Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Monday, January 23, 2012

Countdown to the New Old House: Psychic Electricians and Advanced Course in Deck Chair Rearranging

C and I decided early on that "The LEM" was a good moniker for the apartment because, like the lunar module Aquarius (AKA "The LEM") on the Apollo 13 mission, it represented our lifeboat - cramped, confining and occasionally more than a bit vexing, but a safe place that in practical terms represented a step up from the ailing mother ship.  So we had a general sense that we would come to think of it fondly, and would give it a heartfelt salute before sending it off to burn up in the sun.

The Apollo 13 astronauts only occupied their LEM for four days. 

We have occupied our LEM for four months.  Actually, almost four and a half - and counting.  So it's not entirely surprising that the other day, apropos of not much, C announced that "the LEM is sort of home now, Mom."

Yup.  Agreed.

Spouse did not take kindly to this assessment - on account of how Spouse (like his seven year-old Mini Me) is a grudge holder, who, on some level, considers adjustment to be an expression of defeat.

I would like to think that the twelve year-old takes after me.  My philosophy:  wherever you go, there you are.  Might as well be comfortable for the duration.   So I understood where C was coming from, and I was kind of proud of him.  Also grateful to receive confirmation that my nesting efforts had  paid off, at least from one other family member's perspective.

The inspector from our mortgage company confirmed today what we already knew:  the restoration of our mother ship is less than half finished.  We have a general sense that things will progress quickly once we get over the hump - but we have to get to the hump first.

Standing between us and the hump:  a final engineer's inspection, some more wrangling over estimates and the mechanics of relaying the floors, yada, yada, yada.  If we could just get the danged floors down - THEN we would be cooking with gas.

But we aren't cooking with gas, or electric, or induction technology - on account of how the stove hasn't even been ordered, because there is currently no place to put it.

Metaphorically, and also literally.

I could curse the heavens, or sigh and wonder aloud if we will EVER going to get back in our house, but nothing like that is going to get us out of The LEM faster.  So I try to focus on the little things - like the fact that our electrician, apparently, is psychic.

On the day of our last city inspection, I found myself staring at the track lighting in our dining room, and the thought occurred to me that I REALLY HATE OUR TRACK LIGHTING.  It is functional, in that it illuminates the feature wall in the room.  But it is perhaps a little too functional, creating an overly harsh glare.  (Lovely Electrician Carlos confirmed my suspicions:  three lights on that wall equals overkill.  Two lights equals more than sufficient.)

Also, it is really, phenomenally ugly.

I thought about suggesting that we replace it with eyeball spots (two of them).  But then I decided that perhaps some battle-picking was in order.  So I held my tongue.

Call from spouse the following day:

"Carlos says that the track lighting needs to come out, at least temporarily.  Do you want him to put it back in?"

No, I do not.  On account of how we live in a 1920's Tudor, not the Playboy Mansion in the 1970's.

The day after that:

"So apparently once upon a time we bought a Craftsman lantern to hang where the ceiling fan used to be on the porch.  Want Carlos to install it?"

Yes, please.

The day after that:

"HEY!  Carlos installed the lantern over the front door, where the spotlight with the motion detector used to be."

Yup.  Noticed that when we drove up.  Noticed that the lantern looks really nice framed in the archway.  MUCH nicer than the spotlight with the motion detector that, design-wise, had an awful lot in common with the cursed track lighting.

"Did you put Carlos up to this?"

Nope.  Even better.  APPARENTLY, I AM CONTROLLING HIM WITH MY EERIE MIND CONTROL POWERS, because, pretty clearly, he is reading my subconscious thoughts.

And so we made haste to Lowe's, where a coordinating outdoor light fixture was procured to go where the lantern was supposed to go.  We also settled on pendant lights for the kitchen, and at Home Depot we acquired a bath fan with globe light fixture and multiple can lights.  Including can lights to replace the cursed track lighting.

In years hence, we shall refer to Saturday the 14th of January as "Lighting-apalooza."

By the way, I am getting very good at can lighting.  I know my insulation-rated cans from my unrated ones, and I understand the functional differences between, and optimal usage of, an eyeball, a baffle and a reflector trim kit.

I am available for consultations.  I also do weddings and bar mitzvahs.

Since Lighting-apalooza went down, I have been obsessed with crossing off other items on the pre-punchlist list.  You control what you can control, you know?  Hence the chart that I created on my computer, with wall plate specifications for each room on the left and columns for marking off quantities of single, double and triple toggle plates, rocker/GFI plates and the like.  It's all there - the model and SKU numbers, the unit prices.  Just not the quantities - because, after creating the chart, it occurred to me that, as part of the rewiring process, the outlet and switch counts changed significantly.  To complete the chart, I will need to go room by room and make note of the new outlet/switch situation - which isn't happening anytime soon, given that I still don't have a flippin' floor and therefore cannot progress more than a few feet inside each door, for fear of tumbling off of a plywood walkway and into the crawlspace.

So I must enlist the help of someone braver than me - like, say, one of my children - to confirm the outlet/switch situation.  Until then, the wall plate chart remains unfinished.  Not unlike my house.

I have found other deck chairs to rearrange on my own personal Titanic.  One of our favorite games these days is called the "There's No Better Time Game."  To play, you have to fill in the blanks in the following sentence:  "When you ____________________, there's no better time to __________________."

I'll give you an example:


Then you write a check to the termite company.

That ends that particular round of the "There's No Better Time Game."  On to the next round:


The TNBT Game is a lot like Monopoly, in that it goes ON and ON and ON.  The TNBT Game is not like Monopoly, in that you use actual money instead of play money, and, also, a lot of rounds are played via telephone:

Spouse:  Did you try to call me?

Me:  Yeah.  Listen, at lunch, we were talking about J's fireplace and how she's thinking about building a hearth, and the thought occurred to me that, when you HAVE TO REMOVE THE WOOD TRIM AROUND THE TILE ON YOUR HEARTH IN CONNECTION WITH THE INSTALLATION OF THE NEW FLOORS, there's no better time to REPLACE THE TILE WITH SOMETHING MORE ATTRACTIVE.  A slate look, maybe.  And,  I dunno, we could replace the molding on top of the mantel with something a little more pronounced?

Spouse (not really listening, in that he is already planning on making his next move in the game):   Yeah, cool.  Listen . . . .

Me (still stuck in the last round):  Do you happen to know what size the tiles are?  They are small, right?  Like six inches square?

(By the way, our second favorite game these days is "Memory."  Our version does not involve flipping over cards.  It involves trying to remember the atomized details of the home in which we have lived for the last thirteen years.  "Does that door open to the left or to the right?  Is there a plug on that wall?  How big are those tiles?"  It's really quite pathetiicc.)

Spouse:  No, I think they're bigger. 12 by 12 possibly.  So the reason I didn't answer your call was that I was meeting with another foam insulation guy, and he's proposing hermetically sealing the crawlspace so it will have no ventilation whatsoever, and the underside of the house will remain a constant 67 degrees, without the need for insulation.

Me:  And this is something that we would want?  I mean, a constant temperature sounds good for the pipes.  But what if someone has to go down into the crawlspace?  Wouldn't they, you know, DIE of asphyxiation?

Spouse:  Um, well, you'd leave the trap door to the surface open.  That's something.

Me:  Is there literature on this?  Or are we just taking this guy's word that this is a good option?  And, also, how does he make his money if this process eliminates the need for insulation?

Spouse:  The foam's what they use to seal off the vents.

Me:  Ah.  That sounds . . . messy.

At this point, Spouse is getting frustrated, because I.  Am.  Not.  Seeing.  The.  Value.  Of.  The.  Foam.  Stuff.  So I decide to really frustrate him:

Me:  Long story short:  is this something that will save us a lot of money in the long run, or is it better for the house, or is it just a topic of conversation because it is cutting-edge, and you are fascinated with cutting-edge things?

Blunt, but a fair question:  Spouse is, from my perspective, easily distracted by bright, shiny objects.  And when he gets on a roll . . . well, let's just say that my deck-chair rearranging skills pale in comparison to his.   I'm still in the Masters program; he already has his PhD.

Which leads nicely into an explanation of the other part of the TNBT Game:  The Block.  If someone makes a "there's no better time" move when, actually, factually, there WOULD be a better time, then you have to call him on it.  Usually, I am the one doing the calling.  See "easily distracted by bright, shiny objects," above.

When Spouse has been getting quotes on crawlspace insulation, he has also been getting quotes on wall insulation - because THERE'S NO BETTER TIME.  However, since they install the wall insulation through tiny holes drilled into the exterior brick . . . THERE IS A BETTER TIME FOR THAT.

So I had to institute a Block.

And the game goes on . . . .   

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