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Yankee Humor | Welcome to Your Really Old House

Yankee Humor | Welcome to Your Really Old House
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Old New England HousesPhoto/Art by Mark Brewer

Congratulations! As the proud new owner of a vintage New England home, you can look forward to many years of satisfaction, enjoyment, and repairs.

Steep Thrills
Note the daring slope of the roof, which has approximately the same pitch as Tuckerman Ravine and will get you to the bottom just as fast in case of emergency. A built-in snow-removal system uses heat from the house to melt the white stuff and transform it into those charming full-length icicles featured on New England calendars. (See Appendix B: “Ice Dams.”)

Boxed In
The attic of your old house comes pre-filled with ancient furniture, clothes, and trunks. Don’t worry, none of it’s valuable–your junk will fit right in! The attic is climate-controlled to be an oven in summer and a freezer in winter, just as nature intended.

Rooms with a Flue
Your brick chimney was designed to let small animals come and go at their leisure, providing you with many happy evenings playing “What’s That Noise?”

Breezy Does It
You’ll enjoy fresh air year-round, thanks to patented Flo-Thru technology, consisting of hundreds of tiny air leaks strategically placed around windows, doors, and other openings. Many of these gaps are large enough to let insects pass through, bringing the wonder of nature right into your home.

Hidden Turn-Ons
Light switches in new houses are generally placed just inside entry doors–boring! You’ll find your light switches outside the door, down the hall, and possibly in your neighbor’s broom closet.

Privy Counsel
You’ll enjoy the luxury of 1-1/4 baths (the downstairs toilet was originally an ironing-board closet). The main bath features a clawfoot tub that your friends will ooh and aah over but will not take off your hands, as it weighs only slightly less than the Hoover Dam. There’s no shower, but you can easily add one using a variety of contraptions, most of which will also add a refreshing moistness to the walls and floors.

Wall or Nothing
The walls of your home have been filled with old newspapers that provide an insulating R-value of 0.0002, largely owing to the use of words like “coruscate” and “perspicuous” in the text. The surface is genuine horsehair plaster, noted for its attractiveness, durability, and tendency to crumble to pieces if you try to hammer a picture hanger into it.

Floor Better or Worse
Luxuriate in the warmth and beauty of genuine hardwood floors. They’re guaranteed to be maintenance-free, as long as you don’t care what they look like. They also act as built-in hygrometers, alerting you to excess humidity by popping up high enough to stub a toe on.

Cellar Beware
Your New England cellar is a haven of dampness, coolness, and mold spores the size of rutabagas. Unlike modern basements with their tediously straight angles and smooth walls, your cellar incorporates features of its natural surroundings, such as boulders, ledges, and major root systems. In places, the cellar is actually large enough to let you stand up straight, though generally not where you need to access wires or pipes for repairs. Here, you’ll find handy crawl spaces, home to a variety of interesting creatures, including spiders resembling mohair work gloves. After a long winter, the sound of running water will alert you to the arrival of spring as it passes through your cellar.

The Heat Goes On … and On … and On
Your old house comes equipped with an original furnace the size of a Winnebago. This classic heap o’ technology fires up with a house-rattling roar just a few decibels shy of a space-shuttle launch, giving you the calm assurance that it’s working day and night. Heat is delivered through a single vent to the living room, where it’s free to roam the rest of the house, though it rarely feels called upon to do so. In later models, heat may be provided via iron radiators, which can also be used as anchors by any Class 2 cargo ship.

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