Friday, June 6, 2008

r.i.p. skitty

spring 2006--may 23, 2008

(i know this isn't may 23, but i'm keeping skitty at the top of the blog for now.)

i had to put my skitty to sleep today. he's been acting ... not right ... for a few days & i was keeping an eye on him. i came home from work, walked to the back & opened the door, and was headed to the front when skitty came in, took two or three steps, and collapsed in the foyer in the back.
i picked him up--he weighed almost nothing, which i found out later was due to severe dehydration--and immediately called the vet. we were in the office inside of 15 minutes, and 15 or 20 minutes later, it was over. they never gave me a cause, but it was obvious he was dying.
i like to think he died peacefully.
a katrina casualty, he used to sneak in the house and steal food while i was working in the tenant's side. he got his name honestly; when i'd appear, he'd disappear. after i finally won his trust, he already knew he had a new home.
he was the last to join my trio of kitties, and niether billmurray nor big boy ever really took to him. he took to me, though, and used to fall asleep on my chest every night. he was a sweet, sweet, kitty and i miss him.
bill & big boy were wary for the first few days, waiting for skitty to once again appear. once they decided he wasn't coming back (i *tried* to explain to them that that he'd gone to the big litter box in the sky), they've loosened up and loved up to me like never before. they are, almost literally, dancing on skitty's grave. i'm happy that they're happy, but it's also very sad.
pets. you gotta love them. but they'll break your heart, too.

inspection passed!

i passed my plumbing inspection today! now i can close the walls & get the electrician back to finish his thing.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

catching up

yes. i'm a crappy blogger. i should be updating this thing at least weekly, but between cats going kaput and overzealous contractors sanding through cables and severing my connection to the digital world, it's been tough.

there has, however, been mega-progress made. we've removed the furnace,

put a new floor in the hallway where the floor furnace used to be,

and sanded the floors.

(the brown area to the left is butcher paper, put down to somewhat protect the newly sanded floors.)
lots more to report, and i'll try to do so soon.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

the bug man cometh!

tomorrow. stay tuned. this should be a doozie.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

bye bye floor dragon

so houses in new orleans typically don't have central air and heat. especially those built around the turn of the century (19th into 20th century, that is). instead, they used the house design--shotgun houses were built so that the breeze moved through from one end to the other--to aid mother nature in cooling the place. heating, however, was done first with fireplaces, then took a giant leap into gas furnaces. the gas furnaces, though, were usually designed to heat only one room, and were built into the wall. the wall unit took a giant leap into whole-house heating with the floor furnace, aka the floor dragon. i had one of these, in the hallway outside the bathroom. the grill got really hot, but it worked really well. unfortunately, it also took on water after katrina, and it looked like this:

yeah, yeah. it was old and unattractive before it took on water, but the water caused (more) rust. as some of you might remember, margo came down to help with some of the post-katrina clean up, and she volunteered to shop-vac the water out of the furnace. not a pretty job, and just one reason she decided to trash her clothing when she left to go back north.

this shot actually looks like it was taken right after katrina, but the mess on the floor is sheetrock dust from other work being done in the house. i've had the floor dragon covered up, but with the coming of the plumbers (same guys who snaked & cleaned out my sub surface drainage), i uncovered it for easy access.

they did some banging around underneath the house, capping off the gas line and unscrewing the furnace from its supports. it (obviously) took both of them to lift it out. they said it weighed about a hundred or so pounds.

now i have a big old hole in the floor. i just covered it back up with the grate, and when the floors get redone (this week, i hope), my contractor will cut some new boards to go in the hole. should look like there was never a furnace when he finishes.

the removal of the furnace also allowed the shoring people to come back in and brace the hallway. so now the house leveling is complete, and we move on to floor refinishing.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

lift & separate

so it doesn't look like much. but these are some of the jacks that were used to level my house.

it's a shame that the photos are so boring because this is actually pretty damn exciting. of all the gazillions of dollars that i've spent, this is by far the one thing that i'm happiest with.

if i had a decent 'before' picture of the porch, you could see quite clearly the difference. alas, i don't. it makes a huge difference, though, that when you walk in the house you no longer list & roll down hill. i can't find the picture with the crew foreman demonstrating the height of the final lift by sticking his hand in the gap between the house and the jack and splaying his fingers, but it turned out that it was raised about 6 inches iin the highest spot. awesomeness.

in the course of making the house level, the workers also discovered that i have subsurface drainage. this is huge. part of the reason for the whole funhouse lean to the place is because of standing water. oh, ok. the other part is because new orleans is really a swamp and everything sinks. having water pool in my backyard, though, does not help. so the leveling crew (orleans shoring) called out the plumbers they work with, and we got to work finding out the story with the drainage.

the newly discovered/uncovered drain runs about 70 feet down the side of my house. according to the plumbers and the shoring guys, the drainage system was put in around 1920 and is fairly standard in houses in mid city. to find out the state of my drainage, first they ran a snake down the length.

they put the hose in the pipe, both to gauge when the drain was opened and also to help work the snake down the line. it took well over an hour, but soon the water actually started to flow.

then they pulled out the video camera, and ran it through the pipe. this is how we found out that although the water will flow through the pipe, there are three breaks along the line.

next step is to have them come back out and fix the breaks. when they do, they're also going to put in two more ... drain openings (there's probably a name for them but i don't know what it is) to increase the surface area where water can enter the pipe. i'm going to call them next week, as i wanted to take a week off from writing huge checks.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

magnetic attraction

of all the things i could not do this weekend, i did one thing and i did it well.

the front door on the tenant's side of the house. you can see it's a burglar door, iron bars & all. it was repainted about 6 months ago, and my contractor (who i'm beginning to think is retarded) never put the screen back in. so it lets in bugs. lots & lots of bugs. i happen to hate bugs, but they love me.

so i got the big bright idea to get a screen. but i wasn't about to spline it. so i also bought a bunch of magnets. a whole bunch. my neighbor happened to be outside raking leaves, so i asked him to lend a hand. he took a look and decided that magnets alone wouldn't do it, so he went and got some gorilla glue tape. we taped and magneted and now it's bea-u-ti-ful.

here's brett, my neighbor, with the newly bug-proofed screen.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

everything but the kitchen stove!

ok. i decided to buy the cabinets. but wait! it's not just cabinets! it's cabinets plus

a microwave! but wait! there's more! there's a

dishwasher! and yet that's STILL not all! there's also

a refrigerator! (the guys at the house where i bought these were not happy to see the fridge go.) and yet even that's not all!

granite countertops! (there must be about 20 feet of this. and it's heavy. very heavy.) they even saved the crown molding and the screws. and, oh ... the glass-fronted wall cabinets have under-cabinet lights, which they put in there, too.

so i still have to configure it, but most of the kitchen decisions have now been made, courtesy of a great deal from craigslist.

the amazing thing is that it fits my personal sytle--bohemian thriftshopper--to a T.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

ready made?

so i found these cabinets on craigslist. i sent an email sunday, got an email with phone number in return on monday, and called about them today. the woman said she's had a lot of inquiries, and has decided she wants to sell everything in
one fell swoop. everything includes a dishwasher, side-by-side fridge, and a stainless steel offset sink with garbage disposal. (the fridge & dishwasher are stainless, too.)

went over there today. while it's not what i'd choose if i had a ton of money, the whole thing is only 3 grand.

i took some measurements and counted the number of units. now i have to figure out how much wall space i have & how much they'd take up. i know, for instance, that there's an extra corner cabinet that i wouldn't be able to use.

but it would knock a bunch of money off what it's going to cost me new, and i'd be able to do the cooktop in the island with a downdraft and built in oven with the money i save.
so what do i do?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

just what i need ... another hole in the


this is supposed to be the door to the attic. the existing 'door' is a window in the roof. this is better, but the 10' ladder i bought, that's supposed to fit ceilings up to 10'3", is too short. grrrr. i completely blame my contractor, who when i asked him what size ladder to buy, shrugged his shoulders and said, '10 foot. yeah. 10 foot.' ppphhht.

this is the dumpster on the 2nd go round. this, by the way, is the *last* go round for the $300-a-pop dumpster. everything else i'm stuffing in the regular garbage bit by bit.

another shot of the completely denuded kitchen. pray for me.

and finally ...

had to change the light in the bathroom the other day. it was like climbing to the top of mt. everest.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

wall gone!

ok. so this is what it looks like with no wall there.

and this is what it looks like with the cabinets gone.

it's actually kind of traumatizing. i laughed out loud when i saw the window.
i could be wrong, but i think my house--the half i live in, the half that's currently being rehabbed--used to be a stand-alone single shotgun. at some point the owners decided to put in a garage, and instead of mucking up the side yard, they put it in front of the house. that involved some reconfiguration of the front door, which is at the very left-most corner of the original structure, and necessitated constructing a porch, because now there was just about 4 feet from the side of the garage to the property line. apparently the garage went over so well, they decided to go into business for themselves, and constructed another large room that runs the length of the garage, plus another 50 or so feet. the interior wall of this new room is actually the exterior of the original house; hence, any windows on the tenant side were taken out and sealed up.

this is what the house--without the wall and without the cabinets--looks like from the living room.

it's all either terribly exciting or terribly anxiety producing.

Sunday, March 9, 2008


during my usual weekend haunting of lowe's, i found a track light for ... MORE THAN 50% OFF!!!!!!!! woot!

i'm still a long way off from having lights installed--hell. i don't even know what the kitchen is going to look like--but the $75 i paid yesterday beats the crap out of the $175 they usually sell for.

<finishes patting self on back. goes back to work.>

Friday, March 7, 2008

celebrity runs in the family

woot! brother dave is famous!

not that he hasn't been famous to me forever.

the wall is half empty

our story so far: a simple 'just redo the floors & rerun some wire and be done with it' has turned into a monster. the big culprit was when i decided to take out the wall between the kitchen and the living room. day one: the kitchen ceiling and the chimney from the ceiling to the attic was removed. day two: the chimney from the ceiling to the floor was removed. day three: here we are. i assumed the entire wall would be gone, but know this: i am not a contractor. apparently it's more difficult than i thought, because when i opened the door ...

part of the wall was gone, but part of the wall remained.

this is what it looked like from the living room. on the right, that's my contactor, estanislao. i just call him stanis. i should probably shorten it to stan, but oh, well. on the left is his wife, miss clara. she is delightful. as is he. clara does not like the cold. at all. it was probably in the 50s that day, so she had on a cap and a warm coat.

you can see the lath from the plaster. i still have lots of plaster in the house, some of it sheetrocked over, some of it just plaster walls. my electrician told me found some barge board, too.

although it doesn't look like it, the place is pretty clean. what you can't see is the dumpster sitting in front of my house. the other thing you might not know is the dumpsters--at least this one--cost $325. that includes hauling and the dumping fee. no hidden costs. unfortunately, i miscalculated the amount of dumpitude generated by removing a wall full o' chimney, and with the wall half gone, the dumpster was filled to the brim.
so how much to have the dumpster emptied and brought back? why, another $325. the guy cut me a break, though, and only charged me $275. who figures these things into a remodel budget? show of hands? ok. so other people know this. i didn't.

the sort of good news is that when they brought the dumpster back, i was here. after he finished prying the check from my hand, i walked the guy through the house. in addition to providing dumpsters, he also does renovations. he told me that the wall removal was a good job, and checked out the absent baseboards. he asked me if i found any rot in the studs, and i told him no. he said i was lucky because lots of the houses he does have damage. he walked around and kicked a few things and told me that the house is structurally sound. phew. you never know when you buy something that's a hundred-plus years old, and i need all the reassurance i can get at this point.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

bringin' down the house

ok. so i started this to have a record of what's going on with my house renovation, not to tell you about cats and rats and such. so let's get back on target, shall we?
this is what my kitchen looked like before. notice the lovely cabinets. i painted them myself. oh, la la. very mardi gras.

the door that you see is not the door to the outside, but the door to the tenant's half. the cat that you see is big boy. big. boy. he is grooming himself because he's a very debonair kitteh. oh, yes. and he's very big. and he's also very timid. perhaps i'll post another picture of big boy later. after you're done looking at my house.

this is my living room, with a view into the kitchen, and a view into the tenantless tenant's half. you can also see the entrance to my side of the house. the two doors make for an odd configuration. i think initially the part you see thru the tenant's door was a garage. at some point about 50 years ago, someone got the big bright idea to put a business over there, so they knocked out the garage and added on another (approximately) 60x14 space. so the tenant's half is an L wrapped around my half, which is a shotgun, which is the predecessor to the modern trailer. anyway ...

this is my kitchen, with the chimney, which ran through the wall between the kitchen and the living room, removed. yes. that strip you see in the middle of the purple wall was once a chimney. which i never really even got to see. because the first day they removed the ceiling and the chimney in the attic, and the next day: chimney. gone.

here is a closeup of ... i guess it's called the hearth. or at least, guts 'o hearth.

so i'm kind of freaking out, because ... well, because. ironically, the wall in the living room was pretty much intact, right up to my grandparents' wedding photo hanging over the mantle.

that was weird.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

and speaking of rats ...

i got a wild hair one night a few weeks ago--undoubtedly some idiocy connected with the upcoming presidential elections kicked it off--and sent an email to cartoonist mk brown. ms brown has been in plenty of media over the years, but i was introduced to her work in national lampoon. back when it was still good. or maybe it wasn't good because there was plenty in there that i didn't understand. but i loved that magazine.

i particularly loved one comic called 'whistle stop.' it was in the miracle of democracy issue. when nixon and mcgovern were battling for the title. the cartoon showed an unnamed candidate doing an old-fashioned cross country speaking tour via rail. the train would stop at a town, the candidate would speak and press the flesh, and then they'd be off to the next engagement. in this particular comic, the candidate was literally a blithering idiot, complete with a couple of handlers who would dress him, feed him his lines, and essentially make sure he didn't hurt himself. in the pivotal (to me) panel, one of the handlers exclaims, OH MY GOD! THE CANDIDATE IS EATING A RAT! the drawing shows the candidate in suit and tie with the tail of a rat hanging from his mouth.

that comic has always embodied how i feel about politicians and elections. i haven't seen it in ... oh, lord! ... 36 years. but it's stuck with me all this time. i've searched for it on & off, but i've never laid hands on that issue again.

so i wrote to mk brown and told her how influential that comic has been, and how much i enjoy her work in general. she wrote back! twice! and she said that she's received enough inquiries about whistle stop that she's going to do a limited edition print, and if i were interested, she'd let me know when they're done. well. i'm thrilled. truly. so maybe when she finishes the prints, i'll be done with my renovations. then i can hang my print in my new space.

that'll be killer.

mk brown is now on you tube, too.

the mysterious world of cats

ceiling cat
so i came home friday and bill murray was nowhere to be found. not terribly unusual. sometimes she goes off and explores and comes home in her own good time. besides, the contractors had been banging around all day and messing with her house, so maybe she was hiding.

even though i called her repeatedly, she didn't come home for dinner, which is less typical but still no cause for alarm. i figured she'd get here when she got here, and sat down at the computer to load my new design software. i heard something that sounded like scratching in the drop ceiling. no problem, most likely just the wind. then i heard it again. and again.

'crap,' i thought. 'i hope it's not a rat.' (let's suffice it to say that i had reason to think that.)

scratch. even if it was, i wasn't going to haul out a piece of cheese and entice it to a throwdown. scratch. so i went back to working on the computer. scratch. scratch. CRASH!

all of a sudden one of the ceiling tiles at the other end of the room blew out and a huge ... something ... came tumbling out and streaked across to the door leading into the kitchen of the house. given the level of debris in there, the door is closed, of course. so now i'm freaking out thinking that there's a very, very angry rat when zip! here it comes an oh, shit! it's bill murray!

i haven't been able to figure out how she got up there in the first place. the ceiling is 8 and 10 feet tall. it was missing one ceiling tile on the 10 foot side, with only a couch beneath it. she's not exactly, uh, lithe these days and i can't imagine her jumping that high and making the mark without killing herself.

so, anyway. that was kind of exciting.

by the way, that's not bill murray in the picture. she moved WAY too fast & i was a little too freaked out for me to get a picture of it. that's ceiling cat, an internet phenomenon. i always thought 'celining cat is watching you' was a joke. thanks for enlightening me on that, bill murray.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

two years, 6 months, just starting

good things come to those who wait. or so they say.

i've finally started working on MY half of the house. which means i had to move into the other side of the house, which is an office, not an apartment. i figured that this day was coming, and i did have the good (?) sense to
add a shower to the office. that cost about $2,500. (had to extend the bathroom, add extra plumbing, buy the shower & fixtures, etc.)
the office is the part fronting the street (naturally). if you look real hard, someone is standing in the doorway. i don't remember who was there the day i took the picture. matter of fact, i can't remember the day i took the picture. but his is my house.

on the left set back a little ways, you can see the door to
my half of the house. when you open that door, it used to look like this:

washer & dryer were in the right-most corner, cabinets on the right-side wall. you can see into my living room. if you look real hard, you can see mick jagger's crotch. at least a picture of his crotch.

i was just going to redo my floors, rerun the electrical stuff, and take care of big glaring problems. of which there are a few. however ... i decided that i don't much care for the wall between the kitchen and living room. that little jutty part with the three pictures on it is a sheetrocked-over chimney. which was not in terrific shape but not in imminent danger of falling in, either. however, it was crumbling from the inside, and it's useless. my contractor said that if i wanted the wall taken out, he'd take out the wall. who knew it would take 3 days and be so stressful?

the first day i came home from work & expected to see a big chunk of the wall gone. instead, i saw my attic for the first time because they'd taken out the ceiling. it looked like this:

and my attic looks like this:
ok. that's enough for tonight. i still have to finish reading the instructions on putting together my mosquito magnet. if it works half as well as i've been promised, it's worth the money.