Wednesday, October 9 2019

locks, hutspot, neighbors, fences, and bladerunner

Dear Journal,

Good morning everyone! Hope you're feeling refreshed this morning. I'm getting there. Yesterday was great, except I had a twinge in my shoulder all day. This morning it's still there, but it feels a little better. Don't you just hate it when that happens? By all accounts, sleeping on my back with my arms at my side on a travel pillow rolled under my neck is the ideal way for a human body to lie still for an entire night. I can't even imagine what went wrong. It's a mystery to me. I still sleep with arm braces at night to keep my elbow straight. It was really tricky to figure out how tightly to fasten them. There were a few weeks where I'd wake up every morning and both of my arms were completely asleep. And you can't have that.

OK - one more digression before I jump into the day. When I was little, I used to think that my arms and digits falling asleep was completely unique to me, and I thought they it an early sign of developing super powers. I used to watch this show on TV called The Secret World of Alex Mack which was about this teen girl whom, as a result of getting splashed by chemicals in an accident, could morph into a liquid blob and shoot electricity out of her finger tips. One morning I remember sitting up in bed with a tingly arm, and I spent a few minutes holding it out in front of me trying to summon lightning. There was no lightening. "Must still be developing," I thought. Morphing into liquid goo was also an appealing concept to me when I was a child. Between me and my sisters, locking each other out of our rooms when we were mad was a big power play. The locks had a spring inside that could be opened with a little pin that we kept in the bathroom closet, but you could still keep the lock flush with the doorknob on the other side of the door to keep that from working. Ah, but if I could morph into liquid, I could just seep underneath the crack in the door and re-associate as a solid on the other side. The ultimate trump card.

Back to our regularly scheduled journal entry. Yesterday was a swell day. I'm on ticket duty this week, so I spent a lot of time bouncing between things and helping people. Over lunch, I ate some leftover chicken wild rice soup and worked on my blog. If you haven't seen it, you should check out my homepage. I finally managed to fit all the previous blog posts on it in a way that didn't seem cluttered. For a while I convinced myself that it was just too much information for anyone to be interested in, but the second it was available I myself spent a good five or ten minutes browsing old journal entries and reading what I was up to at different times of the year. Anyway, I'm pretty happy with this setup. The next blog item I was planning on was going back and declassifying as many private posts as I can.

After lunch, I had a few meetings, then I jumped on the bus to head home for the day. As the #15 bus bumped along East Wash, I frantically googled around for convincing hutspot recipes. I was convinced the recipe wasn't going to work - boiling potatoes is great, but adding the same weight of carrots and onions sounded a little obtuse, and I just couldn't imagine a pot full of carrots cooking as quickly as potatoes, which made mashing them together at the end seem impossible. But I kept the faith, and before long I arrived home ready to take Rodney to the store. When I walked up the driveway, he and Marissa were decorating the front steps with Halloween decorations. There were a few light up pumpkins, some spooky spider webs, and a light up corgi dressed as a bumble bee, which Rodney nicknamed bumble bee puppy.

After some toddler feet dragging, Rodney, giraffe, and I jumped in the car. I was relieved that Hy-Vee wasn't as busy as they were the previous day. The parking lot was mostly empty, and we would have had an easier time moving through the aisles, but Rodney insisted on riding his giraffe like a horse. This was as far from a brisk gallop as you could get, and more like a pensive trudge while dragging the stuffed animal between his legs. By the time we got to the meat counter, I made him relieve giraffe to the shopping cart and walk next to me. We drove home with potatoes, carrots, onions, kale, and bacon. Before I started cooking, I opened a box I got from amazon that had Marissa and Rodney's Halloween costumes - suits from Into the Spider-Verse. Later while I was cooking I would catch Rodney sitting on the couch wearing his black Spider-Man mask.

Marissa sat in the kitchen and chatted with me, helping me peel carrots. We quartered the potatoes, carrots, and onions, piling the cuts up in the dutch oven and covering it with water. I started the stove, then prepared the bacon and kale. The water came to a boil, and I covered it. "I just don't see how this is going to work out - tonight might be a pizza night," I said covering the pot filled with vegetables. Thirty minutes later, I removed the lid and sampled a carrot. Through the magic of dutch cooking (yet again), it was soft, sweet, and somehow took on a completely new flavor while just sitting in a pot of simmering water. I drained the vegetables, then mashed them. The bright orange carrots melted into the pale potatoes, turning the mixture into this soft pastel light orange color, sweetened by the yellow onions. Just before calling everyone down for dinner, I heated up some leftover chuck steak - which wasn't a cop out, hutspot is apparently supposed to be served with braised beef. We ate dinner, and the first few minutes were silent while we studied the new recipe.

As Marissa was giving Rodney a bath, there was a knock on the door from our nextdoor neighbor. I let the dogs out the back, then joined her on the porch. I don't want to use my journal to air dirty laundry because this is a happy place for me, but it got pretty confrontational. We've had an ongoing property line dispute. Luckily this time we didn't have much to argue about, since Marissa and I are finally just getting a surveyor out to lay down the line once and for all. As a naive first time homeowner, the idea that someone could disagree about where our yard and their yard met seemed silly to me, and shelling out a few hundred dollars to get an official decision from the city seemed even sillier, but after spending some time on google, I was comforted to learn that property line disputes are pretty common, and one of the big reasons why surveying your yard and using a mediator are such a straightforward process. In hindsight, a few hundred dollars seems like a small price to pay to never have to talk to my neighbor about that damn property line again.

She seemed pleased that a surveyor was coming, and she agreed to respect the outcome, then walked off in a huff. I left to clean the kitchen, gritting my teeth as I washed dishes. One tough lesson that I've learned through this whole thing is anger has a way of corroding you over time, even if you're in the right. I'm pretty sure my neighbor is wrong about the property line. In a few days, I'll be able to prove it with a document, and she'll have to comply with it. You would think that Marissa and I would feel relieved and a little triumphant, but we've held onto this anger for so long that every outcome of this dispute just tastes bitter.

Marissa clicked around on Home Depot's website, shopping for white picket fences. "Good fences make good neighbors," I remarked as Marissa let out a tired chuckle.

After we had finished winding down, we sat on the couch and watched the rest of Blade Runner. Though it dragged at the beginning, it was a delight to finally see that dramatic "tears in the rain" ending in full context.

Today I'm working from home, hanging out with the Rodman in the morning while Marissa goes to dog class. In a few moments, I'll jump in the shower, then get him out of bed. Oh, and I forgot to mention that today I'm writing the entry on my new computer. I've upgraded to a Raspberry Pi 4, and I splurged on the model with 4 GB of RAM. Emacs is a lot snappier on this computer, and it was a welcome upgrade. Shout-out to my folks for the birthday gift card that made it happen.

Hope you have a great day today. Remember, reader - good fences make good neighbors, and there's no sense in trying to settle a property dispute without a licensed surveyor. That argument may as well be tears in the rain.