Wednesday 4 February 2015

One Author's Man Cave

It's taken me 9 years to forge a small chuck of real estate within my house; a private area to sit and read or write, and which does not contain a toilet.

I do miss the gentle whisper of the fan.

Until now, whenever I wrote, my children were playing at my feet. Eventually, I would tire of reading the same sentence over and over and would retreat to the bathroom where I might possibly absorb or generate a new thought, between repeated knocks on the door. Reading on the toilet, as hastily drawn "I Miss You, Daddy" notes slid under the door and gathered near my feet, I realized that I had become a cliche. I like to fit in, but not in this way.

Its not that I haven't been busy in the last 9 years. I've renovated and doubled the size of our house; a 6-month project that took 8 years—unless you count trivial finishing touches like doorknobs and light switches, in which case it's still ongoing and likely to be complete about 2 days before we move.

My wife, Junko, was not impressed. I blame Mike Holmes for her unrealistic expectations. 

About two years ago, we were invited to a friend's house. Junko and I tried to figure out just what made theirs seem like such a better house than ours. Eventually it struck us: This house has moldings!

We'd lived so long without moldings that we'd completely forgotten about them. Until that day. After that, it became a priority for Junko.  I argued with her about this, but I'm not sure why; not sure why I argue, in general. The outcome never varies. Moldings became a priority for me.

I think that Junko expected the moldings project to start with me obtaining some molding and nailing it along the edges of the walls. Silly girl. Why is it so difficult for wives to grasp the simple fact that in order to do moldings, you obviously have to start by renovating the attic?

Trust me. I've got 8 years of experience.

When you do a renovation in a space occupied by a family of four, you spend most of your time finding your tools, gathering them at the project site and then cleaning up afterward. The actual work takes place in that tiny space between the above words "then" and "cleaning" but is not a large enough part of the process to warrant inclusion in the sentence.

Tackling an entire house-worth of moldings meant finishing the fireplace because the moldings butt up against it.

To finish the fireplace I needed all my tools which, at that point, were dispersed throughout the house, close to wherever they were last used. In order to find them, and to give me access to the walls that I was going to work on, I needed to move all the storage boxes which we had cleverly incorporated into our home decor. Our coffee table was an orange crate full of books with a doily-like afghan over it. In order to move the storage boxes, I needed a place to put them. This meant laying down a floor in the attic.

Obviously, after the attic, comes the garage renovation, so that I have somewhere to organize and store my tools. After that I would finish the fireplace. Then, and only then, would it become possible to do the moldings.

It took several months. But my renovating speed and efficiency surged forward after all of my tools were organized, in the garage. I even managed to fit in side projects like building a Free Little Library, bathroom cabinet, several large bookshelves, separate bedrooms for the kids and two tree houses.

The moldings, themselves, took about 1 day. Junko was expressionless and quiet. As she is Japanese, this could either mean she was appropriately impressed or incredibly upset that she had waited 9 years for a 1-day project. When I talk about renovations now, her left eye no longer twitches. Well, not as much. So I'm assuming she was impressed.

Junko was also impressed with the gusto with which I tackled all of this. What she didn't realize—what I was clever enough not to mention—was that none of this was about moldings. All of this was really about my man cave. Until the attic was organized, there was no place to build myself the sanctuary I needed to sustain my writing.

As soon as the last molding was nailed in place, I climbed the ladder back into the attic and began to ponder a little 8x8 wooden box suited to accommodating pure genius.

Our living space had become storage-box-free over the last few months. Consequently, we now had about 1000 boxes in the attic. There was absolutely no room to work. Some boxes had to be brought downstairs long enough for me to complete this project.

I brought about 20 boxes filled with Christmas decorations downstairs and explained to Junko that in years ending with the number 14, festivities began in October. Sometimes it is good to have a Japanese wife who is unsure of North American traditions.

I'm sure it's what Mike Holmes would do.

Fa-la-la-la DIE!
Junko's prized black wreath finally made some sense
as it adorned the door, on Hallowe'en.

My stairway to haven.

For scale, Noah is about four feet tall.  Yes, that is a tiny door—don't ask.
I bump my head about twice a day. This might explain some of my blog-posts.

The fumes still make me high, and I feel a little sorry for all the silverfish I've displaced. In the spring, I plan to pop a window into that pink space behind the monitor. This will surely surprise my neighbour whose house is about 20 feet away.

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