L’Arc de Triomphe

Though I studied French for five years, grades seven through 11 and became quite proficient, this column has nothing to do with French or this most famous of monuments. This column finishes the three-column arc concerning the before, during and after of my bulb installation. Having safely landed on my feet, figuratively and literally, it’s time to complete the arc, especially considering my triumph.

The bulbs are all in. No breakage to me or the fixtures, the sconces or to the house. Just a relatively simple and straightforward (for me anyway) installation: on the refrigerator door (the night light), in the living room (in the sconces) and back in the kitchen (the flush-mounted light fixtures in the ceiling). I don’t want to over exaggerate my success, but when you have had as many failures – in this context, as I have, one tends to find great joy in having avoided great complications.

I wouldn’t say or even admit to beating my chest with great pride because I do understand the level of difficulty here but, previously I have given myself a nickname when a similar task at hand has met with similar success: Taras Bulba, who had nothing to do with bulbs other than part of his name included b-u-l-b. For some reason, I also had the knowledge that Yul Brynner played the title role in a 1962 film of the same name, but had no other information of substance other than I remember him being bald – which I’m not.

As to what I remember about what I was thinking when we purchased a 250-year-old farmhouse on two acres in Montgomery County back in 1992: the price was reasonable/we could afford it, it was two acres of land in an extremely desirable County/location, it was close to I-95; and it was about time in our lives that we bought our first home. As to what I was supposed to do next; soon after we moved in, we had a two-day party (to accommodate people’s availability); for those two days I held a clipboard and took notes as many of our friends made casual observations/suggestions about what work needed to be done, inside the house and out.

We needed tile in both bathrooms – since there was none. We needed plumbing fixtures in one shower/tub – since there were none. We needed a “one-fixture rough-in” for a washing machine – since there was none. We needed central air conditioning and ducts – since there was none. We needed phone jacks/telephone wiring since there was only one phone outlet for the entire house. We needed a new oil boiler since the unit in the basement was from “the year one” (to use one of my late mother’s expressions). We needed chimney repairs and liners. We needed an upgraded electrical panel. As for the property/grounds; do you think a lifelong renter with zero interest, aptitude or experience had any of the tools necessary to maintain two acres? That’s a rhetorical question if there ever was one. In over my head doesn’t begin to scratch the surface of the depths of my immersion.

But my wife, Dina, loved the house. It reminded her of Chester County in Pennsylvania where she grew up. And the price offered good value. Within one minute of our initial visit to the house, after walking through the living room across the old-fashioned wide pine floor boards pass the cooking fireplace and stepping up into a formal dining room with another fireplace, I knew Dina was sold. Fifteen minutes later we exited the house; didn’t flush a toilet, didn’t turn on a faucet, didn’t flick a light switch, did nothing except walked around. We made an offer the next day, and the rest is basically this column.

As much as I thought I knew, little did I know what I was actually getting myself into. It’s been 25 years and I’m still way better in French than I am in homeowner. I don’t call myself Taras Bulba for nothing. I call myself Taras Bulba for something: bulb replacement. It’s not much I realize, but it’s the best this man can do. C’est la vie.


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