Archive for the ‘Home and hearth’ Category

Hardest jigsaw puzzle ever

May 16, 2021

This reminds me of the visual migraines I used to get as a teenager.

So. There I was, doing a bit of yard maintenance with the old string trimmer, when I heard a pop.

The first thing that comes to mind in these parts is, “Did someone just try to bust a cap in my ass?” So I scan the yard for assailants and see bupkis, unless one of the house finches at the feeder has a 9mm Beretta concealed somewhere beneath his feathers.

Then I have a look behind me.

Oopsie.

My guess is the string trimmer found a small chunk of brick paver or a stone or whatever and pitched a Shohei Ohtani fastball at the sliding glass door. Right on the money it was, too. And I do mean money.

In other yard news, the wildife cam reports that Spike the Terrorist Deer and a pal popped round last night to eat most of the roses and sample the immature fruit on the ornamental pear tree while a raccoon inspected the grass for interesting tidbits. Just two more indicators that yards are a plot by the home and garden/psychiatry/whiskey cartels to create a perpetual-motion money machine.

The natives are restless

May 3, 2021

I wasn’t even the Mad Dog when I lived here in 1980, the year I worked for The Arizona Daily Star. My nick then was “Shady.”

An Albuquerque native recently told me that he’s had just about enough of the place.

With an eye toward putting the old hometown in the rear view he’s been spending some time in Pagosa Springs, Colo., which he likes quite a bit. Except for the part about winter, which Pagosa Springs actually has. Here in New Mexico we call that season “Not On Fire (Probably).”

Elsewhere in Colorado, my man Hal Walter reports that pretty much every property in Crusty County has been sold, except for his, and that’s only because his little rancheroo is not on the market.

Hal has likewise soured on winter, possibly because up there it drags on into May, and occasionally, June.

“It is foggy and snowing here,” he told me this morning. “It will not do.”

It will not do. The thought has caused me to pack my bags more than once. As a (chronological) adult I have (briefly) settled in Alamosa, Greeley, Colorado Springs, Pueblo, Denver, and Weirdcliffe, Colo.; Springfield, Mo.; Winooski, Vt.; Tucson, Ariz.; Corvallis, Ore.; and Española, Santa Fe, and Albuquerque, N.M.

Sometimes it was professional; other times, personal. More than once it was simply the place. It will not do. So off I’d go, like a roach from under the ’fridge, looking for some place that would.

Each bailout involved a little more baggage, both actual and psychological. When I fled Springfield in 1972 I had a backpack for possessions and a thumb for transportation. Forty-two years later it took two cars and a professional moving company to get us from Bibleburg to ’Burque.

It will not do. The thought seems to be occurring to quite a few people who have taken a good look around at the places where they’ve hunkered down during the Year of the Plague and wondered just what the fuck is it that they’re doing there anyway.

Any of you folks planning to relocate? Got a dream destination in mind, or is it basically “Anywhere but here?” Give us your thoughts in comments.

Getting wood in Weirdcliffe

February 22, 2021

The fireplace in Weirdcliffe, before we installed a Lopi woodstove insert.

When Texas sank back into the Ice Age, I was reminded of the good old days on our wind-scoured rockpile outside Weirdcliffe, Colorado.

There, the power only went out whenever it was inconvenient. And it usually would stay off for an hour or two at minimum, which was the time it took for a utility guy from Cañon City to flip a switch somewhere.

We learned early on that not much works during winter at 8,800 feet in the ass-end of nowhere if you don’t have power. No water, no cooking, and most important, no heat.

I remembered the joys of a heat-free home from my stint in a 9×40 singlewide trailer in Greeley back in 1974. Its oil furnace was forever seizing up in the middle of a winter night, and there’s nothing that clarifies the mind for higher education quite as well as the backsplash from a frozen toilet when you get up at stupid-thirty to offload a sixer of the long-neck Falstaffs you enjoyed for dinner.

Our private road. I went backwards on this stretch in 4WD one evening. I wasn’t scared or nothin’, but somebody shit on my seat. | Photo: Hal Walter

So on our hillside, we kept ourselves prepared. There were canned goods and jerrycans of water in the hall closet, along with a Coleman two-burner and several 1-pound propane bottles for emergency cookery. And we had several candle lanterns and flashlights at the ready because this shit never happens in broad daylight on a weekday.

But the smartest thing we did was have a Lopi woodstove insert installed in our fireplace, along with buying a chainsaw and ax. When you heat with wood, it warms you twice — while you’re cutting it, and while you’re burning it.

And speaking of getting wood, yes, yes, yes, it’s time for the latest episode of Radio Free Dogpatch.

P L A Y    R A D I O    F R E E    D O G P A T C H

• Technical notes: I recorded this one in the Comedy Closet, using a Shure MV7 mic and Zoom H5 Handy Recorder. Editing was in Apple’s GarageBand, with a sonic bump from Auphonic. Music by Infernal Hound Sound; sound effects courtesy of Zapsplat. Special guest appearance by Shel Silverstein.

Spare (me the) change

December 24, 2020

Funny-looking reindeer around here.

When I was a greedy and impatient young pup my parents granted the opening of one present each on Christmas Eve.

Now I’m a grizzled old mutt and there is just one present under the tree, period. And it’s for the both of us, Your Humble Narrator and Herself.

Opening it this evening seems silly, especially since we already know what’s inside: an Apple TV HD. It is to replace our Apple TV (3rd generation), which no longer pulls down HBO Now, Now having been rechristened Max, as in Mad, which I am.

We generally enjoy an hour of TV with our dinner. But should there be anything worth watching on HBO Max, which lately seems as unlikely as finding a sense of honor and duty in government, we have to bypass our old Apple TV — though, oddly, it seems to work just fine with everything save HBO Max (happy holidays, AT&T, you miserable pricks).

Dig that crazy midget Xmas tree, daddy-o. And the cool wrapping on the lone gift.

The workaround involves booting up the even older Mac Mini, lighting a candle to the shade of Steve Jobs, chanting our Video Mantra (“TV Input, HDMI-1, Receiver Input, AV-1”), switching inputs on both TV and receiver, launching a browser (Which one? I never remember), and finally shrieking, “Goddamnit all to hell anyway!” and running right back to the loving tentacles of Netflix, sister of Cthulhu.

Tomorrow we will have the new Apple TV, so, yay, etc. Herself’s gift will be watching it. Mine will be setting it up.

This is less enthralling than it might have been long ago, in the Before Time. After 30 years of providing my own tech support for personal and professional gadgetry I’m having trouble working up any enthusiasm for wrangling a new comosellama just in case HBO, against all odds, comes up with another “The Sopranos,” “High Maintenance,” or “The Wire.”

I’m for sure not holding my breath while waiting for a new George Carlin special. Neither is George.

Who might ask: Is newer always better?

When it comes to bicycles I’m much more interested in friction shifting, rim brakes, and the nine-speed drivetrain than I am in the latest shiny object making the registers ring, when customers and product can be found in the same place at the same time.

I have an Apple Pencil for my iPad Pro, but when I sat down yesterday to draw a holiday card for the neighbors, I used my old analog A.W. Faber 3H pencil, a fistful of Sakura Pigma Micron pens, and a sheet of Strathmore 300 Series Bristol paper. And yes, the card was in good old black and white. (I thought of making a quick trip to the art-supply store for colored pencils, and then I thought again.)

Speaking of iPads, there’s a metric shit-ton of e-books on mine, but I notice I’m mostly reading real books lately. The kind you don’t have to plug into the wall.

This is just the yelping of an old dog who’s tired of learning new tricks, pining for a day when he not only didn’t have to keep stuff running, he didn’t even have to buy the stuff. It just sorta, like, grew there, under the tree.

But time passes and things change.

“Nothing endures but change,” as Heraclitus observed.

Izzat so? Well, spare me the change, you one-scroll wonder. And gimme some George, goddamnit. I already got too much stuff.

Just another manic Monday

July 20, 2020

Anybody else feel like their rhythm is a little off? Like you’re dancing with one foot in a bucket?

Makes it hard to shake your moneymaker, that’s for sure.

Today we had a routine AC/furnace check on The List, and in Plague Time these things are scheduled in a window rather than on the dot. Ours was from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., which is a really big dot. Basically a picture window.

I took five at the Piedra Lisa parking lot to snap a quick pic while letting a fleet-footed woman blast past.

I didn’t like the view, but there it was. I usually do a medium-long hike on Mondays, but we both overslept and by the time the morning chores got done I had about 45 minutes to work with if the dude was closer to 10 than 2. Herself had the usual conga line of nightmares moonwalking through her office and I didn’t want to slip another foot-dragging zombie into the mix.

So, boom, I’m out, I’m back. Zip and zip and zip. So pro. No word from the dude. So I figure I’ll do a little light resistance training just ’cause. The phone rings halfway through, a number I don’t recognize, but I pick up on the off chance it’s the dude, which of course it is. He’s five minutes away and on the move.

Anyway, we passed the checkup. The heat heats and the cool cools. I managed a third of a hike and half of a weights session. Herself made bank. What’s not to like?

Speaking of which, here are two new recipes worth a look:

A simple no-cook pizza sauce from Kitchn. Herself likes these corn-meal pizza crusts from Vicolo and with two of those, this sauce, some mozzarella, a little leftover turkey-taco meat, and a handful of chopped black olives and mushrooms, we had two nights of dinner dialed in.

Turmeric and black-pepper chicken with asparagus, from Ali Slagle at The New York Times. This was really good. Simple and quick and versatile and really, really good. It goes into the rotation. But “serves four” me bollocks. The only reason we didn’t eat it all at one sitting was that we wanted some leftovers for the next day’s lunch.

The bad news: Our local Penzey’s Spices shop is closed. And that ominous oinking you’ve been hearing from Portland? It may be coming soon to a town near you.

And now for something completely different

June 1, 2020

“If you want anything done in this yard you’ve got to meow
until you’re blue in the mouth,” says Miss Mia Sopaipilla.

We’ve been cocooning a bit, I suppose.

It’s not easy to watch America doggedly screwing its head even further up its own arse, especially while striving to make some novel observation about the practice. The bon mot proves elusive. So we’ve turned our gaze elsewhere.

The back yard has needed work for a while now, and it’s been getting some. Weeds pulled, vines excised, lilacs pruned, pond rock and red mulch laid down, balky gate repaired, etc., et al., and so on and so forth.

In the process we discovered a few new aches and pains along with an old faucet and four sprinkler-system heads we didn’t know we had. They could be part of some prehistoric irrigation network; for sure there are a couple real anachronisms on the other side of the yard, metal jobbers buried in the pine duff like the plungers on land mines.

We’re not great with roses, but occasionally we get lucky.

The apple tree by the kitchen window has had the schnitz. All the neighbors say it’s never been worth a damn, and we’re starting to agree, though Spike the Terrorist Deer, that notorious outside agitator, seems fond of its bitter, undersized fruit.

So that will probably come down directly, along with a Siberian elm that is more than a match for my skills with a shovel and bad language. Probably have to take off and nuke the entire site from orbit. It’s the only way to be sure.

The neighbors with the little girls have partnered with another couple up the street to form a collective of sorts. Between them they have five munchkins to educate and entertain, and they share other interests as well, so it seems a great leap forward.

The gang performs a daily bicycle/scooter rodeo that relies heavily upon our steep driveway for a launching ramp, so we’re making our own small contribution. From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.

Elsewhere in the cul-de-sac, a four-legged neighbor went west. Daisy was a sweet old Lab who, with her cousin Gunner, served our little community as a combination of early warning system and welcome wagon.

Gunner is deaf, and a bit shy, but Daisy had been known to stride into homes like a Monty Python bobby, as if to enquire, “Wot’s all this then?” Their human has already arranged a new companion for Gunner, a black Lab pup tentatively named Henry.

Beyond our immediate ’hood, Herself the Elder’s assisted-living home has undergone a round of Bug® testing, and the all-clear has been sounded, though the lockdown remains in force.

Last Friday we delivered a load of Asian food for the joint. Pre-Bug®, Herself had been taking her mom out on Fridays for a bit of shrimp fried rice, and we decided to revive the practice as a take-out deal after Daisy and Gunnar’s person said he’d been doing something similar for his mom.

Then we thought, “Why not spread the wealth a bit?” From each according to his ability, etc. So everybody got some, including us, because I am a sucker for a six-pack of gyoza and pretty much anything else I don’t have to cook.

Speaking of wealth, when the light is right we can enjoy what the previous owner of El Rancho Pendejo called “the golden hour.” Once the day’s chores are finished we park ourselves on the back patio with frosty beverages in hand, admire our handiwork (such as it is), and hope to pan a little color from the dung as it all runs downhill.

The golden hour. “Well done, Yahweh,” as Doc Sarvis once said.

The rearrangement

May 3, 2020

Living Room v.2.0: The Lockdown Edition.

I think the ol’ lockdown managed to crawl up everyone’s keister pretty much all simultaneous-like yesterday.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla blew a hairball on the living-room carpet, which is white, because of course it is. So we started moving the furniture off it in preparation for a thorough wash and brush-up, then abruptly decided: To hell with this giant white barf magnet.

This 14-by-12-foot beast came with the house when we bought it, as did the large brown leather sofa and green leather easy chair with ottoman that sat on it. And boom, just like that, we were sick of the lot of ’em.

We don’t get a lot of hummingbirds at our lone feeder, but we have a few regulars.

“Right, off you go!” we said.

The carpet got a good vacuuming and a spot-cleaning and a listing on Facebook Marketplace. Free to good home, etc. In no time at all a young woman whose sister was moving into a new apartment rolled by to collect it.

The large leather items got shifted to a largely unused area, across from the cat tower, facing the picture window, between the living room proper and the dining room.

The furniture that had been in that space — an American-made sofa and rocker we bought from a local outfit in Bibleburg, Hearthstone, sadly no longer with us — got moved into the living room, atop a much smaller patterned area rug pirated from the dining room.

Of course, there was much vacuuming, cleaning, dusting, critiquing, adjusting, more critiquing, readjusting, and what have you. Also, some discussion about feeding the leather bits to the insatiable maw of Facebook Marketplace as well.

Finally, there were cold beverages on the back patio, for us and for the hummingbirds.

After dinner the neighbors to the west called an ice-cream social, outdoors, in the cul-de-sac, featuring homemade chocolatey goodness. Most of the ’hood turned out for a treat, some casual gossip, and the nightly 8 p.m. howl, all with proper plague management, of course (bring your own spoon and chairs).

The ice-cream maker was hoping his amateur-league baseball might resume soon. Another neighbor was thinking about her son, a freshly minted Marine awaiting deployment. The new parents on the corner couldn’t make it, because infants could give a rat’s ass about ice-cream socials in the cul-de-sac, even if they knew what rats’ asses, ice-cream socials, and cul-de-sacs were. And a more experienced dad was dozing with his youngest in front of “PBS Kids.”

We were just happy to be there, and rid of that damn’ carpet. It’s the little things.

What part of ‘meow’ don’t you understand?

March 24, 2020

Miss Mia Sopaipilla, The Last Cat Standing, briefs staff on the emergency measures she has ordered, which for some reason are heavy on
cat-food acquisition and litter-box maintenance.

It’s early days yet, of course, but so far our lives have not been radically altered by the governor’s stay-at-home edict.

Even before The Fourth Horseman rode his sneezy hayburner into town we were mostly homebodies. Herself got up at stupid-thirty four days a week to pull a 10-hour shift at the Death Star, and by the time she came home she was rarely in the mood to go out to do … well, pretty much anything.

So I would cook dinner, we would watch something on TV, and then it was early to bed because see “getting up at stupid-thirty,” etc.

After the guv gave us the word yesterday, I cooked dinner, we watched something on TV, and … well, you get the idea. One of us still gets up at stupid-thirty, too. Guess who.

We maintain our respective hobbies, of course. Herself eBays bits of this and that, for us and for friends. And as you see, I continue to operate my little one-ring nonprofit, the Cirque du Sowhat.

Meanwhile, Miss Mia Sopaipilla remains firmly atop the org chart. Somebody has to be in charge around here, and it’s never gonna be me.

The Omega Cat

March 21, 2020

Miss Mia Sopaipilla mans (cats?) the battlements.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla, The Last Cat Standing, checks the southeast perimeter for any sign of Spike the Terrorist Deer.

Things are greening up and budding out, and staff seems preoccupied with other matters, so Mia stands the watch.

In addition to the wine delivery we had a couple of packages to drop off at USPS, so I strapped a Wald basket on the rear rack of the Soma Double Cross.

One never knows. The sneaky sonofabitch might like cat food.

Meanwhile, staff kitted up for another wine run yesterday afternoon. We chatted briefly with Herself the Elder via phone, next to her closed bedroom window, and then scurried back to El Rancho Pendejo as a light sprinkle began.

We saw quite a few cyclists on the Tramway bike path, in some cases moms herding mobs of children.  I think of being on lockdown with a herd of bored and restless rug monkeys, and I wish I’d been kinder to me sainted ma, who was sentenced to life without parole as a housewife and mother.

Elsewhere, I see our “leaders” have been up to the usual, which is to say not much barring high crimes and misdemeanors.

It really is long past time for the press to quit covering what Chazbo Pierce calls “the daily briefings from the Coronavirus Superfriends,” which have devolved into miniature campaign rallies for Il Douche, free telemarketing for his only product, bullshit.

There is no breaking news to be had at this surgical theater of the absurd, and responsible journalists should take the time to suck it up, watch the comedy, pluck the rare diamond from the dung, and pass the stone, with an addendum tallying the ratio of facts to lies. No diamonds? No distribution. See James Fallows at The Atlantic for more. I like James so much that I ponied up for a subscription.

In other news, United Airlines is cordially invited to go fuck itself. Jesus. These people are completely without shame. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: I would rather pay to push my Subaru uphill into the wind, wearing roller skates and this goddamn ankle brace, than fly United for free.

The cat’s meow

March 18, 2020

The rest interval.

Miss Mia Sopaipilla is enjoying this whole social-distancing thing.

Suddenly she has two people to feed her; two people to empty the litter box; and two people to play “Chase Me Chase Me.”

This last is a pursuit through the house to the master bath, where the pursuer must sit on the toilet while Miss Mia slaloms between his/her calves and around both sides of the toilet, scent-marking the corners of the surrounding walls and periodically standing on her hind legs to bump her head into an outstretched palm like a particularly gregarious prairie dog.

Afterward there will be a short snort from the water dish followed by a snooze on the back of the couch.

Then, and only then, are we released to set about our own little bits of business. Like waiting for the feddle gummint to send us a G of our own money and then dispatch crews of space-suited carpenters to nail our doors and windows shut so we can’t leave home to spend it.