Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Tetanus Burger 2010 Year-In-Review

Well that's probably a bit of a pretentious title, especially given that we only started the blog in June; still, it seemed a good idea to make a post of what-all we've got done in 2010, with pictures and everything, so that we (and you) can see right there in front of us, on 'paper' as it were, all we did. We are, I am, I think, not used to even being able to make progress; so setting it down as undeniable reality is a very useful and encouraging thing.

We'll start with the cars, with Rusty's countdown. The original idea behind all this clean-up was specifically to get the yard clean, as that is the visible part (well, visible to people who don't live here, anyway). I had originally (ha!) set the deadline for the end of the year, but, really, I kinda knew that wasn't going to happen, as we would have had to get rid of one car a week (and that's not even considering the rest of the stuff in the yard). At any rate, though, such high ideals very much did get the whole project kick-started.

So there were twenty-six cars in the yard, garage, and various outbuildings when we started all this; there are now twenty-one. Here they are put together in a lovely end-of-year montage. You'll have to imagine the suitably poignant, yet nevertheless inspiring music, perhaps 'We Are The Champions' by Queen. Although, 'Junk' by Paul McCartney is really more like it:

That's right, Saabs (and the lone Volkswagen): Rusty say GOODBYE!

And here are the pictures that really bring it on home how much progress we've made, and how much space we've cleared, gathered up in a before and after set. It's not all of it, either, as I didn't get photos of everything. Even so, it's an impressive array. Music to play in your head for this set: 'Take Out The Trash,' by They Might Be Giants.

And then there were all the iron and 'precious' metal runs. Here are all the butt-end of Larry pictures, (with and without bumper) with the occasional new Beetle and old Bus included, gathered up into one. Theme music for this montage: 'Iron Man', by Black Sabbath. Of course.

That's a lot of iron hauled. Let's see just how much, shall we?

I've found sixteen receipts for iron and precious metals, though I could only find fourteen pictures; probably I've missed one, or the iron/precious metals were doubled up in one load here and there. So in 2010, in the 'precious' metals category, we got rid of:

255 pounds of motors
178 pounds of sheet aluminum
142 pounds of batteries
124 pounds of brass
114 pounds of copper wire
42 pounds of irony aluminum
22 pounds of stainless steel
21 pounds of magnesium
19 pounds of lead
15 pounds of copper
4 pounds of iron on brass
And a catalytic converter in a pear tree

Well, okay, more like buried by leaves under a catalpa tree. Still, close enough.

And the total for the iron part of it all:

12,260 pounds, or 6.13 tons since about June of this year. Let's call that something like a ton a month removed. That's pretty freakin' impressive.

And even more impressive: $1724.32 just for the iron. When we include all the cars hauled away and what we made at that Volkswagen event in October it comes to a total of $3321 (and thirty-two cents).

Wow. It can be done.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


Well look what I made. This, my friends, is called reclaiming.

They're from a Martha Stewart recipe, these gingersnaps. I figured if there's anyone out there who knows about making a home comfortable, and comforting, it's going to be her. I mean, ignoring the part about how she's probably been patiently constructing an evil empire and has plans to take over the world someday (though she'll probably have to fight Oprah for it) old Martha does know how to cook. They've got fresh ginger in them, rather a lot; they even have a little bit of freshly ground black pepper, for just the right amount of bite. The molasses in them turns them practically into candy, and they've got a really good crunch. And I'm no slouch myself when it comes to baking. They are neither overcooked nor undercooked; they are just right, as Baby Bear would say. So these are really quite excellent gingersnaps, I'm sure.

And this was going to be all about reclaiming something, and taking a bad old memory and triumphantly turning it inside out and making it mine; except, except.

I took one bite and just went blech. Because it turns out I just don't like gingersnaps.

Ah well. I guess that's good to know.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Crappy Holidays

This is a post I've been meaning to write for a while now, about my father and what his miserly bastard ways meant for the holidays. Any of you from dysfunctional families will I'm quite sure recognize just how not fun the holidays can be. Especially given the prevailing attitude of how the holidays are expected to be about family and closeness and happy puppy rainbow harmony et cetera ad nauseum and all that, and isn't it all lovely and ho ho ho light a candle blah blah. Which also of course means that if yours isn't, meaning, if your family is, well, kind of fucked-up, you're also pretty much expected to shut up and swallow it so you're not harshing anyone else's happy family holiday buzz.

Yeah, well fuck that noise. Crap but I hate denial. Sunshine, truth, and openness are the way to healing, I have found over and over and over again. So.

My father was a miser; I believe I may have mentioned this a time or two. His OCPD need for control, as well as his OCPD focus on his own self meant that he had little concept that people other than himself (like his own children, say) had needs. And if he did occasionally have a little concept that they might in fact have needs (usually yelled into him by my mother), he could only assume that those needs were just like his own. This is a little tricky to navigate, you understand; because although I know that this inability was due to something he could not at all help, his personality disorder, I also know that it made things, well, hellish and impossible for the rest of us. So on the one hand there is: he couldn't help it. And on the other: it did incalculable damage to the people around him.

Perhaps I simply need to put it in a little bit of perspective. Perhaps, also, there is the sort of general opinion of hoarding as a harmless personality quirk. Hoarders are simply eccentric, right? Luckily I think that is finally changing, with the advent of TV shows like Hoarders, which, I reiterate, I have never seen, and it's just as well. I can't promise I wouldn't fire a bullet into the TV screen, Elvis-style.

But that perspective: I need to, I think, keep in mind that other personality disorders include Narcissistic Personality Disorder (though strict Freudian spelling says it ought to be 'Narcisstic', I mean, not that I'm a fan of Freud; the best description I've ever found for the man is simply 'dickhead,' as in, that was entirely what his brain was preoccupied with) and Antisocial Personality Disorder. And no one argues that these things can not be extremely harmful to the people around them, especially when one considers that Antisocial Personality Disordered people can include, say, serial killers.

Anyhow. So he was a miser. This affected plenty of things, of course, like keeping the house at a toasty 55 degrees in the winter, not wanting to spring for supplies for installing the water heater (which water heater someone actually gave him), the state of the yard, as he regularly brought stuff home from the dump (hey it was FREE!), and, and this is a big one, the food of the house.

Now, it doesn't help that my mother is, truly, the worst cook in the world; but even Mrs. Lovett would have been hard pressed to make a decent meal out of what my father thought adequate. It wasn't so much that he'd always buy the same cheap things, one green pepper, a pack of anemic-looking winter tomatoes, canned peas, a pack of chicken thighs, but that I swear they'd go food shopping and somehow come home with no food. I don't understand how this can be possible, even now.

I'm a freelance artist myself, which, alas, true to stereotype, is not exactly the most lucrative business in this society; and so I certainly know how to be frugal, and what it's like to not have the money to spend on much food in the first place. Still, though, I know how to shop for groceries, and to make the most of what I can afford. And so I've come to look rather askance at my parents' protests of But we can't afford it! from my childhood. I'm not sure I believe it, frankly. Like I've mentioned before, we were never on, say, food stamps or free lunches at school when I was a kid, and if we were that desperate that we couldn't afford heat, hot water, a decent amount of food, you know, the basics, don't you think we would have qualified? And so I suspect that simply no one could be bothered. That is damning, I know, and implicates my mother as well; but I don't see any other conclusion.

Of course I didn't know any of this at the time. But looking back on my childhood I see now that I really was an extremely thin kid; also, I recall that I had been treated for anemia several times over the years. This is undernourishment, no? Very probably.

So we didn't really have enough food. And so we certainly never had any fun food. We had ice cream once in a while, it's true; but that was because my father really loves the stuff and so in a way that was all about him. True, we did benefit from that a bit, which is good. But otherwise we only rarely had cookies, or fun stuff like that, and never candy, though my mother would always talk about how it was a bad thing to forbid children from having candy, because then when they grew up they would buy all the candy they never had and so get fat. Rank bullshit, that, by the way.

Somewhere in there, though, my father got in the habit of buying a weekly box of generic gingersnaps from the discount grocery store.

Okay. You have to understand a couple of things here. We didn't like gingersnaps, we kids; my father did. I believe part of his decision in buying them (beside the cheapness of the things) was that he figured no one would want them but him, and so he could have them all to himself. Well, he was mostly right. Truth be told, those gingersnaps were just awful. I can guess the recipe:

2 cups fine sawdust
1/2 cup molasses
Pinch ginger

Lay out a sheet of waxed paper on a cookie sheet.

Mix all ingredients together, then drop by spoonfuls on the cookie sheet. Press flat with the bottom of a greased jar; then bake in a 200˚ oven for a couple of weeks to harden up. Store indefinitely.

They were break-your-teeth horrible.

They were also the only sweet thing in the goddamned house.

So my sister and I would eat them. Not out of any kind of joy, mind you, but because they were the only vaguely treatish thing there ever was, and we were desperate for something with some sugar in it. Because we were kids, you know?

And my father would complain, of course. He would say 'the mice' had been into his cookies; I assume at the time he thought he was being funny, but, you know, it's kind of nasty. First, that's saying that those are intended for him and him alone and we kids didn't deserve anything fun; also it compared us to vermin. So fuck you, dad, as usual.

But we ate them. It was all there was.

But back to the holidays. Guess what we got for Christmas that year?

That's right. One box each of those atrocious cheap gingersnaps from my dad, all wrapped up with a bow. I wanted to scream and rage and cry, and then kill him. But I didn't. Because there was no point. He obviously thought he was so clever. I'd say smug, almost, except I don't think he was really capable of that; that would require some inkling, some acknowledgment that what he was doing was really rotten, and he just couldn't see it. But I still hated him for it.

You know what we really would have liked? A package of fucking Ring Dings.

I know. How immeasurably sad.

A Visit From Rusty

Why would you look who popped in to say hi yesterday? It's good ole Rusty Jones, spreading holiday cheer. Rather like Santa Claus, I suppose, except instead of bringing things, Rusty takes things away; but given that Rusty takes away the old, the rusty, the junky, the rotting, that which needs to go, he serves much the same function of bringing joy. Ah, good old Rusty. I love him so, even though soup-strainer mustaches are not usually to my taste.

So yes, yesterday the junk guys came and removed another rusty old rusty hunk of rusty rust that may or may not have once been a car; once upon a time it had been a powder blue Saab 96, so I hear. It was so rusty that I believe a photograph of its mismatched red hood has provided the graphic for the masthead above. I suppose that means it will always live on in our hearts, right?

Uh yeah, wev, as the kids these days say.

Surprisingly enough the junk guy actually gave us $250 for it; Tara generously handed most of that over to me, the hope being I'm pretty sure that I would then go buy holiday presents, mostly for her. Hmmm. So there may have been another tiny bit of a motive in there. Still, it's all good.

I wasn't around for when they hauled the thing out of there; Tara did get photos on her phone, which she said she would email me, but it's apparently slipped her mind and I am impatient in wanting to crow about the progress around here. So I got an after shot at least from the window of my studio.

The before picture is one from the summertime, taken out the same window. Some things have been shuffled around a bit since, but it's about right:

And the after. You can see a lot more of the stuff now since the leaves are off the trees and aren't screening the actual state of things. Still, there has been progress over there. The pile of doors leaning on the corner of the shed has been moved out from behind the shed, to be taken away in another iron run in the bus on a hopefully warmish day.

Oooh! Now I get to update the sidebar, too! Very excellent. So that means we are now at five down, with twenty-one to go. A bit slower than I would have liked, perhaps, but progress is progress, and, with my father no longer here, there is at least no backsliding.

Even though it is a huge and painstaking job, it is only and always getting better.

Addendum: Ha! In an amusing little bit of unintentional reverse psychology, not long after I got this post up Tara of course emailed me the pictures she took (although, I don't know that she actually saw this post, so maybe it's merely coincidence). So here they are, and you can see the kind of 'mint' condition this vintage 'car' was in:

That second one is quite artsy, don't you think?

And here's the thing being taken away. Mr. Junk Guy looks a little dubious. I can't say I blame him, really.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It's Scraptastic!

Did another iron run today, though we hadn't sorted or cleared anything out beforehand. Tara, in fact, was rather doubtful that we'd even be able to get enough together without some deeper preliminary sorting. I wasn't, because I at least know that there is always more. And sure enough there was still plenty of stuff just laying around outside and in obvious places to make a respectable iron run out of. Here's the usual Larry shot (and, yes, we were very appreciative today that he has heat, and good heat at that):

When we got around to the back of the scrapyard and the huge pile of iron (just one, incidentally, of the many huge piles of junk they have there that turn over so fast that even going there on consecutive days the place is always different) the guy there, who evaluates and then I guess radios back up to the front what people unload, and with whom we've had some minimal conversations before, asked in disbelief Is this all from that one house still? And we had to answer, Why yes, yes it is.

So we brought another nine hundred pounds even of iron to the scrapyard today; that brings the totals now to 24,840 pounds, or 12.42 tons of iron removed from the property since we've been keeping track. Yes, we hit twelve tons today.

And... well, you know what I was going to say, don't you?

Friday, December 10, 2010


Yes, we're alive, for those of you who were wondering. There's been a bit of a hiatus as far as the de-hoarding goes, for several reasons. One, all that Thanksgiving stuff (which translates into a lot of cooking for me, as my mother is The Worst Cook In The World, and, really, for the health and safety of all it's best that I do it), two, Tara's had a bunch of other commitments, and three, it got really freakin' cold here all of a sudden, and it's just no fun working in the unheated garage and shop in New England winter temperatures. I mean, not that it's technically even winter yet, but yikes; Tara said it went down to six degrees (Fahrenheit!) last night.

Which makes today's iron run nothing short of heroic (or unbelievably stupid, more like). The next batch of things, as in, the easiest to get to, since we're at a point where to continue in the garage and shop we have to shuffle some things around first, was a load of old Volkswagen doors that had been sitting out in back of the shed. But the thing about those is that though they're pretty bulky, they're also comparatively light. So putting them in Larry the Volvo station waggon wasn't going to get us very far very fast; what we needed was something larger and emptier to fill up. So, Tara's been futzing around with that old VW bus of hers, with an eye to not only fixing the grindy bearings in the back but also to see if she might get a smidgen of heat going in the thing.

Now, I know, believe you me, oh ho, I know, I just used 'old VW' and 'heat' in the same sentence. I know it because I've fucking lived it for years, as the only cars we had growing up were old Volkswagens, and, my father, of course, being not just OCPD and so never interested in fixing something more than half-assed jerry-rigged to begin with (that is, if he actually deemed it a 'necessity', and, trust me, his threshold for such was bizarre—having a working car, yes, he did consider that a necessity; having a working water heater in the house, not so much), was as far as I've ever heard, also a crappy mechanic to boot. So heat in a car was something completely unheard-of when I was a kid. I think I just sort of assumed it wasn't really possible to heat a car. Getting into a friend's mother's car, where it was actually warm inside, was a revelation. As was the fact that windshields actually have these things called defrosters, and that scraping ice off the inside of the windshield is not actually common, normal, practice.

And so of course I simply cannot in good conscience recommend an old VW to anyone. However, if that's what people love, I do try to reserve judgement, or at least not voice my disgust out loud to the freaks out there who completely irrationally and against all that is good and decent seem to like the things.

But, these people exist. And because they are irrational and I don't know, naïvely trusting or something (or because they live in southern California, dude, and heat that kinda-sorta works is plenty), they have come up with various, er, aftermarket techniques, ones that can supposedly actually get the interior of those things up to lukewarm. Though it remains to be seen if it can handle New England temperatures. (Tara's friend J, the one who rebuilds old VW engines, told us a story the last time he was here of driving back from Vermont in his bus one winter night. He said that about half-way home he started to consider lighting the passenger seat on fire. He was completely serious.)

So Tara's been messing around with the heat on the thing, putting in a couple of newish boxes, buying insulation to run around the pipe which goes from all the way in the back (where the engine is, kids), under the floor (i.e., pretty much outside) then to somewhere, I'm not quite sure where, to the frontish part of the thing. She even told me that she had some success.

So, we loaded up the thing with doors off other Volkswagens, to be crunched up and melted down for scrap. See:

There was also a giant cast-iron cement mixer in there, behind those doors, that even actually worked; but, too bad. There is simply not enough need to keep the thing. And no, potential need does not count.

We did feel kind of bad for the bus. It was being used for the gruesome task of hauling severed and rotting body parts from other, fellow, old Volkswagens. That's got to be traumatic.

But it had its revenge. While Tara proudly went on and on (for a while, anyway) about the lukewarm bit of air blowing out behind the seats towards the back of the thing (yes, that's how it works), we were coming to really feel another part of the equation: the permanent air-conditioning the thing has built in, of a type that is always on.

By which I mean stuff like this:

Yes, that's Tara's leg sticking out through a hole in the side big enough to lose a small child through; there are also plenty of other holes in say the nose of the thing, right where your legs usually are. And the faster we went, the more the outside air came in. It was not just a draft; it was a proper breeze, wind, even; we very likely would have been warmer if we'd just rolled the windows down.


But we got there to the scrapyard, dammit, even though it took longer than usual as the thing just doesn't go all that fast, and unloaded it in back, all the while wondering (well I wondered, anyway) if we shouldn't just leave the bus too and hitchhike back; though I didn't say this out loud as Tara might be one of the above-mentioned freaks. Bless her heart, as they say in the south.

So that's another 720 pounds of iron, to make the total iron removed from this property (since we've been keeping track, anyway) 23,940 pounds, or 11.97 tons. And yes, there's still more, though, dammit next time we're taking the Volvo, because, even though that thing is astoundingly inadequate in the snow, at least the Swedes know how to do heat.