Tunes To Strip Paint To


Hay Girl,

Nothing says “good housekeeping” like heavy metal.

“What are you reading?” They would ask.

“‘System of A Down’.” I would say, meaning “System of a Down: Right Here in Hollywood” by Ben Myers. I would then wait for the inevitable reaction of surprise that a nice lady like me would read a book about a metal band.

I went to the library looking for a book that could give me some idea of what it is like to be a band on tour. I call it “research” for some writing as I failed to follow the most basic writing directive of Write What You Know. I didn’t know. That was the problem. I wasn’t in a band and I’d never been on tour. So I was going to read about it.

The problem with reading about any band, though, is that you already need to have a reasonably comprehensive familiarity with their work before you can really understand half of what the book will talk about. This song, that riff, this lyric, the names of the band members. I like a lot of music but I don’t know much about many bands. At some point, somebody (I can’t remember who) gave me two albums worth of System of a Down music (Toxicity, and Steal This Album! ). At some point I listened to it and found that I liked it.

So when I saw the book on the shelf it seemed like a good place to start. It didn’t exactly answer my question about what it is like to be a band on tour, but it was an interesting read nonetheless and filled in some interesting context to songs that I already enjoyed. I could have stood a lot fewer editorial interludes from the author: it’s enough to tell me how awesome you think your subject band is without denigrating other musical acts thankyouverymuch. But then that’s another pitfall of reading about a band: everybody thinks their opinion is the Final Word on what is worth listening to.

At any rate, after finishing the book I decided to go back and give the music another listen with new ears. Since I was planning to spend the day cleaning the new house, this seemed like a good excuse to have some music going. My plan was to put shelf paper in all the cupboards in the kitchen; all I needed to do was to scrub up the residue from a previous resident’s non-slip mats that had fused itself to the paint. On a previous attempt I had determined that soap and water was not going to be sufficient: it was a job that would require Goo Gone.

The Goo Gone was procured and I set to work with high hopes that were quickly smashed into a million greasy smithereens: even Goo Gone couldn’t loosen the residue. It could, however, soften paint. I found myself scrubbing vigorously at the raised bumps of a cup imprint only to discover a layer of paint rolling up with each stroke revealing an older layer of paint beneath. Peeling back the top layer of paint did in fact allow me to remove the residue, so I scrubbed and peeled the top layer of paint off of each shelf- a frustrating and ultimately futile task which happened to correspond perfectly with an underscoring of System of a Down. Who knew?

The more I worked at it, the more I had to ask myself what the point was: it took hours and I only finished half of the cabinets. I was going to cover everything that I did with shelf paper: nobody was ever going to see the work that I was doing or even know that it had been done. Except me, of course. I would know. And it would bother me. I didn’t want to just paper over someone else’s mess and carelessness and pretend like it wasn’t my problem- this was going to be my home for the next few years. I wanted to do it right.

So that was my day: stripping paint to the tune of heavy metal. Maybe tomorrow I’ll get to the shelf paper.

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~ by Gwydhar Gebien on August 15, 2016.

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