far too much writing, far too many photos

Someone finally did it. After a week and a half back in northern Vermont, a span of mostly high-temperature days during which not a single individual I ran into came out with the classic meaningless hot-weather conversation opener — a fact I have appreciated tremendously — someone finally let loose with it.

This morning: July sun high and intense, the humid air hot and muggy. I pull into a parking lot, swing into a space next to a huge, hulking pick-up truck, one of Vermont’s ubiquitous pick-ups-on-steroids. Sitting in the truck’s passenger seat is a small 60ish woman, staring out at the world through sunglasses, expressionless. I’ve got a Spanish-language tape playing, she hears a bit of it before I shut the engine down and get out. She glances at me then quickly away, her expression looking dour, dark. Maybe the blaring of something other than English from my vehicle made her skittish.

I go into the store, return ten minutes later. This time as I’m pulling my keys from my pocket I call out to the pick-up’s occupant, “How’s it goin’?”

“Hi,” she says, her expression relaxing. Then she comes out with it. I’m opening the door to the car, she laughs and practically shrieks, “HOT ENOUGH?” The shorthand version of “Hot enough for you?”

No, ma’am, it’s not. I’m hoping to reach the point of spontaneous combustion. Then it’ll be hot enough for me. Then you’ll see some post-July-4th fireworks.

High-powered thunderstorms may roll through here later, some hazy overcast has shown up in advance of them, cutting down on the heat a bit. Which is fine with me. (Hmmm. Maybe it was hot enough.)

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Recent acquisitions:

I must confess to two recent purchases which have brought me devices not normally found out here in the hills.

1) An espresso maker. A good one, a large bugger, capable of making two cups at once. (Not as big a deal as that makes it sound given that espresso cups are little teeny things.) Factory reconditioned and sold at a price that, given its performance so far, was a genuine bargain. A steal. Una ganga, as they’d say in Madrid.

This is turning out to be one of the more brilliant purchases I’ve ever made. After a few days’ futzing around, I’ve gotten the hang of it and have begun producing good, smooth cups of joe. Addictive stuff. In Spain, I go out, buy a cup somewhere, read the paper or watch people or let my thoughts wander. Here, I get a cup ready, take a pull off it, then find myself unable to stop so that before I know it I’ve inhaled the whole thing and need to brew up another one. (The first round: high-test; after that: decaf.) It’s easy to go through three cups in no time flat.

Not that I’m complaining. I’m feeling a bit too smug to complain right now.

2) This one feels more like a confession.

One afternoon a couple of weeks back, me, drifting around the internet. Following links from one page to another. Just flying back and forth across what those with a gift for the grandiose call cyberspace. Until I stumbled across an article that led me over to epinions.com, where I found myself scanning a bunch of reader reviews of the roomba. Which proved interesting enough to keep me perusing, after which I went to the roomba homepage to snoop around there for a bit. Harmless fun, kind of intriguing, but not intriguing enough to get me to do more than snoop around.

Later on, over at More Stuff 4 Less — a dangerous webpage stumbled across via Lockergnome — I discovered that an online store had a $40-off promo going for the roomba. Before I knew it, I’d ordered one. Happened so fast it left me surprised.

I’d bought my first robot. A robot vacuum cleaner. Kind of embarrassing when I stopped to think about it. But there it was — I’d pulled the trigger, there was no going back. All I could do was await delivery.

Two days ago it arrived. I drag it out of the box, slip in the battery pack, plug it into a wall socket to charge up.

Yesterday I got it going, starting off in the bedroom. Prep the floor (meaning move loose articles and electrical cords out of the way), put the roomba down in the center of the space, turn it on, set the room size. It comes to life, sounding like a cross between a vacuum cleaner and a wind-up toy. Starts working in a spiral pattern until it bumps into something, after which it moves around the space in more of a grid pattern, constantly modified as the machine runs into furniture, bed posts, walls. I watch for a few minutes, then close the door to the room, head off to the kitchen. As I eat, wash dishes, clean up, the roomba works away in the bedroom. Occasionally I hear the sound of it bumping into the baseboard heater in there. When it decides it’s gotten the job done, it turns itself off.

I head in there, inspect the floor. Clean. Even under the bed. I open up the roomba’s little dustbin, empty it out, then put the machine to work in the bathroom. Same deal, resulting in a clean floor, everywhere but one or two places it couldn’t get into, which I take care of with a brush and dustpan. After which I put the little bugger to work in the kitchen. Same deal once again. After which I find myself smugly thinking this may have been a purchase as brilliant as the espresso machine.

So there you have it. I sip espresso while my robot slave takes care of the vacuuming. Mr. Fatuous, that’s me.

Right. On to the day.

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