House Painting in America (With Apologies to Richard Brautigan)

I live in a brick house. I know what song you’re probably humming in your head right now. But no, my house isn’t like that — not “mighty-mighty” at all. It’s just a modest, three-bedroom ranch on the outskirts of Tucson, a structurally solid little home à la The Three Little Pigs. But if I don’t slap some fresh paint on those peeling wooden posts and beams soon, I fear that a coyote might come along and blow the whole thing down.

I’ve lived in this home for almost twelve years, and up until now it hasn’t needed much. It looked just fine when I bought it, but the scorching desert sun, the monsoon rains, and the wind-blown dust have begun to take their toll. Just in case you don’t believe me about the sad state of my current abode, take another look at the above photo.

Can you see the faded color, the peeling paint, the rust on the metal doors and window bars? (For some reason, window bars were all the rage back in 1971, when the house was built.) I’m debating whether or not to get rid of those bars. All the experts (by experts I mean Google articles) say that removing the bars increases the home’s resale value. It’s good for curb appeal, they say, and it gives the impression of a safe neighborhood. But I say that removing the bars gives the impression of a house that can be broken into easily. I’m especially sensitive to that possibility. Burglars once let themselves in through the barred – but unlocked – back door, which I’d forgotten to lock when I went out to spend the day at a Blues Festival. How ironic is that? Blues all day, more blues when I got home. I should have sat down and written a blues song right then and there, but I couldn’t, because the thieves had stolen my guitar.

But when it came to painting my house, the dilemma about window bars turned out to be the least of my problems. Securing a painter was the hard part. Not knowing where to start searching, I posted a plea on Facebook. “Looking for a house painter in Tucson” yielded no comments at first. After my second post, though, I got a response. A friend recommended her house painter. Things were going well until he didn’t respond when I asked him to put his quote in writing. Needless to say, I decided not to go with him. After a second quote that was twice as high as the first, I finally found who I was looking for – a friend of a friend, a good quote, and a reliable response. I have to admit that I didn’t ask him to put his quote in writing (since he was a friend of a friend) and I hope I don’t live to regret that … but so far the work looks good and I’m not worried. If I have to write a blues song, though, I’m prepared this time. I have another guitar.

This painter is spraying my house with a garden hose as I type this. Should I ask him if he’s going to scrape? How does one oversee the painting of one’s house, when one does not know the first thing about painting a house?

Another dilemma has been choosing paint colors. As you can see from the “before” photo, the bricks are a reddish-orange, and the current trim is a dark teal, faded in most areas to a light teal. I like teal, but my absolute least favorite color is reddish-orange. Especially when combined with teal. Ugh! Orange and teal. I hate orange and teal! It reminds me of a football jersey. Maybe I’m thinking of the Miami Dolphins. I’m from Buffalo, and the Dolphins are the Bills’ arch nemesis, so maybe the hatred of orange and teal was ingrained in me at an early age. But I digress.

Reddish-orange is okay when paired with brown, gold, and green, though. I’m picturing autumn in upstate New York. Those beautiful golden colors that warm the heart just as the air is starting to feel frosty around the nose and ears. I guess I’ve come to peace with the reddish-orange bricks, as long as I surround them with a fall color, like brown.

But what to do about the front door? I’ve always liked the concept of making a bold statement, even if I’ve been too shy to make one myself. I’ve seen houses with red doors, black doors, wooden doors, doors that say, “I’m not shy and I’m inviting you in.” “Right this way to a dynamic life.” “This portal leads to treasure.” OK, now I’m exaggerating. But what if my heretofore drab little brick ranch had a black, gold, or red door? What would that say about me, the owner of such a grand portal? I decided to check with my good friend, Google.

According to Google, a door color is not something to be taken lightly. The correct door color will attract positive energy, or chi, into your home, and therefore is very important. Not wanting to take any chances with chi, I decided to let Google lead me further … right into the world of feng shui. Follow me.

Don’t worry, you won’t have to follow very far. I didn’t. I just read one or two articles and made up my mind. Green. According to feng shui, if your front door faces east, like mine does, you need to have a door that is the colors of the element of wood: either green or brown. You should never paint your door red, purple, white or gray. Voilà, problem solved. I consulted my paint brochure and there, on page two, was a combination I fell instantly in love with: Mayan Chocolate and Flagstone Quartzite. Flagstone Quartzite is just a fancy name for sage green. It’s an exact match to the prickly pear cactuses (yes, cactuses, not cacti) that stand a little too tall in front of my front picture window, and which I need to carefully trim. (Please note that the Desert Museum’s official word for the plural form of cactus is cactuses, because they claim that most people just don’t use those old Latin plurals like cacti and octopi anymore. I’d say they’ve got a point. Pun intended.)

But again, I digress. The color scheme of my house is now set. Chocolate for most of the trim, a lighter brown for certain other parts of the trim, including window bars, and that lovely sage green for the front door. I can’t wait to see how it all comes together, and I guess you could say I’m a little obsessed. Everywhere I go, I find myself checking out color schemes on houses, even if they’re nothing like my own. But then when I picture that brown/tan/sage/brick red combo in my head, I feel my whole body relax. Is there such a thing as color therapy? (Oh yes, there is. I wrote about it in a previous blog post.) But this is different. I’m coloring a picture that I’m going to have to live with for a long time. Every time I turn into my driveway, there it will be. I’m so glad I won’t have to see that red/teal combination ever again.

So, what does all of this have to do with Richard Brautigan? For some reason, I liked using the title “House Painting in America” for this blog post because it reminded me of Richard Brautigan’s 1967 novel, Trout Fishing in America. I probably read it in 1971, the year my house was built. (It was required reading in one of my college English classes.) I just Googled the book and there it was, its iconic cover with a bespectacled Richard Brautigan and his muse filling my computer screen. Startlingly, I realized that the cover of Trout Fishing in America just happens to be sort of a brick red color, with a brown and tan photo in the middle. Well. I’ll have to go down to the used bookstore and buy myself a copy. I’ll bet if I open it up, there’ll be a sage green door on page one.

2 thoughts on “House Painting in America (With Apologies to Richard Brautigan)

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