Friday, October 31, 2008

I have spent so much time on this site writing about ordinary things, trying to make them compelling or interesting, perhaps remotely "significant", and then when something seriously significant happens, finding just the right superlatives to maintain the proper arc of my own little suburban life story is suddenly impossible. When the truly significant things in life happen, there's no turning to books, movies, art, or other anecdotal evidence. There's only the soulful suppression of emotion, so that the mind can contain the truth, and yet the mind finds it can't do it, and then the heart turns to God (dragging the mind kicking and screaming.)

Birth. Death. Life. Existential superlatives. I met a stranger a few months ago who said she appreciated my blog. (Thanks!) She pointed at the Little Ditchman and asked me, "Is that the most significant thing?" She was smiling when she asked it, so I wasn't sure if the question was rhetorical. The correct conversational answer was "Yes" of course, but I hesitated because a few other significant things suddenly came to mind. Then she mentioned how I wrote once about some shadows moving across a hardwood floor. I guess I thought that was significant at the time. Now my wife and I have brought another child into the world, and I don't know what to say.

He's sitting here at my feet right now, and he is a Perfect Little Thing. I presume my father thought the same of me when I arrived, as everyone's did, and I like to think God thought the same of all of us at our creation. The birth of your child is that moment in life when God is standing next to you with His arm around your shoulder, smiling and nodding. It's a sublime experience. And if you know better, you rest your head on His shoulder.

Because you're so frickin' tired! There is nothing more stressful than birth. Torture unto death comes close, but even then, at least, the hope of the good afterlife is in the back of your mind. At birth every ounce of faith and strength is required of you, and all that amid a determination that this new life will be altogether more successful and secure than your own, and all that amid the fear that you will fail. Women are to be admired for their beauty, and are for the taking care of -being the weaker sex and all that- and here they are in an ugly display, enduring more pain than a man can imagine. And men, well, all we know is how to fix things, solve problems, protect the women, and there we are so suddenly helpless -all while we await the arrival of our children.

Mrs. Ditchman woke early Wednesday morning, about 2:30AM, with some good sharp birth pangs. She was up until sunrise, and when I got out of bed and made coffee, I came around the corner and saw her at the top of the stairs with that I'm-a-woman-and-you're-going-to-have-to-trust-me-on-this look. And that's when she said it: "We need to start preparing," and she stated it with authority. Now, I'm a man, but with a statement like that, I will not argue.

So, yes, Wednesday's post was a bit of a fib. I was trying to calm myself. If I had mentioned that my wife was showing signs of early labor, the phone would have started ringing off the hook, and you never know if "early labor" is going to last a few hours or a few days. Anyway, most of the contractions subsided and we made it to the Little Ditchman's dance class. At about 4 that afternoon, things started to well up from within the family womb. We called Matt and Holly to babysit. They showed up at 7:30 and we were racing out the door, not wanting to give birth on the Interstate, or at least miss the window for the epidural. Matt stopped us to pray on our lawn and the only thing in my head at that moment was we don't have time for this! (I was wrong.)

When you arrive to check in at the hospital, they look you over to see if you're really in labor. I'm sure they've seen it all in there, as some women rush to the hospital after a gassy burrito, but when they saw Mrs. Ditchman coming down the hallway, nurses were sent to prep the delivery room before we reached the desk. We checked in at 8 o'clock. Three and a half hours later we were holding Keaton. Everything that happened in that three and a half hours is too humbling for me to admit, for my wife is a musclebound champion of utmost superiority who has single-handedly preserved my family name for at least another generation. (My dad would be so happy.) Anyway, if you want to hear all those entertaining details, I'll be happy to share. Buy me a beer. (But check with my wife first to see if it's okay.)

The spawn of TMST is a golden angel! A boy of such perfect features, animals emerge from the forest in a servile display of slavish devotion. Clouds part above the freeway as you drive north, and rainbows appear where there is no moisture. Strangers at a distance find themselves smiling for no apparent reason, just being in the presence of such an affecting and uncommon elan. His comely face caused every nurse and hospital page to swoon adoringly and I was forced to ask for a second security anklet. The building's sound system played ebullient music, each song dedicated to our new son, with admonitions to visit the holy child in maternity room 114. We had to ask them to stop so the princely lad and his Mother could get some sleep, but ascetic janitors banging their foreheads on the loading dock walls from missing the visiting hours kept us awake. Anyway, I'm a proud father.

We are blessed with a healthy child. The Little Ditchman, my greatest worry in the whole event, seems to be taking it as expected. There is some acting out, but we're trying to spread the love around. Parents have the responsibility to doll out fairness. Though our desire for all things to be fair in the world outside our home will never be satiated, we can teach what it's supposed to look like. With the arrival of the second child, you hit the ground running on that lesson.

It's Halloween! I'm going to go carve some pumpkins. We're going to take the kids (!) out trick-or-treating and show off the one-day-old to the neighbors. I'm going to surprise the Little Ditchman and dress up as Superman. Candy for everybody! Life is beautiful! You're all invited over to meet Keaton. We'll have to work on a blog alias for the little guy. I'm sure he'll be fine with whatever.

P.S. I posted the other day that I didn't know how our little family was going to look. Time told, and now I know. It looks like this:


Thursday, October 30, 2008

Keaton Isaac Hawkins!

10/29/08 - 11:16PM
6 pounds, 8 ounces - 19 inches

And everyone's doing fine. There are days when you are inordinately blessed. These are them. Stayed tuned...


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Wait for it... No, not yet. There's still time to get in the betting pool, and take the poll to the left. (Over fifty bucks at stake!)

Mrs. Ditchman hasn't slept much lately. With all the talk of not getting any sleep when the baby comes, rarely mentioned are the symptoms of being nine whole months pregnant -some of which are unmentionable in polite blogging. We got up this morning to find we were all out of coffee. Folks: this is not a time to run out of coffee! We're going to need a bulk shipment, one of those big freight containers shipped in from Costa Rica might do it.

All plans have been suspended for a few days, as we play the waiting game. We're going to watch a few DVDs, carve some pumpkins, futz around the house and wait for consecutive contractions at timed intervals. The weather's nice. I mowed the lawn yesterday. It was wonderful.

And today is dance class for the Little Ditchman. I haven't been, so I'm looking forward to it. That long hard slog through a hot, wicked summer is behind us. We're looking forward to a slow, easy autumnal tide. One that laps on the shore of the new year with a gentle, windless patter, heralding nothing but easy days.


Tuesday, October 28, 2008

No, the baby did not come yet. The Little Ditchman thinks the baby comes out of Mommy's belly button, which actually makes more sense to me than the truth, given present medical technology. I know this because I asked her straight out, "How does the baby come out?" just for fun. Mrs. Ditchman raised an eyebrow at me and then we both waited for the answer. "It comes out of the belly button," she said. Made perfect sense. I mean, what else is the belly button for?

Later, we explained that we had to go to the hospital and fetch it, so she knows what's going down. As well, our little girl likes to stomp around on you when you sit on the couch, and lately we'll have none of that; there's a baby in Mommy's stomach! Add to it the oblique changing of bedrooms and the mysterious prepping of the baby devices, and how Daddy always says things like, "Be gentle with Mommy," and "Mommy's pretty tired, she can't play with you right now," and the Little Ditchman is starting to get suspicious. This baby thing is more serious than I had originally anticipated, she wonders. You can see it in her eyes.

That is, you can hear it in her whine. She's been ornery lately, and there's no real explanation for it but Toddler Anxiety, if there is such thing. Last night I dragged her upstairs for bath and bedtime (had to yank her away from her new favorite show DWTS, God help us) and she kept crying for Mommy, Mommy, she wanted Mommy to do it, etc. I stripped her down and instead of getting in the tub, she went over and sat naked in the corner with her stuffed animals. Great, I thought. Arranging for a Family Therapist is not on the list of pre-natal preparations I have for the week.

I brought out the plastic dinosaurs and it all turned out okay, but sometimes you wonder. Mommy had mentioned to her that Mommy was going to have to be "shared" with the baby, which is easily the most disturbing thing the kid has ever heard. (I admit it was for me, too. My first reaction was whether or not I got a piece of Mommy when we divvy her up.) It may not have been a wise parenting tactic to say such a thing, however true. Straight talk is appreciated in a political campaign, but there's not much place for it in real family governing. (It's more the tender justice of "What I Say, Goes.")

I was chatting with a customer yesterday and she asked about the new baby. She told me about her own and then divulged that her biggest fear with the second child was that she would not love her as much as she loved the first -it's a concern I've heard from several other parents- but in the end she was surprised and impressed by her own capacity to love all her children with equal passion. I believe it. We're always tempted in this life to think that love can run out, like gasoline, or money in a bank account, or toilet paper, but love never runs out. On the contrary, the more you give the more you find you have to give. Unfortunately, you'll never know until you try. And that's the rub, I guess.

I would have ten kids, if I had the cojones and the billetes for it. I am one of six, two brothers and three sisters, and though it was a challenge growing up, now it is a joy and blessing. Every holiday is a party, there's a birthday in every month, and every new child is like a precious ornament adorning the Family Tree. When you have more children, what you're doing is you're giving them each other. As it goes, Mrs. Ditchman and I will be gone some day and we can't bear the thought of leaving the little girl alone. When my Dad died, all my brothers and sisters got together. It was an impulse. But what if you had none? I can't bear the thought of that for my daughter.

By the end of the year I'll have six nieces/nephews -and those are just the blood relatives. My grandfather was one of ten. My grandmother was also one of ten. Interestingly, they had two. Me and Mrs. Ditchman? We'll see. But I was the third. So if we don't have a third... well, draw your own conclusions.

Okay, several people have asked about the betting pool, so here we go with the rules. Cost: $10.00 to enter. There are two predictions you have to make: one for the weight and one for the length. You can submit here in the comments section, send me an email, or just call. I'll post everyone's guesses so no one doubles up. The winner is the closest set of numbers, and they get the entire pot. A tie is possible, so put the sex down too as a tie-breaking bonus. Send me the tens in the mail, or just honor it when we see you. Enter as often as you like. You can't win if you don't play.

Here's some fun facts to get you guessing:

Mr. Ditchman: 8 pounds, 2 ounces - 21.5 inches
Little Ditchman: 6 pounds, 10 ounces - 20 inches
Mrs. Ditchman: Unfortunately, the records have been lost to history. Eyewitness accounts claim weight as in "the low sevens."

I'm in:

Good luck! And please participate in the anonymous survey to the left. We're curious what people think.


Monday, October 27, 2008

God bless Mrs. Ditchman, who, in her vast and infinite wisdom, scheduled an easy week for me! It may not be -for you never know- but she is 9 months pregnant, and her chances of having an easy week don't even register on the scale of odds. (It's called "labor" for a reason, you know.) So it's all on me.

By "easy week" I mean in terms of aluminum patio cover business operations, but I know my week will consist of me 1) being thoroughly agreeable, 2) being impossibly attentive, and 3) being altogether cool-headed, cheerful, and calm. There's no room for slacking off on fatherhood or husbandhood this week. (I may not make it.) Meanwhile, Mrs. Ditchman is exhibiting acute nesting behaviors.

It's Monday! And our baby is due on Friday, which is Halloween. We didn't plan it that way. I have a sister who is due to have a baby on Christmas, and the Little Ditchman almost came out on St. Patrick's Day, and Mrs. Ditchman herself celebrated her birthday on Easter a while back, so perhaps this holiday thing is running in the family. I guess it makes things easy to remember, but it makes planning for pumpkin carving and trick-or-treating and things like that a little tough on the original Little Ditchman. To her, that's what Halloween is all about. The fact that we're bringing a baby home is an afterthought, and is more on the "trick" side than the "treat".

For me, it is squarely a treat! When I consider the sum joys of the past few years from raising this little family, I lift my chin and tilt forward into the happy future -something rarely felt previously. Still, there is a certain amount of "it's nine months already?" that's going around. We were chatting about it yesterday, and I think with your first child there is so much anticipation and planning and thoughtful analysis about how life is going to change, that when the baby finally comes (and tosses all those plans out the window) at least you were watching it barreling down on you. With the second baby, you're so busy with the toddler and twice-the-life and you've seen it all before and then -wham- it's time! Mrs. Ditchman said yesterday, "In a couple days we will have two children," and it was like ringing a bell by firing at it with a shotgun. "We'll have to brace ourselves," I think I muttered.

So we're very excited. I miss my baby, who is now a little girl down the hall whining about putting her clothes on or some such torment. In some ways, I believe we will enjoy this new baby more thoroughly, without all the stressful unknown quantities and accompanying frets and worries that come with the first. Babies are only here for a moment, and then they wistfully vanish. It happens right before your eyes, but you can barely catch it happening, and then one day... where'd the baby go?

We're very much looking forward to having another baby around. How are we going to manage the business? No clue. How is our family going to look? Not sure. Are we ready? Ready as we'll ever be. (Read: Yes.) There have been a lot of redundant questions lately, so let me try to answer them now, once and for all:

-Mrs. Ditchman is due on Friday, 10/31, which is Halloween.
-No, we don't know if it's a boy or girl. We're old-school like that, I guess.
-Yes, we have a few names we like but we're not telling you, so don't ask. All the same, suggestions are welcome.
-Mrs. Ditchman feels great, except that she's nine months pregnant. She just left for Jazzercise.
-The Little Ditchman seems to be taking it just fine. The cat we're not so sure about.
-No, we did not have the baby yet. When the baby comes, YOU WILL KNOW.

[Re: that last one. Look, you don't have to call ten times a day and ask, "Did you have the baby yet?" Family members, all, will get phone calls just as soon as said little digger pops out and shows off its dongle, or lack thereof. Friends and support group will all get emails. Everyone else can read this blog. There will be pictures, stories, visiting hours, and everything. Seriously, you jackals, as much as we would love to steal away and deliver the baby in secret at some sleepy convent in the middle of the night on All Hallow's Eve, it's just not going to happen that way. Any family member who calls more than ten times between now and Friday and asks, "Did you have the baby yet?" will have their information clearance status denigrated, and may be lucky to receive an email. And to the person who found that we were not answering our home phone or cel phones last time, so they took it upon themselves to call the hospital and somehow got a line to ring in the delivery room where the nurse handed me the phone while Mrs. Ditchman was pushing -try that again and you lose all holding-the-baby privileges for the first nineteen months. I'm serious.]

It's an exciting time!

P.S. And to those who have asked, "How can I help?" God bless you. We appreciate your prayers and encouragement. Let Mrs. Ditchman know what a wonderful mother she already is. If you really, truly, seriously feel the urge and desire to offer some literal help, please come over and clean the house. Meals I can handle, but the responsibility of cleaning the house is one that evidently falls on incapable hands. I clean the place like a bachelor. Yesterday, I caught Mrs. Ditchman down on her hands and knees scrubbing the bathroom floor in all of her nine-months-pregnant glory. I told her to stop what she as doing and let me do it. She said I didn't know how.


Friday, October 24, 2008

Concrete guys showed up at 9:30 yesterday, intent on blowing my historic contribution to the vernacular. Oh well.

Today is the day where everything must be done! Oh well. Actually, I think I'm caught up on work for once. I'm behind on everything around the house, but hey, that's what weekends are for.

No wait, weekends are for Daddy-catch-up, for that's when Mommy works. I come in to the home and she's on her way out, like two ships passing in the open ocean. Two ships passing in the open ocean with their single passenger shuttling between the two on a car seat strapped to a rescue kayak. Even the cat never seems to be around. Having everyone here at once is like waiting for an eclipse. All the schedules have to line up. (Chores are done at naptime.)

Last night, Mrs. Ditchman went on an interesting diversion to hear about the little shopping center that's going to be built in the vacant lot just up the street from us (the vacant lot where the astounding crop circle event was.) I told her that if they offered drinks and a nice buffet that she should be wary, and ready for the fight. She said there was no food, no spectacular multi-media show, no celebrities. Turns out it was just a few guys and some boards on an easel, touting their plans for a vibrant little corner center to compliment the new Sprinter station that recently opened across the intersection. So my wife is actually for the shopping center, that is, if it's a boutique-y, high-end, nicely landscaped thing. But most of the people that show up for these events are against whatever it is being planned -against growth, against progress, against beautifying the empty 7 acres of dirt and weeds that are otherwise strewn with litter and the homeless. The developers must've been glad the amenable Mrs. Ditchman was there. She came home mildly enthused about it, and showed me photocopies of the plans, which look pretty good. There's also something in there about trees being planted and local trails being finished and a traffic signal going in on my street (thank God) so count me in.

One other person from our cul-de-sac showed up. He's in the party against. I'm not going to get into it, but it makes for somewhat awkward mailbox affairs. Us: "Hey neighbor!" Response: "Grrrrrr." He's also against the park that the neighbor city wants to put in on the adjacent land. (Against a park!) Oh well. It's one thing to be against developers, it's another thing to be against reviving our lackluster neighborhood property values. Shrug. Okay, so we never move. (He hasn't.)

Mrs. Ditchman said there was one random citizen who showed up at the meeting with a signed petition of folks against the project. He refused to say who he was with or who had put him up to the petition. Hmmm... competing local businesses perhaps? I feel for the guys who put together these meetings as a public service (they weren't required to do it) -a civic obligation. I'm sure they dread the things. I'm sure they've seen it all. Funny how, in life, the complainers are often so loud and brash, and in your face about THE WRONGS AND ILLS OF SOCIETY! Meanwhile, there's a whole silent majority of the happy, the content, the dedicated, the faithful and the hard-working, who live out their solemn days tolerant of the loudmouths. Giving them what they want just to shut them up is not the answer. Do the happy never fight?

May our gratitude and pleasure to be a part of this free and well-developed land called America be a joyful rage against the malignant influence of the miserable, short-sighted few.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

"Up with the concrete guys," this morning! I'm still trying to coin the phrase, so please use it in your everyday tongue.

That being said, I've got to rush off to pour some boring old footings. But I did want to follow through on yesterday's post. Look! It's the life cycle of an aluminum patio cover!

Big difference, huh? Oh well, the customer seemed satisfied. I decided that if the day comes in 25-30 years where I have to tear down this exact same cover and am hired to rebuild it, then I will tear it down, haul it off, and symbolically walk off the job -leaving an exposed patio- and retire from the business altogether.

I got $75 for recycling the old thing. But there was this aforentioned item:

World wide! I chatted with the owner of the place, who recognizes me by now. He said that if it gets any worse, I was going to end up paying him to take the stuff. I reassured him, "Well, if you charge less than the dump, I will."

He was sincerely encouraged by this. It had never occurred to him.


Wednesday, October 22, 2008


That was the wake-up call this morning, as the Little Ditchman climbed out of bed and wandered down the hall looking for us. Second day in a row. She sleeps in a bedroom that faces the rising sun, so she's the first one to wake. Coffee Maker lessons start tomorrow.

SO Bad Dad strikes again. Yesterday was much longer and harder than originally anticipated. I had to tear down an old aluminum patio cover and today I replace it with a new one. Usually, the old ones just unscrew and pile in the truck, but this one was all rusty square-headed bolts and some antiquated maddening system of trestles that would not relent.

Thirty years of dirt, tennis balls, champagne corks, birds' nests all came down on my head. It took as long to sweep up as it did to load in the truck. I got home at eight to a scowling Mrs. Ditchman. It was Bunco night, which is why she had wanted me to come home early. I forgot. It couldn't be helped. I was considering the origin of the old champagne corks. Probably thirty years of Bunco nights.

It's disappointing, too, considering that after the last Bunco night she wandered in at 11:00PM and proudly tossed me a wad of cash. She's a competitor. She plays to win. It's one of the reasons I married her: we need someone like that in the family. (I, on the other hand, don't play to win. I play to laugh. I play to drink.) Anyway, it's probably good that she didn't make it, you've got to let the other girls win from time to time to stay in good standing, be invited back.

Took a shower and nearly clogged the drain with the detritus of someone's old poolside shade structure washing off me. I imagine 30 years hence some poor soul will have the same experiences, after removing my old aluminum covers and rebuilding them with nice, sturdy buckypaper covers. I pray for that poor bastard. I hope he leaves early for work so he can get home in time for his wife to make it to Bunco night with the rest of the hens. It's important.

Then I turned on the tele to watch Fringe, but someone's head exploded in the first minute, so I switched over to Dancing With The Stars Whose Careers Are In Decline And Need A PR Boost. No one bled out of their eyes on that show, which was nice. What I need is some bloody escapism, not bloody realism. Dumb Hollywood.

Back to Santa Ana today to rebuild, but first I'm going to try and recycle yesterday's cover. Sometimes I can get fifty bucks for it, instead of paying fifty bucks to drop it off at the transfer station, but I heard the "bottom dropped out of the world market" on recyclables. I'll let you know.


Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I actually posted an "UPDATE" at the end of yesterday's blog, in case you missed it. I suppose UPDATEs should be posted on top, in a new post altogether, for those who don't like to read and then re-read blogs, but what do I know? -I'm new to this whole blogging thing. (Well, 291 posts should elevate me somewhat.) Also, it may interest you to know that I proofread my grammar, refine my points, and hop up my posts with extra jokes and adjectives at the end of every day, so you may enjoy this all the more if you read a day behind. Fun, huh? That's right: by the end of the week, this post will be Hemingway.

Yesterday is over. Now, today. -which involves me going to Santa Ana, back beyond the Orange Curtain, as they say. I heard the Santa Ana winds were returning tonight, too, so won't that be nice? Santa Anas in Santa Ana, though I understand one has nothing to do with the other. Anyway, the job is a referral from 2003. Wow. Cover must still be standing. And through all those high winds!

Yesterday, Prager began his show by announcing that it was Monday, and then querying "doesn't Friday seem like forever away?" To which I nodded in my car, ah YES. To those of us who worked 4 out of 5 of the last weekends, I'm not sure Friday even matters anymore. But, hey, it's work, for which I am grateful. I know that "work" tends to taper a month or so from now, so maybe that's why the diligence is going around. Thinking about our income, I asked Mrs. Ditchman what percentage of "income tax" we pay, and she responded that we don't pay very much of that, we pay mostly the social security taxes, which are called "Self-employment tax" on the forms. Great. Why don't we call it "Self-sufficiency Tax" or "Self-starter Tax"? The "Ambition Tax". Oh, you're going to do it all by yourself in this country? We'll have to tax you for that. Seems the only surefire way to get out of paying taxes is to not make any money. Solutions! The stuff profitability is made of!

That's the thing about running a small business, you're always only sixty days away from bankruptcy, ninety days away from foreclosure, and you get laid off after every paycheck. Someone better tell Joe The Plumber that, he might reconsider purchasing that plumbing business. Also, the fax machine rings and delivers GE Money updates on east coast time, so we get that bright ring in the house at 3:30AM. Doesn't everyone?

Last week before the show, we were visited early in the morning by this guy. I can't tell you how many customers ask me for something like this, and here's a guy who put up the money and JUST DID IT. (Patent pending.) He sells them for six bucks a piece and the little twisted bits of metal probably cost a nickel each, but God bless him, he was the one who finally got it together and just did it. Wish I had. Anyway, he shows up at the house and he's a fifty-year-old, kinda burly dude, and filled with vinegar. He enthusiastically gave us a crate of 'em to sell and then told us his life story (we didn't ask.) He builds aluminum covers, too, and has been doing it for years and years. "I'm a one man show! Sell! Build! Stand there in the sun and take a breather while my customers shake their heads!" Yessir, I know the feeling. Then he claimed to have a new product in the works. It's simple, cheap, and "every backyard in the country will want one!" Then he went quiet and wouldn't tell us what it was and, well, wow, I can't wait. He left in a hurry.

Mrs. Ditchman and I had a small argument about who was going to drop off the kid at the sitter this morning. I relented, because she was worked up and there was no talking her down. I'm in no hurry to drive all over SoCal today, anyway, but she also wanted me to come home early so she could get some work done or something. Let me get this straight: after I drop off the kid at the sitter I have to go get a trailer, drive to Romoland to pick up materials, drive out to Santa Ana and drop off materials and tear down their old cover, haul it to the dump and then return the trailer all before five? It's like two hundred miles! I'm not sure it's physically possible, but I'll try my best! Let's go for it! (Oh wait: there's no more beer in the fridge? CAN'T BE DONE.)

That's what running a small business out of your home is like, in case you were wondering. There is stress. Out the door we had an additional argument about who got to use the GPS navigation thingy today. Again, I relented. (Look, she's rushing off to work and she's nine months pregnant -you can't argue with that!) Finally, Mrs. Ditchman leaves the house and you can count the seconds until the phone rings and it's she reminding me of something or other about the kid that I was certain to forget. So, forgive me, but when the work day is finally done and the government comes around and points at my wallet and says "not yours" -well, it frustrates me. But get a job working for someone else? Aiyeeeee! What am I, a masochist?

I was up on the ladder yesterday and I thought: only twenty-five more years of this sh!t, that is, if I start pumping my beer money into the IRA, and fast. Better get on that. Lord knows the social security taxes are already spent by some baby boomer. Do I need the beer more now, or then?


Monday, October 20, 2008

I've got a full day. Have a great week.

Actually, okay, I've got a minute here... Last night, as I lay in bed, I think the final Sunday thing I uttered before I fell asleep is that I "just wanted tomorrow to be over," which is a dismal way to start a week. But it was a Home Show weekend, and before that there were a few long days there where I was mired in longing the night before. Longing for their early termination, their quick release. I haven't shaved in a few days.

But there was a ten minute segment of unadulterated joy yesterday. It was sunny. I was planting cabbage in the garden. I had turned the soil and plopped the little buds in, crossed myself and wished them the best. Then I went inside, grabbed a beer, and came back out and sat in the adirondack chair in the sandbox. The Little Ditchman climbed up on it with me and engaged in one of her perfect little conversations. She got in real close and grabbed my face in both hands.

"You have grass on your cheeks. I'm trying to get the grass off," she said.

"That's hair. I have hair on my arms, too."

"I have hair on my arms."

"You have little tiny blond hairs."

"And hair on my head, too."

And then she picked up a piece of plastic, bent it into a circle, and held it up to her eye and said,"I'm looking for violations." I didn't get it at first, but then I realized she was referencing the TV show, Lou and Lou's Safety Patrol, where a big magnifying glass comes up to the screen and you have to find safety violations.

It was cute.

Today we're going down to the Children's Hospital to see if the hole in her heart has closed and if the heart squeak has stopped. We told her we're going to "Annabelle's hospital," but we didn't tell her that they were going to put her to sleep for a while. It will be nice to get this behind us. Assign the worry to other things, and get the "pre-existing condition" off the record so we can obtain proper insurance.

Anyway, life is beautiful. Despite its broken hearts.



The doctor gave us the go ahead to do the exam without sedation, which was a relief. She was scared at first, but the brave little digger was a champ all the way though. The technician said it looked good and she didn't see any holes, but the cardiologist has the final say when we meet with him in a couple weeks.

Then, I suppose, it's Rinse/Repeat.


Friday, October 17, 2008

I've got a full day. Have a great weekend. And have some Cake!


Thursday, October 16, 2008

I brought home the trailer last night, having worked late and figuring I'd need it today, too, but it's the third Thursday of the month -and you know what that means. So I spent most of dreamtime waiting for the street cleaner, who begins his route on my street. The street cleaner I have nothing against. He does an honest job of it, and since this is a rainless part of the world, it's necessary work. But the parking enforcement guy who drives slowly behind him, well, I've got issues with my tax dollars going to these shooting-fish-in-the-barrel jobs. He could be replaced by enthusiastic robots.

Robots might be worse, now that I think about it. I'm just grumpy that I had to get up at dawn to move the truck. It's quite a scene out there, every first and third Thursday morning of the month. I'm not the only one. You hear that street cleaner down the block and everyone is out, doing the Dance of the Cars. One guy has a motor home that he has to move, and then there's the five Mexican families living in the house across from us, with their 6 rusty pickups filled with lawn mowers. We all stumble out in our pajamas and hop in the cars, pull away from the curb, go down the street and U-turn it behind the parking enforcement guy. It's a circus. A parade of half-awake, indolent suburbanites. Me with my equipment trailer, him with his motor home, them with their lawn mower trucks -all of us in a slow-moving, half-baked motorcade around the neighborhood, led by the street cleaner and the parking enforcement guy.

We tour the cul-de-sac and then get out. Some of us wave to each other, smile and shake our heads ("What a life!") grab the newspaper and sidestep the lawn sprinklers. It's a helluva show. Every other Thursday. Check it out. Spectators are invited to park on the lawn.

Also, I got a ticket for speeding yesterday. I was pulling the trailer 65 MPH when the trailer-towing speed limit is always 55. First ticket since 2002. I figure, with all the driving I do, I'll take the hit.

But I wasn't about to give up my place in the Thursday morning street cleaner pageant.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

No fires yesterday on my way home to the suburbs. Clear all the way to the horizon, which is only a 5K away, but I was up on a hill and could see much farther. No smoke.

And a full October moon. I was climbing the stairs to bed last night and saw a spot of light streaming through the high window over the front door. It was illuminating something on the floor and I thought there was a light left on but: no. It was the moon. I couldn't get to sleep. I read for an hour. Finally, I put the book down and it felt like I'd just had a brisk workout. I don't think I've read off of real, tree-borne paper for a straight hour in over a year. It felt great.

Five hours later I hear my name being called out of the darkness, and it is the Little Ditchman standing at the top of the stairs. I'm not sure what she wanted or what she was doing there, and I don't think she did either. She never climbs out of bed when she wakes up, and her fashion is to just call out from the sheets. She doesn't even leave the bed without permission, so this was a disturbing occurrence. Does she even know where Mommy and Daddy go at night? It's a profound thought. I scooped her up and put her back. Told her to go to sleep. Hoped it wasn't the beginning of a trend.

A few minutes later I'm laying in bed, fraught with worry. Nothing in particular, just everything, as is a parent's meme. Then a bubble would rise spontaneously in the Sparklett's bottle down in the kitchen, and the lone gurglekerplash is like a rumbling in the belly of the home, an unsettling. Outside, the moon was so bright it reflected off every still rock and sleeping toy in the yard, exposing everything in an unsuspecting night, and after an hour or so of more worrisome pre-workday entropy, I realized my wife was awake too. We got up in the dark again. Made coffee. Discussed religion. Heard the garbage man rumble down the street eventually.

I had to get to work early, anyway. Home Show this weekend. Behind schedule on everything. And yes, I have considered the lilies in the field and the birds in the air. I consider them constantly. And sometimes I feel their sight and song are a prayer for me.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

It's not the kind of thing you want to see on your way home to the suburbs, and for the second time in a week. Our house is in there somewhere. I was going to draw in an arrow, but then I thought they all look the same anyway. How worried am I? On a scale of 1 to 10, "1" being no fire and "10" being on fire: 3. Closer to 2. Perhaps I should be more worried. The wind is blowing it the other way, and there are quite a few houses it would have to ravage before it took ours. What bumps it up to 3 is that dry field there, just near my place. If the wind changed direction just so, it could whip a wildfire up what I call the "Guajome Corridor" -a minor swath of kindling and tinder along the border of Vista and Oceanside that stretches from the San Luis Rey right up to the pumpkins on my doorstep. And the San Luis Rey is a vast swath of an emptied powder keg, a no man's land where illegal migrants burn campfires and arsonists hone their craft. On the other side of the San Luis Rey is Camp Pendleton, where the current fires are. It sounds far, the way I put it, but it's probably not even six miles. There are homes over there, nice ones, and thousands were evacuated last night.

I've never seen the smoke from these fires blow directly over our street, meaning we're rarely downwind of it, so I don't get too concerned. But there are bums who light little fires out in that field over there, and kids have been caught with fireworks and stuff on more than one occasion. Anything could happen, I suppose, but you pull into traffic every day and anything could happen then, too. The most dangerous thing I did yesterday was stand at the top of a ladder on the edge of a steep hill in a high wind. I held on to the aluminum I had just screwed together. It was the stuff America's Funniest Home Videos is made of.

So we try not to worry as a general rule. "Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to your life?" so sayeth The Man. But I lay in bed last night and remembered that I didn't have any pictures of the newly remodeled Little Ditchman's bedroom. Without photographic proof, her furniture wouldn't be covered by the homeowner's insurance in the event of a devastating fire. And we haven't even begun to start paying it off.


Monday, October 13, 2008

Red Flag Warning Issued For Region
10-13-2008 5:10 AM
(San Diego, CA) -- A Red Flag Warning has been issued for San Diego County. According to the National Weather Service the warning will continue until 6 p.m. tomorrow evening. We can expect Northeast winds from 20 to 30 miles per hour, with gusts of up to 60 miles per hour below passes and canyons.

But I'm not finished yet! I worked late on Friday, for we had all heard the warnings, and everything needed to be screwed down (in my case, screwed up) so that it wouldn't blow away over the weekend. I've got more screwing up to do, alas, and this patio cover seems to defy all patio cover logic, and there is such a thing, as it snakes around the building and aluma-proofs the sun. What shade! It's a beauty, really, but I can't exactly take credit for it. Before the house burned down, the family had taken several pictures of (for insurance purposes, I reckon) and they wanted exactly the same thing. Seems they started with a simple rectangle cover years ago, and then added on, and then built on top of that, and then wrapped it around the kitchen, and so forth, so that it eventually had the metallurgic properties and design parameters of the Temple of Gozer and could be used from time to time as a pan-dimensional transmitter. Original planners and builders were switched mid-job, evidently, so that -like the masons- one was not aware of what the other was doing. They used differing sizes of lattice, for example, and I bumped everything up to the same size on this one. Then, of course, there were slightly different measurements on the roofline. (The homeowner was aghast! astonished! that this could happen, since the house was built on the same footprint. He didn't believe me. He ran and checked the other homes in the neighborhood and then got back to me. I was right. Wow.)

I have the photos of the original on my computer. I've been clicking and zooming to see where the joints are and count the number of rafters and so forth. I printed a bunch out, and from time to time I climb down off the ladder and hold up the photo to see if it looks right. The General Contractor came by -he's rebuilding eight or ten houses on the street- and noticed what I was doing. I attempted to joke about it before he could get one in: "This is the way you did it with the homes, right?" He just nodded and answered his cel phone. Maybe he did.

Well, the homes look great! And this big beautiful Spanish Brown beast is halfway done (waiting on a few additional parts) and all just in time for this year's season of Santa Anas. We shall see. Keep the hoses handy.

I got everything screwed up enough that I could go out and have a proper weekend and get sick. Actually, the sickness came after the fun part (about 3AM Saturday night) so it wasn't half bad. Or it was. Or whatever. We went to the Bates Nut Farm (!) and whether that is a wry allusion to the Hitchcock classic or actually a nut farm owned by farmer Bates, I'm not sure we'll ever know. (Yes we will know. Perhaps the movie itself is referencing the old Bates Farm out in Valley Center? That, I'm not sure we'll ever know.) It was beautiful, though, pumpkins as far as the eye could see. A feast for the camera! The Little Ditchman ran screaming "Ohmygosh! Ohmygosh!" at the sight of them, and then couldn't be stopped. She ran off spirited, deep into the pumpkin patch, leaving all the families behind. Not sure what she was searching for, but her eyes were big and bright and she had an acres-wide smile so you do what any good Dad does: don't lose sight of her when you let her go. (Bad Dad actually made an appearance, too, when he inadvertently knocked the Little Ditchman's pumpkin ice cream cone yum-side down into the dirt. I was selfishly checking out some crafty wine corks, of all things, and then swung around to catch up, knocking the creamy bliss to Cry Land. Good Dad showed up and saved the day by purchasing another. All but the two parties involved were amused.)

We were joined by Mr. and Mrs. DawgRun (who brought the baby DawgRun and the dawg) and a few other friends and spent a nice fall day in SoCal farmland. This group of friends would be welcome at any old nut farm, I think, (institutional or otherwise) but it was fun to join up with these guys on this land in the outlying hills of San Diego County, out beyond the oaks. I don't think people realize we actually have Nature here in Southern California, but it's true. We do. (Where do you think all those avocados come from, anyway?) So, it was a generously beautiful weekend out at the Nut Farm, and feeling the beginnings of Autumn briskness under clear blue skies, we loaded up the strollers and went home for a good game of "Keep Or Delete" on AppleTV. Results: Keep all. (Memories included.)


Friday, October 10, 2008

Register to vote? If they were handing out beer I could single handedly change the course of American history.

This ACORN thing is seriously getting out of hand, if you look into the tentacular web that reaches deep into the economy and the current political scene, but I think I've spent all my blog capital on those subjects this week. Next week, I promise, it's back to cute stories about the Little Ditchman, the wonder of nature, the magic of cinema, and amusing anecdotes about aluminum. Preview: dumb dolphins.

Thanks for sticking with me. I remembered what woke me up so early yesterday: I was having a dream where everyone would JUST NOT SHUT UP. They were all talking so loud I couldn't sleep, so I got up and made coffee. Last night I crashed hard about a half hour before normal to make up for it. I woke at 5 AM this morning, too, and had to use the terlet, but was afraid to, so I kept sleeping until sunup.

WHY I WAS AFRAID: I changed the fluorescent bulbs in there. I know, I know, I can be a real stubborn bastage. All those fluorescent tubes burned out a year ago but I was determined to remodel the bathroom and replace them with the soothing light of incancesdents so I steadfastly refused to change them out. Yesterday I gave in, because I couldn't take it anymore. I couldn't take the dark flickering that was nearly sending me into a seizure every time I got in the shower. I must've gotten used to the seizures, because now you flick the light on in the middle of the night and it's like opening that door in Poltergeist, remember? The brilliance of a thousand suns coming out of the closet that was a gateway to the astral plane? Yeah. Like that. Or like the light coming out the sky in Close Encounters of the Third Kind when the aliens arrive. Yeah, like that. Anyway, Mrs. Ditchman went in there at about two AM and I heard her flick the switch and light shot out through the cracks around the door and I heard her anguished groan as the sheer intensity of the light knocked her into the wall. My god, it's full of stars.

We hate our bathroom. Unfortunately, it's not going to get remodeled any time soon. As a lesson, when it says "Kitchen/Bath Daylight" on the packaging, they're not kidding.

I've had a tiring week, and there's more awaiting me today, so if you sensed bitterness and frustration in this week's posts, you sensed correctly. I apologize. My bleeding fingers hurt. I'm sunburned. I'm tired of bending over all day. And I come home and my wife complains about the same things. While I was feeding the cat the other day I made the mistake of mentioning that it seems like I spend all my time at home taking out the trash, changing out the Sparklett's bottles, and feeding the animals -and then I looked over at Mrs. Ditchman who was standing there silently with a seething look of contempt. Then I leaned over and placed the capped can of cat food in front of animal #1 and the dish of newly scooped cat food into the fridge. "Oh my Lord, what have I done?" I muttered to myself. We had a good laugh. We're losing it. (The cat, incidentally, did not find it amusing.)

In spite of it all, do you trust me? Do this: go to iTunes and plop down 99 cents for the song "Till You're Gone" by the Gabe Dixon Band and then when you're done with work today, get in the car and turn the volume all the way up and play it. That'll be the start of your great weekend.


Thursday, October 9, 2008

Mrs. Ditchman and I were up before dawn this morning, chatting around the coffee maker. There was no good reason for it. We were done sleeping.

And what's this? Early autumnal rain in the distance? No. Fire season whipping up...

Got a phone call from my wife yesterday at work. (I carry the phone with me at all times now. We're at that stage.) Exhausted and at the top of a ladder, I climbed down to answer it. She wanted to tell me there was a fire happening in Oceanside. "Well, is it close to our house?" I asked. She said no, it didn't look like it. Okay. What else is going on?

So I'm standing there on the job site wondering what else I can get accomplished at the end of the day, and by the time she finished chatting and hung up, I had called it quits. There was no fire danger, no good excuse to stop, I just decided to clean up and cut out. Yesterday was a hot one.

Driving home, I saw the smoke from the freeway and if Mrs. Ditchman hadn't called me I would have thought it was our neighborhood on fire, as the smoke was right in the line of sight of my house. The fire was over at Camp Pendleton, only a few miles away, so the smoke was close enough to make an erie twilight at the end of yesterday. It burned through the night and is still burning as I sit here.

My two-year-old is obsessed with it, and we watched the smoke from our backyard. "The smoke! Fire! Look at the fire!" but it doesn't take much for her to obsess about things. I have to watch myself because I tend to run off at the mouth from time to time (who? me?) and if I say something like, "I hope it doesn't burn any houses down" the kid will have nightmares for a week. So we downplayed it, and still this morning it was the first thing out of her mouth when she got up. "There's a fire in our backyard." Seriously, now. A few weeks ago she woke up from a nap because a loud motorcycle went down the street and it upset her. Mommy asked, "Did the motorcycle wake you up?" and it's been bad dreams about motorcycles ever since.

Santa Ana winds are supposed to blow through here again later this week, as they do this time of year. I grew up with these winds and have always loved them. I believe they were originally called "Santana Winds" which, loosely translated, is "Satan's Wind" named by the original Spanish settlers for their blowing heat and the fires they stoke. There were many nights in my youth that I would be out in those winds, looking for trouble. I remember one midnight, walking down the main street of my home town and feeling that warm air blow through my clothes. I would watch gust after thoughtful gust pick up a pile of sycamore leaves and blow them around a street lamp, where they would fly up above the light and disappear into the darkness. And I remember my mom driving me to school on those clear mornings after a real wind, tree branches blocking the streets and lost trash cans blowing out into the boulevard.

This is when Southern California is truly beautiful. The smog is blown out to sea and the sky is clear to the satellites. One year we had an earthquake during the Santa Anas and from then on, when the sky was bright blue and a warm breeze blew in the morning, people would say, "It's earthquake weather." There's no such thing of course, but man tries to tie the unknown things together to make sense of them. The wind is like an earthquake, though -there are only so many things in nature you can feel and yet never see.

I was sweeping up yesterday and the homeowners came around to see how it was coming along. We stood there at the top of the canyon in their beautiful new backyard -new patio, new house, new landscape- and they showed me how the fire came through last year, how it skipped that house and burned that one, took out the shake-shingle roofs first and then burned the ones next door. They pointed out a gully of beautiful green palm trees and mentioned that the entire area had been unkempt and unmaintained by the city for years. The palms were dead and dry, with limp grey fronds all the way to the ground before the fire, but the flames had shaven them clean, and they now had bright green tufted tops. "There's a stream down in that little valley year-round. Goes all the way out to Lake Hodges," they said. And you could see it down there, looking like an oasis.

They mentioned the fire out in Oceanside and I told them that my wife had called to mention it. "That's near my house," I said, and we went quiet, standing there in that warm wind at twilight, "but she said it wasn't anywhere near us," I quickly added. The day ended. "We'll be so glad to get our house back," they said. They like the patio cover. It's just like the last one, only better.

Those hot dry winds that come down through the mountain passes and curl your hair and make your nerves jump and your skin itch. On nights like that every booze party ends in a fight. Meek little wives feel the edge of the carving knife and study their husbands' necks. Anything can happen.

-Raymond Chandler, "Red Wind"


Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Uh oh, tedious and benighted TMST political views. Quickly now: click here to deflect!

Watched the debate last night. I only mention it with some preterition, as it means we got wine and pizza. Again! Which is GREAT! But last night's pizza was like a pool of warm oil poured over uncooked dough, and I had to drink a gallon and half of water before I went to bed to give myself some ballast. Felt pretty much the same way about the debate.

What was I looking for in the debate? No sure. I was waiting for one of them to make a ham-fisted slip-up and spend the rest of the night cowering behind his podium, yelling out half-witted answers to Brokaw, (who would demand that we "move on" again) but it didn't really happen. (There were no podiums.) Unfortunately for all those who know me, I'm one of these guys who vote based on principles and values, and not charisma. Obama's got charisma in droves and it may be the thing that seals the deal for him and the country and the world. Me, I'd vote for a dill pickle if it felt the same way as I do about health care.

Incidentally, this "health care" thing was the one issue that clearly separated the two, Obama saying it was a "right" and McCain claiming it as a "responsibility." The correct answer would have had McCain adding a caveat that it is the "responsibility" of the government to look after and take care of the least of those in our society who can't help themselves, (and then mentioning that it happens to not be listed among the other rights in the constitution) but he dropped the pallino on that one. In the end, as a small business owner it will be my responsibility to provide rights to my employees, I reckon. I can barely afford the health care for my own family as it stands, so I'm not inclined to go hire anyone else to take care of, not with an economy on the downswing. Anyway, I'm one of those American blowhards who happens to think that there isn't any "health care" problem in the country. On the contrary, we've got the best health care in the world! What we do have is a health insurance problem, and that insurance is too freaking expensive and too freaking complicated. I blame the lawyers.

I just looked up some facts: according to the Dept. of Commerce and the U.S. Census Bureau, 99.7 of the firms in this country are small businesses. Over the past ten years, 60 to 80 percent of all new jobs were created by small businesses. Very small firms with fewer than 20 employees annually spend 45 percent more per employee than larger firms to comply with federal regulations. These very small firms spend four and a half times as much per employee to comply with environmental regulations and 67 percent more per employee on tax compliance than their larger counterparts. I remember the good old days when health care was a "benefit". Not anymore, I guess. Now, I'm legally obligated to take care of my employees. It used to be just a "moral" obligation, but Big Government likes to blur the line on those things. (Who says you can't legislate morality? We do it every day!)

All that being said, we will not be expanding the family business any time soon, and I doubt the rest of the country will either. I can do it myself (which may be the most American thing about me.) Heck, you all suffer, too, as a result, because you have to hear me complain about atomic element number 13 and my sore back and bleeding fingers and sunburned head! And yeah, I know, I should get a hat. (But why should I if the government is going to provide a dermatologist in my old age? This is where the government realizes they could save a lot of money if they legislated hat-wearing on construction sites, hence the establishment of the Bureau of Hats and its code enforcement officials. Why stop there? Why not have uniforms for all workers? Healthy, safe, form-fitting uniforms that are both attractive and compliant and don't differentiate us by aptitude or class! And wouldn't it be healthier for all if there was some sort of organized fitness routine that we could do? Engage in it together in a show of patriotic unity! But who needs exercise with all that goose-stepping?) Ah well. I'll try to keep the moaning and bitching on the job site when the customer's not there. See what happens when you listen to right-wing talk radio all day?

Okay, sorry for the rant. Look, I'm a meat-headed construction worker, not particularly sharp, kinda slow on the court, and who never really finished college -so it might be a compromising blunder for you to agree with me. Heck, I even failed this perception test! (Thanks to Jane for embarrassing me on that one.)

Yep, Obama sounded great last night. He's so bright, clean, articulate and nice-looking. But I say, ELECT Dill Pickle!

I'm a dill pickle, and I approved this message.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lileks went to DisneyWorld again!

I know I was as surprised as you were when I heard the news, certain he had just returned from there only a couple months ago, but he explains it all in his deft, entertaining, clever prose. I love hearing him tell of DisneyWorld. I feel exactly the same way about the place (except I like the roller coasters.) I think his writing is terrific, of course, especially when he uses words like "conturbated" and "Brobdignagian" -which I had to look up. Still wondering about "conturbated" though. If you have a sufficient context, I guess you can make up all the words you want, and if you have sufficient time, I guess you can write on your blog all you want and edit beautiful little videos of your vacation all you want, too. That is, if you also have time enough for vacation.

I shouldn't complain, but I have one question for Mr. Lileks, if I meet him: when do you find time to build aluminum patio covers? Poor guy. His covers must all be a stilted, dented morass ready to topple on the lawyer drafting the litigation measure to get his contractor's license revoked. I mean, seriously, I had a lot to say about Legoland last week, and plenty of footage to cut together for the sweet memories of my toddler's youth, currently slipping away, but there is so much aluminum piled around, and no other words for it. (Unless I decide to refer to it herewith as "the chemical element of atomic number 13," which I may start doing out of desperation.)

I suppose my writing would start to look professional if I lived in a van down by the river and wrote all day, but years ago, just before I started to get it, I got sick of the van and gave up. (The river I can handle.) There are always stories and metaphors, however, and they still arrive looking for someone competent enough to put them down. Just yesterday, at my morning appointment, I was meeting with a guy who was referred by another customer of ours from years ago. I asked about the other customer, who I heard had had some health problems, and then this man -whom I had just met- relayed a story to me of how this best friend (my old customer) had nearly, and literally, died in his arms. A heart attack on the golf course. And then the man flatlined twice in the hospital. But he came back, retired, and is sitting under his aluminum patio cover right now thinking about his next golf game.

And an hour or so later I was at the current job site, chatting with the customer. She told me about the fire that had swept through a year ago. They have a nice view of an adjacent hillside, and she told me how her husband had awoken at four in the morning from the noise of the howling wind itself, and had looked out the window to see flames bearing down on them and their entire cul-de-sac. She said 911 was a busy signal, and she ran around the house grabbing important items, while her husband ran up the block to wake the neighbors. They got in both cars, met at a supermarket parking lot, and she suddenly realized she was still carrying the phone from the house. (I could write all day about this stuff!)

But it's the overlooked items of wonder, the ordinary things in life that are hard to write about, and it's what Lileks does so well. You have to have a well-placed passion, for starters, and then you have to pretend that there's someone out there who cares (and I mean really pretend, lest it get the best of your fragile creative ego.) It also helps if you have an unusual abstract representation to string everything along. (For example: I gave the cat a bath last weekend, and if that's not a metaphor for life, what is?) As for the writing, if you're good enough, and persistent enough, you'll never have to mess around with the chemical element of atomic number 13. As for me, right now, I have floundered under the weight of heady, incessant distractions. And it would just be enough if I could get the Little Ditchman's room painted. (It's all I ask!)


Monday, October 6, 2008

Study: one in four mammals faces extinction. Man! I hope we're not the one! I didn't realize it had gotten this bad. (I think I contributed to the extinction of the local ground squirrel population.) That leaves two other mammals that we need to focus our efforts on and save. I suggest the cow and the horse.

My math might be wrong. Of course, they're math might be wrong too. I mean, according to geological evidence, there have been mass extinctions multiple times over the course of earth's history. A lot more than 25% of species died (but let 's not quibble.)

In other news, a houseboat was found with dead bodies on it. Drifting down the Mississippi River. "There were no marks on the bodies that indicated foul play," so you know what that means: a deadly virus laying in wait before it infects us all, or food poisoning. Or it's a publicity stunt for Fringe, the new show everyone's talking about. (From the creators of LOST!) Anyway, happy Halloween.

I've been meaning to write up a bit about Fringe, but it's just not bad enough. It's not really good enough, either, though I prefer it to the Dancing With The Stars, which is on at the same time. But DWTS is on two nights in a row with the second night at two hours long, so Mrs. Ditchman let's me watch Fringe for an hour. I had high hopes for it, but it's merely formulaic old tripe with dumb lines and **spooky** bits about science. It's X-Files for the digital era, really, and we all know how that show turned out. Wait a minute -no we don't! (Exactly.) Anyway, I missed it last week because there were more compelling conflicts on Dancing With The Stars that night. I may never go back.

Did everyone spend all weekend working on their house? And then at the end of the weekend, did everyone wonder what it was they got accomplished? And then did you all put your tools back in the truck so you could ditch out in the morning and go work on someone else's house? Maybe this is why I'm so tired and burned out on work all the time: because it never ever really ends. It's a like a TV show. Remember in the A-Team when Murdock and Faceman and the gang were running from the obsessed general "for a crime they didn't commit", but then they'd stop to help some sorry sap, and then in the end there would be the general right there on their tail. And then next week: same thing. Man, didn't those guys ever get tired of living out of the van?

"If you have a problem, if no one else can help, and if you can find them, maybe you can hire..." this guy to build you an aluminum patio cover. I've got a big, big one this week. The customer's house burned down in the fires a year ago. Funny thing is, his old aluminum patio covers remained standing. I saw the amazing pictures. The whole house burned down, but the cover was still there, holding up the wall to which it was attached. Even the studs on the inside of the wall burned -it was all just stucco hanging there. They should build entire homes out of this stuff (Aluminum. Not stucco.).


Friday, October 3, 2008

CORRECTION from yesterday's post: my Tundra is actually a 2002 Tundra and not 2004, as mentioned. I think I put 2004 because it was the year I bought it. It was an impulsive purchase at the time, and I never actually digested the whole event.

My dad had died. It had been less than a year that I'd been married, and the changes in my life were coming hard and fast. Within the month of the memorial service, I had been mostly rid of my pre-marriage possessions through an endless series of garage sales, I moved to a new town, and I ditched the truck I loved and bought a bigger one out of necessity. Getting the business going was suddenly a priority, so we moved south where the work was. I stayed occupied. I changed the view.

2004 ended up being a good year. Pre-kid, pre-house, we had the capital to buy some new tools and go away nearly every other weekend. I look at my photo album for that year and it's just weddings and marathons and vacations, one after the other: Disneyland, boat trips, Lake Mead, the Oregon coast, Vegas, Tahoe, Arizona, the Sierras, Florida and the Caribbean. Mrs. Ditchman and I have a little book where we check off all the national parks we've been to, and we had been taking a picture of us in every state. At the rate we were going, we were destined to see the entire continent within the decade. It was the first of the "Year In Review" parties and -except for the death for my father- it was a year that deserved it.

In January, 2005 we bought the house in the suburbs. We remodeled the place and began filling it with kids. There's been no looking back, really, which I guess is why I'm looking back now. Autumn has a way of doing that, with each sepia-toned tree dropping it's leafy memories, and beckoning the family to gather together for the coming winter holidays. The photo albums for 05, 06, 07, and 08 are filled with babies growing into kids at all their birthday parties, and the sum total of destinations in those years still doesn't match that of 2004, but I married later than most of my friends. In 05 we fast-tracked it, and a lot of it since then has been an unstoppable thrill.

It's a proper life, with its fast-moving ups and downs, its struggles and commitments, and the daily struggle to commit. It's a roller coaster, so hang on. Or better yet, don't hang on. Off to work now, with no time to waste.

There is no time to waste.

(If you listen closely, you can hear the Little Ditchman squealing in there. As the parent, I can pick it out.)


Thursday, October 2, 2008

CORRECTION from yesterday's post: the date of August 24, 2006 was actually the Weaver 4-year anniversary and had little to do with baby Weaver, who was born about a year later. For shame!

I climbed up in the SPOOKY attic the other day and pulled down the "Autumn" box, which has all the Halloween and Thanksgiving knickknacks in it (or "nicknacks" -I had to look up how to spell that word. It's a fine word, knickknack, but alas there is no definition. It gives me the correct spelling, but won't tell me what it means.) I did not unpack the knickknacks and decorate, but I mentioned it to Mrs. Ditchman this morning who narrowed her eyes and gave me a wholly sarcastic "I'll get to it". It was a pointed sarcasm, a well-placed arrow of alternate intent that slipped right between the ribs and into the heart of the matter. I got up and unpacked the decorations.

Fun. I like decorating the house. I like October and November. I remember we picked up a few fresh decorations last year and it was a pleasure to see them come out of the box. I planted them around the house -took all of two minutes- and voila: Halloweentime.

But MAN, it was a hot one yesterday! Summer never really landed a punch this year and I guess when it saw Autumn slink in between the ropes it got up and went at him while he was still in his robe. My Apple thermo-widget says it will rain on Saturday, which will be something to see. My guess is that the data entry guy spilled his iced tea on the keyboard.

So, today it's more of the same with more of the same. I've got appointments and deliveries and appointments about deliveries. Yesterday I got the truck SMOGGED for a cheap fifty bucks with a PennySaver coupon for the local guy. Cheaper than the eighty they were going to charge me at the dealership, and now I can get the thing registered for another couple hundred. It's a 2004 Tundra that had a bad oxygen sensor on it, so my 'Check Engine' light has been on for years and you can't pass a smog test if that light is lit, and it cost me another $250 to get that fixed. How do I feel about this? Well, I feel definitively anti-government. It's multi-taxation! When I lived in Arizona I had to get my aged sensor-less Honda Civic smogged and I went to the DMV and paid four bucks and it was all good. That made sense. The air was clean there, too, but here in SoCal we need to create a cottage industry where you pay $8 for the "certificate" alone. You receive no certificate. "Zapped to the DMV automatically," the man at the machine told me. I picture a large warehouse somewhere on the I-5 corridor with the letters D-M-V painted on it. Inside are the countless millions of Smog Certificates of confident, clean California drivers. Where all the bundles of cash are, I have no idea. Note to government: you're doing it wrong. (And somewhere in the Sacramento offices there is a paper shredder for all those "notes to the government".) I want my certificate! Framed!

So my 'Check Engine' light is finally off, thank Vulcan. I did eventually get used to it, and now my dash just seems darkened without it. It was a mole on the face of someone you love. Remove the mole, and you can hardly recognize them. Must reacquaint, so I'll drive another few hundred miles today.

Incidentally, the 'D' light still doesn't work. $350 for that one. Until the government demands that all my dash lights work, my truck has no d-light.


Wednesday, October 1, 2008

CORRECTION from yesterday's post: the Indiana Jones Lego keychain actually cost five dollars instead of the reported "one". Mrs. Ditchman purchased it as a gift for me. Rip off? No.

The corks are rolling in!

Kind thanks to the generous Weaver family for sending their used corks. Wonderful! And I was so pleased to see the corks were carefully packaged with those airbag fillers, so as to prevent damage in transport. (Of course, you could have just packed the corks in... well... more corks.) The Weavers drink good stuff, too: Windward, Justin, Monticelli, and a few I couldn't even pronounce so it must have been full-bodied, wallet-shrinking stuff. One champagne cork had a date on it: August 24, 2006, which I suspect was drank in celebration of the arrival of the Little Weaver. If you send only one cork, put a date on it. I'll glue it up prominently and then when you come over to gawk proudly, you can explain what the date is. (It doesn't have to be the date you drank the bottle, I guess. Just make it up! Who cares!)

I'm going to wait to glue these latest entries on until after everyone sends them in, that way I only have to take the thing off the wall and heft it down to the garage once. Sure, it's mostly made of cork, but it's also made of plywood and steel and granite -no, really. It's a heavy mutha.

And seriously, no screw tops. Yes, I understand that they are becoming more widely respected within the industry and that there are hundred-dollar bottles out there with screw-tops and that anywhere from 3 to 15 percent of the wine is ruined by bad corks, but hey: it's jacking up my corkboard project. If you can find a nifty craft made of screwtops that's worth hanging in my Great Hall of Wine Souvenirs, let's hear about it. I've already made a huge concession by allowing those modern, culture-less plastic corks to go up on the board, and that's where I draw the line.

I've been trying to drink more wine, and it is my preference to do so, but the best beer is still cheaper than the worst wine, so that's why this is turning out to be a ten-year event. I love beer, of course, but a wall of bottle caps just won't fly with Mrs. Ditchman. Anyway, we're considering having a Christmas party this year. You can come over and admire it then. A wall of beer bottle caps you can go and admire in any local college dorm.

Off to work. The dashboard widget claims 87 degrees today, so I just add ten and brace for the heat. I always have to add ten. I picture a Hawaiian-shirted data entry guy for the Mac thermometer widget sipping iced tea in an air conditioned office leaning over to check the gauge. Dude: you also need a new prescription on your glasses.