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Tuesday, Oct. 11, 2005
Part and parcel of our moving into a rented house was the understanding that we were gonna have to downsize. Rooms would be smaller, there would be only a first floor where once we had two, a lot of possessions would need to be tossed, etc.

Somewhere in the midst of this they forgot to tell me about the garage.

Our old homestead had an attached two car affair, with a single door that wooshed smoothly open at the touch of a button. A wide and vast expanse of concrete floor. Over the course of many years the garage was used for a variety of things. Mass storage. The Outfoxed workshop. Actual storage of car for quite a while.

The rental garage is a single. And has no vast expanse of anything except a bunch of stuff that wonít fit into the house. It also serves as the laundry area and receiver of leftover appliances, such as the second refrigerator/freezer, the washer and dryer from the old house which sit unplugged next to the units which came with the rental, looking for all the world like a suburban Laundromat to those wandering through. I had to go the Home Despot and buy not one, but three of those seven ft. tall mass storage shelving racks just to hold the overflow laundry and cleaning supplies, kitchen pantry items, loose tools and the normal clutter of American life.

On top of that I have all the stationary tools common to the mobile carpenter who has but 32 square feet available to him in the back of a pickup truck at any given moment, and must transfer some of the goods to the garage on a rotating basis.

On top of that, Iíve been doing a lot of shop building lately, as in restaurant fixtures and back-bar counters and the like. Figures that the shop work would go through the roof just when I donít have a shop at all. I've had whole separate buildings in times past, buildings miles away from the house, where I could putter and stack up tons of junk and actually do the work with room leftover.

Just as an exercise in hapless math, hereís what happens to a 10í by 30í garage and the square footage thereto in Outfoxed Land.

300 square feet (thatís 10í x 30í, right?) empty garage
-25 sq. ft. for Washer and Dryer and space to stand in front of same.
-25 sq. ft. for a second Washer/Dryer that are unplugged & used as trendy shelving.
-10 sq. ft. for the refrigerator, and donít tell me we donít need it. Beer storage, you know.
-50 sq. ft. for tall shelving units and space to stand and pluck items from.
-75 sq. ft., very conservatively, for stray table saws and other large devices.
-50 sq. ft. for a walkway to get through it all and out the door.
= 235 sq. ft. just to house the unmovable and required walkways. Plenty oí room, yes?

No. Bear in mind that most of what I do in fabrication mode starts out in increments of 32 sq. ft. worth of plywood hefted onto sawhorses, and I need space wheedle my ample bulk around it even if Iím not wearing a toolbag at the time. Then thereís the extra toolbox or six that are needed from the truck to help make sawdust out of said plywood. Assuming Iím productive, letís not forget that stuff, new stuff, is being built here out of the plywood and that thereís more than one sheet of it. Thereís more than ten sheets of it, while youíre asking. And remember, the pickup truck is still loaded with all the daily gear. Very well and truly loaded, it is.

So even if I steal some of that walkway space, some of that stand in front of the washer space, Iím still looking at using 150 sq. ft. just to exist in. Just to saw and plane and stash expensive products that are assembled by my loving hand. Products that canít be stored outdoors, as they have a five coat stained finish on their maple loveliness, and standing out in the rain overnight just wouldnít do. Not if I expect to be paid for them, that is.

And where, you might alertly ask, just where do I go to apply this finish, because it is not put on with a brush or rag as the peasants might do. Oh no, it is sprayed on with a fine spray gun and a hose and a smallish compressor (2.5 sq. ft.) and it must be done in a dry environment, preferably with excellent ventilation since asphyxiation from catalyzed lacquer is really such a bother, and slows production down intolerably. Outdoors, you say? Yes, that works. If you live in a temperate climate. Here in Swampland, where it has been monsooning for the past several days, there is no such a thing as temperate. And climate is really just two things, wet to the bone or air-conditioned.

So there I am, cutting large things into small, sanding and machining and stacking and assembling, in an area just large enough to house a fair sized litter box for an average house cat. You tend to get creative. Stacks of parts go vertically, and you waste a full five minutes debating with yourself as to the merits of re-doing the contents of the refrigerator so that one shelf can be freed up and five small pieces of plywood be stacked therein. Things poke you in the back. You swivel to put the router down and your elbow knocks over the delicately balanced tepee of 1 x 2 edging you just leaned against the dryer, which falls on the wet line of recently stained maple shelves, which raises a cloud of dust that makes your wife shriek every time you go in the house for a breath of cool air.

You do this for 12 hours or so until you fall into the recliner, and feel blessed that you are free to work by yourself and not for the man, the man with the 50,000 sq. ft. shop with plenty of parking and a soda machine near the front door. Right next to the time clock. You feel blessed, Iím tellingí ye.

My nightly assignment, as the inhabitor of rental property, is to surf wildly the web and hunt for our new abode, the one set off in the nakedness of woods and the expansiveness of country. I can assure you, at this point the only ones that truly catch my eye are those with ad copy that feature ď. . . Huge detached workshop with powerĒ among the headlines. No other demographic need apply. Forget the country Kitchen, the jetted tub in the Master Bath, the wrap around porch.

I need a goddam barn with a superb lighting system. A Quonset building with fully functional heat and air. A pole building with state of the art siding and floor. A warehouse with 16 ft. ceilings and a Bose sound system.

Because if I have to spend too much more time where I am itís entirely possible theyíll find me one morning, trapped in one small corner under a pile of fallen plywood, feebly waving a spray gun in one hand and a tape measure in the other and making pitiful gestures towards the refrigerator just inches away.

It being in the middle of the garage, thereís no way it could be farther than inches away, no matter where I get crushed. Downright scary, when you think about it.

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