Two years ago today, on a soggy, chilled-to-the-bone Tuesday in December, the Phelps-Montgomery House landed at 1:15 PM. The original one-day estimate stretched into three, stress-filled days; including inner dialogue with our naysaying demons.
"Will she make it?"
"I hope she makes it."
"What have we done?"
"She's gotta make it."
"What were we thinking?"
After all the prep and hands-on involvement to reach this point, all we could do during the move was watch. In the cold, in the rain, with the smell of bacon, VooDoo donuts and diesel in the air. We were surrounded by hundreds of people: friends and neighbors, supporting strangers and people driving by on a Sunday curious about all the commotion. Sprinkled throughout the crowd were those waiting for the house...to fall.
By day three, the mansion's 100 ton body was nudged along by a well-worn, trackhoe bucket partnered with hydraulic jacks and transport dollies. A dozen drenched Emmert guys, in sweaty work clothes and dirt-covered gloves, hard hats and yellow reflector safety vests, methodically repositioned fir wood cribbing...one at a time...over the last thirty-five feet for five hours.
The house unceremoniously came to rest on top of three rows of hundreds of giant Jenga blocks criss-crossed fifteen feet high in a hole dug for the foundation; water pooling from the rain despite the eighty yards of extra gravel. The crowds from the weekend were gone. People needed to get back to work, Jeff included. I stayed behind to photograph, kept company by my friend, Roxanne, holding an umbrella so my camera wouldn't get wet. People walked by with their dogs, and the neighborhood homeless gawked, grateful for a distraction.
We signed a Dangerous Building Stipulation Agreement - we had six months to secure the Phelps-Montgomery House to her foundation or the city would tear the structure down. A new character, Weather, entered as we readied for the next act - preparing to pour the foundation and secure funding. Nothing like jumping in with both feet before we knew we had financing secured.
As for the book? Sixty thousands words into my first draft with my FBI plot-wall below. I've never written a book before, but we didn't know how to move a house either.
Happy Birthday Phelps-Montgomery....Game On....(again)