Friday, May 20, 2016

Zen and the Art of Household Maintenance

Did you ever have one of those weekends where you get so much done you think time has stopped?  This last weekend was like that for me.  Normally, I can get one major project done for the whole weekend.  Usually, the lawn, or maybe something on the Everlasting Living Room Project. About the end of that one project, I'm out of energy, out of steam, out of ideas; but this last weekend was the total opposite.

The Weekend of Fun and Frolic (capitalized because, why not!) actually started Friday night, when after dinner, my wife announced that the washer was not working properly. I had the time to drain the washer and clean the filters to see if that worked, but it didn't, so it looked like my Saturday morning was set, working on the washer.   

Saturday: Up early, coffee in hand, I tackle the washer project with wild abandon.  I found a video on how to open up the front of the unit to get at the drain pump.  (All indicators pointed to the drain pump as the actual broken culprit.) That's the washer dismantled with me sitting rather proudly in front of it.  (How did we repair things before Youtube?)  

Back to the internet, I find several places that would sell me the part, but more importantly, I found one in town that was open until noon and had a universal replacement part in stock!  Being as it was only 9 AM, I went for it!  Paid for it over the phone and into the car and in no time I'm back putting the new drain pump in the washer.  It took me a while to get the pump actually into the housing (universal fit, my ass!) but by 11 we were washing clothes.  To celebrate, we went out for pizza for lunch! 

This is the point where I enter that realm of Zen and the Weekend. After lunch, I told my wife I really wanted, no NEEDED to get the front lawn mowed as in some spots the grass was already 10"-12" tall. She said she'd head out shopping without me and in no time, I'm in the zone of mowing the front yard.  

For those keeping score, this is two major projects so far.  

Next, while mowing, I note that the mower won't fit behind the nearly dead butterfly bush.  My wife had even told me that the bush should be removed and I'd been meaning to either remove it or just move it for some time. Without a second thought I grabbed a shovel and dug out the bush and moved it forward about 6 inches; just enough so that the mower can now fit between it and the house and keep the grass behind it mowed.

A third project bites the dust. But it doesn't stop there...

As I was cleaning the mower (gotta keep your fossil fuel powered friends in good running order!) I recalled that the weather report had said it would be raining later in the weekend, and at the same time I recalled that a section of our roof that is prone to leakage might need to be looked into before said rain arrived.  When I was putting the mower away, I grabbed some rubber roofing sealant and a caulking gun and in no time I was up on the roof looking into the leaky roof problem.  

While I was at it, I also took time to check out my chimney cap and found it in terrific shape. The flashing on the cap needed fresh sealing (ok, I used the wrong stuff to seal it when I installed it) and since I had the rubber roofing caulk in my hand, I made sure that the chimney cap was better sealed than before.  

Projects 4 and 5 completed - and it wasn't even dinner time!

Sunday:  My lawn may be small but due to my usual level of energy I'm only able to get the front or the back yard done in a single day.  The time after I usually spend laying under the fan in the bedroom, sweating, breathing heavy and saying things like 'Oh lordy, lordy lordy.' Today? While the wife headed out to go shopping, the back lawn beckoned and Sunday saw me getting the back lawn done in no time flat.

Yes, I know you consider that part of mowing the lawn, but it's my decision - Project 6!

Again I found my energy and focus off the charts and looking around I found some more projects to complete.  A pile of leftover tile and cement boards needed to be cleaned up in one area along with some wood that I had tossed out during the Floor Rebuild of the Everlasting Living Room Project in another.

I'm calling that two separate projects (7 & 8) and I'm not done yet!

In front of our house is a big, big tree.  Around the base of said tree is usually a thick jungle of suckers and vines, some taller than me, that need to be cut down to keep the tree from dying. I should do it every year, but just can't seem to fit in the time. With three sets of clippers in hand, I waded into the jungle, cutting and hacking and tossing everything into the brush pile.  Result:
Hard to tell by this, but the brush pile in the background is about 6 feet tall in the center!
Not only that, but it just so happened that Wednesday of this week was the day that the city trucks came by and picked up the brush pile!  So, we won't be staring at that massive pile of branches all summer.

So that's it.  9 projects in one weekend, and I still had time Sunday afternoon to do some leisurely shopping with my wife.  Was it something I ate? Or didn't eat?  Will it come again?  One can only hope.  Such is life on the Marvinator's Southern Estate. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Nashville Walls Project

Monday morning, we came into work and discovered the incredible 3 story artwork above. It covered a rather unsightly old wall which was revealed when the old building next to it was torn down and replaced with a parking lot.

At the time, it didn't have the phrase next to it, nor an author and no real evidence of whence it came (yeah, I said whence, and I'd do it again.) The very next day the words appeared next to the mural and  then we started hearing about the Nashville Walls Project.

Nashville Walls Project pulled together some internationally renowned street artists and turned the walls of the city's central historical and new buildings into canvas. Niels Shoe Meulman took over a building downtown and turned it into an abstract Calligraffiti ode to Johnny Cash. Another mural by the artist "Any time now" has covered a wall of a private residence in Nashville. And, some new Abstract Vandalism paintings on canvas and Gibson guitars by Niels "Shoe" Meulman are being exhibited at Tinney Contemporary art gallery taking part in the Nashville Walls project.

It's kind of neat to see old ugly walls covered by these immense mural like walls of art.  When you think of Nashville, you really don't think of art in any particular respect.  Perhaps this project will give new meaning to Art in the Music City. I know I enjoy seeing  them even if only to get rid of the old walls they covered.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

Shots Fired!

If you're the type to watch the news then you have, no doubt, heard of the shooting which took place this week in Nashville, Tennessee.  The shooting took place in the downtown bus station (aka Music City Central) and is both tragic in its circumstances and outrageous in how it all went down.  

To recap, two teenagers rode up and down the escalators for a long time looking for their 'target.' Once spotted, one of them produced a handgun and proceeded to fire 10 times. His intended victim was hit, as were 3 innocent bystanders.  

It is unimportant to note that this is the bay where I pick up my bus, and that this was, in fact, the same number bus I take every afternoon, but this one leaves 20 min before I get to the bus station. What is important to note in this story is that the teenager who fired in cold blood upon another fired 10 times and only hit his intended target once.  This, from a mere 20 feet away.  

I could talk about the crowds running in terror from this terrorist. (Yes, anyone who fires a weapon in a crowded area regardless of intention spreads terror and is, therefore, a terrorist.) I could talk about the unintended victims who were shot only because the shooter was such a bad shot. (Fired 10 times from only 20 feet away and hit him only once.) I could talk about my own involvement in this entire scenario, but in fact, I didn't arrive at Music City Central until the crowds were out and the large gates were already pulled down so that the police (who arrived in 2 minutes) could do their job. 
Gates are down - nobody in or out!
I could talk about all that, but so many other news agencies, blogs and tweets have already said as much. What hasn't been said is what happened to the large crowds who, like myself, ride the bus nightly and rely on those buses to get us home.  

What happened was this: The MTA supervisors, walkie-talkies in hand, stood in the street, directing the onslaught of buses as they arrived, directing them to the curb.  Once at the curb, passengers got off, passengers got on, and the bus pulled away.  Immediately, the supervisor directed another bus into the vacated spot.  It was like a well rehearsed dance. 

Oh, but wait, there's more.  The entire time the supervisors were out in the street, the crowd milling around, talking loud about the whole thing, cars pulling through to pick up friends or family; the supervisors never lost their cool, calm, professional demeanor. There was no shouting on their part, no exasperated pointing or waving of arms. It was the most incredible display of 'being in control' I have witnessed.  

The police also responded cool and calm, and took over the situation quickly as has been said many times over. It seemed to me that no one mentioned the bus station employees; drivers pulling into a street loaded with other buses, cars and supervisors vying for their attention.  There were few, if any, problems. This can only be attributed to the pre-planning on the part of Music City Central Staff and well trained bus drivers. 

And the true temperament of the South.  
Thanks to you all.   It needs to be said, and said again.  

Friday, April 22, 2016

Crepe Murder Most Foul!

Living in the south, and doing the amount of lawn work I do, it's a darn good thing I don't have a Crepe Myrtle Tree. They take a lot of understanding. The Crepe Myrtle is a beautiful shade tree with blossoms that run from white, to lavender, to magenta to ruby red.  These trees start off their lives as rather unassuming diminutive things. However, if left to grow in their natural beauty, these trees become majestic monuments to the charm of the Southern landscape.  My goodness it all but makes you want to put on a white suite and sip a Mint Julep!

But there's some (cue dark menacing music) who lurk in the shade that know not the beauty of the Crepe Myrtle.  In the late fall, they cut away at the branches, hacking and sawing until all that is left are bare stubby trunks and all but nonexistent branches.  Murder!  Crepe Murder, Most Foul!

Crepe Murder, Most Foul! 
So, since again, no Crepe Myrtle in my yard (and thankfully, no Crepe Murder) I thought I'd look into what it really takes to trim one of these beauties, without murdering it, and post it here.  And, here's what I found. When you chop a crepe myrtle, the branches will grow back.  However, the shape of the tree is destroyed and you will produce a stunted shrub-like tree that lacks the grace of a naturally-shaped crepe myrtle.  The pic above shows a tree hacked just above it's 'knees.'  This tree will be short and stuffy and lack any definition. But, I hear ya, what DO you do to trim such beautiful lawn guardians? ok, so now we present:

Marv's Notes on How To Properly Trim a Crepe Myrtle
When the tree is dormant (in late winter/early spring), you can lightly prune a crepe myrtle in order to encourage a particular shape or to remove limbs that are in the way. The key words here are LIGHTLY and SHAPE.  You're not trying to start over, you're just making 'adjustments.' In addition, when the tree starts to put out new growth, you may see shoots that appear at the base of the tree. These should also be removed cutting close to the ground. Look back at the top and you can see that tree has been trimmed lightly, allowing the several 'legs' to grow naturally, no knees, no hacking and chopping.

The key is to use a light touch and your tree will grow to be a true Southern beauty. Sort of like me.  

Friday, April 1, 2016

Chimney Master Update

It's been a long winter and I've been trying to finish the living room project (don't ask) so I've been out of pocket (read: not wanting to blog) the last two weeks. I figured I'd better get my blog on and catch you up on some things. 

As you can see above, the living room is now painted, but my abilities with mud and tape are none too good so I'm going to have to redo a few areas.  Slowly, a section at a time, I should be done by the time I retire sometime next century.

The chimney cap has been in place now for nearly 6 months.  A half a year.  And with all the rain we've had lately, I thought I'd get up there and check it out.  Ok, so no, I didn't go skulking around on the roof at oh-dark-thirty but I did take some time to examine the piping in the attic, and the chimney cap itself.And from what I can tell, there are no leaks and the chimney cap itself is still as bright and great looking as it was the day I put it up.  I took this picture early this morning and you can see it's still looking good one winter under its belt.

When the weather is better, I plan to get up there and give it a thorough going over to see how my hand made invention fared.  Look for updates here! 

Stay tuned! 

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Southern 'Mater Sammich

Many years ago, back in the west where I grew up, a friend introduced my wife and I to the Southern Tomato Sandwich.  He was absolutely amazed that we had never had one.  (Colorado is not known for its tomato sandwiches.)  He worked feverishly to produce the two and watched us as we bit into them. I can only call his expression one of rapt anticipation.  

For the uninitiated, the South is known for all kinds of special food:  Southern Fried Chicken, Southern Barbecue, Fried Okra, Grits and yes, the Southern Tomato Sandwich (or 'Mater Sammich, one might say.) That day many years ago introduced me to this phenomenon, and to be honest, I enjoyed it; but when I recently took to the internet to find a picture for this blog entry, my heart fairly skipped a beat.   

It appears that there is no real consensus as to the makings of said Southern 'Mater Sammich.  I found inclusions of Italian spices, onions, and all manner of bread treatments just to name a few.  I suppose, to compare, it's like any good thing you find and enjoy, everyone has their own take.  

My take?  Bread, Mayo, Tomatoes, touch of salt.  A Southern Tomato Sammich.  If you add onions, then I'd expect you call it a Southern Tomato and Onion Sammich. If you like pickles  on yours, then I'd expect you'd call it a Southern Tomato and Pickles Sammich.  You want Italian Spices?  I will refrain from mentioning how I feel about that.  

My simple recipe for a 'Mater Sammich is as follows:
2 slices of bread (Regular white sandwich bread is preferred, but whole wheat is ok.)
2 slices of tomato (more may be needed to fill the sandwich, also ok.)
Touch of salt.

The best clue here is to use big beefsteak tomatoes.  2 slices, and slice them thick, about a quarter of an inch at least.  Then, cut the slices in half so that you have 4 half moon pieces.  Prepare the bread by spreading Mayonnaise edge to edge on both slices. (Again, my own enjoyment means that I use a WHIPPED, spreadable salad dressing rather than mayonnaise and it's a MIRACLE that I don't mention the name here.)
Incredible Life Like Simulation!

The true secret to the sammich is to lay the tomatoes so that the straight edges of the cut slices align with the outer edge of the bread.  All four rounded edges meet and overlap at the center.  (This means tomato in every bite!)  Sprinkle with just a touch of salt and put the top slice on.

My daughter will tell you that the finished sammich should be cut diagonally, corner to corner, but I prefer to cut it in half, side to side. (Cutting a Mater Sammich top to bottom is only for reprobates, heathens and surly dead-beat ne'er do wells.)

There you have it.  You can, of course add anything you want to your 'Mater Sammich; pickles, onions and  yes, even Italian spices.  It don't make no never mind to me, just don't ask me to eat one.

When it comes to my partaking of Southern 'Mater Sammiches, I am a purist.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Dinner is Rain Delayed

A few years ago, we had quite a rainy spring here in Nashville. It led to some historic flooding and we are only now getting past it.  Overall, rain is merely an inconvenience to southerners...more so to those who drive in the rain.

I don't drive in the rain much. Only when I have to. Mainly because I take the bus to and from work. But you knew that, didn't you, Bubba?  The real reason I don't like to drive in the rain is not the rain, but the other drivers.  At times I think it's worse than driving on ice and snow. 

You see, here in Nashville, drivers who brave the rain fall into two categories. Impatient and overly cautious.  You can extrapolate this to be 'fast' and 'slow.'  Unfortunately, the latter keep the former from going fast, and the entire thing ends up being more of an exercise in futility than a drive in the rain.  

I have no idea why this is.  For some reason people who would drive at the posted speed limit (or more) on black ice will drive at 10 miles per hour in the rain. The fast guys think the rain is no big deal and speed around like they're planning on hydroplaning all the way home. Add to that the fact that most roads in this area are filled with engineered bottlenecks and you have the perfect situation for constant traffic jams.  (And accidents.  Many, many accidents.)  

Me? I'm safe and sound on the bus, reading my electronic reader, while the bus driver handles the crazy traffic.  Drivers on the bus are cool, collected and well trained.  Rain or snow, they have a 'we'll get there when we get there' sort of mentality that keeps them from driving their 58' behemoth over those small smart cars and their slightly larger cousins.  

Bringing this down to the end, it means that the rain gets me home late. Sometimes only 5 or 10 min, but sometimes as much as an hour or more.  My wife has no idea what time I will be home on rainy days.  

My wife plans dinners to such a degree that they are just about ready to be served when I walk in the door. Hot, juicy and tasty.  So, nights I'm late, means my dinner would be hard and dry and cold. So, when it rains these days, my wife plans simple means of salads, or quick cooking fish,

So, there you have it. Rain, Slow Southerners, Fast Southerners and Dinner Menus therein affected. Such is life in the South.