Monday, November 23 2020
Last night Powerful had made manicotti from scratch as part of his online vegan food preparation course. I had some late this morning and it was pretty good, though not as good as the manicotti some years back when she'd taken the same course.
Our rental house on Brewster Street had some sort of electrical problem that had me going over there after work. I thought it might be a simple pullstring-switch replacement given the phenomena described: sparking from an overhead light with such a switch. I got to the house and there were four people there: two little kids, the woman of the house, and her son (who overlapped as an inmate for some months with Powerful at the prison in Fishkill). It was dinner time and a bunch of hamburger was being prepared in a mixer. All the chaos of kids, television, and a constantly-scolding matriarch made it hard to focus on the task at hand, though I soon determined that the problem was bigger than initially thought. When I turned the circuit breaker on to see the "sparking" for myself, none of the outlets or lights on that circuit powered up, at least not upstairs. There was one outlet in the kitchen that appeared to be on that circuit too, and it actually worked when the breaker was on. That was the outlet the mixer had been plugged into. There were a couple red herrings that I thought might be responsible, but they were just red herrings. One of these was the mysterious presence of water in the circuit breaker box. It seems that this had come down the main supply cable, acting like a hose, from the connection to the lines outside. This had caused some corrosion, though all the breakers still worked. I was also confused by the cabling coming into the circuit breaker box, which confused me into thinking the problematic circuit was somehow hooked up to half of the hot water heater's 240-volt circuit. But this was just because two cables were sharing a romex connector and it was hard to see which wires belonged to which cable.
My experience there at the house was even more depressing than usual. It wasn't just that there was no immediate way to fix the problem and that I would have to come back once I'd devised a plan. It was also that the house, my house, was in terrible shape, with lots of minor damage and most things in it screaming "poverty!" The kids' rooms without electricity were all a mess, with clothes on the floor mixed with toys. And all the rooms had various electronic gadgets that were all broken in various ways, as if they'd been salvaged from the trash. Few of them were plugged in or had any apparent cables, as though they were only gadgets in the cargo-cult sense of the term. The kids had destroyed or otherwise removed the glass covering on the ceiling lamp, leaving the barren constellation of LEDs their llumination device, one of the newfangled bulb-free variety. And down in the basement, it wasn't long before I'd stepped on and smashed a lightbulb mixed in with the floor clutter. Somehow someone had removed the plastic cover on the 240 volt outlet supplying power to the dryer, leaving lethal live terminals exposed on the wall. My mother is a hoarder and a slob, but even she doesn't live this way.
Back at the house, I calmly announced the situation to Gretchen, saying that the easiest solution was to cut holes in the wall and route a whole new cable from the basement. She was amazed at how well I was taking the situation; she said she'd been bracing for one of my landlording meltdowns. But evidently the citalopram is really working to take the edges off my anxiety.
Meanwhile Powerful had made another handmade noodle dish, this time an Asian dish with fat udon noodles. It was delicious, even though I ate it cold.
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