Hot-Buttered Fun

The floors are done and the fridge is fixed. Now what? No way. The TV?!

If I can just get through this week…

The new floors are in and resemble hot-buttered rum, just the look I was after but couldn’t quite articulate. The leaky fridge is mostly fixed – all it took was a plumber’s call and two visits from the appliance guy, and I ended up diagnosing the cracked ice-maker hose myself…jeeesh.

Trust me, I have a lot of experience with cracked hoses.

I have a lot of experience with everything. I have painted and fixed up many houses, many rooms, and I think this project might be, my magnum opus of home repair.

Like Poe, I now raise a glass of ale, filled “with mingled cream and amber,” and toast this cozy little place — Posh’s House. I think my late wife would be proud of what we did together – she and I, me and Smartacus, our designer/daughter, the fridge guy, all of us.

Took a village.

In truth, ’50s-era ranch houses are so easy — they’re only half falling down. Try fixing up an ancient Victorian, as I have in the past.

To take on a 150-year-old house is to challenge all your beliefs in benevolent bartenders (the only archangels we have left).

In renovation, what can go wrong will go wrong, and according the Erskine’s Law of Life, you will always make an issue worse before you make it better.

Seriously, Home Depot might be the worst thing that ever happened to guys like me. Guys like me should be dialing specialists and throwing money at problems, clipping our fingernails on the patio while real tradesmen perform the work.

Unfortunately, there are only three real tradesmen left in Los Angeles, and they are very tough to get. The other contractors are just guys out looking for a little work – any work — after getting out of the brig and trying to beat their demons.

Now, if I can just get through this week…

I hit rock bottom the other day. The chorizo I bought on sale turned out to be made of soybeans, not pork. No wonder it was two bucks. Soy chorizo isn’t a food item, it’s an assault.

The big fridge is the most important room in our house.

I fed it to Smartacus anyway, mixed it with real sausage, and he gobbled it up as if it were actual food. You could put pencil shavings in front of a teen-age boy, and he’d be so preoccupied with some bump-and-grind video on TikTok, that he’d spoon it into his mouth as if it were Captain Crunch.

My son lives in interesting times. Females his age demand respect like never before, but every time he turns on his phone, they’re dancing around like they have ants in their britches.

Nothing against dancing, of course. Or ants.

Nothing against nobody. Who am I to judge? I’ve got problems of my own, including a minor swamp behind my fridge.

The big fridge is the most important room in our house. When we moved it to install the new flooring, there was an ugly puddle behind it, where the icemaker had been leaking. For weeks? For years? I hit it with so much bleach, people were coughing in Michigan.

There’s a big industrial fan on it now, and every time I pass I blow on it a little, as if trying to calm a frantic lover.  

“You know how to whistle, don’t you…?”

Next step: Crawling beneath the house – hello, black widows! — to see if the fridge leak rotted out the floor joists, and they need shoring up (a concrete pad, then a cinderblock pier and some treated 2-by-12s, maybe a smear of soy chorizo).

When you have a home, there is always something that needs shoring up. Often, it’s the father.

The disruption got so bad that I snapped at Smartacus the other night, something I rarely do.

The TV was out in the garage, where we stored it while painting. We were stuck with no TV, just each other, our worst nightmare.

After a particularly long day of plumbers and floor installers, Smartacus wanted to play Jenga at 9 o’clock at night, to which I responded: “Are you &!)$%$**& kidding me?”

Look, if you can’t learn to swear from your father, you’re at the mercy of other people. Like your two trucker-mouthed sisters, for example.

I think it’s &!)$%$**& better if I teach him myself.

Anyway, I made the common mistake of not seeing my opponent’s side of things. After watching sexy TikTok dances all day, Smartacus just wanted to de-stress.

And here I was, in need of a small chug of whiskey and a pillow, any pillow, maybe a dream or two, the one I have where I’m Gilligan and Mary Ann loses her suit while swimming laps in the lagoon.

“Mary Ann, don’t panic! I’ve got a towel!” I say, then hold up a small cocktail napkin.

So, no, neither dad nor son was seeing the other person’s side of things; someone had to snap.

There was also dust everywhere from all the floor work, and we were both sneezing and burping, our eyes watering. White Fang was out in the yard, digging up the grass, I don’t know why. Boredom? Anxiety? I suppose even wolves are freaked out by long-overdue house renovations.

Where would it stop?

When it is darkest, God appears. The floor installers finally finished, and the appliance repair guy returned, and for a small bribe, spliced in a new icemaker hose (swear to gawd, he wanted $20 cash to save me from a $100 invoice.

“OK Borat,” I said. “It’s a deal.”

After all this, I finally sat down to watch the World Series, since I kind of love baseball with every fiber of my being. I soon realized the reconnected TV wasn’t working. Every 30 seconds the picture would pixelate and fritch (a vulgar technical term I just made up). The audio would cut out too.

At that point – pure exhaustion – I didn’t really care.

Then, after a few minutes, I started to care. First, I cared only a little. Then, as my mind flipped through all the injustices of the day – the incontinent fridge, Borat’s bribery, the soy chorizo — I started to care a lot.

“I can handle this,” I thought of this TV fritch, though there was no indication that was one bit true.

We changed cable providers a few months back – another dreamy experience — and I realized the old cable box was still hooked up. So I started pulling out unnecessary cables like so much fettuccini…pounds and pounds of black pasta, flying this way and that…it was like the Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Did that help? Of course not. It was mostly just something to do since I was tired and couldn’t fully enjoy the baseball game.

Today, I look forward to spending two hours on the phone with my cable provider, navigating phone trees and being disconnected, in hopes of enjoying some fritch-free TV.

Life, huh? Challenges abound. Soybeans sneak up on you. Leaks too.

Just remember: I’ve got a nice towel.

17 thoughts on “Hot-Buttered Fun

  1. Gotta hand it to you Chris, the stuff you work on around your house I would never even try…I know what I’m not good at. It’s better for everyone if I just write the check to someone who knows what they’re doing. The room looks great! Good luck with the TV. And go Dodgers!

  2. Congrats on getting through the house update, and if you ever find a S-Video cable, let me know what it’s for.

  3. Priceless! I have always said the #1 character trait every girl should look for in a potential mate is that they are handy with home fix-its. Number 2 is that he loves to cook. This man does not actually exist…But a girl can dream. Love your cocktail napkin! Keep it at the ready. You never know when a rich widow might drop by. Enjoy your beautiful renovations!

    1. Caroll,
      I love to cook. We had been married about three years and one evening I came home from work and when I went through the kitchen I saw dinner being prepared. I looked in one of the pans and added some water to something and got the response, “You just bought the job.” I did most f the cooking for the next 56 years until my wife passed. I also bought a house from the freeway and had it delivered to my lot and did all the work putting it into use. At 84 years of age I am still able to do most of the repairs for my current home.

  4. Don’t face the black widows without an inexpensive tyvek suit…….Home Depot? best wishes with all the renovations. It will lift your spirits for sure.

  5. Hey, Chris,
    I never got to work on a Victorian but in 1976 we moved into a Craftsman house in Long Beach that was built in 1904. It had been turned into a 5 unit apartment, definitely illegal, but I set about restoring it to a single family home. What an education. However, the lumber company that delivered the original stuff was still in business and did they ever help me with my problems. Never again will I attempt this. Your project looks amazing but sometimes photos do not show everything, do they?

  6. Chris, one look at your televisions input/output panel and all I can say is the 70’s called and they want their TV back…

  7. Chris, your new flooring looks so good! I am moving into a new home in a few weeks and have to do a few things, but I will be paying someone to do it! Re your television and the Dodgers . . . . I would literally be sick if I couldn’t watch them play! I have been a big fan of the Dodgers since I was a kid when they came to LA. They are so good this year – I think Turner might be my favorite, as he turns so many great defensive plays! This is our year!

  8. The flooring does look beautiful and glad the renovations turned out just the way you wanted. About that television…I also installed new flooring, got new furniture (couch/coffee table) painted, etc…just last year, and realized my ancient TV belonged in the Museum of Broadcast Communications. The delivery guys from ABT were very amused as they hauled the old relic out. (I also divorced my longtime, pricey cable provider and started streaming.)
    Lynn Graves from Books Booze and Banter (not necessarily in that order) said your book should be mailed out this week! I’m anxious to read it!

  9. Inside secret: Roger Owens (THE Peanut Man @ Dodger Stadium) is (or was) old and retired, like us and got married a few years ago. We used to meet and check out hamburger joints, like the Apple Pan.

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