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We are not alone

Freelance work--indeed, any work--involves so many soul-destroying trade-offs! Spend the morning slaving over lucrative assignment for client...and that morning can never be spent doing any of the following:

--stripping paint off the front-door stained-glass lights (considerately covered with white house paint inside and out by Mr. Chang, The Former Owner, for reasons unfathomable)

--putting in the perennials that have sulked in pots through the drought all summer, melodramatically wilting to get my attention

--get this blasted office/study spackled and painted

--re-do split and cruddy bathtub caulk so it's not a sickening Moldy Orifice of Creeping Wall Destruction

--Call Tree Man to give annual physical to the Ent, the monstrous silver maple that grows out from under the porch to tower (some say menacingly, I say protectively) over the CrazyStable

--Whip out the little power sander and sand everything in sight, since everything in sight is still coated, after 19 years, with Chang's signature coat of "lucky" red paint (a color my mother accurately described as "dried blood").

Or...(if I did not have to work for Big Pharma)...I could just blog about not doing it.

Or better yet...read about those who are doing it. (This is starting to sound like porn.)

Actually, I have been dipping a toe into the world of House Blogs lately, with the intention of finally building my links, which are a vital aspect of belonging to the Blogosphere. My links have been barely sketched in, and I apologize. But as I've begun nosing into House Blogs, I've started getting blue. So many of them are by Cute Young Couples in the first infatuated flush of renovation...reminds me of the Spouse and me before we had the stuffing knocked out of us. They are winsome, exasperated at times but always hopeful: "Trevor is out with the contractor right now matching the tiger-eye maple for the nook, leaving me to cope with stripping the acanthus-leaf detail around the mantle! Big excitement today--the original leaded-glass entry chandelier is coming back, all rewired and ready to hang. And if that weren't enough, we found a plasterer who specializes in restoring medallions as ornate as ours!"

Even in our unimaginably distant late 20s, when we and the CrazyStable had just begun our strange journey together, we never had the Winsome thing going. There are some semi-winsome pictures of me stripping paint, it is true:windowstrip.jpg

but the "emotional truth" (to use Al Sharpton's handy phrase) was always more like the gob-smacked look that people have standing around after natural disasters. The Crazy Stable resisted cute and winsome tale-telling with a vengeance. Especially in the early years, (well, the first decade), it specialized in ghastly discoveries: dead animals, toxins, effluvia, parasites, rot. Let others rip down a cheesy partition and discover the original woodwork--we would discover centipedes and a Rheingold can. We found an intriguing steamer trunk in the garage, and our hearts swelled with hope--finally, the Hallmark moment of romantic discovery! The trunk was full of Chinese take-out menus. Hundreds of them, from all over the country. (Everybody makes General Tso's chicken, but the General has a lot of different spelling variations.)

So with its "gonna git you, sucka" attitude still intact, the CrazyStable is an unlikely candidate to join the ranks of Eliza Doolittle houses whose heartwarming buff-ups are lovingly chronicled in some of these delightful houseblogs. And we, mired in financial stasis and fatalism so long that our renovation makes a Robert Wilson opera look like a 30-second TV spot, make for unlikely members of this energetic fraternity.

But that is the karma--the charism, if you will--of the CrazyStable: What happens to a dream deferred? (Sags like a heavy load--check. Explode--not yet, but stay tuned.) And like a three-hour minimalist performance artwork, it has achieved a certain depth and meaning just from achieving so little over such a staggering length of time. By now, our story--and this blog--is about what happens to house, heart and soul when reality comes to town, blows away your expectations, and delivers all sorts of things you never dreamed of, glorious things as well as ghastly things, but never the things you anticipated.

And yes, there are house blogs that visit some of these darker (and funnier) places. We are not alone; there are others who have discovered that renovation can reveal the fault lines in your character and your marriage as well as your poured-concrete foundation. There are others who are sitting around laughing maniacally as their doorknobs fall back off for the umpteenth time, wondering what in hell they were thinking of when they bought this place, loving it anyway even though it will never be done, or even half done, because it is theirs and because it is home.

Here's one for starters. I totally love The Devil Queen ("How my wife and I sold our souls to the Queen Anne Victorian we tried to save"). This Arkansas guy is right on my wavelength:

“So, today my wife and I are going to try to borrow even more money for the Queen. It's a lunch "meeting," and I hope that I'll be calm enough to eat & not be sick at the table. If we don't get the money, we are screwed, and, if we do get it, we may be screwed.”

Ahahahaha. Now that's life as we know it. This too:

“This whole experience is becoming more and more like a bad, made-for-TV movie. Monty Python meets the Money Pit maybe. It just struck me how odd it all is. I have never talked to anyone that has had their financier stalk them by airplane. A lot of the day to day stuff with the Queen is your typical home renovation fare. In hind sight, a lot of it isn't.”

The story of the financier and the airplane is delicious; check it out. And look for more links TK.

Which is journalist slang for "to come" (why not "TC"?--I forget), which reminds me I have work to do. And it isn't sanding.

And you may find yourself living in a shotgun shack
And you may find yourself in another part of the world
And you may find yourself behind the wheel of a large automobile
And you may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife
And you may ask yourself-Well...How did I get here?

--"Once in a Lifetime," Talking Heads

Posted on Thursday, October 6, 2005 at 09:27AM by Registered CommenterBrenda from Brooklyn | Comments4 Comments

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Reader Comments (4)

Hi Brenda,
More stripping photos, PLEASE!!!

-- Jesse
October 6, 2005 at 01:36PM | Unregistered CommenterJesse Martin
You see, Brenda, this is why it's wise to blog pseudonymously, so your life-sapping clients won't be clued in to the fact that you are stealing spare minutes for frivolous self-fulfillment.

October 7, 2005 at 06:27PM | Unregistered CommenterBig Pharma
Troublemakers already!
All my soul-destroying clients should know that I meticulously suspend hourly billing for blogging, which has proved far superior to computer Mah-Jong as a brain-freshener to keep me working at peak performance pour vous! Like Jack Nicholson in "The Shining," I know that all work and no play -- well, okay,bad example.

And as for you, "Jesse," what kind of depraved spousal unit would presume to impersonate a charming TV star in order to post crass double entendres about his winsome wife? There you go, a French phrase--I consider myself avenged.
October 7, 2005 at 10:56PM | Unregistered CommenterBrenda Herself

Speaking of The Shining, have you seen this?

October 9, 2005 at 08:15PM | Unregistered CommenterJohn

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