Friday, January 15, 2010

Painting With Uncle Ronnie


My dad likes to say that "Ronnie thinks paint is structural", because whenever anything gets old, worn and dilapidated, Ronnie slaps it with a coat of paint and to him, it's as good as new. I'll give you an example; Ronnie has an ancient wood ladder that is probably older than he is. The thing was handed down from his father and is probably circa 1923. For all I know, it came through Ellis Island with my grandfather. This ladder has seen plenty of use over the years and the underlying wood is worn to the circumference of a matchstick. But thanks to the magical restorative powers of paint (a mere 77 coats over 88 years), the rungs now bear resemblance to tree branches in thickness and texture. To think that 1.5 inches of paint is going to hold 195 lbs of barrel chested Italian is either the definition of faith or the definition of crazy.


And it's not just that he will paint over rotted pipes and crumbling stucco without thought of repairing the surface first, it's that he does it in the most heinous rainbow of colors that you can imagine. You see, Ronnie buys his paint in bulk. Five gallon tubs of gloss white to be precise. Then he uses paint dyes to mix his own colors. Let's just say he's no Martha Stewart with his custom color mixing. Where Martha's colors are all 'Robin's Egg Blue' and 'Braised Celery', Ronnie's colors are 'Holy Shit! What Threw Up In Here Green' and 'Bile Duct Yellow'.

Back in the early 90's, the hubs and I bought our first house, a tiny, little 600 square foot cottage on a half an acre of land at the end of a culdesac. The tiny house was nestled on two lots of land that sat side by side , so there was a big, open space surrounding the itty bitty house. As you drove into the culdesac toward our house, it looked like a child's play house sitting in an open field. We painted our little doll house a tasteful shade of blue grey and tried very hard to make it liveable and charming, as it was pretty cramped quarters and storage/closet space was minimal.


One Saturday, as I was returning from a morning of errands and food shopping, I noticed something odd as I came up the block. Something looked wrong about the outside of my little dollhouse. The side of the house that was visible when coming up the block into the culdesac was the side where the 250 gallon oil tank sat. It was right up against the side of the house, under the kitchen window. But on this day, it looked different upon approach. I'd dare say it looked downright angry. As a matter of fact, it looked like my little doll house had grown an enormous and highly agitated pimple on the side of its face. This was because, while I was out shopping and picking up dry cleaning, Uncle Ronnie had shown up at my house and painted the 250 gallon oil tank a hideous shade of school bus yellow. We're not talking Tan or Dijon or Mustard. We're talking all it needed was a bus driver and two dozen screaming kids that won't stay in their seats, school bus yellow.


I pulled into the driveway with my mouth agape. As a matter of fact, my mouth hung open as I walked up the front walk and over to the side of the house, where Ronnie was blissfully painting away. Ronnie turned to me and proudly announced that there was a leak at the bottom of the tank and that a good coat of paint should take care of it.


I grabbed my chin and forced my mouth closed. I needed to pause for a moment, because if I answered within the context of my initial emotional response to what was sitting in front of me, I'd end up insulting him. So I forced a smile, said "great" and did what any new bride would do, I cried to and then yelled at my husband who had absolutely NO IDEA that Ronnie was outside painting our oil tank. It was a total ninja paint job.


When he was all done, we had him in for a glass of iced tea and some cookies and then he took off on his merry way. And I didn't touch the school bus yellow oil tank for a couple of weeks. Finally, after I started to develop a twitch in my eye, I painted it the same blue grey as the house and its angry skin condition faded away.


When he came back a few weeks later I was very nervous about what he would think of the fact that I painted over his flaming yellow monstrosity. But he wasn't upset at all. Instead, he seemed relieved. Relieved because he did not feel like the two coats of yellow that he had put on had been enough to seal off the leak and he had spent the past two weeks worrying about it. Knowing that I had added an additional two coats put his mind at ease. Now that pesky leak won't return. You know what? It never did.

62 Your comments, banter and witty repartee:

linlah said...

Paint is strutural just like duct tape. Everyone knows that.

sarah said...

oh gosh, props for biting your tongue! i would have lost. my. mind. over that! but somehow... i still kinda wish i had an uncle ronnie around. seems like life would get a lot more interesting!

Susan Fobes said...

Oh my gosh~ I laughed the whole way through this! Why does your father-in-law sound familiar though? Hmmm... LOL!

Sara said...

Bile duct yellow?

Sounds graphic.

Allyson said...

All I'm saying is if latex can keep sperm from reaching its final destination then why can't it seal a tiny leak in an oil tank?? It's completely structural...except in that unfortunate instance when it's not...and then you have to paint something else entirely....like a room.

Insanitykim said...

Oh man, of COURSE he's Italian! Psh. I knew that! We're all crazy; it makes sense now.

Loved it. Will be great in the book. When do I get the first copy, since you know now that we're related? Hmmmm?

Marla said...

This made me miss my own crazy, wonderful relatives. Good story!

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Linlah - You may be the perfect woman that Ronnie has been waiting the last 84 years for.

Sarah - I had physical symptoms when I looked at that thing - gagging, twitching, sweating. I basically tried to avert my eyes whenever possible.

Susan - Do you know any crazy random painters? Could be him, he will bust out the paint wherever.

Sara - Graphic is a perfect word for his color palate.

Allyson - I probably can't use the sperm analogy with Uncle Ronnie, but it is a good argument for the restorative powers of paint.

Kim - Maybe we should both write about our crazy Italian families. Sure does give pletny of material, no?

Marla - Crazy relatives, while sometimes trying, really do add so much to who we are.

Mommy Lisa said...

Funny. My house is yellow, but tastefully so...it took me FOUR TRIPS to Home Depot to get just the right shade.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Mommy Lisa - Don't get me wrong, I love yellow. My entrance/hallway is a lovely shade of butter. Ronnie's color was almost beyond the spectrum of yellow.

Noelle said...

i love your uncle ronnie.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Noelle - He's single and looking. Just sayin.

Rachel said...

Hahahahahahahahahahahaha!

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Rachel - Sure it's funny. It's all fun and games until someone paints YOUR oil tank acid green. ;)

Rachel said...

I guess I shouldn't laugh too hard. I always have the best intentions but the worst ideas. I would have intended for it to be a pale lime green color but it would have inevitably back fired---just like Uncle Ronnie!

Monique-aka-Surferwife23 said...

I love Uncle Ronnie. Same guy who had you help make his ammo, right?

You could make this a meme. The Chronicles of Uncle Ronnie. I can almost see it making the big screen. Almost.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Rachel - Poor Ronnie was not born with a designer's eye.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Monique - There is SO MUCH more about him that is almost unbelieveable. I think I should do a weekly Ronnie post.

Aunt Juicebox said...

I think paint creates miracles, just like bacon cures std's. You can paint over some pretty heinous stuff and make it look normal again. Although, one time, we lived in this apartment where the landlord had painted over the shower walls with regular flat paint. We spent the next 3 years peeling it off every time we were in the shower. The same apartment had goo that ran down the walls. The apartment upstairs had leaks and it was doing something to the paint and this green crap started bubbling out of the walls up near the ceiling, and running down. Well, we "think" it was a reaction with the paint. It was kind of greenish goo but the paint was white.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Aunt Juice Box - Goo down the walls? You were either living in the Amityville Horror house or the Playboy Mansion.

tori said...

My Hubby picks all our paint colors, the only time I was allowed- my family "lovely" renamed it "cat barf".
Love the ninja paint job statement!

Lisa Page Rosenberg said...

I would LOVE the Uncle Ronnie posts to become a weekly thing. Serializing is a brilliant way to get the Uncle Ronnie book going.

Also - back off Noelle. Uncle Ronnie is my secret boyfriend.

Stereos and Souffles said...

That's a great story! He sounds like the dad in Big Fat Greek Wedding that thinks Windex is the answer to everything.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Tori - There needs to be one in the pair that can choose paint. My husband knows not to even ask.

LPR - You'd be totally Ronnies type of girl - cute, smart and entirely too young for him. He was pining away over a 35 year old dentist last year. Couldn't undersand why she wasn't interested. Did I mention that he's 84. Um, yeah.

Stereos and Souffles - Perfect example of his type of eccentricity.

Chief said...

Ha Ha

hope it isn't lead based

although that might be why the leak never returned!

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Chief - We eventually put a 1200 foot extension around that side of the house, so when we did that, we got a new tank and moved it to the back of the house. Ronnie's solution got us through. And then, we moved.

kys said...

My grandmother would buy the mistake paint at the store. (You know, the ugly rejects.) She saved the leftovers and would mix them all together and paint with whatever the result was. Hideous. She painted a lot, too.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Kys - It's that generation. Thrifty to the core.

Life is good! said...

every one needs an uncle ronnie in their family. willing to help anyone and his life stories will be the entertainment at the family reunions for generations to come! toooooo funny!

Aunt Becky said...

Bwahahaha! I want Uncle Ronnie to come to my house STAT.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Life is Good - He is sitting here with me now, telling me army stories. Priceless.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Aunt Becky - If you want some funky fresh color schemes up in your crib, I'll send him over.

Martinis or Diaper Genies? said...

fumes are going to ronnie's head for sure.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Martinis or Diaper Genies - I would agree with you if not for my first hand knowledge of the genetics at play. Maybe a little of both.

blueviolet said...

So he really does know what he's doing! Kinda.

Lin said...

I love your Weird Uncle Ronnie stories! Kinda funny. Kinda scary. Kinda off the wall. Great mix!

FRANNIE said...

OMG! That is both shocking and hilarious at the same time! I don't know whether to laugh out lod or be horrified :). I'm going to go with laughing cuz at that point what else can you do ?

FRANNIE said...

oops that should have said loud not lod.

Kate@And Then I Was a Mom said...

I can appreciate Uncle Ronnie's trust in paint. I kind of feel the same way about OxyClean. Stains? Gets 'em out. Noxious odors? Disappears them. Muzzles three-year-olds too sugared-up to allow Mommy to watch the Golden Globes red-carpet show? Still to find out.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Blue Violet - Yeah, maybe. What gets me is that when you talk to him, he has the most lucid memories of his life and family history ( and history/history. He knows every battle, weapon and commander of every war fought since forever), but he has this goofy lack of judgement sometimes.

Lin - He is all of the above and then some.

Frannie - This was 17 and three houses ago. We are well within lauging range. Once I painted it to match the house, I was able to laugh about it. (not before though)


Kate -

A) Thanks for the reminder about the GG's.
B) You let me know about the muzzle effect. I have a sassy 13 year old, that's making his momma a mental case.

wheelboy said...

burn his paint brushes before he does more damage. lol

Kimberly said...

I love Yellow. It is my favorite color. My house is yellow, kitchen, Mini Cooper, Vespa and my favorite rain coat.

The right shade of yellow is a big key. We had the most hateful yellow kitchen when I was young. I hated it. The gold yellow of the 70's. Another screw up (in my opinion).

I a new follower.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Wheelboy - At 84, he's already painted half of NY. If only I had confiscated them 30 yrs ago. . .

Kimberly - Welcome. I am well familiar with 70's yellow. As a matter of fact, we had "Harvest Gold" appliances. Brutally ugly.

Eternally Distracted said...

Biting my tongue... I sooo wish I could do that. Is there a pill you can take?? ;0)

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Eternally Distracted - No, just time. It got easier for me to hold my tounge as I got older as I stopped sweating the small stuff. It comes with age, like wrinkles.

Wendi said...

I love the Uncle Ronnie stories. I wish I had some of my own.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Wendi - I am totally willing to loan him out. He has 3 motor homes. He can travel.

Amy said...

Send Uncle Ronnie to my new house...STAT!!! I need paint and at this point...I don't care about colors!

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Amy - Be careful what you wish for. There are more tastefully painted crack houses than places with Ronnie's touch.

Erin said...

I love your descriptions of the Holy Shit and Bile Duct yellow colors, so funny! We once painted our bedroom what was supposed to be a soft, muted blue. Came out more electric. I've had a phobia of paint colors since then and refuse to do it myself.

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Erin - Never hire Ronnie. Just sayin.

Roshni Mitra Chintalapati said...

hahah!! That is absolutely classic! I wish you had a picture of the side of your house before you painted over it!

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Roshni - Me too! I missed the boat on that one. Would have been a great dust jacket for the book I'll write someday.

Existential Waitress said...

I wish Uncle Ronnie would came paint MY house right now! I love your Uncle Ronnie stories - they're hilarious.

MiMi said...

OMG that's hilarious!

miss jo said...

That Uncle Ronnie is at it again ! He knows what's what and how to get there ! Having been cured of my own painting addiction, I can see how he just couldn't help himself, particularly when there's a newlywed niece's oil tank in need !...cheers from my itty bitty house in SF !

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Existential Waitress - I think you need to have a mental picture of Ronnie. Perhaps my next posting will be more info about his physical person.

MiMi - in retrospect, it certainly is. Day 1? Not so much.

Miss Jo - A tiny house dweller ay? It can be done. It just takes creativity and a willingess to proactively control clutter.

Arizona Mamma said...

Good Ole Ronny makes for some fantastic stories!

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Arizona Mommy - Yeah, he sure is a character.

Jen Chandler said...

That is hilarious! I know people who are always trying to help and end up doing the crazist things. Things you were NEVER do or even want!! But they are trying to help, I tell my self. Let it go and do it your way when they leave. Yeah. Right.

Jen

DG at Diary of a Mad Bathroom said...

Jen - That's exactly what I did. When someone does something out of the goodness of their heart, it's important to be gracious. It's also difficult, but really important.

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