The perfect afternoon…

Four years ago I had a perfect afternoon. I don’t think I’ve ever actually mentioned it either here or to anyone in the non-electronic world, but it was a rare few hours when the better angels of my nature utterly routed the demons. The moment was fleeting, it was ephemeral, but it was perfect.

I’ve spent more of my waking moments trying to find a way back there than I’m in any way comfortable admitting. I won’t even get started on how it intrudes on my non-waking hours. Now I’m not saying every other day from then to now has been a pile of shit. There have been some awfully good days in the mix even when others leave me feel like an alchemist bent on learning the secrets of transmuting lead to gold – committing the cardinal sin of believing I could summon a thing into existence through sheer force of will and determination for it to be so.

As it turns out, massive amounts of willpower and determination sometimes don’t do any more than generate a massive reality distortion field that’s only observable by the guy inside the bubble. There’s a hard lesson in that when you’ve gotten accustomed to issues of luck generally breaking in your favor.

They say the first step to getting well is admitting you have a problem. Well, maybe I do and maybe I don’t, but in any case I’d be hard pressed to imagine a circumstance where I’d ever entirely stop chasing that perfect afternoon…

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Rain. Not all rain is bad or evil. We need it and in some quantity recently. If it could hold off a bit on pouring it down during the mid-morning through late afternoon parts of the day, though, I would really appreciate it. As much as I still enjoy driving my big red Tundra, I’d really like to continue Jeeping topless during the only time of year when it’s really comfortable to do so. Yes, I know the drain plugs will take care of whatever standing water may be on the floorboards, but that’s an extreme measure I’d just rather not need to resort to unless it can’t be avoided.

2. Q&A. Live, unscripted question and answer periods with “the general public” should never be encouraged. For every reasonably well thought out question that’s asked, three more that are either completely off topic, so specific as to bore the other 300 people in the room to absolute tears, or utterly nonsensical and not formulated in any kind of structure known to the actual English language. In an open forum it’s just not worth the risk. The potential damage due to the extreme rolling of audience members’ eyes is a real and present threat.

3. Trusted professionals. Today, I’m left with a thought from John Wayne in his last role. He said, “I won’t be wronged. I won’t be insulted. I won’t be laid a hand on. I don’t do these things to other people, and I require the same from them.” Now I may have missed the circus this morning, but let the word ring forth from this time and this place, that if any of you trusted professionals decides to to put your hands on me, you’d best have made up your mind that I’m the last thing you want to touch for a good long time because by all the gods, I will break every bone in your worthless hand.

Accessorizing…

With temperatures creeping up out of the 50s on a regular basis, it seems it’s the time of year when a boy’s thoughts turn to finding just the right accessories for his fancy new Jeep. At least that’s the kind of thing that catches this boy’s attention. I know my priorities can be a little jenky, but I just go with it. It’s easier that way.

To tell you I’m ready to strip off the top, unbolt the doors, and recapture a bit of the olden days is a rank understatement. I’ve been ready to do that pretty much since the day I sold the old Jeep, so it’s been a long time coming. And yes, before anyone asks, in all likelihood I’ll be the dumbass that has to wear a winter coat on the morning commute for the privilege of enjoying open tub driving on those first good warm spring afternoons. Mercifully I’ve never let fear of looking like a dufus stand in the way of doing what I wanted to do.

I was fortunate to get a few of my accessories early as Christmas presents or thanks to post-Christmas sales. I ordered a few more today – including a good set of bolt-on mirrors so I can stay on the right side of Johnny Law here in the Democratic People’s Republic of Maryland. Mostly it’s now a matter of waiting on the arrival of consistent weather to “summerize” my ride for the year.

There are still plenty of bits I want to add… a stereo capable of overpowering the wind noise without distorting everything to hell and back, some secure storage for those times when you can’t avoid leaving things behind, bigger tires and a touch of a lift to make it a proper mall crawler. Like most of my other lists, this one is just about endless… and for once that isn’t a complaint.

Central….

Before ensconcing myself here at Fortress Jeff, I rented a house that “included” air conditioning in the form of two geriatric window units. One was so filled with mold when I moved in that I relegated it to the shed for the duration of my stay and replaced it with my own unit. The other was probably filled with mold too, but it was too heavy to move and was somehow “permanently” mounted into one of the living room windows. That one got blitzed with as much lysol as I could spray into the vents at least twice a week in the hopes that would be enough to hold any organisms growing in there at bay.

Given the apparent belief of early 1980s home builders that insulation was more of an optional thing, living with these two window units mostly translated into having two rooms that were slightly cooler than the outside air temperature and the rest of the house that was just short of reaching blast furnace range. It wasn’t ideal.

With temperatures reaching towards 90 over the last couple of days, I just wanted to give a small nod of acknowledgment to the glory that is central air conditioning. I try to be responsible in its use, but I can chill this place right down to icebox levels with the flick of a switch. It’s the kind of thing you don’t really appreciate until you no longer have it.

So there you have it – one more thing to add to the short list of things that don’t suck. See? Not everything around here is a bad news story, something that annoys me, or just a general bitch session. There are, from time to time, things that make me smile.

A certain smell…

There’s a certain smell to summer in proximity to the Chesapeake. It’s not the saltwater smell you find at the beach. It’s not the aggressive punch of decomposing plant matter in the wetlands right down along the water’s edge. It’s a smell I only know from a few miles inland. It’s salty and woody and vaguely marshy. It’s a good smell and a familiar one for me. For a few weeks during the hottest parts of the summer I’d catch it in St. Mary’s County when I lived down at the southern tip of the western shore. It’s here now, too, at the northern reaches of the Eastern.

My first memory of that smell, and where I remember it most distinctly, is an a little town in between those two points no one reading this would have ever heard of. It’s the smell of long ago summer visits to far away relatives, of horses, of learning to pick crabs and to shuck oysters, and swimming until the pool’s rough bottom had worn blisters on my toes. It’s s a smell of a simpler time, or at least one that seemed simpler by virtue of knowing so little about the world’s machinations. It’s the single smell I’ll (apparently) forever associate with one very specific place and time.

It’s not a smell I’ve ever encountered elsewhere in my travels – there’s no hint of it in Petersburg, or Honolulu, or Memphis. Oregon has its own particular smell of the old, deep woods and powerful running water, but it’s not at all the same. I picked up that fleeting scent a few nights ago. It’s that time of year. The instant recall and deeply fond memories of times and people long gone couldn’t possibly have been stronger. I don’t think I’ll ever stop being amazed at what small details the brain snatches for its own and hides away only to restore them with perfect clarity years and decades later.

My 18th century so-called life…

One of the reasons I popped on Casa de Jeff 2.0 is the fact that it had a sun room that seems almost purpose built to be a home office. With the slope of the yard the room is just about eye level with the bottom of the forest canopy. The birds, squirrel, and occasional deer are a bit of a distraction, but otherwise I’ve found it ideal for reading and writing – although at this time of year, the room seems to be basically uninhabitable between the hours of 2:00-5:00 PM. I like that it’s a separate, self contained space, but not jammed in a corner at the far end of the house. When I’m not tinkering around on some other project, it’s usually where you’ll find me.

I only mention it now because I noticed for the first time as I sat down to write this that we’re already starting to lose daylight in the evening. We’re racing towards the end of July, with more of the summer behind us than in front of us. I like the long summer nights maybe more than I thought. Even though they’re still mostly here, I miss them already. That’s not to say that I’ve taken maximum advantage of them in any real way. There haven’t been any epic road trips – no vacation days to speak of that didn’t involve meeting a contractor to talk about some much needed repair or much desired alteration to the new homestead. In fact I’d wager I haven’t been more than 20 straight-line miles away from the house since I bought the place. Me and my 18th century so-called life.

It’s all been necessary, of course, but none of what I’ve been up to feels like what summer should be about. I’m not at all satisfied with that state of affairs, though I’ll grudgingly accept it as the current (and theoretically temporary) cost of doing business.

What Annoys Jeff this Week?

1. Unintended consequences. I read an article this week decrying the fact that so many fuel efficient cars on the road are causing the federal highway trust fund to go broke. All I could do is sit back and wonder if this is something that should have come as a surprise to anyone when they were laying on tax incentives and pushing people towards higher efficiency standards and cute matchbox car looking vehicles. Less fuel used, but definition will lead to lower revenue if all else is held equal. Now of course the writers of this article lead that into the discussion of whether we should raise the national gas tax or lay an entirely new tax based on miles driven or some other calculus. I noted with much annoyance that prioritizing funds and making due with what’s available, leaning out the highway construction and repair process, or privatizing antiquated infrastructure weren’t even part of the discussion. It troubles me to no end that a goodly proportion of people in this country only ever look at the revenue (and how to increase it) side of the equation rather than first looking at how we reduce costs and gain efficiencies using what should be a massive economy of scale that Uncle could generate if he were spending judiciously rather than just chasing the next dollar. If they didn’t think the problem past the “fuel efficiency is good” phase, why on earth should anyone trust them with even more money?

2. Being wrong. Remember back six months ago when I was complaining about the polar vortex? I have a confession to make. I think I may have gotten that one wrong, because quite frankly putting on another layer felt way better than reaching the point where modesty, social convention, and the county sheriff say you can’t take any more layers off. But don’t worry, wait six months and you can be sure I’ll be right back to complaining about being frozen right down to the bones. Wash, rinse, and repeat as needed.

3. The “working lunch.” There’s no such thing. Either I’m working or I’m at lunch. They are, in my mind, mutually exclusive activities that have no business occurring simultaneously. Lunch, for purposes of this discussion is defined as a 30-minute period of not work dividing the four morning hours of work and four afternoon hours of work during a standard business day. Dragooning everyone in the office into a conference room, “asking” them to bring food, and then talking about “work stuff” for an hour is a thinly disguised meeting. The only reason it has a passing resemblance to lunch is that there happened to be food in the room while it happened. As for me, I need my 30 minute break in the middle of the day to help prevent my brain from melting and leaking out my ears. I think we can all agree that’s something we should all try to avoid if we can.