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Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Pizza Night

When my neighbors moved into the house next door, they had three children under three and both of them worked.  Oh, yes, they were in a state of constant exhaustion.  By Friday evenings, they had no energy for painting the town red or even pale pink.  Thus came the tradition of Pizza Night. 

Every Friday night Cynthia would make pizza, the children would run around until they dropped, and the parents would share as many quiet moments as they could manage between diapers, skinned knees and worn out toddlers. 

Steve and I have been shamelessly mooching off Pizza Night for 12 years.  I usually bring a salad for Cynthia, Steve and myself (Richard doesn’t eat anything green), and Steve would nab a bottle of wine.  We’d scarf that pizza and have a glass of wine or two or, well, who’s counting after two?  At the end of the evening, we had only to stumble up the hill between our houses.

Pizza Night led to putting in concrete steeping stones on that hill.  It led to my working with a couple of the children on their reading (and, by proximity, half the neighborhood).  It led to Steve building Boy Scout pinewood derby cars with their boy (again extending to half the neighborhood).  If nothing else, it led to endless experimentation in pizza-making.

The three children grew older; money and energy and the neighbors’ social life increased.  We are frequently out of town; in fact, right now Steve is working out in Washington State.  We lived in Russia for two years; that’ll put a crimp on a weekly get-together (although Cynthia and Richard did visit us in Russia where we enjoyed hatchapouri, a sort of Georgian pizza).  While no less welcome, Pizza Night occurred sporadically.

When Cynthia invited me for pizza last Friday, of course, I said yes.  But, alas! come Friday, Richard had caught some nasty bug.  What could we do?  The children must still eat, therefore pizza must still be made, so Cynthia prepared the children’s pizza and then climbed those stairs and brought the fixin’s over here.    

Because she is a doll, Cynthia thanked me for allowing her to make pizza at my house.  I graciously accepted her appreciation.  (Okay, what I really said was, “You’re thanking me for allowing you to bring food over to my house and make me dinner?  You’re welcome.) 

Two mini pizzas (made on store-bought naan this time; isn’t she clever?) and two glasses of wine later, we had pretty much covered politics (hope the right side wins), child-rearing (the children scooped up tons of As in school) and the marriages of half the neighborhood (hey, we’re only human). 

Here’s the thing.  I don’t even like pizza all that much, but I wouldn’t miss a Pizza Night for the world!

Monday, October 15, 2012

RIP, Little Chippie

After I dragged my big purple suitcase (okay, my son-in-law calls it a steamer trunk) up the stairs a week ago, I reached into the bedroom hall to flip on the light, and there against the white wall was a shadow puppet of a chipmunk pussyfooting (I know, right?) its way from my son’s room into the laundry room. 

I did what anyone would do.  I ran down the hall and slammed the door, trapping it inside.  [Spoiler Alert: this story does not have a happy ending for the chipmunk.]

An hour or so later, I grabbed my cat Wumpus and shoved him into the laundry room for a close up and intimate visit with Chip (or maybe it was Dale).  As I tried to relax in a deep tub of hot water, I was serenaded with background music of continual and plaintive meowing.  Wrapped in my fleece robe, I released Wum, and he dashed directly to his food bowl. 

Later that night he sniffed at the slot beneath the door.  Yes, Mister, you were supposed to do something about it.  It seems he is quite good at bringing chipmunks in through the (temporary and now dismantled) cat door from the porch in order to frolic with them around the house, but, like oh so many men, once he’s had his fun, he loses interest. 

The next day I emptied my suitcase and watched the development of quite a mound of dirty clothes.  My laundry room is more of a large closet really, so putting the clothes in the machine while standing on tip top hoping a small rodent wouldn’t run over my feet was not acceptable.  I headed to Home Depot where they do not sell anything called a chipmunk trap.  I thought  an old-fashioned mousetrap (they make some that are huge) would be the most effective thing, but I was afraid I’d snap off a finger baiting it or a toe walking around it.  Instead, I bought a set of those enclosed rat traps where the animal dies tidily inside -- blech.  I added a couple of peanuts to the bait (thank you, Google), tucked them around the washer and dryer and let the laundry build up two more days.

Okay, eventually you need clean underwear, right?  And the peanuts in the traps remained steadfastly untouched.  Hey, when I’d gotten home it was dark; I was tired; I was hungry -- maybe I imagined the whole thing.  I opened the door and stuffed in the first load.  Let the chip(munks) fall where they may.  My hope was that if the thing was in there, it would venture out, Wumpus’ interest would be rekindled, and the final skirmish would begin.  My fear was that Chip (or Dale) would burrow into the wallboard and bear a litter of adorable babies that would infest my house.  Again, blech. 

Two more days went by.  Wumpus occasionally sniffed around the area of the laundry room, and now the laundry was at least fitting inside the hamper.  I draped a damp dishcloth over the washer to dry out until I got to it.  The room developed that damp, moldy dishcloth smell.  I ran the appropriate load.  The smell persisted.

I craned my neck behind the washer and dryer.  Nothing.  I took a flashlight and looked underneath, a scary process lest something run out at my face, but all I saw were wayward fabric softener sheets.  I rarely use softener sheets, but apparently when I do, they scamper underneath the washer and dryer to lead silent yet festive lives.  I dragged the dryer out a foot or so (all the room there is).  Nothing.  I dragged the washer out a foot or so, cringing to look.  Nothing. 

Denial is a great place to live, and I had all but decided, indeed, there was no little chippie, but the the smell persisted into day five.  *Big sigh*  There was no way it was the aftermath aroma from wet dishcloths.  More surveillance.

YIKES!  Was that a piece of string?  Nope, it was a tail!  BLECH.  When I’d moved the washer, Chip (or maybe that was Dale) got dragged out and pushed under the vacuum cleaner.  Now I could see a little tail curling from under the brushes.  At least he (or she) didn’t get cut in half when dragged under heavy machinery.  *Involuntary shudder at the thought of having to clean up chipmunk parts*  Fortunately a body bag was readily made from an inverted plastic baggie, scooping and turning it right-side-out so he (or she) slid in. 

Crisis over, and smell and body disposed of, I went to watch TV.  The thought sat in my head that a dead chipmunk had been desiccating away in my laundry room for a minimum of three days.  For about 20 minutes I managed to ignore the fact that it was time to wash the laundry room floor.  I don’t know how often you wash your laundry room floor, but I cannot remember the last time I did so. I mean, all I do is pad around in there in my socks while stuffing clothes into the machines; how grimy can it get?  All I can tell you is, those softener sheet dancing around under there, they kick up a lot of dirt.

Anyway, my laundry room is now certifiably clean.  My clothes are washed and put away, and Wumpus walks around, tail held high, as proud as if he actually accomplished something wonderful.
Goodbye, little Chip (or Dale):  RIP.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Go, Go, LIGO!

The last time I was here in Richland, WA, I took the trusty time machine back 70 or so years and visited the B Reactor on the Hanford site.  I sat at the (non-functional) controls of the country’s first nuclear reactor; I stared into Fermi’s office; I looked up at the rods and rods and rods and rods that were used to make plutonium.  Good times, good times.

Last Friday, I took the time machine ahead, only a couple of years,to be sure, but that was far enough.  We ventured into a different part of the dessert to tour LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory).  The site isn’t much to look at.  It’s composed of a couple of buildings (nice landscaping, though) and two long,  l  o  n  g concrete tunnels.

[Insulating concrete tunnels housing the beam tubes.]
In those tunnels? Oh, my!  Inside those insulating tunnels are two tubes. The physicists shoot a laser beam from a central point which they split in two. The split beams shoot down the tubes, bounce off fancy, sophisticated mirrors and return. The light is collected, and the light waves measured.  The instrumentation will filter out -- are you ready for it? -- all the gravitational waves from the earth.   Yup, all the trees falling, the trains roaring, the planes flying, all will be filtered out, and only the gravitational waves of space will be recorded. 
And what, you ask, will that show?  Oh, my friends, it will show a star going nova, a black hole imploding, or even, maybe, the Big Bang. 
[The control room at LIGO where discoveries will be noted on these monitors:
or is it the control room of the Enterprise?  Warp speed ahead, Mr. Sulu!]      
And speaking of finding the Big Bang, this, right here in the tufts of scrub, in the shadow of the nuclear waste vitrification plant, this would be a great setting for an episode of the Big Bang Theory.  Can you see it?  Wallowitz and Kuthrapali lost with the lizards.  Leonard wandering through the B Reactor and Sheldon lost in the rat refuse of those long, concrete tunnels. 

Ain’t science grand?!