Shades of Brown.

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

After a morning (or the latter part of it) outside on the ladder, I came inside and poured Starbucks coffee carefully into the McDonalds cup I picked up the other day in Newberry. What kind of retro brand chic is this? Fancy coffee in an unfancy cup (because the Starbucks venti cups—I brought two up north with me—are too biodegradable to hold up in constant use. Two to three fill-ups per day, over nearly a month, and those saying-embossed pieces of marketing are stained with the rich brown of whatever coffee I’ve been pouring into them. Starbucks, Trader Joe’s, and yes, Maxwell House French Roast.

The ‘McCafé’ cup (interesting…absolutely no golden arches branding on these at all) are more styrofoamy…they’re actually some sort of styrofoam/cardboard hybrid…it’s been holding up well for a couple of weeks now. I look down at my shirt and hands, and there, spattered down my front are the other shades of brown that have been the theme of this Upper Peninsula visit.

Most of you know that Sammy’s family’s famed Green Cottage hasn’t been, in fact, green since about 1990…it’s a redwood-stained brownish color, with a faded trim that has become a light chocolate. And as Sammy has been hard at work this month redoing the considerable trim around the window-filled porch…scraping and sanding down past faded brown to 1950s green to some sort of grey leadish dust, carefully filling and layering bright white primer, I’ve been restaining the siding with this redwood-tinted stuff (made in Ohio!) that looks like melted milk chocolate in the five gallon can. The new trim paint Sammy adds as the final coat(s) is a bit darker…it looks like melted Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate in the can. Or maybe UPS brown (what can brown trim paint do for you?)

So, most days here, I’ve been clambering up on an aluminum extension ladder, first with a broom to blast away layer after layer of spiderwebs (you can’t do this in advance…those damn spiders rebuild ’em nightly) then, often, with a damp rag to finish the job and to generally clean the windowsills of crap. Then, I load up a roller and spatter great swaths of milk chocolate on the siding, which absorbs it hungrily. And finally (did I mention I descend from the ladder and walk around and squint at my handiwork for a few minutes between each of these steps) I take a two-inch stain brush and dollop the milk chocolate up and down in the seams (gutters? troughs? The jargon eludes me) between the siding runs and more or less the job is done.

And as a lovely side benefit, I’ve given myself, my hair, my shirt, and the ladder a fine spatter of stain that makes it look like I’ve been sloppily into the Hershey’s syrup.

Oh, one more ‘brown’ that has been a part of this August at the Green Cottage…Connie’s general store, down the road in Helmer, has been carrying a brand of root beer from my childhood…Frostop, which was the name of a handful of root beer stands in Ohio, has been reincarnated by someone called ‘C-B Beverage Corp’ of Hopkins, MN. Go figure, but it’s tasty and more or less as I remember it.

Lock ’em up.

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

We were having a nice glass of wine with Sammy’s cousin Susan and her husband, and Susan added another data point to a disturbing trend: almost everyone we know with 12 inch Powerbooks have had them fail, and the diagnosis, by experts or amateurs, is that it’s dead for good.

The power supply to the logic board expires, or some other ailment causes the machine to “lock up hard,” and most folks take it as a sign that it’s time to get a new laptop.

Adding Susan to our list, we have more than 7 people we know to whom this has happened; ironically our own 12 inch (‘El Libreto’) had a different problem within the first year of its life—the DVD drive went out—and because the Apple store in Atlanta had trouble finding a replacement (or so they said), the nice folks there offered us a new black MacBook in replacement.

It’s interesting that this convenient size (writers in particular seem to love it) has not migrated to the land of Intel-powered MacBooks…it’s more interesting still that those who hung on to the ‘old technology’ are being forced to jump ship.

Burnt to a Crisp Point.

Sunday, August 12th, 2007

One of the side dramas (for us) since coming up north to the fine Upper Peninsula of Michigan is that a big chunk of the north end of the county we’re in—Luce County—is, uh, on fire.
We’re on the south end, so that’s somewhat reassuring, but the consequence has been much like in Atlanta earlier this year when forest fires ravaged the swamplands of south Georgia—the smell of fire is often in the air. Sometimes, at night, the wind will shift and, whoosh!…we’re sleeping inside a campfire. Five minutes later, the air is fresh again.
Like South Georgia, this part of the U.P. is basically swampland, but swampland in a drought is a lot closer to tinder than fire retardent.
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In other news, we’re working hard on renewing the Green Cottage so it can withstand the harsh winters, and as a result a big part of it is actually green again…
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And this sunday’s NY Times magazine has caught up with my excitement (if that is the right word) about the fine, fine new typeface making its way onto freeway signs across the country…and particularly up here in Michigan.