We got there at 7:30 and John ran off to get coffee and donuts, and I got to work caulking. Yesterday Gabe asked if I could imagine caulking all day, and I now don't have to imagine it. I spent nearly the whole day caulking trim and door frames and having people ahead of me sanding, wiping down everything, and taping; and then they were all coming after me with paint brushes and pulling the tape.
In order for the caulk to be placed correctly, it has to be place on top of tape that's set just so away from the edge to be caulked. Then, while it's still wet, you have to pull up the tape so that the tape doesn't pull the caulk with it. In Colorado, Gabe said that a painter can't do more than five feet of caulk at a a time because it dries too quickly.
It was 90+ degrees and 90 percent humidity today. We were all sweating so hard I couldn't believe I was dripping from just doing something as simple as caulking. And it felt like the air was sweating all the time. The house was open to the outside, completely, still, and it was hot inside and out. I'll admit that it was nicer in the shade than in the sunshine, even if it isn't a Colorado sun. I was caulking floor level things, so I was bending a lot. I went through four bottles of water just in the morning, and worried about dehydrating as I sweat completely through my shirt. I was wringing wet. Gabe ended up taking off his shirt and I envied him like I couldn't believe. John just dripped away like I did.
Art was at the house all day, and he joined us during lunch because the other work crew came to his house, for once, to have lunch with us instead of the other way around. We all sat out on the front porch and ate and drank together and he got to talk more about his experience with the storm surge and after.
It was chilling for him to point to four other empty pads in his neighborhood, which is only three of four blocks away from the beach, and say, "They're dead, they're dead, and they died in the surge because they stayed here." There was a local social center, a church, I think, where folks had gathered for the storm, just a few blocks away. They had 120 people in the building when the storm surge hit and they all died. Some folks were bemused that he said it so matter-of-factly. I can't see any other way to get on with ones life but to deal with the facts and just go on living.
To dwell too much on all that is lost could be crippling. One of his daughters hasn't recovered her spirit completely since the storm. Sometimes you just have to do the thing that's in front of you, not worry about all the things that are lost.
After lunch I concentrated on what was in front of me, and I got good at caulking. I could do one run and smooth it all down pretty with just a single swipe. I got the flow right and even when there were huge gaps I was able to get enough in most of them on just one pass to get it to fill completely from edge to edge. I got to where it came out smooth and clean and when the tape was pulled from the wet caulk it left a pretty, smooth edge with a shiny finish and no hint of a crack where the two pieces met. That was really fun to get to.
We also managed to pull out a miracle of a small sort and got ALL the trim caulked, the painting at least started, even with all that work on it, and finished every bit of trim that we were given in the beautiful, new house. In just the one day we did the front bedroom, the whole of the livingroom, the kitchen, the pantry, the laundry room, and the hallway and the finish was really, really nice.
The owner and his wife came back again near the end of the day and we were able to get pictures of them on their new front porch. That was very cool. They also thanked us, personally, for helping them with their house, and I thanked them for letting us work on their house and on helping with getting them back into a beautiful home. That meant a lot to me, and the fact that they really liked what it was that we'd done.
The boss of the sites came through in the morning, and was pleased with what we'd done as well.
So that was all to the good. My hands and face and arms and legs were covered in paint and caulk by the end of the day, as when I'd finished with the caulking, I started pulling up the wet tape with paint and caulk still sticky on it. The house is near enough to the beach that ever sticky thing got covered in sand as well, so I was gritty, sticky, sweaty, and rubbed a bit raw by the combination. Gabe stayed behind to wash out brushes and finish what he could, as his dad, Gary, as expected, stayed on his site until 5. That was very nice of Gabe. The other work crews came through our house as well, just to see what we were working on. That was pretty neat.
We left a bit after 4, and it was both sad and glad. I'd just really learned how to do what I was doing, and now I wanted to do more. But my ankles and legs were swollen from the heat and from standing all day and not being used to it at all. That's bad. I'm so glad I get massage therapy on Tuesday of next week, as I just hurt like crazy in some places. When I get really focused, I guess, I just ignore pain as an unnecessary distraction. Teresa and Kristen were smart and walked places and stretched between jobs to not hurt quite as much. I just wanted to get done, so I just pushed as hard as I could.
We got back, showered, threw every wet thing into the dryer on principle, and then packed and cleaned the place up. John and I packed relatively lightly, and so threw every dirty thing (now dry, thank god) and my five pound bag of flour and all John's tools and things into the big pack that stayed with the car that was going to go directly to Baton Rouge. We then just took Jet's small, red luggage with all the things we could wear in New Orleans in our car with us.
Then we loaded up, got six people into the minivan, and headed towards New Orleans. We stopped by Shaggy's on the coast, by the newly rebuilt marina, and it was packed with people. That was cool to see, and they had an excellent menu. John and I got a dozen fresh, raw oysters, and ate most of them up. Michael tried a couple, and Teresa tried a taste of an oyster. But Teresa and I shared a wasabi-seared, locally caught tuna with a lovely sesame dressed seaweed salad that was crisp and clean and gorgeous. The tuna was perfectly seared, dead cool raw in the center, and each slice was buttery and delicious, especially with a tangy soy-based sauce on top of it. Lovely stuff.
Teresa also got some catfish fingers. John got the fish sandwich and fries. I stole a few fries. I wanted sweet potato fries, but not badly enough to order any. Michael got a slice of key lime pie, but we both agreed that the Shed's key lime pies were better. It was good enough, though, and we ate and talked and saw two other groups from our group coming through and eating. We didn't get to see the waitress whose mother's house we worked, on, but that's okay, too. The wind picked up and helped cool the day off. Someone said that a storm was coming in, and should help to cool things off.
We then got back into the car and drove west to New Orleans, taking 90 west to 10 and then out to New Orleans across the causeway over Lake Pontchartrain. Since it was dead dark night we didn't see all that much as we went across other than blackness where the water was. The neighborhoods we went through were marked more by the fact that they were dark than anything else. There were very few house lights on in the houses, as a chunk of them were still boarded up or under construction.
We went into the heart of town, getting off at Canal Street and went to Royal, which is only one block away from Bourbon Street. We are all staying at the Holiday Inn there, and we had a group block of rooms. We checked in and dropped off all our stuff and then headed down to Bourbon Street with a few other folks.
It was just as I remembered. Smelly, lit, and filled with booze and strip clubs and music and watchers in every color, shape, and size you could imagine. Booze and strip clubs (bottomless or topless or both!), voodoo shops and tarot readings, and rich dining experiences mixed with jazz and blues bars and clubs and every kind of alcoholic drink imaginable and a few that most people have never even dreamed could have happened. Every blended drink possible, 20 Jello shots in an easy to carry tray, giant beer bottles that held a gallon of beer easily, to-go beer cups holding a quart each, blended drinks in plastic bulbs, an eight-person beer bong, etc. etc. etc... And, of course, the natural consequences of heavy drinking in every gutter and corner imaginable or not.
We stopped the by the Old Absinthe House in the midst of all that, yes, of course, they had to offer Absinthe as well, with it's interesting reputation and composition. And now the old formulations are legal again. But there's a locally made version of it that has always been the one used by the Old Absinthe House on Bourbon, so Herbsaint is what they still serve. It's traditional enough for them. It's not quite what I expected, but I'm not sure what I expected, but it was fun to watch it turn cloudy when it hit the water. And the flames were pretty and it was good to try and old vice in the midst of so many others.
And the music... as astonishing in it's variety, quality, quantity, and variability. From bar to bar, the music would change or combat each other. Smoky dusky blue torch singer crooning versus a cover band belting out pop song versus a funky 70's band bouncing through a funk against a three piece jazz ensemble doing complex runs to combat a punk band playing at the Goth Dungeon to head bangers trying to look like they were in the Scene. And around the corner, down an alley would be a three piece Zydeco band with a violin wailing away over an electric guitar and a guy with both a digital keyboard and a washboard.
I stopped to hear the torch singer, crooning away in a smoke-filled room with a whiskey on the rocks in one hand and her microphone right up against her mouth in the other. It was wonderful. I never figured out exactly who she was, though. All the bands and music are free this weekend. It's part of the music festival.
We walked from Canal out to Rue St. Ann, which was kind of the end of the wildest parts of Bourbon Street. John and I turned back at that point and headed back over to Royal and discovered the most beautiful art galleries and Brennan's one of restaurants I'd heard about from various places. Ladies in silk dresses and men in sharkskin suits were stepping out from that restaurant and the dress code for the place was prominently displayed and none of those required items were things we had even thought to pack. So no really upscale restaurants for me this time. Next time... I'll remember the velvet ballgown and heels and diamond necklace and earrings... that would be fun.
We went back to the room, not too late, and went to sleep. I needed it badly. I was so tired I didn't even try to finish this update until the next day.