Friday, March 27, 2009

Treasures of Home Renovation (Or, Naughty Archaeology In Your Basement)

Two (three?) years ago, we decided to renovate our tiny bungabox of a house as it was cheaper than going through the hell of selling/buying a new, larger place. We're Olympic-level packrats and the thought of sorting our crap fills us with cold fear, so you can see that renovating was a far better idea.

Anyway, it all took way longer than expected to redo the bathroom, the heating/cooling and build a whole new kitchen off the back of the house, but all in all it was fairly painless. The best part was that everything came in on budget and there were no significant surprises.

Well, except for the home-made porn in the ceiling.

One night, after the electrician had been in to run wiring from our breaker box to the new addition, which involved tearing out the acoustic tile ceiling, I noticed these two old cigarette tins lying on the floor of our basement. They had long hooks made of coathanger wire attached to them and definitely did not belong to me. The husband didn't recognize them either, so we opened them up and found four packages, about the size of baseball cards, wrapped in brown paper. For some reason, no doubt because I was panicking about reno costs, my first thought was "These are old baseball cards, hidden in the ceiling by the son of the former owner AND WE WILL BE RICH." So I opened a package.

I'm certain my scream was heard all over the neighbourhood because what was in the package was not so much baseball cards as images of other, more indoor sports (as Judy Blume used to say). Yes, that's right, we'd stumbled upon a treasure trove of naughty photographs from the late 60s. I know this because many of them, the full colour polaroid shots, were dated on the back. What made it worse was the fact that the background in many of the pictures made it clear that the photos had been taken in our house...which means that the people in the photographs were likely the former owners.

Now, I always knew the house was weird. It's one of the reasons I was able to purchase it so cheaply on my own before I was married. The day I got the keys and a friend and I went over to begin cleaning it up, the next door neighbour practically jumped for joy at the sight of a new person moving in and told me how completely anti-social the former owners had been. Inside the house, it got weirder. For example, the main bedroom was painted, walls and ceiling, in the shiniest of oil paint in a deep, labial pink. Not that there's anything sinister about that kind of decor, but it was odd. There was also a large iron O-ring set in the middle of the ceiling, which I attributed to the fact that the last resident had been an elderly woman who likely needed some sort of pulley system to get out of bed. But in the basement there was a sort of hidden room, only reachable by a door under the stairs, that was positively lacquered in nicotine. Now THAT was weird. It was like a windowless smoke-hole and I couldn't figure out what the room might have been used for.

The tin boxes of happy snaps told me what it was used for, it was their play room! There were a number of pics of the Mister, skyclad, clearly taken in that room, the walls all but obscured with nudie shots. There were also a number of images of the Missus, wearing nothing but a flowered shower cap, posing in the kitchen and bedroom. There's only one shot of the two of them together, so they either had a friend over or figured out the timer on their Polaroid.

The question is, of course, what do you do with these things? Although I have no desire to ever look in the tins again, the archivist (nice name for a packrat) in me just can't throw them out, they're historical documents! Twisted historical documents, but documents nonetheless. And since they were so lovingly preserved and hidden in the ceiling for so long (our theory is that the long wire hooks either secured them in the ceiling or provided and easy way to pull them out for viewing), it would somehow seem wrong to just dump them in the garbage. And now, frankly, they're part of the house's history. So, I think that when we've got the money to renovate the basement properly, we'll just seal them back up in the wall or ceiling and they can sit and wait for the next owner to discover them, long after we're gone.


Thursday, March 26, 2009

Are You Kidding Me -- Chapter One...

I live across the street from a grade school, which I like for any number of reasons. I like having a neighbourhood full of kids, I like having a large open space right there in front of my house for exercising our crazy dog, I like the idea that had we had children they would have had a 400 ft. walk to school.

What I don't like is the litter. Somewhere, along the way, we (the royal we, as in society at large) forgot to teach kids not to litter. School property is liberally bestrewn with pop cans, chip bags, plastic milk-to-go bottles, candy wrappers and all manner of other refuse, which, because we live in a particularly windy area, all ends up in my front garden at some point. I don't so much rake leaves in the spring and fall, I rake garbage.

I used to blame the kids, until my husband noticed that a fair amount of the loose garbage was Tim Horton's coffee cups and deduced that grade-schoolers aren't known for their double-double intake. Which means that the thoughtless 4th grader who abandons his empty milk carton in the school yard is likely emulating a parent who drops his empty coffee cup out his car window into the school parking lot during the morning drop off. Are you kidding me with this, people? You're grown ups! You know better than to dump your crap anywhere but in the garbage can! Come on!

The end result is that a rather nice little neighbourhood of tidy, well-kept (except for the suspected marijuana grow-up house, but that's another story), modest 1950s bungalows looks like crap because there's litter all over the place. Add to this the incredible amount of dog turds (are we the only ones who scoop the poop?), and you've got a visual and physical minefield every time you go for a walk.

So, what to do about it? Yes, calling the school is effective in that they'll send their janitor out with a pokey stick thing and a garbage bag to clean it up, but that doesn't solve the bigger issue of getting the kids and parents to stop throwing their crap around in the first place. Do I become the crazy Gladys Kravitz type and collect all the garbage myself into nice big clear bags and dump it on the Principal's desk, perhaps on Earth Day, to make a point? Or do I go the underground, guerilla route and start plastering the hydro poles around the school with tastefully designed flyers featuring the crying Indian from those American anti-littering PSAs of our youth ( -- which would amuse me greatly but would just be another form of litter, to be honest.

Hmmmmmm. Suggestions welcome. How would you lessen the litter in your neighbourhood?