Sunday, August 14, 2011

Father's Day, Brazil

Today is Father's Day in Brazil. A big day for some, an absolutely non-event in my family as I was growing up, although I did start calling my dad on the U.S. version a few years back, to his eternal amazement.

All I really wanted for Father's Day was to go out and work on my big wall, and so that's what I did. The weather cooperated and I made painstakingly slow progress across the top of the wall, completing (I think) the part that requires a ladder on top of my car.

I did get a present from my wife - a... what do you call it? Men's beauty kit? Perfume package a-la-Man? It was a box with a bottle of perfume, a scented soap, scented shaving cream, and a little tool kit with a multi-tip screwdriver, a teeny-tiny tape measure, and a bunch of zip ties. Thanks Evani!

The only problem is I'm really not a perfume guy. This runs in the family, like not celebrating Father's day, or watching sports on TV, or any number of other things. My brother told me that he wore deodorant at my wedding for the first and presumably only time in his life. I think it's not just a family thing, but a regional cultural thing as well- a town I lived in made the News of the Weird because of a decision to section off those who wore cologne at Town Meeting so as not to offend the non-wearers. When I attempted to razz some fellow Western Massachusettsers about this, two of them vigorously defended this decision!

Whatever. Brazil, perhaps because it is less enclosed and stuffy due to its more agreeable climate, abounds in artificial scents of all kinds. Unscented products are pretty much unheard of here, at least in Bahia. When I used to take my clothes to the laundromat, I had to specifically request that they not put fabric softener (cheirinho, or little smell as it is called) in my clothing. Now I've gotten used to it and pretty much ignore it. My wife loves perfume and smells and all that, and I've tried to indulge her. I bought myself a bottle of perfume but I used it so little that it has passed the expiration date. Which is why she got me another bottle. And implored me to start using it.

Sigh. I'm sorry, but this present is really for her, not for me. I really could care less if I smell nice, as long as I don't smell badly. I don't want to use perfume every day. I'll put it on to go out somewhere, but we so rarely go out that I basically never use it at all. And that suits me just fine.

However, I'm sure I'll use the little tool kit. And that has no expiration date.

Monday, August 1, 2011

"Ladder Jacks"

"I cut this board three times and it's still too short."

...which is apropos to nothing, except that I was trying to think of a clever way to say my ladder is too short and that was the only thing I came up with. How about this:

"Hey Kuza, we'll put the ladder on your car to reach the top of the wall!"

That was a joke made by a fellow graffiteiro at an event I attended in Serrinha. I laughed it off, and then this weekend I found myself doing just that.

I used to paint houses during the summers when I was in college. I have found certain things that I learned then to be useful as I paint murals now. My first painter boss was a dipshit who went out of his way to break as many rules as possible- including underpaying his employees. At one really big house, he told the crew foreman to put a ladder up on a picnic table to reach the peak, as the 30 foot ladders we had wouldn't reach. The foreman refused, and dipshit had to spend a lot of money on a 40 foot rental.

When I found myself painting a wall that was taller than my ladder, my first inclination was to only paint as high as the ladder would go, which makes sense. But then, the project got more involved, I decided that the background had to be painted, and suddenly I had to paint those last few feet of wall at the top.

That's when I came up with my 'ladder jacks' solution.

This is a total mis-nomer, as ladder jacks are actually these things you put on a pair of ladders in order to make scaffolding out of them. I think I call this my ladder jack solution because of another insane boss that I had, who wanted us to power wash the paint off of a house rather than scrape it as most sane people do. On top of that, he wanted us to do it from a scaffolding made from ladder jacks. The power washer he rented was so powerful that you needed to brace yourself to keep from getting knocked down by the recoil caused by turning it on, so we refused to use it on the ladder jacks.

So what's your point? you ask, with reason. Well, I figure I'm equating one foolish solution with another. Even though I did think this one out pretty thoroughly and in theory it should work. And in fact, it did work, just fine. So far.

I figured I could put my ladder on top of my car, but not on top of the car itself, which would crush it like a soda can. I could put it on my ladder jacks- I mean, roof racks, providing I had a board adequately secured to them on which to place the ladder. Enter the indispensable c-clamp, times four.

Here it is:

My little ladder works great to get me to the top of the car, and the big ladder works great to get me to the top of the wall.

Ain't I just a genius?

I figured I've carried much heavier payloads on those racks than just my body weight plus the ladder, so as long as I remember to keep the parking brake on I should be good.

So far so good:

Previously the highest point I could reach was the top edge of the red arrow, but now I can get all the way to the top of the wall.

It's slow going, but I'm getting there. And I think it will ultimately make a world of difference in the quality of the mural.

Finally, I've decided to say the hell with it and paint the whole damn wall, top to bottom. No more preserving the stupid political propaganda at the bottom, I'm gonna paint over that as well. They may well paint over me once again, but I'm going whole hog.

One of these years I might actually finish the thing.

And now I need to go scrape the drips of paint off my car.