Rot!

It looked like a small job: raccoons broke the step on one side, so I started pulling away the rotten wood.

Then I pulled away more. Then I removed a few boards. Then a few more…

Before long I could see the main support beam, and that was when I started to appreciate what I was up against. It had all the structural integrity of wet papier-mache.

The entire deck had been built with common-lumber, untreated, in this very rainy area of coastal Canada. Only the boards, themselves, were Cedar, and so relatively rot-resistant. Oh boy.

Demolition continued apace, leaving, finally, a huge crater in front of the house. Nothing of the structure could be saved.

A week later, new treated 4×4 treated main beams were in place, treated joists secured with hurricane ties, old decking reversed, screwed down and pressure-washed, before oiling and staining. The boards had previously been nailed down with ridiculously long nails, which, up against the house siding, could not be removed. That was a challenge! Reciprocating saws are rarely of much use, but when you need one, nothing else will do.

And here the boards are in place again, prior to staining. Nice Humbug effect. Leaving a step, each side to be invented and built. Simple. Job done. A week and a half…

Well. A major job, really, and one only I could undertake, having experienced the results obtained by hiring someone to do something for payment. Nobody can do anything, any more. But they sure want to be paid for doing whatever it is they do.

Everything has its day. It is born, new, strong, true, and from that point on, starts to wither and die. Nothing is immune. Entropy, I think this is called. A running down. A span of days, then oblivion.

Civilizations are no different. They have a lifespan. All of them.

The really mystical thing about all of it, is this:

Almost nothing really needs to expire, the way it does. Begin it well, use the best materials, cut no corners, invest what is necessary, then maintain and renew, as the need arises. Whatever it is can last and last. If not indefinitely, then at least for a very long time. Yet this is almost never the case.

Humans: The Great Corner-Cutters. The Skinflints. The Good-Enoughs. The I-Don’t-Cares. The Morons.

I like raccoons, for the most part. They wreck stuff, but they don’t build junk to begin with and then get drunk while it rots away. They are a part of the great forces of entropy. They are bad, sometimes. Very, very bad. But they do what they do in good humor, and honestly.

Had the raccoons not demolished the first step, the whole deck might have collapsed, with my wife on it. I always knew the beasts had to be good for something. They will probably out-survive everything, even cockroaches.

Everything has its time. Even with the best attention paid, somewhere there is an end point.

One can be sentimental and filled with regret. Or one can be philosophical. I understand, at last, I fancy, what Nero was doing, fiddling away while Rome burned. He saw the inevitability of a process impossible to avert. And fiddling was the only thing left to do.

12 Comments

  1. Marvelous stuff – Thanks!

    *

    Do you know of this guy?

    http://sippicancottage.blogspot.com/

    Fine writer and solid thinker.

    And he builds stuff…

    1. crow says:

      I know him not, but now may come to. Thank you :)

  2. Repair_Man_Jack says:

    Interesting metaphor. I found that true even of the new house I bought 2009. I’m doing a lot of fixing up this and tightening up that which I didn’t expect to see as a new homeowner. It could have been niavete on my part, but it seems you have a point that things aren’t built they way they could be built.

    1. crow says:

      Congratulations on your new house:)
      Sorry to hear, though, it falls a little short of what you might have reasonably expected. Still: the fixing up is a satisfying part of being both a homeowner, and a man. Unless, of course, you are actually Repair_Woman_Jacqueline! In which case: definitely no offense intended.

    2. things aren’t built they way they could be built

      And then there’s technology, designed around an 18-month lifespan.

      At some point, a country ceases to move forward, and starts trying to game itself.

      1. Repair_Man_Jack says:

        I had experience with that as well. In a former, misspent life, I did cost estimates for large military weapons systems. At a point int he late 90’s/early00’s we encountered a serious obsolescence problem. An OSD official, Jacques Gansler, described this as a “Death Spiral.”

        Perhaps the state where At some point, a country ceases to move forward, and starts trying to game itself. is analogous to USD Gansler’s “Death Spiral.”

        Compared to my problem w/ the self-detaching door knobs, the whole death spiral thing is kind of scary.

  3. Organicist says:

    “One can be sentimental and filled with regret. Or one can be philosophical. I understand, at last, I fancy, what Nero was doing, fiddling away while Rome burned. He saw the inevitability of a process impossible to avert. And fiddling was the only thing left to do.”

    We’re confronted with a cruel choice. Fight our way to the rudder, and hope we get there in time to steer the ship around the reef – or start drawing up plans for the next ship, to be built from the wreckage of this one.

    1. crow says:

      Quite so :)
      The necessary thing is survival, purely and simply.
      The very thing that so many people take completely for granted.

  4. Hello all. Bruce is a sterling fellow. Makes me smile to see his name on the Intertunnel.

    That’s not how you fix a deck. This is how you fix a deck:

    http://sippicancottage.blogspot.com/2009/08/this-old-cave-fix-back-porch-again.html

    1. crow says:

      Pah! That how caveman fix deck.
      Crow fix deck better. Crow not heavy like caveman.
      Crow fix deck, deck fixed.
      Caveman dig half way to earth core.
      Crow plant deck on good intentions.
      Work good for crow!

  5. […] Luckily, this process can be restarted. All it takes is for us to reverse the culture of gaming the system, reverse the perverse notion of equality, and rip out the dead wood and start over, this time building it to last. […]

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