Archive for the ‘the bad economy’ Category

Maybe at least it’s a Jimmy Caravaggio

Thursday, October 27th, 2011

By Tiber 

Dad’s financial woes have come to this. He decided to sell our Caravaggio. (I didn’t show it here).

We’ve had this miraculous original painting since my great-great grandfather bought it in Italy when he took the Grand Tour back in the late 1800’s.

It has always been one of my father’s favorite things – and with good reason. It’s worth a fortune. By the late 1800’s, Caravaggio was almost completely forgotten. Still, my great-great-grandfather knew about him, saw this work and managed to buy it for very little.

Over the years, I’ve sometimes found my father just sitting on a bench, staring at his painting.

It has always given him great pride to have an actual Caravaggio right in his own house. But the need for cash and the value of the artwork could no longer be denied.

So an appraiser was called up. He came by. He looked.

And it’s not a Caravaggio.

What a disaster, not only because the price just plummeted but because it’s not a masterpiece at all. It’s just a picture by some unknown guy.

First, Dad got mad at the appraiser.

Eventually, Dad was just furious with his ancestor.

“Nobody wanted real Caravaggios in the 1800s! They were probably using them as placemats! And our family member has to come home with this?!?”

So Dad didn’t sell it. He was humiliated that it was really worth so little. He was going to throw it out for all I knew.

But late last night, I went downstairs, and there was Dad back in his old spot on the bench, staring at the painting that was back in its place of honor. The room was completely dark, except for the little picture light.

My generation prizes name-brands above everything but my father, correctly, does not. The painting is still a wondrous work.

Yes, the artist was an unknown man, then and forever, but one who labored long hours in daylight and by candlelight to create an extraordinary thing still appreciated today by a man who, rightly, just values beauty.

Tea for two-oh sorry, make that tea for one

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

By Tiber

Being unemployed, I thought maybe I should learn some new skill here at the house. Everybody seems to like it if a person can cook well so I figured how hard could it be to whip out a couple of specialties?

Of course, I can’t even boil water.

A tired cliché, you say – except that I actually mean it.

I decided I wanted some iced tea and my sister Vanessa told me to make hot tea first. So I put some water on to boil and proceeded to wait. And wait.

Finally, Vanessa returned and with much eye-rolling, told me that, obviously, I had to turn the heat up higher or else the water would just continue to sit there and stare back at me. So, yes, that’s right. I literally could not boil water.

But I learned!

Unfortunately, there are more steps to making iced tea.

After brewing the tea, I then poured the now boiling water straight into a glass container to chill. Well, come on! I was nervous. Not as nervous as Vanessa, of course, who had to hit the deck to avoid the shard bullets when the pitcher exploded.

I was too annoyed by then to do any actual cooking. But I’ll get back to it. Maybe.  If I’m in the little upstairs kitchen again.

There’s no way I’d use the big kitchen downstairs. Cook would take it as a personal affront that I was preparing food.

And I think it’s always good to remember that the craziest member of our household is also the one who spends entire afternoons…sharpening her own set of knives.

Sorry, Charlie

Sunday, December 19th, 2010

By Tiber

As you know, my parents’ housekeeper, Mrs. Brunty, has been worried that Dad would fire one of the maids due to the economic crunch. Then, she read how when the great writer Shirley Jackson’s husband didn’t like her getting so many cats, she just starting adopting cats who were all the same color and her husband never knew how many of them they actually had.

So Mrs. Brunty did the same sort of thing and, for quite awhile now, she’s had all three maids wearing identical wigs, in the hopes that Dad wouldn’t remember how many he’s still paying,

Today, though, Dad actually confronted Mrs. Brunty about it and Dad hates confronting Mrs. Brunty about anything. She is always “Mrs. Brunty,” even to Dad, by the way. She is always Mrs. Brunty even to her husband, Mr. Brunty. Mom thinks it shows a real old-world respect. I always think it shows why there are no little Bruntys.

But back to the maids in wigs!

Dad told Mrs. Brunty that he respected her efforts and he was doing everything possible not to fire any of the girls  but he did know there were three of them so they could stop wearing the wigs.

Actually, he said, it was having the opposite effect to what Mrs. Brunty intended because it made Dad feel that every time he looked up, the “same“ maid was doing all the work, while the other two were off having a smoke or something.

“Oh, dear!” cried Mrs. Brunty.

So the wigs came off immediately and Taffy, for one, was thrilled. Taffy, accident-prone in the best of times, claimed that the short, dark, wig was turning her into another person entirely, one who fell down even more and looked goofy in the process.

I laughed and said, “Yes, I thought you were looking more and more like The Little Tramp!”

Taffy burst into tears, ran away and later had to be coaxed out of the broom closet.

I was talking about Charlie Chaplin, of course, but I can see how she may not have taken it that way.

With baseball or holiday decorating, all it takes is a bat and some balls

Monday, December 13th, 2010

By Tiber

To save money this year, Dad has put a ban on buying any new decorations for Christmas. Of course, we’re very lucky since we not only have a lot of old ornaments but we also have a lot of trees on the estate, so we’ll be fine.

This weekend, we were all dispatched into the woods to bring back lots of tree branches to get that “boughs of holly” thing going for the doors and mantelpieces. Dad assumed most of us would get bored and wander off but no one did and, soon, we had a huge mound of tree branches filling the back hall.

I’m not sure how much holly we had in it but something was in it because the whole stack started moving. Dad, forever channeling Teddy Roosevelt, marched right in and began heaving away the top boughs.

And a big bat flew out.

Dad ducked as fast as the rest of us did. I think what people are not supposed to do when a bat is flying towards them is move. What’s the first thing all human beings do when a bat is flying towards them? Move!

Of course, in our case, we had some people running screaming away from the bat, some people running screaming towards the bat, the dogs wanting more than life to play snout-hockey with the bat and the cats doing flips and howling, “BIRD!!!”

Thankfully, the bat managed to change course and fly right out the back entrance and away from all of us, squeaking all the way.

Iris Nell said he was saying, “And a Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!”

That’s not what I heard. I distinctly made out what that bat was articulating, It was, “Dear God, please let me make it to Times Square in time for New Year’s Eve. That, at least, will be a lot more calm and subdued than this.”

There will be no dancing at the wrecking ball

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010


By Tiber

As you know, my sister, Iris Nell, does not cope well in the real world but she wants to bring in more money too so when one of the nearby little villages decided to do some town tours to drum up tourism, Iris Nell went over and got the job. She loves history and anything old.

The problem is, there’s not much left that‘s old or interesting in this little town so her planned “Local Architectural Jewels” segment really was more of a “They Destroyed That for This?!?”

At the new sewage plant, all Iris Nell could do was pass around a picture of the beautiful little Victorian hotel that had stood there before.

At the current “Bonanza Pete’s Dented Cans Discount Store,” she showed her group a photo of the Palladian-styled library that had been wrecking balled for it.

“It‘s such a shame,” Iris Nell lamented so a group member tried to cheer her up. “Those dented cans are a real bargain, though!“

Things picked up slightly in passing a local bar, where the tour group knew the most memorable town moment all by themselves.

“Hey, when they shot that movie here, isn’t this where that starlet got hammered and threw up on the mayor?”

Iris Nell wasn’t going to mention that bit of town lore but the group was more excited than it had been all evening so she finally nodded and pics were gleefully taken of the pavement.

She finished up her tour at the town cemetery. At least there are still old things there and the people are the same.

Our much youngest sister, Erin, who’d come along for a laugh, thought the tour was dying even here, so she grabbed a white skirt from her car and went floating around the graves in the distance. That got everyone’s riveted attention – especially when the “ghost” took a header over a marker and smashed into the ground.

There was a pause. “That ghost just fell over a tombstone. Can’t they go through things?”

Furious that she could lose her job, Iris Nell ran after the “ghost” who quickly leaped up and pirouetted off into the woods.

“My God, you’re brave!,” the group told Iris Nell. “You just chased off a ghost!” But she waved off the praise.

“I happen to know that particular ghost and though it won’t stay grounded in the graveyard, I have ways of getting it grounded somewhere else.

It’s no day at the beach

Monday, September 13th, 2010

By Tiber 

I just read where scientists have been able to replicate that distinctive scent we all smell when we spend time by the ocean.

Kind of romantically, I think we all assumed it came from the foamy waves crashing onto the sands of time. Evidently, somewhat less romantically, it actually comes from bacteria munching and farting.

Okay, I’m simplifying a little but still, I say, let’s go to the lab and get ourselves some sea smell!

We could make good money by keeping summer going just a little while longer for guests who can’t afford to go to an actual ocean! They can have one more real-live fake day at the beach!

We’ll set them up in deck chairs, blast the sound of some waves, start spraying that seaside scent and tell people to imagine the ocean being right over that hill. Iris Nell can then release a few hungry seagulls who can dive bomb the guests for their food and then, as a bonus, we can way overcharge everybody for drinks.

And sand? We’ve got sand!  Kru, as you know, with his cat sand business has tons of the stuff. And nothing says a day at the beach like watching the kids spend hours building kitty litter castles which our own triplets then knock down in two seconds flat.

Go, gym dandy

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

By Tiber

Even with the money disappearing around here, Dad still doesn’t want to have to fire anybody on the staff and God knows, nobody on staff wants to be fired. Positions for household employees have been disappearing since the Edwardian Age.

So now, everybody is starting to barter, as if we’re all living in the Bronze Age.

One of the things Dad has offered to everyone, for a reduction in salary, is full access to our well-equipped gym up here on the third floor.

I don’t mind this in theory, except that now whenever I go in, day or night, at least one member of Dad’s security team is already there, working out again. Why are they still doing this?!? Short of popping their heads off to allow for expansion, they can’t get any bigger. And they’re only making me feel smaller and smaller.

At first I was grateful that at least old Brunty, the butler, was in there occasionally too. He’s whatever the opposite of “toned” would be but now even his presence is ending up intimidating me.

He keeps falling asleep at whatever machine he’s on. And eventually, a security guy ends up wanting the same machine and he has to pick Brunty up and move him away. The guys have realized that moving him never wakes him up so they’ve just incorporated lifting Brunty into their regular routine.

And now I feel worse than ever. I can‘t compete with them. I can’t outlast them. And there’s no way, even going for just thirty seconds, that I can bench press a butler without breaking a sweat.

Arachnifun…when you’re photobombed by a spider

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

By Tiber

My sister, Iris Nell, is upset again today. And, this time, I guess it’s partly my fault.

I’ve been helping her out in our new vegetable garden, mainly because I’m just grateful that Dad has abandoned his other money-making scheme which was having me make goat cheese. Duncan’s still pushing for Dad’s backup idea for me, which is giving children rides in little carts pulled by the goats because Duncan is determined to see me in a little Alpine outfit, complete with a flowered hat.

He told Dad he’d even found a man who could teach me yodeling. Thank God the guy charged for it because Dad was actually considering it.

So you can see how working in the new vegetable garden is a big step up.

Iris Nell is very proud of what we’re growing and she asked me to take a picture of the two of us out there. I set the timer and hurried over.

And we both posed.

And we both smiled.

And we both got photobombed by a spider.

I felt you couldn’t help but like him. He actually had a sort of party-guy look on his face. Plus, he was so close to the camera, all three of us appeared to be about the same size.  And with one of the spider’s many legs crooked up, it really seemed as if he was about to wrap it – in a companionable way – around Iris Nell’s shoulder.

I thought we looked sort of like three old friends at a high school reunion, where you had to admit, maybe one of us hadn’t ended up being quite as attractive as the other two but, hey, with his personality, you were still BFFs anyway.

Iris Nell felt otherwise.

And, yes, Iris Nell, the self-professed great lover of all the world’s creatures, saw this picture and went spinning off into barking mad, freaking-loonbat meltdown mode.

And all over a tiny and I think very pleasant-seeming arachnid who, granted, for that one moment, looked big enough to devour her skull.

Picky. Picky.