Monday, July 30, 2007

Slowing to a crawl

I've been putting off wiring the dining room until it was time to put down the hardwood floor. Suddenly another project rears its ugly head. Under the dining room is a crawl space with less than a foot of clearance. I'd roughed the dining room circuit into that crawl space, but now all the fixture wiring has to snake under there (snake - not a good term to use when talking about a claustrophobic crawl space, is it?). Anyway, I think a diet has now worked its way onto piano critical path - I'm skinny, but I'm not THAT skinny.

You know, I just don't understand the Headmistress. I mean, what's the point of having kids, if its not to use them in crawl space situations? In fact, I think that was my very thought one chilly September night some 8 years and 11 months ago - the excitement of having crawl space help is likely what produced the little extra flourish that brought us not one, but TWO crawl space helpers. And now, eight angst-filled years later, just when its all about to pay off, the Headmistress balks at sending the boys down under the dining room floor. And the boys were no help at all - you'd think they would APPRECIATE having been brought into this world, no matter what the reason. But nooooo... you could actually HEAR the anxiety drain from their bodies when the Headmistress put her foot down on this one. sigh....

So, I was left with only one choice. But the cat ran off before I could catch it, and I had to come up with something else. I now have three rather large holes cut into the dining room floor. Oh sure, now that the wiring is all done, I can't keep the damn cat out of there. If she doesn't come out soon, I'm going to toss the kitty litter box under there, seal it all up and be done with it. But don't tell the Headmistress.

In order to prepare for the floor installation, I also had to take down the hand railing over the basement steps. Sheesh - you'd think our kids were STUPID or something - the Headmistress made me install locks on the dining room doors so the kids couldn't get in there and fall. I mean, all it would take is one fall and they'd learn their lesson - that's my philosophy.

At any rate, the wiring is done, and I've patched the roof - the new roof will be a project for another day. And gawd help the Headmistress if she tries to tell me I can't send the boys up there!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Waiter, there's a piano on my roof

I cannot tell you how fortunate I feel that Sandra Sackett came to our rescue with a piano. I mean, it was bad enough that we had taken that 11th mortgage just to fund the piano lessons. But we figured we'd just pop on over to BJ's and buy that $49 keyboard, and be done with it. So when the piano teacher announced that she "doesn't do keyboards", I just knew we'd be calling our mortgage broker for that 12th mortgage - and we all know how embarrassing that twelfth mortgage can be.

At Monica's suggestion, I posted a plea to Myfamily, et voila - Sandra Sackett answered my prayers. With a beautiful, black baby grand piano. Did I mention its a baby grand?

Anyway, before committing, I tried to hire a piano technician to evaluate the piano. Ha! Just try to get a piano technician these days - they're all on the first tee, talking to their stock brokers on their cell phones. Except Bill Grogan - member of the Piano Guild and an all-around great guy. Its like piano tuning with Mr. Rogers - he calls all his tools by name. When he needs a tool, he says "come on over here Mr. Mute Wedge".

It turns out the piano is in great condition, and the transaction is complete. Now I have to get a piano mover off the first tee to actually move the piano. So far I've phoned three of them, and none has returned the call.

Just as well, since a couple of home improvement projects have worked their way onto critical path for this deal. First, I have to install hardwood floors in what is now the dining room - about to become the piano room. Sandra has gorgeous hardwood floors - I'm thinking that when someone offers to give you their piano, they should really throw in the hardwood floor with it - I mean, they kind of go together, don't you think? Anyway, I've ripped out the disgusting carpet that we somehow managed to overlook for 18 months. The huge spot of mold under it reminded me that there is a gaping hole in the ceiling that we've managed to overlook for 18 months - its right where all that water pours in from the roof every time it rains.


So now I have to replace my roof before I can install the hardwood flooring. Hm. I wonder if Sandra would mind storing the piano for 18 months while I work on that.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Onondaga Nation

Last week, I went to Syracuse, NY to visit my sister ET, who is fighting the good fight against a very aggressive form of cancer - carcinomatous menengitis, or cancer of the nervous system (spine, brain). She had fought and beaten pancreatic cancer, only to have this come out of nowhere. For more on ET, see

ET actually lives in Baldwinsville, NY, just north of Syracuse. Its a beautiful town, simply lovely. Driving along interstate 81, just south of Syracuse, you pass through "Onondaga Nation", which is a reservation for the native American Indians who are indigenous to the area. Entering Onondaga Nation, along Hwy. 81, you see the following billboards:

The sign has a great deal of bad history behind it. Apparently it all started with conflicts over land rights and sovereignty - the Onondaga people believe that a large part of their territory (including what is now Syracuse, NY) was taken illegally, through a series of treaties that were never officially ratified or accepted. Then more recently, the state of NY attempted to tax sales of certain items (gasoline, tobacco, etc) within the Onondage Nation territory. Tribal chiefs made deals with the NYS government (then Gov. George Pataki) that the people claim are invalid because they were not accepted by the people. And since the original "treaties" were with the U.S. government, the people of the Nation do not want to deal with the state of NY. The bottom line is, it appears that a handful of tribal leaders are getting rich off these deals, while much of the Nation lives at poverty level.

In 1997 members of the Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy (Onondaga, Mohawk, Oneida, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations) staged a protest under the sign and were attacked by NYS troopers. Shortly thereafter, the man who owned the property that the sign occupies was murdered in his home - he died of blunt trauma to the head, and his hands were cut off. His son maintains the sign today.

I took a detour on my way back and drove through Onondaga Nation. The poverty in some places was stunning. I guess those bumper stickers are correct - Freedom Ain't Free.

Postscript: There is an excellent and fascinating legal review of the Onondaga case against the State of New York at In particular, Section II: CONFLICTING CONCEPTIONS OF PROPERTY is a fascinating study in Anglo-exceptionalism. This story very closely parallels a book the Academy is reading for 5th-grade history - A People's History of The United States, by Howard Zinn. In it, Zinn debunks the common misconception that indigenous Americans were primitive hunter-gatherers with no political systems and no concept of property - the foundation of John Locke's successful claim against native lands. Zinn points out that in some respects native American concepts of politics and property were far more progressive and advanced than the Anglo- and Franco-settlers. What's also fascinating about the Onondaga legal proceeding is that the Nation does not seek to reclaim their land and evict the settlers. What they want is for the state of New York to take responsibility for forcing the cleanup of toxic waste that has been continually deposited on their lands (especially Lake Onondaga in Syracuse) for more than a century - in other words, they want their land returned to its former healthy and vibrant condition, so that they may renew their connection to their land.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A little pot never hurt anyone...

I've really been getting into pot this past week. I also managed to add some upgrades to my small perennial garden. Eventually, the plan is to have the perennial garden wend its way around the pool, retained by a stone wall. Maybe next year...

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Sappy Headmaster

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us - that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion - that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain - that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom - and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

I'll be 49 years old this month. Sigh.... Recently the boys asked me if I'd been alive during the Civil War. I had to stop and think for a second.

So while planning some school activities last week, I hatched this great idea to read the Gettysburg Address to the boys. I would begin by laying all the Civil War background over the course of two days, with a goal of reading the actual Gettysburg Address on Wednesday.

Over the course of an hour or so on Monday and Tuesday, I related all the necessary background material, beginning with a definition of slavery and a discussion of all the factors (economic, social, industrial and agricultural) that created such a deep divide over the issue.

On Wednesday, we talked about the battle, and then I read the foreword of an illustrated book of the Gettysburg Address. It provided some of the immediate background material on those most famous 272 words that make up the speech.

Now I must tell you that, for as long as I can remember, I've had a strange connection to the Civil War. There is something very, very emotional about the whole thing for me. I've read countless books (forgetting most of it), and visited the famous battlefields. I remember becoming overwhelmed with emotion while strolling the Gettysburg Battlefield.

And thus, as I turned to the first page of the Gettysburg Address, and attempted to utter the first word - nothing came out. Nothing dry, that is. When the tears began to flow, I got up, and without explanation started into a math discussion.

The worst part is, that after all the buildup over two days, I don't think the boys even knew what happened!

Anyone up for a Civil War Co-Op? You teach my kids Civil War history, and I'll teach your kids math. I promise not to cry. Until we get to the number 49.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Its a jungle in there

A recent conversation reminded me of those dreamy days when the boys were first born. Well, ok, they were anything but dreamy. What I MEANT to say was "those dreamy days LEADING UP TO their birth". I spent 6 months getting the nursery JUST right. I put mid-height Cotton-Tail English Garden wallpaper around the room, and carefully hand-painted the walls above the chair rail to blend with the morning sky on the wallpaper, then faded them to azure blue right up and over the crown molding. I used cotton balls to hand-paint puffy white clouds. sigh...
Matching Cotton-Tail, outdoor-themed cribs, linens, padding, diaper stackers, changing pad covers, throw rugs, ceiling fan, burping towels, window valances, room-darkening shades... the list goes on and on. Late at night in the weeks leading up to delivery, when the house was fast asleep (a quaint condition that was just weeks away from becoming obsolete), I'd sneak into the room, sit in the glider with matching themed cushion and throw blanket, and just take it all in - the sights, the smells. Gawd, those were the days.

Of course, the boys NEVER slept in there. Nope. Nary a stinking, miserable night was spent in there. Oh, I fought the good fight... "WE'RE DONG FERBER! THOSE BOYS ARE GOING TO BE FERBERIZED!"


Yeah, I know everyone has their nightmare infant stories. I used to try to one-up those complaining parents - "Oh you think YOU had it bad!" But now its all just a big blur. When new parents complain about how bad they've got it, I just smile and nod my head: "Oh you poor guys!" I prefer to block it all out and think of those nights sitting in the glider, anticipating it all.

Once reality hit in the form of two 7-pound screaming, vomiting, needy, excrementing noise units, I began to formulate other plans for the nursery. Yes, what guy doesn't secretly want to turn the nursery into a drum studio?

Sigh.. those were the days. The drums didn't have a matching Cotton-Tail English Garden print finish, but I think they REALLY made the room.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Sunday morning pick-me-up

You can't help but feel good after watching this. Frazey Ford's voice is so unique - well-demonstrated on the song Ootishenia from their new cd Hello Love. Anyway, I guess I'm going through a southern women phase...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Taking My Breath Away

This simply blows me away. Imogen Heap.

And this I just like, and I can't explain it. I've always loved the song from Jolie Holland, but its an amateur video shot over the music. It fits, somehow.

Catching My Breath...

Having not posted for several months, I have to assume that with this post I'm virtually talking to myself, but I'm actually pretty good at that.

Is there a good phrase for "working your ass off" that doesn't actually have a cuss word in it? 'Cuz, you know, I'd certainly hate to cuss on the blog and all - you never know who might read this stuff. But I've really been working long hours and putting up with loads of bullshit - oops, dammit.. Anyway, I've finished up my last proposal and, for the time being, am happily unemployed.

So now the REAL work begins. I finally finished (more or less) the boy's room, and thereby reclaimed the dining room. I've installed all the new windows and I've begun work on the stone. I cut all the stones (quarried new hampshire granite) for the window ledge. Using a 22-caliber nail gun, I installed metal lathing on the brick ledge, and tonight I mixed up a match of mortar with my new cement mixer, and skim-coated the ledge with mortar.

So this weekend, after the mortar has cured, I can permanently install the stone ledge. I've actually decided to take a different approach with the stone wall that goes under the ledge. Rather than use the four tons of fieldstone sitting in my driveway, I've decided to order a whole new batch of stone. I was afraid that 4 tons of material on those corner walls might impact the foundation, so I'm going with mastercut stone, which is much thinner and lighter (and WAY more expensive) because its face-cut. I'll use the other stone elsewhere.

I Can Breathe Clearly Now...

I have finally moved the boys back into their bedroom. It only took three months, during which time they were living out of our dining room. It isn't all finished, but there is only some caulking and painting left to do on all the molding. I'm thinking that's a wrap, since I would certainly hate to have it on my permanent record that I'd completely finished a project.

So here are some pictures, starting with the old room just before we went to settlement on the house. It was dark, and smelled of mold. That's because the crappy windows leaked like crazy, and the former owners simply put some nice white paneling up to hide the mold that was growing on the drywall. Out of sight, out of mind. But still in the nostril.

Anyway, its all better now. Light, airy, and fresh-smelling. And very, very dry.