Arghggghhg April approaches. First month of the great lobby reveal ticking past. But - luckily we've been kicking some butt over here. Or down here. Or up here - wherever you're reading this from. Well, as you know, when Janice arrives the serious work starts. Otherwise she hurts us. But, usually there's yummy food, so it's a tradeoff. :)
Rich intended on starting the day by cleaning a small test area of the concrete while I began the fun-o-riffic process of taping out the diamonds. Unfortunately the pack leader slightly over-estimated the amount of goop needed per square foot, and rather than testing a few feet in a discreet corner, ended up simulating the Exxon Valdez spill across half the floor. This wasn't that bad really, except it enforced a delay upon my work on the ceiling.
The delay was prescient however, because we received another check in visit from Margaret and Larry. Larry I think has decided that we might be his new hobby, OR that we are so pathetic that it isn't in his heart to leave us to our own devices. But he has popped by a couple of times over the past few days, usually accompanied by some gigantic incredibly useful piece of equipment and a truckload of sage-like advice. He's given Rich some incredible help tracing the bizarre and inexplicable wiring configurations which must have been laid over the years by three year olds huffing paste. My favorite handy wire-tracing tip so far - sticking the shop-vac in the hole where you want to trace the wire, then feeling where the air is being sucked along the other fixtures! Who knew. He also saved the day big-time with my ceiling patch issue... remember how last blog I thought the dri-loc would cover that area where the paint had peeled. (Nope). Larry said I needed to patch it with plaster of paris - troweled on. I always thought of plaster of paris as something you used at childrens birthday parties with plastic molds of smurfs and whatnot, but apparently it IS actually PLASTER. So, while the Pack Leader and Obi-Wan were rooting around the inside of walls, Margaret chauffeured me over to the hardware store to pick up a bag o' the stuff. On our way we picked up Gretchen, their 14 year old daughter from school.
Gretchen had been subjected to the worst of all teenage torture on that particular afternoon: sex ed. Which had homework. It was a truly fascinating sheet which they were supposed to fill out with an adult which covered 'safe dating'.
Some of the questions (and I am not making this up) which were on the homework. Keep in mind this is sex ed.
Suggest a fun GROUP activity you could do with several friends. My answer: pudding wrestling.
Make a suggestion of something you and your friends could do on a date as an entry for the Guiness Book of World Records.
I am NOT making up that question. Even if trying to conjure up such a group stunt does NOT send you mind down a wildly inappropriate place, it seems like quite the tangent as a dating alternative to boom boom. "Hey Billy - I know you want to get to first base, but instead - let's see how many frisbees we can swallow!"
The homework sheet also contained references to avoiding the "Line of Affection" and "the Underwear Zone." glad I went to a British school where they basically said... "um... penis vagina god save the queen" and then offered you a nice cup of Earl Grey to get over the shock.
Anyhoo... the plaster worked BRILLIANTLY. You mix it up pretty much just like mastic and then trowel it on. Wait. Sand. The tricky thing is that the stuff does dry very quickly - and then it ain't too fun to chisel off your putty knife. But it was worth it. After it had dried I dri-locked to match the texture, and you really could hardly see that there was a patch. I will say, that now that it's been painted, the way the drilock texture catches the light is different than the way the original wall texture catches light - and it is noticeable. But I'm trying to come up with a plan to deal with that (I may get a little tiny container of egg-shell in the same color JUST for that one diamond so it catches less light. dunno).. I also managed to start taping the first color off diamonds...but due to the puddle... I could only get so far.
Janice arrived. The labor began :) Most of my evening was actually spent preparing the weekly Nick's Birthday cake, which now, I'm happy to say, is starting to become less of a disaster-ridden activity each week. I'm getting a lot more dependable and consistent - so after a few hours the cakes were happily entombed in the freezer moisturizing, awaiting their 4:00am wakeup call for icing and 5:00am delivery to Cindy at Nicks.
It's actually working very well - it's gonna take two coats, but we think the results will be pretty good at the end of the day. All the swirly dark stuff is goo it's lifted off:
After Rich and Janice sucked up and mopped the goo I began further taping.
The diamond taping is actually quite an involved little procedure. The ceiling has four colors of diamonds in it. Each color has to be taped one at at time. Since dark covers light easier than vice versa, you need to start taping for the lightest color first. Once the tape is placed along the chalked blue line, you have to really, really press it down along the edge to be painted in order to prevent paint seeping underneath and screwing up your sharp geometric line. In our case this is made suckier because the ceiling has texture - so you really have to make sure that you press the tape so that even the smallest little divot doesn't leave enough room for the roller to ooze paint beneath. So I taped it and then kind of burnished over the top with a paper towel. And then double checked it. Also, you have to be careful when you run the paper towel with hefty pressure along the ceilng because if your hand is at the wrong angle, you can do fun things like remove most of the skin from your hand :)
So after a couple of hours of taping the first set of diamonds (and then wiping inside the area with a damp cloth to try and lift off some of the eighty years of popcorn grease and other unidentified guck which had formed a fine, ever-so slick film) it was time to actually paint THE FIRST STROKE. Or roll.
Now, this may not seem that momentous to you. But it was to me. See this particular glob of paint is the first actual thing that we are doing in the lobby that is US. It's the first thing we are doing on the entire project that our patrons will actually see - hopefully for a long time. It's the first real part of the aesthetic renovation. We've done a lot of stuff upstairs - which no one will see - and we've demolished and ripped out and cleaned and reconfigured a lot - but it was all taking OUT rather than adding in. This is the first thing that happened that is a structural step forward. Wheeeeee.
So that's how I've spent my past two days. Tape. Tape. Tape. Paint. Paint. Paint. Remove tape. Let Dry. Repeat. And it's a job that requires a certain speed and stamina (your forearm gets pretty darn tired) because you need to get all the diamonds painted of one color, let them dry about forty minutes, then get a second coat on them. This has to be done within a certain period of time because if the paint has TOO long to dry it will grip the masking tape and pull up when you remove the tape. Thank GOD for Margaret and Larry's scaffolding they lent us. It has saved my life. If I'd been trying to do this on a ladder i would have completely lost my marbles. There just would have been no way no how. When we first borrowed the scaffolding we didn't take the safety rails with us - but the first time I got up there and started trying to clamber around I realized that the rails would make me feel a whole heck of a lot better. Faster than Fed Ex, Larry dropped them off - and it's been full speed ahead since. I've able to keep my paint, roller, tray, water, paper towels, paint sketch, and most importantly, my diet pepsi, all in easy and constant reach. And, whereas, without the rails I was very leery working up there, now I'm happy as a clam.
Rich and Janice continued yanking hideous old conduit and cable out of the lobby (and you won't believe how much nicer, cleaner and classier the walls look without that crap snaking all over them) while I chugged along. Every forty five seconds I would ask Janice to wheel me a few feet - and she'd scuttle away from helping Rich, shove me (she expressed some disappointment that the guard rails now prevented her from gently nudging me through the exit doors into oncoming traffic) and then scuttle back to Rich. And, gradually, progress was made...
The other tricky thing about the whole process is that each color has to dry before it's safe to put tape on top of the fresh coat. Otherwise you can lay out the next diamond, paint it, and then pull up everything you did on the last color when you remove the masking. Luckily between the first cream and the second, rust, there was very little overlap. They really only connected at the very corners. So, after letting it dry for about two hours, I took the plunge. The integrity of the lines was coming out very sharp - so I was thrilled about that.
And by the end of the first day:
Margaret had been saying how glad she would be to help us out when the time was right. And, after having Janice zipping back and forth between me and Rich all day, I thought it couldn't hurt to ask if Margaret would mind being my official scaffold shover sometime during the next day. She said yes, and thus was drafted our first official volunteer. When Margaret arrived the first thing she said was "we need to raise the scaffolding up higher, get you a mattress and you can do the ceiling like Michaelangelo" (good Catholic girl painting reference).
Margaret is an Eckert by birth. And the Eckerts are a large brood. Let me put it this way - the Eckert women a generation back must have missed the "line of affection" talk. There are 18 siblings in Margaret's family. And thus, with her arrival at eleven thirty, began a parade of Eckerts. It was like a festival. And they came with food. It was fantastic. Margaret arrived with this amazing chocolate thing called a Texas sheet cake. Then Alane (pronounced Elaine), Margaret's cousin, who is also little Luke the Tenderloin Prince's mom, came for the full fifty cent tour. And she brought cupcakes. And then Julia, Margaret's pediatrician sister arrived, and SHE gave me a full house call for my infected finger and then came back later with magic finger-saving ointment. And, I am not making this up, when Julia arrived she said: "we should raise that scaffolding up and get you a mattress and you can paint it like Michaelangelo". Genetics are scary, huh. Margaret and Julia went to lunch, leaving Alane as sub-scaffold-shover (entirely of her own volition). And then Margaret came back and they BOTH kept at it. So I'm on the scaffold painting with what looks like a brood of Egyptian slave-girls carrying me about on dais:
Then Alane had to leave. But she came back with Tortilla soup. I never realized that volunteers were both nutritious and delicious. Actually, having people just willing to stand around, be good company, and then roll you three feet every two minutes was SO invaluable. It meant Janice could really help Rich, and I was able to work about twice as fast. Plus we laughed and had a grand old time. And, eventuallly, even Larry showed up, apparently having decided that his clothes were too clean and what his outfit really needed was a healthy dose of 100 year old grime. Actually, weirdly, knowing her husband's propensity for grime, Margaret picked him up a bunch of the same overalls Janice got Rich at Big Lots the other day. Yes, Richard Najuch, former shirt-and-tie-every day, Banana Republic, squeaky clean young urban professsional is now...
Let me tell you, citizen's of Huntington. If your son shows any troublesome signs of future confirmed bachelor-hood, send them on over to the Huntington Theatre to take a gander at Rich in these overalls, and they'll burn their showtunes and be back on the football team before you can blink.
So - day two continued much as day one. Tape/paint/tape/paint. This was quite a bit more hair-raising however, since today was the first occasion during which I had to lay long strips of masking right over a color that I wanted to KEEP and not lift off. But, thanks to the scientists at the blue scotch tape division, I am delighted to report...it WORKED. So far there was only one tiny place where it lifted up a centimeter sized blip of paint. Which, ain't bad. At all.
So I managed, with my able push-me-pull-you's, to get three out of four colors done in the outer lobby. But we then reached a substantial debate about the last color. The color we picked up at Lowes was a different tone that on my original sketch:
All the colors up on the ceiling till now have been very close matches. But rather than that intermediate brown we ended up with a yellow ochrey mustard color - I THINK because we had a hard time finding a brown which had enough contrast between the other two. But every time I looked at this ochre color I went "hmmmmmmm". So I left it until last. Then I took a piece of the test foam core, painted it the ochre, then held it up against the ceiling where the new color was supposed to sit. And everyone else said "hmmmmmmmmmmmmm". Which, frankly, is a good thing. Unanimous disgust is far easier to deal with than a split decision. So, we then played the Pack Leader color game. Jo Jo (and his team of helpers) picked about six options for colors, then presented them to the Pack Leader who weighed in and picked his favorite. We ended up with a color called Moose Mousse. Sometimes I think the Pack Leader picks the colors because of the funny names. In fact when we painted our apartment in NY every color was named something like "New England Red", "Yankee Blue", "Massachusetts Pink", "Boston Beans Brown", "Nantucket Grey", "Live Green Or Die", "I Can't Pronounce R Yellow" etc. etc.
So - the fourth color painting was tabled until tomorrow (after a trip to Lowes for provisions).
So, instead, we moved into the inner lobby and started blue-lining those diamonds out instead.
I actually started marking the diamonds in the wrong place at the outset. See I had diagramed them out and down scale measurements for them to fit into the alcove. BUT I forgot that we wanted the center pendant light to fall in the center of a diamond. And since nothing in this building is precise, the only way to guarantee this was to work from center out. So, after a few damp paper towels erasing pencil lines, we managed to correct the mistake. And I started taping. Again. And painting. Again. And, at the end of day two I had the first diamonds done in the inner lobby as well.
At this point a good deal of paint had fallen under the influence of gravity.
Margaret said I looked as if I'd been standing too close behind a cow that farted.
And with that charming image fermenting on your minds....