House & Home

Hello
again…let’s not even talk about the weather!

Back in
Nelson. Back to work. Back to reality.

Tomorrow
we’ll be finishing off a porch rebuild. If handyman-ing was interesting in the
city, in Nelson it’s a whole new level of interesting! Let me explain a little
bit about Nelson to you first…

When I
call this place “Hippie Heaven”, I’m not just being cute. Nelson was originally
a mining center but the bottom fell out of that and for a long time it was an
economically depressed city. Economically depressed = cheap land. Why wouldn’t
hippies flock here? This is Nature Central. This was also a place without an
industry. Most folks created their own jobs, barely getting by and relying on
each other to make it through the tough times.

The
owner of our (well, actually everyone’s)
favorite coffee shop, Oso Negro, started by making coffee in his kitchen and
offering it to passerbys for 50 cents a cup. That’s just one example – you get
the idea.

Well,
one of the things people did back then (today too, I imagine) was trade
services for goods, rent, rides to the ski hill, etc. Ski Bum Joe might offer
to build Mrs. Smith a porch to make enough cash for lift tickets, or something
like that. Now, Ski Bum Joe probably wasn’t a carpenter, or anything remotely
close to a carpenter. But, hey, you look at some pictures, you smoke some weed,
and you’re good to go! Right?

Uh huh.

So,
basically, what we have here now is a whole lot of “creative” building which
Prez and I are often called in to “adjust”. We have seen some wacky stuff in
our short time here. And if the building isn’t wacky, then the client often is.
Like Gertrude, who wanted a shelter built over a trailer. She assured us that
it would be a piece of cake, as her son had already helped her dig the holes
for the posts, and she’d gotten all the lumber we’d need. Prez calculated the
span and figured we’d need 4 posts. Only 3 holes were dug and a tree was in the
way of where the missing hole should be. “But
we’re going to use the tree as the post!
” Gertrude declared, quite ecstatic
about her money-saving solution. Prez tried to explain to her about the
importance of having everything square and level, about how the tree was at the
wrong angle, about how if the tree grew (or died) it would throw everything out
of whack…Gertrude insisted everything would be fine.

The
determined Miss Gertrude then went on to say that I would not be needed. “I am a hard worker. I help you. Your wife
can go do something else
!” It took a lot of explaining to make this German
fireball understand that we always work together, and that we would charge the
same price whether I showed up or not.

Next was
the lumber. When Frau Gertrude calculated the lengths of lumber she would need,
she didn’t take into consideration the slope of the roof of the trailer cover.
So, yes, the span was 12 feet…until you factored in the angle and now you
needed 14 foot boards, not 12 foot boards. Oops! Not a problem, Gertrude
marched us (in an orderly fashion) to her storage shed where she had a
stockpile of wood. I’m sure if we had, oh, maybe, six or seven weeks to kill we
could have gone through all that mish-mash of boards and found what we needed.
But here’s the other thing: she needed that shelter built yesterday. Gott in Himmel!!

Luckily,
our quote was just too high for the lovely and highly energetic Gertrude. It
could be because I whispered to Prez, “Quote really, really, really high!” Or
perhaps it was just not meant to be.

Still,
we have had our fair share of Nelson characters. Claire, ex-half-owner of the
mouth-watering French bakery in town, is, by far, our most “detail oriented”
client. She calls us in for the tiniest jobs – which we do because, hey, free
bread! In December she called us to put up a couple strings of Xmas lights in
front of the bakery. “I know it eez
simple but I am zo beezy, I don’t ‘ave time to do it,
” she told us…and then
proceeded to stand next to us the whole time, directing where each light should
go (?). She also checks every product we use to make sure it is environmentally
friendly – but, then, that’s to be expected in Nelson.

You can
also expect to run into clients with names like “Snowflower” (I didn’t make
that up, FYI) and to be offered teas you’ve never heard of, such as “Chocolate
Roiboos” or “Machate” (both quite delicious, in case you are wondering). If
you’re like Prez and I, you have to learn to keep your face serious when folks
start talking about stuff like astrology and past lives – a subject I will save
for a later Chronicle.

Many of
the homes here are old…really old. To Nelson’s credit, they’ve done a stellar
job of preserving their heritage. But I gotta be honest, some of these homes
are complete tear-downs, unless you have Bill Gates type money.

Lisa
called us to do a whole bunch of reno’s on her older home. We were pretty
excited – walls knocked out, rooms moved, new flooring, porch rebuild, etc.
THEN, she took us to the basement to show us a few things and…oh my god. The
only thing holding this house up was wishful thinking; the foundation was
eroded and the support beams were not really being supported by anything. Oh
well, seems our quote was too high yet again!

The
project we’ll finish tomorrow we got through a local property manager we’ve
dealt with before. The owner of the house grew up in Nelson, in this house, but
is now living in one of the “Stans” – Kazakhstan, I think – and is renting it
out. I suspect the person that built the porch originally may have also been
from Kazakhstan! The support posts were set on nothing but plywood which, of
course, rotted away. The roof was so bowed from the snow load/lack of support,
it looked like it was smiling. We stayed on our toes, ready to run for our
lives, as the roof creaked and cracked with each pump of the jack. “One more,”
Prez would say, and as I’d lower the jack handle, I’d keep my eyes firmly on
the roof (and the 100lb blocks of ice that had built up on it).

It looks
much better now. This was just a fixer-up-er job, nothing we’d build from
scratch. But, what the heck, it’s a paycheque.

In other
news…

Ruth-Ann
& Harry (aka Mom II & HQ) have officially sold their house in Posada;
new owners take possession April 1st. How strange.

I’m
happy for them, I know they’ve been ready to leave for a little while, but,
still, it’s the end of an era for Prez and me. Last night I dug out the journal
I wrote on my first ever trip to Baja, and Posada, with Prez. The first Posada
entry was dated Dec.12, 1998. Here’s an excerpt:

We pulled into Posada around 5:00 and were
immediately greeted by Ruth-Ann and Harry Quarles (Fred’s neighbours). They are
so amazingly nice! Then several other neighbours came out to say ‘hi’. We had
beers with Ruth-Ann and Harry then unpacked a little…We had a lovely dinner at
the Quarles’s and then took a walk around the park before hunkering down for
the night. My first night in Posada – magic!”

Throughout
the two months we spent there, my entries frequently mentioned Mom II & HQ
– dinner, drinks, hanging out, etc:

Dec. 14

“Had a nightcap at Ruth-Ann and
Harry’s. Ruth-Ann is so cool; I hope I’m that active when I’m her age!”

I wrote
about how glad I was that Mom II took me to the boarding school for the Xmas
celebration – “It seems odd that, in my
effort to escape Xmas, I found the true spirit of the holiday in the most
unlikely place. I’m so glad Ruth-Ann took me along.”

We went
fishing together, diving together, kayaking together…and, of course, there were
the crib games – HQ & me vs. Prez & Mom II – “Later we went to the Quarles’s for crib and HQ and I started the year
off right by beating Fred and Ruth-Ann 4 to 0!”
Yep, HQ and I always won at
crib…as far as I remember.

It would
be obvious to anyone reading this journal, how much these two people came to
mean to me in such a short time. On Feb. 4, 1999, we left for home. I’ll never
forget how hard that was, and it hasn’t gotten any easier over the years:

Wednesday morning was tough; I didn’t want
to leave. Poor Ruth-Ann just hugged us and cried. ‘I feel like my kids are
leaving,’ she said. I don’t know how I kept my chin up. I’m going to miss
everything but mostly Ruth-Ann and Harry who are like family to me now.”

When
they go, I’m sure the folks at Posada will feel like their
friends/parents/sister or brother are leaving. For me, despite the good friends
that remain, the park will never be the same. Sometimes I have these moments,
like today when we were walking through a new client’s beautiful, big house,
when I get angry and wish that we had been more frugal with our money, invested
more and played less. Then I think of all the times we spent with Ruth-Ann and
Harry in that happy little house in Mexico, times no amount of money could
possibly replace, and I’m glad we invested in good times and friendship. I hope
the new owners of that house enjoy the love and the laughter contained in its walls.

I will
miss it.

QUESTION:
What house have you loved?

Until
next week, I hope this finds you healthy, happy & lovin’ life!

The
Princess

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