Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Building Decks is a Metaphor for Something Something Something

Don't you want to ask me why those posts are so tall?

Despite not having posted here in a while, I've been writing a fair amount.  Like emails and stuff.  That's writing, right?  Also, I've been writing drafts and pieces that will be published in the future and what not.  So don't worry.  I haven't given up.  Somebody told me I seemed grumpy on my blog lately.  I think it was ever since I kvetched about having to go back to work on the days my kids are in preschool, instead of getting paid to write about my feelings.  But guess what?  Working is pretty okay, after all.

I haven't done any teaching for a couple months, but I've been doing quite a bit of remodeling.  I must admit that it's pretty satisfying and confidence-building to do something I have some expertise in.  When I'm teaching or writing (or parenting), I often feel like a fraud, a hack, or a dilettante.  However, when I commence to drivin' nails, there's not a lot of anxiety involved in the process.  I was a little worried that I had lost my instincts, but a couple things convinced me otherwise.  For instance, I just got done replacing all the windows in a friend/client's house.  I always charge by the hour when clients are cool with that, because I think it's kind of bullshit to give them an estimate when all that really is is me trying to figure out how long it's gonna take and multiplying that by how much I want to make per hour, and adding as much as I think I can get away with on top of that, as a cushion in case I've underestimated, or a nice bonus in case I get done sooner than I anticipated.  So instead of doing it the bullshit way, I say, "I charge x dollars per hour, and I think it will take me x hours to do the job."  Anyway, when I got done with the window job and totaled up the time it took me, it was within a couple hours of what I had estimated.  That might actually be more of an indicator of how crappy a businessman I am than how awesome an estimator.  Still, that kind of thing makes me happy.

Now I'm building a deck.  Actually, a second level on an existing deck.  And building decks almost always makes me happy.  The first encouraging note was when I gave the client a ballpark figure for the materials, off the top of my head, only later realizing that it had been a few years since I had priced redwood and pressure treated lumber.  Then I did my takeoff and called it in to the lumberyard, and when they called back with the price, it was like, exactly what I had quoted.  I was all, I'VE STILL GOT IT BABY.


There are many beautiful things about building a deck.  First off, it's usually not that complicated.  Once you get it all laid out, it's just a matter of going through a series of steps.  It can be physically hard, but it shouldn't involve all that much head-scratching.  I figure I've built between 150 and 200 decks, so I've pretty much got the hang of it.

Another nice thing about decks is that clients love them.  No one's like, "Oh, shit, I guess I'm gonna have to have a deck built now," like they would if they needed a new roof or foundation.  They're all, "Oh my gosh, I can't wait for my deck to be done!  Can we have little built-in benches on it?  Can I paint it?  Can we make it out of exotic hardwood?"  It's all good times, and I'm the big hero.

Let me just talk about one more area in which deck building has proven to me once again that I am pretty freaking cool.  All this domesticity had me believing that I was old and creaky and weak.  But, oddly, when I'm toting lumber and hoisting beams, my back doesn't hurt as much as when I'm doing dishes.  The logistics of this job are such that it makes sense for me to haul the lumber on my truck instead of having it delivered.  So I pick up enough to keep me busy for a couple days at a time, and then offload it at the site.  The first day I did this, I was like "Oh man, Ima die from carrying all these soaking wet 12-foot 4x6 posts up the hill into the back yard."  Then pretty soon they were all in the back yard, and I wasn't even tired.  I waited for the pain the next morning, but it never really arrived.  Later, I was almost resigned to the idea that I would have to hire a day laborer to help me haul and set a couple of 12-foot 4x10 beams.  But I walked them right up the step ladder and put them on the posts like I wasn't the decrepit old geezer I've convinced myself I am.  Shit.  Maybe I can keep doing this kind of work indefinitely.  As long as it's only on Tuesdays and Thursdays and maybe one day over the weekend.

I'm actually excited to go to work now.  I was bummed that I could only get in a half day yesterday because my phone crapped out on me and I had to deal with that all morning long.  And, oh yeah--here's the parent blogging part of this post: It's a new and delightful experience for me to be completely absorbed all day long in something that has nothing to do with my kids, and then to go pick them up from school, where they scream "Daddy!!" and jump into my arms, before recoiling as they say, "You're dirty and your armpips smell like tacos."

And here's the DIY part of this post: I had taken a bunch of pictures of the deck as I was building it, to demonstrate the stages of its creation, but my goddamn phone died and took those pictures to the grave with it.  Oh well.

********

Here's more parent blogging at Dad Centric.  I wrote about enforcing rules I don't necessarily believe in.  The Huffington Post liked this one and linked to it in their Parents section.

And here's one I wrote at Aiming Low about the tattoo I almost got when I was 17.

Did I tell you my wife's having a midlife crisis that can only be assuaged with a sporty new car?  I can't remember.  But I talked about that at Aiming Low too.


 

      


14 comments:

  1. I couldn't build a deck to save my life. I probably couldn't even put on a good show of it. Oh, well. Someone's gotta have skills . . .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Building decks isn't the only skill. It's the most important one, but not the only one.

      Delete
  2. I wish you've build us a new deck. Ours is falling apart. I'd fly you here and everything just to have someone I like and trust do it well instead of having to rely someone I don't know/like/trust to do it instead. However, I'm pretty sure it'd take several days and that your family would miss you.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fly the whole family over and we might be able to make it work.

      Delete
  3. I need a new deck, too. And a new bulkhead door. And maybe some roofing. And we need put a dormer (ormismjust dormer) the attic. So . . . Oh yeah. And we can only pay you in fingerpaintings and banana bread.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Can I put banana bread in my kids' college fund? If so, we've got a deal.

      Delete
  4. Yes, I do want to ask why the posts are so tall. So tell me, Beta Dad, why are the posts so tall?
    (Sorry if it is because this is part of the two-story deck you mentioned. I am not doing well with context clues right now and I really want to know!)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Perfectly reasonable question. The posts are tall because they will have curtain rods between them and drapes the client can pull for privacy. Cool, right?

      Delete
  5. Glad you are still posting! My wife and I are planning on having a baby and I have been searching out blogs with dads who seem to manage to parent without succumbing to all the "Dad as babysitter" stereotypes. I only found your blog a few weeks ago (through a mention on Sweet Juniper I think), and I read through most of your archive since then. You and Jim are by far my favorite "Daddy Bloggers" so far.

    Anyway, I really like the blog and your writing style. Some strange coincidences: my wife is Cambodian and we have had almost the exact same experiences with her family you have had with yours. My MIL definitely tries to kill me with fried spring rolls and tapioca with coconut milk desserts, our dating experience was not quite as tough as yours but my wife was not allowed to date up through college either and we were "friends" for 4 years of college, though we did manage to weather the parental explosion and move in together for a few years before marriage while my wife finished law school.

    ReplyDelete
  6. We love our deck. And we tell everyone we helped you build it even if that's only 2% true. Also I was talking about your MIL's egg rolls at lunch today. Serious.

    -Michelle

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  7. I'm married to a (very) handy man, and the deck he built us is my favorite.

    (He's going back to doing handyman work as a side job. Partially because the money is nice, partially because he loves it.)

    ReplyDelete
  8. A couple things here, Andy. First, this part "and then to go pick them up from school, where they scream "Daddy!!" and jump into my arms" is my favourite thing about being a working dad and is the thing I cling to when having a rough work day.

    Second, are you planning any trips to Canada anytime soon, because I need a deck desperately!

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  9. I just really like working with wood made and am always looking for new techniques of doing it.I have obtained a lot of information from your blog.

    MDF Boards | MDF with Veneers

    ReplyDelete

Don't hold back.

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