From A Million Miles

From a Million Miles is a technopop/electronic dance song by the Australian trio Single Gun Theory. I’m not a big fan of the genre, but I do have that song on one of my playlists. If you don’t have anything else to do, you can listen to it on The YouTube®.

It’s kind of a catchy song. And the title more or less sums up how living in a foreign country can sometimes feel when you miss your family and friends. And stuff…

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How’s everybody doing? I hope you’ve all been able to stock up on toilet paper, bottled water, and hand sanitizer so you don’t get killed to death by the Coronavirus. We’re safe here in Mexico because we drink Corona® beer. It contains all the antibodies you need to develop immunity to the pandemic that’s wreaking havoc everywhere else on the planet.

Honestly, I have no idea what’s really going on out there in the real world. I don’t watch the news. Social media seems to be the most effective way to spread misinformation. Ever.

I figure most of us will survive this latest crisis, much like we’ve survived everything else that was supposed to destroy the world. Or we won’t. And life will go on.

The bottom line is this: there’s a bunch of rich, white, seventy year old men in America with dementia and intransigent political alliances, and they are going to fix everything.

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What could possibly go wrong?

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I am seriously embarrassed by the current state of American politics, and if you aren’t, you should be. Even if you’re not an American. I’ve come to the conclusion that the current system of government isn’t just broken, it’s FUBAR. For those of you that are unaware, it’s a military acronym that means: Fucked Up Beyond All Repair.

I’d like to be able to blame Donald Trump and his political sycophants for destroying the country of my birth, but all they did was drive the final stake in its heart.

It’s no secret that I dislike President Trump. He has taken being a hypocrite to a whole ‘nother level. A hypocrite is a person who pretends to have virtues, moral or religious beliefs, or principles that he or she does not actually possess, especially a person whose actions belie their stated beliefs.

The Donald is more of a triplocrit. And here’s how he does it: 1.) He says or does something outrageous. 2.) He denies that he did or said anything. 3.) He smugly admits to doing/saying that which he had previously denied, but says it’s not a big deal. Or it’s not illegal. Or what are you going to do about it. Or something…

I haven’t been following his antics as closely ever since my Twitter account was permanently suspended last year. I still get updates from my friends on Facebook about what The Donald has been up to. Okay, they despise Trump, too. So they never have anything good to say about him. 

Trump, if nothing else, has clearly defined the lines of divisiveness that separate the two major American political parties. He probably used a Sharpie®…

The People With Brains, my name for the people that oppose Trump, are absolutely mystified how the Walmart Intelligensia, my name for the people that worship Trump, can be so taken in by this two-bit charlatan.

There might be an explanation in the Bible: “…they look but do not see, and they listen, but do not hear nor do they understand.” Matthew 13:13.

But one line in the Bible can be used to support almost any argument.

“They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31. I could claim that this bit of scripture prophesied the Philadelphia Eagles beating the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl in 2018.

God, if He had anything to do with Donald Trump being elected, is clearly working in mysterious ways because that’s apparently the only way He knows how to work. And if this is going to be one of His lessons for humanity, there are going to be a whole lots of dunces facing the corner wearing funny hats when this is over.

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As I’ve said before, guys are not typically known for their profound thoughts. Guys are simple creatures. If it ain’t broken, don’t fix it. That’s a guy thought. If it is broken and you can’t fix it, it’s time to get a new goldarn thing. That is also a deeply profound guy thought.

It’ll probably require another American revolution to fix this goddamn goldarn mess of a thing, but that political/socioeconomic battle won’t be fought until long after I’m dead.

I tried to warn the Millennials, but they haven’t heard me yet. It’s time to vote every fucking member of Congress from my generation out of office, and put them out to pasture where they belong.

I’m not going to tell you little bastards that again.

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One of the best things about living in Mexico is we don’t have to watch or listen to any American political ads if we don’t want to. We did have to endure Canadian political ads last year. Yep. They were annoying, too.

I love living here. The climate is temperate. The people here are genuinely sweet. The food is amazing! The cost of living is doubly amazing!! We live in a beautiful gringo mansion that we wouldn’t be able to afford back the States. I get to hang out with the love of my life and enjoy spending this blessed time of our lives together. And we have kit-tens!!

Some of my Facebook friends have told me they are fascinated by my decision to live in Mexico. Well, if they’re that interested, I hope they start reading my blog. That’s right, Ryan McKenzie, I’m talking to you.

He was my first boss at Aurora Behavioral Health in Glendale, AZ. I accepted the job because of him. He was highly regarded and recommended by my co-workers at St. Luke’s Hospital in Phoenix. I decided to find a new job after my first work wife, Deb Goral, left the Evening shift and started working Days. It wasn’t as much fun without her, so I decided to move on.

Ryan is the Program Director of the SAGE Unit now. That’s the Gero/Psych unit I worked on at Banner Del Webb Medical Center in Surprise, AZ. As one of the doctors I worked with at Del Webb told me when I left there, “It’s a small world in Psychiatry here in Phoenix. We’ll probably run into each other again.”

He was right about that. I worked with him again at Aurora.

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If you’re one of the seven people that have ever read any of my blogs, you might have noticed that I changed the title of my page. I originally started writing about my career as a psych nurse, and I called it Reflections. As time has progressed, I’ve been less reflective about my nursing career and more reactive to just about anything. I’m all over the spectrum with what I write now.

If I can’t think of anything else to write about, I tend to ramble on about living in Mexico, so I decided to add that to the title to emphasize it a bit more. I don’t want to give anyone the wrong idea about what they’re going to find here.

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As much as I love living here, life in Mexico isn’t without its challenges. Case in point, the fireplace in our living room.

In my last post, I mentioned we were shopping for a gas insert for the fireplace in the living room. We have three fireplaces here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa. They all have gas lines installed, but none of them have the requisite inserts that make them functionable.

We found an insert at Baja Grills, and Lea was able to negotiate a sweet deal on it with Kat. It was one of those Just Between Two Supermodels Things…  Lea bought the insert for less than five hundred bucks, which is about half of what you’d usually pay for one down here.

However, before we bought it Lea wanted to know if the gas line to the fireplace actually worked. I suppose I could have just turned one on, you know, to check. But I don’t like playing with gas, so I decided to call our property manager, Jaime Mendoza.

And there was this: I thought Lea was being ridiculous because the gas lines were already in place! And who would be stupid enough to run a gas line to the fireplace and not hook it up to the propane tank???

So, I talked to Jaime, and he talked to Lord Mark. He’s the guy that owns the house we’re renting. They were both pretty sure all the fireplaces worked because Lord Mark’s parents had burned wood fires in all of them. When I asked again about the gas lines, Jaime couldn’t think of any reason why they wouldn’t work.

Based on that information we bought the insert, but when the guy came to install it we discovered that none of the gas lines to any of the fireplaces worked. At some point in time in the past, the original gas line had been replaced with a new and improved gas line. But the new line ran from the propane tank to the water heater for the bathrooms in the North Wing of the house.

And the fucking fireplaces had not been reconnected!!!

The installer from Baja Grills was a Mexican guy named Saul. He took one look at how the new line had been installed, and said, “Fucking Mexico.” And then he said, “It takes a Mexican to fix a Mexican problem.”

l love that because truer words have never been spoken.

Saul gave us an estimate to run a new gas line from the propane tank to the living room fireplace. Fourteen thousand pesos. That’s roughly equivalent to $700 US. It’s not a huge amount of money, but it’s more than Lea or I wanted to spend on a house that we don’t own.

So I talked to Jaime again, and he came over to eyeball the situation for himself. Jaime said he didn’t know about the replacement gas line. And if Lord Mark had known about it, he had forgotten all about it. And Jaime had had the same thought I did. He couldn’t imagine the gas lines not working either.

However, Lord Mark thought it was important that the living room fireplace actually worked like a fireplace, so he agreed to pay for the installation of a new gas line. And it would be much cheaper than the estimate Saul had given us. “I think that guy gave you a gringo-face price.”

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I had never heard that term before, but I don’t doubt that it’s true, too

It took Tacho, our general fix-it guy, two days to hook up the new gas line. Tacho loves working here because I let him use any of my tools that he needs, and I always tip him well for his services.

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And there you have it

One working fireplace! I don’t know if Lord Mark would’ve been willing to run new gas lines to all the fireplaces here. I doubt we’d ever use the other two, and we love it here, so we don’t want to create any undue expenses for stuff we don’t want or need.

We painted the fireplace in the master bedroom to make it pop! Seriously, you wouldn’t have known it was even there before we added the accent color to the chimney. They both turned out great and we’ll probably never have to mess with either of them again.

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Mexico. The land where things that you think will be easy to do or find end up being Herculean labors of frustration. And things that you think are going to be almost impossible to accomplish end up being easier than tying your shoes.

That’s what happened when we found this house. And when we needed to get a new car. Lea and I are changing our living status in Mexico from temporary to permanent this year, and once we do that we are required by law to drive a Mexican plated car. 

In order to be legally registered and licensed in Mexico, every car has to have been manufactured in Mexico, Canada, or the United States. I think it’s part of the NAFTA treaty, or whatever it’s called now. Our American made Buick Encore was actually assembled in South Korea. We couldn’t get it licensed here even we we wanted to.

Buying a car in Mexico isn’t the same as buying a car in the States. Prices for almost everything in the States are fixed, except cars. You can negotiate the sales price of the vehicle you want, and salesmen will literally kiss your feet if means getting a sale. In Mexico, a lots of prices are flexible, except cars. The dealer has one price, and if you don’t like it, well, that’s too bad for you.

On the bright side, cars are about 40% cheaper in Mexico than they are in the States. Yep, you read that correctly. The car we’re thinking about buying will cost us roughly $18,000 US.

In America, no one pays cash at a dealership. Cars are financed, and you have a monthly car payment for years. In Mexico, financing is something they’re still trying to figure out. If you really want to buy a decent car, you better be able to pay cash for it when you go to the dealership.

And, you should have a reputable mechanic look over any car you want to buy here because not everything is as advertised. Odometer readings are often changed to reflect lower mileage, so if nothing else, there’s always that. Additionally, cars that have damaged by floods in the US are frequently shipped to Mexico to be sold. So there’s that, too.

We hired a local guy named Antonio Regalado to find a new car for us. He owns and runs a business called R &R Car Sales and Rentals to help gringos find good cars, and comes highly recommended by everyone we know that has done business with him. He’s kind of a mercenary car salesman — he doesn’t work for any dealership — but he works with a few of them and they usually pay his fees for hooking up gringos looking for cars with dealerships that have a lots of cars to sell.

Antonio does all the talking to the salesmen, the managers, and anyone else who might be involved in the sale at the dealership. And he kept us updated on everything that was happening.

We met with him Monday for about half an hour at his office, and told him what we were looking for. We gave him a list of the options we wanted and the year, make, and model of the SUV’s we were interested in. Half an hour later, we had a list of six SUV’s to choose from, along with Antonio’s perspective on which was the best buy.

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These are our top two choices

The first is a 2017 Kia Sportage GT. It has 45,000 kilometers. The GT package means it has a bigger engine and comes with a fair amount of bells and whistles. The second is a 2018 Nissan X-Trail. It has 59,000 kilometers and it has almost every bell and whistle available for that model. And it’s red.

Antonio drove us to Guadalajara today to the dealership to take a closer look at both of them. Personally, the only thing I care about in my automobiles is that they have a great sound system, which makes me the least qualified person on the planet when it comes to buying a car. So it’s a good thing I have people around me who know what the hell they’re doing.

This process has transpired a helluvalot faster than any of us thought it would. I thought it would take a couple of weeks at least, not two days! Our financial planner didn’t think it would happen this quickly either, so she has had to scramble to get us the funds we need to buy Lea’s new dream car. 

There’s an unwritten rule for shopping in Mexico: If you find something you like, buy it. It won’t be there the next time. We’ve failed to do that enough times that we don’t question it anymore. Lea loves the X-Trail. And it has a Bose® stereo sound system. Done deal.

And here’s where the really weird part comes in. Before a Mexican dealership can sell you a car, the Mexican government requires that you have to prove you actually live in Mexico. And proof of residency, according to the government, is a utility bill. An electric bill. Telephone, TV, or Internet. All you need is a bill with your name on it, and you could buy a whole fleet of cars if you wanted to.

We don’t own the house we’re living in. None of the utility bills we pay have our names on them. We have a signed copy of the rental contract, but the Mexican government doesn’t recognize it as legal proof of residency. They don’t recognize driver’s licenses either.

Yeah, go figure on that!

Seeing how we live here, but don’t have the required documents of proof, we’re trying to figure out how to make this work. A bank statement will suffice, but first we have to open an account in a Mexican bank, then wait until we receive our first bank statement. This being Mexico, and assuming that will be an easy thing, it could take months for that to happen.

But we do have an Antonio. And as everyone knows, it takes a Mexican to fix a Mexican problem.

(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

¡Hola amigos! ¿Cómo están?

I know I haven’t written anything lately, so I’d like to thank my faithful readers for stepping up and demanding that I get back to work. Yeah, that didn’t happen. I don’t know how I’d respond if it ever did.

I’ve been busy. My lovely supermodel wife’s boyfriend has been here for the last couple of weeks, so we’ve been kind of occupied with him. I say kind of because we haven’t seen him as much this time around. Todd has decided he’s going to move here, so he’s been busy sorting out the details of his eventual relocation.

We hooked him up with our beautiful and talented Immigration Attorney, Julia Vargas. They’ve had several meetings to discuss what his best plan of action should be. And they’ve gone out on several non-business dates. They’re spending the weekend together at the beach.

I hope it works out for them. They’re both good people.

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Several of my latest posts have been of a political nature, which implies that I’m a global thinker, or at the least, far more global in my thinking than I actually am.

I’m a guy. Guys, by nature, tend to be shallow, superficial, and think only about themselves. Clearly, I need to get back to basics. I’m going to try to keep this post generally within the confines of our yard. More specifically, it’s about the joys of home maintenance.

I’m fairly competent at doing minor repairs around the house. I can replace light fixtures and faucets. I can fix leaking pipes. I’m really good at building shelves. I also know when I can’t fix something, and when it comes to home maintenance, that’s probably the most important thing to know.

To be fair, we had home maintenance issues at our last house. We’ve been very fortunate that both of our landlords have been very responsive to our wants and needs, whenever I couldn’t manage them myself, and that’s not always the case here. Or anywhere else for that matter.

* * * *

I have a theory about life. If there’s nothing going wrong in your life, God will bless you with car trouble, just to keep you humble. I call it Mark’s General Theory of Life and Stuff.

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Little Known Fact About And Stuff: It’s an unofficial nursing term. Way back when I was in nursing school, some of my much younger female classmates used it to describe the symptomatology of their patients.

“My patient was vomiting fecal material, and stuff…”  Which begs the question, If your patient was essentially vomiting shit, what else can there be? You’d think anything that had been in front of it would be, you know, gone already. Well, that’s the first thought I had…

Believe it or not, that’s actually a true story.

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Back to my theory on Life, Car Trouble, and Humility. That was before I retired and started playing golf.

I don’t need any help from God staying humble anymore. Golf has all of the bases covered as far as that is concerned. My fairway game has improved. I’m consistently getting on the green in three strokes.

My drives are mostly beautiful. A guy I golfed with the other day commented that I must have a low handicap after watching one of my gorgeous tee shots.

“Wait til we get closer to the green.” I replied.

To paraphrase my nursing school buddy, Don Nelson, I can’t sink fuckin’ putts.

If you’re on the green in three, and you three putt, that’s always a six. It’s my new favorite score. I’ve become so good at it that one of my golf buddies said this after we finished the seventh hole last Sunday.

“Give me a Mark.”

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Jesus H. Tiger Fuckin’ Mickelson!

According to people who are reasonably good golfers, there’s only one way to improve your golf score. And that is to keep playing. I’ll be on the course tomorrow. I’ll let you know if there’s any improvement.

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Okay. Back to my theory on Life, Car Trouble, and Humility. Again. The proof of this is we haven’t had any car trouble since we moved to Mexico, other than having to buy new tires. Twice. I attribute that to the roads here in the Lakeside Area more than anything else.

However, we have been blessed of late with a few issues at our new home that have been keeping us on our toes. The two biggest problems are in the kitchen.

The first is the refrigerator, which has mostly been nothing but trouble ever since we moved into our new home. I’ve written about this previously, if you’re really bored and want to check out  any of my other posts…

Our landlord, Lord Mark, Duke of San Antonio Tlayacapan, upgraded all of the kitchen appliances before we moved in, and moved the old appliances out to the casita. They’re old, and a faded almond color; clearly outdated in terms of modern decor. We were thrilled to see them replaced.

The new refrigerator is a shiny, stainless steel LG. We had an LG refrigerator at our house in Surprise, and we loved it. The first thing our shiny, new Mexican LG failed to perform consistently at was the water dispenser on the door. Both Lea and I drink a lots of water, so we’ve developed a great affinity for this handy gadget.

The water line in our refrigerator kept freezing up. It was easily fixed. Remove the frozen filter, let it thaw. Grab one of Lea’s hair dryers, melt the ice in the water line. Put it all back together, and violá! It worked like a charm.

There was only one problem. It kept freezing up.

The refrigerator is under warranty. Jaime Mendoza, our property manager here at the Chula Vista Resort and Spa, eventually convinced the LG Service Department in Guadalajara to send a technician to the Lakeside Area to fix it. Lakeside is about forty miles south of Guad. That took about a month. And all was well, until the ice maker died.

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I don’t use the ice maker much, but Lea does. She loves drinking really cold water. We’ve discovered she isn’t the only one. Our kit-tens, Mika and Mollie, do too. And Mollie is absolutely fascinated by ice cubes.

Another thing we’ve discovered is our rapidly growing kit-tens are really good at knocking things over, like, lamps. And ceramic chickens. And terra cotta armadildoes. And glasses of ice water. I started using a plastic water bottle because they can be resealed. And if the kit-tens knock that over, no clean up is required.

I think the only breakable things they haven’t already broken are the things we put on top of the book cases in the living room. And the only reason they haven’t broken those things is they haven’t figured out how to get up there yet.

* * * *

Jaime had to enter into another series of negotiations with the LG Service Department on our behalf, but before he was able to convince them that they needed to repair the ice maker on their warrantied product, the refrigerator stopped refrigerating, and then the freezer stopped freezing.

We moved everything that had been in the shiny, new refrigerator/freezer out to the ugly old refrigerator/freezer in the casita. Yeah, there’s nothing wrong with the way that old piece of junk works.

There was one bright spot with the bright and shiny LG. The water dispenser still worked.

It took Jaime about a week to convince the LG Service Department to send another repair technician to come look at the almost totally malfunctioning major appliance in our kitchen, but first we had to do The Twelve Hour Test.

Lea’s response was, “We’ve already done a one hundred and twenty hour test! This is bullshit!!”

My response to her was, “Honey, do you want your refrigerator fixed or not?”

So, yes. We performed the requisite testing. It was simple to do. Turn the cold settings up to maximum warp, put one glass of water in the refrigerator, and another in the freezer. And, twelve hours later, nothing had happened. The water in the refrigerator didn’t get cold, and the water in the freezer was still water.

Once LG was informed of the test results, they agreed to send out another technician. That was on Thursday. The LG repairman is supposed to be here next Tuesday. If we’re very fortunate, our refrigerator problems might be sorted out by the end of the month.

* * * *

The other kitchen issue is the faucet. We had asked Jaime to upgrade both the sink and the faucet, and he was willing to do that. The kitchen sink is stainless steel, but over several decades of hard use, it’s no longer stainless. The faucet was a mishmash of parts that didn’t match, and it leaked.

Jaime manages more than one property for Lord Mark, so it sometimes takes a while for him to get back to this property. Lea and I eventually decided to go look at new sinks on our own. That’s when we discovered that modern kitchen sinks are much smaller than our vintage sink.

Installing a new sink would have entailed completely redoing the countertop, and we didn’t think that was something Lord Mark would be willing to do.

No problem, we’re flexible. We informed Jaime we were willing to work at rehabbing the vintage sink, but we still wanted a new faucet. He sent us pictures of faucets he liked. Lea found one that she loved, and we had that installed a couple of weeks ago.

It was a weird-looking contraption, like unto the Terminator of Faucets. And the spray nozzle could really project jets of water.

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I think it performed flawlessly for about a week before it fell apart. It was easy enough to put back together because even I could do it. Unfortunately, a few days later it came apart at a different junction, and a few days after that it fell apart at the first junction I had already repaired. That was enough for Lea.

“Tell Jaime I want a new faucet. Now.” she said. Jaime is generally very easy to work with, but just so I knew he’d understand the urgency of the matter, when I told him we needed another new faucet, I added, “You don’t want me to put my wife on the phone.”

He’s a smart guy. He said he’d get another faucet.

The new faucet also has a warranty. We’ll see how long it takes to get that issue settled. In the meantime, Jaime had his crew install a temporary faucet, which works perfectly. So, that problem is sort of settled for the time being.

Fortunately, there are a few hundred excellent restaurants here. Another fortunate thing is it probably doesn’t cost any more for us to eat out than it does to cook at home. I’ll continue to post restaurant pictures on my Facebook page.

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The only reason I named our new house the Chula Vista Resort and Spa is because it has a swimming pool. I’m not sure I’ll ever use it, but Lea probably will once the temperature starts to climb. Whether we use it or not, it looks cool. And it doesn’t cost us anything to maintain it. That was included as part of our rent.

Well, it looked cool. Until the water turned green.

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I know next to nothing about pool maintenance. The first time I touched any of our pool equipment at our house in Surprise, I broke something. It was also the last time that I touched any of it. After that, I hired a pool service to manage everything related to the pool.

Our gardener is also responsible for maintaining the pool, so all I had to do was talk to Miguel, and he took care of everything else. However, I was curious why the water turned green. Miguel said the water here sucks; it’s too acidic, and that’s why the pool turned green.

We’re really glad we decided to install a water filtration system for the house now.

It took Miguel three days to shock the pool and vacuum all the crap out of it. The pool looked pristine for several days before the greening process started up again. He’s been testing the pool water daily and adding a series of chemicals to balance the pH levels. It looks beautiful today. I’m not worried about the pool. Miguel knows what he’s doing. If I try to help him, I’ll probably have to buy a new pump and filter system. Again.

* * * *

There’s one more thing that we’ve had to contend with, and that’s the water heater for the South Wing of Casa Tara. We have two small propane water heaters. We’ve never had any problems with the heater for the North Wing. It’s an older model with a pilot light, and that sucker can seriously heat up some water.

The other heater is a newer model. It’s an on-demand heater. The only time it runs is when you turn on the hot water in either of the bathrooms in the main house. I’ve had the opportunity to learn that the ignitor is battery operated, and if you know anything about batteries, you know that they have to be replaced eventually.

I discovered this when my lovely supermodel wife tried taking a shower with cold water.

If there’s one thing I know about propane heaters it’s this: If you fuck up playing with gas, you’ll probably blow up half of the neighborhood. I know how to relight the pilot if it goes out, but this sonuvabitch didn’t have a pilot light, and I didn’t know about the battery powered ignitor. Yet.

So I called my buddy, Elvis. He used to be a security guard at the golf course, but now he works for the gas company. It was Elvis who showed me where the battery compartment was. We put new batteries in, and voilá! Mischief managed. Or so I thought.

It seems the battery compartment is somewhat of a temperamental bitch. I’ve had to go outside and fiddle with the damn thing several times since we replaced the batteries. I happened to be in the shower the last time the hot water died, so Lea went out and whispered something to the effect of, Do this one more time and I’ll replace more than your goddamn batteries!

We haven’t had a problem since.

Maybe she should try that with the refrigerator…