We called it the four corners room because it has four corners—four corners and six doors.
It is the space in the house between the bedroom, Erin’s office, the bathroom and the kitchen. It is exactly 6-feet long by 5-feet with two small closets. It’s the kind of room that we walk through 200 times a day yet never spend more than 20-seconds in it. The only exception to passing through the four corners room is when I find myself on my knees scrounging through one of the two closets looking for something in our medicine chest.
When taking over the house, there was a simple joy in naming the individual rooms. The four corners room was the first to be christened. It was followed by Erin’s office that was dubbed the closet room. Our 1918 Sugarhouse bungalow had a bedroom off towards the back of the house that had not one but two closets. The walk-in closet was added 20-years ago but the original closet was this narrow sliver of a room that had 9-foot ceilings and enough room for a child to walk through. The first order of business when we got the house was a sledgehammer and framing an archway. It was an important project in that it enabled me to put my imprint upon the house. Before we hauled two truck load of demolition to the dump, it was still the previous owner’s home.
The lesser known name for my office in the basement is the koi room. An ambitious artist attempted to paint murals of koi fish along the walls. She completed one and penciled in a second stopping for some unknown reason. I haven’t had the heart to paint over it. For what it is worth, I’ve taken ownership of the koi and still play with naming them.
The final room is the pantry room. It is the small space tucked under the stairs. Cramped and filled with all of our camping equipment, the pantry room holds no food but lots of mysteries. Between the treasure trove of toys hidden in between the walls and newspapers from the 1930s, it is an unique room. When we took control of the house, there was a dead space directly under the stairs. Framed in with tongue-and-grooved paneling, I never would have guessed in a million years what laid behind the stairs—a ton of coal.
Some crafty carpenter held the staircase up by building the rise-and-run of the steps on small pebbles of coal. Dirty and toxic, the coal was the only thing holding the staircase up and became the workhouse project of the second year we lived in the house. I spent the better part of a week hauling the coal out in 5-gallon buckets, careful not to collapse the stairs. Shoring up the stairs took an afternoon but I’ll never forget the sheer exhaustion I suffered removing the coal.
As a carpenter, I am no Jesus. Frankly, I think I am genetically programmed to be unable to find a 90-degree angle. Short of sprinklers, I have absolutely no confidence with plumbing. I know a thing or two about electrical work from working as an apprentice for three years but I am lucky to be able to hide most of my work behind dry wall. I am not a journeyman on anything but I love the work.
The smell of cut lumber, the sounds of nails being pounded and the feel of doing demolition work is rewarding. Rewarding because I spend most of my professional life getting people drunk. I hide behind a bar and tell stories and listen to lies. There is honor in being a bartender in the same sense there is an assassin’s creed. The apex of blue collar jobs, bartending is a fine profession but it lacks the rewards of building.
Owning tools and knowing how to use them is rewarding in a sense that harkens back to a time when men were expected to take care of their business. The kind of spirit that has a fellow roll up his sleeves put his cigar butt on the kitchen counter and figure out what is plugging the sink. It’s the confidence to take a chainsaw to a wind fallen tree and the knowhow to replace a breaker. I am not good at any of these things but I have trained myself not to be fearful while I try.
Hell, I figure that’s what most of the guys do anyway. Watch enough TV or read enough magazines/books and even the most inept man could figure out how to put up a ceiling fan.
We started a major project at the house a couple of weeks past. We’re ordering new cabinets and a countertop and getting to the task of refinishing the hardwood floors. I don’t think it is the amount of money we’re are spending that bothers me as much as the fact that everything takes twice as long as I thought it would.
The latest mystery solved at the home was what sort of subfloor lay underneath the linoleum in the kitchen. With hardwood floors throughout the top floor of the house, I quietly prayed that the oak run throughout the house. Nervously, I took a breaker bar and wedged it between the hidden hardwood and the particleboard the vinyl was glued to. My waffle-headed hammer worked the breaker bar gingerly crept through the subfloor and I lifted with my full weight.
Up came flying chunks of the flooring. I ran my finger through the years of grim and was stunned to discover dented but albeit beautiful hardwood. Eureka! For the last 7-years we’ve complained about the quality of the floor only to discover that there is life underneath them. I spent the better part of the day pulling out old flooring, linoleum and yanking nails out of the floor. It was thankless work. The dogs said nothing as they stared blankly at the kitchen being thrown into complete disarray but Erin appreciated the work.
In one quick yank of the breaker bar, we saved $6,400 dollars in new flooring. There under the greasy vinyl, I found a roll of the dice that paid off big. I like the idea of keeping the original flooring but more than that it was a relief to know that there was still some charm, hidden charm, left in the house.
While she left to go to Crossfit at 5pm, I called it a day. Putting away my tools, I reswept the floor for the 100th time and disrobed in the laundry room (ironically, the only room in the house that is named what it is). Grabbing a can of Miller Lite, I headed to the shower and filled the room with steam. Standing under the faucet, the water rinsed hours of sweat and dirt out of my hair as I sipped the beer. The base of the tub was discolored as slivers of wood and clumps of dirt washed off my legs and arms. Nicks and scabs from the day cleaned out as I alternate between soap and the suds.
The shower ended at the last swallow and I dried and dressed to survey the work. Not anywhere near being done but it was a start and I guess that would have to be good enough.