Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

Oh, once upon a time in Salvador,
An old man sat in his little cabin door
And fiddled at a tune that he liked to hear,
A jolly old tune that he played by ear.
It was raining hard, but the fiddler didn’t care,
He sawed away at the popular air,
Tho’ his rooftree leaked like a waterfall,
That didn’t seem to bother the man at all.

A traveler was riding by that day,
And stopped to hear him a-practicing away;
The cabin was a-float and his feet were wet,
But still the old man didn’t seem to fret.
So the stranger said “Now the way it seems to me,
You’d better mend your roof,” said he.
But the old man said as he played away,
“I couldn’t mend it now, it’s a rainy day.”

The traveler replied, “That’s all quite true,
But this, I think, is the thing to do;
Get busy on a day that is fair and bright,
Then patch the old roof till it’s good and tight.”
But the old man kept on a-playing at his reel,
And tapped the ground with his leathery heel.
“Get along,” said he, “for you give me a pain;
My cabin never leaks when it doesn’t rain.”

If you’ve ever had a leaky roof, you know the difficulties involved in locating the point of entry and patching it.  Sometimes your labor seems for naught if with the next rain you find little puddles where the old puddles had collected.  My problem is The Great Leaking Roof Curse”.

It began with our antique house in Milltown, NJ.  It was an early 20th century tract cottage built for the imported workers at the local Michelin tire factory.  It was built with wood from cases used to transport military goods such as cartridges.  The roof was covered with tar paper and shingles.

The winter of ’76-’77 saw much heavy snow which accumulated on the roof’s old shingles and came through the attic and into the children’s room.  We couldn’t do much about it until the spring thaw.  When the weather improved, I learned a little about roofing.  But not enough.

The Carter administration had a federal program to assist low-income home owners in making repairs.  A crew spent a week stripping the roof, putting new flashing around the chimney, and putting new tar paper and shingles on the old and partially rotted lumber.  Guess what!  It leaked and they wouldn’t do any more work on it.

So, in ’78 we moved to California where I spent the next thirty years in the mostly dry climate and forgot about leaky roofs. 

But in 2008 I came to El Salvador to live out the remainder of my life serving the God who had blessed me with much.  I lived with a family for six months, rented a room for another nine, then found a small house that seemed ideal for a single fellow with little but the bare necessities and a couple of guitars.  It became obvious the first couple of nights that I would be moving my bed a lot to keep it from getting wet from above.  The more it rained, the more I also realized that no part of the floor was safe to put my cardboard boxes.  My land lady said if I wanted to repair the roof I should go right ahead.  I moved out after three weeks happily forfeiting the remainder of my month’s rent.

I found a nice cottage right around the corner and had no problem moving my things quickly.  I was there about a year when Margarita accepted my proposal of marriage.  She, having four children, and I knew we needed a larger house.  We found one and were able to move in a month after our wedding.  The house is in two sections with a patio between.  The back part is for the children.  Their roof is of lamina, zinc-aluminum sheets of metal that keep them quite dry.  The front portion, where our bedroom, the living room, and the kitchen/dining area reside is covered with Spanish tile seated on cane poles which rest on welded rebar forms.  The Spanish tile roof is perfect in Mediterranean and tropical climates such as we have in Central America.  It allows hot air to escape and cool breezes to circulate in conjunction with iron-barred windows and doors.  The not-so-obvious drawback becomes evident when the torrential rains are accompanied by strong winds.  If they blow in the right (or wrong) directions, they force the volume of water upward between the layers of opposing “U” shaped tiles allowing the liquid to drop to the floor below.  (∩U)  I learned about this phenomenon during the hail storm we had a couple of months ago and furthered my education in the ensuing months as the six-month rainy season drew on.

Since last year’s rainy season, during which we only spent part in this house, we purchased little by little some new furniture.  This year we found ourselves in dire straits trying to protect our property from the elements falling from above.  We were used to dead insects, rat droppings, all manner of street debris, and dust blowing in from the outside.  But water is something else.  We’ve used umbrellas, blankets, and plastic that my practical wife accumulated to my neat-and-orderly dismay.  I’ve learned to let her store all sorts of junk because it suddenly becomes useful and necessary.

We came to the conclusion that this was not the way to go.  Every night we’ve had to move the furniture to the “dry” part of the living room and cover it.  We’ve moved the bed here and there so we could sleep in dry peace.  We’ve placed rags against the bottoms of the rusted iron doors to keep the water out or at least concentrated locally.  We’ve mopped and wiped until the wind shifted or the rain abated.

Now, we’ve got sheets of 10 yard x 2 yard heavy plastic on the roof weighed down by excess Spanish tiles and cane poles, and tied down with nylon cord to keep it from billowing in the wind.  So far, it’s worked.  The buckets and basins are outside.  The furniture is relatively stationary and safe.  The bedding is dry.  The mop is hanging on the patio wall.  The only downside is in our bedroom where the hot, humid air cannot escape vertically.  The doorway to the living room and the window to the dining area in coordination with a floor fan help eliminate the heavy air.  But aside from sweat, we’re nice and dry.

This landlord, as the others I’ve had, has no interest in investing in improvements.  He has been trying to sell the house for years with no luck.  I’m content to pay my rent and pray that some day we might be able to afford a house with a lamina roof on high ground. 

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