THIRTEEN years ago, Sheryl and I moved into a little bungalow on a corner lot in north Pasadena. One of the more unusual features of the property was a large rusty bird pen constructed from 2 1/2″ steel pipe, lumber, tree limbs and heavy screen. The pipe frame roughly formed the outline of a cube, about 9′ in each direction, give or take. At the base, the pipes were embedded into a concrete pad that would, were it not for the eagle’s nest, make for a lovely patio. The tools at my disposal were a small propane/oxygen torch, a cheap hacksaw and about 29 year’s worth of stubborn rage. I threw them all into the goal of disassembling the welded monstrosity.
(I’ve always been good at daunting tasks because I never look at the whole project before me. The fact that it took an hour to get a third of the way through one of the four concrete-embedded cage legs did not register as a potential sum of 12 hours of hacksawing — in truth, probably more than that as the blade would continually dull and need replacing. Rather, I saw it as me thoroughly kicking the ass of one-third of a pipe.)
The sawing and swearing must have caught the ears of my neighbors because, at about the halfway mark of the first pipe, three rough-looking, middle-aged men came sauntering through the open gate of our back yard. Note to self: Close gate. They were friendly enough, introducing themselves as Mike, Rick and Mark, asking what I was doing and then telling Sheryl and I the story of the cage and how Paul, the former owner, used to keep large exotic birds in there as pets. Then, with an envigorated sense of purpose, Mike left to retrieve an acetylene torch, Rick went to grab a Sawzall from his truck and Mark left to grab some beer. It’s worth noting that each of them were already carrying cans of beer when they arrived.
Once they returned, in less time than it would have taken me to defeat half a pipe, Mike and Rick had the cage cut down and into manageable pieces. Mark, who I learned owned the house across the street, kept the beer from getting warm — mostly by drinking it. It was the start of a long, strange friendship.