Friday, December 12, 2008

Feelin' hot-hot-hot (a few moments of boiling anger with Jennifer Myszkowski - plus, some advice)

Our furnace had a problem last week and we lost the heat. I wasn't sure what to do, so I called the oil company and asked them if they could service our furnace. The nice lady replied, "We're scheduling service for January."

"I don't know if we can wait that long," I told her, "Our furnace won't turn on."

Lickety-split, there was a fellow (I like to call him Mr. Furnace, though his actual name was Jim) in our basement berating the previous owner of our house for taking such shitty care of the furnace. He was ready to berate me, but when I told him we only just bought the place six months ago and we're first-time home owners, he was filled with the compassion.

Well, not exactly filled, but he had some and he started telling me what we need to do from now on. I think I won him over when I stopped him so I could go get a pen and paper to take notes. I was drinking from his font of knowledge, after all.

In the homeowner statement that sellers fill out, the previous owners of the house claimed to have regularly serviced the furnace.

When Mr. Furnace cracked open our furnace, he said that, at minimum, it's been four years since the furnace was serviced.

I'll tell you, that guy had eyes like an eagle. He was in our basement for two minutes and he noticed an oil leak by the tank, a water leak from the furnace and that there were no service records by the furnace.

The oil leak was a function of the furnace not being serviced for a long time. There's a filter that should get changed once a year. After four years, it kind of gave up and started leaking. Can you blame it?

One thing that Mr. Furnace told us that we didn't know and I feel compelled to share is that if you're looking at a house and there are no service records hanging from the furnace it means:
  1. The homeowner removed them to hide a problem with the furnace
  2. The realtor removed them to hide a problem with the furnace

Bottom line: no service records spells trouble. If there are no furnace service records hanging from a furnace, a home buyer should pay for a furnace inspection ($50-$100) and then force the homeowner to pay for the repairs before making the purchase.

I never even heard of this. Mr. Furnace suggested that perhaps our inspector should have told us this and that he might be a second-rate inspector since he didn't, but I truly don't believe that. Our inspector gave us so much really right-on information and great advice that I can't hold him responsible for missing one small thing.

Also, we read about 100 articles and books about home buying and not a single one suggested this.

But Mr. Furnace suggested it and now I'm suggesting it.

Mr. Furnace was here for about four hours. He replaced the transformer, which blew because the furnace wasn't working properly due to not having been serviced, then he fixed the whole thing up right. It was a giant ruckus and, I'll tell you, Mr. Furnace was furious with the previous owners of our house.

And so was I. I got powerfully angry at those motherfuckers. In fact, Scott and I toyed with the idea of sending them a letter. I wanted it to be snarky and sarcastic. Scott wanted it to be just honest and disappointed. I voted the whole thing down because I don't want to be that guy, but it's so tempting to be that guy!

If we ever sell this house, I hope the new people don't hate us and take our names in vain. We're trying so hard to do right by the house.

When it was all said and done, the bill for the repair was not as bad as I thought it would be. It was still a lot of money, but it certainly could have been more. And the beauty part is that I had the money and we're not going to starve as a result of our having had to repair the furnace. And the reason they hid the service records is because there is something pretty big that needs to be repaired and soon, but it's not effecting the efficiency of the furnace and we still have heat. We just have to closely monitor the water level until it's repaired. But the other beauty part is that it turns out that my dad (the Artist) knows how to make the repair and has offered to help. All we have to do is buy the parts.

But let this be a cautionary tale: take care of your furnace with annual service and don't assume the previous homeowners are telling the truth.

Speaking of: if you know a person who can properly service a slate roof, e-mail me. They claim they had it gone over in March of this year, but I don't believe them. And either way, you're supposed to have it gone over every spring anyway.

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Thursday, October 9, 2008

One thousand hot, rotten vaginas

You may not know this, but I enjoy a small amount of fame in Franklin County. I host a very popular Saturday-morning radio program that many, many people listen to. In May, on that very radio program, I mentioned to my listeners that I was in search of a proper gas stove and they should call me if they had one they were selling.

I got a few calls, but only one stove was white, and since I want white appliances (I suspect that this stainless steel thing is going to go out of style and everyone with their expensive, stainless steel appliances will be sad and sorry), I made a trip out to see the stove.

The people who had the stove were out in the country, and it turned out we had a friend in common. Hooray!

They opened the garage to show me the stove. It was in almost-new condition and they only wanted $50 for it. This was just what the doctor ordered! Just then, the matron of the family lifted the top to show me the inside and she saw a mouse nest.

She was mortified, but said, "If you still want it we'll replace the insulation."

Fantastic. A few short weeks later, my mom, dad and niece met me there with my dad's truck and we loaded the stove up onto the back of the pickup. I paid them extra money since they replace the insulation and were already giving me the stove for a steal. As we were finishing up business, the man told us which insulation was replaced and casually said something along the lines of, "When you first fire it up, you might smell a little something, but it'll burn off in no time."
If this story were a Lifetime movie, right at that moment, there would be a swell of music to indicate foreshadowing.

We moved into the house at the end of June. It was too hot for baking, so I made our dinners using just the stovetop. In early July, however, I really had a hankering for pizza. I made one, fired up the oven and threw it in. I was making a salad when I was suddenly enveloped in the grossest - and I mean grossest - smell I've ever smelled in my life.

It was kind of a cross between Kirkland Avenue (in Northampton, where all the drunks pee and it shows) and the rottenest, smelliest infection your lady parts have ever seen. Times one thousand. And HOT.

I immediately started gagging. I had to go outside. I started barking orders to Scott. "Open all the windows! and "Turn all the fans so they blow out!" Even outside I was still gagging. I called my father. "What do we do?"

He told me that once the pizza was done, we should just leave the oven on for a while at 250 to burn the smell off.

(Aside: The smell was coming from the stove but did not originate IN the stove, so our pizza baked without contamination.)

The smell didn't subside and indeed grew worse as the oven burned on. Sweet god, we didn't know what to do.

The man who sold us the oven told us he didn't replace the insulation on the back because there was no evidence of soilage, but he did replace the insulation on the top and sides. My dad and I thought that maybe replacing the back would help.

Where the hell do you get insulation for the back of a stove? Great question. Turns out the only place that has it is the Internet. It took about a week to arrive, and when it did, The Artist came by, tools in hand.

When he took the back insulation out, there was no sign of soilage, but he put the new one in anyway. It's a miracle, we thought. Christmas is saved!

My father fired up the oven and I almost immediately caught a whiff of something. But it wasn't as bad. I knew that it would increase over time, though, and I opened the kitchen windows, then turned on the ceiling fan in the kitchen.

Suddenly, I was overtaken by the smell of one thousand hot, rotten vaginas. I started to gag. I had to run out of the house. My father had to run around turning off the stove, opening the rest of the windows, turning on fans, and doing all the rest of my bidding. I stood in the driveway gagging.

I couldn't even go back in. I just went to JBo's house. She took pity on me and the one thousand hot, rotten vaginas. Mission Unaccomplished.

I was ready to give up and call the scrap man. I wanted him to take the oven away and melt it down and make it into other ovens for other people.

But my dad, The Artist, was not able or ready to give up. He said, "One more try." I said, "I ain't got one more try left in me, Pops." He said, "C'mon!" I said, "Oh, alright."

He came over last Friday night and took the oven apart. Apart-apart. There were pieces of stove all over the kitchen.

He made me relive the horror. He asked me where I smelled the smell the strongest. I told him. He detached a part of the stove and handed it to me. "Is this the smell?" he asked.

I am a fool. I wasn't even thinking. I just buried my nose right in the piece and breathed deeply. And then came the gagging. Holy sweet mother of God, he found it!

Turns out on the inside of my stove, there are thin layers of insulation between any pieces of metal touching other pieces of metal. If my father weren't taking things apart bit by bit, we'd never have found this horrible, horrible smell.

I started running hot water on it, and just a bit of hot water began to stir up the angry, hot, rotten vagina smell. I was gagging again, as you can only imagine, I'm sure.

Aside: I wonder what it looks like to watch me gag? We saw Ghost Town a few weeks ago. Not a feat of film making, but totally entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable. At one point, the main character (Ricky Gervais) was drinking that stuff they make you drink before a colonoscopy and watching him try to drink it made me gag. When he actually started gagging from it, I nearly had to leave the theater.

What happened, we think, is that mice were in the stove for so long that their urine soaked even the most remote and tiny pieces of insulation. Some of the mice might have had terrible lady infections. This is just my guess. When the nice man replaced the insulation, he did not notice these tiny pieces of urine-soaked goodness. And then they became MY tiny pieces of urine-soaked goodness.

Imagine my delight.

Some of the tiny pieces of urine-soaked goodness were attached to parts we couldn't take out, so instead we sprayed them down with Clorox bleach and soaked the Clorox out of the insulation with paper towels. The paper towels came out black. I threw them in the trash. Then the trash became so filled with urine-soaked goodness that I couldn't even go near it for the gagging. Poor Scott had to come down and play trash man.

We got to a point where we couldn't soak any more of the one thousand hot and rotten vaginas out of the insulation any more and we had to call it a night.

The next day, we started soaking the insulation with bleach all over again. You wouldn't believe it, but it wasn't all up. We kept spraying it down and soaking it up, spraying it down and soaking it up. What a chore.

Finally, we got to a point where we felt like we could put the stove back together. By WE, I mean my father put the stove back together.

We fired it up and held our breath and...And...AND...

I wish I had better news, but it still smells, but now it only smells like on hot, rotten vagina. We're making real progress here, friends! My dad is convinced that now all we have to do is run the stove for a while and the smells really will burn off this time.

I'm not so sure. But more than not so sure, what I really am is afraid. Afraid that after all this work we're still going to have to buy a new stove.

My father was really trying to sell me on the progress though. The smell is just the remnants of the bleach cleaner burning off. Yeah, that's the ticket. In fact, he's sure of it!

I have to test it all out tomorrow night, though, as I begin preparations for Saturday night's dinner. Kelsey and Jaime are coming by for dinner and I'm hoping for an incident-free, hot-rotten-vagina-free meal. That's why I doing all the baking the night before. Imagine me welcoming them into our home with gas masks and air freshener!

Will report back.

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Saturday, July 26, 2008

Saving the day

I was just reading Catherine Newman's Dalai Mama blog. I love Catherine's writing, and how well she captures, well, everything.

This latest blog is about dreams. Read until the end, the part about Birdy's dreams about her dad. I'm weeping openly now.

Have you read the Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood? It's really badly written - I was rewriting it in my head the whole time I was reading it - but it's a good story. There's this part where the main character whose name I can't remember (I would go get the book, but it's in a box somewhere in the basement; I would look it up on the Internet, but I guess I don't care that much.) talks about having one childhood moment she could look back on and say, "In that moment, I knew my mother loved me." It was really powerful.

My parents were very affectionate and told us they loved us all the time, so it's not like I have to go back and find a moment where I knew my parents loved me or anything.


Shortly after I learned how to ride a bike, I was riding my bike on Dorothy Lane in Terryville, Connecticut. We lived on Town Line Road in Bristol, which was, indeed, on the town line. Dorothy Lane ran perpendicular to our street. Our house faced it. We were on the top of Fall Mountain, so it was pretty hilly.

I wasn't allowed to ride on Town Line Road because people drove like assholes on it, so I rode up and down Dorothy Lane, which had a little bit of a hill.

I had one of those bikes that you have to pedal backwards to stop. As I was riding down the hill, I started going so fast that my feet came off the pedals. I started yelping. Just that fast, my father was there. He caught me and my bike just before I crossed onto Town Line Road.

I asked him a year or so ago if he remembered that moment. Of course, he did. I asked him how he got over to me that fast. He had been working on some project in the driveway, heard me yelp, dropped what he was doing and ran over and caught me. He said there was no time to stop and think.

I asked him if he got hurt. Turns out he was sore for days. He basically got hit by a hurtling bike and an accompanying child. It was a giant, metal punch in the entire body.

In the moment, I didn't think this was remarkable at all. Dads swoop in to save the day. That's what dads do. I certainly didn't feel like it was a demonstration of love.

But now, looking back, it's all I can think of. It was a powerful moment I'll remember my whole life.

I love my dad.

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