Archive:  Year 4 - Monday, August 24, 2009 "Demolished"


As I write this I can feel the grit lining the inside of my nose from heaving up the floors aboard The Road tonight.  In the 11 days since my last entry, the process of remodeling has taken several dramatic turns.  


The essential demolition happened really fast, which I understand from people who have done this before, is always the case.  Smashing, ripping, and throwing in a dumpster are the easy part…  So easy in fact, that in two days I had taken up all of the carpeting, all of the interior paneling and a bulk of the heaviest furniture.  By the end of the first week, I had removed the sink in the galley and the head, all cabinetry and even had time to organize my tool closet.  Friends came down to pitch in when they could – grinning at the opportunity to tear things off the wall and throw them into the fire pit.  Between the boaters and good buddies I easily got through basic wiring, heavy lifting, and emotional breakdowns.  Indeed, it turns out, people on the River are happy to give.


It looks very promising that I will be able to locate - and receive in time - a refrigerator/freezer that I’ve dreamed about.  It is made for boats and it has the same capacity as a regular home unit.  It saves on energy and is built side-by-side so that it can fit under countertops.  (Gasp)  It’s all the refrigerator I’ve ever dreamed of.  Fingers crossed.


The most exciting development so far, however, has been the serendipitous collide between myself and the Furniture Design department at The Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD).  Several months ago I purchased a furniture piece at an auction in Minneapolis.  It was a fundraiser for a friend’s neighborhood, and I had only gone because her art was up for bid and she assured me they had free wine.  Once there, however, I spotted an end table that made my heart flutter.  It was glass-top and circular, made with found materials and on wheels.  But not just any wheels, wheels that turned it only in a circle, but never around the room.  Perfect, for a house that moves.  


I won the bid and got the table for $50.  At the end of the night I introduced myself to the artist and got his business card.


Shortly after  “Sweat Equity” contacted me, I started thinking about what kind of changes I wanted to make aboard The Road’s interior, and it occurred to me that all of my furniture sucks.  It is simultaneously uncomfortable, unattractive, and impractical.  I longed for furniture that had multi-functions; could be a footstool and a bar, for example – or a couch with drawers.  I contacted the designer of my end table – Nate Moran – to see if he might be interested in making more pieces for me.  It seemed to me that it could be a win-win-win.  I get beautiful, custom furniture for the cost of the materials, he gets national exposure, and the network gets young, unknown designers.  Yay!


Nate emailed back to say that he would love to work with me, however he was getting married that week and then moving out of state.  In short, a little booked.  Instead, he suggested, that I get in touch with his alma mater, MCAD and see if their furniture design students would be interested.  ‘It’s an opportunity,’ he said, ‘that I think they would jump at.”


So I wrote an email to the career center at the college, briefly describing who I was and what I was after.  About a day later I got an enthusiastic call from a man named George Mahoney, who teaches Environmental Design.  The whole idea was directly up the alley of his class – designing pieces for specific challenging environments.  As luck would have it, their first day of class was on Monday the 24th (today) and if he could get green lights from the college in time – they could start right away!  He loved the idea of a tight budget, a short timeframe, and a practical application.  He loved the idea of the students having an unconventional environment to work with on day one; and especially, I think – he loved surprising them.


The college did give the requested green lights, and likewise, the DIY Network beamed at the idea.  


Today was the day for Capt’n D and I to begin the real upheaval of the floors, and as a result, the space was totally cleared of everything – a clean slate.  Mr. Mahoney brought his students to the boat around 4PM and the game was on.  From the student’s perspective, they arrived at the marina knowing nothing.  They arrived at MCAD for the first day of class and after enjoying a 3 hour lecture by him, Mr. Mahoney loaded them into a school van to take them to an ‘unknown’ location.  As they walked down the plank to toward The Road, he told them what who they were going to meet, and what they were challenged to do.


I was not, it has to be said, at my best.  Dirty and bruised wearing a wife-beater tank top and covered in bilge water…  All the same, my gratitude for their talent and their help trumped vanity and I explained, as best I could, what was going on and what I was looking for.  They are all in their early 20’s and, in many ways, an eerie snapshot of me and my classmates 10 years ago… Which is a new sensation for me.  As the baby of the family and often one of the youngest among my friends and colleagues – it was somewhat startling to be who I was in that room.  The client.  It sent not-unpleasant shivers down my spine.  


A little over an hour later we had made a lot of headway.  They took measurements and asked questions, I gave them a floor plan, and Grace licked their knees.  A week from now, on the 31st, I am going to the college to see their boards – the rough designs of the pieces, including fabric samples.  


They asked great questions including what are my favorite color schemes, how often do I have guests, how I would use the storage that was created.  I’m so thrilled and excited I could hardly say ‘thank you’ as Mr. Mahoney packed them back into the van and they drove away.


They were hardly through the gate, however, before Capt’n D and I had power tools in hand and were back to work.  By the time I drove out of the marina tonight we had taken up the sub floor down to the stringers in the back 3rd of the cabin.  We cut out rotten plywood and buttressed the support beams and generally kicked ass.  


Tomorrow, we’ll do it again.


By Thursday we should be able finish the floor and move on to the walls.  That will include resealing the windows, adding insulation, repairing water damage, and seeing to the plumbing.  Beyond Thursday there is nothing.  It is of little interest to me to plan, with much specificity, much more than three days in advance.  Doesn’t do much good, I’ve found.


In the meantime, of course, life carries on.  More than once I’ve found myself coming down the Boat from a Gangster Tour at the Caves.  Blonde wig and red high heels shuffling down the ramp and, as quickly as possible, emerging in paint-caked cut-offs and a (smelly) baseball hat.  Between the costume changes, the visiting students and the television cameras – many of my neighbors hardly know what to say.  They’re curious, to say the least – but primarily grateful for the constant stream of wood I’ve provided for the bonfires. 


I’m exhausted, delighted and totally overwhelmed.


My favorite.


Next Post: September 23, 2009 "Lights and Tunnels"

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WATCH THE FULL EPISODE of Sweat Equity featuring me and The Road:  First aired - DIY Network, 2010.

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