It's not about the house.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Johnny After Zinsser

This is a sensitive subject.

Those of you who’ve been around here for a while may remember that we’ve been re-doing our kitchen. Or you may not, seeing as how we’ve been re-doing it for nigh on thirteen months. And technically, “we’ve been” and “re-doing” ought to be in quotes, since we haven’t been really doing much of anything for quite a while.

I can’t remember anymore when progress ground to a halt. Timewise, I mean. What month was it when we decided that taped drywall and exposed wiring was the look we were after? July? August? Something like that, probably, I don’t know. In two words, however, I can tell you why:

Range hood.

See, we did the first half – the functional half – of the kitchen a couple years ago after the stove exploded. We got a new sink put in and moved over, the gas line run in for the big new stove, we got a new countertop, a slightly used dishwasher, and a moderately useful number of new cabinets put in – all of this along a single, outside wall. And then we had a drink and forgot to turn around and deal with the rest of the room. For I-don’t-remember-anymore-how-many years, we lived with a kitchen that was half spanking new and half ass-whuppingly old – and when I say half, I do mean half. It was quite literally sawzalled down the middle. Oh heck, if you’re interested you can read the entire saga here. And here and here. And here.

And here.

(There are more, but if you've read all of those already, you can probably find the rest of them yourselves. Suffice to say that It Was Epic.)

The one thing we never got around to doing on that spanking-new side, however, was the range hood – and I don’t know if we ever even had a reason why. Just not immediately necessary, maybe? In the sense that you have to have a stove, a sink, and a machine your husband will refuse to use to wash the dishes, but the worst thing that happens if you don’t have a range hood is that every time you crawl up on a chair to get the soup tureen off the top of the cabinet because company is coming and it’s the best serving dish you have because it lives up on top of the cabinet where Destructo can’t get at it, you find yourself up to your thumb-knuckles in greasy dust. Which, I mean, eh – how many times do you use the soup tureen in I-don’t-remember-how-many years, anyway? Four? Five? Big freakin’ whoop.

Last winter, though (as in 2007), my sister gave me a soap dispenser thing for Christmas. It was fancy, it was ass expensive (I’m not supposed to know that, but when I googled for a picture of it to post here I accidentally saw the price. I think I lied and told her that I didn’t, but I did. And let me tell you: it was ass expensive), and it put the disassociative identity of the room to shame. So we resolved to finish the damn thing already . You can read about the start of that phase here and here. And here and here. And here. Etc.

(We’re epic folks, what can I say?)

Anyway, after a while I stopped writing about it, because after a while I stopped being amused. Fights – huge, screaming, neighborhood-involving fights – over things as insignificant as where the fridge was going to go (“Why does it even matter?” I asked everyone involved. “Well, because it needs its own plug on its own breaker, naturally. So you have to decide where it goes, then never move it.” “But, okay, but, that’s never been the case before. I mean, it’s plugged in now on a three-pronged adaptor, and until we started this kitchen project the entire house was on a single breaker, so…” But I let it go. What do I care where the fridge is, anyway? And if they want to put it on a separate breaker, whoop-de-do. I would like to point out, however, that – now that we are actually, finally, close to finished – the only plug left in the kitchen not hooked up is that one. And nobody seems to think it’s a big deal. “It’s plugged in now on a three-pronged adaptor,” they tell me, “so…” These are just a few of the many reasons why I drink.). But still, we were trucking along. More tortoise than hare, but trucking in a decidedly forward motion nonetheless—

And then we ran up against the range hood.

Here’s what happened: Johnny and I bought the thing together. There’s nothing wrong with the thing we bought. It's kind of neat, in fact, ‘cuz it’s adaptable (maybe they all are, but how would I know?): you can punch out the square metal piece in the back and vent your fan directly through the wall; or you can punch out the round metal piece on top and vent it through the overhead cabinet and around. Neato. But I don’t think we’d even considered which was the right way to go with it, before someone who was trying to be helpful (someone who doesn’t live here) punched the square piece out. And then someone else (someone who does live here, but I’m not saying who) threw it away.

Okay, fine, it was me. But how was I supposed to know there was a wall stud right there where the back-vent had to go? All I knew was I was sick of looking at all this construction shit lying around.

We couldn’t return the range hood with that piece missing – especially since months had passed since we purchased it and of course I threw out the receipt (shut it, you). And we couldn’t vent it through the round hole on top and leave a big square hole in the back. And we couldn’t chop a piece out of that stud. We could, in retrospect, have sucked it up and bought a whole new hood – it only cost something like $80, after all – but instead what we decided to do was abandon the project all together and spend the next six months cooking amid bare drywall and exposed wires. And, not incidentally, simmering with rage.

That last was also me.

Once every week or so Johnny would get up on a ladder, sand some joint compound, put up a piece of tape, and scratch his balls. When people came over he’d ask them to admire the progress he’d made. They would, making appropriately impressed noises, and then when he went to the bathroom they'd ask me to point it out. I couldn’t. “Oh, can’t you tell? That white line over by the corner used to be much rougher than it is now. See? We’re getting close!”

It all came to a head a couple weeks ago. I don’t remember what the fight was purporting to be about, or how it started, but I wound up playing the kitchen card. “Maybe,” I shouted, “instead of spending all day, every day, making pots and pots of freaking soup, you could finish the kitchen once and for all! Get it painted at least, for crying out loud! It’s been fourteen months!”

(It had actually been thirteen months at that point. I tend to exaggerate small facts like that when I fight, but only ever by a similarly insignificant amount. I don’t know why I do it. It only ever undermines my entire argument when he calls me on it. Which he always does. You’d think I’d learn.)

Lo and behold, though, about a week after that conversation (that very loud and shouty conversation), something lit a fire under Johnny’s ass. I don’t know if it was what I said that did it – and believe me when I tell you I’m not stupid enough to ask – but I came home from work the other day to find him stoned out of his gourd on Zinsser and carrying on an unintelligible conversation with himself:

(After I shut the camera off and went in the office to download the video, I heard Johnny in the kitchen shouting "Fuck me! I'm brain-damaged!" And then he blew the biggest raspberry I've ever heard.)

It's painted now, a very cheery yellow. First coat only, because we’re depending on some other people at this point to tuck in the last few steps – electrician to hang the ceiling fan, duct guy to jury-rig the fucking hood, etc. – and Johnny doesn't want to second-coat until they're done. But it’s happening. Johnny says it will be ready for Patrick’s Day. He even says that -- while I'm at One Friend's next weekend -- he’s going to sand and paint the floor.

Of course, we got in another knock-down, drag-out yesterday. About something else completely.

So we’ll see.


Sparkle Plenty said...

I love it, the kitchen is looking great, and I believe if someone turned a video camera on me I would maul him/her like an angry jungle cat. Although...if paint fumes were involved...possibly not. Has J recovered?

Have you ever gotten into a similar "just 10 more minutes" situation? In this case, possibly he really knew he was 10 minutes away from completing the task. Me? I cannot tell you the number of times in my life that I've started working with something seriously fumey and replete with warning levels, being very cautious at first, and then--in the homestretch--found myself thinking "Just 10 more minutes, just 10 more minutes and if I'm not done [possibly dead] I'll grab a breath of fresh air...just 10 more minutes..." Seriously!

(And: I seriously loved your Valentine's Day post. Smashing.)

12ontheinside said...

I seriously don't understand a word he says. I don't think it's because he's high on paint fumes, either.

Anonymous said...


For 24 months my refrigerator and stove were in my dining room...I thought we would get divorced. But here we are still are... Hang in there.

Khurston said...

snork. didn't even have to say it. as soon as i saw 'someone threw it away' i knew it wasn't you. johnny would never throw anything away!

Khurston said...

corection - i knew it WAS you!

Nikki said...

I just love ya'll! And you have the best little giggle/laugh ever! I dont get a chance to read your blog for days/weeks then do a binge and catch up and always find I have had myself a giggle or two--thanks. nikki dean

Jenni said...

My kitchen is still unfinished. Darn.

ege said...

Sparkle -- J has recovered, thanks for asking. And yes, I have done plenty of stupid things with hazardous chemicals myself. Someday (when we all know each other better) I'll talk about the year I spent picking scabs out of my nose. I'm going to die of nostril cancer someday, I just know it.

12 -- Jeez, I'd think -- coming from a country that thinks "billabong" is a viable word -- you'd be used to deciphering nonsense!

Jill! -- Hi! Everyone, meet Jill, my college roommate, who dug me up on Facebook. She is living proof that there's light at the end of this god-forsaken tunnel. We learned to drink together, she and I...

Khurston -- You confused me for a second there!

Nikki Dean -- Thanks for popping in when you can, glad I can make you smile. I just love your name! It sounds like I want you to make me cornbread and chili -- no beans -- if that makes any sense at all.

Jenni -- oh, mine, too. Even if it gets "finished" by St. Pats, we still have phantom plugs up in the middle of the wall to accommodate the counter we hope to put in "someday."