As it turns out, it costs $50 to fix a Hamilton watch that’s stopped working. I’ve got to look at the warranty that came with it to see if I’m covered (I doubt I am) but because I’m the unfailingly honest person I am, I told them I’d dropped it on the floor in the letter I sent along with it. And, of course, they’re going to charge me $25 to ship it back.
Friday I took the Scout on a roadtrip up to a town outside of Frederick for a small company retreat. I couldn’t have picked a more beautiful day to do it. The morning weather was 65˚ and sunny, so I left the top up. One of the Crazy Ray’s locations is on 70 halfway to Frederick, so I planned for a visit as the doors opened at 8. Life being what it is, I arrived at 8:30 to a sleepy parking lot–just a few guys sipping coffee in their trucks. Inspecting the sign on the door, I found the times posted there are an hour later than those posted on the web, and, discouraged, had to leave empty-handed. The retreat itself was great; our host owns a beautiful spread on the side of a mountain, with three horses and a stand of woods visible from the back porch. We got a lot done and I was packed up by 4:30 for a brisk ride home with the top down.
Our weekend was one of ups and downs. I spent a good part of Saturday cleaning and reorganizing the den. In the evening we drive down to Ellicott City to take in a starlight showing of Frozen at the Wine Bin; the crowd there has grown since the last time we were there, and so we had to squeeze into some spots saved for us by friends, but the movie is still just as good the tenth time as the first.
Sunday the girls went to church while I kept cleaning (it’s hard to put a Dyson down once you’ve picked it up) and then we were invited to the local pool in the afternoon. After running out to pick up lumber, groceries, and lunch, we threw food together, packed our bags, and Finn and I hit the road, leaving Mama home for quiet time. We unpacked, the kids jumped in the water, and within 10 minutes they blew the whistle again: someone pooped in the pool. Dejectedly, we packed everything back up and regrouped at the neighbors’ house to cook dinner.
All was well until Finn said something rude to one of the other kids, and that stopped everything cold. I walked her outside and talked it out; after getting vague, noncommittal answers, I packed all of our things, thanked our hosts graciously, and hiked her out of there. I immediately got her bath started and Mama and I started talking things out with her. While they got her cleaned up, I returned to our host house to pick up some things I’d left behind, and apologized to them at length; to their credit, they spent just as much time putting me at ease as I did explaining and apologizing.
I’m not entirely sure what possessed Finn to say what she did; I think she was trying it out to see what would happen without really knowing how hurtful it could be, but it was said in a way that told me she knew it might be hurtful. We had a long talk with her, and hopefully the lesson got through to her. She’s going to say dumb stuff in the future, I know, but I want her to start thinking about what she says before she says it–something it took me years to figure out.
I moved the trashcan subwoofer into the living room over the weekend, and finally read up on how to hook it up correctly. I’d been using a single-wire RCA plug from the amplifier, which didn’t seem to send enough signal to the subwoofer unless I really cranked up the volume. In the living room, both sets of speaker wire come through the floor in the same location and then snake to the speakers, so I hooked them up to the plate on the back of the subwoofer and then ran leads from there to the speakers. So now the signal comes in through the subwoofer, which keeps the lows for itself, and sends the midrange and highs to the speakers. It makes a huge difference in that room!
As many long-time invitees are already aware, the Lockardugans decided 2015 was a skip year for the parade party. After 10 straight seasons, we needed a break, and so after making sure the lawn was mowed and the cat was boarded, we got the fuck out of town.
Friday was a holiday so we cut out across the bridge to Easton, where our good friends the Morrises were ready to receive us. After enjoying some drinks and a laid-back dinner on the deck, we all packed up and drove to the waterfront in Oxford, where the town was lined up along the beach to watch fireworks at dusk. It was a beautiful night, and apart from a light drizzle the show was fantastic.
Saturday we packed up and headed back to the same beach to sit by the water and watch the kids play. I’m happy to report Finn is now diving, swimming, and jumping underwater with no fear at all; this year, in fact, she asked me to pick up and throw her repeatedly and has now decided she wants to try a diving board. Okay!
Regretfully, we packed up and left at dinnertime, as lack of sleep and exhaustion from spending five solid hours in the water took its toll on the kids. She crashed out in the car at six and went straight to bed when we got home. We enjoyed the peace and quiet until the Catonsville fireworks show started up, which we’re now able to see almost clearly through the new gap in our treeline behind the greenhouse.
Sunday morning, to celebrate the CR-V hitting 100,000 miles somewhere between Oxford and Easton, we did what all God-fearing, patriotic Americans do on a national holiday: we cleaned out the grotty interiors of our cars. Finn earned some money by manning the vacuum while I scrubbed the sills and cleaned the plastics, and between the three of us we made short work of it.
Mama set up some coleslaw and then we stopped over to Bear’s house for a visit. He was in good spirits, alternately eating, sleeping, farting, and staying awake for brief periods of time to study the chandelier. After dinner, he and I retired in the living room to nap and watch the first half of the Women’s World Cup final. One of their cats jumped up to join us, and I had a great time juggling a baby, a cat, and my beer with only two hands.
Then, we packed up and got Finn back home and into bed at a reasonable hour. After getting everything ready for Monday morning, I hauled my gear up from the basement and got the batch of Irish Stout from last November bottled and racked in the basement. The last batch of Session is kicked, so I’ll clean the keg out this evening, and then transfer the new batch in to finish.
Friday evening I found myself at a neighbor’s house watching a skilled man with dreadlocks mix fancy craft cocktails with a bunch of other guys I didn’t know. I was invited by the father of one of Finn’s friends and walked down the street to his house after dinner.
The first cocktail I tried was a barrel-aged Manhattan, which was served over a hand-carved chunk of ice and went down a little rougher than I’d anticipated. Next up was an old fashioned, and by this time I’d made acquaintances with some of the other guys as well as run into another Dad I knew from the playground. As the evening went by I met some other men from the neighborhood, played a few games of darts, sampled a Ho-Ho from the dessert table, smoked a decent cigar, and sampled three more drinks, which were enough to tilt Beechwood Avenue about five degrees on my walk home. And: a true whiskey sour is a new go-to drink for me, because nobody will know how to make a Blood and Sand.
Saturday I recovered quicker than I fairly should have and we made preparations for the annual Ice Cream Social put on by our friends the Wards. Finn got her face painted, chased bubbles, watched the cows walk up the path, and played with balloon swords under a perfect blue sky. We made a brief stop at IKEA for a roller shade part and then got Jen home into bed, after a late-day migraine came on. Finn and I stayed up to watch Monsters vs. Aliens in our Pjs and then went to sleep.
Sunday I hit the Lowe’s for shingle supplies and started peeling 20-year-old layers off the far side of the garage roof. It’s been leaking for a couple of years and this winter it just stayed wet and disintegrated. A closer inspection revealed a hasty patch job over the old shingle but no attempt to repair the sheathing underneath–which was completely gone in some places. I removed several layers and cut bad wood back to the joists, then laid in new sheathing and started tacking shingles back in. There’s about three layers on there in total, which didn’t surprise me, but the amount of water damage was actually less than I thought there would be. I didn’t lay any tarpaper down, which may be a tactical mistake, but we’ll see how it holds up when the next rain falls.
While that was under way, I stoked up the smoker with charcoal and mesquite chips and dropped a 5-lb. bird on the grill. Following the directions, I used about 150% more charcoal than was needed, and so the fire was too hot. As we all know, there’s no turning charcoal down, so I had to pull it off and let the fire die down for about 20 minutes. The final flavor was OK, but the bird was dry, so there will be lots of experimentation and testing before we perfect this method.
My final class is scheduled for next Monday, which is both a bummer and a relief. I’ll miss working with my students, but I won’t miss my adjusted schedule at all–and there’s a ton of work coming at WRI. There was also some shuffling around of classes last week, so I won’t be teaching the capstone class they had me scheduled for, but they swapped it out with a second-level typography class that sounds like fun.
We have a new front door as of yesterday! The old red steel door is gone, replaced with a new (faux) 6/6 windowed security door. It’s wonderful how much light comes in through the window now, and every time I came down the stairs this morning I thought the front door was open.
Last night I went out for beers with some designer friends at the Judge’s Bench, as part of a long-delayed effort to get together, and it was a very good time. Five of us met up from different circles around the Baltimore design scene, and it was fun to put history and shared experiences together. It’s funny how much overlap we all have together.
I’m taking a long lunch this afternoon to walk up to the Capitol lawn with a 70-200 lens and a tripod to shoot some pictures: The Arsenal of Democracy Flyover is scheduled for today at noon and I’m right in the sweet spot: They are flying directly down the Mall, over the Capitol, and banking off to the south from there. If I’m on the north side of the lawn, I’ll be in perfect position to get some great shots.
Saturday morning at 7, Finn and I got our clothes on quietly, pulled the Scout out of the garage, and went to get breakfast together. Then we hit the first yard sales of the season.
This is a tradition that dates back to Finn’s infancy, when I would get her dressed and fed by first morning’s light, then set her in the backpack and hike the neighborhood while Jen slept in. She and I scored all kinds of things together, from bikes to desks to toys and tools, and Saturday morning was always the highlight of my week.
We started on our side of Frederick Road and worked our way back through the leafy streets until we hit the edge of the park. Finn was on the hunt for charms for her bracelet, and the first score of the day was a huge green glass ring the size of a doorknob and a small coin in the shape of a paw.
Across Edmonson, there was a huge community yard sale happening, so we parked the Scout and walked, hand in hand. At first the pickings were pretty slim until we hit a house where a kid was unloading extra LEGOs, and Finn picked up a good-sized bag for $2. I found her a copper pin with a cursive F which a nice woman named Frances gave her for free. At some point, we began following a dude up the street who was asking after old cameras and adult bikes at each house. After a few stops, we caught up with him as he rummaged through a box of old photo gear and walked away with a light meter. I swooped in after him to grab an old Nikkormatic with a 50mm f/2 lens. The guy gave it to me for $10 because he couldn’t get the lens to unmount (after paying, I walked away and had it off in seconds).
Later we stopped at the house of one of Finn’s kindergarten friends, who were having a yard sale and a lemonade stand, and we refreshed ourselves. I struck up a conversation with his father, who had seen the Scout around town, and we found ourselves hanging out for another hour while the kids played in the driveway. At some point I noticed he had an old lens sitting on his table and found it was another Nikon mount, and demanded he let me pay him $5 for it. He threw in a nearly new Lowepro camera bag with it, which is just the thing I didn’t know I was looking for, but fits my camera and four lenses perfectly. His neighbor was selling a pile of window A/C units, so I picked out a nearly new unit for peanuts and threw it in the back of the Scout.
After tearing Finn away for lunch, I got busy in the garage sorting through all of the bins of stuff I brought back from my parents’ place. I cleaned out and moved the toolchest into place, organized the drawers and put everything away. He sent me home with a spare circular saw, belt sander, drill, rotary sander, and a router, all of which will be hugely helpful. The router I’m going to build a table around (or buy an inexpensive table for) so that I can mill wood faster.
I organized a pile of spare wood left over from the porch job, moved the engine to the back corner, and knocked down the last parts of a rickety old shelf to put new wood hangers up. Then I found a place for an 8′ section of beam from Grampy’s barn. Suddenly there was a whole lot of room in the garage.
Later in the day I futzed around with the new lenses and got them both to work in Manual mode; the Nikkor 50mm f/2 lens is nice, but will mainly be a backup for the AI 50mm f/1.8 lens I’ve already got. The other lens, however, has been fun to play with. It’s a Nikon-mount Vivitar 28mm f/2.5, so it’s wider and has a huge focus range. I spent most of the weekend learning where its sweet spots are so that I can get faster at shooting completely manually with it, which is fun. 28mm is a great distance to shoot from, too–not too close and not too far away.
Sunday was another good day of work and play; Finn had piano and swim lessons in the morning, and then we checked out an E-state sale (Finn’s pronunciation) behind the elementary school. It was pretty creepy–like walking into the Silence of the Lambs lotion-in-the-basement house, but interesting to check out. The owner had been an artist in NYC in the early 80’s and then moved to Catonsville sometime later, but his style was arrested firmly in the Reagan Decade, so it was a time capsule of quirk trapped in a little purple house.
Then we got to work in the garden in the afternoon moving bulbs and plants around to try and take advantage of the new sunlight available now that the cedar tree is gone.
We worked hard on this project until 5:30 or so, and broke for a quick dinner so that we could meet the neighbors across the street for some time in the playground. The weather was perfect, and the sun was warm. Our neighbors had to leave a little early to answer the call of nature, but Finn was playing with another girl, so we stayed. Her mother struck up a conversation with us and we talked until after the sun had set behind the school and the air cooled off. Saying our goodbyes, I carried a very tired, very barefoot girl back across the street and we put her into bed.
As you might have guessed from my pictures, the weekend was short on work and long on fun. We were invited to a backyard barbecue on Friday night, where food was eaten, drinks were drank, and Christmas trees were burned in spectacular fashion. Saturday we made a quick morning run to the store for more mulch and then jetted off to an afternoon backyard party. That evening we took in a showing of Epic in the neighbors’ yard, where
we all filled up on movie candy and tried to stay warm; after the first half-hour I had Finn nestled on my lap sharing her Jujyfruit and Twizzlers.
Sunday was more relaxed, with a stop at church, a haircut for me, and then a steel band recital for the ladies in the afternoon. I puttered around in the garage to stay out of the wind. The tree service I called last week finally came out to estimate the cedar and greenhouse treeline, which came in about $250 less than I had budgeted for. Next I’ve got to price out a hauling service who can remove all the concrete next to the drive.
This was a weekend full of birthday parties. Saturday we drove across the bridge to attend Zachary’s 5th birthday bowling party, which was full of kids and heavy balls and Transformers and classic rock and friends. I still can’t believe he’s 5. After the party broke up we drove back to the Morrises for hors d’oeuvres and catching up with folks we haven’t seen in years, which was great.
Sunday we noodled around the house until 2, when we took in another party in Columbia at a playground warehouse showroom. This, a business model, is genius: They actually charge you a fee to bring your kids in and let them run around, and rent out the space for parties. The kids ran around and climbed on the playsets while we adults marveled at both the list and sale prices of each model; when I say that there were swingsets priced comparably to a well-optioned European sedan, I’m not kidding. But, whatever; the kids had a great time, we parents had a great time chasing them around, and everyone left happy.
I’m listening to Signs Under Test by John Tejada, a very interesting electronica album that makes me think a little of In Sides-era Orbital. I think it’s the sound and approach of the melodies: fluttering around the beat, layered in echo, and often paired with a more dissonant counter-melody. It’s also refreshing because I’ve had various selections from Steely Dan’s Gaucho running on endless repeat in my head for the past week (seriously, since last Thursday) after watching the making of Aja on YouTube. GOD DAMN YOU, STEELY DAN.