gluttons for repair
Monday, May 2 2011
Gretchen got a phonecall early this morning and immediately started whooping with joy (though there is no adjective in the English language for the particular variety of joy she was feeling). Had the joy been about, say, the death of Osama bin Laden, there would have been a word (though it would have been borrowed from the German). Instead it was nameless joy that our friend Dina had just gotten a fancy journalism fellowship at Harvard University. This meant that, conclusively, she and her husband Gilaud (who independently snagged some fancy urban planning thingie at MIT) would be moving from Tel Aviv to Boston. This thrilled Gretchen because it meant that, among other things, she wouldn't have to schlep all the way to the Middle East to visit her childhood friend. At some point in the conversation, Dina mentioned in passing that Osama bin Laden had been killed by elite American forces. This was how we first learned the news.
This afternoon I drove to Bearsville to salvage a downed tree on the property of our friend Susan (the one who has written a number of best-selling memoirs about her relationships with horses, unpleasant parents, and a famous photographer). When I got there, I found that the downed tree was actually three downed trees. A large hickory had fallen onto a smallish Red Oak and a White Ash, beheading the former and knocking the latter completely over. I set to work cutting up the hickory, which, because it was balanced across the ruins of an old stone wall, was self-bucking. I managed to cut up a good amount of its trunk before my chainsaw died with a weird metallic clunking sound. I didn't have the tools to open it up, so I called it a day and loaded up the car. All that wood pushed the Subaru's suspension to the limits, and it looked for all the world like I was driving a hooptie. I'd brought Sally and Eleanor along with me, but all they'd done was get in trouble: wandering off (Sally) or into the immaculate yards of neighbors (Eleanor). (Susan lives in an upscale neighborhood near the southeast end of Cooper Lake Road.) On the ride home, the dogs had to share the passenger seat up front, and I was careful not to hit any potholes.
Back at the house, I partly disassembled the chainsaw and discovered that the flywheel had come loose from the crankshaft. On closer inspection, I discovered that an alignment fin had broken off the flywheel. I didn't think this was a big deal, so I just mixed up some epoxy and endeavored to fill the resulting gap with that. But evidently I didn't get the flywheel correctly aligned because when I went to fire up the saw, all it did was backfire. The flywheel's position on the crankshaft is crucial to correct timing, as the magnet that creates the pulse to fire the sparkplug is located at a certain spot on that wheel. Not knowing what else to do, I went online and ordered a replacement flywheel. Chainsaws are gluttons for repair, far more so than most other normal household items.
This evening Gretchen and I went to Ray and Nancy's house for a dinner prepared by Ray (Deborah was also there). He'd made an angel hair pasta with roasted vegetables and a kind of textured vegetable protein "meatball." I couldn't eat enough of those meatballs; they had a weirdly-compelling smokiness that made me keep coming back for more.
Later Ray gave Deborah a crash course on how to use Vuze (the Bittorrent client that is destroying the intellectual property industry) and also how to use her Android phone as an MP3 player. Both are fairly easy technical skills that most teens master before they know they've mastered them. But the thing about teens is that they're in a teen culture where such knowledge is common. In our generation, by contrast, knowledge of Bittorrent is rare, and the inclination to use a phone's extraneous functions surprisingly uncommon. (To give a sense of how rare Bittorrent use is in my otherwise tech-savvy peer group, let me just say that all the local people in our generation that I know to be using Bittorrent are people who learned about it from me.)
Later we sat around Ray and Nancy's television watching clips from the The Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, a kind of Monty-Python-meets-Dada-meets-poorly-translated-Japanese-entertainment. Our favorite skit tonight was a dancy little piece of willfully-absurd performance art entitled "I Sit On You."
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