Wood & Bones: Chronicle of a Cottage, Part 9

Jul 8, 2010

Editor’s note: Here’s part 9 of Bill Smith’s blog chronicle about the restoration of a run-down cottage in Pasadena’s Historic Highlands neighborhood. Bill and his wife, Sheryl Scott, are both graphic designers and do-it-yourselfers who have expectedly found themselves headed for a year of home-improvement adventures. Look for a new post in the saga soon.


Roll Away Your Trash Today

Early trash collectors.

We had to dispose of a few tons of concrete and drywall to get our project started. Sheryl had informed me that Pasadena only allowed certain haulers to work in the city. This came as a surprise to me, because Pasadena is usually so easygoing about those things. It’s hard to tell in text, but that was sarcasm. In actuality, if they had the inspectors to spare, I think Pasadena would tell you that your piss is the wrong shade of yellow and doesn’t match the Batchelder tile above the toilet; the really annoying thing is that they’d probably be right.

I Googled something like “Pasadena dumpster” and got the little map with a list down the left-hand side. Started calling from nearest to farthest for estimates, always asking if they were able to service Pasadena. After about the fifth “no” I started to get a little annoyed. I checked the city site and found no information. (It’s only fair to say that later I went back to the site and found the information immediately.) I tried one more number. Bingo. The nice guy on the line told me they could get a 30-yard roll-away to us Friday morning.

Days pass and Sheryl, our friend Dave and I have the coal car–size container about half full. I walk up to the house on Wednesday to start working and find a notice about my “non-permitted trash collection company” attached to the business card of the Department of Public Works Street Maintenance and Integrated Waste Management Program Coordinator. Uh oh. A phone call to the Coordinator, heretofore referred to as Ms. Rubio, yielded the information that the dumpster company I was using was NOT, in fact, a franchised Pasadena hauler. Also, that they had been busted before for dropping non-permitted roll-aways in town. I told my story to Ms. Rubio, who was very understanding. I suffered no penalty, but promised to have the dumpster removed as soon as possible. She was also kind enough to provide a list of Pasadena-approved solid-waste franchise haulers, linked here.

After contacting my dumpster guy, he promised to have it removed in the morning. We had the rest of the day to add more debris, so we started furiously busting concrete and rolling wheelbarrows of plaster that I had kicked down from the ceilings. At the end of the day, I was glad to see the container go, because it meant a break from swinging a sledge hammer.

Not-So Heavy Metal

A note about a dumpster parked on the curb in the city. After a short while, every freeloading loser with garbage in the area will find you and take advantage of your unwitting generosity. I’d like to find the idiot who left the queen-size mattress and beat about $30 worth of container space out of him.

Anyway, my ears quickly became attuned to the sound of old pickup trucks idling on the street outside my house. The morning that the dumpster was to be returned, I heard what I thought was someone tossing junk into the container. You might be wondering, “Why do you care? You’re done with the dumpster anyway.” Good point, except that I was paying additional fees based on weight, and it was pretty heavy already. And, furthermore… it’s the goddam principle of the thing. So I run out in the street and growl, “What the hell you think you’re doing?” The startled guy on the side of my container was holding up a big oval of rusty pipe, pointing repeatedly with his free hand at the object. Turns out he wasn’t leaving garbage, he was taking it. He didn’t speak a lick of English, and my Spanish is so bad that it would’ve demeaned us both for me to try. But we communicated with gestures, nouns and disconnected verbs. He handed me a card that read “Scrap Metal Recycling.” I learned his name was Rodolfo, and it seemed like this could be a lucky day for both of us.

I beckoned him to follow saying, “Want more?” He secured his salvaged pipe, parked his truck and walked to the back of the house with me, where my nuisance became his income opportunity. On the property was an old, crooked metal shed. I just wanted it gone so we could bust up the uneven slab of concrete beneath and reclaim a chunk of yard. The shed was relatively large and not in terrible condition. With some paint and doors, it might’ve even been useful to someone. For that reason I think, he was concerned that he was misunderstanding me. “If you can use it, please take it. It’s yours, free,” I said. Rodolfo pulled a cell phone from his pocket and asked me to wait. He greeted the person on the other end and handed the phone to me saying, “my lady.” Rodolfo’s lady and metal recycling business partner was Elsy, who spoke fluent English. I explained about the shed, thanked Elsy and handed the phone back to Rodolfo, who talked with her and nodded to me. I motioned to Rodolfo to bring his truck up the long drive and into the backyard to make loading the pieces of the shed easier. We thanked each other and I saw him grab a large hammer from his truck. I left a heavy crowbar with him, but he didn’t need it as he seemed to be expert at hammer-assisted disassembly. I left him and the shed to go back to work. About a half hour later I stepped outside just in time to see Rodolfo backing his truck out of my driveway. The walls and roof of the shed were folded and stacked, filling the back of his pickup with hopefully valuable metal. As he turned to head up the street, another larger truck going the opposite way pulled beside him. For a second, I thought a salvage turf war would ensue, but Rodolfo waved big at me, pointed at the other driver and shouted, “My lady!”

If you’re in the Pasadena area and need some metal scrap taken away, call Rodolfo (Spanish speaking) 626.421.2080, or Elsy (English and Spanish) 818.915.8036.

To read more about Bill & Sheryl’s renovation adventures, and to see more photos, go to Bill’s Wood & Bones blog, or stay tuned here for a new installment soon.

Lost my shed.



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