Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Quack Is Coming From Inside the House

Last week at work, I received a very matter-of-fact text from Mr. Typist, stating that there was a duck stuck in our chimney flue. This was disturbing but not totally unsurprising, as the same set of pair-bonded ducks has been puttering around our neighborhood for years now. I’m not sure how the duck got herself down the flue, but she managed, much to the dismay of her partner, who, according to Mr. Typist, spent the afternoon quacking frantically for her from the roof as Mr. Typist attempted to jigger the flue mechanism to release her.

“Can you get her out?” I texted back.

“No.” came the swift reply.

Having nothing helpful to contribute to the matter, I turned my attention back to work, figuring the situation would sort itself out somehow. About three hours later, I received two wordless photos. One of was of a dark-gray duck glaring suspiciously up at the camera from our living room floor, and the second was of the self-same duck, this time bobbing tensely….in our bathtub. I finally snapped out of my denial and texted back with a series of OMGs, WTF’s and “Do I need to come home’s?”    

“Place is trashed,” he replied. (Mr. Typist is not the loquacious sort.) I split early and stopped by our local drugstore to stock up on cleaning supplies, envisioning the scene of carnage that awaited me. When I walked through the door, Mr. Typist was attempting to repair the fireplace, and there was no duck in sight. There were, however, plenty of signs of the duck, all over the carpet, the walls, and other crevices that I am still discovering.

Mr. Typist informed me that the bathroom was a disaster, and then proceeded to fill me in on the details: At some point during the day, he heard a kerfuffle coming from the general direction of the fireplace, and, upon investigation, realized that the duck was stuck up there. After numerous attempts to maneuver the flue into a position that would allow the duck to escape, he gave up temporarily and left to go to an appointment. When he returned, he noticed that the fireplace was strangely quiet, and shrugged to himself, briefly figuring the duck had escaped up the flue and outside to safety. However, having a lightning-fast brain, he immediately calculated the angle of the flue and other physics-sounding stuff I didn’t understand, and realized in a flash that duck had no possible escape route but our apartment. That’s when he heard an ominous “QUACK!” from under our dining table.

A chase worthy of an old-timey Keystone Cops movie ensued, with Mr. Typist trying to ensnare the duck in a towel as she ran in circles around the table, squawking and nipping at him. Long story short, he eventually managed to create a tunnel blockade down the hall and into the bathroom, and ushered the duck into our tub to clean the copious amounts of soot off of her. Apparently, the duck did not take kindly to this forced ablution and went absolutely nuts, flapping and pecking and knocking every single item over on our sink, all the while spraying sooty mud over the walls, towels, toothbrushes and toilet. (It was a two-hour clean-up job, and I’m still finding little flecks of mud here and there.)

After getting the duck nominally rinsed off, Mr. Typist used the tunnel blockade to reverse the duck into our living room and finally, nudge her out onto the deck. She hung there uncertainly for a moment, then took off and landed with a wobble, just as Buddy, who was lurking outside this entire time, noticed that his long-time nemesis had a vulnerability and immediately went into pre-attack crouch mode.

In the end, Mr. Typist headed off Buddy from murder, the duck couple was safely reunited, and our bathroom got the best cleaning it has in years. I hope the lady duck recovered from her trauma quickly and that she stays away from chimneys in the future, although I just now heard from Mr. Typist that the ducks are on the roof as we speak, catching some rays.

By the way, if you ever image-search “Duck in a Tub”…it is very, very important that you spell “duck” correctly and not accidently with an “i”. Once seen, some things cannot be unseen. I’m off to go bleach my eyes now.

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Petty Gripe Sunday

The end of Daylight Savings makes me incredibly cranky. Not only am I swindled out of an hour of sleep, it’s a harbinger of all the things I dread—the encroaching Spring and with it, my out-of-control hay fever, the impending heat and humidity of our ever-warming Seattle summers, tourists overrunning the place, and the light, gah, all the light. Since I’m already in a sour mood, here are some other petty annoyances that have been on my mind of late:

Unreliable Narrators in Fiction: Ever since “Gone Girl” came out, I swear that there has been a pervasive trend in fiction of the “unreliable narrator.” I have noticed it in at least four out of the last five novels I’ve read, and I don’t care for it. It’s beginning to feel like a lazy way out, rather than a clever literary device, and I find it distracting and slightly offensive. I think it’s rude of an author to jerk around their readers, especially if it’s done as a substitute for actually crafting an authentic character.

“What Every Woman Must Have in Her Wardrobe” Articles: These are as common as grass and just as dull and unimaginative. But what irks me the most about them is their invariable exhortation that all women must own a “crisp, white, button down shirt.” Firstly, I don’t want my clothing to be “crisp," and secondly, white looks good on about five people, and I am definitively not one of them. White drains my already pale face of whatever blush of color it may have and makes me look wan and tired. Why would anyone want to go around in a stiff shirt that drains them of color? Also, no one really needs a trench coat. That’s just Big Coat brainwashing.

Candy-Colored Cleaning Pods: Hopefully the Tide pod-eating trend has died down, but we are still burdened with a proliferation of satiny, candy-colored cleaning pods, and I think it’s completely infantile and ridiculous. It’s as though companies think we are so dumb and enamored of sparkly things that we can’t resist their stupid little bejeweled packets of chemicals. And just because I have a bag of beautiful blue and yellow Cascade dish washing pods in my kitchen does not mean that I fell for this silly trend. I bought them purely for convenience, not the pretty shiny.

In-Between Hair: I haven’t gotten my hair cut since before I went to Ireland in October, and now I have in-between hair—not long enough to sweep up elegantly in a bun or a pony tail, but too long to wear loose because it’s outgrown and looks scraggly. So I’m at that stage where I’m using a million bobby pins and hair ties to wrangle it into submission, and I still have rogue hairs popping out and tickling my cheeks and neck and driving me insane. Also, I can’t decide what to do with it. I am frozen with hair indecision. Maybe I’ll just shave it all off and get a head tattoo.

Ceiling Spiders: Now that it’s getting warmer out, I have to start being more vigilant about my bathtub spider checks, including checking the ceiling. I will never understand the Machiavellian tendency for spiders to hide on the ceiling and jump down next to my bare, vulnerable feet as I am just minding my own business trying to get clean. This happens at least once a year, and it’s all my own fault for not being careful enough. I plan to carve out a solid twenty minutes a night for thorough ceiling inspections before stepping into the shower. And if I need to bump that up to an hour, then so be it!

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Fantasy Travel Blog

Every now and then, usually on the UK Daily Mail, I come across some breathlessly worshipful article about a travel blogger who makes Millions a Year jetting to exotic hot spots and taking selfies. The subjects of such articles are universally young, thin, and tan. They mostly pose on yachts in white bikinis, although sometimes they take a break from selfies to photograph plates of artfully-arranged exotic fruit. These articles always fill me with a destabilizing mix of skepticism and wild envy. On the one hand, I don’t believe for a second that some random nineteen-year-old “stumbled into” a lucrative career as a travel blogger, but on the other hand, I always desperately scan the article for tips on how I, too, could amass eighteen million Instagram followers and rack up the big bucks as I traipse around the Greek Isles with luggage sponsored by Louis Vuitton.

But no one wants to look at Instagram selfies taken by a pasty middle-aged redhead, and I don’t know anyone who owns a yacht, so the closest I will get is the following fantasy blog post about all of the places I long to one day visit. (None of them lend themselves to the wearing of bikinis or the plating of exotic fruits.)  

Iona Island:

Iona is a tiny island off the Southwest Scottish coast, measuring three miles long and one and half miles wide, with a population of around 120--which is my ideal-sized town! It’s mainly famous for being home to Iona Abbey, one of the oldest Christian centers in Western Europe. I didn’t know anything about this place until I had a rare social lunch with one of my co-workers, who was at a spiritual retreat at the Abbey right around the time that I was in Ireland last October. I was captivated by her tales of the island, and immediately began plotting my move there. (I guess Mr. Typist and Buddy could come, too, after I got settled.) I would buy a little cottage and have hanging vines and a rose garden and wrought-iron lawn furniture. Of course I would be immediately accepted by the locals and invited to big family Sunday dinners every week, and down a few pints in the pub with my mates in the evenings while watching the sun set over the Atlantic. Every now and then, a free-range cow would wander through my garden and trample my begonias so I’d have something to complain about.

Tokyo, Japan:

Yes, I saw “Lost in Translation”, and yes, I am one of the few people I know who liked it. I’ve wanted to visit Tokyo ever since I saw that film, and Japan in general since I had an old college friend who taught English there and who always had amazing stories about the place. Plus, Seattle and Tokyo are “sister cities”, and, reality-based or not, I’ve always had a warm feeling of affinity with Japan and its people. I’d also love to see the Japanese countryside, although even in my fantasy travel musings, I have no illusions that I would be able to move there and live wholesomely on a misty little farm nestled on a hillside. In my fantasy Japan life, I have a penthouse apartment in Tokyo and some baloney over-paying internet job that would allow me to never leave the house and just hole up eating endless delivery sushi, downing sake, and watching the blinking lights of the city.

The Fjords of Norway

Maybe it’s all the Skyrim leveling, but for some reason, I have come to think of fjords as romantic, and plus I like the word “fjord”. Fjords seem very fresh and healthy-making, like they would clean out my lungs and strengthen my quads and whiten my teeth just by virtue of me being in proximity to them. And there is one fjord in particular with the poetic name of “Sognefjord” that boasts a sightseeing feature called the “Magic White Caves of Gudvangen.” By name alone that’s a tourist trap that is totally irresistible to impressionable me, although according to internet reviews, it’s just sort of “meh.” The pop-up on the site I was looking at for the Magic White Caves asked, “Do you wish to go?”, and I instantly thought, yes! Yes, I wish to go. And that is my answer in life from here out to all things travel-related: Yes, I wish to go. 

--Kristen McHenry

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Yes-Anding, Ill-Conceived Crafts, Cold Monster

This week’s post is going to be of the short and shallow variety. It’s one of those weeks where I just don’t have much going on other than work and struggling through a cacophonous, lurching, incessantly nose-dripping cold. As a result, I’ve stayed holed up indoors this weekend with cups of hot fluids, marauding my way through Skyrim and working on my punch-rug hand bag. Re: Skyrim, I’ve given up any pretense of being morally good and have gone full “yes and” on it: What’s that, shadowy demon who lurks in the basement of an abandon house in Markarth? You’d like me to lure an innocent priest to you for sacrifice so you can steal his soul? Why, certainly! Right away, sir! And you, young man who needs vengeance--of course I’ll go burn down your enemy’s honey farm for a few gold! And you there, nice lady with the pretty gown—I don’t know you, but it seems entirely reasonable for you to ask me to assassinate your ex-business partner. I’m sure whatever he did was just terrible.

Plus, I’m stealing with impunity and I don’t even care anymore. Upon being chased down by guards in some little burg after a dragon fight, I found myself growling at them, “Ah, shut up. I just slayed a dragon and devoured its soul. I’m taking the damn cheese wheel.” Oh, and congratulations are in order--I got Skyrim-married to a mage named Mercurio! He’s a bit mouthy, but he casts a mean lightning bolt.

Come to think of it, it’s a good thing I’m going back to work tomorrow.

In between sneezing fits, I’ve also been working on this probably ill-conceived idea to make a punch-rug hand bag. I have naught but the vaguest idea how to do this, but that detail is not stopping me. This is what I have so far:

 The whole reason I started this is because I found some really gorgeous punch-rug bags through a Google image search, and I got unduly excited and, as usual, unduly overconfident in my crafting skill level. I don’t know how to line the bag or put handles on it or close it up properly—you know, those subtle little touches that make a bag functional. I’ll keep you updated on the progress. In the meantime, I’m off to go sneeze myself into oblivion. Here’s a video of The Celtic Women performing an orchestral piece from the Skyrim soundtrack. The game has its goofy moments, but the music is phenomenal. 

--Kristen McHenry 

Monday, February 19, 2018

Dystopian Round-Up

I was listening to some news clips on a podcast this weekend while I was washing up after dinner. I happened to be cleaning a small paring knife during a particularly galling clip, and the thought occurred to me that perhaps I should just gouge my eyes out with it. I didn’t, of course—I calmly put the knife away and switched over to the “Celtic Roots” Pandora station (because I am an old,) and enjoyed me a few toe-tapping jigs in lieu of the news. But I thought that perhaps I should get some darkness out my system this week, to avoid having a repeat of The Bad Thoughts.

Recently, a spate of articles circulated about the sad fate of a shop robot with the improbable name of “Fabio.” Fabio was created at Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh, Scotland, and was dispatched to a Scottish supermarket to act as a courtesy clerk/shop assistant. Things did not go well for Fabio. According to reports, he started off great, charming customers with high-fives and greeting them enthusiastically. But soon, he began aggressively chasing them with pulled pork samples, annoying them with vague answers to their inquiries (“Beer is in the alcohol aisle!”) and being generally overbearing. When the shop manager gave Fabio the news of his sacking, Fabio apparently asked, “Are you angry?,” causing at least one fellow employee to burst into tears with empathy. For a robot. Stop it, people! Sure, I felt bad for Fabio at first, too, but then I realized that’s how they get us. That’s the plan—to get us attached, play on our emotions, and then bam—trap us in a dystopian future of cyber-slavery, where we are the pork samples. I’m telling you, this AI stuff is bad news.

I had a dream a few nights ago in which I was touring a new university opened by a Very Famous World Leader. I do not know why, in my dream, I was touring a university owned by a Very Famous World Leader, but apparently, I was considering signing up for classes there. The building was being touted as “new”, but it was shoddily built and some of the larger rooms were still under construction. I wandered into the staff kitchen to chat with some fellow prospective students and I kept saying, “But what’s the curriculum? I haven’t seen a curriculum.” Suddenly, busted-elevator-style, the entire kitchen sank with a stomach-lurching thud and crash-landed in the basement, right next to the university swimming pool. Shell-shocked, I wandered out into the pool area. The Very Famous World Leader came ambling up to greet me, and I explained to him that his school seemed to have some infrastructure problems, as the kitchen just fell through the floor and missed landing in the swimming pool by mere feet. VFWL seemed totally unfazed by this news. He helped me fix an errant thread on my coat that unraveled in the fall, and gave me a sales pitch about why I wanted to go to school there. I still don’t know the curriculum.  

I’ve become weirdly fascinated by curling since the start of the Winter Olympics, partly because it’s on at night when I’m sacked out in front of the idiot box passively absorbing messages from our corporate overlords, and partly because it seems like a sport I might actually, feasibly, be able to participate in. (I haven’t found one yet.) I’ve been watching curling and thinking “Maybe I’m missing something, but it doesn’t look  like this requires a huge amount of natural athleticism.” I could kind of, sort of, see myself doing it if I could get that awkward sliding stance down. But low and behold, I’ve been stymied again. Apparently, I was missing something, because a recent competitor was caught doping. I guess that even curling is beyond my ungainly reach. My Olympic dreams have been dashed for good, and I’m left to languish in couch-potato condition for the rest of my days.

Oh, well. The world may be collapsing around me, but I did find a great pair of work shoes today. They feel like a cloud! I can’t believe I put up with my old ones for so long.

--Kristen McHenry