I’ve been contenting myself with the middle-aged summer-time pleasure - okay, I’ll be honest, late middle-age. I don’t feel like that’s my state, physically, but mentally, that’s a different story. But I was talking about painting.
Painting the window trim. The previous week I painted the shed, and you can just slap that stuff on without really worrying about whether each stroke is perfect, each coat is even. Turned out nice, even though I didn’t get all the paint off. That wasn’t ever in the cards, if you believe in the prognosticating power of cards, and believe that cards would be so specific as to forecast the amount of paint I could remove. I used a scraper, and it was satisfying to lift off the old paint, but some clung stubbornly to the wood below, and I’ll be switched if I scour it all off with a sander or use some goop. It’s a shed.
I did the trim around a window as well, and was irritated to learn that my wife had not noticed how bad it was. She notices everything; how could this escape the sweep of her evaluating gaze? Thus I got no husband points. In fact it got worse: she noticed the pole I used to change the floodlights. It was still on the side of the house. Shouldn’t it go in the shed?
THE SHED I JUST PAINTED? I wanted to say: let’s put this in perspective, woman! But she was right. It should be in the shed. I had left it there intending to replace another bulb, because of the riots.
I’d taken the pole out to replace the lights because it was night #4 of the civil unrest and the city had advised us to turn on all our lights and be vigilant, and cower in our helpless state. (I’m paraphrasing.) I had to replace two bulbs, and I had no extras, so I bulbsnatched from the other floodlight that isn’t used, and managed to get it into the socket with the ridiculous pole. It’s bad at grasping and bad at turning; you have no purchase, the angle is wrong, the ladder’s too short, <chuckberry gust of disgust> Too much monkey bizness f’me to be involved in.
Aware that I had not replaced all the bulbs, I got some more at the store, and did my best to get one in. One of the old ones broke. The glass came off and left the base and the glass part that holds the filament. Lacking a ladder tall enough to get up there and not knowing which circuit breaker would turn off the power, I thought: two choices. Leave it there forever, which is not an option because I am married, or get a Ring floodlight and camera system, which is cool because one more entry point into the home network for hackers! I can pay someone to install that. Because this is just the year of tremendous security and prosperity where you want to shovel shekels to someone to install the floods we never, ever, ever use, except when a riot is threatened. And how likely is that, really?
Did I say I was contenting myself with late-middle-age pleasures of calm, zen-like home improvement? Yeah, I did, but then I started to describe the truth.
I also touched up the garage trim, which she hadn’t noticed either. DAMMIT.
You know, last week aside, and maybe the week before that in spots, it hasn’t been a bad summer at all. In many ways it’s been perfect. (Apart from the bad patches.) The lawn’s looking better this year - still some problems, but I have PROFESSIONALS on the job - meaning, someone else to blame. The backyard lawn is nice. My sprinkler system is working. It’s great having Daughter here. Work’s been good.
And in my mind I’m still sitting on the back porch of my Dad’s empty house at night last year, looking into the dark.
There was nothing out there. Well, a big house on the other side of the park, a featureless 90s suburban dullard. A slight hill, probably for flood control. Beyond that a black wall of trees. Now I think about it and it has a strange . . . presence. The nothingness has a presence. It is not malevolent or peaceable; it just is.
I think back to the summer of 2017, walking in the woods in the dark, when everything the deep dark forest held a tremendous unspoken presence; the dark pressed on you, the depths were alive with insect sounds - or sudden silence.
The darkness of my backyard is familiar to the point of banality, punctuated by some landscape lights. It is bounded by a fence and it is a safe place. But it seems to represent a diminished perspective. A retreat. The outside world is beyond influence, and now spins on a new axis. I can work on what’s here, close. I can paint.
War changed everything:
It’s 1943. Wouldn’t do for our Maisie to be working some nonproductive job in a frivolous field.
Note the time in the picture above.
Life Goes to a Defense Plant Party!
The clock has changed: it was 11:30 at night, and now . . .
The Swing Shift was mid-afternoon to midnight.
We meet “Breezy,” the “best test pilot” in the business, and he’s putting a new fighter through the paces.
He’s angry because the aircraft company won’t let him join the war, and goes to drown his anger at . . . a nightclub. Guess who's working there?
Ah. Maisy’s doing a novelty dog act, and gets annoyed when Breezy has a loud phone call complaining about his inability to join up. He’s crampin’ the act!
Is he trying to be Clark Gable?
IT’S LOVE! Or not. The flyboy drops a piece of steak, there’s pandemonium with all the dogs . . . and then we’re in COURT, where a judge says you can’t have dogs in a restaurant, but instead of a fine, the owner of the dog act will get a job at the defense plant. And he says that all the dogs will go to work for the Army.
I don’t know if he has that power, but it is wartime. Maisie complains, says her dog, Butch, only has one trick, and that’s playing dead, so he wouldn’t be good for the Army.
The judge gives Butch a deferment.
Off to the plant:
From now on it’s an interesting bit of inadvertent documentary about the bureaucracy and conditions of a war plant, at least as presented in a B-movie. Long lines and imperious clerks.
The camera pans past this guy -
And I wondered. Is he in imdb? He is. Ice Cream Vendor. Seventy-two movies - and he played Jiggs, as in “Bringing up Father,” as in the comic come to life.
Here’s the thing - almost all his credits were, well, uncredited - until the Jiggs series in the late 40s, and then he was top billing. After the fourth one he kicked. Went out on top, in a way.
Anyway, Maisie gets a roommate.
She’s a mope. She’s troubled. Naturally, Maisie takes her in - and Breezy takes a shine to her. That’s okay: Maisie is the catalyst, the mover, the fixer, the bonding element that solves the world for others. It’s her natural selflessness that makes the character appealing.
Just kidding. They fight over Breezy, in a slo-mo passive-aggressive way. Iris just drags the movie down.
Let’s just say it takes some twists. She’s arrested as a spy. One of the investigators asks about the notes she hides in planes, and she says all the gals do that. They leave nice notes for the pilots to find. Makes their day.
They don't buy it, prompting Maisie to do something that only she could get away with.
As with the others, it's not classic cinema. But you never blame Maisie for that.
That'll do. Another week begins. DIVERSIONS GUARANTEED.