M. Giant's
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Wednesday, November 13, 2002  

When we bought our house, it had what’s called a half-finished basement. Generally that means that half of the basement has been converted to usable living space. Our basement was finished by a previous owner. Except when I say “finish,” in this case, I’m not so much using that term in the “decorate and make livable” sense as I am in the “Mortal Kombat” sense.

If anything had made us decide not to buy the house, it would have been the basement. The lower half of the walls were covered with cedar paneling, which was nice. But that was about it. Everything else looked like it had been phoned in by Hildi on Trading Spaces. I’ve already told you about the ceiling. The upper half of the walls were done up in Masonite—you heard me—that had this vomitous orange-and-brown-on-cream wheat pattern printed on it. That shit had primer covering it within an hour of our closing and two coats of paint before we went to sleep. And the carpet was an abomination of seventies shag that was so orange, so deep, and so very, very orange (and did I mention orange?) that when somebody accidentally spilled a can of Sunkist™ on it and went to clean it up, they couldn’t find the spill. That carpet was gone within a month, and it only lasted that long because I needed time to find a hazmat suit before I was willing to rip it up.

The previous owner in question is a man we’ve come to know as “Dr. Jellyfinger.” Through the discovery and repair of one of his half-assed projects after another, we have concluded that he is the worst carpenter in the entire world. Worse than Gene Hackman in Unforgiven. Worse than Tim “The Tool Man” Taylor. Worse than me, even.

That didn’t stop him from trying, though. A lot. Way too much, in fact. In addition to what I’ve already mentioned, his legacy to us included an ugly-ass curio wall/divider thingy in the kitchen (now gone), more Masonite-as-building material in the bathroom (still there and needing to be re-papered every few years), and enough sub-code electrical wiring to build a time machine. My favorite thing that he did to our house was when he bought a king-sized mattress and couldn’t fit it up the stairs, so he tore the stairs out, hauled the mattress up, and “built” new stairs with what appeared to be scrap lumber. I could have done a better job with Legos™. When he moved out, he abandoned the mattress and our realtor had to have it sawed into pieces to get it out of there. Now every couple of years I have to rip out a step and replace it with a new one because it’s starting to rock loose and threatening to pitch us off into space. Thanks, Dr. Jellyfinger. If someone had done that to my house after I’d bought it, I’d sue the bastard. Then I’d make him build his own house and force him to live in it, but he pretty much already did that and it didn’t seem to bother him.

In fact, one day he actually showed up on our doorstep asking to come in and look around. I wasn’t home and we were in the middle of building our deck in the back yard, so the house was quite a bit short of presentable. Trash should have shut the door in his face, but he had his toddler with him and Trash was feeling so harried that night that she couldn’t formulate a polite refusal. So in he tramped, proudly pointing out all of the artifacts of his incompetence that we hadn’t yet stamped out (and mourning the ones we had, including the acid-flashback basement decorating scheme). If I’d been there, I probably would have responded with comments like “Yeah, that’s great. What the hell were you thinking?”

For the most part, we just live with our house’s amusing little foibles. We talk about fixing them a lot, but mostly we live with them. Because it’s when we go to fix them that the nightmares begin.

This past weekend, my dad and Trash’s stepdad came over to help me put a new ceiling in the basement to replace the old one that I hated. On Thursday night, I’d moved all of the lighter stuff out of the room (“lighter” meaning “everything but the TV and the couch”, which should not be confused with “nonessential,” oh, no, not at all). Friday night, Trash and I tore down what was left of the crappy old ceiling, as well as about nine hundred board feet of trim and crown molding.

Saturday morning, we began the actual project. And the bottom dropped out of our world.

More on that tomorrow.

posted by M. Giant 3:17 PM 0 comments


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