one big grandfather clause
Friday, July 29 2005
To help a brother, so to speak, this evening I drove down to Tillson (along with a couple of ten foot two by sixes perched precariously in my six foot truck bed). Mr. Tillson had just installed upgraded 3/4 inch plumbing and a fresh new 20 amp circuit for his upstairs "shithouse" but he was a little chickenshit about actually installing the breaker and wire into his household breaker box. It was a quick procedure for me, though I worked very deliberately so as to avoid electrocution in the box, which stayed live the whole time (even as I stood in a condensation puddle on the basement floor).
After that Mr. Tillson gave me a tour of the upstairs to show me the modifications he's made to the shithouse, which still lacks a toilet, a sink, and a bathtub. He's rearticulated most of the walls in drywall, taking the time along the way to extend into weird little hitherto-unused spaces where dormers and gambrel roofs intersect. The new ceiling also finds occasional expanded headroom in such places. I've never seen such complexity in a ceiling of such limited square footage.
Later we had beers and fried food at the Postage Inn, a humble folksy restaurant that for some reason thinks it has justification for charging $10 for a plate of fish and chips. Unlike cheaper restaurants in, say, Woodstock, I don't think the Postage Inn is a great place for celebrity spotting given that our waitress (who possessed a sort of down-home Amish sexiness) thought maybe she'd seen us both on some television show.
Mr. Tillson was telling me about a plan he had for maybe redoing his point well, which is simply a pointed hollow pipe driven twenty feet into the sandy soil. Evidently it's becoming clogged and household water pressure has been steadily decreasing. To replace it, though, means somehow extracting it segment by segment within the low headroom of the basement and then driving a new one in, again, segment by segment. Supposedly there's a whole point well scene (perhaps on the internet), with people evangelizing the idea, souping their installations up with added points, and buying their parts at even small hardware stores like the one in Rosendale. The problem with point wells, though, is obvious. The one in the Tillsons' basement suffers from surface petroleum contamination and is continuously being cleaned by an installation paid for by some government program. Then there's the proximity to the many septic systems in an ad hoc suburban area where the average lot size is maybe a half acre. "Tillson is one big grandfather clause," Mr. Tillson observed.
It was night time as we walked back from the Postage Inn and the streets of Tillson were pitch black. Tillson looks like the kind of neighborhood that should have street lights and sidewalks, but it has neither. Lacking such basic amenities of civilization (or even just water and sewer), Tillson is really just America's take on a shantytown, a first world version of what one sees in Soweto or Tijuana. Walking such heavily populated streets at night without being able to see a damn thing is like being in a third world country or some made-for-teevee post-apocalyptic nightmare.
A few of the houses did have illumination of their own and Mr. Tillson thought it would be fun to show me the two quaint little cottages that had been given brand new vinyl McMansion facades. It's all well and good until the cholera outbreak comes.
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