Posts tagged ‘number one son’

I am not Lev Levit

22 January, 2013 | | 6 Comments

I do not, as a rule, make flutes.  No one has ever introduced me at a dinner party as, “I’d like you to meet the Big Ugly Man Doll – he makes flutes.”  Doesn’t happen.  I can’t even whistle in key.  This is in stark contrast to my friend Lev, who does, in fact, make flutes.  Damn good ones. 

One of the most distinguishing of the differences between us, which are many, starting with his flutemaking company, is this:  deliberation.  Lev sits down to make a flute in a very deliberate and careful fashion.  He’s not an impulsive or “spur of the moment” or “well, that should fit” kind of guy when he’s making a flute.  Honestly, I expect he’s probably the same way when he’s doing something else, such as, oh, I don’t know, hanging a cabinet. 

Speaking of hanging cabinets, though, while it is also true that no one has ever introduced me at a dinner party as, “I’d like you to meet the Big Ugly Man Doll – he hangs cabinets,” I am more likely to find myself performing that activity than many others, such as, picking two at random, deep-frying whelks or making flutes.  In particular, I found myself just yesterday standing on a step stool, drill in one hand and cabinet in the other, exhorting and extolling Number One Son to continue holding said cabinet up while I screwed it to the wall.  Needless to say, there had been very deliberate and careful preparation beforehand; I do not hang cabinets in an impulsive or “spur of the moment” way.  You know, mostly. 

Having done this before, I knew to mark off the bottom of the cabinets and screw in a “set” bar, on which I could rest the cabinets while screwing them to the wall.  This is important when hanging reasonably heavy cabinets, and even more so when your primary assistant is a highly ADHD 12-year-old who can’t bench press anything heavier than a Nintento.   I also knew to mark – below where the set bar was, so you can see it – a notation about where the studs are.  To do this, I used a studfinder.  If you’re not familiar with this tool, it’s a small device that you hold up to your wall and drag slowly across until it screeches at you that there’s something interesting behind it.  Since safety is our middle name, it will also screech at you if that something interesting happens to be a live electrical current. 

So there I was, set bar in place, studs marked, with two cabinets hung on the wall and screwed to one another, when I realized four things in rapid succession: 

  1. The cabinet door was scraping the ceiling a little.
  2. The action of knocking said door down a little had just pulled both cabinets out of the wall.
  3. They were about to fall on my head.
  4. My highly ADHD assistant was nowhere to be found.

Thinking quickly, I held them up with one hand while groping for more screws with the other, and screwed one of the cabinets more fully into the wall.  I then unscrewed the other and took it down, for further work on the doors.  That’s when I really stepped in it.

Well, that’s not true.  That’s when I stepped in the puddle of water on the floor.  We had had some slight leakage the day before from the washing machine, and I panicked for a moment thinking it was still leaking – very much a problem, since it wasn’t running.  I took a paper towel and puddled up the water, and realized it was continuing to puddle out from the wall – the very wall to which I had just attached the first cabinet.  The very wall with the valve to the outside water supply on it. 

It was at this point that I was graced with the presence of more help, in the royal person of the Reigning Queen of Pink.  I showed her the water, and mentioned that I really hoped I hadn’t just put a screw through a water pipe behind the wall. 

“I really hope you have, Daddy!” says she.
“Why’s that?” I asked.
“Because if you didn’t, then what the hell’s leaking?” says she.

You know, that’s a smart kid.  Without further ado, I removed the first cabinet from the wall and took the keyhole saw to the wall, around the general location of the screw-holes I’d left.  Pulling away the drywall – dry no longer! – we saw the nice little hole I’d put right through the center of the pipe, and the nice little quiet stream of water as it made its wet little way to the floor.   So, when I’d really stepped in it was when I decided that my first screw (which had merely grazed the pipe) didn’t feel like it had sunk into the stud properly, and I’d placed a new screw just a little higher and to the right.  That one felt like it really grabbed something.  Oh, yes it had.

Definition:  Studfinder (noun), little beeping piece of shit very useful for finding water pipes behind drywall.  

My Flutes Are Not Pretty Things

My Flutes Are Not Pretty Things

I do not, as a rule, make flutes.  This is why.  It was exactly as I was taking some plumbers tape to wrap around the hole, just to make it stop flowing water to the ground, that the phone rang. 

The RQoP picked it up, on seeing that it was her mother SOBUMD, and by way of hello shouted, “Guess what?  Daddy really screwed up!”  Then, to me, “Can I tell her?” 

Thanks, kid.  I think you just have. 

SOBUMD had the presence of mind to get me to call neighbor Mike, instead of a plumber, since neighbor Mike can fix anything and usually accepts beer and thanks as currency.  Sure enough, Mike walked over with a sawzall, a blowtorch, and some plumbing stuff, and in a few moments we had a new pipe in the wall – and a new flute in the making.   

Close Up of Entrance and Exit Wounds

Close Up of Entrance and Exit Wounds

Here’s a close up of the through-and-through of my perfidious hole.  I’d grazed the pipe with the two screws in my set bar, and again with the first cabinet screw that I didn’t think had really hit the stud well enough.  For the sake of contrast, here’s what my friend Lev Levit’s flutes look like. 

What a Flute Should Look Like

What a Flute Should Look Like

So, lessons to be learned from this tale:  First, you can’t trust your studfinder.  Just cut a hole in the wall and look.  Second, a good flute will be made deliberately, not by accident.  If you’re in the market for a flute, ask the flutemaker if what they intended to make was, in fact, a flute.  If you find that you’re buying a flute from a guy who was trying to build a violin, or hang a cabinet, or install Windows 8 Pro, and he just happened to end up making a flute, you should probably call my friend Lev. 

He makes flutes on purpose.   


Chicago and Back

11 December, 2012 | | 3 Comments
Driving Into Chicago

Driving Into Chicago

Sorry about that, long week.  To resume the narrative:

So there we were in Chicago, once again in the city with the broad shoulders and the many superlative encased meats.  We got there in time for lunch, which was a pilgrimage to Gene and Jude’s Hot Dogs.  Voted “the best Hog Dog in the Nation” in more than one tally, we had to get there.  Luckily, the Very Clever Grandfather knew exactly where it was, since he used to go there when he worked in his father’s machine shop – Georges’ Screw Machines was just down the way.  Like the Dalai Lama, I always want them to make me one with everything, and they did.  Oh, yes they did.

Georges' Screw Machine Products

Georges’ Screw Machine Products

The fries go on your dog, in your bun, all over the place.  The onions, the relish, the peppers – and just a damn good hot dog.  There’s a reason these things beat out – barely – Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs.  Plus the fries were outstanding.  After satisfying our curiosities and our tastebuds, we took a detour on the trip back and drove past the machine shop.  It was sold a number of years ago, but to our surprise and delight the new owners left the old sign out in front.  Pretty cool. 

The following day dawned slowly, with a trip to lunch at the aforementioned Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs.  The line was as brisk as the wind – a little more than a half an hour wait, around the block in the cold.  By the time we made it to the front door, a glance behind us revealed that those just joining the line would wait longer than we had – always a gratifying feeling, no matter how small and shallow a person I try not to be. 

Hot Doug's Hot Dogs

Hot Doug’s Hot Dogs

Couldn’t blame them – Friday and Saturday are Duck Fat Fries day.  Speaking of duck, what did I have?  I had a “hot dog” – except that this hot dog was a duck and cognac sausage topped with foie gras.  I also had a more regular dog, but the things that guy can do with encased meats – I have to wonder if he’s actually stolen the elder wand.  No – with the fries done in duck fat, I’m sure he’s stolen the elder wand, because those are magic.

Following our excursion of gustatory delights, we wended and wobbled our way to our friends’ Myke and Marcy’s house, where we were met with warmth, joy, love, and also tequila.  The Human Tape Recorder is close with their older daughter, while the Reigning Queen of Pink is close with their younger.  Number One Son decided to remain close to his iPad on the couch – until he came up to find me and Myke, and discovered that my friend has a keyboard and monitor setup that most hard-core geeks only dream of.  The four monitors in a square on a pole impressed him – that he could mouse through them all at once impressed him.  That one of them was an Apple and the others were WIntel impressed me – I’m still not sure how he managed that bit of magic.  Then he showed Number One Son his printer, and printed him a small replica of a Dalek from Dr. Who.

On the 3-D printer.

It took about 25 minutes, sure, but for Number One Son, they were life-changing minutes.  Myke pulled the Dalek from the printer when it was finished, snapped off the base, and handed it him.  “That’s it.  You are officially the coolest person I have ever met.”   I didn’t tell him, but I’ve felt the same way about Myke for a long time.  Number One Son has now decided that he has to learn Java and programming, as soon as he can.

Surprise Santa

Surprise Santa

Saturday dawned, wonderfully and well, and we prepared for the party with more hot dogs.  I’m kidding – wait, I’m not.  Lunch at another restaurant, but it was a chain, and the dogs were so-so at best.  Not going back.  Dinner, now, dinner was great – the entire and extended family was in wonderful attendance.  The Very Clever Grandfather put together a presentation of the first 95 years of the Queen Mother of Pink’s life in photos and presented it with military precision, interweaving music, humor, narrative, and hundreds of pictures to get the QMoP (and the rest of us) laughing her 95-yr-old butt off. You may have already drawn some conclusions about my family, but I’ll add to the mystique by telling you this:  the words “banana butt” were included in the narration.  With the noted military precision, the presentation concluded just as the food was brought out.  The festivities even included a surprise visit from Santa!  It was a surprise to all of us, since he had been in the restaurant for another gig and happened to wander in.  Welcome to parties with my family.

The Queens Of Pink

The Queens Of Pink

The list of the QMoP’s great-grandchildren has grown as well; my three lunatic children have been joined by the 1-yr-old Klayton and the newly-minted Stella by starlight, and we were excited to find that there’s a player to be named later due in June. It was also fantastic to see my cousins Dan and Amy and their families – Charlie, Owen, and Cameron.

We could have danced all night, but events conspired to have us up and on the road early the next morning, and so off we went, saying our sad goodbyes to beloved kith and kinfolk close and distant, near and far, and planning already for the centennial party 5 years hence.  The next morning came too early, as they always do, and we were off.

Driving to Chicago is great.  Drive 6 or 7 hours, find a hotel with a pool and a bar, lather, rinse, relax, repeat.  Driving home in a day, for 12 hours?  Not as much fun.  Why, then, would we do this?  I had jury duty the next day, of course. 

The Human Tape Recorder, being more dedicated than any other 14-yr-old I know, set up her command center in the back of the car, fired up my laptop with its cellular Internet connection, and worked on her homework for most of the ride.  The younger two alternated between Harry Potter and Indiana Jones movies, which kept them quiet and occupied for a good while.  SOBUMD and I took turns driving and staring out the window at the mist.

There’s a Football Hall of Fame, somewhere, which makes sense to me, since I know there’s a Baseball Hall of Fame.  Having now been to a genuine certified Hall of Fame, albeit for Rock and Roll, I find myself more attuned to signs pointing out this or that Hall of Fame.  So it was no surprise that I saw the sign, outside Notre Dame – there’s a (or probably more correctly, THE) College Football Hall of Fame there.  This makes, I suppose, some sense.  The Fighting Irish I’ve heard of, even if I can’t personally see a need for a hall of fame for college football. If you have to have one, though, right next to Knute Rockne’s last long pass sounds about right.  (“Let’s sell some Hall of Fame tickets for the Gipper!”)

Driving through Elkhart, though, I really had to wonder, when we passed the RV/MH Hall of Fame.  WTF, over? I guess I need to get out more.  I can’t imagine why, what, or how a Recreational Vehicle / Motorhome Hall of Fame could be necessary. “Look, babe, this is the actual motorhome couch where Ron Jeremy first came on the scene with his acting career!”  I wonder if they charge for admission.

I also noticed that Ohio was really trying to fix the color problem I mentioned in my first post.  They’re naming the rivers after colors now – I don’t remember this from the trip out.  We crossed both the Vermilion River and the Black River on the way out of Ohio.  I’m sure there’s an Ecru Creek and a Fuchsia Run around there somewhere.

Driving Out of Town was the Last Time We Saw The Sun

Driving Out of Town was the Last Time We Saw The Sun

If there is any greater joy in life than driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike, it has to be driving the Pennsylvania Turnpike in the dark, in the rain.  No, wait.  Let’s try it in the dark, but in that not-quite-rain that pisses down in an irritating mist, waiting not so much to land on your windshield as to land on the ground, in between the construction signs, and wait for the passing trucks and other motorists to spray it up onto your windshield as they go by.  This would cause you to turn on your wipers.  That’s assuming your wipers weren’t making that godawful SHRONK-HONK, SHRONK-HONK noise every goddamn time you flick them on, for 3 hours.  You can’t leave them on, because you’ll lose whatever remaining shred of sanity you have left, and you can’t leave them off, because you can’t see the damn road. 

What you can do, though, is stop at the Summit Diner.  We pulled off the Turnpike at something that approached dinner time and ate at a place so old, they had a menu item that we had to explain to the kids.  “Creamed chipped beef on toast?  Why is that called S.O.S.?”  Haven’t seen that on a menu in a while!  Neat place, good food.  If you’re ever near Somerset, PA, it’s worth the stop. 

If you’re us, of course, the Walmart down the street was worth the stop as well, carrying as they do windshield wipers.  Now, I’m as happy to boycott Wally-world as the next guy, but at 7 pm in kinda the middle of nowhere, in the rain, with the SHRONK-HONK of my wipers getting on my one remaining nerve, I was prepared to put my conscience in the glove box and set expediency on the dashboard, right next to my plastic Jesus and my shotgun.  SOBUMD ran in and came out a few minutes later with new wipers, plus a butt-cushion for my aging rear, which was an added bonus and tremendously appreciated in all quarters, particularly those of my hind.  I pulled under a handy, and closed, teller window drive-through with an awning at the nearest bank, and SOBUMD worked her windshield wiper magic, removing the old ones and installing the new, despite the cold, and the rain, and the dark.

In short minutes we were back on the Turnpike, the new wipers going full speed!  They sounded like this:  ___.  Right.  Isn’t that nice?  Yes.  The only issue now that they were silent was that they needed to be on full speed all the time, since they weren’t at all good at actually wiping the water from the windshield.  They were more like windshield damp sponges than windshield wipers.  There was some discussion of brand, and installation instructions, but neither the brand nor the instructions indicated that anything should be amiss. 

In about 5 minutes of hellish, wet, low-visibility Pennsylvania Turnpike driving, we hit a tunnel.  “Ah,” thought I, “a brief reprieve.”  I left the damn wipers on for a bit, for good measure.  It was dry, somewhat, in the tunnel.  It ended quickly, as tunnels will at those speeds, and as we hurtled out into the wet night, the formerly soundless new wipers ceased their silence and said, “THUMP-WHACK.  THUMP-WHACK.  THUMP-WHAA.  THUMP.  THUMP.” 

I’m regrettably familiar with what a wiper blade means when it says something like that – you could call me a wiper whisperer – and so I pulled over at the nearest “don’t pull over here unless you’re going to die” spot on the side of the Turnpike.  SOBUMD and I both got out and looked, and I pulled the remaining cover/guard off the left-side wiper and handed it to her.  The right-side cover/guard had worked itself off just past the tunnel.  The instructions didn’t mention them – they figured you could see the damn things.

Don’t install windshield wipers in the dark. 

Once free of the damn plastic covers, the windshield wipers worked great.  Visibility went up and noise went down until I was able to turn them off, crossing into Maryland.  (It only rains on the Pennsylvania Turnpike.)   From there on we made good time, pulling into our house a scant 12 hours after we’d left Chicago.   The road is long, the food is good, and the Queen Mother of Pink is 95 years old. 

Much love to all the wonderful family and friends who made the trip possible, and worthwhile – we’re looking forward to the next one.  Hey, we’ve even got new windshield wipers!



A Study in August, Part Three

13 August, 2012 | | 1 Comment

On to the beach!  We made it down the shore in record time, stopping only for gas and hard liquor.  SOBUMD wanted to make sure there was some vodka for her cucumber vodka martini, and when I mentioned this to the lady ringing me up at the Jersey Liquor Store (everyone talks to the hat – in New Jersey, I’m the most interesting man in the world), she recommended that I get her the Cucumber Vodka on which they were running a special.  Knowing that we could put it to good use one way or another, I concurred on the cucumber and we motored on. 

We arrived at the Shore House at the precise moment I intended, which was Gin and Tonic o’clock – my scheduling skills are excelled only by my driving.  Following a settling in and unpacking period that lasted approximately 14 seconds, the Reigning Queen of Pink and the Human Tape Recorder were in the water, and Number One Son had retreated into a room with the iPad, not to be seen again until dinner.   We commenced relaxing immediately. 

We relaxed all day and into the evening, and picked right up relaxing the next morning where we’d left off, but with Scrapple on the grill, eaten on the deck with coffee and crumb cake.  It’s hard not to be relaxed in the face of an early morning ocean breeze, facing a lagoon, while munching on hot grilled meat product and crumb cake. 

The relaxation came to a screeching halt when we realized we were nearly out of beer.  A trip to Long Beach Island was planned, conceived, and executed in short order, leaving many of the tribe at home in the water.  Once on Long Beach Island, we found fudge, tee-shirts, bracelets, and beer.  Unfortunately, while putting the beer in the back of SOBUMD’s minivan, the handle that opens the hatch in the back snapped and broke in my hand. 

This would not be a big deal, but for the fact that you can’t open the hatch from the inside, and that the van’s power door not only isn’t ‘power’ any more but also does not open from the inside, and that the struts need work, and that the horn only functions on alternate Wednesdays while Mercury is in retrograde, and that it’s an 11 year old van with more than a few dings in it.  Without a simple way to get things into and out of the van, its utility is greatly diminished and its days numbered. 

We returned with our loot, sending the brilliantly diminutive RQoP into the back of the van to pass things over the seats to us.  Beer was consumed, new cars were researched, and relaxation recommenced.

Next up was a trip to Wildwoods, NJ, evidently an icon of beach life on the Jersey Shore that I’d never heard of, but since my experience with the Jersey Shore has been heretofore limited to last year’s situation and Snooki’s tan, that was hardly surprising.  We loaded kids, aunts, uncles, and towels into vehicles – some easier, some harder – and headed to the beach. 

Once in the water, we found dolphins swimming just offshore with us.  Number One Son, who does not usually like to get his head, hair, or face wet, decided that he liked the waves once he was past the point where they broke over his head.  He pulled me with him to this point – the fact that we were halfway to the continental shelf bothered him not at all.  The Human Tape Recorder and the RQoP also reaquainted themselves with their inner barracudas.  My response to a wave coming up that’s 5 feet over my head is to duck and cover.  Theirs is to dive into it headfirst. 

And We're Dancing on the Top of the Wildwoods Sign

And We’re Dancing on the Top of the Wildwoods Sign

The beach rolled on for a few hours, after which we moved the party to the Wildwoods Boardwalk.   This is a magical place, by which I mean “very likely to remove your money from your wallet.”  We enjoyed the local cuisine, such as battered, deep fried Oreo cookies, along with a few life-restoring and badly needed pints of Guinness and the Snow White diner.  We were served by a few of the local Olgas – all the wait staff at the beach seem to be imports from Eastern Europe.  They make great roast beast hogies, command of the English language notwithstanding. 

I also noticed that after two days in New Jersey, my every other word to the kids is “fuhgeddaboudit.”  Perhaps I should keep my commentary concerning commands of the English language to my self. 

The other thing we noticed was the price of the rides – remember what magical means?  Some of the children wanted to ride a roller coaster, some others wanted to walk through a haunted ship.  Since the cost for these two activities came to more than $120, we had to explain that this roller coaster and SOBUMD’s next car had just became an either or proposition.

Katniss Drills 'em at the Dart-n-Die

Katniss Drills ’em at the Dart-n-Die

In lieu of rides, the kids played some of the “everybody wins a prize” arcades; they seemed particularly drawn to the “Throw Darts and Pop Balloons” event.  Number One Son took a particular delight in the opportunity for wanton destruction, popping two out of three of his targets.  Since everyone wins a prize, the lady in the booth showed him his prize options for hitting two balloons – to which he replied, “No thanks; I’m only in it for the popping.”   The RQoP stepped up and declared that she’d add his two pops to whatever she got, and then of course pulled a Katniss and drilled three for three, walking off with a bear the size of her head.  

I Want a Job in the Department of Love

I Want a Job in the Department of Love

Once full of fried gooey goodness and tired from the waves and water, we started the long boardwalk back to the car.  On the way, we ran into one more example concerning one’s command of the English language.  Really?  The Department of Love?  Can you get a job there?

Driving back to the Shore House, we contemplated the Cheshire sunset as the sun slipped from the clouds and back to the Earth, through a hole in the pocket of the sky, accompanied by the strains of the new Green Day song on the radio.  It was a wonderful end to the day, and we looked forward to seeing if there was dessert waiting in the crab trap we’d baited before we left. 

There was, but he was too small and we had to throw him back.  Some days, everybody lives.

Next up, a drive through the marshes!  In the meantime, I’ll leave you with that new Green Day song everyone’s talking about.




A Study in August, Part Two

11 August, 2012 | | 3 Comments

Nothing says vacation like beer for breakfast.  If that’s followed by a beer with lunch, hey, we’re not going anywhere.  But that’s not today’s topic, though – today, we’re talking trucks! 

1968 International Scout

1968 International Scout

The first part of our trip was to Pennsylvania, where SOBUMD’s father was busy having a birthday.  SOBUMD’s brother, the Very Industrious Uncle, had gotten him a framed picture of a 1968 International Scout.  It was yellow and white, part of an old advertising campaign for International – cute picture.  We then found reasons for Opa to check on something downstairs while the rest of us stepped outside; he joined us in a few minutes to find an immaculately restored yellow and white 1968 International Scout in his driveway, with a big Happy Birthday balloon attached to one of the wipers. 

A Very Happy Opa

A Very Happy Opa

To say that Opa was speechless would be to court understatement.  The Very Industrious Uncle had spent the past 6 months restoring the Scout, finishing just in time for the birthday presentation.  I don’t know about you, but the last time anyone gave me a car for my birthday, I was maybe seven, and it was an International Hot Wheels.  I mentioned this to Opa as he took me for a spin in the Scout; he said “Yeah, me too!”  He may have slept in it that night; not sure.  For the record, we got him a tee-shirt, which we managed to forget to bring with us. 

The next day dawning bright and clear, we made our fond farewells to Oma, Opa, and the Scout, which the three lunatic children believe is their new cousin, and headed East to the Jersey Shore and the shore house of the Very Industrious Uncle.  The trip was only a few hours, not as long as the drive up, but we still had time to continue listening to our eclectic playlist and trading verbal banter and witty repartee.  The Human Tape Recorder noted the lyrics to a Sheryl Crow song, which included the phrase:  “maybe there’s something wrong with you.”  The HTR declared that she could tell the song wasn’t written by a teenybopper, since a pop-teen type would have written it as “maybe there’s something wrong with ME.”   SOBUMD and I mentally high-fived each other, considering this a sign that we’re raising confidant kids, or at least damned observant ones.  

Number One Son influenced our song selection as well, asking me what Reno was and why one would shoot a man in it.  (Having killed any number of six packs just to watch them die, I felt compelled to play him the Folsom Prison Blues, with the Man in Black himself, along with yours truly singing base.)  Number One Son also used the time in the car to expound on several of his many of his points of view.  For example, the topic of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder came up (as it so often will in our family).  Talking about OCD, Number One Son had this to say:  “It should really be called OCS.  I view it less as a disorder than a syndrome.”  If you know a more certain sign that you have OCD than arguing about what it should really be called, I’d love to hear it.  Meanwhile, the RQoP – who received a full sized upright vacuum cleaner for her birthday a while ago, so she could better clean her usually immaculate room – could not be reached for comment.

But we were headed to the beach, down the shore, where all these concerns would melt away.  We needed no further proof that we were well away from the Washington DC craziness than driving past a sign for a business called “Hell Yeah Watersports.”  Within a 100 mile radius of the DC area, that same company would have incorporated under the name “Safe-n-Legal Watersports.”  Luckily, we were north of Atlantic City, where you can still call ’em as you see ’em. 

From here, on to the beach!   I’ll leave you with Johnny again, with those Folsom Prison Blues.


Weekend Notes: Stormy, with a chance of trees

22 July, 2012 | | 2 Comments

As so often happens when real life gets in the way of my otherwise irrepressible blogging impulse, I’m a little behind.  I blame the weather, the Higgs Boson, and Mitt Romney’s hairpiece, in that order. 

We’ll start way back on Father’s Day weekend, which was fantastic.  What made it such an epic adventure?  Four things. 

First, we got to see the neighbor’s new place.  They’re going to remain neighbors, but they’re building a new place on some land out West, between us and the House in the Woods, about which I’ve written before.  On the land they bought stands – well, leans – a very old place that will fall down shortly if Mike doesn’t help it fall down sooner. 

This Old House

This Old House

There are a few treasures to rescue before that happens, though – such as the license plates on the floor, from 1940, the glass ornaments still hanging over the mantle, and some road signs that clearly predate unleaded gasoline. 




The earliest record of this property is something in the 1820s; Mike and Lynn are the second owners, if that tells you something about the place. 

From there, we moved on to the House in the Woods, where the second epic thing happened.  Among many other very cool things I received for Father’s Day, SOBUMD and the kids bought me a machete.  Everyone should have one!  It’s long, sharp, and very flexible.

The third epic thing was just being there with a machete out at the House in the Woods.  Since the Very Clever Grandparents were in Switzerland, we brought our neighbors with us, and got to show them the wonders of the place.  One of those wonders turned out to be a turtle trekking across the lawn in the rain, holding his head up high, presumably so he wouldn’t drown.  He was making good time – took him about half an hour. 

WV Bear Spider - So Named Because They Eat Bears.  For Breakfast.

WV Bear Spider – So Named Because They Eat Bears. For Breakfast.

We also saw one of the West Virginia Bear Spiders, so named because they mostly eat bears. He was in the screen room, reading the paper and drinking a cup of coffee.  Oddly, he had the room to himself.   Mike and the Human Tape Recorder and I climbed the local mountain, to see what we could see – which turned out to be the other side of the mountain, just like the song says.  I thought it would be more exciting, tell you the truth. 

RQoP does her best Ophelia

RQoP does her best Ophelia

While we were doing that, the Reigning Queen of Pink became reacquainted with her more aquatic subjects, and a good time was had by all.

And fourth, FOBUMD’s sole request while we were out there was that we mow the lawn.  This lead, inexorably as the day leads to the night, to my being perched on the tractor.   Now I know for many of my loyal readers, riding a tractor mower power thingy packs all of the emotional charge of taking out the garbage or mucking out the shed.  I, on the other hand, have never ridden one of these things in my life.  It turns out that you really have to slow down quite a bit to take the beer from your child’s hand when she brings it to you.  Aside from that, it makes very good time – there are gears and turbo boosts and all sorts of things I never knew about.  When it moves into high gear, I really came close to spilling my drink!  Such drama!  Such excitement!  And of course every time I came near the house, I waved my hat around like Slim Pickens riding the nuke all the way down at the end of Dr. Strangelove.  So, nice tractor.  Who knew?

The following weekend was reported in near-real time, with SOBUMD going under the knife.   I’m glad to say the surgery was an unmitigated success and that in the month since, she’s recovering well and feeling better than she has in a long time.  She’s tap dancing and taken up parkour, which really amazes her doctors since she couldn’t do either of those things before the operation. 

The next weekend, still unreported, was to follow.  

Derecho.  It even sounds wretched, dirty, and unpleasant.   It was all of those things, plus fast.

You may have heard that there were epic storms here on the East Coast a few weeks ago – this is true. Nearly half a million homes in NoVa were without power, including here at the Big Ugly Man Doll. Winds up to 80 mph, trees down everywhere, mircobursts, 2 fatalities within a few miles of us, a bunch more between here and Ohio. 

Not what I meant by Tree House

Not what I meant by Tree House

Our neighbors had one of the old giant oaks cut their house in half; they were in the basement and unharmed, but the house and car are pretty much gone.

Our power was out for 55 hours or so.  The storm hit Friday with the biggest lightning display I’ve seen in years, augmented beautifully by the blue-green glow of the transformers blowing.  Once we got through Saturday morning and were able to get some reports of the extent of the outage (more than a million people), we realized the power wasn’t coming back in the next few hours, and packed everything critical in the fridge and freezer into coolers.  We then drove to the house of the Very Clever Grandparents, who live in in downtown Washington DC, but were of course still in Switzerland.  Part of what makes them Very Clever involves living in a house on the same power grid as the White House.  The power doesn’t go out down there – at least, it hasn’t in the last 40 years.  One of the neighbors told me the lights did blink, once, in 1972.  Another thing that makes them very clever is that they nearly emptied their fridge and freezer before they left, which happened to leave an enormous amount of space for our stuff. 

Getting back in the car from moving the food over, we noticed a bolt in the right front tire.  On to the local Sears!  At Sears, at the mall, they had cell service to hit the Internet – for the first time in hours.  (SOBUMD was frantic without her security iPhone working.)  The mall being the only place with air conditioning for miles around, it was a huge mess.  We ate angry cookies and generally sulked at everyone until the tire was fixed, leaving promptly for the cool air conditioned embrace of my folks’ house in DC – which the kids call the House in the Hood. 

That night, Number One Son had only one question for me to relay to the VCG in Switzerland: what’s the password to the WiFi?  He was hoping to connect my iPad to the Internet – it’s amazing how quickly the Web has become such a part of everyday life that the lack thereof is seen as a “critical” must-fix issue.

Speaking of which, it’ll be interesting to see what shakes out of that storm.  The 911 service in most of NoVa went dead – people were asked to bring emergencies (or reports of same) to police/fire stations. Cell coverage was spotty at best, AT&T lost a few towers – and the POTS (plain old telephone system) went down as well. In the absence of Internet, cell, and dial tone, 911 not working seems redundant if no one can call anyway. 

We were thinking the power company would have the power back on Sunday.  It turned out that Sunday was the day they were hoping to have estimates on when they’d have the power back on.  We went home to feed the cats (who were remarkably sanguine about the lack of power) and scrub the fridge – after all, how often do you have the luxury of leaving the doors open for an hour and taking all the food out?  When life gives you lemons, put an “organic” sticker on them and sell ’em at a premium.  Back to DC for another evening of cool air. 

Trees down all over Post

Trees down all over Post

Power was restored Monday morning; I came home, turned the AC back on, fed the cats, then drove to my job.  The Army Post I work on looked like it had been shelled; probably 50 trees or more were down, roofs and fences blown off, roads blocked, and no power. 

Post roofs, post storm

Post roofs, post storm.

I executed a tactical retreat to my corporate office for a bit, then drove back to DC and collected SOBUMD, the Three Lunatic Children, our clothes, and the first round of food – planning to go back that afternoon for the perishables. We got back to the mostly air conditioned house (it was almost down to 80), and put things away. We turned on computers, unpacked, relaxed for a few minutes.

And the power went out.

It was still out 4 hours later when we were discussing dinner.  (“I ain’t cooking.”  “Me either.”  “Right.”)  We tried calling a local, well-established restaurant and got an answering machine.  I tried again.  Same machine.  Right, they’re down.  With *still* no Internet data service from the cell towers, the Human Tape Recorder was able to text a request to a friend (whose name we will refer to here as “Laura” to protect the innocent), and thus acquire the phone number for Mike’s American Grill.  We retired there with the neighbors, eating and drinking just as though there would be power when we returned. 

And there was. 

It has stayed on since then, amid plans for generators and tree-repelling roof shingles, through the 4th of July, and through this region’s longest stretch of 100+ degree days in ages.  Trust me that those three weekends, back to back to back, while fun – in a “Choose Your Own Adventure” kind of way – were exhausting.  Father’s Day weekend I’d replay anytime.  The surgery and the derecho, well, sometimes those Choose Your Own Adventure books didn’t have such happy endings, you know?  This one did, though – as part of the Great Thawing of the Food during the power outage, the sole remaining turkey in our freezer was defrosted, brined, and smoked when the Very Clever Grandparents returned from Switzerland – we had a quick Thanksgiving dinner smack dab in the middle of July!   

The remaining weeks and weekends since all that have been busy, crazy, and hotter than Joan of Arc.  But we’re caught up, as much as one can ever really catch up since we’ve captured the Higgs Boson, and we now return to our regularly scheduled programming.