As the name suggests, this site is about restoring. Specifically, it will detail my efforts to return to glory a 1957 Spartan Imperial Mansion. You may learn a thing or two about such a project, especially from the first-timer mistakes that I will inevitably make. Beyond that, I hope this blog serves metaphorically to illustrate how my recovery from alcohol addiction both fuels and benefits from this project.
As a lapsed materialist, I thought I might take some pleasure from divesting myself of possessions – some accumulated over a lifetime. The process of shedding was necessary as the move to Sparta was a drastic reduction in square footage – 900 down to 300 +/-. I grew up in a house of 7,500 sq. ft. and have owned dwellings upward of 3,000 but since then my domaciles have steadily shrunk as I trudge onward to the inevitable pine box (or urn).
My attachment to things varies. I still can’t bring myself to dispose of my 20 year old, analog stereo system – even the cassette deck. Music is deeply etched in memories and I suppose that is behind my refusal to part with components which weigh a combined 500+ pounds. I keep lugging them around the planet, trying to cram them into my shrinking world.
The worst thing about owning stuff is how to unload it once you are done with it. It’s a sort of payback proportionate to one’s carbon footprint. “OK, you have enjoyed these things you just ‘had’ to have long enough” says karma. “Now what?”.
The easiest thing these days is a phone call, 1 800 got-junk. The T.V. ad makes it look so simple. Snap your fingers and “poof”, it is gone. But that’s criminally expensive and an insult to one’s good taste exercised over a lifetime of buying. “Surely my stuff isn’t junk. How about a yard-sale?”.
Few of life’s punishments can rival that of the laundress picking over your valuables with disdain. Just ask Scrooge. The process of selling your things to people bent on bargains and who feign indifference is tortuous.
When the face-masked prospect finally deigns to make an offer it is pitiful and seemingly designed to insult. After a wasted weekend when the jackals have finished, you total up the proceeds and there’s enough for Mexican take-out (one of our few covid-19 dining options).
Once the failed yard-sale experiment is over, you’re left with three choices. Well, four really but it barely registers on the realism meter. “Maybe my kids will want it?”. Hah!!! One’s halfway around the world and the other’s rustic taste in decor eschews my 1980-era pieces. “What!? You don’t want my waterbed?”
So having been insulted by junk-haulers, masked men bent on legal theft and even my own children, my natural and terribly stupid reaction is to say, “I’ll show you how good my things are!”. And then I will now choose to store them.
“Self-storage: How warehouses for personal junk became a $38 billion industry
One in 11 Americans pays for space to store the material overflow of the American dream”
The above quote was the very first thing that came up on a Google search of “Storage industry”. One of my more perverse forms of self-justification is the storage unit. My personal storage decisions include a half-dozen units over the years (two at the moment, not including the garage of my rental home.) With my help, the storage industry has leapfrogged over laudromats and trailer parks and has become the better real estate bet. Their strategy is not unlike gyms. Sign ’em up. Then wait for them to forget about it. Then auction the shit off. What a concept.
After I’ve filled the storage units floor to ceiling there remain either charity or the dump. Since even the former have become picky the latter is inevitable. Since I had amassed a serious amount of garbage at Sparta and needed a dump run anyway, a few picked over items had to come along.
As I weary of writing this particular blog entry (the whole process has been soul-sucking), I would be remiss in not mentioning the final form of asset divestiture. Criminal theft. This past week my Spartanette was stolen right off the street, not 12 hours after parking it there. They say that in this mortal life we really own nothing, that everything belongs to God and we are simply beneficiaries of his temporary largesse. Well, if that is the case, the big guy has definitely called in his markers.
For all of you who doubted Thomas, it’s time to admit that your pessimism – while well founded in my past procrastinations and unmet objectives – was misplaced. I’ve finished!! Thanks to Bill, Jim, Leslie, Saylor for their advice and guidance AND to Carolee/Jeff, Betsy and all those who offered on-site encouragement. The day has arrived when Sparta becomes a home, an occasion formally marked by Cristina’s hanging of clothes.
And the completion of wiring…
Still much to do…including figuring out the hot shower issue.
Not quite frantic, but working diligently to get Sparta shipshape. Right now, functionality is key and cosmetics must take a backseat. That means potty, power, pump and punchlist.
So I have the little 12v fan connected and it is quitely venting the system while awaiting the inaugural BM.
I learn something new all the time when it comes to electricity and my latest teaching moment came when I decided to call Progressive Dynamics and find out what I had done wrong. My 12v circuits were not working. The vague schematic they provide on their website was not helpful and this whole wiring thing gets crazy, especially when you consider the considerable downside of messing up.
Yeah, thanks to a little help from Dennis at PD, my system works and so far my vast array of fuses and breakers (10 to be exact) is holding up.
Unfortunately, my water pump is acting up. Or maybe it’s the on-demand water heater. The latter will not engage without sufficient water pressure from the former. I’m confused because it worked fine under initial testing months ago. This may take a call to the people at Excell, makers of the water heater.
Meantime, back at the gray-water purification system, I have experienced problems with the lines clogging with bark, etc. causing the tubs to overflow. It turns out that screen door mesh is too fine and acts as a dam when clogged. So I cut up some rabbit wire as a first line of screening. It works now.
So what’s still on my punchlist?
wax sticky drawers
finish flooring under bathroom vanity
complete external a/c plugs
trim odds and ends
get house jack and level Sparta
Weed whack perimeter
there’s more I’m sure
I think I may be working too fast. Pulling wire through tight spaces, using hand tools, digging it the dirt and getting generally frustrated has taken a toll on my right hand. Maybe it’s the dreaded old man skin – thin and crepey. Shit!
Anyone who tells you that age is nothing but a number is full of coconut coir.
OK, I’ve been waiting weeks to use that line. It is now hot enough to do so so and Sparta is heating up like a Dutch oven. I’ll admit it. I entertain myself coming up with silly titles for these posts. Bad puns. Obscure cultural references. Fractured cliches and painful bromides. They’re all here and I think I like this one best. This blog is, after all, a journal and the above sums up the times we now endure. Thanks for indulging me for this, my 200th entry.
The air conditioner has been ordered and should be delivered next weekend – none too soon. So now I am busying myself outdoors putting in a gray water system. For the uninitiated, gray water is everything coming out of Sparta except pee and poop. Those must be handled seperately as they are toxic to gardens and gardeners. Gray water comes from sinks and showers – even washing machines (also on order), provided one uses the proper detergents. They must be bio-compatible, not just biodegradable. In short, a gray water system uses a series of vessels filled with: 1) organic matter as a worm medium; 2) small and larger pepples/rocks for additional filtration and 3) a holding tank to allow substrates to further settle. Once done, the water can be dispersed into a garden or wash. It helps that Sparta is next to a slope as gravity is key to making the system function.
So after these tanks get better positioned and the pipes fitted and glued, I will fill with the proper medium and go find some worms. I don’t know if bait shops are considered essential.
Post Script – So I just wrapped up this morning’s chores and have more to add re: gray water…
America’s love for shopping online has taken us places I couldn’t have imagined. The pandemic has given health-saving urgency to this trend. From the comfort of your now familiar couch, you can buy a car (Carvana), a Slavic bride (mail-order-bride.net), therapy (talkspace.com), even a tomato (blasphemy!wtf?). Remember when it was just books and cd’s?
To wit, my latest home delivery – a bed for Sparta. Have you noticed of late the plethora of online bed companies with cute, fuzzy names like Casper, Nectar, Puffy, Purple, etc.. I have never seen so many ads for beds on TV. Was it always so? Am I just now watching too much teli? Or, are humans getting so lazy that the future portended in WALL-E has arrived. I guess I have.
Picking a bed took hours. I shopped and shopped without touching a single mattress, relying only upon buyer reviews and the assurances of 120 night guarantees of comfort. REALITY CHECK – according to feedback, almost no customers exercised their rights of return. To do so, one must cram a 100 lb. mattress into a box. There’s no putting that genie back in the bottle.
Yesterday my bed arrived with the rather bland name of Cool Comfort (sounds like shoe inserts). No prizes for clever originality there. But the price was right on Wayfair and their promise of swift delivery was a factor. Despite a Covid-19 related delay, it arrived in time. To resume its intended mass, the bed must rest (?!?) for 72 hours before using, so I dragged it over to Sparta immediately upon delivery.
So now I let it rise for another couple of days and attend to other things.
Today, I am gonna go to the tiny little burg of Graton, Ca to buy two used 55 gal. plastic barrels for my grey water treatment system. Stay tuned.
Under the restrictive pall of Covid – 19, there is the almost universal sense that time itself has become an amorphous, unrecognizable entity. Obviously, without humankind to label, differentiate and characterize time (minutes, days, weeks, Mondays, Fridays, September, good times, bad times, etc.), time would always have remained so – but for the cycles of the seasons, moon, and so on.
Our knack for assigning value judgments to time results mostly from how we have chosen to spend it. For example, in most countries there exists a workweek, typically Mon. – Fri.. Depending upon how people regard work (think drudgery, repetition, obligation as many people do), some days become better than others. Even songs have been written about them. “I don’t like Mondays”, “Tuesday Afternoon”, Saturday Night’s Alright for Fighting” and so on, are illustrative of our fondness for or, even, expectations of certain days. Friday, nearly everyone’s favorite, was even honored by what once was the largest restaurant chain in America, TGIFs.
It is no surprise, then, that absent the markers that used to define time, everyone feels disoriented and adrift. Without work, every day feels numbingly similar without much emotional attachment. It’s as if our water supply has been spiked with Prozac. Everything is just OK. Where are the joys and the lows?
But it not just work that is missing. All the things that used to make weekends especially fun are gone. Sports, Friday Happy Hours with friends, weddings on Saturday, sleepy Sundays watching golf (replays don’t really count), Saturday “Honey do” lists (now, every day gets that. Yeesh), even church – all gone. Weekends feel empty.
I used to have a fairly typical relationship with the days of the week and my feelings for them rested upon how many days were left in the workweek and how much I could drink. Sad, but true. Sundays, usually hungover and filled with dread. Mondays and Tuesdays, dry and a bit “white knuckled”. Wednesday, a clearing head and glimmers of fun ahead. Thursday, the drinkers crow-hop. Friday, it was on and so on.
Now that I am sober the vast majority of the time and a weekend chef, the equation has flipped. I love Sundays and Mondays and, because I actually like cooking for pay, everyday is good. Booze has ceased to exert a gravitation pull drawing my attention to the weekend.
So, back on subject, with Sparta now filling the bulk of my daylight hours, my time has been reduced to increments defined by Amazon deliveries (today my bed in a box arrives), tasks thus associated (today I install under bed drawers with slider mechanisms that arrived yesterday and tomorrow I unleash said bed, giving it the requisite 72 hours to assume its intended mass) and new Amazon orders (on Thursday I order the portable washing machine. Yes, this is all on my iPhone scheduler).
I guess I’m really lucky to have such an engrossing hobby.
*This was one of many classic films made mid-century about alcoholism. Ray Milland won Best Actor for a timeless, spot on performance. Some things never change. Man’s relationship to booze is one of them.
Here’s a collection of little tasks I’ve been distracting myself with of late.
I have several old and original light fixtures left to be dealt with. There are a couple of ceiling spots wired for their use.
Finding the right putty to cover my sloppy workmanship is a problem. No OTC products seem to match. I have concluded the only solution is to blend one myself.
I included the above picture to illustrate the burnt orange and green theme that I have asked my daughter, Leslie, to incorporate into a custom, butcher-block dining table she is making for me. But as you look at this photo, something else is revealed. No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Almost nothing squares in the above photo. Hmmm. Perhaps the result of building on three different locations over the past three years, each with a different grade (nothing has been perfectly level). Or perhaps it is just a consequence of amatuer carpentry. Whatever, this place is definitely unique.
As I have said before, one great benefit of trailer restoration is learning by necessity- through trial and error, owner’s manuals or, mostly, the Internet. From the banal to the arcane and everything in between, I have become conversant with the best composting medium for poop, Pex plumbing and the intracacies of electricity/wiring. Sometimes I get in over my head but it’s kept my brain active when it otherwise may have atrophied – particularly during these covid – 19, sensory-deprived times. Let me demonstrate through pictures what my grey matter has been up to lately:
The 12v fans pictured above are designed to affix to car radiators to supplement cooling in especially hot conditions. Who knew? After a lot of research, I picked these up to move air in and out of Sparta on the ceiling and behind the stove. Many tiny-housers use large computer fans (also 12v), but I chose these for their superior capacity (CFM) and ruggedness. They will be a bit noisier, however.
Meanwhile, I came up with a solution to the rounded floor trim for the observation lounge. It’s not pretty but what the hell. It will be behind the couch.
To further the excitement, look what arrived yesterday:
Stay tuned. I may be in for a shock. Help, Mr. Wizard!