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Wednesday, September 05, 2018 No comments

The Greatest Rev

Mason’s latest obsession is cars. Muscle cars, sports cars, supercars, anything with eye-popping horsepower and price tags (and insurance quotes to match). Getting in any car with him means being subjected to an endless monologue about this car or that car he’d really like to see (or own), punctuated by excited shouts as he sights a Porsche or the like. I presume he has fallen into a sea of Youtube videos. eyeroll

So I was taking him to soccer practice, and he said, “Rev it!”

“This car?” My Miata has stock exhaust, and it is in very good shape. Even if the redline is around 7000rpm, it doesn’t make all that much noise. But if I was a Sheltie in a previous life, Mason was a bulldog. “What’s the greatest rev you ever did?”

Ours was grey-green, but otherwise the same.
Source: Wikimedia Commons
“I didn’t do…” then I burst out laughing, remembering what was truly my greatest rev. I told him the story:

When I was in high school, we had a 1971 Buick Electra 225 “Deuce and a Quarter,” the car Sinbad immortalized in a comedy bit (see below). Thing was, he wasn’t exaggerating much. It was one of the last pre-gas shortage Detroit big-iron beasts, with a huge engine to match (455cid, almost 7.5l in modern measurements… over four times the displacement of my Miata!). That thing could swallow enough cargo to choke some SUVs these days, and give a full-sized RV a run for its money when it came to guzzling gas. And it could get out of its own way fully loaded, let alone carrying only a 140-pound me behind the wheel. The SOB probably could have pulled a fifth-wheel without breathing hard, if we could have found a way to hook it up.

The best memories of my high school years revolve around that car. If I get some requests in the comments, I'll tell some other stories about it, but this one is about my greatest rev.

I lived in Michigan until graduating from college. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the way they do things Up North, you can’t just put everything on hold until the snow melts; it might stick around until April after all. So you plow the roads, and throw down rock salt to melt the ice (or salt and sand, the latter to give you traction if it’s too cold for the salt to work). In quiet subdivisions, I’d gas it hard around corners in the winter—ostensibly to get practice recovering from a skid, but in reality to dick around. But I digress. The thing about salty roads, it rusts iron. Rustproofing had become a thing in the mid-70s, and Dad had it undercoated.

But that was just the chassis, not the muffler pipe. Somewhere around the summer of 1978, the salt completed seven patient winters of work, and the long stretch of pipe between the exhaust manifold and the muffler rusted through.

You’ve probably heard a Civic (or a similar car) with a modified exhaust, or some ding-a-ling just put in a straight pipe. Now, imagine the racket coming from an engine four times that size. It didn't take much revving to make that thing HEARD. Mom literally could hear us coming home from a mile away.

It had to happen, sooner or later. I dropped a friend off around midnight, in a quiet-ish Grand Rapids neighborhood, and told the land yacht to set a course for home. I tried to go slow to minimize the BLAP BLAP BLAP BLAP of the unmuzzled V8, but I got the blue lights after about two blocks. The cop wasn’t horrible about it; he wrote an R&R (Repair and Report) ticket, which meant I had a week (or two) to fix it, then take it up to the cop shop and demonstrate it was fixed.

Other Brother tried the easy route: cutting the ends off a beer can, then opening it sideways and wrapping it around the rusted-through zone (by now, the pipe had come apart). It worked! for about ten minutes, until the heat of the monster V8’s breath melted the aluminum.

I decided that since I’d gotten the R&R, it was up to me to fix it right. Somehow or another, we knew the diameter of the muffler pipe. I went to the auto parts store, bought two splices and a length of replacement pipe. I hacksaw’ed out the rusted part, plus enough to fit the replacement length, applied splices and clamps, and gave it a test. Just a hum, the way Buick intended. I took it to the cop shop, where they approved my fix. As well they should have—it outlasted the rest of the car.


And now, I will shut up and let Sinbad tell you all about the Deuce.


Monday, September 03, 2018 2 comments

Gazebo life

As spring began to slide into summer, I told the wife, “I want to get one of those screen gazebos to put up down at the patio.”

“That’s a good idea,” she replied, “but let’s put it in the front yard where the grass doesn’t grow anyway.”

I was okay with that—it was more likely to be used if it was near the door. We got a 10' by 12' model, and I spent a weekend putting up the framework. The wife got some of the farm help to put the canopy over the top (it's close to 15' high, almost 5m), then I put up the screens.

Done, yay! Until the first rain, and the shade finished killing off the rest of the grass, and the floor got kind of mucky around the edges and sticky in the middle. I thought about de-commissioning the patio, since it doesn't get much use these days, and using the rubber tiles to put in a floor. Then I remembered when Mason's soccer practice moved to an artificial turf field during a long rainy spell in the spring, and started looking up turf on Amazon. I found a reasonably-priced roll of turf ($45 for 6' by 12') and ordered two. I still put some of the rubber tiles to use, filling in the space between the front sidewalk and the turf.

Play area
With a dry, mostly clean floor surface, I started taking Charlie out there in the evenings. The screens keep the bugs out, and I moved in some patio chairs and a couple of outdoor tables. Back when Mason was about 3, we bought a little slide/pirate ship/castle thing, and its new home became the gazebo. Life was good… except that it started getting hot, and we didn't have any way to run a fan.

For whatever reason, FAR Manor has a major dearth of outdoor outlets. This is something I'd wanted to remedy for a long time, and I finally got to work. I bought a GFI outlet and cover, let them sit for longer than necessary, then gathered tools and pulled an outlet in Mason's room. I drilled through the wall to give me a point of reference, then used my Dremel to carve a GFI-sized hole in the siding. To my surprise, when I ran the power cable from Mason's room up and to the right, I hit the hole on the first try! Soon, I had everything wired up (and pushed some silicone caulk into the drill hole).

Light strings
With an outdoor outlet in place (at last!), I rummaged through the Christmas light stuff and found what I needed: an outdoor power extender. The cord was the perfect length to run from the outlet, under the fake turf, and into the corner of the gazebo. The box has a stake to keep it in place. I grabbed a small fan off the shelf and plugged it in, then went to Five Below and got some LED lantern light strings. Soon after, Amazon ran a sale on a 33' LED light string (with remote) for $10 and change. The lanterns spread out to the corners from the center of the ceiling; the LED string runs around three sides of the gazebo. The combination is just barely adequate for reading, but that has not been an issue until this weekend. The days are definitely growing shorter.

The outdoor office
More importantly, the fan keeps things tolerable during the muggy evenings. (Except last week, when we had a couple of absolutely gorgeous days while I was working at home… I plugged the work laptop into the outlet and enjoyed it while it lasted. Pleasant days in August are rare on Planet Georgia.)

Charlie loves to hear, "Do you want to go out to the gazebo?" I found a tote bag that's perfect for carrying my iPad, a couple of Charlie's books, sippy cups/water bottles, and other incidentals. We can do one trip for both out and back inside. While we're out there, he plays on the slide, pushes cars around on the artifical turf, climbs into my lap to read a book… and hones his misdirection skills. Last week, as we were getting ready to go back in, he put his face up to the fan. While I watched carefully to make sure he didn't try to push fingers through the tight screen, he palmed the remote for the LED string. I had no idea until he came down the hall with a big grin, holding the remote to his ear and pretending it was a phone.

He showed the wife his misdirection skill this evening. While he was in her lap, he pointed to the couch. She looked that way; he swiped the toast off the top of her BLT, and commenced to nomming. Little rat. He's gonna be a stage magician if he keeps this up.

But I digress. I think, once October starts getting close to November, we can hang shower curtains over the screens and use one of those outdoor heaters to extend the season. Mason's old play table (with sand) might be a good addition for the colder times… especially since cold doesn't bother Charlie much. Maybe I can get Mason to show Charlie the play table, and maybe he won't teach Charlie to scatter the sand in all directions?

An outdoor space, especially without bugs, is a welcome addition to FAR Manor. Let's hope it can last for a while. And if you're in the US, I hope your Labor Day weekend was long and pleasant.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018 1 comment

Give Peach a Chance

Soon after lunch last Sunday, Daughter Dearest caught me in the kitchen. “Can you take these and toss 'em in the woods?” she asked, handing me a bowl of peelings and similar.

“Sure, I’ll dump it in the composter.” I hadn’t been out there in a while, and judging by the overgrowth between the driveway and the composter box, neither had anyone else. Oh well. I stomped down some weeds, keeping a wary eye on the briars, and so I was almost at the composter before I saw what was next to it:

Quoth 3 year old Mason: “Too heavy!”
A peach tree, bent to the ground under the weight of its own produce. The peaches are a reasonable size, but still pretty hard, so I figure they were taking their time ripening in the deep shade around the composter.

As far as I can guess, a peach pit must have been tossed in (or near) it at some time—the trunk is not two inches from the base of the composter. I was delighted, as you might guess, nearly as much as when we started getting persimmons from the tree near the road.

Wife is all, “They probably won’t get ripe. There’s too much shade.”

“All I’m saying,” I replied, “is give peach a chance!”


Wall to wall and 10 feet tall
One life lesson I learned from playing D&D: always keep a 50-foot length of rope handy. What I have these days is clothesline, but I knew it was in the deck box with the inflatables. I grabbed it, and the hatchet, and got to work. Some trimmed branches piled nearby became stakes, and I enlisted a nearby oak. It has held up for over a week, now, during which we had a pretty substantial gust front ahead of some rain.

We’re already plotting a transplant operation come winter. There’s a gigantic white pine across the driveway from the front door, that seems to be dying from the top down after a lightning strike, and a couple of trash pines next to that. Those will meet the chainsaw (and become firewood for campsites and other outdoor fires), we’ll pull or dig the stumps out, and hope for the best with the transplanting.

So, on occasion, we do get a pleasant surprise at FAR Manor.

Thursday, July 26, 2018 4 comments

Stay on, your toes

The Boy continues to embrace the whole home ownership thing. He has a pretty decent garden spot (mostly hot peppers, with a few other things) and is talking about adding a room. A really good thing, he's been keeping up with his glucose and insulin for the last six months or so.

Of course, there are downsides. About a month ago, a bad storm came through and dropped a tree limb on their newest car, totaling it. At least it was parked, which means comprehensive kicks in (lower deductible) and no ding on his driving record.

Then there was the garden incident… at least, as best as we can figure. He was weeding when his foot started burning (wearing sandals), but the pain faded quickly and he kept at it. He saw a blister later was all.

A few days later, he had a pretty heavy-duty infection in his foot, and ended up in a hospital in Carrolton. We grabbed a hotel to spend the night down there. The surgeon told everyone, “we’ll do what we can, but he’s probably going to lose four toes.” Yeowch!

So they wheeled him in, and we flipped out our tablets to wait for the news, whether good or bad. Finally, a nurse called us into the consultation room. The surgeon said, “the infection hadn’t gone to the bone, or got into the tendons, so we cut out the infected tissues.” So far so good… everything was still attached. For now. Even better: “he still has pretty good circulation in his feet, that helps.”

They wheeled him back to his room, and the surgeon came by to tell him what was next: they would leave his foot wrapped up for a few days, then the wound care specialist would come by and check for any further infection. At that point, they would decide whether his toes could stay attached a little longer. The way he talked, it sounded like a 50/50 proposition.

This is the GOOD side!
We went home, but kept in touch via text, until we returned to the hospital for The Unveiling.

No infection! Yay!

The wound care specialist came in and said, “three things if you want to keep your toes: don’t smoke, don’t walk on that foot, and keep up with your insulin.” There were other particulars, including a special boot he wears to walk around safely, but those are details.

The wife took a pic of the bottom of his foot. I really don’t want to inflict that one on you… there was basically a trench about 1/2" wide and deep, running across the joints. Top view is bad enough (the bruised big toenail came from him dropping something on his foot while doing a moving job).

Last week, we got a report (and a pic): the wound care specialist says it’s healing up faster than expected. Indeed, the pic showed a small oval of raw flesh surrounded by new skin. Woohoo!

So what caused all this? The symptoms were all consistent with a brown recluse bite. We may never know what happened, but I’m willing to blame spiders.

Monday, May 07, 2018 1 comment

Baby bird rescue

I was putzing around at the computer over the weekend, when the wife came in with a pair of rubber gloves. “There’s two baby birds on the deck,” she said. “They fell out of that nest on top of the floodlight. Put these on, and maybe you can put them back and the mom will keep them.”

“Oh crap,” said the one on the left.
“I’ll need a ladder,” I said. The floodlight is just below the roof line, a nice sheltered place to build a nest if you can ignore the humans playing around down below.

I found the ladder and came out to the deck. The kids were all clustered at the far end, near the steps down to the back yard, watching the show (such as it was). I put the ladder where I needed it, donned the rubber gloves, and swooped in for the rescue.

Being a couple of bird brains, they didn’t realize I was trying to help, and squawked up a storm. The agitated parents, watching from a safe distance, joined the squawkfest.

Back home… or at least on the porch.
With a bird in each hand (is that worth four in a bush, then?), I mounted the ladder. The babies either realized they were getting closer to home, or resigned themselves to being eaten, and settled down. Now here's where I ran into a snag: there was very little space between the top of the nest and the soffit board. My plan was to drop each of the birdies back in the nest, but they decided to stop cooperating for some reason as I tried to stick them through the gap. So, I just let them latch onto the rim and left them there.

Looking down, I saw a third baby in a chair below the floodlight. It looked like it had been dead for some time, and maybe the living got chucked out with the dead. Or maybe they decided to follow their deceased brother out of the nest. However it was, we disposed of the corpse.

As close to the edge of the deck as those two were, it never occurred to me to look for more on the ground. Hopefully, that didn’t happen.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018 3 comments

Charlie Talks to the Birds

I had Charlie out in the gazebo Sunday evening, because he likes to be outside and I wanted him to see the low beach chair I found in the garage for him. He saw it, gave me a big grin, and sat in it for a long time.

Soon enough, he got up and played on his slide a little… then he heard the birds. They chirped, he squeaked… and I was thinking, “Is he doing what I think he’s doing?” Yup. I got video. You might have to turn the sound up a little; I boosted it as much as I could, though.



Sometimes, the normal FAR Manor weird gets delightfully weird…

Monday, April 30, 2018 3 comments

Weekend Roundup

Most of Mason’s soccer games are at the local park, but each season they have two or three out of town matches. Saturday’s game was up in Towns County, pretty close to the North Carolina border.

I had Maps plot a course, which skirted Helen (probably very busy on a warm spring weekend) and took us up GA75 toward Hiawassee. We put the top down and I thrashed the Miata up that winding mountain road, a very enjoyable trip once the passing lane opened up and I got past the slowpokes.

Our destination was Foster Park, on Foster Road. Fortunately, Mason wanted to leave early, because Maps treated us to one of its rare hiccups, finding us a 1.5-lane Foster Rd. that ended in a church parking lot. After turning around and driving right past the place we actually wanted, I pulled up Google Maps and got the right directions. (I’ve had Google Maps totally fail as well, which is a good reason to have both.) The upshot was, we got there in plenty of time.

There’s not much to be said about the game itself. Mason took the goalie position for the second half, and only allowed one to get past him (which was pretty good because his teammates were offering little to no defense, and not a whole lot of offense). Since the game started at 4:30pm, I figured we’d find a place to eat there before coming back home—and when the coach texted all of us to welcome us to her alma mater (Young Harris College), I figured she would know a good place. Her son is Mason’s best friend, except for the matter of this one girl (c’mon, they’re all 8!), so hanging out after the game was a no-brainer.

Supper, then home. Maps knows where I live, and helpfully plotted a nice set of backroads. We went down Track Rock Rd, where some of my relatives once lived, and then thrashed the Miata down US19/129 before heading home. Despite having only all-season radials, I never felt like we were going to spin out or anything… so maybe I wasn’t pushing it that hard after all. We only had a couple of tire chirps and one squeal, which was probably because I was on the paint on the inside of a right-hander. It got chilly enough that Mason (who is even more of a top-down fiend than me) was ready to put the top up early on in the drive home, but we did keep the windows down. Definitely a case of the journey being more important than the destination..

And there was evening and morning, another day.

Swingin’
Sunday after church, the wife suggested we take the boys to the park after lunch. She couldn’t stay past lunch, but I figured Mason and Charlie would have a pretty good time. As it turned out, I was right. Mason alternated between the jungle gym and riding his bicycle in the parking lot.

As for Charlie, he enjoyed the swings. He liked the slides. But the big attraction was the large fenced-in playground space. He spent most of his time running loose, and all I had to do was follow him around and make sure he stayed out of the one muddy spot under the big-kid swings. His random sort-of orbit would occasionally take him to the picnic table, where I had left his sippy and diaper bag, and he would guzzle some lemonade before taking off anew. At one point, a bunch of girls started screaming, and Charlie turned around and joined in. If you heard a chorus of Joyous Ear-Splitting Shrieks™ over the weekend, that was probably them.

Of course, like Mason at that age, he generated an Atomic Diaper. I just laid him on the picnic table and took care of it. (Mason, despite being the same age I was when I first changed an Atomic Diaper, has not worked up the nerve to try. Kids these days, y'know?)

At last, the wife returned from her errands. To my surprise, both Mason and Charlie put up no fuss about going home. I figured, in Charlie’s case at least, he had worn himself out with all the running and would zorch out pretty quick. No such luck—he was wound up, and it was closer to 10pm before he finally gave up for the night.

Looking at the extended forecast, spring has finally chased the last vestiges of winter back to the Arctic. The sun is shining, birds are singing… and I got video of Charlie talking back to the birds. Stay tuned.

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