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Finn`s Wake: Muscle Memory and the Incredible Hulk
© Mark Finn
September 06, 2002

Physical training experts speak of "muscle memory" or in some cases, "motor memory," wherein complex physical actions can be performed automatically, without conscious thought. While it’s most commonly applied to a golf swing, the concept extends into martial arts, dance, cheerleading, and so on and so forth.

I have felt for some time now that when we experience intense feelings or trauma, our body, which is nothing more than a storage battery of harmonious cells, encodes and stores mnemonic triggers in certain cells in various parts of our body. This is the foundation for traditional Chinese medicine. Everything is connected. Now I can prove it.

For as I stood on tiptoe to reach the eight foot high ceiling, roller brush loaded with Verdant Green, I felt my left Gluteus Maximus seize up in a spasm at the exact second that I caught a glob of said paint in my eye. This set off a complex barrage of profanity that I had not heard since my childhood when my mother was repainting the walls of the daycare center. If memory serves, they were trying to paint cinderblocks.

Oh, the remodeling is going swimmingly, all right.

The bathroom is done, with only minor hitches to the system (like the sudden realization that the medicine cabinet was hopeless and would have to be replaced as soon as possible). It’s pink. Oh, boy, is it pink. Elvis would be so proud. Now we’re dealing with the bedroom.

How hard can a bedroom be, really? It’s only four walls and a couple of doors, right? Well, it’s closet doors that can’t be removed, French doors that lead out to the patio, a window that is deeply recessed and in terrible shape, and three shades of green that more or less go together.

The reason for the colors is because there is a support beam that neatly bisects the room into two halves. During the day, the right side of the room is light and the left side is dark, and during the night, the fixtures brighten the left side and darken the right side. This is what they call on Christopher Lowell’s show an "interesting architectural challenge." That’s gay decorator speak for, "your lighting is for shit."

We chose two different colors of green to help even out the room: a dark green (called Shamrock Green) for the night side of the room, and Verdant Green for the day side of the room. Our trim is called Limelight, so named because it’s darker than Verdant Green, and lighter than Shamrock Green. Kinda limish, in a neony, avacadoy sorta way. I don’t know. The Limelight and the Shamrock inexplicably look great to me. I can’t justify it. Cathy picked the colors, so I’m just happy that I like them, too.

What you may not realize about home renovation and repair is that every room presents its own, unique challenge. And when your home is super-funky in an Austin-hip pad kind of way, well, then there’s a surprise waiting in every corner . . . literally.

The surprise of the bedroom was the air vent. It’s high up on the wall, in the corner of the room, and because these are low ceilings, the vent cuts literally into the moulding on the outside of the closet. This particular vent was cruddy with mold, so I pried it out of its little niche (marveling at how battered and bent the thing was) and we bought a new vent cover that was the same size.

After we painted the walls, it was time to replace the vent cover. Up on the step ladder I went, screwdriver in hand, and I confidently slid the vent cover into place.

Sorta. Kinda.

It didn’t quite fit, see? The moulding on the closet wasn’t cut perfectly, so the vent couldn’t quite get in there. I mean, it was off by at least a half an inch. Sometimes, though, a half an inch isn’t a lot. Particularly in this case, when I had a hammer. I commenced to bang merrily away on the moulding, watching it fray, flatten, and splinter. This was part of my plan, and I realized that it was part of my training in the field of home repair. If something didn’t fit, hammer on it until it does.

I stopped and checked my progress. Nowhere near the clearance I needed. A torrent of obscenities fell from my mouth. Cathy turned around, alarmed at the profanity. She thought I was mad or something. I had to explain to her that swearing during construction or restoration is vital to the recalculation process. It’s an audible version of "compiling data . . . please wait." There’s something about those staccato consonants that makes the numerical process work better in a man’s brain.

My love taps weren’t working, so I really leaned into the task and attacked the moulding until it stopped giving on me. I tried the vent again. It still wouldn’t fit. Son of a bitch. I looked at the cutting job that the former occupants did on the moulding, and I thought about the vent we pried out the day before. Suddenly, it came to me in a bolt of clarity. What they did to get the original vent in there was exactly the same kind of thing my mother did time after time, house after house. This vent, this moment on the stepladder, was my past coming back to haunt me.

I tried one last time to put the vent up, but I knew it was a hopeless case. Nevertheless, I pushed harder, trying to wedge it in without damaging it.

That’s when the triple-blankity-dash-blank vent cover sliced the meat of one of my fingers open.

Sins or no sins, I was suddenly very tired of screwing around with this project. Using the flat of the hammer head and my fist, I pounded the vent into place with five short, sharp blows. Curiously, it bent in the exact same place as the old, cruddy vent. Imagine that.

In the battle of wills that is home repair, mother always knows best.

Now, we’re done with the room, with the exception of some touch-up and some trim, and as I stared at the finished color scheme, I was struck with the knowledge of where I’d seen the dark and light shades of green before. It’s the EXACT same color scheme as the Incredible Hulk. I’m not kidding, it’s a Marvel Fanboy’s wet dream. All it needs is a dash of purple and it could be a B-grade villain. I almost didn’t say anything to Cathy, but I was giggling too hard and she asked me what was wrong. Hey, she picked the colors. Score for the house so far: Mark, 2. Cathy, 0.

Mark Finn is the author of Gods New and Used and Year of the Hare, available from your local bookstore or from www.amazon.com. He can also be found at www.clockworkstorybook.com.

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