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JWR 3.35 - A Small, Good Thing




A few months ago, by now I guess, I painted my living room.  I had intended to paint it last Christmas, but after removing wall paper in my bathroom and kitchen, then painting those rooms as well as a bedroom, I decided to call it quits just because I was so sick of it.  Edging and the blue tape and drop cloths and rinsing out brushes and rollers got on my nerves and I just thought enough was enough.


And just like washing your car can be frustrating as you find every new nick and scratch and rust spot, painting can be just as frustrating when you see the sloppy jobs people before you did around wood trim and vents and lighting fixtures, poorly spackled areas, and hints of the hideous colors previously painted.


So, one day I just did it.  I had the paint and materials and I just did it.  First the ceiling, then the walls then the edging.  Most intelligent people use an extended roller to do the ceiling.  Not me, baby.  The drawback was I had to stand mostly under the roller and specks of paint would fall, many of which hit me in the face and eyes.  They stung at first; eventually they merely felt slightly cool hitting my eye ball.


I stopped for an hour when my parents came by with some food (pizza and chicken) and ate in the basement with them and my brother and niece.  They talked about whatever, but I sat in a barrel chair in the corner and ate my food and drank my soda and thought about what I had to do left.  I felt like some obsessed freak not talking to anyone and having the single purpose in my mind to finish the painting.


It took twelve hours of work, from noon to one in the morning when I rinsed out the brush, and the living room and hallway were a lovely bright Ripe Corn.


I went into the bathroom and looked in the mirror at my eyes which were totally bloodshot from the paint falling into them.




At one in the morning, with a paint speckles face, hands and arms, concentration sweat dried to a tacky film on your body and sore muscles, a shower is the perfect remedy before hitting the sack.


But wait; thereís more.  A quick side trip to the kitchen and the refrigerator, my right hand found a Miller High Life, the long necked bastard responsible for more than one headache the next morning, him and his friends.


Have you ever partaken in a shower beer?  Tell me about it.


There are two kinds of shower beers.  Thereís the cold shower beer, perfect after working in the yard on a hot summer day and thereís the warm shower beer, perfect for cleansing the body of paint debris after a twelve hour day.


The hot water makes the bottle sweat even more and the conflict of hot water hitting your skin and cold beer hitting your throat is truly an affirmation of Godís love.


Wash some, take a couple large pulls.  Wash some more, a couple more pulls.  Stand under the hot water for a few, finish the last of the beer and then get on to bed because youíve had a tough day and thereís few things as good as going to sleep after a hard dayís accomplishment with the tart taste of a beer drunk for refreshment rather than inebriation.




I didnít think that the jackhammer was that heavy.  I thought thirty, forty pounds.  Imagine my surprise when we hauled it out of the back of Scottís dadís Jeep to the tune of eighty pounds.


A couple years ago we knocked down Danís parentsí garage with a little help from a sawzall, crowbars and sledge hammers and all the Dr. Pepper we could drink.  So Scott tells us theyíre busting up the back stoop at his parentsí house Ďcause theyíre putting in a deck.


I think, okay, weíll have a few beers, a few laughs, a few swings with the sledges and weíll be out of there in an hour, maybe two.  After less than a dozen swings, I understood the strength of concrete.  I saw the concrete episode of Modern Marvels a couple weeks after the stoop incident, so I didnít appreciate what I was up against.  The six inch thick, eight inch wide first step busted apart nicely, just a couple swings.  The corners of the eighteen inch thick stoop cracked off neatly, but we were making no headway after that initial bout of progress.  We took turns swinging away and gave up quicker and quicker each consecutive attempt.


Finally, we tossed around ideas that I figured boiled down to 1) hard: get some pick axes or 2) easier: rent a jackhammer.


Someone brought out a six inch chisel and a ballpeen hammer which would have been okay for chipping our names in a cement block, but not for breaking it apart.  Scott worked away at that for five minutes then it was off to the hardware store to rent Mr. 80-pound jackhammer.


Between Scott, Dan, Canada Jon and me, we got the hang of the beast and began chipping away chunks: some tiny, some sizable.  Eighty pounds is a lot of weight and as it vibrates roughly in your grip, you may think, oh, shit, thatís got to be murder.  But actually, as long as you have the hammer going, the weight is probably only half there because itís pushing up against the ground as well as slipping back down.  Repositioning it can be a bitch because youíre on a piece of rock that is getting progressively smaller and youíre trying to position the beast exactly where you want to pound away, but it will move and find its own place to rest.


One of my turns I was going well.  Nice sized chunks were coming off at a pretty regular clip and I was feeling good.  Maneuvering it was not too tough, but I certainly felt the wear in my arms when lifting it and setting it in a certain place.  I ditched the gloves early as well as the chem lab safety goggles and opted for my K-Mart sunglasses.  As I was working, sweat was running down my face, into my eyes, making my vision a little blurry, but I didnít want to stop to wipe my face because I really felt good about the progress we all were making.  We broke for lunch eventually and I went to the bathroom to wash up when I noticed my eyes were totally bloodshot.  I went out and grabbed a brat and some chips and rested for a bit, enjoyed the beautiful day before getting back to it.


In the end, we reduced the stoop to grapefruit sized chunks of cement, a couple basketball sized ones maybe.




As you may/may not know, some of my friends opened a bar in Kenosha.  Rookies, 22nd Ave, Kenosha.  [Gone now.]  Zach, Lynn and Nate as well as a couple other fucks, Brian and Beth, have joined up to make this American dream a reality.


A couple weeks before they opened, I went there one Saturday afternoon to check it out.  They were painting the walls above the height of doorways a deep red.  I was digging the way it looked.  At first I wasnít sure I was going to stick around, but I did, I helped out anyway I could: I pulled staples and nails out of the walls and the ceiling behind the bar, I wiped down the paneling and the ceiling  behind the bar, which, by the way, is murder of the shoulders.  All of us were working away, had music playing, drank Sprecherís root beer on tap, joked around and made a lot of progress.  Every surface that was painted looked incredibly improved from the wood trim along the bar to the red walls above eye level.  The wiped down ceiling looked fresh and ready for more smoke to make it dingy once again.


But really, the accomplishment is the reward.  Setting out to do the task and then completing it makes it worth while.  And being able to do it with friends makes it all the more special because thereís someone who knows what you did because they did it too and it brings you closer.  If itís something small like freshening up a bar or breaking a stoop or something large like creating Mount Rushmore or building the Empire State Building, the end result is the same: pride.  And then you can laugh about things like all the crooked holes drilled into the face of Mount Rushmore when youíre eighty and the remaining coworkers from back then laugh along while you talk about it because they drilled their holes crooked too hanging off a facial feature by a single chain with a sixty pound new invention called a jackhammer as your main tool with compressed air being pumped from down below to power this tool.  Or you know what new curse someone invented while swinging a sledge hammer.  Accomplishment is a small, good thing.




Copyright © 2003 John Lemut