Story time at OPB! Everybody got a tasty beverage and something to munch? Excellent. Get comfy.
Ten years ago (seriously, y’all, where does the time go?) when we were newly married, we had the very good fortune to spend a few years hanging out in Germany courtesy of Uncle Sam. The U.S. military has quite an extensive support network overseas (for those not familiar) designed to make families feel (more or less) like they have the comforts of home available. These include Exchanges (think Wal-Mart), Commissaries (American groceries), movie theaters, The Stars and Stripes (newspaper), and the very special Armed Forces Network. AFN started many moons ago during World War II as the Armed Forces Radio Service and has been around ever since, providing valuable information and morale-boosting entertainment wherever our military goes. Remember Good Morning Vietnam? Like that, except Robin Williams is not giving you the weather, instead it’s Technical Sergent John Doe and he’s really not funny about it (but you do get to hear about the weather in Souda Bay daily. Click here if you want the full goofy experience). Eventually radio also gave way to television and this is where we come in.
It’s different now, but back when we were in Germany we got ONE AFN television station. One. Uno. Eins. The signal wasn’t very strong as we were at a rather remote base from the main American Military Machine over there, and our picture was frequently not great. BUT! It was the only American TV we had, so we watched it, dadgumit, because it was in English. AFN had no budget to buy programming like the networks here do – it’s not-for-profit of course, being part of the DOD-so what we saw was donated by the TV industry. Bless those folks at AFN, I know they tried their hardest to find decent programming and then make a mix so that there was a little something for everyone during the day. And they did, by and large, a good job. Sesame Street came on every morning, the Today show at 1 pm (it was live) and at night we’d get ER and other popular shows – just one season behind. But some of the shows? Well, they were just weird.
Enter Battle Bots. I don’t know why we ever watched it, because now, today, 10 years older, with high speed internet (did not have then), Netflix, and a gazillion cable channels, I wouldn’t even glance at the screen. But somehow, during the very rainy and dark German winter, when isolation and homesickness set in, well, all you’ve got is AFN. And AFN had Battle Bots, a strange campy show where people built robots and then put them into a ring to see which one could disable the other first – usually by flipping it over or otherwise making it immobile- had something of a cult following among some of our friends. Anyway, my favorite robot was, of course, Vlad the Impaler. He was rather squat but had these two long planks built for, well, impaling his opponents (actually more like lifting them and flipping them over). Also, the very corny announcer had this overly-dramatic affect when he announced Vlad that I, for some reason, found incredibly amusing. VLAD! The IMPAAAAAALER!
Yes, I know I just lost most of my readers right there.
Apparently, aside from really bad television, Vlad The Impaler was also a real dude! Looky here, and note the spear on the helmet. You will see it again:
I know, I know. You’re wondering what in the wide world of sports does this quite lengthy and not terribly interesting story have to do with home improvement? It occurred to me not long after we bought OPB that is came with it’s very own Vlad, The Impaler. Although, the thought probably occured to Russ quite a bit sooner (as he is a good 6″ taller than I am).
Vlad, as seen here, during the Great Blizzard of ’10:
Or, more normally, here:
If you are a tall fellow, much like my husband, you might even have had an encounter with Vlad on our porch. Maybe. Perhaps. At any rate, it was fairly obvious to me that eventually somebody was going to get hurt. Not really wanting to test out the parameters of our homeowners policy (does it cover impalement?) we decided Vlad’s reign of terror was over. And really, nothing says “Welcome to Our Home” like a bleeding head wound.
So long, you pointy menace.
Unfortunately, Vlad was originally suspended from a hook mounted in the attic over the porch – no electrical box existed. We had to retrofit one. Fun times! Here’s the jigsaw blade at work.
Aaand I managed not take any more pictures because I was busy doing my favorite job (Hold this right here. Don’t move.) until we got to this point:
This nifty light comes on at dusk at a dim setting, then kicks over to bright when it senses motion. Groovy!
The porch: no longer a hazard to your head.
And yes, I could have just said, “Hey, we put up a new light fixture! Look!” but that wouldn’t be very much fun, now would it?