Late night; no time to edit; excuse the usual infelicities.

This week went quickly, and I’ve no idea why. The warm ones always do. If winter is hard jerky, spring is like those crinkly strips that melt on the tongue. You know, the Listerine ones. I love those, but I am angry at Listerine for noting on the pack that popping two at a time increases the Freshness. Of course it does. Once you double up, though, there’s no turning back. It’s like the left-hand turn lane from the grocery store, isn’t it?

Eh? You don’t get it? Simple. The grocery store is on a busy street, and it’s close to a freeway exit. Lots of traffic coming in either direction in unpredictable patterns. You simply cannot time things with any degree of confidence, since there are too many variables. Too many streets emptying into the artery, too many lights. However: there’s a parking lot off to the side, and it has an exit onto the same street. I’ve learned that if you take that exit, you have a better chance of finding a gap into which you may squirt your auto. If such a thing is impossible, you can turn right and effect a quick turn around in a parking lot a block away. No one uses this exit, so you’re the master of your fate. It’s better than waiting in a queue at the standard exit, hoping Gramma three cars ahead gets the nerve to punch the gas.

One day I showed this trick to the Giant Swede. He took my advice. But a few weeks ago we were at the grocery store (yes, that’s our exciting Sunday: a series of Yes Dear phone calls home, then shopping. Separate carts, of course. Separate carts in the grocery store are the guy-version of the empty seat between you in the movie theater) and he didn’t use the Secret Method. I asked why. What’s the matter with you? I showed you a deal. You’re turning your back on it?

“One day I didn’t do it,” he said, “and then I never did again. I don’t know why. ”

That’s exactly how it works. One day you don’t do something, and that’s the end of it. Which is why I will never not take the Secret Method, even when there’s no traffic. I just don’t want to take the risk of Never Doing It Again.

On the other hand, he has one of those uber-Saabs that can bolt from a dead stop and turn left and go half a mine in .02 seconds, so I see his point.

Today: more of the same. Got Gnat off to school. Warm weather – delightful. Banged out the Diner in the afternoon, then put up the Gazebo I got from Target last year. It has one more season before it falls apart, I think; it’s not made to last. At least this year’s construction was quick, since I wasn’t consulting the instructions every two minutes – I knew exactly how to knock it together. It’s an odd thing, memory; it’s odd what you recall. (Of course, you don’t think it’s odd what you don’t recall, for obvious reasons.) Last time I listened to old radio shows on the iPod – “The Pit and the Pendulum” sticks out. This time I listened to some of the Xfm Gervais / Merchant / Pilkington radio shows – a Saturday afternoon show they did long before the podcasts became famous. They’re quite funny, and also provide a textbook example of how to swear on the radio. Gervais drops the S-bomb once a show, and it has a bracing effect; if he said it every other word, or once a segment, it would be dull – but a short sharp DON’T – TALK – SH*T barked at his muddle-noggined producer is one of the funniest things I’ve heard. There’s a time and a place, as I always say.

Next year I’ve no idea what I’ll be listening to, but I know I’ll remember Gervais screaming in laughter while I wrestled some metal beams into place.

So it’s not just music you remember, perhaps. It’s a particular sound nailed to a particular place. I remember weeding the garden on the south side of Jasperwood; I was listening to some old radio drama about a doctor who takes in an escaped convict, intending to use him to kill his wife. (You could tell the doctor was a bad guy, because he had that vague British accent unique to upper-class American people, doctors in particular.) I’ve probably mentioned this before, but I used to make a certain sound when thinking about something, or when my brain was on idle: three quiet clicks made with the tongue against the roof of the mouth. It reminded me of something, and I couldn’t remember what. Took a few years, but I figured it out: the clicks were the sound of the security gate at the Tower Records store at 2000 Penn in DC. I went there almost every day, and quickly came to expect the audible feedback as I pushed through the gate. Clickclickclick. It had a pitch and rhythm unique enough to get woodburned into my brain, and I remember it to this day.

Likewise the gutteral mutter of the fridge when it shuts off. It hasn’t made that sound in a long time. But if I hear it down the hall in forty years in the old folks home, I’ll know where I heard it first.

The portability of music has changed the way we remember our lives, I think. You make your own soundtracks. When I was in high school I brought a big clunky cassette player on the bus to speech tournaments; we’d leave in early morning darkness, and I’d gear up by listening to the first movement of the Ninth through a cheap tiny monaural earpiece. The Walkman didn’t come out until I was 23, and I put it on my Dayton’s credit card the day it was available. I recorded an album to cassette and walked out of the enormous soul-grinding concrete housing project where I lived, checked the perimeter for the madman who’d showed up at the restaurant the day before with a gun, looking for the guy who’d thrown him out of the place for good – me, in other words. Clear; proceed. I was intent on walking to the bridge and standing over the Mississippi to listen to music in the summer dusk – look at the rushing water and smoke a cigarette in the springtime, and that’s what I did for the very first time. I’ve been scoring everything on the fly ever since then.

The iPod, conversely, impedes the desire to score sometimes; when you have every song in your pocket (checking: do I have on the iPod the tune “Come Sta La Luna” by Can, which I listened to late at night driving into Minneapolis for a high-school tourney on a bus, catching sight of the IDS tower lit up for the first time? . . . . yes, I do) you resist the desire to pick the right tune, and leave it up to Shuffle. Because you suspect that in the end life is more Shuffle than Playlist anyway.

And because calling up the “Main Title” track from “Where Eagles Dare” really isn’t appropriate for heading into the office.


Today’s Oak Island Water Feature update.

G. Burly showed up with two workers today – good men strong and true, I’m sure, but I will refer to them now as the Butt Crack Brigade, since that’s the view they presented to the world. I’m talking half a yard of Moon Valley, too. Do they all shop at Plumber’s World for pants? Just as farmers who keep the left hand hanging out the window and get the famous Farmer Tan, is there a Landscaper’s Tan that browns the top half of the arse?

G. Burl showed up alone after noon, moved some stones, did some strategic crouching; a while later, the other contractor showed up with the replacement pump. Then everyone left – lunch? Other jobs? The rapture? I was knocking together the gazebo when G-B and the Butt Crack Brigade appeared, and they set to work in earnest, digging up the ground around the top tank. Verdict: damp. In two places. Maybe three. Could be one leak. Could be many. Could be something else, too. But it’s definitely a leak in that one spot.

A leak, I said, suppressing my urge to scream. You don’t say. They’re hopeful they found the problem, so they’re going to rip out all the stone – including the capstones – and check the lining for those tell-tale pinhole leaks that empty out a gallon a minute. You’d think they would have checked for impermeability for sealing the tank up like King Fargin’ Tut’s Fargin’ Tomb, but no. They said they’d come back next Thursday to tackle the problem. 

Another week without the Oak Island Water Feature. Well, not necessarily. The OIWF’s top-tank bubbler works, and the lights play off the tree leaves above most handsomely, so I keep that turned on. But the project has lost some aesthetic appeal, since the ground’s ripped up, the stones are heaped up in odd places, and the grate’s exposed. But it still could work, couldn’t it? Tank’s full, let’s give it a go. Just to see if water does indeed pour out of the suspected Leak Zones.

I turned on the lower pump. Once again, the ground above one of the pipes became endampened. And I noticed something else. Attached to the top tank is a buried conduit through which the electrical wires run. They power the bubbler and the lights. The top of the conduit is open but concealed by rocks, so you don’t see the cords. It was exposed by the Butt-Crack Brigade, though, and I noticed something interesting: 

A. The power-cord conduit pipe is connected to the pipe that feeds the top tank.

B.  The diameter of the pipe that runs from the lower-tank pump to the top tank is wider than the diameter of the hole in the wall of the top tank. Picture a toothpaste tube vs. a toothpaste tube nozzle. STAY WITH ME! Focus. This is crucial.

Voila: if the water is being driven up the pipe into the top tank at fairly high pressure, and the pipe-hole in the top tank is insufficiently wide to allow the stream to exit unimpeded, and there is another pipe that branches off, what happens to the water that can’t get into the top tank as fast as it would prefer? It goes up the power conduit and spills out the top. And no one saw it because it was covered by a rock.

Keep in mind that I may have discovered the reason the project empties out quickly. And this is distinct from the leaks they have discovered, and distinct from the dampness above the buried pipe that feeds the top tank.

Here’s my evil scheme.

And evil it is.

I’m not going to tell them.

I’m going to see if they get it.

No, I don’t worry that they’re reading this. Because if they were, they wouldn’t have said they’ll come back in a week.

My wife insists I tell them, because if they finish their repairs and I tell them it still leaks, they will decide I’m sabotaging the project. She has a point. I am getting downright Ahabby about this.

Today’s Diner was done this afternoon between column-writing and putting up the Gazebo. Its inspiration can be traced to the aroma of lawn chemicals wafting through my window. You’d be surprised how few songs in my iTunes collection apply to that particular subject. Bonus points if you can identify the dramatic music at the end. I give you a pretty big hint in the iTunes-delivered added-graphics version. (Hint, hint: subscribe!) Hit the button below to subscribe or listen in your browser; the boring MP3 version is here. It’s 32 minutes long. I don’t know how that happens. I used to shoot for 15 minutes, but you know how it goes. Blah, blah, blah. Enjoy! Thanks for your patronage this week, and I’ll see you Monday. 





c. j lileks. email may be sent to first name at last name dot com.