Mary: February 2004 Archives

Home Maintenance

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I note here, for the record, that I have just now, at 3:00pm on February 28, 2004, replaced the light bulbs outside both the garage door and the front door, using Aero-Tech "Rough Service" 20,000 hour light bulbs. These bulbs have heavy-duty filaments and five support wires and an "expensive krypton rare gas mixture" and a reflector disk and a corrosion-resistant brass base. They are supposedly "America's finest quality lamp". I note this because I am curious to know how long they will actually last.

My life is one continuous episode of This Old House. Our house was built in 1950, or part of it anyway. The original house was very small, but in 1965 the living room was converted to a bedroom (now Mike's room) and an addition was built that added a new living room, dining room, and, uh, a room that I guess is called a "den".

The house has been extended in other ways-- a small greenhouse was added off the basement and an additional basement room was dug. A back porch was added onto the den, but it's gone now, replaced by a patio.

The house has been owned by a series of Do-It-Yourselfers. Building codes? We don't need no stinking building codes. Nothing in the house is of standard size. I have to cut an inch off furnace filters to fit them in the duct. As things break down and give out, repairmen come and scratch their heads and point out where things have been rigged up and cut down and codes have been blatantly violated.

Masonry outfits and roofers and landscape architects and tree services leave flyers and coupons wedged in the front door and hanging from the knob.

Repairs snowball. The furnace gave out last week, and the furnace guys scratched their heads and crawled around trying to figure out where the power for the furnace was coming from, finally discovering that the line for the air conditioner had been tapped for the furnace. Not to code! Although why this should be a problem I can't imagine, since the furnace and air conditioner are never run simultaneously. But an electrician was called in to add a new line for the furnace, and he cut seven holes in the ceiling of the family room in the basement.

I called the Minor Maintenance Company to replace the drywall in the ceiling. When the man arrived I could have handed him a "to do" list that would have kept him occupied for several days, but I have to prioritize. I did have him remove the old doors off the fireplace, and I had him install a window-well cover over one of the basement window wells.

I had the most fun last night that I've had in a long, long time. In an earlier post I wrote that I'd recently gotten my old guitar out and started brushing up on chords. A friend had invited me to play with the Virginia Hills Bluegrass Band. She'd told the other members that I was a violinist, and they'd expected me to show up with a fiddle, but I knew I wouldn't be able to improvise on the violin and that I'd have better luck with the guitar.

Having agreed to do it, I'd started to have second thoughts. The VHBB gets its name from Virginia Hills Baptist Church, where these folks had played for a couple of Sunday services until some members of the congregation complained that the music was "inappropriate". (Could it have been the washtub bass that just didn't look right in the sanctuary? Or did the woman playing the spoons put some people off?) Because I'm not a Baptist, I was going to be an outsider.

I'd originally planned to join the VHBB for a night of music in December, but I'd been relieved when my friend had had to cancel due to a scheduling conflict. In January I'd cancelled with the excuse that I thought I was coming down with the flu. This month, I felt I had to go.

As we tuned our instruments I still wasn't sure I wanted to be there, but as soon as the music started it had a magical effect. What is it about music?

The core of the group consists of two men, both grandfathers, who have been playing together for many years. One plays the guitar and the other can play several instruments but plays the mandolin on most numbers. They frequently perform at nursing homes and such, where a woman who plays fiddle usually joins them. She wasn't there last night, but my friend had brought her own violin and filled in.

The hostess plays piano, but only joined in on a few pieces. I was playing guitar, of course, and in addition we had a washtub bass and a variety of percussion "instruments": a washboard, spoons, a pair of maracas, a tambourine, a pot that was banged with a ladle, and a genuine snare drum.

The effect was amazing. We (notice how quickly this group has gone from being "they" to being "we" in my mind) sounded great. Not refined, mind you, but exuberant and joyous.

I had no trouble playing along. The music was easy to play. Almost every song was in the key of G; the rest were in D. With four chords: G, D, C, and A7, one could have played ninety percent of the music. A typical chord pattern for a song was G D G C D G D G; rinse, repeat. No song ever modulated into a different key; I didn't play a minor chord all night. By watching the left hand of the other guitarist I was able to keep up. People were fairly impressed by this, but they needn't have been: it's easy when you only play four chords all night. Besides, you get a feeling for the chord changes after a while. More than twenty years ago I learned a Bluegrass style of finger-picking, and it fit most of the songs. Simpler finger-picking fit the rest.

Every song was played "up tempo". No matter how you may have heard Church in the Wildwood played before, when we played it last night it sounded a whole lot like Wabash Cannon Ball, which we also played.

The joy was so irresistible that I couldn't restrain myself from singing along on "I'll Fly Away" and "Mama Don't Allow". We had a small audience of folks from the Baptist church, relatives, and friends. The highlight of the evening came when a very old gent got up off the sofa and danced a little jig.

We played for two and a half hours and never repeated a song. By the time we quit the fingers of my left hand were causing me great pain.

July 2012

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