...and crafting a purposeful recovery

Month: July 2019


Of the many advantages that older age entitles, I like the pass we get while criticizing new culture shifts and conventions that evolve in our wake. Instead of beings haters* or heretics, we’re simply deemed grumpy and unworthy of grasping the nuances of or appreciating the devices of modernization. Take language, for example. One of my pet peeves is the acceptance of sloppy and stupid words that creep into the American lexicon. A recent example is “ginormous”. Added to Webster’s dictionary, I suppose it fits nicely between gigantic and enormous to better define “huge”, but I thought “humongous” was perfectly OK. Seriously, the Oxford Dictionary contains 171,476 words. Do we really need another so patently redundant? Granted, some new words are useful as they describe things that are new to our culture – like “cannabusiness”. I get it. We need a way to define the burgeoning demand and retail activity resulting from pot legalization. But most new words are weird or lazy. How about “meatspace”? Inserted in the dictionary last year, it means the physical world as opposed to the virtual realm. Gross! The lazy words usually eliminate the need for other useful ones. Take “hella”. While not yet in the dictionary, it has come into common use in Norcal (lazy shorthand) to emphasize magnitude. For example, instead of saying “a hell of a lot”, millenials often say “hella”, meaning the same thing while eliminating the need for a preposition, indefinite article and a noun. Brilliant! But the most troubling of new words is not so much creepy, lazy or redundant. I suppose I can live with those. The new Webster word that most disturbs me is “unfriend”. Yes, anyone on Facebook has used the term (guilty as charged) and it has its applications. But what troubles me is what it suggests about friendship in our cyber-culture. Is friendship nowadays so easily acquired and disposed of that it can be discarded with a mouseclick (usually because of who they voted for)? Oops, my bad. Nobody uses a mouse anymore.

Having said all that, I must confess to my affection for a slang word recently introduced to me by my daughter. I was in her beautiful Airstream the other day admiring the workmanship that went into her amazing restoration. I commented on how difficult it would be for me to achieve such precision in Sparta as I was doing everything with a jigsaw. She said, “Seriously, Dad. Get the proper tools. You don’t want your work to look janky!”. I knew exactly what she meant and could think of no better term. While it is not yet in Webster’s, janky gets my vote for the 2020 edition.

Leslie’s beautiful Airstream.

Lovingly and painstakingly crafted
Warm and inviting

Tom’s work.


I guess I’m why caulk and putty were invented.

*another new and useful term

A Spoonful of Sugar

There are countless examples of serendipity throughout my Sparta experience. Of course, other nouns may also apply – luck…karma…divine intervention. In any case, the past three plus years have been filled with unexpected blessings. It started with finding her in that lonely pasture in 2016 – in my old hometown no less – and has continued to this day. The biggest twist of luck came two years ago when I decided not to move Sparta to a remote location in the mountains above Calistoga. I was working as a chef at a retreat center there – a job which I enjoyed – but after a particularly nasty row with an overbearing boss I quit and decided to never work for anybody again. Plans to move Sparta there were scuttled and two months later that place burned to the ground in one of the most devastating wildfires in California history.

Naturally, most of my good fortune has appeared as little things – the right tool at the right time, a perfect fixture found at The Restore, cans of discontinued stain pulled from the Shermin Williams’ dumpster, enough to finish the job. I know this sounds insipid but through this process I’ve realized that good things come NOT to those who wait, but to those who are out beating the bushes, actively engaged in a project marked by passion and perseverance. Here is the most recent example: a random email from Nextdoor.com alerting me to free stuff in my neighborhood. I opened the link and voila – free slats for a full sized platform bed. Just what I needed to get started on Sparta’s sleeping quarters.

Time to grab some birch planks and build a frame

In the same link I found these two chairs – and with a coat of paint (color tbd) will give a midcentury vibe to my dining nook.


Mid-century Danish Farfalla

Bentwood Chairs   1960’s

Set of 2       $1,675 

Ok. Just kidding. I found knock-offs, not originals. But I only paid $20 for the pair.

Cold Spot

Hi guys. Just a quick update to say the Galanz refrigerator is in and I am very happy with it…at least, cosmetically. I just plugged it in so will report on its performance next time.

I used a piece of leftover cabinetry from Sparta and it fit perfectly as a surface atop the reefer bracket for the unit to stand on. It is secured with a couple of stout bolts and slathered with multiple coats of poly. Everything has gotten crazy amounts of polyurethane on Sparta. Moisture will not have its way with my girl.

Note bolts in back securing board to steel reefer brace. They got cut off with a Dremel.
Perfect for the space. I will design a birch surround to finish the look.
Thanks to the extensive use of plastic (a mixed blessing) this refridgerator only weighs 100 lbs.

So long!


I worked at catering for 7 days straight, so Sparta got back-burnered. However, while I was away I coaxed Cristina into refinishing interior window frames. That’s progress.

With a good sanding, stain and oil-based poly these came out OK. Darker than the new interior walls, however.

More counter fun

Cutting up laminate is a bit like public speaking – no matter how many times I’ve done it, it still makes me nervous. Particularly when I have no pieces remaining large enough to do another kitchen counter.

But, the process is pretty straightforward. Measure, measure and then measure again. Turn the sink upside down, yada, yada, yada.

Cut to the pilot holes. Apply silicone caulk liberally between the lines.
Position, press and hold.

I came up with a method for minimizing the gap between counter sections. Screw and glue two 1″ x 2″ blocks on the underside of the counter near the intersection. Drill big holes through them and insert 4 -1/2″ lag bolts. Position the counter pieces right side up and turn bolts until they are good and snug.

The remaining gap can be filled with green caulk. Or I could go old school and use an aluminum trim piece.
The carpet matches the drapes, so to speak.

Odd’s n’ ends

This post-July 4 weekend is full of promise – not much catering work and a ton of Sparta stuff. Just look:

A cool copper sink to install

Beautiful, but expensive ($500)
Time to rip more trim pieces
Yes, I do mind the gap. But I think I have come up with a solution.

That’s all, folks!

Independence Day

Happy Fourth of July. Thankfully, holidays are different for me these days. I am not sure how many alcoholics, practicing or not, would relate but for me holidays once brought relief. And not for the reasons you might think. In my drinking days my near-constant companion was dread. There was this gnawing fear of being found out, held to account, sleeping through an appointment, being served with a summons or called upon by the IRS. In other words, almost every day of my drinking life was filled with the fear of reckoning with the consequences of my actions, or lack thereof. Holidays seemed to bring a temporary respite from these dreaded concerns, if only for a day.

When I lived in Washingtion it was an ABC state and liquor stores were always closed on holidays and Sundays. So when Independence Day fell on a Saturday, you really had to be on your game. This meant going to the liquor store on a Friday – normally an extra-busy day – and waiting. Sometimes the lines would reach the door. Most shoppers were solitary and if any made eye-contact (which was rare) there was exchanged a shared sense of desperation. Sure, there was always the jovial guy filling up his cart for a “party”, but most of us miserable sots were just trying to make sure we made it till Monday. It was a peculiar sense of isolation being in a room full of compatriots. But as associations go, active alcoholism is a slim reed. Once provisioned, the only thing left was to go home, close the shutters, turn off the phone, pop the cork and let that suspension of fear release me.

Happily, this is now just another day – my fears proportionate and better managed.

3.8 drinks per day. Maybe that’s why it’s the fourth