Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Recent Events in Photos

  Life does have its interesting moments, here are a few.

Evani's new living room, with an original Markuza on the wall.  This photo got a nice buzz from my friends and acquaintances on Facebook, and I may have sold a painting as a result.

 Possibly the biggest news - this little article thingie appeared in one of the local papers on Sunday.  I forgot to pick one up and thought I was going to miss out, but my barber had an old copy.  This also got a nice buzz on Facebook, although my barber, who read the paper 'from cover to cover' hadn't even noticed it.  I should really post a translation, but I'm too lazy.

Finally got out and did a decent painting on Sunday.  I had planned to paint solo, but Fael, a client and an excellent grafiteiro, called me up and invited me to paint with a couple other folks.  My newish phone takes panoramic photos, which is cool.  This is the result.

This one is a result of a taxi going by as I was panning to make the photo - also cool

This final panorama was taken after I got home from painting.  I had to climb onto the roof to fix a leak.  I have no view from the house proper, but the view from the roof is pretty cool.

 My roof is not pretty, but my neighbor's is a fucking disgrace.  I bet your neighbor's roof doesn't look like this.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

98% Dust-Free and Reflections on a Year of Near-Sobriety

The New Year rolls in and I am in energy-conservation, recharge-batteries mode.  I write because it's about what I am up to, and also there is a certain anniversary I must mark on this largely inactive blog, five years I've been at it, although less so now than I was before.

So why am I so tired?  Well, it's not because I am fantastically hung over, which is a good thing, but rather because I spent two solid days cleaning after a week of busting ass with painting prep and another week or so of construction in the house.  I had strong doubts about my ability to rally for a New Year's Eve celebration, but after a day of extreme sloth (yesterday) I managed to get out to Barra with Lucas for a spectacular fireworks display.  Here is the family picture I took last night that has been a big hit on Facebook:

The picture of course doesn't tell the whole story - it looks like we are all about to do something together which sadly we did not - Lucas and I went one way, and Evani another.

Part I - The Dust

But enough of the chronological gymnastics.  Dear reader, when last I posted I was fending off the avaricious advances of a dishonest contractor, and that's not as suggestive as it sounds.  Turns out I did exactly what I though I would, and when he called me again I told him we weren't going to do any work at this time and I'd get back to him when we decided to get the work done.  Unbeknownst to him, I had already lined up another builder/contractor, someone we'd found through a personal reference (in fact, he is the neighborhood builder of choice out in Paripe, where he worked on my wife's house amongst others).  This other builder had impressed me by being intelligent, apparently competent, well-recommended, and also for cutting through the bullshit.  He assured me that the other estimates I'd gotten had received a generous dose of the Gringo Factor (ie multiply by as much as you think you can get away with) and agreed to take on the job.

I won't get into all the details because as I mentioned I'm tired and also my poor son is trapped here in the house with me and is not suffering from a lack of energy, a situation I am sadly unable to remedy in a satisfactory manner.  The highlight was a trip to a 'ferro velho' (old iron) where we bought about six meters of steel I-beams, which amazingly we were able to transport in my humble hatchback back to the house.  Here's a picture of the I-beams, I wish I'd taken a photo of them in the car:

The builders busted things and fixed things and made a huge mess and we stopped in the middle to receive a paying guest and I had to live in the house of chaos for about two weeks amongst the dust and disarray.  I moved out of our bedroom and into the kid's room, well away from the wall undergoing surgery, as I figured waking up dead in the middle of the night under ten tons of masonry might not be a very dignified way to go, and also eminently avoidable.

Building is messy work, particularly if you build with something that looks like mud and turns into something that looks like stone.  Worse yet is the white pervasive dust that is the result of sanding plaster that gets slathered over the raw concrete to make it nice and smooth and wall-like.  However, I really wanted to get as much of the white dust part over with so the house wouldn't require two top-to-bottom cleanings, which is why I spent the last week busting ass.  The results were pretty good, even though not all the cement in question was dry enough to plaster.

Here is the end result, as of about fifteen minutes ago:

The builders wanted to cover the beam in cement, but I said no way.  I am quite fond of my new steel beam, and plan to paint it bright colors once the lethargy passes.

Evani showed up to clean the place for New Year's and almost cried.  Admittedly, it was a mess, but I was pleased with my progress.  Just to let you know it was not only this one beam that was installed, there was other mess-making done in the house.  It took two full days of hard labor by both of us, her barely speaking to me, to get the house more or less in order.  And 98% of the dust is now gone.  Maybe 99%.

Let me tell you it is very nice:

1. to be back in my own bed
2. to be in a clean house again
3. to have (almost) everything back where it belongs
4. to not have to worry about ten tons of masonry avalanching in my kitchen.

And now a short break before I continue with part two of this evening's post.

Part II - The Near-Sobriety

2012 was a year of very little drinking for me.  In fact, you could count the times I drank this year on the fingers of one hand, providing you borrow one from the other hand.  Then again, that last finger would consist of the half glass of champagne and the piriguete (a mini-beer, about 9 ounces) that I drank last night.  Then again, I wasn't going to drink at all last night.  Then again, I did manage to stop at one beer.  Then again it did require some angel/devil back and forth to keep from having another.

I guess this could be called moderation, although it might be more accurate to call it 'strictly imposed limits'.  Six days this year instead of what certainly would have been 300+, that's a definite improvement.  But if I seem a bit ambivalent about the whole thing it's because I am.  My brother quoted a line from South Park to me one time:  "Quitting is easy, it's moderation that's hard."  (I'm sure I'm misquoting, but you get the idea).  The thing is even though this year went pretty well, I don't really believe that moderation works.  I watched my dad blunder through various attempts at moderating his drinking, and I watched myself blunder through various attempts at moderating my smoking, and I've watched lots of addictive-type people through the years do the same thing.

The thing is, that even if this is working, I'm not sure it's worth it.  All or nothing would just be an easier way to be done with the whole thing, preferably nothing I think.  The thing is I'm not really an alcoholic, at least by many definitions - I would describe myself more as a 'habitual drinker with serious genetic red flags and gradually worsening tendencies' if you know what I mean.

The thing is that I miss drinking, and because my drinking never became a seriously debilitating factor in my life it's sometimes hard to see the clear benefits of removing it from my life.  Also Bahian social life involves a lot of drinking, at least in the circles I run in.  It's nice to have these 'special days' where I have a few, but I get way too excited about them.  Maybe even worse is the fact that the last couple times I drank, including last night, it was 'no big deal' which would add to the illusion that I 'have it under control' and can therefore drink more.

I've been through all this before.  I quit smoking 14 years ago, and that was relatively easy.  Before I quit I played all these moderation games with that too, I even had a couple years of this kind of 'special occasion' smoking like I'm doing now.  Eventually I just had to give it up, and I don't regret it- I rarely even think about it.  But I would never try to be a moderate smoker, it would never work.  I'll probably have to give up the drinking for good as well, or go back to the aforementioned red-flags, worsening-tendencies state I was in previously.

I gave up tobacco too, I don't even know when exactly- I was never much of a smoker.  My apologies to those of you who are, and don't want to be.