If I am repaired, can we meet again for the first time, in all of the places I have feared to go, and then, again, in all of the places I will have forgotten, if I am repaired?



Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The End of Westmoreland's Used Book Store

Westmoreland’s Used Book store is as all but dead now.

Yesterday I drove by and noticed it has finally conceded that our town is actually as illiterate as ‘all that’ and has hung a ‘For Rent’ sign about the boney neck of its doorknob.

Before I go on, let me remind you that Westmoreland does not have a stop light within the town proper and is nestled in the Appalachian foothills, near enough to the mountains that you can readily note the hillbilly gene in one out of every three of its inhabitants.

That said, the store opened less than a year ago in Westmoreland’s sub-prime retail district: the Town square, four doors up from Mike’s Food Valu.

I’m sure that I wasn’t the only one who thought—politely, under my breath and behind the backs of the joyous new business owners, stocking their fresh, pine shelves—What? Are you people idiots?

Other than a grocery and an auto parts store, the only business I can think of that might survive on the Town square would be a meth lab. Provided they could work out the legalities.

No native of Westmoreland, that I know of, has ever read a book for pleasure. Other than the Bible, and I hardly see how that counts. Isn’t there something these people could have Googled first? A background check on the Town? Hell, just standing out in the square for fifteen minutes, I think the Town’s level of ignorance... sorry, rural charm... would have been evident enough to convince them to peddle their wares... say, in… well, anywhere but Westmoreland.

Regardless the inevitability, I am sorry to see the little store close. It had nice books and great prices. Maybe they should try back in another hundred years.

Monday, December 27, 2010


I have eaten more cheese and processed sugar in the past two days, than I have in the past ten years.

Jackie—the local land, lumber and steel-roofing magnate—charitably brought me his surplus food gifts, (which I presume were the remnants of the annual baskets dumped on him by brown-nosed sales-reps and what-not) mostly cheese and a stick of beef sausage.

I kid you not; seven, hefty chunks of cheese. Fairly good cheese, too.

I’m guessing that any cheese, gifted to Jackie, other than ‘Pepperjack’—a pronounceable and provincial favorite—or that isn’t offered on the local, ‘Subway’ menu, is destined for the doorsteps of the ‘fruitcake from California’. “Steve’ll probably eat this foreign crap!”

(God only knows, it was probably all made by drunkards in Wisconsin. I’ve heard the stories.)

Anyway, it was appreciated far more than I let on. And, with the advent of vacuum packaging, I should be good now, on fat-saturated dairy, for the next two or three years.

The assortment of Christmas cookies that Bret’s wife Nadja bakes and has Bret deliver to me every year, didn’t fair so well. They were devoured within an hour after arrival.

I swear; I don’t understand how Bret continues to profess that perfection is not humanly attainable after eating them. Seriously, had Nadja been baking cookies two thousand years ago, there would have been no gold, frankincense and myrrh.   

Fortunately, my metabolism is such that any retention I experience from said sugar-dairy binge is resolved with a heavy dose of fiber. But then I suppose that is a bit too much information.

Live well and eat well my children, for some day, you will most assuredly die.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

A Change of Guard

I woke this morning and looked down—ever so slightly—at my little alarm clock’s numbers, silently glowing 4:32, there on the floor, (since having it sit up on a proper nightstand beside my newly, floor-mounted mattress was, by all means, a clash of decorative elements) and realized that I had forgotten how its alarm sounded.

I know that I didn’t wake to random radio back in the days that I employed the alarm—too much of a chance there of getting started off on the wrong foot; of having some ridiculous song burnt into my vulnerable morning-head and play loop-style for the remainder of the day. Worse yet was the risk of waking to the News.

I think the clock has a fairly standard electronic, pulsing, shrill for its alarm setting. Nothing danceable.

Anyway, all of my obligations for the past two years or so have been self inflicted, so this sound, this alarm, has faded from memory, like an ex-lover’s Minnesota accent. Poor, shunned, little function. Actually the clock itself runs fast and I’d be rid of it entirely, but there’s an exclusively male part of me who insists on keeping useless things around, ‘just in case’.

It truly is a joy though, not having to be punctual on a daily basis. Don’t get me wrong; there are still obligations and deadlines. But they’re my little challenges! Mine and mine alone! To rise and conquer! When I take the notion to get out of my warm bed!

Or, of course, when Dog needs to be let out for his bit of business.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


You know how, when the power goes out early in the day, and you throw a bit more wood on the fire and draw back a curtain and curl up in your favorite corner of the couch and pull something your grandmother knit up over your legs, and just sit and read in the warm sunlight that streams through the frosted glass.

And how, as you read, you begin to relish the romance of the situation: the old-world charm, as it were, the peace and quiet, and forget how you arrived to the luxuriant state you are in, and think, My, a cup of coffee would be absolute heaven right now.

And how, it's not until after you’ve marked your page, uncurled your legs and ventured the tips of one set of toes back into their slippers that you remember… “Shit! The power's out.”

A similar cycle of forgetting and remembering will go on all day for me today.

At least two dozen times in the next ten hours I will think it the perfect time to drive into Home Depot or Wal-Mart or the Feed Store or Cracker Barrel and then I'll remember… Christmas.

Because, after all... it is.

And everything is close.

As it should be. 

Merry Christmas. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010


So, in my never-ending quest to read all of the classic literature that I was steered away from by God-fearing hands in my teen years—I might have read them sooner, say, in my late twenties, but I had other things to catch up on as well, such as the fine art of being able to down 72 fluid ounces of Jim Beam in the course of an afternoon and still be able to stand (mostly) and remember all of the lyrics (mostly) when we hit the stage at 9:00I can now add, “the Catcher in the Rye.”

That kills me.

If I wasn’t so much like Holden, I probably would have hated the book. Hell, most of the reason I had put off reading it was that I hated the artwork on the jacket cover. I hate book covers from the fifties and early sixties. They're never serious. But what did I buy? A mint, Little, Brown and Co. 1951 edition. Sha-wing! See what I mean.

Anyway… Was that a book review? I hope so. Next up is Kipling’s “Kim”. I’m five pages in. I freakin’ love Kipling. This guy is like heroine to me right now.

Speaking of heroine… Did you know that kids are shooting up some sort of cancer medicine these days—a pill? What the F? There are way too many questions here for me to ask. So I won’t.

Speaking of getting high… I was in and out of the spray booth all day today. My head hurts.

Anybody getting anything good for Christmas?

Gwen, I do hope you are taking (and posting) lots of pictures. I can’t even imagine what kind of beautiful things you must plan. I want to see!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Word and Better Ideas

So, this word was sent to me via one of the two word-a-day services I subscribe to:

          liminal \LIM-uh-nl\, adjective:  relating to the point beyond which a sensation becomes too faint to be experienced.

Funny; spell-check has it underlined, hmmmmm. Anyway, it’s probably me, but this word—at least the definition—gives me the creeps. In a good way, but still…

Words rock.

Why is it that everyone that drops in—and there are way too many people dropping in these days, none of which or whom (Chess, Emmy?) have autism and breasts—wants to suggest what I should be doing to make money, as opposed to what I already do, which clearly is a labor of love.

For example: I should be carving gunstocks. There’s big money in carving gunstocks.

Hey, it still involves wood.

Yes and gun owners make me nervous, and for that matter I could be carving ten thousand, semi-duplicate Santa Clauses every Christmas. There’s big money in monotony. Just ask the Industrial revolution.

Working with wood is not necessarily woodworking, and, in general, is a far stretch from furniture building and design.

Oh, and then…

“You need to write 50 word children’s books. Not Children’s novels. There’s big money in those little books.”

Yes, and they are a dime a dozen and how many of them are ever made in to movies? Which, really, is where the BIG money is and the only place large enough to contain my ego.

Maybe it’s a vicarious thing. Maybe I need to put a chain across the drive.

That would be my luck. I’d string a log chain across the drive the day the G.R.A.S.P. bus was overheating and looking for a quaint farm to refresh its reservoirs.

Oh the burdens I bare.

Monday, December 20, 2010

One Down

Here are a couple pictures of the chest awaiting laquer and hardware...

Unless you veneer over Poplar...
it always looks like Poplar.

Oh... yes... well...

Emmy asked for a story for Christmas
 and I couldn't possibly say, 'no' to a request like that.
So I wrote there and not here,
and maybe, if she'll share... or it's worth sharing... we'll post it.
Then of course there has been the toy box, which is nearly done.
I'll get pictures up.
But there you have it,
and off again I go.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Don't bogart that joint....

...my friend.

Don't ever say that I held out on you...

Four phat joints...

Hardy Har Har...

I had to stop work on the piano for a bit,
to build a small chest before Christmas.
It's a frame and panel box.
Mitered beading on the rails and stiles.

I'll glue up the panel blanks tomorrow.

Oh... They came to pull the Mexicans van out.

The van was facing you when they started,
sitting in that crater there in the foreground
and leaning against that tree it's beside now.
That is to say, it was better off before they started.
Any further down the hill and I will own it,
because I'm sure it will cost more than those
poor Mexican guys want to fork over to get it up and out
of that wash.

Don't worry...
Soon as the ice is off the road
we'll get a tractor and some chain down there
and snatch that van out of there for those boys.
We ain't heartless.
We ain't stupid though, either. 


Monday, December 13, 2010

A Year's Worth, I Remembered the Battery, and a Cliff Hanger

In seven days I will have one year’s worth of journal on this hard drive.

Why does that not seem possible?

I wonder if I’ve said anything worth remembering this year.

I’m sure as hell not going back and reading through it all just to see.

Then why am I writing it?

I’d say it’s an exercise.

It’s supposed to be. Isn’t it? Warm ups, for the real deal?

Yeah, right.

I want some Ted Hughes-ish cat to weed through all of my whining nonsense, like Sylvia Plath’s, and drudge up enough brilliance to print posthumously… Maybe a business card or something.

Anyway… after buying a new battery for my big lawn mower every spring for the past six year because I can’t seem to remember to disconnect it and put it in the shop, over winter, where it won’t freeze. I did it. I remembered. Not the first, second or third time that I looked at the mower, when it was still warm and springy out, and said, “Don’t go and forget that battery this year, stupid!” Oh no, I had to wait until it was ten degrees outside and the wind was blowing fifty miles an hour and it was snowing sideways and I was already half-frozen, trying to get a heat-lamp out to the poor chickens,(another bit of procrastination). But! The battery is in the damn shop!

Oh, and those Mexican guys I wrote about a couple of posts back... the ones dicking around with the tobacco across the road. Their van is hanging on to the cliff edge, just below my pond… the very cliff edge that I have wondered what it would be like to slide off of the icy road and over. I think a tree is holding their van from tumbling the remaining thirty feet. No, it’s not their inability to drive in the snow. We don’t get snow here as much as we do ice. And there is no driving on ice.

As if it wasn’t bad enough to have to strip tobacco in ten degree weather...

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Slightly Introspective

When ever I roll up an extension cord, of the fifty or one hundred foot variety, I can hear my father say, “Extension cords have a memory. Roll them back the way they ask and they’ll never argue with you later.”

I took this literally when I was a kid. Maybe because life back then was all about memorizing stuff: words and colors and equations and bible verses. Memory was strictly a human trait.

I’ve learned since then, how the wires inside of an extension cord are twisted—spiraled so that the cord will roll out and lay fairly flat, yet with a little added care in rolling it back, an extension cord will return to its original coil, in much the same way a cowboy’s lariat will. A Cowboy could explain anything in those days.

It struck me though, last night, as I was rolling up yet another cord and listening to the pearls of my father, rattling around in my head - along with a vision of an extension cord, thrown carelessly into the back of Brrrre… well, somebody’s… truck, because it was ‘too late to dick with them’, now in frustrating snarls - how there is something else to be learned here… about memories and treating things the way they ask to be treated… and the rewards therein. A parable of sorts?

I suppose that into every corner is swept some bit of wisdom; another way to elucidate the well-elucidated and what would seem to be fairly obvious. So, I am sorry for the re-hashing. It just struck me, and you know how I get when I am struck.  

Friday, December 10, 2010

Manatee and Piano Update

Thought I'd let you see the piano...
and my Manatee...

The piano...

I'm guessing that we all know to click on the pictures to enlarge? Mom?

Slowly, but surely, I progress.


The Wetbacks have followed me to Eden. They’re huddled in summer layers, just beyond the gates. It’s the third day of the first hard freeze and they’ve come to strip the Burly tobacco, hanging in the great blue barns across the way.

I watch, as the restless youngers paw the frozen earth, marveling at their breath and waiting, while fathers learn from fathers the seduction of the brittle skins. When a verdict is made, they disperse into the barns and I hear them, taunting one another as they ladder the cured smoke down from the eaves: lush echoes of tropical color there inside the moon-skin steel walls, galvanized with frost.

I do so want to uncoil myself from these gray branches and join them in their work, sit beside the fires and eat the strange flat breads and marvelous spiced meats; these men, who have brought the sun and the heat of summer with them in their skin. But I don’t share their nakedness, their abandon. I never ate from that Tree. I am ashamed and there are angels, still, who guard the gates with swords of fire.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Ghost of Christmas and a Nod to Mr. Kipling

I don’t really think about Christmas until I’ve ordered something and UPS is later than usual about delivering it, or I want to go and get groceries and, ‘Why the hell are all these people here, shopping?'


Christmas just doesn’t happen here, up on my mountain, like it does in the rest of the world. There are no lights or trees or presents or family get-togethers. Top sides, we’ll pop popcorn and watch ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’, on Christmas Eve. We used to string popcorn for the tree when I was a kid. That was the greatest ever.

It’s not that I don’t want to do Christmas. I just don’t have any reasons to think about Christmas. So I don’t. And then, of course, it’s here and gone and too late.

Gloria is a huge fan of Christmas, and were she to actually manifest, it would be absolute mayhem around here. I guess I do have a kind of Christmas with her, in my head.

Our Christmas only last a second though, like they say that dreams do.

But still, we string popcorn to spin round the tree and bake bread dough ornaments in the oven that we paint and hang in the ever-green boughs. And there are presents, mounds of presents, mostly book shaped presents, but two or three you will find, when you get to digging, are shaped like mittens. And we’ll open one present each, together, on Christmas Eve and one hundred Christmas morning. There are smells, too: pumpkin and wasselly smells, sprinkley and sugary smells and beneath them all, the rich smell of fudge, and you are forever finding yourself back in the kitchen to taste and being told to stay out of this or stay out of that. And there is always snow that morning, Gloria sees to that, enough to go sledding anyway, and hot chocolate with marshmallows after and you’ll bring back your prickled cheeks and fingers to stand beside the fire and thaw.

I could go on and on, Best Beloved, but I’m sure you can see how one second could be the greatest Christmas ever. Can’t you?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Mostly pictures

So we had this...

Now we have this...

And there was this for a bottom...

Now there is this...

All of it lacks a final finish coat
and needs some color work
but you get the idea.
All work below the keyboard and any re-finishing,
 ( no doubt, I will have refinished the entire piano by the time I'm through)
is just because I want to do it...
well... have to do it.
You get lots of extras hiring an Aspie. 


Gwen, this is what I consider to be a mess...

Just so you don't think it never happens.

And Mr. Old Fool...
I thought you might like to see the beast that heats my shop...

Some locals made it.
She sat out in the weather for quite a while,
so she ain't pretty, but she'll throw out some heat now.

and here is the saw mill shed with the lath on...

I have an oak tree on the way.
She'll have shingles before you know it.
'Night ya'll.

Chapped Hands and Breakfast

My hands woke me up at three o’clock this morning. They where just that irritated… chapped. Winter, wood heat, cleaning them with paint thinner and the neglect, common to a preoccupied mind will do it every time. I need to put a pan of water on the stove, too, before my sinuses turn to dust.

So, the big breakfast was interesting... in a Heartland documentary kind of way.

I toted myself down to the Fairfield Masonic Lodge around eight. Sadly, I wasn't hungry.

The Lodge used to be a large, one room school house, with teacher's quarters upstairs. I like the building. Its kind of Shaker-esque salt-box with white siding and forest green metal roof. It has a small covered porch and door, front and center of the long side. I’m guessing the Masons did away with the windows... there's not one. 

Parked in the gravel lot and lawn were twenty or so pickup trucks when I arrived. I was hoping for less. Most of the trucks bear the eye and compass and square symbol, pentagram, or both.  

The old school’s guts have been reworked slightly to accommodate lodge meetings and the annual fund-raising fish fry and breakfast. There’s a brief foyer that sends you either off to your right, into the dark secrets of the Masonic brotherhood or you can go straight, into a sort of dinning hall with crowded drop ceiling, fluorescent lights, faux pine paneling and a tight wooden floor that has been painted battleship gray.

Clearly, people are eating breakfast in the latter. However, the Indiana Jones in me wants to wander off into the dark abyss to my right. Fortunately, before I can make a decision that might forever destroy my growing hold in the Fairfield community and possibly get my ass thrown out of a family oriented benefit breakfast, I’m instructed to, “Come on in! Get ya somethin’ to eat!”

I come on in. To my right, in the dinning hall, there’s a paneled kitchen behind a paneled serving bar that is stuffed full of a half-dozen men who easily take up the space of twenty average men. They’re wearing aprons, cutting up and slinging hash, as it were. On my left there are three rows of fold out tables covered in beige vinyl with obligatory sprigs of Christmas decorating their centers. There are fifteen or so eaters. Think: truck stop, greasy spoon, meat and three, mom and pop’s.

I’m being told what’s on the menu: two forms of fried pork, white flour biscuits and something that appears to be scrambled eggs… oh, and white gravy, of course. It all sounds so much more delicious than my usual yogurt and raisins and walnuts that I’m a bit befuddled and don’t know what to order. It’s suggested that I try a little bit of everything. I agree, and am served an enormous quantity of food, proportioned, I’m guessing, to what the server believed to be the common appetite.

I donate, spot Mike, the guy who invited me, seated and eating, and lug my plate of vittles in his direction.

Mike is glad I came and introduces me to the four or five others at the table, as ‘the guy you need to talk to if you ever need any furniture or cabinets’. I appreciate his selling me, I tell Mike and sit down and listen as they resume their conversation, which is politics, so I tune the conversation out and take a closer look at the room’s occupants.

Where there isn’t a Veteran, Farm Bureau, CO-OP or this or that Feed and Grain hat, there’s Brylcream. Fashion in the room is limited to plaid flannel, slacks and Members-Only or Carhartt jackets. I’m counting all the pores I see that have dilated past three millimeters, missing partials and coke bottle glasses when somebody says, “She’s from California you know,” and somebody else replies, “Well, that explains it!”

Breakfast is salty and greasy, but I eat it all and shake hands and remember to say my name most of the time and finally when it’s done I go home and change clothes and change me’s and hug Dog and tell Gloria about my adventure. Then I walk out to the shop and let the morning fade into make-believe, where it belongs.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Gutless Wonder

So, here is the piano gutted and with everything removed that I needed removed...

Pay close attention to the bottom half.

And back here...

Because you're about two days behind me with these pictures
and tomorrow I'm going to show you why you hire
 a woodworking Aspie to build your furniture.

NOOK, the Road and Breakfast with the Masons

‘I don’t want to wade through your stupid electronic NOOK books when I’m on line shopping for REAL books… EVER! I don’t even want the word NOOK mentioned anywhere in my shopping experience!’

That’s what I told Barnes & Noble, that of course, and, ‘Merry Christmas.’

Anyway, I was thinking, while watching Dog wander up the road, which I had pleaded with him to stay off of, (he’s his own dog, you know), how, I love that dog so very, very much. Yet he’s so careless and just trots off where he could get squished by a bonafide, reckless hillbilly navigating some hodgepodge of Detroit’s glory-days. He must know how my heart would break if he was run over. That I wouldn’t have a friend in the whole wide world left, except for Delmar, who doesn’t really count, because he told me he just hangs around for the feed. Besides, a cat’s days are always number during winter here in Coyoteville.

Then I thought of all the roads that I’ve crossed in my life, or wandered down, ignoring the pleas and cries at my back to return—to be careful.

Really, we’re not so different, this dog and I.

I will go and scoop up his broken bones and bring him back home. And I’ll nurse him or bury him one, just like they’ve done me so many times. Either way, he’ll loose a life out there. You always do. I’ve lost dozens and only cross the road these days for the mail.

And now I’m supposed to go to a breakfast, hosted by the local Mason Lodge—a rare public appearance—a meet-and-greet if you will, for the sake of the business. This effort to assimilate is rather like holding your breath and diving into the ocean to try and become a fish for an hour or so. It certainly produces the same results in me. Anyway, I’m taking my own eggs.

Friday, December 3, 2010

I don't even know...

I was born under the great American weight, burdened with pounds of sugar and the fatted calf. I cut records and broke laws and flocked the yearly trees, cultivated opinions and lost the love of art and the art of love. Eventually my back bent and grew stooped from all of the opportunity and so I built four walls to hold a roof up over my head, between me and the open sky, and a floor, just above the earth and right beneath my feet, so that I was suspended between the two, part of neither Heaven nor the Earth. The years still passed under the roof and I finally lost the taste for sugar and cooked meat and I came to miss the feel of earth and counting stars, however useless a task, and I wanted to return to wherever it was that I had once been and recall the grit and glitter. But in my haste, I had built no doors or windows into my walls. There was no leaving. So I poured out the pounds of sugar I had left onto the floor that I built under my feet and lay down on this white beach of sorts. With sand against my skin now, I stared into the dark and starless eaves. I tossed handfuls of the sugar up into the gloom and let it fall all around, blinking at times like the stars I remembered and I counted the flickers and lay in the sand there under the roof I had built over my head, the great American weight.   

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Piano

This is what I was given...

As you can see, my client already had a pretty good start
dismantling it before I was called.

Everything that is missing in these pictures,
was in a pile in their basement.
So I loaded it all into the truck and brought it back to the shop
to make heads or tails of it.

Now you have a before.

Bugs and Commisions

A rather demanding, midnight number two and morning clouds in my head, have led me to believe that I have a bug of some sort. Fortunately, bugs don’t fair well in my stomach. Too much yogurt, I suppose.

But it's got me trying to remember the last time I was sick. Not sick, sick. Just, blah sick, like this. I can’t remember. Maybe blah sick doesn’t make enough of an impression on me to be remembered.

I know that it’s been years since I was the laid-up kind of sick though... with the flu and all of its glorious green goop. I imagine it has something to do with my being out in public a bit more back then. People tend to make me sick.

Anyway, I’ve been working on my latest commission, too, hence the lack of posts. I tend to immerse myself. (This would be one of the reasons that chicks don’t dig me.)

I know that the word commission sounds like it involves a lot of money, but trust me; in this case it doesn’t. I’m looking at the fringe benefits: the possibility of more commissions and, well, just having an s-pile of fun. Seriously, this is a really cool job. I’d probably do it for free.

I’m converting an old upright piano into a computer desk.

Trust me; I’m doing this piano a favor.

I’ve had to gut the piano, which gets you pretty intimate with how they’re assembled. And from a furniture building standpoint, you can’t beat the craftsmanship of a musical instrument. It’s an absolute joy unearthing all of the old-school details: the lack of nails, the precision joinery and beautiful veneers, let alone the mechanics involved in creating the sound.

But then... I get to put it all back together... as something slightly different, but still with the same (although modified) pieces: moldings and panels and columns. This seriously rocks! I can’t wait to post the results. It’s going to out-do the Altar. Heck, I bet the Pope orders a piano computer desk when I get done.

Anyway, there’s an update…. with germs… so don’t forget to Purell or Germ-X or whatever.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bananas, Butter and Shingles... A Few of the Many Reasons Chicks Dig Me

I have now opened a banana from the bottom end 
and held a slice of butter in my mouth until it dissolved.
I can't say that I'll be making a habit of either,
but clearly, it's self-expanding experimentation like this,
coupled with the irresistible machismo 
of inventing one's very own shingle making machine
that makes chicks dig me.
No... really.
I made a shingle making machine.
And it works too.
Here, I'll show you...

We're going to use this stuff to make some shingles...

Oak firewood.
Mostly because this is a trial run, and I don't have anything better cut yet.

we take the firewood and screw it down to these squares of plywood.
They're like louvers.

They flip up...

Each piece of plywood will hold at least three blocks of wood...
shingle blanks... about 18 total.

When the blanks are all on and I'm ready to run the sawmill's blade over them,
(it's a bandsaw type and the blade moves horizontally to the work piece)
the plywood louvers will be in the down position.
Like this...

I push this handle...

and BLING!

The louvers pop up 1/2".

This is important.
This is what makes the shingle fat on one end and thin on the other.

This is part of what helps with the popping up.
See that tapered notch?

It rides on this little piece of wood, inside the box... 

This is inside the box...

The horizontal bar is what you were looking at in the photo above...
what the notch rides on. 
The verticals are just stays... guides.
The cut-outs are for venting sawdust.

This is the 'ladder'...
the deal that moves back and forth.

Here you can see the notch and the 1/2" off-set rail that drives the louvers up,
which creates the taper on the shingle.

So this...

went to this...

then here...
to get dressed...

And ended up this...

Only 4000 more to go.

And that is why chicks dig me.

At least my mom does.


The End 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Exercise Two

'Write a fragment of a story that is made up entirely of imperative commands:'

I was stumped on this one. An old cartoon bit kept going round in my head, so, well, sorry in advance for the the lame joke...

“Do the math, Chowderhead! Really. Tell me how you expect one stinkin’ bean to feed two full growd men for the winter. No, no, no… wait… let me guess… Plant it?
Tell me that’s not what you was thinkin’.
You gotta quit comin’ up with these brilliant ideas—give that brain of yours a rest now and again.
Come here, come here. Take a look outside and just tell me what you see.
Wipe the frost off the window first.
Don’t strain yourself, now. One word’ll do...
Land of Goshen! Give this man a prize! Sign him up for Mensa! Put him in charge of dee show!
Now Genius, since you’re on a roll, tell me again… what’s in my hand?  
Wait. Let me give you a little hint…
Now go get us two plates and a knife. I’m starvin’.”       

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Visit to Glenda's

Yesterday evening was warm. The moon was full and up before the sun had even set. It was a perfect evening, Gloria said, to walk across the road to the big blue barn where Glenda lives, and visit.

When the moon is going to be full, or mostly full, Glenda’s children and their families come to the big blue barn too. They gather there around dusk. When the sun sets, the men will go out to hunt. The women will stay back at the barn, tending the pups, if there are any, and visiting with Glenda.

Glenda is old now. She may be the oldest Red fox ever. Mostly, I think Glenda has lived this long because Gloria has taken care of her... spoiled her. Glenda has never really had to go out and hunt, or be hunted. If Glenda went out, it was just for exercise or to teach her pups.

Most of Glenda’s family was there when Gloria and I arrived. Twenty or more Reds of all sizes. Only four pups though—a late litter. Gloria convinced the mother to keep them up at the blue barn where she could bring them food and bedding if winter got rough.

We waited for the men to leave and then sat down to chat with Glenda and the young mothers. Gloria has been trying to learn Glenda’s entire real name—Glenda’s Red fox name. I don’t know if it’s possible. I think some of a Red fox’s name is in their blood, not just their memory.

I’ve told you about a Red fox’s name haven’t I?

Well, if I haven’t…

It’s kind of hard to explain, but a Red fox’s name is more like a story, a history book… a lineage. Take Glenda’s for instance, (Glenda, by the way, is just what I call her, since I can’t remember three minutes of her real name) Glenda’s fox name is also her mother’s name and her mother’s mother’s name and so on, all the way back to the very first mother of all Red foxes. There are stories too, and extra bits added in for the important foxes, like say, Glenda will probably have something added to her name about being the oldest Red fox ever.

Needless to say, it’s a long name, especially when humans say it. Gloria is doing pretty well at memorizing it, but she’s got a ways to go yet. Glenda gave Gloria another bit to learn last night. And now Gloria will have pups to look in on this winter… plenty of time to visit and learn some more.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Empty House


So, I found a place that wanted some of my furniture... the normal stuff. 
This is a good thing.
It will be a better thing if the lady who owns the place can actually sell my furniture.
She seems to think she can.
It's a start.
But here's the problem...
Now I don't have a kitchen table...
any table at all.
But since most of my meals consist of yogurt in a bowl
I'm dealing.
It's just harder to eat and read at the same time without a table.
I also don't have a bed.
I have a mattress, just no bed....
which I don't mind so much... 
Now my mattress is on the floor...
closer to the ground...
and look at this...

That's right Goldilocks...
Which one of the two bears is supposed to be sleeping on this bed...

not this one?

That's one big bedbug.

'First Rake'

There are three rakes in the tool shed: Grandfather’s, mine and a new rake for Aaron, my little brother. Aaron is five. It’s his first year raking leaves at Grandfather’s.

     The rakes are hung up on the wall in the back of the shed with the shovels and posthole digger. Aaron’s is a metal rake that Grandfather bought at Murphy’s Hardware, shiny and green. I take it down for him. It has two springs beneath the fan. “For extra snap,” I tell Aaron. “You’ll see.” It’s hard to explain raking. You learn quicker by doing it.

     This is my third year raking at Gramps. I started when I was Aaron’s age. My rake was my father’s when he was a boy. It’s bamboo, like Gramps. The fingers are anyway, long strips of it, bent at the end. Gramps says the handle is Rock Maple though. He has a hollow piece of bamboo with new fingers in it, to replace any that break. But I’ve never seen one break. Bamboo is strong.

     My rake feels lighter than Aaron’s, I notice, when I take it down from the wall; even though its fan is wider. Gramp’s rake is even bigger than mine. It’ll really clear some leaves.

     Out in the yard, Aaron is already experimenting. He’s choking his rake, holding it too close to the fan and digging a hole in the yard of leaves. His new metal rake is noisy. That’s going to take some getting used to.

     “What ya doin’ little man?” Grandfather said, coming out of the house carrying his jacket.

      “Rakin!” Aaron replies.

     “I can see that,” Grandfather said, shrugging his jacket on.

     I hand Gramps his rake.

     “Thank you son,” he says. “What do you say we show this little brother of yours how it’s done?”

     Grandfather has seven Sugar Maples, two Water Maples three Cherries and a Tulip Poplar in his yard. If that's not enough leaves, there's the Oak and Hickory leaves too, that are bigger than a man’s hand and red as blood, blown onto the yard from the stand of timber across the road.

     There's a light breeze coming down from the north. “We’ll rake with the wind," Grandfather says, "let it do some of the work for us.”

     The three of us wade through the brittle leaves up to the north end of the yard.
     Grandfather showed Aaron how to use his noisy, clacking metal rake—where to keep his hands. We rake in a line, the bamboo fingers of my rake scratching the earth in whispers, fssst, fssst, fssst. Aaron’s hands always work back down to the head of his rake. “He looks like he’s hoeing a garden,” Grandfather says, and we laugh. I looked that way once too.

     We rake the leaves into enormous piles. Some we’ll burn, some we’ll put on a big tarp, later and drag out to the chicken pen.

     The sun is low in the sky all day this time of year. Our shadows are long, stretching across the yard like it's late in the afternoon.“You tell the time by the temperature in fall. Not by the sun like you do in summer,” Grandfather said. “When you feel a chill coming on, it’s near time to pick up and get ready for supper.”

     It was near enough time to pick up that Grandfather said Aaron and I could play in the leaves until supper, as soon as we put our tools away.

     I showed Aaron how to hang his rake back. Then we picked the biggest pile of leaves and I showed him how to fall backward into it, then how to dive into it. We stuffed our jackets full of leaves to make muscles and tunneled through the pile like moles. We wrestled and bumped our heads. Aaron almost cried. I wouldn’t have blamed him. It hurt awful. Then we lay on our backs in the big pile and watched the only cloud in the sky, our warm breath, white puffs. I could feel the chill setting in, on my cheeks, my nose.

     “It’s almost supper time,” I told Aaron.

     “I know,” he said, “I know.”

Friday, November 19, 2010


So I got a new book: The 3 A.M. Epiphany. It's basically a bunch of writing exercises, and I'm going to do them all and post them like a good boy. If you read them, I'll hug you. If you critique'... double it. Mind you this is just sit down and get from beginning to end writing, no nit-picking, editing or major re-writes along the way. If you're feeling froggy and want to do the exercises along with... Come on!


Exercise One: Write a first person story using the first person pronouns only two times, 600 words or less.      

forget that there are still stretches of dirt road this long around here. It doesn’t seem possible any more. Elias’ place is an easy two miles off of the asphalt though. He’s Mennonite, real primitive: beards and buggies, no electricity or indoor plumbing, seven kids. Mennonites pretty much own Allen County, Kentucky right over the Tennessee line—my back yard.

     Elias runs the saw mill up there. Does a fair amount of business too, between the Community and outsiders. Long Creek runs through his property. Elias has got it dammed and a twenty acre lake backed up above his mill—the power supply. He’s got the sluice, the wheel, the whole nine yard, like you stepped back in time a hundred years. It’s worth the drive just to watch him operate: all those crazy levers, the belts howling and blade screaming—just an insane amount of power from something that flows through your fingers.

     There are usually some kids out in the lake, fishing or cruising around in the little hand powered paddle boat. It’s always quiet, but not this quiet. There’s no one around back either. The mill wheel is clicking just enough to keep it from getting water logged on bottom.

     It’s ten degrees cooler down in the mill. Elias has been cutting Cedar; the damp air is heady with it.

     “Anybody home? Elias? Joshua?”

     Joshua is his oldest, quiet—well quieter; they’re all pretty quiet around strangers—good kid, strong as an ox.

     Nobody’s around.

     The house sits back away from the mill, hidden but for a bit of gray roof and brick chimney. It’s a walk, but nothing like the drive in.

     There are clothes on the line: two blue-grey dresses, white bonnets and a small pair of black trousers. No dog. A half-dozen plump, gold Orpingtons are scratching up near the porch. The buggy is in the barn. There’s only one Belgium in the lot though, so maybe they’re out with the wagon, doing some light work that doesn’t need both of the big horses.

     Around back of the barn there’s about three acres of slow rise before the property climbs its way into a squat hill. The hill has long since been cleared of timber and replanted with fruit trees and grape vines. Elias’ wife makes jams and jellies to sell. The vines are black and bare, soon to be cut back for winter.

     Top of the hill is an enormous white oak, its branches low and long—a property marker most likely—and it looks like most of the community is gathered under it.

     A funeral? Where are all the buggies?

     The wagon and Belgium is up on the hill too, backed under one of the Oak's thick branches. Three men are standing in the back of it, Joshua and Elias, but the other man’s face is harder to make out, like he’s wearing a bonnet, but why? Joshua and Elias seem to be holding the man—helping him down out of the tree.

It’s strange what the mind doesn’t want to accept—what it ignores—when it thinks it can’t possibly be seeing what it is seeing. Things like rope and two mile stretches of dirt road that take you back in time. It's their damn business. Whatever was going on. I don't want any part of it, and pull out on to the asphalt and head toward the State line... home.  

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Back-Yard Impressionism

First, I would like to recommend opening a banana with Kung-Fu. Seriously. It will change your day… if not your life.

Second... well, there is no second.

What I did today was more PR, conveniently inside of the Frist Center, downtown Nashville, where they just so happen to be having an Impressionist... ism... Exhibit. Yep, Monet, Manet, Courbet, Renoir, Degas, Cézanne… right here in Hicktown.

Gloria went with, since I didn’t want to go alone and I didn’t think that I could pull off the seeing-eye-dog thing again. Not at an art exhibit.

Did you know that you can stand in front of a Monet all day, and it will never sink in that that is a real Monet, or whichever? God, and the picture frames. I know, I am so starved for art. Anyway...

Despite all the famous names, this was my favorite… Jules Bastien-Lepage, Hay Making

There are times when you see things so beautiful, you think, I am done, I need nothing more from life. It was that beautiful. I wanted to cry. I did cry. I came so close to touching it… touching her. Gloria told me not to.

The painting is enormous, the size of a wall. You walk in the room and she is just sitting there in that field. The clarity is stunning. She is so tired and worn thin, dazed, with the world and life all a blur around her, the realization that this is how the rest of my life is going to be just dawning on her. Twelve inches from her face and I swear I could hear her breathing.

Anyway… You know how if you don’t really know a lot about a certain form of art… a movement or a trend… it all kind of blends together…say for instance how one generation says another’s music all sounds the same. And it does. That’s because all of the artists of that age, that moment, have figured out what is ‘right’ and they are all trying to create their version, their interpretation of the same ‘right’. Distinctions are minimal and miniscule and tough to notice if you’re not pretty hung up on that particular scene. There’s nothing wrong with it. It was just kind of funny to walk into a room with five different heavy-hitter artist’s work, and have to make an effort to sort out who is who… and I know who is who.

Oh gawd, and one hick gal was about eight inches from a Monet—nothing famous, one though, from the time in his career when you really needed to step back from the work to see things in 'focus', unless you were appreciating the brush strokes—but I don't think she was and she says, “Gawd, now that’s just ugly.” She was amazed by what three steps back did for the work. I didn’t give her a flyer.

Then I thought we would never find the truck, because I put down bread crumbs and there are pigeons by the truckload in Nasville. Nothing works like it used to back in the old days.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Welcome, Inadequacies, Adequacies and Reviews

I'd like to take a moment class, to welcome the Soviet Chairman. I know that most of you are already acquainted, but it brings me great pleasure to know that yet another Lit/English major will be cringing at my poor grammar and flailing stories. Anyway, big Howdy! ya'll, for the Soviet Chairman.
I can feel an inadequate-writer phase coming on, which will probably result in an inadequate-Steve phase. Hence, French toast for breakfast again. French toast can cure anything, I’m certain.

So, I did a little door to door yesterday in the rain. Business to business, more like. The new flyers look great. Aggie’s Printing needs plugged, for the little good it will do.

I must say that I suck… and yet am somehow magnificent at PR. Thanks to my noodle’s glitch; it doesn’t dawn on me to extend hand (handshaking… ick) and name along with flyer and business card... no matter how many times I approach a front desk.

On the other hand - thanks to my noodle’s glitch - I am easily awestruck by people’s confidence and assertiveness; mesmerized by their business and creative skills. It shows. And folks do love having sunshine blown up their skirts. The wide-eye shy kid always gets a piece of candy… and a tour of the shop.

Anyway… I finally finished reading Great Expectations last week. I like Miss Havisham and her house… very creepy-cool. Pip is a sniveler, and the ending sucked.

And that’s why I don’t review books.

Speaking of which, my P.G. Wodehouse anthology arrived. Sam Clemens has always been my epitome humorists. Or was he a satirist? Anyway, we’ll see how Mr. Wodehouse fairs against the American master. Don’t worry, there won’t be a review.

Oh! And Howl’s Moving Castle! Aside from the whole Speed Racer thing, pretty cool.