Rendered Fat Content


El Greco: The Opening of the Fifth Seal, The Vision of Saint John (1608–1614)
" … the source of endless unwanted entertainment."

I've learned that The Villa has eccentric windows, homemade double hungs with cords and weights dangling in the walls. They have proven themselves mysterious in almost my every encounter with them. They are not of standard design, but apparently Homemade. I've learned most of their tricks, but they still prove capable of confusing and confounding me. Earlier this week, I noticed an original pane in the lower frame of the big four foot wide window in front of my desk, the very window I usually look out through when writing, had somehow developed a crack. Kurt Our Painter and I quickly removed the stop holding the frame in place and i removed the cords. I took the frame to the glass shop for a pane replacement, retrieving it the next morning. By the end of the day yesterday, I'd finished repainting the frame and Kurt and I set about setting it back into the window, usually a trivial chore.

It didn't fit.
Somehow, the width was wider than when we'd removed it. Further, the cord seemed too short, preventing the window from completely closing. I disconnected the frame and we set about attempting to lengthen the sash cords. Most double hung windows feature cut outs in the window runner which allow access into the weight chamber for precisely this purpose. Cords age and rot and are prone to breaking. Instead of pulling off the external trim to access the weights, a handy little access door gets cut into the frame. Usually, these doors are just started and need some further sawing to gain access. Kurt and I set out to do this, except the door already seemed to have been sawn into, though we could not remove the panel. A series of MindReading experiences commenced, wherein we attempted to read the mind of whomever fabricated this window frame a hundred and fifteen years ago.

Modern windows adhere to certain standards. Modern windows are not double hung like these. Double hungs are leaky and cumbersome. Nobody ever really wants to have to pull a sash out of its moorings. But later double hungs were more predictable. One side-effect of industrialization has been wide-spread standardization. Variation has become a demon, uniqueness, a sin. Whatever aesthetic arguments might be made for hand made goods, maintaining them often proves frustrating if only because humans have proven themselves to be terrible mind readers. We believe that we're much better mind readers than we are. A world constrained by standard designs for darned near everything reduces the potential of encountering baffling variation. Mostly, things behave as they should, as some international consortium decided that they should. We expect to encounter familiar objects, not uniquely baffling ones. We most often read our own minds and ascribe our thought to another who, surprise! Surprise!, just happened to be thinking what we were thinking. We've been successfully domesticated.

Kurt and I fiddled with that window frame for the longest time, unable to unwrap its mystery. We called Joel Our Carpenter over, insisting that since our dilemma was wooden, perhaps it belonged under his remit. He couldn't figure it, either. Kurt finally proposed that we just destroy it, chisel out the mysterious little opening with the idea that Joel could fabricate a more standard replacement. I swallowed hard and agreed. Kurt demonstrated great delight as he tore out that little Homemade window which had baffled us all. We found its design a paradox, a mistake. Not merely an artistic uniqueness, but a misconception probably tied to the sequence of assembly when the window was first installed. We'll be able to replace the sash cords now and reinstall that window, no thanks to the original designers and also no thanks to any MindReading. We standardize because we cannot otherwise visualize designers' intentions. Confusion was probably the mother of standardization.

There must be limits to Homemade artistry. Standards exist to help us coexist. We'd probably drive each other crazy without these little tacit agreements. Windows are rectangles, not round. Door handles appear about waist height. For years, I worked across from Portland's famous city building which was designed by some famous architect. Once constructed, the building became the object of continuous reconstruction as its many unique features proved themselves unworkable in practice. The building was a definite work of art, a one-of-a-kind creation and therefore poorly suited for human habitation. The Villa's windows are Homemade, dammit, the source of endless unwanted entertainment.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver