Hey kids. OK, this blog is way long. And I know I said I was going to try and be better about being more frequent and therefore forcing you to read less at a time. Sorry sorry sorry. BUT the good news is, if all goes well, with this blog we will be launching the inaugural 'blog alert'. If you're on the mailing list, from now on every time I post a new entry, you should get an email telling you. You can EVEN click on it right from the email and read it then and there. Don't ya just love progress? So sign up on that mailing list pronto peeps. :)
Well the big news was our fun-tastic long weekend visit from Dan and Winston, our best friends from New York. Dan is all lined up for a guest blog, which hopefully will wing it's way through email pretty soon.
The day before they arrived Rich and I were in Nick's Kitchen and ran into Margaret (she of the 'jo jo sick home-made cookies). Margaret has recently begun to study uphoustering. Now, I don't know if I've mentioned this, but it was determined the Pack Leader has to learn to weld. "Jo Jo you twisted little hyperactive chipmunk..." I hear you ask, "what does welding have to do with uphoulstery?". Well, see, the Pack Leader decreed that if he was going to learn to weld, then I had to learn to uphouster. Okey dokey. So - anyway - I thought maybe I would be able to sell myself into white slavery to Margaret, live in her basement for six years, sweep her floor and maybe fluff cushions and then eventually I might pick up the skill. Margaret vociferously insisted that she was only just learning (so indentured servitude was not yet warranted), but she'd be happy to learn along with me. She had, in fact, just finished one of her first test projects - a chair that was going to travel with her daughter to Chicago when she moved into a new apartment there on the weekend. We said we'd like to see the chair (because lets face it, around here such things qualify as a major new tourist attraction) before it moved to Chi Town... so we headed over there.
Margaret's house is amazing. I wish I had pictures - but it's a giant old farmhouse with like sixty three barns behind it. They completely gutted the farm house and renovated it, and it's really neat. Her chair came out brilliantly, so I'm really looking forward to squeezing every bit of knowledge out of her that i can :) She also gave us a 40% off coupon for a sale at this uphoustery fabric store in Fort Wayne which she said was awesome. She also then proceeded to try and give us most of the contents of her house. She and her husband are sooo generous it's overwhelming, and it kind of reached the point where they were like "Um, do you need our first born - he's handy? How bout our lawn? Do you need a lawn?". She actually has a really nifty altar-piece relic from an old church that I think we might borrow as a center piece for the wedding scene in the Sound of Music - it's really pretty. Anyway - in their barn they apparently amass STUFF. Not like crap stuff... useful stuff which has been pulled out of his job sites etc. And since they have more storage space than the Smithsonian - they are able to keep it.
One thing they offered us, which are AMAZING are these giant industrial work lights - which are exactly the kind of thing you need in a theatre when you're not actually using stage lighting (rehearsals, building etc.). If you're in a walmart or a Lowes or something and you look up in the air - this is the kind of thing you'll see. This is a picture taken a day later when Rich was showing Dan our illuminating booty.
They also loaned us what is pretty much the holy grail of DIY: A dry wall lift. We were going to have to rent one when we did the sheet rock on the ceiling in the Fecal Residence because we've been told over and over again that trying to do that job WITHOUT a sheetrock lift is awful. Like 'appropriate punishment for Hitler if he ever surfaced in Boca' awful. The sheet rock is heavy, and will snap with the weight, and you can't keep it steady etc. So these lifts just kind of jack the sheetrock up in the air and hold it at whatever angle you need while you screw it in. Well being handy, Larry happened to design his own. Which is pretty cool. And makes us think that down the line we'll be buying Larry a whole lot of drinks in return for picking his giant amazing brain.
So after we left Margaret's house with the truck filled to the brim ("wait, you forgot our wedding rings")... we had to start getting ready for the boys arrival from the big NY. As you saw in the previous pictures of the kitchen we managed to get the place spic-and spanner than it's been - and the pack leader even managed to get some pictures hung:
Oh - i've forgotten exactly when this happened, but I thought it was pretty cute. At some point in the week someone mentioned that January was flying by rather quickly, and that we were almost halfway to Easter. I wasn't sure how you could tell if you were halfway to Easter - and someone explained that it had something to do with Lent. Well, since Rich is Catholic I said: "what are you giving up for Lent?" And he said: "I'm just giving up" :)
Anyway, we actually managed to get the place quite presentable, and although we were pooped, we were really excited for the boys to arrive. It seems like the minute they arrived we put them to work. Winston had been through the drill before, and knew what to expect - but we were actually a little worried about how well Dan would take to things. Dan isn't particularly a fan of the goo-dirt-ick factor. But whoo boy did they do great. We got sooo much done. Rich and I had gone back and forth as to what we should tackle while we had four bodies instead of the usual two. At first we thought we were going to sheetrock over at Byron, but when the potential tenant fell through we decided the time would best be spent working on the Lobby.
Rich and I, as I mentioned, had been making slow but sure work on the concrete floor, scraping up the mastic from underneath all the removed tiles. It's very tiring work and repetitive. But, after a quick trip to the hardware store, we handed the boys their very own masonry chisels, crowbars and hammers, and we all went at it.
It was really kind of amazing. First of all, for the past few days it had been pretty much Rich and I (often one at a time) working on the floor - and it was slow going. But with four of us, the progress in only the first few hours on their first day, was really great...
Actually before I show you any other pictures, it's worth pointing out that apparently Dan and Winston got some sort of memo regarding 'confirmed bachelor renovation dress code":
Anyway - they got right down to it like Amish beavers at a Dam-raising.
The weekend was also punctuated with what I feel must be the most unique DIY work-out music ever. I'm not sure Bob Villa and his crew find their most difficult decision of the day deciding whether the stereo should be blasting Petula Clark or Judy Garland.
And after hard few hours of work and a great deal of merriment - the difference was pretty awesome:
No, I don't know what hizzle means.
And, after we examined the concrete cleaner which we had left on overnight - we felt pretty optomistic. The cleaner had not erradicated the years of grime completely - and the floor was still darker than fresh concrete would be (it was trying to remove black adhesive residue from tiles that had once been there BEFORE the tiles we pulled up. But there was a marked difference in clarity and color. We were even MORE optimistic when the Pack Leader was checking on the label on the stuff he had used (and ordered from online) and he realized the product was like 100% green and all natural. Well - forget THAT... if stuff made out of fennel and cow poop lifts off that much gunk, imagine how great we'll do with good old fashioned chemicals. So we've ordered new stuff and have our fingers crossed.
Before it was supper time we felt that since, when Winston visited last, he bore witness to one of our six-hour (not making this up) Lowe's visits; it was only fair that we take Dan on a Lowes adventure as well. This one wasn't nearly so bad, we just had to pick up a few supplies and things - and we also spent about a half an hour scouting for ceiling fans for the lobby. See, in the process of the day, we noticed that the lobby stays pretty chilly even when the heat is running (we noticed this of course for the first time today because the heat is expensive and when we are normally working downstairs Rich feels I can keep myself warm by various other methods. Covering myself with whale blubber, pouring gasoline on myself and lighting a match... stuff like that. So, today, with the heat ON, we were surprised that it didn't get all that much more toasty. Then we were climbing on a ladder to work on something and we realized it was literally ten degrees hotter three feet higher. All the heat was coming through the ceiling vents STAYING at the ceiling and not circulating down. Like the temperature change was enough that if you were on the ladder for longer than three minutes you started shedding layers of clothing. I think we actually could market it as a 'interactive menopause ride' so husbands could empathize with their wives. Anyway - so although we have all the fancy lighting fixtures for the lobby, we thought it might be a VERY VERY good idea to subsidize them with a ceiling fan to help move the air around. But now we have the lighting fixtures, we need to find a ceiling fan that complements them. It turns out that Hampton Bay is supposed to make a matching ceiling fan in the family of chandeliers and pendants we already bought - but they don't have them at Home Depot (and they might be discontinued). So after a search around their fan department as well as Lowes without finding anything that really looks good - we may have to go on a detective search for the fans.
I actually have a Lowe's story from a few days ago I forgot to tell you. When we were at the camera store picking out the new wide-angle lens we got chatting with some of the guys in the store. A few hours later we ran into one of the same guys at Lowes, greeting us with "you guys must be buyin' the store'. If he only knew. Anyway - we say hi and then, knowing we are opening the theatre, he asks us if we're going to be needing sound equipment and installation. We said yes, but not right away - probably in about eight months. So then the guy tells us that he has a brother in law who does that for a living and is very good. But he has cancer and he's getting chemo. But he'd had cancer before and the guy didn't think it looked to good, but if he pulled through he would do a very good job for us. Anyway - deadpan serious the guy says "well, here's my card. In about eight months just give me a call and I'll tell you if he's dead".
Only in Indiana kids, only in Indiana.
Back to the boys night out - we felt it only fitting that we expose Dan and Winston to some truly local fare. No, not Applebees - they have those in Times Square, it doesn't count. No, not a pork tenderloin they aren't open at night silly. We had learned that Desiree (wife of Abercrombie Plumber/mother of Josie The Future Runway Model) - was going to be bartending at a place called Shopoffs. She apparently used to bartend there a while ago before she became all domesticated and entrepreneurial (or maybe before she found two idiots to buy a theatre that needs more plumbing than an irritable bowel clinic). In fact I'm pretty sure there is a picture of her still on their website. Anyway - she was going to be filling in at this Steakhouse/Bar place and she said the food was really great and we should come visit. And since we've only found about three restraurants in the entire state open past eight thirty - we thought WHY NOT! Desiree was certainly all dolled up to maximize tips, and, frankly I was quite devastated that she had not brought Josie, because it would have enabled me to do my best Reese Witherspoon impression and say "you've got a baby. In a bar." Clearly Desiree is not concerned with my happiness.
Anyway - the food was great and we had our favorite kind of waitress (the kind that tells you what is and isn't good), and it was a great night. Desiree even regaled us with entertaining stories about her Mom, Karen, trying to walk out of the restaurant with large mirror beer signs unnoticed. We were introduced to the chef/owner who upon learning that we had bought the theatre said: "oh, so this is your last meal then?". Ha ha ha.
I'm not gonna take TOOO much time telling you about the boy's visit because I don't want to spoil Dan's guest blog. We did work incredibly hard. The most astounding revelation was that Dan really enjoys repetitive work. He likes it. All those awful Dickensian stories about little six year old boys spending hours gluing labels onto bottles - Dan would LOVE it. Where was HE when we were tiling, I'd like to know? Anyway - so we found lots of repetitive jobs for Dan that he went at like gangbusters. He continued doing a final cleanup pass on the concrete. One of our big concerns was this trench which ran along the middle of one side of the floor where they had run the plumbing and filled it with new concrete a number of years ago. This concrete was perfectly fine except it's obviously a very different color than the old stuff. We determined that they had actually been overly zealous when they spread this stuff onto the floor - and although the light concrete was about two and half feet wide, the trench was actually only about a foot. So Dan and Winston and I managed to chip away at this stuff and get the whole thing substantially reduced in size. it's still going to be a challenge to make it match - but it's a whole lot less to deal with. The concrete staining video warned us that there would be areas like this - and it may just require some skillful faux finish camouflage - which is actually not something I'm all that bad at. So Dan went at that like a woodpecker... and then we moved him onto a whole lot of other jobs which most people would hate, but he loved...
All the walls in the lobby have to be prepared for skim coating. (Yes i'm skim coating the ENTIRE freakin lobby). Anyway - this involves sanding the entire area with an orbital sander to 'knock down' any extra high spots in the texture that would poke through the skim coat:
And taking a putty knife and stripping away of the loose, cracking and peeling paint that would prevent a future paint layer from gripping to the wall surface:
I did a little bit of both over the next couple of days, as well as my own share of floor whacking. We discovered that the most effective way to get the smaller stubborn bits off the floor was not to scrape but to actually use the crowbar in a light whacking motion (making one feel rapidly like you're hammering on a railroad track in oldeny times). The real drawback of this is the bloodcurdling PING noise the crowbar makes every five seconds as it hits the concrete. It's amazing how quickly it can drive you mental - and frankly not even a sound Judy Garland can drown out. Then multiply that by four people doing it. And you feel a bit like this:
Meanwhile, Rich and Winston continued ripping out all the old obsolete wires and then moved on to all the new stuff that's going to go in the ceiling. They removed the giant oogly flourescent light from the center of the outer lobby and then began measuring and drilling to mark the location for the new chandaliers and pendants as well as some recessed lighting we are putting in for accent lights and the built in recessed speakers. This was actually quite tricky because we had to figure out the best location for all of these things not only in relation to the things that were already there and permanent (the heat vents) but also the new diamond pattern that's going on the ceiling. Rich also wanted to make sure the lights weren't hung in a weird position in relation to the doors. So after we did some calculations with the scale plans I'd done of the ceiling and everything else we figured out what we thought was best and then with three of us on three ladders started running measuring tapes across the whole room to find center lines. On top of everything else we had to make sure we weren't trying to put anything recessed in line with a stud - cuz we wouldn't be able to install it with those in the way. And in order to check those positions, Rich had to keep poking around upstairs in the crawl area behind our refrigerator which has been dubbed "the secret space" (and one day, I hope, will be a spare bedroom. With access through our refrigerator. Whatever.
And then the driling began.
Which apparently involve quite a bit of concrete dust:
In terms of meals during day two, Dan was officially crowned the second Jew to eat a Pork Tenderloin in the 100 years of Nick's Kitchen. For dinner we hit Pizza Junction. During the evening we managed to convince the lovely owner that, since her restaurant was adorned with dozens of vintage photographs around Huntington, it was a true shame that the Theatre was not represented. She says she happened to have a spare frame and Rich asked, if we brought her a picture from 1944 if she'd put it up. And she said yes. Coolio. I should also note that Jean Anne is somewhat obsessed with Pizza Junction's breadsticks... and you know if the Pork Queen endorses it, then it's good eats.
And now allow me to share with you the event which was, for us, the most exciting moment. After months of staring at the those square columns which truncated each side of the lobby flow from inner-lobby to outer-lobby, we tackled them. These posts originally were simply a casing for two sets of double doors on each side. I had a particular vendetta against them because they really hindered traffic floor between the two rooms - and made bar placement etc. a much bigger hassle. You can see from this pre-demo picture of the space that they closed things off quite a bit.
After some detective work and poking around above, around and inside the posts, the Pack Leader determined they were not structural. So - HOORAY - with the tile now removed from around them, we could try taking them out. And, since I'm typing this now, it's fairly safe to assume the entire balcony did NOT fall on our heads. Actually once they got the facing off the posts we realized the 2x4's weren't even touching the ground. So all they had ever been was soemething to attach door hinges too. And I'm sure i'm not the only person who's been cursing at the things for the past eighty years. Watching Winston and Rich pry those puppies out of there was very, very exciting.
And now... look at the difference. In person it is AMAZING. Suddenly these spaces seem connected and one big event space... We were really, really floored by how much it helped things...
The weekend was over far sooner than we would have liked. Having old friends here was just such a welcome respite and it was great to laugh, play games, and above all, work our keesters off. For two gentrified city boys they worked like soldiers and really helped us keep us well on track for the big countdown to April. The walls are about half sanded, so once the rest of that is done we'll tackle the skim coating and then tackle the cement stain. Eep.
In 'fight-the-pie' news I'm happy to report that we finally made a decision on an elliptical. Rich showed remarkable patience taking me back and forth to several dealers so I could hop up and down off them, only to say every five seconds "but what do you think?" Finally we went with the one that seemed the most sturdy and had a seven year warranty. I kinda liked the feel of the other (a Nordic Track) a smidge more - but Rich found it a little rickity and it was much less compact. AND it had a one year warranty and the one we went with had a seven year warranty and they service them where we bought it. Pack Leader used it today and proclaimed it, in his usual effusive manner, "just fine". :)
Since the fellers left we've been playing catch up with other real-life work. I've been writing the intros for an Awards Ceremony in New York I used to work on, and, of course it was time for weekly Nick's birthday cake. Now, as I mentioned a while ago, Linda, Jean Anne's sister in Oregon had taken it upon herself to ensure that my cakes reached their maximum moistness potential. Last time the icing got full marks but the cake (which i over-fancified in the recipe) was a little dry. So Linda began a quest for moistness and found this trick which I tried for the first time this week. As SOON as the cake comes out of the oven (well, I did let it cool like two minutes) flip it over ONTO wax paper, then COVER the top with wax paper and stick it in the freezer. As soon as I began the process I realized that it was actually a pretty ingenious idea because the second you put the wax paper on the top face of the cake you see the steam getting trapped inside. Steam is moisture right. So, thusly Watson, the cake is retaining moisture. And...
Voila. According to all sources, the cake was moister than swampland in monsoon season. Moister than Pavoratti's handkerchief after he spent forty minutes doing pilates. Moist moist. Jean Anne was delighted. Cindy was pretty happy too because when I delivered the cake to her at 5:00 am I also dropped her off her own bowl of remaining icing (she was BIG fan of the icing). She actually was pretty nervous that morning because she was heading off to see her son get his pilot's wings and she'd hardly ever flown on plane before. And, as I always say, there's nothing better than a sugar rush and diabetic coma to calm your nerves while flying.
Last night was actually quite a landmark occasion for us. We actually allowed visitors into our abode. Lee, our lawyer, and his confirmed bachelor live-in buddy, Ray dropped by for a drink. They've been kind enough to have us over several times, and even though the apartment wasn't QUITE done, but we were at the point where we would have had to spray the couch down with asbestos in order to not seem rude at this point. So. We bit the bullet. Guests. In our apartment. Well - it was delightful. We are actually at the point where everything in our living room BELONGS in a living room, and it was quite civilized. Ray is a faboo antiques maven, and Lee is all about the Historic buildings of Huntington so we also had a fun time taking them around the building and picking their brains about nooks and crannies, including how to track down a match for one of our missing glass-globe exit signs that we love and don't want to have to replace with ookey modern ones; as well as a good source for large amounts of gold leaf for the lobby. That's right kids, bring on the sparkle.
They also brought us just about the coolest housewarming present ever. Actually, it wasn't for us. It was for Po. It's a framed silver bas relief wiener dog (male) with a matching little engraved plaque that says "Po's Beau". It is absolutely beautiful, and charming and completely fabulous. We love it, love it, love it. Take a look:
Back to the land of Pork... You are NOT going to believe this. Late last night, at like midnight, Rich and I were scanning around channels and we landed on VH1. This story actually becomes more wacky when you realize we NEVER watch VH1. I mean once in a while I get sucked into 'My Super Sweet Sixteen' but it ain't often. Anyway... There is this show on called '40 dumbest celebrity quotes of all time' or something and we put it on for like three minutes. All of a sudden - and I am NOT MAKING THIS UP...
Nick's Kitchen was on VH1. Honest to God.
They were showing a thing on thing Dan Quayle had said, and somehow, somewhere amongst ALL THE FOOTAGE in the world of Dan Quayle, they managed to find a film clip of him AT NICK'S KITCHEN. VH1. Cable, people. Not local cable. CABLE CABLE. Nick's. It was like being on the Twilight Zone. Thank GOD for tivo because you can backward tape something up to a half hour. So we hit record. I, of course wanted to call Jean Anne right away - but I text messaged her.
And this was my text message... "oh my god, nick's kitchen was just on VH!. I am so not kidding."
It took her until the next afternoon to call me. Oh wait. I CALLED HER. Because, clearly, being on national television must be old hat for the Pork Queen. "Oh Jean Anne, you're on sixty minutes." "Really, AGAIN??? How dull. Yawn."
She came over and watched it this afternoon. Insanity. And in case you don't believe me...
And in case you're wondering what particular quote of Mr. Quayle's led him to the honor roll on this program... Here it is: "I love California. I practically grew up in Phoenix".
The final piece of Nick's Kitchen news is actually a great personal triumph. A suspiciously familiar sounding item appeared on the specials board yesterday: "CALIFORNIA blend with cheese". Yes, ladies and gentleman. Some crafty goblin had attempted to transmogrify the dreaded Malibu Blend by sending it through Ye Olde Cuisinart, adding cheese and calling it SOUP. Guess what. Not one order sold. Malibu Blend is officially deceased. Victory is minneeeeeee!!!!
It's the little things that get you through. xo jojo.