The High Life

Things are just not turning out exactly the way I planned. And that's something of an understatement. Though I suspect it looks better from the outside.

I was having lunch with a college pal last week, who'd recently made partner in his law firm (a momentous occasion I completely missed), but he was still graciously full of congratulations for all my recent professional developments.

We had a nice long (smug and sanctimonious) chat about the suburbs (which I'd recently written about).

He commisserated about my recent jaunt to the Mall - adding in his own observations about why the Aveda girls wear those lab coats. ("Is it because they're mixing up sophisticated botanical compositions in the back," he asked. "No," I answered. Because I happen to know one of the girls who works there - a former student and delightful person - but I'd be surprised if she knows the chemical composition of water.)

He also updated me on some of the legal restrictions in the housing projects for the rich - because he once had a colleague who was interred there, apparently. The guy had moved in his stuff around 3 a.m., and by 9 a.m. the neighborhood association was rapping on his door to tell him his grass was too high. (Nobody knocks on the door in my neighborhood unless it's to inform us there's a BODY in the grass.)

He ran through a host of rules. I knew the one about no sofas on the porch. And I was pretty sure there were prohibitions about putting one's car up on blocks and changing the oil (though there's frankly nothing I enjoy more than unwinding with a good lube job at the end of a long hard day).

Other restrictions, I was not aware of: like no cars in the driveway, and no colored Christmas lights (I prefer white lights anyway, but my classmate and I agreed that if we WANTED our big ole white-trash colored lights, they should be our constitutional right).

After some discussion, I also confessed to my buddy that my friends and I had recently allowed some suburbanites to.... infiltrate our social circle.

We'd all had long talks about it (we, the admissions committee, that is). And we rationalized as hard as we could about how sometimes newcomers in town can easily be led astray by the call of affordable housing in proximity to grocery stores and health clubs. We rationalized really, really hard... because these particular suburbanites happen to be attractive, intelligent, amusing men. (And we'd already used up the available supply of those in downtown and Chevy Chase.)

It's not easy though.

Because none of us would ever actually go OUT THERE. So it's hard to obtain accurate intelligence about these guys. For example, if we want to know if someone downtown is "available," it's simple - we all live within six blocks of each other - we just check the driveway for the vehicles of overnight guests.

(Sometimes you get thrown off by the occasional cyclist, but overall, it's fairly foolproof... and it's several steps shy of more invasive methods that might result in restraining orders.)

My pal Bex and I speculated about what a reconnaissance mission to the burbs might entail. How would we get there? How would we ever get back? We were pretty sure it would involve a Black Hawk helicopter, and the two of us in all-black sweater outfits (including matching ski masks), and a winch that would lower us onto those wretched subpar leaky skylights that are the mainstays of all suburban architecture. Just about the time we'd give the pilot a thumbs-up (signaling a trailer-twinkie-free-zone), our hoists would fail, and we'd get dropped there, never to be seen or heard from again. Because face it: we don't know people who'd come all the way out there to retrieve us.

The point of all this (and I did have one... when I started), was that I enjoyed spending a couple hours looking at my life through my college pal's eyes. From there, I guess it looked pretty ok.

But what I was thinking was: oh, if he only knew.

Last night, for example, I'd agreed to be a guest on public radio's spring fund drive. I'm always happy to help out on a worthy project (though I'll just tell you right now that I think Garrison Keillor is a big overrated folksy blowhard, - but I'm OTHERWISE very supportive of public radio, the same way I support public television, despite the pox that is Barney). So I arrive in a driving rain. I'm chilled to the bone. And when I get to the studio, I ask if I can keep my coat with me, because, as I explain, "I've been hot and cold all day." The host's completely straight-faced, non-ironic response was "it's probably menopause."

After that, I was just too depressed (and sickly) to join my friends in their Mardi Gras celebrations, so I went home - mildly dreading the wet dog smell that awaited.

WET dogs turned out to be the least of my worries, because when I opened the back door, I was greeted by BLOODY dogs. Bloody dogs who looked like they'd been starring in a Cujo remake.

I'm still not entirely sure what happened (because they're not saying), but I'd noticed a stray hanging around the back fence earlier. And my dogs are... territorial. So what happens is, sometimes if they can't get at the intruder, they've been known to turn on each other.

But the other (dark) possibility is that the stray somehow made it UNDER our fence. If he did, I have not yet found his remains. Martha's only decision when greeted with small yappy dogs is whether or not to swallow in one gulp (like an oyster), or to go ahead and chew, then floss with their collar.

I mopped them down with hydrogen peroxide as best I could, then steri-stripped them into canine mummies. Of course they repaid my ministrations by shaking themselves vigorously from one end of the house to the other - spraying every available surface with blood - so that my home now looks like an abattoir.

Then, I get to the office this morning only to be greeted (for the third time this week) by a CAR in my PARKING SPACE.

Now I'm not that big on hierarchy, but I DO insist on having my OWN PARKING SPACE because there's only one in our entire lot that I can fit into. It's sacred. Everybody who works here is nice enough to stay out of it, so these people had to be visitors. Possibly clients - which is why I restrained myself from spontaneously ramming them (which is always my first impulse).

This guy was still in the car, so it was possible a big grille in his rear-view mirror could intimidate him into moving. (I always try to use my assault vehicle for good and not evil, but I have my limits.)

I gunned the engine a little, just to sort of gently remind him that I was waiting. Whereupon he JERKED open his door and THREW UP (copiously), all OVER my parking space.

At which point, I was like, "that's ok man, KEEP it. I don't even WANT it anymore."

As he fled from the scene, for just one second, I envied those wacky suburbanites with all their covenants and restrictions. And I LONGED for a neighborhood association representative who would march right over and say, "Hey, little Mister!! We've got RULES against VOMITING on the CURB here!" Because I'm pretty sure if they won't let you park in their driveways, you can't PUKE in them EITHER.