April 9, 2017

Congratulations to Sergio Garcia for his exciting and well-deserved first major, winning the 2017 Masters in playoff fashion over fellow European and Ryder Cup comrade Justin Rose.

This was a strange Masters. After all the hype over the two marquee pairings of Rose and Garcia and Americans Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth, it was disappointing to watch Fowler and especially Spieth slowly but gradually remove themselves from contention. 90 minutes into Sunday’s telecast it was strange to see how little suspense there actually was. Like Saturday, the field was playing under perfect conditions, and like Saturday, no one in the field was making a move. It was just Rose and Garcia doing their thing and the rest of the field seeming like they might as well have been playing another run of the mill PGA Tour event.

It wasn’t until the turn that things got interesting. Garcia seemed to lose his focus on 10 and it seemed like Rose had the green jacket for his taking until his missed putt and Garcia making his on thirteen seemed to reinvigorate the Spaniard, and from then on you had a true duel in the sun right up until the very end. It was pretty exciting stuff for sure, but nothing like Masters of previous years where you had leads changing every five minutes and countless roars from the patrons on the back nine creating an atmosphere of suspense and expectation.

Still, if you were to ask anyone who they’d most like to see win besides Phil Mickelson it would have been Sergio. He’s a true people’s choice, and his win will make him one of the most beloved Masters past-winners for years to come. Who knows? Maybe having this monkey off his back will free him up to win another major or two, just like Phil did. It would be great to see.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 22:10 | Comments (0)
April 7, 2017

A few thoughts as we head into a Masters weekend:

The Masters theme in extended HD. Enjoy the visuals, I think they’re almost as good as the music.

…and did you know that the Masters theme actually has lyrics? It does. They’re not very good, but there ya go.

I miss Ken Venturi in the tower with Jim Nantz.

See Bubba Watson today? Supposedly, he’s on some health kick where he’s lost like fifteen pounds – not that he had them to lose to begin with. His new diet is lots of vegetables and fish. I can’t believe how awful he looks – he’s the Karen Carpenter of the PGA Tour. Get that man a steak!

I nominate William McGirt and first round leader Charlie Hoffman as Masters field golfers who look most like a Goodboy.

Watching Thursday’s telecast, my first thought was, where are the azaleas? Turns out because of unseasonably warm weather they bloomed three weeks ago. Guess there are some things even the Masters Committee can’t control. Oh well, better luck next year…

Anyone who could watch the opening ceremony honoring Arnold Palmer without getting a tear in their eye – especially watching Jack Nicklaus – isn’t human.

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 01:59 | Comments (0)
April 6, 2017

…so the last time I left this topic I was discussing my plans for the middle section of the back yard, the area you see when you’re standing inside the house and looking out back. In my original post, I detailed why I was seeking a kind of radical redesign – one that would use space and light colors to create an airy kind of buffer between the east side of the back (the swimming pool and pool deck) and the west (lawn and Tiki bar deck). As I mentioned in that post, the idea was to have the patio and that area of the back yard create the kind of theme we sought to achieve in the overall landscape design: in our case, something both whimsical and tropical in the “St. Somewhere” vein, a combination of the Caribbean and the South Seas.

The original post showed what the area looked like. Now let’s do some before and after shots to give you an example of everything that went down over the past few weeks. First: the patio. Amazing what a sprayer and some white flat latex paint can do to make wicker look bright and cheery. Here’s the before:

…and here’s the after, albeit from a slightly different angle, but you still get the idea:

We also re-positioned the chairs around the Jimmy Buffet “Boat Drinks” table so that anyone walking outside onto the patio to get to the barbecue or the swimming pool no longer has to walk around the furniture. It’s all designed to make an area that’s actually quite small appear more open an allow the new “strand” area and the pool deck stand out.

Speaking of the “strand” area, just to jog your memory, here’s a picture of what the area looked like before – definitely more of an Arizona, desert-y feel than anything remotely tropical, right?

And now after, showing what a ton and a half of light-colored rock, a second queen palm, and a tiki purchased from a local artist who distributes his work at the nursery down the street can do:

Actually, to call it a “strand” doesn’t really describe how the area ended up, it actually looks more like a small tropical island in the South Pacific than anything else – especially with the palm debris that was allowed to stay right where it dropped courtesy of Mother Nature and a big windstorm we had the day after it was done. Funny thing: last Friday I came home to see the debris picked up by our landscaper Carmelo’s crew (they’re thorough if nothing else!). Fortunately, they only tossed the debris into our trash barrel, so I was able to retrieve it and put it back where it was.

I’ll have to speak to Carmelo this week to make sure it doesn’t happen again – you can’t let landscaping stand in the way of art!

But it’s not just the view from the back door that is transformed: look at the before and after pics taken from the lawn looking towards the swimming pool. Like I said in the original post, it was a jumble of stuff masquerading as an Arizona backyard:

Now the area looks bright and airy, especially after I spray-painted our patio dining set the same white as our wicker chairs. It looks especially nice in the late afternoon sun:

Pretty nice, huh? The area also looks really nice at night with the new palm softly lit and the big mesquite in the far right corner brightly lit with a new spotlight that enables you to see it from inside the house at night, thus emphasizing the four-season (actually, it’s only two, “hot” and “not”) lifestyle we have here in the Valley of the Sun.

Total cost? Between the landscaping, three tikis (I bought two others, will show you those in a later post), the queen palm, and the patio furniture painting project (including one false start due to bad advice from the True Value guy), the whole effort cost a shade under two grand. Not a bad investment for getting the back yard looking pretty close to way I originally envisioned it so many years ago.

Of course, when you own a house no good deed goes unpunished. In this case, by upgrading everything around it you end up highlighting stuff that still needs to be done. In this case, it’s the pool deck, which may not look too bad in the photos above, but it’s in dire need of resurfacing. But that’s a project for next year. Tracey has her own (strong) ideas of how it should be resurfaced; I think in this case I’m just gonna sit back and let her decide once we get all the quotes. But that’s a long time away – for now, it’s nice to just sit outside, during the day or at night under soft pineapple lights, and enjoy the feeling of accomplishment not just for a job well done, but of a vision and concept successfully realized.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:28 | Comment (1)
April 4, 2017

It’s been over a month since I last hit a golf ball, sinking that 3-footer for a crowd-pleasing triple-bogey seven on the last hole at Las Vegas National, and I’ll admit I was starting to feel itchy. Even more so after talking with my good Goodboys friend The Funny Guy about getting my swing checked out at the Hudson, NH Golf & Ski when I’m back in Massachusetts the last week of this month. The idea being, ask to try a few different brands of clubs out in their bays where you can hit outside – not at a damned screen – and see what feels good.

I had a ton of work today but had to go out and get a haircut, so I was already in the general vicinity of the PGA Tour Superstore five minutes away from me and on a whim decided to stop in. I have to admit, just being around something associated with golf rekindled a kind of excitement – after all, being a free agent with no clubs in my garage except my Ping Scottsdale putter is a position I’ve never been in. And with more than three months still to go until Goodboys Invitational weekend I have the time and leisure to pick out the kind of clubs I want and do it in a way that allows me to make a good and informed decision.

I sauntered up to the counter by all the hitting bays and talked with Ryan, told him my situation, told him I was a 24 handicap, told him I hadn’t hit balls for a month and that I was just getting over an acute case of the shanks, and – most importantly – let him know the process I was planning to follow. That right now I just wanted to try out a few different kinds of irons just to get a feel for what would be a different set of clubs, no matter what happened. Steel shafts off the rack would be fine. That at this point I didn’t even want to think of woods and various combinations, that I just wanted to hit three different brands of irons.

I had already stopped in a couple of weeks go just to feel the different kinds of brands out there and felt comfortable narrowing my search in irons to the Calloway XR, Cobra King F7, and Mizuno JPX. If I didn’t like any of those, then I’d toss something else into the mix. Afternoons are quiet at the PGA Tour Superstore this time of year – everyone’s out playing golf – so there was no rush, all the bays being empty. And Ryan, being the astute sales associate (and PGA professional) that he was, knew this was no time for a “my way or the highway” attitude: after all, new club sales for anything except the most exotic and boutique stuff are pretty flat and that it was in his interest to make me comfortable with my process.

He gave me a Mizuno JPX 6-iron and 7-irons for the Callaway and Cobra, told me to take my time and have at the machine. I’ll admit to being a little nervous as I put on my golf glove. Would I shank the first ball I hit? And if I did, what then – hit a second? And then what if I shanked that one? I guess I’d just take off my glove, hand the clubs back to Ryan, and go home to craft my farewell letter to my fellow Goodboys in the nation. I mean, that’s how bad my last two golf experiences were. Maybe it was because I was so sick at the time (and sick I was, I ended up losing fifteen pounds and it was only last week that quick moves no longer left me lightheaded), but gee-whiz, what if it wasn’t because of that? What if I was a casualty of the game in the making like Ian Baker-Finch was – after all, he had to quit the game because it was destroying him psychologically.

So there was a lot riding on that first swing at some stupid bay at a PGA Tour Superstore this first week of April. I grabbed the Mizuno 6 and took a swing. Didn’t even take a practice swing, just grabbed a ball and hit it. Amazingly, it actually went straight! As did the second one. I topped the third, then yanked the fourth, but I started to enjoy myself, feeling the anxiousness leave me as I took a few more swings. I then grabbed the Cobra 7 and hit some pretty decent shots. Ryan encouraged me to start swinging a little harder to try and get as much out of the clubs as I could, telling me that was the only way I’d get a real feel for what these clubs could do. So that’s what I did, and I could actually feel a little more confidence coming back. Perhaps being sick in Vegas had left a swing thought of just swinging easy as a way to get through the rounds and it was doing that that encouraged the shanks – I mean, who knows?

What a head case I am.

Anyways, I tried the Callaway 7 and really didn’t like it. I’m not sure why, but after a few swings I found myself gravitating back to that Mizuno 6. I really liked that club, felt like I could really wail away at it. Then back to the Cobra, then back to the Callaway. After a good 30 minutes, I had racked up some pretty decent golf swings, being complimented by Ryan on several occasions. I told him I’d be back to try them all again because with my swing, who knows what will show up on any given day. But here are a few thoughts:

1. If I were to rank the clubs I hit today it would be the Mizuno, Cobra, and Callaway in that order.
2. I’m really not interested in a complete set of the same brand just for the sake of playing a single brand.
3. By the time I hit the Golf & Ski I’m going to be down to two iron choices and start looking at drivers and woods.
4. Depending on how the sets play out, whatever serves as hybrids (#3 / 4 iron replacements) will be a crap-shoot.

Arriving home I cracked open a Sam Adams (I knew I was finally over being sick this past weekend when a Sam Adams Boston Lager actually tasted good for the first time since, like, forever) and put on some mellow surf music. And it all felt good. And it all felt right.

The Great White Shank had taken his first step forward to rejoining the golf-playing community.

Filed in: Golf Quest by The Great White Shank at 02:27 | Comments (3)
April 3, 2017

It’s the week in the professional golf year that is, to quote CBS Sports’ Jim “Hello, friends” Nantz, “a tradition like no other”. It’s Masters Week. The precocious, spoiled brats featured in the tiresome Drive, Chip, and Putt competition have been swept off the Augusta National grounds like so many dead azalea blooms (thank God!) and the adults are finally taking over.

This year’s Masters promises to be a good one. Of course, you have the red-hot Dustin Johnson and Rory McIlroy ready to overpower Augusta with their incredible distance, but I’m still sticking with Jordan Spieth as my pick. I know he missed the cut at the Shell Houston, but you could tell his mind was a thousand miles away in Augusta. He’s got a lot to make up for with last year’s cheap bridge table collapse, and I think he’s ready to up his game to ensure defending champion Danny Willett is putting the green jacket back on his shoulders. Besides, if Spieth can play with hickory sticks, he can surely win again at Augusta.

One person who won’t be there is Tiger Woods. I’ve come to believe that you can’t believe anything that comes out of the mouth of his agent Mark Steinberg. The guy lies like a rug trying to keep Tiger relevant and in the conversation of everything that is golf today, but you really have to wonder if the guy is coming around to the realization that he just can’t do it anymore. I mean, five minutes on the range and he decides he’s not going to play at Augusta? He couldn’t play when he teed it up at Dubai, and nothing has changed since that tine to make anyone think he’s any closer to rejoining the Tour on a regular basis than he was at this time last year. At some point it becomes a question of whether it’s all worth it. He had a great run, will always be known as one of the greatest golfers who have ever played the game. Ought to be enough to leave it at that.

And what’s going on with the LPGA allowing a phone-in by some Cheetos-eating, 16-handicap couch potato to influence the winner of a professional golf tournament? If I were Lexi Thompson I’d be pretty livid about the whole thing. The LPGA should put a stop to this kind of thing, and pronto.

Masters week is always special. It’s the best tournament to watch on TV, bar none. So queue the quaint music, turn up the microphone volume so that every bird within fifteen miles is heard, have a moment of silence for the departed King, and let those words ring out, indicating that winter is truly over and another golf season is upon us.

“Fore, please!”

Filed in: Golf & Sports by The Great White Shank at 16:44 | Comments (0)
March 27, 2017

My neighbor John and I were talking last night about the bougainvillea all around the subdivision and how we’ve never seen anything like it as long as we can remember. I think it must be because we’ve had the unlikely combination of a wet winter without anything close to a freeze. Has to be, because the bougainvillea are thick and bountiful no matter where you look. Here’s what our front looks like, the prayer grove’s natural archway as maintained by our landscaper Carmelo:

..then, on the other side of the same wall, the bougainvillea as viewed from our cactus garden. The yellow ones I planted a decade ago are having their best year ever and reaching up to join the red ones cascading over the wall:

Pretty, ain’t it?

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 20:03 | Comment (1)
March 22, 2017

March in the Valley of the Sun is chock-full of frenzied activity. With “Arizona winter” for all intents over, and the first nineties of the year only hinting at the bigger heat to come, there is much to do. The literally hundreds upon hundreds of A/C companies are in the midst of their busiest stretch of the year, selling and installing new systems, and running maintenance checks. For swimming pool owners, it’s the most common month of the year to do drainings, acid washes and refills. Landscapers are busy planting trees and new bushes – it’s the perfect time of the year for new plantings to get established before the heat comes on.

And that’s sorta what this whole week has been like. Monday we welcomed into our backyard a brand new queen palm that would balance off the existing one on that middle area I was calling “the strand”. On Tuesday Daniel from Hawkeye Landscaping show up with a crew to spread 1 1/4 tons of light rock on top of the old, darker stuff; there was so much rock they were able to make it look more like a tropic island than a strand. Today was a busy day: a morning visit by pool bodhisattva Alan to start draining the pool and collecting our vacuum for refurbishing, and in the afternoon the first of what will be many visits to the dentist by my sister-in-law; we’re finally getting around to get her long-neglected teeth issues taken care of. All I can say is, poor Tam, I’m glad it’s not me!

Tomorrow (Thursday), it’s back to pool care with the bead blaster guy coming to remove the calcium ring from around our pebble-tec pool surface, then in the afternoon our A/C guy is coming to do their spring maintenance call. On Friday, P.B. Alan reenters the dharma of pool maintenance to start refilling the pool and checking the filter’s O-rings to see why we’re getting a small flow of dirty water back in the pool whenever I do a backwash. By that time the pool vacuum will be fixed and we’ll be back in business.

This weekend the weather looks to be both calm and warm, so I’m planning on repainting our brown wicker furniture and green patio set white. I’ve never attempted this kind of thing before, but I’ve been doing my research and believe I’m up for it, so it promises to be both a learning and (hopefully) rewarding experience.

Once all of this is done, I’ll only have a few precious weeks before the heat returns to stay to wash down and re-stain the tiki bar and the tiki bar deck, then spray with preservative all our decorative signs, silk flowers, and anything else that needs to be protected from fading.

So much to do, so much left to be done! I still need to get back to the more inside work of consolidating our living trust documents and getting them to the lawyer for review, and Tracey needs to finish our taxes. Our reward for getting that stuff done? Getting our firearms safety training certifications out of the way so we can buy the guns we’ve been looking at and start target practice at the range just up the road.

After such a dreadful last year it’s fun to simply be doing stuff that doesn’t require a whole lot of emotional investment.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 22:14 | Comments (0)
March 19, 2017

It has been a beautiful weekend here in the Valley of the Sun – temps in the mid-90s, the air still fragrant with fruit tree flowers. We have a sparrow nest in the lemon tree and the babies are hungry all day. Not doing much today – just relaxing ahead of what promises to be a busy (and expensive) week. I’m still only operating at ~ 80% and I’ve got a physical in two weeks to see what might be going on. Still, it’s a perfect time to toss out a few observations and links.

The Arnold Palmer Invitational finishes up today, so here’s a nice story about “The King” and his legacy.

R.I.P, Chuck Berry. He had a huge influence on a lot of bands – the Stones, The Beatles, and the Beach Boys to name just a few. From what I’ve read he could be a total a$$hole as a person, but there’s no doubt of his impact and lasting influence in rock n’ roll.

R.I.P. Robert Osborne of Turner Classic Movies. When you watched him introduce movies you felt like he was a guest in your home. He just oozed those qualities of grace, taste, class, and appreciation that are almost non-existent these days. His kind and his generation is rapidly disappearing before our very eyes, leaving those of us who can truly appreciate what those qualities are and the impact they had on this country and to our value system feeling like a bunch of dinosaurs. I’m just glad I’m of an age where I could appreciate and experience it all, because I don’t much like the world I live in.

This is both fascinating and frightening at the same time. While dropping the bombs on Japan was the right thing to do at the time, here’s hoping no one ever has to use these things again. Next time I go to Vegas I gotta go see the atomic testing museum there. It’s right off of Flamingo above Paradise.

Just finished reading biographies of both Bob Marley and George Harrison. While they were both very different people and from very different cultures, I now know why I find them both such captivating musical icons. They were both very spiritual people trying to find the fine line between their earthy success and spiritual sides. In George’s case, he was always trying to break free of the long shadow his Beatles past cast; in Bob’s case, he was endlessly touring to support his music as a way to express his creative muse and deliver his Rastafari religious message of peace and love to the masses. But both had a huge impact on what we now call “world music” to this day: Harrison introducing the western world to Ravi Shankar and Indian music, and Marley through popularizing reggae music and his message of black empowerment and liberation.

Golf is hard. Maybe one of these days I’ll pick the game back up again, but boy, am I still feeling haunted by those shanks I had in Vegas.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 12:33 | Comments (2)
March 18, 2017

Strand: the land bordering a body of water.

Weekend talk radio in the Valley of the Sun is, I think, fairly unique in its programming given the culture, lifestyles, and demographics of the area. We’ve got lots of retirees down here, so there’s lots of programming about retirement planning, financial and stock portfolio management, quacks selling all kinds of products designed to make you feel younger and healthier, golf talk (not as interesting as one might think), and – of course – real estate. Most of the time it’s all half-listened to – especially now that Tracey and I are well ahead of the retirement planning game, which means I don’t have to feel guilty while someone is promoting his or her services and upcoming events complete with the inevitable and free chocolate chip cookies.

But every now and then, something someone is says something that breaks through the noise and causes you to pay attention, even if it is for the briefest of moments. In this case it was a Saturday real estate show featuring a lady named Carol Royce who is a well-known real estate agent around these parts who nationally advertises with the slogan, “Carol Has The Buyers”. She’s obviously pretty successful, but it wasn’t her selling technique or the properties she was presently seeking buyers for that caught my attention; it was what she was talking about as far as properties and first impressions go.

Basically, her view was that, what people first see outside your back door as seen from inside the house makes a powerful statement about your property and how that property relates to the kind of potential lifestyle the house represents. For example, if the whole idea of your house is a turnkey operation requiring very little in the way of maintenance and upkeep (perfect, in other words, for snowbirds with an active lifestyle) the view out the backdoor should reflect that: austere, no pool, not a lot of foliage, lots of rock. It’s not necessary that everything has to have a theme or has to make a statement, but if it does and is well appointed and represented, your house stands a much greater chance of being sold.

Not we’re not interested in selling our house – at least for the foreseeable future – but it did get me thinking about the backyard. Primarily thanks to the initial owners we bought the house from, the backyard was already nicely designed: walking out onto the patio there was a lawn area under a big mesquite tree with a large sandbox (they called it their “beach”) to the right, the pool deck just off center left, and then the swimming pool on the left. There was a large palm tree straight ahead and three more palms in the far left corner. With a palate like that to start with, it became pretty easy to create my idea of a whimsical “St. Somewhere” kind of tropical paradise. The patio was redesigned and painted in colors and appointed in a sort of Caribbean / Margaritaville theme, and the sandbox was filled with a tiki bar and various tikis to create a Hawaii / South Seas kind of motif:

To push the theme even further, I supplemented the palm trees with mini date palms interspersed between the desert bushes already planted along the back and side walls. (You can see one of them along the west wall in the above pic.)

In and of itself, that was probably good enough, but after listening to that real estate show I took another look at the backyard through the doors from our kitchen and saw that more could be done to the area separating the right and left sides that was created when I redesigned the lawn area last year to reduce its overall size, align it with the tiki bar area, and make it easier to water. I now had a larger area that was basically sitting there and doing nothing, practically begging for a re-do. Presently, the area was a jumble: the big palm, two good-sized cactus I had grown from scratch, a funky piece of metal art in the shape of a large roadrunner, two red yuccas left over from when the area was a lot narrower, and a chiminea we rarely used.

Originally, the thought was that the area could perhaps be used for an in-ground barbecue, but discussing it over with my landscaping guru Daniel from Hawkeye Landscaping (he and I have overseen all the major landscaping projects ever since we came here, starting with the east yard, the front yard restore following our sewer line replacement), and the backyard irrigation system replacement and lawn redesign) we decided that the area was too small for the typical size of BBQ you see around these parts, and that between the yard as presently constructed and our lifestyle we really didn’t need to go that route.

So what to do? He agreed with my desire to create a strand: a big, bright, open area with clean lines that would stand out simply by its very openness. The first step would be to remove the two red yuccas left over from when the area was a lot narrower. The roadrunner, of course, had to go – it could be moved to the cactus garden on the west side of the house where it could add a splash of color and whimsy when you’re looking out one of the living-room windows. Same thing with the chiminea: there was a spot at the entry to the cactus garden where it could kinda sorta fit in (at least for now). Daniel liked my idea of planting a new palm tree on the right side as a companion to the one on the left. We could then add another spot light so that it, like the other palm, could be lit up at night. And, we would get rid of all the old brown rock and replace it with the lighter, almost but not quite white rock used when the lawn was downsized and re-bordered. And once that was done, the final touch would be a good-sized, smiling tiki that would give off this new bright and open area positive vibes. Tracey’s contribution was to suggest that we emphasize the theme of bright and open by replacing all our current patio furniture (brown wicker and green metal) with white.

So how will it look when all is said and done? Stay tuned…

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 13:31 | Comments (2)
March 16, 2017

Bodhisattva: A person who has attained prajna, or Enlightenment, but who postpones Nirvana in order to help others to attain Enlightenment.

Alan is the man. A true swimming pool bodhisattva if there ever was one. Alan is (I’m guessing) in his late mid to late sixties. Used to be a corporate guy in an earlier life who did pool maintenance on the side before he decided to retire for the first time, doing pool consulting work for a local firm, Cactus Valley Pools, before they got bought out by a company called Poolwerx. Not wanting to get caught up in the mumbo-jumbo of corporate takeovers, Alan then decided to retire for a second time, only to discover yet again that one can only do so much traveling, gardening, and golfing before you miss being in the gameaction. When Poolwerx encouraged Jeff, the manager of the old Cactus Valley I used to frequent, to take over his old store, they asked him if there was anyone else he’d like to bring back. Alan was the first name off his lips. Alan accepted. He was back in the game.

It was Alan who drained our pool for the first time a decade ago. Alan who replaced our old cartridge filter with a sand media filter three years ago. Alan who saved us a thousand bucks by suggesting he could caulk the big cracks that appeared in the pool’s decorative border where no one could see and came by on four successive days at the crack of dawn to add a new layer of caulk so it could dry before the heat came up. Alan who suggested how much the pool water could be safely drained two summers ago before it was covered over when we had our bee infestation.

And it’s not just us: Jeff at the Poolwerx store estimates that there isn’t a pebble-tech pool within ten square miles of the branch that Alan hasn’t either seen and serviced. And given the value a well-maintained pool means to one’s property here in the Valley of the Sun, someone like Alan is right up there, somewhere behind your A/C guy and next to your landscaper. He’s invaluable. And, as a result, expensive. Because owing an in-ground swimming pool is just like owning a boat. Expensive to operate, expensive to keep up. And, like a boat, you have to keep it up and stay on top of it; if you don’t both can get away from you and real fast.

In the grand scheme of the swimming pool universe, there are lucky pool owners and unlucky ones. The unlucky ones find themselves battling with one problem after another: green water, gray water, black water, chlorine and acid level imbalances, filter issues that never seem to go away. Fortunately, we’ve always seemed to live on the charmed side of that coin: outside of the occasional chlorine shock and going through several incarnations of pool vacuums (all expensive) before finding the right one for our particular size and shape, the pool basically runs itself. Keep the chlorine container filled, add a cupful of phos-free every week once the real heat comes in, and the water always looks good. For whatever reason, our pool light has never worked longer than a month or so after replacing the bulb (another expensive item!) but that’s never been a big deal. A lot of it is just being lucky and being diligent when it comes to sweeping the floor and the sides of the dirt that accumulates, but I have to think a lot of it also has to do with being able to rely on Alan’s expertise.

I usually see Alan every two years on the odd year, because it’s every two years we replace the water and start all over again. This past Tuesday was our day, which meant two things: 1) an enjoyable conversation by the pool catching up on things, and 2) lots of money about to be spent. That’s just the way it is.

First on the list was the pool water level regulator: I could never figure it out, and had resorted to using the garden hose to fill the pool to its normal level after the one that had worked so damned well for ages finally gave out last fall. Alan took one look at it, had it properly adjusted in a minute’s time.

Alan then noticed that the pool vacuum seemed to be only doing one section of the pool. “How long has that been happening?”, he asked. I told him I couldn’t remember. “It probably needs its bearing and runners adjusted”, he says. “I have the same model and mine goes all over the place. I’ll take care of that when I drain the pool.”

I wanted Alan to take a look at the calcium ring where an older, higher water level used to be. “I can get a guy to bead-blast (how’s that for a term!) it for you. It’ll cost, though…”. “What doesn’t?”, says I. “He won’t be able to blast the calcium line on the pool deck surface, it’ll rip it all to hell”, Alan cautioned. I told him that was OK, we’ll leave as is – pool deck resurfacing is on the backyard to-do list for next year.

Alan remarked how good the pool looked overall and said I wouldn’t need to have it acid-washed once the water is drained, which was good news – $130 that won’t need to be spent. He asked how often I backwashed the filter, and I told him every 3-4 weeks unless things get really dusty during the monsoon season. He gave a nod. A good sign, until I casually mentioned how, after my last backwash this past weekend, a stream of dirty water went back into the pool after I had started the filter back up again. Alan frowned. Not a good sign.

“How long did you backwash it for?”

“Two minutes.”

“Well, I’m going to have to check your filter pipes.”

Alan proceeds to tell me there are three sets of O-rings (I immediately start thinking of the space shuttle Challenger and what bad O-rings did to that) and how they probably need replacing. Not big money, fortunately, but time, and Alan’s time is, of course, money. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned when it comes to swimming pools and Alan: if he advises something, don’t think, just grab the check book.

We arrange for Alan’s planned visit next week to recheck the water level regulator, drain the pool, take the vacuum back for servicing, and check the filter O-rings. That’s enough for this year, I think. When all is said and done, we’re probably talking a grand. But a grand well spent in the grand scheme of things. Because, just like just about everything else, there is no cutting corners when it comes to swimming pools. It’s either pay me now or pay me later.

And if Alan says pay me now, well, that’s the way it goes. Because that’s the way the game is played when your house comes with an in-ground swimming pool in the Valley of the Sun.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 02:51 | Comments (0)

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