The Ghost of Christmas Past…

We’ve not spoken in a few minutes…a comfortable silence…each absorbed in our own tasks. Alone, yet only an arm’s length away. I find myself staring across the table at her…suddenly somber and pondering the world and my place in it.

***

Holidays often bring a melancholy mood. Expectations. Societal pressures to give and receive. The desire to visit and celebrate and gather with family and friends. Most times all of that cannot come together. Occasionally none of it can. Work. Life. Family strife. Money. Distance. All of these can and do impact our hopes and plans…or wishes.

The end of the year also seems to require review. Did we succeed? Did we improve? Can we see the future? Do we regret? It’s made that much more pensive when our plans haven’t come together or we’ve simply run out of time.

That’s reality. There’s no failure here…but it often times feels like it.

…at least…for a moment.

***

Christmas Eve. We’ve some family coming for dinner. We’re missing others. Time. Distance. Money. Life…and death. All of those things conspire to dampen our spirits.

I suddenly recall another Christmas Eve…a long time ago on a dreary evening just like this one. Our first together as husband and wife in fact. Twenty-five years…

***

1991. Dreary, drizzly, cool, and damp. Staring at my lover sitting across the table from me…absorbed in her own thoughts, writing out some more cards for the season. It was to be our one indulgence. Cards. It was a stretch to afford to buy the stamps.

Our plans had come apart you see.

Family was all far away or otherwise occupied this year. We had turned down one invite simply because we couldn’t afford to go. We didn’t have the gas for even that paltry distance. We were still fighting our way out of the mire of poverty. My job was holding up…and I was working side jobs on my days off…as well as putting myself through college full-time, but “things” conspire.

I’d paid my tuition for the upcoming spring college semester a couple weeks before…and later on the same day I found out my boss had “finessed” our company’s “tuition reimbursement” plan so that I couldn’t use it. The terms were vague. He interpreted them to suit himself. Big fish. Small pond. Empires. He was ex-military and looked WAY down on any that were not…no matter what prices we had paid in other ways. His word was final.

The company encouraged education. He didn’t. I was good at what I did you see. The best, usually. I still believed that the hard work and dedication would pay off.

When I objected, he flat told me, “It’s not my job to help you advance. It’s my job to keep you right here.” The last two words punctuated by his fist hitting the desk. Seems I made his job easier.

He’d also declared that if we worked the holiday (we usually had to), that we’d no longer get double time…we’d have to take a day off (of his choosing) later instead. He usually did this by announcing as you walked in for your shift, “You’re off for the day.” A day gone…and a commute…

I’d have walked out right then…but it was more than just me to think about. That lady that put her trust in me deserved better. Responses should be measured. Thought out. Bitch-slapping the boss is neither of those.

But plans were falling apart. The tuition and books had doubled in price every year. As a working-class white guy I qualified for nothing in the financial aide realm despite a 4.0 gpa so far. I’d often found myself paying two or three times the tuition of my classmates simply because “me” was the only group that didn’t qualify for something.

Shady loans from government funded “tuition centers” had stupid-bad terms and required arts and business majors. I concluded after looking at the terms that they were targeting people that couldn’t do math…and requiring degree plans where they’d never learn any.

I was on the engineering track. No monies for me. No helping hand. Work my way out or drown.

It’s always been so. It always will be. In today’s speak, that’s my privilege.

Sink or swim. Work or die. Guess I’d better get to work.

I didn’t want to bail on the college though. I could see where technology was going…particularly into image and printing production…and I was IN the field…I wanted to be one of the ones ushering the tech.

The wife and I talked it over. Decided we’d just have to cut somewhere else to cover it. Hard to do when your grocery budget is $20/week.

I’d lined up a few more side jobs and worked myself to exhaustion. I covered the bills. Barely. The equivalent of two full-time jobs…and a full-time course-load.

Lots of sacrifices. One of those was Christmas.

At one side job (electrical) I surprised the man that hired me with my rapid and quality work. I had to be rapid…I needed to get on to other jobs as fast as I could. I needed the money.

The quality was just my pride. Why do it if you’re not going to do it right?

As a bonus he gave me a small turkey and some other fixings for a holiday meal. It was a “care package” kind of thing he was giving his own employees for the season.

I was thrilled. I could bring home the feast. Pasta casserole with a little ham thrown in was all we could afford…and that’s a poor “First Christmas” meal to provide my bride.

The small turkey is in the oven. The house smells of the holiday. My lover is filling out cards to mail our friends and family since we’ll not see any of them this holiday…

…and I’m staring across the table at her. This is supposed to be a time of joy and family and friends and here we were…just the two of us…in our little mobile home in country…with barely enough budget to pay for the gas so I can get to work till the next payday. We don’t even have the entire night together. I have to go into work soon and will be there all night and most of the next day.

I look at our pathetic little tree…maybe two-foot tall fake thing…that I had bought as a bachelor (and kind of a joke) a half a decade ago. She’d hung a few heirloom family ornaments on it. It was shedding plastic needles like a dried out real tree. There were maybe three little lights on it that still worked.

Have I failed? We were only holding our own…if that…and there was nothing more in me to give. Was it enough?

Troubling thoughts.

And then she looks up…cocks her head…and smiles. The kind of smile that shows even through the eyes. Mirrors of the soul and all that.

Souls. She seems to read a little of mine. “We’re fine babe. We’ll make it.”

And that’s all it took. The melancholy vanished like it never was. It was Christmas, and we were together, even it it was only for a couple more hours.

***

Fast forward…twenty-five years…to today. I stare across the table at my lover and wonder where the time has gone. So many things had changed over the years…but many were the same. We had plans for this Christmas. Some of them were working out. Some not. We’ve lost friends and family this year. Had tough times as well. Storms and thieves and the universe’s perversity hit us hard again.

Hard enough this year that again I wonder if I’ve failed.

Sobering thoughts.

And then she looks up, cocks her head and smiles. That same smile she had twenty-five years ago at our first Christmas…and I’ve seen countless times since. That smile that says that yes, things will change. We’ll get older and lose friends and family. Money will be tight…or not…but none of it really matters.

It’s Christmas. We’re together.

And that’s all it takes.

Merry Christmas.

CUAgain,
Daniel and Carey Meyer

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Seriously?

Saturday night somebody couldn’t decide whether to go straight down the road, or turn…so they split the difference and crashed into our fence and pecan tree.

Note that this is the SECOND time this year somebody’s crashed into our fence…

The first time:
(the destruction)
(the replacement)

THIS time however, I think we can say, “We won.”

Instead of crashing through the fence, they head-on-ed our massive pecan tree. Poor choice. I expect the car is totaled.

KE-Runch!

KE-Runch!

As I understand it, the occupants fled the scene. There are no signs of skid marks or any attempt to stop. I’d hazard a guess that “Alcohol was involved” appears somewhere in the police report.

Our damage consists of a chunk of tree root, some bark knocked off, and minor bent up fencing wire.

No real attempt to stop...the "splotch" on the pavement is from the car bleeding to death as the dragged it out to load on a wrecker).

No real attempt to stop…the “splotch” on the pavement is from the car bleeding to death as they dragged it out to load on a wrecker).

A chunk of root.

A chunk of root.

The tree.

The tree.

I wonder how the city would feel about me installing tank traps and mines? I could call it an art installation…

CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

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An Old Vic Halloween…

Had a great Halloween Trick-or-Treat Saturday night…an artifact of small-town Texas…if Halloween isn’t on Friday or Saturday they move Trick-or-Treat to the nearest (Friday or Saturday) so it’s not on a school night.

Apparently they’ve figured out sleep deprived kids hopped up on 20 pounds of sugar do not a constructive school day make.

Anyway, THIS is the leftovers. We started with 80+ pounds of candy and 200 full-sized glow sticks.

The remains of the day...all that's left of over 80 pounds of candy!

The remains of the day…all that’s left of over 80 pounds of candy!

We are generous with the candy…a good solid handful (and I have big hands).

One older girl tells me, “Oh no. That’s too much! Save some for the other kids!”

When I assured her I had that covered she smiled brightly. “Oh wow!”

Then I handed her a glow stick. You’d have thought I handed her the world.

One of the reasons I love Halloween in a small town. Polite kids…the majority of them trying hard to have some sort of costume…some are most excellent…some have few resources but we make sure they have fun anyway…and the few that didn’t have costumes of any sort were usually escorting younger siblings that did.

Parents too…were often dressed up. Parents like glow sticks too!

Two new blowups this year…the big snake:

The Big Snake (with the Momma Dragon in the background)

The Big Snake (with the Momma Dragon in the background)

And the baby dragon:

The Baby Dragon

The Baby Dragon

And of course we rolled out previous year’s decor…the Momma Dragon of course (over 12 feet tall!):

Momma Dragon

Momma Dragon

Our usual big spider (and web woven out of rope-light):

The Big Spider

The Big Spider

Cat…in a hat…

Dignified cat is dignified.

Dignified cat is dignified.

And pouncing cat:

Pouncing cat.

Pouncing cat.

We of course, had the usual bloody hands, skulls, pumpkins, and spiders scattered about.

There were lots of good costumes. Ninja’s outnumber pirates this year…not counting ninja turtles…which could make up their own demographic. And spider men…lots and lots of spider men.

Anyway, fun night. All put up now. Gotta start planning for next year!

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Tower is saved…

The project I started last weekend

Well, the windows are IN! Woot! Flashed, signed, sealed, and delivered.

Some 6 months after the storm we are weatherproof!

These are high-end, custom, “hurricane” rated, wooden windows and should last a lifetime, barring future hailstorms of course. When 2-3″ hail is propelled by hurricane force winds all bets are off.

I’m also pleased to have solved a problem that’s been plaguing this house since it’s construction. The sills of the old windows were flat and practically flush with the lower roof, providing a source of nearly constant leaks inside the tower walls, and then of course, into the entry parlor (round room) below.

Their location and construction pretty much made the leaks inevitable. I shortened the new windows about 5 inches and gave them a proper sill/trim/flashing. These should never leak again. I also maintained the trim width/profile so that it matches the rest of the house (once painted).

Note that the new outdoor trim is treated, and I can’t paint it till it’s been exposed a couple weeks (or more). Of course, since everything, everywhere on this house needs painted…well…old house owners know THAT pain…

One neat note:
Removing the remains of the original windows I found the word “Doak” penciled on several of the pieces. This was interesting as the history of the Old Vic says that when built, the family that commissioned it was the Doak family…it was called “The Doak House” for some time…finding evidence that the original frames/trim was milled for the Doaks is cool.

Nathaniel P. Doak was the first District Attorney of Red River county. By 1890 he was a 6th District Judge. He was a Freemason with a Royal Arch Degree. Given that Clarksville was the county seat, it was only right that he build a fine mansion there after he married Maggie Burgher, the daughter of Colonel Young Burgher.

Of note, his second wife was Laura Reed, his niece, daughter of his first wife’s sister. At the time of his first wife’s death he had two small children at home, and the two wives appeared to be close friends as their names appear together in news articles about charity work in Clarksville.

Original trim was custom milled for the "Doak" family.

Original trim was custom milled for the “Doak” family.

I still need to do the trim work inside, but that will be a little later is it’s only for looks, and more urgent projects are next up (like finishing the front porch!).

I will be able to salvage some of the interior trim (most marked “Doak”!), namely the side trim and header “bulls-eye” trim. The curved top and bottom interior trim had suffered from the constant leaks over the years and I’ll have to replace that. Fortunately, its state of decay gives an intimate look into its fabrication and I’ll be able to replicate it quite easily…okay, not “easily” but yanno…”doable”…and well…fun of course!

More pictures to come then.

For now:

New tower windows installed!

New tower windows installed!

I should note that my insurance company thinks this job…including parts and labor, should have cost all of $110.

So…by my hand our tower is saved…by which…I’m probably accidentally challenging Thor to another duel…

CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

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What light through yonder window breaks?

Y’all may recall we got seriously clobbered by a couple of storms last March…seriously damaging pretty much everything we owned.

This shut down a lot of project work as we tried to get things dried in and start to repair damage.

The progress is woefully…well…nil…but this last weekend I got started on one serious issue; the tower windows at the Old Vic (as opposed to the tower windows at Cupola Art, which were also destroyed in the same storm).

The tower windows were all damaged by this storm…shattering one glass, cracking others, and splitting two frames and nearly every sash. This was quite a blow! As an aside, when the this south tower window failed, it blew the glass out of our north dormer window (damaging the sashes).

Restoration of these windows simply isn’t in the cards at this time. The curved glass, and the required milling of pretty much ALL new parts puts the price tag at restoring JUST those three windows at well over $3000.

Since the insurance company determined that the stuff was old and all they would settle for is me “screwing a $39 piece of plexiglass over it”…other options had to be explored.

What I did was order three, custom, wooden, double-hung windows to replace them with. I can do all three tower windows for less than I can partially restore ONE of the curved ones.

Old house purists will be calling for my head over this, but they had to be fixed.

The curved glass was cool and all, but the reality is that they’ve been a problem for the house for well over 100 years. The amount of rot I had to repair just on this one window was just plain scary.

See, the sills are nearly flush with the lower roof, allowing water to pile up there and work it’s way in. If the wind was blowing, we could get a literal deluge downstairs in the round room (Entry Parlor).

The new windows are 5” shorter, installed at the top, allowing a pronounced sill and correct flashing of the lower roof. I kept the side trim size identical so when painted, we’ll have the same look.

So…1st window in the tower replaced. This was a bear. Square peg in round hole…or rather…flat thing in curved wall. Interesting work as I had to replace lots of rot and do “interesting” things involving curves to make everything line up.

I like doing interesting things involving curves…though that’s usually things I’m doing to the wife and her curves! Ah well.

Anyway…a bear to do. You’ll hear people say, “They were craftsmen back then!” and I’d add, “Yes, just like they are now…if it shows, it looks good. If it doesn’t, it’s whatever they could cobble in there to make it work.”

100+ year old curved walls are interesting!

So…two more to go. They should go faster as I “know” the process and the measurements. I spent a bunch of time on the first one figuring out the best way to, “get it right”.

One of three replaced.

One of three replaced.

The new window is flashed, mounted, and will never leak again. I still need a caulk job and (obviously) to paint the trim (and the entire rest of…well…*everything*)…but I feel good about this.

After this correction, the tower is likely to stay a tower (as opposed to a seriously odd decoration in the entry parlor if it collapsed due to leakages) for the next 100 or so years.

This window was #1 because the frame was split, the top glass was shattered, the bottom glass (somebody replaced with plexiglass) was cracked, and BOTH sashes were split/blown in by the storm.

I will start on window # 2 next weekend. Just gotta pick which one of the remaining 2…IS #2. Both have cracked glasses. One seriously leaks at the sills/roof, the other, the frame is shattered and it’s simply braced in.

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe….

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The Riddle of the Sphinx?

eggs2
“Breakfast!”

She plunked a plate of bacon and eggs and a glass of iced tea in front of me and I smiled. I was enjoying the service…and the server.

With difficulty I brought my gaze up to meet Her eyes and said, “Mmmm. Looks great!” My comment was plainly more admiring of Her than the plate of food.

Yes, I was flirting. Openly. The slight blush and little swing of Her hip as She moved showed She was returning the favor. Man those wonderful curves!

She was wearing panties and a loose t-shirt draped off one shoulder and nothing else but a smile. I reflected yet again that in all my years and all my travels, this was, hands down and every time, the best place I’ve ever had breakfast.

The night before had been interesting too.

Yeah, you may have guessed. This was not some “hooterish” exotic breakfast place…though, come to think of it, that might be the next multi-million dollar idea (be sure and cut me in). Chicks and Jacks? Perky’s? Hot Buns? Sunny Side Up? Mmmm. Dunno. Needs work.

Ah, yes. The place. Well, we were home, and it was the wife’s turn to cook.

I picked up my fork but She hadn’t sat with me at Her own plate so I paused…focused my attention back on Her. Her smile had faded. She was watching me with a pondering and troubled look, Her hands clasped uncertainly in front of Her.

I raised an eyebrow. “What?”

“Why do you love me?”

Uh oh.

My first instinct was to run.

***

Listen up guys…if you’re in a relationship long enough, you’re going to get the occasional question of this sort…the instinct to throw a smoke bomb and bolt is probably a good one, but vastly reduces your chances of finishing breakfast…or getting laid later on.

That’d be TWO strikes against having a good day so other options should be explored.

So, running is out…an answer it must be. Smoke bombs stain the furniture anyway.

There IS an answer…but the trick is…the answer is deep and delving and requires years of introspection and explanation…AND that’s not what she’s looking for at that moment. Contrary to the modern tripe being pushed at us from all directions…men and women are vastly different critters…besides the obvious plumbing, we are also wired differently and the operations manuals aren’t even in the same language. With these sorts of questions…there IS some emotional insecurity that has cropped up for whatever (or no) reason…and it’s THAT you respond, not THE response that really counts.

But as always…with your lover…I recommend blunt honesty. The quick answer, without the introspection and deep explorations…will be all at once woefully inadequate, distinctly you, and with a little later pondering, deeply meaningful.

Besides, she will at least, recognize your earnestness.

***

“Why do you love me?”

I managed not to panic, reached out, spun her around, swatted her on the rump, and meeting little resistance, pulled her and all those wonderful curves into my lap and kissed her soundly.

When I let her up for air I had my answer ready.

“I love you because you have a cute butt and you bring me bacon.”

Yeah, deeply meaningful. Sheesh. Pretty sure those damn curves carbonated my brain. I am a guy yanno.

At least it was earnest. The kiss had left her gasping.

Whatever…it worked. She was smiling again and I got breakfast AND later…ur…well…had a great day.

Treat your ladies right gents…and honesty will always work.

Well…unless she asks you if that dress makes her butt look big. For that one…throw the smoke bomb and run.

I’ll see you on the road.

CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

Posted in Miscellaneous | 1 Comment

Fencing Replaced

So, some nimrod managed to *not* turn…and drove his/her vehicle through the fence at The Old Vic late Wednesday night or Thursday morning.

The took out my mailbox and pole, 40 feet of fence, 4 poles, the gate, my ugly bush…thing…(just to the right of the porch stairs) and they even managed to hit the house.

Ya can jog right or turn left...this nimrod split the difference.

Ya can jog right or turn left…this nimrod split the difference.

We found some fender-well or door-edge trim with reddish paint on it, and there was reddish paint where they hit the house too.

Impact. Little cracking...paint and plaster removed.

Impact. Little cracking…paint and plaster removed.

Neighbor says she saw a possibly 70’s or early 80’s model pickup…two tone with red or orange and white or yellow (hard to tell at night) around 1 am.

They, of course, ran.

If the person that did this happens to be reading…I’d have a word or two with you. Bring your checkbook. You may also want to stop by and speak with the local police and get your status straightened out there.

Saturday I bought a bunch of stuff and my friend Mike came by and helped. Got the old poles (and the concrete they were set in…that’s the hard part) excavated and new ones put back in and concreted by Saturday evening.

Sunday we had a leisurly breakfast and then finished the fence before Easter dinner. Thanks Mike!

Between the two of us we even managed to figure out how to weave/splice the new chain-link to the old, undamaged section for a seamless repair. We managed to salvage the gate and its pole.

Fencing fenced.

Fencing fenced.

Between the poles, top rail, fencing, mailbox and pole, concrete, and brick-a-brack this cost about $385 and a dozen or so man-hours of labor…add a little for cleanup and yanno…it sucks.

All the work…and I’m right back where I was Thursday at midnight.

Ugh.

…and now I’m googling surplus tank traps (grins). I could call ’em “yard art.”

Oh, and if there’s such a thing as keeping score…that just leaves THREE roofs, ONE car, TWO trucks, at least TWENTY windows, and a bunch of ceiling tiles and insulation to replace…

CUAgain,
Daniel Meyer

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And then there’s this…

Somebody drove a car through the fence at the Old Vic last night…

Pretty sure now the universe is just messing with me.

fence3

fence2

fence1

At least…it appears…they didn’t hit the house…

Got my work cut out for me for the near future I expect.

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Oh hail…

We had an intense storm roll through Clarksville on St. Patricks Day, doing severe wind and hail damage across the city.

Yikes!

Yikes!

We took serious damage at Cupola Art <--click to read more about that. Y'all might recall that the roof on the Old Vic was just finished about this time last year…well, after the pissing match the insurance companies had about just which storm caused the previous/existing damage (which they weren’t gonna pay for anyway), I vowed that if I even heard the word “hail” in Clarksville I’d have the roof checked for damage.

As it happens…I needed my roof guys anyway to see what they can do for the Cupola Art building.

There was still hail on our porch 11 hours after the storm. And paint. Lots of paint. It took paint off the house!

We also lost the glass out of a window or two.

Hail and paint chips.

Hail and paint chips.

You guessed it. The Old Vic needs new shingles (sob!). Only hail damage though…all the structural work and redecking we sprung for did the job. We were protected from the wind damage and we’ve no structural damage and no leaks at this point.

But this is heartbreaking.

More as it develops.

Posted in Roofing, Windows | 3 Comments

Gah!

If y’all ever wonder what the 300-pound, strong as an ox, rides a motorcycle with impunity in metroplex traffic, has knocked out a horse with a single punch (that’s another story), tough as nails biker dude finds as absolutely terrifying nightmare fuel?

This. Out of one of my porch columns. The entry hole was not even half an inch.

SO glad I didn’t stumble upon these while they were active….

KILL MAIM BUZZ!

KILL MAIM BUZZ!

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