The 22nd story about our renovation appears in today’s Times-Picayune:
ACTIVITY PICKS UP IN MID-CITY
Saturday, July 14, 2007
By Stephanie Bruno
NOTE: Bart Everson and Christy Paxson see some renovation activity at their home after a long dry spell, while goings-on in the neighborhood provide a dynamic backdrop to their life in Mid-City.
After weeks, maybe months, of inactivity on their basement renovation, Bart Everson and Christy Paxson decided it was time to get something done, even if it meant taking matters into their own hands.
“We realized the summer was getting away from us, and there wasn’t any progress,” Everson said. “We got the downstairs doors stained and hung, but that was about it. And we realized we were running out of time, because Christy is going away to a conference.” Then, the school where she teaches opens in early August.
To get the ball rolling, Everson left a phone message for their friend and contractor Mike Kaplan, suggesting gently that it might be a good time to return to the job and finish up.
Next, the couple agreed to tour their downstairs together and make note of items that they could do themselves while awaiting Kaplan’s return.
“So Sunday, Christy and I took a tour of the basement,” Everson said. Because the downstairs is walled off from the upstairs of the house by a curtain of heavy-duty plastic, the couple had to exit the house and then enter from outside.
“We looked around and considered what we might do, and then decided that cleaning up was a good next step,” Everson said. “We have a Shop-Vac, so it would be easy enough for Christy to vacuum up the dust, dirt and debris down there, and generally just make it cleaner.”
The plan may have been torpedoed by a Tuesday phone call from Kaplan, who pledged to return to the job.
“I was really happy to hear from Mike,” Everson said. “He explained that he had been away from the job so long because he has had to go to New York a lot because of an illness in his family. His partner has had the same problem. The family crises out of town have put them behind in their work.”
When Kaplan returned to the couple’s Mid-City home Wednesday morning, he began working on the whole-house fan. Everson also hopes Kaplan will move them closer to the goal of being able to do their laundry at home, instead of at a local Laundromat.
“We’ve been doing our laundry at Laundromats ever since we came back, and we’re on our fourth or fifth Laundromat by now,” Everson calculated. “One was often crowded, and I couldn’t always get the machines I liked. Another one was a bit far to drive. But I am very happy with the one I’m using now, on Bienville.”
Everson said he had been watching the proprietor for a long time as he worked on the place at nights, slowly getting it back into shape. Then one day, it was open.
“My first visit was on a Sunday morning, and I took our clothes in,” Everson said. “The owner had put in nice new stainless steel machines. He and I got to talking, and I told him I had been worried that he wouldn’t ever get the place open again.”
The owner was clearly gratified by Everson’s taking notice of his hard work and did what any Laundromat owner would do for a new customer at 10 a.m. on a Sunday. “He offered me a beer,” Everson said.
Back at Everson’s home on North Salcedo, life has been anything but dull. For one thing, a group of neighborhood boys — ranging in age from 10 to 16 — have taken up the practice of whiling the time away on the couple’s front porch.
“It’s a rotating cast of characters but likely six or so guys,” Everson said. “We get along fine, and there are only occasional knocks on the door.”
Across the street, neighbors are moving out. “It’s disconcerting, because it destabilizes the neighborhood,” Everson said. “But none of them are leaving the city. It seems like things are still shaking out and that people are still trying to find their place, their comfort zone, in the new city.
“I’m considering what I can do to welcome people to the neighborhood, so that they feel like a part of it. But most of my immediate neighbors moved in last September and took out one-year leases. It seems like they never really intended to stay — more like this was a temporary solution.”
Around the corner, a two-story house is going up where a one-story was demolished. Work continues on the house next door on one side. On the other side sits an Arts and Crafts-style shotgun single seemingly abandoned by the former neighbor, who has returned to his native Texas.
“It hasn’t been gutted or anything, and a city inspector showed up recently and wrote down a lot of notes about it,” Everson said. “Our neighbor keeps saying he’s going to put it on the market, but he never does.”
Not far away is an abandoned car with Indiana plates that has sat idle for several weeks. Recently, it was buried by a mountain of construction debris when a nearby house was gutted.
When Everson needs a break from the unpredictable, he says he has started escaping mentally to Dominica, a tiny Caribbean island that he says is pristine and undeveloped.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the Caribbean and liked to research different islands,” Everson said. “This is my new favorite.” He counts off the reasons: An unusually high percentage of centenarians, a fine medical school (and therefore health care), unspoiled beauty.
For now, Dominica is occupies the realm of fantasy. “It’s a place that captures my imagination. Besides,” he qualified, “before you move somewhere, I always think it’s a good practice to visit it first.”
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Stephanie Bruno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.