Monday, April 23, 2007

Inside The Walls Of New Bog

Well, having recovered my health (apart from a crown that is giving me gyp but won't succumb to showing its true colours at the dentist) I was forced to begin working on New Bog again. The level of tension has been mounting in Chateau Stevie over the need to use one bathroom for three people who seem to have synchronised their bathroom needs in some psychic fashion, so Action was being called for.

I had finished the small jobs like removing the remained of the sheetrock as far as I could during the last few weeks (in between the other jobs that sprang up), and Saturday afternoon was spent removing the last of the nails in odd places that had been overlooked. I also had to fit a new stud next to one of the old ones since the sheetrock could be cut back only so far and this had resulted in ending up with the wall ending exactly at the edge of a stud leaving nowhere to fasten the new panels to. This was no big deal, except ffor finding a stud at Home Despot that was straight, undamaged and of a reasonably uniform texture throughout. Selecting one took about 20 minutes of digging through the piles of crap. Home Despot used to carry decent quality wood, but about ten years ago they changed their supplier "to enhance the purchaser's experience" and the quality went south bigtime. Then there was some nonsense involving cutting the thing to avoid pipes that was entirely too involved for such a small job. Last of all came bagging up the bits of sheetrock cut back to about an inch from the tile, during which I unwisely snapped a piece of sheetrock over my knee without first checking for nails and managed to stab myself in the leg.

All that was left of the pre-walling jobs was the fiberglass insulation. Years ago I did this job in the downstairs bathroom ceiling and the fiberglass had so-called "kraft paper" facing for a vapour barrier and the glass wool surrounded by a perforated plastic cover so that you didn't have to handle or breathe the stuff. Needless to say, in the twelve years since I did this, the product has been enhanced and you can't get the plastic-covered stuff for luvnermoney. The kraft paper vapour barrier is glued to about 6 inches of open glass wool. This meant that protective gear would have to be worn during the installation.

Protective gear in this instance means that any skin must be covered, durable gloves must be worn, a respirator must be used and some sort of head covering. Basically, anything to stop the wool getting at your skin either inside or outside your body. Past experience has persuaded me that covering the skin with woven or knit textiles is little use either, since glass strands get lodged in the weave and penetrate that way. The last time I did the job I used a disposable spun-olefin jumpsuit with a hood. Since then I have gained a sight more manly relaxed muscle tone, and the uniform didn't fit. I would have to improvise.

When I work at almost anything that requires heavy concentration I perspire quite heavily. Always have, even when I was younger, fitter and thinner. Over the years as I worked on various outside construction projects I found that a white canvas baseball cap with a dark peak works best to alleviate the problem of sweating into my own eyes. The cap gathers the persiration into the peak which warms up and helps the moisture evapourate. The cap I use was available for use as a hood replacement. One down, several to go.

The respirator was also a non-issue as I have one, a real one, used when dust levels will climb to noticable levels on a job. Of course, it won't seal over my beard as it is. I used to crop my beard to a sort of fuzzy nap since the idea wasn't to have a beard so much as to have a face, which I've found I don't after shaving for a couple of days. Mrs Stevie made me grow my beard out to about an inch though, citing "scratchiness", and even though our contact these days is mostly via third party intermediaries and e-mail, such is the strength of her conviction on this matter that I generally opt for a longer beard and longer periods of consciousness. It would have to go though, so I trimmed it down to about 1/4 inch. Two down.

Nowhere could I find the old blue boilersuit I had for mucky jobs though, so I was forced to turn to an alternative body cover. I had, in my drawer of shiny man-made wearables, a Joe Weider sweat suit. Not a fabric thing to go jogging in, but an all-over PVC thing for making the wearer sweat. I forget what "logic" was behind the purchase of this wonderfully slick, shiny fashion statement, but it was just what the doctor ordered for fiberglassing. Well, it would have been if not for the tears in the trousers. Obviously, I had worn the thing on the treadmill and exceeded its design specs vis-a-vis stride-length. Not to worry, a few minutes with a heavy duty black, shiny garbage sack and some duct tape (blue unfortunately, the matching black was nowhere to be found) and I had effected repairs. Three down!

I hunted high and low for the box of disposable vinyl gloves I use for painting and glueing jobs but to no avail. I did turn up a box of old latex gloves bought before they started selling the vinyl ones so I reluctantly decided to go with those. The latex isn't really strong enough for long-term use unfortunately and ruptures in the rubber sometimes can go unnoticed. I would have to be careful, but it would seem all systems were now, in fact, go.

What a sight I must have made as I stalked manfully towards new bog, clad in a fetching mixture of black and purple PVC, latex and blue duct tape, my breath hissing Darth Vader style through the (rubber) respirator. I paused and reflected that it might be better to remove some if not all of the protective gear before going outside for any supplies. Although NYC has a nicely liberal attitude to novel modes of fashion, the suburbs of Long Island have perhaps not yet reached the levels of sophistication required to view such a costume as high fashion or work wear and I had no desire to spend another night in the cells trying to sort out a stupid misunderstanding.

And so it went for about three hours as I cut apart and removed the old insulation, some sort of untanned lizard hide/asbestos fiber concoction, and replaced it with precision cut lengths of glass-fiber insulation. The job had the usual moments of frustration, especially when it came time to split lengths down the middle to make them fit the narrower spaces. One of the problems is that the stuff has a sort of tab running down each side to facilitate stapling it into place. If you have to chop it into narrower strips (and if I remark that the stuff is actually made of several layers of mat to a depth of about 6 inches you will apreciate the trouble of that job) you will lose one of these anchoring strips and life gets tedious. Generally, though, the whole thing went well with one minor exception.

Remember I spoke about sweating when I do these kinds of jobs? When anything doesn't go right or begins to show signs of an out-of-planned-for-contingency excursion, I sweat (and swear) heavily. Add to that that the PVC suit is supposed to make you sweat (some people think you can lose weight that way. I tend to think you just develop heat prostration) and that the weather has finally broken and the bathroom was a torid 70 degrees F and you can perhaps appreciate that I was basting nicely by the time the job was done. Even the respirator was beginning to bubble since breath has moisture in it and it was condensing in the mask. Lovely. As soon as I was done I vacuumed the floor and beat a hasty retreat to the kitchen for some much needed pre-shower iced-tea, at which point Mrs Stevie and the Stevieling returned home from whatever they do on a Sunday morning.

As I stood gasping for air and gulping down vast quantities of iced-tea the Stevieling let out a squeak and said "Dad, you look really cool!"

I surfaced from my iced tea and said "Really. This is what passes for cool with today's young people? PVC clothing patched with contrasting duct tape and a sweat-soaked baseball cap?"

"Yep. And the colours are way cool!"

Great. My daughter is growing up in a world where haute coiture is indestinguishable from cheap sweaty fetish garb.


Anonymous said...

Ah, you fair brightened up a dull morning with another tale of manly construction.
I was particularly taken with the self-inflicted puncture wound. The questions remains, did you keep the gear for dropping the Stevieling off at school to impress her friends? :)

Anonymous said...

Sadly I was unable to keep the gear for any purposes.

Shortly after I encountered the Stevieling and drank the iced tea, the duct tape sticky became innundated with steviesweat and fell off. Mrs Stevie then came into the kitchen and interpreted my costume, now featuring an open crotch, in entirely the wrong context.

Since Mrs Stevie strongly disapproves of the cult kink scene she advised me in no uncertain terms that the costume was to be discarded ASAP uner pain of pain.