Monday, September 03, 2007

Memento Mori

My friends, this is the end. The weekend holiday marks the end of summer and GayProf’s return to the classroom. I have got to earn those coins. Don’t worry, though, GayProf still has some tricks up his sleeve for the future.

Since I knew that I will soon be swamped with meetings, students, grading, preparing lectures, etc., etc., I wanted to get my little cottage in as good a state as possible before the semester starts. This involved purchasing and repotting a number of new houseplants (ones that Cat will not torture and make beg for their lives (the list of those varieties is quite small)). I also gave the place a good cleaning.

As we know, GayProf likes living in older places. Indeed, with one exception, every apartment or house where I have lived in my adult life was built before 1940 (The one exception was a temporary apartment selected because of other circumstances). Indeed, there seems to be a theme in my life as I also surround myself with material things created between 1900 and 1940 (dishes, furniture, etc.). My research projects usually focus on the period before 1940. Even my iTunes has a significant chunk of disc space devoted to music from this period.

It all makes one ponder if I was reincarnated. Maybe I lived some tragic, but very glamorous, life between 1900 and 1940. Perhaps that will manifest itself today. Maybe you will see GayProf wandering the streets in a grey wool suit muttering, “There is something I must do, there is something I must do.” Do fish me out of the bay when I fall into it.

The thing about reincarnation, though, is that everybody believes their former life was quite romantic. People imagine themselves as long lost knights or ladies of the manner. I can’t even tell you how many former Ladies-in-Waiting to Cleopatra I have met. Statistically, though, most people who were reincarnated would have had to have been serfs. You were more likely to have been the shlep who polished King Arthur’s Round Table than to have had a seat at it. Peasants had no armor and no pretty clothes. They just toiled hard in the soil and then dropped dead somewhere around the age of 30. Just once I want somebody who believes in reincarnation to claim that their former life was dreary, but unremarkable.

Whatever the reason, I seem to bristle at living someplace newer than 1940 (and downright cringe at living anywhere built between 1970 and 1989). My vision of hell would be an apartment built somewhere around 1975 with faux Tudor windows and orange counters. Hell isn't other people -- It's bad architecture and poor lighting.

Luckily, I have been very happy with my 1940 rental in Midwestern Funky Town. Indeed, my little cottage has been one of the best parts of moving here.

Living in older dwellings, though, sometimes requires one to take their [current] life in their hands. While it has actually been renovated fairly recently, my house still has some quirks that come with age. I have been struck by how many things are around that will potentially lead to my untimely demise. These include:

    ** A garbage disposal that sounds like it is grinding something metal. I have searched for something inside of it (including an unwise mission of shoving my hand around inside). Nothing has been found thus far. Yet, periodically, it jams after sounding like I had tossed an aluminum TaB can inside of it. One day that mysterious piece of metal is going to fly out, impale me, and I will die.

    ** Older houses also usually have mature trees. In the case of my little cottage, there is a great Maple tree in the front lawn. I like the tree a great deal and appreciate its soothing shade. After all the rain a few weeks ago, however, I was certain that the tree was starting to lean towards the house. It will likely collapse and crash into my bedroom, killing me instantly. Or perhaps they only moved the tombstones and not the bodies when they built the house. Thus, the tree will come to life on a stormy night and just snatch me from my bed. Either way, I am certain that the tree will cause me to die.

    ** The house has a central fuse box. Until I moved into my cottage, I literally didn’t know any house still had a fuse box. I thought every dwelling in the U.S. had been switched to circuit breakers. How does one actually change a fuse? I am uncertain about the steps required for that. What does make me certain, though, is that my first attempt will result in me electrocuting myself and I will die.

    ** That fuse box is located in the basement. I will likely fall down the stairs and break my neck. That's not at all the house's fault. I am just clumsy. Even before being electrocuted, I will likely take a misstep and die.

    ** Speaking of being electrocuted, for mysterious reasons the electrical plug for the washing machine is positioned directly above the wash sink (where the washer also drains). Modern houses can’t put an electrical outlet within several feet of a water source. Back in the day, though, they apparently thought it was just dandy to shove an electrical cord directly in the path of running water. This struck me as a very bad hazard. It was made worse by the fact that the electrical cord from the washer didn’t even reach the plug. Thus, I had to add a power strip which I then balanced on a cardboard box to keep it off the floor. That box probably already saved my life as the washing hoses started leaking shortly after I moved into the house, covering the floor in water. That was lucky. At some point, though, I am certain that I will enter a flooded laundry room with a free flowing, though Downey© fresh, electrical current. One step in and I will die.

    ** Then there is electric mower that I bought. Granted, this has nothing to do with the age of the house. I wanted to select the mower option that was better for the environment. In Texas, the grass was simply too thick to even contemplate an electric mower. Here in the Midwest, though, the grass is delicate enough to consider buying a mower that doesn’t belt out a ton of pollution (Note: Electric mowers are better than gas mowers, this does not mean they are good for the environment). Nobody told me what a pain in the ass it is to drag around a giant electric cord as one mows. I am certain I will be careless, run over it, electrocute myself, and die.

    ** Perhaps I felt so inclined to think about the environment because my neighborhood seems disproportionately populated with Priuses (Prius? Priui?). Several times I have been out walking in the neighborhood and barely been aware that they were even there as they were in “quiet/recharge mode.” It is likely that one day I won’t be being attention and will be run over and die.

    ** Of course, I cared not at all about the environment when I discovered the nest of bees between the siding of the house. In that case, I called for an exterminator to slather the grounds and structures with profoundly toxic chemicals. Though the bees are dying, I am sure that the chemicals have also given me cancer and I will soon die. If not, I will be attacked by drug-resistant killer bees and die.

At least the advantage of renting is that my estate would not be not responsible for the repairs that would come about after my death. So, I can mostly sit back and enjoy the house. Besides, there is always the next life. Maybe I will come back as a pretty, pretty princess . . .


vuboq said...

I will be sad if you die. Can I have your dish collection?

adjunct whore said...

vertigo is my favorite hitchcock. and good luck in your new job...if your blog is any indication, you will kick ass. take your own advice: enjoy it and avoid taking yourself seriously.

and it goes without saying that you should not die.

Maria said...

fuses are super easy to switch. they're basically little nobbby bits you can get at some drugstores and for sure a hardware store. you just screw them in like a lightbulb. :D

Paris said...

Are you sure that house isn't post-war? It's the spitting image of the house I rented for my Siberianesque post-doc and I think that one was post-war. Or maybe I'm just assuming that metal cupboards are a late 40s or 50s thing.

Wish I knew more about these things.

Earl Cootie said...

After a while
I'm myself again
I pick the pieces off the floor
Put my heart on the shelf again
He'll never hurt me anymore
I'm not a puppet on a string
I'll find somebody else someday
Thats when the phone rings
And once again I start to pray
Let it please be him
Oh, dear God,
It must be him
It must be him

dykewife said...

your house looks a whole lot like the post-wwii houses here. they were slapped up after the war for returning veterans to move into with their families.

i hope you don't die of electrical shock, i don't think you want bits and pieces of yourself smoking.

have fun with school.

tornwordo said...

Fuseboxes are easy. And cheap. Don't worry about that. And stop putting your hand in the garbage disposal. That's just asking for trouble. I TOTALLY know what you mean with the electric mower as I have almost electrocuted myself a dozen times. Pain in the ass, that cord.

bardelf said...

With your impending death so near, my dear gayprof, would you please rewrite your will and leave me your collection of Wonder Woman dolls? Thank you.

In your last life, you must have died during WWII. Perhaps you were an Allies soldier on the beaches of Normandy, or, a Japanese suicide bomber bearing down on a fleet of ships in the Pacific, or a prostitute having a bad night in Berlin. Who can say?

As for fuses, yes, many older houses still have these. First, you should buy yourself a flashlight to use as you walk into the basement and check the fuse box. Most any hardware store, especially the smaller neighborhood variety, will sell fuses. Check the fuse box. When a fuse is burned out, it will look different from the others, actually, it will look burned. Unscrew it. Screw the new one in. Be happy.

Roger Green said...

The greedy sharks who covet your stuff all want you to die, GP! You should SWITCH THE POWER TO THE OFF POSITION, THEN unscrew the fuse, put in the new fuse, and THEN switch the power back on.

At least that's the way I did it when I was growing up, back in the Paleolithic era.

Oh, yeah. The flashlight's a good idea.

Artistic Soul said...

Old houses do have such interesting quirks. Your garbage disposal issue might be a broken blade. It may just need to be replaced -- not too expensive to do, so the landlord might accommodate if you tell them about it.

Cooper said...

Please don't stick your hand in the garbage disposal! I shuddered just writing that. Also, important bulletin ... remember to turn the power OFF before you change the fuse. The world needs gayprof alive and well.

David said...

I'm sensing a phobic trend here.

Sarah said...

Your fixation with death by electric shock leads me to believe that you were executed by the electric chair in a previous life.

Depending on your perspective, that may or may not seem glamorous to you.

Baron Scarpia said...

Good Lord, and people call me morbid. (Probably because the story plots in my writing constantly involve people dying, but that's by the way)

But what place of worship would be large enough to accommodate those mourning GayProf's passing?

brian said...

The washer plug situation concerns me most. How is that set up again? If the yard isn't too large a push mower with one of those cute clipping gathering baskets may be just the thing. Landscape and workout at the same time.

Greg said...

Oh, yes...a reel mower is the way to go (but no open-toed shoes whilst mowing!)...and then you'll have the nicest looking lawn after the Apocolypse.

Also, SEVERAL flashlights, stashed in convenient spots here and there, so you'll be prepared wherever you are when the lights go out and not stumble to your death, falling headlong into the disposal or basement or something.

And *please* don't put your hand in the disposal anymore--you give us all the willies, and how would you blog with just the one hand?

Please, turn Mr. Death away at the door, GayProf...(just say no to Salmon Mousse...>grin<)...we love you so!

Have a great first semester!

Marius said...

I almost got a Prius last year, but then I came to my senses--I'm a poor graduate student. Oh, and I agree with everyone; we want you alive and well (and blogging). So stop putting your hand in the garbage disposal.

Rebekah said...

Garbage disposal? What's that? You could just remove the whole thing and do what I do; remove the smelly mess with a rubber-gloved hand. Ew.

I think the washer plug/water drain is what scares me the most. Be careful!

Steven said...

Such a morbid, yet humorous post. Homes built today in no way match in comparison to yesteryear's homes. Seeing subdivisions developed as cul-de-sacs and $400,000 homes wrapped in aluminum siding is sickening.

I'll sing "Candle in the Wind" if you come back as Princess Diana. And the intro to the new wife of Charles, while not unexpected, will be hard to palate.

pacalaga said...

The mower/leaf-cutter blade shears through the electrical cord quickly enough to move on and kill the current before you get a shock.
Oh, and I think they're Prii.

Marlan said...

Yes, the reincarnation thing is pretty shallow, but show me any religion that has a shred of integrity these days.

And might a fussy person who drives a hybrid be described as "priussy?"

GayProf said...

VUBOQ: I was assuming that the museum dedicated to my life would want the dishes for display.

Adjunct Whore: Vertigo is my favorite Hitchcock film as well (followed by Rear Window).

Maria: That does sound easy. . . Too easy.

Paris: I agree about the metal cabinets being a fifties sort of feature. My kitchen, though, was remodeled a few years ago so I can't attest to its original cupboards.

Earl: Cryptic Vicki Carr lyrics. Hmmm . . . What does it mean?

DykeWife: My house looks like a lot of houses here, both pre and post war. The "cape cod" style seems to have been recycled a great deal in MFT. The rental company said mine was built in 1940. It seems like they would know.

Torn: The electric mower is so annoying! Not to mention running out of cord at the far edge of the lawn.

BardElf: I was kind of hoping that I was a gay cabaret singer during World War II.

ROG: It's interesting everybody else kept forgetting to tell me about that "power off" bit of fuse switching.

Artistic Soul: Yeah, I should call the landlord. I am just lazy about it (I even replaced the washer hoses myself rather than having to go through the trouble of phoning them).

Cooper: I'll do my best to live.

David: I do fear electricity -- a lot.

Sarah: It might also explain my opposition to the death penalty.

Baron: Well, I was just figuring that all of the major networks would cover my funeral. It will probably culminate in a perpetual flame being installed near the Capitol.

Brian: I considered a push mower. Those things were more expensive, though, than my electric mower!

Greg: I really do need to increase my flashlight possessions. Probably the lights will go out and I will be stumbling around, fall down the stairs, and die.

Marius: When I was buying my car, I considered the Prius. Two things stopped me, though. They were brand new that year and I worried that the kinks wouldn't have been worked out. Also, they were basically sold out before they even hit the lot. I opted for the reliable Honda Civic instead.

Rebekah: It's the first time in years that I have a garbage disposal. It's funny, they are not that expensive (as low as $50). Yet landlords never seem inclined to install them.

Steven: The thing I don't like about modern homes is that they all look identical. It creeps me out.

Paclaga: Is this based on experience? Or just trying to make me feel better about my impending death?

Marlan: I am not sure the non-religious show much integrity either.

Elizabeth McClung said...

Since people are making lists of things when you die, dibs on that little baking oven.

What you describe is what is know in the UK as "a flat", "A house", "living accomadation" - I did start laughing uncontrollably when you got to the electric outlet near the washing machine - I wish I knew why.

At least with fuse boxes you actually have yours - since in the UK our house had been split by putting a giant wall up the stairs, our fuse box (and our water off tap) was actually in our neighbors apartment.

adjunct whore said...

i don't know, what about strangers on a train? pretty amazing camp, i say.

but of course rear window...i saw lee edelman do a talk on it once, i never can see it again without thinking of the anus. or perhaps i should wonder how i *ever* couldn't immediately recognize it!

MaggieMay said...

This post had me *actually* laughing out loud as opposed to just typing lol. GayProf, you and I are too much alike sometimes.