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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hammered and Nailed #10: Writer may be done (in) before kitchen

     After I am found crouched, naked and screeching, clawing at my face in the ruins of our shattered kitchen, which I've broken apart with the same axe I've just used to murder my family, investigators will no doubt pore over this column for subtle signs of impending breakdown.
        "Of course it's plain in retrospect," a solemn Northbrook police official will intone, trying to suppress his pleasure at doing a real news conference, as the TV stations run, again and again, that same five-second clip of me being manhandled into the back of a van by six sheriff's deputies, looking very much like Quasimodo tied to the whipping post.
      You see, the kitchen ...
      No, no, I'm not quite ready to talk about it yet. A bit of background first. If you remember, two weeks ago, our contractor had begun putting up our beautiful maple cabinetry, only to find the main cabinets were too short, by 10 and 3/4 inches. Quite a lot, really.
     We left off just as the home improvement store was being big-hearted about correcting the error they had inflicted upon us, and I was grateful to have the problem remedied with only an additional two-week delay
     So, mirabile dictu, the cabinets, Round Two, actually arrive when the store says it will. They start to go up and, over the weekend, my wife and I—again—re-enact those mutual fund TV commercials where the young couple stands in the construction site, making goo-goo eyes at each other and marveling at the progress of the work. Except, of course, we are middle-aged and our kitchen isn't the Taj Mahal Kitchen those TV couples always build, despite being about 22 years old.
     Anyway, we're standing in the dim kitchen, on the thick rose-colored paper protecting our slate floors. And the thing seems like it's getting DONE. Yes, I just wrote about how it is disastrous to be optimistic, to even for a moment let yourself think, "Smooth sailing . . ." 
     But still, I mean, it isn't as if the cabinets could be screwed up TWICE, right? I mean, it couldn't happen AGAIN. That's impossible. Right?
      Ah, hahahahahahaha . . .
      It was about 11:20 a.m., Monday. I was working upstairs. It was Presidents Day, no need to go downtown to work. I had started the day working on my own overdue work, when work called with some work work I needed to work on immediately (cue the guys from "Monty Python," chanting "work work work work" and you will begin to understand the tenor of my life).
     Our two boys, joined by two additional boys called up by my wife from Central Casting, as if we didn't already have boys aplenty, tore around the house awhile until, finally, my wife herded the bunch out to an animal show (talk about coals to Newcastle). There was a moment of hot coffee and quiet, the kind of "ahhh" moment when people whose lives aren't a skidding train wreck from hell can sit back and think "Life is good."
     I sipped the coffee, sat back, and got as far as "Life is . . ." when a voice called from downstairs. The workmen beckoned me into the kitchen. I wish I could quote them verbatim, but here my memory blurs, rather like the drug scene from "Easy Rider," all solarized close-ups of mouths moving in slo-motion and screeching bad trip music.
      The gist was: The cabinets were wrong again. Not too tall. Give the store points for variety. Now they were . . . everyone shout it together: too WIDE! And not all of them. Just one little cabinet, about the size of a bread box, that is supposed to sit way up, by the ceiling, where one wall meets the other.
     Too wide. By an inch and a quarter.
     They said this would stop things cold. I mumbled something like, "Um, can't you put in the rest of the cabinets while we figure this out?" and the answer, again approximating for shock, was something like, "Gosh, Mr. Steinberg, this is the centralo-keystone cabinet. All the others line up against it. And the lower cabinets, if we put them in first, our ladders would grind them to flinders when we put in the uppers."
     I don't think I pressed my palms tight against my ears and fled, but I did walk out of the kitchen saying, "Let's wait for my wife to get back."
     One thing I'm certain of is it's not our fault. I doubt we said, "And this cabinet--the tiny one that goes up by the ceiling. Make it an inch and a quarter too big."      
     So now, with the column due, we're in limbo. The store said a more involved version of "Tough." We considered a series of nonsensical solutions. My wife giddily ushered me into the kitchen. "See," she announced, her eyes glittering, "we can put a wine rack there. No need for a cabinet. Sure, it'll be odd to have wine bottles near the ceiling, where the heat rises, but nobody will notice." I suggested a stereo speaker, a granite cornerstone, and other DOA ideas that would also look horrible.
     Our only hope is that our contractor, Tom the Flexible, can cut down the cabinet with sufficient finesse so that the result won't haunt us for the rest of our lives. "Ooh, nice kitchen. And what a funny little trapezoidal cabinet!"
      You know, when construction began on the kitchen, on Dec. 9, I knew the work wouldn't be done on schedule, by Jan. 31, but I figured, it would be done by spring. Now I'm not so sure about that. What I am sure about is, the way we're going, that I'll be done long before spring. Done as in "finished. Kaput." Let this be a public warning.
                                                     —Originally published February 23, 2003 

1 comment:

  1. having done one gut re-hab (back when we didn't have any money) and lived thru another (back when we could wave the magic checkbook), i'm enjoying the hell out of these repeats.
    and i keep hearing the voice of philip bosco in the movie "the money pit": "two weeks. tops."


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