Holiday Craft Fair in Ukiah

For all those hanging out in Northern California, I will be signing books at the Girl Scouts Holiday Boutique in Ukiah on Saturday, December first. Many other crafty people will be there as well. Location is the Veterans hall on S. Oak st. I hope to see you there:)

The Wrong Tool

Sometimes it seems I remodel to support my tool habit. Over the years I have acquired quite a collection. Since each aspect of construction is unique, it requires its own specialized tools. I am involved from the foundation to the roof, so naturally I need the tools to do each and every one of these disparate tasks. After all, if you’re going to do a job right, you must have the right tool for the job, except when you don’t. Sometimes the best tool for a job is the wrong one.

A bucket may appear to be the tool for catching water, but what about under a sink? The space not taken up with pipes, p-trap, garbage disposal, and dishwasher lines has been filled with cleaning supplies. They don’t make a bucket that can fit under such a nest of plumbing. They do, however, make a plastic paint tray that is perfect for the job. Its low height, about three and a half inches, allows it to slip easily under all that piping. There is even plenty of room left to work. The rectangular design means it can fit into the corners, and the broadness of the tray makes it wide enough to catch the water from the supply hoses and the p-trap at the same time.

These trays can comfortably hold three quarts, or a full gallon if you want to push the limit, but since a p-trap and supply lines combined hold less than a pint, there is plenty of capacity to get the job done. In addition, the sloped part designed to even the paint out on the roller is a great place to put that nasty, hair-clogged trap you just removed.

When working under a sink I like to put an old towel under everything. This catches any water missed by the paint tray as well as acting as a drop cloth. It also provides a bit of cushion while trying to reach those out of the way places. Like Arthur Dent I don’t go anywhere without a towel.

When you’re all done under there, be sure to check for leaks. Leaks don’t always show up right away and sometimes it’s hard to tell the difference between a slow leak and water left over from the repair process. I like to leave a piece of cardboard under the pipes for an hour or so. Any drip

shows up nice and clear on it so I can be sure the job is done right.

A common tool abuse that I can not condone is the use of a screwdriver to open paint cans. This often results in damage to the lid that prevents it from being put back on correctly. This not only makes it harder to open the next time, but it can also allow air in to dry out the paint. If you don’t have an actual paint can opener then my two-bit advice is just that: use a quarter. They are quite effective and the round edge won’t damage the lid. As for putting the lid back on, the traditional method is to use a mallet or hammer to tap it down firmly. Some will set it on the ground and stomp it shut with a foot, putting the boot in as it were. These are effective, but care should be taken to avoid splatters. Excess paint on the rim can be squeezed out at high velocity during the process, decorating surrounding objects. I like to use my roller extension pole. I lay it across the center of the lid and with firm pressure, roll the lid closed in both directions.

A final word on painting. Don’t let your brushes stand upright in the paint, or while soaking in water. This forces the bristles out of alignment and ruins the brush. Insert a small screw into the wide part of the handle with the head sticking out a bit and you can conveniently hang it on the side of your container.

If there is a lot of hand sanding to do, trade in that sanding block for a drywall sander. The wider sanding base and actual handle make the job much easier. Pre-sized paper is commonly available from 80-150 grit, although you can cut your own to fit.

Very few construction tools require thick grease, so when it is called for it may not be readily available. This can become a problem if you are removing ceramic tiles. An air hammer makes this job considerably easier. But it needs an application of viscous grease on the shaft to work properly. My environmentally friendly solution can be found in any well stocked medicine cabinet, petroleum jelly.

The most useful item in my unconventional tool box is my x-ray safety goggles. With these I can see through walls. I have built and torn open enough of them to know what I am likely to find inside. Before starting any project I study the area carefully. All those switches and outlets have wires

running to them. Not something you want to cut into while removing drywall. Nor do they look good running through your new window or doorway. A careful look at their layout can predict their probable path. It is a good idea to have a plan for moving them before you begin your tear out. I find a trip to the attic to trace what wires are heading into what wall and where is very helpful

That wall behind the sink is going to have not only wires, but an inch and a half vent pipe running up it. This makes it a difficult place to put in that sunken medicine cabinet. If you are considering removing a wall, check the rafters above it. If they run perpendicular than it is a bearing wall. That means the weight of the roof is resting on it. A little forethought can save a lot of frustration.

The x-ray glasses can also be used to find studs. Look again at those electric outlets. They are almost always nailed to a stud. If you have trouble determining which side of the outlet the stud is on, simply remove the cover plate and have a look. This also lets you see if there is an extra screw on the top and bottom which will indicate that it is a remodel box and therefore not next to a stud. Studs are typically spaced at sixteen inch intervals. So once you’ve located one stud, it is just a matter of measuring to find the one you want, or all of them. I use this method whenever I put in baseboards. A note of caution, every window and door has studs on either side irregardless of the rest of the layout.

These are a few of the tricks I have learned over the decades. There are many more. One of the wonderful aspects of the construction trade is the constant inclination towards innovations that make jobs faster, easier, and safer. In the two decades that I’ve been in the business I have seen many changes. The ones that work become the new standards. These changes are the results of the most powerful tool available, the human brain.

Hiding

Hiding

Boredom tormented his active intelligence while he lay there remembering. So he left the bed and moved towards the window to see what his little portion of the world might be up to. He called it his, even though he wasn’t a part of it, because it was the only thing outside of this room he ever saw.

The family had been up here while he slept and had left more of their junk on the floor. As he made his way towards the window, he stumbled over a small plastic castle surrounded by miniature knight-shaped caltrops. Cursing aloud before he could stop himself, he froze in sudden panic. Fear of discovery gripped him. After listening intently for a time to be certain the family wasn’t reacting, he breathed a sigh of relief and continued to the window. He desperately longed to be out there exploring the wild chaos on the outside. If only he had the courage to leave the safety of this room. But he knew that would never happen. Therein lay the tragedy of his existence.

Later, he lay in his safe place again. He usually hid here during the hours when the brightness of the day made everything dim. This was his time of fear, when he curled up in a ball of terror to protect himself from the dangers of the world he couldn’t see. Once, those of his kind ruled and all went in fear of them. But that time had past long ago, and the few who remained hid as he did in otherwise unused corners of reality. Alone and hopeless he waited for the sun to go down, and the fear to lessen somewhat.

Through the floorboards he could hear the family talking below in their brightly lit feeding room. The little one, hardly over a decade old, spoke with such excitement he seemed barely able to contain it. Its parent spoke in a distracted, mildly condescending voice.

“How was your night?” she asked in a habitual way.

“I heard the ghost again mom.”

“Are you sure its a ghost?”

“”Well, maybe it’s a monster or bogyman.”

“Oh,” she said in her half listening voice, “what was he doing?”

“He was bumping around in my room and cursing.”

“Nothing you shouldn’t hear I hope.”

“I couldn’t actually hear what he said. Anyway, I already learned all those words at school.”

“Is that what they teach these days.”

The creature who dwelt under the bed covered his ears with his paws and tried not to listen.

Success

The following is me dabbling in the Noir genre. Feel free to tell me what you think of it.

With eyes drained of life, I watched the tub drain suck down the ink blackened water. Much like my imagination, the water had cooled to a tepid disappointment. The soggy remains of my manuscript floated upon the surface. I had cast each page to the waves after reading it, despondent that I had not found the transcendental wisdom within them that I had felt during the writing process. Half a roll of ribbon wasted on virginal sheets undeserving of what I had done to them. Let them be washed clean.

The single bare bulb hanging from a solitary wire cast a light too harsh for the cramped porcelain tiled bathroom. My failure was too plain to see.

The door opened with a soft snick and she stood languidly in the doorway. From where I sat drooped in the tub, my eyes followed those long legs up until they disappeared under her black dress just above her knees. Then came the shapely hips, well presented by the form-enhancing snugness of her dress. There was more, but the mocking smile on top of it all just made it a waste.

“Who let you in?” I hastily reached for a towel.

“I come and go as I please. You should know that by now.”

Rose, Success, 2

I stood up, dripping and ink stained, doing what I could with the towel for modesty’s sake. My bathrobe hung on the door, but that was too close to her, so I picked up the pants draped across the sink and pulled them over my wet legs. The last of the water gurgled past the sodden mess of paper pulp that had gathered around the tub drain.

“I hope those aren’t my pages,” she said,knowing full well that they were. “I would hate to have to unleash Micky and Bruce just to get things done.” The playful tone failed to hide the menace behind her words.

“I’ve still got time. The deadline is not until midnight.”

“That gives you three hours. And it better be funny this time, or else your Underwood will be looking at a mouthful of broken keys.” She flashed me a malevolent smile and walked out. I didn’t relax until I heard the hotel door close behind her.

I thought of her former clients. They had all had brief meteoric careers, shooting to the top for a glorious moment, then quickly disappearing without any trace other than their typing machine found on some scrap heap.

When Lucy had first walked in to my life I was a hack with nothing buta screenplay representing two years of work. To have an agent of her caliber (.45 as it turned out) represent me was a dream come true. I signed the contract with barely a glance. It was only later I learned that Lucy was short for Lucifer. But never mind that. I only have three hours to write the next episode for “Eight Cats are Enough,” or my contract will be enforced.

 

Walking

He walked. He had no place to just be, so he stayed in motion. The whole world seemed to be owned by others. It had all been divided up into portions large and small. Someone, or some group, corporation, civil bureaucracy laid claim to every square inch of it. There was none left over for him.

Sure, there were parks, so called public lands. But they were owned by government agencies that had their own rules; no loitering, closed after dark, use fees and camping fees. These rules were designed to keep him moving on. It didn’t matter where, just not here.

If he had a little money he could rend a small patch of ground to lay out a bedroll and sleep for the night. If he had a little more money he could rent a room, an oversized box to contain him while the night passed. But he had no money, so he walked.

The roads were free, but there were rules. They were for going places. Motion must be maintained. So he walked. It was the only transportation available to him, the one he was born with.

When he grew tired, he rested. Maybe he would sit in the shade of a tree for a few minutes, or maybe he would sleep hidden in the underbrush for a few hours. Either way he would be walking again before too long.

He had no bedroll, no blanket or pillow. Possessions were a burden when you had to carry everything you owned everywhere you went. When he slept, he slept huddled around himself for warmth. When he shivered himself awake from the seeping cold he would walk some more until the motion warmed him up. And so the nights passed, and the days went by.

He walked on, and as he walked he thought of all the things he had, the warm sun, the refreshing rain, an entire world filled with infinite beauty and wonder. He walked with a smile on his face, at peace with his soul.

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

Hi Ho, Hi Ho

Gray the sky was for the clouds did hang low shrouding the world in gloom when I set forth ‘ere the breaking of dawn. My errand was urgent and I dared not tarry even for a bite of bread. The alarm had cried out in its urgency that I must away without delay. ‘Twas many a mile I traveled ere I broke my fast. I didst halt upon a moment at the son of Donald’s house, for my need to call upon the jakes was manifestly imminent. Whilst there I aquired the elixir of wakefulness and ate of the empty calories. Progressing then further upon my Journey, I didst enter the great city.

Throughout ages anti-diluvian, the wild men who lived amongst these hills gathered upon the banks of the river in due season. In idylic style, they fished its waters and hunted the antelope, dwelling in rude shelters made from the hides of slain beasts.

But no more.

In centuries past, invading hosts weilding seeds and plow swept them away, building constructs of wood, stone, and steel. They opened the way for the following hords to swarm across the land. Iron bridges were flung across the river. Roadways they built, and verily, they were wide, for horses a score abreast could pass unhindered. Yet, still the swarms overflowed their capacity.

Into this maelstrom didst I enter. Hordes didst throng about me in the diem’s chariot race of death. Thrice was my flank assailed. Thrice didst I dodge the threat, though it was a near thing each time. Vied we, one with the other, and each alone against all, placing our very lives in deadly peril to steal a moment’s lead from our rivals. My progress was cut off of a sudden by Darrell Du Plumber, whos need for haste manifestly outweighed my own, though his life seemed of much lesser value.

I persevered, employing all my will and dexterity towards forward progress. At last, my goal came in sight; my journey neared its end. Yet, even now my quest was stalled at the very brink of fulfillment. My very brethren stood arrayed against my entrance. Sticks and placards were in their hands. Girt with righteousness, they stood before my vehicle in their ranks.

Deploying the appropriate electronic command, I didst cause my sinister visibility shield to descend. One of these compatriots leaned towards the opening. I addressed him thusly:

“What’s up?”

To which he didst reply, “The union called it. We’re on strike.”

The Thief

Detective Gilraen tried not to show the disgust she felt by being in such close proximity to such a foul creature. She really did try to treat everyone without bias but this stringy haired piece of slimy misery nearly turned her stomach. She just wished he would go back to whatever cave he’d crawled out of. She tried to avoid looking at him by staring at the glass wall in front of them but his pale reflection stared into her eyes. How could she avoid those gruesomely large orbs that seemed to shine with their own inner light like swamp gas. He looked like someone capable of murder, but only in the sneakiest sort of way. At the sound of his sniffling she turned her head to look at him directly. He sat with his hands splayed on the table, reminding her of a giant spider, and she hated spiders. Their silent trap laying and their far too many appendages were just wrong, and should be illegal. She repressed a shiver.

He should be on the other side of the glass, she thought, where the motliest rouges gallery she had ever seen was filing in. Even as they reached their places and turned to face the mirrored surface before them the gangly creature leapt to his feet and pointed a long thin finger at the lat figure in line, a well dressed portly gentleman in an immaculate waistcoat.

“That’s him,” hissed her witness. “The short one with the hairy feet. Just you see what it’s got in it’s pocketses.”


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