I was helping the neighbor work on his remodeling project for most of the day. He's remodeling the small kitchen in a small apartment (2 bedrooms, about 500 sq ft total, if that) attached to his house. Remodeling in this case means completely tearing out all the cabinets, the floors, and the old wallboard in the kitchen.
It's important to understand, as part of the context for this story: there's a tenant living in the apartment. The tenant's name is Dave, and he's basically a 30-something surfer guy who spends his time surfing or hanging out with his friends.
Today Brant (the neighbor), Hamilton (a construction worker by trade who is helping with the project - so there's one guy with "skillz" involved here), and I were jostling around in the tiny kitchen finishing up some wiring, patching holes in the floor and walls, leveling the ceiling supports (my idea to use turnbuckles in the support structure was adopted with excellent results!), and fitting drywall onto the ceiling and walls. The tenant, Dave, drifted in in the late afternoon and offered to help, but it was already pretty crowded in there.
The tiny kitchen is nothing more than an extension of the tiny living room. Dave has a sofa and a TV in his living room, currently surrounded by heaps and piles of all the stuff he took out of the kitchen, plus the normal kinds of heaps and piles of stuff a 30-something surfer guy would have piled in his pad. So it's not exactly House Beautiful right now.
This afternoon there was a basketball playoff game on TV, and after asking us if we were done with most of the "dusty stuff" for the afternoon, Dave pulled the plastic tarps off his TV and sofa and kicked back with a beer to watch the game, while we continued working in the kitchen. That was cool in a guy sort of way I suppose -- drinking beer, watching the game, and building stuff with power tools. Still, wedged up within three feet of the TV screen, surrounded by piles of canned goods, with a fine coating of powdery white dust layering everything and intermittent power drilling and hammering going on doesn't seem to me to be the most conducive environment for watching television, even something as mindless as pro basketball.
I'm not a basketball fan, in case you can't tell.
Apparently this was an exciting basketball game, and late in the game the score was very close. Dave's phone rang, and I heard him telling the caller, "yeah, I'm watching the game. Yeah, they're still here working. Yeah, I'm watching the game while they work. Yeah, yeah, that'd be great!"
I didn't realize what would be "great" until five minutes later when three of Dave's buddies showed up to watch the end of the game with him; to watch it in the tiny living room, filled with boxes and canned food and plaster dust and tools, where we're slopping wet drywall compound on the walls and ceiling. These three guys burst in, all cheerful and excited, and crowd onto the sofa and stand around and basically turn the scene into a real life Schlitz Beer advertisement. In this case it was mostly Moosehead and Budweiser, but it wasn't a Budweiser advertisement because the "Bud Girls" were missing. It was just a bunch of grubby guys in a minuscule apartment in the middle of being renovated laughing and talking and watching "the game" and drinking beer.
If you've read this far, you're probably wondering, "what's so ironic about that? Sounds pretty typical." Well, here's what I found ironic: one of the three guys who showed up is a semi-professional tow-in surfer who lives about three houses down the block... in a brand new, custom-designed, two-million dollar beachfront home!
Wouldn't you think the guy with the BIG house that's NOT under construction would invite all the guys over to his place to catch the game? Apparently not. The "vibe" was happening at Dave's tiny, cramped, hot, dusty apartment, construction mess and all.
That's what I found ironic.
Usually I don't buy in to the disinformation campaigns aimed at those of us in the middle and lower-middle classes which try to convince us that having lots of money and huge houses isn't always a guarantee of happiness. Today, however, I saw that maybe, once in a while, there's a certain "comfort level" that can happen in a living space that isn't perfect, that doesn't look like an image from a magazine; a place where it doesn't matter where you sit or how grubby your clothes are, or if you use a coaster under your glass. Sometimes it's all about setting aside all your pretensions, kicking back, and just hanging out with your buddies.
(As idyllic as this may sound, I was delighted to be able to wrap it up and get out of there within ten minutes or so after all "the guys" arrived; TV sports, crowded spaces, too many people... not my bag. But it was interesting, and ironic, to witness. I only wish I'd been walking home to the pro surfer's two-million dollar home. That guy's got the best of both worlds happening. Hangin' with the guys, or living The Life.)