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.
Eleven years ago today, I married this lovely woman. While it hasn’t always been easy, it sure has been interesting. I love you, blondie.
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.
Lining up in the queue to ride the escalator down to the ground floor of Penn Station this morning, I heard someone singing “What a Friend in Jesus” in a quiet, lovely voice amongst the murmur of the crowd. As I got to the bottom, I realized it was an elderly man with a cane, carefully leading another elderly man with blacked-out glasses and a walking stick. They moved slowly, dragging luggage behind them, up to the Metro turnstiles, until I lost sight of them. I thought that was a lovely way to help a blind person find their way, and the sound of his song has stuck with me for the rest of the day.
Friday evening we went directly from the train station to dinner, and then to the pharmacy to pick up pills for the cat. On our way out of there we got a text from our neighbor, who invited us to a friends-only showing of Frozen in Ellicott City. There’s a wine store right on Main Street who hosts a movie night in the summertime, projected onto a screen hung from the side of the building. The weather was perfect so we picked up a fleece blanket and some snacks at the store, and got there just in time for the movie. It was late by the time we got Finn into bed, but definitely worth it.
Sunday was Mother’s Day, and Jen wanted to tackle the garden. We raked, trimmed, and cleared out the vegetable garden, moved some netting around, and dropped straw on this year’s crop. Then we cleaned out the other beds, bought some mulch, and straightened up the rest of the backyard. It’s always amazing what an afternoon of solid work can accomplish.
In the interest of getting rid of some shit, I’ve been looking around the house at potential sale items with a mercenary eye. As mentioned before, I got rid of an engine stand that was taking up garage space, and today I sold an unused camera bag to a guy in D.C. I’ve got some other camera equipment on CL for sale, and I’m going to expand the list to some computer gear and some unused tools. Along with Craigslist, we have an epic yard sale planned, which means we have to find time to hump five years of baby gear out of the attic to prep for display.
We were finishing up an errand last night when we got a late invitation to an open-air showing of Frozen in Ellicott City last night. Even though it ended way past Finn’s bedtime, I can’t think of a better way to have seen the movie.
Don’t show up to meet me with $32 in your pocket when I clearly stated the price was $40 firm, and then tell me your wife has your bankcard. You had the opportunity to tell me that via text before you wasted my time. Douche.
Even though it was gray and rainy, I left work today feeling energized. During the course of the day, I organized my own schedule, engaged a freelance artist I hired on a project I concepted and wrote, art directed a designer I hired on two internal projects, and sat in on a conference with the president of the institution. I began sketching a brand strategy for our mapping products, coordinating a video project with a multimedia firm in London, and was consulted on a Director-level hire by two different people.
It’s amazing the difference a couple of months can make.
“Al, at the wheel, his face purposeful, his whole body listening to the car, his restless eyes jumping from the road to the instrument panel. Al was one with his engine, every nerve listening for weaknesses, for the thumps or squeals, hums and chattering that indicate a change that may cause a breakdown. He had become the soul of the car. ”
-John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Driving an antique car is often an act of faith. Unless one is an ASE certified mechanic, every mile put on a historic vehicle is a leap into the unknown, carrying one further away from help and closer to an expensive problem. It forces one to become intimately familiar with all of the complicated moving parts that make things work, if for no other reason than to be able to tell a mechanic what to look at first.
Peer Pressure has spent the majority of the winter slumbering like a bear in her cave, waiting out fierce December winds and wet March snows. Winters are always hard when starting carbureted engines. I don’t have a trickle charger yet, which means I’ve got about five good tries in the battery before I have to bust out jumper cables. Usually I pour a little gas in the carburetor to get the fuel system moving, and that does the trick. Whenever the roads are dry and salt-free, I let her idle in the driveway for ten minutes, then get her out for a trip around the block to spin the tires and get fluids moving through everything. Then she goes right back in the garage.
Meanwhile, I’ve been driving modern, fuel injected vehicles which start instantly and glide over the road at lightning speeds. They have clean carpeting, clear glass, warm heat, and soundproofing. I’m removed from all of the smelly mechanical bits that make things work; modern cars have been engineered to make me forget there’s even an engine attached to the vehicle: This vehicle is powered by unicorn farts. They are appliances, and we take their very existence for granted. And we become ignorant of the clanking, whirring, gnashing machinery that makes it all possible.
When spring comes, I pull the Scout out onto the road, wind up the engine on longer trips and listen intently to multiple different noises. That tapping–are those lifters starving for oil? I gauge the familiar droning of Mud Terrains on pavement. I parse squeaks from the rear of the chassis. Is the exhaust sounding a newer, deeper note this year?
Other cues I pick up from the vibrations through my feet and hands. How does the clutch feel? Is that wobble a flat spot in the tire, or is that just an oscillation at speed? Is the engine straining above 50mph? The brakes are wearing unevenly. Does the shift point feel different this year? It feels like the steering is wandering more today.
All of these reactions change my relationship with the road. Every trip I take in the Scout at the beginning of the year is carefully considered. Do I have enough gas to make it there and back? Do I have a backup plan if I break down? What’s the number for towing and recovery? All of these questions make me appreciate the ride a lot more; I’m in tune with the machine and the road, instead of just gliding over it, there and back.
I bought my first Scout used, 20 years after it was built, and drove it 75+ miles home the same day, on faith that the seller was honest (he was) and the truck was in good shape (it was). One month later I drove it 2 miles down an empty beach at Assateague, an empty corner of the earth where AAA does not make house calls. It got me home. Ten years later I put even more faith in an older truck bought at auction with absolutely no provenance, using the 5-50-100 rule to shake out the kinks (500 miles is a long trip on those tires), and it’s run strongly ever since. I’ve had my issues, and it’s given me problems, but most of those were due to my own stupidity, and I’ve been able to make it home without calling in a tow truck.
I don’t know if Steinbeck had it right or not. Rarely do I feel like I’m the soul of the machine; more often I feel like my truck helps me rediscover my sense of adventure. Will I make it there and back? Maybe not, but it’ll sure be an interesting story.