Whatever it Takes

Whatever it Takes

I was at the Piedmont Old Time Society jam last week talking to friends, making sure they knew about my party.  Because as some people forget, Facebook invites are only good if the intended guests are on Facebook.  I explained to my one friend that while I love having my friends over for a good time, the real reason I have my party is to make me finish my projects.  She laughed and said, “Alan and I do that when we need to make ourselves clean the house.” We laughed, and I don’t feel so bad about admitting it now.  I’m applying a lot of pressure to getting things done because my friends will be here, and what better motivation to get my stuff done than an audience.  And I also want them to not die from falling through a hole in the floor. While the sunroom is taking the lion’s share of my budget, my personal effort has been going into tidying up smaller things.  The first image on this post is my new porch light.  It matches the porch sidelights I installed last year.  It makes me realize how screwed up the English language is, because “sidelights” is one word.  I’ve also started my grocery list, assigning rooms for my guests who are coming from out of town, making sure the keg of beer I made for the party is ready, and making sure there are adequate chairs for the old time jam.  The first year I threw the party my concern was making sure the heat worked, and most rooms had working lights.  How things change, and...
Party IV

Party IV

My annual party gives me an opportunity to “finish” my projects and show off a little*.  This year I’m excited to report I have a little more furniture of the grown-up variety, some wall art I’m proud of, a few less holes, and electrical outlets that shoot fewer sparks when provoked with use. That being said, every project yields two more projects. My handyman Tony was finishing the drywall in my sun room, taking down the old plaster, when he discovered more termite damage. We formed a game plan, until I asked “What’s that wire? Is that still live?” Keep in mind, we weren’t even supposed to have taken down that wall.  But that’s how these things happen. I spent this morning tracing one live wire after another, with copper exposed, eventually finding a nest of wires jammed into the space between the sunroom and the interior closet.  I eventually found the right breakers to turn it all off, and got to work removing it.  It will leave me with another dead outlet until I rewire the first floor (perhaps you’ll see it at the party next year!) Despite the never-ending nature of these projects, I’m actually excited about closure, even in small degrees.  The sun room may have opened several other projects, but it will be open and usable for the first time in years, maybe even decades.  Cutting out bad electrical may leave me with a few dead outlets, but it makes the next steps of wiring it all in correctly easier, and more near-term.  The termite damage may cost me time and money, but now I know...
Heroes for Ghosts

Heroes for Ghosts

I don’t talk politics much.  And this post isn’t about left or right, or “kids these days” (though it might seem like it for a moment), or about how oddly dysfunctional is our current government.  It’s about Pink Floyd. New neighbors moved into the house next door about a month ago.  I noticed when the old ones moved out because my water bill dropped by 50-75%.  One of the guys next door is the son of the landlord: apparently dad is trying to pull the house out of section 8 because the neighborhood is rising. My new neighbors are recent college graduates.  I know this because of their affection for Pink Floyd and their budding ability to be genial when their next door neighbor says hello.  Whenever they pull off a fairly normal social interaction, I hear one of them remark as they go back to their house that, “That was awesome.” Adulting is fun. What got me thinking about the title of this post was the musical soundtrack to my Saturday afternoon, care of my neighbors.  They were working in the garage, things were still audibly “awesome,” and Floyd’s “Wish you were here” was turned up to 11. “Did you trade your heroes for ghosts?” rang into the rhetorical void of my lawn, and it struck me that yes, we have. I’ve heard the administration of our current president, whom some of my friends refer to with the anagram “Lord Dampnut,” hold Coretta Scott King, wife of civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr., up as a symbol of their policies.  Certainly she would approve of their good deeds. Besides the...

Runoff

Yesterday I wrote about my water bill, and the apparent chaos under the hood of the city utility services.  I’m not saying that they aren’t competent people: managing a million people’s water might be a bit complicated, especially when some of the homes in my neighborhood have been here longer than Winston-Salem has been a city.  I’m, saying that there may be a little bit of turmoil under the calm exterior. Today I was introduced to one more cog in the machine: the drain and wastewater department.  From what I can gather, my phone call and observation that the city might have been over-billing me substantially for years triggered a full reevaluation of my circumstance.  And I mean full. The crew came out today to verify that my house was in fact a house.  I spoke to them right after they showed up, and they mentioned the possibility that my property was commercial, in which case I’d have a “different” water rate.  They refused to say if that rate was higher.  But they cheerfully acknowledged that it is in fact a normal home, albeit a large one. They seemed a little confused about why I was so eager to see them, so I recounted my saga of calls, broken meters, high bills, and lost support tickets.  They said they couldn’t help me with the bill, but that they were simply asked to “evaluate the non-porous surfaces” of the house for billing purposes: commercial buildings with flat roofs and parking lots mean something different to the wastewater department than houses with gutters and lawns.  But though the bill wasn’t their department,...

High Water

I moved into my house a little over three years ago, and the water bill has been something of a painful curiosity since it first showed up.  I think the first one was on the order of $200, which prompted a call to the city.  It had taken nearly four month of living there before the bill showed up, so they mumbled something about it taking a while for the change of ownership to go through the system. I gave the poor phone attendant a little bit of shade, but paid my water bill and moved on with life. The next bill was in the neighborhood of $150, so I got back on the phone.  That (slightly more terse) conversation triggered a number of visits from city inspectors and water system managers in which they put blue dye in my toilets (which I was never able to completely get out).  They also broke my water meter while trying to test it. Over the next few billing cycles they broke the water meter again, and I managed to get several refunds from the city since they couldn’t explain why their own people kept breaking my water meter, and my bills seemed to have little to do with reality. Eventually my case was escalated enough so that someone with little patience came and visited and informed me that the only possible cause of the problem was a leaking pipe in the ground- on my side of the meter. The water rules here are setup so that the city only needs to get water to your property- to the meter- and the rest...