Home Sweet…ah, nevermind.

Summer begins this year with less heraldry than most years. Mostly, I’m reminded again of letting go of things; my journalism class seniors, who I miss every day, my routine of daily early rising and go get ’em attitude from 5:30 am on.

I’m still rising early, 6:30 or so most days-and still I form routines, but they’re sort of transmogrified daily. I have to have routine. I’m bound to it like a leaf to a branch. Every year, though, the first week of summer begins and I have trouble with it. I’m a creature of habit, as my wife says, married to a routine that I love and work well in. I set on my own narrow confines refusing to be bound by them, but taking them on like rails for a train. I enjoy thinking that way–and I enjoy knowing what’s next. I like adventure as much as the next person–to a point. But routine makes me happy.

And again change is in the air. The summer here has been cool-ish so far with light breezes and temperatures mostly below 80 degrees. Still, it’s warm in the sun, summer-like and lovely. As I write this, I’m in my favorite spot on the patio feeling the wisp of breeze cross in from the ocean, watching the sun set slowly to the west.

Pre-vacation, we all get a bit antsy and ready for a change. That will happen now, too-but the fact is, I revel in these days beforehand when I can control my environment a little more and feel attached to this place. Home is a revelation to me each summer. I love it more and more and I grow more fond of each little niche and each little place in it. This evening, the night before I turn 49, there’s a glass of Viognier in front of me and purple budding flowers on the tree to my right. They fall to the ground making a loud and audacious carpet over the patio.

Of course, I have not yet mentioned the inconveniences of the past few days. The television went dark on Friday night. It was old-and very big, a rear projection model from an earlier era (about 12 years old or so) that was gifted to us by a friend. It gave it all up on Friday. This isn’t a tragedy–we don’t watch it much, but it was sort of there when you needed it–and with its 60-inch screen, playing Wii games on it was tremendous, nearly life-sized.

Then, at about 10:30 Friday night, the air conditioner went on the fritz. This has happened before and it appears that the original install, which we hired someone to do, wasn’t done to what I’ll call “quality” standards. The result this time is more than $1000 of a fix–and possibly much more, depending on what happens next.

The air-con is set on the furnace in the garage, as most are. The thing is built for a 3000 square foot house. Now, we have about 2800 square feet, but a full 600 square feet of that or so is an add on and there are not heating or cooling ducts in the add on. The result is the system is a bit over-sized for our home. In addition, there were problems that were sort of jerry-rigged on the install and the result is a mass of condensation build-up that, over time, has resulted in rusting out and shorting circuits and a dead screened thermostat.

Repairs have been initiated, albeit temporary until the real thing can be done later this week. This means that there is a set of PVC pipes running out of the air con and emptying into a bucket. When the air con is running now, one must check the bucket every hour or so because that’s how fast the condensation build-up is. Annoying? Yes. Expensive? More so. Frustrating? You figure it out…

Not to mention that I thought that I’d try my hand at a kind of innovation yesterday, my birthday, so I went down to the hardware store and bought a PVC u-joint and brass hose fitting. Reasoning that if I simply set the u-joint onto the PVC protruding from the air con and then attach a hose to the brass fitting, I could drag the hose out to the garden and the condensation would harmlessly flow into the flowerbed.

But, as I am not a home-repair kind of guy, I did not figure that there wasn’t enough pressure coming from the condensation dripping out of the PVC. I put it all together, turned on the air con, put the hose in the garden and walked away. An hour later, reveling in the kitchen with some lunch prep, I silently congratulated myself on my manly temporary fix. And then I noticed that the air con was off–and that it was warmer than it should be…

I went to the thermostat and low and behold–it was blank. Again. I ran to the garage, fearing the worst, picked up the phone to dial the air con repairman again to tell him I’d screwed up all his good work. I pulled the u-joint off the PVC pipe and a river of water came flooding out, filling the bucket in less than 40 seconds. Egad!

But, as luck would have it–this action precipitated the air con starting up again, the thermostat came back to life–and I took my measly $6 worth of parts back to the hardware store and got my money back, using it to buy a can of hornet’s nest insecticide that was on sale. Chaste by my own inability yet again to do anything resembling innovative home repair, fix-it-up work or manual labor, I drove home and promptly put the hornet spray on the shelf in the garage.

I’ll get around to killing the nest when I’m feeling more optimistic. Right now, I’ll allow them to live in homage to the home-repair lords who oversee such stupidity and remind me that home ownership is not all it’s cracked up to be.




Monstro came to us in 1999. No kids at that point and on the verge of getting a dog, we had fish. Had. Within a few short months, he ate all his tankmates. I’ve written about him before and I thought I’d be more poetic. I’m too exhausted–it’s a busy time of year.

He was older than Shannon, he outlasted two dogs (Scoop the wonderdog and Aunt Laurie’s Petey-dog) and welcomed two new ones, Lucy and Simon. He frightened Lucy every time she walked by his tank and he flipped his tale or tapped the glass by moving the floating thermometer against it. It was fun to watch. He seemed to know it was her. He also seemed to know when each of us would walk by the tank. He knew who fed him and who cleaned the aquarium, he nibbled at fingers if he could, he picked up the rocks at the bottom of his tank and spit them out in other spots, over days moving mountains of blue and green aquarium stones into different places.

I didn’t expect him to die this evening. It was not written in portents of previous behavior. I saw him this morning and paid a visit this afternoon and he was his usual self. But then this evening, after Sue had cleaned the tank as she usually does, he floated to the top and bent over in a wishbone shape suspended on his right side. From there, he was dead within the hour. I don’t know why. He was at least 15 years old, if not older. It’s a long time for a fish who ate more than 20 of his brethren over his lifetime, fell on the floor at least three separate times in various tank moves and maneuvers, challenged rainbow sharks, Chinese algae eaters and tiger barbs, all with wild success of a sort and lived in three different houses over his lifetime.

Now, he’s in fish heaven about which I’ve written before. He was ornery, mean and even vicious. He earned his name and he was a character, the subject of many small-talk observations to visitors and friends. He lived alone in a 20-gallon tank, mainly because he would eat his roommates if he had any. He looked you in the eye and he gave no quarter.

He was dangerous–but then, at his biggest in these last few years, he was a few inches long–only so dangerous.

R.I.P Monstro—may you find ponds of fell0w fish folk who you like enough not to subject to your digestive tract.


That was Then…

I awoke this morning earlier than perhaps I would have liked. I took yesterday off entirely after having been out late with my father. I hopped on a spontaneous opportunity to go see my favorite baseball club, the Pittsburgh Pirates, play at Dodger Stadium. Dad lives about three hours north of here, but I sent him an e-mail asking him if he wanted to go relive our youth–we spent many an evening at Dodger Stadium in the 1970’s and 80’s–and see the game and to my surprise, he was game.

He drove south and we went together on a Friday night, braved the traffic and headed to Dodger Stadium. When I was a kid, dad’s company was working with then Dodger-manager Tommy Lasorda to produce some motivational films. They didn’t become close friends or anything, they just met and worked for a short time together. Dad and his company colleagues would get season tickets and we’d use them every so often.

On our drive down, we discussed whether or not Lasorda was even still around and we didn’t know the answer. But as we arrived at the stadium, we walked over behind left-field where Lasorda’s Trattoria sits. It’s a walk-up fast Italian food affair and it’s expensive as all get out. But, it’s baseball and we were having fun. We went to sit down and noted that there were half a dozen police officers and security officers around us. This isn’t unusual at Dodger Stadium these days, I’m told, because the fact is, things can get nasty as they did when a young man was beaten senseless for being a San Francisco Giants fan. Things like that don’t just bother me, they scare me, anger me, enrage me…and it’s probably one of the dozen or so reasons I haven’t gone to a Dodger game since I was a boy. In the 80’s, we didn’t fear for our lives as we went outside to the parking lot.

Anyway, as it happened, there was an older gentleman with thinning white hair sitting behind us with about a dozen people at his table. He was holding court and talking and the voice was unmistakeable–I couldn’t see his face as his back was turned to us–it was indeed Mr. Lasorda. Mystery solved. He is still quite alive, still Mr. Dodger and is a prince in his very domain.

The Pirates won the game, which made me happy and inexplicably made dad unhappy. He’s now a Dodger fan he’s decided. I told him if I’d known, I would not have bought the tickets–but I was kidding, of course. It was a great night.

Saturday, then, was a sleepy blur of dog parks and naps, movies and wine in the evening and nothing much else.

Which brings me back to this morning. I had two stories to cover and the first one was out at Pt. Mugu State Beach where the National Park Service, which holds dominion over that part of the southern end of the Santa Monica Mountains, was hosting a family fishing day. I arrived early, but so did a bunch of others. Kids with parents in tow and vice-versa rolled out onto the beach. But who wouldn’t? The scene was extraordinary and beautiful and peaceful.

A California sea lion caught a large barracuda and was slapping it on the water, the sound breaking the roar of the waves. Pelicans strafed the surfline while harbor seals bobbed up and down and farther out, more than a dozen dolphin dorsal fins sliced the surface as a pod moved first north, then circled back south along the shore feeding on the fish and leaving a wake of fish parts and seagulls.

The sound of giggling children, laughing parents, waves rolling in on the clean sand, all of it was magical.

Home to write the piece-and then off to Ventura County’s largest food and wine festival, the Casa Pacifica Wine, Food and Brew Festival. I was working, but really, how can you call it work? It was 5000 people, most of whom know each other in some way, enjoying the best food and beverages all to raise money for Casa Pacifica, a worthy cause indeed.

Driving home with Sue, it occurred to me that of all the whirling, strange and sometimes frustrating portions of my life, this weekend was not among them. It was, in fact, a moment in time, fairly prolonged at three days, for which I am truly grateful.

And that’s enough.