Thursday, September 8, 2016

Major Sundry

OK.  I confess.  I have no idea who Major Sundry is.  Or why.  I sincerely doubt they're even a real person.  Whoever they are.  The title actually means I have absolutely nothing specific to write about but I've got a few sundry tidbits.  Maybe.  Hopefully it'll be entertaining.  I do apologize to my loyal fan base of six, or seven, for not having posted sooner.  I have no excuse.  Well, I kinda do.

I have been so darn busy these last couple months I haven't had the time to clear my mind in order to be creative.  So there's that.  I have also not done anything exciting or noteworthy to write about, that's also been part of the deal.  Double whammy mammy.

I once told my mother, speaking of mammys, that I could write a short story about a cube of fucking butter.  She told me to stop swearing.  I suppose I could have left out that utterly charming and pungently descriptive adjective, but what the hell.  She usually swore like a sailor, although apparently not on that particular day.  So much for a conversation about butter.

Anyway, I am going to do my best to entertain you with some mundane meanderings of just what the heck was so dang important that I couldn't find the time to blog or make up stories about fucking butter.

Let me start by saying when the dry summer heat hits around these parts my usually rapid fire activity level jumps into over drive.  I happen to love plants.  It's what I do.  Indoor.  Outdoor.  Ornamental.  Edible.   They're in the ground, they're potted.  They're all over the place.  It's a fledgling homestead for crying out loud!

The potted plants right around the house , patio and decks are especially vulnerable when it gets into the 90's and beyond.  If they're not hit daily they fry.  Then there's the orchard, vegetable gardens, nursery, greenhouse etc.  A lot of what needs to be watered is on automatic drip, which is good, because there's only one of me.  I still spend a minimum of two hours a day, every day, watering in the summer.

We used to have a couple hanging plants in front, where the afternoon summer sun sizzles.  I had to water them twice a day or they'd be toast.  Literally.  They'd usually have to get replaced at least once during the summer cause, like, I'm old and sometimes I'd forget.  And they'd fry.

Those two plant hangers now contain beautiful, flourishing begonias.  They're on the east side of the house where they get light, filtered morning sun and then shade in the hot afternoon.  They get watered every other day and if I miss a day they don't get fried.  Plus now we have a totally unobstructed sunset view in front.

June of this year was a wild month, even by our standards.  I think we had something big going every single weekend, culminating with my lovely wife's humongous family reunion at the end of the month.  This is the large family I married into.  I've been around them for over forty years and I almost remember some of their names.  It's that big.

Once again the reunion was held at Lodi Lake Park in Lodi, CA, which is located in the bowels of the Central Valley about forty miles south of Sacramento.  It's usually in the low 100's in Lodi in the summer, which is just plain wrong.

Why?  Why?  Why?  Why would this insanely large family reunion be held in Lodi in the summer in sweltering 100 degree heat?

Well, as the old adage goes, he who organizes the play gets most of the say.  I might have actually just made that up.  It's probably not an old adage at all.  You can use it if you want.

Anyway, two of the five "elders" of the tribe live in Lodi and one of them is the primary reunion mover.  And he apparently has quite an affinity for his home town park.  I was enlisted to assist this year, although I have no idea why.

It could have something to do with the reunion I co-organized with one of my lovely wife's cousins a few years back.  The elders were concerned none of the younger tribe were getting involved with reunion organization, so we did.  We put it together at a low key old style non chain motor inn over by the Russian River in Guerneville, CA.  There was a large, green grassy area, a BBQ pit with tables and a swimming pool.  Lots of activities for little kids to do.  Plus it was only 84 degrees.

It was also an over-niter for most of the attendees.  I don't know about your soirees, but after dark is when the real fun begins.  Everyone drops acid and...oh, wait a minute.  Wrong soiree.  After dark with this super large family is when most everyone drinks wine, laughs real loud and annoys all the other guests who were unfortunate enough to get a room near our party.

That reunion was a pretty big hit.  Most of the large Washington State contingent made it down.  So did a few other out-of -staters.  Interestingly enough, only one out-of-stater came to Lodi this year.  Nobody from Washington came.

I jumped right in the beginning of this year and began looking for venues.  Not a novice at this game, I was keeping the Washington State contingent in mind.  I was also cognizant of airport travel time as well as travel time from Lodi and the Bay Area, both locations rife with people whose names I still do not know.  I was also cognizant of trying to keep it cooler, so Arizona was definitely out.  So was Lodi.

I found a several places in and around the Mount Shasta Area, not too far off Interstate 5.  Two were ideal for family reunions and both were quite affordable.  It was about a three to four hour car ride for most of the California tribe as well as airport travelers.  And about a three to four hour shorter drive for the Washington faction.  Win, win, win.

But when I presented this to the Lodi elder, I was told it would need approval from all the other elders.  In the meantime, just in case, he was going to reserve the picnic table spot at Lodi Lake Park, the same spot the reunion has been held probably seventeen of the last twenty times.  I knew then we were looking at eighteen.

Lodi Lake Park sounds like it might be inviting, at least the lake part.  But it's not, really.  No swimming is allowed.  At least not where we congregate.  And it's more like a big pond than a lake, a little shallow fallow from the Mokelumne River.  Kayakers like it, so do ducks.  But every one else just watches the kayakers and ducks and wonders what in the hell they are doing there.  Not the kayakers or ducks.  Hopefully they know what they're doing.  The people on the shore, sweating profusely.  They're the ones dreaming of chlorine filled swimming pools and Pina Coladas, wondering what brought them out to this super heated wasteland in the first place.

Oh yeah, family.  

The Lodi elder never talked to anybody.  The two Bay Area elders thought Shasta was fine.  I'm pretty sure the Washington elder would have approved as well.  I don't know what the hell the deal is with that park besides being close, it's certainly not accommodating.   I'm pretty darn sure he might be the only one in the family that's enamored with that place. 

The sweltering day of the reunion I was actually approached by one of his daughters, who also lives in Lodi,  about the prospect of holding it at another location.  I was also approached by one of the elder's sisters, stating we have to hold it elsewhere.  She lives in Lodi too.  Neither of them wanted to be there.  Both spoke to me on the condition of anonymity, so don't repeat this.

There's nothing to do at the existing park but sit, eat, chat, sweat and watch kayakers take their craft from the parking lot to river annex.  Dream of chlorine and coladas.

That's okay for adults, we've all been properly trained in the fine art of polite social grace under fire.  Plus there was alcohol involved for some.  Alcohol can turn anything into a party, even a sweltering day. 

But the younger generation, our kids, they all have kids, and a lot of 'em.  They're not old enough to drink and they need something to do.  And it was 103 degrees.  Beads of sweat were breaking out with simple discourse.

"Hi, how ya doin?" I inquired to a face I had seen sixty times but whose name escaped me.  "Nice day."

"Are you kidding?" came the reply. "Nice day to BBQ our souls maybe."

I may not have remembered his name but he sure was funny.

I think part of the deal with the Lodi elder was cost.  With my proposal folks would have been looking at a night or two at a very reasonably priced, comfortable motel with all sorts of activities for adults and children.  I think it would have worked out to about $120/night for a room.  One of the places had cabins where entire families could fit, thus decreasing the average cost.  Large communal kitchen.  It would have been a hoot!

Instead we got to pay $5.00 to sweat in public.  Granted, it was a lot cheaper.  But.  Then.  That's why real estate in El Centro is cheaper than it is in Santa Barbara, ya know?

I'd much rather drive another hour or two more for a cooler location.  Apparently so would folks who live in Lodi.

We held my side of the family reunion at the house here this year in late July.  My family is a heck of a lot easier.  I have a brother, three first cousins, their kids and families.  Bam.  Done.  I even know just about all their names.

OK, another confession.  I do have a second cousin and a boatload of relatives in Norway.  But I couldn't  pronounce their names even if I could remember them.  So they don't count.  They never show up anyway. 

As always, prior to any event here there's some improvement that needs to take place.  So I had to turn this:

into this:

But before any of the above had a place to sit we had to make a place for the stuff to sit on.  Nothing a couple tons of sand and a couple tons of rock couldn't cure.

The project itself was in the back of the house.  The closest the guy could drop all the stuff off was the front of the house, about fifty yards away.  It was either that or have him mow over the picket fence and rose arbor.  I chose the less damaging route, at least to the property.

I actually did try to enlist a younger human specimen to help with some of the physical labor of this project as well as weed whack this year.  A couple times.   As a matter of fact, several weeks before this project commenced I was trying to hire my second guy.

The first guy I hired to weed whack showed up on time on the appointed day and whacked for four hours.  I paid him.  He showed up the next day and worked for about two hours and then left.  I never spoke to him.  I figured he'd be back, since, like, he was no where near done and I owed him for two hours.  I never saw or heard from him again.

Then a neighbor referred me to his guy Friday who promptly came over for a meet and greet.  We went over everything, including the fact I'd like his help getting several tons of sand and rock to the back of the house.  He said he was busy the next couple weeks but then could get to me.  I said fine, I had a four to five week time table.  He said he'd call me later that afternoon to firm things up.  Never heard from him again either.  Well, I take that back.

Even though he didn't call when he said he would, I texted him two weeks down the line to see if he was still in the game.  No reply.  Nada.  Nothing.  So I carried on.  Then about six weeks later I got this long, apologetic text from him asking forgiveness for being a shit head.  Not an apologetic phone call, but an apologetic text. 

What was I supposed to do with that?  I was already done with what I needed him for.  I also think certain social and professional interaction requires voice communication.  Sometimes in person.  I forgave him and threw his number away.

You know, I get it.  He was busy.  Couldn't get to me.  Couldn't even call me or text me to tell me he was so busy.  All of a sudden he wasn't so busy.  Then it was time to try and salvage the folks he blew off.  At least me.  Oh well.  Homey don't play that game.

I mean, I think communication is part of the work ethic and kind of important.  And ya really should show up or call on time at least once before you start slacking off, just to show a mild modicum of responsibility. 

I'm purdy sure that's in Business 101, "Show up on time for your first day of work".

Yep.  Nailed it. 

After I didn't get a response from my initial text, I sought out another recommended weed whacker and potential ton mover.  I thought I had things relatively dialed in with him until he stopped responding to my texts.  Then finally, a couple days later he texted he had fractured his ankle.  What the hell?  I was weed whack snake bit.

I ended up doing all the eye high weed whacking myself.  About thirty hours of it.  Bad back and all.

Actually, the pinched nerve between my L4 and L5 did not misbehave too badly.  I had a facet joint block done about this time which helped immensely with the pain.  I almost felt like that cry baby guy on the Good Feet Store commercial.  It had been months of pretty much constant pain for me.  But if I did shed a tear of back painless joy I did it in the quiet of my living room, not on national TV.  

So how did several tons of sand and rock travel fifty yards to the back yard?

On my back.  And my darling daughter's.  She came up to help with the project.  One wheelbarrow and one or two rocks at a time.  Back and forth, up and down.

Not only did my darling daughter help with heavy stuff, but she took on the role of jigsaw puzzle master, seeking out the perfect rock for the perfect fit.  I actually had to tone her down a little bit.

I explained, "I am certain there is an exact fit for that particular space somewhere on this planet.  However, we only have what we have and we're not traveling to Tanzania to find the perfect fit.  Don't get too crazy."

Once she had a few puzzle pieces placed, I would bring in some sand and level the stone.  While I was doing that, she'd move to the other side and jig saw.  Working back and forth in tandem, we rolled that entire patio out in two days, about 350 square feet.

Another arty project my lovely wife got me involved with was re-purposing a couple antique caned chairs we've had for about 35 years.  We originally had four of them, but then we also had two young children.  Antique caned chairs don't mix well with young children.

There have been a few expensive re-caning jobs, and two of the chairs have essentially disintegrated.  The other two chairs, after losing their respective seats again, have henceforth been hanging around in the garage taking up space.  For about fifteen years now.  And of course they morphed from being potential fanciful, ornamental objects of art into pieces of crap that made me swear a lot.  Primarily because I was prone to bumping my head on them fairly routinely.  And when I hit my head, which I really, really hate to do, I almost always yell "Fuck".

There's that word again.  Seems to follow me around like a pair of boxer shorts.

Fortunately, my lovely wife came to me recently with their new purpose so I don't have to yell "Fuck" quite as often.  I happily took them down from their head bumping hooks and carefully removed all the old, torn up cane.  I patched up some holes and I painted them white.  Then I cut 1/2 inch plywood to fit to make a love seat bench. 

Of course once I, the underbelly guy, was through with my part my lovely wife went to work.  A little padding and material and wah lah.  Four screws went through existing holes in the seat of the chair up into the bottom of the plywood.   That holds it all together.  There was no need to attach anywhere else.

I've also been working on my second book, editing, editing and then re-editing.  Who said being a writer was glamorous and fun?  In case you haven't read my first book, you can find that here:  Late Night Letters to the Moon.

Now it comes to true confession time, cause I've got nothing better to do:  I've had a wart for the last couple years.  No, it's not that big thing I breath through between my eyes, nor is it a big hairy thing on that big thing.  It has actually been an annoying bit of frustration located on my right index finger.

I've tried everything.  Compound W.   Duct tape.  Salt and vinegar.  Preparation H.  I tried the Tenth Avenue Freeze Out route, multiple times.  My doctor has even tried his brand of freeze out, multiple times.

It's been a CONSTANT battle.  For a couple years.  A real pain in the patoot.  And every time I thought I had blasted the surrounding skin down enough that little bastard kept rising from the ashes.  Time and time again.  Then I found what is called a wart stick.  It looks like a chap stick, only it contains that salicycic acid stuff that essentially dissolves your skin.  So you don't want to be mistaking the two.  Cause otherwise, you know, you could end up with no lips.

The last time I was in to see my Doc I had him hit it again with his freeze out. Then while it was reeling from the arctic chill, I hit it with the stick.  And covered it with tape per instructions.  Every day I'd add more of the stick stuff and cover it again.

The skin around the wart became avalanche white and chunks were flaking away.  That little sucker still held strong, like a snorting little volcano.  I kept at it until I was almost at bone.  There was nothing left in the space except dead white skin.  Not a bump of any kind.  I thought I had finally won the battle.  But now, as I write this, that sucker seems to be rearing his ugly little head once again.  Hydrochloric acid anyone? 

The chickens are all doing fine.  So is that damn rooster.  The six new additions are fully integrated into the flock and have started laying.  We're getting a nice assortment of egg colors these days.

We also just got our first green egg! 

Where does a green egg come from?  Well, besides Dr. Seuss's brain, a green egg comes from an Ameraucaca hen.  This first little green egg has also solved our ongoing second rooster riddle.

For the last couple years we've had a phantom rooster enjoin with Goldie and his early morning chorus.  A little weak, a little stunted, but there nonetheless.  But the little guy has never shown himself nor given any indication as to who he might be.  No noticeable outward signs have been apparent, at least to me.

And then we got the green egg, and then I got the aha!  We got an Ameraucana "hen" a couple years ago, at least I thought we did.  But we never got a green egg.  I think maybe I thought the feed store was wrong about the breed or something, because if she really was an Ameraucana we should have been getting green eggs.  Long ago.   I never thought "Flash" might be a he.

"Flash" was named by our Grandson, and he was real good buddies with a beautiful Speckled Sussex we unfortunately lost to heat.  He's a very friendly bird, not like the current alpha rooster.  He's also always been quite adventurous, but other than that, nothing to show that he was a he.  Comb, waddle, saddle feathers, aggressiveness.  Nothing unusual.  He just blended right on in with the girls.

Our first year garden has been a big hit.  We're getting tons of tomatoes, corn, potatoes, leeks, radishes, cukes, pumpkin, honeydew melon, crenshaw melon, watermelon and cantaloupe.  There's also a nice assortment of morning glory winding along the front fence.

I don't know if you read my earlier post regarding my corn crop this year, but I'm going to regale you once again because I have learned a couple of important things.  OK, at least one.

1-Don't pre-start your corn and then transplant the seedlings to the garden.  It will experience severely stunted growth, if any, and if you're lucky you may get a couple of those small ears you find in jars in the oriental food section of the grocery store.  Then, after they grow another 1 to 2 inches, they die.

But if you plant your corn seed directly in tilled soil it will flourish and award you with tall green plants and fresh, sweet corn.  Trust me.  I did all this quite by innocent accident this year, so I be knowing.  Also, if any of you would like organic, heirloom, non GMO and non-hybrid "Sugar Buns" (yellow) corn seed that is acclimated to Nevada County, let me know.  $5/100 plus kernels.

There have been a few other time consuming yet boring as hell projects that I won't regale you with.  But excitingly, I am in the process of planning an autumn road trip getaway for my lovely wife and I.  At last!  Besides some leisure time away with the one I love I will also have more food for my travel fodder folder.  That will all hopefully and eventually become Book Three and beyond, cause, like, I wanna be a travel writer when I grow up.