Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
As soon as I finish writing this column I’m going to put on my tool belt and get back to working on my house. I wouldn’t have even bothered to take the tool belt off, but the hammer is uncomfortable to sit on. Well, not at first, but that initial sensation wears off quickly.
Here are some random and various moments from my new life as a house remodeler:
• When I first started working on this project, way back about six weeks ago, I felt kinda silly every time I put the tool belt on. It’s not like I get to use a tool belt in my normal life. But now I’m used to it, and I can imagine that once this project is done I’ll miss having everything I need right there on my waist. I may have to retrofit it. Maybe take out the tape measure, screwdriver and chisel and replace it with stuff I use during my “normal” day. Stapler. Straightened-out paper clip. Pillow.
• There’s a switch in my 100-year-old house that goes nowhere. It’s on the wall in the living room, and there are live wires connected to it, but it controls nothing. It’s just a switch. My brother, Bryan, a professional carpenter who has done several remodels – and who is leading me through this project – says that we should cap it. Secure it and cover it up, he says. I’m not so sure. What if it’s switching something on and off somewhere else? Like in another dimension? Why would I want to give up my ability to control a light (or maybe even a ceiling fan!) in another dimension? This possibility seems all too likely the more time I spend working with industrial adhesives in unventilated rooms.
• Tools: It’s all about the tools. It’s the whole point of the opposable thumb, after all. I haven’t used a whole lot of tools in my life. I mean real tools: power tools. Sure, I’ve used “tools,” but glue stick, I’ve been assured, does not count as a power tool.
It’s not for lack of desire, it’s just never really been part of my path. But in the past few weeks I’ve used all kinds of tools, some that I previously never even heard of. I’ve used a table saw, miter saw, reciprocating saw, jigsaw, oscillating tool, grinder, cat’s claw, wrecking bar, hammer drill, laser level, planer, drywall square, tile saw, router, heat gun, drywall saw, sureform and a nail gun. And when I say “used,” I mean I really used them, not just that I picked them up and played with them so I could check them off my list. No, I used them in real situations and, with the possible exception of that one incident with the cat and the laser level, for their intended purpose.
• The people at Home Depot recognize me now. It was bound to happen. I’m in there at least once a week, and rarely spend less than two hours per visit, loading up two and three carts full of remodel crap. The sales people see me wandering the aisle and say, “Are you finding everything you … oh, it’s you. Hey.”
Last week, as I was checking out, a customer walked past my cart and asked me where I got the 1-by-6s.
“Aisle 19,” I answered, without even having to think about it.
Soon I’m going to be eligible to start collecting my own Home Depot vest flair. Yay.
• Several times a week I’m reminded that I have no backup plan. Sure, there are those moments when I feel like I’m really in the remodeling groove, all focused and efficient and using tools properly and thinking, yeah, I could do this! If this comedy thing doesn’t work out I could always get a gig working on old houses. Even better, I could buy old run-down houses that nobody wants and, using my newfound know-how, spiff them up and sell them for 10 times what I paid! I’m set! I’ll need a bigger tool belt, of course, but that’s about it. Because I have now learned all there is to learn about this house fixing stuff.
It’s at this point that Bryan will walk by and say, “You’re putting that in backward.”
I didn’t even know you could put light bulbs in backward.
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Milias: The dilemma in Aspen’s workforce housing is that it houses few of the workforce, and that must be acknowledged before it can be improved.