Monday, April 25, 2016

Old Dogs and New Tricks

For the better part of three decades I spent most of my time working and running.  In my free time I’d watch television, read, write and occasionally sleep.  I was truly a creature of habit.  Every day was the same: Lather, rinse, repeat.

That changed a little over seven years ago with the addition of my grandson Krischan.  My free time suddenly included watching Scooby Doo cartons, hunting zombies in the woods and playing basketball in the driveway; sleeping suddenly became a thing of the past.

Then a couple of years ago Cindy and I moved to the country.  The transformation had begun. 

Suddenly and without warning I was rediscovering the wonder and amazement of the things I grew up with; the kinds of things you’re likely to run across living in the country.  Coal-burning stoves.  Vinyl records.  Furniture made of real wood.   Outhouses.  Milk delivered to your front porch in glass bottles.  Cars made of chrome and real steel.  Children playing after school outdoors. 

Suddenly these things became more and more fascinating to me once again.  I remember long ago hearing the advice to ‘keep it because one day it may come back in style.’  What I should have heard is this: ‘Keep it because one day you’ll be able to get a butt load of money for it.’ 

Some of you may have held onto things from your childhood; consider yourselves fortunate. (I’m speaking to the baby boomers and not those of you who grew up with Ninja Turtles, hair metal and video games.  You simply wouldn’t understand.  In fact it’s probably best if you stop reading altogether.  Goodbye.)  I am not one of those fortunate ones, but I did hold onto a few things.  A Nehru jacket, a pair of platform shoes and a 1977 Ford Pinto, for example.

But now I’m finding things at antique stores, craft shows and estate sales that are reminding me of my younger days.  (Antique stores?  Yes, I realize I just had my Man Card suspended.  I’ll earn it back shortly.)  I’m enjoying finding them and turning them into new and useful things, whether it’s with a paint brush, a little TLC or by using tools and sh*t—like an electrical saw, hammer and that thingee used to ratchet five-headed screws into wood.  (Man Card reactivated.)   I might add that prior to the past couple of months I went into my toolbox about as often as I used the household fire extinguisher.

I’ve finished a couple of projects lately that would probably sell at one of the local spring or fall festivals in our area.  The ones with funnel cakes, face painting and artwork composed on tin or wood that often appears to have been drawn a 12-year old.

My latest project involves a window frame, a pallet and a puzzle.  I got the window frame from an old abandoned house on Dead Oak Road.  It’s apparent the house has been deserted for a long time, and it seems to deteriorate more and more every day.  The first time I took Krischan to explore it with me he said ‘Do zombies live here?’  It’s ironic that the house is on the road that many scenes from The Walking Dead were filmed.  One day Krischan and I found an old window frame completely intact that had fallen out of the wall from one side of the house.  The pallet I found at an old construction area and the puzzle I found on Amazon.  Here’s what I did:

Step One: I sanded the window frame and painted it with antique blue chalk paint.  I used my old Nehru jacket to clean up the spills.  Three coats (of paint, not Nehru) did the trick.

Simpler alternative considered: Buying an antique blue picture frame from Hobby Lobby.

Reason rejected: It was cooler to have a picture frame from Zombie Lobby. 

Step Two: I broke the boards on the bottom of the pallet by crushing them with a sledgehammer, pulling off the broken boards and then ‘pushing’ the boards on the other side by pounding them from beneath with my old platform shoes until the nails on the other side could be removed with a claw hammer.  I had the pallet on its side leaning against my old Ford Pinto while I was doing this.  I then sanded the boards and cut them into the length of the window frame.  Finally I screwed the pallet boards into the back of the window frame.  The window frame was transformed into a rustic picture frame.

Simpler alternative considered: As I saw on a YouTube tutorial, cutting the nails with a nail saw and then simply lifting the boards from the pallet.

Reason rejected: I didn’t have a nail saw and if I did I would have no idea how to use it. 

I realize there is still another step left, but I wanted to stop to mention how fortunate I am to have held onto my old Nehru jacket, platform shoes and 1977 Ford Pinto.  While they didn’t generate a butt load of cash, they did their part in making this project possible.  Fifty years of keeping old crap does have its privileges.      

Step Three:  Cindy and I are now in the process of completing the 200-piece jigsaw puzzle with the rustic picture needed to complement the picture frame.  After a long weekend working on it we’re still about 100 pieces from completion. Once it’s complete it will be glued together and then cemented on the pallet boards squarely in the center of the window frame.  

Simple alternative considered: I believe you know the adage about giving typewriters to an infinite number of monkeys and one of them will write ‘War and Peace.’  I tried something similar with the jigsaw puzzle.

I emptied the contents of the puzzle box onto the floor to see if all 200 pieces would fall into place exactly as they were intended.  I don’t know what the odds of this happening might be, but I CAN tell you they are less than 1 in 147.

Actually it might be even more than that.
 I’m pretty sure a couple of pieces bounced under the couch.

Reason rejected: The aforementioned 147 failures.   

When the puzzle is complete—this weekend, this month, this year, when I’m able to tell you the exact odds of the 200 pieces falling perfectly into place when dumped out of the box—I’ll be sure to post a photo of the finished product.

One thing I’ve learned recently is this: Old dogs can be taught new tricks.  I go into my toolbox more often than into the restroom for a bowel movement, I’ve become pretty proficient at guessing the cost of an antique and most nights I’m in bed by the crack of dark. 

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