Project Fun Now & Then

141023_1One of this week’s fun projects, ripping out old carpeting from a living room and dining room. No sarcasm meant by that last sentence. Yeah, the task itself can suck for all the obvious reasons but what I find so satisfying are jobs and projects that amount to tangible, physical progress. Sculpting, gardening, house painting, demolition, construction, yard work, transplanting, weeding, harvesting, repair, etc.

This beautiful autumn weather reminds me of a more thrilling project I’ve worked on, as lead designer of a haunted house for a Halloween fair. Back in 2011. The design and collaboration process was cool enough but the excitement of building it was visceral. Four of us laid the floor in one weekend. A patchwork of 4×8, plywood platforms, bolted together on concrete block risers to fill a footprint of 30’x 60′. Once that was set, we mapped out the walls and I couldn’t help grinning like a fool at all we had planned.

141016_2The set was a modular design to accommodate a new floor plan each year. The majority of the walls were made of two, 4×8 sheets of plywood sandwiching a framework of 2x4s. Plus a handful vertical and horizontal half-walls and door sets. It took a couple weeks to put them together and get them up, building room by room. Each day we stopped construction in the afternoon to blacken the walls that had been raised so they would be ready for decoration the next day. I still get giddy when I recall inspecting the first blank room; 40 foot of hallway, barely three feet wide, with the middle ten feet taking a slight jig to the left. Walking with my eyes closed and I ran my hands on the dull and powdery black surface of the walls, imagining all the weird things we could tack up and hang to freak people out.

Rooms were decorated in stages and as each one came to completion we stood back in delighted satisfaction. The vortex was icing on the cake. Designed by one of the owners, home made of wood, and run on this funky mixer-motor and bicycle tire contraption. He and his son did this amazing amount of math to get the right twist and speed. And it worked.

Of course there were minor issues that forced us to redesign and reconfigure along the way. Weather considerations, sporadic funding, a slightly fractious board of investors. However, we seemed to get a good show off the ground. Customers enjoyed themselves, some even came back for seconds. I met and worked with good and talented folks whose friendship continues. Even with the frustrations of resource constraints, I will always look back on that experience with fondness and gratitude for the opportunity.

I have to figure out how to get more, cool projects like that in my future.