Tag Archives: rant

Shop Vac


Things accomplished today:

  1. Odd-colored patch under the light fixture we replaced in the kitchen: painted.
  2. Peeling ceiling paint in the bathroom: scraped and re-painted.
  3. Warping and de-laminating bathroom door: liquid-nails’ed back into shape.
  4. Slow drain in upstairs bathroom: de-slowified.

Things I learned:

  1. Popcorn ceiling is terrible, in that it’s basically impossible to match an old application with a new one, and thus, if it ever needs to be repaired in any way, you almost have to re-paint the entire ceiling in that room.
  2. Popcorn ceiling is kind of awesome, in that it hides imperfections in the underlying surface, so the previous ceiling paint I didn’t entirely scrape off just kinda disappears.
  3. How have I lived 36 years without knowing about liquid nails? That stuff could fix the holes in the Titanic, I’m pretty sure. Never going to be without some in the house again.
  4. Kids will stuff anything down an open drain, just for the curiosity of it.

Things I may or may not have shop-vac’d out of the kids’ (and my!) bathtub drain:

  1. Seven pounds of hair (interesting as I don’t have any)
  2. Two matchbox cars
  3. A collection of bathtub markers
  4. One missing cat (alive)
  5. One missing cat (deceased)
  6. A previously undiscovered Dead Sea Scroll
  7. Five dollars

Fixer of Things


There is no satisfaction like the satisfaction you gain from taking on a task entirely foreign to you and mastering it.

Yesterday, found a leak under our sink. Today, it’s fixed. Not by a contractor, not by an expertly licensed and trained plumber with a truck full of tools and a belt that never quite seems to keep his pants up. By me.

So what if it took three hours and two trips to the Home Depot?

So what if my kitchen currently looks like a disaster area?

So what if I had to buy and learn to use two brand new tools that I may never use again?

So what if my face is going to be broken out for weeks from rubbing my mug against the underside of the sink?

So what if my back and shoulders may never be the same after cramming them into that tiny space?

I fixed a thing. And instead of the $300 it likely would have cost to call a “professional,” I’m out only $25, a few hours of work, and a small portion of my dignity (apparently the belt doesn’t hold my pants up on the job either).

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See that? That’s what a pipe looks like when it’s not leaking anymore. (Sidenote: I worked harder than I should have to get this picture, and it still looks like unmollified hell.)

Victory!


Get Offa That Art Crap


I ran into a former student at the grocery this weekend. (This is a side effect of living close to where you work, something my father always recommended against. We lived within walking distance of the high school where he worked and where I was a student, and we couldn’t go anywhere without running into students [former and current], parents, co-workers, etc. I got used to sitting in the car and daydreaming for fifteen minutes after we’d gotten done shopping while he’d be stuck in conversation with somebody or other. The advent of the Game Boy was a boon to my childhood that can never be appreciated by the current generation. In my day, you sat and stewed and waited in your own thoughts.)

She has gone on from my humble literature classroom to a good in-state university, as I expected she would. What I didn’t expect was her choice of major: Geology.

Rocks.

monument-valley-143201_1280

When I wrote her a letter of recommendation to the same university, it was for their music program. She was a chorus student. An artist, too. Talented on both counts. And now, she’ll be studying rocks.

Her dad was with her, and he jumped right in there while I was trying to puzzle that one out. “I’m so glad we got her offa that art crap to do something worthwhile.” Boastfully, he said this. With a big smile on his face and his hand on her back. She, meanwhile, had that half-hearted smile kids get when their parents are bragging on them for something they know is not a big deal. And (and I’m sure I didn’t just imagine this) — a little bit of sadness in her eyes.

It was obvious that she’d gone in the geology direction — or at least in the offa that art crap direction — at her dad’s urging. And it seemed to me that she was not entirely proud of making this announcement to me.

I have a few thoughts about this:

  1. On the one hand, it doesn’t much matter to me what she’s studying particularly — just the fact that she’s gone on to college is a good thing. Because too many students don’t — especially from her school, her community..
  2. On the other hand, yes it does matter to me because she had a passion, and if her parent turned her away from that passion, then that’s a bummer.
  3. On the other other hand, I totally get dad’s perspective. The likelihood of making a living with your art is unfortunately remote. We have to make a living in the meantime, and that means having more skills in the set, more tools in the box. So I’m not exactly blind to his desire to push his kid toward a more “serious” option.
  4. On the other other other hand … Geology? Is this a field with tons of career opportunities that I never heard about? If so, that rocks. I’m not even sorry.

I dunno. Unfortunately, I see both sides of this issue in sharp relief. Parents have to do their best to give their kids the best chance in this world, so maybe a parent has the unpleasant duty of delivering the harsh truth and pushing his kid off the path of rainbows and daisies. But then, aren’t parents also supposed to encourage their kids not to settle for what’s “sensible” and chase their dreams? And doesn’t that mean occasionally chasing after a pipe dream and getting a degree in something worthless like music or drama? (cough, cough.)

Ultimately, I’m not bothered by her decision. No such decision is easy, and surely they spent a lot of hours deciding what was best for her. And I guess I’m not particularly bothered by the dad’s feeling on the matter either — it makes sense, if it seems a bit cold.

What I take issue with is the self-satisfied, self-aggrandizing condescension. “We got her offa that art crap.”

Because art is a waste of time, right? Because nothing good comes of art, right? Because any endeavor that isn’t specifically geared toward putting more money in your pocket is fit only for the hippie unicorn-chasers, right?

No, sorry. Art matters.

If you trudge through your workday for the privilege of vegging out on the couch to watch the newest episode of your favorite TV show, art matters.

If you fantasize about getting high off of inhaling the crisp, fresh-smelling pages of a new book, art matters.

If you avoid water-cooler spoilers lest you have your favorite characters’ secrets revealed to you without the appropriate narrative foreplay, art matters.

If you turn on the radio or a podcast or an audiobook to save your soul from the monotony of your daily drive, art matters.

Art, in short, bloody well matters — it ain’t crap to be got off of. It may not always — or often — be financially rewarding. But in this life, there are other rewards than the ones and zeroes in your bank account. Art is the water of friggin’ life. And we could all use a drink.

I didn’t say this to him, of course. Polite society and all that. But I take a quiet pleasure in knowing that he will one day be figuratively eviscerated for his transgression against her creative spirit.

You know. Through her art.


Project Projections: 80% Chance of Bloodbath


My current project may kill me.

Not because it’s awful, like my protagonist’s assignment in Accidentally Inspired. Not because it’s just too much work, either, like that pile of stuff in your garage that you keep meaning to sort through and clean out.

It’s going to kill me because much like the weather here in Georgia, it’s alternately the best thing ever and the worst thing imaginable, and I don’t know how many fluctuations I can take before my lungs fill up with phlegm and my sinuses explode in protest.

The good:

While I was writing it, I had the feeling that it was terrible. I kept changing things in the middle of the narrative, the plot and characters congealing like a quivering pile of multicolored unidentifiable mystery meat in a school cafeteria. But reading through the story again this week, I’m pleasantly surprised. The plot needs work, to be sure, but it’s more multi-knotted rescue rope with the odd loose end than formless hairball of half-digested tail fur.

Also, there are some lovely turns of language in it — especially toward the beginning. I love a good simile or metaphor like I love a third slice of cake — but like the third slice of cake, I have to wonder if I’m not overdoing it. Trying too hard, indulging in fripperies because they feel good right now, rather than because they’re what I need. Not so much in this book. The language is playful and sometimes poetic, though always a little off-the-wall — kinda like me.

I found a note that Past Me left for Future Me (now Present Me) to “have fun with this story” — my previous story’s protagonist spent most of his time in a smothering haze of self-doubt — and I seem to have followed that advice pretty well. In this story, there’s adventure! Robots! Murder plots! Secret agendas! Double agents! Explosions! It’s not clicking like a finely-oiled machine, yet, but the pieces are there for the clicking, and it was actually already fun for me to read even in its first form — AND YOU HAVEN’T SEEN ITS FINAL FORM YET.

In short, there’s already a lot of good going for it. Of course, that brings me to the flip side of the coin —

The Bad:

A lot of the language that I so enjoyed at the outset dries up like a California reservoir after the first third of the book. Not coincidentally, that’s about where I started making major changes to characters and plots and had to spend all of my fargoes keeping those balls in the air. But that now means I’ll either have to trim it back in the first third or surgically implant it into the latter parts, neither of which is likely to feel natural.

Some of the rewrites on order are massive. I’d guess offhand that maybe a third of the book needs a ground-up rewrite and another third needs a heavy dose of some terrifying, unnameable, especially pointy and sharp editing tools. I know, I know. The editing is supposed to be the hard part. But this particular EPOS feels like it may be bigger than the last one I climbed. Daunting.

The last one, I don’t even want to say. It almost hurts too much. But I can’t avoid it.

I lost the ending of the book, back when I lost the flash drive that had my most recent first draft on it. Only the last 5000 words or so, but still — that one bit of stupidity continues to haunt me, like I went and built a house on an old Indian burial ground. Now, the ending needs — as all endings need — some serious tweaking and tuning, so the loss itself isn’t that bad. But the fact of the loss is pretty damn demoralizing, and leaves me with a grungy feeling as I get ready to step into my rubber gloves and galoshes and slice into this thing.

But the slicing is inevitable anyway. Just means I go into the work with a little bit of gudge already on me.

So. Kill me?

On second thought, I don’t think so.

This weekly remotivational post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday. Every weekend, I use Linda G. Hill’s prompt to refocus my efforts and evaluate my process, sometimes with productive results. This week? Maybe not so productive.

 


A Seed Corn Is Not What You Think It Is


**Spoiler alert. Runners tend to overshare, and I guess I’m guilty of being a runner who is all-too-willing to overshare. The post below might gross you out, but I have done you the favor of not including pictures.**

Haven’t written about running in a while, and partly that’s because, as I so often lament, there’s only so much you can say about running. But mostly that’s because it hasn’t been enjoyable.

The sardonic ones out there might say, with a guffaw, “WHEN IS RUNNING EVER ENJOYABLE?” And okay, yeah, sure, running is always a struggle, always an exercise (haw) in discomfort on some level.

But the discomfort of late has been above and beyond. Every step driving a tiny little spike into the bottom of my foot. Extra-padded shoes, hardly padded shoes. Ice by the bucket. Ibuprofen by the fistful. Spots of relief here and there, but never for more than a few hours.

Aches and pains come with the territory, but when something persists like this, you start to wonder if something is really wrong. So I took a few days off. Then a week. Then another. And still, every step felt like stepping on gravel.

I always feel awkward going to any sort of doctor. Like, this is my body, I ought to know pretty well what the fargo is going on with it and keep it in good shape well enough to go getting “professional opinions” on it. And going to the doctor for foot pain feels a little like going to the mechanic with a flat tire. Makes me feel dumb, is what I’m saying. Further, there’s always the possibility that when you go to the doctor, the doctor will tell you something is seriously wrong, and that’s not a thing anybody wants to hear. Particularly in this case, going to a foot doctor, I’m always afraid I’m going to hear: you need to stop running. But with a couple of months of pain in the bag and no end in sight, there’s little choice.

I make the appointment to see the podiatrist. But the last thing I want to have happen when I go to the doctor is to have him look at me like I’m an idiot and tell me “well obviously you have a blargle-wargle-gargle and you should’ve wobble-bobble-dobble.” So I research my symptoms. Best I can guess, I’ve got a swollen/pinched nerve in my foot. Incurable outside of surgery or a series of painful injections to literally deaden the nerve. Needles. Scalpels. Walking around on a numb or bandaged foot. Probably taking pills for months because this is America, why wouldn’t they prescribe pills?

I’m dreading the visit.

But I go. He asks me what’s ailing me, and I tell him, and he takes a look at my foot. Pokes, prods.

Doc: “Got a lot of callus built up there.”

Me: “Oh, yeah? Is that normal?”

Doc: “Probably not.”

All of which is said in that I don’t really have to think about it and it’s kind of silly that you did way I was sort of dreading. But he’s a nice guy, he doesn’t let me wallow in my stupid.

Instead, he reaches for a spikey-looking thing that looks like it could easily bring down an elk. Holds it aloft, then looks at the bottom of my foot as if sizing up a kebab for the skewer. I start to hyperventilate.

But it’s not a skewer, it’s a shaver. He starts shaving away at this thing. Flakes of dead skin sort of tinking into a metal tray.

He nods thoughtfully. “Take a look.”

I turn my foot around, peer at the sole like a monkey limbering up for a tree-jaunt. And there, right in the spot that I’ve felt but not seen for months, encased in a dead skin cocoon as it was, is this weird little blue-black speck.

A friend of mine in the third grade stabbed me in the knee with a pencil. Even today, I’ve got this discolored spot just inside the kneecap where (I’m assuming) the graphite sort of inadvertently tattooed the lower layers of the dermis. Blackish-blue and odd, just lurking below the topmost layer of the skin. Not painful, just there, and alien-looking.

This thing in my foot looks like that. And I’m thinking, what the hell is that?

So I say, “what the hell is that?”

Blocked sweat gland, he says. Gland gets plugged — bit of grime or dirt or whatever — and creates this little “core” thingy that irritates and calcifies, not entirely unlike a clam with a pearl. (“Seed corn” is one thing they’re called.) Except this “pearl” eventually becomes basically a rock embedded in the bottom of your foot. Which — no surprise — makes it feel like you’ve got a rock in your shoe, even when you’re not wearing shoes. No big deal — just shave away the dead skin, carve the bugger out, and off you go. Which he does. No X-Rays. No medication regimen. No surgery or impalement with needles. He just works with the elkstopper for another minute or so (I barely feel any of this, of course, it’s all just dead skin and callus) and then says, “all done.”

I twist my foot around again for a look. The speck is gone. In its place is a neat little indentation in the skin, as if a ball bearing had been pressed permanently into a memory foam mattress. I might feel a little discomfort for a day or so, he tells me, but nothing to what I’ve been feeling. Just the aftereffects of the tissue straightening itself out now that the obstruction is gone. He prescribes some ointment. (Breastfeeding nipple-chafe cream, it turns out, to help heal up the skin he had to shave away at. Seriously. My wife got a kick out of that.)

Still a little disbelieving, I ease myself down from the table (I’ve trained myself to ease onto my feet in every situation of late). Test my weight.

It doesn’t hurt. I try a few steps. Nothing. Dreamlike, I walk out of the office like I’m walking on bubble wrap. I stop at the store on the way home to buy some breastfeeding cream and spend the entire trip wondering at the fact that I’m walking pain-free for the first time in months. I get home and kick my shoes off, walking around barefoot on the hardwood and not having to step gingerly (I’d taken to wearing shoes or thick socks indoors like some kind of leper).

And because I’m an idiot, and there’s no sense not diving headlong into recovery, I lace up and go for a run the next morning. And it still doesn’t hurt.

It’s wild how we can become accustomed to the burdens we don’t realize we’re carrying. This tiny little speck had me walking like a man afraid to wake a sleeping baby (and I know a little bit about that). It made me give up running long enough to get good and cranky and feeling sluggish. It made me uncomfortable in my own home. I have to wonder if the speck wasn’t, in its own tiny way, responsible for a share of my writing misery of late: keeping me off balance, unable to relax, just sort of generally-being-off-kilter.

But all it took to fix it was five minutes and an elk-stopping harpoon. (Okay, it was probably just a tiny little scalpel.)

There’s a lesson to be learned in here somewhere, but I’m too busy walking on air (almost literally) to think of it.

 


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