My Pets’ Pets

Things that were sad: we said good bye to Cherry this week, at age 15. She died peacefully at home (thanks to a veterinarian who specializes in both end-of-life pet care and house calls), surrounded by some of her people and Captain, her companion of 9 years. I will write a longer post about her soon. In the meantime, enjoy this story about pests.

What I saw: I have graduated to a walking cast, but when I was still on the knee scooter, I had trouble by the back door. Turning around was a process of bashing into walls, running over shoes, inventing new cuss words, and trying not to fall. As long as the weather stayed unseasonably warm (thank you, catastrophic global climate change), my solution was to open the door and leave it open for Captain. I have taught Captain he is not supposed to charge out an open door, and he has learned to wait, even if there are squirrels; so, he stands, sometimes trembling with anticipation, and waits for permission to go.

Things that were funny: by leaving the door open for him, Captain just stood in front of it wagging and asking to go out. He needed to be told it was ok. I was in the kitchen trying to do ordinary things, like unloading the dishwasher one cup at a time, spilling water, bashing into the cupboards, and trying to make tea that all take forever on a knee scooter, and there was Captain standing at the open door unable to go out.  I said something encouraging. Now he was whining. I finished unloading the dishwasher one plate at a time and went to see what was wrong. There was a big spotted slug in the doorway.

IMG_3810
Captain could not pass the slug without permission from me.

What I did beforehand: I had foot surgery in mid-October. I’ve been putting it off since seeing a creepy podiatrist in Seattle in 2000, but I realized as I limped around a horse show early this summer that I’d waited long enough.

What I wore: yoga pants

Who went with me: while I’ve been recovering from foot surgery, I’ve spent long days flopped out in bed, and Schwartz has been a shitty cat, not being nearly as snuggly as he should be, and finally curling up with me but not letting me actually pat him.

Why I saw this show: because of remodeling in other parts of the house, Schwartz is mostly confined to my bedroom during the day, and he has a cardboard box we put catnip in to entertain him.  He likes his box and thrashes around in it.

One thing that was not funny: one night, Schwartz brought a mouse up from the basement and put it in the box so he could play with it and it wouldn’t get away.

Another thing that was not funny: when the mouse abruptly disappeared, leaving two drops of blood behind, I assumed Schwartz had eaten it. This is a ridiculous assumption.

Still more things that were not funny: I was wrong, of course. The next night he was at it again, batting the mouse, enticing it to squeak and run and try to jump out of the box, and Schwartz was having the finest of fine times playing with it and not killing it.

Yet another thing that was not funny: the following morning I saw the mouse running around my bedroom, and I, temporarily one-footed and historically the only person in the house willing to catch and/or dispatch an injured mouse, was not able to do a damned thing about it.

Where I stood: then Schwartz showed up and recaptured the damned mouse and started for the bed with it in his mouth, I leapt to my feet, reacting from instinct, and nearly went down. Because I couldn’t put any weight on the left foot yet.

Something I watched: that night, there was a big storm and we were watching a few episodes of season 2 of Stranger Things.  We have a generator, and an expensive service contract for it, so we weren’t even worried about the power going out.

What it is: meanwhile, the Bacon Provider updated all our water treatment stuff, but the plumbers failed to install the air-gap we requested, and before the situation could be corrected, the heavy rain caused a bunch of water to back up into our basement. As a relentless troubleshooter, the Bacon Provider went out and got a sump pump to address it.

Who should see it: when the power did go out, quite late and in the middle of the episode, the generator did not fire up as it is supposed to. I found myself sitting in the living room in silence and almost complete darkness, and not sure where I’d left my knee scooter. I crawled around groping the air. The Bacon Provider went out to see if he could start the generator manually. It sputtered like it wanted to start, but couldn’t. He checked the fuel, and the oil.  It was still raining quite heavily still and the wind was so strong as to seem threatening. And now our sump pump solution was no longer a solution.

The least funny thing of all: I scootered around in the dark house, first looking for the number of the generator service company and then looking for mobile phone reception.  After the call dropped twice I got through. The tired woman who answered started off by asking my area code. I told her I didn’t have a landline and don’t know the local area code. She was indignant. I was more indignant. “I am sitting in the dark, I can hear water coming into my basement because the sump pump is off, I had foot surgery two weeks ago so I can’t walk, and you’re telling me the expensive service contract doesn’t include you being able to look up my account some other way?”

The Bacon Provider walked in, looking, by the light of his ever-handy pocket flashlight through the gloom even more alarmed, I told him, without muting myself, that I was on the phone with Sarah Huckabee Sanders (America’s grumpiest professional liar).

Eventually, after more arguing, she took my number and said we could expect a service call. My phone was down to 9% battery life, and my backup charger, when I found it, was almost dead.

I went to bed.

In the morning, I found out that the Bacon Provider had called the generator service company himself, after me, and got a call back. He was offered a technician at $480/hr with a two hour minimum in the middle of the night, or the normal day rate of $145/hour in the morning. He opted for the latter and went to bed. When they called in the morning to confirm, they told me that our service plan had lapsed two years ago. I begged to differ. They checked again, and found nothing. I insisted. On the third try they found my contract, up to date, under my correctly spelled name, at my address on my street, misspelled, and my town also misspelled.

I can’t wait until they call me in March about renewing!

What they saw when they showed up: the technician finally arrived mid-morning, and found that there was a big, spotted slug on an air vent of the generator, preventing it from starting.

I left the cat in charge

What I did: like you know, last year, a barn friend, S., invited me to join her on this trip to Florida to watch the winter circuit horse show, shop, and do sunshine; I was like, “Pick me,” but then couldn’t get shit organized at home. I have pets and sourdough to feed, don’t you know. This year, I said yes, and left the cat in charge.


What I did beforehand: you don’t have to leave written instructions for the cat. I figured the dogs would  let him know when they were hungry or needed to crap someplace other than the kitchen floor.

What I packed: sunscreen, gray jeans, white J. Crew linen swimsuit coverup, bathing suit, yoga clothes, three polo shirts, underwear and socks.

Something I packed and didn’t wear: a sun hat.

Something I ran out of: shirts.


Who went with me: S. and K. from the barn. S.’s friend D. joined us from Germany. 

How I got tickets: online, from JetBlue, at the end of November.

Why I saw this show: I think S. wanted us to be able to see the FEI  Grand Prix CDI 5* at the 2017 Adequan® Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, FL, which we saw, in addition to the Grand Prix freestyle competition. 

Where I sat: in the bleachers and in the VIP tent, because S. is well-connected through volunteer leadership work she does for the Jewish World Games. 

Where I stayed: at the Casa Passivo-Aggressivo, a bed and breakfast  in West Palm Beach which you should not confuse with the nearby Passivo-Aggressivo Bed and Breakfast, just a couple of blocks away. And don’t mention the confusion to your hosts, because the rivalry is old and bitter.

We were told we couldn’t have breakfast, 
which was included with our rooms, 
because we didn’t tell them the night 
before what time we wanted it. 

Things that were not funny: hearing S. explain that the Jewish World Games have been around since the 1930s and how Jews might want their own international sports competition, and, of course, why. She’s quite upbeat and polite. Then there was like this famous trainer who I met at a barn visit on S.’s World Jewish Games business, who was sure we’d met.

Things that were interesting: S.’s friend D. whispered to me all about what to look for in a correctly ridden and trained Grand Prix horse and told me that she thinks this one famous U.S. Olympic Dressage rider SP is an artist; he took third in both classes we saw him compete in.

Things that were sort of funny: K.’s connections got us seats at a super cool fundraiser where we were assigned to sit at SP’s table. I could only imagine myself saying something I would regret, so I didn’t have the courage to talk to him, but S. did. He was very nice, and so was his staff who also sat at our table.

Things that were not actually funny: a second snowstorm rolled into New York while we were all in Florida and our flight back on Sunday was cancelled. JetBlue sent us emails saying they’d re-book us, but we didn’t trust them to get us home in time for our obligations so we all scrambled to get back on the same flight only on Monday. By the time we heard from JetBlue, they’d booked us to leave several days later.

That thing where you go for a goofy selfie
and your friend doesn’t 
Things that were cool:  S. wanted a ride to the show grounds on a golf cart because she wanted to experience everything, and we got it on the bonus day. The benefit show featured a group that works horses at liberty, up to eight at a time. It was beautiful and exciting and I could hear horse people at other tables comparing the performer’s control over her herd to their own horses. 

Something I ate: there were these short-rib empanadas being passed by a woman carrying a tray that we had to chase around the room.

Something I didn’t eat: breakfast at our B&B.

Casa Passivo-Aggressivo hospitality 
included notes that appeared on the doors. 


Who should see it: fans of dressage. 

What I saw on the way home: the Atlantic Ocean, which is acidifying as a result of global warming. The last half hour of the flight was super bumpy because of a windstorm, but the flight attendant said they knew what they were doing so I just tried to close my eyes and deal with it. A woman in the row ahead of me whooped and commented about the bigger bumps. I wanted her to shut up. At least the kitchen floor was clean when I got home.


Boots

This past Sunday, Mars and I competed at our second rated show together. The judging was harsh. This week I’m wondering when and if I’ll ever have a more independent seat, softer elbows, and a more elastic connection. The one positive comment was, “Attractive pair.” It’s not nothing.


Last summer, just before I moved out of TriBeCa, I went to visit Vogel Custom Boots, in SoHo, to be fitted for my first pair of dress riding boots. I changed riding disciplines in the last few years, moving sideways from the hunter/jumper world to the other, even more froufrou, dressage. The tiny Vogel store front sat on a narrow, quiet street in a neighborhood of exquisite historic cast-iron buildings now bustling with high-end retail stores; it fit in nicely with its carved wood sign with gilded lettering, and custom shoes in the window, displaying the full spectrum of English riding boots.

My trainer likes to remind me that the word “dressage” is from the French, meaning “training.” It’s the flatwork, the not-jumping part of riding. At the Olympic level, the horses seem to dance, and they perform freestyle choreography to music.  At my level, you learn a test, in advance, that is written out on paper, with different gaits and figures performed at the letter-labeled points of the ring. The test takes 5 or 6 minutes, a long time for an athlete (horse or rider) to concentrate and really give a peak athletic performance. It looks like plain old horseback riding, and it’s judged by a person with a scorecard, giving you marks for the different movements and then a written score at the end. You can read where the judge thought your horse hollowed or fell in or bulged or hurried, where you needed more bend or impulsion, and you are welcome to use it to become a deranged and obsessive perfectionist about your riding and your horse’s way of going. Or, you can use it to reflect on those things you need to work on, and get to work improving.
The way a test is written, “3. K-X-M Change rein; 4. Between C &H Working canter left lead. 5; E Circle left 20m,” is not how it always rides. At a recent (unrated) schooling show, for example, my 6-year-old horse Mars whinnied violently at M, beginning at step 3 of the test, and then again, each time he passed the corner marked M or even got close to it: at step 5 when we circled at E, between step 8 & 9, at step 11 when we circled at E again, and then, again after step 13. I think another horse somewhere on the property was answering him.
A horse can whinny gently and quietly, almost under his breath. This wasn’t that kind of whinnying. This was like the horse equivalent of screaming. You can feel it emanating from the bowels of the horse, rumbling up under the saddle, vibrating through his chest, and then erupting from his great jaws. What are horses saying when they whinny? Maybe the horse version of, “WHERE YOU AT?” and the reply, “WHERE YOU AT, BRO!?” Whinnying during a test does not do much to earn a horse “submission” points, added to the end of one’s dressage score, for “willing cooperation, harmony, attention and confidence, acceptance of bit and aids, straightness, lightness of forehand and ease of movements.” Alas.
Coming from the hunter/jumper world, where flatwork is to prepare a horse and rider for jumping courses, it was my experience that trainers had limited patience to teach me flatwork in a way that I understood what I was doing, or why I was doing it, and how I might do it better. I was vaguely aware that I was bad at it, that flatwork, with my stiff, arched back and turned-out toes, my unforgiving arms and hands always at odds with the horse. But I didn’t have the slightest clue how I was supposed to get better at it until I started serious dressage lessons. And I’m still working on it, every ride.
Dressage was also a way to use my older, semi-retired horse, whose old injuries have meant that she will only be sound for trail riding and light work. Soon, though, I had ordered a new, black custom saddle, made in France, of course, specifically for dressage. And I had a new, young horse; a project we named Mars. The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.
Of course, I owned tall boots for riding already, but they are field boots, with laces at the top of the foot, going a short way up the ankle. The subtle and not-so-subtle distinctions in equestrian disciplines start with big, expensive things like boots and saddles, but also include variations in show apparel, and fundamental differences in the rider’s position. A dressage rider will wear a white stock tie, with a pin, as a foxhunter would; a showhunter wears a backwards collar called a rat-catcher. A dressage rider has a long stirrup and an open hip angle; a hunter jumper will run her stirrups up and crouch in the tack. It will take me years to develop new riding instincts.


Now, I had been to Vogel before this visit, when I had my trusty old field boots serviced the previous year, getting new soles and heels and having a ripped boot loop replaced. But it’s such a small shop with only a few chairs for customers that it can be quite awkward to walk in. The Vogel showroom was a few steps above the street, and smelled intensely of leather and leather dyes. I stood there in the small showroom, my messy, dirty hair going in strange directions, my wrinkled shirt untucked, and asked the first person in the back who noticed me if I could be fitted for some dressage boots, please.
“Do you have your riding pants?” she asked.
“Yes,” I said.
She took me through the crowded work area to a small changing room in the back, where I put on my riding pants. When I returned to the front room, there
were two customers being measured for custom shoes. Both were sizable men, with shiny, combed back, black hair. One wore a suit and tie. They were peppering the salesman with questions.  “Why would it take so long? Why didn’t they make a mold of your feet? Why are the soles leather? Which pair is the most comfortable?”
Somehow, in New York City, there are still people who aspire to dress and talk and comport themselves publicly like mobsters. They purposely ask dumb questions, demand to know why everything is so expensive, excessively quote mob movies, and constantly assess whether others are with them or against them. For the purposes of this story, I am going to call these guys in the custom boot shop mobsters.
The younger mobster of the two asked, “How long do these shoes last?”
And the salesman said, “Well, it depends how much walking you do.”
The older mobster pointed to his fat stomach and said, “If I did a lot of walking would I look like this?”
I was introduced to Jack, the guy who fits the equestrian boots. He asked me if I’ve had boots made by them before, and I said I have. We reminisced about Olson’s, near Seattle, where I bought my boots a number of years ago, and Mike, who he’s known since he was a young employee there, long before he was manager or owner. I go back that far with Mike, too.  Jack went to look up my earlier order, and came back out with a clipboard, pencil and tape measure. I was still standing.
Jack sat in a chair next to the coatrack; one of the mobsters had left his coat draped over the seats, instead of hanging it up. Jack took down my address and email, perched on the edge of the seat so as not to crush the coat.
The mobster grandly offered to move the coat, and now that Jack had their attention he was able to find me a place to sit. Jack took a lot of measurements, all with me sitting, tracing my foot onto a piece of paper. We talked about my bunions, and the scary surgeries suggested by the two podiatrists I’ve seen. He told me no one he knows is happy with their bunion surgery. I concurred. He made me pull up the leg of my breeches, over my knee. Underneath my legs were really hairy, of course. 
The mobsters were still discussing leathers and soles. They were not coming to a decision. They said they’d call with their final decisions, but it seemed they’d be making no purchase that day. Though they’d said nothing to me, as they left the younger mobster called, “Good luck with your horse.”
He didn’t even say it like he believed I have a horse. He said it like he thought I made up the horse, the way that a kid in elementary school who didn’t believe your uncle was an NFL kicker would say, “Yeah right, sure.” Also, tucked under the “Good luck with your horse,” was, of course, that scene in the Godfather movie, where revenge came in the form of a horse head in a guy’s bed.
I learned my left calf is bigger than my right, and I’d have to have an elastic gusset if I didn’t want a zipper. I chose a squared toe, and a spur rest. I didn’t want mine as stiff as the sample he brought me, though I liked the stiff souls and the ribbed bottoms. As I paid (a sobering $1366 with tax), I asked how long it would take. I was told 10 to 12 weeks. I didn’t say that I wouldn’t even live in the neighborhood anymore in 10 to 12 weeks because I couldn’t face that at all. Moving in New York City is another tale of mobsters; with complicated rules of daily tipping and separate insurance and the always suspicious requirement that the whole thing be transacted in cash. I promised to lend Jack my orthotics for a few days without a word about my move.

Only six weeks later, I got a call that my boots were finished, and was told Vogel was two days away from packing up the place and closing. They were moving to Brooklyn. Someone made them an offer for their location; it was an offer they couldn’t refuse.

A New Sewing Machine?

Back in October, about six months ago, I was working on a quilt called “Moby Dick,” and my sewing machine broke. I hadn’t had any problems with it in a couple of years at that point, and felt that the need for repair was understandable, given the punishment it was taking.
I do free-motion machine quilting, where you drop the feed dogs and move the quilt in a meandering pattern as the needle sews. It is a challenge to keep the stitches the same length as you make curves, and it’s tricky to get the thread tension right. Mostly, it’s murder on motors. I waited to hear from the shop, but had to call them after about ten days. They claimed they had tried to reach me, maybe on my other number; I don’t have another number. Anyway, said the grumpy woman, my machine needed a new motor. I ok’d the work and chalked it up to being a quilting bad-ass.
And the thing didn’t still seem right after the motor replacement. It sounded different. There were new tension problems. When it seized up in the middle of quilting Sunday night, I struggled to even get the needle to come up out of the work.
I went to call the grumpy woman at the shop where the repair was done, and the number was no longer in service.
I found another place that services Bernina machines, and despite my car’s navigation system losing me in the worst parts of Poughkeepsie, I got it dropped off without incident. The drive home inspired me to think about finding a new sewing machine with a heavy-duty motor, just for tackling the punishment of free-motion quilting.
I did some research online, but mostly was frustrated. You can read advertisements, or blog posts about very specific models people own, but that high-level question of which machine is going to be able to take it? Not really addressed. And then there is the question of feel. One woman raves about the Janome and the next gave hers away. You have to sit down at a machine, put your hands on a quilt sandwich, and move it under the needle to know.
I found a sewing machine shop in New York City about a 15-minute walk from the apartment and gave them a call. I asked if they sold the Juki TL-2010Q. It seemed like the machine I was looking for. The man on the phone said they did. I asked if they had one in the store that I could try.
“Yes, yes,” he said. “He have a used one, and you can try it, and we can sell you a new one, in the box.”
I canceled my plans for the next day, and called the dog-sitter.
Winter is lingering in New York City. The sky persists in a bright gray-white overcast. The smokers on the street smell especially bad; they dally on the narrow sidewalks of Hell’s Kitchen, carelessly pointing their burning embers out towards other people. Greasy puddles linger where the sidewalks dip to meet the crosswalks, drowning cigarette butts, leaves, and disintegrating food wrappers.
My route to the shop has to avoid all the Lincoln Tunnel crap, and the Port Authority. I’ve forgotten to wear gloves. Block long lines of buses spew diesel exhaust. Concrete dust rises from the jackhammers of a constructions site, flimsily encased by a green painted plywood fence. People are stalking to work, collars up.
The shop is smaller than a residential suburban kitchen. It is crammed with sewing notions. A few new machines are out, but they aren’t plugged in or set up. One is still mummified in plastic. A large machine built into a table sits in front of the counter, taking up about half of the available floor space. The young man behind the counter and another man in a coverall with his name on it are conversing in a language I don’t recognize. This is how it is in New York. I can’t tell if the man in the coverall is a customer or another employee, but they aren’t talking to me until they are finished talking to each other. I wait.
Finally, I am noticed. I explain that I called yesterday, that I came down to the city specially to try a Juki TL-2010Q.
“I don’t think we have one of those.”
“I spoke to someone on the phone yesterday,” I say, peeved. “He told me you have a used one that I can try.”
He finds one on the repair shelf. It belongs to someone else, and has a note on it, describing the needed repair.
Back when my husband owned a Saab, I talked him out of getting a turbo model because whenever we went to the shop it was full of turbos. I assumed they broke a lot. Maybe it was really because they were all turbos. Who knows? They don’t even make Saabs anymore.
“We’re a small shop,” says the guy. Like I don’t know. “We don’t keep things like that in stock,” he admits. “Write down your name and number and I’ll have the owner call you about it when he gets in.”
The owner will never call. I don’t know why I bother to write down my actual name and actual number.  They lie on the phone and they lie to your face. This is what it is like in New York City.
Detail: Moby Dick, the quilt
By midday, the shop hasn’t called. I go to City Quilters and get a gentle salespitch about the full line of Berninas. All the Berninas. The latest Berninas. They have computer screens, and hundreds of decorative stitches. I have a Bernina; it is in the shop. It has some decorative stitches; I rarely use them. If you had a platter with a turkey painted on it, you might get it out once a year for Thanksgiving, but if you didn’t have it, you’d use another, plain platter. Those decorative stitches are, to me, like that decorative turkey platter.
I sit with a woman who is going to give me a demo on a top of the line Bernina. She pushes the buttons on the multiple screens of embroidery features. I am quiet. I do not care about embroidery features.
“What kind of sewing do you do?” she asks, as I drift away.
“Mostly quilts. Lots of free-motion quilting,” I say.
I show her a picture of “Moby Dick.”
She offers to show me the Sweet Sixteen, from Handi Quilter, a sit-down, long-arm free-motion quilting machine. Heavy-duty motor. It’s even American made.
Sweet Sixteen from Handi Quilter
There is a sample piece of a quilt sandwich in the machine, black, with variegated thread running through. With some gentle prompting I try it. It’s exactly like the feel of what I have been doing on my Bernina, but because the machine is set in the table facing me, I can put one hand on each side of the needle and move the quilt. I make a meandering pattern, smaller and smaller. It comes out exactly as I intended. I am very quiet.

It will be delivered in about a week.

Actual Transcript of Today’s Chat Session with Optimum Cable

Rabindra R.: Hi, my name is Rabindra R.. How may I help you?
Me: I have been contacted via text from an Optimum customer without phone or internet connection. They can’t report the outage
Me: Account # is #####-######-##-#. The address is ##### #####. The account is in the name of #######.
Rabindra R.: I sincerely apologize for any inconvenience, Margaret.
Rabindra R.: I am sorry to hear the customer contact you.
Me: Is this a known outage?
Rabindra R.: They should be call us.
Me: ?
Rabindra R.: I do not see an outage in the area.
Me: They cannot call. Phones down, also internet. They need a service call.
Rabindra R.: The modem is online I am getting a connection to the modem.
Rabindra R.: They need to call us from the residence where the services is.
Rabindra R.: It could be something minor.
Me: THE PHONE DOES NOT WORK AT THE HOUSE
Rabindra R.: I am not seeing an issue on our end. If they can get a cell phone and call us.
Rabindra R.: If I send a tech and there is no issue due to Optimum they will be charge a fee of $39.95.
Me: No Cell phone coverage in the area. Remote rural area.
Rabindra R.: I have the to get permission from the account holder to set up this services call.
Rabindra R.: It seems as if the phone wire is unplug or something really minor.
Me: There is a business at this address as well. Their phones are down, too. They have no internet either. No one can call you from there.
Rabindra R.: I can set up a service call but they will be charge because there is not issue on our end.
Me: They have no service at either building at the address.
Rabindra R.: I am sorry the business needs to call in.
Me: I assume they can send a carrier pigeon or smoke signals
Rabindra R.: Would you like me to set the service call?
Me: You need to get someone over there.
Rabindra R.: Okay let me see what time and day we have open.
Rabindra R.: I can get a tech there today from now until 8pm and it will be a $39.99 charged.
Me: OK
Rabindra R.: What is the best number that I can have the technician call you ahead on before they come, such as a cell phone for example?
Me: ###-###-####
Rabindra R.: Thank you.
Rabindra R.: When the technician is there, they will check to see what is causing the issue. Also, someone 18 or older must be available for the service call.
Rabindra R.: You are all set for today between now and 8PM. I have made all the notes necessary and I am confident we will be able to resolve this issue for you, Margaret.
Rabindra R.: Is there anything else that I can assist you with today, Margaret?
Me: no thank you
Rabindra R.: Thank you for choosingOptimum. Have a great afternoon, Margaret.
Rabindra R. has disconnected.

Friendly Goodbye

Checking the mail in North Dreadful
Yesterday, I visited the North Dreadful post office for the last time to close our post office box. This transaction involved standing in line, filling out a form, and receiving $6.00 in cash in exchange for the keys. There was another customer there buying stamps for a big stack of invitations, which he had not counted in advance. Probably not more than 30 years old, the other customer had on long plaid shorts, large old school glasses and an interesting hat. For the first time since I moved here a year ago, this stranger in the post office seemed genuinely interested in talking to me, and I had to tell him that I was moving out.
The housekeeper is sad to see us go. Her opinion of the Landlordsis that they are “crazy.” She is incredulous that they can rent out the house and “make money on it” while the furniture is “all garbage.” There are slipcovers on the upholstered furniture, so until you take those off to wash them you do not notice that underneath it is indeed garbage.
The listing agent’s attitude about our leaving is a mystery to me. About 30 hours before the last big, bad storm here, she sent me an email:
I spoke to [Landlord] and he mentioned he might consider a reduced rent  month to month if you want to keep it for a while or until we rent it. Fall is so beautiful up there. 
Between the power outages and the loss of internet access, I was not especially keen to answer her. Furthermore, the lease on our new city apartment had started already, and I was busy dealing with problems there. I did not want to make a nasty reply, thinking it would not do anyone any good, so I thought I would wait until I could say something pleasant.
Almost exactly ten days later, I heard from her again:
Hi, I may have a showing for tomorrow  Tuesday morning around 10:30. I am waiting to confirm but will that work?
Our lease stipulated that we would get 24 hour notice of showings. This email had been sent exactly 26 hours in advance. I replied immediately after reading her message, saying that I was going to be in the city all day that day and the next,dealing with issues at our new apartment. I explained that my children were in charge at the Red Barn, that the dogs would bethere (in their kennels), and thathousekeeper comes on Tuesdays in the early afternoon. I summed up saying that it was not the “day to show it at its best,” and that, “Any other day this week or next would be preferred.
I had two replies. The first:
Hi, It is not my client and it is the only day she has her so I had better go with what we have if that is ok.
You have a new apartment eh. I guess you don’t want to take [Landlord] up on his offer to keep the house on a month to month if it does not get rented.
And the second:
Hi , They definitely want to see it tomorrow morning at 10:30.. I know you said it is not the best day but It is too difficult to get the other agent and her client at a convenient time for us so we have to go with the flow. Please confirm received.
At this point, I had Leveled Up to “Had Enough.” My reply:
I don’t know if you are trying to be funny here.
Your query coincided with our fourth or fifth prolonged power outage. I was hoping to reply when I could say something polite and positive, rather than be blunt.
 The neighborly North Salem you presented to us in the aftermath of Irene is not the one we have experienced this year. When the power goes out, the Red Barn is the only one on Mills without a generator, so while our milk spoils and we flush toilets with buckets of pool water, we hear our neighbors going about their normal days, generators humming away.
I am leaving North Salem with no local friends at all. The immediate neighbors see us coming and going but I rarely even get a wave back. The school made no effort to incorporate [child]into the class, and the PTA did not call to invite me to join. 
As far as [Landlord]‘s month-to-month offer goes, I spent the whole year feeling gouged on the price of rent here. Remember, you all teamed up to raise the rent once we said we needed to stay on after we were moved in. Had the rent stayed at the original rate for the full year, we probably would have signed on for another six months, at least. 
I have spoken to my kids about tidying up and being ready for the 10:30 am appointment tomorrow. 
I realized that I was not going to accomplish anything productive. I also realized that I had not been pleasant. Sometimes, though, telling the truth is irresistible. Her reply: 
Wow, I am shocked I never heard a peep about any problems. When I met you on the road walking the dogs you said all was great. I have lived here since I was a kid and we have never had power outages like recent times. People are just starting to get generators. Not all have them. As far as a “friendly” town all I hear and do are good things. I wish I had heard of your feeling isolated as I would have done something. Apparently a lack of communication could have been the problem. As to gouged on the rent?? We had been getting [more] in the past but dropped to go along with the market. As I said I don’t think your disatisfaction should have gotten this far.
I will be there tomorrow.
I have not truncated her message, omitting the “I’m so sorry you had this experience in my town.” My takeaways: I was supposed to somehow know that this year was unusual for power outages; she is “friendly” and so is her town; had I told her I was feeling isolated, she would have done something about it.

North Dreadful

The next day

Thursday afternoon we went for a dog walk, and while we were out it got even hotter and more humid. When we arrived home, we jumped in the pool. I put my iPhone well away from the water because we all know that iPhones are easily ruined and had to get out of the pool to answer my phone when it rang.
There is a certain style of customer service which is employed for especially valuable customers, either to handle a high profile person or to remedy a past problem. I received the call and immediately heard the urgency in her voice and went inside to take notes.
In her eagerness to help me, “Deb” kept accidentally calling me by my first name, then hurriedly correcting herself and calling me “Mrs….” As it turns out, we are just high profile enough, and had just enough of a problem to fall into both categories, so “Deb” was giving it her all and going to fix everything.
At the same time I started getting texts from my husband, the Medium Cheese (he is why we warrant the special treatment). I had to juggle the phone, continuing with “Deb” and letting the Medium Cheese know that he was making my iPhone buzz in my ear during my phone call. My texts to him say, “Getting smothered right now…like a Persian cat rubbing your legs right after you slathered them in lotion.”
By the time our conversation was finished, I was shivering and took a hot shower. We even had plans to go out to dinner. I got out of the shower to find the house was fully engulfed in a violent storm, with thunder, high winds and driving rain. In the midst of texting the Medium Cheese (who was on his way home on a Metro North Train) about the storm, the power went out.
I next wrote, “The long conversation with the Persian cat means my phone is almost dead.”
The Medium Cheese’s train then stopped. “We will have to sit in Chappaqua ’for a few minutes,’” he wrote. “Which means they don’t know.”
The source of the delay was a tree on the tracks, and I was advised to fetch the Medium Cheese from the train station in Chappaqua.
Turning right out of our driveway we encountered the first downed tree across the road almost immediately, at the top of our next-door neighbor’s driveway. Reversing, we discovered another mess of downed trees tangled in power lines about a quarter mile in the other direction. There was another way out, and we took it, but our way was blocked by another large tree which had pulled down the power lines. We reversed again, and made our way on the last possible route. This final attempt ended when we found the road blocked by a very large tree, about two miles from the red barn where we live. The Medium Cheese had to find his own way back. We were trapped.
The only way back was to re-trace our route, and when we got there we got busy lighting candles and deciding what we would eat, given that the dinner plan had been to eat out so we had nothing on deck. We ate the potstickers from the freezer and as much ice cream as we could. 
The Medium Cheese never made it home. His train was over an hour late, but he couldn’t get past the downed trees from the other direction, either. He went and found a hotel.
I checked the NYSEG web site before bed (having mostly recharged my phone in the car), and saw their estimate that the power on my road would be restored by 3:00 pm the next day. This gave our minor emergency an ending, in the near future, and made the situation seem like a non-event.
We woke to a stuffy, quiet house. I was quite awake before six, and walked a dog, and checked on the status of the fallen trees. Overnight road crews had removed the obstacles and our daily newspaper had been delivered. We cooked up all the bacon and fried some eggs, hard-boiling the rest of the dozen. I checked the NYSEG web site and it had changed the status of our repair to the next day, in the afternoon. The non-event felt like a minor emergency again.
In the afternoon I drove to the airport to pick up our oldest son and he had more friends with him than I had anticipated, so we drove home to our hot, dark house with an over-full car. I gave the houseguests a lesson in flushing toilets with a bucket of water from the swimming pool, and we all had a specific disappointment: there would be no hot showers despite a many-hour plane ride from Europe. Not long after this disappointment, I checked the NYSEG web site and found that the status of our road’s power outage repair had changed from the next day to a blank. I called NYSEG at this point, and spent 25 minutes on hold. I was told that the time was not posted because they no longer knew when power would be restored. We ate out.
That night, I woke at 1:57 am, very hot. I thrashed around for quite a bit, and then my phone rang at 2:25 am. I made motions to answer it, but saw it was a “425” number and decided it was a wrong number. I have had this number for almost two years, but I still get wrong number calls for the old owner of it. I imagine that someday each of us will have one number for our whole lives, but for now, I will still get calls for “Brian.”
I checked the NYSEG site then, and it was still blank.
I managed to get back to sleep.
For breakfast there was coffee (using a French press and bottled water and lighting the gas stove with a match to boil water) and cereal with less-than-ice-cold milk from the cooler. After a few hours of lying around we rallied and went to the grocery store.
On the way we had to detour around the first work crew, addressing the downed trees and power lines closest to our house. A NYSEG crew had commenced work despite the lack of a planned time of completion. We met the second NYSEG crew at work on the other mess of trees and power lines, and we were told by the only guy who didn’t look busy (the grumpily scowling guy standing in the road with no gear, no uniform, no helmet and no sign), “Road closed. You gotta go the other way.” 
I told them to hurry.

Also the next day


How cold and bright and startling is the American supermarket after a few days of no electricity! We replenished the drinking water supply and planned to barbecue. It had come time to buy plastic forks and paper plates as well, since we had run through the dish supply.
I think it was at this point, after the grocery store run but before the power came back that I dropped my iPhone in the toilet. Back when I was teaching at my last teaching job, I used to hear the sounds that high school girls make when they drop their mobile phones in the toilet. My classroom was across the hall from a bathroom, and while they were never supposed to take out their phones except during lunch, they often took advantage of the privacy of a closed bathroom stall. As for me, I did not scream.
As we re-stocked the food shelves and re-organized the coolers, a scheme was devised whereby the overflowing sink full of dishes would be washed by hand using pool water. All of the big pots were filled and set on the stove to boil. The sink was about half full of hot water when the light in the kitchen changed. The hood above the range had come on, for power had finally been restored.
My husband, the Medium Cheese, is also a Relentless Troubleshooter, and by the time we got down to making that dinner, my calls had been forwarded to another phone, and my profile fully installed. It feels almost like magic when technology works, and your pictures and contacts and apps are all there in the new handset. It reminds me that the iPhone is, for me, a nearly perfect device, with exactly three flaws: the battery life is too short, it is not waterproof, and it is made by workers who work under conditions so dire they must be prevented by nets from throwing themselves from their dormitory windows.

Storm victim found in road