Welcome to Popular Ink's INDELIBLE KITCHEN.

Now get the hell out!

Really, we would love to have you stay but we would feel rude about that as we have left. As in gone, defunct, kaput. We aren't here anymore. Sometimes, when it's late and we are worried about dying, we do believe in reincarnation. So, maybe we will live again. We'll let you know if that happens.


I. The Beginning of an Essay about What Used to Be My Really Hard Life

This is the beginning of an essay. It's not done, so no wise cracks about how this has no arc. If my really hard life will allow it, I will post a new installment soon.

I have always had trouble with jobs—not work, just jobs. I don’t mind working. In fact, I love working so much that my husband, Clay, occasionally threatens to divorce me. Clay’s idea of a good vacation is to snowboard and watch movies, maybe go to a museum. My idea of a good vacation is to stay at home and scour the bathroom grout with a toothbrush, then to edge the twelve beds in our lawn, re-glaze the windows, refinish the furniture, alphabetize the album collection (CDs are all in order, but the albums have gotten out of control), hang shutters, inventory our books and mulch and mulch and mulch.

If I have to go on a vacation, I am always gunning for some kind of eco-tourism or humanitarian work—you know, clean up the beaches of Alaska, unclog a threatened river in Brazil, build houses for the needy in Zimbabwe. We never get to do this though. Invariably, we have to take some kind of “relaxing,” all-expense paid vacation that involves Florida and the in-laws (the payers of the expenses) and riding bikes and swimming and eating in restaurants and watching movies. I can’t tell you how oddly stressed all this relaxation makes me—how all I can think of is the work left undone.

Lately, I have been dreaming about taking some time off to use a pressure washer. I have never used a pressure washer, but I have seen them in action. Once, I lived next to some people who were much more compulsive than I am. Every morning, the man would pressure wash his driveway and then his wife would scrub, on her hands and knees, any area that was not completely gleaming. Man, they had a good looking driveway. Pressure washer . . . I could blast out the dirt and bizarre plants that crop up in our driveways. (We have two and I swear they haven’t been repaved since the house was built in 1937.) I could shoot off the flaking (probably lead-based) paint from our trim. And the walkways, the concrete pad around the back of our house, the tiled side porch, the concrete stairs to the basement, the stone walls . . .

Work is relaxing. Jobs are not.

While I can spend an inordinate amount of time folding my underwear and arranging them by type and color—black, bikini cottons to the left, beige, synthetic body shapers to the right—this has yet to bring our family any kind of great fortune. Jobs, on the other hand, seem to bring in the money, not to mention health insurance.

I have always (since the age of 14—the legal age at the time) had a job. Yet, I have never successfully held a “normal” day job for more than a year. When I work at, say, an office, at first I believe I can make a difference and jet out of bed to go to work. Then, invariably, I become sodden, depressed and melancholic. For instance, my first “real” job was am internship at IBM. This was back in the days when computers were new and IBM was the model corporation. Big Blue paid me heaps and it was an honor to have the job. I competed with a bunch of much more advantaged and well-educated people (not folks who grew up in rural Virginia) to land this job. My internship coworkers went to Yale or Harvard or Berkley. They knew what salsa was (the food and the music—both were news to me), they had flown in airplanes, they got their hair cut at actual salons instead of entrusting their coiffure to roommates and siblings, they had luggage with its own pedigree and papers. I had hit the big-time.

For the first two weeks of my job I jumped out of bed and raced to work at the ungodly hour of 6:30 a.m.. Gee, I thought, I can add zest to your corporate publications. Thanks for choosing me.

I got my first assignment: rewrite the manual for the PC Junior so that normal people can understand it. This is a good idea, I thought, since the manual made less sense than an IRS publication on how to deduct certain kinds of plastic surgery (did you know you can deduct for plastic surgery if your ears are too large?). After about two weeks of rewrites and running my rewrites by six different managers, who all had vastly different ideas about how to make the PC Junior Manual more accessible to the general public, I began to sag. My main boss, Don, recognized this and offered me a side article to spice up my new life at IBM. I could write about Rochester, New York and why people who were living in the New York Metropolitan area would be delighted to move their families to the cold, less urbane, significantly smaller, oh, let’s face it, grim city of Rochester. I still remember the first line from the piece, “Colonel Rochester was right.” As for the rest of it, I come up blank. And this is not because I was using drugs or drinking excessively. Granted, I was sharing a cottage in Chappaqua, New York with a secretary from Yonkers who had various hairy, necklace-wearing “boyfriends” over for sex every night. And sometimes these boyfriends were so courteous that they would wander downstairs to try to invite me to join in on the fun. I always greeted these requests with silence (actually, muffled anxious breathing on the other side of a locked door with a dresser and a couch pushed in front of it). Okay, so maybe I was tired. Maybe that was why I lost the zeal for that IBM job. For reasons I can no longer remember, during that time I painted my bedroom, including the ceiling, black. I do remember that this took a lot of time and the results were not good. I also cleaned the grout in the bathroom with my toothbrush.

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