Sunday, July 01, 2007

When I got to Fritz's on Friday afternoon, there was a lot of activity at the house site. All loose rock had been cleared from the house's footprint and the concrete crew was putting up wooden forms to pour the lowermost footings for the walls and piers that will support the trusses over the 24' wide great room. It was fortunate that I was there. The general contractor and M who had made the construction drawings arrived one after the other at about 4pm.

They told me that the blasting earlier in the week was a success as far as it went but hadn't removed enough rock behind the house. The top of the "cliff" was too high for the downstairs windows and water draining down the hill would fall directly onto those windows. To make matters more urgent, two huge cement trucks were at that moment on their way to pour the footings. There were two alternatives:
1) cancel the cement trucks and have the crew break down the forms, have the excavator re-dig the front of the house several feet south, then rebuild the forms and pour concrete some time next week, or:
2) have the trucks pour the footings, let them set over the weekend, have the excavator cover the newly poured footings with crushed rock to protect them and then blast out the top five feet of the cliff. By the time we'd clarified the options and calculated the increased expense of each option, the trucks were 10 minutes away. Nothing like a little pressure.

We went with plan #2. The trucks arrived with a great grinding roar up the compacted crushed rock road to the house and then, one after the other, drove right into the house's footprint. Cement began pouring down the trough from the trucks into the forms. The crew raked and smoothed the cement into the forms, around the reinforcement rods that would secure the eventual walls and piers to the footings. All this was between 5 and 6pm on a Friday afternoon on what many considered to be a holiday weekend. By 6:30 the site was empty of trucks and crew. I'm now the proud possessor of a foundation. The remedial shaping of the cliff will happen early next week.

I went back down to Fritz's house and helped greet the arriving relatives for the reunion weekend. On Saturday and today I led two separate tours up to the site after explaining how the house had come to be designed and showing the plans. Everybody loved the site and many carried away pieces of the broken rock of the ledge. The stuff is exotic and gorgeous. Some pieces of the amber-to deep blood red rock contain glittering silica or marble-like veins. Fritz found a geode-like piece inside which crystals mixed with granite. One of his cousins loaded a big chunk into the trunk of his car to place in his garden.

All this rock will eventually sheathe the six big piers along the front of the house, and I proposed to Fritz that it might also face the inside of the two corner piers of the great room, one of which will back the Vermont Castings wood stove.

The reunion was a big, fun, non-stop party. For Saturday night's dinner, Fritz had engaged the caterer to whom we refer wedding and special event clients so he and I could enjoy the big meal of the weekend (he and I had cooked all other meals during the weekend). We had relatives from Illinois, Texas, North Carolina and California among other states and everyone had a great time.


I returned to Boston tonight. Our new Democratic governor Deval Patrick has announced three very interesting initiatives:
1) He's joined a coalition of Green State facilitators. The object is to make this state into a leader in energy conservation, alternative energy production and environmental responsibility.

2) He will propose a constitutional amendment to ban all attempts to write bias or discrimination into the Massachusetts Constitution.
3) He will block the raising of tolls on this state's roads until he has made sure all current toll revenue is being spent properly without waste or loss due to graft.


This piece appeared recently on the Playbill site about a legendary singer. It's both inspirational and a slap in the face to those who feel gay unions aren't sincere and motivated by genuine love and devotion:

Hugues Cuénod — the Swiss tenor who was a member of Nadia Boulanger's madrigal group, sang in the world premiere of Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress, played one of the animals in The Cunning Little Vixen for Simon Rattle's Glyndebourne debut, and made his own Metropolitan Opera debut at age 84 — celebrates his 105th birthday today.

He won't be out partying, though. "I will probably stay in bed," he told the Associated Press in a telephone interview yesterday. "I won't do anything special," he told the Swiss news agency ATS earlier this year, "I'll wait for the next [birthday] — if there is one!"

As for his longevity, he told ATS, "It's not my fault, I didn't do anything for it. I'm in good health, I'm lazy and I have a dear friend to look after me." Which is to say that Cuénod got married earlier this year — well, okay, he got civil union-ed. He and his partner of two decades, a 64-year-old retired Swiss civil servant named Alfred Augustin, registered their partnership in January after Swiss law was changed to give same-sex couples most of the legal benefits of marriage. "It was a logical decision, especially at this age." Augustin told ATS. "Most people were happy for us," he continued, "though a few promised us 15,000 years in hell."

The two live together in the Château de Lully, which overlooks Lake Geneva not far from Lausanne and has belonged to Cuénod's family for more than two centuries. The birthday boy is now hard of hearing and can no longer read, reports ATS, but he still gets out of bed every morning, eats his meals at the table and regularly visits restaurants. "I have a quiet life, I receive some visitors," he says. "I'm very happy and don't particularly think about the future. For me the future is perhaps several months."

But Augustin tells ATS that "Hugues still likes to go riding in the car, especially with the top down so he can let his long white hair blow in the wind."

Will -- we had an addition put on our house several years ago. I found that despite spending 1 hour a day on the phone with the contractor, being right there when a decision needed making made all the difference. There were a few times when I was a room away and the subs didn't bother to ask what I wanted, sometimes to very weird effect. But if you're standing right there, they'll ask.

I've loved reading about the adventure of selling your old house, and I've especially loved hearing about the building of your new house. Please keep these stories coming!

-- liz a
I'm absolutely exhausted reading about all of your work. Is is so wrong to just want to come to New England to sit, relax, dream, and chill? And screw the work part? is that so wrong? I hope not.
i admire your courage with all this building; it sounds to be a great deal of sttess if you let it get to you. hang in there!
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