Timing is everything

I haven’t posted this year because the year has been full of a flurry of activity and then long waits.

The house flunked the frame inspection for a variety of issues, ranging from the builder not using metal plates between wood and cinder blocks, to the wrong nail plate on a drain, to the porch rail being an inch and a half short for its distance off the ground.


The interior walls are installed and coated with polyurethane.

In all, that took three weeks to fix, and involved me taking a day off of work to change the nail plate because my plumber decided to quit returning my calls. (That’s another story.)

The porch still doesn’t meet codes. The builder wanted me to spend about $400 on trucking in dirt to raise the level of the land under the porch so that the porch is less than 30 inches from it and then the porch meets codes.

I agreed at first, but once I thought about it, I decided to just add a 2×4 to the top of the rail and small spindles between the big ones so that there’s no more than a 4-inch space. I don’t have children, but my nephews and nieces have children and I don’t want them getting between the spindles and hurting themselves when they visit. My plan costs $30.

So the interior walls are complete now. I thought the flooring would be a breeze. I want wood laminate and when I went to order it last week from a box store, I discovered it’s not a simple matter at all.

The sales person called me after I ordered a measurement and asked if there was electricity in the house.

Me: “There’s an extension cord from the power pole that the carpenter, plumber, electrician and mechanical contractor used without issue.”

Salesperson: “The installers won’t work without power actually in the house.”

Me: “Why the hell not? Everyone else has.”

Salesperson: “It’s their policy.”

Me: “Thanks. I’ll find another store where the installers are a little more hardy and don’t run the show. How do I get my deposit back?”

So the store refunded my money and I hightailed it to their competition during lunch. The guys there were great. They couldn’t see why working with an extension cord would be a problem. As one guy wrote up my order, another guy called the installer.

New sales guy: “Is your house heated?”

Me: “No. Is that a problem? If it is, I have a portable heater I’ve used with the extension cord. It can make the house comfortable for them.”

New sales guy after talking with installer: “The house needs to have a working HVAC before we can install wood laminate. It has to sit in the house for a couple of days to acclimate. It can’t acclimate without a working HVAC.”

Me: “Shit.”

I walked out of that store dazed, my mind running through hundreds of scenarios, most of which included me spending extra months living in a $400 a week hotel.

I have a contractor who is planning to work on the drainage between the house and the hill as soon as the weather clears. But the weather hasn’t really cleared since before Christmas and the forecast was for more rain this week.

That’s important because the power pole is on top of the hill and to get power to the house, we have to dig a trench and bury the wire in it.

We can’t dig the trench until the drainage work between the hill and the house is done. And I can’t install the kitchen cabinets and appliances until I have the floor installed.

And now I can’t have the floor installed until the HVAC is up and running and that’s being held hostage by the weather which is holding up the drainage work.


I called the first salesperson back.

I told her that from what I understand, it’s not so much an electricity issue as it is an HVAC issue. I asked if we could get the house measured and the flooring ordered so we have it ready to go while we work on getting the HVAC running.

She agreed and I had to pay the deposit again, since she refunded it to me earlier in the day. The installer called me on Thursday and asked which room I wanted to have the flooring installed.

Me: “The whole house. If it has a floor in it, I want wood laminate on top of it.”

Installer: “We don’t install wood laminate in bathrooms.”

Me: “I’m living in a hotel that has wood laminate in the bathroom. If they can do it we can do it, humor me.”

The conversation ended and life went on.

Today I was looking at lavatories and kitchen cabinets at the same store when the flooring salesperson called to tell me the quote was ready.

Me: “I’m in the store. I’ll be right there.”

It turns out my house is a little bigger than I thought. But the bathroom issue came up again.

Salesperson: “We won’t install wood laminate in bathrooms.”

Me: “Why the hell not? If my hotel has it, I don’t think there’s a problem.”

Salesperson: “It’s our policy and the manufacturer’s policy. If its installed in the bathroom, it voids your entire warranty.”

Me: “Why in the hell is that?”

We went back and forth and finally it became apparent — wood laminate isn’t waterproof. I could buy that much better than “just because.”

So in the end, I ordered a vinyl laminate for the bathroom, which is waterproof, but stuck with wood laminate for the rest of the house. They’re not a perfect match, but close enough. My bathroom is 6 x 7 and I have three rugs for the floor there, so it’s not like you’ll see a lot of the floor.

I paid for the flooring and they’ll be delivered to the house in two weeks.

Two weeks. Shit.

So here I sit in my extended stay hotel room (which I did not budget for in the first place) and the WiFi is finally working for the first time this week.

The landscaping is set to start Monday, but there’s snow and rain in the forecast for Monday.

I’m buying light fixtures and working on doing as much as can be done without finished floors.

Hopefully the HVAC is running on the 23rd, when the flooring is delivered. It has to sit in the house for a couple of days before it can be installed. Installation will just take a day,whenever that day comes.

So I’m looking at the early part of March now, when I had originally hoped to be in the house by Christmas. We can get the bathroom fixtures and kitchen cabinets done fairly quickly but the appliances can only be delivered on a Monday and I fear the flooring won’t be done in time for them to be delivered this month.

I still have to get the water system up and running too, but that’s for another day.

My goal now is to have a cold beer on my code-compliant porch on St. Patrick’s Day.

Time will tell.

Taking it easy

Home sweet home in a month or so

This was my first stress-free day in months.

Decisions are coming at me a mile a minute from every direction since even before the house was delivered, so I took today off, and drove to Hartsville, Tenn.

The  Tennessee Lodge of Research held its quarterly meeting at Hartsville Lodge #113, a lodge that was founded about a year after my lodge, Charlotte #97.

I got there early and stumbled upon the town’s Christmas parade, which ran at a leisurely pace through town about a half block from the lodge building. Great little parade with local clubs, politicians, Santa and lots of folks on horseback waving and smiling.

It was also Dickens Days in town, so there were folks in 19th Century garb milling about the crowd as well. No one asked me what kind of thingamabob I was planning to use for a whatchamacallit in the house.

The meeting was nice, too. The lunch superb — fried chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes with pecan pie and cake for dessert.

We heard a talk on the Masonic connections to Boy Scouts and I had my application for membership in the Tennessee Lodge of Research approved.

I met lots of Masonic brothers today, some of whom don’t live far from the Ridge, and all who are interested in history and Masonry like me.

The drive back to Nashville was quiet.

I stopped at the storage place to pay my first month’s rent and get things squared away before the big move at the end of the month.

It turns out that I can use  my own padlock, so I used the lock that was on the gate, which simplifies things, since it uses the same key as the other locks on the Ridge.

All in all it was a simple day, serving as a reminder that when all of these decisions are made and executed, a simpler life awaits me on the Ridge.

About 16 years ago, I decided to go all in with technology again and buy a digital clock radio with built in adjustment for daylight savings time.

I was getting married and my old battery-powered alarm clock, with it’s shrill alarm reminiscent of a smoke detector’s shriek, seemed outdated. This clock radio I spied at Circuit City seemed like the best thing for me as I was leaving another Ludite phase in my life.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with technology.

I was an early adapter when I was flush with money working in the oil field. One of the first things I bought with my oilfield paychecks was a digital watch, which was a new thing in 1977.

Who wouldn’t want to know the exact time, down to the second? So I went to Service Merchandise in New Orleans East and bought a fancy gold Casio watch with black liquid crystal numbers large enough for me to see without my glasses.

I could press a button and read the time in the dark. The same button could also tell me the date and work as a stopwatch, depending on how many times I pushed the button.

Life was good for a while. Then one day, we were driving somewhere and a friend’s little sister asked what time it was. “It’s about a quarter til 2,” I said glancing at my watch, which read 1:44 p.m.

“Quarter til? What is that? I asked what time it is,” she said smartly.

I got to thinking how much my old watches, with their round faces divided up into 12 equal parts helped me better visualize how I was using my time and dividing up my day. I felt sad that the generation after me wouldn’t know how to do that.

A few weeks later, I bought a new watch. It had a black face and gold dots where 12, 3, 6 and 9 should be.  It had a second hand, but no calendar function. It served me well. and I have not gone back to a digital watch since then. I use my time wisely (for the most part.)

The 1981 Thunderbird I bought had a digital dashboard. Coolest thing I ever saw. lighted bars showed me how much gas I had, the radiator temperature and the oil pressure. The speedometer had a digital display, like my Casio watch.The door locks were digital, too.

You could toggle the speedometer between miles per hour and kilometers per hour, which allowed me to freak my mom out, because 60 mph converts to 100 kph. “You slow this thing down right now,” she yelled from the back seat.

The Thunderbird had a 36,000 mile warranty. The digital dashboard went out at 37,000 miles and by that time, my oilfield earnings were cut in half by the bust in the 80s. The speed would flicker on every once in a while. I drove by instinct for the next 3 years. The power windows went out at 40,000 miles and the power antenna at 38,000.

I replaced the Tbird in 1987 with a Chevy Nova, which was really a Toyota Corolla, with a 5-speed manual transmission, hand crank windows and a conventional dashboard. I got 66,000 miles out of the Tbird. I got 150,000 from the Nova.

But technology started creeping back into my life as my newspaper career started paying better. The Corolla I replaced the Nova with had a digital radio and I started building my own computers. (My current Toyota has a powered moon roof and power windows along with a door remote, but no digital dashboard.)

A clock radio that automatically updated for daylight saving time seemed like an absolute necessity in 2000. And it worked great.

The amber digital display is big enough for me to read without glasses in the dark, but not enough light to bother me when I’m dozing off. Not having to remember which weekend was the end of daylight savings time was a bonus, too.

But Congress changed the daylight savings law five years after I bought the clock and suddenly, I had a problem.

Where before I had a clock that I had to physically change twice a year, I now have a clock I have to change four times a year. It is set up to automatically change on the second Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October. Daylight saving time changed in 2007 to the first Sunday in April and the first Sunday in November.

So why not buy a new alarm clock set to the new time changes? Because the law also gave Congress the ability to revert to the old system if it wants to without altering other provisions in the Act. Rest assured that as soon as I replace this clock with a more modern version, Congress will change the law back.

Plus, it’s the only radio in the house that can consistently pick up LSU games on WWL-AM at night.






That’s the word my credit union and two banks used to describe my request for a mortgage on my new home.

They were talking about the house, not me. (But that word has been used to describe me before.)

The issue they have is that I have to pay for my house before the builder delivers the shell. Once delivered, I will have the electrical wires run and the plumbing installed, then the builder will come out and finish the interior, except for the flooring, kitchen cabinets, and bathroom fixtures, which I’ll either do myself or have someone skilled to do them for me.

Unconventional. They like to give money for completed structures. Mine’s not finished at the time the money is due.

Unconventional. They appraise the value of a home by looking at sales of comparable homes in the area. There are none.

“We don’t have anything that can help you,” two loan officers told me.

“Not a problem,” I said to no one in particular.

While heavy debt can be a burden, good credit can cover a multitude of sins.

Because I have paid off the heavy debt load I had four years ago when the divorce was final, my credit rating is in the highest bracket right now. I have no outstanding credit card balances and get offers for new credit cards and signature loans in the mail all the time.

So I got a signature loan this week to pay for my house through one of the loan offers I got in the mail.

It’s a 5-year loan, but I’ll pay it off in less than four. In a month or two, my FICO score will drop a little, but not enough to cause concern. Come January 1, I won’t have rent to pay and my loan note is 20 percent lower than I pay for rent right now.

The loan is an unsecured loan, which means it’s not tied to the house. So when I pay the builder and the house is delivered, it’s mine. No liens attached. I can sell it any time I want to. (I don’t want to.) I have 100 percent equity in it.

It’s just like my land, which belongs to me. I have the deed although I still have 3 years left to pay for the signature loan I took out to buy it.

Unconventional? That works for me.

Getting there

I ordered my cabin last week, which means the shell should get delivered by the end of October, so the real work begins in earnest.

I cut the grass finally, so the next step is to stake out where the house will go. Weather and stomach issues have delayed that part, but I hope to do it after work in the coming week and pull the septic permit as soon as possible.

I met with the loan officer on Saturday and there are a few possibilities, which will all get resolved in the next week or two.

Once the septic tank is installed, I can have the foundation installed. Once the shell is delivered, I will get the electrical and plumbing work done, then the builder will come out and insulate and finish the interior walls and ceiling while I get the rain gutters and cistern installed and the water system up and running.

After that comes the laminated wood flooring, kitchen and bathroom cabinets, light fixtures, shower, toilet and appliances (stove, refrigerator and dishwasher.) Yes, a dishwasher. They use less water than if I did the dishes by hand.

If everything works out (which it usually does) I’ll be in my new home before Christmas.

Estimated cost, less than $65,000, including the land.

Here’s a peek at what the inside of the cabin will look like.


The crypt marker

On July 27, 1927, the Companions of Nashville Council No. 1, Royal and Select Masons, gathered on the southeast corner of the Tennessee state capitol grounds in downtown Nashville to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the council’s founding.

Thanks to a joint resolution of the Tennessee General Assembly, they were able to mark the anniversary by burying a time capsule to be opened by the members of Nashville Council No. 1 100 years later, on July 27, 2027.

The time capsule was buried in a crypt and a triangular column was erected over it, with a copper plate on top telling the world what was inside and when it would be opened.

The same Companions who buried the time capsule wrote the script for a ceremony to be held every year on July 27 until the crypt is opened.

It was their way of crossing the generations to continue the bond of brotherly love that is a hallmark of our fraternity.

Eighty-eight years later, I was among the dozen or so Companions of Nashville Council No. 1, Royal and Select Masons, to mark the occasion with a short ceremony this evening at the crypt.

BothellSentinelCitizen-CouncilNo1Crypt-July-16-1927The quiet, elegant ceremony has been held every year. Generations of Masons have come and gone but the fellowship has endured, as tonight we noted their undertaking and sang songs of patriotism and fraternity from another time.

I hope that I am around in 12 years when we open the crypt.

According to news stories from the time, they included pictures of the members, several  Masonic items and a variety of seeds, including wheat, corn, rye, oats, barley and tobacco.

They put everything in a copper box and filled the void with coal tar to keep out moisture and the elements. Inside the box, the seeds were hermetically sealed. There’s supposed to be a note inside, too, asking that the seeds be planted whenever they are unsealed.

I can’t wait to harvest some of that corn one day.



A red, white and blue flower honor the Companions of Nashville Council No. 1, Royal and Select Masons of generations past.

The thing about history is it tends to repeat itself on a fairly regular basis.

Take laws regulating marriage, for example. In 1967, the US Supreme Court finally heard a case involving interracial marriage.

A Virginia couple — he was white and she was black and Native American — got married in Washington, D.C. in 1958 because it was illegal to do that in their home state. Five weeks later they were charged with violating the state’s miscegenation law, which not only made it illegal for a white person and black person to get married, but also made it illegal for them to cross the state lines to get married where it was legal.

After today’s Supreme Court ruling and the heated rhetoric about what that will eventually lead to, I decided to look up the 1967 case in the New York Times. I chose the NY Times for no other reason than I have a digital subscription that gives me access to its archives all the way back to the 1850s.

I found a story in the April 11, 1967 edition written by Fred Graham, who covered the arguments the day before.

(The name was familiar so I looked him up. Fred Graham is a native of Nashville who went on to work for CBS and CourtTV after his stint with the Times ended in the 1970s.)

According to the story, attorneys for the state of Virginia claimed the state had as much right regulating interracial marriage as it did to ban polygamy and incest. (Sound familiar?). Then there was this gem:

He (Assistant Attorney General R.D. McIllwaine 3rd ) said that Virginia’s “strong policy” against interracial marriage was based upon strong scientific evidence. As proof he waved a thick volume entitled “Intermarriage – Interfaith, Interracial, Interethnic,” by Dr. Albert I. Gordon.

Mr. McIllwaine cited statements by Dr. Gordon that interracial marriages were often contracted by rebellious individuals to express their social hostility. He said that “the progeny are the martyrs” of such unions, and contended that the state had a legitimate interest in preventing them.

In other words, the state’s primary interest was in the children’s welfare. (That also sounds familiar.)

The American Civil Liberties Union, arguing on behalf of the couple, used a familiar argument, too.

An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union compared Virginia’s antimiscegenation laws with the laws of Nazi Germany and South Africa and urged the Justices to strike down the system of statutes that dates back to 1691.

The attorney, Philip J. Hirschkop, of Alexandria, Va., said Virginia’s laws denied Negroes the equal protection of the laws guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.

“They are slavery laws, pure and simple – the most odious of the segregation laws,” he said.

Virginia then countered with a legislative intent argument.

Assistant Attorney General R.D. McIllwaine 3rd of Virginia leaned heavily on the argument that none of the framers of the 14th amendment intended to outlaw statutes against racial intermarriage.

“If any had suggested this, it would not have passed,” he said.

As usually happens in America, though, right beat might, and the court ruled in the couple’s favor, striking down 15 other state laws that barred people of different races from marrying.

But I found an interesting bit of information in the article as well. According to Virginia law in place in 1967, a white person was defined as one who has “no trace of any blood other than Caucasian.”

Family tradition holds that my mom’s paternal grandmother was a quarter Native American, which would have meant my parents would have broken the law if they had gotten married in Virginia instead of Texas in 1950. And I went to a lot of places that it might have been illegal for me to go that summer we spent in Virginia in 1964.


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