Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Turning the Table, Part 2

So, as I said, one day about a month ago Tori took a close look at our ugly but very solid coffee table, and decided to do something about it. What she did was kind of amazing.

Whenever we go to Home Depot, she makes a point of checking out the orphan paint. These are gallons or quarts (or whatever size paint cans) of paint that got mixed and for some reason never bought. At Home Depot they're usually kept right under the paint desk, they're always cheap and often interesting. That's where she picked up the deep blue that now adorns our front door.

Sometimes she buys the paint without having a specific use for it. Just because it interested her. And about a month ago, when she was looking for something to use in our bathroom, she found something pretty cool.

Two quarts of "chalkboard paint." It's that deep green color you remember from your school days, and when you've put down three or four coats, it actually makes the surface a chalkboard. She did it on half this odd wall we have in our bathroom, and now leaves messages on it. The four of us in the house keep very different schedules, but the bathroom is almost always the first place any of us head when we start our day,

And there was plenty left over. So to the table. It has a roughly two-inch moulding around the edge, then a narrow crevice, and the central flat surface.

First she painted the whole thing white. She then applied four coats of chalkboard paint to the central surface. That was very cool. But that wasn't the genius part. In white, the two-inch moulding was kind of boring. So we went to the local comic book shop and bought some cheap comics. Those she cut up and glued them down all around the surface, covering them with a decoupage coating.

I think you'll agree the result is amazing.

The only downside is the chalk dust. It's probably a good thing that I can't just pile books and papers on the thing, but the chalk dust is kind of annoying. After folding laundry and stacking it on the table, as per usual, I found I had to rewash the items at the bottom of each stack. 

But it's a small price to pay for one of the coolest coffee tables I've ever seen.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Turning the Table

It started with the paint.

No, it started with the table, but it was just a table for more than a year. A beat up, chunky, water-stained, worn coffee table. I big, hefty chunk of wood, still a perfectly serviceable coffee table, solid. Heavy. Makes vacuuming the living room a chore. But was it ugly? Oh yes.

I had a picture of it, but managed to delete it recently, so you'll have to use your imagination.

Tori and Millie brought it home one night from a Craig's List curb call. You know, where someone posts on Craig's List "I've got some furniture," or bag of books, or a lava lamp or – seriously, this one was in Sunday morning – a bag of assorted animal bones. They give their address, say they're putting it on the curb, first come, first served. And you're off to the races!

Sounds tacky, I suppose, but it's fun. A come-as-you-are scavenger hunt. A couple of times I was just getting ready for bed around midnight and Tori would say, "We've gotta go! There's a something or other on the curb at ..." and we'd be off. Or the afternoon or morning, whenever. Sometimes you get there just as another person is driving away with it. Sometimes you get there and think, "This is crap. I'm not putting this in my hand, let alone in my car."

But sometimes it's just what you need, whether you knew it or not. And it's an adventure.

One evening Tori and Millie dashed out – so it had to be between August and October 2012, between when we moved into this house and when Millie left for school. When they came back they had, among other things, a coffee table.

Big, heavy, ugly coffee table. Still sturdy, but ugly. For a year it was good enough. It got the job done. In our house, the job for almost any flat horizontal surface is to let me pile paper and books and whatnot on it. And it did that well. There was usually so much stuff on it you couldn't really see how ugly it was.

Then one night not too long ago, Tori gave the table a good look. She started thinking.

This is where the paint comes in. And the comic books.

And since this is long enough, the rest of the story – which is pretty amazing – will be told tomorrow.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spending an Evening with Ben

Great day Thursday, driving up to Jackson, Mississippi, to see son Ben, who was in town to do an acting gig for the ABC news show, "What Would You Do?"

I hadn't seen him in seven years – since 2008 when I was in L.A. for Jeopardy and 2007 for the Talk Like a Pirate Day hoopla at friend Talderoy's Ye Olde Tattoo Shop, when I drank a lot of rum and got ye old tattoos on my arm. Tori saw him last summer. For Max is had been even longer than it was for me.

So Tori, Max and I drove up. Jackson is about a two and a half hour drive, a straight shot north from NOLA. It was an easy drive and well worth it. And Linda (our car, pronounce the name with the Latin "leen-dah) was a champ. Got better than 30 miles per gallon, which ain't bad for a car older than both Max and Millie. It's a '92 Tercel, and on the way up it rolled over 100,000 miles.

Ben, dear OLD dad and Max. Don't
you LOVE my shirt? Neither do my kids.
I was dressed specially for the occasion. Tori suggested I wear my dashiki, a shirt I'd bought on the island for a couple of bucks. You have to understand that years ago I started basing my wardrobe choices solely on comfort and shock value. Anything that will startle the children is good enough for my closet. I don't care about fashion. I also brought my maroon polo shirt, what I call my, "don't embarrass the kids" shirt that I wear for parent-teacher conferences, and planned to change into it once the dashiki had had the desired effect. But once Ben finished laughing at me, he was comfortable enough to say I didn't need to change.

I should have worn one of my Hawaiians, I guess.

Ben and Max in Ben's room.
It was great to see Ben, of course, and catch up on his life and steady climb up the entertainment ladder. And Ben was a little shocked when he saw Max – hadn't seen him since Max was about 8. He's grown a bit, to say the least. Max has shown people Ben's picture and they say, "No way that's your brother, he's too hot." (Seriously, they say that.) So we made sure to get a picture of them together.

But one thing we all agreed on, Jackson is a hole. The worst city I think I've ever been in, drab and ugly and falling down at the seams. Definitely the worst state capital I've ever seen. The only part that looked OK was the downtown area, which was heavily torn up by urban renewal construction and you could see it would look kind of nice if/when they finish. But it was all the more telling that, as rundown as the city is, the only place them seem to be putting any effort it the downtown

Driving up we'd passed by or through a series of comically named towns on the edges of swamps and wondered, "Why does anyone live here? What made them decide, 'This is the place?'" Once we saw Mississippi’s capital we decided the residents of those other places had said, "Well, at least it's not Jackson."

It led to one of my best lines in a while. As we passed through one town, Tori read the name and asked, "What's a Tickfaw?" I replied, "Fer suckin' blood!" (It works if you read both lines aloud in a southern accent.)

Saucy ribs mean sticky fingers! Great
food from E&L Barbecue.
But they did have fantastic ribs! Ben had "yelped" (oh these kids today) for a good place to eat and found E&L Barbecue. The woman at his hotel front desk told him it was good, so we headed off and found it. A hole in the wall. There's a security guard at the door and a sign that says "No firearms permitted inside." So that had us on edge. Lots of tables inside but no one sitting at them. It seems to be takeout only, and there was a line, about 18 or 20 ahead of us, and as we moved up more people filling in behind. The air was sharp with the tangy smell of wood smoke and barbecue sauce. We got our order and went back to Ben's hotel to eat.

Wow! It was great. I had the pulled pork sandwich and it was delicious. Then started looking over the plates of the others, all of whom had way more than they could eat. Three ribs later I could hold no more.

Anyway, Ben's doing well, and we hope to see him on TV soon. We'll update on that when the day nears. We drove up, saw Ben for about three hours and had a good visit, then drove home another two and half or so hours. A day well spent.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

NOLA Pyrate Week

Had fun last weekend at the opening of NOLA Pyrate Week. Hung out for three hours or so with a group of pirates who had descended on the Pirates Cafe, met a lot of the freebooter folk.

Sadly, the camera was acting up so we didn't get a lot of pics. Here are a few we did get.

Me, with what I regret is the only picture that worked of Seika 'Hellbound,' right, quartermaster   of NOLA Pyrate Week. Sunday she officiated at a pirate wedding of Cherokee Jenny Dubs & Master Edward ‘Doc’ Lawless. At least, also with his back to the camera, is Charles Duffy, who heads up the NOLA Krewe of Pirates. We affectionately refer to him as Max's "drunken bastard uncle Chuck."

 Do not know these three, but they seemed very nice. And you've gotta love the guy's leatherwork.

Also do not know this fella's name, but he was a great guy, reminded me of several other pirates I esteem, and shared with me both a drink from his gigantic flask and his recipe for what he called brandywine.

Amon and Merlot, a pair of fancy freebooters originally from Colorado. Funny story, she assured me we'd met before, in 2004 (or 2006, I don't recall) in San Diego at a pirate festival. I told her that wasn't likely, since I haven't been to San Diego since 1979. She was sure the Pirate Guys, the guys who'd invented Talk Like a Pirate Day were there. I asked, "Were they collecting money for anything?" She said yeah, as near as she could recall they'd been selling something. Bloody pirates!

 The wind didn't cooperate in fluttering this rather large pirate pennant, but it was a dandy. And look closely at the guy's garb and gear. Most of it is made from junk! Including his shoulder pads, made from old speakers. Very cool. Nice work!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Pictures from Millie's Visit

This is mostly pics from Millie's visit. They were here from Wednesday March 13 to Tuesday March 18. Tori took them down to tour a bayou nature preserve, where they saw many gators, lizards, snakes, the whole slew of swampy things. Like this big guy lazing on the far bank of the bayou.

From left, Tori, Millie, Alan and Kate.
Millie's boyfriend, Kevin, has a lot of energy. He decided he wanted to dig a fire pit. Not sure why, but he did. Took a day and a half. Good sized pit, lined with bricks and paving stones that lined the backyard. We weren't doing anything with them. Now, we rarely use our backyard, it gets much too hot back there in the summer, with no shade. But on those occasions when we do, we can have a fire.

They went into New Orleans to check out the night life Sunday night. You might think Sunday night is a strange time to go bar hopping, but this is Nawlins, baby. By the time we picked them up a little after two down in the French Quarter, they had had a memorable time. I'm not sure how much of it they actually remembered, but a time was had.

And then, right before they left late Tuesday, we went back to the Quarter so they could see it by day. Had a lo9t of fun - and a few drinks. Here are some pix of that.

Kevin and Millie on St. Ann Street, next to Jackson Square.
Millie in a mask shop – Maskarade on St. Ann Street in the French Quarter

And with a perky little hat in the same shop.

Kevin found a nice pirate mask
Millie also found a butterfly mask, which suits her.
Waiting for the absenthe to be ready. There's a whole ritual to the venomous green drink.

And the Pirate Cafe also features a house drink, the Toxic Baby. Read the label.

Friday, March 14, 2014

And Another Surprise

Now Alan is here.

Alan is a friend from St. Croix, a former classmate of Millie's whose family moved to San Antonio in the great Hovensa Diaspora. Back on the island he just started hanging out more and more at our house until he was sort of semi-adopted.

This one Kate worked out. She communicates with him online all the time. He was here during Hurricane Issaac, but we hadn't seen him since. Kate (who knew about Millie's surprise visit) had suggested wouldn't it be great if Alan came out too.

Three or four nights ago she asked me, "If you got a phone call from Alan asking you to come pick him up from the airport or whatever, would that be OK?" Sure, I said, as long as I don't have to drive to Texas.

That was the extent of the conversation – I swear it.

This morning about 7:30 the phone rang. Alan was at the bus station and wondered if we could pick him up. Sure, Tori and I said. But first we had to figure out where the bus station IS.

That accomplished, we drove out and there he was. We were back in 40 minutes. Alan was exhausted, but at that age, it's not a real problem. We were sitting in the living room when at about 9 a.m. Millie came4 up the hall. She saw him, gasped, backed up several feet, then ran up and hugged him.

Turnabout is fair play.

So it's a full house at the Baurs for the St. Patrick's Day weekend. Talk about serendipity.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Happy Surprise

Millie is here!

Millie and her boyfriend Kevin came to visit. The hard part was, she told me they were coming, but it was supposed to be a surprise for Tori, so don't tell her. You think that wasn't hard to keep from her for a month? I picked them up at the airport yesterday, drove home. Walked in, then a couple of minutes later Kevin walked in and casually stood in the living room. Tori saw him and screamed. Millie came running in saying "What's wrong?"

Much tears and hugging.

Right now Tori and the kids are out finding out what they can about fishing. It's something Kevin would like to do. Apparently he's an outdoorsy boy from the wilds of Michigan, now trapped in the concrete jungle of Manhattan. But Tori and I don't know about regulations here, or seasons or anything. They'll also be going to a gun range (Millie loves shooting) and we'll be going out to dinner. The most exciting thing in the plans is the downtown St. Patrick's Day Parade. Don't want to miss that.

Especially since I missed Mardi Gras this year. I'd been feeling generally run down anyway and then shortly before the day I tweaked my knee badly enough that marching with the Krewe of Pirates through the bead-strewn streets of the French Quarter was not really possible, and it seemed a little much to ask someone to carry me.

There are some pirate activities coming up this spring that will require little more than sitting on a bar stool drinking. I think I can handle that.

Meanwhile, though I wasn't able to celebrate Mardi Gras, Tori and Max sure did, if walking something like 20 miles counts as celebrating. Max is in the band at East Jefferson High and they took part in four parades this year. Each parade was about five miles long, usually a little more. And the band needed parent volunteers to chaperone, make sure the kids got hydrated and generally keep an eye out. Tori did three of them, including the big parade – the Krewe of Bacchus Parade. When you see news coverage of a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans, this is the one. Actor Hugh Laurie was the grand marshal. Apparently it was a wonderfully insane time.

And Tori got a foot run from me when she got home after each parade.