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Charlie Hatton
Brookline, MA

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Whaddaya Mean, You Can’t Have a Jacuzzi So Close to the Dinner Table?

Abandon all sanity, ye who enter here!

We have this room in our new house.

Okay, so we have more than one room, of course. We’re not living in a cave, or a big warehouse. Not any more, anyway. Damn those UPS security guards! The acoustics in that place were sweet!

Anyway, we’ve got this room, and we don’t know what the hell to do with it. See, we were lucky enough to buy a nice big house. But we’re not really ‘big house’ people. All right, maybe I belong in the ‘Big House’, but that’s different. Creepy, and scary, and different. At least when I drop the soap around here, I know the worst I’m gonna get is the dog biting my ass. And not in that fun, spanky way, either. No matter where I put the peanut butter.

Um, moving on… I may have said too much already.

So, back to the house. As I said, it’s a pretty big house. There are two full floors, plus an unfinished, but servicable, basement and a full-height attic. Full-height with loose floorboards, no walls and no insulation, perhaps, but still — full-height. Now, if you know anything about us, you’d know that we could never normally afford a place like this anywhere near Boston. Des Moines, maybe. Tuscaloosa, perhaps. Within three states of Boston? Not likely. Somewhere, there had to be a catch, of course.

Basically, our catch is three-pronged. Which makes it more of a pitchfork than a catch, I suppose. Or maybe a trident. But I’ll call it a catch, ’cause that’s how I started. I wouldn’t want to lose anyone with a change in nomenclature so late in the game.

So, the catches are these: first, the house is ninety-nine years old. It’s in good shape for its age, but then again, so is Ted Geisel.

(You know, Dr. Seuss? Children’s books, the Grinch and all that? And, oh yeah, dead. But still in better shape than most ninety-nine year olds. See what I’m sayin’?)

Second, the house is on a bit of a hill. It’s not Mount McKinley or anything, but there are close to forty steps leading from the street to the house. Now, I’m thirty-three. My wife is an indeterminate number of years younger. (Hint: it’s somewhere between one and fifteen, but don’t tell her I told you. She’d kill me.) So we’re more or less able to schlub up and down the steps at will, and probably will be able to for a dozen or more years. In old fart lingo, we’re still ‘spry little whippersnappers‘.

But do you think anyone who’s forty or so would want to strap themselves in for a ride that would include that trip every day? Sure, at forty they’d be fine, and maybe even forty-five. But soon the knees go. And then the hips. And then the boobs start sagging. Oh. Sorry. I guess that’s not really relevant; forget that last bit. But the legs — now that’s gonna be a problem. So, assuming we don’t do any creative major landscaping to install an escalator or something, we’re faced with a fairly limited resale market. Young folks, and probably with no kids, since there are a couple of places on the sides and out back where the hill gets pretty trecherous for the non-coordinated sort of folks.

(I keep my wife on a tether when we’re in the back yard, just in case. Oh man, now she’s really gonna kill me.)

Finally, there’s the neighbors. On one side, there’s Marti. I’ve written about Marti before. He’s a nice old guy. Friendly and all that, but living in a condemnable, eyesore deathtrap. He’s got no intention of moving, and he’s pretty spry himself, so he may be there long after we’re gone. Hell, he’s been there since 1948 as it is; he’ll probably still be wandering around the neighborhood with the cockroaches after the bombs go off. Resilient little dude, Marti is.

On the other side, we’ve got a duplex. I mentioned that we’re on a hill, right? Well, the duplex isn’t. To build it, the hill was chopped off, and the structure sits right at street level. Which means that there’s a large concrete wall, rising up to fifteen feet tall or so, holding up the part of the hill that our house is on. And the wall’s on the other guy’s property. And it’s crumbling. He doesn’t seem to be too concerned. The people that sold us the house were concerned, but not too concerned. Me, I’m fairly concerned. And my wife has nightmares about it. That’s concern, folks. So we’re weighing our options in that arena, and in the meantime, we try to spend as much time as we can on the other side of the house. Marti’s house may be ugly and decrepit, but at least we’re in no danger of toppling over onto it. Vice versa, maybe, but even that doesn’t seem to be immediately imminent. But the room where I write this is beside his house, so if the words suddenly stop, you may safely infer that I didn’t know what the hell I was talking about. Again.

Speaking of rooms, let’s mosey back to the original subject. Now that you know how we came to afford this fabulous property, I want to bitch about one of the rooms.

(And to be fair, it is a really nice place. Don’t get me wrong with all the shit above. There’s not much we can do about the stairs, but the house is in fabulous shape. And we’ll eventually get something negotiated with the wall, and get Marti in a home or a nice Florida apartment or something, and then we’ll be just peachy. Really. We’re in good shape.)

So, back to this room of ours. First, I’ll tell you that we moved here from a four-room apartment. Kitchen, bedroom, guest room/office, and living room. Pretty basic stuff. No real yard, no porch to speak of, just the apartment. And we had nothing in storage, or that our parents were saving for us, or anything like that. We had four and a half rooms of furniture to our name.

(Because you always accumulate more shit than you have rooms, of course. And we did have two enormous closets there to stuff our crap into. So I’ll be fair and say four and a half.)

Now, this house has eight usable rooms right now. That’s twice as many.

(I know most of you know this, but I do have the occasional six-year-old, or Kentuckian, tuning in, so I like to spell things out for them. Thanks for your patience.) So, we had no problem filling up the kitchen, and our bedroom, and an office, and a guest room, and the living room. That’s five rooms, now full with four-and-a-half rooms of shit, plus some stuff we bought when we got here. Fine. But what to do with the other three?

Well, one of them is downstairs, connected to the kitchen. It’s got a chandelier and a built-in china hutch. (At least that’s what my wife says it is. I’m pretty sure I could use it to display my Star Wars action figure collection, or my set of erotic shot glasses, but she says no. So china it is. What a waste.) So, obviously, this is the ‘dining room’. We don’t have a dining room table, but we can find one some day. So this room is covered.

Another room is upstairs, across from the guest room. We really didn’t have a good purpose for this room, so we piled shit in it. Boxes, a desk, assorted crap. Eventually, we went in and looked around, and realized that most of the shit sort of went together. Our extra computer was there, and a bookshelf, and four more boxes of books, and magazines, and a reading lamp. Hey! So this became the ‘library’. Eventually, we’ll get a couple of overstuffed recliners, and maybe some footstools, and a crotchedy old lady to sit behind the desk and go ‘Sssshhhhh!‘. Not yet, but someday. So this room is covered.

That leaves the room attached to the dining room downstairs.

(No, not the kitchen, chucklebutt — the room attached to it the other way. C’mon, keep up, would ya?)

It’s open and airy, and faces the front of the house. It would be perfect for a living room… except that we’ve already got one. Currently, we’ve got a shelf full of pictures and knickknack crap in there, along with a ratty old magazine rack. Nothing inspiring as what the room should be, though. We’ve tried calling it the ‘den’, the ‘front room’, the ‘annex’. Even the ‘ballroom’. But none of them really fits.

So, my wife has this idea. This horrible, frightening idea. She wants to make it a ‘sitting room’, with couches and chairs. Nice couches and chairs, that I don’t think I’d be allowed to sit on when we don’t have company. Fancy-schmancy formal couches and chairs that wouldn’t be couches and chairs at all. They’d be art, not to be touched (except for regular cleaning), until important visitors came over. And to that I say — blech! Bleh, argh, yuck, and guh. And nuh-uh. You see where I’m goin’ with this?

See, what I don’t want is a wasted room. A space smelling of mothballs and spiderwebs that we dust off and use only for ‘special occasions’. If we’re gonna pay money and take the time to pick out couches, and chairs, and probably a nice rug, then I don’t want to enjoy them only if we’re entertaining the Norwegian royal family, all right? Is that so much to ask? Can there not be something there that makes us want to go into that room when it’s just us? Something fun, or cool, or interesting. I had a ‘sitting room’ in my house when I was growing up, and it drove me friggin’ nuts. ‘Don’t sit there! Don’t put your feet there! Stop peeing on the coffee table!‘ Stupid fuckin’ sitting room rules. Harrumph.

Now, to her credit, my wife is an extremely reasonable person. She saw that I was mildly distressed by her plan for the room.

(Maybe she noticed the frothing and twitchng, or maybe it was the stick I kept poking her with. I’m not really sure what subtle hint she picked up on; she’s very perceptive.) So we talked it over, and I told her all the stuff I’ve just told you. (Well, not all of it, of course. She knew all about the house already, and the old apartment, and all the furniture we had. Oh, and I left out the part where I peed on the coffee table. She doesn’t really need to know about that, I’m thinking. You know, just in case I ever want to do it again.) And she said, very reasonably (and therefore exquisitely maddeningly:

Okay, honey, that’s fair. So what do you want to do with the room?

Well, shit. I didn’t have an answer. I don’t mind having a room to sit in with company; I just wanted something that would let us use it in the meantime. But I didn’t know what the hell that something was. Honestly, do I have to have all the answers? Just once, I’d like to be able to bitch and moan and stamp my little feet about a reasonable idea around here without having to come up with an equally reasonable counter-example. I mean, that’s just… just… unreasonable.

So, I got nothin’. The living room’s got the TV and fireplace and stereo. The office has the computers. The library has all the books. And the kitchen has the food. What the hell else is there in the world that would make me want to walk into a room and sit down? (Assuming I was allowed to sit on the couch there in the first place; I’ll work on that little problem once I get this one licked. One dilemma at a time.) Honestly, I’ve got no answer. I simply can’t imagine why I’d walk in the door and go to the right, instead of left into the living room. Well, okay, that’s not entirely true; I can actually think of several things that would draw me into there, but my wife has put an additional stipulation on whatever I come up with: it has to be tasteful. Tasteful. So pinball machines and video games and inflatable dolls and a Jel-o wrestling pit are all out. (Okay, I didn’t check on the dolls. I’m just inferring based on the reaction to the Jell-o thing. Still, I don’t think it’s got much of a chance.)

So that’s where we’re at. Seven rooms down, and the eighth careening toward stuffy stodgy sucky poopyness, if I can’t come up with an idea that’s both interesting and tasteful. And what are the chances of that? Certainly, I have my share of interesting ideas, but I haven’t done ‘tasteful’ since the late ’70’s, at least. And probably not even then — do you remember anything from the seventies that was tasteful in the least? No, me either. Big bunch of tie-dyed, shag-carpeted ugly-assed disasters, that’s all I ever saw.

And I’m out of ideas for this room, too. So help me out, folks. Any ideas would help — what would you do, if you had a room like that? Your own little twelve by fourteen foot canvas, just waiting to be transformed into an oasis of coolness and fun. But not Jell-o, apparently. I suppose you can’t have it all. But send me those ideas, all right? The clock is ticking, and I desperately want to end up with a room I can use for more than peeing on the coffee table. We’ve got to keep it tasteful, after all.

Permalink  |  2 Comments

2 Responses to “Whaddaya Mean, You Can’t Have a Jacuzzi So Close to the Dinner Table?”

  1. Andy Lee says:

    Personally, I’d throw a pool table in there. That can be done very tastefully. Maybe even a minifridge for some ‘beverages.’ That’s just what I’d do.

  2. Lara says:

    I think Andy above has something there with the minifridge, but add a formal bar with hanging glasses and a mirror behind it with lights above the glasses. Then put some cool art on the walls and maybe something cool and unusual to draw people’s attention like a fountain. I know it sounds weird inside instead of out, but that’s something people will leave and talk about how cool it was! You’d of course HAVE to have places for people to sit while you make their drinks too. Hey how about a good sound system in there too. With everything else in there so tastefully done, you might even be able to convince the wife to allow a dart board (that can be closed and hidden when the need arises!)

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