On Mold and America

We have lived in our house for nearly 15 years. The house is at the end of a sleepy little cul-de-sac next door to the house I grew up in.

It’s a nice, modest house. It has a lot of stairs and everyone seems to have their own space. But in the early days when we lived in the home, especially when my son was very young, we mostly kept to the living room, just inside of our front door.

Other parts of the house were simply shut off as future projects or storage rooms. Oh, sure, one of the rooms was the “workout room,” but let’s not kid ourselves.

After living there a few years, we decided to refinance our mortgage which triggered a home inspection.

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Our shower window – in case we needed to make a quick escape.

The house featured two very small bathrooms. One for the entire house and one for the “master” bedroom. One of our showers featured a window on the wall. It was a frosted window, but we’d never really heard of any other shower with its very own working window in it.

They were right next to each other so they shared a common wall for pipes, etc. And the home inspector walked into our “master” bathroom, took one look at the tile near the shower window and said, “you’ve got mold problems.”

Within a matter of moments the gravity of the situation started to reveal itself. He pointed to cracks in our grout that were black. He took us downstairs and showed us spots in the ceiling tile that were black. Rooms we had been in hundreds of times. He showed us the water pipe that had been leaking likely the entire time we lived in the home. Then he showed us the grime around the window in the shower. Only that it wasn’t just grime. Slowly dripping. Condensating. Growing. Festering.

The coughing now started to make sense. The seasonal allergies that seemed to hit us harder than most. Then we called my brother who is a carpenter.

He pulled off a tile in our shower. Blackness stared back. He pulled off another, then another. After an hour had passed, he had gone through the core of our home and found that mold had basically saturated the entirety of our bathrooms and spread down into the basement.

We had lived in the house for nearly seven years and had no idea. Shame on us for not knowing or being smarter home owners. Shame on us for not getting a better inspection. But we counted ourselves lucky that we found it when we did. We had to do all of the renovation wearing mold masks and still we limited our exposure in those rooms while we were cleaning it all out.

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My brother, the carpenter and mold killer.

Still, the renovation project was significant and ended up remodeling nearly 50% of our home – including the bathrooms, kitchen, basement and then we were happy enough to find a cluster of termites behind a piece of paneling. That was a fun day.

Something so deadly and so destructive living among us so quietly. Just slowly spreading it’s toxic fumes in such low doses that we were none the wiser.

But when you pulled off that first tile – when you picked that first scab – you saw it for what it really was.

Yes, this is a metaphor about the election.

The hidden underbelly of hatred and bigotry and racism in this country has lived around us for decades. But we went about our business while their poison leaked out in such low doses that we didn’t pay much attention to it. You saw a random article about “neo Nazi’s” or you witnessed some country bumpkin using the N-word. In my neighborhood, it was just part of the white noise (no pun intended.)

There were plenty of opportunities to see what was lurking in the corners of our community just like there were plenty of chances to realize that those little black spots in our grout weren’t supposed to be there. But it took a catalyzing event to make us realize.

The campaign and now Presidency of Donald Trump will be that catalyzing event for America.

For the past year it’s been growing and building up. And Tuesday, the tile fell off the wall exposing the darkness underneath.

While many will look on the existence of these groups as abominable (as they should, don’t get me wrong) I actually think this might be a good thing in the long run. Sunlight exposed our mold problem, just like sunlight will expose these groups for their hatred and their actions. It gave us a problem that could be solved rather than a hidden threat.

You look at what happened to a group like the Westboro Baptist – that they became an annoyance, a joke when they showed up to those events. Oh sure, it’s idiotic that those people even held those beliefs. But that’s not what we were able to change. We were able to slowly choke off their funding and their memberships started to peel off and normalize.

The renovation of our home was rough and tiresome and at times, we really didn’t know if we were going to pull it off as money, energy, and time all were working against us.

There was a key turning point, however. As we had almost half of our home stripped bare of drywall. We were looking at only bare studs and even many of them had mold spots on them. My brother explained to me that many of the boards could be carefully replaced. But there was one key board in the center of the home. The “load bearing” beam – that if it was compromised, we were fucked.

Well, we pulled out the pieced of dry wall around that beam just inside of our garage and, sure enough, there was mold on the beam. The center of the home was found to be cancerous. But my brother then told me that all was not lost.

He went into his truck and pulled out two long metal bars. They were each about nine feet long. He put them up against the beam on both sides and began unscrewing the tops of the beams. They got longer, just like a car jack would. He kept unscrewing until the met the height of the center beam of the house. Then he kept unscrewing. And then he got a lever out and kept unscrewing. As the beams now both began to extend past the load bearing beam, you could hear the house creak. Imagine a center tent pole beginning to extend and the center of our home literally being re-leveled. Doors that hadn’t closed for years now closed. Stairs stopped creaking. He ended up raising the core of the home about three inches.

And that was the turning point. That was the final piece of tear down that had to be done. The rebuilding could begin.

So expose yourselves, you fascists and racists and bigots and misogynists and all of the others who answered Trump’s dog whistle. Show yourselves for what you are. Stand proud in what you believe because the sun will find you. The good and the decent in this country – which I still believe is 99% of us – will remember who you are. And we will scrape you off of the bottom of our shoe. It is dawn and the sunlight is going to kill you.

Bring it on. It might take years, decades, and generations. But we have turned the corner. Not only will we expunge your beliefs, but we will raise the country up higher and stronger than it has been before.

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