Progress and Mayhem

Friday the lumber arrived, and I got it into the basement.  That turned out to be enough for the day, and wasn’t a shabby piece of work.

Saturday I rode Hill’s pony bike (with a seat!!!  what a joy to be on a bike!  Early morning, still cool..  not to many crazy people in cars honking because they’re in some big fucking hurry.  Just mellow) up to the bronx to pick up the framing nailer that hadn’t made it onto the truck with everything else.  Rode back home and framed up the walls of the new shop.  Another good productive day.

Yesterday morning I went out and wired up the new walls.  A couple of outlets that’ll be at the back of the work bench,  and one down low for the tig welder.  A switch and a few new ceiling fixtures for light above the workbench.  I wired it into an existing circuit, but ran cable out the other side of the wall as well, so that when I wire up a sub panel for the 220 circuits, I can get the power from that box and have the breakers handy (the breaker for the circuit it’s all on now, and indeed all the power in the basement, is up two floors in my brother’s kitchen.  Not all that handy).  After a few tripped breakers and a couple of tickles I had it all sorted out.  Then I started to close up the walls.  Putting up ply wood.  After a few feet…  as you can see in exhibit A, I ran out of gas.  I COULD have kept going, but it would have been a little silly.  Everyone is telling me to take it easy (these were, in fact, the doctor’s ORDERS).  So.  I figured I’d take it easy by stopping work once I was exhausted.  Seems fair.

I am entirely off the narcotics.  After my stupid experiment with going cold turkey a few weeks ago, I smartened up and weaned.  It went pretty fast, and I have now been clear of the stuff for 2 days.  Just as importantly, my insomnia seems to be going away a little.  I may not really have talked about it here, but I had worked myself into a bit of a cycle of insomnia that lasted a couple of weeks (more or less since the turkey incident.) Not anxious, just not asleep.  Staring at the ceiling until 3 in the morning or so.  Now, instead, I’m just waking up super early.  THINGS TO DO!!!!  But waking up early is normal for me, so.. all systems go.  I’m slowly starting to feel like myself again.

One more week of work on the shop, and Hill and I hit the road.  She finished her final paper last night (at long last) and is sleeping in this morning.  A dark rainy morning in NYC.  Perfect for sleeping in.

more heavy stuff

A week or so ago I was wandering around the 59th st Home Despot, and happened to meet the Pro Accounts manager.  He turned out to be a very nice guy, who (and the way it came up is a longer story) is a ten year colon cancer survivor.  We traded war stories a little, and he ended up giving me his number and extension, etc..  So when it came time to order up materials to frame up some walls in my new shop I gave him a call.  He hooked me up with wholesale pricing on everything he could, and yesterday this massive pallet of stuff arrived in front of my house..   Putting it down where he did took a pretty impressive piece of forklift driving on the part of the delivery guy, since the sign post casting a shadow in the front of the shot was exactly 95 inches from the bumper of this car.  The pallet on the other hand is 96 inches..  Anyway.  It was pretty cool.

So I decided that quick quick like a bunny I’d get all this stuff down into my basement space, and get ready to do a little framing.  The one trick is that you can’t actually GET 4X8 sheets of ANYthing into my basement.. it all has to be cut down to a more manageable size first.  Needless to say, this was one of those jobs that ended up being a little more involved, and taking a little longer than my pea brain was anticipating.  I was sort of remembering the 18 year old version of myself working on construction crews during the summers, weighing in at 125 lbs soaking wet with work boots on, but 18!!  and strong..  and young.  “Piece o’ cake..  I’ll just schlep this down to the basement and start swinging the hammer”

Well.  By three o’clock or so, I had finally gotten it all into the basement, and was a broken, tired man.  This beat up body continuing to write checks it can’t cash.  (for the record, and for those fellow nerds out there that like a good project, this was 40 2x4x8s, 2 4x4x8 doug fir posts, 4 sheets of 5/8 sheetrock, 11 sheets of 3/4 cdx ply, 2 10′ lengths of 4″pvc pipe, and a box of pneumatic nails.)

But the strength is returning.  I’m sore and tired at the end of the day, and I’m loving it.

Some of you have requested tool porn.  Coming, I promise.  But most of the time that I’m down there, I’m just so happy to be MAKING something again, that the thought of stopping to take pictures doesn’t really enter my mind.  Pictures soon.  I’ve got exactly a week before Hill and I take off for almost all of June..  The vacation that we both sorely need.  I’m hoping to be able to get the two shops more or less finished, so that when I get back in July, I can jump back into work.  This is a very optimistic hope.  There is still MUCH to do.


peace out.  I’m off to work.

Big love.

feeling pretty good!

I’m feeling a little more like myself every day.  I’ve been working like a dog, and it feels great.  About a week ago the machines arrived, and Brad Albetta and I moved 1700 lbs of equipment off the back of the truck and down into the basement in the driving rain.  Brad kept saying that it reminded him of Nam..  he’s never been.  While we were waiting for the freight trucks to come, we moved all the heavy stuff from the back shop (formerly the only shop), to the front shop which will be a dedicated metal shop..  A 400 lb surface plate, a couple of 350lb milling machines, and odd smaller things, benches, and etc..   All told we move well over a ton of equipment that day, and Brad was a good sport about the whole thing.  (He’s the one who tells the verizon story in this rehearsal video..  He’s also a phenomenal bassist and Martha Wainwright’s hubby..  Mostly he’s just a good friend).

The next day, I un-crated and built all the equipment.  For those who care: Shaper, Vertical band saw, horizontal band saw, drill press, oscillating edge sander..   Mostly wood working stuff.  The back shop will be for fender production.  You heard it here first.  I was thinking maybe of offering a pre-sale of the first run of fenders..  a unique batch that will never be repeated.  Maybe just 10 sets of full fenders.  Just to raise a little money to cover the remainder of the shop overhaul..  Is there interest in this?

I spent the weekend building my new work bench, which is too many beautiful.  A 2 1/4″ thick slab of butcher block, 8 feet long on steel legs.  The middle 4′ of the bench I routed out to inset a slab of steel as a welding surface.  It’ll get a lower 1 1/2″ butcherblock shelf, and two sliding arms with Wilton vises..  Some of you are probably pretty glazed over at this point.  I’ll post pictures soon, and you’ll see what I mean.  Gorgeous, big, massive (literally, I moved it from the back space to the front at the end of the day yesterday, with the help of a dolly..  I swear it already weighs over 300lbs).

The weaning off the narcotics is going much better than my failed cold turkey attempt.  I’m down to just three pills a day (from 12), and will probably cut another of those today.  Sleeping continues to be an issue.  Which is strange when I consider just how tired I am at the end of each day.  Muscle soreness is taking the place of the strange joint/nerve pain I’ve had for the last 5 or 6 months, which is such a relief.  I have sore muscles from finally being active..  Working with HEAVY shit in the shop, playing a little handball.  Muscle soreness from activity feels SO good after the sort of pain I’ve been in.

Hill is rapidly careening towards the end of her semester.  She just finished a paper (due today), which blew my mind.  She is SO much smarter than me it’s unreal.  I thought I was a reasonably bright guy.  I’m unbelievably proud of her.  She got an undergrad degree in dance just like me, and then somehow got accepted into an extremely academic PHD program, and is taking it by storm.  She’s currently working about 10 hours a day on final papers.  Serious work ethic.  Soon it’ll be over, and we’ll hit the road for a while.

Now headed out to the shop to clean up after the disaster I created out there yesterday.

Big love.

bit by bit

Been a little while since I wrote.  It’s been sort of hectic.  Most recently I went up to VT for a few days to celebrate brother Sam’s birthday.  The trip was exhausting.  For some reason (that clearly had little to do with good judgement) I decided that the trip was a good time to get off the narcotics.  Cold turkey.  Baaaaaaaad idea.  I have a fair amount of experience with narcotic pain killers.  Three knee surgeries, two ass surgeries, two ports in..  one port out.  Etc..   Every other time that I’ve been on them, I’ve been able to just stop taking them as soon as the pain stops.  Unfortunately, in this particular case, the pain HASN’T stopped yet, and the doses and duration this time have been higher.   So I had a few days of pretty serious withdrawal before I smartened up and decided to ween myself instead.

Sam came back down to the city with me and on Sunday we had a massive work party to move all the stored items in my brother Thomas’ basement to mine, in order to begin the expansion of my workspace.  I was still feeling pretty crappy on Sunday, and barely had to lift a finger.  BIG thanks to brothers Zach, Sam and Thomas.  Also to Tattoo Julie and The RIcan, Nato, Caroline, Maya, My mom, Special Ed, Ari (even though he showed up after we were done), and finally, my new friend Sam Newman who I had only met days previously but who was the undisputed MVP of the day organizing everything in my basement like a champion Tetris player, and somehow making my basement look bigger than it was before we put all that stuff in it!!!  Thank you all.. so much.

Now the really fun part starts.  A couple of tons of new machines arrive tomorrow, and Brad Albetta will be helping me schlep them down to the basement.  It’s like Christmas every day.

A couple of weekends ago, my heretofore internet friend Ali came down for a visit.  She was diagnosed with breast cancer some months ago, and has been dealing with some pretty brutal treatment.  She was on a break between surgery (double mastectomy), and adjuvent chemo.  She brought lobster with her, and we ate like heroes.

She runs an Art gallery up in maine (whence she hails), and the two of us will be having a show of photos over the summer.  Photos all about cancer treatment.  Naturally we had to get our kit off and take some pictures..

Ali is good people, and her fight with this thing is still underway.  She’s got crappy health insurance, and we’re doing what we can to help with some of the expenses.  There’s going to be an auction coming up..  pretty sure you can get in on the act online.  I’ve donated a rather big print of Putney and the Injuns.  Buy it!

I’m so ready to see the back of this whole thing.  The poison, however, is slow leaving my body, and I’m not feeling as well, as fast, as I’d like.  This is a time for patience.  I don’t have much of that though.  I’ve got shit to do, dammit!  I have to keep in mind, however, lessons that I’ve already learned, having been through this once before..  Recovery from treatment is its own beast.  It doesn’t happen fast.  Last time, it took me a full year to feel like myself again.  Given that this round was much harder on me than the last, I can only assume that the recovery will take just as much, if not more patience.  A wise man said that slow and steady wins the race.. I’ve always felt that that’s well and good unless fast and steady shows up!  But this is definitely a time to repeat like a mantra, “festina lente,” or as old time vermonters say, “make haste slowly.”

Big love.

RIP, Big Sam

Two years ago today my old man hung himself by the neck.  I find that as time goes by I miss him more and more.  I forget the things that were infuriating about him, and think mostly about his big generous heart.  This year it’s particularly sad for me, because I’m in the process of building myself two new shops.. one for metal work, and one for wood.  There’s no one that I can think of who would have been more gung ho and interested in the whole process than Bill Sam.  I’m a pretty decent fabricator, and the whole learning process began in his shop..  I didn’t learn FROM him as much as I learned NEAR him.  He had a sneaky way of teaching.  He’d set you up in such a way that you’d discover things on your own.  He didn’t want any credit.  I think he just took great pleasure in quietly watching us learn.  My older brother, Zach, spoke at his funeral, and said something that summed it up perfectly.  “We were amazing, because he was amazed.”

There are many things that I can be upset with him about, not the least of which was his inability, or maybe unwillingness to treat the depression that ultimately killed him.  I’d like it if he was still around!  On the anniversary of his death, however, I choose to focus on the things that I admired about him.  Generosity, warmth, charisma, open-mindedness, and great big love for just about everyone who crossed his path and whose favorite insult was “he’s got NO imagination!!” These are all things about the man that I aspire to.

Sleep well, Bill Sam.

All done. (a short poem, I think, is in order).

Cancer, I drop trou at thee!

For you have been a most unwelcome guest, lo these last 9 months..

NAY!  nearly three years, in fact!

Yet, I have cooked for you, and shared my bourbon.

My wife has cleaned up after you and your dirty underpants.

My freinds and family: REAL guests!

Guests who arrive with groceries, and rub my feet,

and pick up after themselves..  They have put up with your foul temper,

your abusive language, your shitty sense of humor, and your total lack of imagination.

So I say, “fuck you, AND your horse..  You are not welcome here.”

“high thee hence!!”

“get lost!”


I will not open the door when you ring the bell.

And I hope you get the same treatment anywhere else you try to stay.

I hope you die lonely.

(I pray I have made it clear to you that we are not friends. Lose my number.)