Saturday, July 31, 2010

To Code.

Today is the last day of July, the end of the second month of the Toad, in the year of No Toad Then Toad. Saturday 7/31 finds the 2740X greater metropolitan area in drizzle and clouds, with more earnest rain forecast for the afternoon. It was not quite 70 degrees on the ANYLF ActionWeatherNowPorch this morning. We sat out there and the Toad tried his newest trick: being awake without screaming. We drank coffee. We looked at the rain. We watched the goldfinches eat the seeds from the center of the spent coneflower blooms. We did our best to survive.

The city has come out and looked several times and in several ways at the building, and minus final inspections—those for pretty and for abject functionality—we have passed. The plumbers passed theirs, the electrician passed his, and yours truly, friends and fans of general halfassery and of DIY with newborns, has passed his as well. Framing good. Exterior rough good. These things are maybe not perfect, but they are waterproof and nearly square and they have squeezed within the parameters of the code. Make that The Code. Actually, given the way enforcement seems to work, let's pull those capitals back down and just leave code where it was. There has been some wink-and-nod here at 709. There has been some off-the-record. But we are good. We are legal in letter and spirit both. Other than the ongoing explosion which is and ever shall be the Toad, we have not done anything of any lasting damage or danger to the property. We have built ourselves eighty framed, roofed and sheathed square feet. To code. Or damn near.

This week: insulation, drywall. Get those done and we've done well. August arrives tomorrow. Do we ask about the novel? We do not ask about the novel. Is the plot problem solved? The voice problem? The absent last two chapters problem? We do not ask about the novel. We build. We shelter the Toad. We watch it rain, a cool mid-September gift in the wrong month entirely, and try to enjoy it for what it is and nothing more. I mean, we still ask about the novel. We can't not. But we try to watch the rain.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Another Day.

I think the thermometer's broken. I think the A/C's been running for the last 70 consecutive hours. I think the crabgrass has taken over what few tomatoes the squirrels have left us. I think the yard will never see me behind the mower again. I think the shimmer coming up off the front walk might be a physical, touchable thing. I think I want to move my operation to the basement, take my shirt off, lie in the cool of the soil down there. I think I want to strap a box fan to my chest. I think the dog thinks we broke the world. I think the Toad might think this is how it always was, how it always will be. I think the jackshit fussy whine-grunt litany of complaint he's had going since he woke up is him saying he never expected it to be hotter outside than in.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Bad Ideas.

Heat like a breakup: you wake up and you know something's not right, but it takes a few moments for you to remember. I stayed in bed a little longer this morning, pillow over my head, A/C bombing away like it had been all night just trying to pull us back to 72 up there, and I thought: say it ain't so. But it's so. It's happening. Pushing 100 today. Pushing 100 tomorrow. I'm headed out in half an hour to hang soffit vents, because it's possible work for an hour, maybe two, if you can get out and back in before noon or one. That's how it went yesterday: gutters up and then tools put away all before lunch. After lunch we're housebound. Heartbroken. Stuck. Just the color of the light through the kitchen windows looks hot.

In other and ill-advised dogwalking news, friends and fans of heat advisories, a spur-of-the-moment round-the-block in the theoretically relative cool of eighty-eight ten-o'clock degrees is the mathematical and unassailable proof of the above.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Still Hot.

Sweet baby Jesus in an ill-fitting onesie it's hot. AMR, on the heat: it's standing outside in Gainesville in 1997 pouring sweat and drinking beer hot. AMR on the heat again: it's sitting on the porch on Mendenhall with RLF and BCF and taking our pants off hot. AMR a third time, recapping that first assessment: it's Florida hot.

The dog is hot. I let her out into the yard around 6:30, and she went back into the shadow of the outbuilding and stood and stared at me. Then she quivered some. She actually quivered. It's dog-quiver hot.

It's 11:01 p.m. and the thermometer on my front porch says 86 degrees.

The upstairs A/C can't keep up. We're lucky if we ride four or five degrees higher than it's set. It finally catches back up around three or four in the morning.

I had to take off my baseball cap. At the baseball game.

And it's still. The stillness hangs out on the edges. Fist you register how hot it is, how continually hot—the electrician who'll pull the permits on the outbuilding next week came by to offer advice on some of the prelim he's letting me do to save money, stood in the sun of my driveway, squinted, pulled a hand through his hair, said, God, it's hot—and then once you get hold of that, get the edges of that drawn in, then you register what else it is, which is still.

About that baseball game: we rode the Toad out to Burlington to see his first game. He loved it: loved the noise, the lights, the cicadas in the rafters, the music, the woman singing Green Acres, even the cheering post-solo home run, which caused him first to cry but then to continue loving it. He was hot, but who can blame him? We all were. It was hot. It is hot. This is ten years ago hot. TLK, a couple of days ago, when it was still hot, or first hot, or just hot, said it was as bad as it's been since we first moved here. And you'll love this, friends and fans of heat: it's meant to get worse before it gets better. The ten-day doesn't give us a break until Tuesday. Hot as it is, it's hard to believe even that.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Morning Inventory.

Pretty little hot and humid Wednesday morning finds our hero up early(ish) and finished drawing the coffee down into the pot and finished letting the dog out and back in and finished feeding the cats and—I know I keep saying this, friends and fans of weather of all kinds, but this is what it comes to—waiting for the Toad to finish crapping his pants. It's not like it's some manner of emergency if you guess wrong and into the middle of that process, but a clean diaper is a clean diaper, and a dirtied one is dirty, and there is not much in between. It's like rolling up the truck windows before a thunderstorm: best, on balance, to guess correctly.

Ten or fifteen wrens are congregated on the east end of the outbuilding back there—I'm hoping it's just a neighborhood association dustup, and not that they're eating some massive conflagration of termites or carpenter ants or any other six-legged sometime-winged creatures taking flight. Short version: I'm wanting the birds back there just to be stopping through. I do not want them participating in much that would have a word like ecosystem attached to it.

Holding patterns: for the electrician, for this afternoon's court date to settle my braking mishap out on 70 back in May, for something that looks like plot to arrive like a small flock of birds and set down on the half-novel back there. For the Toad to do whatever the books say is supposed to come next. For a longer night of sleep. For a clear hour to ride to the big box and come home with the next long list of what the building wants and needs. What has already arrived: a cup of good coffee, the Dumpster truck to remove the leavings of the folks living in the apartments catty-cornered back behind us there, another day with a reasonable threat of rain. Cicadas. Sunshine. The last ten days of a blurry month.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Severe Weather.

Pouring. Pouring. That dry pattern—and I'll jinx us this way, will bring August on before August is due—is for now and for sure over. It's been raining 20 minutes and I guarantee we've seen half an inch, maybe more. Wind. Thunder. More wind. The dog is in my lap, deeply unhappy. The Toad is in his swing, deeply sleeping. The eighty-dollar clearance-sale fancyass sink, which turns out to be all one pretty granite-countertopped piece, is in the back of the truck, wrapped up and tarped over. The box says it weighs 132 pounds. It definitely does. The box says nothing about the water-resistancy of said sink. I had only one tarp available. I had to choose between the dying lawn mower and the new sink. I chose the sink. Tune in next time, friends and fans of high adventure, for the exciting conclusion of SinkStorm 2010.

Nobody ever said this couldn't be a picture book...

The dog'll think I'm crazy, and the Toad'll think—does the Toad think yet? does he wonder about the weather? about Toadlier concerns?—about whatever it is he pushrattles through that giant skull of his, but I'm headed out in this small lull to check on my new sink, my new downspouts, my old drainage problems. Then back in to attend to those interests most in need of whatever they might need: A scratch behind the ears. A swaddle. A cold can of PBR. Let's make this a matching quiz. Y'all draw in the lines. No cheating. Eyes on your own paper. And on the sky, of course.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Victory Lap.

It comes to this: you're holding the Toad, or AMR is—the lines of who's doing what at any given time blur, except for feedings, which you know aren't yours, except the one bottle yesterday, which was yours, but mainly that belongs to AMR, or generally it does, so far—and the trash is on the curb, and the recycling is on the curb, and the diapers from upstairs are in the trash on the curb, and the plumbers have been here for an hour, and you've apologized five times for not having all the studs in the wall they need to run the water pipe through, and you've (at breakneck speed) cut and fit those truant studs and screwed them in, and now everything is well-oiled again, is moving along apace, is on the edge of fine, and you're inside, and the Toad is inside, and AMR is inside, and the dog is inside, is finished barking at the plumbers, and at the neighbors, and at the neighbor's plumbers. This is how things are. This is how they were, and then the plumbers showed up, and then there were the studs, and now things are fine again. The trash trucks are in the neighborhood, grinding up and down the blocks. The squeal of brakes, etcetera. The robot arms. The fiercely beautiful symbiotic operation of taxable citizenry and resultant government service.

Your current conditions: humidity trying to outrace itself to 100%, temps hitched to the same rising scale, threat of rain later in the day, wind out of the south and west at let's just say 10-15 mph. Partly cloudy. Hot as the metaphor or simile of your choosing.

And you remember the trash in the pantry, the garbage, the full bag, and you go to the street to check to see if the trucks have come by your house, your bins, and lo, they have not, and you can hear one truck riding it sounds like maybe a little closer to you, maybe up your hill, and you jog back inside, and you trash up the trash, tie its handy ties, jog back outside with your bag of more diapers and dead cheese and expired sour cream and nonrecyclable packaging, and the truck is coming up the street, and inside AMR holds the Toad, and the Toad fusses, but not too much, just your standard fuss, or maybe even a notch below, just an announcement, really, an announcement that later on there will be more fuss, real fuss, vastly fussier than this fuss, and where were you? You were out the front door, trash in hand, trash bin on the street, trash truck coming, blinkers flashing orange, the brakes hollering, the driver making eye contact with you, slowing down, and look: that's you lifting the lid, putting the trash in the trash, and that's you taking a step back, that's the robot arm coming out, that's the trash plus the added trash going up and into the truck, the bin coming back down, the half-wave from the driver, the truck moving on.

Back in the house is where the problem hits you: you are elated. Like base-clearing go-ahead RBI double in Little League elated. You are the picture of suburban triumph. There is your son, your wife, your kitchen, your cooling cup of coffee, your dog, there in the back yard are the plumbers, and you have by god beaten the system—no, wait, it's actually much worse: you are exactly where the system wants you. You have jogged your trash to the curb in the very nick of time and you are elated and you are even making hash of the second person, for god's sake, which is no mode of storytelling for something like this, because it's hackneyed, it's worn, it is a turtle in the highway. To say nothing of the compound adjective that went unhyphenated back there. Or the fragmentary nature of.

So this is what it comes to: your most significant accomplishment in days is getting your trash from inside bin to outside bin to rolling internally-combusted motorized bin with seconds to spare. You'd like to see a replay in slo-mo. You'd like to watch your moment of unassailable victory again and again. You play a little air guitar there in the kitchen. AMR laughs at and with you. You laugh, but you don't quite mean it. Not all the way. Do not cheapen the cheap win. You take the Toad back—you hold him a while, and he sleeps, actually, and maybe makes one of the small, heartbreaking, astonishingly charming Toad noises—here is this creature, who you only like a little bit, and only sometimes, that fucker, who has lit your life on fire.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Boys Of.

I know it rained this week. I know. And I know it in fact rained what we in the business often refer to, scientifically, as a shit-ton. I know the grass I planted (two days before the Toad was born) in the plumbing trench has greened back up, I know the front yard flowers are in pretty steady and avowed bloom, I know the flood could have taken our trash can but rather only deposited, serendipitously, said can at the neighbor's phone pole. I know even that the shed is dry, and the shed annex is dry, and all local interests that want to be dry are in fact dry, and that complaint is not what ought rise up here in this space or any other.

But every day feels like the same day. It is July.

There are ways of combatting this. Clean the kitchen. Fold the clothes. Begin work on finishing the shed electric and beginning the shed annex electric. Hold one of the dog's ears. Hold the Toad, when he can be held, or when you can stand to hold him, or both, or overcome one or both of those. Sit at the desk. Sit at the desk. Sit at the desk. And yet: some July days one cannot pull oneself toward any of that. Instead, you try to string the minutes together from coffee to evening, and then you hold for bed. Maybe there are a few minutes of baseball on the AM radio out of High Point, which feel like something that could save you. Maybe there are friends riding in on various trusty steeds, bearing dinner, even, to tell you that, yeah, it's July, but someday it might not be. But then it'll be August, you say. Well, yeah, they say. But you've known this. And if it wasn't going to be August next, then something much larger than you think would be broken.

But every day feels like the same day. It is July. And then it will be August. Hard to bear up sometimes under the sheer fact of, say, the calendar. That thing moves every day in the same direction.

Nearing midnight here in the Gate City, friends and fans of weather, finds us dropping through the muggy eighties on our way to an overnight low in the mid-seventies. It'll probably storm some the next few days. The mosquitoes here are as thick as I can remember, and we went three weeks without rain. We're gonna need some damn large bats before this is all played out. Oh: and on the strength of two early solo homers, the Braves come out of the break with another win, and continue to lead the division. I heard one of those shots on the radio. Maybe that's what's there for tomorrow evening: Hot front porch, failing evening, fussy Toad, box fan, cold beer, AM radio, the Braves in contention for the first time in a long time. I've got this little low-slung canvas chair I like a lot. Sits right down in the path of the fan, keeps the bugs off me, off the Toad. Who knows. Who knows. We get to August with that damn team out in front, there just might be reason to hope.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Heavy Rain.

The airport says they got 3.2 inches last night. We have no rain gauge here at the world headquarters of increasingly occasional weather-watching and increasingly frequent Toad-watching, so we cannot offer corollary proof. The dog got up on the sofa between storms, though, and so did the one cat, and the Toad was on the other sofa with AMR, and it opened up to the tune, the airport says, of 1.75 inches in one hour alone at one point—if that new bathroom out back ain't proven yet, friends and fans of per-hour rainfall rate, of flash flooding, of overworked basement sump pumps, of newly caulked seams and edges, then I don't know what could prove it now. We have raised from the swamp a 9'x9' room, and it has kept the swamp at bay. Let's score this one if not for the good guys, then at least for level and plumb and true, for asphalted shingles, for house wrap, for windows and doors stuck on and in as per the manufacturer's suggested methods. We are dry in the low spot in the yard. This must be how the Egyptians felt once they got those first few courses laid in the first pyramid. Let's us go find something to send on up to the observing gods.

Three o'clock p.m. in the Gate City brings cooler weather relatively, but it's hot and humid all the same. It is high July. We're greening back up from the three-week disaster, however, and we're in spotty bloom here and there and full bloom all other places. There are volunteer tomatoes coming through the crabgrass in the back garden. The Toad is not smiling at us yet, but he is smiling, as if, occasionally, he looks off at a wall or a ceiling light and remembers that one hilarious time when— maybe when it did not rain for three weeks and at least one of us over here at DroughtWatch2010 was ready to stab himself to death with a shiv made from a wooden spoon, except then, at the very last possible moment, the pattern shifted yet again, and we got a little rain for a few days, and all seemed, if not possible or even probable, then at least not utterly lost.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Less Blind.

I don't want to say anything. I don't want to say it hasn't rained in twenty-however-many days, don't want to say I got the door hung on the shed and got the windows flashed, don't want to mention the new roof, the new caulk on the new flashing on the new roof. I don't want to say how gray it's looked all day, how heavy the air is, how something—something—is different in the atmosphere out there. I don't want to say how we heard those storms slide past north to south last night, how we hurt when they went by. I don't want to say anything except that I have a couple of beers cool in the fridge, an idea about taking the Toad out to the front porch, and this: on that pretty little map up there, we live smack between all that green and the big red L.

My god I hope we're waterproof out back. My god I hope we need to be.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blind Hope.

There are storms on the radar. There is a new roof on the shed. We shall see.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

So Hot.

The airport is reporting 99 degrees. The Weather Channel is reporting 99. The thermometer here at ANYLF heat wave headquarters, in the shade of the front porch, says 98. It hasn't rained in something like twenty days. I was going to hang trim on the building's gable end at seven or eight p.m., but it's still supposed to be in the mid-nineties by then, so never mind. The only thing possible here is to mix some lemon and gin and fizzy water and try not to move or talk or type too much. There's a book, delivered via UPS, sitting on my front porch. I want to read it. I just don't know if I can bring myself to go out there and get it.

My brother, who lives in Farmville, VA, called this afternoon to report triple digits, and to ask if I remembered last week, when it had been in the fifties in the mornings. I said I did. He wanted to know if it was some kind of cruel joke. Cruel, I said, seemed a little too calm an assessment.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Gift Horse.

Second night with the fans on, the windows open. It's July.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Cool Snap.

My god, the weather. It no longer rains, but still.