Saturday night was…

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…tiring (any night that involves a limo usually is), so I went easy on myself on Sunday. Merely staying awake all day would be an accomplishment worth celebrating, I decided. Then, out of nowhere, I decided to replace the shelf next to the counter in the kitchen. I think I got the idea when I was drinking coffee in my friend Kevin’s living room on Sunday morning. (I had spent the night rather than try to find my way back through the city to my house in the wee hours of the morning.) Over the past month, he has been in the process of making some pretty extensive renovations to his kitchen, and a table in his living room was piled with tools and spare parts. Idly fingering a keyhole saw, I was suddenly keenly aware of missing A. Similar piles of tools in our house have almost always been her doing, or have at least resulted from projects that were her idea. There have been moments when I have resented how such projects interfered with my very important projects (e.g., lying on the couch reading), but, on Sunday, I would have given anything to hear A. say something like “I’m thinking of tearing out the dining-room ceiling today, want to help?”

Yes, please.

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A. had originally installed the shelf next to the kitchen counter as a place to put our dish rack and thus free up some of our limited counter space.

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The problem was that the shelf was intended for books or office knicknacks and couldn’t withstand so much water dripping onto it. After a few months, the surface grew moldy and began to delaminate.

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I’d noticed a piece of counter material in my parents’ basement when they were moving and had hung onto it. Yesterday, I dragged it out of the lumber room (also known as the gimp room, this is the small room in the front of the basement, just under the sun porch) and set to work. Cutting it was a bit of a challenge, since a lip – what would be the splash guard on a standard installation – gave it an L-shape, but I think I proceeded carefully enough that my fingers were never really in danger, at least not any more than usual when one is using a circular saw, which is to say I’m glad that this stage of the job ended without a trip to the emergency room.

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And that was pretty much it. (This was not an ambitious project.) After making the cut, I painted an unfinished section that would be visible and screwed it into place, and so far it’s doing a fine job of holding up the dish rack.

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To reward myself, I decided to explore the thrilling new variety of corporate chain shops and restaurants in the ground floor of the new condo building on St. Paul between 33rd and 32nd. For lunch, the only real possibility was Chipotle. I’d never been in one before and I can see why they have a bit of a following, although I know I’m supposed to hate the place because there is more than one of them and also the CEO is probably not going to invite me to his Christmas party again this year. Anyway, I guess there must be this standard wisdom in the world of retail food these days that customers need to be given the impression that their food is their creation. So, instead of offering set menu items with standard ingredients (like “Grilled chicken burrito with guacamole”), Chipotle’s menu is modular, consisting of four large panels hanging on the wall behind the counter staff and designed to look like they are printed on brushed steel. You start by specifying whether you want a burrito, a fajita, a “salad,” and something else I’m forgetting. Then you move on to the next panel of the menu, where you decide on chicken vs. steak vs. pulled pork vs. pulled beef vs. “vegetarian,” and then on to the next panel, where you pick out a type of salsa. Choices for possible side dishes and drink prices are listed on the final panel of the menu, for consideration only after the important decisions have been made. The whole set-up reeks of “information design.” Behind the counter, the employees work assembly-line style, just like Subway; also just like Subway, they appear to hate their jobs.

When I walked in, I saw the kind of line that I normally don’t even consider waiting in, but I wanted the experience and knew that a long wait would give me more time to eavesdrop. I didn’t end up hearing anything particularly interesting, although I did witness and play a minor role in the daring rescue of a purse that a woman forgot at a table just outside the large, floor-to-ceiling window that the line snaked past. (I held a place in line for the guy who went to retrieve the purse. Please, please, I don’t think I would use the word hero. Well, if you insist.) My barbacoa burrito (that’s what they call the pulled beef preparation) was good enough. I’ll go back if I have to, but I can’t see going to too much effort to visit this place again. I might cross the street to do so, but only if I already have a walk signal.

Getting out of the house seemed to stir some of the torpor out of my blood and I decided to keep aspiring to greatness and squeeze in some grocery shopping, just some essentials. One thing I bought, as usual, was a bag of salad, and one thing I had to do, as usual, while putting the groceries in the refrigerator, was throw out the old bag of salad, which – again, as usual – had aged past edibility before I could get around to eating it. The bags of salad littering our landfills are a monument to our collective good but empty intentions, or maybe they just show how smart the manufacturers are. I know I should eat salad, but that knowledge mainly seems to manifest in buying some; it doesn’t often carry through to the actual eating part.

I heard from A. briefly on Saturday, calling in from the Rim. She had walked the enclosure whose fence had been damaged by the treefall and it appears that the elk that had been spotted inside has found its own way out. She and a co-worker patched the fence over top of the downed tree as best they could, to keep out any more elk until a contractor can be found to actually remove the tree and repair the fence completely. While they were working on the makeshift fence repair, they were caught in a storm of BB-sized hail. By the time she was calling me, this had changed to snow. (Bird Camp is at about 8,000 feet, for those who are confused by hearing about this type of weather in May in Arizona.) After the call, A. told me, she would head back to camp for the Cinco de Mayo party she had planned.

There would be pinatas.

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