September 29, 2007


On Thursday, Rico's guys showed up early in the AM and began sanding. The first thing they did was to take the electric panel off the main circuit box and wired their big Gallaxy 2000 sander to the breaker. They were not going to take any chances with the electricity in the upstairs rooms. They replaced the warped floor boards in the bedroom and patched holes and cracks with putty. It was a day with different accented English spoken by the crew of Jamaican dudes.
I spent most of the day downstairs under the banging working on the computer. At around 7pm, they had put the second coat of polyurethane on the floor and said they would return on Saturday morning to do the final coat.
We avoided the upstairs for two days, wanting it to dry without disturbances and waiting for the smell to dissipate.

It is now 10:30am on Saturday morning and we are sitting here waiting for them to show up. We just went up to peak at the work and was a bit disappointed. The floors are way too glossy, and polyurethane really turned them yellow. Plus the new boards they laid down do not match the old color, and the putty did not turn yellow to match the rest of the wood. I hope they come soon, so we can have them fix it.

September 27, 2007

A Peach for a Peach

Last night's meal at EGB was a little different. On top of BYOB, we also BYOPP: we brought our own peach pie. The last of the peaches on our tree were picked by an artist named Meg Duguid, who does performance art with pies. She and her boyfriend came over about a month and a half ago and took the remaining peaches of the season. We were a little bummed that the peaches were no more, but when she told us that she would bake two pies, and one would be shipped to Chicago, and the other to us, we got excited.
Two nights ago, we ended up having dinner later than usual. It ended up kinda late since le porte-fenetre had to be installed. Slappy and Taco came to install it after their normal work day was over, so we wrapped up around 10:30pm. We rushed over to EGB before they closed and as usual, had the place all to ourselves. We noticed it was more quiet than usual, due to the fact the daughter wasn't there to wait on us. The mother told us that she was at the emergency room all day, for a sinus infection. She had gone to school earlier that day to take a test, and couldn't focus, so she left school with t high fever. We also found out that the family calls her Peach, because she is cute and sweet. So when the pie arrived in the mail, we thought it would only be appropriate to bring Peach a piece of pie as a get well gesture. The four of us returned last night, (this time PV instead of Slappy) with the crate in tow, weighing $60 worth of shipping and handling. After dinner, Paul, the owner-dad, heated the pie up for us in the oven and brought it back up. We had ordered a new appetizer called Golden Bag- a deep fried wanton skin filled with shrimp, water chestnut, and mushroom, served with a delicious sweet lime sauce that tasted like key lime pie. So we requested for more of that sauce and put a big dollop onto the peach pie. The crust was a bit undercooked, but the peaches had been soaked in ginger for a week, and were delicious! We ate half the pie and left the remaining half with the restaurant for Peach. I had noticed that the restaurant had a Junior's cheesecake sitting on the counter, when we walked in. Apparently we could have some of that tonight for dessert when we go back.

Our order: Golden Bag- excellent.
Golden Corn- ground chicken, corn, cilantro, red curry and Thai sauce- very good.
Fresh Roll aka Por pia (Chinese sausage, shrimp, eggs, bean sprout, tofu and cucumber with tamarined sauce)- good but kinda ho hum.
Everything Pad Thai- good but a bit too sweet.
PV got the Mustang burger-Louisiana spices and jack cheese- excellent according to him.
Taco got the Thai Burger-Thai curry and peanut sauce- excellent according to him.
total bill was $38.00 plus tip. WOW.

September 25, 2007

We can almost see the light at the end of the Tunnel

Early on Saturday, Chaim began the demolition for the upstairs patio, aka, bump-out, parapet, smoking section.
I dug up my old cold chisel and sledge hammer, a tool I hadn't used since trying a hand at stone carving my Junior year at KCAI.
Apparently, that was the right tool, because Chaim finished the job in less than 3 hours.

After all the exterior rubble and stucco was cleared away, it was unbelievably simple for the rotted away wood wall to come down. Almost too simple!!!

Right after the guys took the 3 walls down, it began to pour. The weatherman had obviously lied about his forecast for the weekend. I went to the bank and when I returned I found this Rube Goldberg-esque set up, diverting the roof rain water from coming into the house.

The guys set the new French doors in the spot where we think it should go.
One evening last week, a woman from Paris came over to interview me for her Ph.D dissertation. After the interview, I brought her upstairs to show her the reason my studio is still in storage.
We asked her "what are French doors called in France?", expecting an answer similar to-"Chinese food in China is called food". But instead she told us that French doors in France are called porte fenĂȘtre or door with windows. So now we have both, a porte fenetre and a porte sans fenetre!
Slappy takes a break from the work to have a quick hamburger from our favorite spot across the street: EGB. He and PV ended up eating 4 meals in a row from there that weekend. Lunch, then a buffalo wing snack, then dinner with the rest of the crew, then another full day of eating on Sunday.

A view of the demolition bits and pieces from the upstairs parapet piled in front of the house after we threw it out the upstairs window. It sure beat having to walk up and down the stairs with it all!

Ralphie, a man of many hats.
Frankie, Ralphie and Joe, (aka Spencer, Giseppe, etc..)
return for the umpteenth time to install some more wiring.
Hopefully the next visit will be their last.

The 2x4 and plywood wall goes back up in the parapet, awaiting the final installation of our porte fenetre. But before the doors can go in, the roofer must come and put a new membrane on the area.
This Thursday Rico, the floor guy comes to sand and polyurethane the floors!!!! But before then, David and Flocko, the Argentinians have to come back and sheet rock the ceiling of the kitchen and the walls for the new parapet. We don't have time for the mud guy or painting before Thursday, so I suppose all that will get done after............

September 22, 2007

A Blast From The Past.

In this week's Sunday Real Estate Section, there is an article about my old apartment: 30 Clinton Street, and how the board turned down my first prospective buyer. The story clears up some unanswered questions I had of the woman who almost bought 6G; what she did, what her circumstances were, etc... I look back to my first apartment building fondly, and I miss especially Kemel, our super and all around great fix-it man, but don't miss the months of being on the market. Thank goodness that phase of my life is over.

September 18, 2007

Food Review #4: The Free Pizza and others

We haven't had a good Chaim-cooked meal at home for some time, since the stove is not hooked up and a thick layer of plaster dust covers the kitchen. The other night, we decided to order in and get pizza. We had already tried a so-so pepperoni pizza from Pizza Boy II on Roosevelt Ave., and decided to try a different place.

So we looked in our menu folder and came across this place. (50-22 39th Ave)

The menu is one of those quintessential Italian 7 page documents, with every type of pasta, pizza and salads, with catering, just like Carmine's in Manhattan. They have a fresh Mozzarella Margarita pizza, so we decided this place was worth ordering from. The large is priced at $19.95, five dollars more than the rest of the pizzas. We thought it must be a tremendous pie! We called at 7pm, and they said it would take 30-45 minutes. An hour later, no pizza, so we called to see what was taking so long. Oh it's on it's way they said. Forty minutes later, still no pizza, and we are starving. The phone rings at this point, and Donato's is calling us apologizing profusely saying someone took our pizza. I said to forget it, we don't want the damn pizza, and the manager said, "It's on us, we will give it to you for free". Five minutes later a huge mediocre pizza arrived at our door. The crust was undercooked. (what can you expect with them rushing) and the mozzarella cheese was cut into 1 inch chunks. If we had paid $20 we would have been very upset.

It's hard to get a pizza as good as Grimaldi's in Queens.

There are however many other things we can get here that I couldn't get to eat in Brooklyn Heights. Like corn slathered with mayo, sprinkled with Mexican queso blanco and dusted with red chili peppers. Mmmmmmmm. When I was little, in St. Louis, I used to put mayo on my corn when everyone else was melting sticks of butter on theirs. They would look at me appalled, to see the mayo/corn combo hit my mouth. I was so excited when Chaim took me to Spanish Harlem years ago, and saw that corn on a stick with mayo was normal.

A little man was passing by our house with his shopping cart, with a cooler filled with steaming corn, and some large tupperware containers. He had about 50 layers of aluminum foil folded together as his hot mitt, so that he could hold onto the steaming corn as he put layers of mayo and cheese on it. It was delicious, and all for $2.

Our third visit to EGB or "Eat Great Burger: Thai and American" Restaurant.

Last night, we went back to our new favorite eating place across the street. Since our last visit, they had replaced the hand written sign saying "we have Thai desserts for sale" to a more professional looking ink jet printed sign taped to the front window. They had hooked up the television and had a bowl of silk flowers sitting on the bar. There was even one other table occupied, by a Thai family. It turned out that it was one of the chef and her family. We were greeted warmly like always, and sat at the window table for the first time.

We had brought an open bottle of wine from home so the daughter brought us some glasses right away. After filling our glasses, she says, "five minutes, I come back"

Three minutes later, she came back and seeing that we didn't have enough to drink (it was only a half bottle) she asks us,
"do you like beer?"
skeptically we answer back, "what kind of beer?"
"we have a beer in the refrigerator."
knowing they still don't have a liquor license, we ask again, "what kind of beer?"
"it's a small beer. it was left."
"can we see the beer?"
"ok." and she comes back with a bottle of non-alcoholic Coors lite.
"you don't like?"
Then we have to explain that it is not really beer, that it's basically beer flavored water.

We decided to order new things, and no repeats from other visits. The second visit, when we came with PV, we got the Buffalo chicken wings (excellent), fried calamari (very good), a repeat of the green papaya salad, a Pad Thai (excellent) and a Cesar salad. PV was amused at the site of the Cesar salad and papaya salad coming off of the same menu.

This time we ordered the Naked Shrimp salad (excellent), tabbouleh (which they didn't have yet), beef stewey noodle soup with a hint of cinnammon and anise (excellent but almost too rich) and a ground chicken salad that I can't remember the name of (very good). We also ordered some sticky rice, and got a mound of it wrapped in a banana leaf. This is the first time in all the hundreds of times I've been to Thai restaurants that I didn't get microwaved sticky rice wrapped in saran wrap inside a wood basket.

The daughter told us she is studying to better her English to get her MBA. She wants to become an accountant. I asked the High School son how school is going? and he said he had swimming that day. I thought he was on the swim team, but he told us that he was learning to swim, and it's a good thing that he can float. We didn't see the father but I guess he was in the basement cooking away.All in all, our third meal at EGB was excellent.

September 10, 2007

A Very Busy Week

There's so much going on I can't keep track...

Windows and French doors delivered, and stored in the garage until the boom truck can lift them up through the window opening, since they don't fit through the staircase.

more lathe that got taken away, wrapped up and bundled with festive red and green Christmas ribbon.7am, foam being pumped into the empty oil tank in our side garden. Finally we can put that job to rest.

We put up the 1 inch foam insulation on the ceiling, making it look a bit like a disco when the lights flashed on.
I painted a brighter yellow stripe in front of our garage.

The taxi strike went on for 3 days, and this cab was parked right outside our door for the whole duration. We finally saw the cab driver and he gladly moved the cab just so the boom truck could park in the necessary spot under our front window.
the boom truck lifts up the stack of sheet rock through the window opening.
After the sheet rock and windows get boomed up, Slappy and Taco install the front windows.

Putting in the first layer of insulation into the closet.

Chaim cleans up after we put up the second layer of wall insulation.

The young Argentinian guys put up the first piece of ceiling sheet rock.

Food Review #3

We have been patiently anticipating the opening of a new restaurant on Roosevelt Avenue. When we first moved into the neighborhood, the already closed down restaurant was called Arca Noa Noa, another Latin Restaurant. We got a little excited when we saw that the workmen doing construction inside the new place was Chinese. This definitely signified that there would be a new Asian Restaurant opening soon. Yesterday we saw a guy in the doorway, and so we introduced ourselves and asked what type of food he would have. He said Thai. My next question was, "Are you from Thailand?" and when he said yes, we got really really excited.
Tonight Chaim and I went for our first meal at EGB Thai & American Restaurant. We learned that EGB stands for Eat Great Burgers. The two different owners couldn't decide on what type of food to serve, Thai food, or burgers, so that's the reason for the weird name.
The menu is a bit bizarre but the food...(drum roll) was very good. We ordered a little of everything so we could get the feel for the place. Half the menu is your Thai standards, and the other half of the menu is burgers with a strange combination of toppings with interesting names. There is a mixture of Louisiana Cajun, Italian and burger joint fare.

We ordered:
curry puffs- $3.75 two puffy deep fried puffs with an interesting orange juice base sauce.
Chaim ordered the Tom Yung Koong soup $2.95, spicy and good with shrimp.
U-don salad (som tom-or papaya salad) $6.00 very spicy and good.
Pad Se iew (flat broad noodle) $6.00 with beef and egg. very good.
that was the first course.
Then we finished off the dinner with:
green chicken curry- $6.00 very good.
and a U-don burger- $6.95 which was topped with sauteed garlic, onion basil and cherry peppers. very good...but couldn't eat it all so we took the rest home.

The whole family seemed to be working tonight. The father, Paul came and sat at our table and we talked food, baseball and Queens stuff. The mother would stop by the table and make sure we liked the food. The daughter was our waitress. But the classic move by the son made it really feel like a mom and pop restaurant. We asked for some hot chillies, and he brought over a ceramic spice set filled with different sauces and spices. He began to say "My mom said to be careful...." and we thought he would finish off the sentence with "...the spices can be very hot", but instead he said "my mom said be careful because these containers break very easily." I think when his mother told him that, she met for him to be careful, not to tell the customers that we could break them. When was the last time you've been told that in a restaurant??? Then he came back a few minutes later and said "my dad wants to know how you want the burger cooked." It was just like being a guest at their home.

We will definitely be going back.

53-21 Roosevelt Ave.
no liquor license yet.
grand opening still far into the future.

September 2, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Weekend signals the end of summer and the beginning of school. It also means that I will soon be retiring from my job as construction worker, giving up hammering nails and switching over to instructing students on how to use a hammer. I get to stay fairly clean all day long. I get to go into an air conditioned classroom, and better yet, work in an air conditioned shop. With the last push before my retirement, Chaim and I worked through the weekend, getting up as many 2x4's onto the ceiling so that the insulation can be attached to them next. That was the hardest job thus far. The demolition was bad, because it was so dusty and itchy. But putting up wood on the ceiling was strenuous, working above my head on a ladder, screwing in deck screws onto 80 year old very hard roof joists. I didn't realize I could get any more sore, but somehow, I did. My muscle memory brought back aches very similar to when I used to go rock climbing. Instead of a harness with carabiners hanging off if it, I had a tool belt strung around my waist, and realized that compressing rock face with my arms is very similar to holding up a heavy 8 foot 2x4 with one hand, as I balanced the drill with the screw in the other.
Joe Taco also hired our friend "Slappy", to help frame out the parapet wall and front windows. It was great to have a crew upstairs banging out a job in three days what it would probably take me 2 weeks. And their job would be done much more level and square than what I could have done.
The topic of permits is still a cloudy area. Some say that you don't need a permit if the work doesn't involve structural stuff, ie... tearing down a load bearing wall, or building a new floor. Other say that you need a permit for anything you do, and one person said that if you don't hire anyone, you don't need a permit. So far we haven't gotten any permits for much of the work, and are trying to work covertly. We have realized that things are less strict outside of Manhattan, and people are less eager to call the authorities and rat you out, if you live in an enclave of immigrants. We have also been giving out peaches off of our tree to passerby to keep a friendly rapport with the neighbors.
The plan is to take out the window, frame out the wall that the new windows will attach to, then put back the old windows so that we wouldn't have a gaping hole, or an opening covered with plywood until we could put in the new windows.
The new windows have been sitting in the garage for 2 weeks, but they are 3 inches too big to bring them up the staircase. So the plan is to have a boom truck lift the windows up through the window opening the same day that we get the sheet rock delivery. But we can't get the sheet rock delivery until the insulation goes up on the ceilings. But the ceilings can't be covered until Joe Taco runs more cable and wires up there. Its a never-ending domino effect of stuff.Here is Chaim in the open hole where the new windows will someday go.

"Slappy", is the cousin of Paul, and I had met him before, when Chaim and I went to a wine store in the East Village, where he had designed the interior woodwork. He also used to teach at Parsons, in the furniture department with my friend Kimberly, so I had a fairly good idea of what type of worker he would be: talented, efficient, artistic, and listened to NPR while working. All these things happily turned out to be true, and he had some humorous building trade knowledge as well like:
-the horizontal short pieces of wood that go between the studs are called "cats", because they keep the mice from climbing up your walls.
-we should get dog shit and strategically place it outside our house. Since we don't have permits, and can't block the sidewalk with caution tape, this is supposed to keep the pedestrians from walking right under our front window where debris and dust could be a problem for passerby.
He had funny problem solving tricks, like reusing the chain from the window weights by screwing it to a scrap piece of wood to prop up the window so it wouldn't fall out. Very decorative indeed.

At the end of the day, the old windows were put back in, so that if a building inspector drove by, it wouldn't look like we were doing any construction. Our neighbors probably think we are crazy, spending all day making all kinds of noise and dust, and in the end nothing had changed. Actually it got a little bit more white trashy looking, with the scrap pieces of wood holding the broken windows open.
So far we are still within our budget. Supposedly, we have saved about $10,000 by doing a lot of the work ourselves. Our General Contractor is working for beers, (this weeks special: Dinkel-Acker), and knows a lot of connections enabling us to get lumber and sheet rock for a lot less than cost.
I just can't wait for the sheet rock delivery. That is when I know the job will start to go down hill and the end is near.

Chaim and Paul looking out the old window and new frame job.