Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shame Dance

Back when Nicole and I lived together in the Roosevelt Grotto O Good'n'Plentitude (a creaky but spacious apartment we proceeded to cram full of a thousand of our favorite things, even after they became broken or defunct or occasionally, moldy), we sometimes indulged in an evening movie or two of the variety commonly known as God Awful. This includes anything to do with dancing, or cheerleading, or men on white horses. Sometimes, we watched these movies at home via Netflix on one of our computer screens, dragging the cable across the floor from underneath the small wooden table that we used sometimes for eating and sometimes for collecting things like paperclips, old mail, books, papers to be graded, random Mortgage materials (mine) and dissertation drafts (Nicole). Sometimes, we would go down the road to the Dollar Theater and plan ourselves a double-feature with an interlude at the bird-house looking little beer shack that serves beverages by the juice-glass and has nowhere to sit besides the bar. In between the locals watching sports on tiny cracked screens and the Simpsons paraphanalia, we would sip on a juice glass or two, pay in singles and quarters, and tromp back up for Round 2 of cheesy chic flicks. Good times, I tell you: good times. After a few repeat performances, we decided to name our personal film festival: SHAME-DANCE. It's like Sundance, but for movies that you don't want to admit that you watched... and enjoyed.

I feel as if I have had a similar attitude towards my house so far: I relish and enjoy every cranny of its half-unpacked, half-finished space, but I've been a little ashamed of it, at the same time. Even as the house shaped up, I became increasingly aware of how my shabby stuff looked inside it. Grandma Turpin's green and gold couch (which belonged to Nicole's old roommate's grandmother -- this couch is at most distantly related to me, yet has become an intimate acquaintance) looked especially faded and squarshy in the corner surrounded by the rapidly degrading cardboard boxes that lost a little more of their structural integrity every time I went digging through one looking for *that* shirt or *those* shoes. My end table lay in pieces in the corner, one sad leg dangling half-attached from the frame. My giant Hefty bag full of "Kitchen Overflow" items (mostly Tupperware that at one point belonged to friends who sent me home with food) squatted prominently in the middle of my living room.

This was my house, and I loved it, but it was not a house for guests. Yet.

And then, one weekend, we started cleaning out the shame. Jason made me pick out four tupperware containers and then put the rest in the garage. We moved my bed into the real bedroom, on the nice new floor, set up my closet, unpacked my clothes, moved in the dresser and end tables, hung the China Ball / Hornet's Nest light (depending on who you ask to describe it) in the corner, and swept out a summer's worth of dust and construction and Dickens hair from the office, where I had been sleeping. We cleaned. Everything. I mixed up a hand-labeled container of "The Good Stuff" -- eucalyptus castille soap with lemongrass essential oil. Jason single-handedly cleared the front room of ALL boxes. He put books on shelves. I washed dishes. He built furniture. I graded papers. He washed dishes. I graded papers. We ended the day with a campfire in the newly formed grill-pit in the backyard, underneath my pine trees, on the newly refurbished bench, listening to the owl who lives in the tree. Hoo, hoo-hoo. Hoo. He says.

Now that's one dance I'm not ashamed of. Fall is here. My house is ready. Kind of. Almost. It will be.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Still-Life Without Hummingbird

September 1st... the Summer Of Blarg is almost over. This week has marked the beginning of the school year kicking into high gear, with all the host of meetings, photo-copying, and high-wire balance-act attempts at Classroom Decoration that are to be expected. As a testament to the work that I've done this summer and how it has facilitated my personal growth, I put my hand in a giant spider's nest at the back of a bookshelf that was full of -- get this -- crunchy globs of spider eggs, and not only was there no screaming, there wasn't even an "eww," just a judicious nose wrinkle and a decisive wiping of hand on pants. New definition of "teacher clothes" = Can Wipe Spider Eggs On. Along with the new school schedule comes a new definition of "clean" in my kitchen: if you can't see old food caked on it, it's good enough. The tomatoes are starting to take over all the surface areas -- they are piled into nooks and crannies -- they fill the bread box, hide on top of the fridge, and teeter at the edge of the kitchen island (aka, computer desk, but hey, I have re-nomen-ed its clature and that goes a long way. Barthes says.).

In any case, here is a virtual tour of some of the almost finished projects around the house. Oo and Ahh as appropriate. Thank you very much. But first -- here's a recap of some of the all-time best "before" pictures when things were look pretty far from ever finished:

Remember that? That was July, back in the 99 degree days, full of toxicity, sweat and tears. Now, this is the new floor -- minus carpet, linoleum, and paint, plus stain, seal, and 4 coats of finish.

I call this one, "Still Life With Ladder" -- it is an evening picture of the bedroom in the last stages of completion: finishing the last coat of yellow paint in the upper reaches of the closet. I hate painting closets -- they're stuffy and you don't even really look inside them all that often. You could paint, "screw you, closet!" in yellow on the upper corner of the wall, and nobody would ever notice. In fact, maybe I even did that - you can't tell, can you?

We decided on going with a rich, dark stain in the bedroom to offset the pale yellow and green of the walls. It is a coat of Rosewood covered with all the Cherry and Golden Oak we had left in the bucket. It really popped out the grain of the pine, and there are some gorgeous knots and textures that are very striking. I'm a huge fan. Next to the Vermont Cream trim, it has a clean, classy look. The floor is so very, very smooth, the wood grain glows, even in artificial light, and it doesn't seem heavy or too dark. It's like Jason said -- the floor is the frame for the picture of the room, and having a little contrast is really nice. Dang, that man is good at his job. I helped, a little.

Now, I'll have to get him to do his other job and get some good photos that do this floor justice. My little ol' cell phone camera isn't really capturing the magic.

This is actually the new laundry room -- freshly painted in full-on crazy. I love it. My "It's Not Pink" is recently adjusted to be "Really, NOT Pink" -- and even Jason shrugs in a more agreeing than not sort of way. Shannon confirms it: "it's totally not pink." Still, the poor wall is doomed to a life of being always defined by what it is not -- there's a lit theory reference in there, too, but dude, I can't remember who that was. Saussure? Derrida? I'm kind of pleased that I've reached a degree of sufficiently washed up as a recovering ex-grad student that I can't remember. My real-world therapy and diet of Buffy and nachos must be working.

And look at the color of that green/blue wall -- I love it! For a former mushroom colony, it sure cleans up real nice. Now I just have to get the time and vehicular power to make an arrangement with the generous Johnny W, who is donating a laundry-machine to the cause. It must be a public service because after a summer of this much hard work, I have GOT to be pretty stinky by now. Sheesh.

Oh, and last thing. The pipe wasn't my fault. Home Depot sold me another bum part. It was missing a tiny cap to prevent previously described peeing phenomenon. I've rectified the situation. I have water. It's totally done. It's the least I could ask. Let's not talk about it any more.