Monday, November 22, 2010

Dear previous home owners...

(And this is actually an open letter only directed to the folks who previously owned MY home. And I am entirely skipping the grandparents' ownership, although there is not sufficient evidence to indicate whether or not they had a hand in this too... But the parts where I get verbally abusive are not directed at my grandparents, they were good folks. That said, let's just launch into it.)

You ASSHATS!! Your cockshinery and blatant laziness is going to cost me way more time, sweat, and money than would have otherwise been necessary!

First off... I'm pretty sure that you were drunk when you went to pick out your wallpaper. How else would you be able to explain the eagle, lantern, powder horn, laurel branch, rooster, and schoolhouse pattern you seem to have originally picked? There is no excuse for that mess. NONE. And don't you dare give me, "Oh, it was just lovely at the time!" Because I am calling shenanigans on your asses! You were drunk, or you were going for some kind of "folksy-americana-traditional" or you were deliberately trying to make some kind of satirical statement with your wallpaper selection. And let me just say that if it was the latter, then you are even bigger idiots than I gave you credit for, as there are and were better ways to make satirical statements than with your selection of wallpaper in your suburban Indiana kitchen.

Secondly, it appears that in between the first and second rounds of wallpaper you decided it would be a great idea to put plaster over the wallpaper. How in god's creation you managed to get that to work is a mystery in the physics of plaster and wallpaper, but you did it. And after you did it, you appeared to leave that plaster naked and apply a new layer of hideous wallpaper over it. Turquoise floral and diamond patterned paper? REALLY? This is marginally better than your first choice, but I am pretty sure you were still a little buzzed when making that selection too.

The selections were bad enough, but then you apparently elected to paint over that mess... And somewhere along the line, someone decided that wasn't going to do, so you started to scrape at some of it. But in a consistent run of amateur moves, you scraped haphazardly, and DEEPLY gouging out not only the paint, plaster, and bad wallpaper you put up, but also the plaster walls! This leaves all future attempts at any finish other than wallpaper pretty much out of the question unless we are willing to dump god knows how many paychecks into getting this problem solved properly.

And then there is the half-bath... Good God! The bottom-most layer appears to be a shade of paint that resembles "Tiffany blue" which would be fine in small doses, but doesn't seem to pair all that well with the seafoam green tiles you have in there. You painted over that with white, which was arguably a better choice and I would have been fine with. But then you wallpapered over that with a pattern of ferns and grasses, and palm fronds... Again, I don't know how those greens ever went with the seafoam tile, but hey, what do I know? Apparently, you agreed with me at some point and painted white over that mess... And while white would've been fine, YOU PAINTED THE WALLPAPER AGAIN! Come on! Do you really hate all of humanity THAT MUCH? The white paint was then covered with a floral pattern of wallpaper... Not the worst choice, but hell, if I want to see flowers, you know where I think I should go? (Hint: It's not the bathroom!)

Basically, you can see I am very busy undoing the handiwork of the past. And when I was asked if I would rather just put up wallpaper to cover all of this, my response was, "No. I don't hate anyone that much... Kim Jong Il or Osama Bin Laden could buy this house tomorrow and I still wouldn't have the audacity to wallpaper over this shit!"

A steamer and scraper are the items I will keep close at hand for now... I am very glad that only a few rooms of this place were wallpapered. And I am pretty sure that the full bath has only the one layer... Though I haven't sufficiently peeked under the edges to verify that fact.

I knew going into this that there was work to be done, but undoing the shoddy work that lay hidden underneath all of this for so long is far more than I had initially counted on. It's going to be a LONG LONG road to redemption on this one, I'm afraid.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Per your request...

I do read the comments here, and the lone comment on the last post requested that I tell you about some of the more amusing gems that have been recovered in the "big dig." Happy to oblige.

First off, let me reiterate that my grandparents were not hoarders. They did save all their letters, a large assortment of junk mail and out-dated large-print editions of Reader's Digest and otherwise, mostly things that had some general use, and loads of stuff where the use was not readily apparent to me, but still, generally speaking, this was relatively useful stuff. You're not going to find me featured on an episode of "hoarders" needing professional help with this particular clean up effort... My nomadic lifestyle has really honed my sensibilities to a fine art of spartan utilitarianism. (I do admit to being girly enough that I do love decorator items, and unique ones at that, so, I am not totally utilitarian in lifestyle, but I know going into my projects exactly what will and won't be useful.) If an item has been bested by a new technology, and that technology can be found elsewhere in the residence, for the most part, the original item goes. The exception to this is predominantly in the tool department. Yes, I admit that we currently have an overabundance of hammers and screwdrivers, but in that regard, I also adhere to the "you never have the one you need when you need it" philosophy. So the tools have remained. This also means we've got a SERIOUSLY old school lawn mower. And by "SERIOUSLY OLD SCHOOL" I mean it's one step up from a goat. It's the old rotary push mower that requires no electricity or gas,running solely on the kinetic energy provided by the person pushing, and is merely a series of rotating blades which are totally open for hands and feet to get caught in. Fortunately, I have no small children, so this open-blade variety, in addition to being very environmentally friendly, and noise pollution free, is totally acceptable to me as a kept item.

In the more amusing, and often somewhat disturbing categories of finds, I also discovered multiple home enema kits, way more glycerin-suppository laxatives than anyone other than a severe bulimic or Hollywood starlet could ever hope to need in a lifetime, and other outdated home remedies for assorted maladies that can be treated by methods with a simple trip for currently approved treatments sold at a Walgreens or CVS rather than shoving something in your back door. Those items were rather rapidly tossed, because I have no intention of using them, perhaps largely because,(call me a prude,) I think of my back door as an exclusive "EXIT ONLY."

I also found a few boxes of at-home perms that, judging by the packaging were not sold anytime after 1978, and were never used in those intervening years... Those also found their way to the dump, along with a rainbow-colored assortment of ugly hair clips, scrunchies, and cloth headbands that no rational person with a choice and capacity to exercise free will would ever sport in public.

Having taken over the master bedroom, it was also my unfortunate duty to sort through... well... master bedroom type things. Having found a tube of KY jelly very early on in the process, I knew I was very likely to encounter at least a few shudder-and-or-nightmare-inducing items. The black crotchless panties were found and discarded shortly thereafter. Admittedly, there was one piece of lingerie that made me chuckle in addition to the obligatory shudder. A pair of white bikini underwear with a lion stitched just above the crotch that was also lovingly stitched with the letters "GRRRRRR!" (Again, chuckle, shudder, trash.)

There was also a... I guess we can call it marital aid, in the form of a handbook, apparently one given to my grandparents by some member of the clergy either shortly before or shortly after they wed. It specifically noted on the first page not to let this book fall into the hands of children, or the "perverted of mind." Falling into both of these categories based solely on the timing of my birth and the social acceptability of certain things relevant at the time this little manual was published, I turned this over to my mother who found it endlessly entertaining and whom I often found in riotous fits of laughter as she proceeded to read the ensuing passages. I assume it was funny by today's standards of what is acceptable in the bedroom, (married or not,) and let it be.

Another helpful guidebook recovered from the dig was a very out-dated manual on "how to help the problem drinker" which was, rather amusingly stored in the liquor cabinet. I read the first couple of pages and laughed uncontrollably at references to drinkers in general as "sad sacks" and the recovering alcoholics as a (and this is a DIRECT QUOTE,) "group of folks sitting around singing 'how dry I am' while holding each other back from gulping down whiskey, and preaching to others about the evils of the 'DEMON RUM.'"

That one was always going to be a tough one to top, and still ranks in the top three finds, but then while clearing out the bathroom cabinets, I ran across an unopened box containing 10 individual packets, marked "LE FUNELLE!" The packets were then further marked, "For when you're out on the town and cannot sit down!" Yes, that's right, it was a funnel for the ladies to use in bathrooms they deemed unsanitary, so they could pee while standing. I laughed heartily at that, and proceeded to wrap it and give it as a gift to my best friend. I think the odds are good that I will get it back for Christmas, and that she will get it back for her birthday in the spring. It's just one of those gifts.

I also ran across a couple of decks of vintage playing cards with naked ladies on them, and seeing as I don't have a pen pal on death row who would get ready use out of those, I simply passed them along to the more appreciative men in the family, who proceeded to jokingly fight about who would get the deck featuring the blonde, and who got the brunette. (They then decided to mix the decks by suit so they both got some of each.)

That's a random sampling of the more worthwhile finds so far. I will let you all know if anything more interesting turns up!

Saturday, November 06, 2010

Cut to Tom Petty singing "Refugee"

Ok, so in the last post we covered the fact that I am a person who seeks geographical solutions to life's problems.

I'm not comfortable with calling it "running away from my problems" because I am not so much running to or from anywhere, but rather, rolling up the homestead, packing it in the ol' wagon, and rolling back to the roots more often than not. Basically, with minimal effort involved, my problems would have no trouble finding me.

That said, I admit that I have spent a healthy chunk of cash on u-hauls, pizza, and cases of beer to compensate helpful friends in the last few years... Much more than I would like. And yes, I have thought quite a bit about how my nomadic lifestyle has kept me from pursuing certain things, and probably a few relationships. But it has also provided me with interesting opportunities, random jobs, and some really great friendships that I would have lacked otherwise.

Living like a refugee has some definite pros and cons.

This most recent move has not only landed me back in my hometown, but in the house where my grandparents lived. This particular situation, too, has pros and cons. For example: Living in hometown - Con for night life, pro for cost of living. The house is paid off - DEFINITE PRO. The grandparents lived here for more than 50 years and didn't throw much away in all that time - MOSTLY CON, with the occasional random found object becoming just amusing enough to be register as a pro.

Yes, I could go on with that list for a while, but I have a feeling I am already starting to bore all two of you whom I have retained as readers, so I will stop.

The point of this is, when I talk to the friends I have amassed elsewhere, and they ask how the new place is, or if I have found work yet, or the other run of the mill questions you get from people who don't see you everyday, I do have things to tell them despite living like a shut-in at present.

The new place is lovely, despite being full of all kinds of crap. No I haven't found work yet, though I admit to busying myself with other endeavors instead of REALLY hunting for that next job. Essentially, I look at the job ads for a little while and then I busy myself with what I refer to as the big dig. I have spent weeks digging through every drawer, cabinet, closet, nook, and cranny of this place, shuffling through mountains of papers, photos, odd little knickknacks, boxes upon boxes of utter nonsense, and pretty much anything else you can imagine amassing in more than 50 years while living in the same house.

I should probably explain something. No, my grandparents were not hoarders. They were, however, children in the depression era. This led them to save things that were vaguely useful just in case they might be needed later. Also, they saved newspaper clippings from 1974, (and every other year,) not because they were particularly interesting, but because at the end of a full page article covering some local event in great depth and detail, my grandmother's name appeared for some banal reason one paragraph from the bottom. This would be fine if there were just one or two of those, but we are talking about tons of loose little newsprint clippings that aren't mounted for preservation because they have some great significance, but rather stuffed in an envelope, and dropped in a drawer because my grandfather ranked fourth that week in a local golf outing in 1958. Apparently this was worth remembering... Just not important enough to actually do anything with any of it.

To boot, in a world before email and that ever-so-convenient delete button, my grandparents were tireless correspondents. They retained their pen-pals from all over the place for decades. Unfortunately, they also retained every letter from every person who ever wrote them anything. I suppose as pros or cons go, this one could go either way, because some of it is vaguely amusing, but for the most part it is just heaps of crap that must be sorted one piece at a time... But now I know that my aunt had tennis elbow in the spring of '74, and that my great aunt had some money troubles back in '53, and I also know that all too frequently many of these letters contained pictures. Mind you none of these pictures qualify to compete with Annie Liebowitz, or Ansel Adams... We're just talking about the run of the mill shots of the back of my cousin's head, or my mother falling asleep at the dining room table, or some random house in Dayton, Ohio, or snow on some residential street somewhere in Vermont. (Riveting, I know.)

Don't get me wrong. Some of it is great. I do have the advantage of being lucky enough to live in a house that is paid off, so I can take the time to sort through all of this, and some of it does admittedly shine a light into the more darkened corners of my family history, but at the same time, I don't really care about the vast majority of it, and yet ALL of it still has to be painstakingly examined and sorted, one piece at a time.

You're probably saying to yourself, "Just chuck it all and start fresh!" And as far as I am concerned that would be the ideal. And perhaps this is my nomadic-refugee lifestyle piping up, but seeing as I lived without all of this other stuff all these years, having it all thrust upon me now seems silly. And if it were up to me, I would most likely give the majority of it a general once-over and chuck most of it... But you see, there is a fly in the ointment. My family knows I am here. They know what I am doing here. Some have readily embraced it and encouraged me to do anything in my power to make this house my own. Which would mean purging many of the the remnants of the past. But there are others... OH YES... OTHERS.

The others are the rather nutty (not in a good way) members of the family. The ones who essentially think that this house ought to stand as is, and essentially be a shrine to the former residents. They seem to believe that nothing should be touched or moved, or (GASP!) thrown out because at some point my grandparents thought it was important to keep.

I'm sorry, but I don't look at a user's manual for a toaster purchased in 1964 and think to myself, "This is truly a precious heirloom! It must be preserved and handed down to future generations!" (That seems to be the thinking of the "OTHERS.") Meanwhile my thinking is, "Jesus, what the hell is this doing here? It is clearly in with other manuals and instructions... Including the manual for the 1976 model toaster that replaced the old '64... (12 years is a pretty good run for a toaster if I do say so myself) And the envelope all of this is in is clearly only a few years old, so someone had to look at all of this... WHY DID WE SAVE IT? Why do we still have assembly instructions for a weed whacker? It's two screws on the handle and then you move the little lever and pop on the wire spool at the bottom... Did we save that in case one of the screws fell out and a mentally handicapped person was recruited to do the repair job? I don't think we need the assembly instructions anymore... WAIT, THERE ARE THREE SEPARATE WEED WHACKER MANUALS... WE ONLY HAVE ONE WEED WHACKER, AND IT ISN'T ANY ONE OF THESE!" Clearly my thinking, while much more long-winded, is also much more logical and rational. Upon completion of examining all the manuals contained in the manual envelopes, my next thought was, "Why was this all stored in the dining room in the cabinet with the nice table linens, and why is there also a cache of incandescent light bulbs and three rotary phones in here too?"

There isn't any real rhyme or reason to any of this, or how any of it was stored. Heap on 8 grandkids and 5 great grandkids all sending every little art project imaginable, and obituary clippings and funeral cards for anyone who you ever breathed on and you're starting to see how things add up.

You can see how I have occupied my time lately.

In the words of Shakespeare, "Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more..."