Intermediate Spanish on Aisle Five

Intermediate Spanish on Aisle Five

I took up Spanish on my own.

Mind you, living in South Florida, there are some obvious benefits that would not happen if you lived in some less diverse area.

I had five years of French in Junior High School and Senior High School. It has been long enough that most of that is long gone, save the pronunciation of certain Spanish words. I use that Back of The Throat R that the French do, and my Spanish “Ere” are no where near a trill like you would hear on the streets of Ciudad de Mexíco or Buenos Aires.

After the year or so of using Duolingo, watching Spanish Language TV, and listening to Spanish Language radio, I’m firmly ensconced in the Intermediate Spanish realm.

That is to say I speak good Plaza Sésamo. Get too complex and I am happy to look itup.

I’m lucky though. The friends I have that are not Bilingual are willing to help by giving me things to listen to and to read.

I’m also highly “Project Driven” as would be expected from a Project Manager.

We have a lot of little projects to finish here at the little house on the quirky little island known as Wilton Manors, Florida.

Quite a few projects actually. Way too many.

Recently we took on wiring the yard with low voltage lights.

Being who we are, those low voltage lights have to be LED lights. Have to be as in It Is Under Pain Of Death That We Are Green And Use LED Lights.

Truly. Over the top.

But the nice thing is that they use practically no power to do what the security lights that are there do with old fashioned Incandescent bulbs.

The existing bulbs are 110 Volt, 40 Watt. Two of them. On full, that is 80 watts. The equivalent is running at 1/10th the voltage and 1/4th of the wattage – a total of 1/40th of the current to make the same light.

If my math is correct.

But first, we have to get the things. That means a trip to The Big Box Home Improvement Store of your choice.

We did hit both. Bought the gear we thought we needed.
The transformer was already here. That was found online. Light bulbs and fixtures were at the big box stores along with the wire we needed.

One of the things I’m doing to learn Spanish is watch some kid’s shows. Ones for a pre-teen audience. Why? Because the sentence structure is just about where my own Spanish is at. Never mind that the songs that they put in these shows with all those flashing lights and images are guaranteed to be an ear-worm to be stuck in your head to come out at inappropriate moments.

So here I am, all 6 Foot 4 of me, walking down the aisles of the big box store quoting lines from a song that an elementary school kid would recite.

Vamos Herramientas! Lets Go Tools!

I spot the hand tool aisle. We could use some parts to the electric drill…

I’m told I have lost my mind…

Brinco Salto, Si Vamonos!

No Hay Que Tardar!
De Prisa!
A Trabajar!

Y a Reparar!

Leap Hop, Yes we go!

There is no delay!

To work!
And to repair!

And I am trotting through the big store with this song on a loop inside my head as I go past the paint, ceiling fans, sprinkler parts and find the low voltage lighting.

And I realize that I’m stuck in a silly song that doesn’t quite sound right in my native English.

Then again I have never seen that TV show, Handy Manny, in English. There are some shows that I have never seen in English, only in Spanish.

Who can resist a story where a sarcastic blue hammer is telling a baby blue whale to go back into the sea?

We grab more treasures to be buried in the yard.

Some black wire for low voltage use only.

Another two lamps that promise to light my palm tree.

A “straight hoe” that brings some childish giggles at the name.

Everything gets into the cart as I stand there like a toddler reading the words off the box out loud. After all everyone would want to hear a child say their new words, why not a full grown adult with a new toy of a new language?

“Contenido del paquete! That means Package Contents!”
I hear a quiet groan, then, “Great, can you grab this?”

“Sí! Voy a ayudar! Yes, I am going to help!”

“Here, have the instructions. They’re in Spanish too!”

So I’m now being distracted with a parts explosion and installation instructions on how to install a post lamp in the yard. Pretty simple actually.

But it gives me a new world of words to learn.

Cable de la lampara – Fixture Wire

Advertencia – Warning

Precaución – Caution

As strange as it sounds, reading the words off of the wall helps a lot, and those boring installation instructions that we gloss over turn out to be a trove of new Palabras – Words.

I find myself reading the Spanish on the shelves first for the challenge promising myself I won’t read the English.

We go through checkout and get home. As we’re relaxing and cooling down for the afternoon, I pick up another piece of reading and dig down deep. It’s the instructions for how to assemble, mount, and install a ceiling fan!

How exciting, huh?

Take the learning where you can. If you don’t have anyone nearby who can help you with your new language, don’t be afraid to look in unorthodox places. After all, Radio Martí broadcasts news from the US Government all in Spanish, and while propaganda is never balanced, it can help you learn, especially when you have a live link here.

Ahora, donde está mis instrucciónes?

Now, Where are my instructions?


Oh!  And that blue whale?  Of course the 10 hand tools and the people of the little beach town made a thing out of available fabric and sticks and were able to save the baby whale by walking it down the beach to the sea.  Because that is how things end in a happy little kid’s show in Spanish.

How to Keep An Idiot Busy – Give Them Low Flow Irrigation

When we got this house, it came with a well.  Ground water.  It watered the yard, front and then back, and all was well.

It kept the lawn green, lush and has been so far pretty easy to care for.

Oh sure, you have to go out from time to time and use the weedeater on the fittings, but you have to use the weedeater on the yard anyway.

This is South Florida.  You drop a seed on the ground and it will grow.

The backyard has hedges, and we were getting some dry spots, so we tweaked the system.  At one point we got a computer to control it all, and put in a third zone.

Zone 3.  It’s the super-duper low flow zone.  Everything is drip-feed and designed to comply with all watering restrictions.

Now mind you, that is a big lot of problems in itself.

You see, Zone 3, also waters my pots.  Pots full of Orchid, Banana, Podocarpus, Bamboo, Mexican Milkweed, and other cuttings that I am giving a start to.

Four pots of Orchid on the fence, four more on the shed.

Figure it all out yet?

If you drive around South Florida, you will see a lot of homes with a red stain on the walls.  Mine has it too.  It’s rust from the ground water.  The easiest fix is to pave it all under and put in gravel then turn off the pump, but I like green around me.  I could never live in the Desert as a result, and my childhood bedroom had tables of flowers, succulents, and vines that I had because I liked it indoors too.

No, really way too much of that stuff.  I moved all that outside.

So the thing with Low Flow Drip Irrigation?  It uses teeny tiny little sprinklers.  About the size of a dime.  The water lines that feed them?  They are plastic lines the size of a fish tank air supply or a straw from a drink in a bar.

You know those small things that you tried to drink from when you got old enough to go to a bar?   Yeah they didn’t work then and they don’t work now.

They all clog.

Oh sure, they’ll work great for a while, but just wait.  You will have to clean them.

Why?  That rust stain.  It’s ugly on a wall.  I solved it by planting screw palms in front of the walls where the sprinkler stained it.  I figure if there is enough water to keep staining my walls, I can grow stuff there.

If it is coating my walls with a film of rust and other sediments, then what is it doing to those tiny lines.

Arteriosclerosis.  Yep, it basically gives my sprinklers a heart attack.

A coating of rust inside the lines that grabs hold and locks down the mud that is in the water.  Stick a pipe into the ground here and you get water, but that water has sand and other muck that gets up into the lines with it.

Slowly it constricts the flow until you are out there and realize that your sprinklers aren’t sprinkling and your orchids are dying.

How do you fix that?

Join me in the yard.  7AM.  I’ll show you.

Remove the sprinkler head, get a thin wire and ream out the water holes.  Oh wait, you can’t pull that off?  No worries, just cut the line and replace the head.  Did that make the line shorter?  Yes.  You’ll have to replace that line to the sprinkler.

How about the junction.  That “T” that you made to connect the two pieces of licorice whip together?  It’s clogged.  When you removed the line and cleaned the sprinkler head it still didn’t sprinkle.  Clean out the “T”.

Hmmm, still not working?  Go back a step.  You connected the lines like a row of “T”s?  Like “TTTT”?  Not too good.  You will have to remove each “T” and clean them out with a thick wire or some fishing line.

Floss those “T”s!

Still no flow?  Ok, blow out the feeder line that the sprinkler’s connected to.  Just don’t point it at yourself.

I lost a pair of jeans and my sneakers that way once.  You see at the end of each line all the mud and rust collects.  I turned on Zone 3, opened the purge valve and sprayed about a gallon of rust on my Jeans and Sneakers.  After dancing around and screaming a pile of obscenities, I closed it back up as the water was already running “clear”.

So how do you spend your time?  Mine is dancing, cursing, and stabbing myself with cutting tools when I try to get these lines clear.

Yeah, I need a better hobby.

Home Improvement OCD Caused By A Bathroom Door

When you buy a house that wasn’t made for you, you expect little strange things.

Even if you are the Uber Home Improvement God who knows how to build a house from scratch using a hammer, hand saw, and maybe a screwdriver when you break your thumb nail putting the covers on the light switches, there will be little subtle things that were done not quite the way you planned.

Come on, admit it, no house is perfect.

We came from a 1863 Town House in Chestnut Hill Philadelphia.  If you stood in the middle of the dining room and bounced, the floor would bounce with you – it was held in place by a system of steel girders and beams.  Basically it was a bridge.  A bridge with very very old wood.

Here, the house was built in 1957 or 1968.  The city’s records aren’t quite clear on that.  We are the third owners.  The first owner put in a swimming pool and air conditioning.  The second owner lived here longer and there are some stories that he lived here “harder”.

I’ve heard stories about a wedding held where there was a platform built over the pool.  There are the initials of the police officers of Wilton Manors during the 1980s in the cement by one light pole.  I’ve heard echoes of stories that were alluded to and never finished because “I just can’t”.

Hey, if you just can’t, don’t start, OK?

But the place isn’t perfect.  If you walk on the tiles here, that were laid over the original grey terrazzo, some of them are silent, others are hollow.  The grout needs to be replaced.  The tiles themselves are stained from a carpet pad that was left in place so long that it welded to the floor.

Don’t get me started about how dirty the carpet was when I pulled it up.  Pepto Bismol Pink went out immediately upon Move In.


But I’m used to doing home improvement.  I can spackle and plaster better than many professionals, and between the two of us, Light Plumbing and Electrical work are covered.

But I had a Home Improvement OCD Melt Down.  It was caused by the morning bathroom, um, use.

Seated on the throne, the bathroom door was closed.  It is a hollow core door that I can barely pass through without brushing my shoulders on either side.  I walk through it on an angle.  I’m a tall guy, beefy, and in shape, and that damn door is narrow.

I’m looking around the room.  There are things that need to be fixed.  I’m thinking that since we’re at a breather in the Home Improvement Binge of 2015, and there will be no construction contractors in the house until next week, I may be able to get caught up on some backlogged maintenance.

Cleaning, that is.

Vacuum up the dust and bits of caulk and spackle.  Pick up some wandering screws or nails.  Look at the vertical blinds in the living room and make adjustments so they swing better.

Basic stuff.

But then I made the mistake.  I looked at the back of the door.

See, I am used to things being not quite right.  If you are standing in the living room and look down you will see the discoloration from that ugly pink carpet and the pad underneath.  I have managed to keep things serviceable here, if not perfect.  The walls are thankfully washable paint, so I see something and I grab the ammonia and clean it.

Except that hollow core door.  You see, it is completely unprepared wood.

I can’t say it is unstained.  It was stained before we got here.  Just not “Wood Stain”.  I am used to Wood Stain, I’m something of a woodworker myself.  Basic carpentry I enjoy.  Shop Class in 7th and 8th grades was fun to me.

This isn’t Wood Stain.  This is something entirely… else.

So cover me, I’ll get the ammonia from under the bathroom sink and … wait.

You see, if I clean that stuff off, it is probably soaked into the untreated wood.  That means it will have to be treated.  Primered and painted after a light “prep-sand” with some 220 or 400 grit sandpaper.  Now in my mind that meant some nice high gloss washable white paint, although maybe a wood stain would be just as good.  Polyurethane, like the stuff you use with the windows open so you don’t get high and pass out in a daze.

Hmmm, this bears some more thought!


If I paint that wood, I’ll have to do both sides.  Great!  Now I have one door painted.  Out. Of. Six.  I can stand in one spot in that short little hallway, only 6 tiles long by 3 wide, and touch four out of six doors.

One door will stand out.

I’ll have to prep-sand the other doors.  Clean them off.  Get the dust of 50 to 65 years off the doors.  Breathe, then start to paint them.  Volatile Organic Compounds floating into the air.  Probably will end up killing the Parrot.  Definitely kills off a couple million brain cells.  Lower the IQ by 10 points.

I’d fit in then!

Ok, so now that the doors have been painted, take a breather and look around.

Hmmm.  Stark White doors against that faded woodwork.  That looks rather shabby.  There’s a bit of a remnant of that washable wall paint leftover.   I can still see that horrible 1957 or 1968 Pepto Bismol Pink under a few spots here and there on the woodwork too.  Let me touch that up.

Now we are at painting six doors, six door frames.   Are we done yet?

Of course not!  You see the walls are a color that is “Ecru”.  Off White.  Who ever got the idea that walls should be “Off White” in the first place should have been terminated.  Why?  Off White looks like White that strayed.  It looks like white that was dirty.  As soon as it was painted.

Against my newly nice clean zinc oxide white washable door frames and doors, that wall covered in Ecru Beige Off White Bleah looks like someone had been smoking in the house for decades.

Instead of calling it Ecru, I’ll call it Smoker’s Fingers Beige.


So we paint the little hallway.  Find a color.  My own vote would be Pure White.  Zinc Oxide.  Like the nose of an Australian Surfer White.  All Bits On.  Hex Code #000000.

I’ll get overruled and it will be Ecru again.  Why?

Because of OCD.

You see if I paint the walls back in the little hallway, I will have to paint the rest of the house.  All of it.  Living Room.  Dining Room.  Kitchen.

Oh sure, it will get done before we eventually sell the place.   After all, cleanly painted walls are worth about 3 to 5 times the cost you put into getting the walls painted on the resale market.

Do I have the time for THAT?  I probably could do a wall a day, or every couple days.  Work my way around the house.  Have it done for the holidays maybe two or three years past.  But it would get done.  It would annoy me.  I’d want to find the person who invented Ecru, the person who painted the stuff on these walls, the person who put “texture” on the walls.  Then find the person who invented nails and get that person to nail the other three together and make a sort of Super Uber Interior Designer.  Held together with nails, caulk, and beige paint.

Then get THEM to do the painting.

I think all of this will just wait.   I’ll stop with the ammonia on the walls.  I hear ammonia does a lot of good!