination started WWI.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Lately, things have been going missing around The Hellhole. A couple of months ago, our housekeeper, The Sainted Miss Betty, came to Alan to ask where her dustpan was.  Alan was mystified.  We keep all the cleaning products in one of those caddies on a shelf, the dustpan rests beside it and the broom and mops stand just to the left - there's never anywhere else we put that sort of thing.  When I got home from work that night, he asked me about the whereabouts of the dustpan.  I gave him a look.  Well, more of A Look, because of everyone in this household, including the four-legged residents, I'd be about the last one to know where this so-called "dustpan" might be located.  [Not that I never clean, but if there is crud or grit on the floor, I get it up with a Clorox wipe, not the broom and dustpan.  Which my way disinfects so it's two for the price of one.]

The other missing items are two cookie sheets.  I needed one for some cookie-baking but couldn't locate it.  A vigorous search turned up nothing.  We had some renovations done in the kitchen recently and moved some stuff around, but still, based on size, shape and other cabinet contents there are very few places these cookie sheets could be.  We have ransacked the kitchen and can't find them anywhere.  They were not even in some weird place in another room, like if we'd stowed them there while rearranging - just gone.

Don't get me wrong, it's not like I think someone cased the joint, bypassed the security system and ignored all the jewelry, computers and electronics in order to purloin a 20-year-old blue plastic dustpan (see!  I do SO know what it looked like!) and two old, well-seasoned cookie sheets, but those things are simply now absent.  Moreover, they didn't turn up during a great purge of two rooms and the hauling of copious amounts of stuff to Goodwill.  It's just plain weird.

But there is balance, there is yin and yang, and as the universe taketh away, the universe giveth. 

Thanks to some spectacularly bad planning on my part, several shipments of Christmas gifts, including a rather expensive one for Alan, were set to arrive while we were out of town visiting his family.  There have been news stories and media coverage about a plethora of package thefts from porches lately, so I foresaw a whole lot of headache in my future, but there was nothing to be done about it from 120 miles away.  Much to my surprise, however, when we returned home we found our front porch full of intact boxes and parcels!  We hauled everything in and began to open packages and take inventory.

All was well until Alan opened a rather large box, got a strange look on his face and said, "Honey?  Why did you order all this Sons of Anarchy swag?" - which he quite logically found curious because we've never watched that show and don't know anyone who is a fan.  [Hey, it's probably great, we just don't watch it.]  I had not, in fact, ordered a large box of Sons of Anarchy swag.  I took the box, examined it and found, curiouser and curiouser, that it had my name, address and phone number, all perfectly correct.  I phoned the company.

At first the customer service guy tried to convince me to call FedEx, have them pick up the package and redeliver it to the intended recipient, but I eventually got him to understand that FedEx had done exactly what had been asked of them - the package was directed 100% correctly to me, I just hadn't ordered it.  Nor had someone ordered it as a gift for us because as I wrote, we don't watch that show.  Customer Service Guy was a bit at a loss and put me on hold a few times while he talked to others to try to figure out how to resolve matters.  Eventually he told me to hang onto the package, he'd get with a supervisor and get back to me by phone or email. 

No one ever got back to me and after at least ten days had passed, the aforementioned Goodwill purge was taking place.  There was a discussion about what to do with the box of Sons of Anarchy stuff, abandoned in my care.  We unpacked the box and found that a significant portion was taken up by this large, incredibly soft, fluffy throw.  While looking at it, I noticed little Commander Vimes lying on the couch so I draped it over him, tucked him in and told him that it was his blankie.

He is so happy to have a blankie of his own!  I never knew it mattered to him as there are blankies all over every puppy-available surface in this house (couches, love seats, bed, doggy baskets) but he is very pleased and proud.  He pulls that one out of whatever pile, kneads it, scrunches it and tromps it around until he has it just right.  He knows it belongs to him and is well pleased.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Hopefully my patience meter has refilled after wrangling with Yosemite last evening.

The Saturday after the Atlanta Cheese Festival was niece Brooke's 8th birthday so into a gaggle of giggling, shrieking children we descended.  We got her the American Girl Doll of The Year and a real  Pandora charm for her bracelet, Elsa's dress from Frozen.  The charm came from Jared and I think she was quite pleased to have the Jared bag,  Jared tissue and Jared gift-wrap - quite the grownup present.

Sunday was errands, as Saturday is the usual errand day at The Hellhole but we'd been busy elsewhere.  There were extra errands to handle because the next weekend, Brooke's mom/one of my besties, Tammy, had a milestone birthday and I was helping her husband Matt throw the party.  I did a cheese board - I have this great cheese serving board that looks like the top of a wine cask - assorted cracker basket with these cute, tiny cracker tongs I bought for Alan's birthday party last year, crudite and dip, two different hot cheese-based Mexican dips with an assortment of chips, since the main attraction was a taco bar, a large bowl of assorted fresh-cut fruit and of course little smokies.  Like Matt's Uncle Lyle remarked, "It's not really a Southern party without the little smokies!" seems like I did more things than that, but that's all I recall.  I ordered the cake, which Matt picked up, and a big floral arrangement featuring lavender colored roses.  Oh!  I had a bunch of dishes of candy sitting around and made a lollipop tree out of purple lollipops with hot pink 'T's on them.

This was her cake:

Someone asked if I'd made it.

Yes, of course I did.  

I'm a pretty good cook and make a mean red velvet cake, but really, all that fondant artistry would be beyond me even after a year's worth of lessons.

I don't need fondant artistry lessons, though, because I know the way to Rhodes.  They did the cakes for our wedding and Alan's big birthday cake last year.

So I was pretty busy shopping and prepping, then with the party itself and recovery therefrom.  The party was on Sunday and I took the following Monday off work.  While we'd been at Michael's getting florist foam for me to make the lollipop tree, Alan bought me these great adult coloring books

and a large box of colored pencils.  I was looking forward to relaxing and doing a picture or two, which I did, and it was fun, but check this out.

He bought me a box of 48 Staedtler pencils and I unearthed a box of 48 Prang pencils from a project some years ago, so I had 96 colored pencils from which to choose, and used many different ones.

But looking at this, doesn't it look like I own something like 5 different crayons?

The color palette wasn't as vibrant as I'd hoped.  It doesn't matter, I suppose - it's not like the thing's going to be hanging in the Guggenheim once I'm done, and I'm having fun which is the entire point - but still, with 96 different pencils, I'd hoped for more variety/contrast.

< - - - more than 5 crayons

I also put fall gel-clings on our garage door.  We don't decorate for the holidays, exactly, but the last few winters, I've put blue and white snowflake gels on the windows of the garage door.  This year Alan bought me some for autumn.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

This month has been so busy - I just want a moment to catch my breath, but I have no moments.  It's not been bad, just...a lot.  Things started with the Atlanta Cheese Festival, which was a lovely, wonderful evening but which does not lend itself to interesting narrative.  'Ate a great cheese sample, moved two feet to the left, sampled another great cheese, took two steps further, ate some delicious lovely cheese' is what happened, but isn't scintillating reading.

I was preparing for the 40th birthday of one of my besties, which consumed a lot of time what with the making of lists, the shopping for items, the cooking of foods, the doing of things, and the incessant re-checking of lists which I must do if I'm planning anything.  In the course of this, her husband and I decided to buy a large fresh flower arrangement to use as a centerpiece and in researching which one, I found this bargain on ProFlowers that I bought for myself - all these Peruvian lilies for $19!

This is what they looked like when they arrived.

This is what they looked like a week after that.

And another week after that.  

And just a few minutes ago - they've stayed lush and lovely for so long!  It's been wonderful.

This is the arrangement Matt and I chose for Tammy's birthday:  french country

Sigh...I dunno...I was so happy when I sat down to blog, full of fun things to share, stories and pictures, anecdotes, but my computer (or more precisely, its OS which I fervently wish I'd never even heard of, much less downloaded) has me so frustrated and defeated - it's taken so damn long to write two paragraphs and upload four pictures thanks to motherfucking Yosemite, you can't imagine.  I wanted to share much more and a timely book recommendation but I think I'm just giving up.  

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The book I'm currently reading is called Black Mass, which is about criminal Whitey Bulger and the FBI.  It put me in mind of an anecdote I didn't think I'd ever told Alan, so I asked him, "Have I ever told you about the time the FBI came to my office?"

"No - what did you do?"

Seriously???  This is my husband of nearly a decade, who's been with me even longer than that, and when he hears that the FBI visited my office, the first question he has is, "What did you do?"?!?!?!?

Hmpf.  I'm not sure if I'm flattered or insulted.  [Over my shoulder, Alan reads what I've just written and remarks in an irritatingly logical tone, "In my defense, you've got to admit it's a totally legitimate question to ask."  Again, not sure if flattered or insulted.]

Okay, so the FBI came to my office and I wound up in our conference room with them interviewing me.  NO, I didn't do anything.  The company for which I worked at the time, not my current employer, was fairly small, less than 30 people probably, one of whom was our resident CPA, Dan Whitfield [totally fake name].  One day, a typical office day was unfolding when my extension rings and the receptionist, Samantha [another TFN] says, "Helly!  The FBI is here and they want to talk to Dan Whitfield's boss!"

Of course I assumed, as any normal person would, that Samantha was pranking me, so I replied, "Tell them to piss off!  We don't want no truck with the Gub Mint!" - and hung up.  Immediately my phone rings again and Samantha hisses, "Helly!  The FBI is here in the lobby and they want to talk to Dan Whitfield's boss!"

Still sure I was being pranked, I suggested she call Dan's boss then, and hung up.  I was in no way Dan's superior.  We worked in the same department but he outranked me in terms of seniority,  tenure, responsibility, etc.

My phone rang again.  Samantha, becoming agitated, said, "Helly!  The FBI is totally for reals standing in our lobby, they insist on talking to Dan Whitfield's boss and you have to come up here!  Think about it!  There's no one else I can call!  [steely tone] Get. Up. Here."  I did think about it, and most of the higher-ups were at an industry trade show while our office manager, who suffered from migraines, was that day at home suffering, and when that happened, she quite understandably turned the ringer off on her phones.  Really, the most senior employee on site at the moment was Dan himself, which is how I found myself in our conference room with two agents of the FBI - who by the way looked almost exactly as stereotyped in films - by virtue of the fact that I was one of the only people (besides Dan) who was (a) management, and (b) physically present.

They asked a lot of questions about Dan - how long he'd worked there, what were his birthdate and Social Security number, had we (and how had we) verified those things before employing him, what were his responsibilities, had we met any family members, etc.  It was nerve-wracking; even though I hadn't done anything wrong and they weren't even there about me, I still felt edgy and like I might be in serious trouble if I didn't answer correctly.  Most of the questions I couldn't answer anyway, because I wasn't in charge of hiring or personnel files; that would be our migraine-suffering office manager.   However, she and I were friends and I knew where she kept the key to the personnel-file cabinet, so even though it was breaking lots of office rules, I figured I had FBI dispensation and liberated Dan's file.  They wanted copies of many things, which I made them, and after some more questions they departed.

One might think the story would end there, and we'd have been forever left wondering WTF that was all about, but believe it or not, the FBI followed up with us fairly quickly, and it turned out that what had happened was this:  one evening the television show America's Most Wanted aired a story about a CPA who had brutally murdered his wife and disappeared.  Generally, the age and physical description matched Dan Whitfield and somebody, I guess one of our employees, had called the show and dropped a dime on Dan.  As it turned out, it was a dead end:  Dan hadn't murdered anybody - several of us had seen both his ex-wife and current wife walking around totally alive - and he'd moved to our town and been working at our company a couple of years before Bad Guy CPA killed his wife out in the Midwest (I think it was the Midwest).  But someone thought it looked and sounded enough like Dan that they'd called the show, and I thought it was pretty cool to know for sure that those tips got investigated and sorted.

I would love to find a link to the story/profile of the actual Bad Guy CPA for whom Dan was mistaken, but there's another guy, John List, that's a much more famous criminal.  He was an accountant who killed his entire family - wife, mother, three children - and disappeared for quite a long time before apprehension.  He was much older than Dan and not physically similar; it was another case entirely that drew the FBI's attention to Dan, but because List was infamous, any Google search terms I could use to find Dan's Bad Guy CPA yield tens of thousands of search results about List, and I don't have enough lifetime to sift through all of them.

But that's the story of when the FBI came to my office and interviewed me.

Friday, September 18, 2015

In Which I Fail At Parenting

A couple of weeks ago, our niece little Miss Brooke wanted to come over and spend the night on Saturday.  When she gets here, it seems she has a loose tooth, understandable as she turns eight next month.  The entire afternoon and evening, she is messing with that tooth; when she's not wiggling it back and forth with her fingers, she's flapping it with her tongue.

As the tooth-messing continues, I am growing increasingly anxious and paranoid about her losing the tooth on my watch, because I have no idea what the Tooth Fairy's going rate is, and I'm afraid that if I leave an amount significantly higher or lower than her mom, the Tooth Fairy jig will be up!  I mean, do I even have any ones?  If not, would the Tooth Fairy drop a Hamilton for an eyetooth, or does it take a molar?  I totally don't know!  Mom is at an all-day band competition with Brooke's older brother so I can't call and ask.  Much to my relief, she does not lose the tooth that night so I, and the Tooth Fairy, are spared.  Later Sunday afternoon, however, I hear her pipe up, "Aunt Helly!  Look!" so I look and she presents me with a palmful of blood and saliva, in the midst of which rests a tiny white tooth.

Unbelievable as it might seem, I do not freak out at the blood and spittle (which is in my hand!  IN.  MY.  HAND!).  No, I calmly get a paper towel and deposit the tooth for safe-keeping.  I turn on the hot water tap because I'm pretty sure I remember from my own Tooth Fairy days that she needs to rinse with warm salt water.

In a rush to get her mouth rinsed and the (really not very much) bleeding staunched, I don't take the time to dig through the cabinets in search of a mug with cute puppies or kitties, of which we own several, or even the Frozen mug which was a gift from her to me - instead I swipe the closest clean one off the drainboard, which happens to be Alan's favorite mug; he drinks a lot of hot tea.  I give her the salt water mixture and tell her to go rinse with it, and she dutifully trots to the bathroom.  She calls to me and asks if she only has to do it once, and I reply that she needs to keep doing the 'sip, swish and spit' until at least half the mug is used - so she does.

Then she trots through the den on the way back to the kitchen to put the mug in the sink, and I see that I have handed the child a mug which reads, in English country cottage-type script, "It's motherfucking tea time!"

Thankfully her parents have a sense of humor.