It all started on a hot and rainy night

I stood outside of the door, the heavy heat clinging to my skin. Though the sun had set hours ago, there was no escape from the humidity. Off in the distance the thunder rolled heavy and long. A storm was coming, and it was coming soon. On the faint breeze there was the tell-tale smell of the sweet summer pine married with the cooling freshness of the nearby rain. I knew what I was here for, and what was going to be done, or so I thought. I steeled myself, drawing in my last fresh breath for some time. As I reached for the door a cool raindrop fell on my bare shoulders, and a hiss roared from the blacktop as the storm had come.

All of the freshness left my lungs as my nostrils were assaulted by the smell of stale cigarettes, cigars, beer, sweat, and God knows what else. My heart skipped a beat as the thumping bass and screaming vocals blaring from the speakers hit me in the chest. I knew this sound, and I let it enrobe me.

“I wander out where you can’t see. Inside my shell I wait and bleed” the strained voice of Slipknot’s Corey Todd Taylor screamed at me. My eyes darted around the space. Dimly lit, with a heavy haze of acrid smoke in the air. Over the blaring music there was laughter, yelling, and a few yelps of pain. Under the music there was a sporadic and faint buzzing that you could only hear if you were listening to it, or when the CD changed songs.

What was I doing here? Maybe there is still time for me to escape. Almost knowingly, as my eyes moved to the door, a woman dressed in leather pants and a shirt about, two sizes to small, for some band that I had never, heard of reached for my hand. “You are right on time sweetheart.” she said. Her smile was welcoming, but her eyes betrayed the things that she had seen in her life. She took my hand and guided me over to a chair.

Before me sat a face that I knew, but in these surroundings it felt unfamiliar. His long, graying beard leaving just enough space for his smile, more link a sneer. He said something, but over the music I could not hear it. I leaned closer to him as he raised his voice. “Veronica, this is his first time!” he called to the woman who had just let go of my hand. Her eyes brightened as she cracked a smile. In other circumstances the smile might have been attractive, but I felt like the wounded prey being circled. “Oh really?” a devilish smile took over her face. Her eyes widened in excitment, “Don’t worry, I will sit with you. We will take good care of you”.

Ralph looked at me and asked. “Ready to do this? There is no backing out once we begin”. Veronica, now sitting next to me, took and again squeezed my hand, her other patting my thigh. I swallowed, hard, and blinked slowly. In my most confidant voice I responded “yes”. With that Ralph used one arm and leaned me back. He leaned close and there was a sting in my arm. Fiery pain wrecked through my body, and an instant cool sweat covered my neck. This quickly switched to a primal ecstasy as my nervous system went into overload.

This night from 17 years ago comes back to me from time to time. My life, and my body was forever changed. Something happened today that warranted this post, as I continued a journey started oh so long ago. After a decade away, I could not wait any longer…

I finally got some more ink added to my half sleeve. This is the first of what will be a long string of visits. Though the place I am going now is far removed from where my first encounter with tattoos began (not just by distance, but in cleanliness as well), the ride is still the same. Pure, unbridled, exploding ecstasy.

So much more to do, but things are going to come together nicely. Pictures will be posted on my Instagram later to show what I started with, and were I am now.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

 

The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Four

So, where were we? Oh yeah there was an electrical burning odor in the air, and the light was on but not turning off. What a great place to be! Sigh.

With militaristic precision, I called for my wife to flip the circuit breaker back to off. Knowing what I must do, I asked her to keep the kids out of the room while I ran to my favorite store, Lowes. About 5 minutes, and $5 later, I was walking out with a new light switch in hand.

Asking Kati to, yet again, corral the kids and ensure that the circuit was still off, I got to work. When the power is off, light switches and outlets are quick and easy tasks. This one was no different. I set the switch to the on position and put it into the wall. 

So we found ourselves facing, yet again, another moment of truth. With the kids in the living room anxiously awaiting the outcome I stood in the room. Glaring at the light I asked my beloved to flip the circuit. In a flash, the light came on and was bright! I walked over to the wall, confidently out stretch my hand, and flip the light switch. This time there was an exclamation for my wife as it was a pop at the circuit breaker and she informed me that the panel was now buzzing. Hearkening back to what my dad told me when I was eight, I knew what I had to do. 

Sometimes it takes me a little longer to realize that I am beat.

Begrudgingly I called Woodfin, a local electrician and HVAC company here in Richmond Virginia. They’ve done a lot of work for us in the past, and I’ve always been awesome with what they do. Thanks to the busy time of year, we were told they would be about a week before somebody come out. I explained that I have three children ages 5 and under, 1/3 of my house was without power, and the electrical panel has a horrible buzzing sound whenever power was running through it. Someone was there within an hour.

Electrician that came told me that he has seen it all, and this is actually pretty common here in Richmond. Between the houses built in the 70’s, a bunch of “fixes” and “upgrades” done between the 80’s and 90’s, and just general “craftsmanship”, having electrical issues is pretty common. He diagnosed that there was a long-standing problem with the circuit breaker. Apparently, I don’t know why, but installing a new light pushed the old circuit breaker beyond its breaking point. He helped sort out spaghetti monster like nest that I found when I remove the ceiling fan, it only contained one always live wire. In order to make sure that our house did not burn down he put in a couple of temporary replacement breakers. He also helped me make sure that everything was in working order before he left.

Woodfin descended upon my home two weeks later.

So after 2 weeks, over $2,000 later (beds $500, light $30, new switch and cover $5, replacing the entire electrical panel and breakers $1800), my kids now have an amazing bunk bed without a ceiling fan and light switch that works. I hope that this journey has brought some humor to you, in hindsight it has for me. I think the most important thing that you, my dear readers, can take from the story is the fact that you should always know what you can and cannot do. You need to know who you can call when you reach a point that help is needed. Most importantly, always over budget every single project.

This is my haphazard attempt at giving you guys part four, I had a really good one written the other day. If you look at the post from yesterday you can understand why I’m more than a little frustrated. As a father I’ve always come to expect the unexpected. This little project proved to be no different. I hope that never changes. Even through frustration and angst, it’s still so damn fun to be a dad.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Three

After working through the emotional distress of taking apart the beds that I had made, it was time to do something easier, but a little scary, electrical work. After taking exhaustive measurements of all the rooms in the house, we knew that there was no way we could have bunk beds AND a ceiling fan in the same room. Call it what you will, but we saw a trip to the ER as a very real reality if this was left as the décor.

I grabbed a step stool, being tall has some perks, and took to disassembling the fan. This task, in and of itself was easy enough. But, it should be noted that I do NOT like playing with electrical work. Need a wall built or taken down, sure. Want the plumbing rerouted, on it. But electrical is the one thing that I have always been cautious of. I think that my dad put it best, and the fear of God into me about it when he told me; “Of all the things that you can do around the house, electrical is the one that will most surely kill you”.  I was eight.

Regardless, the fan came down easy. As I removed the housing my nightmare began. A spaghetti monster of white encased electrical wires uncoiled like a serpent from the junction box in the ceiling. I was expecting two wires to be there, not six. So, I caught my breath, saying a few words that I most likely should not have, and began sorting it out. I had already turned off the light switch that ran the fan. But, I felt an all too familiar bite of my dear nemesis, 110 volts. With the power off at the switch, there were still live wires!

I quickly had my beloved find and turn off the circuit to the kid’s room. Fun note, the breaker that runs the light and outlets in my kid’s room also runs one hall light, an outlet in the master, the light in the family room and the fan, but not the light portion of the fan, between the family room and the kitchen. Yeah, have fun with that. That allowed me to finish removing the fan, and install the new light. Anxious to get the beds together I stood in anticipation as my wife flipped the breaker for the room.

I squinted my eyes as I was blinded and my ear picked up the electrical hum.

There was light! I let out a sigh of relief as I walked over to the light switch (or should I say slider? Dimmer? sigh, whatever). It was in the off position. I did not think that this was important as I slid the switch to on. Boy was I wrong. There was a loud “POP”, the telltale make you cringe sound of working with electrical, from the light switch. The light stayed on, and there was a faint electrical odor in the air.

Trust me folks, it spirals from here. Come back tomorrow for the conclusion of this saga. Missed part one, or part two? Feel free to read them. Trust me, this ends in a flabbergasted mess.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.

The $2,000 Bunk Beds – Part Two

I did it. I clicked purchase on the beds. It was at that very moment that I started to feel that this was not the right option. Chalking it up to buyer’s remorse, I did my best to shuffle it off. Instead I focused what I long knew what was going to be the hardest part, taking apart the beds that I had built my children.

Hovering around the mediocre level of carpentry, it is a passion more than it is a skill. However, I wanted to do something for my kids as they outgrew their toddler beds. I found plans, modified them to bring out aspects of each child, and I built them. They were not perfect, but they were perfect for them.  The joy and surprise on their faces when I put each one together filled my heart with joy.

But the day had arrived, and I stood there, in the silent room, looking down at the beds. Stripped down to the naked wood that I had built them from. I could hear the kids down the hall, playing with the heavy box that had arrived. I knelt down and began to take the beds apart. Making it even more difficult was that I put these together without the intent of having to take them apart. So, not only did I just have unscrew some screws and bolts, but I had to take a circular saw to my children’s beds to get them out the door. There must have been some extra sawdust in the air.

The beds were apart, and the project was underway.

As the time came to take the beds out of the house Zoey and David walked into their room. They saw that their beds had been taken apart. “Bed not there anymore” are the words that ripped through my soul. Kati did an amazing job and changed the mood. She turned taking the parts of the bed out of the house into a game. The laughter and screams of joyful competition filled the house.

But what would happen next would start the spiral of costs for this project.  Come back tomorrow for more. Missed part one? Read it here.

Live big, love bigger, and be kind, always.