Jul 5, 2011

Late to Lucky

When we lived in southern California, I rented a two bedroom, 900 square foot, split-level duplex with a tiny one car garage (too small for any 1980's car). I'm not complaining. We could have had a larger place, but it wouldn't have been four blocks from Huntington Beach's pier and the ocean. Our apartment cost $1600 a month plus bills, including a coin operated sometimes-working laundry room. In 1983, that was a good bit of change. We lived outside 90% of the year, the apartment was where we slept.

Still, there was one guy who made me a little jealous. I bicycled to work everyday that I didn't motorcycle and I put in long, long days, coming home well after dark even during the summer. The guy lived on Indianapolis Avenue, one or two blocks west of Beach Boulevard. He had a corner lot and his double car garage was one of the sights I looked forward to on my ride home every night. I never stopped and talked to the man, but I never missed looking into his garage as I passed. As Ernest Hemingway would say, "It was a clean, well-lighted place."

My garage, on the other hand, was crammed with tools, motorcycles, a tech bench for my audio business, and all sorts of family crap that wouldn't fit in the minimal closet space of the apartment. My lighting was a single bulb in the center of garage roof and a fluorescent work light mounted to my bench on a boom. We weren't hoarders, but working in that garage had the feeling of being in a junk-filled hoarders' shed.

His garage was bright as daylight, decorated with a real moose head near the door, and there were posters on the walls everyplace there weren't tools, storage shelves and cabinets (all painted white), and he was always at the back of the garage doing something with his tools. He was a geezer, probably about my age now, and he looked about as content as a man can look. This was a workshop, not some freaky yuppie pimped-out pseudo-garage where you'd get yelled at for dropping sandwich crumbs on the floor. The floor was unpainted concrete. The walls were partially finished and the ceiling was bare rafters. Sometimes, if it was raining, he'd be sitting on a rocking chair in front of the garage, usually under the moose head smoking and watching the traffic and enjoying the rare smell of clean air in southern California.

Tonight, we had a quick rain shower that soaked the yard and washed the mosquitoes away for a few moments and cooled everything down to practically air-conditioned temperatures. My wife and I propped my shop chairs up near the garage's backdoor and we watched the rain and enjoyed a great and private view of our neighbor's backyards. After the rain stopped, I hauled a ladder to the garden and we stripped the cherry tree of its produce. Before the grocery store closed for the evening, I bicycled out to snag some groceries and when I came home, I realized I was that old guy. Both garage doors were open and the lights were blazing because my wife was looking for one of my tools for some godawful gardening task. (For once, she failed to find a $50 sidecutter with which to snip some damn flower before I chased her out with an actual gardening tool in her hands.) Clearly, I need a moose head. I freakin' love this garage.


Tom said...

I am far from retired, with too little time for my many projects.

Our house has a two-car garage, which should be plenty, right? Unfortunately, in the 6 years we have lived here our vehicles have not had room to park due to the storage of "stuff" in the garage.

However, I finally built my dream garage/shop last winter:

New Garage

Still a work in progress, but now available time is my only excuse, since I have plenty of work space.

Thanks for the great articles, I enjoy them every time.

Tom in SW Wisconsin

T.W. Day said...

That is a beautiful garage. I'm not going to be jealous, though. One key to being happy is being satisfied with what you have. ;-)