Welcome to your twenties, baby.
I know you’re gonna do amazing
I suspect the story began sometime around 2012 or ‘13, it had been a couple years since i (mostly) finished building our house and was almost certainly broke and struggling. I scavenged some material and a few bucks to start building a shed to store my tools and things. Once it began to take shape it wasn’t long before I received a threatening letter in the mail from the town regarding my unpermitted little construction endeavor. Begrudgingly I handled it, got the permit, time went on.
This was a reflective period in my life, learning the tenets of libertarianism, the non aggression principle and how to communicate the ideas of freedom and the inherent threat of force any government program necessitates. Went to a protest or 2 you know, to really stick it to the man. Well, holy cow, a year went by already and my building permit is up for renewal, it’s due today and it’s 4:45 on a friday, a young and foolish me recognized it as an opportune moment to “stick it to the man” , extorting $35 dollars from me for what? Because there’s not enough siding on MY shed, on MY land that you don’t think I’m building fast enough?! I reached for the coin jar, dumped it out and counted $35 in random coins, stuffed it in a paper bag. Rushed to town hall, walked up to the building department secretary and plopped the sac of change on her desk, “it’s for the permit renewal” I said, she sighed, dumped it out, and started to sort the mess of coins. An assistant code enforcement officer came out and started to help her, they finish up the tally and she exclaims “it’s a nickel short”. I fumble in my pocket, pull out a nickel and flick it into the pile and peace out.
Yes, I realize that wasn’t very nice. The government was bombing weddings in yemen at the time. Life’s rough, is what it is.
Years flew by, shed slowly became more of a shop, shed 2.0 added a storage tunnel in the back, scavenged for very little money, making due, working with what I got, dreaming of shed 3.0. My woodworking skills started to take shape. 2016 was reaching the end of it’s tumultuous year. Gary forgot about Aleppo, nobody felt the Johnson. None of that mattered, I had a mission, I was making all the Christmas gifts this year, everyone was getting some wood things. Except –
Fell to my knees and I screamed in the front yard
Fireman running around like no one’s in charge
Sort of like when it rains, it pours
See the flames burst out of the door
Morning of December 26th 2016, the workshop burned to the ground in a violent explosion full morning that would darken the sky with thick, black smoke. The only gift that survived was a Black Cherry bowl I spun on the lathe for my grandparents. It was one of the most painful things i had ever experienced.
Took a few months but insurance came through. I spent a couple years sharing my dads garage. During this time I was building and growing a float therapy business, self learning structural engineering and working what seemed to be countless hours. But with any brief moment of time I had to spare I planned and iterated through designs for the new shop. Drafting and mathing and sketching and thinking.
Began to zero in on a good design, one that’s efficient, reasonably affordable, a bit eclectic, smart, modern and hits all the right notes. It would make clever use of a massive truss joist my parents had leftover from a project, would have a super steep pitch of 18/12 completely clad in steel and would be a reimagining of the pole barn. I drafted the plans, calculated tributary areas and dead loads and live loads, snow loads and slipperiness factors, checked slenderness ratios and reviewed span tables and double checked and triple checked until finally I felt confident. After just about a year,Finally I had a completed set of drawings. Submitted them to the architect, he did his thing, recalculated all the math, until he felt confident he could safely accept the liability bestowed upon him for stamping the drawings. Submitted them to the town, they said it’d be a couple weeks, right on time I get a call and a total, $165 or somewhere in that neighborhood. Big bills this time, I promise. Approved plans are returned without a single annotation, no notes, no issues or flags raised whatsoever.
Now the race was on, what I neglected to mention is that my parents had sold their house, and they were closing on it in 5 weeks. That means I had about 5 weeks to mostly single handedly build the shop and move all my tools and stuff from their garage. In the mad rush, i forgot to call the town about the footing inspection, keep in mind here, I still have a full time job, most of the work gets done at night or on the weekends, when the gov’t isn’t working.
During the construction I made a few changes that deviated from the original plan, from memory;
I replaced a center support column in the front from a wood member to a 4×4 tube steel column w/ 3/16” walls.
On the front gable wall I installed a single 2×12 rafter instead of doubled rafters as drawn, the rest are all doubled, I just saw that doubling them up wasn’t necessary when they would have the support of the gable wall anyways.
The rear center support, as drawn was a 10” rough sawn oak column that extended from a concrete pier footing all the way up to the peak. Originally I had drawn a cast in “U” bracket to secure the base, but I instead welded a knife plate with thicker steel support still cast in place. Also as it turns out the oak tree I used to make this column had a bit of a curve to it, it didn’t reach the truss joist, so I welded up a very beefy steel bracket that attached to the oak tree column and made up the difference. It’s not something you see every day and likely has been a cause of some of the towns concern.
Structures up, slab is ready to pour. I call and schedule an inspection for the morning and schedule the cement delivery for noon. Well the inspector shows up half an hour late at 12:30 and the cement arrived 15 minutes early at 11:45…. So I waited a bit, but eventually I just had to get it started, can’t tell cement to wait.
They weren’t pleased when they arrived, but I passed the inspection. The inspectors ended up returning later in the day and went around and noted a few changes, they said i had to revise the drawings, I said no problem, I told them I just wanted to get the siding and roofing on ASAP, but all the framing will still be accessible from the inside for the framing inspection. They said no problem.
I got swamped with work, progress slowed to a crawl for the next few months and on October 4th the code enforcement came by to tell me there had been some noise complaints and oh by the way, here’s a stop work order. Great. Progress comes to a screeching halt.
Tuesday February 25th 2020, I bring the revised plans to the town, and email photos of the footings (no response) fulfilling their request and satisfying the terms of the stop work order. Except the stop work order doesn’t get lifted. Now, they have to meet with the architect for some reason. This meeting was a meeting I was never invited to, though now I regret not going regardless. The meeting is scheduled for Monday March 9th. They went over a bunch of things with the architect and he was supposed to provide me a list of those new revisions. Remember this is about the time Corona season is picking up steam in NY, well the architect works for the state, his office was tasked by governor Cuomo to find suitable locations for temporary hospitals. Needless to say, he was a bit preoccupied trying to find where to put the 100 million beds that Cuomo wanted (relax, I’m exaggerating, it’s cool, so did he).
It takes me some time to revise the plans and meet up with the architect and have him review everything and then pick up the new stamped set of plans.
March 17th I email Mark Mykins the “boss” of code enforcement, trying to figure out what I need to do to proceed as I hadn’t heard back from the architect. I wrap up the email asking for a time we could meet to discuss and conclude with “Seeking a quick and peaceful resolution to this matter.”
March 24th I resend the email under the assumption that he may not have received the previous email.
I get a response, saying we can’t meet because of Covid-19 lock downs, threatening a revocation of the permit and court proceedings to have the structure removed. I’m told an assistant, Marcus, is going to provide me a list of all the issues identified so I can rectify them.
I wait patiently.
On April 19th, randomly on a Sunday a black unmarked truck pulls up to my driveway and calls me over. It’s Marcus, he proceeds to tell me his boss instructed him to secretly videotape me allegedly violating the noise ordinance after 9. He tells me he emailed me the aforementioned list. I search through my email, no record of such a list, I ask him to send it again.
His response “You should be receiving a revised list my mail.” (his typo)
April 20th I email the 3rd code enforcement officer, John, seeking any possibility of reaching some agreement.
April 24th, my birthday, I receive a letter outlining a slew of alleged violations, some brand new ones, some entirely false and fabricated. My building permit was now revoked.
April 27th, I swallow my pride and write one more email to Mark, the head of code enforcement, straight up begging and pleading for some guidance or avenue to resolve this and just let me finish my workshop.
All I want is to complete my workshop. That’s it. It would resolve the complaints of my yard being a mess, and the noise ordinance violations. Right now my shop is half a tent. Half of my tools and equipment get soaked every time it rains.
It’s become clear the code enforcement refuses to communicate with me and I now have to file FOIL (freedom of information law) requests just to figure out what’s going on.
Another complaint is made and Marcus comes by, I ask him what it is, he refuses to say, refuses to talk to me, takes a few pictures and leaves. At this point I’m losing my mind, I can’t rectify what the complaints are about because they won’t tell me what they are, for all I know they’re stacking up violations one after the next preparing to imprison me for life or fine me a 100k.
I put in a foil request for the complaints, the videos they secretly recorded all the pictures. They give me the runaround for a month.
I decide I need to reach out to my neighbors directly, I mail 46 of my neighbors, a letter extending an olive branch. Several neighbors respond with positive suggestions and mostly stating they’ve never been bothered by anything I’ve done or my property and it’s appearance.
No neighbor with any complaints ever bothered to respond.
After a full month, my initial FOIL request was fulfilled. The email came through on a Wednesday but I couldn’t bring myself to open it, I had a big job that required my undivided attention and focus and I knew whatever the contents of that email turned out to be it would enter my brain like beehive launched out of a cannon. So I let it fester a bit. Got the job done. Friday afternoon rolls around, job looks on track to finish today, time to figure out who’s been doing all the whining.
The news shouldn’t have come as a surprise, 20 years living here without any issues until last year, what’s changed? oh yeah, the new house across the street. I had met John once, first thing I did was apologize for the mess and the noise, I told him to please let me know if it’s ever a bother. He responded something to the effect of “No worries. Our bedroom is on the backside of the house, we don’t hear anything”. Then I excused the intrusion and proceeded to ask him about the half a million he spent on the house, bit of a sore subject I guess, he rambled off some complaints about the contractor, mentioned something about suing the guy, and that was that.
Turns out Mr. John Parker doesn’t like to deal with people one on one, mano-a-mano, nope, John Parker prefers using the government and their implicit threat of force to resolve conflicts.
One would think that a peace offering letter to personally resolve our neighborly conflicts would be a great opportunity to grow a pair and open up a dialog that could lead to positive developments.
Nah, that’s not John’s style, rather than send me a text or an email, John just forwarded my letter to code enforcement. To what end, I’m not sure, I like to believe any reasonable person could have seen that I was making an effort to make peace.
I read those emails and quickly understood, this was a declaration of war.
I forwarded them to my wife. her response –
Enlightened and on a mission, I quickly found a large pine to drop, something with some girth, options were limited but there was one near the front that already lost it’s top in a storm so it’s days were numbered.
I laid the log on some supports, much like a bench, right in the front yard. Every night I hammered on my ported husqy, full throttle, whittling that dick between 8 pm and 8:59 pm. Come Monday there was a considerable pile of saw dust and plenty of brush from dropping the tree.
Knowing full well the burn ban was no longer in effect and we lived in America. I thought, hey, it’s Memorial day, let’s have ourselves a nice front yard bonfire today, maybe cook some dinner on it.
Fire hadn’t been lit for more than an hour before the sound of distant sirens cut through the quiet evening. A few moments later, an SUV pulls up with the reflective gov’t decals, the guy goes “Oh…Sorry to bother you, we got a call about a fire but I see you’re just enjoying a bonfire, have a good night” He blurts something into his radio and the distant sirens cut out. a few moments later a pump truck and a ladder truck zoom past my house.
That bastard called 911 on me!
Soon after the SUV returned, said he’s getting calls about the fire being unattended…. but I was right there, tending to it.
Comes back again, this time asks me to just keep it down to a low roar for tonight, I tell him I’d do my best.
This time however he doesn’t leave, he just drives a few hundred feet down the road and parks there, presumably watching and waiting for another call? fire keeps burning, I toss on a few pine branches and it flares up a bit and he cruises down for the 4th time. This time he asks me to do him a solid and let it burn out for the night…. mind you it’s 10:30 pm at this point, the night was young. He promises to educate the caller tomorrow about the laws, “nothing productive ever happened after 10” he said, I agree to let it burn out, pile up some coals under a grill and cook up some dinner over the hot embers.
That was the 2nd time John Parker wasted emergency resources over an obvious non-emergency on my property.
You see, my idea for a peaceful escalation to this feud was to install a Graffiti Canvas in the front yard where I could express myself with some nice artwork and communicate not only to the neighbors but to the world at large. Brute forcing a dialog of sorts, if you will.
My wife suggested the yard cock however annnnd I ran with it. What an opportunity! Not only do I get to do my first ever graffiti project but I also get to do my first ever chainsaw carving! Making art simply for the sake of art is a rare indulgence these days and honestly it’s really been throttling the stress of this whole ordeal to a manageable level.
Graffiti Canvas goes up, and my first attempt at rattle can art goes surprisingly well!
The 7′ long wooden penis was erected in the front yard. In the words of R.A. The Rugged Man “I slap my dick out like I’m the boss”
Officer Diddle (I’m not even kidding) came by to see what all the hub-bub was about, I guess they had received a few calls… At this point it’s no mystery who might be initiating the use of force over the peaceful expression of art that is wholly protected by the very first rule in the Bill of Rights. Either way, Officer Diddle was great, here’s how the interaction went –
White truck with the “Town of Wilton” gang insignia drives by real slow, turns around in a neighbors driveway and drives back through real slow.
Wilton Town Thug, I mean Marcus… does have a nice ring to it though doesn’t it? the WTT, wut up!….no?….Anywho, Marcus parks about 100 ft from my property, walks out and measures a few things briskly so as to not catch my attention or at least in an effort to avoid any form of communication or dialog.
Mailman is banging on my door earlier than normal. He’s got a registered mail letter and a regular mail duplicate from the town. Impressive how they mailed that so fast, almost like the mailman was in on it….
Without any formal or informal complaint and lacking any recourse against the Yard Dick, the town instead decided to lash out by forcing me to move a memorial sign for me dead dog Shiloh because it was in the “public right-of-way”. It was, that’s true, it had been there for at least 8 years, right next to the ‘stop sign ahead’ sign. For 8 years, our Shiba Inu, Shiloh, suggested drivers should slow down, in her honor and to potentially avoid another deadly hit-and-run and because THERE’S A STOP SIGN (and a cul-de-sac) AHEAD!
That was low and petty, if you think otherwise, you’re a heartless prick.
They also think they can get my spray can canvas down by exploiting an obscure “unclassified sign” subsection. The canvas purportedly could have fit the legal definition of a sign, that is “consisting of a logo, lettered or pictorial matter”, because I had scribbled above the phone number to town hall. Perhaps that’s “lettered”, I got rid of it. Now that’s not even the alleged “violation” per se, the violation itself had to do with the prohibition of signs painted or attached to a fence or wall that is not part of a structure. Legally speaking, a fence encloses an area or separates an adjoining lot. Don’t think so, it’s more akin to a billboard really, except I’m not selling anything. Not even pushing an idea. The term “wall” isn’t legally defined in the code, but I reckon it’s a stretch to define a wall as a being supported by trees…and not enclosing anything….
Oh, here’s the best part, there’s an “illegal sign” in the public right-of-way directly across the street from my property.
From what I’ve observed in the week or so it’s been erect, most people love the D. I bet for every one person that objects to it, I can find you 10 that do not. The Yard Dick just brightens up peoples day, they’re just on autopilot driving to work, not looking forward to the daily grind, when all of a sudden-
They catch a glimpse of it’s pronounced shaft and misshapen balls and a grin, slowly turns to a smile or a burst of laughter as a passenger yells “Dude! you gotta turn around and see this thing!”
The D brightens peoples days, especially in this turbulent epoch of pandemic and fire in the streets, months of isolation followed by riots and chaos and racial divide.
Who could have guessed a cheap laugh at a silly statue may just brighten up the neighborhood and bring people together. I’m a live and let live kinda guy, up until I erected this thing I had never met many of my neighbors, now it’s opened up a dialog and more neighbors have stopped to say hello or discuss my artwork than ever before.
June 18th, 2020
(apologize for the sideways video) I was arrested by 2 state troopers for a misdemeanor violation of Penal law 245.11. I got handcuffed and brought to the station barefoot, cops were nice enough to give me a ride back home. I cooperated, don’t have much of a choice, they got the guns. Stay tuned as this story will surely develop.
Oh also, News came by this morning, should air today (June 19th, 2020) on Channel 13 news. live stream at http://www.wnyt.com/live
Latest updates as of mid July.
Not a whole lot of news on my front. There’s been a bunch of press which is nice, the Times Union podcast “The Eagle” had 10 minutes of straight gold towards the end of it. Here have a listen –
There’s also the video I made for the 4th of July celebrations –
Star Spangled Boner
reerected the yard dick out back, it shall now be called the Forest Phallus. If you want to get a picture or whatever, hug it for good luck and fertility? I dunno, the Japanese do it, why not…. Just get at me, contact me via this page or shoot me a text 518-378-1881. I will likely be auctioning off this shaft once this whole ordeal has concluded so it’s now or never, I anticipate a rich art collector will be buying it for about $30,000…..
Yeah, right, Hah, I can dream can’t I?
Favorite Quote from the press –
People, Government hates penises that is a fuckin fact! -OBDM podcast
The End, for now.
If you made it through all these pages of my rantings and whining than I should probably be paying you money… alas, this is the part where I kindly ask for a meager donation to the legal fund. My lawyer is a shark, I have no doubt in my mind that he will resolve this matter quickly and effectively, but like all lawyers, they have a large appetite for money.