Thursday, August 10, 2006

The name's Bondo. Jane Bondo.

Ongoing adventures in New Orleans home repair: Those of you who know me well already are aware of my tendency to use things for purposes other than intended by the manufacturers. One of these days OSHA will catch up with me, but until then, I have added another misapplication of materials to the list. I have learned that both bathroom tile and 92-year-old plaster can be repaired with Bondo, and nobody is the wiser after the appropriate sort of paint is applied.

Who knew? Anyway, I am quite pleased with the results. An amateur Bondo job on the wall under latex paint passes the galloping horse test a helluva lot better than an amateur Bondo job on the left front fender. There's a lot of Bondo going up on walls and in bathrooms all over New Orleans right now, because real plaster is hard to find and harder to work with, and ancient tiles are hard to match at Home Depot. However, you can neatly smooth out Bondo over the missing or broken tile(s), draw in grout lines with a toothpick, and match the color with wee bottles of epoxy or enamel paint from the art store.

Robert Redford once adamantly refused to have a facelift at the behest of his publicity agent. He maintained that the lines in his face held the experiences of his life, and that he would be untrue to himself if he erased the character from his face.

I understand that, and it works for houses, too. Old plaster does not look perfect, but it does have character, and it's an essential part of the soul of an old house. I'm one of those oddballs who does not want to replace the old paster and lathe with sheetrock. I love the history and the solid feel and the authentic feel of old plaster. It also insulates better than sheetrock, and feels cool in the summer. If you can possibly salvage your plaster, you should. Anything else is house mutilation.

However, I am not above cheating a bit on repairs. Bondo lets me repair the plaster without a big, honking, amateur plaster-mess at the end of the day, and without resorting to the indignity of using drywall. So if you're the sort of person to be ultra- persnickety about historical authenticity ... well ... you should have skipped the last few paragraphs and gone directly on to the knitting part of the blog.

Mom spent her first night in a fully-repaired bedroom last night, almost a full year after Katrina hit. And she's one of the lucky ones: her house was in the narrow unflooded zone of the city. This repair work is for tree damage, which also required rewiring and plaster work. We still have some work to do. I really hope the whole shebang is finished before the end of the month. But for now, Mom has freshly painted hyacinth-colored bedroom walls, with bright white enamel trim and new cream-colored carpet.

Side note: Before I move on to knitting-related blog content, I have a technical question. If you have ever done house painting, or oil paint in art class ... you know how paint gets down there in the little crease between your fingernail and the skin on the side of the nail (not the cuticle)? I know at least a few of you readers must actually get your nails done. So 'fess up --what's that crease called? For now I will call it a "nail servitude." Anyway, even though I have scrubbed my hands raw with paint thinner, I can still count six colors of paint in that location, on various fingers. Not having a name for this body part is annoying me more than I care to admit.

Knitting-related content: a week's worth of teaching at a humane seminar, painting and dealing with contractors leaves me with me exactly thirty-eight functioning neurons (I counted). Rounding up dinner is going to use at least eleven of those ... and I need five more to feed the cats and scoop the litter boxes, which leaves me with 22 ... and I need another seven to do laundry with, so that's ... fifteen neurons left for knitting. You will understand if the complexity of my work-in-progress is a bit ... ah ... mindless.

"Mindless" is a good word. It sounds a lot better than, "remedial knitting."

What I am working on is a pair of "Stupid Slippers" for the Holiday Season Stash. The pattern for "Stupid Slippers" is stupendously easy: "Get two skeins of bulky yarn and a set of US size 10 sock needles. Cast on 36 stitches. Do K1, P1 ribbing for four inches, a little more if you like. Knit one row in stocking stitch. Divide fore and aft and make an 18-stitch heel flap, continuing in stocking stitch. Turn the heel, make a gusset, decrease symmetrically on each side until you have 36 stitches again. Continue in stocking stitch until it's long enough, then make a toe. Weave in loose ends. Make another slipper."

Actually, there is just a wee bit more to it than that. Not much more, but too much to type tonight. The pattern will show up at a later date.



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