The Trip (So Far), The Coming Depression, Kids, Eh, fuck it.

The Trip (So Far)
Those who catch my updates on Facebook know I had a few… issues getting to Kenosha.  To sum up:
In the middle of nowhere, my water pump goes out.  Manage to get replacement water pump in small town near Davis City.  It’s a Caddy with a Northstar engine, so major repairs are a labor intensive.  Tear down car, discover have to have a special tool designed JUST for removing the waterpump on a 4.6 liter Northstar engine.  Store closed at 5 PM, it’s 7 PM now.  Put car back together.  Drive to Des Moines at the point of complete exhaustion (the last bit of it I managed thanks to Devi – she was on the phone with me for about 45 minutes while I wandered the city a bit dazed from heat exhaustion.)  Wake up next morning, find tool.  Sit in AutoZone parking lot, drawing lots of attention, as I tear the car down again.  Remove old water pump, breaking left middle knuckle in the process when it finally went (that mother fucker requires ****A LOT**** of force to remove.)  It’s a knuckle, it heals quick, so no Dr. visit, I’ll just deal with it for two weeks.  Rebuild car.  Rescue Devi from one of her problems after I finish the car.  Hit the road, Kenosha bound again.
This is my new record for longest drive to Kenosha – 37 1/2 hours from Wichita, KS to Kenosha, WI.  Ug.  
Now, you might think I was pretty pissed off – actually, I had a lot of fun doing it.  The teardown in AutoZone was pretty fun – there’s a picture on Facebook of my “garage” I set up in the parking lot, which drew lots of attention.  No shit, two mechanics were impressed I could change out the water pump on that engine, and at how I had laid myself out.  One 20-something cute blond spent a good 15 minutes standing out there flirting with me.  One kid asked if he could borrow tools to work on his car (I let him) and kept coming back to watch what I was doing.
Honestly, I was making a bit of a show of it when anyone was watching, moving as fast and efficiently as I could when taking a piece apart, fliping and spinning my good socket wrench whenever I switched tools (I really want to find a second set of that brand. I have NEVER found a socket set that tough, or that convenient – I’ve had to take a hammer to that sob more than once to hit breakover torque, or use a pipe as a cheater bar, and I’ve yet to break it or make it bind, Fucking AWESOME.)  And of course I’m covered in sweat, grease, and anti-freeze while working fast and hard, so physically I looked pretty good too 🙂  (Good lord, can I please loose that double chin now? Thanks in advance.)  Simply put, I was enjoying the hell out of myself.  It was a great challenge to try and pull off that sort of level of repair work while out on the road.  (to give you an idea – it’s a two stage process to take it apart when you follow the manual, requiring a total of 39 steps to remove it.  I managed to eliminate 6 of those, as I felt there was no need to remove the crossover cooling manifold.)  Both of the mechanics I mentioned were partially impressed because they noticed Kansas tags, asked why I was up here, and I told ’em I was on a business trip.  Of course they asked what I do, and I tell ’em I’m a computer programmer and web developer.  That ground some gears – I’m a… computer guy… and I’m working on THAT engine?  Hehehe – too much fun 🙂
All told though, I’m already running over budget for this trip because of that.  No biggie – I’ve got extra cash to work with.
On the way out of Des Moines, the rain starts.  There was this odd moment… “Funny, I don’t remember those windshield wipers running so close together.”  And then they crossed over top of each other, and stuck.  Yes, heavy downpour, and no wipers.  Fortunately, I always rain-x my windshield, so it’s pretty drive able.  I find the last QuikTrip, go get myself a tea, and txt Devi, laughing about it.  
When I got back in the car, something sent chills up my spine.  The Cadillac now had a heart beat.  Thud-thump.  Thud-thump.  Thud-thump.  Nothing was moving, the radio wasn’t on, the keys weren’t even in the ignition.  But there it was.  It was perfectly timed, and it sounded like about 70 bpm.  And it wasn’t real loud – sort of soft, and if there had been much other noise, I probably wouldn’t hear it.  What. The. Hell?
A quirk of some caddys – if you leave the windshield wipers on, and turn the ignition off and remove the key, the windshield wipers remain active, even if you turn off the wiper switch.  There’s a fault in the relay logic.  The wipers were trying to run, but the retaining nuts were unscrewed.  It was on automatic delay mode, so it picked a speed for them based on the rain outside. Thud-thump.  Thud-thump.  I shook my head, txted Devi about it, who had a good laugh.  Pulled it under the canopy for the gas pumps, reset the wiper positions, and tightened the nuts.  Perfect – and away I go again.
Once I got to Kenosha, things took a turn for the worse.  There are supposed to be two sets of contractors here that I’m interfacing with.  One is here, but running behind schedule on their work.  The other won’t get here until Friday.  Dominic was struggling just to find things for me to do.
Which means I’m bored.  Fuck I’m bored.  
Thursday rolls around, and I’m a bit homesick.  Yes, me, homesick.  It’s my day off – I should be in Cheney right now, playing games and jumping on the trampoline or whatever other fun stuff with Marc and Madi.  Relaxing, recharging my batteries, and being someone semi-important to some kids.  Instead, I’m doing junk work to fill my time.
Friday rolls around.  Devi and I had already chatted about it – Friday evening and Sunday evening I’ll call Marc and Madi to chat with them a bit.  So the day should have a silver lining.  Still bored, though now I’m getting into the swing of things – fuck it, if they don’t have enough work for me, and can’t make up work for me?  Then it’s time for me to finish a few more jobs, quote two more jobs, and write on Muse.  I’ll make up my own damned worklist, even if it has nothing to do with them.
I work on the Kenosha Wrestling website, and realize I forgot blank DVD’s, and headed for Walmart real quick. On the way back, the Caddy begins speaking to me again:
Uh-oh.  She went from fine to nearing redline in nothing flat.  OK, OK, I’ll bet I know what’s wrong – when I changed out the water pump, I should have bought a new tensioner for the water pump repair, but I didn’t. (this car has a separate belt and tensioner on the opposite side of the engine from the serpentine belt just for the water pump.)  Either the belt broke, or the tensioner just died – I’ll put bets on the tensioner.  Let’s see if I can limp her back to the mill – it’s only two miles.
At half a mile from the mill:  “SHUT OFF CAR NOW!”
Alllllrighty then.  I killed the engine right then, coasted, and found myself a nice spot right at the corner of 60th and Greenbay – shy of my destination, but good enough for car repair again.
I called, and got a ride from Dominic to go pick up parts.  Over an hour to get parts.  Crap.  Get back, and I pulled out my toolcases, and away I went.  This time I didn’t have an audience, but I was still having fun with it – how fast could I change this bitch out?  (And I bought a replacement belt too, instead of just the tensioner, just in case – otherwise THAT would be the next thing to break.)  I stopped and took a picture when I had it torn apart – I realized I had laid my tools out almost identical to what I had done at AutoZone, and in Limond, IA before that.  Got to thinking about it – that’s the same thing I had started doing when I was was working on Devi’s car too.  My environment now becomes a garage layout.  Kinda funny 🙂
20 minutes – not bad really, and I had strategized how to pull it all of in seven steps, rather than the teardown required to get to the water pump.  I actually beat Dominic back to the mill – he had to drop off his wife at their house and do something else real quick.  
So here I sit… plenty of time to work on whatever I want until Monday (and after that too, really, since I’m up here to change ONE LINE OF CODE PER MILL! Seriously.  I’m sure it’s going to get more involved than that, but the basic premise is I need to change one line of code per mill exhaust system, there’s five mills total, and it’s going to take them upwards of two weeks to do.  And this is ALL I’m supposed to do here.)  my budget is in shambles – I budgeted based on the previous trip.  Well, it’s summer rates for hotels now, not winter rates, which means just shy of double the cost for rooms.  Food cost has gone up again.  I’ve bought around $400 in car parts (and tools – I needed a torque wrench too).  There’s no way in hell I’m going to pull this one off on my budget at all.  And it’s entirely possible I may be staying an extra week (though I get paid for that time 😉
One might think I’d be a bit pissed.  Not really.  See… I had a premonition of sorts that this trip was going to go majorly wrong.  I talked to Doc ahead of time, and told him I know when a trip starts to go South, it’s gonna do it quickly and expensively.  So I set up a backup plan with him, just in case.  And I had txted Devi real quick on my way out of town, saying “I always blow my Kenosha trips off as ‘I’ve done it a million times’, but there’s always the chance something can go wrong, so…”  Instead of my usual night drive, I took off at 8:30 AM, had lunch with Paul Hollis in Kansas City, etc.  Because of that early take-off, I had sunlight to work on the car, instead of breaking down in the middle of the night.
The whole trip just sort of became a challenge.  Dominic asked “So how much did you curse when you broke your knuckle?”  I paused and thought about it a second.  “I didn’t, actually.”  And I hadn’t – I just kept moving on.  I knew what the damage was, and it wasn’t going to be that big of a deal.  A bit of pain and stiffness for the next two weeks while it heals, but otherwise, big deal.  And so far, everything that’s gone wrong with this trip?  I’ve either pre-planned for it to go bad, or I found a way to compensate.  For it being a shit trip, I’m having a pretty good time 🙂
The Coming Depression
I can already feel it coming on.  My birthday is coming, and this is going to be a bad one.  38 isn’t a particularly magical number or something, it’s just so much wrong in my life.
Well, that’s not right.  There’s a lot right with my life.  I’ve got more than one person that reminds me what all I’ve pulled off, what cool things I’ve done, and that I’m fairly successful despite it all.  Problem is… I want more.  Not necessarily more success – I’ll get that just fine.  It’s just I’ve been through a number of serious relationships in my life, one marriage, and no kids.
I’m tired of having done cool stuff, but not being able to do the things that matter.  Having a relationship that lasts, and having kids.  Both of those would be an awesome achievement for me.  And here I go again, screwing around and getting myself in yet another fucked up situation 🙂  And worse – I’m not going to change really.  I do cool stuff because that’s what I do.  I live a strange, uncommon life because that’s who I am.  It’s a lot to ask anyone to accept that about me in a romantic situation, and I’m not going to change for someone.  That’s just how it is.  So from time to time, I’m going to end up depressed at what I don’t have, forget what I do have, and feel all crappy because of it.  I’ll just have to accept that 🙂
So, two years from 40, once divorced, no kids, no significant other (not counting the “fake” thing, which doesn’t count), and no real prospects for any of that the end anytime soon.  I should be able to accept those facts with a smile, considering some of the stupid stuff I’ve had happen, or have done to myself over the years, right?
But I can feel it pressing on me again this year.  That sense that, in the grand scheme of things, I’ve accomplished nothing.  Fortunately, I feel it coming – maybe I can do something to head it off this year.  Who knows.
I mentioned kids as a source of that depression, and I suppose I’m conflicted as to if having 3.3 kids in my life helps that or not.  Erin has been a bit of a source of relief from that void for a while now.  I don’t mention Erin too much on here, for various reasons, but she’s a good kid who appreciates the fact that I try to keep up with her.  We have lunch or supper from time to time, and when she calls I’m there to chat with her.  And of course I email her weekly (this week I’m doing something more tangible and sending her a post card, just for the heck of it, and because I got inspired by another project of mine).  
I’m Uncle Davis – not a bad position to have.  It’s one I strive to keep my end of, and to keep as a permanent position.  If, for some very strange reason, I told Meredith to go fuck the hell off tomorrow?  I’d still continue my role in Erin’s life – it’s independent of my friendship with her mother at this point, though it still in many ways is respectful as possible of that friendship.  
Devi and I’ve talked about that whole thing before, and my feelings on it – basically, it’s the closest I’ll ever get to kids, and about how important it is to me.
So I go out of town, and I know I’m going to miss Marc and Madi, Devi’s kids, and they are gonna miss me.  I’ve always pointed at that as being a temporary thing, with potential consequences caused by the temporary nature of it (since Marc has had abandonment issues with multiple people, including Devi’s most recent ex, Mo.)  Devi always telling me to not sweat the small stuff, but these are kids – nothing about it is small stuff to me.
Anyway, before I left town Devi, Marc, Madi, and Alex (her oldest that’s being re-integrated into the family) were over a my house playing Rock Band (another semi-scheduled thing that may happen once a week), and I was going to snag a snapshot of all four of them playing, but Devi stepped out too soon.  So I pulled her aside and told her I had a plan – I was going to do something similar to the post card artwork I sent her, except I was going to do it of her and the three kids playing Rock Band.  I didn’t have a definite plan on what it was going to look like, but she loved the idea, and knew the kids would too.  So she went back in to play one more round, and I snagged pictures without the kids knowing what I was up to.
So I finally figured out what it was going to look like last night, and got started on it.  This thing is HUGE – it span 18 post cards!  (Keep in mind, after you remove the space for the address, remove the bottom edge that the Post Office uses, and remove the area for a stamp?  Post cards are very small.)  On Monday I’ll start mailing the post cards to her and the kids, two per day, until the entire thing is in the mail.  The kids don’t know it’s coming, and the post cards are addressed to Devi and the kids separately, so it should be a fun surprise as they slowly have to put the puzzle together (even Devi doesn’t actually know what it looks like.)  I’m also mailing them in such a way it’s hard to guess until about the fourth day what the final product will be.
But my worry was a bit of consistency – they know they are going to see me every Thursday all day, and well, suddenly I’m not there.  Not that big of a deal to Madi, but with Marc’s issues, I was concerned.  Again – “Don’t sweat the small stuff man.  But if you want, call them.”  She’s right – I do get overly concerned about things at times.  But, hell, why not.  Showing some concern to a situation isn’t a bad thing.
Semi-random, but related aside… I talked to Devi on Wensday night, when she would normally be out, and she was out and about with Duck.  I asked who was watching the kids, and Russ had volunteered to watch them (of course 🙂 I joked “Oh, yeah, let’s cause some jealously issues here, hon” to rib her about something that had happened a while back.  She didn’t miss a beat “Davis, he doesn’t do nearly as well with the kids as you do.”  I had joked, but she didn’t – she told me about a conversation with Madi on Tuesday.  
The only thing that would have been worse than missing a couple of kids would have been knowing they didn’t miss me back.  Yeah, not the case.  Madi had asked about me, when I was going to be back, etc.  Cool.
So I called on Friday at 7, like we had arranged.  Then panic set in.  You see… I had no idea what the hell I was going to say to Marc and Madi.  Marc got on the phone first, and I talked to him for about a minute and a half.  And I was out of things to talk about.  At about two minutes, I asked to talk to Madi, and Marc tells me she’s playing Guitar Hero at the moment… and begins talking nonstop.  I got the impression he didn’t really want me to get off the phone, and since I couldn’t think of anything, he started coming up with stuff to talk about 🙂  Well, I guess I can take the fear of making a phonecall to them where I’ve got nothing to say off the list 😉
Then I talked to Madi later in the night (I had to call back because it was supper time), and talked to her for about 25 minutes (at one point her sister Alex stole the phone to mess with me a bit, too.  Alex and I don’t know each other very well when compared to Marc and Madi)  Again, no need to fear having nothing to say – Madi held most of the conversation for me 😉  Unlike Marc, she started grilling me about when I was going to be home, that sort of stuff.  
Cool.  I’ve got kids in my life who miss me.  Ya know, it’s nice to miss people (because it means you care), and it’s nice to be missed (because it means they care.)  
Devi had told me one more thing on Wensday – “You’re pretty much already Uncle Davis to them.”  OK, cool, I’m good with that.
Eh, Fuck it.
I never did bother to talk to Devi about a couple of question I had after her “no assumptions” thing.  It’s not that it like suddenly fell into “I don’t care” territory, it just fell into “I’ll deal with that when I get back” territory.  So, well, I’ll update that some other day I guess.
As usual I’ve talked to her once a day, talk to her via txt off and on through the day, etc.  Now there’s a new twist, all caused by a half-serious joke.  She’s now the first person I talk to in the day, five days a week.  I had been calling her on Wens and Fri mornings to make sure she’s up in time to pick up Alex.  She sent her usual thanks via txt later, and I quiped “Oh, it’s no problem – if I could, the first voice I’d hear every morning would be yours” it kind of proceeded on as a joke… somewhere along the way it must of quit sounding like a joke, because now I call her every morning (except Thursday and Saturday)  So… now the first person we talk to in the morning is each other, and often the last person we talk to for the day is each other.  
EH, fuck it, why not.  Things can’t get much weirder at this point.  Eventually the universe will correct it’s self.

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