Monday, April 16, 2012

Family Jobs and Muscle Pain...

First, let me say that my blog has officially been turned down by just about every advertiser on the Google network. I am not good enough for Target, Alaska Airlines, the Home Shopping Network, and some online venture that sells dildos. Pretty damn disappointing, but in retrospect, who would really want to advertise on a site chock full or cynicism and irony, top ten lists of things to do (but do very carefully) and with a readership of six. Perhaps those folks just do not know how powerful six people can be. I am making a personal stand to boycott all of the above unless they offer me free stuff - including dildos. I will proudly display them right next to my baseball cards.

You really have to be careful about the jobs you take on. My best friend, albeit a twisted and strange relationship, has bailed my ass out on many occassions- not literally bailed me out of jail - that has yet to happen, but has saved my rear from financial ruin, poor decisions, and doing really stupid things - so I owed him. Big time. What was the job - fix a minor plumbing problem in one of the rentals. A small problem - no big deal - well, it was a big deal. It was a basement apartment - in Florida - (for those of you who do not know, Florida is swamp, sand, and limestone - the first two were what the foundation of this home was built on - and for an unknown reason, the damn thing had sunk) - and basement apartments are filled with little problems - like settling - that cause plumbing issues. I walk in - and in front of me is a bipolar tenant, a tub filled with three days of human shit, and a toilet, proudly displaying its inability to flush without running into the tub. Brilliant. I was looking forward to catching hepatitis, and every other itis there was, but most of all, I was looking forward to figuring out a way to fix the damn problem. A tub full of shit and a toilet that too easily refilled the tub with shit. Hmm, sounded like a problem that my Dad could help me with. well, a week later, 60 hours of labor, I can proudly say that the tub has officially been raised four inches, there is a city sewer attached to the house now, a lift station has been designed and installed, the sewer to the house has been repiped, and I still smell like shit.

Good news, the problem is fixed, the place is rented, and I was able to get the crap out from under my nails. Bad news, that is the last family project I ever undertake again. My little brother, a hard worker, was there for four or five days, Dad was there forever for a couple of days, I spent endless nights digging, filling, gluing, cutting, cleaning, regluing, recleaning, and running to Home Depot for every imaginable plumbing fixture under the sun. I am happy that it is over. I am glad that we did it together. I am pleased with the work, but the experience was not one I care to remember....

It has been a while since I have posted a top ten list - but I am going to give it a try - we shall see how humerous this is...


1. Clean out and replumb a tub full of shit together. Your Mom always told you to eat your greens - now you have the opportunity to show her how well you have been doing. EXCUSE TO AVOID IT - Plumbers get paid $175 per hour for a reason.

2. Grading a slope for drainage problems. There is nothing more serious than a one-legged man with a shovel. There is also nothing quite as funny as a one-legged man with a shovel. Think about it. EXCUSE TO AVOID IT - Think Bob Cat.

3. Any project that requires your children to use a wheelbarrow and a shovel over spring break. Sure, all of the other kids went to the Bahamas or to Disney - you will be providing them with a life long lesson - stay in school, or every spring break will be filled with wheelbarrows and shovels. THERE IS NO EXCUSE TO AVOID PUTTING YOUR CHILDREN TO WORK - IT IS A CHARACTER BUILDER.

4. Any Home Depot DIY project. The reason they call it DIY - is because you first try to do it yourself, and buy parts from them. You screw up, break things, and have to call a professional who does it for you, and buys the parts from Home Depot. They get twice the money, just for blowing sunshine up your ass about your skills with a drill and a screwdriver. Note - if you are good with a drill and a screwdriver, that does not mean you can install siding on your house. EXCUSE TO AVOID IT - Since they installed self checkout lines in Home Depot - you now have people who are looking for something they don't understand, paying for it at a machine they cannot figure out, and returning it to a lady who could care less what their problems are. Avoid this.

5. Paint a room using a highly toxic scented paint. There is nothing better than three or four family members in the same confined space, high off of fumes, yelling at each other about who ate the last bowl of Lucky Charms when you were in the tenth grade. By the end of the evening, after your buzz has warn off, things will seem much clearer as to why your life went in the direction it did. EXCUSE TO AVOID - Beer and wine at Thanksgiving have the same affect. Use this to your advantage.

6. Build a swingset kit together, preferably one of the ones that is manufactured in China using some rare lead based stain with screws that fit no standard set, and instructions written by an english second language student somewhere in Xiang Dao province. I did this once - sure it leaned six inches, and there were a ton of left over parts - but the speed and efficiency that I displayed trying to get the hell away from the "helpers" led to a 427 part swingset being installed in less than an hour. Neat thing is that there have been no lawsuits or untimely collapses....yet. EXCUSE TO AVOID - Sixty minutes a day is the new slogan for kids - just so happens the park is a thirty minute walk away. Perfect.

7. Repair a new car with anyone over or approaching 65. Remember when cars were engines and there was room to get your hands around parts - good. That does not exist anymore. Under the hood is a sheer block of aluminum surrounded by neatly packaged blocks of aluminum, all bolted together with the same bolts that were used for the swingset above. Send your grandfather in search of the oil filter. Two hours later, go outside and see if he has found it, or if his hand is stuck somewhere in between two blocks of aluminum. EXCUSE TO AVOID - Oil changes are 19.99 for most makes and models.

8. Help your folks move from a 4,000 square foot home to a 1,600 square foot home. Turn the two car garage into a storage and stack everything that they may really need all the way in the back on top of sixteen underpacked boxes. That way, you can count on a phone call every two weeks or so wondering where all of the underwear or towels went. Make sure to put things like outlet testers, or fertilizer, or tupperware in front. This will ensure a phone call. EXCUSE TO AVOID - Listen, I have moved more crap in the past six months than I care to mention. I am 40. My back problems are just as real as their back problems.

9. Install a surround sound system and wire in every device known to man, including a tape recorder, a reel to reel system, an eight track cassette player, a solid state turntable, and don't forget an X-Box 360 and a 72" TV set. Then, get a 170 button remote. Leave. Just let them figure it out. EXCUSE TO AVOID = Much like the furniture moving, the remote will garner a large number of phone calls. Best thing to do - plug everything in so that the time is blinking, but only hook up the cable box. Easy fix.

10. Build something without directions or guidance. Just go to Home Depot, buy a shitpot of odd items, get some nails, and glue and tape, and invite everyone over and tell them to start working on your platform garden or your left handed deck or your additional built in bookshelves. Just be prepared to hear the right way, the wrong way, the cheap way, the fast way, the hard way, the old way the easy way, the new way, the creative way, the best way, and the only way to do it. By the time you are finished - if you finish, the new found respect you have for each other is profound.

All in all, the project was fun. I was able to pay things back and forward and help out a friend. Next time, I am going to help him find a phone book, and just go to lunch or dinner with my family.

Until next time...


Saturday, April 7, 2012

I ain't no Matt McConaughey...

And if that is who you are looking for - go here:

Otherwise, just stick around and let me, covered in shit, be your guide through this wonderful afternoon. Everything was pretty peaceful - Gabe cooked some chicken with jerk sauce, Gray rested from a long afternoon at the swimming pool with her friend, and I decided to change and wash sheets (a rare occassion at the Bennett Household, one worthy of a glass of red wine, and perhaps a couple of beers) - all fine until on this wonderful spring day, the sounds of bickering children cut through my screen like a fart on an elevator. I live in the low rent district (comparatively speaking) of this part of town - it is a new townhome subdivision, and it has a gate, and a pool, and we have walking trails and security gaurds and all of that planned community bullshit that us middle class folks like. My view happens to be of the next step up home - the single family homes, in another planned community - and my luck just so has it that immediatly behind me within 50 yards - is a pool inhabited by two of the most spoiled, poorly behaved, and regularly beaten children I have ever witnessed. When I say beaten, I do not mean in the clothes hanger and wooden board sense, but I am pretty sure those kids get a swat at least once a day for some unknown reason - and based on what I have to listen to right now, I am pretty sure that there is a good one coming. I imagine their names - the two little ones - to be Cedar and Sequoia, and with their haircuts, and their generally metrosexual swim shirts and trunks, I cannot really tell if they are boys or girls. I can tell that:

1. They are apparently related.
2. They are also related to Cain and Abel.
3. One of them or both of them will end up in prison.

How do I know this - because drowning is not a sport. Hitting your sibling with the garden sprinkler square in the face is not a tradition. Standing on the edge of the pool and telling your parents that you are going to pee pee in the water near Cedar is not something most normal children would do. My guess is that they are hopped up on adderall, or it's nearest pediatric friendly cousin, have just downed a half dozen Capri Suns and Fruit Rollups, and are raring to have a good knock down drag out fight. Just so you know, you cannot see my view, but at least you can see the windows that act as Bose Wave Radios throughout the backside of my house.

Note the "air conditioning" unit in the window. I find that to be a nice touch, one of these days, I will get around to nailing sheets over the windows, but for now, the wooden blinds and the box fan are all the accoutrement that I need for my palace. Besides, the box fan keeps air circulating throughout the house, particularly when I have the other two fans in my son's window and daughter's window. I have recieved one letter concerning the use of them from the HOA, but I am guessing they have since relinquished the rule on "no box fans that make your townhome look like a trailer park residence shall be used to cool or circulate air throughout the home" attitude. As far as nailing sheets to the windows goes - I don't really have any extra sheets, so that would be a total waste. I guess I could tape aluminum foil to them, and give my house that "I am a fucknut crazy lunatic" look...

Anyway, back to the kids in the backyard. They have been silenced by the enforcer, which I imagine is an au pair from some small eastern european country that sounds like you are spitting when you pronounce it properly. I don't think I have ever seen their Dad, and based on what I hear from the two angels, have to think that there is a large amount of golf being played on the weekends.

I digress. Digging ditches is a tough line of work. This may sound a bit bitchy, but my hands are intended to work on spreadsheets and such. My back is not quite the manual backhoe operator that it once was. My palate is easily tainted by the smell of septic waste and black water. Note the picture below:

That is what is left of the two inch blister I worked into my hand last weekend. It hurts like a son of a bitch, and aside from the lidocaine cream, really makes it difficult to eat anything with salt or vinegar in it. Nope, these hands were not properly conditioned for the task that I was ill prepared to tackle - we did get it done - and as you can see from the picture above, I carried with me not only the pride of being covered from head to toe in bodily fluids and having a Squiggy hairstyle naturally appearing after the first fourteen hours - but by the proof positive in my hands.

Anyway, back to the Matt McConawhatever thing. How in the hell does he do that? I have to think that all of us have ample opportunity to work out, eat right, you know, the things that we are supposed to do - but it just seems unnatural to me to be able to do that - but perhaps that is all he does. Maybe he does not have to get up with an alarm clock, or go to work, or even think about the next sheet washing cycle - I am sure he has concerns, but most of them are probably related to what white linen shirt and tight blue jeans he is going to pick out, or what catalog he is going to scan through when he takes his next constitutional to buy matching outfits for his children (I am not sure that he has children, just guessing, because for a while there, everyone in the movies had to have some kids to make it on to the cover of People). It is almost surreal to me that there are folks who don't really have to worry about much - they pay people to do that for them.

To hell with it, I am becoming a scientologist. I am guessing that is what does the trick...


Rebirth and Shit Pipes...

Wow. Seven months or so since I posted. Guess that is about the time I started ignoring what I needed to pay attention to, and seeking at least some monthly or bi-weekly assistance in the form of a blog. Great thing about blogs - they are the best kind of doctor - I don't know who is reading this, I don't particularly pay attention to the number of hits, and I certainly don't consider it private - but I do consider it enough of a way to get the garbage out without co-pays and hours on the welcome to my therapy session (image of crush red velvet couch, german philosopher smoking a pipe thr
ough his large white beard, and walls lined with books comes to mind) - feel free to interject your opinions on these wonderful subjects..,

There is no point in me even trying to explain what has transpired over the past seven months - a torrential downpour of water under the bridge, and I cannot remember most of it anyway - I guess what matters is what is happening now - I do know that P Diddy and Justin Bieber are popular, I think, and that the fucking Friday song is no longer available on YouTube - I know that the baseball season is back, and that, even without cable television, I can enjoy the entire Masters and listen to the commentators for each group or pairing. I know that I have been on a vacation, have been working, and have been spending time with my kids - but other than that, the rest of the details are pretty much the same boring shit all of us deal with on a daily basis - the Soft Parade that Jim Morrison talks about so eloquently - the escapism that we are all prone to divert our attention to. Sometimes, you just have to reel that weight in, and so for now, that is what I am doing. Reeling in the escapism, and throwing a bunch of idioms and (damn, I forget what you call those things that everyone says) those things that everybody says that make absolutely no sense. Gabe and I were discussing one the other day - "What is good for the goose is good for the gander" - and we pretty much agreed that any of those quotes can be taken the wrong way - depending on which way you look at it. Consider if all of the folks in the world who had a drinking problem suddenly stopped drinking. The alcohol sales would plummet, the distillers would go broke, the tax coffers would be empty, and high school gyms everywhere would be filled with folks at AA meetings - but then, because of the strain placed on the folks who lost their jobs because street projects could not get completed or the distillery laid them off, or the liquor store no longer needed a clerk, or the marketing department did not have the money for that ad campaign, or the football team could not get enough sponsorships, you get what I am saying - they all pick up the bottle because of their problems...nature hates a vacuum - but what is good for the goose is not always good for the gander - so in a way, even though I ramble, those platitudes are mostly bullshit once you scrape through the veneer of it all.

Easter weekend - the easter bunny and eggs are signs of fertility for those of you who are Christian, and who have easter bunny baskets and egg hunts - and they are based in Pagan and Roman traditions of celebrating the spring equinox, but I guess it would be a bad idea to sell chocolate crucifix Jesus, or have a "find the resurrected Jesus" hunt - anyway, Easter weekend is about rebirth. Plain and simple. Passover dinner, spring equinox, flowers blooming, women running around in bathing suits, nine months until the birth of christ - conception - that is what this weekend is all about. A celebration of life. For those of us who attach ourselves to no particular god or religion, we celebrate this weekend as well - it is good to celebrate the rebirth of things - all things are cyclical, and many things are reborn every day - I see it in my children - their quirks and smiles and traits - I have been reborn in them, and they will be reborn in their children. That is a celebration. I can celebrate that my grandmother and grandfather live on in me, good and bad, I can celebrate that how ever many generations from now, somewhere, there is a little teensy tiny piece of me floating around in the gene pool....

That is what Easter is about to me. Looking out my window right now, it is clear, sunny, the trees have leaves on them again, the maginolia trees have blooms, and I can hear laughter from the swimming pool. All good things that remind me there are always seasons for rebirth.

Shit pipes. Now my kids have always had the luxury of big spring break trips. This year, due to unforeseen but predictable financial circumstances, their trip this year consisted of a two day excursion to Uncle Aaron's place down in St. Augustine to install a lift station and some drainage pipes. I have to say, this has been one of the most rewarding spring breaks for me - I got to see my two kids work their asses off and laugh and smile, even though their spring break, literally, was a world of shit.

They were about as dirty as they had ever been in their lives, covered from head to toe in dirt, dust, and particles of whatever had flowed out of the septic tank - and they were happy. They had blisters on their hands, tired sore feet, and smelled like they had been feeding hogs all day long - but they were smiling and laughing and joking - most of all - and I mean this - they were helping. Watching a ten year old girl lift a shovel full of gravel or a soon to be fourteen year old boy tear off the rubber gloves, grab a sewer pump, and man handle the damn thing into place - it was amazing to see them as young people be so responsive and tough - they liked what they were doing, and were proud to be a part of it. I have to admit, I was proud of them for their toughness - I was proud of them for everything that they were doing - they did not have any idea of what they were doing - but they kept going - digging, hauling, moving, working - and the entire time - they laughed about it. Sewer pipes and french drains are no fun. Putting them in as a family, now that is rewarding. I encourage those of you who think that you need to escape to a resort or a weekend warrior challenge - replace a sewer line or dig up a backyard. If your family does not get closer through all of that, then seek counseling. The week has flown by - the day job coupled with the other work, 40 hours here, 40 hours there, things just went by quickly. Each night at dinner, Gabe would step up and cook, Gray would step up and help me clean, and all of us would sit down and laugh - about how bad we smelled, about how crazy Uncle Ronnie was, about how Poppy would randomly yell "Shit" like someone stricken with Turrets - and I could see in their faces how proud they were of their work - and I hope they felt how proud I was of them.

Yep, shit pipes and rebirth - they seem to go hand in hand - no fancy cruise, no trip to times square, no easter egg hunt, none of that stuff this year - just work - plain and simple - and through that work, sort of a rebirth of my vision for our family - that simple things and a little bit of focus on the right things can make all of the difference.

Happy Weekend....