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Nailing Down a Few Survival Skills

April 01, 1993|BEVERLY BEYETTE

"This is the textbook," says Chas Eisner-- Professor Eisner--holding up a copy of Black & Decker's "Everyday Home Repairs."

In the next four weeks, his students will learn such basic urban survival skills as how to free a jammed garbage disposal (no, not with a broom handle), the size of 2-by-4s (1 1/2-by- 3 1/2), how to patch a teensy hole in a wall (with toothpaste) and the best tool for applying caulk (fingers).

Handyman Eisner teaches the "No-Husband-Father-Brother Needed Women's Home Repair Workshop" around town.

It's a class "for women who want to learn the nuts and bolts of nails and screws."

His biggest challenge, he'll tell you, is not to put across what makes things work--or not work--but "to keep this entertaining." Garden hoses, closet rods, towel bars and weatherstripping don't readily lend themselves to snappy one-liners.

But Eisner manages. Consider, for example, his explanation for why windows stick: Painters work on the theory, "If it's dirty, paint it."

One recent graduate, humorist Jan Marshall, calls him "the best . . . very amusing." And, she says, she's thrilled that she now knows what to do "when a fork is in the garbage disposal or a light goes out."

She's always been impressed with men because "they could fix stuff." Now, she too can fix stuff--"I have my own electric drill and a whole bunch of things I don't know the names of."

And, she's armed with some of Eisner's handy tips for handypersons, among them:

* If buying a new part, take the old part to the store.

* Before painting, massage your hands with liquid detergent. The paint will wash off easily.

* If a flame-shaped bulb in a chandelier or ceiling fan separates from its base, stick a bar of soap in and yank. (Be sure to turn off the electricity first).

* To avoid splitting the wood when you hammer in a nail, rap the surface first with the nail head.

* Robe hooks and towel bars fall out because bathroom doors are hollow.(The solution: a molly bolt or, better yet, one of those over-the-door hooks.)

* Always buy screws in bulk, not in those little packets, which screw for screw are "more expensive than caviar."

* Got a picture hanging above your bed? Take it down. In an earthquake, "It acts like a guillotine."

Now, about clearing that stuck disposal: If there's a hum, find the little red button on the bottom of the unit and push. No hum? Invest about $8 in a tool made especially for unjamming.

Some of Eisner's students, like Denese Taylor, signed up because they were fed up. Taylor had just paid a locksmith for a house call: "Zip, zip, zip. Three screws. That'll be $65."

"Women generally don't have a source to learn these things," Eisner says. When they get together, "They don't talk about reinforcing shelves." Most of his students are in a relationship, "but with men who are all thumbs."

Nothing to Sneeze At

And now, it's dial-a-dust.

If--like 40 million other Americans--you sniffle and sneeze at the very mention of airborne irritants, the new pollen hot line stands ready to help.

Just dial (800)-POLLENS and a cheery voice will give you the weekly update on pollen levels in the Greater Los Angeles area.

Eyes feel a bit itchy and watery during the last week? That, the hot line would have told you, was due to medium levels of pollen, with pine, plantain and cedar prevalent.

The hot line, now available for 50 cities nationwide, is updated every Wednesday evening. The idea is to alert allergy-sufferers to high pollen counts so they can take medicine in advance.

It just happens to be sponsored by a pharmaceutical company that just happens to make a well-known over-the-counter allergy medication. (Hint: It rhymes with migraine.)

A Bittersweet Journey

The L.A. Conservancy's bus tour--"Avenues, Arts and Architecture of South-Central Los Angeles"--was a bittersweet journey to the turn of the century, when the Central Avenue corridor was the heart of a thriving African-American community.

Displaced by encroaching industry in the area now known as Little Tokyo, blacks resettled farther south and there they built enduring monuments--churches, theaters and, in 1928, a grand hotel, for they were not welcome at white hotels.

The Dunbar Hotel, where Lena Horne, Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton were among guests, retains vestiges of its Art Deco glory, though now it is low-income senior housing. Landmark status saved it from the wreckers.

It was said that, if you stood at the corner of 12th and Central long enough, you'd meet every black person in L.A. (there were only 15,000 in 1920). That included newcomers from the South, lured by tales of the good life.

But L.A. changed and, in the 1950s, blacks, like other settlers who had come before them, moved on to other parts of the city--farther south and west.

Today, the Central Avenue core is only 20% black. Store signs-- Carneceria, Farmacia, Panaderia identify the neighborhood as Latino (73%).

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