Vulnerable was the word Minerva used to describe her building. To keep Hotel Julian afloat, keep up with increases in taxes, licenses, and fees, increases in costs of goods and services, including even a bare bones health care plan for her full time employees, would require new investment, resources, growth, but how would this tired, effete old woman grow an old hotel, expand its business? There was some discussion of building an aggressive, improved business plan, and buying used properties in affordable areas and copying the Hotel Julian model, creating a chain, a brand. That was a pipe dream. The building was wounded, noncompliance its Achilles Heel. We had 30 days to get out, before This Building Condemned notices were issued and displayed, the building then boarded up, sold, and handed over to a commercial developer. But as word of Minerva’s terms of surrender got out, and even before all the current residents could vacate, any number of contractors, recyclers, restoration businesses, carpenters, dismantlers, collectors and antiques dealers, inquired about purchase then invaded to carry the building off in parts. Clearly the hotel was not a sum of its parts. A kind of emergentism became evident. The value of the parts, extracted and made independent of the whole, could not be predicted by appraisal of the whole. A careful, observant, respectful deconstruction started, workers carrying off solid panel doors, and separate from the doors their hardware, glass door knobs, brass hinges. And clear fir sills, window casements, iron weights, leaded glass windows, double hung windows with sagging glass. Radiators, moldings, paneling, chandeliers, bathroom fixtures, porcelain tubs, tongue and groove hardwood flooring. Copper and galvanized pipe. The entire fire escape apparatus. Wall hangings, pictures, rugs, tile, railings, steps. Furniture: walnut bed frames, roll top desks, tables and chairs. The lending library of books from the fallout shelter with the bookcase – purchased and hauled off by Father Juan for Xavier’s school. Full dimensional lumber: 2 by 4’s, 4 by 4’s, 2 by 12’s. Huge basement beams and solid wood headers, the building by then hurriedly vacated. Another staff meeting was called, this one held across the street from the hotel in Minerva’s backyard. She handed each employee an envelope containing a severance bonus made possible by the sales of the individual parts of Hotel Julian, sweetening just a bit the bitter goodbyes.
“Deconstruction” is episode 42 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.