At Home

Prestige, murder, before, and after

Project Home Decor 2016, or #PHD16 has pretty much wrapped up. But it almost ended in murder.

How do you people do it? Live through renovations, some that last for months, even a year, while working your jobs and keeping your children alive?

And we had it easy! Only a couple of rooms were painted, while only one of us worked a day job, and only ourselves to keep alive, and we still almost murdered each other. One night after I got home from work I changed into an appropriate  #PHD16 outfit: a tank top and jogging pants. “You look like Linda Hamilton from Terminator 2,” the Beast said. “Or maybe more like her sister, who’s, you know, lived a little.”

That was actually a highlight. The lowest point was when the Beast yelled down from the top of the stairs, just after he discovered that I tried to give away some books he wanted to keep, that I was selfish. I am, but I never suspected that he’d actually caught on. Later that day, he had the nerve to tell me about how he went back to a bookstore to get a picture book of Mies van der Rohe architecture but they were all sold out. I almost left the house to stay in a hotel because if one more picture book comes into the house a murder will be committed.

Anyway, I love before-and-after photos so here are some for you.











The biggest change is the dining room/library/my office:


Here it is now:





Things are much brighter now. The Beast is sticking to his post-retirement routine of writing in the morning, exercising, then making dinner. He’s even devising cocktails. His “Feliz Navidad,” made with Campari, tequila, and orange juice, was a hit. But the “Death In the Afternoon,” a favourite of Hemingway’s made with Champagne and Pernod, was horrific.

Having no human contact during his days from Monday to Friday, however, has been trying on him. He’s now more eager than ever before to meet me after work to have a dinner–Mamakas and Byblos provided wonderful meals and warm service–or see a movie (Moonlight is as good as you’ve undoubtedly heard.)



And, of course, there’ve been memorable nights at home. Friday night, for example, we had Swiss chard and bean soup for dinner and watched the first episode of a new Netflix series on the Medici family.

When I was young I dreamed of writing a screenplay about the Florentine banking family whose reach and influence extended to the Vatican. The Pazzi conspiracy alone–when in 1477 a member from a rival family murdered a Medici in public during church service and the Medici sought bloody revenge–sounds like a Scorsese and Mario Puzzo collaboration.

But we almost turned off the first episode during the opening credits because the score is so rotten. And then I almost turned it off half way through on account of the Beast’s poorly timed Renaissance jokes, which mostly had to do with men’s hair–“Do you think they used cold rollers? Olive oil? It’s so luscious!”–and landed right when a new character was being introduced causing me to miss their name. “Is that Donatello?” He asked. “Who the fuck knows,” I said.

After binging on some George Cukor films–The Women and Holiday–the Beast picked The Prestige. It’s that decade-old Christopher Nolan film starring Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Michael Caine, Rebecca Hall, David Bowie, and Scarlett Johansson (whose performance, in my books, now rivals Kevin Costner’s for the worst ever-changing accent in a film.)

Half way through the movie, the Beast sent me an email. I was instructed to read it only when we’d finished, which I did [SPOILER ALERT]: “Hugh Jackman’s character had switched with the double. The double died. Hugh bought the trick from Christian because Christian thought he was dead,” it read. “That’s the fucking prestige.”

Could I murder someone this gifted?

Although I still don’t understand why he chose to watch it. Films with that much mainstream star power usually repel him, unless Kevin James is in it.

I also don’t understand when, how, and why he digitized several of my childhood audio tapes. I’d brought them to work intending to do it myself. The plan was to use the 35-year-old soundbites as a thread running through a podcast miniseries I was going to make. On one of the tapes, I am six years old and I repeat the line “What is going to happen to us?” over and over. I wanted to explore how we become the people we become.

That was a year ago. I brought the tapes home about a month ago and forgot about them. The project felt overwhelming. I didn’t know where to start. But now the Beast has started it. He also created a two-minute long sample introduction that layers my voice, along with my brother’s, mom’s, and dad’s overtop of me singing a made-up song, which he distorted to sound like an instrument of some sort. “It’s really rough,” he said before playing it for me. “But I wanted to show you what we can create, together.”

Murder is simply out of the question.


13 replies »

  1. Back in the day wall papered a room in house over 50 years old. The wall paper had lines in it. I know how you feel.
    Love your library. Really love the table.

    Happy Christmas.

  2. Congrats on surviving #PHD16! I especially love the new artwork over the sofa and the shade of blue you chose for your dining room/office. Also the two-minute sample is so special — haunting and melodic and whimsical and a bit sad, which touches on some of the things I end up feeling at this time of year. I look forward to seeing where else this project leads you! Once upon a time indeed.

  3. I too love the blue dining room and LOVE the runners in your hall. Thank you for sharing. Also, on another note, I loved the Trevor Noah interview. You two have good chemistry on screen. If you have an agent, you should try for a guest correspondent spot on his show!

  4. Jess, I was thrilled to meet you today at the Oakridge Superstore. You truly made my day! You, Simon, and your mother are just as lovely as I imagined you would be. Thank you!

    • Tia! It was so nice meeting you too. What a small world. Warmed me right up. All the best to you, and thank you for reading FATB. It means a lot.

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