Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Aimless Reading: The J's, Part 11 (Ben Jonson)

The Complete Poems
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Jonson, Ben
The Complete Poems

Purchased in college for a course on 17th Century Poetry. I love the cover image: 'Torchbearer, a Fiery Spirit,' designed by Inigo Jones. Great name, 'Inigo.'

2003: Once we'd decided to stick around Buffalo for a while, we thought we should take advantage of the modestly priced real estate and buy a home. We needed something large enough for Lori to work in, yet affordable enough that we could pay for it on my then-part-time salary and the earning from Lori's fledgling decorative arts business.

After looking for several months within Allentown and the Elmwood Village, we began looking in more 'transitional' neighborhoods, eventually settling on a 3/3 double at 285 Dearborn St. in Black Rock. The fact that Robert Creeley lived two blocks away helped alleviate a lot of the negative things we'd heard about the area.

The house was a somewhat fancy Victorian with gingerbread on the front porch -- for the neighborhood, it was extremely fancy. In fact, with its fancy exterior, fresh paint job, iron gate, and two car garage, it stuck out like a sore thumb among the mostly modest homes in the neighborhood. The feeling of sticking out like a sore thumb never left us, in fact. We didn't really intend to buy it, but when the owner accepted out lowball offer of 65K (for 2500 sq feet of living space, a two car garage, a back yard, and parking for six outside the garage), we took the plunge.

We decided immediately to use it as a single and asked the previous owner to give the tenant notice, which he did. We were at the house within minutes after closing, tearing up old carpets and so forth. It wasn't long before we embarked on a major renovation of the home, by ourselves, for the most part, without permits or, at least on my part, even an iota of knowledge about how to perform such work. I barely new a hammer from a crowbar at that point.

We were in the fortunate position of having two kitchens and two bathrooms, so it was fairly easy to work on one floor at a time.

There were two entrances, one at the back, which we used often when parking in the garage, and the front door, which you entered from the front porch. A small vestibule had been constructed just inside the front door to create separate entrances to the two apartments. One door went up the stairs and the other opened into a living room in the lower apartment. On the first floor, the owner had had all of the woodwork stripped and stained a dark, reddish brown. All of the wood on the second floor was painted.

The living room had an ugly gray carpet, which we took up to reveal a badly damaged wood floor. Eventually, we removed the whole vesitibule (me, saws-all, and hammer, sans a clue what I was doing), including the wall that divided the staircase from the lower apartment. We stripped all the newly revealed wood -- from the window and door at the top of the stairs to the banister, spindles and stair pads themselves. We also stripped the front door.

We replaced the wood flooring in the living room, which was beyond repair. Because that area was relatively cold -- despite the two gigantic radiotors--we used it as a dining room instead of as a living room. There was a coat closet near the steps.

The living room led to a dining room (which we used as a living room) with a gas fireplace. The only change we made to this room besides painting was to remove an overly ornate mirror above the fireplace.

Off the living room was a small bedroom, which I used as an office and library. We actually painted all the wood in this room because the dark wood made it seem very small. I built bookcases that surrounded me on two sides. The previous owner had revealed the brick of a chimney in the corner, but had then shellacked it, which made it look terrible. Lori painted the bricks to macth the wall color, a light gray. We removed an antique brass light fixture and replaced it with a ceiling fan. I think we moved the light fixture to the front door, where the vestibule had been.

A doorway led through to a kitchen, which we gutted completely. The only original piece was a recessed hutch made of knotty pine with glass fronted cabinet doors. Everything else was forties-era cabinetry. The walls were covered in Coca-Cola bottle wallpaper and the floors in rolled linoleum.

We began by removing the drop ceiling tiles to reveal that there were two feet between the drop ceiling frame and the original ceiling. A neighbor came over one night and jacked the frame up as high as it would go, giving us ceilings that were about 9.5 feet in that room. They were about ten on the first floor, less than that upstairs.

In the end, we created a pretty spectacular kitchen with very little money. Lori's dad did the electrical and helped with the drywalling (Thom Donovan and then-partner Gracie also helped drywall). A designer friend of Lori's gave us a ton of free slate tile, which had been leftover from a job he'd done at the Sphere nightclub in Buffalo. We used that to lay the floor ourselves. This designer also traded Lori some painting work for granite countertops.

The walls were painted with a dark adobe-colored venetian plaster, the cabinets were cherry, the countertops a reddish marbled granite, the floor a multi-colored slate. Two frosted rectangular-cubed lights hung above the island. We bought two Japanese-looking wood stools to sit in. In one corner we put the only upper cabinet, and under it we set up a coffee station on a rolling cart. We kept the original wainscoting, which had the same orangish shading as the built-in.

There was another small bedroom off the kitchen, with a closet. The closet had horrible mirrored sliding doors, which Lori covered over with paper and a paint finish. We painted the room and put a fold-out couch, coffee table, and a small cabinet in there. The closet became a de facto pantry.

Another door led to a back hallway, where to the right there was a bedroom. We replaced the tiles of the drop ceiling with new ones, and put down a parquet floor in that room, which became the guest room. To the right was a bathroom, which we gutted -- it had to be done. It was all pink -- pink paint, pink shower tiles, pink curtains. Nothing could save it. We replaced everything. White shower tiles, a painted finish on the walls, a pedestal sink, ceramic tile on the floor. Lori made a beautiful floor-to-ceiling mosaic backsplash behind the sink. I installed the toilet and sink myself and was very proud.

Another door, which created a separate entrance between the apartments led to a back staircase and a back door. Another set of stairs led to the basement, which was large and dryish. We stored a lot of Lori's painting material down there, along with some of the wine she'd made over the years. The wine was stored in a back room, whose door had been constructed from 100-year old tin ceiling tiles someone had removed.

I think I'll leave the second floor for tomorrow!

from The Complete Poems


At court I met it, in clothes brave enough,
To be a courtier ; and looks grave enough,
To seem a statesman : as I near it came,
It made me a great face ; I ask'd the name.
A Lord, it cried, buried in flesh, and blood,
And such from whom let no man hope least good,
For I will do none ; and as little ill,
For I will dare none : Good Lord, walk dead still.

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