19 Aug Hanging Doors

Jill’s had the crockpot on all week, boiling antique door hardware in soapy water. Every time I get near the thing, the fumes nearly make me gag. We’re going into the third week of working non-stop on our pantry project.. You’d think such a little room wouldn’t need all that, but this is a Victorian butler’s pantry, twelve feet deep, four feet wide, with windowed doors to the ceiling. It has demanded every skill we possess. We’ve run new electrical lines, rebuilt cabinets, stripped paint, tiled a wall, re-glazed windows, plumbed a sink, milled wood, caulked, glued, nail-gunned, and then hung 14 cabinet doors, with eight more to go.

Nothing is harder than hanging doors in an old house. If the door frame is crooked and the door itself is warped and you’re not sure where to place the hinge, the work can go on for hours. We take for granted all a door must do. It’s surprising that hinges can hold the weight they’re assigned. Surprising too that a door can swing so much and meet its target every time without binding or jamming.

We turn the radio on full blast while we work, tuned to the local alt-rock station (WTMD). Yesterday Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” came on and I decided it’s got to be his best, but I couldn’t help thinking of the Carnival Cruise advertisement that uses the tune as the soundtrack to a montage of frolicking middle-class thirty- and forty-somethings who would probably be appalled if they were to meet Mr. Pop himself. I can hardly blame Iggy for selling the song. I’d have done the same. Still, it blunts the edge considerably.

ACure tune came on—you may remember the doleful, brooding bad boys of the eighties — and I called to Jill: “Whatever happen to the Cure?” She said: “They got old.” “Oh, that’s a sad thing to say,” I told her. As it turns out, the Cure have a new album. It sounds pretty good, just as angst-ridden as ever. Only problem is, when I tried to go to their website it said, “page not found.”

Earlier this week I was shopping at Sav-A-Lot, a bottom-of-the-barrel grocery store (I’m a sucker for a bargain), and was startled to hear a Miles Davis tune drifting from the PA. And it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill Miles Davis. It was “Jeru” from “Birth of the Cool.” Hearing it at Sav-A-Lot was like seeing Madonna shopping at Wal-mart.

Big Steverino came by this week to drop off the ruined butler’s pantry cabinetry we bought from him. The thing was massively overbuilt and has massive hinges and latches, which Jill has boiled cleaned. We salvaged what we could. Much of it was water-damaged. In stripping the wood, we discovered that the cabinets had been originally grain-painted. The drawers are made of walnut. The countertop is a single slab of 24-inch pine. You can’t get wood like that nowadays. We don’t have trees that big any more.

As happens whenever we rehab, I have arranged an unrealistic deadline: this weekend, when we’re expecting a houseful of guests. The steel shop manager says he can’t guarantee he’ll get our pantry counters covered in stainless by that time. Also he’s informed me that his shop doesn’t attach the steel to the counter – I’ll have to do that after I get the pieces back from him. The counters were supposed to be finished last week but the shop that was going to do it got caught up in a last minute corporate order that bumped me out of the queue. After eight years of rehabbing, I’m used to deadline pressure and the imminent prospect of not getting everything done or done right or done at all. It has taught me a kind of patient fatalism. Jill says if we don’t have the counters, we’ll just put down plywood. I can’t help but love a woman who thinks like that.