Saturday, April 26, 2008

Long day

It has been a very long day. I worked on this screened porch project again today, getting the front wall upright and six of the 10 required rafters in place. Only thing is, everything is being built to fit what's there, and what's there is not perfect. It's tricky work, and it feels like I spend waaaaaaayyyyy too much time scratching my head trying to figure things out. I'll get better at it as I go, I am sure, but it can be a regular pain in the butt to have to learn it new for each job. The room is looking good, though. In this picture, you can see the rafters at each end that are in place. Only the little ones attached to the fake dormer are left to create and install. Then I have to put on the plywood, roofing paper, flashing, drip edge and shingles. Oh yeah, and the siding, trim, screens, and the built-in bench seats inside. Right. And I thought I'd get this done in a week? If I wasn't sober for so long, I'd think I was high when I gave the estimate. Oh well, live and learn. And get a great example for my portfolio. And happy customers. It'll work out.

In other news, I am beginning to get some work. I am booked solid for the next two weeks, and perhaps beyond that. I know I have two people who want work done but we have not been able to schedule it yet. That is encouraging. The nice thing is that this stuff is coming as a result of good relationships with people in town. This is word-of-mouth stuff that I'm getting, plus a few fliers. That's nice, too.

Oh, here is a picture of our supervisor on the job today. She is most stern when at work, keeping me safe from intruders and strangers of all kinds - from squirrels and birds to creepy neighbors, to stoned-looking young people looking for summer housing. She is very official when she is on duty. Note the nice sweater, knit for her by a friend. Actually, the friend who knitted the sweater is the one who gave one of my fliers to the property owner of the place where I am now working. What a marvelous small world this is!

I don't know if I will work tomorrow. I am beat today, but I want to get this thing done something close to on time, and I am not sure I will get it done by Tuesday if I don't. So much for the leisurely life of being my own boss. I would never work this hard for someone else. Damn. Oh well. Shower's going to feel really good tonight.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


What a beautiful day it was today: sunny and up near 70 degrees. There was no wind to speak of and everything is drying out nicely. Except for the north side of this cabin I've been working on. I put in a shower stall last week and the owners liked my work enough to hire me to put a screened in porch on the front of the little cabin.

I had to retro-design things because there is a false dormer over the front door, so I decided to drop the platform by about six inches and run a very shallow-pitched hip roof out from under the existing eaves. At this point, the plans are all still in my head. Not to worry, though. There is plenty of room up there to store them or to lay them out flat and turn them around.

So I have been working on the platform of the porch, framing up the 20 by 6 foot base and propping it up on blocks and odd scraps of wood pending its final attachment to the cabin. Now I should mention here that this is a summer rental cabin. It has no basement or even a pad - it is supported by blocks of concrete at the corners and in a couple of spots underneath. It is not insulated, and only lattice covers the rudimentary foundation. There are lots of leaves under the building, some spiders, and a handful of scrap boards and odd pieces of PVC pipe. In short, it's a cruddy little hole that never sees the sun and probably never entirely dries out.

The blocks are important to the story because I needed to mount the porch to something, and because I had to drop the platform six inches, I was left with nothing to nail to but a few concrete blocks (not great in the nailing department) and some spider webs (certainly no better). So, I bought some bits of metal at the hardware store the other day and brought them home to weld into reinforced brackets. I can now attach the brackets to the platform via some half-inch carriage bolts, and to the support beam/floor joist with some equally nasty half-inch lag screws. I welded six of these brackets and spaced them appropriately along the back plank and then set about to mounting the things to the underside of the cabin.

Not much maneuvering room under there. Certainly not for a plus-sized lesbian and her tools. Damn. I was under there five minutes and had soaked through my knees and elbows in mud, had fetched my head a nasty crack on a broken cement block, and dropped two washers and a nut in the leaves. It took some doing, but I got a mostly workable system under there, and I have a few little odds and ends to finish up tomorrow and then I can start laying the decking and building the walls.

But today was a muddy, dirty, cold, nasty adventure.

To be fair, I did spend enough time standing at the chop saw and walking around that I managed to get a sunburn on the back of my neck. It was warm enough as well for a few mosquitoes to venture out. I slapped a few but did not get bitten. This too shall pass.

In another vein, I am getting disgusted with vehicles. We have three, but not one of them has a valid sticker. And today, on my way to work on this cabin, a golf-ball sized rock spun out of the top of a dump truck and smashed into my windshield directly in my line of vision. It looks like a fake, it is so perfect. Except I got a lap full of glass shards. I had to hold Quinn very still on her side of the seat (she was pretty freaked out) so she wouldn't get into the sharp stuff. Glass guy says it will cost $225 to fix. Add that to the muffler and tailpipe, the leaf springs, shocks, struts, front brake job and the rest, it's going to eat up almost every penny from this job. It is depressing. Some days it feels like I make a few steps forward only to get kicked back six more. Damn.

Quinn and I were ok, though, so that's a good thing.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Monday morning

Busy week this week. The people I have been working for have hired me to build a screened-in porch on a summer cabin. It's going to be a lot of work and I expect to be exhausted at the end of every day.

I got to be a little bit famous last week - an essay I wrote got published in both the Ellsworth American and the Mount Desert Islander. It runs along similar lines to my previous entry here regarding Christians and Christianity, but it was still nice to see it get such prominent placement in the local press. The folks at the Maine Speak Out Project training on Saturday were most impressed.

It seems that I am moderately adept at diplomatically answering very difficult and invasive questions (at least in the practice sessions) and I think I am going to participate in the MSOP speakers bureau. I think that is a way I can contribute.

Depression is a tricky thing. It is so easy to slip into depression when I am idle. I have a real need to be useful, to be engaged in some meaningful form of work. And meaningful work can take many forms. It does not mean I have to bathe lepers or run a hospice for the destitute - it merely means that I have to be engaged in something that challenges me in some way and that will leave me with a feeling of accomplishment when it is finished.

To be of use
by Marge Piercy

The people I love the best
jump into work head first
without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
They seem to become natives of that element,
the black sleek heads of seals
bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.

I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who stand in the line and haul in their places,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

This porch will go a long way toward that. It is a big project, and one I will do mostly alone. I have estimated 40 hours to complete it. That may have been ambitious on my part, but I don't know. Much of what I have to do is pretty elementary. It is only the screened-in part that offers a challenge of something new, and the built-in bench seats. The people seem pretty decent and I think they'll like what I come up with, particularly since they will see it when they return from a vacation in the south of France. Yeah, I think They'll like it just fine.

At some point I shall have to write about class and the separation between the haves and the have-nots. It is stark on this island where I live, but only obvious to those on one side of the divide. That is an entry for another day. Now I must go wreck things. What a great way to start a week!

Friday, April 18, 2008

Interesting phenomenon

I am sure every blogger out there goes through what I am experiencing. Writing for a blog is truly writing for an audience - a largely unseen audience, but an audience just the same. The problem is, it does not feel like there is anyone out there reading this stuff. Which brings me to an interesting intersection of thought: do I treat this thing as a personal journal into which I can pour my innermost secret thoughts and feelings, do I start drumming up readership through bullying and bribery, or do I abandon ship entirely after just a week or two?

I don't think I'm good enough at this to merit drumming up readership just yet, and no matter how many people aren't reading it, the minute I post something really personal and/or incriminating, readership will spike and I'll end up the butt of jokes on late night television, so turning this thing into my own therapist's couch is out. And I don't want to quit it yet either. So, what to do? I am not sure. I shall contemplate and ruminate.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

life all at once

Why is it that life seems to happen all at once? For two weeks I have not been able to get out of my own way. I had nothing to do and too much time to do it. It was rainy and crappy and nasty and depressing.

Then this week, the sun came out, the air warmed up, the peepers have started and I've got enough work to make it impossible for me to go fishing. Ain't that just a kick in the head.

I began my day by crawling under a seasonal cabin to look at the copper pipes there. I did not quite fit, and it was wet and cold and filled with soggy leaves and half-eaten acorns stashed by some hyperactive squirrel from the previous season. The cabins are built on posts and have lattice skirting to prevent things from getting too soggy under there, but in the third full week of April after a particularly wet winter, it was still plenty damp down there for me. I was able to make progress as the day went along, but it seemed like some kind of ritual getting dirty thing that I needed to do to get it over with so I didn't spend the rest of my day trying not to make a mess. Sort of like eating a toad first thing every day. After that, the day's got to get better. First thing to do on the job, crawl through the mud and get leaves into your underwear. After that, ripping up the floor and building a wall was a walk in the park.

Speaking of the park...

I took a beautiful ride through part of Acadia tonight on my way home. The picture here is taken from the place where Cromwell Harbor Brook flows out of the Great Meadow and under the Park Loop Road, right at the end of Ledgelawn Avenue. As I walked around trying to find the best shot, I was struck by the quiet, and then my something else. There was something beyond the silence, something at first just out of my ear's perception. Then it hit me. I was hearing a high-pitched whine, almost, a loud chirping by so many voices as to become one single endless note of song. The peepers were out. Spring is here. This weekend I will MAKE time to go fishing.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Christianity versus "Christians"

Lots has been said of late by people in Maine and around the nation about the recent announcement by Mike Heath that his group, the Christian Civic League of Maine (CCLM) would start anther petition drive to reverse any and all progress for queer folks in Maine in the past 25 years. It's a nasty petition. It calls for a ban on any kind of same-sex marriage, ever, it would remove protection from discrimination based on sexual orientation from the Maine Civil Rights Law, and a host of other nastiness.

I am getting tired of this fight. Heath and his minions should not take heart at this - they will not win. I will fight, no matter how tired I get, but it merits saying that this argument is really getting old.

I would like for the alleged "Christians" of the CCLM to start behaving like the Christ they claim as their Saviour.

I would like to see them volunteer at soup kitchens, feeding the hungry.
I would like to see them volunteer at hospitals, bringing comfort to the afflicted.
I would like to see them volunteer at battered women's shelters, and at homeless shelters, bringing comfort to those who are less fortunate.
I would like to see them adopting the babies they insist must carry to term, despite being crack-addicted, despite being horribly disfigured and painfully ill, despite being the products of violent rape, or incest, or poor choices by 15-year-old girls.
I would like to see them caring for their neighbors.
I would like to see them stepping in to stop one person from judging another.

I don't consider myself a Christian. I was raised in the Catholic Church. In fact, back then I thought the Irish Catholic Church was different than the Roman Catholic Church. How the pope worked in, I was not sure, in my childhood understanding of things, but I somehow got the message that the Irish branch of things was somehow more rigid than the Italian brand. Go figure.

In any case, I am not a Christian. I do not believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. I do not believe in the death and resurrection, and I don't hold a lot of faith in the concepts of heaven, hell, or the fundraising construct that is purgatory.

That said, I feed the hungry. I donate what I can to help the poor. I offer my energies and my skills where I am able and where they might help. I invite people into my home to share special times when they might otherwise be lonely.

That's the kind of stuff that I understand Christianity to be about. Be kind to others. Even if you don't agree with them. Even if you don't like them. They still deserve to be treated like human beings. They still deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.

That's what Jesus taught: "Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do unto me."

What do you suppose Jesus would say about the actions and efforts of the CCLM? Are not the glbt community within "the least of my brothers" that Jesus spoke of? Did not Jesus befriend the downtrodden, the outcasts, the prostitutes and lepers? He did not judge them, instead he treated them with kindness and compassion. Trying to institutionalize second (or third) class status for glbt people is not treating us with kindness - it is judging and cruel. It is decidedly not Christ-like.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Such fun

Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine how much time I would spend looking at a dog's ass.

Puppy ownership is a new thing for me. It has been years since I have owned a dog, and I have never owned anything so small (9 pounds) that still qualifies as a dog (she barks.) Dog ownership means going for walks. Lots of walks. Lots and lots of walks until the pooch is trained to do her toileting activities OUTSIDE the house instead of under the dining room table. Or on the living room carpet. Sigh. Good thing we have ready access to a carpet shampooer. Soon as the weather warms up, everything's gettin' a pretty thorough scrubbin'. Even the dog, if she hasn't straightened out.

But back to dog butts. As a dog owner, I find myself traversing the neighborhood now with my little dog at the end of her zippy leash, vigorously sniffing every inch of earth before her. I cannot read her intentions with all this sniffing. Is she smelling the tender shoots of green grass just ready to poke through to the surface and announce that spring is indeed here? Is she smelling the fading scent of a trespassing squirrel? Has she found a likely spot to do her business so we can go back to the house and get out of the cold rain? Or has she simply found something dead to roll in?

I cannot tell the difference in the sniffing end of the dog, but occasionally, if I look at the end that is not sniffing, I can get a hint that my shivering expedition might soon be over. I won't go into the various characteristics of dog butts that indicate various needs of the animal, but suffice it to say that I am quickly becoming something of an expert. Sigh.

So spring is approaching in the land of oz. I saw crocuses (croci?) on one of our several walks today, and Laura's brother reports that he got several nibbles while fishing today. It has now turned cold and rainy and is expected to stay that way for several days. No fishing for us for a while. Tomorrow we shall go junking again. Our friend H calls it "road shopping." I like that term. There is an auction tomorrow as well. I'd like to pick up an armchair that is not already beat to crap to replace the one the cat has shredded in the living room. Then we can put the old dead chair out for junk day.

Oh man - someone came today and hauled off the furnace that we had dragged out there the other day. That thing had to weigh 500 pounds, easily. Some guy and his wife came in a big GMC pickup truck, dropped the tailgate and rolled that thing right on in. Good for them. I can't imagine what they might do with it, but more power to 'em. We have that much more space to put out crap from the basement. Yay us.

It has been a down week. Perhaps things will look up tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Cool Junk

It's junk week in my town. Next week is April vacation for the local school system, and the week in which the town hires a couple of burly young high school fellows to ride around with the trash pick-up guys and pick up piles of brush and old, dead washing machines from people's yards. In some yards it is difficult to tell exactly which hulks of metal are junk and which are art or being saved for some later purpose, so the town asks that unwanted stuff be dragged to the edge of the road for easy identification and removal.

Tradition in this town means that for the week prior to junk week (each village and neighborhood has scheduled pick-up days) everybody drags their stuff to the curb in the hopes that some entreprenurial soul will find value in it and cart it off to drag to curb in front of their house next year. In an odd kind of one-up-manship, we won the local contest for baddest thing hauled to the curb. We threw out a cast iron furnace.

Yesterday, we hauled the old, dead furnace out of our basement to make room for workspace and tool storage. It weighed a ton. It's about the size and shape of a rectangular dorm refrigerator - the ones that will hold two or three cases of beer, not the little cubes that only hold one case - and it is made out of big pieces of cast iron bolted (and now, rusted) together. I got a nice piece of steel cable from Marden's and a come-along, and I wrapped the furnace sixteen ways with the cable, secured it with a shackle, and hitched it to the come-along, which was hooked to the bumper of my van. Laura cranked the come-along while I guided the furnace up the bulkhead steps. Metal creaked, concrete blocks crumbled. The neighbor came to watch and give advice. The neighbor went away and came back with another neighbor and a length of pipe, and they both tried to help.

Boards and pipes were pressed under the furnace and lifted and rolled and shrugged and broken. The come-along eventually ceased to go click click, and I got fed up. I told everyone to stand clear and I drove 10 feet in the van. The furnace made it up over those last two steps with a sickening crunch of metal and concrete, but at least it was in the yard. We bent the hand cart/four-wheel dolly getting it to the curb, but now it is done. I'd love to see someone try to make off with that thing. Heh.

So with all this wide open space in our basement (ha!), Laura and I went junk hunting today. We got rid of one furnace and returned with four lengths of thin metal pipe (painted white - from a hammock frame) two plastic pails, a plastic mobile tool caddy, a gasoline powered ice auger, a plant hanger bracket, and a frame for a full sized bed (I wanted the angle iron for welding). We had traveled less than a half-mile. We unloaded in the yard and went out again. The second time we had to travel further and came home with a nice length of 1-inch steel pipe, five good pieces of 4 by 4 timbers, a big piece of sheet metal (I may go back for the other piece that was there), and a stackable shelf of red cube-looking things that say Canada Dry. It will fit nicely in a corner of my shop that presently is dead space. The timbers will become shelf supports, the sheet metal will go on the back of the shelves to protect the stuff on the shelves from the water that pours in through the cellar walls, the pipe will go to make a new bridge squisher for Women Unlimited, and the other stuff was just cool. I shall try to post pictures of how all this stuff works out as we go. I figure I have until the middle of next week to either find a use for this crap or get it to the curb for pick-up.

The mighty Quinn (and her Llama)

Our little Quinn and her Llama take a snooze. Quinn has red pajamas too, but prefers to sleep au naturale.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

humble beginnings

From little acorns... yeah, whatever. From the scattered ramblings of a middle-aged lesbian, a Pulitzer grows. We're hopin'.

So I am starting a blog and I am not sure why, except that I have this odd need to write. A lifetime spent with words is finally catching up with me. What once came easy now seems to live on its own. I must write. I must tell stories. I must work on dialogue. I must try very hard not to get sued.

Expect me to write about all kinds of stuff: politics, religion, sex, food, cooking, addiction, recovery, poor spelling and punctuation in public places, bad behavior by people who should know better, petty little local things, big, grand global things and assorted timely trivia. I will probably put up lots of pictures of my little dog Quinn, who is a nine-pound rock star. It will be boring to a great number of people and self-centered by its very nature. Get over it. Want somebody to write about your life? Get your own blog.

I think my greatest challenge will be remembering to post. My second greatest challenge will be liability laws. I hate those things.

In hopes of avoiding litigation, let me say here and now that anything you read in this site may or may not be true. It all springs from the dark and cobwebby corners of my brain. Some of the stuff there doesn't look quite like it did when it went in, so if you and I remember things differently, chalk my version up to creative license and fried brain cells. Some stories are just better for the telling with odd bits left out or interesting bits borrowed from somewhere else.

Bear with me as the site develops. I haven't a clue how any of this works, so I'll be learning as I go.

Blessed be.