made of mistakes
Friday, September 4 2015
I've had a touch of a sore throat since I woke up the day before yesterday, and by the time we ate Thai food in Albany, that spicy soup was a welcome source of relief. I don't know what's going on, but the sore throat continued today at the same low level, making me slightly miserable but not much more.
Perhaps my throat's suffering was lessened by the 120 milligram recreational dose of pseudoephedrine I took early this afternoon before launching into a long-procrastinated project: making a copper water pitcher from copper sheet metal and plumbing pipe. The need for such a pitcher seemed to arise yesterday when the small galvanized steel bucket I used to refill my Zojirushi tea pot started leaking through a spot of rust it had developed in recent weeks. I fixed the leak with epoxy, but then I noticed other nascent rust spots, and realized the bucket wasn't long for this world, at least in the application I was using it for. In that application, the bucket always sits full of water, ready to refill the tea pot when I pull out its last cup.
This house had come with a small roll of leftover copper flashing of the sort used to make its roof valleys. I'd been saving it for a special project, and I wanted to be sure I had the skills to work with such materials. I already knew I could solder large improvised seams in copper, but could I measure and cut sheet copper with sufficient accuracy? The only way to find out was to do it.
The pitcher I needed would be a little over a gallon in size, would fit under the sink in the upstairs bathroom so I could let it fill unattended, and would have a handle on the side so I could carry and pour it one-handed (an impossibility with the one-gallon bucket). Since I knew I would be taking square roots and dividing by pi, I decided to work entirely in metric units. I took a measurement in the bathroom and decided on a height of 24 cm. A cylinder containing 1.3 gallons that is 24 cm high is about 16 cm wide, so I settled on that as the width of my pitcher (which would generally have the shape of a simple cylinder). This dictated the pieces I cut from the sheet of copper. One of these was a rectangle measuring 25 by 51.27 cm, and the other was a circle measuring 16 cm across (my first-ever use of a compass having two sharp points instead of a point and a pencil; scratching copper is a more precise way to mark it for cutting than drawing on it). I bent folds a half-centimeter from each end of the rectangular sheet such that the bends could clasp each other when the rectangle was rolled into a cylinder. This was a great idea in theory, but I had great difficulty getting this clasped seam to hook together along its entire length. Eventually I gave up and allowed one end to be imperfectly clasped. It didn't really matter because the whole seam would be soldered and a slight divergence towards trapezoidal was no big deal.
As I worked, my podcasts came to an end and my mp3 player (a program on my computer, which was broadcasting the audio on an FM frequency to my headset) started playing music. I'd queued up the album Middle Cyclone by Neko Case, though I haven't really been enjoying it. Still, I was struck by one line in her song "I'm an Animal." It went, "I do my best but I'm made of mistakes." That just happens to be the most concise, most perfect distillation of what it means to be alive that there is. Each aspect of what we are is a divergence, a mutation, from the condition of some ancestor. These mutations have of course been filtered by the powerful curatorial process of natural selection, but that doesn't mean that what we're made of is something other than an accumulation of errors. With that, we do our best, because what else can we really do?
This afternoon, I drove out to 9W to run some errands. This included a run to Miron Liquor to get my usual half gallon of cheap gin and litre of something browner. This time, I impulsively made the brown option cheap tequila. Pro-tip: if the cashier askes for an unexpectedly-high amount of money at Miron Liquors, it's because she forget to clear the value from the price check she just ran for some other customer. Forty-seven dollars seemed a little high for two bottles of rot-gut.
Home Depot didn't have the special white stucco I needed for finishing the freshly-exposed concrete wall in the basement, so that meant it had to be at Lowes. Sure enough it was, though of course whenever I'm in a hurry it always seems like the aisle I need is barricaded and there's a guy with a forklift in there fucking around. I was in a hurry because it was a hot day, I'd brought the dogs, and the shade I'd found was imperfect. Also, I knew Gretchen needed the car I was driving so she could make it to an art opening down at SUNY Ulster.
Back at the house, the pitcher began to approach a finished state after I'd added a handle and a spout. The spout was simply a parabola-shaped piece of copper. I'd printed out two different shapes, cut them out, and held them against the cylinder to see which one seemed best. The one I chose was the narrower one. It made the pot look birdlike, though unfortunately it didn't end up working very well. It seems that unless a spout seamlessly joins with the container it is part of, poured water tends to jump right over it. Just like me, it seems, even my beautiful new pitcher is made of mistakes.
The tools and pieces used to make today's copper water pitcher.
The pitcher as it looked this evening.
In other news, it seems that the suspiciously-timed offer on that cape parcel on Lake Edward was actually for real, because today the seller accepted that offer, so that means it is probably now off the market. For me, that came as something of a relief. If we'd bought it, it would have been a huge undertaking. But the news was also somewhat disappointing; the cape parcel in Lake Edward really might be the best parcel in the entire Adirondacks.
One further thing of note: I did not gather any firewood today.
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