Saturday, May 29, 2010

84 days to Bar Mitzvah: band-aids.

EZR Miracle Cleaner.

Stain, Lime & Rust Remover.

Klean Logic Scratch Away.

Miracle Floor Restore-a-Floor.

Woolite Oxy Deep.

Cault-Aide Caulk Refresher.

Clorox Bleach Pen.

These are the items needed to improve the state of your bathroom and living room when you are A) saving for a Bar Mitzvah that will cost four times what your wedding cost, and B) having people over tomorrow. They are lined up like soldiers on our kitchen island, sharing space with the Official RSVP Box. Over the course of today, while I've been running errands and taking Shack to the dog park, Sandra Bullock plans to employ each product in a low-budget attempt to make our house "presentable."

My errands included a trip to the drugstore to buy the following items: Benadryl, three-way-lightbulbs and liquid soap, also known as the things dreams are made of.

Never having lived anywhere together for longer than two years before buying this place in 2001, we're unaccustomed to living somewhere long enough for things to wear out. The filmy linen curtains in the living room are almost ten years old, which explains why they now resemble the ghostly billowing window treatments in the Haunted Mansion. Time got away from us. I still thought they were new.

Of course, I also think the living room couch is new. I'm completely shocked when I see pictures of Sandra Bullock sitting on it holding her brand-new baby. That baby is now partway through a sustained effort at proving that the "terrible twos" can't hold a candle to the "terrible 12s."

This house was already falling apart when we bought it. No one knows how old it is, thanks to its nomadic history. Our kitchen remodel was equal parts construction project and anthropological study. Here, on the wall where the old refrigerator sat in an ill-fitting cutout, is the outline of a door. Above the sink is a boarded-up square. How shocked were we when, upon removing the plywood cover, we found an actual intact window? In 1959, it looked out onto Glen Park. Now it looked directly at our next-door neighbors' exterior wall. Maybe three inches separated our house from hers.

Behind the cabinets we found relics both interesting (some "flea powder" perscribed by a Mission Street vet in 1960) and horrifying (a dead mouse). When we removed the ceiling, we found that our house didn't always have a flat roof. Someone -- maybe in 1959, so it would be easier to move? -- sawed off its peaked roof. The ceiling joists were all neatly cut at an angle.

I'd like to think that we've retarded our house's decay over the past decade, but it's unlikely. There are things we knew about ten years ago -- disintegrating shower tile, anyone? -- that we have not touched. It was more than five years ago during a rainstorm that we noticed how pourous our front staircase had become. Half a decade later, it can only be worse.

But who has the money to do all of these wholesale renovations? When you add the Bar Mitzvah to the cost of eighth grade, the sum leftover for home improvements equals exactly the cost of the items listed above. They, plus Sandra Bullock's seemingly endless supply of energy and elbow grease, will improve our house.

Our bathroom, sadly, is well beyond the point of Clorox Bleach Pen revival. For ten years, we've discussed fantasy bathroom remodels. At one point, the project included a complete reimagining of our downstairs, leading to a master suite (a phenomenon we've heard of but don't quite believe in, just like those rooms some people have for their cars. I believe they're called "garages.") and a downstairs retreat for the teenage Jawa.

Budget strains have forced us to scale back our plans. Now we're thinking a new vanity and a few doses of Restore-a-Floor.

I suspect that, despite the many caustic chemicals contained in the various bottles sitting on the bar, their ultimate efficacy will be similar to the endless roster of anti-aging and wrinkle-removing products shilled 24/7 on the Lifetime channel.

Even the eternally youthful Sandra Bullcok, whose job once revolved around the invention of a new kind of collagen and whose entire career is devoted to the creation of new medications, preaches fealty to cremes and lotions made by L'Oreal and Neutrogena. In moments of weakness (or strength) she will admit to me that it's "unlikely" the money she pours into Neutrogena's "Intensive" and "Restorative" product lines has any effect on the aging process. And yet, she says, "They seem to be working, so I'm going to keep using them." That's right. It's not genes and a childhood and adolescence spent in a place where it rains approximately 300 days a year; it's Neutrogena's Intensive Wrinkle Remover.

I do truly hope Restore-a-Floor outperforms anti-aging cosmetics. And I hope Klean Logic Scratch Away is as effective on cars as I've been told it is on hardwood floors.

Unlike most guys, I won't pretend I'm the world's greatest driver or even a "driving enthusiast." I don't get bitten by sharks lurking in the strawberry fields along I-5 (my sister) or back swiftly into the garage door (mother), but I do tend to scrape against things at low speeds. Our beloved Volvo is the sad recipient of my lack of spacial command.

If I do not at least go through the motions of applying Klean Logic Scratch Away to our car, I will be forced to confront the ongoing nighmare that is my child's bedrooms. Short of applying for Federal Disaster Relief, I'm not sure how to deal with that one.

Solutions-in-a-bottle might be band-aids we buy because we can't afford major surgery. Leave it to Sandra Bullock, though, to make sure they're Band-aids in colorful and interesting patterns, instead of the usual beige.

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