My very first blog entry

Well, here it is, my first ever blog, and late in the game as I am, you might think I would opt for the writerly approach and shed some light on my books, where I draw ideas from, the act of writing, etc….

Instead, I’ve decided to run with the topic of mold remediation.

Please, don’t click off just yet. I promise, there’s a plan!

Two weeks ago I came home from playing tennis to a deep rumble emanating from our basement. Left to myself, I might have just ignored it and turned on the news, but since the dog seemed to be getting all agitated and pawed at the door, not to mention the house was rumbling, I went to investigate in the netherworld of pipes and pumps downstairs that I know nothing about, and to my horror, discovered water spewing into the basement from a blown gasket in what I now know as the pressure pump. Not a leak, mind you—more like a fire hydrant left on. Or picture the first release of the Kenebec River Dam in rafting season. Soaked immediately, I couldn’t get myself within three feet of the pump.

If you haven’t yet figured it out, I am essentially useless in these situations. My usual plan when calamity strikes (or even when a large, flying insect finds its way into the house) is to scream at the top of my lungs, “Lynnie…!!” (My wife, who happened to be happily day spa-ing in Greenwich at the time.) In seconds, water had crept above the top of my sneakers. All I could mentally picture was our beautiful home tipped on its side and majestically sinking, like the Titanic, into Westchester County. Frantically, I dialed Robert, our plumber, encouraging the answering service with a few choice expletives that this was not an opportunity for voicemail—“this is a fucking disaster! Do you understand!” In minutes, I got him. He instructed me to turn the water main off. I’ve only lived in our house twenty two years. I had no f-ing idea where the water main valve was! Soaked, frantic, twisting every conceivable lever I could find, I finally found the one and the torrent immediately abated. I surveyed the damage. Six inches—over the carpets, the yoga studio, the universal gym, the couch, the fancy large-screen TV. It was the gloomiest possible scene, made even ickier by water filing up my shoes.

Needless to say, upon returning, my wife’s pedicure high was cut short. As it happened, we were leaving the next morning for LA, to visit two of our kids. In a panic, we called Mike, who for years has washed our rugs, our now-deceased, diabetic Westie giving him lots of business. To our relief, he said, don’t worry. He’d handle everything himself. He does this sort of thing. Our savior! Rushing over within minutest, with two gigantic blowers, drying, dehumidifying, squeegeeing. “I’ve seen a lot worse,” he said, confidently. “Enjoy your trip. I think you’re going to be okay…”

Relieved, we set off for the West Coast, a bon voyage story for the kids, everything being well-handled.  Returning four days later, the whiff we met as we opened the basement door, aligned to dead rats, informs us we might have been wrong.

We now hate Mike. Correspondingly, he is no longer a fan.

It’s a disaster. The carpet is still completely damp, the pads, underneath, damper. Ugly brown trails are creeping up along the walls. Calling Chubb in, and their environmental contractor let us know that our aspergillius count, normally 7, is over 3000 now!

In comes the mold remediation people, wearing scary, Tyvek, bio-protective garb. Their big, new air-purifying engines churning. Taping off the basement from the rest of the house, like we’re living on Love Canal. So much stuff down there, potentially affected. They even want to empty the wine cellar.

So why am I sharing this, other than for a grim laugh? I did say I had a plan!

Everything down there, the mold-covered detritus of our lives, the record of our lives before I ever even thought I would one day write, had to be rescued, evaluated, wiped off with bleach and water. Saved or discarded? The memory of twenty five years.

There are books I once loved I never knew what happened to. Thomas Gifford’s, The Wind- Chill Factor, North of Montana by April Smith. Thomas Mann, Buddenbrooks. E.M Cioran’s, The Trouble with Being Born. Each resonates with a singular moment in time. Toss or save? Sadly, we shake out heads.

There’s a pre-reservation, Navaho chief’s blanket. (Fortunately, insured.) Delicate kachina dolls, a hundred year old set of spurs. From the times we used to head out to Santa Fe every year.

There’s a wedding album we hadn’t seen for years. On our friend’s lake in Vermont. Me in a white summer suit with straggly hair. Lynn, in white lace, proudly looking not much different than today. I say we had all of nineteen people there; my wife insists it was twenty three. Over twenty fives years, we’ve re-counted the guest list a hundred times– and never once been able to agree.

There’s the framed invitation for Lynn’s 40th birthday celebration, a black and white Mardi Gras mask at Paul Prudhomme’s. Even had the famous chef fly up from New Orleans to do the cooking himself. We laugh, recalling the wildly expensive Sylvia Weinstock cake I had splurged for. Prudhomme refused to serve it. We ended up having to cut it up into a hundred servings and drag it all the way home, where it sat in our freezer for the next year. Save!

There’s a file of early rejection letters. Twenty three of them. One, it turns out, I’d forgotten, from an agent in the next office to where my current agent is now! Ha! There’s an Art Monk Redskins football helmet, which, blitzed at a school charity event, I bid over two grand for! There are blankets and sleeping bags, video games and hockey masks and footballs. Each comes with a mental snapshot of one of the kids catching a touchdown pass or getting crunched, wobbly legged, into the boards. We signal thumbs-down. Gone.

We pull out an awful painting of a coq fight my father once brought up one Sunday, when he used to roam the flea markets and buy anything he could successfully bargain down. He claimed it had the touch of a Picasso; we thought the frame would work for firewood. Five years after his death, it makes me tear. One by one, we leaf through the forgotten record of our lives, reliving their importance, then signal to the remediation folk, like Roman royalty, thumbs up or down. A old garment bag, balled up, unfurled, reads Leslie Fay.

So once there was a life before writing. Before I ever conceived a plot line. Before the “me,” the few people reading this now would ever know. One day these images may figure into my books. You will read them, and maybe know where they came from. Nothing will ever be discarded. Because basements dry, clean air is restored. Mold remediation crews in bio-hazard yellow suits leave.

But these relics will never leave. We own them in our hearts and minds.

This painting I once rolled my eyes at, never nice enough to find its way upstairs, yet never discarded, these are our lives.

17 Responses to “My very first blog entry”

  1. Joanne Schenendorf Says:

    hi Andy- Having known you “then”, I understood the references to certain items… but anyone can relate to what you’re going through. Luckily, I didn’t have the flood/mold problem, but deciding to move from my big house after 21 years has forced me to confront a lifetime of detritus ( I call it crap). Since my parents passed away, I also have some of their crap. Of course I’m saving the black and white family photos but then I had to decide what to do with HUNDREDS of slides from the 70’s & 80’s- photos that my Dad took on their travels, once the kids had grown up; a photo of my mother in front of the Eiffel Tower, my mother in front of the Great Walll of China… my mother … you get the idea… Well I realized that stuff was their life, not mine, so I discarded them. I did save all the plastic carousels and gave them to a Scout leader who still uses slides.. just so I wouldn’t be adding to a landfill.( I’ll be doing that later when it’s really time to leave the house). I did find my Dad’s old “wings”- a silver pin from when he was a pilot in WW II. I had it made into a bracelet and I wear it all the time… so special… and unique… then I found 2 more!! My whole family knew the story of the wings so when I told my brother and my daughter that I had found 2 more, they both wanted bracelets.
    So as you say, these items have so much meaning for us, whether we hold on to them physically or in our hearts.
    Take care and send my hellos to Lynn and the kids! love, Joanne

  2. Bob Pridmore Says:

    Glad to see you started a blog as it will be an excellent way to keep up. Keep it going and I look forward to your new book.

  3. Dave Roberts Says:

    Andrew,
    This is the stuff that comedy novels are made of! Carl Hiassen would be jealous. However, the way that it gradually morphs into pathos is particularly catching and provides food for thought. Having moved countries three times and gone through the angst of keeping or discarding those mementos that are memories, I can empathize with your thoughts.
    I hope your basement dries out successfully, but please don’t let it distract you from your writing.
    Best wishes.

  4. Theresa Heath Says:

    Wow you really had a bad time with this.

    My husband isn’t at all handy either, my ceiling fan in the living room hasn’t worked for almost 3 months and i fully expect having to get my father in law to look at it before it’s fixed, it’s a bit of a running joke around here with the kids that if something breaks you need to call Grandpa.

    We had a flood here about 2 months after we brought this house, a tube came off the back of the washer and flooded the downstairs. Thankfully we didn’t lose anything but carpet and walls which were all replaced with insurance, the carpet is much nicer so it wasn’t all bad but i know the drying out and repair work being done was a hassle to deal with.

    You’re so very right about the things we have always being in our hearts even if they’re gone from sight forever. Still i’m sad for you that you lost so many precious things but glad you’ve got such a positive view of these things, to often we get way to wrapped up in the material side of these items instead of the memories they’ve given us.

    Thanks for sharing ..
    Theresa.

  5. Kamela Says:

    Congrats on the new blog!! In that mess of water destruction, you have managed to squeeze out a beautiful blog post! Thomas Mann, eh? I read Magic Mountain and loved that Mann wrote a short author note that says something like you won’t understand this book unless you’ve read it several times. It’s over a 1000 pages! What a great idea, right! LOL!! Hope you had fun in LA with your family-making new memories to store on the computer, which is backed-up online and will never be harmed unless the world ends. Cheers! Kamela

  6. RHONDA Says:

    I watched my parents go thru something similar when Hurricane Agnes covered the basement and the first floor of our house. I was 12.
    Three years ago, it happened to my family. I am now 49. Luckily, it was only our basement and we had much more warning than they did for Agnes.
    You are so right about the importance of seemingly unimportant things.
    I have memories of my family and our neighbors tossing pianos out in the street like they were old, unwanted pieces of garbage. We all knew better. Almost everyone in the neighborhood had one and we took lessons and actually played them! Old photos, gone. I still have my father’s movie camera and the reels that are water damaged. I’ve never tried to look at them, but i know I can’t get rid of them either. In my own home, we lost a place where my five children and their children spent lots of time partying and dancing and celebrating graduations, holidays and birthdays. You can’t replace that.
    Good luck to you. I’m sure you will hear a million other stories similar to mine. I’m not a writer, (obviously) but it does feel good to put things out there. I guess you know that…….
    ps. i enjoy your books!

  7. Chicky Wicky Says:

    Hi Andrew –

    What a bummer! I’m terribly sorry about your misfortune. I do want you to know that I have read every single James Patterson book he’s written thus far (except for the MAX books – not into that type of fantasy) – anyway was thrilled to see you started writing and read both The Blue Zone and The Dark Tide in one week! AWESOME!! Best of Luck for the Thriller Award. I do want to say that I think your proof reader gave up 3/4 of the way through The Dark Tide – there were many spelling and grammar mistakes – sorry that’s one of my best talents!!

  8. Amanda Says:

    I absolutely loved your blog, Andrew! Thanks for sharing.

  9. Patsy Murray Says:

    Oh my goodness, what a catastrophe. You sound like my husband. He’s a city guy and I’m a country girl. We live in the country. When we had a freeze and the pump to the well froze, he said call the water company and tell them we don’t have any water. I said uhhhh, we don’t have city water living in the country, we have well water, and we also don’t have any electricity, so we wouldn’t have water anyway. I feel your pain!

    Love your books, and can’t wait for the next one. Hope your book makes Thriller of the year. I read the competetors and they can’t hold a candle to it. Good luck.

  10. Bruce Breslow Says:

    Andy, you live in Greenwich. No one knows how to shut off their own water main in Greenwich, where fixing one’s own faucet is considered a heroic move! You need some friends in Norwalk or Stamford to help fix things. Of course here in Nevada, no one has ever heard of a basement. Instead we have hundreds of large paid “self storage units.” So we pay to put our treasured items that don’t rate high enough to be stored in our garage, into a 10 X 10 box. We can’t remember what we’ve put in there but we know that when we die, our kids will find the little key. And,after a month of searching, they will figure out that there must be treasure locked in some storage unit somewhere. Another month later, they’ll find it and the family will gather for the “opening.” Of course, what they’ll find is all the junk they left behind when they moved out and left for the Big City like their first pair of softball cleats and their 5th grade report card. Why aren’t there basements in Nevada? It’s DRY here! Thanks for the great books. I can’t wait for the next one.

  11. Jo Anne Knight Says:

    So.. what was your occupation before you were a best-selling author? Your home with all the different rooms sounds wonderful. You must have done well to afford it twenty years ago.

    Having had to fight mold on our textbooks in South Louisiana one year, I can relate to the water and clorox story. So sorry you and your wife had to go through the ordeal.

  12. mickie Says:

    Well done, like your books….your ability to express yourself is quite entertaining. I look forward to reading more.

  13. Jeanne Duncan Says:

    Wow, I love the way you tell a story! I have high hopes for you and Thriller of the Year – if I was voting, you’d definitely get mine. Now, down to the real stuff – glad to hear you’re almost done with your first draft of my next favorite book.

  14. Annette Georgios Says:

    Hello Andrew just cant wait for your next book…your blog was very interesting….

  15. Super Says:

    Are you going to update this post, I am really interested what will be the next one.

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