Just past the halfway mark of my six months without home Internet. Not too painful so far, right?
Its original purpose of lowering monthly payments to clear last year’s home-improvement debts kind of went kablooey when Dave quit paying for the blog. At that point, I emptied savings to clear nearly all that debt, figuring any unnecessary monthly payments would not be a good idea right now.
Kept a small emergency fund, of course. Always keep a small emergency fund unless you’re living in your car and eating out of Dumpsters.
I love my neighborhood. In many ways, it’s like what we think neighborhoods were in the olden days (but probably really weren’t).
I had an “olden days” moment yesterday. Not in the idyllic sense, but in the sense that anybody in the neighborhood can give a troublesome kid what-for and parents will back that up.
I was sitting in the sun room, enjoying the respite after a day of painting and ripping down old siding when — whap! — something thumped the wall next to me.
I knew immediately what it was and who did it. Sure enough, I went outside and there was a baseball in the grass. Looked up and there he was, a tall, blond adolescent boy in the neighbors’ yard. The three boys who live there (all younger and smaller than this kid) were outside, too. But having had my house pelted several times last summer with hardballs, and having seen the tall, blond kid every time, I knew it wasn’t their doing. (They lob balls into my yard frequently, but never get near the house and nearly always use nerf or whiffle balls.)
Without giving it a second thought, I stomped over to the fence, pointed, and called, “You! Blond kid!” And proceeded to give him a piece of my mind and a warning that if he broke a window, hurt an animal, or damaged my property in any way, he’d be in deep yogurt. Then I tossed the baseball over the fence and went home.
A couple minutes later, the father of the three boys was at my gate, full of apologies and concern.
“No, no. Your little boys are so sweet and polite,” I said. “You don’t need to apologize for anything. It’s that other kid. It’s almost as if he’s aiming at my house. He needs a good talking to from his parents.”
“But I’m the dad,” my neighbor said, as if that explained everything that needed to be said about his responsibility.
Later I got to feeling bad about raising a ruckus. Maybe I should have just gone over there and had a quiet talk with everybody. Maybe I should have gone to Dad and let him handle his guest.
This morning I took the family a peace offering of apple pie (storebought, sorry) and ice cream. Dad was off on a volunteer fire call, but Mom and two of the boys were there. I assured the boys I wasn’t upset with them in any way. I apologized to Mom for the undiplomatic way I’d handled the situation and asked her to pass that on to her husband.
She made it clear that she and Dad had had a very serious talk with all the boys and that no peace offering was necessary. “That kid is a good boy,” she said. “But … they’re having some troubles right now.” Not excusing, just explaining.
Only nerf and whiffle balls from now on, she assured me, taking the pie and ice cream that I finally had to force into her hands.
Get businesses freaked out enough about “discriminating against the disabled” and they’ll fall for anything.
12 lessons to learn and hang onto forever. (Especially for business, but plenty have applications in the rest of the world, too.)
Just to cheer you up, here’s the latest report on global-catastrophic risks. I confess not to have read it yet. I don’t need that kind of “cheering up” right now. But just in case you’re interested. (H/T MJR)
Assume your state government is in big trouble if one, single taxpayer saying goodbye could have this much impact.
Meant to get to the library for blogging earlier. But it was a good morning for burning. Just enough rain last night to keep the ground damp but not enough to soak the wood. And hooboy, have I got wood.
Last week a minion came and spent a whole day breaking down and stacking all that deconstruction rubble and since then, I’ve been getting rid of it the good, old-fashioned, no-dump-fee way.
Today was my fifth construction-rubble fire. These aren’t exactly bonfires, but couldn’t pass as humble little campfires, either.
BUT. In addition to getting rid of the unsightly rubble heaps, I’m making other progress. You recall the two unsightly exterior walls I bemoaned not long ago. Here’s one of them then:
Now take a look at today:
The door trim and shingles are my work. I got carried away. I’d figured to make that wall my main summer project, working on it an hour here, an hour there. But I love shingling. Took just five days even though I was sick for the first several of it. Still need to put up a fascia board and some edge trim and to paint the eaves (which of course I should have done before shingling, but I plead brainfog from that endless cold I had. I forgot.
The new wall with the T1-11 siding is courtesy of The Wandering Monk. And if it looks like just any old wall, take my word for it, it was more of an engineering project than you can imagine. Perhaps I’ll give you the full true-confession story on that wall next time I’m ready to make fun of yet another weird quirk of Ye Old Wreck. But for now … progress!
Now off to repay your patience with a couple of blog entries …
UPDATE Okay. I have posted a few more things today and in addition prepped three more blogs for posting between now and the end of the week. So you’ll hardly know I’m mostly offline. I also read and will be thinking about your blog-related suggestions. Big thank you for those.
However, I didn’t get most of my email answered. Will try to catch up on that within a few days, but for now I’m tired, my eyeballs need a break from this screen, and the dogs are calling me home. I can hear them sighing and whimpering all the way from the library.
Today it’s been exactly two months since I had home Internet. Four months to go and I confess that when Comcast comes back on August 20, I plan to binge my little heart out streaming Amazon shows, forum browsing, and even indulging in a whole bunch of disgusting news reading. I’ll surf until my brain turns soggy. When November comes, I’ll follow 16 live blogs of every dismal, depressing election result and love every second of it.
That said, I generally haven’t missed connectedness that much and am looking forward to a summer of getting lots of small things done on the house (no big projects this year) because I’m not chained to my computer.
There’ve been some inconvenient moments and a few minor aggravations, but mostly it’s simply been no big deal. And those house debts I need to pay down are getting paid just that much faster without that extra $40 going to Comcast every month.
The few PITAs have been unexpected ones. Last week when I was sick, I blogged less because I didn’t have the oomph to drag myself to the library and didn’t want to pollute the other patrons. If I’d had home ‘Net, I’d likely have blogged much more than usual because I’d be drowning my sorrows in cyberspace.
The library itself has sometimes been … interesting. On one of the four days its open, it hosts thundering herds of children. Not exactly an aid to concentration. And there are a few grownups whose company I could do without. There’s one man — he just left a moment ago as I write this, so the memory of him is vivid — who must pour a full bottle of cheap cologne over himself every morning. Now, I am not somebody who has scent allergies or even a particularly sensitive sense of smell. I rarely even notice people’s perfumes. But when this man is 20 feet away from me, as he was just now browsing a shelf, I’m not only assaulted by the reek of him, but can literally taste his chemicals with every breath I take. Worse, he likes to use the library computer terminal that sits just over the wall of my carrel. The one-and-only carrel for plugging in a laptop.
I swear, whatever he’s putting on himself must be outlawed by treaties against chemical warfare. Thank heaven I only encounter him about once a week.
Still, it’s mostly pleasant here in my little corner of the library. The librarians are nice when they talk with me and even nicer for leaving me alone. This is a good time.
But it’ll be nice as summer fades and fall darkness closes in, to warm myself with home Internet again. And enjoy the quiet and the aroma of wet dog and hot tea.
Yesterday The Wandering Monk came by to pry some lengths of 2×4 off the exterior walls of Ye Olde Wreck. They are among the last traces of the monstrous not-a-garage. I’ve never had any idea of their purpose. They had zero structural function. They were as far from decorative as could possibly be. The only use I could imagine for them was for hanging tools, but there was no sign they’d ever borne hooks or any other hanging devices.
They were just … 2x4s. Extremely long ones. Nailed high up on the walls.
It baffled me that I’d been unable to make headway prying them off myself. But since they were large and potentially dangerous if they crashed down from overhead, I figured I’d leave them to a pro.
Here’s the reason they were so hard to get down:
The nails on the left — some of them nearly 5″ long — were holding up those useless trim strips. Dozens of the things, pairs every couple of feet. This is only a sampling.
For contrast I give you nails of the size the geniuses who built my house used for crucial structual functions. On the right are 6d and 8d nails like those they used to attach both the enclosed porch and the entire back wing to the original one-room house. These are not the actual nails, which were all rusted and bent from the stresses of the house pulling apart around them. They’re just nails I keep on hand for light duty applications — like nailing up trim.
I don’t know when the cancerous not-a-garage was built. It was clearly a boozy afterthought. But the useless 2x4s the monk removed yesterday were true dimensional lumber, from back in the day when 2×4 really meant 2×4. That puts them solidly in the time when the original builder was still living there.
Somebody really had some amazingly whacky priorities.
Anyhow, now that the 2x4s are gone, the only remaining trace of the not-a-garage is 1/4″ fiberboard that covers the original tongue-and-groove siding. And those my prybar and I are more than capable of doing away with.
It started raining again Sunday evening. Just a soft, unserious, springlike shower, followed by a few more days of the same. But knowing it was coming, I put in several hours of outdoor work, then prepped for an indoor project.
Since there was not a lot I could do inside until The Wandering Monk arrived to help me drywall a ceiling, I wandered across the little one-lane road and tried to make more progress cleaning the empty lot that will someday, if all my plans and dreams come to fruition, contain a gravel path with steps down to a homemade pergola, a small picnic area, a few fruit trees, a firepit, and maybe some chickens or even a goat or two.
It’s a long way from most of that and I’m beginning to despair.
But this … once again takes “small-space living” to crazy extremes. Only in San Francisco. Or New York City. Or London. Or other places that have become hellholes for normal people.
Kevin Wilmeth comments on my TZP “constitutional carry” piece and gets it exactly right: “The only downside I can see, honestly, is that celebrating a good thing for what it is, isn’t going to help the sort of prag mindset that still can’t distinguish between long-term strategy and true pre-emptive surrender.”
Summer’s been with us all week (and that’s no April fooling). Aside from a little fog Monday morning, the weather’s been that ideal sort you don’t even have to think about. No worries about shivering or roasting or (thank the gods of the NorthWET) getting rained on. It’s just … what weather ought to be.
Everything smells good, too. Like spring. Well, some low-lying places in the woods smell like skunk cabbage. And skunk cabbage smells like you-know-what. But even that’s a welcome aroma; it say’s winter’s officially over.
In the warm, I’ve been hammering ceilings, beating rugs (lovely, messy, old-fashioned task), and bringing order to the chaos of the de-construction rubble heaps outside the back door.
While sorting rubble, I found something on the back of a door frame that The Wandering Monk tore out last month. I couldn’t get a decent picture of it, but it was one man’s tiny bit of immortality. In pencil (and in rather nice, flamboyant handwriting), somebody had scrawled “J.J. O’Shaughnessy” and the name of one of the nearby towns.
The signature was against a wall where no one would ever see it until the door was torn out or the house demolished, and possibly not even then unless they were looking carefully. I didn’t spot it until I was hammering apart several defunct door frames yesterday.
Off I went to the lumber yard to ask Rick, whose great-grandfather built the house, if that name meant anything to him. After 15 seconds of painful thought he got it: “J.J. O’Shaugnessy was a friend of my great-grandfather’s. They were both logging truck drivers. I remember he had his own truck with his name and a … what do you call it? … a shamrock on the door. Yeah, he helped build the house.”
I refrained from saying I don’t think I’d have signed my name to that particular work of art and asked if J.J. still has any descendants in the area.
All dead now, Rick thinks. He’s not sure whether the one O’Shaughnessy in town is related or not.
In any case, I’ve pounded all the nails out of the frame piece and I’ll hand it over to Rick as a memento. If he finds a proper O’Shaughnessy to give it to, all the better.
Me, I’m still looking for … oh, a sack of gold coins somebody might have stashed in the walls to save them from Mr. Roosevelt. Even a bit of old newspaper headlining the bombing of Pearl Harbor or the Lindbergh kidnapping would do. But so far, nothing but bugs and rot. And the proud signature of Mr. J.J. O’Shaughnessy, log-truck driver. To which he did not add a shamrock.
You’ve seen the improvements in my wreck of a house and indeed there’ve been many. I take pride in showing off pictures like this:
What I don’t often show you is how absolutely godawful some of it still looks. In some cases, it’s even worse than when I bought it, largely thanks to said improvements. Really, in some ways a tarpaper shack would be an improvement. I’m not kidding.
I once lived in a town where the most successful realtor had a huge home with its own golf course (just six holes, but still …). Incongruously to me, this estate sat bang on the side of a main highway, enduring vehicle noise day and night.
Apparently I wasn’t the only person who wondered why anyone with that much money would choose such a public location. When a curious acquaintance asked him, he had the perfect (and IMHO perfectly awful) answer: “What’s the point of being successful if nobody can see that you are?”
My idea of successful householding is about the opposite. If I were “as rich as Creosote” (a Terry Pratchettism), I’d build a tiny gem of a house (fan shaped, with a sweep of windows on the rounded side and movable shoji-screen walls within) on a hilltop in the middle of 50,000 wooded acres. It would have a single winding access road nobody could even find and no sounds other than those provided by nature (or perhaps a few strategically placed manmade brooks or waterfalls). It would be in the State of Jefferson, near the coast, and the hilltop would be cleared enough that I could enjoy a sweeping ocean view. But nobody — nobody — would ever “view” me.
How about you? If you could live anywhere and any way you wanted, what would you do?
BTW, I have a bigger blog I’m working on this morning. I’ll probably schedule it for posting on Saturday.