A painter’s helper who’s off the wall

Connecticut Post (Sunday) - - Sunday Arts & Style -

Ac­cord­ing to a cher­ished old adage, which I know is true be­cause I just made it up, if you can’t stand the kitchen, turn up the heat.

That’s what my wife, Sue, re­cently did be­cause she wanted me to take down the wallpaper that had adorned the kitchen for the past dozen years.

“It’s prac­ti­cally new,” I told her.

“It’s old,” Sue coun­tered. “And ugly. I want it down.”

The last time I tried to re­move wallpaper, in an up­stairs bed­room when Sue and I moved into our house 20 years ago, it came off in pieces the size of lol­lipop wrap­pers. It took me three days. I could have saved a lot of time by us­ing a flamethrower.

Thanks to those haunt­ing flash­backs, I con­vinced Sue to hire Mike the Paint Guy

Mike, oth­er­wise known as Michael Beck of Is­land Luxor Paint­ing, turned out to be a good worker who was hav­ing a bad week.

The day he was sup­posed

TO GET RID OF WALLPAPER, AN ELEC­TRIC SANDER AND A JAR OF CHEM­I­CALS ARE NICE, BUT BEER IS THE BEST SO­LU­TION

to start, he had to take his fa­ther to the hos­pi­tal. Then he had a flat tire. Worst of all, he had a cal­cium de­posit in his shoul­der that re­quired surgery.

“The doc­tor said I have the body of a 64- year- old man,” said Michael, who is 32.

“I’m 64,” I told him. “My body is noth­ing to write home about, and nei­ther is my head, but at least I don’t need surgery.”

“Maybe,” Michael said, “you can help me take down the wallpaper.”

“Sure,” I said. “I’m off the wall my­self, so I’d be happy to as­sist.”

As Michael prepped the walls with a so­lu­tion to make the pa­per come off eas­ily, he asked, “What so­lu­tion did you use when you took down the wallpaper up­stairs?”

My re­sponse: “Beer.” “Wallpaper is tricky,” Michael said. “No­body uses it any­more. I’ve taken a lot of wallpaper down, but I haven’t put any up.”

When he got it down in the kitchen, he said, “Now I have to spackle. It will cover up the holes.”

“Spackle is also good for cov­er­ing up wrin­kles,” I noted. “I put it on my face be­fore I go to bed.”

“You do look young,” Michael said, “so I guess it works.”

Next, he revved up an elec­tric sander to smooth out the walls.

“May I try?” I asked. “Help your­self,” Michael said as he handed me the whirring disc.

“This thing could give me a close shave,” I said.

“Yes,” said Michael, “but then you’d need more spackle to cover up the nicks and cuts.”

On one of the walls was a phone num­ber. It was for a wo­man named Ber­nice, which also was the name of one of our de­ceased cats. I called, but the num­ber was out of ser­vice.

“It’s dead, too,” I told Michael.

Now it was time to paint. Michael’s shoul­der was both­er­ing him, so I said, “You’ll have a brush with dis­as­ter. Let me help.”

As I did one of the walls, I re­marked, “I’m on a roll!”

It caused Michael even more pain. But he worked through it and, al­most sin­gle- hand­edly over the course of a week, and de­spite my fee­ble as­sis­tance, did a fan­tas­tic job.

“I love it!” Sue ex­claimed. “Now I want the hall­way painted.”

“You’ll have to wait un­til Michael is out of surgery,” I said.

“Then you can do the prep work,” she said.

“OK,” I replied. “Buy some spackle and an elec­tric sander. And don’t for­get the beer.” Stam­ford na­tive Jerry Zezima’s lat­est book is “Nini and Pop­pie’s Ex­cel­lent Ad­ven­tures.” Jer­ryZ111@op­ton­line.net, jer­ryzez­ima.blogspot.com.

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