My father drank beer that would make most alcoholics throw up. I don’t actually remember him drinking beer regularly, but after a workout in black socks with his thousand-pound lawnmower, sitting by the pool on a hot August afternoon, or maybe at a pub with a burger, he’d crack a cold one and enjoy it. At home he didn’t drink that often that I remember, but when he did it was usually something domestic and lousy.
Dad drank Coors with my uncles, and Bud when we were out at a restaurant, but nothing that I remember having any flavor. Growing up I remember seeing a case of Black Label in the basement one six-pack shy. I’ve never seen that particular brand on any shelf in any liquor store in any town I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to some of the sketchiest liquor stores Baltimore City has to offer: the kind where you slide your money through a slot in a inch-thick wall of Lucite at 3 in the morning and hope that the scowling man behind it actually gives you something in return. When I got back from college, after my travels around the world sampling all the beer there was to offer, I looked down upon his choices. Why would he drink such piss? When there were stouts and IPAs and brown lagers and hefeweizens to relish? I didn’t understand. You poor man.
I’m writing this to say that I understand now. It’s become clearer to me why my uncles could down nine Coors Lights on a boat towing us on a raft all afternoon and still drive into town for dinner stone sober; why Dad had that look of satisfaction on his face when, covered in grass clippings and smelling like a draft horse, he would crack a bottle of [defunct regional pisswater] and take that first sip: It tasted like beer, but might have reached 3.5% alcohol by volume. It was like drinking Seven-Up; it was as close to near beer as they made back in the 80’s. It was refreshment.
As I’ve gotten older, I dislike beers that knock me on my ass immediately. I’ve mentioned this before; it’s the reason all my brewing equipment is for sale on Marketplace (still waiting; I think I missed my opportunity at the beginning of COVID) and why I don’t buy heavy craft beers at the store: they taste good but they don’t agree with me anymore. I love the taste but I want to be able to function tomorrow, not feel like I’ve been scraped off Hazel’s paws. I can tell when a beer isn’t going to agree with me almost immediately these days. I get to the third or fourth pull and it feels heavy. I’m not drinking beer to get fucked up, and I’m not drinking it for the vitamins. I want it to be refreshing and light, like I want the second half of my time on this Earth to be—god willing. Plus, fancy craft beer is expensive as hell. It’s great for special occasions, but for a beer with dinner on a random Tuesday, something light and inexpensive will do the trick just fine.
So I’ve stocked the beer fridge with Pacifico, a lovely Mexican lager that goes down smooth and tastes even better with some fresh lime, and my old friend and lover, National Bohemian [see: regional pisswater]. Both are light on alcohol, taste just fine, and most importantly, are refreshing. I can drop one in a YETI and sip on it for an hour, which is how I like to enjoy them—much the same way I drink coffee. I like refreshment. But I’m not mowing the lawn in black socks.
Hazel has always been a vocal dog. Around the house, among family, she whines, bays, cries, howls, and sometimes barks—the barks are reserved for anyone knocking on the door or delivering mail—but she really comes into her own when she’s out on the lead in the backyard. The neighbors off to our left have a big golden of some kind whose staccato woof will often get the other neighborhood dogs going; he and Hazel will trade gossip until we drag her back inside. There’s a fluffy dog two doors down who likes to prance around her yard and send Hazel into fits of jealousy. The neighbors two doors to the right have a boxer and a French bulldog who run around the yard together; this prompts fits of spastic barking that sounds like an emo band from the early 2000’s. I get it. This is what dogs do: it’s the Evening Barking from the original 1001 Dalmations.
All of this is no good. We can’t be the neighbors who have That Dog, and we kind of are. We’re up at 7AM and she goes out and screams her head off as soon as she’s downstairs: she can’t be outside waking everybody up. She’s been getting worse lately too—there’s a fox who likes to stroll through the neighbor’s yard and stop to gawk at her as she goes completely mental, desperately trying to get off her lead to give chase, barking and crying and whining and yowling like no other dog I’ve ever heard. It’s out of control.
So with a lot of hesitation and a shitty feeling, I strapped a bark collar onto her neck this morning, set to the lowest voltage, and let her outside. She gave one good bark, one quiet yip, and then wanted to come right the fuck back inside. I want her to bark at strangers when they come to the door, so it only goes on when she’s outside. She stands at the door as I strap it on nervously licking her lips. She’s not stupid; she knows exactly what the collar means even if she doesn’t understand why she has to wear it. I’m hoping that after a few weeks I can use it without turning it on, and eventually she won’t need to wear it anymore. But for now I feel like an absolute shitheel when she wants to go outside and I reach for that thing.
When I was a kid in New Jersey we had six channels to watch: the three main networks, the Fox affiliate (FOX 5, before it was Nazis, home of the Godzilla creature feature at Halloween and It’s a Wonderful Life at Christmas), Channel 29 (home of Star Blazers and M*A*S*H reruns), and PBS. One day I caught a show on PBS that had a guy dressed in odd pseudo-military clothing who taught kids how to draw, and the first time I saw it I was VERY interested in watching the rest of the shows. Unfortunately it never followed a schedule that made any sense and so I wound up only seeing a handful of episodes.
Fast forward to college, when my friend Tim and I were talking about random stuff and shared a common memory from youth: the drawing show on PBS. Turns out it was produced here in Maryland by MPT, and turns out he was a guest on the show as a kid for one of the episodes!
Fast forward to last night,when the same subject came up and I was talking about it with my sister-in-law. I had to find it, and the Internet provided: a series called Secret City, where the host tought kids to draw all kinds of different things. Enjoy:
In the quest to get the Travelall running, I started amassing a pile of new parts based on my attempts with friends smarter and more experienced than me. When Erick stopped over he shook his head sadly at my old distributor, so I ordered a brand new HEI unit and then had to wait while it was on backorder. During that time, I spent a total of about $8 on the correct points unit and five minutes installing it, and suddenly I had spark at the wires. So I pulled the carburetor off and soaked it in some cleaner Friday night, then followed a set of instructions online to rebuild it.
It was exceptionally clean inside, but the gaskets had all fused to the metal so I had to spend a good bit of time scraping and sanding the paper off all the surfaces. The accelerator pump diaphragm had solidified, so that got replaced. Once I’d cleaned everything reassembly was straightforward—the Holley 2300 is a very simple carburetor to work on compared to my Thermoquads.
Sunday afternoon, after chasing a generator all over town, I re-installed the carburetor and filled it up with fuel for giggles. This time I followed some of the advice I’d seen online and filled the bowl with fuel before turning the key over. After a couple of tries and the addition of even more fuel, I was happily stunned when she caught and turned over for a few brief seconds:
Flush with success, I started modifying fuel lines to simplify the delivery system and plumbed the boat tank/fuel pump combo to charge the carb. There were no leaks (huzzah!) so I primed the carb and turned her over: after thinking about it for a minute, she fired right up and idled immediately. I topped off the coolant and let her run for a few minutes, noting that the idle was fast—that’ll get adjusted this week—and that there’s a little clatter here and there. The tailpipe sounded good and only a little soot came out, which is a good sign there are no critter nests in the muffler.
So I’ve got a fancy HEI distributor that’s going right back to California this week for a refund. While I was idling the truck I started really looking under the hood and finally clocked that the clutch is a hydraulic system paired with the brake cylinder, which explains why both pedals have no life in them. I’ve got to source a dual cylinder and a shit-ton of soft brake lines as well as a flaring tool and start replacing those in order to get any kind of gear-changing going. Which is good, as the next project on the list is rebuilding the rear drums.
The truck is currently up on two jackstands with the rear wheels off, waiting for two new tires to arrive at my local NTB from TireRack. I pulled the drums off and I’ll have those resurfaced when I have the tire mounted, and I can spend evenings this week rebuilding each rear drum. I’m only mounting one tire because the fourth rim is 15″ and won’t accept the tire, so I have to source a 16″ rim with a 3″ backspacing and 4.5″ bolt pattern from somewhere (ideally, I’d find two).
Finn got the wild idea about two weeks ago to have herself a yard sale. In typical fashion, the thought struck her on a Thursday, and she announced her plan to us to hold it the following Saturday. We quickly advised her to put it off a week for both logistical and commercial reasons: the neighborhood across the street was holding their spring yard sale this weekend, and that always gets lots of traffic.
Jen and I started making lists of stuff to drag down from the attic and up from the cellar, and by Friday night we had a sizeable stack of stuff piled on the front porch ready to go. We lucked out with good weather. I ran out to get breakfast and by 8AM we had two tables piled with goods on the front lawn flanked by furniture of all shapes and sizes. We get lots of eyeballs on Frederick Road, so the cars lined the street pretty much all morning. We said goodbye to a lot of toys, kids’ clothes, large furniture, and other stuff; Finn sold a lot of jewelry and some books. I tried to get people interested in the futon frame but nobody would bite. By 11:30 the traffic slowed so we hauled everything inside and counted our earnings: about $175 plus a ton of quarters.
As the sky got dark I went upstairs to roll a second coat of paint in the old blue room and then went down to the basement to rebuild a carburetor for the Travelall. The wind picked up and the rain came down all afternoon. Jen and I watched the first three episodes of the Mandalorian season 3 and then we all hit the hay.
At around 11:30 we heard booming and crackling very close outside, and opened a window to see one of the transformers behind our house alternately exploding in green flame and then barfing hot red lava down the side of the can. As I was looking up the I’m-not-calling-about-a-gas-leak number for BGE, our lights went out. I reported the issue and we went back to bed. In the morning our electricity wasn’t back and the estimates were saying 4PM for a return to power. Jen and I took Hazel for a long walk and then we hit the road in search of a generator.
We’ve had our fair share of electricity outages here at the Lockardugan Estate; in the first ten years we must have lost power five times. It’s been better since they replaced the transformer directly behind us (that one used to explode every time it rained) but we’ve lost an entire fridge and freezer full of food twice in the last ten years, and that shit ain’t cheap. I decided to look for a portable generator/inverter both because I didn’t want another huge object taking up space in the garage, and I also wanted something we might be able to take camping. After visiting two stores we drove to Columbia and found a nice Craftsman 2200W unit (basically a rebadged Generac) to bring home.
On the back lawn all went well until I pulled the “don’t start this without oil” tag off and looked for the manual to tell me where the oil fill was located: there was no manual. Nothing on the side of the box, and nothing on the web page for the model I’d just bought. Noting it was manufactured by Generac, I looked on their site and found what I needed. Once it was full of oil and gas it fired right up and I plugged the fridge in, and it never skipped a beat. So that’s a nice bit of insurance to have out in the garage.
On Monday I went out to continue sanding and skimming areas of the truck to get them ready for paint. The passenger side tailcap is coming along well, but will need a lot of attention to be clean enough to go to paint—but I’m enjoying the sculptural aspect of working with filler to get things smooth.
Recapping the starting issue, we’ve replaced almost everything in the ignition system besides the core distributor, but the points I originally bought didn’t have an integrated condenser so we tried to hotwire it on the workday. Testing for spark, we never got anything at the plugs. I replaced the points in the original distributor with a new set with an integrated condenser, and found an early picture I’d taken of the unit as it came to know how to wire things back up (see that black wire in the lower center of the picture above?). After I wired the second new set of points in as per the original and tested my testing light on the Scout, I hooked it up to the Travelall and then I had spark! Unfortunately I couldn’t get her to light off. So I pulled the carburetor off to tear it down and clean it out; I figured the accelerator pump seals were dry and the float was probably stuck.
I also started tracing wires under the dash and pulled the radio plate off to expose everything underneath; while I was there I pulled the old head unit and two dry-rotted speakers they’d bolted under the dash out and threw them in the trash to make more room. The way this dash is designed it could be much simpler to pull wires (or maybe even replace the loom ) than it is in the Scout, but I’m still trying to make a plan for how I’m going to get this thing wired up correctly.
Wednesday evening I was out sanding the truck and a guy on a big Harley parked at the end of the driveway; he’s a fellow car guy and stopped by to check out the truck. This marks the fourth person who has stopped in since I parked the truck in the driveway; clearly people have noticed.
As of Thursday morning the carb was partially disassembled and sort of half-soaking in carb cleaner, but I couldn’t get the float bowl or metering block off the side of the horn. I found a wider container to put the assembly in so that the affected sections were submerged, and was finally able to get all the sections apart on Friday morning. The paper gaskets had glued themselves to the metal so I had to carefully scrape everything apart to get it cleaned up—but the inside of the carb was very clean.
And on Friday I got two boxes of goodies: the new distributor showed up as well as some fuel hose, hose clamps, and a proper oil filter. So if we can’t make the old distributor work, the new one should be ready to pop in (minus a set of male-to-female plug wires).
Farting around with an old Scout II hubcap Friday night, I put it on the odd 15″ rim, where it fit well. Suddenly, a light bulb went off in my head and I realized that a 16″ tire won’t fit on a 15″ rim (duh Bill) so I’d have to source a rim for the fourth tire I just bought. It so happens a guy near here is selling an entire front axle assembly with wheels included, so I messaged him to see if he’d be willing to sell me the wheels (providing they’re the correct size).
Here’s this week’s earworm: Valerie Loves Me, by Material Issue.
I remember this song vaguely from college radio Back In The Day, but more specifically I remember seeing the CD cover at Record & Tape Traders on a mission for new music in college. Pitchfork did a retrospective of the album last week and I fell down a rabbit hole, which then got the song stuck in my head.
I was in Lexington Park on Saturday to finish grouting my father-in-law’s bathroom floor, get the water hooked up in the sink, and replace the original-to-the-house vent fan, which involved suiting up in Tyvek and crawling around in his hot attic for an hour fighting the wiring. The pipe valves on the supply lines were original to the house so when we hooked up the sink they both immediately started leaking. Being simple compression fittings, this wasn’t surprising, but it also made their replacement with new SharkBite fittings much easier. The bathroom is about 95% complete, which is a relief, and with the end of that project, I’m going to be stepping back from major initiatives two hours away from my house. I think I’m going to refocus on getting the Chrysler started, maybe working a little bit to fix the janky deck on the back of the house, but not taking on huge remodeling projects moving forward.
Sunday morning I primed the walls in the old Blue bedroom to cover a very bright coat of red. The girls had originally picked out a beautiful shade of what we all thought was coral but showed up as a vibrant red that made our eyeballs buzz, so we had to rethink the color. They found a lighter shade containing a little more orange, and I rolled one coat of that on in the afternoon. It’s bright but not as anxious as the red was, so I think we’re going with it. It’ll be good to get the trim painted in there as well; it’s been almost twenty years since it was originally painted and so it’s getting dull and dirty.
Finn has been making noise about organizing a yard sale to generate some cash, which got me thinking about all of the crap I’ve got clogging up the basement: spare bedframes, the old sandblaster, an unused weed whacker, an old handcart, old furniture, unused electronics, and countless untold other items. The yearly community sale is happening next weekend across the street, and it wouldn’t be that hard to set up a table out front to take advantage of the extra traffic; the big issue is the forecast, which was for a solid block of rain but now seems to be moving back towards the evening.