Sunday, September 24, 2006

New Year

L'shanah tovah tikatev v'taihatem . . . l'shanah tovah tikatevi v'taihatemi

Client news: Doug and I had a meeting with Nikki and Jeff on Friday, and I brought two color axonometric sketches and a scale elevation of the proposed modifications to their house. They liked the concept drawings very much, which means my design/my interpretation of Doug's design suggestions were well received. I wouldn't mind doing this again!

What we plan to do (if, indeed, they decide they can afford it) is add a two car garage with a second story master suite with a gambrel roof and cathedral ceiling, a new eight foot wide entry-way and porch, and an expansion of the upstairs bedroods with the addition of shed dormers that span the length of the existing house.

Meanwhile, Doug and Ben looked at a house for sale in Hinesburg (a fixer) that we could modify and resell. The employees working on the house would each get a share of the profit from the sale. I'm excited about the possibilities we have now for building custom homes and doing additions and modifications to existing structures, which in the long run is more interesting and more satisfying than panelized buildings or housing development jobs that we didn't design.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Western nostalgia

It rained all day today and nothing I put my hands to seemed to turn out right. On the way home I found myself missing the desert. Sometimes it seems a little claustrophic here, with the dense forests and close, low mountains. I miss those wide open space you come to as you drive over the top of the Sierras and come down into Nevada, with its primaeval alkali basins, sand mountains and odd geological formations. Scattered cowboy bars and abandoned cars and cold-water rest stops. I miss the high desert in Northern California--miles of scrub, two lane highways, Tule Lake and history. And the rolling yellow-golden hills leading out to the valley around Altamont pass, with the windmills. They stay golden until they turn brown in late winter, and grow green in February, only to turn gold again by April or May.

What I miss so often is the ability to get in the car and drive far, far away. The land and the freeways feel so much more expansive, and it's not so easy here to just get on the road and leave everythin behind. If you wanted to, from San Francisco you could drive all day Saturday and make it to Salt Lake City by evening. Have ice cream at Snelgroves, and maybe stay the night. Turn around and drive back on Sunday morning.

There's nothing like a drive through the desert to clear your head.

Also, I was thinking of certain places in the Bay Area and on through the Central Valley--ones that have some importance that I can't quite put my finger on why they do. Usually they are places that coincide with driving: the folk-art sculpture on the beach in Alameda as you're heading towards the Bay Bridge--there used to be a small plane there, and what looked like old kinetic sculpture, a naiive interpretation of the work in Hamden Square. Then there's the Nut Tree, now empty, on 80 northeast of the Bay Area, in Vacaville. And then there's the sharp downhill curve as you come out of the Caldecott tunnel into Oakland. Sometimes I'm inexplicably reminded of these things.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Art Hop/ Moldy Basements

Friday was consumed with putting up the gable ends and the trusses on the Jericho house. After a flurry of activity, we took lunch and Doug left. At 3:30 he swung by to drop off paychecks and asked me to follow him over to Nicole's house in Westford, which I gather on which we will be doing some work. Jeff was there to meet us. He informed us that they are planning an addition of a master suite (er, "bonus room" for code purposes) and two garages, as well as making some interior changes to the existing house. We took a look in the basement, at the foundation.

The basment was--well, in need of some care. There is a water source running through there, albeit slowly, but which causes it to be wet most of the time. The insulation and wood there is quite moldy, and Doug saw some remediation in the future for them--and for the time being, a respirator.

I was there because Doug intends me to do some drawings. At this point, I am unsure whether he wants renderings or scale drawings, but I have to first determine what we are actually doing to the roof line. I'm also wondering whether I'm going to get any extra pay for this, or whether I'm doing this out of the goodness of my heart.

On Saturday I went to the South End Art Hop, where local artists are displayed at South End businesses and open studios. I wasn't impressed with most of the work, but there were some good pieces. It's a nice way to see the South End, though, and familiarize yourself with the businesses, studios and artists that are there.

Afterwards, I looked at some cars (will probably be trading my old Focus Kona Edition [the Surfmobile] in for something with AWD) and then went to see "Hollywoodland," the new movie about the mysterious death of George Reeves (the original Superman). I liked the movie, and I have to say that it is the most interesting thing I've seen Ben Affleck do. Of course, I think the main focus is the investigation that Louis Simo (Adrien Brody) conducts regarding the suicide/murder. Interestingly, the people in the theater under 50 (aside from myself) didn't seem to like the film. Perhaps the story doesn't resonate well with them.

I'm in these pictures of the Jericho house, can you spot me?

Saturday, September 02, 2006

The hissing of summer lawns

Having moved to a residential neighborhood in the historic district of a very middle class section of Milton has left me with a few annoyances which I did not anticipate. All of a sudden, I feel I am a homeowner in the midst of The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit. Not that anyone in Milton, or in Vermont, wears a grey flannel suit--this is the land of jeans and workboots. But I am referring to a row of houses with picture-perfect lawns ... where the neighbors are all looking at my lawn, thinking: "when is she going to mow, for heaven sakes? This is making us look bad."

And I thought of a couple of things: how I could've bought a house in the rough North End, where people you're not sure you want to look at sit out all day in front of their houses/apartments in next to no clothing. The house I saw there was charming on the outside, and the character of the neighborhood appealed to me in a perverse sort of way, but the price was too high, and the problems too numerous.

And then I thought of Creedence Clearwater and Metallica, living in their El Cerrito houses, and of Neal Cassady's Bancroft Ave. house, or Jack Kerouac's Orlando house. How much trouble they must have caused their neighbors. Perhaps. Anyway, I wasn't really sure I wanted to move into the bourgeois segment of my life just yet. I thought--maybe I wanted to stay bohemian just a little longer. But while I do that (if I can manage it--see below) I'll have to keep up appearances on the outside, lest Mrs. Councillor Nugent decides to pay a visit.

Monday, August 28, 2006


Dream last night which I wish I could remember better: me and unidentified friend (Asian male 20-something with glasses--who are you?) running from some form of danger in a nearly finished large commercial building which had recently been sheetrocked, but no other finish work done. We crawled through some mechanical chases looking for a place to hide, but nothing seemed to be safe enough. We found our way into the large, open downstairs, which had two enormous staircases going up from either end, and meeting in the middle to form a sort of mezzanine. This section was crowded--everyone was working on the window displays which were supposed to show how the finished units would look. I saw a couch with a newspaper on it--The New York Times--and gave friend a section, so we could hide behind the newspapers, pretending to read. I'm not sure if it worked.

Another recent dream also included staicases, of a sort, but was located in a giant canyon of grey stone--no sign of life other than the visitors to the site--no plants or animals of any kind. It had been a fort, and the canyon was spanned by a huge bridge, which connected various levels of the fort by large metal stairs and in some cases, ladders. Vertigo kept me from climbing the ladders, and I was very thirsty and had the beginnings of a headache. It was eerie to be in such a lifeless place.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Safety demonstration

I just noticed that my computer believes that it is Saturday, January 10, 1970. This is intriguing. What if this were 1970? The record I'm listening to would have just come out, I think, (CSN's debut album) so I'm doing good--good and current in my musical selection.

We worked late today-- 7 am to 5 pm, then hung out a bit after work. The day was interrupted by a two and a half hour safety meeting--primarily on fall safety, but also all the other things. We have all the fancy equipment--that's Ben and Doug for you--good guys. Wright/Morrissey requires a lot, but not all the fancy stuff. The new guys were issued their personal harnesses and lanyards, and we got a little demonstration of the impact at which people hit ground after a fall of about four or six feet. For instance, a 170 pound person will hit at 3500 pounds from this height. The ropes and lanyards significantly reduce the impact, but only to about 800 pounds. Needless to say, falling in the harness would hurt anyway, but it's better than the alternatives. I suppose if this were 1970, we'd be wearing body belts (maybe? or nothing!) which would probably cause more internal organ damage than the fall itself, I mean if it didn't kill you to begin with. Anyway, these sessions tend toward the morbid, and being cautious myself, It just worries me. But Doug had me snapping pictures for the website, so my mind was occupied. After all, I know from falls, since I got 11 stitches in my forehead from the extension ladder earlier in the year.

Seth and I were on corridor framing all day, and this was after Paddy and I worked on it (late again) yesterday. I'd missed working with Pat. He says things like, "Check out those guns!* They're gonna rip your sleeves!" and "Ya gotta think like a raindrop," and he speculates about the loss of hydraulics in the lifts--when we're 60 feet in the air, in the lift. (*For the non-construction people, um, "guns" would be biceps, and when he directs that comment to me, it always makes me laugh, which also almost makes me drop whatever I'm carrying or lifting.) So yesterday, Richard starts calling Pat Bruce Willis ... in return, Pat calls Richard Danny Glover. And then he says: "So, Miriam is Elaine from Seinfeld!" I said, "Do I dance kinda funky?"

It reminded me of grad school, where we came up with the actors and actresses to play us in the movie version--perhaps "Richard Nickel Redux?" Anyway, we had Marty down for Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Johnny Galecki for Eric, Sandra Bullock for Elizabeth, maybe, Christina Ricci for Chrissy, and they chose Lili Taylor for me, who is probably a better match than Julia Louis-Dreyfuss, though I am by no means offended. I think the key is she wears glasses. And is funny, which I can be. Jay (Ace Builders) seems to think so--he's quite the wag himself, and started several outrageous rumors about me today. It's his way. I took some more pictures up on the deck, so hopefully I'll have them posted--you can see more of the work, and some of the co-workers.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Barlow A-Building

Back at the site today. The north walls that form the mansard roofs were all too tall, and the top plates had to be removed, and replaced with half-inch plywood padding. Did this along with stringing/plumbing up all the exterior walls and truss layout. Rained all morning, and then got hot and sticky by the end of the day. Managed to keep irritation at bay by thinking of Jimmy James with Hutton Conyers and Bretton Woods, "you'll never find out the very funny thing I know about sex," and:
"'I don't smell, do I?' she asked miserably.
'Well, there's a trace of Arpege. I've always liked Arpege.'
'How terribly experienced you sound.'"
Funny how the mind wanders at work, particularly whilst pulling nails.

Incidentally, for the first quote reference Alan Bates in "Oliver's Travels," and for the second, Graham Greene in "May We Borrow Your Husband?"

The Barlow Square jobs (which can be seen here for the time being: are a bit of a conceit, considering that they are continuous buildings made to look like separate buildings of a bland postmodern variety (and by this postmodern I merely mean using historical styles in a mixed and exaggerated way). What truly gives it away is that the elevations and sizes of the windows are identical. But when you stop to look at the buildings (particularly the tower) and say, "I built that," it feels pretty good. I built that. B building is almost complete, and we are almost trussed out on A Building. We won the bid for C building, but D had a verbal contract on it from some time ago which Wright/Morrissey will not welch on. It makes no sense, really, to have another company frame it, since they'll be slower and cost more--but I can understand the ethics of it. Anyway, have a look. I built that. Our website will be up soon at I made it--HTML and CSS and all that. Check it out for the time being at


Last night I had a rather interesting dream of Sacramento, neither past nor present, and probably not future, but one never knows. After a visit to the mall, my grandmother drove my mother and I (in a harrowing moment as a passenger) out through the parking lot, and stopped at a spot not far from an underpass--or I guess I should say, we were parked where you could see an enormous freeway hovering above--as big or bigger than spots in the MacArthur Maze., From below, it looked tipped at a precarious angle; an exaggerated look at the way freeways actually can be built. Above and below, and with exits to it, you could see what I think were Bertram Goldberg-designed apartment towers. A bit like Marina City or the Cermak projects in Chicago, they were seperate, but round towers which could turn to face in any direction, based upon the desire of the person living there. Most of them had been converted to something else, but there were still a few holdouts using them as individual living spaces. They had been white, but no longer new, they showed their age like most things that once looked modern but now look a little decrepit. I, however, thought they were beautiful, and highlighted by traffic lights and cranes, and interrupted by that enourmous freeway, the scene was altogether enchanting. I took pictures. Imagine my dismay when I woke up.


After work today, which consisted of decking for most of the crew, and the corridor framing for myself, we headed down the path behind our trailer, which leads into a dense grove not far from the Winooski river. Doug, Pat, Jimmy, Paul (Red) and Randy were there, and Justin was sacked out in Randy's truck. We were talking about Vergennes, which is the town where they live (all but Doug and Jimmy) which has a dubious reputation around the state. It was misting rain through the canopy of leaves, as I heard tales of a gay horse to be memorialized in bronze on the town square, Red's unfortunate incident at the Vergennes Opera House, and other things that probably shouldn't happen in a town of one square mile. The beer was cold, and the company good.