Monday, January 30, 2006

Foux Finishing

In this time between the bitter, bitter cold and snow of December and the warm, wet January we're having, I'm taking the opportunity to do a little painting around the knob and tube palace.

This of course in preparation for the melting of the polar icecaps. I'm only working on upstairs rooms.

Actually, what I am doing is repainting the upstairs hallway, the stair treads and risers and one of the upstairs bedrooms that I use as the Lair of the Bunny (ominous music, sounds of innocent carrots being blithely tossed to their deaths).

The hallway is a follow up to a fall project wherein the original woodwork was semi saved from looking like ground zero of some beaver gang rumble with judicious use of stain and gloss polyurethane. Now I'm painting the walls around the woodwork a more suitable color that the Aztec on Methadone orange they had been. Throw in some new track lighting that shoots illumination down the length of the corridor as opposed to the single incandescent that illuminated pretty much itself and nothing else and you've got a liveable hallway. Nice little easy project.

Too easy.

Oh, I should say that the stairs are another matter but I've divorced those in my mind from the rest of the hallway. The risers were easily enough painted but the treads, which were cut from an ugly veined wood that looked like it should have been of the species bitumen oak are another matter. See, you got to use them. You got to go up and down the stairs since the builders of this palace, in an evil and sinister plot, laid out two primary needs at polar opposite ends of the house.

Yes, these fiends put the fridge downstairs and the bathroom upstairs.

So I painted every other tread at first. A clever trick, completely lost on the cat who decided after watching some Thighmaster infomercial I had left on for her that she wasn't looking too tone and maybe a little indoor stairwork would solve that.

At any rate, stairs and pawprints aside, the rest of the project went so well that I got my gusto up and decided to tackle the spare bedroom.

What is it? Pride and a paint run to the home despot goeth before a fall?

See, the room couldn't simply be painted. The walls had to have color, texture, feel and depth. They had to have a complexity of surface and character that is another way of saying I took too much away from seeing Brokeback Mountain.

They needed to be faux finished.

Faux finishing is a paint trick the French use to disguise the fact that their buildings are in fact, all collapsing around them and they haven't the talent pool to reconstruct. They all moved to Mauritius during the De Gaulle era. Faux finishing involves several layers of color atop one another which is a nice way of saying, yes, I'm an idiot that does the same job twice in a day when once will suffice if my tastes were a little simpler.

After two base coats, I grab my genuine sea sponge (made in Mechanicsburg, PA) and stipple on a light glaze. This is entirely too subtle for me. So I grab a rag and roll on yet another color. Better, but needs to be even. So I go over it with more glaze but now that's too mottled. So I tone it back with some more rag rolling but I've lost the base color. So I dry brush some more base color on and then some more again to punch the wall up. Then another light touch of glaze and some rag rolling to even everything out then a last dry brush of base color.

The room has lost a quarter of its square footage, there's so much paint on the walls. The light switches are recessed, deeply recessed, and one of the cats is missing.

I may have let this get away from me.

No matter. The color on the wall is now pleasing and the paint must be adding some structural rigidity to the cracked plaster, musn't it?

It does look properly aged, distressed and patina'd.

Just what I was after.

Of course, it then occurs to me that, given the age of the old girl, that's what this place already looked like.

Don't look for me on HGTV anytime soon.

Bunny on.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Playing in Traffic

This is a late addition to the Dial "D" for Dumb series of misadventures I have gone through in my life.

I told this story to a woman I care deeply for the other night. She laughed so hard we had to stop at an all night convenience store for a quart of milk for her to force through her nose.

When I was a wee lad I lived in a much more northerly latititude than I do now. Not that where I live now is any great shakes when it comes to the rigors of winter. In fact, it still sucks. Put another way, "Bienvenito a Habana" (sans Fidel) is my idea of a place to pitch my tent for November through May.

At any rate, where I grew up forsook sunlight from early December through about the end of March. It got cold. Real cold. Real cold and uncomfortable and folks basically had to cope as best they could without resorting to axe-murdering.

My mother and I fell into the habit of taking long, after dinner walks. These were the times when, dinner eaten, the dishes and homework done, the old man having scooted back to the office, we would go out and reflect on why the fuck we didn't live somewhere like Florida.

There was one cold spell I remember where you had to suit up just to go out and get the mail. Snow would be packed hard on the streets and sidewalks and would make that squeaky, crunchy noise under your boots that said "Hypothermia is just an awkward moment away."

We still went out for our evening walks which, given the darkness, didn't really differ from, let's say an afternoon walk we could have taken if we had had a lick of sense in our heads.

It was bitterly cold that night. Uncomfortably so. And my mom advised me to keep moving so that nothing froze up. I complied and kept moving but it was still cold. My toes were cold, my fingers were cold but, worst of all, my face was cold and I was afraid of getting frostbite which is silly because it only could have helped. I was an ugly child, once voted "most likely to be set out on an ice flow just for the hell of it."

Funny thing is that when I finally did get frost bitten, it was at the exact opposite...

Never mind. Another story for another day.

So here I am, walking, holding my mother's hand (I was nine, it was still okay) and freezing my face off.

What to do? What to do? Whining didn't help. It never did. And we had just set off on our walk so turning back was out of the question because we "still had a whole lot of exercise" to get in. I pondered beneath my scarf and under my wool hat when it finally occurred to me: One of the benefits of being nine and holding mom's hand was that I had a built in guidance system. And I had a scarf I could pull up and a hat I could pull down and, are you getting the idea?

Yep. I yanked the scarf up over the bridge of my nose and pulled the hat down over my eyes and, voila, face completely covered and warm, I was happy to be led whereever.


See, I could still see things through the wool weave of the hat that covered my eyes. Things like, oh, car headlights. Not things like, oh, sidewalks and what side of the street we were on and why are we suddenly on the other side of the street from where we usually walk when we always walk on the side next to the farmer's field? Don't know and I can't explain. All I know is suddenly, we are on the other side of the road, the one without the sidewalk and there's a car coming and we need to get back to the safety of the sidewalk and why isn't she taking me there???

She wants to kill me. That's it. It's cold and dark and she's gone axe-murderer crazy and she's going to walk me right into this oncoming car! Run! Break your grip, let go of the hand that is steering you into two tons of bumper and run like hell for self preservation to the sidewalk! It's over there!

Or would have been if we were actually on the side of the road I imagined we were on. Which of course, we weren't.

We were on the safe side of the road. Just like we always were. Thanks to Captain Warmface, I mis-perceived everything and got completely turned around and essentially, from my mom's perspective, pulled away from her to run into the middle of the road.

She screamed. I stopped. The car honked and swerved. Nothing else happened.

Except that I went axe murderer crazy in the eyes of my mom and some poor driver that night.

Explains why I was grounded until June that year.

Bunny on.

Monday, January 23, 2006

If we didn't love them we'd eat them

So I don't have children, I have pets in the form of two cats which may not be as interesting or at least as conversation-worthy as children but are an awful lot easier to take care of.

Admittedly, after eating, sleeping and shitting there's not much else to them if you don't count bizarre howling episodes at inopportune times and biting the hand of a woman I care about very deeply. On the other hand, the one not bitten, they don't talk back (much), educational outlays are minimal and you'll never worry about their first date if you practice preventitive veterinary care as you should. I couldn't see myself peering out a darkened window at Earl the Tom's little kitty-mobile parked just a few minutes too long to just say good night to my favorite furrbag any more than I could stare out at some mouth-breather's Mustang parked just a little too long to just say good night to my daughter without my intervening by coming out and grounding Melissa until she's, say, eligible for pension benefits while at the same time making an indelible impression in Johnny's forehead that might just read "DROF."

Cats are much more low maintenance, kids are not. And for every one who thinks cats are little conspiratorial creatures who spend their day in feigned sleep while cooking up little adventures like bringing breakfast up on the living room floor while you are flat on your back with the flu, I'll relate this anecdote:

Called my good friend Annie the other day. A young voice answers the phone and I ask for Annie and the child runs off to tell her mother a rabbit has learned how to dial. Annie and I get about two minutes in before the cherub decides it's time for her mothers wholly undivided attention and a three way conversational pandemonious cacauphony results. Now this little one has probably spent the afternoon ankle deep in papier mache and crayons and has cared not a whit that her mother is about dusting, cooking, vacuuming and the like. But let her pick up a book, the newspaper, or heaven forefend, answer the phone and she realizes that attention deficit gives as well as takes.

My friend Jim's daughter is like that. Physicists come to study her as they find out about a black hole's behavior when they see her suck all the room's attention into a highly concentrated vortex with her at its epicenter. She's a little like a small, sweet, locomotive. When I come by to pick daddy up to head off to a road race, she's tired and quiet. Light the fire with a few simple questions like "what did you do in school this week?" and she quickly heats up, builds a good head of steam and profers forth without hesitation, interruption or pause for that matter. Getting out of there alive with Jim and most of my hearing, I ask him if she's just on some sort of kid high or always like that, chatting without end.

"Oh no, she's like that until bedtime." Explains the recliner he keeps in the garage.

When my niece asked if I wanted to play after I showed up at her house on the tail end of a six hour car trip, I said "no." Her father explained that I had to give reasons why. "I've got my reasons." I clarified to the child.

Don't get me wrong. I like kids. Just because the paternal wire is unhooked off my main circuit and dangling never to be connected doesn't mean I can't appreciate children. In fact, I'll play with them, tease them, rile them up and just when they've hit the apogee of hyperactivity, I happily hand them back to mom and dad.

Now what's not to appreciate there?

Bunny on.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Dropped Another Ball

It's easy to think that a four mile foot race at midnight is a fun thing when you're in a warm sports shop with a few beers in you.

Don't ever let this happen to you. But if it does, see you out there next year.

Such were the circumstances that found me in New York City at midnight a few days ago running the Emerald Nuts Midnight Run. It was dark, wet and cold so why they named it emerald nuts which are green when something blue would have been more appropriate is beyond me. But there I was, cursing that second lager and the alluring promotion for the race.

First order of business was to kill the two hours between when we got into town and the start of the race. This meant coffee. We were at 72nd and 5th in New York City so the assumption was you could close your eyes, extend your arm and point a finger and you'd risk putting the eye out on a Starbucks sign somewhere. This is a very ritzy part of Manhattan with tony apartments that I could move into in a heartbeat if I sold the county I live in to Sudanese slave traders. High rollers, movers and shakers live here. People that are highly motivated in life and jump out of bed every morning of their own volition and keep up a frenetic pace of life and must be space aliens because they are doing it all without the benefit of coffee! There was not a single instance of ground bean being introduced to hot flowing water until we hit freaking 81st and Third! Now, when you are in a five thousand person run in the park and are wandering around in sneakers, tights and have a large paper number pinned to your chest, you kind of fit in. If, on the other hand you are in a Seven Eleven fifteen blocks from any race, dressed the same and are trying to fish money out of a concealed pocket so far removed from the surface of your clothing that it looks like you are trying to pull something sinister out of your ass...

Oh, and this particular 7-11 is a favorite stopping point for the NYPD so go ahead and fish your mad money out next to Officer Torres and try to look natural about it.

Thanks for being a runner and getting it, officer.

You get to field questions too. Like: "Are you running? In the race? In Central Park? At midnight?"

Madam, if you've strung this all together, how hard would it have been for you to make that last little conclusive jump?

I've got black tights, black shorts on, a bright yellow racing jacket trimmed with black and a large racing number pinned on it.

"Are you running in a race?"

Nice try sir, but no. I'm a hybrid taxi.

The race went off at midnight. There were police helicopters circling the city all night to ensure that nothing would get out of hand and New Jersey wouldn't call the landlord to complain about the noise like they did last year. There was screaming and yelling and they fired the starter's gun at midnight just when the fireworks started exploding in the sky.

We all ran like hell.

Now I know what the Syrian army is going to feel like if Damascus pisses Condoleeza Rice off one more time.

The crowds were wonderful. Supportive and cheering us on and giving us high fives and so drunk off their ass that some of them were seen doing the same for the number 3 uptown local several hours later.
What the hell, runners, horse drawn carriage rides, hey let's go cheer on late diners at Tavern on the Green. We got a bottle left.

There's nothing like the thrill of a midnight run to get your blood circulating and warming you up all over. It's the second greatest thrill.

The first was of course, finding the warm charter bus parked on 66th an hour before pickup.

Happy New Year.

Bunny on.

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