Tuesday, July 9, 2013

White on White

With Abby and the kids in North Carolina for the week, I've been left to my own devices. And that means, in the last four days, I've made three trips to Home Depot, spent fourteen hours painting, and have somehow reinvigorated our contractors. Don't ask me how on that last one, because if I knew, I'd kick myself for not having done whatever it was a whole lot earlier.

Just like Adam Duritz of Counting Crows,
I have stepped into a fog where no one
notices the contrast of white on white.
First off, what I'm doing myself. Painting. And more painting. We have about three miles worth of trim in our house, and all of it is plain white-primed wood, just ready to be finished. No idea why it was put in prior to being painted, but I'm not about to pull it off piece by piece in order to make the painting process quicker, as my cousin Tim the contractor suggests. (Tim the out-of-state contractor, I might add; otherwise, he'd be Tim my contractor.)  I know pulling it off would speed up the painting process, but I have nowhere to do the actual painting once that happens-- no basement, no yard that isn't entirely mud (and would therefore likely force me to clean the trim after painting it), no workhorse things (isn't that what they're called?) to set up on the street outside. So for this project, it's the slog of alternating between a paintbrush and a mini-roller, laying on the ground and climbing ladders and choosing a shirt to ruin with paint-- my old, huge Albany tee, in this case.

The painting is satisfying up close, because I can see the paint going on wet, but frustrating from afar. That's because, after eight hours of painting on Saturday, I stepped back and saw pretty much no change at all. White paint replaced white primer. (At least all the furniture was moved away from the wall and my Albany shirt was sufficiently messed up, so I could prove to neighbors passing by that I had actually been doing something the whole day!) However, on day two, things changed. Only three hours of painting on Sunday left me with completed trim-- two coats-- throughout the entire upstairs. And since it's high-gloss, while you can't necessarily see the difference, you can feel it. Just run your hands across the door frame on the way to the kitchen, and instead of a blunt, matte surface, your hands are greeted with a smooth, cool surface that says "people might actually live here!"  Monday night I started downstairs, and after three hours I stopped, having completed a first coat in the bathroom and mud room-- that's it. Holy cow: whose idea was it to get trim?

This afternoon I'll have a choice: go back home and keep brush-painting the as-yet unpainted surfaces, or stop by Home Depot for a fourth time in five days to get a new roller so I can do the second coat. I tried the trick Abby told me about-- wrapping the roller in cellophane and sticking it in the fridge-- but rather than keeping it wet and usable, like the paintbrush, it just hardened the roller into a latexy rock.

"Now real people can use me!"
Well, while that excitement was forming in the refrigerator, something was actually happening just a 90-degree turn to the left. Yes, contractors were in our house, and they fixed the problem with the range hood-- namely, that it was positioned about nine inches above the range itself, so as to aid denizens of Munchkinland in their cooking travails, should they ever need to make use of our kitchen. In their defense-- the contractors', not the Munchkins'-- the range hood had been placed level to the bottom of the cabinets, so there was a pretty line from one side to the other. But then there was that whole pesky not-being-able-to-reach-the-back-burners issue to deal with. Rory called me at work, asked me a bunch of questions pertaining to the things on our list, and surprised me when he said he saw what I was talking about-- meaning he was actually at the house. His being sent out is probably a sign that I have pissed Mark off enough that he wants to shut me up, but I think that's a good sign. Especially since when Rory's on the scene, things get done.

It all probably emanated from my frustrated email last week.

Mark + Rory: What is going ON? No one has been here for at least ten days. Meanwhile, we're living in a construction zone, and people are downright laughing at us. We would be too-- this is beyond ridiculous. There is NO acceptable reason your guys were not here this week. NOT amused. We need action immediately on the items we emailed you with already three times. There are NO excuses. Gregory + Abby

I'm not usually an emphatic capitalizer, but come ON.  Actually, I bet it came from the fact that I copied Rory on the email, rather than just sending it to Mark; that's worked in the past, and I don't know why I had stopped doing it. Whatever reason, something was done yesterday, and a large piece of drywall was left on our front porch, so who knows what else they're planning for this week?

Other than painting and the stove, the only other movement on the house has been self-initiated. After seeing the constant influx of cricket spiders and regular spiders and fruit flies and now wasps inside and out, I made an executive decision to get us some pest management. Terminix came out and sprayed the place, and now there are clumps of dead little bugs in the corners of the bathroom that I have to sweep up every day. I was told to wait two weeks, then call for another round, at which point everything should be dead. The exterminator was amusing-- he started the appointment by telling us how he's pretty sure he and his friends used to get high in our house back when it was abandoned (then apologized if that offended us, which hopefully you know it wouldn't, especially since he's not the first to tell us he'd done that!), then told us our house had an inordinate number of bugs in it, finishing up by asking if he could grab a ziploc bag to take a few back to the office, since there was a specific bug-- teeny tiny white ones-- he'd never seen before. Always ones to be unusual, we are.

I also finished the row of bushes planted over the last two weekends by filling in the holes with nine bags -- 360 pounds -- of topsoil. The holes were the result of taking huge clumps of rock out of the bed. I guess I could have left 'em in there, but we want those bushes to grow, and I don't want rocks I left in the ground to be the reason all those bushes may get stunted. And as far as stunted bushes go, there's one issue I've been avoiding: our front yard.

They're gonna have to dig it up. And someone's gonna have to pay. A few weeks ago now, Mark was telling me that he was fighting the inspection issue with the county, because the inspector had looked at the retaining wall, regardless of their records. Rory concedes that he probably should have called to follow up with the inspector, who had been there to look only at the footer, but that he definitely had done the inspection. I didn't believe Mark 100%, but I do trust Rory. Thing is, Mark mentioned the inspection while noting he had explained to the inspector how it "would be unfair to have to charge the homeowner $4000 to re-dig."  No response from me, other than quiet bewilderment. So Rory mentions this time that they had feelers out to get quotes on the dig. So that sounds like they're at least trying to get the cost down... But I feel we shouldn't have to pay at all. It's not our fault, and although I'm now unconvinced that it's entirely the contractors' fault, it's not our fault. Similar to how I expect not to have to pay for the patching of two spots in the porch roof where recent downpours have revealed leaks, this was not a repair job-- it was a job from scratch, and we shouldn't have to pay to fix their mistakes.

But something tells me what I think ain't what's gonna happen. Sigh.

So for now, I'm gonna focus on painting enough that it looks like something was actually done when the fam gets back, and hoping the contractors do enough that it can be a decent surprise to both me when I get home from work every day and Abby on her return. Hey, stranger things have happened. Like, for instance, work restarting this week.

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