The Decline of Western Civilization IV- the Quarantine Years

I vacuumed my attic last week.

In case you missed it, I’d like to redirect your attention for a moment to my About page wherein I do mention that there will be swearing.

Now, let me rephrase that: I fucking vacuumed my attic last week.

This wasn’t an “I’m so bored, I’m gonna. . . ” event. A few years ago, a tree fell on our house during the Halloween Snowpocalypse. It narrowly missed a kid (#1) and smashed our pumpkins, but the damage wasn’t too bad. Just the corner of the roof and gutters.

About six months later, the next tree fell on our house. The trees had the crap beat out of them several years in a row because of hurricanes and such, we had a super rainy spring, and BAM!

Tree on the house, again.

It is loud, in case you’re wondering.

This one was also not terribly damaging because it only went through to the attic floor and landed on some boxes of paperwork. Paperwork that, it turns out, never really needed to be saved anyway, and which I have somewhat recently (having found myself with a bit of spare time) shredded the living shit out of.

Three days – yes, days – after the roof was fixed, the third tree came down on the house in nearly the exact same spot. Coincidentally, just as the tree guy was driving past to check out his work.

You’re not fooling anyone, tree.

I really hate trees.

I should also mention that none of these were our trees. They were not on our property.


Oh, and the roof was only like three years old at the time. The trees didn’t even have the decency to take out parts of the house that could have used some upgrades, like perhaps the vomit-inducing kitchen wallpaper or the crawlspace-level laundry room windows, which are fantastically unclean.

One of the things that doesn’t happen when a tree goes through your attic roof is a thorough interior cleaning on the part of the insurance people and contractors. I mean, they get the tree out, but that’s about it as far as cleaning goes. The bits that explode through the inside of the attic as the tree falls – the tree parts and roof parts and attic parts, all that crap? That’s on you. Unsurprisingly, all three trees’ worth of that was still up there.

Until last week.

I’m not entirely sure what trait it is in me that made me so determined to take care of this task on what was, so far, the hottest day of the year. Possibly it is related to the same karma that had three fucking trees fall on my house in a six-month period. But one doesn’t simply don Daisy Dukes and a tank top to engage in a Battle Royal between an industrial ShopVac, roof beam splinters, ripped shingles, and roofing nails.

Naturally, I wore jeans and a Rush t-shirt.

I’ve seen attics on television and in the movies that you just walk up into, through a normal door and up a normal set of stairs, and you get up there and you can stand fully upright through the whole attic and there’s good lighting and air circulation.

Liars, all of them.

We have that folding ladder you pull down from the ceiling, except it doesn’t line up straight and you have to bungee the sections into place so they don’t collapse under you.

The attic interior is a beam construction, cleverly designed so that no two spots are the same height and it’s entirely possible, and in fact likely, that if you manage to find a place where you can squat or kneel in such a way that your back doesn’t seize up, then the beam you are about to bash your head into is somehow out of your line of sight.



Whatever the weather is outside, the AtticIndex makes it nine times as bad inside. If it’s a little chilly out, inside the attic you’re fending off frostbite. If it’s warm out, inside the attic it’s sweltering. If the weather outside is perfect, inside the attic it smells and there are spiders.

I sweat. I can’t help it. There’s no glistening, no glowing. I sweat extensively in humid weather – it doesn’t even have to be warm. But this day? When it was Everglades out? I was Florida Man inside the attic. I don’t think I’ve ever actually sweat through jeans all the way from hip to ankle before. I looked like I’d done a double Bikram class in street clothes by the time I finished. It took longer than that, though.

While flop-vacuuming and head-bashing, I amused myself by thinking how incredibly freaked out the kids would be if they were up in the attic with me. My kids are irrationally afraid of spiders. It’s pretty unfortunate for them, because we have a shitload of spiders at our house. Many of them were in the attic.

Now they’re in the ShopVac.

Here be spiders

I also had the misfortune of vacuuming the attic on the day that CC and the kids finished building the upper level of the patio. It looks freaking amazing. I’m so very impressed by him. But I vacuumed the fucking attic and nobody cares because, apparently, finishing a bluestone project (yes, from scratch) is way more impressive.


But did I mention I vacuumed my attic?

What fresh hell are you getting into these days?


Felt cute, might relocate later.

Disclaimer: This post is partially about hunting. My family eats meat and I don’t enter into any debates about that. If you need to debate, get yourself over to another blog. Speaking of other blogs, here’s one by a lovely lady who doesn’t eat meat and is not an a-hole about it: Go Jules Go.

A while back, CC went on an elk hunting trip in Colorado with his nephew, Russ. It was kind of a big deal and there was a lot of preparation. He had to train for the elevation and the weight of his gear as well as practice with the rifle he would be using.

I was prepared to not hear from him for nearly a week after they left base camp because there was no phone service of any kind on the mountain.

So when, four days in, my phone rang, displaying the area code of the base camp, I just about had kittens and was already figuring out how to tell the kids their dad was killed in a horrible accident before I answered the call.

CC was not dead; he was unexpectedly, efficiently, successful. He got an elk five minutes into the start of the season. After they did their processing and hauling, they camped and fished for a few days and then figured they’d head towards civilization (my guess is that they’d run out of scotch).

Perhaps equally as daunting as the physical training were the logistics of transporting the gear both ways by air, and now, home, the elk.

Or as we came to call him, Jerry.

Jerry fed my family (and a couple others) very well that winter and we are most grateful for his sacrifice.

CC had Jerry’s skull and antlers processed for a European mount. Jerry came back in much bubble wrap and has been hanging out in the garage for a while – sometimes in my Mustang. He was a project on the “When We Get Time” list.

Enter the quarantine, and New Jersey spring. CC’s patio project is moving along splendidly on good weather days. Rainy days, though, he has to find something to do.

I came in from a rainy walk the other day to this:


I laughed out loud. We had always talked about mounting Jerry over the bed. We were both aware of the size of Jerry. We are both aware of the size of our bedroom. However.

Hello, third wheel

I truly can’t stop giggling every time I notice Jerry- which, let’s be honest, is THE ENTIRE TIME I’M IN MY BEDROOM.

He’s a bit much, don’t you think?

I won’t even go into the Feng Shui aspects of sleeping under a skull, because, apparently, I collect skulls, and Jerry fits right in.

I do not collect skulls.

I always feel like/ somebody’s watching me . . .

I participated in a work-related webinar today. Last night in advance of this, I informed the children they would become homeless if they even thought of using our already overtaxed internet bandwidth during this call, and that I would be using the room next to #4’s.

#4: Why don’t you do the call in your room?

Me: I just don’t think it’s very professional to have an elk skull with my underpants on his antlers in the background.

Because no matter what I do, CC always finds a moment to sling a pair of them up there.


Jerry will be relocated, one of these upcoming rainy days. The kids are one hundred percent freaked out by him, so I’m thinking he may look good in one of their bedrooms. In the meantime, just know that right now, when I wake up in the middle of the night, I see dead things.

View from my pillow.

So what quarantine home projects are you going to have to re-do?

Time Well Spent

I’ve been hanging with #5 today. He’s taller every time I see him, which right now is only every Sunday. He’s fourteen. A freshman. Still chatty. He’ll hug me again now, but only sideways and only as long as I don’t make eye contact with him.

Now, I don’t know if this is a boys vs girls thing, or a unique characteristic to #5, but holy cow he’s a space cadet right now. At least, I hope it’s just right now. I hope that it’s a phase and not the permanent state of things. It’s truly remarkable, the private world he lives in.

Yesterday he had a morning scouting event. He knew he’d be getting home after the rest of us had left for work, and before Kelsey* came. Yet, he neglected to bring his house key.

He called me when he was locked out to see when I’d be back.

We have a shared online family calendar. Each family member’s activities are indicated by their own colored dot (the dogs have a dot too, as does Kelsey. There are a lot of dots). I actually keep it updated and do nifty things like send reminders to everyone for events such as trash day– reminders which are promptly ignored. #5 can view, with two swipes on his phone, where everyone is right now. Besides this completely functional calendar, there is the fact that I’ve been in production ALL YEAR. If it’s not Sunday, and it’s not between the hours of 12:30am and 6am, I’m either at work or in transit.

Also? When I’m not in production, at 2pm on any given Saturday, I’m doing a show. That’s been my schedule for roughly the past 20 years. I can see how he might not have that down yet.




This morning, I had a couple songs from Daydream Nation stuck in my head. Since I had to work at my computer in the dining room, I set up a Sonic Youth station on Pandora. I knew it wouldn’t go well for long, but I got excited when “Teenage Riot” was the first song played. We sat at the table, me doing the budget and #5 doing homework while it cycled through Pixies and Nirvana and then started going south. Finally, he spoke up.

#5: So, what genre is this exactly? Because it sounds like pain and suffering. This music is the end of the movie where people are dying and everyone is losing things.



#5 operates under the delusion that it is possible to half-ass the chore of taking the dogs out. He believes he can take one dog out and not the other, or else not give them the time required while outside to complete all the items on their to-do list.

But the Puggles would make awful drummers. Their timing is terrible.

If you take only one dog out, the other one runs to the window exactly 45 seconds after you’ve shut the door. When you take the second one out after bringing in the first, the first one watches from the window and then when you return, attempts to convince you that they weren’t finished and need to go back out. If that dog happens to be Casey, it’s true. She needs approximately six times as long as Jack to figure things out when she’s outside. This one-in-one-out routine can go on all day.

But every single time one dog is asking to go out, #5 takes only that dog.

This morning, #5 took Jack outside. Like clockwork, Casey ran to the window and stared out. I figured I’d stop it all mid-cycle and harnessed her up. I went outside with her, told #5 she was feeling left out and handed him Casey’s leash.

Passed him the leash with the dog attached to it.

Which he reached out and took from me.

I’d scarcely sat back down when he came back in with them.

Me: Thanks, bud. Did Casey go?

#5: What?

Me: Did Casey go? You didn’t have her out there very long.

#5: I didn’t take Casey out.

There followed a back and forth, with me recounting to him the story I just told here. Afterwards, he just stared at me, totally not believing me.

#5: How is it even possible that you handed me Casey’s leash and I didn’t even see her?

Me: That is an excellent question. Welcome to my world.

September 2006


*Kelsey is our main Adult In Charge. That’ll be another post sometime.