Saturday, February 28, 2009

Perspective: I'm the only one getting rich here.....

I'm finding that perspective is sometimes hard to come by during this house-building process.....that I sometimes forget that I'm the only one getting rich here.....and that I am certainly grateful to those who contribute on a regular basis.

#1 PERSPECTIVE. theworkshop 308 HAS OTHER PROJECTS AND LIVES BESIDES MINE: But you sure wouldn't know it. This may go down in architectural history as the longest designer/client relationship (a couple of years now) associated with a project, the least lucrative, but occasionally, one of the most diverse. Price-shopping for appliances, renting sanders for Jason's home improvement undertaking, picking up Stella at Miss Jo's and sitting next to her in the back seat, and the never-ending conversations about the world and about house stuff. (That's just in the past week or two.) And then, to log on to their website and see pictures of the great play station centers they have recently designed, built and installed at the James River Assembly Reallife Student Center, and the many other spectacular works-in-progress (and those that have been completed).......and STILL they accommodate my on-going questions and need for undivided attention.

#2 PERSPECTIVE. Keyway Construction Company HAS OTHER PROJECTS AND LIVES BESIDES MINE: But you sure wouldn't know it. The questions usually hit me at about 4:30 a.m. as I enter that final deep sleep before the alarm goes off. I have the decency to wait until mid-morning to call them or to add those items to a running list for the next drop-by visit, but I always get the feeling that mine truly is the ONLY structure they're building. And I always get a whole lot more than what I'm asking.....philosophy, education, stories, hot tips, name it. It sure makes it easy to forget that "time is money" and that they could actually be driving nails or writing contracts instead of discussing shower "swirls" or bedside lamps.

#3 PERSPECTIVE. ALL CONTACT IS GOOD CONTACT: That has always been my philosophy while making home visits for the school district to deal with truancy and attendance issues. Sometimes I think it is enough to merely show up at a house and knock on the door to let families know that someone at school really cares and would like to help. (That sounds pretty flowery.....and a little bit lazy....but there's usually MORE...) And that same philosophy holds true with this shipping container house, as I've mentioned before. All of the people who have made a comment, written an email, stopped by to check it out, worked on it, made a delivery, taken a picture are people who have now become a very meaningful part of this process and of my life, and in perspective, who may NOT have been a part if it weren't FOR this process. Phew. And thank you. You are not flowery and you are not lazy.

#4 PERSPECTIVE. FOCUS: I better quit wallering(?) in all of this blah blah blah and start paying attention to the matters that are going to be important when I am actually LIVING in this house. My brother-in-law Jon and my sister Judy are the two people most responsible for my being where I am right this minute.....but that's another blog and another story.....and they keep asking me the questions that I really need to answer. How deep is the well? What is the flow? What goes in that crawl space? How far is the septic from the house? What is your power emergency back-up plan? When something goes wrong, do you know where to find the source of the problem? All of that stuff that you can't see but really need.(In life, as well as in houses.) In Second Place for the number of relevant questions asked, is my friend Sally. What kind are your faucets? What have you chosen for your electrical plates? Have you thought about your outdoor lighting? Are the cabinets built? Yes, I need to focus on the here and now. Yes, I need to focus.

#5 PERSPECTIVE. WALL SOCKET-ROOFTOP-GRAVEL BAR-MAILBOX: The day son Gabe turned one-year-old, and I was a basket case trying to throw a birthday party for him with all of the grandparents and aunts, uncles and cousins....moments before the first guest arrived....Gabe calmly and deliberately stuck his tongue in a wall socket.....and suffered a bit of a shock, to say the least. Last week, thirty-some-odd years later, he was on top of the shipping container utilizing that very same interest in electricity and engineering and was installing the wiring for my network, security and entertainment systems. And that was in his spare time after his REAL job as an engineer with Tank Components Incorporated. Further perspective.... son John R. proposed to Nicole, back in October, on the gravel bar that is down in front of the new house, and they will get married a week from today. Yet another perspective, my every-other-week roommate and daughter Morgan has been making regular trips to check out the progress of the building and the parameters of her a bit anxious (and obsessive/compulsive) about the huge change that will come with living in the country, and observed: "We're probably going to need a mailbox."

This all drives home the fact that I keep getting caught up in details, keep putting myself at the center of each operation, keep assuming that everyone else is as invested as I am in how things are turning out, and keep forgetting that with a budget of $150,000 this is more of an adventure and a mission than a financial windfall.....for everyone except me.....for sure.

Perspective: I'm the only one really getting rich here......and I am genuinely and eternally grateful to ALL of my donors.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Moving right along.......

Yes, indeed. Things are definitely moving right along. The outside of the shipping containers look pretty much the same, with the exception of some more walls cut out and two of the three skylight holes cut.......but the inside is really coming together. The framing (metal) is finished, so now you can walk around and tell where the closets are, the bathrooms, bedrooms, etc. and it is looking like a real house. I've been spending quite a bit of time standing in each room....and standing....and standing....and smiling...and thinking....and smiling some more. I can't identify some of what's happening, but a lot of the electrical and plumbing work has been done. There is decking on the roof, so that is taking shape. Lots of mud and strange litter around the construction site.....empty high energy drink bottles, deli receipts, donut boxes, malfunctioning space heater, three gloves and two Ghiradelli chocolate wrappers. A pretty high class operation, all in all.

We're still getting calls and emails generated by that flood of media attention, but this batch is not your basic hometown coverage. Steven from a publication in Atlanta called WASTE AGE, aimed at the solid waste and recycling industry, interviewed Jason on the telephone and then talked to me. He seemed to have an exceptional grasp of what was going on with this project, asked some really great questions, but did NOT offer to feature me as a centerfold. Vicki from AMERICAN PROFILE, an insert magazine in Sunday Papers of smaller towns, called to see what this was all about. We talked for quite a while on the phone and as it turns out, she has also interviewed a man in Halfway, Missouri who is a human cannonball and lives in a geodesic dome. That was a highlight. And Monday, Elizabeth called to talk about the possibility of featuring this house in WEND, a publication in Portland, Oregon that "is a forum for real people, writing real stories about real adventures and real environmental issues.......realizing that part of going off the beaten path means making sure the path doesn't get beaten." ( Check it out. It sure makes sense.

Michael reported today that Jason went to Forsythe to get a load of re-cycled cedar that will be used on parts of both the inside and outside of the house. I'm anxious to get the story behind that adventure.

This time last year, most of my excitement was centered around encounters with pit bulls on the front porches of truants or watching the miracle of Tero Ant Killer in action. I'd say I've bumped it up a couple of notches, eh?

There has been nothing mundane about this entire process so far. Each conversation I have, each field trip, each comment I've listened to or word I have read, and each person who is involved, has been absolutely alive with uniqueness. I love every minute of it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Here's a shameless sales pitch in these challenging economic times.......

Here's a shameless sales pitch in these challenging economic times........I've got some fantastic river-front property I'd like to sell you.....39.25 acres on State Highway B....overlooking the James River and Panther Creek......sold in its entirety or Tract 1 (12.35 acres), Tract 2 (13.42 acres), or Tract 3 (13.48 acres) for $12,000.00 per acre. Currently listed with Bob McCroskey Real Estate

The first time I drove Jason Mitchell out to see the house site, I told him that my original plan was to sell at least one Tract and use that money to build my house. The older I got, however, the more anxious I became to "get on with it" before I got run over by a truck; and I had now decided to get a loan and build the house anyway, with the hope that the land will sell at some point. I had never given much thought to who might buy the land......I just wanted to SELL it. Jason asked, "Have you ever thought about developing that land as one of Springfield's first GREEN areas for contemporary, sustainable homes?" Wow. What a concept.

All of these years, spending every free minute of my time either down on the gravel bar, paddling up and down the river in my kayak or inner tube, hacking sprouts and thorns to make trails along the bluff, camping in the field to watch the meteor showers, fishing for small-mouth, watching the heron, eagles, wild turkey, and deer....dreaming about the house I would build someday.....all with a casual disregard for what kind of neighbor I may eventually have. Huh. Once again, it was all about me, me, me, me, me.

I'm not quite smart enough nor available enough to do justice to Jason's suggestion, but it sure would be nice if someone else would take up this eco-friendly gauntlet and run with it. I have made a lame, but very earnest, attempt to honor this "green" endeavor (called WOODSIDE) by drawing up a document entitled "PROTECTIVE COVENANTS AND EASEMENTS" to be considered by prospective buyers. It's not the most thrilling reading, but it does include a very clear purpose that recognizes "the privileges and responsibilities that come with living aside the James River and the Panther Creek and their supporting ecosystems" and the statement that "the owner of each tract is encouraged to apply the practices found in the attached CHECKLIST FOR ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION ( to the building of any structure on their land and/or to the maintenance of their acreage as a whole.

The way I see it, land is a darned good investment in these economic's difficult to find a place on a river where a person can build a house.....and I could sure use a neighbor to help finance this project and to boss around with a bunch of covenants.

(These covenants do not necessarily include the playing of loud music. Especially Bob Dylan, Ozomatli, The String Cheese Incident, Widespread Panic and even The Legendary Shack Shakers. I HATE THE EAGLES.)

[The blurs are not currently included in the sale price... but it's certainly negotiable.]

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Monday, February 2, 2009

A word of thanks to the Springfield Business Journal....

A word of thanks to the Springfield Business Journal for a photo-journalistic adventure I didn't know I wanted or needed....but did.....and for the accompanying article and pictures by Jeremy Elwood and Aaron Scott that were just great.

The pictures were taken last Tuesday......the first day after the treacherous snow and ice storm......with a purpose and devotion and thoroughness that would befit the finest National Geographic photographer.

And the only words missing from the accurate and stimulating account of this project, were "if only these [shipping container] walls could speak of their journeys". And a phone call to Memphis was even made in an attempt to capture those.

All these years of reading, and I thought it was merely a Business Journal. I had no concept of the death-defying, global lengths to which these people will go to inform and to enlighten our community.

I am proud to have experienced this first-hand and have a new and better appreciation for all that you do and for all you have done for the Springfield Business community.

Thank you.