After a week long break from the deck troubles, the guy we hired (Tony, handyman extrordinaire) came by this morning to start work on the porch. Joe stopped at home on his lunch break to see it in progress. While they were talking, Tony understated, "Man, that paint is really hard to get off!"
But, here's what it looked like when I got home tonight:
Much, much MUCH better. He's coming by tomorrow to finish some sanding and smooth out the roughness, and by this weekend I can start staining. Hooray for calling in the professionals!