I took vacation last week. I mean, I was off from work. I didn’t go anywhere. I stayed home and, pretty much, took it easy.
I planned to work on my new bathroom renovations most of the week. The best laid plans of mice and men, you know.
Pretty much just loafed around Saturday and Sunday to kick things off. Monday I started putting up paneling in the new bathroom. This, you understand, is like using the words "bright light and noise" to describe a hand grenade going off at your feet. Putting up paneling in a 160-year-old house is, at best, an exercise in pandemonium.
You know, Shirley Jackson wrote a novel called The Haunting of Hill House. Hill House, you see, was built deliberately askew. No perfect angles, everything was just a degree or so off what it should be, nothing was precisely plumb, square or level. The effect was the Hill House stood slightly out-of-phase with our reality. Robert Heinlein wrote a short story called "…And He Built A Crooked House…" where the house in question was based on the concept of a "hypercube" in which, due to its shape and configuration, you never really knew where you’d come out if you walked from one room to the next.
I have decided my house is something like that. The floors lean and the walls are not perfectly upright. No corner is 90 degrees, horizontal or vertical.
Here’s a typical example: The old adage "measure twice, cut once" is meaningless in my house. Here’s how it goes: I go to cut a piece of paneling. I measure the horizontal, top and bottom. I measure the vertical, side to side. I go get a piece of paneling on the bench, and mark it. I go back inside and measure the space again. All measurements comply. I go back outside to the paneling, and yes, all measurements are correctly marked. I go back in the house and check a third time. Everything is the same. I go outside and measure the paneling yet again. Perfect. I make the cut.
I manhandle the paneling into the house, place it up against the space it was intended to go.
Hill House. Hypercubes.
Between my last re-measuring and carrying the piece in the house, the ceiling has moved up three-quarters of an inch, and the two walls the paneling was supposed to fit between shrunk by five-eighths of an inch.
But I got most of it done, despite the fitful and restless nature of my old place. You got to learn to sneak up on it. I find my measurements remain more accurate early in the morning, especially in colder weather. The house isn’t quite awake enough yet to mess with me, I think. I can usually pop a piece of wood or paneling right in there perfect on the first try, whereas after lunch I might have to make several attempts to ambush the house at the correct measurements.
I was going to put up a beadboard ceiling, too. But Monday when I went to fire up my air compressor to run my finish nailer gun, it made a horrendous clattering sound and wouldn’t get up to pressure.
Not knowing what to do, I checked all the fittings to make sure they were tight. All good. On advice of a pal, I checked the valve that keeps pressure from the tank from leaking out from the input line. Good.
Grimacing, I tore into the compressor itself. The inside of a compressor is a mind-boggling thing. It makes no sense, but I finally realized the little piston that pushes air up into the compressor system to fill the tank had a busted compression ring.
So I had to order a repair kit. This wouldn’t arrive until Saturday, and I had to install it. Problem solved. I still never got to the ceiling, though, for one reason or another. Maybe this weekend.
Anyway, I did a lot of resting, and a lot of reading. I breezed through John Gierach’s Trout Bum for the umpteenth time, which put me in the mood for some fishing. I went to Grand Avoille Cove in my dad’s little wooden boat one morning, fished three hours and had not a single bite. But then, it wasn’t fish I was really after, you know.
I almost bought an old but mint Stevens 311 side-by-side shotgun in 16-gauge, but I was pretty much down to my last five bucks by then. I had a similar gun when I was a teen on into my 20s, a Savage Fox in sixteen, stupidly hocked it when I was into other things besides fine doubles. The 16-gauge shotgun has gone out of favor over the recent decade or more, but still holds a special place in my heart as the perfect bird gun.
I spent a lot of time watching movies. I did some writing. I piddled in the shop, and I daily sat at the bayou with the dog at sunset, enjoying a stogie and sometimes a cold beer as the last rays of gold sunbeams fanned over the Teche. A buddy came by Friday for lunch and we cast fly rods in the bayou for a couple hours.
I saw at least one wood duck, a female, though I’m not sure if she’s got a mate and they’re nesting nearby. I saw it twice. Cheered my heart greatly. The dog sits next to me and helps me watch the bayou for wood ducks. Sometimes, in the half-light of the horizon beyond the cypress trees and accumulated thicket, I dreamily put my hand on her head and scratch her ear, catch myself muttering, "They’ll be here, old girl. Just wait and see." I don’t know if she cares at all whether we see a pair of wood ducks pass in the half-light of each day or not, but I’d like to think so.
I tried to catch whatever huge fish are moving around down there, too. I’m convinced they’re carp, which are exceedingly difficult to coerce into biting. They are primarily vegetarians, and it’s hard to convince them your presentation is suitable for their tummies. Plus, they’re easily spooked and rocket away as I approach the water, leaving huge, v-shaped wakes. I cast at them for an hour one morning, right in front of their v-shaped progressions, without success. They certainly fit the behavior patterns of carp, but perhaps I have just become that bad a fisherman.
I napped a lot, and woke up early in the morning a lot to watch the sun come up, a cup of coffee in my hand and often the dog by my side. Once I even braved the chill to go watch from the bayou. Though the sun rose over our shoulders, it sprayed dragon-fired hues across the trees on the opposite bank. Egrets, white as snow, snagged the sunbeams and turned into butterscotch figurines from an exotic garden.
Anyway. I’m back.