Saturday, August 30, 2008

Hymns to Labor, Part One.

My apologies for the light blogging this past week. I've had it off, more or less, but between quality time, fine beer, an inane commitment to "work from home," and what can only be a mile-wide masochistic streak, it's been hard to keep up, even though I've got a couple of Brilliant Insights (TMKeifus, 2008--warning: actual product may be neither shiny nor perspicacious) ready to go any minute now (cough). The home office drudgery got the attention it deserved, which is to say I mostly blew it off, but instead of blogging to distract myself, I privately observed deficiencies in both my my manly constitution and my suburban aesthetic. And the weather's been fantastic. Why stay inside when it's so easy to avoid the meetings?

The dirt patch below used to accommodate a concrete slab, which the previous owners evidently used as a crappy, poorly-thought-out patio before they finally sprung for a deck during their big remodel. (For all I hate about the 'burbs, the fact that you don't have to hang out on the parking lot is one of the points of living out here.) The original cement was twenty by twenty feet, and about three to six inches thick, depending on which end you're digging. I left the right edge of it, a sliver about five or six feet wide, because the builders, in their wisdom, evidently paved the driveway around the edge of the slab. Now there's a straight edge of one kind of pavement or other (in the picture, the blacktop is covered with dirt, so you'll have to trust me), and I'm eventually going to blacken the cement with driveway sealer so that it all blends in.

Word problem: Keifus is cutting concrete for some silly reason. It's four or five inches thick. He has a 20 ft. square of this stuff, but he's left a strip on one side of six feet. If he cuts squares of approximately 2.5 feet on a side with his rented diamond blade, then:

(1) How many squares can he cut?
(2) Can he lift them? How far?
(3) How much loam does he need to fill in the hole?
(4) What the hell does he do with the bricks once they're out?

[Answers: (1) about 45; (2) he can lift all of them, but some needed to be broken first; (3) what the fuck, thirty bucks a cubic yard?; (4) see below.]

My yard used to slope back, but those same previous owners leveled it at some point, heaping fill almost to the boundary, and letting the back end drop off precipitously into the faux wilderness of the streambed behind and below. For some reason, they neglected to raise a little triangular corner of it, and here's some little brush-filled nook of trees and stone walls, some marginal bit of unexploited property right for which I'm failing to fulfill my species' modern imperative to industriously fuck with.

Here's a break in the trees that line my yard, which descends down into the arboreal wedge as though from civilization into the primitive wilderness. (The greenery covering the ground near the base of the trees is mostly poison ivy. For all I've dug out, my reactions have so far been only of the mundane variety.)

So what to do with four dozen blocks and heaps of supporting rubble? What to do with a piece of adventurous land that's a pain in the ass to reach? How can I return the favor of pissing off the neighbors, in a way that offers them no legal recourse? It all comes together under great manual effort, gentle reader. Now we can descend into the heart of darkness with perfect ease, thanks to a herculean and noisy week performed by yours truly. I will continue with some landscaping sooner or later that'll help prevent the bank, which consists of sand and rotted pine needles, from washing away (but it's less steep than it was before, and I'm reassured by the four tons of concrete sitting on it).

The bottom of the steps descends to a treehouse, made out of another pile of free lumber from my parsimonious employers. It's not quite finished, but I'm motivated to get the pile of old crates out of my driveway, and I assure you, the battle station is fully armed and operational. Maybe it'll be done by the time my kids are teenagers, and they can sneak out there and smoke joints on it or something.

Working with my body is therapeutic. I've put in something like six or eight hour days on this thing, and I've felt satisfied--happy--in a way I just don't get from shuffling bullshit all day. I'm exhausted at the end of the day, and the intellectual-ish pastimes have felt flimsy with unreality. But the pleasure of any sort of work is fleeting too, and the fact that I'm not at a set pace, and doing it for my own ends, is a bigger source of enjoyment than the nature of the labor itself. As deadlines close in on even the home projects, I'm finding myself as pissy as ever. Working is good, but working for a living sucks.


Archaeopteryx said...

My dad used to say, "I don't mind working for a living. I just hate doing it every goddamned day."

Okay, he never said "goddamned." But it goes, you know?

Keifus said...

Your father sounds like a wise man.

By the seventh day (during which I still hadn't rested), I goddamn well concurred.