Snapshots from Eldredge

The life and writings of TJ Alexian


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The Great Piano Roll

So, Corbie has a new obsession. Old upright pianos.

Oh no, he doesn’t want to learn to play them. He wants to refurbish them. He wants to take one and turn it into something along the lines of this:

Cool idea, right? Try putting it into practice. This week-end, we embarked upon our task: the acquisition of our first upright piano. Finding one was pretty easy, because it turns out, there are a lot of folks with upright pianos out there just dying to give them away for free, if you’ll go and takem them off their hands. Seriously! Check it out on Craigslist if you don’t believe me. These things take up room and are really, really heavy.

Corb, naturally, chose the piano farthest from where we lived, out in West Cranberrybutt, Cape Cod. The guy who had it admitted it was out of tune and didn’t work, which Corb liked because among his other choices were pianos that had recently been tuned and worked perfectly. He doesn’t have the heart to destroy a perfectly working piano. Also, he thought it had the best design overall, with some of those old Roman columns for legs and at the top.

The guy we were getting it from also admitted that the piano had been in his wife’s family since she was a child and she was heartbroken to see it leave. “Not that she knows how to play it,” he said. “She’s gone this afternoon. When she comes back and sees it missing, she’s going to break down and cry.”

We got our first taste of what a bear this was going to be getting it out of his house. Even with the truck pulled all the way up to the front steps, it still took four guys (me, Corb, the owner, and what appeared to be the owner’s gay lover) a bit of effort to get the piano into the hitch Corb had rented. I must admit, this made me a little nervous, because I knew that at Green Victoria, there was no way we were pulling the truck up to our front porch. No, we had a long driveway and then a lovely stone path to contend with, which was picturesque, but going to make life a living hell.

But that was a challenge for another hour. At that time, we simply bolted up the piano and drove back to Eldredge.

“So, any ideas how to do this?” I asked Corb, once we arrived home.

Corb clutched at his blond hair. “I’m thinking, I’m thinking.”

The first part was the easiest. Get it off the hitch and onto the small dolly Corb had purchased to help it roll better. That got us to the edge of the driveway and right next to the picturesque crushed stone walkway. How to move it forward? The dolly was going to get in a whole mess of trouble if we moved it any further.

Believe it or not, I was the one who had the bright idea. Me! I remembered reading about how the ancient Egyptians were able to move heavy stones to create the pyramids, and thought the principal might work in this case. “Why not grab the plankwood we have in the backyard and place them over the stones? That will give the dolly something to roll over.”

Corb was a little skeptical. But it turns out, I was actually right!

I will admit, we had one really rough patch. Rolling uphill and at a curve was a real challenge, and the planks started to break at one point, forcing us to buy a few more. Plus, one of the dolly wheels started to bend back, after the first hour. But by the end of the day, right before the drag show was about to begin, we had the piano right by the front porch. And now we had a new challenge:THREE LITTLE STEPS.

This turned out to be a challenge that was insurmountable for two whole days. Turns out, the two of us are incapable of lifting the heavy piano up the stairs to the front porch. We tried everything: trying to tip it on its side, purchasing ropes and pulleys. We even bought this strap-on thing that looked more like a sexual device than a means of moving the piano. It didn’t work at all. We called some movers, but they wanted at least $200 for what was sure to be a five minute job. That seems ridiculous. FInally, we managed to get our bud Hot Coco to come over with her man friend and help us lift it over those three little steps. The price was only cost the purchase of her Chinese take-out that night.

And there it sits. I am not sure when Corb will get to it next. I am sure it will used as a prop for our annual Halloween party. Maybe we can even put speakers next to it and have it play spooky music. But in any event, the next great refurbishing adventure has begun at Green Victoria. Hopefully, we will survive it!


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Soaked.

old lady

“You aren’t REALLY going to put that bowl in the sink with all that milk left, are you?”

I stopped my forward movement to the kitchen and glanced down at my ceral bowl. Then over at Corb, sitting on his favorite green cushiony chair in the living room.

Hmmm. Did I plan to place my cereal bowl into the sink? Yes, in fact, I was. All the cereally goodness had been removed and what was left were a few random soggy flakes, along with milk that had gone through the cereal cycle. Hell no, I had no intention of finishing off the rest of THAT.

“Would it be a problem if I did?”

Corb made his most stern, serious face. “Yes. I know how much milk you have left in that bowl. That’s a total waste. You get right back here and drink down that milk.”

Well, that’s nothing short of amazing. “How do you know how much milk is left in this bowl?”

“I saw how much milk you wasted yesterday.”

What? How could…? And then, in a second, it dawned on me. A memory from childhood. I turned to Corb, a look of horror on my face.

“You’re turning into my Nana Hall!”

It’s true. She was on old cranky Yankee, her descendants came over on the Mayflower. Her great-grandfather was a Fairbanks. A Fairbanks, dammit! She detested waste, in any shape and form. And one of the things I vividly remember her freaking out about: cereal bowls and milk.

I’ll never forget that day. I was six years old. It was a total Mommie Dearest moment. She was looking after me at my parent’s Brady-style raised ranch. As I left the kitchen table in my mini midnight blue velour leisure suit (that’s what all kids wore in the early seventies, you see), I could hear a voice behind me say,

“You’re not done with those Cheerios yet, Teddy.”

What? I turned around. She stood there with a very very stern look on her face, arms crossed.

I glanced down at the bowl. “But the Cheerios are all soggy, Nana.”

“WE DO NOT WASTE FOOD LIKE THAT!” she snapped. “YOU WILL SIT THERE AND FINISH YOUR CEREAL OR I WILL SAVE IT AND YOU WILL EAT IT FOR LUNCH!”

(At least, in my mind she said it that way. All in caps, that is.)

Well, we struggled for hours over that. At lunchtime, sure enough, that offensive bowl of Cheerio crud was sitting there at my lunch plate. I couldn’t wait for my parents to get home that night.

And now, after all these years, she’s back again. Corb has become my Nana Hall. A ghost of Christmas past, exhorting me to drink my cereal milk. A specter from all those years ago.

And that’s when I snapped, your honor. He brought back memories of a childhood trauma and I had no choice but to kill him, don’t you see? Oh, I know some people will tell me I may have gone a little overboard. That the punishment didn’t fit the crime/ But it was either that or be forced to drink that god-damn sloggy bowl of cereal! And after all these years, I couldn’t let my Nana Hall win. IT WAS EITHER HIM OR ME!

Transcript ends at this point. We hope Ted is quite content in the asylum for the criminal insane he has been taken to. Details on the funeral arrangements for Corb, his beloved but cereal-soaked partner, will be announced forthwith.


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Burglar proofed.

So, I’m hanging on the porch of Green Victoria this week-end. I’m sitting on the couch, being lazy, reading “Turn of the Screw” (lovely Memorial Day week-end reading), relaxing. Suddenly I hear a scampering and look up to see THIS…

cat climb

…which turns into THIS…

cat climbed

Hmm. Guess we we don’t need a house alarm any more. All we need is Ping, waiting to pounce…

 


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Planting seeds

Corb and I spent the afternoon working on the yard. So much to do after the long winter…beds to rake through, trees to prune, transformations to undergo. We…or should I say Corb?…have a lot of plans to transform the backyard from “drab to fab”!

On a similar note, the other big thing I did this week-end was to continue edits on Late Night Show. I’m at chapter 21 and have about 120 pages left to go. In a similar way, I think editing this book has been like transforming the yard. Visualizing the world around me, attacking those verb tenses, digging up stale images and planting in their place new, interesting ways to bring the story to life.

Hopefully the book, like the back yard, will go from “drab to fab” by summer. Only in this case, I can’t rely on Corb’s creative brilliance to win the day…this landscape is something that’s entirely of my own creation. And doing it I am! Kami’s sick little world is coming to life before my eyes.


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Gurgle.

Gurgle. Gurgle. Gurgle.

Funny noise. It’s the Sunday after we returned home from Salem, and I’ve been hearing it all day long. What could it be, I wondered? Occasionally.

Although I honestly didn’t think to much about it that often. It was a beautiful day and the sun was out and the weather FINALLY starting to heat up. St. Frankie was actually able to be seen and I was actually thinking about taking some of the trash bags that had been hidden in our basement for a few weeks. Ever since our last big party, I’m embarrassed to say. I was also thinking about maybe finally cleaning out the disgusting kitty litter boxes that have been festering in the cellar for god knows how long.

After I finished cleaning the kitchen, I headed to the cellar stairs to take care of my next chores for the day. Happily whistling a little tune, I turned the corner, turned on the lights downstairs, and that’s when I encountered THIS:

Oh shit. So that’s what that gurgling noise was.

“CORB!!!!”

###

Actually, that photo was taken hours later. The water was four times that height when I discovered the flooding. The kitty litter boxes were floating in the water like little gondolas and most of the boxes were sitting on the ground. Soaking.

Frantically, Corb and I waded through the water, trying to figure out where the water leak was coming from. When we reached the far end of the basement, we finally discovered the source: the sump pump was spewing out water at an alarming rate. Thinking fast, Corb unplugged the pump. The spewing stopped.

We raced to the local hardware department and purchased a back-up sump pump. Hooked it up and started draining the moat right away. Later that night, the basement was finally dry-ish again and we were able to tromp through the basement. The floor was digusting. A bag of kitty litter had ripped open and half of the floor was covered in a sticky, muddy film.

Still, we had no idea why the sump pump had mis-fired the way it had. All we knew was that every time we turned it on, water started pouring out from a pipe about three feet above the hole. So, we decided to keep the back-up running and call a plumber in the morning.

That night, I woke up around four. Something felt wrong to me. I had been thinking about the sump pump all night long.

I went downstairs and listened.

I didn’t hear anything. That wasn’t good. I ran to the cellar. Sure enough, the hose to the back-up sump pump had disconnected during the night. The cellar was a swamp again. Quickly, I reconnected the hose and tried to go back to sleep. But first, I called Roto Rooter and made an appointment for the morning.

Corb didn’t even know what had happened.

Around noon, the plumber came by. Turns out, it appears that the PVC piping connected to the sump pump had frozen, causing a back-up. As a result, a cap had burst. All the guy had to do was seal and replace the cap, an item that only cost about ten dollars. We could have done it ourselves, if we had known what the hell we were doing.

A simply solution to a big pain-in-the-ass problem. The only problem now: cleaning up the mess that had been left behind.


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Spring UP!

Today is the official first day of spring. Of course, here in New England, we are still digging out from the worst winter of snowstorms…ummm, EVER.

But there are signs of life. Take, for example, my dear friend St. Franky, who lives under a tree in our front yard. Here’s what Franky looks like now:

In contrast, here’s what he looked like two weeks ago:

So, PROGRESS! We’ve been joking that Frankie wasn’t actually under that pile of snow all winter. Our theory is he ran away to Florida with a saucy lawn gnome. But even if he did, it’s good to see the big guy back.

Now, if we could only see the rest of him! I am so sick of this horrible boring white stuff! REAL spring cannot come fast enough, in my opinion. I want St. Franky surounded by a field of verdant foliage and STAT! Come the true spring, he’ll have no need to run away with saucy lawn gnomes. They’ll want to come visit him!

Happy first day of spring, you all.


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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.