Laurels Grow Fastest on Cobwebs

I spent the weekend cleaning the basement. I really enjoyed doing it . That’s for some special definitions of “enjoy”, of course. I mean, nobody likes crouching behind the furnace with a shopvac, but if you feel like you’re Doing Right by your family, and it’s something you’ve been meaning to do for two years, and there’s a dumpster right outside to make it easy to get rid of the crap you’re sucking up, and — in particular — the shopvac you’re borrowing is basically fueled by a rocket engine and makes anything in a four-inch radius simply vanish, then it’s not really that much a hardship, either.

I’d attach pictures, but they look just like what you’d expect:

  • BEFORE: Fairly cluttered basement with rubble in the corners and thirty years’ worth of dryer lint furred on the pipes. Gigantic wing-chair with deep cat-claw scarring sheds horsehair in the corner.
  • AFTER: Incrementally less cluttered, with visible corners and clean (but not washed) pipes. Gigantic stuffing-leaking wing-chair still present, after some soul-searching about cat’s single sacred refuge in the wide world.

Nobody’s going to mistake our basement for a freshly-painted rumpus room now, but neither are they going to mistake it for a HAUNTED SPIDER HOLE and start tapping the walls listening for immured prisoners.

Since I felt so virtuous knocking semi-permanent wooden structures apart and carrying them piecemeal, dusty and tainted with cat pee, out to the curb, I didn’t pay that much attention to my Weight Watchers over the weekend, and as a result I got a Big Fat Surprise this morning. Goddamn it. Now I have to eat like a @#$@# squirrel this week if I want to be able to claim any sort of forward progress. The trouble with wanting to be a skinny person is you have to eat like a skinny persion, and skinny people eat BORING FOOD. And not much of it.

Okay, here’s a photo after all:

Laurels Grow Fastest on Cobwebs

Guerilla Drive-In: The Life Aquatic at Dudas Diving Duds

Walking down Pond’s Edge Road from boarding School to the local strip mall, I would walk past an old 1700s barn behind a line of trees that I vaguely knew to be some kind of scuba-themed shirt shop, or something. It was called “Dudas Diving Duds”, and every now and then you’d see a car with a Dudas sticker. Ho-hum, I wonder if I have enough for a milkshake and why is school so boring?

WHAT A BLIND FOOL I WAS. Just on the other side of those trees is a hive of Authentic Nautical Adventure. Gleaming stainless-steel pipes connect banks of gleaming compressors to rows of scuba bottles. Wetsuits to be repaired hang in rows. There are piles of AUTHENTIC RECOVERED TREASURE in the corners — brass wheelhouses, compass fittings, silver bank notes. And there are sunburned adventurers walking around, just back from Africa and the Philippines, probably with wicked knives in battered plastic spring clips strapped to their calves. I dunno, that’s what divers do, right?

And when nobody’s looking, they put on their Team Zissou costumes and stand around all day in the Official Pose:

The Official Photograph.  The one where I'm holding my arm like this.

So, I ask you: what better place to show The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou than at Dudas Diving, in the roofless courtyard of their old barn? Nowhere, that’s where. Since there’s no electricity, Mike Dudas (second from right, above) threw an extension cord over the three-story wall, and Matt rented a balloon light from Knox (you can see one in action here. Thanks for the hospitality, Awesome Dudas Adventurers!

The reason we needed light is because I got my airbrush-tattoo kit up and running. You see, I’m preparing for a second career as a carney. Here’s a picture, after I nerdily arranged everything in Pelican cases:

The Tattoo Kit
That’s a 20-foot bottle of compressed nitrogen (at about 2500 PSI), a low-pressure regulator from a beer distributor, a quick-disconnect fitting from Home Depot, and an external-mix airbrush with alcohol-based tattoo paint from Tribal Tattoos in California. I used nitrogen instead of CO2 because, you know, we wanted to be green. Tribal Tattoos warned me against using nitrogen to power an airbrush because “it’s highly flammable”, so I figured I’d better stop taking their advice.

Instead, I took advice from Dudas’ tank master Toren Peterson, who performed a rigorous safety inspection of my work, then started spraying moviegoers with gothic thugg-style letters (because those are the only stencils I have so far):

Kate and I had a really good time. We had 28 people, which as far as I’m concerned is exactly the right amount for a Guerilla Drive-In. The only drawback was that it was colllllld, especially with the clear, starry sky overhead. But I had warm socks that Kate knit, and we made it through. For the next (and last) Guerilla Drive-In of the year in October, I think we’ll have to project directly across a roaring fire.

Again, thanks to everyone at Dudas (and especially Mike Dudas) for having us, and I’m sorry Toren ended up getting the crazy eye: ESTEBAN!!!

Guerilla Drive-In: The Life Aquatic at Dudas Diving Duds

Let’s have a child, we’ll name her Minnie Pearl

Kate told me this story on Tuesday:

Lydia [walks into the kitchen, holding a doll]: Mommy, I thought of a good name for the doll that Paula gave me.
Kate: Oh, that’s great, sweetie. What name will you give her?
Lydia [holds up doll]: I will name her VEN-GE-ANCE!

This awesome, piratical utterance is attributable to a short, yellow-hatted anarchist that we have been reading about recently. I will put her where she belongs, on a Dead Milkmen cover:

One Saturday I took a walk to Zipperhead. I met a girl there and she almost knocked me dead

From “Madeline’s Rescue“, which both Kate and I had read to her the day before:

Madeline jumped on a chair.
“Lord Cucuface!” she cried, “Beware!”
“Miss Genevieve, noblest dog in France,
You shall have your VEN-GE-ANCE!

Let’s have a child, we’ll name her Minnie Pearl

Wait, ice cream truck, stop! I’m not a ninja assassin, I SWEAR!

…but, oh please, couldn’t you mistake me for one, for just a moment?

Nitrogen on the sidecar
During lunch yesterday, I went and picked up a five pound (or, as I learned, a “20 foot”) bottle of compressed nitrogen from Keen Compressed Gas in West Chester. I love meddling in random areas of industry, since you get to (just for example) WALK OVER A METAL CATWALK in order to get inside. I told the fellow what I was up to, explained that I needed a bottle of gas for [SECRET UPCOMING PROJECT], and then completely ignored his advice to buy the big tank, since it wouldn’t have fit on the motorcycle.

Anyhow, I felt very glamorous and secret-agent-y with my industrial nitrogen bottle strapped to my sidecar, especially when I was chasing down the ice cream truck I met coming the other way, since I’ll need his involvement in [SECRET UPCOMING PROJECT]. Sadly, I lost him around Bolmar street. Apparently there’s some kind of ice-cream-truck batcave around there.

When I was googling compressed gas, I learned a new and interesting section of the yellow pages I had never seen before: “Carbonic Gases.” I also learned the other kinds of people that use them Carbonic Gases:

  • Welders,
  • West Chester University frat boys (CO2 bottles power their giant basement Kegerators),
  • Aquarium enthusiasts (i’m not sure why),
  • and very occasionally,

Wait, ice cream truck, stop! I’m not a ninja assassin, I SWEAR!

Back from Avalon

LBY works her one expression
We’re back from two whole weeks at a beach house in Avalon, New Jersey, and it was FANTASTIC. We rang all the chimes:

  • First week cold and rainy, so we had to entertain ourselves with jigsaw puzzles and a spinning captain’s chair: check. I’m not being sarcastic, here: this is a traditional and important part of any beach vacation, and is designed to test your nerve. The day we drove down was BEAUTIFUL, but we awoke the next morning to weather reports showing thunderstorms as far out as the forecast goes
  • Read all of the “Little House” books: check. Almanzo Wilder continues to be my hero, possibly because he is so much unlike me.
  • Embarass ourselves with Dance Dance Revolution on the boardwalk: check. Eleven-year-olds have now, it appeared, directly wired their brains into the computer; their feet are moving with unbelievable accuracy.
  • See the most terrifying ride you’ve ever seen at the boardwalk, and ride it: check. I rode the “Cyclone Extreme”, which (Google reveals afterwards) is a “Moser Super Flipping Action Arm.” It’s kind of like a fifty-foot-tall industrial welding robot arm with a chair on the end. Did I mention it was fifty feet tall?
  • Dig a big hole on the beach; so big that Matt could put his chair and umbrella in the hole: check
  • Henna tattoo: check. I got “KATE” tattooed on my left bicep in Olde English Gangsta Script, but my T-shirt sleeve fell down and smeared it, so it kind of looked like it said “CATS”. Sorry, Kate.
  • Lots of jumping and splashing in the water: check
  • Outdoor showers: check
  • Sunburned stomach: check

All in all, it was wonderful, and I’m sitting under Eighth avenue, about to roll into Penn Station and see what the work world has been up to while I’ve been gone. Gulp!

Back from Avalon