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The War of the Floors
... A love story ... unbelievable but, true …
I new better but, I was optimistic when I contemplated marriage — for the second time — not being aware, of course, that married life would incite “The War of the Floors” and I would become 'a married and depressed man' in the mêlée.
In the beginning …
I was visiting a sister in Toronto, sitting on her balcony and looking through the newspaper for an apartment to rent in High Park — in mid-1980's — when a neighbour, one of her casual girlfriends, came over, excited about “something” she had purchased in trendy Bloor West Village. I was “out of sight” and able to ignore the “excited girl” for the most part ... until my sister called me inside to introduce “Sweetheart Johanne”. I didn’t know my sister had “set up” this introductory session and I didn’t know That Girl was going to join us at the movie theatre that night. But there I was… ambushed. That evening the girls had a chatty time at the entrance to the theatre and at the restaurant (at my gleeful expense) but, I was uncomfortable with The Setup.
“That Girl” called me a few days later to ask if I would like to join her to share a bottle of Chateau Neuf du Pape, and perhaps, stay for dinner. Better prepared and “fully fortified” by Johnny Walker (a friend of mine from Kilmarnock, Scotland), I reluctantly agreed. The “date” went well ... toooo well, in fact. I was seriously depressed for days thereafter ... I couldn't concentrate on my work and I couldn't sleep for 18 hours at a stretch. After she invited me out on two or three more occasions, I had no choice but to admit to myself that “this girl was special”… but, oh, I resist change ... and I am sooo... cautious.
A week, two weeks pass between calls ... again and again, I would reluctantly accept her invitations. It became evident after a month (or two) I could not resist a fine wine, a home-cooked gourmet meal and a pleasant evening of casual and fascinating banter with an attractive and vivacious French hostess ... and then, experience featherweight tiptoeing up and down my back. The experience surpassed that of Singapore Airlines ... my high expectations were being met ... “Beyond Reason”.
After a few months “That Girl Proposed” … a change ... “something better”. This was a “take charge” type of woman — a Flight Attendant. I became fully aware that Air Canada had spared no expense in training her to Take Charge a person 'authorized' by High command to make firm decisions and carry out the appropriate action “in any situation” no matter what the consequences to personal health and safety — an unruly passenger, a forced landing, a crash ... her professional training covered it all and more.
I began to suffer anxiety attacks ...
She was thirty-six year old, never married,
She did not have another man in her life — or kidz or dogz,
She had no debt and was financially secure,
She was 5’ 6” inches tall and weighed 110 lbs.,
She walked and exercised with Jane Fonda and ate right,
She spoke with celebrities regularly and held her own (with a starlit smile),
She was a certified gourmet cook and set a table with style,
She was attractive, vivacious, a great conversationalist,
She was liked by everyone we met,
She had explored the world in detail and was always exploring,
She had a global outlook on most subjects,
She was ever sooooo enchanting…
Her Proposal came in the form of an innocent question; “Wouldn’t it be nice to do more things together?”, she asked.
... That is when trouble erupted in Paradise. Like most men, I am a bit dumb-on-the-outside and resist-change-inside ... I knew she wanted COMMITMENT and it was apparent there was little, if anything, I could do to stop her from taking charge and “shackling” me... no matter how unruly I became.
I was bemused. Why would a woman who travels the world — one that meets all types of interesting and moneyed men of influential position — want to commiserate with the likes of me … a self-proclaimed and proud curmudgeon?. ... a happily-single man who goes out of his way to avoid any women-of-interest ... a happily-single man who just wants to read, build things and work hard on little projects ... projects that will “Change the World”.
At another of her famous home-cooked gourmet dinners, I voiced my concern over her Proposal; I don’t mind if you want “to do more things together”… but, I need space.
No Problem., she replied. This cycle, I’m flying to Singapore, I’m gone for ten days every month ...What more could you ask for in a girlfriend?
The last time I checked, not all Air Canada flights depart to Singapore (or anywhere else) for ten days, I said ... some fly to Montreal and back in a matter of hours.
She was not deterred; True, she admits ... but, I have seniority and I usually fly overseas; London, Paris, Zurich, Madrid, Tokyo, Beijing, Amsterdam, Copenhagen ... When I fly The America's I usually fly three to four days every week ... Calgary, Vancouver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Buenos Aires/Rio … so you’ll have space and plenty of time for your projects. When I fly to Asia I’m gone eight to twelve days and when I fly to Europe I’m gone four to six days. I know you need time but, when I’m around, we can do a few more things together … What more could you ask for in a girlfriend?
I take a deep breath and continue to listen to her build her Value Proposition; You can fly with me for “free” if you want to… your ticket is almost free… $35.00 anywhere Air Canada flies in Canada, $50.00 anywhere Air Canada flies in Europe (in 1987 dollars). You can have your Johnny Walker RED served on flights at No Charge ... your food on flights is No Charge, movies are No Charge, newspapers and magazines are No Charge, stereo headsets are No Charge… the Purser might even sit you in First Class and give you a First Class Travel Kit at No Charge ... and you can sit in the Flight Deck on takeoff and landing if the Captain gives you permission to visit. Have you ever seen ... Do you enjoy ... Would you like to ... Can we do that together?
When we get to my destination in Paris, the Crew Bus picks us up at the plane, Customs is at the plane to check my passports ... “You don’t have to go through Customs” (in 1987). The Crew Bus takes us to the Paris Hilton — two blocks from the Eiffel Tower.You stay with me in my room at No Charge. Air Canada pays (a generous allowance) for food. ... We can go for a drink at The Eiffel Tower Gardens with my Crew the night we arrive ... I know everything about getting around in Paris. I know where everything is and the best way to get there, I can show you more in two days than most people see in a week … we can walk the Champs Elysees, take in a matinee show at the Lido, tour the Arc de Tromphe and walk the gardens outside the Louvre ... we can lunch on baguettes, fresh pâté de foie gras and raspberries, then tour through the quaint streets of Paris ‘till dawn. On the third day we can walk along the Seine ... rest by the hotel pool in the afternoon — where you will ignore the 32” to 64” bare-busts — then, we'll go for a sophluent seafood dinner in the evening. After that, we can play Mascotti and swim in the Opanphant at midnight and enjoy Bradera under the heat lamps at the rooftop garden and look east over Paris for a hint of the rising sun.
I sit in awe and listen: I am lost in this world of international travel and privilege.
On the fourth day, we fly home … I take a deeper breath and “buckle my seat belt”. She continues, with stealth mobility ... When I’m home, I’m often out with friends — lunches, yoga, shopping, cycling, walking, talking — you don’t have to come out of your shell — it’s “Girl Talk” and I treasure my time with my friends ... or, ... or I'm in Montreal with my family and friends. You have space ... but when I’m home, we can enjoy a bottle of wine, share a meal and cuddle together.
I stopped breathing ... Brain Dead. ... drank one-too-many glasses of Johnny Walker… and reluctantly agreed to go to Paris... but, nothing more. No commitment ... and certainly no sex “with a wild and worldly woman”.
The next day I thought about her “something better” offer — her Value Proposition — or more precisely, I thought, of her proposal to get married ... it seemed practical, reasonable and somewhat enticing. I began thinking more and more about it. I talked with my family then, I thought about it twenty-four hours a day for weeks. Everyone agreed “that girl” was better than I ever deserved … then, The Boss telephoned me; my mother, the formidable former Mayor of Mattawa in the Ottawa Valley. (Mother met her when she was in Mattawa with my sister the previous summer.) She was quick to “reassure” me: “Don’t you lose That Girl. She is special. She is strong, smart, independent .. she doesn't need you … she is a wonderfully smart, independent woman.” OK mom, I will accept her proposal ... I give up ... everything seems logical yet nothing makes sense. I must be in love.
The Art of the Deal
Now, I'm astounded; “My Girl” backtracks on her Proposal of Marriage. ... “I didn't propose anything ... just a bit more time together, she exclaims.
No., I say; “YOU ARE PROPOSING MARRIAGE.” Because, the fact is, I do not believe any relationship can work over the long term if one or both people have “a choice to leave when trouble erupts in Paradise” … especially when the woman has a driver’s license and a 747 jet parked (and waiting) at Pearson International Airport.
“If we're going to commit, we're going to get married.”
Married. … She retorts; I didn't mean getting married … Listen, I retort, more forcefully, I’ve only had one date in my life before you came along … I don’t “date well” — I don't like small-talk and I'm not that sociable — I can't maintain three hours of cuddling for too many more years. Cohabitation without marriage will not work for me. If we're going to live together, we best get married.
Vivacious Johanne is shocked ... I didn't mean for you to move in with me, either!
I had quite enough of her backtracking so, I “swept her off of her feet” with my usual diplomacy... Look, we like each other ... right? ... we can live together, but, we have to be married ... and we will learn to love each other over the next thirty or forty years.
“My Girl” sat down, exhausted, speechless .... and said nothing … “That’s it, I quip, “You are just like every other woman ... you're not happy until you ruin a man's life ... we’re getting married.”
Together we chose an engagement ring and a pair of wedding rings … then we were off to Montreal to introduce me to her family ... I have never in my life had a Roast-of-Chicken on a Friday night, a Rack-of-Lamb on a Saturday night and a Prime-Rib-of-Beef on a Sunday night — all in one weekend. Good Lord, I want to marry your mother.
After a grand weekend with her family, she asked her elegant and protective father what he thought of me… “He’s polite, he said, then continued saddened and almost tearful — “He's English. “… “He'll never embarrass you in public”. With those few artful words, father gave “approval”.
I gave my Fiancée her engagement ring at Christmas. A very small wedding was planned for September.
The wedding went well and I started to travel The World “on weekends”… off to London, England for four days, down to San Francisco for two days ... mixing travel with work contracts and getting away almost every month to another interesting world-class city.
My Girl treated me like Royalty... every time she came home from a flight it was like Christmas. She brought me chocolates from Switzerland, a kimono from Japan, cheese from Denmark, wine from France, leather from Spain, cashmere from England, bubble bath from Germany, art from Italy, salmon from Scotland. She would not quit bearing gifts.
My “arranged marriage” was sweet. I began to “really, really like “My Girl”… she even told me she loved me. I asked her why? She replied, “You're kind, honest, independent, adventurous … a terrible, terrible tease and absolutely impossible to talk to in a serious fashion … you are fun to be with ... but, more importantly, you allow me to be me. Not controlling — No questions asked. Yeah … I replied; I lost my first wife for those very same reasons.
Trouble in Paradise
For years we enjoyed each other in peace and harmony … then, in 1995 we decided to build my “dream home”. It was stunning; we were “proud parents” … but there was trouble brewing in Paradise … My Girl and I never “bickered” before, but the costly hardwood Flooring — which was done three times by two different companies before it was finally “done right” — became an issue that threatened “to do us in”.
We are “clean freaks” and we like things done right. The problem was that we were in the country with a dog ... but, we were living with “city” Flooring. Sand debris was always accumulating on my Floorings from my shoes and clothing and from my newly adopted dog. Over time, Puppy Jake became an even bigger issue ... he would grow to seventy pounds and use the hardwood Flooring as a “treadmill” and “skating rink” every time the doorbell rang. The doorbell set him off like a rocket … and it did so often. School kids think a doorbell “doesn't work” unless they see the door actually open for them to sell their Easter candy, hockey tickets, cookies, chocolate bars, raffle tickets and “weeds” they would collect on the side of the road to sell to neighbours ... suckers like me.
My wife likes plants … so the battlefield moved upstairs — a vista-lounge covered in 80 oz. luxury carpet. Water from the plants would seep onto the expensive broadloom — or puppy would knock over a planter — and the carpet got stained. Then, the ceramic tile in the front foyer cracked and the ceramic tile in the master bathroom 'split'. “The carpets can stay stained and the tiles can stay broke.” I hollered, at no one in particular — knowing full well, I would have to clean the broadloom and replace the broken tile or I wouldn't be able to sleep at night.
My Girl blamed me for the hardwood Flooring fiasco because I wanted “a shiny hardwood Flooring” and I wanted luxury broadloom. I swore… “The next house we build will not have hardwood Flooring that shows every scratch or carpets that collects debris and stains and I do not want ceramic that is cold and cracks.
Our marital situation became sooo...bad, that when I asked My Girl what she wanted for Christmas, she said: “A Divorce! “ I cheerfully responded: “Sorry darling ... could yo pick something else ... I wasn't planning on spending that much this year! “
My Girl, nonetheless, is like-a-dog-with-a-bone ... she just won't let go!
So, what can we use for Flooring in my next house ... something Livable? ... I like the warm look of real wood.”
I’m going to install a 'distressed' Red Pine Flooring, so when the dog uses it as a treadmill on his skate to the door ... the wear-and-tear won't show as much ... if we drop a planter from my shoulder, the “impact” won't glare up at me. She shot back; pine is a softwood, isn't it. … I’ve seen 'distressed' pine in restaurants and stores ... it must be durable, but, how’s that going to look in my new home?
Pine is a durable wood and a beautiful wood, I assured her … it’s softer than hardwood but it's not butter. Red Pine is approximately three times heavier and denser (harder, tougher, stronger) than White, Yellow or the American pines ... it has larger, more pronounced reddish knotts and a more rhythmic grain ... an excellent choice for Flooring because of its firmness and its dramatic good looks.
“We liked the pine Flooring in the lodge at Montebello ... it must stand up to heavy traffic”, she says.
I nod in agreement; “Pine has been used for Flooring in lodges, luxury houses and commercial buildings for centuries …it's durable, warm and romantic and it adds “cuddly” value to a home. I know because I sold a house where the only real selling feature was the “cuddly, romantic” pine Flooring … people “go nuts” when the see it. But, pine needs to be 'distressed' to camouflage wear and tear … in fact, over time, it actually looks better because it teaches people that “comfort” is not built on perfection, it is built on “integrity of intent”.
No I'm on-a-roll ... take a look in design magazines and you'll see luxury cottages in the Muskoka’s and estate homes in The Hamptons and in Martha's Vineyard ... many with pine Flooring — Goldie Hawn has it in her multi-million dollar summer home on Lake Muskoka. If it's smart enough for celebrities, high society and millionaires, it's good enough for us ... that's the solution to my Flooring problems.”
Kid and Dog Friendly!
When I set out to find a supplier for 'distressed' pine Flooring, no supplier could be found that could supply what I was willing to put into a new and valuable home ... so, I decided to experiment with new wood until I was satisfied that the Flooring I developed would satisfy my needs for livability and longevity ... basically, I needed Kid and Dog Friendly Flooring. ... and, I wanted “the artistic look”, not “the plastic look” of hardwood.
After a great deal of research followed by development, I succeeded in creating “Kid and Dog Friendly Flooring”. ...
Today, we live a more carefree lifestyle with a large active dog, visiting kids and tumbling planters. We find there's a big difference in the amount of care the Flooring requires. When we had hardwood (in my last few houses) we felt we had to vacuum at least once, if not twice a day (in the hallway) and mop as often … with 'distressed' Red Pine Flooring, we're comfortable vacuuming and mopping once or twice a week. my 'distressed' pine Flooring is easy-going, it’s warm on the feet and rich looking. my dog still uses the Flooring as a “treadmill” and a “skating rink” every time the doorbell rings but, the Flooring doesn't expose the wear-and-tear to the eye as much as hardwood... we don't notice the scratches (although, we know they are there). We are delighted.
A Memorable Company Name
Looking back, it was only our sense of humour and my “inability to drive or fly-off, at will” that got us through the house building process and The War of the Floors ... I would half-jokingly lament to anyone who would listen; “Any man who lives with a wife and kids and a dog ... and hardwood Flooring and carpeting ... is “a married and depressed man”. That is why I named my little upstart company, A. MARREED & D. PRESTMAN DISTRESSED RED PINE FLOORING”.
The War of the Floors is over, but now, I have other issues to deal with. As young as she is, My Girl now senior with Air Canada ... Good for her, not so good for me. Her seniority allows her to choose “better flying” — in effect, same pay, much less travel. Her layovers in other countries are much shorter — she refuses to bid (fly) long layovers anymore — “I miss you and Jake” (my dog) and I miss being together, I miss gardening and TVA”, she says. In fact, outside of a trip to Japan (on which I accompanied her) my wife has not flown to Singapore or to any other distant destination for a 10-day stint since before we were married. Beijing, four days, that's it. Now, she refuses to venture beyond “an extended turnaround” …fly to Madrid, rest one day — calamari and a beer on a tapas patio while sitting under an umbrella — fly home ... “Darling, I'm home for ten days”. ... or, fly to Rio, rest a few days — calamari and a beer on a tapas patio while sitting under an umbrella — fly home ... “Darling, I'm home for two weeks”.
Perplexed, I asked My Girl how many days she will work in June? She says, “Seven! “
And, how much time will she have off for holidays this year? “Three-and-a-half months! “, she replied.
You work seven days a month and then you get three-and-a-half months off., I stood breathless. I ask you ... how can any marriage survive that much togetherness? How do “normal” couples manage day-in-and-day-out ... together?
In effect, Air Canada has (almost) shut down my Gravy Train. It is much more difficult to get chocolates from Switzerland, a kimono from Japan, cheese from Denmark, wine from France, leather from Spain, cashmere from England, bubble bath from Germany, art from Italy and salmon from Scotland. I ask myself, “what's happening to her Value Proposition” ... the “promise” I was sold when I gave up my Happy-Single Status in favour of “Something Better”?
I tell my family how tough “Married Life” really is, but they can not relate … least of all, my late mother, “The Boss”, who said; “Don’t you tease “That Girl” like you did your (six) sisters.” And “My Girl’s” father — the Frenchman who said; “He's English.…”— would he approve of my Going Public with “a married and depressed man”, if he were alive today? … I think YES, he lived with a wife and three kids and two Scotch Collie dogs and he lived with scratched hardwood Flooring, soiled broadloom and cracked ceramic tile ... he could easily relate to the grief caused by living with those Floorings ... he actually enjoyed my “teasing” his strong-willed daughter. He had a great sense of humour; he laughed when I told him how I failed in my struggle to avoid “that girl” … and how she proposed marriage to me … and how I have had only two dates in my lifetime and I married both of them out of 'pity' for these women and out of sympathy for their distraught parents.
The Value Proposition
With the success of my warm and romantic 'distressed' Red Pine Flooring in our home, My Girl suggested that there must be a lot of people who would want a new 'distressed' Flooring for the same reasons we did ... I was elated ... “You're telling me that The War of the Floors is over”, I declared. “Yes”, she says … our Flooring is beautiful, it’s easy-care and you now know how to “do it right”. I agree; The War of the Floors must be on a par with The Battle of the Sexes. So, with “experience to burn” in construction and a love for hands-on physical labour, I began offering my unique and beautiful 'distressed' Northern Ontario Wide Plank Knotty RED PINE Flooring to Visionary Clients (in 2001) for their homes, cottages and chalets and, to the business community, for use in retail stores, restaurants, golf clubs, ski resorts and the like.
Kid and Dog Friendly!
My mind went abuzz... “Kid and Dog Friendly Flooring.”... that is the practical benefit, I exclaim. It works.
Marreed-Prestman offers “The Alternative Wood Floor”. Live a Carefree Lifestyle with the Kids and the Dog ... A new Distressed Red Pine Flooring can take the punishment and camouflage the abuse. Enjoy the warmth, beauty and durability of a new “heritage” Flooring … “Old World” charm, I say.
Unbelievable, but True
My Girl beams with enthusiasm; “I think it's a great idea … I think a lot of people would want 'distressed' pine Flooring for the same reasons we did ... and ... if you build for someone else, it will get you out of your (home) office more often. No offence, darling, “you are every woman's dream” ... I not only married you because your are handy and can fix anything but, you are incredibly thoughtful. But ... I'd like more time alone ... to read, plant things and watch TVA ...”
I stood complimented ... shocked and appalled.
Love is a Force of Nature
As a veteran of The Battle of the Sexes, I was 'prepared' for remarriage ... I'm a “Take Charge” kind-of-guy and I “Plan for Success”. I even wrote a “Mission Statement” for marriage ... “In the event of a threat in my marital relationship — real or implied — whenever my wife becomes unruly (as women tend to do from time-to-time). “ I will respond with wisdom, love, firmness, self-control and humour.
“You want space ... is that what you're saying ... to me? “, I ask.
Yes., came the firm but gentle reply ... then she brings on her blissful smile: “You are welcome to come home in the evenings and you can stay over on weekends.”
I paused, shook my head, pushed my tongue firmly into my cheek and smiled almost graciously; “You know, Love ... there are some very good reasons why you can 'insult' me like that and get away with it ... Macadamia Nuts from Hawaii, sourdough bread from San Francisco, cigars from Cuba, 100% proof rum from Jamaica …”.
Postscript: Good News, Bad News.
Marreed-Prestman — has successfully completed recreation rooms, urban townhouses, country homes, and million dollar cottages, a house trailer (with two additions), a number of “family” cottages, semi-detached “retirement” bungalows, urban houses, country homes and even a penthouse condominium ... See: Condo Magic page . Marreed-Prestman also offers Commercial Interior Design and, now, I have created the amazing ArtFloor.CA ... a “Wooden Rug” that is designed to “Change Your Indoor World”.
Hand-Crafted (Hand Distressed) Rustic speaking ... Distressed Red Pine Flooring highlights antique, bohemian, modern and ultra modern furnishings ... and it works well in high traffic and fairly well in wet' areas like foyers, kitchens and bathrooms with normal precaution (do not leave water 'sit' on any wood Flooring for an extended period of time).
My installation and artistic methods have expanded and improved and continue to evolve in accordance with client requirements and my need to express “quality, art and functionality” ... client homes and cottages are literally transformed and elevated and clients beam with excitement and extend their compliments on my uniquely Canadian product ... a product that delivers on its promise of liveability, longevity and value.
Now, I am busy with processing DIY Orders and working on Full Installations, year round ... I personally do all of the installations and finishing with one crew... therefore, supply for Full Installation is limited by availability ... to create your 'Limited Edition' Flooring. Usually, I am “sold out” months in advance, otherwise, I enjoy “the opportunity to work on my little 'world-shattering' projects”.
Will your new Flooring be one of my Rustic Limited Editions? Can I accommodate your needs?
Thank you to my past and present clients who have had very specific and interesting reasons4buying and who understand the uniqueness of a one-of-a-kind Red Pine Flooring (price vs. value). I have (with my crew) installed a one-of-a-kind artistic Flooring — and millwork — for each of you. The work has been enjoyable and rewarding.
Johanne: Air Canada Flight Attendant, Retired (after 35 years service at age 58)
“My Girl is now RETIRED. ... and, determined to stay home!”
“a married and depressed man”, I remain,