George of the Bungle

The story of Cecilia Gimenez and her amateur attempt to restore a flaking fresco in her church in Borja, Spain, is familiar to anyone who has tried to fix something when it was beyond their ability to make the repair.

I mean way beyond their ability.

You start by sprucing up Christ’s tunic and then you think you’ll add a touch of color to his face, and when that doesn’t look quite right you try to compensate by deepening the intensity of his eyes, and then the thorns seem a bit too stark …

Things can get out of hand rather quickly.

Credit: Centro de Estudios Borjanos

I did something like this once when I was trying to build a cabinet into wall of a bedroom.

I had a picture in my mind of how it was going to work out perfectly, even though I lacked the necessary tools, hadn’t thought through many of the critical details and dove into it without knowledge of the required techniques. But clumsy carpentry and crumbling plaster didn’t deter me. Each mess was inconsequential – a bit of “creative destruction” that would soon be reversed because my next brilliant step would erase all previous mistakes.

It is possible to convince yourself that there is a simple way to undo the damage if you stay optimistic and persevere, even though everyone else is begging you to walk away.

Minnesota lawmaker Kerry Gauthier and Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin have been going through this painful process of late. Akin is still at it, busily transforming his potential electoral masterpiece into a child’s portrait of monkey without a face. Although once Akin truly sees the horror he has crafted, it will be harder for him to use the Gimenez defense – that nobody said “stop!”

When have you tried to fix something, and thereby made it worse?

About these ads

75 thoughts on “George of the Bungle”

    1. Welcome. I read a little on your site – what a fascinating list of books! And I can relate to this :”My desire knowing the lives women in various circumstance is never satisfied.”

      Like this

  1. welcome jofelyn, an early newbie today.

    my most recent example of this is the 1995 volvo 850 in my garage. my son show me how when he backs out of the garage with the wheel cranked all the way to one side it makes this awful noise. i looked at it and the cv boot (a thing that is down by the axle and brake) was screwed up. it was time to do the oil so i looked at the cv boot at the same time. the video form eric the car guy was very instructional and gave me great hope of replacing the needed stuff at a nominal cost and in a jiffy to boot. wrong buffalo breath. i now have a car with its ass end sticking out my garage door because it was only going to be there for an hour, with its wheel off its brake assembly swung to one side and it axle half removed, it was supposed to come out but the damn thing stuck and only the part that attaches to the wheel came off the part attatched to the transmission is still in there and causing duress so i have to figure out how to a. get it fixed or b get it taken to someone who will charge me outrageus sums of money on this ar that has ittle value or c make it a parts car for my other 850 but the other 850 should in reality be made the parts car for this one if it came to that. this is the good car. my snide comment allotment seems to be rising daily as children, spouses and passing ups delivery people tree trimmers and visiting friends all seem to make observations about the pools of oil and transmission fluid that will need t be cleaned up when the car is out of the way, hey when will the car be out of the way anyhow? my son the driver is out of town until next tuesday so i have the weekend to check responses on volvo forum as to what to do in order to finish the job. i dont think painting a monkey face on it is an option.

    Like this

    1. In my poor college days I got it in my head that I could fix the gimpy carburetor in my little rust-bucket Honda. The car had a choke (remember those?) and I had learned how to finesse the choke to keep the car and carburetor going, but even those ministrations were beginning to fail. Off I went to the parts store, coming home with the appropriate rebuild kit and the full manual that tells you how to fix anything in your particular make and model. I might not have had the bravado to take this on, but a friend said he’d help. The thing came out pretty easily and with a bit of elbow grease I got it apart and cleaned up. All was going well until it was time to put it back together when it became obvious why it was gimpy: the top piece was slightly warped and would not make a good seal with the bottom half. We tried using both the old and the new gasket together to help…which only sort of worked. Still had a gap. No worries – we can adjust the air intake to adjust for that issue – only that adjustment screw was broken off and frozen in place. I knew what I needed to fix, but it was clear it was beyond repair. I put my clean, rebuilt carburetor back in the car, but with too much air now getting into the mix (because I had cleaned all the gunk around the seal – doh!), the car stalled. A lot. Had to have it towed in to have a professional fix the problem (think they found me a rebuilt carburetor that did not have the gap or broken adjustment screw). The mechanics were kind enough, though, to give me props for trying to fix it myself and doing a reasonable job had it not been for the bad part.

      Like this

      1. Anna, I wouldn’t even try to repair a carburetor. I have done enough of my own car repairs to know that I am not good at that. I once said here that I even have troubles doing oil changes. tim said he thought that shouldn’t be too hard. However, if I don’t have the right tool or have an oil filter that is difficult to remove, even doing an oil change can be a challenge for me.

        Like this

        1. I take some pride in saying I at least was able to rebuild it (and reconnect it) even if it didn’t work when I was done. I have however, after that experience, avoided car repairs on my own.

          Like this

  2. The order of nuns who taught in my high school had a fresco story. A novice painted a fresco in wet plaster that was so ugly when dry that it was draped in cloth. Pope Leo demanded to see under the cloth. When unveiled the fresco of Mary was beautiful and it was named Mater Admirabilis. This image was in my school I think to encourage us that even messes could be beautiful.

    Like this

    1. B-A, are you feeling alright? Where is the voting reminder???? I’m still plugging away. After I got my computer back from Geek Squad two weeks ago, it is rejecting all cookies, so Kemps is not tossing me on my ear when I try to vote more than once a day. I’m going to get the pc rejiggered next week, but not until the voting is over!

      Like this

      1. VS I am feeling just fine. I bungled the reminder because I couldn’t think of a way to link the joys of Mini-sota Donut Ice Cream with the rigors of voting at http://www.kempsnextflavor.com/ and https://apps.facebook.com/kempsfavs/contests/ Thanks for providing me with a segueway. I spoke to several peolpe who tried the free samples at the Kemps booth (1pm LittleFarmhands exhibit on Machinery Hill). They were delighted with the flavor and got to participate in the fair balloting which is counted separately from the on-line tally.

        Like this

    1. I can see how that might be a problem, tim, especially since your opening line of the previous post “my most recent example of this” leads me to believe you might have done something similar before.

      Like this

  3. Good morning. I have a long running battle with the flushing device in a toilet. Some times it is better and some times it isn’t. I never really win the battle because I can’t get it to flush with enough force to get it to flush everything down every time. I probably need a new toilet with a different kind of flushing device that has more force. In my efforts to get this toilet working better I have had more difficulties than I can remember including floats that should work and didn’t, various problems that caused the tank to not fill properly, and leaks of various kinds. The money that I have spent fixing this toilet would pay for a very expensive toilet. I did all the work myself, but the cost of all those parts could have paid for hiring a very well paid plumber.

    Like this

    1. I had a similar experience, Jim. In the first apartment I lived in as a married person–an infamous hovel that didn’t have a straight or level line in it anywhere–my toilet began leaking. I bought a Korky Flapper valve to solve the problem, having been assured it couldn’t fail. But it did. I brought it back, only to be sent out with another Korky Flapper. When I came back again, the hardware guy introduced me to the rest of his staff as if I were a celebrity. “Hey, gang, he’s back! This is the guy who can’t get a Korky Flapper to seal!” I had visions of that appearing on my tombstone: “Steve Grooms/ the Man Who Couldn’t Get a Korky Flapper to Seal.”

      Like this

  4. Morning all. Welcome to the Trail, Jofelyn!

    I have an ancient bathroom. The shower pipery is on the outside of the tile (since the wall is an outside wall – maybe the builders were worried about freezing pipes) and in the early years I had constant trouble w/ leaking. I had several times taken the whole thing apart and changed out worn washers, but it never was quite as easy as it seemed it should be. One morning in April, when I was about to leave town on a client trip, I thought I should fix the leak so it wouldn’t get bad during my absence. (I know, I know – what was I thinking?) As you can imagine, things went from bad to worse and there didn’t seem to be anything I could do to stop what was now a HUGE leak. I couldn’t turn off the water for a week and deal with it when I got home because I had a renter at the time. Bottom line is that I now know how much it costs when you call a plumber and insist that they leave the job they are on to deal with your emergency. Ouch!

    Like this

    1. Plumbers and other home repair people do have a tenancy to jack up their rates when you really need their services as you found out, VS. We needed new front steps to our house that had to be done before winter set in. I didn’t ask the carpenter for an estimate on the cost because I thought the cost would not be too high. I don’t know why he thought he could charge a very high fee for doing this work. I guess he thought we should pay extra because we really needed the steps.

      Like this

      1. NBC had a Dateline show last week that featured a segment on repairing air conditioners. They disabled a perfectly functional air conditioner by snipping one wire. It should have been a $45 repair. The six companies that came out to fix the thing were remarkably consistent in charging between $300 and $400, although they each had a different fairytale to tell about what had been wrong. Six companies out of six overcharged like that. That was in New Jersey, and I swear it wouldn’t happen here. Not six out of six!

        Like this

  5. Thirty-two years ago, our kitchen and bath renovation project started with a broken pipe. The leaky water pipe was inside the wall between the kitchen and the dining room, it was necessary to punch a hole in the wall to get to the broken pipe. It was all downhill from there.

    The hole was a messy one, made in haste with a hammer and a crowbar. The wall was constructed of plaster and lath, and apparently not as easy to patch as sheetrock (or so I’m told). Several weeks after the pipe had been fixed, the gaping hole in the wall was still taunting me every time I walked past it. Husband wasn’t working at the time, so one morning before I headed off to my corporate duties, I asked if he would please try to do something about it. When I returned from work that evening, I was aghast to find the entire kitchen gutted. “What the hell happened?” I asked; he shrugged and told me this sad story.

    He had decided that it was easier replacing the plaster and lath wall with one made of sheetrock rather than trying to fix the hole, but in order to do that he needed to take the kitchen cabinets which were hung on the wall down. That’s when he discovered that the kitchen cabinets were also attached to the ceiling; you couldn’t get the cabinets down without also tearing down parts of the ceiling. At that point there was no turning back, so he just ripped everything out, including the kitchen counter and the linoleum floor. Mercifully he left the stove and the kitchen sink intact. At that point we had a blank slate, so to speak, and a detailed plan was drawn up. We decided to expand the bathroom into the kitchen area, which necessitated moving a couple of walls and several windows, not to mention that everything needed to be rewired. Six months later we had a very nice new bathroom and kitchen, but you can hardly blame me for hesitating to ask him to do minor repairs, can you?

    Like this

    1. “Mercifully he left the stove and the kitchen sink intact.” So you lived for 6 months basically without a kitchen??

      Like this

      1. You got it. Not only that, the bathroom was out of commission the better part of two months. It’s with great trepidation that I look forward to the kitchen remodeling that will happen, hopefully this fall. When you’re a perfectionist, and insist on doing it all yourself, and have a full-time job, such projects drag on and on. I’d be content to hire someone to do it, but husband thinks that only he can do a good enough job. Sigh!!!

        Like this

  6. When I was a young kid I didn’t own a shotgun, so my father borrowed one for me on the day before the Pheasant Season Opener (which used to be a day I regarded as a national holiday second only to Christmas). He borrowed an Ithaca Featherlight, a gun I lusted for with unbridled passion. The night before the Opener, with eyes glazed with love, I decided to completely clean and polish the Featherlight. And, hell, I was in such a good mood I decided to clean my dad’s ancient Remington pump at the same time.

    When I get to Heaven, the first question I will have for God (or whomever is tending the gate) is “Why is it so damned easy to take things apart that are so damned hard to put back together?”

    I soon had two shotguns stripped and disassembled to piles of parts that were as clean as the forks in my mother’s kitchen. And I couldn’t get them to go back together. Once I got my dad’s gun together and looking good, only there were three parts left over. That night as the hours ticked by I learned a lot about pump shotguns, life and fear.

    Like this

  7. Last year daughter knocked an open bottle of maroon nail polish on the pale grey carpet in our study. She was home alone. She tried any number of cleansers and scrubbers, and only spread the polish over a larger and larger area of the carpet. She was in tears when we got home, and I am afaid I was just a little upset when I saw the carpet and the projectory of the nail polish not only on the carpet but on the computer desk, as well as spots of polish on the top of the piano. I am thankful that the carpet is a year older than my daughter, and isn’t in the best of shape to begin with, but I was hoping I could get a few more years out of it.

    Like this

    1. See, if the carpet had been maroon, you wouldn’t have any trouble. When she got old, my mom put a white carpet in her living room and then started giving me hell when my dogs tracked it up with muddy feet. I defended my dogs, whose habits and feet had not changed, and told her that people with white carpets should not be shocked when dirt happens. I don’t mean to sound unsympathetic, but that old battle was virtually the only real disagreement I had with my mother.

      Like this

      1. Your argument for dark carpet is sound, but so are the arguments that a girl should not apply nail polish at the same time she uses the computer, or “forget” to put the lid back on the bottle when she is finished with her nails.

        Like this

        1. I agree that your daughter should have done things differently. When my Molly was a kid I started with the assumption she was gonna screw up often. I tried to surround her with an environment that didn’t reflect unrealistic notions of how perfect she would have to be. You are probably better at setting standards and enforcing them than I was. We had faux oriental rugs that were so rugged the dogs could pee on them without doing appreciable damage.

          Like this

        2. Steve, your strategy with your daughter was quite sensible. I was pregnant with our daughter when we put in the carpet. We chose a light grey since the old carpet was dark brown and made everything in the house look so dark and we were desparate for lightness. I had a hard time thinking ahead at that point about nail polish. I have regretted that carpet color ever since, as the dogs and the cats and our son and his friends and we ourselves have not been kind to it.

          Like this

        3. I didn’t mean to beat you down, Renee. I have the sense that you run a much tighter ship than I do. (Hell, everybody does!) You are surely a cleaner person than I am. There are places or things in my home that might make you faint. Clean people have the right to decorate with light, bright colors, even if people like me come along and tease you for it!

          Like this

        4. Oh, don’t worry, Steve. I probably sound more strict and organized than I really am. I have discovered that my love greys and blues, is unfortunate, for blue/grey carpets and paint actually show dirt and grime more than taupes and browns. Kids, animals, and gardening have demonstarted to me the error in my tastes, and the next carpet will be in the taupey/tan (not too dark, not too light) range.

          Like this

      1. I am getting an increasing urge to visit the carpet store to get new carpeting in the bedrooms and the study this winter. What holds me back is that I have to coordinate carpet installation with a moving company to move the piano out of the study and then back in the study after the carpet is in. The piano, a Baldwin studio piano, isn’t huge, but the position of the doors and narrowness of the hallway mean it has to be tipped on its end to get it out of the room. Boy, could that turn into a bungle of epic proportions if it isn’t done correctly!

        Like this

        1. We have laminate in the hall, dining room, kitchen, and living room. If I get hardwood in the study and bedrooms, I would have to replace all the flooring. That would be great, but it isn’t in the budget.

          Like this

        2. I had to tear some carpet off the steps because a tread nose was broken. That led to Oak stair treads. Which lead to tearing up the carpet in the living room and putting hardwood down in there. And then the kitchen remodeling followed. Which needed new, what do you call it; the stuff / spackling on the ceiling, and of course a new hardwood floor in there.

          Like this

  8. I would never attempt to restore any work of art, ever. I like to think that I can draw and paint, but the more I try to do, the worse it gets – every time.

    I crocheted a wool sweater for a friend once. The sleeves ended up about 5 feet long.

    I’ve learned a lot about home and vehicle repairs. I don’t start them if I can’t imagine it through to the end anymore. I can’t think of one instance in particular, but I know I’ve gotten in over my head a number of times. I’ve never torn apart the front end of a Volvo or ripped the kitchen cabinets out, or dismantled a gun, although I’ve been tempted to tear my kitchen and dining room floors out and to replace my dead garbage disposal. I force myself to imagine going through every step, and if I can’t imagine it, I don’t take it on. That means the garbage disposal will probably stay inactive for awhile.

    I was able to replace the Korky Flapper thing in my toilet, but it made the toilet double flush and I never could get it adjusted right. I don’t know if it wasn’t sealed or what the problem was. The plumber came over to look at something else and I asked him to have a look at it. He fixed it in less than a second.

    I taught myself how to fix the lawnmower because I couldn’t lift it into the trunk of my Honda Civic to take it to someone who would gouge me mercilessly anymore. I’ve been fixing my mower for four years now and it runs well for a mower with a tough life.

    Like this

  9. Clothing. I am constantly finding things at thrift shops, etc., that are great with, say, a different collar, shorter sleeves, thinner pantlegs, a pocket inserted. So I buy them, take them home and set them near the sewing machine. IF I ever remember to do the alteration, one of two things happens – my vision is realized, OR I find myself with something that might or might not still be recognizable as a piece of clothing. And my sewing machine almost always freezes up at some point, as if it just doesn’t WANT to make a t-shirt into a sun-top.

    And curtains – I’ll make anything out of curtains (I’m talking valences here) – the most successful to date being a holey old lace tablecloth. But some things should not try to be curtains, like a round tablecloth.

    Quilts are very forgiving, since you get to cut the pieces of fabric up small. But don’t try to use an old white sheet to back a quilt: it soon wears out and gets rips in it. Then you keep the quilt near the sewing machine forever, thinking you’ll take it apart and back it with something sturdier, but guess what.

    Like this

  10. Oh boy. These are great stories!

    I, however, have nothing, NOTHING I tell you, to add. That has never happen to me. Not once. No how ever.
    I find if you stare at a problem long enough, either it goes away, it becomes unimportant or greater issues come to light making the first problem seemingly insignificant.

    My lips are seals.

    Like this

  11. I once decided to give my toaster oven a really good cleaning, so I took it apart. Much easier to clean in pieces. When I put it back together, though, it wouldn’t turn on anymore. It sure is clean, though. It practically sparkles.

    Like this

Comments are closed.