Monday, January 14, 2008

Day Six: January 2008

Today was a slower day. We were all getting

Day Six: Sunday, January 13

Today is Shane’s birthday! This is the third birthday that Shane has spent with us in New Orleans, including his legendary 21st birthday two years ago. It’s hard to believe that now Shane lives in New Orleans and is working to improve things here along with his longtime girlfriend Brianna Hardy. We are very lucky to have him as part of our team, not only because he lends a helping hand, but also because he is hilariously funny, deliriously happy, and exceptionally skilled at some of the tasks that we are undertaking. Happy day, Shane!

Today we started the big push at Rosie’s other properties next door to the house we moved her into last May. As we’ve noted before, Rosie is unable to cover the taxes and insurance on all three houses that she inherited from her family unless she can rent one or both of the ones in which she is not living. We hope to get them ready for occupancy by the time we leave. If today is any indication, we will succeed.

We slept in just a bit since we didn’t have a deadline for our arrival set by Habitat. We decided to wait until 8:00 or so to go to work, rather than our usual 7:30 start time. We got moving so fast once we got up that we made it to Rosie’s right on time. She was gushing over our group, as she had not yet seen all of us working at the same time. Actually, the word “working” doesn’t even begin to capture it. The level at which we were laboring exceeded our sense of our own capabilities.

Most of us jumped right into the job of sheetrocking, whether or not we had ever been trained in drywall before. Jack helped us to figure out what we were doing then he, Chris and Justin each took a section of the house and supervised as we learned what to do. All of them were astounded at the speed with which we learned the ropes. We started with the ceilings, which are, of course, the most difficult parts to install. Thirty of us shared a total of only five ladders, which complicated our ability to do everything we wanted to do as quickly as we wanted to do it. Because we have an abundance of very tall team members, though, we managed to make do.

We had all gotten the bare basics on drywall installation from Chris and Justin, but we had not thought carefully about a number of things: 1) the walls of houses in New Orleans are generally not square, making lots of difficult cuts a necessary part of any job, 2) there are dozens of little places like switchboxes, light fixtures, vents, and door frames that require very difficult precision cuts, 3) to install drywall on a ceiling, it is necessary to hold your arms over your head for a long long time, 4) there is quite a bit of math involved in installing drywall, and 5) it is not at all difficult to break the corner off of a brand new piece of sheetrock.

Another primary job of the day was to finish the installation of insulation. Lindsay S., Briana R., Brianna H., Emily, Alec, Mark, and Erik were particularly dedicated to this undertaking. They had to learn once again that fiberglass is, in fact, glass. They had little bits in their hands and even on their faces, but they all followed instructions and washed with cold water to remove it.

The final big job at Rosie’s was the continuation of clearing the back yard, including stump removal and elimination of a series of fences. As it turns out, in the days that theses fences were installed, the practice was to drop some concrete into a deep hole then drive the poles four feet deeper than the concrete blob. We decided to remove them entirely rather than just cutting them off at the ground. We have a tendency to choose the more difficult path. We rocked them fiercely in all directions until we looked like we were stirring dirt cauldrons, then dug under the concrete blobs until we thought they were free. Then we employed our most powerful weapon of the day: Alec.

Once we were ready to pull the huge poles and their anchors out of the earth, Alec would squat all the way to the concrete blob and just slowly lift it all by himself. It was like Hercules had joined our crew. Once he had cast them aside, it took two or three of us to drag them out front and lift them into the dumpster. We had to make sure that they didn’t fall down vertically or they would stick out over the top, so we had to javelin them into a container that was higher than most of our heads. We managed.

Whenever someone needed a break, they didn’t sit on the porch or hang out on the sidewalk; they went into the backyard and hacked at the massive pecan tree stump with an axe. We have made quite a difference in just one day, but we are considering renting a stump grinder to get the thing all the way to the ground. Still, we like hacking at it so much that we might just leave it there and chip away at it day by day.

Our special guest worker today was our friend Jerrad from Habitat. He brought the puppies, who are now named after Mardi Gras crews: Bacchus and Isis. We took turns cuddling them and feeding them, and those of us who have been here a few times before started realizing that there was a metaphor unfolding before us. That is, in our first trip, we made the sad discovery of a dead puppy in one house we were gutting on this same street; at that point, the city, too, was lifeless, hopeless and sad. Last year, we were visited by a three-legged dog that managed to get itself around even though it had been abandoned; the city then seemed to us to be getting somewhere, even if things weren’t at all “normal.” This year, we have these sweet puppies in our world, and we can see that it will take lots of love and care for them to survive and flourish; we sense that hope is growing in New Orleans too, and we are glad to provide some of the love and care that this grand city needs.

We finished another ten-hour day today, with a couple of extra crew members helping us out. That means we did 335 hours today, bringing our running total to 1455 in five days’ work. We hope to put in 5000 hours this month. We’ll see. . .

Everyone helping to put up drywall on the ceiling.

Shawny and her motherly side

Lindsay and Tommy measuring out a piece of drywall.

Justin putting in a last piece of insulation.

Before the yard was torn out.

As you can see what used to be three yards is now one, and is almost completely cleared out and ready to be landscaped.

We had quit the feast today! Angel hair pasta, meat sauce, and homemade tomato sauce, left over birthday cake, and ice cream from Rosie. Thanks Chicas and the Men!

As darkness quickly approaches everyone works diligently to complete the sheet rock in the front room.

Mark and Emily put up their very last piece of insulation in the ceiling.

Here Rosie is looking out over her backyard while we work to clear it. In the background you can see Sarah’s beautiful house, which we painted last Jan Term, and the amazing ramp we built over Spring Break 07.

Elijah is taking a break from work on the roof.

Today was a slower day. We were all getting a bit tired. During lunch Amanda, Eric, and Brad take a quick nap during our lunch break.

The BLOKES and Wild Dogg (Zac) have formed a pretty tight group.

The Morning began with the whole group moving wood across the site. Lately people have been stealing wood from the Habitat site so we had to make it harder to get to.

The floor is finaly done so all its artists stop for a fun picture with their beautiful masterpiece

Erik and Brad cut into one of our favorite New Orleans delicacies. A treat courtesy of Rosie after a long day’s work.

We wanted to get one full piece in before sundown. The entire crew worked hard to get it done.

Kate and Lindsay R. work by floodlight. Kate sports a genuine Justin Verrips original; it’s said to bring superb sheetrocking skills to anyone who dawns it.

We wanted to get one full piece in before sundown. The entire crew worked hard to get it done.

No comments: