May 24,2014 – October 11, 2014.
No, Donald the Plumber isn’t speaking to me. He stands behind me, in the middle of Savannah Street, telling his phone to ring up Bruce.
“Bruce? I’ve got a water heater you can come pick up.” He gives Bruce directions. Then he walks past the new water heater into Barb’s house. When he opens the door I hear Barb’s alarm blaring. I don’t know what set it off. Neither does the plumbing crew.
That’s not the only noise here. Two doors down a house is getting a new roof. An air compressor runs, and nail guns pop off erratically.
Me? I’m quietly painting Barb’s picket fence. This is just one of the tasks on the list of odd jobs Barb has saved for me. Things are humming here in Cabbagetown. I’m glad to be a small part of the buzz.
Bruce, the junk man, arrives. We chat while he waits for the plumbers to bring the old water heater out. He hasn’t been in this area for a while. He remarks on how nice the neighborhood looks. He says that 30 years ago C-Town was rough. He claims that Grady Memorial would not send ambulances here. Too dangerous. They would just tell you to find a ride to the hospital.
Well, not these days. Now, this is a destination. Everyone knows when a house becomes available for sale or rent. Friends of friends make offers on houses the moment they are listed. Crack-heads are out. PHDs and Priuses are in.
Right now I’m working for Barb, one of the Cabbagetown Divas. To qualify for Diva-hood one must have a zest for life, a beautiful home, and brilliant grandchildren. (Cats are an acceptable substitute, if they have lots of personality.) Your wardrobe must be extensive enough to support celebrations like Mardi Gras, Halloween, and neighborhood screenings of “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”. In addition to being our friends, the Divas are very important to us for another reason. They save up odd jobs for me each year until Duwan and I blow back into town.
Diva Susanne comes up the street to make sure I’m not dying of thirst. Her screen doors need repair when I get a chance. Later, Diva Melody asks if I’m interested in dry-walling the inside of her studio. Life is good.
The Divas keep me busy for a while. I have everyone’s phone number. The texts fly like mad. I go to Lowe’s every day. People behind me in the check out line get impatient when I split a cartload up into four purchases and write names on the back of each receipt. I have a pool of ladders and tools. I borrow from one neighbor to work on another neighbor’s project. I feel like some crazy juggling act that could only work in this place at this time.
Have I mentioned that we don’t really have a plan? We only had a few days of work lined up when we came here. But we can get work just by walking down the street.
One of our first walks this summer was past Tracy’s house. He’s painted most of the outside of the house himself, but there are a couple of hard-to-reach spots. I put up some wood siding and paint for him. He overpays me and tells me to call Jason, who will pay even better. I don’t really know Jason, but I call him.
I catch him at the right time. He says he has one day to work on a house after his old renters move out, and before his new renters move in. We go in and see huge flakes of paint sagging from the ceiling, and walls that need patchwork and painting. We set at it and finish most of the work by the time the movers arrive. Jason cuts me a generous check and shows me another house he is getting ready to put on the market. I end up doing so much work for him this summer it almost feels like a real job.
And on it goes: replace siding, hang or fix ceiling fans, replace faucets, hang shelves, mortise a lock into door, replace screens, repair stair steps, get windows to open, get windows to close, put flooring into a camper, and paint, paint, paint.
Duwan and I did land a couple of jobs that came close to our ‘business model’. We occupied houses for a few days to a week and painted while we were there. It’s a win-win for everyone. A perfect gig for us is living in a house while the owners are on vacation. We can paint a few rooms, and care for the plants and pets. That’s about as close as we can get to having a ‘plan’.
Thanks, C-Town for keeping us in business.
Some of our odd jobs can be pretty odd. Last year I researched, bought, and setup/installed five digital TVs for a friend who wanted to get rid of her cable. I then disposed of her old analogue TVs, cancelled her cable and returned the equipment to Comcast.
This year another odd odd job fell in my lap. When we found ourselves needing a place to stay while our van was in the shop, we ended up at a friend’s second home. This house was barely inhabitable for all of the stuff piled up from what was left of our friend’s mother’s estate and from a spending spree that had gotten a little out of hand. Our friend wanted to move into the house, so I started putting things away so we could live in it first. I made a path to the bed, and moved pots, pans, dishes, and packaged food from the bathtub to the kitchen cabinets. Then I took what ever wasn’t useful and what ever our friend had decided not to keep, nearly half of the house’s contents, and moved it out to the garage where I sorted everything and arranged it all neatly and compactly on shelves, tables, and any other surface I could find. Then we priced everything, took pictures, advertised and had three garage sales!