Sippican Cottage

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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything

Choom Choom Charlie Was An Engineer

Not up to code, I think. Not the building code, Morse Code, Hammurabi’s Code, my area code…

Well, it appears I’m going to have to get back at it.

My public demands I hit my Intertunnel thumb with a pixel hammer until gouts of web blood appear amusingly on their screen. They suspect I’ve failed — know it in the depth of their hearts, in the forecourt of their minds, in the alleys of their senses — but gosh, they want to know exactly how I dropped my house on my head while trying to fix it. For the lulz.

Of course, if I wanted to tell an audience something really interesting, I’d have made a mordant aside somewhere along the long, weary way we’ve traveled under my house, about how I once got a 650 pound woodburning furnace into the second floor of my house in the dead, dead, dead of winter, through a door three feet above grade with no stairs, halfway down a driveway under four feet of snow and with a pitch approaching black diamond, with no one but a teenager and his mother to help me. Now that would have been a tale, told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying, well, heat. That would be a story worth telling. But I put the audience off the scent early, and coaxed them into the basement where I keep the second-rate tales, and they’re none the wiser. Of course they’re none the wiser, because they’re listening to me. I’m not that bright, but if I was a butcher, and a customer came in the shop and expressed an interest in an emaciated pullet with scoliosis I had hanging in the shop window, I wouldn’t blurt out that I had a big roast beef in the back. I’d keep, er, selling that chicken. So forget I mentioned it.

Now that all my clothes have been washed twice since Thanksgiving, so that most of the cranberry is out of them at this point, I really should get back to it. How to jack up the back of your ramshackle Victorian and ram a foundation under it, a hundred years or so too late. We of course took the theoretical engineering course earlier in the week. Time for practical engineering.

When my dad had a flat tire — an occurrence as common as meeting a congressmen in Hell, as dad favored “recapped” tires back in the day — he’d make us all get out of the car while he fixed it. My father was a banker, so arithmetic wasn’t his strong suit. All practical things weren’t his strong suit, now that I think of it. Hell, I think we buried him in his strong suit, which was a bit shiny at the elbows and knees. He wasn’t good at anything but making people love him. But how much a car weighed, and how much the jack would hold, and what additional danger would be posed by four or five relatives malingering in the car was not known to him. His calculations consisted solely of get out of the car, you lot.  It had the side benefit of an eager audience to cheer him on as he cursed gently under his breath and deftly replaced the bald tire with no air in it with the bald tire that was low on air that he kept in the trunk for just such festive occasions.

Now I’m no better than my dad; indeed, I’m much worse, because I don’t care for arithmetic either, plus I’m as lovable as a bacterium, generally. But even I know that telling my family to get out of the house just before I lifted it wasn’t going to help all that much. Houses be heavy, dude.

How much does a house weigh? That’s an interesting question. It was especially interesting to me, because it might end up on top of my head. I had to know whether to wear a hard hat or a baseball cap. Go ahead, ask the Intertunnel how much  a house weighs.

Herein lies another lesson. If you enter the Intertunnel, and ask it a question of a practical nature, it generally sends you first, last, and every time, to someplace with HOW TO in the URL. I’ve noticed that no one at no site with HOW TO in its name knows how to locate their nether regions using cartography and hand-held portable illumination devices. The HOW TO neighborhood of the Interburbs isn’t just stupid; it’s concentrated, distilled, malignant imbecility.

(to be continued)

[Update: In one of life’s great comeuppance moments, my wife called me this evening and told me she had a flat tire. Neither one of us can remember the last time we had a flat tire. It might be 25 years.  I had to go to the Sherwin Williams parking lot and change her tire in the sleet and darkness. My father has gone to his reward, but he still has enough existential pull to teach me a lesson about defaming him, I see. If you’re listening, Dad, I wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over the Androscoggin River]

14 Responses

  1. To weigh a house you get a 20 ton bottle jack and a bunch of big timbers. Stick the jack and timbers under the house and start jackin. If the jack doesn't move or squirts hydro fluid out somewhere, your house weighs more than 20 tons. Try a 50 next.

    Rob in AZ

  2. The comments are (almost) as amusing as the essay!

    Having practical experience with such actions, I have found Rob 9in AZ's suggestion most helpful.

  3. Well. I decided to test the internest on the subject of "how to find your ass with a map and flashlight" and wouldja believe it – the usual suspects were not only SILENT but ABSENT too!

    Now, "ehow" hinted around the edges that a diligent, studious person of distinction might possibly come into possession of such arcane knowledge within their particular locale however not approaching that level of sophistication myself I shall, of necessity leave the quest to others.

    A challenge?

  4. Getting a "650 pound wood-burning furnace into the second floor of my house in the dead, dead, dead of winter, through a door three feet above grade with no stairs, halfway down a driveway under four feet of snow and with a pitch approaching black diamond, with no one but a teenager and his mother to help", is easy. What you do is attach a large plastic bag with a stout rope to the top of the heater and then fill the bag with invective. the heat will just float that sucker right in there. just be sure to lubricate the sides with a thick layer of malice and spite.

  5. Strikes one (well…at least, it strikes me, and 'tis rumored, now and again, that I am, indeed, "one" – at least on weekends) that a) matters are now fairly well approaching the same sort of every-Saturday-morning-yet-another-cliffhanger-increment-tune-in-next-week-same-time-same-station-for-three-to-seven(or more)-years circumstance as one (see above for details) "enjoyed" during the very early stages of development of the semi-natural phenomenon known generally as TeeVee, and b) said matters, one (see above, Part 2) sincerely trusts and believes will resolve in better manner (said "enjoyment" in those early days having, often enough, been "resolved" by cancellation of the subject weekend-A.M. series sans formal wrap-up) than one (see above, Part 3) might fear from lesser sorts than our noble present tale-spinner.

    Meanwhile…it has been said, truly and in truth, that Life is the Journey, not the Destination, so let us valiantly attend to and attempt to enjoy the trip.

    Once upon a weary time, I also navigated an elderly vehicle equipped with that sort of tires, as well, BTW – could now and again stop on a dime (not outstandingly-good brakes; just not much get-up-and-go, nearly all of same having got-up-and-gone, so unexpected obstructions such as coins in the roadway represented potential for inadvertent halts. Did I mention it was an elderly vehicle?), and determine whether heads or tails, with a fair stab at the date thereon. But for that grand invention known as "inner tubes", there could have been no greater air pressure inside the circumference of the tires than that outside – and frequently was not even then.

  6. I think the way you hoisted that furnace is similar to the way Paddy hoisted the barrel of bricks in "The Sick Note" by the Dubliners (see Youtube). With more Lulz.

  7. I am sure you are talking about 'ehow' a most worthless website. I asked how to repair a radiator, wanting the brand of the solder, the pressure and type of gas and the exact flux.
    Ehow said and you can go look—"First see where its leaking then buy a new radiator"!

    WORTHLESS

    We are still hoping to hear SOMETHING–ANYTHING about a foundation repair. We **Believe** that it could happen.
    Some ol gal asked me a question and I was giving her the facts so she could decide the answer for herself and she said that I never got to the point and I told her that I am an amateur, Sippi is a Master.
    bgarrett

  8. Say now, thet there choom chump chimp churlish sounds kinda familiar, and not in a sort of family way. no how. Ahm thinkinit goes
    Let me tell you the story
    Of a man named choom chump Churlish
    On a tragic and fateful day
    He put ten cents in his pocket,
    Kissed his husband & bankie
    Went to ride on the USA

    Churlish handed in his dime
    At the Kendall Square Station
    And he changed for Jamaica Plain
    When he got there the conductor told him,
    "One more nickelto send you off thet pain."
    Charlie could not get off that train

    or sumpthin therbouts

  9. That would be the Kingston Trio:

    These are the times that try men's souls In the course of our nation's history The people of Boston have rallied bravely Whenever the rights of men have been threatened

    Today a new crisis has arisen
    The Metropolitan Transit Authority, better known as the MTA
    Is attempting to levy a burdensome tax on the population In the form of a subway fare increase Citizens, hear me out, this could happen to you

    Well, let me tell you of the story of a man named Charlie On a tragic and fateful day He put ten cents in his pocket, kissed his wife and family Went to ride on the MTA

    Well, did he ever return?
    No he never returned and his fate is still unlearned He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston And he's the man who never returned

    Charlie handed in his dime at the Kendall Square station And he changed for Jamaica Plain
    When he got there the conductor told him, "One more nickel"
    Charlie couldn't get off of that train

    But did he ever return? No he never returned and his fate is still unlearned He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston He's the man who never returned

    Now, all night long Charlie rides through the station Crying, "What will become of me? How can I afford to see my sister in Chelsea
    Or my cousin in Roxbury?"

    But did he ever return? No he never returned and his fate is still unlearned He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston He's the man who never returned

    Charlie's wife goes down to the Sculley Square station Every day at quarter past two And through the open window she hands Charlie a sandwich As the train comes rumbling through

    But did he ever return? No he never returned and his fate is still unlearned He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston He's the man who never returned

    Pick it Davey, kind of hurts my fingers

    Now, ye citizens of Boston Don't you think it's a scandal How the people have to pay and pay? Fight the fare increase, vote for George O'Brian Get poor Charlie off the MTA

    Or else he'll never return No he'll never return and his fate is still unlearned He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston He's the man who never returned

    He's the man who never returned
    He's the man who never returned
    He's the man who never returned
    Ain't you, Charlie?

  10. How much does a house weigh? I looked it up before I lifted my house 40" off the foundation to create a usable basement. The rule of thumb is 30lb/sqft for a single story wooden structure, 40lb/sqft if it has a brick facade. Additional floors are 20lb/sqft each for wood 30lb/sqft for brick.

    I used Duff-Norton 15ton journal jacks. They are mechanical, not hydraulic so there is no danger of them bleeding down. Also a mechanical screw jack can lower a heavy load gently, which a hydraulic jack can't do.

    Al_in_Ottawa

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