Snapshots from Eldredge

The life and writings of TJ Alexian


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Operation: Moth balls

mothballs

Back to work yesterday. Ugh. And last night’s problem: tackling some cheeky chipmunks.

It all started about a week ago, when I decided I wanted to really make a consistent effort to fill up the bird feeders around Green Victoria. I don’t know why the thought popped into my head. I just wanted to. I’m just that kind of person. Occasionally thoughtful.

We have one feeder that is located right by the archway leading into our yard. The very day after I filled it, I noticed that most of the seed was missing and there were a ton of empty shells around the feeder. It looked like the end of the night at the local saloon.

“Hmmm.” I said to myself. “I doubt the birds are THAT hungry. Even if I haven’t filled that thing up for about a year.”

So, I kept my eagle eye out. And soon enough, I realized that there were an awful lot of squirrels and chipmunks visiting that particular tree. Aha!

Duly warned, I went to the old Stop and Grab and bought bird seed that birds like, but squirrels and chipmunks detest because it has cayenne pepper sprinkled in. Take that, mammals with bland appetites! I filled that bird feeder up to the rim with caliente.

The next morning, I walked out of the house. Damn tricky mammals. The fuckers had somehow managed to scoop through all the seeds in the birdcage to find the ones they like, grabbed those, and dumped all the cayenne-covered seeds onto the ground. The cads!

But we’ve kept up with the hot seeds, and the past few days, I’ve noticed that the birdseed level has gone back to normal. So either the squirels and chipmonks have moved on and accepted that this feeder is muy muy caliente or the birds are finally full.

Although perhaps the bird feeder problem has resolved, the whole experience uncovered another problem. You see, everywhere I turn since then, I’ve been encountering chipmunks these days around the hallowed grounds of Green Victoria.

No, seriously. In the trees. Scurrying underfoot. I open the door in the morning to let Kyra pee and she goes scampering after something, instantly. Crawling out of my cereal ball when I pour milk into my Rice Crispies. Those little guys sure hate that Snap Crackle and Pop!

(Note: maybe one of those examples is a lie. I leave it up to you to guess which one.)

I’d say I’ve gone a bit nuts, but Corb’s noticed it too.Last evening Corb decided to do something about it. Project Mothballs has begun.

“I read that chipmunks don’t like the smell of moth balls,” explained Corb as we hunted around the grocery store. Where do they keep moth balls, anyways?

“Are you sure you didn’t misread it?” I asked. “Maybe they actually don’t like the smell of meatballs.”

“Silly Ted. That’s only Italian chipmunks,” replied Corb. “No, what we need to do is to wrap up some moth balls in cheesecloth and throw them around the outside of the house. Around the foundation, in any holes you see. The smell is supposed to keep the little pests away.”

“The smell makes me want to run away,” I complained to Corb as we were wrapping up the moth balls later in the kitchen that evening. “I mean, I like the smell of mothballs in little old lady’s drawers, but this is too much.”

Corb frowned at me. “I always suspected that about you,..” Yeah, I am a regular Nathan Lane in Little Old Lady land. Lick me. Touch me.

“Isn’t this going to make the whole place smell like moth balls?” I asked Corb as we started tossing the little bags into nooks and crannies around the house. “Isn’t it bad enough we have an old Victorian? Isn’t this going to make it seem really old?”

“Shut up and throw,” he replied. Ah, who am I kidding? I just followed him around and made wiseass comments.

So, that’s been our life the past week. Chasing the chipmunks. Forget about Pokemon Go! We’ve got a different kind of wildlife to capture. Or at least, release. First we had deer, then flying squirrels, now this. Sometimes I’m not sure if I own a home or a wildlife sanctuary.

Maybe a combination of both.


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The dark at the bottom of the stairs

stairs 3

Last night at around three in the morning I woke up with a start.

The kitten wiggled a little next to my feet. Carefully, I lifted myself up out of the bed and headed for the bathroom. It sucks getting older. Then, once relieved of my burden, I headed to my study, which is located down the hall, right next to the stairway that leads to the dark spot.

I don’t know why I think of it that way. Corb once said that he was sitting in the living room one time with the lights off and he saw what looked like a dark cloud hanging around that area. It’s the one part of the house that neither one of us like lingering too long in.

Both the kitten and Oliver were standing outside of the den as I padded my way down the hall. Both were staring intently down the stairs, as if there was something fascinating that was absorbing their attention.

“What’s going on, guys?” I called out, probably too loudly, given the time of night. Trying to chase away the goblins, I guess. I moved to the edge of the stairs, looked down. Nothing to see. The room downstairs was dark, save for the night lamp that I neglected to turn off when we went to bed.

I turned around to sit down in the den. And as I turned my back, I distinctly heard the snapping of fingers on the floor below.

What the–?

I didn’t have the nerve to go downstairs to find out what was going on. Instead, I turned the lights off and headed back to bed.

Fast forward to this morning. Corb had already showered and left for work, and I was alone in the house. I woke up, fed the zoo, and put Kyra on her leash to do her morning constitutional. I brought her to the edge of the house, waited for her to go pee. Then I moved to the other side of the lawn and started walking her through the sweet clover that smells like blueberries (I have no idea what it really is).

Just as she was about to do her doody, she looked up. She barked, moved looking at the house.

“What’s up?” I asked. “Come on, let’s get this–”

But she was no longer interested in going to the bathroom. She strained at her leash, looking to move back to the house. She kept staring at the picture window that offered a view of the dark spot, barking away. I led her back into the house. She made her way directly to the dark spot, then stopped barking the minute she reached it.

No more barking. She stopped immediately, as if nothing had happened.

Conclusion: the dark spot doesn’t like us going to the bathroom.

I guess I should be freaked out by this, right? Not really, though. My house doesn’t really scare me at all. I’m still convinced there’s nothing evil or too scary about the place. But what is it about animals and their ability to see beyond the things that our eyes are blind to?

I’m kind of grateful I’m not a dog. But on the plus side, we are going to have one hell of a Halloween party here.

PS: My book, Pictures of You, is available as a free Kindle download today and tomorrow! Check it out if you haven’t already.


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From Drab to Fab: Partners complete

   Partners 1Partners 2

After four months, the partner’s desk project is finally complete. Corb’s weekend in his pseudo-meth lab really paid off.

The first photo shows what the desk looked like when we initially purchased it. We found the desk in the basement of an antique shop, gathering dust and unassembled. It’s circa 1890 (although I am singularly unreliable when it comes to dates, and I am certain that Corb will correct me on that when he reads this) and came from the Point Judith Inn, located in Narragansett, Rhode Island. According to the grizzled owner of the thrift shop, he was friends/neighbors with the then-owner, whose husband was battling cancer, forcing her to sell the place. That’s how the desk came into his possession, and how it sat in his basement for about a year.

I don’t know what we saw in it, frankly. In looking at the photo now, it looks awfully scuffed up. Corb was the one who saw some potential first, of course. For me, it was the back story that interested me. I’m a sucker for back stories. I mean, who knows if it’s even true? It doesn’t really matter, it just gives me something to talk about, you know?

But the point is, he saw potential. And for the first few months, it just sat in our kitchen as is, while the wheels in Corb’s fertile little mind starting spinning. Then he started making some calls, to see what some local carpenters would charge to fix it up. Then he didn’t like the quotes that he received. Then he decided he could do the job himself. Then he freaked out, wondering whether he actually had the vision and skills to get the job done. And in the past month, he finally realized that he did–and he could.

To make it a proper kitchen island, he built two small platforms on the bottom, to raise each desk up a few inches. Next, he sanded and stained the tabletop, which is truly my favorite part of the project. After that, we took one of the paint buckets that the previous owners had thoughtfully left us in the basement, to match the color of the desk to the cabinets in the kitchen. Then came the hard part: sanding and painting the desk itself. Would it look okay? A few people were kind of shocked that he was painting over the wood. But after even just the first coat of primer, both of us knew it was going to look terrific.

And there you have it! This month’s episode of “From Drab to Fab” (a title Corb HATES, by the way. He much prefers, “From Old to Bold.” He thinks the former title sounds a little gay.)

Note: I have forbidden Corb from embarking upon any more home improvement projects for at least one whole week. Next Saturday, we are all gathering for my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary, which will begin with a small reception at the house. And if you don’t think that’s causing us stress… 


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From Drab to Fab: Progress with the Partners

meth lab

Don’t you just love this photo? Corb took it this morning.

Corb is on the final stages of finishing off the partners desk project. He’s sanded and primed the desks and drawers, and now he’s in the process of putting the final coats of paint on everything, which is why he’s sealed off our porch, so that the paint doesn’t fly everywhere (and stain the porch, which…well..the first coats of paint may have done..)

Theo says it looks like we have a meth lab in our house. He’s been watching too much Breaking Bad.


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Mean?

kyra2

“Is that a mean dog? That look likes a mean dog.”

Um. Say what?

Okay, I grant you, the lady at the cash register in the drive-through I was at appeared to be a nervous sort. She looked like somebody’s spinster aunt from an old black and white movie; kind of tentative, with large animated hands she was constantly clasping, and an awkward smile that suggested she didn’t get out much. Maybe she had been bitten by a dog at one point.

Even so. My Kyra, looking like a mean dog?

I honestly had not heard that before! And my habit has been to take Kyra with me wherever I go. Usually, people love Kyra, and go on and on about how pretty she is, want to pet her, want to offer her treats (P.S.: she’s a dog, she loves treats).

“Mean? No, not really.”

It must have been clear from my tone I was displeased with the question. Look, I don’t hide my feelings well. I never have been able to. The awkward lady must have sensed that, because as she handed me back my credit card she said, “Oh, look! She’s wagging her tail. She’s not a mean dog at all.”

“No. No, she’s not a mean dog.” With icicles in my voice, I moved drove away.

So we’ve had Kyra for about four months now, and I have to say, I think she’s wonderful. No, really. I am just crazy about this dog. I love her brown eyes and her floppy cock-eyed ears. She’s the most patient, loving pup there is. Never pees or poos in the house. Goes into her crate at around nine, practically without being asked. Follows me around everywhere. And at around six, as we start eating, she is right there on the couch in her special place, ready to watch TV with us and keep us company.

She’s also pretty damn smart, too. She’s learned to sit and stay and fetch, already, and the only one she’s having trouble with is giving us her paw. She’s great off her leash, too, and hasn’t once tried to run away from us. She simply sniffs around and wanders nearby, and when we call her, comes running back.

The only thing I’ve noticed is a bit of timidity around certain strangers, mostly teenage boys. I think that’s understandable, though, given her circumstances. She is a rescue dog, after all, and did see her brothers and sisters get killed by a group of teenage boys in Memphis who thought it would be fun to jump on top of a bunch of puppies and squish the life out of them. I think given that, I’d be a little nervous around boys, too.

Plus, she’s an awfully good snuggler. She just looks up at you with those brown eyes of hers and licks you like crazy.

I guess there dog people and cat people and when you get right down to it, I’m a dog person. Corb says I don’t have as deep a connection to our cats, and maybe he’s right. I mean, I like them a lot, but there’s just something about a dog. Loyalty. Unconditional love. If only she could clean her room, I might even consider replacing her for my kids.

So, mean dog? Not on your life, lady. There aint no mean dog here. Nothing but love!


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Valley of the Dolls

creepy doll

I was held captive last week by the story of the story of “the gated California community, where porcelain dolls were being left on the doorsteps of girls they hold an eerie resemblance to.” (Source: ABC News, including the alleged grammatical faux pas of ending in a preposition. Personally, I’m not a big stickler about that, although I probably would have reworked this sentence to read “to whom they bear an eerie resemblance.” But that’s just me.)

It has the makings of a great suspense novel, doesn’t it? Something out of “Where are the Children?” Rich people in a gated community, good clean decent people living the American dream. Loveable little ten year old moppets. An evil psychopath, watching, scheming. One by one, leaving creepy porcelain dolls on the front doorstep of his potential victims. The terror mounts. What do they mean? What will happen next?

I’m almost betting someone is writing the story right now.

Turns out the truth is a bit less sinister. The culprit? Not a sinister child abductor, but a little old lady with a huge porcelain doll collection, approaching the twilight of her life and looking to find a nice place for the babies she loves. I think it’s kind of sweet, and also sad that we immediately thought the worst of the situation.

I blame Stephen King, personally.

Of course, perhaps it would have been wise to leave a note or at least talk to the parents, first. But then of course, that’s forgetting the fact that we are talking about a LITLE OLD LADY. In her mind, the anonymity, being a mysterious kindly benefactor, is probably part of the fun.

Oh, and by the way: I do find porcelain dolls creepy. Josie has one in a stroller at her house, an antique that was a gift from her mother. It’s terrifying. I don’t think I could sleep in that place any more, knowing it’s there and has the potential to terrorize me.

But aside from that, what kind of world do we live in where we automatically go to the sinister? That the media is right away contacted, that they of course see the news potential in the story, that they make a big deal out of it and fearmonger about it and it becomes national news? Think about it: this is mundane stuff. This should not be national news. This should be the stuff that small towns are made of. But we are so accustomed to the sinister potential in a plotline like that that we fail to look at the reality, focus only on the fiction. This is truly a “Culture of Fear” kind of situation. Our precious babies, terrorized by porcelain babies! Won’t somebody think of the children?

I mentioned to Corb that it would make for a great story, and of course, he did me one better, genius that he is. “You should flip it around,” he said. “Make it so that someone is dropping off ten year old little girls at the doorstep of doll collectors that look just like their dolls. Hello, here’s a little girl! See how they deal with that.”

I tell you, that guy should a writer. That idea is almost as good as our idea for a remake of Little Women, only featuring a cast consisting entirely of tiny female midgits. Can’t you just see it?

Oh, I just read that the little old lady has been identified and she says she is “embarrassed” by the whole incident. What is there to be embarrassed about? She was trying to do a nice thing! And even though it’s been proven to be completely innocent, the story is still told in as “creepy” a way as possible, to set the fear factor on eleven. I tell you, we live in a sad, sad society. Enjoy your twilight years, lady…and keep your creepy Chucky dolls to yourself!