Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

When we scheduled our four-day July “vacation,” things were deliberately left loosey-goosey. We intended to wake up each morning and make plans on the spot.

A day in the city? Roam the valley? There was no telling.

In retrospect, this plan for an unplanned vacation was a fantasy. The seeds of its undoing lay in our dutiful natures. We’re incapable of having fun when home chores call.

Since the end of the rainy season, I’d been putting off painting the incredibly long porch that wraps around three sides of our house.

To save money, we’d excluded the porch when we hired a painting contractor last year to paint everything else. A wise move, I thought at the time.

Only now my penny pinching was sabotaging my capacity for summer leisure. Flaking paint and black mold needed my attention, and look, it’s almost August!

For Cheryl, the stumbling block for fun was our incomplete living room project. With the gas fireplace installed, the walls redone and new carpet laid, who knew empty could look so nice?

Only Cheryl wanted more. She wanted the return of the jumble of furniture stacked in the garage.

Day One: I climbed onto my ladder and went at the porch ceiling with scrappers and sandpaper. I hated what I was doing. I found relief in what I was doing. I’d defeated inertia.

I quit in the late afternoon after shaping up one side. The upper parts of me were bone tired. I’d proven pathetically weak for overhead work.

And Cheryl? She’d spent the day harvesting seeds from her flower garden —Mother Nature demanded this be done now — and researching options for a new couch. She was equally satisfied with her day’s progress.

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Day Two: My body wasn’t ready for back-to-back days on a ladder, but there I was, taking care of business.

Landscaping crews were working on two adjacent properties. Sounds of laughter and Spanish drifted my way. Call me deluded, but I felt as one with the working man.

We’d talked of romping in the East Bay on Day Three, but Cheryl suggested that we reconsider. Let’s stay home and move furniture back in, she said.

That’s more or less what we did, although I took a break and cruised the internet and played YouTube videos, while Cheryl went into town for provisioning.

That afternoon, she began rummaging in the garage, digging out a buried love seat. I tackled cleaning the armoire that had sat on our side porch for 18 months, attracting spiders and elm pods.

Moving the 6-foot armoire back into the living room was no easy task. We improvised a cardboard skid, then bickering about who was pulling or pushing too fast. It was not our finest hour.

At day’s end, we congratulated ourselves. With the love seat and the armoire in place, the living room looked almost ready for human occupation.

Day Four: I did another four-plus hours on the ladder, completing my prep of the porch ceiling, then Cheryl and I teamed up — with yet more bickering — to move a hall tree and a china hutch from the garage to the living room.

A glow of satisfaction came over both of us that evening. For the first time in four years, the living room could be used for all the things that living rooms are used for. What uses might those be? We had been confined to the back of the house for so long, I had trouble remembering.

I ended our vacation with sore wrists, a sore neck and a flesh wound from a falling scraper, but my back, fortified by our exercise regimen, had held up. Yoga, people, yoga!

Returning to work Monday morning was pure pleasure. I luxuriated all day in front of my computer. I did not scrape. I did not sand. I did not lug furniture.

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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.