“Don’t try this at home…”

14 Aug

Man, it’s Thursday already…

First, I’m sorry for the delays in posting lately. My wife is undergoing several procedures (including surgical biopsies) to determine the current state of her health. We have to do this, to figure out what happens next. It’s taxing, both mentally and physically, but I fear the most damage is being done emotionally. This is a hard road to travel…

So, as you can imagine, my thoughts have been elsewhere, lately…

So where were we, when we left off?

Wow, I just realized that this blog has gotten 1,730+ hits, from 48 different countries, in the last couple of months. This warms the cockles of my black little heart… It means that there are others like me, looking for solutions, in spite of those who would see us fail. We’ll see who gets the last laugh, right? Huh? Eh? Ya know? LOL!

Oh yeah, I was answering “reader questions about converting shipping containers to homes” here on the blog, so that I can save a few keystrokes in my email box at Gmail.com.

One of the most common questions is:

How did you come up with your design, for the house?”

And, it’s easy, and complicated to answer…

I’ll give you the “easy” answer first…

My wife and I knew that we have to get out of this horrid apartment as soon as we possibly can. Everyone including our doctors has gone into “technicolor descriptions” of what will happen to my wife, and the baby, if we remain here much longer.

It’s that unhealthy. Read my post “Daddy’s Slumlord Rant” if you don’t believe me…

So, we started looking for resources. Insurance is a “No.” That settlement is a long way off, and litigation will probably eat up most of what we stand to gain…

Our “asset” list is pretty short. When you live in the aftermath of hurricanes, you learn fast that most of what you had, and most of the ways you got used to living, are history.

Our liability list isn’t horrible, except for hospital and medical debt that we’ve incurred, post “Katrina.”

And, I had a trick or two up my evil little sleeve…

Many years ago, in a life that seems eons away, I used to play in “banana republics” for a living. It was “manly work” done by “manly men” (and some “manly women” too!) who weren’t afraid to get their hands dirty.

(In fact, I even think that a certain Mister Manly would have given us his “Seal of Approval.”)

Plus, we all had wives and girlfriends that were better kept at a distance. Some of us were far safer living in jungles, than living at home… LOL!

In those unpleasant and hostile climes, we learned to made do with what we had. And we got pretty creative trying to keep the weather, critters, and gunfire off our butts…

You don’t get much in the way of “building materials” off the shelf in third world countries during times of strife. As you can imagine, every resource is in short supply. But, most of the third world countries I was in had a shipping port. And that means that they also had… say it with me… shipping containers.

One of the cool things about shipping containers is that they are built to be transportable. So, all you have to do is get a truck, and something to lift the box up with, and you’re in business…

Now, getting a truck is easy. All it takes is a well-placed M16, and a stern look. You see it on TV, all the time in fact! Nowadays, it’s a felony called “carjacking…” so don’t try this at home, campers… It’s a job best left to “professionals.”

In our day… we called it “appropriation without 27 pieces of [expletive deleted] paperwork.”

We’d commandeer a crane, load up, haul the containers off, head for the bush, and then… dig a big hole…

We didn’t need any high tech coatings, rigid insulation, fiberglass batt, or spray on stuff… Dirt is a pretty good insulator. And, it’s cheap. All it costs is a shovel or two (preferably attached to a tractor) and a little planning. Of course, we called them “bunkers.”

We didn’t live like “Robin Leach,” but we didn’t get killed by “fireworks,” pesky natives, or poisonous reptiles… and if you do it right, within a very short period of time, they just “disappear.”  And the containers would do likewise! They blend right into the landscape. Talk about a “perfect peek-a-boo palace!”

It’s your “”Grassy Knoll from Hell…”

Now, where I live today, I have some of the same conditions. I have gunfire (at least twice a week, people shoot at each other in my neighborhoods), there are lots of burglaries fueled by the need for “crack,” and the snakes and spiders here will bite you, if you give them a chance. And since I have no wish to swell up and be dead until the next morning, in the ER… I’ve gotta do something.

Now, the most obvious thing to do, would be to pack up and move, but I can’t. We don’t have another home lined up, and if we did, we don’t have the resources to get to it. We don’t even have a car anymore, that went to pay doctor bills that couldn’t get paid any other way…

So, we have our basic list of criteria;

The new home should be safe, dry, an “insect and reptile free zone,” it has to be big enough to support my family, and it needs to be cheap.

It needs to go up fast-fast-fast…

It needs to be efficient, and easy to maintain. Energy costs are high here, and we aren’t made of anything resembling currency. And, my son is going to be a terror. He’s already the biggest 10 month old in the neighborhood, and I can just picture him pounding his little fists into everything he can reach, trying to sound like Tommy Lee, or Peter Gabriel…

It needs to be versatile enough to face the changes a growing family will require, so that once you’re home, you can stay there for a few generations…

(And our family is “growing… Although I can still get into the jeans I wore in high school, I can’t fasten them… or put anything in the pockets…”) LOL!

And… it has to be “conventional enough” to attract a new family, once my family gets run out of Mississippi. And that is almost a certainty. LOL!

Oh yeah, and it has to piss off the neighbors. And the local politicians. And the nay-sayers that send me all that profane email.

(Because I’m gonna be one “I told you so!” yelling bastard, when this is all over, lemme tell you… I guarantee!)

So, we have a “basic envelope list” now…

Next, we started talking about our needs, based on “average.” We didn’t want to under-build, or overbuild. We wanted our porridge to be “just right.”

We made a list of all our concerns, and medical needs weighed in pretty heavy. We expect that my wife is gonna need some pretty special care for a while, so her comfort is imperative. After all, if she’s miserable, I will be. “She guarantees!” LOL!

Seriously, she’s been through hell, and she actually chose it, to insure that our child would be born safe, healthy, and ready to face the world. It was an act of courage that I will never forget, and I will always cherish her for.

(Even at 3am, when she’s craving cheeseburgers, and I have to go out and wander the “crack-gauntlet” to get them…)

(You didn’t think I’d just head for the kitchen, did you? Meat and cheese together are NOT kosher. Nuh-uh… I ain’t touching that!)

We needed a shape, that would help combat daily living noise, and provide isolation and security. Thus, “the two wings” concept was born. By separating the space, we separated the sounds…

We needed the house to be laid out in a way that made it easy to construct, and affordable to build. Keeping everything “in line” helps that tremendously.

And we needed to be able to build in “stages,” because that’s how funding is gonna come through. I’m gonna have to fight for every penny, inspection by inspection…

You’ve seen the floor plans by now, so I’m not going to describe the “room by room rockfight” we had. Suffice to say, I think we accomplished our goals, for providing the right configuration.

We’re still arguing with everyone under the sun (read “authorities”) about what the house will actually look like, from the outside. As we revise our plans the box changed a bit, and now we’re trying to determine just how we’ll “disguise it” so it doesn’t look like a shipyard.

So, if you have any ideas (that don’t include dynamite, plastic explosives, or heavy equipment and “poor aim…”) we’d love to hear/see them…

Enough for now, the baby is hollering… teething is a terrible thing…

Next time, I’ll give you the “complicated ” answer…

Stay tuned…

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2 Responses to ““Don’t try this at home…””

  1. Sarah August 15, 2008 at 9:08 am #

    first of all, best wishes to your wife. refuah Shelemah as they say.
    And ilove reading your posts. very interesting stuff. i would love to see a photo or two when its all said and done..

  2. cantorballard August 16, 2008 at 7:18 am #

    Renaissance,
    I just wanted to also wish a Refuah Shlemah to your wife, and say thanks for posting on my blog. I’m not sure how to post back to someone else’s from mine, so I’m stopping here and saying hello personally. I don’t know much about building houses, but you are a good writer, and you’ve done a great job getting your blog seen by others – perhaps you have some advice for a fledgling blogger? 🙂

    P.S. Where in the deep south are you? I am in the Carolinas and Blue Ridge area quite often –

    Good luck to you and best wishes for your wife’s good health.
    Debbi
    http://www.mypersonalcantor.com

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