Why I haven’t been blogging

Reason #1 for not blogging: Work.

And lots of it lately. 18 days in a row just ended. I used to have the greatest job in the world. My days were filled with creative challenges and writing. The key word is “creative.” Then the recession came and the first to go were the administrative assistants for the department. But the work didn’t leave with them. It flowed to the rest of us and we started wearing two hats, and in the process my job went from creative work to administrative chores. And, as the admin work has stayed with us and increased, my need for a creative outlet moved to other areas – like woodworking and upcycling furniture.

I’m getting better at woodworking. The number of mistakes I make during a project is going down. For the door in the picture, I used bird’s-eye maple and walnut on this door and finished with 7 coats of Waterlox Tung oil. I started with raw pieces of wood and cut and sanded it all myself. I learned a lot of lessons in the process but I’m happy overall with how it turned out.

You can never, I repeat, never, have enough clamps in life.

You can never, I repeat, never, have enough clamps in life.

Found a Fox door handle. I miss Fox. Who knows, perhaps he'll return one day.

Found a Fox door handle. I miss Fox. Who knows, perhaps he’ll return one day.

I saved a $85 pine coffee table I found on Craigslist. It was in bad shape, legs falling off and cracked legs, a purple flower painted on it, and a nasty painted finished. I stripped it, fixed each leg with pocket holes and wood glue, and used a homemade vinegar/steel wool stain to give it an antique look. I applied three coats of Briwax and now I have a very sturdy coffee table that my 12-year-old daughter can beat to hell and I don’t have to worry about.

More clamps. It took at least this number of clamps to fix each leg. Sometimes more. It was puzzle-like.

More clamps. It took at least this number of clamps to fix each leg. Sometimes more. It was puzzle-like.

I used my apple-cider vinegar steel wool mix again. Half is finished and waxed here.

I used my apple-cider vinegar steel wool mix again. Half is finished and waxed here.

I found a rocking chair at a local consignment shop for 200 bucks. It’s solid tiger oak, which is one of my least favorite woods. So I did some light sanding of the peeling varnish and used Chalk Paint and dark wax to age and bring it back to life. I was going to sell it but I ended up giving it to my sister-in-law because she liked it and I think it’s cool that she’d put it in her house. Let’s keep it in the family.

This is the "before" shot after I sanded off all of the peeling 1960s varnish.

This is the “before” shot after I sanded off all of the peeling 1960s varnish.

Making the world more colorful and saving furniture one piece at a time.

Making the world more colorful and saving furniture one piece at a time.

Back to blogging.

Advertisements

Father’s Day 2013 and other thoughts

I’m grateful for my wife and daughter and two labs, though the black one is a pain in the ass sometimes, but in a good way, or not. I’m not sure.

So, I received white boxers with blue whales on them, Godiva chocolate bars (because I’m eating a lot of it to keep me going during long workdays), and noise-reducing headphones to protect my Tobramycin-damaged hearing while I use power tools.

Best of all, my wife wrote a long note all about me and how great I am. I wrote back right away and asked who she was writing about and how I’d like to meet the guy who does all of this stuff.

I’m not going to post the entire letter here, as I don’t think I can live up to the high bar it sets, but here is one of my favorite quotes: “The father who quizzes us on how to spot potentially unsavory characters on the street and what we should do in any potentially risky situations.”

You bet I do, baby. And you better pass that quiz each time. Keep your eyes open for those “unsavory” types, though I’m not sure I’ve ever used the word “unsavory,” which makes me think of poorly cooked food, not scumbags.

This reminds me of one of the first dates I was on with my future wife. I had a black soft-top Jeep Wrangler and we were in West LA stop and go traffic and one of them thar’  (cowboy voice) “unsavory” types approached my honey bunny while we were waiting at a light. With no windows on the Jeep and no six-shooter at my hip, I had to use my highly advanced communication skills to defuse the situation.

“BACK OFF, dickweed,” I said.

What did he call me?  © igor - Fotolia.com

What did he call me?
© igor – Fotolia.com

Being that my wife is a nice catholic girl and lived a sheltered life, her first question was, “What’s a dickweed?”

It was a really tough question. And I wasn’t sure how to answer it. But I guess my overpowering delivery won her heart and she stayed with me. I’ll never understand why, but then it’s never a good idea to question or analyze love.

It just is, and I’m lucky I have it.

Holland saves my blog

I gave some deep thought to quitting this blog after my last post. Then the comments started rolling in – 4 of them.

I have four readers?

Holy cow. How did I get that many readers? That’s four times as many as I thought I had.

I can’t quit my blog. There are four people out there crazier than I am and depend on my mad rants to make their day. I can’t let them down.

Or can I? Four readers? I’m sure they could find another blog. But I like those Four readers. Hmm, what to do? Stay or run?

And then I read the fourth and final comment and this quote: “if it helps… your blog is WORLD FAMOUS! Seriously, in holland, basically every single person reads it.”

Every person in Holland reads my blog?

If only I could fly, I'd visit my pals in the summer. © Lsantilli - Fotolia.com

If only I could fly, I’d visit my pals in the summer. © Lsantilli – Fotolia.com

Well, that’s a lot more people than four. What’s the population of Holland? (Let’s see, I have to multiply the number of tulips by the number of wooden shoes, then add the number of bicycles and windmills and divide by 1,000, which equals a population of 6,065,459. Or around that. Math isn’t an exact science after all.)

How could I possibly let down over 6 million hard working people from Holland? What kind of person would I be if I did that?

After all, I’m the David Hasselhoff of Holland! But without the singing.

So, thanks to my four readers and the region of Holland, I will continue to blog. My friends for life: Larry, Karyn, Tara, Djun and the best and smartest people in all of the Netherlands – those pals of mine in wonderful Holland.

Party like it’s your last, and always take the time to smell the tulips.

I heart Holland.

I’m a shape shifter (be thankful you’re not)

Ah, my favorite self-portait photograph. I look the same each time you see me.

Ah, my favorite self-portait photograph. I look the same each time you see me.

If there is anything I don’t understand about human nature, it’s the propensity or desire to comment on a person’s looks when you greet them. I’m not talking about a “hey, you look great,” or other generic comment. I’m talking about something more specific – a detailed analysis or critical review of the way the person looks.

It’s happened to me most of my life.

I would understand if I gained 500 pounds thanks to a bacon-chocolate and Cheetos addiction, and it came as a surprise to the other person. Yes, I get it. Comment on how I look. I understand. I’m giant now, a man-sized Oreo. I have a problem. I’m quite different from the last time you saw me. Critique away. You have my blessing.

Or, what if I shaved my head and had a bright red target tattooed on my noggin? I might receive, and deserve, a comment or two. I get it.

But what I don’t understand are the people who comment on subtle differences in one’s looks – the proofreaders of human appearance.

“You look fantastic,” my business colleague said to me after an extended break from bumping into each other.

Now I’ve established that that’s a nice way to greet someone. Nothing wrong with it. Nice, perfectly delightful.

But he didn’t stop there, adding the tagline: “Yeah, the last time I saw you, you didn’t look so hot.”

Okay, rule number one after saying, “you look fantastic”: stop there. That’s a winning line. Nothing more need be said. You can only get in trouble if you add anything (especially if you’re a man speaking to a woman at work, which can only lead to a possible dismissal based on sexual harassment charges).  Again, you can only screw it up after the first compliment.

And this was dude to dude. Do we guys ever comment on each other’s looks when we meet – other than maybe a, “looking good, man.” “Yeah, thanks, man. Been hitting the weights hard, eating lean.”

The most recent comment: “You don’t look like the same person,” the carpenter helping me build my picket fence said to me after not seeing each other for 5 months, and for only the second time ever!

How is that possible? Not the same person? I guess it’s the 10K I spent in Argentina on a face transplant. And to think I thought no one would notice. 

Now, most normal people might ask for more detail: “Hey, what do you mean by that? Is that good or bad?” Not me.I don’t want to know because I either look bad now or at some point in the past. So, I don’t want to spend the day fretting about how I’m deteriorated since you saw me last, or how I looked like crap the last time.

I guess it’s just part of my life and the sign on my forehead that reads: Tell me how I look. Win a pony.

Day of the Dolphins

(Warning: No dolphins were harmed in the writing of this post. And, as it is with all human interactions in my life, everything is my fault)

Pop Quiz

1) The primary reason I, the Unknown Idiot, don’t go to children’s birthday parties is:

A. I hate birthday parties
B. All of the mothers stare at me and undress me with their eyes
C. I believe I will catch a cold and end up in the hospital
D. I break out in hives if I eat cake without first drinking a six-pack of Old Milwaukee

2) True or false: Raising an 11-year old daughter can, on certain days, make you want to ram your head into a brick wall.

A. True
B. False

********

I broke my rule of not going to birthday parties with my daughter. However, I had a good reason to jump aboard the most recent invite: whale watching.

Spending the afternoon on a boat on the Pacific Ocean looking for giant mammals? I was so there.

And there I was with my wife and daughter Sunday afternoon as we boarded a double-decker boat for a four-hour journey to the waters of two Channel Islands: Anacapa and Santa Cruz.

********

Anacapa in the distance. A perfect February day on the Cali coast. Life is good.

Anacapa in the distance. A perfect February day on the Cali coast. Life is good.

3) Approximately, how many Anacapa islands can you fit on Santa Cruz island?

A. 1
B. 10
C. 100
D. None unless you’re Godzilla and you like to tear up islands and move them other places

********

According to the tour guide, you can fit about 100 of the tiny Anacapa on Santa Cruz, the largest of the Channel Islands. Good to know.

So, the boat ride was a blast, as the wind created exciting swells. I stayed on the covered upper level by myself, away from the lower deck, the elements, and the party with its toilets filled with vomiting parents, and had my own zen moments staring at the water and watching people flinch every time they thought a whale popped its head out of the water. None did.

I made trips outside to the exposed deck and cold wind – it was ball-freezing cold – and enjoyed the sun and heaving. I wore my hunting cap, not that I hunt, but it covers my ears better than the paper bag I usually wear over my head.

The offending pants. The front isn't looking so hot either. Retire or wear?

The offending pants. The front isn’t looking so hot either. Retire or wear?

The rest of my stylish ensemble included a windproof, lined jacket, turtleneck, two t-shirts and my special “hot pants.” Not the “hot pants” that models wear, though I am a male underwear model in my spare time and could totally get away with wearing the short type of hot pants.

When you're on the water looking for whales, look for birds. That's what they told us. We found the birds, but we didn't find the whales. But we found something better.

When you’re on the water looking for whales, look for birds. That’s what they told us. We found the birds, but we didn’t find the whales. But we found something better.

My hot pants, made by Abercrombie, are literally “hot” because they’re lined with flannel, keeping my rock-hard buns and jewels nice and warm on cold days. Unfortunately, after 15 plus years of wearing them, they’ve seen better days. One might say that I look homeless wearing them.

Oh, and they upset my daughter now that she’s a self-conscious 11-year old (more on this later).

Though no whales made an appearance during our trip, we did see something very special: hundreds of common dolphins racing to a feeding area occupied by hundreds of gulls.

Think: dolphin party.

They swam next to the boat, under the boat, around the boat, in the distance, and up and out of the water. Hundreds of them.

All I can add is that it’s a good thing the fuckers can’t fly because we would have shot them out of the sky and feasted on dolphin stew. Kidding, this isn’t “the cove” where killing dolphins is allowed.

No, this is California and we don’t eat our dolphins here. We love our dolphins. We shoot them with iPhones and digital cameras and post their pictures to our blogs with cute captions, like “Hey, it’s Flipper, my little dolphin buddy.”

Back to the day trip.

It's very hard to photograph dolphins, as they don't listen to direction and surface in a coordinated fashion. The white splashes, well, I just missed them.

It’s very hard to photograph dolphins, as they don’t listen to direction or surface in a coordinated fashion. The white splashes, well, I just missed them.

Whales: zero, dolphins: a ton.

Back to shore we headed. Shortly after 5 we were off to downtown Ventura for some Thai food, where we joined a good friend and her daughter.

Now my daughter, who was tired and hungry from being in the cold and running around the boat with her friends, sat there on the vinyl bench-seat one wrong comment away from Tasmanian Devil mode.

And sure enough the spark arrived when her friend said to me: “Hey, you have holes in your pants.”

I find that lying in these situations is best.

“No, I don’t. You’re imagining things.”

But she stuck to her guns and disagree with my attempt to deflect by telling a blatant lie.

Hey, it's Flipper, my little dolphin buddy.

Hey, it’s Flipper, my little dolphin buddy.

My daughter’s eyes focused on me. Arms crossed. She shook her head in disgust.

“What?” I said to her in a light and fun tone, hoping to make her smile.

“You embarrassed me, daddy.” Repeat that sentence two more times.

Scene: Angry daughter, all conversation at the table halted.

Disappointed my usual charm didn’t work, I let it go and focused on my Tom Kha soup. I decided to discuss it at home and not get into a fight that would have led to the burning down of one of my favorite Thai food restaurants, then going to jail for it, with my daughter telling me, as they took me away in handcuffs, I shouldn’t have worn those pants,.

“But I didn’t even get to taste the pumpkin curry with chicken,” I would have said, adding to my wife, “Honey, get it to go. I’ll be out in five years. Wait for me.”

Well that didn’t happen. Fortunately.

But we did talk about it later, which was like me talking to a dolphin about not worrying about what other dolphins think of her daddy dolphin.

“What?” the daughter dolphin said. “No comprende human language.”

Then my daughter gave my wife some attitude and that was all she wrote. My wife delivered the hurt and guilt. Tears, crying, and an apology for moi. Nice job, Hon. Hey, that worked out. Boy, this parenting stuff is a boatload of fun. A boatload.

All I can think these days, and that night, as I tried to go to sleep and the bed rose and fell, “God, don’t let me mess her up for life.”

It was so easy when my daughter was 4 or 5 or 7. Now she’s a genius whirlwind of love and emotions, and dynamite.

Look at her the wrong way, wear the wrong pants, discount how she’s feeling about a situation (Mommy understands, you don’t), and “bang,” here’s a boat oar to the head.

But still, even with a cracked skull, it’s impossible not to love this little dophin girl more than life itself.

********

4) True or False: The loser known as Unknown is always one step away from a major disaster of some sort or another. 
A. True
B. True

Invaders storm the walls of my castle (another bad clinic appointment)

INT – Castle – afternoon

The lead knight rushes to Unknown with important news. 

It's time to visit my happy place tonight. It looks like this. Ah, that's better. Ocean breeze and salt water.

It’s time to visit my happy place tonight. It looks like this. Ah, that’s better. Ocean breeze and salt water.

Knight: The scum have surrounded the castle and are upon the walls, Sir.

Unknown: All right then, man, no need to panic. We’ve been here before. Piece of cake. Let’s drop some boiling oral cipro on their heads.

Knight: Been there, done that.

Unknown: What? What do you mean by, “been there, done that”?

Knight: We already tried the boiling oral cipro, Sir. It’s lost it touch, it has.

Unknown: Really? Well, that’s not good. All right then, Plan B. How about some flaming balls of IV tobramycin to knock them down? That’s always a game-changer.

Knight: Been there, done that.

Unknown: My God, man, would you stop staying that, please?

Knight: Been there, done that?

Unknown: Yes, that. Exactly. Thank you. It’s no time for negativity. Are you quite sure the last barrage had no positive impact?

Knight: Yep. Not this time. Quite surprising it was, if I must say so. Just bounced right off of them. Quite amazing to see. Tough little buggers and quite angry.

Unknown: I see. Brilliant. Well, what else have we got here?

Knight: For lunch?

Me: For lunch? Are you daft, man? For heaven’s sake. For lunch? Not for lunch, imbecile. To drop on them. To keep them out of the castle.

Knight: Hmm, let me think. [pause while he thinks, and thinks some more] Well, lunch was pretty awful. It might work.

Unknown: Oh, my god. That’s the best you’ve got?

Knight: Well, yes. The ham is quite spoiled. Damn awful. They’ll be throwing up for hours if they eat it. Buy us some time, it will.

Unknown: Oh, damn me. We’ve run out of tricks, haven’t we? I guess we have no choice. Drop the ham. Drop it now. Let’s buy a few hours before we’re buggered for good.

Knight: But we’re out of ham.

Unknown: What? But you just said we had ham.

Knight: Well, not technically. I said perhaps we’d like to consider dropping lunch on them. But we ate it all.

Unknown: Even though it was rotten?

Knight: We used lots of mustard.

Unknown: And the men didn’t leave even a tiny bit of ham for later?

Knight: No, I’m afraid not. We ate all of it.

Unknown: And you didn’t get sick?

Knight: Oh, we got sick all right. Right horrid, it was. Oh, terrible squirts. But we was hungry. What’s a man to do when his stomach calls?

Unknown: Skip the detail next time, my dreadful knight. So, if I’m to understand correctly, what you’re saying is that we’re completely screwed?

Knight: I guess I am. That sounds about right, Captain. Completely screwed. 100%.

Unknown: Very well then, I’m going to walk to that wall over there. And then I’m going to climb up on it, at which point I want you to give me a nice solid kick to the arse, sending me over the edge and into the intruders. I may as well take a few of them with me on the way out. Are you clear on the new plan, my good knight?

Knight: Crystal, Sir. It will be my pleasure, your royalness, to kick you in the arse. My pleasure indeed.

The End

I have no right to complain. Every day I grow old with CF is a gift, but some of those days have their challenging moments. Today was one of those days.

My PFTs are still down after IVs. Or, no improvement. And the reason I can’t hear higher tones anymore is because I’ve lost a portion of my hearing thanks to the dozens of doses of IV tobramycin I’ve taken over the years – one drop at a time. Ouch.

Tomorrow will be a better day. I have a shipment of ham on the way.

My neighborhood – redux

I tell people that if the real estate boom had just continued a year longer, my neighborhood would be fantastic. The houses would have fresh paint, lawns would be bright green and flush with rich fertilizer, not brown and decaying, and fences would be standing, not leaning and cracking. Butterflies would flutter from manicured yard to yard, and hummingbirds would drink from flowers, not puddles of radiator fluid.

Two of my nearest neighbors dream of running me over in their cars. Or another way to dispose of me where I suffer a slow, painful death while they watch, delivering a kick to my kidneys when needed. One of those neighbors parks his cars on his lawn. A classy sight. And I ask: What two houses have the police visited the most in my 15+ years of living here? Hmm, let me think.

What’s black and gray and cracked all over?

Can you blame me for wanting to build a wall around my house?

Police helicopters find my neighborhood enjoyable to visit. Maybe I need an opaque bubble, not a wall.

At over 1,800 square feet, our house is well below the national average of 2,480 sq ft in 2011. I want a bigger house so I can fill it up with junk and long for an even bigger house.

The city recently replaced the corner curbs with handicap-friendly tapered corners. I’m happy they did. Unfortunately, they forgot to fix the broken sidewalks, which are cracked and raised, making it a Disneyland-like adventure to charge down them in anything with wheels. Scootering requires one’s complete attention to avoid the 6-inch raised sections of concrete that come out of nowhere and cause your heart to skip a beat when you fly off of your scooter like a circus-cannon performer.

Empty shopping carts litter the streets. Neighbors play a game at night and move them in front of someone else’s house. Good one, you got me, Mr. Joker. This goes on until the day the basket-wrangler shows up and herds them back to the store.

My neighborhood reveals an ongoing recession, not recovery. Where there used to be large construction waste bins in front of every other house, there is only one now. It’s reminds me of the monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It stands out, the giant, ribbed-metal container, a reminder of more prosperous times. I threw a stick high into the air, but it came back to earth and missed the dumpster. Bad shot.

People in my neighborhood don’t say hi when you walk past them on the street. (Or, they don’t say hi to me, which kind of makes sense, especially when I’m wearing my “I’m contagious, stay the f**k away” shirt.)

People half a mile beyond live in larger houses with green lawns and park their cars in driveways and garages not filled with items for 10 year’s worth of garage sales. Okay, it’s a not a scientific study. I’ve fixed it to support my case. I admit that. Maybe. I’m not sure. I can say this: the houses a half a mile away are in better shape. The ratio of brown lawns filled with dandelions and weeds to nice houses with maintained grass is 1 in 30 houses. In my neighborhood, it’s closer to 10 in 30.

This may not look like much, but hitting one while riding a Razor is like hitting a wall. And this is a mild one.

“Romney for President” signs grace many of the lawns cluttered with car parts and rusty lawn furniture. I don’t have the heart to tell them they will be in the 47% of us churned into Soylent Green when he becomes king. They pray for the second coming of Reagan, at least that’s what one of them told me today. Mitt Reagan or Ronald Romney? I like the latter name. Catchy, like Richie Rich.

On the upside, there is not one plastic pink flamingo to be found in my neighborhood. Garden gnomes, yes. But pink flamingos, no.

Life is good after all in my neighborhood, though I suspect if someone did place a pink flamingo on their yard it would get stolen.

(BTW, please visit my eBay page. I’m having a sale on Pink Flamingo lawn ornaments. Mention this blog post and get 5 for the price of 1. You’re welcome.)