Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Actual Progress vs. Perceived Progress

Yeah, OK. You may know you're making crazy progress on your home improvement project, but a lot of times you're the only one that can see it, and your wife/girlfriend/significant other just thinks you're a procrastinating sack of shit who is getting nothing done and ruining her life. You have 4 ways of dealing with this.
1. Shut them down: Tell your accuser, "Buzz off - It'll get done if you quit your bellyaching." Bad idea. I don't recommend this unless you feel like having no sex for a month.
2. Take them to a safe island: Pretend you're a grown man and muster some patience. Walk them through it one more time explaining the process (again) and what the target dates are for each stage (again). Get a shoebox and make a diorama like in 3rd grade. Use Lego people and cream cheese for plaster.
3. Give the appearance of progress: This sounds like a joke but it's not. It's something that subcontractors do for contractors, contractors do for developers, etc. it's not a bad thing. This doesn't mean that you craft a fake world in which your life is a pathetic charade of phony progress. I'm saying sometimes you have to drop what you're doing and go start something else just to make someone else see with their own eyes that things are getting done.
4. Get Freaky: Make up an excuse that has nothing to do with construction, and find a way to tie it in with shaving your entire body and receiving "powerful instructions" from the jackal-headed God, Anubis. You will be left alone for the remainder of the project.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Museum of Unnatural History: Part 4

Keeping these creepy rotted doghouses and the rusted chains inside them was pivotal for our end of the sale. They're like condemned mental hospitals haunted by the souls of all the patients that were tortured and abandoned within it’s evil confines. But like a good version of that with dogs and it's not state-funded and it's way smaller and there's no nurses.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Ugly Situation Thwarted by Steel Plate!

On the evening of the very first night that we slept in the new house, I took a long look at the back door. The wood around the strike plate was badly damaged. The jamb had been crudely repaired a number of times, and one of the solid fir stiles of the door was split all the way through. Great - I thought - someone bashed the door in. And it looked like it may have happened more than once. I opened and closed the door eight hundred times and watched everything and I didn't like it. Things just didn't catch right. And the repairs were flimsy. I got to work. Removed all the cheese-dick "repairs," put in a steel plate, and replaced the flimsy knobs with a deadbolt. Well, several hours later my fiancée and I woke up to the sounds of someone trying to bash in our back door. She reached for the phone, and I grabbed a table leg and went to confront the soon-to-be dead person. When I got to the back door they were gone. I lurked around in the shadows in my underwear the rest of the night with the table leg and a carving knife, but he never came back. Lucky I put that plate in!

Wednesday, March 23, 2005


In Brooklyn for the weekend hanging out with future family so I didn't post anything on the site. Wish I could get my mitts on one of those brick row houses and restore it. Run down, most of it, but twelve foot ceilings, roof gardens, the whole nine. Lot of work but what a score it would be, huh? Snapped this photo on my way to a pastry shop for some layered deliciousness and a cup of steaming black coffee. Hot coffee and pastry on a cold rainy day... a swell combination I assure you.

Friday, March 18, 2005

Theory of Relativity

No, no, no, it's not my foundation. Not yet. Poured a footing for an addition on a house that's already got 4,000 sf. Weird. Whatever. You see how stiff the mix is? That's good - (even though I was supposed to be over there poking it instead of taking photos, hence the overflowing you see). Higher compressive strength when it cures. So right after I take this photo the Mixer Driver starts giving me pointers on photography.
"Know what I learned about photos?" he says "My niece loves this shit. She says you gotta put something in there to get the idea of how big something is. Something alongside it. Or in the beforeground of it to see--"
"Perspective," my boss chimes in. "things arranged in the different layers to give an idea of space or relative size ."
"Chrissakes, how the fuck-"
"He knows everything," I say. And no kidding, the guy does. I've seen him translate Latin, flirt in French, correct people about Native American history, Napoleon's defeat, and the economic significance of the Cotton Gin. More about him later.
My boss spits, harpoons a snowbank with a shovel, leans on it, and says "Yeah, I use that all the time with my girlfriend. Whenever I take my pants off in front of her I always make sure to hold a Bic pen a few inches in front of my dick to make me look huge. "
Mixer Driver laughs, "Trickery, I like it. Fuckin David Copperfield."
My boss: "Yeah, but the problem is I end up making the pen look big."

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Magic Ticket

There was something blue on the floor of a diner I ate at the other day. I usually don't pick shit up off of diner floors but I liked the color blue of this thing so I picked it up. Flipped it over and it was a ticket. A ticket to "Admit One Adult" to the Circus that was coming to town. Now c'mon, if that's not fate I don't know what is. Plus, you don't understand, my fiancée loves the circus. So double fate on you, sucka. Couple weeks later I took her to see it. Not a fancypants Cirque Du Soleil circus, mind you, and not a carnival - a circus. A blow-through-town circus. But a real ace one. Boy, it was like sorcery. Like a dream. I can't get the image out of my head of the aging Ring Master with his back turned to me, a giant embroidered tiger crawling over his shoulder and down to the tails of his worn cutaway coat, gloved hand stretching eerily through the machine-made fog toward the next act. The image keeps crashing into me, popping like a blown light bulb.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Museum of Unnatural History: Part 3

The house came with some truly beautiful details. This rare and attractive “Placeless Fireplace” offers the corner-of-the-eye impression of a fireplace, but a straight-on glance reveals no actual place in which to build a fire. Kind of like when you’re in a store and some freaky guy is staring at you, and you turn and say “what the fuck are you looking at, Jack” and you realize it’s a mannequin. I was considering making this the centerpiece of the whole foyer design, but I was shocked, shocked I tell you!, to find that the stones were stick-on foam replicas of real stones.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Crime Scene

I want to start a new division of the police called the Forensic Building Squad. Their sole job is to recreate home improvement scenes to figure out why homeowners love to take out the SUPPORTING COLUMNS OF THEIR OWN HOUSES. Problem is: "tax dawlahs, baby" - no one's gonna want to dish out for this new unit, so I gotta do this myself. The crime you see here was particularly heinous. Lally column removed under the carrying beam. Shoe scuffs on the floor indicate a repetitive spinning motion - a motion we forensic experts like to describe as "festive." We believe the homeowner enjoyed twirling around with their eyes closed like in the beginning of The Sound of Music and removed the support column to achieve a running spin or "lunar orbit" motion. Temporary jack-posts (seen above) have been installed by our team to support the victim.

Sunday, March 13, 2005

An Alliance is Made

A new and improved lumber supplier stepped up to the plate and the guy's belting my fastballs out of the park like I'm a second string pitcher for the Latvian Nerf Softball Team. Such a relief when someone actually gives a shit (see this, this, and this to get up to speed). My rep was a contractor for 35 years and then went to work for the lumber supplier that he used for all those years. All around good karma with that circle. He sent my plans to his structural guy who is drawing up a brand spanking new set of framing plans using the engineered structural members that are appropriate for the job. Everything in apple pie order. Now I can relax, drink a bottle of Old Crow and go sledding.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Museum of Unnatural History: Part 2

This is Fatty. Fatty's our cat because he came with the house. I don't mean he's a stray cat that scratched at the door and we let him in. I mean he really came with the house. So actually, he's not our cat, we're his new set of humans. He got his tail chopped off in a door slamming incident before we knew him. He’s super cool and knows when to hang and when to scram. When he sleeps he likes to hug those plastic trolls like in the photo on the right.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

EX-Lumber Supplier

Some private lumber yards are run like a battleship with kickass employees and dedicated knowledgable staff, and other times you get a place that should have been shut down years ago. Well, I got one of the bad ones. My lumber guy just dropped the ball completely like the semi-retarded knuckle-dragging dope that he came to be. How's your cranial ridge doing, pal. Passing it onto your offspring? Greeaaat. He seems to be waiting for me to drive over there, kidnap him, bring him to my secret CIA lab, do an entire 3D body scan of him, create a full size latex suit based on his digitized virtual self, put the suit on, steal his car, drive back to his lumber yard, sit at his desk and do his fucking job for him. I don't know if you ever digitized someone and walked around as a latex version of them, but it's a pain in the ass and I have to go make some money today. I'll make a stop at his competition before work and see if they want the business.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Museum of Unnatural History: Part 1

The house we bought came with lots of "bonus material." One of the things that first drew us to this property was the solid concrete Lawn-Mammals. We negotiated hard for these beauties. You see, ever since my fiancée was a kid she always wanted statues of animals that look like they got caught in boat propellor. Look how the paint peels off their eyes in that endearing zombie kind of way.

Monday, March 07, 2005

I Can Predict the Future

This is the wonderwoman jet version of what my house will look like when I'm through adding on to it. Twelve feet out the back and a second story. From a sardine can 3 bedroom 1 bath 950sf ranch to a 4 bedroom 2.5 bath 2300sf straight-front colonial. A master suite with walk-in-closet and full bath, open plan downstairs with fireplace, library, breakfast area and formal dining room. Big ass project, indeed. But whatever, forget that crap -- the house is just a reference point for the giant in the back. I put a giant in there so you can see just how big giants can be in comparison to a house and how freaky it is when they wear neckties. They can dig too. Boy can they dig, so don't even try to go underground when they decide to attack.

Friday, March 04, 2005

Go Away, Dumb Snow

As soon as all this annoying white stuff goes away it's time to dig. The structural lumber guys are giving me a buzz later about the house plans I dropped off for review. Then I implement their changes and calculations and resubmit the plans and application to the Building Dept and within a week I'll have my permits. Been researching precast bulkheads (cast off-site, shipped and installed as a unit) vs. doing cast-in-place (formed and poured on site with the rest of the foundation). I've seen a lot of both, and I think the precast makes more sense both financially and logistically even though I work on a concrete crew and will be getting the foundation for the price of the concrete and coffee and sandwiches for the guys. Tough to beat those precast guys for that standard stuff.