Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Paint Space

Last Friday I drove over to Carrie’s house to clean out space for my painting studio. It’s a brick garage area adjoining her house.

Kim, bless her lovely heart, gave me the studio as a Valentine’s Day gift. Even more generous of her was the time she allotted for me to go paint. Two days marked per month, as a bare minimum, and her insistence that that was, in fact, a minimum—that I paint more often than that.

She arranged with Carrie for me to go over and look around and pick out a spot to set up. She has a lot of room.

The area I cleaned was, and still is, used for firewood storage. It had lots of dust, sawdust, leaflitter, and cobwebs. I tried to get the adjoining bathroom in working order, but had problems with the pipes. The cold water now works in the sink, but I had to turn everything else off due to leaks. Carrie said she’d have a plumber check it out since she already planned to call one for other purposes in the near future.

The cleaning darn near killed me. I was sneezy and congested on Friday night, but it got much worse the next day. That is the usual pattern for me. Mow or rake or clean one day, and I sneeze and feel a little bad. The next day I’m usually miserable, then more or less back to normal the day after.

Saturday and Sunday I felt like my lungs were over-full vacuum-cleaner bags. Bags from a vacuum-cleaner that had accidentally sucked up several live cats. Speaking from the point of view of my sinuses, lungs, and nose, it was a nasty, nasty weekend.

Today, Tuesday, I am mostly better. I still feel a little rattle when I breathe, and I’m coughing a bit. My nose whistles from time to time.

Fortunately, I think my studio space is in workable shape. I can take stuff over there and paint.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Lost & Chunky (don't read this if you are eating)

ABC’s “Lost” came back last night! Man, what an episode! Or at least, I assume it was. I only saw the first fifteen minutes. At the first commercial break, we heard Erin whimpering in her bedroom. Kim said, “Would you mind checking on her? Try not to let her see you.” We try to check unobserved, of course, so that we don’t get dragged into a list of demands (“I sirsty! Warm milp!” or “Read me a book!”) by a child who would probably fall back asleep within a couple of minutes if left uninterrupted.

I quietly peeked into Erin’s bedroom. In the dim light I could see her dark round eyes staring back at me. She was crying just a little.

I entered the room. Something was wrong. She was upset, and there was…a smell.

I leaned over her, then had to turn on the light to understand the magnitude of the situation. The lower half of her face, her hands, her pillow, her comforter and blanket, her pajamas, one of her little dolls, and most especially her hair around her shoulders—all were caked in vomit. The smell was dizzying.

I steeled myself, deep pity and fatherly sympathy shoving aside the revulsion. I picked her up and carried her across the hall to the bathroom. It was horrible, but the total grossness of it made it rather funny, too. (Erin was quite unhappy, but she didn’t seem to be feeling very bad—no fever or acting weird). Man, was it disgusting. Curdled milk and corn, with a smell that seemed to be fountaining up through the atmosphere. As I tried to clean her up, angular chunks of it were falling all over, sticking to my hands. This was even funnier to me because of all the disgusting things she ever has to deal with, Kim hates throw-up the most. Like, way, way the most.

Kim and I gingerly got her undressed. Kim started the shower, and I rinsed Erin off a little. Then Kim got in the shower with her and cleaned her thoroughly as I cleaned in her bedroom.

I took her comforter and her fitted sheet outside and shook them out over the grass. Then I inspected everything and shoved the whole lot into the washing machine. Clorox wipes were used on the bathroom floor, the commode, and the sink.

When I was done, Kim had Erin dressed in her little bathrobe, and was curled up with her on the love seat. Erin was very sleepy and very cute and looking much cleaner. She went back to her bed a little while later and slept well for the rest of the night. Poor little thing. I think she’s all right, but I need to call home again in a few minutes to check on her.

More Festiva

My speedometer is dysfunctional. I don’t know which plays the biggest role, the recent cold weather or the age of my car, but it is becoming harder and harder to gauge with accuracy the speed at which I’m driving. After I drive for a while the problem is less extreme.

The speedometer continuously makes a noise like a raspy, squawky version of the opening synthesized notes of Van Halen’s cover of “Dancin’ in the Streets.” Also, as soon as I accelerate to about 35 m.p.h., the needle squeals hoarsely and rockets up to 85 or 90 m.p.h. It will stay there for a few seconds and bounce back down, the shoot back up again.

This is merely the latest. Let me try to think of some of my car’s other little quirks:

-Most or all lights in the dash don’t work. Sometimes a few come on.

-Shoulder belt no longer opens or shuts automatically. I must sit down and then pull it over my head.

-Horn only works occasionally, and sounds very sputtery and feeble when it does.

-The windshield washer fluid squirters only work some of the time. They stopped working altogether for a few years, then started again, although if the temp is below freezing they won’t work.

-The driver’s side window won’t roll up or down without lots of assistance (putting my hand on the window and rocking it back and forth while jerking the handle) if the temperature is below 50 degrees.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Festiva Rodeo - How I Get My Thrills

When I walked out the door to go to work this morning, there was snow on the ground. Less than an inch, but enough to cover everything—cars, grass, and pavement—in a fairly smooth layer of white.

Our driveway is a hill leading up to the house. My seventeen-year-old Festiva was at the top, and our newer Saturn parked behind. This is a frequent and annoying situation, since I am always running late for work. I have to either back the Saturn out, then back out the Festiva, then pull that Saturn back in, then get back in the Festiva; or I have to just back the Saturn up a little and then maneuver the Festiva over the grass, which is bad for the lawn, especially if the ground is wet. And the car juggling is even more annoying when I have to scrape frost off the windows of both cars.

I put my lunch in my Festiva and then backed the Saturn down the slick driveway and onto the street. Then I sat in Festiva again, started it, and put it in reverse. I didn’t give it any gas, I just took my foot off the brake—and the car didn’t move at all. I realized I had forgotten to move the concrete block from beneath the front left wheel (did I mention that my car has no emergency brake?). So I killed the engine and got out to kick it out of the way.

I half-closed the door and kicked the concrete block. The car started to roll backwards down the hill. I had accidentally left it in reverse instead of park.

I always turn the wheel when I park in the drive, just in case the car does in fact start to roll by itself. I’d rather have the car roll over the lawn (and possibly into our tree or our mailbox) than for it to roll straight backwards into the other car, or across the street and into the neighbor’s house. Therefore, my car was rolling at an angle into my lawn.

The car started moving the second I kicked the block, so I yanked the door wide again with the intention of finding a surface against which to push to hold the car in place. However, in the fraction of a second it took for me to open the door and reach for the doorframe, the car was rolling too fast for me to have any hope of stopping it that way. Worse still, the ground was icy and my work shoes have no traction.

So I found myself caught behind the open door of a car that was rolling driverless down an icy slope. I sensed mortal peril as I tried to regain control of the situation. I grabbed the near edge of the steering wheel with my right hand and threw my right leg into the car as I hopped backward with my left, trying to keep pace with the car. For an instant my goal was not to stop the car, but simply to get inside it, since if I were inside it, it would not run me over.

I’m not sure how I did it, but I think I used my right arm to yank myself most of the way onto the driver’s seat—I must have pulled hard, because my arm hurt afterward. It was dark, so I couldn’t see, so I started stomping blindly where I hoped the brake was as I hung on to keep centrifugal force from throwing me out.

Luckily, I hit the brake, and was able to raise my left leg in time to block the door from swinging shut on my arm or ankle. I had skidded to a stop in the middle of the lawn and had not run over the mailbox or hit the tree. I briefly glanced down and moved my extremities to make sure I hadn’t hurt myself without realizing it.

It was dark and snowy and 6:30 a.m., but somehow the neighbor from two doors up had managed to witness this little event. He was walking toward me as I exited the car.

“Are you O.K.?” he called out.

“Oh, yeah, I’m fine. Thanks for asking. I—uh—accidentally left the car in reverse when I got out to brush off some snow. I’m O.K…thanks.”

I stopped trembling after a minute, pulled the Saturn into the driveway, drove the Festiva off the lawn and came on in to work.