Most of the month of July was spent executing the most massive household renovation/ waste management/ de-stenching operation to date on Panache House while Chi was away on a musical research trip. This installment details the process of stripping, sanding and varnishing the soft wood floorboards in the interior hallway that were covered with grotty wall-to-wall carpet.  

Listen while you read to a live take of “Valencia Spring” performed in Beverly Hills, keeping the Latin-fusion theme going. Hopefully we’ll actually manage to secure funding to not only record the “Victory Speech” album, but also do an EP of our “Latin-ish” pieces….

Mid-July 2011

So I FINALLY succeeded in getting the varnish on the living room floor, which started the clock on the 72-hour recommended drying period before I could move the furniture back in. Needless to say, after being up until 0330h varnishing the previous evening, the next day at the day job was sheer misery. My boss had a hissy, but grudgingly acquiesced when I asked to take the next day (Friday) and following Monday off to further my efforts on this production.

That evening when I got home from work I began clearing out the interior hallway, which was the next area targeted for demolition.  It was a debate between that space and the office room, a perpetual disaster area that was at the very top of my list of things I absolutely had to get done while Chi was in Cuba.  I decided on doing the hallway first because there was so much stuff in the office that there would be absolutely nowhere to put it until the living room was dry enough to move its displaced furniture back in, and also put whatever of the office stuff I couldn’t fit in the kitchen in the living room.

By this point I was halfway through my 3-week vacation from Chi, and there was still an enormous amount of stuff I fervently hoped to be able to accomplish.  I had to find a way to expedite this project, since for starters I was getting increasingly fed up with the disturbing sight of the cats’ shit box sitting on the dinner table (it was clean/empty, and out of service during construction, but still looked disgusting all the same) and gallons of extremely volatile solvent piled in the kitchen, and the ant situation was very seriously on my nerves as well.  I was also pretty crazed from sleep deprivation, intense heat, toxic chemical fumes, sanding dust all over the place, the totally chaotic and increasingly impassible condition of the house, and having ants crawling all over me and infesting places where they are particularly unwelcome and unexpected, like my underwear drawer, the laundry pile (the basket majorly overflowed at least a week ago), the bed, the bathroom, the medicine cabinet, even the fucking toilet, etc., etc., etc.!  (Has anybody else outside of a genuine war zone or refugee camp experienced how insanely gross it is to have ants crawling up your ass while you’re relieving yourself?!)

Our house is absolutely overrun with ants, and even if I wasn’t loath to the idea of tenting it and bombarding it with toxic fumes to exterminate the occupants with more than four legs, I don’t think it would do any good.  At least they’re the relatively harmless little Argentine ants that don’t really do anything much worse than irritate the hell out of us and transport germs from the litter boxes to the dinner table and kitchen counter tops and cabinets.

OMG!! Is that the cats’ shit box on the dinner table?? GROSS!!!

Pink and Laxmi helping me clear out the target area while Gureyo and Jaco supervise from the other room

Whew! Got it done!

By now I had also completely exhausted my supply of Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods macaroni and cheese that I had been living on for the past week after I ran out of sandwich stuff and canned soup, and I did not want to have to spend time going food shopping.  Anyway, at this point the kitchen was such an utter disaster area that it was becoming increasingly impossible to deal with food in it.

Back to the effort at hand after that long digression, it seemed that every part of the house I worked on presented a new challenge that took an inordinate amount of time, experimentation and muscle power to figure out and work through.  Fortunately I’d had the nous to document this adventure in DIY Ghetto Home Improvement on FaceBook, so I got a lot of encouragement and support from my friends and family, as well as some tips on how to do various things, which helped tremendously to keep me motivated.

Anyway, as exhausted as I was, I still managed to get all the furniture and stuff out of the hallway Thursday evening so I could began demolishing it on Friday morning, which I’d taken off from the day job.  Thankfully there was no linoleum underneath the carpet in this part of the house, but I still had to remove those diabolical carpet strips that we had originally encountered when we ripped out the living room carpet last year, and that ended up taking a solid couple hours, leaving me totally knackered with my back and hands aching like hell, plus another good hour or so to pick out all the millions of fucking staples.

UGH! Those wretched carpet strips are a bitch to remove!

Pink inspecting my work

That was when I realized the true benefit to me in doing manual labor like this.  It was hard, physical work – good exercise, as well as satisfying since I could immediately see the progress I was making while doing it.  It also got me away from the computer and out of my mental rut with the insane amount of work I do for Chi and my musical project that most of the time, for me at least, feels like I’m just shovelling all my time and energy into a black hole that I seldom get anything back from.  I also had to be creative and learn a totally new skill set and figure out how to overcome the challenges and obstacles I kept encountering as I worked. When one tool isn’t getting the job done, put it down and try another.  When one angle or approach isn’t working, try another.  When one chemical isn’t doing what it’s supposed to, do more research and try another.  Rinse.  Repeat.  Etc., etc.

Since there was no linoleum adhesive to have to remove this time, all that was left once I’d got rid of all the carpet strips and staples was a bit of glue from the carpet pad and a lot of paint dribbles to be sanded off.  (Why in the hell hadn’t whoever painted the house bothered to use a drop cloth, for Pete’s sake??!!)  The newly exposed wood otherwise appeared to be in decent condition, and a very pretty shade of pink-reddish brown, but when I started sanding it, I noted that it was not a hardwood at all, but was soft and splintery.  There were also some odd holes in it here and there; some of them quite large.  I was perplexed about this and didn’t know quite what to do.  I also became aware of how echo-y that space became with the carpet gone, and wasn’t sure how that was going to play out given the usual noise level at our place.

I actually thought about doing the unthinkable and putting linoleum tiles down, and/or a long, narrow area rug, but then remembered the reason why I was doing this in the first place:  Dirt.  Allergens.  Cat puke.  Cat hair.  Duct tape patches over the places where the cats were clawing/ shredding (and eating!) the nasty carpet.  And, I hate linoleum as much as I hate wall-to-wall carpet!

Stripped and ready to sand!

Anyway, the sanding operation caused another cock-up.  The belt sander I bought at the pawn shop was missing the dust bag, so (as I had noted while doing the living room floor) it blew very fine sanding dust all over the place, which created an absolutely miserable and endless pain in the ass of having to wipe down the walls and door frames.  When doing this space I had actually tried taping a plastic grocery sack onto the pipe where the vacuum bag was supposed to be attached, but it didn’t work very well.  I then noted that there were no less than SEVEN (7) doors leading off that one not- particularly- long corridor, plus the linen cabinet!!  All of them have dust-trapping detail work, so that was almost as fatiguing and tedious and time-consuming as removing the carpet strips and staples.  Worse still, I had forgot to take down the three or four instruments (including my very own Blue Tiger bass guitar!) that were hanging on the hooks in that corridor and put them under cover, so I had to clean those off too.

It got better. When I finally finished wiping the sanding dust off the walls and doors and everything, and began vacuuming the floor one more time prior to putting on the varnish, I wondered why it wasn’t making the right noise, and something seemed odd about the suction.  Oh Shit!!  I knew I was inevitably going to do that at some point!  I opened up the vacuum and sure enough — I had forgot to replace the bag when I chucked out the last one!  (Fatigue, anyone?)  Another wretched mess to have to clean up…fuuuuuuuuck…………….

Well, by the time I got that sorted out, it was time to leave since I’d got a ticket to the American Ballet Theatre that night, and I would barely have time to get cleaned up if I wanted to get there before curtain.  I still had another 12 sq. ft. or so of floor left to sand, so that had to wait until the next morning since I didn’t think the neighbors on the other side of that wall would welcome sanding and vacuuming noise at 10:30 PM.  I finished the sanding and vacuuming as planned the next morning, and the varnish went on without incident, except that the soft wood got my beautiful $10 lambswool applicator all full of splinters that I had to pick out.  I even managed to time it so I didn’t end up having to borrow the cats’ litter box since the wet varnish would make the bathroom inaccessible for a few hours.

There – another beautiful, gleaming, newly-restored wood floor!

There was still another hideous clean-up job left over from the corridor demolition in addition to the instruments I had forgotten to take down and put under cover: the seemingly hundreds of cleaning products and various and sundry other bullshit I had taken out of the base cabinets and shelving in the corridor so I could move them, which I had put on the dinner table, and they got covered with sanding dust too and all had to be cleaned off before putting them away when I replaced the cabinets after the floor dried.  And that was only one tiny sub- task in the overall scheme of things.  That was the point where I realized how much time had elapsed since I began this operation, and how much work still had to be done before Chi got back, and I got totally overwhelmed and depressed, and by now there wasn’t even any available place to sit down and put my head in my hands and cry!  The clean-up effort and having to put everything back into some sort of order looked like it was going to be every bit as big of a job as the demolition/restoration work!

– To Be Continued –