father’s day

It’s father’s day, a day I can claim entirely as my own to do with however I please. Just waste it doing nothing, or even less than nothing, if I want to. “Less than nothing doesn’t even make sense,” you say. “How can you do less than nothing?” You know how people say, “That’s a half-hour of my life I’ll never get back?” I spent the last half-hour watching videos of Louis C K on YouTube. The only way I can possibly rationalize that I was being productive in any way is that I was taking in oxygen and cranking out carbon dioxide so the green, leafy organisms around me could have lunch. And if modern science is to be believed, not that many people do, there’s already plenty of carbon dioxide in the air, so I’m really reaching, but give me a break, I was just trying to show you how completely and utterly I can waste my time today.

And here I am blogging. There goes another half-hour of my life.

If I had any kind of conscience at all I’d be putting up the book cases I finally brought home from the outlet store last weekend. About six weeks ago I ordered a pair of book cases from one of those stores that orders unfinished furniture from the manufacturer at a discount, sort of. They were still kind of pricey but I was at the point where I realized I was never going to build them myself. I figured, if I bought them already together, then all I’d have to do is fix them to the wall – Done! It’s a good idea. It could have worked.

But the project suffered from inertia almost from the minute I placed my order. First of all, it turned out that the store was on the point of financial collapse. I didn’t find this out under weeks later, when they sent me a “Going Out Of Business” flier in the mail many weeks later. Not that it made any difference to whether or not I got the book cases, it was just sort of a harbinger of things to come. I strolled in, found the book cases I wanted, found a sales person and asked her if I could order a couple. She took me over to the island in the middle of the store where they kept all the paperwork and the catalogs and had a computer set up. Another sales person was sitting in front of the computer surfing the internet while she ate take-out food from one of several boxes she had laid out around the keyboard. Keeping it classy at the furniture store.

When I placed my order, I asked the sales person if they had a delivery service. She said they did not, but she knew a guy with a truck who would deliver it for sixty bucks. She didn’t even blink when she said that, and I didn’t, either. I figured, what the heck? How could some anonymous guy with a truck be worse than any of the dozens of people who have moved my personal effects from one house to the next over the years? We’ve moved house at least a half-dozen times in the twenty-one years we’ve been married, and several of the teams that I’ve welcomed into my home to move our family’s possessions appeared to have been hired that morning, probably not through any formal system of application and interview. I think it was more like, the guy driving the truck spotted a couple of homeless dudes on a park bench while he was waiting for a light to change, rolled down the window and offered them twenty bucks each for a couple hours’ work. I’m not saying that’s a bad thing. I even wish the guy who showed up alone and told me I’d have to help if we had to be moved out that day had been as enterprising. We did have to be out that day. We all packed and moved a lot of boxes that day.

Where was I? Oh, that’s right: The sales lady at the unfinished furniture store told me she knew a guy, so I told her to please give him a call to find out when he could deliver the book cases, then let me know so we could arrange a date for delivery. A week passed, no call. As a matter of fact, by the end of the first week I’d completely forgotten I’d ordered a pair of book cases and probably would never have remembered if it hadn’t occurred to B to ask me, in the middle of the next week, when we could expect to have those book cases delivered, and I said something very on-the-ball, like, “Uh, yeah … those book cases … I’d better call and ask about that.” Clueless.

And I wasn’t the only one. Nobody answered the phone when I called, so I left a message, something like, “Hi, I ordered a couple of book cases about a week ago and you said you’d call me back to let me know when you could have them delivered. Please give me a call.” When she called me back later that day, she had no memory of ever talking to me about having them delivered. “But I could give him a call right now if you like.” For whatever reason, though, I didn’t feel like waiting for delivery any longer. “No, never mind. I’ll come pick them up myself this weekend.” She apologized for the oversight, I made sure I knew what her hours were, and that was the last time I spoke to her for MORE THAN A WEEK.

I’m a procrastinator. It’s what I do.

When I finally called her back a week and a half later she was still so very sorry about failing to have the book cases delivered to me that she felt she had to apologize again, so I didn’t feel all that bad about my lazy-ass attitude, even though I should have. I rented a van, got T to ride with me to the store and we loaded the book cases up and drove off with them. They were huge book cases, eight feet high. Made of white pine, they weren’t all that heavy but they were so tall that I would never have been able to manhandle them all by myself without dropping them every couple steps and gouging great gashes in the sides by clunking them against corners and other people. When we finally got them in the house they filled up one end of the room, which was just as I wanted it, only I want them at the other end.

I want towering book cases on either side of the window. I’ll have to build up a pedestal for each of them because there’s some duct work that’ll have to run underneath, and they’re so tall that they’ll have to be fixed to the wall so that, when they’re loaded to the rafters, and I imagine each of them will easily hold two-hundred pounds of books, they won’t tip over one random day and squish somebody I love like a worm. I’m putting these book cases up in a spare bedroom where guests stay overnight. It’d be one hell of a way to start the day. Wake up with the sun shining in your face, open your eyes just in time to see a wall of books free-falling toward you. The end.

I figured out how to build a pedestal and even pieced one together earlier this week but haven’t installed it yet. It would be simple, I just have to get off my butt and do it. Same with installing rails across the back to strengthen each book case and make it possible to fix them to the wall. I woke up yesterday morning with a very clear idea how I can do that, but again, I have to actually lift a finger, and I’m currently using said finger to type. But I could stop, I guess.


image of door

This is what I get for trying to save money by doing it myself instead of paying a contractor a couple thousand dollars to do it for me. Not that I think a contractor wouldn’t have done exactly what I did. He totally would have, if he’d wound up stuck in the position I was in yesterday afternoon after I framed the new windows with brick molding, then built up the frame around the back door with lumber I had to rip from larger pine planks for a custom fit, then whacking it all into place with thirty gojillion nails half again as big as railroad spikes.

With all that at stake, I had to be really careful about putting it all together so it would all to fit in a very finite amount of space. I measured the opening twice, just like every shop teacher in America tells you to do. I measured the door’s width, re-checked my math and carefully marked the lumber. I rehearsed all the assembly steps in my head each time I was about to make a cut. Only after I was sure it would all fit together did I crank up the table saw, cut the lumber to size and nail it all in place with the aforementioned thirty gojillion monster nails. Then, after the door was hung, I swung it shut and … the damned thing wouldn’t close.


I had to cut a creative divot out of the door jamb in order to make room for the latch. The alternative was to yank the door off, yank the lumber off, pull all the nails, re-attach all the furring strips I would have pulled out when I yanked off the lumber, take the lumber down to the work shop to rip a quarter-inch off the width … or cut a divot out of the door jamb. It was four-thirty in the afternoon, half a hour past the time I was hoping to knock off for the day. I got to work with a chisel and a hammer.

It’s not like you can tell from looking at it. Even if you knew what you were looking for, it’s neat and clean that it looks like maybe it was supposed to be that way. I certainly wouldn’t point and say anything if I saw it. And from the outside you can’t see anything’s wrong at all, so I’m okay with it like this for now. Still gotta caulk up the cracks so I can clap some paint on this side of the building. The house is looking closer to done every day.

Hot Hot Hot

I retreated to the cool, cool comfort of the basement lair this evening, once Tim went back to his apartment after dinner, because it was just too freaking muggy upstairs. Humidity had surpassed the ability of certified official weather personnel to measure it in the way they’re used to, so according to the local weather web source the humidity this evening was so heavy and damp that it had a dangerous undertow that would drag you way out beyond the dropoff and drown you.

I was pouring sweat just from the mild exertion of chewing my dinner. When I stopped doing that and I could sit absolutely still I was still pouring sweat, but I felt only almost as miserable as when I had to move my jaw up and down and continued sitting stock still right up until the time I had to get up out of my seat to say good-bye to Tim. That was agony.

Things weren’t quite so bad this afternoon while I was trying to do a little more work framing up the windows I installed by the back door yesterday. I was pouring sweat again, but once I’m already basting in my own juices I can just keep on chugging away and it doesn’t make much difference how much hotter I feel. At that point, hot is hot and doesn’t feel any hotter until right before I collapse in a puddle of my own juices and go sliding down the tunnel with the bright, shining light at the end.

It was so hot that a Porsche in the parking lot at the hardware store burst into flames and every fire truck in Dane County came to put it out. Seriously, there were almost as many emergency vehicles in the parking lot as there were cars that belonged to customers. With that many blinking lights I expected to see quite a show, but by the time I came out and saw what was going on the car was barely smoldering as its owner poked dejectedly through the interior as a couple dozen firemen stood by, ready to douse him in foam if the fire should somehow spring back to life.

Actually, I was much more interested in knowing why a Porsche was in the parking lot of this particular hardware store. It’s the sort of place where you see lots of pickup trucks and beat-up Econoline vans, but the most expensive car you’re likely to catch sight of would be a late-model Camry or possibly a Lexus. Driving there in your Porsche is practically begging the gods to drop a meteor on it.

And naturally on this hot, hot evening we planned to grill our dinner on the barbecue, a task I’m normally all to happy to do but this evening was thinking up ways to get out of it, like faking a stroke or gnawing off my own leg. My Darling B asked me to grill bison steaks, though, and I love those so I just manned up, lit the fire and grilled away. They were delicious.

To The Curb

I didn’t know it had its own ecosystem!

I dragged this old rolled-up carpet out to the curbside because there’s a better than even chance someone driving by will stop, shove it into the back of their vehicle and drive away with it. Beats going through all the work of shoving it the back of my own vehicle and lugging it away to wherever it is we have to go to dispose of old carpets.

You would not believe what we’ve gotten rid of using this method. A month or two ago we lugged a ratty old love seat out to the curb. We’d kept it in the basement for years, “just in case we might want to use it again,” but the only thing living in our house that was interested in using it was mice and earwigs. Out to the curb it went. It was gone in just a few hours.

I put a broken-down computer monitor out there a couple years ago, on top of a pile of other junk I wanted the garbage collection service to haul away. The monitor sat in the rain for two or three days until one morning, not on garbage pick-up day, it disappeared. Someone actually wanted it? I’d be really interested to know what use they got out of that.

And once I put a wardrobe out there with a big sign attached that read, “Free! Take Me Home!” It was a desperation move, because the wardrobe was the size of Kansas. I didn’t honestly believe anyone would go to the trouble of getting a truck big enough to haul it away even if they wanted it, but what the hell, someone did. It stood out there for a couple days until one morning, as I strolled to the front window with a cup of coffee, I caught sight of a tiny woman, and I mean tiny, trying to shove it into the back of her van all by her lonesome. I stood there for a couple minutes just gaping at her in disbelief, mostly amazed that she was managing to horse it around to the back of her van, and also because I couldn’t believe she thought it was going to fit. Then I put my coffee down and grabbed my shoes to go out and help her. By the time I opened the door, though, she had somehow already tucked the wardrobe into the back of her van and was jumping into the driver’s seat. Whoa!

The carpet’s in awful shape, dirty and ragged and well-used, but it could just be that someone is looking for a remnant to lay down in their garage, or garden shed, or chicken coop, and will drag it home with them. I hope so, because I don’t want to handle it again.

It’s been sitting in a corner of the basement long enough that I was pretty sure it would be full of dust and spiders, but man! I was off by a factor of thousands! I found that it had developed its own ecosystem as I separated the carpet from the foam pad. It’d be too heavy for me to drag up the stairs otherwise. Earwigs, spiders, centipedes and who knows what all else ran in all directions as I unrolled it, and when I finally peeled it all the way back to the center I found that several mice had been using it as a boarding house. Yuck.

By the time I was done dragging it up the stairs I was covered in dirt, dust, dead bugs and I don’t want to think what else. I finished by sweeping up, then went straight to the bathroom, peeled out of my dirty work clothes and stood under a gushing shower for twenty minutes, soaping and scrubbing, soaping and scrubbing. If I’d had a bottle of chlorine bleach I would’ve been tempted to pour it all over myself.


One of the unusual features of Our Humble O’Bode is a dining room that was once a hallway into the house from the back door. Some people call it a mud room. I like to think it was a breezeway because I like that word a lot, but I think a breezeway is open to the front and back of the house. This might have been, long ago, but I can’t tell for sure.

And it doesn’t really matter now, because it’s not a breezeway or a mud room any more. Some time ago the wall that separated the hall from the rest of the house was knocked down to make the dining room bigger, and a good thing, too. The dining room must’ve been itsy-bitsy before they did that. Now it’s big enough to hold a full-size dining room table with a little extra room left over for a china hutch, and off toward the front of the house they added a nook big enough to shoehorn a washer and drier in so we don’t have to tromp down the stairs to the basement to wash our clothes.

Whoever did the remodeling raised the floor up off the concrete slab so it ran all the way to the far wall, leaving a crawl space under the far end of the dining room. You can get in, should you ever get the crazy idea that you’d want to, by removing a panel under the steps by the back door, or by moving the cardboard box that’s covering the opening in the garage.

I don’t recall whether I thought of the cardboard box, or B did. I’d like to blame B for it, but that would be impolite. The box was just the right size to cover the hole, which apparently had a door at one time that had long since been pried off its hinges and lost. I knocked it over for about the thousandth time today as I was sweeping the floor of the garage and finally pitched it in the trash.

Can’t just leave the hole gaping open, though. Winters get pretty cold here and if The Merry Little Breezes were allowed to blow through the crawl space they could freeze the water pipes. Also, the dining room would get awful friggin cold. Luckily I never throw away anything and, in a corner of the work shop, I had a couple of doors I pulled off a cabinet that were just about the right size. I cut one of them down a bit and took it up to the garage.

But before I nailed it over the hole I stuck my head in there to have a good look around, because I’m a curious cat and I like surprises. As it turned out, the crawl space held a few. Nothing as intriguing as a personal diary, or a pile of skulls, sorry. Just a few car parts: a distributor cap, an air filter and a water pump. Also, a gallon jug full of what looked like either transmission fluid or freshly-drawn blood. I’m leaning toward tranny fluid. If it were freshly-drawn blood, the jug probably wouldn’t have been covered in cobwebs.

Now that the hole’s covered over, the chipmunks will have to find another way to get into the crawlspace, where they were bringing their chipmunk girlfriends and having their chipmunk kegger parties. After I nailed the door over the hole I took my tools downstairs, and when I came back up I caught one of the stripey little goobers trying to figure out how to open it. I sure hope he didn’t leave his drunken floozey girlfriend passed out in there.

free to a good home

Somebody grabbed my lawn mower yesterday afternoon, threw it in his truck, and drove away with it! Watching from inside the living room, My Darling B and I cheered and waved as they loaded it up.

I bought a new lawn mower last weekend and did what everyone else does when they want to get rid of an old lawn mower, or an old sofa, or a book case or pile of wood: I put it on the curb and, in a day or two, somebody took it home with them. In fact, I cleaned house of all the things I just mentioned that way. It’s like magic.

We weren’t so sure the lawn mower was going to go, though. It sat out front all day Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and I was pretty sure it would be gone when we came home from work on Monday night, but there it was. And there it was again on Tuesday night. I was starting to feel a tiny bit insulted by then. Anybody could see that it was a perfectly usable lawn mower. What, mine’s not good enough?

Then last night, as I was waiting for B to finish brushing her teeth so we could go to our dance lesson, I heard a cheer rise up from the bathroom, followed by, “Take it! Take it away!” Running to the front window, I saw two guys loading the mower into their truck.

“Wave at them!” B said, coming into the front room, waving like a maniac. “Wave so they’ll know it’s okay! Hi, guys! Have fun with that!” They paused for a moment to look in wonder at the crazy lady jumping around waving her arms inside the house, then finished packing up the lawn mower before driving away.