Slave to Bungalow Restoration

Category: Daily Diary

You'd think, being a homeowner and all, I would just get with it already and buy that spine that I've been dying to own. The one that would allow me to be firm yet fair.

When it comes to home improvement, I am a jellyfish. An amoeba. Spineless all the way.

I've shouted in picket lines, marched in protests and have gone nose to nose with rude Lincoln Park Tow Truck drivers. But, I collapse in the face of those who know more about the workings of my house than I do.

They are around so much, for one thing. It's a relationship. Not a purchase. Everything must be tenderly negotiated with real craftspeople. They have definite opinions about their work. And they come back the next day. They become integrated into your life. And preserving harmony in my home is pretty important to me also.

A picked up on some of these things first.

He was the one who identified our friend, Paul, as the new "Eldin".

(If you never saw Murphy Brown, Eldin was the painter with the never ending job...he was always working on Murphy's house. He was there so often he began to dispense advice, became involved in family affairs, and eventually became the nanny of the child who Dan Quayle got so grocked out over.)

It is a bit unnerving to get up for your shower at 7:00 am, only to be met in the kitchen by people who don't live in your house.

A has been in the shower and I have still been deep in sleep limbo when he has heard the alarming sound of our front door opening and work boots clomping around on the first floor. Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable than to be in the shower, armed only with a shampoo bottle and a towel for protecting your dignity and your family.

For the first few weeks, I tried to appear somewhat together at these moments...clean sweats, shoes on feet, hair combed. After a few weeks, these formalities flew out the window and the guys just became part of our morning routine.

"A, coffee?"


"Paul? Dario?"



These guys are "house artists." The level of detail they are concerned with far exceeds mine at this point.

My standards have sunk to the following in the dirty light of February:

1) Relatively clean, sometime soon.

2) Warm.

3) Safe.

4) No more holes in the walls. Or ceilings.

5) Operational

I figure that I'll work out the details later.

I became aware of the spineless thing as, at 10 p.m. last night and exhausted from a weekend of work, I was frantically stripping trim in the new bathroom and talking to myself, "Would Paul approve of this? Is it smooth enough? Is he going to make me do it over?"

(Check out my thousand yard stare happens in home restoration, you know?)

Because if Paul wanted me to do it over, by golly, I'd do it. And I am paying him to tell me as much.

You see? No spine. Just a wallet, which doesn't count as part of the exo-skeletal structure. Since it doesn't meet the requirement of protecting us from impact.

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Nice cabinet! I wish we had had one of those to refinish. We didn't have a single built-in. Not even a fire place hiding behind a wall. Just a mark on the floor where there may, or may not have been a fire place or built in. Isn't that sad?

As tough as it is to strip these things, we do feel very thankful for the built-in's we have. They've been pretty beaten up, but they are salvagable.

That does make me sad when people have ripped out built-in's. We see them occassionally in alleyways here (rarely) but more often they are sold in garage sales or to architectural salvage companies.

It is possible to find one in these places and put something similar back. But it's sad that it is gone at all. Kind of like ripping off a finger or a toe. Not a pretty thing.


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