Sep 262011
 

Owen Courrèges

I’ve penned a new battle cry for the New Orleans homeowner:  “The house will not win.”  As a corollary, I’ve also penned another battle cry for the male handyman: “Common sense will not win.”

Recently, I’ve been performing all manner of work on my house.  The stucco on my foundation cracked and began to fall off, so I had to repair it.  I went to Harry’s Hardware, bought some stucco and mixed it up without checking the proper water/stucco ratio (because *real* men never read instructions).

The end result was a watery mess that would barely stay on the house.  Somehow I managed to get enough to stick to repair the holes, but because the old stucco had separated, it didn’t quite match up and my foundation resembled Manuel Noriega’s face.  Worse, I had failed to wear gloves (because *real* men don’t use proper safety equipment) and my hands had become the consistency of hamburger.

Next, I decided to tackle a more long-term project; painting the ironwork around my house.  Since my house is on a corner and the ironwork didn’t appear to have been painted within my lifetime, this was going to be a massive task.

First of all, I decided to start this task in the middle the August heat, and instead of renting a sandblaster or some other instrument to speed up preparing the iron, I decided to use a single wire brush with a scraper on the end (because *real* men don’t use machines when a more primitive and inefficient tool will do).

Day after day I labored for hours, scraping the old paint off by hand until I was literally drenched in my own sweat and virtually collapsing from heat stroke.

Next, I had to start painting the ironwork.  However, instead of using a roller or a paint sprayer, I decided to do the whole thing in spray paint (because… I don’t rightfully know).  This was massively expensive, as I repeatedly returned to Harry’s to buy them out of high gloss black spray paint.  And of course, I didn’t use a safety mask, so every time I painted I wound up with about three pounds of spray paint in my nose.  If I sneezed, I looked like that dinosaur from Jurassic Park that attacked what’s-his-face from “Seinfeld.”

Apparently, I hadn’t had enough punishment, though, so I decided to strip the attic vents over the front porch.  These vents are original to the house (meaning they were installed in 1870) and had never been stripped before.  They literally had a quarter inch of paint built-up, which was closing off the holes.

Now, your average man would take off the vents and strip the paint with some chemical agent, but I am no average man.  I got up on a ten foot step-ladder with a Swiss Army Knife (because *real* men know that anything can be done with a Swiss Army Knife) and manually scraped the paint off the vents.  140 years of debris spilled down on my face from the attic as I stood atop my step-ladder.

While doing this task, I noticed some rotting fascia at the side of the upstairs porch.  Accordingly, I eased over my ten foot step-ladder to the rotting fascia and tried to rip it out.  Prior to doing this, I did not tie off my ladder, even though the porch is slanted and the fascia was over forty feet off the ground (because *real* men court danger).  Sure enough, the ladder buckled and I was sent tumbling.  Miraculously, I survived unscathed when the ladder bent as it struck the porch railing; I fell directly onto the railing and suffered nothing worse than a shock to the system and a slightly bruised tuckus.  The ladder, sadly, did not survive.

Since that time, I have continued my dangerous home repairs with reckless abandon.  Coincidentally, about a week after my brush with death, I received a flyer from my auto insurance company, USAA, about an offer for life insurance.  Apparently, based on my age, I can get $250,000 in coverage for only about $15 per month.

I think I’m going to take advantage of this offer, at least until my home is fixed, or until I gain some measure of common sense.  It will be the one prudent thing I’ve done lately.

Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.

  9 Responses to “Owen Courreges: Attack on the homefront”

  1. That sounds about right, Owen. My husband and I attempt repairs on our own ending up in very mixed results except we are far lazier and can’t even get motivated to finish painting the living room, much putting in a new sink in the downstairs bathroom.

  2. Hilarious essay! Glad you didn’t seriously hurt yourself.

  3. You read from the same instruction book I do , Owen,,,Find yourself a fishing camp in the swamp, eight swampy difficult miles from anything like a hardware store or paint store, and out of reach for any sane ambulance driver, and most cell phones. That will be more fun than home. I have one in mind for you on which you may practice these skills.
    Great piece.

  4. Hysterical, Owen! My money is on the house, though.

  5. Owen,

    I enjoyed the article and cringed with empathy as I read. With insurance in mind, you might give some thought to an accidental death or dismemberment policy. Or, you might take DocDock’s suggestion and move to a distant location as most accidents occur within 25 miles of home.

  6. Good article.

    I bought an old house in the Spring. I screw something up pretty much every weekend. Most recently, I stuck my foot through the living room ceiling while “arranging” the attic. As I ran downstairs to assess the hole in the ceiling from a new vantage, I left the entry to the attic open. The cat that I was watching for a friend then entered the attic and disappeared for a while. In a few untidy minutes, I had both caused a hole in my ceiling and lost a friend’s cat. The cat returned after much cajoling, and I hired some sheetrockers to fix the ceiling. The hole is patched, but is painted a much different color than the paint on the rest of the ceiling. The pleasures of home ownership are evasive.

  7. I hope for these repairs you went to city hall and got a work permit. I would hate to see the neighbors who believe they own the streets shut your shoddy handyman work down.

  8. Owen, Thanks for the laughs and the memories…my father was a DIY “expert” and your experiences sound all too familiar. I suggest that you add various electrical tasks to your agenda, and remember what my father said…”real” men never turn off the current!
    Oh and don’t forget to take your electric drill under the house and lie on damp ground with your head on a metal pipe whenever possible. You will surely experience the thrill of near electrocution when the drill shorts out! (You might want to station a friend at the breaker box to pull the switch when your moans get loud enough to be heard!) Best wishes for a long and eventful life!

    • Jen,

      Oh, I’ve done some electrical – and there has yet to be a time that I haven’t shocked myself at least once (one time when on a 40 foot extension ladder).

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