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A public conversation about our worlds.

  • Monday: Morgan J. Locke
  • Tuesday: Madeleine E. Robins
  • Wednesday: Maureen F. McHugh
  • Thursday: Bradley Denton
  • Friday: Steven Gould
  • Saturday: Caroline Spector
  • Sunday: Rory Harper

Brain Activity



What I did on my vacation…

March 19th, 2010 by Caroline Spector
Okay, so it’s been a while since I posted anything here at EoB.

I have many excuses — most of them are pretty good.  My favorite is that we spent the last year remodeling most of the house — including the kitchen.  This is a special kind of hell.  I know child birth is supposed to be tough, but at least it ends in a relatively short period of time. And my ob-gyn has never looked me in the eye and promised me my exam would be over in a certain amount of time only to have it drag on for months.

However, I did learn a few things during the remodeling process.

First, contractors are delicate flowers. Really. Oh, sure, they’re sweaty, cranky, and prone to never showing up on time. But like the Wicked Witch of the West, they will melt if it rains. (I have never seen a contactor in the rain.  So that whole Wicked Witch thing is wild speculation, but, you know, it would explain a lot.)

Me (on the phone): “Uhm, hey, it’s Caroline.  It’s eleven and you guys said you’d be here by nine.  I hate to be a bother, but could you give me a call and let me know when you’re going to be here?”

Me (on the phone): “Yeah. It’s Caroline. Again. It’s noon and y’all still aren’t here. I kinda need to run some errands. Could you please call and let me know when y’all will be here?”

Me (on the phone): “It’s Caroline. Seriously.  What the hell? It’s two o’clock and no one is here. And I haven’t had a call. Jesus jumped-up Christ on a moped, how difficult is it to pick up the fricking phone and let me know that you’re not even going to bother to come. Fuck me!”

Me (answering the phone): “Yeah, what? My language?  Seriously? Do you have any idea how much they swear when they’re here? I made them cry? Oh. My. God. You have got to be kidding. Uh huh. Uh huh. But it wasn’t even raining, for fuck’s sake. Uh huh. Uh huh. Yeah. Fine. But I’m not sending them roses. Fine, daisies. No, I’m not going to send them candy. Well, sure I’d like the sink to get put in.  It’s been sitting in the guest bedroom for four months. Uh huh. So, nougat or cream filled?”

Secondly, things will happen if you leave the house. And the corollary: Carpenters are never happier than when they’re destroying someone else’s work.

In order to save some money (oh, the hysterical laughter that’s bubbling up in my throat even now), I decided to keep kitchen’s center island.  We were going to retro fit the cabinets.

I get home after going to the grocery store. The center island is gone.  There are two sad-looking pipes poking out of the floor.

Did I mention the island was gone? This was not an insubstantial item. It was ten freaking feet long, four and a half feet wide. Gone. Vanished. Poof!  It’s like an episode of LOST.  The Others have done something terrible and now they want me to believe that they’re the good guys.

Me: “The island is gone. Vanished. Poof!”

John (my carpenter, looking manically cheerful): “We had to!  We discovered the plumbing had been leaking into the base of the cabinet.  The wood had rotted. Hee hee!”

Me: But, but… the island is gone! Vanished! Poof!

John: We had to.

Me: “What time is it?  It’s cocktail hour somewhere. Wanna shot?  I think I need a shot. We all need shots. There’s tequila somewhere on the back porch. I’m going to find it.” 

Thirdly, painters are evil. Really, really evil.

Fourth, you can’t work in a house that’s being remodeled. And you can’t leave to work somewhere else because there are a million questions You Must Answer Now. And these are questions you have never once in your life thought about. Questions like: “How do you want the random tiles in the backsplash arranged?” and “Where do you want these outlets put?”

And my favorite part about the remodel: Living without floors.  Well, we had floors, but all the carpeting and old tile had been pulled out.  Which would have been fine, except that the floor guys, thoughtful fellows that they were, laid a skim coat down to help the new flooring material adhere better.  Then they wisely decided to wait on putting in the new floors.

The problem? A skim coat is mud. You have a mud flat. In. Your. House. I now know why pioneer women went batshit crazy. (Okay, aside from the crushing boredom, loneliness and the backbreaking work.)  They lived in what amounted to dry mud flats.  

There’s a lot of all kinds of crap that gets stirred up during construction, but I swear that skim coat was the worst of it.  I’m getting the vapors just thinking about it.

All my friends have instructions to smack me if I ever start talking about remodeling again because, like childbirth, you forget the pain.

Like I said, I’ve had my reasons…  

*Oh, and the damn island is back.  One day it just reappeared. Voila!

Mysterious Island

Posted in Daily Life | 10 Comments »

10 Responses

  1. Steve Peterson Says:

    Great post, Caroline. I just finished Stage 1 of our kitchen remodel, which I did myself. Which only makes it worse when my wife wonders why the contractor didn’t do any work that day… I can verify Cheop’s Law of Construction: It always takes longer and costs more.

    – Steve

  2. Rachael Says:

    On the bright side, the remodel looks amazing!

  3. Bradley Denton Says:

    The phrase “Careful what you wish for” comes to mind . . .

    But Rachael’s right. The result looks great. And, unlike a child, it won’t wreck your car — or complain when you scrub it with Brillo pads.

  4. Jesse Hawkins Says:

    I’m sorry you went through that Caroline. Good contractors don’t just do the work they’re paid to do, they maintain customer satisfaction throughout the process, and that includes making the decisions easy and conveniently timed for you as well as working with and around the other trades. Had I known you guys were remodeling your home, I would’ve recommended some extremely reliable, money-back guaranteeing, professional and accredited contractors to you, many of whom are old teachers, and apprentices, and crew mates of mine.

    If it pleases you, let me know next time and I’ll give you some serious wisdom on how to locate and manage those filthy, loud mouthed, low life, penny stealing contractors.

  5. Jesse Hawkins Says:

    And don’t forget home-wrecking.

  6. Caroline Spector Says:

    Jesse,

    OMG. Had I but known…

  7. Terry Says:

    Remodeling, twitch, mumble. Actually, our’s went well, and our contractor was great (on time and budget), but living in a house with the front torn off…. Hope the kitchen is everything you want.

  8. Rory Says:

    So, I guess you’re ready now to think about that new room y’all were once talking about adding on for the library…

  9. Walter Jon Williams Says:

    This quite from the movie In the Loop might be apropos.

    Toby: We called some builders. They didn’t turn up when they said they would.

    Jamie: What did you expect? They’re builders! Have you ever seen a film where the hero is a builder? No, no, because they never fucking turn up in the nick of time. Bat-builder? Spider-builder? Huh? That’s why you never see a superhero with a hod!

  10. Greg McBride Says:

    I feel your pain. My wife and I have done all the remodelling ourselves for 20 years. Tiling, Wood floors, Walls, Closets, decks, and even roofing, we are now transitioning to using contractors. Then again, after reading your experiences, I see the value of doing it yourself, in more than just financial terms now…

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