Thursday, August 19, 2010


I have about two and a half weeks before I leave for Prague, so I’m trying to focus on the important things that absolutely need to be done before I leave, such as refurbishing antique furniture. The furniture in question—two dressers, a headboard, and a matching mirror—is not necessarily antique. My mother acquired these pieces at a garage sale over the weekend for an unusually low price. They are going to replace the rickety wicker set that my cats have been using for a scratching post for the past fifteen years.

The pieces seem to be oak, and they are probably not actually antique. I noticed nearly the same set in Home Décor Magazine under the title “Inspired by Paris Flea Market Finds” and surrounded by several dozen Eiffel Towers of assorted sizes.

On Monday, my sister and I tackled the smaller set of drawers and we began to realize why the pieces were so inexpensive. We attacked the splotches of sticky goop in the top drawer with lemon juice on an old sponge. I was going to use an actual lemon, but my mom berated me for cleaning with an expensive citrus fruit. I used a bottle of Nature’s Nectar 100% Lemon Juice from Concentrate, which Mom insisted was the same thing anyways.

Since the lemon juice is far less precious than the lemons themselves, I made sure to use as much of the juice as possible and cleaned the entire dresser with it, as well as the mirror and headboard. If there was anything sticky, I avoided it early on.

After the lemon bath, there seemed to be several infinitely impossible problems to tackle. Cleaning the top of the dresser, I noticed the name “BOB” carved into the wood. I was annoyed that it could not have been a more imaginative name. A name more appropriate for furniture that seems to be inspired by Art Nouveau would have sufficed. I think “ALGERNON,” for instance, is a charming name. There’s something in that name that seems to inspire absolute confidence.

A few inches away I discovered “STEVE.” I could find only one place where the varnish was somewhat intact. It looks as if there was a table runner at some point protecting the wood from such crude adolescents as BOB and STEVE. The condition of the long dresser causes me to suspect that it was left outdoors for a while, but that the table runner was left in place.

I can think of no methods for removing the names that don’t involve destroying the wood or burning the dresser to the ground. The chips in the wood and the rusted pulls I can take, but the names make me feel as though I’m locked in a room with a bunch of insider jokes that I’m not allowed in on.

My sister and I took out the drawers. When she set one of the lemon-soaked sponges onto the unfinished wood inside of the drawer-crevice, it instantly turned black in the dust, which was at least an inch high. We broke out Venus, my pink vacuum cleaner for my dorm room. My sister vacuumed the drawers while I lemoned up the mirror. Every once and I while she would start screaming “Spiders! Spiders!” or “There’s cobwebs in the drawer! They’re black! Why are they black?!?” Then I would take over until the spiderly remains were careening down Venus’ rubber tube.

We were about to start vacuuming the inside of the dresser when my sister pointed out some paper in the top drawer-crevice. “Is it a forgotten private manuscript?!?” I cried, diving into the drawer-crevice for the stack of loose-leaf. I have been reading Either/Or by Soren Kierkegaard, which unfairly raised my hopes. Unfortunately, the yellowing lined pages did not contain a philosophical correspondence between BOB and STEVE. I was disappointed to find them all blank.

My sister had to vacuum the inside of the dresser because the sound of the brush attachment on unfinished wood, for me, is like nails on a chalkboard or a screaming kitten. I did need to assist with the removal of a spider, the species of which may have become extinct since the last time the drawer was removed about a hundred years ago.

I polished all of the rusted pulls with a paste of vinegar, salt, and flour. When I got the paste on the wood, I promptly wiped it with a wet sponge. After a few hours of this tedious work, I realized that the wet sponge was just spreading it around. I wiped it thoroughly with a second wet sponge. This time, it looked as though I destroyed the varnish. The catastrophe was much like the time Spongebob and Patrick got white paint on Mr. Krabs’s first dollar.

I had about a day’s worth of anxiety that I ruined new old furniture. Last night at about ten I was unable to bear the suspense and I wiped the dresser with a polish that was essentially homemade salad dressing. This seems to have done the trick. The only thing left to do now is get the smell out of the drawers. Baking soda and vinegar don’t seem to be doing the trick. I’m worried that the smell is mothballs, in which case all the plastic in the world will decompose before the smell dissipates.

Today I intend to tackle the taller dresser in a similar manner. I’m on the lookout for new species of spiders and a carving of “BOB+STEVE 4EVER.”

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