Saturday, May 28, 2005

Decade Dense

So, yesterday was my tenth anniversary in sobriety. Ten years ago yesterday, hungover from what turned out to be my last binge, sitting in the garden with the sun shining and the flowers in riotous bloom, I decided to quite drinking; later on I went to my first AA meeting, launching into an incredible journey.

So how do you suppose I celebrated this wonderful milestone? A spa day in Calistoga? High tea at a grand San Francisco hotel? A shopping spree in a favorite mall? A luncheon with friends? A quiet little soirée chez moi? Hoisting a festive brewski (or festive flute of champagne, as appropriate) so I can start all over again? No.

I cleaned my room, is what I did. Actually, I started cleaning on Thursday, I figured I'd finish off the laundry I started last week, then pick up the trash, do a little dusting, and put the new comforter and bedskirt I bought at Ross the other day (I only went in to get some fresh undershirts, but they didn't have any in my size... yet they did have this beautiful burgundy-and-gold brocade Wamsutta comforter set for only $25) on my bed. Then I would turn to the rest of the house and prepare for the party I am having on Sunday. Simple, no?

No! It was going along just fine, I started at the door and went around counterclockwise (or widdershins, if you prefer), sorting the clothes into laundry piles and filling up my garbage can again and again (disgusted with myself of course for the sheer volume of trash in my room), mostly clothing tags and junk mail and those little cards that come out of magazines, but also such shameful items as empty ice-cream cartons, forests of grape-stems and a few stray chicken-bones, dirty dishes so old I couldn't even guess what I'd eaten or drunk out of them; I revealed acres of carpet, and found about $20 in loose change and two whole $20 bills.

But then as I started mining into the southwestern quadrant of my room, the space between my closet and the bookshelves at the foot of my bed, a place I seldom use for anything other than piling up dirty clothes and discarding the large cardboard boxes in which my furs and other eBay purchases come, I encountered something unpleasant, something that I hadn't expected even in the squalor my room had become.

I moved a plastic crate out of position, and was assaulted by the putrid odor of mildew; further investigation showed a delightful forest of feathery-flossy mold, adjacent to a block of cream-colored powder mold, and then to the left I found an even-more-putrid-smelling fluid soaked into a flannel sheet that had been forgotten at the bottom of the pile. Gross!

It was getting late, so once I got the laundry and trash up out of that quadrant, I sprayed the whole thing with Lysol and then powdered it over with lilac-scent Carpet Fresh (to absorb the moisture as well as to kill the stench), then went to bed. Actually, I had to sleep on the couch, because the laundry piles and all the books and magazines that had been on the floor were on the bed, and it would have taken a couple more hours to move it all.

The next day, the discoveries got worse! After vacuuming up all the Carpet Fresh, I discovered that half a can didn't quite absorb all the moisture; in fact, the carpet was soaked through, sopping wet... the water had also soaked into the corner of the bookshelves in front of the window, and the smell coming from under the bed was unbelievable, like a recently unsealed tomb.

So I had to move some furniture, emptying out the bookshelves and moving them off the carpet, then prying the bed away from the wall. The space under my bed beneath the windows, all the carpet and several layers of wallpaper and a few magazines that slipped down there, were soaked and completely covered in mildew. Apparently my windows have been leaking all winter, and since the area was covered with my bed, some pieces of furniture, and a mountain of fabric and refuse, it didn't dry out, it just sat there, soaking in and stagnating.

Here is where this simple little tidying job turned into a massive undertaking. I had to take as much furniture out of the room as I could, take all the laundry and books off the bed, then dismantle the bed and move everything away from the window so I could assess the damage.

And the damage was severe... the mildew had soaked into the plaster of the wall under the window, infiltrating and decaying three ancient layers of wallpaper to start nibbling into the original plaster; the water had also soaked deep into the floorboards underneath the carpet, several of the boards were buckled and puckered, completely destroying the hardwood floors original to our 1929 house, and a huge deposit of mildew infested three square feet of it, blackening the still-damp wood. The stench was stupefying... and did I ever mention I'm allergic to mildew?

Well, first I doused the place in Lysol and then powdered it generously with Carpet Fresh, using up one whole can and the half-can that was left from the day before (I should have used kitty litter, it is way more absorbent, but hindsight is always 20/20). I put a fan on it so it would dry faster, then ran some errands... specifically to the store to buy another really big can of Lysol, a can of orange-oil wood-cleaner, and a can of Endust. When I got back, I vacuumed up the clumps of Carpet Fresh, soaked the area thoroughly with Lysol to kill the mildew and mold spores, scrubbed the area down with orange-oil and a green scrubbie-sponge, then coated it with Endust (I got apple-scented instead of lemon, and it's divine) and polished it all with an old pair of jersey boxers. The mildewy patch was still damp, so I turned the fan on it, and then put a bathmat on top of it so I can soak the water out by walking on it.

Well, to make a terribly long story a tiny bit shorter, I eventually decided to simply get rid of the carpet, rearrange my furniture so that my bed is no longer in the corner between two walls and a half-wall of bookshelves (which was more trouble than it was worth, since it encouraged me to clutter up my bed with books and stuff), and rearranged a few other pieces that I'd had to move anyway because they were sitting on the carpet. Finally I made my bed with my new bedding, then took a shower and went to sleep very tired and muscle-fatigued but happy.

This morning when I got up, I finished the laundry and the tidying, and now my room is so neat that it makes me a little uncomfortable. After two and a half days of strenuous labor, I have a very clean apple-and-orange-smelling bedroom with a brand new comforter on my bed. It hasn't been this clean in four years or so (longtime readers will no doubt remember the previous aborted attempts to clean the joint), it's never smelled of apples and oranges before, and I haven't had a new comforter since I bought this bed... just about ten years ago, now I think of it. It's pretty cool, and very nearly worth the amount of work I had to invest. I'd take a picture and show you, but I can't find my digicam and I don't think my phone would take a clear enough picture... maybe later.

I sincerely hope the rug can be saved. It's a beautiful thing, though it's modern and was rather cheap, I picked it out myself when I was sixteen, and I'm ashamed to have neglected it so terribly. It's down in the garage right now, draped over some boxes in hopes of drying it out. Where do you get wool Persian rugs cleaned, anyway? I guess I'll have to look onliine.

Well, my darlings, I must dash... I have to clean the bathroom, dust and vacuum the living room, dining room, and hallways, and attempt to put away my clean laundry (God knows where it's all going to go). And tonight I have a show in San Francisco (Cookie Dough's "Death Becomes Her" Show at Harvey's), and tomorrow I have church to attend as well as the party to set up and give. La, such a merry dance!

If I keep this up, I might actually get where I enjoy cleaning. On the other hand, I have a feeling I'd enjoy hiring a cleaner even more. Especially if the cleaner looked (and dressed) like this:

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