Rendered Fat Content


Andy Warhol: Campbell's Soup Cans (1962)
"A pantry in name only."

It occurs to me, finally, that This Grand Refurbish never was about demonstrating any particular wizardry, but about OpeningCans. A can serves as perfect camouflage for whatever's inside it, each uniform and seemingly holding the same contents. One must rely upon faith in labeling or blind habit to determine the contents before opening. The contents never seem quite like I've anticipated. Tuna might show up as a fine filet or as a slurry. Soup definitely needs warming. Peas just need throwing away. What was I thinking? I think OpeningCans serves as an everyday courageous act, one asserting ability, putting something on the line. OpeningCans screams that I've accepted full responsibility for dealing with the contents, whether they be worms or just what I'd imagined.

Our Grand Refurbish has opened so danged many cans that our little crew seems to have at least mastered that act.
It's not very different, really, opening up a wall or a ceiling, for both acts reveal something which could not have possibly been known just before the opening. Replacing a window, we're uncertain how the window had been constructed, except for its obvious surface imperfections. In that instance, we knew for certain that we were opening a dented can, other than that, we were explicitly uncertain of the contents, but believed ourselves ready to deal with whatever we found. The rot, caused by a window sill canted back toward the window conspiring with seasonal condensation, was less severe than we'd feared. Nothing, save my previous overly-enthusiastic caulking along the exterior trim, really hindered removing that window and creating a new level base to hold its replacement. We left that OpeningCans experience feeling lucky.

Before we began this work, I took cans of leftover paint back to the paint store to have them professionally shook. I'd opened a couple of them to find separated messes inside. I couldn't tell whether those cans' contents were still usable or spoiled. The paint store guy opened each can in turn and passed judgement upon them. I thanked him, for he'd not only taken away much guess work, he'd determined what could prove useful. Through the work, it seemed I always had a backup can of paint waiting. I wish other aspects of this project had proven so manageable, but a growing faith in our abilities to deal with whatever the next can opening dealt us saw us through. On second thought, I'm grateful for the practice in applied not yet knowing all that can opening provided.

When I was a kid, my folks shopped at what I called The Dented Can Store. There, they sold cases of dented cans, often unlabeled, all factory seconds, at deep discounts. One could buy a full case of mystery for just a few pennies. We'd scoff at the fools who'd spend dollars buying labeled cans in actual stores. We'd quickly learn, once we returned home, what sorts of vegetables we'd acquired, just before we'd be forced to acquire a previously undiscovered taste for canned hominy or lima beans. Honestly, those cans could have held anything and we would have eaten it under The People Are Starving In Africa Rule, if nothing else. If they didn't hiss when we opened them, we presumed the contents poison, as simple as that.

I suppose my early training in accepting the contents of unlabeled cans has served to make me the man I am today, one increasingly unafraid of what I mighty uncover next. In a very real sense, each component of This Grand Refurbish has addressed some previously designated untouchable, each one presumed to be just another can of worms, and a few of them were, but even those, we figured out how to dispose of. There are an infinite variety of ways of dealing with a freshly opened can of worms besides swallowing them. The squeamish might even be best positioned to successfully dispatch the more disgusting contents. We've proven up to this challenge and I'm noticing that I'm standing a little taller, a little prouder, understanding that all those long-unopened cans had become on oppressive burden to me and not a sustaining pantry. These days, I tend to can using transparent mason jars. Those seven quarts of fine chicken stock I pressure canned this week hide nothing from me. Well, it's true that I filled them in the first place, but I have a remarkably short memory. I made sure to label the contents in indelible Sharpie® just as soon as the jars had cooled because I soon forget what I put inside. I have an inventory of clear jars I canned with I Cannot Remember What, which I failed to scribble their contents on their lids. I refer to them as my Barf collection now and, understandably, only rarely ever open a jar, though their contents usually turn out to be delightful. A pantry in name only. Even opening jars can require some courage.


This writing week ends with opened cans. I am at this very moment sitting back at my desk in my freshly refurbished office, Kurt Our Painter having finished patching brad holes in the freshly installed baseboard and crown moulding and touching up the paint. I yesterday afternoon successfully remounted shiny brass door knobs on both the entry and closet doors. I even swept the floor. My book shelves remain stacked on their backs in a pile in the middle of the room and my chair sits on top of a piece of cardboard, but the refurbishing of my office is finished, or finished enough for me to start the process of finally moving in. It's been a long time coming and many, many can openings.

I began my writing week reflecting upon an impending and probably messy ending in
Flurry. "This year of The Great Refurbish, the Flurry comes with an impending end to the effort, and it seems true with all effort, that the final push tends to become hectic."

After crowing about how I could see an ending, I caught myself
Stalled. "It's inevitably some small thing, never a catastrophe, not even something worth noticing until it halts forward progress."

Next came a meditation on how
Proficiency comes about. For me, it tends to come late in a process, just before I might never need another access to it. Then again, I might just stumble into what I already knew appearing in different guises. "It might be that we're all proficient in self-portraiture. Whatever we do, there we are."

I then sang praises for an under-appreciated but eternal part of everything,
Schlepping. "No better preparation for anything than Schlepping something first. However masterful we ever were as teachers, we were much better Schleppers than teachers."

I next wrote about a common enough myth, that there's actually such a thing as
BackTogetherAgain. There isn't! "There is no perfection, only 'perfect enough.' There is likewise no BackTogetherAgain, only moving forward, which will never provide closure. Life's open-ended."

I fell into some bad company, my own as it turned out, and caught myself becoming Divisible. In what might stand in for my obligatory political screed of the week, I noticed that "Our Pledge Of Allegiance, for which we're expected to stand, declaims that we're indivisible. Of course we're not. We're here together in the middle of this continuing experiment because we're eminently Divisible and we know it!"

I ended my writing week Seized, in every possible sense of that term. "We might have married in too much haste, but once hitched we knew that we'd make good on our commitments with no real regrets, even if our efforts killed us. Such is infatuation. Such is love."

In short, I spent my writing week OpeningCans. If you ever want to know the up-to-date status of anything nearing an ending, I counsel you not to ask, for those most knowledgable about the effort will be least likely to honestly assess it. They won't necessarily be deliberately dishonest about the status, but more of a very special sort of clueless. They might describe a quickening Flurry then admit to feeling Stalled. They might proclaim some backhanded Profiency in something they'll likely never do again. They will most certainly be at least partially engaged in Schlepping without acknowledging this truth even to them self. You, asking after the status, might propose a context which presumes the world will soon be BackTogetherAgain, when it will more likely remain Divisible. You and your project manager, if you've been engaging for any kind of lengthy period, will have certainly become Seized with the mission, by the purpose. Objective observation and reportage will therefore prove impossible. Try on some patience and sit back and watch. Pushing won't help. Neither will even a well-intended, loving shove. Even opening that last remaining can remains a mystery until it isn't. Thanks for wandering around here with me!

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver