Got them ‘New House Blues’ again ...
If I ever find the motivation to write music instead of just writing about it, I’ve got my first song title picked out: “New House Blues.”
Hey, it could happen. The handsomeness of my singing voice aside, I have an old Indianapolis acoustic guitar gathering dust in a corner of the bonus room. I could blow off the dust and get a few lessons, maybe watch one of those instructional DVDs my buddy Steve Kaufman makes. But right now, I’ve got a honey-do list a mile long in our new domicile.
To be fair, they’re not so much “honey-do” tasks as they are “get-this-done-or-we-all-will-suffer” ones. Right now, I’m writing this week’s column in a house with no heat, awaiting the arrival of a heating and air guy whom I hope can fix the problem.
Going into the purchase of our residence, The Wife and I were under no illusions that any house with previous owners was going to be somewhat of a fixer-upper. The one we bought didn’t need a complete overhaul, and before we moved in, we painted and made some improvements to obvious problems. But it’s the little things that seemed to go wrong as soon as we closed that make for a fine blues song.
The kitchen plumbing, for instance: Before we moved in, there were no problems. The sinks drained, the water ran, nothing leaked. As soon as we unpacked and ran our first load of crockery in the dishwasher, however, both sinks slowly backed up.
I was determined to figure out and repair the problem myself. Not being a plumber, it was a trial-and-error process that involved tearing apart the pipes beneath the sink, completely re-plumbing them, crawling beneath the house and tinkering with the pipe down there, removing the clean-out valve and eventually purchasing a 50-foot pipe snake. After several bottles of chemicals and snaking the line — finally puncturing a clot of God-knows-what and shoving it past an elbow — the problem was solved.
Along the way, I learned a few things about PVC cement, pipe thread tape, thread sealant and garbage disposal replacement. I doubt I’d make a reliable plumber, but by God I did it myself, and there’s an immense sense of satisfaction in that. Especially for a guy who makes a living writing about musicians and entertainers.
Of course, the Brother-In-Law’s assistance has been indispensable. Fixing leaking fixtures in both upstairs bathrooms was beyond the scope of my limited bag of tools; Nick, however, has enough hardware and know-how to build a brand new house, so his assistance was invaluable in cutting through the drywall in the master bedroom closets and replacing the guts of the bathtub faucets and spigots.
With the plumbing fixed, we turned our attention to the little things that still remain to be done, the tasks that aren’t crucial for day-to-day living but make life in Casa de Wildsmith a bit more comfortable. Tuesday night, however, we had a critical systems failure. The Wife arrived home after work to find the indoor temperature plunging and the vents cavern mouths of still air. Outside, the HVAC unit sat silent.
We tried the breakers. We tried the fuses. We tried everything a couple of limited mechanical abilities could try, to no avail. A couple of space heaters and several hours later, we awoke in a meat locker. Fortunately, I know a guy who, I pray, can make some quick and painless repairs without leaving me feeling as if I’ve been stabbed in the wallet.
I can’t help but wonder: What’s next? There are no funny smells, no indication of sewage spewing up between the walls or remnants of a meth lab that once cooked here. The roof is new, so barring a meteor blasting a hole through the timbers, I’m fairly confident it won’t be that. The foundation seems solid, but one can never tell — especially with all of the recent rain — when a sinkhole might open up.
All I can say with confidence is that there will be something. And that we’ll deal with it when it arises. Such is the burden of home ownership, I’ve come to realize, and while I can let the financial strain and schedule disruption stress me out, it’s ultimately not a big deal.
I mean, really: What the heck am I complaining about? I have a house. My own home. Every month I write a check — and granted, we’ve only been here since the beginning of December, so this love affair of paying a mortgage instead of rent is still in the honeymoon stage — I’m paying for something I own instead of something I’m borrowing. If I want to paint the outside of this place chartreuse and do front-yard yoga at 6 a.m. wearing my wife’s underwear, I can. If I want to wrap every tree in my yard in aluminum foil, I can do that too. I can, within the bounds of the law, do whatever I please. I am truly king of the castle, and that’s an amazing feeling.
Of course, I probably won’t do any of those things. For one, I value good relationships with my neighbors, and for another, I’d really prefer The Wife not wear a disguise every time she goes in public lest somebody recognize her as the lady married to that crazy dude. What I will do is take care of what I have, man up when problems arise and count my blessings.
Because these problems are, in the grand scope of things, only challenges. So many people less fortunate than I would sign over their souls for the things that I have, and hope I never lose sight of how blessed my family and I truly are. “New House Blues,” I believe, would only work if that message was evident: That a man’s home is his castle, that sometimes a castle needs repairs, and that those repairs only mean that what he has will be a better place in the end.
Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (firstname.lastname@example.org) or at 981-1144.