Tuesday 25 December 2012

Winter Project #1: De-Scrooging the Skunkworks

    "Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!  But I think I'll miss this one this year..."
                                                                                   -The Waitresses

   SWMBO and I decided to largely Krank the Christmas season this year, for reasons personal, logistical, economical and practical.
 SWMBO works on Christmas Day.
 I work on Boxing Day.
 We are kidless on Christmas.
 And, quite simply, we decided not to fight the crowds, traffic, other drivers for parking spaces and the temptation to spend more to buy one more gift for one more person who doesn't need or want anything more.

      No decorations, no hassles, no pressure, and it gave us a chance to enjoy our anniversary (we got hitched on Christmas Eve) unimpinged by larger events.

   Call me Scrooge, or the Grinch, I'm cool with that.

    Remember, the key word in that first paragraph is "largely."

     We wouldn't, couldn't, and didn't ignore the holiday entirely.  SWMBO made cookies and brownies that were joyously hoovered by coworkers and friends.

    Yes, Faithful Reader, I know what you're thinking.

    While my beloved wife was slaving away in the kitchen,  what the hell did I do this season?

   I opened my big, fat mouth, that's what.
    This new day job I've been working for the last few months has been a different experience for me on a number of fronts.  It's a gig that requires no travel, I have actual days off, not hours, and I have coworkers, rather than flying solo.  I'm lucky enough to work with some people who I enjoy working with on a daily basis.  We're not a social crew, we don't hang out with each other outside of work, but once in a while our personal lives overlap our work lives.

   "What,"  Faithful Reader interrupts," does this have to do with your aforementioned big, fat mouth?"

    Hold your horses.  I'm getting there.

    One of my coworkers is a single mom with two great kids.  Yeah, I know, it sounds like a stereotype and with us being knee-deep in the yule season, this post threatens to start to sound like a Hallmark made-for-tv movie, but them's the facts.  She's a decent person busting her ass to provide for a couple of great kids and largely she doesn't need any help from anybody, especially the likes of me, thank you very much.  Last week she mentions that her four year old son has added a  new item to his Santa Claus wishlist:

A teeter- totter.

Where, she wonders aloud, is she going to find a teeter-totter?

This is where my big, fat mouth gets involved.

My big, fat mouth offers, "I can build one."

    After a couple of "Really?", "Sure,"  "No, really?"  "Yeah, no problem,"  "Oh wow, that would be great!  Really?"  volleys, a bargain was struck.   She would provide the materials, or at least front the cash for the raw goods, I'd take care of design and construction.   She wanted to keep the project in low-buck range...
 really low-buck range...
 Under $40.
  I did some internet-assisted planning, scribbled up a materials list, and the fuse was lit.

     On Tuesday, lumber showed up at Stately Jones Manor:

   First order of business- determine a paint scheme and coat the lumber.  "Teeter totter" sounds kinda... lame to me.
"Seesaw" sounds even worse.

and the kid for whom this equipment is intended is all outsize personality and heart.

 So, this is no longer a teeter totter or a seesaw.

No sir.

 This is now a Badass Double Headed Catapult Death Machine. (pat. pend.)

That means flat black paint and silver and red and flames and...

After cutting and screwing and gluing the fulcrum...

  I tackled the seats, spraying the planks silver, then masking off the outline...

Then spraying red as a first coat...

With a fog of orange on top...

  Then I cut the levers, cut some scrap dowel for handles, screwed and glued the lever assembly together, then fastened it all to the fulcrum with a foot long length of all-thread, a pair of nuts and a handful of washers.

  Finishing, and least successful, touch was cutting some vinyl pinstriping tape and  personalizing the fulcrum with the recipients initials.

    Mom is pleased.

   I am pleased.

   This project kicked me into gear, gave me a reason to get off my ass and back into the workshop, and rekindled my enthusiasm for toiling in the skunkworks, like getting back on the catamaran project that has been on hiatus, for example.

   My heart didn't grow three sizes that day, but  it felt good to get back on the tools again.

  Merry Christmas.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Stories From Behind the Beach: Main Street, Not Mainstream.

    "I can see a better time, where all our dreams come true..."
                                                            -The Pogues

     It's too late in the year to sail.
     It's too early to contemplate next season.
     The ground is too green to feel like Christmas.
     It's not time yet for Toronto Boat Show coverage.
     And I'm slumped in front of a computer screen, naked but for a blinking cursor.
     (To clarify, the SCREEN is naked...  as well.)

      This is a damn tough time of year for blog content creation, which tends to lead to catatonic contemplation.

     I gotta get out of this place.
     I figured it was time to explore some local colour.
    And I had to pick up some swag for an Australian blog follower.
    And I had to remove the davits and retrieve some gear from Whiskeyjack that I could've sworn I had already brought home to Stately Jones Manor, but could not find.
    So, being my lazy self, I killed three birds with one stone and headed to Dover.

    With Lady Liberty crammed full of davits, solar panel and other gear, (with Hilary and Trevor's able help) and after a fortifying lunch at the Dover Dairy Bar, I decided to finish this mission with a stop at The Robot Cafe.

    The Robot Cafe, and it's contiguous and connected neighbour, Hobo Vintage Music,  just downslope from the Lighthouse Theatre on Main Street...

...represent the retail heart of the Eaglesmith empire.

   Fred Eaglesmith is, for lack of any better descriptor, a troubadour.  For more than three decades, Fred has fed his soul and made his bones as a touring musician.  From time to time he'll take a break from the road, sit down in his own studio record an album, release it  on his own label, then hit the road again, on his own terms.  He doesn't get much airplay which is why he may very well be the best touring musician you've never heard of.

  That's okay, his independence seems to be working for him.
  Trust me, he's worth a listen.

  If you have to pigeonhole Fred's music, "alternative country" is as close as you're gonna get, and it's still a miss. I'm not a music critic, but I am a music listener, and I like what I hear when I listen to Fred.

  Eaglesmith and his band(s) sound like gumbo tastes.

 Start with a base of Tom Waits, add a heavy dollop of  Steve Earle, throw in some Chris Isaac for flair, a roue of Lyle Lovett for cynicism, fold in some Gordon Lightfoot for Canadian folk flavour, a dash of Stompin' Tom Connors for Canadian touring country counterpoint, top with some Eagles and The Band and sprinkle with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers when serving.  You might note a soupcon of the B-52s when backed by The Fabulous Ginn Sisters.

  If an indicator of how well you write a tune is who covers your work, Fred is a hell of a songsmith, because he's been covered by the best, from Alan Jackson to The Cowboy Junkies to Dar Williams.

  Alright, enough background and ass-kissing.

  Andrew from Australia has followed the D6C from jump.  It turns out he is a Fredhead, and, since loyalty has it's privileges, I offered to get him a "Winter Weekend" poster, advertising Fred's annual local Christmas gig at the Lighthouse Theatre .  Deducing that the best place to get one is The Robot,  I stopped in and asked at the counter.  Dude behind the counter turns to other dude behind the counter who ducks into the back office and returns with a handful of pristine promo posters and cards.



Turns out the dude with the swag is Fred's son, Tim, who runs the place.  We get to talking and he lets me have the run of The Robot and Hobo with my camera.

The stores look like Fred sounds.

The Robot Cafe lives up to it's moniker.

 Great milkshakes and coffees:

Cool candy:

Racks of robots:

...'nuff said.
 Tons of cool stuff packs Hobo, from action figures to Zeppelin albums.

  Port Dover is hard on entrepreneurs, especially retailers.  It's easy to make money during the summer, but when the weather turns cold and the beach is bare, the ends don't always meet, and another "for rent" sign goes up, ready to snare the next dreamer.  Hobo and The Robot Cafe are better than holding their own, finding a market that many didn't know existed.

Sorta like Fred.

"Talk the Dock!"

Thursday 6 December 2012

The Scrapbook

"They're laughing at something, and the music's loud..."
                                                  -Al Stewart

  'Twas days before Christmas,
   and the boats are abed.
   Another great season is over, and winter's ahead.
   Perusing pics, remembering the season past,
   (Besides, blog traffic's been quiet of late, I better post something, fast!)
   I found some orphan shots  worth a look,
so here's some additions to the Dock scrapbook.

  Ralph, Melanie and Jack trading thoughts,
 While I am below, stirring the pots.

One of my favourite tugs, snapped from a distance through the haze, near the end of oneof October's most glorious days.

  Destiny's temporarily unneeded chair, traded for a seat aboard Whiskeyjack, and wind in her hair.

  A newcomer to the marina, a beautiful Rhodes snapped as she motors past...

 ... then snapped a second time.  Look at that ass!

  Kelli stopped by with Mystikal's pet....

  and Mark hung out with blowboaters- he must have lost a bet.

  Jordan finally got some time on the wheel,
  and I noticed shoes, since mine are decidedly down at the heel.

   We spent time on James' latest this-is-the-last boat.  She's mighty fine.

 With a state of the art sound system...  in 1989.

  It may not be pretty, but it get's this guy out there...

    We're on the hard until April- that just isn't fair!

   Another great season has passed- Docksters, you rock!

Please remember, pass the word,

"Talk the Dock!"