November 19, 2010

The Fixing

The early stages of the Great House Fixing, a production of Gary & Mike, a weird partnership of landlord & tenant, in half-desperation racing winter to caulk a house like a ship on a street in Brooklyn.



Tired dog; 169 years old and counting...



The moon waxes above the waning tree and I can't think of a poetic thing to say about it.



My view most nights. This night the mirror looked like it was painted by a Spanish painter whose name I forget.



First meal I've cooked in about 15 years. Red beans and rice Louisiana style. Everybody liked it. I made enough for eight.



Getting ready for the messiest job on the planet, roofing tar; ugh. Then to make matters worse, we kept stepping in it while doing other work. Ladies, notice the nice flat belly, the trim legs, and the handsome head of pure white hair, none of it missing.



Work beckons on one of the few nice days, this morning first seen through plastic mystic haze.



This was once a true 2x4-inch stud, which now resembles the tree it was milled from. To remove a nearby post this decayed could collapse a brick wall that it supports. Hard as a rock where it was unrotted, we decided to fill the spiral cavities with cement, through a complicated but ingenious proceedure by squeezing very wet cement through a pastry-cone-squeezer rig. A two-man job, we're having a hard time coordinating our time to get to it.

The squirrels apparently have given up on moving back into the renovated quarters, and occassionally give us resentful looks. They will have to chew through cement to return.



For the carpenters out there, the apparent mis-alignment of the pump jack posts caused great problems pumping the jacks. The posts had to be evened with a belt sander, a back-breaking job from a ladder; all this the result of not having enough flat space to build the posts on level ground, and working in a cramped space.





This was where the original leak began about 80 years ago. Over the years it rotted out the tops of the 4 x 6-inch supporting beams and crucial true 2 x 4 studs and cripples. Fortunately, it is not a bearing wall, but a "balloon house," with a roof supported entirely by brick "party walls" shared by two adjoining houses built at the same time, about 1905.



Squirrels got into the place years ago and made it their home. Gary is too-good-hearted to use the rat trap trick, so he has lived with them because his cats could not get to them in the high attic crawl-space. We had to tear the roof back one shingle-course, and, after the major repair is done, need to go back one or two more courses to inspect and repair decrept roof underlayment.



Gary. His grandparents were the first occupants. The leak must have started in the 1920s.

I found these sturdy saw horses in the trash of a store on Madison Avenue, stowed them in my taxi, and took two hours off to haul them home. Useful! Gary wants to burn them when we're finished, which is a hoot, because we will never be finished.



Gary made a great firepit! It is deep and ventilated from beneath through a pipe, and woodsmoke goes straight up and not in your eyes.



There's this photo I have of a man photographing himself. He wears dark winter clothes and the camera obscures half of his face, while the other half is seen in ghostly outline. The man is myself, the moment long-ago, a never-to-be-forgotten moment, with a shifting meaning once clear but now grown more obscure with time and perceptual changes. A wintershed moment, I was setting out from New York due North in the dead of winter, not knowing or caring where I was going. It was the end of something and the start of something else, as every event must be. Our endings are in our beginnings as everyone should know.