I’m sorry. These are words I utter constantly as I stumble about each of her rooms. Five months in, and while I know “all teh things” we have accomplished so far have taken her light years ahead of the ruin she was, the road keep stretching in front of me like that scene in poltergeist where mom couldn’t reach the door down the hall where her child lay screaming in terror. It stretched. Endlessly. Even upon arriving the house made sure the journey wasn’t going to be quite that easy.
Regina. She doesn’t need to remind me. I remind myself. Everyday I wake up, frozen. Staring at the wall. 4500 square feet. What the fuck was I thinking? I’m so sorry Gina. I’m trying. I really am.
It’s this experience that I needed though. As an urban crusader who strolls about wondering why in the hell people leave things to rot and die, the answer I have so longed for has become oh so clear. Because it’s easy. So many times I have fought through the pain my body is churning out. So many times I fought through shear exhaustion, mentally and physically. So many times I have stared at her blueprints, wiping away teardrops so as to not smear the careful notes and drawings.
Each day I wonder if the winter will cause you to fall. Having just tweaked my knee to a point where I can’t stand, I wonder. Will the water seeping between the bricks and your sandstone facade make you topple down? Can I muster enough finances to get that damn cornice fixed? I could try it myself, but I only trust so much of my D.I.Y. “Why is this so hard?” I yell. Often. “Hrm, well at least I stopped apologizing.” Talking to myself out loud is my new norm. The echo throughout the halls makes it seem like she is talking back.
So where are we, on this path, is the question almost everyone asks. Well, I still want to save every building. I wonder what lies behind the plywood. The dripping remains of decades of neglect. It’s mesmerizing to me. I want more of it, maybe not as much as Regina is giving me but I know I can help out my neighborhood. My Wild Wild West End. I do really want a horse. But instead of slinging on a gun belt it’s a tool belt. I really do want to help start a bakery, a cheese shop, a butcher. I want to open my ice cream parlor and serve up some damn good coffee.
Back to the question at hand, where are we? Well, we have a plan. Mostly. Bill has hacked and skewered her current layout to what we feel, is the most viable way to use her space in a modern setting. And by modern we mean little things like indoor outhouses, and those new fancy things we call kitchens. Floor one will remain, relatively, original. Relatively like, Mars is relatively close to Earth. In the grand scheme of things. But 2 and 3, our beloved 2 and 3, will be for the most part gutted. It’s odd nooks and cranny’s and after-the-fact stairwells will soon be no more.
We have gotten absurdly good at stripping. Have made every joke in creation about it, and yes, will consider stripping for money now because of it. We need a dumpster. Well, a few dumpsters probably. We need patience. A lot of it. We need a scaffold. Or a bunch of ladders. We need windows. We need a door. We need modern electricity. We need plumbing and HVAC. We need box gutter work and cornice restoration. Most importantly, we need hope, and a little luck.
The absolute life saving Silent Paint Stripper system. Don’t redo your home without it.
If you see us out there on the street, if we look tired or worn out. If we are sitting silently at the bar or staring off into the distance. Come up and say hi. Because odds are, we need a hug.
But each day that I peel something away, or bag up or clear out, it makes me happy. Once the fear goes away, the pride and determination comes out. Every time the hammer strikes, the old and withered Regina flashes back in time to a tickled and laughing flapper circe 1923. She dances in sequined gold dress with Remus and Cox laughing in the background. She is saving me as much as I save her. So I will keep bringing that hammer down. Again and again. Until she is stuck back in 1923, and we can sit back and be entertained.