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Holiday Guide 2014: Home improvement for the holidays 

How I went from homeowner illiteracy to home-improvement obsessed

click to enlarge PHOTO BY BILLY MANES

If you had asked me three years ago whether I’d be concerned enough about the cult of home improvement – or, basically, home stabilization as a means of endurable habitation – in lieu of all the sparkly, shiny things that connect to “clouds” without wires and make porn indulgences easier, I might have laughed in your face.

There was once a time when I would proudly put my hand on a fake Bible and swear, “If you ever see me doing yard work, please kill me,” before skipping off to a Sunday Funday celebration of absolutely no responsibility and all of the champagne.

But life is funny like that. Two years ago, after a series of extremely unfortunate events, I entered into the fold of unexpected home-owning bliss. A 40-something gay widower with some leftover tools and even a riding lawn mower stared me down in the mirror while trying to pull off a cowboy hat look, and I crumple-faced into a raisin. How ever would I survive? I did. I do.

But, like anyone who lives in an old house that didn’t come with a handyman built in, I am enthralled 52 weekends a year by all the things that I should have, whether I need them or not. It doesn’t help that my TV is childproofed to stay on HGTV all the time, or that my waking thoughts typically waver between “Love it!” or “List it!” I am a creature of the comforts of others. Also, I like to complain.

Last week, I locked myself out of my own house while taking out the trash. I found a giant wrench (free, I guess!) in the shed and knocked a windowpane out in the utility room, because, uh, I had to be somewhere dressed up like Andy Warhol and did not have time for anything less glamorous than crawling over a washing machine to my head-on-the-tile demise.

Anyway, it got me to thinking. There are things that could make my life way easier. First of all, a window. One 36”-by-25” single-hung vinyl window would set me back $76.67, the nice – if suspiciously so – guy at Lowe’s told me. So, that was the first Christmas gift I bought myself this year (even if it was required that I special-order it, so don’t break into my house). But what about my tantrum-fed wants? Every time I walk into a big-box hardware retailer, I am siren-ed into the realm of riding lawnmowers. Pay no mind to the fact that I already have one that I inherited; nothing says new power-me like a new riding mower. So, for a scant $1,899, somebody could purchase me this 22-horsepower V-Twin half-inch-cut beast that looks exactly like the John Deere I already own. Ride on, cowboy.

Among the other things I thought I would never need is a chainsaw. I have a chainsaw, but it’s broken. And that’s just not fair. For just $399, I could be “Farm Tough” with a gas-powered Husqvarna apparatus from Lowe’s, thereby predicting the scene from that film where the guy who weighs less than the chainsaw tumbles from the ladder and slices off his own nose. That’s entertainment.

And, once you start pulling the string of DIY distractions, there are so many other things that you’ll never use but you certainly know you need. One manner of dealing with these wide eyes of nesting desire is buying (me) a kit, like the Black & Decker 4-Tool 20-Volt Lithium Ion Cordless Combo Kit with Soft Case for just $175.42 (Lowe’s, again)! I can cut so many things! Maybe some backyard furniture, some weed-and-feed (don’t do it!), a swing set, a pool, fancy lights, irrigation, a new foundation and some appliances with granite tops and backsplashes galore! Then everything would be perfect.

And I would never leave the house. Happy Holidays. You know where to find me.


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