I recently moved to a house in the country. A very old house. Very deep in the country. In rural Louisiana, to be exact. I moved in with my girlfriend. It’s her house. It was her parents’ house and her grandparents’ house before that. It’s been moved at least once. It’s small—about 800 square feet. It needs a lot of attention. Like me, it needs work.
I soon found this out. It didn’t take long for the house to reveal its true self. Things needed to be fixed, changed, replaced, etc. If it were a person, it would need a hip replacement, knee replacement, pacemaker, cataract surgery, hernia operation, hearing aid, maybe plastic surgery, not to mention haircut, manicure, new wardrobe, better diet and teeth whitened.
Lots of stuff.
I do not know how to do this stuff.
For the past 45 years I’ve lived in cities. In apartments, to be precise. I never had a back yard, a roof that was mine alone, a garage, a porch, an attic, a basement. I never owned a stove, a refrigerator, an air conditioner. They all came with the apartments. I never had to fix anything. For that, in New York, there was the superintendent. In New Orleans, the landlord. Any leak, drain problem, heating loss, stove anomaly, I called the super or the landlord. They came with their toolbox. They fixed things. For forty-five years, it went like this. And, for the most part, all went smoothly.
Not just that. I don’t know how to fix most of these things. I never learned. Cue chagrin emoji.
Now, with the house, there is no superintendent or landlord. They are me. Plus, the things that need fixing go far beyond clogged drains. (I actually fixed one of those in the house! Well, she did.)
A new sink and vanity was needed in the bathroom, for instance. The old one did not function at all. So we went to Lowe’s and purchased a new one. One small detail! The sink and vanity needed to be installed and the old one removed. Plumbing and carpentry would be involved. Electricity, too, because we wanted a new light for the vanity/sink.
The men we found online who arrived to do that were capable. I could hear and see their experience in the questions they asked between themselves and decisions they made.
I stood by in admiration, wonder and face-reddened envy.
Not to be able to make the most basic repairs and, beyond that, to fix things that any self-respecting—yes! Here it comes!—man should be able to fix puts things in perspective, quickly.
It didn’t seem appropriate at the time to sing out, “Hey guys, I can write a good, solid sentence! Want to hear one of my latest?” Art in the end doesn’t do anything practical. It has its benefits, true. I wouldn’t have devoted my life to it otherwise.
But some days I just want to be able to install a damn sink.
Everything about it is satisfying. When you’re done, you look at it and think: anyone can see what a good job this is. It works well. It looks good. Yes, anyone can see that.
And I can say I did it.