SEPTEMBER 2005: “Some day our pool will come!”
"When do you think we'll have our mondongada?"
That became the recurring question of September, meaning: when will the roof be finished? The tongue-n-groove wood for the inside ceiling had held things up for nearly a month, because the tejas viejas (used Spanish roof tiles) over the terrace couldn't be finished before the machimbre was installed. No one ever fully explained...I'm sorry, am I repeating myself? Have I already talked about this? I can't remember, but that's nothing new.
At any rate, September began with the delivery of the machimbre! Hoohah! Let the ceiling begin. But, there was only one problem, it sat stacked in my office for the length of a Bible! "Hello! The machimbre is here! Shouldn't we be installing it?" And here's where I began to grind my teeth, because los muchachos, rather than actually installing the tongue-n-groove, began installing the furring strips that the it would attach to...huh!?!? "Ah, is it just me, or could those strips have been installed while we were waiting for the good stuff?" It was one of those questions you're not supposed to ask...
Meantime, we spent the month finding other ways to amuse ourselves, like paint samples. Yup, we're now on a first name basis with the local Sherwin Williams dealer. Let's see, the last I added it up we'd bought 22 separate quart cans of various colors: outside walls, inside walls, bathrooms, guest rooms, offices, casa de perro! Can't forget Bo! And then all the slightly lighter or darker shades. The house began to look like a patchwork quilt sewn by a color-blind bee of in-patients.
"You see," TC would say, standing back, framing with thumbs and forefingers, "the way it works is, you squint your eyes and imagine how the whole room will look."
"Really? Can I take some drugs first?" Who was I kidding? With a color pallete like ours drugs were redundant...unless they were downers.
At any rate, while we were "chasing" colors, Bo and Mama-pajama (a nod to Paul Simon for the variation on Mama's name) were chasing a lizard, a lizard long enough to wrap around my waist. Yikes! The lizard was entertainment from the git-go, and the dogs had been chasing it for weeks, going round and round Lamelot, paws pounding, tails at attention, ears high and cocked, panting and yelping, and digging up plants when the reptile went to ground; just having one helluva good time, and causing one helluva canine hullabaloo!
Other than the "digging up plants" part, we thought it was cute—"Oh, look our little puppies are chasing the critter again." That is, until they caught it! Holy flipping pancakes, they not only caught it, they tortured it, killed it, and then went about eating it! Jayzus, I coulda lived several life times without seeing that. I mean, "Yuuuuuck!" I wouldn't let Bo lick my face afterwards, I can tell ya. Although, come to think of it, I don't know why not—his mouth has been everywhere else. Blech!
Dead lizards notwithstanding, September was a month spent in search of diversions, in search of seemingly unattainable house fixtures, and a good cup of coffee. By then we had tried every brand of joe Panamá had to offer, twice! Just out of sheer frustration and exhaustion we reluctantly settled on some beans at the local supermarket, which they would grind for us. Load enough of the resulting grounds into our maker, so much, in fact, that it came out the sides when the water perked, and we got a cup that we could drink without grimacing.
Here's our only requirement for visitors: Bring Starbuck's Decaf Verona!
A funny thing started happening in September, friends began telling us that we looked happier and more relaxed in our on-line photos. "Huh?" Going through Casa Ingaso's galleries, I realized that images of myself didn't offend quite as much as I remembered them doing. Again, "Huh?" Okay, so this begged the question: Am I aging well (highly unlikely given my penchant for pouting) or is Panamá, and Altos in particular, having a salubrious affect on me..or us? Wait a minute, another answer just occurred to me: maybe I just don't care any more? Maybe I've accepted the truth of the matter, realized that the way I look isn't as important as how I act, therefore, making peace with the reality of my visage? Nah, must be Altos.
Of course, there are some things about Altos which don't help the aging process at all; quite the opposite, in fact. Take burning empty, plastic, gallon jugs of termite poison! Now, that'll add years to your life. Really, that's what we wound up doing one Sunday in an effort to burn more of the pine tree trunks that still cluttered our lot. The way it happened was like this...
One day termites invaded our construction site and made for our mangrove posts and joists. Part of our contract states that our wood will be protected, so los muchachos spent a morning spraying some real nasty stuff around the house, then following the termite trail to the nest, hauling it back to the lot, and burning it. "Yuuuuck!" Don't get me wrong, I was ecstatic that they did it. It's just that little creepy, crawly, eatey things give me the heebie-jeebies, and burning their nests makes my skin crawl. Anyhow, Casa Ingaso, One: Termites, Zero!
But, now TC had a bug up her butt, so to speak: "We have to burn those pine logs; that's where the termites are." Now, if you know TC, you know that she always gets that bug outta her butt one way or another. That time, her way was to buy a plastic gas can, fill it with two gallons of diesel, hire a local "firestarter" renowned for his ability to burn no matter the weather, and arrange for all items to intersect at the lot one Sunday—the "firestarter's" day off. Okay, it wasn't raining, so, pine logs beware!
Guess again. We started about 9 a.m., throwing on anything that might help the trunks get started, which included about ten of the plastic jugs—the fumes were more than noxious, they were lethal! But three hours later we hadn't managed to burn anything, except the jugs and diesel. I'm not certain, but I think I could have managed that, like, by myself. (Now, you see, that's what I'm talking about, that's the problem with reputations: sooner or later, they're gonna bite you on the ass.) TC and I had to take breaks away from the smoke just to clear our heads...well, I couldn't tell the difference, but it was getting hard to breathe. The "firestarter?" He scratched his head a lot and kept sticking burning stuff under the logs, but without any luck.
Then the rains came.
"To hell with it," I said, "let's get outta here." (Those are very dear and oft used words of mine.) I can't tell you how happy it made me when TC agreed. "Really?" So, tails tucked, licking our wounds, defeated "firestarter" in-tow, we retreated to Lamelot to plan our next assault. Then, we would use a neighbor lady's home-brew: cooking oil and alcohol, or as we like to call it, "Panamanian Napalm!" It made my scrotum shrink just to think about it. I mean, I didn't really have that much against those termites, did I? That is, other than their heebie-jeebie-ness. Well, and maybe their desire to eat my house...
"I love the smell of Panamanian Napalm in the morning; nuke the bastards!"
Which reminds me, it was another Sunday in September...wait a minute, I thought Sunday's were supposed to be a day of rest...oh, yeah, that's only if you're religious. Anyway, the Sunday in question, a loud, smelly excavadora spoiled our traditional morning breakfast at Ingaso, but we didn't mind, because it was digging our pool! Hoohah! It was supposed to have dug the pool Friday, but a hydraulic hose broke, so instead it sat, forlorn and sodden in the drizzling rain, until a new hose could be found. And then, when the sun came out Sunday morning, so did the excavadora. Of course, we postponed our breakfast, but like I said, we didn't care: Progress was being made!
There's something about earth-moving machines that make me wet. Can't explain it, but there it is, although, it could have something to do with my prostatectomy. Nevertheless, I love to watch them things do their thing. And ours made mince meat outta our red-clay soil, creating the basic hole in no time at all. Of course, as soon as the machine left, the rain came again and turned our pool into a mud hole.
Upon seeing pictures, my good friend, Dennis, said I should perform some kinda mumbo-jumbo ceremony in sight of los muchachos, then bury a wrapped "thingy" in the bottom of the hole. He also suggested that I tell the workers it was a voodoo fetish not to be disturbed. Dennis figured it would freak-out los muchachos, and make them a little less sure about me. I didn't do it, however, 'cause I figured los muchachos already thought I was a few vigas short of a bohio. I wonder where they got that impression?
Besides, when it came right down to it, I realized that Panamá is a straight-up, D-cup, Catholic society, so my paganism might not have been received with the same humor in which it was given. Call me a pussy, call me a stick-in-the-mud, but don't call me insensitive...TC already calls me that too often.
Okay, moving on, what that pit in the ground really meant was that los muchachos were going to form and POUR A POOL! O happy days! And, that's just what they set-about doing: sizing it and laying it out, digging foundations, forming rebar jungle-gyms, etc. Of course, being the rainy season, most of that work was done in drizzle and out-right downpours, which means mud, mud, and more...mud. I've discovered that I have a deep-seated aversion to mud. Now, TC, she loves it; making mud pies and getting filthy was her favorite activity as a tyke, and not much as changed. She just wears her Wellingtons now and knows enough to take them off before coming inside..usually.
Me, however, I'd experience icky, irritating feelings watching los muchachos slog and slosh through the mire, pushing the yucky stuff around, trying to keep trenches clear and mushy walls from caving-in. It was another one of those periods during which I wasn't thrilled about visiting the lot. I mean, "Will the mud ever be at an end!?!?" You see, on top of everything else, I'm also a construction weenie...in case you hadn't noticed.
And, that's pretty much where we were in September: watching an "infinity-edge" lap pool slowly take shape, and dealing with me cringing over crap. Oh, other things were going on, too, like the continuing installation of the machimbre. It was still going in over the terrace, and installation was beginning in some of the rooms. Also, the garage was rising up out of the mud: pipes and conduits, rebar and foundations, walls and, finally, a roof. But, despite the construction angst, the pool ended September on a high note.
Of course, my voice always cracks on the high notes...