My attic is a squirrel hotel. The residents appear to have used their teeth, which generate the approximate cutting power of a reciprocating saw, to create an entryway under my eaves. I even now can hear them frolicking through our Christmas ornaments and tacky decorative baskets. It’s driving my cats berserk.

This is one of the perks of home ownership.

I just got off the phone with the fellow who will repair that hole next week, hopefully with titanium plates. Then I have to trap my little rodent guests and relocate their probably-rabies-free selves to some safe and convivial locale, like a park. Far from here. Maybe on another continent.

These buck-tooth thugs haven’t been my only homeowner challenge lately. Rabbits excavated so far under our front walk that it looked like a bridge in Venice. A disease slaughtered both of the trees in our backyard with the efficiency of a Hellfire missile, and now nothing remains of them but a little sawdust where the stumps used to be. We enjoyed rain in our living room throughout five re-sealings of our roof, until some bright fellow figured out that our chimney needed to be torn down and rebuilt.

The front doorknob came off in my wife’s hand, a light fixture dropped off the underside of the kitchen cabinet, and sunlight disintegrated the dining room curtains. Most of our double-pane windows have unsealed themselves, and now they function like single-pane windows that block the view because of condensation. My air conditioner is giving me nightmares because it’s old enough to drink.

Even my stupid mailbox is no longer a cheerful red, but instead is the color of mud that’s been baked in a Georgia summer. I know that’s not hard to fix, but I just feel like pouting.

Our house is approaching its 30th birthday. For 20 years other people got to enjoy it before we came along, so I suppose we’re paying the tab for some of their fun. I should expect a little wear. But damn, I didn’t expect a Willie-Nelson’s-face amount of wear.

Then again, we have a house to enjoy, and a lot of people can’t say that, so I should stop pouting. I can hear my wife, who rarely pouts, telling me, “It’s broken? Let me add it to the list.” The list is a kind of magical place where things go to get taken care of, assuming you ever remember to read the list and don’t mind some hard work. So our house may be rather crumbly around the edges, but we can slap some spackle on it and sit in the den with all our cats, speculating on the meaning of the popping and groaning sounds coming from walls.

We already know what the thrashing sounds in the attic are.

That's me--the Maginot Line standing between my home and the squirrel invasion.
That’s me–the Maginot Line standing between my home and the squirrel invasion.


I drive the cockroach of cars. I don’t mean that it’s nasty, or ugly, or crawls up your nose while you sleep. In fact, it’s rather tidy and smells no worse than transmission fluid and a few escaped french fries. I mean that it will still be zipping down to the drugstore and the dry cleaner many years after I and everyone I know are dead.

I’d like to pause here and mention that my dry cleaner is next door to a fine retail establishment named “Condoms to Go.” I’ve never gone inside to ask about their business model, or why they need to specify that when you buy a condom you must take it out of the store with you. There’s probably a horrible story behind that, and I’m not brave enough to listen to it.

Now, back to my immortal cockroach-car. When cars want to live practically forever, they come to my house. The same is true of cats, by the way. Until last year, I had owned just two passenger cars over the past 30 years. My wife had owned just two cars over the past 20 years, which makes her a money-wasting party girl and the reason we can’t have nice things.

We drive our cars a long time. We drive them until we could hand the keys to a starving crack addict in Guadalajara, and he’d walk away shaking his head. So when we bought a car last year it was an event we’ve experienced only three times since we met. My happy little Toyota sprang one too many oil leaks, and the repair bill would have been scathing. Since the Blue Book value of my ancient vehicle wouldn’t have bought an iPad (even without 3G), I gave it to charity and moved on.

We hunted for cars. We found a car. We negotiated for the car, which is another story, but I did get to fling metaphorical poo at the salesman, which was fun. We brought the nice car home and parked it in my wife’s spot in the garage—because now I would be driving her old car. The cockroach-car. The Honda that had traveled 265,000 miles and was going strong. It could have driven around the world ten times. It could have driven across the USA 88 times. It could have driven to Condoms to Go over a million times.

The cockroach-car has endured because my wife has nurtured it in a way that I don’t get unless my fever is over 103 degrees. For example, cheap gasoline may be okay for the peasants, but not for the cockroach-car. My wife adhered to a complex maintenance schedule. Every 5,000 miles she visited one of three auto shops, each with different capabilities. That’s the kind of attention and determination that produces a cockroach-car that will last forever.

When I inherited the cockroach-car, I also inherited its maintenance log. I was impressed. I’ve even entered a couple of oil changes into the log since then, and I’m following her maintenance schedule to the extent to which I’m capable of understanding its nuances. But I had no idea how rudimentary it was until yesterday, when my wife showed me the new log she’s created for her new car. See for yourself:

Auto Log

I was even more impressed with the new log, especially with the color coding. I counted nine colors, if you include black. That’s a different color for each 12 words in the log. The only flaw is the most recent maintenance on January 19, for which the exact mileage was left unrecorded—it’s written as “51,??? Miles.” This defect exists only because I was the one who took the car in for that maintenance, and like an inattentive child I forgot to write down the mileage. Apart from that omission, the log is perfect.

My wife is known to be an organized person. I am not. As an example, her closet has special hangers, and dividers on the shelves, and bins on the floor for things like her jammies. She won’t add a thing to her closet unless she gets rid of a thing, otherwise the clockwork perfection of the environment might be flung out of balance. My closet looks like I threw clothes in a cement mixer and ran it for five minutes. Therefore, I indulged in some gentle teasing about her rather compulsive, though effective, organizational paradigm for her maintenance log.

When my teasing was done, my wife looked at me from across the couch for a moment without saying anything. Then she stood and left the room. A minute later she returned with a piece of paper from my office. She handed it to me and sat down to continue watching Downton Abbey, still without speaking. I saw that she’d given me a page from a lesson plan I’ve been working on for an acting class. It looks like this:

GT Page 2

Okay, I guess I have some organizational obsession in certain areas too. I don’t have enough to avoid general slovenliness, but I have too much to poke fun at people who really are organized. Fine, then. I’m just going to shut up, shuffle clothes around in my closet to no purpose, and have fun driving my cockroach-car.

A photo of the Literal Cockroach-Car…

A literal cockroach car exists, and I really wanted to show you a picture of it. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one that could be freely used, and I’m against ripping off an artist’s work without his or her permission. However, Carl Carruthers has a fantastic photo of the Real Live Cockroach Car that you can enjoy by visiting his site at

Most of the common wisdom about love is garbage. I know that’s a bold statement, especially since I admit that I don’t really know how love works. Well, I may not know how it works, but I can identify dumb statements about love. That’s just the same as me not knowing how an electron microscope works, but still being able to tell that someone is stupid when they say it’s powered by cotton candy and middle class guilt.

I present a few famous nuggets of “love wisdom.”

Love means never having to say you’re sorry. Unless love turns you into a saint who doesn’t care whether your spouse rolls over onto your hair in bed, this is just flat wrong.

All you need is love. Try getting five gallons of premium out of a gas pump by reading your impassioned love poetry to it.

It is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. What if your first love was a strung-out street hustler who burned down your house before smuggling dope in your suitcase, stealing your credit cards, and leaving you stranded in Las Cruces, New Mexico? Wouldn’t it have been better never to have loved that son of a bitch at all?

Love is when you see a person’s flaws as perfection. I don’t care how much you love someone, you will never see toenail-picking and eating the last chocolate chip cookie as anything other than flaws.

If he loved me, he’d know what I want. Stop. Just stop already. Do I even have to explain why this is the stupidest thing anyone in love has ever said?

However, I admit that one piece of love folklore may be true. “Opposites attract” could be a true statement. In fact, if opposites do attract, my wife and I should be fused at the molecular level.

My wife and I aren’t opposite in any important ways, other than the entirety of how we interact with the universe. For example, my wife is more organized than me. I could write that sentence another thousand times and still not adequately emphasize how true it is. She’s the most organized person I know. Actually, she’s the most organized person I’ve ever heard of. She molds her world into an orderly existence. On the other hand, my existence resembles the inside of a clown car.

To illustrate how my wife approaches organization, we know that occasionally flipping a mattress is good for it. I know that. I owned a mattress for years before I met my wife, and I’m pretty certain I flipped it at least once. In my wife’s world, you flip the mattress when you change the sheets. You might skip it once if you have malaria or something, but otherwise it’s non-negotiable. Yet for my lovely wife, flipping a mattress is not enough. It has to be flipped end to end one time and side to side the next. And that’s still not enough. To insure that the mattress is flipped the right way each time, she ties ribbons to the mattress handles upon each flipping as a guide for which way the mattress must be flipped next time. No molecule of my being would have ever conceived that such a system was needful, nor even possible.

I’m not complaining. Our mattress is now ancient, yet it sags just moderately. Were it left to me, sleeping on our mattress would now be like sleeping in two foxholes. My wife has served us magnificently, but it shows how emphatically opposite we are.

In my wife’s world, secrets do not exist unless they are stamped “SECRET” in red block letters, and possibly given a code word like “Flapping Mudslide.” It’s okay if everybody knows everything, and all knowledge is shared indiscriminately. Things are far easier that way. I agree that secrets complicate matters, but sometimes I don’t want every single person we meet to know every fact, opinion, theory, and squiggly little detail about our lives. All right, I admit that I want hardly anyone in the world to know any of that stuff. It’s all right with me if three of our friends and a couple of family members know a few things, but even that makes me light-headed. Again, opposites attract.

Similarly, I tend to consider what I say to people before I say it. I don’t ponder my words, but I do pause to consider whether I’m about to say the most insulting thing ever spoken since Agamemnon called Achilles a “pancreas with pubic hair.” My wife dismisses such ridiculous delays in the flow of ideas, and her statements sometimes come across as blunt, rather like the Matterhorn falling on your foot. While this disconcerts some people, her friends value this quality. They’ve been known to ask each other something like “How do I look in this dress?” then be told, “You look great,” and then ask, “No, what would you say if you were Kathy?” That’s a level of frankness that few can claim. I know I can’t. Once again, opposites.

Over the years we’ve found that our opposite qualities often complement one another and sometimes drive us insane. I think the most fundamental way in which we’re opposite is our general approach to life. My wife strives to live a modest and wise life. She chooses things that will make her happy, and she works towards them by slow and relentless steps. I choose things that I think I’ll want, and that often have nothing to do with making me happy, and then I blast my way towards them. My wife embraces modest ambition and always succeeds. I expect I can accomplish anything. Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I crash directly onto my face, leaving a trail of skin and teeth behind me in the gravel. I have never seen my wife fail when she committed herself to achieving something. She is incapable of quitting. I am eminently capable of quitting.

I’m not sure why opposites attract, and I’m not sure why that bit of love lore applies to us. But I’m glad it does. If it didn’t apply to us, then we’d both be developing intricate mattress-flipping schemes, rather than one of us standing by with his mouth open in astounded appreciation.