Dirty Thoughts

This is a rant. You have been forewarned! 🙂

In May 2015, I was preparing to leave the country for a few months. In preparation, I bought some new clothes and accessories, and I ran around trying to figure out what to pack. I also went through my wardrobe and washed a lot of clothes, setting things aside in piles, until it came time for me to pack it all up and haul it half-way around the planet (to the Philippines.)

I did my last load of laundry in my washing machine just before I left. I thought the machine was a little cranky when it stopped, the inner stainless steel tub wasn’t moving as freely as it should have.

Then I left my apartment for months, and when I came back, it turned out that the slightly cranky inner stainless steel tub of my washing machine was in full revolt – it wouldn’t much move at all.

My local gas and electric company offers something called a “Worry Free” contract on individual appliances. You pay a little bit each month, and then if you have a problem, you call the company and they send the repairman out to fix it. If you need parts, and it’s covered under the warranty, they order them (free to me, the customer) and then install them (labor is also free.) It’s a good system, and I’ve used it for several years.

So when I returned home, in September, I had some laundry to do. I realized my machine wasn’t working and began to haul my clothes to the local laundry mat to wash. In the meantime, I called for the repairman to come and diagnose the problem so the machine could be fixed.

Well, it turns out that my machine couldn’t be fixed. It was a front loading washing machine, about 9 years old, and the outer tub and ball bearing got locked up, which is why the tub wasn’t spinning on the inside. This is, apparently, a common thing to have happen with these machines. Also, because it’s an extremely difficult part to fix (you’d need to take the entire machine apart inside a machine shop, then re-install the outer tub and the ball bearing…) it’s not covered under the warranty. And, the repairman told me, when the part is not covered, the labor to make the repair isn’t covered either.

And how much would the labor be, if I wanted to proceed with the repair anyway? Oh, about $270 AN HOUR, the repairman informed me.

Argh. No, it’s not worth it to repair a machine that’s 9 years old when the labor is $270 an hour and it would take at least 4 hours to make the repair.

Alright, I thought, then I guess I need to buy a new washing machine. I’m all for doing my best to repair appliances where possible, but this washing machine was kaput.

Off I went to Sears, Home Depot, PC Richards and a few other appliance places. Boy, was I shocked when I got there!

It turns out that in the past few years, washers and dryers are now the size of a small car!

My 750 square foot apartment has a small, 27.5 inch wide and 32 inch deep “closet” to house BOTH my washer AND dryer – one stacked on top of the other. That’s all the space I have for the machines. I can’t create more space in a 100 year old brownstone.

Appliance manufacturers aren’t interested in accommodating apartment dwellers. They want to sell “SUV sized” washers mounted atop a gigantic platform.

If you have the space for an SUV washer, good for you. And if you haven’t been out shopping for such appliances recently, you may also be in for a shock. As of January 2016, the starting price of many washing machines is at least $700 USD, but most are more than that.

And once you purchase the washer, your costs aren’t done. Then you need to pay for taxes, delivery, installation and a stacking kit.

Hmmm, wait a minute. A stacking kit. To stack my 9 year old, perfectly functioning dryer on top of the brand new washer?

NO. It turns out that you can’t do that. Maybe you could do it, but you’re not supposed to do it. Why aren’t you supposed to stack an old dryer on top of a new washer? According to people that SELL washers and dryers, it’s because the little bracket that attaches one unit to the other won’t work with non-compatible machines.

And why should I care about that? Because the new washing machines turn at least 800 RPM (and many of them spin much more rapidly than that, with the highest end machines spinning at 1400 RPM. Trust me, that’s very fast!)

The manufacturer doesn’t want to provide you with a warranty on the new machine unless it’s attached to another brand new machine that is its mate, with their blessed bracket of choice. This helps ensure that the vibrating washer doesn’t push the dryer on top right off the machine. (That can’t really happen inside my 27.5 inch wide closet, but that’s beside the point.)

Does this sound like a scam to you? It does to me!

Many of the older sales and repair people I’ve spoken to about this tell me that these new machines cost a lot more, and their expected life span is a lot less. An old machine might have lasted 10-12 years, and the new machines might last about 7. For that privilege you will pay triple the price of a better made machine produced 8-9 years ago.

BLEH.

It’s taken me months of research (and procrastination) to figure all this out. And at the moment, the only thing I’ve settled on is that I need to buy a new washer AND a new dryer to replace my broken washing machine.

But in looking for a new machine, 95% of what is offered is much too big for my tiny closet.

My old washer had a 2.65 cubic foot capacity, which represents the amount of clothes it can wash. If you did a search for washing machines today, you’d find most machines have over a 4 cubic foot capacity, which is great if you have room for your SUV-washer. We of the apartment dwelling tribes cannot house 4 cubic feet of washing machine (let alone the SUV dryer that can’t stack on top!)

Instead, manufacturers are making smaller machines.

To summarize: my 2.65 cubic foot washing machine broke. As a result, I need to throw away my perfectly functioning dryer. When I buy a new washer and dryer, it will wash and dry FEWER clothes. I will pay a LOT MORE MONEY for these machines than what I paid for the ones I had, and the new machines will have a SHORTER LIFESPAN of use than the machines I had!!

Yeah, that stinks!

 

Ways for Neurotic Writers to Torture Themselves – Possibly a Rant

If you are a writer submitting your work around, you know the ol’ waiting game is torturous. You know the drill: spend a few buckets of blood on a new story, then chew off all your fingernails as you edit the thing, re-edit it, then go back to the way it was two edits ago, then re-edit again. You know – just for fun.

After a while, you get confused. Is the story better the way it was 3 versions ago, or if you combine the ending from 2 versions ago with the beginning from 5 versions ago would the characters seem more developed? 7 versions ago the sentence structure seemed tighter, but this last version it seems looser. But which is better?

Of course, once you completely and utterly HATE the story, you know it’s ready to be sent out to editors who you expect will hate it equally as much as you do. You gird your loins and go out to Duotrope to find places where you think the story might possibly get massacred, or maybe the editors will just slit its throat quietly in a dark alleyway (uh-oh, I’ve been reading too many Court Merrigan stories, sorry…) or perhaps your story will come back with a terrible virus if the editor is really mean and says something a little encouraging. Oh hell…

THEN you have to look at the story cross-eyed for two weeks and start plucking and reshaping its eyebrows, but before long you’ve shaved half its head into some wierd half-mohawk, and of course you soon realize you have to shave the other half of its head and then it’s not the story you started with at all … but maybe this one is better?

You’re not able to send it back to editor three who was slightly encouraging in their rejection because they didn’t ask for a rewrite, they threw the raw meat back at you and said to filet it a different way and serve it to someone else.

Oh, mother of all parrots.

All of this is actually the norm. No, really, I mean that. It’s pretty much par for the course. At least for me it is.

But lately, I’ve come up with new and daring ways to torture myself all on my own without the assistance of an editor.

If you’ve gotten this far, you writers who are addicted to the masochistic tendancies we all share, for god’s sake please look away now. Don’t read what I’m about to say, because it’s a great way to make yourself crazy.

(Don’t say I didn’t warn you.)

So just for fun I go to my list of submissions and look at submissions that are more than four weeks old. I start at the bottom, which means a submission labeled #1 – the item that has been waiting longest for response.

Then I go back to Duotrope and see what is the average number of days to acceptance or rejection. Then I go back to the list, as if it was my very own personal crystal ball, and figure out if I should have heard back yet.

If I’m overdue for a response, I send a polite inquiry to find out if, maybe, perhaps, the editors have been fighting amongst themselves whether or not to accept my piece or a piece by Jhumpa Lahiri. (Hey, this is my blog and my fantasy so back off, M-kay?)

Now here comes the maddening part. Sometimes, the staff will write me back with a cryptic one or two sentence note saying, yeah we’ve still got your story hostage over here, we’ve tied it up in the backroom and we’ve water-boarded it repeatedly and its not talking. We’re moving on to the pliers and fingers next. In other words, we haven’t made up our minds and we’ll let you know when we do.

In the world of neurotic writers, and by “the world” I mean me obsessively checking email 100 times a day, getting this “your story is still under consideration” note is not enough to do a happy dance, because it’s not an acceptance, and yet, YET, it’s not an out and out rejection either.

It would never, ever occur to me that the editor’s dog got bit by a squirrel and they are off at the vet and that’s why I haven’t heard back, or maybe they’re off doing the very mysterious things editors do in their free time (hahaha, I said editors and free time) and not spending their every waking moment thinking about whether or not they’ll accept my story or not. No, in my fantasy life, that’s all they think about.

And since it’s all they’re thinking about – why can’t they Hurry Up and Make a Decision before I gnaw through the cable connecting my laptop to the internet?

Please, writer friends, for the sake of your health: Do Not Try This At Home.

I am not cool

I’m not cool. I’m not a hipster. I don’t live in Brooklyn. I’m not hipster enough for Brooklyn. I’m not a lesbian. Lesbians are cool and hipster. They get extra points if they have tattoos and multiple piercings. I don’t have any tattoos (or multiple piercings). I’m not sure what kind of tattoos I’d have if I got any, but I probably wouldn’t get cool ones if I did. I’d probably get a tattoo of a butterfly and then my hipster friends from Brooklyn (I don’t really have any) would tell me that’s SO 1980’s. Yeah, that’s probably what would happen.

An editor friend of mine, (in other words, an editor I befriended by sending them lots of emails and they graciously answer,) recommended I read The Chronology of Water. Another editor friend of mine said it’s a fantastic book and she wants to know what I think of it when I’m done reading it. (I just started reading it.)

After two pages of reading it I have an opinion about me, not the book or the author. I thought, yeah, I’ll never be able to write like this. I’m not just un-cool, I’m so far out of the loop on what is cool it’s a freaking miracle any of my writing has seen the light of day. She starts the book by describing how she delivers a stillborn baby. It’s a fucking memoir. Non-fiction. Yeah well, game over, check and check mate. Mad respect to the author, for sure, and I’ll continue on in my un-coolness.

And then, THEN, an author friend of mine sent me an email telling me about that whole Adrien Brody kerfuffle over at MuuMuu House. So I went and read that thing and I was completely horrified and disgusted by it. I guess now when a 21 year old girl (yes, GIRL) decides to be self-destructive and publish her self-destructive sex-capades for all to read like a car wreck happening in slow motion, we’re all supposed to read it and clap and say how cool it is? Well I’m not. It wasn’t cool and I’m not cool about it. And shame on the 40+ year old pervert asshole who took advantage of the situation. That girl needs adult guidance, role models and help, not publishing.

Maybe this blog post is really about how I can’t keep up anymore. I just started reading The Rumpus, and I’m getting hooked on HTML Giant and I regularly read PANK, Word Riot, Wigleaf, Dogzplot, and many other talented writers – and editor-writers too – and I’m running out of time and room in my brain for what’s cool. All these things I’m mentioning are cool, I know they’re cool and THEY know they’re cool.

How does a writer without an MFA and without connections to Brooklyn or Berkeley or any other cool place get known? (Am I worthy of being known…yet? I keep asking people to read my stories, so clearly I’d like to be known.)

And since we’re being honest, I don’t even really know who is cool. I know who I think is cool but even that is my own limited knowledge based on where I’ve been stumbling around on the internet to do my reading. I know what I LIKE and I know what I RESPECT – but is that good enough? I wish I knew the answer to that question, but as I’ve already said, I’m not cool. I don’t know the answer.

I want to hang out with the cool kids, and be in their company, but I think they might think I’m a poser. A wanna be.

I feel like a poser when I look at my stories and their stories. I don’t want to write what they write, I want to write what I write – just better.

I want to be good enough to write the stuff people say…wow, did you read that? That was cool.