It was 147 degrees on Saturday. Or so it felt. Last year at this time, a full thick coat of snow on everything, the world slumbering inert; now, tulips, birds, strong sun, the big 8-0, and summer sweat as you toiled in the yard. I set myself two tasks: fix the outdoor landscape lighting, and put up the house numbers.

Everyone has house numbers. We have them, but they’re on the house, which is a problem because the house is on a hill. This confounds pizza delivery men who have not been here before. So my wife ordered one of those plaques that have the name and the numbers, and bade me to put it up on the garage.

It was December when it arrived. I said: if I drill now, it’ll crack the stucco. (I was pretty sure this was the case.) So it sat. And waited. A while ago I went to the hardware store to prepare for a more compliant stucco situation, and bought a masonry drill bit, some anchors, and some screws. These were placed on the sign, where the sat for weeks as a symbol of the Thing I Had Not Done. Finally it was warm enough. Why, the stucco would be like butter.

Paul at the hardware store said: go slow. You don’t want to crack the stucco. I don’t want to do this at all, I said, because every time I drill something like this I’m convinced it will list to one side, and give Jasperwod that there-was-a-crooked-man-who-had-a-crooked-house look. But I did it. Went slow. The drill went through the stucco, hit cement -


Stopped dead. The battery-powered drill lacked torque. Got out the serious old vorded drill, and leaned into the work. Put up the sign. Screwed in the screws. Walked away, hoping: be straight be straight be straight

Turned around.

Dead level.

On further examination, some of the letters on the sign are somewhat crooked, but that’s not my fault.

The lighting was another matter. Over the years I have let the landscape lighting decline. My initial design fell apart gradually, as lights winked out and shorted. A problem with one buried line made the transformer trip the circuit breaker when it rained. One by one the lights on the side path around the house winked off, and I got used to the dark because it hid the horrible Terror Corner of Brick Failure, and I had a hard time confronting that.

See, a crack had developed in the bricks that go around the sun porch. And by “Crack” I mean a pyramidal portion on both sides that had come away from the house itself. Secession. No hope of a Concert for Brick Biafra to pay for this, either. You could put your thumb through it, and this suggested that the entire two-story portion of the house was in danger of collapsing. Even if it didn’t: ugly. Well, I had it fixed, at ruinous expense, but it was fixed, and the house looks solid again. So on a fine spring day I decided it was time to relight, and this meant rerouting all the cables, repositioning the lights, clearing out the mismatched ones I put on the hill to illuminate the Halloween tableau a million years ago. Hot honest work. I listened to some old radio on the iPod, and I know I will always remember that I did this job while hearing the voices of Lilian Gish and Ray Collins, just as I recall reseeding the bottom of the hill while listening to a “Suspense” about a crazy doctor with a maverick technique, and assembled Gazebo #2 while listening to Vincent Price in “The Pit and the Pendulum.” I have no idea why I remember these things.

Really, Lillian Gish.

When I was done I was beat, and took a quick nap. Supper at the Lowbrow, which has a mean fierce hamburger that can’t be beat - jalapenos and chili-rubbed meat - then back home to see what happened when the timer turned on.

Fourteen lights. Three came on.

Okay. Well. So I’m outside with a penlight in my teeth testing bulbs, swapping out dead lights for good ones; got five to light. That was enough for the moment. It was close to being what it had been before, during the magical golden age I have set, for some reason, at 2003 -2005. Daughter was in the early grade-school age; the wretched editor who parachuted into the newsroom to change everything, the one who said to my face that she was surprised I would tell both sides of the story “because you’re conservative,” the one who killed my column - she was still a few months off. (Details: I had pitched a remake of Page Two of the paper to be a tidbit melange, with humorous photos, this-day-in-history, top headlines, and a polarizing quote of the day, i.e., the worst thing said by each side. “You’d do both sides?” she said. Well, yeah. “But you’re conservative.”) Natalie was still in Hello-Kitty mode. I had the Gallery of Regrettable Food sequel in the works, unaware that the new editor who had inherited the project, and hence had no interest in in, wanted to make her mark by calling it something other than the Gallery of Regrettable Food 2.

Yes, a golden age! Jasperwood still felt new, to the point where I had nightmares about selling it and moving to lesser digs. It still felt remarkable to stand on the path by the side in the summer, the backside of the house, and see the path that led to the edge of the cliff, and think: this is ours. To see Jasper come around the corner, alert, wondering what I was doing. To see Natalie tottering around the corner with a pail and a shovel.



The failure of the wall had somehow come to stand for things that had changed, an expense that would be due soon. When the ruinously expensive storm-drain project was undertaken, the pounding loosened the wall even more. And then there was the roof of the garage, don’t you know. Back in 2003 I had a guy rip off the leaky rubber roof and spray it with foam. Eventually it cracked and leaked, and the garage began to endampenate after a rainstorm. The cracked foam was ugly. Raw blisters. Last fall I just sucked it up and laid out the long green and had both fixed.

The snow came; the snow covered everything.

The snow left. Today I fixed the lights, but up the house sign, rewired the Gazebo, and ordered a second transformer on Amazon using Amex points to relight the back yard, which fell dark last summer when I was seized with the conviction that entropy had won.
The best part? I opened every window downstairs. They’re new. The noise-abatement program gave us new windows, including screens on some windows that I’ve never opened before. The ghosts of old-dog smell and burned coffee fled. Everything smelled fresh. I sat outside in the gazebo at twilight, in shorts, months ahead of schedule, sipped my fortified lemonade, and smiled.

And bolted up and slapped my leg.

A mosquito. Just to remind you. It was never golden. Tomorrow, though: quite possible. Do what you can.

Don't forget the Matchbook Museum - lots of entries today. Slide on up to the graphic on top! I'd link here, and I suppose I should, but what's the point of doing that graphic, then? ;)












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