“a newly decorated life”

DecoratedReady, set … start over!

Originally published Feb. 2, 2006, in The Daily Reflector | (c) 2006 Cox Newspapers, Inc.

A newly decorated life

The thing about self-knowledge is that acquiring it is often not nearly as much fun as, say, hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. And at least with the hammer, you get a little exercise.

So here I am, recently divorced and pushing 40 with a vengeance. But I’ve packed in some serious living in those four decades. So, obviously, I know damn all, or close to it, right?

OK, so among the damn all I’ve been learning recently I didn’t actually know, at all:

Elves do not, in fact, come and fold and put away the clothes you left spinning in the dryer last night; apparently, that was my ex-wife who used to do that.

And decorating your home isn’t just plopping a TV in front of couch or taping a Renee Zellweger picture to the fridge, no matter how much she’s pining for you out there in Hollywood.

When I signed my life away in November to a local mortgage firm that last month sold me to a California bank so that I could operate under the illusion of owning a townhouse in Greenville, it made me take stock of my surroundings, literally. I discovered that I didn’t really own squat; my ex-wife, Tracey, and I had moved around so often that we never accumulated much, and I left the marriage with less than half of that.

Don’t misunderstand me. It was a real blast, all that knocking about, and Tracey and I remain thick as thieves. So, few regrets.

It’s just that here I am, middle aged and looking like cousin Jimmy gone off to college with Grandma’s sofa, circa 1956, and a leaky beanbag chair that smells suspiciously like a kiddie wading pool.

I have never before been the sole proprietor, so to speak. Decor considerations had previously been committee work; my input was to smile and rubberstamp whatever decision was already made by Madame Chairman.

But now, just me. Mac-and-cheese budget, filet mignon palate.

I prefer furniture that doesn’t involve an Allen wrench in any way. Real wood. Which equals real money.

To that end, I am a newly devout fan of dusty second-hand shops home to Charlie Brown Christmas-tree kinds of items that people of genuine artistic skill can turn into Utterly Fabulous Objets d’Art. Or that some goof like me can maybe slap some paint on and it’ll pass muster if the dimmer switch is set down low.

Decorate 2My big thing has been the walls and countertops, mostly blank but for a couple of nifty pictures I owned. And I’m not the most patient guy when I want something.

Which is why, of course, God invented the Internet.

There I have indulged my yen for ethnic and indigenous art, folksy stuff. Ceremonial and celebratory masks and wood statues from Africa, Asia, the South Pacific, the Caribbean, South America, even New Orleans. Deep-hued batiks from Ghana; fabrics from India. Rustic Mexican religious carvings and Day of the Dead icons.

My home is, paycheck by paycheck, becoming a travelogue of places I want to visit.

And it’s finally starting to look vaguely intentional. And, if I say so myself, kinda cool.

During Tracey’s first visit to my new digs during the holidays, she even commented that I’ve got “really good taste.”

Now, I was fully prepared to accept that compliment, except that this woman I once lived with for nearly a dozen years just sounded so all-fire surprised when she said it.

“I wasn’t that bad,” I countered when she and I talked on the phone last week.

Apparently, this was a pretty funny thing to say.

“When we were together,” Tracey said, composure finally regained, “you wanted to decorate in the most comic and garish manner.”

What? Me?

I mean, one time – one time – a guy suggests hanging a string of Pillsbury Dough Boy Christmas lights from the mantel, and it’s like he can no longer be trusted not to paint the walls chartreuse and put up lime-green polyester drapes.

I’m leaning toward new earth-tone paint for my place, by the way. And wood blinds.

I’m a long, long way from where I want my new home to be. But I figure: So what? It’s a work in progress.

How fitting. Because so am I.

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