Thursday, April 4, 2013

Paint and Exhibitionism.

Our apartment building is being painted.  A flock of painters on bosun's chairs hang all over the building at all sorts of hours of the day and the sunny, cheerful yellow that the building was is slowly being replaced by a flat, unutterably dull and deeply trendy whitish beige.
            The thing is - and this is the ranty part, so feel free to skip forward - color theory is difficult.  Color theory is HARD.  What looks good on a test patch two feet wide by two feet tall painted on a side wall of the garage may have little or nothing to do with what looks good all over a building nine storeys tall. 
            People spent years becoming really good at color.  Architects hire experts to play with color and scale, and buildings go up painted to be sharp, and clean-cut and full of personality, and even magnificent, and twenty years later, when the paint is getting scrappy, expert opinions are also scrapped by a majority vote of people with neither taste or discrimination who 'like beige because it's inoffensive' and the lowest common denominator gets exactly what it asked for. And the rest of us have to live with it.
            I've been through this circus before.  In Australia, on the Gold Coast, we lived in a building that was pink, with touches of celestial blue, and other pinks, and slightly darker blues.  The first time you looked at it, you groaned, and then you looked up at the bright tropical sky and thought for a bit, and then as evening came on, you realized that the architects had managed to find the exact colors that happened all of the big horizon every night at sunset - and faded into the skyline at twilight, and by morning you were staring at one of the prettiest buildings on the coast, soft and attenuated, with an elegance of line that just plain WORKS.  And becomes a feature on the landscape.
            And two years ago, it was time for repainting, and the lowest common denominator decided that the architect opinions (which were offered) looked very extravagant and silly on swatches, and voted for a flat, unassuming grey, with trim that is the exact same red-brown color of the rust-proof paint that you use as an undercoat on paintwork, and one of the prettiest buildings on the coast has become a blocky naval battleship that rears up twenty-three stories tall, and is considered, in the opinion of the locals, to now be a blot on the landscape and existing only to spoil the view.
            The actual painting was another circus.  For months we lived with blinds half drawn, because you could never tell  who was going to be painting what, or when -
People grow complacent, living more than a few meters above the ground, out of the sight of passers-by. The things painters must see!  Peering into kitchens, and laundries, and sitting rooms, and bedrooms - Imagine the messes!  The painful neatness!  The fights, the scenes of passion - all of the human condition being played out for the edification of a man on a rope -
Everyone gets got. 
WE got got. 
We had been so very careful DURING the painting, living behind sheer blinds,  drawn tight.  When the building had been made flat and grey and entirely dreadful the painters went away, and we relaxed and opened wide again -  and three weeks later, they came around to touch things up a little, here and there.
            And one morning, in the bathroom, on the lavatory with my trousers around my ankles, a shadow fell across the window and I looked up to see a young man grinning in at me, nose to nose through the glass -
Fifteen storeys up.
It's a very…. specific sort of shock.
The very next I knew, I was at the other end of the apartment, yelling incoherently, with my trousers still down around my ankles. 
My mother and my sister thought that it was all very funny indeed. 
            Three days later, my sister was in the bathroom, brushing her teeth and wearing not much more than a very fetching lace bra, and the young man came back AGAIN.  I was in the living room, reading a book, and heard a scream, and Dr Tabubil and her brassiere came hurtling out of the bathroom yelling something about "awful bloody perverts!" and then you couldn't see her for the dust.
            She went after him later, too, but couldn't find him.  I suspect one of the skills of house-painting is a finely honed sense of when it's  prudent to knock off early and take the rest of the shift off sick.

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