First, it started out with the old timers of our block getting wind of the sale of the two empty lots on the corner. They found out that the new owners were applying for a permit to change the zoning laws so they could legally put both driveways on our narrow, one lane street. Which, on any given day, is filled with half a dozen kids running around, riding bikes, or sitting in the street sketching pictures with sidewalk chalk.
We didn’t want any extra driveways beyond what was zoned so the unofficial mayor of our block informed and convinced the masses of our cul-de-sac to join him. He wanted to put a “cease and desist” order in place at the next town meeting. No one could stop the two houses from being built; however, covert operations were well under way to make sure the zoning laws weren’t changed by these newcomers. The masses were hell bent on making sure only one new driveway came into existence on our street.
This is the part in my post where I stop. I interject and I say, “See? See how life is in Suburgatory? The place that’s between heaven and hell in the suburbs?”
We won. The builders redesigned the second house and put it’s driveway on the adjacent street.
Come late spring, things began to change on this quiet little block.
This is how the early days of my summer went; I’d go to work, come home and find changes. Things like wooden stakes and a bright orange fabric fence would now define the property line. “Wow,” I thought, “Is that all I have for land on the side of my house?”
A few days later I’d come home and find other interesting things like life-size Tonka trucks and backhoes dispersed on the property. A large dumpster suddenly appeared along side my garden. Building supplies were offloaded and the loud hum of cement trucks came and went.
They dug a big hole. The foundation was poured followed by it’s walls then topped with a plywood floor.
Faithfully, every single morning precisely at 8 a.m. came the roar of compressors followed by the automatic repetitive – Bang! Bang! Bang! of electric nail guns. These lovely wake up calls transformed piles of 2 x 4’s into stick and frame walls. Suddenly there was a first floor and then they began to build up.
One morning I awoke to the sound of men with thick accents singing. I didn’t mind it even this early in the morning, “Gee,” I thought as I lay in my bed, ” They sound happy… they sound Brazilian.” (My dear friend Valeria is from Brazil. I could tell it was the same accent.)
“How odd…I can hear them so clearly,” thoughts were surfacing through the murky morning of my mind. I rolled over to the side of my bed and peeked out my second floor bedroom window, “Oh SHIT! There they are!” It’s very awkward waking up to several men in tool belts just outside my window like that.
The nights of open blinds were over, at least for now. Too risky. That second floor went up real fast.
After a couple of weeks, where once stood nothing but commanding views of the street below punctuated by spectacular sunsets, now loomed the shell of a two story house.
Alas, change had been forced upon me, but all was not lost. Just like a faithful friend the moon and the stars came back despite the diabolical efforts of the new structure to steal my exclusive view. It was safe to open the blinds again.
My daughter would find things to do to amuse herself during the day while I was at work and her brothers were away at camp. One day she hooked up her amplifier and microphone, put it on the window sill of my second floor bedroom window and shouted silly sayings and sang silly songs. When I caught her that day I had the best laugh. (Payback comes in the most unusual forms.)
She set up a lemonade stand with her friend Kayla. The workers bought lemonade and even paid for some ice. I’d come home and see big smiles on the faces of these little girls while they counted their pockets full of change. Who says today’s youth are glued to the digital divide?
My kids had water balloon fights; sad to say some of the balloons flew over the property line and hit the dumpster. No complaints though, not even a smile when a purposely misguided balloon just about hit one of the owners. What sticks in the mud here in Connecticut. We had record heat this summer! Does the word “playfulness” not exist among these Connecticut natives?
At certain points during all this noise and mess I felt like there was no place for me go and get away from it. I live here. Even an occasional well deserved nap on a Saturday afternoon for this single mom just wasn’t happening.
When you can’t beat them – join them? After the builders and the workers went home, after the kids were fed and the dishes were done, after the hot summer day turned into a pleasant warm balmy summer evening- just before dusk, I’d go outside with my sketch book and a chair and sit and draw the construction trucks.
This initial sketch convinced me that I could take on this big yellow monster and put him in a painting. The sketch below didn’t transpire beyond a sketch because one of the men would hop on it, move things around like big rocks and never park it the same way twice.
Here is the first painting. I mis-judged the distance from the cabin to the bucket and it fell off the canvas.
So I started another one. This time during evening hours to get a different color palette. For about three weeks, whenever time allowed, I dragged my canvas and easel outside and painted as fast as I could.
During the course of all this building, metal strips from some building supplies-most likely from large packets of sheet rock-were left on the ground and were being buried and overgrown with weeds. A significant number of them were left right on the border of my garden. As you know, bare feet and hidden metal strips do not make for happy acquaintances.
After stepping on the damn things 3 or 4 times throughout the summer I decided to take matters into my own hands. I took every last darn one of those metal pieces hidden in the underbrush, shoved all the sharp ends into a leftover pipe and came up with this.
Don’t you think that’s a lot of metal to be underfoot? 🙂 Actually, it was fun building it. I’ve been experimenting with solar sculpture this past summer and this fit right in with trying out different materials.
The following morning I informed the builders that I was tired of stepping on those metal strips they left on the ground along the property line by my garden so I made a one of kind sculpture out of them.
I asked them when was their yard was going to be sodded because the local lawn zealots were complaining to me about it. Then, I asked them how long the backhoe was going to stay in the back yard because I was painting it and wanted to know how much time I had left to do so.
They said, “One week.” Their answer to all of my questions was, “One week.”
I informed them that for most of the summer, when the backside of the backhoe was facing my property, it was like a big metal wall and not a great view. Where it is now is good. Off to work I went.
As far as I was concerned, it was no longer a towering chunk of machinery sitting there lurking over it’s domain like a rusting transformer from the Spielberg movies; it was a thing of grace and beauty.
Canary yellows and cool purple shadows combined with the richness of the dark brown earth below it’s belly was an “en plein Air” painters dream.
When I came home from work later that day I could NOT believe my eyes!
“WHO MOVED THE BACKHOE!!!”
They turned it around! I couldn’t believe it! Did I not communicate well? Was it me? I never asked them to move the stupid thing. I only asked how long until it is going to be moved? I wanted to pace myself according to their schedule and make sure I finished the paintings before they moved it!
I went straight from my car and knocked on both doors of the houses until I found them.
“Hey, what happened? Please can you turn that thing around to the way it was this morning?” Silence. “Is it just a coincidence that the guy came and moved it today? I have 2 paintings I’m working on and I’m not finished yet. Can you please put it back to the way it was this morning.” I pleaded.
They looked at me like I was insane.
One of them mumbled, “I could move it but then the owner would know I moved it so I better not.” He said he would make a call.
I walked back over to my house and started dinner. I was still reeling over the backhoe being moved when my friend Mariel called. I told her what happened.
“Can you believe it? Is it me? Do I not express myself clearly?” These were serious paintings I needed to finish. I wanted to enter them into a show then give one as a gift to my brother John who quit his job at Kiewit to start his own construction company in Utah.
“Oh it’s not you. It’s them.” she continued in the same breath, “They are men! They interpret what you say into something that is totally not what you said.”
She went on to recount several instances where her ex-husband did the opposite of what she asked him to do. She attributed it to the fact that men’s brains are wired so badly that they wrongly compute what a woman says.
“It happens all the time because they are men,” she finished. “Thanks.” I think, “For real Mariel? I’m not buying it. ” I’m not sure I believed what she believed but it did seem like they did the exact opposite of what I wanted them to do.
A few days later I asked the builder if he had a moment. I went inside, brought out my two paintings and showed him. “Can you please call the backhoe guy and have him turn it back around? You see this one is not done.” The builder of the first house, “Ron the builder” said the owner of the backhoe is mad at him. “Why?” I asked. ” Because we aren’t going to use him anymore, but I’ll make a call.” “Thank you.” I went back inside. To this day, the backhoe has not been moved back.
Oh wait, noooooo! I’m sitting here finishing up my blog and I hear the rumble of a large machine…it’s moving, the backhoe is moving……but they didn’t turn it around.
I’m not going to paint anything in the near future with wheels on it.