Rendered Fat Content


Ichiyûsai Kuniyoshi: famous heroes of the kabuki stage--played by frogs (circa 1850-1860)
" … dreaming to make that dream come true …"

The upstairs hall ceiling had troubled our painter Curt from the beginning of his work. He wisely set aside his concerns through the first two weeks of preparation work. By then, he'd painstakingly sanded out and primed the bannister and knocked the high points off the walls, pulled baseboards in the entry hall and fixed every ding between the front door and the stair top. Then, our series of muted conversations about the ceiling came to something. He confessed that he could see no way around Floating the damned thing, a comment of which I didn't quite know its meaning, but I nodded gravely, as if discussing a sick child. Curt listed the alternatives, each of which seemed filled with shortcomings, but he wanted this to be my decision. HomeMakers sometimes find themselves in this position, as if a wise parent or something, called to decide about something they have no clue about. I asked him to describe what Floating might entail.

It would, as Curt described, require three sets of probably two hour stretches, poised atop his four footer, smearing goop over the present ceiling covering.
One session working across the ceiling, a second working crossways to that, and a third to knock off danglers and sanding to more or less flat. Six hours over two days, to allow for drying, which shouldn't be a problem given that it was slated to be over a hundred degrees for the rest of the week. A day of effort to smooth that surface seemed a reasonable investment. Ceiling cracks distract much more readily than do wall imperfections. I figured that Floating the ceiling might render the wall imperfections less prominent. I agreed to Curt's proposal.

Floating sounds like a stage magician's trick involving an apparent violation of some immutable law of physics, but when involving a ceiling, it's definitely not that. It's, as many preparation activities seem to be, disarming in its physicality. It seems to be a whole separate art, utterly unrelated to other prepping work. It involves painstakingly smearing a gloopy suspension evenly across the whole expanse of ceiling while teetering atop a ladder. Just watching Curt perform this work left me feeling disoriented. He could not possibly see his working horizon adequately to judge appropriate application, and yet his finished work came very close to looking perfect. Not level, precisely, for we'd already accepted that level would remain impossible, but decidedly flatter with nary a craze nor a crack evident. He'd add the cross layer then knock off and smooth the outliers and that ceiling would be ready for painting and the subsequent ages.

The first coat took six hours between underestimating how much goop would be needed, running to fetch more, and setting up scaffolding in the stairwell. The drying was taking longer than expected, too, so by mid-afternoon, Curt bowed out for the day. No reason to start another task so late on a Friday. By Monday, the ceiling will be dry and aching for that cross coat. The ceiling already looks fabulous, of course, even without finishing. I realized that much of the first two weeks' work involved Floating. I floated between my driveway pop-up paint shop and the stairs, between painting and pulling carpet, between refinishing doors and, finally, windows. Few tasks seem very continuous, but even those that feel unrelenting seem to bring a soothing somnambulance. One works the more mind numbing tasks in a sort of trance where both time and effort hardly register. Between flitting Floating between various tasks and the dream-like Floating the menial ones induce, days quickly slip by. We might be laboring but we feel as though we're dreaming, mostly. I slip into my back-up Handyman Dave shoes to engage in a kind of dreaming. Working, they say, to make a dream come true while dreaming to make that dream come true, Floating all the way.

©2021 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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