Rendered Fat Content


Robert Delaunay: Rhythm, Joie de vivre (1930)
" … indistinguishable from madness and joy."

I believe that we've already established that destroying's more entertaining than creating and that some work seems better suited for kids, or at least the kid inside. While Refurbishing might seem a net creative act, one must sort of blank the palette before painting, and much of the prep work comes in the inherently satisfying Making Waste category, by way of Removals. None have proven half as satisfying as removing wallpaper, though, for wallpaper mostly exists as a criminal enterprise. Often hung in lieu of fixing the underlying wall, it hides deep dark secrets, albeit poorly, thereby keeping them alive. The one who chose the wall covering might have once upon a time been satisfied with their choice, but they long ago passed on, leaving their handiwork behind which aged just as poorly as they did, yet it's still on display. In our old place, some mid-seventies remodel, we figure, left the music room/library bordered with a gilded paisley burgundy specimen, the garish out-of-placeness of which, we once sort of reveled in. The time had come to take that down.

I tried reasoning with the stuff, spraying it with warmish water and adding patience, but it would not release its grasp.
Joel Our Carpenter reported that he owned an actual steamer, the tool specifically made for that job, and offered to bring it over. The two rooms we're left to transform can feel a little crowded if the painter, the carpenter, and me are in there simultaneously working, so I waited for a window when one of us wouldn't be home, then set to work, laying tarp and bringing up the rickety ladder with the shelf from the basement. (Rickety ladders with shelves are de rigueur for wallpaper removal, in case you didn't know.) The machine produces steam which it delivers to a plate designed to contain it over its target. It thereby steams wallpaper off a wall by heating it and wetting it until one can simply prize up the leading edge and pull it off more or less intact. It's a fine trick which demands a little practice, but by the time I'd steamed away the first tankful of water, I'd found the rhythm and was making genuine progress.

At first, like anything, even Removals feel clumsy. Maybe you're working left to right when you might be better situated working right to left. Whatever. It's always something, but it's mostly just unfamiliarity at first. The technology's new to you or, as in my case, it had been forty years since I had laid hands on it. The newer machine was much lighter weight and better designed for what I was trying to do, and therefore relatively easy to adapt to. That second tankful propelled me across the second wall face quickly and without incident. The job had quickly become mindless, which only served to make it just that much more satisfying. I was hatching plots and working through past traumas while making real progress, you know, just the kind of stuff one does when deep into the flow of destruction in the grip of Removals. I'd found the pattern of this task or it had found me. I was perfectly satisfied and started seriously considering an extended career as a professional wallpaper remover: have steamer, will travel. I even danced with the idea of becoming a wallpaper steamer terrorist, surreptitiously removing offensive wall covering in hotel rooms without asking, checking out the next morning without telling anyone what I'd done, traveling under fictitious identities. Removals work can be freeing.

I picked up the shards of wallpaper once I'd finished. The ceiling in that room looked about two feet higher. The color which had always through our tenure framed that space was absent. Those three walls were ready for prepping and painting and I was out of work again. As has happened repeatedly on this Grand Refurbishment, I'd mastered some arcane skill only to face the likelihood that I'd never need to call upon that skill again. We're almost out of Removals, too, a couple of windows to take out, a couple of book shelf supports. We're almost reduced to additions now, which feels like the end of this project's summer. Without the prospect of impending Removals, we're forced to behave like grownups. The little people inside these big people bodies will need to go into hibernation for a season or two. By Spring, I'm hopeful that a fresh raft of Removals might become necessary and I can set myself up to master yet another arcane skill which I'll likely never need to employ thereafter. The joy Removals bring remains fleeting but essential, a part of life necessary to retain sanity, which always was indistinguishable from madness and joy.


It occurs to me that this Friday recap of my writing week amounts to Removals work, wherein I move what was so recently current into the archives, making space for whatever comes next. The shelf life of each piece counted in days, each also never to be repeated. Like in life, there are no do-overs or resurrections allowed in this business. I do each piece precisely once, each morning delivering me a fresh blank canvas with no hint of what to paint upon it. Each evening expends the short tenure of that morning's piece. Once a week, I bring out my broom or wallpaper steamer and remove the week's remainders in a seemingly endless cycle. I try not to worry or obsess about tomorrow, but to live within each moment, if not timelessly, then heedlessly instead. The kid in me, like the kid inside you, remains innocent to the point of naivety. I suspect that we're better off that way.

I began my fleeting writing week
OpeningCans. "OpeningCans screams that I've accepted full responsibility for dealing with the contents, whether they be worms or just what I'd imagined."

I next produced a piece in praise of our kittens on the occasion of the second anniversary of them joining this family in
Kittening, the most popular posting this period. "I swore when we acquired these two people—for cats are people, my friend—that I would make it my business to turn them into kittens. I had not really expected them to beat me to it."

In the first finish from The Grand Refurbishing, I gleaned a posting, which I called
StartingInto, about moving into my office. "I had no place to retreat into, no place to recharge my beleaguered batteries, no place to even think, but now I'm StartingInto."

I wrote about taking down scaffolding almost all by myself, a previously unthinkable act which I successfully accomplished by
Scarin'Myself. "I hold the firm belief that it's inherently healthy for me to occasionally scare myself. This amounts to a philosophical position, however, and does not always or even usually translate into me frequently so engaging."

I reflected upon something I hadn't noticed until
UnBoxing my books. "We put our selves into those boxes and cannot really thrive until we arrive and unpack. To arrive and remain unpacked creates a contradiction one might not notice until finally unpacking."

I spoke next of transition from Indian Summer into The Bleak Season in
KindWind. "The Kindwind resolves that tension and confirms the worst, bringing a sort of salvation."

I concluded my writing week not by cleaning up odds and ends but by acknowledging my growing inventory of
Odds&Infinities. "I am, at some level, the sum total not of what I've accomplished, but of what I've left undone."

I expect to always be OpeningCans. I set out Kittening without noticing that those damned kittens were successfully turning me into them, Kittening me better than I was Kittening them! Each morning now feels like another StartingInto, an act of inhabiting familiar but fresh space. I stand a little taller after crouching down and genuinely ScaringMyself. I have much of myself still in boxes and warmly anticipate more UnBoxing in my future. I appreciate the KindWind's timely visit, blowing away my seasonal dread. I seem to have acquired a few fresh Odds&Infinities while producing these products of my writing week. Removals work completed, we may move forward again together. Thanks for following along beside and briefly lingering here with me!

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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