Su Lum: Slumming
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
When I moved into my old miner’s shack many years ago, an artist friend asked me, with no small amount of incredulity, “How can you stand this kitchen wallpaper?” I looked around. “Wallpaper?”
Sure enough, as soon as I focused on the wallpaper, I had to agree that it was pretty dreadful, with orange and green teapots and cups of coffee, so soon after that (maybe a year or two), I peeled off the old wallpaper and painted the kitchen a nice eggshell white.
Over the decades, the kitchen as well as the other rooms have been painted and repainted. Tania Dibbs, another artist who lived in my shed, painted the kitchen when she was here – that was probably in the ’80s – and I remember the time one of my daughters did some midnight laundry and a gallon of white kitchen paint flew off the rattling dryer and hurled its contents all over the table and floor – that was probably in the ’70s.
“How long has it been since the kitchen was painted?” asked Doug, the current shed-dweller. That I knew exactly because the kitchen was being painted when I went down with hoof and lung disease and was helicoptered to St. Mary’s Hospital – it was January 1999.
Fourteen years go past in about six months by my time – 1999 was like yesterday to me, but I had to agree with Doug that the once-white walls were getting grimy around the gills – and some might call that an understatement.
Thus it was agreed that Doug would paint the kitchen, and it was off to Lowe’s in Glenwood for supplies ($50 for a gallon of primer? What’s primer?), and Doug taped everything off with bright blue tape, patched the holes made by spike-sized nails and previous episodes of overexcitement or combat, took out the rugs, took down the curtains, cleared the counters, covered everything with plastic and started painting.
He found a scrap of the old wallpaper behind the washing machine, which we left for nostalgia’s sake.
When it was over, the kitchen was as blindingly white as an operating theater – time to do something about the rugs and curtains. This is the sad fact about redecorating: Start on one thing, and everything else looks like hell.
I put the curtain question to my daughters, who were about to embark on a shopping expedition to Ikea. Under heavy questioning, I concluded that I wanted color (the old curtains were whitish) but wanted them to be sheer to let in as much light as possible. Skye and Hillery hemmed, hawed, measured and left for Denver.
The kitchen curtains were their Christmas present to me, and they are just right. Unable to find anything at all in the curtain department, they were inspired to purchase a number of filmy, beautiful, blue, patterned saris.
Hillery then drove over from Leadville and spent two days turning the saris into my perfect kitchen curtains. My dachshunds, Nicky and Freddie (especially Nicky), were convinced that Hillery’s sewing machine (a dandy do-all) was a cage for her parrot – she had to set it on the floor for intense inspection before they’d leave her alone, and Nicky hung around with hope in his eyes while Hillery struggled with the material – no small feat.
So it was a very merry Christmas for me from the girls; now for the rugs and the bathroom. Don’t anybody even think of mentioning the living room to me for at least five years.
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Columnist Paul Andersen continues to hope that the moral arc of the universe trends toward justice.