8/29/09

Into the light.

Just a quick post to celebrate -- some long time readers of this blog may remember this post from 2005. A couple of days ago, after more than eight years of working on it once a week for 3 hours, we finally rolled it out of the garage and lifted it onto the trailer:



In a couple weeks, we'll add water and two incompetent sailors and see if this thing floats.

8/21/09

Some Pig.

My wife called me in a panic yesterday morning. You see, she's a little afraid of spiders. And by that I mean she will wake up in the middle of the night and flip on the light and point to a tiny black speck on the ceiling 20 feet away and yell, "SPIDER! SPIDER! THERE'S A SPIDER ON THE CEILING!" while frantically poking me in the back with her other hand. It's like some sort of spider-sense, but not the good kind that warns her that The Green Goblin is about to take off her head with a glider wing. This is the bad kind that wakes me up in the middle of the night and makes me kill things.

Generally, I'll get up and kill it, and she'll sit there in her guard tower with her pointing finger locked and loaded, making sure that nobody escapes the yard. God help me if I miss the spider and it makes it over the wall, because that means the alarm sirens go off, the search parties are formed, the hounds are released and nobody is getting any sleep at all until the spider is found.

If I'm not home, the story goes a little differently. What happens then is that I walk in the door and see some sort of container upside down on the floor. Most of the time it's a drinking glass. There's no note or anything -- just some kind of bug with his face pressed up against the glass, looking at me forlornly.

In these cases, most of the time I scoop up the spider or whatever and take it outside, and when she asks me what I did with it (she always asks me what I did with it) I tell her I killed it. That's to address the argument that "if it's still alive, it might try to come back in." Now, I know that's true of mice, but I don't think spiders have the innate navigational skills to find their way back from a good fling across the lawn. So I fake-kill them. Trust me. It's just easier. Plus, spiders are one of the good insects because they eat deer flies, and anyone or anything that lowers the deer fly population in my back yard is OK by me. Unless they look really fast, in which case I might actually kill them. It's not really a karma thing with me. It's more about less deer flies and a peaceful night's sleep.

So back to the phone call. It turns out that she walked out onto the deck and got a spider web across her face. She looked up and the spider was hanging directly over her head. I'm not sure if she thought the spider was going to lasso her with webbing and pull her up into the web or what, but she freaked out and ran back inside and immediately called me at work. I was informed, in no uncertain terms, that the spider had to go. I'm pretty sure she would have preferred that I drive home right that instant and take care of it, but I work about an hour away and the spider was outside so I was granted a little grace period.

When I got home, I saw this sign on the sliding glass door:



That's just so I wouldn't forget.

I walked out to the garage and got a can of insect spray. The label says it's supposed to kill spiders and ants and just about anything else that crawls, and I've used it on the ants in the garage before and it's pretty quick acting stuff.

I found the spider pretty quickly, and sprayed the hell out of it. It laughed at me, and dropped down on a strand of webbing. It landed on the deck and started running toward me. I sprayed it again. It kept coming. I hit it again. I sprayed it so much it looked like it was covered in shaving cream.

The spray had no effect. It walked out of the foam pile without even changing direction. This thing was like the Terminator. It just kept walking toward me and I just kept spraying the shit out of it and backing up. I thought about just stomping on it, but it looked pretty juicy and I didn't want that shit on my shoes.

I sprayed it again. It was starting to slow down a little but it was still walking purposefully, like it had a bone to pick with me. It walked like it had a plan -- like it was thinking "OK, first I'm going to deal with this douche bag with the fucking spray can, and then I'm going out for some sushi."

A few seconds later, it started drunk-walking. Then it slowed down, and finally stopped. I swear I could almost see the red lights in its eyes fade out.

It was dead. It didn't really look dead, since it didn't do that curl-up-and-die thing, but I was pretty sure it was. I poked it a little with my boot, just to make sure. I know that's a bonehead move (I've seen all the movies), but I did it anyway.

Normally, I laugh at my wife's fear of spiders, however, in this particular case having this particular spider almost drop on her head might have actually justified a little hysteria. Bugs don't bother me unless they are actually on me, but this thing even freaked me out a little.

Here's a picture I took after it was safely in spider heaven (click to make it bigger if you're a glutton for punishment):



Jesus, just look at the spikey legs and that body. It looks like Shelob for chrissakes. And you know how when you get a spider web across the face it just sort of tickles? Well, this web was so tough it just stretched. It had actual resistance, like a rubber band.

So I went back in the house, and when she got home I told her the spider was dead.

What I didn't tell her was that after I killed the giant spider, I looked up toward the web.

Apparently, mama's egg sac hatched and there were about a dozen smaller versions of this spider stationed about every 3 feet under the eaves. Smaller versions that the spray wouldn't reach.

So I won the battle, but I'm a little worried about the war. I mean, they watched me kill their mother, and that had to piss them off, right? I think they're just biding their time.

Watching. Growing. Planning. It's been nice knowing you all.

**********

PS - on a completely unrelated note -- if anyone reading this has ever been to Daddy O's restaurant on Long Beach Island, NJ and liked it, please send me an e-mail (address in profile). I have a small favor to ask.

Lastly, if you want to read some really weird shit, click on that new ad over on my banner that points to buttelf.com.

Happy weekend, everyone!

8/7/09

Stand by me.

This is a first. I now have a tree stand on my property.

Normally, our land is posted against trespassing, hunting, walking, breathing, etc., but a friend of mine -- let's call him Tank -- asked me if he could put up a tree stand and hunt on our land. Since I figured a few less deer won't hurt, I said sure. I assumed this would mean he would come over, walk into the woods, set his shit up and then when hunting season came around I'd hear a few deer carcasses hitting the ground, a dragging sound, then a car door slamming and that would be that.

I had no idea that I would actually be involved in the tree stand setting up process. And it was a process. I knew things weren't going to go as I had planned in my imagination when he showed up towing a trailer. On this trailer was a steel ladder-looking thing with a double tiered basket on top, which I assumed is where you sit and wait. It looked almost exactly like this, except much taller.

There were some differences, however. The biggest difference is that the one in the picture is actually standing upright, and the one on the trailer definitely was not. There were other things too -- like how the one in the picture is in a tree that you could probably drive up to in a Range Rover, whereas the tree he wanted to put his stand in was buried deep in my woods, surrounded by scrub brush and small saplings and mud.

"So you think you can help me set this up?" he asked, "Shouldn't take too long." And thus began the three and a half hour odyssey.

Since Tank is 6' 5" and I'm only 5' 6" -- and since it was his tree stand -- I figured I'd let him tackle the heavy end. So I grabbed onto the ladder end, and I immediately noticed something was wrong, because it felt like I had grabbed the outside of a sticky honey jar.

"Uh, why is this sticky?" I asked, looking down at my newly blackened hands.

"I painted it almost 2 hours ago, and all I had was flat black paint for barbecue grills. It's not dry yet? Weird. It must be too humid out."

Great. We lifted the stand off the trailer and headed into the woods on the most humid, non-paint-drying, buggy day of the year so far. Or rather, tried to head into the woods.

This thing did not want to go in the woods. In fact, it did not want to go anywhere. It was 16 feet long and not really optimally designed to weave in and out of closely growing trees. It was also heavier than it looked. To top it all off, there was an extra four foot section of extension ladder just sort of resting on top, and it was almost impossible to keep it from sliding around. After almost killing ourselves, we managed to get it through the bramble and into a thinner area of large pine trees that didn't let enough light through to allow scrub to grow. We were both soaked with sweat and surrounded by bugs. We found the tree he wanted to set it up against, and then the real fun began.

"OK, now what?" I asked Tank, having never put up a tree stand before.

"Now we just lean it up against the tree, throw this zip tie around it, put the brace up in the middle, fasten the whole thing with the straps, and we're done."

I wasn't going to point out that I thought it would be impossible to get this top-heavy piece of shit to lean up against a tree without probably killing one or both of us, but I assumed he knew that, and had a good technique to get it up there. And he did, sort of. First, he tried to hammer the extra four foot section of ladder on the bottom, and since the part we needed to hammer it into was packed with clay that had the consistency of bunker cement, this did not go well. He spent another ten minutes digging at it with a screwdriver while I looked on and swatted mosquitoes. Finally he banged it in, and it went about halfway home and he called it good enough. It actually wasn't good enough, but we'll get to that bit later.

We got it sort of lined up where we wanted it, and he lifted it up and started walking underneath it, pushing it higher and higher as he walked toward the tree. My job was to stand on the ladder end to keep it from moving, so he could get it vertical. After a few seconds it was completely vertical and then it just sort of fell toward the tree. Unfortunately he had judged the position of the ladder wrong so it wasn't set up with enough of an angle, and it was also at the wrong angle to the tree and started listing to the right.

"OK, you hold the ladder while I climb up and use this zip tie to strap it to the tree," he said.

I wasn't sure I was cool with that. It was leaning at a crazy angle, he weighs about three times what I do and if this thing decided to go, it was taking him, me, and probably the tree with it. I wasn't sure what else to do, so I volunteered.

"Uh, maybe I can climb up there and strap it down," I said, doubtfully. "I weigh a lot less than you."

"OK," he agreed reluctantly, knowing I didn't know my ass from my elbow when it came to setting up a tree stand. "I'll hold it steady."

So I climbed up, and the first thing I realized was that the zip tie was way too short for a tree of this size. I looked around and saw the main support strap hanging there, so I grabbed it in my right hand, tossed it around the tree, caught it in my left hand and cinched it tight, then climbed back down. Problem solved.

Almost.

We backed away a few feet and looked at it. The angle was still off, and it wasn't quite close enough to the tree to hold the center support up. The steel center support swings up from a ladder connection and has to rest against the tree. When the stand is strapped tightly to the tree, it holds the center support in place. So we put the center support where it needed to go, and then it was time to get the other straps on. Tank got under the ladder to kind of pull it toward the tree, which would hold the center support in place and also hold it so I could climb up the front.

I put one foot on the bottom of the ladder to start to climb it, and the ladder shifted, causing the center support to immediately crash down on Tank's head, forcing him to let go of the ladder and stagger around. I jumped off and the whole thing twisted sideways and just sort of hung there.

As you can see, this was going extremely well. Next, we tried to twist the stand in the opposite direction and when we did that the extra four foot section of ladder fell off the bottom. Then the whole stand slid down the tree about two feet and got stuck.

So here's where we stood: The stand was securely fastened to the tree and wouldn't come down. It also wouldn't go back up. That meant we couldn't get the four foot section of ladder back underneath it.

"OK, fuck that section." Tank said. "I'll hold it while you climb up and release the strap so it'll come down. It'll only be 16 feet in the air instead of 20, but that's fine."

Tank grabbed the bottom rung of the ladder and affected a stance that was half-way between "Look at me! I'm a sumo wrestler!" and "Don't look at me! I'm taking a standing shit!" and said "OK, go for it."

I clambered over him and onto the ladder, and started climbing.

When I reached the top, I half stood and half crouched on the platform, and got my hand on the spring release for the strap. I realized that when I released the strap there would be nothing holding the stand to the tree, but I didn't really think it through. Tank's a big guy, but there is no way he was going to curl 145 pounds of me, along with another hundred pounds of stand. Instead of realizing this out loud, I realized it in my head which did nobody any good at all.

When I released the strap, the entire weight of the stand was suddenly resting on Tank's arms and thighs. It immediately fell another foot and Tank said through clenched teeth, "You better come down. I'm not sure how much longer I can hold it."

I heard something like panic in his voice. Maybe it was just my imagination, but I had instant visions of crashing to the ground in a pile of twisted metal and shredded Tank meat. So I did the only thing I could think of -- I lunged for a nearby sapling with my right hand and simultaneously leapt into space, hoping to put as much distance between me and the falling stand as I could.

Luckily for me, I've had previous experience with this, although Tank didn't know that. All he saw was me leap to my death in an apparent panic.

What actually happened was this: The sapling bent and slowly lowered me to the ground like Mary Poppins. Tank saw me float by him, and started laughing so hard he dropped the stand and fell on the ground. His laughing started me laughing and pretty soon we were both so hysterical we were almost crying.

When we could see again, we straightened out the stand once and for all and strapped it into place. Looking at the results of our three and a half hour's worth of handiwork, Tank said, "When I put my one-man stand up, I'll make that one the twenty footer."

I am thinking I should probably arrange to be somewhere else for that installation.