Paint It. Black?

A Wire-to-Wire painting marathon.

photograph by Eyewave | Dreamstime

There’s nothing less punk than painting the wood paneling in your home office an antique white called “Queen Anne’s Lace.” Not even if you’ve got a classic Wire album cranked while you do it. Thank goodness I was never that punk to begin with.

But such was the situation I was in trying to finish one of the last rooms left to be updated in my new-to-me home. For about eight hours, I found myself in the eye of the painting storm, Wire’s 1978 punk/post-punk Chairs Missing in heavy rotation. Some thoughts on the experience, with my apologies to Wire for shuffling their track order:

Song: “Practice Makes Perfect”

Lyric: Practice makes perfect, I’ve done this before/
Never for money, always for love
After moving in, my family spent countless hours painting the house’s interior. The last two to get the brush treatment were the master bathroom (in this instance, an irony on the level of “jumbo shrimp”) and the combo office/guest room.


“Outdoor Miner”

A houseguest’s wish
The office got painting priority over the bathroom because, basically, we stopped paying bills because we couldn’t find them in the disorganization of our makeshift pre-office. It was either paint the office or move to a country without an extradition treaty with the U.S. Besides, with a slate of house-guests, we needed to have proper accommodations squared away. So we picked our colors (“Queen Anne’s Lace” and “Drawbridge”) and got slingin’.


“Used To”

It’s less complicated than it simply should be
It’s a phenomenon the exact opposite of “my eyes were bigger than my stomach.” I look at a room and think: This won’t be that hard to paint. I just have to paint the ceiling, four walls, and a little trim. What could be so difficult about that?


“I Am the Fly”

To protect my chosen target
I have a love/hate relationship with painter’s tape. On one hand, how great that I don’t have to be Cool Hand Luke on surfaces near trim? On the other hand, what am I, some kind of human tape dispenser?



And I’m standing alone still getting a thrill
The tape up, now I can finally get to painting. They say to paint the edges of the wall first, then roll the middle. But I want results. So I roll first, delighting in the square footage gobbled up.


With a 4 a.m. stubble
It’s hours later … holy cow, how could so much time have passed without me thinking about it? How many times have I listened to this Wire CD? I decide to break and reconvene the next day.


“Another the Letter” 
You suddenly find things getting life-size
The first day of painting’s good. The second day’s tough. When you next look at the room you’ve been working on, you realize you’ve not done nearly as much work as you went to bed thinking you had.




“I Feel Mysterious Today”

Observe the tension grow
The second is the no-fun day. It’s frustrating to open the cans again, pour the paint into the trays again, and wring the water out of the brush or rollers cleaned the day before.


“French Film Blurred” 

It’s not quite the way to behave
My crankiness rises like bile, but I choke it back and dive in. I’ve got no choice. The room’s not painting itself, and, besides, think of what a great feeling it’ll be to be done!



I feel old
Three hours later, I think: I’m never going to finish this room. I’m going to die in here. Some future archaeologist will find my body and wonder what crazy cult compelled me to clutch the bristled tool in my hand like it was an important relic.


“Sand in My Joints”

I’m feeling the pain
I have to keep switching which hand I brush with, my poor muscles tired after two days of this torture. My back cracks, my knees wobble atop the ladder, my neck’s frozen in a 20-degree list to the right.


“Being Sucked in Again”

Bound and gagged, 
your labor’s saved/ The cost minute, the rules are waved/ 
No hand, no step, your labor’s in vain
It’s time to pull the tape off, and I do in long, blue strips, except where the tape tears and leaves a paint-covered sliver at the joint between the wall and the trim. The last of the tape finally prized off with my fingernails, I can now see the ruin underneath. All the errors I made when I applied the tape. All the shoddy work I now have to fix.


“Men 2nd”

Hysterical, no humor
I’m on to the last round of painting: touch-ups. But it’s complicated, because there’s a swath of errant “Queen Anne’s Lace” over there, a stalactite of “Drawbridge” that runs down from the trim over there, and a four-foot-long, two-inch-wide section that needs another dose of ceiling paint.


“From the Nursery”

Would you like to see/ 
What violence these eyes can send?
I’m finally done, but I’m not happy about it. I can still see all the places where my work isn’t perfect: small gaps I missed and crooked lines that should be straight. No matter that everyone says you can’t even tell. I know the flaws are there. But there’s no way I’m spending another second working on this room.


“Too Late”

Is it too late to change my mind?
You know, the more I look at the room, the more I wish I had picked “Pearls and Lace” instead of “Queen Anne’s Lace.” Now that color would pop in there. I wonder how long it would take to repaint? 

Greg Akers is editor of MBQ: Inside Memphis Business and a frequent contributor to Memphis magazine.

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