Thursday, August 25, 2011


My house is old, and it is also hot.  Heated (not angry, but hot).  Baked (not high, but warm).  Toasty (as toast is).  It's August, and there is a whole lot of literal heat happening in the Frankenhouse.  I am looking at my thermostat right now, and inside my house, at 6:02pm, it is 92 degrees.

Because of the hot heated baked toastiness, I need to install ceiling fans in the living room and in my bedroom.  Like this one:

introducing:  the world's most literal "ceiling fan"

OK no, not like that one.  But that one is amazing.  

My Handy Lady told me that this would mean changing the electrical boxes in the ceiling of those rooms, to put in boxes that would support the weight of a ceiling fan.  She recommended an electrician she works with, and brought him over last week to introduce him to me and let him scope out the work.   He's close to 50 years old, with graying hair and an athletic build.  When I met him, he was wearing cargo denim shorts, and he said: Cool yeah, this is awesome, thanks for lettin me come over man.

I said: Um...yes, it is cool.  And awesome.  You are...welcome.  Man.

Later, my Handy Lady took me aside and said-- listen, he's really good at his job, but he grew up in Venice (meaningful look).  So, he's a bit, you know.  I know how he comes across.  But, he really is an excellent electrician.

Yes, I thought.  BillTed, the Excellent Electrician.

BillTed and I made an appointment for him to come over today and change the boxes in those two rooms.  We agreed that he'd get here by 9:30am.  At 9:27am, I get a phone call.

Yeah, I said I would be there at 9:30, I'm running a little late.  I just need to go grab some things, wanted to let you know.  You know?  I mean, I should be there though.

At 11:00am, he arrived, and started work on changing the box in my bedroom.  To do this, he needed to get up into the attic.  He went up there, but then would come down periodically to chat, share discoveries, ask me what I wanted to do about various things that had come up.  

At one point, he noticed I was working from home, and he asked me what my job was.  I told him, expecting the usual reaction I get when I say I work for the government, which is that people visibly hold themselves back from spitting on me.  Instead, BillTed said--

Oh, you know sometimes there will be like really good things and then they get rid of them!  Like good programs that actually are helping and stuff, and they stop!  Like, in the Great Recession, there was that Conservation Corps-- er no, the Depression, I mean.  Yeah, the California Conservation Corps!  Man, you just get a bunch of guys out there, planting trees, not laying land mines, working together.  What's better than that?  And then they could bring that back, since it worked!  They could do like a news thing on that or something.  You know, they used to do news things like that.  Every once and a while, you'd hear a peep about the government.

True, I said.  They did used to do news things like that.  

Later, when it had taken him a strangely long time to finish with just that one box, he came back out and announced he was finished.  

Yeah, you wanna just come see what happened?  I know that took me a really long time, and you're probably sittin there like, what's takin this guy freakin forever?  But let me show you, it's kinda interesting.

Oh no.  NOnononononoNONONOOOOO.  No, interesting, do not want interesting, please don't let it be too "interesting."  That, coming from a contractor, seems to mean 'your house is sort of weird and I don't know what to do about it.'

But I shouldn't have worried.  What BillTed showed me was, in fact, actually interesting (able to generate interest).

the electrical box in my bedroom, still partying like it's 1939

Yeah, see, this stuff is like way old school.  This is the old box and then the wires were all in these iron pipes.  That's like how they used to do electrical a long time ago.  But you can't take this box off the pipes, because of the way the pipes are connected to the box.  So, I had to get up there and saw out the pipes and then put new flexible casing in for the wiring, and then put the new box in attached to that new stuff.  So now it's all modern, and you can do whatever you want.  That new box will hold the biggest fan you can find.

Oh my gosh!  I stared at the old box and the iron pipes.  How old do you think this is?

Oh, 40s, easy.  Maybe 30s, but probably 40s for sure.  But this is the good stuff-- this means your house had a really good electrical system.  Back then, the bad stuff just had cloth over the wires.

Hoping to apply some of my hard-watched HGTV knowledge, I asked-- what's knob-and-tube wiring?

Oh man, that stuff is the worst!  That's like the very first wiring system there ever was.  They'd just put a porcelain knob in the wall and run the wires around it, but then 60 years later, when it's all deteriorated, the wires are exposed.  Those systems don't have any grounding either.  But your house got the good stuff, I didn't see any knob and tube.

Realizing I didn't totally know what 'grounding' was, I asked him, and he explained it for a few minutes.

I'm surprised you want to talk about this-- most people tell me shut up, they don't wanna listen.  You seem like you really want to know this stuff.  You should run for Congress someday!  You absorb easy.

After the grounding conversation, he cleaned up and was on his way.  I still don't have ceiling fans in either the living room or my bedroom.  But, I do have an excellent electrician who thinks I should run for Congress, because I absorb easy.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


Did you ever watch the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote? 

Of course you did.

Rememember how they would always use Acme brand products, usually to destroy each other?

Of course you do.

The other day, I realized:

I have Acme brand windows in my house.


Oh, these old floors of mine.  The floors of the Frankenhouse are...something of an issue.  Which, you know, it's a house.  The whole idea is that it houses me, on all four sides, with its houseness.  If a house's floors have issues, doesn't that compromise its very houseness?

My guess is that if someone asked you whether you wanted a house that has floor issues-- be they literal issues or figurative "issues"--  my guess is that you would say: no, thank you.  I prefer my floors free of both literal, structural issues and figurative, psychological "issues."  And you would be wise to prefer that!  At the Frankenhouse, of course, things are not always what you or I might prefer them to be.

Of the myriad floor issues, the carpeted parts of the floors have been the worst.  Not only could you feel underneath the carpet that the floor would sort of ...bob?...up and down?  But the carpets were bursting with dirty secrets.  Well, dirt.  And probably secrets.  Also, in three rooms, there were three different kinds of carpet:  

blue carpet!  in the office. 
so very, very much pee has been peed on this carpet.
i mean, by the previous owners' dogs.
my dog added her own touches when we moved in.

off-white carpet in my bedroom! 
i don't really know what kind of stain that is there.
it's a secret stain.

brown carpet in the hallways and 2nd bedroom! 
because hey, why not?

I bought the house knowing-- alright, I have a high tolerance for gross, but this is not gross-- this is actually disgusting.  I am actually disgusted.  New carpets, now. 

And so, I ventured forth in search of carpet, and I did discover many carpet families, and did also learn their customs.  One carpet was chosen, and Installation Day was awaited  by the Frankenhouse with much anticipation.  And lo, Installation Day did come.  And the Home Depot installers did come, and hark!  They did arrive on time.  And verily, they did bring the correct carpet, and the right padding, and they did also bring the skills to pay the bills, which did include carpet removal skills.   And the Frankenhouse was gladdened.

I'm not sure what I expected to find under the old carpets?  But I'm sure I didn't expect to find what we found.  Which was--

Under the carpet in my bedroom:

animal stickers.  from left to right: 
hatched chick, cow, giant gerbil? and...other cows?  big sheep?

this was also the room with the clouds painted on the ceiling,
so it's been a child's room?
or, childrens' room?
well, now it's mine.

 Under the carpet in the guest bedroom:



When the carpet installers discovered what one of them called this "escondite," they came and got me and were all excited about it.  And I got all excited about it too!  Because-- what?!  What sorts of things have been in there?  Why?  Who built this in the floor?  When?  So many mysteries!  

The carpet installers asked me if I wanted them to lay the carpet in such a way that I could still have access to the escondite.  I mean, I think that's what they asked me.  Sometimes, in a foreign language, it's the details that get you.  But I told them no, I didn't expect to be hiding anything in the floor of the house, so they could go ahead and lay the carpet over it normally. 

They looked a bit crestfallen about that, which made me like them a lot.

But in end, the carpet that is now laid on top of the stickers and the escondite is lovely.  So lovely, such a relief in it's lack of dirt and pee and secrets.  I also splurged on the highest grade carpet padding available, and let me tell you-- every time I set my feet on the floor, I'm so glad I did that.  The padding goes a long way towards making the floor feel more uniform and substantial.  It makes the house feel more like it really houses me, under my feet.  The floor now feels like it has fewer issues. 

The only odd thing is that the carpet is basically the same color and texture as my dog:

playing hide and seek

Nevertheless, Installation Day is a day of great delight and celebration throughout the Frankenhouse!  And lo, Installation Day will be remembered every year at the Frankenhouse, henceforth, and with much joy.