Thursday, June 30, 2011

Brick-gathering Gone Awry

It was warm but not oppressive. It was still daylight. I knew that Home Depot had a relatively healthy supply of pavers that I needed to tap before they disappeared. So I made the trip.
It was a fateful decision.

I think I mentioned Ladybird’s recent woes. Well, she’s not really given me much trouble, just a few scares. That changed Tuesday night.

Little more than half-way home from my adventures with bricks, I hear an odd whine. It disappears almost as soon as I hear it. The temperature gauge starts to rise. Mind you, at this point, I’m on a not- that-well-lit strip of roadway with absolutely nothing nearby. The gauge spikes above normal but not into the red zone. I slow my pace but keep driving.

The whine returns; disappears. I pull into a gas station. And sit. About 15 minutes later, I’m back on the road. The gauge registers normal, but then starts to rise, quickly.

I’m incredibly close to home at this point so I pull into an empty but lit lot. Smoke is slowly billowing from beneath the hood. I am about three or so blocks away from a Dollar General/Family Dollar (some kinda discount store, I always mix these up) that I remember seeing now stays open until 10 p.m. I look at my phone. It’s 9:11 p.m. Whew! That’s a lucky break for me.

I prop open the hood, lock the car and start walking. When I get there, there is exactly one, ONE, jug of Prestone 50/50 antifreeze on the shelf. That’s the only kind of antifreeze they have, at all. It’s as if it was sitting there, waiting for me. I buy it and walk back. I fill the reservoir and then wait. It’s now after 9:30.

I finally made it home around 10, stopping less than a mile after I’d started to let the car cool for another 15-20 minutes. The mother followed me to the mechanic’s last night (I called him yesterday and he said bring ‘er down). It was strange to walk outside this morning and not see Ladybird in the driveway.

Cross your fingers that she will be back on the road soon – and that it won’t take the national debt to make her that way.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

The Trouble with Frank

I think I mentioned in a previous post that our “resident” mallard drake, Frank, seemed to be having foot issues. He’s been limping rather severely off and on, sometimes to the point of nearly falling over.

Over the weekend, I found out what the trouble is. It isn’t that there’s something wrong with Frank’s left foot. It’s that Frank’s left foot is missing. GONE!

When they’re out in the yard, standing in the grass, it’s very hard to see their feet. I made a point of training the camera on Frank’s feet the other day.

This is Frank. He’s so cute.

This is Frank’s foot.

Or Frank’s leg anyway, sans foot. You should be able to see a webbed foot right there. But you don't. What in the hell happened, Frank?! Poor guy.

The mother started arguing that he was that way when he first came. I scratched my head on that one. Then, I remembered the VERY FIRST photos I took of Frank and Jemmy.

Lousy though they may be, the photos are clear enough to show that they are standing not in the grass but in the driveway.

And, you can see that Frank had two feet on May 7.

The trauma also seems to have taken its toll on the color around his head. It was once vibrant and green. Now it's still green when the sun hits it just right, but not with the vibrancy it had last month.

This is Jemmy -- at our "pool."
I bought one of those small kiddie pools a few weeks ago and it has been a constant source of amusement ever since. The birds, the ducks, the squirrels, the bunnies -- EVERYBODY uses it! It's kind of a pain to keep clean, but I don't mind.

And while Jemmy still shows up a few times a day, at least for this week, Frank has been a no-show. I hope he's OK. We really like him!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Hey, That Sounds Familiar ...

I like to occasionally look at my blog stats. One of the best pieces of information they provide to me is how people are coming to the blog. Earlier this month, I noticed I was getting several visitors coming from Kathy’s Remodeling Blog.

Well, I love other people’s blogs, especially DIYers, so I had to check this out. I've found that it’s a fabulous way to discover new blogs and made many finds this way. (So, make sure you click that link and check out Kathy’s site!)

Boy, am I glad I did! Not only did I find a kindred spirit in the home improvement circuit, but I found out that both Kathy and I had snagged an award from (Turns out when I checked my email the next morning, I’d been sent a note from the website, too.)

We were both named among their picks of the Top 50 Home Improvement Blogs.

Somehow, This D*mn House landed in the Top Five. Some of my favorite housebloggers are among “the rest of the best.” Thumbs up to all my DIY brethren and sisthren on the honors!

I’m always both shocked and humbled when someone nods at the blog. Both it and the house are labors of love and true extensions of me, so I take that stuff a little personally. Affirmation is always welcome.

Thanks so much.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Back to the Bricks ... Again

No more storms yet today. Just unbearable humidity.

That made my trip earlier today all the more fun: brick-gathering. I decided I would check out Home Depot since our local Lowe's had kind of a crappy selection of Holland pavers. Turns out it was a smart move.

I came home 100 bricks heavier. (I didn't want to push it too much with Ladybird. She's been OK so far lately. Cross your fingers.) I'm HOPING that this weekend -- starting with Friday -- will NOT be beleaguered with storms. We are supposed to get more storms tonight and tomorrow -- both with a risk of severe -- I need some cooler, drier weather to start getting these bricks down.

And it looks like I'll be heading back to HD at least one night this week for more bricks. It gonna start lookin' like a brickyard around here again pretty soon ...

In the Dark

No lights. Again.

This started last night just before 9. That outage lasted 90 minutes. Then, less than 90 minutes later, the power went out again. And more than THREE HOURS later, it's still out.

I'm extremely grateful that it's not one of those nights where it was still almost 90 degrees at 11 p.m. (like it was just a few weeks ago). We'd die in here. As it is, it's warm because my idiot mother HAD to take a shower. (On SCALD and with no fan to remove the steam.) Nice.

And the mother is making me nuts with her need to be entertained. Right now she has to settle for a transistor radio ... so I can't sleep. And if I go in my room and shut the door -- there will be no air circulating, so that wouldn't be restful either. Basically, I'm screwed.

We went through this same thing last weekend except it was later in the morning and didn't last nearly as long. Enough!

Friday, June 24, 2011

St. Louis History: The Mark Twain Hotel

Hey, I know that building! The second I saw this postcard, a wave of familiarity coursed through me. Turns out I was right –it just wasn’t the building that immediately jumped in my head. My initial thought was that it was an early photo of this building – the Delany Building.
There are lots of similarities, but the Delany is smaller (five stories versus eight), older (1899 vs. 1908) and a few blocks away. As soon as I brought the photo of the Delany up, I knew that wasn't it. I Googled “Maryland Hotel” and found the Mark Twain. Yes, of course!

From the building’s National Register of Historic Places’ application:
The former Maryland Hotel is an eight-story commercial building located at 205 North Ninth
Street at the northwest comer of Ninth and Pine Streets in St. Louis, Missouri; it was designed in the Classical Revival style by St. Louis architect Albert B. Groves in 1907.

I quickly produced this photo of the Mark Twain that I had snapped last spring.

The elaborate upper cornice is missing as are the narrow second-story balconies above the doorways. But I was more shocked by what was missing in the old photo: the towering Frisco building (which you can clearly see to the right in my shot). If the Mark Twain (formerly the Maryland and later the Baltimore hotel) didn’t go up until 1908, where in the hell is the Frisco Building?! It should be there; it was built in two phases between 1903 and 1906. Perhaps it was nothing more than a case of 20th Century Photoshop …

Unlike many downtown buildings that have made the century mark, this one has maintained constant use for the purpose it was designed: a hotel. It opened Oct. 3, 1908, with the majority of its 250 rooms available at rates ranging from $1 to $2.50 a day. Can you even imagine?! Today, it is a residential hotel, not a temporary stop for weary travelers, mostly salesmen, heading west.

And it has been home to a variety of retail establishments and eateries on its first floor. According to the NRHP:

The lobby of the Maryland Hotel has been remodeled, covering up original marble floors with
carpet, marble and mahogany walls with a laminate, dropping the original 14.5' ceiling to about 8', and partitioning it into smaller spaces.

Oh dear Lord! That made my heart jump – and not in a good way. But then I read on …

The current owners are in the process of uncovering the original flooring and walls where possible, and removing the acoustical tile ceiling and some partitions; the lobby is and will remain about half its original size. Marble steps inremarkably good condition leading upstairs and down to the basement are still in use, marble baseboards are still in place in the lobby, and brass handrails are still in place on the basement steps. These will all be retained.

Whew! What a relief. I was about to go cardio for a minute. People do some really horrible and stupid things to glorious old buildings. I’m glad to see that some of the sins of the past are being rectified here…even if there have been some egregious losses:

The most prominent alteration to the Maryland Hotel was the removal of the terra cotta cornice. There are currently no plans to restore it. Balustrades that formerly crowned the bays windows at the eighth story have been removed. At the second story, a small terra cotta balcony in the center of each of the two ornamented elevations has also been removed.

Boo!! Hiss!!! But, for all those losses, the building has retained so much of its original ornamental detail in rather stellar condition.

Take a look at these bays!

Gorgeous, aren’t they? Can you imagine something like that falling to a wrecking ball? Shudder...

And I absolutely adore these griffins. They are just above street level. Real eye-catchers, no?

But there are even more details as you climb the bays to the top. There are cherubs with a compote and what looks like, to me anyway, dueling genies!

This is the kind of building that could give you whiplash as you jerk your head here and there, trying to take in all the mostly preserved details. So here she stands more than 100 years later in almost all her glory. And, please, let's keep it that way!


Thursday, June 23, 2011

Write, Rewrite, Rewrite, Write, Rewrite

One of the hugest challenges of writing is subjectivity. And amping up the angst level of that challenge when you get paid to write are the various layers of often conflicting subjectivity.

This frequently occurs when you have multiple eyeballs providing edits both before it gets to a client and once it arrives. Person A likes it this way. Person B likes it the way you had it five edits back. Person C wants it a completely different way, a way in which neither A nor B like.

And Person D? They can’t tell you what they do or don’t like about any of it; it’s just “not working” for them. We won’t even mention People E, F and G.

Shoot me now.

It’s been one of those weeks where things I’ve written have either sailed through with minimal edits – or been picked apart like a vulture would a carcass. No happy medium. That can make for a long and frustrating workweek, occasionally tempered by a nod from the boss or a client compliment.

Amid all the frustration though, I’ve caught myself being happy. Not happy about the frustration; happy about the writing. Hit or miss, win or lose, it’s in the doing. And I love that!

Does it mean that I love everything I’m tasked with writing? Hardly. Some topics I have to tackle are drier than burnt toast while others are fun and interesting. And then there’s always the writing I do for me, here. Ah, salvation thy name is Blogger.

That doesn’t mean that I won’t threaten on occasion to give up writing, which wouldn’t be unlike suddenly declaring that I’m giving up breathing. I think we all get to the point of threatening anarchy with things and people we love at some point. That’s life.

At the height of my pain this week, my gaze was captured by something on a colleague’s wall. In a simple black frame, in aqua-colored block letters is the phrase: Do what you LOVE what you do.

Yeah. That.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

It's a Birthday!

There's a birthday at our house today! And in honor of the occasion, there are two wrapped squeaky toys on the dining room table.

And someone will be getting broccoli with their dinner tonight. (And maybe even a tablespoon of vanilla icecream afterward.) Hmmm ... I wonder.
Who could it be?!

That's right. It's OZZIE!

Happy 14th Birthday to the best little buddy ever!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Repeat Performance, Plus ...

Yesterday's weather ended up being a repeat performance of Saturday's weather but with a twist: two hours without power.

Luckily, it didn't get that warm in the house but being kept up from just before 5:30 until just after 7:30 was not my idea of an ideal Sunday morning! I could have just gone back to bed, but with no fan to circulate, it would have been much to warm in my room for sleeping.

The mother woke me up at 5:27 a.m. to tell me we had no power. (Why she couldn't let me sleep and figure that out on my own when I got hot ... who knows?) Just as she said the words, the power came back on. Then went off. Then came back on. Then went off.

And stayed that way. When I checked the Ameren site shortly after 6 a.m., I was told that yes, i had no power; that I was one of nearly 2,500 customers currently without power and that it would be restored by 5:15 p.m. GAH! Luckily, they shaved 10 hours off that time.

Ladybird didn't deal well with the weather, running a bit on the hot side. I'm kind of concerned that maybe she is having some issues, perhaps with the heater core. That could be serious. Going to see what happens over the next day or two, watch her closely and be ready to call Jim the mechanic for help.

She CANNOT die on me yet. I got stuff to haul!!! Plus, she will be our vehicle once Pearl goes into the shop to get the hail damage repaired. This is always the way things seem to go though so I shouldn't be a bit surprised.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Stuck in a Weather Pattern

It was a hellacrazy week, capped off by storms both Thursday and yesterday.

As a result, I was awakened at 5:30 this morning by the mother with the announcement of “You’d better get up. This doesn’t look good.” When I got up, it didn’t look good. We had both a tornado and sever e storm warning in place. Lovely way to start the day.

Luckily, the tornado warning was pulled within 30 minutes. By the time I tried to get comfy again, the storms were here in full force, lighting up and shaking the house. I’m not sure when I finally fell back to sleep. Last time I remember seeing the clock, it was around 7:30.

It continued to storm for a good chunk of the morning, but that all wrapped up by late morning. The clouds hung around though and it even looked like it could rain again. Finally, the sun came blazing out and the clouds left the scene. I was wishing some of the clouds would have stayed as between full sun and the d*mned humidity, buddy it was HOTTTT!!!

I did a whole bunch of general household stuff and finally went out to mow. It was still a bit wet from this morning’s downpour, but I got it done. I'm a little sunburned and tired and achey but glad to have that behind me. We’re supposed to get more storms later and tomorrow morning … is supposed to be a repeat of this morning.

ARRRGGH! Enough already with this batsh*t weather. Seems like by the time these storms end, it will be time for it to get cold again. I'm totally sick of it. Who's with me?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

On Flag Day

Last weekend, I was parked behind a pickup that had what I thought was a very interesting bumper sticker. It featured the infamous Rebel flag (from the Civil War) and the words: “Love it or leave it.”

Like I said, interesting – albeit a bit flawed.

In the first place, the truck bearing said bumper sticker happened to be parked in Illinois and affixed to a vehicle with Illinois license plates. There was never any question of where “The Land of Lincoln” stood; it was clearly Union or northern territory. Had it been parked in say, Georgia or Alabama … it might not have struck me as so very odd.

To me though the bigger flaw is that the group for whom that flag was a symbol didn’t win the war. You didn’t win and you’re suggesting that someone in the winning territory leave the country? Hmmm … seems like some skewed logic there. Wake up folks, it’s been over for more than 155 years. It really is time to move on.

Especially considering that today is Flag Day, a day set aside to honor Old Glory. Here's my take on Flag Day -- St. Louis style.

A Feathered Friend Scare

I was greeted by a strange sight last night as I drove down the alley: Frank and Jemmy were in the yard!

They usually stop by very early in the morning (5:15ish), stop in briefly in the afternoon (per the mother) and then they circle back just before dusk (when I put more seeds out). At first, I was delighted.

My delight quickly changed to concern as I noticed that Frank was limping. At one point, he was all but falling over as he tried to eat. For more than an hour, he and Jemmy ate, got quick drinks (from our pool, more on that later) and then Frank laid down. He took a few brief naps, in between hobbling a step or two to get more food and then a drink. And then the cycle would repeat itself.

Meanwhile, our yard was starting to look like Wild Kingdom. Two ducks. Four squirrels. Two rabbits. About a dozen sparrows, a handful of robins, two Cardinal couples -- all within about 15 feet of one another. It was a sight to behold. For just a little while, except for all of the power lines and the din of traffic from our four-lane roadway, it was if we had moved to the country!

As it began to get dark, both Frank and Jemmy were laying in the yard. She was alert; he had his head tucked beneath a wing. This didn't look good. Some time later, he tried to crawl beneath one of the junipers but I think he found the thistly branches too unpleasant and he abandoned that idea, returning to the center of the yard.

I thought we were going to have to watch the two of them overnight -- especially because of the marauding neighborhood cats that we already chase out of the yard when they come to stalk our bunnies. We now own a Super Soaker to deal with the likes of them!

But, just as the last of the sunset color slipped from the sky, Jemmy began to waddle across the yard. When she hit the alley, she took flight. Frank limped along behind her. While he was flying low, he still managed to fly after her. Then they were gone. I walked a few blocks to see if he had fallen down anywhere but saw no sign of them.

Then, early this morning, Jemmy arrived. Alone. The mother and I were panic-stricken.

As I was gathering my stuff and finishing getting dressed, I suddenly heard the mother scream. I tore into the kitchen.

Frank was back!!! And not only was he back, he seemed to be walking OK!!! What a relief. I really worried about them last night and especially overnight as storms rolled through. And, I'm so glad we got to see them both BEFORE even more storms rolled through again. Ugh. (Good news is that the threat of severe weather seems to dry up later today.)

Here's hoping that it was just a freak thing and that he really is doing better.

Monday, June 13, 2011

More Weather Travails

I'm getting kind of tired of the weather ALWAYS being a "good news/bad news" scenario.

The good news: The weekend was gorgeous with very little rain and SPRING-LIKE temperatures (as opposed to the mid and upper 90s of last week and the week before that). That was extra good news for me because I was on the move most of the weekend with a birthday party on Saturday (with shopping for household stuff and washing a car piled on) and a bridal shower on Sunday.

The better news: We get to keep our spring weather for most of this week.

The bad news: It's supposed to rain every day this week (except maybe Friday) and at least through Wednesday we have the threat of severe weather. Really? Hasn't there been quite enough already, thanuveryfreakinmuch?! Mother Nature just needs to back off for a while. She's been waaaaaay too moody this year already -- and there's still another half of a year left!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Happy Anniversary, Baby

Got you on my miiiiiihhhiiiiiiiind … I had to finish that thought just so you’ll be hearing the Little River Band the rest of the day. You’re welcome.

But this isn’t that kind of anniversary. It’s a housaversary. And it’s a milestone.

Happy SILVER Anniversary, This D*mn House! While the blog has only been around for a sliver of that existence (2007, or 2008 if you count the year anyone actually started reading it), we closed on the house itself June 10, 1986. The concept of This D*mn House was born shortly thereafter – as a running joke for a syndicated TV show, much like “This Old House.”

And a serial rehab began.

HOLY CARP! On that date in 1986 …
· I had my name on a house mortgage, but not yet on a car title.
· I was not old enough to legally drink.
· I was still in college.

And now it's 25 years later. I am older (as the tinges of gray, beginnings of fine lines and extra pounds will attest) and I hope a lot wiser about many things. I've been trying to find the Polaroids from when we were looking at the house but with no luck.

Looking back, the avocado green linoleum in the kitchen should have been a warning ...

Here's a few other things to consider when you're looking at a house -- particularly an older one.

  • Closet space. This D*mn House was built in 1940. Each bedroom has a "closet" which would pass as a large kitchen cabinet for most people. People just didn't have as much stuff then and didn't need the space to keep it.

  • Electrical outlets. Again, because of the time it was built, rooms other than the kitchen weren't really adapted for today's power needs. Most rooms have a maximum of TWO plugs. Most have just one. (Until a few years ago, this included the dining room and a hallway which had NO outlets.)

  • Lot size. If you compromise and get a smaller home, does the property allow for expansion if you decide later to take that on?

  • Door size. While 36-inch is pretty much standard today, it wasn't always. During the first years we lived here, we had to widen the front door! Makes it a whole lot easier to get things like furniture and appliances in and out.

  • Bathrooms. I would never ever never again buy or even rent anything that had less than 2 baths.

So maybe I have gotten a little wiser. And hopefully, if this place doesn't kill me first, I'll get to see it finished, or at least mostly finished. I think it may always be a work in progress.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Men Behaving Badly

Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who got a laugh from Wednesday morning’s news reports that sex-scandaled Congressman Anthony Weiner called and apologized to … wait for it … former President Bill Clinton.

Last night, Jon Stewart’s response: “WHAT?!” Yeah, my thought exactly. Apologizing to Clinton for a sex scandal would be like apologizing to Nero for burning a hole in the upholstery. But then Stewart characterized it better than I could ever have hoped to: “Apologize for what? Copyright infringement?”

It’s been one of the few times I have laughed about this sexcapade saga with the Congressman, his phone cam and his preoccupation with Twitter and his, er, Little Anthony. I think it’s sad personally (I very much sympathize with his wife) but selfishly, I am grief-stricken professionally.

Weiner is one of a few Democratic bulldogs within Congress and God knows with Mr. Milquetoast in the White House, we need every one of them we can get! Weiner could be bombastic and even downright abrasive but it was usually on behalf of some worthy cause, or at least things I find worthy like healthcare, tax reform and the current societal class war.

Weiner is certainly not the first politician – nor, sadly, will he be the last – to be subject to some kind of sex scandal. Politicians are people, after all. They cheat on their wives, pay for hookers (and if you’re a Republican, you can do this and not resign), and lie about all of it just like men who aren’t politicians can.

The timing of this couldn’t be worse. With a new baby on the way, this should be one of the happiest times in his, and especially his wife’s, life. I’m rather doubting it can be at this moment. And professionally? I don’t know that there has ever been more at stake. Our country is having a really difficult time crawling out of the sh*tter that Dubya almost single-handedly drove us into, a situation not at all assuaged by the hijacking of an already radical Republican party by the Teaheads.

Unfortunately, as I’ve seen many a guy do, Mr. Weiner was thinking with the wrong head. And even more unfortunate, is that he will not be the only one to suffer for his misdeeds. It’s already creating rips in the Demo party, rips we can ill afford. I think it’s sad that so many from both sides of the aisle are already calling for Weiner’s resignation.

Sad … but necessary. The longer this drama drags on, the less important stuff gets done. I fear that the near future will bring more – and potentially even more damaging – revelations. So, let’s end it now and get back to business. An article on summed it up fabulously: Now, Anthony Weiner is no longer Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Today, he's just a tawdry babydaddy episode of Jerry Springer.

It would figure that once the Democrats finally get some cajones (Obama’s Bin Laden victory not withstanding), some fool feels the inappropriate need to not only take pictures but to post those visuals online.

Racin' for a Cure

The Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure is Saturday and in its honor, the Kiener Plaza fountain has turned pink.

Pretty cool, huh?

Organizers are hoping to draw 65,000 people to downtown on Saturday. Here's hoping that they succeed and that they get enough money to help take this blight off womanhood!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Vantage Point

What you see depends largely on where you are standing, how closely you are looking and from what angle. That’s why a vantage point is so very important.

Some of my recent photo outings to capture downtown views have proven this more than once. And yesterday, it proved amazingly true as I glimpsed a feature I had never seen before on a building I have seen thousands of times and probably photographed dozens of times.

This is the roofline of the Old Post Office. In the background is the Chemical Building. In the right of the photo, you see the outline of the giant sculpture that graces the roofline (a replica of the real deal that’s kept inside). Now, notice the mansard dome – that big black bulk with all the circles on it. Yeah. Cool portal windows. See those, too?(I’ve always liked those.)

Look along the very top. See the ornamentation? Look closely at the ornamentation. See the faces within it? No? Look closer. See them now?

I never did. Until yesterday. When I snapped that picture.

Even though I had taken this shot of the building a year ago in April.

If you look closely you can see the faces in the mansard. But I didn’t see them then – because my eyes were too busy taking in the bulk of the whole building, from ground level. Then, by having a completely different vantage point (high up and across the street), those previously missed faces were literally right in front of me. A little help from the zoom and they are completely in focus. Pretty amazing, huh?

It made me wonder just what else I’ve been missing – so I started looking around. I think my jaw dropped a dozen times in 30 minutes. (Watch for other missed architectural treasures in the weeks ahead.) It also made me wonder what else I’ve been missing not just in my environment, but in life in general. What else is right in front of me that I’m just not seeing, perhaps because it’s swallowed up by a preoccupation with “the bigger picture” – or because I haven’t moved myself to get another view?

I’m going to blame the MonkeyGirl for part of this line of thought. You see, she gave me a really cool frame last year.
One that, I’m ashamed to admit, had sat unboxed in my office. She gave it to me with a very specific purpose in mind: to display one of those otherwise unnoticed views I was lucky enough to capture. Thanks to my newly discovered vantage point, it is now out of its box and just waiting to be filled by a new discovery.

If you think about it, this frame kind of sums up life.

There are millions of “small things” that go unnoticed every day. Millions! For many, those small things could turn out to be things they care about or that could make them happy. Or that could change their lives.

It’s all a matter of how you look at it. And of where you happen to be when you’re looking.

If something doesn’t look right, try looking from another location (physically, mentally, emotionally). Or, even if you're pleased with the view, just to make sure you haven't missed something spectacular, change your vantage point.

You might be stunned by what you're missing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Shake, Shake, Shake

Apparently, we had an earthquake overnight. Really?

According to the National Weather Service report, the 4.2-quaker happened at 3:10 a.m. today about 50 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Mercifully, I slept through it. Didn't even know anything about it until an hour or two ago. That was not the case though back in the spring of 2008 when I awoke to something akin to a scene right out of "The Exorcist." That one though was a little stronger than this one, but not a lot.

And, it shouldn't be a surprise considering that it is originating from the general vicinity of the New Madrid fault. That sucker is long overdue for something bad. Here's hoping that's not what the 2012 calendar is predicting ...

Stupidity that Makes Me Mad

OK, stupidity in general makes me angry but here are a few specific things from the past few days. All of these are good examples of things that you just don’t think about happening, they’re so surreal. (And it makes the whole Anthony Weiner thing, which has me furious, seem very insignificant indeed.)

Three arrested, accused of illegally feeding homeless
In Orlando, Fla., three people from Orlando Food Not Bombs were arrested for violating a “city ordinance” by feeding the homeless in Lake Eola Park. Seriously? Yes, seriously. I had to reread the headline to make sure I was reading it right. Then I quickly scanned the story to see if they were giving them some kind of bad food. That wasn’t the case at all.

Apparently, they willfully violated this law following a U.S. District Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit in Atlanta ruled that city rules regulating how often large groups of people can be fed in a park do not violate the Constitution.

I’m sorry but that’s some f’d up stuff when we arrest people for feeding hungry people. How can this happen in a nation that has so much freakin’ food that 1/3 of us are overweight? What’s next? Citing Boy Scouts for jaywalking when they help little old ladies across the street?

When Vigilante Justice Goes Awry
I sometimes find myself wanting to take matters into my own hands when I feel an injustice has been done. But this story is a grim reminder of what can happen when an angry mob goes after—and then kills – an innocent man.

Bonded Labor: Modern-Day Slavery
Did you think that the Emancipation Proclamation ended slavery in 1865? Well, I’m not sure it completely did in the United States, but it definitely didn’t do anything to end it in other parts of the world. Can you imagine having your grandchildren being born with the shackle of your debt – and a small amount at that – locking them in place?

This story is just one example of slavery that is alive and well in South Asia.

I can’t imagine having this be my existence. Life is challenging enough, thankuverymuch.

The common thread in all of these stories are disadvantaged and disenfranchised people. We live in a world that is at the height of selfish behavior and in a country where too much is rapidly becoming the definition of “not enough.” Until we as a country and as a global society, learn to care about “the other guy” as much as we do ourselves none of this will ever change.

There are a lot of evildoers and many injustices in this world. What if we each took just one on, every day, even in some small way?

I’m thinking the world might be a much better place very, very quickly.

Monday, June 6, 2011

A Modern Take on a Historical Building

I love and adore the Arcade Building (8th and Olive) across from the Old Post Office.

After financing fell through on a development deal, it’s just been languishing for years. There was talk of it being torn down. (NO! Absolutely friggin’ not, people!)

Recently though, someone boarded up the uppermost windows which had been almost completely exposed when the plastic that had been covering them deteriorated. I took that as a good sign.

Then, several weeks ago, I noticed these canvases being put into place. I took that as an even better sign. I think they are awesomely cool. Some of the arches, which really are part of the space they are covering, are part of the canvas. On a few others, they’ve left the real arches exposed and fit the canvas neatly inside the arch.

They’re cooler still considering that the pictures inside the arch shapes feature architectural features from other buildings. I recognize three.

One is from the Railway Exchange Building. Why is it familiar? I have a similar photo (that I took) on the wall in my office!

Another is from the American Theater. Again, I recognized it from my own photos of the theater ...

And, the most recognizable, is from the Wainwright Building.

This is one of the ones where they tucked the canvas beneath the actual arch of the entryway/window instead of including a fake version in the canvas. I like the Wainwright well enough. But I much prefer some of Louis Sullivan's other works, especially his other existing St. Louis skyscraper, the Union Trust building. (Yes, I know. Call it sacrilege, but I think they should have torn down the Wainwright instead of the Buder or Title Guaranty buildings.) Even so, I'm glad they didn't and one of that infamous trio survived.

Sullivan supposedly was a mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright, though I fail to see much of his influence in Wright's work. Sorry. Again with the sacrilege ... Wright reportedly called the Wainwright Building "the very first human expression of a tall steel office-building as Architecture."

Well, maybe.

Record-setting Heat

Saturday was unbelievably hot. We supposedly broke a century-old record by reaching 98 degrees. I think it may even have been a little warmer on this side of the river.

Our thermometer in the carport had it at over 100 degrees in the shade. Even Pearl gauged it at 99 at one point. It was so hot that, short of doing some necessity running, I didn’t do much of anything. It was cooler on Sunday by about 10 degrees. Still pretty damned hot but I managed to get the mowing done and washed Ladybird. I also did a walk around to try and guess how many bricks I'm going to need. An initial guess is somewhere between 400 and 500. It will likely be more.

I didn’t make any progress on the bathroom. However, I’ve come to a decision.

With all of the various work that needs to get done, and with June looking more like July in terms of temps (three 96-degree days and a 99-degree day are forecast this week), if it isn’t too sizzling and not raining, I’ll work outside. If it’s too hot and/or raining, I’ll focus on the inside.

Make sense? It does to me so that’s my plan.

Friday, June 3, 2011

More Fun with Bricks

Sometimes, I need to just shut the hell up.

I need to just not go there and not actually vocalize what may – or may not – be going on in my head. Fall completely silent. Say nothing. I know what happens when I don’t heed this warning. You’d think I would learn. But I don’t.

As a result, I’ve managed to sign myself on for a HUGE, MONUMENTAL, MAMMOTH landscaping project. It involves removing a ton of rocks, laying down miles of thick plastic, digging out several thousand cubic yards of dirt, putting in several hundred bricks as edging, replacing the originally removed rock and reinforcing it with a quarry’s worth more of rock.

See – I told you it was HUGE!

And I still have a brick project already on the books, not to mention a kitchen and bathroom to FINISH. But ... I think all the project work, once I actually get it on track and start making real headway, will be cathartic. It always manages to clear the mind, the body, the soul. I'd be a liar if I said that wasn't a welcome thought.

It’s going to be a long, hot summer.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Unexpected Guest

It almost never fails that when I’m trying desperately to get something done, the proverbial fly lands in the ointment.

On Sunday, it was in the form of an unexpected guest. This one had two legs, but also two wings, feathers and a thin coat of down. It was a juvenile robin. Not a baby, but one who was very close to venturing forth on its own. I discovered it quite by accident.

As I was putting out some laundry late Sunday morning, birds were everywhere, many diligently drilling into the soft ground, pulling up worms. I spied another busy at work in my neighbors’ yard, near their pine tree. As I got closer though, it didn’t seem like he was drilling at all. He was flopping around wildly and falling over.

When I got to him, he was on his back. When I righted him, he tried diligently to stand up but promptly fell onto his side. Uh-oh. There he lay, helpless in the sun, open to bugs, the heat and predators. I quickly retrieved a box from the basement.

We have had our share of baby birds at This D*mn House over the years (as well as bunnies, kittens and mice). I know when one is diseased. This one was not. I still donned a latex glove as a precaution but I didn’t see anything that made me think this little guy could pass something on. Instead, it appeared that his entire left side was injured somehow, though there was no sign of damage. It appeared to affect both his left leg and wing, and also his neck as he could not hold his head upright. A neck injury maybe?

Maybe he had flown into my neighbors’ house or garage? It was really windy Sunday. Perhaps in one of its maiden flights, the wind had thrown it off course. Its mother was nearby along with a sibling of similar size who was following her around, shrieking to be fed, occasionally making its own awkward flights to spots not that far off the ground. I hated to upset her but I knew at this point, I could do more for him than she could.

With the help of one of Ozzie’s old syringes, I got a few drops of water into him. I carefully fed him tiny bits of wetted chicken. He eagerly ate, occasionally flipping the food out of his mouth. I wrapped some old rags in paper towels and tried to prop him up in a way that he could be comfortable enough to rest, but the poor thing never could quite get comfortable.

The mother says that it is not always our mission to save; many time it is just to comfort. Such was the case here. A few days of comfort with a bit of food, in a warm, safe place. Unfortunately, that was all I could provide. He could not be fixed.

Our little guest left us around six last night. Seems he was finally able to get comfortable, having gone on to the most loving care of all. Fly on, little one. Fly on.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Time Flies

Hope everyone had a fabulous holiday weekend.

It's amazing to me just how quickly four days can go! This is my fifth and last day off before heading back to work.

I have done yard work, stripped and skim-coated bathroom walls, taken paint inventory (and purchased new during the Memorial Day paint sale), chosen a body shop and gone there for an initial consult for Pearl's repairs and washed clothes.

It wssn't anything like I'd hoped to accomplish but we've been slowed a bit by an unexpected houseguest. (More on that later.)

Right now, I'm going to grab a quick bite, meet up with my new BFF Advil, and relish the last morning that after awaking before dawn like normal (for a third consecutive day), I can mercifully crawl back into bed for a few hours.

Then, we'll see just what else I can do before tomorrow comes ...