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Home Improvement

The 1918 Remodel Starts

We’re in the middle of remodeling out home.

We live in the Sugarhood. This of course is the tail end of Sugarhouse. I think my greatest coup was getting the DMV to get my city address as Sugarhouse even though we live on the very furthest end of the designated area. Something about sugar beets make me smile even though my mother would tell you I am more of a yam guy.

The house was built in 1918. While the final nail was being hammered into our classic workman’s bungalow, here is a sample of things happening in the world. Woodrow Wilson delivered his 14-Points speech, the Spanish Flu pandemic hit the world, the Sedition Act is passed in Congress, Vladimir Lenin got shot but survived (can only imagine what happened to the shooter, Fanya Kaplan), the Boston Red Sox defeat the Chicago Cubs for the World Series title and World War I ends.

Famous people born in 1918 include minister Oral Roberts, announcer of SNL Don Pardo, tennis player Bobby Riggs, writer Mickey Spillane, Howard Cosell, physicist Richard Feynman, director Ingmar Bergman, hottie Rita Hayward, Vice President Spiro Agnew and ballplayer Ted Williams. A mixed bag but they all came into the world the same time the house was built.

Also, for my cousin-in-law Ian Laurenzi, Max Karl Ernst Ludwig Plank won the Nobel Prize in physics for originating the quantum theory. I am clearly too dumb to understand either quantum theory or why anybody with a Nobel Prize would have five names.

The house has been a non-stop collection of mysteries solved through tearing down walls or climbing through the attic and basement. I’ve discovered a fleet of matchbox cars scattered throughout the yard, dog toys and broken plates and glasses get turned over with every shovel put into the dirt. The space under the staircase was filled with coal and children dolls. There is an alpine ski stashed in the rafters and the house came with an empty keg of Molson beer.

I’ve taken to calling interesting found items as treasure and there is no shortage of treasures in the house.

My office has the beginnings of a mural of koi painted on the walls. They were left incomplete and I can’t let myself paint over them even though I don’t like koi or murals. We finished a remodel of the basement last year by adding carpet and refinishing the walls. It feels like home with the television downstairs with a guest bedroom. We take our meals on the nights that I don’t work in front of the TV. There is something calming being downstairs with the cool air and dimmable lights.

We decided that it was time to get remodeling the upstairs because we both hated the cheap carpet laid over the hardwood floors. The carpet was an off white that was stained by dogs and my carelessness. I feel like wiping your feet at the door as being akin to servitude and the dogs are, well, they are old messy beasts. There were waves from where the carpet had been pulled up from the tackless strips (funny thing: there are more tacks on a tackless strip than one could imagine. The damn things are capable of lacerating any barefoot in a single step—like a black mamba.). I’ve tripped over the carpet a gazillion times and Erin absolutely hated the looks, feel and smell of the carpet.

Good riddance.

Recruiting my pal, 2011 Raskin’s New Friend of the Year Award winner, Gwyn Fisher, we made quick work of the carpet and loaded it into the truck. Hauling it out to the SLC Dump, I was struck by a couple of things. One, handling carpet feels like shaking hands with a thousand people then making a sandwich without washing your paws. Disgusting. Two, the dump on a hot day with water buffalos hosing down the citizen dropped trash smells like nothing on the planet. Hot, wet, vile trash bites into your nose and cuts through your clothes. There is nothing like it in Salt Lake and should be experienced by everyone once. I like the experience of going to the dump but the smell really takes a bit away from your soul.

Garbage men should be paid more.

Left with destroyed, bare flooring, we decided that we needed to get new hardwood floors and try and finish the house. What little I know about home improvement is anchored by the idea that any improvements need to be time appropriate. Since the house was built in 1918, I figure a 15-year window on either side would fly with our aesthetics. There is nothing worse than a 1980s kitchen in a craftsmen house but lime green tiles would totally fly in a house built in 1984. Funny how our tastes change through the years but there are some timeless looks.

We’re a couple of days away from selecting the hardwood, bids are in for new cabinets and countertops and the walls are swatches with sample paint determining our course of action. The process is overwhelming but like everything else we’ve done, we’ll find the resolve to muscle our way through this.

Ben Raskin bartends at Keys On Main Wednesday through Saturday. Follow him on Twitter @BennyRaskin. Podcast? Yep. He is of the opinion they probably should have bought a condo.

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About Ben Raskin

Born in El Cajon, raised in Las Vegas, educated in Reno and living in Salt Lake City. I bartend, write, box and live in Sugarhouse UT.

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