AS IF YOU ASKED
How about that council race, huh? And did you hear what that
incumbent school board member said at the forum? Oh, and I built a
I still haven’t found a way to casually drop that last tidbit into
a conversation, but I’m working on it. Readers sometimes help,
because a few remember, I wrote in July about my latest home
improvement campaign, a bender surpassing all my previous dabbling.
Some of you obviously remember the column, because I’m often asked
what happened with the grand finale in that series, an in-ground
From the moment I broke ground with an excavator to the moment I
put the last screw into the deck, the pool project took 10 weeks.
Another two weeks were chewed up by holiday-season obligations and a
long list of minor tweaks and fixes. My kids were dismayed that ours
was the last house on the block to erect a Christmas light display.
They didn’t buy my claim all the neighbor kids might be complaining
because their daddies weren’t building a pool for them.
Guilt eventually compelled me to take a break from construction to
hang lights from my house at 1 a.m. I kept waiting for a patrol car
to roll by, expecting police would jump to the natural conclusion
that I was stealing lights. Why else would I be on a ladder with an
armful of tangled light cords an hour after midnight?
In the weeks since the pool was completed, I’ve dragged reluctant
and disinterested friends by, forcing them to gaze upon the
accomplishment. While a pool does not inspire the awe one might
expect with a work of art, there is one question each involuntary
witness has shared.
“Where did you learn to do this?” they ask. My answer is always
the same. “When I did it.” Looking too closely usually confirms my
story. But literally every project I’ve undertaken, whether putting
tile in a shower or installing a window, has been an example of
on-the-job-training. And it’s not as if I have an aptitude for
construction. The experiences have brought me to believe that, in
fact, anyone can do these things if only they try.
True, you might have a crooked window. And I once had so much
trouble with a particular section of tile in a shower that I had to
completely remove and replace every tile in an intricate pattern four
times over the course of a few weeks. That challenge finally came to
an end when I realized the problem was not my inability to affix the
tiles correctly. The trouble was that I was using a mortar material
that dissolved in water. This is not good for a shower.
I don’t stick to the learn-as-I-go policy when it comes to
electricity. That seemed an especially prudent choice in the context
of building a pool, so I brought in an expert. Also, while using an
earthmover was every bit as fun as it has always looked to me, I
hired experts to make sure the hole we created met the dimensions
approved by engineers, and that the pool’s various concrete slopes
went where they were supposed to. Installing a pool in an extremely
small space between our house and garage, there was also some concern
about me inadvertently knocking down one structure or the other.
The 5-year-old in me couldn’t leave all the fun to someone else,
so I did some of the digging, and sometimes pretended there was an
urgent need to keep dozing mounds of earth from one place to another.
Once the expert’s work day was done, I also hopped in the rented
Bobcat excavator and went to neighbors asking, “You need anything
Shortly before I started my project, I’d written a couple of
columns that involved a building inspector in Burbank lifting a “red
tag,” an order for a property owner to do some work. The all-clear
was based upon a phone call from the well-connected owner declaring
he’d done the work. This background had me dreading my inspections,
but it’s not as though there was an alternative.
In the end, I passed every inspection, and milked the helpful
inspectors as a resource for advice throughout the project. There was
a surprise when one day my inspector was accompanied by the inspector
I’d recently written about. It was explained that my pool was the
first of its kind built in Burbank (legally), and so it inspired some
curiosity. It was the visitor who spotted the one item that led to
the only correction notice I received.
Sand piled in my driveway had run down to the curb and was at risk
of being washed into the storm-drain system. That would be a
violation of Water Quality Management rules, so the visiting
inspector dictated a correction notice the other wrote. To gripe the
episode was the visitor’s small revenge would require arguing sand
wasn’t in the gutter, or that letting it into a storm drain isn’t a
violation. Neither was the case. Indeed, by checking out the site
personally instead of letting me report on myself by phone, the
visiting inspector had taken exactly the course I’d advocated. So how
could I complain?
Supporting the claim of curiosity about the project, other
building officials stopped by over the weeks, including one who
filled in when the regular guy was out. Most didn’t wield clip
boards, but only asked questions about how I’d done one thing, or
planned to do another. All in all, they were good company and a great
The construction phase was a wild success by my definition,
because paramedics weren’t called to my house even once. Then came an
other-worldly experience for a boy raised in Minnesota. I found
myself filling an outdoor, in-ground swimming pool in anticipation of
the Christmas holidays. I fired up the roof-mounted solar heating
system, and watched the water temperature race from 55 degrees to 72
Did you know that, in the context of a swimming pool, 72 degrees
is pretty cold? It is. It’s very cold. And unable to get three
consecutive days of sunshine, including at least two nights of warm
temperatures, the water has stayed at 72 degrees for weeks. In
short, except for construction-related forays, I haven’t gotten wet
in my new pool. Right now about all I can tell you is that the water
has stayed where I put it. But the day will come that I can get in.
When it does, I’ll let you know how it worked out.
In the meantime, I wait for warmer weather while gazing at the
shimmering blue light shining through the shower wall made of opaque
glass block. Oh, did I mention we installed a glass wall in a shower?
I’d never done that before, so let me tell you about it ...
* WILL ROGERS’ column appears in every edition of the Leader. He
can be reached 24 hours a day at 637-3200, voice mail ext. 906, or by
e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at