Papercut

In an effort to give you a break from the reno madness (Lord knows I want to get away from it!) let’s talk about something that has bothered me for a couple of weeks now.

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As you may know, The Bowery Girl started as “The Bowery” and was a column in a community newspaper I used to work for. I have written for three newspapers, along with two periodicals. Last week, I found out that the paper it worked at during my college co-op and later as a freelancer, was no longer producing a hardcopy edition. Basically it’s finished. The Guelph Mercury was in its 149th year when it was determined by Metroland Publishing to be no longer a viable business venture. In an effort to find some aspect of “glass half full”, the statement released last week indicated that the online version would continue.

That’s kind of like saying, “The Titanic may be sinking, but we’ve got a couple of great lifeboats over here!” With the amount of staff left behind following the layoffs, they wouldn’t be able to fill a lifeboat.

Another paper I used to work for, the one in my current hometown, has also experienced serious downsizing. Pointing to financial considerations, the weekly paper has shut down its storefront, which it has enjoyed since its inception, and moved to a town 45 minutes away. This would allow them to allegedly reduce costs (one would argue that increased milage and decrease subscriptions due to public dissatisfaction would be larger costs). This paper is also owned by Metroland. Now before you think I’m throwing shade on Metroland, please know that I worked for Thompson Media, Southam Media AND Hollinger Inc. They were all terrible. In school, our teachers advised that you wanted to work for a Thompson paper first, because the excellent work ethic environment (read here – they worked you like a slave) along with the fiscal restraint, would position young journalists well for opportunities at the more plush Southam papers. They were wrong. Once my publication became a Southam paper (because community papers were swapped, traded and bought out like NHL contracts), we were told that Hollinger was where the REAL money and opportunities were at. WRONG again!

For me, it was a no-brainer that when it came to being a working mom and contributing to a household, I could not continue as a full-time journalist. I have never made as little money as I have when I’ve been a professional writer. Low income wages are the norm in this line of work, something I kicked myself for not investigating further before applying to college.

Truth of the matter is this; journalism, and in fact journalists, are not overly valued in today’s society. I’m not talking about Katie Couric, I’m talking about the workhorse journalists. The ones who write locally. From a corporate standpoint, editorial was always the losing end of the stick. Advertising is where the money was literally and figuratively. If Advertising cried, the Publisher wiped its tears. Editorial was the hanger-on. Necessary to fill the holes between display ads, or the pages before the classifieds, but otherwise Editorial cost money. Cameras, dark rooms, mileage.

I was angry to hear about the local paper moving away and losing its community profile. I knew it wasn’t a local decision, but rather a corporate one. And therein lies the problem. The farther away you are from the community, the less you relate to it. Faces and stories are lost in numbers and dollar signs. I interviewed hundreds of people while I was a beat reporter. I had people who came to me with stories ahead of other reporters and publications because we had a relationship. That’s what’s at stake with the closure of these  newspapers. The community needs a relationship with its newspaper. Cutting costs, focusing on spreadsheets, slashing and burning. It has nothing to do with community support, investment in people, connecting with the reader.

Sadly, I’m not sure that people understand what they are losing, or have already lost by not having an active and thriving newspaper in their community. You may feel you aren’t impacted because of your internet connection or (God forbid) you find out news faster on Facebook. But you don’t have the balance that comes with the Fifth Estate (no I’m not referencing CBC right now). You don’t have the experience, accountability and conscious that comes with an investigative journalist. You don’t know how your community is unique and why you should be proud to be a part of it.

I do think that was part of the problem; the slippery slope of cutting back coverage to reduce costs, reduce pages, reduce local content all due to a reduction in ad revenues. The public gets their information elsewhere. The paper makes further cuts. The public gives up their reliance on the paper entirely. The paper shutters. The community will suffer.

Is there an answer? I think there is, but the travesty is that no one is looking for it. That would require effort, and heaven help us, money.

I’m just sad that it seems it’s as hard as ever to see the value in the printed word.

 

 

From Bad…To Worse…

Some people are addicted to plastic surgery. They start with a little nip or tuck, and before you know it, they have landscaped their entire face. Unrecognizable.

I’m beginning to think this is the case with our recent renovation. As you know from my most recent post, the bathroom renovation was an unexpected endeavour. We were on the verge of finishing the demolition.

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This is my Brother In Law. He’s smiling because he likes to demolish stuff. He especially likes to do this at other people’s houses. He’s a very happy camper at this point.

We decided to open up the doorway. It would mean cutting down the size of the hall closet. The trade off was worth it – smaller closet, safer doorway. Move it away from the top of the stairs, because, hey, if you’re going to make a mess, you might as well bring the house up to code, right? We were excited, picking out flooring, new vanity and countertop. Life was sweet.

Until the guys found the vent pipe for both bathrooms and realized we weren’t moving the door over. Son of a NUTCRACKER! First Born Son, The Big Guy and BIL put their heads together and they realize, the solution is to angle the doorway. The dilemma then becomes, what to do with the rest of the closet. This is when I came back home  – to three guys standing in the hallway, wondering if they should put the wall back up!

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What the hall used to look like. If you squint and hold it away from you, in certain lights, you can see how there used to be a closet.

So now the bathroom reno has evolved into a hall reno. Then the lightbulb goes off over their heads. We should do the same thing to our master bedroom door, so the two doors look like they were meant to be on angles!!!!! No more closet.

Before you can say “buzz saw”, my doorway is GONE.

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But TBG was happy because after a rough start to the day he felt he accomplished something. You see, we realized early in the day that water WAS coming in from the outside. Further investigating proved that not only is there an issue with the exterior wall in this area, but the ENTIRE ROOF will likely require replacing. That’s siding and a roof for those of you keeping score at home.

So. What’s the good side to this. Give me a minute…. <crickets>

Oh! I know! It’s January but the contractor thinks we can make it through to spring before doing the roof. And, if not for the bathroom reno, we never would have known about the roof issues, that could have meant that structural damage could have taken place. Dodged a bullet there, I tell ya! High Fives all around.

TBG is dealing with all of this fairly well. I’m pretty sure it’s the shock phase until the quotes start rolling in, but I’m going with it.

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So we now have insulation, vapour barrier and fully prepped for the tub to be installed.

Oh, and waiting for roof quotes….

 

Out with the Old, In with the New!

In typical Bowery Girl fashion, just as we were prepping (aka cleaning) to welcome The Big Guy’s family to our home for Christmas festivities we made a rather disturbing discovery.

It happened when TBG was cleaning the upstairs shower.

Them thar are some crook'd lines thar Captn'!

Them thar are some crook’d lines thar Captn’!

The tiles were most definitely wonky! I thought I noticed some heaves in the wall in recent weeks, but honestly, didn’t realize how bad it was until now (and figured they had been there all along). Fearing the worst, that water was somehow getting into the bathroom from the exterior (the bathroom borders two rooflines), we slapped a happy face on each other, and proceeded to advise our overnight Boxing Day guests that we were down to one shower.  Thankfully, they were too full of Sweet Potato Casserole to notice.

As soon as the last family member had cleared the driveway, we immediately started the investigation. Now, before you see these photos, keep in mind that this house is more than 30 YEARS OLD and this bathroom has not been updated. To say we were due for a reno would be an understatement.

Remember, you can't un-see this!!!!

Remember, you can’t un-see this!!!!

The vanity doubles as a coffin….

The vanity doubles as a coffin….

"Quality" workmanship….not…. And who in their right mind needs to lock in their toothbrush?!?

“Quality” workmanship….not…. And who in their right mind needs to lock in their toothbrush?!?

And if you like the swirly sink….

And if you like the swirly sink….

 

….you'll LOVE the swirly toilet! :(

….you’ll LOVE the swirly toilet! 😦

There are no words for the flooring. But on the up side, you know where to put the mat!

There are no words for the flooring. But on the up side, you know where to put the mat!

In the 20 minutes it took me to tear down the curtains, decor, etc., TBG was grabbing tools and getting ready to cause havoc!

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The entire process took him less time to get down to the studs and insulation than it did for me to pack the clutter away!! The tiles popped like Tic Tacs. In the end, the good news is, there’s no external leak. The bad news is TBG thinks he may have contributed to the water seeping through the grout with his “enthusiastic” cleaning technique and tools. He was so upset, that he declared that the entire bathroom would have to be renovated.

I, being completed stunned with this revelation and assumed I mis-heard or that he mis-spoke, stammered,  “You mean we’ll get a new tub-surround”, to which I was corrected. No – he said, we would rip EVERYTHING out and start over!

Who am I to argue with someone so motivated by passion. You DID look at those photos didn’t you?! I did try to ease his guilt by pointing out that the insulation proved that we needed to tackle this project before black mould consumed us all. So, actually, he did a good thing! See! I can make a positive out of ANYTHING!

This project quickly dominated the Christmas holidays. My original plan was no plan at all, outside of wearing PJs 24/7 and limiting my social interaction to one trip to the “City” to see the latest Star Wars instalment. This was quickly scrapped when it became obvious that we needed to spend quality commerce time in our local hardware and big box stores.

And folks, I can tell you, it has been an education.

LEARNING POINT #1 Showering isn’t “showering” anymore. It’s an “experience.”

Every time we asked to look at showers, we were shuffled in front of displays of glass, retina-frying chrome and a quarry worth of tile. Showers have become somewhat of a spectator sport, complete with clear glass, rain shower heads, and, if you’re lucky, a surplus of water jets at various levels that basically sandblast your undercarriage.  This kind of luxury is lost on me. TBG has got himself a basic kinda gal. I think I disappointed a couple of sales reps when I didn’t squeal like a redneck at NASCAR.

LEARNING POINT #2 What you gain in water conservation you lose in costly plumber labor.

I do make every effort to consider environmental impact whenever I can, so I was very disappointed to learn that most sales reps are steering customers away from the “dual flush” toilets. You know, the one that has two flush options: a trickle for a #1 and a torrent for #2? Apparently users find these toilets confusing and either a) use the full flush for little tasks thereby negating the efficiency, or b) clog the toilet because you didn’t use the “big” flush for the your “big” job! Time to call the plumber!

LEARNING POINT #3 Yes Virginia, there IS a difference in toilets!

What can I say, I was sadly ignorant in my toilet knowledge. When a sales rep told me she had a “favourite” toilet, I couldn’t help but scoff. Literally. I laughed at her. Then she walked me in front of this beauty, and I apologized profusely.

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Firstly, the base of the toilet curves up toward the tank so there is no nasty place where guck can party; just a nice smooth area that wipes easily. Secondly, LOOK AT THE BASE OF THE TOILET! No weird roller coaster of pipes and capped screws, simply a smooth vertical wall. That means no nasty areas where funky stuff gathers. (You mothers of sons know of which I speak!!!) Let’s face it, you have to wipe the floor around the toilet anyway, but with this model, the clean up is fast and simple!! The lip of the lid is oversized to cover the seat down to the bowl, again, eliminating the amount of dust that accumulates on the horizontal surfaces. Finally, the lid has a soft closing mechanism. No more slamming seats and lids in the middle of the night! I’M. IN. LOVE.

LEARNING POINT #4 I need to find out how to sell a kidney to afford this toilet.

While my tastes are not extravagant, when I find something I like, I have a hard time “settling”.  It’s too bad we don’t pay blood donors in Canada…..

LEARNING POINT #5 Everything old is new again!

TBG is crushing hard on oil rubbed copper finishes for the faucets etc.

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But while he sees THIS (above), I see THIS (below) –

LOOK. AT. THE. HARDWARE!!

LOOK. AT. THE. HARDWARE!!

Not sure I can stomach it, but we’ll see. If he’ll agree to the toilet, I’ll concede on the old-timey taps!

LEARNING POINT #6 All “deals” are not equal!

TBG and I got excited when we were told that we’d benefit from sale pricing at a couple of locations, however, our thrill was quickly tempered but the realization that one man’s “deal” is another man’s pocket change.

LEARNING POINT #7 It’s time to get creative.

Maybe it’s too much HGTV, but I have found it very interesting to see what happens after I tell a sales rep “that’s not in my budget”. I don’t think for a minute every costumer jumps at the first suggestion, but I have been encouraged to see that some of the people we have been working with have been very helpful and come up with some great ideas for those of us who don’t have the billfold for a hotel-calibre salle de bain.  It gives a girl hope!

We’ve made this a family affair…(yes, the kitchen floor can induce seizures – one renovation at a time people!)

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And at present, the project awaits some serious decision making on our end.

Specifically, which son do we sell to afford this, and how much more could we make if we throw in the dogs??

To be continued……