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A Man Who Has Nothing In Particular To Recommend Him Discusses All Sorts of Subjects at Random as Though He Knew Everything


I’m an odd person. That oddity suggest additional oddities to people that don’t know me that well. My sister in law asked my wife if I was planning on leaving the drain pipe from the upstairs bathroom hanging suspended and exposed just below the ceiling in the kitchen. Apparently it’s in my scope of behaviors to possibly do that. Look out for me. I might lash out and plumb any which way at any time.

But we’re making practical accommodations to our circumstances. We’re not daft. The ceilings in the house are something like nine feet high, depending on how many additional ceilings have been added to them over the years. We can solve our plumbing and HVAC problems using soffits. There isn’t enough room in the floor for plumbing to be hidden in it, and there are big timbers in the walls that block attempts to get plumbing around corners where you need it. Soffits are up high where only the cat goes, so they’re not intrusive.

Here’s an important interim step. The sink and the dishwasher are installed and working. The kitchen can’t be out of action for more than an hour at a time or you’ve failed as a renovator. Look at that pleasant window with a pleasant view for my pleasant wife to wash dishes for her pleasant children, and you know, me. We plopped a piece of demolished counter on top of the dishwasher, and plunked the coffee pot on it. The refrigerator continues to wander the kitchen aimlessly. It will eventually live across the aisle from the dishwasher, but that spot isn’t ready for prime time. Prime time comes just before paint time, by the way.

When the good sink works, you can get rid of the bad sink. The wall behind it was disaster, seven ways from Sunday. There was a little miniature room in there, built to produce a flat wall for the cabinets. It looked like an opportunity.

As you can observe from the Pisa-angled 2×4 stud arrangement, dyspeptic dyslexic drunkards have been renovating my house since Calvin Coolidge was making four-sentence State of the Union speeches.  But I realized right away the hidey-hole void was perfect for getting HVAC ducts into the back of the house. Yeah, I installed an entire HVAC system soon after all this. I’ll bore you with that later. But after running up and down the stairs forty times, and mis-measuring thirty-nine times, I figured that I could run an 8″ round duct inside that wall, straight up to the unheated back office and new bathroom (yeah, I’ll write about that, too, I’m warning you). On the way by, I could branch off and heat and cool the kitchen and the nearby master bathroom. Under the floor, it was a straight shot in a joist bay to the air handler plenum in the basement. Beautiful.

We put in ducts for later, filled up at least ten percent of the mouseholes with expanding foam, filled the cavity with insulation, and drywalled it closed. We were getting to the point where we needed kitchen cabinets. We couldn’t afford any, but luckily I already owned a set. No, Really. When life gives you lemons, some people suggest making lemonade. I march to a different drummer (Joe Morello), and I say, “Tell life to pound sand and slash at it with a box cutter and squirt lemon juice in the wounds.”

Quite a few years ago, I got stiffed at the most inopportune moment by a customer who begged me to build them a set of kitchen cabinets. I got a deposit, and bought a whole lot of material, because kitchens need acres of plywood and beaucoup ball-bearing slides and hinges galore (that’s a good stripper name) and many boardzawood. I worked diligently to produce an entire set of cabinet carcases from solid birch ply. The plywood was expensive, and pre-finished with a very tough polyester resin-type coating. As agreed in our contract, when I was half done, I asked for the second of three payments. This payment was due smack dab at the outset of the great recession, and I needed it. I had already been stiffed about a dozen times in succession when this woman joined the party. She didn’t just stiff me for the second payment, oh no. She somehow got the credit card company to claw back the first payment, too. Everyone at the various credit card offices and my bank and the payment acceptance place was very nice about it. They cheered me up by commiserating with me that I was entirely in the right, but tough luck, we’re taking the money anyway. I could have sued her, I suppose. I hear lawyers are cheap.

So I’ve had a dozen or so kitchen cabinet shells ready to go since the president had a drawl. I was saving them for a rainy day. Financial rain has been falling for the last fifteen years or so, so I figured now was the time. After all, they were mine. I mixed shellac and dark walnut pigment and sprayed the interiors that would be visible if the cabinets were open. I made the frames, door fronts, and doors out of any bits of hardwood hanging around the workshop, including some stuff I pulled off the walls in the kitchen. We salvaged the cup pulls from around the house, and spray painted them a bronze-y color. The exteriors are painted with some sort of magic potion they came up with recently, water based alkyd paint. Forget flying cars, we’ve got water based alkyd paint. That’s the future.

So I made lemonade, I guess, after all. But I do have a box cutter in my tool belt at all times, should the opportunity arise.

[No man writes for nobody. If you want to support Sippican Cottage, tell your internet friends the pixels are free here, and worth it. Thanks!]

8 Responses

    1. Hi Anne- Trust your instincts. Garbage disposals are actually kind of rare around here, and in New England, generally. I’ve never lived in a house that had one, or wanted one.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

    2. I grew up in the NEng countryside. Our garbage disposal was a compost heat by the garden. It was not unknown to meet a possum or raccoon in the evening when dropping the garbage on the compost heap.

      I finally got a garbage disposal several months ago in my Tx city residence. Don’t have the square footage for a compost heap.

      1. Hiya Gringo- I also grew up in New England, and we had a garbage pail outside the back door. It was a steel cylinder set in the ground with flip-top lid to step on and open. Once a week, the dirtiest man in Christendom would come by and empty it, cart it off, and feed it to his pigs. I was very little but I thought he was the coolest guy in the world, what with that milky eye of his, and the 1/2″ of cigarette always in the corner of his mouth.

        My mother didn’t think he was the coolest guy in the world, however, for some reason.

  1. This is now our second house with a combination of boiler/radiator heat and mini-split A/C. I absolutely love both systems since we have zero equipment in the attic to leak condensate or provide air leak paths from ducting, the radiators (in the new house they’re baseboard type, the old house had GEN-YOU-WINE cast-iron behemoths) have nice thermal mass and gentle heat (and let you dry your mittens and hat after rearranging the winter precipitation), while the mini-split systems are crazy-efficient and quiet. I intensely dislike forced-air systems, but that’s a personal thing.

    On a musical note (snicker) referencing your link above, if you like unusual time signatures try “Unsquare Dance” also by the Brubeck group. There’s even a weird video dance version of it out there:

    Strange time signatures is one of the reasons I’m an old (pre-80’s) Tull fan, too.

    1. Hi Blackwing- I installed a big heat pump with a big air handler a few years back. It was the first time in 10 years there was a thermostat on the wall that you changed, and it did things.

      As you can see from our link, Brubeck is a favorite at the cottage. Loved your link.

      Thanks for reading and commenting.

  2. Can’t do outdoor garbage here. We have bears–big ones with humps! The gov’t gave us “bear-proof” garbage bins, but they need to be kept in our non-existent garage or shed. Don’t blame DH for that– that is my call. I love the look and feel of this site–don’t want buildings messing that up! Garbage goes in bag, into the back of the car, and down into town to DD’s condo bin. See how nicely that works!! 🙂

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