Always a dull moment

I’m working with a guy who has decided to tell me his entire life story, in between smoke breaks and trying to convince me the moon is hollow and that the earth’s gravitational pull is not enough to retain such a proportionally large satellite. Apparently his wife cut him off from sex a long time ago, and it caused the part of his brain that discerns facts to atrophy. He feels trapped in the marriage for pretty legitimate reasons, so neither of them are going anywhere. Bear in mind that this is the BEST journeyman I could be working with right now, and I picked him on purpose to protect myself from the other one, who has the communication skills of an angry badger on mescaline.

“I worked out on the peninsula for this one outfit, and the daughter of the owner, she’s was CRAZY. Do you know about the hot/crazy scale?”

“Yes,” I said, tightening a nut onto some all thread. This was not easy because the lift was jiggling around as he was exclaiming about this hot/crazy lady.

“We ran away for 72 hours together. We spent the whole time making out. And then I went home to my wife again.” He sighed.

The funny thing is, when I started, he was acting more restrained and the other journeyman, the badger, told the boss that Mr. Creepy was hitting on me and I had complained. None of that was true. Sometimes in a weird dynamic it is best if the journeymen use all their ammo taking potshots at each other, because then they’re not gunning for you.

“It’s just not fair,” Mr. Creepy complained, in front of several young electricians who looked more uncomfortable than I felt. “It’s so much easier for you women to just get a, you know, thing that can replace men.”

“Uh, you guys have Fleshlights?” I said. This is all happening while I was cutting down a piece of duct with a portaband and he was watching me work.

“Yes, but that doesn’t have BOOBS. I got this realistic doll thing…”

“A Real Doll or just a torso?”

“The Real Dolls are too expensive! And this thing was great until it broke. I had to call the company and tell them that it was, you know, too small.” Somehow, as this motherfucker was telling me about his limbless sex torso, he was also working in that he was too well-endowed for it to contain his massive logjam of +17 to masculinity. “They offered to just replace the, uh…”

“The vagina,” I said. So many questions I didn’t want to ask were not coming to my mind.

“Yeah! So they wanted to replace it, but I said, ‘What’s the point if the same thing’s going to happen again?”

“What indeed.”

“And it was kind of a pain in the ass because I had to use this tool to like, douche it out with this tool that went into the top of the head and through the bottom of the thing…”

“Like a plunger thing?” I asked.


I shrugged. “Yeah I have to do the same thing after sex. I have a little hole back here–” I said, indicating the back of my neck.

“But YOU GALS. You can replace US for like, six dollars.” Mr. Creepy waved his drill around and looked very triumphant at this point.

“You’re not making a great argument for the continued existence of your gender.”

“I KNOW! And you can go to like, China, and adopt babies there…”

“And raise them and have sex with THEM,” I finished, pointing at him.


Decline and Fall

Two days after Christmas I showed up to my job site, a shitty job they call “commercidential” (residential with commercial on the street level). The roof hadn’t been sealed on time and it frequently rained indoors. These future $5K per month apartments were full of studs that were lousy with sinister black mold. My foreman was very surprised to see me that morning, which was confusing, because he’s a really sharp guy. I attempted to chitchat with him about how his Christmas was, and tried to jog his memory a little that I’d been in school the week before.

“I think you better call the Superintendent,” he said, finally.

I made the call and got sent home for the rest of the week for absenteeism. My Superintendent forgot I had school the week before Christmas and decided I had gone derelict. I repacked my tools and left, privately fuming since I would never go disappear quietly or in a half-assed fashion.

I tried not to be too upset, because the standards were so low and contradictory at this company that hoofbeats mean zebras and not horses, because they’re almost all zebras. Drunken, disorganized, half-assed zebras, sneaking a butt in the sanicans. As I loaded my tools back into my trunk, I internally huffed that WHEN I’M THE BOSS, I’d at least take the time to make a phone call to see what’s happening, if previously the apprentice had always arrived upright and sober. I went home and applied for unemployment for the week, since I was indeed available for work.

After New Year’s I was assigned to a new site, with a new foreman who had been with the company for a few months. I was told that this new boss was AWOL during New Year’s weekend so they weren’t sure if he was going to show up. I was out of the doghouse with my Super at this point since it quickly became too crowded with others to keep any one person in it for long.

There was another apprentice, Matt, who had loads of experience and was being illegally used as a foreman on various jobs, and a traveler journeyman who had some interesting ideas about how Hitler’s death was faked and how he was hidden in the aftermath of the war. He was really incensed they were wasting his Hitler Time on Discovery with programs about mermaids. MERMAIDS! What a ludicrous idea.

I was feeling burned out on the merry-go-round of moving from site to site, waiting for deliveries of parts and supplies that would never come. I had that apathetic January feeling. January, the longest, darkest month without holidays to alleviate it. Inevitably my work pants are tighter in January until I start racing up and down stairs again. I was tired of working with drunks and weirdos, and the constant, incorrect gossip that was being circulated about me at this company.

As a result I had made a resigned New Year’s resolution: stay out of it, whatever IT is. Finish the rotation and never return here again. We don’t need to talk about Hitler, what the Super told three people about me but did not address with me directly, the disastrous country-western song that is many journeymen’s lives, what does this rash look like to you, and so forth. I had lost some of my optimistic buoyancy, my tendency to joke to change the subject, even my ability to hear what was being said if it didn’t pertain directly to work. My headspace vacillated between fuzzy and pissed off.

The three of us (me, apprentice foreman Matt, and cuckoo Hitler guy) had ever been to the site before and shot the shit for ten minutes to see if the new AWOL boss, Seamus, would show. The job was another commercidential, but one that did not rain indoors. It was in a neighborhood that was doing that slow Seattle flip towards more reasonable density levels. We did that shuffle to decide who was going to call the shots for the day. I was leaning towards Matt since he was one of the only people I’d encountered at this company who had the 3 Ss: sane, sensible, and skilled.

Much to my relief a plan was forming, and I was looking for what seemed to be the most complete set of blueprints when someone clomped down the parking garage ramp towards us.

“Whoa,” he said, by way of greeting, dropping his tool bags on the ground. “I haven’t been here since before Thanksgiving.”

“Are you Seamus?” Matt asked.

He was. Our new boss smelled like a distillery and swayed slightly. This didn’t bother me. I generally give people a pass on Mondays or after holidays, because everyone has a crazy night sometimes. He was unshaven and his clothes looked more like a pile of rags than most journeymen’s. He looked like The Dude and a Hobbit had been Brundleflied together, and then used to clean the undercarriage of a farm pickup. His eyes were bloodshot to the point where they might have been burst blood vessels rather than just irritation, but they still had a little sparkle in them.

After a little flailing and consultation of some notes that looked like they were written in hobo code, he made a shocking announcement: “You guys, I can’t lie. I’m super hungover.” We shrugged and said some variation of, “It happens.”

“I had the craziest fucking weekend,” he went on, scratching his scruffy face with dirty fingernails. “I’d been on the wagon for months and then I fell off this weekend. I met this girl on Tinder, and we got a cabin up the in the mountains. She’s younger than my daughter. But then she just split on Monday! It was like REALLY crazy, like…well, I probably shouldn’t say any more than that because…” he trailed off, looking at me. I had been standing back and off a ways, since no one was really speaking to me anyway. The other two men swiveled their necks to look at me.

“It’s ok, I’m a grownup and have children. I know what sex is,” I said. They laughed. Matt gave me a little “oh jeez” cringe since he’s not an asshole.

Working with Seamus was challenging. He was determined to do everything the hardest or most disorganized way. Non-industrial sites are kind of shitshow in that the hallways are basically big enough for residents to walk through and carry a couch through and that’s about it. Every corridor is a a tangle of painter’s hoses and paint pumps, plastic or other protection that is ripping or otherwise becoming a hazard, spiderboxes, power cords, garbage, and so many fucking electricians that you can imagine if you turned on a bright enough light they would scurry like roaches.

“Let’s get my cart and bring it in,” Seamus said. Seriously? I thought. Due to all the obstacles, I imagined carrying the cart everywhere we went in the building instead of rolling it, completely defeating its purpose. Not even the electricians brought their carts in, and those motherfuckers always have about seventy carts.

“We’ll pull my van around,” he said. I took a deep breath and saw the dice roll in my head. On one hand, Seamus was still clearly drunk if he smelled that strong and was still slurring a little. On the other, we were probably going around the block, tops, and traffic hadn’t picked up yet. I snapped my seatbelt and tried to crack the window as the wave of liquor and tobacco fumes made me a little queasy.

We got to a street loading area and opened the back of his company-issued work van, which looked like a giant had reached down, turned it over, and shaken it before setting it upright again. I’ve seen many work vans that have hasty stacks or the unfortunate situation where a soggy box of bolts has given up and ruptured. This was less mess and more an indiscriminate hoarder’s drift of everything you could imagine: Caulk tubes, fasteners, random pieces of angle, various invoices and delivery receipts. Vintage, half-eaten sandwiches. Pieces of hi-vis clothing. Safety glasses. Beverage bottles and cans. Tangles of rope. Sheet metal screws of various functions, lengths and diameters. Jimmy Hoffa’s toe tag.

But there was a cart, and we retrieved it, along with some other tools. Of course we carried it everywhere we went, up the stairs and down the hallway like a palanquin.

“See how useful this cart is,” he insisted. I do not, I thought, but kept quiet.

I soon got a taste of his so-close-but-no-cigar style of work. A few days later he taught me how to make an escutcheon to act as a firestop when duct travels between floors. This is basically a frame that helps seal the hole that’s cut in wooden floors that can slow flames and smoke from jumping up or down a storey. I knew it should have been sealed with fire caulk, but he sealed it with something flammable instead since we didn’t have any. I’d be willing to bet he did have fire caulk somewhere, but wasn’t willing to risk hepatitis or getting lost diving through his van for it. When I did offer to really go looking for the correct part or material, or to clean something up, he invariably told me we didn’t have time for that.

As we worked, Seamus told me he was afraid to work with me.

“WHY!” I said, expecting to hear something stupid I usually hear, like “YUR A GURL.”

“I heard you got Pickles fired,” he said.

Pickles was a guy I heard accurately described as a “17-year-old in a 50-year-old’s body” by a foreman, Tom, who had watched him videoing women’s butts at a university job blatantly and mere feet from them. Pickles had the ~Aloha spirit~ and put hibiscuses on everything he decided belonged to him, which looked like shamrocks, especially as he used a green pen to make his Zorro mark. I was told he would work a few months until he got laid off for general uselessness, and then would go park his bare nutsack on Hawaiian nude beaches.

I had worked with Pickles in an attic for a couple days in September. It was one of those stupid jobs where you have to take two days to move an installed unit up two feet and over two feet because of some change in the drawings.

Tom (who later told me about the butt-videoing), was not our boss that day, but stuck his head up in the attic to say hello and see what we were doing. He eyeballed me and Pickles attempting to work together, with me hustling and Pickles mostly sitting and staring into space, trying to figure out how to reconnect something he had just disconnected about an hour ago. Tom and I said our “nice to meetchus” and as he descended the ladder I heard him loudly ask my boss, “Are you TRYING to get Pickles fired for sexual harassment?”

I had gotten Pickles’s number early. I would just push back hard and treat him like the little bitch he was. I had spent so much time verbally abusing Pickles that by the end of the job he was a huge fan of me, thought I was hilarious, and had nicknamed me “Five Star.” He had gotten increasingly disgusting as the job went on, in spite of the fact that I usually keep things PG-13 with guys (other than liberal use of the word “motherfucker”) so I don’t open the door to any sexual talk.

“I did not get Pickles fired,” I matter-of-factly told Seamus as we wrestled the cart down another clusterfucked hallway. “He told me I should suck his dick and it got back to the VP, and the VP fired him.”

Seamus looked surprised by this revelation and got thoughtful for a moment. Honestly I was more irritated by the fact that Pickles told me I should start going to the gym as he sat in the attic staring into space and changing the music while I made most of the reconnections after the unit was in place. Our boss told him he should spend less time “getting swole” since he obviously had no energy to work.

Thankfully, Seamus changed the subject after that. He told me a lot about his life. He enjoyed crabbing. He was in the middle of a divorce and his wife was in another state. His grown daughter lived in Oregon and was trying to set up therapy for him, since he was so wracked with anxiety he could barely function. I couldn’t think of much I wanted to tell him about my life, and deflected a lot of his questions. I was still in my New Year’s resolution coping mode. He tried to add me on facebook but I wasn’t there.

I felt like I was a ghost who existed only to hang spiral and mark off days on the calendar until I could leave.

A few days later Seamus arrived to work and said, “Seven days.”

“Sorry, what?”

“I haven’t had a drink for seven days.”

It was January 8th. I was a little surprised since his appearance, focus, and alertness had improved a little, but he still seemed to have new burst blood vessels in his eyes and I thought I still smelled alcohol on him most mornings, but shrugged it off. You get what you get with this company.

“How do you feel?” I asked.

“It’s nice to wake up without a headache.”

“Hang on to that feeling,” I said. Play the tape forward, I thought.

Another guy who had the 3 Ss as a worker, Jason, showed up on the site that morning to make electrical connections to the fans we’d installed. He was one of those calm, warm, together guys who I was always reassured to see and I wished I worked for him, but he was on the electrical side of things, not HVAC. He was tall and had a goatee and liked to tell stories about his little daughter.

Seamus and I were waiting for a delivery and were blocked with nothing to do until it arrived. Seamus barked at me to do some menial things in front of Jason, which seemed out of character, and I took the hint and beat it. I cottoned to the fact that Seamus didn’t want it to look like he wasn’t working his apprentice in front of a reliable old timer with the company who had the Super’s ear.

I went to the basement and dicked the dog for a while. Moved trash. Organized duct. A while later I circled back to the room where Seamus and Jason were. I walked in on that thick wave that said a serious conversation had been taking place that had nothing to do with work. They turned to look at me.

“Delivery’s here,” I said, feigning ignorance.

After Jason left, Seamus and I were on ten-foot ladders making connections in the entryway with the duct transitions that had finally been delivered.

“Sorry I made you do dumb stuff earlier,” he said from the other side of the duct. “I just wanted to look busy in front of Jason.”


“You want to hear something funny?” he asked me.

“Go for it,” I said, bracing myself for anything.

“I was at an AA meeting a few months ago by my house, and you know who was in charge of it? Jason! He’s been sober for like 15 years.”

“Oh no, Seamus, you can’t tell me that!”

“I can’t?”

“It’s anonymous!” I said.

“Oh no,” he said, coloring. “Oh no.” He dropped his wrench, which thankfully didn’t hit anyone below.

Later that day he showed me a text from a new Tinder prospect. He had moved on from New Year’s girl.

“Do you think I fucked this up?” he asked, waiting for me to read their light, getting-to-know-you conversation. She seemed sweet and I said so.

“I think it looks fine,” I said, truthfully.

He scratched his scruffy face with fingers that had lines so deep they looked more like cracks, with dirt ground into them and under his nails that he had brought to work with him. I tried to imagine him cleaned up and on a date. What would he talk about with a woman? When our crew joked around Seamus didn’t notice or catch it. He usually seemed to be in a hazy dreamstate.

We spent the next couple of weeks moving from site to site, wherever the fire was and wherever the general contractor was most pissed at our company that day. We had to decipher any notes that were left from other guys, find parts, get an earful of how and where we were holding up parts of the project. We had to figure out what we had on site and what was missing and needed to be ordered from the shop. This usually took most of the first day. By the time we were ready to receive an order and work on hanging duct we would move again.

The first day we were in Maple Leaf there was an electrician there kicking 80s music all day.

“That sounded like Oingo Boingo,” I said.

“Oh yeah,” he said. “My wife…my ex…dated Danny Elfman a long time ago. She’s from California.”

“Huh.” I had not expected that.

On our second day in Maple Leaf, Seamus gave me a run of spiral to hang, then holed up in an upstairs unit. I knew he was supposed to be drawing parts we needed but I figured he wasn’t. At some point I had to track him down and found him with a thick stack of bank statements and other financial papers. Like everything else in his possession, they looked wrinkled, ripped, like they’d been kept somewhere damp.

“I’m sorry, I just have to deal with this financial stuff…the divorce. Can you keep busy?”

“I get it,” I said. I watched his hands shake he pawed through the stacks, trying to put things in order.

He kept disappearing out to his company van, saying he needed to get some odd or end or paperwork. When he came back, he smelled more strongly of alcohol than he did in the mornings. I watched his mood change, too, and become steadier. He was less coherent by the afternoons but seemed calmer. His hands shook less.

On Friday we were moved again, back to the other site on our rotation to work on the sheet metal-lined shaft that pulled the exhaust out of the garage. I had been working on the shaft with an older journeyman who was relaxed, funny, decent, and appreciated my efforts. To finish we were supposed to line and waterproof the top of an exhaust shaft.

Tom, the foreman who told me about Pickles’s butt-videoing antics, greeted us on the site and let us know that Seamus had attempted to call in sick that morning, and said he had the flu. The superintendent had threatened him, basically saying get out there and get it done, or turn in your work van.

Seamus arrived about 45 minutes late and was in bad shape that morning. He seemed to have had a tiring and stressful week with all the pressure to finish these little projects that had a thousand loose ends and, as a bonus, me, a sullen third-year who was mostly in malicious compliance mode at this point. He looked drawn and was a weird color, and gave off the faint odor of alcohol as usual after his week of sobriety. He looked like it hurt to blink.

Open book that he was, Seamus immediately told us the Super had threatened him with being fired. I did my best attempt at receiving this news as if it was new information. He had wanted to take cold medication but only had “the sleepy kind” at home. Tom attempted to banter with him a little, and getting nothing back, took off to do his work. I had the feeling Tom was there to report back to the Super about how Seamus was looking and when he showed up.

Seamus’s plan that morning was to climb up to the icy roof immediately and get cracking.

The roof shaft, once uncovered, was an open hole, three by four feet with an 18” curb surrounding it, like a chimney with no terminal chimney stack. Eventually it would have a large fan set near it to suck fumes out of the garage. The shaft ran straight down seven storeys, to the parking garage. Naturally, with my company’s dedication to safety, there was only one harness and rope between the three of us.

“What if we wait until the sun comes up?” I asked. I imagined Seamus’s typical lack of coordination, scattershot attention, the darkness, and the ice all working against us.

“No,” he said. “The inspector’s supposed to be here Monday and we need to finish this pronto.” In addition to dealing with a man who was disorganized, forgetful, incoherent, and stumbling, he was now panicked about losing his job.

I carried my tools and other items up to the roof: fasteners, a rotohammer, the one harness that I knew I’d give to the funny journeyman who had to work inside the shaft and needed it more than I did.

Although the thing about a harness and rope is that either you need it or you don’t. You can’t predict the day you’re going to fall.

I put the tools and supplies I thought I’d need within reach so I could minimize walking around on the roof. Seamus got very serious for a moment.


“What?” I was putting handfuls of hit pins in one of my pouches, trying not to seem annoyed.

“SJ!” I stopped and looked up. “I’m going to need you to do something today.”


“I need you to NOT fall down this hole.”

I laughed a little. I couldn’t help it.

“I’m serious!” Seamus said. “I need you to NOT. FALL. DOWN. THIS. HOLE.” He looked like he was having trouble focusing his eyes.

“Ok, Seamus,” I said. I think he was trying be serious and give me a little safety peptalk, but it just sounded silly, like when someone tells you not to die. Great, why didn’t I think of that? I could see the small rectangle of light that was the garage floor at the bottom of the seven storeys.

Seamus was focused in for about 90 minutes, and then started losing it as the sun was coming up, sparkling on the sheets of ice that would be annoying puddles by the afternoon. I could tell he wanted to smoke. He began throwing tools, not at me, but in an uncoordinated manner in my general direction. I was leaning over part of the shaft hole when an extension bit hit me in the thigh.

“Ouch,” I said, more surprised than hurt. I mostly wanted him to know he was throwing things.


The typical trips to his van that had begun on the Maple Leaf site resumed. Tom called me from the other side of the roof and narrated. He told me he watched Seamus walk to his van, dig through the back, walk halfway back to the site, dig through the mess in the front, drink something, walk halfway back again, and resume digging.

“It’s been like this,” I said. “He doesn’t seem safe working around a hole.”

My phone rang and it was the Super. He wanted to know what I had been observing with Seamus and scolded me for not telling him sooner. I mentally shrugged this off since the standards of this company were arbitrarily enforced and people with more authority than me had seen Seamus in action.

“Do you think I should drug test him?” he asked me. I told him I didn’t feel comfortable making that kind of call; I could only tell him what I’d seen.

The Super told me they had a joke about Seamus at the office. One day Super had called Seamus and asked him what site he was currently on, and Seamus said he didn’t know and had to figure it out. The Super and the Owner would call to each other at the office: “What room are you in?” “I don’t know.” I didn’t think this was very funny and wondered out loud if something medical was going on with him.

Super enlisted Tom to come watch Seamus for a bit and get him away from the open hole. Tom was one of those guys who’d been working in his dad’s shop since he was about twelve, so whipped up some flashing quickly while sending Seamus to do something else.

“This shaft has been done all wrong,” Tom said, matter-of-factly. He had more conversations with the Super about Seamus and confirmed what I said: Seamus was acting confused, was uncoordinated, kept disappearing to his van and was drinking something.

In the afternoon, Super came out to deliver the drug testing paperwork. The idea is that the day you are handed paperwork, you go give a urine sample at a clinic on your way home. If there’s an accident or other immediate concern, you leave work and go get tested immediately.

It was Friday and I was glad a long, stressful week had ended. I was in the bathroom bleaching my hair when my phone started being pounded by texts. It was Seamus.

anyway don’t know everything yet but [Superintendent] rifled through my van looking for alcohol none there and said I needed to get a blood alcohol check. So I did and 0.0 is the results….I was sick today.

It’s 5:35 pm and finally made it home

They kept coming in. My hands were in gloves, covered with chemicals, and I was annoyed that he was texting me on a Friday night, so I ignored them. I needed to stay out of things for my own mental health. I figured I would see him Monday or not. Not my problem.

Seamus’s flu seemed to get worse the next week. He was exhausted and pissed off that he had been tested. I don’t think he understood how erratic he seemed. On Monday he still smelled like alcohol, which I found completely perplexing.

On Tuesday Seamus had an alarmingly different look. His face was swollen as if he was on steroids and his skin had taken on a yellowish cast. His eyes were still bloodshot. He was exhausted and made us break early so he could take a nap in one of the units. At the end of break, the other journeyman and I left the room quietly, leaving Seamus snoring slightly. Later that day he found me working alone. He looked upset.

“I gotta go…turn my van in,” he said. “The results came back and I guess they found weed from New Year’s. I’ve been clean since then.”

“Oh. I’m sorry.”

“Yeah. Well, see ya around.” He limped out the door.

“Get some rest,” I said.

I was relieved that some action had finally been taken and hoped that Seamus would finally be able to sleep off whatever was going on with him.

Then it was just me and the other journeyman, and thankfully the job was wrapping up. The rest of the week was no drama, pretty boring. On Friday the Super came out to see how we were doing and said we were doing a good job. We chatted briefly about how surprising it was that Seamus had tested clean for alcohol when multiple people had smelled fumes on him.

I got sent to some low-income housing in south Seattle, and worked intermittently since it was still snowing on and off, shutting sites down for a day or two. I worked with another foreman who was the opposite of Seamus in many ways: manic, hyperfocused, super talkative. He took a shine to me immediately because I speak fluent weirdo, and he could install me somewhere and I would work continuously until the task was done and then look for more work. He had been having trouble with apprentices and even some journeymen at this company. As the snow melted I felt a tentative sense of hope that I might get 40 hour paychecks again and even learn something.

In late January I went back to school again for a week, and made sure that I reminded my Super multiple times that I was going, even though he had stopped replying to my emails and texts. One thing I really enjoy about Union work is that at my level there are very few grey areas, so communication tends to be really open. This was just another little piece of uncertainty with this company.

I was working in the school’s shop midweek when a text came in from Tom, the other foreman who was observing Seamus on the day we were finishing the shaft work.

SJ just thought you should know Seamus was found dead in his kitchen today

Later I found out Seamus went home after being fired and took a lot of pills and washed it down with a pint of something. The autopsy showed he was also very ill with an enlarged heart, which he didn’t seem to know about. I tried to find out where his memorial service was going to be, but my Super was still ignoring communications from me. I missed it.

I was really sad for a couple of weeks after that. I had a lot of regrets about being so frozen, and not being my usual busybody self and telling him to go see a doctor, about trying not to listen to the chatter and drama of his life, and not sharing anything about my own life. About assuming that he was just another lost drunk.

I blamed myself for a while. I cried secretly in the mornings before the sun came up while I made my coffee, and it thawed me out a little. I thought about how lonely I was. I thought I needed to get back into the land of the living, to engage with my life even if it sucked right then and I disliked or distrusted most of the people around me. I had been having a run of men saying disgusting things to me, of telling me I was incompetent, of being jerked around. I even worked for a guy who literally just yelled if I tried to talk to him until I would stop.

A couple of weeks later I found a piece of cardboard in my tool bag with some of his chicken scratch on it, an address from one of the many places he’d been sent to and some other notes. He’d probably handed it to me knowing I wouldn’t lose it. I stared at it, thinking about crumpling it up and letting go of it forever. I’m very good at forgetting, about burning letters unopened as a self-preservation technique. This letter arrived open; I could not look away. I put the cardboard in a small, zippered pocket of my tool bag I never use. Keep going, I thought. Wake up. Keep trying. Keep living.

AUB: Always Up Betimes

The only way to start again is to just start, right?

It’s been a while since I’ve written to you. It’s hard for me to write about my life with granularity right now like I used to. I’m just either shoving aside the mundane things that happen or barfing them out on twitter and then moving on.

I spent a long time being depressed after Franny moved out a year ago, and then what followed was dealing with CPS which sucked hairy ballsacks. The case is over now and it’s behind us but I still feel like I’m in a holding pattern of not knowing what to do regarding her. Do I reach out to her and contact her? I’ll be really honest with you and tell you there’s this really bad part of me that thinks that she’s just going through a thing where she’s becoming or has become like her dad. I kept touching that thought like a sore tooth and then backing away again, but every day I think about it less and the tooth hurts less. My relationship with her is becoming part of The Past, like a death, but unlike with her dad I am not closed off to the future.

Getty, October

Sometimes when I’m thinking about SeaFed and his genetic contribution, I think about one of the worst arguments Franny and I ever had, where I really think I hurt her. When she was 16 she went through a phase where she seemed completely convinced ghosts were real, and was obsessed with seeing them everywhere and watching videos or movies about them. She was talking about them constantly. She did this with fairies too, but she was six then. Our entire house lost patience for ghosts after a while, but I also wondered what was at the root of it. What need did it fulfill in her to believe in the supernatural? Or was she just finding a button and trolling all of us?

It did push a button in me. It reminded me of all the idiotic, illogical beliefs that SeaFed had and how it affected his world view. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about how they interface with the world similarly and I have to wonder if it’s in part because they have similar barriers. They both struggle with dyslexia and dyscalculia, which is a pretty concrete barrier to knowledge, beyond any other fantastic ideas.

There’s a famous story about younger, 90s-flavor SeaFed that his friends would tell when we were first dating. He smoked American Spirits because he read the front of the package as “non-addictive” rather than “no additives.” I cannot understand what it’s like to live in a world where you personally have found the one brand of non-addictive cigarettes. Talk about beating the system.

I could see this kind of naiveté in Franny as well and it scared me. She got really pissed at me when I stopped humoring her ghost nonsense and asked her not to bring it up anymore. In the end there were a lot of topics like this that were outside of what I consider to be reality. I’ll be honest, when I first got together with SeaFed I found his weird system of beliefs quirky and charming, but over time I saw the obstacles and punishments he encountered because he was not really in step with the rest of the world. It made things hard on both of us.

One more: when he first learned to drive he spent time in Portland and amassed hundreds of dollars of parking tickets, because he didn’t really believe in paying for parking. I saw this behavior when we were dating, too. His solution to deal with the tickets was to shove them in his glove box and simply never set foot in Portland again. Seven years later, after we were already married, Oregon found him, and there were massive fines and credit dings to go along with the original fees.

Eventually I responded to these behaviors by trying to work around him. I always drove and/or paid for parking. I attempted to avert these “penny wise, pound foolish” disasters and was pretty successful until he became a cabbie and started doing things like driving on sidewalks.

SeaFed’s attempts at cheating systems and getting dinged did not really teach him the life lesson I was hoping for, which was hey, ACK RIGHT. It’s easier. He still lived in his fantasy world but got quieter about it over time.

I think his sister le Jaguar also tried to snap him out of this back in high school when he was stealing car stereos and hood ornaments. She tried to bust him to her parents by pulling all of his loot out and leaving it on his bed. It was unsuccessful as he came home first. It was striking to me that he was still pissed about the betrayal as he told me the story years later as an adult. I’m sure part of her was just being a bitchy older sister, but she did get the responsibility gene so what she saw probably worried her, too.

I wanted to cut this fantasyland behavior in Franny and encourage her to face reality when necessary. I sat her down at the beginning of her senior year last fall and drew a flow chart of what her life was going to look like in the next two years. What it boiled down to was, graduate somehow. Diploma or GED, either way. If not, get a job and pay some rent here. Go to school, your grandpa is paying. I asked her to think about it and what she wanted to do. I told her I would help her every step of the way as long as she was making some progress and real efforts. She did not like any of this.

She is repeating her senior year this year. There is a very harsh, cynical part of me that believes the CPS invocation was a hail Mary to get her over the graduation line last year. Why are you struggling in school? My mother is abusing me by telling me I’m sick and overmedicating me. I suspect stories about my parenting were first put out to garner sympathy and claim hardship, but they escalated to the point where the school was compelled to report it.

Anyway. I struggle with the lack of responsibility and escape into fantasy. It’s bizarre to me that a very specific set of behaviors seem to be a family trait, at least back to her shiftless great-grandfather. Her grandmother was lost in this world too (eventually permanently with her early descent into dementia and death), but she found someone in college to take care of her like she was a child: Franny’s grandfather. And he continues to care for SeaFed and now Franny.

As a VERY close second of what gives me pause about Franny, I think about what Strudel went through with the CPS thing. I don’t want to overstate this or make it more dramatic than it was, because while it was stressful, it didn’t seem like a huge threat to her from my eyes, on a practical level. I did not believe Strudel would be taken out of our home. As I’ve said before she had friends who have dealt with CPS and she knows what the possible outcomes are, so she worried and was pissed. That’s a level of betrayal for her from her sister that was hard to get over. And I think she’s still not over it.

Huntington, October


In June I tumbled into a work situation that was kind of out of the frying pan into the spilled milk. I was moved out of a good shop I was in where I was getting maybe 25 hours a week, which sucked, to a small company that would work me 40.

Putting it simply, the department I worked in consisted of one person who did not like people who are not like them. For the first time in my life I really felt the effects of nasty, condescending sexual discrimination on a daily basis. I didn’t really know what it was like before. I’ve dealt with a lot of assholes. I’ve dealt with a lot of one-off comments that were either disgusting or depressing. I’ve dealt with ongoing sexual harassment situations, but this was different.

This was my first experience with somebody who, on a daily basis, was trying to just grind me down into little bits. He was convinced I was incompetent in almost every way, in spite of the fact I was producing work and showing up on time ready to rumble every day. I felt like he was trying to run me off the trade, or at the very least, the jobsite. The only bright side to it (which is not a real bright side at all) was the fact that this boss was pretty equally awful to another apprentice who had come from Mexico originally. He mocked the other apprentice’s accent to his face. The boss told me I was going to have to be the one to issue orders to him, since he didn’t understand him, which is inappropriate. I found the apprentice to be easily intelligible and very fluent. He used American slang, metaphors, and cracked jokes.

In the end the situation disintegrated to the point where I literally couldn’t even speak to my boss. Any time I would try to talk to him let him know why I was doing something or ask him a question he would talk loudly at me and over me until I would be quiet. He told the other apprentices not to talk to me or ask me any questions.

There’s a lot more to this story and what I experienced (“So…are you going to quit sheet metal when you get pregnant?”) but not being able to even participate in two-way communication was the last straw for me. I did everything I could to get out of there, which is really my last resort in any situation while I’m an apprentice. There is a very real risk in any situation that you will be labeled as a complainer, as someone who cries wolf, or as a woman who is not fit to work in the trade. So I considered very carefully what I was doing before I did it and it took me about 3 months to arrive at the decision and get to the point where I couldn’t take anymore.

On my way out the owner of the company told me I was not used to the culture and working with men, since I had only been in the trades for three years. I told him I came from tech and mostly worked with men then, and that it wasn’t a men problem, it was an asshole problem.

It was taking a toll on me physically as well. When I’m unhappy I don’t have much of an appetite so I was definitely losing weight, including muscle mass since the shop work was easier overall than what I’d been doing in the field. I couldn’t sleep well, and I was losing more hair than my typical shedding, which I notice when I’m stressed out. I just felt very alone because I didn’t want to come home and tell stories about what was happening to me every night. The kid would politely ask me how work went and I would usually just be honest with her and say it was terrible again but it’s over and then we would move on quickly and talk about something else. Now I am back to telling her stories about a dumb thing I saw or did myself, or good things that happened.

Luke’s Diner and some rando tourists, October

So I had a crack in all of this gloominess and crap in July when I went out of town for the Twin Peaks festival. It was good as always to be surrounded by some like-minded friends who understand me and to be able to take a little mini vacation. When you’re in the middle of situational depression it’s nice to have a reminder what life feels like again. It’s like diving into a icy cold lake but maybe one that you can breathe in….or maybe it’s like getting out of a big ball of goo for the first time and having fresh air. I don’t know.

I’m thankful when things go right in these shit work situations. People above me in the union investigated was going on in my workplace. Eventually the boss I had was sentenced to 8 hours of sensitivity training. Eight hours for my four months of crap, but I think it’s a good thing. I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately in the wake of the #metoo movement–this kind of general discussion and culture that’s bubbling up where white men (especially older ones) feel like they sort of don’t know what to do or how to act anymore. I appreciate the ones that are questioning their actions or having conversations with people and not just waving their hands and saying the world’s gone crazy.

When I was younger I think what I wanted was everyone to do the right thing for the right reasons but now that I’m older I just think if this bad boss gets this slap on the wrist, a mark on his record with the union, and sensitivity training and what he gets out of it is that he needs to just SHUT HIS FUCKING MOUTH AND DO HIS JOB I’m okay with that being the outcome.

So as I look back on 2018 it’s been another hard year emotionally. I feel like I’m more resilient now, though. I went through a lot of shit this year dealing with Franny’s absence and what that means for me and what it means for Strudel who still misses her sister even though they got along terribly most of the time.

Every year I keep thinking as I’m on the eve of a new year that it’s going to be MY YEAR, meaning it’s going to be a really good year and a lot of good things are going to happen. Like an idiot I keep trying to kick the football because what else can we do? I think I’ve been approaching life with some kind of weird lottery mentality that eventually I’m going to hit some kind of jackpot and have just an amazing year.

I know the rest of this year is just going to blink by and suddenly it’ll be 2019. I guess I’m making kind of a pre-resolution to say that I do want to write more next year. I miss recording the mundane details of my life. I miss recording the weird encounters that I have with other people. When I look back at them later I do they do trigger a memory for me, which is sometimes enjoyable, but I also feel like I learn something eventually. I can see patterns from a distance like flying over farm fields.

What I need to do is remember that every year that I work on some of my goals, that I’m nice to myself and keep my mother’s voice out of my head, that I surround myself with positive people who are in the struggle with me, I am making it my year, my life. And there’s going to be speedbumps constantly. Am I happier than I was before I got sick? Yes. Happier than I was a year ago? Certainly. Really bad things can happen and eventually you start living again.

No excuses cheeseball tourist selfie, October

“Shee, you guys are so unhip it’s a wonder your bums don’t fall off.”


School happened again a couple of weeks ago, as it does five times a year. Three weeks post-surgery, but I knew there was no way I could make it up. It was the second part of the architectural unit, and now we’re done with that. I was super dreading it because the first part of architecture week was pretty hard, and also it’s miserable being indoors with a bunch of guys who smell like flowers and cigarette smoke.

We usually start with a classroom test, but this time we started in the shop, a refresher on what we’d done for the first part of architecture. I made another piece of coping (the cap that protects the top of a parapet) and it was frankly terrible. For my coping final last time, I got a D on it. This time I got a C. I can do better, but I didn’t. I knew the measurements were off, but the big machines that we use to cut and bend metal were kicking my ass. I showed my teacher my light duty/surgery letter, and he said, “You’re on your own with that one.”

Morale was feeling extra poop-scented, because one of our classmates left at the beginning of the week for a job at Boeing with a major pay cut. We attend classes with the same people every time. We have each other’s phone numbers. I’ve started a homework group at my house that involves, “let’s get this done together and then have some damn dinner and yak.”

I’m smart; those who can’t, network. I think I’ll have a new high of 4-5 people over next month. I like these people so much. Our teachers marvel at how well we all get along and help each other. I hear about their jobs, their babies, their dying relatives. I catch them up on my life. When we get stressed out in the shop we yell lines from Silence of the Lambs at each other. I play Clarice.


This is the time when people start getting weeded out who can’t make it through the apprenticeship for whatever reason. I heard a teacher make a comment that they don’t even tell us the “secrets” of the union and our trade until next year, the third year, for this reason. Please please don’t let there be Xenu at the end of this tunnel. I can’t take it.

Making coping was a new low for me. I was worried about how the week would go because I knew our next task was to take what little we knew about mitering and cover a small house in metal so it would, in theory, shed and repel water. We split up into groups and I jumped into flashing. We made the supports that held other people’s parts, as well as the finishing touches that would cover roof seams and corners. I did the math for our group since we had to calculate measurements and square feet of material used, as well as turn in sketches for the drafting test on Friday.

I lobbied for an all black house with a death star theme, but some people wanted silver. Adding silver turned out to be a great idea. In my head I was thinking about Disaster Area’s all-black ship from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, but I figured no one would know what that was. Developing burnout motifs to decorate the house with kept the teacher busy, so he was happy (he encouraged us to make use of the burn table).

We almost ran out of time on Friday, but finished it with about five minutes to spare. The teacher bumped our grade because we all rallied around the guy who did an extremely elaborate dormer and helped him finish. It was like the British Bake-off but probably more swearing and screws flying everywhere. Less ice cream cake chucked in the trash.

The week followed a sharp uphill trajectory after Monday. I aced a quiz, and then got near-perfect scores on my Friday math (missed one) and 100 on my drafting. I have been averaging Bs, respectable, but barely limping through, miserable with being cooped up indoors and struggling to remember basic math stuff.

What changed? Repetition with the math certainly helps. We’re at that phase now where we’re building on what we’re learning. First year was triangle basics–critical, but pretty easy. Now we’re expected to apply triangles to things like the house project and more complicated math.

The other piece that’s helping is pain reduction and medication. I’m already doing so much better with daily pain levels post-hysterectomy and leg vein procedure. Strudel and I went to see a mast cell specialist in Oregon in late March and he prescribed some asthma medication and a rescue inhaler for me. It’s helping at work and school. Moringa and other flavinoids seem to be helping a lot as well–I have fewer hives now.

The one thing that’s still hard and exhausting is work. They threw me on harder stuff last week and I hit the wall and left before lunch on Friday. I thought I could handle it but it was too fast paced and heavy, and I started feeling pain in my lower abdomen, and making a lot of dumb mistakes. My body’s been dumping the fluid I accumulated post-surgery as well (I gained ten pounds almost instantly after surgery and my body’s been “puffy,” not just in my stomach area). I woke up a couple of days last week with my face visibly swollen, which was weird, and now have been peeing a lot. I’ve been sleeping A LOT. But overall I’m glad to be back to work. I’m going to push to be back on true light duty next week.


Around New Year’s I get reflective about what I’m doing and what I want to be doing. I’ve been thinking about starting a podcast for a long time, so I finally did. My friend Debbie and I are recapping the old TV show Roseanne. It’s called Queen for a Damn Day.

Kind of like when I was running the Victorian blog, it’s giving me a way to fuel one of my hobbies, as well as a closer collaboration with an old friend. I like that I’m more up on what she’s doing and thinking, rather than just peering through social media and talking too infrequently. She’s a very creative person who likes to develop ideas like I do. Our viewpoints are similar, but not identical, so while we are enjoying talking about feminism, class issues, sitcom history, the show, 80s fashions, and our dogs, we’re coming at things from different angles.

We’re mostly keeping politics out of it, even though I KNOW I KNOW there’s a LOT of issues with Roseanne Barr and politics. Debbie and I get a big heaping helping of that elsewhere so we’re trying to provide a respite from that for others to some extent.

It’s conversational and evolving over time. We’re discussing season 1 and season 10 concurrently, and will just keep going with it until we don’t want to anymore. Her husband pointed out that 10+ seasons could mean 4 years if we did them weekly, but right now we’re aiming for putting out three a week, which will go faster.

This is probably a small selection of the Venn diagram of people who still read this blog (hi!), like Roseanne still, and like podcasts, but I thought I’d let you know what I’m up to and that I’m not dead fro the neck up. There’s no ads (as usual I am a completely apathetic about monetizing myself outside of my, you know, actual job) and it’s available off our site to stream or DL or at almost any podcast spigot. We’re on twitter: @QFADDpod. I like to warn people that we are over-enthusiastic amateurs, so hopefully the production values will improve over time as we learn more.

I also like to tell people we’re the best Roseanne podcast out there. No matter that we are the only one out there. Happy spring.

When I Am Old I Shall Wear Safety Orange; OR Cancel Christmas

A. Deconstruction

I’ve got the day off today, involuntarily. It’s slow at the shop still. I got very few hours this fall, and then I realized I was about to lose my health insurance in January regardless of how much I worked in December, so I decided to take the week of Xmas off. My vacation started on the 21st since the shop was closed that Thursday and Friday anyway.

This was the longest vacation I’ve had since I was indentured. Just an observation, not a complaint: my butt literally hurt from sitting on it (I am a pretty terrible sitter now). I have enough hours banked that I still got my regular, scheduled apprentice raise on the first, which is pretty awesome. It’s taken three years and some change since I quit my full-time, salaried tech job, but I am up to that 2014 money again. And now I can party like it’s 2014? *

I could have done this faster if I’d taken the admission test for my trade immediately, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do. And I’m glad I took some time to figure it out along with a couple of detours, many of them paying ones.

There’s been mad layoffs at the shop, which is what happens when work is slow. Some days we were running out of work and getting cut at 9:30 in the morning, driving home in normal rush hour. My boss gathered us in the breakroom yesterday and said there would be no more layoffs unless journeymen wanted them. She said we are the “A Team,” which is nice. This way you know there will be no more layoffs…unless there are. I worked last winter consistently, but I’m with a company that has less work right now. As an apprentice I am not allowed to quit a job but I’m sure we could get voluntarily laid off for lack of work too.

I am weirdly (and probably somehow wrong to be, do @ me) proud to be the lowest-level apprentice left there. Some of the higher-year apprentices who prefer field work opted to be sent out “on field assignment” so they can get more hours.

One of my drinking comrades, a drummer who reminds me of a long-lost Van Halen brother, said to me: “Attitude and attendance.” Notice he did not say “skill and ability.” I am very privileged to be able to stay in a situation right now where I am learning a shit-ton but not making normal paychecks, since they want to keep me and I have a two-paycheck household to lean on.

Some of the ladies I work with who have made a career out of the shop are pretty down on working in the field. Mostly they hate other trades, who are not nearly as nice and ungross as most sheet metal workers. I get it. I also kind of don’t care when I’m out there. It’s a coin toss for me. I’m much healthier in the field because the air quality is way better and my guns look sick because I’m not all histamine-puffy. I love building shit! Yeah! But in the shop I’m not tripping over 7,000 cords in poor/no lighting, freezing cold or boiling hot, and using portajohns that have been sawed in half and reassembled to get them up the lift. I have gotten to know people better because I’m not in Machismo Zone. In the field they warned me there can be high school drama in the shop, but guess what, there are human beings everywhere, and a crew of roughy toughy guys can be just as gossipy and backbiting as anyone.

B. Get up on his lap/ don’t let him touch you

I don’t know how to write this section so let’s have an interview and I’ll be glib until I can be real and then I’ll probably delete all of this.

Q: What is it like when your kid splits abruptly and then it’s the first Christmas without her?

A: Well Skip, it’s challenging. As you know, I’m very, very blessed to be surrounded by so many talented family. It’s been a real gift to me and my craft as a human being. There’s been a lot of personal growth this year. But hard times too. Overall I gave it 112% and at the end of the day sometimes that isn’t enough.

There is no way for me to say this without sounding like a complete asshole. Just get ready to slam the internet shut and throw it across the room. How was Xmas: it was a relief to not have her here. A real, profound relief. ~MY THERAPIST~ (who earns every cent listening to the ramblings of an insane person) is reminding me that a thing (some) teenagers do is push you away and reject you and go off and form their own identities and all that healthy stuff that can look like a slow-motion trainwreck at the time. Intellectually I understand that, but it’s still very hard.

Living with someone for the past couple of years who said “NO!” to almost any kind of family activity or just one-on-one time unless it involved buying her something was exhausting. Living with someone who thinks you’re a stupid hypocrite is exhausting. Being lied to often is exhausting. Taking care of someone whose rebellion is, in part, harming her own health, is exhausting and heartbreaking.

I am wracked with guilt over this relief, of course, because I’m not just the president of being Wracked with Guilt, I’m also a client. I did not text her on xmas because I remember when she’d get any kind of text from her dad like “Happy birthday” in the past couple of years her blood would boil and she wouldn’t reply. I felt bad about that, but I also feel like she needs some space right now.

Aside: I remember being in the car with my mother after she’d moved to back to Seattle with us and her saying, “Are you ever not feeling guilty about something? You’re like a closet Catholic!” (I think she was dating a recovering Catholic at the time.) In hindsight I don’t think she recognized what having a conscience looked like.

Anyway, I’m not trying to vilify Franny in any way now that she’s living with her dad. We weren’t any kind of victims, just a family with a teenager. She is being held hostage to her own need to grow up and figure out what the hell is going on. I tried my hardest and will try again in time. I’m not trying to flip the script and say good riddance. It’s just gotten easier around here and less serious. Strudel seems to be feeling better and her aunt and a family friend have commented that she seems to have more of a sense of ease. I didn’t realize how strained her relationship with her sister was as well, but Strudel opens up about it now.

We need to be careful with her now, too, I know. Now the laser beams are TARGET: STRUDEL, ONLY CHILD so I need to balance supporting her where it’s appropriate and letting her live her life and try things. Check back in three years when I’ve messed that up.

Positive: I have a lot more energy now. This sounds terrible. “My house is so clean now, and all I had to do was kill and eat my entire family!” But I do. My memory is better. Grief and worry gnawing at you can take its toll. I can both love and care with my whole self and still say, yes, and that shit is really hard sometimes.

The whole house is kind of in recovery now and we’re playing house shuffle. Strudel eagerly moved into Franny’s larger room, and I’m going to turn her old room into an office. We moved the bed into the basement finally and our old upstairs room will be a guest room. Right now it’s gutted and looks terrible because it contains nothing but our clothes and some odds and ends. This mess is waiting for the walk-in closet downstairs (getting bids this month). There is half of a bedframe in my kitchen right now. Oh god. I have this long term fantasy/goal that everything in my house will someday have a place and then I can just lay down and die.

So things are getting better. I’m going to stop picking at this Franny scab for now unless something really shifts. Now I’m at that point where each day moving forward isn’t acutely painful and full of regret. To quote Spike (yes I did), “It’s just living.” We’re doing ok.

C. Mantra: A Lack of Planning on Your Part Never Constitutes an Emergency on My Part

In related news, I had a funny little SeaFed hiccup that I’m probably going to get a call about today. Apparently he tried to schedule an appointment with our allergist and told them we have shared custody (no comment. Wait: “LOL.”). This threw the brakes on things when a person they’d never heard of before called to take a minor patient in and he was all “NEW DAD, WHO DIS?”

The allergist’s office sent me a letter saying that since they have discovered we have “shared custody” (“LOL”) both parents must be present at any subsequent appointments. It was crickets after this. No one called me and asked me to come with or for help. Sooo. *whistles*

This is pretty typical half-assed SeaFedry. I am not even trying to be mean. He’s just never been able to manage his time or have the executive functioning to navigate through systems like this. I predict: he did not get the letter, because he did not provide his address when he called; OR, he did not read the letter; OR, he read the letter and forgot about it, and so will show up at the appointment today and call me once he’s there and they turn him away; OR, they will ghost on the appointment.

This is making me think of when she was small and I took her to the dentist and sent him a copy of the bill and asked for half and he sent me a check for $14 (I think) because he “calculated” what the copay would have been if either of us had insurance at the time, which we didn’t. Insane.

D. Subject Change

So we had some fun times on vacation together. On NYE we went to the Ballard house where they’ve done everything Diagon Alley in their driveway. It was for Halloween, but they’ve kept it up through this month and are raising money for charity.

Strudel and I went to the mall and got some makeup at MAC, and I had her choose some clothes as pre-xmas fun. She’s just teetering on that age where I can’t reliably choose clothes for her anymore. This holiday was smaller than the usual ones because she’s not really into toys anymore, is not outgrowing things like mad, and because my work hours/paychecks have been so limited.

I took menu suggestions for xmas on the chalkboard and they basically looked like this: fried squid, pho, ham, satay, pickled Korean beef, sandwiches, spaghetti. What do you do with this? I split it up.

On xmas eve we had Asian food: satay, pickled beef, sesame chicken.

Pete went out and grilled satay in the snow and he and I were both impressed with him.

If the food photography on this blog ever improves, call the police because I’ve been killed. *blinks SOS slowly*

Then we did jolabokaflod, which was fun as fuck.

Strudel said, “I don’t have any money!” I asked if she’d be open to going to the library, and she was. She got me an Isabel Allende. I have never read her, because I am not super into sad, serious literature, this is a thing I know about myself. “I am expanding my horizons,” I said. By chapter two there had been meditations on loneliness, the displacement of being alone in a foreign land, dismay over the physical aging process, a cat drinking antifreeze and growing staggeringly, foamingly ill, and I knew someone was about to get hit by a car (book flap). I quietly put it down. Whoa.

Pete played it very safe and got me Salt. I am a sucker for food plus history obviously. I got him The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole age 13 and 3/4 which is one of my favorite books of all time and he read the first page, laughed really loudly and put it down (?). Pete got Strudel some really compelling YA vs A Short Sharp Shock by Kim Stanley Robinson (mine) so he won that round too. Next year I will pander!

On xmas we voted for a cheese day had Monte Cristos for breakfast and pizza for dinner. I got kind of poofy and a little joint pain but it was actually worth it. Gluten and corn never tempt me (recovery is too horrendo and unpredictable), but twice a year or so we have cheese.

Two days after xmas we saw the new Nutcracker. It is VERY interesting now with the new set pieces and costume designs. Usually I think ballet is a little boring unless some shit is coming out of Natalie Portman’s arm.

E. Meditations on Fruity Crap

A couple of summers ago, there was a stack of books on my buffet and a ZZ plant innocently thriving on the floor next to the buffet. Of course, along came a fat Mère the cat (motto: “I don’t understand physics!”) and knocked the books down, crushing the ZZ plant in the process. I let it limp along for a while and hoped it would recover. It pretty much stopped growing, like “WTF fuck you people. I was doing good work here.” I downsized the root ball into a smaller pot, hoping it would force growth, and saved the few remaining green leaves. I set it in my dark bathroom window, since it’s a low-light plant.

Finally, there was only one leaf. I kept watering it and then pulled it down on New Year’s day.

This is how we get emotionally attached to plucky plants. Thank you, plant. Happy new year to you!!

* 2014: Go out to dinner, get ill, blame self for eating too much. Go out in public, breathe air, get ill, call self “melodramatic and probably anti-social.” Have drinks, get ill…eh, you get the picture. |back|

Sparks Fly

A Couple of Weeks Ago

In the trades you can make two divisions: one side is trades who do the first phase of work, much of which is buried behind walls or ceilings, like electrical and HVAC. The second is “finishing” work, which is the stuff you see in a building. Wooden shelves, painted walls, etc. As an early-phase person I work side by side with the sparkies a lot.

I was leveling out a unit and enjoying one of the 12,000 podcasts I listen to when a nearby sparky asked me something I didn’t quite catch. He was another one of those guys solidly in his career, probably mid-fifties. His face was twisted into its usual scowl, and I had the feeling he was engaging with me just because I was in his vicinity and he needed someone to work out on. I knew this guy, and I wasn’t crazy about him. He was kind of a yeller and a grump. I tried to reply somewhat politely to him, even though there was this part of me that didn’t care what the fuck he wanted or was saying.

“I don’t know,” I responded, because for a minute I thought I knew what he was saying. “Wait…what?” Not great, but whatever. Someone was running a chop saw through metal studs, which is possibly one of the worst noises ever invented.

Framer I can never resist a nice shower of sparks.

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Dude started to fully dress me down. I was faintly aware that none of my personal gang of burly dudes, ye olde sheet metale guyes, was in evidence on the floor I was on. I thought these two things might be related.

“That’s not a very PROFESSIONAL attitude.” I heard that through my earplugs, which I pulled out of my ear. “What year are you?”

“Second,” I said, flatly.

“If you want people to take you SERIOUSLY, you’re going to need to start acting like a JOURNEYMAN.” I said nothing. “DUNCAN is an apprentice and we take him SERIOUSLY and treat him like a JOURNEYMAN because he acts like a PROFESSIONAL.” Poor skinny, acned Duncan was several feet away from us and attempting to both bend conduit and remain invisible at the same time.

I continued to give the grumpy journeyman the blank stare I’d perfected during my many dressings-down as a child for being inadequate in some way. I thought about all the things I could say to him with no consequence. I could swear at him. I could tell him his mother was a professional…at being the town bicycle. I could threaten to report him to someone.

Instead I decided to be my definition of a professional: I put my earplugs back in, turned my back on the asshole, and climbed back up my ladder. I got back to work.


We’re doing punch list in the building we’re in now, which means inspectors come and pick all the nits and we have to fix whatever they say is the problem. This means more interaction with finished work. Walls are painted or tiled, carpet is installed. Laborers run around making sure the building stays clean. I do my part; I do a ton of vacuuming and sweeping my own mess because Your Mom Doesn’t Work Here. Laborers notice this and sigh with relief and are nicer to us.

There’s quite a few women laborers, and it doesn’t escape me that they get relegated to a lot of cleaning duties. Whenever I see a woman ANYTHING I go out of my way to say “hi” and maybe make one small speck of chit chat with them. It’s kind of Lady Builder Code. I see you. Your life is both hard and rewarding like mine. Hi.

So there’s a younger woman laborer who is kind of snappy and I was feeling her out, because some people don’t want to talk to me and it’s cool. On Friday morning I saw her pushing a giant floor polisher and this dick walked by and said, “Are you sure you know how to use that?” HASHTAG MICROAGRESSION

She said, “Oh I don’t know, I’m just a helpless female! Can you show my how to use this thing??” He had fucking NOTHING.

I was all

because she’s my new hero. I ran into her a few hours later waiting for the lifts and I said, “Hey, you cracked me up earlier.” There was another sparky near us waiting and holding a ladder who swiveled his head around. He is like the good twin of the guy who dressed me down a few days before, and at first I mixed them up. It was telling he was still there and Yelly wasn’t.

“What?” she said.

I felt a little silly for speaking. “When you were pushing that floor polisher? And that guy asked you if you knew how to use it?”

‘OH YEAH. TPPPBT,” she raspberried. Seriously, did this woman have a newsletter?

“Every time I get on a fucking scissor lift,” I said, “I get, ‘LOOK OUT, WOMAN DRIVER!!’ as if I haven’t heard THAT shit 7,000 times.”

“RIGHT?” she said.

Then the sparky interrupted. “That reminds me when I was a volunteer for the Kelso fire department, and they hired the first female fire fighter…”

There commenced a story about this brave woman who used to deal with peanut butter being put in her headphones for the whole shift. Sucks. But: Ladies, Interrupted.

I saw the laborer the next day running a lift. I was with my boss, who seems pretty feminist and is really chill, and a cool coworker who’s not offensive either.

“Can you believe that sparky yesterday?” I said. “We were trying to talk about lady stuff and…”

“I KNOW!” she said.

“He had to get his oar in. Could he be more un-self aware?”

She laughed so hard. “Right! (dude voice) ‘Ladies let me tell you about my experience with sexism.”

The guys on the lift had a little moment of “uh oh a thing is happening.”

I love her.

Ass gon’ give it to ya/Fuck wait for you to get it on your own

And now I see, for whatever reason, that I am not getting notifications of when people comment. Hello to A. and suenos! My blog incompetence continues…now in its sixteenth year.

A. We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be. –Kurt Vonnegut

I always feel compelled to write when something significant happens. I got cut from my job yesterday, and it was time since it was almost wrapped up. I realized that I had my year anniversary in February of being in the trades. Recently I’ve finally been feeling like I’m not hopeless on a jobsite.

It’s really hard to explain how my skills are developing. I’m stronger, of course, and better at using tools, and knowing what the right tool is for the job. I think when I started on this path I thought there would be definitive answers and techniques. As if new construction was going to be like giant Lego bricks or putting together something from IKEA. (My blog throughline of “I am an idiot” continues consistently, I know you’re impressed.)

One thing that has changed is that I can look at a problem and be a little more creative now in solving it. A lot of times parts don’t work the way you expect, or fit right, and advanced skills include being able to make it happen.

There’s a phrase which I’ve always found really annoying and rednecky: “Get ‘er done.” But that’s it. You have to just make things work. Get it done, and move on. Just like life.

I feel a lot better at work now, overall, post medication. A construction site can be a very distracting place, and the key is knowing when to pay attention (here comes the crane) and when to just buckle down and work (the glaziers are talking VERY loudly about dealings with someone’s cousin who got ripped off by a bail bondsman and the merits and drawbacks of destination weddings).

I have asked myself if I could succeed in an office/tech now with my current level of allergy and brain meds. I really don’t know. I still don’t regret the switch when I think about being trapped indoors in a cubicle with all the fragrances and (for me) the pointlessness of my output being words or symbols or ideas that I don’t care about.

I believe I’m being kept by my current company for now, and transferred to another site, maybe downtown. Yesterday my boss didn’t have an answer yet, so I’m in limbo. I’m really relieved to be going, because while the job was great, and gave me a lot of hands-on experience that an apprentice might not otherwise get, one of my coworkers ended up being kind of a nightmare.

I’d like to say I’m a trusting person, but I’m totally not. As part of my assessment for Brain AIDS a few months ago, trust of other people was the thing I bombed on the personality test they had me take. It was one of those screeners where they’re looking for the big flags–schizophrenia, bipolar, anything else that can be caught. I looked antisocial and distrusting. I think part of this is my brain, which untreated can make me paranoid and full of social anxiety. When everything is confusing and all the balls are flying at your head: TRUST NO ONE.

Generally speaking, I am cautious with people and I don’t tell them my boring darkest secrets right away. I was getting that little prickle from my coworker that said, LOOK OUT. Let him talk more. I heard a lot about how much he liked working with women and how great he was at working with them and how some of his favorite crews have had women on them. Unfortunately, I’ve discovered this is a flag as well. Men who are easy to work with usually never mention the fact that I’m a woman right out of the gate, and later only if it’s actually relevant somehow. (My boss, who was awesome, mentioned a couple months in that he was the long-time apprentice of a woman who is nearing retirement age in our local and who is kind of a hero and legend because of how early she joined and how much butt she kicked.)

Then the pennies started dropping with my coworker. A couple of months ago he came up to me and told me someone in another trade onsite said something really nasty and sexual about me and him (meaning my coworker). My first response was, “Ok, that is very deeply weird.” I told him not to tell me ever if anyone says anything like that about me. Just don’t pass it on. I don’t need to know. I asked him who it was and it wouldn’t tell me. That was weird and vague.

So this sat in my craw and rolled around, like when that goddam pelican ate that pigeon. It niggled a little. But mostly I was relieved because I was able to look at it more calmly and objectively than in the past and I didn’t dwell on it. “Brain, we need to keep a brain eye on this,” I said. FILED.

A week later he told an elaborate story about how he got into it with the guys from that trade (one of whom supposedly made the anonymous sexual comments about me) and how he ended up hiding all of their tools and they looked for them for 45 minutes and he told them not to “fuck with him.” These guys were HUGE. Tattoo-covered absolute BRUISERS. Who were always very polite and sometimes joked with me.

Coworker retold the story during lunch and I watched people’s reactions around the tables. I watched how whenever someone told an interesting story he had a one-up. He didn’t just see one semi jackknife, he saw THREE at once.

He would talk and talk with no filter. If I made an offhand neutral comment (“I’m going to paint my basement this weekend”) he would launch into 15 minutes on the time he painted some building by himself overnight with no help and both hands. Uphill both ways. Everyone thought he was great. Hey, did he ever mention his mother was a compulsive liar? Hmm, no kidding. Let’s hear more about that. Well, I don’t have a choice, do I? That was a big tell right there.

His behavior towards me got worse over time. I felt like he was looking for some kind of angle where he could get at me. Sometimes he would start slamming me in front of the rest of the crew under the guise of teasing me. Or he would have some gross junk food or crap candy I couldn’t eat and said “You can’t have any of this, too bad. It’s not for you.”

He would nitpick little things, and not listen when I told him our boss had asked me to do it that way. He would pull me off work I was doing to make me walk around with him. This is not uncommon boss/apprentice behavior to look at the progress of the work and discuss what needs to be done, but he wasn’t giving me things to do. On Wednesday he was kind of thinking out loud about some changes that needed to be made in a room due to some lighting placements. “I’d ask you if you know anything about that, but you don’t know ANYTHING about lighting.”

I was leaving on time a couple of Fridays ago with some other crew and he was a little late, on the other side of the building. My boss had already left for a meeting and I didn’t see a reason to cool my heels waiting for my coworker. As I passed him, he sneered, “Leaving already, huh?” I was like, “Yep, goodnight.”

My independence and increasing competence was obviously becoming a threat somehow, though I am NO THREAT to someone with years of experience. I had heard him talk shit about every pipefitter who was on our crew, as well as every tinner who’d worked with us, so I assumed he was spending time badmouthing me to our boss as well.

On Monday after “leaving already?” he sidled up to me as I was working and looked friendly and pleasant, and almost too casual…the face I had seen him make with some other whoppers. I had learned his tells.

“So, our boss’s boss got an email from someone about us leaving early all last week,” he said. “We can’t do it anymore, so don’t clean up until 2:10.”

“Oh, weird. Who would send an email like that?”

“I don’t know!” he said, smiling slightly and shaking his head. “Probably one of the fitters.”

I followed this edict, returning my tools to the gangbox and locking up at 2:10, while noting that his tools were already in there and he was nowhere in sight on the floor. I came into the office and he was shooting the breeze with our boss, who was reaching for his coat and lunchbox. I had noticed that when we all parked in the garage he would always make a point to leave before me, or tell me when I could leave. I didn’t care. It was just noticeable.

A day later the fitter foreman, who is a real joker and general stickybeak, decided to talk to me as I was working away at 2 p.m. or so.

“Surprised you’re still here, SJ. Your boss is gone to a meeting, you know.”

“No, I didn’t know that.” I put on a worried face. “Unfortunately, we can’t wrap up early anymore, even though we’re ahead of schedule. Someone emailed Boss’s boss and said we were leaving early, so now Boss said we have to stop it.”

“What! Who would do that? Who would care?”

“I don’t know. Coworker just told me yesterday. He said he thought it was the fitters.”

Our lunch is an hour before the fitters, so the next day at lunch the office held me, coworker, our tinner boss, and the fitter foreman. The two foremen were talking about work stuff when my boss said he was going to leave early that day. The fitter foreman took the bait and brought up the email I’d mentioned. “I thought you couldn’t leave early anymore.” My boss said he’d never received such an email in front of the three of us.

“SJ!” the fitter foreman said. “There you go, making stuff up to make me look stupid! That’s the last time I’ll believe anything you said, not that I did before.”

I shrugged and said, “Sorry, I guess I was mistaken about some things,” and kept eating my lunch.

That’s when things got more openly nasty, because I had proved for myself that this guy was lying about stupid stuff (as well as some gross sexual fantasy stuff). He vacillated between being super extra nice and making snide comments.

I grabbed the fitter foreman the next day.

“I need to thank you, man, about what you said about the email to boss’s boss that you brought up in the office.”

“Oh?” he said.

“It proved some things I’ve been really wondering about. Coworker told me that, you know.”

He jumped on that. “Yeah, everyone knows Coworker bullshits constantly. It’s just how he is.”

“It took me a couple of months to figure it out,” I said.

As the finale to my five-month sojourn at the campus of everyone’s favorite search engine, I decided to treat myself to a company-sponsored respirator fitting. I didn’t realize there was a physical involved so I had to pee in a cup (waiting for the phone call telling me I tested positive for meth since I haven’t had cause to disclose the Adderall yet).

The interesting part was the lung test. I had to blow into a device, which the nurse said I was doing wrong. She gave me some tips since I’d never had one. My lungs already hurt and felt squished, since I’d come from work (spray paint) and the waiting room was full of perfumes and colognes. Finally she got a reading and said, “We’ll see what we can do with this.” ???

The doctor came in and did some things, and looked at my breath read out. “Do you have asthma?”

“Well, allergies,” I said. “It’s hard to breathe when I’m indoors. My lungs hurt right now and when I was blowing.”

“Hmm, looks like asthma.” He said my lungs sound fine, and don’t rattle.

A few minutes after I left I felt fine again and was taking my normal, non-painful breaths.

B. Perfect is the enemy of $9 orphan paint

As I mentioned, we broke from the basement bedroom, took a left at Albequakey and ended up in the furnace room. Rain and snow are making us concerned about doing things like replacing the windows at the moment. Pete, the good sport, was on board for my paint idea, since the walls had been whitewashed at some point but were a sad ombre grey blah as seen in my last post. Let’s do something cheap, quick, and cheery to make it feel like a room that won’t give me the sad ughs every time I switch laundry. My idea was to check out the orphaned paints at the hardware store, since I’ve had great luck with the paint lottery for things like chicken coops.

Grape Green. WHO THOUGHT THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA? And in a semi-gloss! Talk about your rooms to go insane in. Pete and I talked while we painted, about why people abandon paints after ordering them. Heart attack? Water broke? Maybe walking in to pick up Grape Green was the tipping point, your personal Dear Beyonce moment, when you realize your relationship absolutely cannot be saved and how were you married to an insane person for so long! I’m leaving. That tears it. I’m moving back to Skokie.

Their legal debt was our gain. We ALMOST got a sensible beige, with the thought that ZZZZZZZ

What was I saying? Who cares. Grape Green it is.

Fist pump for emphasis I reckon.

We got a couple of racks from the hardware store as well.

We built them slightly lower than their full capacity and then cut down the struts that were next to the window so we could still open it if needed. Kind of shaping the racks around the window.

Painting the room green made me realize I own a lot of red things! I also got a cheepy shade to cover the bulb and a new cheepy pull.

Not pictured are my laundry drying racks, which now do not live in the bathroom!! I really like the exposed joists as well, as opposed to the sagging ceiling. I was relieved at the relatively small amount of recycling, donation items, and garbage that was in the room. Mostly we needed Storage Solutions.

We were very industrious and also picked up our closet door, made to match the other basement doors.

“So, what are you going to do with your clown painting collection?” Pete said.

“Hum, I should probably consign them, I suppose.”

“Oh good.”

I felt sad. And bad. And slightly murderous at this thought. Like a clown.

I tucked them away on the wall next to the furnace, mostly behind the door. Now I feel happy!!

“ARRRGH WHY,” Pete said.

PROTIP: get your mental problems written into your marriage vows somehow, so you have backup later.

I scored some FREE!! destined-for-the-trash carpet from my previous job, and am going to make a runner out of that, carpet the dog stairs finally, and possibly make stair runners when we redo our horrendous basement stairwell.

I will snap pics of my carpet progress this weekend. Happy almost spring!

Kiss my giblets

Not always, but glass measuring cups sometimes make me think of my mother. I’m sure she used it pretty often since she seemed to enjoy baking, but I don’t really remember washing them. What I remember is it coming to the table during Thanksgiving, full of giblet gravy, because my mother didn’t own a gravy boat. I own an insulated one and use it weekly in the winter. I am a hardcore believer in gravy.

I got frustrated with gravy for a while, because I was accustomed to making it with wheat flour. I tried adding the various starches like tapioca and arrowroot, but I never liked starchy gravy. Plus, these starches have a tendency to go to snot really fast, or overheat and “relax” again. Finally, I cracked the code and have been happily making rice flour gravy.

My mother’s version of giblet gravy included not only the turkey offal but chopped hard boiled eggs for extra stink. We didn’t eat organs at any other time of year, and I saw this as some of her vestigial southern-ness, which would rear its head at unexpected moments. I couldn’t get the liver and gizzard bits down and would try to navigate around the chunks as I spooned it onto my potatoes. Somehow my sister, who had as little culinary organ exposure as I did, emerged into adulthood liking it.

This is a silly thing. I thought for years about getting a 4-cup measuring cup. O FRIVOLITY, I thought. What would I do with FOUR CUPS? Finally my ye olde 1 cupper lost all its measuring lines and every time I sent it through the dishwasher my sad Sharpie marks would wipe off again. I had to let it go, and I bought a SET! One cup! Two cups! FOUR CUPS! Sometimes I serve gravy in it, because my gravy boat often runneth over and it saves well.

You may have guessed I’m thinking of Thanksgiving. I was casting about for different ideas. What if…I used recipes from 1916? Hmm, pretty boring and standard and similar to what people do now. The only difference is that apparently it was like Halloween part two. I’m trying to find Thanksgiving recipes online from circa the birth of this house, and Gourmet is not really coughing up the goods. I loved all the weird racist/sexist/whatever shit I found in the old issues a couple of years ago, but I’m not sure I’m up for spelunking through all that at the reference section of the Giant Robot Poop again. So I don’t know what I’ll do yet.

I’m back to work now, which is great. I like money but I miss crocheting every day.

I’m plugging along on a little granny square throw for Strudel right now. I got an old picnic basket from my local junk shop that seems to have been for a promotion by Chiquita bananas in 1968. I asked them to keep the plastic ware inside, and they cut me a little deal. Now my yarn lives in it.

I’m working in HVAC right now and I like my journeyman. I’ll probably be on the jobsite until Xmas. This job is VERY cozy. There’s a roof, windows, and I’m working for a company that supplies safety equipment. I didn’t know until I started with them that grinders were supposed to have guards. Seriously. This is also my first job where I’ve had an official break. It’s pretty common practice to skip break and leave a little early among companies, I’m finding, which can find you working in 5-6 hour chunks. Sitting down for a few minutes and having a snack after a few hours of work really makes a difference.

My journeyman is sneaky watching me. I thought he was teaching me and then letting me go on autopilot, but he called me out. “I saw you fix what could have been a mistake earlier, glad you’re listening.” Listening has always been okay for me, it’s the boredom that was killer and distracting. I’m pretty happy just plugging along with my (quieter, more linear) thoughts and not messing anything up.

The only thing that’s a little wonky is that my body chews through amphetamines pretty fast, so a pill that is supposed to last about 12 hours lasts for 6, tops. I get up, take a pill at 4, and it’s all gone by lunchtime. I can get along (albeit more slowly) but after lunch the white noise in my head that makes it harder to figure things out comes back. I tried taking it later, like before I get on the road around 5, but then I’m anxious on the highway, or I miss a turn, or it takes me longer to find all of my stuff.

need oil

Another thing that’s new is my time sense. I’m not a chronically late person, but if I’m home with no schedule it feels like I suddenly lose two hours, and dinner gets on the table later, or shops close and I can’t run errands. If I was at work, the last 45 minutes could feel like an eternity. Now it feels like time passes steadily. IT’S REALLY NICE TO FEEL LEGIT HIGH-FUNCTIONING instead of just coping.

Speaking of distractions…right before school started, we got Franny a pretty basic laptop, and as I mentioned she recently got herself a smartphone. It’s helpful for her to have research and writing tools for school when she needs them, but she is super goofing off on them now, which I expected. I was surprised how much time she spends on Youtube. She watches music videos with her sister, which is cool, because it’s kind of like a choose your own adventure version of the MTV of my youth. I introduced Franny to /r/youtubehaiku, and this is her jam, since her friends seem to compete to find the weirdest videos with low views.

I don’t see her as often as I used to, but she still pops into the kitchen to talk, or I pull her along on a dog walk or errands. It’s funny that one definition of successful parenting can be seeing your children less and less and not having to worry that they’re making horrible decisions while they’re out of sight. I guess even parents with the best intentions can be authors of their own loneliness.


So I guess I’m blogging once a month right now. I still have that thing, that long, long entrenched habit, where I have racing thoughts about what I could write down, especially relating to the looking-glass that is work, but I’m not getting there. Something in my motivation has changed, post-corn. I used to feel like I was always running to something significant, like a good change, like more opportunities to do what I want with writing or travel or my hobbies. I’m not saying my life was always topsy-turvy, it wasn’t, just that there was something on the horizon. Lately I feel very static, like some pudding that has set up too much.

I spend a lot of time avoiding situations that will make me sick. Before I used to throw myself into them, because I had no idea what I was doing. I don’t know how to describe this well…before, I was always ill. I always felt bad and just learned to cope and try to grit my teeth and be pleasant. Now I feel well most of the time but I hardly go anywhere or see anyone. I have been considering masks but I feel like that crosses a line somehow. Says the person who prepares all of her own food and travels with her own sheets.

me rollin up in the art museum with my homies

I am going to try some nasal filters to see if that will help. When we go out we make like Persephone but we all still have to breathe.

Sometimes I think about jumping back in and eating and drinking corn with gusto, if only to get that frantic feeling of being REALLY ALIVE for a few hours, but then I remember that my hair was falling out and sometimes I would go completely, momentarily deaf from tinnitus. Lots of people live secluded, unknown lives and always have, but it is hard to step back and out of the world. I used to feel driven to write something, anything, even if it was complete garbage or something like, well, a blog (Venn diagram overlaps sometimes). Now it’s pulling teeth. My brain doesn’t crackle, it just sits, gelling. I’m facing living longer (maybe) but being completely bored with myself.

I don’t burden my girls with my thoughts along these lines. It’s not for them. They’re not my friends, they have no idea what existential horrors and delights will come when they’re in their 30s (neither do I of course). I do hope I intervened with them young enough that they won’t feel as outside of the world as I do lately. I hope we will all be able to find an acceptable way to get through.

It’s their first days of school.

This new middle schooler is a little excited.

This Satanist is starting her junior year.

There is something on the other side that is NOT black:

Normally I am frantic for them to go back to school, but this year they’ve been so easy and fun to hang out with. I’ve spent the last week with them because I got laid off (building was about finished).

No more being up on tall roofs for the moment. Next week I go to a week-long class that’s meant to be a first year trade orientation, kind of like electrician boot camp was. I’m in a pickle at the moment because of course they didn’t process my automatic union dues correctly, and I can’t come to class without a receipt. Administrative problems are rife in this union as well it seems. I’m sure I can straighten it out with a phone call.

If I don’t get back in a month…Friday (9/9) is my 15 year blog anniversary. I have outlasted Samuel Pepys at this point, though he was more frequent and diligent. I have some images I want to replace this banner with, but am even failing at replacing them (this template is completely terrible and I think it’s not helping with writing more often), which seems like a good project for an idle Friday when I am waiting to go to school and the girls are gone. Happy fall.

I’ll see you in the trees

The Twin Peaks festival has become a delineation for me. Leave for the festival in late July, and summer feels full of potential and as if we’re at the top of the hill, with endless fruit-gorging and hammock-laying ahead of us. The Monday I go back to work, the light looks different. The sun is already hanging lower and the day is shorter. People say (and it’s true) that Seattle summer starts July 5, and we often get beautiful days into October, but by early August something about the light reminds you that fall is coming.

Since the whole point of the festival is to discuss and celebrate a 25-year-old show that is partly about murder and is set in February, it serves as another reminder that the dark is always coming back. Weirdly, it ends up being a really comforting way to reflect on the seasons here and what makes this area special.

I don’t have pictures to post because I admit I have finally emerged into the present and was popping out pictures as we went. I did not pull out my trusty camera once. Franny dressed as the Log Lady, in part because Catherine E. Coulson died shortly after last year’s festival and she was a little sad. This year she didn’t place but she had a nice time being part of the contest.

With another year of living with food allergies under our belt, I think I did a little better at the food part of our trip. Staying at the festival is a little bit of a fox/corn/chicken/farmer problem since lodgings are limited. There’s cheap hotels with nothing around them and no amenities. B&Bs are pointless because we can’t eat there. There’s a hotel with a kitchenette but the festival takes it over and people party there all night. There’s the Salish, which is incredible, and where the “cool people” stay, but expensive and has nothing within walking distance.

Our compromise is a boutique inn that was a filming site in Fall City. I used to enjoy staying there because the restaurant and bar was good, it is a quiet area, and the inn and town is extremely cute. As I started to realize I had to make like Persephone everywhere I went, I still enjoyed the inn and its proximity to a small grocery store with a fruit stand full of Eastern Washington peaches and plums.

I was looking at feeding myself and Franny for three days in a room without a fridge or microwave. I brought our cooler full of hard boiled eggs, chicken breast, baked tofu, and sauces: Seattle-style teriyaki joint salad dressing, honey mustard, and a vinaigrette. I was looking for mayo- or oil-based sauces to make salads filling.

Yes, I hammered my protein by overbaking it. It was fine once it was cubed.

I also brought a ton of processed snack foods that we can eat: chips, dried fruit, nuts, and jerky.

We also brought dry goods like utensils and paper plates. I brought a french press and coffee I could drink for myself, since I don’t trust Keurig machines. I could run to the market up the street, buy fruit, buy a ready-made prewashed salad, and make a plate with lettuce, a protein, nuts, and dressing. Or we could just graze on fruits and jerky. Every time we left the room I cleaned up and “packed out,” throwing the remnants of our meal into the Dumpster rather than leaving a mess for the maid in the tiny trash cans.

With all of our care, gluten really isn’t the enemy anymore. The biggest obstacle is corn, and it was everywhere that weekend. I am lucky in that sometimes I can forget about our allergies for days at a time now that I work outside. Twin Peaks is fun but being in close proximity to people all weekend is hard. I greatly underestimated how much it would affect us.

First, the room of the inn had very strongly-scented sheets from detergent and fabric softener, so we were breathing that all night as we slept. Every time we gathered in a crowd people were covered in perfumes, fabric softeners, vaping, smoking. The movie night is held in a movie theatre in North Bend, lasts 4-plus hours, and the popcorn is flowing. We were getting achy legs and shoulders, it was hard to sleep well, and Franny was using her inhaler.

It’s very hard to motivate her to do much about halfway through the weekend because she gets run down and doesn’t combat it by drinking copious amounts of coffee like I do. Next year Morgan and I are talking about splitting a small house/cabin/condo thing that should have some kind of outdoor space to recharge in, as well as a kitchen for me to cook in. I think this will be nicer…it’s time to say goodbye to the inn since we can’t really use it properly and Morgan found herself eating meals alone some of the time since Franny was getting very sick in the dining room downstairs.

If you have read all this you may be asking yourself, why bother going? Our lives have changed so much in the last three years and everyday life now involves never eating out, or sitting in bars or coffee shops. Every time I go out I ask myself if it’s worth it to be in this particular crowd for this particular event…so many times the answer is “no.” So for now this is a thing that is really special and we rally and go.

I like that I can take a small trip alone with Franny every year too. We enjoy spending time together. We spent a lot of time between events in bed watching Forensic Files. Franny is obsessed with anything that involves modern crime solving.

The trip also reminded me of what Franny goes through every time she visits her dad now. I was feeling a little worried because she is spending less time over there, since she often gets glutened, always gets corned, and comes back with a cold, achy, tired, and in a terrible mood. I still don’t feel great about how she’s somewhat barred from spending time with that side of her family now, but it would be very hard for me to drag myself out to do the equivalent exposure of a festival weekend twice a month.

It’s further complicated by the fact that Franny has accepted a volunteer position as a DJ assistant for Morgan’s show on KEXP on Saturdays. This is great news for Franny, since she gets to do a cool gig, gets some aunt time, and gets the volunteer hours she needs to graduate, but it was supposed to be when she saw her dad. Franny’s also on a teen committee at the library this summer (at my insistence that she get some kind of job). She told me last night she’s happy I “made her” do something this summer and is meeting people outside of her high school.

I will say in brief that I am working my ass off this summer. Five tens and then eight hours on Saturday (Saturdays are somewhat optional but I try to work if I don’t have serious plans). I was a steadfast defender of the forty-hour workweek and am protective of my time and health, so I am actually surprising myself with what I’m capable of this summer. I’m in architectural sheet metal right now, which is basically installer work–get panels onto building.

I’m working on schools and am on roofs much of the time in a harness with a rope tail. I like the crew and get along with them well. I got “the talk” from the superintendent last Saturday. I swear there is some bylaw that says supers have to be assholes. “So, I was looking forward to firing you, but the guys like you and they say you’re doing a good job.” Um, thanks. Again I have lucked out and landed with a really nice foreman who is driven but does not verbally abuse people, use slurs, and can communicate. The age thing seems to make a difference. Anyone under about 45 is going to be more professional, generally.

I’m about to get my school schedule for the next year and am really excited about that as well. I’ll probably do a six month rotation with this company unless they lay me off when fall comes and school starts.

I shaved the dogs down again in anticipation of the hot month of August and it is gloomy and misty today!

So Edith dons her small sweater.