Madness & Mayhem

Looking through a hole in the wall to the other side of the house.

So, Loyal Reader, thank you for asking for more pictures of the demolition. I guess you (yes, this is a plural “you”), really like HGTV. And, obviously, blood and guts.

And good for y’all that The Spouse and I have both been taking photos pretty much every day at the site. It used to be our home, but, as you know, it barely resembles that. So in it’s current ravaged state, it’s the site.

Our amazing neighbor, who is truly one of the kindest and open people I have met in my life and I am so glad that they and their family are our friends, lives behind our site. I brought The Beast to frolic with theirs. “Your house is brown! What are you doing?”

Nope. It’s just been denuded of the siding. It will be blue once again. I replied.

So, let’s take a look at where we are. While disturbing–to me–these pics are all rated G. Descriptions included.

The Windows

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The back of the house. Please note the insane hole above the window. Look at the upper right corner. That’s what happens after a hundred years. I wonder if that’s where the hornet’s nest was? I thought it was lower.
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The window on the east side of the house. I like this shot. Makes the house look impressive.

From The Back Yard

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Just so’s you know, this entire sequence was done in about ten days. They told us the demo goes fast. They did not speak untruths.

The Infrastructure

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The cracked and stressed wood at the East Bay window.
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The stairs to the basement have no introduction. No wall. No door. Just a drop. Careful!
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Where the old pocket doors pocketed themselves. We were hoping that their remains were still there. No luck. But the mechanisms are cool, like a barn door.
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The Carp’s ladder leads to the upstairs. The new design will take advantage of all the light that streams from above. Like a chorus of angels encircled by a heavenly aurora.
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The radiators all pulled from it’s plumbing and piled up for later reinstallation. I love how the radiator heat makes the house so cozy. And no hot air blowing around and giving me chapped lips and flakey, scaley shins. Radiators are where it’s at.

The Upstairs

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The upstairs dormer didn’t have any sheathing behind the siding. It was drywall, blown-in insulation and siding. Geez!
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Looking up where the stairwell was and will be. The nakedness will be clothed in new ductwork that will provide heating upstairs and cooling on both levels. They call it central air conditioning. Who knew that there were such modern technologies to make life better. Next thing you know, they’ll have machines that wash dishes. Oh. Wait. Other people have had these “dish washers?” Makes my skill set here rather redundant. YAY!
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This is the window where the new bathroom will be. Crazy that we never had a bathroom upstairs before. The door to the bathroom will have a frosted glass door to let the light tumble through to the stairwell. I’m going to order stickers for the door. Either WC or, maybe, just W.

The End

That’s all for today. I have some cool demo-porn pics for tomorrow. Or when I get to it. I know, I know, the Doc is such a tease.

And, by the way, thank you, Loyal Reader, for playing along. It helps me to share, and I need a recipient. You complete me.

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Gutted

I was showing a friend pictures from our demolition. The friend’s friend had an op-ed she needed to share. One that bit.

“So, if you hate your house so much, why don’t you just buy a new one?”

Ouch! That throw away comment from a grinning stranger really did burn. It freezes, too.

I, in my shock at that unthinkable thought, objected. Too much, in retrospect, methinks. Too much because her unwelcome comment was based on her observation. Of the evidence. That I provided.

Looking at the photos of the bare and picked over bones of the edifice I had sworn to protect I thought, “What hath I wrought?”

The next day, I hesitated as I stepped onto the porch as part of my daily construction inspection. I gingerly inserted my key. I slowly opened the door. There was almost no floor to speak of–just a bunch of planks that forced me to leap from one to the next at the risk of falling through to the basement below.


And I’ve been stuck here. Right here. For two weeks I haven’t been able to move this post forward. Not able to skip past it. Because I can’t skip it. It has to be dealt with. I have to deal with it.

Usually, I have posts and pieces of posts trolling through my head–all of the time. I sit down and tap them out and hit publish. That’s how it works. Sure, there’s a bit more than that, but not the writer’s black hole I’ve had.

Usually, the hardest ones come out the fastest. Usually.

I’ve been stuck in the unusual.

I’ve reopened this page again and again. I’ve tweaked some words, moved a comma about and walked away. I’ve sat down with a brew in hand and a strict self-imposed deadline to put a bow on it. Three beers later, I successfully avoid any accomplishment. I’ll do it tomorrow. I don’t.

I’d walk into the house and take more photos. I’d look at the skeleton of the house, and see that the specimen is incomplete. Some of the bones are missing. No floor, not just exposed joists, but an entirely missing kitchen floor. No stairway to the second floor, the ladder carefully balanced over the canyon of the basement stairs.

The radiators were all piled up in the former toy room, like the mountains of blocks, legos and Hot Wheels from a recent past.

This week the siding was torn off. The chipped paint along the thin wooden boards were stacked in dumpster number six. Or are we up to seven boxcars of the house toted away? What could be left?

I didn’t know what gutting the house really meant.

GUT: to clean out. strip. decimate. ravage. ransack. disembowel. eviscerate. empty.

That was it. Empty.

I haven’t been able to come to terms with what I’m doing to the house. I started counting what was staying.

  1. The roof. (Which we replaced 8 years ago).
  2. The foundation. (Which is getting parged to shore it up.)
  3. Most of the original sheathing that was diagonally hung, keeping out the elements. (It’s being covered with some kind of new-fangled water impervious wood and then foam insulation and then new man-made siding.)
  4. Most of the original posts and joists. Many of which are being sistered with new, man-made materials.
  5. All of the woodwork and trim in the living and dining rooms. The fake fireplace mantels are STAYING!
  6. I saved the floors in the first two bedrooms, now known as the den and the office. (Over objections of some/one. I can’t let them all go.)

I’m looking at this list and the house that I swore to protect that I can’t recognize and I start hearing Obi-Wan telling Luke that Luke’s father is now more machine than man.

And then I get to thinking. And I feel better. Because in the end, Darth Vader was alright. He kept his soul.

Publish!

All Falls Down

The toilet has been excavated and moved into the Big Guy's bedroom. And there's no plaster left on the walls.

It was brutally hot last week. Hot to the tune of breaking the 100°F mark. Not the kind of days that I’d want to pull plaster and drywall down. Not especially since the first task was to shut off the water and electricity. I hope they had one outlet active. For a fan.

Putting my key in my front door gave a false sense of norm. When I opened the door, it was the anti-Oz. Instead of Dorothy walking from gray into technicolor, I walked from a green summer day into a monochromatic world. The slats on the walls, the wood that the plaster adhered to, reminded me more of a historic National Park Service site than my house. I almost looked for one of these shiny NPS trifolds that would tell me how people used to live–back in the day.

From the front door looking back past the demolished bathroom in the back.

Each day I’d visit my house and more of it would be missing. There were sections of the dining room wall peeled away. The next day there were bags piled in a corner of the room formerly known as our bedroom. The upstairs was drywall and the first floor plaster. The drywall was a lot easier to pull down. They did that first.

The converted attic looks more attic than converted. Beyond the posts was our bedroom.

You could see patches of daylight where the roof joined the walls so the house could breathe. The new foam insulation won’t require that. But this day it was hard to breathe with all the loosened and stirred up particles swirling around and around in the updraft of hot air. I went back downstairs.

The dining room looking into the kitchen. They’re protecting the millwork.

Another day or so later I could barely get up the stairs. The bottom step was missing and piles of the remains of fluffy blown-in insulation that fell between where the wall used to be had to be climbed. The insulation had fallen because part of the wall that held it was now gone.

Looking from The Big Guy’s room through the office to the “den.”

It was both familiar and strange, but nothing was as strange as seeing the toilet in The Big Guy’s bedroom. It sat there, lonely, in the middle of the room, hooked up to nothing and surrounded by the naked wooden lath stripped of its plaster. The room was a poetic shambles with the commode looking as if it was gently placed there by a twister that viciously and randomly passed through.

The tiles were pulled off the remaining bathroom wall. The next day, from The Big Guy’s room, standing next to the toilet, you could see all the way through to the outside kitchen wall where a secret window that had been plastered over when the cabinets were hung during an update in the 1930’s or 40’s was revealed.

Never saw this wall paper before. It was behind the hideous paneling. Hope to stop with the hideous moving forward. 

It was coming down.

It’s A Date

A very blue

We got a porta-potty delivered to our curb. Right directly to our house. I didn’t even need to schedule it. It appeared. Shortly afterward we got a dumpster. Also, via magick.

This means that my new friends have taken over. We moved out. They moved in. My heavy lift in this remodeling project is done. The baton is passed to the carpenters and other tool wielding people tasked with bringing the paper plans to life.

We got a project calendar. It made me crazy happy. It’s online. I can see it on my laptop and on my phone. I pulled it out at a bar and showed it to a stranger. He was excited, too. He was likely drunk.

I scrolled through week after week as the tasks went from demolition, to roughing in electric and plumbing, to staging  appliances, to installing the new front door and interior trim. It was activity related to actual months, weeks and days like

July 20: Dig trenches for waterline

and

August 21: Install new windows & exterior doors

So exciting!!!

The shared google calendar, that calendar that evokes a dreamlike state, woke up the anticipation that was suffocated by the grind and squeeze of the move. I’m somewhere else now, both physically and mentally. And it’s good.

The dumpster has been filling up. Well, that’s not technically true. I think that we are on the third dumpster. Because this job is moving. Everything is getting realer and realer.

I’m flipping through the calendar and see that the kitchen cabinets are supposed to be in place by the end of September. And, now that we are in mid-July, that somehow seems close. I’ve been warned, though, that after the demo is complete, it looks like nothing is happening. It will be all framing and roughing in of electric and plumbing and ensuring that the floors are level and that the structure is supported. They’re putting in a steel beam. I’m trying to check my natural patience deficit in advance.

Even after the cabinets, there’s a bunch of other work, capped by painting and “punching.” If this goes to schedule–and everyone says that it won’t–we’re done by Veterans Day.

Ever the optimist, I can’t stop myself from wondering if I’ll be cooking a turkey in a new oven this year.

Follow along, Loyal Reader. I’ll keep you posted.

CatchUp

Guy packing a box in front of empty bookcases.

So, like these last couple of weeks have been full of whack. We were backed up against an immutable deadline–demolition. So we moved a generation’s worth of life out of the space it had occupied.

I fully recognize that I’m making a big deal of what others just manage without comment. But, I’m here to say those folks are just withholding. They might be outwardly strong, but this shit is real.

It’s not like packing up all of your worldly possessions accrued over a middle-aged lifetime is insignificant. But you’re correct in your impulse to say, “Doc, shut up. It’s just life. And you’re getting what you want, you ingrate.”

Okay. Thanks for the reminder and for your chastisement. I earned it.

But now here I am with so much that I haven’t told you. Not for lack of thinking about you. Not for lack of sentences that I strung together in my head without any tether. It’s that I’ve lacked the mental space to write. Since I’m a bit behind, I’m just gonna share some pictures. And some captions. Just to catch you up.

Above is a sampling of old crappy furniture that you can’t even give away. Except that there are always takers. I might have had to post online more than once, and there may still be some crappy junk furniture yet to find it’s forever home, but I can always put it out on the curb and send an alert to the listserve. Crossing fingers that someone doesn’t try and have me cited for illegal dumping. If all else fails, there’s a dumpster on the way.

Warning sign that there is an impending dumpster. And there's some wild marigolds.

There was the day that I came home to find a pair of candy corn cones marking the spot that the dumpster will sit. It says that we have the permit until mid-November. That coincides with the hopeful move in date of, “before Thanksgiving.” Also, check out those wild marigolds that are growing from a crack in the street. I hope they survive the ordeal.

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Truly a ridiculous amount of boxes. At one point I just started throwing items in and marking the boxes rando.

green yellow and orange dot stickers

Now this, this was a piece of my genius. There were some items to go to our interim abode, some things–mostly furniture–to be stored in the garage, and others to go in the basement. I color coded everything. It was brilliant. The movers thought it was brilliant. I had to mark some of the crappy furniture with duct-tape and a handwritten “NO,” to keep the flow going. That helped kill the questions that slowed things down. I paid the guys by the hour, not the pound.

The moving truck, in front of my house.

This is the moving truck. That is all.

The emptied wall.

We painted the dining room walls this amazing terra cotta twenty-some years ago. I wanted to capture the color, and the nail that steadied the sconce for four candles. You can see where the sconce hit the wall. I saved the sconce. I don’t know if it will go back there.

Two red mugs and a coffee setup.

We left the coffee rig at the house when we moved. It was the last thing to pack. We moved the bed, and that meant no coffee. Since the interim abode is only one and a half blocks away, I figured I’d walk over there and make coffee.  But guess what? The Spouse went and got it. So I woke up to fresh coffee. This was the best morning.  I married well.

Yellow tomatoes, parsley, bread and cava.

There was much eating out around the move. This was the first dinner I made in the interim abode. It was rice with minted peas and sweet, salty and sour chicken thighs. Oh, and, obvs, some bubbles. Celebratory and what not.

The Beast, chilling.

The Beast was a little worse for the wear during the move. But he found a chill spot on the floor at the interim abode. He kept an eye on everything because even though the movers came last Wednesday, we didn’t actually finish moving out until yesterday. Yes, a full week later.

It was at a point–or perhaps a few points that I may have made in a borderline hysterical tone–that I didn’t think we’d ever finish. But that’s what happens when you move. You lose your mind over the fact that you seemed to be almost done and then you weren’t. And you cycle through that again and again until you realize that the contractors are coming tomorrow. And then, it’s done. And there are things on the porch that will be picked up by Purple Heart and stuff that the person from the next neighborhood over claims to want and then the stuff that the city will take. I love the city for that.

The front door with all the signs of construction.

And today, the front door was adorned with the signs of construction. Warning labels. EPA certifications–required in a house as old as ours–permits, and the posting of the nuisance fee that we pay the city because…dumpster. Just for the record, my neighbors don’t get any of that nuisance fee.

As I walked through the empty, echoing rooms, I didn’t know what to feel. I thought that I should feel a big emotion, yet I barely even registered relief.

So I found a random pink ribbon during my clean out and decided it would look perfect next to the random green ribbon that has been hanging from our door knocker for more than a year. The house is still ours. I’m feeling good.

Wolf Whistle

The current state kitchen from big stainless steel fridge to teeny counter to old sink to more teeny to stove. Also some raggedy cabinets. And no backsplash.

There was that day, much earlier in this adventure, when we went appliance shopping. We needed to pick stuff out so it could be designed in. Like what if we wanted warming drawers or wine chillers or a pizza oven? For the record, none of those items were on my list.

Our contracting team sent us on the adventure to the fancy appliance showroom.  This was not Kenmore-land. Not big box Best Buy. It was quite fancy and a bit intimidating. But, first, we had to get there.

We made an early Saturday morning appointment, which bordered on stupid since we don’t normally travel together in the morning.  Except for those early mornings that marked the beginning of two weeks at the beach–also known as the pre vacation screamfest that takes fifteen miles to overcome. I know this because for as long as I’ve been with The Spouse–inclusive of those pre-nuptials years–whenever we drove up the I-95 corridor, like going to see the Orioles in Baltimore, visiting his family in Manhattan or trekking the rest of the way up to the Cape for those beach days on the island, whenever we’d near Exit 35 to Laurel/Scaggsville I would always say,

“Hmmmmm. Scaggsville. That’s where you’re from.”

And The Spouse would always reply, “That’s where I met you.” It’s part of our shtick.

And on those early mornings, after frantically shoving bags and boys and bikes and dog into the car. And after the inevitable disagreement at volume. And after me glaring out the window through hot tears and in cold silence, we’d approach the exit. And I’d wrestle with my righteous anger and vow not to talk. And then I would get this worry that if I didn’t say it this time, that it would break everything. And so I’d say, “Scaggsville, that’s where you’re from.” And he’d answer, as always.

But on this morning, the one I started writing about, we were driving up I-270, the other way north out of D.C.  We weren’t heading on a trip, but were still in the car in the morning, together. This time, there was no yelling. Well, maybe a little peckish huffing followed by some sighful puffing. Nevertheless, we made it to our appointment on time. Our appointment to check out major appliances.

Our architect had emailed a list of items to the sales consultant a few days before. She was well prepared for us.

We were early, the first clients in the showroom. We started with an offer of coffee. There was a fridge that had a built-in keurig coffee maker right in the door, near the water dispenser. It took a long time to brew.  It was silly and gimmicky. I asked who would buy it. In fact, they don’t sell very many of that feature. Us? We’re keeping our current bottom-freezer-without-French-door icebox. It’s fine and just a few years old.

Our guide steered us to our first event, the cooking surface. This was the only appliance that I wanted to invest in. I wanted high heat burners and low heat simmer. I was thinking five burners. It was going to be the jewel in my kitchen. It would make me a cooking star.

First, we learned the difference between cooktops (burner controls on the top) and rangetops (the top of a standard oven with controls in front). We went through the paces on a pair of GE’s to see the difference between the cooktop and range–especially in moving pots and pans across the surfaces. I was leaning rangetop. She then had us walk across the showroom to the far side. The Spouse ran ahead.

“Oh! It’s the Wolf! It’s the Wolf!” He was nearly jumping up and down.

I looked at the salesperson a little sideways. She was caught a little off guard, too.

“You know this appliance?” If I could have raised one eyebrow independent of the other, be assured I would be doing so. I think he saw the unnatural furrow above my right brow. He took his hands off of the red knobs, caught in his excitement like Dan Ackroyd gleefully sliding down that fire pole in Ghostbusters.

“I’ve used this at the condo in Telluride and at Sundance, too.” [Yes, Loyal Reader, The Spouse is way cooler than me.] He described the low and high burners. The model we were looking at had low and high on all six burners–yes six.

After we wiped the drool from our chins, we looked at the Viking. He knew that one, too. Was not as favored. Turns out he was right. They are in a quality spiral, and not in a good way. The Thermador? He knew that one, too.  But it was the Wolf that compared to all others. It was our new standard.

It was the all super hot and super low burners. It was the relighting feature. It was the clarity of the controls and the more obvious signs of being “on,” especially important for super low simmering. It was the promise of an amazing chocolate roux for shrimp étouffée, like The Spouse prepared for his colleagues in Park City.

“Do they all have red knobs?” The salesperson started to answer, but The Spouse interrupted.

“That’s their thing.” Turns out, though, that you could get stainless steel knobs if you wanted.

Today I old-school mailed a check for our new appliances. And in addition to buying the first dishwasher that I have ever owned (I know, right?!?), we bought the Wolf. That mighty fine Wolf. With the red knobs. Added to our repertoire, next to the exit.

Elm Street

A collage of the same flowers candle and wine glass with a variety of filters.

My countdown clock was ticking. I estimated ten grim days before we moved to the next stage–construction. This, followed by the final act, moving into the new old house (or old new house?). I was down to day nine.

Until.

Yeah. You knew this was coming, didn’t you, Loyal Reader.

Until. Until the morning we had our pre-construction hand off meeting. This is the meeting where the project lead passes our relationship over to the construction team. The Lead Carpenter–I’ll call him Carp from here–will be onsite daily. He will supervise all the work from setup to daily clean up, from managing plumbers and electricians to kissing up as required to inspectors or neighbors who are mad about a dumpster. He will oversee the hanging of drywall and cabinets as well as texting me for any game time approvals.

The Production Manager was there, too. He has a one level up role. I don’t really know what, but it’s built into the contract. And I like him. He has the same name as The Spouse. The Beast literally sat in his lap during our meeting. He casually draped his arm around the thick neck of the red dog and gave a little hug as he wrote his notes. He took notes. He had a hat. I’ll let you know more later.

Anyway, they walked with our project manager–trailed by The Spouse–around the house and pointed at things and went over the plans with visual annotations. The mantles and baseboards and window casings will be carefully removed. The remaining appliance will be wrapped and stored.

We shared contacts and established communication protocols. Mostly to not hold things in and not let the little annoyances grow until an ugly explosion. I think I’m good with that. I contributed important data about a certain person who might live next door to someone who may have a documented tendency to call the cops for nothing.

We went over lead abatement rules, plastic drapings to keep dust out of lungs and other hazmats, and construction safety instructions primarily for clients not having the entire guts ripped out of their house. This last item wasn’t necessary for our project.

We’re moving out. No need to carefully protect rooms. No protocol required to keep The Beast from escape. Our movers were already scheduled for a Friday move out.

Not.

Turns out there was a week delay on the job before ours, and the crew won’t actually start until July 5th. Holiday and whatnot.

[Full stop. Insert abrupt sound of record scratch.]

So all my stress and planning, the anxiety over our insufficient packing progress, the pending argument over the incomplete bathroom at the interim property, and the immediate garage and basement haul are no longer on a short fuse.

And I’m pissed.

I’m not pissed about the delay. We knew it was a possibility. Our firm has finite crews, and I want them to finish the other job–just as I want them to finish mine.

I’m not pissed about the change for the move. I got two days back at work this week and rescheduled the mover without a penalty. And, honestly, while we would have made the move if we had to, I expect there would have been a weekend after the move of crashing around trying to pack up 35 additional boxes of odds and ends. This is actually a gift.

No. Im only pissed about one thing. The worst part of this project is the moving out. Moving back in will be so awesome–especially since we are doing minimal unpacking,  we will have lightened our lives of stuff, and, well, beautiful home.

No. I’m pissed because the end was in sight, only to find out the damn episode drags on. It’s like the insane killer, after killing the rest of the cast, is finally done in by the spunky heroine. Yet he refuses to die. He keeps coming back for one more battle. And one more.

I don’t like those horror franchise movies. I get no thrill. Just die already, bad guy. I got something else to do.

Thinking about it, maybe first thing I need is to make an attitude adjustment, because this episode will end. I just have to believe that I will survive it.