Category Archives: manly matters

Sink Sank Sunk

faucettMy toolbox is like the “cap and ball Colt” revolver Steve Earle sings about in Devil’s Right Hand: It can get you into trouble but it can’t get you out.

But friends, never let lack of skill get in the way of doing things. Where would ‘Merica be with that attitude — especially when it comes to projects around the house?

Our most recent home improvement adventure was getting new counter tops installed over our old cabinets, which is not as good as doing the whole kitchen over, but better than nothing. Now the cabinets look like their supposed to be old and quaint, instead of just crappy. My role in the job?

  1. Rip out counter top and sink.
  2. Re-install sink and temporary counter top (plywood) after counter people measure.
  3. Remove sink and temporary counter top before counter installation.
  4. Hook up plumbing under the sink.

Now that sounds reasonably easy– except getting through the cabinet opening under the sink is a chore. There is absolutely no way to work under there in any sort of comfort. First you squeeze in sideways because it’s so narrow, an then rest your weight on the cabinet opening.

My question? How do plumbers do this sh*t?

All I can figure is that the best plumbers are wiry little guys who can wriggle into tight spots, rather than normal sized fellows — like the counter installer who mounted the sink. He slid in and out of that cabinet like a weasel going after whatever weasels go after.

Maybe I should have tried paying him to hook up the water and drain, but I will say this: I was extra careful to do the job right so I’d never have to squeeze in under there again.

Man Shopping

It’s Christmas crunch time, and the hours are dwindling. I don’t know about you, but there’s still shopping to be done  — and I’m thinking this would all be easier if I were married to another man.

A man, you ask?

Yes, because if I had a husband and not a wife I’d just go out and buy things that I like. For example, I’d start with a trip to  Lowes or Home Depot and pick out some tools. Guys like tools. It doesn’t much matter if they won’t be used frequently, because as collectors of tools we just like to know that we have them. Another great things about tools is that there is something for every budget; you can spend just a few bucks and get something interesting — or if you really care about your man, how about a Dewalt 12-in 15-Amp Dual Bevel Sliding Compound Miter Saw. You really care, don’t you?

While you’re at it, stop at the beverage center and get some fancy beer — and if you still need something, get on Stubhub and buy some football tickets.

Oh, I could go on all day like this, but I am not married to a man and I need to figure out what the hell I’m doing.

Light Me Up

After the Christmas Blizzard of 2010 crippled New York City Mayor Bloomberg was roundly criticized for botching the emergency preparations. He took no chances as Irene approached in 2011; even though the storm skirted New York and barrelled upstate instead he got high marks. This week, as bad as Sandy was, the emergency planning in New York saved lives.

I poked fun at the obsession with hoarding water before Sandy, but now I admit I was wrong. No, over-preparing beats getting caught with your pants down. I’d rather be stuck with something I don’t need than stuck without something I need.

Which leads me to flashlights. Monday afternoon found me collecting up all the flashlights in the house: big ones, small ones, headlamps, penlights — and the MagLite XL50. It’s no secret that flashlights are on of those things that guys love, and this blindingly bright LED does more than just illuminate, it has several fun features like a strobe mode:

That may look useless, but it’s entertaining to sneak up on someone and shine it in their face when they aren’t expecting it. Ten minutes later, when they can see again, you’ll all have a good laugh.

Urine Trouble Now

This must have been the most perfect tailgating spot ever: right up against a wide stretch of sidewalk where we’d have plenty of room to spread out our stuff — and close to a row of sparkling clean portable toilets.

Being next to the toilets brought a steady flow of interesting people to our corner of the parking lot at MetLife Stadium as we got ready for the Jets home opener. Several stopped by to comment on my son’s Bills jersey.

But even though there were five relatively clean toilets right there, the dudes next to us insisted on dashing across the road to pee in the bushes. As the traffic picked up this got more interesting to watch, especially since these guys — and folks, I’m going out on a limb here — may have had a drink or two.

jets tailgaters

Draw your own conclusions about why men like urinating outside, but meanwhile let us turn to the strange case of Rob Koebel.

Mr. Koebel “resigned” from his job as an investigative reporter at WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee after being arrested for public urination. Koebel has not had the best year ever; in July his ex-wife published a book called Love Isn’t Supposed to Hurt, which chronicles her abusive first marriage and her ex-husband’s “violent, profanity-laced tirades.”

This did not happen at Sunday’s Packers game, but outside an Apple store. There aren’t enough police in Wisconsin to arrest everyone urinating publicly in the Lambeau Field parking lot.

The Right Stuff

Those of a certain age remember when they would roll a TV into in your classroom to watch NASA launches. By the time my kids were in school, that was unheard of.

I’ve written before about my childhood obsession with the space program; it all came rolling back this week with the death of Neil Armstrong.

Armstrong may deny his status as a hero, but he was unquestionably — how shall we say — one cool mofo. Case in point: the Apollo 11 Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) that Buzz Aldrin piloted to the surface of the moon was not quite exactly tested all that thoroughly. Meaning what? Meaning NASA had never tried landing an unmanned version of the vehicle on the moon’s surface — nor checked to see if it could take off from the moon. Failure on either count would have lead to one of history’s greatest “Oh, sh*t” moments.

That was a real enough possibility that the space agency had developed secret procedures on what to do if Armstrong and Aldrin were stranded on the moon. There was even a speech already written — by William Safire — that President Richard Nixon would have delivered in case the mission ended in disaster.

If that doesn’t convince you of Armstrong’s moxie, watch this video of Armstrong ejecting from a LEM training vehicle in 1968, moments before its spectacular crash.

Oh, Canada

On Canada Day, our neighbors to the north celebrated the birth of their fine country with picnics, parades, and fireworks. This year’s observance was more significant than usual as this marks the the 200th anniversary of the beginning of the War of 1812. Nobody here cares much about about that, but in Canada? The war of American aggression is still a big deal.

But as Canadians ate hot dogs, drank beer, and lit sparklers, at a remote outpost  in Ontario two young Border Services agents defended their country against another threat from south of the border.

That threat was me.

CBSA checkpoint, Wolfe Island, Ontario

Our car was loaded with the usual vacation clutter as we rolled off the ferry from Cape Vincent, NY to Wolfe Island, Ontario. We’d never spent more than a minute at the tiny customs station near the ferry dock — but something alerted the keen eyed officer that I could be trouble. “We’d like to search your vehicle, so please have a seat on the bench over there.”

We sat in the sun and took it in stride. What could possibly go wrong? “Sir, would you step into the office?”

The officer behind the counter held up a knife. “We found this under your seat.” He had found the folding knife I keep in an emergency kit, a small pouch crammed with gadgets and supplies I’ll probably never use. “We asked if you were bringing any weapons in with you, and this is a weapon.”

The knife is sort of imposing, bigger than something you’d keep in your pocket, but the real problem was its assisted-opening blade which can be deployed with one hand.

“Do you have any other weapons on you?”

Well, as a matter of fact… I took my smaller knife out of my pocket, one of similar design, and put it on the counter. The regarded me skeptically. “I’m a volunteer firefighter, so I don’t go anywhere without a knife. I think of them as tools, not weapons.”

After another half hour they called me back in and told me I was getting off easy. Since it seemed like an innocent mistake they would not arrest me or impound the car or make me pay the $1000 fine ($500 per knife). And no, they would not be returning my “weapons”.

I graciously thanked them, for it’s always best not to be a wise ass when dealing with the authorities, and went on my way. They did their part to protect Canada from knife crazy Americans and I proceeded to enjoyed vacation, armed only with the tiny blade on my Leatherman Micra.

Good to the Last Drop

I’ve been thinking about skydiving lately, this after seeing a spectacular video of a friend’s jump in early June. The tape captured the thrill and exhilaration of the experience like nothing I’d ever seen; that, I thought, is something I need to do.

Now, after reading about David Winoker, I’m not so sure.

Winoker and instructor Alexander Chulsky died Friday after their chute failed to open. This was one of those tandem jumps that most first-timers take. Being strapped to some stranger must feel a little weird, but I suppose you forget all about it when you jump out of the plane.

That’s the tragic part, now here’s the terrible part: according to news reports, Winoker was not so keen on this adventure. No, it was not some crazy middle-aged lark that drove him to take the leap, it was his wife. From the NY Post:

“He never said no to me. Maybe this time, he should have said no,” a heartbroken Jillian Winoker said of husband David at his packed Father’s Day funeral at a Westchester synagogue.

I find this an interesting twist. How many fiftyish men have tried to convince their wives that they want a motorcycle or fast car, or that they have an itch to embark on some sort of risky adventure? It’s usually the caution and careful wife who knows when to say no, for better or worse, for better or worse.

Everybody Must Get Stone

It seemed like a good idea at the time: rip out the rotting landscape timbers and replace them with stone.

And why not? Driving through Ireland confirmed that my mother’s people were genetically predisposed to stacking rocks in a straight line — and the Italian side? Fuggetaboutit! Everybody knows they’re handy with rocks, so this was not just building a wall, but in my blood.

I ordered two pallets like the one in this picture — which didn’t seem like a big deal until I saw them sitting on my lawn. Then they seemed like a very big deal.

There’s something scary about undertaking such a public project. The work site sits right on the corner in full view of the nosy neighbors and passerby who scrutinize each other’s property. These are the same people who sneer at the sorry state of my grass. Maybe doing something this would overshadow the turf problems, “Yes, you can grow grass — but I can build a wall out of rocks, MF!”

The biggest worry? That I would have more rock than I know what to do with. As it turned out, near the end of day two it looked like I might run out of stone — and indeed when it was finally done, there were less than ten rocks remaining, ones that were so large and poorly shaped there was no use for them in the wall. One of them was so big I couldn’t lift it alone.

If you’d like to take them off my hands, it’s $25 for all you can carry.

Everyday Carry

My knifeAt my Weight Watchers meeting (yes, like Charles Barkley I do Weight Watchers, so STFU) somebody needed to open a bag of frozen raspberries. She was aghast when I whipped out my knife.

More and more, pocket knives have come to be viewed as weapons instead of tools. Just look at the hysteria over knives in schools. Several years ago, a student who was an Eagle Scout and National Guardsman was suspended for having a small jackknife — in his car out in the parking lot. That’s just nuts.

I’ve had people say to me, “Why do you have a knife?” My answer? “Why don’t you have a knife?”

Pocket knives are standard equipment, and not just for guys. Hell, if I walked around with a pocketbook, I could carry a much bigger knife. And no, just because I go to Weight Watchers I don’t have a manbag. Gotta draw the line somewhere.