Sunday, November 29, 2009

More Than I Should Have When I Should Have Done Something Else

I was all set to head to church this morning when my mother asked if I would help her get the Christmas window boxes in place on the shed and at my porch. She had spent a few hours for the last couple days getting the greens and berries all arranged. Well, darn. I might as well stay home and get work finished up because I just knew the next question. "It's a beautiful day. Are you going to rake more leaves?"


So after the window box carting, I finished up two sets of key tops. (Tomorrow at least one more set is due to arrive, maybe two. And I've got a tuning in the morning.) Then I set out to rake more oak leaves. That was at about 11 a.m. I came in for a fifteen minute lunch break at 1 p.m., then it was back to raking and bagging.

42 large lawn and leaf bags! And there are still more leaves - I ran out of bags. That makes the seasonal total, to date, 83 bags. That's a heck of a lot of oak leaves.

Now every joint hurts. One Aleve and a good night's sleep and it starts all over again tomorrow.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Funny How One Thing Leads to Another

After last Wednesday's tuning job, I made a dash to finish my Christmas shopping. My driving route took me past New England Biolabs and I remembered that I hadn't written my follow-up post.Mary called to tell me that she had picked up this magazine and noticed a familiar company featured. It seems that the founder of NE Biolabs is quite the guy! The title of the article in Northshore Life is Don Comb: Generosity is in his Genes. Indeed! I quote from the article by Heidi Paek: "Those who know Comb describe him as a remarkably generous and productive person. Though he is a great-grandfather, he seems ageless, working daily in search of answers to pressing scientific questions. Motivated primarily by his desire to advance the greater good, Comb has been a life long advocate of science and the environment, and an influential supporter of the arts." The article continues for three pages sprinkled with explanations of tidbits such as gene research, enzyme development, Filariasis (a parasitic organism) and DNA, environmental stewardship, environmentally sustainable construction, Ocean Genome Legacy Foundation, art as a universal form of expression, and bio-diversity of the world. What I gleened is that primarily NE Biolabs is involved in advancing the 'pre'curing of disease by discovery of the genetic cause and treatment at a genetic level. Pretty cool guy.

But, before that article there was another that held nearly equal fascination for me. The Danvers Insane Hospital: What Evil Lurks, by M. Renee Buckley.Having grown up on the north shore and having made the trip back and forth on Route 1, through Danvers, hundreds of times during my life, I've always been fascinated with the enormous Gothic presence of, what we referred to as, the Danvers State Mental Hospital. It sits high on a barren hill above acres of fields. Ominous. The main building, called Kirkbride, is a 70,000 square foot brick structure surrounded by many large 'out' buildings. The article was a superficial swipe at the more mysterious and possibly haunted aspects of the hospital which was closed in 1992. The hospital was built in 1878 and was designed to house 600 patients. At it's worst, 2000 poor souls were crammed in to the facility. By the 1980's only about 200 patients remained.

During the late 1940's, my great grandmother was commited to Danvers State Hospital.Nancy had spent a short time living with her daughter and family prior to her commitment. In those days the family lived in an apartment behind the office of GP, Dr. Peris. By today's standards it seems an odd arrangement. The only telephone, located in the doctor's office, was shared with my grandparents (and my mother). During the hours that the doctor's office was closed, my grandmother would answer any emergency calls and then call the doctor at his home. Also, the doctor's office had no facilities for sterilization. Dr. Peris would let himself in to my grandparent's apartment to boil his instruments in a pan on their kitchen stove. Nancy went to live with her daughter's family, in her latter years, as she began suffering from dementia. My mother remembers that in Nancy's short stay with them her condition worsened to the point that she would frequently wander unclothed. Considering the living (and sharing) arrangements, this posed an insurmountable problem. Long before the days of skilled nursing care or nursing homes, Danvers State was the only option. Nancy lived the last few months of her life there.

Today, the Kirkbride building is designated as an historic building and has become the central part of a high-end apartment complex, Avalon Danvers, built upon the same footprint as the Danvers State Hospital atop Hathorne Hill.

So, what started out as the coincidental discovery of an article that tied in to my blog post then led, for me, to a much more personal search in to the past.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Fair Saturday

...started off bright and early. I was up and out to the school complex just after 7:30 in the morning. Once at the school, I uncovered everything that we had set up on Friday evening and neaten, then put out the little Christmas tree for displaying the some of the easel miniatures as ornaments. I had time before opening to take a picture of my table.Not exactly a prime location in the gymnasium. I was located in the center aisle. At least it was a corner table so I got more traffic than the middle ones.

Around 9:30 a few people started milling in to shop. I kept reminding myself that last year had started off slowly - don't worry. The first hour past and I had had no sales. I was getting a bit nervous. Then a lady came by and was so excited to see the ivory necklaces. She told me that someone had given her one as a gift last year and she loves it. She bought two to give as gifts. Then I sold a couple packages of notecards. A twenty-something guy came and bought an easel miniature, then more necklaces sold. I lost track of how much jewelry sold. Mostly necklaces and a few pairs of earrings, no pins. I sold HALF A DOZEN miniatures!!!!!!!

Now add to that those four custom ordered necklaces - which, on Friday, became a sale of six rather than four AND today we had company and they asked to see the jewelry and I sold two more necklaces - it's been a good three days!

Oh yeah, dickiebo, I saw you peeking around the corner. (It was you in the elf costume wasn't it? You can tell me. I can keep the secret.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shameless Self Promotion

Yeah well...the biggie fair is coming up this Saturday so I thought I'd let y'all know. I've got everything sorted, repacked, and ready to go. Set up time is on Friday evening. The Rockport PTO Holiday Fair begins at 9:30 Saturday morning and ends at 2 p.m.Here's a picture of some of the latest additions to the jewelry. The photo shows just the painted ivory - before the findings are added. Top six verticals are necklaces, four of which are for the custom order and will be delivered on Friday. There are six pairs of Christmas earrings, two additional Christmas necklaces and three horizontal Christmas pins. This may or may not be the last fair of the year. The only other consideration would be a church fair coming up on Dec. 12th - a little seasonally late for most shoppers.


Looking forward - I've got an update on NE Biolabs and some other local stuff (thank you Mary). I'll be posting all about that soon.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

To Finish With the Last Two Posts and Then Some

Well, it has turned out to be a busy week - again. This is good for the pocketbook, one would think. Well, at least there is the hope that some of the money due will materialize. Nothing in the mail today, however (except the electric bill). Two more key jobs did arrive today and with the one that arrived yesterday, I'm busy. I also have to return a call about an estimate and possible tuning for a new customer.

So, the last key job to arrive is an enormous mess. I'm taking pictures as it progresses and will share them here in the future. It's a piano that was saturated with water. The tech sent the entire keyframe (keys and the structure that holds them). Everything is rusty, broken, unglued, moldy, younameit. FUN!! The other jobs are routine.

As promised, this week I sent off the parts to that piano tech who called last week. He should have them by Saturday and I sent a bill in a separate envelope. He called today. To tell me not to rush on sending the stuff as he thinks he may not need it after all. HAH. Guess he should have thought things through before he requested the parts. A half hour on the phone, more than two hours finding, dissembling, packing, reshelving the leftovers, and shipping. Now he's mad that he owes me money for it all. He ended the second phone call rather abruptly.

Tonight I emailed a tech that owes me for key bushing. At the time of the job he assured me that he had sent payment separately from the box of keys. I wonder what his excuse will be?

Amid it all, I'm almost ready for the PTO Holiday Fair. Just two Christmas necklaces to string and one last set of earrings to finish. Then it's get all packed up ready to go next weekend.


On a totally different subject - I finished reading The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. There was a lot of hype about it seven years ago when it was first published. I didn't really care for it. It seemed, to me, quite simplistic in writing style and in plot. Oh well. It did have one paragraph that caught my fancy. The main character was trying to decide if there would be a medical condition that she would be embarassed to admit suffering from. This is an exerpt from the resulting paragraph: "She felt terribly sorry for people who suffered from constipation, and she knew that there were many who did. There were probably enough of them to form a political party - with a chance of government perhaps - but what would such a party do if it was in power? Nothing, she imagined. It would try to pass legislation, but would fail."

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One of the Downsides

of being self-employed is having to do follow-up calls for overdue payments.

Today, I made one of those calls. I tuned at this private church school nearly two months ago. September 15th. I submitted my bill, as instructed, to the secretary. I waited almost six weeks, then sent a second billing. Nada. So, today I asked the secretary about the missing payment. She replied, "Oh, our bookkeeper was out with THE flu. I'll check on it for you."

Wow, THE flu MUST be horrendous! Eight weeks worth of misery! Humph, I'm not convinced.

This prompted me to check my dry erase board in the workshop where I keep track of my workload for each month. Shop work and tunings and such. I added up the payments still pending on completed work and was duly depressed to find the total of $540.

Certainly there should be some checks arriving in the mail - soon!

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Seven Varieties

If all weeks could just be like this past one!
Monday was retail, of course. It was just busy (or not slow) enough that it didn't get too boring. I knew it was giving me the opportunity to prepare for the upcoming week.
Tuesday it started with the first set of keys arriving. These were in for new bushings and needed to be finished up and shipped back out on Thursday. Everything went along quite well. Also on Tuesday, I got a special order for four ivory necklaces, so I did some ivory sorting and laminating at night.
Wednesday rolled around with keybushing in the morning and afternoon and evening! I worked it in around shaping and painting ivory and a late day tuning. The call for Wednesday's tuning went like, "We just got a piano for free. It's a white upright. I don't think it's been tuned since it was originally bought in the 80's."

Oh boy.

It turned out to be a 1986 Samick. The tuning record in the piano listed a free warranty tuning in 1986 and a second tuning in 1989! It was nearly a half step flat. I raised the pitch by 'tuning' the first note to the pitch of the next highest note, working my way up the scale. Then I went back and tuned. I'll be doing a follow-up fine tuning this week. At Wednesday's tuning I got to meet two ENORMOUS dogs. One was 11 months old and very pleased to have company. I was smothered in doggie kisses by the time I was finished. I also tuned with a picture of the second President Bush and wife watching from a picture above the gun case adjacent to the piano. The picture looked like it was taken on the customer's front lawn.

While I was at the tuning a box arrived at my house. Keys for new tops. A new customer. I stripped off the old tops and fronts, trimmed the key wood as needed and glued on new Wednesday night.

Thursday morning I finished up the keybushing job and got them packed and shipped. After lunch I did some more ivory painting while waiting to get ready to head for another tuning job. That tuning was a Kawai upright that I had tuned last year. It has extremely tight tuning pins and is really a bear to tune. It's nearly impossible to get a feel for the pin turning. I took several breaks during the tuning to play with the customer's cat. I'd dangle a long strip of felt over the edge of the bench for it to attack. Then I tied the end of that strip to the wire end of a tuning mute while I was using it. Every time I moved the mute along during tuning the cat went crazy. I went home and painted more ivory. I also had two phone calls for jobs in town and an email. Friday morning was free so I got both calls booked for then. The email was from the key top customer. She needed to find a couple replacement key coverings for a 1970's vintage Story & Clark piano. These are weird wraparound plastic coverings no longer available. I had a few and sold them to her - to be shipped with her key top job.

The first job of Friday morning was to solve 'knocking' keys (customer's description) on an old spinet. I knew a lot of the things it wouldn't be as I had worked on the piano and tuned it two years ago. Mrs. J. had thoughtfully put a smidgeon of tape on all the keys that were knocking. It took me far too long, amid a good deal of conversation, to notice that the fallboard (wood part that closes over the keys) had slipped slightly forward and all the sharps (black keys) were knocking on it when they came back up from being played. Whew! Easy stuff and I could go home before heading for my next in-town job. But wait...Mrs. J. decided that she would like the piano tuned...since I was there. Okay, at least there would be some pay for the trip! Once finished I headed for the second job, an estimate, arriving just in time. When this guy had called he had been hard to pin down as to what he wanted. Yes, he needed a tuning, but there were a couple missing bass strings, and well...he didn't know what else may be needed. Less than a mile from my home so I offered to take a free look. Turns out to be a Helpinstil (I think that's a close spelling) piano. One of approximately 100 still around (or maybe total made, I don't know). Built in the 1970's it's a hybrid of acoustic piano (spinet) and electronic keyboard. It folds up for traveling. I went over the immediate needs - 2 new bass strings (he had the old ones but, due to the location of the break, they couldn't be spliced and reused) and tuning. At some point there would need to be additional work like hammer filing, key bushing, regulation. I priced out the bass strings and tuning and he seemed unlikely to bother. I left a business card and headed home to work on that key top job. A tech called needing some player piano parts and I promised to find time to get them together and shipped.

Saturday morning I buffed the keys and got them packed and shipped. 'A' came downstairs to help me with collecting together the player piano parts and packing them up to be shipped next week. Then I painted more ivory jewelry. Around 2 in the afternoon, we decided to tackle some leaf raking. Then I made English pancakes for all of us for dinner.

Today, Sunday, I had a special piano job. Many years ago( in 1972 to be precise), friends of our family purchased my childhood piano. It's a 1961 Baldwin Acrosonic. They had just had it tuned a few weeks ago and ever since their tuner had left, the fallboard wouldn't work right. They had asked if I could take a look at it sometime when we visited. Today was the day. It was a gorgeous day today with temps in the high 60's. Hard to believe having a jacket free day on November 8th! Anyway, my mom and I made the drive while 'A' was at work. Once I'd gotten the piano opened up and a few screws removed I could see what had happened. I just find it hard to believe that this guy did what he did! There are four screws that hold a complicated array of metal linkage attaching the fallboard to the inside sides of the piano - two screws on each end. The top two screws on each end were fine. With the bottom two he had missed the holes and instead forced the screws in to new spots, creating two new holes in the wood. Why? Why would someone FORCEFULLY make new holes. Didn't he realize that he had missed the old holes? Four holes, four screws. Seems like it should have been simple enough! I lined up the screw holes with the holes in the linkage and screwed it all back together in the correct way. Guess what? It works now. Geeze. No charge, they are friends. They insisted on taking us out to lunch, though.

So, another week begins. So far I've got two keytop jobs that will be arriving and that fine tuning at the large dogs/piles of guns/Republican household. But first it's retail again.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

More of the Odd

I admit it. I get overly fascinated with odd stuff. So, last week I was browsing the 'Buck-a-Book' shelf at the library and managed to find three that sounded worth their prices. One of the books was The Last Days of Dogtown by Anita Diamant (see the sidebar). It's fiction, or should I say faction? A novel based loosely upon the real life story of a very early settlement in the center of Cape Ann. Extremely well composed and makes you feel like it IS true history. I imagine it's close. I've referred to Dogtown in the past on this blog. One of these days I'll get around to some serious exploring out there. If you'd like more information (it's really nifty) check out this site . Be sure follow the links on the site for lots of interesting stuff.