i ♥ charlie watson

6 10 2009

mkeeThat’s right boys and girls…monkee’s in love.  Who knew?  It was a cosmic encounter.

I think it was last fall when a group of volunteers from the Mrs.’ church came out to do some yard work.  The guy heading up the crew who happens to be a  general contractor, stepped inside the house for some instruction when he narrowed his eyes, looked at me and whispered, “I smell mold”.  “Ya think!” was my only response.  Throwing caution to the wind – I showed him the basement.

It was his suggestion to call the company out of Chicago that specializes in wet basements – like the one we were standing in.  So the ticking of the clock began soon after as I got the estimate and we nailed down a date – well, actually two dates – since I had to change it once for the Nashville trip.

The worst part for me – or maybe better said – the best part was that everything had to be cleared away from the walls about four feet so that they could dig a channel around the perimeter of the whole house.  So the clearing began and you know that whole story or I would have had nothing to blog about in the last many months.  I went to my new go-to-guy with another question.  I was going to need a plumber to move some things around down there to make room…washer, dryer, maybe the hot water heater, well and softener and then what to do about a 500 ton concrete double utility sink (yes, I exaggerate)?  He gave me the name of the only guy he’d trust with the job – a retired union plumber named Charlie Watson.

I didn’t want to call him till I was sure I was done with clearing everything out that I could and right before the Chicago group was coming to do the job.  But I really secretly wondered if I was going to make all the deadlines.  The  major work was scheduled last Tuesday and Wednesday…the junk haulers came the Friday before that – leaving me Monday to have the plumbing work done.  I had put off calling over the weekend.  I was playing Russian roulette with this whole carefully orchestrated timeline.

As I drove down on Monday -a week ago – it was 8:15 a.m. and I decided to call to see if I could touch base with this guy.  What on earth made me wait till the last minute to set up one of the most crucial pieces of this puzzle?  Cosmic juju.  He answered…I connected the dots on how I’d gotten his name – he understood what I needed and was just about to leave his house to do another job and would be by in the afternoon to take a look see.  I ended the call and started screaming for joy right there in my car.  That had been too close a call.  Thank you Baby Jesus.

Yikes!  What a guy!  Everyone should have a retired union plumber in their back pocket!  I hadn’t even really decided what to do about that utility tub till he said they’d (he and some other geezer friend he conned into an afternoon in the Mrs.’ basement) break it up and haul it out…bucket by bucket.  Anyway, they worked for a couple of hours and had moved and unhooked all the things I needed moved and unhooked.  While chatting, he mentioned that he’d just been doing some work for the son of a retired school teacher blah blah blah – and who’d a thunk it…it happened to be my driver’s ed teacher from summer school a long long long time ago who’s daughter and son-in-law were aslo classmates of mine in high school.  What a coinkidink.

Charlie asked about the work that was going to be done the following day and I explained it best I could and he wondered out loud if it would be done right or not.  My confidence was shaken.  But at that point there was no turning back so we forged ahead and the work was done.  The cement had to cure for 3 days before the washer etc. could be moved back so Charlie and I arranged to wait the extra days over last weekend and do his follow-up work on Monday of this week.

I got down there just an hour before he was scheduled to show so that I had time to do the Mrs.’ grocery shopping (and we are stocking the larder in such a way so that she won’t be high and dry when I’m finally called on to spend hours in a delivery room doing my special “You Go Baby” dance).  Part of that shopping meant bags of salt for the water softener.  The dreaded 40 lb. bags…

They were still in the back of my car with the hatchback still gaping open as I was in no hurry to dislocate my shoulders so early in the day by moving them to the basement.  Charlie and co. (a younger guy this time) decended into the abyss with their tools, new fiberglass utility tub, etc. and said that if I’d go back to the store and buy 6 more bags they’d haul it to the basement for me too.  WHAT?!?!?!!?  IS IT CHRISTMAS????

As soon as Charlie saw the basement he pronounced it, “One hell of a good job!”  All the stars aligned – I officially ♥’d Charlie Watson right there on the spot.  “I couldn’t have done this good of a job, ” said he.  It was all I needed to hear.  We still have to wait for the Flood to see if it works – but suddenly, I can sleep at night.

wltnkBut Charlie didn’t stop there.  He noticed three treads on the basement stairs that had recently taken a hit or two between moving out old refrigerators etc. that suddenly needed to be added to the never ending list of repairs.  So I asked about a carpenter…”We can do THAT…” like I was talkin’ some kinda crazy talk.

Then he noticed this sweet tank about to blow…it has to do with the well.  Guess what?  They make them in fiberglass now.  He asked when that had been changed last.  “Charlie…,” I said, “…from the looks of it, maybe never?!?”  Billy’s favorite adage “if it ain’t broke, why fix it?” is having to step aside for the new regime.

Charlie’s on speed dial.

sailors take warning

1 09 2009

rdskyNo special filters, no photoshop tweeks on this photo…it is the real deal.  But I wasn’t listening to what it was putting down.  Billy, being the sailor he was, always quipped, “Red sky at morning, sailors take warning.  Red sky at night, sailors delight” when he saw a sky like this.  So I should have known I was in for some rough seas for the next little while.

Murphy’s law – anything that can possibly go wrong, does –  is striking all around me like I’m some kind of human lightening rod.  I keep hoping that it is just a three pattern this time around. I mentioned these events in the last post but here they are in all their glory (or gory?).

It started back with the two days before Best Boy’s departure for LA when I found that my 15 year old Maytag was leaking like a sieve from the bottom of the machine.  Got it unhooked and dragged out to the deck where I could at least take the front panel off and have a look see.  Called a repair man who charged $240 some odd dollars to replace the waterpump that was spewing yuck every which way but where it was supposed to be going.  He wanted to charge me an extra $50 to hook it back up.  I cocked my head and asked, “By hooking it back up, do you mean re-attaching the two water hoses on the back and plugging it in…the three things I undid to get it out here?  Ummm – no thanks.  I think I can handle that for $50!”

By then, he had already vibbed me all his bad juju.  Before getting the machine put back in the little nook where it lives, I had run to the hardware store to get a new drain hose since the ancient one was starting to crack and was permenantly kinked. The repairman said that it would cost me $60 from the company and 10 days wait, plus another $65 housecall, not including labor- or $16 from Ace Hardware down on the corner doing it myself.  I knew how to attach it and where.  I am college educated after all.

The Dr. and I  got it back in position and reattached said hoses…cranked her up for test run.  Guess where the water started pouring out?  No, not the part fixed by Mr. Maytag Repairman or me for that matter…but from the spigot where it attached to the wall.

Using special vocabulary, I dragged the machine back out into the kitchen, got the silcock off the water pipe (but had to turn the water off at the main because the valves at the point I should have turned it off – were so stuck I thought I’d have to re-plumb the entire house to get them working).  Smart cookie that I am on this second trip to Ace, I went ahead and grabbed new water input hoses for the machine too – one blue, one red.  I was sure the ones that worked fine 10 minutes ago were going to blow.

After another bunch of hours fussing with this and that, we wrestled it back in place, got all the valves turned back on and we had a washing machine.  Except now it wouldn’t drain.  More special words, dragging it back out, cutting here, reattaching there, pushing and shoving and all sorts of fun…we got it to work.

Sort of…but enough to get the loads done I needed to get done.  I don’t trust it enough to just throw in a load and run off to do something else.  Maybe that will come with time.  I know what the real fix is – but I’ve run out of time and energy and it will just have to wait.  I can make it work by crawling up on top of the machine when it needs to drain, wedge my head under the cupboards that hang directly above it, reach down the back – jacking up my shoulder and twisting my neck to wiggle things here and pull things there and get it to drain just fine.  That ain’t so bad…after all, it’s just me and the Dr. now and working from home (read: sweats and t-shirts) means we only do about two loads of laundry a week.  Just don’t tell Swelling Belly Shop Girl that she has to get on top of the machine to make it drain…she does LOTS more laundry than we do each week.

Next was the 18 year old car with 166,000 miles on it that needed an oil change, new brakes, a new battery and some belts…$400 later (and a week plus at the shop) I drove it home yesterday late in the afternoon listening to all kinds of strange noises I’d never heard before only to park it in front of the house to find there is massive leakage of mystery fluid dripping from under the hood.  The good thing is that I didn’t have the right credit card with me when I picked it up.  I’ll be trying to drive the car back to the garage a few miles away and I’m gonna take a mechanic for a drive.

I know this just doesn’t happen to old stuff.  This happens to brand new things that cost lots more money.  Whatever happened to the feeling that you could trust people to do a thorough job…that your money was going to be well spent when you didn’t have the tools or know how to fix things yourself?  I want a re-do.  I want to go back to the point in 6th grade when we had to decide if we would enter the world of college prep or tech school.  Tech school, baby!  I would have saved myself what my college education cost in repair bills alone.

As soon as I get it back from the mechanic AGAIN, it is going to have the windshield painted with a special message: $1800 OBO.  Volvo clunker anyone?

doohickeys and whatchamacallits

7 05 2009

DSC_0084For Shop Girl – it is Nordstrom’s Rack.  For me – the hardware store.  Those places where just stepping inside makes your heart race just a little faster as your eyes dart back and forth at all the glory.  I go with a single purchase in mind and come out with something entirely different- even at times forgetting what I went there for in the first place.

It happened like that for me last week while I was at the Mrs.’ place.  Whatever it was I went for, was soon forgotten when, blinded like Paul on the Damascus Road, I mysteriously found myself standing yet again in front of the “Wall of Wonder” – the paint chips.  I never tire of stealing hands full  at a time for no good reason.  Well, I do have my reasons even if I never get around to purchasing a quantity that would fit in a gallon bucket.  Buying those itty bitty sampler jars doesn’t hurt at all and they don’t guilt you into commitment.  Genius – those wonderkins at Benjamin Moore that came up with that marketing ploy.  No wait! – I remember why I am am looking at these colors – a friend who lives 300 miles away is looking for new colors for her livingroom.  Or is it me…?

I blame Billy for my hopeless addiction to hardware stores.  There was nothing he couldn’t fix or at least attempt to fix.  Just last summer there was something wonky with their toaster one evening and I had plans to just toss it and get another one the next day knowing it had probably been around twice its normal life expectancy.  Magically the next morning it was working fine and in commenting on it, Billy piped up claiming to have been up all night, taking it all apart and fixing it.  There was NO WAY I was sleeping THAT deeply on the couch 5 feet away.  Maybe by then, he just did it by some means of psychokinesis – maybe we understand less about dementia than we think.

Regardless, I have inherited the DIY (do-it-yourself) approach to simple home repairs.  Plus, I have a leg-up with YouTube.  What’s not to love?  Or one better – my other addiction to HGTV.  Never mind that what I don’t have are the fifty people off camera to do all the heavy lifting, time-lapse photography that isn’t shown with the time code running, a mobile tool shed the size of Montana, a MegaMillions budget and the yummy carpenters to boot.

Since we seem to have passed the Big Thaw here in the Arctic Circle AND I finally got around to storing the garden hose sometime in Februrary, I have been noticing that the outside faucet was dripping ever so slowly and steadily – wetting the side of the house right where there is a seismic gap between driveway and the foundation large enough to stick my fist in. With my recently acquired first hand knowledge and terror of what water in a basement can mean when it is ignored for years, I was going to put a stop to it immediately.

In less than ten minutes, I had the entire faucet in hand (after shutting off the water valve you idiot!) and was inside my handy Ace-is-the-place-with-the-helpful-hareware-man store.  Lady #1 with the ear piece sent me to the correct aisle  and alerted any staff hiding away somewhere in the bowels of the store sorting penny nails that a customer needed help and let them know my “20”.  I pawed through the wall of cute little bins and waited.  Finally settling on what I thought I needed, she noticed me again and barked into  her mouth piece that the “customer has been waiting a LONG time for help!!!” and would someone please respond.

As I stood there with two gizmos in hand, another red-vested woman appeared and I foolishly thought this was going to be another “dispatcher” – “Are you finding what you’re looking for?”  I just wanted confirmation that I wasn’t getting a boiler drain or gas feed – she looked at the original I held and pointed to the 3/4″ and said “That one!”  I turned it over and over in my hand trying to see what markings had made her so sure.

“How did you do that?  It looks just like the 1/2”?

“Honey, after 31 years of looking at sillcocks – you’ve seen one- you’ve seen them all…you can tell the size just by looking at them!” In that moment, I was overwhelmed with jealousy – I wanted to BE her.

A sillcock!  Yes – this was no ordinary doohickey (Billy’s favorite utilitarian hardware word)…it was in fact a sillcock.  Not  – “outdoor-faucet-where-you-hook-up-your-garden-hose”.  I’m dying to know just how it got its name!

I could hardly wait to get home and the Dr. knew I was up to no good when I stood on the back porch – two sillcocks in hand- with a huge grin on my face.  “Are you proud of yourself?”  Silly boy – of course, I was!  I grabbed my Teflon tape (any girl worth her salt always has a roll on hand) and a few “righty-tightitys” later and a jog to the basement to turn the shut-off valve back on – and we were in business.  But all was not said and done until I asked the Dr. to check to see if his sillcock was dripping.  I love my job!