It's not about the house.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Day Eight, Project Three: Girdles Aweigh!

“Girdles Aweigh!” is the name of the fifth song on side two of this album, which I thought would be a particularly appropriate soundtrack for the job at hand:

Actually, for some reason I woke up this morning wanting to listen to Dolly Parton’s The Grass Is Blue -- a mostly bluegrass but a little bit gospel-y album that came out about ten years ago -- but my copy of it has been missing for so long it’s barely even a memory to me now. So I figured burlesque was the next best thing.

So anyway, yeah, I finally got down to brass tacks on the door this morning. Johnny’s off for who-knows-how-long and I don’t work on Tuesdays, so as soon as I showered I set to. Didn’t even put a bra on. Why bother, when I’m only stripping anyway, right? Ba-dump bump. (Heh. The burlesque must be rubbing off on me already. Which is better than me rubbing up on the burlesque, I’ll tell you that much. Ba-dump bump. Thank you ladies and germs, I’ll be here all week. Oh, I don't even know what that last joke means...)

I decided to do it in the hallway after all, even though the sun is shining. I realized (and again I must say: duh) that the breeze we always have out there would blow the paint chips all over the world, and they must be toxic somehow even if by some miracle they don’t have any lead. I don’t want Johnny to come home and find out I killed his squirrels. Or the scary-noise making raccoons. Or the stray cats I’ve been feeding. Or the coyotes, if there really are coyotes…

So anyway, I stripped inside. Makes more sense anyway because that back hallway has a door so you can close it off from the rest of the house, a screen door at the other end, and one wall is all windows. You’re practically outside back there after all of that, except with the added bonus of conveniently located electrical sockets. And not regular-old, Bertha-style sockets either. These ones actually work, they have three prongs and everything, and you can plug in the heat gun and the radio and you won’t blow a fuse. It’s like a freakin’ party!

Oh, balls. Except for the three extra pieces of blueboard from when we built this very hallway three years ago, which are still leaning up against the wall, blocking the sockets. We’re keeping those three pieces because Johnny thinks we’re going to put them on the dining room ceiling when we get around to redoing the dining room, and we couldn’t put them in the basement when we realized we didn’t need them because at the time the basement leaked -- and you know how things just become part of the landscape after a while. Now that we fixed the leaking basement by digging out all along the outside of the house and painting it with tar, maybe when Johnny gets back home I’ll have him help me bring these blueboards down there. (Frankly, I like the dining room ceiling the way it is, but we’ll fight over that bridge when we get to it.) In the meantime it looks like my options are to move the blueboard, which is a tremendously hu-monstrous pain in the ass, or to get me an extension cord. Eh, the power in the kitchen is just as new as in the hallway -- one half of it, anyway -- so extension cord it is.

Ooh, look. Crap. Basement’s wet. Guess we didn’t solve this problem with the digging and the painting of the tar. Poops. Well, actually… now that I look again it might have -- hm… Maybe it just leaked in through that rotten window. Maybe the tar-painting did solve the leaching-seepy-wall-leak problem and now we’ve just got a drippy-floody-puddle problem, one that will be easily fixed whenever we can get around to replacing the basement windows. Yeah. Let’s go with that for now.

Okay so I’ve got my stripping music and I’ve got my heat gun but I can’t find the stripping tool that I’ve been using for these eight hundred long years. Well the five-way that Johnny used to try to pull that piece out of the window the other day is lying right there on the coffee table. He’ll be sorry when he gets to Bourne and realizes that he left it, but it’ll do just fine for me for stripping paint for now.

(A five-way, in case you don’t know, is one of these:

It’s called a five-way because it has five uses: the round part is for cleaning rollers, the pointy part is for cleaning brushes, the flat part is for scraping (obviously) and then, um, you can also, um, take apart windows and open beers with it? Okay, it’s not so good at taking apart windows, but you don’t want to bet against me on opening a beer. And when Johnny gets home we’ll ask him what the other two things really are.)

The record player’s all the way in the living room at the other end of the house, so once I turn the heat gun on all I can hear of my stripping music is the bass drum -- ba-da, ba-da, boom, da, boom -- which for some reason makes me keep expecting Don Rickles to come bursting out from behind the door I’m working on (speaking of which, has anybody read his book yet? Is it funny? God, I love that man. Don’t ask me why. I know he’s annoying as all get-out but he makes me laugh. Just call me Jessica Rabbit.)

When the bass drum goes silent, signaling the end of side one, I’m about a quarter of the way through what I’d planned to do today. It’s not going quite as well as I expected (is that a surprise to anyone?). The parts I stripped last year, or whenever it was, came out more or less clean, but today it’s leaving behind a lot of residue. I don’t know if it’s the five-way, or if I’ve forgotten how, or if it’s just the vagaries of the wood (“vagaries” -- there’s a Wordly Wise word for you; you see what happens when you spend too much time sniffing paint fumes? Vocab words from eleventh grade come drifting back…).

This white crap will come off, for the most part, but it takes about three times as long and requires a very, very light touch , which I don’t have the patience for right now (again: surprised?). Plus I don’t know if it’s worth it to even bother, or if the 5F5 will just as easily take it off tomorrow. I know from experience that 5F5 can be a miserable bitch herself sometimes, especially with wood as soft as this is turning out to be -- you don’t want to have to scrub too hard or with too harsh a grade of steel wool. Johnny, of course, isn’t home, so I don’t have my in-house expert to rely on. I’ve got to make this call myself.

Fuck it. I’m leaving it.

(Oh yeah right, what did you think? I was going to do extra work? Come on…)

Side two ends and I consider calling quits. Two sides of a record, that’s enough for one day, right? But then I see the time and remember that those old 33s couldn’t fit as much music on them as these newfangled contrivances the kids listen to today. I’ve only been stripping paint for thirty minutes. Okay, fine. But if I have to keep working I need something else to listen to. Something I can actually hear.

Wistfully I run my finger over the jewel box for the Dolly Parton CD that’s been missing for two years. I’ve kept the empty box in hopes she’ll come back to me someday, but I’m starting to lose hope. I absent-mindedly pick it up, consider finally throwing it away… but wait, this box feels like it’s got something in it. Oh, I am so going to bust Johnny when he gets home! He’s always yelling at me for putting the wrong music in the wrong container, but I haven’t touched this empty box in years. It’s almost cruel that he’d stick something in here. What is it? Planxty? Warren Zevon? Doctor John?

Dolly! You’ve come back! How did you get here? Where have you been? Oh, who cares -- let’s just go finish stripping, shall we?!

Rejuvenated, I resolve to finish this job to-day, or at the very least keep working till the music stops. As it turns out, the second half of the door strips clean like it’s suppose to -- maybe thanks to Dolly’s special charm -- so I’m done before the CD’s even halfway finished. Like a good Puritan I decide to carry on with the bum-pain light-touch work (though I don’t know that you’d hear a good Puritan using the term “bum-pain”). And I do -- right through to the last spun-glass strains of Dolly’s final hallelujah.

I didn’t get all the white crap off, but hopefully the 5F5 will get the rest of it tomorrow.

PS Oh no wait, not tomorrow. Tomorrow’s one of those days I knew about before I started that I’m not going to have time to do this. And maybe Thursday too. Thursday I’ll have time to either do something or write about it, but not both -- and, as Warren Beatty told Madonna: what’s the point in doing anything if it’s not documented somehow? So tomorrow I’ll be off and Thursday I’ll try to write some random thing, and then Friday I will Manifest my inner Puritan again, I swear…

Day Eight: Accomplished
Total Time: About an hour and a half, including clean-up (yes, I cleaned up -- I couldn’t very well let Johnny come home to find I’ve killed our own cats, either, could I?)
Total Cost: Nothing (until the National Grid bill arrives, at least -- heat guns do love them some electricity)
Dolly Parton: Priceless

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