Sunday, July 7, 2019

Would you Kondo your condo?

Whenever I hear the word "condo," I remember the best use of a condominium reference ever in a movie, in the original "Rocky." Rocky has had success, and a guy is advising him to invest his windfall. "Condominiums," he suggests. Rocky looks left and right, then leans in and, mistaking the word for "condoms," whispers "I never use 'em."

So in recent years when Kondo became a verb I had to smile. By now you have heard of Marie Kondo, home tidying specialist. Her book and TV show on Netflix have been read and watched by millions. To "Kondo" your house is to rid it of junk, and render it organized, user-friendly and joy-inducing. 

Hack! What is that? Oh, a hairball, sorry. 

There has been a predictable backlash by the lazy and the rule-averse, but the truth is, since Kondo-ing I have never had easier access to my underwear. It sits now in a tidy row of little ball shapes like dim sum, next to my little sock balls. These don't take up less room. That would require a shift in physics. But they are easily 80% cuter in there. 

My t-shirts also sit in neat rows on their sides, using the vertical space of the drawer so efficiently I can also fit pants in there now. My previous pants organizing system was to toss them in layers on top of the vinyl-to-digital transfer record player I never used. In the dark, I could find the pants I wanted just by feel. Life was sweet. 

Now my pants are in a drawer, folded tightly. Now I have to remember which drawer. Now I have to see that record transfer thing and feel guilty that it's been sitting unopened on my bedroom floor for five years, next to the unplayed guitar. Worst of all, they say vinyl is coming back, so now can I even get my money back by selling the transfer thing online, or did I miss my window?

Kondo's philosophy is to remove from your dwelling anything which does not "bring you joy." This is a tall order, especially since none of my clothes brought me joy even as I tore the tags off them. I am hoping joy has a slightly different definition in Japanese. Like maybe "the satisfaction which comes from not leaving the house naked." 

I have not gone full Kondo. I have a plastic tub of clothes in the garage, winter clothes at the moment, which in November will be swapped with my Hawaiian shirts and shorts. I am sure I could release some of what's in there to the larger thrift store-frequenting public, but that requires the will to make decisions (see above—lazy and rule-averse.)

Plastic tub manufacturers are enablers, you know that?

The garage itself screams out for Kondo-ing. I expect that small emergency tsunami rafts could be built from all the VHS tapes and forgotten Happy Meal toys alone. As someone who has grown up in a consumer society in the great consumer age, I feel simultaneously the guilt and the paralysis which comes from too much stuff to deal with. I think there should be an app to find other people to come to your garage and brutally, indifferently do what needs doing. And you could go do their garage.

Human nature, of course, suggests that a lot of "Ooh, that's cool, I'm taking that home" would go on, so basically your garage would stay just as full, just with other people's stuff. 

Marie comes off sweetly on TV, and I am sure she means well. I just hope she's not as perfect as she seems. I hope there is one drawer in her house where earth worms could thrive. She has children. I hope every drawer handle in every room is sticky. 

That would bring me joy. 


Sunday, June 30, 2019

Patreon week: Movie titles a-tweaked

What do "Night of the Loving Dead," "Sinnin' In The Rain" and "Schindler's Lisp" all have in common? They are a few of the many movies I describe in this week's Patreon-supporters-only column feed, movies whose meaning changes entirely if you change just one letter in the title... 😄

https://www.patreon.com/George_Waters

Sunday, June 23, 2019

When a chair is a purse

Over the years in a relationship, you form a shorthand, like since shopping for the perfect purse is arduous and time-consuming, anything else that is also those two things my wife and I now refer to as a purse. We went shopping for a a new arm chair Sunday. An arm chair is a purse. 

A chair is a chair, you say. How hard can it be? Well, let me tell you—some swivel. You are either into that or not. In the furniture store it looks like a normal arm chair. You sit down to test it, and you are now facing a different wall. Into it? No. I like a chair that narrows my options, not one that expands them.

We have an old chair whose upholstery is worn out and shredded by a cat we haven't had for a dozen years. It's nice and wide. "Butt and dog wide," as I say, with room for Skipper and me both to rest. But it looks horrendous. 

We went to IKEA, and their stuff is certainly affordable, but they should really stick to things people have to assemble. IKEA selling things which are ready to use as soon as you get them home is an overstep, on a par with that new Orange-Vanilla Coke. 

My wife suggested we go to the expensive furniture store in our town, and I said the chairs over there are $1000, which is a lot, and she said "Not if you prorate it over the life of your butt."

That quote works on so many levels. 

So we went to the nice furniture store, where we had gotten a large Craftsman style entertainment unit 20 years ago. (I like to keep a store guessing about my loyalty.)

They had gorgeous Stickley chairs, leather, the kind with broad wooden arm rests; arms rests which if sold by themselves would cost more than your best suit. If I had a man cave, and a spare $5000, I could see myself in a chair like that. That's real craftsmanship, the kind you don't see any more because you don't make enough.

We were looking for a plush chair with rounded arms. English arms, they are apparently called, and we found a nice one upstairs in the fancy store. The fabric was a dark boring solid, but they had 15 feet of wall space with long hanging fabric samples, which resembled a massive closet for a guy who only ever wears one pant leg. 

The fabric the floor model had was very soft, and we just could not find a different fabric we liked and thought would work with our wine-colored couch. We asked the saleswoman if we could buy the floor model, which had been marked down because its fabric was discontinued, probably because it was dark and boring. She said sure. 

I asked her if there was a discount since it was a floor model. She actually freaking laughed out loud. I thought since a floor model undergoes the wear and tear of multiple butts, that was worth a break on the price. Years ago I bought a patio table/chair combo floor model at OSH, and the manager agreed to knock 10% off, and I was glad I had the audacity to ask. 

The nice furniture store, in business now for more than 80 years, is not OSH. 

We arranged to have the floor model delivered in a week or so. It will fit me and the dog, and is the last arm chair I ever expect to buy in this lifetime. Let the prorating begin. 


Sunday, June 16, 2019

Two life lessons at 14

Parents have a way of teaching you life lessons you don't realize you learned until decades later. My dad taught me two in the same year; the year I turned 14. 

In eighth grade, I was in love with this beautiful tall blonde, Julie. She was 5'11" in eighth grade. I was maybe 5'6". But I found out, amazingly, she was also into me too, not by talking to her; I was way too shy for that. Her best friend told me. Perhaps out of frustration that I wouldn't say anything to her at school, Julie began coming to my church, maybe to give me another shot at sparking something, I don't know. It didn't work. 

One day after youth group, Julie and a couple of my guy friends and I were standing around chatting. Well, they were chatting; I was listening. It's what I did. My dad walked up to take me home. He stood with us for a couple of minutes, then he and I headed out. 

Walking down the sidewalk, he said to me out of the blue, "So...is that your girlfriend?"

My head almost exploded.

I thought for a feverish second that my dad could read minds. I was well into adolescence. I had things in my mind which definitely did not need reading! But I calmed myself. I figured there had to be another explanation. I was noncommittal. I answered as casually as I could, "Why do you ask, Dad?"

He said something I have never forgotten. He said, "The way she was looking at you."

The way she was looking at me?! I was into her and I hadn't noticed she was looking at me in any particular way. Mind blown, because my dad, in my brief 14 years, had never given me any indication, at any point, that he was, in any way, perceptive.

Life lesson number one: 

Dads know.

Later that year, still 14, I started high school. I joined the cross-country team. My dad left work early, a rare treat, to come see me run. Afterwards he was driving me home in his station wagon, my 10-speed thrown in the back. We were coming up on a restaurant we used to go to a lot when I was younger. Betsy Ross. The theme was colonial kitsch, everything red, white and blue. 

Dad asked, "So, do you think you've earned a milk shake? Do you want to stop for a shake?"

I know now, as a father myself, that all he wanted was a little father-son alone time, something which had become very rare. But that never occurred to me at the time. I was a little embarrassed. I was wearing my running uniform, burgundy tank top and burgundy short-shorts. (It was the 1970s.) 

Mentally, I flashed forward to us in the restaurant, sitting at the counter together. I imagined a couple of old ladies at a table watching us, one saying to the other, "Oh look, a father and son out for a milk shake after a sporting event. How adorable."

The last thing I wanted to be at 14 was ADORABLE. I was cool.

So I said something along the lines of "Oh, no, no thanks, Dad, I'm good."

He gave me such a look of incredulity. I had just run two miles! He knew I loved ice cream.  At least I have always hoped it was a look of incredulity, and not one of realization—that I just did not want to be seen with him. 

They say love is the strongest thing a person can feel, but I'll tell you, shame is right up there. After 40+ years, it can still bring tears to my eyes. 

My dad lived to a ripe old age. He lived to 92. But he's been gone for more than a dozen years now. Do you have any idea what I would give to have one more milk shake with that man?

Life lesson number two:

Dads go.

Some of you reading this still have your dad. Call him now. Tell him you want to take him out for a milk shake. Or, if you're lactose intolerant, O.K., a vegan raspberry smoothie. And when he asks "What the hell?" (and he will), just say "George insists."





Sunday, June 9, 2019

Fuhgeddaboutit

I've been binge-watching "The Sopranos," which has resulted in the subliminal effect that whenever someone says something I disagree with now, my mind whispers "Fuhgeddaboutit." 

At the risk of eliciting the kind of gapes one gets when confessing they have never seen "Harry Potter," I had never watched "The Sopranos." Didn't have cable. Heard great things. Never caught up with it until streaming, and the HBO Now app. 

I am probably 20 years late to a lot of things. If we went down that list, you would most likely un-friend me just on general pop-cultural grounds. 

Side note: "Un-friend" is the best compound word since Shakespeare's "Un-sex." 

"The Sopranos" is actually very Shakespearean. You have the flawed hero and his lieutenants, his hangers-on, and the women they keep inventing new ways to disappoint. It's like Greek tragedy, even. The hero is pre-destined to destroy himself and all he holds dear. Humans have always loved watching some other schmuck do this. It makes us feel better about ourselves. 

Side-note: If you never saw it, and you didn't, go find, at a library or on streaming, the James Gandolfini/Julia Louis-Dreyfus movie "Enough Said." It's that rare thing, an adult comedy for and about middle-aged adults, warts and all. It will make you want to go put flowers on Gandolfini's grave.

The World Trade Center's twin towers appear in "The Sopranos" opening credits. Bill Clinton was president. There are references to the Lewinski scandal. Computers in the show are the size of dorm refrigerators. You have to pull up the antenna on your cell phone to take a call. 

Corrupt and violent as they are, the mobsters, raised in the Catholic church, live by very defined rules. In one episode they even take a jab against "moral relativism," against the idea that good and bad can be more than just black and white. Mobsters don't like shades of grey. Audiences love them. Ask Aristophanes. Dig him up. Go ahead, I'll wait. 

I love the mob lexicon. You can ice a guy, or burn him, or even clip him, and he's still just as dead. 

Butt-legging is bootlegging untaxed cigarettes. 

To "come heavy" is to pack heat. 

I had long heard of being "on the lam," but I never knew it was a verb, that you could "lam it," most typically to Boca Raton. 

"Spring cleaning" means getting rid of evidence.

A jamook is a loser, an idiot, who may even be

Oobatz: crazy.

I am only one season in, and of course I know about the iconic final moment of the series, since that was so widely discussed at the time it even reached a non-viewer like me. Knowing I have 60 more hours to watch, many weeks or months, is daunting. How many bees will have been killed by pesticides in that time? How many glaciers melted? Couldn't I spend that time more productively for the world? 

Maybe one season is enough. I got the flavor of the thing. Sixty hours is probably oobatz. Besides, it's summertime, and I never did get around to "Outlander."