Written by Phil Guarnieri Friday, 26 April 2013 00:00
It’s the pits. I’m talking about home construction. It disrupts your life, discombobulates your home and empties your pockets. It even plays havoc with your schedule. I’m writing this on the fly, with a friend’s computer, only because for days I can’t get to my own computer that is buried under a small mountain of furniture so they could do my floors. I knew I should have invested in a laptop.
I’ve had my misgivings about this project, being perfectly satisfied as I was with my present lodgings. But then, as my wife reminds me, I would have been content in an unfurnished teepee. I married a woman who has an impeccable sense of style; flair for décor and like Midas can’t touch anything without turning it into gold. I have come to see that being surrounded by the most charming amenities is a blessing to be surrounded by the most pleasing of amenities. Early on it was difficult to adjust to such opulence having grown up with the notion that desiring more than you need is covetous. It’s been a mixed marriage: I’m a minimalist and she maximizes everything. But it’s chemistry that matters and, frankly, I’ve come to appreciate the aesthetics of the home.
Still, this newly minted awareness doesn’t make construction any less aggravating. First, you have to run through a gauntlet of permits, local boards and contractors. The first two, though vexing, serve a purpose. But the third can drive a tea totaller to the hard liquor cabinet whose spirits were formerly reserved for special company. Contractors are a provocation; angling for more cash at every opportunity. Although one endeavors to keep things civil, you are inclined to become overwhelmed by both the minutia and brutal vastness of it all.
The general amiability and casual bonhomie that I like to cultivate with those I invite into my home is bound to be strained by being nickel and dimed. The curious thing is that they can be so matter of fact and straight faced about the most blatant forms of pick-pocketing and peculation. I once read that survivors of the Nazi death camps and Stalin’s purges remarked about how their torturers were not demonic but acted quite ordinary, as if it was all in a day’s work. I’m not quite comparing the two, but I’d rather be waterboarded than deal with another home construction project again.
I offer no apology or polemic on the hazards of home construction save those words from literature’s poor philosopher Willy Loman: “Attention must be paid!!!” Scrutinize that contract as if it were an arms treaty agreement with the
Soviet Union during the height of the Cold War. As to what are the actual costs and the perceived benefits of such an enterprise, remember this: Once you begin, all such thoughts must be banished from your mind if you at all desire your sanity to remain intact. One more thing bears mentioning. For all you homeowners out there who carp about your monthly mortgage but also the cost of maintaining and improving your beloved residence. it would do well to remember the words of the late comedian Alan King: Anyone who has a house deserves it.