In the Zone Part IV: Bedroom Knobs and Broomsticks

It didn’t take long after the mudroom floor issues came to light for us to realize we were dealing with something similar in the master bedroom. An addition that was built along the opposite end and other side of the trailer, the master bedroom has two exterior walls that form a corner and span 22 feet and 18 feet, respectively. In that corner sits a portal to hell, I can only surmise, disguised as a fireplace that likely hasn’t worked properly since Elvis Presley paid a surprise visit to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. (It was December 21st, 1970, in case you’re hazy on the date. And Richard Nixon was still president.)

Having spent the better part of five months using that room to prime, paint, and repaint a seemingly endless number of doors, baseboards, and other trim, I was more than a little aware of the slope in that floor well before we discovered the reason behind the mudroom slope. I worried about it a lot and wondered often if we should open it up and have a look at the stringers before we put down carpeting, or if we should at least dig down along on the outside of the walls to see what was going on.

The Jarhead was less familiar with the slope in the master bedroom, having spent the bulk of his time in other parts of the dwelling and performing tasks that didn’t involve brushes and rollers but did require strength, agility and a facility with foul language that I simply hadn’t mastered. But by the time he got around to installing my painstakingly painted doors and trim in that room, even he realized something was off. And since the mudroom issues had come to light by then he, too, was afraid it would be expensive and a major pain in the ass to fix. (I’ve come a long way with my facility with foul language in case you hadn’t noticed.)

Out of respect for our brave men and women who’ve seen actual combat, I won’t equate what we were experiencing with PTSD, but I will go so far as to say we were more than a little gun shy. Having found materials like broom handles and spare siding serving as stringers in the mudroom, we could barely bring ourselves to contemplate what we might encounter next. In fact, after seeing what was holding up (or NOT holding up) the mudroom floor, I would not have been surprised to find tree limbs, discarded shelving, curtain rods, or a bundle of cardboard holding up portions of the floor in that bedroom.

I probably should have pressed the issue before the carpet went in when it was more cost-effective to do so. But I was afraid. How many times, after all, had I thought someone was breaking into the house when in fact the sounds I heard were the furnace starting or the washing machine draining between cycles? How many times had I feared I was having a heart attack or when in fact I merely had to burp? And how many times had I mentally convicted Donald Trump of being a gigantic narcissistic ass only to realize he was actually a gigantic narcissistic ass?

Okay. Bad example.

In any case before I could bring it up, I was forced to ask myself: Am I willing to push the Jarhead to open up the floor simply because it felt wonky? Am I willing to ask him to forego other tasks only to find the walls and floors had been built precisely as they should have been? More importantly, how on earth would I manage to live it down if I was wrong? Did I really want to die on that hill? (Pun fully intended.)

Having read all that, you’ll can probably imagine, what a double-edged sword it was when the Jarhead admitted that the slope of the bedroom floor was probably evidence that the room lacked footings. And how it felt like a guillotine descending above me when he gravely suggested that there was a better than even chance that the same was true with the exterior walls in the den.

Better? Better?? Don’t say better when what you’re saying is much, much worse!

But, with all the other major projects finished and Covid-19 vaccines offering us the chance to reconnect with family and friends we hadn’t seen in over a year, we decided to leave it alone for a while. It’s not as if the room was caving in—at least not as soon as the awning would have, anyway. Plus, with lumber getting scarce and spendy thanks to the ongoing pandemic, it made sense to hold off, stash some cash, and concentrate on finishing the smaller less expensive projects on our list.

Like installing hardware in the exterior door in that very same master bedroom.

Notice I didn’t say ‘replacing’ or ‘fixing.’ This is because there was nothing to fix or replace. For reasons unknown to me at the time, both the knob and deadbolt on the door that led the back deck (which you can clearly see in the before photos above) had been removed at some point after demo began. Which meant that, by the time I started priming, painting, and installing bathroom flooring, cold air had been streaming in through two holes the size of baseball-sized-hailstones for WHO KNOWS how long. And, because the door was binding at the top left and bottom right corners (mostly likely because it was framed without a proper header and was being pulled out of plumb by the wall without proper footings) I could not even pry it open to, say, escape a fire, if that had been my only way out. Which meant I would have to break a window instead, since none of them would open either.

I noticed doorknob problem when I started working on my painting projects in early December 2019, and found myself wondering how it could be that there had been three to six men onsite (including the Jarhead) on any given day since the end of October and despite being smart and skilled in the building trades, not one of them had devised a way to cover the holes and stop the cold air from coming in. It took little old Liberal Arts Annie to figure out you could stuff a bunch of rags in those holes and put an end to this bloody Dickensian misery.

Between you and me and the bedpost, it was meant to be a temporary solution. But days turned into weeks, and weeks turned into months, and so on. I got so used to seeing those rags, I didn’t even notice when the Jarhead installed an actual knob and deadbolt.

Later, when he asked me how I liked the hardware, I thought he meant the matte black knobs and hinges he had put on the interior doors several weeks before and said with a confused shrug that they were great. But since it wasn’t like him to ask my opinion on projects he’d completed that far in the past (because, honestly, it’s not like him to RECALL projects he’s completed that far in the past) I thought maybe HE was having second thoughts about the black knobs. So I asked how he liked them, and soon we were mired in a version of Who’s on First the likes of which would make Abbot and Costello cringe.

Anyway, at some point as I was cropping a picture I had taken of that area I noticed the new hardware on the door in the background and realized WTF he had been talking about. Of course, it had been so long since we’d bought those knobs that I forgot we even had them, and I was so used to the rags being there that I didn’t even notice when they were finally gone.

Which almost makes me almost want to take back some of the things I was thinking when I shoved those rags into those holes that fall.  

Almost.

Writer’s Blech

That was some break, huh? I mean, I’ve taken a few vacations in my time—a couple from this blog; many more from reality—but 370+ days is pretty ridiculous.

I feel compelled to offer an explanation, although I suspect I am alone in believing one is absolutely necessary. But since you’re here and apparently have some time and/or braincells to kill, please allow me to take a stab at it.

As difficult as it will be, I shall resist the impulse to make up a bunch of crap to make myself seem glamourous, worldly, or socially conscious—like my high school classmate and former best friend Lisa used to do every fall when we went back to school after summer vacation, and everyone wanted to know what everyone else had been up to for the past three months. I had no problem telling people I’d been reading, babysitting, swimming, visiting my grandparents, and fighting with my brothers, but she was not content to admit she had been involved in anything so pedestrian.

I haven’t spoken to her since 1986 (when she gushed about having been accepted into a sorority and asked me how many kids I had as if expecting me to say nine or ten with number eleven on the way) but if I were to call her up now, I wouldn’t be surprised to hear her say she’d spent the past year perfecting her Meridional French while quarantining with Sting and Trudie and a few of their friends in Turks and Caicos (Perhaps you’ve heard of it?) or sequestered in some lush and remote location writing the screenplay for a documentary she hopes to make with (insert obscure indy filmmaker name here.) 

To be honest, at this point I’d give almost anything to be able to say I’d spent the past 12 months reading, babysitting, visiting my grandparents, and fighting with my brothers—or even listening to Lisa brag, lie, name drop, or pretend to be an independent filmmaker. Especially since that would mean I had not spent the year avoiding almost everyone—including my children—while washing my groceries and lurching back and forth from wanting to write something that would make people laugh and realizing there wasn’t much about 2020 that didn’t make me want to cry.

Even the election, which appeared to go my way this time around, could not budge my writer’s block. Because the results were not in for what seemed like decades after the polls closed. And when the votes were finally counted, I couldn’t even celebrate or joke about that because first, I am not one to gloat and second, I very much believe in Murphy’s law and I wasn’t going to do one damn thing that might jinx the final electoral college tally. And then came recounts, the legal challenges, that psycho Sydney Powell, as well as Lin ‘I’ve Completely Lost the Plot’ Wood, and the insurrection and—oh never mind. You know what happened. You were there.

In March of 2020, when the Jarhead and I went into lockdown, I was on the verge of writing about our latest renovation project and excited to make fun, as usual, of all the trials and tribulations associated therewith. We had a whole new team of contractors; an entirely different type of house upon which to test our skills and the strength of our marriage; and a completely new set of issues we had never run across before. In short, it should have made for comedy gold.

But instead, the mine went bust. Somehow joking about unreliable contractors, bail-jumping contractors, nonexistent footings and egregious electrical code violations didn’t seem all that amusing. Especially when Covid-19 was literally killing someone every 33 seconds or so. 

Add to that mix the fact that so many people didn’t seem to give a good goddamn. Instead, they were mocking, complaining about or flat-out ignoring mask mandates and attacking anyone who tried to follow or enforce them. Some even called them violations of their civil rights and likened them to being forced to wear the Star of David or a number on their wrist. Wow. What a bunch of drama queens.

As if they were being singled out and mistreated instead of simply being asked to protect the more vulnerable members of their communities. As if wearing a mask is some giant burden. As if surgeons have been wearing them for fun all these years and not for the safety of their patients. As if they don’t wear them for hours at a time during complicated operations without suffocating, all without whining or crying about it. I know. Let’s not confuse the issue with facts.

While we’re on that topic, here are a few points for folks to ponder: If mask mandates violate your constitutional rights, does it not follow that the DNR rules that require the wearing of blaze orange during deer hunting season do the same? And does it not follow that the city ordinances requiring you to cover your junk in public are, by that same logic, unconstitutional?

Seems to me, your righteous indignation is a bit inconsistent and your sudden interest in our beloved constitution a tad convenient. After all, seeing your junk might make me sick, but it probably won’t kill me. Which makes me wonder: if you don’t like laws requiring you to cover your face, how are you remotely okay with laws requiring you to cover your ass?

Perhaps, in addition to flouting the mask mandates, you should also be flouting these other forms of governmental overreach? Perhaps you fellas should skip the pants and underwear next time you head to Lowe’s and march proudly into the store to pick up your wood—I mean, lumber. And maybe you gals should just go topless to the office or the gym. And if someone challenges your right to do so, you can just look them in the eyes (ahem, they’re up here) and give them a quick lesson on constitutional law. What’s the matter? Are you shy?

Perhaps that’s taking things a bit too far. So how about instead you get up a group of people to protest the laws requiring you to wear blaze orange while deer hunting. It doesn’t have to be a big deal. Just convince your peeps to grab their guns, throw on some camouflage and some doe urine and say, “Screw that shit, man. I’m an American, and ain’t nobody forcing ME to wear orange.”

Now THAT is a protest I can get behind. I will not only support your cause; I’ll go to your rallies and help you spread the word on social media. I will even drive you to your favorite hunting spot and offer you a hearty ‘good luck!’

Okay. I probably won’t say good luck. But I will say this: If plane crashes were killing as many Americans a week as this virus has, these people would be singing a whole different tune. If their own kids or other loved ones were dying from Covid-19 as fast as all those anonymous sick and old people they’ve never met; if they had to work in hazmat suits caring for patients as they lay dying alone, they would not only wear the damn masks but also urge everyone and their brother to stay TF at home. But they aren’t living that reality, so they have the luxury of not giving a damn.

Let’s not kid ourselves. The people who refuse to cover their faces may dress it up to be a constitutional issue but that’s only because they could never say with a straight face that it’s a hardship or a sacrifice. At best, it’s an inconvenience or a nuisance. And don’t let them kid you either. They may say they oppose government overreach but what they’re fighting for is the right to endanger the lives of as many of their fellow citizens as they like. They can tell themselves it’s bigger than that, but they’re full of crap. Because you don’t see them strapping on their assault rifles and marching to the nearest state capitol to protest laws requiring them to wear seatbelts, drive a certain speed, or carry car insurance.

Just like the parents who demanded that teachers and other educators ‘do their effing jobs’ and work in classrooms without the protection of a vaccine but who couldn’t do that ‘effing job’ if their own lives depended on it (as many of them proved with aplomb) their interest lies not in protecting the teachers who typically have to manage 20 to 30 children per hour for 7 hours a day, but in not having to manage their own 2.4 children 24 hours a day. I’m not even going to address the stunning lack of empathy it takes to accuse teachers of not wanting to do their jobs when in fact what they want is simply to not get exposed to a deadly virus and die.

And let us not forget the state and local officials and school board members who insisted that it was okay for teachers and support staff to be up to their elbows in germy kids all day even though they themselves won’t meet in person because they’re not willing to sit in the same room with other adults. Ah, how I love the smell of a double standard in the morning.

The worst part is, if we had done what needed doing for as long as we needed to do it, we would not have nearly half a million dead in the US alone. And we might have been out of the woods already. 

But alas, for some that was too much work. Or maybe it wasn’t as satisfying as belittling the staff at the grocery store when they offer you a mask because you ‘forgot’ yours, or as entertaining as the news reports about hospitals running out of capacity. Or maybe it just wasn’t as much fun as dressing up like Rambo and brandishing weapons that you only fire at helpless deer, glass bottles, paper targets or clay pigeons.

I know. That was a low blow. How could I possibly know for sure that all those deer, bottles, targets and clay pigeons are helpless? I actually I have it on good authority from Eddie Izzard that clay pigeons are in fact fuckers.

Which perfectly illustrates my point: Apart from making fun of these people and devising creative ways to punish their ignorance and/or selfishness, there has not been one ounce of laughter or pleasure to be gleaned from the situation that isn’t, somehow, also painful AF.

And yet it seemed every other writer and humorist on the planet was able to carry on. SNL was still making episodes—albeit from their own homes and in their own clothes. And the late night talk show hosts were all still cracking jokes. They just weren’t doing it in front of a live audience for a while. But they still did it.

So what was my excuse? I had never had a live audience. Or a team of writers. It had always been me and my computer. In my own home and in my own clothes. Or more accurately, pajamas.

Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I need to change things up a bit. Maybe tomorrow I’ll dig out some of the Jarhead’s cammies and storm around the house ranting to my cat about the Bill of Rights and see if I can make her laugh.

I’ll let you know how it goes.