The Colonel’s Plan – Where’s My STUFF?

September 25th, 2018

Dear Daddy –

It’s been a bit since I’ve worked on the pink bathroom. Susan was having surgery, and Dawson was coming to stay, so I wanted to get the green bathroom downstairs in shape to be used. That meant sealing the grout, caulking, and—very important—getting a door up. I believe I’ve talked about that already, missing hinges and all. But all of that is done, and, though there’s still work to do in the green bathroom, the pink one has tile in place that hasn’t been grouted. Without grout, tile stuck to the SimpleMat or the MuscleBound adhesive mats (I use whichever one the store has when I need it) tends to fall. I find the MuscleBound holds the tile better, but the SimpleMat is more broadly available. In any event, they expect you to put the tile up and grout immediately. Not so for me, especially with all the tile that needs to be cut.

The living room, before clean-our. The 2×4 on the left is holding up a section of the ceiling, blown out by a lightning strike c. 2010. The mounted jigsaw is behind it. The table saw, center, is buried.

So today I grouted one wall of the pink bathtub. Rather frustrating work, what with the grout glopping all over the place as you go (wasteful process!), but I got the wall done. I may do the last bits today—the narrow wall on the end, and the trim above the toilet and sink. Then again, I may decide to let some of the dried grout scale off my hands for a while, so I can get them coated again on a later date.

Before any more work in the bathroom, though, I need to continue the project begun while I was putting up the green bathroom door—that of starting to make sense of all the stuff you left behind that might be useful for working on this house. The big stuff is fairly easy. The bathroom fixtures couldn’t really hide. 4′ x 8′ sheets of plywood and sheetrock can only go so many places, although they can sure serve as counters to hold and awful lot of stuff. But tools can be anyway, hardware can be anywhere, screws, nails, rolls of wire… anywhere.

When we first moved in, your workshop was in the basement, in the room with the water tank and the laundry tub. I think that was because it was under the part of the house we lived in, and thus held some residual heat. I remember your drill press and bench-mounted jigsaw being in there. I don’t remember if the table saw was. As far as I know, as long as we lived in this house, the table saw was in the living room. It wasn’t long before you turned the living room into your actual workshop. One of the aforementioned stacks of plywood has always been in there, to serve as a workbench. It’s about 30″ high to this day. The table saw has always been in there. At one time, all of your tools were in there, if they weren’t laid out somewhere for a job.

I assume you used the basement, due to heat, until you got the East chimney insulated, and could use the living room fireplace for warmth. Mother remembers you having our Sears oil stove in there as an insert. It couldn’t have been there for long, because I don’t remember that at all. As long as I can remember, it’s been where it is today—in the basement, in the same room that was your first workshop. You kept it in operation until about 2005 or so, faithfully filling it with oil from gallon milk jugs. I believe I’ve already discussed that little bit of insanity.

As far as heating the living room goes, I remember us building open fires. It was in that fireplace that you taught me, using handfuls of sawdust from the cardboard refuse box under the table saw, about the pyrotechnic potential of dust. We also burned a lot of wood scraps—those you didn’t faithfully save and store in cardboard boxes with your important papers.

The drill press and jigsaw moved up there, and the living room was where you did your work. It didn’t have electricity—still doesn’t—and I remember the lights dimming every time you turned on the saw, and again when a tough board ran through it, because the saw and lights were all powered off one extension cord run to the dining room, fifty feet away. I ran a shorter cord to the library, but I still have to use extension cords for the limited electrical work I do in there.

A closer view of the boarded up space where a bay window is planned to go. Note that the drywall on this wall was never finished, because a bathtub was stored in front of it.

The living room today is a salvage operation, and the living room a year ago was impassable. Also, the tools and supplies, as of a year ago, were literally scattered all over the house. Two things happened: One, you bought so may tools that it was impossible to keep track of them. Two, you became so disorganized, because you had so much stuff, that you didn’t even attempt to put your tools together in one place. When you were working on a job, you would spend hours finding the tools you needed—scattered about in plastic bags, because, on your last job, you had done the same thing. When you found the tools, if you found them, you heaped them in plastic grocery bags and took them where they were needed. If you didn’t find them, you went and bought new ones. When the job was done, the plastic grocery bags were thrown wherever there was space for them… until you needed them again, and spent hours looking for them.

I’ve cleaned out a good deal of the living room, and the rest of the house is almost entirely cleaned out. So now the tools and supplies that I’m not using are largely dumped all over one of the garage bays out in the metal building. And that’s where I’ve been working to make sense of things, a little at a time. Hopefully, someday, I’ll have shelves, drawers and cabinets labeled with all the parts and pieces. And I’ll also be able to sell some things I don’t need, like new parts for the cars we’ve donated to Goodwill.

But first, this weekend, Ethan, Dawson and I had to move thirty boxes of VHS video tapes out of the walkways in the garage.

They’re in the garage attic, awaiting the day that someone either invents a process for recycling video cassettes, or someone has a burning desire to see every news program broadcast in the United States between 1988 and 2015.

‘Cause we got ’em.

Love,

–Steven

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