Rendered Fat Content


Thomas Hart Benton: Homestead (1934)

" … there's always a trick and … the experts always neglect to mention it …"

It turns out that if I volunteer to serve as my own housepainter, the universe will quite unselfconsciously presume that I am also by extension signing on to become my own sheet metal worker. How this natural expansion occurs remains a mystery, but that it occurs seems indisputable. I set about to paint a slice of south-facing wall, this one with a downspout hanging on it. I ask Kurt, who serves as my painting consultant because he's a real painter, if I really need to take down the downspout to properly paint that face. He reassures me that it's completely optional. I can choose whichever without compromising my highest intentions. I admit that I'm more opposed to the idea of taking down the downspout than actually opposed to the taking down of it, for the idea complicates my simple-minded notion of what I'm supposed to be up to. I signed on to serve as my painter, not, by extension or otherwise, my own sheet metal worker. That downspout was fabricated out of sheet metal and while I know little about painting, I know much less about sheet metal working. I know nothing whatsoever about sheet metal working, so if I were to decide to take down that downspout, I would by extension, again, be agreeing to become my own liability, even more than agreeing to become my own housepainter rendered me. I'd step over that invisible line and crossover into truly clueless territory.

Yea, I ultimately decided that I would have to take down that downspout if I were going to properly paint that wall.
I could not see how I could possible paint up to that downspout on two sides down that entire twenty foot wall without slopping paint onto the downspout or proving myself incapable of covering all visible parts of the wall. It had to come down for me to properly paint. It took me the longest time to figure out how to take the damned thing down, and I was burning daylight while I deliberated. The downspout was apparently held in place by small screws, slot-headed and fitted through small holes on little brackets, which I'd watched the roofers fabricate in place out of gutter material the day they put the gutters and downspouts in place. My slotted screwdriver couldn't release these screws' tension and not all were positioned to allow my screwdriver to reach them. Frustrated, I went looking for my socket wrench set, since the screws also seemed to have hex heads, and I cleverly deduced that their hex heads might make them removable by means of a socket wrench. That insight proved correct.

I also found an appropriately-sized hex fitting for my wireless driver, so I could even make that noise real workmen produce with their machines, the sound of a driver bottoming out signifying that a screw can be no tighter. I, of course, intended to loosen these sheet metal babies, and so I did, with some speed, daylight wasting. I dutifully collected each screw and each bracket in a large Zip-loc® baggie so I'd have them handy when it came time to rehang that downspout. In short order, I'd removed that hazard to navigation from the wall and all seemed perfectly right with my world. Plus, I'd apparently successfully navigated my first challenge as a nascent sheet metal worker. All seemed well with my work. (Can you see how I erred?)

By the end of that day I felt fried in the way that only twelve hours on scaffolding can leave one feeling fried. I tried to hang that downspout back onto that wall, but quickly determined that there just had to be a trick to rehanging it that had not been apparent when taking it down, or at least not apparent to this clueless sheet metal worker. The screws and holes did not align and no obvious solution emerged. I made the courageous decision to leave the downspout off overnight since no rain was forecast to arrive until the following morning. I also left a voicemail for Kurt Our Painter, requesting a semi-emergency consultation re: sheet metal working.

It turned out that there was a trick to reassembling that downspout, a trick so well-understood to sheet metal workers that they neglect to mention it in their videos. Sheet metal, unlike almost everything else, does not go together into standard sizes. Those little brackets holding downspouts were custom snipped from material the moment before they were needed, each unique, each custom-drilled. The six I'd removed when taking down the downspout were really quite different, but I'd neglected to note which bracket came from which position, and it hadn't even occurred to me to make that distinction when removing or even when reattaching them. That one act would render my reattaching the downspout more complicated. I somehow managed to successfully reattach both screws to the very top bracket, the primary weigh-bearing one. This felt like a major accomplishment because I managed that while blindly aligning and balancing on the top of the scaffolding. The other brackets could not be aligned at all. I managed a single screw, in a couple, two, but no other bracket would fully reattach without some drilling and readapting, nothing I was prepared to do with rain threatening. I reassembled it "good enough," by which I mean, "as if assembled by a complete idiot."

There's always a trick. The experts long ago lost awareness of the trick and of its uniqueness and of the absolute necessity of understanding it. Their YouTube videos might demonstrate the trick in action, but never actually describe that action. It flashes by in less than a New York Second, and so us naive workers, the ones conscripted by the necessity of being our own housepainters into being our own clueless sheet metal workers, never notice it. We engage as if aware of the issues involved only to learn later than we didn't know the half of the job. When I next remove that downspout, I'll be wiser. I will not be able to properly place those brackets the second time, but I might come prepared then to drill new holes. Because there's always a trick and because the experts always neglect to mention it, us overly-extended own housepainters find ourselves occasionally SheetMetalScrewed. It's what we do. It comes with our territory.


Friday? Already? This was a good week, not that weeks get gold stars for good behavior or anything. It's more like I felt as if I was making real progress, as if progress even comes in 'real' versions. We moved the scaffolding to a fresh position along the infinite south-facing wall. Surely that's progress, whether real or not. I also managed to learn a few things in the process and even found time to appreciate. What's not to like about a week like that?

I began my writing week considering
Structural changes, something I'm unused to considering. "I'm much more skilled at the consequently superficial than the structural."

I next noticed that I'd advanced my position through diligence and patience until I'm pretty much
Unemployable now. "We're free to be anything except an employee and at liberty to possess anything but a job."

My most popular posting of this period spoke of
Incivility. "It has become my sacred responsibility to encourage civility regardless of the context."

I went downright rapturous with a small homage to
LilacSeason. "I believe that I plotted my pathway between LilacSeasons, anchoring each move with forward anticipation of a next and then a following next one coming."

I peeked into a world I know so well It's almost second nature for me to feel
DoubleBound. "When I have to, want to, but can't, I hover on the edge of some fresh enlightenment."

I finally found an opening in this foot-dragging weather to try a little
Sprinting. "I understand that this effort's no race and I'm better on scaffolding when I'm hastening slowly, but I finally feel as frisky as I need to feel to nudge my way through this otherwise ordeal."

I ended my writing week by
PaintingMyHead. "It's never enough to just stay focused."

I feel fortunate that I was applying a neutral primer when I painted my head. Looking back over my writing week from the safe haven of beyond it, I see that my writing was fairly evenly split between writing about content and context, and for me that was the life lesson this week imparted. It often seems necessary to focus exclusively upon content, at least until the context bites me. Then, I tend to focus upon context until content bites me. Back and forth, balancing, I guess, but never actually in balance. Those static noun forms seem unrealistic representations. I am appreciating you following along with my considerings, my Reconning. Thank you!

©2022 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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