An Open Letter to the Guy Who Installed My Downstairs Toilet Flush Assembly

Listen up pal, because I have an important question to ask you: are you a comedian or a moron?  Don’t bother protesting, because after the two hour shitshow that was me removing your work and installing my own, I know you must be one or the other.  Frankly, I’m leaning towards comedian at the moment for two reasons: 1) I imagine you had a good laugh at the thought of me trying to fix your work and 2) in order to so thoroughly fuck up such a simple bit of home improvement work you would have to be SO FUCKING DUMB that you would likely be in state’s custody somewhere instead of in my downstairs bathroom installing a leaky flush assembly.

You must have shaking with anticipation as you thought of me slowly starting to notice that the valve didn’t seal every other time the toilet was flushed.  You pictured me sitting there on my couch, freshly returned from the restroom, cozily settled in to play some Mario as I watch episode after episode of The Wire.  Slowly, gradually, the sound of the water still running in the toilet tank begins to pierce my consciousness.  Your glee grows.  Finally, I beat a level and with my intense focus dissipated, the burbling stream breaks through to my mind and I realize what’s happening.  ”How long has it been?,” I think, “surely just a few seconds…no, I beat a whole level….fuck.”  You are vibrating violently with your fit of giggles.  I wait a few more moments, desperately hoping that the sound will stop.  Of course, it does not.  As I leap up, uttering the foulest string of epithets I can muster, you fall down, your laughter overtaking you.  At least, that’s what I was picturing during the hour and a half it took me to saw through the bolt and handle you attached.

That’s right, you saved the best gag for last, didn’t you motherfucker?  You waited until I had become exasperated enough to solve the problem and motivated enough to go to the store for a new assembly.  As I was picking out the fancy dual-flush kit, just the thing to help save water in this time of drought, I thought to myself how nice it would be that with a simple 30 minute install I could finally be rid of the obnoxious ghost flushing.  ”It’s so easy,” I chastised myself, “I should have just done this weeks ago.”  Little did I know at the time, I was more wrong about that than you were in your assessment of your own ability to install a simple piece of fucking plumbing.  I learned of my mistake as I lifted the lid from the toilet tank to begin my installation.  Following the instructions from the kit I acquired, I drained the tank, removed the old flapper, removed the fill valve, and then set my sights on the handle.  Trusty wrench in hand, I give the nut a turn – but it won’t budge.  I grab the handle and brace myself for a push, because what the hell, I’m throwing this thing away anyways.

*grip* *HRRRRRRNNNNGGGGGHHHHH* *SNAP*

The handle breaks off.  I now spot your final folly, and immediately I know I’ve been fucked.  You know what I’m talking about, of course.  You have to.  Because, as I opined earlier, only someone in need of constant 24-hour supervision from a trained psychiatrist would be fuck-witted enough to accidentally fasten a metal bolt with a metal nut IN A TANK THAT IS CONSTANTLY FILLED WITH WATER.  You, being you, are completely aware that hardware stores carry plastic nuts for literally this exact goddamn application, but of course that wasn’t your style.  No, your style was to use a material which, in the presence of water, is known to fuse to itself like glue and then leave it in a tank of water for me to find in 20 years.  Your final glorious touch was to do this all on a bolt with no head, not even a slightly flatter region, on which to grip.  After all, you wouldn’t want a little torque ruining your giant middle finger flying back from the past to poke me in the eye.

But you know what? FUCK YOUR LITTLE RUSTY RIDDLE.  All the WD-40 and CLR in the world wouldn’t have done me any good, so I borrowed a page from Alexander the Great and took my trusty hacksaw to your Gordian Knut.

I took me an hour and a half, and I’m pretty sure I ruined a saw blade, but I cut that bastard out of there.  And after I did, I installed my fancy new assembly in 30 minutes and now my toilet doesn’t leak anymore.  I suppose you got your kicks after all, and there’s nothing I can do to take that back, but at least I don’t have to hear you snickering at me every time the toilet flushes at 3:30 in the morning.

You Are A Huge Asshole, Sincerely,

Justin Mead

Richard’s Memorial

I delivered the following speech at my Uncle Richard’s memorial this weekend.  He passed away on January 24, 2013 at the age of 58, while skiing in Colorado.

“To laugh often and much, to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children, to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends, to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others, to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch…to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded!” This Ralph Waldo Emerson quote encapsulates my approach towards life. Though I did not know him as well as I should have liked, I can say confidently that by this metric my uncle lived a life of success beyond measure. He demonstrated intelligence in every aspect of his life, through his stellar education, his rise through the ranks in his career, and his dry, sardonic wit. Though it could be hard won, I can still hear the sound of his laughter in tribute to a worthy joke. His appreciation of beauty was beyond question; I’m sure many of you know he was a lover of nature, especially fond of birds, as evidenced by his beautiful photography and artwork. He raised two highly intelligent, passionate, and successful children with his wife, my aunt.  He grew beautiful garden patches, where ultimately a piece of him can remain forever. Though Richard has departed us, he leaves behind not one but many, many lives that have breathed easier. His passion for life and dedication to his chosen path was obvious even to those of us who, like me, made his acquaintance less than they might have liked. Even still, I can be unwavering in this certainty: Richard left this world more than a bit better than he found it, and his absence leaves it significantly more empty.

I have precious few personal remembrances of my uncle. When I was young, our families visited often, but sadly, I am not blessed with a brilliant memory of my childhood.  As I grew out of youth our two families found less and less time to spend together, until a visit became a rare occurrence.  Time passed and I grew to be a young adult, moving away from home, graduating college, and beginning my own career.  My cousins, Erica and Evan did the same, and Richard and Eileen achieved retirement.  This once again opened the window of opportunity for visits.  Over the last several years I got a chance to know my uncle as an adult, and I am very grateful for that time, short as it was.  I remember him as a man strong in both reason and intelligence, passion and humor.  On my last visit with him, in October of last year, when he and my aunt visited my town of Santa Barbara they took me out to dinner and we had a wonderful discussion about the state of American politics.  Though we certainly had our differences in that arena, we shared a passion for reasoned debate, and respect for a conclusion intelligently found, if perhaps not agreed upon.  This is something I greatly admired about my uncle; though he held his opinions strongly, he was willing to consider a well-presented opposing view.  Conversely, he brooked no nonsense and never missed an opportunity to apply his acerbic wit to those who rightly deserved it. This, too, is something to which I aspire.

Shortly after graduating college, my family and I had a chance to visit with the Stades and my grandmother at the lake house they owned for some time.  This is one of my very fond memories of recent years.  We enjoyed a few days of sun and relaxation, as well as sumptuous family feasts and mellow evenings of thoughtful conversation.  During the day, Richard and Eileen took us out on the lake in their boat, patiently teaching me to waterski and even letting me drive it around a bit.  I got a chance to experience my uncle’s ornithological passion first-hand, as we tried to sneak up on a nest of birds for a chance to photograph them in their habitat.  In the evenings, after dinner, Richard introduced me to his aperitif of choice, a honey-whiskey blend by the name of Irish Mist, which to this day remains my favorite drink for a quiet evening at home.  And when at last, it was time to go, Richard thanked me for visiting, and bade me return whenever I so desired.  This, to me, was Richard Stade.

I wish that I had more frequently taken him up on his offers of hospitality.  I sorely regret missing the opportunity to learn more about him, to spend more time in spirited discussion with him, to laugh with him, and learn from him.  I suppose this is common to all losses, but especially those which are so sudden and unexpected as his.  The night I learned of Richard’s passing, I wandered the streets of Santa Barbara in a fog, both mental and literal, trying to find a way to integrate this news into my mind.  I walked past some of the locales I had shown him and Eileen on their last visit, sometimes smiling at remembered conversation, but more often numbly remote.  Eventually I ate dinner and made my way home, and there I did the only think I could think of to do.  I poured a glass of Irish Mist, thought of my uncle, and raised it in remembrance of him.  I think that this is the best thing we can do to honor Richard: remember him.  And, perhaps, to breathe a little easier because we all knew him.

Beginnings and Endings

For every place we inhabit and every person we meet, there will always be a last visit.  It may be one last wistful glance over an apartment or house that has held, nourished and comforted for many years; somewhere that was both a temporary residence and the home of homes.  It may be a college campus or classroom, or workplace or cubicle, a local haunt like a coffee shop or bar.  It could be a fight with a girlfriend, a tear-fractured gaze into the wizened face of a passing parent, or even a careless goodbye to a friend killed in a cruel but all too common twist of fate.  One of the harsh facts of the human condition is that we must say goodbye.  The people and places we’ve loved and hated will soon depart our consciousness, whether by their leave or ours.  We need not embrace or desire this reality, but at least come to accept it.

This is the inevitability that I experience when newness comes upon me.  When I make a new acquaintance, and begin to pass that awkward phase of unknowing, into the territory of the friendly and familiar.  While others revel in the joy of novelty, I live in the dismal future, knowing that one day this inevitability must come to pass.  The crackle of a new bond shoots through the air, electrifying it and energizing the participants; I smile, but look past it, knowing that this beauty like others before it must wither with the grating presence of acquaintance and acclimation.  With good fortune this may be a great length of time, extended by disparity of experience and uniquely bonded personality.  But, humanity is fragile.  Someday either life or death will tear us apart.

Much the same is true of the locales we inhabit; the cities, states and countries we choose to live in, the residences and workplaces that constitute our homes.  Even those places we frequent, the coffee shops, bars, bookstores, restaurants, that form so much of who we are and what we experience.  With places, a person need not fear so much that the other will grow away and take a direction of their own.  Places remain much the same.  With places, we think more on the experiences we have within them, the lives we lead and the memories that become imprinted within their walls.   We humans have a peculiar spacial memory that can leave nasty scars or beauteous dreams upon an otherwise plain piece of scenery.  I kissed the first woman I loved on that couch, I committed my worst sin in that apartment, I found the true direction of my life while laying on that beach and looking up at the stars.  Human experience happens in both time and space, and while we may struggle with the temporality of our existence, we show an exquisite talent in tying a life lived to its fateful locations.

And yet, there comes a time when we must be separated from these islands of meaningful reality.  Who is to say when this day may come?  Some events may be forseen, such as closing and locking the door on a leased apartment that has been the first true home you ever felt as your own.  But tell me: what will be your last visit to the town you grew up in?  When will be your last visit to a restaurant, a library, a park where you enjoyed the bright gaze of the sun from the shadow of a giant oak?  Maybe you will know this place is being torn down or that you are on your way out; more likely, you will visit such a place, with every intention that you will someday return.  It may be a small lie you tell yourself, to make the terrible parting that much easier.  It may be that it simply never happens; you become to busy with your spouse, your child, your job, your life.  Someday, you will leave every place you have ever been, and never return to it.

These are the things I think about, as I encounter new experiences in my life.  In a way, it distances me from them, reminding me that while it is new now, it must end someday; in a way, it brings me closer.  I can never forget that everything I experience is a ticking clock.  I can never take a thing, a place, a person for granted because I know that one day by death or life, it will all fade away.  It may sound tragic or horrible.  I cannot argue with that assessment and still be honest to myself, but there is a better, stronger effect.  It reminds me that I am alive.

Print Something For Justin – The Results

Well, the results are in, and you can see them for yourself!  I’ve posted a public album on Facebook with scans of all of the print jobs that came in.  Some people were a little better about concealing their identities than others (you know who you are), and I have guesses as to some of the senders, but a few of them have me mystified.  I declare this experiment a success.

Print Something For Justin

I have recently acquired a new printer with a neat little capability, so I’ve decided to conduct a little social experiment.  The capability I’m referring to is ePrint, which allows printing by sending an email.  I send an email to a special address and voila, it pops out of my printer.  It works with regular emails, but it will also print attached documents and images.  It’s an awesome little perk that allows me to print something at home, even when I’m not there, so that it will be ready for me when I arrive.  It is also compatible with Google’s Beta service, Cloud Print.

So, here’s the experiment: send an email to [redacted] to print something to my printer anonymously.  Normally, the printer email address is locked down, so that it will only print for emails sent from my email address.  However, I have deactivated this setting, so that the printer will accept jobs from any email address.  Because the purpose of the technology is to print a document as though it were a normal printer attached to the computer, it doesn’t include any sender information in the printed document.  Because of this, I will never know who sent each print job.  I will leave this setting unlocked until Saturday, March 31st, after which I will lock it down again.  At the end of the week, I will write about the results of the experiment, and post some of my favorite prints.

tl;dr Send an email to [redacted] to anonymously print something out on my printer!