Archive for April, 2011

I haven’t quite figured out what all the complaining is about.

Sure, I like warm weather — the kind that doesn’t fall from the sky in buckets. I look forward every April to the disappearance of snow, the rise in the outdoor temperature and the return to outdoor life.

I’m not that weird.

But to me, the return of nice weather also means the return of a massive number of chores. I have an estate to tend for m’lady and m’lady likes a tidy estate.

During the cold weather, my list of winter-specific chores is minimal:

• Make sure the Mrs. can get in and out of her warm, snow-free garage unhindered by the snow that fills her driveway.

• Make sure the snow on the roof does not leak into the living room, as it has on a handful of previous occasions.

• Stop lowering the thermostat.

And that’s about it.

The other responsibilities that make our house a home and my life the polar opposite of a living hell are not specific to the time of year. Granted, some are made more difficult by the fact that access to the out of doors is a teeth-rattling, finger-stinging, nose hair-freezing nightmare. But the fact that the garbage has to be wheeled to and from the curb once a month or so does not change just because it’s cold outside, mister.

And the garbage can is full and the contents are stinking up my garage, so get rid of it.

I’m over it. Sometimes I hear voices.

Anyway, so what if it’s April. So what if there’s still frost on the car every morning. So what if it’s rained so much the Mohawk River canal is opening a little later than normal this year because — get this — there’s too much water in the river.

All of this delays by joyful leaps and bounds all of the outdoor work I have thus far been able to ignore because, honey, it’s too cold outside. And it’s gonna rain. And they say it might snow.

I can open the screen porch for the season, but you should understand it’s gonna be windy tomorrow and it might rain and everything’s going to get all wet before you get a chance to start sleeping out there. And you can’t be serious about wanting to sleep out there yet; it’s too cold at night.

I was doing my annual inspection of the chores I face. (I walk around the yard, take mental notes, rank in importance those tasks I will get to first, those that will be ignored the longest, and those that, I’m sorry dear, I have no worldly inclination to touch. But I will miss you terribly.)

This latter subset consists mostly of things like reattaching the gutter that is no longer attached to the downspout. But it’s two stories up at the very highest point and there’s no way I’m going way up there to fix it. I don’t care what the weight limit is on the ladder. That water’s running right off the roof and right down to the rut it’s going to carve in m’lady’s otherwise manicured lawn.

And the ice melting lead cord that winds back and forth from hither to yon across the same roof was moved while the roof shovelers were simultaneously killing and breaking things at ground level while disrespectfully and randomly throwing a winter’s worth of snow. That lead cord should be readjusted so its effectiveness actually exists. But, again, that’s a roof chore and that’s one place I’ll never be caught.

Wimp? Yes. Well-versed and proud of it.

Fear of gravity will do that to a person.

I mentioned the porch. Got a problem this year and it’s one I can’t ignore.

The porch has been around for a good 10 years or more — probably more — and the screens need to be replaced this year. The screens run around all three sides and they go floor to ceiling. Makes for a mess when the bad weather hits in the summer, but on nice days, it can’t be beat. It’s our summer home. And m’lady’s summer sleep chamber.

During the winter, it is wrapped, floor to ceiling, all three sides, in a giant sheet of plastic. Keeps the weather out and the marriage in tact. Come spring, the plastic comes down and goes back out to the over-stuffed storage shed, the unstuffing of which has been on the spring to-do list for a good 10 years or more — probably more.

Procrastinating is my science and I am Mr. Wizard.

So, during the porch inspection the other day, I noticed many of the screens came detached from their moorings during the bout of wind and winter from which we recently emerged. And they can’t be reattached. They have to be taken down and replaced. Many are torn pretty well.

The urgency with which this chore is to be tackled is not beyond my ability to appreciate. See, the little Mrs. has a cat that I am often allowed to feed and occasionally clean up after and this cat longs for the reopening of the screen porch, the removal of the giant sheet of plastic, and the return to her proper role as sentry of the yard critters. Little Princess Buttercup Hairball spends her days sitting in the far corner of the porch, charting the activities of the squirrels, chipmunks, moles and birds that have for the past two decades made the yard and its environs home to generations of their mite-infested existences. Occasionally, one of the wild critters will get a little too close to the screen and Captain Brave Cat will dart toward it. Sometimes she doesn’t stop in time and punches a hole in the bottom of the screen.

On a couple of occasions, she’s actually wound up outside, unable to comprehend what just happened and incapable of getting back in the house. So she just sits in the middle of the lawn, waiting for one of us to come rescue her from this strange world of outdoorsness.

Before this annual ritual can resume, I have to re-screen the screen porch. Or move out.

This should also be the spring I reacquaint myself with the power washer I was forced to purchase as part of my responsibility as an owner of noisy suburban yard machines. There are many devices on the list of mandatory weapons for suburban living. The power washer is right up there next to the leaf blower, snow blower, string trimmer and chain saw.

All part of the big-box retailers’ list of ‘do not operate before 9 a.m. on a Sunday’ collection.

The power washer was used once a few years ago when I decided it would be a good idea to clean the moss and mold and spiders and bird squeezings and assorted fungus off of the picnic table.

I learned that when the instructions say: “This device could very easily tear a pine picnic table into shreds” the instructions are, for the most part, accurate. But that little maneuver saved me from having to worry about repainting the picnic table. And the mulch created by its destruction went nicely in the flower beds.

Killed two chores with one stone that day.

This wimp’s not as dumb as he looks.


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My first opportunity to walk a complete circle around the house the other day after work — now that all the snow has left the yard and the grass is starting to wake up (the lawn has bed head) — afforded me the opportunity to reflect on all things April.

And why spring is my favorite month of the year.

This spring is especially special because it marks the 25th anniversary, or thereabouts, of the first date (lunch at Frank’s Pizzeria in Fort Plain, I think) I ever had with the wind beneath my wings. I’ll give you a second to finish your simultaneous awwwwwwwwwwwwwww.

While taking my first yard lap of the season Thursday and sorting through the list of annual chores that begin this weekend (yay), I was able to temper my lack of delight with the comfort that the angel of my morning and I have made it 25 years without one of us smothering the other with a pillow.

Or lacing the chicken salad with bleach.

See, long before we met and well before I flipped the charm switch — totally knocking her off her feet — she hated my guts. Which I still find incredibly unfair, because she didn’t know my guts. My guts can be remarkably charming when given the chance.

And she had plenty of opportunity, as we went to the same college. I was light — I mean two — years ahead of her. I worked for the school newspaper, was editor of the school yearbook … so, pretty much a monumental dork. Oh, and I was also married, so girls no longer existed.

She was a member of the cool sorority where all the cool girls did all their secret cool girl stuff and walked around campus in giant multi-legged huddles and ate in the cafeteria in giggling, multi-headed pods, and if any newspaper dork dared to look in their direction he would immediately be turned to stone. And then more giggling would ensue.

She hated me because I worked for the stuck-up school newspaper and wrote a column similar in substance to this (meaning, it was a bunch of words with little to no substance). One week in 1982, I wrote about the birth of my son. I learned in later years that Karen’s reaction to the fact that I had become a father was: “That [bleep] has a kid?”

She probably blurted it out from deep inside a multi-headed sorority girl group lunch huddle.

Today, I find great humor in the fact that this bleep’s kid is now her step-bleep. Ha.

In 1985, a few years after I had somehow earned a diploma and landed a job at the Courier-Standard-Enterprise in Fort Plain, I found myself in charge of the newsroom.

I know. It still surprises me, too.

My boss and I were in the market for a reporter to join our staff. Karen applied for the job; we interviewed her, she was hired.

However, if you were to ask the love of my life to tell this same story, she’d add words. And her own perspective. I don’t recommend it.

She claims she got a phone call from one of our college professors — a person who, to this day, I consider a mentor and friend and who I just realized played accidental matchmaker.

The professor, whom I will refer to as Kim, because the letters are right near each other so it’s easy to type, told Karen about a job opening for a news reporter in Fort Plain, N.Y. (Karen was receiving this news at her home on the outskirts of Boston). But — and I’m not sure if “but” is merely the word Karen uses in retelling this boring-bleeped story or if “Kim” actually used it during the phone conversation — “But the editor there is Kevin Mattison.”

This is how the story is told from my dear heart’s perspective: She actually had to take time to decide if she wanted to come for an interview.

I know. It still surprises me, too.

As fate would have it, she made the obvious — I mean most appropriate — she made the most appropriate choice for that period in her life. We met for lunch in Fort Plain — my boss, me, and Karen. I think she came away from it realizing her initial opinions of me were so far off base they could be tagged out by the bat boy.

Afterward, back at the office, my boss asked me what I thought, and I said, “Hire her.”

If you were to ask Karen what she remembers (and I don’t recommend that you do) she would tell you that years later, when she asked me what it was about that interview that made us decide she was the one, I told her, “You were the only one who applied for the job.”

Now, I can’t verify any of this, so it’s her word against mine. I think she’s right, but she’s not going to hear that from me. Marriage has many policies but honesty doesn’t always have to be one of them.

We worked together in Fort Plain for a couple of years, moved to Pennsylvania together to work at another newspaper for a few months, moved to the Adirondacks to work at a couple more newspapers for a few years, and every time she turned around, I was still there behind her. After realizing the constant dodge thing wasn’t working for her, she gave up. We then moved to our current community, where we married in 1991, built a house in 1992, and since that time have made it a home.

It’s her home, mind you, lest we should take it upon ourselves to think otherwise. But a home it remains, indeed.

And this week, a lap around the yard that has finally begun to awaken from another winter slumber gave me a chance to think about and appreciate my good fortune of the past 25 years; how fate has made mine a wonderful, blessed life.

And how come it is the light of my life can’t get out here with me and start raking up these acorn shells the squirrels have left on her lawn.

We celebrated our anniversary this week by forgetting the actual date. I remember it had a 9 or a 13 — or perhaps a different numeral — in it. She sounded pretty sure it was the 13th. We have this same conversation every few years when it dawns on one of us that — hey, isn’t April the month when we finally decided to give this thing a whirl?

It’s the month when she decided the swooning had to stop, the charms were just too overwhelming to ignore, and the opportunity to become the luckiest woman on the planet was probably never going to arrive, so she might as well go have a slice of pizza with me.

We marked the occasion in our typical married fashion Wednesday night — the 13th — as she went out with her girlfriends for dinner and bar trivia at some dive somewhere and I stayed home and tore apart two grocer-roasted chickens, turning them into chicken salad. She looooves my chicken salad.

Don’t tell this bleep he can no longer turn on the charm.

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