OK, OK, I’m Doing It Myself

OK, OK, I’m Doing It Myself


It’s not Home Depot’s fault.  Except that they promised that I could manage whatever home related project came to mind.  “You can do it”, they said, and like the lemming that I am, I happily dove off the cliff of home repair.*

*Apparently lemmings don’t actually do the cliff diving ascribed to them.  Here’s some homegrown heartbreak – Disney faked the lemming suicide scene in 1958’s White Wilderness.  I’d like to know who pitched the wholesale tossing of lemmings into the void; there’s a naturalist with a serious lack of respect for lemming migration.

I digress.  Home owning handiness.  Right.

The first small projects ought to have been instructive; replacing light bulbs and air filters, surely within my reach.  And, after a few tries, they were.  Bulbs of proper wattage and of proper luminosity are now in place and filters appropriate to the task set them and of the correct size are equally happily placed.

Apparently the “few tries” might have informed more ambitious projects, but they did not.

We had moved into a perfectly fine house, laid out exactly as we had wished, in great shape.  But the door knobs in the kitchen differed from those in the living room, which were not the same as those in the bathrooms or bedrooms.  Not simply different in size or color, but violently different in what might be called character or tone.  Large circular bronze knobs in the kitchen, a semi-Florentine tubular crest opened the front door, and the rest of the doors had a variety of sleek curlicues in mottled beige.

Not acceptable, and equally unacceptable was the thought of hiring a locksmith or other door knob specialist to do what Home Depot assured me I could do myself.  I was advised that the contemporary door sports a sleek handle rather than a clunky knob.  In addition, I’d been advised that handles were easier for the “older person” to manipulate, particularly in situations in which we had to flee from fire or flood.  I always appreciate recommendations directed to the quasi senescent homeowner, but sleek and sensible?  I ordered ten sets in brushed nickel.

Were there moments of challenge?  To be sure, but my memory is that most were met with serene acceptance and abiding faith that all would be well in the end.  I like to think that I displayed unflappable determination throughout; that would be a nice fiction, but other voices were less certain of my eventual success.  There may have been a moment in which I let slip an oath of unfortunate volume and specificity, and a screwdriver may have been driven into the laundry room wall in an attempt to convince the do-it-yourself gods that I meant business.  I admit to momentary lapses in buoyant good cheer; setbacks are to be expected, properly identified by aforementioned oaths.

Mission roughly accomplished, I then turned toward the maintenance of the lush front lawn.  I’d killed my share of plants over the years, but had learned a valuable lesson in the aftermath.  Apparently, I kill with kindness, over-watering, constantly fidgeting with pots, soil, fertilizing sticks.  This lawn would be different.  I would follow instruction to the letter, mowing, raking, fertilizing, and seeding as the experts advised.

This lawn was doomed.

I mowed, raked, fertilized, seeded.  Within a month, the lawn was marbled with yellow patches of dead grass and crisp brown rings that may have had something to do with four dogs finding what professionals call “The Squat Spot”.  In any case, the meticulously measured lawn food and the artfully spread seed appeared to have had little success in battling fungal grass cholera.

Not to worry.  The internet is rife with advice offered by lawn doctors from every region.  I knew enough to stick with tips from the Pacific Northwest and just enough to not spring for “Kobi”, the Roomba of Lawn Maintenance, and I’ll pause to suggest that life has already begun to have its way with me as I find myself using the phrase,”Roomba of Lawn Maintenance”.  And there’s something just wrong about longing for a lawn robot to do my job, but I would have bought a Kobi in a flash had the cost of Kobisizing not exceeded the value of my car.  As I looked across the expanse of  mottled , crusted silage that my lawn had become, however, I was tempted to sell the car,  buy a Zamboni, flood the yard, freeze the damn thing, and invite the neighbors over for a quick round of snap-the-whip and mugs of hot chocolate.

Except for the global warming thing.  So, that was out.

The which is to say I do have moments of quiet desperation as a homeowner, and yet … The doors operate smoothly for the most part, the lawn comes back to life in the spring, the surface of the deck no longer buckles every summer, and the fruit trees actually bear fruit.  There are pleasures to be had in holding the place together, and as tasks go, these are relatively rewarding.  

There is also some pleasure in recognizing that the nice folks at Home Depot are unlikely to pop in should I decide to rip up the floors and lay down tile.  I can watch ambitious handy folk tear down and restore homes from Waco to Vegas in an hour or less without feeling the slightest compunction to grab a crowbar myself.  I am free to admire their gumption, invention and resilience without having to do a dang thing other than make more popcorn.

And there’s not much point in taking on a lawn robot when I still get a kick out of mowing a pattern on the thick grass in  the pasture.  It’s not uniformly green; I skim over the bald spots and double down on the mounds left by the tireless gopher.  Still, at dusk it looks ok, and when the leaves start to fall, any imperfections become a tapestry more handsome than any I could design.








Not On Broadway … Yet

Not On Broadway … Yet

New Yorkers have long known that the current generation of Broadway production is all about revivals and musical adaptations of successful films.  Rodgers, Hammerstein, Hart, Porter, Coward, Berlin – the hills are alive with the sound of recycling. Yes, an original production appears from time to time, but for every Hamilton there are three Hello Dollys and a pair of Showboats.  Need something more current? Tap those toes to Groundhog Day The Musical, Legally Blonde The Musical, Shrek The Musical, Waitress The Musical, Sunset Boulevard The Musical, Mean Girls, SpongeBob The Musical

Really?  SpongeBob?

An unusual opportunity has come my way as my wife went to school with a producer constantly on the lookout for the next bright Broadway bound idea.  I see every production here in Southern Oregon; she’s asked me to pass on any new work that might do well in the Big Apple. She has said she needs gripping contemporary dramas, new voices, fresh ideas; I beg to differ.

I’ve sent her my slate of hot prospects, any one of which could be bouncing its way as the centerpiece of next year’s Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade, a once-proud celebration of music and spectacle culminating with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus, now devolved into Broadway’s version of product placement.


Mr. Ed : The Musical

The Great White Way has long hoped for a bit of equine humor with a dry twist.   Mr. Ed, the astounding American Pharoah, displays a shaky baritone warbling the familiar “A Horse Is A Horse Of Course, Of Course” but who cares?   Ed’s manipulation of his ostensible owner, Wilbur Post (“Hay, Wilbur”), darkens the show with Gone Girl gaslighting, setting Louis Black as Wilbur up as an ineffectual and psychologically disordered stooge (“What’s The Matter, Wilbur?”).


The Bachelor: The Musical

Roses for everyone!  Twenty high-strung, conniving, emotionally wounded women provide an unmatched chorus of voices on the show’s title song.  Lyricist Chuck Palahniuk’s deft patter (Total Heartbreak Never Ends/  No Skank Here Was Making Friends.  Although Corinne Opened Up To You/ You Didn’t Need To Bonk The Shrew.) elevates the pedestrian script.  Daniel Baldwin’s off-handed portrayal of the show’s host is completely incomprehensible.  Lindsay Lohan’s desperate also-ran Bachelorette is both compelling and truly disturbing.


Talent Roundup Day: The Musical

This clumsy pandering to nostalgia-bound Boomers plumps an ersatz Annette, Darlene, and Clubmaster, Jimmy, in a noxious triangle set against a ripped-off Chorus Line musical confession.  Fresh faced Erik Von Detten (Brink) almost saves the last act as Cubby, the driven drummer whose frantic timpani solo brings this mess to life for a fleeting moment.


The Newlywed Game: The Musical

From the signature game show anthem to the disturbing “Where’s The Strangest Place You’ve Made Whoopie”, this challenging and thoughtful examination of the early years of marriage raises questions perhaps better left unanswered, particularly in the awkward duet, “I Thought You Liked That”.  Johnny Depp is miscast as provocateur Bob Eubanks, but the rest of the cast carries the day. Dakota Fanning as the wrong girl married to the wrong guy breaks hearts nightly at the Orpheum.


The Rifleman: The Musical

Sensing a shift as older generations take their leave, the NRA commissioned this faux-western musical in the hope of bringing an iconic and well armed figure back from TV Land obscurity.  Against all odds it works. Lin-Manuel Miranda holds the audience hostage with the stirring “I’ve Got My Sights On You”. Bernadette Peters as the Rifleman’s nemesis, Shotgun Polly, rocks. “My Cold Dead Hands” in a delightful dream sequence set in the Arlington Cemetery.


Hogan’s Heroes: The Musical

Never has a prisoner-of-war camp been more lively!   Matthew Broderick is the wily Hogan routinely outsmarting Neil Patrick Harris’  rigidly obtuse Colonel Wilhelm Klink. Harris’ dimwitted Junker Kommandant does most of the musical heavy lifting, leaving to Broderick fast paced-bamboozling with Seth Rogen’s Sergeant Hans Schultz (“I Know Nussing!”).  Hyper-hormoned French detainee, Louis LeBeau (Zac Efron channelling Maurice Chevalier) and zaftig camp follower Megan Hilty romp through the raucous “What’s A Latrine For If Not For Love?”


Leave It To Beaver: The Musical

Hugh Jackman is Ward, Kristin Chenoweth, June, and delightfully miscast Martin Short the Beaver.  This airy farce is reminiscent of the most artfully choreographed French comedies as indiscrete couples in flagrante delicto narrowly escape exposure.   Wally (Taylor Lautner) stolidly juggles his three girlfriends while keeping the aroused Eddie Haskell (Jesse Eisenberg) on a short leash and away from June.  Short’s Beaver whines charmingly, particularly in his rendition of “Miss Landers, You Are So Hot”. Chenoweth is one of Broadway’s signature voices, never better when chiding her distracted husband, “Ward, You Have To Talk To The Beaver”.