What Dreaming Gets You

October 1, 2013 at 3:07 AM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment

When I woke up this morning, you were on my mind–
And When I say “you,” I mean my writing. If anything abstract deserves anthropomorphism, that would be it. The guy’s an asshole. I’m not even going to dwell on that, because writing about writing instead of actually writing is like talking about masturbation instead of fucking. Senseless, bro.
But when I woke up this morning, it was about 330 am, and I couldn’t get back to sleep. The dream I woke up from was probably allegoric in some fashion; it was about alien abduction. We all know how that can get in the way of a promising writing career.
After I got up, coughed up some phlegm and pissed, I had a small drink of water and tried to go back to bed. The windows of the house are open, and it is a reasonably comfortable fall night. That means it’s a little stuffy in the bedroom, but whatcha gonna do? I tossed and turned for an annoying 20 minutes as thoughts percolated through my skull.
I could write this alien abduction thing. That’s an interesting story. Or not. But maybe it’s part of another story. My thoughts came quickly, but made a long, banking curve:
I need to get off my ass and write, and get something written that can be published, and I need to do that before I die of being an asshole.
I’ve been stuck on the story I’m currently working on, but I know (kind of) where it’s going and I have (sort of) a general idea of what to fix in the rewrite. NOnetheless it doesn’t speak to me as much as it did when I started.
Should I scrap it? Start over? Start on something else? It’s a great idea for a first novel, I think, and I have plenty of other ideas to work with. But that was the one that was supposed to be my first.
Of course, there were others that were going to be my first as well. My mind keeps going back to the one that I feel I have the most done on. Maybe I should finish that story. Maybe that’s where it’s at. But I didn’t want that one to be my first one; I wanted *that* one to be published.
But maybe that can still happen. I don’t know-I’m going to work on it, put it together. If I do, I’m going to end up taking all the BS down from this site, because a lot of the story is here.
Don’t tell anyone.

A Deep, Cleansing Breath. With Menthol.

September 19, 2013 at 10:54 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment

They say that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
Maybe it does make you stronger, but it’s really going to piss you off first.
I don’t know where it came from or why it exists, but there is this…fairy tale, this adage, this meme that existed long before the word “meme” existed–about the starving, suffering artist. You know the one.
The guy who lives in squalor, he’s poor, he’s got relationship trouble or whatever–maybe he slices off an ear. His own or someone else’s, it doesn’t really matter.
What the hell is the reason?
Part of it, I know, is that many artists *feel* they need to be in turmoil. Most of that is just angst and bullshit, brought upon themselves by poor decision-making. You don’t have to be smart to be an artist, and most of them aren’t.
And because artists are susceptible to suggestion, by and large they buy into the cultural stereotype of how artists are perceived to be, and it becomes a circular self-fulfilling prophesy.
Unless you’re too old and jaded to buy into it.
The starving artist thing–for one, do I look like I’m starving?
But it makes me wonder: did I, for all of these years, forsake pursuing the purity of my art in favor of a more comfortable life, i.e., a job, a career, a family, a house, and so forth?
Maybe I can chalk all of that up to “life experience” and research. Almost fifty years of it, man, and I’ve done a lot of things. Even as tepid and timid as I am, as fearful as I am of taking chances, I’ve had some wonderful, amazing, scary times in my life.
Experience.
So what am I supposed to do with it now? Well, I guess I’m supposed to get off my ass and write. Or sit my ass down at the keyboard and write. If only someone would take dictation for me, transcribe everything, edit it, and then go ahead and get it published for me. Then direct-deposit the check.
So that’s where I am now–I’m having more life experience. I’m beginning to live the dream of the starving artist.
And I use the term “artist” fairly loosely, and I don’t think I actually mean it. I don’t know-maybe I do. I don’t know if you know any other artists, but I’ll tell you something about the ones I do know, or the ones I do know *of*:
There is a fair amount of conceit going on in their brain.
Exhibit A, most of the ridiculous actors in Hollywoodland that is so pretentious and full of themselves they have to wear sunglasses to look in the mirror.
Exhibit B, anyone who creates something–writing, painting, performance art, or underarm farts–ultimately wants it to be seen and appreciated by an audience.
Hell, everyone wants a LIKE on their status updates. But this goes beyond that. This is *more.* Artists are vampires that feed on the accolades of people. They need to be loved and appreciated to survive.

Oh, good Lord. I think this is getting out of hand. First, some people are going to read this and think I mean me. And I do. Some people are going to read this and think I am painting all artists unfairly with this broad brush.
And I am, but not unfairly. If you have an artist as a friend or in the family, and you think they aren’t like this, either you’re delusional or they hide it well, or both.
And if you are an artist and claim not to be like this, they you are either completely delusional or you aren’t really an artist.
But I don’t mean any of this in a derogatory way. Mostly. Maybe you perceive the connotation to be thus, but I had to lay that groundwork to complete my thesis, such as it is. What’s my point? Here’s my point:
If you create a piece of…something, but no one ever sees it, is it art?
Much like a tree falling in the forest–it has to be seen and heard, or read, or somehow experienced.
Creating is what artists do. We take what we have–experience, ability, popsicle sticks–and turn them into something whose sole purpose is to be appreciated. To be looked at, listened to, felt, or however else the media is intended to be experienced. And I say “media” on purpose, because art is not just a form of expression, it is a form of communication.
And that’s why I don’t mean it in a derogatory fashion when I talk about the narcissistic nature of artists. It is the purest form of communication we know, the giving of ourselves. It’s what we do, it’s in our nature, and good or bad, we can’t help it.  We have something to say, something to share–something to show the world–
So here I am now, living the life of an artist. I’m too poor to go down to the coffee shop and sit and write–and I swear to God I can’t get a cup of coffee from Starbucks that I can stand. Instead I sit up at night, or in the morning, or in the afternoon–whenever I have alone time–and I write.
Right now I’m in the tragically hip phase, where I am hyper-aware of my situation and how I am perceived, where I talk about writing and write about writing without actually creating anything. That’s right–what you’ve just read is little more than nonsense, barely above typing practice, and if it is anything useful at all it serves as sort of a Zen clearing of the mind, a rinsing of the palette so that I can get on with the actual work of creating.
I hope it works.

Californication

September 16, 2013 at 9:16 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment

The life of a writer is a fair bit of fiction, highly romanticized and not at all like what it is portrayed as in fiction or movies or television.
That seems kind of ironic, seeing as how those media are created by the duplicitous lying writers themselves. The bastards.
Yeah, I’m one of them–or I consider myself one, anyway. Writing is one of the few occupations in which the only credentials you need are self-delusion. You only have to *say* you are a writer, and BOOM! – you’re a writer.
What do you do?
I’m…I’m a writer.
Have you written anything I would know?
I don’t know–have you been in a bathroom stall lately?
Well, what have you published?
Oooohhhh…Published. Published is a whole different matter. Published separates the true artists from the odorous masses. Being published is what leads to fame–and more importantly–to being paid.

Blogs are like assholes. Everyone has one and no one gives a shit about yours.

The Internet, and the disease which sprang from them called blogging, has been a boon to the hipster-types and other disaffected youth who feel that they are artists–
No, LISTEN to me: They really *feel* like they are artists. They have something to say. Some unique perspective on life. Some inexorable, undeniable truth about society beats mightily within their individual chest cavities but collectively seeks the light. A story to be told. A narrative to be read. A song to be sung. A limerick to rhyme.
Maybe I’m talking shit about all of the talent-less assholes out there vying for your attention, and maybe I’m one of them as well. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was fourteen, I think. And again since I was sixteen. And again when I was 19.
And so on.
Here it is over thirty years later, and I’m not really a writer in the strict biblical sense. I mean, I’ve written–Lordy, has I written!–but I’ve yet to be published in any meaningful sense that I can point to. other than this fucking blog.

The surest way to keep a secret is to publish it on a blog that no one reads.

All these things I talk about I am also guilty of, and I know it. I’m perfectly at ease being a hypocrite.
I’ve made a lot of false starts–and here I am yet again writing about another one–but usually it’s because life gets in the way. Life. A job. A family. Paying bills. Crises after bloody crises. But I have poured my heart on my blog.  The bare, naked truth.  Within reason.
They (the various experts in the field) say that you have to write for yourself. Sounds like bullshit to me. They also say you have to know your audience, and write for them. They seem a bit fucking bipolar, if you ask me.
Well, I have done both. I have written for myself, and I have written for an audience that was occasionally there. I wrote the most when I was going through a tumultuous period in my life, and it helped me to get it out. That was the part that was for me.
And then I managed to get some feedback from a few devoted fans on the internet, and they liked what I had writ. That part was for them.
That part was for me also, because nothing makes you feel good like getting accolades from random people for something you created. It nurtures the narcissist within.
Being a writer, or trying to write, or trying to continue writing, or having an eye toward eventual publication…is a lifelong dream of mine. It’s also like a hobby that I don’t get to do. Like the guy who is obsessed with golf, but works 80 hours a week and never gets to play.
I feel your pain, bro.

I can’t sit here and say that I’m going to start writing now, because I’ve done that so many times before it’s not even funny. It’s ridiculous. I’m a fucking tease. My brain keeps teasing my heart and saying it’s going to give it what it wants–
But never does.
So I’m not going to do that. I have a book I need to work on. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t. I have 47 other books to work on. Maybe I will, maybe fuck you.
But I do have this. I have this blog, this god forsaken hole in the Internet that I’ve laid claim to. You can go back and see all that I have written, and all that I have gone through, and it is an abundance of life experience.
I’m going through something now–I’m out of a job. And I appear to have time to write about it, because–once again–I’m out of a fucking job.
So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m getting back to my roots. My blog roots. Bloots. It’ll be funny, it’ll be sad, it’ll be at once bitter-sweet and ridiculous, because that’s my wheelhouse.
I recently watched six seasons of the show “Californication,” virtually back to back. Of course there is an abundance of sex and drug use and nudity. Still, I identify with the main character. Hank Moody is a writer, and he is haunted by the choices he has made, and these ghosts cause him to continue to have deficiency in decision making, and he left as the product of the life he has led.
But he is a writer, so he gets to be all soul-searching and introspective about it.
At the very least, that’s what I get to do also.

My Brain Is a Troll

July 23, 2012 at 6:18 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
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“I can do that for you.”
I honestly didn’t even think about it at the time, but afterward I just couldn’t believe the words that came out of my mouth.
My ex had called asking about the status of child support for the month.  It’s a fair question–sometimes I don’t always have all of it, and she’s pretty good about working with me.  This month I wasn’t going to have “all” of it, in the strictest sense of the word, but in August I would be able to make that up–
“The reason I ask is–”
She explained that her car needs a fuel pump.  Our older son is a mechanic and *could* do the work; however, they’ve had a falling out over ridiculous family stuff.  Typically, a fuel pump is an expensive endeavor.
Well, hell–I had done my fuel pump recently.  Logically, therefore, I am experienced in this kind of thing.
“I can do that for you.”
It was too late; I was in.  We arranged for me to get the car from her second job that night–a Friday–so that I could start on it early Saturday morning.
My question was this:  so the fuel pump isn’t out completely–the car still runs?  Yes, apparently so.  Very rough.  Be careful on the drive home.  The thirty-five mile drive home.
She had already bought the fuel pump (which was four hundred dollars, for crying out loud).  To take it to a shop the total for parts and labor would have been eight hundred.
So I get up early Saturday and I start to work on it.  Okay, not really.  I got up around eight am.  I had intended to get up at six.  I didn’t actually start on it until eleven.
To change a fuel pump in most modern cars, you have to take out the fuel tank.  So, you have to jack the car up and then drop the tank down.  I eventually got the car up on three jack stands:  The back end raised up, and then the front of the side I had access to I raised so I had room to get under the car.  The front left wheel was still on the ground, and I had it blocked.
Okay.  So, to change a fuel pump you have to drop the gas tank, because the fuel pump sits inside the gas tank.  It’s held up by four bolts, but that is typically not the problem.  What *is* the problem is the other stuff connected to it:  the gas lines, the return lines, the wire harness, and so forth.
The fuel-line related crap will be my death, if I’m lucky.
I did dick around quite a bit on this job.  It shouldn’t have taken me this long–maybe my heart wasn’t really in it.  After I agreed to do it on Friday, I made that call to my girlfriend to explain to her what I had agreed to do.  She was cool with it.  I suppose.
But I worked on it and worked on it, and took a break and worked on it some more, and took more breaks.  I’ve skipped over a lot of what I did, partly because it was long and boring, and partly out of embarrassment over my incompetence.  Here it was after 430 and I finally got the fuel tank down and out and completely separated from the car.  By 530 I had the gas tank up on the tailgate of the truck so I could work on it, and had the old fuel pump removed.  After only 6 1/2 hours, I was exactly at the half-way point, and ready to begin re-assembly.  But–but it shouldn’t take as long to put it together as it did to take it apart.  A big part of that was the learning curve:  I was pretty experienced with this now.  What possible curves could I be thrown?
BY eight pm that night, I was ready to call it quits.  I was also ready to set the car on fire and climb inside it.  Why would I do that?  Why, to keep from getting mauled by bears, silly.  Simple logic.
Things had not gone well.
The new fuel pump had gone easily into the gas tank.  The gas tank was close to empty now, having gone through three separate siphoning sessions.  I had five small gas gans with a combined 8 gallons in them.  Now it was ready to go back in.
There are actually three pieces to this:  the gas tank, the heat shield, and the brace.  I don’t understand why they are three separate pieces, except perhaps to make my life more difficult.  I believe everything happens for a reason, and this is the reason for most things.
I have to pry, bend, push, force, twist, and finagle the pieces up into almost-position, going around miscellaneous parts like the exhaust.  Once in almost-position, I got the jack and the plywood to hold the tank while I fastened the bolts.
  “Talk about ‘bolts.'”
Talk about bolts?  Okay.  Four bolts hold the contraption up.  Two of them, toward the front of the vehicle, are easy to get to and don’t cause a problem.  The other two, toward the back, are assholes that mock me with an arrogant smugness that I expect from metric bolts.  Which these are.
They are in a position such that parts of the suspension apparatus blocks a direct path to them.  I can’t go straight to them with a socket and extension.
I did finally find a way with a universal joint–a tool for sockets that swivels about in all directions like a sexually confused screwdriver.  I get the tank attached.  Things are moving along swimmingly.  It’s about 630 now, and all I need to do now is attach all the little wires and hoses and connectors and things.  Easy-peasy.
By 8 pm, I had more than given up.  There is a level past demoralized.  Three steps beyond having the wind taken from your sails.  This was cellular defeat, a resignation on a glandular level.
I mean, how could–how does–why…why is this always my fate?
I started with what expected to be the hardest part, and at least I was right about that.  The other parts were in plain sight, but the tube to the fuel filler and corresponding filler vent line were positioned in a slightly inaccessible area, because why make shit easy?  In relative terms, the fill tube *was* easy, taking only 20 minutes of excrutiating and painful manipulation of a rubber tube onto a plastic circle.
Now for my descent into madness:
I would learn the name of the next part through my research online.  It was the “filler vent line.”  Obviously, the gas filler tube needs to be vented.  Okay, then.  I remember I had disconnected it, but I certainly don’t remember how, although I was certain there was a clip involved.  This right here, this little U-shaped piece of plastic.  It fits in the union somewhere–probably those little holes–and keeps it together.  That makes sense.  I’ve done this before.
Picture this:  You’re laying on your back, looking up.  That’s how ALL of this is.  Straight up there is the gas tank, and the filler tube and the filler vent tube.  They come from the gas tank, to your left, and go to your right and disappear.  What is blocking your view of them is a large and immovable piece of the car’s suspension.  I have no idea what it is, but I named it the “goddamn sonuvabitch.”
There is also a bar, or rod, that runs through there, that I’ve affectionately nicknamed “the other mother-fucker.”
Between the goddamn sonovabitch and the other mother-fucker I had an inch to play with.  An inch in which to stick a finger, which almost an inch thick–and push a clip into a tiny hole.
My fingers are beat to hell right now.  I tried to push the clip in.  I tried to balance it between my fingertips.  I tried a pair of pliers.  I tried another pair of pliers.  I tried these long, skinny tweezers I have.  I really thought those were going to work.
I tried a ball of tape, stuck to the tweezers, to hold the clip in the right position.  Didn’t work.  I took a piece of heavy duty aluminum foil and forged it into a tool to hold the clip at the exact angle I needed, bent to go around the goddamn sonuvabitch and past the other mother-fucker.
None of it worked, until I did the last thing.  That accomplished something.
The clip would occasionally fall out of whatever I had it in, trying to position it at this connector so I could push it in.  It would fall, bounce off of my glasses and then hit the driveway, which I was laying on.  I would pick it up, curse, and try again.  In fact, I was cursing a lot.  I was cursing so much that I had given up on American and had switched to Mother England.
“Bloody ‘ell!  Limey cunt!  Bugger off!”
All of this until the last time it fell.  After the last time it fell, I felt a sense of calm and serenity.  Because, after the last time it fell, I was done for the day.
It was almost 8pm, and starting to get dark.  I had already run the extension cord and the trouble light out to go under the car with me.  The concrete was no longer blisteringly hot, and although I had been protected for the most part by lying on sheets of cardboard, my legs and shins were scraped up and red from traversing the concrete, and the back of my head was tender and sore.  I had no idea if it was sunburn or friction burn, from dragging it on the concrete as I moved about under the car like a large, tempermental salamander.  Without a tail.
And so it was that I was making my last heroic effort to insert this clip into this connector, and it slipped from my grasp and it fell.  It didn’t land on my face.  It disappeared.
I put my hand up between the goddamn sonuvabitch and that other mother-fucker and felt around on top of the goddamn sonuvabitch.  I didn’t feel the clip, but I felt something else.
A hole.  Fuck me.
I crawled out and got out of the way, and then I took the light and looked around on the ground carefully to be sure it hadn’t fallen somewhere else.  No such luck.
The little bitch of a clip fell into a hole in the top of the goddamn sonuvabitch, and there was no way in hell I was going to get it out.  I am done.
I make that call to the ex.  Yeah, she has to work Sunday morning, but she can get a ride.  I promise to get it to her while she is at work.
But, of course, I’ve broken promises to her before…

Sunday morning I wanted to get up very early and start on it.  However, Saturday the thing had beaten me to death physically as well as spiritually, and I wasn’t anxious to climb back into the ring with it.  It was going to be a hot day today, also; Saturday I had been lucky that it topped out at 90 degrees.
I decided to have a look at it in the light first, and then head up to NAPA auto parts.
Now, the difference between auto parts stores may not be obvious to everyone–especially women.  But let me tell you that the difference is as nuanced and as important as the difference between, say, different clothing stores that a man might look at and say, “There’s no difference.”
If you just need some shit for your car, go to Autozone.  Or Advanced, whichever you happen to be pointed in the general direction of.  If they don’t have it at one of those, try O’Reilly’s.
If you need something hard to find, or you need a question answered, go to NAPA.  That’s where I went.
One guy working, and he’s busy.  I look around, then go stand in line.  When he gets to me, I explain what I need.  He takes me to the end of an aisle that I guess I didn’t look at.  I’ll start here, and figure out what I need.  Thanks.
I sat on the floor for about 15 minutes.  I’m working on a Chevy, but what I need looks to be marked Ford.  Plus there are different sizes, and the differences aren’t very big.  If I had the one I lost, I’d know what size I need.
If I had the one I lost, I wouldn’t need one.  Logic is a bitch.
I considered buying a package of all three sizes.  Find the one I need.  Make it work.  Fuckin’ aye.  Or…maybe there’s a better way.  On my way out I said to him, “I’m gonna go look again at what I have–I’ll be back.”
My plan (yes, odd to think that I actually have one, isn’t it?) is to grab the camera and the light, get underneath the car, pull the line back and try to get a good picture of it so I can figure out what kind of clip it takes.  Also, my plan is to undo the bolts holding the tank and let it drop out of the way–maybe I can get my hand up in there between the tank and that other mother-fucker, and find the clip.  At the very least, this room should allow me easier access, and I’ll be able to put the clip in.
So I do all of this–get the jack, undo the tank and lower it, get the camera and the light.  I’m all up in there now, and I can see, and I have room–this is going to work.  The two line pieces are together, but I know they aren’t connected.  I go to pull them apart to see–
They won’t come apart.  Well, wait, now.
I put the camera down, and hang the light.  I have both hands free and try again.  THE MOTHER-FUCKING-GODDAMN SONUVABITCH FUCKING ASSHOLE FUCKING BLOODY CUNT MOTHER OF ASSHOLE BASTARDS is connected.  Without a clip.
I hate epiphanies like this, when they come at my expense.  It’s like Bryan from yesterday morning left, and left the other Bryan to struggle with the shit all by himself.  Then–now–Bryan from Saturday morning shows back up with some coffee, acting all non-chalant, and has to explain to the clueless Bryan what happened.
“Oh, yeah, dude–don’t you remember?  That connector for the–what did you call it?”
“Filler tube vent line.”
“Yeah.  I left before you looked that up.  The connector for that didn’t have a clip.  You don’t remember?”
“No, asshole.  I showed up after you did that.”
“Oh, yeah.  Right.  Yeah, no clip.  You push the line in slightly, and squeeze the outside of the connector, and it slides out.  Easy-peasy.”
“I will rip out your fucking pancreas right now and eat it.”
“Why didn’t you just call me?”
I still wasn’t completely convinced.  After all, I am a liar.  I pulled on the connection again, from both ends.  A little play, as stated by spec, but connected.  “I’ll be Darwin’s adopted sister’s bastard child.”
I started to put it all back together, while pondering this issue:  I had that clip for *some* reason.  It *does* go somewhere.
Although it looked to be easy going the rest of the way, I wasn’t going to get my hopes up for any reason–because both the car and my other self conspire against me.
I got the tank bolted back up.  Again.
It looked to be just a couple of electrical connectors that snap back together, and these two gas lines.  Hey, one has a clip and the other one doesn’t.  Just drill a hole in my ribcage and fuck me in it.  Tendlerly.  Make me feel like a woman.
The connectors look identical, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be.  I took the clip out of the one that had a clip.  Now I have something to match it up to.  I went back to NAPA.
When I pull up, there are no customers.  The one guy working by himself is having a smoke outside.  He  starts to put it out.  Pointing to my own smoke, I say, “Hey, you don’t have to rush off on my account.”
While we finished our fags, I gave him the abridged version of my sad story.  “So now I have a clip to match to.”
We look, but we don’t find exactly what we need in the packages.  However, above them are pieces of gas line with connectors, with clips.  They range in price from 16.99 to 24.99.  He said, “I think this is the one you need.”
He takes it up to the counter, opens the package, and pries it out.  It is an exact match.  Wow.
He said, “Here, just take it.  I’ll write this off as a defective return.”
“Really?  God love ya!  Thanks, man!  Thanks!”
I was still too…cautious–or skittish, actually–to get my hopes up for the entire project, but this part was going well.  Back under the car, I put it all back together.  Okay, then.  I pulled all the tools out from under the car…but there was no way in Somalia I was going to put them away just yet.
My girlfriend came out and we did the test–I listened at the gas tank while she turned it over.  Yes, I hear the fuel pump.  Of course, it didn’t start and I didn’t expect it to because all the gas was sitting outside the tank in my gas cans.  I poured the gas back in the tank.
Then I go to start it.  I don’t expect it to start right away because it needs to crank to get fuel back into its system–
It started up before I could finish that thought.  Awesome.
Okay, now I can take it down off the jack stands.  And take a shower.  And then return it.  It was now about 1230.  I had fucked with it for about three hours today, total.  Plus twelve hours yesterday, unless I’m bad at math.  Wait.  Nine hours yesterday.  If I had been smart, I would have been done after 5 hours.
Hell, if I had been smart, I wouldn’t have done the job in the first place, now, would I?
The book says this is a two hour job, maybe three.  That’s being a professional mechanic with all the tools and equipment available.  I’m not a professional.  All I’ve shown is that tenacity is not always a virtue.
I returned the car to my ex, and she was very happy, very grateful.  I guess that’s worth something.  I know I saved her about 400 bucks, and that’s a lot to people like us in days like these, when we live not quite paycheck to paycheck.  I’d rather have her on my side, have her cut me some slack when it comes to child support and so forth.  Maybe earn some respect from the kids for it.  I don’t know.  I don’t know why I did it.  I didn’t really think I was that good of a person–
And I still don’t.

Circling the Drain

June 21, 2012 at 10:22 PM | Posted in Journal | 1 Comment
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After my fiasco with the plumbing in the kitchen–

And allow me to digress, ever so briefly, and tell *that* story:

In the course of the remodel, what I imagined the biggest hurdle would be was not cutting a hole in the wall and putting a door in, or taking out a window and framing it up, and putting in a smaller window, or even cutting a new doorway through an interior wall and closing off the old opening.

No, what I imagined the most difficult part was would be taking out the sink base and putting in a new corner cabinet and the new sink base and re-arranging the plumbing underneath.

And I was right.

Our basic plan–indeed, our philosophy–for the kitchen remodel is a complex paradigm that combines DIY and bargain hunting and recycling.  We don’t have much money–hell, we don’t have *any* money–so even though we aren’t out a lot financially, because we have had to cave, acquiesce, make concessions, and in general give up on our hopes and dreams, our style of kitchen remodel can best be described by these two words:

“Loser Pays.”

And boy, have we paid.

So far, we haven’t had to buy any new cabinets.  We reused some of the old ones, re-purposed a few, and a friend of mine gave me some for free, to clean out her garage.  The sink base I got for free from her daughter for helping take it out of her kitchen so that she could put a new stove in.

Some of the cabinets my friend gave me were those “kit” type, and I had used them before:  Laminated particle board with pre-drilled holes and what-have-you, and special parts and pieces to put them together.  Yay.

After taking several weeks off from the kitchen, I was ready to tackle it again–the hard part.  What I wanted to do was this:

Disconnect the plumbing and take out the sink and the countertop.  Take out the sink base, and then cut out the drywall and put in the cement board for the tile backsplash.

Then I was going to put it back together.  But I was going to put in the new corner base cabinet I had assembled, then line up the new sink base where it needed to go.  Because we had changed the window, the sink (and consequently the plumbing underneath it) would have to move so that it could be centered under the window, whose size and position had changed.  After I had it in its new position, I might try to put in the new sink, and also hook up the dishwasher.  There was going to be a space of indeterminate but approximated size for which I would build a custom cabinet, because apparently I do that now.  But that would come later.

Math is fun; too bad this didn’t involve any.

Looking back, I got further than I realized.  Sink and counter out?  Check and check?  Remove old sink base?  Damn skippy.  Remove old tile, cut out drywall, and install new cement board?  Sure, why not?  Work on the electrical in anticipation of the dishwasher and garbage disposal?   Er…in a manner of speaking, I suppose.  Get the new corner base cabinet and sink base installed?

Let me stop you right there, Sparky.

This is where my well-laid plans fell apart like a loose-meat sammich.  Or, it fell apart like a goddamn cabinet that I had assembled and tried to move to the kitchen.

It was Sunday, and I had been at this most of day.  I could see me rounding third base here.  I was moving the cabinet from the garage to the kitchen, and although it was awkward, I was making progress.  Then, the cabinet started to feel a little loose, exactly the way you do not expect a cabinet to feel.

Without warning–other than that loose feeling of which I had previously spake, I suppose–the cabinet completely fell apart, like an over-emotional middle-school girl.

If you can’t kick ’em when they’re down, when can you kick ’em?  I was frustrated as all-fuck, and I knew–I just knew–that this shit was not going to go back together.  I kicked it and stepped on it, flattening it out completely.

It was at that point that I took a break.

At this time I was also enjoying some bronchitis and its subtle transformation to walking pneumonia.  I didn’t know that; I’m kind of oblivious.  As I told my doctor a week later when I finally went to see him, while I don’t have a very high tolerance for pain, long years of marriage has given me a high tolerance for discomfort–I can put up with almost anything.

However, I was beaten at this point.  I took the next day off of work so that I could back up, regroup, and tackle this problem fresh.  We had no sink in the kitchen, however.

At the very least, what I needed was something to hold the countertop up on the end where the corner cabinet was supposed to have gone.  In order for me to not move backwards after all of this, I wanted to be able to put the new sink base in its proper position.  After what passes for careful calculation on my part, I determined that what I actually needed–instead of the 36 inches from the wall that the corner base gives–was 38 inches.  I can live with that.

I then took the old sink base and cut it down to the size I need and put it back together.  This was neither as graceful or as easy as it sounds.  So much for a career as a master carpenter and cabinet-maker.  It looks like torture device, and that’s what it was like to make it.  I put the temporary cabinet in place, then lined up the sink base.  After making cut-outs for the plumbing, I put it in place, attached it to the wall, and shimmed it.

But not the temporary cabinet.  As I said, it’s temporary.  Not only that, I need it out of the way to work on the plumbing.  After I put the sink and countertop on (coincidentally going in exactly the same place as before, so I didn’t have to cut anything off the countertop), I slid the temp cabinet back out, and moved it out of the way.

You see (or perhaps you don’t because maybe I’ve been explaining a lot but leaving out details–who knows?) the drain is loose.  Luckily, where it is loose is in a part of exposed wall, but that is where the temp cabinet goes.  In addition to putting all the plumbing together under the sink–a dubious task at best–I also have to fix this fucking loose pipe.

“Loose” as in “it would spin all the way around if the wall wasn’t in the way.”  Also, It would separate from the main drain by more than an inch if the hole in the wall was bigger.

Since I had time to think about it because I had put off dealing with it, the solution was able to bubble to the surface in my brain.  I had to do the same thing that I had done to the bathroom sink, which the guy at the hardware store told me:  “Yea, verily, thou needest some silicone.  Caulketh that shit up.”

Here’s why it makes sense.  First of all, this is a drain, so it’s not under pressure.  Secondly, it is where two unlike pipes connect:  the plastic from under the sink meets the metal drain pipe in the wall.  This is the same deal that was under the bathroom sink as well.  The only way to join them was with silicone–and it was very likely that it was done in some similar fashion FIFTY YEARS AGO when it was first put in.  I know it has not been touched since then.

I still had the silicone tube from when I did the bathroom.  It’s like fate, only in a good way.  So, here we are, it’s Monday, and we’ve already been without a kitchen sink for two days.

So I get all the shit, and I get ready.  You know, some of this I know I’m not smart enough to figure out on my own.  Luckily, one of the voices in my head is a mechanical engineer.  Saul–he knows some shit.  I take the utility knife with me when I go to lie on the floor under the counter behind the sink between the stove and the wall with the silicone and gun, a towel, some cleaner, a sponge, and a bowl of hot water.

First, I take the utility knife and cut more of the drywall away.  I need to be able to get at the pipe from all sides, and this cut out is only as big as the pipe.  Somewhere my subconscious said to me, *You’re going to be frustrated as a mother-fucker and not be able to get the caulk all the way around if you don’t give yourself some room.*  Damn, I’m smart.

I cut some drywall away, and then I use the rag and cleaner and stuff to clean the contact points between the two pipes.  It says here on the directions to “Thoroughly clean all parts where application will be made, for better union.”  Or some shit like that; I’m not going back to read it again.

Silicone caulk is like…imagine peanut butter grown from peanuts in Hell.  The very properties that make it good at what it does make it fun to work with.  It sticks to everything, especially things you don’t want it to stick to, like a hairy arm.  No, it doesn’t wash off–that’s the point.  I get it all up in between the two pieces, pull them together, and then I run another bead around the outside of it and smooth it down with my finger.  Done.

Of course, I won’t know if it has a good seal until tomorrow, because it has to set for 12 hours before being used.  Twelve hours–but I tell them 24.  All that is left is to hook the stuff up under the sink…and I’m going to wait on that.  I don’t any assholes (I don’t know about you, but my house is full of them) accidentally running water, or forgetting and pouring something down the drain.  These people–let’s say *some* of these people–are idiots about anything mechanical, like a drain, or steps, or a door knob.

When I had first taken it all apart–disconnected the sink from the plumbing–I found out why the kitchen sink drained slowly.  When I took the J-trap off, I found a goddamn fork, with so much hair around it (plus a piece of spaghetti) that I thought it was a mouse.

All of this is because of Kim’s mom–my eventual mother-in-law.  I guess she’s so old that she was born before plumbing so she doesn’t really get how it works.  Plumbing–drains, anyway–are mostly gravity.  Maybe she was born before that, too.

So I let it set, and Tuesday after I get home from work, I put the plumbing under the sink back together.  Easy-peasy.  Too easy–

I run the water, and I watch the drain.  The connection in the wall was what I was most worried about, but under the sink there are one, two, maybe eight or ten connection that can possibly leak.

It was all good.  Unbelievable.  I examined it closely with the trouble light.  No drips, no leaks.  I was already lying on the floor with my head up under the sink.  Slowly, I lowered my head and rested.  If there was a patron saint of plumbing, I would have converted to Catholicism right then.

With everything right in the world, I put the temp cabinet back into place and then put the stove back into place and hooked it up.  I picked up all the tools and parts and things and got them out the kitchen so that it could operate normally again.

Three days–three days–if it wasn’t for the sink base being in position, the entire ordeal would have been a bucket of futility.  With a hole in it.

So now, my original story:

A week goes by, maybe more.  Time is meaningless when you’re in love.  I am informed by the creatures that live below the surface that the sewer drain in the basement bathroom is backing up.  You know, it’s funny:  I don’t even have to ask “What fresh Hell is this?” because I know that it will find me.

I go look at it.  Yes, yes it is.  But it seems to have gone down.  I do an experiment wherein I go upstairs and turn on the bathtub faucet, then come downstairs.  The water, she is no come up.  Que?  I flush the toilet right there.  Nothing moves.  Well.  I must be a genius.  It seems that through my inaction, it cleared itself on its own.  Yay me.

That was Saturday.  Monday I find out that the sewer is indeed still backing up, but apparently only when the kitchen sink is run.  I’m thinking that the fork and the mouse-sized hairball in the drain that slowed it down kept it from backing up.  Maybe I should put it back in?

Well, I worked late on Monday, so I’m not doing anything Monday.  Tuesday we discuss renting a snake from the hardware store.  I don’t have any money, but the Kim’s mom gets her check Wednesday.

Wednesday I was going to do it–but I was just tired.  Beat.  It got later and later, and I wasn’t going to the hardware store to rent the thing.  “How about this:  I can go into work late tomorrow, like ten or eleven.  I’ll get up early and do this with the drain.”  My proposal was accepted.  Good.  I could take my shoes off.  I don’t even know why I put them on.

This morning, I gets up rested and refreshed, and ready to tackle the day.  I figured the hardware store probably opened at seven, but I didn’t get there until after 7:30–which was good, because they actually opened at 7:30.  I would have left and went home if I had to wait half an hour.  I’m not saying it’s smart, I’m just saying it’s what I would have done.

I had done recon on the previous day and knew which one I wanted.  They had a pretty big selection of these to rent, from a 25 foot crappy one for 16 bucks that you turn by hand, to a big 100-footer for over 50 bucks.  The one I wanted was 50 feet, with a motor.  As we make the deal, the guy explains that you can’t snake out the floor drain.

“Uh, why?

“There’s a trap in there, under your floor.  Like the trap under your sink.  But–” he drew it in the air with his finger.  “It has sharp corners, and these snakes will get stuck.  It might damage your pipes, or it might break the snake, and you’d get to pay for it.  I need you to sign here saying that you won’t use it in the floor.”

I thought quickly.  Every year in the spring, we have to have a plumber come out and root out the sewer.  And I don’t remember previous years, but this year he got up on the roof, and went through the vent.  I could do that.

“I’ll take it up on the roof and through the vent.”  Okay.  But I had a question for him.  “So, what if you need to go through the floor–what do you do then?”

He looked straight at me.  “Call a plumber.”

I signed the papers.

I didn’t pay attention to the fact that he had called someone to help carry it out for me–I just picked it up.  He did mention that it was heavy, and good luck getting it up on the roof–it weighs 80 pounds.  I picked it up with one hand and carried it out to the truck.

I don’t think it weighed 80 pounds.  I’ll give it fifty.  Eighty pounds I’m not picking up with one hand and traipsing out to the parking lot with.

When I get home, I bring it in through the gate to the back to the patio.  I sit and have a smoke, and plan how I’m going to do this.  I have it for four hours, but I don’t want it to take four hours.  Or even three.  Two is too much.  It’s a little after eight right now.

I want to test the drains again first.  Run some water in the tub, and see what that does.  Flush the toilet.  Then run some water in the kitchen sink.  Everything but the kitchen sink was negative.  Okay.

I moved some stuff around on the patio, then I got the 12-foot ladder out.  I had Kim’s son stationed in the basement, to holler up to her when the water started to go down.  I had Kim in the kitchen, ready to run water and adjust the level based on need.

Ever carry something heavy up a ladder?

If you have, you know what it’s like.  If you haven’t, I can’t explain the fear, pain, discomfort, uncertainty, and desire to be somewhere else.  There should be a German word that means all of those things at once.

I had already thrown the extension cord up to the roof, like I was trying to lasso a dinosaur.  When I got the unwieldy machine to the roof, I moved to set everything up.  There’s the vent, I want to be near that.  I set everything up, and Kim was watching from the ground.

I said, “Okay.  I’m going to start the snake.  You start just a little water.  When Brandon tells you it’s going down, turn it on more.  Then let me know, so I can stop.”

Maybe she didn’t hear that part.  But I didn’t hear them say it was clear, either.  I just kept snaking.  She finally came out and told me.  Good thing, too–I had about four feet left.

She said it had cleared really fast.  Okay, then.

“If it’s clear, just let the water run for a while.”

Okay, cool.  Done.  I just need to pull this out–

The snake was stuck.

Fuck me.  It’s only before nine AM, but it’s summer and I’m on the roof facing the sun, and it’s fucking hot.  I’m sweating my ass off and working my ass off, and now the thing is stuck.  I considered being able to show the guy at Handyman that even though I didn’t go through the floor, it still got stuck.  I wondered how much one of these cost.  I’d kind of like to have my own, maybe.  If they had come out and shouted to me sooner that it was clear, I would have stopped, and not gotten stuck.  Fuck me.

At one point, Kim came out and watched me, while I tried to get it out.  Yes, it’s stuck.  No, I don’t want to talk about it, or my feelings, or anything.

I worked it  up and down, spinning it, trying to get it free.  At one point the whole machine lifted up and started to go sideways because the snake was spinning and there was no where for it to go.

(An Officer and a Gentleman.  Richard Geer, up on the roof, in the rain, doing sit-ups.  “I got no where else to go!  I got no where else to go!)

I felt like that.

Whoops-what was that?  I had slack.  It came free.  Then I had to pull.  And pull.  And pull and pull.  The snake is actually the heaviest part.  It might have only been stuck a little, and the rest of it was pulling fifty feet of snake back out of the pipe.  It was finally all out, then I wound it back into its nest.

I packed it up to take down, and threw the extension cord down.  I had a plan.  I had Kim on the outside of the ladder, to hold it against listing, and I had Brandon stand on the inside, to my left, to help grab it when I got low enough.

Of course some of that was useless.  For a big boy he sure is weak.  “You got it?  You got it?”  He kept saying yeah, but I still had the full weight of it.  In order for you to “have it” you have to have the weight of it, dumbass.

I was done.  I was sweating my balls off, my back hurt, and I was dirty, but I was done.  My eyes were bloodshot from sweat dripping in them.

I cleaned it off–it wasn’t too bad, actually–and returned it.  Instead of carrying it bare-handed, I grabbed my two-wheeler.  This thing, this whole ordeal, had used me up.  I summed up my feelings for the guy at the hardware store.  “I don’t know if the ass-kicking I got was worth the money I saved by not calling a plumber.”

“Yeah, I hear that a lot.”

The Day the Van Stood Still

August 7, 2011 at 12:07 PM | Posted in Journal | 3 Comments
Tags: , ,

Detroit bought this 1998 Ford Windstar Minivan (3.8L) from my buddy Kearbey, at the same time we bought the Saturn. The Saturn is a different story.
The van has been pretty reliable. It does this odd thing on occasion where it acts like the door is still open, so the interior light will stay on (until you hit 17 mph) and the door chime will go off (EVERYTIME you’re going under 17 mph, like at a stop light, or stop and go traffic) but it doesn’t do this all the time. M–mostly when it’s cold or wet or both.
The alternator went out on it over a year ago, and it was then I had a supreme appreciation for the vehicle: it was phenomenally easy to get to and replace. Front brakes? Been there, done that. Twice. I’m not sure who is harder on the brakes…

Right at the end of June–right when I started my new part time job at the liquor store–I was driving the van to my bank job. When I tried to leave, it wouldna start. Fuck.
I came back later to try a few things. No luck. I called my son Mike, who is a mechanic. He told me something to try that made sense, even though it involved a big-ass hammer. Based on the symptoms I described, he said “Fuel pump.” I cringed, but agreed.
He said the motor in the fuel pump has a weak spot, and it just happened to stop on it. If I hit the bottom of the gas tank with a hammer while someone tries to start it, it could jar it enough to get past that and start working. I might be able to get by and not have to change the fuel pump for a while–it may never stop at that point again.
We tried it, with Detroit at the key and me at the hammer. No luck. Fuck.
Detroit has towing on her insurance, so we had it towed home. However, we waited a week until we got paid, because the way it works is, you pay for the tow and then they reimburse you.
As it turned out, the tow was completely free because the first 20 miles are covered, and it was only 17. So we wasted a week. Fuck.
In the meantime I drove the truck and got rides to work and finagled various things to get rides. We were down to one vehicle.
So I priced fuel pumps. I thought it would be 200 bucks or more, but I found it for 125. Cool. I wish I was certain it was the fuel pump. I was about 95% sure. I tried to get someone to come out and at least hold my hand through it. I gave up, bought the fuel pump, and started the process
Of course, it wasn’t easy. I’m not only not a mechanic, but as it turns out, I don’t play one on TV, either. Plus, if you’ve read the news, the entire Midwest is in the grip of massive heat wave. Between working two jobs and trying to find a cool time to do the work, I was have a hard time. On a Sunday when I had to be at work at 11am, I got up at 530 and worked on it for several hours. I didn’t get it done, but I made progress.
You have to disconnect the fuel tank and drop it down because the fuel pump is inside the tank. Again, fuck.
As I said, I’m no mechanic. But I’m willing to tackle anything. Tenacity isn’t always a virtue. Hell, the simple connectors for the fuel lines had me scratching my head for a while, until I figured it out.
Finally, I get the connectors. That was the hard part. The tank comes down and comes out easily. It’s made of plastic, and there isn’t much gas in it. I get it up on the tailgate of the truck, change the pump, and I’m good to go. I get it back in relatively easily, because although I’m stupid, experience helps and I’ve been here before. I get it all back together, check the hookups, reconnect the battery, give it a crank, and–
It doesn’t start. Fuck.
I try several times, for a few minutes. I’m getting nothing here. It’s cranking, but not getting any gas.
Maybe it wasn’t the fuel pump after all. Fuck. At that point, I was ready to give up. All the wind, she came out of my sails. Combine that with the heat, and I didn’t touch it again for a week.
I called a mechanic guy I know, Pat, who is an old friend of my dad’s. And by old I mean he’s about 75. He told me a few things to try. Okay. I was ready for another attempt. I was going to analyze it carefully, and narrow down the possibilities.
First, let’s see if the fuel pump is working or not. The simplest test is to open the gas cap and listen for it to whir right before the engine cranks. As I recall, that was the one thing that led me to believe it was the fuel pump in the first place. I had Detroit come out and crank it while I listened with the gas cap off.
Sure enough, I heard the fuel pump.
Sure enough, the fucking thing started.
Well, I guess that’s…I don’t know–a victory, maybe? That was Saturday. Of course, I go to test drive it, and the brakes are mushy.
Fuck.
Well, it was low on fluid before, and I had a leak somewhere–I figured it was somewhere in the area where I had changed the front brakes. Maybe something loose. I’ll look it, add some fluid, bleed the brakes–
I added fluid, and was still not getting pressure. I added more, and got nothing. I filled it up. Still no pressure. What’s this? Oh, brake fluid has sprayed all over the underside of the van.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
I jacked it back up to investigate. It looked like it was in the steel brake line underneath the fuel tank. Did I damage one putting it back in? It seemed likely.
I decided to write all this down–now, at this point–to help me back up and regroup, and collect my thoughts and gain some perspective. No perspective yet, but I do have one hell of a headache.
We’re not up to the present yet. Sunday, I think it was, I again wake up early and have several hours before I go to work. I drop the tank again, and get at the brake lines. It actually looks like they are rusted or corroded behind the gas tank. It make sense–in the open spaces they can drip dry, but behind the tank, any moisture is going to be retained longer and cause corrosion. So, at least it wasn’t my fault, in the strictest sense of the word. Sunday night I took them out.
Monday night after work, I go to the auto parts store with the lines in hand, looking for replacement. I end up having to piece them together. Each one is over 9ft long. One is about 9 1/2, and the other is over 10. They are short-handed at the auto parts store, so the girl lets me go in back and worry out how to piece them. It’s hot–their air isn’t working–and I don’t quite know what the hell I’m doing even though I think I do.
I get the parts, and the special tool for bending the tubes. By the time I get home, it’s dark.

I decide to take Tuesday off from my day job. I call my boss and leave her a message Monday night, and then call Tuesday morning and talk to her. She’s cool with it. By the time I called–9am–I had been up for four hours working on it. I managed to get one line pieced together, but not the way I intended. There is some slack in the line. WTF? Okay, I’ll just bend that out of the way. That means I have to go back to the parts store for another piece. Fuck.
So then I’m trying to put together the other line, and something isn’t quite right. There are two lines running to the back, one to each side. The junctions for each of them TAKE A DIFFERENT SIZE FITTING. You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.
My receipts show I made four trips to the auto parts store that day. Although, for the last one, I got money back. Finally, I get it all back together. Looks like nothing left but the bleeding. That was about 10 or 11 in the morning.
Well, one thing led to another, and I didn’t get out there to bleed them until about three. Man, it’s hot. I get things set up, and then Detroit comes out to step on the brakes for me. We do the one on the left, and then it seems fine–it seems tight. We do the other back one just for the hell of it. Just fine.
Well. Maybe–just maybe–since it was all in the back brakes, the front ones don’t need to be bled. I’ll just take it for a ride to see. I start it up and roll back.
There are no brakes whatsoever. I can’t even stop rolling down the driveway.
Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucccccccccccccccckkkkkkkkk!
I put it in neutral, let it roll to a stop. I had to turn the wheel to go into the street, more or less avoiding cars parked on the side. I put it in reverse, and back up a bit, and pop it in neutral. Still going. I feel like sticking my foot out. I pop it into drive, and I go forward. That’s the way I inched myself back into the driveway.
I get out and look under the car. Brake fluid is dripping promiscuously from three or four or seventeen different places.
Fuck.
I decided I would go out there again in a few minutes and do some damage control.

I ate lunch, got more brake fluid, and tackled it again. Either it was cooler, or I was getting used to the heat. I don’t want to become acclimatized to this shit.
I have a routine now. I jack up the back end. Again. I put the jack stands under it. Then I jack up the front left…again. This gives me more room from front to back. Once in a while I think about being crushed under the weight of the vehicle, and I wonder if that’s preferable to the mechanical discomfort I’m feeling. Christ, my head hurts again.
This is the third time I’ve done this part, so by now I’m pretty good at it. I disconnect the lines from the filler, disconnect the gas tank lines, and lower the gas tank just a bit. It looks like it’s just leaking in two spots: One of the connectors at the very front, and one just under the gas tank. Everywhere else seems good. That’s good news and bad news. The good news is, some of it is okay. The bad news is, I can’t just throw in the towel.
By now I’m a little more organized, and I have a plastic tub that has all the tools that I use for this job, which is surprisingly few: Fifteen millimeter socket for the tank straps, a nine for the hoses and also the battery, a small flathead screwdriver for some of the hose connectors, and for the lines themselves, a 13 and a 10.
Those little plastic pieces connecting the fuel lines–I’ve pulled them out and put them back in so many times–shit, one of them broke. It was shaped like a U, now it’s shaped like a J. Fuck.
Well, these are the new ones that came with the fuel filter. Do I still have the old ones? Yes I do. Okay.
From the places brake fluid is leaking, I am able to tighten the connections. Okay, maybe that’s all it was. I push the gas tank just a little (it’s supported by the jack with a piece of plywood on it) and I can get to that connector and tighten it a bit also. Hmmm. Okay. Anything else? Really? That seems to be it. I start to put it back together. The last part is the gas lines.
Oh, remember that plastic piece that broke? I don’t want the other piece to be stuck in there before I put it back together. I tilted the line to have a look–
And gas pours out, onto my face, and into my eye.
Why does good shit never happen in slow motion?
Ouch, this burns a little. In what would be probably my smartest move of the day, I went in the house immediately, limping because of the gas in my eye, and called for Detroit as I went to the kitchen sink and hit the cold water.
When I tell her what happens, she kind of over-reacted. She got the phone book and called poison control.
They said to flush it out with cold water. Check. For 10 to 15 minutes. Uh, check? The best way, they recommended, is to get in the shower and just stand there with the water going in your eye. It doesn’t have to be cold; it could be “comfortable.” How comfortable is water spraying in your eye that has gasoline in it?
The answer is “not very.” But I stood there, and I took it. I felt like I was being water-boarded by some really incompetent foreign agents. Poison control said they would call back in an hour and see how I was doing.
I’m fine, but I still have to go out there and put it back together. And then probably take another shower.
I put it all back together, and it’s now 8pm. In the summer, it’s still light out, but I have about 20 minutes of daylight left. I fill the reservoir, then run the trouble light out and call Detroit out to step on the pedal for me while I look.
The spot up front is still leaking. So is the spot under the edge of the gas tank.
“Okay. That’s good. You can stop.” I roll out from under the van once more, and start to gather my shit up. Detroit looks at me. “It’s still leaking. In two places.”
Fuck-shit-fuck.
By the time I come back in the house, I have collected my thoughts and gathered a strategy. “Okay–we have to have the van fixed by Monday.” Monday is when she starts back to work. “I only work at the liquor store Wednesday night and Saturday night. I have Thursday night, Friday night, Saturday day, and all day Sunday. I am not defeated.
“Yet.”

Thursday night there was an after-work function. I drank about 4 Margaritas in hour, then went home and fell asleep. Being old sucks. Friday after work I should have worked on it, and I was about to, I swear–
It started to rain. I’ll just wait.
Saturday morning, I gets up bright and early, see, planning to have a productive day beating this bitch down. Let’s analyze this: It’s leaking in two spots. Maybe that union is bad, back there…and maybe this other one is just bat-shit crazy and I should replace it.
Let’s see–which auto parts store have I not shown my face in yet?
Well, it doesn’t matter. In one trip, I stopped seven times at five stores. I learned a lot, but here is a synopsis:
*Engineers that design cars don’t give a flying fuck about the people who may have to work on them. If they tell you anything different, they are lying sons a bitches.
*Forget standard and metric. There is also a difference between Japanese metric and European metric. What’s the difference? Fuck you, that’s the difference.
*Everything on cars since sometime in the 80s is metric, except for when they want to fuck with you. Three-eighths of an inch is just a little bigger than 10 mm. Seven-sixteenths is right between 11 and 12 mm. Ask me how I know that. Go ahead and fucking ask me.
I finally have the last piece I need: a union that is European metric. Okay, then. I get back home and I bend the new lines that I have–
Because I had to buy some new lines because there is also a difference in the kind of connectors. There is flare tip and bubble tip. Whatever kind you have is going to be the wrong one.
–and I put it back together. It seems to go well. I have Detroit come out and step on the brakes while I look for leaks.
Success! Is it? Is it really? At this point all I hoped for was to not be mauled by a bear while I’m under the van.
I don’t have enough time to put it all back together. I have to take a shower and go to work at the liquor store. That was Saturday night, last night. I put everything away, and I’ll put it back together Sunday and drive it. I hope.

Sunday morning, I get up early and piddle around a bit. I’m not anxious to see what the gods of mayhem and automotive repair have planned for me today. By mid-morning, I’m on my back under the van.
Uhm…it looks like a drip or two in two spots. Uh…
I tighten them up at the same time that I ignore them. It ain’t easy, unless you’re me. I put everything else back together–the gas tank that I had lowered a bit and moved out of the way, and other random associated things that are probably important to the functional well-being of the vehicle.
Okay. Ready. Detroit comes out once more, and I bleed the brakes, also keeping an eye on the unions for leakage. So far, so good. The back is done. In between each wheel, I add more brake fluid.
And by the way, just adding brake fluid is a chore. See the first thing I learned about working on cars, above. The reservoir is under the hood, underneath crap, so I can’t pour directly into it. Funnel? No, a funnel won’t work either. I have a strip of metal about 18 inches long bent into a trough. I pour fluid on one end, and it pours into the reservoir like a Roman aqueduct.
I bleed the front. All good. All done. All right.
I’m going to take it for a test drive. I pick up the tools, but optimism is one thing that I’m not prepared for, so I don’t put them away. I lower the car to the ground, then get cleaned up a bit–face, arms, glasses, and the back of my head. I’m ready.
I get behind the wheel and I check behind me for obstacles that I could roll into and cause me to die in fiery crash. Here’s hoping.
I turned the key. Whir-rr.
It won’t start.
Of course, it won’t–it’s sat for about a month, running only twice when I knew I had it “fixed” before. I grab the keys to the truck and jump-start it. Okay. NOW are we ready to go?
Detroit is there to see me off. “You wanna come with?” I asked. No, she does not. She doesn’t want to take any chances and besides, she heartily dislikes when I needlessly end a sentence with a preposition.
I start to back up. I hit the brakes. It stops. Wow. I back up more. I hit the brakes. It stops again. I leave. My mission is to test drive it, put air in one of the tires that is low, and put some gas in it, because gas prices came down in the last couple of days.
I did all of this with no problems. My mission was a success. Not only was gas the cheapest I had seen it in several months–3.27/gallon–but as an added bonus, the check engine light that had been on for almost a year was now off.
It’s the little victories that keep you from going on a shooting spree.

I’m Not Even Supposed To Be Here Today

June 27, 2011 at 11:14 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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Maybe it is over, as far as pizza deliver goes.
For now, anyway.
I left Pizza Hut in March, I think.  The anti-climax of all anticlimaxes, I just told them I couldn’t afford to drive to work, and then drive.  Not for what gas prices were–and are still, even though they’ve come down a bit, but not nearly enough.
These are trying times indeed.
But maybe that’s a good place to stop the book, if I were writing one.  Which I am.  At least it’s a good demarcation.  If I’m not currently working in pizza, I can concentrate on going back and filling in the holes in my story.  Sliding back and forth through time like Donnie Darko rattles the senses.  I need to be firmly rooted…in the past.
Speaking of the past, I have a new part time job.  I work in a little mom-and-pop liquor store.  It doesn’t pay much, but it’s not exceptionally demanding, either.  And it reminds me of another job I had oh so long ago.

In 19-
Wait, let me get my time line right.  In 83 I graduated, and went to college in the fall.  In 84 I flunked out.  In the fall of 84 we moved to St Louis.  I think that’s when I got the job.
There was this small chain of convenience stores in the area called “Majik Market.”  The company is long gone, but many of the buildings are still around, still being used by Asians as convenience stores.  The one I used to work at is actually an insurance office now.
I was fairly new here, going to school, and wanted to have money of my own.  My Aunt Gloria (who passed away this last December) was the one that gave me a line on this job.  “Majik Market is hiring,” she said.  “I talked to the manager up there.  You should go apply.”
So I did.
Of course, I didn’t know the reason *why* they were hiring.  At the store on Bellefontaine Road just a few weeks ago, the young woman working the register was shot in the face and killed.  It turned out that the robbery was supposed to be a setup between her and the robber, but he panicked.  Or maybe they were dating.
Either way, suddenly there were openings, and not just there.  A few people got cold feet and quit.  Enter me:  bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, and gullible as shit.
I met the supervisor at the store on Bellefontaine for what I thought was going to be an interview.  Instead he took me down one of the back aisles near the cooler, and essentially had this conversation:
Him:  This job is pretty easy.  You check people out, make coffee, and keep the place clean.  Think you can handle that?
Me:  Sure.  I can do that.
Him:  Good.  Okay.  You need to call this number and set up a time to go to this address for a lie detector test.  Once that’s taken care of, we’ll call when we’re going to have you start.

I didn’t have an interview.  I had a lie detector test.  They may or may not have been illegal then, but they definitely are now, as a condition of employment.
The place was somewhere near the Arena, which isn’t there anymore.  It was late November, and we had a good snow…like 10 inches.  I didn’t let a little thing like that stop me; I made it to my test.
When they do a lie detector test, there is a pre-interview, where they screen some information in order to set up the questions they are going to ask.  That’s where I lied my balls off.  No, I don’t smoke pot.  No, I’ve never been arrested.  Yes, I promise not to masturbate in the bathroom on the overnight shift.
So I got the job.  I wasn’t going to work at the one on Bellefontaine, but rather the one nearer to my house.  The current staff was the manager–some 60-year old woman, and two other guys.  The black guy worked mostly 3rds and a few second shifts.  Let’s call him Ron.
The other guy was a middle-aged white dude.  Ken.  He was skinny and nerdy, and had a chip on his shoulder.  He had been promoted to “assistant manager.”  With four people, I’m not sure what that means.  We all worked by ourselves.  When I was there at 3am, I might as well have been the fucking manager.
This was my first job that didn’t involve bales of hay or fields of beans.  I figured out how to do it–I’m pretty smart–but there was no motivation to work very hard.  I usually had several hours in the middle of the night to do nothing whatsoever.  Not bad for 2.85 an hour.
After a week or so our manager got transfered to another location, and we got a new manager.  Nancy was younger–early 30s–and pretty cute.
We hired another guy after that who was about my age, but he didn’t last very long.  He was there long enough to cover for me (kinda) when I was going to a concert.  I still had to come in, but I could be an hour or so late.  Of course, this was Bruce Springsteen, the Born in the USA tour.  We had to leave before the show was over because he plays so goddamn long.  I’ve only left one other concert early.
I had this other thing going on that was a minor inconvenience, and I didn’t wonder until much later if it was the cause of other problems.  These two dudes I sort of knew would come up there and hang out–just hang out–in the middle of the night.  Like after 1 am until about 2 or 3.  My friends at the time revolved around my cousins and their friends, and these guys were friends of *those* friends.  So it wasn’t even a direct relationship.
They would come up and hang out and try to mooch shit for free off of me.  At first I did let them have some shit, but if you give an inch, they want a sixpack.  I had to start saying no and being a dick about it.  We would get high up there, too.  I think they were just helping me smoke *my* weed.  What the fuck?
Late at night when no one is around it does get boring and a little lonely.  But after a while, I craved to be alone.  They were pests.
Of course you have some regulars.  I learned the hard way that I actually do need to make fresh coffee before 5am, or I have a bunch of pissed off people.  There were also some Section-8 ghetto apartments behind us, so I had people trying to use food stamps for shit you can’t get with food stamps–but they have to try it on the new guy.
My worst times there were the holidays, and I had nightmares about it for a while after that.  We didn’t even HAVE gas pumps, but in my dreams we did.  Thanksgiving was a taste of what Christmas and New Years’ was going to be like.
Remember, this is the mid-80s, and there were not as many convenience stores around then.  And none whatsoever near us.  You decide on Thanksgiving morning you need milk and eggs?  Yeah, so did 140 other assholes in the last hour.
We–or I–got screwed on the holidays.  Thanksgiving was a holiday, but not until 7am that morning.  Working from 11pm the night before until then doesn’t count.  But don’t worry:  everyone has to come in and work about 4 hours so that it’s “fair” and so that everyone gets some home time.  I got off at 7am, and then come back and work from 2pm to 6pm.  That was time and half, that four hours.  If only I could come back again that night–but no, somebody else got the night of the holiday, with the holiday pay.
The same thing happened again for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Years’ Eve, and New Years’ Day.  Fucked, I was.
After the holidays things settled down somewhat.  I worked some thirds and some seconds.  Ron worked all thirds.
Here it was towards the end of February.  There was a crisis at the store.  Also, there was a pretty rough snow storm.  I think all this went down right around my birthday.  When I showed up at 3 for second shift, Nancy said that there was a major shortage at the store.  Not money, but product.  Like ten grand worth.  I think maybe they should count again.  But I had to go down for another lie detector test–everyone did.  Oh, crap.
You know what?  I don’t think there was snow the first time.  I think that was early November.  No snow.  But there was snow this time.  I remember.  This was the big snow.
The next day I drive down, and it had started snowing.  It was late morning.  I get down there for the lie detector test, and the guy giving the test talks to me, so I have to fess up about something.  You know, I’m going to eat in the middle of the night.  I told him that occasionally I would eat something, but that I kept a running total of it, and when I got paid I paid it back.  I showed him the register tape, where I had about 14 dollars worth of stuff on it.  He was totally fine with that, and we did the test.
And then he wanted to make sure–can I get a money order for the amount that I owe, and bring it in?
Uh, sure.  Okay.  I hadn’t done anything else wrong.  This seemed minor, but I was taking care of it.  I went back–I actually had to work that night–I got a money order and I went into to work at 3pm.
With the snow, we were a bit slow.  Which was good, because every time some asshole came in for a pack of smokes I had to mop the floor behind them.
Long about 1030, I get a call from Ron.  I don’t know where he lives, no idea–but he says he can’t make it in.  There is 10 inches of snow, and it’s still falling.  Okay.
So I make the call I have to make.  I guess I called Nancy, but after I told her what happened, Don the supervisor called me, so I could repeat the story for him.  About 1130, Don comes in.
When the supervisor has to come in and work, it’s never a good thing.  When they have to come in and work a third shift, I imagine they aren’t very happy.  But he was the one who was going to relieve me.
He said that Ron no longer worked for us.  Don offered to get Ron a cab, and pay for it, to have him come in.  I guess Ron refused this generous offer.  Okay, then.
So without Ron, I worked third shift.  I worked ALL the third shifts.  For two weeks straight I worked third shift and did not have a night off.  That 14th morning, Nancy came in like always, but she was visibly upset.  Why?
Well, she had to fire me.  She got the call yesterday and was simply told to not put me on the schedule anymore.  Why, she wanted to know.  The fact that I took items without paying for them was theft, a violation of company policy, blah blah blah.  At least I wasn’t responsible for the grand theft–which was still a mystery–and she was relieved about that because we were getting along in a friendly way.  She was cute and I worked harder to try to please her.
So, I violated company policy, and I had to be fired.  But that came to light two weeks ago.  Why wasn’t I fired then?
Oh, because they had just fired Ron, and didn’t have anyone for third shift.  They kept me and strung me along until they could hire my replacement.
Am I bitter?  No.  I was then.  I’m not now.  I learned some things.  Besides, I’m still here, and I doubt Majik Market would turn up anything on a Google search.  Which is the lesson to be learned here, kids.  Don’t fuck with me.  You’ll go out of business.
Eventually.

No Crying In Baseball

June 8, 2011 at 9:46 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I got out the Turtle Wax to get nostalgic about the past.  Summer–I remember the summer of 1976.
Maybe this is my “Sandlot” moment.  Maybe not.  However, fifth and sixth grade are always a magical time in a young boy’s life.
My first crush, Donna Bilyeu.  My foray into a life of crime as a street urchin.  My first development of social interaction.  How did these events shape me, and make the person I am today?

Although I was raised in the country, for two years we lived “in town.”  The differences were vast.
This is the mid-seventies, living in a city in the St Louis Metro East area.  Cars, traffic, hustle, bustle, people, activity–all of these things were a whirlwind that I, an introverted innocent country lad, adapted to easily.
I had a specific memory that I wanted to write about, but others are coming to mind.  I’ve talked about my life of crime already.  This is more about school.
Our school had a playground in front, asphalt, and fenced in to keep us from going out into the busy street.  The back was a very large playground.  Half was asphalt and half was dirt, but during the previous summer the back was asphalted also.  I guess it makes it better to play softball on?
There were two sixth grade classes because this was a big school.  Two male teachers, Mr Dresch and Mr Goldsmith.  I had heard all kinds of scary things about Mr Goldsmith, and didn’t want to be in his class.
So of course I was.  Before school started, the room assignments were posted.  Man, why did I have all the shitty luck?
As it turns out, Mr Goldsmith was a pretty cool teacher.  He was smart, he was funny, and he knew how to communicate with us hooligans.  Although…
One day for PE we are out on the asphalt playing softball.  The large class is divided into two teams, and positions were random.  On this occasion, I was catcher.  I think Goldsmith assigned me this position so I would have some practice throwing and catching, because I was not athletically inclined in the strictest sense of the word.  Or any sense, really.  Goldsmith was pitching.
I’m doing the usual amount of fumbling around that looks like an uncomfortable montage, but for the most part I catch the ball and more or less return it.  Here’s the windup, here’s the pitch–strike two!
I caught the softball in my throat.
Yeah, not in my nuts, which would have been funnier.  So sorry to disappoint you assholes.
Was my windpipe crushed?  It hurt like a sonofabitch.  Was that a fastball?  A fastball with a softball intended for grade school kids?  I was having trouble breathing.  Was I injured, or just hyperventilating?  It was about 35 years ago so I don’t remember what Mr Goldsmith said to me, but the essence of it was, “Man up.  Get back in there and catch.”
Contrast that with how we coddle and pussify our kids today.

The year before that, in fifth grade, I had to deal with a couple of bullies.  Why do they always seem to want to pick on me?  Did I seem that soft?  Was I an easy target?  A pushover?
The first kid I remember his name.  Wayne Welch.  He had dark hair in a crew cut, and a square face.  And he always smelled like pee.  He tried to hassle me a few times, and I didn’t respond correctly, so eventually it just led to him calling me names and occasionally trying to check me in hallway.
Of course, I had 30 pounds on him, and he usually bounced off ridiculously.
The other kid I don’t remember his name.  Let’s call him Stevie.  When I was in fifth grade, he was in sixth.  I never saw him much, except out on the playground during recess, which is really just an exercise in anarchy with a time limit.  He tried to bully me on the playground, and I was timid, so I put up with it.
Ever notice how most bullies aren’t really good at bullying?
I don’t know why–maybe I talked to an older kid and he told me to stand up for myself, and said it in such a way as to be convincing–but one day on the playground, he made his usual advance, expecting a retreat from me.
Instead, I pushed him back.  He pushed me back.
I don’t think I was fat–let’s call it Husky, like the jeans I wore.  Stevie was a few inches taller but possibly weighed less–he was very skinny.
He pushed me back, and I punched him.
He had a look of complete shock on his face, like he had just woken up and I was standing over him.  I punched him a few more times, and he may have swung wildly at me.  But he was retreating in a circle.
Like a car accident, a crowd gathered around us.  The 200 year-old black woman that was the playground monitor was off somewhere else and couldn’t see this far.
But as quickly as it had started, it was over.  Stevie gave; he capitulated.  He tried to save face—what else are you gonna do?–by saying that he has asthma and was having trouble breathing, and it was making him dizzy.  His nosebleed, too, was a side effect of this condition, and not the result of any punches I might have landed.
Which I kind of believe.  I think I was going for body punches.  The face never occurred to me.
Afterward we talked, and he tried to get chummy with me.  I didn’t understand much of what was going on.  The whole episode seemed strange to me.  But he was respectful if not friendly after that.  I never had a problem with Wayne Welch after that either.
But why in God’s name would someone that is a skinny, frail, asthmatic bleeder try to take on the role of a bully?

I got into two other fights that I remember.  One was epic.  The other one, not so much.
Behind the school, behind the playground and past the gravel alley, was the graveyard.  This was the standard meeting place for fights after school.  And we never went deep into the graveyard either–it was always right at the corner right at the entrance.
I ended up fighting someone there, someone I didn’t know.  It had to be an older kid, most likely a seventh grader.  Those seventh graders were all hardcore, tough as nails.  Bikers.  Gangbangers.  JDs.  That stands for juvenile delinquents.
Whatever happened, I got my ass kicked.  I was hurt, bruised, probably had a bloody nose, and my hands hurt from fighting back.  It happened quick and it was over, and I was left alone to get on my bike and ride home.  Man, I hope Dad wasn’t home.
But he was.  From a block away as I rode up, I could see him out by the car doing some kind of Dad thing.  Shit, what was my story?  A fight?  I didn’t want to get in trouble for fighting, even though nothing ever led me to believe that I would be, except that it should be the natural order of things.  I fell of my bike.  That’s it.
But the emotions from the fight welled up inside me and before I pulled into the driveway I was crying.
Dad didn’t buy the falling off the bike story.  He also knew that I wasn’t crying a few seconds ago.  He was able to put it together that I had been in a fight.  I wasn’t in trouble, but I would be if I kept crying.  Go get cleaned up.
That was the end of that.

How long can a fight go on?  Most fights rarely last more than a minute or two, except in the movies.
I had a wide variety of friends and friends of friends that I hung out with, and also friends that were not part of my regular group of friends.  One of those was Mark Walker.  He was a small, perpetually swarthy looking kid with thin lips, greasy hair, and a wild look in his eyes.
We used to play together on occasion, and hang out sometimes.  I never noticed it, but he never wanted to come around when I was hanging out with my other friends, Randy and Jay.
I don’t know how it happened, but one day during the summer we were in the back grassy lot of the Lutheran school that was about a hundred feet from our house.  The whole gang was there–a lot of people that I knew and some that I didn’t.  Mark and his older brother came around.  There was some interaction, some tension, some drama–
And ultimately it was decided that the solution would be had if Mark and I fought.
It took us a while to get started.  I didn’t really want to, and he didn’t want to get within my reach because I was bigger than him.  Eventually we started to brawl, and we fell into an odd pattern:  He would rush me, throw a bunch of wild punches that landed about 17% of the time, and then I would take one swing, right as his head, and knock him back, knock him down.
He would get up and rush me again, and I would punch him once and knock him down.  Repeat.
This went on for what seemed like hours.  But really–and as I said most fights are over in less than a minute–this went on for a good twenty minutes.
Eventually it was over, and Mark and his brother left.  They were on our turf, after all.  The Lutheran Church was ours.
That historic fight lived on in our memories, and I guess I earned some street cred from the guys.  They never talked about it around me, though.
But after that, Mark and I were never friends again.  I don’t know what the external causes were, but I felt like I was being made to choose between “the gang”–and him.

Maybe It’s A Metaphor

June 5, 2011 at 8:51 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I went back to school in 2001.  It seemed like a good idea at the time.
In the fall, I hemmed and hawed and finally got around to it, thinking I was too late–
But there was a Saturday class, Intro to Computers, that I needed to take before I took anything else.  And it hadn’t started yet.  Oh.  Okay.  I guess I’m in.
It was an easy, easy class, a perfect way for me to get back into the school groove.  And it paved the way for other classes I wanted to take for my degree.  Starting in January of 02, I took 12 credit hours.
Keep in mind that I was working two jobs at the time.
Two of the classes were fairly in line with each other, and these were 100-level computer classes.  One was Hardware and Software Support–essentially the knowledge for an A+ certification.  The other class was Software and Hardware Concepts.
Think of it as “Turing meets Buddha.”
Maybe it wasn’t supposed to be this way, but the instructor who taught it was a PhD in–God, I *hope* it was Computer Science.  I never asked.
In this class we got a brief rundown of all computer topics.  Starting with math, we went from binary to octal to decimal to hex, with explanations on why and how.
We also learned how computers thought and made decisions, using Boolean algebra.  And we learned a little of the various layers of communication between a computer and a human:  machine language, assembly code, command line basic, and up into C++ and VB–Visual Basic.
I really felt that we were–or I was, anyway–learning the deep secrets of the inner workings of the machine.  Kind of like Tron.
So, this was a 100 level class, like IS 110 or something like that.  Pretty basic stuff.  The class began with about 24 students, a pretty good turnout.  By mid-term, there were about 18 of us.
After the mid-term, there were 12.
Nine of us passed the class.
Bob, the instructor, was a nice guy.  I liked him.  He was obviously smart as hell, too.  Although he didn’t show it, I imagine he held stupid people in contempt.  I respect that.  He had a fairly simple two-step process for weeding out the idiots:  the mid-term and the final.
Okay, the rules were the same on each test:
1) multiple choice
2) take home
3) use any resource whatsoever that you want, but no collaboration between students
Wow!  This was great!  This was going to be one of the great blow-off classes of all time!  How hard can it be, if it’s multiple choice *AND* take home?
I’ll tell you how hard it can be:  They were hands-down the hardest tests I have ever taken in my life, and probably the only time I EVER did any real thinking.
What made them so hard?  Well, it wasn’t a traditional multiple choice test.  The first pages of the test were just the questions, fifty of them.
The last page was the answers.  Twenty sets of A-B-C-D.  The answer to a given question could be ANY ONE of the 80 answers on that page.
The midterm was handed out on a Wednesday, and we had until Monday.  It wasn’t enough time.
It’s a bit blurry for me now–I wish I had the test still.  I don’t think Bob wanted it to get into the wrong hands, though.  If I had known that, I would have made a copy of it.
However, we turned them in, and then when we got them back graded, we went over them question by question.  Bob was willing to make concessions based on valid arguments and vague wording of questions.  I know that I initially got a B on it, but we successfully argued some that I got wrong, and worked my way up to an A.

By the time the final came around, we were less enthusiastic about the “easy” take home test we were given.  Same deal, just as hard.  Maybe harder, because we hoped at this point we would have an understanding of the style and that would give us a small step up.
No, it didn’t.
As I said, we lost students throughout the semester.  On the day we turned in our final, three guys just dropped it off on his desk and then left.
Bob graded them all quickly–about 12 tests–then handed them back to us for us to go over and argue.
Again we were able to successfully make our case on about a dozen questions.  I gained a few points, as did everyone else.
Of course, the students that dropped and walked did not partake of that luxury.
Yes, the moral and the object lesson contained herein are left as an exercise for the student.  You will be graded on your answers.  In fact, you always are–but this time I’m telling you.

Sweet Dreams Are Made Of Cheese II

May 18, 2011 at 7:36 PM | Posted in Journal | Leave a comment
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I was driving a big bus.  I got off of it with everyone else, and we all headed toward the entrance.
I went to this big outdoor concert/festival with a group of people, but almost immediately I was separated from them and on my own.  I wandered around and saw many people all over this fairground.  I went to the hill, kind of an Indian mound.  People were doing lots of different things, like at a fair.  There was someone doing some DJing, and people selling shirts.
But I got back to the bus—one of the guys I started hanging out with was going to pull off a major crime using the bus, so I took it before he could get his hands on it.  I drove it from behind the school—the fairground was behind the school—up to Bellefontaine Road.  By then the top came off and I was driving a convertible bus.   Then I drove back through town, through the very hilly streets and went back behind the school.  I was waiting for someone.
Mark the drummer came by and he grabbed the gun from the glove box.  I tried to talk him out of taking it, but he insisted he knew what he was doing, and he needed it to get the 53 dollars he owed me.  I relented, and tried to give him three pieces of advice as he walked away.  I told him to always make sure the gun is loaded, and throw it away if you kill someone with it.  I couldn’t remember the third thing, but he was too far away by then anyway.  He had been brandishing it, but when some cars came driving up, he stashed the weapon.
He was gone, and I walked back across the gravel parking lot to the grassy ball field where the concert was.  There were many buildings at the fairgrounds, and I went into the bar.  I didn’t work there exactly, but I was helping the owner out.  He had hired some talent to come in for the evening but he was unclear on the details.
I was on the main floor trying to locate the talent.  Carrot Top shows up (I swear I am not making this part up).  I showed him where to change, and he goes into the little bathroom under the stairs.  He is taking too long, so I knock on the door.  He lets me in and continues with what he is doing.  He is in drag and applying makeup.  When he sees my expression, he says it is part of his show, in connection with his new DVD.
I sigh and leave—I have to find the owner.  I go upstairs to the VIP room.  I see a few people I know in there.  I tell the owner that Carrot Top is here.  He says, “Just great.  We already got a replacement for him.”  He sends someone out to find the replacement act to let them know they were getting bumped.  Someone else says to the owner, “Why not have them open for Carrot Top?  It’ll make the show longer.”
Everyone agrees that this is a good idea, making the show longer.
The owner sends me out to tell Carrot Top there is an opening act, but first he asks me—apparently this is important to him—“What time did Carrot Top get here?”  I remember specifically looking at the clock when I saw him, and it was 7:45.
I went back outside to see more of the concert out there, and then I went into the lower level of this block-style building.  The lower level was all bathroom with lots of people milling around, and it was shaped like a short maze.  Each short segment of wall had two or three urinals or sex fetish stalls.  In front of me a guy in an open stall was wearing a disposable breathing mask.  He wasn’t using the urinal because it was clogged.
Just then a door behind me opened and a cute girl came out with a bowl of water.  She dumped it in the urinal, and went back and got another bowl.  While doing this she splashed the guy waiting in there, and he got mad and left.
I started to chat with her and her friend.  They decided they wanted to go back outside to the rest of the show, so I took off my shirt and followed them.
Outside in the crowd I lost them, but I found myself back on the hillside again.   My shirt was in a pile of other shirts and mixed with cords and other sound equipment.  I had my back to the stage as I looked for my shirt.
Just then a song started up, the band started and some of the crowd was singing with them.  I heard the words they were singing:  “Put on your shirt and make some tea!”
The crowd repeated the line.  The guy next to me said, “Hey, man, they’re singing about you.”
I turned around to look and I heard, “That’s right, turn around, put your shirt on, and make some tea!”  The audience repeated that line also.
Then I turned completely around, and from my vantage point on this Indian Mound, I could see the stage very far away, and yet the singer had singled me out.  The rest of the band was normal, but the drummer was a large, Jabba-the-Hut-sized fat dude.
The singer sang another line to me:  “Yeah, you, fat boy—put on your shirt and make some tea!”
From as far away as I was, I yelled back them, “No, I’m not going to make any tea!” but my voice was crackling and it seemed muffled.  How could they hear me?
They say the line again to me, adding some other insults.  I tried twice to yell back, but I couldn’t.  Finally, my voice worked, and I sang it out loud and strong:  “NO!  I won’t make you any tea!”
And I heard myself say “NO!” and I woke myself up.

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