Sometimes, you just have to shoot Old Yeller.
OK, so what happened is this: the other day we got a phone call. Not just any phone call. It was from my wife’s landlord. This was not a good thing.
See, my wife moved out of her office this past summer, after deciding to call it quits with her business partner. We moved all her stuff out, but she’s been waiting for someone to sublease the place since. Earlier this month that actually happened, and the new tenant was due to move in next week. Then we got the call.
No, not what you expect: the deal didn’t fall through. Rather, there was, shall we say, a complication. A complication in the form of one large framing table, about 50″x54″. Built like a bloody damned toll bridge: massively over-engineered. And painted the same battleship grey.
This large table used to be mine. It was in my gallery for the whole time we were in operation. When I closed the gallery, my wife and her partner thought that they could use it for flat files (it had solid plywood shelves just for such purpose). When she and her partner split up, the partner said to leave the table and she’d use it. And now it was left there in the office, and the landlord called us to tell us we had to move it this weekend. Seems that the ex-partner was unavailable or something.
Now, I never wanted this table. But, like taking in a puppy, I was trying to do a good deed and give it temporary shelter. Here’s the story: Some 13 years ago, as I was starting up my art gallery I had been in talking with the manager of another business downtown which was going out of business. He sort of whined about how great the table was, and how bad it was that he couldn’t find a home for it, and how it was a shame that it was just going to get trashed. I think they had gotten it similarly some years previously. My business partner at the time thought that it would make a nifty addition to our shop, so I said that we’d take it off their hands. Me and a couple of other guys hauled the damned thing over to my business and got it set up. This was not an easy task – it is, as noted, completely over-engineered. Solid 4×4 legs, boxed in sides of half-inch plywood, runners for the drawers made of 1x4s, top of three-quarters inch plywood, et cetera. You could easily, and safely, shelter an entire family under the thing in the event of a natural disaster or nuclear war.
Anyway, when it came time to close my gallery five years ago, I had the pleasure of dragging this monster out of the basement and over to my wife’s office. Again, I got several friends to help in the hellish task. There was much cursing and barking of knuckles. I thought I was free of it.
And now, at the end of January some five years later, with very short notice, I had to deal with the thing once again.
“Fine,” I told my wife. “But I’m going to kill the sunovabitch this time. It’s coming apart – I am done moving that bastard in one piece. If it comes apart in useful pieces, we’ll hang onto the lumber, otherwise it’ll go into the dumpster there behind your office. But I am not moving it again.”
I loaded the necessary implements of destruction into the car this morning. Couple of crowbars. 20 pound sledge. Circular saw. My good construction drill, powerful enough to twist the tops right off of screws, if necessary.
We called the landlord, told him we were coming.
Got there, he met us. Opened up the office. We looked around, saw the critter. I took a look at it, couldn’t tell how it was held together with just a casual glance.
“Be right back.” I went out to the car.
When I returned. I had my hand sledge. I think the landlord was confused and surprised. He looked at it, then looked at me, and said “Now, *that’s* a manly hammer!”
I said nothing, just took the first swing. Popped under the corner of the top, testing to see what would happen.
It gave. I went to the next corner, swung again. Heard the squeak of nails pulling free. Hmm. The landlord stood there, a bit horrified at my brutality and casual violence towards the table. He didn’t understand.
Six more swings and the top was free. I examined. It’d been glued and nailed. Lots of nails. But the glue was no longer holding very well. In about five minutes, I had the thing knocked apart completely. Ten minutes after that, we had it loaded into the back of my station wagon. I let my wife talk with the landlord.
So now the parts of the dead table are in my shed. One of these days, when I get around to turning the shed into a workshop, I might resurrect it in a more useful size.
And if so, I think I’ll paint it yellow.
Filed under: Alzheimer's, Art, Bipolar, Book Conservation, Depression, Health, Survival, Travel
“Say, while you’re here, maybe you can take a look at this piece of artwork I have. It was given to me by the artist, a friend, but it seems to be coming away from the frame.”
This is part of the price of having owned an art gallery and having done framing. Friends and family ask these questions. But it could be worse – I could be a doctor.
“Sure, be glad to.”
* * * * * * *
Email from a friend, following my post about depression:
I hope you’ve turned the corner on the inertia and are getting back into it. Got meds?
Lets see – yeah, a couple of different ones for my bp. For the depression? Nope – the state of treatment there is still less than a crap shoot, in terms of finding something that works. And since I am not paralyzed by it, and know how to work my way out of it over time, I’d rather spend the time doing that than mucking around with random chemicals on a “try this for six weeks” basis.
* * * * * * *
I sat in the recliner, just enjoying the picture created by the fair-sized window on the wall across from me. All I could see were trees – no sky, no landscape beyond – just trees.
But what trees!
Coastal redwoods. And only three or four of them. About 25 feet outside the window, so I was only getting a partial view, mostly of that rough, somewhat shabby but oversized bark. With a couple of horizontal branches to make the composition more interesting visually.
“Nice view out this window.”
“Yeah, we sited the house to do that.”
My wife designed this house. It was good to be staying there.
* * * * * * *
On the flight out I sat and thought. For a long time. Listening to music, eyes closed. The Southwest jet was only about 2/3 full, so my wife and I had plenty of room in our three-seat row. I could just relax, spread out a bit, and think.
I don’t do that often enough. Usually, I am reading, blogging, watching something, having conversation. Or I am working – whether at my conservation bench, or playing house elf, or doing something else. But I seldom sit and just think.
Or listen to music. I got out of the habit while caring for Martha Sr. It was difficult to do, since so often I had to be listening to the baby monitor we used to make sure she was OK.
I used to really enjoy listening to music. Just listening, thinking.
* * * * * * *
“See, it’s pulled away from the frame.”
I looked at the piece. We’d hung it off an open door so that I could examine it easily while it was suspended. Abstract, large pieces of torn paper, colored in pastel tones of blues and greens and beiges. The pieces had been heavily gessoed then painted with a thinned-down acrylic. To add some surface effects, the mounted pieces of paper were rolled and folded such that they created a high relief of some five or six inches. All this tied onto the base sheet (also gessoed and painted), which was adhered to a piece of foamcore. This was then mounted by construction adhesive to a strong boxed-“H” wooden frame which you couldn’t see from the front. The whole effect was pretty good, if you like abstract art. Overall, the piece was about 3′ wide by 5′ tall.
“Yeah, I see what you mean. The top part has curled away from the frame, peeling away.”
“You can do whatever you need to. I’ve got some Gorilla Glue – maybe that’s strong enough. Or, if you want to screw the piece back onto the frame, I can get some paint to blend in and mask the screws. Whatever you think it needs.”
I looked at the piece again, hanging there. Pulled a bit, knocked off a chunk of the bead of adhesive. “Let me think about it.”
* * * * * * *
They tell you to expect it to take a year to recover. You don’t believe them.
But they’re right.
Oh, that doesn’t relieve you of the duty to try and get your shit together more quickly. To try and get past the soul-aching exhaustion that comes with having fought the good fight for so very, very long. You have to do that. It is absolutely necessary.
But it isn’t sufficient. It will still take a year. Or longer.
* * * * * * *
I sat in the chair, looking out the window. I had changed my position ever so slightly – now, on the extreme right, I could see about half of the large birdfeeder. We had filled it and hoisted it up that morning. Now maybe a dozen Steller’s Jays were mobbing, taking turns at the feeder, flicking in and out of my picture.
If you know Bluejays, you know these guys. Smart. Stubborn. Survivors.
Sometimes, being a little stubborn is what’s needed. Stubborn in a smart way. While several of their number kept some larger crows away, the others would eat. Then they’d swap. Smart.
* * * * * * *
“We’ll get what we need when we’re out. Is there an art supply store in Ft. Bragg?”
“Yeah, Racine’s. Downtown.” My sister-in-law looked at me, a little quizzical. “I’ll be happy to talk with the artist and get some paints and do the touch-up, if you just want to remount the piece with screws or something. There’s no reason you have to try and match what she used.”
“I won’t need any paints. Nor any screws.”
“What are you going to do?”
“Well, the problem isn’t the adhesive. The problem is the lamination.”
“See,” I pointed at the back of the piece. “There’s just this piece of foamcore. There’s nothing to balance the force of the paper mounted to the other side. Rather than trying to force the whole thing back, which will probably result in snapping the foamcore backing, we’re going to dismount it entirely. Then I will put a layer of stiff cloth on the back, using an adhesive similar to the gesso on the front. I want to go to the art supply store, since they’ll either have the PVA I want, or I can get some gesso and use that.”
“Will that work?”
“Yup. It’s a basic process from book conservation, just applied on a larger scale than I usually do it. Same thing as getting the balance right on the cover of a book – cloth on the outside, paper on the inside. It stops the bookboard from warping.”
* * * * * * *
It’s been a year. Or it will have been next week, when I’m on the east coast.
On the day I’ll meet my co-author for the care-giving book, as it happens. Talk about serendipity.
Nothing magical about that. But anniversaries have meaning.
* * * * * * *
I can’t quite explain how it changed. But somewhere along the way out to California I found something. Whether it was in the music, or the thinking, or just the quiet place in my head that resulted from an enforced relaxation for several hours, it was there.
Not the stubbornness which saw me through the long years of care-giving. That was different. Defiance in the face of the disease ravaging Martha Sr.
No, this was less about simple survival, and more about . . . well, joy, I guess.
I wasn’t swept away with feelings of overwhelming happiness or anything. But there was a sense that joy could once again be mine. Not just satisfaction in work. Not just enjoyment of life. But joy in being able to create. Maybe not yet. But the possibility was there for the future.
A smart kind of stubbornness.
* * * * * * *
We turned the dining room table into a workbench. I laid down newspapers, then we positioned large jars to support the artwork from the front without damaging the high-relief rolls and folds of paper. I needed access to the back of the piece, and this was the only way to do it.
First, I cut away the frame. Some of the facing of the foamcore came off with the frame, but not much. Then I removed all the remaining old adhesive from both the foamcore and the frame itself. I set the frame aside.
Then I mixed up the straight PVA I’d found at the art supply store with water, 50-50. Set that aside.
I took the piece of light cotton duckcloth I’d gotten, and cut it into three strips, each about 2′ tall and as wide as the foamcore. I laid out more newspaper on the floor. I laid a strip of cloth on the newspaper. And using a 4″ plastic putty knife, I poured/spread the PVA across the cloth. It was necessary for it to be completely saturated, the fibers completely relaxed. I waited for a minute for this to happen. Then I picked up the cloth by one edge, and took it to the table. I draped it across the foamcore, and spread it out smoothly, making sure to have good adhesion.
I repeated the process with the other two strips of cloth, overlapping them a few inches.
“Now we wait,” I told my SIL.
“For it to dry overnight. If the cloth shrinks the right amount as the PVA dries, it will cause a balancing force to the gessoed paper on the other side, and the foamcore will flatten out. If it is not enough, another application of PVA in the morning will help get the balance right. If it is too much, I can spray it with water and let the adhesive relax. It’s just a matter of finding the right balance.”
She looked at the contraption sitting on the table. She said nothing, but it was clear she was skeptical.
* * * * * * *
I had been waiting around for something to happen.
Well, no, I had been trying to figure out how to force something to happen. And being very depressed that I couldn’t do it.
I was being stupid stubborn. Forcing myself to work. To write. To try and find some happiness in this or that.
It was, perhaps, a necessary stage. Just to show myself that I had the stubbornness I needed, even if it was applied ineptly.
But there was a better path. A smarter path. Just relax, and start walking.
* * * * * * *
I poured myself a cup of coffee, walked over to the table.
The foamcore was almost perfectly flat. A slight rise on one corner where the cloth was stronger than the minimal amount of paper on the other side, but that would flatten out just fine.
I sipped my coffee, glanced out the window. From that vantage point I could see the whole bird feeder. There were crows there now, arguing with one another.
Sometimes you just need to understand your way out of problems.
Hi. Yeah, it’s me. Got back to KC a little bit ago. Uh-huh. Just left the airport. Should be home by 10:30. But I don’t think we’re going to make it. No. See, the windshield is covered with ice, and the driver doesn’t want to pull over to get it fixed. No, I mean really covered. *Really covered.* I think the driver’s driving by E.S.P. or something. Uh-huh. Yeah. I’m just laying down because I don’t want to see it when we die.
That was from the idiot woman who sat behind us in the shuttle from Kansas City. Who felt it incumbent upon her to call several friends and family members and relay that particular narrative of our imminent demise.
Well, obviously we made it home. But the first 75 miles or so of the shuttle trip were more exciting than I care to have my life these days. No, the driver wasn’t using ESP. He just scrunched down in his seat, looked through his steering wheel, through the roughly 1/3 lower part of the windshield which was staying sorta clear of ice, thanks to the combined efforts of the blasting defrosters and the abused windshield wipers. Which made a “SCHINK-schink” rasping sort of noise as they scraped over the growing continents of ice on the windshield. Seriously, that’s what they looked like – there was a nice smear of Africa in front of the driver, with a nearly perfect Indian subcontinent over on the right, followed by a general vague outline of Asia as we all more or less remember it from grade school and news stories. What was particularly exciting was that the light of oncoming traffic would cause the whole Northern Hemisphere of ice to glare brightly, making it impossible to see the road through the thin strip of windshield warming below. But that was offset by the fact that during the dark periods the driver would *speed up* to make up for lost time. And there were a fair number of dark spells, since the weather had turned so bad that even the insane drivers of Kansas City were smart enough to get off the road.
Ah well. We made it. I gave him a tip for the extra excitement when he dropped us off at the house about an hour later than we should have gotten home.
More about my Northern California adventures later. After I’ve calmed down and recovered from the drive home.
(Cross posted to UTI.)
I’m a coffee junkie. I need to have my two cups of caff in the morning, or I am not fit to be around.
But the folks who came up with this are seriously twisted:
This footage was prepared recently by a citizen-journalist / advocate in Vancouver.
Contrary to what one might think, it’s a pretty good PSA for crack addicts wanting to manage their addiction … and it’s apparently legal, too.
Legal, yeah. But my guess is that these days, just having the equipment to do this would be considered to be “proof” of intent to traffic in cocaine, if you were actually doing it. Yeah, sure, it’s nothing that most households don’t already have around: coffee, a filter, a pan, some ammonia. What’s your point?