Dropbear’s Deadly (re)Finishing Move

The coffee table that needs fixin’.

Some things need to be put right in the world, but these things take planning, time, space, belt sanders, and perhaps four litres of Olympic Premium Stain Stripper. I’m talking, of course, about Panda’s coffee table, which I have been promising to refinish for the last few years. To wit, I find a note in my “Dropbear’s Cup O’ Ideas” this morning upon which Panda writes, “You keep saying you’re going to fix my coffee table.

Okay. Ouch. Yes. This should be addressed publically. You see, when we moved in together, we had two coffee tables, and mine was an Ikea laminated thing that had seen better days; whereas Jennifer’s was a gorgeous solid wood piece with matching end tables. We would dump mine and keep Jenn’s. A choice she surely regrets. Suffice to say, a series of unfortunate events befell this coffee table that were no fault of her own — they were the fault of “The Dargie Boy Curse.

The origin of the “Dargie Boy Curse” is unknown, but what we do know is that it involves the completely innocent, random, and accidental destruction of property, and commonly involves wine glasses. In this case, however, it was not a wine glass; it was Jennifer’s beautiful table and a hot pizza from Niko’s that started it all.

After the “incident” I promised Jennifer I would fix it, and I will. I haven’t yet. But I will. In my defence, there have been extenuating circumstances. I know I say that a lot, but hear me out.

Back when we lived in Ontario, my dad was refinishing our wooden kitchen chairs in the backyard. Time and age are conceptual when you’re a kid in Ontario — summer vacations lasted five minutes and winters lasted three years — so, I place my age at around seven when the “Horrifyingly and Significantly Physically and Emotionally Scarring Incident” happened.

There’s my dad in shorts, a t-shirt, and a set of rubber kitchen gloves. He’s spreading some kind of weird jelly onto the chairs, waiting a while and then scrapping it off. This is magic. He tells me it’s Stain Stripper and to be careful not to get any on me because it will burn. Wide-eyed and curious, I get a little closer to see better. How could jelly burn? Dads are weird sometimes.

As I got a little closer, my belly touched the edge of one of the chairs. I looked down; there was a thin line of jelly about the size of the edge of a quarter. It didn’t burn. I looked at my dad. Looked back down at my belly. Back at my dad, and that’s when the pain hit. A searing pain that I can still feel to this day ripped across my torso, into my spine, through my neck and burst into my brain. This would be one of my first experiences of “The Pain That Cannot Be Named” and certainly set the bar for later in life when doctors would often ask, “What’s your pain on a scale of one to ten?

That was a ten out of ten.

I could not escape the burning or the pain; it was blinding. I’m not sure if I tried to spray it with a hose, or ran into our garden to stop-drop-and-roll in our strawberry patch, or (I may have been hallucinating at this point) rubbed the toad on it that lived under our water faucet by the back door. My memory is vague on how long it took to stop hurting and how we accomplished it.

My mom (little did she know this was the beginning of a long series of dumb accidents that would befall me) probably just walked out and sprayed some vinegar on it, then my dad rubbed some dirt on it to neutralize the chemical burn and then they went back to doing what they were doing. I was scarred for life and am reasonably sure our family faucet toad would never be the same.

So there is one reason I’ve been dragging my heels on fixing Jenn’s coffee table, I’m afraid of Stain Stripper. The other reason I’ve been taking so long is that we just haven’t had the room for me to do it. Our house, yard, and garage in Kensington were all tiny. I couldn’t possibly do her coffee table refinishing justice under such conditions, so I’ve been waiting. Now that we’re in suburbia, I feel I’ve come full circle and am ready to embark on the “Coffee Table Refinishing Adventure of a Lifetime.

Just you wait and see, Jennifer, this will be the year! I’ve even got a couple of film ideas to help capture the essence of the project: A whole new series of DIY home improvement tips, featuring me in cut-off jean shorts, an ironic t-shirt, goggles and elbow-length orange rubber gloves — “Dropbear’s Deadly (re)Finishing Moves, sponsored by Band-Aid™.”

“This Spring and Summer coming to a backyard near you, the do-it-yourself show you didn’t ask for, and the episodes you didn’t know you needed, ‘Dropbear Strips (the table).’”

Or maybe we just call this one “The Strippening.”

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Michael Dean Dargie

Michael Dean Dargie

I do cool and weird shit with cool and weird people. Dad, biker, writer, speaker, artist, adventurer, doer of things, teacher of stuff. MichaelDargie.com