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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Let Down Your Hair

RumpleSm.jpg RAMBLING TALE TONIGHT, inconsequential chit-chat spun, gold into straw, and drawn over several half-arsed sessions never quite completed. Rather like the subject matter. Like some old and fat Rapunzel I sit at my wheel spinning and dreaming for a thousand and one nights, never quite able to finish anything. If only I knew his true name?...


It'll be another month before the kitchen cabinets arrive - my birthday! Hooray! - but that's okay: it felt good tearing the old ones down. Gives us plenty of time to move gas pipes and electrical outlets. I was going to say we were half-way done, but that'd be wrong. Maybe two-fifths? We have floors tiled in our new main living space, and slowly-but-surely we're populating it with furniture and rugs and cable and other essentials. As of last Thursday night it became officially habitable: we have the seating, we have the wall-mounted TV with hidden wires, we have the new cable box and DVD installed. True, there are a ton of boxes lying around: a mix of old bitty stuff we didn't want to part with - books, CD's, DVD's, dinner sets, silverware, whatnots and gizmos - the old familiars that used to inhabit bookshelves-cupboards-drawers of the Gone now stacked in twenty-odd small boxes; and mixed with these a teen of bigger boxes, new boxes, some empty, others not, containing new furniture - tables, chairs, wall mountings - in various states of unassembly. But we do have comfy chairs and a television, the essential makings of a Family room.

What we don't have - yet - is a mindset to go with it. For all of our past years, the growing years, the destructor years, for all those years we've pretty-much lived in a different room: the old family room. Or as some might have it, the real family room. It is to this presently-bare and uncarpeted room that we have always gravitated, and still do. The puppy lives there; given the run of two scraped-out rooms for his hobbledy klip-klop but shuttered behind doors. The cat hates him, but he, perversely, loves her and runs barking and yelping for her any opportunity he gets. Half the time he runs right past her, unseeing. For a little guy with only three good legs he can fairly belt up the stairs, faster than any of us. So for now we keep him in the old room, and he is our excuse to remain sat there. "Puppy needs company." Sure he does, but that's not the real reason you won't move through to the comfortable seats, is it?

Old habits won't change their spots or learn new tricks. The only one I care about moving to the new abode is my belovèd, my Goddess, around whose knees I live to clasp my arms. And me: my recovering herniated spine and nerve-damaged arms can't take much more of those plastic chairs. I need to get out of that room. The Spawn can go hang - take their filthy raging hormones back to the bat caves where they belong. Because Old Habits blah-di-blah they are not welcome in our new space; or at least, that's what they're being told. It is important to set the tone from the outset. But five careless thoughtless teenagers can devastate a household just as quickly and efficiently as the five growing children they hatched out of. All of this newness, all of this cleanness, this polished wax and sparkling glass - it sings to the Horde like a gaping wound to a cloud of blowflies.


They can live in the yard, now that it's been cleared and looks so tidy and so minimalist. Second thoughts - No - it's too tidy for them now: they'd only break it. We finally had to tell the gardeners to STOP RIGHT THERE!, to PACK YOUR TOOLS AND TIDY YOUR SHIT AND JUST GO! Their idea of Cost turned out to be very different from ours, and money was cascading daily from our pockets to theirs, faster than the coal-dark water they left us with is now draining out the pool and down the street. Bloody Hell: when you tell the guy, Saturday, "$1000 more and that must be it" but he comes back Sunday and says "That cost $1,900. Oops." and the pool guy has arrived meantime and told you $500 to drain and clean the fecher, then it is surely time to let the Gardeners go. To think it began one Saturday afternoon a month ago when we asked for a tentative estimate to clear-away a couple of trees from the side of the house. The job just ballooned out of all control and proportion. So much work has been done there, and so much space revealed: it really does look good. But, since the Gardeners have cleaned us out, it's up to us to replant it now, and up to me to try to get the sprinklers working again. Bugger. I'm useless enough with my hands as it is, but far, far worse in horticulture situations. Our sprinkler system here is - literally - in with the bricks. Which is to say it is buried: sometimes under lawn, more often under brickwork. The front and side sections are working, and but for two or three replacement heads that various passersby have trampled to death, I don't have too much to do to that part. Oh, but there is this one valve out front which definitely works - you can hear the water flowing, you get soaked by the spray from the release nozzle - but no actual sprinklers sprinkle, so we've no idea where that water is going. The backyard sprinkler system, other hand, is totally busted. There are three sprinkler valves that I can find, all of them stuck under a tree. Only one of them was working but it did not drive the heads we needed - that whole row that runs along the back hedge and into our new planting area. There was, however, an obvious leak underground, right at the valves. So I dug down to the pipes. Or tried to. Being situated at the foot of a tree means the pipes are wrangled and mangled by inches-thick impenetrable tree roots. So although I dug down and did find the pipes, and although I even exposed a huge hole at the first bend, I couldn't uncover more than a few inches of length because of the roots. Enough to fix upon the direction the broken pipe was headed and to locate the spot - right at the pool pump thirty feet away - where the pipe came back out the ground and into the concrete, clearly on its way to the back hedge. I fixed it! Me! I procured the necessary hardware all by myself. I cut the broken pipe above ground at either end, purchased a spanking-new valve, discovered our Gardener puts a 200% mark-up on replacement brass sprinkler valves, and ran new pipe above ground this time so it would not get tangled again. Great: beautiful job, though I say so myself. Turn on the water, twist the manual valve release - feching thing only drives one single solitary lonely head at the near corner of the yard. Bastards! All that work for the wrong valve! But wait... there's more. Twist the knob on the other valve, the other "broken" valve, and water starts spewing out the sawn-off end of the underground pipe I'd just cut! Classic situation comedy visual gag, rather like when Rodney and Del Boy and Grandpa in "Only Fools and Horses" are taking down that chandelier, with Rodney and Del Boy stood underneath on ladders to catch it, Grandpa unscrewing the bolts in the attic, only for a different chandelier unnoticed in the background to come crashing to the floor.

Idiot! I felt such a twally. To recover I ran to the hardware store and bought 200 feet of that porous sweating hose that intentionally leaks all its length, ran it from the sawn-off pipe all around the back fence to the faraway plantation spot. So at least we have some water seeping where we need it. All those new plants we've bought might just stand a chance.


All of this has taken its toll: we needed a break. We needed to get oot the hoose and run away for a couple of days. Vegas beckoned. We thought we'd be good and take four of the kids with us, a final fling before school starts, and we'd even planned to leave Sunday night and return on Tuesday so that one of the boys, who works in the Library, he could come too after finishing work on Sunday. Cometh the day of course and both boys decided that laying claim to some good High School locker real estate was far more important than any poxy trip to Vegas with the parents, so the bastards decided not to come with us at all but to stay with Grandma along with eldest son who either has to work or to attend Community College every day. If only those boys were so gung-ho about actual school work as they are about acquiring prestigious lockers? As things stand, we can at least be thankful that funding college for five kids will likely not be the huge financial burden we'd always imagined. If our eldest is any indicator even Community College might prove too much for them? He wants to be a firefighter, eventually, but to serve some time as a paramedic first to stand a better chance of being accepted. Firefighter jobs are in huge demand round these parts, what with all the fires and all. To qualify for either job he requires to complete a "Basic EMT" course. This was his intent - take the course at the local CC along with enough supplemental credits to keep him covered by our health insurance meantime. But he forgot to Admit himself to the college, until - reminded by me and driven to the college at high speed - he managed to squeak in his application with, like, fifty minutes to go before the deadline. That was a Friday. The following Monday, barely three days hence, he forgot to register for his courses. By the time he remembered, Tuesday - rather, by the time I reminded him Tuesday - the EMT courses he needed were fully booked with no spare places. "Never mind," said we, "Turn-up anyway first day of class and ask to be admitted. The lecturers will dump anyone that doesn't turn-up first day and open the places to those who do." Yay. Except, of course, the stupid arse forgot the first day of school too and did not turn-up for any of his classes. We went spare that night - it really looked like his entire future was going to read "Save-On", and he had to wait two full days until his next scheduled classes to discover whether or not he still had a place at any of them. Bastard got soooo lucky. Future firefighter, paramedic? I can just imagine a scene of devastation and carnage, and there's Our Boy: <shrug>"Oops!"</shrug>

By Gawd, did we need to get away. Now - a little backstory to our trip to Vegas: seven years ago, still in Scotland, Visa approved but not yet in hand, I sold my Beamer back to the garage in Edinburgh I'd bought it from and wired the proceeds to my thentime-fiancée here in California. Wired pounds-to-dollars that she might use them to buy a van for our merging family that would be big enough to transport ourselves and our five kids and one or two visitors all at once. Traded the Beamer, bought a '95 Chevy Astro. Perfect - a great wee van, good mileage - waaay better than our pretentious all-wheel drive Jeep Grand Cherokee - modestly comfortable, holds us, the kids, the outlaws and half of Ikea all at once. Still have it today, clocked over 150,000 miles, and it runs pretty good. But the Air-Conditioning is goosed: which means it is absolutely no use for the drive through the desert to Vegas, not any more. So for the third time we rented a minivan, expecting a Qwest or a Dodge or some other small-but-comfortable contraption. Part of the fun of renting is driving something new, but you can't pick in advance. You may ask for a certain make or model, but what you get when you arrive at the rental desk is whatever turned-up at their car park that day. This time it was... an '05 Chevy Astro. Last of its kind, apparently.

And you know what? This spanking-new model of our old favorite van, it scored a mere Bleh on the travel. It's been tarted-up in the intervening years: the front seats are higher, little more leg room; the dash is a little sleeker; the rear seats definitely comfier for the girls this time round (the boys did not come with, remember?) but still - only a Bleh. The front seats have clearly suffered the influence of some Orthopaedic Expert or other because they're lumpier and not entirely comfortable. There are bits of chair poking into your lumbar and other uncomfortable regions. Me with my bad back and all, I need a decent seat in a car these days - but this van didn't have one. And it handles differently - doesn't turn as tightly, looks a lot wider from the driver seat and manouvres poorly. I like our ancient model better: but it got us there and back again, so I mustn't grumble. Couple of nights in Vegas, fully-comped because of my Winner Wife who racks-up an enormous number of points in a very short time, and wins enough for both of us to gamble the weekend and still come home with some tidy green to take to Fry's or wherever else. And so it was: we returned home last night, then it was straight to work, catching-up on events.

Back tae...

I have begun my new job - actually started in my new position last Monday. Same company, same building, same cubicle, same chair, same desktop. Different division. To transfer from one to another ought to be nothing, a mere shuffling of paper. You'd think, right?


The company I work for is built of acquisitions and mergers of diverse Tech companies. And though they all live under one umbrella, and though Mgt. strives to present an image of Unity and Union, All-One-Big-Family, reality is slightly lagging. A transfer from one division to another has entailed all of the steps one normally expects when changing jobs between different companies. I did not, however, have to resign as such, but I might just as well have? I had to sit through the company Orientation program again - though I've worked there four years; I've had to re-apply to all of the Benefit programs, including 401k (managed by the same third-party but with only half the Employer contributions this time); and my pay schedule has changed. Our two divisions, it seems, are not payed in the same weeks. Not complaining, not me... just sayin'.

Anyway: I have an awful lot of work to do in my new job - that part hasn't changed - so if you'll forgive me, I'd like to get back to it.

...I was so sure his name was Rumplestiltskin, but the baldy little bugger just laughed at me, bolting the door for another night.


Blogger DarkoV said...

Water. It draws us in with its gurgling sounds and soothing relief. And then it destroys us. Maybe not a tsunami, just a trickle tumbling out of a space where we least expected a liquid flow. I empathize with your "Gerdin" issues and hope that they don't extend to your "Hoose".
As an eager lad, learning home repairs at my father's bent-to-the-floor knee, water seemed to be the arch-villain in our house. It forced itself into our home from the city-wide pipes and proceeded to empty its bag of tricks onto my much beleagured dad. It was late in his game that he realized that he'd never tame water. Perhaps that off-the-cuff comment he'd made about putting up an outhouse and digging up an old-fashioned well with bucket out back were ideas that he should have carried out. Instead, he went down that modernization path toward fully integrated indoor plumbing. Our floors, sagging and warped, resembled the planks of a sunken man of war.
These days, whenever I turn on a faucet, I bend down and peer intently at the fittings. Is that just the pipes sweating in the humidity or is Water toying with my sanity, a generation after my dad?

I'd light candles for you for your successful completion (we all know that last 1/5 of the work takes 4/5 of the time), but Fire in the house is almost as dangerous as Water.

5:49 AM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

Oh my, but water so used to be the bane of my life, back when I lived in the land of perpetual rain. There was in fact a certain puddle, situated four feet from my old front door (which stood one 4' sidewalk distant from a busy road) that became the Last Straw, the Fuckit Straw, that led me to up-sticks and head for the Golden State and the Land of the Free. Freed from the tyranny of local council officers who refused to fill-in the gaping hole in the road, and free from being splashed and soaked every time I opened my door.

One day perhaps I shall write about the monstrous irony of having a swimming pool and a sprinkler system here on the edge of desert where it does not rain for months at a time, neither of which have ever been impeded by drought; as compared to the land of teeming rain where such a thing would be unthinkable because of the shocking carelessness of water suppliers. Two weeks without rain there is a drought, and people are banned from watering their lawns.

But not today. Regular blogging shall resume at some point, I promise, but in the meantime I'm afraid there's only going to be more of this remodel whining.

8:54 AM  
Blogger Whisky Prajer said...

I think I understand why "book reviews" have not been your top priority...

Moving from Scotland to any other place in the world would be an exercise in "disconnect" - but California? This is just a bit of free-association riffing, but there's something comforting to my mind about the spectre of a Scot in mid-life living in the Golden State. Who knows? You might be Governor someday. After all, you've got an accent.

4:30 AM  
Anonymous stephenesque said...

That's all very well about the Hoose and the Gerdin, but what aboot the Drave? I mean, what's the perkin situation like for your hoose worming perty?

9:57 AM  
Blogger F.C. Bearded said...

Shree cers'll fit oan the drive, then a couple mair doon the street. Ye huve tae be careful yes dinnae block the neeburs driveways though: and it wouldnae be the first time they'd called the polis fur the noise.

11:03 PM  
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7:46 PM  

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