Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Brick Swap in Kalamazoo, MI




Slept in till seven o’clock: Started up the coffee and was soon joined by Keith. We had cereal for breakfast. Greg had to run to a Dr’s appointment. Keith and I took off for a morning walk. I decided to be comfortable and donned my Utilikilt. Keith toured me around the neighborhood which is very upscale. We went to the waterfront park and pool.

There is a convenient shopping area that has a Trader Joe’s! I have enough chocolate, but got another six pack of wheat beer for the road trip.

Greg was home by the time we returned. I got my gear together and was on the road to Kalamazoo by 11:30 a.m. My GPS was programmed with the destination some 140 miles distant. I just followed the directions which were kind of tricky as I maneuvered my way out of the city. I can’t get over how much easier it is to travel now using that thing.

I like to toget my gas at Pilot as they normally have the cheapest prices and on the receipt from the pump there is usually a coupon for a 16ounce coffee for $1.00.

I was leaving the store with my $1.00 coffee when a hitch-hiker asked me about the Utilikilt. We got in conversation. He and his dog were headed west to Sturgis, South Dakota for bike week. He was a street magician turning tricks to survive.

He pulled some card tricks and slight of hand things for me. I gave him a couple bucks and wished him well. I was kind of sorry I could not help him out, but I was not going that far and the truck was filled in the cab…..

The weather was very unsettled and nasty thunderstorms were on my route. These storms were the “deluge” variety with zero visibility, where you slow down to 30 mph with the four way flashers going. I dread driving like this. There were about three incidents of driving in these conditions before the weather cleared.

My exit off I-94 was 80. I traveled here last October for a fast trip to pick up a fire hydrant I won off E-Bay. Sure enough, exit 80 was the Exit where I met Bob and we transferred the beast between our trucks in the Perkin’s parking lot. This is the same Perkins we are having supper at tonight!

The open house was at Jerry and Donna’s house, not far from the hotel. The grounds and gardens surrounding their home were lush: Lots of vegetables and hostas. There was lots of shade to sit back and visit. I got lots of looks when I first approached wearing my Utilikit. Things loosened up and returned to normal once the initial shock wore off!.

Alan and his dad had a special brick for me. It was a super rare large square “Star” brick. I’m thrilled. This will go in a special place in the collection.

I just had time to get checked into the hotel and then had to meet up with everyone at the Perkin’s just down the road. Our group had the entire side room filled. The poor servers, trying to get everything right!

I was not really hungry. Perkin’s only cooks their burgers medium well. So much for that: Got the fried cod fish and fries from the “over 55” menu. There ended up being two pieces of fish which was plenty for me.

Back at the hotel horrible storms started up again; Bright flashes of lightening followed by deafening booms of thunder. If it accomplished anything, it cleared out the noisy swimming pool area the window of my room opened to!

Saturday morning dawned gray and damp. Hopefully the rain will hold off till after the swap. There was not much of a “continental breakfast” in the lobby. I just got some chemical orange juice and coffee to hold me over.

The directions to the swap were kind of vague. I was not worried as I just had to program the address into my trusty GPS. It seemed top be a round about way to the swap, but I arrived in plenty of time to get a decent spot. It is always good to get a center location to make it easier to dump off your bricks!

This is “paver country” lots of good bricks were up for grabs. The way the swap works is that no money changes hands. The bricks on the ground are there for the taking. You just have to carry them on your own. No wagons, baskets, etc. I can squeeze about five pavers under my left arm and then carry another one or two with my right hand. It is most important to map out the initial run for the choicest bricks. My “toe brick” was a salt glazed paver. Right next to it was another glazed paver in a very ornate design. The next hoard of bricks over had a desirable “Duck Creek” brick with the two flying ducks. Five minutes before the start, it began to rain. DAMN!

Bricks all set up for the swap:

My “Toe Brick”.

At 9:00 .a.m. the car horn sounded and I was off. I scarfed up the two salt glazed pavers and tore off for the duck creek brick. From there I dashed over across the aisle for the “Worlds Fair” bricks. I scored three of them!

Once things slowed down a bit I helped out the people who were begging collectors to take their bricks so they did not have to haul them home!

My truck was groaning at the end..

Once all the bricks were traded off we moved into the open shed building for the auction. Members donate things to be auctioned off with 100% of the proceeds off setting the club expenses.

Coffee and donuts were set up here. My tee shirt and Utilikilt were wet and muddy from the frantic ferrying around of the bricks. There were good donations to the auction. There are a number of things I want to bid on.

My first auction acquisition was another “Worlds Fair” brick. A bit of history copied from an article titled "The Paving Brick Industry in Ohio", written in 1999: “The block was made jointly by the Malvern Clay Company and the Canton & Malvern Fire Clay Paving Brick Company. After receiving the medal, these two firms began placing a likeness of the medal, including a depiction of Christopher Columbus, on their bricks.”

Detail of the “Worlds Fair” paver brick:

This auction brick must have been pressed when the mold was still pretty new. The details are very crisp and clear.

My friend Nancy donated a great hunk of marble that saw service in the Paris, IL Post Office. I was lucky to win it.

There were a couple things I did not get as the prices got way out of my comfort zone. I have a tendency to bid higher than I normally would knowing that all the proceeds benefit the club.

There were box lunches that were pre-ordered. I enjoyed a good sandwich, macaroni salad, fruit and water before heading out for home.

Nancy’s marble with the rare Star Brick from Alan and his dad Gene installed in my collection.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Are You From Germany???




I was thinking of my nephew Matt all day Saturday as I cleaned up my little truck. The interior was still such a mess from the last trip I made in June. The dried up coffee was cleaned out of the cup holders located on the center console. The seats and carpet were vacuumed up.

Then I went to work on the outside. The tires needed to be rotated. I was really in an anal mood. I cleaned off the inside of the rims for the first time since owning this vehicle! (01/2002) There is still a lot of shine left in those old rims! Then I washed down the truck and then polished it out with “Nu finish” the once a year car finish! It is amazing how that truck shines…..Monday I’ll get the oil changed.

Stumpy being the biggest help in the world rotating tires:

My big boy... his coat is showing white now as he gets older. 12 years now!

Today (Sunday the 18th) I went to work on the yard. We have been getting evening thunderstorms which have left my yard littered with debris. My old oak trees are always shedding dead branches. There was one fairly large dead branch over the sidewalk. I’ve been meaning to call the city to take care of it, but then I’m afraid they would really butcher that tree. I’ve seen them in action….

I got out my 10 ft ladder and “pruning chain saw” on the end of a long pole. Working in manageable sections the dead branch came down with little effort.

I was raking up the last of the mess when a guy riding by on a bicycle stopped. He asked me if I was from Germany! There are a number of German transplants here working at the Mercedes plant. I told him “No, I’m not.” He then asked, “Well why are you wearing that?” pointing to my Utilikilt!!! I laughed!! Wearing that is second nature to me now; I don’t pay attention to people’s gawks and looks anymore. “I love wearing this thing. It is the most comfortable piece of clothing I own!” I answered him with a big smile.

I always feel a pang of guilt doing yard work on a Sunday. The first time Ron made a trip to my house in Lockport back in the spring of 1985, it was on a Sunday. I was mowing the lawn when he pulled up. He was scandalized…. “What are you doing… put that lawnmower away.. NICE PEOPLE don’t do yard work on Sundays!” he admonished me in that southern drawl you could cut with a knife! Ron was so dead set on what “Nice people” did and didn’t do. There was an “Ice House” not far from where he lived in Houston. It was such a run down nasty looking place. Naturally, I wanted to check it out. Nope… it was the same story, “Jimmy, we are not going there: NICE PEOPLE don’t go to ice houses!”

I mowed and raked the lawn and cleaned up the driveway. I’m headed to a brick swap next weekend so I had to sort through my trader bricks and get a decent selection loaded up.

I relaxed on the front porch with an iced coffee. Stumpy passed by holding something in his mouth. I was hoping it was a mouse. I called to him in my “normal” voice. He stopped and turned his head. My heart fell when I saw it was a little bird. “Stump, let that little bird down” I said in a slow even tone trying to approach him. He loosened his grip and that little bird took right off! Gods, eye was truly on the sparrow today. I had to pick up my big boy and give him some hugs and rubs for being so good.

It is when people freak out and scream and yell at cats under these circumstances that confuse them so. My last good nerve has to be really worked up to yell at the cats. That rarely happens…..

There are little baby birds in the nest now, peeping their little hearts out. I was so afraid it was the “mama” bird Stump manhandled. No, she soon returned squawking at me from the safety of the camellia bush! All is back to normal.

A thunderstorm passed through about 3:30 cooling things down nicely. Not enough people had signed on to row, so I figured I’d eat an early supper as I was hungry. Carbs were calling out to me… I put the water on to boil for fettuccini. Then I melted down a mess of parmesan cheese and butter. Added to that was some garlic and heavy cream. By the time it was all cooked together, the pasta was done.

It was all washed down with a tall glass of ice water accompanied by a small glass of box Red wine. I have a new final meal on earth!!!! I could die happy after eating all that.

Checking out my E-bay bid I was surprised to see an E-mail from my rowing coach… we had enough people sign in to take out the four! YAY!! Now I can work off some of those calories!

The river was way up from the last time we rowed. The wind was blowing making for choppy conditions. The Black Warrior is normally so smooth we are really spoiled as far as rowing conditions go. It was a good row. We had to stroke with some heavy pressure, especially on the way back as we were going into the wind.

Being on the river was the perfect way to end up the day…..

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Painting Again




Saturday the 10th started out fairly cool for July. Turning onto Lurleen Wallace Blvd from 11th St I was following a pick-up truck packed with baskets of peaches. I followed it to the Farmers market which was in full swing at 6:00 a.m. Those Chilton County peaches were calling out to me. I bought a basket before he could get them unloaded!

The river was smooth as glass, a perfect morning for a row. I rowed bow seat/starboard: the first time I’ve rowed that side of the boat in a while. We did drills upstream, spun the boat and rowed alternating pairs and all four all the way back to the dock. By the half way point we began to get the boat set. This is the “sweet spot” when all is in synch and balanced. You can tell when you hit this as you can hear the boat skimming through the water. It almost sounds as if the boat is leaking…it’s a wonderful sound I don’t hear enough!

My latest project has been to finish up the painting on my front porch. Back in 2008 I finished stripping the paint off the bead board ceiling. That was a task that stretched out for months and cured me of wanting to strip paint for quite a spell.

Last summer I had a new front gutter installed. Before that was done I stripped the soffit which was the last of the wood to be stripped on my house. For over a year I looked at that stripped wood. I just could not get motivated to drag out the ladders and paint stuff again.

Monday morning July the 5th I mailed out a letter to Louis. Returning from the post office I stopped to talk with Andre who was clearing out a neighbor’s garage. This neighbor is a hoarder and Andre has to put the trash to the curb when she is not home! There were two great metal shelves in the trash. I parked my bicycle home and returned on foot to carry the shelves across the street. They will be perfect to store my paint.

Organizing my house paint in the basement inspired me to get to work on the front porch again. Inspiration can come in the strangest ways!

Having a multicolour scheme on the house makes the task of painting a lot more difficult. Cutting in the different colours can be so time consuming. Painting is a job that really shows results. The days of grueling preparation work really don’t show much to the untrained eye.

There were three different colours to paint on the wood. A feature of Arts and Crafts houses is the exposed rafters: these I have painted in a “Kidskin Brown”, a shade I used for the trim on my first home. The underside of the roof decking is a dark green, and the rest is the main house colour, a “pumpkin yellow”.

With that task done I finally had to come to grips with what to do with the porch columns. These concrete porch columns are the “elephant in the room” for my house. They need to stand out, yet also blend in if that makes any sense. It is unusual for a Bungalow to have round columns. I’m thinking there was a builder here in Tuscaloosa at the time that did this style as a specialty. There are number of similar columns on old houses in my section of town.

Andrew Jackson Downing was instrumental in starting up the “Gothic Revival” movement back in the mid 1800’s. His philosophy on house colours was to use the shades prominent in nature. He believed the shades should blend like they do on a face. He hated the glaring white houses with green shutters so prominent at the time.

Using the nature theme I decided to do a “faux sandstone” finish on the columns. They were first primed and a base coat of white was applied. After years of seeing these columns peeling and shabby the base white was overpowering.

Applying the faux finish was real tedious work. You can only do a small area at a time. First a watered down base coat is applied. Then dabs of the house yellow and then gray was applied. Finally a wadded up newspaper was used to soften and blend the colours together.

The results justify the aggravation. Comparing the white to the faux finished column shows how the effect I tried for was achieved. I’m very happy with the result…..

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Oils Well That Ends Well



My package from an E-bay purchase arrived in today’s mail. The whole episode of modern retailing from last week came back into perspective from the recesses of my mind…..
A few weeks ago my Hunter “Original” Ceiling fan stalled out. It had been running for years since the last time it stopped. This is the heavy unit with the cast iron housing which should easily last out my lifetime….All I needed to do is add some oil. These fans have a spiral groove on the shaft which constantly feeds oil to the bearings. When the oil evaporates the shaft binds up.
Hunter fan oil is not an easy thing to find anymore. The last oil I purchased a few years back was from Lowe’s. Going to the Lowe’s webpage I tried to access the stock number for the oil so I could then check if it was in stock at the nearest store. That makes it easier for the store to track down this elusive product.
I could not get any information on this oil from the Lowe’s site: just a blank screen. With the temperatures heating up I needed to get this ceiling fan back into commission again.
Taking a chance, I drove to Lowe’s last Saturday night. (7/03) The guy running the electrical department was filing in. He did not have a clue as to what I was looking for. The “regular guy” was out to lunch he told me. (It was 7:30 at night and the store closes at 9:00…..whatever)
I thought I would check with customer service. They could check on their store computer for this oil. I know, I know.. what planet am I living on? Here is what transpired between the customer service clerk, the store manager, and me.
A "Mini Drama" at customer service
Clerk: Can I help you?
Jamie: Yes, I need to get a tube of Hunter Ceiling Fan oil.
Clerk: Where that be at?
Jamie: I got it last time in the electrical department. I can’t find in any of the displays and I wanted you to check to see if you have it in stock.
Clerk: I don’t know nutting about that. Lemme git the manager
Manager: What can I help you with?
Jamie: I need to get a tube of Hunter Ceiling fan oil. I’ve gotten it here in the past. The regular in electric is at lunch, the person back there now is clueless.
Manager: Well, would you mind waiting till the regular guy comes back from lunch?
Jamie: No! (WTF? Like I’ve got nothing else better to do??!!)
I tried to check the web site to see if you have it, but just keep getting a blank screen.
Manager: Oh that happens all the time, the site is down. When you get home try the webpage again and you can order it from there and have it delivered to this store.
End of discourse
It took every ounce of energy I had to retain my composure and not explode. If this is the best Lowe’s can do for customer service, they are in a world of hurt.
I walked out of the store in a rotten frame of mind. What a waste of time, gas and energy.
Back home I stared exploring the internet for this special oil.
Homo Depot had it on a special order basis at $9.50 a tube plus postage.
A site called “Lighting Design” carried it at $4.10 a tube but only had one tube in stock.
The Hunter Fan homepage had this at $4.98 a tube. Great, I’ll just order two tubes of oil from the source.
I was in the last stages of filling out the order form when I reread the shipping charges. Postage was in the $5.00 range. That seemed fair… but then I noticed there would be ANOTHER $5.00 charge because my order was 4¢ short of $10.00.
I nearly lost it!!! Time for E-bay! Once again E-bay solved a crisis in my life. Here is quoted text from the "listing from Heaven":
Hello All. This ad is going to be a little bit unconventional, but here we go.

Hunter Oil for the Hunter Original Ceiling Fan Is Expensive.

I have an alternative for you, Zoom Spout Oiler.

Each bottle sold will come with a pipe cleaner "dipstick" for checking the oil level and the bottle marked for the proper amount per fan. Each bottle will fully fill up 4 fans from empty. Shipping is $2.25 USPS First Class. It Costs me $2.24 to ship them.

Hunter charges $7+ $5 for shipping for one 1oz bottle of Hunter Oil. (The $5 shipping charge, however, is a flat rate for as many items as you need.) Sometimes you can find a bottle on ebay for about $5+shipping, or sometimes free shipping. If you have just one fan that needs oiling, that's fine and dandy, but what if, you're like me and have 17 of the fans which need oiling every couple of years? You search for an alternative.

I did some research and discovered that Hunter oil is a Turbine oil, specifically an ISO 32 (15wt)Turbine oil. Armed with this information, I then searched for a replacement. I did not have to search far, but I discovered "Z.S.O.". ZSO, is an ISO32 Turbine oil. Both are non-detergent oils of a paraffin base, both are the same weight. Except that "ZSO" is much cheaper than Hunter Oil. Especially when you take into account that ZSO comes in a 4oz bottle, instead of a 1oz tube. The problem is, ZSO can be a little difficult to find at times.

Also, If you have owned a Hunter Original for many years (20+), it is a good idea to "change" your oil by removing the fan, and flipping the motor over quickly (the oil will drain into the "dish" in the armature) Then re-hanging the fan and replacing with fresh oil. Without any further maintenance, the lifespan of a Hunter Original is approximately 25 years, if you take care of it by keeping the oil reservoir topped off, it will run longer than you live. You will only buy one fan.


That bottle of oil was delivered today. I’m happy to report all my fans have been topped off with the oil and are now working fine.

It is always enjoyable to have a helping hand/paw when working on a project. Stumpy was a big help in fixing up my fans……




Saturday, July 3, 2010

Western Union




It is nearly impossible for us today to fathom what life was like before everyone was instantly connected. I can remember friends who still had party line telephones growing up. Back in the day Western Union telegrams were the closest thing to instantaneous communication over long distances.

One thing about the antique music show is you never know what will turn up. The dealer I acquired my mailbox box from also had this contraption I had to have….

Researching the internet I found this information on how this instrument operated:

“A call box was mounted on the wall of a business office. When the businessman wanted a Western Union (or Postal Telegraph) boy to come pick up a message to be sent by telegram, he'd turn and release the crank on his call box. This would generate a series of pulses (usually a two or three digit code). At the telegraph office, many selectors (Gill selectors) were connected to the wire. A selector is like a relay with a gear escapement matched to a certain series of pulses. The pulses received over the wire from the office call box would trip a specific Gill selector, closing a set of contacts and lighting a lamp or otherwise indicating the origin of the call. The telegram boy would them know which office to go to.”

The picture shows the breaks in the wheel that would trigger relays to be opened and closed in a certain sequence. This is also how the familiar “Fire Call Boxes” operated.

Listening to Marketplace on NPR this afternoon one segment was on one of the “Real Housewives of New Jersey” who was 11 MILLION dollars in debt. She listed all her designer things she LOVED and HAD to have: Gucci etc…. That got me to thinking… if I ever got into a mess like that it would be from buying bricks, fire hydrants, mailboxes and manhole covers!!!!


Western Union was still around in the 1960’s to inspire a hit song:

Friday, July 2, 2010

A Study in Black and White




This will be a quick entry. The way I tell I need to clean the bathroom is by the amount of Stumpy’s black hair floating around. It was time to clean today!

I pulled back the shower curtain to find my “big boy” relaxing on the cool tiles. Naturally I had to get a picture!

The shower curtain design does not show up. I’ve owned it for way too long. It is a tacky “pink flamingo” design I found at K-Mart. I forget when: I viewed an excerpt of the “Rosanne” show. Her bathroom on the show used the same shower curtain! I tried to find an image on Google of the Rosanne set with no luck.

I keep that horrible shower curtain because I can’t find another one tacky enough to replace it!

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About Me

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Tuscaloosa, Alabama, United States
Retired auto worker who can now spend too much time restoring his 1922 Bungalow Home. I'm involved in a number of varied activities from collecting bricks to rowing with a masters rowing group. This blog is to share different aspects of my life on my Facebook page. I've kept an on-line journal for eight years.