I’m gonna give you everything
I am wheeling my Kohler “Memoirs” 4257-0 round-front toilet bowl and matching tank across the Home Depot parking lot under a hot August sun. This is my third trip to said store in as many days and is surely not going to be my last. We are having our bathroom renovated.
I’ve already had a productive morning. I chased the squirrels out of our tomato plants and hung Husband’s shirts out to dry. (OK, so a couple of them hit the dirt in the process – that’s why they do a quick spin in the dryer after they come off the line.) I planned the menu for an upcoming dinner party, deciding on my new signature salad, adapted from Gourmet: arugula tossed with watermelon, red onion and feta. (Alas, our arugula is already all harvested; I’ll have to settle for store-bought.) I also prepped my to-do list to prepare for our houseguest from Baton Rouge who arrives next week. So busy. So much to do.
The right front wheel on my dolly wobbles, causing me to reel across the parking lot. I involuntarily take aim at the other home improvers and contractors I’ve come to recognize as brethren. Earlier in the week, I even saw the fix-it guy from the WCSH-TV show “207,” who I think is also an Elvis impersonator. As I careen, my gaze falls on the word “Memoirs” printed on the box before me, and my mouth twists into a wry smile. Three-and-a-half years earlier, I was sure that word would figure prominently in my future – although not in porcelain-round-bowl-sort-of-way.
You see, for those of you who aren’t old enough to remember the now-defunct Casco Bay Weekly (OK, it’s not been that long, but it seems that way to at least one of its former stars who now ghosts around the streets of Portland like a post-“Mork & Mindy” Pam Dawber), I wrote a little column called “Outta My Way.” It was widely loved by all who read it, except for those who hated it, whose numbers were not few. You could say I had something of a rep as being a black-wearing, beer-drinking, loudmouth, ire-inspiring, downtown reprobate – albeit with nice manners, a strong Yankee work ethic and cootie issues. But then there was a nasty coup at the paper, the editorial staff was fired and I quit in solidarity. (Or something like that – my column had pretty much run its course, and I was looking for a graceful yet dramatic exit strategy. A nasty coup came in handy.)
At the time, I had a fancy New York agent (OK, if you insist, I’ll name drop – she also represented Jonathan Franzen), who was interested in getting the collected “Outta My Way” published. I began lounging around, picturing my whirlwind book tour and framing my pithy, witty answers for the inevitable interviews with Terry and Katie and Oprah. I thought how beautiful my book would look snugged up to the latest David Sedaris in the “Memoirs/Hilarious and Heartbreaking” section of every major bookseller. “Just like two mutant peas in a genetically engineered pod,” I’d say to Terry, when she asked how my new best friend, Blisters, and I were getting along – except that she’d say “David,” because “Blisters” is an inside joke from “Santaland Diaries” that only insiders like me would get. With all that fabulousness that was about to befall me, who had time to write a column?
It’s a struggle to get the tank into the back of my car. A Buick pulls up next to me, and a white-haired, cigarette-smoking guy wearing white footies with his fake boat shoes and a thick gold chain slung around his neck, gets out and walks by without giving me a look. “Child pornographer,” I growl under my breath, as I heave the box up over the edge of the hatch and into the car, where it lodges. I circle around to the front and try to drag the thing through, breaking a fingernail in the process. My fingernail. I broke my fingernail.
The tears start to come, and not for the frigging fingernail or for the ironic toilet bowl name or the fact that the New York agent thing fell through and there was no national book tour or interviews or chumming around with Blisters. Nor was it because I waited too long to a buy a house in Portland and was thus priced off the peninsula and forced to move to the ‘burbs, where I woke up one morning and discovered I had turned into a suburban housewife, who happily works at home and does her husbands shirts and drives a Subaru and stands at her sink and nicknames all the birds at the feeder and goes to the farmers’ market in the Oaks on Saturday mornings (after coffee and croissant at Portland Coffee Roasters) and elbows for prosciutto and fresh mozzarella with all the Cape Elizabeth matrons at Miccuci’s and throws a hissy fit when Standard runs out of baguette before noon and pines for the former Green Grocer – the same kind of person I used to sneer at – sneer, I tell ya – all my life.
(I have told my friend Joyce that I am going to have to live to be 100 in order to have sufficient time to eat all my words about everything I’ve ever made fun of and am now a party to.)
No, the tears are because I miss my column. For over three years, I’ve had no way to process our year-and-a-half house search or the travails involved in fixing up our fixer-upper or what it was like to have my first book published (“Maine & Me” – go buy it) or any of the other curveballs and cooties life has thrown my way. I am having what you might call a column build-up breakdown.
As fate would have it, however, my old pal and former CBW editor Chris Busby had asked me to contribute to The Bollard. As I finally wrestle the toilet tank into place, I realize it is time to end my retirement. Complaint, after all, is my calling, what I am meant to do.
So, here I am, back. You might as well get comfortable, because we have a whole lotta catching up to do. But in case you think domestic bliss has turned me into a suburban creampuff, or that the name of this new column is anything but toilet-bowl ironic, rest assured I am still the same black-wearing, beer-drinking, loudmouth, ire-inspiring, “Outta My Way” reprobate I’ve always been – it’s just that now I have a yard and a pedestal sink with porcelain-cross handles.
And anyone who thinks otherwise will have to take it up with the unfloured side of my marble rolling pin.