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A Thousand Turns

Way back when, in the earliest days, humans spent a lot of time in the dark. Before they captured fire they had to rely on the light cast by the sun and moon and stars.

I suspect that fire was put to work pretty early on. Exactly when that happened I don’t know. I wasn’t there when it happened. Maybe I’m old, but not that old. But holding up a burning stick, torch or candle doesn’t give off a lot of light. So it was still kinda dark. And hard to get some things done.

Today we still rely on the sun and moon for light. We build houses and buildings with lots of windows. And we use a modern day version of harnessing fire for light. It’s called electricity. Which can be created in many ways. Including the use of solar panels to capture the suns energy.

Now we create light with electricity, and light bulbs. Based on recent experience, I can tell you there are a lot of kinds of light bulbs!

My laundry room doesn’t have any windows. Thus it’s got lights so I can see what I’m doing when I toss my togs into the machine. The room is big enough that it needs two overhead lights.

A couple of months ago one of them started flickering, and finally went out. Since I still had one light, lighting the unlit one was not high on my priorities list.

Then one day I flipped on the switch and both lights came on. Hmmm. It worked for a while but went dark again. I was hoping it would come back to life again but it didn’t so I replaced the two fluorescent bulbs. Circular bulbs rather than long tubes. Good light.

After a few weeks the same on and off foolishness started. I was afraid to turn the lights off. Would that one come back on? Sometimes it did. Sometimes it didn’t. I decided to replace the ballast. That was a new experience for me. Word of advice- make sure you turn off the power before you start messing with this task! Being zapped by electricity is not pleasant.

Kill the power to the laundry room. Now I’m in the dark. Break out the portable spotlight. Remove light cover. Remove ballast. Install new ballast. Oops! Doesn’t fit. My bad.

To make a long story short, I decided that it would be easiest to just replace the lights completely. So I thought anyway…

At the building supply store there are hundreds of light fixtures.  And that’s just in the overhead light section.  There are also lamps, wall lights, outdoor spotlights and walkway lights, staircase lights, under counter lights and nightlights.  And they can be powered by solar panels, batteries or electricity.  Ceiling lights come as hanging, flush mounted and recessed.

As for style, you can find modern, traditional, farmhouse, industrial, vintage and contemporary.  With finishes in chrome, brushed nickel, brass, painted, mirrored, or accented with cloth shades and crystals.  Some lights even come with fans.  Or maybe it’s the fans that come with lights.

Did you say bulbs?  Fluorescent, like the ones I had.  Those circular bulbs were expensive!  Incandescent.  White, clear, sunlight, daylight, bright white.  And LED.  Throw all that into the mix.

After staring up at the ceiling for what seemed like hours, I forced my neck to bend so that my head could once again look forward and move side to side.  And made a decision on a light fixture.  Pretty simple.  And largely based on price.  Not the cheapest, because I didn’t want to look cheap, but certainly not the most extravagant. Very tasteful.  It’s a flush mounted light.  Round with brushed nickel trim and an opaque white glass globe.  Eleven inches in diameter.  Now for the easy part.  Installation.

Earlier, when I was working on replacing the ballast and disconnecting the light, I made sure someone else was in the house.  That was my way insuring that if for some reason the power was still on when I grabbed hold of he black wire, and I was being electrocuted, someone might be able to run at my pulsating body and knock me away from the live wire.  That hadn’t happened so I decided to do the light swap out while I was home alone. This would also allow me to say bad words in frustration without offending anyone.

Shut off the power.  Hook up the spotlight.  Climb the stepladder with screwdrivers and wrenches.  All set.  The first light would be easy.  It was already half taken apart and all I had to do was connect the new light to the bare wires.  Before I could begin this, I had to put a bracket into the electrical box to hold the fixture.  No problem I thought.

The screwdriver I chose for securing the bracket was a perfect fit.  Phillips head.  But the handle was small and it was slipping in my hand.  It took a thousand turns to get each screw all the way in.  It seemed like it anyway.  I connected the wires.  And started to push them all up into the box.  Then I realized two things.  The power wire had come loose, and I couldn’t cram the wires all up inside the box with the bracket in place.  I had to remove it.  A thousand turns out.  All the while the light fixture is dangling in the air, held up only by the wire connections.

I then stripped a little more of the covering off of the black wire to get a better connection inside the wire nut.  And pushed all of the wires up into the box as much as I could while still leaving me enough room to get a screwdriver up to tighten the screws holding the bracket.  A thousand turns.  Success. Wires still connected.  And all shoved into the box.

Now slide the base over the bolt that would hold the globe, and slide said globe over the bolt.  And the bolt is too long.  Oh shit.  The wrench doesn’t fit snugly enough to loosen the nut that allows for adjustment of the bolt. And I can’t get the bolt to turn either. A thousand turns.  Once again.  Back to square one.  All the while trying to do all of this work on the stepladder, with my arms raised over my head.  And the fixture is dangling by its wires again.

Ok.  A final assault.  With the bolt properly adjusted and the wires shoved up into the box, I put the bracket back on.  You know – a thousand turns.  And I slid the globe on.  And tightened the nut to hold it in place.  Finished.  At last.

That took an hour and a half.  And I was tired.  I flipped on the power, and the switch and damn if it didn’t work like a charm. I’d do the other one the next day. And I’d know a lot of tricks for shortcuts.

For the second fixture I prepared by stripping the black wire a little bit and adjusting the length of the hanging bolt. I connected the wires and pushed them way up into the box.  Then, with a bigger screwdriver, I did the thousand turns routine.  But I’d only do it once this time!  I slid the base over the bolt, slid the globe up and started to put on the final nut.  Which slipped out of my hand.  And got lost somewhere.  Found the lock washer that had also fallen, but the nut was gone.  Who knows where.  Fortunately I had another nut.  But the globe had to come off, and the base, while I climbed down from the ladder to crawl around on the floor, in the semi darkness, looking for the nut.  And the fixture was hanging by its wires.  I dropped that damn nut two more times before I finally got the whole fixture properly secured.  But I got it done.  And it looked great.

Flip the breaker on, hit the power switch and as the good book says, sort of, “Matt said, Let there be light!!”  And there was.  A big and beautiful glow that made my heart feel warm.  Damn I’m good.  Ok, so capable is a better word.  And determined.

So I’ve got two new light fixtures, they look great, and I’ll never have to change a bulb because  they are LEDs.  These suckers may outlive me!  I hope not, but I don’t think it will be me who changes them out next time.

My laundry room, without any windows, is now a well lit, cozy place to be.  Not that I’m going to change my feelings toward doing laundry because of that.  But at least I’ll be able to see what I’m doing. On to the next project!!!

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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TheWarp

It started with a spark.  Like a tiny ember that produces a raging wildfire in the forest, this hint of an idea led to something big.  A flash of creativity came to her and she wanted to make something.

Decorating her home has led her in many directions.  In search of ideas.  And blank wall space directed her toward art.  She wanted big art.  Oversized canvasses, filled with color.  In the art galleries and home décor shops she found such paintings.  At a very high price.  At least for her budget.  So she chose another route.  She would do it herself.  And so the idea of painting a large canvass was born.

I can’t speak to her creative process.  Art is very personal.  And creativity is even more so.  I can say however that I like her paining.  She calls it an abstract.  Untitled number one.  But I have another name for it.  Because I see something deep inside of it.  To me, it is The Calm Before the Storm.  It’s the story of a young woman ready to burst upon the Universe in her full glory.

With a dark blue background, like the outer reaches of space, or perhaps the inner reaches of her brain, the upper portion is covered in a gray haze.  Thoughts and ideas and personality all forming and beginning to congeal.  As your eye moves down the canvas the colors change. Now it is filled with flashes of white and dark blue and light blue and gray.  All very well defined and distinct.  And appearing in a very random order.  Many ideas and aspects of her soul are formed more clearly now.  And the complexity of the individual is displayed.

There is no judgment or qualification as to value or propriety.  It’s just a transformation.  As we all go thorough.  But this one is displayed on canvass.  Fabulous.

The only issue was that while she was figuring out what she was going to paint, the bare canvass sat in the house, still wrapped in the plastic cover used to protect its brilliant whiteness from dirt.  In hindsight, she should have removed the plastic while she waited.  Inside the plastic, one of the wooden sides of the canvass stretcher warped.  Thus, the painting would not lay flat against the wall.  One corner stuck out.

I’m pretty sure I could have come up with some explanation for that deformity relating to the artistic expression contained therein.  Oh, that corner represents the three dimensional nature of our existence and the fact that the corner protrudes as it does indicates that the artist is moving onward, and outward along a continually changing line.  Art critic speak.  But I knew it was a warped idea, and a warped frame.  And I knew how to fix it.

A frame, built rigidly with wood and attached directly to the stretchers would do it.  I could straighten the warp and all would be well.

So I broke out my miter box, and the accompanying saw.  Gathered up some narrow strips of wood and brads. And for good measure, some dark blue paint.  She had told me she didn’t want a frame on the painting.  I could make it a quarter inch thick on each side and paint it the same dark blue color as the background.  It would blend right in.

Measure twice, cut once.  Apply a couple of coats of paint.  Pretty. Firmly flatten the stretcher and attach each of the sides with a couple of brads.  A perfect fit!

But when I held it up, it was still warped.  Looked beautiful, but still warped.  Maybe the idea of the three dimensional explanation wasn’t so bad after all.

The artist told me she would just toss the whole mess and start over. Nope. Now this was an engineering challenge to me.  One that I could not back away from .  Or lose to. So what’s the real problem and how do I solve it?

I’m not an engineer, or an artist.  But I can look at something like this and figure something out. Maybe not the way Einstein would, but I could get it to work.

I decided that two of the diagonally opposing corners had to be pulled together.

Hmmmm… I’ve got it I said.  I’ll attach a brace to the back and tighten it all up.  It would have to run diagonally, from corner to corner. But the brace itself would have to be shorter than the span it was to cover.  Using the shortened brace to cover the whole distance would put an arc into the stretcher.  And eliminate the warp.  Genius.

Properly measured, I tacked one end of the brace into the corner. Then held down the center of the stretcher and pulled up on the other corner.  Holding it all together, rather awkwardly, I set the second tack.  Wham!  And I let go of the whole thing.

With some amazement, and a good bit of self satisfaction, I realized that this had actually worked.  The picture would now lay flat against the wall.  So I touched up the brad heads and the corners and a few little scrapes here and there with the dark blue paint.  And let it dry.

And then I loaded it into the car and took it back to the artist’s house. Where I hung it on the wall. Laying very flat.  She may still tell me its untitled number one, but I will always see it as an expression of her inner self.  And a wonderful collaboration between me and my daughter.

That’s part of my story.  What’s yours?

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The Wilderness

Beyond the fence lay the wilderness. A vast, dense forest primordial in its nature. Uncut and unexplored. Towering ancient trees, untouched by human hands.  At least that’s how it seemed from this side of the fence.

The house is in a small in town subdivision.  There are neighboring houses on either side of this one, and across the street.  But in the back…the wilderness.  The fence may have been erected to keep the prying eyes of neighbors out.  But for my purposes, it was there to keep the doggie in.

Left unattended, nature will eventually overtake anything man has created.  And an untamed wilderness was proving to be the nemesis of the fence. Large trees were standing very close to it.  And their trunks and roots were pressing against the timbers of that divider.  Nature was winning the battle and slowly pushing on the fence and tearing it apart.  It needed repair, and salvation.  Which meant I needed to go to the other side of the fence.  Into the wilderness.

It was going to take what would seem to be an around the world journey to get where I needed to go.  The fence was a solid wall.  No gate.  There was no way to tunnel under it.  And it was too tall to climb over.  I would have to go to the far side of the wilderness, and trek through its entirety, back to the fence.

From the road the forest looked deep and densely covered in underbrush.  But there was a narrow path that had been started.  Judging by the piles of yard debris on either side of this path, I decided that the neighbors had been dumping the cut grass and fallen tree limbs from their yards into the forest.  Breaching the outer layer of the frontier.  I wondered if anyone had ever ventured deeper.

I gathered an assemblage of hand tools for cutting brush and tree limbs.  Machete, hand saw, loppers, and pruning sheers.  I armed myself with a bottle of water to fight off dehydration. And I entered the jungle.

I was dismayed to see almost immediately that there had indeed been other explorers.  Not because I wasn’t the first, but because they had broken a cardinal rule: leave nothing but footprints.  There was a paper towel laying on the forest floor.  Filled with I don’t know what.  As I pressed further I came upon a dumping ground.  A collection of old glass bottles.  Mostly broken and worthless.  Why would this be here I wondered?  Something for further exploration at a later date.

Advancing further toward my goal I encountered a lot of little things that indicated human presence.  Old paint buckets.  Large pieces of concrete that would have been used in constructing a sewer system.  Looks like when the neighborhood was built about twenty years ago the builders had taken their leftovers and dumped them in the woods.  May have been a thinly wooded field back then.

There were a lot of bits and pieces of plastic that looked like they were leftover from landscapers planting shrubs and trees.  Just throw it into the woods.  Cheaper than the landfill.

I finally reached my destination and went to work.  I came upon the remnants of an old fence.  Had this land all once been a farm?  Probably so.  Four hours later I had finished clearing a small area behind the fence.  There were still trees growing up too closely, but I had eliminated the dead ones that had fallen, and the vines and junk shrubs that were overtaking it.  The trees would require professional assistance.  Another day.

Headed back to my exploration vehicle I came across some other bizarre artifacts which I hadn’t seen on my way into the woods.  Leaning up against a tree stood a swimming pool ladder.  Starting to rust but in pretty good shape.  I shook my head in wonderment.  An old tire.  Who would roll one old tire deep into the forest?  But what I encountered next blew me away.  There was a primitive structure.  A campsite.  Some one had built a conical shelter using logs and timbers.  And they had covered it with a green tarp.

That reminded me of my days as a child when we would go into the woods and build forts on the ground, under the ground, and in the trees.  We were pirates.  And explorers.  Cowboys and soldiers.  And we could entertain ourselves endlessly just being in our fortress.  This one looked like it had been abandoned.  But it was definitely of human and modern origin.  A vast civilization had once thrived in these woods.

Now it’s just a vacant lot, unattended by its owners, waiting for someone to come in and develop it. Cut down all the trees and build something.

There are still places on the Earth that are awaiting man’s first entry.  The depths of the oceans and the peaks of isolated mountains.  But we humans have pretty much covered it all. And with us we took our imagination, our hopes and dreams, ambitions and indomitable spirit.  And what have we left behind?  Many amazing things.  But in this particular forest, just a lot of trash. And the shattered dreams of an optimistic explorer.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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It’s Everywhere!

When you are looking for something you need it seems like it’s often impossible to find. Once you have it of course you see it everywhere. And at a much better price. You might call that extra cost a convenience fee. Or just bad timing.

A couple of weeks ago the weather warmed up and the grass started to grow. And with it, the weeds. So, OK I thought, lets get out the weed and feed and kill some weeds and fertilize that good old grass. One problem: I didn’t have either the weed and feed, or the spreader to put it out. Off to the hardware store.

The weed and feed was easy to find. A dozen different choices. This one fertilizes and kills 250 different weeds. This one fertilizes for three months and kills every weed but crabgrass. And so on.

But wouldn’t you know it. There was only one spreader on the shelf in the store! The guy working there said that the warm weather had brought out the gardeners and there had been a rush on the spreaders the day before. Just one left. And more than I wanted to pay. But I got it because I thought I just had to have it to get this job done right now.

Fast forward one week. I’m on a road trip exploring Georgia’s longest yard sale. Two hundred and forty miles of highway lined with countless yard sales. And guess what I saw everywhere!

The first time I saw a spreader I thought it was humorous. Ten bucks. And then it seemed like I saw one at every sale. It was probably a dozen or so, and every one was ten dollars. Some almost new. Now I feel stupid.

What makes it even worse is that this weekend I went to a big sale at one of the local antique malls. Spring clearance! Half of the dealers were slashing their prices. And one guy had a, yes, a fertilizer spreader! It was very out of place in an antique shop as it was rather new. I think it was just there because the universe wanted me to feel even worse. Or maybe I just imagined it.

I’m in the antique business. I live in antique stores, thrift stores and flea markets. The only things I buy new are eyeglasses and food! Why did I buy that spreader at the hardware store? Who knows?

I learn life’s lessons well. Because I learn the same one over and over. Maybe one day I’ll remember what I’ve learned. Right!

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Five Nines

IMG_1855Milestones need to be celebrated. And this is a major one. Its not quite like reaching the ripe old age of 100, but the odometer on my truck just rolled over 100,000 miles.

It was when the numbers on the dial read something like 95,000 that I began to watch it, knowing that it wouldn’t take too long to hit 100. And I didn’t want to miss that.

My van has slightly over 200 thousand miles, and I never have really paid that much attention to it. Toyota. I know it will probably go to 500. Damn thing will probably last longer than I do. But the Nissan truck bore more careful watching. I’d had an Altima, and I don’t think it made it to 100 thousand miles.

Not it’s fault really. When the deer slammed into its front end the poor car kinda lost a lot of its momentum. I’m sure it would have made it if not for that tragedy.

I had a Dodge that barely limped over the 100 mark. Then died. And a Ford that got to 106 before I had to trade it away. But this truck seems to be running strong. And I have high hopes for at least 250.

When I bought it, after the Altima quit, it had 20 thousand miles on it and was two years old. Immaculate condition and it had all the bells and whistles one could ask for on a truck. That was eight years ago. In that time we have made numerous road trips. She has hauled furniture up and down the highways, sometimes looking like the heap belonging to the Beverly Hillbillies. Lawnmowers, ladders and all asortment of tools have ridden along. And even my motorcycle, tied up tightly in the bed. Rocks, bricks and logs. And yes, a six foot tall blow mold Santa!

Riding up to my antique shop this afternoon I looked down and saw the number – 99970. I figured it would turn over before I got back home. Wrong though.

Pulling into my driveway the number read 99998. Two more miles. I still had to go meet my daughter for dinner. It would turn on that trip.

As I headed toward the pizza joint to meet my daughter I kept a close eye on the odometer. 99999. I wondered if at that magic moment it would go to all zeros, or if a 1 would pop up on the left edge. Surely the 1 would come up since the manufacturer must expect the vehicle to go much more than this distance. In the old days cars didn’t last that long and rolling over 100 meant it would show all zeros. Buying a “low mileage” used car back then could prove to be quite a surprise when you realized that the son of a gun had over one hundred thousand miles on it. Sucker!

When the numbers turned, and the 1 popped up with five zeros I pulled off the road to take a picture of the odometer. Blowing a horn and shooting off fireworks might have been more appropriate, but this would have to do.

As I rolled on, and the number rolled to 100,001 I knew there would be many miles to come. I am still waiting to tow a boat with this baby. And an Airstream trailer.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Change of Heart

The advertisement had pictures of the items included in the sale. Not everything, but some of the best things that would draw the biggest crowds. And yes, estate sales can get very crowded.

Mid century furniture. Tools. All sorts of items that people want to buy. And some to resell. The pictures that caught my eye were of sailboat models. And a commercial ships big orange life ring. That, I had to have!

It was the greatest thing in the world in my mind. And I knew every other person on the planet would have the same opinion. So being first in line was imperative.

Now if you know me at all, being first in line is not something that ever happens. Not even for free food or alcohol. I was late for my wedding and I will surely be late for my funeral. So, I arrived and was fourth in line.

Something was wrong here though. Normally it’s almost impossible to miss the house having an estate sale. There will be a hundred or so cars parked up and down the street. And lots of people. Sometimes an hour before the sale starts. Or longer.

Today though, I arrived five minutes before show time. And was fourth in line. I knew I had a good chance of getting the ring. Upon entering the house I immediately asked the people running the sale where the life ring was. In the basement. Down I went, before looking at anything else.

Big basement I thought as I descended the stairs. I looked and looked and looked. No life ring. I was the second person to have made it down there, and the other guy didn’t have the thing. I asked the sales staff again and they pointed toward a wall. An empty wall. They were shocked. I was dismayed. It was gone.

Apparently the family of the homeowner had taken it for themselves. After all, it is their stuff. But they were supposed to have taken everything earlier. The sales staff was not amused.

But it was ok with me. I’d been through a downsizing sale with my elderly parents and knew how hard it can be. And I’m sure that as they moved through the house one last time, they saw that life ring and knew something about it that no one else ever would. Something that made it very valuable to them. Maybe their grandfather had sailed on that ship and taken the ring as a souvenir. Who knows? They wanted it. And I didn’t get it.

Things go places, or stay where they are for lots of reasons. Sometimes reasons unknown to us. But good reasons nonetheless.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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