Monday, May 03, 2010


My morning commute smells like mothballs, and to understand why you have to understand how houses are built in the Pacific Northwest.

Let's start off with roofs. Roof pitch is heavily influenced by snow load. You go up into the mountains, and the roofs get steeper, because you want to be able to shift that load to the supports. But with less-steep roofs, you also have less space underneath. No snow load tends to mean no attics.

Lets go down to the deeper levels of the houses, and here we see a time thing. Older houses tend to have basements, while newer ones not so much. Indeed, most basements have an ongoing fight about keeping dry, so sometime in the last 50 years they decided to drop them entirely. Particularly for the split level or tri-level houses, where the lowest floor was a quasi-basement, but a finished one.

So we don't have basements and we don't have attics. Where do we put our extra stuff? You know, holiday decorations and old books and stuff that we should throw out but may yet need? Well, we put them in our garage.

At Grubb Street, we have a house built in the sixties, without a basement or an attic, and with a one-car garage, pretty typical for the era. And since we have two cars and a lot of tools and stuff in the garage, we part out in the driveway, But I see larger, newer places with two and three car garages (I love the phrase used for them - Garage Mahals, and their owners are ALSO parking on the driveway. Why? Their garage is full of stuff.

OK, so everyone parks outside, but that makes for another problem - vehicles are more vulnerable to elements (including moss) and creatures. We know (from little cat prints on the hood and the alarm going off in the middle of the night) that feral felines often nap on the cooling hood in the night. But the greater peril is when mice get in under the hood. We've had friends with gnawed wires and found a dead mouse under our oil cap recently.

Hence the mothballs, slipped into some old hosiery (not mine) and tied to the undercarriage. And it seems to keep the hordes at nature at bay.

But it makes for a bracing morning drive of dichlorobenzene and camphor, at least until the smell clears out.

More later,