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.


The Bug said...

Only you could make me laugh at painting. I'm so glad I'M not the one trying to do 27 coats of paint in a cavern :)

NormalToEatPB said...

Too funny! who sees the basement anyway? :)

JeannetteLS said...

I painted my basement once... then I drifted. Smiled or chuckled all the way through. Is there some sort of twelve step group you could join perhaps? FPA, frenetic painters anonymous? Enjoy this week in your basement. We will need pictures, of course.

light208 said...

Fabulous. I sympathise with the continuing need to paint. I once lived in a flat that had been owned by a smoker for 40 years. I eventually got the walls covered. It took two years to get the smell out of my stuff after I'd moved out.

Land of shimp said...

Eventually it will be worth it, Bug but for the moment that's an appropriate description. Plus the entire "in a cavern" thing has also made the paint color issue worse: odd lighting down there.

It's always good to see you, Bug :-)

Hi there, NormalToEatPB. Well, there is a bar, pool table and gas fireplace down there, so it is rather nicely finished. So I guess the answer to "who sees it" would be "us and whoever we'd ask over, I guess."

Admittedly, it would be helpful if we could stand the sight of the place after we're finished. We also have to replace the carpet and paint all the baseboards and trim. Woo...and hoooooo!

Thanks for the comment.

Jeannette, maybe I should found one, right? "Bring your paint stained jeans and admittedly you have no power over the brush!"

I have two separate, dedicated painting outfits...and when I'm finally done down there? There is still the cavernous master bath to paint. Yipes. Admittedly, that one is simply a factor of not actually minding the color it is now.

Oh my goodness, Light, really?? You poor soul. That super-smoker has ours beat by a mile. The house doesn't smell but all of the ceilings were dingy...and hilariously the smoke detector color in the master bedroom was stained the deepest nicotine yellow I'd ever seen (ironic, eh?).

Thanks for stopping by :-)

Robbie Grey said...

What a grand use of mythological metaphors. I am duly impressed.

Kathy said...

I agree that you are proably the only one who could make me laugh at painting! We lived in a house once owned by a smoker, not easy to get the smell out! Good luck!

Vera said...

Your basement sounds like a grand space, even if it is providing you with loads of exercise as you try to get it painted. Loved your thoughts on housework. Nice to know someone thinks the same.

Suldog said...

I usually thank God for sudden miraculous cures, but mileage does vary for others. I've had similar things happen. The most recent I can recall was what I assumed was a sprained knee, acquired while running for a bus, the pain from which disappeared quite suddenly when I strained my shoulder playing ball a day later. It wasn't just that the one pain masked the other. The shoulder hurt, the knee absolutely did not in the least. My shoulder still isn't 100%, months later, but the knee pain never came back. I guess I need some other catastrophe to befall me to cure my shoulder.

ellen abbott said...

sounds like you should have invested in some more primer. Now me, I'm always the one putting latex on top of oil base paint. in case you are new in town, latex does not stick to oil base. rub your finger over it and it will peel right off. enter my kitchen. when i realized this, I scraped the paint off the baseboards and door moldings, used primer and repainted. still have to do the same to all the cabinets and pantry. maybe if I wait a little longer, i won't have to do much scraping of the pantry and cabinets cause every time someone bumps up against it a little bit comes off.

Carolynn said...

I've painted my small 800 sq. ft. apartment so many times my friends just grown when I tell them I'm 'painting' and look at me like I'm off my meds. I'm sick of painting myself, but there are walls that, after 16 years, still have the original Builder's Beige. It bothers me unreasonably and I just want to cover it up with something more palatable. Like cream. *smile* The sad thing is, my living room wall, the one that has been painted & repainted most often, is currently a shade of taupe that I don't really like. So, you know what's coming right...? I'm going to have to paint the *%@!& wall again. *sigh*

LPC said...

I wonder how old Sis felt about the smell of paint. That's my sticking point...

Robin said...

What a nice complement. It's true though.... I mean the laundry and painting thing. There, now you thought I was going to talk about our writing styles.

I have a stairway banister that I started painting a couple of months ago and now I can't seem to force myself to finish it. It just goes on and on forever. I often think that nobody will notice because the color is so similar to the last but the truth is, I know it. It mocks me when I walk by.

tattytiara said...

Oh wow, do I understand. Spent my summer hanging drywall, another job that just never, ever, ever seems to end. But it eventually did!

Just in time to start shoveling snow...

Hilary said...

You have a fine way of weaving your words with wit, my friend.

As for that healed heel, it's mythtifying...

Moannie said...

Great story, sorry, had to laugh...a lot.

Shrinky said...

Argh, don't mention the "P" word, my neck is still griping over that cute idea I had of painting the youngest daughter's room ceiling blue, and daubing pretty, fluffy white clouds all over it. It hurt a lot to get my masterpiece up there, but hey, I make sacrifices for my kids, yeah? She cried for over a week until I painted it back white again(ungrateful urchin). I see she's put a lock on her door now.

That is too funny about your hubby's foot (sorry, but it is). My hubby is a runner too, does your hubby's toenails turn black and fall off? His does (every time he runs a marathon). I'll leave you with that lovely picture..

ethelmaepotter! said...

Oh, yes, I can relate, too. When we built our house, we decided to save $7000 by painting it ourselves. Neither of us knew anything at all about painting fresh drywall, but we got some tips from our builder, Lowe's, Home Depot, various home improvement books, etc. Every single one of them plainly said USE A GOOD PRIMER. Fred, being the miser that is, pooh-poohed the primer and said the first coat of paint would serve as the primer. He also pooh-poohed the prices of the Behr and Sherwin Williams and other quality paints and decided on Walmart paint at roughly half the price.
You can pretty much guess what happened. We wasted a week painting one room with that cheap stuff, one coat, two coats, three coats, four coats...until I finally went to Lowes myself and bought good paint and primer. And even after that, when we ran out of white for the closets, laundry room, pantry, etc, I came in from work one day to find he'd run to Walmart for more of that cheap paint.
So I discovered you can take the man out of his cheap upbringing, but you can't take the cheap out of the man.
As for the smoking part, our basement reeks of it, because Fred is a heavy smoker. It's also not finished. I would love to have it finished, but a man needs his 'man cave,' so I've learned to live with it. Still, it's just plain old painful when I see that huge expensive ornate pool table sitting on a concrete floor, surrounding by concrete block walls, cigarette butts, and a ceiling filled with falling insulation and duct work. AND the pendant lights that would have looked fantastic in my kitchen...they're hanging over that pool table, while my kitchen has an ugly fluorescent box.
If you ever find out what happened with that instant cure for heel pain, MARKET IT!

Grandma's scrapbook said...

Post is great, . Really nice work!

PhilipH said...

Another great and witty post Alane, really beautifully put together.

However, I am staggered that you, Sillypussy, undertook such a Sysphean task in the first place! But then again, I'm such a pathologically lazy dog that ANY task like the one you describe would make me feel the work undertaken was madness.

Fabulous outcome regarding your hubby's Achilles heel problem seems to have been cured whilst working on this Herculean task. A really spooky result, or maybe a gift of the gods? Hmm... verrry interrresting, no?

Cloudia said...

Pushing as upward as I can!

Aloha from Honolulu
Comfort Spiral


Pauline said...

it could be that the lesser gods have taken up residence in your basement - Asclepius, god of healing, may have been lurking under the pool table. If there's a god of slurping walls, I'm unaware, but surely there is one that oversees multiple coats of paint. Zo̱grafikí̱ perhaps? As usual, your wit and word play have been put to good use!

Dave said...

Sounds like your hubby had an Archiles moment - ouch! An interesting dialogue Alane - I sympathised with you. I hate painting! - Dave

slommler said...

I am not much into painting either! And a space that large I would have hired out...Ha! See...I hate to paint. I hate taping...I hate priming...I hate to paint!!!
Good luck and I am glad his heel pain stopped. That is great news. I have no idea why it stopped but it is a good thing!!

Anonymous said...

I hear you about the Sisyphean nature of housework... Luckily, I'm allergic to painting!

Enjoyed reading this story very much.

I don't think you're Sisyphus though - more like Hercules!

Jo said...

Omigosh, Alane, it sounds as if your hubby had Achilles tendonitis, and he accidentally cured it surgically by slamming his heel down. Whoa!!

Could you say painting the basement was his Achilles heel?

Land of shimp said...

Thank you, Robbie Grey. I think even Red Bull has used the same mythological references in an ad campaign, or at least nearly all of them. My knowledge is definitely of the "Hey, I took two whole classes in Myths!" from back in the day but I do appreciate the comment and the compliment.

Thank you, Kathy. I finally, finally finished with the base coats. Now I just have to do the stripes in another area (wooohooo painter's caulk is my friend!) and ...all the baseboards.

Oooooohhhhh Bacchus, don't fail me now ;-) Thanks for the visit.

Vera, I'm liking that basement more and more as it gets closer to done. I think it will be quite nice when it's all done. We also have to have the carpet replaced.

Nothing compared to the projects you've undertaken though! Every time I feel like grousing, I think I'll hug my shampoo bottle instead.

Jim, it cracks me up how many men have a story like my husbands. "It hurt for six months, then I sneezed and it was the weirdest thing..." I think your injuries just hold a meeting and say, "He's never going to the doctor, is he? Right then, it's the shoulders turn to hurt! Knee, grab the bench for a while. Stubborn cuss."

Ellen, oh my God, why didn't that occur to me? Seriously. Instead as I watched paint get sucked into the drywall void I just went and bought more, and then more.

We've spent, I'm not kidding, over five hundred dollars on paint thus far. I think we finally won though. We really weren't sure it was primer until it drank the entire first coat (and most of the second).

Oh Carolynn, that's good though. Change and keeping at it until you get what you want. You know, cream is a good color. Nice and fresh, doesn't compete with just typically doesn't age all that well. Cream is a good color for a place that is painted frequently.

Hehe, Sisyphus predated scented bodywash, so maybe he doesn't mind. Or maybe he's been cursed all the further with Super Smell and he's down there writhing in scent agony...mwhwhahahah.

I used low VOC paint, LPC but it is kind of you to consider Sis's head in such a manner.

Land of shimp said...

Robin, you have small children and a job too. I think you can be forgiven an incomplete banister. I suggest you claim it is a painting technique. "Oh, that's Old World Chic. It's all the rage. Saw it at a design show."

Tattytiara, I feel your pain! Then the freaking mudding process is enough to make you yodel with frustration. Here's to fewer projects and better naps :-)

Hilary, you went there and punned that, you brave woman, you! Thank you so much and thanks for the visit.

By the way, I really wish I had an audio clip of the way Rob said, "Nothing normal..." because I ended up laughing my head off about that later.

Thank you, Moannie :-) I do like to make people laugh and I'm always glad when I do.

No, no, no, Shrinky but now I shall regard his feet with a sense of dread for what may come :-) Rob skis, so he runs to keep in shape for the skiing. I read, paint and work out to keep my butt from becoming the size of a small country, or worse, a LARGE country.

I can't believe your daughter didn't love the clouds!! Boo. Hiss. I've got a friend whose business was painting those kind of ceilingscapes...she used a computer program with a projector to map them out...but the painting was all "My neck is killing me." She swore a lot, coincidentally ;-)

Oh Ethel, you are a kinder, more tolerant wife than I am. Rob had it in his head that we'd just sort of casually work on the project and it would be done when it was done. I was more of the "And...that's nice. Here's our deadline and we'll go shopping for lighting this weekend, have the furniture ordered and plan for delivery on...."

He does have a home office, another version of the man-cave, I suppose. I think he goes in there to escape his bossy wife ;-)

Heaven help you, Ethel. That's one area where it pays to go higher end. Fewer coats on most of the expensive paints. Sherman Williams has really good stuff...not that we bought it for this project, but we should have! Instead we did Martha Stewart's line from Home Depot. Not bad, seriously. I've used it before and it is a solid mid-grade but has a really good color selection for the price.

Thank you, Grandma :-) You're a saint to keep reading me considering that I know my language usage must be a complete bear for you (since we have different mother tongues). I shall return the visit soon!

Oh good use of Herculean, Philip! Wish I'd thought of that. I doff my imaginary hat to you, good sir, good fellow.

Lazy Dog? Pshaw. I don't believe a word of that. I know you're the chief cook and bottle washer, by your own admission. Admittedly, so am I. I'm descended on one side from Scottish coal miners, Philip. We feel guilty if we aren't working like dogs. Needless to say, I feel guilty most of the time ;-)

Paul C said...

It seems like owning a house is Sisyphean in the breadth of its potential projects. We just worked at our basement, rolling down there with our tools and rolling up with the payments.

Land of shimp said...

Cloudia, you've got the right idea, though. You live in such a beautiful area that if a wall is not painted to your liking, you need only walk outside and look elsewhere to be pleased :-)

There's something we all feel like Sisyphus on though, isn't there?

Hi Dave, down there in New Zealand, soaking up the summer :-) I don't hate painting but I'm much better at it than I have any right to be at this point. I get a lot of practice.

I hope your season is going well...don't forget to return the season to our hemisphere when you're done with it, please!

Thank you, Pauline and you just made me laugh, so I thank you for that. Your knowledge of myth exceeds my own but that makes sense, doesn't it? You have reason to know the Muses firsthand, poetess and writer that you are.

Boy, there's a word you never got to use. Poetess. I know it's gender-specific and therefore antiquated but it sounds so lovely, doesn't it? I miss that one.

Thank you so much, ladyfi. As long as neither of us are stuck being Cassandra, it's all good, eh?

Jo, I wonder if that was it? I know that the heel pain seemed to be in the bone, versus tendon or joint related, so I have wondered if he had bone spurs. He wondered if he had planter's warts.

I wonder if he'll ever have the guts to do that again, on purpose, if the pain ever comes back. That was definitely a "do not try this at home" form of cure. I've likened it to blood-letting in terms of extremity.

Now, of course, no matter what the problem is "Shoot, I wonder if this oven needs calibrating, the chicken is taking forever..." Rob's reply?

"Have you tried smashing the hell out of it?"

"I can't figure out how to open this..."

"Have you tried smashing the hell out of it?"

I'm hoping he gets over this joke phase before someone is discussing child-rearing with him.

The Inside said...

Oh, I ADORE your wit! And your vocabulary! I believe, having run into your blog while haphazardly floating through blogland, that I now MUST follow it to get my necessary fix of literacy and humor!

Dawn said...

Oh man....too funny!!!! I hear ya on the paint sucking! Building our home- I thought I would have to buy shares in the paint world.
Love this- you have quite the writing skills to make one chuckle:0)

Grandma's scrapbook said...

Very good post, Happy Valentine's Day!

Tiffany Layden-Ooley said...

Good luck with the basement. I am sure you will look amazing when you are done. Thanks also for the laugh. I am also thankful the pain is gone in your hubby's foot, to bad it didn't have to come from pain to fix it. Take care.

Tiffany Layden-Ooley

Anonymous said...

Work at home and do anything you want!!

Have a good day!! :

Dianaa said...

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afterthoughtcomposer said...

There may not be a myth for this, but there certainly are a few clichés :)
Thanks for your comment on my blog! You are witty, insightful, & delightful.

NormalToEatPB said...

i mentioned you in my blog today - your kindness helped me continue on :)

DowntroddenInDC said...

Where was your header photo taken? It's beautiful.

Also, when I saw 'land of shrimp', I was expecting someone from the gulf coast, lol.

Nice blog!

Cloudia said...

I know that isn't me pushing the spiral because I'm riding one :-)

Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral



Glo said...

Just stopping by to thank you for dropping over from Hilary's to leave your lovely message :) I started to read your blog, and kept going back to previous posts and read more and more! You definitely have a delightful and skillful way with words, and I enjoyed each and every post!

Frank Baron said...

You write with charm, wit, and erudition - a winning combo. :)

Kerry said...

Well, I figured you had covered greek mythology pretty well, and hadn't come up with the right god-goddess, so I googled "patron saint of chiropractors" in an effort to see who may have interceded on Rob's behalf. Google thought I meant "patron saint of procrastinators" instead!! Would that work for you? It's St. Expeditus.

Tabor said...

Do not know how I missed this post...witty and funny!

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