Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Everyone Loves a Makeover

If I had to guess what happened in this kitchen, it would begin with the explosion of several dirt, hair, and grease filled balloons during a Santeria ritual. This would explain the layers of wax dripped all over the counter, as well as the splatters of orange-yellow goo around the drawers and oven. While the previous tenant mopped up the worst of this explosion - leaving the cabinetry off-white on the outside, white on the inside, and streaked with orange-yellow goo in all the corners and hidden surfaces – they forgot about the roast they had in the oven. The roast caught fire, leaving black stains on the walls and cabinets around the oven.

Thankfully, part of the roof gave in during a rainstorm to combat the fire. The fire was doused, but all of the pressboard cabinetry was soaked. The tenant stood slack-jawed in amazement, took a token swipe at some of the soot around the right of the oven, then moved out.

Over the course of a rainy season, the cabinets swelled and contracted several times. The “wood” on the lower shelves rotted out. The drip pans on the oven rusted through.

When it came time to rent (how long this funk was left to develop a life of its own is up for debate), the landlord sent his trusted handyman to fix the damage. The roof was patched. Instead of replacing the rotted wood, the handyman cut boards to size and laid them directly atop the bottom shelves. He replaced the doors below the sink, the fresh, white pressboard gleaming against the yellow-stained old pressboard. Although the water was taken care of, the new doors warped anyway. The handyman installed a beautiful oak ceiling and carefully stained it a rich sienna. Miami’s humidity caused the stain to sweat. So the wax drippings, dirt, grease, hair, soot, rotten wood, and “cosmetic” fixes were sealed beneath drippings of wood stain.

The landlord replaced the refrigerator, which had been destroyed in the explosion. A cleaning woman made every visible surface of the oven gleam (except for the rusty drip pans and electric coils). She then made a layer of clean on top of the wood stain and soot and hair and dirt and grease.

Then I moved in.

I know, without photographic evidence it might as well not have happened. But I was more about getting the place livable than having proof of the work I put it into getting the place livable. These pictures were taken after two of my friends had already taken passes in the kitchen, removing the largest and most obvious funk.

Pressure from the landlord and his realtor and my realtor to give a move in date so they know when to prorate the rent is far more frustrating than the clean up itself. What if I had gotten the keys to a clean, cozy little place and was able to move everything in one shot? I would have been standing there, surrounded by belongings which dismantling and boxing and moving had transformed into a mess. The door closing behind me would have been devastating.

The leaky roof, the weeks of cleaning, of getting the living space just so, of growing accustomed to the Treehouse as my home, the time has been ritualistic. I wasn’t sure why the Treehouse called to me the moment I stepped inside, but now I think my subconscious knew I needed a dirty penny to polish and put in my pocket for luck. The squalor I overlooked on first glance has been vital to my establishment of a new, single identity.

By the time I move in, I’ll be so ready all I’ll feel is sweet relief to have a home.


  1. I love that "Thankfully."
    A big guffaw smack in the middle of a pool of sympathy..

  2. No ploy for sympathy here. As I was cleaning, I really tried to imagine a scenario to account for the ground in layers of nastiness. I had hours to do so.