Tuesday, January 14, 2014

End of Summer 2012

These last few months that have composed the year of 2012 have been very busy for me and have not allowed much time to work on the house. Since my last posting I have done nothing but maintenance and repairs. I have visited several times but only to drop off stuff and pick up other stuff and leave the next day. Much of this was in preparation for our move to Portland, ME.

Finally at the end of September we are settling in to our new home and I am again feeling the tug of the Great North Woods. I am rekindling my determination to continue this project that still has so far to go. If I could put in only 2 days of work each month I would be happy! It would amount to at least some progress and the project would be moving slowly forward rather than this perpetual standstill. Things that don't move die and I can't let that happen to this project! I've still got big plans!

My past few visits have not allowed enough time for any substantial work to be done but I have done plenty of dreaming and scheming. There are a few repairs and work that must be accomplished soon before rot sets in. Some areas may already need replacement. The flashing on the eves of the tower and kitchen need to be installed and I need to once and for all replace and reconfigure the roof that covers the camper. In the same realm there is the decking surrounding the pine tree at the center of the house that needs to be opened up around the trunk. Soon I must finish covering the rest of the house with exterior siding of one sort or another. The biggest trick in that regard is the finish of the exterior of the tower. That will require a scaffold tower. I can see no other safe way to do it and it must be done soon. Lastly, to finish the outside, besides painting there are still sections of the foundation to be filled in. After that the house will be much safer from the ravages of Mother Nature.

Because I have nothing to talk about in regard to what I have done on the house, I would like to elaborate on a portion of my maintenance routine: the vehicle situation. These machines compose a list of very important tools or future projects. They are all components that make up my dream of this place here in Monroe. Unfortunately it is without some small amount of maintenance that they quickly fall ill or in some cases begin dying right before my eyes. Each of the following machines must be have their fluid levels checked, engines started, run, and brought to operating temperature.
The John Deere tractor is most critical to this project. It is a 32HP diesel powered machine with a front end loader and an eight foot backhoe. I have used it to clear and level areas for the house, parking areas and driveway. I used it to dig a trench for the electrical line, and a trench for the water line, pump pit and the small well itself. It was also essential to the building of the septic system. I continue to use it regularly for a variety of purposes including snow removal in the winter.
Next I must mention my two Stihl chainsaws. At the beginning of this project the one I started with was my only means to serious cutting. I used it to cut all the lumber to build the main section of the house before it was hooked to the grid. Now the saws are used to cut firewood, an essential fuel source as none of this would be possible without heat in the Winter, the season in which I have done most of the construction. Rarely am I at Monroe that I do not need a fire for heat.

I also have a little Yamaha 125cc motorcycle that I use to ride to the other end of the property and back. I like to have a look at the property every now and then to be sure that nobody is logging my land or whatever

The Suzuki Sidekick is an efficient little runabout. A Sidekick is a small Jeep-like 4cyl. 4X4. It was given to me by my friend Kris Smith. I want to keep the Suzuki alive because it is such a fun car to drive. It will someday be an excellent touring vehicle to explore the surrounding countryside. It may also be a good racing car for the track I plan to build... but that is another project!
Another fine racing machine that I must keep running is the 1968 Dodge Charger. The Charger is getting harder and harder to start. I will have to drain the gas soon and refill the tank. It's going bad.

Sadly I've had to let some die. I could not continue to maintain them without sacrificing more time from the house. Someday I hope to atone for these tragedies and rebuild them to running condition and use them as race cars on my future enduro dirt racetrack.

Some honorable mentions:
'96 Subaru Impreza
                           1988 Chevy S-10
'83 Chevy Silverado.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Dec 2011, on to 2012!

In December of 2011 my little family of three and three little cats loaded ourselves and gear into my Dodge pickup truck and headed to Maine. The 6 hour trip went as well as one could hope with Oscar sleeping for most of the drive.
Soon after our arrival we were settled into the recently finished bedroom with a fire raging in the little wood-burning stove. It would take a day or so before the place would really be truly cozy as all the wall cavities take time to fill with warmth to create an "envelope". During a stretch of cold weather the holes in the envelope always become more apparent and I must turn my attention to sealing them up. This visit was no exception.
Our stay lasted for two weeks. It was a good chunk of time, however my progress was very slow. I really don't know where the time went. I do know that my attention to each project was continually divided. There always seemed to be some sort of Oscar-related incident to attend to and Sarah needed time for herself too which required me to do a little babysitting. Even a brief disturbance would throw off my rhythm of work. At the end of each day I would look at what I had accomplished and was amazed at how little I had done. I was used to accomplishing so much more. Frustrating as it was there was something very satisfying about having my little family there. Wasn't that the whole point?
Those days did give me some insight into my process. I am like a ten speed bicycle missing the first five gears. It is very slow and difficult to get moving until I can build some inertia. Once moving I can go very fast; until I am brought to a halt. Once stopped I must start all over again, slowly gaining momentum, eventually working into a rhythm that allows me to build with speed. I think this is why I have trouble working with others, whatever the project happens to be. When others get involved I am too concerned with explaining and delegating to get really deep into the process. And because there are no construction plans I compose the assembly and end result in my head as I work. If that visualization is interrupted it can take extra time to recall and usually requires back steps to begin building momentum again.

I did accomplish some things. At the very forefront of my goals was to make my woman comfortable: my best hope for making my life and my work comfortable. The bedroom had been finished and painted on our last visit so that was a good start. The door was still missing (yet to be custom built) so we hung a sheet and that seemed good enough to contain the room as somewhat of a sanctuary, separate from the construction zone. A little space heater was also added to supplement the wood stove on especially cold days.
Another bold step in the effort to keep wifey happy was to purchase an iphone some weeks before our trip. It was something I felt I had no need for personally, but when enabled could act as a "hot spot" for her to be online. Later I was to find that for myself it is a very useful device.

My first project, still in the vein of making the place more comfortable, was to get the hot water going. I had plumbed the lines to the kitchen and installed the sink on a previous trip. The lines to the shower and bathroom sink I had also plumbed two years prior, late one sleepless night. All that was left to do was to fill the water heater (also installed two years prior) and wire it to the breaker box with heavy 10 gauge. I had delayed this step for quite sometime, mostly because I was used to roughing it and felt I did not need hot water, and partly due to the nagging fear at the back of my skull that all hell would break loose as soon as I put water through this system. My track record at putting pipes together that did not leak was so far quite abysmal. But it was a step that must be taken so I opened the valve and let the tank fill. So far so good.. until the tank filled and water rushed through the pipes and blew out the seams in three different places. I quickly turned off the water and sopped up the resulting mess. Eventually after some repairs and a few more tries, the system held and I could announce to my lovely bride that she may now wash her hands with hot water whenever she wished. That made Sarah very happy, Oscar however seemed unimpressed and aloof. Now to the shower stall..

The shower is an odd shape, and entirely custom. In keeping with my resolve to make every project in the house weird and complicated, this job would no doubt take a long time to complete. In previous trips I had by degrees managed to build the wooden 2X3 frame of the five sided shower stall and even collected some of the cement board required to sheath it's inner walls, over which I would eventually tile. The floor or shower pan was in itself a complicated project. That too I had assembled (for the most part) three years prior in our little apartment in Wellfleet. It consisted of a layer of cement sloped toward the drain in the center of the pentagonal pan. On top of that a layer of rubber roofing material fitted into the drain housing with an excess on the outer edges to complete the seal up the sides of the stall. On top of that a layer of thin-set cement and over that I had pieced together and glued down a colorful octopus mosaic of broken plates (donated by our neighbor, Janet). All it needed at that point was for the mosaic to be completed around the edges so that it would climb to an even point around the bottom of the walls where tiles would begin. First I had to hang all of the cement board in the stall. Then grout, then sealer; and Bob's yer uncle!
That whole process took awhile. After a multitude of distractions, unrelated maintenance and cutting firewood I finally finished the floor of the shower. I did not have the time or enough materials to tile the walls so I hung a plastic sheet around the inside of the shower so we could use it. At that point we were at the end of our two week stay and it was now 2012.
Showering that evening felt really really good. I thought back to when I had first started the house, before the electricity and the septic system. I remember January of '08 sleeping on a moldy sofa pulled up next to the wood stove curled up in army surplus blankets. The shack at that time that I had built with a chain saw didn't even have a roof at that point. In the mornings I would make a cup of coffee and sit in the outhouse upon an icy throne and wonder what madness had brought me to these woods of Maine; and how completely happy I was to be there.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Nov. 2011

In November we had a full house. Sarah, Oscar and myself arrived first and shortly after my parents arrived from Oregon for their annual visit. My first priority was to finish the bedroom space so that Sarah and Oscar could have a place to hang out in relative comfort, isolated from the dust and general mayhem of the construction zone of the house. In the meantime, we setup our bed in the living room.
There was not much left to do to the bedroom. The sheetrock was already hung and needed to be mudded, some trim needed finishing and the room needed to be painted. Even with my Dad's help this paltry bit of work took us all week. I don't quite know where the time went. I know that having Oscar and Sarah to care for delayed getting started each morning by several hours and cut it short by several hours in the evenings.
I like having my family around but found myself feeling very dejected over the glacial pace of my work. I want the place to be ready to move into by the Fall of 2012 but with so many distractions I don't see how the place will be ready in time.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Thoughts on future construction logistics

A very small amount of free time over the last six months has yielded no new progress on the House Sculpture. But that was to be expected, as the birth of my baby boy, Oscar, has shifted my focus away from the project. Soon however I hope to combine the great loves of my life and work on the house as my new little family lives within. There will likely be some challenges to overcome. For now my initial goal is to simply get my wife Sarah, Baby Oscar and three cats up to the great North woods of Maine. After some thought my best option in getting there, not only with the family but with tools and supplies, was to put a cap on the bed of my Dodge pickup so that the cats could ride in the back along with tools and household items from our last apartment in Wellfleet. We recently moved into a house in North Truro that we share with the owner, a friendly woman named Mary. She happened to have a truck canopy in her backyard slowing becoming enveloped in weeds and was happy to get rid of it. As luck would have it, the cap fit the bed of my truck and I wasted no time installing the relic and filling the bed with the next load of junk bound for Maine. I left some room for the cat carriers and some of Oscar's stuff including a little crib called a co-sleeper.
My last two trips to Monroe where very short and only meant for checking on the property and doing whatever maintenance needed doing. This will be the first trip since May when I will make further progress on the house. How much progress is a question that lurks in my mind. There is a lot to do! I am very quick and focused in the way that I work alone. Having a little clan to care for will likely slow me down a bit... this is a big step for me so I have to look at it all in the larger context of what this project means to me and how I wish it to develop as it integrates a family to fulfill its function. Working by myself is great; quick and efficient, but only for a short time. Without my wife and little boy around the work loses meaning. In past years I could only stay engrossed in my work for so long, usually a week, before I would become heavily laden with loneliness and thoughts of oblivion. Up till now I was preparing a shelter for my family which really did not quite exist until recently. Now a great milestone of my adult life has been crossed and an inevitable new perspective has presented itself. I have a clan and a great instinct to care for and protect it! Even though the house is not finished it can support us all in relative comfort. Having them there should help me stay focused and avoid downward spirals of loneliness. I know that I would miss my little Oscar terribly! I believe they will also be helpful in identifying points of discomfort and other functional aspects. This first trip should be interesting. There will be lots of family there. Our plan is to arrive early in November (6 or 7). My parents are flying in from Oregon and will meet up with us on the 8th and stay nearby in a motel for about 5 days. They are looking forward to meeting Oscar and will be a big help taking care of everybody as we get some work done!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

April 2011, A Roof for the Turret

I am having restless nights of repetitious dreams. I've been dreaming of windows in the sky. From within the eternal timeless perspective of the dream, I systematically cut and place sections of wooden trim around paned windows. I do this continually over and over, fitting little sections into place but never fixing them permanently, with my only purpose being to see that it might fit, then on to the next, fitting them this way and that, then doing it all over again and again. The process is very tedious, but from the windows I can see blue sky beyond the treetops.
In a way I am recalling some of the work I did on the house during my last visit. I did happen to install the windows that line the uppermost portion of the turret section. But there is still trim and hardware work to be done so in a way I maybe planning my next visit; or the one after that.
My stay at the house during the first month of April yielded some satisfying results...

Upon my arrival I pulled into my driveway and noticed that my mailbox had again met with some form of violence that had knocked it into the ditch along with the 55 gallon drum to which I had affixed it during my previous stay. It was a temporary set up until the ground was thawed enough to sink a new post. I don't know if there was any evil intention directed at my mailbox, but I couldn't help but feel a little hurt. I removed the rope that customarily draws a property line across the driveway when I am away and drove up to the house. Much of the snow had melted away but it still looked new as a fresh white layer had fallen recently. I got my tractor fired up and plowed out the 6 inches of snow covering my driveway. It was totally unnecessary and I succeeded only in making a mess out of the nice clean snow with muddy tractor treads. When I reached the base of the driveway I hauled the mailbox and its oil drum out of the ditch and placed it in the tractor's loader bucket. I returned to the house and began the usual chores of arrival.

I spent some time considering the process in which I would sheath and attach the metal to the roof. The north side was a gentle pitch and would be easy to deal with. It was the steep south side that sent a shudder up my spine. Looking at it from the ground, I imagined a fall from such a height, my broken body bleeding in the driveway. I extended my ladder to it's full 30ft. span and climbed to the top. Stretching my arms up to reach the eves made it seem higher still and scared me enough to climb down and consider other options. I think that normally when work must be done this high in the sky a scaffold is erected. I could build one but it was such a small section of roof. I didn't want to spend all of my time building a scaffold if I didn't have to. I just needed a roof over this thing to keep the rain out. I figured I could put the sheathing down from the inside as long each panel that I laid down was small enough that I could reach over and nail down its far corners. If that didn't work I would just have to build the scaffold or some sort of platform.
As it turns out, nailing down the sheathing by reaching through the open rafters worked well. I kept the panels small and as I went along I also stapled down the felt paper that would act as a vapor barrier and attached straps of wood every two feet that would serve as a solid base into which to screw down the metal. From the peak of the roof I could reach about halfway down the span to anchor it. How I was going to reach the lower portions and the eves, I still did not know. So as always I did what I could do in the present moment. I cut three sections of metal to length and hauled them up to the roof. I lined them up and screwed them down along the peak. The next course was an easy 2ft. reach and I finished it quickly. Now to the next one, four feet below the peak. To reach that one was a little trickier. I decided to employ the tree at the center of the house for help. I found a long length of thick rope and tied it off to the tree. The other end I wrapped through my belt loops and measured off the length so that the rope would stop short just over the peak of the turret's roof. That way I could lay down head first along the steep side and screw down the next course without sliding off the end. I accomplished that, with little grace, dangling from the rope. That left one last course along the edge of the overhang to screw down, but that would have to wait until I had the metal flashing for the eves, which was on back order. To put in the flashing and the trim I would likely need to build some kind of platform; at some later date. The important thing was that a water tight roof was anchored on that steep south side. Now to put down the north side and finish this thing. After completing the steep (scary) side, the gentler pitch was much easier and went down quickly. By late that afternoon the whole roof was in place and ready to meet some Maine rain.

Now that the roof was finally done I could open up the kitchen to the new entryway. I had been anticipating this transition for months. The next morning I removed the plywood that divided the two sections and removed the original kitchen door. By simply moving the plywood divider to the other end of the mudroom, I had formed a new wall and had only to install the door and the small wall that held it to enclose the entire entryway. First I built a wall where the old door had been, which went quickly. Then on to the new door. I had collected a few discarded doors over the past few months from the dump in Truro, all in good shape. I decided on one with a waist high double paned window. It would let light into the mudroom and sort of matched the rest of the windows on that side of the house. I had a little trouble squaring the door to the rest of the structure as it had shifted a bit over the winter.. or I had built it half a bubble off plumb.. either way, the center of the kitchen was sunken and for the door to fit snug along all of it's frame and be somewhat level, it would have to run not-quite parallel to the ceiling.
Later that day it was all put together. The door swung open and closed very nicely but there was (and remains to this day) a noticeable appearance of crookedness that I am still unsure if I will ever be able to hide with any amount of molding or trim. It bothers me like a faint itch. All of the imperfections and "loose ends" in this structure bother me at times. Due to my lack of experience, the place is riddled with them. I must be careful not to dwell too heavily upon them as per my nature to do so. My rumination can leave me stuck, unable to do any work in the face of this enormous project with all of it's "bugs". My friend Paul Tasha passed along a helpful saying to me regarding these moments of self reproach: It's not a Stradivarius.
Now that the new entry was roughly enclosed, a sense of the finished room had emerged. The feng shui improved immensely. Usable space in the kitchen had also been expanded and will likely allow a stacked washer/dryer unit in the future.

I spent most of the remainder of my trip, which was still a few days, enclosing the rest of the tower to the elements. I put in a door on the second floor that will eventually open into a large bedroom above the future garage. For now it's just sort of a door to nowhere, so I screwed it shut to avoid any missteps. At the top of the turret, which will be a sleeping loft with a view, I installed some old fashioned paned windows that I had found at the Truro dump. I set four windows containing six panes each along the east and west sides. On the north side, which is more narrow, I put in two windows of four panes each, also from the dump. The front, or south side of the turret already had it's line of panes which I had installed on my previous visit. So except for the vents in the eves and around the overhang, the turret was now fully closed to the outside. It was rather windy and cold on that Saturday night so the difference was very insular.

The following day, Sunday, I didn't feel like doing much. I was run down and tired so I took a break from the house to putz around and fix my mailbox. I had a good cedar post that I cut down to size. Then, with some junk I had laying around, I built a funny looking mounting bracket and attached the box. I hauled the assembly down to the base of the driveway in the tractor's front end loader, turned around and dug a hole with the backhoe. I dropped it in and packed gravel around and stood back to admire my handiness: a respectable looking mailbox that to me seemed to fit with the look my neighbor's boxes and yet was uniquely my own. My territory was marked!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

February 2011, Turret taking form

Something ominous is creeping into my thoughts. There is a seed of futility growing in my mind regarding this house sculpture. What am I doing? What is this monstrosity supposed to be? As I move along, the impractical elements of the project weigh heavily on my mind. As February's weather makes the work all the more grueling and dangerous I am feeling lost and stupid.
There is a noisy argument going on inside of me. I can see two distinct sides of my psyche rising amidst a sea of mental hamster wheels. A struggle is emerging between the adult in me and the kid in me.
It took the naivete of the kid in me to take on the project of the house sculpture in the first place as though it would be as simple as building a fort out of couch cushions. This aspect of my personality has gotten me into trouble before. The kid just wants to do something fun. The adult in me says I am in over my head, irresponsibly playing foolish games with what little money I have, while in the meantime real responsibilities mount. The adult says this house must be finished quickly and simply. It must be a normal, proper house so that it may have good resale value.
The kid in me says "hey, I'm going to build a cool lookout tower with lots of ladders!"
The kid seems to come up with a lot of my "big" ideas, but the adult must contend with the implementation of such ideas. In that realm of living between the two, I am usually lost in a spiral of adult concerns of money and practicality.
This latest bout of work in February of about 5 days saw some manifestation of what the finished house will look like; or rather, how this half of the house will look. The other half will come years later...
My current "life situation" allows so little time to work on the house (with much less to come) that I find myself discouraged. I think sometimes about selling the property so that I can pay my taxes and other adult expenses. From an adult perspective this project is ridiculous. I have spent the precious few days at my disposal in February working on a completely frivolous project. Frivolous, because it's a damn silly turret, but at the same time necessary in that it must be finished before I can move on to more practical concerns like a functional kitchen and entryway because they will all share a roof.

I arrived at the base of my driveway on the chilly afternoon of February 16. I parked off the side of Rt.139 as the driveway to my house was filled with three feet of snow. I donned the snowshoes I had been given last Christmas by my father-in-law, Jim Hutto and hiked in to the house, flipping on the electricity at the pole on the way. I found the back door wide open but there was no snow inside or evidence of any other disturbance. Odd. Had I left it open in my haste to leave last time I was here or had the wind somehow blown it open?
After building a fire in the stove, I grabbed the snow shovel from the porch and trudged out to the tractor. The tarp that was covering it had split down the middle and the operator's compartment was full of snow. I dug it out the best I could and removed what was left of the tarp. I turned the ignition key with a prayer and the little three cylinder Diesel rattled to life. Good tractor!
The snow was so deep that it took a series of many short back and forth maneuvers to clear enough space to move in any particular direction. I had trouble finding a place to put all the snow as the piles I made quickly became as high as the tractor's bucket could extend. Little by little I made a road for myself. I got stuck a couple of times on the steep incline behind the house and had to dig the tractor out by hand. By the time darkness was settling in I had finished digging out about one third of the drive to the road. I was already freezing and now the temperature was dipping even further into single digits. I went inside and warmed up next to the fire for a few minutes before going back to work. In time I discovered a pattern of maneuvers that saved time as I steadily dug my way to the plowed road where my truck was waiting. Just after 8pm that evening I was able to drive the truck with its load of salvaged lumber, tools, clean clothes and bedding up to the house.
The next morning I did more work with the tractor, widening the driveway and clearing a parking area for my truck as well as from the side of the house where I planned to continue construction of the tower. I cleared enough so that I could layout all of the lumber I had available to me on the ground and organized it into rows according to thickness and width. I then took a drive into Monroe to pickup my mail at the post office.
One of the things I had noticed out of place since my return was the disappearance of my mailbox. I thought that perhaps it had been buried by the plows. After a bit of digging with the tractor I did find the box, but it had been decapitated from its post. It was crushed and the door was hanging off of it. I bashed out the dents and reattached the door and mounted it to an old 55 gallon oil barrel which I stuck at the end of the driveway. There ya go, mail-lady! Now I could turn my attention back to the house.

Before leaving the Cape I had picked up some miscellaneous scrap lumber from Eric Millett who is remaking the old Good Times Pub in Provincetown. He also gave me an enclosure of small paned windows, exactly what I had been searching for to line the upper, south facing wall of my tower. I spent the remainder of my second day fitting that set of windows into the framework of the tower.
Since deciding to build a tower, I have spent a considerable amount of time wondering what function it could serve. It has become a rather small "fort-like" enclosure and access will be limited to ladders until the second half of the house is built. If I put in a loft bed as the upper level, the space could be used as a kid's room or perhaps a sort of solitary refuge/writing room. The loft would be a beautiful place for a nap or reading or bird watching with views from windows lining all four walls.

The next day I built in the upper level loft platform. With the platform in place, the construction of the roof was made much easier and eventually I had a header beam and rafters in place. The going was slow, however. The days were clear but very cold, rarely getting above single digit temperatures with freezing gusts of wind that required I hold fast to the frame of my tower from fear of being blown off. Also, working solo as I was, I spent a great deal of time and energy just ascending and descending the ladders between cuts. At the end of each day I would tire of climbing up and down the ladders and switch jobs. It was getting dark early so I set up lights to work on the entryway and mudroom to the kitchen. I could usually get an hour or two in on that job each evening before I would become too cold and tired to continue.
On my last day I finished putting up most of the exterior sheathing and installed the large front window, the eye of the tower. At that point, as the sun set, I was able to step back and see my ideas taking form. The kid in me laughed with delight while the adult in me took a swig of beer and said, "what the hell! That'll do!"

Monday, February 28, 2011

January 2011, Notions of Identity Shift

The beginning of 2011 met me with a bombardment of costly obstacles. In mid-January I planned a trip to Maine and was getting ready for it when a final hurdle threw me on my face and required that I delay my trip indefinitely. As I was pulling out a parking space one Friday evening after work, the rusty front suspension of my little Toyota pickup gave way. One of the control arms separated from the chassis and left the truck only three wheels the stand upon. The front end sunk to one side and the wheel splayed itself out sideways. It was grotesque, like a dog trying to stand on a fractured front paw. I managed to get it back into a parking space on the Cabral pier in Provincetown and set a jack under the frame so that it would sit level. It would be an incredible pain in the ass to fix but a bigger problem began to reveal itself as I probed around with a flashlight at the rest of the suspension and steering components. The undercarriage was a mass of rust. More of the same kind of problem would plague me from here on out if I chose to hold onto the little truck. It was not safe to drive anymore. I had been lucky that it broke when and where it did. Had it happened two days later while flying down the freeway on my trip to Maine I may have been killed.
Such a shame. I had grown fond of the scrappy little Toyota but I would need a new truck before I could resume my work on the house sculpture.
I have always had strong emotional connections to cars. I felt a sense of tragic loss in relation to my little Toyota pickup. The damage was too extensive for me to fix myself with my meager set of tools and lack of any sort of garage space in which to work. I would also need welding equipment for a job this extensive.
For now, I would just replace the broken control arm where it sat on the pier. I've done this sort of work on other vehicles before and it is usually an easy job in itself, but this time it was extremely difficult. All of the bolts were frozen with rust. During the time between it's breaking down and my beginning to take it apart, there had been a heavy snow and the plows had pushed all the snow from that section of the lot against my truck. I had to dig out an opening just to get started. Working outside in the snow and icy wind of the pier was not so pleasant, but with patience, perseverance and long underwear I finally removed the old control arm (in two pieces) from the chassis. The replacement part was still on it's way from California so I couldn't put it all back together right away. Even once I did, I could not drive it safely.
My only real option here was to trade it in on something newer. Over this option I ruminated with conflict and prejudice over the market of used pickup trucks. I wanted an older truck but in this part of the country that would mean simply replacing one rust bucket with another. I hated the idea of driving around in a late model vehicle and wondered how I would even afford such a thing.
Reality persisted, however and I could only borrow Sarah's Saturn for so long. On one of our mutual days off we took a drive into Hyannis to look at what was available. We soon came across a 2003 Toyota Tundra with low mileage and little rust. It drove like a dream. All in all it was like a brand new vehicle and I could just barely afford to buy it by financing a chunk of it. We looked around at some other dealers but could not find an equivalent. For some reason I was hoping to buy a domestic make but everything in my price range seemed like junk. In the end we went back and bought the Tundra. I could not take it home then as I still needed to fix my little truck (for trade) and was still waiting for a replacement control arm to arrive in the mail. During the period of days before I could take home the Tundra I was filled with regret and self reproach for making such a purchase. Aside from worries of it costing too much and having the gas mileage of a V-8, my greatest internal crisis concerned the hit to my identity. I'm a loner, a rebel who drives old jalopies that no one else has the courage to drive; usually beat up old cars built in the 60's or 70's. That is who I am...or rather, that is who I was... Too many external factors seemed to be conspiring to change me, and yet they are not external. I made this stuff happen. I am not anymore the loner I aspired to be. I am no longer a single guy, I am now married and must think of the "unit" before myself. Now this truck has come along (which is exactly what I need, it even has a wood rack) to continue building the house in Maine, but it is not me... even as I now drive it around I feel like I am driving someone else's vehicle. And I can't help but wonder, am I living someone else's life?

Now it may seem that I have gone off-topic. This account is supposed to be about a nitwit and his attempts to build a house sculpture. Not about some nitwit who bought a new pickup. But as the endeavor of building this house is concerned, with all of the traveling and salvage operations involved, a pickup truck as a tool is of primary importance. It is essential to this project and how I identify with that tool is just as important.
From the beginning of this undertaking my goal has been to build a house; not to have a house. My point is to experience the process as a work of art is experienced. The vastness of essential tools and duration of the project itself allows me a rare opportunity and one that to me is of highest importance in the experience of creating art. I am using this project as a sort of measuring stick against my own identity. Every piece of art that an artist creates should in some small way change him or her. There is an outlet of energy in the creation process. The artist is changed from the time he/she began the work to the time of completion. Usually, that change is practically unnoticeable. In my experience of painting a picture or making a tattoo, the time and resources expended are relatively small. I do not feel like a different person from beginning to end. Also, my usual executions of visual art are small in scale to my own physical being. Until the house sculpture I have never had the experience of being encapsulated in my own creation as I am creating it. The feeling is sublime; an unexpected stroking of my ego but beside the point. This particular piece of art has all the usual characteristics of a piece of art plus one more that many do not. It is of use. Its use is part of it's identity and therefore part of my identity as the creator. To me a house is a nest, a place in which to raise a family. A great deal of the thought involved in building this thing concerns how a small family might use it.
I am now about three years and three months on this project and I estimate the house is about one third of the way finished. I have worked steadily spending an average of about 5 days (70hrs.) each month working on or around the house. I have spent far more time than that thinking about the house. In fact, since the conception of this project I have thought about little else. Each interval between visits is a mental winding-up of thought and intention. The constant visualization of assemblage and function is shifting my brain chemistry. I am watching this thing change me.
It is mentally and physically painful to spend long periods of time away from it as I have not found a suitable outlet on which to unleash my pent up energy where I live on the Cape. When I do finally have my chance to work on the house I pour everything I have into it, working without pause sometimes 12-14 hours a day until I am too exhausted and sore to move. I always start out jubilant and full of energy but finish the last day of each trip lonely and depressed. Upon arriving back at my home on the Cape I am weary but happy to be greeted by my wife and a hot shower. The next day, however I always awake with a feeling of regret, like I could have squeezed in one last day of work and I long to go back. I feel mentally pushed around in all directions by this project of my own creation. It owns me. In the process of building the house to accommadate it's purpose, I am personally changing to fulfill the role of accommodation; or in other words I am becoming what the house needs for it to live up to its purpose.
My identity has shifted from that of a single, self sufficient guy (with no aspirations to be anything else) to that of "Husband"; which is cool. I like being a husband, but from there my personage has recently taken another promotion to that of "expectant father". How cool is that?
This latest news is at present too big for me to fully comprehend. It's good that I have several months to prepare. I just know that more excitement and change is on the way. My identity as I have known it, is shifting such that I am not even so much "me" anymore as a unit of me, her and "it": a family. I am becoming just what the house sculpture needs before it can be complete... for it to live and be part of the family. So what begat what?
I expect that being a supportive father will require much of my resources and is sure to bring many surprises. Among other things I wonder, how will I find the time and money to continue construction? I don't know. But it must continue. It is of absolute importance to bring this around full circle by finishing construction and living in it, thereby bringing the house to full completion; the very dream that hatched this new reality!