Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Coltrane plays the blues… so well… so cool… so mellow, like a smoky late-night New York bourbon buzz basement, and you can hear the click of keys and fat saxophone sound, full, vibrant, lively, soulful, playful…

It’s 10:20 of a Tuesday evening, and I’m tired. Esther is too, but on task old world house frau that she is, she’s doing dishes after doing laundry earlier. Fact, I’m sitting on a wet t-shirt, back leaning against another wet t-shirt, and when I stand I’ll be damp. Anything to help the cause. Earlier, whilst Esther laundered, I was at parent’s house and watched the Cubs beat the Giants, 3-0. Pitcher Matt Clement got a complete game shutout. His slider was something else, dipping in and out of the zone, keeping Bonds And Company guessing, and missing. While Esther laundered. Am I a chauvinist pig for being all lazy while she worked? Maybe. What was she doing when I cooked dinner? Changed the oil? Mowed lawns? We have an understanding on the division of labor. She don’t grouse. Neither do I.

Three lawns today, including two big ones. The Machniks, both 88, Ben and Mary. I always ask Ben, how you doing today? He always says, oh, the same as usual. I say, I hope that’s good. He says it’s not, but I’ll manage. Mary asked me to talk to her neighbor, who’s helping with bills and found out they are leasing two rotary phones for some ungodly price of $12 a month. She’s on aforementioned phone and asks if I can take it off the wall, and when I try to lift it, it doesn’t budge, stuck tight, all old school and stubborn. When I come in after finishing the lawn, all sweaty and drinking the last of the Gatorade Mary’d set out for me at the picnic table, said neighbor is on the line, on hold, with the phone company, trying to put an end to this whole lease silliness. And I remember reading about leasing phones, warned about it, how bad a deal it is, and wonder how many years the Machnik’s been paying on the rotary phones fixed on their walls.

The Machniks are my favorite customers. They treat me like the son they never had, a childless couple who married late in life, when they were both in their 50s, both the youngest in their respective families, helped with their parents before considering romance, lived a while on Ben’s dairy farm in Wisconsin before settling in Rockford in the 1960s. Both are very slow moving, but of sound faculties. The neighbor lady looks out for them a few times a week. And me. I do more than mow their lawn. I’ve cleaned their gutters, trimmed their hedges, cut limbs, opened a vent in their attic and tried unsuccessfully to remove their rotary phone. Mary talks my ear off and leaves a bottle of Gatorade for me every week.

Two other customers in Cherry Valley, including a big two-hour lawn job where most of the lawn is in a floodplain, then an estimate in Machesney Park, then back home to shower, and fire up the grill. Cajun-spiced brats for dinner with pan fried potatoes with mushrooms, onions and green peppers, spiced with ginger, Worcestershire sauce, Montreal steak seasoning (wow, I just realized two cities I never been to incorporated into the recipe), the requisite salt and fresh ground pepper. Yum. I’m sure to have heartburn from the two spicy brats I ate.

Then it was over to my parent’s. They were gone, at the concert in the park at the Sinnissippi band shell with Aunt Margaret and Uncle Jim, but returned when I was done running the totals in my scorebook. I’ll see them again tomorrow when I come to mow their lawn and watch an afternoon Cubs contest. My geriatric summer continues…

post-scriptum: a funny diversion of a web site I read about the other day in the Rockford Register Star is www.peoplesayilooklike.com. Another web site I visit on a daily basis and reply to the forums and read about Pacific Crest Trail hikers is www.trailjournals.com

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