Rendered Fat Content


Abraham Mignon: The Overturned Bouquet (1660-79) -
This work is widely regarded as a truly terrible painting.

"That I can even discern the difference … suggests that I've already come far."

Removing master bedroom baseboards, I came upon one which almost defied removal. It was an odd section. While the other walls featured long single boards, this one was a short extension for a longer one. This wall's base had been broken into two sections. The Muse later noticed the outline of a prehistoric doorway just above this section, an entry into what we've imagined might have been a screened sleeping porch back before internal bathrooms were necessary. The board had been secured with four very large headed nails while the rest of the baseboard had been more properly anchored in with countersunk finishing nails. I had to destroy that board to remove it. It needed refabricating, anyway. I'd encountered a bit of shoddy workmanship again. Not my first encounter and probably not my last on this refurbishing effort. I thought back to an earlier story about our Colorado place which I titled Crapmanship and reminded myself that Crapsmanship is universal. Every house features some of it, regardless of how able a craftsman owned it then or now.

Not every fix measures up to the highest standards, and it probably makes sense that the shoddier work will need reattending to soonest.
In this place, original stuff's largely intact after a hundred and fifteen years. The "improvements" tend to be comparative hacks and need the most redoing. Some of them have just needed replacing like that exploding baseboard which disintegrated when I tried to extract those spikes cum nails. I figured that that bit of baseboard was likely installed on a Sunday evening when hardware stores were closed and the wife had lost her patience with her handyman husband who'd over-promised a bit. Anxious to be finished, he'd used what he had at hand then painted over the sin. In that dark corner of the bedroom, who was likely to notice? Almost nobody is who. Or, nobody until The Muse and I cycled through. We've undone a fair number of similar transgressions and worse as we've sought to successfully steward this place.

I suppose that this might be the point in this essay when I start recounting the sins we've discovered and corrected over the years, a perfectly respectable place to focus next, but I'm going to avoid that choice. Cripes, we've all seen these sins in action and we've all nobly attempted to correct them, and even felt moral as a result, a reformist at heart. I've held murder in my heart for those before me who painted brass door hinges and window hardware, which I despise stripping and shining, even though I understand their reasoning and have even committed the sin I now so cruelly accuse them of committing, I suppose that I should toss the first stone in my own direction. In some contexts, I've painted brass even though since, I sense that I've learned better. I suspect that those who painted this brass long ago departed us and perhaps they learned better before they left. My point might be that we're none of us above committing the occasional abomination. Exhaustion alone can extend permission. However much anyone might pray on Sunday morning, Sunday evening's seen more Crapsmanship sinning than every other evening combined, or so I suspect.

I might find it in my heart to feel grateful for those who left so much Crapsmanship for me to improve, for never a competent craftsman myself, fixing their shortcoming left me feeling more confident, and I have become a more competent craftsman from my encounters with Crapsmanship. It has taught me what not to do and often even demonstrated why as I struggled to find enough light to fix something that failed in the middle of the night. Their earlier shortcut informed me of at least what I should avoid when fixing it. Limiting latitude often serves as the basis for real understanding. Had I not needed to fix that, I could not have understood. I've left behind my ticking time bombs. A few of mine even lurk here. They haunt me because I understand that they offer no free lunch forever. I will one day have to revisit and reconsider the unfortunate choice I made and be challenged to do better. That I can even discern the difference between Crapsmanship and the genuine article suggests that I've already come far.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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