Monday, June 28, 2010
Dad turned 65, a milestone that in his younger days he looked toward fondly: the age at which he could finally retire and spend his dotage watching futebol, buying groceries, brushing up on his grilling technique. As it turned out, he ended up retiring a few years ago anyway, so he's already enjoyed several years of watching futebol &c., &c., which agrees with him nicely.
Mom and he decided to take Nik & I to lunch at the Cheesecake Factory to celebrate. This disappointed the dogs, who love my dad and usually come with us to my parents' house and drive him crazy until he feeds them catcher's mitt-sized portions of steak, ribs, pork, chicken, &c., &c., whatever's come out of the stainless steel Meat Machine he keeps in the back yard. I explained to Stanley that he's not allowed in the Cheesecake Factory because he'd eat everyone's cheesecake, even the ones with ingredients that could kill him. He still sulked.
Sunday, June 27, 2010
Went for a nice little run on the East Bay Bike Path and tried to snap a picture while running. This is the best I could do: blurry. Couldn't get any shots of rabbits, unfortunately, which are both plentiful and cute.
Thursday, June 24, 2010
For the first time in nearly a year, I picked up a geocache. Briefly described: geocaching is a treasure hunt game where people hide objects in public places worldwide (the objects usually being small containers containing a log book and, if it's a big enough container, some trinkets). The hiders post the exact GPS coordinates of the hidden object online (usually Geocaching.com). You look up the coordinates, use a GPS device to take you to the spot, find the object, and sign and date the log book. The goal is partially to find the hidden stuff, and partially to discover a new place or rediscover an old one.
Like the above. On a lark, I looked up geocaches around my office and found that there was an easily-found one hidden literally within a stone's throw of my office building. I can walk to it in about a minute and a half from the parking lot. So after work, I did that -- walked over, found where the cache was hidden, and started to search. I found the geocache immediately, a hidden photo film canister buried up to the cap in the ground containing only a rolled up sheet of paper that other geocachers had signed and dated in the weeks and months beforehand, the most recent having visited just two days before. Then I realized I was standing next to what's actually a quite pretty little man-made pond surrounded by marshes and populated by a family of ducks, on the shore a bench and a worn spot in the grass where there was once a gazebo, since torn down. I've been working in that building for four years and had never noticed it was there.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
One is going east, and the other one's going west, so what?
Monday, June 21, 2010
Nik, the dogs, and I went for a walk in one of the happiest places on earth, Bristol, R.I. It's right by the water, got a beautiful bike path, historic homes, a center stripe down the street painted in red, white, and blue. It's so quaint and New Englandy it gets stuck in your teeth.
But what a view.
A day in quaint New Englandyness makes one hanker for barbecue. I just found out the other day during an aborted barbecue session that my propane grill is half-busted, specifically the right half. I've never been entirely happy with it anyway, and the other day we saw Home Depot was having a sale on charcoal grills -- I could pick one up for what I had in my wallet. Ever since I've had a house I wanted to have a charcoal grill. So we swung by and picked one up, and it's been pleasantly smoking away ever since.
Not the whole time. We did cool it down after we were done cooking.
Saturday, June 19, 2010
"You are entering the vicinity of an area adjacent to a location. The kind of place where there might be a monster, or some kind of weird mirror. These are just examples; it could also be something much better."
Thursday, June 17, 2010
Monday, June 14, 2010
Nik and I took the dogs for a 6-mile run out to a relatively remote neighborhood where the intrepid wanderer can see cows — actual full-size bovines maintaining a quiet dignified life within the limits of this city of 92,000 people, many of them (the people) packed sardinishly in tenements, 4 or 5 to a bedroom, babies sleeping in dresser drawers and all that. Or so I've heard. Downtown there's no green and there's scag and hookers and people knifing each other over cockeyed glances in the bars and old people with oxygen tanks jockeying for the best bench spot under the lamppost, and yet a couple of miles away (less than 5 surely) you have these massive creatures grazing all day, puttering about without much purpose, and sitting on their fat asses. It's not so different, really, when you think about it.
Myrna took a lesson from the cows and sacked out on the couch, rolling on her back, pushing my computer off my lap, and demonstrating how her underbite hangs. We'd get her braces for that, but there's no room in the budget for orthodontic appliances at the moment.
Stanley jumped half on top of Myrna's stomach and half on my lap to smell my breath. I don't know what charge he gets out of it, but it pleases him anyway.
Sometimes even when I succeed I feel like a failure. For instance: Our old faucet had a drip. I tried to fix it and couldn't. The drip became a flood. A pipe broke off while I tried to cap it, and we had trouble getting a plumber in, so we were without running water for two and a half days. There's a very limited selection of new faucet options for us because we need a two-hole wall-mount faucet and they don't exactly make tons of those -- they're not usually for kitchens. So we ordered a nice, classy-looking faucet in oil-rubbed brass that matched the Victorian look of our slate sink, thinking at least we could improve the look of the kitchen while we're making a mess of things. When we tried to hook it up, it was 1/8 of an inch too small. After some swearing and weeping, we ended up finding this faucet, which looks almost exactly like our old faucet except it's chintzier. We installed it ourselves. It works great, doesn't leak, and now we have running water throughout the house again. But it's chintzier. Conclusion: we can't have nice things.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
On the day I finally got my plumbing fixed (more or less, I mean, it's still not perfect because the kitchen sink doesn't have a—aaah, fuck it, let's move on) I also received a strange visit at my front door from some rough-looking guy. He spoke in strings of short phrases somewhat connected to each other.
"I was driving by, saw your driveway here, I'm working right around the corner on Taft Street, got a load of hot asphalt, there's a lot left over, I could come by, give it to you for half price, lay down a new driveway, 4 inches thick, I wouldn't charge you to dig it up or nothing, my guys can bring it by, dig it up, lay it down, we can be here in an hour, you'll have it nice and brand new, 4-inch thick asphalt, $2.50 a foot, you could park on it tomorrow, just like the highway."
"Right," I said. Parked in front of my house was some other guy in the driver's seat of a truck, not watching.
He handed me a business card (printed on paper) with a website, phone number and email address. I said I'd think about it to get rid of him and he went back to his truck and I went back inside and on the Internet.
It seemed shady, but who doesn't like half-price hot asphalt? I realized, talking to him, that something was wrong for a couple of reasons: One, there's no Taft Street around the corner. Don't give me that — I run or walk around my neighborhood every day. Taft Street is down the South End of Fall River. I'm in the North End. Two, the guy only drove by my driveway yet somehow knew he had enough asphalt left over to cover the whole thing 4 inches deep?
So I tweeted about it and immediately got several replies (thanks @ZenRunner and @NigelRunner et al.) warning me that it was the old half-price asphalt scam. I figured the guy was trying to screw me somehow. Full disclosure: I think everyone who offers to fix things in my house is trying to screw me somehow. But it was the first I'd heard that asphalt scams were, like, a common thing.
Apparently so — I looked it up. The scam is that they either do a shitty job on your driveway that will break easily and won't be guaranteed so you've paid a lot of money for nothing, or they do a shitty job on your driveway and then force you to pay a lot more than you were originally quoted, and since they work without contracts it's either pay or get fucked.
I did very light digging on the Internet and found the following. I'm not going to use his name because I don't want his name coming up in a Google search on my site.
1. The guy's website is very badly designed and has very blurry photos that could've been taken from anywhere. No, I'm not linking to it, because again, I don't want this site connected to that one. But I will steal a typical photo and post it here. What a beautiful whatever-that-is! And look, he's trained kangaroos to operate the machines! Impressive! Wait, those may be humans. It's hard to tell. They're blobbish.
2. The company is from New Hampshire, yet they're working in Fall River. What fuckwit would hire a New Hampshire paving company to do work in southeastern Massachusetts, more than two hours away?
3. According to WhoIs.com, the guy's website was registered by VistaPrint, a company based in the Bahamas that prints business cards, not him. I don't know what the hell that's about, but it's wrong all the same.
4. The phone number on the business card and the phone number on the website were not the same.
5. Google search the address of his asphalt paving company and you get a private residence. Seems unlikely you could run a legit paving company out of a ranch home -- the average kitchen pantry can hold, what? At most 3 metric tons of asphalt?
6. The guy used his real name on the business card and the website. He's on MySpace. Who the fuck is still on MySpace? I'm suspicious right there. (I don't mind linking to his MySpace page because I don't think he could track visitors back to this site.)
7. Among his interests on MySpace are "sex and lots of head." Doesn't say anything about asphalt.
8. He's got multiple arrests for drunken driving and motor vehicle violations, the most recent of which was just a few weeks ago. That explains why there was some other guy driving, I suppose.
The shame of it is, I really do need my driveway repaved. Look at that goddam mess up there in the main photo. Maybe later this year, by someone who's legit. Maybe I can even get it half-price from a BBB-recommended contractor through the usual means: by batting my eyelashes and showing the guys my legs.
I don't usually run downtown because that's not a good enough reason to go there. Downtown Fall River is notoriously lacking any taste, culture, convenience, entertainment. But I went down there with Nik and saw that being added to the mix of pawn shops, struggling niche businesses no one enters, and elderly housing lately is this county courthouse, so new they haven't even taken the wrapper off and no one's yet pissed in the toilets. It's a halfway decent-looking joint (better at any rate than the beige cuboid Brutalism of City Hall) but what concerns me is how out-of-place it looks. It's kind of jammed shoulder to shoulder between a Dunkin' Donuts and some other building to the south in a spot that once held the now demolished South Main Place -- a typical Brutalist design itself, flat and squat with large and impenetrable, opaque, smoky brown panes of 1970s glass like the lenses of old men's glasses and walls inside and out of raw brown concrete, the most unfriendly and unwelcoming mall in history, everything brown, like a cross between an indifferently designed insurance office and a second-tier Soviet government building, utterly utilitarian and purely functional and harsh, oppressively fluorescently lit, a dingy and joyless hell colored by my impressions of the last time I'd been inside as a kid, because that's where my dentist was: inside South Main Place was very little and poor quality lighting, revealing that there were few stores and even fewer people inside not so much shopping as somehow trapped there, with the one bright skylighted spot shining on a single escalator that provided the one bit of fun. The courthouse is an improvement, but it seems to have no room to breathe. It's curled in on itself as if it's more trying to fit in its small alloted space than because it would look nice.
Whatever. As long as I don't have to go in it.
Friday, June 11, 2010
Tuesday, June 08, 2010
Few minutes, my ass. I can't fix things in a few minutes. Nothing in my house can be fixed in a few minutes, not even light bulbs. One of the joys of having a house that's 109 years old is that everything keeps falling the fuck apart in highly dramatic fashion. When old things keep falling apart, little DIY jobs become weeklong clusterfucks. Cheap fixes become outrageously expensive without my even realizing it.
This was supposed to be a simple washer replacement. Step 1: Turn the water off. Step 2: Pop the handle off the faucet. Step 3: Remove the -- actually, it's not worth explaining further because I didn't get past Step 1. The faucet handle couldn't come off, no matter how much I twisted, pulled, hit it with a hammer, called it vile names, wept, pleaded, called it more vile names, hit it with a hammer again, wept again.
Long story short, I've taken the passive-aggressive route to fixing it. We hated the faucet anyway, so we ordered a new one. It should be here in about a week. See what I mean? Cheap fix becoming expensive? Weeklong clusterfuck?
Sunday, June 06, 2010
Thinking about it now, I'm almost sorry I didn't set up a third camera to take a picture of me taking the picture of Nik taking a picture of the painting she painted of me, but am somewhat relieved as that could've caused a dangerous rift in time and space. In the portrait, I like to think my figure is taking a mental picture of Nik taking a picture of the painting she painted of me and of I, the real me, taking a picture of her taking the picture of a painting which I, the painting me, inhabit and the painting of me (painting-me) itself.
Anyway, the painting in question is below. It matches a self-portrait Nik created earlier this year.
Another run took me to the cemetery by the house again. You ask me, the thing at left looks more interested in free love. Pure rock-hard filth.
Some fucking idiot juggalos left their goddam trash behind also.
Thursday, June 03, 2010
Another run in the cemetery by my house today took me by a monument I've known about for years -- the house-shaped headstone for F.H. Stafford, with all his little Staffords in a row sitting in the front yard.
I'm assuming F.H. was a man. Call me crazy, but that's what I'm guessing.
Click the photo to see the panorama at larger size. This stone is one I've long remembered as striking because it evokes nothing so much as a very large Victorian dollhouse populated by at least one corpse -- possibly all seven of them. You can't help but look at it and wonder where the living room is, pun intended, or where they keep their piano. Are there bathrooms in the afterlife, and if not then where do they brush their teeth? The kitchen sink? That's unsanitary. Dishes go in there. Who mows the lawn? It's so neat. And is there a cellar to this house? Something tells me there is. Would the dead store preserves down there, or would that be too ironic?
Tuesday, June 01, 2010
Myrna eats her food in about four seconds. Stanley lingers over every bite and will finish eating somewhere between 3 and 15 minutes after he started. Myrna often sidles up to him as if to ask if he needs a little help with that, and like a dope Stanley accepts. That's partially why Stanley is so thin and Myrna's so chubby. So we've been training her to sit and watch him eat from a distance instead. As I say, it can take some time.