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September 29, 2008

A Supposedly Fun Thing... (R.I.P. D.F.W.)

Back in July my mother, father, and grandmother came for a visit and to see our new house (tentatively named: "Sandy Carpets"). We had a lovely time, despite the fact that Aimee and I were working or on call most of the time. We also managed to fit in a major home-improvement project- the destruction of the rickety and rusty basketball hoop that stood in the middle of our back yard.

My father is a very handy guy (built a barn by himself, donchaknow), and he brought down his special tools of destruction- a long metal pry bar, some shovels, and a sledgehammer. We dug around the concrete slab that anchored the hoop's pole, pried at it a little, yanked on the pole a little, and with a lusty shout of "Timber!" the hoop came gently down, revealing a 3 x 3 x 3 foot concrete slab. Undaunted, I put on my old goggles from chemistry class and started whacking at the slab with the sledge. Pointy shards of concrete flew everywhere, accompanied by small puffs of dust. I whacked for about fifteen minutes and then paused to assess my progress. The slab lay there in the sun, barely altered by my sledging.

Time for Plan B. We didn't actually have a Plan B, but fairly quickly decided on renting a jackhammer. It is a little surprising what one can rent. Diamond-toothed circular saws for thirty bucks an hour, small front-loaders for forty, and one of those Ditch Witch thingies (they have what looks like a ten-foot chainsaw on one end, a scoop on the other, and perfectly resemble my idea of a post-apocalyptic gladiatorial robot) for sixty. You can just walk in there, sign a form, receive no instruction, and take home a really dangerous power tool. Our jackhammer was a comparative steal at 30 bucks for four hours. (plus gas).

I'd often dreamed of jackhammering as a young boy. It just looked like fun, plus it enabled one to access the secret hidden world that lay beneath the streets and sidewalks. My favorite G.I. Joe villain was Ripper, who was armed only with a chainsaw and jackhammer specially modified for combat.


The grown-up reality, like owning a portable phone or voting, fell far short of the boyhood dream. The jackhammer was painfully loud, heavy, and difficult to employ against the odd angles of the concrete slab. The chisel frequently became stuck, and, for two of the four hours that I had paid for, seemed merely to make decorative holes in the otherwise smugly impervious slab.

Suddenly, however, the dozens of holes I'd hammered reached a critical vacuum, and the slab was suddenly two smaller slabs.

I was leaning heavily on the jackhammer when this happened, and my triumph was fleeting as I suddenly pitched forward into the hole. This became the pattern as I made progress and became increasingly exhausted- I used my back and legs more and more to put weight on the chisel, and therefore fell more frequently into the hole.

And then it was over, with twenty minutes to spare. We buried some of the concrete pieces and Doug, Molly, Mar, and Aimee hauled the rest of the debris, the pole, the hoop, and the backboard out to the landfill. I had fulfilled my fantasy of destroying something with a jackhammer, and the next day limped gratefully back to the office to think about microbes.

Have no fear, I'm not deflated that my boyhood dream turned out to be painful and tedious. And, actually, those brief moments when the slab suddenly gave way were delicious. It's just unfortunate that they were punctuated by sudden, terror-filled flops into a hole full of jagged concrete. No, sometimes it feels good to take a fantasy, hold it up to the light of day, and then toss it over your shoulder.

Also, as a non sequitur, Adelaide really likes to ride in the tire swing, and is happy to share the joy with a somewhat-more-anxious boy.

September 21, 2008

Nature Trail

This weekend, we decided that we'd explore our local nature preserve at Coralville Lake. The Lake and its many recreation areas are a mere ten minutes from downtown, so a visit with a toddler (who still requires her scheduled post-lunch snooze) makes for perfect outing. With Adelaide in tow, we had two mini-adventures on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

Fossil Gorge

So, you may remember that flooding that happened here in Iowa City in May and June of this year ... The waters have now mostly receeded and we were able to take in the delights of the Devonian Fossil Gorge that was recently whitewater. Early Saturday morning, Adelaide deftly moved up and down the long, flat limestone steppes, spotting "old animals" captured in the rock. We walked the length of the gorge, from the spillway to the Iowa River, about a 1/2 mile.

Mushroom Hunt

On Sunday morning, after causing a mild interruption of an ongoing Triathalon in getting to the trailhead, we found ourselves in a quiet wood. We could see signs of Autumn: leaves are turning yellow, acorns are falling, and a young fawn's spots are fading. But the real highlight of this morning's walk was the plethora of mushrooms along our trail. We saw fancy red-capped ones with spikes, pumpkin-colored orange shelf ones, strange, curly white ones, and tiny little brown families of mushrooms peering out of hollow trees. We had great fun pointing them out, and Adelaide quickly learned the custom of the trail compliment, saying "Good eye, Mama!" when I pointed out a new sight.

September 7, 2008


K&Cha-Cha at Amana

Kelli, Cha-Cha, and Fred visited us in our new home last weekend ... We had a blast strolling through Amana, playing board games, making and eating elaborate meals, and generally having a lot of laughs.

Snoozy Fred