Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The fish tank


What you see above is a fish tank, but it's not just any fish tank. It's actually an old apothecary jar for which Steve's mother macraméed that hanger more than 30 years ago, back when macramé was all the rage, and which has been hosting a fish ever since. If you look closely, you can see Tiny, our bumblebee cichlid, swimming at the top.

In the house in Arlington, Tiny and his cool house were seldom seen because they hung upstairs in the "private" part of the house--few guests ever went up there. In the new house down here, however, he'll be on regular display, hung dramatically in the great room on a 30-foot chain from the vaulted ceiling. He'll be right next to the fireplace, the first thing you see as you look straight ahead upon entering the front door.

One of the many wonderful people we've met through our home-building adventure here is a guy named Richard, who works as a handyman for Gary, our builder. He came here to the rental last summer to do some work on the floors, and the first thing he noticed was the fish tank. Turns out he loves pet fish, has had a sideline for years building unique wood stands for standard aquariums, and happens to have a larger apothecary jar (the one above is 5 gallons; his is 10) that he's been wondering what to do with. At the time, he said he'd give the jar to us when we got settled into the new place, and there the matter lay.

Now Richard is the one putting the stain on all the oak woodwork in the new place, and we've caught up with him as we're there painting while he does his staining work. Yesterday he mentioned our fish tank again, and was excited when we told him where it would hang in the great room. He told us he'd bring his 10-gallon jar to us whenever we were ready for it--and he also wants to give us some cichlids! (We discovered that Tiny doesn't appreciate company in his 5-gallon quarters: he ate the roommate with whom he came to us within a day of their arrival. Maybe he'll do better in larger accommodations.) These jars are not inexpensive and they are hard to find. This is a true gift, one of the many that have come to us unbidden in this new place.

So now Steve has another project on his list: replace the macramé hanger, which is starting to dry-rot and won't hold a larger jar anyway. I tried macramé--it didn't work for me. Steve enjoys doing it just because he likes it, and it's also a way of honoring his mother. It's wonderful to be able to surround yourself with things that are not only beautiful but have such great backstories. You don't just admire them; you love them.

Update: the neighbor cabinet-maker came in with a price we can live with, especially considering that armoires for today's wide-screen TVs are not yet being manufactured for the mass market. So we'll have a truly unique and distinctive piece of furniture as a focal point in the room instead of an ugly TV screen.

16 comments:

Linda - SE PA said...

Ralph,

I absolutely love the apothacary jar for fish! This is a new one for me and I am gushing...

Glad the armoire worked out. It will be a wonderful addition.

Yep... backstories/history make for the most interesting conversations, especially for dinner parties.

Zoey and Me said...

You must take a picture of the new fish tank. This I gotta see. Also the armoire, once finished. We haven't gotten too serious but talked to a few referred cabinet makers for our project and finding cherry wood or mahoghany is scarce where we are, expensive to get anywhere which is why people pay more to buy the real thing. We don't have a design as yet so will hold off until we do but will also wait to hear how things turn out up at your place. Good post today Ralph!

Ralph said...

OK, but a word of advice from the get-go, Z&M: no reason to go with solid cherry or mahogany unless you want to pay with both arms and legs--such wood on such a large piece would be hugely expensive unless you're very, very rich. Ours will be oak plywood, essentially a veneer, and we'll stain it a color that will go harmonize (but not match) the other hardwood in the house. Take a look at the finished staircase in my construction album, on the last page of this: (http://picasaweb.google.com/pcv6971/NCConstruction?authkey=Gv1sRgCLnUor2SobmCDw#). That's a solid oak staircase stained red mahogany.

Cuidado said...

Good news about the cabinet maker. Your home will be filled with unique items like the armoir and your unique fish tanks. You'll have to gibe us a grand video tour when it's all completed.

Zoey and Me said...

Bummer. Why can't a person copy and paste from this comments window? I can't type that thing into the browser that long. Send me that Picaso link by regular email please. I was thinking of parting with $800 to a grand for a nice piece of solid furniture. My shock was the one cabinet guy looked at my Armoire in my office where I have the printer and he quoted minimum $1000 for that and it's half the size for a cabinet to hold a 50 inch screen.

Ralph said...

You know me and my show-and-tell, Cuidado. I promise!

The cottage by the Cranelake said...

I have had aquariums since I was six years old and can´t be without one :-) If I found the right Bumblebee ciklid (who knows if more of them is called that) it´s a quite aggressive species. I don´t think even 10 gallons will make him happy with a room mate :-)


I have never had an apothacary jar as an aquarium, but I have had a jar for pickled cucumbers :-)
Have a great day now!
Christer.

Ralph said...

I also get the impression that cichlids are aggressive, fish, Christer. and I'm not really optimistic about putting another fish in there.

Don't know how many of them are called "bumblebee," but that's how this one was sold and he definitely has yellow and black stripes like the bee. Previously we had had solid-color cichlids--one yellow and one blue. They can live quite a long time--the last one we had was with us fpr about 10 years. This one is about 2 years old--he moved here with us, in hos jar!

Mim said...

Love your macrame and fish story.
Hopefully there will be no more eating of tank mates when little Tiny moves to his larger home!!

And your cabinet is happening too.
you've had good luck in those parts connecting with local craftsmen! Nice.

Ralph said...

Hi, Mim! Christer in his message above confirmed my suspicion that cichlids are aggressive and Tiny probably wouldn't like a rooommate no matter how big his apartment. (We named him Tiny, by the way, because he was just a little fry when we got him. He's big now!) I think we'll wait for Tiny to pass to the great apothecary jar in the sky and then see what kind of fish are more sociable.

splendid said...

lovely photos and great news Ralph!
yes i agree about the fish ~ there are social fish that would be happier in that 10 gallon jar.

love the macramé we learned it in gradeschool in the 70's

ah the 70's earth shoes and good tunes!

Kurious said...

Hi Ralph
I empathize with the shoulder issues you and Steve are having! I have a partial rotator cuff tear in my left shoulder and now the right one is feeling the same way. I didn't have much luck with the anti-inflammatory drugs or PT. A cortisone injection gave me 6 weeks of blissful pain free existence but the pain on the left has returned though not as bad. The right shoulder pain is new and we are going the same route again. Every time I forget and reach above my head there is a staggering stab of pain. Old age may bring wisdom but it also brings PAIN. Can I have my 25 year old body back?
Jim

Kurious said...

PS. I remember the fish tank from many moons ago when you had it downstairs! Always liked it!

Ralph said...

Spendid, you've added one more confirmation of my suspicion about cichlids. Tiny will do just fine pn his own. Hate to turn down free beautiful fish, bit we also don't need any more aquariums. The again, how can Richard be housing all his cichlids in one tank??? We'll have to ask him about that.)

Ralph said...

Jim, if it's an actual rotator cuff tear, have the operation! There's no way I'd put up with chronic, debilitating pain if there was a way out of it....if the time comes that I need a hip replacement, I'll gladly submit. Remember what you're doing to the underlying infrastructure as you favor that shoulder and adapt to the pain. Ain't good....

Steve seems to be progressing slowly. The bursitis diagnosis was a relief because with all of his neck and back problems, we are always expecting the worst.

勇氣 said...

may the blessing be always with you!!........................................