I agree with Robert Frost for whom “the road less traveled by … made all the difference.”

The roads we travel can become a rut and seizing the opportunity to get away, to leave our path can have life changing and life affirming results. For my 60 th birthday, my wife took me took me to Italy. The art, the wine, the cracked plaster arches and faded-paint patina of Tuscany changed my life; I realized it was time to retire from paint contracting and pursue art and wood working. For the next seven years I built a 19-foot sail boat, built a house and painted pictures.

I believe that smaller trips can have can have similar life-changing affects particularly when they are on roads less travelled. Today, my wife and I left our house on a whim and drove to a small fishing village on the coast called Bodega Bay. There, we reunited with the surging, green Pacific and the brisk northwest wind. Later, we shared a glass of chardonnay, clam chowder and fish tacos in a small wharf-side restaurant. The road that carried us there passes through rolling hills, and verdant pastures with farmhouses and barns. It is a road we seldom travel though it practically starts in our back yard. That’s life. That’s the rut. I believe today’s trip on this road less travelled changed me, opened new horizons, however small. I await all “the difference.”


First Arm Experience

Stories abound among tradesmen about accidents involving flammable solvents.

There is the painter who was spraying lacquer on some kitchen cabinets and forgot to disconnect all sources of ignition. Or the homeowner who was advised to clean up over-sprayed paint on his hardwood floor with lacquer thinner without checking for a pilot light or potential sparking electrical outlet. Both lost their lives in the explosions.

We have all heard stories about people who didn’t properly handle oily rags. That’s how we lost an antique store in our town; it burned down. All of these accidents might have been avoided if those involved had read and followed the precautions printed on the labels of the solvents. But maybe not.

What about momentary lapse of memory, or some interrupting distraction, or just plain fatigue. I can speak from first hand experience, or, more accurately, first arm experience. My right arm has scars from burns suffered when my protective suit failed (while we were stripping paint) and leaked a common paint remover. I once returned to my shop to find smoke pouring out of the eves. One of my workers had folded a drop clothe at day’s end that contained paint chips laden with another common paint remover. Unfortunately, he neglected to inform the person who ferried the drop clothes back to my shop. I located the smoldering drop clothe and dragged it outside.

There is nothing exotic or out of the ordinary about these two kinds of paint remover, or the flammable lacquer mentioned above. All of them are available at your local paint store, and, even when handled by professionals, they can be disastrous.

Take extreme care, read the cautions on the label, and follow the instructions! Better yet, don’t use them at all.


I painted a two story office building that housed a law firm. It was an old Victorian with badly peeling paint which had to be chemically stripped to raw wood before being painted. The job took weeks. When it was complete, the attorney who owned the building appeared with a pair of binoculars which he directed at the eves. He began pointing out small flaws in the finish which were invisible from the ground. He let me use his binoculars.

I hung wallpaper for a blind man; it was a mural which I hung at the end of his dining room. As I finished, the man asked me to describe the scene in the mural. I said, “We are in the shade of an oak tree on a hillside overlooking a small bay. There are a few small fishing boats at anchor in the bay. The sun is low over the ocean in the distance. There are small ripples on the water indicating a gentle breeze.” The man stood with his hands on his hips, head erect and shoulders back. “How beautiful!, ” he said.

I have a niece, Darlene O’Brien, who went blind at 33. She has raised two girls and is a grandmother of two. She works tirelessly to create understanding of disabled people by  traveling around the country and training various government agencies on the talents and qualifications of blind people. Her message is simple: blind people and disabled people in general are no different than the rest of us except for their disability. I would say that blind people are gifted with special “vision.” Darlene is smarter than she is good looking and she is very good looking; a tall attractive red head with a winning personality, she can take command of a room full of people. She remembers peoples’ names and where they are in the room and looks right at them when she speaks, giving the impression she isn’t really blind. She is the personification of respect for others.


           “I had just learned that the owner of the store was battling cancer caused by twenty years of spraying lacquer.”

Protecting the environment and living a healthy, safe life style are not values adopted by many painters.

On more than one occasion I have heard a painter say, “Hell, I clean my brushes with gasoline.” When asked how he disposed of his used thinners, another responded, “I feed it to the apple tree.”

“Responsible” often loses to “cheap and easy.” Most of us fail in this way at some time or other, placing expediency or personal gain before the interests of the community. On a recent trip to promote clean, safe, effective Dizzolve Brush Cleaner, I encountered yet another example of failure to care. At a small store in the in Southern California, the manager, Billy, said, “It’s all about price point. Your stuff is too expensive. Our contractors use kerosene and acetone.” I tried to explain that Dizzolve is reusable and a quart will clean forty brushes, ten times a quart of acetone. Then I said, “It also decreases toxic waste because it is reusable! How do your painters dispose of their used solvent?” “I don’t ask, I just sell it,” he replied.

The real shocker came when I asked whether he was concerned about the damaging effects of solvents on the painters’ health. “Not a bit,” he said: And here is the kicker: I had just learned that the owner of the store was battling cancer caused by twenty years of spraying lacquer. I had bumped into him in the parking lot before entering the store. He said his illness kept him from work; he hadn’t been in the store for nine months except to sign checks. He had just finished three months of the most extreme chemo therapy and he needed two months to recover before his operation. After telling me lacquer caused his cancer, he added, “To which, of course, stuff like yours is the answer.” Then he told me his step son, Billy, was managing his store for him, the very person who, I later learned, didn’t value Dizzolve. I wish I could say this was an isolated incident.


My start in the painting profession, in the ‘60s, involved experiences shared, I suppose, by “interns” and “entry level” employees everywhere.

I speak of those mildly uncomfortable moments when a client or employer asks you to do something that is outside of your job description, like “would you please walk my dog?” Now, I always like to lend a hand; if I see a motorist stalled in an intersection, I will abandon my car to help push his car to the curb. So, when my customer asked, “Don, would you please take Bogie for his walk?”   It was no big deal – that is until I got outside. As I walked Bogie, her miniature poodle, I was suddenly overcome by that uncomfortable feeling sometimes experienced in a dream. You know the one; you have decided that it is perfectly OK to go walking in the nude until you encounter a neighbor, and suddenly you realize your mistake.

Another time, a lady chose to feed me tri-tip by hand, that is, from her hand to my mouth. This intimate moment was prompted by the fact that my hands were covered by deck stain, I was on my knees (staining her deck) and I had skipped lunch. But, what the heck, both experiences arose from good relationships; I had come to know these women and they felt comfortable around me. That’s a good thing.

Counter that with the time a woman I had just met asked me to help her belch her water bed. I was in her master bedroom, providing a painting estimate. Her husband was downstairs sharing wine with their neighbors. Before us, a large waterbed, denuded of bed covering, spread its plastic expanse, exposing a large bubble of air. The helpful car-pusher in me joined forces with the eager salesman, and soon we were both on the bed trying to corral the pesky bubble. Facing each other, we wrapped the bubble with our arms and began squeezing it toward the vent. When it suddenly escaped to a far corner of the bed we were faced with one option – roll toward the bubble forcing it to rise to the middle again. It was at that moment that I realized the slightly ribald nature of our venture: that uncomfortable feeling returned, the dreamscape with the neighbor looking on. Our “mission accomplished” moment added to my humiliation: not a “belch” but the opposite, like a cow relieving herself.

By the way, the tri-tip was delicious, but Bogie took forever to do his business. I didn’t get the job with the waterbed lady.


Who would a thunk it. Good ‘ol paint thinner!!

      Dizzolve is the difference between safe and unsafe, between healthy and unhealthy, between earth-friendly and environmentally hazardous, and it is effective – it works.

Frankly, most painters want something that works and are less concerned about health and the earth. I’ll discuss Dizzolve’s effectiveness in a future blog for the benefit of my fellow tradesmen. What follows is addressed to you.

How do you know if a product is safe or complies with your concerns for the environment?Of course, by law, health warnings must appear on the label but they are brief and say nothing about the environment. Solution: all retailers are required to produce upon request a Safety Data Sheet (SDS), the in-store document with 15 categories of health and safety information, including hazards, chemicals, flammability, toxicology, ecological information, etc. – very telling. For example, let’s compare Dizzolve to paint thinner using SDSs. I have shamelessly abbreviated some of the entries for rhetorical clarity. Oh, and by the way, I know that effectiveness means a lot to you too; for info on that, just check out my amazing videos on You can also find the Dizzolve SDS there. Here we go.


Mineral Spirits (Paint Thinners)

Hazard Class: Not a hazardous substance or mix Hazardous
Inhalation: Negligible unless heated Organ damage. Brain & nerve  damage
Ingestion: No hazards anticipated Call Poison Center immediately; may be fatal
Skin contact: Not likely to produce skin irritation May cause cancer, dermatitis
Flammability: Not flammable Flammable liquid and vapor. Explosion hazard.
Environment: Safe on rainbow trout & albino rats Not tested on rats or fish
It biodegrades quickly. Passes strictest VOC regulations (greenhouse gases). Certified SCAQMD (LA regulations, not SDS). Acute toxicity to aquatic plants. Does not meet California VOC regulations.

Who would a thunk it. Good ‘ol paint thinner!!