Sunday, February 23, 2014

Mouse house and kitchen

In the last post I mentioned a little hobbit door and apartment built into the steps to the little deck. Val calls it the mouse house, and here are some pictures. On the right is a human-oriented view:

Now a closeup:

And a view of the inside. There's a bed in there, too, but you'll have to come over for a visit to see it.

That's not all we've done, of course. The shell of the kitchen is complete, with the floor and trim all in place. We had to stop for a while so I could finish the refi (reduced interest to 3.6% from 7.5%) because they insisted that the place look finished before they would close. Now that that's over, we have resumed. Here's a look at the kitchen in a state the bank would accept: 
Yes, Val installed a pay phone. It takes money, too, though you don't need money to make or receive a call. You can see the gas, plumbing, and electrical connections poking out of the floor next to Max. They will be just inside the island counter cabinet, which goes between the two posts you see there. 
More pictures soon—we have returned the room into a construction zone again.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Moving back inside

So we got the outside painted, the deck in place, the railing around the little deck, and the heat pump installed on the west wall. Our original plan was to put the heat pump on the little deck, but they are so small and lightweight now, it made more sense to mount the thing on the west wall. It would be more out of the way, and we'd need to run a lot less copper to the air handling units inside. That leaves us with the little deck that we don't need, but I think it'll be fun to have. It gives us easy access to the roof (for chimney sweeping) and it provides egress in case of a fire.
The inspector wouldn't pass the bedroom because the window was one square inch too small to meet code for climbing out through. He tried earnestly to make it work, too, but that one inch remained. You can see the offending window in the picture at the right. Then he had the idea to exchange the library and the bedroom. The library has a door onto the deck! That'll meet code. We just had to install an electric baseboard heater, because bedrooms have to have heat. This photo shows the floor after Val applied three coats of urethane to it, by the way. The electric is finished now, too, as I write in mid December. I think we still have to put on the baseboards or it won't count as "finished." Pretty nice library, eh? It even has a book closet big enough for a teenage girl's clothes! You can see half of that closet in the photo. I should add that the girls—and the dogs, apparently— go out onto the deck roof on nice days. All four creatures seem to have the sense to stay away from the edge. Maybe I'll build a ladder down the front so they can escape if there's a fire. Oops—no egress.
You might find the steps onto the little deck interesting. Val built them. You can't see it, but the bottom panel on the left has a little sculpted Hobbit door in it, and when you open it, you can see a little apartment! A nice treat for visiting grandkids. So the upstairs is essentially finished.
However, downstairs needed some work. We got the insulation on both levels done and the dry wall on both levels. (later we found a bunch of empty beer bottles in hidden places when we were cleaning up. Apparently one of the dry wall guys kept himself refreshed the day he worked unsupervised.)
The downstairs floor was a different story. The floor was a concrete slab poured by the crook contractor five years ago. It served as a place to store lumber and firewood until we closed it in. The plan is to lay tubing down, then cover it with two inches of fine concrete, then tile that. Oh yes. We also had to rip out the entire wall on the first floor between the addition and the house. You can see the wall with the window removed. The white wall on the right also went. And we pulled up all the living room carpet. The new tile will unify the whole area by extending into the house. Here's what it looks like now.
Val took a bunch of pictures of the floor with the tubing zig-zagging across the floor but I don't have those yet. The concrete guys were fast and professional, and they returned several times to polish the semi-cured concrete. We can't walk on it for a week; since the new material is on existing concrete, the water generated by the curing all has to go up, so it takes a really long time to cure. The view in this picture, by the way, is from about ten feet to the right and closer to the addition than in the previous picture. That curtain up there would be left of and behind the photographer.
So now we get to twiddle our thumbs and watch the concrete set. At least were not in a corner! The inspector is scheduled to come and give us a certificate of occupancy as soon as he can walk on the floor.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Moving outside

So we finally got the outside done! It's rather plain, but we want to match the surrounding woods. The house is about invisible from the road. here's a shot with the addition in place, but only primer on it. Now the whole place is a nice rich brown. I keep thinking we ought to paint the trim, but that would make the place stand out, which we don't want. Here's a more recent shot underneath.
Yeah, I know it looks messy. Well, the place is still a construction site. I'll do some cleanup when I go home this coming weekend. That big empty wall above the front door'll make a dandy place to hang a seasonal decoration, don't you think? Oh--I should mention that the insulation company was Delmarva Insulation.
Then we got to work on the deck. We hired a Guy named Joe Oakes, of First State Building Design,, who does excellent work. (He also makes Murphy beds, which we plan to install one of in the library.)
We want an unobstructed view out the west doors, but also some shelter from rain and snow, so the deck has a roof. Joe dug the post holes well below the frost line, and made sure to fasten the parts that attached to the house to the house's studs and timbers. Since the original part of the house doesn't have studs, it was tricky, but the deck and its roof are very solid. We have ramps instead of steps for handicapped access and so we can pull garden carts up onto the deck. Also so visiting youngsters can ride their bicycles up and down them for additional excitement. (I have 15 grandkids, y'know.)
Here's what it looks like nearly finished. The deck has a gate on each end and one in the middle, all double gates. In the picture it looks like you could ride your bicycle right into the pool, but the inspector made us put a railing on the end. I might remove it, though, next summer. The deck is low enough to the ground to not really require a railing, and the easy access to the pool is nice.
So a final shot of the west side of the house. We still need to do some painting on the deck, and paint the lines from the heat pump, but it we'll have to wait until the weather warms up.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Addition Insulation

Two things keep a building from losing heat (or coolth) to the outside: insulation and lack of leaks. Plugging leaks is more important (you get more benefit for what it costs) but caulk isn't very exciting to photograph or talk about. Suffice it to say that as we built the addition, we ran a bead of caulk in every joint. Between the foundation and the bottom of the walls, for instance. Where the doors and windows connected to the walls, too. We even caulked the sheets of Tyvek housewrap together.

Now insulation, that's another matter. What we did was pretty exciting—foamed in place. You might remember that we staggered the studs in the exterior walls. This allows the insulation to be continuous, zig-zagging around the studs. No thermal break, they call it. It took the insulation crew several days to complete the job. Spraying the two-part chemical is rather messy, so they wrapped all the beams in plastic to keep them clean. When they spray it, you can watch the foam expand, a little slower than the stuff that comes in a can, but plenty fast.

The foam comes in two kinds, open cell and closed cell. Both are excellent insulators, and they both also make a pretty good seal (—as if caulking weren't enough. We have a very tight house). The open cell is a little more flexible—it's less likely to pull loose when the house bends; the the closed cell insulates better. And it costs a lot more. We elected to put closed cell under the roof and open cell in all the walls. You can see the foam squooshing out behind a stud in the picture. We told them to get the cavities completely full, and they did a really good job, in our opinion. When they were done, you could see every other stud, and the space was full. As it happens, they missed one hard-to-reach space in a corner behind a post, but I filled it up with expanding foam. Took a whole can. That's the corner in the picture.
Those pieces of lumber are parts to a yurt. More on that in a future post.
The difference in the temperature of the addition was remarkable. It was high summer when they insulated and the addition went from sweatbox to retaining the night's coolness all day.
Now on to the paint job and the deck!

Monday, November 18, 2013

More work on the addition

We let the project vegetate for most of the winter. Come spring, though, we had saved up a few dollars and were ready to resume, when the IRS said we need to send them more money. So we let the project vegetate until summer! At least we got a lot of the veggies in the ground, and some other work done.

Val always gets the gardening bug about February. I strung up a bunch of grow lights and the seedlings pretty much took over the south end of the living room. This is less than half of them. We had several hundred seedlings. As usual, the local herbivores got a lot of the produce, including the deer on the Jerusalem Artichokes. Fifteen-foot tall sunflower-looking things, leaves half eaten away. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Back to the addition. We decided to make the downstairs into a new kitchen. the existing kitchen is hard to use. Bad ergonomics. However, the new kitchen needs to have an island between two of the posts, and the island needs utilities: gas, electricity, and water, not to mention a drain.
We cut a trench through the concrete floor, which turned out to be almost twice as thick as specified. We had to go rent a larger diamond saw and use a jackhammer, but we got it done. the part you can't see underneath the photo is a hole about chest deep. We had to connect to the drain under the house. Fortunately I took a lot of pictures back when the floor was poured five years ago, so we knew where to dig. The guys who did most of the work knew what they were doing, and we now have four properly-installed tubes coming out of the floor right where the island will be.

All spring and summer I kept whittling away on the mound west of the house. It started out as high as I am tall, and extended from several feet south of the hydrant to the front of the near shed, about to the barbeque in the back of the photo. By the time I left for Columbus (more on that in a future post), it was gone. I removed the entire thing myself with a shovel and garden cart. Good exercise! You can kind of see the remaining two feet of one small corner of the mound to the left of the hydrant. Speaking of the hydrant, I also installed the hydrant. You can see the rain-collapsed dirt where I had dug the trench to the water line that goes to the shed where we keep the chickens. The board you see is holding a tape measure. I needed to make sure the hydrant was more than eight feet from the house. We planned to build an eight-foot-wide deck along the entire west side. More on that in a future post, too.
As summer progressed, we got the place painted and insulated. I'll show you some pictures of that in the next post.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Winter Solstice party invitation

If any of you readers are nearby, here's the text of an invitation Val and I are about to distribute among our co-workers. You're invited.

Apocalypse Party (original font: Blood of Dracula)

Okay, the world isn't going to end, but it is the winter solstice, which has been celebrated for centuries, maybe millennia; besides, Jupiter is in a good position to look at through a telescope or binoculars, not to mention the galaxy in Andromeda (the most distant object visible to the naked eye). Since I have a telescope, if the sky is clear, we'll take a look. Feel free to bring your own 'scope or binoculars.
Naturally there will be food and stimulating conversation.

When: about 6:00 PM, Friday, December 21, 2012
Where: 1314 Whittaker Rd, Newark, DE 19702 (Google it), home of Valerie and Rogers George. RSVP 302-731-5948 or
Who: You, of course. Our teenagers will probably be there, so feel free to bring your own non-adults. Alcohol is allowed, but hopefully it won't flow too freely.
What: We'll have some kind of entrée, and Val says she'll be making an apocalypse cake, whatever that is. We invite you to bring a contribution for the table, too.

This picture was taken someplace besides our house. Way farther north. But it looks like the solstice at noon.

Friday, November 09, 2012

Addition, part three

Well, the exterior is assembled. All it needs is a coat of paint; the primer should hold us for a while, though.

Here's a shot of the west side. I think it'll look better after we paint it. Everything to the left of the peak in the middle is new. We took off the cedar siding on the old part to make it look more uniform. The new siding is stuff called fiber cement. Very durable and impervious to about everything.

And here's a view looking at the northeast corner. The carpenter did a nice job joining the old to the new buildings. You can see the little deck with its own door and window. It has a sheet of rubber for its floor, glued atop an inch or so of foam insulation and an R-40 SIP. Total R-value of that part of the roof is about R-50. The major roof will probably be about R-44, good enough. We'll use sprayed-in foam, so it'll be without air leaks, too.

We'll paint the addition to match the cedar so it won't look so much like we glued a townhouse onto the place. In fact, Val is talking about a painting party. Lots of pizza for attendees! Details later.

One feature of those tall walls, since the structure is post and beam, is that they are not attached to the posts and beams. That means they can bulge and wiggle. This is not good, so I attached hurricane straps to the studs. Saved myself a pile of money by doing it myself, I hope. The wall feels nice and solid now. Sometimes the wall wasn't exactly perfectly flat, so I had to pull it in before fastening it in place. It took some jury-rigging with C-clamps and a come-along. If you eyeball the west wall, though, the addition is straighter than the original building. My repeated thanks to Martin Steinberg, the best neighbor in the world, for his advice and help on this and many other parts of the project.

So what's next? We need to run the water heater exhaust so it doesn't go into the addition space, we need to run the wiring, dig a channel in the concrete for the water and gas lines to the island, install fire block, and we need to insulate. Most of these I can do, but it'll be a while before we get to the insulation contractor.

The workmanship is pretty good, with lots of nice touches. For example, they put a piece of aluminum flashing behind the joints in the siding as additional rain protection, in addition to caulking the seams. The furring strips you see make the new siding on the original structure match the siding on the addition, since the two buildings didn't quite line up.

The carpenters were Amish, and they prefer not to be photographed, so I took a pic of Isaac or Levi's  hat.

As always you are welcome to come out and see the place first hand, and you can look at lots more photos in Picasa.

Thursday, October 04, 2012

Ah, the vicissitudes of putting an addition on your house

Actually, the project is coming along rather well if you don't mind reasonable delays. And most of the delays are reasonable. It has rained almost every day the guys had to work outside. We had to wait two weeks for both the windows and the floor joists. The joists arrived a couple hours later than expected, and so did the flooring, but they guys were able to keep busy while they waited for those; rebuilding the cricket.
As always, click the pictures to see them bigger
A cricket is a small roof you build to prevent water from accumulating in a place where the roof doesn't slope, such as where the south edge of the addition attaches to the old north edge of the house. Here's a shot of the incomplete new cricket. Eyeball the edge of the roof and the top of the cricket, and you can see that the angle is the same for both. This will keep the water channeled away, and save lots of grief years from now.

The building inspector did throw a noticeable monkey wrench in the gears, though. The guys from Brobst Home Improvements did a nice, standard job of sealing the windows and doors into their openings, but the inspector insisted on an additional flashing along the bottoms of the openings. Everyone I talked to said he was crazy. But the guys came out and re-installed them. Here's a shot of the opening with the flashing in place.

Well, I guess the house won't sink now if we get a flood. They re-caulked, re-nailed, taped, and re-installed doors and windows without complaining.

The big event of the day, though, was the floor joists. Hugh Lofting Timber Framing made their last delivery today—a nice truckload of big timbers, all of them about twice as long as necessary so the guys could cut them to the exactly correct length, and get two from each timber. That one post that had been out of plumb for the past couple weeks is now nice and vertical. The floor joists fit into slots in the main timbers, so they are not trimmed to a special shape. This made them useful for other projects, so as my pile of timbers vegetated in Hugh's parking lot, most of the joists got called into the ministry, as it were. Which meant that all but about three of the joists are new wood. I joked with the delivery guy that the new timbers didn't match the old ones, and he said he could make them look weathered and dirty, but there'd be an extra charge. The Amish guys offered to get some of the abundant mud around the site and rub it onto the beams if I liked. So nice-looking ceiling beams will be part of the story of the house, too.

The timbers had to be lifted into place by hand, then pounded into their slots with a sledge hammer. The fit was pretty tight. I don't picture the house coming apart any time soon. This shot shows the view from the upstairs boy's bedroom. You can see his air conditioner. That part of the wall will be hallway into the addition. Good thing he's enlisting, because pretty soon, his bedroom will be gone!

The flooring is good-quality 16-foot by 8-inch full dimension tongue and groove pine (or is it fir?). You can get poorer quality, but they are the dickens to get to fit together. The good ones go together nicely with a few hammer blows. Here is the partially-completed deck floor. You can just see a chisel in the doorway. He used it to pry up the sill so he could fit the floorboards under it. They had put in spacers, but it was very tight. It amounted to lifting the entire roof of the addition to slip the boards under the sill.

Since we're trying to keep this project mostly cash, we're stretching things out to spread out the payments, so the only flooring they put in was for the little deck, the opening that stimulated my Rube Goldberg rain protection these past couple weeks. (See two posts previous. It worked, by the way.) The rest of the flooring is stacked inside the addition to keep it out of the rain. The plan was to build some rafters on the deck floor so we could insulate the kitchen ceiling underneath the deck. As it happened, Hugh had a couple SIPs lying around, so he sent them down with the joists. They cut a SIP to fit and laid it on the flooring. We now have a nice R-40 ceiling under the deck.

SIP, in case you don't know, stands for Structural Insulated Panel, and it's what a lot of the exterior walls of the house are made of. You take two sheets of something like plywood, space them six or eight (or more)  inches apart, then fill the cavity with high-density foam insulation. You get something that is air tight and has a very high R value. They are tongue and groove along their edges, and you can get them with electrical conduit pre-installed. SIPs are usually made to order, take eight weeks to arrive, and are quite expensive. The SIPs Hugh sent were a little beat up and weathered; maybe I'll get a good price for them. Here's what the deck SIP looks like along an exposed edge. It has a temporary tyvek cover to keep rain off.

We'll put a railing around the deck, and cover up that exposed corner. The railing will have a built-in stile so we can easily climb onto the roof when the need arises. The plan is to have a rubber coating put over the SIP to be the floor of the deck itself. The Brobst guys will do that next time they come out.  I hope they don't delay.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Post 200

By some amazing coincidence, this is the 200th post on Mushrooms to Motorcycles, and the 200th post awaits my pen (okay, keyboard) on my other site, The Writing Rag. And today is my brother's birthday (not 200th, though). And today is Talk Like a Pirate day. I have to do something about this. Maybe I'll write about pirate lingo in The Writing Rag, but I suppose it makes sense to write about my brother here.
Bob (the rest of the world outside family calls him either Hey You! or Rob) is 16 months younger than I, and my earliest datable memory is of his arrival in our home. I remember being picked up, held over the basinette, and being told "This is your brother!" I also remember thinking "What's a brother?" and "If it's mine, why can't I have it?"

We were playmates throughout our childhood, and I was often guilty of treating him poorly. To this day I can't think why this was so, but I remember the first day I didn't cause a fight all day long. We were well into grade school. He has since been an example to me of how to treat people well.

When we were kids, he wanted a goat for a pet, and we eventually got one. Dad rigged up a goat harness for our wagon.

 Fortunately for me, I grew out of being a jerk, and he forgave me. We have been close all our adult lives, ever since Jr high school or so. When I began to grow up. Bob would probably say I ain't growed up yet. He likes to rib me, and I let him—I consider it fair penance for having mistreated him so badly when we were kids.

Anyway, Bob has become one of the foremost building energy management guys in the country. It started with a part-time job at a heating and air conditioning company when he was in school, and except for his time in the military, he never left the industry. (Unlike me, who has had several unrelated careers over the years.) He regularly consults on projects from large businesses to peoples' homes. He knows everything about heating and air conditioning at any size scale, and he can handle everything from the nuts and bolts to the rather complicated math of designing an air handling system. He regularly teaches classes on assorted related subjects, and he's been involved with energy management training videos, even starring in one. And he's always willing to share what he knows and give free advice. He's a good guy with useful skills. Unlike me, who can only correct people's grammar.

Bob's hobbies are scuba and blacksmithing. We have several iron implements in our house that he made for us over the years. He wants me to get into blacksmithing, too, and maybe when we finally get the addition done, I'll have room in the shed to set up a smithy.  Here are a couple of his wrought-iron implements:

He also rides a Harley, and he's had several over the years. He got his first bike (a Harley 50 cc 2-stroke) when he was in late high school or early college.
I suppose I better show him on a more recent bike. The pillion is my wife. Maybe he'll add a comment and include a photo of his current ride, a nice Harley with a custom sidecar.
Bob cleans up pretty well. Here's a photo from the last time we were together. I still think I could take him in a wrestling match, but I'm not going to try to find out—He was an airborne ranger (Lt. Col, ret), and he's pretty loyal to his military service.

Happy birthday, bro.

PS he sent me a shot of his side hack, so here it is:

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The George Family North-Side Saltbox

Four years ago we started to put an addition on our house, then the contractor ran off with all our money. Late this summer we had recovered our finances enough to resume the project, so we did. I kept after him, and he did a year in prison, by the way, and he owes me most of my money back.

Here's where we started (click any of the photos to see full size):
The right side of the panorama is a concrete slab about 27 feet square. The left side of the picture used to be a two-car garage. That phase of the addition is done—Val and I put a lot of sweat equity into it, and we have a nice handicapped-accessible living space there for Val's grandmother. You can't see it, but there's also a pile of timbers in Hugh Lofting's parking lot. (He's the grandson of the author of the Dr. Doolittle books.) Hugh brought the timbers down on his crane-truck, which he had to park right in front of the slab, so I don't have a good picture of the completed timber frame, but here's a shot from on top of the truck of the first set of timbers, called a bent:
That whole downstairs wall, including the front door, is scheduled to be removed, so the addition will about double the size of the living room side of our downstairs. Within two days, the Amish guys had the frame about completed:
They got the roof on and the sheathing in a couple more days, and we passed both building inspections. This shot shows the east side of the addition. That door opening up there will go out onto a small deck, where we plan to put the heat pump compressor.
You can kind of tell that the exposed studs look unevenly spaced. That's because they are staggered 2×4s on a 6-inch plate. When we get to insulating, there won't be many pieces of wood that go all the way through. This produces an insulation value equivalent to SIPs, but at lower cost, and we don't have to wait six weeks for the SIPs. And I don't have to pay for the insulation until we have it foamed in. We're doing the project with cash, so the goal right now it to get it all enclosed, then work on the inside piecemeal as we get the cash. 

Here's a shot of the inside, facing the west wall. You can see the roof of the chicken coop through the opening. Those openings on the bottom will contain 6-foot sliding doors:
We don't have the beams for the upstairs floor yet, so right now you can see clear to the underside of the roof. When the beams arrive, the Amish guys will come back and put in the floor and attach the siding. I have another contractor lined up to install the doors and windows, and he'll do that right before the siding goes on. We got contractor's price on the windows, which are low-E glass, argon-filled, and very resistant to heat loss, and a decent price for the doors. But now I'm broke.  

Remember that little deck I mentioned? Since the floor isn't in yet, it's a 12×5 hole in the roof, and the rain can pour in. We covered it with an old tarp, which leaked so much it was like not having anything there at all. And the wall plates are caulked to the concrete, so I had to vacuum out all the water. Then I covered the opening with some leftover Tyvek, which is waterproof. But it was windy the next time it rained, and the Tyvek tore in half, dumping all the water inside. Today Val warned me that Big Rain was scheduled for tonight, so I repaired the Tyvek job, and so far it's holding up, but it looks like a Rube Goldberg with all the improvised bracing. Here's a view of the underside of the cover. There's more on the outside. 
I have more than 200 photos of the project so far, not counting about 400 from four years ago. If you're curious to see more of this phase, here's a link to all 200 pictures.
Some of the photos look identical. They are stereo pairs. if you arrange them so they are side by side on the computer screen, then cross your eyes so the images superimpose, that middle picture becomes 3-dimensional.

Stay tuned for more exciting adventures of the creation of the George Family North-Side Saltbox.

Friday, July 20, 2012

A good first job for a kid

A century ago, when I was a young man, I worked several summers for some seed companies. I'm not too much into agribusiness any more (I'm more a local, sustainable type now), but I ran into a poem I wrote about it, and it reminded me of the job of detasseling. If you've ever detasseled, you know what I'm about to describe, and I invite you to comment.

Many seed companies sell hybrid seed corn. Hybrid means it's a cross between two or more varieties of corn, and it's quite a science. Corn pollinates by wind distribution. How do you get the corn to cooperate and not self-pollinate? What you do is plant four rows of one variety, called the female rows, and one row of another variety, called the bull row. Alternate like this across the whole field, (In the Midwest these fields can be a mile long, but more often half a mile). The bull row provides the pollen from its tassels. And you do not want any pollen from the female rows! 

Solution: hire a bunch of kids to show up at the crack of dawn, a couple days before the tassels on the female rows mature, and pull the tassels off. A kid can walk two rows at a time, one row for each hand, so you need two kids for each set of four female rows. It's entirely normal to have a crew or fifty kids start on one end of a field, and when they get to the end, line up for another set of rows and come back, and work like this until the field is done. It typically takes a couple of trips through a field over a couple days to get all the tassels. 

That early in the morning the dew is heavy, and the pure water immediately soaks into everything. Corn leaves have scratchy hairs along their edges. and some of the corn can be pretty tall. And it changes from cold and wet to sunny and blisteringly hot as the day progresses. And you have to pay attention to what you're doing; tassels are easy to miss. My job was to follow the kids and check for quality and problems. 
We had a lot of adventures. Center pivots watering the field were not a reason to get out of the field. You walk through puddles left by last night's thunderstorm, too. The occasional snake and gopher usually caused some excitement. I remember one girl, extremely citified and dainty, hairdo and nail polish and everything, actually caught a live grasshopper and held onto it until the end of the row because I had promised that if she did so, I would eat it alive. Which I did. I'm sure it was the first insect she had ever deliberately touched. Good experience for her. 

So it's a good first job; simple, but hard.

Now go read my poem.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

In which I reveal the true Olga

Stop! If you haven't already, go read the post before this one. You need it for background. Then come back here.

After the social disaster on the evening of Mr. Kelly's concert, it took me a lot of lattés (for me) and generous tips (for her), but I finally persuaded Olga to let me take a picture of her. While I was at it, and in demonstration of my sincerity as a photographer, I was able to get snaps of the other waitresses at 49 West, too. I show them now for your viewing pleasure. Guess which one is Olga:
Mystery waitress 1
Mystery waitress 2
Mystery waitress 3
When you have made your guess, ask Jack for the answer.

To tell the truth, what convinced her to let me take the photo was my wife, whom Olga likes, and who came down to visit me this weekend so we could celebrate her birthday together. She, but actually both of us, had a Very Good Time. She has since thanked me several times for the weekend. Part of our date was a tour of the Annapolis Spring boat show down on the waterfront. There was a vendor there selling buttons with mottoes on them. Val insisted on getting me a button that said "I am a Cunning Linguist." I guess it's a reference to my grammar blog, The Writing Rag, on which I featured some birthday poems for her.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

I had lived in Annapolis just over a year, now, and it was time to get out and check out the night life. Actually, I have visited several parts of town, mostly on foot, but tonight was Friday night, I was alone, and I felt, well, Friday-nightish.
My favorite coffehouse, 49 West, had advertised a concert in their cramped back room: William Kelly, a high school kid who played classical piano. Just my kind of concert. So I got my name on the reservation list,  put on some clean clothes, and hopped on my bike, a 1993 BMW K75s. (More about the bike in future posts.)
Not my bike, but it looks about like this one in blue

I arrived early, figuring on doing some writing ( I'm working on a poem that'll appear on these pages sometime soon). Wouldn't you know, the kid was going to begin performing in only a few minutes! I had gotten my name on the list for the late concert, and he was performing early. (The late concert was a Bossa Nova/Gypsy Jazz group that I had no interest in.) They let me sit in the back—the room had several empty seats.
I settled in and ordered my usual, a large latté, and a sandwich. My waitress was a raven-haired beauty named Olga who spoke with some kind of Eastern European accent. She was nicely dressed that evening, wearing a blouse of the type I like my dear sweet wife to wear (and that she likes to wear for me—eat your hearts out, guys). She leaned over as she served me my sandwich, and I commented that the scenery in Annapolis was particularly nice this evening. She smiled thanks and winked at me. I noticed later that she made sure to be facing my direction when she served the next table.
Unlike Olga, Mr. Kelly was not much to look at. Scraggly long hair (fit right in with the old definition of long-hair music), he let his mouth hang open when he relaxed, revealing crooked teeth, and he wore thick glasses. But his playing was amazing! The entire concert was Brahms and Chopin (pronounced show-pan, guys, not like what you do to wood with an axe) and it wasn't easy stuff. His fingers were blurry they flew so fast. At first I wondered if he was a savant, but he spoke articulately and with a sense of humor (he cut the break short, saying he'd rather fidget, so he played some more lightning-fast Chopin.) Then I figured he had absolutely no social life, until I learned that the cute redhead at the front was his girlfriend Megan, not a loyal sister who got all the looks in the family. The kid was just plain talented, and I enjoyed the concert.
Afterwards, as I settled in for an evening of writing in the front room, Olga pointed at my helmet and asked what kind of bike I had. I said it was a BMW, and she got this funny look in her eye. Did I happen to know a BMW rider name of Jack, kind of big, and extremely funny? Has this baby seal look? As soon as I had raised my eyebrows in surprise, and before I could say yes, she stiffened up and was pretty cool the rest of the evening, in spite of my best efforts. I got a lot of writing done.