Monday, February 21, 2005

Why Does the Cat So Silent Walk?

Or to put it another way, why no posting since Tuesday? The answer is that some things out in the real world put a damper on feeling clever with words (as opposed to actually being clever with words, which you either is or you isn't no matter what the mood). Sometimes you feel the need to focus your energy on just how you are going to hammer on a problem. You think, you rethink what you've thought, you go back to the beginning and start thinking from the beginning.

Genesis 1:1 -- In the beginning was the problem....

The problem is of a specific nature. The city "expired" our building permit. The word "building" is a bit of a misnomer if I may use the word correctly when so few do. We got a permit not to build but to do what they like to call "voluntary earthquake retrofit." Because Eydie is one of those rare architects who really does understand structure, she understands all the weak points in our house -- which was built in the Fifties -- that make it likely to break apart in a strong earthquake. We are in "earthquake denial" about some things. We don't have jugs of water in the garage. We don't have a couple hundred dollar bills stuffed in a sack in the attic, for experts will tell you that in the aftermath of a big one and the collapse of local banking, you may need some ready case in small amounts to buy basics.

But Eydie is not in denial about the weak points in our house's great chain of being. We paid for a structural engineer to do a plan and got a permit, the idea being that we would move through the plan, one area of the house at a time as money became available. We were told -- we thought we were told -- that if we got some part of the plan done every six months and had that work inspected we could keep the permit alive on and on and on. It's in the city's interest not to have houses collapsing and people injured and general damage to the city's financial well-being that results from damaged and destroyed homes dropping off the tax rolls and owners giving up and moving away. The city should want the work done, and it should want the work inspected to make sure it's good work. (As you see, I have been making this argument to myself all this week, polishing it and focusing it.)

We had the work in one area of the house done over an 18-month period. Beams and things were "tied together" more securely. The house frame was bolted to the house foundation. Drywall was ripped off -- that is, we tore parts of the wall off -- and sheets of plywood were nailed up to help the house resist twisting and tearing in an earthquake.

After having this done for one part of the house, we ran out of ready cash. Well -- and this is just my point of view; take it for what it's worth -- we didn't so much run out as repurpose, spending some tens of thousands of dollars on various distant relatives....

Never mind. We thought we could keep the permit "alive"(I love that phraseology) if I personally with these soft hands "demoed" (I love this abbreviation) some chunks of wall and "tied down" the foundation. ("Tied down" I can take or leave. It's a little kinky.)

I could do this myself. The tool of choice is something called a "roto hammer" where the drill bit goes round and round and something in the head of the tool also goes bang-bang up and down and through the concrete of the foundation you go, making a nice hole in which you put a long steel bolt and some epoxy glue.

Position the hold-down over the bolt, screw the hold-down to the vertical stud, pop on a nut and tighten it and there you are: By some percentage the likelihood of the house falling off the foundation when it suffers a big jolt is diminished.

Last August we asked for an inspection of several hold-downs. They were approved. But, as we learned last week, we were given only a partial approval (code 97) rather than a complete approval of partial completion.... I didn't quite follow. I thought you just had to get something of substance done every six months.

When I went downtown, one city employee was a little rude, and I came back the next day to talk to his superior, who was nicer, and who told me I could appeal to his superior, essentially making the points I mentioned before: that we are doing the work as fast as we can and it's voluntary work and I'm no contractor so how would I know the right questions to ask the inspector so that he would say, "Aha! This is a code 98!"

We'll see what happens. I wrote up a very nice letter of appeal and hand delivered it. If you think this makes dull reading, think how how dull it was to live, how dull and how anxious.

The only mildly amusing part is that the first bureaucrat I talked to may have thought I was a contractor trying to play the system. He did seem to find me intrinsically irritating. I was wearing my bright orange University of Tennessee cap, which has a certain working class energy. It was a gift from my brother-in-law who lives in Tennessee. I wear it when I walk -- faithful DC readers know that I walk a brisk 3.2 miles every morning -- so I won't be run down crossing the street. It's an intense garish frightening color and, clearly labelled as originating in Tennessee, I like to think it also suggests hurt me and insane inbred hillbilly cannibals will come seeking revenge.

Or, contrarily, it may suggest that the wearer is some shitheel of a contractor, a misconception that very well may inspire the very acts of vehicular violence I'm trying to avoid, hillbilly cannibal revenge notwithstanding.

That would be ironic. Or do I just mean odd? Don't want to fall into a misnomer, not in the last paragraph. Need to bolt this essay to a firm semantic foundation.

1 comment:

Mr. and Mrs. Kwame Oboglo said...

I was worried when I couldn't read your blog. I enjoy it. Glad the cat wasn't at the vet and only dealing with the real world. Cheers from the "Glo" in oboglo.
Bob didn't realize you hadn't written in awhile---Hmmmm.