Friday, July 27, 2007

For My Sister

Inspired by the last line in my sister's last post, I present the Family Crest.

(See, Danna. I told you I could whip one up pretty quickly. Did I capture it?)

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

And the Walls Came A-Tumbling Down

Well, most of them did.

Saturday, July 7th, 2007 --07/07/07 -- sure turned out to be a lucky day for me, when 7 people joined me in reducing most of the walls inside my house to rubble. Ray served as the Master of Destruction, a designation he earned through all his gutting experience with the Arabi Wrecking Krewe. We were joined by Ray's wife Gina, (AKA Little Miss Ruffit), Ashley, Brandy (honorary member of my family who comments as "Compelled One," but doesn't have a blog ... yet), Clay, Candice and Alan. And just when we were ready to collapse from hunger and fatigue, Morwen and Betts came bearing an assortment of chicken and sides from Popeye's.

In photo, left to right: Alan, Betts, Morwen, Brandy, Ray, Gina, Me. Not pictured: Ashley, Clay and Candice.

One of the biggest challenges was getting the heavy plaster from the second floor to the curb. Taking it down the stairs was out of the question. The only way out was out of the second floor window. But it would be a big problem if the plaster fell between the side of the house and the fence. Ray proposed strategically placing a coup
le of sheets of plywood to deflect the shovel-loads of broken plaster away from the house and toward the sidewalk and curb. Everything worked fine, but we worried that the neighbors might complain about the intermittent clouds of dust that were produced whenever a shovel-load hit the ground. So, we tried putting the plaster in a contractor's bag and throwing it out. The result was a broken bag and a broken piece of plywood. But Clay fixed that and gave us a stronger deflector, though we gave up on the idea of using bags. None of the neighbors complained, maybe because the breezy day made the dust disperse quickly.

Photo of Clay on the new ramp, by Candice.

When we started, the plaster and half the lath was gone from the living room, all the plaster was gone from the foyer (including the ceiling) but the lath r
emained, and there were small sections of plaster that had been taken down from the stairway walls and from Alex's room. By the end of the day, the living room was bared to the studs, (I'm hoping the ceiling can be saved, so we didn't pull it down); most of the lath was gone from the foyer and all the plaster had been cleared from its floor; all the plaster and half the lath had been removed from the walls of my bedroom; the plaster had been taken from two of the walls in Rachel's room (I'[m going to try to save the other two, along with the billowy cloud-scape I painted on them); half of the plaster was removed from Alex's room; about half of plaster on the stairway and second floor hallway walls was gone.

Still to be done: , shovel out a ton of plaster from the floor of Alex's room and finish removing the remaining plaster and lath; shovel out plaster on the floor and remove remaining lath in my room; shovel out plaster and remove lath in Rachel's room; shovel out the remaining plater and lath in stairway and upper hallway
and remove remaining plaster and lath: completely gut the untouched upper bathroom; remove remaining lath from foyer; gut the dining room (nothing done in there yet).

Clay takes a shovel-load to the window.
Originally uploaded by LisaPal.
As far as I'm concerned, getting the plaster and lath off the walls is easy compared to getting the plaster out of the house. It's heavy and crumbles into a dusty, rocky rubble that has to be shoveled into a wheelbarrow, hauled and dumped outside. With the second floor situation, we were reduced to carrying it by the shovel load from whichever room was being worked on, then lifting and chucking it out of the window. One shovel-load at a time. Backbreaking work. But once all the plaster is down and out, the rest should be (relatively) easy.

I am amazed by everyone's energy!
Especially the youngsters, though those of us in the mortgages and children class were vindicated by the the powerhouse that was Miss Ruffit. If Roller Girl training gets you in that kind of shape, I should sign up on Monday. I was an A-class roller skater as a kid, but the memories associated with the 10" scar on my left knee along with things like this and this give me great pause. (For a clue to the kind of fun the BERGs have, check out their blog.) I may have to settle for the heavenly roller-skating dreams I have from time to time. They're really some of the happiest dreams I have--sheer pleasure. (Yeah, erotic dreams are good, too, but sometimes they can be disturbingly weird.)

As hard as it was, it was a good time. I spent a lovely couple of hours on the porch drinking Restoration Ale and chatting with Morwen and Betts after everyone else left and pretty much all I could do on Sunday was sleep and then stay up all night prepping for Monday's class.

Over the last week, I've spent a lot of time thinking about last Saturday's house gutting and about the very beautiful people who came to help me move forward with this daunting task. How can I possibly find words or gestures of thanks worthy of the selfless goodness demonstrated by the Krewe, some of whom don't even really know me?

When people tell me that they think it's amazing that I go to the house and do this kind of wretchedly difficult work by myself, day after day, I tell them that there's nothing amazing about it at all. It's what I have to do, and there's nothing special about doing something you have to do. You just do it. But this group of people, (and I'm including Morwen and Betts, of course), didn't have to do any of this. They chose to do it, despite all it involves, just to help another person. There is no reward other than the intrinsic. No money, no trophies, not even a t-shirt. (Though I have lots of ideas about that.) So, maybe I should just supplement my words of thanks with what I believe these acts of kindness do, beyond helping a family get a little closer to being back home. And this applies to all of you, with all of your acts of kindness, not just the ones I've been graced with.

Because of your acts, there's a little more light in the world and a little less gravity. There's one more reason to believe that the greedy and selfish in this world are outnumbered by the good and caring people, and that makes being hopeful sound a little less silly. No matter how large or how small and insignificant your actions may seem to you, you may never know the power of their effect on the recipient. And if you've ever been the recipient, you know what I mean. Each act of love and kindness towards another changes the world. You're changing the world.

Thank you.

Here are a few more pictures from last Saturday. (More on Flickr.) I'm looking forward to seeing Ray's, too. I'll link to them once he posts them.





Ray Shea, MD (Master of Destruction)

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Sunday, July 01, 2007

2 Tired Krewe

It ain't a pretty thing, this gutting bidness. But unless I have a class to teach, I do it every afternoon. I expect to look in the mirror one day and see the human equivalent of a fiddler crab, with all the muscle development my right arm's getting from prying plaster and lath from the walls. But today, (Sunday), I got a call from Ray, a master of the art, offering to take time from his own busy day (unpacking from his recent move, among other things!), to share in the joy of gutting. And I definitely need the help. What an incredibly naive girl I have been, thinking I could do it all myself; thinking I'd be able to do a room a day. Hah!

This is a very strenuous and very dirty job, folks. (Those aren't new tattoos on Ray's forearms.) I have no doubt that anyone volunteering to help another undertake this nasty task gets off the hook for lots of bad karma. Anyone who's done it once and still volunteers to do it again is due for rewards in the afterlife that make martyrdom's rewards look like winning $500 in a lottery scratch-off game. If you know Ray, I'll bet you can imagine what his heaven's going to look like. You already know there will be more than 72 virgins --lots more. He's earned them. (And more to come...hah hah hah!)

Thank you, Ray! You join the ranks of those having my ceaseless awe and gratitude!

To the rest of you out there: You, too, can erase karma and start building the afterlife of your dreams by joining Ray and I next Saturday when we continue the big gut-job on my house. Since Ray far outranks me in experience, (and I'm not very good at asking for help, but obviously getting a little better at it), he's volunteered to organize this once-in-this-lifetime opportunity to help gut my house. That's right, I said once-in-this-lifetime. Whatever you're thinking, it's still going to be once. Period. If, perchance, you're not on the NOLA bloggers list-serve and you want to play with us on Saturday, leave a comment or drop me an e-mail. And if you have physical limitations that prohibit you from doing this kind of work, check with Ray, as there may be other things you can do to help out. (He'd know better than I would, and I humbly defer to him on all group gutting matters.)

In addition to the karmic benefits and the opportunity to develop a superhuman dominant upper limb, you can look forward to...

-- the experience of being wet, salty, and covered in sandy grit without having to go to the beach.

-- the opportunity to put your deodorant to the ultimate test.

-- one last chance to wear your favorite shirt with the holes/stains in public.

--temporary relief from the burden of vanity.

-- free snack food

-- the good feeling of knowing that the tetanus booster shot you got before returning to New Orleans was worth it. (FYI: the nails in the lath board will go right through the soles of a pair of Converse Allstars and into the sole of your foot, but not too deep.)

-- temporary crowbar tattoo, in your choice of black or red magic marker.

--more reasons for bona fide celebrity status than Paris Hilton.

-- the option to replace at least some of those lost fluids and electrolytes with beer.

-- hanging out with other crazy people who are at least twice as much fun as sane people.

-- the benefit of never having to listen to someone else tell you how nasty and difficult gutting a house during summer in New Orleans is.

-- the privilege of making other people who've never done it listen to you describe it.

-- my ceaseless awe and gratitude.

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