Saturday, April 04, 2015

white powder and fifty shades of pink

Its now twice that white powder has nearly ruined my life. The first was more expensive in so many ways than this last. The people I had to deal with were worse: pounding on my door in the middle of the night wanting that one thing: more. And more. And, I'd gladly pay you Tuesday for a half a gram today. Remember Wimpy? Only his MORE was hamburgers. And then more became taking back the kid's Christmas tricycle or the vacuum cleaner.


But this time.

So, we've needed to remake the  stairwell in the middle of our house for a long time (see the post: garret.) They were 18" wide and steeper than the back of God's head, as my old logger friend Darryl Buoy used to say. So in March, this sometimes friend of my husband's who tried to chop his wife's head off with an ax in Alaska -- it kind of sounds better, at least more culturally sound, if it happened in Alaska -- came by our house and told us he was out of work. So, to keep the domestic bliss (of course they got back together) in some kind of hellish equilibrium, he asked if there was anything that needed doing around our house. I said, have him do the stairs. He's a carpenter, right? How bad could it be? And the thing is, he gave us a great price. 3,000 for a job that was last bid at 15K.

Yes. Please.

As he began the job, I'd come home after work each day to sawing and pounding and grunting followed by, "How d'ya like me now, bitch." But there was no one in with him. No bitches. Not a bitch in sight. But Troy was big and friendly -- well, except for that incident in Alaska -- and able to do the demo work and framing. He cleaned up after himself during those days. Eventually it came down to the finish work. This requires a different skill set. A finer touch. As Siri David used to say, "You can't fix a rose with a hammer." He was referring to the tender soul of an addict, and he was right. But Troy, with hammers for hands, was a blunt tool himself. So rather than finish carpentry, he just slapped on a whole lot of mud. Pots and pots of plaster. He'd say things like, "Judy can finish it up with her artsy stucco." I am Martha Stewart, after all. No pressure.

So it finally came time to sand down the plaster and create those invisible transitions where lath and plaster meets drywall. Now Elizabeth, the little German woman who owned the house before us, who destroyed the Victorian built-ins: the glass cabinetry and crown molding, the indoor gingerbread, she had, in her zeal to modernize, installed a wall covering -- I hesitate to call it wallpaper. It is more like wall-cloth. I am unclear as to its ultimate function. It surpasses ornamental: this stuff may actually hold the house up. So this mighty wall covering which defies both paint and scissor, has the texture of a rubberized bamboo mat, and when removed, brings the lath with it, has now become more liability than asset. Mud won't stick to it. Troy's solution? More mud.

I'm not sure what the ratio of mud to sand is. i.e. how much powder is generated per square foot of mud, say, half an inch thick? And, what is the strategy for keeping it from infiltrating every single thing in the entire house, bar none. (Not true -- we kept the bedroom door closed, thank God.) It seemed lighter than air. It will ruin a HEPA filter in no time. Kurt tried to explain to Troy something about putting a fan on a box and aiming the fan out the open window, but he either didn't understand or didn't agree. We discussed tarps and plastic sheeting. I'm certain of it. Troy didn't wear a mask -- this seems important. I walk through the house and can't breath. I cannot imagine how caked his brain is.

So, I've spent the last three weekends cleaning white powder out of every shoe, every stack of paper, every electrical component, every single book we own. I have done so with damp rags,, furniture polish and an air compressor. I tried working top to bottom: starting with the ceilings -- my dust mop wrapped in a damp flour sack dishtowel and wiping down every inch of ceiling and every inch of wall, only to find that each footfall raised a small cloud of pure white flake, like Charlie Brown's Pigpen. I've used the ShopVac until it is full and my Dyson until it is done. Toast. I am traumatized.

Now it is time to paint, and my husband, ever the bargain shopper, has checked every Fred Meyer Scratch and Dent for mis-tinted cans of paint but all he can find is pink. Every freakin' shade of pink you can think of. He finally found a really good can of Miller paint, off-white, semi-gloss. Perfect. That gave us this great idea.... I'd go in and buy a gallon of paint, tinted to the off-white we need, Then, return it and say it was the wrong color. Then Kurt would circle back and buy the same can at a tenth of the price. Slick, right? (We really wouldn't do this.)

So we go to Freddy's to buy stair paint, good, high gloss, and again, can after can of pink paint in the return section. We told the kid at the paint counter our brilliant plan and he told us that the reason there is so much pink paint is that people actually DO what we were joking about. And Freddy's has it all figured out. Any paint that is returned as a mis-tint, they throw in a little red pigment and voila! Pink paint.



JoAnne Garwood said...

So do I still need ski poles to come down the stairs? If not, it's all good.

someone said...

Annie! Oh, its gone from bad to badder. I may never see unfiltered daylight again.

I spend my weekends cleaning. Not fair. I still need a maid.

Jennifer Fulford said...

oye i laugh hilariously but oye