30 June 2008

Driving Traffic

I'm looking at the analytics for this blog. Search queries, as Dan points out regularly, are interesting things. For example, among the more-or-less expected queries that might lead one to this blog (including "blood on the lintels," "brent graber," and "madgrab") there are also things like the following:

  • "oconvpack" and "oconvpack.exe" -- neither of which appears in any of my posts
  • "a short parable" -- actually the title of a post. Who knew?
  • "rabid raccoon dream" -- this is my favorite, I think. And there's a related "dreaming of a baby raccoon what does it mean" query that drove some poor soul here.
  • "wouldn't it be adequate" and variations -- wow. Pretty sure those folks were looking for a synopsis of, or video from, "My Fair Laddy."
Of course, there are other strange searches as well. "John David Milhouse," "gillette turkmenistan," "funniest status updates facebook," and, my second most favorite, "hey, miss, i don't find you sexually attractive anymore, someone just figured out a way to double his productivity." And that person spent more than minute on the site. Just thought I'd share.

27 June 2008

Thursday Night

Here is something of a distillation of a Thursday evening spent on the neighbor's porch. As a distillation it does not quite capture the chaos of the conversation, but it does capture something of the consciousness-streaming element of it. A warning: there is some swearing. Rather a lot, actually. Those easily offended should probably not read further. One additional note: in the text every occurrence of "duuuh" should be read as though a teenager were saying it to her father when he just wasn't getting it.

Most names have been changed.

Quentin: You want me to mow your lawn? You need your lawn mowed?

Junior: This motherfucker shows up at 6:00 in the fucking morning knocking on my door. 'You want your lawn mowed?' Do I want my fucking lawn mowed? It's 6:00 in the fucking morning. Duuuh. Do I want my fucking lawn mowed? Come back at fucking 10 or 11 and ask me if I want my fucking lawn mowed. It's fucking 6:00 in the fucking morning! But, Brent, I hate that white shit. You see that white shit growing in the yard?

Brent: Yeah.

Junior: I hate that white shit, man.

Quentin: I think you should get some Round-Up, but Susanna says you should use Ferti-lome. You should put it on tonight. It's going to rain tomorrow.

Junior: I ain't fucking going out tonight, man. I'm done for the day. Brent, this fucker shows up at 11:00 at night knocking on my door. 'You want your lawn mowed?' Hell, no, I don't want my fucking lawn mowed. It's 11:00 at fucking night and I'm in my pajamas and housecoat. Next time you show up knocking at 11:00 at night I'll greet you with my pistol, 'cause I got guns, Brent. I got guns.

Quentin: If you want to get rid of that white stuff you should put on Ferti-lome. Let's go get it. I'll get it tonight and put it on for $5.

Junior: I done told you, I ain't fucking going out tonight. Do I look to you like I'm going out? Duuuh. You know, Brent, I been sitting on the porch all day drinking, and Quentin wants me to go out and get Ferti-lome? Fuck that. But, listen, Brent: I don't drink to get drunk. Duuuh. I drink because it hurts, man. Priscilla says I'm an alcoholic. I don't think so, man. Maybe I am. Maybe I am. But I don't drink to get drunk. I drink because it hurts. Hey, Brent, do you eat at home?

Brent: Mostly.

Bryce: Yeah, I got supper at home waiting for me when I go.

Junior: Man, I don't eat nothing. My daughter says that my food is my beer. But I ain't an alcoholic, man. I don't drink to get drunk.

Bryce: You know in AA meetings they say you should get in touch with your higher power, whatever that is. Some guys use doorknobs. That's a bunch of shit.

Junior: Bryce, what do I fucking say? What do I fucking say? There's two things you should never talk about: politics and religion.

Bryce: We talked about religion last night.

Junior: That's true, that's true. But we shouldn't.

Brent: What's wrong with talking about politics and religion.

Bryce: Well, you can't talk about them in a bar. That's how you start fights.

Quentin: You know, what you believe don't matter. When God reveals himself to you, you get set straight.

Junior: Hey, I'm a Baptist, man, but I don't go talking about it. Duuuh.

Bryce: All I'm saying is me and God, you know, we're tight. Like I'll watch The Ten Commandments and cry every time, you know? I ain't no pussy, but I'll cry every time. I got God right here, and nothing's gonna convince me otherwise. I've seen God working miracles in my life, you know? And I still smoke and drink, but that's who I am. I'm Baptist, you know.

Junior: Hey, Brent, I know you're a church-goin' man, and that's cool, but we don't talk about it, right?

Brent: We could, though. Disagreeing is fun; it doesn't have to be fighting.

Bryce: We talked about it just last night, Junior.

Junior: That's true, that's true. But you never fucking talk about politics and religion.

Bryce: We talked about it just last night, Junior.

Quentin: Hey, when God shows up what you believe don't matter.

Bryce: All I'm saying is when I had been at Pasadena Baptist for three years I got arrested and put in prison 'cause they said I'd stolen a car. I never stole it, but I was in maximum for two weeks.

Brent: Maximum? For auto theft?

Bryce: They thought I was a flight risk. But God had me there for a reason. I truly believe that. That first week I was there, there were 32 of us in the room, and I called my pastor and talked with him and he said it would all be alright. And it was. That first week, I was the only one of us that went to chapel. But at night when they split us into two groups of 16 for sleeping, there was big black dude that heard me on the phone with my pastor. The next week he went to chapel. And the last week I was there all of us went. God had me there for a reason.

Junior: Brent, you never seen the inside of a prison, have you?

Brent: Why were you in prison, Junior?

Junior: Cocaine. I was in prison for five years. 1992-1997. I got arrested and the lawyers opened up a book that had yellow highlights and said that each of them highlights was something they thought I'd done, and I looked at that book and saw the highlights and I'd done every one of them and I took a plea, man. Otherwise I would have been in there for 20-25 fucking years.

Quentin: When God shows up what you believe don't matter. Junior, let's go get some Ferti-lome. It's gonna rain tomorrow and you should have that on your yard.

Junior: Shut the fuck up, Quentin. Brent, you know this guy? This motherfucker shows up at 6:00 in the fucking morning knocking on my door. 'You want your lawn mowed?' Do I want my fucking lawn mowed? You want me to go out at 6:00 in the morning, start my lawnmower, so you can mow my fucking yard? Are you on crack, man? 'No, Meth,' he says. Are you on crack? I ask, and he says 'No, Meth.' Dumb motherfucker.

Quentin: Hey, I'm detailing his car tomorrow. You go to a shop and a good detail job costs you $75, easy. I'll do it for $35-40.

Bryce: That's true, it would easy be $100 at a shop.

Quentin: I gotta go. I can still do a little edging tonight.

Junior: Hey, Brent, you happy with the job he did edging?

Brent: Yeah. Lines are straight, walks are clean. Looks good.

Junior: Yeah, but, honestly, Brent. You happy with that job?

Quentin: Don't ask him. Ask his wife. See, women are more critical than men, so if they're happy then the job was done right.

Junior: What's his wife got to do with it? He paid.

Brent: No I didn't. I didn't have any cash.

Junior: Oh. Really, though, you happy with it?

Brent: Yeah.

Quentin: See? Alright, I gotta go.

Bryce: His prices have gone up. Last night he told me $20-25. Tonight he wants $35-40. Hell, I'll give him $50 if he does a nice job. It'd easy cost $100 at a shop.

Junior: Fuck, man, don't give him no $50 for that. Give him $10.

Bryce: I'll give him $50 if he does a nice job.

Junior: Ok, man, ok. I gave him $1 per tire to clean the tires on my car. Hey, you see that car right there? That's my daughter's car, man. She's 33 years old and has a 10 year old daughter and she's moved in with us. Priscilla don't want her here, but she's my daughter, man, and her mom's dead, and what am I gonna do? She can stay till she gets on her feet. What the fuck am I supposed to do? I don't work, man, I got disability, but Priscilla works every day. 33 fucking years old and wants to live with her dad? She's just waiting to get some insurance money when I'm gone, but what can I do? Hey, Brent, Bryce, you want another beer? Joylynn! Bring a couple more beers out here! Hey, Brent, you did a nice job with your backyard, and I was in my housecoat to go look, right, because like I told you, some days are better than others man. Some days I just want to sleep. And Quentin wants me to go get fucking Ferti-lome? I hate that white shit, man, but I ain't fucking going out. And Bryce, his backyard's nice too. He calls it his compound back there, and they got to-

Bryce: You call it the compound.

Junior: -matoes, peppers, what else, man? That compound back there, but he's a good neighbor, man. I got good neighbors, man.

Bryce: We're salt and pepper.

Brent: Who's salt?

Bryce: Seasoned salt.

Junior: But like I say, I was in my housecoat right, because I'm drinking all day. I don't drink to get drunk, man, I drink because it hurts. They gave me all them pills, right, but then they want to give me that, what is it, that ...

Bryce: Morphine.

Junior: Morphine. Right. Fuck that, man. I'll drink, man. But I don't drink to get drunk, man. Duuuh. My kids think I'm stupid, right? But I'm smarter than all of them. My daughter. That's her car right there. 33 fucking years old and she wants to live with her dad. Duuuh. Hey, Bryce, that's Susanna calling you. She wonders where your ass is, man.

Quentin (bicycling past): Duuuh. Duuuh. Duuuh. Duuuh.

Bryce: Yeah, she says she's going to bed. I gotta go to work at 6:00. But I'm glad to have a job.

Brent: I know people who've been looking for work for six months or a year and can't find work.

Bryce: My daughter and her boyfriend left the apartment we helped them rent. She's mad at me now.

Brent: Why?

Bryce: Last year they were here, right? And gonna have a kid. So we bought them a bed, and a bunch of other stuff for the kid, and helped them get an apartment. And they up and left everything behind.

Brent: Her boyfriend's the Ultimate Fighter, right?

Bryce: Yeah, a wannabe.

Junior: Wannabe. Duuuh.

Bryce: So they left and he's supposed to have a job, right? And he's got these things on his teeth, "grills" they call them.

Brent: We used to call them braces.

Bryce: That's just what they are, man, fake braces. Gold and jewels and hearts and clovers. They cost like $200. So my daughter calls me, right, and she says, "Dad, can you send us $200 to buy a baby bed?" And I say "what happened to the one we got you last year?" And she says, "We left it behind." Now she wants me to buy another one? I been taken before. I ain't gonna be taken again. So I said, and her boyfriend's supposed to be at work, right? So I said, "Hey, Junior could sell one of his grills." And she turns and says "Dad says you could sell one of your grills." And he's supposed to be at work. No wonder they don't have any money. If you ain't working, no wonder.

Junior: That's right, man. My daughter. She's 33 fucking years old. That's her car right there. Tomorrow's Friday, right? And Bryce's gonna be working. And Brent's gonna be working. Even Quentin's gonna be working. You want to get money, you gotta work when you supposed to be working. I'm gonna sit here and drink. But I don't drink to get drunk, man. I drink because it hurts.

Bryce: I'm gonna have some supper. See ya.

Junior: Hey Brent, you want another beer? You want another beer?

Brent: Nah, I'm good.

Junior: I don't drink to get drunk, man. I drink because it hurts. And, Brent, I sit here and drink all day, right? And we got one bathroom in the house. One bathroom and five women. And the toilet paper? Fuck. But that bathroom's upstairs, man, and that about kills me. So I drink here on the porch all day, and I gotta go, right? And I hold it and I hold it and I hold it until I can't hold it no more, man, but climbing those stairs about kills me. I get up there and I want to go to bed, man. And the doctors want to give me all them pills, and there's chemo and radiation, but I don't want them fucking pills, man. They mess you up. So I drink. You want another beer, man?

Brent: The fancy phrase for that is "self-medication."

Junior: That's just what Priscilla tells me, man! "Junior, you think you can medicate yourself?" 'Cause Priscilla's a CNA, right? "Junior, you think you can medicate yourself?" But I don't drink to get drunk, man, I drink 'cause it hurts. And I may die tomorrow, man. I don't think I'll be here in November anymore when Obama gets elected.

Brent: If you are, are you gonna vote?

Junior: Hell yes. But I don't think I'm gonna be here then, man. I could die at any time, right? But I'm blessed, man. I got good neighbors. You're a good neighbor, Bryce's a good neighbor, Junior's a good neighbor, even Michael's a good neighbor even though the bushes are too big. And, Julie, that's tough trying to do what she's doing. That's one thing, man, I know that Priscilla and the kids are taken care of when I go, man. I got insurance, and I got disability, and that's gonna pay for the $7-8,000 it's gonna take to bury my black ass, right? Priscilla and the kids are taken care of. And my daughter, she's 33 years old, right? And she's got a 10 year old daughter. And she moved in. What's she think? Daddy's not working; daddy's dying. Duuuh.

Brent: Is your chemo done now?

Junior: Yeah.

Brent: Is it smaller?

Junior: They say so, man, but it hurts. I don't drink to get drunk, man. I drink 'cause it hurts.

Brent: I gotta take the dog for a walk.

Junior: You're a good neighbor, man, you a good neighbor. I love you, man.

Joylynn: Yeah, you're a good neighbor.

Brent: You are too.

Junior: You're a good neighbor, man. You're a good neighbor. I don't drink to get drunk, man. I drink because it hurts. Hey, hey, hey! You take care, man. You take care.

22 June 2008


So "four or five hours" turned into more like eight or nine hours including cleanup. But it is finished.

Here are pictures from the back door and from the garden:

There are a few things that I may change yet, but they're mostly small and don't really show up in these photos (like adding screws to better fasten the step or adding wedges to better level the planters).

Total time spent: untold hours. Nearly every weekend (Friday and Saturday) including a couple of Sunday afternoons and some weekday evenings from early May until today.

For the remainder of this afternoon I'm going to relax on the porch--I'll better appreciate the patio once I've gotten a bit of distance from it.

21 June 2008

Missed Goal

Remember "Late Spring?" Well, late Spring ended at 11:59 last night. So the new goal is early Summer. I think I have about four or five hours of work left on the patio, and will post photos when it is complete.

18 June 2008


"Don't be overwhelmed," the auditor says to me, "this can be overwhelming."

Clarification: this is an IT audit at work, not an IRS audit at home.

13 June 2008

13 June 2008 (Friday)

To the right is the gas line that feeds our house. It's tough to see in this photo, but if you look really closely and use your imagination you'll see that the yellow bit bends neatly around the piece of rebar that holds the landscaping timber in place.

And to the left is the bit of gas line that was there before the rebar was driven into the landscaping timber. As you might have guessed, the small hole in this piece was caused by the rebar.

So today I had opportunity to learn: (1) the gas line that feeds our house is plastic, not metal; (2) gas lines, at least in our part of the world, are buried a minimum of 14" deep, not 24" deep like I imagined they might be; and (3) finding a buried gas line (about 3/8" inner diameter) by driving a 3/8" diameter piece of rebar into one's backyard is unlikely, but possible.


Two moments of restoration in the last week.

A couple of days ago Tabitha got loose. I think her leash did not fasten properly.

Both Esther and I were behind the garage doing some lawn work, when Esther headed toward the house to get something. As she passed the spot Tabitha should have been, she asked, "Where's Tabitha?" To which I replied, "I have no idea."

Esther saw one of the neighbors and asked whether he had seen a brown, white, and black beagle recently. He told her he saw a kid on a bicycle carrying a dog like that. So we got in the car and started driving. About two blocks south of us, Esther asked someone else. They pointed to the house across the street from them and told here that a kid on a bicycle gave a dog to the family that lived there. When she went to the house she saw Tabitha on their porch. They had paid $10 to the boy who had told them his mother did not want to keep the dog any longer.

Needless to say, we were delighted.

About a month ago one of our grape vines got severed. So we took the severed end and stuck it in the ground, hoping that either that end or the already-rooted end would sprout again. Yesterday I saw that the severed end has new growth.

08 June 2008


I may not be able to wait beyond breakfast for this (made from the first strawberries of the season).

07 June 2008


Had a good time with the neighbor on the porch, but had a note of dissonance. In the foreground was James, "Coop," and "Book," friends for about 50 years, cursing, drinking, and talking about loose women; in the background was WFRN, the local Christian music station playing continuous praise music.

Honestly? I enjoyed the foreground more. There was more laughter. Maybe I should start listening to WFRN's morning show, which promises "to keep you smiling."

06 June 2008

Friday Afternoon

The main patio is complete to the extent that it can be without cutting block. By my estimation I'll need to cut approximately 60 blocks. That I won't do until after I've laid the path as fully as I can. So maybe next weekend I'll spend a good bit of time cutting.

Friday Forenoon

Two pictures. Here's half-a-day's work:
I'm a little more proud than someone raised in a Mennonite home should be:

02 June 2008

Patio Update #Whatever

The gravel is placed and tamped down, and we're ready for the block. At this point I feel fairly safe in saying that most of the heavy lifting is done. What lifting there is from here on out will come in 42 lb. increments instead of wheelbarrow-loads. Of course, 250 blocks * 42 lb each still comes to several tons. But it's just a little at a time. Here's the most recent progress pics. The first is a view from the garden; the second a view from the house.

The only (minor) problem during this phase of the installation was when the pit bulls from down the street decided that they ought to find a nice gravel-filled patio in which to frolic. But we re-tamped, and I took the dogs back to the corner house, whereupon their owner rejoiced. And scolded a bit.