Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Here's the Problem Right Here

My pool was turning green so Nathan said he'd help me take the huge heavy hulking filter out to clean it out and we did it and the filter got all cleaned out, hosed off by me, and we put it back in. The next day my pool was better but still cloudy and arrgh, so I had to take the filter out again which requires unscrewing a tiny bolt which takes FOREVER  and then emptying like titanic amounts of water and lifting heavy paneled, keg sized, dirt filled filter, hefting it out. But I do it. I hose it again. I decide it is time to take it to the pool store to make sure nothing is broken on it, because after 14 years as the lone pool man here at my house, I know that it is the filter that isn't working, why the pool is green.

So I take Nathan and his friend Dylan who are always up for lifting heavy things and going to boring places like pool stores, and I take Lilly who is 10 and can't be left home alone (much), and we go to the pool store.

There are two dudes in there, one sort of fattish one and one sorta blackish one. There is also a pool basketball hoop and no one else in the store.

The dudes take the filter to the back, and Nathan and I follow while Lilly and Dylan immediately begin to ravage the store with a cutthroat game of display centered basketball.

"Oh here's your problem right here," the fattish one says, pointing out what looks like a rip in the filter. We touch it with fingers and the rip turns out to be just some pool dirt. He keeps looking, turning the filter over. "Oh, this is loose," he says, showing where a part of the filter may or may not have come out of alignment. He starts getting a wrench to loosen the one bolt on the filter, to fix this problem.

Nathan and I have been to this pool store before, a year ago, where a girl took apart the filter, brought out new panels that it needed, and then for an HOUR could not for the LIFE of her figure out how to put it back together.

Nathan looked over at me as they two dudes took the long bolt out of the filter, and began taking all the panels apart, peeling it apart like a giant artichoke Chinese puzzle.

At this point, a flash of panic is rising in both Nathan and I. And because Nathan is 17 and doesn't care that much about panic, and because I have decided not to jump in and direct and manage this oncoming disaster, we both decide to just see what these guys can do. Maybe it ISN'T going to end like the last time we were here, with that girl.

I sit down on a few giant white sacks of diatomaceous earth, shockingly comfortable when you decide you aren't going to put out this fire. Giving up is so easy. Look, there's even a soft place to sit.
"Here's your problem right here," the guy points out, as a chunk of DE dirt plops onto the ground as they take another leaf of panel off. Nope, I'm thinking. That's just dirt. But the clump is reassuringly large. Hey man. Maybe they know what they're talking about.

The guys take all the panels off. Now the filter is completely taken apart. It did resemble a complicated, cylindrical flower. Now its petals are all these curvy rectangles, strewn around on the floor haphazardly, disorganized, in a situation Nathan and I know too well. Getting the flower reassembled, bro, this is a bitch.

They examine every panel. There are no rips or tears. There is no broken stem, as they say. Good news, since this filter cost about $400 to fix last summer. It should last, and apparently it has.

Now the good boys of the pool store have decided it's time to put the thing back together.

Nathan wanders over standing exactly like he used to stand as a 2 year old, and stare at inept people. His arms limp at his sides, his chin out, silent. People working are interesting to Nathan. Except now, at 17, he knows something. He knows they're idiots.

I still do not move from my pile of DE. I hear the other two kids throwing the basketball and screaming happily. I wait for them to break something. The guys have put the panels back on and are wrestling it like an 80 pound trout to get the bolt back on. They have put it together wrong. They take it apart again.

Nathan and I watch. They put it together again. They turn it upside down. They take parts off. They put it on a table. They can't get it to line up. The flower petals seem longer. Why isn't this working. I sense the basketball game is becoming sweaty and on the verge of disintegrating. That feeling I'd get when my kids were toddlers and the ultimate breakdown was coming after 20 minutes of perfect behavior. We're skating on the edge of everything ending badly. I wait and wait some more. Then the  time is up. Doing nothing has not worked. It has just stolen time, I've done death row at the pool store. Not doing everything yourself? It's amusing, but it isn't worth it.

Nathan and I quietly step in to right this filter ballet, mangled by morons. We glide in, pool mentors, with hands brave and uncomplicated by matching khaki pants that must be where the brain stopped functioning with the two dudes. They LOOK like professionals. They have the PANTS.

But no.

Nathan and I quietly take apart the filter they have assembled wrongly. Nathan finds a video on youtube. A video of someone else who also can't put together his filter. We know the pool, and the filter. It is in our blood. We slowly put the panels back on, fitting them into the holes, and the gaps. We feather the panels straight. We fumble slightly, but then we're back on track, just like the Jamaican Olympic Bobsled Team. We fit on the little top, which also has to be weaved carefully with the panel tops. Everything in its little grooves. We put the bolt back in, and Nathan tips the whole filter carefully so we can line it up with the bottom cap. The blackish guy is a believer, and he has an open mind. He helps. The other guy, he just stands helplessly, washed away in the pool store universe where he'd be best hands off, answering the phone.

Nathan is laying on the floor with the filter on his face, finishing tightening the bolt while the helpful guy holds the top.

"Now I see why they pay $100 to clean these out," the helpless dude says from off to the side, puffily.

I blink at him, from the floor of the store. You should be paying ME $100 bucks.

The sweaty basketballers come check to see if we can leave yet. Since it's been a long hour.

We are done. We heft the filter out the door, cheerfully thanking them.

At the car, Nathan and I heave it back in the backseat. Those guys were idiots, we grin.

We weren't sure we did it right. There seemed no other way to do it. I stuck the filter back in the tank at home. The filter works great now. The pool is clear. 

Next year, I know what the problem is.

Monday, May 07, 2018

All Your Lives in One Basket

Four years subbing and I am now itching for something new. It was challenging, it's now just a job, and inside of me things are rewiring. Where am I going? I'm itching.

Everything is running ahead of me - kids getting old and running off soon. I'm having feelings of running off. I think it is me inside, ballooning to a bigger self. I shall take the noon balloon and see where I land.

I'm Dorothy and there's the basket, and I have the dog and I got in the balloon basket and all I have to do is let go. Of course, where does she go? She goes home.

Maybe you can't outrun yourself when you're trapped in a life that has never let you down. But there are all those other lives. I want all the lives, in my basket.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Fork in the Toaster

In the art room with Ms Alice, we had the class I was subbing doing clay. The art room is a new thing, a whole room dedicated to getting messy, all the regular school day stuff cleared away to make room for only creative, open, living mess. Finally a room I understand.

Dubious, though, because twenty five 6 year olds with lumps of wet clay… It would be dubious with one 6 year old with a lump of clay. The amount of squish, and disaster and tragedy if it goes wrong and mess.

But Miss Alice is in charge, and she’s from Kentucky, all that blue grass, and she is artistic and yet strong, if she says we can do it, so I can merge into her and we can play these kids like our band, lopsided maybe, but clay can always be lumped back together and started over.

So we’re flattening clay into a little rectangle, there’s a paper with a large rectangle drawn on and they get to try and flatten their piece to the shape of the rectangle. There’s a clean paper for everyone. There’s water you can dip your fingers into to soften your clay. There’s a little wooden tool at each place for cutting, soft, light wooden knife like the kind Indians would carve carefully.

Most of the kids flatten their clay and try and reach the edges of the rectangle. Two of the kids just keep putting on water until they have a soggy lump and they just keep squeezing it and squeezing it. Keith does this. Of course he does this, he is the smallest kid in the class, he is smart but his youth is busy, the wiring zapping his body around to do things and say things and be all things at once. He is the most annoying, and perhaps the most still growing directly from the ground, zinging upwards. Annoying because he requires the most tending, fencing, reining in.  Fork in the light socket, because what would happen if?

We get the rectangles flattened, and then we press an insect mold into it, push hard, make fossil type impressions. They will become butterfly feeders, to hang on the fence, to collect dew for butterflies to land on and drink. It doesn’t matter what they are, or if they are perfect, or what is perfect with lumps of clunky clay hanging on a fence. What matters is, is the making fun, does it feel good, are you seeing yourself in the result, are you part of something bigger, creation.

I’m cleaning off little clay covered hands, and looking over at Keith who has to have his redone because he made the biggest mess. The majority of kids are getting their pieces to hang on the fence, lining up, chattering, like normal kids do. I hear Ms Alice saying Keith, I know you used the most water and added it to your clay and we made a little bit of a mess, but what that means to me is maybe you are an artist. Artists like to feel things. The free thinking Ms Alice, she can name things and see things others can’t. My heart breaks a little, because Ms Alice says the one thing that has flowered, and burdened my life forever. The feeling of things.

I don’t have to look at Keith to know he is up to his elbows in white clay, and that his clay is still a ball of complete goo in his hands and that he is squishing it. He is six and he won’t remember this day or this mess or the details of this room. He doesn’t have to worry about the 24 other kids or the fence waiting for us to put the clay on, or dinner to make, or working on his marriage. He is feeling the clay, because that feels good, and that is it.

The most annoying kid because he’s the one fully invested. I take them out to the fence, try to funnel them to the next step and they are all fairly responsible, some squabbles. But we are all these firings of thought and feeling and daylight and planes flying overhead and butterflies lofting past at random moments. Groups of children are impossible, unless they are singing.

I go to bed that night thinking about what Ms Alice said, in the middle of her work day. We aren’t getting paid that much, and there is so much chaos, and the neatness of the art room became the mess of the art room, but her thought was pure, and our art came out the way art comes out, okay, smashed, lumpy, funny, twisted. Occasionally we get the pure moment, in the midst of the chaos, of the most difficult person, with his arms wet with white mud, and his clay slobby and nowhere near successful or finished, and yet that’s what we’re doing it for, not the result. The experience.

Fork in the toaster. What would happen if. Maybe we don’t need death, exactly. But curiosity. Curiosity is science, and art, and thought, and living.