Thursday, May 13 2004
Gretchen and I are having our house painted this summer by a crew of professional homeslices, a job that will cost about the same as the installation of our granite kitchen countertops back in December. That's a lot of money, but it will be worth it once our house is no longer McMansion Grey shot through with billions of flecks of mold. Today the painter homeslices were out with their powerwashing gear and bleach, scrubbing down the west side of our house to prepare it for its new color, which will be some shade of barn red.
The head house painter homeslice, a jolly older man who mostly stands around while his crew of young men does the work, pulled me aside and said that he needed to have the weeds cleared from the base of the east side of the house because he and his crew, like most people "who grew up out here," are terribly afraid of snakes. The implication was, of course, that I had not grown up here but was a city slicker from New York who didn't understand the perils of rural nature. He had no idea that I'd grown up in rural Virginia, a place with a greater diversity of venomous snakes, but had happily survived the warm seasons of my childhood walking barefooted through all variety of untamed undergrowth. But I chose not to say anything and just agreed to cut down the weeds to keep the painters happy. There's little arguing with someone with a phobia of snakes. Snake phobia is, of course, widespread in our society, but rural people seem to be particularly beset by it. The guy across the road from my parents used to make a big production out of killing harmless black snakes and them hanging them on his fence (as a warning, I can only suppose, to other reptiles thinking of shedding their legs). He was one of many in that area who believed that black snakes could cross with rattlesnakes to make an even more dangerous hybrid. Then there was the plumber who was freaked out by my parents' dirt-floor basement, home to three or four species of snakes. Of course, there were other things that gave plumbers pause at my parents' residence, particularly the rotting wooden crates with NASA logos on the side. These are the incidents from which UFO folklore spring.
It was hot and humid today, and late in the afternoon several storms passed through the area. While I was at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, sweating under a desk trying unsuccessfully to install a Netflex TLAN card in a Windows XP box (it can't be done!), I talked to the director on the phone and she told me, "We didn't even have a spring this year!"
My old housemate John called me this evening to burn through some of his bottomless evening cell phone minutes. He thought we should get together sometime soon and film a series of faked hostage beheadings, using watermelons to help with the special effects. He also complained about his new cubicle job in Philadelphia. The cubicle didn't give him much privacy, but worse than that was all the irritating corporate lingo to which he finds himself being subjected. According to John, the term that's being most-overused these days in corporate circles "repurposed." I guess this has something to do with the desire to save money in tight economic times. Back when I worked for a dotcom, "repurposed" was only being used by the guys from England who'd been shipped here to help me develop the ill-fated Launch.co.uk. So non-corporate was their ethos that I'd considered it a perfectly acceptable word and began using it in my everyday speech.
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