Thursday, August 26, 2010

Fire hydrant Will Soon be on It's Way




This time of year always has me thinking back to 1996. August 23, 1996 was the day I closed on my Alabama home. The changes that have happened here since that closing date!

I’m finally getting to work on trying to get the back hedges under control. It was in 2000 the trees along the east boundary of my property were taken out by the city to install a new storm sewer. I was sick to lose the privacy, but looking on the bright side I had an opportunity to start some landscaping with a clean slate.

I planted hollies along the fence line and installed a lattice work with a birdbath to be sort of a focal point. This shot shows how everything looked ten years ago.

The hollies have grown out so I was not able to duplicate the shot from the same angle. Those bushes are growing high and thick making a nice privacy screen. I’m thinking it might be time to take down the lattice and plant a couple hollies in the spot. The wisteria that was supposed to drape and bloom within reason over the lattice screen has taken over the corner of my yard!

The heat wave has broken and the temperatures are finally cooling off at night. Last night I enjoyed viewing the full moon with Daggy and Stump on the back patio. The bug pots were lit and I enjoyed a glass of yard wine. Stumpy was in rare form jumping and running like he was a kitten again chasing real and imagined bugs. Daggy was content to be on my lap. It was a feeling of bliss and contentment…...

I’ve gotten word from the E-bay seller of the fire hydrant that it is scheduled to be picked up Friday morning by Craters and Freighters. That is good news! I think he was taken aback by the interest in this fire hydrant. He diplomatically asked me what I planned on doing with it. I explained in an E-mail to him how I have always wanted a San Francisco Fire Hydrant and I sent a couple pictures of my hydrant “collection”.

His reply gave me a history of this hydrant. I’m just going to do a copy and paste of his E-mail to me:

When you get this SF hydrant set up, I'd enjoy seeing a picture of it. The story of the hydrant that I know is that it came from a neighbor of mine in Metropolis (made up name!) who is a SF Fireman. He was being foreclosed on and had to be out of his house. The opportunity to get it almost eluded me. I went by his house and bought some other things from him and inquired about the hydrant but did not buy it. My wife, who had been talking to his wife, later told me that their last day was the next day, Sunday. Unfortunately, I had to fly to Texas the next day. I gave my wife a blank check and to go over and see if she could buy it for no more than X $s. My neighbor was motivated to get rid of the hydrant and my wife bought it on condition that he deliver it, which he did. It would make you mad how much I paid for it, so I won't tell you. I thought about keeping it, too. But I have a collection of old McCormick Deering crawler tractors and other farm equipment that will keep me busy the rest of my life. Therefore, better to go to a person that will appreciate it and display it in a tasteful way."

This is the kind of transaction I relish on E-bay…easy to work with people and good honest communication. I do not begrudge any seller for making a profit on a sale. I wanted that damn hydrant so bad my auction bidding proxy was nearly twice what the final selling price was! If anything, I feel bad for the original owner of the hydrant. I hope things will turn out for his family…..

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Erg Time/Dirty Dreams of a Clean Cut Kid


We did not row this morning. A tree branch was blocking the access to the water. We could have maneuvered the coach’s launch and boat around it with difficulty, but I could sense half the people did not really want to get out and the tree obstruction was a good excuse to call off the row.
Went back home and cooked up a greasy breakfast of sausage, home fries and egg. Paul brought me fresh eggs from his farm when he was up Saturday. Those yokes are so yellow and tall. I have gotten to putting Webers Chicago steak seasoning on my potatoes as they slowly cook in butter and onions. So good…..
Got to the “Y” about 10:30. I took the truck as I had some boat work to do afterwards. My MP3 player was on the front seat. Good, I would be able to listen to some music while I erged!
Warmed up and set the Concept 2 for my 5,000 meter workout. I did not do a racing start, but instead did a strong start from the “release”. Lately I have been easing into the workout. My goal is to get my time below 20 minutes. Nancy started her workout about 10 minutes after me. I did my best to keep pushing back as hard as I could with my legs to lower my split time and keep my stroke rate around 28-30 s/m.
The last 500 meters were murder. My heart rate was up in the 170 range and I was gasping for air as the sweat flew off me. Once you get into this anaerobic mode you can’t get enough oxygen from your lungs and your body turns to other sources. Poor Nancy was afraid I was going to have an attack of sorts from the noises I was making! I finished out the 5K meters in 20:36.6 minutes; my best time this season.
I just logged in and ranked my workout on the Concept 2 website. I’m 36 out of 85 for my age and weight class. Finally I’m in the top half! Only 200,000 meters to go and I’ll have my first million meters under my belt!
I was a sweaty mess when I left the “Y” to go to the boathouse. I needed to replace the plug on our boat that connects to the cox box. It should have been an easy repair. All I had to do was to cut off the old plug, strip the wires, solder the new plug assembly to the wires and then seal it all up watertight with the shrink tubing.
With no electricity to work a soldering iron the job difficulty increased greatly. The old wires on our boat were very oxidized. I lucked out in finding a piece of sandpaper to brighten them up with. The wires were fluxed and tinned using my alcohol lamp and concentrating and directing the flame using a blowpipe. It was a royal pain, but all went well. We now are able to read the stroke ratings on the cox box: something we have not been able to do in a while. “We are at a 22 now….in two I want to bump the rate up to 26 in five strokes….. that’s one, that’s two, increase the rate NOW!” Sorry I guess I’ve been coxing too much lately!
I was cleaning out and found my cassette soundtrack from “Dirty Dreams of a Clean cut Kid I saw this show in San Francisco back on August 31, 1991. It had a profound effect upon me. Here is an interview on the history of this show.
Folded inside that cassette box was this ad.


1992 was a watershed year for me. The AIDS virus was wiping out my friends and acquaintances. I think I lost half my address book that year. It seemed as if every week there was another funeral or memorial service to attend.
One thing that helped me through this grim period was listening to the soundtrack of this musical. I made a couple copies to keep at work and in my car. I knew I’d wear out the original. There were times I’d be listening in my car and would have to pull off the road because the tears would flow and I could not see.
Using the internet I was able to track down one of the performers of the production I saw. We met back in 1991, and I never thought I would have contact with him again. It gave me a sense of closure to be able to convey to him what an inspiration the show and his performance were to me.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Porch Swing




The temperature peaked this afternoon at 4:00 at 99°. This heat is taking its toll on me. Today I not go to the “Y” like I wanted to. I’m participating in the “Dog Days of Summer” challenge on the Concept 2 site. This week I need to Erg 30,000 meters. That works out to 6 days of 5,000 meters a day. I’m trying to get my 5,000 meter time below the 20 minute mark. Tuesday I did my workout in 21:17.6. I’ve been doing so well, but…. there is an injury now. Nothing serious: All that friction has caused sores on my butt! I know it sounds funny, but it can be painful! I need to get some padded shorts.

When I think of being “back Home”, my memories don’t go to the house I grew up in on Ontario St, or even my home of 18 years on Grand St. Instead my Lockport home is Joe’s house on Walnut St.

Back in 1997 I was stuck between a rock and a hard place when my transfer south got all botched up and my house sold to the first people who looked at it. Joe rented me a spare room in his house. What was supposed to be a month or two arrangement got dragged out to well over a year.

The front porch at Joe’s house was welcoming and gracious. Sitting on that porch swing reading the paper, or kicked back in a rocking chair resting my feet on the railing are among my happiest memories. For years I’ve debated on installing a porch swing of my own to the front porch.

Finally, I decided with the rebuilding project nearly done, now would be the time to put a swing up. The stores that normally carry these have already emptied their seasonal out with summer clearance sales. The internet is a good place to start and research. I found a swing substantially made of Cyprus wood, fabricated Mobile, AL. It was very reasonably priced and the Fed Ex shipping was only $35.00. Here is where it pays to shop around. Amazon had this same swing listed in their searches. This man also sells on E-Bay with the same swing being $20.00 cheaper!

I bought it on his “Buy it now auction" around noontime Monday. The Fed Ex truck was at my door this morning at 9:50. Not even 48 hours between the initial order and delivery!! I was a very happy boy!

The Cyprus wood is beautiful. I decided to put marine varnish on instead of paint. Three coats should see it through.

The unassembled swing with the first coat of varnish drying on the clothes line. It is really not a regular cotton clothes line but a discarded TV cable I found one morning on a walk! I don’t have to worry about it stretching out or breaking! The pieces are wired on using telephone cable. It must have been 50 years ago a friend of my dad’s who worked for the phone company gave him a 5’ section of phone cable. Who would have ever though I’d still be using sections of that wire in Tuscaloosa, AL in the 21st Century?

Installing the ceiling hooks was the most nerve-wracking experience. The hooks must go into the rafters the bead-board ceiling is nailed into. Using my magnetic stud finder, I was able to locate the nails where the ceiling was fastened to the rafters. The first hook went in a bit too easily. The second hook went in more like I expected. Once the drill passed through the bead-board, it was like I hit a rock and I got that “pitch smell” of heart pine. There is no way that hook will come out! I drilled a new hole for the other hook and it duplicated the pitch smell and it screwed in really tight. There is no way that swing will come crashing down.

Tomorrow morning at 5:30 a.m. I’ll be coxing the eight. That seat is murder on my back and butt. I’ll be sitting on a life jacket for extra padding!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Park Benches




It was another hot one today. I go through clothes like crazy… they get so wet and smelly in this heat and humidity. Because I’ve been doing painting and real nasty stuff, I’ve not been wearing my Utilikilt. Dirt I can handle as well as the fading that is occurring. But, I draw the line with paint spatters and all!

Hanging out the laundry I was amazed by all the butterflies feasting on the lantana in my back yard. That reminds me… the other day not long after I had painted the front porch floor; I was saddened to see a dragonfly trapped on his back, his wings stuck to the sticky paint. Ever so carefully I was able to pry him off the floor and he took right off! That made my day!

Chasing the butterfly trying to get a picture I never paid attention to the “tighty whities” hanging on the line!

Feasting on the lantana:

I need to get another gallon of floor paint for the second coat. I get the Benjamin Moore oil based stuff which is supposed to be the best. After all the prep work I’ve done, it is foolish to scrimp and get cheap finishing materials. But, for a gallon of paint and a roller to ring in at some $70.00 does seem to be a bit dear to me!

This afternoon I was back in time as I painted up the bench that resides on the porch. The story behind that bench…..

I bought the bench in May of 1988 from a home improvement chain at appeared briefly in our area. It was called “Busy Beaver” and I don’t think they were open more than a few months. The bench was an import from China. The cast iron ends are very roughly finished. It seemed that for this period of time this bench was a “loss leader” at the all home improvement and big drug store chains. Every week store ads had this bench advertised with the retail price of $99.00 slashed to $49.95. Such a deal…

When I ran a clincher with my good friend Al, we used to hang out in the break room once we got our rates out. We could really annoy “the boys”. Poor Charlie called us Dumb and Dumber! We used to pick out a topic and keep at it for weeks on end. Somehow our topic came to be that model park bench with the cast iron ends the summer of 1988.

Here is a reenactment of the conversation we would have every day in the break room as I remember it:

Jamie: Hi Al, how was your weekend?

Al: It was busy. I got a park bench.

Charlie: Just sitting…. rolling his eyes trying not to listen.

Jamie: Oh wow, they sell for over $100.00 don’t they?

Al: Oh yes, but I found it on sale at Valu for $49.95

Brick: Did you ever get a deal… was it hard to put together?

Charlie: His face is starting to tighten up……

Al: It was murder, you are supposed to have two people for the assembly, and all I had helping was my daughter Missy, so I just had one and a half…..

At this point Charlie would throw his book down and stomp out of room saying “You guys drive me crazy!!!”

Al and I would then act so shocked. If we were lucky the other guys would laugh, or they could be in the mood to take a “contract” out on us which meant we would get roughed up a bit!!! We were all so crazy and carefree back then….

The wood slats on those benches were not the best quality. When I was dismantling the bench in 1996 for the move south, the wood was all rotten.

Those iron ends were in my workshop for years. Then I heard Smooch got himself a table saw and he was ripping up a bunch of wood. He said he would be glad to rip me up some slats for the bench. I made the bench 6 feet long so I can stretch out on it if I want.

Once again, something as simple as the bench on my porch can trigger a flood of memories. I was back with Al and boys as I painted up the bench this afternoon under the carport….it was good…..

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Painting, Movies and Rowing




Friday I got the first coat of paint on the porch floor.

It is so good to see that chore nearing completion. As I was putting stuff away Michelle pulled into her driveway. She told me to try and make it the Train Station downtown. The old Louisville-Nashville depot downtown has been rehabbed into a banquet facility. West Alabama Aids Outreach was hosting a “first Friday” gathering showing the movie Steel Magnolias. I’ve only seen excerpts, never the entire movie.

Picture of the station from the internets:

I was so worn out from painting I was originally going to just go to bed. This function was scheduled to be from 7:00-10:00. I never go out anymore… so after I took my shower I put on my Utilikilt and took off on foot downtown.

It is not a far walk. There was a large crowd waiting for tables standing outside DePalma’s. It’s funny: when I walked by it got real quiet and I could feel the eyes boring into me. I just kept walking with an assured gait and my eyes looking straight ahead. It takes balls to wear a kilt!!

There was a good crowd out. I saw many friends and enjoyed the movie. There was a special treat in they had an Armadillo Cake that was cut and served in synch with the movie!

Walking home I was waiting for the light by DePalmas. This man approached me and asked what band I played with. I told him I was not in any band. Then he inquired why I was wearing a kilt. I broke into a smile and told him to check out the website http://www.utilikilts.com/ . My kilt is the most comfortable item of clothing I own, I enjoy being an evangelist for Utilikilts!


I'm so beat this morning. Instead of taking out an eight, Katie fixed it so there were two crews rowing in the four. Katie coxed with Krystal in stroke seat, a college rower was in the three seat, I was in two seat and Wendy rowed bow. Katie said she wanted to have the serious rowers out first, as it would be a similar work-out to what the college kids do. After rowing with the “learn to rows” all week I was set to kick some butt. This would the first time I've rowed port in quite a while

We did drills down to the steel mill. Only having four people in the boat makes it fast work to go through the drill rotations. Thursday morning was one of those magic sunrises on the river. The sun was a huge orange orb suspended and reflected in the river. I took along my camera just in case we had such a sunrise today. It was not an intense sunrise, but pretty nice just the same. This shot was taken about 6:00 a.m. as we took a last quick break before rowing non-stop back to the dock.

We rowed all four back to the dock bumping up the stroke rate in segments of 20 strokes and rowing easy between the sets. Krystal has not really rowed for while, nor has
Wendy. I know I was beat when we docked. But it was a “good beat”. The second crew of rowers was waiting for us as we pulled in. We did not have to carry the boat up the hill.

I'm 9,000 meters behind my Concept 2 "Dog Days of Summer" challenge. It is going to be real hard to get 4,500 meters down at the "Y" today.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Another Hot Day




It was another hot day here in Alabama. The temperature spiked at 101° at 4:00 p.m. with the heat index pegged at the 106°-114° range. I lost track on how many times I filled up and drained the Brita pitcher.

It is not cooling off at night; hence I’ve broken down and turn on the central air in the evenings. Keeping the house at 80° is good enough for me.

The end is in sight on this latest project on the front porch. There was one last strip of molding to be stripped where the siding meets the porch deck. Earlier in the morning I had the power washer out blasting the “Bejesus” out of the porch foundation. This house was originally built on brick piers. Those piers were then bricked in with a stucco finish applied upon the surface. The nearly 90 year’s accumulation of paint had to be removed. There was no way to put a fresh coat of paint over the peeling flaking surface. The pressure washer did the job quite nicely. Now, I just have to hope for a couple more days without rain to dry it all out so the primer will soak right in to give a firm foundation for the new paint.

I mixed up a batch of TSP to first wash down the house siding. This was last painted two years back when I stripped the porch ceiling. The dirt buildup was pretty intense. Using the pressure washer on low to first wet the siding, I used a scrub brush to clean off the dirt. Then I used the low setting again to rinse it all down.

After that I had to clear all the furniture off the porch and clean off the floor. An extra strong TSP solution was mixed up and dumped on the northernmost section of the floor. A broom scrubbed the mix over the designated area. The pressure washer was set to the highest setting which blasted away the dirt and residue. The entire porch was done in sections in this manner.

Here is a picture from October 1996. This was taken the trip I moved a U-Haul of my treasured belongings south. The house received a coat of white paint and grey on the porch floor to enhance the “curb appeal” for going on the market the previous spring.

I knew what I was getting into as the porch columns and the floor were already starting to peel and flake. The alligatored paint was clear evidence there was too much paint on the siding and until it was removed no paint job would be successful.

I tried to duplicate the exact same camera angle this afternoon. What a difference some 14 years makes!

I’ve decided to repaint the floor in epoxy paint in a green colour. The foundation stucco will be the “Kidskin Brown” I’ve incorporated in other areas of the house. That “Kidskin Brown” is the trim colour I used on my old house back in the early 1980’s. Once I like something I don’t easily change!

It is so funny how I can trace this project starting when I picked up those shelves from the curb on the 4th of July. Arranging the exterior paint on those shelves sparked the fire to finally get this project finished after all these years. I learned long ago I have to act upon those impulses; otherwise my major projects will never get accomplished.

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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.