Dave Barry's Homes and Other Black Holes

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Authors: Dave Barry
obtain nice furniture without the frustration and high cost of buying it new, provided you are willing to put in a few hours of honest “elbow grease” and possibly suffer permanent disfigurement. I am referring, of course, to the time-honored Thrifty Homeowner art of …
REFINISHING FURNITURE
    No doubt you have at one time or another visited the home of people who have a number of nice older wooden pieces, and you have said something complimentary, and your hosts said something like: “Oh, thank you, we bought them all for a total of $147.50 at garage sales and refinished themourselves in the garage and now they are worth, we conservatively estimate, nine million dollars.” They are lying, of course. They stole all this stuff from the Museum of Nice Old Wood Furniture. Nevertheless, it is inevitable that at some point you will get the notion that
you
can have nice furniture via the refinishing method, so you might as well know the correct procedure:
You go to a garage sale and you find a bureau covered with hideously ugly orange paint.
You call your spouse over, and you say, in a quiet voice so the garage sale person can’t overhear you: “Look at this! You know what this is, under this paint? This is (CHOOSE ONE):
…solid oak!”
…solid bird’s-eye maple!”
…solid walnut!”
…solid oaken maple eye of walnut!” (It makes no difference what fine hardwood you claim the bureau is made of, because it will forever remain an elusive dream that you never actually lay eyes on, similar to the Lost Dutchman’s Mine.)
Your spouse, shocked, whispers: “Whoever would be so foolish as to cover up such beautiful wood with
paint
!? With a minimum of effort, this could be a
lovely
piece!”
Feeling like thieves in the night, you pay twenty-five dollars for the bureau and scuttle off with it. You do not hear the cynical laughter of the former owner.
You go to the hardware store and purchase some steel wool and some refinishing product with a name like “Can o’ Poison” that has skeleton heads all over it and a prominent Consumer Advisory like this:
    WARNING—DO NOT LET THIS PRODUCT COME IN CONTACT WITH YOUR SKIN. DO NOT BREATHE THE FUMES. DO NOT HAVE CHILDREN AFTER USING THIS PRODUCT. DO NOT BUY THIS PRODUCT. DO NOT EVEN READ THIS WARNING.
You go home, put on some rubber gloves, and start scrubbing the paintwith the toxic substance. It is hard work. It is dirty work. The gloves dissolve quickly, and it is clear that large patches of your skin will have to be surgically replaced. But it’s all worth it, because after just a few hours you have scraped away a small patch of that hideous orange paint, and underneath it you find …
a layer of hideous green paint
!
You repeat this process for two, maybe even three more layers of paint, and finally the truth dawns on you:
This is not really a bureau
. This is an enormous, bureau-shaped wad of paint.
You decide to hold a garage sale.
INTERIOR DESIGN HINTS FROM TOP “PROS”
To make a dark room look brighter, try turning on the electrical lights.
A small carpet stain where the cat vomited in 1979 can be made to “disappear”when company comes by having a predetermined family member stand on it and refuse to move.
Squares of corkboard stuck on the wall will often turn an “ordinary” room into a room that smells like corkboard.
If you’re planning to paint a room, remember that “oil-based” paint is the kind that is supposed to come off with paint thinner, but does not; whereas “latex” is the kind that is supposed to come off with simple soap and water, but does not.

8
Good Housekeeping, or
Learning to Live with Filth
    H ardly a week goes by when you don’t read a newspaper article like this:
    LOS REDUNDOS, N.M. —Astronomers at the Institute for Wearing White Laboratory Coats here announced today that they have discovered a humongous dust cloud 237 skillion light-yearsfrom the earth. “This,” the scientists stated in unison, “could very well be the largest

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