Quarantine blows, and the fact that we’ve been holed up in our house dutifully waiting out the Covid while half the fucking country has decided IT’S PARTY TIME Y’ALL doesn’t make things easier. All of us intelligent science-loving rational folks have been self isolating, driving each other nuts in specific ways only nuclear families can, while the tinfoil morons have bitched and complained en masse and busted heads in the WalMart yelling that it’s their God-given right to wander the housewares aisle without a mask coughing on anybody they please. Two weeks later, they are shocked, SHOCKED when the Covid flattens them and they’re on a ventilator moaning about how they never thought they’d get this thing, not even considering the eighty other people they infected. It’s those morons I’m afraid of.
We can’t vacation like we normally would, we can’t stay overnight anywhere because things are either closed or infected, and we can’t day trip without the dog because she would FLIP OUT if she realized we all had left without her. There isn’t a strong enough dose of Trazadone in the world, and they haven’t perfected the three-day time release yet. Puppy daycare has basically told us thanks, but you don’t have to come back, and we’re keeping the deposit on those other days you already paid for. So Jen compiled a list of things we could do together under those very exacting stipulations and we set about doing them this past week.
First, we checked out Antietam Battlefield two Saturdays ago, which is out on the border of the big part of Maryland and West Virginia. It’s been hot and getting hotter for the past two weeks, so we dialed up the air conditioning and packed a ton of water for the trip. There’s a lot to see on the battlefield without having to go in any of the dog-restricted visitor centers, so we used the hike to tire out the dog. We checked out the Sunken Lane and then drove over to Burnside Bridge, where a short walk down from the parking lot puts you under some leafy trees and in merciful shade. A couple of hours of hiking and sweating were all we needed to feel like we’d seen the place, so we retreated into Sharpsburg for some burgers at the Dairy Queen and hydrated the dog. Then we continued west into Berkeley Springs where we showed Finn where the two and a half of us had gotten spa treatments when she was still a cantaloupe and the masseuses wouldn’t touch Jen for fear she’d spontaneously shoot a baby across the table and knock over their scented oil displays.
On Friday we drove north to the Maryland border to go check out Rocks State Park, a place our friends had taken Finn and I a couple of years ago to see the overlook and the waterfall. We were able to wait out the line at the small parking lot (they are carefully monitoring visitors) and hiked in to the river area. We found a quiet spot downstream and let Hazel approach the water at her own pace; she’s nervous around the river and wanted to take things slowly, so I followed her lead and let her follow her nose in until she was up to her paws. I think she was surprised to find herself that deep, because she would suddenly want to retreat to the bank and sniff it out, and then slowly go back in again. The water was cool and delicious in the humidity so we stayed in as long as we could. Then we found a way to get across the river and hiked up among the maskless morons so that Jen could see it for herself. There’s been a lot of flood activity lately so where the falls were clear four years ago there are several huge tree trunks leaning over the rocks now, which is kind of a bummer.
Saturday we returned to the Sharpsburg area and hiked up the C&O canal on the north bank of the Potomac above Harper’s Ferry. It’s a challenge to find parking in places like this on a good day, and Covid has made it even more difficult. We picked this trail because it’s lightly traveled, and thankfully there were not a lot of people out there. It was even hotter than the previous day, so we hydrated continuously and enjoyed the shady pathway.
On Sunday it was too hot to do any damn thing so I dug our inflatable pool out of the basement, washed it down, and blew it up with the compressor (oh, thank you lord for the wonderful compressor). I switched our water over to unfiltered and filled it up in a sunny spot on the back lawn, and Finn and I jumped in around noon. I’m happy to say I didn’t get out until 3:15, but the price of all that leisure was a bright pink sunburn on the tops of my legs. The rest of the day was nothing but relaxation (and a sunburn-induced nap, if I’m honest).
After 10+ years of faithful, if not mediocre service, our fancy HE front-loading washing machine has given up the ghost. I’m no stranger to basic appliance maintenance, but when the display starts showing strange error codes and failing to drain, and the internet tells you it’s expensive problems with the computer in the unit, it’s time to call in a professional. Jamell was super-cool and nodded his head sadly when I showed it to him; he confirmed my suspicions that we were either going to have to replace the main control board (~$500 plus labor) or the motor (~$500 plus labor). He suggested we replace the whole unit and this time go with a top-loader, as they are easier to work on, break down less, and wash clothes better. I wanted to do my part for the environment and everything but I also don’t want to stink. So we’re heading out this afternoon to the
Sears Outlet American Freight to pick up a new Kenmore and have it delivered before we run out of clean underwear. I’m going to steal the top cover before it goes, because washing machine steel makes great automotive patch paneling.
Finn and I were in Easton at Karean’s house yesterday to help move some furniture and do some house maintenance before she has her carpeting replaced with hardwood flooring; she’s got heavy and bulky furniture that would be impossible to move solo, so we got the coffee table and couch moved together. Then I fixed some stuff around the house and tried to revive Rob’s 400-disc CD changers, which both powered on and immediately made screeching noises—which leads me to believe either the motors are bad or the belts that the motors drive are bad. I threw them both in the back of the car to do some more research, and there’s a chance I can fix them if it’s just the belts, but either way I’m going to be ripping CD’s for the next couple of months so that she’s got her music available again.
Everything in the greenhouse has gone nuts in the last week. Where there were only a few tentative blooms on a few plants, now every plant has three or four branches filled with yellow flowers, and half of those already have fruit beginning. Even the difficult varieties are producing: the Cherokee Purples have five or six fruit apiece. They’ve suddenly gotten taller as well, and I’ve been pretty ruthless in cutting back the secondary growth unless it’s already got something growing. As a result the plants look thin and spindly compared to giant leafy bushes, which I’ve been accustomed to growing in years past. This time I’m pruning everything back except that which will produce, hoping they’ll mature and ripen faster.
I think the only stuff that hasn’t bloomed yet is the strange tub in the back, with seedlings that always seemed slower than the rest. Those plants have shot up in the last week but they’re 1/4 the size of the others. I think they’ll wind up being producers late in the season.
There are flower buds on several of the plants; everything looks pretty healthy except for one tub in the very back, which has three very lazy plants that are only several inches tall.
I needed a picture of a puppy to offset the news this morning.
We’re at that point in the porch project where we’ve got the bones of it 95% complete, but all of the stuff that has to happen now is taking forever to come together. This past week it crawled along while I applied successive layers of polyurethane to the floor—five in total, equalling about 3/4 of a gallon. We’d decided we didn’t want to see the pattern get worn off immediately, so some serious protection was in order. Now there’s a hard candy shell on the whole thing, and hopefully it won’t come off for a long time.
So my focus was mostly elsewhere on Saturday and Sunday. I pulled a stepladder out of the garage and started scraping and priming windows on the driveway side of the house, working my way around to the two jalousie windows on the porch—which haven’t been touched in the 17 years we’ve lived here. Late in the morning we had a visit from the invisible fence guy, who fixed the wire that had been cut when the driveway went in, as well as altered the layout so the backyard is its own zone to keep Hazel from rushing dogs passing by the front yard.
After he’d left, I took Finn on a bike ride down the hill to the asylum, figuring it would be something interesting to look at. The roads were closed to through traffic, but we pedaled around the campus and looked at the crumbling buildings while I managed Finn’s anxieties about trespassing and breaking laws. She is a rule-follower, except when it involves chocolate. On our way out a nice security guard told us they’d closed the campus up because there was an outbreak of COVID in the wards that are still open, but since we’d only been on our bikes he wasn’t worried about us.
Sunday was overcast and cooler, so I pulled the Scout out into the driveway and swapped out the starter. When I’d finished up that and some other smaller projects, I pulled the pressure washer out of the garage and cleaned the backs of the Adirondack chairs so that they’d be dry for paint on Monday.
Monday broke sunny and warm, and the fifth coat of poly was dry on the floor, so I patched the final areas on the porch that needed attention and left them to dry. Out in the backyard I set the Adirondack chairs up behind the greenhouse and sprayed them with primer and then two coats of white semigloss. I have to say, other than the fact that the container only holds a quart of paint, the sprayer is fantastic to work with, and worth every penny I spent on it. What would have easily taken all day to paint with a brush got done in about two hours time—including cleanup. The area behind the greenhouse looks like someone murdered a snowman, but the chairs look damn good.
While the chairs were drying I went inside and cleaned up the patches on the porch, and then we hauled the furniture around to the front of the house to bring inside. I’m going to let Jen do the big reveal when it’s ready, but it really looks great in here (I’m sipping coffee and writing this on one of the new chairs).
We took a quick ride in the Scout to drop off a birthday present Finn made for a friend, and when we got back it was the perfect weather to light a fire in the backyard. While the fire was getting warm, Jen brought the clippers down and she shaved my quarantine fro down to a manageable 3/4″. It’s choppy and patchy in places but it’s worlds better than the giant bushy mess I’d been hiding under hats for the past month. Finn walked over to invite the neighbors over for some socially distant s’mores. We stayed out and chatted until 10:30, grateful for conversation and company, and then all staggered off to bed smelling of woodsmoke and chocolate.
As of tonight I’ve got a total of 560 slides processed from a scanned pool of 877, and I scanned another 195 this evening. I pushed through and made it to the end of the carousels, so I can send the scanning equipment back without late charges and store the slides away. It’s been a slog but I feel good about getting it all done, and I’ll have plenty of time to go back and clean up the scans that aren’t perfect.
Oh, and it was my birthday. It was a quiet one. We took a family walk at noon to the local café to get some takeout lunch, and promised we’d be back to support them. It was a brisk but sunny day, and it felt great to be outside with the girls. At dinner, Jen cooked a delicious roast with mashed potatoes (I had seconds) and then we had a flourless torte with three candles for dessert. Finn was worried that I wouldn’t be happy with my birthday, but I told her I had everything I wanted: we’re together, we’re all healthy, and things are OK.
I scanned about 300 slides last night after the girls went to bed. I have no idea if this sounds easy or not, but it’s definitely a pain in the lower back. Doing the math, I was averaging 2 slides a minute, with two quick breaks along the way. What I’ve got to do is pull each individual slide out of the carousel and hold it up to see if it’s something worth scanning. Is it people? Is it people we know? Is it a landscape shot? Is it a picture of cars or lawnmowers or random flowers? Is it a duplicate shot of something I’ve seen before—and if so, is it better or worse? When I’ve found two I like, I put them in the carrier, put that on the adapter mounted to the front of the camera, and zoom in to the first slide to adjust the focus. When it looks sharp, I shoot the picture and repeat for the second slide. Then I pull it all apart, turn off Live View on the camera, put the slides back, and repeat the process, going all the way around the carousel.
At the rate I’m going I don’t think I’ll make it through all of the carousels. There are just too many of them and a lot of them are double-capacity, meaning they hold 140 slides instead of the standard 70—Dad used to curse these larger trays because half the time they wouldn’t work in his projectors and get all jammed up. Two trays a night is about all my lower back can handle.
He made some Greatest Hits carousels over the years where he’d pull one or two good shots from an event and put them in a new carousel, so things have slowly been mixed up over time. I’m running into photos that belong in a carousel I’ve already put back somewhere and thus are out of sync; the OCD part of me wants to organize them all and the practical side of me says fuck that, keep scanning, you only have the gear until Friday.
I know I won’t be able to post-process them all before the gear goes back, and that’s fine, because I’ll have plenty of time here at the house to do that. As mentioned before, there are so many variations on film stock and exposure settings that I’m constantly shifting settings around, but Lightroom has some nifty tools to apply settings to a batch of photos (a series of shots taken with the same film stock on the same day in the same conditions, can, with a few slight tweaks, all benefit from the same base adjustments).
I think what’s required is some triage of the last box-and-a-half of carousels to see what’s there and what demands archiving; if the number of carousels is high I might extend the rental for a few days, but if I can jam through the rest in the next three nights, I’ll do that instead.
And in the future, there are a bunch of pictures that are definitely worth doing some precision dust and scratch removal on—today I sent Renie a link to a portrait when she was maybe four; her hair is a beautiful curly mess, Dad got the focus and exposure right, the depth of field is perfect, the light is perfect, and she looks like an angel.