A Weekend in The Project
by Jan Baughman

Some of my readers have written in recently wanting to know more about me and the reality of this tongue-in-cheek writer who skims briefly and sarcastically over the surface of the life around her. So, I decided to invite a few of them to share the weekend with me. The past three months have been characterized by The Project: Gilles is building a new deck, fences and gates, mostly without my help.

I start at 8 a.m. Saturday. Gilles has been up since 5 so the coffee has long since expired. I crawl out of bed, make a cup of espresso, grab some OJ and the New York Times and head right back. Another day, another Bill Clinton exposé, now he's using a civil rights forum to offer another convoluted apology. An hour later, it's outside to help with the clean up. Today is Dump Day.

We load the 1961 green and rusty Chevy Truck with old wood and the floor of the old porch. Normally, I am incognito when riding in the truck. Today I put my hair up and don dark glasses. We stop at Jack in the Box for a suitable breakfast to start the day off right. Gilles has a number 4 and a number 5 breakfast; I have the sourdough breakfast sandwich à la carte. We meander through the back roads to the BFI building, which is the size of an airplane hangar. You drive in, unload your trash and drive out. It's all so sterile and you feel okay about it because you don't have to see it going in to the land fill.

There's quite a line to get in today. People everywhere, with all kinds of trucks and minivans, waiting, like us, to pay someone to take away their unwanted stuff. We finish our breakfast and watch a little drama unfold in front of us. It seems a truck tried to cut in line and a battle of wills is taking place. Two trucks have joined forces to keep this guy out. It all seems so trivial, this power play here in line for the dump. "My life is so strange...", I muse.

It's finally our turn and the man in the booth gives a cursory look at our load and says "Ten bucks". We're delighted! Gilles says that they charge much less when I'm with him. My powers of persuasion are, indeed, unsurpassed. It only takes a few minutes to unload the truck and we unceremoniously bid riddance to the old porch. I pick up a Carl Jung book that someone before me had thrown and flip through it. I throw it back. Water damage. You can't read Jung on distorted paper.

Now it's off to Home Depot for hinges, the lumberyard for more redwood for the fence, and finally to Lyngso for 1.25 tons of type II concrete base for the driveway. It was tough work to unload the crushed concrete and we'll probably need to get more. After that, Gilles worked on the fence and I picked plums. Every year, this plum tree has a bumper crop of inedible plums that make a mess everywhere. It's not very satisfying to pick fruit that you're not going to eat. Unfortunately, our squirrels have refined palates.

The day finally comes to an end. I grill hamburgers of ground sirloin, melted Gruyère and butter lettuce on toasted sourdough baguettes. (Must have been a subconscious reaction to Jack in the Box.) We eat our hamburgers and talk about The Project. Gilles has just about had it with The Project. Fortunately, it's almost finished--at least I hope it is..., and it looks great.

Sunday morning starts like Saturday - coffee, newspaper - this is the best part of the weekend. Today is special because after reading the paper I am going to watch the new Saturday night Howard Stern Show, which I taped last night. My readers would probably be shocked if they knew I adore Howard Stern...

A fence contractor was supposed to come at 9:00 to give a bid for a second fencing project but he stood us up. I don't think we'll hire him because he doesn't seem very reliable. Gilles goes to work on The Project and I proceed to water the shrubs. There are 138 of them. I'm thinking about an article I read today regarding the results of a recent study which concluded that there is a relationship between the amount of time people spend on the Internet and depression. While the methodology is reportedly sound, I am not convinced. In fact, it is my theory that depression causes people to spend more time on the computer, and not the other way around. I am designing a study in which a sample of depressed individuals will be matched by age, sex and income to a sample of non-depressed individuals. I will follow both groups for one year and assess their mental state and the amount of time they spend on the computer and on other activities. I am pretty sure I will be able to find a software company or an Internet service provider to fund my research.

After watering, it's inside for a bit of house cleaning. Just where DO all of those spiders come from? I make a note to myself to hire a housekeeper --preferably one who can clip and archive relevant newspaper articles. Probably won't come cheap. I stop to write a little something for Swans. In between there's laundry, grocery shopping, a trip to Home Depot for a few plants and back to Lyngso for two cubic yards of topsoil. The back fence and gates are finished and we shovel out the topsoil and plant some flowers.

At the end of the day, I'll grill some ahi and we'll eat on the new deck and admire the work. We'll toast the never-ending end of The Project and talk about what we'll do with our weekends, once we get a life again. In the meantime, Monday will be a new day, and it's time to go back to work.

Published September 5, 1998
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