Monday, January 05, 2009

I hit it with a hammer when I cannot make it move

not tipsy yet

I am so content.

My back hurts because I just took down 34 feet of rusty chain-link fence using nothing but a pair of vice grips, a hammer, and metal snips, but I am sitting here wondering if I'm going to get tetanus from this scratch on my thumb and I am SOOO content.


There are workmen in my basement. I can hear them rumbling to each other about football, and Palestine (guess which one they're most informed about) (no don't that's sexist); and I can hear lumber being dropped on the floor, and smell them smoking, and I am HAPPY.

TWO AND A HALF YEARS AGO, when we hired architects to draw up plans for a renovation, we were pretty excited. We love our house, and making it better would just be... better! An updated kitchen. A new full bath. A finished basement! The second floor less likely to slide off into the backyard. Exciting! I had a reason to drag out the original 1922 blueprints of the house, which I had humidified, flattened, cleaned, and mounted on pH-neutral paper some months prior. Archivist geek.

But when contractors started coming around to bid on the project, they took one look at our basement floor, which is not only slanted front to back, but also side to side - and stopped nodding, stopped taking notes. The south corner of our basement is a full 19" deeper than the north corner. It was poured that way. Not because there's water, not for any reason that we can discover, just to be bitches I think. Maybe to make it easier to find ball bearings if you spilled a lot of them. Or maybe people were making hats down there and mercury fell on the floor a lot and they needed it all to collect in one place. Or maybe they were bitches.

Anyway, there's just no easy way to level that, and no contractor would touch it. We despaired. We despaired to the point that we decided fuck it we'll just buy a bigger house. We almost did! Our friend across the street was selling her house and we got very goddamn close to buying it. Our kids are still pissed we didn't. Damn empowered kids - we solicit their opinion all the time to give them a reason to think and a sense of self worth, and what happens? They think their opinions are worth something. Bah. We should just keep 'em in a box.

AFTER we decided NOT to move, we declared a moratorium on big decisions. We sat on our butts for a couple months and made no decision more momentous than "Mustard or mayonnaise?"

Gradually, we carved our initial reno plans down into something more manageable and less prohibitively expensive, called the nicest of the contractors back, and set about getting bids and a loan.

And THAT took most of a year. Jesus Christ. At one point, my voice shaking, I turned to Bob and said, "CAN YOU TELL ME THAT MEN WITH TOOLS WILL COME TO MY HOUSE AT SOME POINT IN THE FUTURE?!" He was in charge of the loan. He does that kind of thing. I pick out tile and countertops and cabinets and hardware and flooring and paint colors and appliances and I design the kitchen and the new bathroom and program the workflow.

Such a division of labor is acceptable to both of us. In fact, I suggest that anyone embarking on such a project sit down and devise such a division EARLY ON. It does not do to have conflict on something as ultimately invisible as faucet handles.

I mean, basically, people don't see their faucet handles. They just live with them and no longer see them. It's like singing along with Led Zeppelin - you know all the words, but if someone asked you, you probably couldn't recite them.

The exception to this is IF your faucet handles are WRONG, and then you see them every time you use them, and you hate them. Our friends Peter and Chris just recently replaced the side-swingy faucet handles in their bathroom with knobby faucet handles, because every time they turned on the water, the side-swingy faucet handle knocked over the cup. Yeah, man. That kind of thing will make you crazy.

So I will argue that while getting all the paperwork together and negotiating with bankers and lawyers and getting a loan is some shitty, boring work - my part is the part that keeps you up nights.


  • I may have been talked into the heated floor thingy in the bathroom.
  • The cabinets are ordered. They are brown wood. (ehh, we won't even see them before too long)
  • Sliding doors instead of French.
  • Our pal Lui is giving us a whole batch of slate for the floor in new bathroom.
  • Corner benches on the deck.
  • A FIVE AND A HALF FOOT BATHTUB! And no, Juliet, you may not come and bathe in my tub every night. Maybe twice a week.
  • The sink will be deep and wide and not made of stainless steel.
  • The basement room is going to look like the set of Speed Racer.
  • And I am looking for 4" ceramic tile in bright colors. I can't find it.