ramble of increasingly shack-like additions
Saturday, June 12 2004
I began work today on a cowboy electrician job on Eagle's Nest Road, the dead-end road that runs from the Esopus Valley up onto the plateau about a mile north of our road, Dug Hill Road. Eagle's Nest is where a couple of new friends we met this winter live, but my electrician job was actually at a different house, one just bought by Larry, the realtor who helped us buy our place a year and a half ago.
The house in question was built in the 1930s and consists of a ramble of increasingly shack-like additions to a core made of mortared stone and timber. In the back of the house is a large above-ground swimming pool, currently choked with algæ and pollywogs. Further back is a tiny cottage suitable for renting to tenants. At the very back of the property is a conglomeration of sheds in various stages of construction and decomposition. According to Eagle's Nest insiders, these sheds were hastily constructed by a former resident with a penchant for accumulating useless items (particularly big lots of identical clothing) purchased in New York City. Looking at these buildings and meta-buildings, it's difficult to see why anyone would voluntarily decide to take on such a burden. It doesn't really matter where the line of triage is drawn between restoration and demolition, whatever one does will require an enormous amount of work.
Personally, I'd draw that line somewhere near the original core of the house, which is just one leg of what, from an airplane, would look like a patchy capital L. The arrangement is so bizarre and seemingly unplanned that one of the bedrooms has been built over the well. This room can only be reached from indoors by walking through the house's single bathroom.
Oddly, though, Larry has chosen not to demolish anything aside from the furnishings and surfaces of the bathroom and kitchen. He's decided to fix up the ghastly sheds and to put down expensive hardwood floors over the undulating red-painted concrete that now serves as the floor of the house's single private bedroom (the room built over the well). Larry's goal is to fix up this quirky property with top-of-the-line furnishings and make it into something stunning, a riot of brushed steel and elegant materials suitable for the cover House Beautiful. This plan seems impossible and more than just a little bit crazy to me. I mean, this house and its grounds looks like a city block in suburban Tijuana or perhaps SOWETO, but it cost him exactly the same as what our house cost us. Our renovations were relatively inexpensive and gave us over 4000 square feet of house, four bathrooms, and a high-end kitchen. When Larry is done spending money he'll be lucky if he has two bathrooms and 1500 square feet.
Thankfully, my task is confined entirely to the house's electrical system, the heart of which is in the kitchen. Larry has hired Darren (the guy who did most of our upstairs drywall) to do demolition and carpentry. Darren has already gutted the kitchen and left me a husk in which to install a new breaker box and run my wires. I got started today with the installation of the breaker box, but I quickly became overwhelmed by the sheer size of my task, limited though it was. The old wiring ran in flexible conduit and was so old that its insulation had a tendency to crumble, a foreboding phenomenon to observe. Since Larry wants to have an open ceiling above the kitchen (with nothing covering the ceiling joists overhead), I had to figure out a way to minimize the number of traversing wires. While I tinkered and considered my options, a couple of lesbians were out in back painting the little tenant cottage as Jane's Addiction blared from a boombox.
Today I came across an interesting article about the coronation of the Reverend Sun Myung Moon as the messiah, supposedly with the blessing of both Hitler and Stalin from beyond the grave. (According to Moon, they've both cleaned up their act in the afterlife.) This would all be cause for a good chuckle were it not for the fact that Moon has succeeded in buying his way to respectability and can even count on politicians to attend such embarrassments. In the old days, cults were cults and it was understood that parents should keep their kids away from them the same way they should teach them to avoid drugs. Now, though, at least two cults have leveraged the enormous resources shaken out of their members and financed media operations (The Unification Church loses money on the Washington Times.) or recruited high-profile celebrities (Tom Cruise is a Scientologist.). No longer do we have Congressional hearings and hand-wringing protests of "Will no one think of the children?" I wonder how long it will be before a massive South American drug syndicate starts up a new DC newspaper and manages to pull off a feat that has eluded NORML for years. Wait, I forgot - draconian drug laws actually make South American drug syndicates more profitable than they would be under legalization.
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