Offcuts: Raise The Bar By: Don Heisz

A friend of mine once spent several years and several thousand dollars renovating his basement. When he bought the house, sometime in the 1970s, the basement had the then-typical rec-room finish complete with panelling and one by one staple-on ceiling tiles. An accent wall even had that beautiful patterned stucco, the type with fine glass shards in it made specifically to cause lung disease in anyone who came anywhere near it.
As is usual, he set about taking all of that apart bit by bit while embroiled in his regular activities as construction superintendent and avid fisherman. What he needed first was some place to keep all his fishing gear. Some would say a garden shed was the proper place for such stuff. He would be shocked at such a suggestion, though, since he was a semi-professional competitive fisherman (or so he told me) and all of his gear was worthy of a place of pride.

So, initially, he made a room that served as a comfortable television-viewing location and shrine to the art of fly fishing. But that was really only while facing a certain direction. If you looked over your shoulder while watching Barney Miller or admiring the six foot stuffed swordfish on the wall, you would see the raw concrete of the foundation that was visible through the rest of the basement. He had everything stripped and gutted, which gave his fisherman’s den the look of a set for an odd television sitcom (one probably not as funny as Barney Miller).
He explained to me that he could never find enough free time to do the rest of it the way he wanted it done, so he did nothing with it for years. What he really wanted, he said, was a full-sized bar, complete with sink and built-in cooktop, a full-size fridge, and a mirror wall behind it. He also wanted a bathroom, but that, he said, didn’t need to be as snazzy.
I asked him what he planned to do about the laundry situation in the house, since the washer and dryer occupied some of the space he was describing. He said a stackable unit could overcome the space difficulty and if it not, there was always a laundromat. His wife did not hear that information, or I’m sure she would have disagreed.

Also, since he had pulled down all the existing partition walls of the basement, the furnace was completely visible and audible. That would also need to be blocked off, he said. When I asked how he would do that, he proposed walls that exactly matched the walls that had already been there. When I asked what was wrong with the old walls, he told me they were not sound-proof and were covered in panelling.
“You could have insulated them,” I ventured.
He said nothing. Instead, he went on to start describing the project he wanted to undertake. I was wondering when he would mention the disco ball by the time he was interrupted and we had to leave.

It was not until quite some time later that I caught up with him and asked how he was doing. It turned out he had retired from competitive semi-professional fly-fishing so suddenly had some spare time. He had finally, after close to 20 years, managed to close in the furnace and make a bathroom. All he had left to do was make the bar.
I wished him luck.

Once again, years passed before I saw him again. This time, he had just recently retired from his actual job and had found enough time to dedicate to making the bar of his dreams. He brought me down and showed me what he had done. The cabinets ran about 12 feet behind the bar counter, up to a stainless steel fridge. He had the wall completely covered with mirror and even had a neon sign that said “Pabst.” The countertop looked like polished mahogany, although the rest of the woodwork was red oak. There was even a foot-rail and five spinning stools.

I sat down and slapped my hand on the counter. “This is beautiful.”

“Thank-you,” he beamed. “It took a long time but it was worth it.”

“Barkeep, beer please.”

“Sorry, Don. I don’t drink.”