Monday, October 31, 2011

But it's a garage!

The continuing saga of  downsizing...

...moving closer to the grandchildren, reducing Karen's commute to work, getting something with less yard work demands, etc.   I think I made the mistake a few months ago of saying, "Yes.  Maybe that's a good idea," when Karen suggested it was time to sell our house and buy a smaller one in the country.  

First of all, I have learned that subdivisions in the Country are exactly like subdivisions anywhere else.  Secondly, I have learned that prices in Goose Creek are cheaper than prices in Mount Pleasant and I fear that downsizing may be the wrong word.  So far, I'm seeing bigger houses and bigger yards. 

Mostly I've learned that putting our house on the market means trying to make a 25 year old house look new.  We could have already bought a place in Goose Creek with the money I've spent on paint. 

But last week, I began to see a flicker of light at the end of the tunnel.  The upstairs has new carpet, new sink fixtures, new air conditioning registers, and freshly painted walls and ceilings...and baseboards and doors...and my shorts, t-shirts and 90% of my body are freshly painted as well.  

Karen has agreed to actually hire a professional to paint the downstairs livingroom in order to reduce the risk of having me fall off of tall ladders.  The livingroom has a huge vaulted ceiling -- one of those architectural stupidities that we Americans like enough to ignore how much fossil fuel we waste to heat (or cool) air that we can't reach without tall ladders.   

So I was looking at a ToDo list that was actually shrinking until last week when she said, "You know, we really should paint the garage."

My initial reaction was to wonder how she knew it needed painting in the first place.  We have so much junk piled up against all the walls that you can't see them.  Which, of course, means that if I am going to paint the walls, I first must move tons of old boxes, baby carriages, bicycles, pressure washers, generators, boogie boards, beach chairs, coolers, freezers, not to mention 436 old and rusty, half-empty paint cans from distant projects.

"But it's a garage!" I exclaimed. 

"Make sure to be careful around the baseboards."

"But it's a garage," I whined, realizing I was going to lose the argument.

"Women notice these things when they are looking to buy a house," she explained.  "And it probably hasn't been painted since it was built."

Since we are the third owner of the house, I wondered why she didn't notice it when we bought it, but I knew better than to ask that out loud.

"And while we are moving everything out, let's go through all the boxes and see what we can throw out."   Then she went to work leaving me to wonder why she was using the word "we."

So after throwing out 436 old paint cans and buying 110 new ones, I moved everything out of the garage, creating a pile in the front yard that looked like the Great Pyramid of Egypt.  It was only after I moved it that I realized that if I had moved it closer to the street the trash truck might have just hauled it all away when I wasn't looking. 

Of course, the housing market sucks so much the house probably won't sell anyway.  But if it does and if Karen finds a new place in Goose Creek, I'm easy.  I'll go along with whatever house she likes.  But I'm refusing to sign the closing papers until the owner has put a fresh coat of paint in the garage.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Friday Hometown Shootout -- Creepy Crawly

I didn't shoot anything new this week.  Partly because of the endless ToDo list which has descended over me like a giant spider's web...

...and partly because it has cooled down somewhat and the diversity of creepy crawlies outside has diminished. 

I did have a moment of excitement last night when we were cleaning out one of the rooms and Karen suddenly shrieked, "It's a cockroach!!  Get it!  Get it get it get it!!!"

With the shootout in the back of my mind I began to run for my camera.

Karen shrieked louder.  "Where are you going!!!  Get it!  Kill it!!  It's a cockroach!!"

So I gave in and demonstrated extreme macho heroism by catching it in a paper towel and flushing it down the toilet.  Poor cockroach.

So here are some archive shots:

And the one below has been my personal favorite for years:

I am often humbled by the realization that some of my best shots were done years and years ago.  Before digital which shows that it is not the camera that makes the picture.  This picture of the fly is interesting because I took it with a cheap single lens reflex -- a Mamiya Sekor, I think.  And I couldn't afford any lenses besides the one that came with it but I had a teleconverter from another camera that didn't fit it well.  It only screwed in halfway and I held it in place with duct tape.  But because there was a gap, it turned into a gerry-rigged close-up lens.  I remember this shot because I was stoned on pot at the time  (yes, I was a pothead before I got sober and started working in the treatment field).  I remember lying in the woods with my duct-tape macro at ground level feeling I was a tiny explorer stalking big game.  Of course, I could have just looked around like any normal person would do looking for insects, but remember I was stoned.  Insects were probbly crawling all over my backside but I was focused at a the two-inch mark.  Then a leaf in front of me quivered and I almost jumped when I saw the shadow of a fly.  The shadow walked around the leaf for what seemed like an eternity but time plays tricks in my state of mind.  I waited as if I was in a blind.  Then suddenly the fly crawled up and peeked over at me and I shot it.  I wonder what it thought about me.  Not much probably. 

This was also from that very weird micro-safari afternoon

Back to a couple more recent archive creepies:

You may recognize this last lady from my grotesque header.  I was going to post my black widow (that was really a brown widow) shot but I've posted it at least three other times and it seemed like overkill. 

BAGMAN:  "Hey.  How come you never bring us into your blog anymore?"

BUTLER: "Yes.  We are beginning to feel very unwanted."

I pause and look at them standing next to me with downcast eyes.  "I'm sorry guys.  I'm not sure why I've been leaving you out of many of my blogs.  I could rationalize that I've been rushing through my blogs and not taking time for digressions...

BUTLER: "You think of us as mere digressions?"

I think for a moment, wondering if this is the right time for a serious family talk.  Because recently, I've been feeling more integrated and Bagman and Butler haven't seemed so important.  Or maybe because I've been working on a novel and struggling with charactor development, Bagman and Butler seem kind of shallow and flat to me.   But I don't really want to get into all that with them, so I simply say, "I don't know, guys.  Maybe we'll talk about it later."

BAGMAN:  "You blowing us off?!!"

I don't answer.

BUTLER:  "Yes, Baggie.  He is blowing us off."

I leave the room and shut the door just as a large muddy boot slams off of it. 

And I scuttle down the hallway...

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Webmasters are driving me nuts!

Now I panic everytime I start to leave a comment on someone's blog!  Will it be a simple case of asking me if I want to post it as Bagman and Butler or if I want to be anonymous.  Or -- GASP -- will it give me a series of options  to post as my Google Account,WordPress, SomethingID,  or "Name and URL"???  Or something else. 

None of these work for me!  I know I have a Google Account but everytime I try to post a comment through it, it tells me I don't have access to my account.  Although I do.  I guess just not to make comments.   Sometimes, if I really want to leave a comment, I go back and copy my URL and use that -- trying to remember that I need to make sure I identify who I am.   Sometimes I just give up and don't leave a comment.

Worst of all -- I just realized that my own blog does that to people trying to comment to me!  I didn't do that!   I want the old way back!  And I can't figure out how to change it. 

Then I go to my Yahoo mail and there are requests for me to be Linked In or befriended on Facebook, which I still don't understand.  And somehow, Facebook has now invaded my Blackberry -- (Yes, I have a Blackberry despite the fact I'd rather have my old Droid back) but in any case, it beeps constantly now with email messages, most of which connect me to Facebook instead of Yahoo mail. 

How did that happen?

I have managed to figure out how to disable three different programs that automatically tell the world that I'm available to chat the moment I turn on my computer. 

Call me antisocial but while I actually like most people I meet, I don't really want to talk to everybody all the time.   Particularly since most chats and tweets are like elevator conversations:  "Hi.  How about the weather these days?  Check out my Facebook page.  I'm doing well, how are you?  Blah blah blah."

And no, I don't want to monetize my blog. 

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Friday Shootout - Something borrowed, somethng blue

Who thought up this one??!!!   I hated it.   But if I skipped it, I'd really be in hot water. 

I thought of taking the easy route and shooting my neighbor's recycle bin.  It's blue and recycling means taking something old and making it new.  And since I have more soda cans than I can fit in my bin, I often borrow some of his.  

Any way...his bin was in his garage and it wasn't very photogenic anyhow.  So I  just pushed on.


The lazy part of me thought about just hitting the archives and maybe using a shot of Stonehenge but that's not even in my country, let alone my hometown.   But at least it was old.

This fellow is not so old but he's old enough to be an antique.  I grew up playing with him as a child although I wonder what my grandfather thought about that.  My grandfather was an artist and studied in France after the War in 1914.  This was a manikin he bought in Paris at the time so it qualifies for fairly old anyhow.  You can't see his foot in the grass but it was once chewed a little by my dog Skippy.  He's been with me ever since.  I'm not sure why I call him "him" because my grandfather noted that it was carved to be neutral.  It has a masculine chest but it's hips are more feminine.  So I guess if it ever figures out its sexuality, the transgender surgeons will have an easy time.


Easy decision here.  It has to be new granddaughter, Kay. 


If I hadn't already used my neighbor's truck as my favorite thing because I "borrow" it all the time, I could have used that.  But I already did.  So... I got philosophical!  I'm very grateful for it, but at 65, I'm becoming more and more aware that my  body is only on loan to me.  I've enjoyed the use of my body over all these years although I've abused it somewhat so I'm hoping for some forgiveness when I turn it in.   A few things  don't work on it anymore but duct tape fixes anything, they say.


I had to cheat and hit my archives for this one.  I call it "The Fan" and he's probably blue because his team lost and he is hoping that if he stays long enough the score board will magically change.

And that's all folks.  Next time I'm asked for an idea for a shootout, I'm going to plan it better.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

I'm Back

Sort of.

Computer is up and running so I feel alive again.  (I should probably try a year without a computer at all and see how surprised I would be to discover that I actually have a body).

But I know I have a body because it aches from moving furniture and books.

I'd like to use this time as a rationale for organizing my stuff.   See if I can have the courage to throw some of it away.  But I'll probably look at two or three things, then give up and throw everything helter skelter and willy nilly back on to the shelves. 

Monday, October 17, 2011

OMG! I'm going to have to pull the plug!!

I'm not sure I can do it!  But the carpet guys men on tomorrow!  (Or later today since this may not post until after midnight).

Did I tell you that we Karen have decided to move so we Karen can be closer to the grandchildren?  So we are suddenly in a non-stop frantic sweat to do everything to the current house that we should have done for ourselves years ago. 

And the upstairs needs all new carpets because...well...

we can almost hide the signs of our dogs marking their territory despite the fact that they never paid rent so it wasn't really their territory.   But the grandchildren have been more creative.   Melted lollypops, chocolate ice cream (weren't they suppose to eat that at the table?), and something that looks like they used a welding torch on a green plastic dinosaur and dripped it in the corner.   

So tomorow or later today, the carpet men come.

They will do the heavy lifting, they say, to clear rooms of furniture, but we need to get all the small stuf off the shelves.   Not a problem in the rooms where Brian, Melody, Conner, and Noah were living.  But my studio is a disaster.   Boxes of slides, old photos, tools, wires, printer ink cartridges, a thousand frames from when I once had a bigger studio to put them in...

...and, because it was handy, it has also become the storage space for everything else in the house that didn't have a space.  Kids clothes, kids toys hidden for next Christmas, stuff I don't even recoqnize.  I suspect that the Town's Waste Management Department may have started using my room as an extension of the landfill.  Without the smarts of a dog, I guess I forgot to mark my territory.  Too late now.

At least I found a temporary place for the books.

I just noticed the wallpaper in the upstairs bathroom.
(Aftrer 15 years)
It's awful!

Anyhow, I can cope with all of this except for one thing that terrifies me.   Sometime shortly before the dreaded carpet men arrive, I will have to shut down and disconnect my computer including the wireless connections to the internet!

How will I survive the day?!  

I did get a reminder of how people lived in prehistoric times from a distant but very cool cousin and I'll break my rule against posting unoriginal stuff one more time:

So, with any luck, I'll survive without the computer for a day -- hopefully not two -- and once we've moved all the stuff back onto the new carpets and locked out dogs, cats, and grandchildren, I'll hopefully reconnect and, with any luck, write another blog. 

Maybe I'll bring up a bowl of chocolate ice cream.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Store-namers think they are so clever


Last week in an unrelated blog, one of the digressions that regular derail my train of thought made me comment on the name of one of our grocery store chains.  Safeway.  And how dangerous  would it be to buy groceries anywhere else. 

Today, my mind wandered off again - as it usually does.  Sometimes I wonder what would happen if it didn't come back?   I suppose I'd be sitting around watching old episodes of I Love Lucy and grumbling about how my mind has all the fun. 

I started thinking about other retail store names and what the messages are that the store-namers are sending us.   My apologies in advance to some of any reader in a part of the world that does not have some of these chains.   Actually, consider yourselves lucky.

I also realize that many of the chains I am familiar with are primarily Southern 

So - Food chains:

·         Food Lion -  Shop aggressively, eat carnivorously, attack our meat section.

·         Whole Foods - No chicken nuggets here.  Do I have to pluck my own chickens?

·         Bi-Lo -  Great economic concept, until I realize there is no place to Sell High and I'd have to eat my profits.

·         Piggly Wiggly (a good old Southern chain) -  If you're overweight and determined to stay that way, shop here.  We love people in Spandex.  (Digression: Once I saw a small mom and pop grocery in Georgia called "Hoggly Woggly".

·         Winn-Dixie (another good old Southern chain) - We still take Confederate money. 

·         Stop and Shop - No subtly in this name.  Just a direct order: "Park your car, come inside, and give us your money!"

·         Stop and Go - A local gas station/convenience store chain.  "We're like Stop and Shop but HURRY UP ABOUT IT!"

·         Publix - Beats me! This chain must have been named back when being associated with the government meant savings and efficiency. 

Other types of popular stores:

·         Wal-Mart  - If you've got walls we've got stuff to put inside them.

·         Home Depot - Here's where you board the train to improving your house. 

·         Lowes - Home Depot with lower prices.

·         Office Depot - Like Home Depot but for your office.

·         Office Max - Better than Office Depot

·         Staples - This either sells all the basics you need for your office or it is a highly specialized store for people who no longer use paper clips.

·         Dollar Store - I've often wondered if absolutely everything they sell is only a dollar.  Does this include tax?  

·         Dollar General - If you shop at the Dollar Store you should move up in rank.


·         Barnes and Noble - A wide variety of reading material for both royalty and gentry.

·         Amazon - Read on the wild side.  This either refers to a lush diversity of books or is trying to make you think the staff is topless. 

Then I started to think about restaurants like Chick Filet (Do chicken's really have a filet?  Is it what's left after the nuggets have been removed?) and Hardees (Anorexics can go elsewhere).  But then I got to Hooters and realized, like the wise old owl that I am, that I'd better not touch this one.  Ask Bagman if you want anymore.

The list could go on and on, but fortunately my mind has now returned from wandering and I can turn off I Love Lucy and go back to painting the baseboards. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Diggy bonds with Kay and they do slapstick together (and FSO)

So much is going on, I doubt I will get to Friday's shoot-out.  But our newest grandchild, Kay, is really sweet so maybe this will have to do for Friday as well.

SWEET Baby Kay

Okay, I'm pushing it.  Because I'm a man, I have a hard time thinking of babies as sweet until they start smiling at my jokes.  But to quote the eminent sociologist, Howlin' Wolf, "All the little girls understand."
Women (and better men that I am) look at a newborn and immediately melt.  They coo, they cry, and they immediately know which parent it looks like.  So I'm sure this will be accepted as my sweet picture for Friday.

However, I will admit that Kay and I have begun the bonding process in an accelerated manner even though my heels were dragging.

You see, Karen has to work every day.  Papa Brian's new job sent him on an unexpected five day trip to New York.   The other morning, Conner woke up with a swollen knee that needed attention and an X-ray -- now better.  It was too late to get Noah (1 and 1/2) to Day Care and Mama Melody was. naturally, completely overwhelmed.  

So I drove out to their new home to watch Kay and Noah while Melody took Conner to the doctor.

Prior to this, I had taken pictures and done a good imitation of oohing and aahing,  but never actually touched Kay.  Such a small preemie, I was afraid of breaking her even though Karen assured me that feeding and diapering would come back to me like riding a bicycle.  But I looked at Kay and thought it would be like riding a bicycle made of Popsicle sticks.

So there I was holding her and singing the same songs I had made up and sung to David and Jean from my first marriage, Brian from my last marriage, and Conner and Noah.  By now I almost remember them by heart although one of the songs requires adlib rhyming verses. 

Now Kay is a healthy little preemie but because of a little apnea in the hospital she is still hooked up, 24 hours a day, to a SmartMonitor 2 which checks on her breathing and heart rate puts our smoke detector to shame if it doesn't like what it finds.

I don't have a real good picture of the monitor.

But this gives you sort of an idea of the wires that turn her into a kind of living marionette. The leads on her chest are soft she's not bothered a bit.  Also, the monitor has never once gone off as she has just about outgrown the apnea.

So anyhow, I'm holding Kay and have fed her, changed her, and just about sung her to sleep but Noah has been losing patience with me.  He has begun whining and pointing at the crib because he, naturally, also wants attention. 

I stand up and carefully move across the room to the crib, being careful not to step on the wires because the SmartMonitor 2 is also programmed to alert the entire neighborhood if one of the leads comes loose. 

Since I am now standing, Noah assumes I now belong to him again and runs over and hugs me legs and bangs his head into my crotch.  My natural reaction is to double over (careful not to drop Kay) but the jerking motion wakes her up and she begins to cry.  After all, crying is the only thing she knows how to do when she is not sleeping. 

I push Noah away saying, "Just give me a minute."   I say that sentence more than anything else.  A thousand times a day when the grandchildren are competing for my attention.  Or for animal crackers.

Being pushed away, Noah switches from whining to fullblown crying.  He's good at it.  A couple of months ago, his older brother demonstrated for him how a cry can be more affective if you pump it up into a prolonged scream.  And stamp your feet.

So Noah stamps his feet. 

On the wires.

Which then trip him.  And me.  And set off the SmartMonitor 2, the medical scientist's answer to coastal village tsunami warnings. 

Suddenly we are all on the floor.  I have efficiently protected Kay, the Popscicle stick bicycle that I'm suppose to have no trouble remembering how to ride.   One is crying, another is screaming, the air raid warning is going off, and I'm repeating over and over, "Just give me a minute!" 

Then I realize that I had meant to read the SmartMonitor 2's instruction manual but never got around to it and I have no idea which buttons to push to reset it and turn off the alarm before the police arrive or my ear drums burst. 

And my cellphone rings.

What is it about a cellphone that you feel absolutely obligated to answer it!  Particularly when the special ring indicates that it is your wife?  My house could be burning down and if I heard the cellphone ringing inside, I'd probably go back in to answer it.  "Hello?  No, I don't really have time to answer a few questions about how satisfied I am with my cable service."

Protecting Kay's head with my left hand (the first thing every parent learns), squirming to protect myself from Noah who is trying to climb over Kay to cry closer to my face, I squeeze my right hand into the pocket of my dungrarees to get the phone, swearing again to lose weight.  It takes four rings but I finally answer my cellphone.

Of course, eventually everything worked out.  I figured out by trial and error which buttons to push to reset the SmartMonitor2.  Kay, totally exhausted from one of the most exciting experiences of her young life, feel asleep.   And Noah and I played with dinosaurs, knocking them over with Tonka trucks. 

Later that night, Karen told me that it was one of the most amazing calls she had ever made to me.  She had just about given up and disconnected her cellphone when my cellphone connected.  All she could hear was crying, screaming, and alarms going off.  Then my voice came on the line and, according to her, was cool as a cucumber.  In a matter-of-fact tone, I said, "I'm sorry but can I call you back in a little while.  I'm a little busy right now."  

I figure I must have been in shock.  At least I didn't yell, "Just give me a minute!"

And now I'm wondering how cucumbers got the reputation for being so calm and cool?   Why not 'cool as a head of lettuce'?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Morning babble and digressions

So I'm turning left from Route 17 onto Brickyard Parkway which is the entry road to our subdivision.  Why we live in a "subdivision" is a mystery to me.  Maybe we couldn't afford to live in an actual "division" when we bought the house.  But I think it was mostly because it had sidewalks where Brian could ride his bicycle safely and was near a good school. 

To live in a subdivision you have to sign a covenant that lists 5,693 things you can't do on your own property.  I suppose it prevents anyone from being too trashy.  For instance, you have to get the Subdivision Board's approval if you want to build an addition to your house.  The no addition in subdivision clause.  Strange math.

Brickyard Parkway is a manicured two lane road lined with magnolias (and sidewalks).  But why do they call it a parkway when there is absolutely no place to park? 

The reason I'm turning onto this misnamed road is because I'm bringing back a subway sandwich from the Harris Teeter supermarket for Melody who is spending the week with us while Brian is working in New York.  And a couple of Red Bulls for myself because I'm having to put in 8-10 hour days fixing up the house so it will look appealing if we decide to sell it.  Now that the kids and grand kids have moved out  on their own (well, actually only the kids are on their own -- the grand kids still have 18-20 years or so) Karen we have decided we might want to live closer.  

Why do people wait until they are maybe going to sell a houses before they make it look better? 

So I repaint the baseboards and then, suddenly, the doors look worse by comparison, so I have to repaint them too.  Caulk windows, tighten ceiling fans, patch walls (which then make the walls around the patches look worse by comparison, so I have to repaint them too), replace rusted air conditioning vents, replace carpet...Actually I've lucked out and we are going to have professionals replace the carpet.  I just have to move all the furniture out of the rooms.   Just? 

And speaking of not being able to park on a parkway, we also have a supermarket chain in town called "Safeway."   That sure makes me wonder about how brave you have to be to shop anywhere else.  But I've never shied away from risky behavior in my life.  I guess I've become pretty boring sedate in my 60's if my riskiest behavior is now shopping at Harris Teeter. 

So I need to close this blog and start replacing a faucet in the bathroom.  I'm in no rush to move but this weekend we will take another little trip to Goose Creek to ogle houses.  I'm not sure I understand it, but so far we have been looking at houses in subdivisions. 

I just hope that, if we do decide to actually move, the current owners are doing a good job of painting the baseboards.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Shooting in RAW and Photoshop's HDR function

I've been spending less time lately with Bagman and Butler so I was excited to share with them some of the stuff I've been playing with on Photoshop.

"You can't believe how exciting it is to shoot in .raw," I said not expecting the reaction my statement would get.

BAGMAN (exploding from his chair, dancing around and tearing his clothes off):  "Yes!  Finally!  Yes!  We're going to shoot in the raw!" 

BUTLER (eyes wide with panic):  "I don't think that's what Mark meant."

It was too late.  Bagman was already stark naked and had grabbed his camera from the hook.  He always had a huge telephoto on it because he thought the long lens looked macho.  And he always loosened the straps so that the camera hung below his waist.

BUTLER: "That makes you look like an idiot even with clothes on."

BAGMAN:  "Rock musicians do it!  You've seen how they hold their guitars down there!"

I had to admit that I had always noticed that and wondered what was wrong with me.  When I hung my guitar at crotch level, I could never get my left hand far enough around the neck to play bar chords.   Maybe my arms were too short.

It didn't matter.  Bagman was already racing down the hall toward the front door and I was imagining the citations I was about to get from the local police.  Fortunately, with straps that long, his leaping caused the camera to swing out and back violently and he slumped down on the hall rug groaning. 

BUTLER: "Thank goodness that's over.  So what were you going to say about raw?  Are we talking sushi here, I hope?"

They are both hopeless.   What I was really going to talk about was how my camera can take digital shots in JPEG or RAW format.  RAW format makes huge files that take in more information that just the picture and Photoshop can do amazing manipulations.  It can increase or decrease the exposure by 1, maybe 2 stops!  And other stuff I don't understand, like reducing luminescence, whatever that is. 

Photoshop C5 also has a fancy function called "Automated High Dynamic Range" where you can combine several different exposures of the same shot and it combines them.  If was really competent at this, I would use a tripod and shoot several exposures of the same scene and then combine them manually.   But automated is so much quicker.

BUTLER:  "And lazier."

Anyhow, running out of time before Bagman recovers from the hall rug, I wanted to show a surprising example -- not the greatest shot but mostly to show what's possible. 

The first shot, I took at night, two years ago.  I was shooting in raw even though I didn't know why.  I was playing with long exposures and the results were...well...they were learning experiences.  Here is the original shot, straight out of the camera.

 This morning, experimenting, I took the shot and made three copies.  Then I ran one copy in Photoshop and underexposed it even more (as if it needed it).  Then I took the other copy and increased the exposure as much as I could in Photoshop.   Then I combined the three of them in the automatic HDR function and cropped it some.   Not something I would frame but isn't it amazing that this much color could come out of the earlier picture?  

 BUTLER:  "Can we go to the sushi place now?"

BAGMAN:  "Do I have to put my clothes back on?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Friday Shootout - My Favorite Thing

My favorite thing about my hometown - Mount Pleasant near Charleston, SC - is my neighbor's truck.

And yes, I realize that the front and back are fuzzy but I shot this picture a few years ago for a shootout done from the perspective of our dog, Sally, rest her soul.   And Steve's truck wasn't in his driveway for me to get a better shot this week.  

And I'm also not sure that the word "favorite" really fits here.  At least that is not quite the emotion that comes to me when I answer the phone and my wife's voice says, "Do you think you can borrow Steve's truck?"

This means that she has scored a victory at some auction, antique store, or Craigslist and her prize is something that requires a truck.   I always shudder a bit because I also know that it will require me to put it in the truck and then take it out of the truck.  

This week it was a washer and dryer.   And last weekend it was the whole moving experience I documented in my blog.  

However, all whining aside, it is wonderful to have a neighbor who is so willing to help. 

And knowledgeable!  He always denies it when I claim that he can fix anything but he is ten times the handyman that I am.  My abilities are summed up in the hat that Brian once bought me for Father's Day:

So after a few hours on a ladder or under the sink or elbows deep in the toilet, I will usually come into the house and say, "Well, Hon.  It's beyond me.  We're going to need to call a plumber (electrician, roofer, carpenter, mechanic) on this one."

Her response is always the same.  "Can you ask Steve's opinion first?"

I don't really mind getting Steve's opinion.  In fact, I've learned about everything I know about house repairs from Steve.  But I feel guilty because I know that he never just gives his opinion.  Invariable, he will leave whatever relaxing thing he is doing and spend sweaty and grunting hours fixing it himself. 

I guess Steve and not his truck is what I'm most thankful about in my hometown. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Celebrations and Moving Pains

It could be the newest in the infinite selection of "Reality Shows." 

Like Cops, the Bachelorette, Amazing Race, The Apprentice, Survivor, Wife Swap, America's Next Top Model, etc., etc., ad nauseum.   I'd call it "Moving with Baby" and bring together a new couple, a brand new baby, some complicating in-laws and have them all welcome the baby home and move on the same day!   Although I'm not sure what we'd do for next week's follow-up show.  

If I had videotaped the weekend, I could certainly sell it -- 48 gripping hours of laughs intersperesed with some serious cuss words.  But considering the polite constraints of Blogspot, I can only give you the highlights. 


The arrival of Kay from the hospital was something I was able to capture on film.  (The cuss word situations were not photographed since, much of time, unfortunately,  I was doing the cussing). 
so here are the snapshots:

Kay wakes up briefly,
calmly surveys meyhem,
and goes back to sleep,
making me envious.

Brother Conner is proud
(and always aware of the camera)
while happy Melody stays close for safety

Brother Noah is giddy.

Nana is even giddier

Brothers and Brian are overjoyed...

...then thoughts of sleepless nights
and sharing toys adds a moment of contemplation


Thirty miles, back and forth, back and forth, in our wonderful neighbor's borrowed pick-up truck.  Bottoms fall out of boxes while being carried down the stairs.  Don't scratch the paint.  The recliner MUST be able to fit out the door somehow!  After all we got in, didn't we?  Wind on the Interstate shreds the tarp -- hope it doesn't rain.  Buy a new tarp. 

But jumping to the chase to conserve space, the last (almost) thirty mile trek was the climax.  With all the big stuff gone, the boxes and bags of food, clothes, toys, and unidentifiable junk are piled into the pick-up.  By now, Brian and I are brain-dead, body-dead and no longer care about neatness and organization. 

And time has become crucial.  Night is falling and Melody, already in Goose Creek with Kay, calls to say she has take the baby to the pharmacy to get something the baby needs.

Sagging boxes and ripping bags are piled three and four high in the pick-up's bed.  Tied down with clothesline, lashed with straps, covered with the new tarp that is bigger than the truck. 

Melody is calling Brian's cellphone and we realize that Brian has her wallet and she is stuck in Walmart somewhere with a cart full of stuff and no way to pay for it.  We become frantic...just stuffing anything anywhere.  The truck looks like the introductory scene of The Beverly Hillbillies.
(This is the beginning of some of the cussword stuff.)

I take off in the truck while Brian gets ready to drive his car to Walmart and meet Melody who is becoming increasingly and understandably desperate.

Two miles down the road, my cellphone rings and I get the news that, somehow, we have packed Brian's car keys in one of the two thousand boxes stuffed under the tarp.  (Serious ongoing cussword stuff begins here).

Back in the driveway, night falling with our spirits, armed with flashlights, sweating like pigs and swearing like sailors (to use an odd metaphor -- what is it about sailors that gave them this stereotype?) -- Brian and I untie a million knots, crawl under the tarp, pull out boxes which now collapse their contents pouring out everywhere.  Needle in a haystack?  Try looking for a set of car keys in two thousand boxes stuffed in a pick-up under a tarp while mother and newborn are wandering around a Walmart calling every few minutes to ask, "Have you found it yet?"

A coffee pot comes loose and shatters on the driveway.

The top come off an economy size box of Q-Tips spilling them everywhere.  

Brian points out that I am bleeding.  I look at my arm and determine that I am not bleeding enough to threaten my life and, by now, the realization that I am not going to bleed to death is actually somewhat disappointing. 

But, of course, we eventually find the keys, thirty minutes after we had given up all hope.  And by midnight, I've returned my neighbors truck, everyone is settled into their respective homes, and I am picking up the last Q-tip from the driveway when my cellphone rings. 

"Is there a plastic bag in the garage?"  

"There is,"  I say.  There were several small items that could fit in Karen's car that we were going to deliver.  

Long pause.   Brian says, "Kay's medicine from the hospital is in the bag.  We need it tonight."

My body droops.  My head drops forward.  There are no cusswords left.   I just stare at the floor. 

And notice two more Q-tips.