Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Where'd I Put the Chainsaw?

Rare was the occasion, but they did come, when I could coax the old man into providing me with the requirements for one of my projects.

These usually took the form of a play space, or a game table or some sort of tabula razza for my overactive, sugar soaked young imagination. That was all I needed or could get for that matter. These years were just beyond the midpoint of the twentieth century and video games were still a wet dream over at the Nintendo's who lived in the stylish bungalo down the road. Video for that matter was still a churlish infant and join me in remembering the live news spots where reporters would cover a story in a windy field. Yep, the microphone picked up the gusts that sounded like a twenty moon pie fart atop a half case of RC Cola. Either that or you covered the mike head with a furry cover that looked for all the world like you picked it up for that special someone in a store called Pleasure Chest or perhaps Come Again.

So, whipped into a High C frenzy, I would approach the old man with plans for a race car table or base for model train or just a secret room in the basement to hide in. If he was in the proper spirit, which is to say if he had gotten after a few bottles of Orange Crush and potato chips, he'd be pretty pliable and I could get him to promise that, yes, this weekend if its raining I'll put something together for you.

He was pretty good about play tables, sometimes even taking the initiative. Once, after an overnight to relatives trip with my mom, I came home to the old guy having put together a kid height table for toy cars. This essentially was a slab of plywood, some half round edging, stubby legs and the whole thing painted yellow. He then laid down a frame of colored masking tape to simulate a road. Called the whole thing a race track and when I pointed out that the curves were awful sharp, each one of the four being a ninety degree angle, he took me out for a ride in the Oldmobile at high speed to point out that my opinion was in fact mistaken.

A couple of times he tripped me up however. Finish up the rec room so you can put the ping pong table up or move the table hockey out of the basement, that sort of thing that was incidental in the scheme of things but moved the earth for a twelve year old. We'd set a date to do the work and I'd count it down on a calendar and perhaps not even sleep the night before. Get up early, wolf down some more sugared cereal and keep up an excitement level just below frenzy. Then he'd get me.

The room was dirty.

It was disorderly in some way or not properly arranged or didn't fit into his scheme of the universe.

Instant derailment. Whatever it was we were doing took an immediate back seat to cleaning the place up and that became secondary to getting that one spot out of the rug that had always bothered him or putting up those shelves and arranging stuff in tighter order than stiffs at the morgue.

My day was shot, the ping pong table would stay lashed up tight or the board games stuffed away or whatever and at the end of the day he'd gloat about how neat and clean the space was and my mom would cluck approvingly and I'd hang dejectedly in a corner. But I was wrong and my mom had it right because only by agreeing and honoring his nutty tidiness did we ensure that any space was ever available into which you could haul out ping pong tables or play Twister or set anything up for more than a day. The old man would sail off to watch football or wash the car and, presto, although we didn't have a finished rec room or whatever, the basic elements were at least in place and when he wasn't paying attention you could more or less finish it off.

This of course differs markedly from my approach to stuff these days which is dictated by a brain that clearly suffers from information overload, an inability to prioritize and like most simple things, is easily distracted.

Take any bit of work I'd doing and where I'm doing it looks like a train wreck site. Writing? Papers flying about a computer like swallows on acid. Woodwork? Enough sawdust to hide the Queen Mary and the last place you used a tool is where you left it so the floor is a veritable crime scene of drill bits and try squares.

Would the old man know about this, the question would not be that he would spin in his grave, the question would be at which velocity was he rotating.

But there you go. I get things done, just don't ask me about housekeeping. Or moving in a logical fashion. Start the dishes and you notice the lightbulb in the dining room is burnt out. Replace it with those wet soppy hands and, in the process you remind yourself to pick up bandages as you're applying salve in the bathroom. Oh, did we not finish that last bit of trim on the door frame? Well, down to the table saw to cut it, past the sink with the dishwater now running all over the floor and by golly where's that mop and plumber's phone number?

The old man might just have been on to something.

But I'll never admit it.

Bunny on, mes amis, bunny on.


Blogger Kathryn said...

get thee some ritalin, Monsieur le Lapin :)

5:00 PM  

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