How I Spent My Summer Vacation.

The first day on my vacation, I woke up. Then, I went downtown to look for a job. Then I hung out in front of the drugstore.

No, that's not true. It would have been preferable, but it's not true.

The first day on my vacation, I woke up. I went downstairs to scrape paint off the porch with a heat gun and putty knife. Then I passed out.

The second day on my vacation, I woke up. I went downstairs to scrape paint off the porch with a heat gun, putty knife and a respirator. Then I passed out in front of the TV.

The third day on my vacation, I woke up. I hobbled downstairs to scrape paint off the porch with a heat gun, putty knife, knee pads and a respirator. Then I passed out in front of the TV.

The fourth day on my vacation, I woke up and regretted it. I crawled downstairs to scrape paint off the porch with a heat gun, putty knife, knee pads, rollerblading wrist braces and a respirator. I looked like some kind of psychotic exterminator. Then I passed out, but I don't remember where.

Basically, I dealt with 500 square feet of this:

That picture shows about 11 feet of a 70 foot-long porch. Trust me, the entire scraping process sucked ass. I have to say this though -- I give the utmost credit to people who do this sort of work day in and day out. It's a lot harder than sitting on your ass all day moving bits and bytes around, that's for sure.

On day five I rented a sander and vibrated two holes in the side of my thumbs, so the next day I added band-aids and gloves to my dashing ensemble.

On day 6 and 7, I painted.

On day 8, I watched the sun blister the paint, and I seriously thought about just burning my house down and starting over.

On day nine I said fuck it and celebrated my wedding anniversary, and my wife and I took the convertible out and ended up in Lake George on a lake cruise and I decided that the porch was done until spring.

Today, since it was cold, I turned on the heat for the first time this year. I was greeted with a screaming, grating noise that sounded like a squirrel trying to get out of a blender. I tracked it down to the power vent on the furnace. When I took it apart, the fan inside looked like this:

So that's where I've been. Wow. It really has been a while. In part, I blame Twitter. I think we have to break up. It's cramping my style. I mean, if I actually had a style.

Here's the other thing: I've been working on "the book." I hope to get something put together by Christmas, but if I'm writing there, I'm not writing here, so bear with me. I've got some childhood stories that I'm dying to tell, but part of me wants to save them for the book. (You know what they say about free milk and a cow. But you guys would buy it anyway, right?)

On a completely unrelated note, I saw these smug bastards just sitting there in Lowe's this afternoon:

I think they may be coming for me tonight after I go to sleep. I like how their expressions say "No, no -- Don't get us wrong. We're definitely gonna kill you. But we're gonna have some fun with you first."

One last thing: Over there on the right, I've had a link to a blog called The Sheila Variations basically since I started blogging in 2005. I loved her writing style from the first read, and I still do. Sheila is a stage actress, a fantastic (and prolific) writer, and..ok, I admit it. I might be a little jealous of her talent. Anyway, her brother Brendan e-mailed me asked me to pass along a link to his new band, so I said I would. It reminds me a lot of Paul Westerberg. Check it out here if you get a chance, and let him know what you think.

I'll be back soon, but this is September and I have some backpacking to do. So, maybe tomorrow. Maybe early next week. (I'm like herpes. You never know when I'm going to flare up.)


  1. Anonymous12:23 AM

    my husband and i spent an entire summer removing old lead paint and re-painting. the porch. just the porch. year 2 has us closer to done, but there's still another year @ least. I feel your pain.


  2. Michelle, I definitely won't get to the spindles, posts and railings this year. If I lived in an apartment I'd be hiking right now. Sometimes it's not worth it.

  3. You're right ~ those things are EVIL looking! But what I really want to know is...
    have you taken the boat out yet?????

  4. I had a feeling “the book” was taking away from the blogging. Or maybe I should say that I hoped that “the book” was the reason for your absence. Although I want to hear your childhood stories almost as much as you want to tell them, I will be content to wait. Your writing reminds me so much of Bill Bryson. You both have a way of observing the things around you and then telling us about them in ways that are both humorous and evocative at the same time. I don’t hesitate to buy his books, and I won’t hesitate to buy yours. Good luck and don’t worry about the porch – it will still be there next year.

  5. I used to work with a guy who called a plumber because his toilet was running. When I made fun of him, he said, "This is why I got a college degree. I can pay a plumber and do what I want with my time." Stripping paint is one of the times that attitude makes sense to me. Plus, I know two bartender sisters that paint for a living.

  6. Don't blame Twitter for your non-blogs...you're not on there THAT much!!!

  7. the fabled book! (and of course, i will buy!)

    best of luck for a less home-improvement intensive fall.

  8. me - no, but we did the cable rigging on thursday. We'll do the sails sometime this week. If all goes well and we get the trailer lights working, maybe at the end of the month.

    Jen, thanks. I think that's an insult to Bill though.

    Chris, that makes a ton of sense, but my college degree has failed me somehow. Plus, finding someone to do it who isn't a complete idiot is more stressful than actually doing it. Unless you want to send over your bartenders.

    Kris, it's not the actual *writing* - it's the reading. Twitter and facebook are both time sinks.

    Sarah, thanks. I'll try but the house doesn't seem to be cooperating.

  9. Belated happy anniversary and glad you were able to enjoy the cruise but you left us hanging...

    >>>my wife and I took the convertible out and ended up in Lake George

    Were they able to tow the car back out of the lake?

  10. David, you must have missed the link.

  11. Another blogger with a book? First, it was Rob Kroese and then Mark Rayner and now you?!!? Argh!

    Actually, I can't wait. I need another thing to waste my time. ;)

  12. Upstate Broad1:56 PM

    Yeah, the Big Guy and I had a house with a front porch that needed that kind of work. He and our slave labor - oops, I mean to say son - spent an entire summer doing the rails, posts and spindles. The following year, faced with the flooring.... we sold the house instead.

  13. see, this is why i'm glad i've got carpenters and contractors in the family.

    have fun backpacking! i just spent a very long weekend in the woods, and somehow, it doesn't seem like it was long enough...

    oh, and i'll definitely be buying that book!

  14. Ever since Diesel has been touting his book, I've been thinking about yours, so I'm glad you're still working on it.

    Big porches are great. My husband agrees about the pain-in-the-ass factor, but I wouldn't trade ours for anything.

    Oh, and one more thing to look forward to - new Badlees album is almost out! I am so glad you turned me on to them!

  15. Glad to hear you're still working on "the book". As soon as it is out, it will be my bookclub choice.

    You don't live too far from me. Interested in crashing the bookclub meeting? We WILL have drinks with a kick.


  16. Isn't that the same porch I already recommended you burn on account of the Legion of Undead Spiders?

  17. Anonymous8:05 PM

    A Johnny Virgil book??? Oh, there IS a Santa Claus!!!


  18. Son of a bitched blistering paint. But hey, Happy Late Anneversary !! :)

  19. that looks like one of the suckiest jobs ever...I hate home improvement projects. I was with you- just burn it down.

  20. I'm hopeless at all home improvement endeavors, so I'm pretty impressed. If I saw those things at Lowe's I would probably run, they're terrifying. Alright, maybe I have a broken ankle and can't run, but I'd certainly crutch away quickly. Those things are scary.

  21. You really should just burn that house down. I won't tell.

  22. Anonymous9:36 AM

    I just started reading your blog during a slow period at work. (I mean I read EVERY one). I was laughing so hard my cube mate wondered if I was having a seizure or something. Keep up the great work and I can't wait for the book.

  23. Passing out is a lot of fun, isn't it? No home improvement project is complete without at least the threat of unconciousness.

  24. I feel your pain JV.

    I used to be the "do-it-yourselfer" type, but after a couple of complaints about things not working correctly.. I take that back.. Things not working "like they used to", I tend to now contract out the work, and spend my time working overtime at the cave in order to pay for it all.

    If you are willing, and have the time and patience for it, much kudos to you!

  25. Of course we'd buy it anyway. Get crackin'!


  26. redraven3:47 PM

    Johnny, safe journeys while you're out hiking.

    I definitely look forward to the book, and can think of several people I would purchase a copy for as a gift. Your writing is wonderful, and you definitely deserve to be published.

    The porch looks like a real b*tch - I'm with some of the other folks who have posted - hire someone to do the stripping. The carpal tunnel you'll get from doing it yourself isn't worth it!

    Belated anniversary wishes to you and your beloved.

  27. Anonymous10:49 AM

    I just completed a front walk. A project that went almost exactly like your porch.

    Bless your humor. It has me snorting with laughter more often than is safe at the office.


  28. Anonymous1:38 PM

    Regarding your home improving: While I like getting out the tool kit once in a while for really minor home DIY, I live in an apartment for a reason. Plus, my parents often forced/corralled me into helping against my will with their projects, which I haven't forgotten ...

  29. Johnny, I have to ask, will your book feature some stories about your sister? We hear about your brothers all the time but I think you've only mentioned her twice. What's up with the no love for the female sib?

  30. Yeah, I pay people to do crap like this. Oh, wait, what am I talking about? I live in an apartment and my balcony is as wide as my body and made of concrete.

  31. Is it terrible that I just felt better that someone else besides me slept on their vacation!

  32. Nice work! I'll definitely give the book the once over.

  33. I started writing a post on what I did on my first day off since school got out. I Googled the Cheech and Chong summer vacation essay and found your blog. Oooo, scrapping paint? Passing out? Reminds me of when I was cleaning up after a litter pee pee puppies in my garage. I thought I'd sanitize the concrete with bleach and scrub it around with a push broom. I didn't even think of the amonia/bleach toxic combo. Talk about coughing.