Oh So Safe

barn
“It’s in pretty good condition,” MIM said.

A year ago, we took off on a day trip to see our 25th piece of land in two months. We’d seen property perched on bluffs. Property at the base of cliffs with a history of mudslides. Property halfway down precipices held up only by morning glory and blackberries. Property on flood plains. Property on bogs. Property on mud flats. Property on river sloughs.

Property that had been on the market for a while. Property no one else wanted.

Property that was cheap. For good reason. Sure, you take a chance that you’ll be rolled up in a mud Stromboli after the mountainside decides to go surfing, but isn’t life full of risks? Why, houses have slid into Puget Sound in the expensive burbs of nearby Magnolia and Bainbridge. The mansions of Queen Anne are being held up by walls of fimo. The well-traveled Highway 99 viaduct (which MIM takes to work every day) is held together by toothpaste and hi-tech bungee cords. Trendy downtown Seattle condos are built on a mudflat that will liquefy in the next earthquake. When I worked in a downtown office building and told my brother The Agitator about my earthquake-preparedness kit, his response was that I would not need a kit, but he would need a shovel in order to dig me out.

So why not get the same risk for a fraction of the price?Read More »

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On Flexibility

As he pulled into the grocery store parking lot to buy ice cream on our way home from a day trip (to look at more cidery property), I asked the Man I Married what he was going to do about grocery bags. I keep loads of reusable bags in my car—always have, but I do especially now that Seattle charges for plastic or paper bags from the store. MIM keeps no bags in his car, which perhaps explains why he often buys beer and nothing else.

“I’m going to buy a bag,” MIM said, giving me his exaggerated horrified look. “I am going to bend over and take that whole five cents…”

The Little Monkey was in the back seat, so MIM wisely did not finish the sentence about taking that nickel right up his behind.Read More »

My Own Private Planet

We must have had a mighty good roll in the hay back in June when I first suggested that the Man I Married “look into buying an acre or two of undeveloped property.” Somewhere that he and the Little Monkey could roam on weekends, get muddy, hammer on things, grow cider-apple trees, fart loudly, and in general not be around me for an entire cup of tea. I figured that MIM would never seriously consider the idea, since it involved listening to me, but this time he did. Next time I’ll suggest a Mustang convertible.

The search for undeveloped property cheap land would define the rest of 2013. I thought our 25th anniversary celebration might involve cruise ships to Alaska, but, no, we spent the first six months of what I hope will be our second quarter-century together driving our nine-year-old diesel car to Raymond. To Olalla. To Anderson Island, Granite Falls, and Darrington. To Arlington, Aberdeen, and Carnation.

What I didn’t know: Property-hunting involves shrieking. By me. I’m not a congenital shrieker.

But I shriek when the Man I Married parks on things called “berms.” A berm is a flat area to the side of a road. On the other side of the berm is a sheer drop-off. The Man I Married is casual about his speed of approach to these so-called “wide” spots in the road.

The sheer drop-off is always on the passenger side of the car.

The sheer drop-off is generally also the piece of property that’s for sale.

“Wow, this looks great!” says the Man I Married as he gathers his boots and hat and loppers (which were once mine) and welding gloves. “Look, isn’t that a madrona tree? You love madrona trees!”

He points to a tree that is growing horizontally from a cliff.

I remain in the car and talk to him through the open hatchback. No way am I getting out of this car. Opening my door might upset the gravitational balance, and I will go plunging to my death as the Passat slides off the berm, unless it gets hung up on the madrona.

“It’s a cliff,” I point out to MIM.

“It’s waterfront,” he counters. “I’ve been listening to your needs, and I know how important it is to you to be close to the water.”

I look out the passenger window and down, down, down to the beach at the base of the cliff. “It’s not waterfront. It’s water.”

“This will be perfect for your writing retreat,” he says.

The real estate agent had told him that another writer had been considering this property for his writing retreat, but the writer eventually bought a piece of land two parcels over. The writer is Gregg Olsen, who writes true crime, profiling serial killers and the like: Olsen’s characters jump to life and his plots are so intricate you never see the killer coming. I’m not sure I want to be at a retreat two parcels over from this guy.

I’m all for driving away without further investigating this “property.” I’ve seen enough, but the Man I Married and the Little Monkey crash together down the bluff. I hear them every step of the way as they whack and crunch and oof and slide their way down. They don’t give a thought to the most important question, which is how will they get back up? Pretty soon the sounds of their footsteps crunching on the rock beach waft up to the car.

While he’s out there, MIM takes a “nature pee.” I have to go, too, but I’ll need to hold it until we next find civilization. The Little Monkey never needs to pee, unless he wants to procrastinate chores. Then he’ll sit on the pot for hours, and then forget to flush. I myself am usually not picky and am open to “nature pees,” but I prefer flat land, not cliffs, so that I can plant my feet firmly before crouching. I would hate to slide over a cliff with my pants around my ankles.

MIM is thrilled when he returns to the car. “What a view!” he says.

“There’s no driveway. Nowhere to put a driveway.”

“You just have to be clever.” He thinks I’m being negative.

“It’s a bluff,” I point out. “Bluffs around here slide. A whole row of houses around that point slid a few years back.”

“Yes, and I could choke to death this afternoon,” he says, patting my hand affectionately. His point: I am far too fearful and need to learn to take risks. I need to learn to sleep peacefully at night in a house he has cleverly built on a sliding bluff while the tide is out.

We drive to visit my uncle, who lives not too far away. I roll my eyes behind MIM’s back as he discusses the property with my uncle, who says, “The main consideration with buying property is the water availability.”

“Oh, there’s plenty of water,” I say.

“Isn’t that bluff property?” my uncle asks. “You know bluffs around here slide. Some houses up the road were destroyed a few years back.”

That blows my argument totally. It is now in MIM’s mind a “family gene” issue and not a “reality of sliding bluff country” issue. We are worst-case-scenario worrywarts, not sane realists who can clever our way out of minor challenges.

I find myself shrieking all over the state of Washington in the hunt for property. We park on “berms” on Whidbey Island and Vashon Island. We park at the base of bluffs on Whidbey and North Bend; at least with these I will be suffocated under tons of mud rather than breaking my back as I slide down a cliff and then suffocate under tons of mud. MIM is enthused about all of the land parcels we investigate. Potential! We never locate a few of them, despite avid searching; they appear to be vertical plots between hairpin turns on roads. Surprisingly, some of these are not even affordable.

We head farther afield, where there’s more rain but less cliffs. We head for Aberdeen. “Kurt Cobain was from Aberdeen. I might have killed myself, too,” I tell MIM on the drive there, “if I had to live in Aberdeen.” But, in truth, we wind up having a nice time in Aberdeen. I’m a little smitten. Parts of Aberdeen remind me of Amsterdam. The parcel is green, on a quaint canal, and we can afford it. And it’s flat!

“That property is under water for half the year,” says the lady who lives across the street as she walks over to us. “You can’t build on it. They recently chased out a homeless camp and recovered thirty needles. Must be lots more in there. Oh, honey,” she cautions the Little Monkey, “don’t go in there.”

MIM ponders, looking out longingly over the canal as he pulls his boots from the ooze that he’s slowing sinking into. “I could always build something on stilts.”

We found one other piece of flat property, in Goldbar, but this flat property also made me shriek when we found ourselves a long way down a dead-end road. MIM forged ahead past numerous KEEP OUT, NO TRESPASSING, BEWARE OF DOG, YOU WOULD BE STUPID TO DRIVE PAST THIS SIGN, YOU’RE ABOUT TO BE SHOT, BUSTER notices. MIM will talk to anybody, but even he knew better than to speak with the folks gathered around the numerous camping trailers, lean-to shacks, trash, and weeds.

“Backupbackupbackupbackup!” I whisper- shrieked to him. The folks didn’t even look up from what they were doing since we weren’t waving cash out the window.

“Why didn’t you talk to them?” the Little Monkey squeaked from the backseat. Even he knows that his dad never passes up on an opportunity to shoot the shit with strangers.

“They were busy,” I told him. “We didn’t want to bother them. They are making…stew,” I said.

Over six months the numbers morphed. A budget of about ten grand for an acre led MIM to this beauty of a piece of property:

"About 80% of the building can be saved," said one helper.
“About 80% of the building can be saved,” said one helper. My response: “Why would you want to do that?”

Which is listed at sixty grand for a half acre, half of which can’t be built on (cliff, creek), but it comes already equipped for some Fifty Shades of Grey shenanigans, if you aren’t worried about tetanus:

"Sign the contract here," said Christian.
“Sign the contract here,” said Christian.

MIM approached the next door neighbor, who was a dead ringer for Kathy Bates. She was aggressively smoothing out ruts in the gravel drive left by the mailman.

“What do you know about this piece of property?” MIM asked her.

“Not a damn thing!” she said.

I happen to like Kathy Bates. MIM felt it was a good sign, since he’s been told by a good dozen people that he looks like Jeff Bridges. “Kathy Bates and Jeff Bridges would make good neighbors,” he mused out loud.

MIM returned later to inspect this piece of property along with a phalanx of common-sense helpers, not including me, but including my brother The Agitator. Somehow they all gently convinced MIM that HE WAS OUT OF HIS FUCKING MIND to consider that dump.

For which I was glad. Not because HE WAS OUT OF HIS FUCKING MIND to consider that dump, but because the Great Property Hunt of 2013 turned out to be a lot of fun, more fun than an expensive cruise, and I hated to see it end. We bicycled together on Anderson Island and ate lunch at a horse training facility near Darrington. We reconnected with friends and attended cider festivals on Vashon. We took tours of distilleries in Aberdeen and Steilacoom. I told MIM that he could buy me the house on a river bridge in Raymond (at which point we had an argument). We ate pie pretty much anywhere we could find it, and we talked to lots of people, and we stopped at every antique store and bookstore we came across. In six months, we took more time to get to know the small towns of the western side of Washington State than we had in 25 years. I’d never even heard of Anderson Island, and I remembered hating Darrington from a motorcycle trip through there years ago, where the only other woman at the bar we stopped at was wearing a blue chiffon dress and I was openly scoffed at (I did something rude like ask for water). This time Darrington was good to us; there’s a nice bookstore/coffee shop there now. MIM and I have travelled a lot of the country by motorcycle over the years, but we’d never spent much time at backwater towns in our own backyard.

I was looking forward to continuing the land search, but saying no to that last piece of property seems to have taken the wind out of MIM’s sails. “I don’t know what planet I was on, thinking I could take on a piece of property like that,” he told me today.

“Planet MIM,” I said.

It’s at the center of my universe.


EWH front cover

The Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
12.5 humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.

The Newest in Exercise Equipment

“Hey, baby, where’s that yoga-ball chair thingie of yours?” the Man I Married asked. “Ya still got it?”

Fitball_Group_Fitness_ClassSince the chair was in the closet beneath a pile of baskets and purses, I could hardly claim that I was using it so MIM couldn’t. I had frequent, good intentions of unearthing it. My excuse, and I’m sticking with it, is that it’s too low for my desk. Neither could I claim that he wouldn’t care for it properly, since I wasn’t doing that, either. So I let him dig it out and haul it happily off to the Barage. He promised to return it in mint condition.

Evidence mounted that he was not using the yoga-ball chair to strengthen his abs. Flour was the first clue—odd bits of flour paste smeared around the kitchen, not quite cleaned-up evidence. But clue about what, exactly? Believe me, I’ve learned not to ask, especially when it was apparent that he was going to great lengths to keep his project under wraps.Read More »

Further Lamentations from the Cider-Maker’s Wife

In 1993—just shy of age thirty—I began seriously writing. I had always thought I’d be a writer. I wrote my first novel (on an electric typewriter) in the seventh grade but had written nothing since graduating in 1986 from college (where I took difficult classes such as the one where we spent an entire summer studying music videos–honestly, I get tired of hearing law and nursing students complain about their workload when I think about my arduous classes).

My plan was to write screenplays in Hollywood, but I ended up back home with my parents and working at an ad agency (typing spreadsheets, still using a typewriter, and an occasional newsletter). I worked my way up to becoming the Promotion Director for a prominent National Public Radio station (it’s easy to be the Director when you’re the only one in the department), but then I nosedived down to being a secretary when I thought I’d try graduate school. I never made it to grad school because I began to write again.

At the turn of the millennium, I began to publish that writing.Read More »

Nada Los Ho Ho Ho’s

Nothing funny happened this month.

Unless you count the morning that I couldn’t heat my tea, because there were three kegs between me and the microwave. If you’ve seen me staggering around in the mornings before I’ve moved on to my second cup of darker-than-coffee tea, you’ll know this wasn’t funny. But what could I do but laugh (in retrospect)?

Or unless you count the fact that it has come to light that the Little Man has been faking his way through choir for the past two months—going through more effort to pretend he knows the words than it would have taken him to learn the words—so he had to memorize the entire Christmas concert in one week. Brow-beating your child into learning the words to Joy to the World? Ironic, if not funny. “You have fifteen minutes to go downstairs and learn all of the verses. NOW! Without any more whining! And if you come back upstairs without having learned them, no dessert!” Ludicrous. You could never have predicted the things that emerge from your mouth since becoming a parent.

Or unless you count the Man I Married deciding that the Little Man was mispronouncing all of the words to the Spanish verse of Oh Christmas Tree, so he subsequently supervised the practice session(s) of O Arbol de Navidad. The Man I Married—an Ohio boy who still doesn’t get the English language right—enthusiastically slaughtered the Spanish language on our two trips to Mexico, much to the delight of the Mexicans, because at least he was trying to speak their language instead of expecting them to speak ours, and he was so awfully sincere and cheerful about it. From behind the closed bedroom door I heard a high voice warbling, “El ar-ree-oh-bord-uh dee Nah-bee-dahd,” followed by a deep bass thundering, “It’s El Ahr” (pirate-y) “Bowl dee Na-Vee-Dad” (rhymes with Badly Dad). Then a high voice arguing. Then a deep bass thundering about how a ten-year-old should not be arguing with a fifty-year-old about how to pronounce Spanish. They were both wrong, but I decided against poking my head in to offer up the correct way to pronounce Navidad.

Or unless you count my having coughed my way through the entire month, but the Man I Married, mercifully, slept through all of it. After a five-hour long coughing fit one night I asked him, “Did I keep you awake last night?” “No, why?” he answered. The following morning, after a relatively good night, he greeted me with, “Good news! I actually heard you coughing last night!” Which translated as, “I noticed you were suffering; aren’t I a considerate spouse?” Since he brings me my tea in the morning, I must dutifully answer in the affirmative.

Or unless you count Thanksgiving dinner, when members of my family went into a graphic explanation of polynidal cysts (think twice before looking it up). The anecdote included a detailed description of how a nurse in the exam room passed out upon…er…the sudden olfactory unpleasantness of my cousin’s cyst. The story was followed by the offer to display the heinous scars left by the removal of what turned out to be my cousin’s four cysts lodged at the base of his spine in the “gluteal cleft” (“one the size of a pool ball and three the size of ping pong balls”), with a double check first by his wife on how much of his butt we might have to view in order to see the scars (too much, apparently, since we thankfully were not rewarded with the threatened display). This conversation was followed by my aunt hiking up her shirt and removing her back brace so that my sis-in-law (a nurse-in-training) could remove a stitch or piece of skin from my aunt’s surgical incision site that wasn’t healing right and was bothering her. My sis-in-law held out the piece of removed body part to show me. Such matter of fact statements as, “Pus does not bother me” were uttered. Pie, anyone? I for one was snorting sangria out of my nose during this very unfunny banter. There is never such a thing as a “lull in the conversation” with my family.

Or that on the drive home from Thanksgiving dinner, I said to the Little Man that the thing I was most thankful for was that he was in my life. To which he responded that the thing he was most thankful for was that Buster Posey won the MVP for the World Series and that he got to see him hit three home runs in one game. Which is as it should be for a ten-year-old, who shouldn’t have to feel thankful for things like a family. That’s for weepy moms who had a little too much sangria and who kept grabbing the dashboard and yelping to the Man I Married, “Slow down!” He replied, “I’m going 48 miles-per-hour on the freeway.”

Or that, although the dog leaves her tidy little turds in the exact same place on the carpet every night when she decides it’s far too wet and cold to do her business outside, the Man I Married never looks there first before walking across it. And he never notices that he’s done it until he’s made several circuits of the entire house, tracking it everywhere. Which turns a quick and easy cleanup job into a…not so easy cleanup job. But, hey, it gets us to clean the house.

So, really, nothing very funny happened this month. If things don’t pick up around here, we might have to break down and buy a television so that we can pipe in a laugh track now and then.

And now I leave you with this traditional German Christmas tune to herald in our politically correct holiday season:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oirrPQKn9t4


 

EWH front coverThe Erotica Writer’s Husband & Other Stories by Jennifer D. Munro
Kindle Edition at Amazon

12.5 humorous stories about sex and the sexes. These sensual yet comic stories offer a fresh take on literary erotic fiction, as if Anaïs Nin and Erma Bombeck met at the library to spin tales of laughter and the libido. Collected from the pages of Best American Erotica, Mammoth Book of Best New Erotica, Best Women’s Erotica, Best of Literary Mama, Clean Sheets, Zyzzyva, and others.