Wednesday, November 29, 2006

big gun

Next item on the auction block is this SWEET Albert Pujols minor league card. I got this thing autographed before an Arizona Fall League game in 2000, not long before Albert made is smashing appearance on the Major League Baseball scene.

I’m hoping this will help generate a fair amount of ca$h for my 75 Topps reacquisition fund. One of the things that make this particular card rare is the fact that he signed it “Jose A. Pujols.” Today, you would be pretty lucky to get an “A Puj” on your card.

Also, when I handed Albert the card before the game I asked him how he was doing. He replied that he was doing good, but then began complaining that his hat was too tight. The memory of that odd remark still makes me laugh today.

At any rate, it should prove interesting to see how much this goes for.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

quest for the best

Some 23 years ago, I did the unfathomable. I sold my baseball card collection. Well, most of it anyway. I kept the handful of cards that I had gotten autographed, and the five cards that I had identified as being my favorites. But the rest of the 40,000+ cards I had accumulated were sold to an insurance agent for only $350. It still makes me sick to think about how I allowed him to rip me off, but I really needed the cash for food while I was in college. At least I lived to learn.

Interestingly, the fella who bought my cards was arrested several years later for breaking into his clients’ homes and stealing their valuables while they were on vacation.

The vast majority of my cards were purchased one pack at a time from Mr. Burcham’s candy display case at the Sunoco gas station on Main Street in Toulon, Illinois. I traded with buddies to build complete sets and even managed to squirrel away a few unopened packs each year. Those alone would have been worth a small fortune today. I also traded “new” cards to older kids who no longer bought cards, but where still interested in collecting cards of players from their favorite teams.

My wife recently asked me how I got my hands on money when I was a kid. I would use money I received for my birthday, and would go around the neighborhood offering to shovel snow, rake leaves, or performing other odd jobs to raise baseball card funds.

I clearly remember the afternoon that Bob Bent caught me smashing pop bottles against the side of a shelter in the “city” park. Bob made me pick up the glass and carry it to a nearby trashcan. After I dumped the glass, Bob pulled a couple of whole bottles out of the trash and handed them to me. Then he marched me across the street and into the grocery store. As if out of some Hollywood movie, the storeowner gave me a nickel for each bottle. I was stunned! My first lesson in economics was as complete as it had been unexpected. I wondered why they didn’t teach us interesting stuff like that in school. Real life was much more exciting. As it turns out, that was the day that I began walking around looking for “stuff.” After that, I began finding money on a regular basis.

At any rate, I’ve been kicking myself in the ass since the day I sold my cards. With that in mind, I’ve decided that the thing I need to do is to begin recollecting the cards of my youth. And what better way to get started than by working on my favorite set… the 1975 Topps MLB cards? Rather than buying a set outright, I imagine I will go about it by picking up small lots and actually building the set myself. To quote Bruce Springsteen, “That’s where the fun is.”

Given the high cost of such an undertaking, I’ve also decided that the best approach would be to sell items of less personal significance than those I am interested in acquiring. Thus, I have listed my first item for sale on eBay in nearly two years… a complete 84-card set of Disabled American Veterans major league baseball cards.

While waiting to see how much fundage that set will bring (if anything), I will pull out the small stack of 75 Topps cards that I already have and work on creating a checklist to add to my updated baseball cards “want list.”

Thursday, November 23, 2006

the R word

I am extremely thankful each and every time a blogworthy topic literally falls into my lap(top). Today was no exception.

It actually all started about a couple of months back when an odd entry was posted in my neighborhood association’s message board. You are welcome to read that entry yourself, or take my word for it when I report that, in a nutshell, the message called for the cessation of disparaging remarks about renters in the monthly newsletter.

Although I didn’t pay much attention to the post at first, I admit that it did settle into that part of my brain where things go that I’m unsure how to process. A couple of weeks later, someone posted a reply to the posting that left me literally scratching my head as the questions again began tickling the interior of my skull.

Are renters bad for property values? Are renters really less responsible than property owners? Does not a homeowner who neglects their property actually represent more of a drain on the local environment? Is all stereotyping “wrong?

I’m pretty sure that I never mentioned the disgusting habits of our old neighbors due to my policy of trying to abstain from writing with negativity. I have no idea where these folks came from, but I was dumfounded when it soon became apparent that they considered empty beer cans and pizza boxes as appropriate landscaping materials. To make a long and irritating story short, they seldom bothered to wheel their trash out to the street, opting instead to toss it on the ground in the vicinity of the overflowing trash container hidden behind a pile of garbage on the side of their (rental) house.

The situation got so bad that I actually began taking their trash out to the curb each week. Of course I bitched and muttered to myself every step of the way, but at least I was being proactive and dealing with the problem rather than just watching it. I even hoped that someone in that household would take notice, and would learn from my example. Fat chance!

When they eventually moved out, they left behind a front yard full of debris that random passersby undoubtedly mistook as a tribute to the post-Katrina city of New Orleans. That mess festered for the better part of a week before a city cop investigating reported suspicious activities at the vacant house called the property managing company and threatened to cite and fine them if they didn’t get it cleaned up.

Before purchasing this house just over two years ago, I had been a renter for just over two solid decades. Honestly, I do not recall ever leaving a place in poor shape. I’m not suggesting that I didn’t live in some real hellholes. I did. But I can assure you that in those situations, the property was definitely more habitable (and I would imagine therefore more valuable) after I moved out than when I moved in. On the flipside, I have had friends who survived terrible living conditions- either inherited or self-inflicted. (You know who you are!)

But those are just a few examples that I can’t offer any evidence to support. Which brings me to this:

For the past year, a handful of college-age kids have been renting the house two doors down the street and just a half a mile from the railroad track. Never mind the loud, all night parties they staged on a regular basis, and the fact that their guests did more than a fair job of screwing up the already limited parking throughout the surrounding square block area. They were nice enough people. The issue for them was that they didn’t take responsibility for the trash that they created in a timely manner. When they moved out this past week, they left behind a pile of garbage that spilled out of the two dumpsters and across the front lawn onto a public sidewalk. The mound is impressive enough that it would likely cause Fred Sanford to have a stroke if he drove down the block.

Obviously, the “responsible” thing to do when you accumulate a mountain of trash like this is to make a trip or seven to one of several city dumps. But one can hardly expect someone(s) to know something like that when they are so na├»ve as to expect that city trash collectors are going to clean up after them.

It should go without saying that I was afraid that Officer Obie would happen along while I was snapping this pair of eight-by-ten color glossy photographs, and assuming that I had dumped all the crap on the sidewalk, write me a ticket AND make me pick up the garbage. For those of you who have been living under Plymouth Rock for the past 40 years, Alice’s Restaurant is to Thanksgiving what a movie that is played all day long each and every Christmas is to, well… Christmas. Of course the song (which definitely came first) is better than the movie.

Common sense dictates that the issue is actually tied to the difference between people and their individual comfort levels, and not whether they are renters or owners. However, I am of the opinion that these photos document the nightmare that some homeowners have when worrying about the new tenants who may move into the house next door. Personally, I have hope that the next crop will be better.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

the forkcast

First, some HUGE news! It seems that I hit the Powerball last week. No kidding! And considering that the holiday season is upon us, it couldn’t have happened at a better time.

Of course, the majority of the winnings have been earmarked to help offset the cost of the bathroom remodel. Speaking of which, I am very excited to announce that the project has at last come to an end. I would categorize any work needs that arise at this point as repair or maintenance issues. Additionally, I have tentatively scheduled the remodeling of the other bathroom for autumn in the year 2525.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


Have installed the new vanity and wash basin. I had a few issues with leaking in the drain line, but appear to have taken care of it by adding more Teflon tape and applying a bit more effort at tightening the fittings by hand.

Tasks are beginning to dwindle as I find myself now installing accessories such as mirrors and towels holders. Once again, thank goodness for my “helper.”

Friday, November 17, 2006

behold... the throne

I now have the new toilet installed. Will wait a few days and continue to inspect for leakage before I caulk around the base.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

drop the plug

After trying to stop the previously mentioned leaks using first Teflon tape, then more torque, then joint compound- and watching all attempts drip to failure, I finally got some decent results using extra heavy Teflon tape.

Now while I wait anxiously to see if the seals will hold, I have a few moments to contemplate the age-old question, “How long can a person realistically expect to keep an entire family waiting to begin splashing around?”

Monday, November 13, 2006

rub a dub dub

In between hockey games, I managed to finish painting the tub and actually move it back into the bathroom. If you’ve ever moved one of these things by yourself, then you can appreciate that I didn’t smash any of my fingers or toes in the process.

Is that a light at the end of the tunnel? Why yes it is. Unfortunately, that light represents leaks at both the hot and cold water supply lines where the ½-inch brass nipples feed into the ¾-inch input lines in the back of the faucet. Frustrated by the steady dripping, I disassembled that portion and will try again in a couple of days after I return from Arizona. I’m hoping that all I need is MORE Teflon tape and additional torque.

Once the tub is set, remaining tasks include installation of the new toilet and vanity/sink. I am also still searching for a nice cabinet that will fit in the corner behind the door. I am surprised that I can’t seem to locate any FREE plans to build my own cabinet on the interweb. What’s up with that?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

as seen in refrigerator

One neat little tip I’m happy to pass along is my method of dealing with a paint roller that I don’t feel like taking the time to clean properly. Not necessarily because I’m lazy, but rather because I am waiting for a coat of paint to dry and expect to be using it again in the near future.

Without removing the foam pad from the roller, I place the wet paint-covered portion in a one-gallon zip lock bag, and jam the entire contraption in the fridge. I’m sure there are a number of possible variations of the same idea, but I’ve found that everything works best when I place the handle upright and use masking tape to secure it to a shelf. This helps ensure that the roller doesn’t leap out of the fridge when someone else opens the door. Also, I recommend keeping the handle in the vicinity of the beer shelf in order to prevent injuring muscles that may not be used to stretching to other locations- say to a vegetable crisper for instance. (Of course I’m not claiming that my wife actually approves of this method, but as long as the project continues to move along, she seems willing to put up with oddities such as this.)

Speaking of progress, I finished cleaning the old caulking and paint remnants from the window and door trim, and have gotten all that lumber reinstalled. Also, I decided to use relatively narrow, decorative pine casing for the floor trim after considering the new vanity and the location of an existing water supply pipe. I believe the shortness of the trim will only help draw attention to the height of the walls, making the room seem as large as possible. As illustrated in these photos, I have gotten the trim cut to length and fit (more or less), sanded, stained (used Olympic One Step), and installed. I used a punch to sink the nail heads beneath the surface of the wood.

Although I should probably be busy filling in the resulting divots with wood putty, I’m going to take a few more seconds to mention something I consider unusual. I assume that we've all found ourselves on one side or other (possibly both) of the age-old argument: "What is proper- "grilled cheese" or "toasted cheese" sandwich?"

Have you seen the Hamilton Beach commercial for the Toastation toaster and oven? It’s the one where the woman whips out the term "cheese toast." I'm left wondering if this is a completely new phrase, or has anyone ever heard of it before? They even have a photo of this "new" dish on their website.

travels with coffee

With a few errands to run downtown, I enjoyed a leisurely walkabout on what turned out to be a gorgeous Indian summer afternoon. As I made my way toward the summit of the Lead Street bridge over the railroad tracks, I noticed a small “to go” cup from the Frontier Restaurant next to the fence, seemingly trying to look over the edge to check out the Rail Runner trains several tens of feet below.

I think it’s funny how weird or unexpected items can make you think of stuff completely unrelated. Pondering the potential travels of this Styrofoam manuport reminded me of a film we were shown in grade school about this boy who carved a manned canoe out of a chunk of wood, named it “Paddle-to-the-Sea,” then took it outside and placed it in a snow bank. I know, already it is crazy. At any rate, spring arrived and the snow began to melt. Eventually, the canoe slid into a tiny stream of melt off water and began this incredible journey toward the open sea.

I won’t tell you how that journey ends, just in case you want to see the movie for yourself, or read the book. I continued to think about the movie while I walked around the city, taking a break to check out the progress of the ongoing construction project at the southeast corner of Lead and 2nd (near the El Madrid Lounge).

I always enjoy walking past St. John’s (Episcopal) Cathedral at the corner of Silver and 5th. Although I’ve never ventured inside the structure, the outside is very interesting. From there I walked to the PNM office to drop off payment for electrical goods and services. Sure, I could have dropped a check in the mail, but I figure why pay someone 39 cents to deliver an envelope (or not) that I could just as easily deliver myself. True, the water fountain outside PNM always makes me feel like I have to take a leak no matter how prepared I am.

I continued down Silver, hanging a “roger” after the delicious smells of the hot dog vendor began to fade, and shuffling up 6th Street past the post office where screams of “Use your turn signal” (directed at someone other than me) filled the air.

Pausing to read the billboards advertising coming attractions at the KiMo Theater, images of unspeakable things the cooks might have been doing to otherwise normal food in Lindy’s began creeping into my brain and forced me to flee.

Upon reaching the intersection of 6th and Copper, I was stunned by the complete lack of any signs of construction at the main library. Either the project has been completed, or someone has stolen all the fences, signs, materials, and workers. Either way, I made a mental note to pass this way again in the near future.

A quick pop in at the bank on the corner of 6th and Marquette to see what interesting things they are doing with money these days. I really like the new $10 bills! So much, in fact, that I am willing to trade two of my critically acclaimed archaeology coloring books for a single one.

I was astonished to discover that Compass Bank requires non-customers to leave a fingerprint if cashing a check issued by them, in addition to a $5 fee. I was even more surprised to witness someone agree to those terms. Perhaps I am too easily entertained.

After conducting my business, I left the bank via the rear exit- not so much in an attempt to cornfuse the security guard, but in keeping with my long-standing policy to refrain from retracing my steps whenever possible. By this time, the increasing afternoon shadows forced me to stroll through the wifi-friendly plaza area- possibly the best location to find sunshine in the downtown area at almost any time of day (excepting, of course, at night).

From there I continued through the shady 4th Street Plaza where school children gather to frolic amongst the city’s homeless as if playing in piles of autumn leaves. One hopes that the kids won’t start a fire with one of their carelessly discarded cigarette butts amongst all the dead wood.

Emerging from the cultural breezeway, I turned to the east and began walking along Central Avenue towards home. The blog-worthy sights and sounds encountered within the historic Route 66 corridor are so many that a person would have to sit on a bench all day EVERY day to even make a stab at recording them all. Actually, ONE does, but it isn’t me. Besides, that story is of a journey of an altogether different nature.

Friday, November 03, 2006

belated birthday wishes to a 5-foot beauty

Yes, I am talking about our claw foot bathtub.

Not long after I got around to flipping this cast iron bad boy over to begin sanding and preparing the exterior for a new coat of paint, my helper discovered the maker’s mark. The “born on” date affixed to the belly of the beast indicates that the Crane Company manufactured the tub on October 22, 1930- just two years after the company initially introduced colored bathroom fixtures to US consumers.

Unfortunately, I have yet to discover any evidence to suggest whether this fantastic early Great Depression era relic was “new” to the house, or brought in “used” at some later date. Thus, the only previous resident that I can say with any certainty never enjoyed a soak in “Old No. 5” was Louisa Watson who passed away in 1928.