The other day a blast from the past came to see me. Todd is a helicopter simulator designer, hang glider, tall ship sailor, and contra dancer, and a friend from college years at Georgia Tech. Todd lives in Connecticut. We haven’t made it to the north east in our seven years on the road so when he noticed his work and our work placed us in the same metropolitan area, he got in touch. Back in the day we rock climbed a lot. Todd was the classic climbing bum. He could get straight As in aerospace engineering and virtually live out of his truck and rock climb when he wasn’t in school. Sometimes he kayaked, too. Once we drove back from Yosemite together. Todd had just climbed the face of El Capitan in a multi-day siege while Penny and I had climbed Mount Whitney. Both Todd and I lived on the cheap. Penny flew back to Georgia and I took a free ride back with Todd. I’m pretty sure I promised to keep him good company if he would let me ride for free. Otherwise it was $100 for a one way ticket back with Penny. Todd begrudgingly made room for me. Todd was so wasted from his efforts on the 3,000′ climb that I hardly had to say a word. I remember piping up significantly when we accidentally arrived in Las Vegas, NV instead of Boulder, Colorado. Somewhere in the night we’d missed a turn. The high desert did not have many signs back then.
Meanwhile work continues. Mostly it’s Burt working and me cooking or helping here and there. I was supposed to install the laminate floor in the kitchen while Burt did other things but it turned into a two person job. Every laminate product is different. This Home Depot Ultra something was very recalcitrant. I’d no sooner get one end fitted and the other end of the plank would disengage. Over and over. Burt helpfully said, “I think you need to get more together.” I did not find this statement helpful. I went and googled for ideas. All I could find were people saying, “It was hard at first and then I figured it out.” No clues as to what ‘figured it out’ might mean. Links to videos ended up in dead ends of ‘vodep not available’. Finally Burt tried. No luck. Then both of us tried. And tried and tried. Cussing, stomping, more internet searching. Eventually we developed a two person system of lift, hold, push, lift, hold, push.
Once the floor was installed we started on the cabinets. That went smoothly. No errors in ordering or construction. The granite counter guy came today to measure. The tops should be done in a week. In the interim more light fixtures and painting and new windows. It looks like we will get out of here without much trouble.
I’ve been painting and installing light fixtures and doing the Home Depot runs. Burt is doing the hard work. Today he started at 3:45 AM. He’s been a bit of an insomniac since November 9th. I have been sleeping fine. Maybe I’m catching z’s because my snorer-in-chief leaves for work in the middle of the night. The earlier hours and long days are catching up with him. At bridge he looked like a zombie. Most nights he’s out by 8 or 8:30.
The counter installers come on Monday to measure for the granite tops. There should be some good progress made in the next few days. The whole job will wrap up faster than expected. Yay for us. Mexico is calling.
Don’t freak out. Nothing is really happening. This is called acting. This is a promotional shot for our new skill. You cannot see anything inappropriate. The Gypsy Carpenters are now experienced bidet installers. Last week we finally got a bidet in for a client. This bidet is a bidet toilet seat and offers hands-off cleaning. If you’ve been diagnosed with a disease that will rob you of the use of your hands a bidet is a mighty nice tool to have. Our client has ALS. He is already experiencing diminished use of his dominant hand. So while I might be silly in this write up this was a very important job.
I first read about these bidet toilet seats a while back. I still had a job. The seats were running about $2,000 back then. I was curious but not tempted to make an investment. Prices have since come down but the predicted infiltration of bidets into the American market has not happened. Many cultures around the world cannot understand why we think dry paper does a satisfactory cleaning job. Being the curious type I’ve always wanted to try a bidet so I was very happy to have the chance to install this. As the installer I risked my own nether regions and test ran all the bidet functions. Part of a quality job. I refused to let Burt take my picture as I tried it out so Burt swapped out but he did not actually enjoy or experience the various functions. This particular model is a BioBidet. It has a remote control and a range of pressures, temperatures and aims. There is also a fan for drying.
I tried the feminine and the back side wash. I felt the pulsating massage. One could get used to the pulsating massager. I noticed position on the seat was important for success. Sit too far forward (as is my habit) and the spray hits a lot of cheek. I was so far forward at one point my butt deflected spray back onto the toilet. Messy. Once I took a more secure position the jets of warm water were where I wanted them to be. Next up was the fan dry. Fan drying takes time. I remember in Italy we stayed at our auntie’s home and they specifically made sure we did not accidentally use their bathroom towels. Bidets are common in Italian homes. While I liked the wet clean, I think I might opt for the personal towel dry if I had one of these at my disposal. It just takes time and feels kind of odd waiting for the fan to do its job. It’s also noisy. Afterwards I felt very refreshed ‘down there’. The feeling lasted for quite a while. I have to admit it was noticeably nicer than a standard TP approach.
Installation is very easy. You can pick these up at any home improvement store or even Costco. If you’re looking for that perfect family Christmas gift this is guaranteed to please. The Gypsy Carpenters can install it for you. And make sure it’s working properly.
We’ve packed up and moved the gNash about a mile so we can house sit and dog watch for a friend leading a tour in Cuba. The last week has been hectic. First was our gig, then we pretty much wrapped up the casita project, next we celebrated Thanksgiving, and finally we spent two days building a ramp.
Wheelchair ramps have very specific requirements. They can’t be too steep. They must hold several hundred pounds. They have to be a certain width. The landing at the door and where the vehicle pulls in must be big enough. With all that in mind Burt designed and built a ramp in two days from almost entirely recycled materials. Remember that pool room I took apart board by board? I dug out nail after nail with the cat claw and a hammer. I broke a hammer. Well, those boards are no re-purposed into this ramp. We saved some money and natural resources. I am once again amazed at my building partner’s visionary reuse of materials.
Day one of this new for us project was measuring the layout, forming the concrete landing pad and pouring the concrete. Two electric mixers were on site and after a few rounds of the concrete mixing competition Burt beat us all by hand mixing in a wheelbarrow. How annoying is that? My advanced study of concrete was no match for his brawn. Chris, the client, was on my team and he even invoked the joke of a ‘dying man’s wish’ but Burt still spanked us. Chris’s diagnosis with ALS has not dimmed his wit nor diminished his sense of humor. His attitude helped us enjoy what was really a sad task. Building a ramp for a friend with ALS is not much fun. It was another lesson in how to be happy and sad at the same time.
Bobbie really liked the original blue door on the studio we transformed into her new home. Sadly, the original blue door was shabby. Years of service had left it dented and unsuitable for a front door on a new home. Burt moved the old Blue door to the garage where an even shabbier door was in place. Bobbie thought this meant she would get a more subdued door, a door that matched the rest of the compound. We didn’t dissuade her. We thought we’d surprise her with a new blue door.
The eye is a miracle. Depending on what you are (bird, ant, human) your eye can see different things. Birds see colors we can’t even imagine. Cats and dogs see motion long before humans. The human eye is a kind of hybrid. It does many things well but no one skill is as good as some eye in the animal kingdom. Then there is the brain. The eye might see but the brain can fail to interpret. I just read that there’s a wide variety of ‘sampling’ in human brains. We might be ‘seeing’ but the brain is ignoring some percentage of the incoming visual data. I guess that’s why some people can hit a curve ball at 97 mph and others can identify a little brown bird as it flits past and others, still, are oblivious to human facial expressions. A failure to see the visual clues that somebody is mad, sad, or happy. Currently there is a fad of color tests making the rounds on Facebook. I’ve done a couple but they are not difficult. Here’s a test I just developed. Try to match a color that you can’t see but must recall from memory. You have study time.
A month or so ago Burt and I went to The Home Depot (I just learned that the The is an important part of the name) in Sierra Vista. Burt had intended to bring a chip of paint to match the old blue of the original project door. He forgot the chip of paint. Burt looked at me and said, “Can you pick out a blue paint that is similar to the blue on the old door?” Can I? Yes, hell yes. It’s secret talent I have. I can see color well but more importantly I can remember color well. I stared at all the blue paint chips from all the manufacturers and in about 47 seconds I found the color. Nearly the exact color. I’m feeling pretty smug about my mad color skills but I also wonder if I just got lucky.
Back to the The in The Home Depot. A while back we mail ordered some things from The Home Depot. Light fixtures, towel bars, stove, refrigerator. For $75 shipping on each appliance they were supposed to come to our door. Well the refrigerator made it. The stove is a free ranging range. Nobody knows where it is. For a while there was a rumor of a successful delivery but now The HD thinks it never left the shipping dock. So they’re sending another. Now there are two ranges wandering the west. We are eager to have one. I learned about the The in The Home Depot while waiting on hold and endlessly hearing about the Power of The Home Depot. Supposedly we’ve been credited on the first stove and shipping has been waived for the second. I’m waiting for the Powers that be of The Home Depot to kick in and get me my stove.
Over the year’s I have developed a few tasks I can be trusted with. One of them is watching Burt work. Another is mounting a new toilet. I have to subcontract the heavy lifting but I can do all the delicate site prep and toilet securing. It is a job requiring a sensitive touch in a small space. It can be repulsive if you are replacing an old toilet. You never know what you’ll find when you lift the retiring porcelain god to replace it with a newer model. We’ve seen lots of hidden micro leaks with the usually damp flooring. One wonders just what is in that damp leaked toilet water and then one must just get the job done. Here is a pictorial tutorial inspired by a female friend that wants to surprise her domestic companion with a new throne.
Migration is upon us. Birds that don’t live in the area are moving from the north to the south and they pass by here. Vast swaths of dry desert makes watering spots very attractive. Currently we have a lovely Scissor-tailed Flycatcher visiting a nearby pond. My favorite feature on this bird isn’t its long tail, but the peachy patches of feathers in its underarms that can only be seen in flight. Check out this first picture. The bird looks like it has orange epaulets. The next photo shows it sitting demurely. No epaulets. A little mystery for the ladies? It;s no surprise that this bird has a dramatic aerial display when seeking a mate. The Scissor-tailed flycatcher has so serious physical attributes to show off.
Bird watching is a great excuse to get outside and just look around. We saw an osprey fly over head. Ospreys are fish eating birds and don’t spend much time in the desert so it was kind of startling to see one pass by even though it is migration. But a birds gotta move when a birds gotta move. Burt and I recently watched a 5 hour mini-series on the origin of humans called First Peoples. It was produced by PBS. In it they talk about the innate human drive to look over the next hill and across the pond. Our drive to explore filled the globe. Given our current climate change and habitat destruction issues it seems to me the animals that will survive are the ones that can adapt and also have the ability to explore and push the boundaries of their territories to more pleasant locales. These ‘off-track’ wanderers might be the gypsies of their clans looking for a better place to live. I can hear that osprey returning to it’s partner and saying, “No fish there but I saw a crazy scissor-tailed flycatcher sitting by a pond.” Flycatchers like grasshoppers and there are plenty of them around. We also spotted an unidentified raptor (I’m tired of trying to ID these vexing birds) and an unidentified song bird. I’m waiting for Steve to send me a picture of the song bird and I will try to figure out what that was.
While I ponder the mysteries of rare bird sightings Burt is out installing more sheet rock. I helped with the heavy lifting for a couple of days. I think he’s tired of me. I was sent away today.
The front room is secure so while I was working at the Cave Creek Visitor Information Center Burt got busy framing the back bedroom. You can wee the original structure that is being sandwiched between our work.
Burt was on the job at 6:00. At 7:00 he was feeding me oatmeal (punishment). By 8:00 we were both on the job for a major push. High winds in this canyon make us loathe to partially frame something. Better to get it all done in a day so it has some stability if the winds pick up.
I despaired of my ability to work after a few hours of dragging ten foot 2x4s to the saw and then over to Burt for nailing. It was a hot. I teetered a few times. Those earmuff hearing protectors hold in the heat. I never appreciated the cooling role of our external ear flaps until I started wearing the muffs. After lunch I felt better and finished out the day feeling like I did my job. There were some miscuts and a poorly placed sill plate but Burt had to rip out some framing he misplaced. These things happen.
Tomorrow we’ll apply the sheeting and this part of the remodel will be fully safe from the wind.