Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wall Eyed

Joshua fit de battle of Jericho, and the walls came a tumbalin' down
Traditional American spiritual song

Mr Gorbachev, tear down this wall.
Ronald Reagan, 1987

We'd really open up this room if we could knock down this wall.
Linda Kennedy, 2010

5 years ago


"Something there is that does not like a wall," wrote the great New England poet, Robert Frost. Well LK and I have figured out what that "something" is. It's called Andrew, and he is the designer for the company building our kitchen.

With all the posts I've written about this new kitchen, I haven't adequately acknowledged Andrew's role in our decision-making. Perhaps the easiest way to explain it is to tell you what was said when we first booked an appointment to have him come out and quote on our renovation work.

"Should I decide the things I want in the kitchen before he comes out?" LK asked the woman making the appointment.

"Sure," she said, "that would be a good idea. You can tell Andrew what you want, and then he will tell you what you're going to get."

If you think that makes Andrew sound precious, you are sharing our concerns before we met him. But once he arrived, Andrew turned out to be funny, intelligent and quite likeable. He had some great ideas about how to design the kitchen. His first - and undoubtedly best - idea was to stand in the kitchen area for a short time and suggest that we would have a dramatically better space if we were to knock out the wall in the middle of the room.

No arguments from us on that since we had already noted that it really closed the room in. And once that seed of an idea was planted in our minds, it was impossible to go back to Plan A. Even though we later discovered that this was a load-bearing wall and it would add about 10% to the renovation to add new support to the roof so the wall could be taken down.

That didn't phase my bride. "Surely we have a 10% contingency plan in our budget," LK said, forgetting briefly that we are now retired and are no longer the budget-obsessive people we were while working.

I reminded her that this notion of a renovation budget was something she was picking up from watching too many home improvement TV shows. Our "budget" was pretty much whatever everything was going to cost once we added them up. So who needs a contingency line when their budget is already a moveable feast? Or when Andrew says something is a good idea.

And so it came that yesterday the house changed dramatically as Justin and Nick, the builders, came in and did their stuff.

Bracing the ceiling, lifting the roof and then doing mysterious builder stuff in the attic, they came down after a few hours and Nick began removing the offending wall.

You can get a sense from the pictures at the top what a difference it makes.

Justin is back today for a little bit of plastering work, and then tomorrow the new flooring comes. After that it's kickers, painting, tiling, plumbing, appliances and electricals. It's close enough to see what it's going to be like. And, I must say, we're feeling really good about it. Especially because so far it's all coming in on budget.

Saturday, October 30, 2010


We know everyone is different, but occasionally life deals us a hand that makes it crystal clear just how different two people can be.

It's as if the real world has come up with its own Rorschach tests. And we all know how much those classic inkblots reveal about people. LK, for example, looks at these and sees dancing bears, while I see a gay Samurai warrior wearing furry red underpants and staring intently at me in a steamy Japanese bathhouse.

In much the same way, the various events of this renovation are highlighting how different the two of us can be.

It was brought home to me this morning when the woman from the online lighting store rang to tell LK that her lights had arrived early from Europe (where else would you expect them to be from?). They had originally said they were unlikely to be delivered prior to our holiday, but now they are actually going to be here in time to be installed before we leave on our trip.

My reaction was low-key. OK, maybe even a little curmudgeonly. To me, these were things we had already paid for and knew they were going to show up eventually. It was nice to know that we could tick off one more task before we headed off to Egypt, but it was not that big a deal.

LK, on the other hand, acted as if she had won the lottery. She literally jumped for joy. She was excited. I know because she kept saying, "I'm so excited!" Ten hours later she was still saying, "I'm so excited!" and giggling like a little girl on Christmas Eve, And she kept looking askance at me for not sharing her glee.

"Aren't you excited?" she asked. No, let me be precise. "Aren't you excited?" she challenged.

I know the answer is supposed to be, "Of course, dear, but you know that being from Vermont I don't show my excitement the way other people do." But after ten hours of unbridled LK glee, the best I could manage was, "Well, I'm happy you're so happy, but really we knew we were going to get these lights so it's not that big a deal to me."

Glee levels were high, though, and my crankiness wasn't going to bring this woman down to earth. "Oh, you just don't get it," she said confidently. "This is really, really exciting."

And so we ended the fourth day of reno. With the countertops now in place (My mother told me no one in the US knows what I mean when I called them benchtops), LK was able to confidently proclaim that she could really visualize it all now, and, yes, by God, she'd made the right choices. That too, you may have guessed, was exciting. Really exciting, in fact.

And we are now almost halfway through the process. That, I feel, may be the most exciting.


LK tests paint colors on the wall we will remove this weekend

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Cupboard Was Bare - But There

Cabinets growing on the grotty walls which really need their tiles
Good-bye pink insulation. And new floor Monday!
They are actually a bit ahead of their schedule, and the guys doing the cabinets are taking today off so the bench tops can be put in.

So far, except for losing electricity for a couple of hours due to a faulty power point plate, it has been seamless. LK and I just sit downstairs on the laptops or reading and when we go up at the end of the afternoon, there's new stuff to look at.

We will probably entertain ourselves today by driving down to the Red Velvet Lounge for lunch. That is if Harvey Norman delivers our dishwasher before noon. The dishwasher was supposed to be here Monday. But the sales guy put in the wrong date and it became Tuesday. The fridge and stove showed up all right, but no dishwasher. Apparently it was lost in the warehouse somewhere, but they found it Wednesday afternoon and we will have it today.

All that remains is the In-Sink-Erator and a new microwave, which have left the warehouse in Sydney but may not get here until the 8th. We are starting to get used to delivery times to Hobart.

In the meantime, I think both of us are ready for all of this to draw to a conclusion. Last night LK plugged in an electric fry pan we picked up since we have no way to cook indoors now, and it was pretty windy to think of a barbecue.

Probably noteworthy, though, is that she was using it in the garage and cooking in it on top of the washing machine. It reminded me ever so slightly of having to do our laundry out of the boot of the car a few months ago.

Sure, we understood that the renovation would be a great inconvenience during the two weeks it was happening. But for me it has brought home just how long it has been since we were sitting in a house that was, well, finished -  no cartons around, furniture in place, no cords and cables around, no holes in the wall waiting to be patched and painted, no stuff in the way that isn't supposed to be in the way. Settled.

Counting the time we got the Sydney house ready to sell, it's a little more than a year, but at least we see the finish line now (even if it is a mile away).

Of course, the long times to get things done are partly due to situations beyond our control and partly due to our travels. It's hard to get your house set up while lounging on the deck of a cruise ship. We understand that and we understand the need to make choices.

Which is why we are heading overseas the day after this kitchen is finished. Lights and painting can wait. We need another holiday!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Notes from the Bunker

Reno Day 1: Gutted

Reno Day 2: Like Spring flowers, cabinets sprout from the bare ground


LK and I don't fight. We have discussions. You know, discussions where our voices get just a little louder and our sentences get just a little shorter.

Last night's "discussion" went a bit like this:

L: You haven't blogged. You need to blog.
D: I will get around to it.

L: No, you need to do it. You promised to track the renovation.
D: I believe I am retired. You know, as in, no bosses and no work hours anymore.

L: Blogging isn't work, and you need to do it.
D: You know, my mother just guilt trips me about not blogging. You're actually harrassing me.

L: Well, somebody has to. You need to blog about the renovation.
D: When I think of something to write about, I will. Right now, all I can think to say is that on the first day we went downstairs and when we came up later, there wasn't anything in the kitchen except for wall cavities full of pink insulation and dangling power outlets. And on the second day, we actually left the house when the workmen came, and when we came back there were the beginnings of some cabinets in place.

L: There's lots to write about. Write about how awful the first day was - how we were virtually trapped in the family room beause we had to be home to take delivery of appliances. Write about how we had no water for a couple of hours, and just when they turned it on, we lost electricity for hours, so we couldn't even take a shower.
D: Why don't you write it? You seem to have it down pretty well. Besides, you wrote one post ages ago, and it was the most-read post that year.

L: It's your blog. I'm just giving you suggestions for what to write and telling you that you need to post. And also, you need to get over the fact that more people read my post than any of yours.
D: I will write about the reno eventually, but I am tired tonight.

Pause for the evening. Sleep. Wake up the next morning. Turn on the heat in the downstairs room, make the coffee, walking upstairs to get water in the bathroom and milk from the fridge.

Sit down to check e-mail. Take first sip of coffee.

L: I thought of a start for your blog. You ended your last one saying we were going to run away downstairs. Why not start the new one with "Notes from the Bunker"?
D: (No reply. Began typing instead.)

The cupboards are bare. For one day, at least
No, not a toilet in the kitchen. The sink will overlook the Bay.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Kitchen's Last Day

This was our kitchen this morning, and, no, LK is not the world's untidiest housekeeper. That stuff is on the benchtop for a good reason.

Eight weeks ago we began unpacking and putting together the kitchenware. Today Linda is reversing the process and re-packing everything so the kitchen will be empty tomorrow. For that is the day it is going to the great scrapheap in the sky.

I am quite impressed with how organized my bride is. While I was running around getting the car inspected and picking up local license plates, she emptied most of the cupboards. This follows a week in which she cleared out massive amounts of cartons left over from the move in order to make room in the garage for some of the old cupboards.

LK is quite efficient, so it's no surprise to see her so much in control. But it does make me feel a tad guilty sitting here writing about how hard she is working while she is still working so hard.

But not guilty enough to stop writing, I should add.

Since the kitchen won't exist after tomorrow, this is the final chance we have to explain why we are submitting ourselves to the craziness of a renovation.

If you didn't look closely at that picture at the top, you might not have noticed the curious lack of similarity between the various cupboards.

If I were a real estate agent, I would call it "a charming, authentic multi-veneered, dual-height storage system".  But what it is, in fact, is a cheap cabinet that the last tenant put up to get A) some more storage space and B) some lower storage space since his wife couldn't reach the other cupboards. Practical, yes, but never going to win design awards.

If you look closely at the picture, you will also see just a hint of the curtains that are hanging in the kitchen and elsewhere in the living room at full length. The picture to the right shows them in all their glory. Those, too are getting replaced once we get back from our next trip.

I can offer you two pieces of evidence about how awful those curtains are: First, LK was talking to Sandy on Skype, using the webcam so they could see each other. But Sandy couldn't help herself and looked right past her sister at those curtains behind her. "Oh my God," she said in a shocked voice, "what is that behind you!"

The second proof is even more direct. I think they look awful and need to be replaced. And I never (never!) notice or care about things like that.

But back to the kitchen, here's a shot of the pantry. It's nice and tall and deep. But if you look real carefully, you will see that it doesn't hold much because, except at the top, there are no shelves going across from side to side. Just little shelves about the width of a jam jar wrapping around the sides.

Which leaves the entire middle of the pantry as empty space, not storage space. I can't even begin to figure out why you would build a pantry like that, but I have a hunch. Remember how I said the previous tenant was a short woman. I think she may have literally stepped inside the pantry in order to get the things on the narrow shelves. Or her husband used to just put her in there and shut the door when he wanted privacy. Either way it will be nice to have a pantry that actually stores your stuff for you.

On the other hand, as we get older and begin to shrink, I suppose we could end up wishing we'd held onto the short-person option.

I haven't mentioned the odd spatial things going on in the kitchen.

The benchtop and the island are about twice as far from one another as in a standard kitchen. The fridge is off on its own, so far removed from the rest of the room that you pretty much burn off half the calories of anything you get from it.

And the stovetop ended up about three feet to the right of the oven, which might be a design feature except it is pretty obvious the room has no design.

So tonight we will farewell the kitchen. Tomorrow we will run away to the downstairs room as the team comes in to demolish it. And by this time tomorrow we should have absolutely nothing in that space as it awaits the new cabinets. Only this time, we're going to try to make them match one another.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

On With the Show

I knew something was off today. Here it was a Thursday, but there were kids all over the neighborhood in the middle of the school day. I may have been down here only 10 weeks, but I am now a professional retired person with his very own Seniors Card. I know when things on the block aren't going the way they normally do.

And because I am an official retired person, I needed to know why.

Now, the kids were not a problem, but every time I looked up from the baseball playoff games, there they were skateboarding or kicking a ball or just rolling on the grass. LK and I figured there was some sort of school holiday, but then we started seeing the grown-ups. They were out in shorts and t-shirts mowing lawns, washing cards and all sorts of other things that have us convinced that Tasmanians don't seem to know the difference between spring and summer.

Something was definitely going on, and we needed to know what it was.

So to Google we went to solve the mystery, and two clicks of the mouse later we had our answer. Today was Royal Hobart Show Day.  Occurring every year on the "Thursday before the fourth Saturday of October" (I won't even try to figure that out), the Royal Hobart Show Day is a holiday for all of Tasmania "south of Oatlands and Swansea", except for the west coast.

And it is, obviously, a holiday to celebrate the start of the Royal Hobart Show. LK looked this up and it is a four-day fair run by the Royal Agricultural Society of Tasmania to celebrate rural Australia. I am used to these sort of things happening at the end of the growing season so everyone can marvel at the biggest pumpkin or the longest cucumber, but I guess having it at the beginning of the warmer weather makes it kind of a kick-off party. And it has the added benefit that our farmers won't have any competitive pressure on them during the harvest.

We considered going to the event, if you can call a 30-second conversation giving it our consideration.

Basically the conversation was:
DK: What do they have there?
LK: Livestock judging, wood chopping, and rural youth boot throwing.
DK: Wanna go?
LK: No

I didn't disagree. Sure, if you were next door you would drop by to watch the alpaca judging, but I wouldn't want to sit through the judging for cattle, pigs, dogs, lamb, cats, rabbits and poultry that were also on the schedule. Wood chopping didn't seem exciting enough to justify the drive to Glenorchy.

But I must admit, there was some temptation to check out the Rural Youth Boot Throwing competition. Partly, I admit, because Rural Youth sounds like Rural Juror, that great title in 30 Rock. But mostly because I have never seen a boot throwing competition, and given all the stuff I've been watching on TV, it surely wasn't going to be the worst thing I've looked at this week.

These fairs that bring the country folks into the city to celebrate their work always seem to be great occasions. I go back to the Rutland Fair when I was little, and the New York State Fair in Syracuse when I was in my teens. Loved them.

We never made the Royal Easter Show in Sydney, but by that stage in our lives, neither one of us could stand the thought of crowds and queues and parking two miles away.

So I do appreciate the enthusiasm Tassie has for its agricultural shows, and it's as good a reason for a public holiday as any I've thought of. But it did occur to me that it's a good thing this boot throwing contest is happening here in Tassie. If it were in Sydney, you could just about predict that some suburban lawyer mother would sue so her city brat could compete and throw his boots, too. Even if she had to buy them for him the weekend before the show.

Sunday, October 17, 2010


After 69 days we have finally emerged into open spaces. We believe we may have set a record because we can find no record of anyone else who had NOT unpacked their belongings for such a lengthy period of time once they moved house. But this past week, Linda put Plan B into place. Box cutter in hand, she attacked box after box until we could finally see the garage floor - not to mention clearing the big boxes from under the kitchen counters and in our bedroom.

It's not as if we didn't want to unpack earlier. In fact, we had already emptied about half of the boxes that we shipped down here. But it didn't make much sense to unpack the rest for a variety of reasons.

We had to paint and carpet the family room, so we wanted to wait for that. (OK, we didn't HAVE to paint and carpet, but the bright blue and yellow walls and bight blue carpet really did clash with our furniture. In fact, they would have clashed with any furniture. You know it was bad when even I couldn't stand it.)

Once that work was finished, we emptied quite a few cartons, and now we are getting most of the remaining cartons done because we are only 10 days away from The Reno. That's not the Nevada city, and is pronounced like wren-oh. It's short for renovation, and I cannot believe we are actually going through with it.

For the past several years we have been addicted to all those reality TV shows dealing with property, especially building or renovating homes. Grand Designs, Homes Under the Hammer, Property Ladder and just about anything else that got its dramatic moments from all the things that can get screwed up when doing this kind of work. And then there's the even scarier ones like Holmes on Homes and Help! My House Is Falling Down, which focus on the plight of very unlucky home buyers and sends us to bed dreaming of dry rot, backed-up sewers and subsidence.

I know why we decided to put in a new kitchen. The current one doesn't have anywhere near enough storage space. The previous tenants put up some really ugly cabinets that don't match the other ones. The gas stove top is a bit like a 12-year-old's science experiment every time you light it. And the space is so ridiculously spread out that you probably lose weight walking from the sink to the fridge to get an ingredient.

All that said, having spent so many hours gorging on the reality TV that amounts to the real horror shows for the middle class, I am not altogether sure why we have given the go-ahead to have an internal wall knocked down and our kitchen gutted and replaced, but it's coming soon and we're getting the house ready.

Already we're adding 10 percent to the cost because we need a new beam to support the roof when we knock out the wall in the kitchen. The new flooring - which I really loved - is coming in higher than we planned. And awhile ago I overheard a chilling comment: LK talking to someone at the lighting store when she answered their question by telling them, "I don't actually have a budget."

None of this bodes well for the retirement fund, but right now the costs are still within the amount we set aside to renovate when we sold our Sydney house. So, with luck, we won't be replicating the woes we see on all those TV renovation shows. In the meantime, I think we should limit our reality TV viewing to Toddlers and Tiaras and Project Runway. Not much chance of either of us trying to duplicate them.

And, always looking on the bright side, LK pointed out that once it starts I am sure to have plenty to write about in this blog.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Optusian Wars: The Epilogue

The Optusian Death Star did not explode, but the Wars have ended. More with a whimper than a bang, I suppose.

When last we saw our heroine, it seemed that the Optusians were abandoning their incessant attacks on her. They gladly refunded money when asked, and the Optusian ambassador readily granted every request she made. He even seemed to sympathize with her litany of complaints - sending bills to the wrong address, cancelling service when the bills that never came weren't paid, putting her in debt collection, charging her penalties for all this and then, when her service was suspended, adding a monthly fee for insurance she hadn't requested.

Optimists thought it was the happy ending of the movie. They didn't know it was only the end of Act II.

After that last episode, LK ended up with a credit to her Optus account, so she decided she would not cancel it but use it instead to sign up for another 2-year contract in order to get (me) a free new phone. It was a controversial choice, and even her loving son the Prince used nice words, but basically told her he thought she was nuts. I knew enough to just say, "Whatever you want, dear."

About a week later, LK called to get the new phone. She got to tell her story again. And soon she got to once again demand to speak to the representative's manager. Then she got to tell the story yet again. It was to no avail. The Optusians could not (or would not) give her the deal she wanted. She wanted it, I might add, because it was a deal that was listed on their web site.

In the end, the Optus Consulate Official told her the problem seemed to lie in the fact that she had a business account. He offered to convert it to a personal account and told her she could go online in a few hours and complete her transaction.

"Thank you," she said, "that's the kind of service I have always received from Optus for the past 17 years."

Of course, she ended up getting the kind of service she's been getting this year, because his promise to change her account never eventuated. LK finally acknowledged that there could be no compromise with the Optusians, no meeting half-way, no dancing around the fire with the teddy bears.
On Thursday she moved to Telstra. Today, after receiving an Optus bill that ate up all her credits and added $12 more even though she hadn't used the phone all month, she remembered to cancel the service.

This time, she wasn't put on hold, and the Optusian who took her call was as friendly and nice as Optusians can be. He even told her he wanted her to tell her story, which she reluctantly agreed to do - hopefully for the last time. She concluded by telling him that she had already signed a contract with the Telstra Empire, the Optusians' archenemies.

"Is there anything we can do to keep your business?" he asked. "No," she replied, "as I told you, I've already signed a contract with Telstra."

And so, the Optusian Wars have ended. As with so many wars, there are no winners. There are certainly losers. Perhaps the terrible toll of this conflict is best understood by some things LK said to Caroline about it the other night.

Moving amazingly fast through the stages of grief, LK told her about the last foray and concluded, "It's beyond dumb and dumber. It's dumb, stupid, ignoramus, asshole!" But a few moments later, in a much more somber mood, she admitted to Caroline, "I wanted to weep. I wanted to say, 'I used to be important'."

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Mama's Boy

Dear Mama,

I know you've been unhappy that I haven't written a blog post for a week. How do I know? Well, mostly because you've complained about it three different times this week. And now I am getting seriously worried that all the work I have done to seem like a good son might go out the window just because I have had a lazy week.

So I am going to write this post even though I haven't solved the problem that caused me to not write anything this week. Namely, I can't think of anything to write about.

It's not like nothing has happened, but nothing very interesting has happened. Come to think of it, though, anyone who has read this blog before already knows that that isn't enough to stop me from writing a post. Maybe I've just gone super lazy, but this week I just never had a lightbulb go on over my head.

So instead of a post, I'm just writing this letter to tell you what's happened.

After Wally and Judy left Monday, we went online to see how you go about cleansing your liver. In the end, it seems like mine is never going to scrub up sparkling clean, so I've modified the goal to just give it a little rest. Starting Monday morning we're not going to have any drinks for a couple of weeks.

We've done it before, so I know I can do it. But if I start writing posts about wild monkeys swinging on the lights you should just ignore them and not worry that we are actually being attacked by the Wild Apes of Tasmania. And, hey, at least you won't be able to complain that I haven't blogged.

Tuesday morning the guy came to put in the carpet in the family room downstairs. Even though we'd gone to the store the week before and told them they would have to move the heavier furniture, he came alone.  I don't know if this means the guy at the store has poor listening skills or if he deliberately is messing with me. Nonetheless, I got to test out whether my Wii exercises actually were building up my upper body strength. Let's just say that on Wednesday I was glad I don't use my arms to walk.

The room looks good with the new carpet and the new paint job. Since it's where three of us watched the game last week, I think it should be called the Champion Magpies room, but LK doesn't see things my way, probably because she wasn't with us. So instead we're just calling it the Family Room, even though the Family is just LK and me.

Thursday we unpacked some stuff and Friday we moved some stuff around. And somewhere in the back of our minds is that we have to get as much stuff unpacked as we can because they sent the schedule for the kitchen renovation and it's coming in a couple of weeks.

And, oh yes, you will be happy to know that the Optusian Wars ended when I bought LK a new phone on Friday and she moved to another phone company. Come to think of it, I might save that story so I have something to write about tomorrow.

We're still loving Tassie. The weather here is gorgeous, the flowers and trees are all blooming, the grass is growing too fast, and it's really nice to once again have a real spring where so many things pop back to life.

Talk to you tomorrow.



Sunday, October 3, 2010

A Cakewalk

Good old Collingwood forever,
They know how to play the game,
Side by side they stick together
To uphold the Magpies' name.
Hear the barrackers shouting,
As all barrackers should,
Oh, the Premiership's a cakewalk
For good old Collingwood.

OK. The rhyme may be a bit off. I can live with "forever" and "together" but "shouting" and "cakewalk"? I think the writer just gave up. And this may be the only 8-line song in history that has the word "barrackers" twice - and at least the poet had enough sense not to try to rhyme that word.

Nonetheless, the old English teacher in me can't help but suggest that it would all rhyme perfectly if they made the last 4 lines:

Hear all the barrackers squawk,
As all barrackers should,
Oh, the Premiership's a cakewalk
For good old Collingwood.

But I'm not 100% sure the barrackers (that's "fans" for you Yanks) would want to sing a song about them squawking. It will be easy enough to find out, because the Magpies would have no greater barrackers than Wally and Judy who spent the weekend with us.

It was a glorious weekend for them, and the Collingwood song was sung in our house (as throughout the land) with gusto and more than a few tears in the eye.  The Magpies won the AFL championship with a resounding victory. After barely surviving to fight again after last week's drawn match, in yesterday's replay they attacked with gusto and ran away with a 108-52 victory. And for those Yanks who aren't all that sure about the scoring, let me just say that this is a massively lopsided victory - as the song says, a cakewalk.

Last week's match was tight and tense - a real nail biter. You would think that by contrast yesterday's blowout would be boring and uninteresting once the rout set in. Normally that might be correct, but yesterday our little Tassie home turned into Magpie HQ South, and it was a raucous, rowdy very loud crowd that cheered every Collingwood score or defensive gem.

The funny thing is that this was a very small crowd - in fact the smallest allowed under the rules of what constitutes a crowd. (Rule 19b: Two's company; three's a crowd.) In fact, whenever one of us had to leave to go to the loo, we technically became a company for those few minutes.

Our enthusiasm more than compensated for the size of our crowd. Wally and Judy brought their Grand Final party to Kingston Beach for the day. They are such sweet people. I know they would have loved being with diehard Magpie supporters and celebrate such a sweet victory with the others who have loyally waited 20 years to wave the Premiership banner again.

But when the match ended in a tie last week, they didn't change their plans to visit us although we would have fully understood if they wanted to set a different date. Instead they packed the banners, the balloons, the shirts and the caps and decided that they would have a Grand Final party even if it was just me and them. (LK has a sports allergy and has to stay away from such events under advice of her physician.)

And it wasn't just decorations. Judy made a cheese and snack tray; we put out chips and dip and more chips and salsa. There was enough food for the 20 or 30 they would have had at their party had they been home. Wally and I compensated by drinking as many cans of beer as 20 or 30 people might be expected to.

And at the end of the game, Judy and Wally stood saluting their champions. They sang the team song. Judy wiped a tear from her eye, and I could swear Wally's eyes looked just a bit moist as well.

As for me, it was a real privilege to share such a special moment with these two great people. Hey, I was so moved I didn't even suggest to them that their team symbol looks an awful lot like Heckel or Jeckel if they had started doing steroids.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Assembly Man

Even after 26 years of marriage, LK is still capable of surprising me, and it happened again this week in a big way. She didn't object when I decided to assemble and start up a device that has the capability to blow up our house.

That's right. The woman who won't let me shop at Ikea because there are such dramas whenever I try to assemble things (and also the same woman who banned power tools from my life forever and begged Andrew to fix our toaster before I killed myself) decided it was OK for me to assemble a gas patio heater.

I felt so proud that she would trust me to correctly link a 20-pound bottle of highly explosive material to a heating element and then place it on our deck. No way was I going to let her down, even if it meant eventually reading the directions.

Of course, anything this challenging is going to have its ups and downs, and putting the heater together was no exception. That's what they look like in the store, and that's more or less what I expected to see when it was delivered. I thought all I would have to do is hook up the gas bottle to the hose. I was a little taken aback when the delivery man just left a large cardboard box.

But it seemed to me that the assembly would have to be pretty straightforward or there would be huge warnings all over the box saying Do Not Do This Yourself. How hard could it be when the directions even have pictures?  So, with LK actually not even bothering to pay attention to what I was about to do, I started to assemble the heater.

I was glad early on that she had chosen to ignore whatever I was doing. Because I think it would have concerned her to see me undoing everything I had already done and starting over again. It was not really my fault. The directions said to remove the lid from the base, so I undid all the bolts holding it in place only to notice - once the whole base was in pieces - that there was in fact a small lid on the other side of the base. 

Technically I believe I could make a case that what I was removing was also the lid of the base (the BIG lid, to be precise), and I blame the directions for being unnecessarily vague and not even bothering to show a picture of the little lid on the other side of the base. I am not sure LK would have agreed, and I'm pretty sure she might have started having second thoughts about this newfound freedom she had granted me.

From that stumbling start, though, everything went swimmingly. Well, for me. The posts eventually lined up and could be screwed in place, the column fit so well you would think I knew what I was doing and the hose went through the column all right (although I still cannot figure out why they said to push it UP through the column, when it was much easier to drop it DOWN).

I even followed protocol and did the soapy water test on the gas connections to make sure they were tight. The directions had even warned not to use a match to test if there was a gas leak. They must get some real morons putting these things together!

I brought it all out to the deck to put the final bits together and give it a test run. And that's when it hit me. If I had made any serious errors, this tall silvery heater might end up being little more than a glistening rocket flying over Blackmans Bay. Or, I suppose in a worse case scenario, it might just explode and burn the house down.

So I sat down and went over all the directions one more time. Trying to make sure that we got heat but no fire. LK saw me and thought it was so cute that she took this picture.

I don't know if she would have thought it was all that cute if she'd known that I was actually taking comfort in the safety feature that shuts off the fuel supply if the heater falls over. Because a lot of things I assemble do seem to fall over.

Anyhow, no dramas. It worked. Nothing blew up.

In fact I believe I learned so much that I am seriously thinking of writing an essay for on how to assemble a gas patio heater. I am sure there are knowledge-hungry people who need an expert to help them.