Sippican Cottage

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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

MEEZPOPS and Other Discontents

Well, we’re not skirmishing just yet. Still reconnoitering in the kitchen. This is an appendage of the heating system of the house. An appendix, I think. I’m not a doctor, but it was full of nasty stuff, and had burst, so that certainly sounds like an appendix. The house had an elderly oil-fired boiler, and miles of baseboard radiators running hither and yon and to and fro. They weren’t toasty, but they certainly were toast. The house had sat vacant while the bank foreclosed on it, and all the water in the copper pipes had frozen. This caused them to burst. The jacket of the boiler also froze, and cracked. It does get cold here. In most places, a frozen pipe just gets kind of slushy, and you thaw it out and you’re back to rinsing dishes in the sink. In western Maine, the temps get substantially below zero, and stay there, and you get ice as hard as figure skating with a peg leg. The pipes split wide open. Every mile of the radiators would have to go. I’ll miss the razor sharp exposed fins on the pipe, said no one ever.

But on the bright side, the floor sure was shabby. It’s birch tongue and groove strip flooring, the kind of floor that renovation TV hosts ooh and aah at when they discover it under the shag carpeting from the seventies. I certainly oohed and aahed over the kitchen floor. Ooh, it’s birch, I said. Aah, the hell with it, we’ll have to cover it up, I said, ten seconds later. It’s got holes drilled all over it, eleventy layers of adhesive stuck to it, gigantic patches in it where you could espy the ghosts of the original cabinetry in it, and a dished out area in the middle that feels like an empty kiddie pool when you walk over it. I know that doesn’t sound like any kind of bright side, but there was no scintilla of an inkling of a chance I could refinish it effectively, so it sounded great to me. It was a relief to not have to even try.

The electricity in the room was interesting. The overhead light was served by knob and tube wiring, the original equipment in the house. The electric stove had a more modern hookup, with a 220v forty-amp plug, with a bit of bare wire showing to give you a tingle when you tried to retrieve a Nerf gun dart from behind it. The plugs on the wall were wired by a cavalcade of inebriated electricians and ill-informed handymen, or the other way around, it’s hard to tell. There were of course, no cover plates on the plugs, because no one knows how to fit cover plates on a shingled backsplash. Go ahead, search for it on Google. They’ll probably send you here, to be told you can’t do it. The electrical box directly over the sink didn’t have a cover plate, either. Only one side of the duplex box was filled, with a light switch for an undercabinet light fixture with no bulb in it. You could probably put your finger in the socket and flip the switch to get your arrhythmia sorted out after a brush with the back of the stove. Someone had helpfully put a piece of electrical tape over half of the open hole in the junction box. You know, for safety.

I’m informed there may be as many as 330 million persons living in the United States right now. I’m surprised that we got the numbers that high with my sink/plug arrangement in use. I figure about half of ’em would have been killed by it in the last 20 years alone. Only a bath toaster could have been more effective in the MEEZPOPS (Maine Electrical Zero Population Scheme).

Here’s the original equipment back door, that leads out to the back porch. There was once a catwalk leading to the porch from the front of the house, and it appears everyone came and went through this door. And about 700 dogs, by the depth and number of the gouges on the door and frames. That metal plate on the door is a telltale sign, and not a sign of something good. The door was built like a tank, but some human bazookas used to live here. The door had been nibbled away over decades by numerous attempts to pry the door open with anything but the key. By the splintered look of the hole behind the plates, the crowbar-ier the better was the decision tree for forced entry. There’s no crime where we live, so I assume it was just the fire department coming to the rescue, over and over, and extinguishing the occupants every time they reached for a dropped spatula behind the stove, or tried to turn on the light while washing dishes.

The kitchen had two, big windows facing south, looking out over a garden gone to seed, some fields, a distant roadway, a grass airport, some mountains, a forest, and a big, winding river. Other than that, there was nothing to look at. The windows were total losses. The roof had been leaking into the wall cavity for years, and soaked the windows over and over. There was a plastic cup on one windowsill to catch the overflow. When it rains indoors, you should take the hint and fix the roof, but no one ever took any hints in this place. The windows would have to be replaced. Windows that big cost beaucoup bucks. Pretty much everything in a kitchen costs dearly. But I wasn’t worried. Because we had no money, we never had to worry about what things cost. If the answer to, “How much is it,” is a number of any kind, you can ignore the answer. It’s easy and restful to be poor.

[To be continued]

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