Craigslist find: Two driftwood benches

My wife, daughter, and I search for driftwood when we go to the beach. So far, we’ve had little luck. We found a 1-foot piece but I left it on our back patio to dry off and our black lab chewed it to pieces. Then we found a nice, hefty 2-foot chunk when we stayed at the Marriott in Ventura. I hid it in the parking lot because it was wet and smelled. Then it rained overnight and soaked the wood, strengthening its odor and increasing its number of flies. So we abandoned it in the parking lot and drove home.

This piece was ginormous. Around 8 feet long. I would have needed a crane or team of vikings to lift it up and get it home.

This piece was ginormous. Around 10 feet long. I would have needed a crane or team of vikings to lift it up and get it home.

Then we discovered a giant piece of driftwood that looked like a dinosaur fossil, (pictured to the right), but I couldn’t figure out a way to get it home.

This makes us 0 for 3 when it comes to driftwood hunting.

Until today when I hit the mother lode of driftwood – on Craigslist.

My Craigslist app beeped and showed two driftwood benches in my city. $25 each or $40 for both.

40 bucks? Seriously? For giant pieces of driftwood? Bargain alert.

This bench is 7-feet wide and heavy. But oh what a piece of wood it is. Or pieces of wood.

This bench is 7-feet wide and heavy. But oh what a piece of wood it is. Or pieces of wood.

I believe in luck and making your own. No hesitation, I called the seller and told him I’d buy both benches. At lunchtime, my neighbor in tow, I was at his house with $40.

Lesson learned today about large pieces of driftwood: they weigh a friggin’ ton. It took all three of us to lift the large bench down a flight of outdoor steps – one step at a time. Then we had to lift it up and into the bed of my friend’s pick-up truck.

The seller was super nice. He said he received several calls after mine, and a couple of people offered him more. And he didn’t say this next part, but he still honored the deal and didn’t sell to the other caller. I respect that in this today’s world of “anything for a buck.”

This is the small bench. It's almost 5-feet long and takes two people to lift it.

This is the small bench. It’s almost 5-feet long and takes two people to lift it.

I looked up driftwood benches when I got home. I found one that was similar and sold for $600. Now I feel guilty about the great deal I got.

Should I?

I am thinking of sending the guy a thank you note and $20 in the mail he can put in his son’s college fund. I know. I’m nuts. But if I ever wanted to sell these, I could make a good chunk of change. 

What would you do?

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When did Disneyland get so expensive?

We had a rip-roaring good time at Disneyland and California Adventure on Monday. Perfect weather, reasonable lines, fantastic new Cars Land, and plenty of fun, fun, fun.

Then I did the math.

Here is some of the damage done to our bank account. But it was worth it. We just won't be going as often as we'd like.

Here is some of the damage done to our bank account. But it was worth it. We just won’t be going as often as we’d like.

Holy Empty Wallet, Batman.

My chest. The pain, like there’s a giant mouse sitting on it. 

Here’s the math: $375 for parkhopper passes for three; $15 to park. $3.75 for a churro, which, according to a Disney fanatic and Churro lover standing in line, just shot up in price from $3.50 a week ago. (I know some princesses – or Disney shareholders – who are going to get new dresses.)

More math: Locker rental was . . . hmm, they don’t print it on the receipt . . . $7? Add 10.98 for two Mickey Mouse Pretzels for my wife and daughter (ketchup and mustard were free and all you could eat). Lunch for me: $15.

Endless bottles of water during the day: I don’t remember, but I don’t think they were “out of the park” expensive.

Even more math: Minnie Mouse headband for my daughter, $15. Dinner: $50. A “free” stuffed Bullseye my daughter won by rolling balls into holes faster than half-a-dozen strangers did only cost me $30 on the gaming card to win it.

And at the end of the night, 50 more dollars for Goofy Gummies, cookies, gourmet marshmallows, and Mickey Mouse gingerbread mice for the ride home up the 5 freeway, which is the nastiest freeway to travel before and after going to the pleasant confines of the Magic Kingdom.

I would appreciate it if Disney would buy all of the properties next to the 5 freeway and sprinkle some Imagineer Magic on them.

So, taking into account that I lost some receipts, my grand total was over $550 for the day.

“Let the Memories Begin” is printed on the receipts. I get it. We have great memories of the day, but this is the first time I have memories of what we spent.

I so miss Disney’s recession pricing.

I build a bench from reclaimed wood

[Please note that proper safety equipment is a must for projects such as this, especially when using Liquid Plumr, and the reader is responsible for his or her own safety, as there is no expert advice here.]

I built a wood bench and this is how every step of the project went: Oh, s**t, I messed that up. Damn, how did I screw that up? Oops. Oh, no, how did I make that mistake. ARRRRRGGGGGGGGHHHHHHH. 

Yep, that’s pretty much how the project went. I don’t have the expensive tools they do on TV shows, or the skills, so I have to improvise. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

However, at the very end of the project, when I had the bench upside down and assembled, I carefully lifted it off the saw horses and placed it upright for the first time and felt a great sense of relief upon seeing it: Wow, that turned out a lot better than I expected. Hey, that looks pretty good. All is forgotten, wicked bench. 

I applied the apple-cider vinegar and stainless steel stain I used on the table I refinished.. I also waxed each piece with Briwax clear before assembly.

Here are some photos.

Here is the raw wood I began with. It's at least 50 years old and very heavy and dense. The piece on the bottom is one of the legs. I thought I was going to have the trestle go through the legs at first. I drilled the holes and then chiseled out the wood. I thought, "this isn't that hard." Then I flipped the board over and noticed that I'd split the wood from trying to do all of the chiseling from on side. I should have gone halfway down, then flipped the board over and repeated. Oops. Argh. Damn.

Here is some of the raw wood I began with. I found it in my mother-in-law’s house before we sold it. It’s at least 50 years old and very heavy and dense. The piece on the bottom is one of the legs. I thought I was going to have the trestle go through the legs at first. I drilled the holes and then chiseled out the wood. I thought, “this isn’t that hard.” Then I flipped the board over and noticed that I’d split the wood from trying to do all of the chiseling from one side. I should have gone halfway down, then flipped the board over and repeated. Oops. Argh. Damn.

I used my apple cider vinegar and steel wool stain again. However, I messed up the ratio of liquid plumr to water and the stain came out very light on the first coat. The next picture shows the other side of the board.

I sand with 100 and 180-grit sandpaper, then used my apple-cider vinegar and steel wool stain again. However, I messed up the ratio of Liquid Plumr to water and the stain came out very light on the first coat. The next picture shows the other side of the board and how different the same stain can look.

This photo shows how sanding and a lack of Liquid Plumr can change the look of the same wood. I didn't spend as much time on this side and I didn't use Liquid Plumr. I really thought this side looked interesting and was going to use it as the top side until my daughter and wife voted against it. They liked the other side because it matched the table I refinished. They made the right choice.

This photo shows how minimal sanding and a lack of Liquid Plumr can change the look of the same wood. I didn’t spend as much time on this side and I didn’t use Liquid Plumr. I really thought this side looked interesting and was going to use it as the top side until my daughter and wife voted against it. They liked the other side because it matched the table I refinished. They made the right choice.

Here are the legs. They came out darker. Again, same stain, but slightly different look. I used my Kreg pocket hole jig to attach the legs and trestle.

Here are the legs. They came out grayish. Again, same stain, but slightly different look. I used my Kreg pocket hole jig to attach the legs and trestle. I used wood plugs to hide the holes and unless you look closely at the finished bench, you’d never notice them.

To darken the top, I used four coats of the stain. There's nothing like old wood. It's heavy and the grain pattern is much better than newer wood.

To darken the top, I used four coats of stain. Then I used Briwax clear, of course, and a beautiful brown shade appeared. Perfect. There’s nothing like old wood. It’s heavy and the grain pattern is much better than newer wood.

Here is the finished bench. The trestle is reclaimed wood that is over 100 years old and came from a railroad repair station in Los Angeles. I used most of it for a countertop in our house and this was a scrap I had left over.

Here is the finished bench with three coats of Briwax clear. The trestle is reclaimed wood that is over 100 years old and came from a railroad repair station in Los Angeles. I used most of it for a countertop in our house and this was a spare piece I had left over.

Here is the bench next to the table I refinished. It fit perfectly. And having a bench is cool. My daughter likes it and the table gets a lot more use now.

Here is the bench next to the table I refinished. It fit perfectly. And having a bench is cool. My daughter likes it and the table gets a lot more use now, as you can see from the mess on it.

Some days, it’s hard being a husband

Message from Fox: Unknown, you big pussy. Get off your lazy ass and make the magic happen. You're the king of excuses.

Message from Fox: Unknown, you big pussy. Get off your lazy ass and make the magic happen. You’re the king of excuses.

I should have paid more attention in school when I was younger.

If only my parents had given me a modicum of guidance how to be successful in life, though they weren’t exactly models of it.

It probably would have been better had I not spent years 18 – 25 watching TV, going to movies, reading comic books, thinking I wouldn’t live to see 25, and not doing anything to build for my future.

Oops. Slight miscalculation on my part.

Would have, should have, could have. Famous last words of most f**k-ups.

And though I feel like I turned my life around by finishing college and getting a good job, I am paying a price for my stupidity and laziness that reveals itself – painfully – in my role as husband.

The short of it: My wife hates her job, but it affords her a very good salary for part-time work, though she works full-time a lot, which is sort of the American way, isn’t it? We all work more hours than we have to for fear we’ll lose our jobs to one of the many unemployed.

But aren’t there so many unemployed out there because we’re working extra hours and companies don’t have to hire more employees?

I digress with a topic for another post.

If I were a successful husband, my wife would not have to work, would be happier, and we would have everything we need based on the results of my labor.

We do all right and aren’t living paycheck to paycheck like we were many years ago. And I know some of the responsibility lies with the fact this country demands both parents work to get by – it’s not the 1950s anymore. But I live in a city full of million-dollar homes and 75K cars and its difficult not to notice and want.

It’s hard not to feel like a failure when my wife comes to me each day with stories about her stressful job, and I see the toll it takes on her. And no amount of my advice, suggestions, or feedback can save her from it. And there’s no way to rescue her with the income from the company I don’t own, or the invention I never invented, or the stand-up career I never had because I was afraid.

I have yet to crack the code of big success, despite what some say about it being so easy in a country of opportunity. It’s beyond me. I’m still trying, but time is running out.

Frozen Shoulder on a Stick

No frozen shoulder here.

Not just a shoulder, the “amazing” shoulder. Do you have amazing shoulders? How about lungs? I’d rather have amazing lungs than amazing shoulders. Just would, that’s all.

What’s the lifetime world record for number of doctor’s visits and medical tests?

I must be getting close to it. At least it feels like I am.

Last two weeks: CF clinic, ENT doctor, dentist, lung scan, ortho specialist. And the sleep study and O2D2 at night before that.

Results: I have hearing loss thanks to the endless doses of IV Tobramycin I’ve sucked down, and, as a bonus, a frozen shoulder thanks to who knows what.

I didn’t need a test to tell me I can’t hear certain high sounds anymore. And my shoulder still moves and isn’t technically “frozen,” but it sparks a ton if I move it the wrong way.

But I did not like the lung scan, Sam I am.
I did not like it at all with green eggs and ham. 

“Lie down, please. Take the paper bag off your head.” Those words sound much better when they come from my wife.

The super-efficient nurse placed a mask on my face, told me to hold it tight and not let air escape, then injected something into the mask and told me to take a deep breath and hold it for 10 seconds. This process reminded me of a scene in a movie with two drug addicts getting high. Could I have the colitas spray next time, please, nurse?

I didn’t ask what she made me inhale. I didn’t want to know, as my new “living day to day” attitude gives me “who gives a shit” powers. But I did panic because I couldn’t breathe normally, and I allowed a little air to slip out of the mask.

Why is everyone running away? Damn, Nurse, you weren’t joking about holding the mask tight.

Next came the IV and this nurse nailed it. Wham, bam, thank you, ma’am – it is possible to start an IV without it feeling like someone hammered a nail into my arm.

She injected another substance I had no desire to know the name or chemical composition of. Then, unlike a CT scan where you’re inserted into the oven to be cooked, the oven came to me, surrounding with me with a metal plates to take pictures of my air bags, changing positions and moving around me several times.

This is the worst photo ever. It's the shot I took as the machine was passing over me. It was everything I could do to get my iPod out and snap the picture.

This is the worst photo ever. It’s the shot I took as the machine was passing over me. It was everything I could do to get my iPod out and snap the picture.

At the ENT, I got the bad news about my hearing. And the ringing in my ears? Here to stay thanks to my feeble brain’s interpretation of the damage.

There was a bright side to the visit. We spoke about our kids – he has two very young ones – and I mentioned how in a German hospital years ago I hoped I would live to see my daughter turn 5. That would be great, I thought. If I can just make it to see her turn five.

Where did the time go? I asked. It’s a blink. One day she rode on my shoulders, the next she was 11. Now I want to live to see her graduate high school, which is odd because it was my mother’s goal to see me live to graduate high school.

[The following sentence is meant to be read in a crusty old British accent]: Twist of fate? Perhaps. Perhaps not, my good man. Tea, anyone?

Then came a long, strange pause as I waited for the doctor to shove the scope in my nose. Pause. Wait for it. More of a pause. Pause. Wait for it. Is the machine not working? Okay, he’s moving. He’s awake.

“Sorry, I was getting teary-eyed,” the doctor said.

What? That’s strange. And he’s serious, not sarcastic. Hmm, that doesn’t happen every day. Very unusual.

Some doctors are human. At least the good ones are. And I found one.

It’s a good day when that happens. A good day, indeed.