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

Jinkies! A Mystery

I have a defective character, which I’m sure you’ve already noticed. When my mind gets a hold of things, I’m like a pit bull with a toddler. I gotta shake it back and forth until it stops being uncooperative. The black fibrous stuff I found stuck on the wall a few posts back vexed me.

It’s not like it mattered anymore. The plaster it was adhered to was safely sleeping elsewhere. But I don’t like not knowing things. I tried asking the internet, which is a fool’s errand, I know. Luckily, I fit the job description for that errand, so I gave it a go. I stand by my earlier assessment: the internet don’t know nothing. I’ll amend it though: what it does know probably ain’t so.

There are exceptions of course. If you were to skip the first three pages of Google results, you might find someone who knew what they were talking about. But you’d basically have to know the answer to an internet question before you started to evaluate what you’re looking at. I know Pluto is a planet, for instance. I can read the internet all day long and still know that, no matter how many “celebrity astronomers” in gaudy Hawaiian shirts, man-buns, and flip flops say otherwise on the first three pages of Google.

I struck out, swinging, looking for any reference to the black, fibrous stuff on the intertunnel. It went from an interesting question for me, to a grudge. I was angry at it for being there, living rent-free in the back of my head. You know, they always say, “Don’t demolish angry.” Well, I’ve said that. The teevee tells you to demolish things by putting your foot through them, a vanishingly bad idea. But I’m only human. I looked at the last bastion of tree-fort carpentry in the kitchen, the pseudo-pantry, and started whaling on it with the technique of a Hatfield hammering on a McCoy’s house. Of all the byzantine structures in the house, this one was the most Constantinopolitan. Everything was made from everything and nailed willy-nilly into everything else. There was bacon grease from a rasher served in 1901 on the wall, and every one since. The nails held like the devil, and the nicotine that served as glue was even stronger, I think. I whacked at that mess until I was a spent force. It was all worth it, because jinkies, it solved my mystery. This stuff was on the wall behind three layers of other stuff:

The kitchen walls had once been covered by rubbery sheets of faux tile. The glue they used should have been used on space shuttle tiles, not kitchen walls. I yanked and peeled and tugged and wrestled with one corner of it, but it came off so hard that the backing stayed put. Black fiber backing. It wasn’t asbestos, so it didn’t really matter what it was, but I was instantly beatific. I took the whole wall panel off and threw it away, and that made room in the back of my head for other vexing problems. You know, like why isn’t winter called allergy season on I’m allergic to fish, and they don’t all die in the winter.

We’ll keep the fly wall there, and make a pantry inside it out of melamine. But with the last of the demolition out of the way, we can finally have a sweepable floor in the kitchen.

My wife wandered into Marden’s. If you’re not from Maine, it’s hard to describe a Marden’s. It’s like a 1970s department store mated with an overstock bazaar. It has cultural overtones in Maine that defy description. I got it at Marden’s is their slogan, I think, or they might be referring to influenza, I’m not certain. Anyway, you get a knowing nod of the head when you tell your Maine neighbors that you bought something at Marden’s. It’s an interesting mixture of pity and envy.

My wife and I have a code we use for items in our house from Marden’s. We produce camel words from the store’s name and the item itself. So, for instance, we wipe our feet on a marpet inside the front door. My son sleeps on a martress. Marden’s is good for some things, but not others. Don’t ask us about the time we ate marlic.

Well, they had lots of flooring at the local Marden’s. They ranged from ugly to downright unattractive. Then again, if you go to Home Depot these days, all the first quality flooring is all hideous gray stuff, and costs two or three times as much. I have a pretty low opinion of ersatz flooring of all kinds, and kind of snicker when I hear teevee hosts describing something as “luxury vinyl.” Make up your mind, which is it, luxury, or vinyl? Can’t be both, surely.

Anyway, Marden’s had this big pile of discontinued flooring from Lowe’s house brand. It was discontinued because it wasn’t gray, I think. Other colors aren’t allowed anymore, I gather. It was really thick for click-lock flooring, about 5/8″ if you had a tape measure, and some kind of millimeters, if you come from the soccer regions of the globe. It was commercial grade, too, which means you can’t get a thumbnail directly into it, but not much more. It was about as cheap per square foot as the plywood underlayment, so we bought a ton of it. We’ll run it through other rooms when we’re done with the kitchen. They’re all a mess.

Man, this house is an angular banjo. Nothing is square or plumb or level or at right angles to anything else. I built a boat once, it was easier than just framing a wall in this dump. I got out the big triangoo, as my son used to say when he was a toddler, and checked to see if the door would clear the floor when it swung three feet in. No soap. The frame was leaning into the room. Gotta fix it first.

The door is made of birch and weighs fourteen tons, I’m pretty sure. It’s original equipment in the house, I think, but it’s been moved at least once, I’ll bet. The doorframes in a Victorian house like ours aren’t like what you get nowadays. They’re solid oak, a full 1-3/4″ thick and 5-1/2″ wide. Beastly. They’re so stiff that they’re only toenailed at the floor and header to hold them in place. I cut the upper toenails, and leaned the frame back until it was plumb-ish, and nailed it back off.

We’ll open the Marden’s boxes tomorrow.

[To be continued. If you like what you read, please tell a interfriend about Sippican Cottage]

3 Responses

  1. I’m starting to think about that old line about how to fix my car. Jack up the radiator cap and roll a new car underneath, then lower the cap.
    I am absolutely impressed you know how to do all this stuff, after your work at replacing glass eyes. Can you come out to my house in California and take a look at a few things in my house? I’ll buy you dinner.

  2. I’d guess that the original carpenter that built the house didn’t bother to use a level, figuring that with no foundation under half of it, why bother? It probably started out reasonably level, but a hundred-plus years of Maine weather and winters has taken its toll.

    Our old 1901 farmhouse had floors that were “interesting”. One great thing about it was that we put my grandfather’s old secretary-type desk (you know, the one with the .22 hole he’d patched when he missed the squirrel) in a nook at the “low end” of the house. It worked great with our cat since his plastic golf balls would all roll to that point, from the living room through the dining room and over to the corner. Saved a lot of effort in collecting them from under other furniture; need a fresh ball to play with, retrieve it from under the secretary.

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