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Saturday, June 9, 2007

On this rock I build my house

Sorry everybody for the delay in this post. I promised myself that I wouldn’t blog until I finished the last project; shoring up the foundation of the cabin so we could move on to building up. Little did I know that the flurry of activity would make it impossible to blog until I had more than one blog to post, fortunately, I have a few days off, So I will be able to post BOTH blogs in short order.

With a morbid creak, the cabin started to move. Slowly, I pumped the handle to the 30 ton bottle jack I had propped between redwood slabs, cautiously peering between the concrete and the wood of our foundation. With each pump of the handle, the cabin raised a few more millimeters, the wooden supports groaning precariously, until I saw a fingernail of sunlight through the opposite side. Working quickly, I took a maul and knocked out the old wooden shim, and banged in an identically cut block into its place. Checking to make sure the alignment was perfect, I pulled the handle from the jack and using it to release the pressure, I slowly lowered the cabin back onto its concrete piling as the wood gave a sickening, stressful moan.

I was sitting under the cabin with Gabe, a WWOOFer from Washington who was on the first leg of a motorcycle trip around the continental United States. He had just come from working at an oil refinery, and I was grateful to have somebody with me who knew tools, and understood how they worked. As we worked we told stories and got to know one another. He liked metal, had remarkably similar political and apocalyptical views as myself and was out to learn everything he can about everything there is. Needless to say, we got along great. Meanwhile, Tom Stu and Dave, three British wwoofers were demolishing the old animal pens and loading the truck up with rotted wood.

The cabin now supported by a piece of wood that did not look like swiss cheese, we hollered off the measurements for the side blocks as Creek worked rapidly to cut the blocks on the chop saw in the shop. The difficulty of cutting 16x9 inch blocks of wood with a chop saw should be obvious, but the table saw killed the generator, so it was our only choice. We marked the eighth of an inch metal straps that would secure the cabin on the foundation, and sent them up to the shop to get drilled by Creek. We hammer drilled through the pilings, fit the blocks and straps together, drilled through them, using a 50 year old auger bit that belonged to my father, and slipped ¼ inch bolts through the whole shebang, binding them together with an impact driver.

Working there, securing the foundation of our cabin, I was forced to think alot about tools and collaboration. The drill bits and 6 foot pry bar were my fathers, the drill press was an early Shop Smith, which my friend Matt had sold to my friend Zack when he followed my lead; selling everything he owned to go wander Asia for a few years. The tape measure was a janky broken-locked 12 footer from Tap Plastics, which had somehow moved up here when we vacated the SF warehouse and which belongs to my old roommate Ed, the mad scientist. And, all the while, I was surrounded by men from around the world, who I had known for only a few days yet who were here helping me build my home for free. I knew that in addition to building memories for all of us, I was building upon memories: With each strap, I thanked Matt, with each hole through the foundation beams I thanked my Father, and wondered what he had done with these bits so long ago. And at the end of each day, I thanked the young men around me profusely, knowing that someday, soon, I would live in this house they were helping me build.

There were 12 foundation pilings to support and by the last one, I was lying prone next to a small patch of poison oak, with barely a foot of clearance as Dave handed me tools, and worked from the outside to get it all together. But now, the foundation is secure, the rebuilding can begin in earnest, and I will hopefully never have to pick up another house again. Whew!

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