Rendered Fat Content


Michael Taylor: Boy with Apple, a faux painting made for the 2014 film The Grand Budapest Hotel.
" … a substance expressly designed to undo the past with an unskilled hand."

As I finished sanding the last baseboard to bare wood, I caught myself having insisted upon the lowliest role again. In the grand pecking order I've constructed within my head, our painter Kurt and our carpenter Joel both hold lofty positions due to the experience and skill they bring to the effort. Even The Muse, who mostly engages in abstentia while working remotely in her Basement Zoom® Lair, holds a loftier position than mine, for she's the designer and vision keeper. She's the one everyone else waits on before they proceed. Me? I'm the guy who semi-reliably removes nails and mostly successfully tries to keep track of doorknobs. I also empty garbage and sand. I've been sanding a lot lately. Once we realized that we'd need to reclaim and alter all the existing door and window trim to satisfy The Muse's vision for them, it became necessary to sand all those boards to bare, to rid them of every trace of a hundred and fifteen years of accumulated past. Five coats for some pieces.

Rather than divert paid assistance toward such a lowly assignment, I volunteered.
Besides, I had the Silent Paint Remover which could drench each board in ultraviolet heat, which might make the paint easier to remove. Nothing rendered those accumulated coats easy to remove, for removing paint is at best a tedious occupation, one for which I consider myself perfectly suited. I set to work. I'd focus upon hour spurts then take lengthening breaks until the end of the day. My clothes would become saturated with fine dust so that I sloughed off as I walked, like Charles Shultz' Pigpen used to. I'd have to throw those clothes into the washer at the end of the day because there'd be no place to lay them that wouldn't become just as dusty as they were. Kurt managed to prime a few of my finished pieces before Joel grabbed them for alternation. By the end, I was down to being just one scant board ahead of the skilled contributors' relentless progression. A few minutes after I'd finished that last one, Joel had already lengthened it to size.

I went on to sanding two odd baseboards and a couple of window frame stops that had cracked when removed. I'd glued them back together and my sanding revealed a tiger-striping beneath the paint. I imagined that if I became really skilled, I might be able to reverse any piece to its former state, so sensitive I might become to removing paint that I could do it one layer at a time. It was an absurd little daydream, since no surface is ever completely flat, each coat of paint covers little peaks and valleys rendered invisible by the presence of a consistent color. When sanding, those variations come into focus. Paint does not come off one layer at a time. History cannot be so blithely recreated. One must imagine more than observe to recreate any past.

Beneath all the coats was a dusty reddish ocher, like Southwest sandstone, a pure pigment without evident oil in it. Above that, a cheery blue, the sort of hue in which My Blue Heaven was undoubtedly painted. Above that, a distinctly institutional green, then a humorless beige. The boards looked better bare and I imagined them delighted at having been reincarnated as if freshly milled. They even smelled new, once I'd removed their dusty pasts. I had become a fountain of youth. I imagine that skilled professionals do not catch themselves engaging in such diverting fantasies. It might take a truly demeaning task to chase an imagination into such desperate measures. I pretended I was setting land speed records. I never did catch on how to tell when my sanding disk's sand was gone. Of course sanding disks don't employ actual sand anymore. They're made of some space age polymer, I suspect, a substance expressly designed to undo the past with an unskilled hand.


My Fridays sometimes seem identical to one of my sanding rituals where I'm relentlessly grinding away at an accumulation to expose some underlying base. This week's accretions still seem like fresh paint, though, so I'll let them lie. Letting them lie might be a decent way to expose some deeper truth, something hinted at on the surface but resident just beneath. The truth seems to be that every surface, each present, misrepresents its past. A sloppy coat of paint says nothing about the noble heritage it covers. Likewise, a skillfully applied coat can make cardboard look like an exotic wood, fooling more than the eye and preserving the pocketbook. Only The Sandman knows the underlying nature for sure, and he's not talkin'.

I began my writing week with a sense of
GreatGoodFortune. "Accidental convergences cannot be successfully second guessed and never warrant later reworking."

I next considered how little of anything anyone does by themself in
DIY. "We're none of us islands of skill, but isthmuses."

I noticed how my writing sometimes tends to anticipate what's going to happen in
Roostering. "I'm finding that admitting a personal shortcoming almost always helps resolve it. Perhaps at that hour, my scribbling travels directly from keyboard to God's ear with little distraction."

I received notice of the death of a long lost friend,
Jerry, my story the most popular of this writing week. "Now a long lost friend forever."

I next deconstructed the concept of driving results in
Walker. "Hug the day, don't seize it. It does not need conquering but nurturing and acceptance."

I recounted a real life-changing experience with my GrandOther in
Changeling. "I'd learned that getting good and lost was perhaps the very best way to get good and found."

I seem to have ended my writing week just about where I began it in
TheGrip. "Nobody else need know or pretend to understand any one else's grand obsession. It's the most personal possession because it possesses you, too. TheGrip always accompanies it …"

And so yet another writing week slips past me, leaving some treasured detritus, like a few fresh coats of paint for later sanding. One day, I guess, I might feel the need to repurpose what I've created this week, perhaps to refurbish. (Furbish, by the way, means 'to polish', so Refurbishing means 'repolishing.') Sanding seems an extreme form of Refurbishing, something intended to take off a finish, perhaps for the purposes of creating a new beginning. Being temporarily in the new beginning business seems an act of GreatGoodFortune which has really held me in TheGrip, even while fulfilling the lowly role of SandMan. We're not nearly finished yet. Thanks for looking in.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

blog comments powered by Disqus

Made in RapidWeaver