The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Friday, May 11, 2001

It's Rube To You, Buddy!

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: My father's name was Alfred Goldberg, but it might as well have been Rube. An expert on city building codes, he was Superintendent of Building Inspection for the City of San Francisco for many years. One would think that the Superintendent of Building Inspection would do everything by the book, and certainly when it came to his professional life, my father did just that. But when it came to our house, well, let's just say that's where my father's "creativity" blossomed. He was the guy who, when I asked for a skateboard, nailed a piece of ratty carpet to a board, attached some cheap skate wheels, and proudly handed it to me. As you might imagine, that "board" didn't cut it. He designed and built our house, which had two bathrooms so small that even as a child I found it difficult to make use of the toilet. He took pride in doing everything himself, and I have this image of him installing a new sink in the kitchen (which deserved a smallness award as well). There he is, lying on his back under the area where the sink goes, holding the new sink up with one hand, trying to somehow screw it in place with the other, when the sink begins to slip. And he's screaming his head off for either me or my mom to grab hold of it before it slips out of his hand and falls on top of him. He was always ending up in that kind of situation. Attempting to repair a broken pipe as water sprays everywhere — that kind of thing. One of his final — and, I would say, epic — creations was a retaining wall at my old house in San Francisco. The house was on a steep hill, which was eroding on one side. So Dad, always helpful, specked out a new retaining-wall design to be built by the handyman I knew, a guy named Ben. Only Dad miscalculated the weight the wall would have to support. So the day after the new wall was completed, I was alarmed to notice that it was beginning to lean toward the street. My dad's solution was to have Ben drill holes in the supporting boards and then run cables 20 or more feet back to the deck. Thus the deck would keep the retaining wall from falling over. This was incredibly ugly, but it did work. Many years later, it was time to have the deck rebuilt, and it seemed like the hill was solid, so the carpenter detached the cables. Everything was fine until the first rain came, when the entire retaining wall collapsed, along with a huge chunk of the hill. By then my dad had passed away. Thanks, Dad.... I thought of his creative approach the other day, right after I had three Japanese maple trees planted in my back yard. It was an incredibly hot day, and it appeared that the plants' leaves were burning in the sun. Adopting my father's mindset, I hurried to the hardware store and bought a bunch of eight-foot redwood stakes and many yards of green sunshade netting. Back in the yard, I proceeded to build what now looks like a green shantytown structure around each tree. None of the stakes went into the ground straight, and I seriously miscalculated exactly how much cloth I would need for each "wall." The result looks not unlike a punk version of the artist Christo's fence. Just call me Rube.

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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