Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It shouldn’t make much if any difference to you, but it makes a tremendous difference to me that this post is being composed on my brand new laptop. I’m enjoying every keystroke! Not alone that, Fritz contracted to have wireless internet installed at the Center and it was activated today. This place has gone from being on dial-up with only one computer at a time able to log on, to a high-speed connection that can take the entire staff, over two hundred students with their own laptops if necessary, and me--all at one time. It’s absolute heaven.


I went up to the hillside yesterday afternoon to check on how things were going and saw that my general contractor and the town’s building inspector were in intense conversation. They turned when they saw me coming and I called our “Good afternoon!” The building inspector shot back “It WAS” and I knew there was trouble.

This town, it turns out, has a more stringent series of inspections required than is the state standard. While my general contractor had called in the building inspector for the first time at the normal time—the completion of the foundation—the town’s requirements were for inspections of each part of the foundation’s development. Firstly, when the footings have been poured; then the reinforcement rods and any electrical conduit has been placed into empty forms; finally when the pouring is complete and all the forms removed. The inspector was looking at a finished product with no proof that there was actually any re-rod in the concrete and he definitely wasn’t happy.

He was even less happy with the way the upper half of the piers had been poured as he had no proof there was any rod connecting the bottom half to the top half that had been poured with a “cold joint” to the bottom half,. something he didn’t like either. I decided my best position was to remain out of the conversation and let the general contractor deal with the situation. Others felt the same way—the excavator and the plumber, who was marking out where all the house’s drains were to be located, were staying as far away as possible on the other side of the site.

When the inspector left I asked R, the general contractor, “how bad is this?” He said it really wasn’t bad, that he would get another copy of the town’s inspection schedule on new construction--he said he had never received the first one--and follow it to the letter. As to the possibility that the piers would have to be reconstructed he told me, “That’s my problem, not yours.” Then he said, almost under his breath, “It would be great if there were some pictures of the site as the cement work developed.” “But there are,” I replied, “I’ve been taking pictures of every phase of the construction.”

To make a long story short, M, the guy who did all the construction drawings, said he’d coordinate the distribution of my pictures to the inspector and to the consulting engineering company so that everybody would be on the same page about how the house was put together. When I mentioned that I had no way of getting the photos off my camera as the cable that would connect it to my computer was lost somewhere amid the vast pile of cartons that had been moved into Fritz’s barn, M said he has a printer that will print from memory chips, so my pictures can be retrieved and shown to the inspector to prove that there was the proper amount of rebar in the walls, etc.

I checked the site this morning around 9am and nobody was there working at all; I figured that we’d be delayed a couple of days while everything got sorted out. But by noon, the insulation company came to waterproof and insulate the entire underground and bermed parts of the cement shell. We seem to be back on track, as the general contractor told me that the inspector had been convinced that things had been done in an approved manner.


The following was forwarded to me in June by the niece of one of the men involved. She has read my blog and thought I would be interested. The story is heart-breaking but also very beautiful and is the kind of story the population of the U.S. needs to hear much more often. From the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram:

Simple Walk a Big Leap for Lovers
by Bill Nemitz June 6, 2007

Eliott Cherry will never forget the feeling.

It was the summer of 1995. He and Chris Chenard, the love of his life, had just returned home to Portland from a vacation in Provincetown, Mass.

There, much to Cherry's pleasant surprise, two gay men could spend their entire day walking downtown hand in hand -- and fit in.

But back here, as they ambled around Back Cove, holding hands felt too risky, too frightening, too out there.

"We suddenly realized how alive we felt in Provincetown," Cherry said on Monday. "And how half-alive we felt here in our own community."

So they did something about it. Working with the Maine SpeakOut Project, Cherry and Chenard founded the Walk With the One You Love -- a chance for Mainers who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender to simply join hands and go for a stroll.

Starting at 1 p.m. Sunday, the walk will wind its way through Deering Oaks. And for the first time in a long time, Cherry once again will have that half-alive feeling.

Just over two weeks ago, Chris Chenard, 56, died of pancreatic cancer. Sitting by his bedside, Cherry made him a promise -- and in doing so took another bold step forward.

"I told him, 'From now on, I will refer to you as my husband,'" Cherry recalled. "It was so clear to me that I was losing my husband of 16 years -- and I want people to know that."

Squirm if you must. Or raise an eyebrow and say a man can't call another man "my husband" because there are laws about these things and blah, blah, blah

Cherry doesn't care. The two rings -- his and Chris's -- he now wears on his finger mean as much to him as a pair of weddings rings will ever mean to a heterosexual couple.

"How dare anyone try to minimize or put our relationship down a notch because it doesn't fit some mold," he said.

All of which proves that while some things have changed, some haven't.

Nonheterosexual couples can now hold hands without fear in many public places, yet Cherry admits he'd "think twice" before doing it on Congress Street in downtown Portland.

Equal rights are now ensured for Mainers regardless of their sexual orientation, yet our state and federal laws still balk (for now) at the notion of same-gender marriage.

"We have this thing on our wall -- Vermont Civil Union -- with the date and everything," Cherry said. "But what are you? You're not married. You're unified? Civilly unified? What do you call it? Nothing on there tells you what you're supposed to call the other person."

Sunday at 10 a.m., a memorial for Chris Chenard will be held in Payson Park. Then it will be over to Deering Oaks for what the Community Counseling Center (which now runs the Maine SpeakOut Project) has aptly renamed the "Ninth Annual Christian Chenard Walk With the Ones You Love."

Cherry, however grief-stricken, will be there. But part of him will be back at Maine Medical Center, where only weeks ago he and the man he loved took their final steps together up and down a hospital hallway.

Cherry smiles at the memory. "We said, 'Look! We're doing the walk with the one you love!'"

Look indeed. And come Sunday, all of Maine should give them a hand.

Columnist Bill Nemitz can be contacted at 791-6323 or at:

You sure do know how to bring tears to one's eyes. What a beautiful story. I wish you well with the new laptop....that's majorly exciting!
Will, I am grateful that you have picked up this story by Bill Nemitz so it can be widely shared.

Chris would be so happy to know that our life together can be inspiring to others after his death - even beyond Maine.

It means a tremendous amount to me that we might help the world understand - emotionally - that love and marriage between people of the same sex is a beautiful expression of life, stabilizing for families and communities, and important for society to nourish. - Eliott Cherry
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