death to the faux country æsthetic
Tuesday, August 3 2004
Behind the woodstove in the living room is a panel of tiles designed to shield the wall from radiant heat, from summer sun stored up in the form of cellulose. Apparently such a panel is a building code necessity. It seems a little extreme, but then, so too can be the heat generated by the stove, particularly during the brief-but-intense cardboard fires we sometimes have even in the summertime. Unfortunately, though, the particular style and arrangement of this tile was never in keeping with our æsthetic. It was glossy white bathroom-style tiles (made in England) bordered with a slightly-ruffled green edging, suggesting the loathsome "faux country" convention so popular with middle-aged Republican housewives and the denizens of suburban ranch-style housing.
This morning Gretchen was lamenting the panel's ugliness so much that she actually got up and inspected it to see how it was attached to the wall, wondering if it could easily be replaced. She was mistaken to believe that it would be a simple matter to sever the one-inch-long ceramic spacers separating the Wonderboard-backed tile panel from the drywall. Each of these spacers had a screw running through it that ended inside a stud in the wall, and the heads of these screws were well buried beneath the tiles. To remove the panel would require removing the tiles the hard way, which meant prolonged application of a hammer and a cold chisel. For some reason my mind was in the perfect state to interrupt all the other things that I needed to be doing and commence this bitch of a project, though it wasn't as if Gretchen even asked me.
The tiles were all incredibly brittle and nearly all of them were destroyed in the process of removing them from their backing. As they shattered they scattered shards that were nearly as dangerous as broken glass. My hands were soon bleeding from multiple injuries, and the base joint of my left index finger was badly bruised from occasions when my hammer blow missed the head of the cold chisel.
When all the tile had been destroyed and lay in a pile on a blanket at the base of the raw Wonderboard panel, Gretchen helped me carry it outside. Its aggregate weight was about that of an adult human being. Indeed, if there were any witnesses looking on from a distance, it would have looked for all the world like we were carrying a dead body out of house. Furthering this impression, I went on to dispose of the tile in a shallow grave in the yard, an excavation I'd made a couple months ago when I'd needed a small amount of precious fill dirt. I buried the tile fragments beneath several layers of wood ashes and the hair-rich inhaled contents of the vacuum cleaner.
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