Okay, confession time. How many of you have had to surrender your decorations, or move them to your man-cave, in favour of doilies, scented candles and giant ferns? How many of you are embarassed to greet your friends in your own living rooms because of the bowls of potpourri that somehow replaced your three-foot-long model of the U.S.S. Missouri? (Hey, come to think of it, where IS the Mighty Mo, anyhow? I haven’t seen her in a while…) Well fear not, Hoons. Not only are we here to help, but we have enlisted a spy to help us in our covert mission to try and reclaim some of our own houses. She is sympathetic to our cause, and knowledgeable in these things. Her condo features both scented candles and Matchbox cars displayed prominently. A big flat-screen and decorative pillows. Paintings of flowers and a framed macro close-up of the hood ornament from a 1955 Pontiac Chieftain. And she is helping us Hoons to move out of the man-cave, and to do so with enough class that we even seem like we belong. Step One: Agreement The first step, obviously, is to address the problem. This could take some time, as it’s more effective to make mention of the subject and then drop it. Women notice everything, so saying something like “You know, I just don’t feel comfortable in this room. It has nothing of ME in it. It’s like I don’t even live here.” and then heading sadly to your man-cave will let her realize that there is a problem. You will need to identify a few decorations that you find particularly offensive. These will frequently be bowls of potpourri, photos of chubby babies, or things involving lace with no discernible purpose. Make sure she finds you staring at it at some point, looking contemplative. When she asks what the problem is, say simply, “I really don’t like this. Not at all.” this may lead to a small argument, but remain rational about it. Use the word “feel” a lot: “I can’t help it; that’s just how I feel.” If you play it right, she’ll start to understand that all those chubby babies stuffed into hollowed out vegetables give you the creeps. Step Two: Analysis The next step involves some careful observation; you must determine your lady’s tastes in decorating, as this determines the direction of your project. Your significant other may like many bright colours, or metal finishes, or warm woods, or plain monochrome designs. This is what you need to determine, I can’t help you here; every woman is different, and you are going to have to try being observant. Once you’ve made that realization, you need to tailor your new projects towards her tastes. But whatever it is, there is a simple rule that needs to be followed: Everything needs to have a place. Step Three: Understanding Let’s put this in context. If you’re building a proper shop in your garage, you can’t just dump all your tools in piles on the workbench. Not only is it inconvenient if you need to quickly find your oil filter wrench, but it makes it embarrassing if you have visitors. Let’s face it, if you have a proper garage, car-guy friends like to hang out in there, have a beer, and smoke a cigar. That simply can’t be done if you have tools just lying in piles everywhere. So you invest in a good tool-chest to store them in, and organize them in a way that makes them logically easy to find for you. Your significant other probably takes a similar approach to decorating her rooms; as such, if you walk in with an old piston, covered in grease, and tell her it would make a great centerpiece for your dining room table, you’re going to get kicked in the nuts. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Now, we’re going on the assumption here that you have a man-cave in addition to your garage. (If not, and you haven’t managed to make your garage serve double-duty, well, there may just be no hope left for you.) Since you’re here, we’re also going to make the assumption that it is decorated in various tributes to automobilia; if not, it’s not important. If your man-cave is appropriately decorated, it probably sticks out like a sore thumb. And as any designer on those home-decorating channels will tell you, a good design must be able to flow through the entire house. The fact that your room doesn’t fit with the rest of the design is a failure of you and your spouse to work together to be harmonious. You need to find ways to make your two design styles work together, so that your various motifs can be seen throughout the house, indicating the ability of the two diverse aspects of your relationship – yours and hers – to come together and comingle in a way that creates something beautiful together. Okay, I just made all that crap up, and I’m kinda proud of it. Try those lines on your spouse, let me know how it works. The important thing, however, is to realize that she has a place for everything, just as you would with your tools. As such, you need to work with her to place your pieces of art. Now let’s look at your artwork. Step Four: The Projects So. Here’s the tricky part. You think you’re not artistic, you think you’re not creative enough to make these things work. But you are, you just need a bit of help. Anything can be art if it’s given its proper respect. The idea is to turn the object from something mundane into something special. A simple example to start is this gift my friend, a teacher, received when they built a new school to replace the one he worked in. When the old school was torn down, the principal collected pieces of the exterior walls – really just concrete lumps – and arranged them nicely inside an acrylic box. He added the school logo and a label saying it was from the exterior walls of the school, and gave them out to the staff as presents. Virtually everyone has them displayed appropriately somewhere. There is no reason something similar couldn’t be done by a car guy. Indeed, I wish I had thought of it earlier. I have a cracked piston from a Chevy 327 kicking around somewhere that may or may not have been the result of a little too much fun in a ’63 Impala. With a great deal of cleaning and polishing – and who doesn’t love a reason to break out the Dremel? – and a careful mounting on an appropriate base, it could have been a beautiful item for a bookshelf. Speaking of books, virtually every car guy has magazines sitting around, and virtually every car guy has been yelled at to throw them all out. If so, this is an indication that you aren’t displaying them correctly. A nicely-organized storage rack can work wonders in solving this tension, but one suggestion we received sounds even better. Since there’s probably a particular magazine that you are keeping for a specific reason, or maybe a few of them, they should be displayed in such a way that the reason is obvious. A friend suggested investing in a very cheap podium, like they use in libraries to display a particularly huge dictionary. Place a few magazines on this podium, and place it neatly and unobtrusively in a corner of a sitting room. Seek feedback from your spouse; odds are good, if the podium is nice and the presentation is tasteful, you will meet with only minimal resistance if you’re willing to compromise on placement. Step Five: Advanced Projects So once you’ve broken the ice and managed to integrate some pieces of automobilia into the rest of the house, you may want to take on some greater challenges. If you’re lucky, you have the kind of spouse who recognizes your passion for what it is, and will begin making suggestions for better ways to incorporate automobilia into her decorating schemes, and will give you some tasteful items that will soften the testosterone overload of your man-cave in a stylish way. If you can take your project to that level, it’s time for some advanced projects. In the first case, the project itself is simple, cheap and effective. The challenge is in getting it started. Now I know that Graverobber, Murilee, Mad_Science and myself are all blessed with spouses who tolerate our old-car obsessions. In my case, however, I have a significant other who helps with it. If you will recall, a few months ago I went to an auction looking for an Audi Quattro Coupe; while I didn’t find it, my significant other and I did manage to get some great photos. This past weekend, we discovered that several stores were having sales on picture frames. With a bit of picking and choosing, and some creative selection – I just grabbed all the photos that I took in “portrait” not “landscape” mode – we selected some photos and frames. A quick crop here and there, a minor touch-up and a second run to London Drugs for a bigger version of one photo, and voila. We have art. Now sure, you can download my photos and turn them into your own wall-hangings. You can also rely on some of the beautiful work done by the Saucy Minx, but if you do, you’re kinda missing the point. The point is the experience. Taking some great photos for the sake of creating artwork can actually be fun, but more importantly because you’re doing it together it’s more likely that you’ll be allowed to hang said artwork in more prominent locations. Step Six: The Masterpiece If you can manage to achieve this final level, you are my personal hero, not just because the skills are beyond my grasp – I admit it, I can’t weld, never even tried – but because the actual act of making it look good is so challenging. They opened a new Bed Bath and Beyond in West Edmonton Mall recently, and since neither I nor my significant other had been in one before, we investigated. In mere moments we concluded that it was pretty damn boring; like a tacky, cheap version of the top floor of a Hudson’s Bay Company store. But there was one piece that caught my eye. These pieces of art were listed for some appallingly high price. Let’s say $300, just for the sake of argument. Many women were commenting that they thought they were beautiful and would love to have them, but the price was simply too high. They’re absolutely right. They are, for all intents and purposes, nothing more than spare pieces of scrap metal tack-welded together. But it got me thinking. With a bit of work, why couldn’t something similar be done with spare auto parts? Piston rings, rear-end gears, transmission valves, main-crank bearings, brake calipers, valve-springs. Any of these pieces can be quite beautiful when viewed right and cleaned up nicely. This, then, is your mission. If you want to earn your Master’s Degree from Hooniversity, you must make this piece of art, and get it prominently displayed in a non-man-cave portion of your house, with your spouse’s endorsement. Already accomplished that? Email me the proof, I’d love to see it.