in Daily Life

A Weekend of Stories

This was one of those rare weekends where we were able to cram in a lot of stuff, and yet I don’t feel overwhelmed, as if I didn’t have time for myself.

Saturday was book group, but on Friday afternoon, I still as only one hundred pages in. Since I chose the book, I figured I’d better get cracking. While Kris went grocery shopping, I climbed into the bathtub to read while soaking. Only I fell asleep.

I was dozing soundly when the phone rang. “Damn it,” I thought. “It’s probably Nick calling from work.” I went back to sleep. The phone rang again. Cursing, I pulled myself from the tub and sloshed naked to the phone. It was Kris. She was at Safeway, ready to pay, but she’d forgotten her wallet. She had, however, remembered her new cell phone.

I got dressed and drove to the store. “What would you have done if I hadn’t answered?” I asked.

“Just kept calling,” she said brightly.


I’ve noted before that I’m not the best person to be using a chainsaw. By nature, I’m clumsy. One might even call me careless and not get an argument.

Still, there are many chores around Rosings Park that are aided by a chainsaw. We have a lot of wood, and while it could be chopped with an axe, that would take several orders of magnitude more time than I’m willing to spend.

The last time with had the Bacon-Flicks and Hampton-Zinnikers over, Chris looked at my chainsaw for me. It had an oil leak, and was altogether Not Right. He opened it up, fiddled with things, and then put it back together. “It should be ready to go now,” he said. “You just need to tighten these nuts.” Well, apparently I forgot to tighten the nuts.

I put the chainsaw away in its case, and forgot about it for months. On Sunday, though, we took advantage of the cool, sunny weather to tackle yardwork. One of our chores was to prune the lilac. We have a monster of a lilac out by the road, and we’re pruning it a little each year. This is our third year of trimming it, and next year should be the last.

To prune, we use our Japanese saw to hack a limb off at the base of the trunk. These are big limbs, though, three or four inches in diameter and very heavy. After Kris has harvested blossoms, I attack them with the chainsaw.

Well, on Sunday I was midway through the first limb when all of a sudden the chainsaw fell apart. No, seriously — it literally fell apart. The sideplate fell off and the thing stopped running (thank goodness). I was stunned. I also felt like I’d just escaped certain death. Eventually I realized that the nuts that hold the sideplate on had fallen out. (And remembered that I was supposed to have tightened them.) Through sheer luck, I found both nuts, and re-assembled the chainsaw.

I spent ten or fifteen minutes cutting up the remaining lilac branches. Just as I finished my final cut, the chainsaw stopped once more. I thought I saw the chain fly off into the bushes at a high rate of speed, and I thought, “Holy cats! I’m lucky to be alive!” In reality, the chain was dangling from the saw — it had kicked off the track. (This is just as dangerous as flying off, but at least it didn’t break.)

“You need to take a chainsaw class,” Kris told me after watching these mishaps. “You’re going to kill yourself with that thing if you don’t.”

She may be right…

On Sunday night, we met Will and Marla for dinner at Gustav’s. We almost didn’t make it.

When I started the car, the gas light was on. (It hadn’t been on the night before.) As we pulled away from the house and started up the hill, my car died almost immediately. “Damn Ford,” I said. I always curse my car when it gives me trouble.

“What’s wrong?” asked Kris.

“It may be out of gas,” I said. “That doesn’t really make sense, though. The gas light wasn’t on yesterday. Fortunately, we were just a few hundred feet from home, so I ran back to get the mower gas can. We got back in the car and started up the hill, but the car died immediately again.

“I’ll get my car,” said Kris. “Just leave your car here. There’s obviously something wrong with it.”

I was still convinced it was just out of gas. I made sure there was no traffic, then put the car in neutral and let it coast backward. While it rolled, I turned the wheel, turning the car to block the road. I opened the door and then gave the car a little push forward, continuing to turn the wheel so that the vehicle pointed downhill. (Basically, I did a three-point turn using gravity and muscle.) I rolled down to our house and parked. Then I tried the engine. It started. I drove around the block to make sure things were okay. They were. We drove off to meet Will and Marla.

Gustav’s isn’t one of my favorite restaurants. I find the selections limiting. Still, the fondue is good (especially with big, soft salty pretzels). Our waitress was a piece of work: brightly painted fingernails, obsequious manner, and an inability to to pass things across the table. When she set out the drink napkins, she sort of tossed them in the general direction they needed to go, but wouldn’t actually set them in front of people. She said things like “Absolutely!” and “Have we decided yet?” When she came back to take our dessert order, she smelled like she’d just smoked a pack of cigarettes.

After dinner, we followed Will and Marla to look at their new house, just past Keizer Sunnyside. It’s a lovely new home built on a hillside. Construction is nearly finished, and they hope to move in by the end of the month (though I keep telling them they won’t be in until June). We walked up the steep stairs to look in the windows. Then Will, on a whim, tried the door. It was open. “Should we go in?” he asked. They’re really not supposed to, but we took a risk. We walked through, admiring the layout and the materials. Will and Marla have selected all the tiles and carpet and paint color. They’ve done a good job.

I look forward to seeing the final product. In June.

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  1. Re: your car.

    I’ve got five mighty dollars that says it’s either the fuel pump or fuel filter, leaning toward the filter.

  2. I thought I read somewhere when I was in school that you had to be chainsaw literate to gain residency in Willamette Valley. (Huh! I live just outside NYC where I think you need a license to use one.)

    I’m with John on the car solution. Car tilted uphill, ran better downhill…you probably figured it out by now. Just an excuse to say ‘hello’.