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Weekend Warrior

Ever since I was a kid, I relished the weekend as a time when I could retreat even further than normal into my own mind, whittling away hours drawing, writing, recording radio shows and playing games. To this day that hasn’t really changed. I never really envisioned myself as one of those weekend warrior types who gets his hands dirty wrenching on the family truckster, weeding the garden and painting the siding on the house all before lunch on Saturday. But this weekend I found myself doing a fair bit of those kinds of tasks, and in truth, it felt pretty good to get them done. And I didn’t even have to get up at the crack of dawn!

The first thing I should mention is the GTO. It’s finally here. It was, in fact, one of the first things that got done this Saturday morning. After a leisurely breakfast accompanied by an episode of The Rifleman on RTV, I started steam-mopping the kitchen floor and was just wrapping it up when the guy from Omar called. Omar Auto Transport, that is. You might have followed the saga of my vehicle shipment from our old home in Florida to our new one in Texas, and surmised from my posts that it wasn’t going quite according to plan. In fact the transport was by now almost two weeks behind schedule, with Omar getting more and more difficult to reach by the day. The end was finally nigh, however, when the truck driver called during my mopping routine and advised me that he was 20 minutes away, with an expected arrival time of around noon.

The driver, being from south Florida, didn’t have the world’s greatest grasp of the English language. I advised him that the streets of our community were pretty small and that he would be best advised to meet me in the parking lot of a local shopping center about a mile down the road. With the rendezvous point arranged, I got in Apple’s Mazda and headed down there to wait. About five or ten minutes past noon, after seeing no sign of the truck or my GTO, I received another phone call from the driver. He was outside our community and complaining that the streets were too narrow to fit the truck into. No, really? Isn’t that why I asked you to meet me elsewhere? I guess he didn’t understand me. I tried to get him to tell me exactly where he was, but he apparently wasn’t understanding that either, so I just fired up the Mazda and headed back the way I had come.

In the end, I didn’t have much trouble finding the truck. It was parked in a striped zone in the middle of the parkway outside our community. This was exactly how the guys loaded up the car in Florida, too — in the center of a six-lane highway. (And yes, it was the same guys, too.) Down there, a constable from the local sheriff’s department showed up with a few choice words for the trucker, none of them very nice. Our parkway is significantly smaller and less heavily trafficked, at least, but I couldn’t help looking over my shoulder regularly for any sign of the Texas P.D.

By the time I got to the scene, the GTO was already off the truck and on the street. And dirty as all get out. That was easily the nastiest that my garage queen has ever looked in its life. Climbing behind the wheel, you could barely see through the haze on the windshield. I inspected the vehicle for damage and found none, so I signed the requisite paperwork and handed over the money.

Oh — the money. As much as this whole transport was fouled up, I at least managed to save myself $200 off the original cost as a show of recompense. All of it came from my broker, who gave up all of his fee and essentially completed the job for nothing. (He attempted to get Omar to agree to a discount as well, but they refused, no doubt having escape clauses throughout their contract that excused them for each and every failing along the way.) Because I had already procured a USPS money order for the full original cost, I had to make it out to myself and then run out to cash it on Friday. In the end, this was good for two reasons — the most recent of which was the fact that, when the Omar driver called on Saturday, he said, “You have to pay me in cash.” Good thing I hadn’t stuck to the money order idea, I guess, because it would have been impossible to do anything about it on a Saturday!

Anyway, the guys in the truck finally left, and I had the keys to my car in hand again. Slipping the updated insurance paperwork into the glove box, my first priority was to get the thing off the parkway before something bad happened. Fortunately I was right outside the entrance to our community, so I pulled into the safety of its streets and parked temporarily in front of somebody’s house. I then ran back out to the road to get the Mazda and drove it to the community town center, where I could legally park it. Next I walked back to the GTO, drove it home, then walked back to the town center for the Mazda. After all of this vehicular jockeying around, I finally had both of my cars back in the stable again. (And I’d gotten some much-needed exercise while I was at it.)

The GTO needed washing like crazy, but that wasn’t going to be happening in the middle of the day with the sun beating down (ever try to wash a black car in direct sunlight with very hard water? Don’t bother). Instead, for the time being, I unpacked the boxes from the trunk and unloaded my car washing supplies, then Apple and I went up to Market Street for our weekly grocery shopping. Market Street is a Texas-based grocery chain that’s become our favorite store, and they’ve got a really nice hot food area with great grilled sandwiches and soups available every day. We had lunch there first, then loaded up on food to take home.

After putting away all of the groceries, I decided to change out the HVAC system air filter up in the attic. A couple weeks ago I’d gotten up there and found out that we needed a 20×25 filter, by virtue of the fact that the packaging for the last filter the previous owner had installed was still lying around up there. So yesterday I took the new filter that I’d purchased up to the attic and opened the air handler, only to discover that the filter was not the usual 20x25x1, but 20x25x4. Never seen anything like it. Fortunately I still had the receipt from Lowe’s and hadn’t unpackaged the new filter yet, so a new task was automatically added to my to-do list for the day.

While I was up in the attic, I decided to explore around. I’m looking at getting a TV for my upstairs media room pretty soon, and have been toying with the idea of going completely modern: mounting both the TV and the speakers on the wall, plus running all the cabling behind the sheetrock for a 100% clean appearance. Now, for a guy who doesn’t know the first thing about that kind of stuff, and whose entire budget is roughly equivalent to the money most people blow at Starbuck’s in a month, this was a fairly daunting task even on paper. I decided that some free exploration of the attic would be the first step.

The media room is the only room upstairs. The nice thing about this is, you can get up in the attic and see the backside of every wall of the room. The problem is that these are essentially “exterior walls”, so they have insulation and Tyvek sheeting on the backside, meaning you can’t even see the studs, the wiring, the old-work boxes or anything. I have no idea what to do with this, but hopefully I can get some help from my coworkers, at least some of whom are pretty handy. The other creepy thing about the attic is that there aren’t any floorboards in that part of it, giving you very little ability to actually work, and I damn near put my foot through the floor/ceiling at one point. The whole attic floor is covered with blown insulation, so you really have to feel around and make sure there’s actually a beam under where you’re about to put your foot, because you won’t see it. Honestly I was more freaked out by the time I came down from there than I’ve been in a long time. There’s nothing like puttering about in the inner workings of your most expensive asset without a clue of what you’re doing.

Anyway, after I got that over with, it was time to run out for a much-needed haircut and return that air filter. This was my first haircut in town and the first since mid-February, which I dare say had me perilously close to sporting a mullet. A local hair cuttery sent us some coupons in the mail, two of which were for free haircuts, so I went and got one. Then I went across the street to Lowe’s, only to discover that they didn’t have anything remotely like a four-inch thick air filter. The correct item promptly went on my Amazon wish list, as it seems I’ll be ordering this one online.

I went home, and by now it was time to tackle the irrigation system. Even before we moved into this house, we knew we had a busted sprinkler head in zone 3 – probably severed by a lawn mower. I tried to get the sellers to fix it, but they wouldn’t, and I wanted their house more than I wanted to force the issue. Last week, I scheduled an appointment for one of the city engineers stop by for a free irrigation system inspection — we get one free one each year. It was a great meeting, as I learned a lot about how our system works, how long I should water each zone, how to react to the change in seasons and how much water I could expect to use during each cycle. Of course, I once again was reminded of how much better I am with electronics than anything else: According to the engineer, I had perfectly programmed the irrigation controller already.

The engineer was, however, perplexed by zone 3. Although it was obvious that there was a broken head, he wasn’t sure what kind of head it was. The front lawn wasn’t getting sufficient coverage by the other zones, so he told me there had to be other nozzles on zone 3 that we weren’t seeing because there wasn’t enough water pressure to activate them. He said once that broken head was fixed, I’d probably see at least a couple more heads appear. But I’d have to dig up the old head to see whether it was a spray head or a rotor.

Although I know next to nothing about digging in the ground for things, this meeting left me with renewed interest in solving my own problems, so on Saturday afternoon I got out the garden trowel and attacked the lawn. First thing I did was cut a “donut” of grass and soil out from around the broken sprinkler head. Then I wrapped a rag around the old head and unscrewed it. Turns out it was a rotor — a Rain Bird R-50 Turf Bird, no longer manufactured. Damn thing was huge too; about the diameter of a soda can. I took it to Lowe’s and bought a Rain Bird 52SA rotor as a replacement; it has a stainless steel pop-up head that should resist damage a bit better than the old one!

Installation was pretty simple, but adjustment turned out to be trickier thanks to the ridiculously vague wording on the directions. Eventually I had to look up some third-party discussions about the rotors on my iPhone to figure out which way to turn the adjustment screws, after which I finally got the thing to stop spraying our front door. Incidentally, the city engineer was right: once the new rotor was installed, two more popped up from the middle of the yard, neatly filling the gap in coverage that our grass had been missing. The first regularly scheduled runtime for the nearly-repaired sprinklers is set for tomorrow morning. Another item crossed off the list.

I took a break to join Apple for dinner — fresh catfish — and then went outside to wash the grime off the GTO. I ran out of daylight a little sooner than I’d hoped, but the job got done. I’ve never seen the water in my car wash bucket look that dirty. Oh, and the new “Neverkink” garden hose I bought at Lowe’s worked out nicely, too.

By the end of Saturday, I was more than ready to hit the sack.

Sunday morning dawned, and Apple and I journeyed down to the Buddhist Center of Dallas to take part in the Songkran Festival, or Thai New Year. Apple has been craving her favorite authentic Thai foods lately, which you can’t just go to a typical Thai restaurant and order. Fortunately there were all kinds of great offerings available at the festival, including her favorite southern-style sour curry. She was like a kid in a candy store, loading up on food. We bought lots of stuff, some of which we ate there, and lots more of which we packed in bags to take home.

The festival was a lively event, filled with traditional Thai music (actually played live on real instruments), a parade and even a couple of Thai celebrities whom Apple recognized. At the end of the day we took part in the traditional new year’s blessing ceremony, wherein you take a silver cup of rose water and pour it into the hands of several Buddhist monks and respected elders in return for their blessings for the new year. We took lots of pictures and had a good time. And it was great to get out of the house for a while and do something fun.

Back home, I took my newly-washed GTO out for its first drive in Texas and thoroughly enjoyed the ride — the roads here are a lot more fun with a fun car to make the most of them. I also forgot what it was like to have random people’s heads turn as you go by. It’s been so long, I hadn’t remembered just how much noise the car makes — in a good way, of course!

We had more fresh fish for dinner and enjoyed one of our newest guilty pleasures: that reality show America’s Next Great Restaurant hosted by Bobby Flay and some other food industry personalities. It’s like American Idol for foodies, which I guess Apple and I are. One of the very first “rituals” we cultivated as newlyweds was to sit up late at night watching Food Network together in my old Orlando apartment while munching on (mostly not-very-healthy) midnight snacks, so I guess this is just an evolution of the tradition. We also like Kitchen Nightmares, hosted by potty-mouth Gordon Ramsay. I never thought we’d actually have this much to watch just on the free channels you can pick up with an antenna. Thank you, Channel Master — that was some of the best money I ever spent.

I briefly entertained the thought of unpacking my home theater system and setting it up in our living room this evening, but quickly put the kibosh on that idea after deciding that an episode of Fringe and a new post on the Oddball Update was more appropriate given everything I’d already accomplished this weekend. Sometimes you do have to put the brakes on.

It’s back to the regular workday grind tomorrow, but at least this time I have an extra cool car to drive in to work. Looking forward to it!

Join me next week on “This Odd House”, where I’ll add a new bathroom and install toe kick lighting under the cabinets. No, not really.

One thought to “Weekend Warrior”

  1. Whew! I’m tired just thinking about all that 🙂 I haven’t had a weekend like that in – well, maybe ever!

    Good for you for tackling those projects. It proves once again something I’ve always known about you – that you can do ANYTHING if you set your mind to it.

    The New Year’s celebration looks like a lot of fun. I’m glad Nantana was able to satifsy some of her cravings for home cooking.

    Enjoy driving your car to work – I bet it’s happy to be home!

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