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   Valentine's Day exhaust system
Thursday, February 14 2013
Conditions were sunny and temperatures reached up into the 40s Fahrenheit, so today I decided to replace the exhaust system on the Subaru. I'd ordered replacements for everything from the midpipe back back [I must use that word twice in this sentence] in January, and they'd arrived in a particularly chaotic UPS truck, the pipes having worked their way out of their box and into a bulk shipment of hard hats. But exhaust systems are rugged against everything except corrosion, so I'd accepted the order. Since I'd used stainless steel bolts and pipe clamps to improvise various fixes to the Subaru's existing exhaust system, it was relatively easy to remove. But then I had a problem: the front part of the car's exhaust system was all intact except for the flange where it was supposed to attach to the part I would be installing today. But there was an existing flange on the part I was removing, so I sawed it off with the reciprocating saw and then filed its interior hole until it fit over the pipe for which it needed to be a flange. Unfortunately, though, there was a ring of steel on that pipe where the old flange had been that prevented me from sliding the new flange into place, perhaps to weld. I ended up cutting the flange into two halves so I could put it into place upstream from that ring of steel. It turned out that this flange was shaped in a way that allowed me to secure it in place with a single stainless steel pipe clamp. It was more concave than the flange that should have been there would have been, so to flatten up its working surface, I packed it full of furnace cement (the duct tape of high-temperature piping). The advantage of attaching this flange with a pipe clamp (as opposed to welding it) demonstrated itself soon thereafter; it turned out that I'd put the flange on at an angle about 20 degrees from where it need to be for the muffler to end up horiztonal and for all the suspension hooks to be in the right places. But, since I hadn't welded it to the pipe, all I had to do was loosen the pipe clamp, rotate the entire assembly, and then retighten the pipe clamp. When I fired up the car (about two hours after all of this had begun), the silence was not only golden, it was a bit unexpected.
Valentine's Day is a special day for Gretchen and me because it was on Valentine's Day in 2001 that she randomly sent me the first tentative email that put us back into contact after a 12 year hiatus. That all happened 12 years ago, so this particular Valentine's Day was perhaps a little extra special.
In addition to the beautiful weather, it was the fact that I would be meeting Gretchen today in Woodstock that had pushed me to finally fix the Subaru's exhaust system. Still, the car's inspection sticker had expired at the end of October, and I'd been nervous to drive it since the New Year (since the sticker's color alone now gave it away as being invalid). While it would draw less attention without a noisy exhaust system, I didn't want to take any chances. So before I headed off for Woodstock, I put a few handfulls of snow over the part of the windshield where the inspection sticker lives.
My first destination in Woodstock was H Houst and Son Inc., the hardware store that doubles as the Adirondack Trailways station. They have a room dedicated entirely to plumbing fittings, and it didn't take me long to find the 1.5 inch threaded PVC cap that had eluded me at Herzog's in Uptown Kingston. There was little kid in the plumbing fitting room while I was there who was asking some adults he knew to name various species of dinosaur, and it was clear from what they were saying that they had forgotten all they had once known about the ancient rulers of the Mesozoic. Evidently it isn't like riding a bike. I wanted to jump in and help the poor kid out, but I didn't want to be mistaken for a nosy pædophile with an interest in plumbing fittings, so I let it slide.
I met Gretchen at the Golden Notebook bookstore, where she occasionally puts in shifts that are essentially volunteer in nature. I was a bit early, so I found myself thumbing through a picture book about handmade Woodstock houses. Gretchen was at the front desk and I naturally assumed she was checking her email or posting on Facebook, but no, she was actually doing bookstore work in some sort of book database application.
After we left the bookstore, we went to nearby Joshua's, whose cozy upstairs bar area is probably my favorite eating venue in all of Woodstock. I ordered a massive (and hitherto unknown) 22 ounce imperial IPA (I forget what it was) and it was pretty good. Gretchen had something a bit more cocktailesque. We also ordered a small plate of Middle Eastern appetizers. We were sitting at a table near the wall, where an electric space heater was making things toasty. Only one person sat at the bar, a gentleman whom everyone kept wishing happy birthday. When your birthday is on Valentine's Day, it's just a bit easier to remember.
Somehow a tradition has grown up that sees Gretchen and me eating pizza at Catskill Mountain Pizza every Valentine's Day, so that was where we had our Valentine's Day meal. Since our last Valentine's meal there, they'd added a fancy sit-down room in the back, and so that was where we had our meal. We ordered a round of fries, a large onion, portobello & spinach pizza with soy cheese, and I had an uncomplicated Lagunitas IPA (Lagunitas being the Sam Adams of the west coast).
Gretchen had to go to some sort of poetry meeting this evening, mostly because one of the women attending had recently and unexpectedly experienced the death of her husband. So I drove home and curled up in front of the teevee to watch the latest episode of Nova, the one about visualizing global data from satellites. It was fascinating, though it didn't need to be two hours long. At some point I fell asleep.


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