Why, Sometimes, I Eat Bacon Truffle Fries…

…with blue cheese.

It was just a little bump, just a little buckle in the flooring near the washing machine. That’s how it started. Jerry figured he better check it out, so he pried open the crawl space door and snaked his way into the deep, dark cavern beneath our house. And there was mud.

Mud is not what you want in your crawl space.

He asked me to run the washer on a rinse cycle, then drain it immediately. Water dumped straight on Jerry’s head.

A lot of water.

In our crawl space.

That wasn’t good.

So we began an investigation, which quickly turned into a deconstruction. We turned off the water, pulled out the washer and yanked up the floor. An ecosystem was growing down there! A pond of molds and mildews, and little funnel-like mushrooms sticking to the wall.

We have (I think) awesome cork flooring that stays warm and soft on our feet. It showed nothing on the surface. But everything beneath was black and damp. So we started to take things apart, piece by piece.

The more we wrecked, the more surprises we found. The side of our cabinet had mold. So did everything beneath.

Jerry cut a hole in the wall. Actually, it crumbled in his hands. He pawed through the muck, tossing soggy drywall into the garbage, slowly exposing the inner workings of our house.

The house bowels—rusty, clogged and improperly vented.

A previous owner of mysterious vintage had re-jiggered the plumbing. He (I’m certain the culprit was a he) had capped off the old iron piping and inserted PVC. But it wasn’t the right PVC, and it wasn’t vented. Somehow, at some unknown time (weeks ago? months ago?), our washing machine came loose from the pipe. And all its water spewed straight into the wall.

The more Jerry poked around, the more surprises he found inside. A primary load-bearing support, for example, had been sliced and gouged so the old iron pipe could run right through it. A new support of dubious strength and quality was built behind it. And here we are now, with at least three known critical issues: the leakage (which could have caused the floor to cave), the improper venting (which could have led to a gaseous buildup) and a possibly untrustworthy post holding up the house (which could…. never mind; we don’t want to speculate until it’s fixed).

I admit to a morbid fascination with all of this—with all that happens inside a house, and all that’s revealed when the walls come down and the floors come up. It’s akin to a human body, with so much going on internally, so much potential for things that could go drastically wrong. On the surface, we might look fine. But how do we look inside?

That is ample reason to take good care of the foods we eat and the way we treat our bodies. I try to do that. Really, I do. I want good plumbing and strong support.

But that night, Saturday, the night we found the mess: I didn’t eat a damn good thing for me. We went to Chama. Jerry drank beer and I drank wine. He ordered fish and chips, battered and fried, with fries on the side. I ordered a small salad smothered in all sorts of nasty-for-you things that totally canceled any benefits of lettuce. And I ordered a giant cone of truffle fries with blue cheese, bacon and scallions (they’re gluten-free, straight off the Chama gluten-free menu).

I ordered those fries because I could, because I wanted them right then, that night. And because sometimes, on really crap days, people should be able to eat big, greasy servings of crap if they so desire. (Not crappy in taste, just crappy for health.)

My fingers were all slick from the oil on those fries. They were salty, cheesy, oniony and bacony—all mixed together. I washed them down with gulps of a big-bodied red zin.

And then we went to the theater next door to see The Descendants—the sort of movie that allows, on icky days, for the audience to get lost in the story and remember all the things in life that are really, truly important.

In the greater scheme of things, washing machine disasters are not.

(But blue cheese bacon truffle fries might be. If they have onions.)

(Come back in a day or two and I’ll show you a picture of something really pretty; something else entirely, a really beautiful thing that captured the light this weekend.)

14 thoughts on “Why, Sometimes, I Eat Bacon Truffle Fries…

  1. Well, shit. What an awful find. But smart of you to investigate. And I’m all for comfort food when times call for it. (I have too many of those times.)

  2. My God, what a mess! I would have had TWO orders of the fries and then popcorn at the movie. I can almost hear the groans from here when you tore the floor and wall up.

    You’re right about important things!

  3. For the record: the first photo is what the bottom of our kitchen floor looks like when washing machine water pours through it. Complete with two non-functional sewer pipes.
    Bright side to the project: got to buy a new power tool.

  4. Oh! How sickening. A find like that definitely deserves those fries and at least two glasses of wine. Good Luck!

  5. Oh my god! This is worse than pulling up the toilet in Bee Wings and having bathroom tiles fall into the tub in RC. Or having the Water “Softener” produce brackish water. Or having wasps nest in the chimney and patrol the interior of the house. Or… too many to list in the end.
    What was the power tool?

  6. Perhaps Joanna could find out how long it takes a fungi to get as big as photo 2? Being away for so long & then coming back may have allowed something to loosen.
    Another trait of a real Redfern… new tool!

  7. Oh Karen, those pictures are horrific! The worst one is the funnel-like mushrooms. I’m creeped out just looking at it. Could you smell anything? The mold would be a mildew, damp, dirt smell. Thank God you found it and happy new construction to the both of you. I can contest to a few “beer and fries” nights myself…. every so often isn’t bad. Right?!? Good luck!!!

  8. Carol, I hope your back is faring better than our house at the moment. And I hope you’re medicating with all sorts of comfort foods. And drinks.

    Maureen, yep. I would use a harsher word than “groans” to describe what came out of Jerry’s mouth. (Actually, I take that back. He was remarkably quiet for such a scene.)

    Thanks, Nikki – we have much destruction to come (leakage hit a closet on the other side of the wall). I’ve always loved our wrecking bar!

    Lori, I certainly had those two glasses of wine!

    Pop, the hardest part is the fact that this is part of the house we’d remodeled. If it were an area we hadn’t finished yet, it wouldn’t be so awful. New device: a “variable speed multi-function tool” for cutting through drywall and flooring in tight spaces.

    Joan, I’m afraid to know the age of those shrooms. We’ve had such erratic household attendance, it’s hard to say what happened with so many drying-out periods.

    Thanks, Heather. We didn’t smell anything until we pulled up the flooring. Since then, everything smells of bleach. We have an air purifier running full time.

  9. LOL. Thanks for sharing such candid photos–People like my Mom wouldn’t have dared! Have you been experiencing any mold-related symptoms? My sinuses are constantly clogged because my apartment has a mold issue. I’ll be moving out shortly!

  10. Amy, no mold-related symptoms yet. Years ago, we lived in Oregon and both of us suffered from sinus infections and headaches. Nothing ever dried there. We also get sinus infections while traveling, but a neti pot generally does the trick. Good luck with your move!

  11. Hi guys.
    I think Jerry just wanted a reason to go in the crawl space since he went into ours the weekend before….hehe
    just kidding!
    Looks pretty bad, esp. the cut through post. I guess you win for the most expensive house project!
    I had my boss check out the pic of the mushroom, he thinks it’s an ascocarp. He said we could sequence it for you if you like. Not likely to cause any health probs tho…maybe tasty!
    hehe

  12. How well I know this.

    We bought our bldg. “AS IS” here in Chicago and were pouring $ into it for a long while.
    Just after purchase I’m investigating the basement, (my future lab), and notice some water on the floor. It was coming from the tenant’s shower drain it turns out. I trace it and in checking the pipe, it comes loose while someone was taking a shower. I’d have preferred your hubby’s ‘shower’ to mine.

    Our stack for the toilets that was in the walls had NOT been welded properly. Gravity was all that held it in place. It took 5 plumbers 11 hour to correct with new plumbing and also replace everything in the basement w/copper. Then we got to replace the tenant’s bathroom ceiling

    Now we’re moving to BKK but keeping the bldg. so fingers crossed this will help re-sale in a year or so. :)

    When you talk to your plumber/contractor/whoever you use, they will tell you a lot of their work is correcting what some other dummy called a ‘repair’.

  13. Eric, my sympathies. Anytime we open a wall or investigate the innards of this house, we find surprises. Amazing. Even more amazing is the fact that so many people suffer the consequences of previous dummy repairs! Good luck with your move (no doubt, you will find lots of interesting plumbing and construction in BKK!).

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