Coming Home

I visited an old friend the other day.  I hadn’t planned to.  In fact, I had several other things I was supposed to be doing, but….it just happened.  She’s looking good, much better than when I last saw her.  She’s had a lot of professional help with her rehabilitation.  It won’t be long till she will be fit to be seen by the public.  I’m talking about the building where I worked for almost 20 years.

I dropped the wife off at the cancer clinic at the hospital for blood-work assessment.  Coming from a family rife with various types of cancer, she has been on a yearly testing schedule for bone cancer.  The steadily reducing warning counts of the past five years are now well back within normal range, and only need a family physician to monitor a yearly blood test.

While she was at the cancer clinic, for an unpredictable amount of time, I was supposed to drop off a package at our massage therapist/ osteopath, do a drop-off/pickup at the daughter’s, and stop at the optometrist and have a nose pad installed on my glasses.  I made the massage therapy delivery, and headed for the daughters place.  About halfway between the two, not too far off what laughably passes for a straight line in this city, was my old plant.

It’s been bought by a company in Toronto and is undergoing what’s known as *urban densification*.  Just outside the actual downtown area, on the main street, it sits across the road from new School of Optometry and School of Pharmacy buildings of the community college.  It’s being cleaned and subdivided to provide office space.  Already, a large engineering firm has committed to a big chunk.  Google had leased space in a reconditioned tannery building two blocks away, but after only a year, finds it needs more room, and is ready to move in as soon as reconstruction is complete.

I thought, I’d like to drive past and just have a look at the front, to see what changes had been wrought.  Well, if I’m this close, I’ll pull through the parking lot across the street for a better view….if I’m in the lot, I might as well park the car and get out for a better look….if I’m out of the car, I might as well walk across the street and see if I can step inside.  If I’m inside, I might as well get arrested for trespass.

It’s amazing how alike, and yet how completely different the old girl looks.  I speak of *a plant*, but it is actually a coalescence of thirteen brick buildings, the newest with concrete floor heights that don’t match all the wooden floors of the others.  We used to have to go down one elevator, across the loading dock, and back up a different elevator, to get loads from one sector to another.  The oldest building has a 1906 cornerstone, while the newest(?), is dated 1956.

The section which used to supply 35,000 volts of electrical power is not needed, and has been torn out and replaced with a garden and fountain area, in front of a new, recessed, glassed-in entrance.  I walked up and tried the door.  It was unlocked.  I walked in and began orienting myself.  The old shipping elevator has been removed, and the shaft is an open-core stairway.  Two new hydraulic passenger elevators have been installed back near the new doors.

A workman wandered near, but I’m not worried about workmen.  They’re not paid to make executive decisions if I look like I know what I’m doing.  “Can I help you?”  Oh damn.  It turns out to be the job foreman.  I admit I’m just looking around because I worked here for 20 years.  It turns out I’m not the only one.  He’s had five or six guys here already.  I expected to get kicked out, but this guy is so proud of what he’s done, he gave me a mini-tour.

The black paint has been scraped off the ceilings.  Pipes have been scoured and repainted.  The inside brick has been sandblasted.  The dust and cobwebs of a hundred years have been cleaned away.  Cracked support beams have been replaced by solid new, B.C. Douglas fir.  Decrepit wooden floors have been overlaid with thin Styrofoam, and then a thin coat of self-leveling concrete poured on top.  On the third floor, where we had large plywood plugs in holes in the wall for machine insertion, is now floor-to-ceiling glass-wall for an office-worker view of downtown.

The single largest item of rehab was the windows.  498 rotten, dried-out wooden frames with broken or cracked glass, some repaired with opaque, colored Plexiglas, have been torn out.  They have all been replaced with aluminum-framed, state-of-the-art, argon-filled, double thermo-pane assemblies.  The only reason we didn’t freeze on frigid winter days, was the fact that we worked with hot vinyl parts.  In the mill-room where it was compounded, the thermometer read 90 F….in February.

I very much appreciated this man taking the time to let me revisit an old friend, and I thanked him profusely.  It’s still a bit of a heartbreaker to lose a job and get kicked out of a long-term workplace, but it’s nice to know that the old girl is getting a much-needed facelift, and will survive to provide a whole new generation with a place to accomplish productive deeds.


12 thoughts on “Coming Home

  1. H.E. ELLIS says:

    I think one of my most favorite things about you, Archon, is that you see the bright side of things despite every reason to the contrary. I’m quite like that myself. I think it explains our easy kinship.

    Keep holding your head high, my friend. 2013 is going to be a good year!


    • Archon's Den says:

      I don’t know if it’s pragmatism or optimism. I can make lemonade or smash the lemons against a brick wall, I’m still out of a job, and I still enjoy kittens, flowers, waterfalls and double rainbows. The job I was lucky enough to get for my last two years before government pension, was no picnic, but it was a job, and we didn’t lose the house. I am most pleased with our kinship and friendship. I will continue to hold my head high. With you as parade-master (mistress), 2013 should be a hell of a show.


  2. I’m so glad he was friendly and showed you around! It’s sad and wonderful at the same time to see and feel and know that time moves on, that things change and that the spaces we once occupied are not frozen in time.


    • Archon's Den says:

      Thanks for the thought. Perhaps the trick is to be able to adapt to the changes, and be accepting, or even happy with the results. Some of the most unhappy people I’ve seen, have been the driven ones with far more than most, but always striving for Bigger, Better, Newer, More.


  3. whiteladyinthehood says:

    Nice story, Archon. I’m glad your building is getting a face-lift.


  4. Sightsnbytes says:

    why is snow falling on your blog


    • Archon's Den says:

      Because, when I recently, finally got around to installing a blogroll, I found a control on the dashboard which says, “Show snow falling until Jan, 4.” So I clicked *accept.* I’ve seen snow on other blogs and just assumed it was because they had a different theme, or had paid for the premium package. Like the big kid from “Commerce House”, I’m entranced to find that moving the mouse and cursor from side to side, affects the direction the snow falls in. Sometimes the cursor attracts it, sometimes the snow moves away from it. Cerebral adventures, eh?


      • Sightsnbytes says:

        we get enough snow here on the island that we don’t need it on our blogs too. You had a great year filled with very interesting blogs. Here’s wishing you and your family a very Happy New Year!


  5. Archon's Den says:

    Thanks Ted. I’ll take the good wishes and hope to leave my snow on the screen.


  6. I worked in a twenty-two-storey building for my first job, a major location for both Illinois Bell and Ameritech. Nothing impressive, but a nice, fairly new building when I worked there in the eighties. The most memorable part was the 20th floor cafeteria, that overlooked the roof of a neighbouring building, on whose roof a rather ample young lady loved to sunbathe.
    Now it’s a yuppie apartment building. I’ve been in the lobby, and was totally under-whelmed.
    Glad to see your old girlfriend is doing better. 😉


  7. […] over two years ago, I wrote a Coming Home piece about how my old auto-parts plant was being given a cosmetic makeover.  An engineering firm […]


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