Tuesday, July 17, 2012

I Fought the Sun

As a test this weekend, I spent about 4 hours on the side roof working on the window and on the box that supports the new gutters. If roofers can do this everyday, out in the Florida summertime, then I should be OK for one afternoon.

The smart thing to do would have been to wait until about 5 pm so that I would be shaded by the prodigious growth of bamboo nearby. But the rains start every afternoon, and I needed to get some caulking done on a dry surface. Another option was to start in the early morning. Instead, I walked out onto the roof (from our bathroom window) at about 1 pm.

My theory was this: drink plenty of water before I go out, and wear a hat, and I should be OK. As far as I'm concerned, I'm as fit as ever, better even. I didn't intend to let the Florida steam-bath summer bitch defeat me.

Here's a picture of the rotten window sill and rusted window from several weeks ago. By the time I finished this weekend, after about 4 hours in the hot sun, with the asphalt burning my feet, I had a new sill, had replaced some boards near the gutter, applied some caulking all around and put on some primer paint. And I finished just before it started raining. Perfect.

I went downstairs, no longer aware of my extremities, to tell Cheryl the good news, and she just stared at me. I opened my mouth again. "You need to go to bed," she said, "You're not making any sense."

You're welcome.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Why We Do What We Do

What better way to spend an Florida summer afternoon than on an angled roof, scraping bits of old glazing, paint and rust from the bedroom window, always one step away from slipping down over the edge and onto the stone patio below.

The old window hasn't been refinished since Roosevelt was in office; its sill was so rotten that it had curled upward and was actually catching the rain water instead of draining it away. And much of the old putty was dried and separated from the window.

Of course, there are contractors who restore windows; it's a specialized art, not really for amateurs like me, especially not these old rusty metal windows. In particular, there's an art to applying the putty, a mysterious technique known as glazing.

I knew from experience that I did not understand how to glaze; my attempts have always been pathetic. The putty should be perfectly smooth and continuous around the window.

So I poked around on YouTube until I found a video by some guys who specialize in antique window restoration. One guy was holding the camera and narrating while the other one carefully cleaned up an old wood window, doing all the work work that you would expect, filling in some damaged spots, etc. Then it came time to glaze.

"I know," the narrator said, "that some people don't like to do glazing, but it is my favorite part." His partner took up a big handful of the glazing compound and began kneading it like bread dough, to "get it nice and warm," he said. Then he took the putty knife and pressed several chunks of the putty onto the window frame. No problem--I can do that.

The camera came in close while the artist took the putty knife firmly between the thumbs and first fingers of both hands and, at a very deliberate speed, moved from right to left, cutting the putty at the window and leaving a perfectly smooth white putty surface behind. Beautiful.

The camera zoomed out, the artist stepped back, and the narration stopped for several seconds. With a tender voice, the guy then said, "This is why we do what we do."

It began raining lightly just as I was ready to do some glazing. I kneaded a chunk of putty, pushed it in place, and grabbed the knife with both hands.

More later...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Vikings Visit the Back Yard

For the first time since we've lived here, the power company sent a group of single-minded tree-trimmers through the neighborhood to clear the power lines in advance of hurricane season. The neighbors are angry (but I'm not) because these guys are not artists; these tree cutters came through with little regard for symmetry, let alone sympathy for the trees. They were like drunken Viking invaders, conquering one cherry laurel after another, burning a wide swath.

In particular we have a number of tree along our back fence, which runs almost directly underneath the lines. We even have a big, ugly pole in our back yard, something that is now difficult to ignore.

The Vikings did this while we were away on vacation last week, but I don't care because they helped prepare for my next mega-project: to build a new fence and then a pagoda out back. I was planning to cut many of these tree anyway.

What they lacked in artistic sensibility was matched by a disregard for common sense, because several of the tree in our back yard grow at an angle.
These poor trees live on the edge, struggling for the sun, staring always at the ground and wondering when gravity will finally defeat them, holding on to life only because of the limbs that grow and offer some counter weight in the opposite direction.

One of these poor souls couldn't take it any more, couldn't take the indignity of being stripped bare, couldn't adjust to its missing limb, and so, a few days later, it pulled its roots from the sandy ground and took a nose-dive into the neighbor's yard, taking out a section of fence in the process. The Vikings are responsible, but they are long gone.

Here I am in the neighbor's yard, cutting up the remains. One down, about 12 to go, and now I'll be the bad guy.