Sunday, January 8, 2012

When The Stuff Breaks ...

On New Year’s Day, the modem died, and my laptop was showing signs of not wanting to do stuff anymore. I surprised myself, discovering that I was OK with not being “connected.” Everything could wait for a day. Nothing bad was going to happen. Our refrigerator sounded louder. I do prefer stuff to break rather than people, but both happened since I mangled the garage door.

That’s how last year started.

On the eve of entering 2011, word came that an offer had been made on my mom’s house. This is the house I grew up in, from age three until I left as a so-called adult. During September and October of 2010, I had more than 23 conversations with 26 representatives at Bank of America about my mom’s reverse mortgage. I tossed and sorted and packed and got Mom moved into her new apartment. My brother John and I washed, primed, and painted the house trying to get it ready to sell. My brother Mike came up from Texas, spending a week removing wallpaper. We put forward a determined effort, spruced up the place, and hoped for the best.

The first day of 2011, Jane and I went out to our garage and pressed the button to open the door. As the door started to rise, it sounded as if it had been out late the night before and we had awakened it too early — at first, pathetic groaning and then it just stopped lifting. I could see where the arm-thingy had come apart from the lifty-thingy. (This is what the manual should call them if they expect anyone to know what they are talking about.) Until we could get this fixed, we’d have to raise the door manually every time we wanted to get in or out of the garage.

The good news is that we have two garage doors. Up until this day, I never thought of this as being good news. I’ve always been a little miffed that the guy who built our garage didn’t put one big door on it.

We decided to lower the door and take the other car. Pushing the button for the other garage door, it moved smoothly for about four feet and then there was a snap and a sound like a long willow branch being whipped through the air. I didn’t know it then, but it was just a cable that had come loose; I could have reattached it and had only one broken garage door. Now we had two doors that we would have to lift the old-fashioned way for a while.

I was back to not liking the guy who built the garage.

Our friend Corey is, by night, an amazing drummer. By day, he cleverly disguises himself as a handyman. It’s sort of a Clark Kent thing. We called upon him to come and help us, but before he could tend to our door, I made things worse.

I was coming back from a gig at the Dakota in downtown Minneapolis. It was a special gathering to support a brilliant photographer in town who had been fighting a mighty battle against cancer. Musicians, artists, and admirers were all there to let her know we had her back.

Leaving the club, I was driving our 2004 Honda Element, which has a rack on top to carry a kayak. (I don’t own a kayak, and this car actually belongs to my manager. We use it for gigs and it lives in my garage.) I drove down the alley to our garage, got out of the car, raised the garage door manually, returned to the car and began backing in.

What I didn’t know, and couldn’t see, was that when I raised the garage door it didn’t stay up where it was supposed to. As I got back in the car, the door dropped about three inches. Backing in slowly, I suddenly heard crunching, screeching metal. The door and the rack had been formally introduced. I pulled forward to release the somewhat mangled bottom of the door from the top of the car. I wrestled the door back into its track and struggled to get it down and locked. Then I took time out for a meltdown.

About a week later, waiting for various garage panels, I came home and Jane met me at the door. We’ve been together for 26 years and I’m pretty sure I know when she’s not happy. She was definitely not happy. The washing machine had died. It was full of dirty, soapy water and soggy clothes. As for mechanical things, this year was not off to a great start.

Some folks say bad things come in threes. I don’t remember the third thing unless you count the fact that most of our doorknobs came loose. These are old doorknobs and they require a loosening of a set screw, then gently screwing the knob back on and tightening the set screw again. I learned this only after many weeks of trying to whack them back on.

Everything turned out OK. Thanks to Corey, the garage doors were repaired; we bought a new washing machine that is more efficient and economical than the old one; and February was much better than January. Expensive? Yes. But, after all, it was just stuff. The computer, the modem, the garage doors, cars, refrigerators — all those things can and will be replaced. The photographer continues her walk through her particular minefield. No one should have to go though what she is going through, but so many do.

Over the months that made up last year, we got new garage doors, a water heater, a humidifier; I lost earrings, a guitar tuner, and a couple of friends. I expect this year will bring those same unwanted surprises.

I’ll get over the broken stuff — not the lost friends.