Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lights Out

Could be the worst storm in almost 100 years (1916) on the way. National Weather Service says two storms, local forecaster says merging into one mother of all storms, just about to get underway. We’re no better equipped to handle monsoons in So Cal than most Floridians are to handle snow, or than most bunny rabbits are to handle corporate lawyers.

So, I started this time yesterday, filling oil lamps, cannibalizing 4 dirty old lamps to end up with one working lamp. Found all the candles and matches. Laid out crap on dinning room table to get ready for the dark, including pliers, WD40, scissors. Washed the oil lamps, covered with dust and very old termite sawdust. Power went out just before 14:00 yesterday, resumed at 23:00. Ahhh, but what adventures we had when the light were out.

Thanks the gas, we had a stove, although the water heater and furnace stopped because both are operated by electrical controls. I was able to keep my Italian wedding soup simmering on the stove. TCG took DOB to the lab for routine tests, getting caught in the slow-motion nightmare of trying to get DOB from car to building at the nano-second that the skies opened up and dropped raindrops the size of Volkswagens. Can’t you picture TCG, huffing and puffing to get her moving, and saying, in that slo-mo deep movie guy voice: “N…Nnnn…ooo… ooo!!!” as Perverse Nature laughed in the background? Good times.

So, anyway, after they get home, just about at dark, having stopped for Italian food because after several abortive attempts to use his iPhone w/ Bluetooth in the car, there was enough confusion in the air. I simply gave up trying to convey anything about light situation to TCG, because he was stuck in Send mode. He and DOB went out to late lunch on the way home, so they arrived just as the last light left the sky.

Fortunately, I had lights outside the front door and immediately inside, including several configurations of wax candles and those battery-operated tea lights. I could hear incoherent babble from DOB, concurrent with the urgent inarticulate cry for help from TCG before the door was fully opened. Finally, I was able to impress upon them both (yeah, right) we needed to review lighting options immediately.

UCC: (TO TCG) I set out candles and oil lamp on the dinning room table. You need to proceed there, sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up. It’s getting dark. See if you can get some of the other oil lamps going--

TCG: (Talking over me) Here, these are the leftovers from Centifoni’s. Mother had lasagna and I had angel hair pasta with blah blah…

UCC: (Patiently taking the dripping bag and walking in to kitchen. Dripping? Because have contents shifted? Well, yes. Wiping off container and placing it dark refrigerator) Muttering.

TCG: …. we got soaked at the lab. The rain started the instant we got out of the car, one v-e-r-y long parking space away from the building entrance.

UCC: Focus! You need to think about whether she can be trusted with live flame, which would be risky even if she had the sense of a retarded caveman. Think how flammable our house is. Think how stupid she is. Think---

TCG: (Talking over me) There were only two people ahead of us at the lab…

UCC: I’ll get DOB into her room, changed into dry clothes and explain her lighting options. Meanwhile, you check out the oil lamp situation.

TCG: Blah blah, blah (because I’ve walked away to get DOB out of her gape-jawed stall, parked on her walker in the middle of the room listening to me trying to get TCG to the dinning room table and her into her fucking room to shut that whining dog’s pathetic cries, so I don’t actually hear what he continued to say.)

DOB: We had angel-hair pasta and some…. oh, you know, that…

UCC: Lasagna. (Pointing to the 3-candle candelabra, alight on her kitchen table). It’s getting dark, let’s get you out of those wet clothes. (Trying to get DOB to walk quickly, even in dry weather, is an exercise in attempted violation of the law of thermodynamics about biddies (sic) at rest wanting to stay at rest) See the candles?

DOB: (Gazing solemnly in what can most favorably be described as a bemused and baffled look; but which veers closer to the slack-jawed blind-gaze-of-the-terminally-comatose end of the scale).

Then, she begins this pornographically postmodern striptease attempt, gracefully slowed not by skill, so much as inability to lift her fat arms over her fat head.

WISIMH: Ok, I’m not so much captivated by this, as I am vomiting in my mouth. There’s not much to do except help her disrobe and pretend to understand her lunatic raving, muffled by the shirt over her head. Don’t even try to communicate in any meaningful way. Breathe. Wait, belay that! The room stinks like sick wet dog and stale urine.

So later, TCG goes out in the car looking for oil lamp oil, wick, and it goes without saying, some candles and matches; which however, since it went without saying it went without thought. Wait until you see what helpful stuff he DID get.

TCG: (returning to the house, beginning to speak to me before even registering where I might be, like, for instance, bleeding out on the floor at his feet, where he would still be talking as he tripped over my dead body) I went to A, the then to B, and finally, someone at C told me Dixiline had lamp oil and wicks. I went there, but they were closed.

UCC: Did you get some more candles or matches?

TCG: Oh, no, you didn’t tell me that!

WISIMH: You broke the chimney on that lamp! You spilled lamp oil all over the fucking table trying to consolidate limited supply in working units! You left other unspeakable mess behind, and god help me if you’d think to get your own fucking tools or clean the fuck up after yourself.
And now, for something completely different.

UCC: So what DID you get?

TCG: I almost got those oils you get to stick in aromatherapy bottles, with the sticks?

WISIMH: Thank goodness you didn’t do such a bonehead thing, you charming man.

UCC: What…

WISIMH: ..the fuck…

UCC: DID you get?

TCG: Tiki Torch Oil! (spoken triumphantly, with no more trace of irony than the trace of a grimace could be detected on my own smiling face.)

WISIMH: Aggggh! I’m going blind! Tiki torches are alcohol-based and burn like gasoline. This would not be appropriate for indoor use by people who had, let’s say, average competence and common sense. Imagine giving a Moltov cocktail of an oil lamp to DOB. I gave her a fucking battery-operated tea light earlier, showed her carefully how it wasn’t a real flame, and how the switch on the back could turn it on and off. When I returned later, upon smelling smoke, she had carefully placed the electric teal light safely in a cereal bowl, presumably to be fire-safe and catch melted wax.

The smell of smoke? Turns out she too, has 2 oil lamps, which haven’t been used in 20+ years, and are thus caked with greasy dust and fossilized termite droppings. Did she clean them before lighting? Seriously? Do you know what that lamp would smell like when lit in a room already damply redolent of the dying dog’s pustulant sores, and her ventilated diaper pail? If you don’t, good.

Later, having tried unsuccessfully to start a dura-flame log, TCG lights a homemade tiki-torch in the dinning room. Did I mention that TCG has COPD? That candle smoke bothers him? That he is an idiot?

TCG: There! How’s that instead of oil lamps?

UCC: (Hurrying to the site of the conflagration, now smoking and with flame a foot high.) That doesn’t work inside, too much smoke and CO2. Put it out.

TCG: Blah blah, putting it out, blah blah. WAIT! I have a bloody nose!

Spontaneous nosebleeds are TCG’s latest symptom, lovingly cultivated and dramatically performed, replete with plenty of red Kleenex, which he keeps in a flat sheet to dot with blood like some insane performance artist with only red paint. Despite needing a rapt audience for the duration of the nose bleed, it is dutifully interspersed with much apology and insistence that everything’s fine just fine. All suggestions one might make – for example: to do as web-MD advises and pinch nose closed for ten minutes – are declined with much patiently and regretfully sorrowful disappointment at one could be so wonderful and yet so dumb. Sadly shaking his head no. Ahhh….

Now look. I could attempt to recreate the evening’s conversational journey, lexically noncompliant and without context, but last night in the dark DOB was there too. In candlelight, plus the light of the fire I finally started instantly by the simple expedient of following the manufacturer’s instructions. I am reminded that LBJ once said someone was so dumb they wouldn’t know how to pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were written on the bottom. TCG wouldn’t know how to follow directions for lighting a dura-flame log if they were written in huge 3-step process on the log wrapping.

So instead of trying to commit the scintillating conversation to memory, I just kept drinking. I do recall one exchange during this 15-minute episode of Nosebleed Theater (audience will absolutely not be seated once the show has begin!) It exemplifies the quality of the discourse:

DOB: Aunt Hilda used to get nosebleeds all the time.

TCG: Yeah, but she was a bit high-strung, (spoken in an ominous undertone that hints of dark Freudian complications, most likely having to do with The Change)

DOB: But she was skinny. Hilda’s bloody noses were nothing like yours.

TCG: I’m skinny too. I now weight more than you. I’m the fattest person in this house.

WISIMH: Which makes as much sense in the middle of a nosebleed conversation as Biblical references do stamped on American weapons in the GWOT. It is a Good Thing that, in addition to the lights, I had the forethought to put out the jug of generic Baileys Irish Cream and a couple of glasses. And plus, I had the foresight to drink an entire glass before you guys got home.

I refilled my glass twice more during the entertainment portion of the evening’s show. He can’t start a fire. He can’t fix a lamp when all he has to do is fill it with the fucking right kind of oil. He can’t be trusted to think of anything on his own and now he can’t even competently follow directions. I’ve confronted the demon of having no intellectual stimulation or meaningful communication with either of them. Now, I’m beginning to suspect there’s another demon around the next corner. I’ll have to do everything. Who will check to be sure I don’t burn down the house? On second thought, that might be a mercifully brief way to end the pain.

On third thought, I think I’ll stick around. I’m beginning to see our times together here in the Fortress of Attitude as like those black and white episodic shows I saw on Saturday morning at the movie theater when I was a kid. Each episode ended with a cliff-hanger. The plot moves forward slower than an old lady on a walker in a rain storm. The hero walks into ambushes. The helpless heroine gets into trouble and has to be rescued. Repeatedly. Her father, the scientist, can save us all. But the bad guys get to Daddy and drug him and he doesn’t make any sense. Taken thusly, this happy home isn’t such a bad place to stick around, even in the dark.