Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Carnival of Light

It's been a case of The Electricians, The Plumbers and The Carpenters the past 24 hours. No, that's not the porn video the octo-mommy has been asked to star in but the reality here at the Junkplex.

Much as I don't like to make generalizations, the three professions have lived up to my experience with their peers in this city. The plumber could pass for a wrestler from northern Mexico, and his assistant is a goth band wannabe. He's surly, fussy, overpriced, tracks in mud, is prone to say "That's not gonna be an easy job, and it's gonna cost you," and breaks things.

The carpenter is a chubby, pleasant, kind of homely, probably hard drinking Irish guy with enormous hands, the heart of a poet, and prone to quote Velvet Underground lyrics. He knows and speaks City of SF D.B.I. code by heart. He wants to do a good job and save me money.

The Salvadorean electricians have compact soccer player bodies, have a sweet sense of humor, are respectful, efficient, speedy, discovered my computer and furnace were on the same circuit and fixed it for free, cover everything meticulously with plastic before starting any job and clean up and put back in place everything and remove all their tools at the end of the day, leaving the room looking like they'd never stepped foot in it. I'm really sad they are moving on from my unit to the rest of the building tomorrow. I'll miss little Edwin and Jorge. (Sob.)

All of this renovation has brought up stories about this three storied and much storied building constructed in 1885. I'd love to see what it was like until 1917 as a single family, 7,000 square foot home. It had a rough time from the 1950s onward. Just before I moved in back in 1998, it had been one of the most notorious addresses in San Francisco and home of the leading crack dealer. A crazy woman lived in my building with a dozen or so huge dogs that she slept with in the back yard in the summer and never picked up after them.

I learned today that the man holding the pit bull terrier in a mural down the block was once a resident here, and now I am anxious to learn his story. Maybe Bow and I will be on a mural some day.

When I moved in, my place had been stripped of every Victorian detail stripped, half of the place covered in the infamous BART carpet that loyal readers know was removed earlier this winter. All the lighting fixtures looked like what you'd see in an Econolodge -- at best -- and probably none cost more than five dollars. The overhead light had conduit from the switch box mounted on the wall -- not recessed and flushed with the wall. The worst offender was the hall light -- one you turned on by pulling a chain. That has been replaced with the new track lighting to accent my glorious objet du junque. All overhead fixtures have been replaced with the ones featured.

A big challenge with the overheads is that most of them have gas lines leading into them. Some of my friends can't wrap their heads around that there were once gas lights in my home. A near moment of panic hit when the electricians encountered on of the lines and asked me to go down to the basement to ask the plumbers if they could check the gas line. "Duh, I don't do that kinda work. Tell them dudes up there to be careful in case it's an uncapped line." Seconds later I gasped as I saw Edwin unscrewing one of the lines, his eyes widening as he smelled gas and quickly plugged it back up. I was less concerned about the house than it exploding in his beautiful face. All was well, and now they have moved on.

Now on to carpentry and having my ugly bathroom sink replaced with a sleek pedestal sink which, as the plumber so aptly put "is gonna cost ya."

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