Friday, November 28, 2003

clean, follow, or get out of the way

The one truly useful facet of my monthly visitor is that the week before she arrives, arrayed in all her sanguine glory, I get incredibly inspired to clean. The rest of the month, of course, I'm kind of a slob. But for a few brief, shiny hours, I become the raging bull of domesticity.

Happily, that ephemeral state corresponded to a day off this month, namely Thanksgiving. I woke up too early to the screaming of Mama Bear's children; Mama Bear was taking a bath and apparently pretending that she had no children, so eventually I went into their room to see what was the matter. Apparently Little Howler didn't like one of the donuts she had been dealt for breakfast, and had to make a tremendous amount of noise about it. She would not stop until the offending pastry was removed from her sight. Meanwhile Big Howler explained that I should not be in their room (I'd knocked and asked, mind) and I pointed out that since they'd woken me up, they were just going to have to deal. Mama Bear had set them up with a tape of Legally Blonde, god knows why. What happened to the good old days, when kids watched porn over breakfast?

Anyway. The trajectory of that discarded donut, there's the story. Because as I carried the plate to the kitchen, suddenly I felt it: Must... Clean... Kitchen... Grr. The primal desire to put my hair up and scrub around the stove burners was so strong I nearly released a howl of my own. Fortunately for my compulsion the drawers were a mess and there was baked-on, caked-on, exploding stuff everywhere. I had plenty to occupy me. It was a couple of hours before that picked-over donut finally made it into the trash, before I remembered why I was in the kitchen in the first place.

Something I noticed, living in the Oakland house with all those other people. If you start deep-cleaning, the other inhabitants of the space will generally do one of two things: start cleaning, or beat a hasty retreat. Mama Bear, her boyfriend, and the Howlers naturally took option two, and headed out to the park after much hush-hushing. Ohayoo, to my surprise and delight, came out of his room after I'd been sorting take-out pizza red-pepper packets from plastic forks from birthday cake candles for about an hour and a half and decided that he wanted to clean too. Apparently he was reminded of New Year's in Japan, when--he told me--everybody does a serious cleaning to welcome the new year. We had the longest conversation we've had to date as he methodically took everything out of the refrigerator, one shelf at a time, and scrubbed the fridge interior within an inch of its life. Oh, it was a beautiful thing. Especially as there was some of that weird brown fridge goop juice pooled on the lowest shelf. Ohayoo is the man I want on my side the next time the gunk monsters try to smash our fair city; he must have worked on that fridge for a solid hour or more.

I also swept the area outside our door, and the steps leading down to the street, which I've been itching to do for about a week. It's amazing how much of a difference that alone made. I was really happy when I finally left the house to go to D's for Thanksgiving dinner. Just walking down clean stairs put me in a good mood.

At D's, I got to try playing her husband's accordion. Oh wow. I felt like the heroine of Bread and Tulips, dreamily squeezing away in Venice. Getting those nice rich chords for as long as you want... like piano, but without so much stretching. Poi has an accordion he bought off a friend who was in a bit of a spot. He keeps telling himself he's going to learn to play it, but it's been a year and no squeezes. Maybe I should buy it off him in turn.