Thursday 21 May 2015

Working in Ottawa today --The Wall of Doom

Good morning folks,

I will be working in Ottawa today and am hoping for a pollen free day.  I managed to go a little more than 50 years without allergies but this spring has been brutal.

But enough whining and complaining let me introduce and explain.. The Wall of Doom.

Have I written about construction before?   Sure, there was the squirrels that were renovating the attic a couple winters back and then the raccoon that ripped a new hatchway into the storage area under the deck, and sure the realignment of Jennifer's mailbox during End of the World  part 1and part deux But I don't think that I have written previously about construction methods, practices or finishes.

And then of course there is the differences between the way that the brain lad growing up is so much different to that of a young lass.  This is the intersection of those two topics.

While not from Southern Alberta originally, Lethbridge is where my brothers and I grew up.  In case you have never been, there is a particular house exterior finish that I have only seen in Southern Alberta and parts of older Vancouver.  The stucco finish with bits.. nay, shards of glass imbedded therein.


Now if you don't know the particular finish I must make sure that you fully understand.  This is a exterior house finish that covers all surfaces with the exception of window sills, door casing and the foundation parging.  Sometimes even then.  It is a mixture of portland cement troweled over wood lath with small peddles pushed into the final coat so that the pebbles all are half exposed.  Can be very attractive and when applied correctly can last 100 years.

But it doesn't always stop there.  In the 1930s or so, someone had the idea, hey, it would be great if it sparkled!  Gosh.. how to make it sparkle?  Crushed glass of course!  So the industrious and Great Depression trained recyclers decided to use broken beer bottles for brown sparkly bits, broken ginger ale bottles for green sparkly bits and the elusive milk of magnesia bottles for the rarely seen but very cool blue sparkly bits.  I keep typing bits, but these were pieces that stuck out a 1/4 inch or so and some were damn sharp!

So maybe this is adequately pictured in your mind.  A house wrapped in the equivalent of 20 grit abrasive.

Um.. Uncle Daniel this is fascinating and all, but the difference between boys and girls?

Yes, almost there.  Nope, not almost, we're there now.  

For a young lad there was nothing more tempting that when walking beside such a house beside a brother or neighbourhood guy to 'nudge' the other guy into the stucco wall.  It never took much, and the resultant collision between person and wall never failed to disappoint.  The victim would initially attempt to retract hands, face and limbs away from the approaching Wall of Doom in hopes that will power alone could reverse the momentum and avoid the resultant ablation of skin, flesh and dignity.

It never worked.  Arm, shoulder and if it was a great day, the face plant.  Having been both the instigator and victim of a stucco attach, I can tell you the best defense was to never allow yourself to be between such a wall and another guy.  Never.  But if you end up there and the inevitable should occur, you must do everything you can to bring yourself to a stop of all lateral motion.  When you come into contact with the wall it is best to come straight in and stop.  Continuing in your original direction will result in long scrapes and gouges into your flesh. Yay!

And girls?  Never had I ever saw a lass perform a Wall of Doom attack on another.  And no guy ever did it to a girl.  No sir.  That would not be acceptable. But even more..

My Dad never asked, but I distinctly recall being asked by my mother, "Why, WHY, would you do such a thing to your brother?!"

I recall that I didn't understand the question.

Have a great day. Beware the Wall of Doom.


  1. Hang in there Daniel. One more month before all the pollen goes away. :)

  2. still laughing! [not sure how wall of doom relates to pollen but willing to listen]

  3. I remember! Or as they say in Quebec, je me souviens!

    God those sparkly stucco houses were awful! Yes, at 21 I accepted a job transfer and moved to Vancouver (temporarily) for 17 years (1982 - 1999) I am familiar with those images. I can still picture the "For Sale" signs and ads... "Charming Starter Home 400K, tear down and build to suit!" I tried to speed up my house purchasing potential with the occasional lottery ticket, but alas only years of hard work and struggling allowed me luxury of buying a non-descript 690 Sq. Ft condo on Oak and 16th Ave for 155K (that was 1991), and interest rates at 9.0%

    Ouch!! However, somehow, life seemed simpler then! Thanks for taking me down to memory lane.