Monday, January 26, 2009

To Dye For

A couple of houses ago, I owned an old girl named "Baldengray" who was actually my first house, the one I cut my teeth on.

She cut back and I've since lost those teeth, I believe.

This was the house I had high hopes for and where I first learned that I could take things apart, like I once took mechanized toys apart. The difference being that when I put them together and had a few parts left over the consequences were a little more significant than they had been with the toys. Oh, sure, the friction-driven wind up racer now pulled to the right. That was a pain in the neck and left interesting tracks on the kickboard in the kitchen that the old man, to his dying day thought were left by mice in some sort of yoke. However, a bit or two tossed back in the toolbox after a home repair and you're soon looking at the fountains of Versailles in your bathroom or a light switch that can turn off all illumination for blocks.

Painting was usually pretty immune from the laws of unintended consequences so I tried my hand at that. We had lovely french doors (so named because they had panes of glass instead of panels, allowing you to see presumably naked women on the other side) that were painted gloss white but needed a refresher. A little gloss white, a little roughing of the surface and glue in the chip the movers knocked out when they bumped the door with the sofa. Not a problem. In fact, you can look at the chip and see that the doors hadn't always been white, at one point they had been stained.

The paint took well and covered in one coat. I had done a good job gluing the chip back in and painted over it and all looked well until ten minutes later I saw the thing was bleeding a medium red into my fresh white paint. Solution: More fresh white paint which covered the thing up although the base of the door around the chip fix was less fresh white than fresh pinkish that you hoped no one would notice.

Until the thing bled even further and the final job was a quarter of the door had definitely gone pink.

Monday morning I was telling my friend Jim about the Hardy Boys Mystery of the Bleeding Door. Jim had owned an old house in Chicago and we liked to swap stories in a "Name That Tune" contest-like fashion which usually began with the phrase "I can darken that block in _ repairs."

Jim pulled at his mustache the way he usually did when he came across hapless idiots. I had just finished telling him that the white paint had bled the stain underneath when he said "that wasn't stain, it was aniline dye."

Back when houses were made out of materials not usually reserved for ping pong tables but in fairness leaked worse than a White House aide familiar with the matter, woods weren't stained with oil-based pigment but were dyed with alcohol or water-based aniline. Today on This Old Bunny we're going to recreate some of that classic look by trying to stain, excuse me, dye a 1700 something swing leg table that Thumper picked up a few years ago.

The table is in generally good shape except for one blemish on its top where someone had secured the leaves with packing tape. Tearing the tape off had marred the finish and torn out some of the wood so I made it my new hobby to try and bring this thing back to life in a way that somebody at Antiques Road Show in twenty years is not going to go "would have been worth a retirement until an amateur refinish job brought its value to firewood."

Gently, one step at a time. Clean the top of the table and see where that gets you. Iron a damp cloth above the tear out to get the rest of the wood fibers to swell and fill in. Swab a highly diluted stain over the damage but the damage keeps showing up. So I matched the color in aniline, sent away mail order for the dye and an alcohol solvent and waited like a coyote for a package from Acme Explosives and Roller Skates.

The old man had a habit of picking up fresh projects just when the rest of the world was ready to do something else they had been preparing for. We'd be in the car, waiting to go to the movies and he'd come out with hedge clippers just to lop off those few inches of the forsythia before winter. Never mind that it was June and that he was in slacks and a dress shirt. Or we'd be packed for the beach with ice in the cooler melting like the Ross shelf when he'd decide that shorts, sandals and a sun hat were ideal garb for re-roofing the garage. Point being when he got a project bee in his bonnet he had to go after it.

And so the apple has fallen close to that tree. With Thumper getting her coat for a walk, I'm in the attic "just pouring the dye into the solvent so I can work on the table later." The dye comes in powder form with the consistency of and propensity to get around like baby powder in the girl's high school showers. I can only guess at this of course.

The stuff does not quietly into the good jar go, it spills over the rim, onto the floor, onto a winter jacket, onto trousers with impunity. Where it touches moisture, like the natural humidity of a human hand it becomes liquid and spreads at a speed the rocket program can only dream of. It also seems to be color-sensitive in that it gravitates for things like khaki trousers, white area rugs and pink cat paws. Not to mention that my hands are now so purple-stained that I look like I've rigged the Iraqi general election for Al Franken.

This is how Thumper finds me: An aniline blotch in the corner of the attic and somewhere in heaven, Jim is pulling his mustache so hard St. Peter is afraid he'll tear it out. But the Keeper of the Gates has to off, it seems a few blocks of heaven have gone dark...

Bunny on.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Thomas Paine Wouldn't Recognize the Place

Some background: When I'm not looking for the exit door out of the inadvertant circus I attend on a daily basis, I sell stuff that we make to the general medical industry. Fair enough. Our stuff is used by serious, sober adults with lots more college than most who really, one would hope, have a better handle on things than most as well.

I used to think that about a lot professions and, over time, I've been taken down a notch when reality intercedes. There was one epiphany when I realized that army generals, the ones with orders to fire nuclear weapons, have to use the bathroom. That was no good. These guys weren't inherently any different from me and for weeks I worried about incoming while some four-star was hitching his pants up and re-pinning his medals. I'm almost over that.

But I'm holding on to the fantasy when it comes to the general medical industry. I'm going to believe that these good people do in fact have more skill and power of concentration than I do and don't, as I do, look up from their work in mid-task and lose their train of thought entirely wondering if they've unplugged the iron.

The things we make have to meet certain standards of quality and we work hard to hit them. We don't want them going ker-blooey or pop if they're not meant to. We take liability seriously and that's why I was on a call a few days ago about product safety. We identified certain products we make as being particulary vulnerable to safety concerns, particularly when it came to children.


Might I remind you that if any of our stuff winds up in the hands of children, somebody's being a very bad boy or girl indeed. And in fact I tried to make that point but was shouted down.

"Well, children might come into contact with it."

Children might come into contact with Buick transaxle assemblies as well, but I'm hoping to hell that Buick isn't looking at a continuous velocity joint made from Nerf toys or gummy bears.

"It can be attractive to children."

Many things are. Most things that are brightly colored are very attractive to children. Thats why the safest place to be away from children this year is any Pottery Barn retail store.

"They can put it in their mouth."

They do. Most anything. Watch a child some day. There's not a thing on the planet that they don't put in their mouth. If you don't keep an eye on them, they'll put rattlesnakes in their mouth. And that's where the gist of my argument comes from.

I appreciate that things are attractive to children. I appreciate that they put things in their mouth. But goodness, how can we possibly manage our downstream with that consideration if our stuff is, and I'm going to repeat myself, mean't explicitly for adults and adults only and has parental, societal and indeed physical obstacles between it and children?

Aha. Therein lies the rub.

"Your honor, it's not my fault (never is), I turned my back on Jeffy for just a minute and he put it in his mouth. It's dangerous."

"Indeed. It is a rattlesnake after all."

"Yes, and whoever made it needs to be responsible."

"Let me subpoena God."

Everybody knows we need tort reform. Even the lightest of statutes. Something like the "Aw, come on now" ammendment to grand jury selection. When deciding the merits of a potential case, at the very least, somebody in the court should have the legal obligation to say "Aw, come on now" out loud at least once.

I'm a little more draconian. I'm redressing for a full-blown third verdict. Something to accompany the classic "guilty" or "not guilty." And not a Specteresque sudden invocation of Scottish law. That's fine if you're trying the president on charges of bad piping but otherwise, try to stick to our Constitution, Arlen. It's kind of worked well over the years. No, I'm for a third verdict, one of "Fuck you" for the most eggregious cases of legal tomfoolery that clogs up our courts such that current prosecuting attorneys will have been dead for ten years before they get over their backlog of appeals.

Think of it: "Your honor, the jury finds for the defendant a verdict of fuck you."

What can that mean?

Legally, the case has so little merit it doesn't rate a game of "Let's all pretend" in kindergarten. Specifically the plaintiff lodging the original complaint should be liable for all court and legal costs for both sides and should be forced to say "Gosh, I'm awful sorry about all this" in open court.

Never happen.

I was seated on a jury hearing a personal injury case a few years ago. And this is where I first developed the idea of this third verdict. Without going into specifics, the causality of the case was about the same as getting a nosebleed because a complete stranger in the next county has reversed the charges on a long distance call.

"Thats it? That's all the testimony has to offer? We've all pasted our asses into these uncomfortable chairs for all this time for that bag of nonsense?"

Hey, everybody deserves his or her day to be heard but I deserve to render a judgement of "Fuck you" just to teach them a lesson.

But go ahead, take me to court about it.

Bunny on.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Take His Yogurt

Which of course means that I've been travelling yet again, that fabulous adventure where you stand, mouth open, over your sock drawer and count on one hand the number of days you'll be away, multiply by one and one half in case it rains and try and find that quantity of dry footwear.

The same logic, of course, when applied to underwear means that you hope the return flight isn't fully booked as you are wearing Thursday's boxers owing to a miscalculation or running out of fingers on one hand. Providence is of course interceding now that these same boxers are currently clogging the washer with beach sand, something I'll be explaining to Thumper in days to come.

There are truisms you come across on the road, be in flailing like a cockatoo in Spanish public restrooms, wearing baseball caps inappropriately in English clubs or catching every eighth word in eastern Florida bars as the ersatz Reggae gets turned up exponentially when "Free Liquor Hour" arrives. Sorry, is Tim your fiancee or dog? I missed that last part and yes, I'm here with my good wife. For my bad wife, please look back to earlier posts regarding "what the fuck do I do now that the sock drawer is empty?"

As an example, if sloppy joe's are a more attractive draw than New Year's Eve and martinis, you might want to consider an alternative on-line dating source. Now don't get me wrong, in my halcyon days, was a fine place for the recently discarded to meet but, once you latched on to that someone temporarily special, you watched for subtle clues to cancelling your subscription. Sloppy Joe's, TV and a fuzzy blanket might be such an indicator.

There are other truths that should be held as self-evident. If your child rarely descends below 120 decibels at home, he or she will probably not discover that silence is golden in a hotel room. If you'd like a floor all to yourself, go ahead and start a rock band.

Arkansas plates do not suspend observance of traffic signals once outside of state lines.

And just because you like it that way in New Jersey, doesn't mean the rest of us have to subscribe to your adopted hell. Thanks all the same.

Travel, I'm sorry to say, hasn't improved much in the last year. We're still in line, sock-footed and beltless wondering what's going to be tossed today. This time around I've discovered that yogurt is apparently a combustible threat, the subtleties of suspended blueberries notwithstanding, I wasn't supposed to talk to the officer until he had finished pawing my aftershave. That of course reminds me of the time that an acquaintance of mine was allowed to board an aircraft with a nine millimeter pistol (all perfectly legal, legitimate, declared and vetted) but on the same flight was relieved of his nail clippers.

Don't worry, its not supposed to make sense. Just pretend that you feel safe.

Just don't tell them about the sloppy joe's.

Bunny on.

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