Thursday, July 23, 2009

"Summer Home Surprises"

Two years ago, we arrived at our little log cabin in Indiana at about eleven o’clock at night. Our arrival followed a “no leg room” flight from Los Angeles, and a torturous drive from Chicago, where our plane comes in. The drive to the cabin can take less than an hour and a half, with luck and good traffic. On that trip, we had neither.

We’ve been going to this cabin for almost twenty years. You get there by taking the Indiana Toll Road. For as long as we’ve been taking it, the Indiana Toll Roll has been under construction. It’s never finished. Not once could you use all the lanes. At least one of them is always shut down. Usually more.

What exactly are they doing to that road? And why can’t they finish it? If we paid bigger tolls, would they finish it faster? If we stopped paying the tolls, would the construction workers go home and let us, for once, drive on the entire highway? You have time to ponder these things, when the Indiana Toll Road’s a parking lot, and your lane’s ending in a hundred yards.


The flight’s behind us. We’ve done our four hour drive from Chicago. It’s over. There’s the cabin.

We have arrived.

We pull onto the rutted, grassy area that serves as our driveway. We get out of the car, heading towards our beloved retreat. We’re tired but we’re happy.

She slides the key it the lock, and turns the key.

The door will not open.

She tries again, and again. Nothing. We sigh. It’s possible we curse.

We later learn that for the past two weeks, the Michigan City area had been deluged with record rains. The downpour swelled up our doorframe, causing the components of our lock to get out of alignment. That’s why the key didn’t work. Of course, we knew none of this at the time. What did we know?

We wait a whole year to come to this cabin.

And we can’t get in!

We get back in the car, and we drive off, looking for someplace that’s open at eleven at night, so we can use their phone. (Our cell phone has spotty service out there, and besides, we don’t know who to call. ) We see lights on at a gas station that’s also a convenience store. We drive onto the gravelly area in front, and park.

We ask if we can borrow their phone book. They immediately hand us one. I feel grateful for their hospitality, and consider buying some beef jerky as a “Thank you”, but I don’t. We scan the Yellow Pages, searching for a locksmith. It’s late, but we figure we’ll give it a try. If they won’t come, we’ll spend the night at “Judy’s Motor Lodge.”

(We’d been driving by “Judy’s” for years. I’d always wondered what it was like. And who stayed there. You can’t make a living from just people who are locked out of their cabins. Though judging by the paltry number of cars we’d see out front, it seemed like that’s all “Judy’s” ever got.)

The signs are encouraging. The locksmith ad in the Yellow Pages says “24-hour Service.”

(I may have told this one already. Steven Wright has this joke. “There’s a store near my house that says, ‘Open 24 Hours.’ I go down there, and the guy’s closing up. I say to him, ‘I thought you were open twenty-four hours.’ He says, ‘Not in a row.’”)

The “24-hour” locksmith says he’s in his pajamas. But he finally agrees to come out. We drive back to our cabin, and wait. The locksmith arrives. An hour and a half later. You can see his pajamas under his clothes.

The locksmith gets us in. We’ll be seeing a lot of him over the next few days, as he installs a new lock and does some carpentry work on the doorframe he destroyed. At that point, we don’t care about anything. Three hours after arriving, we are finally inside the cabin.

Dr. M’s nestled cozily in bed, reading a book. I sit down on the other side, and just as I’m about to swing my legs around, there’s this splintering “Crack!”, the bed’s nearest leg plunges directly through the floor. The bed’s downward angle causes me to fall out of it.

The plumber – who we call the next day – explains to us that, over the winter, the pipes from the nearby bathroom leaked, and the water had seeped under the bedroom floor, rotting the wood, such that when a person got into that side of the bed… they wound up on the floor.

That was two years ago. Last year’s visit offered no such difficulties. We just didn’t have hot water. As a result, Dr. M and I took turns pouring water, heated on the stove, over each other through a metal colander, the shower-ee sitting on a wooden stool in the middle of the shower stall.

One more, and I’m done. I bought an electric keyboard, so I could practice the piano while on vacation. The keyboard came packed in a long, cardboard box. I store the piano in it between visits. Recently, upon our arrival, I reached into the box to slide out the keyboard and

A mouse jumped out.

There was an audible “Eek!” From the mouse. Men don’t scream “Eek!” Well, we do, but we keep it inside our in heads.

Come on! It was a mouse!

Well, our next adventure starts tomorrow. Two weeks on Chickadee Trail.

Wish us luck.
As is my habit when I leave town, I have left some little stories, which I Yiddishize as shticklach, for your daily consumption. Since the blog’s “scheduling” function is still on the fritz, I have enlisted Anna to publish the stories manually. She may even contribute something herself. I hope so. The kid can write.

I’ll be back shortly.


Rory L. Aronsky said...

I'm ashamed to say that I don't read your blog often enough, but I intend to change that after today, as WGN ran your episode of Becker entitled "Lucky Day." I've not felt so deeply satisfied by a sitcom episode in a long time and this one was stacked with so much well-written, concentrated storytelling that I felt it was a week's worth of entertainment in a 23-minute package. Thank you for that.

A. Buck Short said...

NOW you tell me about the locksmith!
------- Henry Louis Gates, Jr., Cambridge.

Anonymous said...

During an overly harsh winter, our horses were temporarily relocated from their drafty shelter to what were essentially several former boy scout cabins. Should the question ever arise, a horse generally weighs more than a boy scout. We had neglected to first gauge the strength of the flooring. The following morning, several of the equines, were found calmly standing up to their knees in 4 neat holes where their legs had plunged through the roadrunner cartoon.

A. Buck Short said...

As for your mouse, ask us sometime about the rat we trapped, then wound up rushing to the vet for treatment. I am not making that up.

Joe said...

Break a leg!


On second thought...

Barefoot Billy Aloha said...

You write good.

Willy B. Good said...

I'm betting the mouse was planted there by John Sebastion.