Let them eat Cake. Just don't make me make them ALL. May 2.

Massive apologies for the delay. This was actually done a few days ago (still too long of a gap, i know) but the pack leader has been so busy he hasn't been able to give it the stamp of approval. So - for once - blame the boss :) A little. Cake. cake. cake. It's all been a little loony. There's been seven cakes this week. SEVEN, PEOPLE! That plus the Kiwanis visit plus the fact that I've been feeling a little under the weather means the blog suffered. I know - I just got caught up and then i screwed up again. Not good. Anyway - at least I don't have the evil LARRY FLU. The Head Pegan came down with some evil martian disease which knocked him out completely for like six days. Poor guy. He wasn't even able to join in the fun unloading the eighteen tons of sewing machinery Margaret purchased this week from a Mennonite family. (which had me thinking...remember that old tv jingle "By Mennan" for deoderant. Well as were unloading this crap I was humming "BUY Mennonite". Apparently they had used the machinery to make Christian Sheets. So anyway - Madge bought like all these industrial sewing machines and surgers and stuff. Grant said it was a really bummer that she had stopped running the day care - cuz voila instant child labor. Margaret's been ensconced cleaning, oiling and polishing all that stuff with her sister Claire (a professional upholsterer) who was in town for one of the OTHER sister's son's wedding. Lost yet? Anyway - so Claire and Margaret have been busing transforming the Pegan garage into a workshop...so it's just been us and Janice most of the week. Please ladle on as much guilt as you would like through personal emails to Madge :) Hee hee.

The Pegan sisters also decended like a pack of decorating wolverines upon the reception venue. They described a gigantic chandelier made from hula hoops and christmas lights which traditionally appeared at all Eckert weddings. This description did not fill my mind with great confidence (And now, Vera Wang presents her new hula hoop collection"). But when we took a trip to visit the space.... Amazing. How could I have doubted an Eckert. Never mind like four of them.

ECKERTS ARE GOOD WITH TOOLS AND TULE. wedding-pic.JPG

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Now, the most classic part of this remarkable contraption was the way the tule terminates within each of the six basketball hoops in the venue.

KAREEM ABDUL CHIFFON basketballnet1.JPG

Jeesh - what's the deal. You'd think this freakin blog was about MARGARET... Seriously - our life has been pretty dull compared to what's going on over there... A few days ago a giant dump truck filled with gravel had an accident, side swiped the front of another vehicle, and ended up crashing and tipping over right at the end of their driveway all over their yard.

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Nobody was hurt... but there's quite a lot of clean up for somebody to take care of. Now, here's the fantastic part. The gravel can't be sold again right - cuz it's now dirty. Instead of having them tow it away...Larry just wants them to dump it on their driveway. That's taking gravel and making...um...gravelade?

Over here, we've made a lot of progress starting things... but nothing has been finished. Not that we've been lazing around (although I've been doing a lot more upstairs rather than down cuz I wasn't feeling so hot), but just a bunch of different projects have been tackled at once. The reason for this, gentle reader, is that it's CLEAN UP week. In the spring they do this thing in Huntington where for a week you don't have to PAY to take loads to the dump. So, the Pack Leader announced that we would be doing as much demolition as possible this week so that we could then get the debris into the truck, and get it out of the theatre and the Byron street house FOR FREE. And, five dumps later, filled with walls and crap from the women's bathroom, the storefront (I'll explain in a minute), and the actor's housing... we saved about $120 bucks. Whoo hoo.

DEBRIS FOR FREE! dsc_0067.JPG

Of course - by the weekend, Mr. Sparkle sure is in desperate need of a bath: sparkle-bath.JPG

Ok. So - Women's bathroom renovation. Rich and I went to Home Depot and Lowes and Menards and spent a couple hours looking at tile and linoleum and panelling and tile and linoleum and panelling and... And, after comparing prices and sweat-equity and various factors we found some choices for the women's bathroom we really liked. It's not going to be as strong of a deco statement in there, but I think that's ok. It will look elegant, and very pretty, and a zillion percent better. I mean... really. Do you REMEMBER what it looked like in there?

THIS DESIGN BELONGS IN THE CRAPPER. BUT NOT THIS CRAPPER. bathroom-oogly.JPG

And the only people who will know it's not art deco are Lee and Ray. Who, we will just have to keep telling over and over again "Boys stay OUT of the women's bathroom" :). They're incorrigable.

Anyway - I'm excited about what we've found. And thus we started work. We decided to take out a partition wall that just made the ergonomic flow of the space a disaster. And, when you've got a limited number of stalls and a gaggle of ladies who need to pee during intermission... that's important. So, a non-structural wall and doorway in the center of the room had to go. As you can see from this picture - the first thing to come out were the bathroom stalls. Which we've started stripping and sandblasting to remove six delightful layers of paint and get down to the brushed metal beneath.

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The best news about the demo of those walls was the disappearance of our favorite architectural feature in the entire building - yup... goodbye scary wallpaper border. Hooray. So, we started work whacking out that archway. We quickly discovered that these walls had the same evil concrete and mesh wall board as we had wrestled with upstairs when installing the bathroom. But THIS time it was even MORE fun. Upstairs the mesh only ran along the edges of the walls... this stuff was through the whole wall:

WHAT A MESH

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So - this was tougher than expected. But we did make progress. Actually we had some added help from a new friend. A young feller named Dylan had arrived on our doorstep about a month ago. He's actually the late Jim Vareny's nephew (Hey Vern, it's Earnest). He's nineteen and he wants to be an actor. So, in anticipation of some modeling/acting competition he wants to go to, he asked if I would coach him. So, every hour I coach him, he give us an hour of handyman help. And, as we learned the other day, Dylan likes whacking stuff. Let me tell you - I didn't realize the REAL difference between 19 and being 34 until the other day. He knocked out those bathroom walls in the amount of time it took me to make a hole the size of a pencil lead. It was AWESOME.

DILLON DOES SOME WALL KILLIN' dylan-helping.JPG

So. The team has a new heavy :) And the walls came a tumblin' down. Along with those walls came a crap load of dust...which, despite best efforts, managed to travel right into the lobby... sooo, the ceiling and everything else had to be dusted again. yeesh.

We thought, after we reached this point in the bathroom that the rest of this process would be pretty speedy. But, quell surprise, we hit a couple snafus. (is the plural of snafu, snafus? Or is it like the plural of fish? Hmm.) Ok - snafu number one. Rich had to do a little work downstairs in the depths of the basement. So. He was working down there. No problem. Everything fine. And then he tripped. It's kinda dark in the basement, even with utility lights, and just as he was finished and was heading upstairs, he lost his footing and fell. And stopped his fall by grabbing onto something. Namely a forty year old pipe.

The Pack Leader got very very very wet.

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Water was going everywhere... it took him like twenty minutes to get it stop and there was still a lot of leakage. The immediate obvious solution: Call Larry, was not an option cuz that was the day of the wedding. We ended up almost breaking into the PeGan's house that afternoon (luckily Grant was there) in order to purloin his pipe threader (a thingy that puts screwy grooves in the ends of pipe. I should write manuals, lets face it). We had to go to Fort Wayne to get supplies - since nothing here was still open. At Menards a plucky young chap asked Rich if he was "interested in a male on male valve...cuz THOSE ARE available". We're not sure if he was trying to make a double entendre or if he was just kinda dumb. Because as far as we know there isn't such thing as a male on male valve in plumbing. Anyhoo...

Two days later that problem was fixed.

JANICE: NOW RICH, LET'S GO OVER THIS AGAIN... NO MORE USING THE PIPES AS MONKEYBARS. janice-and-rich-plumbinbg.JPG

Larry came over and gave Rich a hand the next day. The good news is that Rich and Larry managed to fix the break without many other problems. The bad news was that the Kiwanis wasn't going to have a finished women's restroom. So - for that event only, we figured we'd have to go unisex.

Snafoo two: Once we realized that we weren't going to be able to get the bathroom completed for the Kiwanis, we had a little time to consider things. There is a really ooky step that leads into that bathroom. It's like three inches deep - and it's just that weird height where you're asking for people to fall over it. Rich's intention was to build a small ramp instead, and run a small return wall along the ramps edge to conceal the stalls from the lobby view, and also to make sure no one fell off the ramp. But, after careful consideration, we realized the best thing to do would REALLY be to just build the bathroom floor up to match the height of the lobby. This wasn't a huge expense at all - and probably only about two days work. And it would make things a lot safer. So - thats the plan. It didn't get tackled straight away though, because of 'clean up week'. This week was all about getting crap OUT not putting crap IN.

As you can see the paint on these walls was in reallllly rough shape:

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So this all had to be scraped. At least down to about four feet from the floor, since we're going to install really pretty dark wood paneling along the walls to about chair rail height. We also decided that the walls were in such rough shape...and we were NOT eager to skim coat again... that I should do that stucco plaster treatment on the walls like upstairs in our bathroom. it looks really pretty, and it means that we won't have to try and get all these uneven marks in the walls even. which, I fear, would have taken forever. I think they would have had to have been plastered several times...and even then the stuff might just peel up again like it did so often when we battled with the lobby walls. So - this is a GREAT solution. But the walls still needed scraped. While I was working on cakes one night, Rich and Janice made huge progress on this...

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And that crap went to...yup... the dump.

Around this time the great cake bake of 09 began. Jean Anne needed her cakes for Nicks weekly birthday extravaganza. Then our favorite non-Cindy waitress, Natasha over at Pizza Junction asked if I could do her a cake for the birthday of her friend Abby (who also used to work at P.J.) She wasn't sure what she wanted - something girly like a shoe or a purse. She didn't need a very big cake, so I didn't have to charge her very much (which I was really happy about - because she's so sweet and, heck, she' s a waitress, not the CEO of Microsoft.) We finally settled on a Louis Vuitton purse - which I think came out pretty well...

THE REAL THING: purse-louis.jpg

EDIBLE KNOCK-OFF luis-cake.JPG

I was particularly pleased about the straps - which are edible. They're made from these candy things called "Cow Tales" which are strips of caramel with cream inside. I kept it in the package, ran them under hot water to get them soft, bent them to shape and stuck them down with icing. Ta da. Edible strap.

The posters I designed for the display frames outside arrived in time for the Kiwanis. Madge had done a great job painting the frame boxes black with a faboo gold accent:

"IS THIS THE WITNESS PROTECTION PROGRAM? HIDE ME FROM THESE PEOPLE". gold-on-posters.JPG

And then we mounted the posters to black matt board (couldn't get foam core large enough...so the freakin' cardboard cost almost as much as the posters did). The posters were secured with industrial velco - which means we can now swap them out when we have special events - and return them undamaged - for ongoing installation. We're having a little bit of an issue with the spray glue - it ain't holding the posters to the matt board as well as I'd anticipated - but with a little glue stick action we'll be golden. And the posters look soooo neat in the windows...

IT'S JUST LIKE SHUBERT ALLEY posters.JPG

Prep for the Kiwanis wasn't nearly as taxing as for the Rotary. For a couple of reasons... the main one being that we'd done it before. Oh, yeah...and the lobby was already y'know, built! We had to do some speech improvements (to incorporate some more questions we've been asked, clarify that our non-profit status is pending until we are able to produce in the auditorium etc. etc.). This time Jean Anne put all the food together herself without the JoJo hovering over. So, after my rabid insistence that we use the Vidalia onion chopper because it made the cut up things "pretty"... all went swimmingly. The food was great - this time Rich and I actually even got to sit and eat some of it. Margaret and Janice repeated their plating duties with usual aplomb. Last time not that many people realized we had pitchers of iced tea - so this time we took them from table to table. Otherwise, it all felt like a well-oiled machine. Or at least one that didn't need a bucket of WD-40 to think about moving. The Kiwanis were also fantastic at giving us exact numbers - we were expecting 30 and 29 appeared. The Kiwanis, for the most part, have a higher quotient of retirees. And one thing we realized a little late was that retired people's schedules aren't quite as tightly packed. So they show up early. Like forty five minutes early! Actually really only the president, who was absolutely delightful, arrived with the cock crow - but Janice was still in her bare feet ironing tablecloths, we were setting the tables, the candles weren't lit and I believe Rich still had the soundtrack to Pretty Woman playing through the speakers. We took it in shifts staying downstairs as we did clark kent-speed quick changes into our suits. Interestingly enough the corn proved more popular this time round (last time a lot of people ate every single morsel of it, and some people left it entirely - this was a much more even reception). It was also a lot easier serving thirty than fifty-four...so I even had a chance to snap a quick picture of the proceedings:

THE KIWANIS ARE UPON US kiwanis-meeting.JPG

And, yes of course, there was Kiwanis cake. Which, I must confess, I was pretty happy with. The lettering was NOT EASY and it came out pretty well. I also got a lot better at perfect circles this time round, compared to the Rotary cake.

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Although, Janice feels very strongly that from now on we should avoid any more blue logo organizations. Cuz the blue icing does tend to turn your tongue a little smurfy for a spell. Not my fault, people. Blame your logo dude :) Actually I think it might be a little my fault this time cuz I coudn't get the icing a bright enough blue using just the Wilton coloring - so I used plain old blue food coloring - which I think does have a little more staying power. So I'll avoid that next time. Did I ever tell you about the time I wanted to be a smurf for Halloween and my mother thought it would be a dandy idea to take white clown makeup and add blue food coloring. I was a smurf quite a bit PAST halloween people.

In addition to the Kiwanis cake, there was also the 'in case of emergency extra people sheet cake'. Right after the Kiwanis I had to whip out another couple of cakes for a catering gig Jean Anne had later in the evening. Which takes this weeks cake count to... SEVEN. Yeesh. Who am I? Freakin' Betty Crocker?

As soon as the Kiwanis were wined and dined. Or rather 'ice tead and dined' (?) Team Najuch returned to their still warm sledge hammers. Free dumping time was ticking away - so they decided to move on to the next big demo project. And one which, to date, has not been discussed with you, dear reader. Or at least I don't think it has.

See, the bar for the lobby was originally going to be IN the lobby - go figure. You know two alcove walls that a certain Pegan painted brown on her own whim. Well - one of those was going to have the bar against it - and therefore a bank of shelves for glasses etc would go along that wall. The other alcove was going to lead to some additional bathrooms for the ladies. Well. Then things changed. See we found out that in order to have a bar - even in a theatre - you have to have (according to the new licensing law) a six foot high wall separating the bar from any place where people under age can congregate. We quickly realized a six foot wall would not look that good in the middle of our lobby. So. With the left storefront unoccupied, and with the downtown real estate market not quite booming, we rethought things. The lobby is beginning to really show potential as an event space - we've hosted several meetings here already for a couple of groups. It seems like the real way to make this building financially contribute to it's future transformation is to capitalize as much as we can on making that area as large and awesome as we can. So - if the left storefront became the bar - we wouldn't lose any seating capacity or square footage in the lobby itself. The two rooms can connect through an archway that meets the legal requirements, and the bar will be a great size. And if we want to sanction it off, we can.

PLUS - the Jo Jo had a good idea (the Pack Leader even endorsed this idea. Of course he also said 'One lucid thought out of a million ain't that great a track record'). Where the other alcove is we're going to hang some really full, heavy brown velour drapery, which be a lot nicer than that alcove - AND behind the curtains we can have a small projector screen and a wipe off board for corporate meetings. Most of the time they'll be behind the drapes and it will just look elegant and sexy... and when we need it - presto chango.

So. Anyway - the storefront. Soon to be the bar. Which means demolition. Wait - I hear you say, didn't you already RENOVATE the storefront. Yes, yes we did. But the last tenant luckily covered the costs for that renovation...so I guess we're not really in the red. And this is going to be so much better of a use of the space - and so much more reliable as a means of return and such an improvement to the building that it's totally worth it. We can also do 90% of the work before we connect the two rooms, saving the mess from permeating into the already renovated loveliness. So - as I was saying. Demoltion. And it IS free cleanup. So Team Najuch went to work.

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While I was working on this blog it felt a little bit like I was back in LA during the quakes, cuz the storefront is right below my office. But progress was pretty incredible - and you won't believe, with those few added walls removed, how big of a space it is. it's going to be fantastic. After I figure out what the heck it's going to look like. eep.

We've also gained a wonderful new volunteer... she's been an avid blog reader and arrived at our doorstep practically with a resume and a full list of references. She was EAGER... Awesome! I was working up here most of the time, so i didn't get to spend too much time with her - but she's super nice, and dug right in. They got all the (new :( ) carpet taken out (hopefully to be reincarnated over at the actor housing), the linoleum and a bunch of those icky-poo stick down tiles that had been sealed behind that room we had closed off short-term. So - now it's a completely wide open space with hardwood floors. That ARE covered in sticky goo...but Larry says that they should sand down just fine. So, hopefully they'll be fab.

The Pack Leader has officially managed to do the most Jo Jo thing imageinable. He has lost his keys. His gigantic key ring with the keys for the theatre, storefronts, apartment, car, actor house...etc etc etc Let me just say that if had done that...well...Po would be writing the blog from now on. And Rich would be telling people I'd gone on "an extended sabattical to Greenland".

Ok - that's long enough. And, after I fill in a few gaps, we'll be caught up kids. I missed ya. BTW Pack Leader is working on the program to facilitate the blog quiz. So another day or two. xo jojo