Wednesday, December 02, 2009


On January 12, I'll be doing a live reading of a humorous (I hope) essay at the Leopold for a live taping of the Chuckanut Radio Hour ( To whet your appetitie, as it were, here's a humorous essay I read on the show about a year ago. It's called "Remomeling" and is the story of a man, a wife, and their little (annoying) home remodeling project. Please enjoy. 

It all began with a simple rearrangement of furniture.

“What if you move your couch over there?” suggested our friend Deb. She’s a kind-of Feng Shui-Declutter Nazi.

That sounded harmless enough so my wife, Jen, and I swung the couch over this way so it faced the front window, shoved the TV-cart thing in the corner, slid that chair over there. Ten minutes work and our lives were transformed. Woo-hoo!

But no. It doesn’t stop there. Scanning our living room, Deb reminds Jen how much we hate the carpet—it is pretty gross I admit (still, it’s not hurting anyone)—and quicker than it takes Jen to nod in agreement, they’re both down on their hands and knees with prybars and claw hammers yanking up carpet tacks to see what’s underneath.

What are they possibly hoping to find? Honduran mahogany floors fit for some fancy-pants photo spread in Sunset magazine? Come on, I love our house, but let’s be honest. It’s a low-slung bungalow that has apartment-grade carpeting written all over it. And that’s OK with me.

What they do find under the carpet is some icky, spongy, underlayment; enough dirt to cover the infield at Safeco Field, and below that, some vague flooring of unknown composition.

“Quick!” I say. “Put the carpet back. Something might crawl out.”

But no, Deb proposes we rip it up and replace it with laminate wood floors that we install ourselves. Let me repeat that last bit: That we install ourselves. Jen leaps up and down like a contestant on “The Price is Right” while I scan my memory banks trying to figure out whatever I might’ve done to make Deb suggest such a plague upon our house.

The problem is that, unlike, seemingly every single person in Bellingham who’s not me, I do not possess the gene that predisposes a person to find home improvement projects the least bit enjoyable. I’m not a do-it-yourselfer; I’m more a you-do-it-while-I’m-off-doing-something-fun-er. I’m not lazy; it’s just that when it comes to doing stuff around the house, I’m averse to any kind of work, activity, or exertion. OK. I’m lazy.

Still, I enjoy being married to Jen and if installing laminate floors is what it takes to stay that way, I’d suck it up. Thus, over the following weeks our lives were filled with ripping, sawing, measuring, pounding, drilling, cutting, installing; complaining, loafing, whining, clock-watching, faking injury—each of us bringing our own unique skills and talents to the project.

When it was over, we had fresh, easy-to-clean, sorta-wood floors and our home was purged of all gross, icky carpet. Purged too, I’d hoped, of any future home improvement whims.


“A claw foot tub would look perfect in there,” Deb says one afternoon upon exiting our bathroom. “Maybe a new vanity too, and some nice new flooring, and a bright sunny paintjob to match—what’d’ya think?”

I think you should have your mouth wired shut, is what I think, but don’t say.

Bathroom remodel it was.
Twenty years ago, when Jen and I first moved to Bellingham, we’d see this handwritten sign taped to the darkened window of a downtown tavern that had long since gone out of business. “Closed for remomeling,” it read, which tickled our undergraduate funny bones to no end.

The misspelling suggested a remodel gone horribly wrong. As did what we saw through the window: piles of sawdust, three-legged sawhorses tilted on their sides, holes punched in walls. I’m reminded of this because for a while that’s exactly how our house looked.

Bathroom remodels involve plumbing and thus a whole level of gross, disgusting, nastiness that makes me woozy and cross-eyed just thinking about. So we called in a contractor, who called in his plumber, who called in what I gathered was his fugitive nephew desperate for a few bucks so he could stay on the lam. It was a mess.

Our lives were closed for remomeling.
But you know, things always get better. That darkened tavern? It’s been reborn—remomeled as it were—as a vibrant retail-residential spot, a cornerstone of Bellingham’s downtown renaissance. And eventually, the contractors went home and quit treating our bathroom like it was their personal ATM, withdrawing money with the frequency of gambling addicts at a casino.

And I have to admit: our house does look great. Our fresh, wood-like floors give our home a charming cottage feel. The bathroom is impressive too. Even if, being a man, I’m not capable of appreciating the wonders of bath-taking the way a woman does. No matter. Jen’s happy; I’m happy.

All is well.

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