Friday, January 13, 2012

Chalet Shenanigans - Chapter 8

Fun With Crepi

The holidays are over and it’s back to the grindstone.  We only had Small Son here for the week between Christmas and New Year’s and it was weird.  Good, but weird.  First of all, it was cheap.  He had been here for about three days, when I finally said, “Gentlemen, we need to stop at that ATM (Bancomat) across the street because I am out of money”.

I was chuckling to myself while pulling my euros out of the machine because, when all  9 or 10 (depending upon the girlfriend/boyfriend situation at any given time) of us are together, I go to the ATM at least twice a day.  Here it had been three days until I finally ran out of euros.  Little Dude!  You need to start spending some money or else your father is going to get used to this “thrifty vacation” crap!  You need to start pointing at random shop windows and saying, “Hey, Pops, I NEED that”.  He was letting down the team!

One can’t let Mr. Big get too complacent or it could get to be a habit.  And then where would Charming Daughter, Mrs. Domestic Son and Grand One be next time they came to visit?  In the bread line, begging for centimes, or at the “Grand Magazin” at the January sales?  No, I tell you, this needed to be nipped in the bud.

ME:  Small Son, what is that you are wearing on your hands?

SS:  Dad’s gloves.

ME:  Why?

SS:  I can’t find my snowboarder gloves.

ME:  Really?  (With an evil twinkle in my eye.)  Well, why didn’t you say something, son?  I think we need to walk down to the shops right this very second and buy you some INCREDIBLY EXPENSIVE gloves.

SS:  Um, OK, maybe later.  These are good for now.

AAAARGH!  Kid!  What am I going to do with you?  You come for an entire week and your father only shells out 381 euros all week which includes the tube of toothpaste you forgot to bring.  Do you see the dangerous precedent you are setting?  Then, when the girls come to visit and we spend 381 euros in ONE STORE in FIVE MINUTES, he will have a stroke and all the good work I’ve been doing for the last 25 years will have been for naught.

This child, bless his heart, was, literally, quite happy with a croissant, a lift ticket, a few beers and 67 bottled waters per day.  Which explains why a 6-foot 2-inch guy weighs less than me.  More water goes down his gullet every day than in the city-wide sewer management system of Tuscon.  I’ve raised three of these water-guzzling kids and it still boggles my mind.  Where does all this water go?  It’s a generational mystery.  They don’t really pee to an excess, nor do they sweat a lot, so I just don’t get it.  Intra-cellular-water-hoarders.  Weird.  When I was little, the only water we drank was out of the hose on the side of the house when we were really thirsty from running around playing Tag or Dodgeball and/or we wanted to squirt someone.  Sometimes, if our mother had the temerity to run out of Coke, we had to drink tap water, but that was like, a punishment.

Maaaa!  Where’s the Coke?

We’re out.  Drink water.

NOOO!  Mom, seriously, where’s the Coke?  Stop trying to be funny, Mom, because you’re no good at it.  Now, where’s the Coke?

Anyway, it was nice to spend time alone with just Small Son.  I really hadn’t done that since the “gap year” after his sister went away to college and he was still in high school.  We did enjoy, during that year, going out to dinner, just he and I, (remember, Mr. Big travels Monday-Friday), and doing crossword puzzles in the restaurant with no one else bothering us.  He is my retro-geeky-whiz-kid and I just love him to death.  (Right now, I’m sure he is reading this and texting his brother and sister—“Favorite Child, blog alert, Favorite Child!”)

Small Son’s got me off on a tangent, here.  Back to the mountain house.  When we last talked about the chalet renovations, I was planter-deep in the stupid geraniums.  The only other thing I managed to do before we were inundated with snow was “crepi” the pink walls outside on the ground-level  floor.

What is Crepi, you ask?  Well, let me tell you.  CREPI is the stuff that all Americans wish they had when they want that “Tuscan” finish.  Yeah.  That stuff.  This is how Europe does it, America.  And they are keeping it a deep, dark secret and quietly enjoying watching you pay MAJOR dollars to a “faux finisher” to get the same “look”.

I swear, I am going into business exporting Crepi.  This stuff is magic.  It comes in big tubs in the hardware store, but it’s all white.  If you want to tint it, you buy  a tube of “colorant” and mix it to whatever shade you want.  I wanted the exact shade of grey that looks like cement that’s been there 200 years.  We’ll call it “Old French Barn Weathered Grey”.

You apply your Crepi with your special Crepi roller.  Keep in mind that Crepi is the consistency of grits that have been left on the heat 20 minutes too long.  This stuff does not pour.  You have to trowel it out of the bucket into your roller pan.  Then you roll your Crepi brush all up in this gook and, by the time you take your brush out of the roller pan, it weighs as much as a wet Airedale terrier.

So, with a soggy dog clutched in your fist, you schmear it on your house.  And, voila, after three days of this, you have magically turned your pink basement-level floor into  something that vaguely resembles a 200-year old French barn.  If you squint.  And have a couple bottles of wine.  Whatever.  It looks BETTER, and that’s all I’ve got to say about that, except that I was rockin’ some serious biceps there for about a week.

Wait.  There is one more small thing.  A miniscule thing, really.  The configuration of this house is such that, at the very end of the last and final wall to be crepied, the wall itself slowly becomes buried into the hillside.  So, at the last little bit, I was, literally, lying, completely prone, on my back, on rocks, with the deck above me only inches from my face ,breathing in God only knows what kind of bizarre French mold and mildew,  wielding a wet dog on the end of my outstretched arm.  That Michael-Angelo-Sistine-Chapel pose lasted about 9 seconds before I scootched back out to reassess the situation.

I immediately noticed that the pink color had stopped about one meter earlier.  (How I let myself continue that torture for one extra meter more than I had to is beyond me.  I think I was just in a crepi-induced trance).  Hmm, I said to myself, Mr. or Mrs. Previous Owner stopped waaay before I did, therefore, I am completely justified in just going inside and getting a shower right this very second.  However, if, some day, I am having a barbeque out here and one of my guests looks at this wall from a very specific spot at just the right angle, they are going to see that I stopped crepiing and took the lazy way out.  I was torn.  Truly.

Ya know, there are always more than one way to skin a cat.  I had a very small, renovation-related epiphany while standing there staring at my wall.  If applying the crepi to that claustrophobic little triangular area is too difficult, can I not cover it up with some other method?  What if I just fill in that area with more rocks?  And where will I find 2 or 3 cubic meters of random rock?  From the fireplace that I’m ripping out upstairs, of course!

This is how I found myself lugging 65 (not an exaggeration) Hefty bags of rock out of the living room, out onto the deck, across the lawn, down the hill and chunking it up under the house.  Mr. Big was like, “What in the HELL are you doing, woman?”  Well, snookums, I am TRYING to make everything look pretty for our future barbeque guests.  Y’all, I was actually STRATEGICALLY trying to place these rocks in some random order so that they looked NATURAL and not like what they actually were, which was chunks of concrete from inside an imploded fireplace.  I think the magic Crepi ate away at whatever little bits of sanity I was still operating with.  Seriously.

Anyway, all of it is now under 5 feet of snow and no one will see it until May, so it really doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that I DID clear out the old, ugly fireplace and we now have a new, ugly 18-inch deep pit in the middle of the living room, which is a story for another day.