I’ve been slacking, I know. I’ve gone back and forth between having a lot to write about and then feeling like it wasn’t worth mentioning, but fuck it.
Jen and I are in the middle of the last season of Penny Dreadful, a series that aired on Showtime up until this summer. It’s a wild, beautiful, gory horror story set in London of the 1890s and it’s absolutely stunning in its production design, writing, and subject matter. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a series this much since Deadwood. I’ve also been trying to sort out my thoughts on Stranger Things for about two weeks now, but I’m struggling to say what I’m thinking. More on that later.
I ran into a friend on the train by chance who shared employment with me in a previous organization, and we caught up on life since we both moved on. He’s doing very well, is much happier, and we filled in some of the blanks for each other–things I was unaware of, but found hilarious and annoying. I’ll just say it was great to have some unexpected validation on a Thursday evening.
Jen and I spent some quiet time on Saturday morning looking through a bathroom remodeling book for ideas. It’s getting closer to reality, which is kind of shocking. Further research on a home equity line of credit took me down a different path to where we’re looking at refinancing the house. I spent about two hours on the phone on Saturday with banks going through the information and getting quotes, and along the way I wound up with a Navy Federal Credit Union account for a $5 minimum deposit and no monthly fee. If the math is correct, and the quote doesn’t change drastically, we could wind up dropping more than a full point, pulling a chunk of cash out to use on finishing the bathroom, and saving a bunch of money each month. I’m supposed to get the final quote by Wednesday (fingers crossed) and if everything looks good, get it on the fast track to close as soon as possible.
School starts up this coming week, and I spent Sunday finishing my syllabus, posting everything online, working on my first lecture, and sorting through admin stuff. I’m starting from scratch again this semester, so I had to work through the schedule and the workload repeatedly to make sure everything balanced correctly. This class is once a week for four hours, so the schedule is compressed, and I hope it works out well.
Jen and I are dealing with sore throats, runny noses, and overall malaise due to a summer cold. Finn doesn’t seem to be suffering the same way we are even though we got it from her.
I met up with my old friend Logan on Monday night at the Brewer’s Art, which was like a double flashback. We haven’t seen each other in years, probably going on 10. He was a fellow classmate at MICA in the day but I didn’t really get to know him until after we were out of school. I had a job at Hopkins and he was running his own screenprinting shop, and we fed each other jobs, spending a lot of time in the basement of the Brewer’s Art, which was centrally located between my apartment and his studio. He moved out of Baltimore sometime around the millenium for L.A., and has since built a globe-trotting career as a stencil artist based out of New York. We spent about three hours drinking, catching up, talking about our kids, and laughing. I got home at 1AM, long after my normal bedtime, and paid for it all day Tuesday.
I worked from home on Friday and finished my day up early so we could hit the road at 4:30. We were invited up to the Thompsons’ river house and made it there by about 7 with traffic. Mr. Scout cooked us up a delicious dinner and then lit a fire for s’mores, and we settled back under a sky full of stars, with Mars on full display. Finn met a new friend to play with, and Finnegan has gotten big since we’ve seen him last.
After a lot of great conversation, several s’mores, and several beers, we finally wandered off to bed at 11, tired and full and happy.
All of Saturday was spent in the river, which was as warm as bathwater. We floated and jumped and swam and laughed until lunchtime, when we broke long enough to get something to eat, and got right back in the water. We took a couple of rides on the JetSki, which Finn loved and hated and loved (fast is good, fast and bumpy is not). As with the previous weekend, I spent hours of uninterrupted time in the water, which is rare and wonderful and so relaxing. At dinnertime, we dragged ourselves away and made the trip back home (we all had appointments to keep Sunday morning) and went to bed tired and early.
The front yard is filled in and green again, which is a relief.
I saw a Fuji 35mm f/1.4 lens on Craigslist before I went to London for $20 minus the list price. By the time I got back it was $100 cheaper. (I actually tried a new one out at the rental shop while I was there). I took a chance, and I’ve been using it instead of the Nikon since then. Despite the limitations of the X-E1 body, the lens is beautiful and clear. As far as I can tell, any issues with the photos are a result of the body, but I’ll have to rent another pro-level Fuji to tell for sure.
Finley and I joined some friends to explore Rocks State Park in northeast Maryland over the long weekend. Mama had to stay home due to her toe, which made us sad, but this hike would have been impossible for her. The first trail we hit was almost straight up, and wound up the side of a mountain (or tall hill, really) until we found the King and Queen Seat, a promontory of rock facing a large valley. Finn and the other kids immediately started exploring, and made their way out to the edge of a 300-foot drop before we reined them back in.
Then we hopped back in the car to visit the other half of the park, which features a natural waterfall and wading pool. The kids were in heaven, and we explored the upper and lower section of the river while other people splashed and played.
On Friday, a nice man with a big truck dropped a 20 yard dumpster in our driveway. Ordinarily, this would be cause for celebration, but there was something better to look forward to that evening: an O’s game! Our friend Mr. Scout got us tickets and we met up with them in Section 66, on the third base line, about six rows off the field. The evening was damp and misty, so we hunkered down under plastic and blankets, but the game was good and the company was excellent. Finley had a great time watching the game and eating blue cotton candy, and I think she wants to go back. Plus, she got to meet the Bird!
Saturday morning, the family got to work filling the dumpster with all of the concrete, brush, yard waste, and random debris we’ve had laying around the house since last spring. With three people working we got it all moved in three hours–much quicker than the last pile. We now have our driveway back and it doesn’t look like a Superfund site anymore.
After that got done, we went downtown for some lunch, and then to Second Chance to find some brick and shutters.
Since the hedges all have come down, the front of the house looks more naked than ever and needs softening in the worst way. I started last weekend with some cardboard cutouts to see what would work best in terms of scale, held them in place while Jen looked from below, and we found a size we both agreed upon. My plan was to build something simple from scratch and fasten it to the siding permanently. Seeing me up on the roof, my neighbor brought one of the old shutters from his garage and offered them to us. We took five and used them for sizing, but it turned out they were 5″ too short and in pretty rough shape.
At Second Chance, we got super lucky and found two pair of matching white shutters at the proper size and width. They’re as close to the original louvered windows this house came with as possible, with dogging arms and hinges intact, and sturdy. After some work picking out a matching pair and scavenging a full set of hardware, we walked to the front and paid for our find–and got a discount of $35/each for being there at closing time.
The plan is to borrow our neighbor’s powerwasher and knock the flaking paint off, hit them with a belt sander, repair any cracks, and paint them black. Then I’ve got to either salvage the existing male hinge hangers from the rear of our house and pray they fit these shutters, or buy a new set of eight hinges to hang them correctly.
We were also lucky enough to find good brick to replace the exploded and cracked examples littering the end of the walk from a batch in exactly the right size and shape. When we got home Jen and I walked out front and replaced 20 of the worst ones, and the walk looks like new again.
Sunday was rainy, pretty much all day, so I spent a lot of the day getting stuff ready to toss when the weather lets up. I made all the paint in the basement inert with cat litter, put the shutter hardware into diesel fuel to clean, and organized the basement in preparation for more cleansing. I also posted the Doctor’s old wooden desk on Freecycle, but got no response–so it’s getting tossed.
We drove out to the Eastern Shore on Saturday to visit the Morrisses, and had brunch at a wonderful, quiet little spot outside of Easton. The weather was mostly lousy but the company was excellent as always, and the bloody marys were delicious.
Jen and I are sitting on the couch looking at our school email and reconfiguring our syllabus to account for 2″ of snow and another lost day of class. It’s not actually snowing right now, but they decided to close UMBC to be safe. I’ve got the day off for the holiday anyway.
We’ve had Jen’s old friend Chris in town for the weekend, which has been fun. Saturday we took him out for dinner at Victoria Gastro Pub, where we all ate until we were stuffed. Sunday was laid back, which was good because it was about 10˚ outside and nobody wanted to go anywhere. Originally we’d planned on hitting the Visionary Arts Museum but we didn’t get our act together until 4 in the afternoon.
My tentative plan for Thursday is to take a day off work and drive Finley up to Whitetail to spend the day learning how to snowboard. The weather is supposed to be sunny and mild, which will make for a happier Finley and thus a happier Idiot.
We walked over to the elementary school with the neighbors yesterday to do some sledding as the sun went down. What a great way to end the day.