04 Aug A New Fridge

To read about Ron’s four months in Micronesia, go to the archive to your left and click on “Marshall Islands Story Project.”

As a follow-up to our Florida trip, where we were regaled with gator stories, we read in the news this week that an eleven-year-old boy in Louisiana was nearly eaten by an alligator. The fifteen foot gator, known as “Big Joe,” snapped off and swallowed the boy’s left arm. Within thirty minutes, a local gator hunter tracked down Big Joe, but it took him a while to corner and kill the monster. The hunter retrieved the now-blue arm (cyanosis), then rushed it to the hospital, where it was re-attached to the recovering boy. You may recall that in the original “Little Red Riding Hood,” a passing hunter cut open the wolf that ate both Little Red and her grandmother. Neither was worse for her stay in the wolf’s stomach.

Speaking of eating: Jill and I bought a new refrigerator last week. This meant two things: 1) we would no longer argue over ice cubes—who did or did not fill up the trays. 2) We would have to re-do our kitchen. It surprises people to hear that we’ve lived this long without an ice maker. Our last refrigerator was a good one, a fat white box the size of a compact car, but it had no ice maker. It butted so far into the kitchen, we were always bumping into it or stepping around it or moving the table out of the way as we opened the fridge door. Two weeks ago, Jill mentioned that it’d be nice to have a counter-depth fridge. Within a week, we’d found a high-end unit on clearance sale.

Nowadays most home-owners like all of their food and plates and stuff in or very near the kitchen. Most of us stock up on food and household supplies as if preparing for the next world war. Jill and I are no exception. Before thoughts of a new fridge, we’d been eyeing our kitchen and strategizing about making more space. Our kitchen is classic Victorian, which means it was originally very plain and simple: a stove, a cupboard, a work table. In a house like ours, the home-owners seldom went into the kitchen. Dishes were kept in the pantry and food in the larder closet. Victorians didn’t stock up on anything. They shopped nearly every day and tradesmen came to the house with wares. The Victorians did own a lot of plate and glassware, however. Much more than we do. That’s why our butler’s pantry – between the kitchen and dining room — is so large.



Jill and I decided to set the new fridge inside our existing, under-used kitchen cupboard. (Underused because it had no doors.) Like all renovation work, this job – making a home for the new fridge – was incredibly time-consuming. It demanded running electricity to that wall, stripping most of the wood (thick with decades of paint), dismantling the cupboard, then rebuilding it with new drawers and doors. The Victorians were famous for overbuilding, using three nails where one would do. You should know that this wasn’t part of our summer renovating plan. The original plan was to finish the butler’s pantry by putting in new counters and the original tall, glass doors (12 of them). Actually, we started that job by stripping, painting, and re-glazing the twelve glass pantry cupboard doors, but then the fridge distracted us.



We took a break from work this week to scout out sheet-metal shops for estimates on getting stainless steel counters for the pantry. The only way to do this on a budget is to cut the counters yourself (3/4-inch plywood), then take them to the shop to have them covered in sheet metal. Jill knows to wait in the car while I talk with shop foremen. Because I’m dressed in my work clothes and because these shops aren’t accustomed to guys walking in off the street with a sketch of the work they need done, I’m usually mistaken as a contractor. “Where you located?” one foreman asked me. “Downtown,” I said off-handedly. Then I fingered a sheet of metal and asked, “Is this 20 gauge?” It’s like play-acting and it’s a lot of fun.

I’m a mess when I’m working on a big house job. Tools crowd the floor and counters, electrical cords are Medusa’d in the middle of the room, my clothes are streaked and spattered with paint, caulk, and glue, my hair powdered with sawdust. I work fast and won’t stop until I see real progress. I might not eat the entire day, stopping only to drink iced fruit juice. This morning – moving too fast as usual – I shoved an eight-foot ladder out of the way and my cordless drill, which I’d set atop the ladder, fell squarely on my head. It made a resounding thunk! Fortunately the drill handle hit the hardest part of my skull. I saw stars for only a few minutes.

As I encounter impediments in my work (there are always impediments), I curse loud and long. When Jill and I were first working on the house, she found this disturbing. She didn’t know what it meant. Who was I shouting at? She learned that I shout at myself for all my stupidity. Then I shout at the wood that won’t cooperate or the drill bit that broke. I might shout all day long. It’s actually quite therapeutic.

Since the new fridge is smaller than the old one, we’ve been pulling out mystery containers from the old fridge and deciding whether or not to eat what we find inside. In the freezer, we discovered a container of pumpkin puree that Jill had stored after we carved our jack-o-lanterns last Halloween. So she made a killer pumpkin pie. Never mind it’s been ninety in Baltimore every day. I can eat pumpkin pie any time.