Monday, March 24, 2014

Too Busy Working to Make Money

We are building a bathroom. From the ground up. In an old, 1930s, adobe ranch house with a decrepit septic system, ancient, out-of-code wiring, and walls that are out of plumb, not square.

Just my kind of project.

Oh, and the contractor bailed after taking $9000. He left us with a project just about half done.

(I know. Stupid. Should have paid half with the remainder due when the job is completed.)

So, there it is: half-baked, half-cocked, bare-bones, unfinished drywall and slab with pipes sticking up out of the floor. My neighbor won't talk to me because of the mess in the back yard.

The whole thing is in my lap, my full-time teacher/volunteer lap.

Oh well.

So, a friend is helping. He knows a lot more than I do about drains, measuring, sequence of tasks, and has many skills I only hear about on CIS. Yes, this is a crime scene, and the plastic barrier tape is up. It may years to crack the case. I approach it with a borrowed hammer drill and tub saw. So far the leads are promising.

One day I am at the Tucson Festival of Books giving a talk on the Prison Writing Project, the next day I am working 12 hours in the trenches (literally) of the bathroom project. Over spring break I chiseled out drains, put up drywall, mudded, primed, textured, and painted walls, and then hit the deck with deck mud, thinset, tiles, grout, and groutitude.

The days were long and stooped over, but gratifying -- groutifying -- in their own way.

When one friend had to go to real work, another stepped in to lend a hand. I am one lucky Mo Fo. He knew how to use a level, measuring tape, and chalk line -- all skills that I have yet to acquire. With his help we progressed to the shower and trying to get the floor pitched so water would run down into the drain. Good thing he came along.

With the help of friends I am making slow progress. I am not much of a builder, and this kind of work does not much dovetail with teaching, getting my reports written, finishing my Annual Performance Review, or grading papers.

Now I go back to that world, with a few blisters, a sore back and hamstrings, and even less money than I had before.

I got to admit, though, it was fun. And I am one grateful dude for the guys I know. They are struggling, working hard, and not benefitting much from stock run-ups, or easy speculation. They actually do things in the world.

I guess that's a recipe for long days, small bank accounts, and cold beer.

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