Rendered Fat Content


Detail of the preparatory design by Gustav Klimt for the mosaic friezes of the main dining room of the Stoclet Palace
(Museum für angewandte Kunst, Vienna) (circa 1903)
"The final act of every improvement TouchesUp."

Almost nothing finishes like a horse race does, with successes and failures neatly lined up in decisive conclusion. It's gone in an instant. Most activities end with more of a smear on their lens, approaching finished but never quite there yet, a spin away from conclusion. Eventually, the crowd disperses and the stadium quiets, then one might reasonably deduce that something happened but clearly, if not decisively, ended. An absence replaces a presence and we call that negative space a done. Before drawing that conclusion, though, picky little endings need tidying up. The effort might be largely concluded but not yet minutely finished. In Our Grand Refurbish, cast brass window locks sit atop sashes but have not yet been attached. Several doors remain to be hung and adorned, at least one needing some serious sanding on top in order to fit back into its frame. Little bits of painting remains, too, final coats and ragged edges, a few nail holes still need filling and final dressing, Touching Up. It's like a final accounting before the crew departs the building. The list of needed TouchingUps shrinks but seems essentially bottomless.

I like the idea that the last activities are classified as touching, for much of the Refurbish work seemed a whole lot more brutal, crushing blows and smashing throes, cutting carpeting, extracting tiny staples, floating walls and ceilings, burying past mistakes, hiding unfortunate legacies.
That we'd conclude the race with touches seems an act of grace and forgiveness, by and for ourselves. Father won't forgive us if we cannot first humble ourselves to forgive ourselves. If ever anyone trespassed upon any place, we trespassed upon ourselves here. Worse, we invited in a crew of experienced trespassers to engage with us to undo pasts and extend futures, both outrageously presumptuous and largely, delightfully, successful. The pile of scrap wood on the front porch speaks perhaps most eloquently to the violence we wreaked upon this old place. What might now appear tidy and spacious came about due to a terribly focused violence and can only be healed by careful touching, TouchingUp.

I felt like a ninny at first, delicately approaching my work. About the two-thousandth nail I pulled out by its root, I had grown more jaded, less concerned and careful. I could engage in casual violations by then, having grown calloused with experience. I knew what to do with the BIG fucking pliers, and I plied that trade. I scraped and sanded with greater abandon having learned what was kindness and what was oblivion. Plaster sometimes cracks when removing baseboards. Plaster cracks but it also mends. However carefully attempted, some collateral damage results. No guilt, no shame, no real lasting harm, only a receding sense of a foul, not even I will remember until I catch myself kneeling, TouchingUp something, touching. No longer intent upon changing, but concluding.

A line of seven fine brass screws sits atop my desk, that and a few small plastic bags of the same, for each solid brass door hinge came with more than twice the number of screws needed to affix them to door and frame. They provided both Phillips-headed and slotted screws, as if anyone preferred to use the slotted kind if they could avoid them. They also, in apparent recognition that one can't help but ruin some in use, thoughtfully provided four more screws of each kind than would be needed if all went well. Those seven screws represent my net success so far attaching those hinges. I'm seven screws ahead of the game, which suggests that I'm developing the touch combining delicacy and toughness. I tighten these exclusively by hand, feeling the screw augering into the wood. There's a point where the screw's sunk just enough. To attempt to turn it any further risks stripping out the head or even bending it. No instructions come to describe that point which only appears with experience. It's fitting, then, and touching, too, that one can only properly turn a screw with sensitivity, by touch. The final act of every improvement TouchesUp.


I find myself feeling as though I'm TouchingUp my writing week each Friday morning. The week cannot finish without a little recounting, without going back and touching each posting one final time. I'll find a few errors that survived the first few readings and make corrections for posterity, I guess, because each piece already by then belongs to the past. The TouchingUp, though, still seems important, as if it alone somehow keeps my universe, and ours, in balance. It might be nothing more than a ritual, like me mounting the scaffolding one last time to check to see if there's anything still remaining to be finished up there, and finding something, fixing it, then turning my back on it forever.

I began my writing week engaging in the
NormalImpossible. "How could anyone produce a simultaneous utter failure and wild success? Yet precisely this stands as the hallmark and routine result of NormalImpossible work."

I beat my chest a bit in abject frustration over my continuing inability to properly hang
Hinges&Doors. "Skill at hanging doors on hinges depends less upon any actual skill and more upon clever coping."

My most popular posting of the week might have also been my most obscure, Pastiche. "We have become a Pastiche society, one dedicated to emulating rather than creating, copying rather than originating."

I next bemoaned how long ending seemed to have been taking with
RushTheExit, a cautionary tale. "We dare not rush the result or we'll forfeit our purpose. Hasten home slowly …"

I then noticed that things seemed to have been lining up for a decent conclusion after all in LineADucks. "Faith is not unsupported belief but the belief in uncanny experience like ducks lining up."

I confided a little fashion nonsense in a piece about my new pants in
Overalls. "The zipper reminds me of my grandfather's, which started somewhere up near his nipples and extended down to just above his knees. Expansive describes the fit, which never threatens to come into contact with actual skin south of my shoulders. I feel like I'm wearing a cloth barrel."

I ended my writing week by describing what I suspect represents a common element of finishing up, that stage just before TouchingUp starts, in
Swarming. "Our focus has narrowed to a handful of tasks. We're not waiting for permission, perdition, or supplies."

In reflection, I see that I sure did write a lot about finishing this week. Finishing still seems like a NormalImpossibility now, but the Hinges&Doors I complained about have gone on to resolve themselves. One cannot successfully Pastiche an exit. we're either here or gone. I'm still here. I reminded myself to hasten slowly rather than RushTheExit, then found my ducks lining themselves up into a LineADucks. Still test-driving my new but now paint-splattered Overalls, the Swarming continues here in considerable earnest. We'll very likely be closer but not yet quite done by this time next week. Thanks for following along. My final TouchingUp on Fridays always involves thanking my audience.

There! That's what done feels like.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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