Category Archives: JB Marvin

TMI from HRW #1

What follows is an email I’m composing in the blog to be sent to a potential campaign volunteer for the Welty for School board campaign. It may very well decide him against helping me. It will be longish thus TMI (too much information) as for the HRW. That’s me, Harry Robb Welty. If my PCV agrees and continues to volunteer this might become a regular feature of this blog for the duration of my campaign for school board.

Dear PCV, (potential campaign volunteer)

My dithering is putting me at risk of losing your help. After our cup of coffee at Sara’s Table it appeared you were eager to commence. I’m afraid that it now appears to you that I am not eager to commence and you are already looking for other avenues to spend your time and talents. Arrrrrgh! Continue reading

Mr. Lincoln goes to Hollywood

Andy Sullivan has a post on one of my frequent plaints – that today’s GOP is really driven by the ghost of the old Confederacy. How this came to be is fascinating and it took place in my adulthood much to my chagrin as might be deduced by the title of this blog.

I’ve been looking forward to Spielberg’s Lincoln biopic for a few months. Its been in the works since before Doris Kearns Goodwin began her decade long effort to write her Pulitzer winning Team of Rivals. I only got around to reading the book this summer since I was so busy fighting the Red Plan when the book was published.

After seeing a trailer for the movie I bought the “best book” on the Republican radical Thaddeus Stevens. That book has not been as gripping and not survived my preoccupation with undoing the damage to my second home from an unscrupulous nincompoop “contractor.” I’ll no doubt see the movie without the benefit of the book behind me.

The trailers for the new movie show a fearsome Lincoln that was hard for me to reconcile with the Lincoln I’ve read about through the years. He was driven but is far more famous for being rumpled, droll and melancholy. The fierce Lincoln didn’t register with me. I don’t think I have to worry about the movie if this article from the Smithsonian can be believed. Kearns Goodwin said she felt she was really seeing Lincoln on the screen. That’s high praise. I’m encouraged and can’t wait to watch the movie, which apropos one of Lincoln’s quotes, seems to point true North while directing the audience around the swamps in the way to get there.

Spoiler Alert – JB Marvin

The City of Duluth’s Building Department has not yet posted my daughter’s home as “uninhabitable” but she and the boys have been staying with us for two nights since I was told the announcement would go up on her front door.

It seems that my haste to have her home re-excavated to discover whether JB Marvin really removed an old “abandoned” sewer line they found six feet under my daughter’s house has cooled the City’s ardor to initiate paperwork. I don’t blame them. If its fixed the City will have to shuffle more paper after my daughter’s sewage flows, once again, unimpeded to Duluth’s waste treatment. On the other hand I was rather hoping to take a photo of the notice. I think more folks should hear the remarkable tale of JB Marvin’s one-hundred-thousand dollar Port-o-potty.

Now that’s what I call home improvement!

Pt 3 – I cannot recommend JB Marvin

My front steps disobligingly continued to crumble after Mr. Davidson’s departure and I reluctantly patched them back together each time leaving the whole an ugly checkerboard of of different colored mortar. It did not help that the railing was knocked usunder three times over the years by errant vehicals most recently two winters ago. (see picture)

This year it seemed time to invest in my home the neighborhood and the betterment of the City of Duluth. Jeff Marvin was just the man to collect the money for its repair.

Jeff was so eager over the phone. He just had to do the work. It would be a great advertisement as it was on such a visible street and he really wanted to concentrate on repair work in the Eastern part of town so as to avoid driving all over the place. Besides the folks out east had more money and more vanity about the upkeep of their homes. Jeff never really said this quite so baldly but I had little doubt that this fit into his personal business equation.

Besides, I enjoyed Jeff’s whirlwind courtship and seize the day attitude. One of the reviewers on Angie’s list was fairly overcome by Jeff’s exuberance. Only one of the four reviews had anything negative to say about Marvin. He had left a mess on the property after the work was completed. Jeff answered that by saying he always left his work spic and span.

Later after we had contracted him to do the tuckpointing on our house Jeff had a landscaper on the job who would take some of the left over sod from Jeff’s home and fix up ours after it was done. Jeff had to get more sod because his Great Danes had torn up the yard.

But the steps were the appetizer. The house was to become the second course and Jeff had a brother Tracy who had bum knees. Jeff was looking for work that his brother could do since standing up at a wall was tough for him. Jeff’s enthusiasm was contagious. I don’t know how many times he shook my hand but it was almost as if he had read the sociological discovery that customers whose hands are brushed by sales clerks during the exchange of money rated them more highly than their counterparts who did not make skin to skin contact during a sale.

Jeff was exstatic over the location of my steps on one of the busiest streets in Duluth on the edge of the territory where he preferred to work. It didn’t help that his significant other had spoken highly of me. Yes, this is where my susceptibility to vanity comes in. If Jeff didn’t have much of a clue that I was well known for my active opposition to the mega school building program in Duluth called the Red Plan I was happy to tell him how irritated I was with the successful con artistry of Johnson Controls. I told Jeff that everyone in town either loved or hated me and he reported back through the weeks that everyone seemed to have an opinion about me.

He also reported back that, as he had hoped, he was getting lots and lots of inquiries. “I want to put my sign in your yard,” he had told me repeatedly. My yard and His steps would make him a small fortune in referrals and he spent his mornings going out and getting more jobs for later in the season. And boy did he get them. A dozen or more.

At this point I should interject an important point. Today, four months wiser I have no idea how closely anythign Jeff Marvin told me resembled the truth. He may have gotten a great many jobs at my famous snow sculpture house or he may not have. I had no reason to doubt Jeff and his apparent joy at hitting gold. I talked to a number of people some of them strangers who recognized me from my previous public notoriety who often accosted me to ask about my contractor or walked past the steps and later the house and paused to talk to me or Jeff’s workers. One of Jeff’s most hardworking masons landed a couple jobs himself much to Jeff’s amusement because, as he said of the young man, “He doesn’t even know anything about the business.”

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Pt 2 I cannot recommend JB Marvin

I have a favorite quote from the New Testament. Every time I start writing a book I tend to quote it at the heading of some chapter and I’ve quoted it at least twice in the blog. The first time back in 2007 in the post: I’m going to hell. It is Mathew Chapter 16 verse 16 when Jesus tells us to “be wise as serpents and innocent as doves”

In JB Marvin 1 I explained that this contractor was good for my humility. That’s because on the several occassions when I saw Jeff’s forked tongue I decided he was a Damon Runyonesqe character worthy of enjoyment. He was that, however he was far more worthy of the skepticism Jesus advised.

I had already had a long history with my front steps. From the day we moved in, 25 years ago last May they have been crumbling away. I was worried about them in the early years especially in Winter when folks would climb the stairs to take close up pictures of the snow sculptures I would build in my front yard. It was bad enough that Jim Heffernan, the Trib’s editorialist once told me a small child had been killed a block from my house when she climbed a large UMD snow sculpture that had been built for a winter carnival. It fell on her. I had no desire to get sued by a gawker because he slipped on an icy broken brick.

So, when an itinerant with broken teeth knocked on my front door in 1998 and told me my chimney could use some tuckpointing I asked instead if he could fix my steps. After some of my own previous shortlived repairs they were looking seedy and in disorder again. He said he could.

There is a very long story about this spring summer fall. I seem to have summarized it in this post from earlier this year when JB Marvin took up where the old fly-by-nighter left off. In fact I see that my first mention of JB here in the blog. Readers take note. JB Marvin sounded pretty good in Angie’s List back then which my May 9th post notes. Even today there is a Better Business Bureau website that gives Jeff’s company an A-. Of course you can find his picture on some “mugshot” websites as well.

Had I known about Jeff Marvin’s criminal past I might not have been put off. I believe in second chances and the story of my first encounter with a brick mason was a case in point. I asked Mr. Davidson a lot of questions and over time he explained how he had previously skipped out of town when he got in over his head leaving unhappy homeowners in the lurch. For the next two years I took him under my wing, helped him complete some of his backlog by joining him in tuckpointing other homes and even advanced him some money to refund one unhappy customer.

He invited me to the party for his new born baby the year after I tuck pointed my own home under his direction. Yes, the stairway was just a first step. He blew out of town a few months after his girlfriend and the mother of his baby told me she was no longer sleeping with him to which I nodded sympathetically and then got the hell away from her. I did not mourn when they left town.

Pt. 1 I can not recommend JB Marvin…

…although in my case it has been good for and justified my humility.

JB Marvin is Jeffrey Marvin. He inveigled himself into my good graces four months ago when I was trying to decide if I wanted to spend a lot more money to rebuild the brick staircase leading from my front sidewalk to my home up a 12 foot high hill to my portico. (That’s a front porch with columns on either side)

One contractor didn’t want to hassle with bricks – too much work. For about seven grand he would have poured in concrete steps. The second contractor to return my calls was Jeff. Jeff really, really wanted to fix my steps. Even though it would cost twice as much I decided that I wanted Jeff to fix them as well.

Fourteen years before these same steps led me into a summer of unnecessary grief. They were about to do so again as a reminder, perhaps, that to er is human and that I am no exception.