Friday, October 22 2004
Late this morning I made a housecall to a tiny cottage somewhat west of Lakehill and found a middle aged man living in the kind of squalor that features the overbearing fragrance of milldew and dusty papers piled haphazardly upon ugly brown 60s-era furniture. He was clearly some sort of eccentric intellectual because his house was cluttered with books and he was wearing a National Yiddish Book Center teeshirt. Up in the loft surrounding the living room, his big orange tom cat looked a little like a 13 year old version of Clarence, but with the facial bone structure of Lulu. This guy had called me out to have me hook up his printer, a Brother laser printer someone had given him. Unfortunately, though, some of the printer's essential parts had managed to get separated from it somewhere along the way. There was no USB cord in evidence, but I managed to find one in my truck. My biggest problem was with the toner cartridge, which didn't seem to fit the space available for it inside the printer. I'd put it in there and it would just lie there, not making the satisfying click or clunk one expects when meshing together two mechanical parts designed to attach to one another. I tried printing with the cartridge in there, but it was useless. The paper always jammed no matter what. So I finally called Brother and discovered that there was a part I needed called a drum which the toner cartridge is supposed to be loaded into before the assembly is in turn loaded into the printer. Evidently, like the USB cable, this drum had somehow become lost. The helpful lady offered to sell us a replacement, but the price was a ludicrous $179! One can get a brand new laser printer from Tigerdirect.com for less than that. If there were more eccentric intellectuals receiving printers as gifts from relatives, I'd suspect the need for a drum was part of Brother's business strategy, at least with this model of printer. (Gretchen also has a Brother laser printer, but its cartridge requires no drum.)
Suffice it to say, I was incapable of getting the printer working. I nonetheless charged full price for an hour of my time, and when the guy when to pay me I noticed a quarter-inch-thick seam of American currency in his wallet. "Hmm," I thought, "he's one of those guys who lives his life in squalor and then leaves a half million dollars to his cat when he dies." This type is all too familiar to the likes of me.
I came home and spent hours working on the east slab resurfacing project. For a good fraction of that time Gretchen helped out by carrying rocks from the various piles. It was interesting to me to note her physical limitations in terms of what rocks she was willing to carry. She has a bad back and it's best for her not to test its limits, but she was nonetheless able to carry more than 90% of the rocks. Some of the really big ones, which weigh as much as 300 pounds, are too big for me to carry; I can only tip them end over end.
As part of our continuing Spanish education, Gretchen and I have been regularly watching the Univision soap opera called Mujer de Madera. It's a wild and crazy low-budget primetime drama featuring sex, drugs, and, well, boxing. All the characters are tightly intertwined despite their very different lives, and (unlike a conventional soap opera) a lot seems to happen in every episode. Mujer de Madera is well acted, but its production is way over the top, particularly with regard to the use of dramatic music whenever something intense happens. There's also plenty of cheesy trickery with the camera work. For example, whenever a sexy woman dramatically walks into a room, we're first shown her feet, then her legs, then her torso, and then finally, so we'll know who she is, her face. Gretchen and I know enough about what is going on that we can make sense of much of the Spanish dialogue.
Tonight we watched three hour-long episodes in a row off the Tivo. The work of paying attention to the language is such a chore that I can usually only watch one episode in a sitting, but tonight each episode would end with such a cliffhanger that we'd have to continue watching. (Also, our Tivo cuts off the last five minutes of a recording for some reason - anyone know what that is about?) Our increasing ability to comprehend and our involvement with the characters probably bodes well for our continued interest in the show, as well as the prospect of us experiencing improvements in our Spanish language skills as a result.
This evening I went on a nostalgic walk down memory lane looking at old digital photos of the house taken back when we were working so hard on it (October 2002-January 2003). There were some really beautiful pictures of the dogs and cats, particularly this one of Sally (December, 2002):
There were also lots of pictures of our missing cats Noah and (particularly) Edna. In one series of pictures Edna seemed to walk across the room in stop action, first to the sliding doors to look out, and then back into the room to look at something else. These pictures perfectly captured her attitude: perpetually bored and looking for things to do. For a creepy subconscious moment, she was momentarily alive again.
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