The Kitchen Chronicles

For the past ten days, my house has looked like a pre-Marshall Plan Berlin.  No, wait…Berlin looked better.  We’re in the process of undergoing major reconstruction of our kitchen, and it’s completely turned the usual lunatic asylum on its head and sent it spinning into the next week…or two…or three…or whenever this thing is finally done.

My wife and I bought this house ten years ago.  It’s a ranch-style home built in 1950 in a suburban development that was designed for Veterans of WW II to get first shot at home ownership after that war (very similar to the very famous- or infamous- Levittowns in New York and Pennsylvania).  We’re the 4th or 5th owners of the home (no one is really sure, and I haven’t had the chance to go take a good look at the town hall records), and it’s been “home improved” several times by any or all of the previous owners, all in various states of quality and ineptitude.  Let me clear something up: in addition to me not being Joe The Plumber, I am also not Bob The Builder or Thomas The Electrician.  The only things I am great at assembling are scale plastic models of airplanes and spacecraft (a hobby), computers, and home theater systems.  Give me a bunch of components, a flashlight, some wire clippers and wire strippers and I’m in my element.  I’ll set up your home theater or computer so good it’ll prepare your morning coffee for you.  Computers and components are my friends; power tools and plywood are not.  This is why I call a contractor.  This is why you are SUPPOSED to call a contractor.  You see, I KNOW my limitations; other homeowners, do not.  Unfortunately, the previous owners of my home fell into the latter category.

You know you are in trouble when a contractor comes to your home and says the following: “I’ve never seen THIS before!”.  That has been our home improvement contractor mantra for our replacement windows, doors, roof, garage, bathroom, and now our kitchen.  When it came to money, the guy before us spared no expense…on contractors.  At all.  He was tighter than a clam’s ass.  We found TOILET PAPER used for insulation in a door frame; a bunch of nails walled-in in the kitchen contained in an old Chinese Take Out container; 3 layers of roof shingles in spots, two and one layer on others (Code says a maximum of 2); and my personal favorite…a lamp cord hot wired into a light socket…the same light socket where I had a surge protector plugged into it for my Mac, speakers, printer, and three synthesizers.  The only way I found out about the latter was when our clothes dryer caught on fire last year (thank God there was smoke damage only and no injuries) and I had to have all the outlets in the basement (where we have the office, laundry room, and home theater/den) checked.  It’s nice knowing that close to $3,000 worth of electronics were relying on the safety of a lamp cord to function in addition to the safety of the entire electrical system of the house.  I can only conclude that the Home Improvement Manual this guy was using was originally created in Japanese and translated into English written in Cyrillic.  Oh, did I mention that he used to work for the Federal Government?

Our latest project comes on the heels of us fixing our main bathroom.  We knew it was time to fix the bathroom when I could see what my wife was putting into the washer while taking a dump.  We knew it was time to get replacement windows a year after we moved in because we were able to fly kites in our living room.  The kitchen was due (it was ALWAYS due) because it was just too damned small.  If you threw some spare change on the counter, it would take up half the room.  So, we knocked out a wall; sealed up a doorway so we can recess the refrigerator into the doorway alcove; and added an additional 12 cabinets to our previous 8 and more counter space.  We also went for the jugular when it came to appliances: stainless steel EVERYTHING, and a built-in dishwasher as opposed to the portable one we used to schlep across the kitchen to the sink.  It’s going to be beautiful, and it’s supposed to be finished in about another 10 days or so.  In the meantime though, our living situation is pure hell.

Our three cats have been sequestered in the basement.  Their litter boxes were down here anyway; now, they get to spend more time watching the 51″ Sony Widescreen TV and 7.1 Home Theater system.  They’ve kind of settled in now, but I know they’re just itching to see what’s going on upstairs.  I feel a bit like Otto Preminger in “Stalag 17” at times: “No von escapes from ze basement!” every time they try and get “wire happy”.  I can’t help but thinking that one of these days one of them is going to be bouncing a ball against the wall like a feline Steve McQueen.  As for the rest of us, we have no stove and no kitchen sink.  That means paper plates and plastic utensils and frozen dinners…LOTS of frozen dinners.  I’m going to name my next kid (or cat) Swanson if this keeps up any longer.  I mean, there are only so many types of things you can eat this way.  Of course, there’s take out and going out to eat (which we did to celebrate Obama’s victory on Thursday Night).  I had a REAL 18 ounce boneless NY Strip Steak with a baked potato and a cup of beef barley soup, washed down with a delightful non-alcoholic amber beer.

This week the painting gets done, as well as the tile for the back splash, flooring, and the cabinet installation.  The counters and appliances are next…and then SANITY once again.  This Thanksgiving I think we’ll really have a few things to be thankful for, and I don’t think I’ll mind one damned bit cooking the usual banquet.  The real banquet…not the kind you set “time-10-start” for.  My cats will finally get their usual spots on the beds or couches back, and then they’ll try and get used to the new kitchen.  My wife and I will have one pressing problem though:

How the hell to we fill up 20 cabinets?

“Anyone that’s ever had their kitchen done over knows that it never gets done as soon as you wish it would.” – Ronald Reagan


One response to “The Kitchen Chronicles

  1. Ark, I had to laugh out loud reading this post. You and my sister and brother-in-law could share tales of woe. Their home is over 40 years old, and they’re the original owners, so nobody else to blame… Their tale began waaaaaaay back when their kitchen was remodeled some 20 years ago (maybe when the house was built), and the plumber (Joe’s father?) dripped solder down the copper pipe carrying gray water from the kitchen sink. Years of corrosion later, the pipe developed a 9″ long fissure and spewed effluent — from the garbage disposal, the dishwasher, plus anything else that gets poured down a kitchen sink — into the crawl space under that part of their house. House is in California, so no basement…

    Between the water damage, the resulting mold (BIG problem!), dealing with the insurance folks, and a variety of remediation experts — all preliminary to the actual work needed to achieve a useable kitchen… Well, you can imagine! They’re counting it in months, not weeks. And my brother-in-law doesn’t do fast food, or frozen dinners and isn’t wild about take-out! Dare I say that misery loves company??? I’m going to pass a link on to him. Maybe my sis can provide some advice for filling up those 20 cabinets — she’d LOVE that many.

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