grumpy about the construction project (combat crawling toward the finish)

The reality is, not much work has been happening around here. Not nothing, but close to it for the past couple weeks. There were a lot of blank hours that could have been filled with the hum of various contractors doing stuff. I know it happens, but when you’re living in a trashy, filthy dump like we are for now, you just want things to move along.

* * * * * *

Drywall was supposed to be installed this week, starting Monday.

Instead of boards being attached to walls Monday, which is what I thought “starting” would mean, Greg the Drywall Guy came by to do a board count. The properly-counted drywall was supposed to be delivered Tuesday, so then “rocking” could begin Tuesday afternoon.

I thought it was called “hanging drywall,” but apparently they call it “rocking” now. It’s done by… go on then, you can guess… ROCKERS. Rockers rock the walls.

I really want to see what rockers look like. Long hair? Face paint? Spandex pants and groupie T’s? Big tongues?

I’m learning that drywalling is a bifurcated profession. There are the rockers and there are the bedders. The rockers rock, the bedders bed aka tape-and-mud. The latter guys are the high skill element of the trade – they apply tape to joints and do all that fancy mud work that makes not-flat walls look flat. It’s an art, in my opinion. Greg-the-D-Guy does the bedding, but he subs out the rocking.

Tuesday came but drywall didn’t. The truck broke down.

I’ve heard that one before.

Wednesday came and the drywall was delivered. Most of it, anyway. But no rockers. They were maybe going to make it in the afternoon.

Heard that one too.

They didn’t make it.

Thursday (today) came. They would definitely be here. In the afternoon. They weren’t.

Two guys showed up in the evening, two hours later than Greg anticipated. They had gotten lost, after stopping for a meal.

Heard that one too.

The rockers (I’m disappointed to report that they looked like ordinary men; no face paint) walked around the house with Greg and he showed them what they’d be doing. They were going to work until 7 pm and then come back tomorrow afternoon and Saturday. Greg left, and the guys promptly went into the garage and started texting on their phones and doing nothing. By the time we left for a quick dinner out with the kids (since they were going to be rocking the house), they were out by their car texting. When we got back 30 minutes later… they were gone. No rocking happened.

Apparently they were texting their boss, Greg’s sub, because they decided they weren’t being paid enough.

I’ve been promised a crew Friday morning, starting at 6:30 a.m., to get the job done.

Heard it. I do not believe it. Even if it actually happens, I will assume at this point that I’m hallucinating.

This is Greg.


I already like Greg for several reasons. One, he wears a shirt that says “Greg.” This keeps me from calling him “Gary,” which I seem to be wont to do. I’m so bad with names. Two, he’s cheerful and optimistic. Yesterday he encouraged me to be those things too, right when I needed to hear it. Three, even though things weren’t ROCKING around the house, he spent quite a bit of time here setting things up, fussing over where and how the boards were organized by the delivery guys, and getting some uniquely-shaped patch pieces installed. He seems to want things just so. Very maternal. Four, he says he wears stilts when he muds the ceilings, and he might let me give them a try. Greg seems alright.

In the photo above (if I were still lawyer, some stupid partner would have edited that to say “the above photo,” so thank goodness I’m not a lawyer anymore), Greg is talking to Erick Kurber, the Carpenter Guy. Remember Erick, the guy on the roof? Mr. Aristotle who invites you to put more “K” in your home? Gary — sorry, Greg (good thing about that t-shirt, I hope Greg doesn’t think it’s weird that I keep looking shiftily at his right pectoral) passed on this question that Erick was asking him: “Ask Carla if she’s having a cardiac arrest because the drywalling hasn’t started.”

Or something along those lines. I think Erick is mocking me.

And who wouldn’t mock me, what with all those parentheticals. JEEZ. It must be my head cold, and also the oil-based primer I put on some exterior trim and siding today. It’s making me loopy.

* * * * * *

While the drywall wasn’t getting done this week, at least insulation happened. Yes yes, I’m finally admitting it. That wasn’t a giant woodpecker that made all those holes in my walls, and it wasn’t a snake sneaking into the house. That was the insulation being blown into the wall cavities.

Today John the Mason came by and did the brickwork for the front of our house. Remember this elevation?


That space covered in Tyvek wrap is where brick went today. I sat in a chair nearby John and took pictures and watched him work for a good half hour throughout the day. He claims he doesn’t mind. I took videos and photos. It is an incredible art, what talented master masons do. John is a third-generation mason, and if you spend time with him, you can just sense that the craft is in his bones. He laid the entire wall with the help of a little level (which, as far as I can tell, he barely used) and a string. He didn’t need anything except his instinct to make the bricks plumb and level, and he placed them with careful attention to appearance and balanced tone.

He chatted with me as he worked. He talked about life, his family, his brothers, his work; and he taught me a little about his craft — how the bricks are laid and tied to the stud wall, how the mortar is mixed and handled, how to get it to stay on the trowel instead of fall off, why you leave a small gap between the wall and the masonry, on and on. I felt honored to sit and soak in some of his experience and wisdom.

Here’s John in his element.


The string thing. Somehow that little wood jig attaches to the grid and it lays the level line that John eyes for the next three or four courses of brick.


Here’s a view of the metal ties that provide a safety anchor to the stud wall in the mortar joint.



IMG_0563  IMG_0583

Look at how straight that wall of brick is. Eyes and hands is all it took. Beautiful.

Tool envy. Want. I don’t know what I would do with it, but I want a mini-mortar-mixer now. I want to pull it behind my car and use the car line when I pick up the kids. The way some people feel, all proud and showing off when they pull up in their Mercedes (Mercedeses?) and BMWs? That’s how I would feel about having this thing behind my station wagon.


And the finished product.



Nick trotted over and inspected it, just moments after John finished cleaning up. “WHY ARE THE LINES A DIFFERENT COLOR THAN WHAT IS ALREADY HERE?”

Already a critic. That’s my boy.

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