The Satisfaction of a Well-Cleaned Garage

I’ll admit it right up front:  it is weird but few things satisfy me like my twice-yearly garage cleaning ritual. There is a joy in realizing that you don’t really need all the junk you’ve stuck in every nook and cranny over the past six months. I like clearing the cobwebs metaphorically and physically.

So I was looking forward to digging in the mounds of trash today (i.e., Andrew’s boxes crammed with junk he’d “packed” before coming home from college for the summer).

Normally I do this project all by myself. I plug in the earphones, turn to the Americana playlist, get in the zone with The SteelDrivers or Tedeschi Trucks Band, and wrap it all up three or four hours later.

But this year Candice said she wanted to help. Hmmm. That could be great. Or not.

Candice and I had been married for 2-3 years when we began working on the first historic house we renovated together. Not knowing that much about the other partner, we decided to “share” the work. Bad idea.

I was never able to take all the paint off the baseboards in a way that satisfied Candice’s sense of detail. Her speed in stripping the old wallpaper off could best be described as glacial. We snipped at each other, and it looked like we were headed toward joining that great list of couples who began renovating a house and end up in divorce court.

Luckily – on all sorts of levels – we quickly decided that I was “big picture” and Candice was “detail” and we’d divide the work along those lines. She could strip those baseboards until the cows came home while I could pull down wallpaper with abandon in room after room.  It got us through two completely renovated houses, so we knew it worked. Ever since, when we have a job to do together we try to divide the work accordingly.

I was worried that with both of us involved with the garage,  today’s cleaning project was going to get bogged down in a discussion of whether to keep that old oil lamp that her brother gave us. (On that part, I was right. It did get bogged down over that item. I lost. The lamp stayed.) But I started the project first, began in one corner, and got into my Zen state before Candice came down and began on the opposite end by going through Andrew’s boxes.

And I was on a roll. I went without the earphones and music today, so I was in the moment, “doing one thing at a time” (which is a simple definition of Zen.) Chop wood.  Carry water. (Candice will faint when she reads the first part of this paragraph.) We started at 11 in the morning, and I looked up at 1:30 in the afternoon and “my” side was finished and looking pretty damn good.

Then I lost my way.

After lunch I moved over to help Candice with “her” side. (I’d only made the distinction when I realized that I was going to complete the side where I began hours before Candice wrapped up her work.) And that’s where the troubles began.

We’re the only family I know that has two perfectly good desk chairs that sit unused in our garage. We also have two old chairs that we bought at auction from the old Masonic temple in Staunton which – if I were a betting man – I’d bet will never hold a person in them again. They all stayed. We have more picture frames than the Frame Gallery. Books…don’t get me started on books! I’m the main culprit in terms of acquisition but I will get rid of books that have little or no chance of ever being cracked again by anyone on the face of the earth. Suffice it to say, we have a lot of books in our garage.

All of these things are being held for a mythical “second house” that we’re going to buy sometime in the future.  Our 89-year-old neighbor came over to check on our progress and when Candice mentioned that we were holding some of these items for a second home, he replied, “Oh yeah, our house in Rehoboth is chock full of our stuff.  Every closet is packed with old pictures.”  Candice thought this was a great idea. You can’t make this stuff up!

But I quickly gained my equilibrium, and we plowed through to the end. Because we have so many pictures, we now have the children’s grade school art work hanging in the garage (see picture at the top of the post). Claire – whose total contribution to this project was to empty the dishwasher this morning – saw the pictures hanging on the wall and said she thought it looked dumb. I told her we did it to embarrass her when she brought friends in through the back door. She thinks her parents are screwy. I think we’re pretty clever in that Candice and I figured out a way to work together and get a laugh out of the process.

So now the garage is cleaned for another six months. The boxes in the left part of the picture below that appear to be out-of-place are actually Gourmet magazines waiting to be taken upstairs to be added to Candice’s collection that goes back to the 1960s. (I kid you not.) And Candice and I – while sore as hell – are basking in the satisfaction of a well-cleaned garage.

And how did Claire’s day work out, you ask? After the strenuous work on the dishwasher, she went to a movie, lunch with two friends from grade school, and now she’s out with a friend from Pomona at a Rascal Flatts concert at some place called Jiffy Lube Live. (You really can’t make this stuff up!) Andrew just sent me a message from Barcelona, saying he’s found the city he wants to live in.

My kids just think they live the good life.  Ha!  I have a well-cleaned garage.

More to come…


Remembering Don

It is the kind of email you never want to receive: a long-time friend was injured in a serious car accident on Monday. Wednesday he was taken off life support. Funeral on Friday.

So Candice and I left early this morning to drive the three hours to our old Shenandoah Valley home of Staunton to remember Don, mourn his death which came too early, and celebrate his life with his wife Ruth, son Philip, and many other friends.

The service began in the beautiful Temple House of Israel, designed in 1925 by Staunton architect Sam Collins in the Moorish Revival Style. The haunting Jewish melodies sung by a trio of women rolled around the wood, plaster, and tile interior.

Rabbi Joe Blair nailed Don in the eulogy.  There was much laughter and more than a few tears.

Don was one-of-a-kind.  He loved telling jokes while sitting around a table filled with wine, food he had cooked, family, and friends. I had my first pomegranate one evening after Don sliced the fruit and passed it around for all to enjoy. I can still taste the wonderful garlic from Don and Ruth’s table.

Don loved classical music, so I was surprised one evening when I walked in his house and heard the David Grisman and Andy Statman Songs of our Fathers CD coming through the speakers. We began talking about the Jewish melodies and mandolins and one thing led to another.  All of a sudden Don announced that he had gone to high school with Dr. Banjo!  “You’re kidding,” I replied, “You went to school with Pete Wernick?” Yep, said Don, matter-of-factly. Then he proceeded to talk some bluegrass for a while.  As the rabbi said today, Don had an amazing ability to remember a sometimes annoying amount of information – even for music that would have been obscure for most Jewish kids from Brooklyn.

Don loved his family and teaching.  The rabbi told stories today to illustrate both. When Ruth was losing her hair in a successful battle with cancer, Don told her not to worry because he had married her, not her hair. When asked how long he had been married, Don would invariably reply, “Not long enough!”  Don also loved his physics students at JMU, “except for those pre-med students who were only taking physics because they had to.” In those cases, Don would say “I saved a lot of lives by failing them.”

Don died much too young, but by being an organ donor he gave the gift of life on Wednesday to another patient at the University of Virginia medical center.  That’s not the only way his life continues, but it was a comforting thought today.

Rest in peace Don. You lived a good life and have a whole community you touched in ways you could have never realized.

More to come…


You Know Your Team Has Had a Rough Day…

You know your team has had a rough day when the President’s Race is the best thing on the “Nats Highlights” reel at the end of the day.

Yes, Thomas Jefferson wiped out George, Abe, and finally Teddy with a series of pretty impressive body checks before crossing the finish line at the head of the pack. But on a beautiful Father’s Day in Washington, the home-standing Nationals couldn’t match  Tom’s effort and come up with the timely hits they needed.  Unfortunately, they also  made a couple of uncharacteristic blunders that led to a 4-1 Yankees win and a sweep of the weekend series.

But I was enjoying the weather, the sell-out crowd…and my daughter Claire. So all-in-all it was a pretty wonderful day.

And as is true with any day at the ballpark, you’ll always see something you’ve never seen before.

Today (besides Tom wiping out Teddy just before the finish line), it was fun to watch 19-year-old phenom Bryce Harper rap out a double…

…and then spend the next minute or so chatting with first-ballot Hall-of-Famer Derek Jeter on second base. I don’t know if they had met before (Harper was 0-7 in yesterday’s 14-inning marathon, so I know Harper and Jeter didn’t run into each other on the base paths in that game). The body language of the two seemed to indicate that they were taking advantage of the moment to introduce themselves. A friendly pat on the rump from Harper as Jeter headed back to short and Jeter’s returning the gesture with a small wave of his glove led me to believe that the respect was flowing both ways.

So even with a loss, the Nats remain in first place by 4 games. If you had told me our Nationals would go 6-3 in the first 9 games against the American League East, and would be leading their division on Father’s Day, I’d have taken it in a heartbeat. Enjoy a couple of other photos from a beautiful Father’s Day.

More to come…