Tuesday, March 17, 2015

A Swingset that Requires a Blood Sacrifice

Every week or so a playset or swings show up on Free Craigslist. Sometimes it’s a giant, rusty ole’ set that looks like it better come with a bag of free tetanus shots. Other times it’s a giant wooden playground that is yours as long as you disassemble the entire thing by yourself. I don’t know about you, but that sounds worse than getting a desk from IKEA with the instructions only offered in pig-latin’ed Japanese braille. I usually just let them go and hope desperately that my wife doesn’t randomly jump online and see them. And looking back at how this went down, that may have been the best impulse for this one as well.  But, alas, when the cool ‘aged’ wooden swingset showed up on my Craigslist feed, I replied faster than a charging hippo on an African Plain (30 mph) that I’d take it.  The gentleman graciously accepted my offer, and I headed over there with my handy new socket wrench kit my brother got me for Christmas…two years ago. There just aren’t enough things to socket.

The removal was pretty straightforward. The guy talked all about his fortune and houses in New York and Vegas while I played the part of ‘interested guy slothing around on the swingset trying to access the bolts’. If planking were still a thing, that shot totally would’ve made me the coolest guy on MySpace (Just missed it by like four years). I ended up only removing one side of it just to make it easier to re-assemble (see previous IKEA reference), and threw it all in the trailer. Got it home, and quickly deposited it in my front yard.

A couple days later my wife reminded me that it wasn’t actually intended as a broken front yard ornament, so I called my buddy Matt over to help me get it into the backyard. Unfortunately, my yard has about a 6-foot fence going all the way around it that I built in an effort to keep our 8-pound Chihuahua from running away. In retrospect, a foot-high fence may have done the trick as well. Regardless, Matt came over, and we positioned ourselves to man-fully heave the larger portion of the swingset over the fence (with the top post and side still attached). I took point position to protect the fence and the swingset while Matt hefted the base. To this day I’m still not really sure what happened, but all of a sudden the swingset was divebombing towards the fence and I saw my career as an accomplished classical Banjo player come to a screeching halt (pun intended). My pinky was smashed between the swingset and the fence. When the life finally came back into my eyes, we finished getting the rest of the swingset over the fence. I took off my gloves, took one look at my hand, and told my wife I loved her and headed to urgent care. No stitches, no details provided (for my faint-of-heart friends), and I can almost feel my pinky again.   The good news is, the swingset looks great, and the babe approves.

The Original Ad
My little helper (and the socket wrench)
Already in use. All day. Everyday.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Buildin' the Yard a Brick at a Time

Using Craigslist as my main supplier has left me in some odd situations.  Whether it was heaving piles of muddy sod at 11 PM in an abandoned neighborhood, or taking river rocks from the front yard of a repo home (yes, I was invited - I think), it's definitely a touch shadier than pushing around a shopping cart with a squeaky wheel through Home Depot. My brick acquisition was right on par. 

The post came up: "413 Decorative Bricks" (who the heck counts all 413??). I quickly replied, and then moved on with my day.  After about an hour I got a reply saying they'd already been claimed. No biggie, considering I actually had no idea what I was gonna do with a bunch of bricks (413, to be exact). Coincidentally, I found myself heading home after a different craigslist item flaked when I got a call from the brick guy. He said they were mine if I was willing to come now. I tapped my inner Vin Diesel, whipped my truck around (while impressively missing two mailboxes) and gunned it for midtown. I didn't realize how odd this pick-up was until the address led me deeper and deeper into the city. Having a hard time imagining what anyone was doing with free bricks in downtown Sacramento, I warily made my way to the house and found a parking spot, wondering what building I would be chiseling bricks from. The owner turned out to be really cool - had a condo, and used the bricks in his 'backyard', a 5-by-8 foot space behind the condo (and right next to the communal walkway). His wife was going for a new backyard theme… Ok. So I used my trusty buckets and started to haul the bricks. Each load had me dumping a pile of bricks into the back of my truck, then waiting for the evening traffic to pass so I could go back to the condo. And even though they were the half-size, not-fully-grown bricks (apparently that's the 'decorative' part), it was a solid hour-plus to haul them all.

Once I got them home I stared at them for a few days trying to decide what to do next. My wife (being a woman of action) took over and laid out a 'patio', and then suggested I dig each one individually in, and then secure it with sand. Not too bad until you factor in a 2 year-old going all Godzilla over the bricks (anyone remember Sim City?) and pulling them up faster than I could lay them. Bet Vin Diesel never had a race that intense. Thank goodness for nap time.

My new pile of bricks
A piece of the patio (more pics to come upon completion)