My Voices Article for October

This New House: The LAGuide to Remodeling Your Home
Many of you have met Myron—the fiery red-headed math whizz who made a fortune betting on the ponies. Around this time each year Myron goes to ground for a few weeks. “Recharging,” Myron says. “No.” “Hatching,” his wife Marsha insists. Marsha is not shy about correcting Myron.
I was not surprised that I hadn’t heard from Myron for a week or so, but I was shocked when Marsha called. Marsha hasn’t called me in the forty some odd years we have known each other. Years ago we decided to limit conversation to: “How are you?” and “The kids?” The only thing we see eye to eye on is the need to keep Myron suitably contained, so other attempts at small talk inevitably lead to screaming fights. Our conversation was short. She managed to choke out the words “Myron is wearing a tool belt,” before breaking down. I left work immediately and sprinted the eleven blocks to Myron’s. You might well ask why. Do you remember back in elementary school, when certain children were taken aside and told—with respect to something like the second grade play—“don’t sing, just mouth the words.” Well, I was in shop classes with Myron at Thomas Jefferson High School in the depths of Brooklyn. And while we all recognize that some people are handy and some people are not, our shop teacher was quick to realize that a hammer in Myron’s hand became a weapon of mass destruction. In shop class, Myron was taken aside and told that the only way he would pass the course was by watching it unfold. He was told not to open his tool box and, for good measure, not to sing.
I arrived too late. I tripped over his opened tool box as I rushed in. Myron was inside attempting to provide his home with an open concept. Several walls were down and much of the living room ceiling was residing on the living room floor. Marsha and I were able to get him to lower the sledgehammer and sit. When he had calmed down we learned that Myron had spent much of his down time watching DIY shows on the HG channel. He was particularly fond of “Property Brothers,” and “Love it or List it.” As he sat on the floor up against the wall of his one remaining right-angled corner—bruised and exhausted, all he could say was, “I was just getting the hang of it.”
Exactly. You are not Myron, so there is no reason why you could not get the hang of remaking your house into the million dollar mansion you’ve always dreamed of. For that reason we, at Stevieslaw, are pleased to publish “This New House: The Less-intelligent than average-American guide to remodeling your home.” In the guide, you will learn that
1. The current state of your home should always —today, tomorrow and forever— be looked upon as a mere starting point. Remember, homes that are not being improved are not improving (or something like that).
2. Planning, which encompasses the scope, the schedule and the cost of your remodeling is—at best—useless. All three are ultimately governed by that painful moment when you realize that your children’s change jar is empty, the banks have repossessed your car and someone named Irving at GotchaCollectionAgency is your only remaining friend.
3. Dressing like the folks on TV is critically important. We know the best on-line sites for buying work clothes. Best of all, an authentic pair of plumber’s pants come free with your purchase of the guide.
4. Fine equipment is also a must. While a finely crafted hammer is good, an air-compressor driven hammer that costs 40 times as much is better, and an air-cooled, 3 Tesla magnetically driven nail driver—using the same technology that powered the submarine “Red October,” is best. They will know you by name at the contractor’s desk at Lowe’s and Home Depot. Use their complimentary contractor calendars to give character to your new white walls.
5. Your evolving home is your continuing experiment in life. Sounds great, but it means you will really have to find someplace habitable to live in as you work. No matter, your creativity, no matter how bizarre, must be given free reign. Learn to think outside the bi-level!
6. You will learn to accept and honor your occasional mistakes as part and parcel of your evolutionary home remodeling effort. So what if that expensive copper roof you installed three times has a few small gaps. Emptying buckets provides as good an exercise routine as lifting weights at a gym and to a certain way of thinking might be cheaper.
7. Learn both to defuse those unwanted observers who are always picketing your place and screaming about property values and to deal with the bureaucratic nonsense inflicted by the small minded people at the zoning commission and local code offices. You are an exceptional American. Rules. Humbug.
8. Know the telltale signs that identify when to call in the professional contractor. Often this is a result of a casual statement from a significant other suggesting a choice between a contractor and a divorce lawyer.
Buy the guide and start your remodeling project today. Put on the pants. Whistle while you work, if you must. But please don’t sing.

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