Category Archives: Laura Grimes

Confessions of an amateur plumber, or, Hey, at least my pants stay up

Auger label. Photo: Mrs. ScatterBy LAURA GRIMES

I thought I was done with my impressive array of drain-cleaning implements after the previous plumbing panic.

I was going to stash them in the basement and let them collect dead spiders, but when I put the plastic bin at the top of the stairs it fell over. I peered around the corner in time to watch the bin plonk, plonk, plonk down the stairs and roll away, leaving the plastic thorny thing, the big auger, the little auger and (my personal favorite) the hose blaster up and down the steps.

I did what any sensible amateur plumber would do. I shut the door to worry about it the next day. Or the next time I had to go to the basement to do laundry, whichever came later.

Little did I know one of the large smelly boys would have to go to the basement first thing in the morning to fetch frozen waffles and a loaf of bread.

“It’s booby trapped!” I yelled.

He figured out what I meant. I could tell by the “Ewww!”

As unluck would have it, I had to go to the basement the next day to do laundry. I’m not sure if my bigger motivator was not wanting to look hideous in a leg cast or risk a higher premium on hazard insurance, but I picked up the impressive array of drain-cleaning implements.

As unluck would have it, the plastic thorny thing had landed in a cat litter box.

Yes, I unscrupulously manipulated that line for maximum gross-out effect. The litter box was actually clean and empty. It was in place to catch drips from a bathroom flood when a large smelly boy didn’t properly place the shower curtain (on the second floor!). But that’s a plumbing woe for another day. As is my shameful bout with garden nozzle envy.

As I picked up my impressive array of drain-cleaning implements I remembered I actually had to use them again — a banner week!

The toilet in the bathroom that belongs to the large smelly boys didn’t flush properly. I had plunged it and plunged it. It didn’t work. Even though I was using a designer plunger. It has such high style points that it comes with its own caddy. So it’s much more fashionable than our other one, which sits in a Tupperware container. And it’s certainly more fashionable than the one it replaced — a plunger that had a carved duck head with googly eyes. My dad made it. But the head fell off. Making the handle action uncomfortable while plunging. I hate it when my plunger duck heads fall off.

All I can say is it’s a good idea I was doing the plunging instead of my (nameless) husband. I’m a quiet plunger by nature. He, on the other hand, uses words that start with e-p-i-t-h-e-t.

But even my quiet plunging nature didn’t work this time. So I took my impressive array of drain-cleaning implements upstairs and, well, it all augered well. Maybe because I read the directions:

Loosen thumbscrew. Insert boring head [not the interesting one, apparently] through crossbar and push into pipe until stoppage [the technical term is not “large clump of goo,” apparently] is reached (if head can’t pass through strainer [I can’t remember the last time I tried to put mine through one], use bent tip at other end of spring.)”

It also says:

Don’t force the snake! Let the boring head do the work.

I learned a few things:

1. My big auger is called a “clog chaser.”
2. My little auger says that it “retrieves wash cloths, diapers, toys” [you can’t make this stuff up].
3. When I auger out a toilet my husband hollers, “What’s that wippity wappity noise?”

— Laura Grimes

I have garden nozzle envy and I can’t make it stop


My neighbor invited me to check her drawers. For a male part.

Actually, she has just one drawer. Labeled “hose parts.” Where she claims, and I quote, “numerous male and female parts are happily having a menage a huit ou neuf — you might even say an orgy.”

Let us pray for good spray ....I don’t speak French, so that basically meant to me, “blah blah blah blah ORGY.” And I’m invited.

In case you missed my previous plumbing panic, I have all female parts, and I misplaced my male part.

This is really embarrassing to admit, but without a male part I can’t couple my dirty garden hose to my hose blaster.

Now, not only is my neighbor willing to come to the rescue with a male part, she’s also willing to take care of my large smelly boys. She’s offered to take care of their smell and goo-making attributes. All I have to do is send them to the end of the driveway and she will HOSE THEM OFF. Apparently she has a blast-across-the-street-hose-off-the-neighbor’s-child setting on her garden nozzle.

I know. She sounds so charitable. But I know she’s really just looking for an opportunity to flash her garden nozzle at me.

I’m not proud to admit this, but I have garden nozzle envy. I had no idea I could be so envious of something at the end of a hose. I’ve had a bad case of it ever since my neighbor told me in a rather lofty voice, “I have a new garden nozzle.”

I was speechless at first. But before I knew it, I blurted out, “I want a new garden nozzle!”

Soon after that it was a beautiful sunny Sunday afternoon, and I wanted to play outside, but instead I had to go to a large one-stop shopping store. I was really mad about having to be there. It was crowded and noisy. It’s possible I had forgotten to eat lunch, because I was in a low-sugar stupor.

Maybe I just couldn’t help myself, but somehow, in my daze, I drifted into the garden-nozzle aisle. I looked up and I was in awe. There, in full display, was a wide array of nozzles in bright, shiny Las Vegas colors. They were purple and red. They had flower patterns. They had settings called things like mist and jet. They had beautiful long handles. I felt like I had stumbled into a red light district. All I could do was gawk. I looked around to make sure no one was watching.

The nozzles were so flashy and brazen that I was too embarrassed to buy one, so I did the next best thing. I called my mom.

Bedazzled by mom nozzle ...She came to visit and brought me a new nozzle. It has rhinestones.

She made it with love and a glue gun. I immediately flashed it to the neighbors. When I told my mom she misheard me and thought that I flashed the neighbors, but she got that wrong.

My neighbor said she likes her shiny garden nozzle (read blatant hussy) because she can (wait for it) find it in her yard. Herewith, tips for finding shy, unassuming garden nozzles:

1. Locate faucet.
2. Locate hose attached to faucet.
3. Follow hose until …
4. … you find the nozzle.
(Feel free to adapt these tips as needed.)

Turns out my neighbor has two garden nozzles. One in front and one in back.

I wanted one in front and one in back, too. So I got up the courage and went back to the red light district. I shyly checked out a bright red one with a long handle. I even touched it. But I settled on a sweet little blue number — a 7-pattern turret nozzle. It was 10 percent off. My receipt says I got a “noz/hose end.” It has a metallic sheen, and I’m just a little embarrassed to gaze at it too long. But it feels great. It has an ergonomic grip and a trigger lock.

I’m very happy with my new garden nozzles. They look beautiful. They spray like nobody’s business.

But I got some new information. My neighbor said that while I was out of town another neighbor got a new garden nozzle. A very nice one. With 10 speeds.

I haven’t checked it out yet for myself. Partly because I’m still reeling from some other news my neighbor shared. In addition to having a drawer entirely dedicated to hose parts, she has something else, too. She has a king-size auger.

— Laura Grimes

Seventy-six trombones and a giant cow


A brief report from today’s Junior Rose Parade, where the arts were alive and well.

Tillie the Tillamook cow and friend. Rose Festival AssociationYes, long before the parade started, when people were still scarce, a driver held his hand out of a passing van and released two butterflies.

Yes, men do wear kimonos.

No, Mayor Sam Adams wasn’t to be seen.

Yes, City Commissioner Amanda Fritz walked the parade with a red skirt suit, black pumps, a big smile and a sign that read, “Hi, I’m Amanda!”

Yes, the best middle school bands were from Washington state.

Yes, the biggest cheers were for … (I kid you not) …

Tillamook Cheese (celebrating 100 years) with a giant cow and a giant cheddar loaf

and …

the Multnomah County Library.

— Laura Grimes

Poem for city travelers: reading and writing on the bus


Anna Griffin’s column today in The Oregonian about poetry disappearing from buses makes my heart hurt. I love those poems, those found sparks of life, and I will sorely miss them if they disappear. Often, when I was lost in thought on the bus, I would spy one of those poems and read it over and over. I would crane my neck around other passengers to follow the lines.

Credit: TriMetPerhaps if the poetry cards go away, riders could start carrying around books of poetry — reading them, exchanging them, passing them around. TriMet could have stacks of books on the bus, donated by riders, free for the taking and dropping off again.

Perhaps riders could start writing poetry. Maybe TriMet could run its own poetry contest. It would be fitting for buses and MAX trains to run local poems. If TriMet pays to print cards anyway for public service announcements, why not some inspiring art? Worried about printing costs? Use recycled paper and Sharpies, have people write their own poems, pick the best and most legible, and paste them on the old boards. Why stop at poetry in motion? Decorate them. TriMet would be so hip. TriMet would be … so Portland.

What’s the harm? What’s to lose? Look at everything TriMet has to gain: public outreach, supporting the arts, good vibes for riders, a happier Portland, impressing tourists, giving itself a great image boost.

Maybe TriMet could spearhead various literary efforts: One week, a free ride if you have a poetry book, for instance. Another week if you have a book more than an inch thick. Another week if you have a Newbery Medal book. It could be a wonderfully organic, perfect-for-Portland kind of thing. Think of the heady, positive impact that could have.

When I had to start commuting on the bus, I didn’t entirely like the idea. I didn’t like the idea of sitting next to people who smelled like pee, or of listening to overblown phone conversations. But I quickly realized it was good head time. I liked being part of the everyday jostlings of people getting to places. The ride made me take the time to see and hear, and made my brain turn over many a matter.

My whole Henry James gig that ran in The Oregonian got its life on the bus.

Don Colburn: gravity on the bus
And that’s where I read As If Gravity Were a Theory, a book of poetry by Don Colburn.
I worked with Don at The Oregonian. He sat across from me. He whirs a whistle on occasion when a rowdy celebratory moment deserves it. He’s a health writer by day. But other times he writes beautiful, brain-tickling verse. His title poem ran in The Oregonian. It’s worth every careful winged word.

Don has no idea that I wrote a poem many months ago about reading his poetry on the bus. What poetry ride will you take? Will TriMet take up the challenge?

Don, I Read You on the Bus

Words flit by like traffic lights
blinking colors
in stop and go.

The bus bends
the way you say clouds kneel
and people file on
clinking coins
It’s gray outside.

Heads framed
by wide windows
scuzzy on the outside.
Whole bridges stand in
as backdrops
and then whiz gone.

I drop in and out
of poems
the way I drop in and out
of people.
The everyday.
I rock and sway with suspension,
re-sort my bags
and zone in
on a life sliced uneasy.
I’m lost. Forgotten.
Unconsciously counting the meter
in my head,
rewording the words
and slipping into spaces
of someone else
in some other place.

That was streets ago.
White tennis shoes
center my gaze
blue jeans
coat no hat
and the slow focus
to a face creased brown
like fresh-made paper
and lips flat quiet.

Then the woman
and the hill and the pill.
I’m stepping with her
going up and going down
lost in her rhythm
and life’s seasons

when the driver honks goodbye
to a toddler waving,
his eyes following small steps,
though his expression doesn’t change.

My eyes refocus
to a tan trenchcoat,
black hat and headphones,
a paperback with bus ticket bookmarks.
He’s lost in a John Grisham world.

Black words
make sense of
white paper
and when I read
there in your
15th and Fremont,
my stop in just a few blocks,
it’s not just a coincidence,
but another everyday thing
in a whole spectrum
of in-between colors
in in-between places.

–Laura Grimes

Would someone please tell my husband I’m trying to fix the bathtub drain?


“Why are you heating water?” my husband asked me with a note of alarm in his voice.

He associates hot water with tea. And he associates tea with sore throats.

“Because I’m … uh … ”

we_can_do_itHow do I tell my husband that I’m heating water because our bathtub drain is plugged? As I shower, the water slowly rises to my ankles until I cry for help, quickly rinse and turn off the faucet. Then the water slowly recedes, leaving a gray filthy mess. This isn’t pleasant. It grosses me out.

Somehow it doesn’t gross out one of the large smelly boys, who not only doesn’t notice the gray filthy mess, he TAKES A BATH IN IT. My only comfort in this is that one of the large smelly boys is actually taking a bath, though I still worry for his overall hygiene.

My mom visited and somehow the rising pool of water did not escape her notice.

Figuring a large clump of goo got lodged in the drain, I unscrewed the stopper to clean it out. But there’s a trap a few inches down that blocks getting to the goo.

I tried the vinegar and soda trick. Nada.

Continue reading Would someone please tell my husband I’m trying to fix the bathtub drain?

Mrs. Scatter’s day of whine and roses


Report from the wine-tasting front:

David Lett. Photo: Ron Zimmerman/2005Yes, the large, smelly boys bickered in the backseat.
No, we won’t take them again.
Yes, we will lock them in the dungeon next time.
Yes, the dungeon has an escape hatch.
Yes, I typed that to avoid the scrutiny of child protective services.
Yes, in the valley, the people at the next picnic table ate watermelon and Twinkies.
Yes, we spotted Twinkies again at Eyrie Vineyards.
Yes, Benjamin Franklin came up three times on the trip.
No, I can’t explain these mysterious patterns.
Yes, we left the large, smelly boys in the van while we sipped wine.
Yes, we left the windows cracked.
Yes, I typed that to avoid the scrutiny of child protective services.
Yes, the 2007 Eyrie Chardonnay Reserve is worth the drive.
Yes, only time will tell how the 2007 pinot noirs measure up.
No, my wine palate is not sophisticated enough to predict squat.
Yes, we heard a lovely story from Jason Lett, winemaker of Eyrie Vineyards since the 2005 vintage and son of Eyrie founder and Oregon winemaking legend David Lett, who died last October:

Jason was in a Portland wine store when the guy told him he had a bunch of wines he needed to unload. They turned out to be a cache of Sokol Blosser wines from the mid-1980s, including the legendary 1985 vintage. He took them all and took them to Susan Sokol Blosser, who nearly cried because much of Sokol Blosser’s wine library had been depleted.

Ben Franklin in fur hat, 1777/Wikimedia CommonsNo, a wine library isn’t where you get a special card to check out what you want.
Yes, it is a catalog of sorts of a winemaker’s wines.
No, it isn’t available to the public and doesn’t come with large, solid lions on the front steps.
Yes, tasting the 2002, 2003 and 2004 vintages of Eyrie pinor noir was worth the drive.
Yes, those are the last vintages that David Lett … um … made?
Yes, a trio of those wines in a special box will set you back $210.
No, Mr. Scatter should not be in charge of buying wine.
No, Mrs. Scatter should not be in charge of buying wine.
No, funeral homes should not have Welcome signs (truly sighted).

Yes, herewith, a prized behind-the-scenes peek at an in-depth editing discussion between Mr. and Mrs. Scatter:

Mr. Scatter: Are you sure you don’t want to say “stinky?”
Mrs. Scatter: No, I like, “smelly.”
Mr. Scatter: You do like “smelly,” don’t you?

— Laura Grimes

A toast to loved ones, here and beyond

Dionysus, Roman, second century/Prado, Madrid. Wikimedia Commons


Mrs. Scatter, concerned for her blog-overburdened husband (always nameless), offers a relief pitch …

It’s Memorial Day weekend. Let us toast the memory of our dearly departed by sipping wine in the gorgeous Willamette Valley, where wineries en masse open their doors and uncork their bottles for just a few days. It’s a rare opportunity to glimpse the cellars of many small producers.

Mr. Scatter and I used to jump at the chance on this holiday weekend to head to McMinnville and Eyrie Vineyards, which used to be open only Memorial Day and Thanksgiving weekends. Now, to our delighted surprise, Eyrie has a tasting room that’s open noon-5 p.m. Wednesdays through Sundays. This weekend Eyrie will pour several wines from 2007 without Oregon winemaking pioneer David Lett, also known as Papa Pinot, who died last October. Eyrie winemaker Jason Lett, David’s son, says 2007 is a vintage that, if harvested just right, will be similar to the epic vintages of the 1970s, the ones that put Oregon pinot noir on the world stage. Time will tell. We might have to taste them for ourselves, while they’re young and we knew them when.

How to deal with our own young, though?
I am growing increasingly convinced that all my childcare needs could be satisfied if only I had an ex-husband. A friend is in the valley for the weekend sipping wine. Another friend regularly flies to San Francisco. What to do with their grade-schoolers? Oh, that’s right, they have exes. My current first husband (nameless) says that’s what starter marriages are for. You know, breed and bail. I somehow missed that trend. Wine-tasting and scenic rolling hills just don’t have the same romantic appeal with large, smelly boys bickering in the backseat.

But this is a weekend to remember loved ones, here and gone. Perhaps the promise of a picnic and some flying football will be the ticket to wine country. Happy Memorial weekend. Toast and be merry.

— Laura Grimes