Small House of Everything

Small House of Everything

Monday, August 31, 2015


Still no incoming.  My resolve is as strong as cold steel.  I haven't bought a book in a month and it's killing me.  There are so many precious things out there that need me!

Two days ago I finished culling my books.  The last nineteen boxes went to charity.  My surviving preciouses (I sound like Gollum, don't I?) are somewhere between Southern Maryland and the Florida panhandle.  I've kept only a few to hold me over for the next week or so.

We're still not sure where we're going to live.  The plan was to rent a place for a few months while we scoped out the area, but it seems Pensacola doesn't believe in short-term rentals.  We did find a decent apartment complex with only a seven-month rental and decided to go with that.  We sent our application and check to the address of their parent company on the rental form.  Turns out it was a very old form that the complex never updated and the address on the form was no longer valid.  Oops.  We're sorry.  As far as the apartment complex people can tell, the application and check never made it to whomever it was supposed to go.  They are still trying to track it down.  They advised we go to the bank Monday and cancel the check.  It may be too late for that though.  On to Plan B -- stay at a motel for a week or so until we find an apartment.  **sigh**

The new septic system is in and they planted some grass seed.  As far as I can tell their formula is three seeds to every square foot.  The buyer's real estate agent asked if I would water the area for fifteen minutes daily and I agreed because it's no effort at all and because we don't plan to use the back yard during the little time we have left here.  Fifteen minutes daily leaves the yard a mud swamp.  Those seeds are just laying there and not sprouting.  Not my problem according to our contract.

And we are now dog-less.  We re-homed Duncan four days ago to a family with four kids who fell in love with him.  The place is empty without him and I'm missing him.  He was the best dog I've ever had.  I'm glad he's gone to a home where he'll thrive and be loved.  We also have have to shed ourselves of two cats (Ceili will be keeping her cat).  The cats are year-old sisters and very sweet.  I'll  miss them too, but not as much as the dog.

Christina's house will go on the market in a couple of weeks.  To get it ready for sale we have had to do some work on the grounds.  We spent a couple of days clearing brush.  By "we" I mean myself and Christina's two teenagers, with an occasional assist from Ceili.  As I bent down to get some brush I startled a snake.  I saw its brownish tail slither away from me through the dead leaves.  Copperheads do live in the brush there, but I don't think this was one because it scooted away from me.  Copperheads  are usually aggressive and would not normally move away.  A few minutes late a wolf spider scuttled across my shoe.  Hate spiders!  Hate 'em!

Money has been flowing out like water through a sieve.  We haven't been this broke in thirty years.  Oh well, it's only money.

Friday was Ceili's nineteenth birthday.  She spent the day with friends so we didn't have time to celebrate.  Seems like it was only yesterday she was a little scrunched-up baby so happy to be here in the world.  Tempus really fugits.

School started Tuesday for Mark and Erin.  They're going here for two weeks, then starting in Florida.  If Christina's plan work out, they won't miss a single day.

We have to get rid of our remaining furniture, much of which will be used to stage Christina's house.
It looks like we'll be leaing the area this coming Friday or Saturday.  The three of us and Ceili's fat cat (a Maine Coon mix) in our little Kia along with the computer, the television, luggage, a couple of chairs, and various odds and ends.  It will interesting to see how everything fits.  We were going to stop and do the tourist thing at several places along the way but we wisely realized we'd be ujst too tired and stiff to do that justice, it'll be full steam ahead.

We're looking forward to this new adventure.  All the bumps along the way have been minor ones.  Of course we'll be landing there during hurricane season, so that part may not be minor.  Oh, well...

UPDATE:  Christina and Walt will be heading out sometime Saturday afternoon.  Seems they were committed to a craft fair for that morning where they will be selling their homemade soap.  Mark also mentioned that he has a high school cross-country race that morning, so his Mark will run his race, shower (hopefully), then immediately start off to Florida.  A great way to end his Maryland high school career.  I wonder if things will be as busy down south,

Friday, August 28, 2015


Takeoff by C. M. Kornbluth (1952)

The time is a few years in the future from 1952.  After a period of peace, international tensions begin to rise.  America's main rivals are now China and Argentina, although Communist Russia remains a concern.  American bureaucracy has advanced to the point that the country is unable to do anything of significance.  So it makes sense for a small group of amateur "crackpot" enthusiasts try to prod space exploration by making a moon rocket.

Michael Novak, a talented ceramics engineer, lands a job with the Atomic Energy Commission but, instead of working in his field, he is assigned as a liason with the Neutron Path Prediction Division -- something he knows nothing about and for which he is completely unqualified.  Efforts to placed somewhere where he could actually do some good fail and his supervisors constantly belittle him as a slacker and whiner.  When an open memo from his director is distributed throughout the department, specifically and falsely accusing him of laziness and of promoting office intrigue, Novak has had enough.  He storms into the director's office and offers his resignation -- in the form of a fist to the jaw.

Now unemployed and blackballed, Novak becomes desperate.  When an offer to fly him out to Los Angeles for a mysterious job interview comes he hesitatingly accepts.  The offer is from the American Society for Space Flight, a small fringe group of space enthusiasts.  ASFSF is attempting to build a full scale "model" rocket as a prototype for one that could travel to the moon.  The society's hope is that if they can prove it can be done, the government will be forced to use their work and build an actual rocket.   ASFSF has deep pockets -- an anonymous benefactor (or benefactors) has recently pledged to finance their efforts.

Given a virtually unlimited budget and and a laboratory designed to his specifications, Novak agrees to work for the society, which appears to be composed of a few retired engineers and part-time college students.  The engineer in charge of the project is August Clifton, a testy genius who could not fit into the corporate mold.  Clifton, like Novak, is a perfectionist and has earned the loyalty of the students working for him.  Novak is tasked with designing fuel containment units and he soon realizes something stange:  the design parameters he is given do not fit any known possible known fuel the rocket could use.  The most likely explanation, he realizes, is that has developed a secret fuel that it plans to use for the rocket, which means that the rocket is not a model, but a working rocket.  The fact that the society has an anonymous benefactor with unlimited fundshints strongly that the "benefactor" is a foreign power, most likely China or Argentina.

Novak brings his fears to Clifton and, after reviewing the parameters that Novak had been given, agrees.  Not knowing who can be trusted in the ASFSF, the two take their fears to the head of security of the Los Angeles office of the A.E.C. and who agrees this could be a serious matter.  That evening Novak and Clifton attend a membership meeting of the ASFSF. Clifton leaves to use the restroom where minutes later Novak discovers his body -- shot.  The death is ruled a suicide but Novak is convinced it's murder.

Who killed Clifton, and why?  Novak is afraid that he, too, might be targeted.  Against this backdrop of intrigue, Novak must combat the mysterious forces behind the project while working to ensure the future of space exploration for the United States.

Takeoff is a murder mystery, a science fiction adventure, a scathing criticism of bureaucracy, a paean to human ingenuity, an insightful look into the personalities of the main characters, and an entertaining (although somewhat dated) read.  Kornbluth is always worth your reading time.

C. M.Kornbluth (1923-1958), who graduated high school when he was 13 (!), was an influential member of the Futurians, a loose-knitted group of young science fictions -- many of whom went on to become major inflluences in the field.  (The C. is for Cyril; the M. he adopted himself and probably was given in honor of his wife Mary -- he was not given a middle name at birth.)  He began writing at fifteen and sold his first story shortly after.  Following a stint in the army during World War IIhe worked for a news wire service until 1951, at which point he began writing fulltime.  Takeoff was his first (of three) solo science fiction novel.  He also wrote science fiction novels with Judith Merril and with Frederik Pohl; he also wrote eight mainsteam novels (many in collaboration with Pohl).  Kornbluth published three science fiction collections during his lifetime, while another nine collections and retrospectives were published after his death.  He died at age 34, after shoveling snow from his driveway, then rushing to catch a train to be interviewed for the editorial position at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction.

I often wonder what marvels he could have produced had he not died so young.

Monday, August 24, 2015


The latest in our saga:

Our POD -- packed tight -- is now somewhere between Maryland and Florida.  Unfortunately, our clean underwear is with it because in our zeal to get it packed and out of here, we overlooked a few small details.  Murphy's Law, y'know.  So now we're doing small batches of laundry every day.

We still do not have a place to land.  We made an application to an apartment complex that has a seven-month lease -- which would give us enough time to look around for a more suitable place.  Because of Kitty's leg (long-time followers may remember that saga from a few years ago) we need a first floor apartment and we're not sure if one will still be aailable by the time we move.  As I have mentioned, there is the option of moving into that large cardboard box under the bridge.

Christina and Walt were finally able to get a POD of their own in our driveway.  Their driveway was too steep for the truck to deliver a POD at their house.  This means is that they have to make a bajillion trips with their stuff to get it to (and in) their POD.  That's a five-mile trip each way with a pickup truck and a SUV.  They've got a lot of work to do because their POD is scheduled to be picked up tomorrow.

They were first scheduled to pass papers on their new house last Friday.  The date was then moved up a day to Thursday.  Then moved back.  Then back a bit further.  They have to coordinate their work schedules (no easy task).  Paperwork must be downloaded, signed and notorized, and then faxed to Florida.  With luck, that can be done today.

The kids start school tomorrow and will be here for a week or so and then start their new schools in Florida.  Christina expects to leave here on a Friday afternoon and drive straight through so the kids will start school there on the following Monday.

As for their current house, bad news.  Real estate prices have dropped about 50% in the nine years they have lived here.  (Thank you, George Bush.)  Christina and Walt will not be able to clear their mortgage when they sell.  (We're also losing about half the value of our house but at least we own our home outright and don't have to contend with a mortgage.)  Their home is also a unique property -- an octagonal glass home on a steep hill by the Chesapeake.  This means the standard home buyer would not be interested; they have to fnd just the right buyer.  Which means they need aggresive pricing and staging strategies.  This weekend we had the kids cutting and clearing brush and trees so the place would present well from the street.  Potential buyers can look up, see the gazebo by the layby halfway up the driveway and then see the house standing magnificently on the top of the hill, and say (hopefully), "Wow!"

Their house will not go on the market until they and all animals are safely ensconced in Florida.  Well, not all animals...the goats had to be re-homed.

As for us, things moved much faster on the septic front.  (Have you any idea how much willpower it took to resist typing "things flowed much faster on the septic front"?)  Our contractor was able rearrange his schedule.  Of course, the fix was not easy or cheap.  The board of health decreed that we needed an entirely new system with a larger tank.  (The system was nearly forty years old -- back in those days, requirements were evidently not as srtingent.  Note, however that we have never had a problem and our old system could easily have continued to work fine for years.)  Anyway, what we had hoped would be a couple of hundred dollars to fix has mushroomed to seventy-five hundred dollars.  Our back yard is now a sea of dirt and holes.  Work is expected to be completed and approved later today.   Between the septic work and the POD, Walt, Christina, and the septic contractor will have to coordinate their various tasks.  Once the septic system is completed, our buyer can then schedule an appraisal of the property.  We are still on target for a closing date of September 30 or sooner.

We still have a lot of work to do both here and at Christina's.

I broke a tooth and I need a root canal and a crown.  We'll worry about that in Florida.

Ceili's birthday is in a few days.  We'll have to slow down and celebrate that in a fitting fashion.

Blogging is still very erratic and probably will be until we're somewhat settled in Florida, although I will try to continue posting a Forgotten Book on Fridays.

That's it from Chaos Central.  I'll probably have more next week.

Friday, August 21, 2015


Texas Gun Slinger by Murray Leinster (not dated, but probably 1950)

From the front cover of this old digest paperback:

"A feud with a wild horse can wait, when human snakes need blasting!"


And from the inside front cover:

"A rip-roaring he-man from the tips of his high-heeled boots to the top of his ten-gallon hat was tall, lanky Chet Holliday.  But when Chet rode into Fighting Horse Valley he rode straight into a heap of trouble.  For some strange reason thatt he handsome young man couldn't fathom, he had a rough time of it all the way down the line -- men hated him, dry gulchers took pot shots at his back, enemies kidnapped his best buddy and his lovely young sweeheart.  And it wasn't long before Chet realized that the time was ripe for some plain and fancy shooting.  Putting aside his tiring struggle with the spirited wild stallion, Typhoon, Chet buckled on his trusty six-shooters and headed for Alminas -- just to even up the score.  But do Chet's guns settle the score?  Does he win Typhoon for his saddle? And does he ever find the gorgeous Carol?  The answers -- plus a lot of rootin'-tootin' thrills -- are packed into the inimitable tale of the 'gun-slinging West.'"

Hoo-doggies!  That sure does sound exciting, pardner!

And despite this purple and somewhat misleading prose prefacing the novel, Texas Gun Slinger (no hyphen, mind you; real he-men don't need no stinkin' hyphens) is an entertaining read and a very pleasant way to spend a few hours.

First off, there's no mention of Texas anywhere in the book except for the gratuitous title -- and even that's a PR man's sham.  The original (and better) title of the book was Fighting Horse Valley when it was published in 1934.  Reprinted as Texas Gun Slinger as the first book published by the short-lived Star Books, the novel was "expertly abridged and edited for this special edition."  Whoever edited this edition certainily wasn't the same blurb-meister quoted above.  The novel reads smooth and even, with no jarring stops.  (The novel was also reprinted as year earlier under its original title by Quarter Books, also as a digest paperback; I don't know whether this edition was abridged.)

Also, Chet Holliday was not a gun slinger (with or without a hyphen); he was a champion rodeo rider.  Yes, he could use a gun but that was incidental.

And this doesn't take place in the wild West (or the gun-slingin' West).  The story takes place in the almost-tamed West -- an unstated period with telephones and trucks and cars and gas stations.  Kinda reminds me more of the West of the Roy Rogers television show rather than the West of, say, the Lone Ranger.

And there are the stock characters:

  • The determined (somewhat dim-bulbed) hero
  • The powerful rancher
  • The treacherous town lawyer and politico
  • The weak-willed sheriff
  • The happy-go-lucky best friend
  • The beautiful strong-willed rancher's niece
  • The jealous teen-age spitfire
  • The drunken squatter
  • And the town pariah cum Greek chorus
We begin with Chet riding into town to take claim of an abandoned mine he recently purchased.  The price of gold had risen enough in the past two decades to make the mine potentially profitable.  The mine had been closed off for years by an explosion.  Clearing  the debris from the mine, Chet discovers two skeletons, one of which had a knife protuding from the back.  He soon finds himself accused of murder and hunted throughout the entire valley.

Leinster is an old pro at mixing standard pulp elements to turn out a fast-paced story that keeps the reader turning pages.

A solid, albeit minor, read.

(Copies, paperbound under both titles, online run from $7.50 to $59.99; hardbound starts at $12.00 -- not including shipping.  Best to get it from an inter-library loan.)

Monday, August 17, 2015


More boxes of books.  I've fniished culling my books and those that are going to Florida with us are safely packed in the POD.  I'm slowly distributing the remaining boxes to local  libraries and charities.  Once I have exhausted those, my plan is to break into darkened houses at night, leave a box of books (or maybe two) in the living room (or perhaps on the kitchen table), and vanish into the night, chortling wildly.

Walt and Christina were due to have their first POD dropped off this past Friday.  Since they live on a hill (that's Southern Maryland talk for a cliff), the driver was not able to drive up it.  (Their driveway is long and steep and people have been known to demand a defib once they have walked up it.)  Their homeowner's association will not allow the POD to be placed by the street, so it was decided to place their POD over at our place next to our POD.  Now our driveway is not steep but there is a gentle incline at the start of the driveway and...You guessed it.  The truck could not back into our driveway without tearing up the asphalt.  This particular truck had a very low clearance in the rear.  It won't be until tomorrow (Tuesday) at the earliest that the POD company can send out a truck with the proper clearance.  Which means that Walt and Christina have lost three days in their planned move.  Oh.  And their date for passing papers on the Florida house has been moved up to this coming Thursday.

As for us, the house inspection went fairly well.  There were a few minor issues, mostly things that were here when we bought the house over nine years ago.  (Strangely, none of the things they found were mentioned when we paid for a home inspection five months ago.)  Among the things they noted were erosion in a spot near the house foundation (this was actually a small area that our dog Declan had dug -- there is no way water could erode this spot without eroding a much larger area) and a slightly bent spot on our rear roof gutter where "a tree had fallen on it" (despite the fact that no tree or branch had fallen at any time against the house in the thirty-plus years since it was built and that the gutter works perfectly and that we clean the gutter twice a year.)  Oh well.

And then there was a scheduled septic inspection.  The house has its own septic system because public sewers just don't exist in our area,  The septic inspection was on Friday.  And it failed.

Understand that we have never had a problem in all the time we've been here and the septic inspector told us we could go on for years without a problem.  We still failed.  Evidently when he filled the septic tank with water it did not drain as fast as it should have, indicating there may be a blockage somewhere in the pipe leading from the tank to the drainage field, or (perhaps) a tree root dislodged something.  He took a few pokes at the drainage field and the problem doesn't seem to come from there.  But the septic system failed the test.  And he wrote "failed" on his report.  And that's a big problem.

You see, once the word "failed" is on the report, no one can legally fix the problem without a permit from the County Health Department, which has the final say on what is required to fix the problem.  Our septic system, as I said, is well over thirty years old.  We have a small 750 gallon tank and a fifty-foot drainage field.  All this is about half the size of what the current code calls for.  Although our system is more than adequate for the property and the fact that our system may be grandfathered in, the County can insist we bring the entire system up to the current code if they feel like it.  Or, if the problem is minor, they may be satisfied with just repairing the blockage.  It's all up to them.  It may cost us a couple of hundred bucks or it may cost us eight thousand dollars or more -- we just don't know.  And we won't know for two weeks, which appears to be the earliest time our septic contractor and the Health Inspector will be able to look at the system.

This should not effect the sale of the house (I hope) and we've amended the sale contract to take the septic repairs into account, but it will effect our scheduled move day and our pocketbooks.  **sigh**

And how was your week?

Saturday, August 15, 2015


Today our oldest daughter has gotten a little bit older.

Early widowhood and having to raise two young girls on her own have not been easy for her but she has handled adversity with grace.  My perfect little girl now has two perfect girls of her own.  I cannot be more proud of Jessamyn.

Her smile, her laughter, her warmth...if everyone had that, the world would be a much better place.  As it is, the world is a better place just by her presence.  So happy birthday, darling.  May your day be as wonderful as you are.

We love you.

Friday, August 14, 2015


The Sirens Wake by Lord Dunsany (1946)

The third and final volume of Dunsany's autobiography (following Patches of Sunlight and While the Sirens Slept -- neither of which I have read) tells us much and little about the man, for Dunsany is a hard person to pin down.  The 18th Baron of Dunsany, Edward John Moreton Drax Plunkett (1878-1957) was a minor Anglo-Irish novelist, poet, and playwright who had major success with his plays and is now perhaps best known for his fantasy short stories while his plays have drifted off into obscurity.

Culled from hunt journals, a few letters, his wife's dairies, and his records of his writing, the majority of this book is drawn from his memories, some of which can be tricky.  In one chapter Dunsany quotes from letters to his friends about certain events; in the next, he rehashes the same events as he remembered them.  The is some overlap between the chapters and (to be expected) some variance.  Autobiographies can be tricky and can evade the truth and Dunsany unapologetically confronts these discrepancies headon.

The Sirens Wake assumes the form of a long one-sided conversation, as if the author were narrating events extemporaneously.  Asides are inserted willy-nilly into paragraphs.  Dunsany often mentions something that reminds him of a story told him by someone and will then frustratingly refuse to tell the story.  People are mentioned and names dropped but little is said about them.  Dunsany glosses over his meetings with kings, princes, and princesses of various countries without giving substance or context.  We learn very little -- and usually nothing -- about people he was close to.  A friend of Yeats and of Kipling, Dunsany does not disclose any details of these friendships.  Indeed, even Dunsany's wife remains a remote figure although he ackowledges at her extreme importance.

The book itself is also deceptive:  thirty-six chapters in 128 pages, but the 128 pages are cramped with small type -- a modern publisher could easily fill twice as many pages with the same words.

And what of the the story?  The "sirens" in the title refer to air raid sirens and the autobiography covers the late Thirties and early Forties when a great evil threatened England and the world.  The early chapters begin with Dunsany's favorite pasttime:  shooting for snipe and other game.  He briefly records where and with whom he goes shooting and then details the kill of the day's hunt.  (Dunsany states that hunting and shooting should be for a purpose -- that game killed should be used for food, although how he manages to eat dozens to hundreds of birds killed in various shoots is beyond me.  He adds that, while one does not eat the target of a fox hunt, the hunt is justified through the chickens that otherwise might have been destroyed by the fox.  He also mentions having the heads of certain trophies mounted.)  Later chapters indicate that the German threat has (at least for the time being) put an end to these beloved shooting parties.

Dunsany joined the Home Guard briefly but was soon summoned to London where Lord Lloyd asked him to go to Greece to assume a cultural post there.  Lloyd allowed that Dunsany might bring a secretary with him and Dunsany wisely chose his wife to fill that position.

A direct sail to Greece was out of the question; indeed, any ocean voyage at that time was dangerous.  The ship they were on zig-zagged southward as it tried to find a safe port, ending up in South Africa.  From there Dunsany and his wife travelled northward, eventually ending up in Egypt, then Turkey, and finally to Greece -- the entire England to Greece trip took eighty-seven days.  Dunsany's mission was evidently not an urgent one.  His numerous stays and activities are duly recorded and he used the opportunity to give various readings and lectures.

The Greece Dunsany arrived in was a country in peril, threatened both by Germans and Italian.  The Hellenic sirens wakened during his visit.  Soon the British (along with others) had to evacuate.  Dunsany was told he could leave with the British legation but chose instead to leave earlier on a Polish freighter headed to Cairo with some 400 other refugees from over a dozen countries.  The freighter, armed with three machine guns, was part of an escorted convoy and came under attack several times.  Dunsany frequently states that the time spent on that freighter was the most rewarding week of his life.  Cramped and crowded, sleeping on luggage or straw, with few rations, the comraderie on that ship and the bravery of the exiles made a lasting impression on him.

Once in Cairo, Dunsany travelled south again to Capetown and from there made another dangerous sea voyage back to England.

So what is so special about this compulsively readable and seemingly flawed book?  Dunsany's love of nature and the landscape resounds in his decriptions of Africa, Turkey, Greece, Ireland, and England.  (Dunsany's Africa is a white man's Africa; natives -- except for a few vague references to Zulu beaters on a hunt -- are not in his purview.)  His asides and opinions show how sharp his mind is.  His unflagging hope for the future, his genuine sadness for those caught up in the machinery of war, his chin-up attitude (so stereotypically British) toward hardship, his willingness to acknowledge that the future will be sharply different from the past, and his melancholy awareness that there will always be a time for the sirens to wake are some of the positives of the book.

This is not an autobiography to reveal the man behind the words.  We see nothing of Dunsany's odd character.  (He, for instance, carryied his own supply of coarse salt with him wherever he went, liberally using it at every meal.)  But we do have hints.  The book is sprinkled with poems he wrote at the time to mark certain events, as well as one full article and some article extracts.  The haphazard manner in which the book is presented is deliberate and gives us a subtle and powerful (albeit glancing) view of World War II and its effect.

And what do we learn about Dunsany hinself?  He had a passion for shooting, chess, and poetry.  The man who gave us so many stories about Mr. Joseph Jorkens, about the Gods of Peguna, and about the clever observations of dogs who once were men, the man who showed the horror behind two bottles of relish, and the man who explored the fairy realms at the Edge of the World and Beyond the Fields We Know, remains a  man who can tell us nothing while revealing everything.

Finally, it would be interesting to read Dunsany's A Journey (which I have not yet read), a book-length poem which covers the same autobiographical territory that The Sirens Wake does.  I'm willing to bet that book has other insights and wonders about the subject.

Monday, August 10, 2015


I still have no Incoming.  Perhaps an alien has taken over my body.

The POD is filling up nicely and I am almost finished culling my books.  After a couple of weeks of this, I'm finding the task less painful than, say, being devoured by fire ants.  (But only by a narrow margin.)

Our house was officially listed for sale last Thursday, viewings by appointment only.  What this means is that -- sometimes with only a half hour notice -- we have to ensure that the house is neat, the bed is made, the dirty dishes are hidden, and personal items are out of sight.  The thing is, we have animals so they too have to be out of the house.  Declan, our dog is not a problem.  He's old, blind in one eye, arthritic, losing teeth and some of his memory, but he loves to ride in the car.  What we have to do is be sure he has a leash on him before we take outside of the house.  Leashless this feeble old dog develops a super-power speed and races off (always heading southeast for some reason) at ance he's in the car, though, he's fine.

And then there are the cats.  And the cats' litter box.  Relatively speaking, cats are small animals.  Why then, do they produce so much poop?  And why is it so smelly?  Kind of a cross between necrosis and Donald Trump's enlightened views on women.  Totally rancid.  On top of that, one of our cats (Bridget -- but I'm not naming names) is of the firm belief that the litter box is for urinating only.  Anything else gets deposited on the floor beside the litter box.  So besides cleaning the litter box at least once a day, we have to clean after Bridget, sanitize the floor, and deodorize the area.  While the house is being viewed, the litter box goes outdoors under the back porch, the bowls of cat food get hidden in the microwave, and the dog's bowl (always empty -- Declan may have early onset Alzheimer's but he knows enough to gobble his food down asap) and the water bowl get hidden on the back porch.

With three cats and a dog it's hard under normal circumstances to keep ahead of the fine mist of pet hair that tries to layer our floors.  So with potential buyers on the way, we make one final sweep and then try to put the cats in their carriers before we take off.

Okay.  So we have three cats and two carriers.  Now, Bridget and Colleen are a bit over a year old and sisters.  They are small and can fit into one carrier.  But they do want want to go into any stinkin' carrier.  They fight and twist and contort and when we get one in, she escapes while we're trying to get the other one in.  And Ceili's cat, Azazel, is a Maine coon mix.  He's big.  And heavy. Azazel also does not want to go into any stinkin' carrier.  So, on top of the fighting and twisting and contorting, we have the extra joy of trying to lift him to get him into the carrier.  I find it takes about five tries per cat to get each one into their carriers.  Oh.  Did I mention that siblings often do not get along when in close quarters?  Bridget and Colleen are the best of buds outside the cat carrier, but inside?  Hissing. Spitting, Yowling.

Declan (sweet puppy) is as dumb as a box of rocks.  The cats are also not noted for their intelligence.  But put them in carriers and it's like they've watched The Great Escape every week for the past year.  Azazel's carrier was a cardboard one; first trip out it was a shredded one.  A loose cat determined to nap on the gas pedal is not a good idea, so we pulled into Petco and Kitty ran in to pick up another carrier.  Thirty dollars later, she came out with the cheapest carrier Petco had.  We opened up the package andit was one that required assembly (screwwdriver and allen wrench not included).  So we headed over to the nearest department store where Kitty found a canvas zippered carrier for just six bucks.  (Yay, Kitty!)  In the meantime, the other cats figured out how to get out of their carrier, so most of the hour away from the house was spent in trying to get cats back into their carriers.  Azazel, by the way, learned how to unzip his carrier from the inside.  Tying the zippers together seemed to work about half the time.

So Thursday, the house went on the market and we had three viewings that day -- not one after the other (because that would have been convenient) but staggered throughout the day (so we had to do the great cat/carrier battle each time).  And we had three viewings on Friday, four on Saturday, and one on Sunday.  Friday morning we had our first offer and by that afternoon we had three offers -- all well above asking price.  The first offer (from the very first person who viewed the house) was the best one (almost 20% over asking) and we spent much of Saturday morning working out details.  By Sunday (just after that day's viewing) everything was in place and we had a contract.  Papers to be passed no later than September 30.

Of course, no deal is final until the money is in the bank, but we are feeling pretty good.  Most of the credit has to go to Kitty, who has always been a whiz at real estate.  She knew exactly how to price and stage our house for the greatest impact.  There are homes in our area that have been sitting on the market for over a year but these homes did not have Kitty.  Our real estate agent Gail helped work wonders and we're very grateful to her.

Labor Day weekend (most likely) we'll be moving to the Florida panhandle.  It  would be nice to know exactly where we will land.  Will it be a house or an apartment?  Or, as noted in an earlier post, a carboard box under a bridge?  Time will tell.  After all, we still a few weeks.

Friday, August 7, 2015


The Hackman Blues (London:  Bloodlines/Do-Not-Press, 1977) and Dispatching Baudelaire (Dublin:  Sitric Books, 2004), both by Ken Bruen

Hands down, Ken Bruen is one of the best crime writers working today.  Not for everyone, though, Bruen is:  his prose is violent, bawdy, funny, terrifying, erudite, topical, nihilistic,and gloriously Irish.  If David Goodis and Jim Thompson were put in a blender at the highest setting and left to ferment for weeks...well, you get the idea.  Perhaps best known for his novels about Jack Taylor, the ex-Garda whose life descends further and further into the abyss with each new novel, Bruen has written many other first-rate novels outside of the Taylor series.  Here are two of the lesser-known ones.

Tony Brady, the protagonist of The Hackman Bllues, is manic-depressive, homosexual, and a minor criminal in Brixton.  He's addicted to booze and drugs and has spent much of his life flat-out insane -- just the sort of person with the sort of reputation that would interest a stone-cold killer like Jack Dunphy.  Duphy, who fancies himself to be a Gene Hackman look-alike, wants Tony to find his daughter Roz and is willing to pay big bucks for the job.  Dunphy is dangerous, but so is Leon, the head of Brixton's most vicious Black gang and the one whom Roz is now living with.  It didn't take Tony long to find the girl but Tony is nowdrugged-up and in one of his manic modes.  He decides that, rather than return Roz to her father, he should kidnap the girl and ransom her to both Dunphy and Leon.  What could go wrong?  Blood soon begins to flow, both that of innocents and the guilty.  Events catapult into race riots.  A pair of crooked cops start putting the squeeze on Tony, who begins to see his life rapidly swirling down the drain.  Still, he has a chance to mete out some first-rate revenge before the book's end.

Dispatching Baudelaire takes place in depressive post-Thatcher England,  Once-mild accountant Mike Shaw meets Laura in a bar. Laura (ever unpredictable) develops a momentary liking for Mike.   This brings Mike into contact with Laura's father Harry, a rich, powerful, and a corrupting influence on all he meets -- including Mike, his oh-so-bland girlfriend, and his best friend.  As Mike's fortunes appear to rise, his personality does an about-face and he becomes arrogant and reckless, self-assured and cocky.  Once again, things don't end well.  There's blood.  Lots of it.

Brief summaries give you very little idea of what these books are like.  Bruen can't just be read; he must be experienced.

Here's a taste from The Hackman Blues:

     I took a sip of the ouzo...jeez, sheep dip.  Farmers sometimes dope sheep with lithium.  If a dog kills one of these sheep, he recoils and never goes near them.  Was that the reason dogs give me a wide berth?  Not that I hadn't been with some real dogs in my time.

Great stuff.

Oh.  And here's something interesting. the compelling story of Tony Brady's father, as related in The Hackman Blues, is repeated almost word for word as the story of Mike Shaw's father in Dispatching Baudelaire.  Leave it to an Irishman to never let a good story go.

Monday, August 3, 2015


I'm going through severe withdrawal pains and the most sensible thing I've been able to utter is, "Gak!"

In the meantime I'm still sorting books and hauling various items that will be going on the move to charity.

The house officially goes on the market Thursday.  Cleaners are coming for a deep clean tomorrow and it looks like we'll be able to get the house power washed tomorrow evening.  The house is pretty clean already but we want it real estate viewing clean.  Tomorrow I'll be doing some yard work.

Our main toilet got clogged and we had to call a plumber; $350 later you'd wouldn't believe what the three-year-old flushed down there.  **sigh**

A POD has been delivered and we are slowly fulling it up.  I only wish I knew where the POD was going to be delivered.  Still don't have a place lined up  yet.  Maybe we'll have the POD delivered under a bridge -- it would be more waterproof than a big cardboard box.

Christina, her kids, and Ceili took an eleven-hour drive to Cape Cod yesterday.  They'll be there for two weeks, giving us and Walt more time to get our respective homes in shape.  Jessie and Amy are also at the Cape.  Everybody will be going out for real fried clams (whole bellied, not those wimpy little clam strips!) while we remain here in clam-less Southern Maryland.  Oh well.

Before heading to the Cape, Christina took Mark and his best friend Daniel to Baltimore so they could run in a half marathon (Mark's first).  Daniel placed first in his age group while Mark came in second. I'm really proud of them both.  It's amazing how fast two totally uncordinated teens can run.

Life keeps moving along, dragging us with it.