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The fixer-upper from hell

For sundry reasons I have been helping my friend Deborah fix up the house that she recently bought. It was quite inexpensive and considerably overpriced.

I am not, you understand, the only person engaged in this project. There is the plumber and the electrician (the same man actually), the chap who tears out walls and puts up sheet rock, another chap who is skilled at sanding floors and charges accordingly, the friendly folks at Sears who put in new appliances and remove old ones, usw.

The house was a lovely house when it was built circa 1920. The original owners maintained it in a style of quiet elegance – at least to that level of quiet elegance to be found in Highmore in in 1920. Over the years, however, it has had a variety of owners, some of whom have allowed it to deteriorate, and some who actively participated in the deterioration.

Deb has assumed that the major effort would be cosmetic – painting the wall, stripping and cleaning moldings, putting up new curtains, sanding the floors, that sort of thing. To be sure there were intimations that not all was as it should be …

For example, there was that half bath in what had once been the kitchen. This was a 5’x5′ box paneled with the cheapest panelling to be found, something that might be found in an Ed Wood production of Doctor Who. Concealed within this box was a sink and a stool. Also concealed beneath them but not immediately obvious was rotting wood – whoever had installed this architectural wonder had not been the most proficient of plumbers.

Then there was the suspended ceiling in the living room. The house had lovely high ceilings – why the suspended ceiling? We decided to take the panels down; this led to some unpleasant discoveries. To begin with, the old ceiling (plaster of course) was working itself up to falling down. There was a large board nailed to the old ceiling to hold it in place. Then there was the leaky bathroom. The upstairs bathroom leaked – badly. The tub leaked, the stool leaked, and the sink leaked. The old ceiling had fallen away in that corner and the new ceiling tile was moldy.

And what about that board nailed across the wall that seemed to be stopping a pipe from falling into the living room. Ah, that was easily explained. The board was there to stop a pipe, a cast-iron vent pipe, from falling into the living room. That also explained why there was a 2×4 propping up a pipe in the basement – the self-same pipe.

The end result of these discoveries was that the original bathroom was ripped out to the studs, ALL of the previous plumbing was replaced, the toilet in the kitchen and its attendant paneling was removed, and a new ceiling went into the living room.

We won’t even mention the horrors of the dining room – it too was stripped to the studs. Then there are the minor things. The previous owners had been elderly folks who smoked a lot and had an aversion to cleaning their house. The miniblinds had been installed quite some time ago and had quite evidently never been cleaned since. Over the years they had acquired that shade that I am told has the trade name of nicotine gold. It was a grayish version because the dust had bonded with the tars to form a protective enamel on the blinds. Deb threw them all away.

The capper was the ninth inning save. People had been working off and on on the various projects for a couple of months. Perhaps it is different in other parts of the country, but in these parts contractors take on more work than they can handle and then run back and forth between jobs, shortchanging them all. Everything SHOULD have been done in mid november. The day before Thanksgiving the plumber/electrian finally connected up the stove, the sink, and the dishwasher.

…. The next day she prepared dinner for sixteen – in her new kitchen.

Pepper and Tomato hybrids

Someone thinks that a hot tomato is a good idea – come to think on it, I’m fond of hot tomatoes myself, albeit not of the gustatory kind. If you are one of those people, you may purchase your tomato/pepper hybrids from Impecta.

I’m Karl Barth. Who the hell are you?

Each of us approaches the world in the style of a famous theologian. To find out whose style you have, try the test at:

My name goes to Mars

Nasa has these little projects for making space popular with the kids (and their tax paying parents). One of them was the Send your name to Mars project. The next Mars lander will have a CD in it inscribed with several million names. My name will be there along with about three million other names. Yours, however, will not be, if you haven’t already signed up. They stopped taking names on November 15.

I envision this CD ending up in the Martian Museum of Antiquities some time in the future when Mars has been terraformed and settled. In the fullness of time the museum will crumble to dust and the disc will lie sealed in its case until, many thousands of years later, archaeologists will rediscover it.

Since it is the fate of the past to be misinterpreted by the present, those archaeologists will mistake it for something, probably the roster of the army of rebellion in the thirty second Martian rebellion against tyranny. Since I have no middle name, they likely will take my lack of an internal title as evidence that I was an untouchable.

Fat people, fat books

It occurs to me that there may be a correlation between the American obesity plague and the fat paperback plague. Both are recent phenomena. In one case the addicts are mainlining dietary fat and sugar; in the other the addicts are mainlining intellectual fat and sugar. Think of EFP as potato chips and cheese curls for the mind.

This page was last updated December 15, 2002.
It was reformatted and moved May 15, 2006.

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