Monday, April 28, 2008

Double Decker

Last Fall I built the lower deck onto the Wimberley house and felt pretty good about it. Last week I helped build a deck for a struggling church in New Orleans as a Katrina recovery volunteer and felt REALLY good about it.

You know that sweet feeling you get when things seem to happen in perfect order? How about when you get to apply lessons learned earlier in life in a way you did not expect? Like when you have a big struggle, but months later you discover someone in a similar situation who can benefit from your experience?

That's the way things seemed to fall in place with the New Orleans deck, as our team was rushing to get things finished before nightfall on our last workday. All the experience from the Wimberley deck came flowing back, with a knowing that the New Orleans deck would be done in time. And done right, at least to the non-perfectionist eye...

So, unlike our previous New Orleans missions that made me feel a bit guilty about blowing money on a weekend house, this one gave me a new perspective. A perspective on the Wimberley construction as a stepping stone to do more, not just as a task unto itself. After working on the house for more than a year and feeling anxious to be done, that helps. Because I'm a long way from being done. At Wimberley, and beyond. (Stolen from Buzz Lightyear)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bent Out of Shape

See that window in the background? See how the white vent pipe skirts around the view through the window?

I wish I could say that I originally designed the upstairs bath with a window in it, but I didn't. That's because the bath was not on an exterior wall, so I thought I'd just have to do without natural light. Then a cool thing happened when several of us looked at the newly framed house; we noticed that we could achieve a perfect alignment of the bathroom door, a pedestal sink, and an INTERIOR bathroom window that allowed a view out through the exterior window pictured. And of course allowed natural light into the bathroom. All without compromising the privacy of bathroom occupants, since there is a stairwell between the bathroom and the pictured window, and the steps are about ten feet down at that point.

Confused yet? Then you'll just have to come on out and see it for yourself. Alex and I had just done the vent pipe re-routing you see here so we could start framing the new interior window opening. But, we saved some for you. If you visit soon you can even be a part of the actual window installation crew. The job has lousy pay, but the view is cool.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

It's About to Pour

Ready to pour concrete, that is. My son Alex helped me complete the formwork and install the rebar (construction lingo for the steel reinforcing bars). His specialty was twisting on all the little tie wires which will (hopefully) hold the rebar in place as 28,000 lbs of wet concrete come shooting out into the forms. Next week the concrete truck will come-a-call'n!

After all that hard work he received his meager pay; dinner at the Inoz restaurant overlooking Cypress Creek in Wimberley. Although I really appreciated his help, what I enjoyed most was his company, including hanging out with him at Inoz listening to a band play. Relaxing on a beautiful outdoor creek-side patio, watching the sunset, talking about music and school. Nice. Even better than building perfect formwork.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Keeping Austin PLENTY Weird

My friend Milton recently gave me a cool book which is set mostly in the hill country. I'm a relative newcomer to the area, having owned property there for only seven years. So the book is a fascinating insight for me into one piece of what "Keep Austin Weird" is referring to.

Jim Simons' life story is named after his beloved dog Molly, who definitely tolerated Jim as only a dog can do. Jim's story is bizarre, funny, tragic, and heartwarming at the same time. Kind of like the life most of us lead, only AMPLIFIED.

He is a precariously balanced mixture of Libertarian, left-winger, alcoholic, and 1960's hippie "save the world" type. OK, sometimes not so balanced. Both types also rolled into a single person, the author, who incredibly enough is also a lawyer. You KNOW this is an autobiography because it's too weird to make up.

So this very unusual guy naturally seems most at home in a very unusual part of the country. Which is a VERY unusual part of Texas. "Keep Austin Weird" is about more than just the built environment I've ranted about previously. It is about people like Jim Simons who can feel at home there, and fit in where being weird is just fine. It's about hanging out at a favorite watering hole dressed like, well, crap. And maybe even about getting through a day without going to McDonald's, Wal-Mart, or Starbucks, and furiously checking off our things to do lists. Thanks Jim, and keep on being weird.