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  • A couple days ago, I turned 52... Significant only in the fact that I did it. That said, It was a birthday like any other, full of introspection and reflection and appreciation of all that is. Before I begin to relay the events of that particular day, I'd like to take a moment and say a few words about the Gods, Birthdays and how I have managed to celebrate them together. It is in those birthday introspection and reflections that I see the relation between the two. On significant birthdays (those that end with 5 or 0), the Gods have given me gifts... Thank you presents for hanging out as long as I have, and keeping their amusement intact. Their gifts are such that they facilitate the latter... If I give a child a block with the letter A on it, I enjoy watching them chew on it at first, then chuck it across the room, then stack it on another, then say the letter A, then learn that A is the first letter in Apple.. Both parties amused and profoundly effected from such a simple thing. The Gods gifts work the same way but are not as manageable as a block.

    When I turned 20, they showed their confidence in me by giving me sight. At 19 I was the emperor of my universe. At 20, with sight, I could see the universe. When I could see the universe, I discovered that emperors had subjects to tax, and with those taxes, they could pay their bills. With sight, I realized I had no subjects, only bills. By 25, I had settled into my universe, which as Mr Franklin pointed out was like all others comprised of two absolutes... death and taxes

    When I turned 30, they showed confidence in my energy and put a window in the door of my mind. At 29, I could shut that door and sleep to recharge my batteries anywhere, anytime. With the new window I could see out as I tried to drift off... what I saw would inspire a thought, that thought would inspire another and another and before I knew it I was slapping snooze on my alarm clock with my batteries barely charged. At 35, I realized my next good sleep was coming at retirement, a great thing to look forward to.

    When I turned 40, they showed confidence in my physical abilities and they shortened my arms. At 39, I could hold a newspaper and read it, I could grab anything from the top shelf without hesitation. At 40, I had to put the paper on the table and step just out of reach to read it... and top shelf items suddenly became things that required added stretching and the word “ugh”. At 45 I was wearing glasses so my arms looked longer, and going to yoga to figure out how to better use my shortened limbs and breathe (if I did the latter right, the rest of my body would do the work to make up the distance lost in reaching)

    When I turned 50 I'm not sure exactly what they did. I think they changed the distance between wherever I am and the toilet, but I'm not sure. Either that, or they put a foghorn in my bladder, thus displacing half the volume and making the alert signal loud enough to be heard no matter what.
    At 49, I could have a beer or three and go to bed, toss and turn till I slapped snooze (see 30) then stumble on my half charged batteries to the bathroom... At 50... a teaspoon of water before bed will inspire the foghorn going off then the theme song from Chariots of Fire in my head as I race to beat disaster.

    So now I'm 52 and on the day before I turned 52 I had a glass of water before bed, so my 52nd Birthday began with a foghorn and the theme to Chariots of Fire at 4 am... an hour before I could hit snooze.

    When the Gods put me together, they mixed pretty well equal parts of bright and stubborn. They knew when those things work together, I am a force to be reckoned with, and when those things don't work together it creates a force I have to reckon with... A perfect duality: neither brilliant nor an idiot but when in doubt, brilliantly idiotic. As this pertains to the story of my day, as the theme of Chariots of Fire was running through my head while I dashed to upload urine to the city's sewer system, I stepped on a sunflower seed pointed straight up. I am not heavy by any means, but one would figure that my 145 lbs would be enough to crack such a tiny shell. I can tell you that the gods taught me an important lesson in physics in the first few moments of my birthday... The shell of a sunflower is built to survive the forces of nature, and when on end, pointy side up, it can resist the mass of a trotting 145 lb barefoot man. I've stepped on nails, thumb tacks, glass, all sorts of stuff through the years, and I can tell you that a sunflower seed in the soft part of the foot makes my top ten list of painful things to step on. The Gods also let me know that the yoga classes paid off because I realized it is possible to look at the bottom of ones foot, while hopping in pain on the other and pee at the same time. I'm not sure my breathing was very good, but I think a yogi would simply tell me to breathe in the moment.

    Stepping on the seed in the dark at four AM is excusable, the brilliantly idiotic part is how it got to be where it was. Odin put it there. I'm not kidding. Odin is a chipmunk. The house I'm living in is formerly a frat house with holes punched in walls and floors and thus is why I'm there... undoing what has been done, and putting it back together in a way that it can provide shelter for more than just me. That takes time, and I have just begun. A month or two back, I saw a chipmunk outside... I walked inside, and in a few moments I saw him there. My first instinct was to kill the little bugger, but then the bright kicked in, and I figured if I followed him, I would find the hole he came in, and fix it. That worked for five holes, and by then I had gotten so used to him having coffee with me in the morning, I just decided to get the rest of the holes when things warmed up a bit and started feeding him to keep him around as a resource to be used later. Knowing my birthday was coming, I gave him extra rations to help celebrate, and I guess I was one seed over and it wouldn't fit in his cheek, so he generously left it where I was sure to find it for later.

    Wide awake, and walking with a slight limp, my birthday continued, and I began to make coffee. When I was 51, the Gods granted me expert status at making coffee. It took me 30+ years to become an expert coffee maker. I've met baristas, chefs, even know some local roasters. They are all good, but I'll bet few are experts. An expert knows why one does what needs to be done, and knows the consequences. The latter is the tricky part. To know the consequences, one must experience them. I have made coffee without water. I have made coffee without putting the filter in. I have made coffee without grinding the beans. I have made coffee without putting the coffee in the filter (tastes a lot like hot water)... At 51, I finally became an expert and brewed a pot of coffee without a pot. Odin thought the brown river across the kitchen floor was pretty neat.

    At 52, now an expert, I brewed a good pot of coffee, didn't skip a step, and knew why. It was an hour before sunrise, so my first cup of coffee was drunk alone, no Odin, which was good. It allowed me to plot out my day effectively using the extra hour the Gods had given me as a birthday gift. June is my busiest time, so the extra hour was as generous a gift that could be given. The plan was pretty simple... Client 1's house was empty, so I could make noise there and get things done... I would go from there to storage, grab the trailer, go to client 2, pick up construction debris and renter droppings en route to the dump, stop for a snack at home, then to client three, pick up his renter droppings for the dump, go to the dump, then the lumberyard and pickup stuff on the empty trailer for client 4, have lunch, then dive in hard on client 4 project.

    It was a good plan. Because it was my birthday and I had been good to the gods and used their extra hour gift well, it went perfectly. They granted me another gift along the way in the form of a new guy at the dump. His name was Michael and he was as lovely as can be. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer but his cheery disposition, excitement about his new job and willingness to help was incredibly charming. Through the cloud of plaster dust we created he asked “How do you throw a party for the stars?” His question immediately followed by the loud bang of plaster hitting dumpster and a cloud of thicker dust shooting up between us, creating a perfect comic pause. Then, through a huge now grit filled grin he exclaimed “you planet... Get it!?! P-L-A-N-E-T!” and he burst out laughing at his funny. I laughed at the joke as well as the sheer beauty of that person and moment at the good ol' waste transfer station.

    With the trailer loaded with stuff from the lumberyard and a couple brats consumed, I arrived at Client 4 project site at around noon. The project is phase 1 of my summer... a bath kitchen remodel on the third floor... a walk up... on the uphill side of the street. 1300 lbs of stuff at street level needed to get up there and my 145 lb 52 year old frame was thankfully ready willing and able to do it. My age showed right out of the gates as I started. Instead of simply schlepping the stuff up... I staged it... that to be used last, went up first, that to be used first, went up last... all stock left in the hallway just outside the door to keep debris from accumulating. Bright was in charge, the wisdom of my first 51 years showing. Stubborn and the benefit of yoga classes took over while schlepping. The house is a turn of the century single unit that has over the years been cut into three. The top floor a one bedroom and the two lower floors two bedroom apartments. As a consequence of this there are walls were there once were not, which made the transport of 4' X 8' sheets of 5/8” sheetrock and 3/4” plywood pretty interesting. Finally, there was the tub. Not an overwhelmingly heavy object, but a really cumbersome one.

    I got the tub to the second floor without issue. The sequence from the street was... steps, landing, steps, porch, door, door, straight in to the base of the stairs, steps, landing with turn, steps, turn, corridor, turn, steps, landing with turn, steps, fire door at the top, turn, straight in to the apartment. So, the door to the apartment is perpendicular to the front door of the building but to get there one must turn 90 degrees 5 times, twice on stairway landings. All this to be done with an object the size of a small refrigerator. To make this even more fun with a cumbersome object, the stairs taper at each turn. The last step on the third floor is exactly half the width of the first step on the first floor. Being bright, I had measured everything to make sure it would fit. Being stubborn I was able to get the stupid tub to the third floor. Being brilliantly idiotic I had stacked 1200 lbs of materials in such a way that that stupid tub just wasn't going into the apartment at that juncture in time. Back down the stairs the tub and I went.

    At that point I had three or four options. First, was to move the materials pile into the apartment, heft the tub up, then move them back. I wasn't excited about that idea. Second was to leave the tub on the second floor corridor and merely ask the tenants to step around it until I had consumed all the materials upstairs then heft it up... The boss wouldn't like that option, and I knew it. Third was to get the tub to the middle of the stairs, and ratchet strap it to the railing at the landing, then climb around it, consume the materials above, then retrieve it... That probably would have worked, but stubborn took over and decided the tub was going into the apartment then. Stubborn me asked bright me to find an alternate route. With measuring tape in hand, I went to work concocting a scheme. In minutes I had a plan. Down the corridor, out the window at the end on to the front porch roof. Once on the roof, slide it up a ladder to the third floor window and stuff it in the apartment. It wasn't the first time I had done this... In fact, often the shortest distance is the best way to go, and I started beating myself up for not just sliding the stupid thing up a ladder to the front porch roof in the first place.

    With windows removed and the ladder strapped in place, I began sliding the beast up. When I reached the window, I discovered that I had never measured the tub in its box. I knew what its dimensions were out of the box, but in the box, it wasn't going through the window...Thus ended my second assault on the summit. Back down the ladder the tub and I went and on the roof I removed the packaging which transformed the object from a kinda cumbersome rectangle to a really cumbersome big long bowl... a fragile one, easily scratched. I wrapped the top of the bowl in cardboard and duct taped it on, so I could slide it upside down on the ladder. At the top, the cardboard gave way to the top of the ladder, and the edge of the tub caught the window sill. I figured if I shook it enough and pushed hard enough it would work its way over the sill and slide on in. So, I shouldered in, got a good grip, shook like hell and pushed with my legs with all my might and sure enough my legs started straightening out which meant it was going in. I stopped for a breather with the tub resting on my arms on a rung, and looked around. The tub had not moved, it was still stuck on the sill. I looked down... the ladder had gone through the roof up to its first rung... thus ending assault 3 on the summit. With tub and I back down safely on the roof, I found that the roof was the third on top of a rotted deck. I figured that was worth a call to the boss.

    The boss wasn't in the best mood when I called, and my news pushed him over the top... There were profanities, and from what I gathered, he didn't want me on the roof of his building. He wanted me working on the third floor bathroom. The part that the two were related was apparently lost in translation.

    The conversation with the boss added fuel to stubborn and with a piece of ply on the roof, a stick at the top to keep the tub from catching on the sill, up the ladder and into the apartment the tub and I went... It had taken two and a half hours to move that tub less than 100 feet.

    With the tub finally in, I could go to work. The remainder of my time there that day went smoothly. The Gods granted me that after the show I had put on for them. At 8 or so, when I was packing up for the day, they gave me the perfect gift. The boss called. He asked about the roof, I told him I had taken care of it. He then said the most beautiful thing... “If its too much of a pain in the ass to get a tub up there, lets go with a shower stall”. He had snubbed that idea a week prior.

    I told him no, there would be a tub.

    As I drove home, I thought of something the boss had said a few weeks prior as we tried to mow... The weather wasn't cooperating nor were the mowers... When the sun was shining, the mowers broke... the repairs would take just as long as it took for the raindrops to start falling that day. To these happenings he texted “Man plans, the Gods laugh”

    “I guess we should laugh with them” I texted back. He is 52 as well. Emperors of our universe.
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