Thursday, April 28, 2011

The view from work

I spent the past week or so working on an apartment in this very historic building. From the balcony I was literally a stone's throw from the Cabildo building where they signed the Louisiana purchase. During my smoke breaks I could walk out on the balcony and listen to the musicians as tourists milled about below me.

Beats driving a cab in Jersey.

 The Pontalba Buildings form two sides of Jackson Square in the French Quarter.
These are matching red-brick block long 4‑story buildings built in the 1840s by the Baroness Micaela Almonester Pontalba. The ground floors house shops and restaurants; the upper floors are apartments that are the oldest continuously rented such apartments in the United States.

In the short story Hidden Gardens, Truman Capote describes the Pontalba Buildings as "...the oldest, in some ways most somberly elegant, apartment houses in America, the Pontalba Buildings."
They were declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974
The Upper and Lower Pontalba Buildings, which line the St. Ann and St. Peter Street sides of Jackson Square, were built in 1850 by the Baroness Micaela Almonester de Pontalba, the daughter of Don Andres Almonester y Roxas, the Spanish colonial landowner associated with the neighboring Cabildo, Cathedral and Presbytere. Inspired by the imposing Parisian architecture the Baroness favored, the distinctive rowhouses were intended to serve as both elegant residences and fine retail establishments. In 1921 the Pontalba family sold the Lower Pontalba Building to philanthropist William Ratcliff Irby who subsequently, in 1927, bequeathed it to the State Museum.

We finished up the apartment. Yesterday early start, long lunch then worked until 4 am. I slept for a couple of hours on a pile of drop cloths on the balcony over looking Jackson square. 

A lone saxophonist down by the river sung me to sleep in the moon light. Homeless guys fighting over the last swig woke me up.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Wm C. Cayle House 1862

It's been a while since I've blogged. I've been too busy with a paying job, painting houses.  A few 14 hour days amongst the past sixty plus days of no days off. I've been surprised with the size and status of some of the work Pride Improvements has been getting. I thinks it's that Jersey work ethic we brought down with us. No offense to the locals, they just have a different approach to work. "Good enough when we get around to it." Back in Jersey contractors had a lot of competition, others always willing to do it for less money, so you have to always do it better. 

Here are some photos from  the Wm C. Cayle house that we have been   working on for the fast few weeks.

Back in Jersey we were use to the burden of restrictive building codes, permits, inspections, bribes,    pay-offs and the occasional union workers slashing tires of non union workers. I won't say what work my boss managed to step in, but was surprised that it didn't go to a local good ol boy. Again, I think it has to do with standards. Most of the new work comes from referrals.

About six months ago I was doing some work for a man. One morning I asked what was on that day's agenda. "This morning you're putting  a new roof on the garage." 
"New roof on the garage? This morning? By myself? That's kind of a big job for one person, besides, I really don't have any roofing experiance..."
" NO you goddamn moron! I bought a new blue tarp at Walmart for the roof."

Oh yea, the blue tarp, the Louisiana state flag. Covering the remains of a garage were about five layers of blue tarps, each one in a worse case of decomposition than the one on top of it. Seeing this I came to the conclusion that it was one more example of the Gulf Coast residents being neglected and pushed aside.

I inquired "What  happened, didn't the insurance company pay for a new roof after the storm?"
"Sure they did. I spent the money on a new lap top so I could watch porn in the privacy of my room.  I just have to buy a new tarp every year.  Now don't be doing something stupid like falling through the remains of the roof while you're stringin it up, I don't want my insurance to go up if you get hurt." 
"Aren't you going to give me a hand? It's getting kind of windy."
 "Hell no, I'm going inside to look at a new web site I found, When you're  done installing the new roof, I want you to rewire the living room electric. The new extension cord  is  in the Walmart bag."

As the screen door slammed behind him,  I said to myself "Welcome  to Louisiana."

Monday, April 4, 2011

Audrey Elizabeth Styles 1920 - 2011

I think the one thing mom gave me besides a best friend of 48 years, is a connection to history. I wish now I had taken notes. Born in rural Pennsylvania during the depression and a war bride.
She loved this bridge. It is known as the Tunkhannock Viaduct built between 1912 and 1915. It held the title of the largest concrete bridge for 50 years. Audrey's father help build it. Rex Holley worked as a steam shovel operator for coal mining in West Virginia. He moved to Pennsylvania to work on a large railroad construction project that ended up making the record books. While staying at a boarding house he met my Grandmother working as a house keeper and by 1920 they had a second daughter, Audrey. Mother always said that if not for that bridge, she wouldn't be here today. I guess neither would I or her granddaughter.

Audrey attended secretarial school admittedly to avoid getting a job right away. After graduating she moved in with her older sister and her new husband who had settled in Point Pleasant NJ. I'm trying to picture Mom as a college girl in the 1940 version of "Jersey Shore." Audrey met a local young man and got married at the age of twenty. She was widowed at the age of twenty one.  Her husband John R. Carleton was killed in the Battle of the Bulge.


Now being a war widow, the Department of Defence gave her preference hiring for a position at Naval Weapons Station Earl in Colts Neck NJ. She worked there for many years and met her second husband, a WW2 navy veteran. Audrey married him and gave him two sons a year apart. Within a decade that husband died of a stroke. Widowed again this time with two young boys and a mortgage.

About 1962 she met another sailor Frank Styles, I guess she had a thing for men in uniform. They married and had me in '63, he went to Vietnam in '64. Their rocky marriage ended 13 years later when he died leaving her with a rebelioness teenage boy. Widowed the third time. I could write pages about her humor, wisdom and strength. Tell all of you about her tough farm girl attitude, and a mean right hook that could drop a 15 year old boy where he stood. I remember one time she was staring off into space and I asked what she was thinking about. She tearfully replied "I bet if he hadn't died in the war, we would still be married."

When asked about marriage: "My cooking has already killed three, no more."