The Latest Move Brings Out the DIY Handyman and Reinforcements
You may have noticed in the tagline to my last several columns that my wife and I have moved from “the Island.” Long story, but it’s true. After 10 years in paradise, we decided to let someone else worry about the next “big one.”
Moving at my age is an adventure in itself. For a while, we were living at my daughter’s, another long story. We had some of our stuff at her house and some of our stuff in a storage unit, the kind you see on “Storage Wars.” No, we paid the rent, so no one could buy all of our belongings that mean a lot to us but are probably worthless on the open market.
It reminded me of the time I spent at my rich Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club, living out of a sea bag. When you needed something in one place, you had the item you needed in some other place. And I love my kids to death, but I just spent 20-some years trying to get them to be independent (and they are) and I do not want to live with my kids.
We have now moved to our “permanent” house. It’s pretty close to St. Mary’s Cemetery, which will be my next, and last, move. I promise.
Compounding that adventure with the undertaking of preparing our “new” house for some of the things we wanted was a Herculean task for this one-time lean, mean, fighting machine. Every guy thinks he’s a handyman; it must be the testosterone. Hey, Tim Allen made a name for himself on “Tool Time,” taking advantage of that trait (“ergh, ergh”). I’ve done my share of DIY projects, but I probably won’t ever get my own show on HGTV.
My first big project, in 1976, was replacing windows in my first home with my brother-in-law who, in the vernacular of the day back on the corner in South Philadelphia, is a real “moon man.” I was scared to death that when we took the old windows out the entire wall was gonna collapse, but it didn’t.
I did wallpaper, learning from a fellow “Ac-a-me” night-crew colleague, Dixie Dellarota. I’ve tiled bathrooms and floors, since, as every good craftsman knows, my name ends in a vowel so it is a genetic disposition. Painting, from my Navy days, is a mindless, calming task. In the Navy, we painted everything that didn’t move, and saluted those things that did.
I studded out an entire basement, drywalled, hung doors and put in bathroom fixtures after a plumber did his thing. Hey, the new house has toilets that have two buttons instead of a handle – one button for number one, the other for number two. Who thinks up this stuff? Is there a quiz after you go to see if you chose the right button?
I’ve worked on everything but electricity. Electricity will kill you. The one electrical project I actually did I shut off the entire fuse panel to replace a light fixture and said 10 Hail Marys when I turned everything back on. They showed us a movie in Uncle Sam’s Yacht Club called “115 Volts: Your Deadly Shipmate,” which starred this sailor, Joe, who electrocuted himself in more than a few ways on board his ship. It made an impression on me.
So even though it is a bit trickier to manipulate my body at this stage in my life, a good project still gets my interest. Sometimes, though, I have to pay to do the project and then pay someone to do it correctly.
Case in point: My lovely wife wanted a platform built to raise our washer and dryer off the floor, like we had at our beach house. No problem. I went to Home Depot, got some 2-by-8-by-8 pressure-treated boards (it even sounds virile how you talk about lumber), a 4-by-6 post that a wonderfully informative gentleman actually cut into six pieces for me (my tool collection is not top-shelf) and some lag bolts and set out to build the platform. I used the design in my head that I had used for a firewood holder I had once built in a life long ago.
I bolted the boards to the post pieces to make a frame, going around the outside of each post, using a 3-foot piece of 2-by-8 at each end. Stop me if you know where this is going. I made the frame solid as a rock, very slowly got my achy body off the floor and placed the first board across the frame, with my drill and deck screws at the ready. The board was too small. Huh? By making the frame on the outside of the posts, I had added the width of the 2-by-8 to the length of the frame. The 2-by-8 platform boards were 1½ inches short on each end. Why do they call them 2-by-8 if they are, in fact, 1½-by-7¼?
So … I unbolted all of my lags, moved my end boards and posts back 1½ inches and re-lagged the end boards to the posts. The job was completed, even if it took about 90 minutes longer than planned. I had an 8-foot (OK, 7¼-foot) platform for the washer and dryer with room to spare.
The next day, the appliance guys delivered the washer and dryer, hooked them up, turned them on and we had a flood in the basement. It seems the “cut-out” they thought was the drain wasn’t, and because the appliances were in the basement we would need a deep sink and a pump to pump the water “up” to the drain lines. We called a plumber and the first thing he said is “ya gotta cut that platform back about 2 feet.”
Now you may think that a lesser man would pull out what little hair he had left, but we have a saying at our house whenever things like this occur, which is, unfortunately, more often than we would like: “What’s your last name?” It sums up the situation for us and then we laugh. Ya gotta laugh or it will give you “agita.”
I turned the alterations over to my talented future son-in-law, who has youth and patience on his side.
I’m 0-for-2 in that department.
Anthony DiSipio now lives in Manahawkin, but his “boomer” memories have followed him in his humorous book When I’m 64, available at whenim64ajjr.com or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.