Archive for June, 1995


FROM:    David y Wright, 71510,536
DATE:    06-27-95 08:15 AM

some progress and frustration with Frogtown
The well is in.
Maybe not a big deal but it is first tangeable progress.
I happend to drive out when they were drilling – fun to watch.

Amr – the guy Mark (the architect) left to do the drawings still hasn’t produced completed set. We have some fragments but not near enuff to really start. Plans can vary amount of detail, but since there are some novel things – like curved roof – it is very important to get it worked out on paper. It is very distressing to builders to be 30 feet in the air with a joist that  is a foot short, so I  am told.   Also the plans represent a large portion of the contract between the owners (me & Julie) and the builder. Horror stories I have heard generaly seem to have roots in misunderstanding, or failure to be explecit (sp?) of what is to be done.
Any way – Amr is a “Super Nice” . that is term from “Copeing with Difficult People”
He really wants to be liked so he over commits, but he never delivers….
Julie feels sorry for him, I think I am way past that. I don’t like being angry but I need to get the plans done, so we can get moving.

I also need to start getting busy looking for some real work.
I’m doing some work for friend Larry who has company that makes snow melting equipment. But it won’t pay much and won’t last long, and isn’t what I want to do.
Mess of other possiblities. Just need to keep at them, and see what comes up.
I think it is like gardening. need to plant lots, and keep watering and pulling weeds.
with good weather and luck, maybe some day you get tomatoes.

(this must be how Ben Franklin got into the homely business)

I better get doing something productive
write or type when you have  a chance
keep asking good questions

lots of love



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Bird Ear

FROM:    David y Wright, 71510,536
DATE:    06-09-95 08:04 PM

FrogTown saga progresses. am thinking about keeping sort of diary – it looks like there are many stories – wish I had your gift to tell them well.

Julie & I are doing “Birds by Ear”
this is not  “Wet Willies” lessons, and isn’t nearly as interesting or educational.
It is three 90 minute tapes and a wimpy booklet containing bird noises.
well, the cassette tapes have the noises. the booklet has black & white line drawings of bird like animals and some text.
I think it is a scam the guy claims there are 80 species of birds on the tapes.  He uses this method of grouping like sounding bird together so you can learn the subtle differences.
yeah. right.
“first here is the Red Eyed Grouch. It goes ‘chip chip weep weep will  wh-oop will wh-oop’.  Then we will play the Purple Truffle Necked Swallow with it’s melodious ‘chip chip weep weep  wh-oop will  wh-oop will’  And last we will play the Big Breasted Booby has a more nasal ‘chip chip weep  wh-oop will weep wh-oop will’
They then play the same noise three times in a row, expecting you to believe it is three different types of bird. I’m sure it isn’t even three different individuals of the same specious. I’ll even bet that the CIA’s voice print analysis machine will finger the same culprit.
We listen to this for hours – driving to and from Frogtown. Julie has itentified the “Ping Pong Ball Bird” {Field Sparrow}

Me – I just don’t get it.

more later

love Dad
& Julie too

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Frogtown Tales Chapter 3 or 4 {perhaps)

Frogtown Tales

Chapter 3 or 4 {perhaps)

June 3, 1995

It may be a rainy Saturday so I’m in the basement – trying to glue the wooden chair that serves as seat in our outhouse. The chair was originally part of the bounty left by the Bransons, the former owners – heavy wood, ugly design with no padding, varnish peeling and falling apart.

Peeing in the woods is fine for Julie & me. But company seems to be more fastidious. And when it becomes urgent to move the bowels, a quiet seat is comforting.

So I cut a hole in center of the old thing, glued the wood, sanded and varnished. Next we dug a 2 foot hole, about 100 feet down the hill from the pole barn, where they had one the perc test. With some old four by’s and quart inch plywood, also left there by previous owners, we made a three sided blind. The open front and no roof give it a spacious feeling and doesn’t trap the odors. It also lets in the sky, the rain and the mosquitoes.

The winter was hard on the throne. The varnish had peeled again, the wood soaked up water, swelled and the glue softened. It’s a mess. I pried apart the remaining pieces and have the drying in front of a fan. The wood has also twisted and bent some. This makes it necessary to plane them flat again, or they won’t glue tightly together. This time I am using a “weather resistant” glue.

It seems like much more work than a simple toilet seat should require. I haven’t thought of a reasonable alternative, and having embarked on project I find it difficult to stop. It won’t be beautiful, but it will be mine.

As to the house:

Kent & JJ came out to Frogtown Tuesday p.m. to scope out the place and talk about things. They are the prospective builders. Mark – the architect introduced us. So far they have been the most willing builders to help out while we are still messing about with the plans. Julie & I met them first about a month and half ago. Since then we have had several meetings to discuss the plans. Unfortunately the plans aren’t done. Mark & Suzie left for Australia on the 23rd of last month. He left Amar, a friend of his with job of finishing the plans, on Amar’s Mac. Unfortunately, Amar has day job teaching, and has fallen behind schedule. We thought we would have first pass a month ago, but still waiting.

I got angry with Mark the week before he left. He has had lots of time – over a year, and the plans aren’t done. I’m very concerned because of the amount of new and “unusual” stuff in the design. I’m not clear on the details and in a couple of the meetings with builders it was clear they didn’t understand how things were suppose to go together. Kent and JJ have worked with Mark before. They tell us that he comes up with lots of new ideas, but doesn’t get them completely worked out.

Great. Just fucking great.

About a year ago Mark proposed this curved metal roof. And stress skin panels. The sketches looked neat, but I asked him, “Isn’t that difficult to build or expensive?”

“No, real easy….”

So far it hasn’t turned out to be real easy or inexpensive. In fact it seems to be impossible and will cost almost as much as the rest of the house.

We started this project with a fixed budget – $200,000. An incredible amount of money. Even with a prime rate loan from the World Bank, it will take the rest of our lives to pay off. We told Mark that we wanted him to help us develop a budget so the design stayed rational.

It still isn’t clear if we will be able to build within the limits. I suspect that we will end up compromising on lots of the interior things – kitchen, floor finishing and so on.

We did get some poles & string lines in place where the outside walls will be. Julie helped. We used 100′ foot tape, and a dive compass to determine some locations.  They sell florescent yellow string now. It looks weird floating over the living room grass.

Julie’s uncertain that the kitchen is big enough. It’s bigger than what we have now, but hard to visualize with out the walls there. We have been shopping for cabinets once. We have to do that at least a couple more time. Haven’t yet seriously considered the 3 fireplaces. Need to shop for them soon. Bathroom stuff is also big time decision.

With the location of house almost settled, I can start on plot plan. That’s a drawing showing the house in relation to land and relevant things like well, septic field, etc. This is suppose to be done by architect, or his drafting person (Amar) but as neither seems to be working on it, I better do it.

We need the plot plan (among other things) to get the well permit (among other things). We need the well permit to get a well dug. We need a well (among other things) to get the building permit – since we are in a “well first” area. It turns out “well first” is a misnomer. There are lots of other things that are first. It seems like everything has a prerequisite. Like a tangle of twine, only there is no apparent loose end to tease out. I am waiting on a call back from 3 potential excavators. We need a perc test before we can get out well permit. We had a perc done before we bought the place. But since we plan to put the house, and septic leach field some where other than we thought a year ago, we need one done in new location. A perc (percolation) test requires a Sanitarian from the county to come out and examine the soil where the leach field is planned. It must be able to absorb the water coming out of the sinks, tubs and toilets. I can tell (now that I have some experience with property and what is needed) that it will work. It is very sandy, and water doesn’t form puddles, indicating clay or high water table. But need to have official tell me it is ok.

We also need to hire an excavator with a backhoe to dig some holes for the official to look in. I called 4, and only got answering machines. I am waiting for them to call me back. I need to have the excavator and the Sanitarian (Denise) at Frogtown at the same time. I suspect this will take some doing and may delay things further. Next Friday is the soonest that Denise can be there. I expect a delay.

I went to the bank, NBD, Thursday, to get the loan process started. David K is the youngish representative. He talked about various “instruments” and “products”. I tried to explain that I just wanted money. He gave me a lengthy list of things I had to bring back with me next time. All sorts of past financial records. I tried to explain that it seemed redundant, since it was only a year ago I had been there to borrow the money to purchase the land. Perhaps the lady in the next cube, Kinberly, could give him our file. But seems they don’t keep all that stuff in the office. After our previous dealings, they shipped our records to some underground vault somewhere. And because of the force of gravity or some banking policy, the records go down, but don’t come up.

So we must try to find all that stuff again. At first, I suspected that they would see if we told them the same thing again. More likely we could tell them a completely new set of lies and they wouldn’t bat a glass eye.

My next stop was to the Washtenaw County Court house to get “4 certified copies of a land survey (including both drawing and property description).” I had made several phone calls to the Polaris Associates that did the survey. Once I explained why I need the drawings, Ron Luster told me all I had to do was to go to Register of Deeds and ask for “Liber 1401, pages 713 to 716”.

So I went there and repeated the incantation. The nice lady disappeared for 3 minutes, and cam back with 4 pieces of paper. She said it would be much cheaper if I got the copies at a nickel copy place – she had to charge a buck a page. I didn’t want to argue, but what about being “certified copies”? She looked at me, asked the other nice ladies in the department. None of them knew anything about certifying copies. Ok fine. I thank them much and exit left. I find out later is what is needed is 4 copies of a certified survey. This is needed by Washtenaw County Environmental Services for the well permit. But I’m not ready for well permit – I have to re-perc.

That requires only 2 copies of certified survey…(and the nice lady there made the copies for free, and gave my “originals” back)

After Register of Deeds, I went across the street (4th Ave) to the County Building Annex. It use to be the old UMCA – a long time a go. A very long time ago. I use to go swimming there. I think the pool had a kink in it, where a pillar holding up the next floor came down at the west edge, making lap swimming on that side hazardous.

I was going to check on the taxes for the property. So I headed to the Treasurer office. I began to explain the sad story about Alpha and Margaret Magnus, our new neighbors, and how thanks to a fuck up at Consumers Power, which gives out street addresses, they had been getting our tax bill, and….

She stops me and asks “What’s the ID number?”

I didn’t know. I knew the addresses and had a certified copy of survey and legal description and ….

She tells me that the best thing to do is to go up stairs to the “Equalization Department”. They could tell me the tax ID number and then I could come back down and she could help.

I took the stairs to the third floor. The nice lady inside asks me if I took the stairs. I really should get more exercise.

When I could talk again, I explained what my problem was. She fired up her screen looking for “David Wright”. She founds “David L. and April Wright” but that’s not me and I’ve never seen her.

She took me back to room with books of maps. I fingered the parcel. “F” of section 5. She says “05-05-200-001” She explained that meant 05 for Lyndon Township, 05 for section 5, and I forgot the rest.

We went back to her computer. She searches on the number. It comes up under the Branson, Windis D. and Betty S. the former owners. I get nervous. Do we own it, or…?

No problem. She asks if I want her to make the change. So I spell my name and now I own the land – in this computer.

Back down stairs.

The previous lady is busy with two guys in suits. They look like lawyers.

Some other lady comes over. I give her slip of paper from upstairs and start to tell her about taxes and …

She types number in and walks over to computer. It says taxes paid ’90 to ’93. “94 INFORMATION NOT AVAILBLE” She hands me the paper. The paper has Branson’s name on it. I haven’t explained whole problem yet, about Margaret Magnus, and her sick husband and how upset she was when she got our tax bill…

They don’t fix that here.

The lady who sends in the information from Lyndon Township is Mrs. Geraldine Reith.

She can help.

They have her phone number.

I go home.

On a whim, I call Mrs. Reith. I start to explain about the address and … she interrupts “Are you Mr. Wright?”

She knows the problem and Margaret and tells me that we owe $141.75 in back taxes and she doesn’t know how much penalty and interest. She tried to call the mortgage company -NBD but they didn’t take care of it. Geraldin had been sick so she hadn’t sent in the information though the Washtenaw County Treasurer yet. But not to worry, they don’t take your property away for three years, if you don’t pay your taxes.

I was worried. It might take more than three year to straighten out the mess.

It all started when the Branson’s wanted to have electricity for a house they never built. They called Consumers Power, and they pulled a work order. Since the property didn’t yet have an address they gave it one. They can do that. It is part of what they do.

I thought it was the job of the US Post Office, or some body in government or road commission or anybody but the electric company.

On this work order, #505993, somebody wrote 17695 in one place and 17495 at the top. I have a copy of the work order. But the Magnus’s already have 17495 as a street number. But some how the wrong number got spread through all kinds of documents, including the loan papers.

The week before I had taken our deed to the Register of Deeds (yep the same office few paragraphs back) to get the address change on it. Simple operation. The nice lady gives me pen. I put line through “17495”, write “17695” and “dyw”. I give her eleven bucks and she tells me I get papers back in 10 working days.

I called the NBD office I had been several hours earlier.

I asked for help.

They don’t do help.

Customer service does help.

They just do loans.

Ok, customer service’s number?

I get one of those multiple choice computer voices:

“Press 1 for current balance, press 2 for payments, press 3 for current adjustable rates….”

After it decides that I didn’t want any of those, it tells me to stay on the line for the “next available service representative”

Finally a lady comes on. I tell her the problem, briefly. She wants to know the loan number. I find a many digit number, “2996759L” on one of the many bank documents that could be it. She types it into their computer. She has to transfer me to Louise who handles that account.

I wait.

Finally Olga comes on. Louise is on vacation. Can she help?

I explain about the address and poor old Margaret and Alpha Magus and the taxes and…

Olga can’t help.

Olga will leave a note for Louise, so Louise can call me back when she gets in next week.

Olga tells me that they will have to retrieve our file. It is stored in an under ground vault.

I thank her very much, and hang up.

At times like this, it would be real easy to start drinking, again.

But I’m not going to give them the satisfaction.

I don’t know who “them” is.

Everybody I met today was very nice.

They all tried really hard to help me.

Nobody seemed stupid (except me).

I know there is a lesson here, some where.

I just can’t seem to figure it out.

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