Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Light at the End of the Tunnel

My husband and I have always wanted to buy an industrial building and turn it into living space. That is just the kind of people we are—stupid people. We almost bought a hospital once and at a different time a school, but passed on both for various reasons--so the search continues. Recently my husband saw an ad for a railroad tunnel for sale. Part of the ad read: For sale: one gently used railroad tunnel, natural air conditioning, excellent storage possibilities. My husband was all over it.

“Let’s buy it!”
“We could turn it into a house.”
“It would be fun; it could be our grand adventure.”
“I am too young to die.”

It turns out the tunnel is a half mile long, twenty-one feet high and runs through the center of a mountain. It comes with fifty-four acres of commercial property and even on hot summer days stays an even fifty-one degrees temperature.

“Well I need light if I am going to live in a cave.”
“It isn’t a cave, it is a tunnel and we can get some lamps.”
“No, I mean sunlight, I am not a mole.”
“Each of the tunnel ends can be made into big glass windows.”
“Yeah but what about the center, it would be like, dark. Couldn’t we put in some windows on the side?”
“It is in the center of a mountain, how do you propose I carve windows out of the mountainside?”

A Coeur d'Alene real estate company is marketing the property for a man named Don Parker, owner of the tunnel. Mr. Parker points out its potential for enterprises that thrive in cool, dark places, like commercial mushroom production or wine storage. Parker said he's confident that the tunnel could again be part of a viable commercial venture.

“Well if you didn’t want to live there we could turn it into a business.”
“You don’t know how to drive a train.”
“I don’t mean that. I mean something unique.”
“Like what?”
“I know, how about . . . a restaurant.”
“A restaurant?”
“Yeah, and we could get a spotlight and a train whistle, then when everyone is eating we could turn on the spot light and blow on the whistle and pretend a train is coming.”
“We would be the only restaurant around that has to have a doctor on-call for when our customers go into cardiac arrest.”
“Ok, well how about the world’s largest dark room?”
“Most people use digital cameras now.”
“We could harvest bat guano. I have heard of people doing that.”
“You have not heard of people doing that. Nobody does that! What would we do ‘that’ for? I do not want to harvest bat guano. One bat in the tunnel is a deal-breaker for me.”
“Ok fine. I know--how about the world’s biggest smoker? We just herd the cows in and light it up. Voila, 2 tons of beef jerky.”
“Oh yeah? Who is going in afterward and scooping up ½ a mile of meat?”
“I don’t know. Why do I have to think of everything?”

The newspaper article continued with: "I believe that it's the most unusual property that we've dealt with," said Thomas Tagen, the listing agent with Tomlinson North Idaho Sotheby's International Realty. No kidding.

“How about this idea--we could raise veal.”
“I thought you didn’t like sheep?”
“Veal is baby cows, not sheep.”
“The calves are born and then are put in a box so they don’t move around much. They get fed all the time and kept in the dark for a few weeks, all the while getting juicy and tender, and then they go to slaughter.”
“Oh my gosh! That is terrible. Is that true?”
“The poor little cows; I don’t think I could be a veal farmer.”
“Ok, how about we open a daycare.”
“A daycare?!! I just said I don’t want to torture cows, but you think torturing kids would be ok?”
“A daycare would not be torture, it would be a big open space for them to run.”
“Yeah, like run away.”
“When the parents drop them off we could just lock ‘em in. They would be glad to see their mom’s and dad’s at the end of the day. The tricky part would be getting them to come back . . . .”
“I think it would be cruel to keep them in the dark all day and send them home for dinner and then off to bed . . . in the dark.”

The article went on to quote the Real Estate agent Tagen, who said, “The tunnel itself has deep psychological meaning, that's why you see so many films with tunnels." Tagen then said. "There's an element of mystery and intrigue." That’s us, mysterious and intriguing; all our friends say so, only they call it weird and scary.

“Ok, how about this for a business idea--a beauty parlor? You wouldn’t even have to be good at it. It isn’t like they could see themselves in the mirror.”
“I am still sad about the veal.”
“Alright, no more talk about the veal. Think happy thoughts. How about we make the tunnel into a bar?”
“A bar?!”
“Why do you keep repeating everything I say?”
“I thought if you heard it repeated back to you, it might give you some idea of what it sounds like to a normal person.”
“Anyway, about the bar . . . We serve drinks in the center of the tunnel. That way, by the time everyone walks back to their car they are sober. It would cut down on drunk driving. We would be doing a community service.”
“This conversation is making me want to drink.”
“Well, how about this idea—a church!”
“I am just gonna come right out and say it: you have lost your mind.”
“Hear me out. We could re-use the spotlight and train whistle idea—that would be sure to get people down on their knees. Plus, if we close off each end of the tunnel the congregants are stuck there for the whole sermon!”
“Well, I certainly know who I will be praying for.”
“Ok this is the last idea I have, how about the world’s largest strip mall? We hand out flash-lights at the door with low-batteries and put a Radio Shack in the center—with batteries always on sale! I am telling you, I smell money!”
“I smell smoke that is for certain. Listen, if you really want this tunnel thing, we can get it. I’m not really “on board” with any of your business ideas, but maybe it could be a summer home that only you visit, or maybe the world’s largest man cave. If we do buy it though, can we get one of those vintage handcar thingies like they have in cartoons? I always wanted to try one.”

Hurry and act now, this train tunnel won’t last long. This is a limited time offer and it can be yours for the low, low price of $650,000!--unless of course, we get it first.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

A Toast to Mothers

In anticipation of Mother’s Day I thought I would talk to you a little bit about being in the trenches. It isn’t easy out there; raising the next generation of humans. There is no boot camp, training manual, or rule book for being a mom. Everyone gives advice on being a parent but it is often contradictory and impractical for those of us living in the real world. My grandmother was one of the only people who ever gave me real, no-nonsense advice on motherhood—she handed me a recipe for hot toddies and told me to be sure and make one for each child before bed. “Grandma, you can’t give babies alcohol.”
“Why not?”
“Um, it is against the law.”
“Well, I’ll be! The government has to get involved in everything. When did they change that?”
“I’m not sure. I just know that giving alcohol to infants would be mandatory jail time.”
“Not to worry dear, I have a solution. Just make the same number of drinks, but instead of giving them to the children, save them for yourself.”

Having enough liquor in the house is, unfortunately, not enough preparation for motherhood. And no matter how many books you read, advice you get from well-meaning friends, or therapy you receive, there are just some things you cannot prepare for.

I took my sons for a walk and every few feet my oldest son would stomp on the sidewalk. I couldn’t figure out what he was doing so I finally asked. He said, “Hey Mom, *Stomp* are you *Stomp* feeling any pain?” *Stomp*
“Are you stepping on cracks trying to ‘break my back’?!”
“Yep. I know there is ice cream at home. If you fall down from a broken back I could beat you back to the house and eat it all before you could stop me.”
“Well it is a good thing that stomping thing doesn’t work.”
“Yeah, it was worth a shot.”

You try to teach your children right from wrong, but sometimes they just don’t see the value in your lessons.

I was explaining to my sons a little bit about being a gentleman. Like when a gentleman takes a lady for a walk he always walks closest to the road. My five year old asked why.
I said, “Well to shield her from debris that might fly up from cars, and to protect her from being splashed by puddles, and if a car gets close enough to hit them, his body would shield her. It is a way of being polite.”
Then the five-year-old says, “If a car hits them, she could still die. I don’t get how that is polite.”

And no matter what you try to teach them, they are learning information from other sources, some of which you cannot control. No matter how hard you try--you cannot control what your kids hear, think, or say . . .

My twelve-year-old son James had a friend over one afternoon and they were talking about how disturbing the health (read: puberty) videos at school were. James said, “I learned more than I ever wanted to know about girls.” His friend agreed.
His little brother Jason piped up with, “Well I know a lot about girls already.”
“Bud, this isn’t stuff most kids know,” James tried to explain.
The little one said, “Oh I know a ton of stuff about girls.”
Then the older and wiser brother says, “You might think you do, but not these things.”
Jason came back with, “Well at least I know some things. Like I know how girls look. I have seen Mom without her clothes on!”

The visiting friend has not been back since.

So in preparation for Mother’s Day, let us all join forces for the difficult job that is parenting. Let us support one another and take a day off from judging other mothers. It is a tough job, not for the faint of heart or those without a large and amply stocked liquor cabinet.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Til Death Do Us Part

My sister was talking to me on the phone, telling me the reasons why she couldn’t get any sleep the night before. Evidently, her husband had been keeping her awake by being noisy, getting in and out of bed, and generally being a nuisance. Then, when he was finally ready to settle down and go to sleep, he rolled over and said, “Honey, are you awake? I have gas.” I supported her in the way that only a sister can. I said, “Do you ever look over at your husband and think, if only I had held the pillow down over his face just a few seconds longer, we would not be having this conversation?”

Marriage is an interesting institution. I have had many people ask me what makes a good marriage, and by many, I mean no one. Of course, not being an expert has never stopped me from giving advice before and it won’t stop me now. Who needs expertise when you have drive, ambition and a general lack of good sense? So let us take a moment to explore this establishment we call marriage.

I really do wish I knew what the secret to a good marriage is. Is it, communication, intimacy, romance, quality time, freedom to be oneself? Who knows? Each book, movie, and video says something different. One book I read said the secret to a good marital relationship is knowing how to fight together. The book purports that if you can’t fight fairly with your spouse then your marriage won't last. I was talking to a recently divorced friend about that theory and she said her ex didn’t care enough to fight in their marriage. It would be safe to say my husband and I don’t have that problem.

Him: “Where did you put my sweatshirt?”
Me: “What sweatshirt?”
Him: “The black one.”
Me: “I didn’t take it.”
Him: “Then where is it?”
Me: “I don’t know. Where did you put it?”
Him: “I didn’t put it anywhere. I had it yesterday and now it is gone.”
Me: “Well the hamper is empty and there are no clothes in the dryer or in the laundry basket, if it isn’t in the closet then I have no idea where it is.”
Him: “Why are you hiding it from me?!”
Me: “What?”
Him: “Just tell me where it is!”
Me: “I don’t know where it is!”
Him: “Yes, you do!”
Me: “No! I! Don’t!”

10 minutes later.

Me: “I was vacuuming and found your sweatshirt shoved in between the bed and nightstand. It must have fallen off the bed.”
Him: “I knew you had it.”

Of course we all know that cheating is usually a marriage killer, there has been a lot of talk in the news recently about how infidelity is affecting the marriages of movie stars. This person is having an affair, this person is having multiple affairs, this one has cheated on his wife so many times he has a hard time remembering what she looks like, etc. It makes one wonder if anyone’s marriage is safe from unfaithfulness.

Me: “Honey, have you ever had an affair?”
Him: “What?”
Me: “You know, have you ever cheated on me? You can tell me. I just need to know, for my own peace of mind.”
Him: “Listen, I can’t make one woman happy. What in the heck would I want with two?!”

I went to a ladies-only bible study where the instructor encouraged us to stop bossing our husbands around. One thing she insisted on is that we stop telling our husbands to ask for directions when they are driving somewhere (even if he is lost) because doing so would make him feel “adored.” I decided to ask my husband his feelings on the subject.

Me: “If I didn’t tell you to ask for directions would you feel adored?”
Him: “No.”
Me: “How about if I stopped telling you how to drive?”
Him: “That isn’t the word I would use. I might feel more relaxed; but adored, no.”
Me: “What if I stopped suddenly gasping every time we passed someone on the freeway? Adored?”
Him: “Um, still no. More relaxed still, but I would wonder what is wrong with you.”
Me: “So if I can’t tell you how to drive why do you get to tell me how to drive?”
Him: “I tell you how to drive so that you won’t hit things.”
Me: “You think I am a bad driver?”
Him: “No, I didn’t say that. But . . . .”
Me: “What???”
Him: “You did hit a parked car pulling out of the driveway.”
Me: “It could have happened to anyone.”
Him: “You ran into the drive thru box at Subway.”
Me: “It was in an awkward location.”
Him: “You go the same speed on the highway as you do in town. If you can call 35 mph 'speed.'”
Me: “No one needs to go 70 mph.”
Him: “You hit a pedestrian!”
Me: “I hit one pedestrian and no one ever lets me forget it!”
Him: “Most drivers don’t run over people.”
Me: “He wasn’t even in a crosswalk.”
Him: “How many bodies do you need to leave in your wake before enough is enough?!”
Me: “I see your point. So I shouldn’t give you driving instructions?”
Him: “Affirmative.”

I was reading the news and came across a headline that read “Woman Stabs Husband Over Honey-Do List” and all I could think was, man, haven’t we all been there before? Every time I go to a wedding I think of when my husband and I took our vows. “Richer, poorer, sickness, health, blah, blah, blah, ‘til death do you part.” That end part, that is my favorite. "Til death," which loosely translated means someone ain’t gettin' out of this thing alive. When Ruth Graham, wife of famed evangelist Billy Graham, asked if she ever considered divorce she said, “Divorce? No. Murder? Yes.” I like the way she thinks.

The other night I rolled over in the bed and my husband flinched.
Me: “What are you flinching for?”
Him: “I thought you were going to try and suffocate me with a pillow.”
Me: “It was at least a foot from your face.”
Him: “Yes but I had my eyes closed and when I opened them the pillow was coming toward me. My instinct is to move away from someone that I think may be trying to kill me.”
Me: “I would not kill you by suffocation. You are bigger and stronger than me, you could just push me away. So what would be the point in trying?”
Him: “True, I always figured you for a poisoner anyway.”
Me: “What?”
Him: “You would try to poison me. With arsenic or anti-freeze or rat poison. Something like that. You would just offer me something sweet laced with poison, because you know I can’t resist the sugar. Then next thing you know, I’m dead.”
Me: “You are crazy. I couldn’t even get a hold of poison. It isn’t like they sell it on every street corner.”
Him: “They do sell rat poison everywhere.”
Me: “Oh yeah, where?”
Him: “Like I am going to tell you.”
Me: “Oh. My. Gosh. You are certifiable.”
Him: “Well, if you must know, you can get it at the hardware store.”
Me: “Where they have video cameras? They have video cameras in more places than they have rat poison. So that would be a ‘no’ on poison.”
Him: “Lucky me.”
Me: “Well, since you are being morbid, how would you ‘off’ me?”
Him: “I would tell you something so scary you would keel over from a heart attack. That way I am sort of innocent. I mean, it isn’t my fault you’re a scaredy-cat.”
Him: “Yeah, more bang-for-my buck, so to speak.”
Me: “You really are nuts.”
Him: “Sleep tight.”
Me: “Like I could go to sleep after this conversation.”

I have heard the saying “If you love something set it free, and if it comes back to you then it is truly yours.” Or some such nonsense. My motto is: If you love something, keep it close to you, smother it if you have to, it is your sworn duty to make it miserable for life. After all, you did promise ‘til death.’