Caked On and On

Jul 25

My summer started with a day trip to pretty St. Catharines, Ontario. I had offered to help my friend and booking agent, Joe, prepare his pool for the season. We spent all day in the sun, scraping caked-on paint off of tiny pool tiles — one stubborn square a grueling time. It was super satisfying, as you’d expect, to peel away every spec of the faded, tacky teal, leaded paint to reveal pristine, sapphire-coloured pool tiles beneath.

I had two scraper tools to choose from: one was a small, yellow claw-like wallpaper stripper, one inch in width; the other was a two-inch drywall plaster tool. I found myself switching between the two as I got bored, but in retrospect, the plaster scraper was the more functional. It required patience and a mindful focus. With time and a bit of finesse, one could massage the flexible metal blade deep under a relatively large paint scale and clean off the better part of an entire tile in one fell swoop. The other more rugged scraper was good if you got antsy and wanted to punish the stupid bastards for not coming clean easily. It was cathartic to rage on some ceramic squares and strip ‘em clean by brute force. But this was exhausting… and inefficient. So I’d often find myself using the drywall tool again, slowdancing the ancient, thick and crusted lacquer ‘til it flaked off on its own, skidding down the sun-baked side into the bit of warm green water below. Sometimes my tools would go skidding down too. Then I’d go in to fetch and come out slimy and cooled off.
I couldn’t understand how anyone would think it clever to cover these 70s-era, grouted beauties with such a toxic and forgettable finish. It should have been slow-going, and it was, but Joe and I talked — and drank — as we worked. Time passed fast. We relived the triumphs and scandals of nearly two decades. We skipped over the traumas not worth remembering. Joe is the one who sent me out touring years back — he outsourced his own wayward ways onto me. But now we find ourselves mostly settled and partly sated in our respective suburbs. He’s got the pool. I’m thankful that I don’t. It’s clear the novelty would wear off.

We talked about the years of music, the tours and chaos that come of being self-styled entertainment entrepreneurs. We talked about family, future plans, and impossible dreams we can’t seem to shake — they are always ready to burst and spray their melty, acidic guts on our faces. With a bit harder work and one lucky break, some spirit is bound to take notice and take us over… or take over for us. Our youth and white-golden centers will be revealed and relived–scraped clean of the debauchery and misguidance that has caked up over time. I think I managed to strip and polish about thirteen of those lucky little blue tiles in the hours that I put in. Joey had already done most of the heavy lifting. There were merely dozens left by the end of day. We’ll get to those next summer.