Thursday, May 29, 2008

It's Cloverfield -- with raccoons and brownies!

Our anniversary was a complete success. We saw a great movie-- yes, Indiana Jones and The Temple of The Crystal Skull was great and everyone who says it wasn't is just a dork-- ate a great dinner, and wreaked a little havoc.

About that dinner, first: after Sweetie read my preview of our anniversary celebration, she took issue with me. She said "How can you say I'm the less fancy of the two?"

I explained that I could say that because it's true. She then said, in a very powerful rebuttal to my argument, that it was not true.

We then went out for dinner on our Alternate Anniversary (see, families? We don't just make you celebrate alternate holidays; we do them, too) to a restaurant that serves, really, just sandwiches. I ordered the chicken sandwich, and was pleased to see that it came topped with liver sausage. I also got the fries. Sweetie ordered, in her far-more-fancy-than-me way, a grilled cheese. She got the salad, which in the manner of all salads in all restaurants everywhere, wasn't a salad at all. When it came, it had purple things in it and something that looked like a pickle with spikes growing out of it. "Punk Rock Pickle Salad" was not on the menu. (But it should be.)

I asked what the spiked pickle was and Sweetie thought it might be arugula. But it's not. This is arugula:

That's not what the salad-thing looked like. I would show you a picture of the salad thing, but I can't find my camera. Yes, I took pictures of Sweetie's salad. I had my camera with me the whole day and I took four pictures: one of Sweetie, and three of her salad. Life with me is one big romantic journey.

Instead of an actual photograph, I'll have to settle for an artist's rendering of the Punk-Rock Pickle:

The actual punk-rock pickle had more spikes, but I got tired of drawing them.

After not finishing her salad, Sweetie ate her grilled cheese sandwich. I asked how she liked it, and she said, and I quote:

"It was a little too fancy for me."

So I marked that date as the first one in which I not only won a debate with Sweetie, but a debate involving cheese-- the highest level of debate.

The rest of the anniversary was celebrated exactly the way I predicted it would be -- take that, Michio Kaku!-- except with a lot more brownies than I had originally predicted, because we stopped off for snacks to take with us to the hotel, and I panicked because the bakery girl was very rude and forced my hand.

We were at the bakery and decided to get not just a snack or two for us, but some stuff to bring home the next day for the Babies! and the older kids and grandma and grandpa who were babysitting. I'm never sure how to proceed in these circumstances. It doesn't seem right to just rattle off all fifteen things we'll be getting, but, then, saying one thing and then pausing is annoying.

Sweetie ordered first, and asked for a peanut square. The girl bagged that up and said "Okay" and started to walk away. I interrupted her and said, "Also, could we get a couple of the black and white cookies?" She acted annoyed but did bag up the cookies -- quickly and actually a little ferociously, as though the cookies were responsible for the insulting way I had politely asked for them. I was about to add a couple more things, but she flopped the cookies on top of the counter and walked away.

We stood there. What are you supposed to do in such a case? She had walked away and was standing at a different counter in the bakery arranging things and deliberately not looking at us.

I should mention that we were in the bakery of a grocery store, and it was maybe 6 p.m. and the bakery and the store were not closing anytime soon. We had every right to be there. It's in the Constitution. There's the part in the Constitution about always electing a Bush or a Clinton, there's the part about how judges are not supposed to ever answer questions about anything except whether their kids are photogenic, there's the part that talks about free speech which is the first, and only, part any teenager ever learns so that when you tell them not to talk to you that way they can say "freedom of speech! Don't censor me!" and you can subject them to a lengthy lecture on what the First Amendment actually guarantees and then you call can sit down and read some, but not all, of the Federalist Papers, and then, right after all those parts, is the part where it says that if you get to the bakery in the grocery store at a reasonable time, the girl at the counter should remember that it's her job and that if you were not there ordering cookies she would be unemployed and not able to buy more nose rings to show what a rebel she is and how much she hates her parents who never really did anything to her except urge her to pay more attention in school so she wouldn't end up working at her job in the bakery where people will, for no reason whatsoever come in and order baked goods from her.

Finally, I walked over and said "I'm sorry to bother you, but could we get a couple more things?" She shrugged, did not say anything, and walked back behind the counter where she stood looking off to her left, just over my right shoulder, at nothing in particular.

I was unnerved. I don't do well in pressure situations. So I just said "Could I get one of each kind of brownie?" She cocked an eyebrow at me and said "One of each?" I nodded. She then sighed, long and loud, and packed up the brownies, set them on top of the counter, and walked around the corner out of our sight. I guess we had hit some unwritten limit on how many brownies you can order. I hoped she was not off telling the manager that there were people harassing her by continuing to ask for service.

The problem with all those brownies was that nobody else in our family, as it turns out, likes brownies at all. They say -- get this -- that they're too rich. As though that's even possible with a dessert. But they wouldn't eat them, and I was left with roughly 10,000 calories worth of brownies that I had to eat.

Lots of people might say well, you could always just not eat them, but they don't understand. These are brownies. They can't not be eaten. Telling me to not eat a brownie is like telling me to not be made of 70% water, or not inhale oxygen and exhale carbon dioxide, or not secretly think that professional sporting events are rigged to favor teams like the Giants; it's just a part of my basic nature: I'm mostly water, I eat brownies and I'm suspicious of the NFL.

I had a plan to deal with the extra 10,000 calories, though; I spent the rest of the weekend wreaking havoc on my backyard, evading raccoons, and otherwise lowering property values in my neighborhood under the guise of upping my property values.

Ripping out the old shed sounded so easy. All we had to do, I figured, was go knock down the walls and then haul the lumber up to the dumpster and we'd be done. Maybe two hours. Simple. Easy.
I'd forgotten a lot of stuff in formulating that plan. I'd forgotten, for one thing, that for five years our general course of action with anything that was too big to throw away and too junky to keep in the house was to put it in the shed, and that description included everything that had been for sale at the World's Worst Garage Sale.

I'd also forgotten that I don't really have any tools, per se, that are suitable for ripping down an old shed. I have a level, a couple of hammers, and an assortment of screwdrivers that are either too big or too small for whatever I have to screw in. Or, worse, they're completely useless because everything nowadays is held together by those little screws that have an octagon-shaped hole in the end and you need that little L-shaped piece of metal that comes with them to screw in.

The level, I didn't think, would be much help. I already knew the shed was not level. The plan was to make it less level, even.

Undaunted, we set to work by randomly pulling on stuff and kicking wood until things fell. It only took about 30 minutes of kicking to bring down the gazebo:

Of course, it's one thing to get that on the ground. Once you've got it down, you begin to understand just what's involved with hauling it to the dumpster. Karate-kicking the support struts of the gazebo was the easy part.

But we did get that moved and put in front, where Middle's job was to throw it into the dumpster while The Boy and I continued pulling stuff out of the shed.

I looked at that scene, and thought to myself now I truly know what the Cloverfields felt like. Yes, I still have not seen the movie and have no idea what a "Cloverfield" is. But I vowed to myself never to make fun of Cloverfields again. I broke that vow that same night when I again chased the boys around while roaring Cloverfield! and putting "Cloverfield" into various movie slogans, like "In space, nobody can hear Cloverfield." and "In the Criminal Justice System the people are represented by two separate, yet equally important groups. The police who investigate crime, and Cloverfield."

If you say them in a monster voice, they're funny.

I really think that we would have finished the shed, too, except for two small miscalculations. First, I underestimated how much of a dumpster we'd need. I got the biggest one you can get, one that barely fit in our driveway, one that was easily twice the size of our first apartment when we were married (but it didn't have a swimming pool) and we filled that dumpster in two hours.

My second miscalculation was worse. I had not only underestimated the amount of dumpster I'd needed, but I had badly underestimated the number of raccoons who were living in the old mattress that we'd put in there a few years before.

My estimate was zero; the actual number of raccoons was five. You can't see them in this picture, but I could see them when I pulled back the mattress. That's when I learned that I'm not Indiana Jones and don't really want to be.

I flipped the mattress over and saw a little face looking at me. A baby raccoon! Cute! Then there was a second one! Aww, there's two! Then a third one popped up, sleepy eyed. And a fourth! "Hey, you guys," I called. "Come and see the baby raccoons."

Then the mom popped her head up. Her big head. The mom raccoon was the size of a dog. I actually put my hands up over my head. I held up my hands and actually said "Let's not get crazy here." I backed up slowly while the mom growled and hissed at me.

I watch those Indiana Jones movies and think it might be cool to be running from natives in a jungle or fighting Nazis, but when confronted with a raccoon in my own backyard, I go all Neville Chamberlain.

That's what slowed us down the rest of the day and resulted in us only getting 2/3 of the shed torn down, leaving 1/3 of what used to be a storage shed up in our backyard. (I bet our neighbors are putting together a party for us right now!) The baby raccoons never left. They watched us all day and occasionally ventured closer to us than I was comfortable with, since everything I know about raccoons boils down to this: (a) they wash their food before they eat it, and (b) they're probably carnivorous and almost certainly have rabies.

The mother raccoon disappeared. We thought she was gone for good, at first, but then every now and then we'd hear a hiss or growl that let us know she was somewhere in that 1/3 of the shed. So even though we really wanted to finish that day, we had to move cautiously, with one person moving in to quickly grab some debris to haul while the other held a shovel or piece of wood and watched for the mother raccoon.

The calories I didn't burn off pulling down a wall using an extension cord wrapped around a strut were melted away by the panic that can only be induced by being knee-deep in rotten shingles, rusty nails, and a basketball and hearing a hiss from an angry, giant, rabid raccoon. If that's not what J.J. Abrams' movie was about, then it should have been, because I really understood chaos and terror.

All in all, then, if you leave aside the fact that Sweetie didn't like her "fancy" grilled cheese, and leave out the rude bakery girl, and ignore the 1/3 of a shed in our backyard, and didn't mind the smell of rotten furniture in the dumpster in our driveway, and could get over the impending doom of raccoon attack, it was a very successful anniversary.

I expect that next year Sweetie will go celebrate by herself. I hope she brings me back a Punk Rock Pickle.

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