Sunday, November 29, 2009

To Adam, for Adam

I don't know where it was that I first heard of Red Molly. Maybe it was in a comments stream from Chocolatepoint on Flickr, or maybe somewhere on Facebook.

Wherever it was, the reference led me to "May I Suggest," which is a poem with music that I would have written to my son Adam, were I smarter than I am. It is appropriate in more ways than I want to make explicit, but I can say that the "seven generations" and the "from the west" parts are exquisitely in harmony with what I feel.

Adam is making sacrifices in his personal life now for people who may or may not appreciate his efforts. I want him to know that somebody appreciates it, in a very, very big way, and this song sings that vision, too: his efforts are, ultimately, beneficial to him as well, and in part make this "the best part of [his] life."


More Red Molly, this time from an appearance at a small branch library, covering Nanci Griffith -- God, I hope these women hit the big time like they should; they are as good as the Indigo Girls or the Story were, as far as I am concerned:

Saturday, November 21, 2009

New (to SherWords) from ACH and AGH

New (to here) from ACH
(Adam Charles Harrington)

Man at Work

Adam's Uncle Dick, his mother's oldest brother, trained hunting dogs in Minnesota for the last several years of his life. In fact, Dick died little more than a year ago (of a heart attack) while doing what he loved: hunting with his dogs.

Last month, Adam came across a recording of a radio ad that he did for his Uncle Dick several years ago, and it's remarkable for a couple of reasons. First, it's one of Adam's first commercials, but, second, his "co-star" is none other than Adam's late brother, Doug. You can hear it by clicking here. Doug is the straight man; Adam is in character.

As long as I'm in bragging mode for my boy, here are a few more references:

His longtime mentor, Susan McCollum, touted his work after her training in her October newsletter thusly: And once again, Adam Harrington leads the pack with work On EA's Ironman 2, numerous sessions for Lucas's "Monkey Island", characters for both "Assasins Creed" and "Shattered Horizons" for Emeryville's SomaTone and "Infinite Space" for WebTone. My boy's almost 40, and finally he's a teacher's pet! More seriously, Susan is a very fine and highly-respected voice actor and teacher, so her praise is significant. Her website can be seen by clicking here.

Voice acting sometimes requires patience and forbearance when auditioning -- especially when the voiceover artist recognizes that what he's reading is flamingly horribly written. Here's a four-minute audition for Celebrity Cruises that Adam sent in without listening to the product all the way to the end. His brief critique at the end is priceless: Adam says, "Here's why one should always, ALWAYS listen back before one sends an audition in. Don't bother listening to the whole (four effing minute long) audition. Just skip to the very end." Not surprisingly, he didn't get the gig.

[Note added post-production: You know what? You really do have to listen to the whole four minutes to enjoy the fraction of a second at the end appropriately. My boy soldiers on beyond any reasonable expectation until then, and the longer it goes, the more impressive his achievement in soldiering on is. I was about to split a gut even before the ending.]

Voice acting doesn't always go smoothly, even for simple, short items. When I do that sort of thing in lecture, I usually look over the tops of my glasses at the students and say, "Can you believe that they pay me to talk?"

New (to here) from AGH
(Arthur George Harrington)

After a two-month gap, Satchel of Ordinary Treasure is active again, this time with another set of short reminiscences from my grandfather (and Adam's great-grandfather) Arthur G. Harrington.

Art Harrington in 1946; the hand on his shoulder is his daughter Mary's. A startling realization for me while typing this very caption: Art is only ten years older in this picture than I am now. Holy smokes!

My grandfather's stories were transcribed near the end of his life by his eldest surviving daughter, Mary, who also cared for him day and night for the last few of his 80 years. Mary was a spinster (to use a painfully quaint word) and a talented teacher and writer in her own right, so she almost naturally kept notes on the old man's stories, and typed them up in a compilation called "Tales Told by your Grandfather Arthur George Harrington 1874 - 1954," which she distributed to Arthur's dozen or so grandchildren in the mid-1970's.

The booklet consists of photocopied small pages of typewritten text, with numerous hand-corrections and alterations which make it unsuitable for OCR (optical character recognition) scanning software, so entries in Satchel from it have to be hand transcribed via keyboard. That turns out to have been a blessing in an unexpected way.

The old man died when I was only seven years old. My only direct memories of him are dim ones of a mammoth, almost immobile, old man, and of a scent that seemed to evoke darkness and musty places. When Aunt Mary first distributed his little book of stories, I was in my twenties and full of myself -- I read them, sure, but they didn't seem like much to me then, busy as I was with misguiding my own life. So I put the little book away, and didn't look at again for years.

But an interesting thing has happened as a result of my having to key in each letter of his stories now. He has changed in my mind's eye from being an old, enfeebled mountain of a man, or even from being a name in a genealogy, to something progressively more human. As I feel like I have spent more time with him (because I have!), his name has changed for me from "Arthur G. Harrington" to "Art."

Art is a guy I think of now as a friend, someone I'd be very comfortable with at a bar after our workday on the machine gang or at the trolley barn was over, having a couple of beers and swapping mundane stories before heading home. And Art is a guy I'd like to have on my side.

It's a one-way street, of course: I can hear Art's stories, and thump my hand on the bar as I laugh, but he can't hear mine or Adam's. I have confidence that he would like ours, though, every confidence in the world.

Click here for Art's latest clutch of after-work stories. Don't get your expectations up for great literature or side-splitting comedy. Just have a little bowl of peanuts handy to munch on, and think of what you'd offer in riposte.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

If You're Going to Buy a Fort...

Why it's called "Fort Harrington." Photo taken shortly after the new fence, gate, and sign were installed in October, 2001.

If you're going to buy a fort, don't buy one in a rain forest.

If you're going to buy a fort in a rain forest, don't buy one that's downhill from a road and uphill from the nearest creek.

If you're going to buy a fort in a rain forest, and it's downhill from a road and uphill from the nearest creek, be prepared to deal with drainage issues. Voluminous ones.

Fort Harrington lies between a paved mountain road and Kings Creek in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, a little patch of rain forest on California's central coast. Our area receives about five feet of rain per year on average, almost all of which falls between October and April. The abundance of rain is due to a little kink in the San Andreas fault, which takes a sudden right turn between Santa Cruz and Palo Alto. That abrupt change in direction, over the aeons, has birthed the Santa Cruz Mountains, a two- to three-thousand foot uplift directly adjacent to the prevailing westerlies from the Pacific. That uplift, in most years, wrings cascading amounts of water out of the laden oceanic air in winter, and feeds our spectacular forest of millions of sequoia sempervirens (coast redwoods).

It also feeds a sluiceway directly through our compound, which blasts away merrily at impressive volume during winter storms. The road above us makes a little turn there, a micro-mirror of the San Andreas's jig, but its turn is in a depression, not an uplift. At the depression in the road above us is a storm drain, which channels all the road's runoff from both directions for a long way down underneath our property to the creek below.

Right under our garage.

Right under our house.

When the decking was being replaced in mid-2000, stripping the old decking away exposed the sluiceway's transition to under-house pipe, seen at lower-left here.

The portions of the runoff's course under the structures are large-caliber pipe, from a foot and a half to two feet in diameter. Between the "garage" (a 1930's shed, which is being held up only by vines, as far as I can figure) and the house, though, it runs through a deep, v-shaped, exposed sluice.

When we purchased Ft. Harrington in 1998, many things were in an advanced state of rot, including the simple plywood covering of the 30 feet of sluiceway (and all the decking). Our first renovation projects were fencing around the entire compound (which my sons Doug and Adam were the primary architects and laborers for), replacing the decking (which we put in the hands of a well-respected local contracting firm, along with a large chunk of our bank account), and covering the sluice. I did the latter, fashioning a plank walkway over it with redwood two-by-fours.

That was in early 1999. Now I know how long untreated redwood two-by-fours at ground level last in a rain forest environment: ten years.

My over-sluice walkway had decayed to the point of disintegration by this summer, so re-building it has been item one on my list of honey-dos this fall. Luckily, the big rains have held off long enough for me to progress on the project pretty much adequately before the sluice becomes a torrent.

I started a few weeks ago, before the first big storm of the season. The above photo shows the old walkway; its unevenness is due to rot in the boxes that support the cross-boards. At the back end of the sluiceway, near the "garage," you can see three new boxes that will ultimately support new crossboards. The walkway/sluice covering is modular to allow easy access to the sluice, which provides an avenue for water pipes to outlying areas of the Fort, such as the chickens' compound and the garden house (note the white pvc pipe in the sluice in some of these photos.)

The first few boxes were temporarily covered with plywood; they will eventually be covered by a lattice of two-by-fours. A new box is ready on the table at left. Some 8-foot redwood 2x4's stand ready to be chopped up, leaning against the chickens' mansion in the background.

Today's work: the two longest sections.

Cross-pieces halfway done. The cross-pieces probably could be made with thinner boards than two-by-fours, but I like the sturdy feel of the thicker wood under my feet. What I can't logically rationalize is my choice of fastener: 2 1/2 inch lag screws instead of nails. That's just how I do stuff; if I were doing this kind of thing for a living, you bet I'd do it cheaper, faster, and more logically. I just like the way a walkway cover box that could support a tank feels. (Somewhere, my Dad -- a fine craftsman in woodwork -- is rolling his eyes.)

Finishing today's job as today's light fades.

There's a certain comfort in knowing when I'll have to do this job again. The first walkway decayed to dangerousness in ten years, so I should probably replace this one in nine. So I'll mark it on my schedule: "re-build sluice cover" in summer, 2018.

When I'm 71.

Maybe I'll rope my son, Adam, into helping me out then. He'll be a mere tyke, still, at 48. But I'll still work the power tools, yeah.

All the while I was working today, our Japanese maple was in my field of view, its exuberant November red catching my vision's periphery. It is planted in the decaying stump of a magnificent old virgin-forest redwood, and it's of a variety called "Sherwood's Flame"... which, of course, is why we bought it at the local nursery.