How Great is Our Red Solo Cup

To fit the 44 new iron bunks I had to paint, I was given 88 sheets of eight by four plywood to cut down to size. So I high-fived by best friend the table saw and set to work with two fingers missing. He likes to play rough.

There’s a radio in the lumber barn that sits sentinel over the doorway, watching subcontractors come and go like an ancient gargoyle watches mortal kings. They say the radio is as old as time itself, but actually it was purchased last year. Somebody dropped it in wet concrete, that’s all. The antennae was long ago broken off and the reception suffers, but it can channel classic rock with the best of them. However, for a long time it has been set smack dab in the middle between 103.5, the Christian station, and 103.9, the country station, so on Wednesday I heard the most stirring mashup, “How Great is Our Red Solo Cup.”

I’ve been disappointed with radios, lately. In the seven months I’ve been making my 45 minute, six a.m. drive, I have yet to settle on a program that I like. I’ve gone from right wing political commentary to repetitive football coverage, celebrity gossip and NPR’s Morning Edition. Even music has become a burden. I find myself chanting in whispers for a certain song and all I ever hear is Train.

Last week, painting bunks with our jack-of-all-trades Juan, I finally switched to country music  becomes, percentage wise, less of those songs actively irk me. However, it was the day of the St. Jude’s Children’s Hospitial Call-a-thon. In between each song, there waited a subtly sorrowful clip of a parent remembering how wonderful their child was. Eventually Juan put a hand on my shoulder. “Amigo” – we’re on an amigo name basis now – “you okay?” I shrugged it off. “It’s the PAINT! It aggravates my tear ducts!”

Holly and I never had a song. The closest we have come is “Colder Weather” by the Zac Brown Band, about a man running away from the love of his life. Holly listened to it a lot during a really healthy time in our break-up. Since this thin strain was holding us together, musically, I rewrote the chorus for her and left it on her reading lamp.

I said I want to see you tonight
I’ll be driving down Blue Springs
Cause your love will give me wings
You turn me into a kite

She said you’re a crazy Persian
And I hope you’re never gonna change
Together we’ll be strange
And laugh away our burdens

Holly calls me a crazy Persian ofttimes; it came from an autocorrect mistake, when she was attempting to call me a crazy person. Obviously, the phone said, she meant to say Persian. Everyone makes that mistake at least once in their life. Now it’s the first inside joke of our marriage. Sometimes my parents ask me, “When are you going to have another inside joke? We’re not getting any younger,” and I’m like, “Geez, get off my back mom!” Parents. What can you do?


SURPRISE! It’s Something You Expected

I like romance for the same reason that I like strategy games. The joy comes from misdirection. Laying down your track at the last minute, playing the robber when you’re certain of victory, keeping a straight face when the queen of spades is played. It’s the build up to the surprise that is the real drug. However, Holly figures out all of my surprises.

For Valentine’s Day, I took Holly to the stage musical version of Bring It On, named after the 2000 smash hit about Marxism. Holly was a cheerleader in college, so this was of utmost interest.

I ordered the tickets through an old fraternity brother. I have long ago lost my university student ID, with which enormous discounts can be gained. So on the phone I pretended to be someone I’m not. I’ve found that I enjoy this immensely, and more often than not do it not out of necessity but desire. After deciding against ordering tickets as a surprise for my boyfriend, I settled on a scavenger hunt for an old friend, funded by a large philanthropy. The cashier let me get to “old friend” before asking if I wanted mezzanine or balcony.

On Friday, while Matt retrieved the tickets I waited in the Dickson Street Used Bookstore, where I sold twelve books. They bought everything I gave them, which was baffling. My stack included David Hasselhoff’s autobiography, a Buddhist spiritual text, an anthology of short stories specifically about clowns, and a picture book of selected Shakespearean plays rewritten for children including Macbeth. That’s like self prescribing nightmare pills.

Matt delivered the tickets after I called the Walton Arts Center again and pretended to be Matt’s girlfriend’s father, saying, “Yes, this is Mr. Trumbo. The tickets should be under my daughter’s name, Cass.”

They also rapped quite a bit

The play was much better than I thought possible – it embraced the unimportance of the plot and led with some amazing acrobatics. And when I told my co-workers that over the weekend  I saw a musical about cheerleading, I followed it up with, “DON’T TALK TO ME ROB – you saw a drag show in Vegas! But these guys could tumble!”

However, I lost the thrill of the sleight of hand as Holly took apart my surprise like a 25 piece puzzle. Between texts from my relatives about Valentines Day family pictures (the only way I could think to get her to dress up) and our lack of group think about the holiday, she asked me about it. And while I love silently plotting, I hate bluffing because I involuntarily smile like a methed out donkey. I cannot tell a lie. And when Holly sees my buckteeth splitting my lower lip in half, she goes for the kill like a state prosecutor playing Guess Who with a nine year old. This is why Holly and have such trouble with board games.

Brand New Bunk Beds

Early in the fall, Camp War Eagle sold two score of metal, military style bunks to a metal recycling plant. These bunks had noisy and dangerous springs that kept the whole cabin up at night. We loaded them all on a flatbed and drove it to town.

The recycling plant pays  by weight. They weigh your vehicle both before and after, and give a dollar for every ten pounds lighter you have become. A ton of metal is worth 200 smackeroos. And they only ask for an ID to make sure you aren’t selling copper tubing stolen from a construction site, which is a new and exciting field of crime. After being weighed, I drove into the scrapyard and waited for the large metal crane with the giant magnet to slowly coax all the beds out from behind me. That night, I told Holly that it reminded me of The Brave Little Toaster. She said, “What a terrifying movie.”

This week, freshly welded bunks were delivered to camp from Mt. Ida, Arkansas, where Ted the Welder lives. These are much more stable and less moanful. We brought them inside the maintenance building to warm up so that they could be sprayed with a waterproof DTM, which is a fancy acronym for Direct-to-Metal; you live or die by acronyms in the maintenance world. DTM, OSB, SB2, FPR. People say these things over the radio as if I have a cheat sheet. When I repeat it back, I make sure to change it slightly. FPR, FDR, PBR, FPS, and so on. It’s one of the instances where I am being funny but the people I’m talking to think I’m quite stupid.

My  boss Rob looked over the bunks as I prepared for my other job, insulating a pump house. Gee whiz, I thought, I had a scratch I was meaning it itch. They meant to use a paint sprayer to finished all the bunks in a matter of hours, but there was a catch – the pump had been processing water based paint, and DTM is oil based. So what, I asked? Too much trouble to switch, Rob said. “Cass, go get the smallest brush you can find, and meet me back here.”

It took an hour and a half to paint my first bunk. I was tripping over all the corners and forgot to paint the inside until the outside was thoroughly wet. This does not count the hour it took me to wipe all the bunks clear of rust. As Rob walked in, he inspected my work in a way that I knew he was lying when he said, “Good work.” Then: “Only forty-four more.”

After a while painting bunks is not such a bad draw. It was cold this week and the bunks kept me warm on the inside of a heated building. I also got to listen to whatever radio station I wished, because I was often alone. Too much Train. And, after a while the paint starts to smell really good. I closed all the windows to keep the scent in, and had to lay down for my fifteen minute break and let the fumes run through me.

Plus, the next time in a bar fight I’m going to scream, “I wash my hair with PAINT THINNER – YOU DON’T WANT THIS MOJO!”

At this point I’ve only finished fourteen in three days. I’ve got it down to forty minutes a bunk, which makes me feel like an Arbitrarily Olympian in the Trivial Olympics, which also includes table busting and speed walking. I was allowed to use the table saw to cut down plywood for the mattress base, as well as drill it in using self-tappers, which I think are hilarious because they get so indecisive about metal. I imagine them speaking to me, saying, “I don’t want to burrow into iron.” However, at this point the room was filled with three days of paint fumes.

As I finished, I took a knife and carved into the underside of each bunk, “Hand crafted with quiet ambivalence by Cass.”


A Birthday of Holes

I was born on Groundhog’s Day. For my birthday, I drove to work very early and I hit two rabbits, twenty minutes apart. They were nearly identical, except that they came from opposite directions, and they definitely saw their shadows before they died. Six more weeks of death.

Villains who say, “HER BLOOD IS ON YOUR HANDS!” always irk me; they put the psychological weight of violence on the hostage negotiator or the millionaire who must pay ransom instead of taking responsibility for the pain they cause. However, behind the wheel on my birthday I found myself shouting “THAT WAS YOUR FAULT NOT MINE!” to dead rabbits as Kanye and Jay-Z rapped about inner city life. Holly gave me Watch the Throne, along with a couple of books, for my birthday.

At work I was given a shovel and told to locate the Craft Center’s sewage pipe. Terry the Questgiver knew that it came out of the north side of the building but had no further information. We looked at a few old photos from camp’s construction eight years ago, but all I got out of it was that Terry is ageless. He was even wearing the same pants. When I point that out, he stuttered a little then said, “They’re quite comfortable.”

It took three and a half holes and the whole morning until I found the gravel bedding that most of our pipes are laid in. Since the pipe ran four feet underneath fresh and expensive sod, I was given strict dimensions for the mouth of the hole and had to pile all the dirt on a plywood board to limit the mess.

I’ve come to loathe post holers. Standing in a three foot deep hole with a surface area of pi, there’s not much room to leverage a shovel. Post holers are less effective than the claw machines at Pizza Planet. More control, yes, but much less grabbing power. My hands can hold more dirt than a post holer, and my wrists are missing any screws. Its slow and frustrating, especially when strangers are building an awing ten feet away.

We outsource our major carpentry needs to a Kiwi named Dave. He’s in his thirties and is well freckled. He also is vocal about having no health care; eating the right foods was his ancestors means of insurance. He runs a crew of two other chain-smoking beards who like eye contact but not smiling.

Dave and his crew were building a shaded area at the pool just as I was commencing my second hole. Ineffectively pulling dirt clods from the earth with a metal manchild moonrock grabber, I felt a little foolish because they seemed so productive with their nails and their hammers and their thermos. Also, one of the beards kept looking at me like he was questioning my objective. I’m questioning too, I tried to say with my eyes.

On their way to break, the crew walked passed my visible torso. “Wha’cha digging for, Cass?” Dave asked in his for-some-reason-funny New Zealand accent.

“Treasure,” I said. “They say the Indians left a great treasure.”

“Found it yet?”

“Yes, but I have to wait until nightfall. No one can know.”

Sometimes I say things that I think are funny but to others seem creepy or incomprehensible. As Dave walked away, continuing to look at me as if my hands had been dipped in blood, I considered that maybe he didn’t think I was funny.