Our neighbors have the backyard we lust after. It’s covered in lush, level green grass, fenced in with tasteful wood picket, and features a large play area with an industrial-sized playset. A couple of weeks ago they decided to go bigger, bought a new playset twice the size, and offered their old one to us. Would we like it? Sure. Can we move it? Maybe.
I started out Saturday morning renting a tiller for the garden, figuring I could get the whole thing turned over in an hour or two. On my way back from the rental store I stopped at a yard sale along Edmonson Avenue and happened upon a box containing two industrial sized casters for $3. Amidst some other assorted tools was a leather toolbelt, which I grabbed and paid for, and headed home.
We had standing plans to hit another community yard sale nearby with the neighbors, so I parked the truck and we all headed over. The pickings were kind of slim for such an upscale neighborhood, sadly, but I did find an overhead projector for cheap as well as two Leapster pads for $1.50.
After mowing the grass around the garden, it took about an hour to weed out the center and all of 15 minutes to till the soil. At this point it started to drizzle a little, but I knew we needed to get the playset moved, so we forged ahead.
Over at the neighbors’, I started by unbolting the smaller sections. The climbing wall, ladder, slide, and swings came off relatively easily, and between the two of us we got the swingset arm and roof section unbolted and moved off. The remainder of the set started to get a little shaky so I grabbed some 1×3″ from our garage and we screwed them into the top for support. Then I busted out the casters I’d found and bolted them to the bottom two legs of the set.
By now the drizzle had turned to rain, so we had a beer and contemplated our next move. He had eight cubic yards of wood chips in his driveway partially blocking our path, so we shoveled it into wheelbarrows and wheeled it into the new play area. By the time we got done, the rain had tapered off, so we planned our journey.
Once we’d tipped it on its side onto the casters and dragged it up onto the walk it moved easily, so we squoze it through the gate and placed the front section on a metal dolly. Then we continued down his driveway, across the street (in front of two carloads of incredulous people), up the neighbors’ driveway, and across two sheets of plywood to sit drunkenly on our lawn. By then it was close to dinnertime so we packed up the rest of the tools, had a celebratory beer, and called it a day.
It’s going to need four sistered 4×4″ supports on each corner, some crossbracing, and a really good powerwashing to clean up, but it’s in remarkably good shape for its age. We put it outside the kitchen window so that we can see it from the sink, on a spot that also happens to be the only (mostly) level spot on the lawn. Luckily, Memorial Day is next weekend, so I’ve got plenty of time to level it, bolt some stronger feet into place, wash and stain it, and then let Finn have fun with it.
Our good friend Linda sent her old Kindle up to Maryland when she upgraded. I pulled it out last week and looked it over, trying to figure out how to get new books on it without erasing what it already held. I’m new to the e-book thing, only having loaded some ePub files on my iPhone a few months ago. Kindles use a different format, so I had to find a way to convert and transfer my books: enter Calibre.
It’s a cross-platform app meant to do a lot of things, so it resembles an OS X app from 2001, before UI standards really got nailed down and people were porting things over from UNIX. It’s cryptic, so it takes some time to sort out what can be done and what will blow things up, but once I sorted out the UI and what I wanted to do, it was pretty straightforward.
The Kindle itself is really nice; I like the fact that it’s got wi-fi and it feels good in my hands. I’ve only played around with it a little bit, so I have no idea what its total capabilities are yet. Jen and I are looking into setting up a house Amazon Prime account so that we can buy more books, as well as stream movies and take advantage of free shipping, and I think that will make it even better. And apparently there’s some way I can access my New Yorker subscription on the Kindle too.
I think eventually I’ll take the plunge and buy an iPad variant, but right now I really like this thing.
A couple of years ago, when I was in between Scouts, I rode along with a neighbor of mine to a Land Rover meetup at a restaurant in Columbia. We hung out, talked trucks, and then walked inside for some lunch. It was a real easygoing way to meet new people.
Recently I got to thinking about all the guys with Scouts who I’ve met over the years who don’t know each other or haven’t found the Binder Planet, and thought I might try to get a group together for the same kind of gathering. I started emailing folks in the Baltimore area and soon the word was out.
We met at the Famous Dave’s in Columbia this morning, and by noon we had about 15 guys with 6 trucks in attendance. First to arrive were Erik M. and Stu S., followed by Stephen G. with a beautiful red 6(6?) 1200 pickup. Next was Brian T., coming in from the Eastern Shore with his Scout, and Jesse A. from Annapolis came in with his Scout right after noon. We also had a bunch of guys who have trucks in the shop– Jason H., who is doing an engine transplant and bodywork, my neighbors the Dunmires, who have a Scout II in the middle of bodywork, Brian H., whose Wagonmaster is currently with Mike Moore in Virginia, and Pate M. from the Eastern Shore, whose Scout II is also in the middle of serious surgery. Carl B. came in from the west side of town as we were finishing up lunch, the victim of some overheating issues.
We hung out in the parking lot for a couple of hours with our hoods up shooting the breeze, and every once in a while someone would slowly cruise past and stare at our trucks. We even got a nod of approval from a guy in a lifted diesel Ford.
Then, we went inside for some beer and barbecue. (I took no pictures inside, sorry).
When we walked back outside, gray skies had turned sunny, and we stood out in the lot for another hour or so talking trucks.
I had run into the Target before everyone arrived to see if they had a couple of Matchbox Scouts, meaning to give them out for stuff like “rustiest truck” and “farthest distance driven”. This guy got one just cause he was cool.
All in all, it was a great day, and I hope everyone had a good time.
I’ve got a pile of T-shirts drying in the basement waiting for a turn with the heat gun. We should have about fifteen guys and six trucks gathering to meet up, talk, and have some barbecue on Sunday morning. I’m very much looking forward to it.
We got word early last week that Howard, my sister’s best friend for fifteen years, had passed suddenly and without much warning. I shuffled some things around and hit the road Thursday evening to make his funeral mass Friday morning. From what I’m told the viewing was packed with friends, and the mass was no exception. At one point the priest in charge of the service leaned in to ask the older gentleman sitting next to me (one of the elders) if someone could go locate enough host to use for communion.
Renie had written a eulogy for Howard, and it was funny, touching, authentic, and moving. I was proud of both her words and her poise.
After the service, we drove over to the firehouse, where the reception was being held, and found ourselves sitting with several of Howard’s friends from Ithaca. I struck up a conversation with the gentleman sitting next to me, who mentioned he was from Thailand, and we started talking about travel and food. Within a half an hour he was inviting the family to come and eat at his restaurant (one of Howard’s favorite haunts) and we made plans.
At the table, he set us up with four glasses of Proseco, and things got progressively better from there. Starting with two types of Thai soup (Tom Kha and Tom Yung), we worked our way through four appetizers, stopped for a bottle of red wine, and then worked through five (!) entrees. The restaurant is pan-Asian, so the menu ranges from Thai to Indian, and the mixture of curry, lemongrass, and chili powder was outstanding together. After our entrees, he insisted we try the dessert menu, but not before a glass of grappa or Yuzo (lemon infused sake) to clear our palates. We wound up sitting for four hours enjoying the time together, raising a glass to Howard, and savoring every bite.
Saturday it just so happened there was a party planned for Grampy, who turns 98 this year, so I decided to stick around and celebrate with everyone. He just got moved back into his house from my uncle’s, and a couple of cousins spent the last few weeks painting and cleaning and getting things ready for him. He’s now installed in the middle room (the family room from my younger days) with a palace-sized chair and a hospital bed in front of a flat screen TV. He looks better than I’ve seen him in years, and I could see the spark in his eyes the whole time I was there.
Being able to visit with everyone was great, and once again I ate way too much.
Sunday morning I hit the road and made it back to Baltimore by 3, just in time to sharpen the mower blade and attack the lawn while Finn played on the swing. Jen got the rear bed weeded, and after some work with the edger the house doesn’t look like it’s been foreclosed upon anymore.
Jen and I scheduled a party with some of our neighbors for Saturday night. Which, in our family, means we use the occasion as an excuse for a massive spring cleaning. We’d started doing some preliminary work this past week, but as anyone who does a major overhaul knows, progress made only lasts for minutes.
I started by going out for breakfast and hitting neighborhood yard sales on my way home, where I scored four satellite speakers, an unopened hiking compass, five Xbox games and a Playmobil pirate ship for Finn. After eating, the girls got started at the house while I went across the street to the church playground, where I’d volunteered several weeks ago to help with spring cleanup. A nice man named Rich and I shoveled and moved three tons of playground sand (which, after the rain, weighed in at more like six) to the sandbox and and helped level wood chips under all the equipment. Thankfully, there were donuts and coffee to keep us moving.
On my way back to the house I stopped to see the neighbor’s new C5 Corvette, which he bought through a family friend for a fraction of its book value. It’s black and sleek and in really good shape for its age. We spent about a half an hour poking around at it, and then I headed home to throw myself into housecleaning. We cleaned corners and under couches and all the places that haven’t seen the light of day since November. Bathrooms got scrubbed, floors mopped, and even the basement got a sweep (if guests are going to the kegerator, it can’t look like the dungeon from Silence of the Lambs down there).
At 5:30 we were scrubbed and ready for guests, just barely. Four kinds of cheese were laid out. Dinner burbled quietly in the crock pot. Music wafted in from the den. The house was pristine for about a half an hour and then kids arrived and EVERY SINGLE TOY HIT THE FLOOR. What followed was a wonderful night with friends; there was great conversation. There was homebrew, vodka, white wine and sake. There was delicious cajun shrimp and sausage gumbo. There was a cake from Sugarbakers. At some point I built a fire. The kids got along great. Everybody called it at about 10:30 or so, and we staggered up to bed tired but happy.
This morning, despite my hangover, I hit the ground running. Well, not exactly. I hit the couch sleeping after Finn came in at 7, and rested there until 9:30 while she took in some PBS Kids. After a BE&C and some strong coffee my head quieted down and Finn and I hit the Home Depot for some lumber and supplies. Back at the house, I disassembled an ancient workbench in the garage to make way for shelving to maximize storage space, which took up a good chunk of the afternoon. Because the whole structure leans to the east, the shelves aren’t square, but they’re all 2″ wide and they hold four times as much stuff. I moved a lot of Scout stuff around and freed up the back of the building for a homemade hoist to store the traveltop, which went in at about 5:30.
Right now I’m typing this quietly in Finn’s room as she tries to fall asleep. Mama is downstairs watching Game of Thrones. I have a half a glass of beer and a slice of cake waiting for me. My back and legs are going to be singing to me tomorrow, but what I got done was definitely worth it.
A couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about a Land Rover meetup I went to with my neighbor, who (at that time) owned a Defender 90. We met at a barbecue restaurant in Columbia, parked our trucks in a corner of the lot, and spent the next two hours shooting the shit. It was friendly, informal, and fun (I was Scoutless at the time), and I thought it might be fun to gather the IH guys I’ve met in the area for the same kind of day.
I sent out a big email to everyone I could think of, and within two weeks’ time I’ve got fifteen people committed with five trucks (many are immobile due to ongoing restoration efforts) and possibly more. The cool thing is that there are people I’ve met through the weblog and parts gathering who don’t know or haven’t met the other guys, so it’ll be good to get everyone together in one place. I also suggested doing an informal swap meet while we’re together, and hopefully there will be some horsetrading happening too.
- Drove across the Bay Bridge to stay over with the Morrises, get dressed up like adults, and have a lovely dinner out on the town where our conversations weren’t interrupted every 3 minutes. God, that felt great.
- Transferred my Belgian IPA to the secondary fermenter and dry-hopped it. The final gravity was 0.001% off, so this batch will have an ABV of 6.3% (must have been that pound of candy sugar the recipe called for).
- Pressed a set of onesies for Scout, a set for Finnegan, a pink shirt for Finn, and two adult sizes for me. I used a heat gun to set the ink, and they will get washed sometime in the next couple of days to test how well the ink stays.
- Resurrected a dead hard drive for a client.
- Drive the Scout into work for the first time in 3 months.