The tale I tell today is of triumph and torment. It's a six-day story of pain and victory, of love, labor and a livid lumbar. Grit flowed in abundance, its source the indomitable human spirit and the bottom of a plastic bucket. Lives were changed and destinies altered, but in the end a monument had risen like the mighty avian Phoenix from a scorched Earthscape.
You may be asking, in light of America's crumbling infrastructure, what is this tremendous public work to which I'm referring? What undertaking could be worthy of establishing residence next to such man-made marvels as the Brooklyn Bridge, Hoover Dam or State Route 518 linking Tukwila to Burien?
My bathroom, that's what. Our home is a mid century rambler, and evidently during the 1940s, a single lavatory was deemed adequate for the waste abatement sensibilities of America's post-war families. None of that three-and-three quarter bathrooms bullshit with HDMI hookups and mini-fridges for the hungover toilet bogart of today's pampered homeowner.
Nope, one bathroom, one toilet and one freaking outlet, so deal with it, you freaking twenty-first-century poo mills and the rest of your over-primping broods.
Yes, this area of the house got six times the wear and tear of the next most highly-trafficked area, a three square-foot area in front of the fridge. The floor was buckling, the tiles were swelling and if something wasn't done, we'd be involuntarily relocating our toilet to the crawlspace below.
But first things first; how does one replace a bathroom floor when no alternatives exist besides aiming for a small hole in the floor? Two words:
Honey Bucket. Nothing like single-handedly driving your neighbors' home prices down by merely placing a porta-potty in the driveway and your old commode on the porch. Whatever, this is how everyone operated a few generations back. I do wish someone would've told me I didn't have to dig a pit to put the thing over, but don't most home improvement projects command an El Capitan-sized learning curve?
As you can see, once the underlayment was ripped out (resulting in injury to your obedient journalist, which I'll get into later), the dark spot by the toilet hole presented a healthy helping of sub-floor rot. Woohoo! This alone added about four to six hours to the project. Fortunately, I wasn't about to take on this pig of a task alone.
That's my brother replacing the sub-flooring. Luckily his parole officer allowed him to travel north for the weekend, as long as he kept his ankle bracelet on (which isn't visible here) and didn't allow his face to be photographed. He said he'd rather show off his impressive new ass implants anyway. Apparently they're a big status symbol in prison. He wanted me to tell you he's not even flexing here, that's all implant.
Next up was new backer board (also known as underlayment):
Then the ceramic tile and spacers for the future grout:
I'm telling you, you could bounce a freaking quarter off those fresh glutes of his. Am I a little jelly? Perhaps.
After the mortar dried, it was grouting time:
Finally, the moment to bid adieu to mi amore, the Honey Bucket—'cause there's a smooth white new sheriff in town:
Fast forward another week, and the cleaning and painting are complete:
Although the room turned out well, a dark underbelly to this story exists. While incarcerated those nine years, my mechanically-inclined brother gleaned some exemplary carpentry skills from his various "daddies." He therefore performed the lion's share of duties requiring fine motor skills while I executed tasks involving brute force and superior strength.
Three days after the grouting was complete, I rose from bed unable to point my left foot upward, which is known as "dead foot syndrome." After visiting the doctor and receiving an MRI, l learned that, probably while crowbarring out the old plywood, one of my lumbar discs decided to form an inappropriate dalliance with the nerve root extending down the back of my leg.
To add insult to injury, I severely sprained my ankle while awkwardly planting the weak foot:
Wearing this boot is sort of like how kickers wear a different shoe to kick the ball, only there are no cleats on the boot and it would really hurt my ankle to kick a ball and then the ball wouldn't go very far and then I'd fall down. Everything else is the same.
I'm scheduled to see an orthopedist next week, so hopefully before too long I can enjoy the new bathroom without snagging my pants on Velcro once I peel them past my knees. To those of you over 50, please take care of your back. And to those of you under 50, please take care of your back.
Even an historical endeavor such as this isn't worth the heartache.