Framed, You Hear!

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Links,Making,Pictures,Reflection | Thursday 13 September 2012 12:42 am

Since I’ve been regathering woodworking tools lost to Katrina, I’ve been able to get a start on what is likely to be a very ongoing project… picture frames. Sweets and I have been slowly gathering prints and posters and artwork over the last few years (with no apparent end in sight), and for the smaller ones that fall into a standard size frame that can be bought “off the shelf”, we’re doing just that. Anything larger, or oddly sized — and the majority of what we have falls into this category — requires a custom frame.

The few pieces I’ve had framed in the past, while being done well, are fairly expensive… especially considering our tastes and preferences. At this rate, we’d likely only get one or two pieces done a year and we’d never catch up. Even the cost of just getting a mat cut is stupidly out of proportion considering a typical full-size sheet of acid-free mat board costs ~$15 for a 32″x40″ sheet and it takes all of 15 minutes to cut it. Add to this the fact that you’re limited to the frame styles the shop has in stock — to be fair, while not a minuscule selection they do tend toward a variation on a small number of themes. Additionally, if I wanted something more stylized or thematic I’m pretty much out of luck. The materials the frames are made of is rarely ever solid wood (composite materials mostly), and far too many of them are hideously garish.

So, I decided to do my own framing… quite in the tradition of my grandfather who framed all of his own artwork. I have a full-size mat cutter, I have the tools at my disposal to cut, fit and assemble frames, I have the skills and know-how, and I can do it all for a fraction of the cost that a frame shop would charge me. This also affords me the opportunity to do many more pieces in a shorter span of time and not break my budget. I can also get faaaaancy.

Two recent pieces that I finished were prints by Terrance Osborne: Post Katrina Blues, and Hurricane Solution #3. Both purchased over two years during my annual pilgrimages back to the motherland. I wanted to do something special for these, but hadn’t any specific ideas.

While foraging around the local architectural salvage companies for materials for another framing project (that’s another post) I came across an old wooden white painted window screen. I mean old, and poorly repainted over the years — never scraped, so the scaly ‘gator skinned peeling paint from previous generations created a prominent texture, and of an old hand-made style not seen any more. I was instantly transported back to NOLA, and the ancient white houses with the hunter green trim that is still found in older neighborhoods today (I lived in one myself), painted and repainted over the years. This screen was worn, weather-beaten and a perfect representation of a home — both physical and spiritual — lost to tragedy. It was mine for all of $4.

I disassembled that screen, carefully so as to not dislodge too much of the flaking paint, and lovingly cut and assembled it into a frame. I lightly dusted the worst of the dirt from it and sealed the rest in with satin Polycrylic. I paired the frame with a hunter green mat, the entire assembly representative of the loss depicted in Post Katrina Blues. The funky weathered appearance may not be for everyone, but it strikes me profoundly. You can even see a white house with green trim to the right in the print.

The next frame is another find from my architectural salvage hunts. It’s pieces of chair-rail moulding, reclaimed from an old house that was obviously decked out in quite a bit of fancy millwork when it was built (the pieces I used came from a huge bundle apparently from the same salvage project). The moulding was painted with a high-gloss white oil paint originally — those old oil paints just had a way of sitting on wood that is unmistakable — but the paint had lost some of it’s luster and has faded to a slightly ivory off-white color over the years. At $1 per linear foot, I had more than I needed for a measly $25.

The trim was in fairly good shape (compared to the screen from the last frame) with just a few chips and scrapes in the finish to show its age. It reminded me of the loving restoration that is done in the very old houses in NOLA, where the original millwork, filigrees and fancy flourishes are painstakingly preserved, showing the wear of the years but still holding up — mostly — the the test of time. It spoke to me of hope, history, and carrying on even in the wake of destruction. That fancy, scrolly moulding was cut and assembled into a frame, and left as-is with no additional finish… warts and all. Paired with a goldenrod colored mat, it evokes the stubbornness, ingenuity and spirit of preservation in Hurricane Solution #3.

My intention hasn’t been to salvage materials for all of my frames, that style just happened to fit the prints I was working on. Going forward… who knows what I’ll be using, but I have the freedom and flexibility to do what I like. Just you try to get a frame shop to make one from an old window screen. *grins*

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Crawfish Table Number Deux.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Domestica,Family,House,Pictures,Reflection | Sunday 22 April 2012 10:11 pm

In 1994 my brothers an I designed and built a crawfish table (well… adapted a picnic table design, to be honest) — a table made for the intent of standing at and eating crawfish.  Once a pot of bugs was done boiling, it was hoisted up and dumped out onto the table, an inner and outer rail keeping them corralled onto the table-top. Folks bellied up to the table and ate their fill without the need to grab a pile and go find somewhere else to settle in.  While eating, the shells were pitched through a hole in the center directly into a garbage can, rather than making a pile of them to be dealt with later.

Like all of the outdoor furniture we built, it was a heavy, solid, sturdy, beastly monstrosity — anything worth building, was worth overbuilding. Made from pressure treated 2x lumber, it would withstand the elements and insects. It was coated with more than five layers of outdoor polyurethane to help protect it from the crawfish, and us from the chemicals used to treat the wood. Our little furniture “company” was known as Hurricane Furniture (prophetic, I know!), on the premise that come a hurricane or tornado, you should abandon your home and seatbelt yourself into our outdoor furniture — you’d be safer (“tornadoes just bounce right off of our shit”).  It was branded with our signature logo — literally branded — burnt right into the wood.

This table saw eleven years of life in the sun, rain, heat, humidity and cold. Eleven crawfish seasons this table was put to use, occasionally hauled from house to house as needed. It stood the test of time. It was damn near indestructible.

Damn near.

It didn’t give up without a fight.  Oh no. When I evacuated for Katrina, I put it in front of my garage door to ensure the wind wouldn’t blow it open. It was a silent sentinel, a guardian of my tools. The storm hit and I was the lucky recipient of 9′ of water on my street. That foul, acidic water didn’t recede for more than a week, and the table was beneath it the whole time. Upon my return I found it, just about where I left it in front of my garage door and still holding it closed, only it had tipped over onto it’s side and turned 90 degrees. It was still intact, but the table-top had warped and twisted and it was fouled with dirt, the borderline bulletproof polyurethane coating eroding away from the wood. Sadly, the table was ruined beyond future use.

After the storm I moved to Austin, carting my meager surviving possessions with me. Among them was my crawfish boiling pot and burner… they were in the garage attic, and had survived high and dry. I vowed to return to my duties as boil-master some day, but unfortunately that was hard to do in an apartment.

It took a few years, but eventually I got back into the groove — there are live crawfish to be had in Austin, the best ones being trucked in from Lake Charles for pickup on Saturdays during the season. I host a boil a year now, and generally act as boil-master for at least one other hosted by friends, sometimes two. I missed it, dearly. It’s a lot of work, but it’s in my very bones. It calls to me. It reminds me of home, family, and good times. It allows me to make more good times, and carry on healing bits and pieces of my soul.

But, there has been a big, overbuilt table-shaped hole these last seven years. The absence of the crawfish table has not gone unnoticed, or unlamented. I’ve had a yard of my own for it to live in for many years, but hadn’t had the opportunity to build a new table.

Until now.

I knuckled down, and made a new one this year. It took a little digging to find the original designs I had, and some CSI-like action — oh yes, I was a clever motherfucker, for the original designs were done in CorelDraw v3, and nothing opens those any more, not even CorelDraw. Using a hex editor I was able to extract the shopping list and some basic notes I had jotted down. I was also able to see the postage-stamp sized preview to determine that I used five boards for the table-top, giving me the overall dimensions — 3’x5”.

I redesigned the table digitally (in a format that is more universal and likely to stand the test of time). I kept the same basic design and expanded the table-top to 4’x6′. I tweaked the height a bit. I also changed the way the inside rail fastens to the table — from pegs in holes, to a routed recessed area. I’ve also added a removable second tier table made of PVC that can be used to put drinks, paper towels, etc, replacing the paper towel rods drilled into the outside rail, and the car-window drink holders as well.

All the while I was cutting and assembling the lumber, my brain kept whiplashing back to 1994, and building the original table with my brothers. It made me smile for the connection to the past and to my family, and a little melancholy to think of the distance between us now, both physical and emotional — one more thing to thank Katrina for. All the while I was sitting underneath the giant wooden hulk, brushing on polyurethane, I was reminded of how much I despised getting that lovely crick in my neck the last time, and how much — after five days — I was getting damned tired of the smell of it.

But most of all, through all of the table construction, the thoughts looming largest in my mind were: I hope I do this justice, I hope this lives up to what we had created before… I hope I do my brothers proud.

They taught me well, those knuckleheads did. We didn’t always get along, and we never quite knew how to show healthy affection for one another other than through incessant teasing and verbal sparring, but they knew how to create, and they passed that on to me. When there was sawdust in the air, all was right with the world.

Here are the fruits of my labors, and I can’t wait to put it to the test in a few weeks time. I was even sent our brand so that I could properly mark anything I build, proclaiming it properly built in the finest tradition of Hurricane Furniture.

And here are three of the jackasses that helped make me the jackass that I am today. Love you all.

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Texas Cottage Food Bill Update.

Posted by DmentD | Links,Reflection | Wednesday 23 February 2011 12:12 pm

As posted on Curious Confections:

I saw this statement go up on Lauren Kitchens’ FB page, it’s such a thoughtful and generous piece for the community trying to pass the bill that I had to copy it here for all the people who haven’t seen it or aren’t on FB.

It’s never a fun thing to have to set the record straight, to be misquoted or misrepresented.

But this is where I find myself. An article about the Texas Baker’s Bill was recently published in the Houston Press and Dallas Observer, which unjustly claimed that I do not support the bill. That claim was false and careless, and the newspapers have posted corrections. But too little, too late.

However, all dark clouds have a silver lining, and this event has allowed me to be open and honest about a very delicate issue that I have not thought much about in the past.

The Texas Baker’s Bill is a cottage food bill going through the Texas Legislature that would allow home cake decorators in Texas to operate legitimate bakeries in their home. This bill has not passed the House yet, but support for and against is strong. Many Texas cake decorators have asked my position on this bill and it’s time they knew how I felt.

Upon graduating from college, I was faced with the question all young adults must answer. Now what am I supposed to do? I have always loved decorating cakes, and so I began making cakes out of my parent’s home kitchen.

After a few years, with no responsibilities of marriage or children, I took the plunge and got a Small Business Loan in the fall of 2001. I opened my commercial kitchen/wedding cake boutique in Dallas in the Spring of 2002. I was the beneficiary of perfect timing and opportunity.

In today’s climate, it is next to impossible to get a loan for any business. And with the economy still in the grip of recession, it seems foolish to drop $100,000 to set up a commercial kitchen with no guarantee of success. This should not be regarded as laziness on the behalf of those who do not benefit from the luck of my timing.

Home cake decorators find themselves in a trap. How do I make an income and further my skills as a cake decorator legally? It’s frustrating. I’ve been there. But I had the means to legitimize my business without having to pass state legislation. Most home bakers do not. And for this, I am extremely sympathetic.

Honestly, I had not read the bill until five days ago. And I took no public position on the matter. At first hearing, I thought the bill was a demand for home bakers to slip past the rules without going through the difficulties I went through as a start-up bakery, or the difficulties I go through as a bakery owner today. But upon reading the bill and talking to people all over the state, I see now that it fairly gives home bakers a legitimacy that they deserve.

The bill would enforce several restrictive demands on the home baker. It forces the home baker to become licensed and to pay a yearly fee, as well as a get food manager’s license. The bill forces the home baker to provide proper food labeling for any product they sell, which is something that I am not forced to do. They are even required to label their product as “made in a home kitchen that is not routinely inspected by a local health authority.”

The bill restricts home bakers on how they can sell their product and to whom they can sell it to. There is also a large portion of the bill devoted to whistle blowing, stating that they may easily be held accountable to the state health department.

Seems fair, doesn’t it?

For those in the professional world who ask, why should we legitimize home-based food service? My answer to that is simple. Why wouldn’t we support a bill that legitimizes and regulates food products? This bill sets standards that any food professional would hold important. And, I can say for certain that the Baker’s Bill poses no major competition for commercial bakeries. Not only does the bill set drastic limits on who the home baker may sell to, it also sets income limits. A home baker could never take on the load of a large professional kitchen with its employees, payroll, marketing costs, etc. These home-based bakers do not pose a threat to the gross sales of large commercial bakeries.

Where the client choses to purchase baked goods is essentially up to the client. If the client feels that a home kitchen is unsanitary, they can choose a bakery to purchase product. In turn, if a client feels a commercial kitchen is unsanitary, then they can choose a home-baker to purchase goods from. It’s all about the consumer’s needs, and these consumers are protected in this bill. And there is plenty of business to be had by all.

I am, at heart, a home cake decorator. Home is where I found my passion and nurtured it. Home is where my roots as a bakery owner began. Fancy Cakes by Lauren is a successful small business in Dallas and I am in my 10th year as a proud owner. None of this would have happened if I had not started at home.

We live in a country of choices. We can choose who to vote for, what religion to practice, and we can make life choices that affect our families. The home baker has no choice but to work in the dark. They are screaming for legitimacy and need to be commended for seeking out regulation and guidelines under which they can be held accountable. The bill needs to pass not only for these important standards, but also for these people who dedicate their lives for the betterment of our art. And I am forever respectful of their struggle and efforts to get this legislation passed.

Here is my official stance:

My name is Lauren Kitchens. I am a Texas business owner and a professional in the food service industry. And I support the Texas Baker’s Bill.

In an unrelated note(except in terms of the bill), the bill has gained two co-authors (to a total of three authors now), both of whom are on the Public Health Committee. They are both Republican which makes the bill bi-partisan, in terms of political ‘oomph’ that’s quite significant so our thanks to those guys for supporting the bill!

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Stranger In A Strange Land.

Posted by DmentD | Reflection | Friday 31 December 2010 10:59 am

“Ben, the foulest sinner of all is the hypocrite who makes a racket of religion.  But we must give the Devil his due.  Mike does believe in his ‘Old Ones,’ I don’t know that they don’t exist; I simply find the idea hard to swallow.  As for his Thou-Art-God creed, it is neither more nor less credible than any other.  Come Judgment Day, if they hold it, we may find that Mumbo Jumbo the God of the Congo was the Big Boss all along.”

“Oh, for Heaven’s sake, Jubal!”

“All names belong in the hat, Ben.  Man is so built that he cannot imagine his own death.  That leads to endless invention of religions.  While this conviction by no means proves immortality to be a fact, questions generated by it are overwhelmingly important.  The nature of life, how the ego hooks into the body, the problem of the ego itself and why each ego seems to be the center of the universe, the purpose of life, the purpose of the universe — these are paramount questions Ben; they can never be trivial.  Science hasn’t solved them — and who am I to sneer at religions for trying, no matter how unconvincingly to me?  Old Mumbo Jumbo may eat me yet; I can’t rule him out because he owns no fancy cathedrals.  Nor can I rule out one godstruck boy leading a sex cult in an upholstered attic; he might be the Messiah.  The only religious opinion that I feel sure of is this: self-awareness is not just a bunch of amino acids bumping together!”

“Whew! Jubal, you should have been a preacher.”

“Missed it by luck.  If Mike can show us a better way to run this fouled-up planet, his sex life needs no vindication.  Geniuses are justifiably contemptuous of lesser opinion and are always indifferent to sexual customs of the tribe; they make their own rules.  Mike is a genius.  So he ignores Mrs. Grundy and diddles to suit himself.

“But from a theological standpoint Mike’s sexual behavior is as orthodox as Santa Claus.  He preaches that all living creatures are collectively God … which makes Mike and his disciples the only self-aware gods on this planet … which rates him a union card by the rules for godding.  Those rules always permit gods sexual freedom limited only by their own judgment.

“You want proof?  Leda and the Swan?  Europa and the Bull?  Osiris, Isis, and Horus?  The incredible incestuous games of the Norse gods?  I won’t cite eastern religions; their gods do things that a mink breeder wouldn’t tolerate.  But look at the relations of the Trinity-in-One of the most widely respected western religion.  The only way that religion’s precepts can be reconciled with the interrelations of what purports to be a monotheos is by concluding that the breeding rules for deity are not the rules for mortals.  But most people never think about it; they seal it off and mark it: ‘Holy – Do Not Disturb.’

“One must allow Mike any dispensation granted all other gods.  One god alone splits into at least two parts, and breeds, not just Jehovah — they all do.  A group of gods will breed like rabbits, and with as little regard for human proprieties.  Once Mike entered the godding business, those orgies were as predictable as sunrise — so forget the standards of Podunk and judge them by Olympian morals — I think you will then find that they are showing unusual restraint.”

– Jubal Harshaw – Stranger In A Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein

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Idol Thoughts.

Posted by DmentD | Entertainment,Rambling,Reflection,Stress | Wednesday 29 September 2010 11:11 am

I just realized that, in the wake of an worldwide apocalyptic event, I am going to be that guy who, amidst the rubble and debris will have lovingly, painstakingly and obsessively restored some ultimately useless item.

Humankind will have been reduced to a few surviving feral tribes, scattered amongst a shattered landscape.  My life will have been destroyed, I will be wearing only rags and be smeared with filth and soot and I will be living in a hovel composed of four crumbling walls and a torn tarp for a ceiling.  I will live a hermit’s life, one of solitary existence.

However, behind a carefully camouflaged door will be a compartment free of the dirt and madness.  A small altar will have been erected, and sunlight directed in from above using a series of mirrors and reflective surfaces.  Upon that altar will be a gleaming idol — an old world antique copper espresso engine.  Functional, but never used.  Restored to its pre-apocalyptic glory by any means possible, scavenging, bartering or stealing the parts and tools necessary.

I know with grim certainty that my next foray out into this nightmarish landscape may well be my last, but I am driven by an inexplicable, irrational desire to bring even this one piece of time-gone-by back to life.  I spend countless hours cleaning, shaping and polishing each piece by hand.  I improvise parts until I can one day find a real replacement.  I go hungry trading food for copper polish and burnishing pads.  I killed a man in honorable combat who was wearing the ornate copper eagle — the crowning decorative touch — on a band of aluminum around his head as an improvised crown and symbol of his tribe… I stabbed him in the lung with a spare frother tube that I carry for personal protection, and I watched as his life hissed slowly away.

My madness is what keeps me alive.  It gives me a purpose and keeps the fire that burns behind my eyes lit, and drives me on from day to day.  There can be no sanity in the world as it is, no rational existence exists any more.  There is only my gleaming god — my caffeine miracle worker, the copper altar upon which beans and water were once sacrificed, the once steaming idol, a bull for the modern age past.

I will resurrect this deity — oh yes — and He will smile upon me with beatific joy for my hard work and fealty, and grant me eternal grace at His right hand.  I toil and labor so that He may on day rise again.  He will smite my enemies with steamy vengeance and set right this world of chaos, and I will finally be able to be at peace.

That, and get a killer cup of joe… finally!

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Food For The Eagle.

Posted by DmentD | Coolness,Links,Reflection | Monday 19 April 2010 12:04 pm

The Harvard Secular Society conferred lifetime achievement awards on MythBusters‘ Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman this weekend.  Adam proceeded to deliver an eloquent and inspiring speech, and I believe it is mandatory reading for anyone within sight of my voice here.

Go, read it now.

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Belated Birthday.

Posted by DmentD | Domestica,Friends,Reflection | Monday 23 November 2009 11:11 am

Birthdays are birthdays… they are the most convenient way to mark the passage of time in one’s life, and frankly their only real significance is to alert your doctor to the opportunity to commence inflicting more thorough and uncomfortably invasive exams upon your person.

My 40th birthday has come and gone, and the inevitable question was asked numerous times: “So, how does it feel to be 40?” About the same as it did when I woke up yesterday when I was still 39 — I could use more sleep, less work, a strong cup of coffee, and a couple of undisturbed hours in a hammock or a comfortable chair reading without distraction… but then again, I’ve felt that way most of my life anyway, so this is nothing new.

At any rate, to me birthdays are birthdays, just another day with a bit of personal significance but no need for anyone to make a fuss over.  I don’t demand a big party, lots of gifts or overt amounts of attention… which does not mean I won’t happily — gleefully even — accept any of that, hell, who doesn’t like gifts and a fun party?  The most I would ever ask for myself is a decent meal and the company of good friends in a low-key, comfortable environment, which is pretty much the same thing I’d ask of any given weekend anyway.

We went to Peony, a nice Asian restaurant that serves Japanese and Chinese cuisines, and I loaded up on sushi.  I hadn’t had sushi in a long while, and had been in the mood for it for quite some time.  T’was yummy, and priced well too.  Apparently some of the selections from the Chinese menu were tasty as well.

Afterward we went back to Sweets and my place to light the fire-pit, have some drinks and enjoy a cigar.  I finally opened the bottle of Scotch I was gifted for the housewarming over a year ago, and it was definitely worth the wait.

All told, it was precisely the evening I had hoped for.

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H.S.T.

Posted by DmentD | Rambling,Reflection | Wednesday 11 November 2009 12:42 pm

I’ve been in a mood for Hunter S. Thompson.  Just re-read Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, and during this — my third dance with this particular work — I’m better able to read past the hyper-sensationalized drug-addled fog he’s put forth and pick out some gems of wisdom.

The most notable contrast between Hunter writing in the voice of “Raoul Duke” — a caricature of himself distilled to the very core of bad craziness — and in his own voice comes at the end of the book, specifically the “jacket copy” he wrote for Fear and Loathing.  In a brief few pages, H.S.T. soberly, and with a sudden clarity that takes such an immediate u-turn from the insanity of the book that gives you whiplash, explains that Fear and Loathing was a failed experiment in Gonzo Journalism… a phrase he coined at the time to describe what he envisioned to be a free-form method of writing — to buy a notebook and write down everything as it happened and publish it with no editing whatsoever.

What he ended up with was a mix of fact and fiction, with no discernible lines to tell one from the other.  It is a failure in that he never accomplished his original vision, but instead ended up writing something altogether different and ground-shaking. He accidentally invented a new genre of writing, one that continues to inspire writers to this very day.  His success was that he wrote something that not only entertained readers, but gave him immense joy and gratification to write.  He would take a break from banging out whatever assignment he was on to write F&L.  It was a vacation for him.

I’ve always considered writing the most hateful kind of work. I suspect it’s a bit like fucking, which is only fun for amateurs. Old whores don’t do much giggling.

I’ve found myself, again, very attracted to the way an author’s mind works.  While I do not agree with every gilded word that falls from him his mouth, I find Hunter — like Vonnegut — a very intriguing personality.  A number of the things he’s said strikes certain chords within me.  I stumbled across a number of quotes while searching out the one above, that just resonate happily through my head.  I’ll leave you with these.

Life has become immeasurably better since I have been forced to stop taking it seriously.

A man who procrastinates in his choosing will inevitably have his choice made for him by circumstance.

I understand that fear is my friend, but not always. Never turn your back on Fear. It should always be in front of you, like a thing that might have to be killed.

We cannot expect people to have respect for law and order until we teach respect to those we have entrusted to enforce those laws.

Good people drink good beer.

…and he would probably not agree with my conviction that a sense of humor is the main measure of sanity. But who can say for sure? Humor is a very private thing.

We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and — in spite of True Romance magazines — we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely — at least, not all the time — but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.

And, on the impending arrival of my 40th birthday…

It gave me a strange feeling, and the rest of that night I didn’t say much, but merely sat there and drank, trying to decide if I was getting older and wiser, or just plain old.

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Ghosts.

Posted by DmentD | Rambling,Reflection | Thursday 8 October 2009 8:00 am

It’s October, and October means two things… Halloween and Ren Faire — not necessarily in that order.  We’ve pulled the boxes of Halloween decorations down from the attic and started rummaging through them.  The living room is a glorious mess.

Since the storm 4+ years ago I haven’t had the same manic motivation for Halloween that I have always had.  Maybe it was knocked out of me by depression, maybe my brain was too busy operating in life-support mode to devote the neural energies toward it.  Maybe seeing those containers of useless Halloween decorations stacked on the lawn of my shattered house — my shattered life — perfectly intact next to the ruins of the rest of my possessions, the things that I would have happily traded every Halloween for the previous decade to have back, evidence of a lifetime of living… maybe that banished Halloween from my soul.

Lady said it best at the time:

I wanted to set those containers of Christmas and Halloween decorations on fire, seeing them sitting there on the lawn while we dredged through the ruined remains of the house.  Fat load of good they were to us, and a reminder of all the useful things we lost.

But regardless, we took them with us.  They were still reminders of good times gone by, every bit as useful in that regard as the photographs we lost.  How can you not go through your Christmas decorations and not remember when you got an ornament, or who gave you that star for the tree?

Two years ago I took part in staging Halloween with my friends who were hosting a party at their place.  I summoned the energy and as much enthusiasm as I could muster and built lots of great props and things, but I was still underwhelmed regardless.  The enthusiasm was more for the creative outlet than for Halloween, but it didn’t quite gel for me.  I felt out of sync with the occasion.  It felt like I had doused the flame further, rather than rekindling it.

Last year was the first year I actually took the decorations down from the attic and put a few out, but nothing like years past.  For some reason those containers of decorations seemed so large, and yet so full of stuff that I couldn’t be bothered to put out for the holiday, to make my home festive for the time of tear I looked forward to more than any other.  So many cheap and cheesy baubles, almost embarrassing for a guy pushing 40 to have around.  So many lights that would be more of a hassle to hang and take down, than to enjoy while they were up.  And what for?  No party of my own to decorate for… no constant stream of people coming around on the weekends during the month of October to enjoy it with me, to share my juvenile enthusiasm.

Last year I was a passive participant in the Halloween party, dressing up and showing up but not contributing.  The energy still wasn’t there.  It was just another day.

But I saw a glimmer, somewhere deep down in the darkness.  There was something there, it was weak and faint — but it was there.

This year, I feel like someone recovering from an illness: the will to move and act is there, but the body is still run down… yet gaining strength every day.  My head is getting into the right space — I can feel the tumblers clicking into place.  A little over a year ago my inner 8-year-old was given cotton candy and an espresso — by the cutest and most wonderful enabler ever to cross the Atlantic — and he’s been set loose to recharge my soul with his manic energy.

My soul has been running on fumes for too long — 4+ years to be specific.

I’m getting my juvenile enthusiasm back.  Who cares if a guy pushing 40 decorates his house with purple lights, skulls and crappy polyester cobwebs for one month out of every year?  Who cares if he dresses up like a tard for a party and has a marvelous time hanging out with others who dress just as mentally deranged?  Who cares if he gets covered in pumpkin guts carving jack-o-lanterns into the wee hours?

He cares.

He cares very much to decorate, dress silly, and murder pumpkins for his own enjoyment — anyone who doesn’t approve can just take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut.

I have always nurtured my inner-child… spoiled him to the point of being a brat.  He stopped coming around for a while, but has been visiting with increasing frequency the last two years.  I’ve missed him so much.

Now if you don’t mind, there is an 8-year-old in my head who is giggling at fart jokes, and he needs to have his espresso topped off.

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Ancient History.

Posted by DmentD | Entertainment,Friends,Pictures,Rambling,Reflection | Wednesday 2 September 2009 11:59 am

Well, hell… I thought all evidence of me in the prehistoric “PB” era (Pre Beard) had been eradicated by my minions and the cleansing effects of Katrina.

Guess not.

So, before these pictures are used against me as some unsavory method of blackmail, I’ve decided to post them for the public record — because nobody is better at making a fool out of you than yourself.

My long-time friend Hitch dug these up (thanks a lot, man… like I needed a reminder of my larval stage of existence, and how old I’m getting these days) and posted them to Facebook, but since I vehemently refuse to drink that particular flavor of Kool-Aid, he emailed them to me so that I could swoon lightheadedly and have a good laugh.

The first three pictures seem to be from a costume-like event… let’s call it Halloween, because my crusty memory refuses to call up the actual facts.  In this first picture, you see a young, clean-shaven me on the left… apparently laughing forward through the years at the decrepit me looking at this picture now, as if to to say “holy crap, look at all that gray hair, you furry freak!”  To my right is MiltiMix, with his long-lost full head of hair.  We’re both considerably thinner than we are now… in fact, EVERYONE is thinner in these pictures than they are now.

Ah, here we get a better picture of the outfit… my ever-present (at the time) round flip-up sunglasses and pea coat — I was a frequent Army Surplus customer in those years — no less than three mock weapons, and a pair of handcuffs.  Jeebus, I’ve never been that skinny since.  That’s Hitch in the red robes and hockey mask.  He was one of the very few people who helped keep my very violent temper in check in those days… as tall as I was, he had me by almost half-a-head and 50+ pounds, and it took a big guy like that to keep me from being an idiot.  Mostly.

Gah!  Who let that ugly broad in here?!  Wait… that’s no broad, that’s Michigan’s favorite son, James the I/O Master.  Not much of an improvement, mind you.

The cheesy mustache era!  May it go back to the grave, never to terrorize the good people of Earth ever again.  That’s Hitch on the left (sans mask and robes), Susan on the right, and me second from the right (sorry dude, second from the left, but my brain ejected your name and replaced it with Cowboy Mouth lyrics about 10 years ago).

And one last throwback to the CM era. *hangs head in shame* I  think I overcompensate now by only shaving every other week or so.

To you, my unsuspecting readers, there is only one response to these pictures…

… and one last sentiment to impart from an old fart like me …

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