Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The Best Shower EVAAAAHHH!

I am not even going to pretend to write about meaningful stuff. I am up to my ears in schoolwork and grading, panicky (and panicking) students are knocking every hour on my office door, and I don't even want to get started on all of the stress that comes with the end of the semester.

Better to share a happy thing: last week, the tilers came and tiled our master bath (which is the same room I was gutting in an earlier post), and this weekend, we saw the beautiful--and huge--results (a friend of ours said we'll have Romans lined up at our door.)
Our shower is massive and beautiful, although I will admit that this picture makes it look more cold than anything. Its got white subway tile, a chair-rail, and white marble at the outside edges. The floor is amazing. It's cork mosaic tile that we purchased from New Orleans Bamboo, and it looks like this:We used white grout to highlight the recycled wine corks' natural coloring. It's just beautiful. And since we can no longer afford the concrete kitchen countertops of our dreams (thanks in large part to this shower,) I am so glad that we will have this luxury. Once I add a little ceramic stool (for leg-shaving and luxuriating), some water-loving plants along the half-wall, and a sheet of that ridiculously expensive shower glass, I will be ready to move in to our bathroom.

Too bad the rest of the house isn't done. It is, however, sheetrocked, and our kitchen, cabinet-ed with cabinets that you just can't slam (Simon has been asking every one to try.) The wooden celings have a coat of laquer and are beautiful. The floors are slated to be refinished soon. And this weekend, we purchased a cast iron kitchen sink.

We did, in fact, decide to put the kitchen in the front, and it opens onto the dining room, which opens onto a lovely view of the outdoors. Here's the view from kitchen to dining:Also, we have a radiant barrier in our attic which Simon and a group of volunteers installed recently during the Historic Green event.

This week, Simon sanded and repainted the clawfoot tub we salvaged from the house. In cleaning the rust from the "claws," he uncovered metal appliques that read "2nd"--one on each leg. We have no idea what it means, but like the fact that its new home will be our second bathroom. (You can see the "before" of the tub in the background of the the gutting pic I linked to above. I'll post an after once it's in the house.)
So, word! Hooray for house-progress! Now: must make progress on grading papers...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Whole Flippin' Month... Gone!

It's hard for me to believe that it has been a month since I last wrote.

And yet...

When I think about the month that's gone by--and the month that's yet ahead, I wonder how the heck I ever find the time to write, at all.

First things first: my 4Cs paper presentation went really well. I didn't write the Real Deal until the morning of my presentation--and that after having written 10--TEN--other drafts that can be better described as "versions." I had so many false starts with the dang thing, and I think it largely came from not knowing my audience.

I mean, I had already presented at two other conferences, so I guess I should've had a sense of just how few people show up at a single session (when there are dozens going on at once), but somehow the fact that it was 4Cs--FOUR Cs!!--made me trembly and cross-eyed. I even had this hare-brained notion that the folks whose work I was quoting might attend my session.


So anyway, I wrote several pretentious drafts where I was all "assessment is a rhetorical construct" (which it is), and all "let's examine the contextual influences that created the particular rhetorical construct during the post-Katrina semester in our writing classes at UNO." I was trying to be a smarty-pants (which is a term I like to use in talking about pretentious academic language with my students), and I was lost, lost, lost. I was up until 3:30 the night before, and then I got up at 7:00, sat down, and it just came out.

What happened contradicts what I tell my students about writing, in fact. I tell them that writing is not magic, it's craft. And yet, I struggled and struggled and struggled with that craft, only to discover that thew writing, itself, was a bit of magic. It really was.

Once I'm able to go back and look at the thing, I'll post it here. For now, though, I want to stay away from it for a while.

Finishing that conference has meant that a) I am sleeping better, and b) I am enjoying food again.

I suppose I haven't written since I travelled to Atlanta to meet my new nephew, Damien (who was then so tiny that I was afraid to hold him--at first). While I was there, I stepped on a scale and discovered that I have lost 8 pounds.

I know this is not a problem that anyone really likes to hear about. Oh, WAAAhh! You've lost weight! How terrible for you! I know.

But I have never given two turds about my weight and only noticed it this time because my clothes stopped fitting. And this is NOT cool because we cannot afford to buy new clothes for me.

Oh, the not-affording-bit. I'll just skip right over that reality of the house-renovating journey and move straight along to progress.

So so much has happened with the house. In fact, the paint is going up, the cabinets are going in, and "trimming" begins on April 21st. In short, it has all been happening so quickly that now I am worried about getting everything ready on time--about making hasty decisions in the interest of finishing and then regretting it.

In fact, Simon has said that we may be the first people in history whose contractor is waiting on us rather than the other way around. Our latest purchase: tile. And let me just tell you that the crap they got at the big box places is generally U-G-L-Y, and the other stuff elsewhere is so expensive we can't hang. We splurged on mosaic cork tile for the shower floor (made from recycled wine corks--if you go to the link, we are doing white grout like you see at the top right of the page). And the huge shower we have in the master bathroom will be lined with white subway tiles, divided at 4-feet by a chair rail that meets a half-wall at the end of the shower.

In fact, I am in love with the bathroom-stuff. At first we thought our massive 4x6 shower was a bit ridiculous (I am not kidding when I say it is just one foot each way smaller than the second full bathroom), but now I am thrilled because I plan to put a colorful bench on the far side, and then I plan to place plants along the half wall, so it's like indoor-outdoor bathroom. And the chair rail meets the half wall and it's cool.

This is boring to write about... Which must mean it is boring to read.

I have wanted to populate this blog with inspiring stories of the renovation. It is our New Orleans story right now, and I know that two of my three readers think we are hare-brained to move to the Lower Ninth Ward. But it has been hard to write about, somehow. I don't know how to describe it. It's just all nitty-gritty and I like stories.

So here's a story: we had a group of volunteers down at the house on March something or other. They were there to install a radiant barrier in the attic--which will act like "shade" in protecting the roof from that hot-sun heat. The volunteers were all from Common Ground, and they were a crunchy and wonderful lot. Altruistic wanderers who reminded me of so many backpackers and of so many of the people who are helping the city rebuild.

Anyways, that day, two visitors came by. The first was one of the families who'd been renting the house before the storm. Unfortunately, I was off getting BBQ for the volunteers, but Simon talked to them and he said they were very nice and happy to see someone taking care of the home. These folks told us that there was an elderly man who lived on the right side of he double. He stayed, and he died. I don't think they said how, and while I might've used my southern-social-self to ask gently what happened, Simon's British sensibility allows nothing of the sort.

So now we know that the "1 DOA" on the side meant what I was afraid it meant. That DOA is faded, faded, faded, and a big "0" covers it now, but I was sad to learn of the man's death, and of course I have been incredibly curious about his life.

That same day, the people who lived in the house way a long time ago came by, too. They are now residents of St. Bernard, and they left, like so many others did, during a period of "White Flight" back in the 70s(?) The woman talked about loving growing up there--about playing along the levee, about Hurricane Betsy, about how "back then" the neighborhood was "different" because back then there were no black people in the neighborhood.

This has been at the heart of what is hard for me about our move--and I have written about it before and plan to write an essay this summer about it: Holy Cross is right now in serious danger of becoming uber-gentrified--kind of like the Bywater-Marigny area that we are now fleeing in a very odd sort of reverse-gentrification. Simon and I want to live in an area where there's racial diversity. It really IS important to me. And so this white couple is fleeing the now-gentrified Marigny-Bywater for a more diverse neighborhood. But of course with every couple like us who moves down there, the risk of gentrification of that neighborhood grows.

At last year's Holy Cross Fourth of July BBQ, a resident told Simon how glad he was that we were moving down--partly, I think, because we have been so actively involved in the neighborhood--but he also said something along the lines of, "Let' s keep this area a secret."

I want to tell everyone and no one about our new favorite place in the whole wide world. And I'll write more about it soon...

For now, I have a kabillion papers to grade, and the Holy Cross n-hood meeting to attend. I promise to write before a month has passed--and to post pictures.