Of tall ships and taller buildings
Of course, except for one small mud puddle, there is no water to be seen for miles and miles and miles. From my lofty, but unstable, perch I can see the distant horizon 360 degrees around me.
Yes, like an idiot, I am on top of my Ramada trying to attach a smooth layer of shade cloth. Now for those of you who live in more moderate climates, I need to tell you what a Ramada is. The back porch of our house is about 16x16 feet. It sits near the edge of the hill and commands a pretty decent view, if I say so myself. Towering over it, almost ten feet high is the Ramada. It is a roof of sorts, made up of closely spaced 2x6 timbers. Its job is to provide shade and make outdoor living spaces usable in the hot New Mexico summers.
Mine has had it’s share of troubles. First, it was built by a guy who probably had never built one before. No, not me. This dates back to the days when I could hire people to do stuff I’m incapable of or ill-inclined to do.
A proper Ramada would have it’s posts dug into the ground and securely cemented in place for all time, making it a truly rugged structure. Mine is attached to the surface of the deck with cheesy aluminum brackets. Hundreds of pounds of timber thus sway frightenly in high winds.
All of that said, if the whole thing was going to come crashing down, it would have done so by now.
At some times of the day the Ramada does it’s job of casting shade. Most of the time, however, it casts stripes of shade. Some people grow grapes or roses, or some sort of plants over the top to add more shade. Quite a few years ago we opted for reed cane. Worked great. Looked great. My 100-pound-soaking-wet handy man put the reed cane up for me.
Over the years the reed cane was wiped out by wind, hail, and relentless sunshine. Leave a diet soda can in your window in New Mexico for a month and the paint will disappear, leaving you with a half-shiny can.
Having other things more pressing to worry about, I took the easiest course of action on the Ramada. I did nothing.
Now that the background is almost set, we can get back to the story with only more little detour. We need to talk about vice. I’m down to only one: overpriced coffee. Yes, I am addicted to Starbucks. All my other vices have fallen to the wayside. I was thinking the other day that it is pathetic to only have one vice, so I opened up my vice closet and dusted off one of my favorites. I’ve started smoking a pipe again.
When I was about 15-years-old I came home one night smelling of cigarette smoke. Instead of blowing a gasket, my mother calmly said, “I’ll bet if you asked your father for a pipe for Christmas, he’d buy you one.” Pipe smoke is “puffed,” not inhaled to the lungs so while not exactly good for you (and vice shouldn’t be); it is quite a bit less dangerous than other types of burning tobacco.
So I got up my courage and asked my pipe-smoking college professor father for one, and sure enough, he bought me a pipe for Christmas. I still have that one. But my favorite pipe I bought from a gypsy woman in Granada, Spain, the next year. It has a sort of Celtic-style carving, is just the right size and shape to suit me, and smokes well.
When I got up on a rare lazy morning recently it occurred to me that it would be delightful to read the final chapter in Thom Hartmann’s Screwed, the Undeclared War Against the Middle Class on my back porch with a cup of Starbucks French Roast and a pipe of Black Cavendish. Whereupon I found my self constantly turning this way and that to keep the part of the page I was reading in one of the stripes of shadow.
It was time to do something about the Ramada.
The book, by the way, I highly recommend. Just take your blood pressure medicine first.
So off to Home Depot we went for a shade solution, and found a very reasonably priced roll of shade cloth, that according to my calculations on my PDA came within a few square feet of being just the right size for the job.
I also bought some special metal tacks for attaching the shade cloth. They’d make the Spanish Inquisition proud. They are stamped in sheets of five each and you have to break them apart. Even wearing heavy leather gloves I skewered my finger with one. Bled for almost six hours before I could get it to stop.
Anyway, I sun-screened up and ventured out on the metal roof of the house….hot-hot-hot-hot-hot. Ouch-ouch-ouch-ouch-ouch!!!! And then onto the Ramada. I’m not really afraid of heights. Or dying. But dying by falling off a high place is pretty low on my list of things I want to do.
I had no established protocol for how to move around on the top of this thing. You can’t really walk. Any one beam is not necessarily stable enough to stand on. And they are just too far apart to stand on two at once.
After some hit and miss experimenting, that luckily didn’t involve falling off the Ramada into the cactus gardens below, I settled on a course of action that involved me straddling three beams, and letting my feet and lower legs dangle. Sort of like riding a horse.
I worked my way around the top, using a hammer to pull out all of the large staples used to attach the now long-gone reed cane. Then I hammered in the lose nails. Then the real trouble began. The six foot roll of fabric was folded in half. I’m all the way out at the very edge. Nothing but space and a broken neck below me. I’m trying to get the first edge established. I’ve got the roll in my lap. Tupperware container of tacks balanced on a timber. Hammer at the ready. The sun is blazing down and a light breeze kicks up to flap the cloth in my face.
Which is when I knew what it must have been like for my sea-faring ancestors, perched precariously high upon the masts of their clipper ships. Brave dudes.
Anyway, as you might have guessed as I survived to write this, so I didn’t kill myself. Hammering for hours while scampering around on beams also put me in touch with the spirit of all of the brave souls that built the early skyscrapers.
Anyway, this does actually have a point to it. Trivia Question for all of you: I spent almost five hours in the blazing sun doing much harder manual labor than usual, plus a wee bit of stress. How many finger sticks do you think I took?
With my handy-dandy CGM, I was able to keep an eye on my BGL the entire time. Amazingly it stayed stable. My theory: the extra adrenaline hit was balanced out by the exercise. Or visa versa if you prefer.
So I have my quibbles with the pump (putting it mildly); but I remain a committed fan of the MedT CGM product. Either the sensors have gotten better or I’ve gotten better at using them. I’ve not had one fail since I re-started using them this spring. I’ve also not had one fail to be scary-accurate. The damn things are really, really, really good. So long as you calibrate in calm water and calibrate rarely the results are simply amazing.
Why the (insert your choice of expletives here) insurance companies can’t see the power of this product and its benefit to their bottom line is beyond me. Seems like second grade math to me. D-folk with constant feedback on their BGLs can exercise superior control and safety. That means less complications and fewer late-night ER visits. That means less money going from insurance bank accounts to hospital bank accounts. Makes me want to scream.
Well, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll climb down off of my soap box now, fill my pipe with a pleasant Cavendish, and enjoy my shade.