Wednesday, March 22, 2023

I may be absent for awhile

You may not see me blogging or commenting on others blogs for a bit.  My way of living is so predictable, so routine that when life throws me a curveball, it’s hard for me to focus on typical, everyday things.

On Saturday, March 18 I was laying on my bed watching youtube videos on my tablet when I was assaulted by an offensive, oily smell wafting from the upper wall vent across from my bed. 

I didn’t have a clue what it could be—I’ve lived here for 6 years and I’ve never experienced anything like that. 

I opened a bedroom window to air things out, and went into the other room.  I could soon smell it coming from the livingroom vent too. 

I called my building’s maintenance and told them the issue.

Two men arrived Monday morning, both claimed they didn’t really smell anything “but I gotta understand, they’re in a lot of apartments every day doing a lot of sniffing”.  They suggested I try opening my windows and leaving them open for the day (which I did, even though it was only 28F outside).

At least the cold air was distracting; but when I got up Tuesday morning, the smell was still coming in thru the ductwork, I called Steiner Realty again and reported no change.  When they suggested I try opening all my windows again, I raised a ruckus and said they could start looking at the heat/ac blower in my bathroom ceiling, for all I know it’s leaking oil.  Then I got dressed and headed to a doctor’s appointment.

I was happily surprised when I got home and found 3 men in my bathroom, with half of the ceiling removed.  They were replacing my apartment’s blower, and showed me the old motor and said it didn’t have a bad smell but was 15 years old and probably needing replaced soon anyway.  But there was no oil or anything.  The new motor rattles a bit (I’m hoping it calms down with time) but there’s no smells coming from it.  This smell wafting into my apartment thru the wall ducts only comes when the blower ISN’T running. 

For all I know, the young man who lives directly below me or the young couple directly above me are cooking or smoking meth, and I’m smelling it.  I don’t know what else this could be.  Steiner (my building’s management) certainly doesn’t have a clue.

My sister invited me to come down and stay with them for a bit.  I was thinking a couple days but she suggested longer.  That’s very generous of her (and it’s not like I have anything else going on) so we’ll see.  It will be nice seeing them.  And breathing some good air!

I hope everyone out there in Blogville is doing alright, and you can pardon my tardiness.  Thanks for listening (as always), take care.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

This old house: after 50 plus years, I think I’m finally ready to move on

Can I share something a bit long, a bit odd?  Back in mid-February I’d written about going to visit my old apartment here in the city.  My friend Robin emailed me a day or so later and said that after reading my post, she had a dream where she got to revisit her childhood home.

Wow—I thanked her for passing that along, then thanked her for reminding me to do the same.  Y’see, since Google Maps began photographing the planet in February 2005, I’ve been waiting patiently for them to capture MY childhood home.  Every so often I’d go on to Google Maps, plug in the address—260 South Cumberland Street—nothing.

But finally, after 17 years there it was.  That’s my childhood home on Cumberland Street at the top.  It’s weird to see the empty space on it’s left, when I was a child an old Polish woman named Katie lived in a gray tiled house right next to ours.  It was torn down 40+ years ago.

To our right was the Johnsons, and over the years I’ve seen it on realty sites like Howard Hanna being sold again & again!

Not our house though—the people who bought it and moved in after us are still the same owners. 

We left there the week before school began, in August 1970.  We moved “to the country” 7-8 miles outside of town.  It wasn’t really a farm, but at times we had a couple livestock and a giant vegetable garden.  We called it the farmhouse and made a lot of happy memories there. 

(I’ve talked about our farmhouse before, and after discovering an aerial photograph was taken of it in the 1970s, I shared it here.)

But before the farmhouse, we lived in town in a nice neighborhood that was my world.  One block down from us was a pair of sisters the same age as my sister Shawn & myself, Jackie & Sharon Howard.  One block down and to the right was a girl in my class, Heidi Sisler.  She lived with her parents & brother in an apartment above the bakery.

One block up and to the right was Jeff Tewell and his mountain of comics.  John Lacava. Chuck Zimmerman.  A girl my older brother was sweet on, Lynn Mancuso.  And one block up and to the left was Waynesburg High School.  It’s where my parents attended school in the 1950s, and Dads’ brothers & sisters, and where my brainy Aunt Dena was an English teacher.  I was very excited to go to that school.

Margaret Bell Miller High School, which is now a middle school 

We walked past here every day on our way to South Ward Elementary. 

And a block west of this school was my friend Greg Leathers.  He was also in my class, and would go on to become the mayor of Waynesburg. 

But back when I knew him, he liked to draw like me and had a “Creepy Crawler Maker” where you heated colored goop and poured it into strange bug molds.  (I remember it getting really hot; I can’t imagine it being marketed to children today!)

I made a pretty big fuss about moving, I didn’t want to go.  But our sister Donda was 18 months old and outgrowing her crib which was in our parents bedroom.  Our sister Shawn’s room was too tiny for a second bed.

And Dad, who grew up on a farm, had recently learned of a larger house in the country (on one of the gas company’s wells too, meaning free natural gas). 

The last week of school, my teacher Mr. Porter had me stand in front of the class and tell them where I was going in the fall.  I told them I’d be attending Leprechaun School in the country. 

(It’s actual name was Lippencott School.  I don’t remember Mr. Porter correcting me!)

For years afterward the house on Cumberland became my scapegoat, everytime something went wrong.  If I was bullied in school, disliked one of my teachers, rejected by a girl, worried I didn’t have enough friends, I’d think “I’m not supposed to be here, my life was in Waynesburg, on Cumberland Street.”  

But with all things, I eventually stopped doing that and got on with my life. 


Shawn, Steve, myself, Duke & our sister Donda celebrating her first birthday on Cumberland St.

Those feelings made a comeback of sorts, the spring of ‘78.  I was a junior at Jefferson-Morgan High School and it was time to take the SATs.  The exams were at Waynesburg College, in town.  After I arrived and got situated, a couple girls came up to me and said “Doug Morris?  Hey guys, look who’s here!”  

I was befriended by a group of childhood classmates I hadn’t seen in years, and it was such a warm experience it made my heart ache a little for what might’ve been. 

Anyway… I was always appreciative of our years growing up in the country.  And with 5 brothers & sisters, we weren’t lacking the company of other kids!  But I think this explains why I live where I do now, all these years later.  Once a townie, always a townie.       

And finally, a goofy but honest-to-God real story

In that house on Cumberland, there were 2 doors that faced one another directly outside the entrance to the kitchen.  The door on the left was the basement steps, the right was a shallow closet with shelves, our food pantry.

One day I detected a small loop of twine on the wall in that pantry below the bottom shelf.  When I pulled on it, a small square of drywall swung outward, about the size of a slice of bread.  When I showed it to my dad and asked what it was, he said he didn’t know as it didn’t look large enough to store anything.

But it WAS big enough to hide my life savings—$2.09, which I kept in a baby-food jar.  I placed it in that hole along with one of the Creepy Crawlers Greg Leathers had given me (hoping a rubbery spider would scare off curious fingers).  After I closed it, I pulled off that tiny loop of twine.

Over time I forgot about it, until a month or so after we moved to the farmhouse.  I told my mom “I left my life savings in our old house!”  When she asked where I left it, I said the food pantry.  Mom said “Oh honey, a family with 2 daughters moved in there—they probably found & spent it already!”

I didn’t tell her about the hole in the wall below the bottom shelf, but for years I wondered if it was ever discovered.  And now, I’d rather not know.  I want to believe my life savings of $2.09 is still there, after all these years.

And still being protected by one of the Mayor of Waynesburg’s Creepy Crawlers. Alien

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

To coffee table or not to coffee table; that is the question

A couple months back, my sister sent me this photo and said “A year from now when Sophia is away at college, this will be on my television 24-7.” 

That’s my 18 year old niece Sophia on the tv screen, who is a senior and starts college in the fall.  I told Shawn I believed her 110%.

Meanwhile, isn’t this a nice room?  At the same time, I thought “it’s been 17 years since my sister had a coffee table.” 

When Sophia was a baby and doing a lot of crawling, Shawn decided it was in her kid’s way and they didn’t need it.  I can still remember thinking “this is crazy!  Who doesn’t have a coffee table??”

It turns out plenty don’t have a coffee table, including me.  But I didn’t set out NOT to have one.  In fact, I want one as much as I don’t want one.  I’m faced with a real conundrum here.

When I moved to my new apartment in the spring of 2017, I sold or gave away almost everything from my old apartment, my former coffee table included.  It was part of my “Ethan Allen collection” of 2 matching tables and 3 heavy bookcases, all cherry.

I wanted to go with a minimalist, industrial look—and no matching pieces.  Of the 5 Ethan Allen pieces, I kept one end-table.

I procastinated getting a new coffee table, I liked the freedom of not having to walk around one when I got up from my couch.  At the same time, my living room is large, and not having one makes the room feel empty.  So I finally decided it was time to buy one… then developed severe lower limb edema in both legs. 

My doctor suggested I start walking a lot more (which I now do, daily) and to keep my legs elevated or stretched out in the evenings when I’m watching tv.  That’s when I got off the couch and on the floor, and I’ve been down here ever since.I use my couch as a backrest, and the ivory blanket on the floor is where I do my stretching exercises, watch tv, work on my blog, eat my dinner, read Star Trek Magazine, take calls, drink coffee & plan my takedown of the GOP

I’ve been doing things this way for 16 months now, since October 2021, and have gotten quite accustomed to it.  (Plus it saved my legs.)  Did you know this is not so uncommon?  In South Korea, it’s called “Korean floor culture” and many families do their day to day living on the floor.

(Many have couches for guests, but use them as a backrest, same as me!)

Anyway—lately I’ve been wondering if it’s time I rejoined conventional society and got a coffee table.  I like the idea, but I like the floor too so I just don’t know.  I’m wondering if there’s a way I can have it both ways. 

Here’s a few I’ve been looking at, from Amazon & Wayfair.             

Of the 4 tables above, each one (at one time or another) was my favorite; but I’m pretty sure the final table, the Remus is what I’m going to end up buying if I go this route.  It’s the lowest priced, but honestly that is my least concern. 

I want something with a minimal, industrial look and the reviews said it was sturdy but not heavy.

And hey--if it’s too spare, I can always go with something like the one below.  Amazon says they have plenty of these in stock.          I’m kidding, of course!  Any thoughts?  Suggestions?  Eye rolling smile