Leak

“It’s a cook’s instinct, Mom,” Squints explained, sprinkling a pinch of sugar over his pizza sauce.  “Kind of like a Jedi fighter going after Darth Vader.”  It was this same cook’s instinct that led him to add vinegar to his homemade ranch dressing last night. 

“That’s going to taste funny,” I told him. “The vinegar is going to separate the fat in the buttermilk.” 

Of course I was wrong.  The dressing was delicious.

But I noticed that Squints’ cook’s instinct failed him on the second night of our pizza bakeoff: His instinct didn’t tell him that that night he would blow up the pizza stone in my oven.




The pizza bakeoff has been suspended until further notice.

* * *
But perhaps it was instinct that led me the other day, to look up at the showerhead and discover the source of the leak that has been plaguing us for months.  No amount of caulk around the wall where it leaked last time fixed it.  An examination by an expert revealed perfectly sound tiles.  Until the other day, I had never thought to look up when I was looking for the leak; to press my fingers along the drywall and feel it give under pressure. 

I picked up the phone and called the handyman who knows my house as well as I do.   He showed up, clothes and hair and, yes, even glasses speckled with paint from another job he was working on.  He followed me upstairs, shaking his head solemnly as I put my hand to the wall. 

“So how much would you guess?” I asked, crossing my fingers behind my back.

"Well, got to tear that entire wall out.” He gestured to the shower tiles.  “Replace the wood.  Possibly reset the shower stall floor.  Fix the plumbing.  Retile.  Fix the kitchen ceiling.  I’m guessing…”  Here, he winced.  And I winced, too.  “Fifteen hundred?”

Sold.   The last time the shower leaked, I hired a specialist and spent three thousand dollars to repair a quarter wall of tile.

We arranged for a date for the work to begin.  “I may need to bring in a plumber for that shower floor,” he said.  “If it gets to be too complicated.”

“I’ve got a good drywall guy,” I added, pointing to the kitchen ceiling.  “If you need one.”

He squinted at the ceiling. “Nah…I can handle that.  But if you ever need one, forget yours.  I’ve got a better one.”  And here he named a man: my drywall guy, a man retired from the business of rushing up houses, but working on his own, one job at a time, a true craftsman in his work.

Over the years, I’ve amassed a small army of independent people to address issues in my house: An electrician who sits at my kitchen table and talks for twenty minutes after he repairs a switch; a handyman who tells me about his latest grandchildren.  A drywall man who talks about the old way of building houses.  An appliance repairman who pulls out my ice machine, jawing about his family and the government while squinting at a faulty motor, reading glasses perched on the edge of his nose.

Each of these men is engaged in a process done so seamlessly and so many times in their careers, they appear to work on instinct. 

I envy their skill.  I wish I had the knowledge and the courage to do what they do: to hang drywall; to tear apart an electric switch; to rip out tile.

But instinct tells me I’d better not try it.

So instead, I head outside to work in my garden.

A small army of birds perches in the branches of the pin oak, patiently waiting for spring.






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Writing in the Margins, Bursting at the Seams: Leak

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Leak

“It’s a cook’s instinct, Mom,” Squints explained, sprinkling a pinch of sugar over his pizza sauce.  “Kind of like a Jedi fighter going after Darth Vader.”  It was this same cook’s instinct that led him to add vinegar to his homemade ranch dressing last night. 

“That’s going to taste funny,” I told him. “The vinegar is going to separate the fat in the buttermilk.” 

Of course I was wrong.  The dressing was delicious.

But I noticed that Squints’ cook’s instinct failed him on the second night of our pizza bakeoff: His instinct didn’t tell him that that night he would blow up the pizza stone in my oven.




The pizza bakeoff has been suspended until further notice.

* * *
But perhaps it was instinct that led me the other day, to look up at the showerhead and discover the source of the leak that has been plaguing us for months.  No amount of caulk around the wall where it leaked last time fixed it.  An examination by an expert revealed perfectly sound tiles.  Until the other day, I had never thought to look up when I was looking for the leak; to press my fingers along the drywall and feel it give under pressure. 

I picked up the phone and called the handyman who knows my house as well as I do.   He showed up, clothes and hair and, yes, even glasses speckled with paint from another job he was working on.  He followed me upstairs, shaking his head solemnly as I put my hand to the wall. 

“So how much would you guess?” I asked, crossing my fingers behind my back.

"Well, got to tear that entire wall out.” He gestured to the shower tiles.  “Replace the wood.  Possibly reset the shower stall floor.  Fix the plumbing.  Retile.  Fix the kitchen ceiling.  I’m guessing…”  Here, he winced.  And I winced, too.  “Fifteen hundred?”

Sold.   The last time the shower leaked, I hired a specialist and spent three thousand dollars to repair a quarter wall of tile.

We arranged for a date for the work to begin.  “I may need to bring in a plumber for that shower floor,” he said.  “If it gets to be too complicated.”

“I’ve got a good drywall guy,” I added, pointing to the kitchen ceiling.  “If you need one.”

He squinted at the ceiling. “Nah…I can handle that.  But if you ever need one, forget yours.  I’ve got a better one.”  And here he named a man: my drywall guy, a man retired from the business of rushing up houses, but working on his own, one job at a time, a true craftsman in his work.

Over the years, I’ve amassed a small army of independent people to address issues in my house: An electrician who sits at my kitchen table and talks for twenty minutes after he repairs a switch; a handyman who tells me about his latest grandchildren.  A drywall man who talks about the old way of building houses.  An appliance repairman who pulls out my ice machine, jawing about his family and the government while squinting at a faulty motor, reading glasses perched on the edge of his nose.

Each of these men is engaged in a process done so seamlessly and so many times in their careers, they appear to work on instinct. 

I envy their skill.  I wish I had the knowledge and the courage to do what they do: to hang drywall; to tear apart an electric switch; to rip out tile.

But instinct tells me I’d better not try it.

So instead, I head outside to work in my garden.

A small army of birds perches in the branches of the pin oak, patiently waiting for spring.






Labels: , ,

15 Comments:

At February 29, 2012 at 8:07 AM , Anonymous Leslicollins said...

Another winner - and re instinct... you've developed and instinctual talent for knowing what your readers love.

 
At February 29, 2012 at 8:28 AM , Anonymous Elizabeth Young said...

How about culinary camp for Squints this Summer, he's got the makings of a fine young Chef!

 
At February 29, 2012 at 8:33 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Instinct tells me I can't afford it! But, once the oven's cleaned out, he's free to continue experimenting here.

 
At February 29, 2012 at 8:34 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks! Got to go buy a baking stone or two...

 
At February 29, 2012 at 9:04 AM , Anonymous Bella said...

Kelly, how did the pizza stone blow? Poor Squints! I'm sorry the pizza bakeoff has been put on hold and that you have to spend all that money on repairs! Here's to sunnier days ahead for you! :)

 
At February 29, 2012 at 9:46 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Bella: Not sure re the stone. But the friend who loaned it to us told us she hadn't used it in several years. Re: repairs - could've been worse! And at least we found the leak. Thanks for reading.

 
At February 29, 2012 at 4:50 PM , Anonymous jaum said...

I know what you mean about maintaining a relationship with all the GOOD repair men you might need. We'll call it "Kell's List" I even have one to repair old Maytag Wringer washers. "Old Henry" A good read and has a univeral appeal to any homeowner.. Have you lined up someone to help with the garden? Or is that your domain?

 
At February 29, 2012 at 5:05 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Hopefully, I can handle the garden.

 
At February 29, 2012 at 8:19 PM , Anonymous Julie Farrar said...

I have an old house, so I know that my list of handymen and appliance guys is worth more than gold.

 
At March 1, 2012 at 4:11 AM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Yes, and it's rare for me to share the names of my handymen. Only certain people get the list.

 
At March 1, 2012 at 2:58 PM , Anonymous Coming East said...

I think I could use the names of a couple of those handymen! When my youngest was about ten, he was fascinated with cooking shows. We'd sit and watch them together in the summers or after school. He's actually a really good cook now, so keep Squints interested and you may not have to cook all the meals.

 
At March 1, 2012 at 5:24 PM , Anonymous Katie687 said...

You do have that instinct...for writing. I wish I had it.

 
At March 1, 2012 at 6:47 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Once a month, he cooks for a week. It's a nice break for me!

 
At March 1, 2012 at 6:48 PM , Anonymous kgwaite said...

Thanks - I still want to build something though. Trying to convince Darth to build a cabin off the grid. Not likely to happen.

 
At March 2, 2012 at 9:27 AM , Anonymous Annabelle said...

I love that Squints considers his cooking instincts Jedi-like! Clearly you're raising them right.

 

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