Todd, Max and I have been comparing old car stories today, after Todd and I spied a beautiful 1957 Thunderbird sitting outside the Lowe’s this afternoon. Todd has a ’63 Galaxie and Max has an early Mustang; the three of us have been attempting to fix each car (or, as in the case of Todd and I, waiting for the Box of Money to drop from the skies) and pricing parts and gear. Max is the best-supported out of all of us; the cottage industry around Mustangs means there are several magazine-sized catalogs selling everything from body parts to whole rebuilt engines. Todd comes in second, as there is a gentleman somewhere south who has made it his business to stock nothing but Galaxie parts exclusively for the early ’60’s body styles. I come in third, as the Scout aftermarket consists of several dedicated shops parceling out the last of the OEM stock, and dribbles of third parties building their own jigs to manufacture body panels. Sigh.

OK, I’ll come clean. I’m dying here.

Date posted: June 30, 2003 | Filed under cars | Leave a Comment »

Thank you for taking the time to review our offer on your house.

Please God, accept our offer.

We are Jen Lockard and Bill Dugan. Engaged May 19, we have been searching for a home in which to start our own family for a couple of months now. We’ve seen a lot of houses since we started and your house is the first one in which we instantly saw ourselves being truly happy. Your home is everything we had hoped to find, and then some.

We’re recently engaged and very much looking forward to living together so that we don’t have to continue driving through the stupid Harbor Tunnel every time we want to see each other. We’ve been looking at houses all over this frickin’ state, and we’ve seen a bunch of dumps that are across from gas stations, decorated in Late ’60’s Widower, or conveniently situated way out in the middle of nowhere. We saw your house and wanted to go rent the moving van that afternoon.

Before we started looking, we did what every young couple does and wrote a list of things that would make up our dream home. We included everything we wanted, knowing that there would be things that we would probably have to compromise on along the way. Two of the things on that list, which we felt sure we’d have to go without, were a green house and a wood working shop. We were immediately in love with your house, so you can only imagine the goosebumps we got upon going into the backyard and discovering two things we never thought we’d find!

We’re still in shock, and we can’t describe to you how excited we are without getting really, really weird about it. We’d talk to you about karma, and pre-destiny, and you’d be fidgeting with your car keys wondering if it would be rude just to run away from us.

Another thing we both discovered when talking about the house after viewing it was that we had both envisioned holding our small wedding in the backyard. It has the perfect amount of space for a ceremony and reception, and we would love to share that treasure with our families.

Seriously. With the flowers and the guy in the corner playing guitar and everything.

In closing, should you decide to accept our offer, we feel our talents and interests would ensure that your family’s home is well cared for and filled with joy.

We can make you and your late father proud, I promise you that.

Again, we thank you for reviewing our offer.

Please God, accept our offer.

Date posted: June 29, 2003 | Filed under house | Leave a Comment »

Selected pictures from last night, before I dropped my camera

Selected pictures from last night, before I dropped my camera

Can’t party like I used to. Jason and I went out for some drinks last night, and wound up staying out about a beer beyond my threshold. I’m a little foggy today, but slowly regaining my wits.

Date posted: June 27, 2003 | Filed under friends, photo | Leave a Comment »

I live on a street in a neighborhood which, up until the hordes of Yuppies like myself moved in, was a very old-school Polish/Ukranian blue-collar area. There’s a United Dockworker’s Union sticker on my basement door. The local church is St. Casmir’s, the Ukranian Center is up around the corner on Eastern Avenue, and you can still walk into American Harry’s bar around the corner and be the only English-speaking patron out of the thirty people there. (And that’s at 9AM.)

The people on my block are one of the strongest reasons I bought my house, and have been the source of constant amusement, gossip, and security since I’ve been there. My next-door neighbors were stooping (the Baltimore practice of bringing out your Orioles stadium cushion and a cup of coffee and sitting on your marble steps to talk with neighbors) the day I looked at the house, and I talked to them for the better part of an hour. Their counsel was the deciding factor. They are an older retired couple, the type who have had three or four careers in their lives (working at Bethlehem Steel, a stint in the Marines, working at Memorial Stadium, owning a bar on the Eastern Shore, driving a hearse for the local funeral home, working as a waitress at Haussner’s) and several grown children my parents’ age; they know everything that happens in the neighborhood before it happens.

My neighbor on the other side was a widow, Mrs. B, who kept her backyard garden neat and beautiful. Until the day she died, she came out to tell me how pretty the ratty plants I was killing in my yard looked—this was before the current work was done—and who always had kind words of encouragement for the clueless kid next door.

Mr. Oxygen, across the street, was a stooped old man who came to the door of his house, directly across from mine, and stood watching the traffic pass his window each day. He got out rarely, carting his tank around with him, and always had a wave for me as I climbed the steps to unlock my door. I always made sure to wave back to him, and took care to help dig his car out in snowstorms. His children finally put him in a managed-care facility and sold his house, and now a trio of self-absorbed 20-something women live there, and they never wave.

The Cologne Man was an older Italian fellow who was shaped like an overweight pear. He wore powder-blue barber shirts and those full-coverage sunglasses you see in Florida and about half a bottle of Old Spice each day—walking across the street from him on a windy day was enough to curl your nasal hairs. His pants were always hiked up to his boobs like the Man Who Lives In A Van Down By The River. He drove an early 70’s Cadillac coupe, one of the models where the doors were longer than a city block, and when he docked that thing I prayed it wasn’t in the spot in front of or behind mine. Unfortunately, from what my neighbors tell me, he was an unpleasant man, and when he died in his sleep a few weeks ago, the rest of the block mourned for a collective five minutes.

Mr. L., down the street, was widowed about two years after I moved in. I met him and his wife one evening when the van I had parked decided to slip out of Park and into Neutral, and meander backwards down the street into the fender of their ’77 Plymouth Volare. (The Millenium Falcon, a two-tone ’73 Dodge Tradesman owned by my friend Robby, was unharmed in the assault, and later sold. It featured a large dent in the side covered with the word “OOF” painted in black primer.) Mr. L. told me his friend up on Eastern Avenue could fix the fender and we could handle it without insurance, which was good for me; he was a stand-up guy about the whole thing and I still count him as a friend. He wears bottle-thick glasses and is deaf as a post, so when you wave hello his voice booms across the neighborhood: “Hi, Bill!

Semper, named by my good neighbor Matt, is a retired jarhead who owns a Ford Explorer with about every option available. You’ve seen it—it’s the one with seventeen USMC stickers on the back. He never drives it, but hires a guy with a truck-mounted power washer to come clean and detail it every week. His son, The Schlub, is a weaselly-looking dude who always says, “how you doing, buddy,” as he pulls one of their four cars out to go somewhere and then blocks both spots with one of the three remaining cars. This in a neighborhood where a parking space is about as rare as a swimming pool. I think, based on the words of some of my other neighbors, that Semper and The Schlub may find all their cars sitting on flat tires sometime soon.

These are but a few of the people who share the neighborhood with me; there are plenty more but I’m writing about the interesting ones first and the other ones that I remember later (for instance, the guy who built a running motorcycle from parts in his upstairs bedroom wtithout his mother knowing about it; this is a 12″x10″ room, people).

I will miss them when I leave.

Date posted: June 26, 2003 | Filed under Baltimore, friends | Leave a Comment »

Happiness is. Yesterday I got home from work and didn’t want to turn on the idiot box, so I took a copy of Top Ten that Nate lent me out into the backyard with a cold beer and sat in the garden enjoying the evening air. It was about 80 degrees and slightly cloudy, the neighborhood was quiet and peaceful, and all was right in the world. Top Ten is a book based around the premise that a city full of superheroes living normal lives needs policing, and is focused on the cops charged with enforcing those laws. Alan Moore is just an incredible writer, and the book is full of his trademark humor, sadness, action, and mystery. Think of a Joseph Wambaugh novel starring the Justice League of America, and you have the idea behind this book. One of the highlights of the second book (the one I read) was identifying some of the people in the backgrounds—it’s not unusual to see characters like American Flagg, the PowerPuff Girls, the cast of Futurama, or Dick Dastardly and Mutley walking around the city.

Apple announced a bunch of new products yesterday, and while I look forward to several of the new features included in the OSX update, I’m worried that the usual cycle of change will render my current machine even more clunky. I’ve been putting off even thinking about a new laptop for a year now, but as the days go by this laptop seems to get a little slower as it runs OSX. One of them newfangled 15″ Powerbooks would be fantastic; I’m determined to at least make it to a G4 with my next system, but I don’t have the cash to get there. For now, faithful Scout here will have to do.

It’s looking like I’m going to have to crank up the A/C unit tonight; the temps are in the 90’s today and I’m sure the city will be a sticky mess. Big fun!

This afternoon I took the opportunity to drive down the street from work and wash the Scout; after a soggy spring and life under the sap-laden trees of Lakewood Avenue, she was getting pretty grubby. (and I’m sure my neighbors were sick of looking at it.) I fed the quarters into the machine, dialled the appropriate setting, and scrubbed her down as much as I could before my money ran out. After four quarters, three runs of what is called the “soapy brush” cycle (which consists of a broke-down broom generating clouds of soapy bubblegum-scented foam) made the dirty Scout a not-so-dirty Scout.

→ This is a syndicated post from my Scout weblog. More info here.

Date posted: June 24, 2003 | Filed under apple, art/design, Scout | Leave a Comment »

This Sunday we drove down to Silver Spring to meet up with Nate and Kristen, who graciously offered to help us shoot a bunch of Jen’s work for her portfolio. Nate slept in, so the three of us got the first setup worked out and found that my G3 is not set up to take pictures of paper. Kristen took us in to a seperate room where her company’s digital Leaf camera was housed, and we found out why the camera is worth more than a new car. WOW. After we got the basic layout and lighting problems solved, the process became academic, with the only issue being how to arrange each group of material. Kristen was cheerful and understanding throughout, even when Jen and I were contradictory or indecisive. Nate stopped by later on to spin the tunes and provide moral support, and we took them out for drinks and dinner for their trouble. Thanks, guys, you’re the best.

And let me just say, that camera is incredible. It was great fun to be in a photography studio with so much great equipment to play with.

Todd was sitting next to me before lunch jamming out to something on the headphones that I couldn’t hear. When I asked him what it was, his clue was “the official song of sixth grade.” I correctly deduced Back In Black by AC/DC. I’m pretty proud of that.

Date posted: June 23, 2003 | Filed under friends, music, photography | Leave a Comment »

Columbia, Maryland, was built in the late 60’s by a “visionary” developer who bought up acres of viable farmland between Washington DC and Baltimore and put in row after row of Stepford housing on quaint little streets with names like “Cameldriver Court” and “Old Man Way.” (No kidding .) Jen and I looked at a pair of houses in our price range out there last night, and oh, my god are they shite. The first one was set back into the bank of a hill under some nasty fern-looking trees, and had all the charm of a beaten dog. Each house in the development featured a shared carport which was some kind of modernist sculpture; the roof was cantilevered high off the back and sloped down to the front like a torpedoed ship. The windows all measured about three inches by six, and the urine-colored vinyl siding was covered in a film of green mold. Inside the cave, er, house, the ceilings were all a cozy seven feet tall, and the kitchen cabinets looked as if they were formed out of some prehistoric cardboard. No kidding, folks, I have been inside trailers that were less claustrophobic than that house.

The second house, from the outside, looked as if it had run into the flat blade of a bulldozer. One whole half of the house was solid, with no windows, as if a garage had been covered over. The windows, while large, looked like they dated back to Nixon—thin metal edging with no sills or shutters. The entire house was sheathed in T-11, that cheap-ass “siding material” they sell at the Home Depot for $10 a sheet. (picture a rough sheet of plywood with 11 lines gouged out of it.) And painted a dull slate blue. The owners had done some decent renovation inside; the kitchen was large and spacious, even if the cabinets were crap (I’m sensing a pattern here, along with windowless bathrooms), and the rooms upstairs featured floor-to-ceiling windows, which were a nice touch. Still, it’s hard to see any potential in a house when you know you’re going to have to lobby a community association for each individual improvement to the outside, especially when your vision involves a total gutting and remodeling. (“Yes, we’d like to Sawzall the entire front of the house off. Would you mind?”)

And on that subject, the neighborhood levies a yearly “fee” for things like community upkeep and improvement. In the areas we looked at, I didn’t see any upkeep or improvement—it looked like a trailer park to me. I don’t think so.

* * *

So $200 later, I have a new A/C compressor in the backyard. Halleleujah, amen.

Date posted: June 20, 2003 | Filed under house, humor | Leave a Comment »

no longer the Archie Bunker backyard, 6.18.03

no longer the Archie Bunker backyard, 6.18.03

I got the third section of the backyard fence installed last night, during a rare break in the rainy weather we are stuck in. This section went up quickly and without fuss. I also built the basic gate door and stuck it in place for the time being. Compare and contrast with this shot from a year and a week ago. The plants are going out of their minds back there—The sage which wintered in the planters is blooming (directly behind the large pot in the right foreground); the lantana are waiting for more intense sun but seem happy to be outside again, and the geraniums are all sprouting leaves like crazy.

This weekend, we are travelling to D.C. to shoot new pictures of Jen’s print materials, courtesy of Nate’s wife Kristen; we will bring the beer and the camera and hopefully capture the goods in a professional manner and then post them online. Thanks Kristen!

Happy one-month anniversary, baby!

Date posted: June 19, 2003 | Filed under Baltimore, house | Leave a Comment »

So this morning in the car I heard the new Jane’s Addiction single from the forthcoming album, and *ahem* found it online for further listening. At first I was not impressed, but after some time with it, I’m very excited about the new album. I should insert a little personal history here—I saw a freaky video on 120 Minutes for Had a Dad way back in ’88 or so, during the Hair Metal days, and bought Nothing’s Shocking the next day. It was like nothing I’d heard before, and it was great. All my hair-metal loving friends thought I was smoking dope when they saw the cover of the album—remember, these are folks who thought Yngwie Malmsteen was the Second Coming of Christ. When Ritual came out, I played it constantly (Ritual, Zeppelin III and I Against I were the Holy Triumvirate) through my sophomore year of college. When the band busted up after the first year of Lollopalooza, I was pissed off because I wasn’t able to see them live.

The later incarnations of the band were always off, even though I was happy to see them recording together again (don’t get me started on Porno for Pyros); the addition of Flea on bass was cool from a hey-let’s-jam-together standpoint, but his style did not complement the rest of the Jane’s sound—his frantic melodic style doesn’t dovetail with Dave Navarro’s soaring guitar work (see One Hot Minute). I don’t know this new bass player from Adam, but his style seems to fit in the old Eric Avery mold quite well—propulsive, melodic, but not battling the guitar for dominance. It sounds like an updated, logical progression from the ’91 sound. I’m excited to hear the rest of the album, and I hope that Perry Farrell’s proto-new age-shoegazing tendencies lose out to the Rock.

Right on. Seen in the back window of a midsize pickup this morning, under a faded Gore/Lieberman 2000 campaign sticker: a hand-lettered sign reading, “Don’t You Wish?”

Date posted: June 18, 2003 | Filed under music | Leave a Comment »

I set up my camera on a tripod in the kitchen window this weekend and played with the time-lapse feature, in a fit of KOYAANISQATSI-esque experimentation. What I got were some pretty interesting results, the best of which came this morning at about 5am-6:30 or so.

For my next trick, I’m going to set the intervalometer on the camera to take a picture every 2 minutes for a total of 3 hours’ change (the current video is 1 picture a minute at 12 frames a second) to hopefully bring out more of a difference in change.

Jen and I got the first two sections of fencing up as well, after some abortive attempts with inferior materials, cussing, sweat, and frustration. The backyard is a little smaller but a lot more private. Once the gate is built (probably tonight) and installed, I’ll feel a heck of a lot better. (You’ll be able to see the fence on the left side of the video and in the picture to the left.)

And for anybody who hasn’t seen KOYAANISQATSI, you should check it out when you can. My local Blockbuster does not have it (go figure), and it’s been a long time since I saw it (ten years or more) but it is a phenomenal movie, and I recommend it, as well as the film score, composed by Phillip Glass. Great music for working to.

Date posted: June 16, 2003 | Filed under house, photo | Leave a Comment »