Getting Wired

Money can't buy love but it can help one acquire the three things needed to build: tools, material, and labor.

But what if you don't have a lot of money to throw at a problem? That's us!

We already have most of the tools needed (though not all), been doing pretty well scrounging materials, and have been pouring in sweat equity by the bucketload (gross). But there are limits to our knowledge, and when it comes to electrical work I know just enough to be dangerous. I'm comfortable with "makeup", which is the hands-on installation of wire, receptacles, and lights, but layout, troubleshooting, and circuit panel work reduces me to chimp mode, scratching my head and flinging feces in frustration. OK, I exaggerate. But only just.

ICYMI, this house is basically an abandoned remodel, meaning some areas were done to completion (bathroom, upstairs bedrooms), some were barely started (kitchen, den), and others were abandoned halfway through (the wiring). Some circuits were completed and function fine, but others were done either partially and/or incorrectly. It was an intimidating mess and I was going to need help. Lots of it.

But electricians are expensive. Luckily, what we lack in funds we make up for with social capital. Wait, that sounds tacky and transactional. What I mean is we have skilled friends who are willing to pitch in for a meal and a song. (Literal meals, figurative song.)

Frank sifting olivine for sand casting, March 2001

I met Frank over 20 years ago, back when I was volunteering on the ill-fated Kalakala ferry restoration. He and some other sculptors had set up a kludgy metal foundry on the car deck, where every Monday night we sand cast bronze and aluminum. Some of the pours were personal, but the real purpose of the foundry was to fabricate custom replacement parts for the boat. Despite a lot of good intentions and effort from scores of people, the Kalakala ultimately went on to be scrapped, a real failure of imagination by Seattle's monied class.

Sand casting on the Kalakala on Lake Union, Seattle, spring 2001

But Frank and I remained friends. When I bought a $5 drumkit at a garage sale but had nowhere to put it, he offered the use of a derelict office space that was part of a commercial property he managed as superintendent. That was 2008 and despite a change in building ownership and against all odds, we're still jamming there.

Frank arrived this afternoon with his wee dog Coco and we started untangling the myriad mysteries of the kitchen wiring. What was completed was done to code, but it was obvious that the job had been abandoned suddenly. Today we made a good start on figuring it all out, thanks to Frank's generosity and expertise. Thanks, buddy!

Frank, 2023


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