I got a call early Sunday from my neighbor, who recently purchased a pretty green Defender 90, a Land Rover variant with a short and cloudy history here in the U.S. He’d just gotten wind of a Land Rover meetup in Columbia and asked if I’d like to ride along.
We found a line of Rovers in a restaurant parking lot and walked around, chatting up the other folks in attendance; in comparison to the Scout aficionados I used to meet with, these were generally older, wealthier people with an affinity for offroading and the horrors of English electronics. Over a barbecue lunch, we swapped stories ad tips with some of the other owners, and I was tempted sorely by several people who tried to win me over to the dark side (I was wearing a Scout T-shirt). I told them it really wouldn’t be that hard—if I didn’t have a Scout, I’d have an old series Rover for certain. And, of course, there was an example present that made me a little misty:
This is an absolutely cherry Series 1, an exceptionally early example, done up in a paint scheme and soft top color that took my breath away, because it reminded me of an old friend:
I miss my old girl.
One of the little things that’s been annoying me since we moved into this house is the general suckitude of the upstairs toilet. The whole bathroom is shite, really; the walls are uneven, the bathtub is old, the linoleum-over-tile floor is disgusting, and the sink is one of those separate-faucet deals where hot and cold come out of different spigots. Want to wash your hands with warm water? Sorry. Your choices are SCALDING or FREEZING. But the toilet has been the main offender lately. Dating back to the Korean War, it was a 5-gallon model that saw the harsher side of eight children before we ever got here. Tiny hairline cracks in the bowl refused to come clean. Stains in the porcelain (not ours) defied scrubbing and chemicals. As if that wasn’t bad enough, it had a noticable instability from side to side—not the most confidence-inspiring feeling when taking care of business. Possibly the most annoying thing, though, is the fact that it didn’t flush. There is nothing more embarrassing than having to stand in there with the door closed, flushing the thing four times to make sure the package has been delivered.
This past weekend I decided to use some of my hard-earned homeowner skills and replace the balky old beast with a pretty new low-consumption unit from Lowe’s. I did a bunch of research (in a strange bit of serendipity, the latest issue of This Old House mentioned a Canadian-sponsored study on toilets, which I found online; there was so much exhaustive data there I pretty much gave up. Apparently Canucks have nothing better to do than chart toilet flushing power in inscrutable Excel spreadsheets and debate the merits of sponges vs. soy paste for test material) and settled on the American Standard Cadet 3, which will, apparently, flush a bucket of golf balls with 1.6 gallons of water. Sold!
Last night, I gathered up some buckets, plumber’s wrenches, rags, and newspaper, and had the old toilet drained and off the floor in a half an hour. Cleaning off the flange and surrounding floor, I saw no glaring problems, and prepared the new toilet base for its maiden voyage. Settling it onto the flange, it bolted right up, and I was about to fetch the tank, when I tested it for stability. It rocked back and forth as badly as the old unit did. Bolting it as tight as I dared without breaking the porcelain, I couldn’t keep it from rocking sideways—a bad omen. Wood shims on either side didn’t correct the issue, which defied logic, and my stomach began to clench up as I realized what the issue was: I leaned the bowl all the way to the left and lifted it off the floor. Underneath, bolted snugly to the base of the toilet, was the brass flange, now unconnected to the lead pipe leading into the cement floor.
In a morning phone conversation with a trusted plumber, I was told the old-school way was to connect a lead junction up to the top of the iron pipe, and then a brass flange was fitted over the lead. The sides of the lead were hammered down over the brass to “connect” it, and the job was finished. Gotta love the old school, right?
So, until we can get a plumber out here to rectify the situation, my seven months’ pregnant wife has to use the basement toilet, which is the aesthetic equivalent of making her pee in a prison cellblock. I’ve just cleaned up the toilet out on the porch and set it up for us to use in the meantime, but that solution is also substandard at best.
In the meantime, say a prayer to the porcelain god for us: Our Dear Lord John, please show mercy on us. Let the plumber fix our problem without having to tear up half the floor in our bathroom; five projects in this house is enough.
I briefly considered posting some pictures, but you really don’t want to be looking at my toilet drain. Trust me.
Update 11:49AM: Plumber #2 is on the case.
Update 1:28AM: We have a working, functional, shiny new toilet. And the old gas line in the doctor’s exam room is capped off and gone! LET THE POOPING COMMENCE.
It’s nearing the end of the sixth month, kid, and we’re suddenly feeling like we’re way behind on everything. There are showers to consider, interviews with pediatricians, rooms to outfit, college applications to file… Wisely, we decided to take on two of the more daunting tasks this Sunday, setting up a shower registry and looking for some decent maternity wear for your mother:
1. Baby Megastore
You’d think this would be a slam dunk, right? The only baby megastore on this side of town is only a short distance away from our house. We’ve been to this store before to buy shower gifts for other friends and come away unimpressed with both the selection and the staff. Yesterday we were greeted by a surly girl behind the registry desk who handed us off to a second, quieter girl, who struggled with a fleet of barcode scanners for a full ten minutes before giving up and sending us into the store weaponless. It was here we met up with our first major obstacle: bottles.
As we quickly learned, choosing a particular bottle brand and model is sort of like declaring a religion. There are so many things to consider: Does it contain Bisphenol A? Slow, medium, or fast flow? Silicone nipple or latex? Aerated or traditional? Does it fit with the breast pump model we like? Can it be used as a flotation device? Already overwhelmed, we turned the corner to find even more bottles and a rack of electric accessories—heaters, warmers, and cleaners; glass bottles, for the folks who don’t trust plastic at all, and some weird european-looking stuff that only barely resembled containers. Our sheaf of printouts from the Consumer Reports website didn’t cover any of this. What do we pick? Just then, the girl at the registry desk came up and handed us a barcode scanner she’d got working, which added another ten tons of pressure to make a decision. After a quick conference, we decided to punt on bottles and wade further inward. Set phasers on buy, Mr. Scott.
Car mirror, check. First aid kit, check. Baby washing tub, check. Did you know they have baby washing spas? Seriously, a little plastic clawfoot tub with jets and bubbles and a showerhead. Sorry, Cuke, you’re not getting a nicer bathtub than Mommy and Daddy—we’re one step above a washrag and a bucket. Three aisles in, we hit the stroller section, which I’d come prepared for. I found the one CR ranked their Best Buy and was about to grab a box off the shelf, when your mother turned me around by the shoulders, smacked me upside the head, and showed me a wall of car seat systems, where the seat snaps into and out of a car base, a stroller, a trebuchet, a hoverjet, and a Gundam mobile suit. And just like that, my printouts were worthless.
Further in, we came to diapers, another discussion topic, mainly focusing on the choice between helping save the environment vs. stuffing the landfill with mountains of Lockardugan poop bombs. Punting again, we waded through fields of ugly, overblown, and expensive baby furniture displays with price tags higher than our quarterly tax bill. By the time we made it over to the bedding and linen section, we were exhausted, and we only had ten things in our little phaser. Somewhere around the receiving blankets, we gave up on finding anything we liked, handed our scanner back to the girl, and fled the store.
2. Cheap Trendy Clothing Chain
The company website has a whole section of pretty maternity clothes. Unfortunately, nobody in their right mind would order clothing straight from the website, because the clothes are made so poorly it’s impossible to know if it will fit correctly without trying something on.
The brick-and-mortar store, where normal people have to go to try on the cheap clothes, has no maternity section. The bored employee your mother asked told her They’re? out? on the floor? mixed in with the clearance merchandise? in that annoying upwards cadence most teenagers have these days. She lied too. There was no maternity clothing anywhere in the store. There was a time when walking into this store meant being accosted by seventeen teenagers with those stupid headsets. Today, there were none to be seen anywhere. A badly managed location, or a sign of the economy’s current strength?
3. Wonderful Minnesota-Based Department Store, Local Version
Maternity clothing: Not so much. In fact, it’s sort of a joke. They take the trouble to hang a “maternity” sign from the ceiling, the same size as “shoes” or “toys”, and the section consists of three bombed-out racks with a bagful of merchandise, all size Small or XXXL. And it’s all stuff I wouldn’t give my grandmother.
We have found calm and peace. There is a wall of bottles here, but in some way it is less threatening, less confronting. At the Superstore, the display is monumental; its sheer size and breadth leave the first-time consumer gasping for air (or wishing for a stiff drink). Here there are eight or nine bottle systems, but they are contained, organized, and somehow friendlier. Everything we might need as new parents is here, contained in six or seven neat aisles, and the selection is better. The designs here speak to us immediately, where the $400 tulle/leopardskin/patchwork/shabby chic bedding sets at the Superstore made us run in horror.
The furniture is reasonable, the car seat system selection is strong, and they have prices that don’t make my wallet burst into flames. Sold!
Working in the backyard on Sunday morning, Jen came to me and asked if I’d seen the instrument case hidden behind the neighbor’s garage that abuts our yard. I went to investigate and found a full-size cello case laying on its side in a pile of brush behind our mulch piles, not a place I’d prefer to see a stringed wooden instrument stored. Fearing someone had stashed it there for nefarious reasons, I placed it upright and we left it there for the day to see if someone came to claim it.
At dusk, I went back out and swapped it for a small note taped to the wall of the garage: “We didn’t want your friend getting wet. Ring the bell at the blue house.” (It was threatening to rain last night). Inside the case is a full-size student cello, made last year, in great shape save a cracked neck arch.
Something about this is very wrong; the house behind us is occupied by a single woman with no children. The garage itself is locked, but there’s a canvas awning to the side where the cello could have been stored out of the weather and eyesight. And why not the back porch of the house? If a child was locked out of the house, only to come back later, why not just leave it up there? This smells fishy to me, like someone stole it and stashed it.
So what should I do if someone actually does come to claim it? My respect for stringed instruments (I played upright bass for eight years) says I shouldn’t on easy on the punk who left it outside; it’s going to depend on who rings the bell, I suppose. If it’s a concerned parent, it’s a no-brainer. If it’s a nervous kid, do I call their folks? If it’s a tweaker, I ask them to describe it and see how they do, but what then? Ideas?