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The New Kodak Room – Chapter 1

August 5, 2012

Sue has convinced me that I don’t need to wait until a project is 100% complete before the topic is worthy of a blog update. I think we’ve made many references to our “super storage room” idea for at least 6 months, so I’ve conceded that it makes sense to submit the updates in more manageable chunks, rather than one super-duper long post.

It began with our decision to turn this “Kodak Room” into a well organized storage room. Which is a complete 180 from what it was before that decision: a totally impromptu dumping ground for the last-minute items to be unloaded from our last moving van when we moved out of our little house. It held extra living  room furniture, a rocking chair, bedroom dressers, a safe, the basement futon, and much more of all of that unnecessary stuff that would make our new apartment feel crowded. So we left it there for a long time. (That would have been around February 2010 that we moved all of that stuff into the Kodak Room.)

So here’s what it has looked like for over two years:

Piles of stuff

It’s a little unfair to say that it contained ONLY our stuff from our last house. It also housed a couple pallets holding some velvet curtains from a recent auction at a local art museum, stacks of clean cardboard the previous building owner left for us, and an amazing assortment of tiny wood remnants and various other belongings of a good friend that had recently relocated to the east coast.

Chapter 1 started with the emptying of this room. The only space we had to easily hold the Kodak Room’s contents was the adjacent Front Room. With no scheduled large meetings or presentations there, we thought it was alright to fill it up with our Kodak junk.

And then there was the day I got “squood”.

(I wanted to write an entire post titled “I Got Squood” but I decided the vague reference to the 1984 Dune movie would be lost on all but 2 people. One of them being me.)

I was moving a bunch of stuff from Kodak to Front Room. We had many plastic tarps over all of this Kodak Room stuff since the day we put it in there, several of which have been tossed on the floor as we pulled some things from this room. So I was gathering up the empty tarps, and using a spinning-rotating motion of my forearms seemed like the quickest way to ball up these lightweight drop cloths. I was hunched over, balling up two or three tarps, when I suddenly felt a bit of resistance or weight within the tarp. I kept spinning/balling the thin plastic sheet, and within micro-seconds I experienced two distinct sensations: 1) I felt a spray of moisture or droplets all over the front of my body, as though i got squirted with a squirtgun; and 2) the pungent smell of death.

Fingering through the ball of thin plastic, I found the weighty foreign object, and a short moment of identification was followed by complete disgust: it was a dead rat that that had become entangled in the plastic tarp, and without exposure to air, had rotted and become semi-liquified. No telling how long it had been trapped.

I’m not easily grossed out – but I know my limits and within 2 seconds I balled up the entire package into an airtight blob of plastic and quickly ran it to our big trash container in our dock. I wouldn’t have been able to work very long with that smell lingering.

Back to the task of emptying the Kodak Room…

After a few minutes I kept getting whiffs of death; I leaned over and stretched my shorts to my nose: Yuk! Definitely rat-spray there. Time to change – went into the apartment; Sue was on the phone talking to her Mom; I didn’t say anything but she noticed I had changed my shorts as I left. Back in Kodak Room – but I still smelled smelly rat! It was on my shirt too! Back through the apartment; Sue still on the phone, a puzzling look when I leave with a different shirt. Ten more minutes working in the Kodak room, I’m still getting lighter whiffs of dead rat, mostly when I bend over to pick something up. Dang – my hat has rat juice on it! Back through the apartment; Sue on phone – Tom leaving with totally different wardrobe than 30 minutes ago. Finally, having swapped all clothing, I could work uninterrupted.

Except – I kept smelling squood* rat. The gross thought occurred to me: that it was actually my SKIN that smelled of dead rat – so I immediately went into our bathroom, stripped down and one sink shower later, I truly was finally rid of dead rat ranky odor.


It took several hours over a few days for us to empty the room. It looked and sounded very different.

Our stuff removed – just big walls left

Then it was time for demo! One of my favorite chores because you get to smash stuff.

But before smashing I needed to remove the surface-mounted electrical conduits and boxes – I was planning to re-use them when I installed new lighting. (Luckily I’d conquered the electricity puzzles a couple of months ago.) Took half a day to get all the junction boxes and conduits carefully removed.

An old relay switch with lots of conduit

After the electrical parts, then on to the stud wall in the middle of the room. There was drywall on only one side, so I started at the top, stood on a ladder and pounded a sledgehammer from the backside. The drywall was attached with nails, not screws, so I could get a full sheet to pop off pretty easily, which dropped straight down with a loud crash.

Daylight can now reach the back of the room

I couldn’t get the ladder close to one end because the chimney was in the way. Eventually we’d need the scaffolding erected in this room so we might as well put it up now.

Ready for climbing

Along the entire east wall were built-in cabinets. These are the same cabinets Sue referred to in a previous post about the old watercolor renderings. We tried to come up with a way we could reuse these cabinets somewhere, but they seem to be built specifically to hold rolls of paper or similar material. Each cabinet had a wide single door that was hinged at the bottom, with hardware that only allowed it to open about 30 degrees. And there was metal brackets inside spanning the width that would hold the roll. At least that’s the best we could determine. They also had a countertop installed at a slope – as if they wanted to prevent anyone from placing anything on the top.

We did keep the doors, and the thicker & longer pieces of board lumber. Otherwise the remaining wood pieces were basically just a bunch of old crap.

Cabinets to go.

So while I was disassembling the stud wall, Sue carefully removed the cabinet doors and all hardware. And then she got to swing the sledgehammer to break it all down into manageable pieces, which she loaded it into the B.A.T. which we would then drive to the dump. (City folk get to haul one truckload of junk for free once a month.)

I had two challenges with the stud wall once the drywall was removed. These studs were old – probably from the 60’s, and the quality of wood was ten times better than the white pine available today and I wanted to salvage them. So I didn’t want to just smash them with a big hammer. Installed with nails not screws, I had to be selective with where I was cutting them into sections; then I could lay them on the floor and use the sledge to disconnect them. The other challenge: this entire assembly was connected to both walls, ceiling and floor at the perimeter; otherwise without them it would have been easiest to just push the whole wall down.  But with careful sawzalling, I was able to salvage at least a dozen very straight and dense two-by-fours.

Stud wall half removed

There was also a very large radiator attached to the wall that needed to be taken out. I liked the design a lot – and instead of taking it to the recycling center for $50-$100, I thought it would be cool to use later in our upstairs bathroom as a towel heater or something like that.

Interesting simple 20’s deco design

But it still needed to be pulled from the wall and taken out of Kodak room. It must weigh over 300 pounds – it was a pain in the ass to move.

We’re getting there…

There was other steel to take out – old radiator steam pipes that came through this room and up to the old office room on the second floor. (Visible on the right in the last photo.) All of them were abandoned, so sawing/cutting them out was not a problem.

Pipes in the corner need to go

Getting rid of the long lengths was pretty easy – and fun because i enjoy using the grinder with a cutoff disc to cut pipe.

16′ long radiator pipes…

I don’t do this around flammable material

Eventually, I had them all cut until were just a stubs sticking out of the floor and ceiling. Which were a lot harder to remove than I expected. I tried using my big ass pipe wrench to just unscrew them from the connector below the floor, but they were frozen so much that the wrench jaws crushed the pipe instead of unscrewing. For the ceiling pipes, I had to go into the office above and crawl into some wood cabinets and into some cramped quarters to cut them away.

The basement was another story. For one pipe, I had to place a ladder into the nasty water pit surrounding the old furnace, then get me, an extension cord and the sawzall onto it safely and then climb to the top of the ladder and cut the pipe at the basement ceiling. In retrospect, I should have at least told Sue what I was up to in case something tragic happened, like, um, falling with electricity into the water pit.

Another pipe through the floor was only accessible from one of the few remaining spaces we haven’t been in: one of the tiny coal rooms. We hadn’t been in there because we couldn’t open the rolling/sliding door. Now determined to cut ALL of the pipes out, I had a sub-project of getting the door open. This is an interesting problem-solving question – because I needed to deduce the cause. Is it locked? Is hardware frozen? Something on the inside keeping it from opening, like piles of bones? I shouldn’t  just muscle or beat on something if it’s the wrong effort, like pulling and pulling on a locked door. After careful evaluation, I found that the bottom edge of the door had become encrusted with debris  (coming in from the manhole under the sidewalk) and caused the bottom to rust & rot, and at the same time encrusting itself to the bottom track. I was able to stick a crowbar at the bottom, lift the door slightly and scrape out all of the debris with another tool and free the door. Of course, with the door open for the first time in 50 years, (when the coal furnace broke down), I discovered a 150+ gallon oil tank in the room, which I had to clamber around and over to get to the pipes at the ceiling and cut them away.

With the pipes all taken out, we now had a totally gutted Kodak Room.

Not yet ready for paint.

Next steps are to figure out new lighting, scrape peeling paint, patch & paint the walls & ceiling, remove the linoleum floor, remove the glue from the floor, etc. etc. etc.

Sounds like about eight more chapters.


*”Squood” is a very obscure reference indeed – it is not spoken in the 1984 movie and I have seen it written in only two places. The first time I saw it was just before the movie came out in one of those “graphic books” produced to promote the movie and it was written as a caption on a panel as the character Rabban is about to “eat” one. It is also described in the same book in background information: Harkonnens placed small rodents alive in small clear plastic boxes with a plunger and connected straw. When you wanted a Squood snack, you pressed the plunger, flattening and killing the little rodent, whose juices you then sucked up through the straw. It’s about a 7-second scene in the movie. The only other place I’ve seen it written (as this rodent juice) is in the 1984 movie script, which you can read in it’s entirety here. I’m not sure why that word has stuck with me for so long.

12 Comments leave one →
  1. Kurt permalink
    August 10, 2012 11:44 am

    So I am now picturing the ROUS from The Princess Bride serving as a Rabban sized Squood snack…

    • Tom permalink*
      August 10, 2012 2:01 pm

      Mmmmm! Now THAT would be juicy!

  2. DBY permalink
    August 8, 2012 1:35 pm

    Upon reading “squood” the first time, I immediately thought of Peter Cook in The Princess Bride trying to say “screwed”. Makes sense to me… one is pretty much squood getting rat juice on them.

  3. Maurine Pruchnicki permalink
    August 6, 2012 9:10 am

    Yuk, Tom! I’ve lived 75 years without knowing what a “squood” is, and I really think I would prefer not knowing now. I have a pretty ugly picture in my brain that won’t soon leave, I fear. Room looks nice, though. Mom

    • Sue permalink
      August 6, 2012 4:44 pm

      Kansas Girl like you- I would have thought you’d have seen your share of squood!

  4. Patrick Kelly permalink
    August 5, 2012 12:13 pm

    As the owner of the “amazing assortment of tiny wood remnants and various other belongings of a good friend that had recently relocated to the east coast” I am amazed by two things. First, the amount of work you did to and how great room looks now, it is imoressive. Second, how kindly you refer to my stuff in print, since your oral descriptions have been somewhat more colorful. Third (who’s counting?), you fail to include the “Saga of the 4728 Pieces of Wood: The Journey Eastward”, I really think you should describe it to give your loyal readers a sense of the emotional anguish of the seemingly forgotten former trees (SFFTs) and to give them a genuine insight into the level of your craziness.

    • Tom permalink
      August 5, 2012 11:55 pm

      PTK (the FORMER owner of all that stuff): 1) yes it is impressive what happens when you take out the trash! 2) we keep our blog PG-13 so the harshness I spoke in the presence of the SSFTs is not appropriate for BAB blog, but perhaps it was too much for them, because 3) we hear them shifting around and rearranging in their containers as though they’re organizing themselves. The only craziness was not throwing them all in the boiler straight from the Kodak Room! I fear they’re not happy, and the beatings do not help. Perhaps if you’re ever with them again, they can spin yarns for you and you can write a blog about their saga!

      tom p.

      • Patrick Kelly permalink
        August 6, 2012 10:03 am

        FORMER OWNER??!! Please show MY WOOD some love, remember that those items were once alive. I look forward to a joyous reunion with all my wooden brothers and sisters and I hope your behavior will not make the SSFTs suffer until I return.

        • Tom permalink
          August 6, 2012 10:37 am

          I am not responsible for your wood getting, or not getting, love.

        • Tom permalink*
          August 6, 2012 4:53 pm

          “Please show MY WOOD some love, remember that those items were once alive.”

          Wait, are you still talking about pieces of lumber?


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