Monday, February 7, 2011

In the Basement with Sisyphus

One man versus a rock and a hill for eternity. It never pays to be a figure in Greek or Roman mythology, does it?

I think most of us can relate to Sisyphus, at least a bit. That feeling of futility that can overcome all of us in our jobs, lives, relationships. Housework is Sisyphean. You're not even done with the stuff before it is busy undoing itself. As you finish flourishing a Swiffer around you, somewhere a dust mote laughs maniacally and settles happily in your wake, it's the way of things.

Never-ending stacks of paperwork, quarterly reports, laundry baskets that never seem to be emptied before they are full again, most of us have that sort of things in our lives. There are figures in mythology I have very little in common with and that's something for which I'm tremendously grateful, as most of those folks seemed to be hosed but I can relate to Sisyphus's punishment if not any of his crimes. Still, it's not often and it's not without some form of relief.

Except my basement, that is. As far as I know, that is the true Underworld and for the rest of time I'm going to be painting that sucker. Not just because it's a large area, either. At any moment I half expect Hades himself to pop out of the storage area, flip me the bird and throw a pomegranate at my head just for chuckles.

When we first moved in here I bored the liver out of friends, family and readers here talking about painting, painting and when I had exhausted that subject? I talked about more painting. When you buy a large house inhabited for four prior years by a family with two teenage boys and a general aversion to all home maintenance, you'll likely end up painting a lot. Add in the apparent super-smoker who owned the joint before that and it becomes even more of a necessity.

The basement yawned beneath us, unpainted but fully finished, inhabited by my son for the first year and a half. However, he had an Icarus moment in the basement, or perhaps it is better described as a Prometheus moment, or even more bluntly: he nearly burned us to crisps in our beds one night causing me to release the Kraken within and boot his butt to one of the upstairs bedrooms. He didn't manage to set off the most hated of alarms at least, so at least the gods were smiling on me that night. Or smirking in my general direction, or something.

So he moved upstairs and we ventured downstairs and began to paint. And paint. When we were done with that we cursed a bunch and then we painted some more. The Super-Smokers I referenced before, who owned this house for five years and smoked in every square inch of its four thousand and some square feet, had the basement refinished, but for whatever reason they never had it painted. The only thing adorning the walls and baseboards down there is the drywall primer. I had hope it was just cream colored paint rendered dingy from the long ago dedicated Puffer, but no, it's primer.

This is only important because drywall primer is porous stuff. If it isn't rather promptly painted, it becomes more so.

If you listen closely on a still night, you might actually hear our gigantic basement taking another big slurp of paint. It drank the first two coats on both the walls and the ceiling almost as quickly as I could put them on the walls. They disappeared, letting the yellowed primer bleed back through.

On the third coat it looked like I was going to reach the summit with my rock, but alas it was not to be. By the time I got the third coat on I discovered something entirely horrifying. When I got a gander at the actual color, when it wasn't being sponged up by the drywall, I didn't actually like it. I'm sure there's a mythological figure that would cover that one too but instead of trying to think up one, I basically stuck a wide straw into a bottle of rum and toasted the death of my sanity with my husband. Cheers, Bacchus!

Luckily, the fourth coat is a good color. Of course, I'm going to need to do two coats of that color and then there are the stripes we have planned for one area of the echoing space.

So if you need me, I'll be in the basement with Sisyphus and my husband, who is far too nice a man to be featured in mythology, only he did do a bit of an Achilles impression just yesterday. Rob's tall enough to paint the ceiling easily without a ladder, but he'd hopped atop a stepladder to do some detail work at the top of a wall. Behind him lurked a pool table underneath sheets of plastic and that was easy enough to keep in mind. What he forgot about was the covered free weights.

I heard a horrible clang and turned to look at my husband, who had turned a dreadful tomato red.

"Ow," he said rather briefly, but he's normally not the color of a fruit often mistaken for a vegetable.

"What did you do?" I asked with concern.

"Nothing normal," he gritted out and I let the matter drop.

It isn't that I was uninterested, or unconcerned but his answer indicated that he'd done something embarrassing in addition to being painful. You know what doesn't help in those instances? Someone grilling you while you're still actively in pain.

However, later Rob brought it up again. Now, as it happens, my husband is a runner. He runs six out of seven mornings. He's also very stubborn and runs despite the fact that he has persistent pain in his right heel. It hurts him almost all the time and since he is cussed (and large) he won't do anything as rash as see a medical professional, no, he wants to see if the pain will magically evaporate one day.

So, presumably a good fairy is lurking around in our basement along with Sisyphus and his eternal fate. What happened was that Rob hopped down backwards from the stepladder and jammed his heel on two, stacked concealed twenty-five pound weight disks. It hurt so much he turned dead white after he finished being various shades of scarlet. Then a strange thing happened; it stopped hurting entirely for the first time in over six months.

In fact, it stopped hurting altogether and still doesn't hurt. Even after running this morning.

Since we've been joking about the mythological figures in our basement, we tried to figure out which myth might cover that one.

Anyone know of a myth about the Ironically Lucky Duck? No? The Fortunately Clumsy Warrior? No? The No Pain, No Gain Painter? Still no?

Here I thought there was a myth for all occasions. I'd insert the completely obvious and over-used pun you're all expecting now, but I've got a date with a rock I have to get to.

Take care and have fun.