Riding a Storm out

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Blog entry by NoLongerHere posted 07-19-2011 08:11 PM 5053 reads 0 times favorited 12 comments Add to Favorites Watch

A hot week in August – one Hell of a time to replace a leaky flat roof on a music store.

This commercial building was in really bad shape. The old flat roof was rotten and had been leaking for some time. There were numerous roof repairs in the sagging roof which still leaked and ran down inside the walls and just destroyed them.

The heavy smell of musty mold permeated the air and left no doubt, this had to be fixed right away.

I’m quite familiar with this building as it belongs to my friend and best man, Bob.

We met when I moved from the bay area of California to the midwest of Illinois, way back in 1980.

We were a lot alike in many ways, very independent, rebellious of authority, we shared a love of music and pretty girls with blonde hair in summer dresses.

We lived in the same apartment building and became good friends, playing guitar, riding dirt bikes, skydiving, snow skiing trips, working on in his convertible GTO and partying with all of his friends.

When he sang and played guitar, he reminded me of Jackson Brown. Hell….he even looks a little like him.

He also introduced me to Lynn, one of his high school friends, now my wife of 32 years …which explains the “best man” part.

After working for his dad’s company and a few other jobs he decided to open a small music store.

The name would be The Music Source.

I had my own remodeling business so we worked together, sometimes late into the night, building the teaching rooms, making guitar display stands, painting the slat walls and installing the suspended ceiling.

We saved money by recycling used doors and windows for the studios from a previous job that I remodeled.

I made this custom guitar stand out of solid oak.

Within a year, he took over the space next door and we remodeled the music store again, adding eight teaching rooms and twice the show floor space. The improvements continued as the budget would allow such as new glass display cabinets and better lighting but the roof was patched and put off to the point where the damage could no longer be ignored.

We came up with a plan and a budget to remove and reframe the old roof which was actually 3 roofs, all in bad shape and tarred together. The only way to fix it was to start over, strip the 5 layers of torch down and gravel, replace the rafters to add pitch, and install new plywood decking and a rubber roof.

The only problem was, it’s a music store,

full of wooden instruments, guitar cases, amplifiers, expensive equipment and a guitar repair room in the back,
full of customer’s guitars …. and we’re about to rip the roof off and expose everything.

From the beginning, the plan was to apply for the permits, start boxing stuff up and moving it out of the store a month in advance. Maybe rent a big storage box in the back of the parking lot, take some of the inventory to bob’s house, put it in a moving truck…whatever. Get as much inventory out as possible.

The repair shop was supposed to be moved to the repair guy’s house including the client’s instruments and the store would remain open but, just barely.

Before: The guitar repair room

Five days before we started the demo, over $25,000.00 worth of wooden guitars and inventory showed up from UPS and filled the store to capacity. Not one guitar display spot was empty.

As an acoustic guitar lover it was a beautiful site but…Damn it Bob! What are you thinking?!!!!

We bumped heads about moving the stuff out but he would just say it was too hot to put guitars in a storage box and then forget about it. He didn’t want to spend any money to store anything or rent a moving truck.
He finally tells me….he invested ALL of his money – $25,000.00 on the new inventory…and needed to remain open at full speed and sell stuff to pay for everything else, like change orders, payouts, utilities, or a rental truck.
Bob had a business partner who also had $25,000.00 for his ½ of the remodeling costs which was understood from the beginning, but the whole arrangement just changed.

……Here we go.

Bob….my “best friend”, was an incredible guitar player and conversationalist.

You’d love to hear his stories or would be amused to watch him at the store when he talked to the waiting mothers of young students and make them blush with his kind smile and respectful playfulness,

....but he hated paperwork.

I learned the hard way the importance of a proper contract and a detailed specification sheet to avoid hearing:
“I thought that was included!” Our contract is a shortened Architectural standard format, …. it is abrupt, very specific and iron clad. But it’s worthless if it’s not signed.

He looked it over, agreed to the terms, we shook hands, he gave me the starting check, the permits were applied for and the materials were on the way. There were several small things to do inside while we were waiting for the permits to arrive. But he hadn’t actually signed the contract at this point, not yet.

The job was already off to a bad start.

The guitar repair man found out the day we started, he had to get out…Now. Nothing had been moved out or even boxed. The office was a covered with scattered paperwork and on top of the pile on the desk was my contract,

...still unsigned.

A week flies by and finally, I managed to catch Bob in his office, put the contract in front of him, hand him a pen and say, “Sign it, please.” He smirked and laughed about it and signed it as if it meant nothing…
”After all, our friendship was our contract.” It was as if he thought I was being too technical.
To me, it was just business as usual: Estimate job, sign contract, get check …. Ever watch People’s court?

With a signed contract in hand, I moved on with my mission to help my friend of 30 years and to “own” a huge project that needed a serious level of commitment. It’s not like we could just take our time.
It was full speed ahead …. Let’s do it.

The next day, the 40 yard dumpster arrived and my crew tore in to the roof like a pack of wolves on a deer carcass. The old tarred roof was 5 inches thick in some places and full of ants. The plywood decking was so rotten we had to watch where we stepped.

The demo and new framing went along without incident. Well, there was one thing….
Randy, my knucklehead apprentice was flirting with a girl in the back parking lot and walked right off the roof and almost landed on Bob!

I watched him in disbelief as he bounced off the concrete without a scratch. ”What tha hell are you doing?!”
Geez! That could have been a trip to the hospital and a lost day at the worst time possible. Like kids, I swear!

The plan was to take 2 days to replace the roof in two phases so the store was never unprotected. On the third day we would remove the tarps and the roofer would glue down a new rubber roof.

Day Two…

The Lake County Fair was going on across the street at the same time so the streets were full of cars and people. It was blistering hot and there were just a few clouds to give us a break from the sun.

We completed the framing late in the afternoon, right on schedule. We covered everything with tarps, nailing the edges and then we laid 10 ft. long 2×8s on top of the tarps to hold them down,.... just in case.

Just as we finished nailing the tarp edges to the outside of the building, the wind picked up dramatically.

We were all on the roof and in the process of bringing the tools down and securing the tarp. As we looked to the west, we could suddenly see a black wall coming at us, as if it just appeared. There were no warnings or weather reports about it. It was supposed to be clear weather all week. That was the plan!

The lake county fair was hit first and disappeared into a wall of rain right in front of us. We didn’t even have time to think about it as it raced across the street and was upon us as fast as it takes to lay down and hold on. The tarps ripped from the building as we fought to hold them down.

We were instantly soaked to the core. I couldn’t see. The wind had ripped my glasses off my face. The 10 foot 2×8s were tossed off the building as the wind grabbed the tarp like a parachute and ripped it to shreds.

Bob was next to me … we looked at each other as if to say, ”Can you believe this?” I yelled at him to go down and check the store and he disappeared in to the blur of 95 mph. wind driven rain.

Me and Randy stayed and rode the storm out …holding the useless tarp down… no matter what…. as if somehow it would make a difference.

What the hell were WE thinking? There was no time to think.

It came and went in what seemed like a minute.

What was left of the tarps and the 2×8s were all tangled together in the back parking lot. Somewhere in the middle of the pile were my glasses.

The inside of the store was destroyed. The rain came down in buckets which poured inside and soaked the insulation and collapsed the suspended ceiling on top of the new guitars.

There were ceiling lights and wires hanging down and the carpet was soaked with an inch of water.

We had argued about whether we needed plastic to cover everything but, I bought it anyway, just in case.

It was never used at his insistance, until it was too late.

He said, ”You can’t sell a guitar under plastic!”

All of the new guitars were wet. They were ruined.

At first, I looked around and everything seemed so surreal as if I was watching a movie. But then, this overwhelming flush of guilt swept through me and made me nauseous and dizzy.

How could I let this happen to my best friend? What have I done?

Then I thought, .... who is going to pay for this?

We made sure everyone was OK and quickly re-covered the roof with new tarps, not that it mattered much at this point. I found my glasses 80 ft. away, unbroken. We were numb and in shock over what just happened but as reality set in we realized the insurance company would have to be involved and therefore,

... we were temporarily out of a job.

One thing Bob had going for him was his unused, paid up to date, 30 yr. old property insurance policy.

They quickly came in like a Swat Team and paid to completely clean up, gut and remodel the whole inside of the store including a new handicap accessible restroom, upgraded furnace with AC, new light fixtures, new slat boards and display cabinets, new office equipment, ..... and lots of new shiny guitars.

Like Christmas at Santa’s house.

All hell breaks loose and he comes away with at least $250,000.00(?) in repairs and new inventory.

Meanwhile, we ended up finishing my “at cost -” contract and my roofing sub contractor installed the new rubber roof at cost, as planned. The insurance company had their own sub contractors for the interior damage and showed no interest in asking me for a bid on the new work.

I don’t know if my iron clad contract had anything to do with it but they never questioned me or indicated I was to blame, thank God. Or blame God, same thing.

It was really up to Bob. He did ask if I wanted to do the work but at this point, I’d had enough of this nightmare and my next “normal” job was waiting as scheduled. Time to move on.

The Music Source is doing well these days.

The new guitar repair room made the repair guy very happy.

Bob’s new office is nice but his desk is still a huge mess… Ha!

Bob now owns his building. The lake county Fair moved down the road and they are building a huge new shopping center across the street. They just finished paving a brand new 4 lane street in front of the store.
Talk about luck. He couldn’t possibly have ended up in a better location. Good for him.

The new store has a full parking lot now, with little guitar students strumming and blushing mothers waiting.

Funny how things work out.

It’s been over 5 years since the job ended. I’m surprised we haven’t run in to each other at the gas station or around town. It’s sad,….that we could let a bad storm come between a lifetime of friendship. After all the good times we’ve had, it seems like this would’ve made us stronger as friends. We made it through a difficult situation and finished the job as promised. In fact, it came out fantastic, all things considered.

We should be laughing about this by now.

They say you shouldn’t work for your friends…but I never listened. It’s just not my nature…..they’re my friends….who else is going to help them? I’d rather help and do the work for free!.....and I usually do.

I’m glad I was able to help my friend Bob in his time of need. I have no regrets as far as that goes.
But, I’ve had a lot of time to think about it and sometimes, I wonder….what if I had said no and walked away from this job? Would we still be friends?....who knows for sure.

Maybe… I’ll stop in the store today and see if Bob is around.

After all…we were best friends.

12 comments so far

View learnin2do's profile


889 posts in 2908 days

#1 posted 07-19-2011 09:08 PM

I am often impressed with the literacy exemplified by fellow lumberjocks; they are funny, smart, and entertaining at times. This was really a perfect spot to land during my lunch break; i am just plain wowed by the delivery and the tale! -(I think the ant part really secured my immersion.) Did you try to maintain after, or did neither make effort after? It seems he has no reason to have ill feelings; he suffered no deficit.

-- ~christine @ used2btrees

View ratchet's profile


1391 posts in 3844 days

#2 posted 07-19-2011 09:23 PM

You sir could have made a fine living as a wiriter!
I do think in some way that you need to finish off the tale by paying bob a visit and letting us know how it turns out.
Thanks for sharing with us.
Oh, and I’m very happy that nobody was hurt in the high winds. I know personally how tragic things can get when the winds decide to get nasty.
TJ in NC

View NoLongerHere's profile


893 posts in 2733 days

#3 posted 07-19-2011 09:30 PM

learnin2do, thank you.

No bad feelings, really. We just drifted apart.
Getting older has a way of making you realize how important it is to remember and hold on to the good stuff.
Guess I miss him too… a little.

Ratchet, I’m glad you liked it.
Thanks for the encouragement. I promise to follow up and let you know how it goes.

View chrisstef's profile


17492 posts in 3063 days

#4 posted 07-19-2011 09:39 PM

What a great story. Its funny, being a (commercial demolition)contractor myself ive found that i never walk into a place that i had worked on. Im not really sure why that is but over 200 jobs have gone by and i cant remember going back to any one of them to see the finished product. As contractors every job has its headaches and we quickly scurry on to the next one with some hope that it will be better than the last. This may be your case, as much as you enjoy the company of your friend, its somehow hard to go back to “the scene of the crime”. Ive had many friends that ive drifted apart from but for one reason or another we drift back together again, im sure that this will happen for you as well.

-- Its not a crack, its a casting imperfection.

View kenn's profile


810 posts in 3777 days

#5 posted 07-19-2011 10:04 PM

Bob came out way ahead of where he was when you started on that job. It is amazing how some people have the ability to land in high cotton despite themselves. I enjoyed reading your story.

-- Every cloud has a silver lining

View Elizabeth's profile


817 posts in 3200 days

#6 posted 07-19-2011 10:13 PM

Wow, fantastic story and really well written. The storm caught me by surprise as well!!

View ksSlim's profile


1277 posts in 2947 days

#7 posted 07-19-2011 10:40 PM

Dont’ quit your day job YET, but you could make a fine living just writing! Great story with an excellent learning point. Aesop couldn’t have done better. Hope you continue to post such an entertaing and imersive read.

-- Sawdust and shavings are therapeutic

View rrdesigns's profile


531 posts in 3243 days

#8 posted 07-20-2011 03:43 AM

Enjoyed the tale and the pics. We know those winds well here in Oklahoma. The only shame is the client/friend who has no regard for the hard and conscientious work that you provided. Glad no one was (physically) hurt.

-- Beth, Oklahoma, Rambling Road Designs

View superstretch's profile


1531 posts in 2750 days

#9 posted 07-20-2011 10:09 PM

Love reading stories like this.. Especially seeing that GTO. My dad had one in the 70’s, sold it, and then bought another one in Apr ‘01. We spent a few years restoring it.. triple black.. Gorgeous car. Since it still gives me chills:

-- Dan, Rochester, NY

View LittlePaw's profile


1571 posts in 3135 days

#10 posted 07-21-2011 03:38 AM

That was one fine piece of writing, Reedwood. Have you considered a writing career? At least you won’t be writing on the roof or hanging on to a tarp! Though your construction skills look great, you could write rain or shine! This time you were lucky that the parachute didn’t just lifted you off to oblivion! Maybe the fellow upstairs is trying to tell you something?

-- LittlePAW - The sweetest sound in my shop, next to Mozart, is what a hand plane makes slicing a ribbon.

View Jim Bertelson's profile

Jim Bertelson

4187 posts in 3221 days

#11 posted 08-09-2011 02:37 AM

Gad Zooks, great story. I love this kind of thing. No, you and Bob never made it, but some how there was integrity to your effort.

Reminds me of owning a haul road truck with two best friends…....still best friends in this case….....and this truck was one expensive Peterbilt truck for the road from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, during the pipeline days here in Alaska, lived in Fairbanks at the time. The driver got into cocaine dealing, we went out and clandestinely got the truck back when he quit the lease payments. We ended up selling that truck and breaking about even. One of those friends is retired, living on the family farm in North Dakota and doing just fine. The three of us with wives were in Las Vegas for a weekend a few months ago.

The other friend is my business partner of 35 years, here in Anchorage and previously in Fairbanks. Three of us own our business here in Anchorage, for 27 years. So no bad stories to tell here. But I have a few bad ones back in my memory…........

Thanks for the tellin’.............

-- Jim, Anchorage Alaska

View Moron's profile


5032 posts in 3950 days

#12 posted 08-09-2011 02:54 AM

Holy moley

Nice job of it………..makes me shudder when I think of all the work. Love the piano keys on the deck

-- "Good artists borrow, great artists steal”…..Picasso

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