Most have been too politic to ask, but I’m sure many villagers wonder just what is going on at Cooperstown’s 24 Delaware St. Some sort of arcane work must be going on inside. One or two work trucks have been out front almost daily for weeks and, more sinisterly, the whole front porch is shrouded in opaque plastic sheeting.
Well, not a lot of news in the village just now; and inquiring minds, after all need to know lest rumors spread. (Have Anne and Jim caught something contagious? Are they maybe raising cannabis on their porch?) And so to relieve tensions, I will sweep away the mystery, if not the plastic shrouding.
Most of the work and workmen have been completing expansion of a downstairs half-bath with the addition of a splendid shower stall equipped for my future needs. (I can still handle steps pretty handily, but another year probably won’t find that so.) When the need does arise, the downstairs shower will provide me with every convenience and safety feature a Parkinsonian could want.
The job’s been done by Craig Phillips of Phillips Construction; Craig and Jeff have patiently done fine work for me for, we figure, about thirty years now. Starting with literally raising the roof on my Fly Creek barn, they also restored the whole 1794 post-and-beam house there, built a handsome double garage, and finished with the office space attached to it that housed my Anne’s graphic design business.
Craig avows that our half-bath extension is the smallest job he’s ever undertaken — embarrassingly small. He says that when people ask the dimensions of the job he’s doing for us, he answers, “oh, about 36 by 52,” without adding that the measurements are inches. He’s a big man and has his pride, does Craig. (And he’s big-hearted, too.)
Well, the bath addition is approved, built, wired, plumbed, tiled, and painted. About all that remains is for my bride to pick just the right shower curtain to complement her perfect choice of tile and of wall color. But she almost bedazzled herself by working at the curtain selection online. She came down from her computer a few days ago, wide-eyed at the choices.
“There are thousands of them!” she said. “Colors, materials, sizes, shapes, textures — and endless patterns of them!” (Of course I believed her, I also took a look myself. Holy guacamole! I couldn’t begin to make a choice.)
Now, about the remaining cause of work and workmen: that shrouded front porch. Tom Hayes of Oquagua and Cooperstown is just finishing up repainting the works on the porch: ceiling, walls, door and window frames, and railings; and now he’s carefully sanding, and staining the original flooring. The last is of a fine-grained yellow pine, and Tom’s really doing it justice.
And so, all the shrouding is to contain associated dust and keep it off neighbors’ cars and our own. Of course that’s not the explanation I’ve offered to curious teenage passersby's.
“It’s for Halloween!” I’ve been telling them. “I’ve rented a genuine Tasmanian Devil and have him in a steel cage behind the plastic. But we’re going go broke by Halloween, getting him enough meat to eat.” Then I pause, glancing thoughtfully off to the side.
“If you’d like, you can reach through the bars and feed him. He seems pretty calm right now.” No takers yet— but, mind you, the offer isn’t limited to teenagers.
Oh, and in reality Tasmanian Devils are just as subject to lunatic ferocity as the ones you remember from Looney Tunes cartoons. They’re only about twenty-five pounds and two feet tall, but in a tantrum they howl, growl, snarl, attack, and snap with a bite strength that surpasses almost every other mammal’s. No wonder one once ripped the mighty mustache right off Yosemite Sam.
One more job for Tom, once the shrouding has been parted. This one follows on a cob job repairing done by a former owner.
Evidently the porch step treads were badly worn or sagging, and some Harry Homeowner fixed them, not by removing and replacing the treads — but by nailing new ones right on top of them.
Now, uneven steps are daunting to any old folks, and downright scary to me. But here’s the result of Harry H.’s cob job. The drop from the porch floor to the first step is two inches shorter than the drop to the next, and then to the next. But the drop from the last step to the brick walk is two inches longer than expected. How’s that as an invitation to a dance — an unwanted and bone-breaking one?
Not to worry. Tom is taking that problem in hand, too; and he’s also replaced the two wobbly, miss-sized bannister posts that bracket the bottom step. Their design, matching closely the posts of the front porch itself, will of course, be passed on to the proper village committee for examination and approval.
As to just when the shrouding will come down, Tom says pretty soon. I, however, am tempted to ask that it stay up through Halloween.
It would be fun to greet the scores of Trick-or-Treaters by lunging out between the shrouds, wearing an appropriate mask.
Of course I couldn’t lunge out with just my regular face. Wouldn’t want to frighten the small kids.