Wednesday, August 24, 2011

50's Era Retro Porch Table

Last weekend we visited my daughter's yard sale, where she was selling off odds and ends scavenged from home and surroundings. Among the items on the lawn was a 1950's era kitchen table that looked interesting. Inspecting it, we found it was an early Formica top, slightly chipped, with studded green vinyl sides, eight(!) legs and a 1953 date code. It looked rusty but savable, so we haggled with the daughter, paid cash, and loaded it into the car.

Back on James Ave, we offloaded the pieces and put a more critical eye to this new purchase. That tabletop looked pretty good as is; with some judicious cleaning and sticky tape goo removal it would be good as, well, new 1953 furniture. The legs were a different story. For starters, why did this table come designed to use 8 legs? Who knows, it was the style I guess. Also, the old chromed finish was severely rusted and needed refinishing.

Out came the power tools. In conversation with a surprisingly knowledgable floor employee at Home Depot, we learned that a modern grinding wheel attachment, specifically designed to clean rust, does the same work as a wire brush - but better. No flying wire brush hairs, no deep gouges - that grinding wheel worked really well for cleaning off the rust. And, unlike the brushes that grab and tear at your skin if you touch them while running, the grinding wheel didn't grab, so I avoided more than one skinned knuckle.

I ran the eight legs across the drill-mounted grinding wheel to clear rust and establish a nice looking brushed metal surface - each leg took about 15 minutes to refinish with the wheel.

We moved the table parts onto the front porch and began assembly. First, we placed plastic feet on the legs, then mirror match paired the legs up for mounting. "Some assembly required", as they say. After a bit of trial and error we figured out a workable way to mount the legs, cranked down on the rusty old butterfly nuts, and put the table up! Just like that, it wasn't a big deal at all.

Doesn't that look nice?

Sunday, May 22, 2011


--------------------------------------------UPDATE: Monday eve --------------------------------------
We did some volunteering this evening at the emergency foodshelf/supply depot at the corner of Broadway and Penn. If you're in the neighborhood, drop by and ask them what they need - we went over to the Cub down the street and bought several packages of toilet paper for the depot, then helped assemble paper product bags for handing out to the neighbors in need.

We weren't there for a long time, but we got stuff done. Many hands make for light work.

One interesting aspect of this weekend's Mpls tornado is the relatively cool air temperature on the ground, typically 55 to 60 degrees. I always thought that tornadoes were heat driven, and in order to get enough energy to generate the amount of damage we've seen, the temperatures should have been in the 80's or 90's. They weren't, but the storm had plenty of energy.

I'm surprised how close it got to our home. Two blocks west from us, there are downed trees, and three blocks over, the damage was full force. And there was significant damage on the other side of our neighborhood also - the man who died from the tree fall was a quarter mile east. Yet all we experienced were small branches broken and scattered about - we didn't even lose lilac flowers. Tornadoes are bizarre.

--------------------------------------------UPDATE: Sunday eve ---------------------------------------------------

We just went out of our happy little neighborhood for a look around at the storm damage. This tornado has caused more damage than any other tornado I can remember, including the 1981 storm. There was a terrible F4 tornado in Joplin Missouri today, their devastation makes Minneapolis’ storm damage pale in comparison. But we got socked yesterday also.

Imagine a ribbon, four blocks wide and who knows how many miles long, laid across the north western end of Minneapolis. Everything under that ribbon has been severely beaten by wind; whole trees ripped out the earth wet from 2 days rain, cars crushed under tons of fallen wood, rows of alley telephone poles are bent 30 degrees to the West. Picture windows are broken with huge gaping holes. Shingles torn off roofs - roofs torn off of attics. We joined in with the rubberneckers clogging the passable side streets; police have blocked off entrances to main streets such as Lowry and Lyndale, to allow passage of emergency vehicles. Plenty of side streets are completely blocked.

I see plenty of people wearing a face of relief that they weren't harmed. Considering the level of damage I am thankful that more people didn't die. 

 I've seen a few metro tornadoes in my life time, but never one so severe or near my beloved neighborhood. I drove ahead of the tornado earlier today; just made it home before the tornado sirens blew.  It was a spectacular storm to watch, but soon things looked scary.

After the tornado passed by the emergency sirens began from all directions. The t.v. said that the Theo Wirth area was badly damaged. Now the helicopters started overhead, one news channel after another. It sounded like a war zone.

I didn't want to be a gawker, but we went out under the pretense of finding a passable route for the morning commute. 

Holy, Moly! I had no idea what I would see. I cannot believe the number of people who have been slammed by this storm. Many people were out already, trees being dismantled. Many, many cars crushed under trees.

After seeing previous examples of this community pulling together to help one another out, I'm sure we will all get our opportunities to help. I feel for the volunteers who covered that area just last Saturday for the Clean Sweep day. So far I have not heard of any organized efforts for our specific Jordan area, but I'm sure we'll get the word soon.

I feel very fortunate to have our little area spared from the destruction and feel for all of you who have not.

---------------------------------------- FIRST IMPRESSIONS: ----------------------------------
ROB: Well - that was exciting! We just had a tornado blow by a few blocks away.

Around 2:45 this afternoon, I was driving on 94 toward the Hwy 55 exit in downtown Mpls, and saw this big, slate gray cloud moving fast over North Mpls, with tornado sirens going off. Looking to the west from downtown, I was seeing city blocks disappearing behind sheets of rain. After getting off the highway and into my end of town, I drove into the bizness end of the storm - high winds, and "wet out" conditions. Big fallen branches on some the local streets, blocking traffic. And on Broadway, the traffic lights were out at Emerson, and Irving.

I called 911 to inform them that lights were out, and was greeted by "Brrrng....brrrng...brrrng..." They picked up on the 8th ring, speaking fast. I told them the situation. The dispatcher took my note, said, "it's like that all over town", and hung up. She was busy.

I'm home, my block looks just fine. But, according to the TV, whole boulevards of big trees are down across the roads and through people's houses just a few blocks away. Mpls has set up an EMS headquarters at 26th and Penn Ave, almost spitting distance from me. Lots of emergency sirens, lots of downed power lines (don't trip on one of those, they're hot!).

All in all, it looks like a good time to stay home.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Trolls and the breakdown of community - just what they want.

----------------------------  UPDATE 5/24  -----------------------------------

From now on, comments from trolls, flame warriors, and passive aggressive attackers are gone. Take your problems to a psychologist, or a lawyer, and keep us out of it.

Here's a little free advice to the offending parties: try something different. What you're doing now is getting you nowhere.


I was reading one of the NoMi blogger posts today, talking about new versus replacement windows, and commented on his page. His response was unexpected:

"I thought about doing a longer post about this, but James Neighbor doesn't put out enough content to be worth more than a passing comment here. For the record, I have doubts about whether James Neighbor is a real person, and I believe he or she may be doing something similar to the troll formerly known as Patrick. Patrick would take a position articulated by a NoMi blogger and bring it to a ludicrous extreme."

"There are a number of hints in the James Neighbor blog that make me believe he or she is actually one of the trolls I've banned here. If I'm wrong, JN, then chalk it up to having to deal with folks like Don, Terry, JHG, or Jim Watkins. If I'm right, well, you're on notice that James Neighbor comments will be closely watched."

Wow, tough crowd here for a NoMi newbie trying to join the conversation. Looks like the grass is full of snakes. I've heard horror stories of the vicious state of the blog scene here, and the damage done to trust and goodwill is evidenced by HH's response. I am not at all surprised. As soon as we put up the first post on this blog a couple weeks back, we were almost immediately paid the "left handed compliment" of a nasty but amusing parody of that blog, turned on its head by "Area Neighor", probably from the same source as "Area Hawkman" and similar troll personas. It appears that the party behind AN/AH is laying in wait for comments on the big NoMi blogs, and tracks back likely leads to foment mischief.

I don't mind AN, after the initial shock of recognition I was rather flattered that he (or it) would take the time to grunt out such a full bucket of crap. Some people have lots of time on their hands, and nothing worthwhile to fill them with except their own excement. Idle hands, as the saying goes ...

I'm curious: is AN a real troll, or an early "proof of concept" example of that "sock monkey" cyber warfare program the Pentagon has come up with to fill the Internet blogs, forums and news groups with poisonous drivel? Expect to see more of that in the coming months, as soon as the political parties and their propagandists figure out how to work that system to their advantage.

But now at least one of the established bloggers here claims I'm the troll, and word gets around. In this case, the word is mistaken; I don't know any of you guys, haven't met anybody but James, of course, and a few other people on the block, and a couple folks at the present JACC...

The Hatfield clan in 1897
DING!!! Oh, I get it! I've blundered onto the field of somebody else's civil war; the JACC battle is merely a grease spot on the continuing train wreck that is North Minneapolis politics. They say it's been crashing for decades. Reminds me of a co-worker I once knew with the last name of "McCoy". He was one of those McCoy's, as in Hatfield & McCoy. Those two families on the Kentucky/West Virginia border feuded and tore at each other beginning in the Civil War, with body counts mounting for about 30 years. My McCoy friend was rather jocular about the whole story, saying those families were fighting over the most worthless, pitiful patch of land imaginable, and they should have just moved instead. Sounds familiar, eh?

Interestingly, the people I meet face to face in this end of town are unfailingly friendly and polite. But the blogger gangs appear to be overgrown cybernerds that never got over being picked on in high school, and feel the need to create superhero-like personas on the internet to mask their insecurities. They talk big, but I haven't met any of them at a local function yet. Maybe they're content to be legends - in their own minds.

Oh, well, to each his own. Our blog tends toward the pretty garden and OMG Tornado! end of the spectrum, and I think that's where it's going to remain.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Springtime Floods

The other night, we were watching a classic movie upstairs, "The Manchurian Candidate". About halfway through, one of the boys went down to the basement to get a pop, and came upstairs with a long face and damp socks - "my feet are all wet!" "Oh yeah", said another, "there's water in the basement, I saw it hours ago." Huh? Why didn't you tell us? "Uh, I forgot". Eh, kids. We all tromped downstairs, and found pools of water all over the place, leaking from the foundation walls in a continuous stream.

What Candidate? Emergency! That sure changed our evening plans...

As a kid I helped bail out my share of flooded basements. My hometown was called "the Venice of New Jersey" because of the pretty little river that flowed through the valley. And every third or fourth springtime, heavy rains would back that river up into lots of my friends' basements. My family's home was atop a hill, so normally we didn't get hit, but one year even our house had standing water. My parents were stressed...

Now I'm one of the parents, and our house is on the side of a hill in north Mpls. All those scenic piles of snow and ice in our backyard started melting away with that rain a couple weeks back, and since the ground was still frozen, there was no available unfrozen ground for water to soak into, except along the limestone foundation of our 105 year old house. Of course that water ran right down the side, and wherever it found a crack to flow through it went on through. I don't know how much water pooled up outside our foundation, but it all seemed to empty out by way of our basement drain. Which, as is common with old houses, is not the lowest point of the basement.

We started by moving anything we could pick up out of the pool that was rapidly expanding across the floor. We didn't lose much, as most boxes were up on shelves, but there was enough soaked cardboard to matter. We all pushed brooms around, coaxing cold water toward the basement drain. But the flood was winning, after about an hour of work we realized it was coming in faster than we could get it out with these puny brooms.

Home Depot at ten minutes before closing is very quiet. I rushed in, thanking my lucky stars that we hadn't waited any longer and missed our chance, and plopped down the charge card for a shiny orange wet-dry vac, a serious wet mop and bucket, plus whatever sundries were going to get us through the night. A couple hundred bucks lighter, and with hardware in tow, I sloshed back down to the basement, instructing the kids to unbox & assemble the heavy artillery we'd just brought in. They were tired; we were tired, and our night was going to be a long one...

Back in the day, my parents' basement flooded. Cleaning it was cold, dirty, stinky, moldy, wet, backbreaking work. But I experienced one of those "rite of passage" events while doing my duty with the mop and garbage sack. Drudgery became much more interesting when I opened up a damp cardboard box and found, smiling up at me, a Playboy Bunny!

Copyright 1958 Playboy Magazine
It was the adolescent boy's fantasy mother load! Two whole boxes of my dad's old girlie magazines, oh, yeah! They were musty, but what's a little mildew in the grand scheme of things, when you've got Jayne Mansfield or Linda Vargas in all her glory? So that's what a centerfold is all about, hmmm...

Such were the daydreams floating past at 1AM the other night, as I dumped yet another 16 gallon bucket down the drain. That water was heavy! At its worst, the leakage was beating me, coming in faster than I could suck it up or mop it away, maybe 100 gallons an hour. At 2AM, I was too beat to go on, and woke the Miz up to take over so I could rest my weary bones and frayed nerves.

Next morning, same thing. More mopping, draining, cussing. All day, and into the next, and the next. Would this leakage never stop? We were all sore, muscles tight and strained, the palms of our wet hands blistered from squeezing out and pushing mops around. Then a cold snap came through and halted the snow melt for a few days. The puddles receded, the floor began to dry out. We had a one week respite, long enough to recover. Now it's warm outside again - we had another round of leakage for 3-4 days last week, but by now the ground has thawed and can absorb the water it was sloughing off before.

It's done leaking, for now at least. We're going to need to work the drainage issue from outside the house, that is clear. Maybe we'll dig a trench and fill it with gravel and piping to shunt any underground water off to the alley. While we're at it, we'd get a chance to do long overdue patching on that foundation to stop the leaks. So what are you doing this summer?

By the way, "Venice" is flooding again this year - and, to wind up that story from way back when, my mom found the Playboys two days after I did, and - poof - they were gone, just like that! Dang, I should have grabbed a few while I had the chance. If they weren't so moldy, they'd be worth a mint now, just like my uncle's old Superman Comics (including Action #1), that also met the dumpster before their time. But I have my memories - and a brand new wet dry vac. That'll have to do for now...

Saturday, April 9, 2011

On Being a Neighbor

Greetings, fellow citizens of North Minneapolis, and the blogosphere in general. We're James Neighbor, who live near James K- of Jordan Area Community Council. He's been a wonderful ambassador to the Jordan neighborhood, who gave my family a warm welcome  and has introduced us around to folks on the block, and by extension some members of the JACC. He is also involved in getting block clubs going, so if any of you are looking to get involved in your area, he's a good resource.

This home in N Mpls is a classic old city house, built around 1905 from first growth lumber (real nice!), with a 105 year old foundation (arrrgh, it's got its problems) and a pretty back yard that is ready for a new round of work. After a long winter  I'm ready for some outdoor activity, and that yard will provide all the opportunity we can fit into our schedules.

Since moving to town last fall, we've been preoccupied with getting our home in order and the daily order of business for a blended family, and winter weather discouraged getting out on the town. Now the weather is nicer and we're curious and interested in who our neighbors are, what they do, how they carry on.

We've been tracking the various North Mpls blogs and are curious about the rancorous nature of local activists. I'd heard that politics on this side of town had a longstanding reputation for feuds and bad blood, and that image has been reinforced by several bloggers here. Is this merely a personality clash, or is it some sort of culture/race thing? The "white baby" video was hilarious and appalling, and it spoke volumes about the frustration that long-time north side residents have in losing their neighborhood to gentrifying carpetbaggers from the suburbs. Of course there's the "malfeasance" question (hey, I spelled it right, right?), but people come from different backgrounds, and what may look bogus or corrupt to one person may seem perfectly logical and acceptable, even necessary, to someone else. Anyway, it's not our problem for today. We need to build new bridges before we burn the old ones.

And "we" means two or three posters here - if this becomes a bigger project we may split out separate personas, but for now we'll stay like this.