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.
Mike in Colorado sent me a nice big box full of weatherstripping seals for my Traveltop, which I’m very, very excited about. As stated before, I’ve got to get some Eastwood encapsulator and treat the rails before I put new windows in, but before I tackle that, I’ve got to get lighting in the garage sorted out. I looked at some new fluorescent fixtures at the Lowe’s last night and realized I don’t have to buy anything new: all I’ve got to do is wire outlets into the ceiling and plug my existing lights in. I’ll have extra outlets if I need something overhead (it’ll be on a switched wire, but that’s OK) and I’m not out $100 in materials. I am, however, sending Mike a check for the rubber.
Having finally brought wired power to the garage, I thought it would be a good idea to add a battery conditioner to help the Scout make it through the winter. I generally get out and start her up every weekend during the snowy months to keep systems lubed and working (three of the saddest words in the English language are ran when parked) and there have been some days when I’ve needed to pull one of the Hondas up to jump the battery. I found an inexpensive battery conditioner on Amazon and got it a few weeks ago. It’s meant to keep the battery topped off, which is just what I need.
I heard from our friend Mike in Colorado after a long quiet spell, who has been driving his shiny Scout daily after rebuilding it from the ground up. He offered me a spare set of traveltop window seals he’s got sitting in his garage, which is fantastic timing. I’ve been eyeballing my traveltop in the garage, thinking it would be wise to get it back on the truck before things get really cold. It’s got solid side windows but I’ve got a set of sliders from the crappy top I had sitting in the backyard, and the seals they came with are OK but not new. One of my goals before it goes on is to knock down and shoot the rust inside along the bed rails with some Eastwood encapsulator and then cover them with etching primer. It’s in great shape overall but there are a bunch of inexplicable screw holes that need to be welded shut, something I’d like to test out a new welding rig on.
As much as I love the smell, feeling, warmth, and challenge of building and tending a fire in our fireplace, the vortex-like draw from the flue chills the rest of the house down to subzero temperatures. This will change, possibly, after we replace our windows and plug drafty holes, but that’s a long way off.
Pique The Incontinent has been pissing on the front porch carpet to register his displeasure with the litter cleaning schedule. While I’m pleased it wasn’t on my bead, it got to the point where opening up the front door unleashed an almost physical wave of cat stink, like being punched in the face with a boxwood plant. We adjusted the cleaning schedule and decided to pull up the carpet for good, as no amount of remover would actually remove the smell. The carpet came up easily, and the padding underneath did too, but then we were faced with lovely white and green adhesive tile, which is almost certainly held together with asbestos, hantavirus, and lead-based glue. I put an order in on Amazon for toxic particle filters for my mask, and will resume careful demolition next weekend. Under the tile is some kind of useless fiber-based sheeting, and below that is the original grey deck planking. Hopefully the wood isn’t swiss cheese under the sandwich of cancerous building materials.
Saturday evening we attended a beer-pairing potluck dinner with friends. Jen accepted the challenge and made a delicious lemongrass soup (tom kha) to pair with a wheat beer, and the rest of the meal finished up with provencal chicken and roasted lamb. We drank lots of fantastic beer, ate wonderful food, and returned home completely stuffed.
Sunday we were invited to an afternoon party at one of Finn’s new schoolmates’ house, where we found ourselves outnumbered by Irish expatriates handing us fresh Bloody Marys–THESE ARE OUR PEOPLE. Within about ten minutes we felt completely at home among their friends, who could not have been more welcoming, and after our host busted out fresh brisket (from his backyard smoker, naturally), we knew we would be fast friends. Finn was tired out from Saturday night but rallied and played among the other kids; I had to pry her hands off the side of the car to get her to come home.
I’ve had another Session IPA kit in the basement for two and a half months, and haven’t had anything new in the kegs since right after the Fourth of July, so I carved a couple hours out on Saturday to brew it up on the burner outside. Everything went smoothly, and I got it in the fermenter cleanly but about 20° below optimal temperature, so I waited until Sunday evening to add the yeast. I may have heated it up a little too high when I activated it, but we’ll see if it starts working this evening. Next up, I think I’m going to do an Irish Stout to replace the last batch I did (which is down to a six-pack) and then maybe an ale of some kind to get through the winter.