Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Glimmers of Light in the Darkness

I had to leave the house today. I don’t do that very much. I’m forced to hunt around for all the accouterments that are necessary to pilot a big, empty refrigerator masquerading as a Ford Econoline van. Keys. Yes, need those. Wallet, yeah, sure, let’s take the moths for a ride.

Eyeglasses. Where the hell are they? I only use them for driving, but stubbornly refuse to leave them in the car, knowing I’ll forget they’re there, and I’ll go back in the house where they aren’t and look for them twice as much. Pants. I think I have to wear pants. It’s like a rule or a guideline or zoning law or something.

I went to the Aubuchon Hardware store. I do believe I have paid the mortgage on that place by fixing this or that in my house continuously for five years. There is a lumber yard five miles away from my house, a Home Depot about an hour’s drive, and the Aubuchon. I go to the lumber yard for large oblong things. I go to Aubuchon for doyouhaves and willthisfits and goddamnedthings and owmyhands. If you had a bayonet in my back I wouldn’t go all the way to Home Depot for anything. You really have to wear pants to go to the orange place in the big city of Auburn. They check, or notice, or something.

The Aubuchon has everything you need, in the wrong size. I had a girlfriend like that, but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, the Aubuchon is an old-school hardware store. Because the population of the surrounding area doesn’t merit a big box store, they can survive on their wits and their widgets. Everything they have on the pegboard looks like 1970 to my eye, but honestly, no one in Rumford cares whether their light switches are ivory or white. If you need an outside light, they’ve got the jelly jar kind, and another kind which is, well, it’s the jelly jar kind, too. What’s wrong with the jelly jar kind, Ludwig Mies van der Hovel? Light comes out of it if you bought a bulb before prohibition.

“Prohibition” once referred to a period of time when you couldn’t afford to buy light bulbs and weren’t allowed to buy alcohol, which reminds me vaguely of seventh grade, not the 1930s. Now it refers to a time you can’t afford to buy alcohol and you’re not allowed to buy light bulbs. I could use a 100-watt gin and tonic right now, but I don’t have the ingredients for it. They don’t have limes at the Aubuchon.

Did you know you can buy regular light bulbs at the dollar store? My wife swears the dollar store has an actual name, but I can never remember it. Is it the Buck General? The Ducat Extender? The Tenth-of-a-Sawbuck Helper? Whatever it is called, they have regular incandescent light bulbs on the shelf.

They’re made in Mexico, I think. They supposedly run on 130 volts, but if you screw them into a 110-volt fixture, a transmogrification takes place, and they “save” energy by only giving you about 50 watts instead of the 60 on the label. We put them in all the lamps and wander the house saying, “Who said that,” every time anyone says anything, but anything’s better than the curlicue kind. It’s like living in an Edward Hopper painting.

I didn’t hoard light bulbs. I just had a bunch of them, and incandescent bulbs last for years. I still have like four or five dozen 100-watt bulbs in the cabinet. My grandchildren will use them, I imagine. We ran out of 60 watters, and I unwisely took a flyer on some CFLs, which I detest. There was one CFL in my house when I moved in. It was in my basement. In January, that lightbulb doesn’t come on, period, so I find it amusing to picture it outside, where it is occasionally 20 below zero. Not coming on does save energy, one must admit.

So, as I was saying, we were finally out of 60s, and we bought curlicues this summer. The first CFL I tried, the very first, I dropped, it shattered, and I freebased mercury for five minutes. How eco. The second one we put in my older son’s table lamp, and the base of the bulb caught fire, real fire with flames and smoke and whatnot. He calmly unplugged the lamp, came down the stairs with the thing still smouldering, and we freebased burning plastic together for five minutes. How eco. We’re all done with CFLs now. My light fixtures now emit Mexican light, which is like American light, except that it’s here surreptitiously and it’s slightly darker. (Insert Donald Trump joke here)

I didn’t go to the Aubuchon to buy lightbulbs. I don’t know why I started talking about lightbulbs in the first place. The Aubuchon is located at the town line where Rumford becomes Mexico, Maine, but I don’t know why I started talking about the actual Mexico, either. All I know is I’ve been going into that Aubuchon for nearly six years, and a couple of years ago, they placed a giant TV high on a pillar facing the cashier’s desk. They had installed the TV in order to make the job slightly more attractive to clerks, and earthshakingly, dumbfoundingly less attractive to me, I guess. It was an abomination, and annoyed me to no end while I was in there, and I saw it as another sign of the coming apocalypse.

And I saw when that Marconi opened one of the seals, and I heard, as it
were the noise of Bobby Goldsboro, one of the four beasts saying, Come and

And I saw, and behold a roaring lion: and that which was projected on it
was a sequel of a movie not yet made; and a statuette was given unto them: and they went forth shooting Greedo first, and then not shooting Greedo first.

And I looked, and behold a white plastic device: and his name that lorded over it was Steve, and a Hell app followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with Angry Birds, and with texting, and with responsive sites, and with the Tweets of the earth.

And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was flatscreen, and Good Morning America followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the Aubuchon, to kill with chyrons, and with breaking news, and with NASCAR, and with the all the Bartiromos of the earth.

At any rate, I went into the Aubuchon to buy four foam paint brushes, and to my surprise, the television was banished, and a short, syphilitic-looking Christmas tree was in its place. The world seemed brighter somehow. I couldn’t remember the last time something happened that seemed like it was a step, no matter how small, in the right direction. It was like an omen for me.

I went home to foamy-paint my whathaveyous, and wondered if people would ever come around to my way of thinking on any other subject. Would the gas pumps stop playing Sweet Home Alabama? Would hit men become the bad guys in the movies again? Anything’s possible, I guess.

I have my doubts. I also noticed that both the clerks at the Aubuchon were brand spanking new, because all the others had quit.

[Update: Many thanks to Stephen B. from Anaheim for his generous contribution to our PayPal tipjar. It is very much appreciated]

21 Responses

  1. Good to hear from you Sipp,

    I never stopped to think how interesting it is to buy light bulbs.

    it's not the story, it's the telling.

  2. Don't ever get me started on light bulbs. Ever. Your lightbulb story made me chuckle though, so, thanks. Hope you all are keeping warm.

  3. Ban the TVs in all eating regular shopping establishments. Thank you.

    Yes, someone else has noticed the stupid sounds coming out of the gas pumps. I swear, no one else in the world seems to notice these kinds of things. Are you related to me? I didn't see snow until I was in my twenties so probably not, but who knows.

    Glad to hear that you are back to incandescent and adding at least some feeble heat into the homeplace.

  4. One Hyphenated Word: "TV-BE-GONE"

    Small keychain device for turning off obtrusive TVs at bars and restaurants
    Contains 209 separate turn-off codes for nearly every TV model
    Cycles through entire range of codes in fewer than 69 seconds
    Lightweight and discreet key ring attachment; range of up to 50 feet
    Measures 1.75 by 0.75 by 2.25 inches (W x H x D); 90-day warranty


  5. I have the same pool -side picture on some cocktail napkins. The brunette is whispering to the blonde, "He told me his last girlfriend was the craziest bitch he'd ever met. Challenge accepted!" A gift for my husband's annual fishing trip with about 8 other 60-75 year old men. They can dream, can't they?

  6. And about them new clerks; just because they're brand spanking new, don't feel ya hafta spank them, leastwise 'til ya gets to know 'em better.

  7. Dang it! Half my post just disappeared! If'n I had half a mind I could maybe recall it, but I'm down 3 quarts, Just gotta live with it.

  8. Hi, Mr. Sipp,

    If you ever do venture forth to the Big Orange Store an hour away, and you want to try an alternative to 60-watt incandescent bulbs, try the "ecosmart" brand LED bulb. I have *no* idea as to their cold-weather performance but they throw almost as much light (800 lumens) as does a regular bulb (850 lumens or so), and the color temperature (3000K) of the "bright white" model is pretty close to sunlight (3200K or so). Don't get the "soft white" model — its 2700K color temperature is definitely "warm white" (it's too reddish for me), and the "daylight" model's color temperature (4000K or 5000K?) is definitely bluer than "cool white" fluorescents, and for me it's painfully blue-white, almost enough to make my eyes water.

    My two cents' worth, as usual.

    And thanks for being here. I usually come over from Gerard's place when he posts a link to you, and it's always worthwhile.

    Hale Adams
    Pikesville, People's still-mostly-Democratic Republic of Maryland

  9. Make that an Edward Hopper painting from the internet. The real ones are just so as they jump from dark to light. You'd know that if you ever got out of the house more than an hours' drive.

    Sorry, that's all the information I have. Except it made my whole day to read this post.

  10. At least on ours, you can mute the gas pump. 3rd button on the right.
    Tragic, really. Our Co-op just bought the d*mn things not too long ago. Often broken.
    So much for "new and improved."
    I hoarded 60 watt bulbs. Down to the last 40. Brought a tear to my eye.
    I'm going to miss them when their all gone.

    Thanks for the reply letter.
    Be warm and well.

  11. I made the nurse at the local doc-in-a-box have to come outside to call me into the appointment. I let them know I would not sit in a waiting room with "The View" blaring out at full volume. She was NOT happy with me, but I told her it was a blood pressure condition.

  12. Even Walmart has it's perils:

    I was out running errands, standing in the line at Walmart for meds. Behind me comes this guy, looked like he was on a Polack bowling team.
    Mid-forties, wouldn't know matching colors if they bit him in the butt.
    "Whassatcha got?" He asks, pointing to the cafe curtain rod I'm holding.
    I spoke not a word, showed him.
    "Oh" he sez, "thought it was one a them canes. My buddy has one with four feet".
    "Yes, when we get older we lose equilibrium." I said (my mistake).
    "Oh" he sez, "I lost my equilibrium when I had that aneurism, back in '97."
    "You're lucky to be alive" sez I.
    "I dunno, I'm waiting for them to come get me. Y'know, go up into space".
    "I'm five foot ten." I said with finality, "you won't need any money up there."
    He nodded sagely and I saw behind his eyes he'll be chewing on that for a while.
    The art of conversation, one of my strong suits.

  13. Joan of Argghh – You da woman!!!! Yes, there are at least two or three other real human beings out there. There may yet be hope.

  14. Mr. Sippi, I recalls now what I lost the first time. Those two women, the one on the right more so, need to write the Duluth Trading Company and purchase some Crack Spackle, which comes in a can containing a long-tailed T-shirt for concealing or covering up that dread occurrence often referred to as "plumbers butt".

  15. I'm delighted to find that this story is now online, because I can't think of anyone I would rather share it with than you:

    In fact I'll be slightly surprised if you haven't already seen it (but pleasantly so — I would love to give you this gift!)

    The story was printed in Reader's Digest years ago. I was shown a paper copy of it by the current proprietor of Vanderhoof's Hardware — yes, it's still there, and yes, you will be pleased to learn, that proprietor is indeed Mr. Vanderhoof's grandson.

    Merry Christmas!

  16. I'll second the recommendation about LED bulbs. They are getting cheaper, seem to last a long time, and being plastic are less fragile than incandescents. Only downside is, being so efficient they don't seem to give off any actual heat, which might matter where you are.

    Anyway, before I forget again, I hope you are all having a wonderful Christmas!

  17. Loved reading this, I came here via Maggies Farm. I hope that you and your talented family have a peaceful and happy Christmas.
    I work in a hospital and my work area has 4!! large screen TV's and it is horrible to hear all the yammering and shrieking (and that doesn't include the patients). Depending on the crowd, sometimes I get to hear it all in Spanish too.

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