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helpy friends, brownies
Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2004 | link

Just when did people stop using the word "healthy" and start describing things as "healthful" instead? Was it in response to a secret campaign to match the adjectivization of "help"? If so, I kind of wish things had gone the other way, and "helpful" had transformed into "helpy."

"It would be so helpy," we would say, "if you would pass me that plate of Palm Beach Brownies*."

"Helpy" is also a good name for a dog. A rescue dog.

Andy Rooney

* As a Christmas present to myself, I bought up a bunch of used Maida Heatter cookbooks, and I am here to tell you that her Palm Beach Brownies are just insane, like that feeling you get when you're in your early twenties and find yourself talking to a checkout boy named Angel at Kragen's Auto Supply and suddenly you notice the incredible length of his eyelashes, and it's the kind of noticing that comes with an ache in your stomach that feels a little like missed breakfast only much better because it's in concert with a strange sort of tightening along the backs of your thighs. Like that, only in your mouth.

- - - - - - - -

I'm sick. A cold. Again. It is so dumb and boring.

- - - - - - - -

On Saturday night, just as I was starting to feel the first warning tentacles of sickness reaching down my throat and creeping into my joints, I convinced Adrienne to walk up to the Saint Francis for a comfort dinner (I had a turkey club and fries, she had caesar salad and a side of macaroni and cheese) and a pair of full-throttle sundaes (I had a BROWNIE sundae with chocolate chip ice cream and hot fudge, she had a hot fudge sundae with strawberry ice cream).

After I waddled back to my building and sweated up five flights of stairs (forgoing the elevator in some sort of superstitious payment for the sundae), I tipped into my apartment only to discover two notes and a voicemail waiting for me.

Apparently while I was at dinner one of my neighbors had caught a powerful whiff of gas and traced its terrifying odor directly back to my car. Since he didn't know whose car it belonged to, he called the manager of the building who in turn called the owner. Since no one could get ahold of me, and since everyone was understandably skittish after last year's huge fire, they called the fire department. And, according to the two notes and one voicemail, my car had been pushed out onto the sidewalk across from my building by a squad of burly and I'm sure very handsome firemen.

As I read those notes and listened to that voicemail, I felt that icy, embarrassed feeling rippling over me (the very opposite of the warm and helpy Palm Beach Brownie Effect). How could I not have noticed a noxious gas leak? How was it that two years after promising myself that I'd sell my nutty car I was still suffering from its many setbacks? Dummy.

And when I went to apologize to the manager ("I feel terrible," I said. "Oh I would, too," she said), she informed me that the firemen had figured that I knew about the leak because of all the kitty litter they found sprinkled around my parking spot. When I sputteringly explained no, no, no, that litter was left over from a chronic but long-ago-solved oil leak, she didn't seem all that impressed. (And why, I wonder, had I managed to leave that kitty litter lying around, six months after I had stopped needing it to sop up the oil? Even though I'd gone through the trouble of bringing a broom down to the garage just for that purpose? Double dummy.)

I slipped a note of thanks and apology under the door of the neighbor, and then I called and left a similar message on the building owner's voicemail. But even still, I felt all guilty and cringy. Also: tense about leaving my car on the sidewalk and getting it towed by the city to some remote hole (an extra-especially possible outcome since I somehow, and I can hardly believe it myself it's so stupid, dummy!, somehow I had let my registration expire, god, so my stickers were tow-temptingly out of date). I could tow it somewhere myself, but to where? No mechanics were open on Sundays. So, what, I was going to tow it to some holding-pattern location and then tow it again to my mechanics on Monday morning? Plus weren't tow trucks forbidden to tow vehicles spewing gasoline? PLUS, oh my god, look! My triple-A card expired on Sunday! Wow.

When I used to wait tables, I noticed that whenever I had a big screw-up night, all the mistakes tended to be concentrated on one table. I'm sorry, it turns out we're out of the cassoulet! I'm sorry I poured water in your empty iced tea glass! I'm sorry I broke the cork off in the bottle of our most expensive wine you ordered! I'm sorry I spilled scorching decaf foamy latte on your thigh! It was like some sort of MURPHY'S LAW or something. And it feels like something something similar is going on with my car. It's like that's where all life's fiddly little slipups are concentrated right now.

Anyway it was kind of hard to sleep, lying as I was on top of all that worry and embarrassment and the creeping hints of sickness and a stomach packed with sundae. I'd only just managed to fall asleep at about 7:30 when my phone rang. It was the neighbor of the note, calling to tell me that he saw an open spot on the street outside his window and did I want help pushing my car into it so it could be off the sidewalk? So nice!

I threw on a weird outfit and raced down and blurily got my keys into the ignition and he started pushing. When I noticed he wasn't getting very far, I got out and put my shoulder into it, too, steering spastically with my right arm.

"Wow, your car is a lot heavier than it looks," he said. "Your emergency brake isn't on, is it?" "No, I'm sure...oh wait." Wah, wah, wahhhh.

The next morning, outrageously kind and generous Ivan came over in his little car-fixing jump suit and peeked underneath my car to discover my fuel line had long been rubbing against my drive shaft, and had finally worn a hole clear through it. And since it was slick with gas, we couldn't really go the duct-tape route. So for the next hour, he, Liz, and I shivered in the cold of the morning (and, in my case, the full force of my idiotic cold) and listened to the motion-sensitive crowing of my trunk rooster as we siphoned all the gas out my car and into a huge drum of Ivan's. So nice!

Then I called a tow truck (after first calling to renew my Triple-A membership, and calling my mechanics to make sure he was open on MLK day) and sent it off with my car to my mechanics, where they replaced the fuel line to the tune of a surprisingly reasonable 100 earth dollars.

The end! For sale!

(PS: My diary has officially moved over to my official evany.com website. Let's meet up over there!)

(PS: My diary has officially moved over to my official evany.com website. Let's meet up over there!)

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