Friday, October 03, 2008

This Old House

Last night after all of the excitement of the vice presidential debate, I couldn't sleep. Okay, that might have more to do with coffee, but I limit myself to one cup a week and yesterday morning was it. (If I don't limit myself I #1 can't sleep at all for days on end and #2 get really fancy digestive DISTRESS, but the cafeteria at work has starbucks coffee with flavored syrups you can squirt into it and it is sooooo good- so much better than the normal coffee they have which tastes like somebody set a shoe on fire and threw its charred remains into the coffee pot for a little extra added scorch, and despite that it is still weak. Some call me a snob, I prefer to refer to myself as selective.)

So I was sitting there on the couch at some insanely late hour watching the guys on Ask This Old House replace a post that holds up the roof between the garage doors of some poor woman's house. I don't watch this show much- I've maybe seen it twice before last night- but this is a classic PBS format. The host is informative, the house owner is playing dumb to come up with a reason for the host to tell us viewers why there might be a problem:

Home Owner: I just can't understand why my roof seems to be sliding into my garage...
Host (easily lifting HUGE dusty chunks out of the bottom of the post with a pick or screwdriver or something): Well it looks like you have some rot here.
Home Owner: Oh, really? What should we do? (I'm thinking: move!)
Host: Yeah, we should replace the post!
Home Owner: Do we have to replace the whole thing?
Host: No, let's see if we can just take out the bottom half.

(They do this on Antiques Roadshow too, the knowledgable expert will helpfully point out that the item they're looking at is a really old chair, or really old lunchbox with Daffy Duck on it, or a really really old painting but UH OH, it has some water damage. Maybe it's for the blind listeining in, I don't know. But it's funny. Then they get into the information that no one would know and the vase that some shrunken old man bought at a yardsale for $3 in 1972 is worth $10,000 and he has to take his heart pills. I love that stuff.)

Well of course once they got the trim off of the post they found out that not only had the post been sitting in some hole in the ground between the concrete slabs of the driveway and the garage, but that the top of the post was rotten too and there were (GASP) carpenter ants that ate a lot of the wood at some point. So then the host cheerfully points out that they should probably replace the whole post. Carpenter dude hauled out his circular saw and started slicing away at the wood, the camera crew getting lots of dramatic action shots of the sawing and drilling from different angles to try to make this as exciting as possible.

The whole point here was that I was instantly taken back to about 1988. Whenever I hear circular saws I can smell scorched pine and see my dad sloooooowly pulling his radial arm saw (when I was a kid I thought it was a "Radio Alarm Saw" which makes no sense now but seemed perfectly reasonable then) and cutting up boards to make more bookshelves for my mom. Slow because if he went too fast the saw blade would get stuck and blow the power fuse for the garage. But too slow and he'd end up burning the wood some so there was always this really great smell of sawdust and scorched wood. It's one of my favorite smells, along with freshly cut lawns and the musty coffee smell of my grandmother's house in the summer.

So that's what watching PBS brought back to me last night. It made me sort of nostalgic but mostly put me to sleep which was the whole point anyway! What are the sounds and smells that pull you back to childhood?

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