Saturday, January 26, 2008

Day Nineteen: January 2008

Day Nineteen: Saturday, January 26

We crossed over the 5000-hour mark today! Wow! And what a workday it was! We accomplished a lot for one day at Rosie’s, even though most of us worked a shorter day than usual. We realized that it was probably too rainy for us to do any big jobs at Habitat, so we put most of the bus on rain delay and let people sleep. A few hardy souls headed out to Rosie’s house early to crank up the jobs that we are doing there. The rest joined them a couple of hours later and folded into the systems that they started.

We had a special visitor today: Dustin Cramer, a Saint Mary’s alumnus who has followed our trips for the last two years. He came out and worked with us as we installed flooring today and he finally got a firsthand look at the whole SMC NOLA experience. We were glad he was with us.

The fabulous floor team in 4009 worked out a system today where it really looked like they each had four hands. They were applying glue and installing planks so fast (but still neatly) that it was awesome to behold. Obi in particular used his massive wingspan to reach from side to side in the room so that no steps were wasted. They finished the flooring in that side quickly.

All of the floorers have learned quite a bit as they have struggled to apply perfectly-shaped flooring planks to thoroughly imperfectly-shaped rooms. Their reliance on phrases like “factory edge” attests to their newfound expertise. They have also developed their own vocabularies to trade around tools and materials in the rooms where they work. The maniac crew in 4009 has its own private way of talking, usually in unison, usually at top volume.

That front porch crew kept sweating the prep for painting the doors and porch tomorrow. Some of them replaced the glass that we removed over the last few days. For many of them, it was their first crack at glazing (installing window panes using putty and metal points that help the window to expand and contract in changing temperatures). The overall porch/doors job has to come to an end, so we have to settle for the state of smoothness we have achieved, even if we haven’t removed every scrap of paint. Many people will spend tomorrow bringing those doors a whole new look.

Another huge set of people took on cabinet installation in 4011. They found that the contractor had planned the electrical and water outlets in ways that don’t quite match the size and shape of the cabinets that Rosie purchased. They “got creative” (as Justin likes to say) and figured out new ways to capitalize on the resources that we had.

Linzy, Scott, and Amanda tackled the sand that Matt W. moved into the backyard yesterday, spreading it around to try to make the backyard level so that water won’t collect there in its usual way. If the weather holds tomorrow, we will be able to put in some grass seed and begin the rebirth of Rosie’s green (but now clean) yard.

We even had a special visit today from our old friend Jack Watson, whose house we cleared back in January 2006. He lives on Desire Street, just a house or two down from our friend Leroy Palmer. (For you old vets trying to remember which person he is, Jack was in our documentary Blessed to Be a Witness, telling us to hurry home to escape from the mosquitoes.) Justin drove down Desire, saw Jack on his front porch and decided to stop and say hello. Jack came back to Rosie’s with Justin so that he could greet all of the old-time veterans who met him two years ago. Shawny, Justin, Chris, Emily, Jed, Shane, Brianna H., and Elijah all gathered around to catch up with him.

We ended our day early (just after 5:00) to pursue an opportunity that has never presented itself in our prior trips: we attended a Mardi Gras parade. We were all a bit mystified going in, as it seemed like we would just be standing around on the street watching floats go by. We didn’t quite see how it would be very fun to go, but we’ve been encouraged to go by so many people that we made sure to work a parade into our schedule. This fun idea was made even better by the fact that we received new letters today from our sixth-grade penpals at Happy Hollow Elementary in West Lafayette, Indiana. They sent us Mardi Gras (or Valentines Day) cards that helped us to get in an appropriately festive mood for our chosen parade.

Our friend Lisa Trigo picked the Caesar Parade in Metairie, saying that it was the prettiest parade available with the most floats. Last night lots of parades got canceled, so we weren’t sure if we would miss out on the whole idea. Happily, the parade went ahead as planned. Lisa and her husband Bruce picked up big piles of Popeye’s chicken for us and even brought a card table to set up on the parade route. When the floats started rolling, we at first thought it felt like we were returning to some other decade. As we got into the swing of things, though, we had an unbelievable blast.

The general gist of Mardi Gras parades is that local groups called “krewes” plan floats around some loose theme and as they parade through the streets, they throw beads and other treats to the people along the route. As for us, our job was to jump up and down, wave our hands in the air, and yell “Throw me something, mister!” We turned out to be great at this job and before we knew it we each had a minimum of 25 beaded necklaces around our necks. Elijah and Obi probably had 50 or more each, making it difficult for them to lean their heads back due to the bulkiness of the beads.

There were prizes other than regular old beads to be caught as well. There were fancier versions of beads, including glass ones, stuffed ones, flashing ones, and ones that had big medallions on them. There were also all kinds of other prizes, including souvenir plastic cups, foam footballs (and a soccer ball, caught by one of our SMC soccer players: Mark), zippered bags, and even Mardi Gras underwear (thongs for both men and women!). When one marching group went by, the sound system kicked on our unofficial theme song of the trip: Boots with the Fur. Actually, we hate that song, but we’ve heard it so many times on the local radio station (2006 vets, it’s the new “Doncha”) that it is burned into our psyches. When it kicked up on the parade route, we danced like crazy people and had a great time. We stopped for beignets before heading home and giggled and laughed some more about the blast that we had tonight.
What a great NOLA day! Two more workdays ahead and then we pack and leave. Today’s work hours total 240; our running total has now reached 5006.

Serg keeps stripping the paint off the front of the house. After hours and hours a scraping the doors are almost ready for a fresh coat of paint.

The duplex’s are finally starting to look like a home. We can’t believe that only two weeks ago these walls were made up of just a bunch of studs.

Obi and Mark finish laying floors in the kitchen of 4009. They’ve got themselves quite an interesting and entertaining way of putting ‘em down.

The BLOKEs interview a Habitat worker for their group project.

Bryan and Eric meticulously glaze the windows in.

Erik makes sure the windowpane fits perfectly in the front door. We had a limited amount of glass, so we had to make sure we didn’t break any.

Comin’ in hot! Mark and Matt carry boxes of wood flooring to be installed in 4009. They were able to finally finish the floors. Way to go guys!

Brad putties a piece of glass to put into the front door.

Emily and Lindsay were some of the early risers who got to Rosie’s and installed flooring.

Bryan and Tommy install the last few panes of glass in the front doors of 4011.

Jed masterfully cuts perfectly measured pieces for the floor in 4009.

Justin, Chris, Scott and Shaine discussing ideas on how to make the kitchen look the best.

Lunch break in front of 4011.

Sanding off old paint is never a clean job.

As you can see, laying down the flooring involves many people and can be very messy.

Aaron wetting his whistle at the watering hole

Julie sanding the last part of the front door

An old friend, Jack Watson stops by to say hi to everyone

The Souljas after a long day at Rosie’s

Matt flooring the living room, which is the last room that needs flooring in 4009.

Too many beads. Too much fun.