Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Memorial Day Weekend - 72 Hours I'll Never Get Back

The weather this weekend, a three-day affair owing to Monday being a holiday in New York, was perfect for lounging on the beach or in the pool, so naturally I was scheduled to be wedged in New Bog taping the walls and cementing the floor.

Taping, for those who have never done it, involves joining the panels of sheetrock together with a reinforcing tape overlaid with a plaster-like joint compound commonly called "spackle". I would have to tape each corner, the join between the original walls and the new sheetrock, the slit I had running horizontally at 50 inches from the floor and every wall to ceiling joint. That last was a true joy since I would be taping to an existing finish, a textured one to boot.

Luckily I had a 500 foot roll of net-like self-adhesive fiberglass tape left over from Project Laundry Room 12 years ago. Perfectly aged, this tape was the absolute best thing to use. Sadly, the similarly aged spackle had hardened to a concrete-like consistency and had to be deep-sixed for some fresh stuff. A quick trip to Home Despot had me in possession of a new tub of spackle and a set of new taping knives (the proper name for the spreader-on-a-handle used to smear the spackle on the wall). The idea is that you put on a light coating of paste and embed the tape (or in this case, smear a light coat over the tape while it obligingly clung to the wall with its own sticky). Once that has dried, you use a five inch knife to smear a feathered layer of spackle over that, centered over the crack or join. Once that is dry you do it again with an eight inch knife, and again with a ten inch one after that has dried. Result: a wall that has an imperceptible bulge over each joint1 that you can't see when the wall is painted or papered. Most home spacklers forego this process, slather on the spackle with the smallest knife and sand it down, resulting in a bulge you can see from a mile away at midnight in thick fog while wearing welding goggles. Having come this far it seemed stupid to go that route.

There was also the question of the missing bit of the floor. When I laid the cement board floor, there was a little tongue of area not encompassed by it. This was the space under the door, between the jambs. The subfloor actually changes level at that point and the cement board cannot be worked to a "ramp" format without severe damage to tools and sanity2. I had put off deciding on the solution but matters were now come to a head and Action was called for. I decided to pull up the hall carpet metal-strip-that-hides-the-edge-of-the-carpet-and-acts-as-a-transition-between-two-floor-surfaces3, cover the carpet edge with masking tape to protect it and form a dam, then pour liquid underlayment cement into the gap and take my chances. So, I had a plan, I had tools and I had a three day weekend. Nearly. My friend Jeff the Kung-fu accountant and his wife had invited us over to see their new palace4, their old palace having been deemed "too restricing" for their plans. I don't know what these plans are, but my money is on inviting 4 more couples of acceptable income to move in and form a commune O'Kung-fu accountancy. Azathoth help us all. If the cable goes out they'll go tribal and start believing crop circles are signs that aliens are coming to take us to a better place. Once that happens, it's only a matter of time before everyone is drinking paraquat. I've seen it before and it's not good.

So the first unscheduled job was to fill the gaping slots where the corners weren't anything approaching square, vertical or confined to three dimensions. I reasoned that huge amounts of spackle would fill the holes, but would crack and come loose once the Stevieling started slamming the door. I decided some sort of keying was required and drove screws for the spackle to bind to before shoveling it in and smoothing it down. I couldn't tape until it dried of course, so I did the floor cementing while that happened.

The floor had been cemented over the cracks and screw head holes, but I had used the wrong cement which turned to powder when rubbed with a hand. I was advised to recoat everything with underlayment cement, and so I did. I also poured about a pint of liquid cement into the door-jamb hole and it worked rather well if I do say so myself. Once the cement was dry I reflected that all my hard work was not in vain, even if I did need to reskim a couple of areas and knock off a couple of inadvertent blobs that I'd missed. I idly ran my hand over the cement and was rewarded with a swath of powder coming off the surface. What luck! The underlayment cement also turns to powder when rubbed. The spackle still wasn't dry by 5pm so I knocked off work, cleaned my tools and took a shower. So much for Saturday.

Sunday morning I put the sprinklers out on the front lawn. I decided to repeat last year's success with the metal rainbirds6 and broke out the two new sprinkler heads I bought a few weeks ago. I needed to do this because during the first lawn mowing of the season I had discovered that I had stored the sprinklers on the lawn edge at the end of last season. The lawnmower wasn't damaged but one of the sprinklers (which had done a damned fine job I might add) got radically redesigned and was rendered inoperable as a result. Chalk one up to Mr Brain's7 long-term planning there.

Another of Mr Brain's japes became apparent when I came to open up the timers to fit new batteries. It seems that, for the first time ever, I forgot to remove last years batteries and, of course, one had burst and leaked everywhere forcing a time-consuming clean-up. I finally got everything clean and fitted together properly and began the tiresome process of setting up the sprinkle pattern. This involves starting the water at the side of the house, walking round the house approximately 355 degrees8 to get to the sprinklers on the other side of the fence then getting soaked as each sprinkler insists of spraying me as often as possible while I swear and fiddle with little wire trip levers and the like. The neighbours stand around in their gardens critiquing my technique as I work. It is all very festive. I dressed for the part in swimming trunks and an old tee shirt. What a pity I forgot to remove my cell phone from the pocket of the trunks though.

Then it was off to Jeff the Kung-fu Accountant's palatial place. And it was everything we had anticipated. Large, with a side order of roomy, fieldstone wall with fireplace, underground bunker complex. brick patio and most vexing, nothing broken at all. Not so much as a leaky tap washer. What kind of home is this? I checked for missing grounding spike (has one, about as thick as my ring finger), loose siding (siding new, vinyl, fitted professionally) arcing electrical sockets (none I could see) or missing stair treads (oak, oak stairtreads all present and correct) but none of the things that have made Chateau Stevie what it is to me were in evidence. I consoled myself with thoughts of New Bog and retired to their basement (finished, bigger than our house and with more rooms than it too, wet bar) for dinner9.

Monday found me doing more taping while reflecting on my inner wealth, but I had to stop because my sobbing was making the spackle all wavy and I was leaving dents in the new wall with my head. I had forgotten how long it takes to do this taping, how long it takes even thin layers of spackle to dry when you are in a hurry, and how much I loathe spackling. I got to the six-inch knife stage before quitting for the day (in my defense I did more cementing on the floor too) at which time Mrs Stevie insisted on going to see the latest Pirates of the Caribbean movie, just released this weekend.

Now, I usually do not go to movies in their first weekend because I hate the crowds and the morons I have to share the theater with with a passion. People in New York are selfish with a capital self and I cannot stand the little flares of cellphone screen illumination I have to suffer if things don't explode every five minutes. Since the marching morons usually fade away in the second of third week of a movie, that represents the best time to see them in my opinion. Mrs Stevie, on the other hand, was having none of it. She was somehow afraid that people would ruin the plot of the movie for her by talking about it before she'd seen it, so we simply had to go this night.

It was everything I expected, and more.

From standing on line forever to not being able to get three seats together to the idiots in the seats next to us being a group of four teenaged boys who spent the entire movie text-messaging with their Motorola Quartz-Halogen display devices. I had to ask them three times during the movie to please angle their searchlights away from me so I could see the screen. Why on earth do kids go to movies to do this? I am not exaggerating at all when I say that the kid next to me spent all but one action scene playing with his damn text-messager. Given that they wanted the ambience of the movie to engage in their social interaction, why take up a row of seats halfway down the theater? It must've been driving anyone seated behind them crazy. Why didn't they sit in the back to not watch the movie?

I don't know what we're coming to. People don't seem to have any common sense of decency when using cell technology. They drive like maniacs while putting all their attention into their cellphones. They screw up other people's cinema experience. They ruin a restaurant meal with their squalker phone buffoonery. Only last week a guy was attacked on a Ronkonkoma train for having the nerve to ask another young guy to turn down his squalkphone. Of course the attacker was arrested at the next stop and it is kinda funny that he was less intelligent than his cellphone10. I was threatened by another gimboid a month ago for having the nerve to complain about his phone, which he had turned up so loud he had to hold it away from his face and shout at it. Douglas Addams11 said a lot of snarky things about people and technology like digital watches12, but the real idiocy is people and their f***ing cellphones. Pick up a cell phone and loose 50 points off your I.Q. seems to be the rule. Deduct another 25 points if it is push-to-talk or specialized for text messaging. I'm beginning to hate New York all over again. F***ing techno-hicks. Cell phones bring out the trailer park in people.

Back to the movie. It turns out that Mrs Stevie's fears about having the plot spoiled for her were groundless on account of a) there were about fifteen plots, none of them important enough to sustain the movie, 2) Nobody in the cinema had the time to watch the movie, what with the text messages and having to buy candy, eat candy, drink soda and go to the lavatory, and γ) I doubt anyone would remember enough about this movie to describe it coherently afterwards even if they switched off their comms infrastructure, adopted a healthy "eat nothing and sip water" policy and wore a catheter. What a bunch of crap.

Warning: Spoilers

It started promisingly, with the team out to recover Jack Sparrow from Davy Jones's Locker (just go with it: we're talking about a movie derived from a fairground ride after all). It sidetracked into some mumbo-jumbo about "Singing The Song" which was hinted to precipitate some sort of climax. Cut to Johnny Depp in hell. Very good scenes here. And if they'd made that the main subject of the movie, the Orphean "Rescue the Hostages" bit, they'd have had a winner right there, with the requisite "cut scenes" for future ride ideas. But the director was working under a lot of riders: The cast were only signed for three movies and this was number three.

We had several plot elements to tie up in this movie: Cap'n Jack was in hell, and everyone had resolved to get him back. The East India Company had the Heart of Davy Jones. What would they do with it? Elisabeth and Legolass: Would they finally do the deed? Cap'n Barbosa - resurrected but for some reason not put down-able again even though he was shot to death in the first installment. They could have gone for four movies, they had material for another one and a half, but there was that awkward three movie deal clause so they went with making the most confusing and annoying movie they possibly could.

Mrs Stevie tried hard to defend the decisions taken in this film to me on the way home when I was the only one to admit that I thought the movie stank (everyone else was "disappointed") but even she couldn't come up with a good reason why, when the East India Company puts the chest with the heart of Davy Jones in it on board Davy Jones's ship with a heavy guard primed to blast it (the heart) to smithereens if cooperation isn't forthcoming, Davy Jones doesn't simply submerge the ship and drown all the non-undead aboard and get back to what he does best.

Will Turner spends the movie betraying one person after another, but unlike when Jack Sparrow does this, no-one in the audience cares. Why spend two movies setting up Will Turner as the good guy then try at the eleventh hour to make him more than the personification of honour? It is all supposed to come from the dichotomy of him having to rescue his dad yaddayaddayadda. No-one cares. When Will Turner starts acting against type, no-one believes it. Dad is, after all, someone he barely knew and is now an undead, barnacle encrusted horror of the deep. Ah, but the director is trying for realism, attempting to make these characters three dimensional. What a colossal waste of time.

Don't even get me started on the Calypso, Goddess of the Ocean thing that was so monumentally important it could have been removed from the movie and on-one would have noticed. It was all like a bad game of D&D. Half thought-out plots you could dismiss with a wave of the hand and a wisp of common sense logic.

No Steviestars, for either the movie or the Weekend in general.

  1. At the cost of having 20 inch spackled seam, of course
  2. for reasons expounded upon here
  3. The name of which escapes me for the moment
  4. Our house would fit into their basement with space left over5
  5. I'd lay real money that Mrs Stevie could fill it with crap in less than a month, even so
  6. As told here
  7. Mr Brain is not my friend
  8. Turning a slothful three foot journey into an aerobic 150 foot safari
  9. I think I made pleasant conversation, but it was hard to do so while grinding my teeth and shedding tears of jealous rage. My bar had been left behind in our apartment when we purchased Chateau Stevie
  10. Though I doubt the guy who was attacked saw the irony at first
  11. Famous throughout the western world for The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy
  12. Actually, he harped on about this so much it stopped being either insightful or funny in short order

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