Tossing and Tortured 'Till Dawn

I come back to you now, at the turn of the tide.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The weekend's progress -- some destruction, some construction.

Living room had 3 layers of wallpaper, with paint over it. Wallpaper is all down, and we've started plastering. Plaster is a weird, werid chemical. I am surprised by how sensitive the chemical reaction is: If I use refrigerated, distilled water, and a squeaky-clean mixing trough, it works just fine, setting in about twenty to thirty minutes.

But, if I fail at any one of those components -- if there are little bits of plaster from the last batch left in the trough, or if I use tap water, or lukewarm water, hey presto! The stuff sets in five minutes or less, far too quickly to work with. Who knew?

Kitchen wall -- I wish I had a "before" picture of the area over the stove, but what we have is a chimney, with lath and plaster over that, and over THAT was a bunch of prefab pseudo-mosaic ceramic tiles in a pretty ugly pattern. I'm not sure if this is from the fifties or the seventies, but it had to go.

Even if I could tolerate the stuff aesthetically, which was pretty horrible, the weight of it all, combined with fifty years of greasy cooking by the previous homeowner without a range hood, had made the plaster start to fall back from the lath.

Removed! What a mess, though a fairly satisfying one. I'll keep the lath in place while I decide what to do, but it's probably going to come down along with the bottom half of the wall, which has a sheet of a sort of pseudo-subway tile for wainscotting, if that mess of jargon makes any sense.

Ideally, I'd like to add a range hood, vented right through the chimney, but I'll need to a little more research to find out how feasible this is.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


If I didn't enjoy being alone with my thoughts, the three-plus hours I spend on a bicycle each day would be an act of madness.

Some mornings, the ride seems faster than others. Today was an other. I frequently find myself noting the scenery, narrating as I roll down the quiet streets of my neighborhood, but sharing such uneventfulness seems bland.

Still, on this drizzly morning in the upper forties, I smirked at the thought of summer's impending arrival in five days' time. It certainly doesn't seem like it. The reader board on Mac's Custom Auto agreed: "Dear Summer. Come back soon. We miss you."

The spray keeps everything gray and damp -- watch out for those streetcar tracks, now, those are slippery -- but it's not enough to soak me through as I roll down the steep, stairstepped hillside of my own street, along Pacific Avenue amidst the day's first city buses.

The usual suspects along Puyallup avenue: the woman with the withered smile and overly made up lips and peroxide-blond hair, walking towards the city. Today she is alone; some days, she's with a man, but it's never the same one. There's the gray-bearded man with the bicycle helmet, but no bicycle. When I ride past him, he motions little circles with his index finger.

An armada of green scrubs filing into the early-early-classes at the for-profit college. Tired of your job? You, too, could be a nurse!

Over the old steel bridge on Puyallup river, the railyard below still quiet -- they've kept obsolete sign on its steel trellis below, directing locomotives to the left to take on coal, to the right for oil. The diesel smell is kept down by the rain.

Out of the city, into the industrial stretch of highway, up the hillside and into the suburbs. The steep descent into the valley, feathering the brakes to keep them heated up on cool, wet rims. "We're building an inclusive community!" declares the posterboard sign tacked to a tree in the canyon. I'm not sure where the community is -- not in the treelined canyon, that's for sure, nor on the freeway on my left.

The overpass of the valley freeway shows the morning gridlock, the cars in the middle a sea of red gnats, immobilized by their own weight. My own sort of freeway, the paved trail made from an old railway line, is clear -- I see not a soul on it this morning, a fast lane reserved only for Yours Truly. By the time the real summer turns up, it will be considerably more crowded.

The handful of company I usually have on the trail, even, is absent. Where is handcycle man, who I see in all kinds of weather, year-round? Where's the guy on the decade-old trek, elbows splayed as he jams along at breakneck speed? How about the cute girl with the rockstar sunglasses, the bullhorn bars on her fixed-gear Bianchi? The couple walking their pair of dogs, so dark, huge, and shaggy they might be confused for bears? They always say good morning, as I pass.

If I drove every day on the highway, would I see the same cars? Would I get to know their faces?

Do you?

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Life on Discount –

Being of fairly modest means hasn’t stopped Yours Truly from living a satisfying life, but we do try to get the most we can, out of the fewest greenbacks.

The best dollar spent, of course, is the one I didn’t spend at all. While not going to the extent that some freegans do , I realized this weekend that all four items in the breakfast I was eating – coffee, a biscuit, a muffin, and a banana – were all scavenged from four different places at no (cash) charge.

The jam on the biscuit, too, I made from berries I collected, canned in a jar I bought at a yard sale, in a canner from an estate sale. I did buy the sugar and pectin!
But, since I do have to buy groceries sometimes, I do what I can. Usually I’m all about the closeout and overstock shops, but this weekend I headed down to the National Grocery Chain down the block for their grand-re-opening-sale.

My cart started at ninety-two some dollars, so I went to work. Unlike overstock and discount stores, National Grocery Chain makes getting the best deal a little bit complicated. There’s shopping what’s on sale, of course, but National has been doing whacky stacky sales lately.

$10 off your purchase of $50 or more. 10% off all groceries for the next 30 days. Bag credit. Free gifts with purchase – in this case some store-brand juice, cereal, and eggs.

Net total: $39.57 – the little receipt tool even does the savings math for you; it told me the net was 42% of the gross.

And, no, I don’t particularly like manufacturer’s coupons. They’re usually for stuff I don’t want to buy anyway, like national-brand processed foods.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Yours Truly lives in a "diverse" neighborhood that some might say is "rapidly gentrifying." While he and Neighbor One, both recent homeowners, probably represent this phenomenon, Neighbor(s) Two do not.

Neighbors Two are a group of renters that would not fit in at all in Stepford -- at least three adults and what appears to be two generations of children. There's sometimes yelling from their cars to the house, boomic music, what have you.

YT doesn't mind in the least; I'd rather live in a neighborhood with a little "character."

Anyhow, one of Neighbors Two's cars, an 8-year-old Chrysler that is - was - in fairly good shape, was having some fairly simple trouble, and the owner was bent over the hood when I got home, trying to replace a drive belt.

It starts to rain, he gets frustrated but gets it fixed, and goes to test-drive the thing around the block.

When I look out the window again after eating dinner, the Chrysler is back in his (technically my, but with an easement?) parking strip, and it looks like the hood is open again.

No, it's not OPEN. It's folded in half, along with the entire front passenger side of the car. Doesn't look like he popped the radiator, but, if you were paying to get it fixed, that looks like about $5,000 of damage, on a car that's probably worth less than that.