Monday, March 19, 2007

The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

So much has been happening since my last post. I've been quite busy and too tired by the end of the day to post updates. But right now, my beautiful daughter is taking a much-needed nap, so I'm taking advantage of the free time. I'll try to consolidate as best I can.

Let's start off with The Good news. A couple weeks ago, my aunt informed me that a friend of hers was looking for a housesitter. So I called, we talked, and it looks like I'll be making a little extra money housesitting for 10 days starting this Sunday. Extra money is always good, but that's not THE good news. The good news is that the owner of the (hurricane-damaged) house, Maela, is doing all the repairs HERSELF. AND is open to having me come and help her so that I can learn a thing or two. I went to help one day last week. I removed nails from the wooden stairs; and though it wasn't a major job like putting up a wall or plumbing, it was something I'd never done and now I know what tools I need and how to do it. Skills!! She also showed me how to use the table saw. Skills!! I'm so excited. I'm gonna learn how to make and fix stuff. No more "damsel in distress" every time something breaks.

More Good news - My sister came down from North Carolina this past week to visit. We started cleaning out my mom's house. This is awesome because I haven't physically done anything on her (or my) house since I got here. So that's a start. We cleaned the kitchen together. This was no small task. The kitchen had not been touched since August 29, 2005 (Hurricane Katrina's arrival). There was a layer of dust (containing who knows what... probably mold particles) over everything. Black and brown water stains on the floor. And debris from the small construction projects she had done recently. We cleaned it all up. Shiny and new. My sis and her friend, Shakana, cleaned the bathroom the next day. Then I swept up all the fallen paint chips and other debris in two of the bedrooms. The next step will be pulling up that nasty carpet. Hurricane-damage aside (it didn't get any water-damage anyway), that carpet is 13 years old and needs to be thrown out. So we'll be either installing new carpet or installing ceramic tile. By ourselves. I'll keep you posted.

And now The Bad news - I mentioned in an earlier post that the front door had been stolen off my house. I'd left it unsecured after the Search-and-Rescue teams busted the door in post-Katrina. The house was empty and my air conditioners had already been stolen... so I didn't think there was anything else to take. Last year, they took my front door. Ha ha ha. Architectural theft is rampant down here now. On a block like mine, which has been completely abandoned (save my next door neighbor Eddie who is also a landlord, and periodically comes by to work on his house), it's pretty easy to steal architectural details off people's houses. No one's there to watch. Apparently, people are doing this in broad daylight. And these are not just your every day crackheads looking for something to sell either. Contractors, people posing as contractors, and people posing as Preservation Resource Center officials are doing it too. Well-orchestrated thievery. My door was not hurriedly ripped off the frame. It was carefully unscrewed from the hinges (there's no damage to the frame or hinges at all). As I've been looking around for replacements, I'm discovering that my door was quite unique. I haven't found anything like it yet. Guess that's why they helped themselves to it. Anyway, about a week ago, my neighbor Eddie informed me that someone stole the copper pipes from underneath his house... and that mine were gone too. So my pipes are gone, conveniently replaced by my suspicion about my neighbor's hand in it. Sucks. Not only is copper expensive these days, but I also have the added expense of fencing off the crawlspace underneath my house so that this doesn't happen again. I've heard they're stealing electric wires now for the copper inside. I just had the place re-wired (Well, almost... that is another bit of bad news. But I won't get into it. Let's just say that the electricians down here are running a racket and they finish whenever they feel like it), so I have to do that soon.

Now for The Ugly. It is literally ugly. I wish I'd taken a photo, but I didn't think of it at the time. I recently discovered mold growth BEHIND my walls. Pre-Katrina, I thought that my walls were plaster. The fact that there was no visible mold growth after the hurricane validated this theory for me. However, as my mother and I were assessing the damage in my house last week, we noticed a crack in the wall under a window. A small piece of the wall was loose and when I pulled it back, I saw it plain as day - mold. The mold and I greeted each other, as dignified enemies do when waging war. Its days are numbered. So, this is ugly for me because the silver lining on my dark hurricane cloud had been "at least I didn't get any mold." I was one of the lucky ones. Now I have to gut the house (at least four feet from the floor) to get rid of the mold. For those unfamiliar with the term "gut" in relation to construction (or de-construction), basically I have to remove all the sheetrock and whatever is behind it down to the framing of the house. It's not as fun as it sounds. But I can (and will) do it. Maela offered to help when she gets back from her vacation. So, I'm grateful that The Bad and The Ugly come with The Good, otherwise I might regret the day I set foot back on the soil of this charming (and charmed) city.

That's all for now, guys. Sorry no pics, Gary. I had "before-and-after" shots of my mom's kitchen, but it's not much of a visible difference so I decided not to post them. I guess you'll just have to READ. Better to do that sober.


Danny W. said...

Jenga, that sucks about your door and plumbing, but I'm glad you'll be learning some really valuable skills! We all miss and love you here in New York. Keep your head up!

Anonymous said...

Your bad news reminds me of Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. While I am glad to be part of your good news, I wish I could be there for more assistance. You can do it, Jenga! You have people who love you and a strong mind. There is ALWAYS a way. But you gotta be fast about it, time is money baby. I talked to John and he said you left your pictures of the house of there. Speaking of pictures, my picture and article is in the Chapel Hill News for the Malawi Project. Someone put it in my mailbox at school.


Odene said...

Jenga it's amazing to see how all of us sometimes are like little children, not knowing certain things and learning new things. It teaches us that HUMILITY is a POEWRFUL thing...and I see you have humility. Not many people would admit they never knew how to rake out nails and nail somethting in.
I'm very happy to see that things are happening...good and bad.
I must say too...I think u have a talent to write. Your writing skills are pretty good. You can get an audience attention through your writing...keep that in mind, and kiss Azana for me and Jere.

Odene & Jere

Mtume said...

I love definitions, Jenga. Don't you?

sober - 1. not intoxicated or drunk.

That's really funny and I have no idea why.

Anyway, I read your entries and I really don't know what to say. I'm amazed that y'all are down there sticking it out. It's rough.

Maela is a great person. To me, she seems like an endless energy source. Looks like you'll be the latest to join the circle of people - including me - that she's helped.

Good luck....

Brien said...

sorry to hear that things won't be as easy as you had thought, but i think all of it is a gift. imagine how much more you will know in addition to pulling up nails when this is all over and you've rebuilt your house.