Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Those Winter Sundays (Poem)

#TWPT (Truly Wonderful Poem Tuesday...I just started this hashtag so help it spread)
Those Winter Sundays (Robert Hayden 1962)

Sundays too my father got up early
and put his clothes on in the blueblack cold,
then with cracked hands that ached
from labor in the weekday weather made
banked fires blaze. No on ever thanked him.

I'd wake and hear the cold splintering, breaking.
When the rooms were warm, he'd call,
and slowly I would rise and dress,
fearing the chronic angers of that house,

speaking indifferently to him,
who had driven out the cold
and polished my good shoes as well.
What did I know, what did I know,
of love's austere and lonely offices?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Biting the (Water) Bullet

When last we met our intrepid waterlogged homeowners (that's us), they'd played a gamble that they could tap into the old drain fields in their front yard (that's our front yard), a $950.00 gamble to be precise. The hope was by digging up the portion of the yard just outside the homes northeastern most foundation, they could replace the tiles that connected the old drain system under the slab with a newer version, connect them to an exterior gravel drain field that would allow the groundwater to seep back into the earth, button it all up, and be on the way to repair of their desolated basement.  That gamble failed and the family (us) was left with a huge hole in their front yard and no progress towards resolution. And they were poorer to boot!

Now, a month later, we rejoin our story, already in progress...

Today is day three of "il-proń°ett basmeent grand" (that's Maltese for The Grand Basement Project :) ). Much has transpired since my last blog post. As I write, our basement is a mere shadow of its former self. The walls, which had been mostly removed with the initial water damage, are now gone for the most part. The studs have been cut at about 4 feet high and removed down to the slab. The slab itself has been jack-hammered and chopped away on three sides of the house and today a crew came through and hand dug the earth under the exposed slab to below the foundation.
More of the old drain tiles were discovered and sit neatly stacked in a corner, perhaps on their way to some drain tile museum somewhere. This is surely a story for the ages.

Basement slab post jack-hammering
After learning that the drain field in our front yard was beyond repair, we began to reassess our situation. I was still convinced (and part of me still is) that the stream flowing through our basement was not an underground spring at all but instead was freed drinking water, recently escaped from a leaking pipe somewhere above our house in a Mountain Water supply line.  And so, because I was not ready to give up the ghost, I called Mountain Water yet again and told them we had a depression in our front yard that caused me to believe we had a leak...and they sent up a leak investigator.  The investigator was a great guy who freely admitted he hated coming up the hill to our mountainside neighborhood due to all the leaks in the system. Evidently the original water pipes were asbestos, not metal, and are to this day nearly impossible to locate. At some point in time the water company purchased the original Farviews Water Company that serviced our area and they've been paying the price ever since. All you have to do is drive down any street in our neighborhood to see the big square patches of replaced pavement where the water company had to dig. The City is currently trying to condemn the Utility in court so as to purchase them and one of their expert witnesses recently testified the system has had up to a 50% leak rate in a year...all this only buoyed my confidence in the leaking water theory. At any rate, the investigator was intrigued by our situation and agreed to call in another investigator with a sophisticated listening device that could locate leaks. The following Monday we had a glimmer of hope because they did find a leak a block above our house, right along what would be the fall line: Crews came in with a backhoe, dug up the street, creating yet another of the aforementioned pavement patches. The leaking pipe was replaced and I danced a jig in celebration, but it failed to slow the flow of water in our basement (still at 50 gallons an hour).  So, we finally raised the white flag and accepted defeat; this was going to be our problem to fix and our problem alone.
Busted concrete removed 
Because the bottom of our foundation is below street level, we were immediately faced with a predicament...how do we install a system that can move the water around the home and, if necessary, into the storm sewer.  The City was equally as concerned and told us we could only include the storm sewer in the plan if our new system was professionally designed by an engineer. Otherwise we'd have to find a way to "daylight" the spring to the surface, which also means that if water leaves our property and damages another downhill, we are liable for the damages. Once again the dollar signs started spinning like a slot machine in my head. In actuality, we managed to connect with a fantastic engineer at WGM Group who created a super cool design at a very reasonable price in short order. The system could allow us to potentially capture some of the water to use for irrigation on our yard! It sort of looks like a giant underground rain barrel with no bottom and slit sides. There will be 4 feet of gravel under this rain barrel-ish thingee, and a pipe flowing out of the top into the storm sewer with a pump above that. The theory being water will be caught by our interior drains, funneled around the
A River Runs Through it
outside edge of the interior and into the containment system. It should flow back into the ground but if it doesn't it will collect and rise in the system and be given the opportunity to flow into the storm sewer or be pumped above ground for our use. Very cool, albeit expensive, or at least expensive to our thinking.

Once the containment system was designed and approved, we then had to decide if we were going to go for the exterior curtain drain option, which would involve completely ripping up our back yard and digging a trench the entire length of our house (216 cubic yards of dirt would have to be removed) OR go for installing an interior foundation drain system. As the photos indicate, we went with the latter. Unfortunately, none of this is covered by insurance because we cannot show the water is anything but an underground spring, which is excluded in our policy.  So, off to the bank we went and because we have the most amazing banker in the world on our side, we were able to secure a loan tp cover the cost. Did I mention we will be having a bake sale to help pay for our kids college, because this project is costing us more than a college education (cue very small violins).
Once again, Ryan and the good folks at Dayspring Restoration jumped in and laid out a detailed plan for us of how they are going to restore our house and our sanity.  So far, so good. Stay tuned for the next chapter.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Tweedy, The Top Hat, Missoula 03/11/2015

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from Jeff Tweedy and his son Spencer last Wednesday night at the Top Hat.  I wanted to go but missed the boat on tickets as the show sold out super fast (Missoula loves anything related to Wilco and Wilco seems to love Missoula as well). I'd resigned myself to just hear about the show, which unfortunately seems to be the trend in my life rather than the exception these days. But happenstance and luck reared their heads again and two tickets fell into my lap thanks to Alex & Nick Simmons making the state high school basketball tournament.  Jen pooped out and various friends couldn't go for one reason or another (the best excuse coming in the form of a text from Mexico apologizing he had to miss the show due to lounging on the beach....BAH), so I headed to the show with my friends Karl & Lolo sans listening partner.  As for the problem of the extra ticket, after standing out front for 15 minutes with no taker, I popped a message onto Facebook and sold the ticket within 5 minutes. The buyer was a friend of a friend and we did the age old, "I'm wearing a blue flannel-ish shirt with glasses - I'm wearing a denim jacket with a brown shoulder bag" exchange. Easy peasy and rather fun..

Minus 5 opened the show early. Most folks (including myself) were blown away by what has been called, "the side project to end all side projects" that Minus 5 represents. The band has had a who's who of rock n' roll float in and out, collaborate, tour, and just have fun with the leader of the pack, Scott McCaughey This time around was no exception with none other than Peter Buck of R.E.M. fame on guitar. Buck has played with the band on and off since its inception and was effortless in keeping up with the pace. They played a lot of music I'd never heard before and a great rendition of not ready to die, die, die. There was a cameo from Liam Cunningham, who is on the Tweedy tour. I came to find out he is Jeff Tweedy's son's best friend and he is a killer musician, Thoroughly enjoyable and a great way to start off the night.

Tweedy took the stage shortly after 9:00PM, a refreshing change of pace for an old fart like me who dreads it more each time when bands don't take the stage until 10 or 11.  The first thing I noticed was how much he was smiling. The crowd went crazy of course (did I mention Missoula loves Wilco?  Did I mention they've played here three times in the past 6 years and two of their films had their debuts here?).  Then I noticed his son Spencer on stage and man is he young but man can he play the drums. Tweedy engaged the crowd from the get go with plenty of jokes and references to Waltz's and the age of the audience. The band took there time and they appeared like they were actually having fun. Great mix of solo, covers, and Wilco tunes. In addition to his solo music, the band played covers of Mavis Staples, Uncle Tupelo, and Love Like A Wire, a lovely song written by Chicago songwriter Diane Izzo. Tweedy, rather on purpose or not, went from the melodic flannel rock Uncle Tupelo cover to a hard rockin' tune with a big smile on his face, perhaps his ode to want to be a punk rocker. About half way into the show the band left the stage and Jeff Tweedy did an acoustic set of Wilco tunes including plenty of music from A.M. and Sky Blue Sky.  At about 11 the band left but came back for a great encore set which included a fantastic rendition of California Stars. The show was incredible and made my week.  Thoroughly tired the next day but my head was swimming in the memory of good, live music!

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Jets To Brazil- Sea Anemone

I am blown away, even to this day, every time I hear this song. 1998...if I had heard this while in college, I just might have remained frozen in time. JTB were just down right awesome.