Monday, August 14, 2006


The Perils of the Gables

A Chocolate Lab and Carmen?



Picture a perfect mid-winter early afternoon in Coral Gables. The sun is warmly shining down on the house, attempting to heat the stucco walls from within. Its rays are producing a ripple effect as they cascade across the maple-colored window treatments of the Florida Room. They also play hide and seek with the jackets and purses I have casually strewn over my comfortably high backed, spindly-legged Italian café table chairs. Bright, airy, cheery: I dart in and out of this glorious room, only subliminally absorbing its essence.
Instead, I hibernate in my cave of a study. The shades are always drawn; the light is always on. The air handler comes on intermittently, allowing a shaft of cool air to enter the room. As the cranking on of the compressor outside always presages the air handler’s gentle murmur, I barely notice its existence.
Until I don’t hear that cranking, that sometimes feels as if it’s jumpstarting the entire household. Until I don’t feel the slight breeze that usually tickles me in a corner of the room. Until the multi-megahertz phone bleeps, and I realize what has happened. We’ve had a power outage.
Rushing to the phone, I’m greeted by a blank answering machine screen, and by the ominous message: Out of range, on the receiver’s screen. At least the battery is vainly struggling to stay alive.
More proof: I need more proof. The yellow trouble light on the LCD alarm panel is all I need to make the final, irrefutable diagnosis: power outage.
And yet, I rush to the kitchen. Indeed: PF – Power Failure, in bright, yet discreet, red letters – screams out at me from the LCD panel on the stove. And then: blank. Every screen is blank. For I’ve heard another bleep. No mistaking it this time.
The Florida Room continues to be a cheerful oasis, but my inner sanctum is as dark as a tomb. FPL, I must call FPL, I tell myself. Grabbing my most powerful flashlight, I venture into my cavernous study closet, and unearth the latest FPL statement. At least the phone calling shouldn’t be a problem, as I have a “normal” enough phone set up in my bedroom.
My Barbie phone, indeed, works without juice. So I call FPL to get the cold, hard facts. Yes, we’ve had a power outage. 952 customers have been affected. All my neighbors for at least a bunch of blocks, I gather. I give the kindly FPL automaton my cell number to keep me apprised.
It’s 12:30 p.m. Still exhausted from a less than perfect night’s sleep, in my pajamas, with the bed as rumpled as the moment when I raised my head from my pillow several hours earlier, I decide to take the old adage up on its wisdom: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. So I put on my night blinders, curl up under the covers, and hope for the best.
Best has its limits. At around 1:20 p.m., Bizet’s Carmen booms in my ears. FPL has just contacted me via my cell phone with its first message: yes, there’s a problem. It’s with their equipment, and it should be resolved by 2 p.m.
Back to bed is easier said than done. I decide, hey, I can’t sleep, I can’t write, but I can eat. So I open a can of tuna, take some dry toast out of the cupboard, and open the refrigerator an instant to retrieve some salad dressing. Out, in. Everything seems to be holding up.
With that taken care of, I decide I’ll spend some time outside. Cleaning my grubby patio set as best I can, I settle down to a much-anticipated session with the tidbit-full December issue of Vanity Fair. Perfect: it’s so warm, so sunny, and I feel so cozy in my pajamas. There’s nothing that can interrupt me now, I say to myself. Just a little bit longer, right?
Carmen soon pays me another courtesy call. FPL has arrived on the scene of the problem, but, alas, it’s going to take longer to fix: more like until 4:30 p.m. or so. Fortunately, I have until 6:30 p.m. before I must switch opera channels, as I’m to go see The Magic Flute with my fellow opera-loving friend this evening.
So I settle in for the duration, as happy as all the lizards and birds that surround me. Until several weeks ago, no other creature would have dared interrupt my blissful read. However, I now share a ficus grove with my neighbor’s boyfriend’s chocolate Labrador. A sweet hog for attention, he’s become my friend: I’m his ball buddy.
Lying on the grass on his side of the fence, he sees me and clambers up on his hindquarters until I give him a tentative pet. He then briefly licks my hand, and, as he’s gotten in the habit of doing whenever he sees me, he goes to fetch his saliva and grass encrusted ball. It’s playtime.
Not now, I tell him. I really want to catch up with my Vanity Fair. No sooner do I begin to read, than he begins to whimper. Persistently. OK, you win, I tell him, as I reluctantly put the magazine down, stroll over to his side of the gate, and begin our give and take. Soon my hands are saliva and grime streaked, but, looking into his eyes, I know I’ve made him happy. And – I realize – he’s made me happy, too.
May I have a reprieve, I finally ask him, as I go inside, wash my hands, and attempt to return to my reading. He whimpers a bit more, but realizes it’s my turn to have my kind of fun.
With cell phone in front of me, I tackle Graydon Carter’s version of the truth. Soon enough, I’m so immersed in the magazine that the next two or so hours melt away. Before I know it, Carmen rings, yet again.
FPL’s Merry Automaton has a cheerful message for me this time: your problem should be fixed. 952 customers had lost their power due to downed branches.
Mid to late afternoon sun is beginning to filter through the Florida Room. I run around the house resetting all the clocks. Soon afterward, I shower and get ready for my opera-loving duet.
The next time I hear Carmen, it’s my friend, Carmen, telling me she’s on her way.
So ends a Tuesday. On Thursday, however, I awaken to the very loud chirping of a bird. He’s almost at my ear, or so it seems.
This, however, is no bird. It’s the trouble light on my LCD alarm panel. Fussing with the controls, I soon unearth the problem: the battery in my second bathroom windowsill needs to be replaced. And until it is, that little yellow light will bug me to no end.
If it isn’t one thing, it’s always another. Such are The Perils of The Gables.
However, I can always count on my neighborly chocolate Lab… and on Carmen.

Copyright, 2005 by Georgina Marrero 1162 words All Rights Reserved

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