Sunday, September 22, 2013

English Beat -- "Mirror in the Bathroom" (1980)

Every Saturday you see me 
Window shopping
Find no interest 
In the racks and shelves
Just a thousand reflections
Of my own sweet self

(I understand TOTALLY!  You can call me Ishmael, but Narcissus is closer to the mark.)

My wife has been nagging me to redo our bathroom since 1962.

Actually, that's not true -- at least it's not literally true.  I wasn't even born in 1962!

Actually, that's not true either.  It's an example of what English majors call hyperbole ("hip-per-bowl") -- which is a deliberate exaggeration for comical, ironic, or dramatic effect.

In other words, hyperbole is lying, but it's acceptable lying because it is such obvious lying that it's unreasonable to take it seriously.  (Like when you tell a woman "No, those pants don't make your ass look big" even though her ass does look big because her ass IS big.)

So let me begin again.

My wife has been nagging me to redo our bathroom since 1982.

Actually, that's not literally true either because we didn't even buy our house until 1997.  But it's not really hyperbole because it honestly feels like she's been nagging me to redo our bathroom since at least 1982.

I finally gave in earlier this year, and we hired a contractor to redo our bathroom -- which admittedly needed redoing, since our house was built in the late sixties, and our bathroom had never been updated.

Here's what the shower used to look like:

The shower floor was a little bit grungy, I admit.  (It was getting to the point where the shower drained very slowly, despite regular feedings of Drano.  I don't know about you, but I don't enjoy showering in water up to my ankles.)   

The shower was lined with pink 4x4 ceramic tiles, which also covered the lower two-thirds or so of the bathroom walls:

Here's our old sink and vanity -- note the partial dividing wall between the vanity and the toilet, which didn't really do much good if two people were trying to use the bathroom at the same time:

It may surprise you to learn that I essentially designed the entire renovation -- I picked out the various tiles, the vanity, the countertop, the sink and shower faucets, towel bars, etc.

That's because about 30 minutes into our first visit to a tile store, my wife -- as you may recall, this was all her idea -- totally punted.

"This is boring.  You decide," she said to me as she headed out the front door to return to the quiet, soothing world of her minivan -- where the living is easy, and there are no difficult decisions to be made.

I didn't punt . . . because that's not how I roll.

Instead, I visited tile stores, and plumbing fixture showrooms, and countertop dealers, and I made the tough decisions that had to be made.  And I made them in plenty of time for everything to be delivered before our contractor was scheduled to begin work.

The first couple of days were spent doing demolition.  Demolition is one of the two essential renovation tasks that I have the skills to perform.  The other is writing checks.

Here's where the vanity and toilet used to be:

I'll admit that at this point I was thinking unhappy thoughts -- like "OMG! What if our contractor doesn't know what the hell he's doing?" 

The first step in restoring the shower was to line the walls with cement board:

Then it was waterproofed.  (Notice the handy little niche our contractor constructed for us.)

Next came 2x2 white tiles for the shower floor, and 12x12 textured gray tiles (set at a snappy 45-degree angle) for the rest of the floor:

Here's our new vanity, complete with a custom granite countertop, backsplash, and sidesplash.  We got rid of the partial wall between the vanity and the toilet.  (As the Hombres once sang, "Keep an open mind/Let it all hang out!")

Here's the pièce de résistance -- our new shower, which is roomier than the original, has handsome clear-glass sliding doors, and features white 3x6 subway tiles with blue and green highlight tiles sprinkled around randomly:

Actually, that's not true either.  It's not hyperbole because it's not an exaggerated falsehood . . . but it's a falsehood nonetheless.

You see, the colored tiles were placed in such a way as to send a coded message.

Take a look at this picture -- it was taken before the shower doors were installed, so you have a better view of the colored tiles:

The colored tiles on the back wall actually spell out the first and middle names of two of my children -- Sarah Carsten and Peter Franklin.  The colored tiles on the side wall (which is a foot or so wider, and so has room for more colored tiles than the back wall) spell out the first and middle names of my other two children, Nicholas Cooper and Caroline Rhodes (which names have more letters than Sarah's and Peter's names, and therefore require more colored tiles).

This is where it gets complicated.  Try to follow my explanation (assuming you haven't fallen asleep).

Look at the photo of the back wall once again.  The top tile is green (green for girls, blue for boys), and represents the first letter of my daughter Sarah's name.

It's a little hard to tell from these photos, but there are seven white tiles separating that first green tile and the first blue tile, which represents the first letter in Peter's name.  ("P" is the 16th letter of the alphabet, but having 16 white tiles in a row is too many, so I added the one and the six of 16 together to get seven -- hence, seven white tiles separate the "P" tile from the previous one.)

The second letter of Sarah's name is the first letter of the alphabet, so there is only one white tile between the first blue tile (for "P") and the second green one (for "A").  The second letter of Peter's name ("E") is the fifth letter, so there are five white tiles between the second green tile and the second blue tile.  

I started with a green tile for Sarah on the back wall because she is older than Peter.  I started with a blue tile on the side wall because Nick is older than Caroline.  (No detail was too small for me to consider.)

I love my new shower!  (Feel free
to visit anytime and try it out!)
Of course, I had to draw a diagram of each wall showing our contractor exactly where the colored tiles should go.  I made about 25 photocopies of a hand-drawn blank template, which is a good thing because I had to experiment with a lot of different formulas before coming up with one that fit the available space and didn't look unbalanced.  

(There are many other subtleties involved here, but I'm going to stop because I see some of you are nodding off, and the rest of you are making that gesture where you point your index finger at your ear and twirl it in a circle.)  

When I explained all this to my kids, they gave me that look that said, "We've known for a long time that you were weird, but we had no idea you were this weird."  (They are right, but THEY DON'T KNOW THE HALF OF IT.)

"Mirror in the Bathroom" was a 1980 hit for the British ska band, The Beat -- who were called The English Beat in North America.  That's because there was an existing American band called The Beat -- who were called Paul Collins' Beat (after its frontman) in the U.K.  (The English Beat were called The British Beat in Australia -- I have no idea why they needed a third name.)

Here's "Mirror in the Bathroom," which is a very interesting song with a delightfully quirky rhythm:

Click here to buy the song from Amazon:

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