I’m honored to know that my Blogiversary falls on the same day as International Women’s Day. 

Did you know it was International Women’s Day?  It’s actually a pretty big holiday around the world.  Sophia celebrates it.  It’s a holiday with a unique history.

In its various incarnations, ranging from a communist holiday to a U.N.-sponsored event, International Women’s Day has been celebrated for almost 90 years.

Inspired by an American commemoration of working women, the German socialist Klara Zetkin organized International Women’s Day (IWD) in 1911. On March 19, socialists from Germany, Austria, Denmark and other European countries held strikes and marches. Russian revolutionary and feminist Aleksandra Kollontai, who helped organize the event, described it as "one seething trembling sea of women."

(photo by kerry alaric cheeseboro)

I love the diversity of women out there.   On a typical day reading my blogroll, I meet intellectual professors, devoted mothers, knitters, widows, shoe-crazed fashionistas, nymphomaniacs, poets, breast cancer survivors, teachers, and overworked career-women.

Today, I’d like to pay tribute to a special type of woman — one who can actually FIX THINGS with her hands.  

Now I know many women go weak in the knees when they meet a solid man who’s good with his hands.  I’m talking about the type of man who can build a house by himself, fix a leaky roof, or replace an engine in a car. 

I am not that man.  I grew up in an apartment building where we called the "super" whenever there was a problem.  My father could fix absolutely NOTHING.  And I’m not much better.  I call the AAA to change my tire.

For me, there is nothing sexier than a woman who can do the dirty work for me!

On Friday night, I was doing some chores in the house.  I decided to clean out my refrigerator.  I found an open can of kidney beans that had been sitting there for three weeks.   I dumped it into the garbage disposal.  By the next day, my kitchen sink was completely clogged from all the beans.  And Mario, the maintenance guy, wasn’t back until Monday! 

So, what was a guy like me to do?  Find a handy woman!  I looked over my blogroll.  I remembered that Anne Arkham, a blogger from Chicago, had written on her blog that she was very good at fixing things. 

I sent her an email. (these are the contents of actual emails!)

Neil to Anne:  My sink is clogged with old kidney beans I threw in the garbage disposal. Drano doesn’t work. Can you come over and replace the pipes?

Anne to Neil:  Hmmm. . . are both sides clogged or just the side with the disposal?

Neil to Anne:  Both sides are clogged!

Anne to Neil:  Try a plunger – a toilet plunger – preferably a clean one.  Like, brand new. Otherwise no one will eat at your house or kiss you ever again. 

OK, easy enough.  I tried using a toilet plunger.  It only made the water rise higher. And suddenly my eyes started burning.  I read the back of the Drano container.  It read, "Do not use with plunger or dangerous gases could be released."

I went to sleep, distraught.  The next day, I asked Anne for more help.  She quickly emailed me back.

Anne to Neil:  There’s an apparatus called a plumber’s snake that might work. It’s basically a long metal coil that you push down your drain and crank around  to stir things up. Plumber’s snakes are cheap – like $10 – and you can get them at any hardware store. They sell them in various lengths. The short one will work fine, but you’ll be happier if you buy one with a handle that’s easy to turn. Also, before you buy one, notice how big the opening is on your drain, and then, at the store, check out the diameter of the snake coil. Make sure you can get the thing through your drain opening. Get down on the floor and open up your pipes. Unscrew the sink trap (the u-shaped section of pipe) and clean it out. This sounds scary, but it’s not. If you can’t unscrew the joint by hand, you’ll have to get a wrench, but that’s not scary either. Go to the hardware store and tell them what’s going on. They’ll be helpful, and they won’t make fun of you. Make sure you have a bucket or something underneath the area when you start unscrewing, though, cause water’s going to come out. If you think you found the clog when you opened the trap, that’s cool. Otherwise it couldn’t hurt to run the plumber’s snake through the pipes around it. Just thread the thing in and crank it around.

Neil to Anne:  Open my fucking pipes — are you kidding?  But I’ll try the snake…

Anne to Neil:  You big baby. It’s not hard. Do a google search for "clogged kitchen sink"or something like that. And, really, what’s the worst that could happen?  You’d get a kickass blog entry out of it at the very least.

I started to panic.  Anne is a very pretty woman.  And she can fix things.  The perfect woman.  And here she’s setting me up to a challenge.   Sort of like the princess making the knight kill the dragon before he can win her hand.  I paced up and down the room, unable to email her back.  I avoided her for the rest of the day, thinking she would just forget the whole conversation.   But on Sunday, she sent me another email.

Anne to Neil:  I just checked the trap under my kitchen sink. It’s easily removable without a wrench. You just look for the U-shaped part, and unscrew the top and bottom with your bare hands, empty it, and screw it back in. ANYBODY could do it.

The clock was ticking.  I knew I had to answer.  I bit my lip and emailed her back, trying to use some humor to defuse the tension.

Neil to Anne:  If i get my new boxer-briefs dirty, I’m blaming you.  I actually stayed at Sophia’s last night, just to avoid having to do it — and there’s no handyman until tomorrow.  Let’s see how brave I am after the Oscars when I go home.

Anne to Neil:  Yeah, well, during the commercials, or during Susan Sarandon’s political commentary, or Michael Moore’s political commentary, or sometime like that, open the cupboard under Sophia’s kitchen sink and look at her pipes.  They’re not scary, I promise.  Just remember to have a bucket under the area, because water will come out.  It’s supposed to come out.  You haven’t broken anything.  Just scoop out the festering kidney beans, and screw it back in.

That night, I begged Sophia to let me stay another night  — anything to avoid looking at my kitchen sink.  In the middle of the night, Sophia woke me up.  I was having nightmares in bed.   I was on a mountain top in Scotland, dressed like a knight in armor — in one hand a plunger and the other a pipe wrench.   And then there was a loud rumble as the monster approached — a  collection of festering kidney beans walking towards me.  I took a deep breath.

"I must do this for the fair maiden Anne — and for women everywhere.  I must prove that I am a man!"

The next morning, I tucked myself into a brand new pair of boxer-briefs and decided to face the dragon  — my sink.  I drove home and parked in the garage.  I sat in the car for a few minutes, thinking to myself:

"You know, if I accidentally bump into Mario on the way upstairs, I might as well just ask him to fix it.  After all, it’s his job.  I wouldn’t want to insult him.  I mean, that wouldn’t be cheating on my part.  I still got the sink unclogged.  I’m sure Anne will still be impressed with me."

I took the elevator to the first floor, where I usually see Mario doing some maintenance work.  But no Mario. 

"You know, I really could use some exercise.  Maybe if I walk around a bit, outside to the pool.  Maybe  I’ll just happen to meet Mario."

As I head for the pool, I pass the manager’s office.  The manager — this grouchy, gruff-faced British woman, is at her desk.  (previous appearance here)

Neil:  Excuse me.  Have you seen Mario?

Manager:  Who are you?

Neil:  I’m staying at Phil’s place.

Note to readers:  I’m subletting from a friend.   In exchange for my cheap(ish) rent, I’m not allowed to use the pool or the exercise room.

Manager:  I thought you were gone a long time ago!

Uh-oh.  Did I just do the stupidest thing in the world?

Here’s my last email to Anne:

Neil to Anne:  I came home this morning, all ready to do what you told me, then I decided to cop out and find the maintenance man.  But I couldn’t find him, so I put my head into the manager’s office and asked if she saw him.  To make a long story short, the manager didn’t know I was staying in this apartment (even though I’ve been here over a year) and said it was an illegal sublet  and now we’re waiting to see if I’m going to get kicked out.  And she wouldn’t even allow Mario to fix my sink!   All because of some kidney beans in a pipe.  I should have listened to you. The moral of the story:  always listen to Anne Arkham.  

And to women in general.

Now, I’m back at Sophia’s, waiting for Phil to talk to the manager — and to see if I get kicked out.   And the sink is still clogged, four days later.

So, on this special Blogiversary edition of "Citizen of the Month" — I’d like to thank all the strong women out there, from Anne Arkham to the female soldiers in Iraq. 


Hell, I’ll even wish a Happy International Women’s Day to that bitchy manager in my apartment building.