Monday, October 25, 2010

The Chemicals May Just Kill You - A Love Story (Part 6)

The wife and I don't get out much. At least not with each other. Our lack of babysitters and the cost associated with them have conspired to keep us socially irrelevant.

But when our good friend invited us to the opening of his new bar, we made a thrice-annual night out of it. Not only did we want to support our friend, this particular bar opening was slated to be a real big deal, based on said friend's past endeavors
(I'd mention the friend and the bar, but we have a very strict, no real names policy here at Look Lefty).

Parking was a challenge and we found ourselves walking, hand-in-hand through a bizarre stretch of road framed by Dennys restaurants and cheap convention center hotels.

About a block away, my wife quickly veered off the sidewalk and through some bushes into a random parking lot, pulling me with her. "What's going on?" I asked, only with a super annoyed tone. Disgusted, she replied, "smokers!"

I hadn't even noticed, but sure enough, right in our path was a plume of hot, steamy carcinogens. I acquiesced and joined her through the bushes.

I think it's important to note here, that this woman who claims to experience such volatile reactions to all things chemical, was actually a smoker herself when we first met. And the really weird part - while many people claim to be social smokers, only opting for the fashionable little cancer wands when out with friends, my dear sweet wife, was a closeted smoker. She would only puff in the privacy of her own home (where she all but chain-smoked), extinguishing any sign of them when people (including myself) came around. Nowadays, she can't lick a stamp without getting chest pains.

Now back to the bar.

As we rounded the corner, we ran into two more smokers standing right outside the door. There was no getting inside without walking right past them. And the best part was, one of the two smokers was a partner in the bar. The wife had never met him, but I had on several occasions, so an introduction was not only in order, it would have been terribly rude to enter his bar without doing so.

The wife extended a tentative hand like a little mouse about to get batted around by feral cat. The
friend took her hand and smiled graciously, not knowing anything of my wife's afflictions, all while his cigarette continued to burn just inches away.

I reveled in the moment, watching my wife squirm before finally entering the bar. Not nice, but that was my only entertainment for the evening.

As expected, the place was incredible and packed to the gills. The food looked amazing and the space was styled out beautifully. Surely, a place I will frequent.

And like any new establishment, the air was thick with the lingering aroma of fresh paint and toxic adhesives.

We said hello to our friend, congratulated him on the opening and promptly

All in all, a night to remember.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

The Chemicals May Just Kill You - A Love Story (Part 5)

I have officially found my muse.

Cassavettes had his Rowlands.

Woody had his Farrow. And his Keaton. And his Soon Yi.
(I don't know about you, but I still don't like looking at his stepdaughter's cleavage, even though she did just turn 40).

My muse, and I love her for it, is my wife's central nervous system.

I worried that such a niche subject simply couldn't sustain itself. I mean, how many disruptions to her environment could I expect to write about in a given year? And make a good story out of it? One? Maybe two?

I am here to tell you, that my dear, sweet, afflicted wife is providing an endless cannon of material. A bottomless treasure trove of absurdity. If the Chilean miners dug into this one, they might never make it out.

Last week I was tempted to write a post, applauding the hyper-sensitive receptors built into this woman,
rather than ridiculing them. While strolling through our otherwise sleepy little neighborhood, she sniffed out not one, but two gas leaks coming from separate houses. The gas company was called on both occasions. Leaks were found and repaired. And everyone lived happily ever after.

Incredible. Imagine what might have been without that uncanny sense of smell. Explosions. Lifeless bodies on kitchen floors. To think, my wife - a modern day Toxic hero.

I just couldn't find a good hook.

But like any proper muse, that good wife of mine came back with all new material. This week's episode: Don't Turn On The New Furnace.

Most people will only succumb to purchasing a new furnace after the old one completely shits the bed, and even then, only after the temperatures drop below 55F.

Not us.

Our furnace was operating pretty much just fine, save for an irregular filter space. Which meant we were never getting 100% filter coverage. And that meant, the basement smells wafting up through our vents were a chronic issue for my wife. When the furnace experienced an operational hiccup last April, repaired with only a q-tip and some olive oil, a decision was forced - the Cadillac of furnaces with the uber-hepa-filter system, to be installed during summer's warmest months.

The installation itself posed a bit of a threat. What with all the industrial tape and epoxies required. In fact, my wife worried so much that she made plans to sleep at a friends house for that entire week. As it turns out, she stayed home and was only mildly affected with a bit of an itchy throat. Huge progress.*

Inching our way through the gauntlet of this home improvement project, we were feeling pretty good. All that was left was to turn that baby on. Crank it up. Find out exactly what Melba Toast was packing down there.

But the smells! Yes, we were told, there would be some initial smells. Internal coatings or what have you would need to burn off within the first couple of hours of use. Which meant, we'd wait.

The wife wanted to wait until she left town for the Thanksgiving holidays. Through all of October and most of November. No heat.

Until then, the plan was to just double sock it and throw on an extra afghan. Think of the money we'd save not using the $4000 dollar furnace we just bought.

Were it not for our neighbor - one of the two gas leak victims discovered - coming over to watch our kid this week, we'd still be living in a meat locker. She looked so sad and cold when we came home, bundled up under every blanket we own and maybe even a few bath towels. Empathy took over and my wife decided it was only right to apply the heat and suffer the consequences.

There was a smell. It was chemical-born for sure. And yet, here we all are, on the other side, warm, breathing easily and blogging about it.

Thanks honey. Keep up the good fodder. We'll all just wait for whatever comes next.

*Addendum: After reading the post above, the wife reminded me that she did in fact spend one night sleeping out of the house. Still, not an entire week. And by my measure, still a great stride forward.