Monday, December 26, 2005

What I Did for Christmas Vacation

I awoke early on Friday, the first day of a 4-day weekend, and continued slogging through the mountain of boxes in my soon-to-be studio and home gym. I'm about half done now and can't unpack all those books until I paint the office in one of the lovely shades of terra-cotta I've picked out...imagine dragging them all back down off the shelves to paint. No thankie.

So, my buddy Shannon called at about 9:30. Through the bull-dyke who sold Shannon a male chocolate lab whose balls never dropped, and was therefore sterile and cheaper than his studly littermates, she met a Border Patrol Agent, name of Dave. She was on her way to meet him at Popeye's (huh?) and then go check out their hangar/place of business. They fly those wee helicopters, the little fast ones that can herd sheep and chase down people on foot. Good stuff.

"Listen for the helicopter. Then stand out in your yard and wave."

"Um, what was that?" It just sounded like crazytalk. But half an hour later, I heard it, the mosquito-like buzz of an inbound chopper. I had to walk down to the end of my driveway to clear the big mesquite out front and scanned the sky. It appeared low over the trees, green and white, and circled my house as I waved. I distinctly saw Shannon's lime-green jacket in the tiny window, they flew so low.

"That's unacceptable," I later found out the pilot said. "She should've flashed us."

Then Shannon came over the next morning, Christmas Eve, and as I dished up two blueberry-raspberry pancakes I'd made from scratch, no mix, she invited me out to the airfield. The pilots said I could take a ride in the little bird.

So no shit, there I am, Christmas Eve, running crazy through the Arizona landscape in a little helicopter. It's 80 degrees and just a fine day, and the pilot was a really cool guy named Mike. I was KICKING myself for not bringing my camera.

He showed me the little grove of scrubby trees where would-be immigrants from Mexico crouch to wait for their ride by the highway that leads to Tucson and points beyond. You could see everything in their little hollow--blankets, clothing, garbage, empty water jugs, loose plastic. Mostly garbage. I thought about how foolish it must look from up there when someone actually tries to hide from this thing--he landed it on top of a shipping container on some guy's farm to show me how maneuverable it is.

Mike showed me how after they get picked up, they are taken to another spot on the other side of the highway, where they are usually beaten and robbed of all their possessions. They usually just sit in this clearing, also clotted with garbage and clothing, and don't protest when the Border Patrol takes them back to Mexico. He showed me where they found a Winnebago out in a field with over 3700 pounds of pot in it, and how the dozen or so occupants of said Winnebago scattered like roaches in the kitchen light when the helicopter damn near landed on the roof. He told me about their night operations, catching dozens of people at a time, walking silently with water jugs through the desert.

Then another pilot contacted Mike, some guy named Dennis, on his way to their hangar. Mike told me over the push-to-talk that this guy was an ass-hole. So we stayed out there in the desert for an extra 15 minutes so Mike could avoid Dennis. All told, about 45 minutes up there seeing how they operate, listening to the stories. It reminds me a LOT of the Army.

Christmas--rode my bike (the Harley) to Shannon's in the morning, and greatly humiliated myself in the parking lot of the big, new Gas City. I rode to the pump, confidently sporting my new riding jacket (gorgeous black leather, plain, not like other leather with all the zippers and Michael Jackson-looking shit), put down the kickstand, went to get off the bike, and directly laid it down on the pavement. All 550 pounds. The kickstand wasn't locked out when I tried to dismount.

"Hey, can you help me for a second?" I asked the young guy pumping gas next to me. "I don't think it's damaged, it's just too heavy to pick up by myself." Unfortunately, it was. I tried like hell to pick it up, minimize this embarrassment. He helped me hoist it back up, and fortunately, not a scratch. No way to recover all those coolpoints once they've so irrevocably been snatched away in this manner.

Later that night, Shannon, her kids, my friend Ben, Dave (the Border Patrol Agent), and Dave's friend Will. Also a Border Patrol Agent. His family's Colombian, he's from Atlanta, he's about my age, and never married. And very intelligent, with adorable blue eyes.

I'm such a sucker for baby-blues. More to follow, with any luck...

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Beer and Paint Don't Mix

I've painted two large rooms so far, and the kitchen is next. I went for a gorgeous terra cotta and I'm sticking with variations on that palette all through the house. It looks amazing.

However, the master bedroom got done with a Mike's Cranberry Lemonade in my hand--several of them throughout the day. So not really beer, but same alcohol content, better tasting. As I was finishing up by the second closet, disaster struck. I dropped the handheld paint dish right onto the floor--stain about the size of a dinner plate, and terra cotta on light beige carpet presents a cleanup challenge worthy of a master.

Cursing and patting all the extra paint out, I set the dish on the ladder next to me. Then promptly bumped into it and sent the remaining paint back to the floor, different spot. CRAP! I spent the next hour soaking, soaping, and mopping the carpet with paper towels--I bet I used two rolls. I set my Mike's Cranberry Lemonade next to the ladder for the last push. I moved the ladder for the next bit of trim to paint around, thereby knocking the bright red concoction right onto the floor near the original paint stain. Oh, for the love of God, I give up.

The good news is, I managed to eradicate all the stains over the course of several days. And the one I didn't bother with, the big one near the far wall that resulted from the power paint roller's hose disconnecting and pumping paint all over the floor, will be covered by my bed when it finally arrives Tuesday.

I don't like this damn carpet anyway.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


I stopped somewhere between El Paso and the Arizona state line for gas, an event that repeated itself about every two hours, twenty more gallons sacrificed for sake of a fully loaded, rather large trailer in 60 MPH headwinds in the mountains. Slow, painful going, and I didn’t mind pulling over so frequently.

After filling up, I made a beeline for the restroom, having emptied both a venti latte and large bottled water during the early afternoon. I closed the stall door, and sat to read the perfunctory graffiti: For a good time call Brandy M. she’ll screw anything. That type pearl of wisdom. I had contracted a touch of Montezuma’s Revenge somewhere between the three Thanksgiving dinners I ate and four days of road food. I tried to keep it to myself, polite and quiet, and suppressed a giggle when the occupant three stalls down let loose with a blast of explosive rectal discharge. Nothing to be shy about here.

Then I watched a pair of ostentatiously trendy brown leather shoes skirted by boot cut jeans step into the stall beside me. I flush every few moments when confronted with an inevitable Class 2 Download in a public restroom, hoping to spare fellow restroomers the stench. I flushed and watched the shoes turn around to lock the stall door. And here’s where it got odd—the shoes then turned back around. As in, pointed toward the toilet. As in, never sat down.

I stared, mystified, at the shoes as a distinct stream of urine hit the bowl. Now I was in a hurry and struggled to finish up business before this person went unidentified. No such luck. The Shoes zipped up and quickly exited, not stopping to wash hands.

I walked out into the convenience store (after washing my hands, I'll have you know), looking at everyone’s shoes. I found them, attached to a very tall but decidedly feminine-appearing foreign tourist, late teens, long blond hair and slight build. I watched the group of them, wondering if any of the others knew that Shoes likely wasn’t sporting the equipment that went with her/his appearance.

Was he pre-op transsexual? A sharply skilled drag queen? Or, weirder yet, a girl who pees standing up??

I exited with the questions still buzzing in my head and found two other adolescent, foreign tourists, standing by my truck, tapping the camper-top window and cooing at my kitties. These two were overtly male. Or were they??

“Nice cats,” one said. The accent sounded Polish. “So you’re from nye?”

“Nye?” I asked.

He waved the cigarette he should not be smoking so close to the pumps, gesturing at my license plate. “Sure, New York.”

“Oh. Um, yes, I drove here from New York. I’ve just never heard it called ‘Nye.’” N.Y., pronounced together. Hm.

“Well, that’s what all the people in the know call it. The ones who are hip.”

“Hm. Well, I lived there and never heard it. Guess I’m not hip!” I laughed, trying to be friendly despite this ludicrous assertion. “So lemme ask you, do you then call New York City, Nyce??” NYC=nyce.

“Of course!” His tone suggested the patient schooling of a toddler. “What else would you call it??”

Home Sweet Bare Home

I have a whole slew of entries to input—forgive me for the lag, but I did move across the country with a large U-Haul trailer and two cats, plus managed to stop in Mississippi and Tennessee for Thanksgiving.

*Whew* I’m here. The gas just got turned on in my new house today, and with it, the hot water and heat…why do you need that? You may ask, since I moved to southern Arizona, after all. Well, we’re having a rare cold snap, below freezing every night. Plus, I attempted a cold shower. It was brief, it was more pain than my now-soft civilian ass cares to endure, and afterward, I huddled by the fire wrapped in a towel for a full thirty minutes.

But I’m here. I started work yesterday. I love the job already. I’m in the house waiting for my furniture. I already painted the master bedroom a gorgeous terra-cotta from the odd lavender with army-green trim slopped on by the previous owner. I have the “before” pictures, and I’ll post them alongside the “after” pictures once the furniture is set up. I’ll post each room as I complete it. And the backyard—it needs quite a bit of love and attention. The septic people were kind enough to dig up the spot I’d already picked out for a spring garden, and I’m planting bulbs now. I’m trying to knock out as much painting as I can before the furniture crowds the effort.

More to follow, a fair number of posts composed in my head while on the road and here dealing with all the little new-house calamities…