Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

We missed out on BottleRock this year. Our living room held us captive.

We spent all three days of the festival — as well as the Thursday before — scrapping, staining and painting the windows, doors and woodwork in a room measuring 12 feet by 26 feet.

For the amount of effort we’ve committed in recent months, you’d think we were working on something as grand as the Ackerman Heritage House in Old Town.

But no. This is our humble, utterly not fancy, labor-sucking living room.

It’s been four years since the room, which dates back to the house’s construction circa 1890, has been lived in. We used it for storage for a couple of years, then wasted more time contemplating the makeover.

Now we were in the home stretch, having hit the project hard this spring.

Cheryl went into the Memorial Day weekend still retaining many of her perfectionist ideals. Rough drywall edges along the 130-year-old redwood window frames would need smoothing. Sloppy paint margins from historic paint jobs would need correcting. The long wall of exposed redwood would need careful spot sanding and restaining.

I argued against perfection.

Did we have the free time to achieve it? I thought not.

More to the point, this was an OLD HOUSE. Nothing about it has been perfect for over a century. Imperfections are not just expected, they give the place character.

Character, Cheryl, character!

I truly believed this. Our house was built by a 19th century farmer. There was nothing elegant about it when it was new, unlike, say, the gorgeous Queen Anne Victorian that Lauren Ackerman brought back to perfection.

As the holiday unfolded, I worked in my zone, Cheryl in hers. Together, we went to Home Depot ... three times.

For polyurethanes — first a semi gloss, then returning for a satin finish. For brown paint that came closest to matching the shade she applied 35 years ago. For softer steel wool.

We went at it so hard that my left knee began to fail me. I had to experiment with new kneeling positions.

Cheryl so vigorously rubbed and sanded and polished that she had to wear a wrist support at bedtime to relieve her carpal tunnel.

No doubt about it, this project was killing us.

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By late afternoon Sunday, our fourth day in the trenches, the room was looking reasonably sharp, our work essentially done. And Cheryl had relented. Good enough would be good enough.

To button things up, we’d get professionals to install the granite hearth and carpeting.

I wanted to celebrate. Let’s go to dinner, Cheryl.

I’d been wanting to sample downtown’s new Stone brewery and restaurant. I was highly curious about Stone’s transformation of the historic Borreo building into a beer hall with new views of the river and downtown.

This was the third day I’d suggested dining at Stone. The first two times Cheryl had nixed the idea. Her exertions in the living room had exhausted her.

On Sunday she relented.

In the best of times, parking for Stone can involve a good walk. But this was BottleRock weekend. I considered parking in downtown’s outer perimeter as soon as we crossed Jefferson and trekking in.

Cheryl protested. She wasn’t wearing hiking shoes. I kept driving ever closer to BottleRock ground zero.

As we approached Stone at Soscol, Cheryl pointed out “graffiti” on the brewery’s river-facing facade.

This so-called graffiti was Stone’s brand-identifying gargoyle symbol, recently installed.

Did we have a good laugh? Yes we did.

Downtown looked fully parked, so we went to the Register building further up Soscol and parked there. Being a Register employee has its privileges.

We had a fine time at Stone. Ordinarily the upstairs music might have been too loud, but this was BottleRock weekend. We loosened up, transforming from home improvement drones into weekend fun-seekers.

You wouldn’t have recognized the couple that walked back to the Register lot as the same one that had grumbled its way to Stone earlier.

We were laughing. We said silly things.

Living room project? What living room project?

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Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.


City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.