Saturday, November 18, 2006

where does all the dirt come from?

Before I forget, we created a wedding announcement for the online Houston Chronicle "paper." It is hokey but sweet to have an official announcement.

I've been thinking that the Democrats need to pick three or four issues and make some progress, rather than tackle 50 social problems and dissolve into egalitarian squabbling and posturing. That seems like a simple concept but of course, it's not. In keeping with my microcosm reflects macrocosm and visa versa, I thought we might take the same approach with our little world here. So we picked our first thing–the attic. The unfinished, debris-laden attic.

Our attic is accessed by a small, being-John-Malkovich-sized hole in a narrow 9-1/2 foot ceilinged coat closet. It is, without exaggeration, a fucking small entry space. We've tacked up a piece of plastic over the hole to prevent the outside elements from coming in willy-nilly, but let's face it, a piece of plastic is no kind of insulation. It does, however, come down pretty easily.

Our goal is to clean up the attic. Clean it up and prepare to remodel the space so it is a working room with storage. I keep telling people that it hasn't been tended to in 35 years, but that may be an uncharacteristic understatement. Our house is 86 years old. I swear to god there is more than three decades of debris up there.

Up we climbed. We placed a half-dozen 4' by 1' boards across the support beams so we wouldn't have to balance on those sturdy but narrow 2" wide beams as we cleaned. The floor in between these beams is, of course, the ceiling below. It consists of what appear to be fairly sturdy, wide planks of wood. However, this doesn't fill me with confidence as I can't figure out exactly how thick said boards are nor from which direction they have been secured. And I am motivated as much by my fear of falling through the ceiling below, as I am by having to explain to the EMT how I broke my leg and why there's a plus-sized hole in the ceiling above me.

The space in between these beams is chock-full–and I mean to the brim–of broken bits of wood, chunks of old roofing, dust clumps, dropped ten-penny nails and copious amounts of silty dirt. There are the requisite number of tetanus-shot-baiting nail-ends coming through the roof and sprinkled dangerously around the beams. The beams that were tacked up like no human beings would every actually walk around this space. It looks like what you would expect the structure of a grown-up tree house to look like. Pieces of wood in varying stages of soundness, nailed up all over the place. Like cartoon characters slapped up boards with their oversized hammers.

We begin the slow process of sweeping up these three-foot alleyways, filling small plastic bags with giant splinters and dirt. I tell Barbara that the first one of us to find the dead carcass of some long-gone creature/squatter would win the prize. Of course, the person who doesn't win, wins as well. We sweep, bag and shift foot by foot. Poking deep in the eaves with our brooms, disturbing the very birthplace of any number of Stephen King-like stories. It's a relatively cool day in Houston. In fact, when I was downstairs for a period of time, I got chilled. But it took less than 5 minutes in the attic to begin to sweat. No wonder our energy bill is ridiculous. This is like having a rustic cabin stuck on top of our house venting the cooling/heating to the great outdoors.

Did you ever do something to which the outcome was a dreadful, foregone conclusion but for some weird reason no consequence ever materialized? For instance, if you snuck out of the house at night and quietly crept back in at 3 a.m. You know that your parents will kill you if they catch you. As you tiptoe through the kitchen to your bedroom, you knock into the pot rack and a pot is jettisoned and hits the ground with a clatter that almost makes you lose control of your bowels. You stand there in frozen, reverberating silence waiting for your parents to appear and your life to end. And nothing happens. A relief, of course, but unnerving on some plane. Well, that's the critter story. There is no reason that we should not have grabbed (with gloved hands) some dessicated rodent carcass during our archeological dig. It only makes sense. But–nothing. I'm relieved but disturbed. Then, it is Houston and if something once crawled up there to live or die, the heat probably would have evaporated and crumbled their remains in no time. Then again, we're only about a quarter of the way done.

Everything hurts and we haven't even had a night to stiffen up. There's a meconium-like substance coming out of my noise everytime I blow. Tonight I will dream of elves with winches and enormous vacuum cleaners.

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