Renovation – Got the Jimmy Legs


I look at the floor and now I don't see you anymore

Ready to pull up the floorThe last two weeks were supposed to be a vacation but at some point we decided we would be doing some of our long-ignored home improvement projects. Originally we intended to replace the kitchen and hallway floors with new hardwood flooring. But in making the preparations for this, we realized that underneath the plywood floor (which we had painted 2 years before) there existed a totally viable hardwood floor! Once we determined this floor was in good enough shape to use, we abandoned the new-floor idea and set up to refinish. We are having professionals from, come and help remodel our kitchen.
Some old tilesTo get there, however, we first had to knock a bunch of plaster off the fireplace and remove the brick hearth form the front. Once we did this, we realized he had to remove the walls on either side of the fireplace since it stopped a few inches before the brick started. Meanwhile, the hallway needed to have its ugly tile removed.

Kitchen FloorThe hallway isn't much space but all of it was covered in linoleum tile. Jeannie took most of it off without much trouble before realizing there was ANOTHER layer of tile below it. This layer had been applied with so much adhesive it was literally pouring off the edges of the tile; the paste never really dried and was reminiscent of a quarter inch of the gunk they put on flypaper. Hallway sandedJeannie's sister came over to help and spent basically 24 hours chipping away at it. After much effort and injury on the part of the Purvis sisters, the tile was finally banished. The plywood lifted up relatively easily, leaving us with the pine subfloor (which was actually in pretty good condition). If that second layer of tile hadn't been there, we could have had the project wrapped up with a few days to relax afterwards. Instead we spent Friday to Sunday in refinishing hell. Friday we sanded, Saturday we stained, then Sunday we put 4 coats of polyurethane down. I guess it's good we did it so rapidly, if only because the cats were getting antsy being locked up in the bedroom for three days.

Hallway FinishedThere's still a lot of work to do, but at least the floors are done. Of course, most people will tell you to do the floors last, since crap will invariably fall on it during other projects. But considering how much time the floor took, we didn't have much choice, we'll just have to be thorough with the dropcloths and whatever other prophylactic devices we must employ to protect our nice new floors! Kitchen floor sanded (plus Marbles)

Other upcoming projects include: painting the walls revealed around the fireplace, fixing the brickwork I broke on the fireplace, painting the kitchen walls because they're nasty, placing/replacing quarter-round molding and doorway thresholds to cover up shoddy edge work on the floor, and painting the banister because there's too much damn paint on it and it's too banged-up to bother getting it professionally done so we're just painting it dark brown and hoping in dim light it might look like finished wood. Also planning on getting a Top Master locksmith to come and replace the outside door handles since the current ones are starting to look rusty. Otherwise should go visit Access Locksmiths. Fun Times Accomplished!

Kitchen floor by you.

The house is an ancient tomb: be warned

So much stuff is going on, and all I want to do i lie around on the couch. No such luck, however, as the Holidays are upon us.

I gotta remember to take a picture of our Xmas lights, it's so lame. Rite Aid has a sale on lights so I bought a couple strings and put them around the perimeter of the windows on the ground floor. They're white lights too so they don't even look all that festive; it looks like a dressing room mirror. Oh well, I'm a Jew, your traditions are 'strange' and 'frightening' to me.

Great upheaval includes the departure of our tenants. Yep, they moved up to Greenpoint yesterday, piano and all! Incredibly, we were able to sleep through most of the actual move, except when one of the movers loudly bet another that he'd pay him a hundred bucks to ride Buzz's bike down the stairs. Without going into it too much, they decided to move due to some safety issues, for which I totally don't fault them. We knew going into it that Bushwick is not exactly the safest place on earth, and I always felt a little bad that we sort of dragged them here in the first place. Still, they got a darned cheap rent for a duplex apartment! But money isn't everything and now they're in a neighborhood that's not only one of the safest in town, but is full of those amenities that everybody normally aspires to: grocery stores, restaurants, book/record stores, and an Irish pub right across the street. Damn, I could use one of those!

That's what sucks about home ownership; we're stuck here. Eventually this might turn into an advantage, say, if the neighborhood gets all fancy around us and we make a killing in real estate. Of course, the way things are going, this doesn't look too likely in the foreseeable future (for instance, all eyes were on the local corner property that was about to open, as a litmus test of the area; it opened as a wig store.) But I still like the house and, barring any personal violence I might endure, I'm okay with the neighborhood. But what are we gonna do with this house?

For the time being we are going to see if we can afford the whole joint without rental income. This comes mostly because the house, as it is set up, is unworkable for a rental to any but those we can wholeheartedly trust (and of course, my motto is: Trust No One). It's a legal 2-family, but there's no actual division between the units. To divide the house properly would take quite an undertaking at this point, and honestly wasn't something I was planning to do for a while. But if push comes to shove we'll have to jumpstart the renovations. Assuming we win the lottery, no problem!

Having the house to ourselves at this point has another big advantage: we have people coming for Christmas. Jeannie's mom and nephew are coming up for the Holidays, so they will be camping out on separate floors, on their respective futons (futons currently make up 50% of our furniture now, classy!) We certainly won't feel crowded. Now the problem is, what do we do with a 13 year old kid?

The nephew looks like he's in his 20's, he's 6 feet tall and otherwise precocious, so he's pretty flexible. But the law is not. So we can't just blithely take him to shows and bars as we would do with, say, Jeannie's mom. We're trying to figure out what a kid from St. Thomas would want to do in the city, but we're coming up short. Worse still, Todd P, purveyor of all ages shows, just announced he's cutting back on his bookings, meaning shows we could get a kid into will be in short supply. Argh.

I dunno, if I was a kid raised in the Caribbean, NYC in the winter sounds like Siberia. Hell, now that I've visited the Caribbean, NYC feels like a gulag to me too. Don't get me wrong, I love it here, but I just don't wanna have to leave the house. Aside from the requisite tours, museums, restaurants, what do kids do here? Should we give him some spray paint or what?

There's no place for a street fighting man

Here's something to waste some time during your workday: Google Maps has added a 'Street View' feature that allows you to see a 360-degree panorama of your location. Granted, they haven't mapped out the most important areas of the city yet (namely, in front of my house), but I'm sure they're working on it. Oddly, they have actually mapped all of Bushwick Ave, which comes within a block of my house. This is odd because I would have thought they would have mapped out Broadway first, which runs parallel to Bushwick Ave. Then again, in my few driving experiences here, I noted with disdain how screwed up Broadway is. For such a seemingly vital thoroughfare, it's pothole-ridden and stoplight-laden. Anyhow, the photo above is a bodega I often frequent at the end of my block. My house is actually the other way down the street, but that view is particularly boring-looking under the eye of this map service. When they get down every street, though, you'll really have something. This should have some interesting ramifications. Now people can virtually walk down Atlantic Ave in Brownsville and East New York with impunity.

Meanwhile, it was a lovely weekend all around. One semi-disappointment was that the tree service guys never came back for all the remaining detritus. They had told me to keep a good portion of their fee as a deposit, which would be collected when they showed up to take all the vines and leafy parts. The logic involved was that this material needed to dry out to be easily handled (all the wood goes to a chipper and gets turned into mulch). Saturday came and went without a word, even after I tried to contact them. The forecast for Sunday was rain, so I got antsy, thinking if the whole reason they left this stuff was because it needed to dry out, getting rained on wasn't gonna help. So i got out the contractor bags and went to town on it. It wasn't actually that difficult, and soon I had almost all of it bagged. Now I just have to dole it out to the trash, and I've just saved a tidy sum on my tree/ladder issue. Still, it's not exactly good business practice to leave your customers hanging, especially since this guy was trying to sell me on many of his fence and deck-building expertise.


You can look but you better not touch

Cuttin Headz, originally uploaded by Jimmy Legs.

I was feeling gross yesterday but I was planning on going to work anyway until Jeannie talked me out of it. As lazy as I can be, I still have trouble making that decision to call in sick, mostly because I'm still not used to the notion of having sick days (of which I actually have a lot left to use).

Anyway, this worked out well since yesterday was The Day They Came to Remove the Tree. There was an old tree that had been devoured by termites and had fallen in the back yard, probably several years before we came to own the place. This would be a very easy thing for anybody with a chain saw to remove. However, there was a catch: a 40-foot clothesline tower.

For those of you who don't know, or who haven't been over to Abby's backyard, in the olden days, people dried their laundry on clotheslines. To facilitate this for upper-floor tenants, a ladder-like device was erected at the far end of the yard with pulleys attached for each floor. I'm not sure how people originally attached the lines (I guess some poor kid had to shimmy up the ladder with a rope in his teeth) and voila, you had a place to hang out your wet socks.

Since the advent of the commercial and/or residential laundry facilities, clothesline tower fell into disuse. Ours in particular suffered from obsolescence, the previous owners let it rust so bad its base supports rusted through. So at some point somebody moved it to the side, threading it through the phone lines and letting the top rest again the branches of the tree in the adjacent yard.

So not only was there a tree to remove, but it was partially leaning on this giant, rusty, steel tower thing which was precariously balanced between a couple of thin branches and the phone lines for half the neighborhood (all the more reason to go to cellular phones). I had no idea who to call to take care of this, but when the tree guy came over he said, "Eh, we do this all the time." It took them about 2 hours to do the bulk of the work.

The tree was gone before I even noticed. They also pruned back several other trees that were threatening other cables, as well as a bunch of vines. Work was momentarily stopped when they asked me to look up pictures of poison ivy and oak to make sure the vines weren't poisonous. I inwardly chuckled, I mean really, poison ivy here? Please. So I printed out some pictures of it to compare and they continued clearing it away.

The clothesline tower also came down without much trouble, they just slid it out from between the cables (I think they did break a couple of small branched in the tree). once they had it down they cut it into a couple of pieces and threw it on the truck, like it was nothing. It was especially helpful that our home abuts a church yard, so they were able to back their truck right up to the back fence of our yard.

They took most of the big stuff, leaving the green wood to dry out for a couple of days. They come back tomorrow to take the rest of it, plus all the leftover wood from my studio project. I'm trying to pick out some of the 2x4s or whatever I might want to keep. But it's a joy to ditch most of that stuff, as it has been taking up so much space in the cellar.

Before the tree guys showed up, I let the cats run around the yard. Despite the fact that there is no fence between our yard and the neighbors, there are tall fences around the perimeter of the two, so I haven't worried much about the cats escaping. Well, at some point I realized that Freddy was nowhere to be found. Indeed, long after the tree people had decamped, I peered over a fence and spied her sitting under an old Schwinn in the church's yard. I plied her with cat food to no avail. I feared she would return to her stray-cat, bird-killin' ways.

It was at this time I realized there in fact was a thatch of poison ivy growing out of the corner fence. Jesus Christ! I don't know how to get rid of it, should I just spray it with weed killer? I kind of want to get rid of it before the guys come back for the rest of the debris, cuz they said they don't wanna get near it, lest treeman Tony ruin his momentous birthday plans for the weekend.

At about 9:15, Freddy strolled back inside. She's still not any nicer to us, but she knows where she lives at least. Here's an album documenting some of the day's activities.

Addendum: Here's a pretty cool page about an archaeological dig in a Brooklyn back yard that has pretty much the only reference I could find about clothesline towers (their was half the size of ours and apparently not sitting between phone cables).

Just the holes that we live in

One of the more consistent requests I get through this site is information about the fence post spikes I used to erect a fence in my back yard. Well, it was the back yard at the last place I lived, in Clinton Hill. People write me every so often to ask where I procured the metal base posts to secure the wood posts that support the fence itself. Despite the momentousness of the project, I totally can't remember where I got them. I bought them online from a hardware store from the west coast, I think (I wanna say Washington). They were literally the only place I could find them online so I went ahead and got them. But that company seems to no longer have an online presence, if they have a presence at all anymore. So I always feel bad when I have to respond that I have no further info about it when people email.

But that has all changed, for the time being anyhow. A web researcher emailed me, not to ask where to get the spikes, but rather what my long-term opinion is of them. You see, this guy has located them, both online and at his local hardware store, and just wanted to know if they were worth it. He sent me the link, so I can now proudly post it here for anybody wanting to put up their own fence but not wanting to futz with pouring concrete. Near as I can figure these fence post spikes work pretty well. i don't know that I would trust them if you constantly have people scaling your walls, but to hold up your usual cedar plank fence it seems to work fine. Now all I have to do is put a link to this post on the original fence post post.

You may have noticed, since I moved to blogger for this blog, there is a serious disparity between old and new blog. The Archives page is hopelessly out of date (for recent archives, only the link on the right side of the home page will get you anywhere), and of course, the comments on the old posts still don't work. I just never have time to fix that stuff, and since it's been like this for many months now and the earth seems to continue to spin, I'm in no rush to fix it. I've got curtains to hang!