Your leaking thatched hut during the restoration of a pre-Enlightenment state.


Hello, my name is Judas Gutenberg and this is my blaag (pronounced as you would the vomit noise "hyroop-bleuach").


decay & ruin
Biosphere II
dead malls
Irving housing

got that wrong

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Backwoods Home
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Like my brownhouse:
   the intent of cloying wallpaper
Saturday, October 19 2002

setting: rural Hurley, New York

Work continued on the house, much of it driven by limits of what Gretchen is willing to tolerate in the universe of taste. I don't much care one way or the other. To my thinking, the wallpaper in the main floor half bathroom wasn't as bad as some of the other floral wallpaper in the downstairs hallway and in one of the bedrooms. And, as for gold metal things like doorknobs and lamp fixtures, I consider myself an agnostic. But for Gretchen, they are an abomination. All gold metal must go.
Since I haven't been able to work fast enough on the necessary installations of things, Gretchen has had to do some installations on her own. Unfortunately, though, she seems to know precious little about how materials work and what one must do in order to, say, solidly install a curtain rod in an uncertain mix of drywall and studs. This morning, I saw that one of her curtain rods could be lifted up and down an inch or so. I knew from experience that such an installation wouldn't survive more than a dozen curtain movements before tearing loose from the wall. So I had to redo it all from scratch, an investment of even more effort than would have been required had I just done it myself to begin with. An indication of Gretchen's materials ignorance was her claim that a plastic core in the center of a wooden curtain rod support could somehow confer strength on the installation, regardless of the flimsiness of the drywall. This is like Cargo Cult thinking or Alchemy - a faith that a certain recipe of complexity will somehow result in success without bothering to investigate or even contemplate the underlying science or engineering. I'm not being critical in the analysis; when I was younger I performed Alchemy and Cargo Cult rituals all the time. In the process, though, I learned about what worked and what did not. Conversely, Gretchen seems to be getting involved with these issues for the very first time. She's still using the memory aid "Righty tighty, lefty loosy."
I turned my attention to the most horrifying wallpaper in the house, the floral ring that used to surround the topmost foot of wall in one of the two rooms that I am making into Gretchen's grand study. Unlike other wallpaper in the two bathrooms and one of the bedrooms, this ring was made of the impossible-to-remove breed of wallpaper also used in the downstairs hallway. I decided to perform a little Cargo Cult ritual of my own to attack it. I attached the circular sander gizmo to the power drill and began blasting it. It wasn't going very fast, but it was going, and best of all, I wasn't being marinated in vinegar.
Later on, Katie and her contractor boyfriend Louis came over to look over the house. Louis will be helping with the finishing of the upstairs master bedroom suite, and (as with everything else) he predicted it would take about two weeks. Then we sat around in the kitchen talking about house stuff while eating bagels. I can't imagine it's particularly interesting to talk about home repairs unless you're actually in the process of doing it. Happily, of course, Louis and Katie just bought a house of their own.

In the late afternoon, Gretchen headed back to Brooklyn, leaving Sally and me behind to work on the house. Sally was terribly upset about not being allowed to go along. She followed Gretchen's car a ways down the road and I had to actually go and get her. Then she stood by the door whining and even howling.
Well into the night I toiled alternately at sanding wallpaper and restoring the drywall around the gash where I'd torn down the wall. I was listening to National Public Radio on Mustafa's boom box and drinking Molsen Ices one after the other, four in all. Spending so much time with my dust-mask-protected face pressed up against hideous, obdurate wallpaper, I found myself pondering the reasons it had been installed to begin with. Clearly it been used in the daughter's room, because there's no way a boy would have tolerated something so effeminate in the room where he keeps his Tonka trucks. Though I was only having to contend with the ring around the top, there had actually been an entire wall of the stuff, floor to ceiling, but that had been on the wall I'd torn down. The flowers were so pink and cloying, similar in style to those found on Kleenex boxes and women's underpants, that they had obviously been intended to confirm conventional gender identity upon the intended occupant.

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