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|

I’m the cool dad, that’s my thing.

Can I make a normal face? A: no, I think you have to have a normal face to make one. ANYWAY. I graduated. It wasn’t pretty. One of us didn’t make it and has to make up shop classes. D:

I’ve been super stressed this month–having nightmares, I stopped losing weight (plateaued) and, shockingly, didn’t have a period this month. I haven’t skipped periods since I was an irregular kid 20+ years ago. The program itself was fine, in fact it’s a great idea to prepare women for the trades, but the people who run it are absolute nightmares. Our primary teacher left at the end of our session to become a bureaucrat with the city. I was interested to talk to someone who knew a former teacher for the program quite well, and was able to comment on how it’s in the toilet right now, insofar as it’s being run. I have no fear of writing about this because I’m already on the shitlist with them and have already been on the receiving end of some minor retaliatory behavior. YAAAAY! Expect the worst from humanity and you won’t be disappointed, eh?

BUT, I made really excellent friends and contacts with my peers. The esprit de corps happened in spite of all the jackassery.

So now I am in a weird place. I have been invited to take the electricians’ aptitude test on the 5th, which is algebra and logic and reading and I think some personality test. I have already taken and passed test for the sheet metal union. I need more money and I am being recruited for holiday high-tech contracts again, which makes my stomach churn. I am also applying for work in sheet metal and machinist shops, but my resume says high tech. What a great place to be! Someone give me a job. URRRRGH

My math class this summer was very rudimentary compared to the electricians’ test, so I am now jumping back into my solo algebra studies. And just trying to keep busy.

Just kidding. My life is now peeing into cups.

Good timing to finish–I needed to get the chicks outside safely. Usually I let chicks fully feather in the house, but this batch is different. I think Laura the turkey poult might be extraordinarily messy with her water, or playing with it, because every time I turned around, it was empty, and the water was on the chips/box floor. Not good, and the box was starting to go funky, and the chips smelled worse than the chicks (the chicks are dusty, but aren’t too bad as long as you change their chips once a week).

Historically I’d been able to keep 3-4 chicks in a Uhaul wardrobe box until they were feathered out and ready to go outside, but I knew the box would disintegrate before then. I like having them in a basement or garage because they get lots of attention and handling, and get very used to people noises, but they had to go.

I decided to make something that I hadn’t before called a “chick playpen.”

This cage goes inside the coop, taking up part of the space so the chicks can come in and get warm. I cut a hole in the top with a hole saw and hung their brooder lamp inside it.

Here it is in situ.

The hens still have space to lay, perch at night, and can get used to the chicks existing.

I “meshed” off the back section of the coop’s attached run, which is roofed as well. The chicks will have an outdoor space that is completely covered and enclosed with hardware cloth on the outside so nothing can get them, and the hens can see them but not peck them.

At night (or anytime) they can go up into the coop in their playpen and be warm. Food and water is on the ground level, on pea gravel. When they get a bit bigger I can cut a hole in the temporary internal mesh so they can enter the main yard with the hens, but pop back into their area for their special grower food and in case they are being pecked. Eventually the mesh comes down and the playpen is removed.

Goethe is my shadow when I’m outside.


Assholes can do anything

“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes.”
–Douglas Adams

Have you ever been part of a group and have just known you’re despised by the people who are in some way responsible for or are otherwise forced to interact with you? I’m not talking about being a libertarian, or a vegan, or a mommyblogger, either. My pre-apprenticeship is going down in FLAMES, people. IN. FLAMES. It’s open revolt, except it’s not us, it’s our keepers. Everywhere we go everyone knows what a terrible group we are and how awful our attendance is, and we were told with a month left to go that absolutely NO ONE will qualify to receive recommendation letters.

It’s rather freeing, actually.

It’s freeing in part because I know it’s absolutely hooey and none of this really matters. I’ve gotten a lot of skills, and have made a lot of contacts, and have learned so much, and as far as that goes, it’s been completely worth it. I’ve learned about trades that I never would have known about or applied to, and have learned that I really like volunteering for Habitat for Humanity, especially when they let me run the nail gun.

But what these people think about me and my classmates, who are actually an awesome, capable group of women? It don matter none.

Today we went out to Kingston where the laborers are. I didn’t know until a couple of months ago that laborers are a trade that do almost everything but licensed work (like electrical and pipefitting). Mostly we talked to women there, but a guy came in and talked to us and said things several times to the effect of, “Despite what everyone says about the laborers, we work really hard/are very skilled/are constantly working” etc. Finally I took pity on the poor man, who seemed to be getting crushed under the enormous chip on his shoulder about his chosen profession and interjected: “Actually, no one has anything bad to say about the laborers. It’s mostly the ironworkers people talk smack about.”

“Ironworkers! Well, those guys are REAL ASSHOLES,” he said. We all nodded.

Due to a typical lack of communication on the part of our unwilling stewards, I didn’t know I was supposed to park and walk on the ferry to be picked up on the other side, and so paid and drove on. Finally the thousands-of-tons ferry made its gentle and miraculous kiss against the rubber of the dock (how is that even possible almost every time?) and I drove myself to the site, parked early in the back lot of the training center, and pulled out my trusty book.

Currently it’s Anybody Can Do Anything by Betty MacDonald and BOY HOWDY is it speaking to me. It’s memoir by the Mrs. Pigglewiggle/Egg and I lady about her 12 jillion jobs she held during the Depression, mostly engineered by her psychopath sister.

So I’m sitting there and I hit on this phrase that MacDonald drops about the ancient-by-1930 house she lives in with her mother–she says it has “elastic bedrooms.” What is this, some kind of 19th-century magic? My mind raced. Did they change size? Was it some kind of terrible wall covering? I’d heard of coin-operated heaters….

I was distracted. And my smartphone is DRAWERS. If I tell it to go on the internet it just has an aneurysm, wets itself, and wakes up with 3% battery, claiming it has no idea who or what I was talking to it about. It’s your selective-hearing granny. So I texted P.

>Do you know what an elastic bedroom is? Depression era

P: No, but I can look it up.

HOLY SQUANCHY, IT WORKED. I am actually interrupting this busy important guy who is at work solving real problems and he is looking up something stupid for me.

>Thanks Poogle I am desperate reading my book here

Later, P.: Best I can come up with is that they hold as many people as need be.

OF COURSE. MacDonald had a large family and they crammed into a three-bedroom. Ask a librarian indeed.

After dinner, Franny’s birthday came up and I was trying to get out of her what she might like to do, since she’s not keen on parties. I told her she could go to the mall with her little friends and I would even kick in a sawbuck for a virgin mangorita.

“What is a sawbuck,” she AND my sister (over for Monday night dinner) said, almost at the same time.

“You know, a ten?”

I had to explain I was reading a Depression-era memoir and I was enjoying some of the slang, old and new to me. I think I probably picked up sawbucks in all the noir trash I am often reading or watching. I started telling my sister about the memoir, thinking it would be of interest to her since there’s many mentions of the Seattle streetcar and the Public Market and they live in the University District and at one point she works out past Skid Road. I told her I’d texted P. earlier that day about something in the book.

“…Poogle, because it’s like ‘Google,’ GET IT?” I was saying when P. came in from the kitchen where he was doing dishes.

“What book is this?” he asked.

Anybody Can Do Anything.”

“Is this about that–”

“Elastic rooms, yeah.”

“Oh, that was the book I found that I was using as a source to answer your question,” he said.

CONTEXT! Go figure! I’m running off to my first test at a union tomorrow. I am VERY TIRED so I think I will sleep long as well tonight. And then…MATH.

Act Three

It’s that funny part of summer where I feel like I’m assessing every day. Is this the last warm day? How about this one? Are the rains coming back? The clematis is blooming again. It does this little last hurrah mini-bloom, I think when the light gets the same as the beginning of summer.

The bees are packing away the honey and the combs are getting really heavy. The girls are also getting shitty when we crack open the hives now. The theory there is because they have something to protect and know the season is ending. Wasps descend and attack when we open the lid now, and we try to help the girls kill them with the pairing knives we use to cut propolis off the bars. I didn’t know wasps and bees would literally tear each other apart until we starting keeping them.

The orange hive, which is the one that lost its queen, is still struggling. We have moved more bars over and they did hatch some queens, but I think they were suffering from a lack of food. We’ve put syrup feeders inside the back of the hive, behind their active bars, where they can access them without fighting with wasps.

So imagine taking the roof off of the hive and looking down into it.

You would see a horrible Paint drawing. Just joshin. The point I am trying to make is that the fragile orange hive bees are protected from the kamikaze predations of the wasps because you’d have to go in through the front entrance, where you’d hit a solid follower board with a hole about the size of a small plum. Then you’d have to fight past all the comb covered in bees, who know you smell funny, make it through the last follower board/small hole in the back, and then get the syrup and come back out again.

We have found dead wasps in the very back of the hive. It feels like an Indiana Jones thing when we open it up–behold the skellingtons of the foolish tomb robbers who have come before. We don’t see a lot of that in the purple hive because they have SO MANY FUCKING BEES OMG so there’s always a clean up crew.

Ladies’ Hammer Club was busy busy this week but not very satisfying. I didn’t expect to have my head turned by any of the trades we visited this week, and I was not pleasantly surprised. I think because it’s summer and people are very busy working that we are kind of getting the bum’s rush quickly. Ironworkers were supposed to have us for six hours, but we got there and our guide said, “The usual guy is out crabbing, and we don’t have any ladies to pull in to talk to you today.” We cut some steel with a torch and were hustled out in two hours. The brick and tile masons seemed kind of similarly unprepared and indifferent about having us there. The trades that have been the most gracious, surprise, surprise, have the highest numbers of women and want to recruit them. I want to talk to you about the gender politics I’ve observed but I’m going to have to put a pin in for now since I have a frittata in the oven and am heading out to pick apples this a.m. Soon!

I enjoyed being at the plasterers, but I don’t really want to plaster for a living. I wasn’t aware that McMansions, which look like stone, etc from a distance, are made of thick foam siding with a plaster or faux stone overlay.

It was a great workout though. The mud is very heavy and you’re holding 10-20 pounds of it all day on your hawk and trowel, or heaving huge buckets of mud.

I had fun pressing the hemp threads into the molds, which keeps it from crumbling.

Yesterday I went back to Habitat for Humanity. They’re trying to expand into maintaining communities in need, rather than just building new structures, so I helped with maintenance at a retirement community. An area utility was there as well, providing LED lightbulbs, and the mayor of Renton gave a little talk. I changed furnace filters and fire alarm batteries while my Americorps partner gave a disaster preparedness talk to the home’s residents. I worked with her on the build I went to a couple of weeks ago and she taught me how to use a nailgun. She likes women in my program because we are handy efforty buttkickers and I like her! She said she was hoping I’d join her group.

I was the only person in my cohort there, in part because yesterday was extra and voluntary. Lots of my classmates have to work around class time this summer. I really, really like my group, but it was fun to be solo. It reminded me of when I was doing apartment maintenance right out of high school–landscaping, change light bulbs, dig ditches, whatever. I was outside for most of the day and as soon as my head hit the pillow I fell asleep. We had a second partner, who was my sister’s age and had never done basic home maintenance, and expressed amazement when I could do things like take panels off furnaces without obvious handles or screws, and knew different models of fire alarms and how they worked (which I used to sell/copywrite for at Amazon, plus I’ve always been a little handy).

I heard a lot of stories yesterday, about 50+ year marriages and divorces and children and retiring from good jobs from the state 30 years ago. I cannot fathom being retired for 30 years. I don’t think it’s going to happen.

I’m in the home stretch now–four weeks left. We all have senioritis. I have two more three-day weeks, and then a four day week the week of Labor Day, and then my last week is a five-day including graduation. Next week we are going down to King County Metro to see the mechanics’ shop where they work on the busses, and to a real working construction site to get the lay of the land.

I thiiiiink I may actually get a job when this is over. Whew.

Et tu Useless?

I got up on the roof on Saturday, ostensibly to install gutter guards. We have a pretty serious pine needle/fir bud clog issue here, to the point where the gutters want to overflow if it does more than mist.

Got up, looked around, doot doot. Could not get near the edge of the roof. I’m okay at heights, scaffolding, but sloped roofs always made me freeze. This has not changed, apparently. In fact, OSHA videos may have made things worse. I did manage to talk P. into buying an extension ladder, so he could do all parts safely, including the driveway where there is a 2-storey drop.

“This project is going to double in cost if I buy this ladder,” he said.

“Your life…is worth a $250 ladder to me,” I replied. ~DRAMATIC ORGAN MUSIC~

He was like “oh ok” after that.

Instead I went off and got some new chicks, since my numbers have naturally dwindled again.

I was looking for pullets at Portage Bay Grange (provisioning everything for the urban hipster hobbyist, thank god I don’t have to drive out to the hinterlands for the privilege of buying unsexed chicks anymore), but all the breeds I was interested in were snapped up. Plus I’ve learned at this place the clerks will guess at pullet breeds and then you’ll bring something else home. Last time I got a pullet I was told “Easter Egger” but I think she’s a welsummer. Gingersnap is a fine bird, though, whatever. She does not lay green eggs however.

Franny was oohing over the beeps and I asked her if she was staying put here for the rest of the summer so she could help supervise when I am gone all day. When they’re new they need a light bulb for warmth and someone to make sure they stay out of trouble. Of course I had all the supplies except for chick waterers, which have been repurposed to feed the bees syrup. Also chick crumble, which I don’t keep around. They tried to sell me antibiotics and probiotics, which was new. I’ve never fussed with them so I passed. If this was my livelihood and I was raising hundreds, and not a hobby, I would probably go for it. In my experience chicks drop dead right away or you will probably get 3-4 years out of them.

The dogs are losing their minds about the fact that there is a small aquarium-sized bin in Franny’s room full of delicious bird-snacks. When they get a bit bigger in a couple of weeks I told her they have to move to the basement since they get so dusty as they feather out.

No Name Manson (waiting for a name from P.)

Audrey Horne chicken


Laura Palmer

Should be a busy week–heading to the Ironworkers today and then speed mentoring with tradeswomen tonight. This was announced at the last minute, but the consolation prize for staying late is that I get to watch everyone eat pizza. Ha ha. Then plasterers tomorrow, and brick masons on Wednesday. I will be tired by Thursday!

Climb Every Scaffold

Spaniel Horne welcomes you into a MEGA POST.

Whew I am a tired person. I wanted to tell you about my Twin Peaks weekend, but I was hung up by bad wifi at the Inn we stayed at and then went right back to Ladies Hammer Club when I returned. We did not even remotely get enough sleep over the weekend so I went to bed at 8:30 for something like three nights in a row. Last night I woke myself up three times in a massive puddle of drool. I am finally feeling better now!

So, let’s get to the meat here. I made a Twin Peaks 2015 album. It’s got pictures of the fest as well as pretty extensive pictures of us constructing our costumes. We decided to go balls deep this year and GUESS WHAT, Franny took first place.

This is her as the Audrey Horne Action Figure with one of the festival organizers. Her prizes were a vintage Twin Peaks poster that was put out way back in the day by ABC, an original drawing of David Bowie’s character from Fire Walk with Me, a log signed by the Log Lady, and some various other cool swag. Also she gets free entry to the festival next year.

I went as Windom Earle, master of disguise, in his horse costume with Leo Johnson in the back. I can’t find a full picture of my costume, but this was the idea. I took inspiration from centaur costumes I’ve seen and created a rolling harness to be my back end. I did not place, but nerds recognized me immediately. My sister was, if anything, more obscure. She wore a pig costume and chomped on a cigar, and declared herself Jerry Horne’s smoked cheese pig.

We had a little moment of drama on Friday morning before my sister showed up when I realized that Franny’s costume wouldn’t actually fit in my Honda (taking the Elco didn’t seem like a great idea because rain was forecasted and happened). P. thought we could cut two of the seams and fold it, and that I could duct tape it when I got there. I was very nervous about this because I knew there would be a large, drunken crowd and I didn’t want to do anything to tank the structural integrity. He was absolutely right and I’m glad we made this change since I was able to put it back together in the changing room at the golf course where the banquet was held.

Franny did A LOT of work decorating the box. I assembled it and figured out how to get the items into it. We went to Goodwill to get her costume, and used fabric markers to create Audrey’s reverse saddle shoes. This is the back of the box, before she highlighted the trees:

We started at Mt. Si High School for check in and trivia. Morgan got into the top 8 but couldn’t beat out the people with flashcards. The organizer later announced that at check in people ate 25 dozen doughnuts! WHAT. I had a cup of Good Morning America instead.

That night was the banquet. It was in a different venue this year, which was a very nice golf course in Snoqualmie Ridge. I was relived they had air conditioning, unlike the North Bend Community Center, which was the old venue. The drawback is that they decided to go from 6 p.m.-1 a.m. this year, so it was after 11 before we were instructed to get into our costumes and I think some of the older celebrity judges were quite tired. Franny and I brought snacks and ate dinner beforehand. The good news is that Franny met and got the signature of every person who was on the panel this year (Log Lady, Betty Briggs, Pierre Tremond from Fire Walk with Me, Mike Nelson, Dick Tremayne, and Lucy Moran).

We got back around 12:30 or so and took a while to fall asleep. Then we had a bus tour at 9 a.m. Saturday morning, which was very fun because we sat up front near the author of a book on the show and probably the #1 historian of facts from the show and movie, who were co-leading our tour. It was kind of funny because later at a hotel party the author put the moves on my sister who was thinking 1. UM NO and 2. So your book flap says you’re married?


Saturday night was the David Lynch movie night. They showed Fire Walk with Me again. which was okay because I hadn’t seen it in a year and Franny never had. A lot of people were disgruntled about the rerun though. We were also being talked about a bit because I brought full-sized patio chair cushions to sit on. I heard later on one of the Facebook groups people were posting “I was wondering why those women brought cushions until I sat in the North Bend theatre seats for a couple of hours….” Yeah, that’s called planning ahead. Next year I could probably rent cushions and make the price of the festival ticket back.

Sunday night was Leland Palmer Karaoke Night, which was canceled due to threat of rain. Everyone got medium to very drunk INSIDE the Roadhouse instead, which was where we were staying. I don’t think I’d had anything to drink in a couple of months. I ended up at a party at the Salish. Someone put on some good hiphop and the phone rang while I was on the toilet. Naturally I answered it and it was a noise complaint. I thought that might be a good time to leave. Then I realized there was no real way to get back from the Falls to Fall City (no cab service), where we were staying (and where Franny was snoozing in our room) so I said goodbye to Morgan and hoofed it back. Ran about two miles and walked the other two. Will I ever tire of drunk running? HELL NO.

However, I’m pushing drinking out to the very occasional category, and by that I mean, “There better be a serious occasion” like all the Twin Peaks weirdos are getting shitty, I’m out of town and in the fuck it bucket. Not anything special like an anniversary or birthday. I had some gastric distress and broke out in cool lesions in various places after months of great skin. I just don’t really have time to sabotage feeling great and getting shit done. But it was fun, and it wasn’t like a wheat knockout. We ate well all weekend, if monotonously. I brought a cooler with hardboiled eggs, jerky, a fancy aioli, tinned fish, nuts etc. We bought nice Yakima fruit in Fall City.

So the good thing is that I remembered I like running again. It was pitch black out there, partly cloudy, not a sound and only seldomly a passing car at midnight on a Sunday night. I forgot how much I love being out away from street lights. No animals, no owls, no BOB. Just me and my lungs. I got up this morning at 5:30 and ran my normal 5K loop like it was nothing. I have been cursing my case manager for making me run stairs at Ladies Hammer Club but apparently it’s paying off. I got back to the hotel room covered in blackberry scratches (hello ditch, I did not see you there) and Franny was snoring with her mouth open.

We took her home Monday morning because she wasn’t feeling great and went out to Kiana Lodge, where the scenes of Laura wrapped in plastic were filmed. We just kind of hung out for four hours and had a little tour there. The grounds are GORGEOUS.

So Monday I missed forklift cert day and jumped back in to a visit to the glazier’s union on Tuesday, and nailgunned siding to a Habitat for Humanity house yesterday. I was thinking as I lifted a scaffolding panel over my head for the umpteenth million time yesterday, how unafraid I am to do stuff like that, because I am very unlikely to hurt my back or tweak something doing it. I’m stronger in part because I’m more confident in my body now and not afraid to move or lift heavy things. I know if I get sore I will bounce back very fast as well. Hence me running this morning! Yes damn it does feel good to be a gangster.


Something funny happened yesterday during my lunch break. We were at the shop, where I got to touch tools I’ve never used before, like random orbital sanders and hammer drills, and many I have, like your basic drills, circular saws.


Answer: Because I only needed one of those one time.

So pragmatic! sigh]

As another aside, I’m That Guy. I saw that some scrap lumber had nails it in and I gently pointed it out to the shopmaster before we lined up to do practice cuts on it with the compound miter saw.

“Is it okay if the wood has nails in it?” I asked, as if I didn’t know the answer.

“It’s okay, it’s just the one, on the opposite end,” he said. Cue sparks flying when my first classmate in line started to make a cut. “Okay, thank you,” he said to me. I also “fixed” the drywall saw when it was stuck in third gear by realizing that the torque couldn’t be shifted unless it was on a neutral setting.

This all sounds very braggy, YES, but it’s a relief that the knack I have for noticing potential trouble and intuiting how interfaces are supposed to work is carrying over into tool world. In tech world I always amazed my trainers at how fast I would pick up how UIs worked and would discover new functionality. (All hail the church of the Feckless Button Mashers.) I don’t think I’m magical or anything–this is just a strength I have. I’m hoping this will keep me out of trouble on job sites. I think it’s kept me alive longer than it should have, at any rate.

Anyway, something that amused me–during lunch yesterday, a woman in her 20s who reminds me, appearance-wise, of a young Sandra Bullock, brought in homemade cookies to share with everyone. This was me just a couple of short years ago, so I totally get her. I used to leave cookies or cake or whatever somewhere and let people know about it. If they wanted to partake, cool, if not, also cool. Me like bake. Sugar make human happy.

This is where Sandra and my paths in the woods diverge, however. She approached me as I was finishing my lunch and thrust out a container of cookies.


“No, thank you,” I said. Now that I am old I run out of the gate without dithering or explaining myself.

“Why not?” This was a new one. I think it’s perfectly reasonable to turn down a cookie.

“I have Celiac disease,” I said. “And some other allergies.”

“SJ’s complicated,” my seatmate chimed in. She’s a tech world refugee as well, close to my age, also with kids. She gets food issues.

“Well what do you eat?” Sandra demanded.

“Meat and vegetables, really,” I said.

“Like a Paleo?”

“Yes, I am a Paleo.” I was laughing inside. I want to get a shirt with this on. But I was glad she got what I do.

“I can make you Paleo cookies!” she said. I was becoming a challenge.

“Uh. Well, thanks, but if you use wheat in your kitchen at all I probably can’t eat anything made there. And I don’t really eat sugar unless it’s a really special occasion.”

Like Monday night, when my sister came to dinner and P. made her a little chocolate birthday cake topped with fresh berries. YUM. I don’t think I’ve had cake since May or before. It was amazing. I can wait til the next birthday now.

Sandra had also chided me earlier that day for turning down some plums midmorning. I feel like such an asshole every time I open my mouth about my diet so I really wait until I’m asked. Again she brought the “WHY.”

“I’m still full from breakfast,” I said.

“It’s just one plum!”

“I’m not really a snacker,” I said, regretting it instantly.

“Snacking is good for you! It ups your metabolism,” she told me.

I just nodded. As long as I’m still losing weight at a steady pace, I don’t really feel like I need to resort to any tricks to “boost” my metabolism. I feel great with limited sugar and I think my body and I are doing fine on our own. I suspect I haven’t heard the last from Sandra about what or how I should be eating, though.

“The only thing Columbus discovered was that he was lost!”

Windom Earle: Garland, what do you fear most… in the world?
Major Briggs: The possibility that love is not enough.

Time is zipping along right now. I’m getting into week four of hammer club this week, and this is where it lets up a little. At first we were kind of immersed, going five days a week, and now it will ease off to three days, which is great with me.

In the second week we visited the cement masons, and had a day of work with an older vet and a guy around my age who’d been working with concrete for half of his life now. I was pretty sure going into it that I didn’t want to be a mason, and I left thinking the same. The guys were really nice, and showed some onsite GoPro footage about what it has been like pouring slab at the ass crack of dawn in the to-be Amazon buildings downtown. They did let it slip that the men in their org pour the slab, while the women were downstairs, patching what had already been poured. I know it’s inevitable sometimes, but I don’t want to spend eight hours a day cleaning up mistakes or what was missed. Working outside before and as the sun comes up sounds like a dream, though, really. I guess the die was cast when I got my first job at 15 as a papergirl.

We were all shoveling sand and rocks, and moving wheelbarrows around. I volunteered to slit open a bag of cement to pour into the mixer. It was fine, like mochi flour, and I was overzealous when I picked up the bag halves, and the cement went POOF and coated my chest and went into my eyes, past my safety glasses. I felt ridiculous, like a child, having to admit that I had cement in my eyes and being led off to the sink and air hose by the nice older mason. He and I talked baking and children; he has daughters, too. The ladies and I made stepping stones with our mixed concrete, and that was fun, but has very little to do with things like pouring slab day-to-day.

After troweling and beveling the edges, the next step was to lay a stencil and color the top of the stepping stone. I thought the provided brick stencil pattern looked very boring, so I made my own out of a cardboard doughnut that I cut into a spiky sun shape. “The warranty’s off yours,” the younger mason told me. I sprinkled powdered pigment on the top of the concrete, over the top of my bespoke stencil, and worked it in with my trowel. When I pulled it off it looked marvelous and weird among my classmate’s staid brick patterns. “Rebel,” the woman next to me said, and smiled. She’s a football player with a high fade and heavy gold chains.

Both of the masons shook their heads. “You’re speechless,” I said. “You’re amazed.” I got silent high fives for that. I know they didn’t want me, and I don’t want them, so I’m glad I could inject a little amusement into their day of leading hammer club through its paces. I need to remember to bring my camera places. I might as well–I couldn’t feel more out of place really. I don’t care.

Last week we spoke to the electricians, and I didn’t get anything into my eyes, so things were looking up there. I bent and cut conduit and worked with wire. This week we’re going up North to visit the sheet metal workers, and we get two days in the shop to have a serious introduction to a large variety of tools. Our shop time is supposed to culminate in a project that we get to keep. I’m going to make a storage bench with small spaniel stairs for the end of the bed. Even if they choose not to use it all the time now, I think it will become valuable to them in the next ten years.

This weekend Franny and I are making a big push to finish our Twin Peaks costumes. She is doing a lot of painting and I am doing a lot of assembling. I need to and will finish tonight, since I have “school” this week. Franny has more time to paint and dick around if she needs it. She’s grounded for busting curfew recently and is working on a lot of art as a result. Her boyfriend is writing her letters since I’ve got her phone on ice, which I think is actually very sweet. My sister is quietly delighted that Franny will not have her phone next weekend when we’re out of town together. I blabbed this to Franny and she said, “Well I wouldn’t be texting the WHOLE time. This is a special trip.”

I know I should be running the drill myself this weekend, but I like working with P. so I tend to just hold the wood while he runs it. I am doing sawing and general assembling, which is fun. P. is invaluable for consulting with, since I’m not working with any existing plans. I think without him I would tend to overbuild, and I need my costume to be as light as is reasonable, while not falling apart. It’s a lot more fun than building the beehives, to be honest, since there was a lot of, “Oh god, actual creatures need to live here once we’re done” and it was funny angled boxes that needed to be pretty perfect. So the costumes–I’ll publish the pictures on Friday, here and Flickr, before we skate out of town that morning.

This year’s festival marks the 25 year anniversary of the show, so it’s slated to run through Monday, instead of just Fri-Sun. On Monday I’ll be missing my forklift certification, which is unfortunate, but I don’t think it will hurt me in the long run. Yah-tah! I’ll be back soon.