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A Drink From The Hose

As I walk across the backyard, pale millers blink up from the recently mown grass, flitting away along random trajectories. I breathe in the solar-heated air, thick with humidity. The grass is green but dry under my heavy feet, the morning’s cool dew just a faint memory. The afternoon sun is now strong and direct and I am thirsty. Very thirsty. It’s a physiological thirst that comes from running and playing on a hot summer day, from expending boyhood energy. The sweat on my brow is a reminder of the need to replenish my body’s liquid reserves. I trudge over to the house and hunch over with my hands on my knees to rest for a second. I realize I’m breathing deeply as I survey the area around the spigot. The bare brick wall, the sandy dirt, and the protruding plumbing fixture harmonize to make an ideal ecosystem for spiders and crawlies. Remnants of a cobweb are easily wiped away with the toe of a tennis shoe, and I lean down and grab the spigot’s metal handle, and begin to twist it. My face is inches away from the scratchy brick. I can feel the heat radiating out of it, even though it is now under the shade of the overhang. Three squeaky revolutions of the knobby handle should be enough. I hear the gurgle coming through the plumbing in the house. My eyes follow the garden hose from the spigot, snaking around in a limp warm coil and terminating haphazardly in the yard a dozen feet away. As I pick up the terminal end of the hose, it spits and sighs and coughs and spits again, as if annoyed by the inconvenience of being pressed into service. Finally a few spurts of water fly out of the end of the hose, followed by a stream that hisses and burbles, then quietly settles into a flowing gusher. I don’t dare drink the water at first; it is warm and stale and nauseating. Anticipation throbs as I feel the rubber hose cool in my hand. I turn the hose upwards, and the cooling water splashes over my fingers. The stream pushes itself up into a fountain, and I lean down and drink from it deeply. The cold water fills my mouth and spills down my chin as I take swallow after swallow. Lowering the hose and pulling my face away, I gasp in a few breaths and let the geyser arc into an ever-growing area of soggy grass. After catching my breath, I bury my head in the upturned stream again and drink deeply, savoring it a little more appreciatively this time. My thirst is quenched now, and my hand, forearm and shoes will all dry out well enough. I better shut this off before this part of the yard turns into a mud pit.hose drink

Bachelor Life

Dearest Wife, Lovely Companion and Mother of our Beautiful Children,

I do hope that this humble message finds you well and in good spirits. I take opportunity to write to you in earnest desire that I may somehow convey my private thoughts and feelings so that you may fully understand my position and experiences of the last several days. I have heard reports that you have been enjoying your travels and visits with friends and family in our native countryside. This pleases me and I am thankful to our Lord that this opportunity has been capitalized upon.

In your absence, I have had opportunity to unwind and enjoy evenings by myself that would otherwise be considered selfish or unseemly for a family man. During this time I have come to several conclusions that I would like to share with you now.

First of all, a box-mix cake does not make a suitable replacement for a good home-cooked meal prepared by a skillful woman. Even though the cake may be yellow, and be it even lusciously slathered in chocolate frosting. The consumption of said cake nonetheless leaves a man with an empty feeling swirled together with wistful thoughts of meals shared together in days gone by.

Second, the hilarity of wandering through the house in underwear dissipates quicker than one might suspect.

Likewise, the unbridled act of drinking milk straight from the carton is a freedom that wears on my soul.

In conclusion, I am hoping that your safe return is imminent and finds you well rested and eager to spend time with your ever faithful and loving mate. Come home to me, woman. Come home.

XXXOOO

Your hubsbund

We Are Fearless

She and I stood amid the swirling gaggle of strangers. The fragments of conversations in a foreign tongue reinforced the feeling of being completely, hopelessly out of place. I concentrated on the glass display case in front of me, replete with baked goods, and studied each hand-lettered label in a desperate attempt to locate a recognizable root word to identify the contents on display. The harder I concentrated, the less the room tilted and skewed.

If you were to visit only one Cuban bakery in this city, this should be the one, the online directory had proclaimed. Well, here we were. She wanted an authentic Cuban coffee, and something sweet and yummy to go with it. This place sure looked like it could fulfill that need, if we could only communicate our desire to one of the bustling ladies working the counter.

She stood beside me quietly, taking in the whole scene. She was calm and seemed totally relaxed in her environment as I tried not to get trampled by determined, enthusiastic patrons. Almost before I knew what had transpired, she turned to a lady beside her and asked if she spoke English. Her gentle manner and sweet smile invoked a returned smile and a friendly response- “Yes, a little!”

Through broken, halting, and over-simplified English, my dear wife enjoyed a full, flowing conversation with the dear lady about what pastries she recommended, how many children she had, where she was from, how long she had lived here, and what her husband did for work. She then was introduced to the husband and obtained recommendations on how to order her coffee. Just when I thought our encounter with the local residents was over, he reappeared and handed my wife a torn scrap of paper with a telephone number scribbled on it. “Call us anytime. You need anything, you call.”

We leave the bakery with our selections (a slice of Key Lime pie for me, ’cause it was labeled “Key Lime pie”, and I recognized that.) and I shake my head in near disbelief. “I can’t take you anywhere!” I joke with her. “Whaaat?” she responds in mock defensiveness.

She is a mystery to me. This fascinating woman that I am married to. She has no fear. How does she do it? How can she just strike up a conversation with a stranger? Not only a stranger, but a stranger that speaks limited English? Amazing. She has abilities that are far beyond me, and for which I am quite envious.

As we step off the elevator to our fifth floor apartment, an idea suddenly comes to me. “Hey, lets go check out the roof!” We are new tenants in the building, and have been wanting to explore. However, she is not completely sure of my idea. She pauses noticeably, somewhat frozen by this new idea sprung upon her. I breeze through the stairwell door with a “C’mon, it’ll be fun!”

The final flight of stairs end at a door that is held ajar with a brick. It’s practically an invitation. There’s a sign beside the door that says STOP at the top of it, so I don’t read the rest. I push the door open and stride out onto roof. The oppressive heat and humidity of the day have passed, and the lights of the city twinkle all around. The view is amazing. As my eyes adjust to the night, I begin navigating around the various pipes and things mounted to the rubber mat covering.

She cautiously steps out onto the roof and looks around. Her shoulders are hunched. “Is…is the building…swaying? It feels like its moving.” I assure her that the building is definitely not swaying as I circumnavigate a puddle and head toward the front of the building. Guys on third shift are working on the high-rise being built two doors down. Flickers and pulses of light are cast on the surrounding hotels and office buildings from their welders. I can see shadowy shapes of hard-hatted workmen among the structure. I wonder if they can see me, their night-time rooftop accomplice. I reach the front of the building and marvel at the view of the street, the marina, and the vast darkness of the ocean beyond.

Then I realize that I am alone. Sigh.

 

Tool Box

As an aircraft technician, my job requires quite a bit of tools. And a tool box to keep them in. A big, bulky, heavy tool box. This is not a big deal when the tool box is located in the hangar that I work in every day. But during a change of employment, it becomes a logistic challenge. Unload the tools, pack them in separate cardboard boxes. Load the tool box in a vehicle, relocate tool box to new job. Unpack tools and arrange them back into the tool box. What a pain.

Well, it’s that time again. Only now, the new job is 1300 miles away. I have never moved this far away before. As the start date drew nearer, I began to wonder what the best option would be; to have my old trusty tool box shipped by truck, or buy a new box in my new city of employment? The old box was getting a bit cramped. It’s on the small side as far as tool boxes go, to put it nicely. Over the past eighteen years, it’s weathered more moves than I enjoy remembering. It has acquired its fair share of dents, scrapes, and stickers, and the drawers don’t latch closed any more. Plainly, it was time for a new box, but tool boxes are expensive. It was an expense that I couldn’t afford on the brink of this cross-country move. The logistic challenge is now a Logistic Problem. What to do? I didn’t have any answers.

So I prayed. As a Christian, I believe that God, as revealed in the Bible, loves and cares for each one of us. If he didn’t or couldn’t, he wouldn’t be much of a deity, would he? I figured his solution would be way more effective than me just sitting around worrying about it. I asked him to help me with some wisdom (’cause I’m not nearly as smart as I’d like to be) and to bring a solution across my path.

Today the wife and I were running some errands. Almost as an afterthought, she asked me to stop in at the Dollar General before we reached our next destination. As we pulled in, I realized Sears was next door. I told her to go ahead, I wanted to check out the tool section of Sears. Behind the tools sat a selection of Craftsman tool boxes. The salesman pointed out a nice-sized set that was on sale. Regularly $1600, on sale for $600, or something crazy like that. But I don’t want the set. I asked if they sold separately. Yep, the lower box by itself is $465. Wow. That is one stinkin’ good deal. AND for 81 bucks more he could have shipped anywhere. ANY. Where. Talk about an answer to prayer. Sold!

So now I can start thinking about other, more urgent things. Like how many pairs of socks I should pack.

Dime On A Bottle

My two boys went over to my dads house yesterday to help clean up a roofing project he had completed. As a reward, Dad stopped at a gas station on the way back from the landfill and let Kalin and Nathan get something to drink. Nathan chose a Coca Cola in a glass bottle.

When I got home from work, The bottle was sitting by the kitchen sink, all rinsed out and ready to go. So I snatched it up and plunked a dime on top. After sealing the dime across the opening with a drop of water, I gripped the bottle with both hands and waited. “Nate,” I said, “how am I moving this dime without touching it?” Nate bent down and peered closely at the dime. The dime trembled slightly and one edge lifted almost imperceptibly, letting out a miniature burp through the moisture around its perimeter, and settled back into place with a tiny clink against the glass bottle. “Oh, I see,” he said wisely. “Your squeezing the bottle and forcing the air out.”

I had to laugh. At thirteen, I had thought Nate was well beyond thinking his dad was all-powerful. It was a little flattering, but at the same time I was pretty sure that when I was his age, I had an understanding of the laws of physics regarding the volume, temperature and pressure of gasses, as well as the rigidity of Coke bottles. A quick physics lesson brought him up to speed, and I deposited the dime back into my pocket. Picking up the Coke bottle, a twinge of tendinitis reinforced my thankfulness for Nate’s confidence in his old man.

Inevitable

Oh no! You’re crying after I’ve laid you down! Here, let me pick you up and comfort you.

You want to grab my sunglasses and taste them? That’s cute, go ahead, sweetie.

You want me to watch you spin around in the middle of the living room right when I’m talking on the phone? Sure, darling, I’m sure they’ll understand. You, after all, are more important.

You don’t want to eat your food? That’s okay, I don’t want you to stifle your personality!

You don’t want to take a bath? Please, sweetheart. If you do, I’ll let you stay up and watch TV.

School is boring? I guess I’ll have to take you, since you missed the bus again.

Wow, look at the walls covered in crayon and marker! How creative!

Supper’s ready! Should I bring a plate to your bedroom again?

You tried to kiss a girl at recess? How precious!

One of these days, you should help Mommy pick up your clothes.

Five dollars is not enough? Okay, Sunshine, we’ll increase your allowance to ten. We want you to know that we love you.

But it’s 2 A.M.! I wish you wouldn’t play your video games so long.

They won’t let you wear that to school? What fuddy duddies they are! I’m going to complain to the principal.

She didn’t give you a passing grade? Well, it’s her fault for being such a lousy teacher!

Your girlfriend treated you like that? How dare she! She didn’t know what she had!

Of course you can have the car to go out tonight. I just filled it up with gas for you, too.

It’s amazing how no one is hiring. The economy must be worse than I thought.

Yes, I’ll cosign for you. You gotta get ahead somehow, right?

DUI!? That’s ridiculous, those breathalyzers are so inaccurate!

That was totally unfair for them to keep your deposit. We should sue.

That boss was a real jerk. You should be glad you don’t work there any more.

Hello? Yes, I’ll accept collect call charges. Hello? Are you alright? What? You gotta be kidding me! They can’t do that to you! Those charges will never stick! I’ll be right down to bail you out, dear. Now you don’t worry, I’ll take care of it. I’ll be right down.

Where did I go wrong with you? Didn’t I show you enough love? I just wanted to be your best friend. Why are you acting this way?

Change, a rant

Why do manufacturers have to constantly change their product? If it works, quit fiddling with it already. The obvious is freakin’ Facebook (have you noticed the advertising column keeps getting just a smidge wider…and wider…and wider…?), but there are plenty of other examples.

Like tooth brushes. I mean really, the suckers have been around forever. If you want to improve the design, make it feel BETTER in your mouth, not worse. The little bumps on the back are really quite annoying. If I want to brush my tongue, I’ll brush it. Don’t introduce discomfort in an effort to force me into it. And you may already know my dissatisfaction with the razor blade manufacturers. Three blades, five blades, how many do we really need? Two is fine. Seriously. Hey, Gillette, quit coming up with “improvements” just so you can feed your greed. The whole personal hygiene market is rife with unnecessary change. The shelves are awash in ‘new and improved’ product that, frankly, just leave me cold. I can’t even find my favorite deodorant anymore. I’m afraid it’s been lost on the Seas of Marketing.

And automobiles. I wish I could buy a car without a gazillion air bags, traction control, anti-skid brakes and all the other gizmos that protect brainless sheeple from themselves when they’re allowed to operate a motor vehicle. It short-circuits the whole gene pool cleansing function, you know? How is the human race going to ever improve if we keep preserving the stupid ones by shielding them behind idiot-resistant technology? I jest. Sort of. Power windows? Power seats with memory? Power mirrors? No thank you. I’m lazy enough already. And I’d rather not have to spend my money on fixing it when it fails. Just give me a simple, lightweight car that handles good. It will be affordable, because it won’t be loaded with unnecessary gizmos. It will be easy to maintain, because there will be less things to go wrong. And it will be efficient, because it will be lightweight and elegant.

I’ve heard all the truisms; death and taxes, change is the only constant, etc, etc. But that doesn’t mean that I have to like it. Because I don’t.

I’m getting too old to appreciate change for change’s sake.

Still Looney After All These Years

The rain clouds of the morning had passed, leaving patchier and more dramatic cousins behind. A slight breeze wafted in the wide expanse of the open hangar door. The faint odor of old hydraulic fluid and axle grease mingled with the smell of the cool, damp concrete. It was peaceful and the temperature was just right.

Then I heard it. The familiar whooshing-whine of a business jet on its takeoff run. I laid down my tools and stood up to watch. The Hawker had already broken ground when it came into view. Gear up, it roared down the length of the runway, poking its nose skyward. It slowly climbed as it passed the airport’s resident red-tailed hawk that was gliding about the tempestuous sky. As the winged aluminum projectile slid away toward the horizon and its turbine’s fury faded, I had to smile. How many years have I been at this? How long ago was that first, now forgotten, takeoff observed? How many times have I stopped mid-task to witness another act of aviation? How many silhouettes have I squinted at droning over the backyard on a Saturday afternoon?

I don’t know, but I’m glad that I haven’t lost whatever it is that makes me do it.

Shaving Lessons

A few months ago I got tired of paying two bucks a piece for Gillette Sensor cartridge razors. I felt that Gillette was gouging me for an activity for which I had no real alternative. After a little research, I realized that men in the 1940’s and 50’s used a double-edged blade in a Safety Razor. One of the better known models was the Gillette Super Speed.

They sell them on Ebay.

I bought one.

I also bought some high-end Feather razor blades. I did some reading online and figured out how to use it. I quickly found that the old-fashioned way, although wonderfully romantic and quirky, definitely had its drawbacks. Not too many knicks in the learning curve, but it took a LOT longer to shave. And to do it right, I couldn’t shave in the shower anymore. I had to do it in front of the mirror, fogged as it may be, so I could concentrate on my technique.

Then it happened; one morning I was running a little short on time. While shaving, my hand got ahead of my brain, and BAM, that honed Japanese edge caught the bottom of my nose and layed open a flap of skin that instantly produced copious amounts of my vital fluid.
I just thought I was late before. Now I was definitely set back.

So I seriously rethought the whole retro-shaving concept. You know, there’s a lot to be said for being able to indiscriminately rub a Sensor cartridge razor on your face and wind up with a really good shave. It’s called Convenience. And while at times I’m thoroughly disgusted with American Convenience and Ease, I decided I am willing to pay a little extra to improve my morning routine quality of life. I guess I just didn’t know what I was paying for until I experienced what Grandpa’s generation had to use.
I’m still gonna use the brush and shaving soap in a dish, though. That’s just too cool. And it won’t draw blood.

Honda Insight

Hey, I’ve got the “I Just Bought a Car” thrill!

It’s a 2000 Honda Insight. The world’s first (okay, don’t Google it and prove me wrong) hybrid. I have admired the first generation Insight for a while now. It’s as if the Honda engineers snuck off into the basement and crafted the Ultimate Gas Sipper, without worrying about what the marketing department thought. They pulled out all the stops on this one. I have to admire them for that singularity of purpose.

So how do you make a car more efficient? Well, for starters, you keep it small. A small car can run efficient little circles around a Hummer-sized vehicle any day. The small size is advantageous in several ways. For one, it has less “frontal area”. Think of frontal area as the perfect silhouette of Wile E. Coyote after he crashes through a brick wall. Every object that moves through the atmosphere has to punch a hole in it to proceed, and that creates drag. Not only that, but how much it ruffles up the air and how it leaves the air behind it also affects the drag it experiences. Which is another reason the Insight shines. It has many aerodynamic features that make it quite slippery. It has smooth panels underneath the car. You may not see under there, but the air does. It has smooth wheel covers and fender skirts. And the thing that I think is really cool, and shows how aggressive those Honda engineers were, is how the bodywork behind the front wheels “carve in” to keep the airflow smooth as it exits the wheel well.

Not only is it small, it also sits very low to the ground. This is an aerodynamic feature, as well. The lower the car is, the less air that can get underneath it. It’s much better to get the air going up and over the car. That way, the car is not trying to smoosh the air against the road. I realized the other day just how low this car is, when I was sitting in traffic and looking UP at the bumper of a Ford Taurus!

I knew this car was capable of insane fuel mileage, but I was still unprepared for it when I calculated my first tankful. I had driven the car pretty normally, i.e. I hadn’t used any “hypermiling” techniques. I decided to let the car show me what it could do on its own. The first tank of gas took me 539 miles on nine and a quarter gallons. That’s 58.2 miles per gallon!