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Last night I went up to Joel’s house to help harvest basil, make pesto, and tear down the ceiling in the living room. He helped me with the outrageous job of removing wallpaper from my living-room ceiling, so I really felt like I owed him.

I got up there around 5:30, did a little pottering around, and by shortly before 6, I was ready to start laying waste to the basil patch. One of these nights it’s going to get down to freezing, so the harvest needed to happen sooner rather than later. I cut all of the plants off level with the ground and hauled them into the house. It felt like bales of basil. The basil heaped over both sides of the sink to the shelf over the windowsill some two feet up. By this point, it was probably about a quarter to seven.

I got out a colander and started stripping leaves off one stalk after another. To say it was tedious would be an understatement. The monotony was broken by a couple of mosquito attacks (they sneaked in with some of the bales of basil) and by one large, well-concealed, and feisty grasshopper.

There I was, spacing off and plucking basil leaves when I heard a good “thunk” of something hitting the floor. I looked down, expecting to see a rock or a chunk of dirt I’d mistakenly toted inside. Instead, I saw a big ol’ sassy ‘hopper about the size of my first finger, casually stretching his legs on the kitchen floor. Though he seemed personable enough for being a gigantic bug, I really felt that outside was the best place for him to be, so I figured I’d just pick the little beast up and chuck him back out where he belonged.

The grasshopper had other ideas. I picked him up the first time and he boinged out of my grasp, over my shoulder, and landed behind me about four feet away. I tried again, and this time, he squeezed through a gap between my fingers and sproinged onto the window shade on the door. He slid off “thud” back to the floor. This time, I reached down and eased my index finger under his front set of legs. He climbed aboard my finger like a tame parakeet, and seemed content enough to hang out there. I seized upon the opportunity of grasshopperly calm to open the back door and introduce him to the neighbor’s weedy shrubbery that hangs over the fence. Once the kitchen was empty of grasshoppers, I knew I had to get back to work.

By the time Joel rolled in (around 8:00 I guess) I was so sick of smelling basil I thought I was going to barf. Also, I wasn’t even halfway through the mound of basil in the sink. He pitched in, and we plowed through the heap, wrapping up before 9:00. We broke for a late dinner of pasta salad which mercifully contained no basil, then began to whirl it up in the food processor. When we finished, there were two large cottage-cheese tubs full of pesto, plus one of those 8-oz yogurt cups. Joel’s hosting a Pesto Party in a couple of weeks, so we froze it ahead of time for that festivity.

So, we got done with basil in many permutations and took it upon ourselves to perform a little demolition. Demolition occupies a special, sweet, almost spiritual place in my soul. Ohmygod, y’all, I love to tear some shit up! After being up to my shoulders in basil for about three hours (about two hours longer than I’d been expecting) I was overjoyed to heft a clawhammer and be given the go-ahead to break something. Actually, I mostly used a small prying-type tool, for I had the job of removing the fake-wood paneling that had been infesting Joel’s living room. The tedious part involving prying up the cheapie trim strips didn’t even begin to hint at the joy that yanking down the paneling would yield. I would wedge the little prying tool into a seam in the paneling and lever it up. I’d work my way up the seam about as high as I could reach, then get my fingers underneath and start pulling the panel away from the wall. Sometimes, if the adhesive was still sticking down too well, I’d have to get in behind the panel with my boot and give it a hefty kick. Rending the panels away from the wall and leaving them in a nice, tidy stack behind the tarped-over sofa was highly satisfying. Demolition allows you immediacy in the ability to quantify your work. You get a stack of discarded paneling, or a half-exposed ceiling, or some other very visual proof that your work is working. Some of the more subtle elements of build-back are so painstaking and tedious that it doesn’t seem like anything is happening at times (though it would show like crazy if, say, you skimped on sanding down a skim-coat). So, we made a big damn mess until bedtime, knocked off work around 11:00, cleaned up, and crashed hard.

It was a prosperous, and productive evening.

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