Sunday, August 28, 2005

Dammit Jim!

A quick story about three friends of mine, none of whom know each other and all of whom have two things in common. One, they are my friend, two, they share the name James. All are referred to as Jim.

James I: This is my mom's next door neighbor, Jim. A sweet gentle guy who is always on the lookout for somebody else's welfare, generally my mom's as she lives alone. Jim has always been a good listener and a good friend. He taught me that I had a pretty strong work ethic despite my old man's opinion to the contrary. Jim's approach was putting a job in front of me and asking to be called when it was done. No looking over your shoulder, no constant criticism, no "do it this way not that". Just do it and call me. If you set your own goals, your own pace and define your own style, amazing things happen.

Jim taught me respect for firearms. He also taught me when to draw a line in the sand. He showed me how to strip and clean an .45 and how to treat it carefully, ensuring no one would ever get hurt. He also taught me that were he ever broken into, the perp would be able to help himself to whatever was on the first floor with no retribution other than a call to 911. However, should that perp take one step up to where Jim's family slept, all bets would be off.
A Marine in Viet Nam, Jim didn't go looking for trouble but knew what to do if it found him.

James II: Current, past and future great friend who thinks nothing of hauling ridiculously heavy woodworking machinery around in the pouring rain and accepts no other homage than a simple thanks to which he responds: "My pleasure."

Yeah, right.

With a beautiful wife and fine family, don't tell me you don't have better things to do. But he's there nevertheless being the friend he is, worth his weight in gold.

Jim has been there for most of the crap that has been my life for the last two years and I appreciate him to no end.

If there is one thing I wish I could do before I die, it is to repay him in kind.

James III: Ah, big Jim. He holds a special place in my life because he is, by circumstance, relegated to the realm of memory.

Jim and I worked together for about four years. We both smoked, drank, tried to do the best we could for our families, had ungodly workloads, schedules and commutes. We both had a dry sense of humor that we took out on each other and those around us liberally.

My idea of a joke was to move his car in one of those monster parking lots and then take pictures as he stalked around where he thought he had left the Honda.

His idea of fun was to open the car door at forty plus miles per hour to see if it was too windy for the poor assistant in the back seat who had made the mistake of riding to the bank with us at lunch.

I picked up a few of his mannerisms and some of his midwestern accent. I still pronounce "roof" as if I came from Joliet instead of Pawtucket and drum my fingers rhythmically while on hold.

I don't affect his "aw shucks" shrug though I have dreamt of him affecting it many times. The dreams are all the same, a group of us is sitting around a table with a few drinks and a few smokes. We are telling stories, joking and wishing we could do the job we were assigned to do if the workload were not so overwhelming and the demands so uncompromising and unending. Jim tells the best stories and over the course of time, people get up and walk away from the table until just Jim and I are left. At that point, I look him straight in the eye and say "You know, its been fun, but you shouldn't even be here." He asks why and the answer is always the same:

"You're dead."

And he knows it and he gives me that "aw shucks" shrug and he disappears.

Jim's obituary was written by a staffer at a small town Massachusetts paper. Grasping for something relevant, the best he could offer was "He was an avid golfer."


He was an avid human being. Such that I will miss for the rest of my days.

One of the funnier things in my life is that I am a perpetual malcontent. I am seldom satisfied with things as they are and am always trying to change reality to suit me.

One of the first things I was dissatisfied with in life was my name.
It was boring and nondescript. I had a child's book called "Look out for pirates." In it was my first role model; the captain of a ship who is taken over by pirates and who uses his wits and leadership skills to turn the tables on them. I wanted to be just like him, right down to the name. A name that always signifies something special.

The character captain's name was Jim.

Friday, August 26, 2005

She's a Damned Liar

Try as you might to deny the where's and why's of our calling it "the women's home depot" you betrayed yourself.

There's a Bed Bath and Beyond bag in your trunk.

Confess the heinous sin.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Zen and the Art of Unpacking

A few things I have learned living alone:

-Quiet is not just a tranquil place in your mind. It's the whole house.
-Coffee does not make itself.
-Things are where you leave them.
-The clean underwear drawer is not self-replentishing.
-"Just hold that end for a minute" is a meaningless phrase.

Tackled glassware and the stereo last night. My kitchen was no doubt designed by a ballroom dancing afficionado who maxed out floor space to could tuck his one spoon and plate in a small matchbox in the corner.

I, unfortunately, am blessed with that and a cup, so I need more cupboard space.

Grab the hutch we used to keep linens and the nerf gun in and you have a perfectly usable place for glasses. The nerf gun was used to keep the cats off the dining room table and since I have neither, well, I'm disarming. (Charming as well.)

The stereo is another matter. It came out of the box with wires, plugs, clips and cords that made it look like the control room of the "Enterprise" after being sideswiped by Klingons on a bender with a stolen Gorn freighter.

"I canna promise you'll hear the Fountains of Wayne CD tonight Captain, it's all I can do to keep NPR tuned."

Add to this the tools needed to do the job are somewhere in box xd15623-d-4/abx-000001 packed, no doubt in a secure location that is more remote than Dick Cheney's hideout and you have an evening of humming to oneself and hoping for better days when music returns.

Did I mention the stereo cabinet did not accompany me? Not to worry. Years ago I built a Shaker style cabinet that wound up holding a lot of unsightly junk. Sketches and drawings of furniture plans, old newspaper clippings, comic books, instructions for telephone answering machines left in an apartment in north Jersey. In other words, C.R.A.P.

Said cabinet is now the proud keeper of a fine audio system. Trouble is, the damn thing needs to be wired up and there's no back access panel. So off we go to look for drills and saws and, finding them, we swallow hard, take a shot of something fortifying, and cut into that perfectly smooth pine plank we spent hours bookmatching years ago.

What the hell, I built it, I can cut into it. But even that is not easy. Like the first set of footprints in the fresh snow of the front lawn, you kind of wish you could turn around and sweep the snow back into the pristine thing you found it.

About an hour of cutting and shaping and fitting in the living room and you are done. And the back has some access holes that you can happily run wire through to your heart's content. Tomorrow, when "Audio IN +" and "Line OUT DVD/LD" means something.

And the living room is covered in sawdust. And the vacuum did not move with you.

Plan B: Convert living room to Pub or butcher shop.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

I Thought I Packed That

Last weekend was an epiphinous few days in which it was revealed to me that my chances of successfully practicing Buddhism are along the lines of successfully dating Natalie Portman.

Slim to none. Natalie, I am told, does not date rabbits.

No, I wasn't pasting my head shot in Magazine Man's wedding album, in short, I moved from my large expansive hutch in the country to my compact patch of ground in the city. Having spent the last few months preparing, purging and packing, I thought I would be done with this location change in record time with not even a bead of sweat upon my brow.

See Natalie Portman reference above.

How do we ever accumulate so much shit? Now, I know about C.R.A.P. but I don't have that problem.

Do I?

Apparently, I do have some minor affliction of C.R.A.P. Not severe enough to keep western action figures from the sixties that even I don't remember or to finally clear out the garage only to find that '62 Impala I lost in...'62. But just serious enough to catch myself carrying a four foot length of bird's eye maple that will make a fine something, somewhere, sometime.

Yes, if you ever need to inventory how bogged down with the trappings of life you have become, move.

So I'm in this old new house and things are fine because sometime in the last eight years I stopped giving a shit about disorder. I'll clear it up eventually but right now the day is at its end and I'm on the porch watching the sun set and the neighbors walk by.

I christened the old girl in the usual fashion; fire off a champagne cork and let the cork rest where she falls for perpetuity, or gets shot out the side of the lawnmower next spring, knocking the neighbor's dog unconscious.

Then the old girl, in her usual fashion, paid me back by starting to break. No, not badly but she was built in '27 and has all the affectations of that age: Mystery electrics, dubious plumbing, floors that ain't quite level.

A good friend of mine just bought a place and is a little concerned about a slight dip in one of the upstairs rooms. The dip remains even after I have left the room so it's gotta be the house. Listen, don't worry. Pour a bucket of golf balls on any floor in my house and you get a two dimensional representation of how planets get sucked into black holes.

The toilet runs. Just a little. So I jiggled the float. Just a little. So it broke off in my hand.

Home Depot is on my speed dial pad.

There is a huge English Walnut out back. Squirrels are currently going after its nuts. At least I think they are. Those sounds are either walnuts dropping or chunks of siding falling off.

Oh, and there's a hot tub. In the basement. Don't ask. I think some part of Silence of the Lambs was filmed there but I can't be sure. At any rate it's a relic from the seventies that looks to be candy-striped when I get the courage to lift the cover. Right now its an ideal shelf upon which to rest my collection of shop lights.

So there you have it. New house, new adventures, new reasons to stay up until four in the morning with rags and buckets.

Oh and I REALLY need to have a yard sale.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Today's Swipe at the News.

BEIJING, China (Neuters) -- China plans to launch its first unmanned lunar flight by 2007 in a three-phase mission that aims to bring back rock samples, state media said on Tuesday.
In the second stage, a lunar vehicle would land on the moon by 2012 and by 2017 the rock samples could be collected, the report said quoting aerospace officials.

The 2007 mission is planned to launch in September of that year, with a secondary and tertiary stage set to launch a few hours later when the program will be hungry for more rock samples.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Back on the Chain Gang

I've had some interesting jobs in my day. Not quite as many or as varied as some folks, and although I've entertained interesting work, I've never held a job this scintillating.

But here is a brief synopsis of things I've done for money and fame. Ok, maybe just money.

Some gigs were great, some I'd rather forget.

The Apple Orchard: Took a wrong turn at the Checkov section of the bookstore and wound up spending a summer working in my neighbor's apple orchard. I was about fourteen and promised not to set the place on fire. I got paid a quarter to prune a tree, another quarter to put a screen around the base of the trunk. That denied delicious bark to local woodland animals, like bunnies. Back then and even now, I thought it was one of the greatest jobs I ever had. I worked with my best friend Patrick. We worked outside all day. We ate lunch laying on top of a ten foot high pile of apple boxes stacked in the barnyard. The boxes were waiting for the fall to come, we, knowing school would start, were not. We ate like horses, told jokes and stories, rated rock bands like Queen, Kiss and Bowie and tried to stay away from rutting deer and the occasional bear. I learned to climb a tree or a ten foot stack of apple boxes in record time. Most days the wildlife limited itself to Patrick's dog; Pepper. We didn't work when it rained but that was seldom. We rode in the back of the owner's pickup truck to and from work except for once when Patrick's brother Michael picked us up in his VW bug. He then them promptly drove that into a bulldozer tending to the gravel country roads. The old man drove us to work one day and we got into an argument about his belief that everyone who wore a beard was somehow associated with the Parti Quebequois.

At the end of the summer, Patrick and I had a beer with the orchard owner, got paid one hundred dollars and went back to school. I don't remember what I did with the century note but I know that telling the story years later earned me the unwanted nickname "Orchard Boy."

Leatherman: Back before most blue jean production had been shipped to China, I worked in a plant that made all kinds of leather goodies for the fashion industry. Belts mostly, some leather vests for the S & M crowd, and leather patches with the maker's name for high end jeans. It was my job, start to finish to make several thousand patches for a brand called "Big Blue." I'd cut as many patches out of a hide as I could, then I'd trim the patches down to an even thickness and then, using a hot iron stamp, I'd brand "Big Blue" into the patches. It was boring work but it was work and needed to be done well and honorably as all work should.

The trouble was less with the work and more with the owners of the place. I knew them personally and they were, in a phrase, repulsive greedy bastards. They thought that the plant was there to pay for their Mercedes and luxury house. They had a real disdain for the people out on the shop floor and would trash them at the drop of a hat. The worst part was that they had no financial interest in the place. Daddy had fronted the money to keep them busy and off the streets.

This played a big part in their attitude towards the shop staff. Machines were in bad repair, blade guards were missing and we usually got blamed when something else broke.

That summer job was my summer of sabotage. I pretty regularly cut out too many labels with the die, breaking the die intentionally such that the fat bastard who ran the repair shop (and was married to the owner's daughter) had to fire up the welding torch more than he wanted to. I also cut some of the labels upside down, ruining them, burned the labels crookedly, achieving the same and "forgot" to notice when my machine started overheating and throwing sparks for about a half an hour. When you look like a dumb high school kid, its easy to play out the part.

I'd like to end the story with my actions taking the place down and forcing the kiddies to have to find honest work, or being run out of business by honest brokers who had had enough of their hollow promises but, alas, they are still cranking along.

Steam Kid: Working for the old man who had a knack for finding the most mundane job for me to do put me in a steam degreasing booth all summer long. Basically, I was kitted out in long sleeve flannel shirt, gloves, headgear and visor, given a live steam gun and told to hose down large metal boxes before they were to be painted. The temperature usually hovered around 100 degrees except for hot days when it would spike at about 120 because of the paint baking ovens nearby. I liked the physical rigor of the job coupled with being left alone in my booth all day. That was about it though.

Graveler: Again, the old man figured that a boy, a wheel barrow, a shovel, a rake, two acres of land and a couple of tons of gravel beat renting a Bobcat loader for the day. Shovel, wheel over to a bare patch of dirt, dump, spread. Repeat.

It built a strong upper body and a fine thesaurus for "dickhead".

Photographer: A one day gig for a local professor who thought he stood a snowball's chance in hell running for the U.S. Senate. He didn't and showed his competence railing against domino theory by proclaiming that if the World Trade Center fell over, the McDonalds right next to it would not necessarily get knocked down.

Huh? Twenty one years later, it became an empirical "huh?" easily demonstrated.

Anyway, he hated the photos for their lack of contrast. I tried to point out that he had white hair and insisted on standing right up against white walls when he was shot.

Oh well.

Teacher: Where I failed as a stringer, I succeeded as a teacher.

Those who can't do?

Anyway, I taught a six week course on basic photography. History, chemistry, art, technology. It was a blast and, despite being a twenty year old smartass who wasn't qualified to read laundry directions out loud, I managed to hold onto a six person class (It was a not for credit university extension program for the interested few) and pass along what little I knew at the time. Which wasn't and continues to be, not much.

Elf: Well, QC elf anyway. I didn't make the toys, I fixed them. Clarke Dunham who had had a successful career as a Broadway set designer decided to pursue his other love: Model Railroading. He convinced Citibank to sponsor a giant holiday-themed layout in the lobby of Citibank tower one Christmas. The set up was impressive, professionally done and was featured in some hobby publications as well as Smithsonian which is a magazine read by men who have, unlike the hobby mags, slept with women at least once.

Dunham staffed the layout with theatre techies who knew how to throw switches and sneak out for pot breaks. The other break started to happen when the toy trains got completely overtaxed by being run 24/7.

That's where I came in. A friend knew that her friend was dating a guy who liked model trains. Dunham called me, told me to start fixing things. I told him I could work six to nine every night and I wanted twenty bucks an hour. He said OK so fast I kicked myself for not asking for forty.

The best part was getting to part the crowds and go past the "Staff Only" gate without being told to back off. OK, so I impressed a couple of young boys with my "I'm with the band" routine but what the hell?

It was, for a few weeks, a second childhood and compensated at that. During the day I worked in production at a comic book company, at night I fixed model trains. My interest in women waned...

Yard work: The only job I've held longer than the one I'm at now has to be as the jerk who cuts the lawn for one person or another. I cut neighbor's yards, I cut industrial parks, I cut embankments that would have been happier growing weeds instead of being beaten into submission for a few weeks.

Someday, I will fulfill my dream of finishing and publishing my first book and settling into big sky country as a working writer.

That will be the day I will have made my ideal job my profession and renounced, by virtue of a desert home, the bane of my working life.

Bunny on.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Lost in America

This week, the powers that be have seen fit to send the Bunny out into our nation's heartland. A little fieldwork is good for the soul now and again because we tend, in our business anyway, to get a little myopic from time to time and someplace else drives home the notion that the perfect mocha grande latte is a priority that you and you alone have.

'Course 'round here, that priority is the amount of sausage gravy your biscuits will hold. Coffee is an aside beverage that loosens up and flushes down all that caloric goo that is going to beeline for your weakest arterial wall and hang loose.

"Morning hon. How quick or slow do you want to eat yourself to death today?" It helps to be reading The Virgin Suicides at breakfast. You tend to push that last rash of bacon aside and focus on getting out at noon for a brisk walk.

Or as I did, take the rental car for a spin down the bike path because you took another wrong turn in the dark. Good thing I have cats as pets. They have taught me the "meant to do that all along" affectation that makes me seem just a little less of an east coast idiot in a rented Grand Am.

The hotel is nice as far as children's projects of matchsticks and construction paper go. It has been unceremoniously plopped into the middle of an Indiana cornfield to serve the something traveler (why we can't just all go downtown is beyond me) and kind of stands as a monument to wasted farmland. Here's a tear: In 1900, forty five percent of the average family budget went to feeding themselves. In 2001, that percentage has dropped to five. We are eating more, cheaper, worse food and growing fatter on it. Oh, and we are throwing out what we don't want by the ton.

Try something. Go to your local market. Just once a week, buy something fresh and locally grown. Let me know how much better it tastes. There is nothing wrong with increasing agricultural efficiency to be able to feed more mouths. There is something wrong with government subsidies perverting the entire free market just so we can have cherries in January.
No kidding. My cycling friend who sits at the opposite political pole of me nods in hearty agreement when we get to talking about food and agriculture.

Back to the hotel though, it is probably about eight years old and seems to be sinking into a soft spot in the earth. Wallpaper in corners is stretched and crazed as it gets pulled away from itself. The TV seems too heavy for the floorboards to hold it. Got in last night to watch the last hour of Man on Fire and Denzel Washington's performance was too intense for the windows to hold up to. They subsequently blew out. Or was that the tornado warning siren?

Anyway, got to upgrade. There's a Holiday Inn across the 18 lane motor speedway that I'll check into next time I'm out here. It's a step up and it has a restaurant and a bar with a cute, plump little barkeep to talk to.

This part of the state is flat and hot and filled with well meaning and friendly people. Back east could use an infusion of Hoosiers to lighten things up and add some civility to the place but I suspect that even they would turn surly once they saw the price of real estate. Here, on the other hand, I am awash in the classiest little craftsman bungalos with tapered pillars and quartersawn oak flooring just begging for restoration. After a friend of mine spent about a year looking for that perfect little first home and finally finding a pretty good place except for "CLUB BERLIN", the industrial hip hop club in the basement, I want to call her from out here. Tear up your contract, bring money and let's scoop up a couple of these places before paneling and acoustic ceilings get to them first! And it's dirt cheap and it's a sweet little town but for heaven's sake, there's no place fancier than an Applebee's to eat!!

Great architecture going to waste just to keep gastronomic homogenity alive. Somebody ought to do something.

If you're ever in Indiana and you drive through a little town with picture perfect bungalos where folks sit out on the porch digesting the fine locally grown meal they just had downtown at "Bunny's", you know somebody did.

Hey, a boy can dream. Can't he?

Bunny on.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Everyone's Gone to the Movies

Now we're alone again.

So an innocent throwaway referencing a recent film drew the ire of a friend of mine and I wondered what button got pushed there? She hate hate hated it and I didn't understand why why why? Got a pretty succinct explanation and everything's fine although I like like liked the film in that in a bouillabase of crappy summer boy-teen movies, it featured adult(erous) characters that kind of talked like real people. Oh and stuff happened that didn't involve spaceships, monsters, guns and car chases.

Plus, not being a wine snob, I just kind of glossed over those parts. What's wrong with Merlot?

Not that spaceships, monsters guns and car chases are necessarily a bad thing. All of the above have their place and when you put down the copy of The Virgin Suicides this evening, by golly you just may want to pop in Bourne Identity because futher cranial activity will not be warranted.

Just kind of depends what kind of mood you're in.

That's the thing about films; they can be great presentations of fine acting, beautiful cinematography, elaborate sets and so on and they can very simply blow or they can refuse to hold your appeal. I can't watch anything with Helena Bonham Carter ritzier than Fight Club because at one point in my relationship with a woman, I was dragged to every period piece filmed in the eighties.

From an artistic point of view, sure, I can appreciate, or try to, everything in these films but for crying out loud, grass growing is considered action!!!

I love Emma Thompson. But Remains of the Day had me running to the lobby for toothpicks to keep my eyes open with. I was lured into the film under false pretense. I was told it was a war picture. Well, yes. A war was fought while the prinicple characters were polishing the silverware, but even Sir Winston could be boring at teatime.

My friend Scott Meyer wrote a book entitled The Guy's Guide to Guy Movies. He collected what he considered to be the best guy flicks out there and, while he ostensibly presented it as a guide for guys, his secret hope was that the women in the house would pick the thing up, thumb through it and start figuring out what appeals to us and why. My guess is that if they did that, they'd kind of have a primer when they wiped the pizza and beer stains off the cover.

I suggested that he (and I) write a mirthful (his original book was also mirthful, he and I being adherents to the idea that we are only one evolutionary hiccup from All Stooges, All the Time. Filmwise, at least) guide to Gal films for the guys. I.e. what is actually going on, why its important, what to say to her to prove you were in fact paying attention and then the extra added bonus of when the underwear scenes come up so you can get something out of the next two hours.

He declined, preferring instead to write a book on Bingo in America.

He does have a unique sense of humor, that boy. Not limited to comments such as "Nice shirt, now we'll know where the body landed." He was referring to a new yellow cycling jersey I wore whilst mountain biking with him. He is pretty good with first aid too. I know this from experience.

The most interesting thing about film that I can think of are the three questions that Ernie Schier, late of the Philadephia Bulletin, told my film criticism class back in the cretacious era when I was in college.

We were all high minded budding art snobs who couldn't wait to pooh pooh our first Disney flick.

Ernie let the air out of our tires by having us review episodes of Benny Hill. His three questions were:

-What is the artist saying?
-Is he successful saying it?
-Is it worth saying?

Therein, you have a criticism. Oh, and remember to know what you are talking about when you answer the last question. You are quick to be a horse's ass there. (Ernie would then light up one of the forty two cigarettes he smoked in that hour and a half.)


Reason one for shying away from being a critic. I can be a horse's ass without paying six bucks for the Godzilla Tub 'O Golden Popcorn.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Kitchen? Really?

OK, so I kind of knew that the big ugly jobs that involved sledge hammers and taking out closets and such would be first on the docket.

The astute Ms. Kathryn cleared that up for me. Thanks for the cold bucket of reality water there.

I was just kidding myself. A nice coat of rag rolled paint, stain and shellac for the woodwork in the upstairs hallway serves the practicality of nothing and no one. So it's off to IKEA to check out "Husker Du" or "Rolandtheheadlessthomsongunner" cabinets that are actually brand named after the Swedish word for "kindling."

Either that or unfinished furniture world and wash my friend Susan's car every weekend for a few years because she and her good husband will get me a deal on granite counter tops.

Damn, I thought I was going to get away easy but she's right. Where I do my cooking ultimately is more important than where I do my sleeping and, given my propensity to dirty dance with insomnia, I'm in the kitchen and living rooms more than the bedroom anyway.

But the bathroom's going to have to wait. Its done in mid-century disastro with a shower door that was one of the rejected ideas for entryways on Star Trek. Sorry Kathryn, I can only take one disaster at a time. Its functional and a few photo landscapes will take the edge off of the stark ugliness of the vinyl floor so its a project for the spring.

As far as cleanliness, don't worry. After an ex who hates housecleaning so we hire a service who hates housecleaning I've got a thing for the smell of formula 409 in the morning.

And now that I've made it as a link on two blogsites, it's time to get with the program, fill up the diesel fuel tank that runs the ISP server and reciprocate what I consider to be one of the higher forms of compliment around.

Bunny on, friends.

Now is the time on Bunny when we RANT

I had this friend, let's call her Colleen because there's an elegance and beauty to that name and that's what her parents had called her.

She and I used to meet for coffee from time to time. We'd talk. She liked my take on the world because I think it was generally as cynical as hers was but could be spun into humorous observations issued forth in Kinnisonesque screams that we called Rants.

A rant was a stream of invective that basically pulled apart current reality in a "what the F?" sense of is this really something we need to take seriously in our lives?

Rants usually went after the latest operating systems, software upgrades or email protocols. Things purported to speed our day, increase our efficiency and make our lives better that usually wound up as so much T-1 line spun around our ankles with an endless stream of operating error messages scrolling across the failing GUI. Yea, I feel more freaking efficient already. Gimme that brick will you?

Today I am back in the office for a few hours of catchup work after being on the road for the better part of the week. Now I was promised a hardware upgrade months ago and was told that all the installers needed was a couple of free hours to put the whole box in. So let us know when you'll be out. OK, I did. Three days of abjectly unoccupied office later, I am back not to a ported laptop but a bunch of freaking unplugged cables around a broken VDT terminal and my pet plastic lizard in missing! Not only that but I know come Monday fucking morning, IT elves will NOT have put a functioning computer where there is a square dustless space now! So what is the acronym for IT around here??? Idiot Training? Or is the SH silent in our IT?

Quick dash down to the bank before my account winds up next to Thomas' fine dinosaur on Boing Boing! If I were more freaking astute, nay, if I had the time to read someone's email entitled "linkey links" I would have taught myself how to link that last title to Artlad's page. Of course that would assume A FUNCTIONING COMPUTER and I don't want to do it at home where we are so far out in the country that the freaking ISP is wood powered. Throw another log on the server, it's cold in here!!

On the way to the bank I pass the plastic carpet wholesaler. This is the guy who had a letter billboard out front that he used to paste his favorite jokes on like sick hokey humor would give rise to uncontrolled urges for deep wall to wall pile. Don't laugh too hard here, somebody has probably tested this for causality and correlation and has a better relationship with his girlfriend than I'll ever hope for.

So anyway, Plastic carpet wholesaler has replaced his hang up individual letters to spell out police- station-robbed-of-toilet-cops-have-nothing-to-go-on board with, get this, a scrolling electronic billboard!

Great, he and the little old lady at CVS who just bought the musical freaking birthday card now have more computing power than I do and incidentally they didn't get called into the "review strategic objectives" meeting on Monday, I did!!

What the, what the?? I'm working off my staffer's terminal now, the one who has the keyboard position locked at a ninety degree angle to your lap. Explains a lot about her posture and her aptitude at darts.

Plus I still don't know where the plastic lizard is. Oh and did I mention the note tacked to the busted VDT from my boss: "We have to get the specification report out first thing Monday?" OK, you grab the quills, I'm here with the inkpot and parchment! Let's rock 'cause there ain't gonna be no Intel supported processing here until at least ten when the system support rolls in after a long bender of a weekend.

Other than that, things are fine. Voicemail still takes so many keypunches in to get your message from a cellphone while driving you might as well just steer into opposing traffic and eliminate the middleman.

That is of course after you've stopped at the West Virginia Welcome Center (thanks for a'comin, now git on yer knees an' squeal like a pig) to confirm that, yessiree Bob, something left on our interstate system has torn out most of your wheelwell. That would be my expired warranty we just passed, yes.

Gee I can't wait until Monday! Not that hanging around a house full of half packed moving boxes is anything I'd ever say no to. Just that the full blossoming joy of having two and a half days to catch up before I put my cottontailed ass on another plane for another state where the hottest conversation subject is still somebody sneaking the word "twat" onto this year's high school yearbook and that happened in '02!

I tried anagramming "stressed out" but only came up with spelling my name. Go figure.

So there you go, there you have it, that's all there is. Clever links are coming, more posts are on the way and MM, don't let Thomas read this until he's much older.

Bunny this!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Today on This Old House...

I bought a new old house that I move into in a couple of weeks. I'm sure you've read about the knob and tube palace on previous posts and I'm equally sure you'll be reading more about it on future posts.

I got the place cheap, or at least relatively cheap in this marketplace where houses are listed for minutes and prices feel like an auction with a drunk in the back of the room who keeps waving his arms and can't be stopped.

One of the reasons it's cheap is that it's not in the best shape. She's not in bad shape, but if she were a fridge, the scratch and dent floor would be her stomping ground.

And yes, she's a she. Most people and things I treasure are. Most things that piss me off are male.

Take my old place. I'm counting down the days to closing because since we accepted the buyers bid:

-the water heater decided it couldn't hold out and more and took a leak on the floor.
-the furnace sneezed. It was fine but house calls cost a lot.
-the well, well, won't.

This guy, the house, is exacting his revenge on me, probably for painting him a couple of colors inside that men just shouldn't wear.

Which brings me to my new old house. One of the things I'll be working on once I've stopped her slow slide into total electrical failure is brushing up her looks, inside and out.

That means some finish carpentry, staining, shellac and paint.

It's a challenge because in my mind I'm trying to develop a color pallete and decorating style that says "simple, elegant yet sophisticated." That's a hard point to hit without hitting the "I didn't know he was gay." as well.

But falling back onto bone and other off whites, or beige which isn't really a color as much as its a debilitating mental state is probably worse.

More trouble comes in the form of where to start. Every room in the place needs help of one sort or another and in moments of cold honesty, the whole freaking garage needs to be torn down and built right. Too bad the car can't vote.

So you start with the easy rooms, right? But the easy ones aren't the ones you're going to need right away. So start with...sure, like I want to rip out a kitchen in August.

Do you do the rooms you want to impress others with first? Living room? Dining room? Bed...nah, don't go there.

Who knows?

Maybe the house will answer your questions for you. I know my crotchedy colonial did.

You fix what breaks next.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Wenn ist das Nunstruck git und Slotermeyer?

There were times, a lot of them, when I was less a son to the old man than a live in helper-assistant.

Now and again I was a: doorstop, hold down, wedge, shim, vise, clamp, reel and stand right there and hold that and don't you dare move until I tell you, all with bad seventies hair.

Sometimes I didn't mind. I thought that I would hang around the old man and both learn how to do things for myself and then graduate to doing them for him as I became more skilled.

None of this came to pass.

On the first part, I did learn a lot of valuable lessons. Specifically how NOT to do certain things. Now Dad was not incompetent, but he was highly idiosyncratic. There were things he liked to do, there were things he hated to do and watching him, you could figure them out. He went through big projects the way you'd tiptoe through a minefield. Carefully plan your route, then stick to it avoiding anything not in the plan like the plague. Dad planned his job, figured out what he liked to do, figured out what he hated and went after the likes big time while short cutting or end running the hates entirely.

Made for some interesting work. He liked things level. He once spent the entire day shimming sub flooring in the basement such that the curvature of the earth was the only natural deflection in the floor.
He loved wallpapering but hated painting. He hated things that involved mixing wet with dry materials. As such, he despised drywall taping, mudding and spackling while he loved to hang drywall sheets-in perfect ninety degree perpendicularity to the perfectly level floor. These sheets formed a partition between the stairs down to the basement and the rec room in the basement. As I said, he hung the drywall and, avoiding that part of the minefield, forewent taping and mudding for...

Wallpapering over the joint in the sheetrock.

Not only did the constant flexing of the unsecured drywall joint perpetually tear the wallpaper anytime anybody walked down the stairs, the unsecured sheets also let off a rumbling noise like distant thunder, stopping most people in their tracks to wonder if the car windows were left down. A neat trick in winter.

Of course these defects had nothing to do with Dad's work. It was flawless, in his opinion which of course was the only one that counted. The problem was with the way the stairs were used. One foot in front of the other!
Indeed, one had to walk more gently. A bit of a work-around but it stopped the wallpaper from tearing.

This was Dad's world and these were his rules. Everything had a workaround of one sort of another to compensate for something he had not wanted to do in the first place. Rather than ditch the TV when the main on-off switch blew, Dad put a rinky dink switch on the back of the set that, if you reached behind, just past the high voltage back of the picture tube, you could turn the set on.

The other thing Dad was good at, and this is where I came in, was soliciting help with his projects. But only after he had first identified the most mundane, uninteresting, boring, unrewarding part of the project and assigned it to me in perpetuity.

So much for the second part. I never seemed to graduate from thing holder down or cable keeper or screw counter/sorter to do any kind of significant work (like spackling).

Dad always assigned me the ladder hold down, tool hander, whatever it was he needed and wanted but could not be bothered to do.

Now this could have been intellectual death for me other than for a fact of life that distinguished Dad from me. He was an immigrant who only spoke English as a second language. I was a native who only spoke English. When he put me in charge of tools handing up, I learned the fundamentals of German noun construction in what he asked for versus what I handed him.

Mind you, he tried his best but his nomenclature of piston ring spanners in English was marginal at best, nonexistant most of the time. As a result, most conversation at the worksite went like this:



"You see another boy?"

"No." But I was glad that he had noticed I took up space.

"Hand me the doppelflipperkuchengewurztraminer." German, I learned later in life, has an adversity to adjective use and dispenses with such by ramming them into the subject noun until you get a compound that senior chemists at DuPont couldn't re-create.

"Here you go."

"Boy, that's the uhraltschwarzwalderkirchtortespannungundleitungschraubenzeiher. What's wrong with you?"

"Is this it?"

"Nein! Next to there, the hammer, the hammer!"

"Why didn't you say hammer?"

"Because you would have handed me the fliegenderhollanderunterziehbarhesbettsache."

"Well, then."

"Shut up and hold that."

"How long."

"Until I say so."



"Ja!...Beiherhund das Oder die Flipperwaldt gersput!"

"Exactly. Now you learn something!"

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